Let’s make Flammkuchen!

A German dish that we really enjoy is Flammkuchen, which is essentially an Alsatian pizza. It’s a common thing you can buy in Biergartens, but you can also make it at home pretty easily!

Flammkuchen ingredients

Here are the ingredients you need: pre-made Flammkuchen dough (or you can make your own using this recipe), pesto, crème fraîche, mozzarella, cherry tomatoes, and beer. (Well, actually the beer is just for the chef! 🍺)

Crème fraîche and pesto

The first step is to mix up the crème fraîche and pesto in a bowl…

Flammkuchen dough

Here’s the flammkuchen dough unrolled out on the baking tray. It’s rectangular, but you can also make them circular if you’re making your own. The dough comes on baking paper, so you can just bake it right on that.

Flammkuchen dough with sauce

Then you spread the crème fraîche and pesto all over the dough.

Adding cheese

Next you add the mozzarella. The one I like comes in a single lump and I just tear it up and scatter it around.

Cherry tomatoes

Lastly, you add the cherry tomatoes and then season with salt and pepper. Obviously you could put other ingredients on there too – little bacon lardons are pretty popular! Then the whole thing goes in a hot oven for like 15 minutes.

Flammkuchen

And here’s the finished Flammkuchen! 🍕🍺

April Cycling Update

We were still getting snow flurries at the start of April, but as the weeks went by the weather finally started to warm up. I decided it was time to get my butt in gear and make up some ground towards my cycling goal.

On Easter Sunday I went for  16.7km (10.4mi) ride to the Englischer Garten and back home along the Isar.


There were so many people in the park for the holiday. I was delighted to pass a little old guy playing the accordion and managed to record a bit as I passed…

I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of the blues and greens of Germany. It’s such a different landscape to back home in Australia! I found this public artwork along the Isar that was a bit of a platform sticking out over the river that you could venture inside.

A few weeks later I went on another long 20km ride to Olympiapark. The Snook and I had ridden there last November, but this was my first time venturing on my own.

I really like the particular style they used for the structures at the park. Wikipedia says, “The eye-catching tensile structure that covers much of the park was designed by German architect and engineer Frei Otto with Günther Behnisch.” Nice job Frei and Günther!

Olympic Stadium

I also made a point of visiting the Memorial to the 1972 Olympic Games Massacre. To my surprise, the memorial was only formally opened four years ago in 2017. Unfortunately it appeared to be under renovation, and I couldn’t get any closer than this. The Jewish Museum of Munich has a nice depiction of what it normally looks like

Memorial

I left Olympia Park and rode past BMW World, which is evidently the most visited tourist attraction in all of Bavaria. Then I rode through Luitpold Park, which features another giant “hill” created by rubble piled up from WWII bombing attacks on the city. Looks like it would be great for sledding down in winter! I stopped for a photo by the obelisk at one end of the park.

A couple days later I did a quick 10km loop along the Isar and back…

The highlight was crossing the Thalkirchner Brücke on the way home and discovering the local kayak club out practicing!

Last weekend I finally gave in and started my Strava subscription trial, which gave me access to routes other people have added. One of them looked pretty fun, a big loop around Nymphenburg Palace and through some suburbs that were new to me. It ended up being another 20km ride!

We went to Nymphenburg Palace last September but just explored the gardens. This route took me way around the back side of the grounds along the palace wall. Here I am crossing the canal on a little bridge, and you can just see the Palace way, way off in the distance!

Nymphenburg Palace in the distance

I’ve been experimenting with taking some photos while I’m riding. My iPhone mount works fine pointing up, but it does cover a little bit of the camera lens when looking forward. Still, you can see the castle wall there and lots of other people out enjoying the sun.

While riding back through the city towards home, I was delighted to see an honest-to-goodness Goggomobil pass me. The thing looked like a museum piece! Fortunately it got stuck at a stoplight so I was able to pull over and take a quick selfie for the Snook…

Goggomobil

Can you tell it was a warm day? I took a bottle of water with me (that’s why I’m wearing a backpack), but I actually finished it long before I got home. I realised that hydration was definitely going to be a limiting factor on these rides, so I ordered myself a backpack with water bladder off Amazon.de.

