Dodge the Burnout

This was this morning, when I decided to be naughty and ditch the screen for some self-care in the form of soaking up nature.

Now, I’m not really supposed to drive yet, even though I’m finally Free Of The Cast. My left elbow is still tender, the joint is a bit stiff from being confined to a 90° position for 5 weeks, and my left arm is as weak as a noodle, no joke. But how else was I supposed to get myself and the doggo to the forest? So I just got in the car, and everything was actually fine, until I had to parallel park the car when returning to our narrow street. It’s not a one-way, but it might as well be. There is not room for two cars to go past each other, and both curbs are lined with parking cars. Sigh. But I gritted my teeth, swore a bit because it hurt like a mofo, and the car is now beautifully parked.

But back to the self-care. Early this morning, I listened to an interview on a podcast called Fight The Burnout. The interviewee is one of my favorite people in the world, and to say we have a lot in common would be an understatement: genes, experiences, memories, history. She’s my sister from another mister who was actually my stepbrother, and we’ve known each other all our lives. I love her dearly, and when she tells me something, I listen. This is not true for many people in the world. Anyway, the podcast is ultimately about understanding and preventing burnout. Recognizing the signs, strategies for not letting it go too far, and help for when it already has.

On the pod, A. says at one time that one of her own self-care strategies is hiking by herself, and sitting down and listening to the birds. No phone, no book, no podcast, no music. Can you see what made me take my butt out to the woods today?

Being a working parent is challenging. We all know that if you really want to be accessible to the kid(s), something’s gotta give. Statistically, the general choices seem to be either the woman’s work, or the marriage, with a few notable exceptions where people actually manage to partner up and split chores, childcare and working hours.

Over the course of 16 years of kindergarten and school, I’ve met my fair share of families, and in most cases, there was one primary caretaker and one primary breadwinner. More often than not, the caretaker is the mom, as sad as that is from a feminist standpoint, me included. In my case, the choice was mostly dictated by finances. But also I stumbled into motherhood deaf, dumb and blind, and it was such a revelation to me that I was actually able to pull it off, that to my own surprise I found that I wanted to be a mom more than I wanted to pursue my career. The first years with my two kiddos are full of cherished memories, and I would make the same choice all over again if I could. I do know couples who manage to divide chores, childcare and work evenly among themselves, and I know at least two dads who were the primary caretakers. The younger generation seem to be better at that than my own.

So, strategies to dodge burnout might include:

Meditation, yoga, mindfulness

Healthy food intake

Enough sleep


Taking breaks

When you think about it, all these things have one thing in common: they concern you, first and foremost. Time to yourself, food that’s good for you, your own personal sleep or relaxation rituals, activities you enjoy, whether it be knitting or climbing a rope course. Taking care of yourself can have many faces. The important thing is that you actually stay mindful of your needs, listen to your body and soul, and give yourself a break, not when it’s too late, not in the nick of time, but as a regular thing. A. and the host of the pod call it ‚checking in‘. It’s good advice.

As you, dear regular stitch readers, know, my own personal strategy has been to adopt a dog. A few members of my hub were concerned when I did, predicting my imminent collapse under the pressure of having added yet another creature’s needs to my already full plate. Nobody really believed me when I said that I didn’t think it was going to be a burden at all. And it hasn’t been. Instead it has been, just like when I had my babies, a source of great happiness, love, laughter – and yes, a fair amount of exercise as well.

In this time of Covid, which has been serving each and every one of us their own series of shit sandwiches, it seems even more important that we look after ourselves. For only when we’re kind to yourself, can we be kind to others, be it a family, a company, or a community.

I’d be remiss not to mention (once again) my favorite television show, Schitt’s Creek, in this context. They won 9 (!) Emmy awards yesterday night, for their small-budgeted, big-hearted piece of ingeniousness. In his acceptance speech, Eugene Levy, the show’s co-mastermind, said it was „a celebration of inclusivity, a castigation of homophobia, and a declaration of the power of love“. It certainly was one of my happy places in challenging times. Go find it online if you can. It’s amazing :-).

Since having been relieved of my cast, I’ve practiced mindful crochet (is that even a thing?), one careful row at a time. It brought me great joy to finally be able to do that again!

And I’d like to share a recipe stolen from my fabulous friend F., whose birthday it is today. Congratulations to my favorite Wonder Woman Warrior!!! We used my husband’s tomatoes for it, and it’s a very simple, ingenious combination of cross-cultural spices and aromas. Here’s the

Hot Tomato Explosion Salad

6 large tomatoes

1 handful fresh basil

4 TBSP olive oil

2 TBSP tomato paste

1 TSP harissa paste

Salt and pepper to taste

Chop tomatoes into 1 cm cubes. Finely chop the basil. Add oil, tomato paste and harissa. Give it a thorough stir. Add salt and pepper to taste.

