Wednesday, October 26, 2016

pattern update: Dubliner Hat

So I have something very exciting to share with you today! This is my Dubliner Hat pattern. It was the first serious pattern I designed- the first one that wasn't a free tutorial via my blog that is. I worked so SO hard on this design and have always felt really proud of it. 

I originally designed this hat as a gift for my friend Simone. We picked the yarn together- a lovely green color that we both fell in love with. But the truth is that this yarn was not a good choice for the hat. From the very beginning, I never felt that it allowed the design to show through at it's best. 

Now let me make myself clear: I am not a yarn snob. While I love knitting with wonderfully, wooly yarns with a story (and would definitely hug a few sheep if I got the chance) I simply cannot afford to be always knitting with this kind of yarn. Nor do I want to be, if I'm honest. There are some big box yarns that I really enjoy working with (hellooo Patons Kroy sock!) and I'm not ashamed to admit this. Generally speaking, I quite like both the Lima and Nepal yarns from Drops but this hat was first made using Drops Alaska and I just gotta say... it wasn't what I'd hoped. 

Re-knitting this design has been on my project list for ages, and I had a skein of Cascade 220 Heathers kicking around in my stash left over from my Tamborine Cardigan. I decided to add a fold up brim to the design, but this is of course totally optional. At the very last minute, I decided to use the left overs of my Insouciant Fibers Jacob wool (after knitting a pair of baby Rye socks for C) to make a Pom Pom and I love the marled look of it! (I've seen online that there are marled versions of the Cascade 220 Heathers yarn that would also work really well for this, though I still love this hat without the pompom...)

So anyhow. I'm excited to let you know that the updated version of this pattern is now finished and available on Ravelry. If you've already ordered this pattern in the past, you should have already received your updated copy. And if you'd like to knit this design I'm offering 20% off until the end of October, just because. Use the code isleofskye16 (which is where these photos were, of course, taken) when checking out on Ravelry here to take advantage of the discount.

Happy Knitting! 

Monday, October 24, 2016

recipe: spiced pumpkin soup

I am a Fall girl with every fiber of my being. The crisp air, crackling leaves and smell of woodsmoke. Cozy sweaters and socks and blankets on the couch. Cups of tea beside knitting and candles on my tabletop. I even love the back to school vibes- that part in You've Got Mail where Meg Ryan's character talks about a bouquet of sharpened pencils...? I'm telling you, this is the stuff my dreams are made of.

And of course, there's the food- Thanksgiving stuffing, apple picking, hot chocolate and all things pumpkin. Every year around this time, I start making risotto and roasted veggies and ALL THE SOUP. (as evidenced by this post)

This is a simple, fast and delicious soup that I whipped up one afternoon when our cupboards were looking pretty bare. If you pre-roast the pumpkin (which I always do) then it literally takes 15 mins from start to finish and is so completely effortless you can make it while you're doing a million other things. Well maybe not quite, but it's worth the little bit of effort it requires a hundred times over. 

here's what you need: 

1 (pre-roasted) hokkaido pumpkin
1 yellow onion (diced)
2 cloves garlic
a lug of olive oil
2 tsp chopped fresh herbs (I used oregano but thyme or rosemary would work splendidly...) you could also use dried herbs if that's what you have on hand
1 generous tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp nutmeg
sea salt & freshly ground pepper
optional: fresh herbs & creme fraiche to garnish

If you've never roasted a pumpkin before, it's pretty simple. Just chop it into quarters, drizzle with a bit of olive oil (if you'd like) and pop in a 200 degree oven on a lower rack for 20-25 mins. I like to use hokkaido but you may use another kind of pumpkin for this soup, as it's not fussy.

Add a good lug of olive oil to the pan and fry up your diced onion, until it's soft and translucent. Add your garlic, herbs, ginger and nutmeg and stir, being careful not to let the garlic burn. Pop in your pumpkin and then fill up your pan with water, until everything's covered nicely. Season with salt and pepper to taste before reducing the heat and letting the soup bubble away for 10 mins or so. 

