Happy New Year

Hello stitch readers, and welcome to a new year in my corner of the Internet. 2023 will be memorable, I can feel it. Both kids have big plans, I have a few fun projects to look forward to, and am doing okay with my health situation, after years of feeling off… medicine is a good thing.

As expected, the holidays were a much needed break and I’m proud to say we managed to have a peaceful, uneventful time of it. There was leisurely cooking and baking, there were thoughtful presents, movie nights and crafts. We saw friends, hung out with our kids, and enjoyed the extraordinarily mild winter out at the cottage. Charlie and I (and friends) took long walks every day, mostly by the lake shore, some sunny and some foggy, all of them greatly beneficial to all parties.

And now I’m on a serious deadline, which is why this is a short installment, mostly a few pics of knitting, and maybe a recipe. As always, crafts first.

Top left: a pair of cable wrist warmers I made for my young friend T, whom I’ve known since she was 1, and seen grow into an amazing young woman, and fellow English scholar. If the pattern seems familiar, that’s because I’ve made it twice already, in different yarns ;-). The heather grey project on the right is what will become a hopefully elegant and unobtrusive sofa cushion sleeve, in double moss stitch. The socks are for my sweet A who lives in Southern California but still gets cold feet sometimes. Made to very specific instructions, these will go as high as mid calf, and hopefully will fit as a glove, after the last pair famously did not, and has in the meantime fallen victim to a well meaning, but ill informed enthusiastic washer, who threw them in the dryer… The last one was a quick hat for another young friend, R, whom I’ve also known since Kindergarten, and who is now almost done with law school (mind boggling!) and a sweet and good-looking young man. The navy blue hat should make his very blue eyes pop ;-). I love little projects like these, that are quick to finish. So gratifying to make!

As you can see, the hat is knit in what has to be my current favorite type of rib: knit 1 into back loop, purl 2, repeat. Obviously, back and front look different (see pic in the middle), and if you want to fold the brim of the hat back as I’ve done, and want the rib to be on the outside, it needs a little trick.

So, mid cuff, I made one round of purl, to mark the place where it needs to fold back, then I turned the work inside out, continuing on the wrong side of the hat, pretty much doing what I had done before: 1 knit into back loop, purl 2, repeat. This way, what was the wrong side before becomes the right side, and you only see the ribbed pattern, on the cuff and the body of the hat both. Neat, huh?

Since the holidays have seen their fair share of rich foods, the first recipe for the new year is a light, but spectacularly tasty tomato sauce, that bows to the amazing, fragrant and exotic Arabic cuisine. In this picture, you can see the way we usually have it, with fish and rice:

La Bonne Sauce Arabe

1 red onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic (or more, to taste), chopped

1 celery stalk, chopped

1-2 cans tomato

Salt, pepper, sugar to taste

1 TSP chili flakes

1 TSP cumin

2 TBSP capers

4-5 bay leaves

Handful chopped parsley, or cilantro, if so inclined

Olive oil

In a pan or saucepan, heat a couple TBSP olive oil and add chopped onion, then garlic and celery. Sauté until onions are translucent, then add other ingredients. Go nuts with the garlic, chili and cumin – it’s really up to you how spicy and cumin-flavored you like your food, and the same goes for the other spices.

I add more sugar than you might think, for instance, to counterbalance the tartness of the tomatoes. Also if you use the sauce to cook oven-baked fish, you’ll probably have let the fish sit in lemon juice before cooking, or add more lemon to serve, so a little more sugar can be a good idea.

Let the sauce simmer at low temperature for an hour or so, then it’s ready to use. My sweet Arabic friends assure me it’s also great with chicken, and I believe it. For chicken, I’d probably use less capers, but add some thyme, or fresh oregano, if available, for an interesting, cross-culture flavor.

Whatever you eat it with, it’ll get you raving reviews, I promise. I made it for my foodie friends for New Year’s (with halibut), and everyone was clamoring for the recipe afterwards. Enjoy!

And now I have to snap into work mode again, wishing you a productive week and great beginning of the year.

Thank you for visiting, and for reading.

Whoa, Whoa, Whoa!

