Not Covid

IMG_4556So that’s how the summer break began for my little grasshopper who got to spend her first week in the country in bed, running a 40°C fever, popping ibuprofen and choking down chicken soup, one painful spoon at a time. Getting her tested out here was no fun, and my belief in doctors having to bow to the Hippocratic oath has been a bit shaken. But all is well that ends well. Test came back negative, and we got through this as a family, husband’s rapport with the local physician turning out to be considerably better than my own, me sticking to my guns (my chicken soup is a laser gun, at least), and our four-legged friend on hot-water bottle and morale officer duty. Also, thank God for Audible :-).IMG_4655Other than that? Work, albeit in a pretty spot – check out the little flower bed growing around the herb spiral in front of the kitchen window (scary-ass bush of spearmint on the right) IMG_4575I’ve also taken lots of walks in the forest, and Charlie made a friend, Little Charlie, a 4 month old pup.

Today is a rainy day, which is always a good time for baking. I made a loaf of bread, the 17-hours-rise-no-knead type I already talked about in an earlier post. Dough was mixed together yesterday, the yeast did its thing over night, and since humidity is conducive to yeast dough, it turned out nice:

I’m on the last editing round of volume 2 of the urban fantasy series I’ve been working on, and taking a break to blog instead of walking Charlie. Usually, at this time of day, I’ll have at least one, or two solid walks under my belt, but since my delicate City Dog refuses to set foot outside for anything but the bear necessities on rainy days, I’ve stayed inside as well.

IMG_4457Yesterday, my son successfully completed the written part of his driver’s license, and in a matter of weeks, the above will not be restricted to the training grounds, but our new normal. Mind-boggling. Didn’t I just teach this dude how to take his first steps? But looking at old pictures reveals the truth, as it will. It’s not only he who got older!

My kids say I should not dye my hair, and I respect their opinion. But I’m not totally sold on the silver foxy mane, tbh. Some mornings, I swear I feel my Granny’s staring back at me from the mirror.IMG_0052

I love that picture of her, even though you probably can’t see a lot because it’s so pixeled. I’ll have to get a better version of it to show you what I mean when I get home to my box of old family pics.

The rain not only has yeast-beneficiary qualities, but also makes these grow:IMG_4633So I guess I’ll go find some more tomorrow morning, since, miracle of miracles, my daughter ate (and loved) chanterelle quiche yesterday at my lovely neighbor’s, C., who was kind enough to give us lunch. I intend to take full advantage of this, as quiche used to be a no-go for her for a good 11 years.

Crafts have been happening, too, at a snail’s pace – I’ve been doggedly working my way through the Waffle Blanket. This stitch uses plenty of yarn, as I have said before, and it’s not quick work by a long stretch. I can handle it though, because I love it so much, the texture, the construction, the symmetry – really, it is one of my favorite crochet patterns. IMG_4578I’m now about 8 balls of yarn in, which amounts to a mere 28 cm length, given the width of the blanket, 120 cm. Sometimes, it’s a good thing to do the math, for this tells me I’ll need 5 more balls of each of the 4 colors I’m using, maybe only 4. But since it’s sock yarn, there will be other ways to use it in case I order too much.

And now for a much beloved summer recipe.

One of my annual summer favorites is Cherry Clafoutis, a simple, seasonal dish from the French countryside, that was made with freshly picked fruit from the orchards (which is exactly what we did last weekend. It was most idyllic indeed: sent the boy up into the tree to pick, cooked, then sat all my family, and some friends, down at the sun-dappled picknick table, and spent the summeriest of summery afternoons so far this year.) Cynics, please don’t puke, it really was a nice time :-).

The recipe could not be any simpler. It uses flour, eggs, milk, sugar and salt, and of course, cherries.

Coveted Cherry Clafoutis

100 g flour (I used spelt)

50 g sugar

200 ml milk

2 eggs

Pinch of salt

Vanilla to taste

350 g cherries, pitted

Make a crêpe-like batter, butter a pan, pour in the batter and evenly distribute the fruit. Bake at 160 °C for about 30-40 minutes until golden brown at the edges.

Invite friends, bring it out to the park or garden, and enjoy :-).

Decisions, decisions

IMG_4421So, it’s been quite the month. Our daughter had an important choice to make regarding the future of her education. It took us all by surprise to learn really short-term that she didn’t get into the school she’d applied to, and things got really hectic and stressful from there for a while.

The alternative offered by the public school system was a school she had not seen during the Open Door Days in January, as she’d already made up her mind about the other place. She could not visit the school now due to Covid restrictions, but fortunately, she had a very good second-hand opinion to go on from our friends whose son graduated from the place two years ago.

The other option was doing a complete change-up and going Waldorf, joining her brother’s school.

The choices were clouded over by the devastating effect of failing to get what you worked so hard for. This would have frustrated anybody, let alone a young child of 11. There were bitter tears, self-hatred and a look of resignation on a face entirely too young for that kind of expression.

