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!

Oh, Man …

I don’t know about you guys, but at this point I’m kind of resigned to the fact that 2020 is a bust, and a broken elbow (multifragmentary radial head fracture) fits in with the overall theme of things just being unexpected, and shitty this year.

Since I’m on a deadline (aren’t I always), I usually try to type for the translation only, in order not to overexert my right hand. Developing tendonitis in my good arm on top of everything else is all I need, right?

But today, I have to take a break from the manuscript, simply because I failed to pack it, so I thought I’d drop in and say hi. Injuries very effectively slow us down, don’t they? De-escalate us, as the new age lingo puts it. Now you would think I wouldn’t greatly mind that, in general, and I don’t. What I find challenging is not being the one who decides when to go at what speed exactly. Not used to being bossed around anymore, I suppose.

Also, asking for help is difficult. Especially since nobody is exactly thrilled to come do things for me at the drop of a hat … I’m sure I’m not being the best patient. My orthopedist suggested it’s an exercise in humility. He says he had the same injury himself, twice, so I guess he knows what he’s talking about.

So that’s my news, since my life came to a screeching (bone-crunching) halt ten days ago. And since I don’t really cook now, I’m posting a thing I made before the accident.

I was going to bake a loaf of bread, the one that uses a mix of oats, spelt and millet, when I realized we were out of oatmeal, and began rummaging for a substitute. I found cornmeal, which led to me thinking about tortillas, and so, on an impulse, I added more water and made a soft dough of spelt and cornmeal, and a handful of millet thrown in, also a baggie of dry yeast. After letting it rise, I formed little balls and rolled them out really thinly, then pan-fried them in olive oil. So that resulted in a sort of a tortilla flatbread, and I enjoyed dipping it into a basil-heavy, chunky tomato sauce.

Tortilla Flatbread Sorpresa

1 p dry yeast

1 TSP salt

1 TBSP sugar

250 g spelt flour

150 g cornmeal

Handful of millet

300 ml warm water (approximately!) to make a soft dough

Combine, let rise for 1 hour, then form balls of small handfuls of dough. Roll out to fit into your frying pan. Heat olive oil and fry from both sides until crisp. Drain on kitchen paper.

They were very good torn into bite-sized pieces and dipped into tomato sauce, I’m sure they’d be great with salsa, and the next day they were also nice as a breakfast burrito. (Lettuce, tomato, egg)

Sadly, I have next to nothing new on the crafts front, as my right arm activities are rationed to typing now, and resting my right wrist is paramount. I’m still rewatching Star Trek Voyager, and enjoying it very much, especially Mr Tuvok the Science Officer, who is a distinguished Vulcan :-).

I did make a little something for Granny Square Day on August 15th. Always a happy occasion, and as good a reason to play with yarn as any! I must have liked 100 posts with that hashtag that day :-). Amazing what true yarn artists can do, I just love that community.

So I hope everybody is keeping out of trouble, wearing their masks, and enjoying the late summer – isn’t going to the market the best now? Grapes and peaches and apples and plums and blackberries …

Aggression

This morning when walking Charlie, I’d barely gotten out of the car and embarked on my usual loop trail in the community forest when I heard a woman shout at her (evidently not very obedient) dog. It was borderline scary, the way she was reprimanding it: „Sit. Sit, I said! Did you not hear me?! Sit!!!“, steadily getting louder, as if the dog were talking back, as if it were a person. Poor doggo, I thought, as I walked away, a bit shaken.

A little further into my walk, two cyclists emerged from one of the other trails, a woman and her young child, the latter screaming and screaming and screaming: „I hate you, I hate you, I hate you, aaaaaaahhhh!“, at the top of her lungs, pedaling madly, then jumping off the bike, throwing it into the bushes, still yelling! It had an unbridled, violent ferocity to it, and interestingly enough, I felt myself react to the kid’s vibe of aggression, feeling angry in return, even though none of it was any of my business.