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

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

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

Ladies and gentlemen, Vanillekipferl.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And that, folks, is it for today.

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

A Sick Kiddo Post

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Playing Hooky

This morning, I took advantage of being self-employed, and after an early vet appointment that involved a somewhat unsavory procedure – dog owners: anal glands, ’nuff said! –, we went to the community forest for a quick morning walk. We weren’t the only ones around, but it’s a friendly dog owner crowd of (much to be envied!) local Berlin Dahlem residents, young moms pushing strollers, pensioners and, I guess, people like myself who can choose to do this on a weekday morning, a time which ordinarily finds me at my desk, too. But I’m certain that the benefit for both pup and me outweighed the working hour and a half I missed. I can (and will) catch up tonight.

As a Waldorf mom, I’m looking at a busy volunteer work week, as we’re gearing up for the Winter School Bazaar. It will be the first one after a three year hiatus, and many of the younger parents will be doing it for the first time. Everyone is really excited, and hopefully, it’s going to be just as crazy, busy and joyful as it was when we last did this in November 2019. I’m mostly looking forward to see the kids‘ happy faces (and even the teenagers‘ pretending to be sooo annoyed and secretly enjoying the hustle and bustle ;-), and the waffles!).

Those of you who come here for crafts might be disappointed. Although I have been working on my Aubergine sweater, there was an unraveled stitch for most every knitted one. It seems I have yet to find the balance between my vision for that sweater and the pattern. No idea why it felt wonky, but I’ve unraveled the first sleeve no less than three times, aggravating and time-consuming. First I went with the suggested decrease pace every 4th round, then I tried every 6th round, and now I’ve landed at every 8th round, which finally shaped the sleeve the way I like, but may make for a possibly too wide cuff. Or not? See what I mean?

Also, the pattern says to use a thinner needle for the cuffs, which I did for the bottom cuff at first (see exhibit below). Sadly, this turned out bunching up the rest of the body in an unflattering manner, so I unraveled _that_ again.

I figure if you’re making a sweater for yourself, you want it to actually fit your own body, right? Fortunately, the yarn is very forgiving, so I guess I’ll keep tweaking until I really like the way it looks! A true work in progress. Still, the pattern is a good one, and I’m not sorry I bought it. petiteknit, Monday Sweater, everybody.

In terms of food, I have a nice, seasonal recipe for you: it’s a variation of a good old veggie lasagna, with squash, eggplant, mushrooms and a cheesy Béchamel sauce.

Cheesy Fall Veggie Lasagna

You can make this as vegetables- or pasta-heavy as you wish. This ratio was perfect for our taste, basically three layers of everything: Hokkaido, eggplant, Porcini mushrooms and sauce, topped with grated Parmesan cheese.

1/2 p lasagna sheets

1/2 Hokkaido, seeded and cut into thin slices

1 eggplant, sliced

2 Porcini mushrooms, sliced

1 liter Béchamel sauce

2 large handfuls grated Parmesan cheese

1 clove garlic

Fresh thyme (twigs) and rosemary (chopped) to taste

First, put a single layer of eggplant and Hokkaido on a baking sheet lined with parchment, drizzle with olive oil and lightly salt. (I used two baking sheets to fit it all). Bake for 20 minutes at 200 °C. In the meantime, make the Béchamel sauce. Season with salt, white pepper and nutmeg to taste. Add the mushrooms, herbs and garlic and let steep off the heat until you’re ready to assemble the lasagna.

Brush your ovenproof dish with olive oil. Layer in, from bottom to top: lasagna sheets, Hokkaido, eggplant, sauce, cheese, and repeat until the last layer. Finish with grated cheese and bake in the oven a t 175 °C for 45 minutes (your pasta sheets should be soft when you stick in a fork.) You want a slightly browned top.

I like it when my vegetable drawer suddenly combines in my head (and later on the plate) in a tasty and satisfying manner! This was such a happy coincidence, that resulted in a dish I’ll be making again.

Have a productive week, and thank you for dropping by to read!

A Gloomy Monday

Temperature drop, rain, falling leaves – we all know what this means. Time to dig out the sweaters, swap the birks for boots, and light a candle with your tea in the mornings. Fall has arrived.

