Still a bit emotional from the unexpectedly touching graduation ceremony of my son’s class yesterday, I’ve been smiling all day, reliving the 2 solid hours of Waldorf spirit I absorbed yesterday. The kids had organized the event at the last minute, and everything was a bit improvised but charming, heartfelt and happy. It so happened that it was also Summer Solstice yesterday, which for many is quite a spiritual night. It felt very fitting because the grounds of the Steiner School have this extremely rich atmosphere with old trees and buildings, lots of animals and music and art all over the place, positively dripping with anthroposophic history. I felt blessed to be a guest there, and thought how cool it must have been to be a student.
For those who don’t know, our little Waldorf school ends with the Waldorf graduation in the 12th grade, which is not the same one you get from a regular school, which you need for applying to university. If you wish to acquire that, you go to a different, larger, Waldorf school in the 13th grade in order to acquire the equivalent of high school graduation. Our school partners with the esteemed Berlin Steiner School, so my son and his classmates migrated there for their final year.
Everyone passed, which is quite the achievement in and of itself in times of Covid and 4 months of online classes. But not only that – one of the teachers announced that the class of 2021 managed to score the highest grade point average in the school’s history. They must be quite the bunch, right?
So, there they were, leaning against the railing, holding their precious graduation certificates in their hands, big, big smiles on their young faces. There were moving songs, there was a touching poetry slam, and there was a wonderful speech by one of the German teachers, which ended with everyone reciting the famous morning verse together, which in English goes like this:
I look into the world Wherein there shines the sun Wherein there gleam the stars Wherein there lie the stones. The plants they live and grow. The beasts they feel and live. And humankind to spirit gives A dwelling in the soul. I look into the soul. That living dwells in me God’s spirit lives and weaves In sunlight and in soul-light In heights of worlds without In depths of soul within To thee O spirit of God, I seeking turn myself That strength and grace and skill For learning and for work In me may live and grow.
It was an uplifting experience, a crowd of about 150 people murmuring those familiar words :-).
Tonight, the class is partying on the big field near our cottage, which will hopefully be a memorable final get together, before they all disappear into their respective vacations and summer projects:
So. That happened! Other things happened also. Made a dent in the substantial dessert chapter of my translation of Julia Child’s Art of French Cooking, volume II. Ordered aqua shoes for Croatia, because sea urchins, ouch! Rented out our cottage to a British couple who are coming out to kayak for the time we’re traveling. Finished another pair of socks, because the European soccer championship lends itself to watching and knitting:
Pretty, huh? Couldn’t resist the color sequence! It gives me great joy.
And I made a coaster for this ridiculously cute teapot I got for a friend who said she needed a small teapot for work. I hope this isn’t too small for her?! It’s supposed to be for 2 cups. I promise it’s not a toy. But, I did keep the receipt, so we can return it in case she wants a larger one after all.
Food has taken a back seat the last week, because we experienced a sudden heat wave, and all I was capable of was cutting up water melon, throwing together a salad, and defrosting the occasional pizza. Thank goodness, the temperatures have dropped again. Not sure how I’ll survive 2 weeks by the Adria coast – oh right, we have a pool. That’s how ;-).
On this happy note, let me wish you a good rest of the week, and as always, thank you for reading :-).
As I may have written before, I don’t really drink; I’m not a teetotaler, nor an addict – I just choose not to drink because my body doesn’t handle alcohol very well anymore. There are occasions, though, when I don’t care, and damn the consequences.
The reason why we toasted with a glass of excellent champagne today is that our son just came home from the last oral exam of his high school graduation. Grades will be announced shortly, and he’ll know whether they will call for a re-examination or not, so the fat lady hasn’t sung just yet. However, this one was the last of six, and it’s fair to say the past few weeks have been a doozy.
Those who regularly read this blog are probably aware the boy is dyslexic as well as diagnosed with ADD; school has not been easy for him, nor for all other concerned parties. Some of his teachers – the majority in fact, were kind and supportive, as you would expect from people entrusted with your child’s education. Others, not so much. Since they are little more than a waste of space to me, I won’t bother talking about them.
The wonderful, knowledgeable and dedicated ones have been a treasure to know and to work with. They managed to turn around a miserable, frustrated child who had just about given up to ever be able to learn how to read and write, and make him like school, develop skills and become a confident human being.
Being a parent of a special needs child is challenging, and exhausting, but also really rewarding if things work out. I’m so proud of my son. So proud!