I couldn’t help but feel sorry for the lady who had to deal with that meltdown. And then, I heard her firmly say in a charming Swiss accent: „That’s quite enough now, Matilda.“ And lo and behold, the screaming gradually turned into sobs, and when I turned around to look for Charlie who had chosen that place as perfect for taking a dump (which I removed of course, duh), I saw that the bikes were parked by the side of the trail, and the child was in the woman’s arms, quietly crying it out.

I can not even tell you how much I admired that woman this morning. What a healthy, peaceful approach to her daughter’s meltdown. I have not known to be that patient with my own daughter, back in the day, and often caught myself the very last second before raising my hand to her, and certainly not always before raising my voice. Kudos to you, lady at the forest this morning, and well done. Marshall Rosenberg would be proud.

As I sit at my laptop, translating a fun book for young and aspiring Makers, I can hear the neighbors, more than they probably realize. It’s in the thirties again, everybody has their windows open, it’s an old building … One of them is a father of three sons, and I’ve been exposed to his type of aggro potential more times than I’d like, second hand. His sons seem even more sullen than the average boy their age. But he must love them anyway, right??

During the lock-down, I heard him lose it on a regular basis. Never to the point of becoming physical, but still, no bueno! When it happened, it made me feel blessed every single time, for having a large enough apartment so that everybody could retreat into their own corner to do their work, for having work in the first place, also for having a sweet little reason for taking walks every single day, allowing me to take deep, cleansing breaths, and center myself with nature’s help.

On a bad day, all these wise reflections don’t amount to much, of course. I, too, have been known to rant, yell, nag, and be mean. When caught on the wrong foot in the wrong moment, God help the person who came at me… even if they’re cute and little. Smartass comments from my teenager „Just say no mom“, or „You’re all hangry. Go eat and stop yelling at people“, or „Well, sorry if doing my a, b or c seemed more important than doing my chores …“ only add to the negativity, and it’s not easy to de-escalate the situation sometimes.

A sense of humor helps. As does feeling secure in the knowledge of being loved. I’m intensely grateful to my parents both who implanted this deep, deep down in my soul. It’s more than many people have, this trusting in the fact that I deserve to be loved. Of course, there were also many other things implanted, like the constant fear that everything might disappear into thin air at any given time, the impostor syndrome, the fear people might become angry with me, I could go on and on. But the love thing keeps the neuroses in balance, most days anyway.

I know for a fact that each and every one of you deals with aggression, in yourself as well as in your environment, one way or the other. Please talk to me about how you cope with it, what your strategies are, what makes you simmer down (and flare up) – it’s an interesting phenomenon, and we can all benefit from understanding it better, I think.

A Month Went By. Things Happened.

Oiwei, new technology. I hope everyone will appreciate how much of an effort I’m making just to get this post out there, once you read about my plight with the HEIC format photos!

So, my two favorite IT guys deemed it necessary to update my computer. Apparently, I skipped an update or two altogether. Oops. One of the new things is that HEIC format photos have replaced the JPEG format, which is cool enough because the new type of pics take up a fraction of the space JPEGs do and offer super quality to boot. Unfortunately, WordPress doesn’t support the format and refuses to upload my pics as I snap them on my iPhone. So it turns out if I want to use them here, I have to convert my photos back to JPEG, which is very cumbersome indeed, especially if you’re not exactly a tech wiz. So my son downloaded me a little program that does the converting for me, and thankfully it works. Unfortunately this means that instead of taking less space on my hard drive, it actually now takes up more, because I have both the HEIC version and the JPEG version of the pics I’m using on here, so I guess that update was not really all that helpful to me, as a blogger and user of Apple devices. Ugh. Who knew I’d one day write two whole paragraphs about tech?

But enough with that, and on with the more pleasant stuff.

