A Dog Post 2.0

Two years ago today, I went to bed with a heavy heart. First thing in the morning, I was to go pick up a dog I had seen only once before, take him away from his family including three other dog friends, and bring him into a completely different environment than he was used to: Big city, no yard but parks and streets, a family he didn’t know, and an old lady of a cat who had not really met any dogs before. To say I was freaking out would be putting it mildly.

As you can guess, it’ll be the two-year anniversary of one of the most life-changing days of my life: the day Charlie moved in. I remember not really allowing myself to be believe it was real, until we walked him to the car, strapped him in and drove away from his old home. And still, I was expecting him to cry, and he didn’t. Instead, he fell asleep on my son, napping all the way to Berlin, and after arriving, took a happy walk with me at the little park around the corner. Up in the apartment, he checked out his new digs and promptly fell back asleep again next to me on the couch.

At the time, I didn’t realize how many hours per day Dachshunds really sleep (up to 17!), and I was all sorts of worried he might be in shock, pining for his old home, people and dog friends, and want to go back home.

The things I didn’t know then were many, but my intentions were good, and I was willing to learn. All in all, everything went so much better than I would have expected, and Charlie seemed really happy with us. Not once did I have the impression he was missing something. To the contrary, he seemed to latch onto me almost instantaneously, following me around the house wherever I went (including bathroom), sleeping next to me burrowed under the same blanket, sharing my desk chair (talk about dynamic sitting!) …

Charlie came to live with us when he was 9 months old. He was not a puppy anymore, and had just hit puberty. The previous owners had already used him to make babies at 6 or 7 months old; the reason they had to give him away was a genetic incompatibility with one of the other female dogs (not the one whose 5 puppies he fathered), and they were nervous lest an unwanted pregnancy should happen. He had only been with that family for 6 months before moving in with us. You could say that he had a bit of a first year!

I made an appointment with a dog trainer right away, who taught me many useful things in the handful of sessions we did. The rest was flying by the seat of my pants, faith, and most of all, unconditional love.

The last one came easily. I’d grown up with a Dachshund when I was little, who was very much my mom’s dog; I missed him when I moved out, but there was never a question of me taking him with me, or wanting one of my own – it just didn’t seem practical. I was young, had classes and a student job, and later on work, and went out a a lot at night. So, no dog, but soon enough, cats. They were wonderful, and even though I always loved dogs, actually owning one, taking the responsibility seemed way out of my league. Cats, I could handle.

Then I had my son. I learned I could be a mom, that I wasn’t bad at it at all, and that it made me unexpectedly happy – suddenly, responsibility didn’t seem so scary anymore.

But it was only much later, when we went to see our family in California, fall of 2018, that the dog idea was born. We went out the night before my daughter turned 10, our folks took time off from work to do stuff and travel around a bit with us, their youngest and my daughter got on like a house on fire, and we enjoyed two great weeks with them.

Also, they have a dog, who was kind enough to let me pet him, a lot. One night, we were sprawled on the couch, dog in my lap, talking about what I don’t remember. I was stroking his silky fur, apparently looking blissed out or something, because suddenly my husband burst out: Alright, alright, alright!

So I can actually pinpoint when it was that I actually let myself think about the possibility of getting a dog. Not a Border Collie like our family’s in California, because I don’t have that kind of yard, and I’m not a runner or cycler, and those breeds need their daily workout. Something smaller, maybe. My husband said, maybe a Beagle? Very cute dogs. Maybe a Jack Russell Terrier. Maybe a mutt from the shelter. Maybe, maybe, maybe …

A few months later, I was looking for something on ebay Classified ads, and completely out of the blue typed in: Dachshund. And lo and behold, in the listings, there was a picture of Charlie. I was mesmerized. The kids were like: But … but we have a cat. This was true. My husband said: But … but you don’t have time for a dog! Or did I? I slept on it, then wrote to the lady and asked for details, told her who we were, and that I’d very much like to meet Charlie if possible.

She called me back right away, and we talked for a good while. Then she said she already had a few offers, and she’d get back to us. It was a weird couple of weeks in limbo, not knowing what was what. After a number of messages to and fro, I said: Listen. We’re spending our Easter holidays close to where you are. We’d be willing to come see you. Please let us know whether you want to meet, or else let us know if you’ve decided for someone else. We just need to know.

In the end, they came to see us at the cottage. Charlie seemed to like us, the dad was crying a tear or two at the thought of letting him go, but evidently we made a good impression, because the same evening she called and said they were willing to let us have him.

