Small World

If health content bores you, maybe just skip this post, for I’m still on Dog Rehab Duty, and my world revolves around that, pretty much. What a good thing I never realized, back in February, the journey this was going to be. I mean, they did inform us at the clinic, but they also said that Charlie’s recovery was remarkably speedy, initially. It was just stupid, probably, to extrapolate from that; hope’s a bitch, as my friend Damon Salvatore from the Vampire Diaries used to say.

Today, I have a hard time mustering any of the optimism from the early days after the surgery, and I feel exhausted. Seeing progress goes a long way when it comes to keeping the faith, and for the last 4 weeks, there hasn’t really been any, period. No upward-sloping curve at all. In fact, we’re back with the pain meds, continuous regular physio therapy, exercise, and even electro-therapy.

Seeing someone you love in pain is just hard, whether they be kids, pets, friends or family. The first wobbly steps in the morning. Always saying no when he’s happily dashing towards a dog friend, or a family member who needs to be properly greeted. No walks off the leash, no running, no jumping … and no one really seems to know what the time frame is. I guess it’s just eating at me. Apologies if I sound whiny. It must be one of those days.

Thankfully, there’s still my happy place, the yarniverse:

What you see above was what I played with over the weekend, making these small crochet pouches. I was asked to teach how to make them at the school’s crafternoon this coming Saturday, so I needed to make a prototype, to know what I’m even doing. I bought yarn on Friday, always a treat to visit the yarn shop. Personally, I think the square ones are prettier, but I can see how young children might prefer the round shape. These are meant for selling at our school’s annual Summer Fayre in July.

In April, I also ambitiously set out to make another sweater. It seems I caught the colorwork bug, for I’m trying out something a bit more complicated and very different from the chocolate brown number I did end up giving a brown ribbed semi-turtle, here:

The new sweater project was inspired by something the IG algorithm showed me. The artist is on Ravelry, check out their work, it’s really lovely: I found this pattern so intriguing that I started playing around with it, stubbornly not buying the pattern but wanting to teach myself how to do it:

The piece is designed to be a stash buster – all yarn people have one, so I’m sure you can relate. The trick was combining colors and yarn qualities to look and feel nice, while managing the increases for the yoke and the intricate 1/1 pattern at the same time. With my daughter’s help, I decided for a pink, grey, caramel, purple and greenish color palette. If the sweater ends up with her, I won’t be surprised ;-).

Regarding the increases, I found a solution for not messing up the 1/1 color change while increasing at the same time: I made 2 inc in 1 stitch, instead of 1 inc, like you normally do (1 in the front loop, 1 in the back loop). Instead, I just did (1 in the front loop in color A, 1 in the back lop in color B, and a third, 1 in the front loop in color A again). The yarn is thin enough for the fabric to accommodate the 2 increases instead of 1, so it’s been very gratifying to solve this puzzle ;-). I’m sure more experienced people have thought of this ages ago, but to me it was a new problem and I was really proud when I cracked it!

I’m working with a 4 mm needle, to compensate for the fact that you have 2 live threads at all times, which results in a slightly thicker fabric. It was too dense when I tried it with a 3 mm at first. The yarn is mostly sock yarn. There’s also a few really soft merino and cashmere skeins, and the really soft caramel mohair and cotton blend I used for the neck. The color changes are basically random; I’m trying to go with the flow, using one variegated yarn and one solid color at the same time, and trying to always have one of the softer qualities and one of the more basic sock yarns balance each other out into a wearable, soft fabric.

I was obsessing a little about that yoke for a good week, knitting at every opportunity, frogging and changing, and re-doing … you know how that goes … to the point of giving myself a little carpal trouble, so I set the sweater aside after finishing with the increases, and focused on work instead – for which I need my hands and wrists too, obviously.

Right now, I’m well into the last third of the translation of this inspiring fiber artist’s crochet book: Her name is Janine Myska, she’s Canadian (*love*), and she provides accessible, affordable, doable crochet patterns for sweaters and cardigans. Highly recommend! I hope to be done with the first draft next week, and then my editor and I will have to work out some digital knots of our own, because this is an InDesign project, still a bit nerve-wracking for me…

And since this is a blog that offers seasonal food content sometimes, here’s a pretty and unusual potato salad for you, a perfect spring-time addition to a barbecue, but also perfectly yummy all on its own!

