The Boy With Blue Hair

I have written about my son’s school before. It’s an independently run Waldorf school and a small one at that, which has both its perks and its pitfalls. Sometimes, you need advanced social skills and emotional intelligence for coexisting with certain teachers, colleagues or classmates, as you can’t simply switch into a parallel class (there’s one of each grade only). If you’re absolutely incompatible as human beings, you may be forced to change schools, which has resulted in a fair number of comings and goings over the years, but fortunately, these rarely concerned us personally.

If things go smoothly, though, the kids are solid with each other, and the teachers really care about them, this creates an exceptional environment of mutual respect, affection and trust. I’ve attended breathtaking theater performances that were born from this safe space, I’ve read astonishing papers, and the kids have written and publicly read absolutely incredible poetry. They never fail to impress me.

But let me tell you about what happened yesterday. The German teacher had assigned the kids to write speeches, about a topic of their choice. One of the boys (E. with the blue hair) wanted to talk about homosexuality. It went well, E.’s very bright, and a good speaker. And then, in closing, he came out to the class as gay! After a moment of silence, there was cheering, applause, and the teacher complimented him for personal courage.

As a parent, I cannot help feeling glad to have enrolled my kid at a place where there exists such an atmosphere of trust. My son said the boy hadn’t even told his mom before opening up to his friends and teacher in class. Remarkable, isn’t it?

On this positive note, I’d like to add a few pics of my latest crochet project: It’s a blanket for our couch, in a simple but gorgeous color block design I found on Pinterest. The pattern can be found here, but I’m changing everything but the color scheme, really. My yarn of choice is thinner, my hook is smaller … so 220 instead of 81 stitches across, double crochet instead of single crochet, and God knows how many rows this is going to take … but I knew that going in, and I ordered a generous amount of yarn, I’ll be fine. I couldn’t wait to start swatching and starting out, even though it made for a late night yesterday, and the need for some extra caffeine this afternoon.img_5314.jpgHave a great weekend, everyone.

Advertisements

Crochet Flowers My Way

IMG_E5756

Soon, it will be my dear friend A.’s birthday. We met at day care when our daughters were not even two, and quickly bonded over the kids, who were each other’s first BFFs (very cute to watch :-))). And over the course of the girls‘ many, many play-dates, and all those afternoon hours spent on each other’s couches, we became close friends too. We have a similar geographic and sociological background in the Balkans, and of course, we both like to knit – the ultimate crafter’s mind-meld. And while A. feels more comfortable recreating solid Ravelry patterns, and I always go rogue with those because diagrams and stitch numbers and such confuse me, we both end up with pretty handcrafted pieces and love each other’s work. Last year, A. made me this thing of beauty for my 50th:

IMG_3291.JPG

I’ve only taken it out for a few special occasions, and I always feel wrapped in love, warmth and luxury when I wear it.

But about those little flowers. I plan to sew them on to a set of white bed linen, much like the one you see below. That one’s a duvet cover I made for my daughter a few years back, and it has been a favorite ever since. When A. recently said it was the ‚most beautiful thing she’d ever seen‘, there was no doubt in my mind that I needed to make her one of her own for her birthday. So here I am, crocheting flower after flower after flower, ‚cause I’m going to need plenty.

IMG_E5767

And seeing that I’ve actually taken photos of the individual steps, to show them to another friend who was interested to learn, I thought I’d put a real pattern (not really daring to call it a photo tutorial) on here and be done with it. So here’s how I go about crocheting five-petal flowers.

Cute Little Crochet Flowers

The yarn I used for this is very thin mercerized cotton. I believe you could do embroidery with it if you wanted, it would certainly fit through any sewing needle’s eye. I was working with a 2 mm hook for the center and a 1 mm hook for the petals.

You will, as has been pointed out to me, need to be familiar with these US crochet abbreviations to understand:

SC single crochet

DC double crochet

I’m not going to start explaining how you do those because there’s excellent YouTube tutorials for that kind of thing. I’m just going to assume you already know how to make those.

IMG_5757

Using the 2 mm hook, crochet 11 SC into a magic ring. Pull tight and join with a slip stitch. If you’re as anal about these things as I am, you want to use your second color for the slip stitch already. The color change will be invisible if you do, see?

IMG_5760

With the second color, chain 1, then proceed to make 1 SC in every one of the stitches of the round. Join with a slip stitch.