For anyone who has a dyslexic child, I encourage you to empower them, find help, get them educational therapy and teach them strategies suited for their special brains. Do not listen to the knuckleheads who tell you all your child needs is a bit of discipline and tough love – they are wrong, and should not be allowed around any kids, let alone those who are special. So, find them tutoring, find them a studying method that works for them, encourage them to believe in themselves. Ensure that their teachers take into account their being different. They can get there, I promise. Educate yourself, do not be afraid to address their needs, talk to your kids‘ teachers. Ask the therapist to explain to the teachers how they can best support them. Take the time to try and understand how their minds work. They are probably among the smartest people you know. You just need to catch up.
Yes, I am emotional today, but that’s not down to the champagne, I assure you. The past weeks have been nerve-wracking, to say the least. And even if there should be a re-exam in the lad’s future, it’s probably safe to say the worst is over. Today he gets to celebrate, and today he has reason to be proud of himself.
I’ve submitted a book translation this morning, so I guess I get to be little proud, too. Also I managed to get an appointment for my first Covid vaccination for tomorrow, which is really great. Not looking forward to how my body might react to it – I’ve heard this and that, and some people are out for the count for a few days. I’m making a pot of chicken soup in case I should feel sick. It’s always a treat, in sickness and in health ;-).
My daughter’s strawberry hat is coming along nicely, and since it is a bit too complex to knit when watching a movie, I’ve been working on my cute little nephew’s custom socks, check it out:
As the calendar tells us, it’s asparagus season, a fact not so much corroborated by a look out the window, necessarily. I swear I can not remember ever having worn this many scarves and coats this late in spring. But since asparagus grows even as early as March, it’s probably not bothered by the chill as much as are we.
Anyway, last weekend, I made a pasta dish with green asparagus and lemon butter, a combination I can highly recommend.
Pasta Primavera My Way
1 bundle green asparagus
3 green onions
handful of basil leaves
50 g butter
Parmesan shavings to taste
100 g linguine per person
First, wash and clean asparagus and green onions, and cut diagonally. Roughly chop basil. Boil pasta. In a non-stick pan, melt the butter. Add salt and a pinch of sugar as well as lemon juice to taste. Throw in the vegetables and sweat for a few minutes – they should be, like your pasta, al dente. Combine all your ingredients in a bowl. If you feel it needs it, you can add a slosh of good quality olive oil. Toss with Parmesan shavings.
If you happen to have a leftover egg as I did, by all means, add that ;-). It’s not necessary for the dish to be great, though.
So, wish me luck with my jab tomorrow, and thank you for reading!
There’s actually not that much to tell, really, but for those who asked, I will try and describe my process. I won’t be able to specify any numbers, for I honestly did not count even once! I began with a chain of as many as I needed to be able to comfortably slip over my head once joined, in light heather grey; I wanted that to be the primary color.
Then I went on to increase at a rate that resembled my comfortable greige sweater in width. In the beginning, this meant increasing every round. I alternated the granny pattern (3 DC in one stitch, two stitched not worked, then again 3 DC in one stitch) and rounds of HDC, increasing (i.e. 2 HDC every 3 or 5 stitches) all the while. As you can see, the piece is not all that flowy or loose – I know that some like that, but I wanted it sort of snug but still comfortable, a bit as if it were a sweater, or cowl – and that took some trial and error.
Once I had reached the chest I stopped with the constant increasing and the rest of the poncho was done in Granny rounds, with occasional HDC rounds in navy blue to sort of reign in the color sequence. I found that the width was perfect when I alternated 2 regular Granny stitches with 3 DC and one that consisted of 2 DC. The HDC rounds did all the increasing needed.
The length was easy to do because I simply stopped when I’d reached my waistband, knowing it would get a little longer when washed.
The border was a mix of input by the hive mind of my besties. M, la chefesse de la mode, suggested a wide stripe of one solid color, and I went with the turquoise because I love that yarn so much. The question of the pompoms was decided after I’d done picots and pompoms side by side, to see which I liked better; I was worried the pompoms would look too playful for my ancient self. But after giving it a go, I found that it looked nice when I made them in the same color, and not too many.
This I can actually tell you in numbers because I needed to space them out evenly: *9 SC, and then a two-faced bobble stitch*, all the way around.
The pattern for the bobbles works like this: chain 3, 3 DC in base stitch, holding back the last stitch, so you have 4 loops on your hook, YO and pull through all 4 in one go. Then chain 3 and work 3 DC in the stitch in which you crocheted all 4 loops together, again holding back the last stitch so you have 4 loops on your hook. YO and pull through all four, then slip stitch into the base – bobble made. Important point if you attempt this: Since they look so much better from the back, turn your crochet project inside out (or crochet from the back if it’s a flat one like a blanket) and work from the ‚wrong‘ side. I swear, it’s prettier that way.
