Loaf My Way

There seems to be some interest in my bread recipe, thank you for asking. It’s as simple as it gets: 3 types of grains, yeast, salt & sugar, water, the end.

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See the interesting shape that bread has? That happened because I don’t knead, so there’s a lot of air bubbles in the dough, and it rose to this weird mountain-top shape in the oven. I know we’re always taught the exact opposite when it comes to yeast dough, as in knead, knead, knead. After reading a recipe for no-knead artisan bread online, however, that called for min. 9 hours of rising and explicitly advised against kneading, I just kind of stopped doing it. And what do you know, it works really well, even with just 1 hour of rising and nothing crazy like overnight.

My bread baking career started out in the country. Contrary to what you might think, they mostly have supermarket chains and the affiliated bakeries there, and very little in the way of quaint village bakeries like you may know from France.  Anyway, I never loved the bread you can buy there to begin with, and when I quit eating wheat last year, and couldn’t get spelt flour bread, I had to get creative. Adding oats and millet seeds happened one day when I didn’t have enough flour. Now, I’m pretty much making the same type every time, because everybody enjoys it.

Crusty Spelt, Oats and Millet Bread

500 g spelt flour

100 g oats

50 g millet seeds

1 P dry yeast

2 TBSP salt

1 TBSP sugar

0,5 l warm water

Using a spatula, combine ingredients to make a smooth, moist dough. Dust with some extra flour and cover with a clean cloth. Set aside in a warm place to rise for about 1 hour.

Heat the oven to 160 °C. Oil a bread pan, dust it with flour, scrape the risen dough (which should have doubled in size) into the bread pan and put it in the oven.

After 30 minutes, turn down the heat a bit and bake for another 20 or so. Any minute now :-)! The bread should be a pleasant, light brown color and it should sound a bit hollow when you rap on it with your knuckles.

Take out the bread and let cool until it comes out of the bread pan. Let cool completely before you slice it.

The last weeks I’ve been quiet, because I was working and micromanaging my kids – joking, I’m joking. I’m really not that bad. Or so I hope. It’s just hard for them, keeping track with all the stuff they need to remember, and since I’m the one with the iCal, I remind them. For it has been proven empirically, over and over again, that they’ll forget to see their orthodontist, or their standing weekly French tutoring session, or homework, or hockey practice. And the appointments keep piling up.)

Also, I have a confession to make… I may have met someone online. He’s very young, and he has the most gorgeous eyes you can imagine. I haven’t met him in RL yet, but I will, soon. He lives close to where our cottage is. I’m not yet fully committed, but he’s very, very intriguing. His name is Charlie, and … he’s a Dachshund :-)). Teehee, did you actually for a second there think I was going to post on my blog about a secret online affair? If so, that’s hilarious. Nah, I’m just thinking about getting a dog, for the first time in my life, and the thought makes me happier than I’ve been in a long time. There’s a lot to be said about realizing what we really wish for, isn’t there? I mean, even if Charlie won’t end up coming to live with us (another family have expressed interest, before us, so we’re only second choice), finding him and truly giving this serious thought made me realize it’s what I want. And that’s something, right?

This weekend, I’m hoping to make some more progress on the Stripy Sweater. Here’s how far I’ve gotten, and I’m looking forward to finishing it soon. Thanks to my math genius friend P., the raglan went easily enough, and hate it as I might, it was smart to actually count stitches and do the math with this delicate yarn. I may have gotten the sleeve right at the first go, so I have reason to be pleased ;-).

I’m also looking forward to more of this:

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Magic early spring evening light in Brandenburg at its best. Have a lovely spring weekend, everyone.

Werbeanzeigen

Let Them Eat Waffles

I would have thought everyone has their own favorite waffle recipe. Some may use store-bought mixes, others have their handed down for generations way to do it. Some swear by buttermilk, others use yeast instead of baking soda, and I have heard of people who separate eggs and fold in the stiff egg-whites into the batter.

I grew up in a completely waffle-free household. Maybe my parents weren’t keen, maybe waffles have no tradition in Romania, I don’t even know. It is fair to say waffles are, for me, an acquired taste. I can’t pinpoint exactly when I started noticing waffles were a thing, but I do remember they became somewhat of a tradition when I met my husband who first introduced me to the concept of homemade baked goods (also not something that happened on the regular at our house when I was a child).

