Playing Hooky

This morning, I took advantage of being self-employed, and after an early vet appointment that involved a somewhat unsavory procedure – dog owners: anal glands, ’nuff said! –, we went to the community forest for a quick morning walk. We weren’t the only ones around, but it’s a friendly dog owner crowd of (much to be envied!) local Berlin Dahlem residents, young moms pushing strollers, pensioners and, I guess, people like myself who can choose to do this on a weekday morning, a time which ordinarily finds me at my desk, too. But I’m certain that the benefit for both pup and me outweighed the working hour and a half I missed. I can (and will) catch up tonight.

As a Waldorf mom, I’m looking at a busy volunteer work week, as we’re gearing up for the Winter School Bazaar. It will be the first one after a three year hiatus, and many of the younger parents will be doing it for the first time. Everyone is really excited, and hopefully, it’s going to be just as crazy, busy and joyful as it was when we last did this in November 2019. I’m mostly looking forward to see the kids‘ happy faces (and even the teenagers‘ pretending to be sooo annoyed and secretly enjoying the hustle and bustle ;-), and the waffles!).

Those of you who come here for crafts might be disappointed. Although I have been working on my Aubergine sweater, there was an unraveled stitch for most every knitted one. It seems I have yet to find the balance between my vision for that sweater and the pattern. No idea why it felt wonky, but I’ve unraveled the first sleeve no less than three times, aggravating and time-consuming. First I went with the suggested decrease pace every 4th round, then I tried every 6th round, and now I’ve landed at every 8th round, which finally shaped the sleeve the way I like, but may make for a possibly too wide cuff. Or not? See what I mean?

Also, the pattern says to use a thinner needle for the cuffs, which I did for the bottom cuff at first (see exhibit below). Sadly, this turned out bunching up the rest of the body in an unflattering manner, so I unraveled _that_ again.

I figure if you’re making a sweater for yourself, you want it to actually fit your own body, right? Fortunately, the yarn is very forgiving, so I guess I’ll keep tweaking until I really like the way it looks! A true work in progress. Still, the pattern is a good one, and I’m not sorry I bought it. petiteknit, Monday Sweater, everybody.

In terms of food, I have a nice, seasonal recipe for you: it’s a variation of a good old veggie lasagna, with squash, eggplant, mushrooms and a cheesy Béchamel sauce.

Cheesy Fall Veggie Lasagna

You can make this as vegetables- or pasta-heavy as you wish. This ratio was perfect for our taste, basically three layers of everything: Hokkaido, eggplant, Porcini mushrooms and sauce, topped with grated Parmesan cheese.

1/2 p lasagna sheets

1/2 Hokkaido, seeded and cut into thin slices

1 eggplant, sliced

2 Porcini mushrooms, sliced

1 liter Béchamel sauce

2 large handfuls grated Parmesan cheese

1 clove garlic

Fresh thyme (twigs) and rosemary (chopped) to taste

First, put a single layer of eggplant and Hokkaido on a baking sheet lined with parchment, drizzle with olive oil and lightly salt. (I used two baking sheets to fit it all). Bake for 20 minutes at 200 °C. In the meantime, make the Béchamel sauce. Season with salt, white pepper and nutmeg to taste. Add the mushrooms, herbs and garlic and let steep off the heat until you’re ready to assemble the lasagna.

Brush your ovenproof dish with olive oil. Layer in, from bottom to top: lasagna sheets, Hokkaido, eggplant, sauce, cheese, and repeat until the last layer. Finish with grated cheese and bake in the oven a t 175 °C for 45 minutes (your pasta sheets should be soft when you stick in a fork.) You want a slightly browned top.

I like it when my vegetable drawer suddenly combines in my head (and later on the plate) in a tasty and satisfying manner! This was such a happy coincidence, that resulted in a dish I’ll be making again.

Have a productive week, and thank you for dropping by to read!

Last Day of Fall Break

From my vantage point on the sofa, I’m enjoying a quiet cup of tea before everyone else wakes up. I’ve already taken the pup to the park, who promptly joined my husband back in bed after wolfing down his breakfast. Monday it’s back to school, and today the last day of not rushing in the morning. The place is quiet, the day is overcast and quite fitting for November. The forecast says 70% rain.

