Rest in Peace, Beautiful Friend

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Those of you who read my last post will probably guess what happened. Our sweet companion of 11 years is gone. I have no words to really express how much I’m missing her, but I’ll try anyway. Maybe some will find it weird that I hardly make a distinction between my kids and my pets, but I really don’t. Unlike my kids, this cat slept in my bed every night – come to think of it, even more regularly than my husband who travels for work a lot. How do you not miss someone who purred you to sleep and whose beautiful amber eyes you woke up to for such a long time?

Putting an animal to sleep is as awful as it is unspectacular. The first shot makes them very tired – it’s like the good stuff they give you right before the actual anesthetic you get for an operation. They go all limp and relaxed in your arms, and after a couple minutes, they get another shot that actually kills them, right into their rib-cage. They kind of curl up in fetal position, drawing in their limbs, it’s a reflex, nothing more, and then their hearts stop beating.

I’ve been through this with three cats, and I’ve sat with my mom when she died. And every time it struck me how absolutely unique death looks. It’s impossible to confuse it with sleep, and every time I see a corpse in the movies, I feel it looks completely wrong.

My children went with me to the vet’s yesterday. They wanted to, that is to say my son wanted to come and my daughter who as the (much) younger kid always worries she might be left behind for Something Important, wanted to go too, and so I respected that and hope the teachers will too. If they don’t, they can all take a hike. It was important to us.

Our vet is as much of a people person as he is an animal person – which certainly isn’t true for all of his ilk. I like him a lot, and he has the exact amount of reason and empathy I needed to be able to go through with everything yesterday. He seemed really moved by our little family affair – I think I saw him blink tears away himself. Dr S rocks, he really does.

Needless to say, we had a black day after we left around 10.30. We went straight back home, cuddled our bereaved (now only) kitty, made hot chocolate, watched movies and took turns crying all day. At my age, this leaves a highly unattractive puffiness around the eyes, and my son’s acne broke out like you wouldn’t believe. It’s fair to say we both looked like shit this morning when I woke the kids. But my therapist used to say that tears are good, and since I can’t stop the waterworks anyway, I’ll just let myself cry whenever the tears start flowing …

… and maybe write some of it out of my system. Thanks for reading, and thanks for calling and texting, everyone – you know who you are. You’re the sweetest, kindest and most understanding bunch a girl could ask for. Thank you for being my friends, I love you.

Life, Death, and Some Stuff in Between

Hi everyone, and a happy new year to you people. May there be love and laughter, happiness and good health in your life over the course of the next 12 months.

These Forever Young days, we do have a tendency to take being healthy for granted, don’t we? It’s a side effect of all the live-sustainably-eat-well-work-out-and-don’t forget-to-de-stress way of life – quite opposed to my youth in the Nineties when we were all working and partying hard, smoking too much and sleeping too little, and spending considerably more time under the club lights and on the tanning bed than on the running track or at the gym.

My own give-no-fucks attitude really only changed when I became a mom. Not when I was pregnant – that doesn’t suddenly make you a responsible person over night, although the nausea in the first months of pregnancy certainly slows you down with a lot of the bad stuff (and some of the good – I couldn’t touch a vitamin C with a ten foot pole, as anything fresh made me puke.) But things changed when my son was born and became part of my life. We sort of grew up together, if that makes any sense.

But back to the gift of being healthy. I usually don’t appreciate it enough, that’s for sure. And right now, life is whacking me over the head with the issue.

It’s not about myself. No, tomorrow, I get to decide whether the beautiful creature you see in the pics above gets to live for another round of treatment or not. I’m really torn. I look at her, pet her gorgeous soft fur and listen to her purr in my ear. Who am I to put a stop to that? Is it the right thing to do to end an animal’s life before things get really bad, or do I wait until they do? I’m hoping I’ll know tomorrow morning.

And then there’s a dear client of mine who is bravely battling breast cancer, there’s a close relative who checked herself into the hospital to get treatment for her colon cancer today, there’s the friend who seems to have won that fight, for now, and my sister in law who did not. It’s impossible to escape these things, and we all have to draw our own conclusions as to how we want to live.

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Sorry for being morose – you probably just came here to see a few new crafts pieces. Obviously I had time for that too over the holidays. Here’s what I made:

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Voilà, the rainbow socks on their new owners‘ pretty feet – don’t they look amazing?

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My godson wearing his new heather grey, extra fluffy socks only minutes after I darned in the last thread. Far as I heard, he only takes them off for washing ;-).