One secret ingredient I use for my waffles is grated orange zest, which adds a fruity zing, and the other is some sort of ground nuts, which gives them a bit of crunchiness. I’ve made and served these waffles, to great success, at countless kindergarten parties, birthdays, school bazaars – and just this past weekend, at the hockey club, too.

I had signed up for waffles, as I always feel better behind a counter doing something useful than just standing around and making small talk (I wrote about this recently). So I was on waffle duty, and of course I had brought my own batter. 2 hours later I was told I absolutely needed to make those waffles again, like, for all occasions to come. It would seem the way to hockey people’s hearts is, just like to other people’s, through their stomachs.

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Waffles for a Crowd

8 eggs

250g butter

0,5 – 0,75 l milk

250 g sugar

1 p vanilla sugar

Zest of 2 oranges, grated

3 tbsp cinnamon

pinch of cardamon

2 pinches of salt

2 p baking soda

Flour (I used spelt), min 500 g, 1 kg if you have it. I needed to improvise as I’d run out, and used

300 g potato flour instead, as well as

200 g ground almonds (hazelnuts work beautifully, too)

All ingredients should have room temperature for smooth mixing and results.

With an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add grated orange peel, salt, vanilla, cinnamon and cardamon. Beat in eggs one by one. Add 0,5 l of the milk. More may be needed after you put in the flour. First, add the almonds. Then, add the flour and beat until you’re happy with the consistency (a little thicker than (US) pancake batter, smooth and creamy).

You may add more milk and flour as you go, as needed. The 8 eggs can certainly accommodate more, and you want this recipe to feed the masses.

Add the baking soda at the very end and vigorously beat for another minute before letting the batter sit for a bit.

Fire up the waffle iron and pour in as much of the batter as needed (depends on the size you have.) For mine, pretty much the regular German round-shaped waffle iron with heart-shaped sections, I pour in 1/2 ladle.

Top with powdered sugar to taste. (This is why the batter itself isn’t very sweet. Kids always want powdered sugar, and this way they don’t overdose right away.)

Go nuts with the toppings – not for a finger food occasion, but if you’re making them for a sitting down to eat setting, you can serve them with whipped cream, fresh berries, jams or warm cinnamon cherries, sprinkles, Nutella … anything sweet that makes you happy is allowed. And now, go spread some sweetness ;-).

As for crafts, it is as I feared with the stripy sweater. Good news is that I’m happy with the new design (left side). Bad news is I get to unravel the first attempt (right side), as neither the proportions nor the width of the stripes please me, so it needs to go. I already vented about frogging mohair yarn, but I can’t not do it because I need all the yellow yarn I have. Sigh.

But: I’m really pleased with how it’s coming together. I’m aiming for a sort of a Swinging Sixties vintage look. Bless those who are able to just put what they have in mind into practice at their first attempt. I am not one of them, that’s for sure!

Have a happy week, everyone!

Knit, Frog, Repeat

IMG_9193Have any of you ever unraveled mohair yarn? It’s a b…, let me tell you. It had to be done, though, because I was dead set to use up yarn from my yarn stash, and there was this random back piece I had knitted ages ago, that had the most hideous armholes you can imagine, also it was ribbed and frankly I don’t even remember what the heck I had in mind when I made it. It needed to go.

Slow progress doesn’t begin to describe the frustrating hours that followed, and had it not been for the fact I got to re-watch Moana with my little squirrel while I was frogging, I might have thrown out the whole thing. First world problem you say? How exactly is my recycling yarn not sustainable? It’s the very definition of being mindful with my stuff, and _not_ toss anything I’m tired of right away.

IMG_9334After I was done unraveling, getting started on my stripy sweater was my reward. So I did, and in the meantime, I have figured out, with the help of my lovely mathematician friend P., the raglan sleeve, and finished the front piece:

IMG_9333.JPGMy daughter named it the bee sweater – and she has a point, it’s exactly what it looks like. Unfortunately, the longer I look at it, the more I feel I got the proportions wrong, sigh. It needs to be less wide, and the rib at the bottom needs to be longer. If it weren’t for the rib, I could live with the sweater being a little baggy. But that rib needs a few more centimeters, and if I pick up the stitches at the bottom, you’d see it. I’ll either have to live with imperfection or buckle down and unravel once again – not sure what I’ll do yet.

