Friday, 23 August 2013

Three Essential Weight Loss Tools

Weight loss has been the aim in my house for 8 months now.  After many false starts I am happy to say that we are finally starting to see results.  And I’d like to share with you what I believe are essential tools to successful weight loss based on my own experience.  There are lots more “things” that are essential for weight loss such as a supportive environment, but here I just cover all the things you can pick up and play with!

A WIFI Enabled Scale (or a notebook and pen if you are freakishly disciplined)

Or in simple language, scales that will record your weight and allow you to view it with for instance an app on your iPhone.  Now I know what you are going to say – and the answer is yes, you can record your weight on a piece of paper yourself.  But if you are the type of person who doesn’t always write it down, or you always end up losing that bit of paper in-between diets, then you will love this type of scale.

Since having one of these scales, I’ve discovered that I unknowingly tend to bend the truth.  Not on purpose – just simply because I forget the facts.  For instance – this morning I hit a weight that I knew I hadn’t been down to in quite a while.  I felt a little bit good.  But when I looked at my history in the app, I discovered I hadn’t been down to that weight since I started using the WIFI scale at the beginning of my weight loss journey.  All of a sudden I went from feeling a bit good to “Oh wow!”.  I should have been really proud of myself but wasn’t simply because I couldn’t remember what had happened in the ups and downs of the last 8 months.  And it is important to know you are going well because it can give you the mental power to stay on track when you can see what you are doing is making a difference.  We have many variations of this story in our house where our own recollections are either too harsh or too complimentary and readings in the app have set us straight.

You don’t need to look at the app every day.  Most days you will be happy just to see the reading on the scales – so it isn’t another thing you need to worry about.  And if you get one that has an app on your iPhone, the graphs are never far away when you want to have a look at it.

A Calorie Counter

There are a lot of companies out there that make lots of money taking the thinking out of dieting.  They can help you lose weight, but ultimately in the long term you need the knowledge to plan the meals yourself.  Even diet books full of recipes aren’t the answer in my opinion because often they are full of time-consuming recipes and that don’t leave you with the knowledge of how to judge a recipe you might find elsewhere.  Essentially all these companies are trying to do the calorie counting for you – but get yourself my second essential tool – a calorie counter, and you can do it yourself and you will be able to look at any recipe and know if it will blow your calorie intake for the day.

I’ll be straight with you - it isn’t the most fun thing you could be doing.  But it can be quite educational.  You will never want to eat fast food chips again after looking up their calorie content!  And once you have done it for your favorite meals you never need to do it again. 

A Digital Kitchen Scale

This one goes hand in hand with a calorie counter.  Your cheap kitchen scale with the arrow and manual adjustment for containers just won’t cut it.  You need to know how big those potatoes are so you can work out how many calories they contain!

And that’s it.  Good luck with your weight loss – I hope these tips put you on the road to weight loss success too!

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Dr Who Scarf Inspired Cushion Cover

This simple cushion cover is just the thing for the Dr Who fan in your house.  It is so simple that even a beginner can do it and you will end up with something original that money can’t buy in the shops.  They look great on couch (see picture) and have a different pattern on each side so you can flip them over according to your mood.  It’s a subtle tribute to Dr Who – fans will love it and those who aren’t fans will just think it’s a normal cushion cover.  It is stylish enough that it will not be forced to hide in the study like all the other Dr Who merchandise!  And besides – what else are you going to do with your time while waiting for the Dr Who 50th Anniversary special!

Dr Who Scarf Inspired Cushion Cover - Side 1
Dr Who Scarf Inspired Cushion Cover - Side 1
What you will need:

  • A 46 cm x 46 cm (size 18) cushion insert.  I picked one up at Big W for $6.87.
  • 5.5 mm knitting needles
  • Vanna’ Choice Yarn in the following colours and quantities (see my note below on yarn choice)
    • Beige – 1 ball
    • Olive – 1 ball
    • Charcoal – 1 ball
    • Brick – 1 ball
    • Toffee – 1 ball
    • Burgundy – 1 ball
    • Mustard – 1 ball
  • Scissors
  • Wool needle
Dr Who Scarf Inspired Cushion Cover - Side 2
Dr Who Scarf Inspired Cushion Cover - Side 2

