Covid Crafts

So, my son’s girlfriend was tested Covid positive, and we’re waiting for P’s test result to come in tomorrow; it would be short of a miracle if he didn’t have it, either with or without symptoms. Just in case, we’ve taken the necessary precautions inside the house. However, there is a high probability of us being infected as well, because we are a touchy-feely, affectionate family. In fact, that is the thing I find most vexing, not to be able to touch my boy :-/. I mean, I don’t wish for getting sick, I really don’t. In fact, we’ve been more careful than some of our friends, and doing our level best to avoid it, up to now. Still, a part of me can’t help thinking if it wouldn’t be best to just get it over with?

When I called our pediatrician, they recommended to isolate ourselves as a family, until the boy’s test result is in. So, to pass the time in a meaningful way, I’ve resorted to crafts.

This is my contribution to the festive decoration of the school building. With my fellow Waldorf mom E, I did three of these large twig stars:

You may not be able to tell by the picture, but they’re huge – like 1 m in diameter. Fun and cheap to make too. What you do is:

  1. Collect a huge pile of thin twigs.
  2. Cut out a circle of thick cardboard in the desired size.
  3. Heat up the hot glue pen.
  4. Keep the garden shears ready to shorten twigs to desired length.

And round and round you go!

(Of course you don’t need to make them this big – you can easily make them the size of a plate, or even cutesy little ones with the thinnest twigs, to hang on your Christmas tree as ornaments. Those might benefit from being double-sided.)

One of the branches I brought home wasn’t suited for the project, but I loved it so much because there was some very pretty moss growth on it.

So I was thinking it might be nice to use it for hanging stuff from. Something fluffy, seasonal – it made me think of the tiny snowflakes I crocheted when I was still learning, seven years ago.

Looking at my branch, and its size, I thought what if I made those with a really bulky yarn, so they’d be huge? In my stash, I had some single ply, squishy, ultra-soft merino wool and a few other yarns in the same color, and decided I’d use them all at once, crocheting with a really big hook. I looked up the pattern once again at attic 24, unsure whether the proportions would work, but then I gave it a try with a size 6 hook, and I’m pretty pleased with how it turned out:

The Attic 24 blog has been one of my most important inspirations when I first started to crochet (the other being this YouTube channel – an amazing source for any and every question a knitting or crochet enthusiast, may they be beginners or advanced, might have. In effect, Elizza, the Nadelspiel host, taught me how to crochet!).

Lucy, the Attic 24 host, on the other hand, opened up a whole new universe for me with her impeccable sense of color composition and uniquely cheerful style. It may also well be down to her that I even started this blog. Her documentation of everyday life with children, and crafts, and her pretty pictures of the British countryside, as well as occasional recipes, sounded so appealing, and relatable. Her stories, told with little fanfare, but a lot of kindness and sense of humor, resonated with me to a degree that made me brave enough to start sharing mine.

Professionally, my life was at a crossroads then, and I had yet to make the leap to becoming a full-time translator. Crafts kept me sane (as they still do) and gave me something rewarding to do, over the many hours spent nursing my daughter whose immune system didn’t pick up speed until she was five or six, back to health, again and again and again…

Blogging about our life, my crafts projects and what was cooking turned into the classic weblog you know (and choose to read, thank you so much!) So, here’s to Lucy – who doesn’t know me from a bar of soap, but has been important to me, as a crochet artist and as a writer, all the same ;-).

As you can see, I’ve also made progress on my daughter’s pink sweater, while watching Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, enjoying the Agatha-Christie-y vibe of the cases, the gorgeous period-piece set and costume design, and Miss Fisher’s significant mischievous eyebrow quirk. The knitting is quick work, and I’m planning to try something new with the sleeves. Have you done dolman sleeves before? I have not, and we’ll have to see how it goes.