Yesterday I came back from the country after two weeks. While I worked, my husband, who had 2 weeks off, sorted out the garden for the winter. Being out there without the children was strange. For the longest time, that cottage was our vacation spot, our weekend retreat, the place where we spent all our free time, as a family. It’s been a minute since we’ve spent time there as a couple. I mean, there was some online, phone and Facetime parenting going on, but ultimately the days went mostly without interacting with them, and it gave me a sense of what things will be like once they move out. They’re six and a half years apart, so I always sort of had my daughter pegged as The Little One, while consciously moving through adolescence with my son, who is now 20 years old. My daughter just turned 14. While his life had always revolved around same-aged peers, she is growing up exponentially faster, it feels. Sometimes she’s allowed to join her brother and his friends for parties now (he’s a cool dude like that, and always takes her home around midnight before the older ones really let loose). I am realizing that it’s a matter of time until they’ll both be out of here, aaaaand I’ve got some serious detaching to do!

Just as with having children in the first place, nothing really prepares you for this. We’ve all seen parents take their kids to college, putting on a brave face, chins quivering, in movies. We’ve heard about the cliché helicopter moms who don’t know what to do with themselves once their offspring leaves the nest, and start aggressively Forever Young-ing (Yoga, pottery, or cougaring and/or day drinking, as the case may be). But the experience is quite another matter, I’m sure, and inconceivable for anyone whose life has revolved around their offspring for the better part of their adult life… What will I be like? Time will tell. My son always points out that I’m lucky I got the dog when I did, because it allowed him to quietly extricate himself without much ado. And he’s not wrong. I mean, he still lives here, but he’s got his own life, pretty much. We see him when we see him. Mostly for meals ;-)). But what does that mean for our daughter? Will I have to get a second dog?!

So over the last 2 weeks my husband and I spent more time together than usual. Me taking long walks over lunch is a pretty common occurrence, but him coming with me never happens during the week, him being a slave to company hours. It was nice, and although I was working, it wasn’t my usual full time, but more a matter of five, six hours a day, a comfortable pace. The thick tome I’ve been busy with for weeks now is about halfway done, and I’ve just sent the editor the first chapter so she could see how I was doing with it. The deadline is another 3 months away, so it’ll be fine, or so I hope, let’s see what she has to say.

We spent a lot of time outdoors, soaking up the Indian Summer we were blessed with (while at the same time cringing at the really low water levels in the river and lake!). Here’s a few colorful pictures of foliage and such.

Due to my reduced work schedule, I had evenings off, and therefore plenty of time for crafts. Since my last post, I made:

A red scarf for self :

A pair of birthday socks with a lurex glitter thread for the young lady

A pair of gauntlets upon request, also for her

And I put in some work on the Aubergine Sweater, which has meanwhile progressed to the sleeves stage:

Realizing that I found the first sleeve too tight in relation to the rather roomy body, I unraveled it yesterday and will decrease at a different pace than the pattern suggests. Not the author’s fault, I made the sweater baggier than she said, too ;-). If you go and invest in cashmere it needs to be just so. I had stopped working on the project in the first place because I was planning to follow her pattern and use the Italian bind-off method (new to me), but found that I didn’t like the way it looked at all. Probably my own doing because I hadn’t practiced it after watching a tutorial. Not all things that seem straightforward online are actually easy to do, surprisingly! But that’s okay, I’m happy with the good old knit-purl bind-off!

Wow, that was a lot of knitting, I’m realizing. If only I were getting paid for that, instead of for this:

But I’m not complaining. I love my work, and this book, an educational manual for aspiring writers of genre fiction (Sci-Fi, Fantasy and horror), is a lot of fun to do. It warms my nerdy heart, and it taps into my knowledge of literature and linguistics as well as into my decades long expertise of these genres in literary, cinematic and television form, as a recipient.

No recipes today, but I can tell you I made some really good risotto with wild mushrooms last weekend. Contrary to everything I was ever taught, the recipe calls for chopping them up and adding them right after the onions and rice, before wine and broth and cheese, as opposed to sautéeing them and folding them in at the very end. It’s a revelation, and I have my dear friend M. to thank whom I will henceforth bow to as the Queen of Risotto, always.

Have a lovely weekend, friends, and thank you for dropping in and reading this.

The Rat Race of Self-Employment

For the most part, I love being my own boss, working from home, being able to decide when I do what and for how long. It has served this family well, I think, that I changed my work status from employee to freelancer. There was always time to go pick up a sick child from school or drop everything to provide parental care, and accommodate anything from shuttle services to immediate problem solving to impromptu picnic dinners at the park. That said, one major downside is that when I’m too sick to work, I don’t make any money. In our country, as someone who holds a job, you get paid sick leave. This of course is not the case when you work freelance. You don’t work for a day, you may be behind on your page count. You don’t work for a week, it can mean that you’re a chapter or five behind. Who has that kind of time?!