Take a potato masher and mash up your soup to get a nice rustic texture. Serve with fresh herb sprigs and a dollop of creme fraiche if you so desire.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Scotland Part Two: Isle of Skye

Of course, having shared last week about our time in Edinburgh, I wanted to make sure and post about the second part of our time in Scotland, which we spent on the Isle of Skye. 

We were so enchanted by this beautiful place and managed to explore quite a bit while we were there. We didn't get to everything on our lists, but we did pretty good for our first trip to the island- because, oh yes, we will have to go back some day. Here's what we managed to see this time around:

Eilean Donan Castle

Okay, so this isn't technically on the Isle of Skye. We passed it on the way in and stopped to get a closer look. As can be seen in the photo we were there in the late afternoon, when the sun was shining brilliantly, which made it challenging to get a good photo. It would have been an amazing place to watch the sunset, but we didn't want to dawdle too much, as we wanted to get Caleb (and our weary selves) settled in at our cottage.

Talisker Bay

Day One saw us heading SW and we started with a walk to Talisker Bay. This is one of the lesser known spots on Skye and I'm so glad we did enough reading beforehand to find out about it. After driving down through some very wild landscape, we parked our car just outside of Talisker farm and walked out to the ocean. The beach was stunning, with jagged cliffs (which you can kind of see in the first photo above) and a misty waterfall- very romantic. It wasn't busy at all, which really allowed us to enjoy the beauty of the spot fully. Plus there were fields of sheep all along the path, which was really fun to see. 

Talisker Distillery

After our walk, Caleb needed a pitstop and a little downtime so we stopped at the Distillery so Waldi could take a tour, while we hung out in the car. Thankfully, he was able to fit in a group right away (since he was alone) and he said the tour was interesting & informative and that the guide was very nice and told some great stories.

Fairy Pools

Our final stop of the day was at the Fairy Pools. This was by far the busiest trail we visited during our time on Skye, and for good reason. The walk in is very accessible and the pools are quite simply magical. There was quite a bit of wind, so we decided to go down separately, so one of us could stay with C. Waldi jumped into that pool in the photo there and convinced an American tourist to jump in as well. My crazy husband, haha! He said it was all kinds of worth it though- and the water wasn't even as cold as he had been expecting.


The next morning, Waldi got up early and headed out to hike the Quirang. He drove out as the sun was rising and managed to make the full trail before too many people showed up. I'm pretty bummed to have missed this, but Caleb and I had a lovely, cozy morning at the cottage, eating porridge and listening to back episodes of the Woolful podcast, which was pretty great as well. 


Once Waldi got back, we headed into Portree, the biggest "city" on the island and just a few minute's drive from our cottage. We stopped in for a coffee and some cookies at Arriba cafe, which had lovely views of the harbor and very good coffee. I can't describe it exactly, but it just had that feel of an island coffee shop that I've experienced at home along the westcoast- very laid back but also completely warm and cozy.

Next, we headed out to walk the Scorrybreac circut- a trail that starts just out of the harbor and heads along the coast before cutting up and through the fields & woods back into town. Again, I am so glad we did this. We had the trail basically to ourselves (though we did see some cows) and it was perfectly easy to do with Caleb. We also had an amazing view of the Old Man of Storr (which Waldi later returned to hike), as the day was so clear. It was an absolutely perfect 90mins. 

Then it was back into Portree for a wander down to the harbor and through a few shops. We were hoping to stay for a seafood dinner, but none of the restaurants opened early enough for us, as we didn't want to be out too late with C. Still really enjoyed our time in this little town. 

Neist Point

On our last day, we woke up early and drove out to the westernmost point of Skye- Neist Point. I am so glad we decided to do this, as it was a real highlight for me. We were there early enough that not too many people had arrived yet, and we had a lot of fun exploring. We walked up from the parking lot to get a view of the lighthouse down below and then went down about halfway to the point. The green cliffs against the open ocean are just amazing. This was my first experience with the open Atlantic, and I must admit it's going to be hard to top. 

