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! 🐾

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!

Last Day of Fall Break

From my vantage point on the sofa, I’m enjoying a quiet cup of tea before everyone else wakes up. I’ve already taken the pup to the park, who promptly joined my husband back in bed after wolfing down his breakfast. Monday it’s back to school, and today the last day of not rushing in the morning. The place is quiet, the day is overcast and quite fitting for November. The forecast says 70% rain.

Yesterday I came back from the country after two weeks. While I worked, my husband, who had 2 weeks off, sorted out the garden for the winter. Being out there without the children was strange. For the longest time, that cottage was our vacation spot, our weekend retreat, the place where we spent all our free time, as a family. It’s been a minute since we’ve spent time there as a couple. I mean, there was some online, phone and Facetime parenting going on, but ultimately the days went mostly without interacting with them, and it gave me a sense of what things will be like once they move out. They’re six and a half years apart, so I always sort of had my daughter pegged as The Little One, while consciously moving through adolescence with my son, who is now 20 years old. My daughter just turned 14. While his life had always revolved around same-aged peers, she is growing up exponentially faster, it feels. Sometimes she’s allowed to join her brother and his friends for parties now (he’s a cool dude like that, and always takes her home around midnight before the older ones really let loose). I am realizing that it’s a matter of time until they’ll both be out of here, aaaaand I’ve got some serious detaching to do!

Just as with having children in the first place, nothing really prepares you for this. We’ve all seen parents take their kids to college, putting on a brave face, chins quivering, in movies. We’ve heard about the cliché helicopter moms who don’t know what to do with themselves once their offspring leaves the nest, and start aggressively Forever Young-ing (Yoga, pottery, or cougaring and/or day drinking, as the case may be). But the experience is quite another matter, I’m sure, and inconceivable for anyone whose life has revolved around their offspring for the better part of their adult life… What will I be like? Time will tell. My son always points out that I’m lucky I got the dog when I did, because it allowed him to quietly extricate himself without much ado. And he’s not wrong. I mean, he still lives here, but he’s got his own life, pretty much. We see him when we see him. Mostly for meals ;-)). But what does that mean for our daughter? Will I have to get a second dog?!

So over the last 2 weeks my husband and I spent more time together than usual. Me taking long walks over lunch is a pretty common occurrence, but him coming with me never happens during the week, him being a slave to company hours. It was nice, and although I was working, it wasn’t my usual full time, but more a matter of five, six hours a day, a comfortable pace. The thick tome I’ve been busy with for weeks now is about halfway done, and I’ve just sent the editor the first chapter so she could see how I was doing with it. The deadline is another 3 months away, so it’ll be fine, or so I hope, let’s see what she has to say.

We spent a lot of time outdoors, soaking up the Indian Summer we were blessed with (while at the same time cringing at the really low water levels in the river and lake!). Here’s a few colorful pictures of foliage and such.

Due to my reduced work schedule, I had evenings off, and therefore plenty of time for crafts. Since my last post, I made:

A red scarf for self :

A pair of birthday socks with a lurex glitter thread for the young lady

A pair of gauntlets upon request, also for her

And I put in some work on the Aubergine Sweater, which has meanwhile progressed to the sleeves stage:

Realizing that I found the first sleeve too tight in relation to the rather roomy body, I unraveled it yesterday and will decrease at a different pace than the pattern suggests. Not the author’s fault, I made the sweater baggier than she said, too ;-). If you go and invest in cashmere it needs to be just so. I had stopped working on the project in the first place because I was planning to follow her pattern and use the Italian bind-off method (new to me), but found that I didn’t like the way it looked at all. Probably my own doing because I hadn’t practiced it after watching a tutorial. Not all things that seem straightforward online are actually easy to do, surprisingly! But that’s okay, I’m happy with the good old knit-purl bind-off!

