Whoa, Whoa, Whoa!

Well? Is everybody feeling the pre-holiday madness yet?

Kids counting down the days, adults scrambling to get every little thing on their to-do lists done, everyone feeling pressure of some sort, sniffling and coughing all around …

This post is me trying to step on the brakes, to calm down, to give myself a breather, starting with a well-loved cookie recipe. Those of you who are RL friends have probably eaten these at my house before. Readers who don’t know me in person and followers from other countries may not even be familiar with these cutely named, crescent-shaped almond morsels:

Ladies and gentlemen, Vanillekipferl.

They are, as the name suggests, vanilla-flavored, and you can go nuts with that – in fact, there’s not really anything like too much vanilla where these croissant-shaped beauties are concerned. The dough itself is not overly sweet, and has a lovely, nutty crunch. But it’s after baking that they really get their oomph: once cooled down to hand warm temperature, you roll them in a mix of powdered sugar and vanilla powder… and the result is quite magic. You’ll see.

I just finished my first draft of the tome that had me busy since September, and I feel I need a short break from it before I start editing it in earnest. So I’ve been doing things like: putting together and posting packages for family. Finishing a last-minute hand made prezzie for my dear A, gift giver extraordinaire and best friend for decades. Composing and sending out Christmas messages for my clients. Putting together grocery lists for the holidays. Buying and decorating our tree. Ordering last minutes gifts. Having laser surgery on my foot (plantar warts, not pretty!) that still has me hobbling alongside my dog instead of properly walking him. Bookkeeping, including a series of increasingly stern past due notices to an exceptionally tardy client, so annoying. I mean, do these people not realize this is my livelihood…? It’s so disrespectful to make me chase their tails to diplomatically remind them that they’ve been owing me 900 bucks for months! Doctor’s appointments with my kid. Carpooling. Last children’s dance performance. And so on, and so forth …

I’m sure many of you must be in similar situations! My method for stopping my brain from doing cartwheels is killing the stress with kindness. Here are a few ideas that work for me, maybe you’ll find some of them helpful as well (not all of them at the same time, maybe just one or two things – you do you!)

  • Move to the kitchen. Cook a meal from scratch. Bake some bread. Make a recipe you love, or try a new one. Something nourishing you enjoy.
  • Put on music. A Christmas playlist, if you’re so inclined. Classical music. Old Jazz. Low-fi hip hop. Foo Fighters or Metallica, if that is your happy place. This is for you, and anything that has you smiling is allowed.
  • Take a mindful walk. Touch a few trees, bring home a beautiful dried leaf, pine cone, a pretty twig.
  • Run a bath using your favorite bath salt. Mine is and will always be lavender.
  • Do crafts – but not in a hectic, need-to-finish-by-Christmas kind of way. Just at your leisure. Feel the texture of the yarn, or cloth, clay, paper – whatever you enjoy.
  • Call a friend whom you haven’t spoken to in a while. How are they doing? Catch up.
  • Light candles – these last days before winter solstice are really dark, aren’t they?
  • Eat some nice and juicy fruit that has seen lots of sun – an orange, a tangerine, a cantaloupe. Relish the sun-drenched taste.
  • Go to bed really early, if you feel like it, and treat yourself to a good night’s sleep. Or stay up late, if you’re a night owl. Anything that helps recharge those batteries.

The Christmas holidays can be an emotional time, and not necessarily in a good way for just everyone. Not all of us have peaceful childhood memories, and the general cheer that society seems to expect from us once the smell of cinnamon and fir trees is in the air can get a bit much, at times. The important thing, I think, is to take good care of ourselves at this time of the year, whether we love the ding-ding-ding of Jingle Bells, or prefer removing ourselves from seasonal Western customs to do yoga or meditation when we have a few days off.

To me personally, Christmas is about love, and about trying to be kind, about making someone smile. It’s not about religion, but it’s not not about religion, either. It’s about seeing the good in people, maybe, difficult as it sometimes is. We’re all flawed, but we can try to do better. Ultimately, Christmas seems as good an opportunity for that as any.

Moving on to lighter matters! Here’s a few crafts projects I managed to wrap up, while resting my foot.

