Work Stuff

IMG_3313Hi stitch readers, sorry for having been MIA for so long. I hit a bit of a rough patch work-wise, regarding time-frames and number of assignments that needed to be taken care of simultaneously. It got somewhat unhealthy when the unexpected, extensive rewrite of a book translation was added to my already full schedule (tight deadline for a cookbook translation, finishing the first chapter of a fantasy novel I’ve been asked to translate, yay, fun stuff :-)). All this needed to happen over the course of a few weeks in January, and I would not advise anyone to try that shit.

I got a large part of my hands-on education in advertising, therefore aiming to please the client is part of my work ethic. Submitting my work on time is as second nature to me as trying to deliver the best work I can. Mostly, this keeps everybody happy. And then sometimes it just doesn’t, no matter how hard you try. One of the three projects of the past weeks went sideways, you can probably guess which, and despite the many hours I spent trying to fix it and finding exactly what the client in question was looking for, she was not satisfied with my work, to the point of questioning both my skills as a translator and my command of English.

Because I’m me, I was kind of shaken by the experience, and it got me thinking about the meta level. What was there to be learned from this? To avoid all the frustration for both parties, applying these rules might have been helpful:

1. Make new clients define upfront how literal a translation they want. (This in addition to test translations if required.)

2. Install in-between reviews.

3. Agree to be able to push the deadline in case of major changes so you won’t have to kill yourself executing them on time.

4. Strongly advise on an editor.

In my profession, every job ultimately equals further training. You hone your skill, you learn new terms and phrases, you try out new styles, you get faster and more fluent as you go. And sometimes, you learn things about people, and about yourself, too.

This time around, I practiced translating a novel as literally as possible. I stayed calm and polite in the face of shade thrown at me. I asked for help when I needed it. And I got invaluable advice from two generous, knowledgeable and level-headed colleagues.

Did that have positive aspects? It did. Was I grateful to my friends, family and colleagues for supporting me? Absolutely. Would I want to do it again? Hell, no!

So, all in all, it was a bitch of a start into the New Year for me :-). I do hope you guys fared better, and I promise the next post won’t be quite as dark. But you know what? Despite all the aggravation and stress, there were good things too over the last couple months, and the cutest of them is this:PKOB3190We met our new cousin in early February, and I’m so glad we did. There’s just nothing like the trust, wisdom and pureness of a new baby. This one’s no exception.

Have a very good early spring, everybody, and thank you for reading through my ramblings!

Loose Ends

IMG_1769One of the tasks I feel I have in this life is get a handle on my tendency to walk away from messes rather than man up and take care of them. Why I find that so difficult is unclear, but it’s what it is. As I’m sure most of you, stitch readers, know, untidiness occurs on a daily basis if you live with other people (men or women both), pets and, most notably, children. Contrary to what you might think, having large places like we do in Berlin makes the problem worse instead of de-escalating it. It’s way too easy to physically remove yourself from the epicenter of the chaos without leaving the house. Dangerous, that.

I’m in a weird mood today. I have work, but can’t concentrate for s… Waiting for the shop to call back and give me the verdict on the car. Urgently waiting for my girl J. to _finally_ receive a package that has an astonishing history of getting lost. Making up my mind whether to knit a new hat for my daughter who has yet again lost one, or just get her a new one. Looking forward in panicky anticipation to seeing my son on stage as Lucifer in the school play that’s premiering this weekend. Waiting to hear back from a client who may or may not have ditched me for backing out of a project. The slings and arrows of pulling out of our hats the annual Winter Fayre at the Waldorf school on Thanksgiving weekend (Waldorf moms, you know what I’m talking about). Meeting with teachers about a kerfuffle at my daughter’s school concerning a very difficult kid (not mine, thank God, just me doing the parents rep thing). Needing to bill a client for a poorly organized project, which makes the invoice both complicated and susceptible to mistakes … Lots of stupid little things like that, and they keep piling up like a messed up round of Tetris. Stressful and annoying.

Oh, you’re asking for a solution now? Well. I guess I have a strategy, you could call it. I recently read a discussion on a related topic in a forum, regarding workday organization, time management and such. What I took away from it is that the world seems full of very organized folks. To my relief, there is also great diversity with regard to the systems they use. In the end, we’re all different, and whatever gets the job done is all that matters.

