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!