There he is, in my lap, and I touched him as carefully as if he was made of glass … and still, I didn’t let myself believe it was real, even though by that time, I’d realized I wanted it to be, so much – until the day that was tomorrow two years ago.

I do not have a single regret. It was the best decision ever. I’m deeply in love with Charlie, as are my husband and kids, and we cherish every single day with him. He makes me laugh, he makes me go outside and walk every day, and without wanting to sound dramatic, I can honestly say that I feel complete now. Who knew it took a small, bow-legged, big-hearted fellow with a long snoot to accomplish that?

My kids say he has my nose ;-). Isn’t it true that dogs and their owners often have a great resemblance?

Thank you everyone who has been part of that journey, and thank you, kind readers, for taking a walk down memory lane with me tonight.

Have a good week!

Place of Rest

Last weekend was a good one, that held all the things I like about our country cottage. There were long walks, there was baking, there was fresh asparagus because it’s almost May, there were friends – and also, very cool, all the four of us went out together – a thing not to be taken for granted. As my brilliant friend N said: When we were young, we fled from our parents. And our kids choose to spend their vacations and free time with us. What a blessing, right?

Anyway. What also happened was that I was able to put to rest a piece of my late parents‘ headstone. I’ve talked about the strange German regulations regarding cemetery use before. If you don’t feel like re-reading my rant, don’t. I was angry and depressed, lashing out because I felt helpless. Anyway, the gist is that in this country you (usually) rent the tomb from the city for a duration of (usually) 20 years. In some cases, you can renew the lease, in others you can’t. This was the case with my parents‘ grave, their time was up and I was asked to have removed the tomb and remains. I contacted a local stonemason to take care of it, and I asked him if he would cut off a piece of the headstone for me, and have it shipped to Berlin. This happened end of last year, and the stone sat in our shed, neatly wrapped up in bubble wrap, waiting for the right moment to find it a new (and hopefully permanent) resting place in our garden. Last Sunday, my husband and son helped me position it next to our old linden tree in front of the house.

I feel relieved and like I’ve found a closure I wasn’t even really aware I needed. (You’d think burying your parents would grant you that, but hey. We live and learn.) So thank you everyone who commiserated with me, and listened to me complain about the stupid law, also you people who helped me come up with this very good solution for a sad problem.

On to something a little less dark. I said I baked over the weekend, and despite this being a stolen recipe, I feel I should share it. The original was this one, and I was very happy to have found it when I was browsing. My version looked less perfect than the blogger’s, and I think I also know why. Cooling the dough balls dipped in powdered sugar _again_ before baking is key (you need space for 2 baking sheets in your fridge for that), as the blogger points out – unfortunately without specifying how long exactly. Next time I make them I’ll go with an hour and not 30 minutes. But they were very good, despite the less than perfect optics. The kids wolfed down the last four today :-).

If you don’t read German, no problem – just google Lemon Crinkle Cookies, and you’ll find lots of inspiration. It seems to be a popular variety. I can guess why!

And in case you’re too lazy to do either? Here’s what you do:

Lemon Crinkle Cookies

300 g flour (I used spelt)

1/2 TSP salt

1 TSP baking powder

peel of 1 lemon

115 g butter (not chilled but room temperature)

150 g sugar (I used less, about 120 g, but added 1 p vanilla sugar)

juice of 1 lemon

2 eggs

powdered sugar

First, beat butter, sugar and lemon peel until fluffy. Beat in 1 egg at a time, then add lemon juice. Then flour, salt and baking powder. The dough should be smooth and sticky. Chill for at least 45 minutes. It should be firm enough to roll little balls between your palms. Dip the balls into powdered sugar and set on a baking sheet lined with baking parchment. It should yield two sheets of cookie dough balls. Find room for those in your refrigerator, walk away and do something else. I’m serious. The cookies‘ looks will benefit from a thorough chilling.

Then preheat the oven to 175 °C, and bake for 15-20 minutes. Enjoy with a cup of tea, glass of milk, or espresso – these are good with any.

In crafts news, I ripped the crochet poncho up yet again, because I had messed it up in one place, and it didn’t really even out as I had hoped; to the contrary, the irregularity became more obvious as I went. So with a big sigh I frogged like twenty-five rows, again. I was a bit angry with myself and wished (not for the first time) to be able to follow a damn pattern like a normal person.

