Exhale

Anyone remember the 1990s movie ‚Waiting to Exhale‘? I was way too young to understand when I saw that movie, but loved it anyway, even then. It had an absolutely outstanding cast, including the late Whitney Houston, man, wasn’t she gorgeous, and fragile, and sooo funny if she chose to be? I was totally smitten with her after the movie. And the wonderful Angela Basset, and Wesley Snipes was in it also, and the whole thing was directed by none other than Forest Whitaker.

All the four main characters are African American ladies, and they all have some serious man troubles. Nothing unusual really: One of the men is married and keeps promising to leave his wife, but never follows through. Duh. The other dude runs off with another woman who is younger, and also white – ’nuff said. The third lady just distrusts men in general, and the fourth’s ex-husband whom she still loves comes out as gay. It happens. Anyway, all of it was very slice of life and depicted beautifully and with a lot of sensitivity as to how women think and feel and behave – Gosh, I _loved_ that movie.

But I was trying to reflect on the exhaling part, it’s what made me think of the movie. All these ladies kind of keep running in circles. None of them are happy, and they all keep going and going and going … waiting to exhale is a state of mind you simply do not experience when you’re in your twenties as I was at the time the film came out. But now, I get it. Boy, do I get it. Not to whine or complain, but sometimes I too feel like a rat in a cage, like a hamster in a wheel, like I can’t breathe. Keep another deadline, finish one job and start on a new one right away, even my crafts projects kind of keep piling up… So many ideas, so little time.

On the upside, soccer tournaments are always great for serious yarn mileage, and we still have a few good watchin‘ the game nights to go. Look how far I’ve gotten:

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I will finish this sweater, I will. Summer vacation is coming up, which is why I’m so stressed in the first place – dare I write it down? Phew, here we go: I plan not to work this summer. There, I’ve said it. You’ve read it. Now I just need to make it happen.

School is always amazingly busy also the last weeks before vacation starts.

This was the Butterfly Project at my daughter’s school. It was a science project, and they actually made caterpillars hatch and become butterflies, courtesy of the University here in town. An amazing experience, and the kids were so thrilled to see how life works. And then it was time to let the butterflies go. It was all very grand, the kids burst with pride and they had a nice picnic at the playground afterwards.

At my son’s school, we’re gearing up for the annual Summer Fayre. Also quite an endeavor, with food stalls, music, acrobatics & amazing things to buy that we the parents crafted for the bazaar – among them, this Army of Dwarfness:

So, a few insane weeks to go and then, hopefully, a lot of this:

I had promised my physiotherapist S to be a bit more mindful about sleeping enough – so in the spirit of being a good patient – good night Blogland.

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Sweet Nothings

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Look, this was my Sunday. It wasn’t raining, and warm enough to sit outside with NO WORK and my knitting and NO WORK. I had stumbled across this yarn

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at the shop across the supermarket when I went for a beer and microwave popcorn run before the Austrians valiantly stood up to larger-than-life Cristiano Ronaldo during the European Championship.

I saw that yarn, couldn’t resist, and suddenly I couldn’t wait to get started on my Little Summer Sweater. It’s going to be a bright, summery addition to anything white or blue, my favorite colors this season. It seems a bit over the top to start on a sweater as an interim project, but sometimes it’s just fine to be silly. I’m being so responsible what with my community service school work, not only keeping deadlines but actually being faster than my clients asked me to … such fast, very translator, as some people who are fond of Doge speak, would put it, right J?

I’m about to wrap up an emotionally draining book translation, the second volume of the memoirs of Jennifer Worth, a former London midwife of the 1950s, called ‚Shadows of the Workhouse‘. It’s not a book for the faint-hearted, even though it has hilarious moments and enough Cockney to last you a lifetime. I learned a lot about late 19th and early 20th century England, and not the stuff we can see on Downton Abbey. The trenches in WW I, the Blitz in London in WW II, the _workhouses_, Jesus Christ, I didn’t even know such places even existed. I can recommend the book, but it’s not a happy vacation book, that much is certain, and a lot more depressing than the BBC TV show. I’ll be glad to finish work on it.

I was at the yarn shop because I needed longer circular knitting needles for this baby:
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That shawl sure is going to be big. It’s begun to bunch up a bit in the middle, and I need that cable to be freaking longer. So I ordered those, and found the yummy Pink Yarn while I was there.

Speaking of delicious things, how do you people feel about macarons? Had them? Loved them? Disliked them? Found them tacky? I have to confess to a great weakness for them. As you may have read, I was in a different family place altogether while the young couple got married by the Rockies early this month. I was way too late to pick anything from their Wish List, and I felt so bad about that. So I thought it might be a nice touch to present them with a box of this indulgence, and I found a manufacturer in Colorado and ordered these, a few more, obviously, than you can see in the picture.

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Hope they’ll enjoy them as I know I would – UPS tells me they’re sitting on their porch now waiting for them to come home. I sure hope it isn’t as hot in Longmont today as it is here!

For, guess what, it’s actually finally summer. To be honest, it’s way hotter than I like, 36 degrees Celsius, Jeez. I’m staying in the shade, thank you very much – or here if I possibly can:

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And I want to make ice cream this weekend, lovely, seasonal, cream-and-sugar infused strawberry ice cream. Wonder how that works? All you need is an ice cream maker or food processor, flavorful strawberries, cream, sugar and vanilla, and go for it!