Hydration backpack

This baby holds 2 liters and has a nozzle that clips over my shoulder, so I don’t even have to stop. I was excited to try it out on my longest ride yet. The Snook had told me recently about Komoot, which is another site where you can find recommended riding, running, and hiking routes. I found a route, filled up my backpack, and headed out today for a 30km ride…

The weather was cool and cloudy, but there wasn’t any rain forecast until the evening so I figured I’d better get out there. I first rode back to Nymphenburg but then turned northwest and meandered through Durchblickpark. “Durchblick” refers to a glance or a view, and apparently the park is so named because you’d have originally been able to see all the way across it from Nymphenburg Palace to my first destination – Schloß Blutenburg, a nearly 600-year-old castle on the banks of the river Würm.

Durchblickpark

See? You can just spot the castle a looooong way in the distance. Eventually I got there and parked my bike so I could look around. The courtyard was open, and took some photos of the apple trees in bloom and the decorated chapel. There was a biergarten outside along the water that was open for takeaway, and there were families enjoying lunch among the flowers.

I was only about a third of the way into my journey at that point, so I hopped back on my bike and continued along the Würm…

Würm

As with all German rivers, it’s charming AF.

Soon I left the city behind – I literally passed the sign marking the borders of Munich! – and found myself riding through fields.

Olympiaturm in the distance

If you zoom way in, you can see the Olympiaturm way, way off in the distance!

Pretty soon the fields started to smell strongly, and I wondered if they’d just been fertilised. But then I solved the mystery! We’d been wondering where all the organic food waste goes, and today I found it: a giant “Kompostwerk” just outside of town. (Speaking as someone who grew up in a rural area, I much prefer the smell of compost to manure!)

Compost!

My end destination – well, the point where I turned around to head home – was the Langwieder Lake District. I rode under the Autobahn and headed out along the narrow strip of land between the Langwieder See and the Lußsee, and eventually I came to a little pebbly “beach”. I stopped for a bit to drink some water, eat some trail mix, and send an update to the Snook. It’s a far cry from Aussie beaches, but it seems like it would be nice on a sunny day. I was surprised to learn just now that this whole area was man-made, and the lakes are actually dug out gravel pits from the building of various highways! I’ll have to bring the Snook back here one of these days…

Beach at the Lußsee

And then at last it was time to head home. My legs were feeling pretty tired, as was my bum. (Note to self: look into padded cycling shorts!) I also started to get nervous that my phone battery was going to run out, so I tried to keep the screen off most of the time. My feet and lower legs started to feel a little crampy too. When I was about 5km from the house, I realised I’d missed a turn to get into a cycling path and stopped to do a U-turn. As I slowed to turn and head back the other direction, I turned the wheel too far and was slow getting my foot under me, so… I stacked it! Fell right over. 😂 Only a few scratches, and of course my dented pride. It was bound to happen eventually.

Stacked it!

I was really running on fumes by the time I got back to our neighbourhood, and I was so tired I walked my bike up over the Donnersbergerbrücke. I definitely think I tested my limits today, both my fitness and my iPhone battery!

Strava goal status

So that’s the current goal status: 204km for the year, which is 127.4km behind where I need to be to hit 1000km for 2021. I racked up a lot of miles in April though, so if I can keep it up, I reckon I might be able to catch up by the time we get to Summer! 🚴‍♀️

Let’s make Rouladen!

When you’re living the expat life, I don’t see a lot of point in only eating the things you did back home. If you didn’t want to try new things, what was the point of leaving in the first place? When I did a semester in London in college, I remember one girl would only eat from American fast food restaurants, and I was livid that she took a spot from someone that would have appreciated the experience more. I swore that would never be me. So when we got to Germany, I spent some time researching classic German dishes that we could try to recreate.

Rouladen was one of the first*, and I’ve made them several times since. They’re rolled up beef parcels with bacon, onions, mustard, and pickles. Um, YUM. After my first attempt, I bought special Rouladennadeln, little metal skewers you can use to secure the rolls without having to tie them with string. I figured I’d document in case you’d like to try it yourself!