IMG_5761

Chain 1. Then make 5 DC in the second stitch from hook.

IMG_5763

Chain 1. Slip stitch into the next stitch – 1 petal made.

IMG_5764

Make 4 more petals in the same manner.

IMG_5765

End with a slip stitch into the last stitch next to the first petal you made. Bind off and cut yarn.

IMG_5766

Now all you need to do is darn in the 4 threads, which I don’t need to explain, and go and make more if you had fun doing the first. Crochet flowers can look great on just about anything:

IMG_1507Canvas totesIMG_1611Birthday cardsimg_1400.jpgShoulder bag decoration

I’ve sewn them on T-Shirts, knit hats and I mended a hole in a much beloved sweater using a crochet flower – the possibilities are limited only by your imagination.

So, try it out and let me know how you did with the pattern! Oh, and remember the old Instagram lore, pics or it didn’t happen 😉 – you know I am always curious to see your stuff.

Thank you for reading, and happy hooking!

Road to a Blanket

IMG_0367Scrolling down my photo library, I can see that I must have first gotten the idea for this blanket in March 2016, unbelievably long ago. It seemed like such a simple, straightforward design then! I love the little polka dot drawing I jotted down on my blotting pad so much that I cut it out after having scribbled all over the rest of the sheet, and kept the clipping. Now, I don’t design many patterns myself, usually I just see something somewhere and try to copy it as best I can, which is probably the reason for my being that attached to this one. Would you like to see how it turned out? Oh, please be interested, because I cannot wait to show you:

IMG_5493To me that is pretty much the loveliest little girl blanket I can think of, and I’m incredibly pleased with how the design turned out. Almost (but not quite) as importantly, my daughter loves it to pieces and is showing it to all her friends – can’t ask for higher praise than that, am I right?

So, in the beginning there was that drawing on my desk pad. Then there were the first few dots – made just like any Granny Square center, only that the first two rounds were the same color.IMG_5635It’s entirely possible that there would have been an easier way to make the off-white square shapes, but I couldn’t really think of one, so I went with what I knew and crocheted simple Granny Squares.IMG_3331I was very happy with how they looked, and went on to make more. Over time (and by time I mean over the course of roughly 2 years), I crocheted about 140 of these babies, 126 of which made it into the blanket. It turned out I had just too many pink ones in the end, and I have a small pile of leftover squares that will need to be dealt with eventually.

And then life happened, other things took precedence, and I didn’t even think about the Dotty Blanket for a long time. When I did look at the few measly squares I had done, and after a rough estimate of just how many of the darned things I needed for the blanket to be a reasonable size, I couldn’t even – so I put them away again.IMG_1812And then, finally last summer, I knew I was looking at a two days drive (as a passenger) to Brittany, and I chose making dots as a vehicular crochet project. At this point, I had gotten over myself and done the actual math; I realized the color scheme needed a certain symmetry of chance, if that makes sense. So I counted, and calculated, and ultimately figured out how many of each color there needed to be. I was off by only a few.

It was a bizarre two days in the car: my family were all wearing headphones and listening to their audio books, and I was doing my thing with the crochet hook, probably mostly meditating. It is a very repetitive motion, making those round centers. When we arrived at our destination, I had made about 100 dots, and was feeling pretty zen ;-)).

Then our cousin M. had a baby, and I decided to crochet her a baby blanket, so that’s what I mostly did by the beach, as well as on our drive back. By the way, the book my people were listening to was The Expanse – which is now out as a really awesome TV show on SyFy – to a Science Fiction geek, it doesn’t get much better than that. I’m having a great time watching that show with my squad :-). Two words: Shohree Aghdashloo!!!

Over the fall break in October, I took up making off-white squares again, and by November I had finished, and sat down with my daughter to determine the final color sequence. It took us the better part of a Sunday, and I actually taped the final arrangement with transparent packing tape so as not to upset the order. First the taped down makeshift blanket was actually stuck to the parquet, which, for a few most annoying weeks required cleaning around it. Before Christmas, I was forced to transfer it onto the clothes rack for the holidays – where it stayed until February, when I finally had time for the home stretch.IMG_E4387.JPGBy now, the suspense of this post must be killing you (on the other hand, nobody forced you to come here and read, so you must be here by your own free will, right…?)

