Reasons for Loving the Fall

The colors are probably my favorite. The light on a sunny fall day can take red, orange and yellow to the next level; and on rainy days, a small bouquet of seasonal flowers can brighten an entire room.

Another thing I like is the crisp fall weather. Not a big fan of the heat anymore, I actually breathe a sigh of relief when I can finally pull on a sweater again in the mornings to go walk the pup, after the summer is over. The rain doesn’t bother me much, because once it stops, the leaves look even more beautiful :-).

Knitwear is definitely a third reason for liking the fall. Be it scarves, knit hats or sweaters, not to mention hand made socks – I really love the hell out of a good knit :-).

And finally, there’s the seasonal fall foods: pumpkins, apples, pears, quince, plums, grapes, blackberries – and of course it’s also wild mushroom season. When I’m in the country, I always carry a mushroom knife and small bag when leaving the house, and I rarely come home from walking Charlie without a handful of those oddly fascinating and never less than delicious woodland creatures.

Wild mushrooms can give a flavor boost to just about any savory dish, and for a few weeks every year, they’re part of the menu almost every day, in this house. I add them to soups, stews, pasta dishes, risotto, stir-fries, chicken, scrambled eggs or simply as a yummy topping for pizza, grilled cheese or a sandwich.

The last image is what we had for dinner the other day.

Hokkaido, Chanterelles and Rice for Two

Half a small Hokkaido pumpkin, cubed (1 cm)

1 large shallot, cubed

3 handfuls Chanterelle mushrooms, cut in bits sized pieces

200 g rice, cooked with a little salt

Olive oil, knob of butter

5 sage leaves, cut into thin strips

Put on the pot of rice, then prep the vegetables and sage. Heat the oil in a large pan and add Hokkaido, mushrooms and the cubed shallot. Season with salt and pepper, put on a lid and let cook for about 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally. You want a bit of texture, but not too much. Make sure you don’t overcook the pumpkin. The mixture should be moist enough from the water in the mushrooms and shallot. Add the sage and butter or, if you’d rather cook vegan, a bit more olive oil. When the rice is done, add to the vegetables, stir, check your seasoning, and enjoy!

Usually, the fall truly begins for me when we pack up our stuff and come out to the cottage for two weeks. We don’t always have time off, but the school kids do, and there’s always fun things to do out here – feeding the horses on the nearby field, mushroom picking, riding lessons, pumpkin carving, baking challenges, and having freshly smoked fish at the eatery on the lakefront. It’s not a fancy place, but the view is truly spectacular. A wonderful place for a sundowner. When I sit on the pier and gaze out at the water, soaking up the last rays of sunshine, it’s easy to feel like everything is alright with the world.

This year, both my husband and I do have work, but at a reasonable work-life ratio. Which is a good thing, because next week, there are two memorable events coming up. Our 20 years wedding anniversary, and our daughter’s birthday, both life-changing events that deserve commemorating. Let them have cake, right?

After a few way too busy weeks, I’ve picked up my knitting again. I made a pair of socks for my friend C., and a pair of pink, diagonally ribbed socks for myself. When finishing my own private re-run of Friends over the weekend, I got as far as the heel of the second sock, so I’ll be done with that pair soon.

As for my sweater project, started with a lot of motivation in August, and abandoned it when work got the better of me. I did bring it with me to the cottage, but haven’t really been in the right mindset, for it needs attention, and I haven’t got a lot of that left right now; my brain is officially fried after a wild ride of about 500 pages in a matter of weeks. I do NOT recommend this.

The other day, my friend I. asked me for an estimate of how many pairs of socks I had ever made. It’s not easy to say, as I didn’t knit a lot after the first couple enthusiastic years of learning. Not sure if I knit at all during my 10 years of advertising. I really only became serious about crafts when I moved to Berlin in 2000, and I only began documenting my projects about 10 years ago when Apple gave me the great gift of inventing the iPhone. I know people feel the real revolution was the iPod, but for me, it’s definitely the having an uncomplicated, decent camera on me at all times that made all the difference… Back to the math. I probably made an average of 10 pairs per year, the last 20 years, maybe 250 pairs all in all – man, that’s a lot of socks! I can show you a few from the last couple of years:

Hopefully, I’ll be able to work on my sweater some more. It’s gotten chilly, and we’ve lit the woodburner:

And that’s why I love the fall :-). How about you? What season is your favorite? Any interesting crafts projects in your future … let me know. And thank you for reading!

