Saturday, July 26, 2014

Newest knitting project -Alberni cowl and a challenge

photo source
We spent last weekend in southern France. We went to visit a friend of mine, Kristin,  and her family who had just moved to France recently and with two small kids for TWO to play with, it seemed like a silly idea not to spend a long weekend enjoying all things French.

Kristin has just started a photography business specialising in maternity and newborn photography, that link goes to her site, check it out. So we also had a bit of a photo shoot with TWO and her elder son who is just a month older than TWO. If you happen to find yourself around Toulouse, I can highly recommend her skills. 

We had a wonderful time eating lots of duck, drinking lots of beer and wine and Kristin and I got our knit on while the kids rested in the middle of the day. 

Saturday saw us take a day out without the kids, on the metro into the centre of Toulouse. We ate crepes, wandered around, bought some yarn for a joint remembrance cowl knitting experience (pattern here), drank coffee on the central square and watched the police chase a Palestinian protest. We got home just in time for dinner. 

We plan on having a knit a long of the Alberni cowl using the same yarn in different colours. I've got the raspberry and she has the purple. An easy way to remember our lovely afternoon wandering around the streets of Toulouse and the whole weekend of visiting fun. 

I cast on today and set myself a challenge. I have wanted to learn to knit like a Swede (ie continental knitting) for a while now. It is supposed to be faster than English knitting and better for colour work, which I have intentions of getting into. But every time I have started a new project, I have been too impatient to slow down my knitting speed to learn it properly. But as I'm knitting along with Kristin, and I know she won't have a chance to cast on for a while, it seems appropriate now to attempt to learn. Wish me luck and patience, I think I will need them both. If you fancy following my progress it will be over at ravelry : here
photo source

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Making my own golden syrup, a tale of laziness combined with too much time on my hands -FODMAPS friendly

golden syrup number the two
Last winter I was trying to make something that I could eat for my Swedish class's Xmas party. I thought I would make the Australian classic biscuit,  ANZACs. Great idea, I thought. The only problem was I didn't have any golden syrup. I also didn't have the desire to go out in the December weather, I think it was snowing at the time, to go and buy some syrup. 

So that's what led me to google how to make my own. How hard could it be, I reasoned? 

It turned out to be not so difficult once I learned a few more things that the youtube video I was looking at failed to mention, like not stirring while the sugar is caramelising. I managed to repeatedly crystallise the sugar again until I discovered the solution. 

The golden syrup was duly made and tasted a bit fantastic. So much so that I was forced to make some more again recently. It now lives in an old jam jar in my fridge and the most recent effort is a little thicker and has a richer, more toffee like flavour to it. 

If you fancy making it, here's what the video will show you, written out for your viewing pleasure. 

Things you will need to have ready:

100g sugar to start
with 2 tablespoons water to dissolve

500g sugar to add later
300ml boiling water. The boiling part is important

A slice of lemon, or lemon juice. 

Start with :

-100g sugar
-2 tablespoons of water

Dissolve the sugar in the water and cook over a medium heat. Unlike the video, don't keep stirring once it is dissolved, but just wait for it to caramelise.

When it is a good colour add the boiling water, but slowly.  It will be very hot and you could get burned. Add about a tablespoon at a time and stand well back.

Once the boiling water has been added, dump in your remaining 500g of sugar and stir until it is dissolved.

Simmer for about 45 mins with a slice of lemon in there or juice from about half a lemon. What you need is some acid to help prevent crystallisation of the syrup afterwards. So if you don't have a lemon handy, some vinegar would also work. 

Once it is finished simmering, allow to cool and then sieve out the bits while pouring the syrup into a clean jar. In my case it was an old blackberry jam jar. 

Store in the fridge and enjoy. I've been using the syrup for baking and also to sweeten chia seed puddings. I'm not entirely sold on chia seeds. I think they are bit a of gimmick. But the puddings I've made (recipes to come soon) have been tasty, fodmaps friendly, and, the best bit, easy.

golden syrup

Edit note: There is some debate as to whether invert syrups are entirely safe on the low FODMAPs diet. I've found this one not to be a problem for me personally. But I know that we are all different when it comes to intolerances. So if you are on the elimination phase of the diet, I would perhaps give golden syrup a miss until you are ready for some challenges. 

Grateful three : arthritis edition 1

This post comes to you from my armchair. We have become firm friends in the last month as my knee goes through various phases/stages of swelling. Currently it is sitting on big but not uncomfortable. I have an appointment to see a specialist tomorrow and have my fingers crossed for some kind of plan to deal with it. It is getting more than a bit tedious to be sat indoors, unable to enjoy the warmest summer we may ever see in Sweden. 