Maybe you’d like me to tell a joke in between. Here’s one I love: Why are ghosts such bad liars? Well…? Because you can see right through them! Hahaha, I bet that woke you up!

Where were we? Oh, right, in February I finally started the assembling process, crocheting the squares together with rows of SC. The result looked like this:IMG_5053Pretty early on, I had a bad feeling about the proportions – they seemed a bit off (too little off-white in between the dots), but it was only when I realized the blanket would be way too small like this that I gnashed my teeth and ripped the SC back up, swearing a blue streak, and proceeded to add yet another, final off-white round to _every f…ing one_ of the damn squares.

Looking at the finished blanket, I know it was the right decision, but I won’t lie, it was not pretty. Given that I’m not the tidiest person in the world, I’m sometimes amazed at how anal I can be about this stuff.

Anyway, here’s what it looked like before darning in threads, of which there was an impressive amount, as you can imagine. My kitty loved sitting on it as long as they were there, probably hoping there would be mice popping out of it.IMG_5262I even took a picture of the thread snippets after I was done, the pile was so impressive.IMG_5574.JPGFinally, there was the important question of whether to do a border or not. I couldn’t really make up my mind, so I thought I’d just go ahead and see what it looked like, and then decide whether I liked it or not – by then, I’d become sort of cavalier about ripping things back up. I decided the edging needed to look like the rest of the off-white fabric, so I did rows of Granny clusters, like this:IMG_5380I just added row after row until I found the symmetry pleasing, and declared the blanket done – no, that’s actually not what happened. It was my sweet Princess N., la chefesse du design, who made that decision. Shukran, habibati. Soooo – let’s see two final pics, and then it’s a wrap for this post, and we can all breathe easy 🙂IMG_5629IMG_5630Thank you, dear stitch readers, for reading through this. I really appreciate your attention, as I’ve appreciated each and every one of you who gave me advice and encouraged me to keep going with this project – you know who you are. I love you guys!

Mercimek Çorbasi

IMG_5063.JPG

Sorry, sorry, I know I promised a total crochet post on the finished Dotty Blanket, but it seems I needed to get this out of my system first. But it’s coming, and soon. I may actually have a bit more time to write on my hands for a little while, which feels odd because I’ve been so busy over the last 9 months. But I’m (almost) done with the crafts books now, only some more proofing required, yay! The English version of the gorgeous embroidery book is available already, go check it out, it is wonderful, easy to understand and unexpectedly cool :-)!

But back to the subject matter. Living in this city, you can’t really help picking up some Turkish; migrant families have enriched Berlin’s cultural and culinary landscape for decades, and we enjoy the fresh produce in Turkish markets, the energetic salvos of people chatting in their native tongue in the streets, the huge, happy families picnicking at the park, not to mention the many excellent street food vendors that are so hard to pass by without grabbing a quick döner kebab, lahmaçun or fresh, minty bulgur salad, dinner at home be damned.

I first had mercimek çorbasi, the iconic lentil soup (for that’s what it is you’re seeing in that picture) shortly after moving here in 2000. There used to be a very good Turkish restaurant right on Hackescher Markt that supplied all sorts of comfort food to the media and advertising crowd (sorely needed because of our psychopath of a CCO… that dude was the only person who ever made me have stress dreams about work, ’nuff said).

The soup is made of red lentils and veggies, boiled down and pureed. It’s a staple, and as my Istanbul-savvy friend M. tells me, it is also an effective remedy for when you’ve had too much raki in one of the many bars there, if eaten late at night. We usually have it for dinner on miserable, cold days, and my brood insist on a pile of buttered garlic toast on the side for dipping. Usually, you add a dash of cream, but I’ve found that it’s actually better with coconut milk, so you’re getting the vegan version in this write-up today. Here goes:

Mercimek Çorbasi

250 g red lentils

2 shallots, chopped

1 piece of leek (white portion if possible), chopped

3 carrots, chopped

1 parsley root, chopped

2 celery sticks, chopped

Handful of parsley stems

2-3 cm piece of ginger root, chopped

3 TBSP tomato paste

Salt, pepper, paprika, cumin, pinch of sugar

1 can coconut milk

Vegetable broth to taste

Cooking oil

Lemon wedges to serve

Peel and chop the veggies as you see fit and heat a bit of cooking oil in a large saucepan. Put the veggies in and gently stew for a bit, until shallots look translucent but aren’t brown. Add hot water and lentils. No salt though! As you know, we always add salt only _after_ the lentils are tender, for otherwise we might wait forever for that to happen. Same goes for the broth.