Last week, I was fortunate enough to spend a few days out in the country by myself. After a weekend with my daughter and her friend, I put the girls on the train Sunday night and just stayed a little longer – advantages of a home officing and therefore available husband, and my mobile work.

Everything could have been really chill, had my family not given me a souvenir that had me coughing, sneezing and developing a violently blooming, painful lip herpes – my immune system had obviously checked out.

My daily walks in the forest left me sweaty and exhausted, but I went anyway because I felt it would be a waste not to go just because I was sick. Also there was a wonderful and rewarding surprise: the porcini mushroom mycelia had decided to wake up. I didn’t even actively search for them but rather happened upon them in unlikely places, admiring their pretty shape, then reverently and gingerly prying them loose. They’re heavy! My favorite way to eat them is sauteed as a sandwich topping, but they’re really good with anything from rice to polenta to pasta or potatoes. Porcini are my favorite type of mushroom for a reason.

This is a cacio e pepe variation to which I added slices of mushroom sauteed in olive oil with some garlic and a smidge of butter. A very seasonal, no fuss dish!

After a few days of feeling lousy, I’d almost convinced myself Covid had finally caught up with me, but tests came back negative. It’s kind of weird to not have had it yet, I have to say. By now, I don’t know many people except for us who have managed to not get it. Not complaining, just remarking that it’s odd.

Crafts-wise, I’ve done a bit of work on the Aubergine sweater. Here’s as far as I’ve gotten. The yarn is an absolute dream to knit with, and it feels soft and cozy to wear. After finishing the yoke, you put the stitches for the sleeves on hold and continue with the tube that becomes the body. It’s a long way down, all in stockinette, but for watching a show as you go, it’s perfect ;-). You don’t have to increase, or decrease, or count, just go, one stitch after the other.

Both friends whom I gave soap baggies love them, which is nice, so hopefully, the good people who come to our school Winter Bazaar in November will do, too, and buy them like hot cakes.

They’re really fun, quick and easy to make, if you’d like to try?

With a thin cotton yarn and a 2,5 mm hook, chain 30, then turn and work 1 row of SC into the chain. Chain 1.

Then work the following, alternating 1. and 2. as you go:

  1. Turn work. In the first stitch, make *1 DC, chain 1, skip 1 stitch*, then repeat between ** until you’ve reached the end of the row. Chain 2.
  2. Turn work. Make 1 row of SC in every stitch. Work the chains between the DC as stitches. Chain 1.

Continue in this manner until you’ve reached the desired length. A bar of soap should comfortably fit in when the piece is folded in half. End with a row of SC.

Fold piece in half. Fit the edges together, then close seams with SC on both sides. You should have a squarish baggie with an opening at the top. Darn in threads. Make a 30-40 cm string of twisted cord from the same yarn. Thread it through the gaps just below the top, knot and pull tight. That’s it! A great way to get rid of left over yarn.

Don’t shoot me if the tutorial doesn’t make sense to you. But if you have any questions, let me know, and I’ll try to explain better ;-).

With a prettier sundown than I’ve seen in days, I wish you a great week. Take care, and thank you for reading.

Virtual Break Room

Translating a lengthy non-fiction book is great. There’s a comfortable deadline weeks or months away. I get to work on an interesting subject. I’m relaxed because I know what I’m doing. All is, in fact, well. Until some days, it just isn’t! Since there’s no narrative to follow, only chapters/sections/recipes or patterns, sometimes I can feel my focus slip, my mind start to wander, and no amount of coffee, focusing techniques and dog-walking breaks seem to help. I’ve noticed that this happens much less when I work on fiction, probably because I get caught up in the story. So, trying to trick my mind into FOCUSING. Any thoughts on how to kick-start work discipline? I’ll wait…

And while I do that, I’ll pretend to be in a break room, chatting to you – about crafts, what else ;-).

In my free time, I’m trying to knit a perfect crewneck sweater. I bought this beautiful, soft merino and a little cashmere mix a while ago, with a vague idea of making a no frills color block and stockinette stitch sweater that goes with everything.

