Thursday, November 28, 2013

Homemade Oat Bars

I started making these about 3 months ago, when my husband re-started going to gym. It has become an everyday morning snack for the whole family, and it is perfect to take to work and school. I have tried a number of variations - there are so many recipes how to make these! In the end, I have found what works for me, and because more and more people are asking how I make these, here it is. Really easy and quick, no baking involved.


500g oat flakes (the big ones, not the little Quaker fast boiling ones)
300g of Tasty Stuff (I usually put about 50g of rice puffs - something like Kellogs Coco-Pops, about 100g raisins OR dried cranberries OR dried goji berries, about 75g dried apricots cut in 4-6 pieces and 75g of various nuts - hazelnuts, almonds, pistachios - in other words - choose whatever mix you like best)
125-130g butter
125-130g dark brown sugar
125-130g honey
vanilla or cinnamon - optional


Mix all dry ingredients together.
Prepare a  baking dish. Cut a piece of baking paper that is large enough to cover the bottom and sides of it, so the mixture won't stick. For this quantity I use a 36cm x 25cm baking tray that's about 5cm deep.
Choose a large pot and melt butter, sugar and honey. Let it pop a bubble or two and stir well to get all sugar melted. Don't boil longer than a couple minutes! Add some vanilla or cinnamon, if desired.
Pour all dry ingredients into pot and mix well with a large spoon. It will seam a little bit dry at first, but keep mixing. Once it has been mixed well and you no longer see dry oats,  pour it all in the baking dish. Even out the mixture as much as possible and press it down with the spoon first, then cut another piece of baking paper to cover the top of the baking dish and lay it over, then smooth the mixture with your hands, pressing it down. The goal is to have a dense bar.
Now leave it to cool and then put it in the refrigerator to stiffen for some 30 minutes to 1 hour before cutting. Then cut to pieces and either place them in an air-tight container in layers separated by baking paper (so they won't stick) or wrap each piece individually in aluminum foil. I keep the bars in refrigerator so they stay fresh, but I take them out at least 15 minutes before eating, so they can soften up in room temperature.

Some notes:
if you live in Greece, it can prove a little tricky to find large oat flakes - not all supermarkets have them. AB Vassilopoulos has them, at least the big ones, they are usually in the cereal section on the bottom shelves, in 0.5kg packages. There are also some ready made mixes with fruits and nuts that can be used, but I always prefer to mix them myself. This way I know exactly where my ingredients come from and what quality they are.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Fall is here

October came with one of the biggest thunderstorms I have experienced - one of the closest ones as well - at one point it hit the beach near by, and I even got a little scared. There is no mistake - summer is leaving us. It has been a nice summer though - with lots of swimming, lots of sun and it leaves a happy aftertaste. 

So, time to consider fall knitting. One of my favorite yarn shops - ColourMart - is running their semi-annual KAL, hosted by their Ravelry group - ColourMart Lovers. While it is generally called a competition, it really is much more of a knit-along, since most prizes are drawn randomly, save for some popularity votes. The reason why I love it - and most "colourmartians" will probably agree - is because there is such a friendly atmosphere over there and so many beautiful finished projects to inspire! These knit-alongs are a great way to push yourself to finish a project. 

I have taken part in a number of these, my first one was in the fall of 2010, when I was pregnant with Adriana and it was the last two months of pregnancy - I can not believe how many things I had knit at that time... I was just knitting for the fun of knitting. Sounds crazy, I know, especially to a non-knitter.

This year I want to knit myself a nice, cuddly, cozy, warm and soft sweater. I had bought some lovely extra fine merino at one of the Colourmart ebay listings last spring with just this thought, and it has been patiently sitting in my yarn box, waiting when I will get the courage up. Even the color is soft - it's called "buttermilk" and it's a very, very light, creamy yellow. I never really wore yellow before, but lately I find myself attracted to all kinds of colors that I never wore before... shades of yellow, green and even beige among them!

So, I take a deep breath and cast on :) I have not knit a sweater since... 2004 or so, and even then it was just one odd number (that turned out rather nice and I still wear it sometimes). I used to knit much more for myself during my school years, but then I had my mother to nag me to finish all I started - now she lives too far away to do that :)

I have planned for a top-down raglan, as seamless as can be. Cowl neck and small cable details, but in general - really simple. 