Ingredients

I’ve used a few different recipes I found online, but the most recent was this one from Edeka (our local supermarket). In addition to the beef (more of that in a second), the main ingredients are mustard, pickles, onions, sliced streaky bacon (I used this thin smoked ham), carrot, parsnip (or “parsley root”), leeks (I subbed in some very chunky green onions), and celery (mine is defrosting as the Snook likes to freeze pre-chopped baggies of it).

Rouladen

Here’s the beef itself. My understanding is that it’s slices of topside or silverside. Pretty much every German meat counter has a hunk of beef sitting there marked “Rouladen” and the butcher will happily slice off bits for you. My local store actually has pre-sliced bits wrapped up in cellophane, so I grabbed four of them. They were so large that I actually sliced them in half, into 8. If your slices are thick you can pound them thinner, but these were close enough to the recipe’s 0.5cm that I didn’t bother.

Prepping the Rouladen

You start by spreading some mustard on each of the pieces of beef, then sprinkling with salt and pepper. Then you layer on the bacon, onions, and pickle. Technically this recipe wants you to slice the onion, but I misread and minced mine as a previous recipe had had me do. I think I’ll try the slicing next time, as I’m guessing it’s easier to keep the onion inside when you roll them up. For the pickle I sliced each one into quarters. Another recipe also had me used thin carrot sticks too, but this one left them out.

Rouladennaden

Those are my Rouladennadeln (roulade needles). Fun, huh? Time to roll up the Rouladen.

Rolled up Rouladen

Look, I’m obviously not a 70-year-old Bavarian Grandmother who’s been doing this her whole life, but I’m pretty proud of this, okay? 😊 You can also tie them up with kitchen string, or use toothpicks to secure. (That’s what I did the first time, but it’s hard to keep the toothpicks from breaking.)

Prepping veg

Now to prep the veg. Everything is chopped up into little bits.

Browning the Rouladen

Now it’s time to brown the Rouladen in some oil. I used our cast-iron casserole, but you could also just use a big pot. I only did a few at a time and tried to let them get a nice bit of crust.

Cooking the veg

Once you’ve browned the meat and set it aside, you dump all the veg in the pot and cook it until it softens.

Final ingredients

You need a few final ingredients: tomato paste, red wine, and beef stock. You add the tomato paste to the veg and cook for a bit, then deglaze with the wine. Then you stir in the stock.

Sauce

Nice rich sauce for our Rouladen!

Meat back in the pot

The Rouladen go back into the pot, and the whole thing simmers with a lid on for 45-60 minutes at low heat.

Cooking down the sauce

When the Rouladen are done cooking, you pull them out and place them in the oven to keep warm. Then you strain the veg out of the sauce (and chuck it away!), and let it boil down a little to thicken.

Adding butter

And because “hey, why the hell not, we’re in Germany!”, you further thicken the sauce by whisking in 100g of cold butter cubes. Hells yeah.

Finished Rouladen

Now you can put the Rouladen back in the sauce before serving. I also pulled out the Rouladennadeln at this point.

Rouladen

And that’s it! Traditional German Rouladen.** We served it with steamed carrots and a bit of mashed potato (which had some leftover cabbage mixed in). Very tasty!

* Funny story: I happily announced in a team meeting after my first attempt at this that I’d made “Rolladen” and everybody started laughing. Rolladen are… Venetian blinds. Yeah, don’t mix up the terms. 😂

** I’m sure this is one of those things where there are a million regional variations, so if you’re upset that mine didn’t adhere to your family’s tradition, send me a recipe and I’ll try yours out!

Building the Oscar Contest entry form

As always, I like to use the Oscar Contest as a way to try to learn something new. This year I decided to build it using AWS Amplify, a set of tools and services that can be used to quickly build and host mobile and web apps across a range of frameworks. I’ve somehow managed to avoid touching React, so I figured I might as well use that too. Here’s the basic architecture I went with:

Contest architecture

I figured it might be fun to walk you through the process I used in case you’d like to try something similar. The first step (if you haven’t already) is to install the AWS CLI and Amplify CLI and get them configured with your AWS account credentials. Then I created the basic React project using this command:

npx create-react-app oscars2021

That will download a bunch of stuff and set up the basic project files for you.

