Choices

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If only every mistake in life were as easy to undo as a piece of knitting!

That up there was supposed to be a gauntlet. I swear this time I even looked at patterns before I started out, and then decided the ones that I liked were too complicated for me and went with a simple single cable. And when the first one was as good as done (which took about 3 episodes of Lethal Weapon) I decided it looked boring and ripped it back up. It felt good, because it just wasn’t right.

All the things I wish I had had the courage to go through with that easily in the past would probably fill a book, and it would not be a fun read either. Suffice it to say that I’ve lied to people by omission (to spare their feelings, or to spare myself having to lock horns with them, probably a bit of both), I’ve said things in anger that I regretted later (and apologized for some but not all of them), I’ve pulled back from people who depended on me when I couldn’t handle the extra pressure anymore (again to avoid confrontation), and I’ve dropped out of people’s lives altogether when I found greener pastures (how exactly would you even tell someone you’re going to do that without coming across like a major asshole?)

I’m supposing many people have done – or decided not to do – stuff like that themselves. As we get older and more experienced, we learn to avoid engaging with people we don’t find all that interesting in the first place. We learn to say what’s on our minds without being rude. And we know when taking a break can be more beneficial for a relationship than trying to work out issues for which there’s no solution that will make both parties happy anyway.

Assuming we’re for the most part responsible for who we are, how we feel and how we act is one approach (not my own, duh. The credit for the principles of Nonviolent Communications obviously goes to Marshall Rosenberg). Our actions may impact others, but ultimately it’s their own choice whether to be bothered by what we said or did.

Take He Who must not be Named on my blog who moved into the White House over the weekend. If he’s done one thing consistently over the past years, he’s been badmouthing immigrants, especially from Mexico, and women. And yet he had a whole community of Latino women voting for him. Their choice, I suppose, even if I don’t get them. At all. If I were an American, I’d have been on the streets just like all the others who marched on January 21st, more power to them.

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Apparently, making America great again began with taking (among other minor issues such as climate change^^) the LGBT rights page and all mention of LGBT acronyms off of the White House’s website. Approx. 9 million people, erased, just like that. I can’t help but find that appalling (my choice entirely!). And once again, I feel so lucky to be living in this very awesome city where seeing two guys kissing in front of the store just last week made me smile, as young love always does, whatevertheheck the gender.

Oh well. Crafts are comparatively easy ;-). I decided to set the red yarn aside for now and start on my new socks project instead:

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Very pink socks for my girl J in Frankfurt who asked for a new pair – at least here I know what I’m doing, knit 2 purl 2… but isn’t that shade of pink really something else? As you can see, I’m combining two thinner yarns in electric pink, one pure new wool and the other a very soft baby alpaca quality, which will result in seriously cozy socks, I’m hoping.

How about you? How have you chosen to begin the year, crafts-wise and in general? Let me know!

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A Pure Food Post

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Bircher Muesli. Yum.

4 large apples, peeled and grated

4 TBSP ground almonds

6 TBSP oatmeal

250 g yogurt, plain (or more if you wish)

1 TBSP maple syrup (or more if you wish)

aaaand, as of last December, 1 orange, filleted, and its juice

A delicious, wholesome breakfast food, easy to make, and only using staples we almost always have at home. Therefore it’s OK to decide you absolutely need this spontaneously whenever you feel like eating this rather than other weekend breakfast foods. Have to confess I wouldn’t do this on a school morning. Those extra 10-15 minutes it takes to make go a long way around 6.30 in the morning. But on Saturdays and Sundays, it’s a thing I enjoy doing, for my husband, my teenager, and last but not least myself. Obviously my daughter detests it – mixed, no clearly discernible ingredients … no way José is she going to eat that and like it. Cereal for her, toast and jam, granola if we’re lucky, and fruit on the side please, only no oranges, no khaki fruit, and absolutely no kiwi. I’m hoping it’s a phase, sigh.

But about that famous Swiss concoction. You grate your apples, add the almonds and oatmeal, yogurt and syrup, then you fillet the orange, catching every bit of juice, so use a plate rather than a cutting board when you slice it, add that, fold everything in carefully, let sit for a few minutes, taste, add more of any ingredient you feel it needs. Then get out the bowls and spoons and call in the hungry clan members. That’s how it works around here anyway.

The orange was something I never used to do before my goddaughter J told me about having stayed at this fancy resort once where they soaked the oatmeal for their Bircher Muesli in fresh OJ overnight. That gave me pause because it never would have occurred to me to add orange to that mix. But I was curious enough to try it, and was instantly convinced I never wanted to change that recipe ever again. Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it! And by all means, enjoy  :-).

Oh, you want another? Hm. Why not eat our way through a whole day while we’re at it? Let’s make some lunch next, assuming I was good and productive for a couple hours in the meantime.

