Sunday, 29 December 2013

New stash of yarn

My Christmas present for myself is a new stash of yarn from Schachenmayr original called "Bravo". It's an acrylic fiber which comes in a broad range of colours. Since I couldn't decide which of the many shades of each colour I should choose, I bought 36 balls of yarn each in a different shade. Some of them differ just slightly from each other and you can see the difference in sun light only. However, I was very pleased with my choice. I never had such a broad range of colours to choose from. And the yarn is easy to crochet with. So lots of holiday crochet fun for me!

Monday, 23 December 2013

The way of the foot and hand - Part 2

"Hansu" is the name of my club, which means water (from the Han river) and symbolises the characteristics of water: source of life, flowing softly yet powerful enough to form rocks. The picture in my last post shows the logo of our club on the back of a taekwondo uniform, the Chinese character for water enclosed in a wave.
So what does the uniform look like? It is basically a simple wide jacket and wide pants both made from thin white cloth. The jacket is held together by a belt which also shows the rank of the person.
For sparring and self-defense additional equipment is necessary: a vest/ body amour, shin and forearm protectors, hand protectors and a head guard. When wearing all this the resemblance to a plush toy comes to my mind. Or the one of a giant turtle, well kind of a ninja turtle ;-)

For starters just some loose fitting clothes will be all right. When you decide to regulary attend classes then a dobok (taekwondo uniform) should be considered.
As for the sparring gear most clubs provide them for use during classes. If you are sure you will learn taekwondo for a longer period of time (and/ or for hygienic reasons) buy your own equipment!

At our club Hansu we are very technique oriented which means we focus on learning forms (called "poomsae"). There are 17 forms, each with a fixed pattern and level of proficiency. The form is a combination of hand and foot techniques resembling combat but are artistically non-combative. Energy, precision, speed and control are the key points to train. This makes it so attractive to start with taekwondo, age does not matter to learn poomsae!

Friday, 20 December 2013

The way of the foot and the hand - Part 1

For something I really love to do it does not come easy to blog about it. Why is that? Or better, "What is she talking about?", you may ask. As I mentioned in my little self-introduction (left hand side bar) one of my hobbies is taekwondo. It is Korean and literally means "foot - fist - way". It is a Korean national sport and became also popular troughout the world recently. However, it is one of the sports that is still quite misunderstood in my opinion and this makes it more complex to explain. When people hear "taekwondo" they usually get the right connotation: It's a martial art! And then wild images of people flying and kicking and fighting like mad pop up, scenes from the many martial arts movies. Taekwondo can be a very good basis for those kind of movies. The real taekwondo classes for people like you and me though is more of learning techniques, flexibility, strength, perseverance and generally coordination of body and mind.

My local taekwondo club explains it like this on their website: "Foot" and "hand" represent the most important techniques of taekwondo, kicks in all variations, abdomen or head height, rotate, jump, double or triple and fist techniques, especially punches to attack and block for defense. The "way", however, describes the personal development that goes through each Taekwondoin (people learning taekwondo): from white belt to black belt, from student to master. It is more than just sporting progress. If Taekwondo is properly taught and learned, it becomes a character school. Patience, respect for the opponent, recognizing one's own weaknesses and strengths, self-discipline are only some aspects with which the athlete has to deal in training.

Well, that's a whole lot and there are slight differences between children, youth and adult classes. I'm very happy that I found out about my club as there are not many who offer adult classes. In our classes we start quite late at 20h00 until around 21h30. We usually start the class with a game to warm up, mostly football (but with a soft plastic ball and no goal keeper). And different from the games I know from school it is not about who wins but to have fun and get warm. And fun it is! I'm not skilled in any game involving balls and so are others in our group. However there are lots who are. So this leads inevitably to funny situations with a lot of laughter. And it helps me to leave the day behind, to clear my mind and to get ready for the training. We then do stretching followed by various key aspects of activity like basic techniques, pattern training, one-step-sparring, free-sparring or self-defense. The class ends with exercises for strenght/stamina or stretching. It's a really good workout, it's fun and helps to reduce stress. Most of the times before driving to my class I really feel more like relaxing on the sofa. Miraculously though, I feel relaxed after classes too. So I made it a habit to go to my club and exercise, and the habit became a beloved hobby.