In this shit show, among all the damaged self-esteem and confusion and being forced to make a decision over the course of little more than one week, my most important goal was to empower her, make her own her situation, and enable her to make a decision she could feel good about – and be a girl boss again, a quality that had been dampened somewhat over the last two challenging school years.

Some of our less Waldorf-conscious friends felt that was not the right place for her, because she’s focused and ambitious enough to brave the public school system. Others pointed out that Waldorf people tend to be somewhat distrustful of the ‚real world‘ later in life, having spent so much time in that beautiful parallel universe.

So both schools had their perks. The public school offered a larger campus and more interesting extracurricular activities. The Waldorf takes a year longer and final exams are more challenging. Both offer French. It was a process.

To be honest, at some point, I really didn’t care much one way or the other anymore. We wanted to get it over with, and I just needed my daughter to smile again.

So, after sitting down and going over all the pros and cons, color-coding and mind-mapping priorities, and two more days of agonizing, we finally had white smoke, and E. had made her decision: It appears we will be a Waldorf family for a little while longer.

As I said, quite the month.

In other news, I have a new waffle iron. It’s the type that makes square waffles, not round, not rectangular, but square, here, have a look:
IMG_4392I’ve tinkered a bit with various recipes, and have made to date: buttermilk waffles, savory zucchini, feta cheese and herbs waffles (using buckwheat and rye flour), poppyseed waffles, and almond flour and Parmesan cheese waffles. The beauty of this particular waffle maker is not only that it reminds me of America but also that it makes four pieces at a time. So you basically have your batter used up in a matter of 20 minutes, whereas you took more like 40 with my old round-shaped where you could only make one waffle at a time. Sorry for geeking out on you about this, but I’m really having fun with this new toy :-).

Speaking of waffles, I’ve made some progress on the waffle stitch blanket. I’m about six balls of yarn in now.IMG_4440So the last days of school are behind us, and for the next few weeks, I’ll only have work and vacation issues to worry about. I’m looking forward to summer break this year, it feels like we all earned it.

Stay tuned for the first ‚dog and kids by a lake‘ pics next week. Have a lovely end of June, and stay safe, stay healthy, everyone.


Not Politics, just Humanity

IMG_E4408We made the banner above for the march last but last Saturday, and then ended up hanging it from our balcony. Each in our own way, we process what is happening in the United States. From our vantage point thousands of miles away, we watch the appalling violence, and the outrage and pain of the people who say: Enough is enough. No more. Things need to change. In quiet solidarity, we support their demand for equality, justice, and a new era. May their voices be heard. May the terrible tragedies bring better times. May the people vote with their hearts and their brains in the right place this time. We’ll be watching.

So I’ve been following Whitney Cummings‘ podcast Good For You for a few months – if you don’t know her, she’s a bitingly funny, brilliant stand-up comedian, and she’s also _very_ good at getting people to talk – check out her conversations with Dave Grohl of Nirvana, and the Foo Fighters, the lovely Wizard of Schitt’s Creek, Dan Levy, and, more recently, David Oyelowo whom you may have seen as Dr. King in Selma. It’s an awesome interview, and you may come away being a little more thoughtful, and a little more humble, and also a little more angry. We have so much to learn, so we can teach our kids.

We have an African American friend, a beautiful, funny and interesting guy who was one of my son’s baby playgroup kids‘ dad. We lost touch over the years (and a break-up), but I always liked him so much, and am proud to call him a friend. I was reminded of how he told me once after he’d had a skinful that he’d been in jail when he was young. At the time, I was shocked – this dude is a college-educated, kind and well-spoken man who plays tennis and teaches English – and still, he ended up with a criminal record because he did something stupid when he was a kid in Chicago, with the wrong skin color. As a white kid, he would no doubt have gotten away with a fine and a slap on the wrist.

As a first-generation migrant, I feel I have _some_ notion of the otherness people of color are facing on a daily basis, as this country was not a particularly welcoming place when I came here in 1977. But unlike for them, it was, after a few years (going on a lifetime) of assimilation, comparably easy for me to blend in, simply because I don’t look different.

See, I have the luxury of being able to not feel German, even though people rarely notice I’m not. In fact, it takes them by surprise to learn I was born in an Eastern European country. It’s a choice I make, not a necessity, to maintain my otherness, in which I’ve come to find some comfort. An identity that isn’t determined by appearance, first and foremost, but by individual qualities I’ve grown into over the course of fifty years, stuff I’ve learned, things I remember from my childhood, all adding together to what makes me who I am. As my American expat friend J. so aptly put it: I’m not German. I’m not an American anymore either. I’m just me.

So that got deep. Let me add one more thing I encourage everyone to watch if you haven’t seen it already – Dave Chappelle’s 8:46. Who knew Chappelle would make me cry one day.

