Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Update On My Bike

You might remember that on November 17th, my bike was stolen.  Whaaa!  Seriously, it was a beautiful bike - an early Christmas present so I only had ridden it a few times and even more upsetting - my son was heartbroken over the theft.  We really love to bike for free entertainment (fresh air and exercise is good for everyone!) and - well, since we do not have a car - biking is our mode of transportation.  Both my DH and I prefer the low bar for a bike and the very week my bike was stolen, he was able to find me a new (used) bike - almost exactly the same!
This photo was taken 2 days ago.  Next on the list - a slightly bigger bike for School Boy!  Actually - he was slated to get a new bike, but then my bike got stolen so the $ went for that.  And of course, with the theft happening just before Christmas - well, it wasn't the best time.  His sweet, little bike was purchased, used, for 10 Euros.  It was advertised for 20 Euros, but the lady selling it was so charmed over his excitement at getting a new bike that she gave him 10 Euros back!  I am sure we can find another bargain for him soon - we are looking.  In Austria you need front and back lights to ride after dark and I figure the lights alone on his bike are worth 10 Euros and then a friend gave him a bell too.  Once we get him a new bike, we will be able to sell his current bike for 20 Euros no problem.  Keep in mind, that things like bikes - we need duplicates of (one for each country) so we really try to take our time and find quality, used items.
The photo above is from a December bike ride.  The weather has been really mild.  NO SNOW!  I feel badly for the skiers, but for us city folks who are going about our daily business, I don't mind the lack of snow!  It can be a bit dangerous to ride on the snowy roads, so I am just as happy not to have snow!  
My DH uses the bike alot to go down to the grocery store.  The basket on my last bike was carried up and down to the apartment for grocery shopping.  On my new bike - the basket is strapped down.  Anyway - the old basket was in our apartment when the bike was stolen... and I have put it to good use!
I had to carry the basket outside and put it on my plant shelf on my balcony so you wouldn't see all the clutter in my house!  :)  We are re-arranging things - I swear, the Legos reproduce in the night and end up everywhere!  The basket is perfect for my sweater in progress, pattern, little zippered bag for knitting tools, my socks in progress (currently on the dining room table with School Boy is doing his homework) and I see an odd ball of yarn in there for making Baby Monsters!
Yes, my bike was stolen.  Yes, it meant cutting corners somewhere else to replace it.  But - at least the bike basket wasn't stolen - and is now being used as a handy-dandy knitting basket!  Don't get me wrong - I was plenty upset that my bike was stolen (and the cut lock had to be replaced too), but at least I got my basket!  I don't know if you can see so well on the top photo of my new bike, but it has a white wire basket.  You need a basket for bringing the groceries home.
Should have posted these photos last week... but January 5th we got rid of our Christmas tree.  I wanted to get rid of it the week before, but was begged to leave it up for a bit longer.

Everyone brings their trees to designated "tree areas" and the city picks them up on the same day and then they are chipped.  I think they were all picked up on January 7th so I really had to put my foot down and insist on taking the tree down before the scheduled pick-up.  Ahhh - one thing crossed off my list.  Blame it on the city!

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Brown Socks Done!

So - you guys have been reading about these socks since I caste them on in November.  Happy to report that they are done!  The pattern is based on Gravel Grid - but I used my own "sock recipe".  I cast on using size US1 needles and then switched to US0 needles for the pattern -talk about taking FOREVER!  But done, yes!
I am happy with them. Despite the photo - those cuffs are the exact same length!  And since I don't have a "stash" of sock yarn, I had to go to the store today to buy some more...

You can get it packaged like this in Austria - you get 4 balls of yarn and a set of 5 needles (they must be size 2.5mm (US 1 1/2).  I don't know if that is really a size - it is not on my Susan Bats needle measure, but I can tell you that they are in-between sizes.  It cost 6.49 Euros so a very good deal!  
Other knitting goodies...
These are 80 cm cable needles - 2 pairs to a package.  Sizes in mm are 2.5, 3.5 then 3 &4 then 5 & 6 and finally 7&8.  Plus cable holders (again 2 to a package) in sizes 3 &4 and 5 &6.  They were 1.99 Euros each package, so 1 Euro a pair of needles!  From the GROCERY STORE, LOL!  I am taking my brown sweater off those straight needles and switching over to the cable needles tomorrow and I am sure that it will make it ever so much easier on my wrists.  I am so very pleased because I don't really have many long cable needles and the full sets or interchangeable sets have always been a bit steep for my budget.  So, now I am all set at a bargain price too.
Take a look over at Judy's Blog, Patchwork Times to see what everyone else has been knitting on this week!