Don’t Want to Day

When I was a young, bushy tailed trainee at a small ad agency, one day a new colleague was hired. Freshly tanned from a trip to Greece, happy and shiny, wearing fabulous golden ballet flats and displaying the hottest legs in the office, she was an inspiration and we were instantly smitten with her. She’s a bright, lovely, warm and wise person, and I’m happy to say we’re still friends.

One story she told from her former employer, a larger network agency, was the one about the colleague who would call in sometimes to say she was taking a day, simply calling it her ‚Don’t want to day‘. This greatly impressed me as you can tell by the fact that I still remember it 30 years later.

Even though I’m self-employed now, my work ethic kind of doesn’t allow me such a thing as waking up in the morning and saying to myself: You know what? I’m taking a selfish. But today, I feel like I might be ready for a little break from routine.

My morning started as it always does with getting my daughter ready for school (that’s right, I only have one school kid now!), after which I usually have 30 minutes that are my own – to sip my tea, check Instagram, knit, do a sudoku. This morning I suddenly felt a craving for scones, found that I had buttermilk in the fridge, and went ahead and made some. It’s a very quick process, craving to buttered scone can happen in less than 30 minutes.

I used no recipe but my memory served, and they turned out just fine. Here’s how I made them:

Quick Buttermilk Scones

100 g soft butter

300 g flour

2 TBSP sugar (you can use 3, if you’ve got a sweet tooth, it’s a matter of taste, really)

pinch of vanilla

pinch of salt

1/2 p baking soda

about 100 ml buttermilk, did not check how much exactly

Quickly combine ingredients to make a soft, fluffy dough, slightly sticky. Flour your work surface, gently pat down the dough to about 2,5 cm thickness (or even more if you’re feeling all baking show-y). Cut out using a glass or a large round cookie cutter, or just cut up in chunks if you prefer.

Set on a baking sheet covered in parchment, paint with egg wash and bake at 160 °C for 15–20 minutes, or until nicely risen and a very pale brown. I pressed a couple of tart little plums into some of the scones, but they’re equally good without fruit. You’ll probably want some jam with them.

Since this is not the UK, I have no clotted cream nor do I need it. The scone just as it was and a cup of coffee made me very happy after my morning walk with Charlie.

So, instead of being a good little translator, I’ve popped over here to chat, how’s that for playing hooky? As mentioned in my last post, work has been a little insane, and I’ve been very good about focusing on my tasks. Today I have another 8-10 pages due (in my own self appointed work load, not to submit), but I won’t think about that rn.

What else? Watched Lin Manuel Miranda’s In the Heights, and loved it.

Spent a few days in the country (working), and found the first porcini mushrooms of the season.

Went to the yarn shop for the first time in months …

… and started a new sweater:

I got inspired by this lady whom I follow on Instagram, and even though mine will probably be less perfect and less elegant than her knit-from-the-top-down pieces, I’m still looking forward to snuggling into that Mohair-y goodness once it’s done.

Oh, and also I cut my hair, and I couldn’t be happier I finally made up my mind to do it :-).

Other than that, as non-German readers may not be aware, we get to vote this September, and it’s a momentous election at that because Chancellor Merkel will be stepping down after her long years of service. It will be interesting to see whether people will trust the young (and female) candidate from the Green Party to fill her shoes, or choose the more seasoned male candidate from the Social Democrats to represent this country in the future.

It would, in my opinion, not be a bad thing to move ecologic matters to the political forefront. You’d have to live under a rock not to realize the planet needs humanity to change its ways, and even though the Green Party has made compromises not everyone who voted for them in the past agrees with, environmental matters are still what they stand for, so I guess my mind is made up.

And with that, I’m going to bow back out of here, wishing you a nice day, and thanking you for procrastinating with me for a while.

Ode to a Friend (and a Knit Shawl)

Let me tell you a bit about my friend, who has been a constant in my life for nearly 30 years now. We both started working for a small Frankfurt ad agency, importantly dubbed Junior Copywriters, in the summer of 1994. Me after having gotten my degree in marketing-communications, her after getting her M.A. in German Literature and both of us having stumbled into the place clueless, curious and excited.

Our bosses were both old war horses who had found fame and fortune in the 1980s, a somewhat legendary time for German advertising: generous budgets, successful German designers, photographers and artists. In those days, everybody who could rode that wave, hard. Anyway, those two took both of us in and put us to work. But since both of them were set in their ways, a never wavering daily routine of meeting time and Do Not Disturb time, also lunch breaks that involved quite a bit of wine sampling, we were left to our own devices a lot while the bosses quietly detoxed in their respective offices.