Let stew at medium heat, and only after you’ve bitten into a lentil to see whether they’re done, add your spices, broth and tomato paste. Discard the parsley stems. You could leave them in and puree with the rest, but you’ll get a prettier color with no green ingredients in there. Puree the mixture, add more water if necessary, as well as coconut milk, and season to taste. I like the soup to be thick, but not too solid, others prefer a puree-like consistency – ultimately, it’s up to you how much liquid you add. It should be a nourishing bowl of yellowish-orange, slurpy happiness. Squeeze a lemon wedge over the soup before eating, dip in a piece of bread, or your spoon, and enjoy!

As a sidebar only, here’s a couple of things I made after I was done with my daughter’s blanket:IMG_5563.JPGA slouchy knit hipster hat for my birthday girl A. in California, modeled by yours truly, threads not darned yet when the picture was taken. A. had very specific ideas for – well, just about everything concerning that hat! Yarn (acrylic, no wool, ‚cos it’s scratchy), shape (slouchy), color (periwinkle), pattern (stockinette with a rib cuff) … I so hope she’ll be happy with it. I enjoyed wearing it, and it sure wasn’t scratchy but soft and cozy.

Also, check out what I’ve been experimenting with for a couple days now – these are crochet frisbees. You wouldn’t believe they actually fly that well, but they do! I can personally attest to their functionality – we played with the first prototypes over the weekend, and they’re great! 🙂 They sell them (more professionally looking models than mine, but I’m just starting out!) at the coolest toy store I know, Flying Colors on Eisenacher, and I happen to know the lady who makes them, who was good enough to send me some pics. Of course, I’m always on the lookout for new crafts things to make for the school fairs, and this is one very cool idea right there!

So I tinkered with the crocheting in the round and the increases a bit, and in the end I even wrote down how it’s done. In case you’d like to try your hand at it, here’s what I did:

Cool Crochet Frisbees

Using a #5 crochet hook and appropriate yarn, crochet 7 SC into a magic ring and pull tight.

1st round: 2 SC into each stitch, always stitching into the back loop only so the fabric stays nice and flat.

2nd round: SC into every stitch in the round.

Use a marker – even I got confused without it and I’m usually not a great friend of markers at all as I find them cumbersome. Also, start each round with a chain stitch – it helps you find your start of round should you for some reason misplace the marker. It happens!

3rd round: Repeat *1 SC, 2SC into next stitch* all around.

4th round: SC into every stitch in the round.

Repeat 3rd and 4th rounds until you’re happy with the size. It could be that you’ll have to do *2 SC, 2 SC into next stitch* the last couple rounds so the edge doesn’t curl or make waves (you really need it to be solid, even and flat for this one), or, as it happened when I was doing the spiral pattern, do no increases at all in the last few rounds. I’m assuming it depends on how tight your crochet is, and on the type of yarn you use. You’ll get there!

Decrease round: SC into every second stitch all around.

Do two more rounds of SC into every stitch, bind off and darn your threads in carefully. These babies need to be able to withstand both the laws of physics and grabby little people’s hands.

I love that you can actually use these frisbees indoors also, without being too worried about the Ming vase (not that I have any), or giving someone a black eye with it.

Leaving this post today with a few uplifting spring pics – I say we earned this spring, don’t you think???

What’s in a Name?

Remember when there was no Internet? We used dictionaries, encyclopedias and we bought newspapers. We wrote letters to our friends, and when we were on the phone, we needed to be home for it. There were phone booths and the fastest way to send a written message was telegrams. Everything took longer. I wonder if we ‚knew‘ less people then. I certainly wrote to fewer.

So yesterday, I was contacted via Instagram by a person from Latin America who was looking for a way to get in touch with a mutual friend whose name I had mentioned once in a hashtag. A couple weeks ago, I would probably have passed on my friend’s details without blinking an eye. Yesterday, I did not. The reason for that is a big ugly catfish.

We’re all aware that the Internet is anonymous – duh. Creating an online persona is a piece of cake, and the younger generations grow up with Social Media being a given. There are forums and platforms for just about anything out there, and people connect, even when they’re thousands of miles apart or on different continents. Nobody has to be lonely anymore if they have an Internet connection. And that’s a beautiful thing, right?