So that was the Poncho Story. It was a fun process, and I enjoyed working with the pastels that are actually not really my color palette. I’m not even sure I can pull off the look – maybe a little better once my melanin deprivation starts to fade with the sunshine. But I’ve worn that thing every day since having washed it on Friday, and I’m really pleased with the way it looks.
My next project is a knit hat, despite the sudden heat (we’re at almost 29 °C which confuses the heck out of my system, resulting in a stupid headache). My daughter wants a strawberry hat, much like the one I made for a little boy for Christmas last year:
Nothing about this project really sits right with me at this point in time – the colors are not what I’d want to use in the spring, she wants two pompoms instead of one, and I honestly find the 5 sock needles very cumbersome because I have like 38 stitches on each, so I have to pay attention not to drop any, all the damn time. Also the green stitches may look strewn in but are anything but! – it’s a nightmare in terms of watching what you’re doing compared to crochet … But it’s a labor of love. And it is going to be pretty. Also I totally enjoy it when she asks for specific things. We all love giving our kids what they ask for, don’t we?
So, yesterday was Mother’s Day. I hope you had a good one and spent it with your loved ones. My two kids were really sweet and tried to make my day a lovely day, made breakfast in the morning, gave me a heart shaped macaroon, played cards and went for a walk with me … they were cute. Check out my gift:
It’s my wooden handled hairbrush, adorned with a pretty wood burned design; I had been wondering where that brush had got to and had to use my daughter’s all week ;-)). Turns out the kids weren’t playing Mario Kart but were doing crafts every night in my son’s room behind closed doors.
So that was my post of today. No recipes this time, but a series of blurry shots I took when we changed sheets and had some, um, help:
Hope that gave you a giggle. Have a good week, and thank you for reading!
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
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.
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!
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!
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!
Talking to anybody at the end of the year, you usually hear the terms stress, hectic, overwhelm, exhaustion … so I’ve decided to do the opposite. Today, I want to talk about what the past year was like, reflect on the good and the bad that it brought, and maybe think about what I’ve learned. You good with that? Then read on.
Not to be obnoxious, but I have to keep repeating (to myself, as well as to people around me) how lucky we were. The pandemic has not hit our country all that hard. We are now in the second lockdown of the year, and for good reason. I don’t even know what it will do to small businesses to have to close shop like this shortly before the holidays, hopefully they were smart and set up a web shop wherever possible. One of my favorite stores in the neighborhood is a lovely Italian lady who sells Polish pottery. She has a small, very tastefully set up establishment on a quiet street in walking distance from our house. Her (brand) name is Athéna Panni – go check out her online shop if you still need a cool gift :-). I know that many of our local restaurants have been starting to sell takeout food, which we try and get every once in a while. It’s not much, but we feel we should at least try and support them.
I was thinking of doing a month-by-month recap of 2020, starting with January. It was a horrible month, work-wise. I raced through a wonderful cookbook, instead of enjoying it like I usually do, to make time for a complete rewrite of a novel translation. The client was impossible to please, and I was actually worried she wasn’t going to honor our contract, for a while. Maybe one learning would be to steer clear of authors altogether in the future, and leave it to a publishing house to deal with these aspects of the business. Trying to find the most positive image for that month, I found this: It was one of my favorite projects this year, the baby blanket for young J, my friend M’s third daughter.
February brought my beautiful boy’s 18th birthday, and a new (nice and highly professional) client. For me, it was a month of recuperating, shaking off the awful past month, and putting myself back together. Also, it was the last time we traveled, when we went to see our new baby cousin-nephew, K.
March memorably brought the pandemic, the first lockdown, and home schooling. Also, we learned about social distancing.
And our dear old cat finally succumbed to kidney insufficiency, after a few months of hanging by a thread. It was heartbreaking to let her go.
April and May were two months spent away from the city. We lived at our small cottage, kids homeschooled up in the attic, my husband worked at the kitchen table, and I established a workspace in my small bedroom. Also, mid May, we brought home from the shelter my son’s much beloved, beautiful new old lady of a cat, Elfie.
June was the last month of school. My son graduated from the Waldorf school – with less fanfare than would have been customary and, sadly, no class trip to Rome due to travel banishment :-/. My daughter transitioned from elementary school to the Waldorf, after two frantic weeks of making up her mind. We had our first Covid scare, which luckily turned out to be only laryngitis.