Knitting aside, I had a busy beginning of the year. I translated a cookbook, which was fun and lovely. I helped a bit with my son’s school workload.

And, with somewhat mixed feelings, I just submitted the translation of a mediocre romance novel that the author tried, imho, to stuff way too many things into (love story, middle agers, teenagers, murder mystery, genre picture and gender). She’s also introducing too many characters, she has a knack for using weird metaphors, and the love scenes seem a bit generic, carefully scripted to tick off the usual tropes. Kiss, check. Hand job, check. Oral, check. Full-on penetrative, check. True love happening somewhere along the line.

I know that the art of romance writing is to make every story that meanders from meet-cute across some sort of conflict towards the happily ever after captivating, and I’m sure it can’t be easy for writers to stay away from the clichés. That said, I can name a good many examples (not to bore you, but I really could ;-)) for stories that pull this off, excelling at it even. Let’s just say that this wasn’t one of them. As a translator, you can only do so much – if the story sucks in the first place, it will suck after translation, and try as you might, you can’t really help that. I won’t be getting a lot of favorable mentions for this one, that’s for sure.

Moving on, I next get to translate a few chapters of a book on micro-brewery. Not that I even like beer, but what I’ve read of the book so far sounds fun. Also I’m dipping a careful toe into copywriting again; an old client whom I have a lot of respect and affection for asked me, so how could I say no? It’ll be a change of pace, and that is a good thing, always.

It’s almost mid March now, and we’ve had a few spring days already. Of course, in our neck of the woods, this means nothing. Temperatures dropped again, we’ve had a doozy of a storm over the weekend, and it even snowed a little last Sunday. But the days are getting longer, and being on the third floor, we do get our share of sunlight. IMG_9189.jpgThis was the other morning when we were getting ready for school. A good way to start the day – I find myself being highly susceptible to lux as I get older.

To top off this post, I’d like to mention a recipe I’ve been honing for a few years – it’s a classic cheesecake, which may sound a bit boring, but I assure you, it’s anything but. If things go well, this is what happens when I make it:

IMG_9098.JPGIt’s a creamy, fluffy heap of gorgeousness with a hint of vanilla and distinct lemon flavor – think of a soufflé rather than of your regular American cheesecake (no disrespect to the spectacular New York cheesecakes I’ve had, but this is just more my bag).

In my baking book, the caption literally says: This is a cake you get proposed for. I only discovered this way after I’d gotten married, so I can’t confirm or deny. What I can tell you is that my son has been asked for his mom’s cheesecake recipe :-), so high praise from the teenage front.

Cheesecake for Champions

For the crust

50 g sugar

100 g butter

150 g flour

1 yolk

pinch of salt

Make a shortcrust, wrap in foil and put in the freezer for 30 minutes to rest (if you’re not in a rush, you can put it in the fridge for 1 hour or longer). Take out and carefully roll out the dough to 3-4 mm thickness. Place in a spring-form pan lined with baking parchment and bake for a few minutes. Whether you want the crust to come up to the sides is up to you. If you want to be anal about this (I’m not), place a second piece of parchment on top of the dough, add a handful of dried beans or peas and bake in the oven at 160 °C for 15 minutes. Let cool for a bit and start on the filling in the meantime.

For the filling

500 g full fat Quark (could be substituted with cream cheese, but you should add 1 egg white if you do, as it’s heavier than our German variety)

150 g sugar

1 p vanilla sugar

2 lemons, peel grated

1 tbsp flour

1 tbsp cornstarch

7 eggs, separated in yolks and egg whites

50 g sugar

pinch of salt

Place Quark, 150 g sugar, lemon peel, vanilla, flour and cornstarch, egg yolks and salt in a large bowl, and I mean large. With an electric mixer, beat to a smooth paste. Carefully clean the whisks before moving on to beating the egg whites with a pinch of salt and 50 g sugar very, very stiff. Then place on top of the Quark mixture and gingerly fold in with a spatula. You don’t want any more air bubbles to escape than is absolutely inevitable, so please be gentle.

Spoon the mixture onto the cooled crust and immediately place the cake in the oven for about 40 minutes. Do not open the oven as your soufflé-like cake may collapse if you do.

