Knit Crush: Rena Varsakis

Rena Varsakis is the woman behind The Red Fox and Gown. I Love the quirkiness of her patterns.
Would you wear a fox hat?

As always, all pictures in this post are borrowed with permission from their respective Ravelry project pages, by clicking their name, you'll be taken right to them.   

Planning a shoot and fighting an urge...

Easter brings with it the opportunity to go home and that means a chance to do a photoshoot. I'm still terribly undecided on the issue of single patterns or a cohesive e-book for the collection I'm currently working on. At the moment I'm leaning towards e-book, so I'm planning the photoshoot accordingly. If the weather allows it we will be able to shoot 4 patterns during easter, hopefully in one day. That is, if I finish knitting the sample of the 4th pattern.

I'm surprised by how much I enjoy designing sock patterns and I'm currently knitting on sock #2 on my second sock design. It's coming along well, but there's still half a sock left and easter is sneaking up on us.

It's also with regards to this sock that I continue to fight the urge to just start the testing fase already! It's so easy to get impatient and just want it all done, NOW! I dream of the day where I'll be able to manage having several patterns in testing, but alas now is just not that day yet.

What plans do you have for easter?

Glimpses of a sock

Today I want to share with you a glimpse of a sock design I'm working on. It's ready for testing, but I've learned the hard way not to have more than one test knit on the go during the semester, because something is bound to be up with both patterns at the same time and also I have a group of wonderful testers and they can only knit so much for me at a time. (Btw, if you want to join in, you can!)

100% Rye by Shannon Stronger - a Review

Sourdoug is a passion of mine and rye is a grain, I eat almost daily, so when I found out that a woman I admire was coming out with a new cookbook called 100% Rye, I had to get a copy and tell you all about it. Shannon Stonger and her husband Steward graciously provided a free copy for me to review, but although I will send them a grateful though every time I bake from this book, it did not influence my review.

About the author
Shannon is a mama to four small children, homesteader, freelance writer, cookbook author, and fermented-food enthusiast. She is the author of three books: Simple Food for Winter, Simple Food for Spring, and 100% Rye. She also chronicles her family's off-grid journey at  

About the book
First off, let me tell you about my overall impression of this book. It rocks. There, that's it. You want more..?

What do you think about when you hear about 100% rye baked goods? If you have no familiarity with rye you may just think " how exciting", but if you've ever had a rye bread go Wrong (yes, with a capital letter), then you may be slightly on edge, at the same time chances are that you've also had rye breads done right and know what glorious baked goods they are.

Shannon uses traditional ingredients in her baking, much in tune with Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook That Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats, which happens to be one of my favourite cookbooks, so I'm slightly bias from the get-go.
For me, sourdough is something I preach. If you ever get me talking about baking, it will not be long before I offer you some sourdough. If you have no idea what a sourdough is, here is (some of) Shannon's explanation:

"At its most basic, a sourdough starter is simply a slurry of water and flour that contains a living colony of bacteria, yeast, acids, and other microorganisms we probably don’t even know about." p 16 

Shannon also shares a good deal of her personal story with her reader which leaves me with a feeling that anyone can make these recipes work for them. Just listen to one of her musings on rye:

"I found that rye flour has a window of hydration in which it works best. Too dry and it becomes a lead brick. Too moist and overworked and it becomes gummy and shapeless. Working with this fact, and not against it, was a sort of breakthrough I had when I began developing recipes for my family." p 8

This book gently takes you by the hand and guides you through the motions, even if you have never used rye or sourdough before. Shannon deals with the many questions that surround rye and sourdough, problems that may occur and ways to adapt the recipes to your comfort level. All this is spruced up with rustic, handdrawn illustrations that makes the book both authentic and charming as well as mouthwatering colour photos of the baked goods.

Finally, any cookbook that lists carrots this way is bound to win my heart:

"2 cups (tightly packed) freshly grated carrots (none of that pre-shredded, dried out nonsense) " p 78

Sadly, I've yet to try any of the recipes due to time constrains, but I'm positive they are delicious and will recommend this book to anyone and everyone interested in baking with rye and sourdough.
First on my list of recipes I want to try ASAP is this delicious goodness that I'll leave you with as a teaser:

A productivity tool - #CTBrainDump

A New Week, Already?!