A word on crafts, before I get back to our pre-summer break madness: I’ve ripped up the color block blanket from two years back,IMG_6648because I didn’t love it anymore. Instead, I’ve started this yarn-eating, yummy waffle-stitch monster:IMG_4440It’s slow going, but I’ve got all summer, right? I’ll prob have to order a few more balls of yarn, but who’s counting! Working on blanket projects when there’s no school is a good thing, in my experience:

Can’t believe I made all those. And yet, when I happen to look in the drawer containing my Gran’s lace knitting and crochet, I can. Some people apparently like to keep their hands busy so they won’t lose their minds. I can’t begin to imagine what life was like for her in WW II – my dad was the only one of her family alive after 1945, two children and her husband gone, as was her comfortable, happy life, her family’s fortune and homes, furniture, art … but I can see her working her way through the horror, the grief and the ugliness, stitch by stitch by stitch. She was a formidable lady with a great sense of humor and a kind heart.

Okay, and there it got dark again. Can’t help myself, apparently, today. Thank you for reading, guys. Have a lovely weekend.

What’s A Week-end…?

IMG_4201Remember the Dowager Countess, mother to Downton Abbey heir Lord Grantham, ingeniously portrayed by the great Dame Maggie Smith? This was one of her infamous remarks, when confronted with a person from the working class whom she had a conversation with, unfamiliarly not in the capacity of them being her staff. It was a doctor, I think. The concept of working during the week, and then resting for two days was just so very foreign to her ;-). I found it hilarious, which is probably why I still remember it, even though I haven’t watched Downton in years.

Our lives today couldn’t be more different, of course. I think in my person alone, I embody the characters of Ms Patmore the cook, Lady Grantham the lady of the house, Branson the chauffeur and Daisy the maid. I plan meals, I cook, I grocery shop, I clean up after the kids, I take care of everybody’s laundry, I drive the kids (not right now, because none of us really goes anywhere, but usually.) When my husband is here (and he has been since mid March, working from home, just like everybody else) we share these duties. Also, we both work a lot. Bringing up kids, helping them through school, keeping them fed and clean and happy is a job of its own, as every parent knows. And despite all that being a lot, sometimes, most of the time, everything somehow falls into place, occasionally with some shaking and rattling, but all in all, rolling.

As a self-employed person, I have some leeway in terms of when to do what, and I like it like that. Also, it’s very useful if I need to tend to a child at the drop of a hat. But it does mean my life is a very mixed bag: tasks I’m paid for, stuff I have to do even though I’m not, and generally many, many little things in between. And thanks to my therapist, Dr K, religiously, mindfully taken breaks.IMG_4210My morning today is a good example. I woke up early, read for a bit, took a short morning walk with the pup, made tea, got back in bed for Sunday morning cuddles with dog & daughter, and some way too difficult Sudoku. Made breakfast, cleared up, proofread some work I had done yesterday, emailed said work and the invoice, checked my bank statements while I was at it, and then clicked on a blog I follow, since I was already on the computer.

Quarantine has changed everybody’s schedules. Homeschooling and -office have caused the days to bleed into each other, and while I have much respect for the notion of work-life balance, I suspect I’m either not very good at it, or I’ve mastered the task of just doing both while not being affected by the fact that there’s no clear distinction between the two. So that made me think of the Dowager Countess and her gentle discombobulation regarding week-ends, this fine Sunday :-). Maybe I’ll have to re-watch Downton and see if I can ease back into it?

So Elfie has settled in nicely, thank you for asking. We installed an elaborate cat tree in my son’s room, with various things to climb into and sit on, which she seems to appreciate. Next week, we plan to have her explore her new realm (formerly known as our apartment) a bit more, one room at a time, and we plan to properly introduce our two animals. Wish us luck for that.

Craft-wise, I’m nearly done with the baby blanket for our young neighbor, check it out:IMG_4213I’ll have to try out a few things for the border, I was thinking maybe something like I made for my daughter’s Dotty Blanket?IMG_5629Off-white and a final round of picots? Maybe one teeny tiny row of pink SC strewn in? We’ll see. Looking forward to tinkering with that. I love borders!

Have a good start into next week, everybody, stay sane, safe and healthy.

A Memorable Day

What a Mother’s Day I had this year! The kids made breakfast and gave me a cute and thoughtful gift, we took a beautiful walk through the green forest, I got to soak up a load of sunshine and do some lakeshore crochet. It was a very good day. And then, I got to do the ultimate Mama thing and give my son his heart’s desire: we have a new cat.IMG_4170Meet Elfie. She’s 13 years old, has the most amazing blue eyes and the fluffiest fur – and she’s a sweet and friendly creature. We picked her up at the shelter, where they were more than happy to give her to us. Apparently, people don’t take in older animals much. I mean, it’s not the same as adopting a kitten, obviously, there’s a different timeline, and different needs. But we know our way around an elderly cat, and we just followed our hearts.

We had met her on Friday, when we were there to just have a look around, and we bonded with her right away – and then we sort of talked about little else all weekend. My son did a complete 180 (he’d been talking about a young black tomcat, and what we got was, well, the opposite, in every way :-D!) When we went back on Sunday to have Elfie meet Charlie, we ended up just taking her with us. Why wait? We had made up our minds. And my boy can’t stop smiling, so I’d say without a trace of irony that that went well.