Over the last weeks, I was battling a flu, and last week, ended up bedridden, with a fever, coughing, runny/blocked nose, massive headaches and joint pain. Walking the pup (at glacial speed) and ordering Pho soup from the Vietnamese restaurant down the street was all I could do for days. Both kids were in a similar state, and it was only over the weekend that we finally got better. This week, I got a flu shot for the first time in my life, because I’m a little paranoid now. It’s just not good business to drop out for this long. I’ve still not had Covid, and can only imagine what that would do to my productivity.

This week I’m all over catching up with work, and have made some progress, but am still behind, and I still tire easily. I’m aware that it’s not smart to put additional pressure on myself, but it’s hard not to. I’m just wired that way, I guess, from my ad agency days in the Nineties. It was a relentless, demanding work environment that seems a little absurd now, these work-life balanced days.

So that’s where my head is at: trying to acknowledge I’m a 55 year old woman whose body needs rest, and to accept that sometimes you need some time to get well again. Thank you for taking an interest in my struggles with being middle-aged ;-)).

Last weekend, I took the dog to the forest, who was so happy to run off the leash, and I trotted after him, basking in the amazing smells and beautiful fall colors.

The crafts department is something that never really shuts down here, as you can imagine, and I used the many episodes of Brooklyn 99 my daughter and I watched together last week to knit a pair of socks for myself.

On the left you see ‚my‘ color combo of the About Berlin yarn my friend and I bought together in the summer, hers were the one on the right.

Yesterday after the flu shot, I paid the yarn shop a visit, to return some leftover yarn from the mohair cardigan, and to browse a little. I’ve been thinking about a sweater in dark chocolate brown, a warm piece for the winter, maybe even a turtleneck. The owner showed me a children’s cardigan she had made, from an Icelandic merino wool combined with a delicate strand of silk mohair, which makes for a sturdy but very soft fabric. She has ordered chocolate brown for me, but I couldn’t resist taking two red balls with me to try out on a small project ;-).

I have a favorite deep red scarf (see right image) that was damaged by moths last year, and I’ve been unsuccessful in trying to find a substitute, so this might prove to be a good solution. I spent last night trying out a few different patterns and stitches, and ended up with a diagonal rib.

It has texture but isn’t too complex to make, like a cable pattern, and I think it’s going to look nice. I’m aiming for a sort of a rhomboid shape for the carf, or rather a long, narrow rectangular with rhomboid tips, if that makes sense. Not quite as narrow as the one in the picture, that’s just a swatch.

My Aubergine sweater has taken a back seat for now, because I have yet to learn how to do the Italian bind-off, a complex technique my flu-addled brain was unable to process last week, and I didn’t want to ruin it, expensive yarn and all.

Not that I’ve been up to a lot of cooking lately, but the other day, to put a few sad, forgotten plums I found in the veggie drawer to good use, I made a very seasonal and yummy crumble.

It’s very easy to make. Pit the plums and cut in half. Butter a dish. In a bowl, mix together:

100 g ground hazelnuts

100 g butter

1 egg yolk

100 g sugar

150 g flour (I used spelt)

Pinch of salt

Vanilla to taste

1/2 TSP ground ginger

With your hands, knead together to form bite-sized streusels. Gluten free friends: you can substitute the flour by using almond flour, also very good. Dust the halved plums with powdered ginger, add a bit of sugar if the plums are really tart, then put streusels on top of the fruit.

Bake at 175° C for 30 minutes, or until streusels start to brown. Enjoy with ice cream, whipped cream, or (my favorite) al naturale.

That was today’s news. Thank you guys for reading, and for checking in. May you get through the cold season without any major incident!

A Gloomy Monday

Temperature drop, rain, falling leaves – we all know what this means. Time to dig out the sweaters, swap the birks for boots, and light a candle with your tea in the mornings. Fall has arrived.

Last week, I was fortunate enough to spend a few days out in the country by myself. After a weekend with my daughter and her friend, I put the girls on the train Sunday night and just stayed a little longer – advantages of a home officing and therefore available husband, and my mobile work.

Everything could have been really chill, had my family not given me a souvenir that had me coughing, sneezing and developing a violently blooming, painful lip herpes – my immune system had obviously checked out.

My daily walks in the forest left me sweaty and exhausted, but I went anyway because I felt it would be a waste not to go just because I was sick. Also there was a wonderful and rewarding surprise: the porcini mushroom mycelia had decided to wake up. I didn’t even actively search for them but rather happened upon them in unlikely places, admiring their pretty shape, then reverently and gingerly prying them loose. They’re heavy! My favorite way to eat them is sauteed as a sandwich topping, but they’re really good with anything from rice to polenta to pasta or potatoes. Porcini are my favorite type of mushroom for a reason.