If you feel like joining in, there is still time enough to do that - the KAL/contest ends on November 22! (Check the rules at the ravelry group page, if you do!)

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Soft and Softer Coral Cardi

Most knitters probably have some yarns, that are difficult to decide to make into something - not because they are tricky yarns, but because they are sooooo good.... So no project seams to do them justice. Yet I say, take a deep breath and cast on! You will work with more care, because you love that yarn and the final project will be completely amazing. Plus, you will justify another purchase of some gorgeous fiber goodness!!

So, here is my latest project.(It still needs buttons, but I'm working on it!) I have had this yarn in my stash for almost a year, I think, and I probably got the last 2 skeins when I bought it... so only 200 grams. Really, I wish I'd had about half a kilo to make a cardi or a sweater for myself. Instead, I finally decided to use this for my daughter, Adriana. After all, she is the one and only and certainly deserves it! Here are some finished photos (and I still have enough left for another small project):
top-down cardigan after washing photo

Adriana in her new cardi
I have knit this in one peace, top-down. Here are my notes for it in case anyone would like to attempt knitting one like this - or if I will make another one (I am considering a summer dress, based on this):

I swatched and calculated all stitch counts particularly to my daughters measurements. She is about 2,5 y.o. and measures 51cm around the chest, 15cm around the arm - a comfortable fit, and 12 cm is how deep my armhole is. My gauge after washing is 22 stitches/10cm. This project took me about 3 evenings of knitting and about 135 grams of this lovely wool.

Yarn: 5% cashmere 95% merino wool, 300 meters/100 grams

I cast on 94 stitches and did a garter brim, making a reinforced buttonhole on 4-th row 3 stitches away from side. Reinforced buttonhole is something I learned in this project, and it is a really nice, strong buttonhole, which doesn't look like it will stretch, change shape or size or anything else. I highly recommend trying it, if you don't know this technique yet! (I followed this video, a little blury, but perfectly understandable and well explained) My buttonholes are 3 stitches wide and will fit a button of about 12-15 mm of size, I think.
Reinforced buttonholes are so much better!

After 9 rows (5 garter ridges on right side), leave 8 stitches at each side to continue in garter (place markers ;) )and knit the next row in front and back loop of every stitch, doubling the stitch count -KFB.
There should be 172 stitches on needles after this row.
Purl back.
Next row, garter 8 st., and then *knit 2, KFB* repeat between ** to the other 8 stitch garter section.
There should be 224 stitches on needles after this row.
Continue in stockinette without further increases.
Make a reinforced buttonhole after every 10 garter ridges.
After 12cm divide for sleeves like this:
where 38 stitches are both fronts, 40 stitches goes on waste yarn for sleeves, and 68 stitches are for back.
Continue knitting the body part until you are satisfied with length. I went for a total of 6 buttonholes and a 6 garter ridge finishing, starting the garter finish at the end of body along with the 8-th garter ridge after 5-th buttonhole. (does this sentence make sense? :) leave a comment if you want me to clarify) Make the buttonhole as you would normally - after 10 garter ridges from the last one. I actually cast off on the wrong side, so my finishing looks like this:
bottom finishing, casting off at wrong side, so it ends with a garter ridge.
Once the body is finished, pick up the stitches for sleeves. I picked up 3 extra stitches: 2 from the sides of the body stitches and one from the space between last front and first back stitch of the body.
Now, here is my trick for knitting both arms the same length: I don't take out the waste yarn that was holding my stitches earlier. It is very easy to count how many rows I have knit and so I have cast off at the exactly the same row for both sleeves:

easy way to knit sleeves same length

just pull the waste yarn out once you are done with both

I ended up knitting 45 rows in stockinette after picking up stitches and then 3 garter ridges for finishing. Now that it is washed, I wish I had done another 5-or-so rows, since by fall these sleeves might be a little on the short side...

That is it!

*buttonholes. For girls, on the right side. For boys, on the left side. My buttonholes are 3 stitches away from the side and 3 stitches wide. In other words, I knit the body, come to the last 8 stitches (the garter edge), knit 2, make a 3 stitch buttonhole, and knit 3.

* I slipped every first stitch of the row for a neat edge.