So, my personal way of going about Managing Messy Days is the following.

1. First beat into submission my knee-jerk impulse to walk away from it all. It’s real, I’ve done it more times than I can count, even though I’m aware that most issues do NOT just dissolve into thin air when you look away, sadly. Addendum: Walking the dog first is absolutely fine, for clearing of heads and channeling of energy from the trees and the sunshine and the oxygen. Also, it’s exercise, always a bonus.

2. Then, sit down and write down all the things I currently worry about. There should be two columns (or clusters if you’re a mind map person). One for the things that just require keeping an eye on as opposed to actively doing something about them. And another for actual tasks and chores.

3. Acknowledge the things you can’t change right now, and ignore for now. The other things: Just do them. One after the other. Check, check, and check. Banal, you say? Well, duh. I’m no type of expert for systematic approaches or life coaching, haha! You don’t even know how hilarious that notion is. I’m just 52 years old, have worked for about 30 years and have managed a family as a working mom for about 18. I suppose you could call me ‚experienced‘.

4. If you can, talk to someone about the other list, or cluster. Call a friend, whine, be a brat about it. Journal. Just communicate your dissatisfaction to a friendly listener. It always makes me feel better! And I guess the task to absorb my rant fell to you guys today :-). You’re welcome. And, more importantly: thank you for reading, truly.

So that is my method for getting the better of days like this one, lest they get the better of me.

There’s not much else I feel like talking about today. One thing, maybe. I mentioned that everybody is having babies, right. And you know I like to make things for little people. So I can’t really decide about the pattern for a friend’s baby. I have a bit of time, as it’s only due in a few months. But I’d like to get started before all the Xmas craziness sets in.

Remember the ripple pattern baby blankets I did in the past?

They were all pretty much the same, and based on Attic 24’s awesome pattern. This time, I wanted to do something different, more monochromatic. I was thinking a simple textured pattern. So, over the weekend, I played around a bit with patterns, color combinations and yarn.

I kind of settled on off white, maybe using two strands to make it more chunky, for it is thin yarn, which would be perfect for a summer blanket but the baby’s due in spring, so. I was also thinking of adding a pompom border in pastel colors, pompoms like I did here?

But around a blanket with a pattern like the one below (those are just swatches, to see and feel the pattern).

So that’s a question I’d like your input for. My daughter liked the middle one, but I’m not sure if it isn’t a bit too geometric for a little baby girl. What do you think? The one on the left is of course nothing else but the ripple pattern minus the different colors. Please help me make up my mind!

Btw, I’ve gotten my car back in the meantime. The verdict is not great: I walked away with another appointment and the prospect of having to spend a good few hundred bucks, easy. :-(.

So, now I’ve gotten all of that out of my system, I guess it’s high time to sit down and do some work I’m actually getting paid for. Ducking back out of here with a picture I took last week by the lake. I swear this was midday to early afternoon (as the clever ones of you can probably tell by the position of the sun). I love the eerie lighting and the sense of impending doom. You can easily imagine an army of zombies just waiting to stagger out of that murky water in search of braaaaaiiiin.

IMG_2221Have a lovely day, everyone, hopefully more focused and less messy than mine.

Fight Racism in the Street and in your Mind

That’s what it said in Futura Bold on a T-shirt I was given by my sweet friend M., way back in our salad days. It was the corporate font of the ad agency he was working for, one of the more interesting places of the Nineties ad scene in Frankfurt, a place called Trust. They were remarkable for well designed and implemented corporate culture, and sneered at by the more conservative ad crowd, for being a bit flashy, in your face, and bold, but looking back, probably mostly for being different.

From today’s perspective, it was simply decent corporate design, and as far as I know the owners had a deep understanding of the secret weapon used by even the smallest enterprises today: the corporate idea. They were trying to establish something special and new (for Frankfurt in those days anyway). They certainly were hard to overlook.