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The gorgeous motley yarn ended up a cool stripy cowl for my daughter – check out the checkerboard stitch. I was bored with the old knit-two-purl-two, although that’s obviously precisely what you do in this pattern also, albeit with a twist. Well, I think it looks more interesting this way, so there.

My mother in law has asked for gauntlets to wear with her white duffel coat, and we agreed the beautiful hand-dyed yarn from my favorite yarn store would work perfectly. img_0781

It was the same yarn that I made the welcome home socks for my daughter from:

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No food this time. I’m sure everyone feels quite saturated after the holidays, as do I. There’s only so many cookies a person can eat, right…? Of course, it’ll still be fun to make them again come December, no doubt. But until then, to paraphrase the One and Only King of Rock’n’Roll – a little less carbohydrates, a little more salad please … And a sound clip, for that song just blows my mind, every time.

A Little Less Conversation

Thoughtful End to an Eventful Year

It takes a lot of discipline to be self-employed. Some tend to be stricter than any regular boss would be with his employees. Others tend to constantly live in fear of ending up as a bag lady if a few days pass without anyone calling with a new assignment. Me, I always try not to stress too much – thank you so much for driving that home, Dr. K. Right after I submit a big project, my brain is usually fried, and I need some tangible work to come down. This usually results in cleaning sprees, this time around: my desk, look:IMG_0574.JPG

Can you believe how neat it looks? Obviously this didn’t last long. My roommates tend to leave stuff on there because it provides an invitingly free flat surface (drawings, iPhone chargers, tax statement papers, mail, hairbrushes and -clips …) ugh. Anyway, cleaning, tidying, scheduling long overdue doctor’s appointments – that’s my post-project coping mechanism, if I have the time, and this year, I actually do. Also, I’m able to think of Christmas before the actual holidays, as well as my husband’s birthday right after. I’ve composed a greeting card I’ll send out to my favorite clients next week, and I’ve been busy knitting my way through a pile of accumulated sock yarn.

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The last one may in fact end up becoming a scarf for my daughter who complained that I had this

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while she did not. She has a point. But before I actually get around to that, I have to make more socks.

One pair will go to my amazing godson R. here in Berlin, who is now 16 and the baby sax player in a jazz band of twenty-somethings – I saw them live on stage a week ago, and was pleasantly surprised at how good they were! It’s definitely discombobulating to see kids whom you’ve known since they were in diapers go and Do Great Things. I’m only now beginning to understand what Dr Seuss was talking about in ‚Oh, the Places You’ll Go…‘. The rainbow socks are for my goddaughter in Frankfurt and her younger sister, and the corn yellow ones will go to my sweet friend and compadre of 25 years, A. There are not many people in the world who look great in that color, but she does. I bought that yarn when I was making her the Funky Blanket, and I didn’t really use a lot of it, so I had plenty of leftover yarn for socks.

Whenever do I find the time to do all that? Well, it’s not like I ever really go anywhere without a crafts project in my bag. I do have to wait in doctor’s offices just like everybody else, just as I do when I sit and observe certain young ballerinas change from their tutus into their jeans (I’m always astounded how time-consuming this process can be!), and I also watch a few shows with my husband and son – a great time for knitting projects you need muscle memory rather than brain capacity for. Additionally, I’m notorious for knitting at parties, and of course there’s the cherished afternoons when I get to hang out with my friend N. while our kiddos have their piano lessons, which take place at either one of our houses … so that’s when.

One of the doctors gave me quite a scare last week – in fact, there were four days of major panic because it seemed that the pregnancy diabetes from 9 years ago had caught up with me, and it was only Thursday that I learned that all was in fact great, and I’m as healthy as they come. What a relief! I don’t even have high blood pressure, and I don’t have to change a thing about my nutritional habits. Of course, no sooner had I gotten my own clean bill of health that one of my kitties needed to get checked out, and two trips to the vet and 200 bucks later we knew she had a full-blown bladder infection, poor thing. Duh. No wonder she was pissed off (literally!), there’s few things as unpleasant! I can totally relate.

I was freaking out at the mere thought of having to do the strict nutritional regimen again (next to no carbs, next to no fruit, tons of meat if I want it (I do not) and of course a lot of veg (but not too many cooked carrots or squash please, as they contain too much sugar)… But I actually wouldn’t mind the diet as much as I would resent having to be thinking about calories and doing the constant finger-pricking for blood tests, and, ultimately, I guess complying with my body’s needs rather than the other way round, the way I’m used to.

