Am I a Basement Blogger? I guess.

A colleague mentioned this slightly derogatory term today, and it made me question – maybe for the first time ever – what the heck I’m even doing here. I mean, I don’t do news, I rarely share anything even remotely topical, and I generally keep my political beliefs, such as they are, to myself. Am I contributing to society? Am I publishing anything interesting to anyone but my folks, (crafts) friends or hobby cooks …? I didn’t think so. Sorry. Not that kind of blog.

But then I reread my last post, and I knew again: It’s OK to simply ruminate on things, sometimes even without drawing any interesting conclusions, and to occasionally publish a recipe, or a piece of craft that I feel particularly proud of. Not rocket science, but my own little corner. I’d never blog professionally, and I’m not using this space to change the world while marketing myself or my work. It’s  a hobby, and I like it like that.

Writing’s better than watching TV, though. I admire all the kids out there who sit their butts down to write a fanfic story rather than just play video games. You guys are awesome!!! I know that if I do write about pop culture, I need to be familiar with what’s going on out there. I go to the movies, I watch shows, and I’ve been a Trekkie ever since I set my eyes on Spock for the first time. I read. In the car, I listen to the radio and on occasion, I find new music – which is, most of the time, not all that new, and my husband who’s a lot better at keeping up with these things, has already had the album for a few years. Good for me :-)!

My point is, I’m aware that there’s a whole world out there, and if I have time I enjoy looking at it, listening to it and reading up on it. It’s educational, and so important for my line of work. What kind of a crappy translator would I be if I didn’t get cultural references, right?

But politics isn’t my passion. It either bores me, or depresses me, or both. I find it hard to keep up, and harder not to despair. So I support Amnesty, and Greenpeace, and more often than I’d like, Médecins sans Frontières. I try to live as sustainable as possible, and I do vote for the Green Party, at a loss as to a better alternative. I mean, I have children, after all. And that’s what I do. Do I need to blog about that? Hardly.

Therefore: and now for something completely different: Look at this sweet pic of my daughter and my husband idling down a well-trodden Berlin sidewalk.

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Lovely, and peaceful. As was making my annual advent wreath, with white candles and gold ribbon this year. IMG_2804

It’s one of my favorite things about the winter. For the first time, I didn’t agonize over getting it right, and it still looks beautiful (to me at least ;-)).

If anyone’s still reading – thank you for hanging in there for this most irrelevant post ever. It still felt good to get it off my chest! Have a good week, everyone.

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Belonging

Last week, an old friend was in town and came to see us. It had been a challenging day: a puking kid, ergo little sleep and work, both the community and the make money types. I seriously considered cancelling dinner with the friend, but in the end I didn’t. We hadn’t seen each other in years, I had been looking forward to seeing him, so I made a large pot of chicken soup (good for an upset stomach, pimped up with cubed potatoes and Hokkaido pumpkin for dinner guest – and strengthening for an exhausted mom too). It was all good.IMG_2792

So this friend has been and still is an online buff from way back. He knows so many more things about the mechanics of the Internet in terms of business than I do it isn’t even funny. I always feel a little dumb when he and my husband talk, because my approach is so much less professional than theirs. That said, it did give me pause to find out the friend had no idea there was this huge DIY and crafts community out there. My husband told him about it, inspired by my darning in threads on the Funky Blanket from my last post, which is tedious work not only for those who watch, believe me. However, I always feel it’s an important part of the whole finishing up a piece to find closure process, and then there’s the Zen aspect of repetitive motion, as in all crafts that I do.

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So these two were discussing my crafts thing, saying, as people will, ‚Man, I’d go crazy, this looks so cumbersome, girl, you’ve got some serious patience…‘. We had been discussing online history earlier, and I said I couldn’t imagine life without the Internet, both professionally and for my hobbies, such as they are. And I told them about the gigantic, inspirational and beautiful crafts universe out there, the vast body of knowledge comparable to the Library of Alexandria, plus the helpful and generous spirit among the people who do do crafty things.

I enjoy that, and I’d have a hard time living without it indeed. I do look for inspiration, tutorials and ideas online. But what I love about it most is sharing a passion. To see how hooked (yeah, there’s a pun in there) other crocheters are on this craft, and to get exactly why that is, and to be able to see their work online and have it appreciated by thousands and thousands of people all over the globe. It makes me insanely proud to have Margaret Hubert, whom I never even met in person but who checked out my last blog post at my request, praise the blanket I presented there, and I love getting comments from strangers just as much as I do from my friends in our little RL crafts club here in town. It’s great to be appreciated:-).