I must admit, though, that one of ‚my‘ author’s recent exposure as a fraud gave me pause. Long story short, apparently the person, who had been writing under a pseud, allegedly because of their working in education in America, is not a he but a she, and a straight woman and not a bisexual man at that. They’ve caught some flak for that, as they have for using online friends‘ personal stories in their books. But what (understandably) upsets their fans most is their pretending to need cancer treatment without actually being sick, and accepting financial support from their community – which leaves a very bad aftertaste indeed… Shame, for I thought they were really talented. Needless to say, their publisher and co-author have dropped them, and their writing career is probably shot to shit. But seeing how easy it is to be someone else online, we may be hearing from them again after all without being aware it’s them. I imagine it must be so hard to stop being a writer if you have stories to tell, so what else are they going to do with themselves?

Self-absorbed as I am, it made me wonder how this translates into my own online identity, not so much as a blogger (for it’s my sneaking suspicion that stitch readers are mostly people I actually know). No, it occurred to me when I was thinking how it’s even possible that the author’s agent and publisher didn’t know their true identity. But then I realized that even I don’t really know most of my own clients in person. I’ve been shying away from the whole networking thing because I’m an introvert, I’ve not been going to the book fairs and conventions because crowds confuse me, and I’m not even a member of the translators‘ associations because I don’t really care. I might be a con person myself, and my work might be done by a slave I keep in the basement … kidding, I’m kidding! You know what I mean though, right?

So, weirdness happened. Please let me know your thoughts – have you ever experienced anything like this? As you can see, it is on my mind. But don’t worry, I’m fine, just a tad disappointed I won’t be translating this author again, probably.

I’ll go back to work on my completely down to earth knitting book now. The editing phase, sigh. Wishing you a lovely weekend with a pic from ‚my‘ spot by the lake around Easter.

IMG_5295.JPG

P.S: My next post will be about my great pride and joy, the Dotty Blanket, which I’m about to actually finish. Take a peek:

IMG_5262.JPG

Obsessing

When it comes to liking something, I have a tendency to go a bit off the deep end. I’ve been known to re-read books for as many as 10 times (Lord of the Rings!), and whenever a piece of music leaves an imprint on my soul, I just need listen to it over and over and over again, to the great annoyance of my environment, no doubt. To me, it’s like whenever I find a thing I love, I latch onto it and then I kind of take it with me wherever I go, whatever I’m doing.

I grew up an only child, and I probably spent more time than the average kid in my own headspace, which was not a lonely place anymore after I learned how to read. I’ve been escaping from reality that way for as long as I can remember, and if that makes me an addict, hello world, my name’s Johanna and I’m addicted to ­– well, I guess, emotion is what it really comes down to.

I have neither time nor inclination to enumerate everything I’ve been obsessed with over the decades. But a few things come to mind for which (addict or no addict), I cannot help but feel particularly grateful, for they helped me or made me happy in challenging times.

In terms of music, oh my, there’s a lot. Bach’s organ toccata and fugue in d minor. Turning up the volume when nobody was home and letting it hit me is a distinct memory.

After having seen Amadeus in the early Eighties, starring wonderful Tom Hulce, Mozart’s unfinished Requiem was a perfect soundtrack for coping with grieving for my Dad who passed away a year or two before.

It was a bit later that I discovered one of my favorite albums of all times, The Velvet Underground’s banana album. It was already almost 20 years old then, and to say I was cursing the cruelty of late birth would be a vast understatement. Poor Nico was already dead by then.

I loved many of the bands of the Eighties and early Nineties, and was faithfully following some of them when in high school (as I feel necessary to point out in this digital day and age, following in a very literal sense, as in driving a car down to other towns to see several shows of a particular band’s over the course of one tour). Oddly enough, my obsessing never went as far as my becoming a groupie. When any of the musicians would notice I kept showing up at the concerts and tried to put the moves on me, I was appalled. What the hell?! From today’s perspective it doesn’t seem that unreasonable for a guy to think that if a girl is coming to see all of your shows wearing your band t-shirt, she’d probably be interested, but at the time I didn’t really see their point and told them to fuck off ;-).