This is a cacio e pepe variation to which I added slices of mushroom sauteed in olive oil with some garlic and a smidge of butter. A very seasonal, no fuss dish!

After a few days of feeling lousy, I’d almost convinced myself Covid had finally caught up with me, but tests came back negative. It’s kind of weird to not have had it yet, I have to say. By now, I don’t know many people except for us who have managed to not get it. Not complaining, just remarking that it’s odd.

Crafts-wise, I’ve done a bit of work on the Aubergine sweater. Here’s as far as I’ve gotten. The yarn is an absolute dream to knit with, and it feels soft and cozy to wear. After finishing the yoke, you put the stitches for the sleeves on hold and continue with the tube that becomes the body. It’s a long way down, all in stockinette, but for watching a show as you go, it’s perfect ;-). You don’t have to increase, or decrease, or count, just go, one stitch after the other.

Both friends whom I gave soap baggies love them, which is nice, so hopefully, the good people who come to our school Winter Bazaar in November will do, too, and buy them like hot cakes.

They’re really fun, quick and easy to make, if you’d like to try?

With a thin cotton yarn and a 2,5 mm hook, chain 30, then turn and work 1 row of SC into the chain. Chain 1.

Then work the following, alternating 1. and 2. as you go:

  1. Turn work. In the first stitch, make *1 DC, chain 1, skip 1 stitch*, then repeat between ** until you’ve reached the end of the row. Chain 2.
  2. Turn work. Make 1 row of SC in every stitch. Work the chains between the DC as stitches. Chain 1.

Continue in this manner until you’ve reached the desired length. A bar of soap should comfortably fit in when the piece is folded in half. End with a row of SC.

Fold piece in half. Fit the edges together, then close seams with SC on both sides. You should have a squarish baggie with an opening at the top. Darn in threads. Make a 30-40 cm string of twisted cord from the same yarn. Thread it through the gaps just below the top, knot and pull tight. That’s it! A great way to get rid of left over yarn.

Don’t shoot me if the tutorial doesn’t make sense to you. But if you have any questions, let me know, and I’ll try to explain better ;-).

With a prettier sundown than I’ve seen in days, I wish you a great week. Take care, and thank you for reading.

Virtual Break Room

Translating a lengthy non-fiction book is great. There’s a comfortable deadline weeks or months away. I get to work on an interesting subject. I’m relaxed because I know what I’m doing. All is, in fact, well. Until some days, it just isn’t! Since there’s no narrative to follow, only chapters/sections/recipes or patterns, sometimes I can feel my focus slip, my mind start to wander, and no amount of coffee, focusing techniques and dog-walking breaks seem to help. I’ve noticed that this happens much less when I work on fiction, probably because I get caught up in the story. So, trying to trick my mind into FOCUSING. Any thoughts on how to kick-start work discipline? I’ll wait…

And while I do that, I’ll pretend to be in a break room, chatting to you – about crafts, what else ;-).

In my free time, I’m trying to knit a perfect crewneck sweater. I bought this beautiful, soft merino and a little cashmere mix a while ago, with a vague idea of making a no frills color block and stockinette stitch sweater that goes with everything.

And since I’ve successfully managed to knit a top-down sweater following a pattern before, over the summer, I thought I’d try my hand at another one. There’s this young Danish fiber artist I’ve been following, her handle is PetiteKnit, whose work you may or may not have seen online before. She makes simple-looking, yet sophisticated knit garments, and after giving up on trying to find a free pattern I loved, I went and purchased the instructions for what she calls the Monday Sweater.

One of the selling points was that she uses short rows. For those of you who don’t know, this is a clever way of shaping certain parts of knit garments (in this case, back of the neck), much in the same way you do a heel when knitting socks. You knit the fabric on the right and on the wrong sides, and you only do the rows partially, turn the work and continue on the WS if you started on the RS and the other way round. So, that’s the principle, and I’ve been intrigued by it for a long time. I was of course scared by the math, but I figured if I used a pattern, it would do it for me.

Needless to say, I botched the first attempt, the one you see on the right! I did follow the pattern, but my stitch markers weren’t where they needed to be, which made the whole thing wonky and just wrong. Also, I decided I liked the look of the rib being a different color than the rest of the sweater, so that’s what I’m trying to do. Navy Blue for the rib, and the rest in this beautiful, deep, rich shade of Aubergine. So, last Sunday I ripped it back up, adjusted my stitch count (evidently, I’m using thinner yarn than the one used in the pattern) and began again, paying close attention to setting and moving those stitch markers this time.