Strawberry Ice Cream

500 g fruit, shucked and chopped

250 g sugar

500 g cream

5 egg yolks

1 lemon, juiced

1 pck vanilla sugar

After pureeing fruit with half of sugar and lemon juice, set aside. Make a custard of cream, sugar and vanilla by heating cream, stirring in sugar and folding in yolks one by one over moderate heat until the mixture thickens. Set aside to cool. After cooling, fold in fruit puree and season to taste: More sugar? Do it. Don’t be shy. Bit of lemon juice? Go for it. Maybe some jam to enhance the flavor? Absolutely.

Now bring out of the freezer your ice cream making bowl (if you don’t have one of those, you’ll have to use a plastic container, pour in your strawberry custard mixture, close the lid and freeze. Take the box out every hour or so and work it over with intent in the food processor or a blender. You’ll end up with slightly shardy ice cream if you skip that, and you want that creamy, silky texture if you can get it, right?).

Assuming you have an ice cream maker, pour your custard in the frozen ice cream bowl and set to churn for as long as it takes for the mixture to freeze. Then stick in the freezer for a few more hours anyway, and then, by all means: Enjoy your ice cream :-).

 

A Wedding, A Funeral & A Drink

IMG_0161Dear C. and J.,

A. forwarded a few stunning pictures of your wedding day. What an incredible backdrop you chose, how beautiful you looked, and how radiant and happy you seem :-)! Congratulations, and our best wishes for a happy future together.
Getting married is a commitment not everyone your age would be willing to make, and I salute you for being so determined to make things work. I know enough of your story to be aware that things weren’t always easy – in fact, to impart a bit of old age wisdom, nor will they continue to be. Life has a way of surprising us with stuff we never considered before, and you can’t really be sure of anything, not even if you tie the knot. But you decided to be in this together, and I find that admirable, romantic and special. I’ll be pulling for you.

J

As sad as I was to not be able to fly out, in the end it was probably a good thing that I had declined the invitation. I think I needed to be here instead:
IMG_0117It’s the final resting place of another loving couple whose love, in their belief, spanned centuries, lifetimes, eternity even.

As for us who continue our lives here and now, we decided it would be a good thing to circle the wagons a bit, and try not to be as dysfunctional as the scattered-to-the-four-winds family had been over the last 30 years. There’s only a handful of us left of the formerly quite large gene pool, and we all feel we need to make more of an effort to stay connected. This post is just one attempt in that direction.

After the small, brief and touching ceremony (I never knew how moving a Chris de Burgh song could be: we listened to ‚Read My Name‘ at the gravesite, at my late sister in law’s request, and it was one serious tear jerker!), we hung out together for the rest of the day. When we parted ways at night, I felt we had done the best we could with a sad occasion. There were tears, but there was also laughter. There was good Italian food, stories were told, plans were made, and there was some very good ice-cream, too. My kids were well behaved, empathetic and sweet – I think they did a fantastic job cheering everybody up when things got too sad. I was glad I had taken them, they’re an awesome duo, those two, and I feel privileged to raise them.

As you people may know, I’m never really without my little crafts bag, and even the burial was no exception. I didn’t knit at the grave – I’m not all that Harold & Maude. But I did knit a bit at the restaurant, and I’m proud to announce that, by now, I’ve made quite a dent into my first ball of Shetland Lace yarn over the last couple of weeks. I’m well into my Navy Blue Shawl now, check it out: IMG_0179

Here’s what it looks like against the light – isn’t it pretty?IMG_0180

Most of the yarn work I do is not for me, and doing something this elaborate and elegant for myself seems a bit naughty at times. As everybody who has done this type of knitting before will know – this type of project needs commitment, and it takes time – and I’m enjoying every stitch ;-)). Also, I’m practicing for an awesome wedding gift …

And that’s basically what I was going to say here today. Signing off with a picture of one of my favorite early summer pastimes: Making elderflower syrup. Have you ever had it? It’s a wonderfully fragrant, summery and sweet addition to soda water. If you do it right, it actually manages to catch the elderflowers‘ scent and taste. I love it, and it’s easy to make. Would you like to learn?   Holunder2 (1).jpg

Elderflower Syrup

1 kg sugar

1 l water

2 organic lemons (or more to taste), sliced

approx. 30 elderflowers (see picture above)

1 TSP powdered citric acid

Elderflowers are in bloom _NOW_. You need to be quick, and forage in the park, or by a roadside, or wherever you can find a nicely blossoming elder bush. Snip the blossoms off with scissors and carefully place them in a basket or bag.

First, check for critters – it’s not only us humans who are fond of that taste, it seems, and I flicked some 10 or so june bugs out of my stash as I was prepping the flowers for making the syrup. Also, while you’re at it, remove as much as possible of the green stems. They can make the syrup bitter.

Boil water and add sugar. Stir until dissolved. Add slices of lemon, citric acid and elderflowers. Cover and let steep for 1 or 2 days.

Now you need a very clean cheesecloth or another piece of thin, cottony fabric. Place the cloth in a large sieve or colander and pour the liquid through. Repeat twice, until you’re certain to have filtered out any rests of fiber.

Now put the filtered syrup back to boil, use sterilized glass jars or bottles to store, and pour in the syrup, using a funnel. Close tightly and let cool. It will keep fresh for about 1 year. We did the double amount and made 6 bottles of syrup.

Enjoy this lovely summer drink! Some people like to add a splash to their Prosecco – but I find it way more delicious without any alcohol involved. Chin-Chin!

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