That was the first day of my vacation mid July. We had the loveliest day on the water: Rented three rafts with friends and spent all day chilling, bathing, eating our pot-luck picknick (it was not a bad turnout, four foodie families made and brought stuff) and (for my part) hanging with my apprehensive dog who is not happy getting his feet wet even, but after a while learned to appreciate the sunshine and the breeze you get while being on a dry surface. A week later, we took him canoeing, and I got him used to regularly going out with me on the SUP. And yes, I know it means Stand Up not Sit Up, don’t get on my case.

The summer went by pretty much as summers in the country go for us: Visitors, outdoorsy activities, gardening, cooking, some work, some play, friends to hang with. My summer posts always talk about these types of things, I’ve realized.

Unlike in former years, there was notably little family time, though. Our son grudgingly agreed to spend two of his six weeks of summer break, his girlfriend also dropped in, which was lovely, but of course then it was them spending time with each other rather than with us. Stands to reason, too. They’re young and in love – and, in fact, gracious to hang with us at all. Our daughter was either busy with the other families‘ kids, or with her two friends from the city who each came to stay for a week, so we weren’t really needed for much else than feeding, and occasional shuttle services.

We realized we needed to find something to do that didn’t involve kids, but was for the two of us. So we taught our friends how to play Canasta. I mean, in only a few years, it will be our new normal to be by ourselves. The kids will move out, and we will have to start finding common ground again that is not us being parents. This is harder than you might think: my husband likes biking, which I don’t enjoy. I walk and hike (with dog whenever possible), my husband can’t, because hip. He listens to Jazz and Hip Hop which grate on my nerves, also Seventies guitar rock, which drives me up the walls. I like solo piano, preferably played by Keith Jarrett. Not exclusively, and of course I used to love Indie rock too when I was younger, but when in need of centering and calming music, I’m not going to put on The Pixies. Playing cards seems like a nice way to connect, and no screen involved either.

The past month was a good time for finding Chanterelle mushrooms, as they’re in season and plentiful because of regular rain. I topped everything I could with them: quiche, risotto, even mashed potatoes, roast chicken. I like to make a stir-fry of green beans and mushrooms, like so:

Also, we now own a gelato maker, which pretty much took care of the dessert question. It’s kind of scary how much ice cream this family can put away. My favorite was a complicated recipe (sorry, G!) for vanilla-y Crema di Limone. It uses two vanilla pods, several egg yolks, milk and cream, cooked in a bain-marie until it thickens – and is of course heavy on the sugar because of lemon and peel. I was lucky enough to have it made for me exclusively upon request.

Crafts happened on the regular, because I was on a potholder-making roll. I started out with these for my friend A, who owns the Brightest House in all the Land. I figured they’d be perfect for her kitchen, which is not only pretty but also getting used now they’ve gone vegan and actually need to cook ;-).

Next, I made the ones below for my friend in Bavaria, also a birthday gift. As you may or may not be able to see, I’ve improved the border of these fellows. It looks more even when you use, once again, the very balancing HDC stitch (half double crochet: yarn over as you would for a DC, make a stitch, then crochet all three loops you now have on your hook together.) When you get to the row you started on as you crochet all around the piece, you finish that edge with a row of slip stitch, for you have more volume than on the other three edges because you started out with a chain as a basis for the first row of DC. I’m really pleased with the result :-). It looks quite accomplished, and balanced.

Yesterday, I finished the first one of two I’m giving to yet another friend for his birthday (see below). The other one is going to be a pearly shade of grey, look.

And once I’m done with that, I’ll make my other friend whose birthday is a day after my own a pair of elegant dark grey Waffle Stitch potholders, for good measure. It seems everybody wants these, now! And then, I’ll go and finish my Waffle Blanket:

The turquoise part is almost as long as it should be, and it’s going to be so beautiful. Looking forward to snuggling up under it when it gets cold again.

Which is not now, and hopefully not any time soon. Right now, it’s bordering on too hot for my taste – today was an absolute scorcher, pretty much like the last couple of days have been. Not the best of weathers for the first day back to school. The afternoon’s brief downpour has only added humidity to the heat, not an improvement if you ask me. I’m sitting with a cold pack between my lap and the laptop, to save us both from melting.