On the way back we stopped at Cafe Lephin in Glendale for coffee and millionaire shortbread- yum! This was a really charming spot, selling local artwork, cards and other little treasures.

Stein Inn

From Neist Point we drove north towards Stein and Waternish. After a stop to buy some very special yarn (more on this later!) we had lunch at the Stein Inn. This was a perfectly cozy spot and we both enjoyed our meals immensely- seafood sandwiches with salad and crisps. There was a little gallery next door, which we popped into as well before heading out to our final stop of the day.  

Coral Beaches 

From Stein, we doubled back a bit and drove out to the coral beaches. The drive out here was really fun and took us past Dunvegan castle, which you get a great view of looking back after passing it. Then it was a short walk out to this lovely spot. It's quite funny to see something like this against the rest of the landscape, as you can see in the top photo of Waldi. We didn't spend long here, as we were pretty beat by this point but I'm so glad we stopped in for a visit. 

So there you have it- a quick overview of our time in Scotland. I'm working on putting together a post about the yarn shops we managed to visit and the yarns I picked up in case you aren't sick of seeing Scotland photos yet. 

This trip was wonderful and was basically brought to you by the letter W- wool, so much walking, a bit of whisky (for Waldi that is...), and we three Werwai's wandering around. We had such a great time!

Monday, October 17, 2016

thoughts on memory keeping

Memory keeping is something I've been thinking quite a lot about since Caleb was born. I've never been much of a scrapbooker though I have been an avid journal keeper for most of my life. I've always been fascinated by other people's scrapbooks and the many different ways there are to keep track of memories, though for the most part, I've felt that journaling (and keeping up with this blog and Instagram) have been enough for me. 

However now that Caleb's around, I feel myself wanting a tangible place to store photos and memories of him. This is partly because there are many sweet family moments that I don't necessarily want to broadcast all over the internet but also because I loved the baby books and albums my mom created for us as children and I want him to have something similar. However, as I've been exploring this topic with other mamas, I've discovered that there seems to be a lot of guilt around this issue. It's subtle, but noticeably there- a pressure to keep up with yet another thing in this crazy business we know to be parenthood. 

I have several baby books (one in English and one in German) that I received as gifts and am so excited to fill out, though I haven't managed to get to them yet. Rather than feel guilty about this, I'm trying to jot down little memories as they happen and keep track of things so that at some point, when I get a good chunk of time, I can go back and record them in these books. I'm finding for us at this stage in time, the best approach seems to be doing small things that fit into our everyday routines. I've come up with three small things that have been totally manageable, and make me feel like I've got a handle on things until I can sit down and catch up with those baby albums. Here's what I've been doing: 

The Onesie Project

I first heard about this through Jules, who had been sharing photos on her Instagram of her son in the same onesie every month for the first year of his life. On the same day each month, I take a photo of Caleb in the same onesie (a size 6-12 month) and watch as he slowly grows into it. This has been so amazing, and something I would highly recommend. It only takes a few minutes and it's honestly incredible to see the changes from month to month. Of course, I'm always snapping photos of Caleb on my phone but this is just one way to be a little more intentional about it. I can't wait to see all 12 together at the end of the year.

Dear Caleb James letters

For me, it's really important to have written records and recorded memories. During the first month of Caleb's life, I started writing letters to him but quickly realized that I needed to create some structure if I was going to keep it up. I put a reminder in my phone for the same day each month (a different one than the onesie photo...) and have been using these letters to detail how he's grown and changed in that past month. My plan is to put these letters together with the onesie photos into a book for Caleb's first birthday.