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Lacy Stars

Looking for something quick to crochet as Christmas decoration? The very talented Lucy from Attic24 has written a pattern for little lacy stars. The pattern is easy to follow and has lots of helpful pictures. I hooked up a couple of them to use als decoration for gifts. They were fun to make and very easy.

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Princess and General

The other day I received a very cute gift from my lovely friend Angela. She spent a week in Korea and is blogging about her trip here. She took lots of pictures and I really enjoy "travelling" with her blog posts. So I was very suprised and happy to receive this bookmarks. Let me I introduce you to the princess and the general:
 Soooo cute. I love the colourful details and matching string with the traditional knot.
 And they are not only pretty but also very useful :-)

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Advent Calendar

Not only winter has arrived but Advent too! It is the time of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of the Nativity of Jesus at Christmas. Advent starts on the fourth Sunday before December 24, so we just passed the first Advent sunday. Besides the tradition of lighting a candle on your Advent wreath we also have an Advent calendar which always starts at the first of December. Children in particular receive an Advent calendar. However, there are also those designed for adults (for example filled with alcohol chocolates). The calendars usually take the form of a large rectangular card with little doors which are numbered 1 to 24. Each day you open one door behind which are images, sayings, or sweets. There are also calenders filled with toys or even with beer!
I bought an Advent calender with chocolate for friends of mine. I love this chocolate brand!
This year I created a calender for Peter. I started early in November to select sweets and nuts, wrapped everything in tissue paper and placed them into a shallow basket. The only thing missing are the numbers. Like this he can choose a small or a big piece of sweet.

Monday, 2 December 2013

Christmas Market

Winter season is at it's start. For me the most obvious sign is - besides freezing temperatures - the Christmas markets. They take place from the week of the first Advent until the day before Christmas Eve. The markets are set up in the city centre and usually consists of little stalls selling all kinds of crafts, Christmas items and winter items (e.g. hats, scarfs, clothes). The majority of the stalls though are offering food and beverages. Very popular is mulled wine. The stalls selling this are the most crowded. Personally I prefer hot chocolate or hot apple juice :-)
Below is a picture of such a stall (mulled wine, bratwurst etc.). The stall is quite large and hosts a gigantic version of a traditional Christmas candle pyramid: This pyramids are originally from the Ore Mountains of Germany and are thought to be the predecessor of the Christmas tree. The pyramid consists of several platforms with a long pole in the middle. At the upper end of the pole there is propeller driven by candles. The heated air spins the propeller and the discs connected to the pole. The big pyramid version is just for decoration though and makes an excellent meeting point.
I love the Christmas markets! In particular since it's getting dark so early the markets are creating a cozy atmosphere with all the lights and decorations and smell of food. But also during day time it's a hustle and bustle. The picture below was taken on a weekday at lunch time!

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Minion completed!

Another amigurumi finished! :-) This minion project consisted of  many details, tiny little things to crochet and to sew together, for example the fingers/ gloves. Did you know the minions only have three fingers? I wouldn't know if Stephanie from All about ami didn't write about it . I followed her pattern for the minion and got some inspiration for the face from Stephanie's crochet corner, a post with pictures of other crocheted minions.
Until I cut out the eyes from felt and stitched on the mouth it looked more like a giant medicine capsule. But a "face" changed it all! I used quite a bit of glue to attatch the eyes, the gloves and the pockets of the overall. With yellow yarn I did a little embroidery on the overall and it's pockets.
Then I put everything together. Contrary to the pattern I didn't used upper and lower eyelids. I crocheted them and tried to fix them onto the face. But I liked the look without eyelids much better. So this minion has none. The trademark goggles though are indispensable!
My sister wanted the minion to hold a heart just like in the picture from the crochet corner. So I crocheted a little heart too and fixed it onto the glove.
So there he is: minion with heart :-)
He is about 23 cm tall and needs something to rest his back in order to stand on his little feet. I should have used some rice to stuff the shoes instead of cotton only. But still, I love the minion very much.
Cute little amigurumi, looking forward to see the second part of your movie soon!