I considered myself lucky when my kids missed the train this morning and had to be driven to school. I probably wouldn’t have had the energy for our first walk back in the community forest, otherwise. This was shortly after eight a.m. this morning:

I was actually tempted to follow a lady who was swimming in there with her lab, despite the questionable depths of that lake. It’s designated for the dogs‘ use only – but I did bathe my feet, as did Charlie, and it was wonderful. I’m going back there tomorrow morning, eight o’clock sharp!

I was going to leave you today with a whammy of a summer song, by the amazing Grand Dame of Eighties Rock from Italy, Gianna Nannini. I must confess I’d forgotten about it, as you do when you don’t really listen to a lot of radio. But I got this gem back when checking out the Italian Franchise of SKAM last year – not as amazing as the Norwegian original, but the kids were super cute. And in the New Year’s Eve scene, they were all belting out this song, instantly time-warping me to when I was my daughter’s age, and putting a big smile on my face. Ladies and gentlemen, Bello e Impossibile. Isn’t Italian the most elegant of the Romance languages? Enjoy!

Not Covid

IMG_4556So that’s how the summer break began for my little grasshopper who got to spend her first week in the country in bed, running a 40°C fever, popping ibuprofen and choking down chicken soup, one painful spoon at a time. Getting her tested out here was no fun, and my belief in doctors having to bow to the Hippocratic oath has been a bit shaken. But all is well that ends well. Test came back negative, and we got through this as a family, husband’s rapport with the local physician turning out to be considerably better than my own, me sticking to my guns (my chicken soup is a laser gun, at least), and our four-legged friend on hot-water bottle and morale officer duty. Also, thank God for Audible :-).IMG_4655Other than that? Work, albeit in a pretty spot – check out the little flower bed growing around the herb spiral in front of the kitchen window (scary-ass bush of spearmint on the right) IMG_4575I’ve also taken lots of walks in the forest, and Charlie made a friend, Little Charlie, a 4 month old pup.

Today is a rainy day, which is always a good time for baking. I made a loaf of bread, the 17-hours-rise-no-knead type I already talked about in an earlier post. Dough was mixed together yesterday, the yeast did its thing over night, and since humidity is conducive to yeast dough, it turned out nice:

I’m on the last editing round of volume 2 of the urban fantasy series I’ve been working on, and taking a break to blog instead of walking Charlie. Usually, at this time of day, I’ll have at least one, or two solid walks under my belt, but since my delicate City Dog refuses to set foot outside for anything but the bear necessities on rainy days, I’ve stayed inside as well.

IMG_4457Yesterday, my son successfully completed the written part of his driver’s license, and in a matter of weeks, the above will not be restricted to the training grounds, but our new normal. Mind-boggling. Didn’t I just teach this dude how to take his first steps? But looking at old pictures reveals the truth, as it will. It’s not only he who got older!

My kids say I should not dye my hair, and I respect their opinion. But I’m not totally sold on the silver foxy mane, tbh. Some mornings, I swear I feel my Granny’s staring back at me from the mirror.IMG_0052

I love that picture of her, even though you probably can’t see a lot because it’s so pixeled. I’ll have to get a better version of it to show you what I mean when I get home to my box of old family pics.

The rain not only has yeast-beneficiary qualities, but also makes these grow:IMG_4633So I guess I’ll go find some more tomorrow morning, since, miracle of miracles, my daughter ate (and loved) chanterelle quiche yesterday at my lovely neighbor’s, C., who was kind enough to give us lunch. I intend to take full advantage of this, as quiche used to be a no-go for her for a good 11 years.

Crafts have been happening, too, at a snail’s pace – I’ve been doggedly working my way through the Waffle Blanket. This stitch uses plenty of yarn, as I have said before, and it’s not quick work by a long stretch. I can handle it though, because I love it so much, the texture, the construction, the symmetry – really, it is one of my favorite crochet patterns. IMG_4578I’m now about 8 balls of yarn in, which amounts to a mere 28 cm length, given the width of the blanket, 120 cm. Sometimes, it’s a good thing to do the math, for this tells me I’ll need 5 more balls of each of the 4 colors I’m using, maybe only 4. But since it’s sock yarn, there will be other ways to use it in case I order too much.