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Sauteed Winter Salad

1 bag baby spinach leaves

1 small head radicchio, sliced

1 handful pine nuts, roasted

400 g cherry tomatoes, halved

1 cup Mozzarella cheese (I used the baby sized balls to match the cherry tomatoes, but you could easily use the regular size and cut it up into cubes)

1 clove garlic, sauteed, then crushed in the garlic press later on

Very good olive oil

Dash of dark Balsamic vinegar

Pinch of salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Wee bit of sugar to taste

The way this salad came to be was literally by accident. What happened was that I had been storing all my veggies on my awesome shelf on the kitchen balcony – still proud of this, it was my son’s birthday present for me, yay! img_0183

Sadly, those days with the blooming oleander are so over, which brings me to the reason I sauteed the spinach and radicchio rather than use them fresh and crunchy: all my fresh produce had frozen out there over night, and the spinach in particular looked pitiful. I felt pretty damn stupid when I looked at the stuff as I was preparing dinner – and then it occurred to me the salad might be saved if I just threw it in a hot pan with olive oil, garlic and a wee bit of sugar – and it actually worked out beautifully.We had my mother in law staying with us over the holidays to boot, who hates throwing out food with a passion – so nothing was tossed, no precious food went to waste, grace was saved and nobody was any the wiser. Do I sound smug? Well that’s because I was. Everyone was praising my barely salvaged salad, hehe.

I sauteed the spinach and radicchio, sliced the tomatoes, roasted the pine-nuts, crushed the garlic I had sauteed with the leaves, added a generous amount of decent olive oil, baby mozzarella and a dash of Balsamico, black pepper and a bit of sugar to taste, and there it was. A nice winter salad. Next time, I may add some croutons like you do for a Caesar salad – that would be a whole meal right there. As you can see, recipes are, as so many things in life, a fluid thing.

So, that could have been lunch, with some nice, crusty Italian bread.

Now again, please assume I was busy working on my cookbook assignment in the meantime. The kids will have come home from school by now, making hungry puppy eyes at me. And as it’s so cold and dark outside, and we’re still processing the untimely death of our sweet kitty, we’ve been in dire need of comfort food lately. Which obviously brings me to my version of

Mac and Cheese

500 g macaroni, boiled

4 handfuls of grated cheese (anything with a bit of a stronger flavor will do – Cheddar, Parmigiano, Gruyère, Swiss … whatever you have at home will work just fine for this)

250 ml cream, plus 1 cup of milk

2 eggs

2 shallots, cubed

1-2 cloves garlic, crushed

Salt and black pepper

Olive oil for brushing the casserole

Since at our house, this is True Comfort Food, I’m usually on my last leg when preparing this meal. Therefore, I don’t make a fuss with preparing a roux, adding mustard or other condiments – what I do is I boil my pasta, cube my shallots, crush my garlic, grease my casserole, grate my cheese and whisk together eggs, cream, milk, salt and pepper. Drain pasta, add to casserole, add cheese, eggs-cream-milk mix, shallots and garlic and carefully combine. Cover casserole and stick in a 160 °C oven for about 25 minutes. Not much longer, and not much hotter, because I like the pasta to be soft and coated in a cheesy, creamy, yummy substance, but still have a bit of a crust if you know what I mean. In the end, it usually looks like this:
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Please forgive the very slice of life photo – the kids were way too hungry to take a picture before digging in.

There was, as you can see, a cucumber salad on the side. Oh, you want that one too? Come on, you guys know how to make cucumber salad, right? At the risk of being really redundant, here’s

My Kindergarten Cucumber Salad

2 cucumbers, thinly sliced

1 small shallot, very thinly sliced

3 TBSP cooking oil

1-2 TBSP white balsamic vinegar

Sugar, salt, white pepper if you have it, if not, don’t worry about it and use black

2 TBSP chopped dill (this you do need, and not the frozen variety either!)

100 ml plain yogurt

Dash of Worcestershire sauce if you like

I used to make this for the kindergarten kids all the time, who were really into it -hence the slightly nostalgic name.

First, slice your cucumbers. After a couple minutes, press excess water out of the slices by taking them by the handful and squeezing. Great for your hands‘ skin, too, as not many things in a kitchen are, so enjoy that!

Add the shallot and dill, make a salad dressing and combine. Let sit for 30 minutes before serving to allow the flavors to mix.

It truly is the perfect salad for Mac and Cheese, in my book. And what do you know, even my daughter eats it, so it must be really something else!

All these recipes feed 4 or 5, btw, in case you were wondering.

Wow. That was one long, food-y post, wasn’t it?

Crafts will probably be up again next time – for I have not been idle, knitting away some of the grief I guess.

Signing off today with an awesome piece of art by my son who is one lucky kid to actually be taught graffiti in school, look:

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and the sweetest birthday present ever – my daughter made this for her daddy end of December. Gotta love those kids :-).img_0847

Rest in Peace, Beautiful Friend

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Those of you who read my last post will probably guess what happened. Our sweet companion of 11 years is gone. I have no words to really express how much I’m missing her, but I’ll try anyway. Maybe some will find it weird that I hardly make a distinction between my kids and my pets, but I really don’t. Unlike my kids, this cat slept in my bed every night – come to think of it, even more regularly than my husband who travels for work a lot. How do you not miss someone who purred you to sleep and whose beautiful amber eyes you woke up to for such a long time?