And man, is it nice to hold a purring kitty! My heart melts at the sound :-). Even though it belongs to this li’l dude, mostly, along with all the rest of my body, which he feels very proprietary about.F18821CE-CFB9-4964-BE14-450161AFC6E5May Elfie be happy here at our zoo.

Away From It All, But Not Quite

IMG_3923As of yesterday, we’re back to homeschooling, I’m 50 odd pages in on my new book translation, and my husband has gone back to working from home after two productive weeks of vacation spent taking care of his garden, and painting our kitchen, bless him. Corona seems very far away, out here in the country. Things are more quiet than usual, we’ve had no visitors, and we think twice about going grocery shopping, which is not necessarily a bad thing.

As I mentioned before, the book I’m translating is about people who’ve stripped their lives down to the bare necessities, living in Caravans, mobile homes, refurbished school buses or Tiny Houses. Of course, while I work, I can’t really help wondering how I’d do if I were to live like that, and questioning what it is I’d need to be happy. Thinking about it made me realize how little that actually is: A roof over my head, food on my table, my family safe around me, some sort of heating. I’d probably want a bit more creature comforts than the average mobile home provides (i.e. my own toilet and a source of hot water), but it seems that even these things are doable if you’re prepared to deal with emptying the black water and grey water tanks every week, which seems a small price to pay for being able to go pee at night in your own space if you need.

I admire these people for their dedication to doing their thing, and I can relate to their distrust of the rat race most of us participate in to pay our bills. Writing jobs can be done from the road, too, so I suppose I could do what I do for money from a mobile home, if it were required. Well. I have two school children, so maybe not any time soon. But maybe one day.

There are all sorts of scenarios for what the world after Corona will look like, and some of them paint a bright picture of humankind coming to their senses and changing their ways into a sustainable way of living. Personally, I don’t believe that will happen, as long as the world leaders are what they are, and don’t even get me started on the US government’s way to deal with the crisis, which seems abysmally ignorant of the most vulnerable people in their society – hopefully people will see that and vote accordingly.

Yesterday night, I watched our chancellor’s press conference in which she implored everybody to hang in there, and carry on the way we have been for the last few weeks. She said to not be fooled by the fact that small businesses have been allowed to open again yesterday, and correctly pointed out that we will only know in two weeks whether the infection rates will spike because of it or not, and that it’s entirely possible things will have to go back to being stricter again in case they do.

A valid reminder, and I’m glad I watched it. It’s easy to forget, out here. I feel privileged and thankful to be able to have my spot in the sun, and my healthy family to enjoy it with.

One thing I’ve noticed is that people seem to cook more, and it’s one of my friends‘ pet peeves at the moment, their running out of ideas of what to make for their brood. And since I _never_ have a shortage of ideas when it comes to food, I thought I’d jot down a few things I’ve made over the last couple weeks, quarantine cooking, if you will.

No. 1 – Wild Garlic Pesto

What you see is what you get – pick a handful or two of wild garlic, add a bunch of basil leaves, pine nuts, Pecorino or Parmesan cheese, salt & pepper to taste, and generously slosh over good olive oil. Puree with a stick blender or in a food processor, and have with: pasta, on a sandwich, with grilled or poached fish, or as a dip with crackers.

IMG_3955No. 2 – Home-made Pizza

As long as you can find yeast (there was none to be had before Easter, until I was pointed towards a bakery by a very helpful sales assistant at the supermarket, and may I say it was very good, fresh yeast they sold there under the counter!), make a fluffy dough with a good few TBSPs of olive oil added. Let rise. Make a decent tomato sauce, put veggies or meat on your pizza, top with mozzarella slices and a sprinkling of Oregano, and you’re done.

No. 3 – Meatballs and Potato Salad Mediterranean Style

My newest meatballs hack is making a paste of onions, mustard, herbs, paprika, salt and pepper, egg(s) and – wait for it – a generous spoonful of Ajvar, which is a smooth paste of roast peppers and garlic popular in the Balkans. THEN add the ground beef and mix well. Make the meatballs and fry in oil. For the potato salad, add chopped celery sticks, green onions and red peppers, as well as chopped parsley to the cubed boiled potatoes and vinaigrette. It’s an an unusual version of the classic potato salad, but very tasty, and good with hot and cold meatballs.

IMG_3883No. 4 – Asian Style Glass Noodles Salad

This was based on a recipe from one of Jamie Oliver’s older books. As far as I remember it contained two central ingredients I didn’t have (prawns and fish sauce), also I did my own version of five spices (probably only had three of them or so – cinnamon, ginger, cumin), but I did have a rest of fresh cilantro, and some roasted peanuts, and it turned out alright! Fried ground beef with spices, added soy sauce, chopped cilantro, 1 chilli pepper and a generous amount of chopped peanuts, squeezed one lemon, added a TSP of maple syrup and some extra olive oil, cooked the vermicelli and mixed it all together. Yum!