And now for a much beloved summer recipe.

One of my annual summer favorites is Cherry Clafoutis, a simple, seasonal dish from the French countryside, that was made with freshly picked fruit from the orchards (which is exactly what we did last weekend. It was most idyllic indeed: sent the boy up into the tree to pick, cooked, then sat all my family, and some friends, down at the sun-dappled picknick table, and spent the summeriest of summery afternoons so far this year.) Cynics, please don’t puke, it really was a nice time :-).

The recipe could not be any simpler. It uses flour, eggs, milk, sugar and salt, and of course, cherries.

Coveted Cherry Clafoutis

100 g flour (I used spelt)

50 g sugar

200 ml milk

2 eggs

Pinch of salt

Vanilla to taste

350 g cherries, pitted

Make a crêpe-like batter, butter a pan, pour in the batter and evenly distribute the fruit. Bake at 160 °C for about 30-40 minutes until golden brown at the edges.

Invite friends, bring it out to the park or garden, and enjoy :-).

Decisions, decisions

IMG_4421So, it’s been quite the month. Our daughter had an important choice to make regarding the future of her education. It took us all by surprise to learn really short-term that she didn’t get into the school she’d applied to, and things got really hectic and stressful from there for a while.

The alternative offered by the public school system was a school she had not seen during the Open Door Days in January, as she’d already made up her mind about the other place. She could not visit the school now due to Covid restrictions, but fortunately, she had a very good second-hand opinion to go on from our friends whose son graduated from the place two years ago.

The other option was doing a complete change-up and going Waldorf, joining her brother’s school.

The choices were clouded over by the devastating effect of failing to get what you worked so hard for. This would have frustrated anybody, let alone a young child of 11. There were bitter tears, self-hatred and a look of resignation on a face entirely too young for that kind of expression.

In this shit show, among all the damaged self-esteem and confusion and being forced to make a decision over the course of little more than one week, my most important goal was to empower her, make her own her situation, and enable her to make a decision she could feel good about – and be a girl boss again, a quality that had been dampened somewhat over the last two challenging school years.

Some of our less Waldorf-conscious friends felt that was not the right place for her, because she’s focused and ambitious enough to brave the public school system. Others pointed out that Waldorf people tend to be somewhat distrustful of the ‚real world‘ later in life, having spent so much time in that beautiful parallel universe.

So both schools had their perks. The public school offered a larger campus and more interesting extracurricular activities. The Waldorf takes a year longer and final exams are more challenging. Both offer French. It was a process.

To be honest, at some point, I really didn’t care much one way or the other anymore. We wanted to get it over with, and I just needed my daughter to smile again.

So, after sitting down and going over all the pros and cons, color-coding and mind-mapping priorities, and two more days of agonizing, we finally had white smoke, and E. had made her decision: It appears we will be a Waldorf family for a little while longer.

As I said, quite the month.

In other news, I have a new waffle iron. It’s the type that makes square waffles, not round, not rectangular, but square, here, have a look:
IMG_4392I’ve tinkered a bit with various recipes, and have made to date: buttermilk waffles, savory zucchini, feta cheese and herbs waffles (using buckwheat and rye flour), poppyseed waffles, and almond flour and Parmesan cheese waffles. The beauty of this particular waffle maker is not only that it reminds me of America but also that it makes four pieces at a time. So you basically have your batter used up in a matter of 20 minutes, whereas you took more like 40 with my old round-shaped where you could only make one waffle at a time. Sorry for geeking out on you about this, but I’m really having fun with this new toy :-).