The Waffle Blanket, ends all darned in, washed and blocked (I know I sort of showed this already when it was almost finished, but it bears repeating!) – I’m really pleased with it.

The Aubergine Sweater is done! It’s my interpretation of petiteKnit’s ‚Monday Sweater‘ – with color block rib at neck, cuffs and bottom. It fits really well, and I’m so happy to have completed what in the beginning seemed like a monumental task:

Clearly, I’m not the only person in this house who is going to be wearing it, and that is as it should be.

My son had asked for black flip-top mittens, and here they are:

The secret present my friend A doesn’t yet now about is this pair of fingerless mittens:

And I’ve been making sets of crochet coasters like this one that’s in use on my desk:

They developed from my contribution to Granny Square Day in August …

… and will, hopefully, make a good present for my MIL who already has everything, twice over. The only possibility to give her something she actually likes is to make her stuff. So I do!

And that, folks, is it for today.

Thank you for reading, and for coming back – all followers, subscribers, online and RL friends – happy holidays to you, any which way you like to spend them. See you next year!

A Sick Kiddo Post

‚Tis the chicken soup season, folks – not a month has gone by since school started again that not at least one of us has been sick. What you can see up there was pretty much how last week went. There was chills and fever, there was aversion to food in general, there was snot and coughing – all the good stuff that comes with a head cold.

Having brought up two kids, over the years this has become familiar territory for me. I’ve gotten good at working on my laptop sitting up in bed, so I can squeeze in some pages in between all the Florence Nightingale-ing. In case you, too have flu patient young’uns to care for in the winter, here’s what I do to make them feel better.

1. Try and accept that you won’t be able to work your usual schedule. If you can, set up a home office situation. Take a sick day or two if possible.

2. Respective to the sickness, stock up on groceries, meds and teas. For flu, organic chicken and vegetables, lemons, oranges, cantaloupe, mango, grapes – anything that’s nice and juicy, and might appeal. We like sage tea, and my kids both enjoy honeyed hot milk. If they feel like juice, get them juice. No fizzy drinks or sodas because those irritate the throat. Flu medication suitable for kids, and massage and essential oils to help with the joint- and headaches – nobody sleeps well when they’re in pain.

3. Make chicken soup! (Short version: Set up 1 organic chicken, 2 onions, 1 clove garlic, a few slices fresh ginger, 5 carrots, 1 parsley root, 1/2 fennel bulb, 1 tomato, 2 celery stalks, bunch of parsley, salt, pepper and pinch of sugar with water. Bring to the boil, let simmer for 1 1/2 hrs. Take out chicken an de-bone and remove skin and cartilage, drain the broth, cook white rice or noodles, serve with or without meat, depending on the patients‘ preference.)

4. I let them sleep wherever they’re the most comfortable. Couch, their bed, my bed – anywhere they can sleep is fine, because sleep is what they need most. Air the room, light a candle, set them up with enough fluids, apple slices or crackers. Offer hot beverages in regular intervals.

4. Don’t let them use their screens too much, and suggest an audio book or music instead. If you both enjoy that, read to them. If they’re old enough to read on their own, let them read to their heart’s content. Get them a new book, or unearth a favorite old one they might enjoy re-reading. I must have read Lord of the Rings ten times over whenever I was bedridden when I was young!

5. Cuddles to the max! By you, by pets, by stuffed animals. Hot water bottles. Thick socks. Fluffy sleep gear or sweaters. Feeling something soft against feverish skin is key.

6. If the headaches aren’t too bad, don’t stress about media overload. If they have a fever and feel lousy as well as bored, favorite shows, movies or video games may be part of their comfort zone. I remember that for me, my Gameboy was ;-), and so I don’t mind the iPhone all that much.

7. Allow hot baths – with a soothing bath salt or supplement. The steam is great for irritated respiratory tracts, and if it smells of lavender, or lemon balm, or anything the sick child finds comforting, all the better. Rather short and hot than long and lukewarm, and then fresh PJs, a freshly aired room and a tall glass of something to drink after, to replenish what they sweated out in the tub.