I suppose that’s what the physical side of aging is all about. Accepting things, not being able to do as you please, coping with unpleasantness. No wonder people have a hard time with that, I will be one pissed off old lady whenever I do get sick. I’ve been made aware that I’ll very probably be dealing with diabetes later in life ever since I had my daughter (docs call that a disposition for XYZ). But for now, apparently, I’m in the clear, and I’ve been celebrating with the annual Christmas Cookie Extravaganza:

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… which the famous Lemony Shortbread from my last post is obviously an integral part of:
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I would have baked all this stuff anyway (mostly for the fam), but it’s nice to know that – for now – I can have a cookie or two if I feel like it without its being a severe health hazard.

It seems that I’m looking at a quiet end to this remarkably weird year, which is probably a good thing because it gives me a breather and a chance to process all the insane things that have been happening over the last 12 months, rather than being buried in work until the very last moments of the year. We won’t be going anywhere, and I’m looking forward to hanging out with the family, cooking, listening to music, meeting friends and napping whenever possible. We still have to get a tree and design our annual calendar. But unlike the years before, it’s looking like there will actually be time for that.

Looking at the world out there, I am so intensely grateful to be living where I am. Right-wing idiots aside, our little corner of the world is one of the most hippie-ish, diversity-friendly, least homophobic and most fun places I know. The number of health-food stores still equals the regular grocery stores, and there’s always quirky things to be discovered whenever I leave the house:
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Put that in your pipe and smoke it, mainstream clothes chains :-)).

On that note, let’s wrap up this year already to the best of our abilities, and try and do better in 2017.

Every Mom Is Awesome!

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Dear stitch readers, say hi to the little motivational stamp I put on my blotting pad this morning 😉 – such a simple, small thing, but I assure you, it goes a long way for a parentless, slightly overworked and underrested woman on the last leg of her Forties.

Read on at your own peril, for there is no real point to this post (yet) other than reflecting on how a fair number of people have told me that I’m awesome over the last few weeks. Guys, you know who you are – and I appreciate the positive reinforcement so, so much – thank you!

What goes around comes around: I’m always impressed by what you people accomplish. I certainly don’t feel I juggle more than most women I know – given that I work from home, my schedule may even be a bit more flexible than others‘. But I deeply admire you guys for all you manage to do, create, think, write, cook and learn, and today, I want to say to you: GOOD JOB, Y’ALL!!!

Now we’ve gotten that out of the way, here’s a few things I did over the last weeks, when I wasn’t editing the hell out of the novel I was working on.

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With a li’l help from my friends (again, you know who you are!) we pulled off a sensational Halloween-themed birthday party for our daughter, complete with a treasure hunt in the dark that included finding a special headstone at the close-by cemetery, I kid you not! In the end there was also the first pinata we ever did. It was so much fun that I do believe we’ll have to make it a tradition :-)))).

I’ve got that frosting down now too, and I’ll have two insanely talented Junior Partners for when we’ll start our very own pastry shop once they finish school. It’s gonna be great :-)!

OK, I wasn’t going to at first, but I guess I need to include my latest baking endeavor. Have you people ever made shortbread? It can be somewhat … bland? Heavy? On the floury side? Well, it doesn’t have to be. I gave it some thought, took the basic recipe and made some adjustments and ended up with a very lemony, buttery indulgence …

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Very Lemony Shortbread

500 g butter

160 g sugar

900 g flour (400 g of which I substituted with spelt flour)

1 1/2 TBSP salt, and don’t be shy!

Grated peel of 1 or 2 lemons, chopped (depends on their size as well as your tastebuds)

Juice of 1/2 lemon

Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

You know the drill: Make a smooth, solid lump of dough of these ingredients and set aside.

This all seems pretty straightforward I suppose. Other than the pinch of nutmeg it’s the basic recipe. I guess what makes _my_ shortbread really special is the icing. It consists of

Juice of 1 lemon

Grated peel of 1 lemon, chopped

100 g powdered sugar

and – get this – 1/2 jar of lemon curd

Using a flat wire whisk, combine well and set aside until you take your shortbread out of the oven.