My friend A. whom I complained to said: But then you wouldn’t be you! She seems to think creative potential and following a pattern are mutually exclusive. Not sure if that’s true – what do you think?

Anyway, I doggedly started again, adding some rounds over the weekend, and will continue to pay careful attention as I go now. This was Sunday morning, and to me it does not get much better than this, crochet in bed, tea at my elbow, and my two li’l dudes sleeping at my feet while the sunshine streams through the window.

Have a productive week, everybody!

Finishing Lines

I probably mentioned my impatience with finishing before, and with sewing in particular. It’s not a thing I enjoy – I’m probably what experts call a process crafter, i.e. it’s the knitting and the crochet that comes easily to me, not the finishing part. I blame my crafts teacher in elementary school, who never had anything good to say about my pieces, no matter how hard I tried. There was no pleasing her, and eventually I gave up trying. I remember crocheting the potholder from hell, and I remember we did embroidery. Since then, I’ve never touched a sewing needle again if it could be avoided.

With the crochet I had no choice but exorcise those demons when asked to translate Margaret Hubert’s crochet bible in 2011. I dove right in and found that I could do it so that it looked good now (yay!) and that I enjoyed it, too. That job was a gift, and I’m so grateful.

As you know, I like to knit socks, and I’ve made sweaters for the kids, one for my husband, and a few for myself, too, over the years.

My usual MO is to crochet the seams together, which works really well if you have reasonably clean, tight edges. Since I mostly use smaller needles than required, that is usually the case in my projects. In case of the sweater for my daughter, the pink one you can see at the top of the post, however, it was not. I used a size 3 needle for the very fine 4-ply sock yarn – and had it been socks, I’d have used a 2,5. So, the edges were a little loose, and when I tried to crochet them together it looked awfully hole-y, and absolutely not what I’d imagined. This was back in October. Frustrated, I stashed the almost finished piece away and went and did other things instead.

A few weeks ago, I started to research a more professional approach. I found a blog entry that stated boldly that a good neckline could make or break a knit sweater. Ugh. Not very encouraging … but last Friday, after submitting a good chunk of work ahead of time, I gave myself an afternoon off, and sat myself down, determined to learn more. I found an amazing tutorial on YouTube (sorry, English readers, this is in German). And when I put my mind to it, as well as more to the point, my fingers, it actually worked like a charm. The sweater looks really good now, and I’m pleased to have learned a new skill: the wonder that is the mattress stitch.

So I guess I proved my elementary school teacher Mrs E wrong, some 40 years later. Also, I consoled my younger self a little. I wish somebody would have bothered to do that back then. My mom just said that you can’t be good at everything, and moved on. Understandable from her point of view, she saw crafts as something old-fashioned, and boring. But for a child, I feel that is the completely wrong approach. I think the truth is that you actually can be good at anything you really want to learn, if taught the right way. Even my dyslexic son learned how to read and write. Even though they’re both left handed, both my kids learned how to knit and crochet. Even though she finds it a bit dull, my daughter can do math. Both my kids were really lucky with their teachers. It’s so cool to see them grow, learn and try out stuff. Also, by working from home, I bought myself a bit more time for them than many other parents can or do. In the end, I feel it’s so worth it.

The rest of the weekend was spent away from the computer doing stuff I love. I cooked, I baked, I walked the pup and worked on my crochet poncho.

I’m almost done with that now, just another 10 cm or so, and I need to see what I’ll do about a border. I’m considering the pompom edge I’ve made before:

Or I might do something else. Simpler, and less playful, seeing that I’m neither a little girl nor a lampshade. Picots, maybe. We’ll see.

In other news, my daughter went to school this morning for the first time in 4 (four!) months. It was really strange, setting an early alarm yesterday night, and we both felt properly zonked this morning. I’ve been making sandwiches for school for so many years (13, right?) that I could literally do it half asleep (case in point this morning), but we’re all a bit apprehensive as to how long this will actually work (also, why tempt fate like this, but that is another can of worms entirely). Infection numbers are still increasing, and vaccines are not yet available for all age groups, so we’ll have to wait and hang tight until that changes…

And, you need to keep your fingers crossed for the upcoming Big Exams, please. Wednesday and Friday this week, in particular.

Signing off today with a sunny picture to make up for the cold and grey day we’re having. Have a good week, and thank you for reading!

All Work and No Play

As anticipated in my last post, it’s been a busy few weeks. Apologies for my absence here, but there was actually precious little to tell. I got up, walked the dog, worked, walked the dog, worked again, made dinner, walked the dog, worked some more, slept – and rinse, repeat.