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

My Marinated Mushrooms - Yum!

 It seems that every year, toward the end of December, mushrooms go on big-time sale!  I know this so during the month I start saving extra pickle and spaghetti sauce jars.  I always have a few on hand for left-overs - I like to SEE what my left-overs are.  Also, I use the wide-mouth pickle jars to pre-package mixed salads.  But along toward the end of December I need extra jars for marinated mushrooms!
Here is a photo of a small batch - makes 3 smaller spaghetti sauce jars.  The largest mushrooms are removed for later use (keep reading).  The others (I like a mix of white and brown) are simmered (not boiled) for 5-7 minutes.  The mushrooms will shrink a little bit when you cook them.  Rinse in cold water.  Put equal parts olive oil and red wine vinegar (I use about 3/4 cup of each for 2 packages of mushrooms) back in the pan you used to boil (it will still be warm) and add 1 tsp. sugar, 2 tsp. sale, 1 TBS mixed herbs (I use a blend) and stir it up.  Then add some chopped garlic, chopped red onion and sliced red peppers.  Add the mushrooms.  Put the cover on the pan and every hour or so give it a stir.  You can actually eat them after about 3 hours, but I find they get tastier (and the garlic less sharp) after at least a day.

After 1/2 a day, bottle in the jars and put in the fridge.  Best to spoon out what you want ahead of time and set on the counter for a bit before eating, but do keep them in the fridge. I can't really tell you how long they keep for because we always eat them within about 10 days.  I like the smaller jars for gift-giving when I go visit a friend.  However, a friend who was here last week for dinner refused a jar - she wants me to teach her how to make them!  Which is what lead me to write this blog post.  Sometimes things that we take for granted that people will know how to make - they don't!  I remember my frustration in my young-twenties when I wanted to make stuffed eggs and no recipe ever explained to me HOW to get a hard-boiled egg in the first place.  I had to call my Nana (long-distance, gasp!) to get directions.  Poor Nana - she was a chicken farmer and couldn't believe I didn't know how to boil an egg!  That Christmas she bought me one of my all-time favorite cookbooks - all illustrated with step-by-step instructions, bless her!
Seriously, I am busy every day and often take photos and then... don't write a blog post.  Sometimes I think - who is going to think a post about marinating mushrooms is interesting, but it is a part of my life that I enjoy.  I enjoy sharing a nice meal with friends/family and good food.  I enjoy that I can see a sale item and think of a great recipe to use.  I love my home life and try to make my home a happy place, even on a budget.  My friends enjoy my "food gifts".  And I know I am not the only person who feels this way - so even if ONE blog reader tries this recipe and gets some joy out of it (even if you never let me know), then I am happy!  I am trying to be better about blogging my everyday life.  Well - at least until school starts again in a few weeks and then I am sure I will be right out- straight busy!
Anyway!  What to do with those BIG mushrooms you picked out in the first place?  Slice and sautee with butter, red onions and garlic and a pinch of herbs/salt and serve with dinner.  We had meat fondu (pork, turkey and beef) this night and the sauteed mushrooms went so well with it!
We eat our large meal mid-day.  In the evenings, we like healthy snacks.  This was one of our snacks last week... a mixture of tomatoes, avocado, feta cheese and marinated mushrooms served with very thinly sliced black bread (we buy whole loaves and slice our own with the bread/meat slicer for very thin pieces).  I think we also had sliced pears and clementine oranges, but no photo!

 So go ahead - make some marinated mushrooms.  They are so very yummy!  Oh - and I love, love my flat bottomed pan.  I have great (old) pans.  My DH has requested a certain type of small pan with a cover and my son and I have been scouring the antique/used shops for one - I find that the old pans are very heavy (they take longer to heat up, but then hold the heat).  Heavy pans makes it much harder to burn the food - because once the pan is heated up it will hold that heat so you can turn the heat down so your food it less likely to burn.