You can then switch into that directory and start the app to verify it’s working.

cd oscars2021
npm start

Running React app

Now it’s time to hook your project up to Amplify, using this command:

amplify init

A wizard will walk you through setting up various parameters for your app, including your preferred code editor and the type of app you’re building. Here’s what I selected:

Amplify configuration

This will initialise your project in the cloud and set up some resources for you.

Now it’s time to add storage, which in my case meant an Amazon DynamoDB table. This is where I’d be storing each entry as it came in.

amplify add storage

This will again kick off a wizard that will walk you through some configuration options. I selected “NoSQL Database” and then set up the columns that I wanted in the table.

Database config

I also selected “id” as the partition key, with no sort key, no secondary indexes, and no Lambda trigger.

More DB config

The next step is to add the API and Lambda function that will actually record the user’s entry. This is done with the command:

amplify add api

Again, a wizard will walk you through configuration. I created a REST API with the path “/entry” and created a new Lambda function using the Serverless ExpressJS template. I also gave the function permission to Create and Read from the storage (aka DynamoDB table) we just set up. I didn’t restrict access to the API, as I want anyone to be able to enter.

API configuration

Time to actually update the Lambda function! I went into my preferred code editor (Atom) and opened the project. The function is located in “amplify/backend/function/oscarsfunction/src/app.js”. There are some commented example methods that I deleted and replaced with the code below. This adds the AWS SDK (so I can save to DynamoDB), a method for generating random IDs, and the actual post method to save the entry. (You can download this code from my Github project here.)

Function code

The next step is to use Amplify to push the newly created backend storage, API, and function to the cloud! You can do this with the command:

amplify push

Amplify will ask you to confirm which resources you’re deploying, and then it will start the process using AWS CloudFormation. This can take a little while.

Amplify push

If you make any changes to the function code later, remember to push the changes to Amplify so they are uploaded to AWS! In the meantime, it’s time to install some dependencies I need for the form frontend.

npm install aws-amplify @aws-amplify/ui-react
npm install bootstrap
npm install react-bootstrap

Once all that’s done, you can finally edit the form! The actual React app lives in “src/App.js”. I won’t go through everything I did (you can check the code out yourself), but basically I made sure to include Amplify (so the frontend can talk to the backend) as well as React Bootstrap. I also tweaked the CSS and added a couple images. Each time you save a change, the app will recompile and update in your running browser window. I also opened the “public/index.html” file and changed the title and description of the page.

Form code

You can also test out the form in the browser to ensure it’s working. When I opened the AWS Console and looked in DynamoDB, I could see entries being saved correctly into the dev environment table. 🎉

The final step is to deploy the frontend, and Amplify makes this pretty easy too. I created a new repo at Github and then pushed my code to it.

Github create repo

Then I went to the AWS Amplify console and clicked on my app. If you click on the “Frontend environments” tab, you’re presented with a range of options for hosting your app.

Frontend hosting

I clicked the one for Github and then went through the process of granting access to my Github account. Then I selected the repo I’d just created with the code for my app, and left the branch set to “master.” On the next screen, I left checked the option to “Deploy updates to backend resources with your frontend on every code commit” and created a new “prod” environment as the target. I also had to create a new IAM role for the deployment process. Once you save and deploy, Amplify will grab your code from Github, run the build script and any tests you’ve configured, and deploy the resources into your account. The build for my app takes less than 4 minutes to complete.

Completed deployment

The beauty of the CI/CD pipeline is that whenever I modify the code and push it to Github, the whole process will kick off automatically! The Amplify console also gives me the URL to the hosted app, which is where you can enter the contest. When I check DynamoDB now, I can see entries coming through to the prod environment table. When the contest is finished, I can shut down and remove all the app resources by simply running this command:

amplify delete

If you’d like to try out Amplify yourself, I can recommend a couple resources. The AWS website has a very simple, step-by-step tutorial to Build a Basic Web Application that you can work through, but it doesn’t include React or the CI/CD part. If you want to copy what I did, check out my colleague Marcia’s YouTube videos  on  building a Contact form with React and automating your CI/CD deployments, which gave me the basics of everything I needed to build the contest entry form. Thanks Marcia!