It was a good time, and we became fast friends over the 2 years we worked at that place, and that friendship stuck. Over the years, there were terrible boyfriends, new partners, a wedding, a divorce, two children for each of us, deaths in the family, financial calamities, moves, pets who lived and died, and career changes. Through all that, we had each other’s backs, and there are few people in the world I trust more. There is a deep understanding of one another, and even if we don’t see eye to eye about everything, we get and respect and love each other.

A. has an awesome sense of humor, impeccably quirky taste and really, God positively showered her with creative potential. She’s smart and opinionated and the kindest soul I know. We had not seen each other in a long time because of Covid; and now that we’ve both gotten our vaccinations, and her children graciously offered to go camping for a week without her and let her do her thing, she came out to the cottage for a week where we enjoyed something we hadn’t had in a long ass time: time for just the two of us. She knew the place from just after we bought it, but obviously it has undergone a great deal of change over the years as we slowly renovated and furnished it. Needless to say, her visit was a Big Deal for me, and I gave myself a few days off for the occasion.

My birthday present for her this year was hand-made. I’d begun pootling with the colors in the above pic mid July while on vacation in Croatia. The project was not all that quick to finish as I’d thought, which stands to reason when you make a triangular knit shawl that increases every row, but the fact of the matter is that I wasn’t finished yet when she arrived. I wanted a color block pattern, and after some swatching decided to work in garter stitch. The color sequence was subject to a few discussions with Yarn Friends, and I ended up using four of the five above. As you can see, I was working with leftover yarn (yes, of course I traveled with a bit of a yarn stash, why do you ask?). If that hadn’t been the case, I might have stopped at three. But as I was not in a place where I could have bought more yarn, I needed to make do, which as it often does worked out just fine!

That was the journey, and as you can see, I was still knitting the day she left (last pic on the right). What started with 3 stitches ended with about 350, ’nuff said! Since I still wasn’t finished when she boarded the train, I gave her the WIP and asked she finish it herself ;-). It was a good gift, she loved the color sequence, and since she is one of the few people I know who can pull off the golden shade of yellow at the top, it’s perfect for her.

We had 5 gorgeous late summer-y days. Having meals outside, lazing in the sun, walking Charlie, picking chanterelle mushrooms, swimming in the lake, driving through gorgeous lake land, having coffee … and also, we ate vegan while she was with us. A lovely couple of days I will carry with me for a long time.

Also, I tried my hand at a vegan lemon drizzle cake. You can tell from the picture that it broke when I unmolded it (chemically, it makes sense. There was no egg and butter in there. I was so annoyed!) But thankfully, it was good nonetheless. Using the formula for pound cake minus the egg, the cake was made from: 150 g margarine and a few TBSP oil, 200 g flour, 200 ml coconut milk, 200 g sugar, zest and juice of 1,5 lemons, 2 p vanilla sugar, 100 g coconut flakes, pinch of salt and 1 p baking soda. Mixed together, baked at 175 °C for about 50 minutes, unmolded, then glazed with this glazing: juice of 1/2 lemon, a shocking amount of powdered sugar and a knob of margarine instead of butter, stirred to a thick, spreadable consistency.

The reason why I’ve been making myself scarce over here is sadly not play. I have a very challenging workload scheduled for the next few months, so will probably have little time to chat. Apologies in advance, I know this is not proper blog netiquette, but sometimes them’s the brakes. Wish me luck for the 4 projects I need to finish by end of November. Bowing out today with an encouraging high five for everyone who needs it.

Do you Have a Food Blog?

That is a question I’m frequently asked when I give in to my urge to snap a picture of my food, or something that looks like it has the potential of becoming something good to eat, or when I send or show my friends something I made. It’s not a coincidence that this is one of the more important categories on this site, here in my little corner of the Internet.

It’s the lovely month of June, and for 2 weeks now, the weather has been seasonally appropriate. This also means two blooming edibles I’d like to talk about today: elder flower and acacia blossoms.

From the former you can make a sweet and fragrant drink, elder flower cordial. I’m not sure I ever said how to do that on here, but I’ll tell you, if you’d like to make it – it’s easy, and delicious. From the other, you make yet another dish from my childhood. In France they go by the fancy name of beignets d’acacie, but we just called them acacia flower fritters.

So, the drink first. If you live in the vicinity of a park, go scavenging, and collect about 20 flowerets. Watch out for critters, as they tend to huddle on the stems. But you’ll be cutting those off anyways in order not to have a bitter aftertaste, so you should be protein free without much of a fuss.