Anyway, to me, it was never about meeting these people, or having sex with them to prove what ever it is that makes fans do that kind of thing. Listening to the albums and seeing the shows was more than enough for me, and again, everything happened mostly in my own head. Also, those guys in their twenties were, um, old people to me, so not even registered on my radar. Later on, my first two boyfriends were in bands, though, whatever that has to do with anything.

In terms of movie actor crushes, I’m probably more a fandom person than anything else, meaning that it’s the character they play I care about, mostly. (Good thing for everyone, too, for I won’t go and stalk anybody, like, ever. I imagine that aspect of being such a public figure, the endless autographing and being asked the same questions over and over again every stop of the promo rally must get so old!) But is obsessing over the characters really any better than stalking people’s social media and real life? I’ve read my fair share of fan fiction and Live Journal entries. There’s some seriously good writing going on there (and, as everywhere, a whole lot of bad). I have to say I find it comforting to find fellow obsessers to whom discussing at great length a character’s behavior on a show is a completely reasonable thing to do. One of the most talented (IMHO) writers of the Queer as Folk fandom was doing this brilliant episode by episode analysis for the first two seasons. For whatever reason she stopped there, to my chagrin, for I could have gone on reading forever. She had a few cool stories to tell, and she had so much insight on writing for a TV show; she was discussing character development, story arcs, meta and screenwriting on such a profound level that I learned a lot about the whole creative process that goes into making a TV character who they are. Very interesting stuff (to me, anyway).

TV shows are a great place for obsessive fans, I think. Everybody is saying how we live in the great age of TV shows that try to tell epic tales, show in-depth character portrayal and are really pushing this formerly sneered at format to an art form. When Breaking Bad wrapped 5 years ago, as you may remember, Sir Anthony Hopkins actually sat his highly esteemed butt down to write Bryan Cranston/Walter White the sweetest fan letter any actor could ever wish to receive.

So, if you’re like me, and see an identification platform in a TV show character, you’re probably going to feel stranded when the show tanks, or ends, unless you find a kind (and in my case, talented, for I can’t really accept bad syntax and lame storytelling) soul in the fandom willing to tell you how things went with your beloved characters afterwards. To me, that has been the methadone I need until I stumble across my next obsession 😉 a few times.

At the moment, I’m living in the enchanted realm of Call Me By Your Name, which is a sublimely written stream of consciousness told from the perspective of a 17-year old boy, who is testing out the boundaries of his sexuality and opening his heart to another person for the first time, with a limitless generosity not all of us ever get to experience in our lives. The novel is vexing to read at times in its intensity, but it sure makes a brilliant case for obsessing (thereby validating my own perspective, so I guess, thank you, André Aciman!). The movie is a bit easier to stomach than the book, and obviously equally touching and beautiful. By now the two have sort of melded in my head, and never will the protagonists wear anybody else’s features than the two extraordinary leading actors’, Timothée Chalamet and Armie Hammer, who have given the world a great gift by lending themselves to this love story. Also, the movie pays greater attention to the compassionate and wise monologue young Elio’s father gives at the end of the movie – it was Michael Stuhlbarg who made the lines I had read but not really understood in the book before really resonate with me. I feel every parent in the world should be made to watch before they’re even allowed to bring up children of their own.

So that was on my mind this fine Friday. What about you? Who and what are you obsessed with? Can you relate to that kind of thing at all, or do you think I’m a bit cuckoo? Don’t worry, I won’t be offended. I know I’m not alone ;-).

I’m rushing back out today with a little something my fellow crafts aficionado N. made for me last week:

It’s a sleeve for my e-reader, which was until now mostly carried in one of my daughter’s old knit hats. What a sweet gift, thank you so much N.!

I have little time for crafts right now, but plan to finish the Dotty Blanket once I’ve submitted my current book manuscript next week, insh’Allah.

Have a great weekend, and enjoy your own private obsessions, whatever they may be :-).

 

Ba-ba-ba-Banana

Everybody already has a recipe for banana bread, I’m sure, and if you don’t, there’s always Jamie Oliver or Martha Stewart or Cynthia Barcomi to look to. I started experimenting with banana bread using Jamie Oliver’s recipe, in fact. He uses a lot of honey, and the overall experience is kind of sticky, and too solid for my personal taste.  With absolutely no disrespect to any of the paragons of modern cooking, I feel the compulsion to share with you these fluffy, moist and wholesome banana buns today. There’s next to no sugar involved – all of 2 TBSP is all the dough needed. I did use 10 fresh dates (my new favorite sugar source), which I pureed with the bananas. You see, it’s like this: My daughter claims to detest dates, so I thought it might be wise if she wasn’t even aware she was eating any. Seems to have worked, too, she and her sweet friend wolfed down 2 apiece after school ;-). Wanna give these babies a shot? Here’s how you go about that.