Speaking of waffles, I’ve made some progress on the waffle stitch blanket. I’m about six balls of yarn in now.IMG_4440So the last days of school are behind us, and for the next few weeks, I’ll only have work and vacation issues to worry about. I’m looking forward to summer break this year, it feels like we all earned it.

Stay tuned for the first ‚dog and kids by a lake‘ pics next week. Have a lovely end of June, and stay safe, stay healthy, everyone.

 

Not Politics, just Humanity

IMG_E4408We made the banner above for the march last but last Saturday, and then ended up hanging it from our balcony. Each in our own way, we process what is happening in the United States. From our vantage point thousands of miles away, we watch the appalling violence, and the outrage and pain of the people who say: Enough is enough. No more. Things need to change. In quiet solidarity, we support their demand for equality, justice, and a new era. May their voices be heard. May the terrible tragedies bring better times. May the people vote with their hearts and their brains in the right place this time. We’ll be watching.

So I’ve been following Whitney Cummings‘ podcast Good For You for a few months – if you don’t know her, she’s a bitingly funny, brilliant stand-up comedian, and she’s also _very_ good at getting people to talk – check out her conversations with Dave Grohl of Nirvana, and the Foo Fighters, the lovely Wizard of Schitt’s Creek, Dan Levy, and, more recently, David Oyelowo whom you may have seen as Dr. King in Selma. It’s an awesome interview, and you may come away being a little more thoughtful, and a little more humble, and also a little more angry. We have so much to learn, so we can teach our kids.

We have an African American friend, a beautiful, funny and interesting guy who was one of my son’s baby playgroup kids‘ dad. We lost touch over the years (and a break-up), but I always liked him so much, and am proud to call him a friend. I was reminded of how he told me once after he’d had a skinful that he’d been in jail when he was young. At the time, I was shocked – this dude is a college-educated, kind and well-spoken man who plays tennis and teaches English – and still, he ended up with a criminal record because he did something stupid when he was a kid in Chicago, with the wrong skin color. As a white kid, he would no doubt have gotten away with a fine and a slap on the wrist.

As a first-generation migrant, I feel I have _some_ notion of the otherness people of color are facing on a daily basis, as this country was not a particularly welcoming place when I came here in 1977. But unlike for them, it was, after a few years (going on a lifetime) of assimilation, comparably easy for me to blend in, simply because I don’t look different.

See, I have the luxury of being able to not feel German, even though people rarely notice I’m not. In fact, it takes them by surprise to learn I was born in an Eastern European country. It’s a choice I make, not a necessity, to maintain my otherness, in which I’ve come to find some comfort. An identity that isn’t determined by appearance, first and foremost, but by individual qualities I’ve grown into over the course of fifty years, stuff I’ve learned, things I remember from my childhood, all adding together to what makes me who I am. As my American expat friend J. so aptly put it: I’m not German. I’m not an American anymore either. I’m just me.

So that got deep. Let me add one more thing I encourage everyone to watch if you haven’t seen it already – Dave Chappelle’s 8:46. Who knew Chappelle would make me cry one day.

A word on crafts, before I get back to our pre-summer break madness: I’ve ripped up the color block blanket from two years back,IMG_6648because I didn’t love it anymore. Instead, I’ve started this yarn-eating, yummy waffle-stitch monster:IMG_4440It’s slow going, but I’ve got all summer, right? I’ll prob have to order a few more balls of yarn, but who’s counting! Working on blanket projects when there’s no school is a good thing, in my experience:

Can’t believe I made all those. And yet, when I happen to look in the drawer containing my Gran’s lace knitting and crochet, I can. Some people apparently like to keep their hands busy so they won’t lose their minds. I can’t begin to imagine what life was like for her in WW II – my dad was the only one of her family alive after 1945, two children and her husband gone, as was her comfortable, happy life, her family’s fortune and homes, furniture, art … but I can see her working her way through the horror, the grief and the ugliness, stitch by stitch by stitch. She was a formidable lady with a great sense of humor and a kind heart.

Okay, and there it got dark again. Can’t help myself, apparently, today. Thank you for reading, guys. Have a lovely weekend.