After I read my bible yesterday morning, I looked at instagram for a few minutes and stumbled upon Create & Thrive's blogpost on Morning Brain Dumps. This was a God-sent message for me, since I had no idea how to go about what seemed like a frustrating Monday.

You see, I'm writing a thesis and I have a  big, huge problem: I'm not actually writing anything. Ouch, that is not a nice place to be. I'm spending my days frantically looking for a primary source to analyse for my thesis. I've read a bunch of secondary material already and am hooked on my topic of choice, I just haven't had much luck locating a primary source.

The Morning Brain Dump

Well, enough with the woe-is-me already and on to the tool, right?!

You basically make four lists before your day begin. The first and most important is your MUST list. The second is your SHOULD list, then there is your COULD list and finally the WANT TO list.

Since September 2014 a bullet journal has been my faithful friend, so naturally I made the list in my journal.  It started out looking like this (and yes, I did it in English because most of you don't read Danish and I know you are curious to know what I actually had to do, you don't have to thank me, really it's okay):

During the day more items got added as I thought of them, because I was waiting to hear from the royal library whether or not they could find a book in their archives. For hours it didn't look like I would make any progress on my most important MUST, so I decided to get a lot of other things taken care of, while I basically had to sit around and wait.

By 1 pm, the end of my lunch break, my list had grown quite a bit, but a lot had also been checked off:

At 2 pm, while I was busy working on both COULD items and a WANT TO item, I received notice from the Royal Library that the book I needed was now available. So I waited not so patiently until my bread was done baking and my laundry could be put in the dryer and then I headed off to the capital. By then my list looked had no item on it, that I hadn't at least started to work on:

When I came home, I had two possible primary sources for my thesis and had gotten a whole lot of things done, so I decided to relax, finish this post, drink some tea and knit on the sock as the only item left anywhere on the list was the PT (Practical Theology) for next week.

Evaluation Time

Not only did I get a lot done, I also felt like I had a really enjoyable day. Being able to see that you are getting the things you MUST get done is great, seeing the SHOULD, COULD and WANT TO is fantastic.
I'm going to try this out for a while and would encourage you to do the same. Have you tried something similar before or do you have another favourite productivity tool?

Let's review: Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer

This book, Eating Animals, so many words come to mind in a big giant mess.. Have you read it? If you have an interest in food, if you eat - you should read this. There, that was pretty clear, wasn't it. 
I finished reading this book, the day before I'm writing this and frankly, I'm tempted to turn to page one and read it again. 

So where do I begin with this review. Let's begin with the fact, that I was already fairly smitten with Mr. Safran Foer's writing style before reading this book. Everything is Illuminated is a fantastic read in my opinion. While Eating Animals is not fiction, storytelling is still at the centre of it. 

It's a mixture of his own debacles with eating animals, his (final) decision on a vegetarian lifestyle, kafka, statistics, interviews and even someone bashing Joel Salatin, a man I really admire. This book seems to have it all... Here are some of the questions that came to mind while and after reading it.

Is this just a vegetarian trying to convince me to become one?

Yes and no. mr. Safran Foer puts it pretty bluntly that he thinks anyone but vegetarians are fooling themselves, even the so called ethical omnivores. His personal view seems to be, that the only way you can truly avoid and change the meat industry is by being a vegetarian. 
However, his main goal seems to be educational. He provides a swarm of information and then asks: Knowing this, can you still justify eating meat? 

This book, naturally focussing on the American meat industry, distances itself from me somewhat. I live far away from those practices, don't I? I live in a place where we do not water cool chickens, Mr. Safran Foer told me so himself. Add to that the age of the book (first published in 2009) and I have reasons enough to discard everything he tells me, or do I?

The fact of the matter is that I don't. I'm not naïve enough to believe, that I live in a country where animals are treated as they should be by the farmers and given a quick, painless, humane death after a life of frolicking on pasture. 

Did he convince me then?

The short answer is no. The long answer is complex and according to Mr. Safran Foer, not an answer at all.
You see, my man and I don't eat a lot of meat. In any given week our meals are somewhere between 50-85% vegetarian. So why aren't we just biting the bullet and doing it 100%? Because I believe in eating animals. I believe in nurturing my body by the consummation of carcasses, however gross that may sound to you. 