One of the things the agency would do was print T-shirts with clever taglines like this one (kudos to whoever was responsible for it, could find no reference online – if anyone should know the wordsmith, please tell me and I’ll shout their name from the rooftops, here in my own small Speaker’s Corner of the Internet). The T-shirts were handed out to the staff, and my friend swiped one for me, good man. He really was. We lost touch when I moved away, and I miss him.

As my 25 years older self, I think it’s a huge, tall order, what it said on that T-shirt. Even though a migrant myself, I am not free of racism. In fact, while feeling kinship towards my Egyptian bestie N., my Spanish friend M., my daughter’s Romanian piano teacher etc. etc., I sometimes feel sort of a reverse xenophobia towards whoever makes stupid comments about race, gender, or sexuality. Not sure if that’s a thing, or just me being weird. Talk to me if you have experienced similar things?

In a way, this makes me no better than a right-out racist, I feel. And I get now that this is exactly what ‚in your mind‘ means. Why would I resent people only because they don’t share my own values? Gotta watch that. And fight it. In my mind. And in my children’s, whom it’s my job to bring up as smart and open and tolerant people. I should make them their own ‚Fight Racism‘ T-shirts. I’m sure my son would wear one.

So, that got a little deep ;-). Want to see a few pretty fall pics to lighten the mood?

One of the pics above was not taken in the country, can you guess which one?

Oh, and here’s my favorite shot, with a strange, extraterrestrial feel to it. Also, ears :-).IMG_1889.JPGIn terms of crafts, I used my free time to finish projects. First, rainbow baby blanket for tattoo artist, check.

As you can see, I added a picot border, and I’m not sorry.

Second, Starry Night socks for my daughter, check. Of course, I ran out of yarn on the last few cm and needed to improvise with another navy blue yarn. I blame the dog, who stole my ball of yarn and played with it a bit, entangling it to the point that forced me to throw out a considerable piece, the very length that would have enabled me to finish that sock, probably. Thankfully, my daughter still loves them despite the patchwork.

img_1336.jpgAnd third, don’t even know if you remember, I started out to make a stripy sweater in early spring, made from an ancient stash of silky black mohair yarn, a yellow skein of organic pure new wool I had bought at the school fayre last year, and some off white cashmere silk blend I had left from the lace mittens I’d made for my MIL two years ago.

The color scheme was inspired by Finnish crafts artist Tuija Heikkinen whose Instagram I follow. She’s a true genius, and I admire just about everything she creates. She posted a piece of  I don’t even know what to call it? It was these little mannequin-like dolls dressed in what I would call Swinging London Sixties dresses, featuring the colors I used, among others. I saw her post, loved it, my imagination ran with it, and it resulted in this:

I had no pattern, but I have a favorite similarly cut sweater I used as a model. As usual, this method involved some trial and error, there was swearing and frogging, but in the end it was pretty straightforward once I had figured out the design. I’m really pleased with how it turned out, as well as very proud to have finished it, and it’s still 2019 :-)).

This week, it was back to school and getting into the groove of city life, which is so much easier now I’m taking daily walks by the lake in the community forest.

Work-wise, there may or may not be romance novel(s) in my near future, which would be lovely, so please keep your fingers crossed for me.

Enjoy your weekend, and the hour we’re getting back tomorrow, for summer time is no more.

The Ultimate Sandwich of the Season

d14a8ad5-ceae-483a-b0c3-53d1be19bc98 2This was me yesterday after finding this big ass porcini mushroom… which, as it turned out, was way too old, and inedible to anybody but the maggots that were already feasting on it. There may be people who welcome that extra protein and just eat it anyway, and more power to them – my husband always says we’ll be eating bugs instead of chicken sooner or later. I’m not cut out to hack that. But it was fun to discover that Old Man Mushroom all the same.

So, mushroom picking is one of the things I love to do most in the fall, as I probably said before, and porcini mushrooms are my absolute favorite. They have a subtle, bacon-y flavor that goes perfectly with just about any carbohydrate imaginable: rice, pasta, potatoes, polenta, bread … and of course many people enjoy porcini as a side with meat roasts. I don’t like to add too many ingredients to mine, aside from a little butter and/or olive oil, salt and pepper.