Boombastic Banana Buns

4 overripe bananas

10 fresh dates (or more to taste, pitted)

2 eggs

100 g butter, melted

1 glass of milk, warm

1 TSP sea salt

1/2 p vanilla sugar

Zest and juice of 1/2 lemon (it was just there, you know how that goes)

1 p dry yeast

500 g spelt flour

Potato flour, maybe a large handful

2 TBSP sugar

Some spelt semolina (or flour, which I was out of, hence the semolina which added some nice crunch, though)

Warm milk and melt butter in it while you’re at it. With a stick blender, puree dates and bananas. Add vanilla, eggs and the liquid butter and milk. Add salt, sugar, flours and yeast. Grate the lemon zest and squeeze. Knead the dough until ingredients have blended well. The dough will be somewhat sticky, but that shouldn’t faze you, as you’re going to use a muffin tray later on so you don’t need the dough to hold its shape.

Set aside to rise. I left it to its devices for approx. 2 hours.

After, I preheated the oven to 160 °C and buttered my muffin tray. With a large TBSP, I scooped out portions of the dough and set them in the tray.

IMG_5058

The coarse stuff you see is a bit of semolina – I was out of spelt flour and felt the surface needed a little dusting of, well something that wasn’t wheat flour, as I gave that up for lent. Joking, I’m joking. I’ve not gone all Catholic on you all of a sudden. But I am taking a break from wheat, in the (maybe futile) hope this will make my belly fat magically disappear. We’ll see. It’s a long-term experiment.

A word on potato flour while I’m discussing unusual ingredients. The other day, when searching for a recipe for one of my favorite Arabic indulgences (and there are many), Oum Ali, a creamy-bread-pudding-raised-to-the-max, I stumbled across a charming food blog. It’s called Cleobuttera, and the Cairo-based blogger lady is fabulous, in an almost anarchistic calories-be-damned way. Maybe she’s very young, maybe she has an enviable metabolism, or maybe she just doesn’t care. Either way, in the recipe linked above, she explains all about the use of potato flour, so I’ll just let her do the talking. She makes a valid case, and I’ve been substituting a portion of regular (or as the case may be, spelt) flour with the fine white powder ever since I read that post. I’ve also bought Za’atar ;-). Yum. Not on banana buns, though. Duh.

I put the tray in the oven and baked it for approx. 30 minutes. Mine is a gas oven, so yours may need other times – just watch the buns like a hawk after 20 minutes. They should look like this when they come out:
img_5059.jpg

Whether you eat them with butter, cream-cheese, jams, honey or Nutella is entirely up to you. I had mine with apple slices, which was all I needed this greyish cold end of winter afternoon.

Work-wise, I’ve submitted my piece of the Story of Food – a book as huge as it sounds; I translated about 250 pages in a matter of weeks, phew … After what felt like a full day of exhaling, I started on my next book project, a very cool modern embroidery book by crafts artist Kristin Morgan whom you can also find on Instagram as marigoldandmars. Such pretty, creative hoops :-).

Because of my recent work overload, my own crafts projects needed to take a backseat for a while. But I picked up speed again after submitting the manuscript a week ago. Here’s what happened:

Pair of new hand-knit socks for my little squirrel.

IMG_4992

A bright little mandala for my friend A. who turned 50 and will hopefully enjoy seeing it when taking luxurious sips of outrageously expensive Sencha green tea from her pale green Japanese cup ;-).

And I have begun the process of assembling the Dotty Blanket, finally, check it out:

IMG_5053

So many Granny Squares, OMG … one day I’ll have to work out how many hours of happy crochet went into that blanket. It’s seriously the most time-consuming project I’ve ever worked on. But I have a feeling it’ll be worth it once I’m done.

Punching out today with a few ice skating pics I took last Saturday – check out the magic, misty early spring sunlight, and my two hobby figure skaters:

Enjoy the sunshine while you can … and do let me know how your banana buns turned out!