Sunday, December 30, 2012

2013 - My almost vegetarian year

Last year was very busy and very stressful. I was transitioning from a role in journalism to communications and PR, which was a lot harder and emotionally draining than I thought it would be, as well as planning the wedding. While the wedding planning wasn't necessarily stressful, it still ate up a lot of free time and I am the first to admit that I didn't look after myself as well as I could over the last six months (weird right? Brides are normally crazy healthy to fit into dresses / look amazing etc). 

It's not that I did anything particularly bad, but I definitely didn't eat as well as I could. Certainly not enough of the green veges, and coming home late from work certainly didn't inspire me to get into cooking a nutritious meal. Coffee was a staple part of my diet - often substituted for breakfast. I've never been a breakfast person; I'd rather sleep for an extra 10 minutes. And I'd rather sleep for an extra ten minutes because I haven't been fueling myself properly, and therefore getting tired easily. 

I'm basically at the point now where I want to change. I want to have more energy, feel healthier, and eat breakfast sometimes. 

Earlier last year, I was having some problems with my skin. It gets oily, and during a crazy work time, I got to the point where I was reliving my spotty teenage years. I was not impressed. So instead of going to the doctor to get a heap of creams and chemicals that may or may not work, I tried the Healthy Skin Diet. I got the book, and for two months I followed it religiously. And it worked. Within three days, my skin had completely cleared up and I felt so much better. I cut out red meat and anything that came from a pig, and ate veges, wholegrains and lots of fish. I cut out refined sugars and dairy (I really missed cheese) and my only regret is that I didn't carry on with it, because I felt so well and had so much energy.

So this year is going to be my Almost Vegetarian Year. I am cutting out meat except fish (we could call this my Pescetarian Year, but that would take too much explaining) and I am minimising my dairy and sugar intake for special occasions. 

I just want to note here that many people get a bit funny about the vegetarian thing, which is why I'm going to call myself an almost-vegetarian. For me this is NOT an ethical decision. This is purely because I tried it for a bit last year, and I felt so much better. The impact on my health is the reason for this, and I know people might disagree with my choice of choosing to eat fish over other animals. If it helps at all, I have been fishing and caught fish myself, and I have no problem with people catching only what they need with sustainable fishing practices. I try my very best to only eat fish from sustainable sources - my canned tuna and salmon must have the MSC logo and I try to get a lot of my fish from farmers markets where I can find out more information from the producers. I have never killed a cow or a pig or a lamb myself, although I am well aware of New Zealand's farming processes. I also only buy organic eggs and free range meat (if it's available) but that shouldn't be a major issue for me this year.

Also, another big consideration for me is being a bit more creative with my vege and wholegrains. I'm seeing this as an opportunity to expand my cooking horizons.

This is not going to be an easy challenge for me. My idea of heaven is a giant Bacon Backfire from Burgerfuel (although they also do great vege burgers) and I will probably have a few slip ups. I'm also not expecting my friends to go out of their way to make exceptions for my choices. If friends cook my dinner that contains meat, I will eat it. Like I said, it's not an ethical call, and I don't want to inconvenience my friends or be a nightmare of a dinner guest.

 I'm arming myself with resources - a tonne of cookbooks (some vegetarian, and some not but with good vege and fish recipes) and I'm going to plan my meals each week to make sure I'm prepared. I'm also going to keep a record of how I'm doing on here - maybe an update of what recipes I've tried - I find that if I'm accountable to something, I'll actually stick to it!

Here's my reading list to start off with:
The Vegetarian Option by Simon Hopkinson
Whole Larder Love by Rohan Anderson
Dr Libby's Real Food Chef by Dr Liby Weaver
Jamie's 30 Minute Meals by Jamie Oliver
The Revive Cafe Cookbook by Jeremy Dixon

If anyone can recommend some good vegetarian cooking blogs or books, I would love to hear about them! Since this is the beginning of my journey, I'm really looking forward to discovering more amazing foods and more variety that my current diet has!

Wishing you all a happy 2013!

Saturday, December 29, 2012

2012 - my knitting year in review

This year has been a big one for knitting. I started to get a bit more adventurous with patterns and techniques - and here are a few of the projects I'm really proud of.

Dyeing my own yarn!

Learning stranded knitting. A crucial skill for my Funchal Moebius, the biggest project I've done to date. From this I also learnt how to do continental knitting and I'm sure this project would've taken a year to finish if I hadn't!

I learnt how to knit socks! I'm currently knitting my fifth pair, and I love how portable they are.

Another big technique achievement - grafting. Not as hard as I thought it would be, it just takes a bit of practice.

I had two very very simple patterns published, including this one - knitting video tape into a purse.

I've started devising my own patterns - below are my arm warmers in my Olive and Emma yarn.

And around all this we were also planning our wedding, the most amazing day ever.
I knitted my bridemaids and special helpers some gifts.

And a lacy shrug for me!

I've had a look over the knitting goals I set myself at the beginning of the year, and I'm happy to say I've completed most of them!