IMG_E3856No. 5 – Rhubarb Cake With Very Little Flour

This happened because rhubarb’s in season, yay! Also I wanted to try out a version of cake batter that used ground almonds rather than flour; I had seen Antoni the Cook make almond flour pancakes on Queer Eye, and I was going to try that out. It went well. I separated the eggs and creamed the butter, used light brown sugar and a bit of maple syrup, and put way more of the peeled & chopped rhubarb on top of the cake batter than seemed reasonable. Oh, and I dusted the batter with some cream o‘ wheat before putting the rhubarb on top, to prevent the cake from becoming too soggy, and I sprinkled a generous spoonful of sugar on the rhubarb before the cake went into the oven.

IMG_3897No. 6 – Easter Bun(ny)

Do everything as you would for a big, sweet cinnamon bun, then use a bit of the dough to make ears, and thinly slice a date or two to make the face. Easy! This happened on Easter Sunday, and it made our family and a few neighbors really happy.

No. 7 – Finnish Pannukakku, courtesy of Pen Pal B.

So, this was an experiment, okay? It’s not actually supposed to look like this – check out pics online and you will see it’s usually flat, and while it’s in the oven, the corners inflate and rise spectacularly, but most of the pannukakku (Finnish for pancake, in case that wasn’t obvious) actually stays kind of thin. Which is not what happened when I made it. But it was lovely anyway, warm and sweet and very indulgent – a breakfast for weekends. Find a recipe online, and try it – not sure I’m allowed to share hers here. Basically a thick pancake batter with melted butter. Eat with fruit preserves, maple syrup, or sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon.

img_0219No. 8 – Crisp Fried Lamb Cubes and Green Beans on Pilaw Rice

A recipe from my gorgeous Turkish cookbook. The thing that makes the meat so special is that you boil it down in soda water before frying it in butter or olive oil. An unconventional cooking method I had not heard of before, and tried out of curiosity, and that turned out to be absolutely delicious. And since lamb, in my opinion, calls for green beans, I always make it with a side of those, and serve it on a bed of pilaw-style white rice. (Add cubed onions, salt and butter while boiling the rice.)

So you can see that a lot of cooking for the brood occurred. On top of the recipes shown and described, there were also many salads: mixed, cucumber salad, Caprese salad; mac’n‘ cheese, several times; we grilled hamburgers and steaks; I made absolutely lovely kohlrabi in a white sauce with fresh dill; also a cauliflower and broccoli casserole, only enjoyed by my husband and myself; roast chicken thighs with vegetables, sweet potato and potato wedges; I tried my hand at home-made fries (which turned out a bit on the soft side, but were nice all the same); pasta and tomato sauce; loaded omelets; I don’t know how many slices of grilled cheese; apple pancakes; regular pancakes; banana pancakes… it’s surprising I got any work done, when I read through that list!

Crafts have taken a back seat, for now. I did start on a granny square blanket for my baby neighbor who is due any day now – I’m trying out a color sequence that dotted the baby blanket I made for my friend M’s little girl earlier this year. Not sure how it’s going to turn out yet:IMG_3982Also, I’ve continued on a pair of color block socks for myself, but that’s about it.

IMG_3981So, that’s what the last two slow weeks of Pandemic Easter Break were like. In between all the cooking and work, I spent every minute I could here:

with these two dudes:

Could have done a lot worse, I feel.

Thank you for checking in, friends, and: stay safe, stay sane, stay healthy!

Not Very Focused

IMG_5574Those of you who follow this blog can probably guess why my concentration is all over the place today. To my surprise, I actually slept last night, and while I didn’t sleep very deeply, and woke up a few times, I don’t feel like a total zombie either.

My lizard brain hasn’t caught on yet – every time I get up and walk away from my computer, I catch myself walking down the hallway to check on Fritzchen. I swear I can hear her distinct „Eeow“ all over the apartment… I know this is just me processing, and I also know it will stop, eventually, if maybe never completely. What will change over time is that after a while thinking of her will make me smile, rather than feel the cringe-y sensation of loss. This is not yet how it is today.

Trouble is, I have a really urgent website translation I need (want) to submit by end of the week. It’s for one of my long-time, dear clients, a renowned portrait photographer who also has a few prestigious advertising clients. (Good for him, because obviously, all of his shoots are cancelled for now.) So, writing about luxurious, beautiful handcrafted leather goods. But since my attention span is like a teenager’s today, I thought I’d pop over here and chat every once in a while.

So, we’re all socially isolating ourselves like good little citizens, right? Right. How is that going for you guys? What are your coping strategies? I imagine it must be truly painful for the extroverts among us – some of the people from the entertainment industry I follow on SM are posting regular gems, sprung from their need for contact. It’s really touching to see how they tell us about recipes they tried, chicken they burned, or the correct way to clean a pan after they did (hot water ;-)!). Skincare tips, pet videos, admonishing the public to #staythefuckhome. I watch Jamie Oliver’s IG videos, which are always inspirational.