Friday, 22 November 2013

Fake wedding cake

Our office secretary Diana got married last week and our team wanted to surprise her at the registry office. So lovely Angie, our new colleague, came up with a creative idea to present our wedding gift: She bought scented toilet paper in three different colours, white, yellow and purple. With purple ribbon she tied the paper rolls together, 7 rolls for the first "cake layer", 5 for the second layer, 3 for the third layer and one roll for the top part. She piled them and placed a purple napkin with a white candle on top, added some transparent beads and little artificial flowers too. Then each of us wrote a mini greeting card. The cards were fixed to the ribbon as well as the banknotes which were folded into little bows/ butterflies. Our wedding "cake" was done!
I loved the creativity and Angie's great idea. And Diana and her husband were really surprised to see the whole gang in the registry office with a purple something. So our surprise worked!

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Colourfully lighted bar

Remember the post about the wintergarden cafe? I suggested this cafe to a good friend of mine to meet and chat. Her text message reply was that she found that place too posh and she didn't feel like dressing up. Actually in my opinion it is not nifty and I would have worn my blue jeans anyway.
So she suggested another place. I assumed less fancy. Then when I arrived I thought I had mistaken the place. It was really chic! When you entered the bar there were a couple of tables layed with white tablecloth, waiters in black uniform and a fantastically colourfully lighted bar. I liked to sit just opposite the bar at high tables watching this surreal light. This place also had a nice lounge area but I forgot to take pictures of it. So thanks to my friend I got to know another interesting place very close to our home.

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Wintergarden Café

The other weekend Peter and I took a stroll in the town. It was nice and sunny outside and lots of people were having the same idea as we had: Just to sit outside and have a coffee (for me a hot chocolate). So most places were totally crowded and no vacant seats available. We decided to return home and have a quiet coffee on our window sill. But on our way back we passed a place were we could sit and have drink. It was the courtyard of a complex of buildings with a glass ceiling. So it was almost as sitting outside.
 They had olive trees and a huge palm tree, a sort of Mediterranean atmosphere.
Very relaxing: Just a few people around and sitting outside and inside at the same time. And of course we had our hot chocolates. Happy, happy :-)
Actually this place is also a bar with sports TV facilities inside the building. There are a couple of offices around and some shops. One of the shops is a kitchen supplier with very fancy stuff. Amazing what you can supply your kitchen with!
Anyhow, our afternoon stroll ended  in (re-)discovering a nice wintergarden type of cafe we will surely visit again.

Friday, 25 October 2013

Chestnut bounty

One of my favourite winter snacks are roasted chestnuts. I usually buy them from a little stall at the Christmas market where they are roasted on a charcoal grill. They come in a brown paper bag and keep your hands nice and warm. But that's still one month to go.
Last week I got a huge bag of chestnuts from my mother collected in the forest. They are much smaller than the one you can buy in the supermarket and smaller than the non-edible type of chestnut.
In the picture below you see the so called horse chestnut (left) and the edible sweet chestnut (right). I like the pointy end with the taft at its tip. It looks like a little pouch or teepee or fig.
To roast them without grill I just used a frying pan. I cut some of them crosswise with a knife. But it was difficult as these chestnuts are so small and the outer skin hard. So most of them went into the pan as they were. On full power heat without anything added, just turned around with a wooden spoon.
When the outer skin, the brown husk breaks open (the ones cut crosswise) the chestnuts are "done". With a sharp knife it is easy to get rid of the husk and the inner skin. Then you get to the sweet tasting creamy white fruit. The texture of the fruit reminds me of a potato, maybe because the chestnut contains a lot of starch. A great snack for the evening!