We had it with Jamie Oliver’s stuffed tortillas (grated cheese, chopped green onions, chopped cilantro, thinly sliced red chili), and it was a beautiful combination indeed.

Have a good week, everybody.

One-armed Bandit

So, it’s been quite a month. My family and friends have been amazing, assisting me, driving me around, humoring me and propping me up when I needed it. And I learned to ask for as well as accept help. Practicing patience, I still managed to churn out a complete manuscript. Don’t ask me how many hours that took, because I did not count – I just wanted to get it done. Phew. The editing is always a fun process to me. I enjoy playing with the words and sentences until they flow nicely, in service to the story. That will be my next two weeks, and I look forward to it.

All in all, life has been as cumbersome as you can imagine in any and all aspects (sleep, showers, getting dressed, applying lotion, chopping vegetables …). But it was a sunny month, and I tried to spend as much of it as I could outdoors, which was a treat.

Mushroom season has begun, and my favorite, Porcini mushrooms, are gracing us with their presence once again. I’ve not made any elaborate things with them so far, because I can’t really cook with one hand, but they’re wonderful of course even just as a stir-fry with rice or noodles.

I did bake, though. In the book I’m working on, there was mention of a cake I had not heard of before, and it made me curious. Are you guys familiar with poke cake? It’s a cake you literally poke holes in after it comes out of the oven with the handle of a wooden spoon. The holes are then filled with fruit puree, whipped cream, buttercream, syrup, melted chocolate … anything that makes the cake nice and moist. I read up on it, looked at the many pretty pictures, and then I couldn’t help myself and made a very indulgent version indeed: A chocolate-orange cake filled with salted orange caramel sauce.

It was a bit decadent. Not even sure how I came up with the combination of caramel and orange, but I can tell you it was very, very good. Recipe? Sure.

Very Indulgent Poke Cake

150 g chocolate

150 g butter

150 g brown sugar

4 eggs

200 g (spelt) flour

Bit of milk

Vanilla to taste

3 TBSP dark syrup, molasses or the likes

2 TBSP orange marmalade

Zest of one orange

Pinch of salt

2,5 TSP baking soda

As you know, I’m now the proud owner of a KitchenAid food processor, and may I say it could not have come at a better time. It made a perfect cake batter, as you’d expect it to, and cracking eggs one-handedly was actually doable.

First, melt chocolate and butter in a pan. Pour in the food processor and beat. Add eggs, sugar, vanilla, salt and syrup and continue beating until nice and smooth. At this point, the batter will look a bit like chocolate mousse.

Now add the jam and orange zest. Combine flour and baking soda and add carefully. Turn down the speed for it will make a dusty mess if it’s on high, and add a dash of milk if you feel the batter is not creamy enough anymore.

Butter and/or line a spring form with parchment and scrape in your batter. Bake at 140-150 °C for about 45 minutes.

Let cool for a while. In the meantime, make your orange and caramel sauce.

Orange and Salted Caramel Sauce

Juice of 2 oranges

Zest of 1 orange

200 g sugar

50 g butter

50 ml cream

1/2 TSP salt

1 P vanilla sugar

Start with melting the sugar and vanilla sugar in a pan. It should be a dark amber-colored liquid. Pour in the juice. It might spit a little. Stir, let the sugar dissolve and reduce the fluid. Stir in butter, cream and salt and let cool. It should be a slightly thick, creamy consistency.

The recipe I used called for the cake to be cooled down completely before poking and pouring – but I was too impatient to do that and it was fine anyway. So, once done with your sauce, poke holes in the cake and pour on the caramel. Then let cool (or eat warm) with a side of whipped cream.

I take absolutely no responsibility for any cardio-vascular consequences.

My husband’s tomato plant has given us these beauties over the past few weeks. It’s so much fun to walk out in the morning and pick the ripe and heavy fruit – not to mention the fantastic salads they make.

And the wild flower mix bed has been providing us with the cutest late-summery posies :-).

Crafts were a no-go, sadly. It’s been my longest abstinence since my pregnancy edema 20 years ago, and I’m beginning to feel so weird without being able to make anything for a whole month. I’m seeing the doc tomorrow, and maybe, just maybe, I’ll be able to ditch the cast, or exchange it for an elastic bandage. Fingers crossed. Have a lovely weekend, everyone!