After finding no less than 7 of them when walking the pup this morning, I made this:

First, I sauteed the thinly sliced baby porcini mushroom you see in the middle of my cutting board in a bit of olive oil and butter, with a few slivers of garlic and a bit of salt. Then I threw a slice of bread in the frying pan so it could soak up the juices, arranged the mushrooms on it once cooked, added a handful of arugula and called it lunch. I’m not sure I ever had a better sandwich.

As you may have guessed, I’m out at the cottage, planning to spend 2 lazy weeks doing little else than be outdoors as much as possible, feed the woodburner, read, do my fancy ZEIT crosswords (for US readers, this is the German equivalent of the NY Times crosswords, style- and challenge-wise), do crafts, cook for my kiddos and sleep in as long as Charlie will let me. He is not an early riser (he will get up if need be, but he’s just as happy to dog-nap until a very civilized 9 a.m.). Sounds like a plan, right? I feel I deserve it, having swapped my summer vacation for the translation of a thick cookbook. I’m going to enjoy the heck out of the next 2 weeks :-). The second week, we’ll be three, then a lot, because my daughter has asked her sweet girl friends out here for a birthday slumber party. She’ll be 11, and it’s nothing but bizarre to me. Wasn’t she a baby just yesterday?

IMG_2664.JPGMoving on to crafts :-).IMG_1762The above is what became of the rainbow pattern baby blanket. I’m still debating whether to do a picot border – but I could easily imagine just leaving the slim border of SC stitches all round. Opinions on this matter would be very welcome! I brought what feels like ALL the other yarn, so I’ll be tinkering and that is an awesome way to spend my free time.

And now, nature calls. Going to take the doggo for a long sundown walk. Have a lovely week, everybody, and take advantage of the sunshine as long as we get it!

Harvest Crumble

IMG_1617Much as I would have liked to go apple picking last weekend, my friends‘ trees are small, and there was not enough fruit to harvest for her to need our help. But there was some, and she gave me a basket of freshly picked apples, I made a sweet yeast dough, my husband peeled and sliced, and in the afternoon, we all had cake together in her sun-dappled garden. And since we had miscalculated how much fruit we were going to need for the cake, I also made a few jars of apple sauce.


Chunky Apple Sauce

Apples, peeled, cored and cut into slices or chunks

Brown sugar (or any other kind) to taste

Cinnamon to taste

Squeeze of lemon to taste

A few TBSP water if required

In a non-stick cooking pot, put apples to the boil. After a few minutes, they’ll begin to fall apart. Stir every now and then, you don’t want them to stick to the bottom. Add a little water if the fruit don’t exude enough moisture. When the apples are cooked, add sugar and cinnamon to taste. In our case, we did need quite a bit of sugar, because the apples were _very_ tart – perfect for a cake, but for the apple sauce, extra sweetness was definitely needed. Add a few drops of lemon if you wish. And that is it – healthy, easy to make apple sauce that beats the flavor of the store-bought variety by miles.

Speaking of freshly picked produce, now for the exact opposite! Looking at the content of my veg drawer with a keen eye this morning, I found all sorts of sad-looking, orphaned seasonal fruit: three wrinkly apricots, one ancient wild peach and a mushy regular peach, as well as yellow and regular plum-colored plums that nobody loved because they were NOT sweet. This morning, I felt like giving the lot of them a happy ending in form of a decent, autumnal crumble. Nobody’s going to care what the fruit looked like before, and the tartness will easily be balanced with a bit of sugary, buttery, crumble topping. After arranging the fruit slices in a pleasing manner, I sprinkled some brown sugar on top, and then made the crumble:

Crunchy Crumble Topping

100 g butter

50 g brown sugar (stevia or other sweetener if you’re skipping sugar, J.)

50 g ground almonds

50 g spelt flour

Pinch of salt

1 yolk

Zest of 1/2 lemon

Vanilla powder to taste

Quickly combine the ingredients with your hands to a consistency of large crumbs, just as you see above. Top the fruit with the crumbs. Refrigerate until needed, or bake right away if you’re hungry. My brood’s prob. going to break out the ice cream or ask that I make whipped cream to go with this, but that is, as many things in life, a matter of taste. Which brings me to a question I have for you today.