*I know of 2 sellers, who sell this yarn. One is colourmart - they generally have a lot of very, very, very nice yarns! and an amazing customer service. The other one is Kingscraig Fabrics - they have an e-bay shop with some yarn listings as well as their own ready made products, which look absolutely amazing... Not a very wide choice there, but they are nice fibers and for very reasonable prices. 
These are all oiled yarns, that require washing in hot (as hot as your hands can stand!) water with dishsoap to remove spinning/knitting oils. Just leave your finished item to soak until the water is warm, then wash the soap out. I usually do a mild vinegar soak after that (to neutralize soap) and then rinse that out, too. The fibers bloom out beautifully after this and become so much softer and nicer! In fact, don't judge any yarn you have purchased from these sellers before you do these steps. Trust me :)

So, my task now is to find some lovely buttons... :) I am leaning towards some simple wood ones - I saw some nice ones from coconut on e-bay, but they would take a month to arrive... so I'll be heading off to some local haberdashery shops, I guess... 

Let me know, in case you make something based on these notes! I'd be so happy to see it!


Monday, March 11, 2013

Felting a ruffle scarf

I took some photos while felting the last few ruffle shawls. A few people have asked me, how to get the ruffles, so here is how I do this.
First, I lay out the center lengthwise, then the ruffle part around it with fibers going outwards. Thin, but many layers of fibers are best for a uniform result. No matter how you design the rest, the center part should be strong, so I usually press the fibers down with my hands carefully to feel for any weak spots (just looking at it might not be enough to judge, especially the black - the fibers are fluffy and can trick the eye).
Depending on how much fiber I have laid out for the ruffle part, the ruffle can be thick and firm or sheer and lacey, cobweb looking. I like both results, actually. This time I wanted a fairly firm, but not too thick ruffle. At this stage you should also decide how long do you want the ruffle to be. In this photo my ruffle only has one staple length, and it would have been rather short. I added a second layer later, but it was tricky to do since I did not want to mess up the rest of my design. So, if you want big ruffles, lay a second layer of wool going around the scarf again, overlapping fibers well.

The fun part :) I did not really like the green mix by itself too much, so I wanted to add other colors to bring a bit more contrast to it.I went with black and 2 shades of lilac

 The darker lilac is barely there, just shadowing a little.

 Then I added peaces of mawata silk hankies in some parts - I just cut them with scissors and stretched to fit the area that I wanted to cover.
I decided I wanted the ruffle to be wider, so added a second round of fiber around it - it was really tricky not to mess up the rest! Better to do that before laying out the design.

 Sprinkle with warm soapy water and roll. Unroll after each 100-125 rolls to check and change the direction. Once the scarf passes the 'pinch test', I usually unroll and felt the center of it by hand a little further. Work on the ruffles, shaping them gently the way that I want them to look. (Sorry, no photos from this part, but I got carried away and had soapy hands, too... :))
I fulled this scarf slightly, shocking the fibers with cold and hot water plus a few gentle throws - this wool felted very easy and I did not want to over-do it.

Rinse well. I usually put my scarves to rest in a light vinegar bath ( a couple spoons of white vinegar to a bowl of neutral t` water), then rinse well again and hang to dry. Once dry, the scarf should be ironed on wool settings, and sometimes I even use a little steam. Ironing makes a big difference.
Here is a photo of the finished scarf:
 I actually like to toss one end of it over the shoulder, but I can't seam to find a photo showing it... The colors are a bit more green and less blue in real life - this was a cloudy day and no matter what I tried, they don't look right on my screen.

And here is another one. I love how this came out - a really dramatic effect! I had used a very fine 18.5 micron merino wool as a base and it is really really soft! 
center fibers going lengthwise

two staple-lengths of ruffle
 I used a very interesting fiber mix to decorate this scarf - the white fibers are linen, combined with black and bright red, the effect is rather amazing!
ruffle felt scarf layout before felting
And here it is after felting:
Felt ruffle scarf black with red and white accents

The black one is one of my favorites. I had some doubts when I was shopping for linen, but it was definitely worth trying out the unusual!

Friday, February 8, 2013

Adriana's Spring Dress

About a week ago, as I was going through my daughters wardrobe, I realized she has grown out of many nice things faster than I noticed. Time for something new! With the spring coming, the next few months will be a challenge to dress, as always - the weather here turns from hot to cool in an instant. One of the best solutions is always to layer.