And since I’ve successfully managed to knit a top-down sweater following a pattern before, over the summer, I thought I’d try my hand at another one. There’s this young Danish fiber artist I’ve been following, her handle is PetiteKnit, whose work you may or may not have seen online before. She makes simple-looking, yet sophisticated knit garments, and after giving up on trying to find a free pattern I loved, I went and purchased the instructions for what she calls the Monday Sweater.

One of the selling points was that she uses short rows. For those of you who don’t know, this is a clever way of shaping certain parts of knit garments (in this case, back of the neck), much in the same way you do a heel when knitting socks. You knit the fabric on the right and on the wrong sides, and you only do the rows partially, turn the work and continue on the WS if you started on the RS and the other way round. So, that’s the principle, and I’ve been intrigued by it for a long time. I was of course scared by the math, but I figured if I used a pattern, it would do it for me.

Needless to say, I botched the first attempt, the one you see on the right! I did follow the pattern, but my stitch markers weren’t where they needed to be, which made the whole thing wonky and just wrong. Also, I decided I liked the look of the rib being a different color than the rest of the sweater, so that’s what I’m trying to do. Navy Blue for the rib, and the rest in this beautiful, deep, rich shade of Aubergine. So, last Sunday I ripped it back up, adjusted my stitch count (evidently, I’m using thinner yarn than the one used in the pattern) and began again, paying close attention to setting and moving those stitch markers this time.

So, this is the beginning of what will hopefully turn out to be a beautiful winter sweater, fingers crossed. You can see how the back of the neck is an inch or so higher than the front of the neck, right? That’s what the short rows do.

So, break time’s up. It was a very nice chat, and now it’s back to my manuscript, or else…

Have a beautiful late summer week, and thank you for reading!

Post-dentist Crafts Chat

Not to bore you with health stuff – just let it be said that I get now why people pull a face and utter a hissing sound when the term ‚root canal‘ is mentioned… fingers crossed for my lower left second molar, please. I’ll know in a couple of months whether the treatment was successful.

The dentist, unfazed by anxiety patients, encouraged me to knit during treatment, can you believe it? I was working on a sock for my friend in the waiting room. The dentist commented on my knitting without looking. I explained how knitting in the round only needs knit stitches, nothing complicated, not even purl stitches, and that it calmed me – and there I was, knitting away while she was busy repairing my root canal! It really helped with my anxiety, being able to do something with my hands! These are the socks in question:

My friend A. and I had picked out the yarn together when she came to stay with us in July. It’s a luxurious mix of very soft merino with 10% cashmere called ‚About Berlin‘. There are a number of color combos to choose from, but A. gravitated towards this one right away. After today’s visit to the practice, I’m well into the second sock, so her belated birthday present will be ready soon.

And since I’m on the subject, let me share a ‚Tadahhh!‘ moment, and tell you the tale of the Ribbed Mohair Cardigan. It began, as many projects do, with an post I saw online, by lovely Copenhagen-based fiber artist Anne Ventzel. She does beautiful sweaters, with these deep raglan sleeves, boxy, comfortable designs, and she always uses high-end yarns, combining simpler wool with a thin strand of a luxurious mohair. Her work is sophisticated and cool, very inspiring to me. This is her IG profile, isn’t she amazing?

Unfortunately, neither of her designs was exactly what I wanted; I had a simple v-neck in mind, not too heavy but still cozy to wear. At the yarn shop, I ended up choosing this beautiful, fluffy cotton and mohair mix in a warm greige/caramel:

I swatched, I tried out stitches and finally went with this rib pattern:

The knitting itself was done pretty quickly, but then I got so nervous. I was terrified to ruin the whole thing. The yarn is exceptionally delicate and doesn’t take well to unraveling, which is to be expected when working with mohair. Also, I needed to figure out how I wanted the neckline to be, find buttons, and such. So I gave up for a while and stowed it away.

It must have been the wind at the North Sea in Denmark that finally cleared my head and blew away the anxiety. Last week, I bought buttons, and over the weekend I took the plunge and finished the darn thing in one long sitting. It took me a few hours with the tapestry needle for sewing the pieces together (mattress stitch), the thin needles for making the neckline, and a sewing needle because the damn holes in the stupid buttons were too small for the tapestry needle… but then finally, it was done!