So, this is the beginning of what will hopefully turn out to be a beautiful winter sweater, fingers crossed. You can see how the back of the neck is an inch or so higher than the front of the neck, right? That’s what the short rows do.

So, break time’s up. It was a very nice chat, and now it’s back to my manuscript, or else…

Have a beautiful late summer week, and thank you for reading!

Changes

This summer, we’ve been experiencing unusual heat for weeks and weeks, which we’re not necessarily used to in my neck of the woods, not without any rain at all in between anyway, and it has taken quite a toll on nature. Alarming water level drops in rivers and lakes, wildfires even here in the community forest, crops suffering, and on a personal note, not even one chanterelle mushroom.

Unused to the heat, people in Central Europe who find themselves having to work (again, personal note) feel paralyzed with it. Oddly, my own productivity didn’t suffer too badly, but I did find my eyelids drooping in the afternoons, and actually managed the odd cat nap, which I’m not usually able to do. We were fortunate to be able to spend the last week of summer break at our cottage, which meant free access to the lake at all times, a vast bonus for a quick dip in the morning, over lunch or after dinner. We were working, but the kids were roaming free for another few glorious days of late summer. At night, we caught the Perseids, which due to the little light pollution out in the country, is always a spectacular sight on a clear night. I was fortunate enough to see three falling stars, and sent three wishes to the universe. We also celebrated my lovely friend M’s birthday on a wonderful, enchanted summer evening, to the soundtrack of an old friend playing guitar and serenading her with a heartfelt rendition of one of Bob Dylan’s sweeter songs: May you stay forever young.

My last vacation weekend was spent washing and re-organizing closets, restocking cupboards and dusting off a few weeks‘ worth of untouched surfaces – as you do. Also, I’ve been experimenting with a crochet project that’s been on my mind for a few months: I wanted to make a pretty, as well as functional soap baggie, with a cord to hang on a shower curtain rod. Since we’re all trying to reduce our use of plastic, foregoing shower gels for the good old bar of soap seemed valid. This was a perfect little project to work on in between, and I tried out a few different stitches. Here’s the result.

I have yet to test run them in terms of how quickly they’ll dry – no one needs a smelly, squishy rag in the shower, however pretty the pattern. Fingers crossed. The yarn is a simple mercerized cotton like I use for the potholders, and I’ve worked with a 2 mm crochet hook.

Spending the summer together, we did our fair share of talking. One of the important topics was obviously climate change. Discussing how we might reduce our footprint a little, going vegetarian seemed like a logical as well as doable approach. So, we’ve been trying that out for a couple weeks now. It’s going well so far. Not that much has changed, truth be told, because our meat consumption wasn’t all that significant anyway. As an exemption, I’ve made the addendum to always cook chicken soup whenever someone’s sick, and when I feel my metabolically disordered body needs it, I will have meat or fish without anyone giving me a hard time for it.

Anywhoo, I’ve been experimenting with all sorts of vegetarian spreads. I’ve been making our own hummus and pesto for years, and now I’ve added baba ganoush and a really yummy bell pepper and cashew concoction to my repertoire. Here’s how I made it:

Bell Pepper and Cashew Spread

1 large red bell pepper

150 g cashew nuts, roasted and salted

olive oil

3 slices onion

squeeze of lemon

Salt, pepper

chili flakes

In the oven, roast the complete pepper, under the broiler if you have one, otherwise at very high heat, until the skin blisters and the pepper starts to wilt. Take out of the oven, put in a dish with a tight lid and let cool. When hand warm, the skin should come off easily. Put in a bowl, add a slosh of good olive oil, lemon, onion, salt, pepper, cashews and a bit of chili if you like. Puree with a stick blender. Optional additions could be: tomato paste, garlic, parsley or basil. With a slice of crusty bread, this is a very good lunch or snack.

I had fun playing with the ingredients, and I hope you will, too!

Work-wise, it looks like the next few months will be quite busy in a good and fun way, so I’d best get back to that.

If you have school children, I’m wishing you a great start into the new school year. May the kids have a productive, and an easier year that the last two have been, with no Covid outbreaks and cancelled field trips, quarantines and such. Today, it was back to school, and since my son is away too, the house seems strangely empty without any tousled sleepyheads wandering in for a late breakfast.

So, have a good Monday, a nice week, and thank you for dropping in and reading!

Post-dentist Crafts Chat

Not to bore you with health stuff – just let it be said that I get now why people pull a face and utter a hissing sound when the term ‚root canal‘ is mentioned… fingers crossed for my lower left second molar, please. I’ll know in a couple of months whether the treatment was successful.