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Minion - WIP

What happened to the minion, my new amigurumi crochet work in progress, I started two weeks ago? I finished the body part, stuffed it and added some hair. In order to keep the black strands of yarn from unravelling I used some glue and trimmed it. Then I started the overall which consists of little pieces of crocheted details. The main part of the overall though is crocheted like the body part, in rounds. Now I have to assemble the overall parts and continue with the arms, shoes and face.
The pattern for this amigurumi can be found on "All about Ami"

Monday, 21 October 2013

Autumn delights

Last week I have been in the Country of Berg (Bergisches Land), in the western part of Germany. I was born here and once in a while I come to visit my aunt. Actually she is not my real aunt but she used to look after me when I was little and I am still very fond of her.
She has a big garden with lots of beautiful flowers, lots of trees, a cat and some chicken and one lonely duck.
I admire her garden. There are still lots of blooming flowers and even tomatoes! Outside! And of course lots and lots of fallen leafs.
And lots of other autumnal delights: There is a huge walnut tree, where a swing is still dangling from one of the big branches. I remember the swing very well. And four big apple trees loaden with apples. So many this year that the branches have to be supported by sticks to prevent them from beeing pulled down by the apple's weight.
I love to wander around to discover little garden creatures. Unfortunately the cat was not willing to have a picture taken. She was observing me very closely but whenever I raised my camera she was turning or running away. Very clever.

We had a lovely afternoon drinking tea and devouring cake (of course with apples :-) and (Christmas)cookies. Christmas cookies are already available in the supermarkets. Unbelievable that in two months already it is Christmas again! In the below picture, top left corner, you may spot a transparent bag with something yellowish. This are dried apples my aunt gave to me. They were dried in a drying machine and have great apple taste, fruity and sweet. A snack I cannot stop eating!
What a relaxing and pleasant trip. Makes me smile thinking of it, love the beautiful and cozy place my aunt has created.

Friday, 18 October 2013

Apple and pears

We have a small apple tree on the office grounds full of golden-red apples. The apples are smaller than the one in the supermarket although with great flavour. I picked some of them to make apple-pear puree (Unfortunatelay I cannot eat them raw due to an allergie. I always have to cook or bake them first.) You simply peel and cut the apples and pears and cook them in a pot with a little bit of water and lemon juice to prevent the apples to get a brownish colour. I also added some peeled and cut pears and some sugar. If you like add 3 -4 cloves and cinnamon. Cook until tender and make a puree using a blender. If you used cloves take them out before using the blender!!! (I usually wrap them into filter paper which makes it easier to get them out).
My favourite dish with apple-pear puree is potato pancake.
For the potato pancake grate potatoes, add some onions and flour and 1 - 2 eggs. Fry in a pan with oil until golden brown and crispy. Eat while still hot with apple-pear puree on top. Delicious!

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Minion - Work in progress

Have you seen the movie "Despicable me"? A computer-animated comedy film about a super villain who adopts three little girls who bring out the good side of him. I didn't know it until I visited my sister who watched the DVD with me. Actually the title and movie poster did not appeal to me at all. But the side characters, the minions, are very funny and adorable. And after watching the whole movie and all the extra features on the DVD I started to like them too. There are more mini film clips of the minions on YouTube and next year there will be a whole movie featuring the minions.
My sister and I then searched the web and found a pattern for a crocheted minion. Hurrah! Stephanie from "All about ami", the very talented amigurumi and crochet artist, wrote a pattern for a minion. As my sister loved it very much I promised to crochet one for her. So this is the start of a new amigurumi project.
I bought some yellow, blue, black and grey yarn and started to crochet the body. I just did on third of it and I am curious how it will turn out. What you see in the picture below is the upper part of the head

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Happy flower decoration

We had a real autumn weekend with lots of wind and tons of leaves blown off the trees. I felt like making something flowery, something to remind me of summer. So I looked up my crochet project database in ravelry and came across the happy flower decoration by the very talented Lucy of Attic24. She wrote a very detailled pattern description with lots of helpful pictures.
And it was really joyful to work on this flower: lots of different colours, quick and easy to make.
To finish off and give more stability to the flower, I used some glue as recommended in the pattern description. First I was a bit skeptical about the glue, which has a white colour when applying, that it would not turn out transparent. But all turned out well, the front is nice and wooly and the back is stiff with invisible glue. Then I assembled the three crocheted pieces and added some beads too. What fun! It has been ages since I last worked with beads.
This happy flower makes me smile!