Finishing projects is always such a relief to me, because I can never quite trust my luck for them to turn out nice. So today I’m just grateful and content this ended well. And that’s my knit talk for today!

I wish you a great rest week. Hope you have something beautiful on your needles. And thank you so much for dropping by and reading.

Holiday

Although people have been traveling for as long as humanity exists, until the 19th century, this usually happened either out of necessity or for educational purposes, and not for relaxation. And these climate change days, the concept of tourism the past generations have grown up with (a couple weeks abroad in a hotel or resort with mountain or ocean view, reading a stack of books while enjoying an all-inclusive package of sports, wellness, food and drink) may well be hurdling towards extinction fast, as everybody needs to rethink priorities: politics, airlines, tourists and businesses alike. While I personally am not fond of resort vacations, I have of course taken commercial flights before, if less and less over the years. But even now, I sometimes fly to the United States to see family. And while I hate flying with a vengeance, it’s certainly hard to imagine life completely without it.

Buying and renovating our cottage has reduced our traveling, because a lot of our play money goes there. But it’s still nice to go somewhere else, sometimes. This year, we spent 2 extremely relaxing lazy weeks by the North Sea coast in Denmark, effectively dodging the heatwave that hit Germany. Where we were, it was a comfortable 19 – 26 degrees Celsius. There was walking on the beach, listening to music, playing cards, cooking, baking and barbecuing, visiting sleepy ancient towns with Viking history, lazing in a deck chair, crocheting and knitting … but most of all, enjoying each other’s company, and spending a lot of time outdoors. On a whim, we had brought not only the pup but also my son’s ancient cat lady, who proved to be an exceptionally chill traveler, and adapted to the Danish wraparound porch beach house with an ease that amazed us all. Maybe she was used to it, before she came to live with us?

It was only a 2 minute walk up the dune (beautiful, through a large field of fragrant hedgerow roses) to the ocean front, and I was there as often as Charlie was game. We upped our daily mileage to more exercise than a small dog with short legs is used to ;-), while my husband and kids went swimming and body-boarding in the surf almost every day. I only went in a few times, because the surf freaked me out a little. The beach was wide enough to never feel crowded, even on the weekends. I never get tired of watching the waves crash against the shore, delighting in the ever changing colors, from a deep green to gray to azure blue. Since we were all the way up in Jutland, on the West coast, sundowns were magical, and many of them were spent with a drink in hand, listening to the seagulls cackle, breathing the salty air and burying toes in the sand. I feel well rested, and ready to tackle the next manuscript!

As we had no agenda of crossing things off a bucket list, we lazed our way through the days, and I had time to finish my first ever top down knit sweater, after a pattern, to boot: the perfect summery stripie, modeled here by myself and my son, who might or might not steal it from time to time.

I’m really pleased with how it turned out, also happy to have learned the world doesn’t end when I have to follow a pattern, using stitch markers and counting … so happy I happened on lalaine Berlin’s online shop when I did, and decided to give this a go.

I had also packed the Waffle Blanket in case I’d feel like working on it (advantage of a mini van), and managed to add a good 20 cm in light turquoise. (This is actually a lot, seeing that the blanket is wide!) Good thing it wasn’t hot, or I wouldn’t have been able to handle the heavy weight of the blanket. As it was, it was pleasant to sit on the porch working on it, even when it was a little chilly in the mornings or evenings.

The vacation included us all listening to two lengthy audio books together (finished The Swarm by Frank Schätzing, started on The Hail Mary Project by Andy Weir on our way home), re-watching the Star Wars movies, and most notably, slow drawing! Remember my translating this book?

I had bought drawing pens and watercolor-paper drawing pads for everyone, as well as a small pocket watercolor set, and I can’t thank Amy Maricle enough, for my family were all drawing, much more than I was myself, tapping into the huge creative potential they have. Mission accomplished :-)!