  1. Cast on 70 stitches in Olive.  You will be knitting every row (aka Garter stitch).
  2. Knit 20 ribs (a rib is two rows of knitting counted from the right side) in Olive.
  3. Knit 3 ribs in Mustard.
  4. Knit 7 ribs in Charcoal
  5.  Knit 3 ribs in Brick
  6. Knit 21 ribs in Beige
  7. Knit 3 ribs in Burgundy
  8. Knit 8 ribs in Olive
  9. Knit 5 ribs in Charcoal
  10. Knit 3 ribs in Mustard
  11. Knit 7 ribs in Brick
  12. Knit 3 ribs in Burgundy
  13. Knit 16 ribs in Toffee
  14. Knit 4 ribs in Beige
  15. Knit 3 ribs in Charcoal
  16. Knit 17 ribs in Brick
  17. Knit 6 ribs in Mustard
  18. Cast off all stitches
  19. Fold the resulting rectangle in half so you get a square with the right sides facing out.  Sew up the two sides closest to the fold using a proper garter stitch seam here for a fantastic seamless result.  There are lots of great tutorials on the web to teach you how to do this if you don’t already know.  Here you are doing a VERTICAL garter stitch seam.  The result is mostly seamless it but may show a little so use toffee yarn here as it isn't obvious when it does show.
  20. Insert the cushion into the cushion cover
  21. Sew up the final seam using a HORIZONTAL garter stitch seam.  Use olive yarn here since you are joining two green sections together.

Yarn choice:

I’ve listed here what I used.  I started out by making a Dr Who scarf thanks to the directions of a really great website  I then had the idea of making a cushion cover with just a section of the scarf.  The lady behind Witty Little Knitter has gone to a lot of effort to choose colours and create patterns as close as possible to the original scarf.  The instructions I give you here are how turn a section of that scarf into a cushion.  To be exact, I have chosen a section from the Season 12 scarf.  I chose a section that includes a bit of every colour of the scarf.

Witty Little Knitter will give you other yarns that you could use instead of Vanna’s Choice.  Or you can go to your local yarn shop and try to match the colours to yarns that you have access to.  Some of the colours used are quintessential 70s colours that aren’t so readily available today.  So I ordered Vanna’s Choice yarn from  To me it was worth the extra cost of postage just to avoid the hassle of colour matching a local brand. 

Happy knitting!

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Choosing Knitting Needles

Recently knitting has become my new old hobby.  Old because I dabbled in it as a child.  New because I have a renewed interest in it.  I’ve had to purchase knitting needles recently as I don’t have the sizes required for the projects I am working on.  I used to think that knitting needles only came in metal – the ones my mother had that I grew up using.  But recently I’ve discovered and bought other types – mainly due to not being able to find the right size in the metal ones.
But which type do you choose if you have a choice?  And in what length?  In this post I’ll go though the positives and negatives of each type to help you decide.


These can be entirely made of plastic, or reinforced internally with a metal rod inside the plastic.  If they are reinforced, they can rattle a little bit as you knit but I haven’t found the noise to be annoying.  They have a nice smooth surface that makes the yarn slide over easily – perhaps not as slippery as polished metal, but personally I haven’t noticed much of a difference.  They aren’t as cold as metal but they won’t last as long as metal.  Plastic degrades over time – and while you will probably get many many years of use out of plastic knitting needles, you might not be able to pass them on to the next generation.

3.5mm metal knitting needle with a length of 25cm
 Great for small projects like scarves
I once accidentally slammed on in the door of my car and I’m still using it after bending it back into shape.  So these needles are tough and will last a long time.  On the negative side, they can be cold to the touch initially, and stitches can more easily slip off them.  However, a slippery needle is seen as a good thing for a proficient knitter as it allows them to knit fast.  Maybe try another material if this is your very first attempt at knitting, but don’t be scared off by metal needles either – they aren’t that difficult to use.

3.5mm bamboo knitting needles with a length of 35cm
Great for bigger projects like adult jumpers

Bamboo is the opposite of metal as far as knitting needles are concerned – they are cheaper, warm to the touch, grip the yarn (good for beginners, not so good for proficient knitters), have a bit of flex and can break .  

Length of Needle

Needles tend to be available in a shorter size that I would say is more manageable, and a longer size that in necessary for bigger projects such as an adult man’s jumper.  The shorter ones are nicer to use if you can – they are easier to transport, you are less likely to hit the person next to you with your needles, and you can use them sitting in bed without worrying about hitting the doona.  That said longer needles are a must for bigger projects such as an adult man’s jumper.  You can try to squeeze all the stitches on shorter needles but it really is worth the money to invest in a larger set of needles for these projects as with a bit more space to see what you are doing properly you are less likely to make mistakes and stitches are less likely to fall off. 

My Advice

It all comes down to your budget.  If you can afford it, buy a length of needle to suit your project.  If money is tight, buy the longer needles as they are suitable for a wider range of projects.  As for material, again budget comes into consideration – but that aside I would choose metal knitting needles.  They are the most durable and will last a lifetime (or two or three – I just received my Grandmother’s metal knitting needles after she passed away and they are showing no signs of age – her plastic ones didn’t fare as well and were thrown away).  And when you gain just a little bit of experience you will appreciate the yarn sliding easily along the needles.
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