Here’s a quote by Neil Gaiman who said something similar in an interview:

‚You wind up in a village of people who think the same thing as you, who say the same thing, who like the same thing. On the one hand that’s wonderful, because when I was a kid, finding the people who liked what I liked and thought what I thought and read what I read and could have recommended to me things that I would have loved was a magic pipe dream. If there was one of us in each town, it didn’t matter that there were hundreds of thousands of towns in the world, we’re still never going to find each other. And the fact that now, you can find each other, is wonderful.‘

Obviously, he was _not_ referring to crafts, but art, specifically his Sandman comic he first wrote when he was in his late twenties, a time when there was no Internet. In the end, though, it comes down to the same thing: sharing an enthusiasm, being a fanboy or -girl, and therefore, ultimately, belonging :-).

So that’s one aspect, to not be out there by oneself. But the beauty of it, to a person who cherishes her own headspace as much as I do, is that you can belong, and be by yourself as much as you need anyway. It’s why I live in the city. It’s easy to be alone if you need, and you can be in a crowd if you prefer, or even both at the same time. Anonymity is frequently criticized as a downside of urban living. To me it means freedom, and the beauty of the Internet is that you can actually be both alone and be a part of a community, by your own choice.

Finishing off these ramblings with a nice shot of a funny crafts addition to a sculpture I saw the other day when taking a walk in the park:IMG_2781

Turn spears into yarnbombs, I say :-))).

Funky Blanket – The Home Stretch

I have a busy week ahead, so unlike any other good crafts blogger, I’ll refrain from an all-out Tadah! post and let you sneak a few peeks before I’m quite finished, for I am – even now – literally bursting with pride, awe and some more pride, with a few pangs of having to let go soon thrown in. This blanket is why:
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One day when browsing crochet pics, I found this gorgeous piece by an Australian crafts artist and fellow blogger. Isn’t it absolutely fantastic? I discovered it quite a while back, and went back to it again and again, like other people go to a museum maybe. The analogy is spot-on, really, as it also implies that I never really dared want one of those for myself. I mean, most of us don’t go sit in front of an Edward Hopper, and wish we had one at home, right? Although, if I ever won the lottery that is one artist whose work I’d buy, and would want to live with for ever. Sigh. Unattainable, but a girl can dream.

Anyway, I knew of this blanket out there in a general way. And then my friend A. turned 50, as I’ve mentioned in another blog post, and I was too caught up in my own asshattery to think ahead. Not a good chess player. Strategy’s definitely for greater minds than mine. I was thinking about her, and about what to give her. I wanted a unique gift, one that would convey my love for her and my admiration for her crazy creative mind and her uncanny ability to make art out of junk, her unconventional genius mind and the greatest example of a living, breathing Catholic I’ve ever seen. She has been my friend for over 25 years, and I don’t know what I’d do without her. And then I thought back to that blanket from Australia, and there was absolutely no doubt in my mind that nothing else would meet the occasion: A unique and colorful blanket in which not once would I be repeating a pattern.

As I got started, I set out to decrease my yarn stash, and I have, but as these things go, I ended up buying some more anyway. I simply could not resist the glittery yellow cotton (which I have used up completely), nor the soft lime green sock yarn (which I bought another ball of just because it’s so pretty), nor the deep red I got just this Saturday, to make that uber cute, amazing pompom edging (will also use that one up completely, that pattern sure does eat yarn). Once, at the yarn store, the owner gave me a pale blue ball of merino yarn that was too tangled up to sell (used that one up completely, too). Then I found a very sweet shade of powdery pink acrylic yarn that I’ve used about half of, and I’ve polished off most of the leftovers from sweet M.’s last summer blanket. I ordered  2 balls of corn-yellow sock yarn because A. loves that shade of yellow (and I most certainly do not!), oh and a ball of teal I still had from making my cardigan 2 years back went into it also.

This was the humble beginning:

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In daring neon pink, I made an endless chain, a first row of DC, a row of granny clusters every 3 stitches and another row of DC. A row of *1 SC and 3 chains** in purple, sandwiched between 2 rows of simple off-white SC. Then I had a good look through my good old crochet book (thank you so much, Margaret Hubert!) and moved on to make a blue pattern of little sort of pockets. The first time I ever dared make something that said ‚experienced‘, and I survived, and it looked awesome.

After that, I made a yellow wavy pattern, revisiting Lucy’s Attic 24 blanket pattern. I sort of evened out the edge and made a row of DC in off white.

The next pattern is also from the book, and it alternates V stitches and scallop stitches. You can’t see it very well on the pic, because it needs some blocking, as does the whole blanket, really.

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I moved on to make a few bright rows of stripy HDC – which sadly made the whole piece shrink, and gave me some grief later when I first blocked it… but they looked pretty, and so I moved on to make some off-white triple crochet and lime green scallops. I sort of tried to turn those into Catherine Wheels, which I didn’t quite pull off, alternating between lime green and deep forest green yarn.