One Line a Day Journal

Purchasing this journal has been one of the best decisions I've made in regards to memory keeping. I first saw this again on Jules' blog (apparently I get all my memory keeping ideas from her...) and knew right away that I needed to get my hands on one. It's a journal with space to write one line a day for five years. There's a version for moms but I decided to get the original one and it's been working out just fine. I love how each date has it's own page, making it easy to read through the past years as you write in it. I didn't start this in January but I'm glad I did start it and hope I can keep it going the full five years. 

So there are my humble ideas for memory keeping in this stage of our lives. As I mentioned, I've been thinking about this a whole lot recently and so I'm sure I'll be talking more about it in the future. If you have any favorite methods of memory keeping, I'd love to hear them! 

Friday, October 14, 2016

Slow Fashion October: a late introduction

It's taken me almost the entire first half of this month to gather up the courage to write this post. Let me be perfectly clear: I love Slow Fashion October and all that it stands for. I think Karen Templer is brilliant, for pulling this community together and giving us all a chance to add our voice and story to this complex (but oh so important) topic. And deep down, I truly believe that this conversation should be an inclusive one- there is room for everyone here, whether you make your own jeans or are just beginning to think about where your clothes come from and where they're going after you're done with them. 

Most of us I'm sure, fall somewhere between those two ends of the spectrum. It was in my early 20's that I first started thinking about who made my clothes and how they were treated in the process. I remember I made a commitment to only purchase second hand clothing for one year and around the same time I learned to knit. Slowly my wardrobe evolved and eventually I started investing in well made pieces of known origin, either from small independent makers & designers or from brands offering transparency and trying to find a better way in this industry. My making also evolved as I graduated from knitting simple accessories to more complex garments, and figured out which handmade items would fit well into my life and style. I learned more about how yarn is made and made purchases accordingly. The more I learned about the world of "slow fashion", the more confidence I felt in the items I owned and wore, the more momentum I gained in talking about this topic. I helped organize clothing swaps here in Marburg, worked to increase awareness for known origin clothing and started my #wearhandmadeproject to encourage myself both to wear the handmade items I already owned and to consciously think about how the items I was making would fit into my life.

And then came last October. I was so excited for Slow Fashion October to kick off and wrote this post with the best intentions. But I had just found out about my pregnancy (we took that photo the actual day we found out for sure) and I was dealing with major first trimester hormones. I spent most of that month eating cereal on the couch and watching Modern Family with Waldi, fighting nausea and leaving the house whenever he was cooking something so I wouldn't have to smell it. There was no knitting or mending being done and I took a backseat and didn't join in the conversation much at all. 

Over the next weeks and months as my body grew a baby, I struggled with what to wear. Honestly, I don't know if maybe I just had the wrong kind of clothes to begin with (since many women never really need maternity clothes) but I really struggled to make what I had work. I borrowed items where I was able to and even made two dresses that worked with my growing belly but I have bought more new clothing in the past year than I did in the five years previous to that. And I felt guilty about it. 

Of course, you do not need maternity jeans or nursing tank tops to successfully have a baby but I was so grateful to have them. In the end, I felt proud of the small maternity wardrobe I built for myself from borrowed and new items. I plan, of course, to wear it all again should I have another pregnancy and to lend out what I have to friends, should they be in need of it. 

And then came postpartum. 

I've written about this before, but I struggled with unexpected body issues both in pregnancy and post birth. Those early weeks and months postpartum, I really struggled with how unrecognizable my body felt to me. Nothing fit anymore- my maternity jeans were too big, all my other pants too small and when I finally could fit into some of them, they were so completely unflattering. And so once again I found myself buying new clothes. I tried where I could to make ethical purchases, but that didn't always happen. 

Enter this year's Slow Fashion October (I know...finally!)

I've been hesitant to enter this conversation because, while so many people have grown and made improvements since last year's event, I have gone in the opposite direction. It would be easier to just let this all pass me by and not think about it. 

But if I truly believe that there is room for everyone in this conversation, then I guess I have to speak up and share my story too. Because this issue is still important to me, although this year of my life has looked different from any before it. I still want to make better choices, to wear my clothes with confidence and to feel good about where they've come from and where they're going. And deep down, I believe that this shouldn't be about guilt.