Ew, David.

The thirteenth (semi-)annual Web-Goddess Oscar Contest has officially launched! 🎉 And this year you can win everyone’s favourite family – the Roses of Schitt’s Creek.

Rose Family Sock Monkeys

No, I know they don’t have anything to do with movies. But honestly, I didn’t see many of the nominated films last year, and Schitt’s Creek brought me the most joy of pretty much any media. So that’s what I went with, and that’s what you win if you predict the most Oscar winners!

Go here to read the rules and ENTER! Contest has now closed!

More details on the monkeys:

  • David Rose’s outfit features a custom knit black sweater with embroidered white lightning bolts, as well as custom knit designer sneakers. The sneakers were based off the Little Converse pattern, while the sweater was made up entirely by me. He’s also wearing a pair of black framed spectacles (intended for an American Girl doll!).
  • Alexis Rose’s outfit is based off her iconic “A Little Bit Alexis” performance, including a dusty pink minidress and knee-high boots. She’s also got her iconic A necklace.
  • Johnny Rose is wearing a bespoke tailored suit, sewn by me from a pattern intended for American Girl dolls. (No joke – I paid $10 for it. 😳) He’s also got felt eyebrows for the perfect Eugene Levy touch.
  • Moira Rose is wearing an avant garde tunic dress made by me from sheer sequinned fabric and designer high heeled boots. She also has matching feather glitter earrings. And what would Moira be without her girls? You get four different wigs (attached with Velcro) to complete the whole wig wall scene.

If you want Steve, Patrick, or any of the other Schitt’s Creek residents to recreate the scene, that’s all on you. 😂

So go ahead and enter! The 2021 Academy Awards happen on Sunday, April 25th (California time), which is like 2am here. So I’ll cut off entries a few hours beforehand when I go to bed, and you’ll have to wait until I get up in the morning to find out who won!

Web-Goddess Oscar Contest Sock Monkey History

Eighteen years ago (good grief!), I thought it would be fun to run a contest and give away a sock monkey. I then kept that up for 10 years running, and you can see the history of my creations below. These days I only do it when the inspiration strikes…

2021 – Schitt’s Creek Sock Monkeys
2019 – Freddie Monkcury
2013 – The Avenger Monkeys
2012 – The Monkey with the Dragon Tattoo
2011 – Black Swan and White Swan ballerina monkeys
2010 – Sparkly Emo Vampire Sockmonkey playset
2009 – Batman and Joker monkeys
2008 – Striking Writer Monkey
2007 – Trio of Dream Monkeys
2006 – Gay Sock Monkey Cowboys
2005 – Soctopus
2004 – Plain sockmonkey
2003 – Oscar the Sock Monkey

Coming soon…

It’s that time of year again…

A Trip to the Supermarket

You all seemed to really like my cost of living post, so let’s dive into something equally as mundane – German groceries and supermarkets!

If you follow me at all here or on social media, you know that the Snook and I enjoy cooking and make a lot of things from scratch. Back in Australia, we even renovated our kitchen so we could get in a bigger fridge/freezer. Our normal process was that every Saturday I’d plan out the menu for the week and then we’d both go to the store to do a single weekly shop. We also got a veggie box delivered every two weeks as well. A couple of times a year we’d go to Costco and stock up on bulk things, and we’d also hit up the Aussie Meat Emporium every now and then to stock the freezer with meat. We’d generally cook probably 4 or 5 days out of 7, freezing any leftovers. We’d usually alternate who cooks, though since I made the menus I’d usually assign the really elaborate things to Rodd. 😉

Once we got to Germany, we realised pretty quickly that this system was going to have to change. The main problem is that German kitchens (at least the ones in apartments) tend to be smaller and have less storage space than we were used to. The AirBnB we were in for the first 10 days had only a bar-fridge and barely any pantry space! When we started looking for apartments, we deliberately looked a place with the biggest kitchen and fridge we could find. The one we got is great, but it’s still smaller than back in Sydney. We’ve got two cupboards to use for dry goods, a couple small shelves over the stove for spices, and then a stacked fridge/freezer.