The glittery yellow was next, and I ended up making something simple to show off that glamorous yarn a little – a few rows of HDC, as you can see.

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Next, I wanted to make something with 2 colors, and tried my hand at some bobble stitches. Didn’t quite turn out the way I had thought they would – flatter than on the picture in my book, but given the effect of the off white and blue contrast, I didn’t mind so much.

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Next, I made an upside down Granny cluster pattern I suppose I thought of on my own, for as you can see, we had moved to the beach and the book was way too heavy to carry all the way from the hotel. I was on a ‚Use up that stash!‘ mission by then, and ergo I went on until that orange was finished, moving on to another wave in purple so that yarn would be gone too, until it was.

I made DC stripies next, all the while watching my daughter do her thing in the shallow waters of the Baltic sea, which I love to pieces. Some people turn their noses at it and say that it’s more like a big lake than being a real ocean, but I love it anyway, and it does so make waves when it so chooses – have  a look:

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People don’t go kite surfing there for nothing.

The next stages I didn’t document, but they were:

The sweetest and my favorite of the lot, lime green DC with pretty yellow bobbles that are as 3D as they come ‚cause I made them of TC instead of the suggested DC, so they’d be nice and bobbly this time around. A powder and electric blue pattern I intended to be of triangles but which ended up looking like clouds instead ;-), and a lacy butterfly pink pattern from the book, a bright pattern of alternating HDC and 1 chain in differently colored rows, which interlaces the colors and the stitches both.

I then made a wide stripe of a ball of burgundy red in DC that is destined to be the basis for a batch of pretty bright flowers I made from thinner, mercerized cotton yarn. They’ll sort of look like this:

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What I did next was another pattern from the book called the Larksfoot Pattern, and although it calls for experienced crocheters, I can only say it’s not hard to make at all, don’t be shy to try it. It’s also quite dashing, I think, as you can also see in the picture above, right on top of the burgundy.

The next one was a sort of a playing with upside down lacy clusters my son picked out from the book. But that off white lacy thing, the one that comes next was, excuse my French, a real bitch to make. It makes you go back and stitch into the stitches you just completed (sort of like knitting cable) and I was glad when it was over, truly…

The next is a stripe of red yarn I found in my stash and my daughter thought the blanket needed some more bobbles, monochrome this time. It adds a nice structure, and I was like ’nother one down‘ when that ball was used up.

The lacy cotton candy in 2 colors was mildly annoying because of the many chains you make in between the DC, but by that point I had the kids pick out their favorites so I needed to suck that up…

After that lacy structure I wanted something solid again and used a leftover ball of orange acrylic yarn to make a block of DC that has nice ridges to it because I crocheted in the back loop only.

I made bright waves of HDC next, using up more of my stash until I got bored with that and moved on to a pattern of scallops and lace that my son and his sweet friend L. picked out from the book. In teal. It wasn’t hard to make but you need to concentrate as the scallops sort of move on with every row, and I didn’t do it quite as the pattern called for, but a wee bit differently. That one needs blocking also…

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Here’s our kitty getting all comfortable on the cozy blanket – alas, we’ll both have to let it go, soon enough!

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My last pattern was, as it had been bugging me to finally learn it or die trying, the Catherine Wheel. I was determined to try it one more time – and found a video tutorial on YouTube that explained a variation, which the lady calls polka dots – here’s the picture from the top once again so you can see what I’m talking about:

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It’s the mauve and lime green (can you tell it’s my favorite color?), and you can find the very easy to follow instructions right here: polka dot.

In the end, I didn’t quite do what the lady said, or ended up doing one row of polka dots only – but it looks good enough for me, so I left it at that :-)!

I browsed edgings, as I felt nothing sort of spectacular was going to be right. I found this awesome blog from the US, and it had stunning pom-poms!

As the blogger lady used them for a granny blanket, it inspired me to make my edging one of bright granny rows, to be finished off with said pom-poms.

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I cannot thank Ms Robin Sanchez enough for posting such a wonderful, easy to follow, intuitive – not to mention absolutely gorgeous – tutorial. I owe you for giving me the perfect idea for my Funky Blanket’s edging.

And that’s where I’m at right now. Signing off today with a project almost finished – I will of course post a picture when it really is all done, but I’m glad I could share the lump of shop-talking already.

Have a wonderful week, everyone, and talk to me about your own projects – I’m always happy to hear from you.

Just like Daddy Used to Make – Another Quick & Easy Lunch

Do you have an easy time throwing out bread? I, for some reason, find it harder than tossing any other food. I’m no war child, and have fortunately never experienced what it’s like to be more than figuratively starving. But I find myself finding creative uses for leftover bread (cubed and fried to add to a salad or as a topping for soups, bread pudding, soaked in milk and added to meatball dough…) Mind you, this is German bread, from a real bakery, organic, more often than not, and it doesn’t come cheap. But that’s not why. Maybe it’s a transgenerational bread thing, because obviously my parents both experienced WW II.