So, I decided to make her a sleeveless dress, to be worn over a long sleeve top and a jacket on top of it, if needed. Something simple, something everyday. I browsed through a number of crochet patterns, but most of them were just 'too much' for what I had in mind. This time I simply want cute and practical, but everyday.
So, here is my version.

Simple crochet spring dress
 It has a few flaws, but in general I am rather happy with it. I did it in one peace, starting at the top, added a nice lace detail on the bottom and a pretty finishing at the top. The flowers are Adriana's favorite. The whole dress is worked in 100% virgin wool, which was a little splitty to work with, but bearable. The flowers are made of a soft and slightly fuzzy angora mix in a gentle pink shade.

Another thing is, while I did a gauge swatch and all, it is still a little snug and (because I plan to make another one, slightly moderated), I have recalculated my stitch counts, so the next one will be a bit more loose and will fit longer, too. One more change will be adjusting the lace border. It looks fine, when worn, but it could have been done slightly better... I should get some modeled photos, I guess :)

Anyone care to join me for a 'crochet-a-long'? I am considering writing this pattern up - it is such a quick and rewarding project with a cute, practical result. Let me know, if you do!

Friday, February 1, 2013

Kαλό μήνα! Have a good month!

Greeks have a wonderfully positive attitude to life, by tradition - and that's one of the things I love about them. They have a blessing for so many things in life, and every first day of the month they wish each other a Good Month! 

So, kαλό μήνα! :)

So what are you up to in February? I have always loved this month of the year, because it is so short and often passes in a lightening speed - at this point of the year I am always getting impatient about SPRING, so I am looking forward for warmer, longer days and I spend February on work, or whatever 'must' activities I have in my life at the time - to get done with all the 'musts' so I can enjoy spring when it comes!

I hope this year will be no exception. I have been somewhat distracted during January - busy, yes, but without a clear schedule in my mind and - without a real result. So, high time to catch up.

I have one project though, that I've been working on - on and off - throughout end of December and January that I want to share. I think I'm approaching the finishing lines (and I hope I won't jinx my inspiration now by posting a photo :))

Freeform crochet with 100% wool

Freeform crochet, bullion stitch, surface crochet

 I really do love this peace. I have only used a handful of stitch types, yet it looks rich in texture and color. I am using a 100% wool yarn, lovely to work with. This will most likely become a cushion cover, and I hope to finish it really soon now...

The real question is - what shall I do with it? While I am in love with these colors, they don't exactly match my living room, I should have gone for a different theme. That's what happens when you start a project without a proper planning, just because you LOVE the yarn.... :)) Who knows, I might put it in my etsy store.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013


Alexandros & Adriana
I can not believe the January has almost passed already. Last year I made some nice goals, set some targets... some I achieved, some not, but in general I am happy with how it went. It seams like a long year, full of many happenings, mostly related to my children and family.

They grow up so fast... I want to do many things for myself, but I often get caught up with everyday activities regarding home and kids and the day passes sooner than I realize. I am sure many mothers could say the same. At the end of it I am often so tired, that even a simple knit is more than I'm able to concentrate on. And yet, I have this calm happiness in me. The most important things in my life are in balance, the rest will come.

I've been doing several little projects with my kids lately. One of the most fun was painting the fridge magnets! Oh, the excitement for all the bright colors! Alexandros was painting stars in black night, and the yellow sun in blue sky among other things, Adriana was trying out colors and her tiles are a wonderful chaos of bright and cheerful color splashes! All of these are now decorating our fridge and my kids are so proud to be the creators of them. The original thought was to send one or two to grand-mom, but I've been very selfish and this time they have all stayed with us. We might do another project like this closer to mother's day and indeed send them :)
hand made by Alexandros & Adriana with a bit of assistance from their mom :)
 I think these kind of projects are great for kids. Fantasy is working full speed on, concentration and hand coordination are in play - it is much more tricky to paint with a brush than a pencil! They also learn about mixing colors, like yellow + blue = green, etc...

This time we got a ready-made set for painting tiles from a toy store, but you could use any small tiles for this project and a magnet base.

I am thinking that next time we will go to the beach and find flat pebbles for painting, then paint them like fish or bugs or flowers, depending on what my kids will have mood for... that might be even more fun!