8. Be available to talk. Sick kids often have stuff on their minds, and they might be more open to talk about difficult things, in a situation where they feel safe and cared for. Who knows what weighs them down – don’t miss out on this opportunity to connect.

9. Don’t be too strict with treats. If they feel like hot chocolate, go make some. If they crave frozen yogurt, give it to them. If they feel like Wonton soup, order in. It doesn’t matter, you want them to eat something they enjoy, and to get better. Even a pizza might go a long way. Don’t feel inconvenienced, they’re just feeling lousy and picky. This is not about you.

10. Find activities you can do in bed. Crossword. Sudoku. Battleship. Knitting or crochet. (During this flu round, my daughter learned how to knit (and purl!). I call that one productive bout of the flu ;-)). Journaling. Sketching. Drawing.

11. Only when the fever has gone down, even bring up school. There always comes a point when the kids‘ energy comes back for a few hours, and if it does, try and interest them in a math problem, or on catching up with history.

12. Encourage contact with friends, via phone or computer. It catches them up with what went down at school, and it’s a good opportunity to pass on notes.

13. Once they’re feeling better, try and coax them to go outside for a little. Bribe them if you have to (ice cream, fries, a treat from the bakery, a new book…). Expose them to sunshine and fresh air. It’s exercise, they’ll sleep better, it recharges the Vitamin D, which all helps them get well.

14. Don’t make them go back to school to soon – this is a common mistake for parents who are (understandably) eager to get their lives and work schedules back on track. But from experience I can tell you this can backfire spectacularly, and all too soon you’ll have them back in bed like a boomerang. Nobody wins if you rush it! Only let them go if they’re well again, haven’t had any fever for at least a day, and honestly want to go.

And that is what I know about caring for a sick kid. May it help you! Maybe you also have some piece of wisdom to share? I’ll gladly include any cool tips you have.

A few weeks more, and we’ll be celebrating Christmas. This year, it kind of snuck up on me, what with caring for the sick and working long hours. I’ve not been able to do much in the way of Christmas shopping or activities. But I have made two varieties of cookie dough, and hope we can get started with the Christmas Cookie Extravaganza soon.

During the many hours watching Brooklyn 99 over the last week, I did manage a major crafts feat, though – I’m really and truly done with the Waffle Blanket. Here it is, being put to excellent use:

As you can see, there are a gazillion threads to be darned in, and of course it still needs washing and blocking, but the crochet part is DONE. I’m really pleased with the result, even though I feel it could have been a wee bit wider, in hindsight, maybe like another 30 more stitches or so. But we’ll see how the final measurements are once it’s blocked. I’m guessing it’ll gain 5-10 cm in both length and width. With 145 x 175 cm, it’s already a perfectly acceptable size for one person (or two) to snuggle in with :-).

Other accomplishments include finishing the first sleeve of my Monday Sweater. Again, unlike called for in the pattern, I used the same size needle for both sleeve and cuff.

Also, I impulse-purchased a new gadget for late-night crafts while watching a show, useful also as a late-night reading lamp when not reading on a reader or phone: Behold the neck lamp!

I saw this on an IG post of Nomad stitches, the crochet artist whose book I translated last year, and whom I’ve been following ever since. It immediately made sense to me, because I’ve been yelled at (flare light!!!) for ruining movie night experiences more times than I can count, when forced to check on my work during a movie as it usually is way too dark to see.

It’ll also be very helpful for my next project, flip-top mittens for my son – guess what, of course he wanted black! Difficult to see clearly even in the sunlight, they’re next to impossible to work on at night, and with this, I think I’ll manage just fine.

And lastly, let me show you this bag full of happiness, which my husband will be giving me for Christmas:

A similar yarn combo as the one I used for my red scarf, this one here:

This is an Icelandic merino yarn, and a thin mohair thread. It’s enough yarn for a roomy winter sweater, which I’m greatly looking forward to starting on – but I promised myself to finish the Monday Sweater first.

And that is all for today, I think. I wanted to walk the dog before sundown (ridiculous at 3.30 p.m., but such are the days in early December), so have a lovely 2nd Advent Sunday, and a great week to come. Thank you for dropping in and reading :-)!