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Be that as it may, today I’d like to share what I made for lunch one time when I had 1 zucchini, some tomatoes and a very dry piece of formerly glorious white Italian bread from designer food chain Butter Lindner.

I have a picture of my dad’s in the kitchen, and I frequently think of him when I cook. This was no exception, for one of his standard simple meals was: Cube bread, fry, add chopped mushrooms, herbs and eggs – and voilà, he had a very filling, tasty dish made.

To make my version, you will need

1 small Zucchini

1 green onion

Handful of cherry tomatoes

Crusty white bread

Basil and rosemary leaves to taste

1 TBSP pine nuts

Olive oil, salt & pepper

Cube bread and zucchini. Cut tomatoes in half, or if using larger ones, cube as well. Slice your green onion. Heat olive oil in a frying pan. Add pine nuts, onion and zucchini. Stir-fry for a couple minutes until bread browns and zucchini are cooked. Add rosemary leaves and thinly sliced basil, as well as tomatoes. Let steep at very low heat for a minute. Season with salt and pepper, and enjoy your lunch, basking in the good feeling of having saved a decent piece of bread from an unseemly end in the bin :-).

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What are your quick & easy solutions to suddenly growling stomachs? Please let me know, for this is a recurring problem at my house. Thank you, and enjoy!

… It’s A Poncho!!!

So I set myself up for this. Promising to write about something online is some serious commitment, right? Yeah, yeah, I’m writing, I’m writing.

Timeline, in chronological order.

I.’s birthday is in February, and my wonderful crafts compadre N. and I hatched the cunning plan to present our sweet friend I. with her very own poncho. (She had asked me if I’d make her one for money, a while back, and of course I declined that as ridiculous. You don’t do that among friends, right?) We kept it secret, and had a number of serious meetings about things like yarn, colors and patterns. We spent quite some time on Ravelry and on crafts blogs, and generally fussed with the idea until we settled down enough to order yarn just before Easter. We chose a type of yarn that wouldn’t be too heavy, and would wash well: a combination of merino and acrylic we found at an online store that stocked the colors we wanted – at a very reasonable price – ‚cause we wanted plenty.

We finally agreed on granny clusters, crocheted in a large square, to be finished off with horizontal rows at the shoulders. Initially we intended to make tassels for that funky Hippie look.

Each one of us did one half – N. did the back, I did the front. Of course there was furious Whatsapping of status quo photos, for the colors needed to match, right? We made good progress, although I had to unravel some rows because Mme la Chefesse de la Couleur wasn’t happy with the color scheme – but by mid July we had both gotten as far as this, and we liked it. We went on our individual summer vacations – N.’s half went to Fuerteventura, and mine came with me to Poland.

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Then we ran into some problems with the white, had to order some more yarn. But we got back on track in September, sat down together and darned in all those ends, sigh.

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Always so cumbersome, and inevitably boring. We found solace in a bottle of wonderful gin, though ;-). It’s a German brand, Monkey, from the Black Forest, who’d a thunk it, and it makes a wonderful cocktail with some tonic and lots of lemon. So, ends darned in, and in the end one of us needed to join the two parts.

We took turns with that. But in the end, the honor of making the neckline fell to me, because N.’s work always turns out somewhat looser than mine, and we needed that thing to be a neckline and not slip down over shoulders, which it initially did, making me a bit insane. So I fiddled, and I’ll admit there was some serious swearing and general grouchiness until I had figured out all I needed to do was to skip the chains between the clusters, and all was good. Check it out:

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And finally, early this morning, we gave it away. Our sweet friend I. seemed really moved, and we were all 3 of us grinning like Cheshire cats as she proudly modeled it for us. It was cute how careful she was when she put it on, as if she couldn’t quite believe it wouldn’t come apart in her hands. We each had a yummy croissant and a delicious cup of coffee to celebrate, and N. and I congratulated ourselves on a job well done!

Phew, I’m always relieved when something I make turns out nicely. I’ll be finishing projects for the rest of this year, I think. There’s the Funky Blanket for my friend A. ( almost done there! Yay!), the requested Mohair/silk sweater I still owe my friend E. (haven’t even started. Cumbersome knitting with that flimsy yarn and huge needles!), and a hat for my son’s sweet friend L. (Should be quick work) – enough to keep me busy, now that my latest book translation is already at the printer’s.

How about you? Are you busy with any gorgeous project this fall? Let’s see your work! Enjoy the fall, or Indian summer if you’re as lucky as we have been, here in our neck of the woods :-).