Yesterday night I worked some more on the baby blanket I wrote about in my last post. I’m pleased with how it’s coming along, even if I find making irregular-width stripes vexing, as I do like my things in EVEN PROPORTIONS, thank you very much … in this case, it’s how it needs to be though, in order to become a cute baby blanket. Or so I thought.

Because my sweet son, wandering in after his shower to say goodnight, stopped in his tracks and said: „Oh cool, you’re knitting a Pride flag!“ :-))) Wonder what the fashion-conscious queer crowd would make of a hand-knit Pride flag ;-))! And while at first I found this hilarious, of course now I’m beginning to question my design, because while I wouldn’t have minded my babies having a pretty thing that is also a political statement, I find I have no idea how the mom-to-be feels about that kind of thing. What do you guys think? Is it not appropriate for a newborn? Do I need to switch the color sequence around a bit…? Please advise!

And have a happy Thursday, everybody – gay, straight, or any other acronym.

Knitting for Little Creatures

So it seems that there’s a baby cluster happening in my little world. My boy’s awesome cello teacher and his wife just had a daughter, my girl J.’s due date is on Halloween (seeing very cool birthday parties in this kid’s future), my lovely tattoo artist E. is due on Christmas Eve, and then end of February, my sweet friend M. is having her third girl in a row, much sooner than anticipated.

As you can probably imagine, my crafts brain (right next to the lizard brain, it’s there, I’m sure of it!) has been busily thinking about baby stuff, and I’ve been playing with yarn more than I have done for months. It helps that the pup has settled down some, also I’m getting into the groove of the fall season. This year, it began with my knitting a dog sweater. IMG_1370Charlie has this very fine, silky coat, which we all love petting so much. Unlike most other breeds‘, his unfortunately doesn’t come with an undercoat. If I ever made fun of people who put coats on their dogs in the winter in the past, I’m eating my words with a big spoon right now, regretting every pun I ever made, because, lovely people, dog clothing is a thing. I don’t see us not taking walks in the winter because we’re too cold, right? We just wrap up in warm coats, and off we go. Why would I not give my dog that option, seeing that he needs to be outside even more than I do?

On the first day temperatures dropped to around 15 °C, I started looking online, and wasn’t really loving any of the sweaters I found, simply because they’re all made of acrylic yarn. As you know, I’m more into the natural fabrics. So I had a basic idea of the sweater’s construction, more like a vest, really. A long tube with holes for the front legs. I knew it needed to be longer in the back than in the front, given the anatomy of male dogs. You don’t want dog pee on fabric of any kind, hence the front needs to be a crop.

So I started thinking about it, made a little drawing, and went through my yarn stash. Fellow crafters know how it is – there’s always yarn that hasn’t found its true purpose yet. I unearthed this reddish-brown pure new organic wool that matches Charlie’s coat to a t. I immediately knew I wanted to do something with a textured pattern. Then, believe it or not, I actually got out the tape measure. It was my first project like this, and I found I had no idea how long my dog really is, or how wide his shoulders are and stuff. So I measured him, I swatched, and I cast on a test piece – which turned out to be the right size, awesome.

About halfway in I realized I didn’t have enough of the reddish brown yarn, so I went through the options in my stash again, deciding with my friend M. of the impeccable taste’s help that navy would go with it best. So, the finished sweater now has a navy neck and navy details I added later on. It was a three staged process, and now I feel it looks just the way it needs to look, it’s long enough in the back and it seems to be comfortable enough ;-).

As for human baby things to knit, I just mailed these IMG_1479.JPGto the string musicians‘ baby (mom’s a violinist, dad’s the aforementioned cellist), and may her teeny little feetz be warmed as well as look pretty.

Since our future nephew has a mom who also likes to knit, I’m not even going to bother making him socks. Instead, I just bought a lovely handcrafted baby wrap in the most gorgeous shade of coral – in a way, somebody else did the crafting for me :-). I fondly remember using my own baby wrap on a daily basis after my daughter was born – there’s really nothing like having the little ones close to your body the first months. Magic times :-). If you’re wondering, this is the one. Beautiful color, right?