1 kg sugar

1 l water

4 lemons

1 orange

In a large pot, boil down the syrup, stirring until sugar has dissolved. In the meantime, wash and slice up your fruit. Throw the largely stem free blossoms and the fruit in the hot syrup, let cool, cover and walk away for about 3 days.

Find some bottles with well fitting lids. I bought these when we needed them for the school bazaar a few years back. You can wash and reuse them, no problem. Remember to sterilize them right before you pour in your finished syrup.

Stir the concoction every once in a while, tasting the flavor. When you feel happy about the way it tastes, strain through a sieve in which you’ve placed a clean cheesecloth, to filter out unwanted particles. Pour the liquid back into the cooking pot and bring to a rapid boil. Then pour into the sterilized bottles and let cool. Dilute to taste, with either sparkling water or Prosecco. Chin-Chin!

The acacia flower fritters are, as many of my childhood foods, also a memory of my dad. To this day, acacia honey is my favorite, and this may well be the reason why: When I was little, we lived on a quiet cobble stoned street in a provincial city in Romania. Our street led to a tiny square, the Piata Schiller, which was, in those days anyway, flanked by acacia trees. They couldn’t have been very big, because my dad was able to reach the blossoms, which he collected in a basket. At home, he made some sort of pancake batter (no idea how, exactly), dipped the whole stems, blossoms and all, in and pan-fried them. There may have been powdered sugar on top. I never really connected the dots to trying this out myself, but this year, when walking Charlie at the community forest, I suddenly found myself with a few of these blossoms literally in my face, and happened to think of it. I brought a small, sweet smelling bag home with me.

Online investigation led me to beignet recipes, which call for separating eggs and beating egg whites, also lemon zest. Feeling too impatient for that, I just made a rather thick pancake batter of 2 eggs, flour, 1/4 l milk, a pinch of salt, and a few TBSP of sugar. Also, I zested a lemon and added the zest, because why not.

After careful washing and patting dry on paper towels, I heated a generous amount of oil in a frying pan, and then did what my dad had done like 4 decades ago. It was very exciting!

I’ll admit the shape could use work – but I was so happy with the result anyway. I let them rest on a paper towel to soak up the fat, and rather than adding extra sugar, I squeezed some fresh lemon on mine, yum!

Since it seems to be that kind of day today, I started cooking this morning, making my own version of eggplant puree, melitzanosalata in Greece, or as it’s called in Romanian, vinetesalata. This is also something my dad used to make, and it was a complicated process of roasting the whole eggplants on the stovetop, wrapped in aluminum foil, salting them when done, letting them cool, scraping off the charred peel, and chopping them up with this wooden tool, on this wooden board:

The wood is for avoiding oxidation – which would happen when you chop the vegetables with an iron knife, or something. This is a historic tool, no clue how old, a family heirloom, I think. So, vinetesalata is also a dish I never made before – until today, as you can see above. I live in a place where Greek restaurants, Turkish shops and Lebanese eateries are abound, so it never really occurred to me, I suppose. This morning I found an eggplant in the veggie drawer, and was inspired.

I did not roast the whole thing, but instead did this:

Vinete My Way

1 eggplant

1 green onion

1 clove garlic

sprig of fresh dill

salt, pepper, sugar, paprika powder

olive oil

lemon, a dash of white balsamic vinegar

Cubed the eggplant and fried it in olive oil with a bit of garlic, until the pieces got really mushy. Then I pureed them with a tiny bit of fresh green onion, some olive oil, a dash of vinegar, a pinch of sugar and some dill (because I did not have any fresh parsley), diluted with 125 ml yogurt, seasoned the creamy paste with some more lemon juice, salt, pepper and a tiny bit of paprika, added a good slosh of olive oil, and called it good.

The bread happened this afternoon. I’m really looking forward to a nice Balkan dinner tonight :-).

So, there you go, an all food blog post!

However, I do feel I should add this:

Thanks for the kind inquiries! Yes, our boy graduated high school, with decent grades to boot – and now the world is his oyster. There has been quite a bit of partying going on among the class of 2021. We’re very happy, relieved and grateful he could see all the hard work pay off. It’s just a great feeling, accomplishing things, isn’t it?

We’ll talk crafts when I come back. I have been knitting, a little, finished a pair of birthday socks, and started a new pair, nothing too exciting, but pretty anyways. Making socks is gratifying because, to me, it’s quick work – but more about that next time.

Enjoy your weekend, and thank you for reading :-).