For baking, line a deep, square shaped baking dish with baking parchment. Put your dough in there and roll it out flat as best you can – it will be grim work. I enlisted my teenager who doesn’t have a f…ed up shoulder. It should be approx. 1 cm high. Try and smooth out the edges, and by all means prick the heck out of that cake with a fork. Again, don’t be shy. It also makes for a pretty pattern I thought. Before you bake it, make incisions in the shape you’d like your shortbread slabs, pieces, squares, what have yous to have later on. Put in the oven at 160 °C for approx. a half hour. Check on it as soon as it starts smelling wonderful – and adjust your temperature so it doesn’t burn. Once it has a golden brown cookie-y look, take out of the oven and with a spatula spread your icing, which should have the consistency of slightly runny jam. Turn off the heat and put back in the oven to steep. Cut into desired pieces. And enjoy :-). Nobody will be greatly surprised to hear that this will be part of my annual Christmas Cookie Extravaganza.

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As for crafts, I haven’t been idle either. Here’s what happened on that front:

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I finished The Fall Colored Scarf (sooo fluffy!!!). I speed-knit a pair of socks for my godson in California – it needed to happen because my husband was going there on business and actually went to see our folks on his day off, yay! I made my goddaughter in Frankfurt a pair of Rainbow Socks for Christmas, and am making another pair for her older sister – alas, shoe size 39, little girls no more… and I’m really proud of my ingenuous little lady whom I helped make that bracelet at my son’s school’s Winter Bazaar. She chose the color scheme, and may I say she chose really well.

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I also bought some yarn, cool stuff to make new gauntlets, as I managed to shrink these to a degree that my daughter of eight is now their proud owner:

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Last but not least, I just submitted the translation of the second novel in Santino Hassell’s Five Boroughs Series, Sunset Park. Needless to say, I was immersed in a really intense round of final editing for a week. And now I’m done, and I finally feel I managed to capture the two protagonists‘ tones of voice. The story’s written from both of their points of view, and both of them have a very distinct way of speaking (even in their own heads). It wasn’t easy to transpose them into German where nobody speaks quite like a Puerto-Rican dude from the hood… The book is also very very funny, which was a challenge in and of itself.

If you’re into gay romance at all, I highly recommend the whole series. I consider myself very lucky to be working on something I’m a fangirl of, even if I felt like smacking the main characters over the head more than once over the course of the book (as a fangirl more than as a translator, obviously). Those two, I swear  … but everything ends well, as it absolutely should in a romance novel ;-).

Can you believe it’s that time of the year again?

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Lovely wreath, don’t you think? I had help this time, which is why it doesn’t look quite as scruffy as my wreaths usually do – thanks a lot, dear B.!

Signing off today with a cool little graffiti I saw on a park bench last week when out for a run: Graffiti artist, whoever you are: I love your art! It put a big smile on my face, as I hope it will on y’all’s.

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Family Ties, Biological and Chosen

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On a global scale, the past week was certainly remarkable for reasons I talked about in my last post, and I will actually only say this on the matter: ’nuff said.

But last week also saw a wonderful reunion with my sweet friend A. who stayed with us for a few nights while in town on business. A. is (among many other things!) a dedicated knitter, and she makes beautiful hats, socks and sweaters, as does A.’s mother-in-law K., who is also a seasoned crafts lady. A few years back, when our girls were little, K. had made a funky stripy hat with a long, pointed tip and a pompom for her granddaughter. I always loved that hat, and when I prepared the guest room for A. I was reminded of it, as I had already begun knitting a stripy hat for my friend’s new baby boy, to go with the stripy socks I already showed here. Long story short, A.’s mother in law was kind enough to dig out the pattern for the so-called Pixie Hat, and I tried to do it justice, see pic above.

I’ve written about the crafts community before, and how connected I feel to many of its members who are bound together by a joint enthusiasm for all things to do with yarn. In a way, we’re each and every one of us part of a chosen family, and I feel close to A. in Munich (knitting), N. here in Berlin (color & crochet), A. in California (sewing), A. in Frankfurt (Master of All Things Creative), K. in Montana (knitting) and my friend’s mom in Iceland who knits these amazing sweaters:IMG_3319 I guess it’s all a matter of perspective what family really is. It certainly is a choice who we decide to care about, and blood ties don’t necessarily have that much to do with it. I once read a book by Robert A. Heinlein (not sure which one it was – this was in my early twenties, so a loooong time ago.) Anyway, in this book, children could divorce their parents – and I found that concept really intriguing, because my mom and I were at complete odds by that time. In a way, it helped me detach, so thank you Mr. Heinlein, for facilitating my personal autonomy!