I would love to tell you now, how I'm one of those ethical carnivores, who really makes it work. That I only buy our meat from small farmers and butchers, that we know they lived like true chickens, pigs, and cow. 
Right now, however, nothing could be further from the truth. Most of the meat we do buy isn't even organic, because we simply can't afford it. 

The demand of cheap food

Now, that makes us pretty average consumers, doesn't it? The very ones Mr. Safran Foer rightly points out to be the driving force behind the continuation of the industrial meat industry. I would like to think this isn't entirely the case. We spent 25% of our monthly net income on food, which, at least at a glance, is a lot more than most U.S. citizens do.  As our income grows our food choices improves.
We all have a limited amount to spend on food each week. We all make choices every time we buy something. We used to buy mostly organic, but as we discovered my lactose intolerance, that changed. We choose to prioritize my immediate gut health over the long term effects of eating organically. We still have our non-negotiables that are always organic and always buy everything else organic when we can afford it, but living a life without lactose is our top priority and it is costly.
The same goes for meat. We choose the best kinds when we can, and we have certain kinds of meat that are NEVER allowed into our home, basta.
As our income grows, we'll be able to make even better choices. This is our answers, the non-answer according to Mr. Safran Foer and maybe he is right.

It's the thought that counts

None of us are changing the world by thinking. Only acting on our thoughts makes an actual difference. But I'm still tempted to claim that it is the though that counts in this case. It is my firm conviction that we should all know what we are eating, how it was produced, slaughtered, butchered, transported, stored, the whole shebang. But even the slightest grain of awareness brings us closer to a better world. You may not be able to revolutionise your eating habits today, but you should be able to think about them. Admit where you stand right now, don't be ashamed. Then dream up where you want to end up, make small goals and get moving in the right direction.

Feel free to share your thoughts on the topic and the book, Eating Animals, in the comments. I would love to hear what your two cents are.

The 5 keys to long-lasting hand knit socks

After keeping my dad in hand knit socks exclusively for 3 years I've learned a thing or two on how to make long lastings socks. In fact my dad hasn't thrown out a single pair yet and only one pair has been in need of darning. I've boiled my experiences into 5 essential keys to knitting long-lasting socks.

1) Choose your yarn wisely

It's difficult to say what the most important aspect of  long-lasting socks is, but your result will have a lot to do with the material you choose to work with. 

While your soft and beautiful silk- and cashmere blends turn into both beautiful and soft socks, they don't often make long-lasting socks. If you want socks that can handle a heavy rotation, then choose a simple 80% super wash merino and 20% nylon blend. 

You may have to try out a few brands, but once you find one that suits you, I would recommend sticking to it.  

2) It's all about gauge

Once you have a great workhorse yarn, the next essential key is your gauge. The tighter your gauge, the longer the sock will last in my experience. I tend to knit on 2,5mm needles at a gauge of 32 sts per 10cm. It's still a soft a comfortable sock, but it has a strong hold to it and the stitches do not have room to move a lot, which leads us to the next point. 

3) The perfect fit

When you wear the socks in all kinds of footwear it is essential that they have a good fit. If your socks are slightly too big they will move around more between your foot and your shoe. With friction comes additional wear and tear, such as felting, as well as discomfort and what's the point of hand knit socks if they aren't comfortable? 
Heels and toes are the most important. Don't be afraid to create your own toes. I had to tweak my dad's for a while until we finally found the perfect fit. It looks odd when not on the feet, but once on it's obvious that they fit him perfectly. 
Once you've find your perfect heel and toe, it's fairly easy to use them in almost any pattern of your choice. 

4) Wear them well

When you have found the perfect fit, it's time to wear your hand knit socks. Many Westerners are accustomed to wear a pair of socks for one day and then tossing them into the wash. If you have sweaty feet, then by all means do so. However, if your feet don't get really sweaty then consider wearing them for 2-3 days before tossing them to wash. 

5) Wash them well

The final essential key to long-lasting hand knitted socks is how you wash them. You can hand wash them with special soap, but frankly, I would never convince my mum to do so. Mum simply tosses the socks into her regular wash with similar coloured clothes on 40C.  I wash our socks on 30C, but as long as you keep the cycle fairly cool you should be fine. 
Let the socks air dry. Your worst enemy on the quest to long-lasting socks may just be the dryer. 

There you have them, my 5 essential keys to long-lasting socks. Do share your tips, tricks and experiences in the comments.