A Weekend in Bed

Last week was memorable for a number of reasons. Our son passed his oral exams with flying colors, which is amazing. Also, said son and I got our first shot of Covid vaccine on Friday, which led to a weekend largely spent in bed with the side-effects. It wasn’t pretty. Fever, joint pain, headaches – in my case, lingering, and I’m a little stupid with it, after four days in a row. It’s not alarming enough to suspect thrombosis, so I’ll just have to sit it out. Good thing I submitted my manuscript early last week. And good thing I have you to talk to, since I can’t really concentrate on work.

Since I could do little else but veg out, play with my Sudoku app and drink copious amounts of tea, I decided some knitting in bed was indicated. There were projects to finish! What you see above is the Strawberry Hat, modeled by a somewhat disgruntled Charlie. Don’t worry, we took it off of him right away. No animals were harmed, not at this house! The hat needs a pompom still, but my daughter was so happy to see I was done that she made grabby hands and wore it all Sunday, which ended up being a Pyjamas Day for all of us. Haven’t had any of those for a while now, and once the pain meds kicked in, it wasn’t so bad.

Next, I finished the socks for Cousin A in the states.

Hopefully, they will keep his feet cozy. I like the color flow. It reminds me of the ocean, which I’d dearly love to see again this year. We’ll see if it’s in the cards. Infection rates have gone down, thank goodness, so we may get lucky.

On Sunday, I started the next pair of socks, birthday socks for a young friend, who couldn’t really make up her mind about color and said darkish, maybe navy, maybe grey – so this is what she’s getting:

I’m considering giving her a navy heel and toe in case I get bored with the soft heather grey. A bit like the one on the right, obviously with a different color scheme.

Not to give you the wrong impression – I may be bitching about the headache, but I’m really happy to put up with it as I’m sure it beats the alternative, by miles. I feel relieved, grateful, and so, so fortunate to live in a place where we have access to modern medicine.

Re. food: I was asked for the recipe for a cake I made the weekend before. It was a leftovers cake, mostly, for which I used random ingredients I found in the cupboard at the cottage, that ended up tasting yummy as I threw them together. Check it out:

Chopped Apple Cake with Hazelnut Praline

3 small, ancient apples from the veggie drawer (or 2 regular sized), peeled and chopped

300 g flour (I used spelt flour)

1 p baking powder

200 g butter, softened

150 g sugar

3 eggs

1 P vanilla sugar

Pinch of nutmeg

Pinch of salt

Zest and juice of 1 lemon

Handful of hazelnuts, coarsely crushed

100 g yogurt

Handful of store-bought hazelnut praline

First, cream the butter until fluffy. Gradually add sugar, continuing to beat until sugar crystals dissolve. Add salt , vanilla and nutmeg, and one egg at a time. Continue beating. Add yogurt, lemon zest and juice, and nuts. Finally, fold in the flour and baking powder.

Pour batter into a baking dish, top with the apples and hazelnut praline, and bake for 45-5o minutes at 170 °C.

The nutmeg was added on a whim, but I have to say it gives the cake a really nice and unexpected aroma.

Back to graduation – wish our teenager luck for tomorrow, which is the day they’ll be told their grades. It might mean he’ll get to sit a re-examination (he has the feeling he could have done better in math, and his GF knows for certain she could have). It might also mean that he’s done with school. Either way, the day holds great significance for this family and my son in particular, and we’ll take all your crossed fingers, please and thank you.

But since restaurants have finally opened for outdoor dining again, we booked a table at our favorite Greek taverna anyway. We have not had dinner at a restaurant in 6 months, I think.

Sorry if this post seems a little frazzled. At this point, I’m not sure what it reads like, as it is a precise reflection of my current state of mind. Thank you for reading it anyway!

Tipsy

As I may have written before, I don’t really drink; I’m not a teetotaler, nor an addict – I just choose not to drink because my body doesn’t handle alcohol very well anymore. There are occasions, though, when I don’t care, and damn the consequences.

The reason why we toasted with a glass of excellent champagne today is that our son just came home from the last oral exam of his high school graduation. Grades will be announced shortly, and he’ll know whether they will call for a re-examination or not, so the fat lady hasn’t sung just yet. However, this one was the last of six, and it’s fair to say the past few weeks have been a doozy.

Those who regularly read this blog are probably aware the boy is dyslexic as well as diagnosed with ADD; school has not been easy for him, nor for all other concerned parties. Some of his teachers – the majority in fact, were kind and supportive, as you would expect from people entrusted with your child’s education. Others, not so much. Since they are little more than a waste of space to me, I won’t bother talking about them.