That said, I do care about my few relatives left, a lot. In fact, I’ll ditch this computer now to go finish a pair of socks for my godson in Sta Barbara, who will be six in a matter of weeks. Time certainly flies – seems I was there only yesterday when he was born…

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Signing off now with a pic of the gorgeousness that my friend E. gave me when I cooked lasagna for them last week – amazing, isn’t it?

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Un.F…ing.Believable.

When I went to bed yesterday night, I wasn’t worried. I really wasn’t. I was sure people would do the right thing and vote for Hillary even if they weren’t seeing eye to eye with all she says or stands for. Voting is always a compromise, and this time it was all about preventing the worst possible outcome, or so I thought. After all, this is the same nation that elected a black president with an Arabic name – twice in a row. I had faith.

This morning, right after checking the news feed, I was on autopilot while waking up my kids, making them breakfast and preparing their lunchboxes. Texting to and fro with my folks in California, expressing my shock on Instagram, wondering what our world is coming to. Brexit, right-wing parties rising to power left and right, public hate for refugees … and now this. My dearest relative in the world will have to bring up my godson in a country I’d be loth to call the land of the free anymore. Home of the brave maybe, but I know people who have stated they were going to leave the US should he who must not be named in my sweet innocent blog be elected president. I do not blame them.

As a woman, as a mom, as an immigrant, as a supporter of gender equality in all the colors of the rainbow, as well as a human being with a heart and a brain, I’m deeply worried on this Very Bad Day.

So, what should we hope for? Can you think of anything positive that may come from this? I mean, anything at all? If so, do not hesitate to tell me, because I desperately need some perspective.

In Close Quarters

When I was little, I was alone a lot. My parents were both working, and I had no siblings (other than my considerably older half brother who never lived with us). I taught myself how to read even before first grade simply as a way to kill the interminable hours my parents needed to do grown-up stuff. I remember envying my friend U. who shared a room with her two younger sisters – how amazing it must be to always have someone to talk to or play with! I loved it at their house, and I was there a lot. But of course even they had other things to do sometimes, and I remember walking the streets of my small home town many afternoons. I would check out shops, I’d visit the Natural History Museum close to our house, and I must have spent hours on the swing at the park close by, generally by myself.

Looking back, it seems bizarre how nobody seemed to feel I needed to be watched more. But evidently that’s how it was, and my parents certainly had enough shit on their plates, what with my dad’s chronic arthritis pain, my mom’s nervous breakdown and the massive cluster-fuck not being a party member in communist Romania entailed. But I do recall feeling lonely more often than not, and I suspect my decision to work from home was heavily influenced by my conviction that it’s a huge advantage to be available when the kids come home from school.

So why was I was thinking back to those days?  I just spent two rainy weeks at our house in the country with kids, cats & my husband who commuted to town to work every day. For the first time, we were the only ones there in our little country community. The other families were traveling or otherwise busy over fall break, and that left my daughter in pretty much the same predicament I remember so well from my childhood. There were a few grown-ups around, but no children to play with and to talk to about all the stuff that’s important to little girls. Now my daughter is not exactly an introvert, and if she’s bored or annoyed, everyone around her will know about it! So there I was trying to juggle her interests (8th birthday! Unbelievable but true…)

img_0232 an urgent proofreading assignment and my own stress relief. Tempers were short, and the weather got worse and worse, which resulted in a lot of time spent indoors.

Paradoxically, my strategy when cornered is always to withdraw even more. I like my headspace, and I need my alone time so I don’t turn into a sociopath. Does it get worse as I get older? Yup. Do people think I’m weird? Probably. Am I worried to end up a funny old lady who talks to herself? Not really. I mean, I’m pretty certain I will become that eccentric elderly person, but I’m not worried ;-). As for being bombarded with constant attention-seeking, conversation and needs – I don’t cope with that very well. At all.

I think both my daughter and I are probably fortunate to usually be surrounded by other family members and friends who act as deflector shields. It was an exhausting two weeks of perpetual push and pull. It may well have been the first break I was relieved to see come to an end, and this morning, waving goodbye when everybody left, I felt genuine relief at the prospect of 7 hours of not being talked to … and yet here I am, communicating with you on my blog. Humans are illogical, as Spock used to observe. (Cocking Vulcan eyebrow^).