When making the cats, I found other patterns for Waldorf knit animals, and these looked easy enough to to, so I made one just to see if I could. Not exactly the most perfect design, and the proportions seem a little wonky – or is this just the way chickens look? As ever, my problem is more with the shaping and finishing than it is with the knitting…

Oh, and check out what I found at my favorite local yarn store! Isn’t it the most festive yarn imaginable? Soft, and deep red and glittery – Christmas socks, I was thinking :-). For whom, we shall see!

Since the flower stall isn’t off limits yet today (as of tomorrow, it may well be, should my boy test positive), I went out and bought a huge armful of fir branches to be able to make my advent wreath next week. It must be the earliest I ever did that, a week in advance!

Side note: I know that crafts are no real solution for dire circumstances (being out of a job, having financial troubles, health issues and dealing with close quarters related psychological problems). I’m not in any way trying to make light of the situation, for it is an existential catastrophe for many, and I’m well aware we have been so very fortunate so far, to be able to stay healthy and sane, as well as busy and getting paid for it. It’s just my go to thing whenever shit gets real to go and make something, or cook something, or take a long walk. These things make me feel better, but may not help you at all. Although, since you are here of your own free will, it’s probably correct to assume you enjoy these things, too ;-).

Leaving here today with a picture of this beautiful leaf (maple? sycamore? can’t be sure!) that had the first frost on it when I saw it while walking Charlie in the morning. It suddenly made me realize it’ll be Christmas in a matter of weeks. Hang in there – and fingers crossed for our virus situation.


Is this fellow adorable or what? Also, really tiny. When he speaks, he sounds like a little bird. He will eat anything he can get his cutesie little paws on, which forces us to keep the kitchen tidy – not a bad thing, all things considered.

These two Waldorf kitties were a present to my daughter’s little friend who asked for ’something for her two cats‘ as a birthday gift – remarkable for a 12-year old, I thought. Since it seemed weirdly impersonal to just buy a voucher from the pet store, I decided to try my hand at the knit cat pattern I’ve had for a long time. I’m afraid the first attempt was so terrible it had to be thrown out, but after a bit of tinkering, I stuck with the knitting pattern, ignored the finishing instructions, and shaped the cats the way I thought they should be. Made more sense to me than doing what the pattern said. Maybe I’m just too dumb for those. But in the end, I was happy with the result, and the kitties were completed and delivered to great success.

When I was done with that, the pink yarn I ordered came. I plan to make amends for my son’s washing efforts‘ collateral damage – it was my daughter’s favorite sweater. I started on that while binging Star Trek. Are any of you watching Discovery? Awesome, right? In between new episodes, we like to watch old reruns, all available on Netflix.

To me, it doesn’t get much better than that: Snuggling with husband and dog while watching intrepid space explorers boldly go where no one has gone before, knitting or doing crochet all the while. We’re well into the fifth season of Voyager now. That particular part of the franchise always reminds me of when I watched it first, rented in stacks of video tape boxes for the weekend, from a video rental place close to my apartment. (Millennials: there was no Netflix, nor were there computers at our houses, nor did we even have cell phones. To you, no doubt this sounds like the Stone Age! Even I must confess I can hardly remember what it was like before Internet access.) But, in my memory, it was not a bad time at all. Maybe because I was young?

As stockinette stitch lends itself to bingeing (you don’t have to look all that hard at what you’re doing), I managed to make good progress:

Initially I wanted to work in secret, to then pull a surprise hand-knit sweater out of my hat for Christmas, but now my daughter has spotted it and all is known. Maybe I’ll wrap it anyway. I chose this particular yarn quality (4-ply sock yarn, 75% wool, 25% acrylic) because I wanted something that would not be in danger of getting damaged when being machine-washed. I also had difficulty finding this particular shade of pink – other than in a very exclusive cashmere yarn, which, well, no.

As for work, I’m done with yet another urban fantasy (Demons Do It Better was the catchy English title ;-)), and am looking at two weeks of clearing up my desk, paying bills, submitting invoices, and my end of year doctor’s appointments (bloodwork, ugh, diabetes check, ugh, OBGYN, not that bad because I love her so much I don’t even mind her poking and prodding me), before diving into the next fantasy slash love story, and then … starting on volume II of the Most Famous of All Cookbook Authors‘ French Cuisine, which is an honor and a pleasure both.