I can highly recommend trying this yourself, if you have a taste for paper, texture, doodling, drawing, or painting. This is NOT about making ‚good art‘, as Amy points out, but about enjoying the process, slowing down and being in the moment.

So, what are your summer plans this year? Travel, staycation, relaxing or working on a project? Whatever you do, I wish you a wonderful time. Thank you for checking in and reading!

Waffle Stitch Crochet Potholder – a Tutorial

Well, a promise is a promise. As you’re aware if you’re a regular visitor of this blog, writing tutorials is a rare occurrence for me, mostly because I feel there are so many more seasoned crafts writers out there whose standard I can never hope to achieve. And while I don’t think that mine is going to suck completely, please take it with a grain of benevolent salt, okay?

The potholder you can see above was one of the many that were sold here, by the way, at my daughter’s school Summer Fayre two weeks ago.

Waffle Stitch Crochet Potholder

Onward to making one.

You will need 1 ball of mercerized cotton yarn (you could use any yarn you like, of course, but for functionality and this particular purpose, I think that would be best suited. Mercerized cotton is durable, easy to wash, and won’t split while you work.)

Also, you need a crochet hook. Try a 2, 2,5 or 3 size, depending on how tightly or loosely you crochet.

First, make a chain of 46.

Turn the work, chain 2 and then make a row of double crochet into the foundation chain.

Turn the work. Chain 2, then make 1 DC into the first loop. Then, make one front post double crochet (insert hook into the stitch in the row below from the front, go around the post of the stitch from the back,then finish your DC stitch. Make *2 regular DC, then again 1 FPDC*. Repeat until end of row, which you end with 1 regular DC into the last stitch.

It should look like this. As you can see, the 3-D effect you want is clearly visible already. This side will be referred to as the right side of your work.

Turn the work. Chain 2, then make 2 regular DC. Then make *2 FPDC, and 1 DC*. Continue like this until end of row. End with DC into the last 2 stitches.

This is what the wrong side of the potholder will look like.

Continue in this manner, alternating the right and wrong side patterns until you’re happy with the size of your potholder. It can be square shaped, or rectangular, whichever you prefer. The 46 stitches is what size I feel is the correct one, but you could make it larger, or smaller.

The last of your rows should be a wrong side row. Turn the work, then make 1 chain and start making a neat border as follows:

Crochet single crochet stitches into the ‚even‘ edge. In the corner, make 1 SC, 1 chain, and move on to the ‚uneven‘ side edge.

For this, use half double crochet. It’s a neat stitch that will straighten out the slight bumps. I try to space the stitches out evenly as best I can. Here, the exact number of stitches is not as important as the the neat look. You’ll see what I mean as you work. In this corner, end the edge with 1 HDC, 1 chain, and begin the next side of the border with 1 DC into the same stitch. Continue making SC into the ‚even‘ edge.

The corners look neater if you make a little ‚ear‘ by crocheting the last stitch of one edge and the first stitch of the next edge into the same stitch, with 1 chain in between.

Once you’ve gone all around the potholder and are back to the first DC, slip stitch into the first chain you made, to join the round. Then, chain 28 for the handle. Join the chain to the potholder. Turn the work and make 1 row of single crochet into all 28 chains. Join with slip stitch, maybe make 2 or 3 more slip stitches, then fasten off.

Darn in your ends, and you’re done!

Well, I hope this made sense to you guys. I taught someone the pattern at the school crafternoon, and then she had to leave, and I could only explain the border and finishing via text, but she understood what I meant :-), so I hope you will, too.

Today is a post manuscript submission day, so my brain is a little fried; not to the point of only being able to do manual labor, walk or bake. I wouldn’t be able to write a tutorial, otherwise! But I will admit that I’m tired, and also slow.

Speaking of which, I wanted to tell you about slow drawing. I just finished translating a very cool book about this, by artist Amy Maricle. It’s a mindful art practice, and it was a lovely book to translate. She talks about slow drawing as a meditative, calming activity, and encourages her students to embrace the slowness, and to experience with all your senses the joy and serenity it will bring to let loose your creativity.