Monday, January 06, 2014

Rainy Sunday Night

The plaza downtown (Graz, Austria) looks so empty now that the Christkindle Markets are gone.  But the lights are still up, which I think helps prevent that "post holiday" let down so many people feel.
 What a change from the photo I posted with hordes of people, right?  I love it when the streets are less crowded.
And my side-kick - always springing up and running to get winter clothes on when this Mom announces that I can't stand it anymore, I just HAVE to get outside for walk because I am going shack-whacky no matter what the weather is outside.  Hey, that is what umbrellas are for, right?  I love him so much.
Unfortunately, it is almost time for me to leave.  How can three months go by so darn fast?  We have a complicated Visa issue in my family, in case you are wondering.  

Saturday, January 04, 2014

Window Shopping Photos

Prices are in Euros.  Thought my knitty readers would enjoy these photos.  When I first started to come to Graz I was so amazed at the prices and was always stopping to take photos.  Now, not so much.  This year I paid $100 for a 2nd suitcase and loaded it up with clothes for my ever-growing son and Christmas gifts.  I often pass this shop window and keep thinking that I really need to take some photos, but I don't want to do it when the store is open - but the other night I was walking by and it was closed, so I took some photos... much to the amusement of some other people who were seriously contemplating what was in the window.

Sorry for the flash glare!  The hat below is made of cloth - I thought it was leather but my son peered at it very closely, saw the grain lines and declared that it was fabric.
And this sweater - although it is 100% cashmere still cost more than my first car.  

That is why it is called WINDOW shopping folks!
This just PROVES that the beret my sister crocheted for me has to be the height of fashion.  I actually have a photo on this blog of me wearing it in Graz back in 2006 (go ahead - take a look here, wow my son sure has grown!  Anyway - I thought I had lost my beret this week and was upset because... well here it is 2014 and it is STILL my daily winter hat.  LOVE IT!  Thankfully I did find it but I am going to pester her to write the pattern down for me should it ever really become lost and need to be replaced.

A bit of Graz history for you all.  It is a pretty city, bordered by mountains.  Our weather this winter has been mild - as you can see, we have rain instead of snow.  It isn't very often that we stay in though - we tromp all over this city, umbrellas in hand.  

Friday, January 03, 2014

On the Needles Friday - More Baby Monsters!

I waited too late today to try to get a good photo of these
"baby monsters" because the light wasn't the greatest.  Lego landscape behind them for scale!
 I make them in spare moments and my son glues the eyes/teeth on and often will embroider the mouth.
This is the collection of completed ones we had this afternoon (plus some unfinished ones in the knitting basket).  He gave another one away today.  Anytime we go visit or someone comes to visit us, my son loves to let them pick one out.  And often there are brothers/sisters so more than one will leave the nest at once.

This is one of those things that I almost always seem to be working on in the background and never seem to blog about.  I am trying to be better about that - even if I don't "love" my photos.  I guess I am not a "designer" blog, but here I am, I am me!
I blogged about my first "baby monster" in November in this blog post and included the pattern link there.  I just keep making them and my son gives them away.  Little kids seem to love them - they are the perfect size for little hands to hold.  However, I should add - I have been asked to stop making them with a larger crochet hook because you can (gasp!) see the stuffing through the stitches.  My son's favorite monster is made using a tiny hook - figures!
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Want to see what everyone else is knitting this week?  Check out Judy's blog here!  Lots of knitted goodness!