Since this is still not that kind of blog, just a quick word on how pleased I am at the way the American people have spoken, effectively throwing the current public embarrassment to a prestigious political office out on his despicable ass. I think they did their country as well as the whole world a great service, and I feel we have a lot to be thankful for next week.

Incidentally, thanks to Covid, this will be the first time in years that I have no Winter Fayre to prepare on Thanksgiving weekend, and I’m looking forward to celebrating, even it will only be with my nuclear family instead of Friendsgiving like we used to do. This is fine. We haven’t spent all that much time together, the four of us, for months. Our son and GF tend to prefer to be alone. Our daughter has more and more Most Important Friends Stuff to do, and so we’re left to our own devices a lot of the time. It’s a new era of growing back into being a couple once again – it certainly is a process, and I’d be lying if I said I don’t find it hard sometimes.

This is a spot that I’m particularly fond of. As you can see, it’s an old oak grove (old in terms of a human lifespan, barely middle-aged in terms of tree life, no doubt), and to me, it’s an enchanted place. I always stop for a minute and just breathe whenever I walk there with Charlie. In early spring, winter and fall, it’s a light-filled space that reminds me of a church with no roof. Maybe the spiritual vibe is all in my head, maybe witches or druids used to converge there, no idea. It’s one of my favorite places in this forest, and I feel grateful every time I have a good reason for being there :-).

The recipe I want to rec today is not my own, but from a food blog I like very much. I stumbled across the blog while working on Ruth Roger’s River Café cookbook last summer, and it’s lovely and inspirational. I get notifications for new posts by Email, and the dish read so intriguing that I clicked on the link right away. I mean, pasta with creamed pistachios, with a dash of whisky or brandy? Come on!

The recipe is in German, and you’ll have to piece it together as best you can if you don’t speak the language. If you can read German, and love Italian cuisine, it’s definitely worth while to follow!

The gist of this particular dish is that you briefly sauté and heat the ingredients, then puree, topping your pasta with the creamy result. I assure you it’s amazing – here’s what ours looked like when we made it last week:

Even my daughter had a large plateful, and you know she’s not easy to please. Talking to my vegan friend A. on the phone, we reflected on a dairy-free alternative. I assume you could use a vegan cream substitute, soy or oat-based maybe? Not coconut milk though, I don’t think the flavor would go well with the pistachio and shallot. I will try that variation next time.

Have a good week, everybody. Stay healthy, and keep wearing those masks.

No Politics, Just Crafts

I’m very consciously avoiding refreshing the polls page every few minutes. Can’t concentrate for s… today, so might as well talk about other stuff instead.

I bought the yarn for the socks above at the supermarket – couldn’t resist the pull of the warm orange, and decided I need the socks as a bright spot for the dark months to come. They make me very happy! I don’t usually go in for the industrially pre-dyed patterned yarns, but I love the socks anyway.

They were finished Sunday night, after an eventful day that involved driving a few hours, vehicular knitting, visiting the shelter and bringing home yet another feline family member.

This is Mogli. He’s winsome and mischievous, and he is making a little girl very, very happy :-). Look at that impish little face with the huge ears!

I’ve always enjoyed knitting socks. It’s gratifying to me because it doesn’t take a lot of time, and you can do most of it without paying too much attention. Looking at your socked feet is nice, too – and of course they keep your feet warm, always a plus in ancient buildings like the one we live in.

Initially, I was going to make these for myself

but ended up making them a wee bit too small, and so handed them over to my daughter, who loved the color combo as much as I did.

The amazing fall break week off I gave myself seems to have initiated a crafts energy boost, and after all the socks, I’ve taken up the Waffle Blanket once more. The status quo is this:

That’s fifteen (!) balls of yarn in, the orange being the sixteenth. That blanket will not be a lightweight, that’s for sure. But I’m pleased with the look, and I’m not even agonizing about size and colors anymore. I now have enough yarn to make five color blocks if I want it longer after all. Every blanket is a journey, and this one is no exception.