We had a wonderfully warm late February, after all the cold and snow and ice, and it felt awesome to finally wear something else than my down coat. But then temperatures dropped once again, and all the early blooms and budding shrubs seem to have stopped in their tracks. But it’s lovely to walk around our neighborhood this time of year, and see the snowdrops and crocuses poke their pretty heads out of the still mostly barren soil. I can’t wait for the scent of nature waking up and finally spoiling us with color and brightness once again.

Meanwhile, my kids are soldiering through home schooling like a couple of champs, my son is buckling down for his upcoming exams, and my husband went and got a hip replacement, defending his title as Bionic Man. He’s being amazingly brave, self-sufficient, and all mind-over-matter. I’m not sure I’d be any of that in his shoes, and I admire the heck out of it.

What has me so busy is the fact that I didn’t like to say no to any of my three current projects with kind of competing deadlines. It’s manageable, but there’s not a lot of leeway, on either one of the books, so I need to keep a tight schedule. I’m trying hard not to melt into the computer and transform into a sentient Translator Bot.

Not sure how much else I’m good for at the moment. I do try and cook every day, so there’s that. But there have been frozen pizzas (always with a home made soup or salad so we won’t die of scurvy), grilled cheese, and quick pasta dishes, more often than not.

I try to take weekends off, though, to catch up with chores (boring), sit and crochet (amazing), and try to spend some time with the family. How lucky am I to have had so many years of being able to adapt my schedule to the kiddos‘ needs? I don’t know how I’d have survived this kind of workload when they were young. Also, I doubt we’d have much of a relationship if I’d been as absentminded then as I am oftentimes now. They don’t seem to take it amiss, thankfully, and learning to be a little more independent is not a bad thing for them, all in all, I suppose. This is a conundrum every working parent needs to find their own solution for.

I recently remembered white beans the way my dad would make them. Here’s the convenience version that suited my schedule better than the soaking and cooking for a long time that he used to do. (Cooked beans, 1 shallot, 1 strip of bacon, cut in thin slivers, chopped parsley, bay leaf, salt, pepper, and 1 chopped tomato, bit of olive oil – 15 minutes in the pan, the end.) I mashed mine up with a fork and had a slice of crusty French bread with it.

Last Saturday, we had one of the school crafternoons – via zoom, these socially distanced days, of course. I was excited to learn how to needle-felt, a discipline I’d somehow never tried before, not sure why. I always did other things during the crafternoons. But I thought it might be nice to do that with my daughter, and produce something cute for the school’s bazaar stand. So we made fruit and other edibles, check it out:

A new skill, and a fun afternoon with my fellow Waldorf crafters. I don’t do as many zoom meetings as most people, and even after a whole year, it’s still a little weird for me. But it’s always really good to see everyone’s faces, and a nice time was had by all.

I’ve read a little about the various psychological side-effects of the pandemic, and discussed them with friends. One thing most people are saying is that it makes them lose focus, and start many things but only finish a few. Well, this tendency certainly manifests in my crafts projects. I have no less than four WIPs, each of which would require me to just sit down and do them. For some reason or other, this is just not happening. Socks are easiest, I find, and felting was the same. Small things, quick to finish, move on. When in a pandemic …

Last weekend, I _was_ going to finish my poncho, the one in what my husband calls the Winter Colors. Well, it turns out that I couldn’t. I found it needed to be looser that I’d made it, after all, and after careful consideration, I ripped it back up to a certain point below the shoulders (top down). Also, I ditched one of the colors (yellow) like my sweet friend M had told me to all along. She was right, and everyone who suggested it needed to be more flowy was right, too. This is what it looked like before I made the executive decision to frog:

This weekend, I look forward to some time for working on the looser version, having been a good little translator and meeting my target for the week.

Have a nice one, take care – and thank you for dropping in!

Snowed Under

In my last post, I lamented the absence of light, and then and then and then… how’s this for more lux? Thank you Weather Gods, or Universe, or Random Luck – whatever force is responsible for this: Great job, we all feel so much better for it.

This is the lake we swim in over the summer, and now it’s pretending to be solid ground. At first, it made me very anxious, but after some coaxing I braved the elements and walked on it for a while. Not all across because I was freaking out when being too far off shore, but walk I did, despite feeling like I was tempting Fate.

As you can see, my City Dog overcame his initial reservations regarding the snow, and has been having fun with it also.