Wow, that was a lot of knitting, I’m realizing. If only I were getting paid for that, instead of for this:

But I’m not complaining. I love my work, and this book, an educational manual for aspiring writers of genre fiction (Sci-Fi, Fantasy and horror), is a lot of fun to do. It warms my nerdy heart, and it taps into my knowledge of literature and linguistics as well as into my decades long expertise of these genres in literary, cinematic and television form, as a recipient.

No recipes today, but I can tell you I made some really good risotto with wild mushrooms last weekend. Contrary to everything I was ever taught, the recipe calls for chopping them up and adding them right after the onions and rice, before wine and broth and cheese, as opposed to sautéeing them and folding them in at the very end. It’s a revelation, and I have my dear friend M. to thank whom I will henceforth bow to as the Queen of Risotto, always.

Have a lovely weekend, friends, and thank you for dropping in and reading this.

The Rat Race of Self-Employment

For the most part, I love being my own boss, working from home, being able to decide when I do what and for how long. It has served this family well, I think, that I changed my work status from employee to freelancer. There was always time to go pick up a sick child from school or drop everything to provide parental care, and accommodate anything from shuttle services to immediate problem solving to impromptu picnic dinners at the park. That said, one major downside is that when I’m too sick to work, I don’t make any money. In our country, as someone who holds a job, you get paid sick leave. This of course is not the case when you work freelance. You don’t work for a day, you may be behind on your page count. You don’t work for a week, it can mean that you’re a chapter or five behind. Who has that kind of time?!

Over the last weeks, I was battling a flu, and last week, ended up bedridden, with a fever, coughing, runny/blocked nose, massive headaches and joint pain. Walking the pup (at glacial speed) and ordering Pho soup from the Vietnamese restaurant down the street was all I could do for days. Both kids were in a similar state, and it was only over the weekend that we finally got better. This week, I got a flu shot for the first time in my life, because I’m a little paranoid now. It’s just not good business to drop out for this long. I’ve still not had Covid, and can only imagine what that would do to my productivity.

This week I’m all over catching up with work, and have made some progress, but am still behind, and I still tire easily. I’m aware that it’s not smart to put additional pressure on myself, but it’s hard not to. I’m just wired that way, I guess, from my ad agency days in the Nineties. It was a relentless, demanding work environment that seems a little absurd now, these work-life balanced days.

So that’s where my head is at: trying to acknowledge I’m a 55 year old woman whose body needs rest, and to accept that sometimes you need some time to get well again. Thank you for taking an interest in my struggles with being middle-aged ;-)).

Last weekend, I took the dog to the forest, who was so happy to run off the leash, and I trotted after him, basking in the amazing smells and beautiful fall colors.

The crafts department is something that never really shuts down here, as you can imagine, and I used the many episodes of Brooklyn 99 my daughter and I watched together last week to knit a pair of socks for myself.

On the left you see ‚my‘ color combo of the About Berlin yarn my friend and I bought together in the summer, hers were the one on the right.

Yesterday after the flu shot, I paid the yarn shop a visit, to return some leftover yarn from the mohair cardigan, and to browse a little. I’ve been thinking about a sweater in dark chocolate brown, a warm piece for the winter, maybe even a turtleneck. The owner showed me a children’s cardigan she had made, from an Icelandic merino wool combined with a delicate strand of silk mohair, which makes for a sturdy but very soft fabric. She has ordered chocolate brown for me, but I couldn’t resist taking two red balls with me to try out on a small project ;-).

I have a favorite deep red scarf (see right image) that was damaged by moths last year, and I’ve been unsuccessful in trying to find a substitute, so this might prove to be a good solution. I spent last night trying out a few different patterns and stitches, and ended up with a diagonal rib.

It has texture but isn’t too complex to make, like a cable pattern, and I think it’s going to look nice. I’m aiming for a sort of a rhomboid shape for the carf, or rather a long, narrow rectangular with rhomboid tips, if that makes sense. Not quite as narrow as the one in the picture, that’s just a swatch.