The other two ladies with the bumps are a different matter. One’s my tattoo artist friend E. who is amazing at her craft but doesn’t really do yarn and fabric, no doubt because she’s too busy with managing her thriving business, 2 kids and a cute, energetic Boxer dog dude. E. will hopefully be happy to wrap her baby in what is going to be a multi-color stripy knit blanket, the beginning of which you can see here.

Again, I made a swatch (see bottom left) – and wouldn’t you know, the real piece turned out to be too wide the first time around anyway … still, I’m happy to have seen the way the colors are going to blend into each other. For the correct color sequence, I enlisted my daughter’s help. She knows these things way better than I do, much in the way I just instinctively know what a sauce needs to become its most delicious self. She just throws colors together, and it would take me hours to achieve what she can do in a matter of minutes. Amazing! As a beneficial side-effect, this project will be diminishing my yarn stash very nicely, thank you.

For my friend M. who’s having the February baby, I’m not sure what to make, yet. I did order some gorgeous pastel colored merino yarn that made me think of her, but for now, I’m busy enjoying the stripy project. It’s a very uncomplicated pattern – just knit, knit, knit and knit some more… easy while I’m binging my way through Queer Eye, which I’m enjoying more than I thought I was going to. My sweet niece M. who is also my media guru said it was worth watching, and so I gave it a shot. In the beginning I was watching mostly for Tan the fashion expert (this guy)’s sake, but in the meantime, all five of them have grown on me. And yes, I have shed a tear or two, just like everybody else.

Have a lovely time with this early fall weather. Isn’t it great? Scarves, and hats, and long sleeved clothes, and all the bright autumn-y colors to look forward to. img_7150.jpg

Slow Day, Slow Food

IMG_E1306I really thought I knew all the important stuff about home-made focaccia: make a fluffy yeast dough, add tons of olive oil, bake, the end – this is what I would do whenever there was an urgent demand for it. Filling a focaccia had never occurred to me before I recently learned about Gorgonzola-filled focaccia (basically you roll out two layers of dough, smear the Gorgonzola in between, seal the edges and bake, much as you would a calzone). This apparently kicked open some doors in my creative mind, and since I’m kind of smitten with baking stuff in the shape you see in the picture, this is what happened in my kitchen yesterday.

Fabulous Focaccia Buns

I was working, as I often am, with leftovers: there was some lemon-and-basil pesto I had made the week before, I had sun-dried tomatoes and some parmigiano already grated.

So basically I rolled out the dough, spread the pesto on it really thinly, strewed the cut up tomatoes and the grated cheese on top, and cut it in three about 12 cm wide, long strips. These I rolled up lengthwise into three ’sausages‘, then cut them in 3 cm long sections, which I set in a round baking dish lined with baking paper. After generously sloshing on some more olive oil, I put it in the preheated oven at 160 °C.

Btw, to make the dough, I used fresh yeast (1/2 cube), approximately 500 g spelt flour, as well as 1 cup of warm water, 2/3 cup of olive oil, 1 1/2 TBSP sea salt and 1 TBSP sugar.

The lemony pesto was made with very little garlic (no more than 1/2 clove), three 3 cm long pieces of lemon peel, as well as the usual mix of basil, parmigiano, pine nuts, salt, pepper and olive oil. I think I also added a bit of arugula and fresh parsley, a handful of each. It was a nice pesto :-).

The little morsels you see up there went away like the proverbial hotcakes at my Fair Planning Committee meeting yesterday night. There were three pregnant ladies present, who happily munched on the small buns ;-). They made for an excellent snack, and I will experiment with other fillings in the future.

We’re on the (hopefully) last leg of the current heatwave (temperature’s supposed to even out into a reasonable 20 odd °C next week), and I’m waiting for response on a test translation I submitted this week. I’m probably not the cheapest option they have (rarely am, with my not exactly exotic language pair that is offered by many, many colleagues around the world, some of whom live in countries where they can survive on a fraction of what you need in Western Europe), but I’d be really thrilled if they decided to work with me, as it would allow me to go (if only vicariously) on two really epic hikes in the Himalaya. Fingers crossed!

As for now, I’m stuck with this:IMG_1299and of course this little dude:IMG_1298who loves the lake-shore but not the water ;-). And yes, life could be way, way worse.

Have a wonderful weekend, everybody.