It may sound weird, but my own everyday life has not changed all that much. Really! I do miss seeing my friends, but for now, I’m actually quite content living in the little bubble of our nuclear family. It’s more people _all the time_ than I’m used to, after all, what with my husband home officing and my kids being home from school. And I have work, so I’m lucky.

Walking Charlie has been a welcome respite from all the noise at my house. Cabin fever would be a problem, sooner or later, and I sympathize with people who want to be good about sequestering but have tiny apartments where it’s virtually impossible to stay out of each other’s business… domestic violence is real, and while I certainly don’t condone it, I can see how it would spike under these circumstances. Add impatient young children, or alcohol, to the mix, and bam, it’s not hard to imagine the fights erupting. So, I guess, #staythefuckhome is important, but #gothefuckoutside is, too?

It’s my first spring with my own dog, ergo taking daily walks and literally watching nature wake up a little more by the day is new to me. Shrubs and trees budding and blooming, and the green of the moss gradually being outshone by the chlorophyll-laden explosion on the tips of the branches … it’s a gift, enjoying that with my four-legged lil buddy.

Home schooling has been happening, and I confess I’m more than a little surprised at how well it actually works, considering how new and different it is. My 6th grader is attending tel-cos with team mates and teacher twice a week, and my 12th grader is working on assignments by himself and with classmates, submitting papers and solved math problems via Email. Maybe experiencing mom working her butt off from home has set a good example?

The extra cooking was one thing I did not look forward to – providing, like, two cooked meals a day, in addition to dog duty and work? It scared me, and I said no, not happening. So the kids are getting smart. My son can do really good French Toast. My daughter has successfully graduated to frying eggs all by herself. Of course there have also been trips to the Kebap shop, and a few instances where lunch consisted of a burger and sundae after a walk by the dog lake, and of course lots of yogurts, bowls of muesli, carrots and apples and avocado sandwiches in between. We’re adjusting.

I’ve been assigned a new book, for a publishing house I applied to more than a year ago – and I’m greatly looking forward to this one, because it’s about outdoorsy, escapist people living on the fringes of society: Live-in vans, Winnebagos, houseboats, Tiny Houses – the works. Surfers, bloggers, drifters, environmentalists. Of course, they all have their own ingenious solutions for just about everything from bio degradable toilets to storing food, interior design, solar showers, and finding electricity when needed. It’s amazingly topical, and I applaud the editor in charge for choosing such a book in a time like this.

So, I have managed to translate a few pages of luxury leather items. Some of the nerdy terms I already learned (and forgot, because who needs to know the difference between pit tanned and vegetable tanned cowhide, on a daily basis? Not me!) when working for Manufactum more than a decade ago – their business is popular in the UK, also, and I was in charge of translating this particular product range for their catalog for a few years. Funny how this stuff came back like a boomerang so many years later. Still, my mind is like a bag of fleas today, so it’s been slow going.

My husband and daughter are on a mission to catch her up on James Bond – which is happening next door in the family room. She seems to like Pierce Brosnan, who definitely was my favorite of all the 007s, even though Daniel Craig may be the most unusual actor who ever played him. Here’s an odd story. I stopped watching the franchise after Casino Royal, after leaving the movie theater both shaken and stirred (sorry, could not resist). For the first time, James Bond had a soul. The beautiful love story ended in tragedy – and then, I didn’t want to know any more. They lost a customer by making an unusually good movie, how absurd of me, right?

While grief-binging Star Trek TNG yesterday, I managed to knit half a color block sock. I’m using daffodil colors for this one, a very spring-y color sequence, chosen by my daughter, la Chefesse de la Couleur:IMG_3734So far, I’ve made three pairs like this, four if you count the tiny ones that stayed with baby cousin K in Frankfurt.

They’re fun to make, and perfect for binge knitting because you don’t have to pay a lot of attention to patterns and such. Also, temperatures have not gone back up yet, so I’d say we’ll need them for a bit longer.

Thank you for reading this rambling post about everything and nothing.

A Black Monday

Hey everyone. I’m not even going to get into Covid-19 and the various ways it has impacted all of us over the past few weeks, that probably deserves a post (or several) on its own. I just hope all of you are staying sane, as well as healthy, and I hope to see you guys as soon as we’re not required to socially distance ourselves from each other. It has been weird, but we’ve had a shit sandwich of quite another sort to deal with, as we were accompanying our sweet kitty on the last leg of the last of her nine lives.

As our wonderful vet pointed out today, death can go on and on if you let it. He supported our decision to let her go now, rather than keep her going as a miserable, shaky, pained shadow of herself, just because we weren’t brave enough to make a decision.

So, we went there as a family, and were handed the obligatory Corona face masks. We were given time and a room to ourselves, and the sedative was administered. The lethal shot came when she was fast asleep. Her death was awful, and without fanfare, just like the other times I had the sad job of accompanying a pet on their final journey. Fritzchen stopped breathing around 2 p.m. She would have been 15 in August.