My Aubergine sweater has taken a back seat for now, because I have yet to learn how to do the Italian bind-off, a complex technique my flu-addled brain was unable to process last week, and I didn’t want to ruin it, expensive yarn and all.

Not that I’ve been up to a lot of cooking lately, but the other day, to put a few sad, forgotten plums I found in the veggie drawer to good use, I made a very seasonal and yummy crumble.

It’s very easy to make. Pit the plums and cut in half. Butter a dish. In a bowl, mix together:

100 g ground hazelnuts

100 g butter

1 egg yolk

100 g sugar

150 g flour (I used spelt)

Pinch of salt

Vanilla to taste

1/2 TSP ground ginger

With your hands, knead together to form bite-sized streusels. Gluten free friends: you can substitute the flour by using almond flour, also very good. Dust the halved plums with powdered ginger, add a bit of sugar if the plums are really tart, then put streusels on top of the fruit.

Bake at 175° C for 30 minutes, or until streusels start to brown. Enjoy with ice cream, whipped cream, or (my favorite) al naturale.

That was today’s news. Thank you guys for reading, and for checking in. May you get through the cold season without any major incident!

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!


This summer, we’ve been experiencing unusual heat for weeks and weeks, which we’re not necessarily used to in my neck of the woods, not without any rain at all in between anyway, and it has taken quite a toll on nature. Alarming water level drops in rivers and lakes, wildfires even here in the community forest, crops suffering, and on a personal note, not even one chanterelle mushroom.

Unused to the heat, people in Central Europe who find themselves having to work (again, personal note) feel paralyzed with it. Oddly, my own productivity didn’t suffer too badly, but I did find my eyelids drooping in the afternoons, and actually managed the odd cat nap, which I’m not usually able to do. We were fortunate to be able to spend the last week of summer break at our cottage, which meant free access to the lake at all times, a vast bonus for a quick dip in the morning, over lunch or after dinner. We were working, but the kids were roaming free for another few glorious days of late summer. At night, we caught the Perseids, which due to the little light pollution out in the country, is always a spectacular sight on a clear night. I was fortunate enough to see three falling stars, and sent three wishes to the universe. We also celebrated my lovely friend M’s birthday on a wonderful, enchanted summer evening, to the soundtrack of an old friend playing guitar and serenading her with a heartfelt rendition of one of Bob Dylan’s sweeter songs: May you stay forever young.

My last vacation weekend was spent washing and re-organizing closets, restocking cupboards and dusting off a few weeks‘ worth of untouched surfaces – as you do. Also, I’ve been experimenting with a crochet project that’s been on my mind for a few months: I wanted to make a pretty, as well as functional soap baggie, with a cord to hang on a shower curtain rod. Since we’re all trying to reduce our use of plastic, foregoing shower gels for the good old bar of soap seemed valid. This was a perfect little project to work on in between, and I tried out a few different stitches. Here’s the result.

I have yet to test run them in terms of how quickly they’ll dry – no one needs a smelly, squishy rag in the shower, however pretty the pattern. Fingers crossed. The yarn is a simple mercerized cotton like I use for the potholders, and I’ve worked with a 2 mm crochet hook.

Spending the summer together, we did our fair share of talking. One of the important topics was obviously climate change. Discussing how we might reduce our footprint a little, going vegetarian seemed like a logical as well as doable approach. So, we’ve been trying that out for a couple weeks now. It’s going well so far. Not that much has changed, truth be told, because our meat consumption wasn’t all that significant anyway. As an exemption, I’ve made the addendum to always cook chicken soup whenever someone’s sick, and when I feel my metabolically disordered body needs it, I will have meat or fish without anyone giving me a hard time for it.