Serve warm. If you want to be really fancy, serve with fruit puree – strawberry, raspberry, or mango.

It should make an impression.

 

Parlez-vous Introvert?

I’ve been described as: open, accommodating, smart, trustworthy, loving, funny, quietly headstrong, badass. I guess none of that is wrong.

I’m also socially awkward, lousy at small talk, and I have absolutely no desire to randomly ‚meet new people‘. Mind you, I do meet people all the time, through my work, both community (read school) work and actual work for $$. But quite a number of my clients have never seen me in person, although we do communicate a lot via Email and phone. I often prefer this to regular RL meetings; it gets the job done without me having to get snazzed up (f… the heels!), and having meaningless conversations with strangers.

After five decades of being me, I can say it without a shadow of a doubt: I am an introvert. I’m one of those people who can talk to a person they find interesting for hours but will freeze up when expected to work a room. I don’t mingle. In that type of situation, I will either single out a person I already know and go talk to them, or I’ll wait until someone walks up to me and starts a conversation. I may end up talking to them, or I may end up excusing myself to the restroom where one look in the mirror will show me what I already know in my heart: I am, once again, in the wrong place.

In our society, being like this is largely considered a handicap. You’re supposed to be outgoing, enthusiastic and energetic. The business world is full of coaches who work with the unfortunate fucks who find themselves lacking in this department. For introverts, the pressure can get very real – I should know, I was in advertising for a decade. For some, ‚fake it til you make it‘ can work just fine, another famous catch-phrase being to ’step out of one’s comfort zone‘. The latter can get physically dangerous for people like me. I’ve literally given myself migraine attacks doing it. This might be worth while if I go home with a number of well-paid assignments (or like in the ad agency days with a cool campaign sold). Either way, the price is steep. After a while, pretending to be someone you’re not can become overwhelming, to the point of people developing burn-out syndrome or depression.

My personal survival strategy, work-wise, has been to piece by piece eliminate such triggers and stress factors. I avoid social gatherings, but rather meet people I want to talk to individually. I work from home. Translations keep me busy for weeks at a time, and I don’t even have to go see anybody for a kick-off meeting, because all that is required is to open an Email attachment, buckle down and start doing my thing. To navigate the business world, I’d need an agent, and I’m not kidding. I am lucky, and I know it.

So what brought this on? It was a post by B., an esteemed colleague I ‚know-not-really-know-in-person‘, who recently wrote this in a forum I’ve been a member of for ten years:

„Events like these (meaning convention-type gatherings) can get very stressful and exhausting for introverts. I personally need a couple days to recover afterwards, every time. It’s in the nature of these gatherings that you’re required to have conversations with a number of people, for shorter or longer periods at a time. I personally find a series of brief conversations exhausting and unnecessary. Longer conversations, on the other hand, can get just as tricky for introverts. If I talk to someone at greater length, this is always for a reason. It’s not simply to pass the time, or to spend a fun night, or to bridge the gap between workshops. I enjoy longer conversations with people I truly connect with, because I’d really like to get to know them, and because I can picture having a meaningful (business) relationship with them.

If I happen upon an extrovert who simply enjoys chatting away, with absolutely no intention to deepen the contact later on, it can be next to impossible for me to discern the difference. If my counterpart seems nice and interesting, I will play along, investing a great deal of attention and energy in our conversation – only to learn that the other person will after a while barely even remember what we talked about, let alone be interested in further contact, because all they were doing was be friendly and pass the time. Even a well-meaning XYZ convention can make these two worlds collide, worlds that may miss each other’s purposes by miles and miles. And this can get too much for an introvert.“

Reading these two insightful paragraphs, I felt understood in a way I don’t experience very often, and I ended up replying not in the forum but via PM. She wrote back, I wrote back again, and here I am blogging about it. That’s exactly what I’m talking about :-).

Connection as opposed to contact all the way!

In her post, B. was asking about networking ideas for introverts – so if any of you have any light to shed on this practical aspect of the matter, by all means, let’s hear about them!

That was a huge amount of words, sorry not sorry 😉 – you guys know you’re reading at your own peril.

Want to see some pics from last week (that I was supposed to have off but in the end didn’t really?) Here we go:

IMG_9144My crazy ass teenager walking out on the frozen lake after doing the even more insane ice bath thing with his sweet friend L.