And so, I'm joining in and adding my voice, in the hopes that I will learn something and maybe encourage someone else along the way. These photos are from our time on the Isle of Skye- I'm wearing my Lesley pullover that I made last summer from yarn my grandmother purchased years ago but never got around to using. And I'm wearing the first pair of jeans I bought postpartum- a fast fashion purchase but the first pair of pants I found that fit and were actually flattering to my new body. It's all a mess and a bit of a contradiction but it's where I'm at. And I'm not going to let guilt stop me from taking part in this discussion or making better decisions in the future.

I'll stop there for today because this is turning into a serious ramble but I do have one more post planned on this topic, to discuss Karen's weekly themes: long worn, handmade and known origin. And there are some projects in the works which I'm sure I'll share about at some point. But for today, it just feels good to get all this out. If you made it this far, thanks for reading. AND make sure to check out the conversation surrounding Slow Fashion October either over on Karen's blog or the hashtag on Instagram (#slowfashionoctober)

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Scotland Part One: Edinburgh

Today I'm super excited to share a little bit about our Scotland trip here on the blog. I've shared bits and pieces over on Instagram, but I thought it might be fun to share here about the different parts of our trip in a little more detail. Today is part one: Edinburgh. 

We spent two whirlwind days in the Scottish capital and throughly enjoyed ourselves. This was our first big trip with Caleb and though things were of course different with him along, we managed to do quite a few things by starting early in the morning and then heading back to our hotel by the mid to late afternoons. Here's what we got up to on those two days:

Edinburgh Castle 

This was quite impressive to see (specifically from below, walking up) and a great orientation point to start our wanderings from. We didn't actually go into the castle but we certainly enjoyed the views.

The Writers Museum

I had expected to enjoy this, but I was even more impressed than I thought. This lovely museum, tucked away in a close off the Royal Mile, in a small charming house is free to the public and showcases the work of three of Scotland's most famous writers: Robert Burns, Walter Scott, and Robert Louis Stevenson. The exhibitions were quite interesting but even if you're not into literature, it's worth popping in just to wander through the house. 

Victoria Street

Of course, another author with a connection to this city is JK Rowling and we set off to visit a few Harry Potter themed spots throughout the morning. The first of these was Victoria Street, which is supposed to have inspired Diagon Alley. Whether it's true or not, this was a charming little street that was quite fun to meander down. 

Greyfriar's Kirk

Next we popped into the old graveyard, Greyfriar's Kirk. We meandered a bit through the paths, but what we had really come to find was Voldemort's grave- several of the gravestones here bear names that JK Rowling apparently borrowed for different characters in her books. One of these names is Tom Riddle. We met a very kind volunteer who kindly showed us where this grave was, as well as the graves of several other interesting historical figures.

Greyfriars Bobby

Another grave that can be found here is that of Greyfriars Bobby, a small dog who is said to have waited by his masters grave for many years after that master's death. He's got a pub and a little statue to mark his memory. This was a cute little story, and was fun to walk by, though I don't think I would have sought it out if we hadn't happened to be in the area. 

The Elephant House Cafe

Our final Harry Potter related stop of the trip. After all that walking these two Hufflepuffs needed a break, so we popped into this cafe, where JK Rowling wrote parts of the early Harry Potter books. We had coffee and a light lunch, and sat in the back, looking out at the castle in the distance. I will say, it was not as busy as I had been expecting and completely relaxing for both us and Caleb to hang out here. A really fun stop! 

Calton Hill

We continued being touristy in the afternoon and (after dashing undercover to wait out a quick rain shower) we headed up Calton Hill for some more views. It was lovely, especially on such a clear day and I would recommend heading up here- especially if you visit the city and are not able to make it up Arthur's Seat. 