Cooking with Soybean Granules

‚When in doubt, go make some food‘ has been my motto for decades. Writing this, I realize, makes me sound ancient, which is probably a matter of perspective. I started cooking when I was around 15-16. It was after my dad had passed away, my mom was working full time, and in the afternoons, I’d come home to an empty apartment, starving. Note to the millenials: there were no school cafeterias, back then. So I’d make pasta, most of the time, because there were fixings for that in the cupboard.) Over the years, my skills have expanded. I had a lot of practice, and also I always enjoyed making food, for myself and for others. Cooking kept me sane and reasonably well nourished, and I’m still curious to try out new things.

My daughter’s request for eating less beef for environmental reasons made me consider alternatives for ground beef, because this family eats quite a bit of that (meatballs, spaghetti Bolognese, lasagna, chili con carne, tacos … it’s a staple, in this house.) So I did some research and found this at the organic food store:IMG_4261On the package, it said it was good for all the above mentioned recipes, so I decided I’d try out – well, not meat, but fried soy mince balls. In the instructions, I was advised to soak the dry soy granules in 3 times the amount of hot water or broth for 10 minutes before use. Well, I did, and it turned out a sad and soggy mess. Even though I strained it and pressed the hot water out as best I could, it was still very wet. It did _not_ look appealing, but then again, neither does ground meat, so I figured I’d season it the way I would meat balls (a bit more spicy perhaps) and see where it took us. I mean, I didn’t expect great things in terms of flavor from such an extremely processed food. It looks like it will taste bland, right?

No Meat Soy Balls

1 cup soy crumbs

2 shallots

1 clove garlic

5 sage leaves

2 sprigs parsley

1/2 TSP Oregano (dry)

1/2 TSP thyme (dry)

1/2 TSP dill (dry)

1/4 TSP cinnamon

1/4 TSP paprika

1 TSP mustard

1 TSP Ajvar

Salt and pepper to taste

2 eggs

Like I always do, I coarsely chopped the shallots, garlic and herbs, added spices, condiments and eggs, and then blitzed the whole thing – it’s the only way to make my daughter eat meatballs, for there can be no discernible pieces of onion, herbs or the likes in there. It’s just the way she rolls.

Then, I added the soaked and drained-squeezed soy crumbs, mixed everything with a fork, and set aside for a couple minutes. After which I added half a cup of _dry_ soy crumbs. Still too moist, so I added 1/2 cup flour, and 1/2 cup buckwheat. Annoyingly, it was still too moist to make decently shaped patties. So I poured dry breadcrumbs on a plate, took portions out of the mixing bowl by the spoonful and rolled those in the breadcrumbs. Then I fried the patties in oil. And that worked:

IMG_4257After a couple minutes browning from both sides, I took them out, let them drain on kitchen paper, and tried one:IMG_4258Then I jogged over to my vegetarian bestie with a sample, and got both her approval and the request for the recipe, which I thought I’d write up real quick before I forget what went in there.IMG_4260Verdict: The non-meat balls turned out to be tasty. My friend said they reminded her of falafel (she’s from the Middle East), I thought they tasted like meatballs, and my daughter said she had not expected them to be edible, but was pleasantly surprised. High praise, right?

So, that was the first adventure with soybean granules. I’ll research non-meat ragú next.

Have a lovely week, everybody.

What’s A Week-end…?

IMG_4201Remember the Dowager Countess, mother to Downton Abbey heir Lord Grantham, ingeniously portrayed by the great Dame Maggie Smith? This was one of her infamous remarks, when confronted with a person from the working class whom she had a conversation with, unfamiliarly not in the capacity of them being her staff. It was a doctor, I think. The concept of working during the week, and then resting for two days was just so very foreign to her ;-). I found it hilarious, which is probably why I still remember it, even though I haven’t watched Downton in years.