A month has passed, and things have been busy. My time is divided between two book projects now, and I just accepted yet another assignment, so I’ll be nice and busy until September. Not sure how much time I will have to drop in here, and I try not to think about how I’ll manage all the things I will need to. Sometimes it’s best to just power through, one day after the other!

Life out here in the winter is largely determined by feeding the woodburner in regular intervals, to keep the house reasonably warm. This has to be the longest stretch of time we’ve spent here at this time of year, because usually we have the school schedule to obey. Home schooling definitely has its perks, and it has been quite the experience, we’ve had nightly temperatures of minus 16 Celsius!

I’ve noticed that we were all craving simple comfort foods, filling dishes, nothing fancy. Lots of pasta, soups and grilled cheese, with an occasional stew or casserole.

There is one thing I made that I remember from my childhood: rice pudding topped with meringue. My dad used to cook lunch for me (millenials: no school cafeterias in those days!), and he’d often make these meals that consisted of a simple soup, and a big and nutritious dessert like this. I pepped ours up a little with slices of apple, lemon zest and vanilla. It was a wonderful blast from the past, and a great morale booster.

I did do some crafts too, mostly I speed knit socks: For my young friend Th, as a birthday gift, and for my son, same.

And since I was feeling a little down in January, because it was such a dark, dark month, I felt I needed a little bit of pastels. So I remembered that I’d already done a poncho for a friend, and another for my daughter, and figured I’d make one for myself, using these colors:

We’ll see how it turns out. For now, there’s a lot of increasing going on, but I’ve understood the system of that now (it’s basically alternating the granny stripe rows and HDC rows, in which you work every stitch of the granny stripe rows. I’m winging it, as I always do, but it will work out, I think. The soft colors and feel of the yarns give me great happiness. The design is a simple slip over your head affair, no sleeves or elaborate anything. Like a very long cowl, down to my waist, I’m thinking. It’s made from the top down, in rounds, in case you were wondering ;-). The yarns are merino blends, some are sock yarn, others baby merino yarns. Soft and cozy. Just what I need :-).

I hope all of you had some fun with the wintery goodness that was bestowed on us, and I hope everyone is staying warm, and, as ever, healthy. It’s not over, even though it’s been a year almost now. Hang in there – and thank you for reading!

Light, please!

A time capsule from two years ago, this picture still perfectly represents what can be so beautiful about the winter: steel blue skies, a hazy sunshine, the light reflecting on snow, and instantly lifted spirits. Sadly, we’ve had very little of this over the last few weeks.

This post is an attempt to remind myself (as well as you, kind readers) of the things that can help with low spirits when things are weighing heavily on us. All of us are fighting our own demons in the crazy times we live in, right? Struggling through the second lockdown, it’s more important than ever to try and be kind, to ourselves as well as to each other. Not an easy task when you feel so down you feel you have no fucks to give. But it is my true belief that the thing that will get all of us back on track again eventually is the qualities that make us human. Compassion, patience, sense of humor, appreciation of beauty.

Personally, I really like a clean apartment. It is truly uplifting to me to sit down at a free of dust desk, sleep in fresh sheets, and see the wood of my kitchen counters shine. Last Saturday was a day for deep cleaning, and it left me exhausted but very, very satisfied. I’d show you if everything still was the way my cleaning crew and I made it look, but you can probably guess that life got in the way of that! Anyway, it’s one thing that helps me, if only temporarily, to feel better.

Making something pretty is also a good thing. I had some time over the weekend, and finished another pair of knit socks for myself:

It’s no fancy quality yarn, just a ball of sock yarn I found at the supermarket, but I like the shades of green play, and they make me happy, and keep my feet warm.

On Sunday, we met an old friend for a walk. It was her birthday, we brought a thermos, and she brought cake (very good, but for later, because it needed to be eaten in a civilized manner, using plates and forks), and we spent a good hour walking and catching up. Sadly, our dogs don’t get along all that well – as you know, Charlie is small, and he has a hard time trusting larger dogs – and hers is a beautiful, statuesque Lab and Hovawart mix. She’s a sweetheart, as is her Dog Mom. We need to do more of that in the future, before all of this Covid business makes me forget I have real life friends!

Another source of happiness is food, of course. The newest addition to our repertoire is home made Vietnamese summer rolls – a thing I would probably not have attempted if not for my daughter’s sweet friend V. whose family apparently makes them at home on the regular. She told us about it, and we tried, and it wasn’t hard at all. You need a few ingredients from the Asian grocery store, but then you’re good to go – as you may be well aware but I was not, so you get to read all about it ;-).