Kitchen

We tried for the first few months to stick to the once-a-week Saturday shop but we’d struggle to store everything. We also tried out a veggie box delivery service but had the same issue, trying to figure out how to cram most of it in the fridge. The solution, it seems, is to do smaller shops, more frequently. How very European! 🥖

Our current process is to shop every 4-5 days (avoiding Sunday because everything’s closed here), and we take turns making the menu and going to the supermarket. One nice thing is that there are so many options within walking distance of our place. The main supermarket brands here in Munich appear to be Edeka and Rewe (analogous to Coles and Woolies back home), and there are like four Edekas of various sizes in the neighbourhood. For discount stuff there’s also Aldi Süd (different Aldis depending on which part of Germany you’re in!), Lidl, and Penny. There’s also Amazon Fresh for same-day delivery, which was a life-saver when we arrived! We’ve also found a couple Asian and Turkish groceries nearby for specialty items. Germans are big on organic, so there are also Alnatura organic supermarkets and a few farmers’ markets around too (though they’re mostly shut down due to Covid). And if you’re curious, we’re still mostly under lockdown here so current rules are you have to wear an N95 mask in any shops.

But anyway yeah, a plethora of options. Our default is the Edeka in Theriesenhöhe, just a short walk across Bavaria Park, mostly because it’s the closest and we’ve got a good feel for what’s available. (Aldi/Lidl always feels more hit and miss with what’s in stock.) It’s not huge, but they really pack in a lot of stuff! After seven months, we feel like we’ve mostly got it figured out. A lot of stuff is the same as in Australia, but there are still some wacky differences we’ve found. Read on for lots of pictures and details…

Read more →

Grünwald

Thanks to the crappy weather in the past few weeks, I’m falling behind on my 2021 cycling challenge. Today looked like a promising day for a ride though, so I somehow talked the Snook into joining me for a trip south along the Isar.

Grünwald und zurück

We rode on the right bank of the Isar on the outbound trip, and there were plenty of folks out enjoying the sunny Spring day. The cycling path actually goes right next to the Zoo, and you can peek in at some of the exhibits. (The zoo is open but you have to reserve tickets so they can control numbers, and it’s booked out for several days in advance.) I saw Ziegen (goats) and Ponys!

Goats

Ponies

The bike path was wide and mostly flat, but we could also see mountain bike paths off to our left and a fair number of folks whizzing through the trees. We stopped every so often to have a drink of water and look at the scenery. There are a lot of channels (natural and man-made) and islands along the river, and it divides at various points into different streams that come back together.

The Snook and the Isar

We stopped next to the weir about halfway to Grünwald for a picnic lunch. We sat on the river stones and ate our sandwiches while the clear water trickled past. It was very pretty.

Picnicking

See that high bridge behind us? We did not relish the idea of figuring out how to get up there, so we decided to keep going to Grünwald and use the bridge there. It wasn’t far on the map, but those last few kms were tough. The nice flat path ends, and you end up on a fairly hilly and rocky bit with the mountain bikers. We walked most of that section, partly due to tiredness and partly for safety. (Our bikes aren’t really designed for off-roading!) See the spiky bits on the elevation chart? Yeah. That part.

Elevation chart

One last panorama of the river…

Isar panorama

We didn’t really check out Grünwald, but I did spot the castle high up on the hill. The ride home on the left bank was much flatter and easier, and we did the return trip without stopping. Final distance was 27.1km (16.8mi), bringing my total for 2021 to 79km. Poor Mr. Snook is cross-eyed from tiredness, and my face is the colour of my shirt! 😂

Tired riders

Lanatus and Orkney

I realised recently that, while I’ve been having a lot of fun streaming my knitting on Twitch, I’ve been pretty lax at actually documenting it on Ravelry and the blog. I’ve completed two big projects since I’ve been in Germany, but unless you follow me on Instagram or Twitter, you probably haven’t seen them.