To be honest, I’ve been saying goodbye to this cat ever since she and her sister were diagnosed with kidney insufficiency years ago, trying to brace myself for this bad day, but of course you can’t prepare for this shit. It hurts, and all of us are heartbroken, despite having been well aware this day would come.

But even as I’m crying bitter tears of loss, I mostly feel grateful for the privilege of having lived with her, prickly personality, beautiful black coat and adorable white blaze on her forehead. She was a gorgeous animal, and much loved by all of us, most of all by my boy whose heart I can hear breaking all the way from his room down the hallway. It was he who bore the brunt of caring for her over her last weeks, as she didn’t really leave his loft bed much anymore, and he spent many, many hours there with her, sleeping and awake. He held a night vigil for her yesterday, not wanting to waste her last hours with us. I joined them for a while between 4 and 5 a.m. It was time well spent.

In closing, I’d like to give heartfelt thanks to all of you who thought of us, and prayed for us, and asked after Fritzchen so kindly – we are grateful for each and every one of you. You are making this easier, truly.

And finally: Pet lovers, and especially those who consider adopting: Please do not let this sad tale deter you from taking in an animal. I can’t find words to describe how much great happiness, love, joy and laughter mine have given me over the decades. It’s not even a question for me: I’d never ever want to live without them.

Be safe, everybody, and take care of yourselves.IMG_3235

Work Stuff

IMG_3313Hi stitch readers, sorry for having been MIA for so long. I hit a bit of a rough patch work-wise, regarding time-frames and number of assignments that needed to be taken care of simultaneously. It got somewhat unhealthy when the unexpected, extensive rewrite of a book translation was added to my already full schedule (tight deadline for a cookbook translation, finishing the first chapter of a fantasy novel I’ve been asked to translate, yay, fun stuff :-)). All this needed to happen over the course of a few weeks in January, and I would not advise anyone to try that shit.

I got a large part of my hands-on education in advertising, therefore aiming to please the client is part of my work ethic. Submitting my work on time is as second nature to me as trying to deliver the best work I can. Mostly, this keeps everybody happy. And then sometimes it just doesn’t, no matter how hard you try. One of the three projects of the past weeks went sideways, you can probably guess which one, and despite the many hours I spent trying to fix it and finding exactly what the client in question was looking for, she was not satisfied with my work, to the point of her questioning both my skills as a translator and my command of English.

Because I’m me, I was kind of shaken by the experience, and it got me thinking about the meta level. What was there to be learned from this? To avoid all the frustration for both parties, applying these rules might have been helpful:

1. Make new clients define upfront how literal a translation they want. (This in addition to test translations if required.)

2. Install in-between reviews.

3. Agree to be able to push the deadline in case of major changes so you won’t have to kill yourself executing them on time.

4. Strongly advise client to have the translation edited.

In my profession, every job ultimately equals further training. You hone your skill, you learn new terms and phrases, you try out new styles, you get faster and more fluent as you go. And sometimes, you learn things about people, and about yourself, too.

This time around, I practiced translating a novel as literally as possible. I stayed calm and polite in the face of shade thrown at me. I asked for help when I needed it. And I got invaluable advice from two generous, knowledgeable and level-headed colleagues.

Did that have positive aspects? It did. Was I grateful to my friends, family and colleagues for supporting me? Absolutely. Would I want to do it again? Hell, no! Not under these exact circumstances anyway.

All in all, I can say that it was a bitch of a start into the New Year for me :-). I do hope you guys fared better, and I promise the next post will be less dark. But you know what? Despite the aggravation and stress, there were good things too over the last couple months. One is our new baby cousin whom we finally got to meet. He has the cutest toothless smile you can imagine, and we were instantly smitten with Newborn Magic.

Also, I finished a labor of love for my sweet friend M’s baby, due any day now. It took a while, what with the skinny yarn and thin hook I was using. I couldn’t work on it as much as I would have liked because I had so many other things going on, but finish it I did, and I handed it over to the mom-to-be, who actually plans on bringing it to the delivery room with her. I’m very touched.

This was the swatches I made to decide on a pattern. In the end, I let my friend pick, who chose the ripple – there seems to be something about this pattern that makes it perfect for babies.

When I was finally finished, I knew it needed a border, and I must have tried out all the stitches I know, until I settled for the neatness of half double crochet. See how it gently reigns in the ripple without disturbing the peace of the pattern?

And then, I just wanted to add a teeny bit of color. I’d bought all these delicious balls of pastel pink and blue and yellow already, so I just needed to find a way to incorporate them. I couldn’t do the garland-like bobble border I’ve made before, because I wanted different colors, also just dots of it, really, and not a continuous line of one shade.IMG_E4492So it occurred to me to try and crochet the bobbles into the border directly, which I did, and which worked like the proverbial charm. Here, have one more pic, taken really close-up, before blocking:

IMG_2960Well, my job is done ;-))). Fingers crossed for an easy delivery, dear M.

Have a very good early spring, everybody, and thank you so much for reading.


