Small World

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Potato Salad Primavera

8 small boiled potatoes, peeled and cubed

1/2 red onion, sliced and chopped

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

1 cup frozen green peas, thawed

1 TBSP basil or parsley, cut into thin slices

Salt, pepper, pinch of sugar

6 TBSP olive oil, or other oil

1,5 TSP Dijon mustard

1 TSP white Balsamic vinegar

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

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

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

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

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

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

Still Sweater Weather

Welcome, Stitch readers. Can you see that I made progress on my colorwork sweater? I like the way the sweater is shaped, now :-), as opposed to the way it did 2 weeks ago:

The body was done, as was half of the first sleeve, when I faced the music and admitted to myself it was just too roomy, and the sleeve too wide. Keen observers will probably see it. So, unraveling up to the yoke it was. Good thing that I had absolutely no plans for the last two weekends. I finished the body a second time last Sunday, and then moved on to the sleeves, which were quick work, and finished yesterday night. As you can see below, my teenage daughter approved the piece right away.

In the meantime, it’s been washed and blocked, and the fibers have settled down nicely.

Not 100% happy with the neckline, I’m trying a ribbed brown half-turtle collar. We’ll see how that turns out. Will probably show you in my next post.

Our Frankfurt branch of the family were here for a few days, and it was really good to see them. It’s becoming a bit of a tradition, them coming to stay with us for Easter, and we did ALL the things despite the nasty weather. Coloring eggs, trip to the lake with the fish farm, Eton mess for dessert, Challah bread, a big bonfire, and of course, yesterday, we went Easter egg hunting 🙂

Judging by the pictures, you can’t really tell it’s supposed to be spring, honestly. But despite the chill, we had fun, hiding (us) and finding (Littlest Cousin K) chocolate eggs:

Charlie wasn’t really up for the long-ish hike yet (he’s not supposed to walk longer than 20 minutes at a time), so it was a lot, for him, and as you can see he made the trip back to the car in the comfort of the trusted crafts turned dachshund travel bag.

He’s doing well, all in all, and we’ve made the necessary adjustments also here in the country – rubber foam wedge walk-up/downs for couch and bed, couch cushions stuffed all around his favorite wicker chair in the kitchen, so he can climb up and down without jumping. Of course he still does it, but not that often anymore. We’re going to spend our summer out here, so we might as well practice the Cottage Routine now.

I was going to post a recipe before Easter brunch, but that wasn’t happening, sorry! This one is actually a crowd pleasing winner, for brunch, afternoon treat or, as my family loves breakfast for dinner sometimes, dinner:

The Finnish pancake, sometimes called a Dutch Baby. Whichever Northern European nation inspired designation you prefer is up to you; I learned the recipe from a friend whose dad is Finnish, and therefore we call it that.

The preparation couldn’t be more convenient: Make batter, melt a bit of butter in dish in the oven, pour in batter, and walk away for 30 minutes.

Great, huh? And isn’t it pretty, with the dramatic edges?

Finnish Pancake / Pannukakku / Dutch Baby

3 eggs

500 ml milk (batter will be kind of liquid; don’t be nervous, this is how it should be!)

300 g flour (I use spelt, but sometimes substitute with almond flour)

Pinch of salt

3-4 TBSP sugar

For the baking dish: 50 g butter

Options: grated lemon peel, nutmeg, vanilla, cinnamon … also a bit of baking soda if desired

Heat oven to 175 ° C. Add butter to dish and let melt in the oven, 3-4 minutes. When melted, pour batter into the heated dish. Put in the oven and walk away. Easy, huh?

We like it with a squeeze of lemon juice and sugar, like a crêpe, but it’s really versatile. Jam, whipped cream, maple syrup, all sorts of fruit, any sweet or fruity topping you enjoy.

And that is a wrap on Easter! Tomorrow I’m back at my current translation project – a gorgeous, and very accessible crochet book, which I greatly look forward to tackling. Also it’s supposed to pour – good thing we took advantage of the sun today. It was good while it lasted!

Have an awesome spring, everybody – and thank you for showing up to read.

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.

Characters, words, and phrases, oh my!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy New Year

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

La Bonne Sauce Arabe

1 red onion, chopped

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

1 celery stalk, chopped

1-2 cans tomato

Salt, pepper, sugar to taste

1 TSP chili flakes

1 TSP cumin

2 TBSP capers

4-5 bay leaves

Handful chopped parsley, or cilantro, if so inclined

Olive oil

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you for visiting, and for reading.

Whoa, Whoa, Whoa!

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

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

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

Ladies and gentlemen, Vanillekipferl.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And that, folks, is it for today.

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

Playing Hooky

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cheesy Fall Veggie Lasagna

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

1/2 p lasagna sheets

1/2 Hokkaido, seeded and cut into thin slices

1 eggplant, sliced

2 Porcini mushrooms, sliced

1 liter Béchamel sauce

2 large handfuls grated Parmesan cheese

1 clove garlic

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

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

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

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

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

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!

A Gloomy Monday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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!