LanatusLanatus

I learned about Susan Crawford’s new book Evolution through Twitter last year (there was some kerfuffle about her not being able to advertise it because of the name), and I immediately fell in love with the Lanatus pullover. My version is knitted out of Lana Gross Cool Wool Fine in a beautiful teal blue and white. It’s knitted from the top down, and my first attempt at the fairisle yoke had to be frogged when I realised I wasn’t spacing the motifs out correctly. It was a fun knit though, and the yoke ended up beautiful. The only real modification I made was to knit the body a fair bit longer because of my height. Slogging through the endless stocking stitch body was a pain after the fun of the yoke, but I’m so happy how it turned out! I love wearing it. The wool is beautifully soft and not itchy at all. I’ve been wearing it over a long-sleeve tee, but I think in spring I could wear it just on its own. More details over on Ravelry…

OrkneyOrkney (Vee)

This one is epic. I can’t remember where I first encountered Rowan’s Orkney by Marie Wallin (probably from Donna since it’s in her queue), but I know I bought the wool at Calico and Ivy’s closing down sale in March 2013 and started knitting the pattern sometime that year. My plan was to knit it as a cardigan, but modify the pattern to be knitted entirely in the round with steeks for the front opening and sleeves. It was looking a bit small as I knitted it, but in a fit of stubbornness and denial I knitted it all the way up to the shoulders before finally accepting that it was never going to fit me comfortably. Then I discovered the Ravelry comments for the pattern, most of which point out that the tension as stated is just really weird for this yarn. Well, crap. In a fit of pique I stuffed it in a bag and shoved it in the naughty corner, and it sat there for the better part of seven years.

In January 2021, I decided that dealing with Orkney was going to be a New Year’s Resolution. I got it out to double check the sizing, hopeful that somehow it had either grown over the years or I had shrunk. I even tried putting it on waste yarn to pull over my head and down to my waist to prove it had way less ease than I’m comfortable wearing. Well, nothing to do but to frog. I frogged the whole thing. The dust on it actually triggered an allergy attack! Then I skeined up all the wool (with the help of the Snook), washed it, dried it, and rewound it into balls. (You can watch the ball winding on YouTube!) Then it was time to start over.

This time I had a think about the garments I actually like wearing. I don’t wear twee little cardigans. So instead I decided to knit it as a pullover. I still wanted to knit it in the round, so I spent some serious time working out the maths so that all the patterns would repeat smoothly all the way around. It turns out that 336 stitches would allow every motif to repeat evenly* and, with my tension, would come out to the size I wanted. It was also close enough to one of the pattern sizes that I could still use the sleeve cap shaping. Therefore I got to work knitting the body in the round over 336 stitches. I started with a larger needle but dropped to a smaller about halfway along, figuring that would give it some shaping and a little extra room around the hips.

*There is a single motif that is 10 stitches wide – a 3-row motif of x’s and diamonds. I added two stitches to it – a little peerie dot in the middle of each gap. That got me to 12, which fits perfectly into 336. Yay!

Orkney notes

The only bit of the body that gave me any trouble was the motif across the middle with brown X’s and aqua diamonds on top of a series of camel and red stripes. (See image below.) This motif requires you to juggle THREE colours in a single row. What a pain! I actually tried it out; I’m a pretty experienced fairisle knitter and I have no problem carrying one colour in each hand. But adding a third one in there while avoiding getting them all twisted… was really torturous. So I undid that part and then had a brainwave: I could embroider the aqua bits on afterwards! So I knitted that motif with just two colours per row, leaving off the little aqua diamonds, and then went back afterwards and used duplicate stitch to add them. (This motif also appears on the sleeves, so I did the same thing there.) This is much easier and faster, and you can barely tell the difference!

The problematic motif

Once I got to the armholes, I switched to knitting the front and back separately. Of course, this required me to knit flat fairisle, so I had to deal with purl rows. It was tricky and slow going, but I got there. I did the back first because I hadn’t yet decided what the front neckline would be. Rather than follow the pattern’s instructions for a traditional “stairstep” shoulder shaping, I modified the pattern to use short rows and left the stitches live for a three-needle bind off.