The wonderful, knowledgeable and dedicated ones have been a treasure to know and to work with. They managed to turn around a miserable, frustrated child who had just about given up to ever be able to learn how to read and write, and make him like school, develop skills and become a confident human being.

Being a parent of a special needs child is challenging, and exhausting, but also really rewarding if things work out. I’m so proud of my son. So proud!

For anyone who has a dyslexic child, I encourage you to empower them, find help, get them educational therapy and teach them strategies suited for their special brains. Do not listen to the knuckleheads who tell you all your child needs is a bit of discipline and tough love – they are wrong, and should not be allowed around any kids, let alone those who are special. So, find them tutoring, find them a studying method that works for them, encourage them to believe in themselves. Ensure that their teachers take into account their being different. They can get there, I promise. Educate yourself, do not be afraid to address their needs, talk to your kids‘ teachers. Ask the therapist to explain to the teachers how they can best support them. Take the time to try and understand how their minds work. They are probably among the smartest people you know. You just need to catch up.

Yes, I am emotional today, but that’s not down to the champagne, I assure you. The past weeks have been nerve-wracking, to say the least. And even if there should be a re-exam in the lad’s future, it’s probably safe to say the worst is over. Today he gets to celebrate, and today he has reason to be proud of himself.

I’ve submitted a book translation this morning, so I guess I get to be little proud, too. Also I managed to get an appointment for my first Covid vaccination for tomorrow, which is really great. Not looking forward to how my body might react to it – I’ve heard this and that, and some people are out for the count for a few days. I’m making a pot of chicken soup in case I should feel sick. It’s always a treat, in sickness and in health ;-).

My daughter’s strawberry hat is coming along nicely, and since it is a bit too complex to knit when watching a movie, I’ve been working on my cute little nephew’s custom socks, check it out:

As the calendar tells us, it’s asparagus season, a fact not so much corroborated by a look out the window, necessarily. I swear I can not remember ever having worn this many scarves and coats this late in spring. But since asparagus grows even as early as March, it’s probably not bothered by the chill as much as are we.

Anyway, last weekend, I made a pasta dish with green asparagus and lemon butter, a combination I can highly recommend.

Pasta Primavera My Way

1 bundle green asparagus

3 green onions

1 lemon

handful of basil leaves

50 g butter

Parmesan shavings to taste

100 g linguine per person

First, wash and clean asparagus and green onions, and cut diagonally. Roughly chop basil. Boil pasta. In a non-stick pan, melt the butter. Add salt and a pinch of sugar as well as lemon juice to taste. Throw in the vegetables and sweat for a few minutes – they should be, like your pasta, al dente. Combine all your ingredients in a bowl. If you feel it needs it, you can add a slosh of good quality olive oil. Toss with Parmesan shavings.

If you happen to have a leftover egg as I did, by all means, add that ;-). It’s not necessary for the dish to be great, though.

So, wish me luck with my jab tomorrow, and thank you for reading!

So Fluffy

My history with pancakes starts at IHoP, moves on to Aunt Jemima’s pancake mix, makes a stop at Wince’s house in Silicon Valley, and finally graduates in my own kitchen. What you can see above is my latest batter concoction, which uses unsweetened shredded coconut in addition to flour. I’ve used almond flour before, which was nice too, if expensive.

One thing you have to know about me is that I get motion sickness, on planes, ships, sometimes even in cars. For long flights, I’m always on Dramamine or else I _will_ throw up. This was no different when I first visited the States in the early Nineties. One side-effect of the drug (in addition to feeling ZONKED!) is that I need lots and lots of food after I land, or else. So, having touched down in Boston, IHoP seemed like an adequate place to take care of that. Needless to say, the fluffy, buttery, syrup-drenched goodness of American pancakes found its way from my plate straight into my heart.

As a Young Adult, I did not cook much. Making pancakes seemed so far out of my league that I bought an honest to God pancake batter mix before flying home, and had anybody I knew who went stateside bring back a package if they could fit it in their luggage, because then you couldn’t find it here in Europe. Today, this seems ridiculous, but my mid twenties self did not think so ;-).

The first time I witnessed someone making pancakes from scratch was at my girl A’s then-boyfriend’s house some ten years later. And you know what? Those were quite good. Not saying better than at a good diner, but I took notes, and have been making pancakes ever since. There is just no decent diner culture where I live, so you need to make do…

My children don’t know any of this. They think my pancakes are the best in the world (which is sweet), and I try and live up to their expectations. Sometimes the plain version my daughter loves gets a bit boring, though, and I add fruit. Classic blueberries, but I’ve also done sliced bananas, sliced apples, raspberries and even tried strawberries but decided those were better as a topping.