1. Knit my first pair of socks. If anyone can suggest a good beginner sock pattern, it would be appreciated - CHECK
2. Learn continental knitting. I figure that since I'm a left-hander, I should pick this up quite well, and it will speed up my stranded knitting attempts. - CHECK
3. Knit my wedding bouquet. Linda Dawkins' daffodilssnow dropsand lilies, as featured on her Natural Suburbia blog, are just what I'm looking for. I was born in Wales, so the daffodils will be a good way to represent that, and snow drops and lilies are just pretty. I have approximately two years to finish it, so I have lots of time to chip away at this project. - Mum vetoed the knitted bouquet idea - I made the shrug instead.
4. Knit a snuggly blanket for the couch.- I didn't do this, but I did recycle about seven vintage wool and crochet blankets for the wedding - three of them are on the couch!
5. Write and publish a pattern. I'm not sure what for yet, but I'll think of something! - CHECK
6. Get a better stash organisation system happening.- This definitely did not happen. Work in progress still.

I'm planning my list of knitting and life goals for 2013, looking forward to sharing them with you in the new year!

Friday, December 28, 2012

The Wedding Shrug - a clear shot

I promised to put a clearer picture of the Wedding Shrug up as soon as I had one. Here she is!

I just wanted to knit something quick

It might have been because it's been a busy week with Christmas, or it might've been because I've done a few very time consuming projects this year (Funchal Moebius anyone?) but all I wanted to do this week was knit something extremely quick. 

Since the Christmas hood, all I've had on the needles is the second stripy sock, and it just wasn't doing it for me. It's fine, and I'm really happy with how it's knitting up, but I was just a bit bored of it.
So I decided to cast on some of the crazy yarn I got in Queenstown - the pure wool from Little Wool Shed.  

It's one of those uneven handspuns (some parts of it actually look like roving) that requires the fattest needles you can find - exactly what I wanted in a super quick knit. 

I knitted a hat in three hours, and I made up the pattern myself. It's extremely simple, but given I have no brain for designing (although I'd really like to do more) I'm really proud of her. 
I call her my Instant Gratification Hat, because a finished garment knitted in a couple of hours is about as instant as you can get.

 She's a bit knobbly, with all kinds of uneven stitches - definitely not a glamourous hat to wear around town - but she's super warm and would look perfect at the farm around a campfire. 

Which happens to be my plan for New Year's Eve. I'll take her for a test drive then!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Christmas cheer

It's been an amazing Christmas. 
Once again Mum cooked an amazing dinner with the best Yorkshire puddings on the planet, and a bunch of our friends joined us to eat it all, my favourite  of our traditions.

Amongst the traditions (board games, and too many chocolates) though were a couple of handmade gifts - including the cutest cushion in the world.

My lovely aunty made this for me and husband as a wedding gift - it was delivered all the way from the UK, and arrived on Christmas Eve. It just looks so good with my second-hand crochet blanket.

I'm spending Boxing Day digesting all of the food I ate yesterday and working on another Happy-Go-Knitty sock, while sneaking some of these delicious treats.

I also managed to finish knitting the Christmas hood! I don't have a picture yet, because I was steam blocking it literally 15 minutes before giving it to the recipient, but I hope to get one soon!
Considering the rush, I'm happy with the way it turned out. I ran out of the right buttons and had to add a jazzy one in, but all good, it's not Christmas without a bit of crazy gift improvisation.

Hope everyone had a wonderful day celebrating with family and friends!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Olive & Emma in *bespoke* zine!

I'm so excited to have another feature in *bespoke*.
This time round I've written about one of my favourite indy-dyers, Olive & Emma.
Heaps of other great stuff in there too - including an article on how to care for your crochet blankets - something I definitely need to work on!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Back to the knitting

It's all been a bit quiet on the knitting front for the last couple of weeks. I'm glad now that I actually have some stuff on the needles - another pair of Happy Go Knitty socks (yes I realise I have a big problem. I'm addicted to self-striping yarn, but there are worse things to be addicted to....) 

I've also started my third Through the Woods Hood. I promised to make this for a friend about a year and a half ago, but after knitting two of them in a row, I needed some breathing space.

I haven't done a cable project in such a long time, and it's a skill I'd like to improve on next year.
I'm really happy with how these ones are coming out.
I'm knitting this up in Cascade Eco + Wool in Straw Heather, and from experience with my first hood, it wears very nicely.
I'm hoping to have this finished by Christmas, but apparently I pretty much only have a week left to finish it. I think I'll have to knit under my desk, and I'm pretty slow when it comes to knitting cables. Nothing like a deadline, and chocolate to get you through!

And speaking of chocolate, I've been playing with a new toy - a Breville Scraper Mixer. And it actually does scrape the bowl so I don't have to!
I only got it yesterday, and I tested it out with a chocolate recipe I'm thinking of using for Christmas gifts this year.

The result has the flatmate approval. I think it'll be perfect in some Christmas-themed moulds!

So while I'm expecting to be able to make cakes much quicker now (I'm always put off when I have to whisk egg whites into firm peaks - that takes me half an hour) I knew getting a mixer was a good idea when I tested it for pizza dough. 
Not only does the dough hook look like something Captain Hook would wear (next fancy dress party?)  the dough was kneaded in a minute. 
That's nine minutes quicker than when I do it by hand. 
Best purchase ever.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Woolly wanderings in Queenstown part two.