Anywhoo, I’ve been experimenting with all sorts of vegetarian spreads. I’ve been making our own hummus and pesto for years, and now I’ve added baba ganoush and a really yummy bell pepper and cashew concoction to my repertoire. Here’s how I made it:

Bell Pepper and Cashew Spread

1 large red bell pepper

150 g cashew nuts, roasted and salted

olive oil

3 slices onion

squeeze of lemon

Salt, pepper

chili flakes

In the oven, roast the complete pepper, under the broiler if you have one, otherwise at very high heat, until the skin blisters and the pepper starts to wilt. Take out of the oven, put in a dish with a tight lid and let cool. When hand warm, the skin should come off easily. Put in a bowl, add a slosh of good olive oil, lemon, onion, salt, pepper, cashews and a bit of chili if you like. Puree with a stick blender. Optional additions could be: tomato paste, garlic, parsley or basil. With a slice of crusty bread, this is a very good lunch or snack.

I had fun playing with the ingredients, and I hope you will, too!

Work-wise, it looks like the next few months will be quite busy in a good and fun way, so I’d best get back to that.

If you have school children, I’m wishing you a great start into the new school year. May the kids have a productive, and an easier year that the last two have been, with no Covid outbreaks and cancelled field trips, quarantines and such. Today, it was back to school, and since my son is away too, the house seems strangely empty without any tousled sleepyheads wandering in for a late breakfast.

So, have a good Monday, a nice week, and thank you for dropping in and reading!


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Comparing Is Toxic – An Antidote

Sometimes, when I spontaneously remember someone I used to know in the past, I google them. A fellow student from high school, former colleagues, partners from way back when. And of course the Internet is paved with everyone’s most perfect versions of themselves, profiles studded with credentials and achievements, photos taken from angles as flattering as possible, if not photoshopped. We all know this. And still, sometimes, when reading about somebody from my past, it happens that I fall into the booby trap and end up feeling inferior.

I’m actually really okay with my life, so it’s not that I cringe with regrets and What Ifs. Why, then, am I feeling worse for comparing myself to others? It’s a strange mechanism, and a toxic one. Nothing good can come from weighing an online profile against real life, as online profiles are often more of a sales pitch than actually true; after all, no one would qualify their presentation with mentioning downsides (»I’m a highly successful executive, but have struggled with depression throughout my career«, or »What you can’t see in my beautiful pictures is that I’m in treatment for an eating disorder«, or »I may be a famous artist, but I’m also desperately lonely«).

Yesterday, when looking up a family I used to know some 30 years ago, initial fondness and nostalgia took a turn for negativity, and seeing all these successful, brilliant, happy people suddenly made me feel like a failure.

How to climb out of such a rabbit-hole? Well, by lucky chance, I happened to open my photo library. As I scrolled, I found my family, friends, pets, landscapes, crafts, food – because I like to document all the small things that make my life. It is so powerful to dive into that, and see it for the wealth that it is. I called a friend, took the dog for a long walk in the community forest, and ended up feeling infinitely better :-).

So my strategy, I guess, when feeling intimidated by online perfection (apparent or real): Close the damn browser. Touch a pet. Hug a friend or family member. Look after your plants. Do some crafts. Play music. Go outside. Exercise. Life has so many things we love and enjoy. We don’t actually need validation from strangers, flattering as the clicks and likes may be. But ultimately, they’re not as real as exchanging a smile with a person in real life, are they?

Here’s a few little things to show you what I mean.

Sharing all this with you, stitch readers, is happening online also, I realize. But my intention is not to brag, or make myself shine or whatever. It simply occurred to me that some of you may feel weird sometimes, when seeing slices of others‘ life online and ending up feeling insecure, so I thought I’d point out that there is beauty, and joy to be found all around us, if we open our eyes to look.

So, I’ve been asked about the Waffle Stitch potholders, and I promise I’ll try to write a tutorial for them if you’re interested, just not today.

I have a school thing tonight, and will do my best to show up and stay alert for it. Had yet another gruesome visit to the dentist, but am now proud owner of a second crown, if hundreds of bucks poorer. Have a lovely week, everyone, thank you for reading, and if I may make a suggestion: go and embrace a real life activity ;-)).