Solace in Repetition

I obviously enjoy routine. It’s one of the reasons I find knitting and crochet so comforting: There’s nothing like the simple, soothing rhythm of repeating the same little motion over and over again to give me an immediate sense of calm and contentment, as I watch the piece in my hands grow and take shape. It’s a Zen thing, I’m sure. Others run, or breathe as they meditate. I crochet or knit. Awesome.

Those of you who read the post about my brother may be interested to know that we put his ashes to rest in a beautiful spot under an old chestnut tree, on a sunny, crisp fall morning last week.

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We spent the rest of the day talking about him, eating his favorite lunch and looking through old pictures. My son was all over his old mechanical engineering toys, which he was allowed to take home, and I knitted my way through a whole sock, thereby unintentionally creating my own personal memento. Funny how these things work.

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On a less melancholy note, I can report the birth of not one, not two, but three babies – yay! Little F. was born a day before I had to submit my book translation (which I did, on time, to great praise, thank you dear editor!), and my friend T.’s twin boys followed a day later. I had great fun finishing the baby blanket for F. before the fall vacation – but in the end I didn’t hand it over, and it’s been sitting here waiting for me to make a baby visit I’m greatly looking forward to. Here it is. The color code was carefully chosen, as I’m well aware of my friend’s, the baby’s mother’s feminist attitude, and her horror of anything gender-stereotypical. What do you think? Is it working??? IMG_1704

And yes, the pattern seems familiar… it’s Lucy’s again! But as I said, I do enjoy repetition, and as you can see, I used different colors this time. Totally.

The baby hats for the twins are done, but I will add little myboshi-like pompons, I think. The babies are not gonna care about style, but it’ll be a nice change from the stripy-condom look most baby hats seem to favor. And they’re going to be pale yellow and pale blue (the pompons I mean), so no mixing up the hats there. Will show pictures as soon as I get to make pompons.

In one of the previous posts I mentioned the joint effort for the Flowery Cushion for Grandma, maybe you remember – I finally managed to take a few pictures. Check it out, I’m so proud of my top of their class-straight-A crochet students:

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Aaand to put a flowery end to a highly productive summer vacation, I made another cushion right after, for my dear friend A. in Frankfurt. She has been my friend, birthday buddy and compadre for 20 years now, and I cannot begin to describe how much joy she has added to my life over the years. Anyway, here’s her pillow:

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Can you see the back? I like how you can blow up the granny square pattern to just about any size – maybe, one day, I’ll try to make a blanket like that. Maybe even in an off-white, elegant shade like this.

I used acrylic yarn for this project, because I felt I needed to get rid of the huge stash accumulated during the two big blanket projects. It’s easy enough to crochet with, and also easy to wash – a thing worth considering if you live with both children and pets.

Generally, I have a slightly distrustful attitude towards any non-organic fiber. I can’t help feeling more at home using cotton, wool, silk, cashmere if I can afford it, or bamboo. But actually it’s all in my head, for most of the yarns we buy do not come from organic farming, do they – but that’s for another post.

For now, I’ll be signing off for a while with a picture of a pretty toadstool:

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It’s a fly agaric, to be exact, and you should firmly apply the ‚look but don’t touch‘ rule whenever you come across one. Nothing wrong with admiring them, however: they’re always such a happy sight to me.

Enjoy the late fall everyone, and thanks for reading!

Comfort Food – Chicken Soup Therapy

If you’re not sleeping, you have to eat, right? I do anyway, or I will get sick. Whenever I’m on a deadline – like now, 15th of October – I like to put in a few extra hours at night after the kids have gone to sleep. Of course deadlines are great, I doubt I’d get anything finished if I didn’t have them. I always see these times as what they are: intense phases of concentration, during which all else but work fades into insignificance. But since I do have children living with me, and they certainly have to eat, as do I, there’s that aspect to take care of.

You may have seen my last post. If you did, you know there was, book translation aside, a lot going on emotionally. Given the two time-zones this family is living in, we spent quite a number of late hours on the phone and on skype – another reason for not sleeping all that much, and a very good reason indeed for feeling the need for something soothing, hot and delicious …

To get to the point, for there is one to this post, here comes my recipe for chicken soup. It’s great for heartaches, headaches and misery of any kind. It’s also really really healthy;-) – and it rocks the Chi.

Best Chicken Soup Ever

1 whole chicken (organic if at all possible)

3 shallots

2 cloves of garlic

3 carrots

1 parsley root

3 cm piece of ginger

1/2 fennel bulb

1 leek, white only

2 celery stalks

1 tomato

fresh parsley

salt, pinch of sugar, black pepper to taste

Wash the chicken, peel and/or chop all your veg as necessary, and put all your ingredients plus 1,5 l of cold water in a large stock pot over medium heat. One more cool thing about this recipe is that you can, at this point, actually walk away from it for about 2 hours. Whenever you wander into the kitchen, check the liquid and seasoning once in a while, turn down the heat a little, maybe add water, or salt, but other than that just leave it be, it takes care of itself just fine.

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When the meat starts to fall off the bone, gently lift out the chicken with a slotted spoon. Debone, peel off the skin (both of which you toss, or pass on to hungry pets) and put the meat on an extra plate for later. Pour the soup through a fine sieve into a new cooking pot, reserving the broth and discarding all the veg. (I know this seems harsh, but at this point it’ll be overcooked, mushy and overall unappealing. Get rid of it! If you do feel you need veg in there, chop up a new batch – carrot, celery, parsley root, fennel, maybe green onion – and let simmer for 20 more minutes until tender, only putting the meat back in to serve).

If all goes well, you should now have a clear, fragrant, golden pot of happiness on your hands. Cut the meat into bite-size pieces and put it back into the broth. Serve with white rice or small pasta (again, children!).

If you have a fever, you can add chili, lemon juice and chopped cilantro, a dash of fish sauce and a slosh of good sesame oil. It’ll make you sweat out all those germs.

Get well, whatever is ailing you, and enjoy the pure bliss this soup brings.

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