I also had an idea for a sweater, inspired by Finnish crafts artist Tuija Heikkinen, check out her IG, she’s amazing! I have a huge stash of the fluffiest black Mohair yarn, some mustard yellow because I couldn’t resist, and some gorgeous off white baby Aplaca … so there:img_9037.jpg

As you can see, it was approved by her Majesty:

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And that is all I have to say for today (thank God, some might think, after this essay :-)…

Have a lovely weekend, everyone!

Headache Post

img_8990Reader of this blog, be warned: I might not make a lot of sense right now, for I have a migraine (throb behind my right eye) and, much as I would like to work, I’m finding myself unproductive as f…. despite having taken my meds and having had 2 coffees and lots of water already.

So, a rambling little catching up blog post seems in order – after all, it’s a writing exercise too, and those are always beneficiary for my line of work.

Hope you had yourself a merry little Christmas and a cool start to the New Year.

Ours was mostly quiet and uneventful. We spent a lot of time at home, recovering (husband had a hip replacement after Thanksgiving and may now be addressed as ‚Bionic Man‘), regrouping (bad news about taxes that is throwing us back a couple months, ugh) and sleeping in big time (much needed after a couple intense weeks at school and work following our transatlantic travels).

There was cooking, baking, knitting and making good use of our Netflix account. There was quiet reading, listening to music, many hours of playing board games and also some me time, which is always welcome. Oh, and I stumbled across an intriguing cultural phenomenon from Norway, the remarkable 2016 (or 2017?) TV show SKAM. Check it out if you’re into Young Adults stuff, and let yourself be wrapped up in the lives of a group of lovable highschoolers played by amazingly talented, really young Norwegian actors. I leave it to you to guess who my favorite characters were ;-).

img_8876Since the weather has been like this mostly ever since we’ve been back from California, it was a bit of a stretch to actually get my butt out there and take walks, but I went anyway, as often as I could make myself. Funny how important lux is, after all we’re not plants, and can survive just fine without sunshine (as people in Norway and Finland and Iceland can testify to). But I’ve missed it, so much, and getting out of bed to do the school morning routine for my brood in the pitch dark has been challenging.

My latest translation project was a heaven-sent serendipity, as it’s a cookbook on the cuisine of the sunny, tropical islands in the Indian Ocean (Mauritius, Seychelles and such). Beautiful pictures, yummy recipes with a zing of curry, chili and lime, and quick and easy work to boot. A good way to kick off the work year, for sure – so thank you Ms. H. at Dorling Kindersley :-).

Crafts-wise, I designed a pair of wrist-warmers before the holidays. After some trying and unraveling and trying again, I had worked out the pattern, and even though I already managed to ruin the prototype

in the wash (pics were taken before, when they were still soft and pretty), I’ve made a couple more pairs in the meantime. Making wrist warmers is perfect if you have leftover yarn from some other project, and Lord knows I have those in spades in most colors of the rainbow. On the back of the hand, I’ve used a relatively simple lace pattern from one of my ancient knitting books:

IMG_9035From all the pics you can probably see it best on the red pair. I think it’s lovely, and the wrist warmers are keeping me cozy as I type away on my cookbook manuscript, and I’ve already made two pairs as birthday gifts to my sweet friends N. and M.

The photo story above is a nice way to wrap up – and also a very personal homage to a charming, grumpy old lady of a cat. There’s actually few man foods she finds even remotely appealing, and butter is probably her favorite, smart animal. It was French master chef Auguste Escoffier who replied, when asked about the secrets of great cooking: „Il y en a trois: du beurre, du beurre et du beurre.“ Cats are so wise, aren’t they?

And now, back to my manuscript. It’s been a very nice way to spend my lunch break, as always. Have a lovely weekend, everyone!

Still Here!

IMG_8275IMG_8302This year, I was the Wicked Witch of the East for Halloween without even realizing. We were in a rush to get out the door, I hadn’t even planned to dress up at all, then I put on that fabulous nose just for kicks, and when there was a leftover wig, I grabbed it too, on an impulse.