When we visited Queenstown, we thought it would be a wise idea to hire a car and see more of the countryside - not just the area around the town centre and the lake (for the record, this is amazing, as you can see below).

As much as I love Queenstown, I'm so glad we went exploring. I have a new favourite place - Arrowtown. It's practically a late 19th century gold mining town that's been kept intact, and it is beautiful.

I found this wool shop pretty quickly - but there was no yarn in it! My disappointment didn't last long though; there was a craft shop across the road.

The Stitching Post is more for quilters than knitters, but I loved the fabric and its collection of buttons!

Look at these cottages. I need one to live in.

And the main street is just awesome. There's a gold shop and a sweet shop and a bakery and all other types of essential shopping outlets, all I need now is a pony to tie to this hitching post. 

Although I didn't find any yarn in Arrowtown, I did get to pan for some gold! Not quite a millionaire yet, but if I get enough of these gold flecks, one day I could be.

My next wool find was in Wanaka, about an hour's drive north of Queenstown.

I got some more Touch Yarns wool - this time a 2 ply mohair and merino blend in a great red. 

And we took some time to enjoy the lake...

And learn some fun facts...

On our way back from Wanaka, we couldn't pass up a chance to visit Puzzling World.
Not only did we get to run around the maze and play amongst all the illusions, I got to admire some pretty great illusion knitting.

I think Albert looks pretty great in this knitted portrait. Knitting something like this must be incredibly complicated colourwork - I'd have no idea where to start!

All up we both had an amazing time in Queenstown - geekery for the hubby, craftiness for me, and I've discovered that exploring a new area with your hobbies in mind is a great way to see a place without just being another tourist! 

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Woolly wanderings in Queenstown part one.

The perfect way to recover after months of planning a wedding is by escaping to Queenstown. The town on the edge of Lake Wakatipu is renowned for its incredible scenery, and since the gold mining dried up a very long time ago, the area makes its money from keen visitors like me. We flew down for four nights, and tried to cram in as much as possible.

Queenstown was first settled by this guy, William Rees of Wales, in 1860 (total bonus that he's Welsh!). He established a sheep station, and a short while later gold was discovered in the area, leading to one of the world's biggest gold rushes.
I was extremely excited to find out that this place was built on wool first - leading me to hunt out several yarn shops on my adventure.

My first find was the Kiwi Wool Shop. So many wool shops in Queenstown sell ready-made knits for tourists, so I was stoked to find this one had a yarn section!

So much to choose from! I decided to go with something a bit different to what I'd usually buy - a hank of Touch Yarns hand-dyed possum and merino blend in colourway C6. 

The next place I found was the Little Wool Shed. The lady who runs it spins and knits most of the products herself, and I got a nice grey chunky handspun.

The hunt for yarn took a break that afternoon, for me and husband to go on a Lord of the Rings location tour! 

Just rocking a Stansborough elven cloak - had made in Wellington for the films with yarn from Stansborough sheep!

And a compulsory duel where the scenes of Amon Hen were filmed - Boromir got killed around here somewhere. I totally won this battle. 

Friday, December 7, 2012

RIP Entangled

Just before the wedding, I found out the sad news that Entangled Magazine was shutting up shop. 
I loved writing for this little magazine, and still think the quality and depth of the publication was a breath of fresh air when compared to many other magazines I read often.

I will miss writing for it, but most of all I'll miss reading it from cover to cover every couple of months when it arrives in my inbox - publisher Genny put her heart and soul into it, and the end result was awesome. It's a shame that little mags like this can't always survive in tough economic climates, but I'm extremely grateful to have made a small contribution to this little mag! 

My birthday bookshelf

My friends and family know that there are a few things I love most. Books, knitting stuff, tea sets and vintage dresses. This birthday was book themed and extremely awesome. 

My lovely husband got me these:

Material World by Perri Lewis

I've been counting down the days until Perri's book was released, and from the quick read-through I've had, it is extremely awesome. I'm looking forward to setting aside a day next week to just read!

Knit One, Kill Two by Maggie Sefton
And this just looks amazing. Murder mystery + knitting? My kind of heaven, to perfectly compliment Jonathan Creek Season Two that my brother got me on DVD!

And my lovely bestie got me this - another one I've been meaning to add to the shelf for a while!

Everything Alice by Hannah Read-Baldrey and Christine Leech

The art and design in this book is amazing! It's proving to be a great distraction!


This week has been a total whirlwind. From my birthday last week to our wedding on Saturday, it's been very busy and extremely amazing. 

A sneak preview of the wedding - the official pics might be a few weeks!

I went with a short dress - much easier to run around in!

We are extremely blessed to have amazing friends and family who made our day so special! 
All of the planning and work and making things, and it's now all over!

 We honeymooned in Queenstown (more on that later - I blew a chunk of my spending money on yarn) and now I'm coming to terms with everything that's happened over the last week!