July was a summer month in the country, spent at the leisurely pace nature dictates. I remember canoeing, hiking, rafting, mushroom picking and swimming. Lazy hours in the hammock or deckchair, crochet in the shade, and enjoying starry night skies, which I can’t show here because my lens is not cut out to hack that kind of visual. A lovely young photographer from Boston who does that kind of pictures is Abdul Dremali – check out his awesome website to have your mind blown here.
August was mostly notable for me breaking my damn elbow. Unprecedented, inconvenient and annoying, it slowed me down like whoa. I managed to heal in record time, surprising even my doctor. I tried to eat well, get enough sleep, and stress as little as possible. Typing with only my right hand became a new skill, and deadlines were kept, even though I was slow AF.
September was a busy month for everyone, kids settling in their new schools, working and me finally ditching the cast. Man, was it nice to be able to put up my hair, and to do crafts again. Also: mushroom season!
In October, my son got his license, and has been driving us around with enthusiasm and skill ever since. There was an anniversary (19 years, incredible!), a birthday (12 years, mind boggling) and a notable trip to the Baltic Sea, where our dog encountered salt water for the first time (wildly unimpressed with the ocean after tasting it, but graciously and generously digging holes in the sand).
In November, my daughter cashed in her birthday present and chose her cat. There was also a crafts extravaganza, that had to do with school, but mostly with my love for all things Christmas! Oh, and good call America, for voting the way you did.
And now, in December, the year had to end with an injured pup (damn the dog owners who are careless with their dangerous pets). Immune system and antibiotics did their thing though, and I guess it all could have been worse.
Things are slowly winding down now. Jobs lined up for the next few months: check. Christmas mail packages wrapped: check. Christmas cards made: check. (Not written, yet, though). Plans for the holidays: check. Tree bought: check. Bills paid, invoices sent out: check. Since the stores are closed anyway, there’s not a lot more to do but deep clean the house, mail the parcels, put up the tree and decorate, and if I feel up for it, do a bit of baking.
All in all, I’m happy enough to see 2020 go. I had high hopes for it, right after New Year’s, but that really did not last. It feels like all year round, it was just one damn thing after another. What the pandemic will do to society remains to be seen. People died. Jobs and livelihoods were lost. So many businesses closed down. Social distancing makes people weird, and lonely. Some families couldn’t withstand the strain of closed quarters, and relationships broke under the pressure. Political change, extreme parties finding more and more followers, not to mention the crazies (pandemic deniers, anti-vaccinationists, conspiracy theorists) … Humanity has suffered a blow, in every respect. It’s up to us now to adapt, and to prevail. Be more thoughtful, kinder, and more patient. Take better care of one another. A coach friend of mine whose website I translated a few years back suggests that every crisis also provides a chance. It might be worth while to think about what that could be.
… And that is a wrap on the ruminations on the past 12 months.
On a lighter note, I’d really like to show you this year’s Christmas cards now. As you know, I’m usually a knit and crochet whiz rather than attempting any other crafts disciplines, so I’m really pleased. I like the simple design, inspired by a DIY project I saw online. The crafter was using a lint roller and shapes cut out from rubber foam, and I used – well, vegetables ;-)!
I had only ever used potatoes for this kind of thing before (did this a lot with the kids when they were younger). But today, I found a thick wedge of celeriac and a big carrot in the veggie drawer, so decided to give those a go. I let them dry for a while after carving, and went out to buy a few sheets of a lovely thick off-white cardboard. Then I did a test run on printer paper, tried out a few shades of green (from my daughter’s water colors), and cut my cards to size.
This is what the cards look like. Came out nicely, didn’t they?
The celeriac gave the print a lovely textured look, very different from what a potato would have done. Some of you (you know who you are) will probably receive one of these cards early next week ;-). Other readers, I encourage you to make your own, I promise it’s an easy and gratifying li’l project.
Is it too early to wish you guys happy holidays? Not sure. I might come back and post next week, or not. In case you don’t hear from me again before Christmas, merry merry to all of you, and thank you very much for reading this wall of text. Enjoy my favorite Christmas carol, sung by an angel with a huge voice.
So, my son’s girlfriend was tested Covid positive, and we’re waiting for P’s test result to come in tomorrow; it would be short of a miracle if he didn’t have it, either with or without symptoms. Just in case, we’ve taken the necessary precautions inside the house. However, there is a high probability of us being infected as well, because we are a touchy-feely, affectionate family. In fact, that is the thing I find most vexing, not to be able to touch my boy :-/. I mean, I don’t wish for getting sick, I really don’t. In fact, we’ve been more careful than some of our friends, and doing our level best to avoid it, up to now. Still, a part of me can’t help thinking if it wouldn’t be best to just get it over with?