Potato Salad Primavera

8 small boiled potatoes, peeled and cubed

1/2 red onion, sliced and chopped

5-6 stalks green asparagus, blanched for a few minutes

1 cup frozen green peas, thawed

1 TBSP basil or parsley, cut into thin slices

Salt, pepper, pinch of sugar

6 TBSP olive oil, or other oil

1,5 TSP Dijon mustard

1 TSP white Balsamic vinegar

Boil potatoes in salt water, add the asparagus for 5 minutes or so, then put the peas in a sieve and set over the boiling water to steam them, also no longer than a few minutes. Set asparagus and peas aside. When potatoes are tender, let cool for a while, then peel and cube.

Chop your onion. Cut the asparagus stalks in pieces that seem appealing (I like diagonal, but that is really up to you.)

In a salad bowl, combine oil, mustard, vinegar and spices and stir until smooth. Add all your other ingredients and stir carefully. Let sit for 20-30 minutes, then serve, and prepare to be wowed!

This recipe has a number of hits when you google it, and I’m not entirely sure who came up with it in the first place. Some use dill, I’ve tried basil and parsley, both very good; others add capers or use roast potatoes. I’ve been thinking about adding hard-boiled eggs next time – try what seems good to you, and let me know how you liked it!

My own family enjoyed it, and I know I’ll be making it all through asparagus season.

Have a great week, everybody, and thank you for checking in and reading.

They just Carry On

More post-OP content? I’ve got you covered. In case you don’t care about my dog’s recovery, please feel free to go do something else. I’m sure not everybody attaches as much importance to their pets as I do. As it is, my own life revolves around his road to recovery to a degree that makes it difficult to talk about much else. Sorry, not sorry.

For those who are genuinely interested: Charlie’s doing really, really well. 3 weeks after his surgery he’s gotten some of his mobility back, and you can see that he wants to walk, and run – in fact, the impulse to do that is greater than his strength. When he’s tired, he’s still a bit wobbly. But he can do 15 min walks now without having to be carried at all. Those things are part of the process. Physio lady and vet are extremely happy with his progress, and amazed by the speed with which he’s recovering. Yay!

As always, I have thoughts. You know how I wrote last time that I was battling the worst kind of anxiety and fears while he was at the clinic? Some of those were due to a misconception that I was cured of in the meantime: It’s wrong to apply our human way of thinking to animal sickness (How is that fair? Damn fate for inflicting this on us! How will this end? Will I be able to care for a handicapped dog? How will I cope?) All the things that pop into our heads are of no concern to a dog. As the physio therapist phrased it – They just carry on.

I find that remarkable, and so, so admirable. Charlie is the best patient: good-natured, patient and resilient. Some days are better, and some are worse. Some days are spent sleeping, mostly. Some are spent following me around the apartment everywhere, at all times. Some days he’ll just want a quick bathroom break and then return home, and some days he’s sniffing, and playing on the lawn at the park (almost) like he used to. I am learning from him, and I bow to his pragmatic wisdom of accepting that this is how it is now. When I look at him, I see the dog that I love. I hardly notice his shaved back and scar. I’m just happy he’s still here.

If I’m cooped up in the house like I am these days, I have a lot of time to work. My current translation is making very good progress (definitely a plus, for I’m looking at a really busy year). In my free time, I’m working on the chocolate brown colorwork sweater. See, I’ve finished the yoke, and am almost half done with the body:

It’s a good skill to learn how to make this kind of yoke, and I’m happy to have dipped a toe into colorwork! As always, this kind of project facilitates binge watching a TV show. I’m still on The Blacklist, end of season 4. We’ll see whether I finish the sweater or the show first ;-).

On Saturday, while my kids were attending a school event, I made a cake.