I found the addition of shredded coconut was a good one. It adds a bit of texture and chewability that I’d urge you to try. Just substitute parts of the flour, maybe like a third. The ultimate ratio depends on lots of things, like how many eggs, what kind of flour you use, whether you use buttermilk or regular milk – generally, I use 500 ml buttermilk and three eggs for 4 ppl, add a generous slosh of maple syrup and a pinch of salt, whisk, and then add the dry ingredients until I like the texture. Batter should be viscous, gooey but not too thin. Finally, I whisk in 1 P baking powder, and then let the frying begin!

A week has passed, which I spent mostly out at the cottage, working, working, working, and walking, walking, walking, by the lake, in the forest, in the meadows. Home schooling may be challenging, but it certainly has its perks. If you’re lucky enough to be able to work remotely, it can literally be done wherever.

We had a bit of a Covid scare, again – a girl in my daughter’s class got infected, poor thing – and of course everyone was asked to stay home for a while to avoid spreading anything the girl might have given to the other kids, on the one day they were actually at school last week. We were spared, thank goodness, but it was an uncomfortable 48 hours. On a happier note, my husband got his first vaccination, which is awesome. One down.

Wishing you a speedy vaccination – which seems an odd thing to say, and I’m sure it will read even stranger a few years down the line. For now, I’m sure everyone who dropped by can relate.

Have a good week, everybody, and thank you for reading!

Place of Rest

Last weekend was a good one, that held all the things I like about our country cottage. There were long walks, there was baking, there was fresh asparagus because it’s almost May, there were friends – and also, very cool, all the four of us went out together – a thing not to be taken for granted. As my brilliant friend N said: When we were young, we fled from our parents. And our kids choose to spend their vacations and free time with us. What a blessing, right?

Anyway. What also happened was that I was able to put to rest a piece of my late parents‘ headstone. I’ve talked about the strange German regulations regarding cemetery use before. If you don’t feel like re-reading my rant, don’t. I was angry and depressed, lashing out because I felt helpless. Anyway, the gist is that in this country you (usually) rent the tomb from the city for a duration of (usually) 20 years. In some cases, you can renew the lease, in others you can’t. This was the case with my parents‘ grave, their time was up and I was asked to have removed the tomb and remains. I contacted a local stonemason to take care of it, and I asked him if he would cut off a piece of the headstone for me, and have it shipped to Berlin. This happened end of last year, and the stone sat in our shed, neatly wrapped up in bubble wrap, waiting for the right moment to find it a new (and hopefully permanent) resting place in our garden. Last Sunday, my husband and son helped me position it next to our old linden tree in front of the house.

I feel relieved and like I’ve found a closure I wasn’t even really aware I needed. (You’d think burying your parents would grant you that, but hey. We live and learn.) So thank you everyone who commiserated with me, and listened to me complain about the stupid law, also you people who helped me come up with this very good solution for a sad problem.

On to something a little less dark. I said I baked over the weekend, and despite this being a stolen recipe, I feel I should share it. The original was this one, and I was very happy to have found it when I was browsing. My version looked less perfect than the blogger’s, and I think I also know why. Cooling the dough balls dipped in powdered sugar _again_ before baking is key (you need space for 2 baking sheets in your fridge for that), as the blogger points out – unfortunately without specifying how long exactly. Next time I make them I’ll go with an hour and not 30 minutes. But they were very good, despite the less than perfect optics. The kids wolfed down the last four today :-).

If you don’t read German, no problem – just google Lemon Crinkle Cookies, and you’ll find lots of inspiration. It seems to be a popular variety. I can guess why!

And in case you’re too lazy to do either? Here’s what you do:

Lemon Crinkle Cookies

300 g flour (I used spelt)

1/2 TSP salt

1 TSP baking powder

peel of 1 lemon

115 g butter (not chilled but room temperature)

150 g sugar (I used less, about 120 g, but added 1 p vanilla sugar)

juice of 1 lemon

2 eggs

powdered sugar

First, beat butter, sugar and lemon peel until fluffy. Beat in 1 egg at a time, then add lemon juice. Then flour, salt and baking powder. The dough should be smooth and sticky. Chill for at least 45 minutes. It should be firm enough to roll little balls between your palms. Dip the balls into powdered sugar and set on a baking sheet lined with baking parchment. It should yield two sheets of cookie dough balls. Find room for those in your refrigerator, walk away and do something else. I’m serious. The cookies‘ looks will benefit from a thorough chilling.