Thursday, January 02, 2014

Sewing Jeans

This photo is from Dressy Style... they almost always feature their outfits with super high shoes (totally unpractical for all the walking I do in the city), but hello - look at those jeans!  Do you see what I see?  Boot cut jeans are coming back into style.  Ahhhh, yes!
Because while those super skinny jeans look cute on the kids - ummmm, they are NOT for me!  Shoot, one of my nieces has jeans so tight at the bottom that I had take the seam ripper to the side seams, open them up a bit so she could squeeze her foot through there and hem it all back down.  Kids and their fashions, right? Europe maybe even more so as the guys have been wearing tight jeans too the past several years but you don't see that too often over in North America!  
Anyway - I have a pair of jeans all cut out and mostly sewn together - sadly I didn't have time to finish them before I came over here, but as soon as I get back over there - I need to finish them up.  Vogue 8774.  Dark stretch denim with a nice weight (jeans material comes in different weights).  I got the pattern when Joanne's was having one of the $2 Vogue pattern sales and used coupons to get the zipper, thread and sewing needle.  
I just won't buy new jeans.  Nope.  First off - they all shrink and then are too short for me.  My husband and I have to play tug-a-war with my jeans every time they come out of the washer and then hang them up to dry.  If I order long length jeans - the length is just too long.  Shopping for jeans is just an exercise in frustration and if I do find a pair that I even like the LOOK of - the price tag is always over $100 so I don't even bother to try them on!  I will say though - I did get a great pair of jeans at a thrift store last spring for a mere $2.  So, it pays to look around.
My sister also has a pair of jeans cut and partially sewed together.  She is making Jalie 2908.  We are making them together so both pairs are on hold until we are together again.  
Not sure if making your own jeans is for you?  You can make a quick mock-up using muslin or some other cheap fabric to check the fit.  The Jalie pattern has 1000s of sizes all on the same sheet - honestly!  Jalie patterns aren't for everyone, but there are lots of sizes and my sister traces what she wants - she orders a big roll of tracing paper from I think Nancy's Notions.  Sewing pants really is not that hard.  As a matter of fact, Pattern Review has an on-going video class for jeans sewing (I haven't taken it, so can't tell you much about it other than the fact that it is currently being offered at a sale price for $29 by clicking on this link.  If you have always wanted to try making jeans, it might be worth looking into.
I can not wait to get back to sewing with my sister because my wardrobe is in a serious crises!  So - this is what we do - we thread up the serger for knit tops and the sewing machine for jeans and take turns.  When we are done we have a complete outfit.  
My favorite, favorite winter top pattern (I love wool blend knits - they are so much warmer than anything else and still wear/feel like a knit) is Simplicity 4076.  I lengthen it a bit, make the sleeves slightly narrower and use a twin needle for hemming since I don't have a cover stitch machine!  Usually costs me about $6 per shirt.  The V neck is low cut, but I usually wear a tank top underneath anyway.

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

New Year's Charm

It is a tradition in Austria to exchange New Year's Eve charms.  We have a growing collection of all sorts of "good luck" items... pigs, lady bugs, 4 leaf clovers, horse shoes, bags of money and chimney sweeps.  Right before New Year's, little tents selling charms and fireworks appear everywhere. 

There are pig hats...
 Pig breads from the bakery...

But this year we noticed a new guy on the street... making custom horse-shoes.  Got to admire an artist (this isn't made in China!) so this is what my son got this year with his name pounded into the metal.  He LOVES it!
We also got a cactus(es), but that is for another blog post!
We have been keeping busy avoiding most of the crowds in the city during the holiday crush.  This isn't a "normal" tram, but a little antique one that they run around during the holidays decorated.  Isn't it cute!

The weather has been overcast and drizzly, but we still go out (umbrellas in hand).  Unfortunately, although it was slightly cloudy for the fireworks - the cloud was RIGHT over the clock which is where they set the fireworks off from.  We saw many, many "personal" fireworks - really enough fireworks for a small town anyway, but it was too bad that the big city fireworks went into the cloud.

If we climb ALL these stairs - it isn't so crowded up there and there are actually birds and nature.  Yes!  Ohhh but my aching calf muscles!  You can take an elevator or a tram up, but we have been doing the stairs - every other day, the time we did it 2 days in a row I was wiped out.

I know I posted a photo of this on a previous post, but I think this little house is so unique - it was used to store ammo - back in the day.  Many of the buildings up on this hill are from the mid 1500's so there is lots of history - worth climbing up the stairs for!
And we often go out in the early evening because the lights are so pretty.  I always have a flashlight in my coat pocket, but we still try to get back down the stairs before it gets really dark.  We had to hurry down the night I took these photos!

That big building with the Christmas tree in front of it is City Hall.  Under the tree is the Christkindle market (before Christmas) - it is a series of little huts, all decorated, that sell things like cookies, ornaments, gluwine, rum punch, hot chocolate, etc.  One booth is just a display of light candles that is really pretty.  I put some photos on a previous post and someone asked me about it, so I thought I would write a bit more here.  
I love these guys - they are in the city every December and I always give them some change and say thanks!  The trumpet player also sings.   It hasn't been too cold this year, but some years it is really cold and they are still out there - entertaining away.  Makes things extra festive.
So - from me to you... Happy New Year!