Needless to say, I went out and bought watercolor paper and drawing pens right away, so strongly did I feel the pull of those beautiful, tiny patterns. She says to just go ahead and draw something any time you have a spare minute; for example all the instances when you’d normally pull out your phone and disappear into cyberspace for a few: use that time to draw instead. Much as I do with my small crafts baggies, she recommends carrying a small art kit with you at all times, so you’re prepared. A great book, a wonderful practice – highly recommended. Once again, I love my job :-)!

Other than that, our summer break is almost here. Next installment will probably be written from the North Sea. We’re going to Denmark this year, a country of which we’ve seen little else but Copenhagen, so far. Looking forward to windswept beaches, seagulls and shells, and some well deserved down time with my family.

Thank you for reading, and please let me know if you could work with the Waffle Stitch tutorial!

Oh The Shark Has Pretty Teeth, Dear

See that face? That’s the face of a woman after a long, intense visit to the dentist, still a little loopy from the local anesthetic, and a lot exhausted. Dental anxiety is real, and this time, it was quite justified, too. ‘Nuff said! It’s not the first time I’ve wished our teeth could grow back like a shark’s

Since I’m a little too sideways to proofread my manuscript still, I thought I’d pop over here and say hi. Last post was all brainy and emotional (thank you for the kind comments, by the way, they were really appreciated. It wasn’t an easy piece to write!), so this one will be lighter fare, about food, too, as I wait for the Vietnamese takeout delivery. I’m in desperate need of a bowl of Pho, not because I can’t chew, because I too can chew, but because it’s just the next best thing to home-made chicken soup.

Few memorable things have happened in my kitchen over the last few weeks, because work. Truth be told, I mostly made quick and easy fixes. Pasta and vegetables, stir-frys, chicken and rice, that sort of thing. Mashed potatoes, fried eggs, salads, all stuff I did with no great creativity or fanfare involved. I’m almost done with the Wok cookbook, which is nice, and next week I’ll be tackling a project in InDesign, albeit with some trepidation. The publishing house insists, and I’m willing to accommodate them. It’s a thing they expect from translators now, so I’ve promised to do my best.

One recipe I’ve made does stand out – remember when I talked about acacia fritters, last summer maybe? Last but last? I swear, all this Corona period is a blur in my memory. Anywhoo, last time I made them, I dipped the entire umbels (is that what you call them?) in batter and fried them. This time, I plucked the blossoms off of the stems, like so:

Then, I made a batter of spelt and buckwheat flour, 4 eggs, pinch of salt, pinch of sugar, milk and water – a Crêpe batter, essentially, to which I added: grated peel of 1 lemon, vanilla and baking powder. And the acacia blooms.

I fried them up like pancakes, in a pan with a little oil. They honestly didn’t look all that spectacular. But they were really, really tasty with a bit of lemon juice and a drop or two of – wait for it – acacia honey. Yum, serious yum.

Here in the city, acacia trees are in full bloom now, as are the elderbushes, the flowers of which can actually be eaten in a similar manner, as fritters with a dusting of powdered sugar. Maybe I’ll try that, too, if I can afford to take a break from my InDesign project.

Crafts, actually, did happen also. Last weekend, we had a crafternoon at our little Waldorf school, in preparation of the Summer Bazaar that will happen in June. We offered a number of different projects to participate in, and to my delight, I got to teach how to crochet Waffle stitch potholders to two interested crafters.

While we sat and worked at the school for the first time in two years, we felt the spirit of our little Waldorf community wake up from a long sleep, stretch out and dance among the yarns, the fabric, the clay, the felt and the paper crafts. It was uplifting, and there were smiles all around!

In Germany, it’s Father’s Day tomorrow. I love that not only moms are honored with a special day. I am fortunate enough to know many dads who deserve praise, my husband not least, and the kids intend to spoil him tomorrow (and I also might do a little bit of that, in my own love language which is always food ;-)). I could not have asked for a better person to be the father of my children, and I’m so happy we decided to become parents, when our very happy accident happened in 2001. Being a mom has been the greatest adventure of my life, and as I salute all the great dads tomorrow, I want to say a heartfelt thank you to my kids‘ father, my husband, friend and compadre of over 20 years – I love you very much.