So I figured it was time to remind myself of the good stuff in life and not just the things I'm missing out on.

1. We got to visit friends in the south of France and I was able to eat without consequences for my gut and TWO had another kid her age to play with.
2. The boy has been working from home a lot to help me out while TWO is on holidays from dagis. 
3. I've got friends I can whinge to about the frustrations of having a dodgy knee.
(4. My plants on the balcony didn't die despite being left alone for 4 days at 30 degrees. This is especially impressive because the balcony is glassed in and warms up a treat on a mildly warm day, let alone a scorcher. And yes, 30 in Sweden is a scorcher.)

Friday, July 18, 2014

OWL hat

Owl with beads

If you know Kate, you know she loves an owl. I think it stems back to the time that I was pregnant with TWO and it was all the rage to have owls on everything. For me it appealed no end and I made good use of the trend. Lots of onsies and wall decals and things with an owl motif. I even sewed a swaddling cloth by hand in an owl print flanellette. This is a demonstration of my enthusiasm for owls, evidence of the boredom I felt at being told to rest from 30 weeks due to premature contractions and an indication that I should have bought a sewing machine in Sweden much earlier than I did.

In any case, owls, love em. 

A dancing friend of mine, who possibly gives the best hugs known to man, was diagnosed with breast cancer last year and was on the search for hats to keep her head warm during winter while undergoing chemotherapy. We both love the 20s in terms of style and I searched until I found this. It is almost cloche like (okay not really) and has owls on it! I started it almost immediately in a very soft DROPS 100% alpaca yarn. And would have finished it sooner were it not so difficult to find eyes that I liked. 

Here you can see it without eyes, and it really doesn't pop in quite the same way.

owl hat without eyes

And with a close up of the unworn hat, you can see just how lovely it is. My friend helped me pick the beads to make the eyes after a lovely sushi train lunch in town. After which I was able to hand over the hat, finally, at the beginning of spring. The colour ended up very closely matching her lawn and she sent me a photo of the two together. But I'm not sure if she wants me sharing that photo here. But she wasn't wrong, they matched almost perfectly. 

Even better news than the matching grass to hat situation was that the chemo and radiation have finished. She has an excellent prognosis and her hair is growing back. But I hope that the owl hat gets another go next winter anyway. 

Raveled here

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Lotta Lotties. Well, two.


One of my oldest friends is the mother to two gorgeous girls and lives in Tasmania. She's always been really good at remembering birthdays and occasions and tells amazing stories. I am less good at the remembering birthdays and sometimes get far behind in the gift giving. So early last Autumn as it started to cool down here in Gothenburg, I thought of her girls and what I might be able to make for them for their upcoming winter, some eight months away. 

A friend put me onto the Lottie set and I was immediately delighted. I used a DROPS yarn called Nepal which was so soft  to work with at 65% wool and 35% alpaca. Perfect for kids clothes and extra warm for those freezing Tasmania winters. I have a bit of a thing for DROPS actually. I'm not a fan of their patterns, but their yarns are delightful.

In any case, I finished them up in what felt like record time and sent them off to the girls. They were well received and worn almost immediately on arrival. 

For the smaller of the two, a redhead, I picked a natural colour and used purple buttons as an accent. 


And for the bigger of the two, a blondie, I picked a red with wooden buttons.


Apologies for the lighting in these photos, didn't end up taking them on a particularly light day. And I was under time pressure to try and get them done and sent to Australia before it got too warm. 

Such a fun knit with a chunky yarn. I so often work with sports weight and sock yarn that it's nice to get something that knits up quickly. 

Monday, July 14, 2014

Chicken soup -FODMAPS friendly

I used to make a chicken soup back at uni that was quick and tasty. I got the recipe from my friend Steph (link to her website there), and have subsequently forgotten the specific details of it. But there were a few things that stuck out, coriander, ginger and so very much flavour. 

So in an attempt to recreate the soup she taught me to make, and to make sure it was low FODMAPs, I made up my own version of her recipe using the chicken stock that we make regularly at home now. 


Some chicken stock, we usually end up with about a litre
Chicken thigh fillets 
1 bunch of fresh coriander/cilantro
1-2 tablespoons of fresh grated ginger
salt/pepper to taste
juice of one lemon
garlic oil
1/2 tsp chilli paste (optional)
small packet of rice vermicelli noodles (optional) 


If you are using the noodles, set them into a heatproof bowl and cover with boiling water while you prepare the rest of the soup. Drain after 10 or so minutes and set aside.
Fry the ginger in garlic oil on a medium high heat until fragrant and add the chicken pieces.