Between birthday celebrations, cabin fever, stomach bugs and urgent deadlines – was there any time to do crafts? Why yes, there was! Let’s see. First, I finished these …

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… as well as these ‚welcome-home‘ socks. I made them during my daughter’s first class trip. I just love this hand-dyed yarn, it reminds me of glorious early summer roses:img_0194The yarn below was purchased in an attempt to capture some fall colors before they all go away. Check it out  – doesn’t it resemble the birthday bouquet I picked for my daughter?img_0224

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I’m making a very fluffy, soft cowl in brioche stitch, see? To give it a more orange shade, and to take the fluffiness to max level, S, the yarn shop lady, recommended adding a bright orange mohair yarn to the soft baby alpaca blend. Here’s how it’s turning out – I’m pleased despite having to work with such humongous needles, ugh.IMG_0339.JPG

Also, my old friend A. has a very cute new baby boy :-). So of course I went and bought yarn for a pair of stripy socks and hat. It’s a beautifully soft merino and silk blend, and it should keep young C.H. nice and warm. Here’s how far I’ve gotten:

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My daughter chose the color combo because I couldn’t make up my mind that day, and since it’s such a very classic design with the navy-and-white, I’m pulling a little color sequence switcheroo – can you see?

Last but not least, I fell in love with this rainbow yarn, look:

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I’m planning to make quite a few kids‘ socks from this beauty. You can never have too many rainbows in your life, am I right?

I can not believe it’s just a matter of weeks until Christmas, can you? I always feel that over the last couple months of the year, time keeps accelerating. I already know I’ll have to speed-walk through November to get my stuff done. But hopefully, I’ll be able to slow down a bit again in December. A girl can dream.

I always seem to end my fall posts with a toadstool pic – can’t help myself, they’re just so pretty.

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Have a good November, and of course: Happy Halloween everyone …

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Feeling Thankful

img_0726See those two? That’s my brood. To say that I’m proud of them wouldn’t be entirely accurate – they’re people, both of them, and being privileged enough to raise them doesn’t mean I have a lot to do with who they are. At least that’s what I believe. It was a mind-boggling, discombobulating, amazing eye-opener when I had my son (Green Eyes on the left), to learn that I was meeting an actual person, albeit little, instead of simply taking care of a baby. The second time around I already knew I’d be in for another incredible new acquaintance, and that’s what I got. Not only does my daughter (Brown Eyed Girl on the right) look different – she’s, in many ways, my son’s exact opposite – and therefore also mine, let’s call a spade a spade. And they’re both wonderful!

So one’s this mellow, friendly hippie-nerdy weirdo who loves crafting, composing music and generally creating things that weren’t there before. The other’s this logical but dramatic, driven, hilarious, totally dependable person who will do anything for a friend, who was a voracious reader even at the tender age of seven, and whose thirst for knowledge is absolutely unquenchable.

You could say that there’s a lot of differences between my kiddos, plus the seven years they’re apart. And yet, they love each other, they enjoy each other’s company, and they (most of the time) embrace their differences – it makes for interesting conversation, inventive play, and fits of the giggles like you wouldn’t believe.

Looking back, all I really did this summer vacation was: Sit back and listen to them, watch them interact, talk to them, make them lasagna once a week, and basically allow a _lot_ of ice-cream.

I managed to read multiple books, host a few absolute sweethearts of girl-friends as well as my beautiful niece M. who is always an inspiration, and generally and thoroughly decompress. There was swimming, sleeping in, baking breads, making jams, oh …. and there was quite a bunch of leisurely but goal-oriented knitting. Not to mention hanging out with my own bestie girl friends, and throwing a _nice_ bash for my birthday.

So that was what my summer was like, and I’m well rested as well as grateful.  That my husband had to work all six weeks was obviously a major source of lament, but we managed to have a good time anyway, and we did get to see him for the weekends at least – there’s a lot to be said for vacationing close to home. No major travel time, being able to bring the cats, great public transport for those of us who needed to work.

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The Pink Sweater turned out nicely, don’t you think? I’m so pleased that I managed to make something without using a pattern! And there was even enough yarn left to make a little cowl for my daughter, check it out, once again following the one and only Margaret Hubert’s instructions, and changing the pattern a wee bit, because that’s what I do.

By now, I’m already deeply immersed in two work projects, one of which is going smoothly: Translation of a witty, gritty, sexy gay romance novel. The other is, for some reason, not going that well, maybe the clients expect too much or maybe I’m failing to see what it is they want from me. Hopefully we’ll get there soon, as I’d rather be focusing on getting a grip on the book’s protagonist’s tone of voice. He’s funny, and sounds a little ‚hood, which is challenging to transport into another language. But I’m having a lot of fun with him and his significant other.