My Stripy Sweater from last year has undergone final design changes. Planned as a square shaped affair,

it wasn’t really right for my figure, drawing more attention to my chest than I feel comfortable with, so I sewed an elastic in at the bottom edge, and it now looks and feels good to me.

Since the washing machine (and my son who is not yet familiar with the hand wash cycle) effectively ruined my daughter’s favorite pink sweater, I’m planning to make her a new one for Xmas. I’m looking at two weeks off between projects this month, so I’ll get a nice head start on it.

Work-wise, I’m fortunate enough to have been booked for sequels and follow-up projects until April next year. I’m as good as done with the demon urban fantasy that kept me busy over the last few weeks, and have an absolutely fabulous cookbook to look forward to as well. Also, several gorgeous free copies to give to my friends.

Today is a sunny fall day, and there was a first light bite of cold air in the morning. Every time I walk among the beautiful fall-colored foliage we have for a few weeks, I’m reminded of a story my parents used to read to me when I was little: Frederick the Mouse. It’s about a field mouse who does things a little differently from all his fellow mouses – which in the end is a gift to everyone, his family as well as those who get to enjoy this awesome classic among children’s books.

Another nice thing to think about is the fact that it’s pumpkin season. For me that means the Hokkaido variety, which I prefer to Butternut or other winter squash – I enjoy the creaminess and the potato-like texture. Now, I could eat soups every day, and not only when it’s cold out, and pumpkin soup has to be one of my all time favorites. The same is not true for my family, alas. But yesterday when I thought about what to make for dinner, I had an idea. What if, I thought, I were to add little spicy meatballs to the soup? I thought it might be nice if they were to taste a bit exotic, and since I had fresh cilantro and ginger in the fridge, I went with that. I added a little rice, don’t ask me why, it was a spontaneous decision, and then they turned out like pretty little hedgehogs, completely by happy accident:

And what do you know, everybody loved the soup! Even my daughter who hasn’t touched it for years asked for seconds, which I consider high, high praise.

Pimped-up Pumpkin Soup

2 small Hokkaido pumpkins, cleaned, seeded and cut up

3 shallots, peeled and roughly chopped

1 stalk celery

1 small parsley root, peeled and chopped

1/2 clove garlic

250 g ground beef

1 egg

1 handful broken rice

1 piece of ginger, 2 cm, peeled and chopped

1 handful mixed fresh herbs (I used cilantro, parsley and dill)

salt, pepper

vegetable broth to taste

1 cup cream

First, sauté in olive oil 2/3rds of the shallot and half of the ginger. Pour on water, and add the pumpkin, parsley root and celery. Add broth, salt, pepper and maybe a pinch of sugar to taste. Put to the boil.

Now prepare the meatballs. In a bowl, combine 1 egg, the herbs, the rest of the ginger and the shallot, garlic, salt and pepper. Puree with a stick blender. (I do this because my daughter dislikes it when meatballs contain chunks of onion or the likes. It’s completely optional, you might as well chop if you prefer.) Add the ground beef and the handful of rice. Combine to a solid mass, then form small (like 1,5 cm diameter small) balls.

In the pot, watch out for when the pumpkin starts to fall apart, then take the vegetables out of the broth with a slotted spoon. Set aside.

Now add your meatballs to the broth and cook for about 15 minutes. When done, fish out of the broth with your slotted spoon and set aside.

Put the vegetables back in the pot and puree with your stick blender, adding cream and spices to taste.

Finally, put the meatballs back in the pot, turn off the heat, put the lid on and let sit for a few minutes, while you cut up bread or lay the table.

And then – enjoy an autumnal bowl of fragrant, creamy, rich goodness.

Glad you joined me for a little walk away from the news! Let’s hope they will be good. And thank you for dropping by.