Putting an animal to sleep is as awful as it is unspectacular. The first shot makes them very tired – it’s like the good stuff they give you right before the actual anesthetic you get for an operation. They go all limp and relaxed in your arms, and after a couple minutes, they get another shot that actually kills them, right into their rib-cage. They kind of curl up in fetal position, drawing in their limbs, it’s a reflex, nothing more, and then their hearts stop beating.

I’ve been through this with three cats, and I’ve sat with my mom when she died. And every time it struck me how absolutely unique death looks. It’s impossible to confuse it with sleep, and every time I see a corpse in the movies, I feel it looks completely wrong.

My children went with me to the vet’s yesterday. They wanted to, that is to say my son wanted to come and my daughter who as the (much) younger kid always worries she might be left behind for Something Important, wanted to go too, and so I respected that and hope the teachers will too. If they don’t, they can all take a hike. It was important to us.

Our vet is as much of a people person as he is an animal person – which certainly isn’t true for all of his ilk. I like him a lot, and he has the exact amount of reason and empathy I needed to be able to go through with everything yesterday. He seemed really moved by our little family affair – I think I saw him blink tears away himself. Dr S rocks, he really does.

Needless to say, we had a black day after we left around 10.30. We went straight back home, cuddled our bereaved (now only) kitty, made hot chocolate, watched movies and took turns crying all day. At my age, this leaves a highly unattractive puffiness around the eyes, and my son’s acne broke out like you wouldn’t believe. It’s fair to say we both looked like shit this morning when I woke the kids. But my therapist used to say that tears are good, and since I can’t stop the waterworks anyway, I’ll just let myself cry whenever the tears start flowing …

… and maybe write some of it out of my system. Thanks for reading, and thanks for calling and texting, everyone – you know who you are. You’re the sweetest, kindest and most understanding bunch a girl could ask for. Thank you for being my friends, I love you.

Life, Death, and Some Stuff in Between

Hi everyone, and a happy new year to you people. May there be love and laughter, happiness and good health in your life over the course of the next 12 months.

These Forever Young days, we do have a tendency to take being healthy for granted, don’t we? It’s a side effect of all the live-sustainably-eat-well-work-out-and-don’t forget-to-de-stress way of life – quite opposed to my youth in the Nineties when we were all working and partying hard, smoking too much and sleeping too little, and spending considerably more time under the club lights and on the tanning bed than on the running track or at the gym.

My own give-no-fucks attitude really only changed when I became a mom. Not when I was pregnant – that doesn’t suddenly make you a responsible person over night, although the nausea in the first months of pregnancy certainly slows you down with a lot of the bad stuff (and some of the good – I wouldn’t have touched a vitamin C with a ten foot pole, as anything fresh made me puke.) But things changed when my son was born and became part of my life. We sort of grew up together, if that makes any sense.

But back to the gift of being healthy. I usually don’t appreciate it enough, that’s for sure. And right now, life is whacking me over the head with the issue.

It’s not about myself. No, tomorrow, I get to decide whether the beautiful creature you see in the pics above gets to live for another round of treatment or not. I’m really torn. I look at her, pet her gorgeous soft fur and listen to her purr in my ear. Who am I to put a stop to that? Is it the right thing to do to end an animal’s life before things get really bad, or do I wait until they do? I’m hoping I’ll know tomorrow morning.

And then there’s a dear client of mine who is bravely battling breast cancer, there’s a close relative who checked herself into the hospital to get treatment for her colon cancer today, there’s the friend who seems to have won that fight, for now, and my sister in law who did not. It’s impossible to escape these things, and we all have to draw our own conclusions as to how we want to live.

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Sorry for being morose – you probably just came here to see a few new crafts pieces. Obviously I had time for that too over the holidays. Here’s what I made:

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Voilà, the rainbow socks on their new owners‘ pretty feet – don’t they look amazing?

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My godson wearing his new heather grey, extra fluffy socks only minutes after I darned in the last thread. Far as I heard, he only takes them off for washing ;-).

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The gorgeous motley yarn ended up a cool stripy cowl for my daughter – check out the checkerboard stitch. I was bored with the old knit-two-purl-two, although that’s obviously precisely what you do in this pattern also, albeit with a twist. Well, I think it looks more interesting this way, so there.

My mother in law has asked for gauntlets to wear with her white duffel coat, and we agreed the beautiful hand-dyed yarn from my favorite yarn store would work perfectly. img_0781

It was the same yarn that I made the welcome home socks for my daughter from:

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No food this time. I’m sure everyone feels quite saturated after the holidays, as do I. There’s only so many cookies a person can eat, right…? Of course, it’ll still be fun to make them again come December, no doubt. But until then, to paraphrase the One and Only King of Rock’n’Roll – a little less carbohydrates, a little more salad please … And a sound clip, for that song just blows my mind, every time.

A Little Less Conversation