This post would probably not be complete without a recipe, and since I’ve gotten to be such a seasoned bread baker over the summer (it’s because I don’t love the stuff you can buy in the country, plus you never really know what they put in there), here’s what I do to make a nice loaf like this:

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Nice Loaf of Bread

200 g wholegrain flour

300 g white flour

(Basically, use any flour you like! I usually use what I’ve got, doesn’t matter. Obviously they all taste marginally different, but it doesn’t make the slightest bit of a difference in terms of procedure. Go for it, experiment, knock yourself out :-. I promise it’ll be gratifying!) Only last week, I substituted with oatmeal as I had run out of flour and couldn’t be bothered to make a dash for the store, and it actually tasted really great, especially toasted and topped with peanut butter and apple slices :-).

1 P dry yeast

1 1/2 cups warm water

1/2 TSP sugar

1 1/2 TSP salt

Dash of cooking oil, optional

Now contrary to what we’ve all been taught when we first learned how to make yeast dough, I never knead. In fact, I advise against anything more than mixing ingredients together, covering and letting rise for an hour. (Why? It’s because I like my breads to have holes, which are created by the air pockets the yeast will form. If you prefer a thick, solid crumb, you might as well knead all you want. Yeast dough is a really forgiving thing – it’ll probably taste wonderful no matter what you do.)

See that pic below? That’s taken the non-kneading principle to the max – letting the yeast do its thing for 16 hours, I’m not kidding. Then you also need a baking dish with a tight-fitting lid and you need to preheat both the oven and the baking dish to maximum heat for 30 minutes, pour the softish dough in, put back in the really hot oven with the lid on for approx. 45 minutes, then take off the lid and bake for an additional 30 minutes, and you end up with a beauty like the one you see here. (The physics of it, if you’re interested, is that you sort of create an oven within the oven – a very hot, humid baking bubble environment if that makes any sense. I’m sure greater cooks have explained this much more professionally, but maybe you’ll understand my ramblings anyway.) These types of breads are usually a great success at parties.

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But back to the first type of bread. Mix your ingredients until you have a soft, slightly sticky dough on your hands. Depending on the types of flour you use, you may have to adjust the amounts of water and flour a bit. Sprinkle flour on top, cover with a clean cloth and let rise for about an hour.

Then, preheat your oven to 160 °C, brush a square baking dish with oil, scrape the dough in with a spatula and bake for 45 – 50 minutes. Check the temperature, and take out once the crust is browned to your liking.

Enjoy your Baking Adventure :-).

Signing off today with a few of my favorite things about the Summer With Almost No Man.

Down Time and High Spirits

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Isn’t a hammock a thing of beauty? My sweet friends gave it to me for my birthday a few years back, and I’ll admit that it wasn’t exactly love at first sight, me and that piece of stripy canvas. In fact, it was my son who claimed it first, and as with most things he claims I surrendered it lock stock and barrel, ‚cause I just love giving my kids things. For a few years, the hammock lived up in the attic of our cottage – a place I usually don’t venture to a lot, because it’s the kids‘ territory and therefore even more cluttered than the rest of the place. It drives me up the walls, so I just don’t go there if I can help it, and over time I sort of forgot that the hammock was actually mine.

And then, our lovely friend and neighbor, R. the Artist, put a fixture in the wall for me so I could hang it right under my beloved linden tree, and now I love that spot more than any other. My spot, my hammock, my sanctuary.

So what were the past few weeks like? It was insanity, people. I finished a book translation, completed several smaller localizations on a tourist platform, proofread two knitting books, and accepted the task to translate Santino Hassell’s second novel in the Five Boroughs series, ‚Sunset Park‘. I also helped with the Summer Fayre at my son’s school, helped make the Summer Party at my daughter’s school happen, saw the much respected dean to her highly deserved retirement, gave gifts to the teachers, completed my physio prescription, finally took my poor kitty to the vet (tooth extractions, not pretty!), bought summer outfits for kids, and eventually packed up the family, our stuff and the cats and moved to the country for the next few weeks. As I was doing that, my heart went out to A. in Colorado who was actually packing the family’s complete lives up to move to the West Coast – and they have a _big_ house. But then again, they’re moving to the Pacific ocean, so it’s going to be sooo worth it!