Trick-or-treating is a completely different thing in the U.S. than it is here in Europe (duh, you say) – the effort people make with their costumes, and the open house atmosphere, the general joy and goofiness is really heartwarming. One family installed a huge Zozobra in their front yard, complete with a gloom box. Whether they actually set fire to him, I don’t know, maybe that happened later on, but he was scary and beautiful even when he wasn’t burning! Anyway, I grabbed that wig on a last minute impulse, and ended up having great fun with my silverfoxy mane while strolling around the neighborhood chaperoning two young’uns on their quest for candy. IMG_7362.JPGHere they are, dressed up as Chewbaccas, dubbed „The Wookie and his Cousin“ by the locals, and may I say they were very successful indeed and came home with _a lot_ of candy.

As you may have guessed, we spent the last two weeks of October with our folks in the States, in lovely Santa Barbara, CA. They were wonderful, generous hosts, and we had a great time, practically extending our summer by two weeks. Mostly, we did normal stuff (for there – obviously, the beach is usually not a part of our everyday city life here!). I wanted the kiddos to experience what their American family’s life is like. So we cooked, played games, grocery shopped, went to the farmers market, ate at their favorite burger, pizza and taco joints, enjoyed the year-round abundance of fresh (and tasty) fruit and vegetables, and of course we also stocked up on sunshine and spent as many hours as humanly possible by the always magnificent Pacific Ocean. My son surfed, my daughter and husband boogie-boarded. I tried it too, but got weirded out by the speed, man, those things can go fast! Absolutely not my bag. So I sat by the beach with my knitting, which of course is. So was walking Sully, my folks‘ supersonic Border Collie, caught here in repose – a rare occurrence with that gorgeous, hyper dog dude. On most other pics, all you see of him is a black and white flash.

IMG_8397The day after we arrived, my daughter turned ten. It was her birthday wish to go whale watching, so we got on a boat and spent four hours admiring those gorgeous (if smelly) creatures who came really close, being amazed at the many graceful dolphins who came even closer, and commiserating with the locals about the ugly oil rigs the ugly government recently had installed all along the coast. The little princess also got her ears pierced in Santa Barbara, here she is with her new cute little glittery rainbow flowers.

IMG_7463 The second weekend, we took a memorable trip up to Yosemite. There is a great deal of hype going on about that place, and I admit I was a bit indifferent about going at first. Now, I’m so glad we went, because despite it being such a corny line I read in one of the brochures, Yosemite does change you. Walking through the forest, gazing up to the massive El Capitan and Half-Dome granite rocks and watching the sunset from Glacier Point was just as awe-inspiring as my visit to the grand Canyon decades ago had been.

That said, my personal highlight was Mariposa Grove, hands down, walking in the presence of giants: the sequoias.

IMG_8162Some of them have been around for more than 2000 years, and they’re as tall as 25-story buildings. It’s hard to put into words what a quiet, commanding presence they have. They seem powerful and gentle, and unlike the rocks, I didn’t find them threatening. Much like you would in a cathedral or museum, we automatically spoke in hushed voices (little else but monosyllabic ‚wow’s, ’see that’s, and deep sighs), sat down every once in a while and soaked up the vibes of the ancient. It was a spiritual experience, and a happy, happy day for me.

A good thing to remember on Thanksgiving – happy Turkey Day to those of you out there who are celebrating today :-).

Upon returning to Santa Barbara, we did a few more mundane things like shopping and walking Sully and spending every minute we could by the beach before heading back to LAX, taking the scenic 101 by the coast. Two days later that very highway was up in flames, so I’m calling that great timing. Our folks are not affected this time around, another thing to be thankful for.

Settling back in, I’ve been doing new client acquisition (sigh), taxes (sigh again), and prepping for the upcoming annual Winter Fayre at my son’s Waldorf school (yay)!

IMG_4519Making little snowflake dudes like I already showed you last year;

IMG_8546Crocheting potholders that are both functional and cool looking (in my opinion anyway);

IMG_8527Crocheting adorable egg warmers, resurrecting a design I had already made a few years back, using natural fibers this time (never any other way again!).

Since my son’s class is in charge of the espresso bar this time, we obviously needed to make Cantuccini cookies in advance, their being vegan a nod to the classmates having chosen that lifestyle as much as a necessity, because the regular recipe was a disaster!