You need rice paper sheets (which you dip in water very briefly at the table, lay flat on your plate and fill to your liking, wrapping them as you would a burrito), as well as any ingredient you’d like to have in there (the traditional at my favorite Vietnamese place being mint leaves, cilantro, lettuce, chives or green onions, cucumber, sprouts, and glass noodles, with a choice of chicken, prawns or tofu). We added peppers, avocado and extra lemon.

For the Satay sauce, you can be lazy and buy a mix, but it’s pretty easy to make at home. You need fresh lemon grass, ginger and garlic, which you chop, coconut milk, a good scoop of your favorite peanut butter, salt and pepper, some chili, if you like, a pinch of sugar and a dash of fish sauce, maybe some lemon to taste. Heat these ingredients slowly in a pan and cook for a few minutes. Then let sit for a while so the flavors can steep. For eating, you can reheat it, or serve it as it is. (Caveat: This is the way I make it – there may be other, better, more traditional recipes. I just go by my palate, and try to copy the best satay sauces I’ve had.)

The good thing about this dish is that everyone gets to make their own food at the table, and you can put ingredients in there to your personal preference … a laid-back, fun and healthy way to eat. Also, even my pickiest customer enjoys making her own special roll (always a plus), which contains carrot, cucumber and glass noodles, as well as, astonishingly, pan-fried tofu with ginger and garlic! If you prefer your dip more on the lean side, you can substitute the satay with the typical lime, fish sauce and chili pepper concoction served at Vietnamese restaurants.

Next, and very importantly, hot drinks. There are people in the world who don’t like tea. I know and love some of them, but to say I understand it would be a lie. My love for tea began as a kid in the Eighties, when flavored Chinese teas and green teas became popular. My parents were coffee drinkers and didn’t care much for tea, but at my friend B’s house, I fell in love with the magic of tea leaves, learned about steeping, and enjoyed many many different varieties. Her mom had this carefully curated mail order catalog she’d buy her tea from (Millenials: There was no Internet, then! Companies would send out printed brochures and you’d order by filling in what you wanted on a card, and send that in, and then your order would come in the mail. Quaint, right?) Anyway, we were always excited when the deliveries came. Over many steaming cups of black and green, flavored and plain, we became educated, adventurous, and also, in my case, hooked for life ;-).

I never start my day without drinking tea, which I always have long before I even think about food. It wakes up my soul, caresses my flavor buds, and makes me happy, every single day. My choice of morning tea is a very light Darjeeling first flush, delightfully flowery but not too playful – a serious and delicious tea. With breakfast, I have coffee to kick-start me off into my work day, but later in the day, it’s back to tea for me. We have many different flavors because everyone has their favorites (Husband: citrusy ginger mixes, Me: black tea, sometimes with fruity flavors, jasmine blossoms and chamomile, Son: Not picky except for his morning mint tea with orange peel, Daughter: sweet chai, with chocolate or cinnamon flavor). The herbal mixes we have come in assorted colorful boxes with poetic names. We also have a decent Earl Grey for when we feel traditional in the afternoons. I like it with a slice of fresh lemon rather than milk. For after dinner, I’ve gotten used to a boxed variety containing chamomile, verveine and lavender, appropriately named ‚Sweet dreams‘. It doesn’t actually make me sleepy, but it gives me comfort.

I’m not very big on eating chocolate, usually, but I do enjoy an occasional cup of hot chocolate – as a warming, sweet, comforting drink after a walk in the cold, or when working late. I’m sure it’s just as bad for me as a bar of chocolate would be, but sometimes, it’s just what I need, and I enjoy it with no regrets.

As I do fresh fruit. These global days, everything is readily available at all times, even in countries like ours, very far away from the equator where produce grow all year round. We try and stay within reasonable seasonal limits (for our neck of the woods). I never buy strawberries during the winter, for instance, just as I’d never get asparagus before March. But oranges, mango, cantaloupes and such I do buy on the regular during the dark months, and they brighten many breakfast plates, desserts and salads at our house.