So far, our vacation was spent doing things like this:

Some may find that kind of holiday boring – but to me, it’s pure bliss. After a week I was rested enough to actually feel like throwing a party for my birthday. It was a beautiful, laid back, summery event: we grilled things, had salads and quite a few bottles of prosecco, there was music, torches, a pretty strawberry cake I didn’t have to make, and I got awesome, awesome gifts. (A bright green herb shelf my son made from a euro-pallet, a Fjällraven backpack in a lovely shade of pink, wonderful books, excellent olive oil, a fantastic electric coffee grinder, book vouchers, a wildly creative box of incredible things from my friend A. and a Dinner Date Voucher with my fabulous niece M. the Unicorn … aaaand I treated myself to the complete 5 seasons of Queer as Folk on DVD ;-)). My family & friends are wonderful. Thank you so much everyone for helping me make the day beautiful. I love you all!

The next two weeks, I’ll be taking the brood to the beach. I’m both excited to go and sad because my husband won’t have time to come with us. Essentially, we’re spending our summer without him this year, which absolutely sucks. Totally the big fat downside of freelancing, despite the money perks it obviously has. They still pay nicely in advertising. Better than in translating, that’s for damn sure (snort!).

My two knitting projects are coming along nicely. No new pics available right now, but I’m way into the back piece of the Pink Summer Sweater, and made some progress into the Blue Shawl. I’ll bring them with me to the beach, and since I’ll have lots of hours to kill while the kids play with the surf, I plan to finish the sweater there. You probably won’t be reading anything new here until end of the month, because I won’t have Internet access – isn’t it quaint? We’ll be staying in an old villa by the beach front, with charming furniture – at least it looked really cozy and old-fashioned on Airb’n’b. I’ll take pictures and let you know when we come back.

For now, wherever you are, enjoy your summer – and tell me all about it!

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Exhale

Anyone remember the 1990s movie ‚Waiting to Exhale‘? I was way too young to understand when I saw that movie, but loved it anyway, even then. It had an absolutely outstanding cast, including the late Whitney Houston, man, wasn’t she gorgeous, and fragile, and sooo funny if she chose to be? I was totally smitten with her after the movie. And the wonderful Angela Basset, and Wesley Snipes was in it also, and the whole thing was directed by none other than Forest Whitaker.

All the four main characters are African American ladies, and they all have some serious man troubles. Nothing unusual really: One of the men is married and keeps promising to leave his wife, but never follows through. Duh. The other dude runs off with another woman who is younger, and also white – ’nuff said. The third lady just distrusts men in general, and the fourth’s ex-husband whom she still loves comes out as gay. It happens. Anyway, all of it was very slice of life and depicted beautifully and with a lot of sensitivity as to how women think and feel and behave – Gosh, I _loved_ that movie.

But I was trying to reflect on the exhaling part, it’s what made me think of the movie. All these ladies kind of keep running in circles. None of them are happy, and they all keep going and going and going … waiting to exhale is a state of mind you simply do not experience when you’re in your twenties as I was at the time the film came out. But now, I get it. Boy, do I get it. Not to whine or complain, but sometimes I too feel like a rat in a cage, like a hamster in a wheel, like I can’t breathe. Keep another deadline, finish one job and start on a new one right away, even my crafts projects kind of keep piling up… So many ideas, so little time.

On the upside, soccer tournaments are always great for serious yarn mileage, and we still have a few good watchin‘ the game nights to go. Look how far I’ve gotten:

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I will finish this sweater, I will. Summer vacation is coming up, which is why I’m so stressed in the first place – dare I write it down? Phew, here we go: I plan not to work this summer. There, I’ve said it. You’ve read it. Now I just need to make it happen.

School is always amazingly busy also the last weeks before vacation starts.

This was the Butterfly Project at my daughter’s school. It was a science project, and they actually made caterpillars hatch and become butterflies, courtesy of the University here in town. An amazing experience, and the kids were so thrilled to see how life works. And then it was time to let the butterflies go. It was all very grand, the kids burst with pride and they had a nice picnic at the playground afterwards.

At my son’s school, we’re gearing up for the annual Summer Fayre. Also quite an endeavor, with food stalls, music, acrobatics & amazing things to buy that we the parents crafted for the bazaar – among them, this Army of Dwarfness:

So, a few insane weeks to go and then, hopefully, a lot of this:

I had promised my physiotherapist S to be a bit more mindful about sleeping enough – so in the spirit of being a good patient – good night Blogland.