Our lives today couldn’t be more different, of course. I think in my person alone, I embody the characters of Ms Patmore the cook, Lady Grantham the lady of the house, Branson the chauffeur and Daisy the maid. I plan meals, I cook, I grocery shop, I clean up after the kids, I take care of everybody’s laundry, I drive the kids (not right now, because none of us really goes anywhere, but usually.) When my husband is here (and he has been since mid March, working from home, just like everybody else) we share these duties. Also, we both work a lot. Bringing up kids, helping them through school, keeping them fed and clean and happy is a job of its own, as every parent knows. And despite all that being a lot, sometimes, most of the time, everything somehow falls into place, occasionally with some shaking and rattling, but all in all, rolling.

As a self-employed person, I have some leeway in terms of when to do what, and I like it like that. Also, it’s very useful if I need to tend to a child at the drop of a hat. But it does mean my life is a very mixed bag: tasks I’m paid for, stuff I have to do even though I’m not, and generally many, many little things in between. And thanks to my therapist, Dr K, religiously, mindfully taken breaks.IMG_4210My morning today is a good example. I woke up early, read for a bit, took a short morning walk with the pup, made tea, got back in bed for Sunday morning cuddles with dog & daughter, and some way too difficult Sudoku. Made breakfast, cleared up, proofread some work I had done yesterday, emailed said work and the invoice, checked my bank statements while I was at it, and then clicked on a blog I follow, since I was already on the computer.

Quarantine has changed everybody’s schedules. Homeschooling and -office have caused the days to bleed into each other, and while I have much respect for the notion of work-life balance, I suspect I’m either not very good at it, or I’ve mastered the task of just doing both while not being affected by the fact that there’s no clear distinction between the two. So that made me think of the Dowager Countess and her gentle discombobulation regarding week-ends, this fine Sunday :-). Maybe I’ll have to re-watch Downton and see if I can ease back into it?

So Elfie has settled in nicely, thank you for asking. We installed an elaborate cat tree in my son’s room, with various things to climb into and sit on, which she seems to appreciate. Next week, we plan to have her explore her new realm (formerly known as our apartment) a bit more, one room at a time, and we plan to properly introduce our two animals. Wish us luck for that.

Craft-wise, I’m nearly done with the baby blanket for our young neighbor, check it out:IMG_4213I’ll have to try out a few things for the border, I was thinking maybe something like I made for my daughter’s Dotty Blanket?IMG_5629Off-white and a final round of picots? Maybe one teeny tiny row of pink SC strewn in? We’ll see. Looking forward to tinkering with that. I love borders!

Have a good start into next week, everybody, stay sane, safe and healthy.

A Memorable Day

What a Mother’s Day I had this year! The kids made breakfast and gave me a cute and thoughtful gift, we took a beautiful walk through the green forest, I got to soak up a load of sunshine and do some lakeshore crochet. It was a very good day. And then, I got to do the ultimate Mama thing and give my son his heart’s desire: we have a new cat.IMG_4170Meet Elfie. She’s 13 years old, has the most amazing blue eyes and the fluffiest fur – and she’s a sweet and friendly creature. We picked her up at the shelter, where they were more than happy to give her to us. Apparently, people don’t take in older animals much. I mean, it’s not the same as adopting a kitten, obviously, there’s a different timeline, and different needs. But we know our way around an elderly cat, and we just followed our hearts.

We had met her on Friday, when we were there to just have a look around, and we bonded with her right away – and then we sort of talked about little else all weekend. My son did a complete 180 (he’d been talking about a young black tomcat, and what we got was, well, the opposite, in every way :-D!) When we went back on Sunday to have Elfie meet Charlie, we ended up just taking her with us. Why wait? We had made up our minds. And my boy can’t stop smiling, so I’d say without a trace of irony that that went well.

And man, is it nice to hold a purring kitty! My heart melts at the sound :-). Even though it belongs to this li’l dude, mostly, along with all the rest of my body, which he feels very proprietary about.F18821CE-CFB9-4964-BE14-450161AFC6E5May Elfie be happy here at our zoo.