It’s a Bundt Cake with a funny Austrian name: Gugelhupf :-). It’s a sweet yeast dough, studded with plump cognac, rum or Whisky soaked raisins. I used my gran’s ancient copper pudding dish because I love the whorls and patterns it makes. Cake turned out great! There’s a lot to be said for copper cookware.

Gugelhupf Bundt Cake

500 g flour

1/2 cube fresh yeast

80 g sugar

3 eggs

125 g butter, soft

100 ml milk

100 g raisins, soaked in rum, cognac or Whisky for a few days in advance

1 TBSP vanilla sugar

Pinch of salt

Make a yeast dough of all ingredients, dust with flour, cover and let rise for 1 hour. In the meantime, butter your baking dish and dust with flour. After 1 hour, carefully scrape the dough into the baking dish, don’t knead, dust with flour, cover and let rise again for 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 175 °C.

Bake for 50 minutes+/- – check on the cake after 40 minutes, and then in regular intervals, until you’re happy with it. Let cool for a bit, turn out onto a rack, then dust with powdered sugar. Serve with tea, and if you’re feeling indulgent, with butter, jam or honey. Enjoy 🙂

And that was it for a brief update. Not all that much to see here, but things are looking up. Also, we had 14 Celsius today, for the first time in months. I call that progress!

Take care, everyone, thank you for all the kind well wishes for Charlie, you know who you are – and thank you for reading today.

A New Normal

Dachshunds may be, in their own heads, invincible, gigantic, lion-like creatures. But big personalities notwithstanding, they have, as many thoroughbred animals, several vulnerabilities. With this breed, the obvious one is the spine, because of their long backs and short legs. Many of them experience disk prolapse, some to the point of becoming paralyzed.

Don’t worry – The prolapse happened, but the paralysis did not! After nerve-wracking days of diagnosis, emergency surgery and immediate rehab, and a good week of recovery, I can say that we were really lucky. We live in a big city with excellent medical service even on weekends, also, we have animal health insurance, thanks to my smart cookie of a husband who insisted we get it as soon as Charlie waltzed into our lives in 2019.

So, vet clinic, surgery and observation for 3 days, no visiting, and one measly phone call from the vet a day. It was an awful few days. Charlie being a dog (I was assured) was doing fine, and made friends quickly among the staff and other in-patients, thank God. I on the other hand was a hot mess: tears, worry, heartache and thinking All the Terrible Thoughts. When the neurologist called to say we were allowed to come get him a day early, I felt like I had held my breath for three days.

We went to the clinic after work, got the dog back, were given instructions and meds (I wasn’t paying attention because I was busy crying and so, so carefully holding and petting Charlie – good thing they gave us everything in writing so I could review it later!), and then we went home.

Ever since then, Charlie and I have been adjusting to a different daily routine. Carrying the dog to the park in my repurposed crafts bag (the only thing I have that is long enough so he doesn’t twist his healing spine), slinging a scarf under his hips to prop him up when walking, physio twice a week, meds three times a day, as well as exercise, massages, and rest. No walks, no running, no jumping, not for a long while. Three months, minimum.

The patient and I moved out of the bedroom to a mattress on the living room floor, so as not to disturb my husband’s sleep, and so Charlie won’t have to climb or try to jump. Over the last cold and snowy weekend, we did little else but cuddle, nap, exercise a bit, and watch a crime show of many, many episodes – The Blacklist, ten seasons all in all, bless them. I like James Spader.

Funny how life can become so basic over night. Now, it’s all about stuff like sleep, pain, food and digestion. Our radius is small, and I do little else but Florence Nightingaling, and moonlighting as a translator. I’m joking – I’m actually getting quite a lot done, being so much more productive now I can see and touch my little friend again. Happiness takes many shapes, and in my case, it’s this certainly this one.

He’s doing really well. Vet and physio lady have both assured me his prognosis is excellent, and that he’ll likely get 80% of his mobility back, over time. We need to be patient and keep the faith. I’m mostly optimistic, and I find myself being grateful for little things. My family have been great, and everybody is being kind, and careful, and supportive.