The dentist, unfazed by anxiety patients, encouraged me to knit during treatment, can you believe it? I was working on a sock for my friend in the waiting room. The dentist commented on my knitting without looking. I explained how knitting in the round only needs knit stitches, nothing complicated, not even purl stitches, and that it calmed me – and there I was, knitting away while she was busy repairing my root canal! It really helped with my anxiety, being able to do something with my hands! These are the socks in question:

My friend A. and I had picked out the yarn together when she came to stay with us in July. It’s a luxurious mix of very soft merino with 10% cashmere called ‚About Berlin‘. There are a number of color combos to choose from, but A. gravitated towards this one right away. After today’s visit to the practice, I’m well into the second sock, so her belated birthday present will be ready soon.

And since I’m on the subject, let me share a ‚Tadahhh!‘ moment, and tell you the tale of the Ribbed Mohair Cardigan. It began, as many projects do, with an post I saw online, by lovely Copenhagen-based fiber artist Anne Ventzel. She does beautiful sweaters, with these deep raglan sleeves, boxy, comfortable designs, and she always uses high-end yarns, combining simpler wool with a thin strand of a luxurious mohair. Her work is sophisticated and cool, very inspiring to me. This is her IG profile, isn’t she amazing?

Unfortunately, neither of her designs was exactly what I wanted; I had a simple v-neck in mind, not too heavy but still cozy to wear. At the yarn shop, I ended up choosing this beautiful, fluffy cotton and mohair mix in a warm greige/caramel:

I swatched, I tried out stitches and finally went with this rib pattern:

The knitting itself was done pretty quickly, but then I got so nervous. I was terrified to ruin the whole thing. The yarn is exceptionally delicate and doesn’t take well to unraveling, which is to be expected when working with mohair. Also, I needed to figure out how I wanted the neckline to be, find buttons, and such. So I gave up for a while and stowed it away.

It must have been the wind at the North Sea in Denmark that finally cleared my head and blew away the anxiety. Last week, I bought buttons, and over the weekend I took the plunge and finished the darn thing in one long sitting. It took me a few hours with the tapestry needle for sewing the pieces together (mattress stitch), the thin needles for making the neckline, and a sewing needle because the damn holes in the stupid buttons were too small for the tapestry needle… but then finally, it was done!

Finishing projects is always such a relief to me, because I can never quite trust my luck for them to turn out nice. So today I’m just grateful and content this ended well. And that’s my knit talk for today!

I wish you a great rest week. Hope you have something beautiful on your needles. And thank you so much for dropping by and reading.

Holiday

Although people have been traveling for as long as humanity exists, until the 19th century, this usually happened either out of necessity or for educational purposes, and not for relaxation. And these climate change days, the concept of tourism the past generations have grown up with (a couple weeks abroad in a hotel or resort with mountain or ocean view, reading a stack of books while enjoying an all-inclusive package of sports, wellness, food and drink) may well be hurdling towards extinction fast, as everybody needs to rethink priorities: politics, airlines, tourists and businesses alike. While I personally am not fond of resort vacations, I have of course taken commercial flights before, if less and less over the years. But even now, I sometimes fly to the United States to see family. And while I hate flying with a vengeance, it’s certainly hard to imagine life completely without it.

Buying and renovating our cottage has reduced our traveling, because a lot of our play money goes there. But it’s still nice to go somewhere else, sometimes. This year, we spent 2 extremely relaxing lazy weeks by the North Sea coast in Denmark, effectively dodging the heatwave that hit Germany. Where we were, it was a comfortable 19 – 26 degrees Celsius. There was walking on the beach, listening to music, playing cards, cooking, baking and barbecuing, visiting sleepy ancient towns with Viking history, lazing in a deck chair, crocheting and knitting … but most of all, enjoying each other’s company, and spending a lot of time outdoors. On a whim, we had brought not only the pup but also my son’s ancient cat lady, who proved to be an exceptionally chill traveler, and adapted to the Danish wraparound porch beach house with an ease that amazed us all. Maybe she was used to it, before she came to live with us?

It was only a 2 minute walk up the dune (beautiful, through a large field of fragrant hedgerow roses) to the ocean front, and I was there as often as Charlie was game. We upped our daily mileage to more exercise than a small dog with short legs is used to ;-), while my husband and kids went swimming and body-boarding in the surf almost every day. I only went in a few times, because the surf freaked me out a little. The beach was wide enough to never feel crowded, even on the weekends. I never get tired of watching the waves crash against the shore, delighting in the ever changing colors, from a deep green to gray to azure blue. Since we were all the way up in Jutland, on the West coast, sundowns were magical, and many of them were spent with a drink in hand, listening to the seagulls cackle, breathing the salty air and burying toes in the sand. I feel well rested, and ready to tackle the next manuscript!