Loose Ends

IMG_1769One of the tasks I feel I have in this life is get a handle on my tendency to walk away from messes rather than man up and take care of them. Why I find that so difficult is unclear, but it’s what it is. As I’m sure most of you, stitch readers, know, untidiness occurs on a daily basis if you live with other people (men or women both), pets and, most notably, children. Contrary to what you might think, having large places like we do in Berlin makes the problem worse instead of de-escalating it. It’s way too easy to physically remove yourself from the epicenter of the chaos without leaving the house. Dangerous, that.

I’m in a weird mood today. I have work, but can’t concentrate for s… Waiting for the shop to call back and give me the verdict on the car. Urgently waiting for my girl J. to _finally_ receive a package that has an astonishing history of getting lost. Making up my mind whether to knit a new hat for my daughter who has yet again lost one, or just get her a new one. Looking forward in panicky anticipation to seeing my son on stage as Lucifer in the school play that’s premiering this weekend. Waiting to hear back from a client who may or may not have ditched me for backing out of a project. The slings and arrows of pulling out of our hats the annual Winter Fayre at the Waldorf school on Thanksgiving weekend (Waldorf moms, you know what I’m talking about). Meeting with teachers about a kerfuffle at my daughter’s school concerning a very difficult kid (not mine, thank God, just me doing the parents rep thing). Needing to bill a client for a poorly organized project, which makes the invoice both complicated and susceptible to mistakes … Lots of stupid little things like that, and they keep piling up like a messed up round of Tetris. Stressful and annoying.

Oh, you’re asking for a solution now? Well. I guess I have a strategy, you could call it. I recently read a discussion on a related topic in a forum, regarding workday organization, time management and such. What I took away from it is that the world seems full of very organized folks. To my relief, there is also great diversity with regard to the systems they use. In the end, we’re all different, and whatever gets the job done is all that matters.

So, my personal way of going about Managing Messy Days is the following.

1. First beat into submission my knee-jerk impulse to walk away from it all. It’s real, I’ve done it more times than I can count, even though I’m aware that most issues do NOT just dissolve into thin air when you look away, sadly. Addendum: Walking the dog first is absolutely fine, for clearing of heads and channeling of energy from the trees and the sunshine and the oxygen. Also, it’s exercise, always a bonus.

2. Then, sit down and write down all the things I currently worry about. There should be two columns (or clusters if you’re a mind map person). One for the things that just require keeping an eye on as opposed to actively doing something about them. And another for actual tasks and chores.

3. Acknowledge the things you can’t change right now, and ignore for now. The other things: Just do them. One after the other. Check, check, and check. Banal, you say? Well, duh. I’m no type of expert for systematic approaches or life coaching, haha! You don’t even know how hilarious that notion is. I’m just 52 years old, have worked for about 30 years and have managed a family as a working mom for about 18. I suppose you could call me ‚experienced‘.

4. If you can, talk to someone about the other list, or cluster. Call a friend, whine, be a brat about it. Journal. Just communicate your dissatisfaction to a friendly listener. It always makes me feel better! And I guess the task to absorb my rant fell to you guys today :-). You’re welcome. And, more importantly: thank you for reading, truly.

So that is my method for getting the better of days like this one, lest they get the better of me.

There’s not much else I feel like talking about today. One thing, maybe. I mentioned that everybody is having babies, right. And you know I like to make things for little people. So I can’t really decide about the pattern for a friend’s baby. I have a bit of time, as it’s only due in a few months. But I’d like to get started before all the Xmas craziness sets in.

Remember the ripple pattern baby blankets I did in the past?

They were all pretty much the same, and based on Attic 24’s awesome pattern. This time, I wanted to do something different, more monochromatic. I was thinking a simple textured pattern. So, over the weekend, I played around a bit with patterns, color combinations and yarn.

I kind of settled on off white, maybe using two strands to make it more chunky, for it is thin yarn, which would be perfect for a summer blanket but the baby’s due in spring, so. I was also thinking of adding a pompom border in pastel colors, pompoms like I did here?

But around a blanket with a pattern like the one below (those are just swatches, to see and feel the pattern).

So that’s a question I’d like your input for. My daughter liked the middle one, but I’m not sure if it isn’t a bit too geometric for a little baby girl. What do you think? The one on the left is of course nothing else but the ripple pattern minus the different colors. Please help me make up my mind!

Btw, I’ve gotten my car back in the meantime. The verdict is not great: I walked away with another appointment and the prospect of having to spend a good few hundred bucks, easy. :-(.

So, now I’ve gotten all of that out of my system, I guess it’s high time to sit down and do some work I’m actually getting paid for. Ducking back out of here with a picture I took last week by the lake. I swear this was midday to early afternoon (as the clever ones of you can probably tell by the position of the sun). I love the eerie lighting and the sense of impending doom. You can easily imagine an army of zombies just waiting to stagger out of that murky water in search of braaaaaiiiin.

IMG_2221Have a lovely day, everyone, hopefully more focused and less messy than mine.