The Fayre’s day after tomorrow, so we’ll be doing little else the next two days. After that, there will be more work on ‚my‘ new book; I was asked to translate a romance novel by Amy Lane, and even though it’s very much a grown-up love story, most of it takes place in a (Californian ;-)) high school, so my young adults itch will be scratched too.

In case you were wondering what I was doing with myself all this time since my last post in late August, I was working, handling some school kerfuffle and doing more mom/little people stuff than usual. For the most part, I was editing the heck out of the cowboy novel manuscript I had due shortly before leaving for the States, which culminated in a week all by my lonesome out in our cottage, better to focus on the manuscript without having to deal with kids, household and school matters. I buckled down, and it was a very productive week indeed. Except for a stroll before sundown, I didn’t really leave the house.

Manuscript submitted, we packed, bought gifts, organized cat-sitting and away we went – and the rest you know.

You guys in California, if you read this: thank you again. We miss you!

I Can See Dead People – For Now

Can I rant about German law for a minute? So I have written about my parents before. Both are deceased, my dad passed in 1982, and my mom followed him in 1998, 20 years back. Which is why I just got mail from the cemetery management of the small town where my parents‘ burial place is located, saying that I have until the end of the year to have the tomb removed. Apparently, in German cemeteries, you only rent the gravesite, for a limited period of time, and my parents‘ has expired 20 years after my mom passed away, no extensions permissible. Am I the only one to find that macabre? I mean, the whole ritual that we do with with the funeral, and the speeches, and the flowers is designed to find closure, and it works a charm of course. But for a lot of people (me included) it doesn’t really stop there. They go and visit the graves of their loved ones, just to go see them, talk to them, connect with them, bring them flowers – whatever. I don’t know how many times I’ve read that topos in a book or seen it in a movie. I have certainly done it myself.

Since I live hundreds of miles away from that place, I don’t get to go there often. But I do feel a connection to that cemetery, and I especially love my parents‘ headstone. It’s a simple, undressed stone, and the epitaph simply says their names and the respective birthdays and days of death. The last time I was there, I saw that some moss had started growing in the crevices of the rough surface, and it made me smile, and think: Look, life goes on, even in a cemetery. So I don’t go a lot, but were I to live closer, I’m quite certain I would. It had (until I received the letter from the authorities) a certain permanence if you will, it was a place I knew would always be there. It was, after all, my parents‘ final place of rest.

Not all that final, evidently. Granted, I wasn’t the person to make the arrangements. That was my mom, when my dad passed away. She must have been told about the legal situation, not that she was probably listening, grief-stricken and in shock as she was at the time. And it never came up when she died and was buried in the same place 16 years later (well before the 20 years mark), and the management probably thought I knew. Well, I didn’t.

And now, I’m supposed to renounce this place I had wrongly assumed was mine, to make room for other dead people, and for their bereft. I guess it makes sense in a way, what with the overpopulated, aging society we live in. If you’re aware of these things in advance, you’d be well advised to not put any deep emotional roots down there, to spare yourself additional grief.

But as a migrant who has no ties to her place of birth, no childhood home I could return to and (duh!) no parents left, I can’t help but feel, once again, discarded. Also, whacked over the head, once again, with the realization that nothing in this life last forever, evidently not even a f…ing grave.

Educating myself on the web, I found it’s common procedure to either recycle the headstones (stonemasons who are contracted to remove the tombstones either remove the epitaphs from the stones and give them away to poorer families for free, or smash it to gravel that is frequently used for road-building (in which case you get a discount on their fee for removing the whole shebang) … I mean, WTF, that is just appaling, right?

Nope, not going to allow my parents‘ memory to become a piece of turnpike. I can see myself standing on some autobahn bridge or other, staring at a strip of road … I always wondered what it was people were doing who stand up there, and hoped they weren’t going to jump; maybe they weren’t crazy, but simply paying their respects to Aunt Edna or Uncle Joseph?

I’m not saying this country hasn’t, all things considered, been good to my family. In fact, most of the time, I’m happy enough in Germany. A stable democracy is nothing you can take for granted in this day and age, and I appreciate many, many things about living here. I married a German man, I have two beautiful kids, and I adore my friends.

But right now, my inner child can’t help feeling betrayed and cheated out of a thing I held very dear. Mad world …

Mad World Cover by Gary Jules