All of that just because we don’t get enough sunshine? Well, I suppose it could be worse. In Nordic countries, the suicide rate is quite high over the winter, as is periodic drinking. With a bit too much sugar, we’re way better off, all in all, I think. Depression has spiked over Corona, and only recently, I read that it was even more so over the winter months. It’s called Seasonal Affective Disorder, most appropriately acronymed SAD, and apparently, 6 out of 100 people suffer from it. Symptoms vary from depression to trouble sleeping, feeling unworthy and listless, and in extreme cases, even suicidal. It’s certainly a dangerous condition to have during lockdown, because the system-inherent isolation will affect SAD patients even more than it would everybody else. So, if you haven’t heard from a friend in a while, try and get in touch, because now is the time it really counts, and a phone call, email or text can go a long way with a depressed person.

Checking out today with an uplifting song from the past. I’m aware the artists had issues with the song being so successful, as it wasn’t really their usual jam. Nevertheless, I as a fan feel entitled to still love it now, just as I loved it when we were kids dancing to it at the club when it was Indie night. Enjoy, and let us all hope for some much needed lux in the near future!

Fall Post

Gorgeous shades of red, right? This is our kitchen window framed in luxurious fall colors, as every year, for a couple of weeks. It makes me very happy that I got lucky with the light and the angle, and caught it exactly as it looks like. 🙂

As the year starts drawing to an end, I’m looking at a trip of a special kind. I’ve written about my parents‘ grave site and its imminent expiration date before. If you don’t feel like reading an old post: My family’s time in the place they were buried is up – after being granted two additional years as an exception. I’m planning to go there one more time next week, to find closure, pay my respects, say a prayer, and then a stonemason will come and remove the construction. Said stonemason will also be kind enough to cut a piece off of the headstone for me, which I can come pick up and put in my garden, so I’ll have a memento I actually get to keep, and maybe give a final place of rest – for now.

Time off, for me, also means crafts, as you are aware if you’re here. I’ve had a long hiatus due to my broken elbow, but started again as soon as I was allowed to ditch the cast :-). I consider it to be a very effective type of PT, exceptionally good for the fine motor skills. As it is, both my orthopedist and the PT lady have been impressed with my healing process, so I guess I’m lucky on that front.

My current WIPs are:

The dog sweater is done,

the socks are not (but a few episodes of the latest Queer Eye season will rectify that). As for the blanket, you all know that is a process. Some take years to finish,

others are done more quickly:

The Waffle Blanket is turning out to be one of the former category.

Finally, a word on overalls. I’ve worn a couple of these over the decades, and it’s completely my old friend M’s fault who was famous for wearing them in the early Nineties. He also had an egg slicer necklace, which he always said was proof he was a crazy ass mofo :-)). He was the sweetest boy that lived in Frankfurt when I was young. He was the yin to my boyfriend’s yang, and we hung out a lot, the three of us. We took a long road trip all across the States, transferring a red GMC Sierra truck from Massachusetts down to the Tucson airbase. It was a great trip, and a wonderful ride. His dungarees were OshKoshs, and he lived in them, much as I lived in my 501s, then. Anyways, I blame him for getting me hooked on them. I got my first pair not long after.

My favorite pair were from a GAP store in Manhattan. They were forest green corduroys, and I wore them for years, but unfortunately lent them to a pregnant lady I knew, who never gave them back to me after she had her baby :-(. Then I had a pair made of black twill, which were great for the summer, and I wore those to death. My last pair were also lent out as pregnancy garb, which people evidently never return, and I guess I forgot how much I loved this Most Comfortable Garment in the world. Now that I finally have a pair again, I’ll try not to forget that again :-). They make me really happy.

I have no new revelatory recipe to share this time, probably because we haven’t been cooking elaborate meals lately. I was busy, so didn’t pay a lot of heed to what went on our plates. We had a lot of pasta, which is not great for my quest of minimizing my carbs intake, but it’s the best overlap with the kids‘ tastes, and also doesn’t take long. I tried to have more vegetables than pasta, at least :-).

Now, I’m off to this place with Charlie. Here he is in full speed:

Have a great October, and thank you for checking in!

p.s.

Mornings doing crafts in bed are a precious and rare indulgence!

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

Hobbies

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.

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 …

The One About Being a Translator

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… was Saturday last week. This picture was taken after an extraordinarily busy week during which I translated a huge number of pages, participated in two parents meets, worried about my mother in law who underwent major surgery and tried planning our summer around three book projects, one wedding, a trip to France and two families‘ (located on different continents) schedules …

The week after that was basically more of the same, and therefore mostly remarkable for offering the perspective of a Week With No Alarm Clock to follow. Not that it means I have a week off, but sleeping in is usually only happening on weekends, and I’m taking full advantage.