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

iCat phone cozy

Do you sometimes have yarn you like but don't know what to make of it? I got this beige/ brownish yarn from somewhere and only two skeins of it. So not enough for a shawl and a hat. Maybe for another Amineko? Yes, that would do! But I felt like crocheting something else for a change and I stumbled across Jessica's blog introducing the iCat phone cozy. The original website is here.
No text, just pictures. So I tried as good as I could and it turned out like this:
I took the measurements from my phone. The body is done quick and easy crocheting in rounds until the desired height is reached. For the ears I did half trebles and trebles. The legs were a bit tricky. I just crocheted a square (first two rows with white yarn) and then sew it onto the body. In the middle of the square I stitched a vertical line to separate the "legs". The eyes are just a crocheted oval tied in the middle with a piece of yarn, then sewn onto the body.
The tail is also a square (first 3 rows with white yarn), then sewn onto the backsite of the body. Then I stitched the face and the "iCat" lettering which was the most complicated part for me. I tried a couple of times, undid it and stitched again. I am not too happy about the lettering but it will do for the moment.  Finally I crocheted the supporting loop with pink and white yarn and secured it onto the upper right side of the phone cozy. Finished :-)

Sunday, 6 October 2013

More Aminekos

I love to crochet amigurumis, especially aminekos (I wrote about them already here.) They are fun to crochet. The sizes range from 21 cm to 28 cm, depending on your hook size and yarn weight, so it just takes a few days to make them. I crocheted more of them until I got a whole gang of cats:

In fact, they take the place of one of our shelfs already. And Peter is starting to be afraid of me producing a plethora of crocheted cats which will slowly but steadily congest our whole book shelf.

No worries though, all of them will just stay temporarily with us, with the exception of the beige amineko, a gift from my sister which I will keep. The others will go to different homes of friends of mine to spread the amineko love.

Friday, 4 October 2013

Biathlon in Oberhof

The last day of our trip to Southern Thuringia was Oberhof, a town known for it's Olympic Training Center for winter sports.
As I am not the winter sports type of person I first couldn't relate to this place, so it was a great idea of the organizer of this trip to have a brief introduction by someone who lived and trained many years in Oberhof. Sven Fischer, a multiple winner of major championships in biathlon, now retired and working for the media, gave us an insight into the life of a top-athlete. And how he coped when retiring from competitive sports. His vita is impressive!
After the introduction we went off to see different training places for cross country skiing and biathlon, skeleton and ski jumping.
Sven, as our guide, explained and told stories about each place we visited.
In between there were people asking for an autograph or to have a picture taken with him. Well, real winter sports fans. Albeit his popularity he is a very easy going and down-to-earth person.
At the end of our tour we went to a riffle shooting area and were greeted by more biathlon professionals. While munching on a bratwurst - after visiting all this training places we got hungry - they explained us the visitor's competition rules for riffle shooting. Well, for some of us including me the bratwurst got stuck in our throats. Me, riffle shooting?
The instructors were very friendly and veeeeeery patient. It took some time to get into the right position and to understand where the targets for your lane were located (the distance to the targets is 50 m, but you could easily mistake the targets of the adjoining lanes for your own targets when looking through the riffle lens). And miraculously I was able to hit all big targets (diameter 12 cm), but only one of the small targets (diameter 5 cm). Still I was quite content and it was fun after all.

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Erfurt walks

The next day we went to Erfurt. Our group booked a tour guide in historic costume. First it was a bit odd to walk with the medivial merchant. Then we were suprised not only by his deep knowledge of history but by his wit and the charming way he used to tell stories.
We went to the narrowest house in town, barely the width of a car. Today though, it is only used as the staircase for the two adjoining houses.
The old town of Erfurt is very picturesque, especially one narrow street with artisan shops and beautiful flower arrangements at the windows.
And to our big surprise this narrow street is not just a normal street but a bridge! Unbelievable! We went to the back of that street and saw.... indeed, a bridge with houses on top!
In former times people have been so clever constructing without computers and engines. Our tour guide showed us more places how and where the city of Erfurt did business with merchands from all over Europe in medivial times. An excellent walk, informative and so enjoyable.