For the front, I decided to go with a vee neck. (Partly this was driven by the fact that I do find Rowan Felted Tweed a bit itchy, and I didn’t want it right up against my neck.) I found a vee-neck pattern in a similar weight wool and size, and used that schematic and shaping to work out when to start the vee. I basically did a decrease on every right-side row until the point where the front shoulder width matched the back. Again, I did the short-row shaping rather than cast off stitches, and I then joined the front to the back with a three-needle bind off. Here’s what it looked like at that point…

Orkney minus sleeves

Then I had to decide sleeves. Because of the itchiness factor, I knew I’d be wearing this over a long sleeve tee so I thought short sleeves might be cute. The plan was to use the sleeve cap shaping from the pattern and then just add on a little extra length for the ribbed cuff. However, I ended up having to go through several iterations to modify this. Again, the weird tension of the original pattern meant that my sleeve cap was too short for the sleeve opening, so I reworked it a few times to add extra rows for the necessary height. I also ended up increasing the number of stitches to 108. I also tried to center the larger motifs on the sleeves so it would look nicer. Once I finally got a version that fit, I pinned it onto the garment and realised I had another problem…

The sleeves use the same motifs as the body, but knitted in different colourways. When I pinned on my sleeve, I realised that they were too close, with a given motif on the sleeve almost next to the same motif on the body. I figured that for the contrast to work, it really needed to look more deliberate. So I again frogged the sleeve and started over, this time starting with a different point on the chart so that they didn’t line up so closely. Much better!

Redone sleeve

The last bit of knitting was the corrugated ribbing neckline. I realised as I was picking up stitches that most patterns and tutorials for a centered decrease vee-neck ribbing are for 1×1 rib rather than 2×2. I couldn’t find any examples of it, so I had to figure it out on my own. I think it looks pretty good in the end!

Vee neck

After a LOT of weaving in (and duplicate stitch embroidery on those 3-colour row motifs), I gave all three pieces a wash and a gentle block. Then I sewed on the sleeves and wove in the final ends. It’s done! Nearly eight years after I started… ❤️ Full details over on Ravelry.

Happy Birthday to Me

My 44th birthday has come and gone. 🎂 Normally we like to go out to a fancy restaurant, but with everything still closed due to Covid, that wasn’t happening. Instead the Snook ordered us a four-course takeaway meal from Mural Restaurant, a local Michelin-starred place, which he then assembled according to the instructions.

Dinner from Mural

We also had lovely matching wines which came in cute little numbered bottles…

Wine pairing

The first course was spinach ravioli with cauliflower puree and tarragon oil, paired with 2019 Scheuermann Grauburgunder. Also sourdough bread with beetroot butter (which was quite sweet!).

First course

Second course: steak (cooked in butter, garlic, herbs) served with parsnip puree and braised onion, along with a 2017 Blaufränkisch Kirchholz. The steak had been cooked sous vide, so all he had to do was brown off the exterior in some herb butter and slice it up.

Cooking the steak

Second course

Then it was time for dessert! A little slice of buckwheat cake with white chocolate ganache and citrus compote, paired with a 2019 Riesling Röttgen Kabinett.

Dessert

The very final course was cheese! A spread of a few special Swiss cheeses and chutney, served with a 2012 Gewürztraminer Goldert Grand Cru. The chutney was very savoury – almost like an onion jam.

Cheeses

On my actual birthday, the Snook said he was going to bake me a cake. As you know, he’s really good at this. I’ve had the epic swimming pool cake, the potato-chip beaked duck cake, an over-the-top “bûche de Noël,” and many more. A few days before, he asked me what sort of design I wanted. “Something Moomin-ish,” I said. And what flavour of cake? “Funfetti. You know, sprinkles.” With that as the brief, he went to the supermarket for supplies…

Candy

He baked the cake (from scratch, of course!) in a giant sheet, and he also made German buttercream for the icing.

Then he cut the cake into six pieces and stacked them with layers of icing in between before starting to sculpt. “The trick,” he said, “is to cut away everything that isn’t Little My.” Everything he cut off, he stuck back on to help build out the shape.

Then it was time for more icing and decoration! Her eyes were made with “Oblaten” (edible German baking wafers that you use to make Christmas cookies), her hair was strawberry gummy strings, and her face details were done with licorice string. She had a few Smarties as buttons down her back, and a red bow to complete the look.

HOW GREAT IS THIS? I’M LITTLE MY, AND I LIKE TO BITE THINGS.

Little My Cake

He’s very talent, and I am a very lucky girl!

The Snook