Royal Mile & St Giles Cathedral

The next morning we headed down the Royal Mile, which is the street that runs from Edinburgh Castle all the way to Holyrood Palace. It's basically the old part of the city, with beautiful buildings and narrow alleyways (called closes) leading off it. We mailed a postcard to my family (in the British postbox because I'm into that sort of thing...) and stopped in at St Giles Cathedral. This was one of my very favorite cathedrals (and I've been to my fair share, including both St Paul's and the Dom in Cologne). I think this was partly to do with how the sunlight was shining through the stained glass- we'd never seen such a brightly lit (almost colorful) cathedral before.

Arthur's Seat

Once we got to the end of the Royal Mile we headed to Arthur's seat. We weren't too sure how this was going to be with Caleb, but we had a very warm day with little wind and so we headed up. We went up the path by the craigs and around to the back. We didn't actually make it up the highest part but the views were still stunning- how amazing that this is right in the middle of the city. 

Scottish tea house

To warm up after our hike, we stopped in at this cute tea house at the bottom of the Royal Mile for a cup of Scottish Breakfast tea and some scones with jam. This was the perfect pit stop, coming in from the fresh air to warm up and refuel in such a cozy place was just delightful. I especially loved how the place was decorated- so many of the items reminded me of the things my grandmother used to have. There was even a cross stitch map of the United Kingdom (which I meant to take a photo of but totally forgot...)

We did visit several other parts of the city in the afternoons- we made it to two yarn shops and into New Town for a late lunch at Jamie's Italian, though I didn't manage to get any photos there. I'll share more about the yarn shops in a separate post since this is already getting quite long, but there's a little recap of our (touristy) adventures in this city! 

Monday, October 10, 2016

5 healthful & comforting soups (again...)

With the start of Fall, I am craving soup big time. There's just something about being at home, curled up on the couch with warm socks, wool and blankets while a good hearty and healthful soup bubbles away on the stove. 

The past two years I've shared a list of five favorite soups (see here & here) and I figured I might as well carry on the tradition. While we normally love soups chock full of beans, lentils and other such goodies, we've recently been making all our favorite soups without them- I tried eating some and poor Caleb's little tummy was messed up for a few days. So no more of that for me... We've been making our favorite carrot & fennel soup, as well as tomato soup, and I can't wait to make our first pumpkin soup of the year. 

But aside from that, we've found some other great alternatives for bean/lentil-less soups, which I'm sharing with you today:

1. roasted butternut squash soup

Okay, seriously yum. I used this recipe that I found through Pinterest and it was delicious. They key is definitely the pre-roasting. The recipe says to blend it up, but we just mashed it with a potato masher, which resulted in a lovely, rustic texture.

2. hearty Irish beef & ale stew

This is a big favorite of ours. It takes a little while to cook, but the flavor is worth the time put in. Also, once you get everything in the pot and simmering, you've basically done all the work. This is the perfect stew to have on low on the stove while you putter around and do other things, or while you curl up with some tea and a good book. I use a recipe from our favorite Jamie Oliver cookbook but this is quite similar.

3. cream of potato chowder

Waldi experimented with this recipe one cool day earlier this summer and it turned out excellent, so I thought I would add it to this list. It's basically just mashed potato with creme fraiche and mushrooms added in but maybe I'll end up sharing the recipe here at some point... 

4. vegan sweet potato & roasted red pepper soup

Seriously yum. We used this recipe and it was a huge hit. The yams just add the perfect amount of sweetness and the color of this soup is hard to beat. While we were in Scotland, we had a similar soup with yam & butternut squash at a cafe in the highlands that was so delicious. That's next on my list to try for sure.

5. good old turkey soup

So, we've not made this yet this year, but it's Thanksgiving weekend (if you're Canadian...) and this is just the perfect thing to use up all that leftover turkey. I always add carrots, celery and a bit of pasta to mine. I have memories of making huge pots of this after last thanksgiving and then (thanks to first trimester hormones...) being too nauseous to actually eat it, so you can bet I'll be making it again this year!    

photo by my sister, Elizabeth Barr