Fry the chicken fillets on the higher heat for a few minutes, until they start to brown/seal. Then add the lemon juice and reduce the heat. Cover.

(I use an electric cooktop because it is almost impossible to get gas in Sweden. By medium high I mean a 5 out of 6 on the stove top. I find when I cook the chicken at a high heat to start and then reduce it I get a better result. When reduced, I take the temperature down to 2)

I then use this time while the chicken is cooking further to take the coriander stems, chop them off and crush them with the back end of a large knife. 

Put the coriander stems into the stock and start bringing the stock to a simmer.

When the stock is simmering, add in the cooked chicken and chopped coriander leaves. 

Cook further for another 5-10 minutes, tasting as you go and adjusting the seasoning. 

To serve:

Put a small amount of noodles in the bottom of the bowl, sprinkle some extra coriander over the noodles and spoon out some soup. If you want to make it a bit spicy, add some chilli paste now. I'm a big fan of adjusting seasoning, including chilli to taste as you go. 

Photos to come. I made this soup a few weeks ago when the boy was unwell with a nasty cold. He's currently on a low carbohydrate kick and so I excluded the noodles for him, but added them to my meal. It was tasty and easy to make. 

Bedtime giggles


My girl is rather enamoured of what she refers to as the fish museum. It is actually the seafarer's museum and has become a go to venue for after dagis excursions. The only problem is that she often wants to go on a Monday and museums are shut on Mondays. It has all too often been my sad duty to inform her that alas the fish museum is shut.

This evening I was putting her to bed and we were chatting about what we enjoyed most today. We went for an adventure with a friend and her two kids to the beach. TWO rather enjoyed seeing crabs in the water, climbing on the high rocks and swinging on the swings. She then asked me very seriously "Is the fish museum open tomorrow?". When I informed her that it would indeed be open tomorrow she bunched up her fists towards her face and did a Muttley-esque laugh (see video below).

I believe there will be a visit in the not too distant future. Who wouldn't want to go and visit the gorgeous starfish and coral? 

sjöfartsmuseet starfish

Thursday, July 03, 2014

Apologies and an explanation

I have been an absent blogger for nigh on a few months now. I'd like to apologise to the three of you that read my blog. Life has been exceptionally busy, my health has been interesting and I've lost my blogging mojo.

But I am determined to get it back. I have been busy with lots of craft projects that I desperately want to show off. I have been cooking a bit of low FODMAPs food that has been tasty. I've even made my own golden syrup because I was both bored and lazy. 

The most recent "interesting" health adventure in my life has been the return of my reactive arthritis. 14 years ago I had what was the first of 2 and a bit years of swelling in my left knee. It took six months to diagnose and meant I was predominantly sedentary for a good section of those two years. Two weeks ago the other knee kicked off with unexplained swelling and the left one joined in for shits and giggles. 
I can tell you that there is a distinct difference between being 20 years old and immobile and being 34 with a 3 year old at home and immobile. I now also live two storeys up with no lift. Negotiating stairs has been an entertaining experience. So long as you define entertaining as long, awkward and uncomfortable. 
The good news in this recent flare up is the following: it didn't take six months to diagnose. It took about a week. I saw a less than fabulously engaged Dr initially who sent me off for an x-ray and gave me some drugs without indicating how long to take them for or asking if I was on any other medication which may interfere. I then returned to see a much more engaged Dr who not only looked at the joint(s) for more than 10 seconds but checked all my ligaments and did a proper history. He even sent me off for blood tests to rule out rheumatoid arthritis and other inflammatory conditions. Bloody amazing. 
Since then I've had a failed aspiration of fluid and an injection of steroids into the larger of the two joints and a new prescription for a different anti inflammatory. I have already seen improvement in the last two days. I may even walk down my stairs today like a normal person and save my obliques from a hard few minutes work of lifting my hips up to help clear each step. 

I have a new word of the week coming tomorrow and a recipe for the weekend. I hope that my three followers will look forward to seeing them.

I'll leave you with a picture of one of my recent crafty pursuits. Another puerperium cardi for a newborn. This time I dyed the yarn for the stripes from the same lot as the grey and had a lot of ends to sew in to finish it. But the final result was super sweet and will now be keeping a brand new baby girl warm and snug in a Melbourne winter. So worth all the extra sewing in ends time, methinks.

M's jumper