Again, we’re fortunate. I may have had a rough couple days, but my friend J in Munich just lost her lovely black lab, her companion and soulmate of 5 years, on Monday, to a vicious case of Lyme disease, probably due to a tick bite, 10-20% of which carry the wretched bacteria. My heart goes out to her, and her lovely tribute to Mila brought tears to my eyes. So, yeah: I’m immensely grateful we were spared, this time.

With my spirits lifted and my duty as carer for the sick keeping me in one place mostly, I finally got around to getting started on my Christmas gift, a chocolate brown sweater-to-be, made from a gorgeous Icelandic merino yarn called Kambgarn.

I showed you how I started to play around with colorwork in my last post, and after a few trials and errors regarding increases and width and such, I feel like I now know what I’m doing. The off-white is from my stash, and I think it looks really nice against the rich brown of the Kambgarn. I’ll try to do a ribbon of simple patterns across the yoke, and the body and sleeves in brown. A bit like this one below, but not that pattern exactly, obviously, as I’m using only two colors. Wish me luck!

As I recently learned how to use short rows in the neck, that’s what i did after unraveling my second failed attempt. Might as well do it right this time, I thought, and I am pleased with the way it fits, now. Those short rows are really something!

Apart from that, there’s not much else to tell. Have a good week, stitch readers, and wish us well with Charlie’s recovery. Spring will be here soon. Thank you for reading! 🐾

Characters, words, and phrases, oh my!

The last few work weeks were intense! Translating a big fat writing manual that I had to give my all to, to do it justice!!, I absorbed so much knowledge and useful advice for writers, that also applies to my own work as a translator. Today, I finally submitted the heavily revised version. (Client had very specific ideas regarding the formatting of the manuscript, also I needed to learn about indexing, holy cow!), and now I feel a tremendous sense of relief. I’m confident to have delivered what they needed me to, and then some, but I’m not going to lie: Very happy indeed to move on to my next, much less brainy project, an urban fantasy about a dude who can see dead people :-)).

Despite all the work stress, I managed a few smaller crafts projects (mostly at night, to wind down from the brain-fryingly long hours at the keyboard). So, I confess I have a long-standing secret wish for one of those amazing colorful fair-isle sweaters, and tremendous admiration for people who are able to make them. I mean, are these gorgeous, or what!! I haven’t really tried colorwork myself before, other than various stripies, and I guess the strawberry hat I made my daughter last year.

But then, last week, on an impulse, I tried this:

This obviously isn’t Fair Isle, but Scandinavian patterns, I think – I can’t be sure, because I didn’t follow a pattern, just played around a bit (yes, there was frogging involved!) Ultimately, I just did what I felt would look cute. The fabric is quite dense, because you carry the yarn at the back of the work as floats as you go, so you basically have two layers of wool. It’s like a turtleneck, sort of, so tighter than a cowl, not sure what to call it. But it keeps off the wind and chill nicely, that much I can tell you, and what a good thing, because it got cold!! again this week here, -7 Celsius, and despite all the desk work, dogs need to be walked.

Also, from the last of the midnight blue, I made a cowl to go with my Aubergine sweater.

Other than that, there is little out of the ordinary to report. Sick kid, very little sunlight, feeling cold a lot. In January, comfort food really goes a long way!

Last week, I made something that may seem like overkill, because it involves pasta _and_ breadcrumbs, but here it is, it was really good, and I’m not sorry! Also, easily made vegan without using butter and Parmesan cheese (my boy’s new gf is vegan, so I’m kind of starting to think about good alternatives).

Basically, heat olive oil (or a knob of butter, as the case may be) in a pan and add your breadcrumbs, salt and pepper. Roast until golden brown, stirring all the while. Top your pasta dish (this was spaghetti and buttered brussels, and it might work with any sauteed or cooked vegetable, asparagus, sugar snaps, broccoli, mushrooms maybe) with the seasoned breadcrumbs, and don’t look back :-).

On this feel-good note: Bowing out again, thanking you for reading, and hoping you’ll have a lovely weekend – I for one am planning to NOT work, for a change, and go there:

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!