Unfortunately, the weather has been more rain than shine, less degrees than we hoped, and a chilly Easter to look forward to :-/. But we get to be in the country, so we can run outside as soon as the rain stops. Also, we’re here with our friends, and that is a treat whether the weather be good or bad.

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And now for something completely different! People have mentioned that I never really talk about my work on here. It’s sort of true, I mostly discuss crafts and cooking and stuff that’s on my mind. This may give the impression that that’s all I’m about, and since nothing could be further from the truth, let me put that in perspective a bit.

As you guys know, I’m a copywriter turned translator. My former and my current jobs are similar in terms of requiring you to become familiar with a new subject matter in record time, enough to be able to credibly pretend you know what you’re talking about anyway. In copywriting, that’s usually all you really do. Obviously it helps if you love words and know how to be witty, but it rarely goes any deeper than that, mostly because lot of bomb-ass ideas get trashed before they ever see the light outside of the dungeons of the art department.

Translating is different. When I translate nonfiction, I learn so much from my authors – and if I’m lucky enough to translate something I love, like a cookbook or a crafts book, it all adds to my own expertise. This past month has seen me buckle down and learn about sewing. And it’s great! All the yummy new words I learned, all the insight on fabrics and patterns and needles and utensils. I had FUN!

When translating fiction, it’s great to transpose a whole world, a culture, the main characters, and to make the readers get them, or even like them. When the readers don’t really notice they’re reading a translation, I’d say I did a good job.

As I’ve mentioned before, I have a weakness for (gay) young adults fiction, and the millennials in particular. So far, I’ve translated two novels by Santino Hassell, both set in the very diverse gay culture of New York. The first book, Sutphin Boulevard, was well received and got good reviews, even a little love for the translator, which was such a relief because as a hetero cis-gender female translator, I was apprehensive as to whether I had done the work justice. It’s a deeply romantic love story, but in parts kind of dark. Not an easy read at all, but it’s got great protagonists, interesting character development and (because it’s Santino) some very explicit and highly emotional sex scenes.

The second book, Sunset Park, came out mid March, and oddly, it seems the reviewers have little patience with the woes and struggles of younger people. Why then would they even buy a book like that, I wonder. Just go for the grown-up books section and skirt everything that reeks of coming of age, finding out who you are and what you’d like to do with your life, falling in love and discovering your (sexual) identity… I’m sure Sunset will find its readers anyway, because it’s a great story, and very very funny.

When translating the first book, I struggled with finding the right tone for the sex scenes – ultimately, in German, we don’t have the playful and fun vocab English has for anything sex related. German tends to be either overly romantic, off-puttingly clinical or flat out vulgar. It was a challenge, but in the end I guess I pulled it off. The second book taught me (among other things) about Grindr, the gay sex dating app. I liked the pragmatism, the acronyms, the lingo … the whole system was fascinating to me. And since Santino doesn’t do sex for sex’s sake in his novels, there’s a very intense Grindr chat in one of the first chapters that is absolutely crucial for the whole story arc, and I just needed to nail that (no pun whatsoever intended). So now I know my way around that (not entirely sure what good it’s going to do me – again, straight cis-gender female – but it was cool to explore that parallel universe anyway.) And of course, translating two characters who are both funny as all hell, snarky and sweet, one with a Latino background who sounds a little ‚hood, and the other a clean-cut white boy from Connecticut who went to Brown. I found both of them equally lovable, and they’re my favorite couple in that ‚verse so far.

I’m supposed to work on the third book over the summer. It’s about two guys who’re both almost 40, so the most adult people he’s written about so far. We’ll see how I do with them.

Until then, I have the great honor of chipping in on the translation of a true cookbook classic – not supposed to say which one yet, but it’s huge, and I’m loving it SO MUCH!

So there, now I have talked about work – to those of you who thought all I do is bring up kids and crochet and knit, sorry to disappoint, not that kind of lady.

But I do do these things all the time anyway, because I’d go insane if I didn’t. Here’s some things I made over the past few weeks:
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Look, the soft pink socks for Sweet C. are done :-).

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As are two new sofa cushions to add a splash of color to the solemn grey.

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Voilà, the latest glittery sock creation for my daughter.

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This was enlightening – can you believe I made all of those…?

Signing off tonight (for it’s late!) with a series of my teenager creating street art with garbage. Love the way his mind works :-).

Happy Easter, everyone – let’s hope the Easter Bunny will be generous this year!

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