When I called our pediatrician, they recommended to isolate ourselves as a family, until the boy’s test result is in. So, to pass the time in a meaningful way, I’ve resorted to crafts.
This is my contribution to the festive decoration of the school building. With my fellow Waldorf mom E, I did three of these large twig stars:
You may not be able to tell by the picture, but they’re huge – like 1 m in diameter. Fun and cheap to make too. What you do is:
Collect a huge pile of thin twigs.
Cut out a circle of thick cardboard in the desired size.
Heat up the hot glue pen.
Keep the garden shears ready to shorten twigs to desired length.
And round and round you go!
(Of course you don’t need to make them this big – you can easily make them the size of a plate, or even cutesy little ones with the thinnest twigs, to hang on your Christmas tree as ornaments. Those might benefit from being double-sided.)
One of the branches I brought home wasn’t suited for the project, but I loved it so much because there was some very pretty moss growth on it.
So I was thinking it might be nice to use it for hanging stuff from. Something fluffy, seasonal – it made me think of the tiny snowflakes I crocheted when I was still learning, seven years ago.
Looking at my branch, and its size, I thought what if I made those with a really bulky yarn, so they’d be huge? In my stash, I had some single ply, squishy, ultra-soft merino wool and a few other yarns in the same color, and decided I’d use them all at once, crocheting with a really big hook. I looked up the pattern once again at attic 24, unsure whether the proportions would work, but then I gave it a try with a size 6 hook, and I’m pretty pleased with how it turned out:
The Attic 24 blog has been one of my most important inspirations when I first started to crochet (the other being this YouTube channel – an amazing source for any and every question a knitting or crochet enthusiast, may they be beginners or advanced, might have. In effect, Elizza, the Nadelspiel host, taught me how to crochet!).
Lucy, the Attic 24 host, on the other hand, opened up a whole new universe for me with her impeccable sense of color composition and uniquely cheerful style. It may also well be down to her that I even started this blog. Her documentation of everyday life with children, and crafts, and her pretty pictures of the British countryside, as well as occasional recipes, sounded so appealing, and relatable. Her stories, told with little fanfare, but a lot of kindness and sense of humor, resonated with me to a degree that made me brave enough to start sharing mine.
Professionally, my life was at a crossroads then, and I had yet to make the leap to becoming a full-time translator. Crafts kept me sane (as they still do) and gave me something rewarding to do, over the many hours spent nursing my daughter whose immune system didn’t pick up speed until she was five or six, back to health, again and again and again…
Blogging about our life, my crafts projects and what was cooking turned into the classic weblog you know (and choose to read, thank you so much!) So, here’s to Lucy – who doesn’t know me from a bar of soap, but has been important to me, as a crochet artist and as a writer, all the same ;-).
As you can see, I’ve also made progress on my daughter’s pink sweater, while watching Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, enjoying the Agatha-Christie-y vibe of the cases, the gorgeous period-piece set and costume design, and Miss Fisher’s significant mischievous eyebrow quirk. The knitting is quick work, and I’m planning to try something new with the sleeves. Have you done dolman sleeves before? I have not, and we’ll have to see how it goes.
When making the cats, I found other patterns for Waldorf knit animals, and these looked easy enough to to, so I made one just to see if I could. Not exactly the most perfect design, and the proportions seem a little wonky – or is this just the way chickens look? As ever, my problem is more with the shaping and finishing than it is with the knitting…
Oh, and check out what I found at my favorite local yarn store! Isn’t it the most festive yarn imaginable? Soft, and deep red and glittery – Christmas socks, I was thinking :-). For whom, we shall see!
Since the flower stall isn’t off limits yet today (as of tomorrow, it may well be, should my boy test positive), I went out and bought a huge armful of fir branches to be able to make my advent wreath next week. It must be the earliest I ever did that, a week in advance!
Side note: I know that crafts are no real solution for dire circumstances (being out of a job, having financial troubles, health issues and dealing with close quarters related psychological problems). I’m not in any way trying to make light of the situation, for it is an existential catastrophe for many, and I’m well aware we have been so very fortunate so far, to be able to stay healthy and sane, as well as busy and getting paid for it. It’s just my go to thing whenever shit gets real to go and make something, or cook something, or take a long walk. These things make me feel better, but may not help you at all. Although, since you are here of your own free will, it’s probably correct to assume you enjoy these things, too ;-).
Leaving here today with a picture of this beautiful leaf (maple? sycamore? can’t be sure!) that had the first frost on it when I saw it while walking Charlie in the morning. It suddenly made me realize it’ll be Christmas in a matter of weeks. Hang in there – and fingers crossed for our virus situation.