As we had no agenda of crossing things off a bucket list, we lazed our way through the days, and I had time to finish my first ever top down knit sweater, after a pattern, to boot: the perfect summery stripie, modeled here by myself and my son, who might or might not steal it from time to time.

I’m really pleased with how it turned out, also happy to have learned the world doesn’t end when I have to follow a pattern, using stitch markers and counting … so happy I happened on lalaine Berlin’s online shop when I did, and decided to give this a go.

I had also packed the Waffle Blanket in case I’d feel like working on it (advantage of a mini van), and managed to add a good 20 cm in light turquoise. (This is actually a lot, seeing that the blanket is wide!) Good thing it wasn’t hot, or I wouldn’t have been able to handle the heavy weight of the blanket. As it was, it was pleasant to sit on the porch working on it, even when it was a little chilly in the mornings or evenings.

The vacation included us all listening to two lengthy audio books together (finished The Swarm by Frank Schätzing, started on The Hail Mary Project by Andy Weir on our way home), re-watching the Star Wars movies, and most notably, slow drawing! Remember my translating this book?

I had bought drawing pens and watercolor-paper drawing pads for everyone, as well as a small pocket watercolor set, and I can’t thank Amy Maricle enough, for my family were all drawing, much more than I was myself, tapping into the huge creative potential they have. Mission accomplished :-)!

I can highly recommend trying this yourself, if you have a taste for paper, texture, doodling, drawing, or painting. This is NOT about making ‚good art‘, as Amy points out, but about enjoying the process, slowing down and being in the moment.

So, what are your summer plans this year? Travel, staycation, relaxing or working on a project? Whatever you do, I wish you a wonderful time. Thank you for checking in and reading!

Waffle Stitch Crochet Potholder – a Tutorial

Well, a promise is a promise. As you’re aware if you’re a regular visitor of this blog, writing tutorials is a rare occurrence for me, mostly because I feel there are so many more seasoned crafts writers out there whose standard I can never hope to achieve. And while I don’t think that mine is going to suck completely, please take it with a grain of benevolent salt, okay?

The potholder you can see above was one of the many that were sold here, by the way, at my daughter’s school Summer Fayre two weeks ago.

Waffle Stitch Crochet Potholder

Onward to making one.

You will need 1 ball of mercerized cotton yarn (you could use any yarn you like, of course, but for functionality and this particular purpose, I think that would be best suited. Mercerized cotton is durable, easy to wash, and won’t split while you work.)

Also, you need a crochet hook. Try a 2, 2,5 or 3 size, depending on how tightly or loosely you crochet.

First, make a chain of 46.

Turn the work, chain 2 and then make a row of double crochet into the foundation chain.

Turn the work. Chain 2, then make 1 DC into the first loop. Then, make one front post double crochet (insert hook into the stitch in the row below from the front, go around the post of the stitch from the back,then finish your DC stitch. Make *2 regular DC, then again 1 FPDC*. Repeat until end of row, which you end with 1 regular DC into the last stitch.

It should look like this. As you can see, the 3-D effect you want is clearly visible already. This side will be referred to as the right side of your work.

Turn the work. Chain 2, then make 2 regular DC. Then make *2 FPDC, and 1 DC*. Continue like this until end of row. End with DC into the last 2 stitches.

This is what the wrong side of the potholder will look like.

Continue in this manner, alternating the right and wrong side patterns until you’re happy with the size of your potholder. It can be square shaped, or rectangular, whichever you prefer. The 46 stitches is what size I feel is the correct one, but you could make it larger, or smaller.

The last of your rows should be a wrong side row. Turn the work, then make 1 chain and start making a neat border as follows:

Crochet single crochet stitches into the ‚even‘ edge. In the corner, make 1 SC, 1 chain, and move on to the ‚uneven‘ side edge.

For this, use half double crochet. It’s a neat stitch that will straighten out the slight bumps. I try to space the stitches out evenly as best I can. Here, the exact number of stitches is not as important as the the neat look. You’ll see what I mean as you work. In this corner, end the edge with 1 HDC, 1 chain, and begin the next side of the border with 1 DC into the same stitch. Continue making SC into the ‚even‘ edge.

The corners look neater if you make a little ‚ear‘ by crocheting the last stitch of one edge and the first stitch of the next edge into the same stitch, with 1 chain in between.

Once you’ve gone all around the potholder and are back to the first DC, slip stitch into the first chain you made, to join the round. Then, chain 28 for the handle. Join the chain to the potholder. Turn the work and make 1 row of single crochet into all 28 chains. Join with slip stitch, maybe make 2 or 3 more slip stitches, then fasten off.

Darn in your ends, and you’re done!

Well, I hope this made sense to you guys. I taught someone the pattern at the school crafternoon, and then she had to leave, and I could only explain the border and finishing via text, but she understood what I meant :-), so I hope you will, too.

Today is a post manuscript submission day, so my brain is a little fried; not to the point of only being able to do manual labor, walk or bake. I wouldn’t be able to write a tutorial, otherwise! But I will admit that I’m tired, and also slow.

Speaking of which, I wanted to tell you about slow drawing. I just finished translating a very cool book about this, by artist Amy Maricle. It’s a mindful art practice, and it was a lovely book to translate. She talks about slow drawing as a meditative, calming activity, and encourages her students to embrace the slowness, and to experience with all your senses the joy and serenity it will bring to let loose your creativity.

Needless to say, I went out and bought watercolor paper and drawing pens right away, so strongly did I feel the pull of those beautiful, tiny patterns. She says to just go ahead and draw something any time you have a spare minute; for example all the instances when you’d normally pull out your phone and disappear into cyberspace for a few: use that time to draw instead. Much as I do with my small crafts baggies, she recommends carrying a small art kit with you at all times, so you’re prepared. A great book, a wonderful practice – highly recommended. Once again, I love my job :-)!

Other than that, our summer break is almost here. Next installment will probably be written from the North Sea. We’re going to Denmark this year, a country of which we’ve seen little else but Copenhagen, so far. Looking forward to windswept beaches, seagulls and shells, and some well deserved down time with my family.

Thank you for reading, and please let me know if you could work with the Waffle Stitch tutorial!

Comparing Is Toxic – An Antidote

Sometimes, when I spontaneously remember someone I used to know in the past, I google them. A fellow student from high school, former colleagues, partners from way back when. And of course the Internet is paved with everyone’s most perfect versions of themselves, profiles studded with credentials and achievements, photos taken from angles as flattering as possible, if not photoshopped. We all know this. And still, sometimes, when reading about somebody from my past, it happens that I fall into the booby trap and end up feeling inferior.

I’m actually really okay with my life, so it’s not that I cringe with regrets and What Ifs. Why, then, am I feeling worse for comparing myself to others? It’s a strange mechanism, and a toxic one. Nothing good can come from weighing an online profile against real life, as online profiles are often more of a sales pitch than actually true; after all, no one would qualify their presentation with mentioning downsides (»I’m a highly successful executive, but have struggled with depression throughout my career«, or »What you can’t see in my beautiful pictures is that I’m in treatment for an eating disorder«, or »I may be a famous artist, but I’m also desperately lonely«).

Yesterday, when looking up a family I used to know some 30 years ago, initial fondness and nostalgia took a turn for negativity, and seeing all these successful, brilliant, happy people suddenly made me feel like a failure.

How to climb out of such a rabbit-hole? Well, by lucky chance, I happened to open my photo library. As I scrolled, I found my family, friends, pets, landscapes, crafts, food – because I like to document all the small things that make my life. It is so powerful to dive into that, and see it for the wealth that it is. I called a friend, took the dog for a long walk in the community forest, and ended up feeling infinitely better :-).

So my strategy, I guess, when feeling intimidated by online perfection (apparent or real): Close the damn browser. Touch a pet. Hug a friend or family member. Look after your plants. Do some crafts. Play music. Go outside. Exercise. Life has so many things we love and enjoy. We don’t actually need validation from strangers, flattering as the clicks and likes may be. But ultimately, they’re not as real as exchanging a smile with a person in real life, are they?

Here’s a few little things to show you what I mean.

Sharing all this with you, stitch readers, is happening online also, I realize. But my intention is not to brag, or make myself shine or whatever. It simply occurred to me that some of you may feel weird sometimes, when seeing slices of others‘ life online and ending up feeling insecure, so I thought I’d point out that there is beauty, and joy to be found all around us, if we open our eyes to look.

So, I’ve been asked about the Waffle Stitch potholders, and I promise I’ll try to write a tutorial for them if you’re interested, just not today.

I have a school thing tonight, and will do my best to show up and stay alert for it. Had yet another gruesome visit to the dentist, but am now proud owner of a second crown, if hundreds of bucks poorer. Have a lovely week, everyone, thank you for reading, and if I may make a suggestion: go and embrace a real life activity ;-)).