Then preheat the oven to 175 °C, and bake for 15-20 minutes. Enjoy with a cup of tea, glass of milk, or espresso – these are good with any.

In crafts news, I ripped the crochet poncho up yet again, because I had messed it up in one place, and it didn’t really even out as I had hoped; to the contrary, the irregularity became more obvious as I went. So with a big sigh I frogged like twenty-five rows, again. I was a bit angry with myself and wished (not for the first time) to be able to follow a damn pattern like a normal person.

My friend A. whom I complained to said: But then you wouldn’t be you! She seems to think creative potential and following a pattern are mutually exclusive. Not sure if that’s true – what do you think?

Anyway, I doggedly started again, adding some rounds over the weekend, and will continue to pay careful attention as I go now. This was Sunday morning, and to me it does not get much better than this, crochet in bed, tea at my elbow, and my two li’l dudes sleeping at my feet while the sunshine streams through the window.

Have a productive week, everybody!

A Happy Easter

Those bunnies up there were an edible thank you to my daughter’s sister friends L & L, who were kind enough to help out with firewood stacking: they came through like two true champs. I made them a big batch of this lemony shortbread-y goodness to show my gratitude, and they were devoured within a day. I’m proud of that because one of the Ls is a really picky eater ;-).

The dough is based on whatever short crust recipe you like; I added an egg yolk to mine even though it’s not actually in the recipe, as I wanted the dough a bit more smooth and easy to work with. Also a fair amount of carefully grated lemon peel, on a fine grater and not using a zester (simply because I don’t have one out here in the country, but it’s also better for the cookies, I found.) Vanilla and salt. Didn’t have powdered sugar so I couldn’t make lemon icing. I used egg wash instead.

Lemony Bunny Cookies

Short crust (300-200-100 g ratio flour-butter-sugar)

1 egg yolk

grated peel of 1 large lemon or more to taste

pinch of salt

1 p vanilla sugar

Chop butter into small cubes and in a bowl make a smooth ball of dough from all ingredients, carefully adding drops of very cold water if necessary. Cover and let rest for about 45 minutes.

Roll out on a flour sprinkled surface, about 4 mm thick, cut out desired shape with cookie cutters. Set on a baking sheet, brush with egg and bake for a few minutes at 160 °C.

Let cool on a rack, and enjoy with a good cup of tea :-).

These cookies were the kick-off to a whole cooking spree that began on Holy Thursday, and lasted until Easter Sunday when I handed over the chef’s hat to my husband who made the most amazing leg of lamb, after my gourmet friend M’s French recipe. We felt we needed to treat our son who has been hard at work studying for his final exams, and turned up here for Easter, starved. So we fed him well, and plenty.

Oh, and I was asked about quiche (pic on the right). The dough is a simple pâte brisée, flour, salt, olive oil and water, to which I like to add 1 TSP dried thyme. It gives the quiche a little extra flavor that goes well with most vegetable toppings. In this case, they were spinach and mushrooms, as well as 3 beaten eggs, mixed with 75 ml heavy cream, salt and pepper, and sprinkled with a little Parmesan cheese.

If you follow this blog, chances are you know him, and care about him enough to keep your fingers crossed starting next week, all through April and early May, please.

It was a good four days, and today I find it hard to jump right back into work mode, so I thought I’d pop over here and chat for a bit. When we came out before Easter, I still had a fair amount of work I wanted to get done; I managed to finish it all, pack up our stuff, and see the hair stylist who agrees with the children’s opinion that I need to keep growing out my shaggy pepper and salt curls. The result you can see above. When we arrived, there was unpacking, heating the house, getting supplies for Easter and do a teeny little decorating.

All good things. My husband’s recent hip replacement didn’t let him do a lot of heavy lifting, and only brief walks, but he did what he could, and all in all we tried to keep expectations down and spirits up – and I’d say it worked out okay. There were other neighbors who were happy to walk Charlie with me, and we spent a lot of time outdoors, which is always a plus. Early spring sunshine, birdsong and fresh air was just what I needed, and I feel very lucky indeed, to be able to look after myself.

Also, I did some crochet; I’ve talked about the poncho WIP before, and it’s turning out to be one of those projects where I wish I weren’t too dumb or impatient to follow a damn pattern. I was making such good progress, but then I realized I was making it tighter than I wanted it to be (pic on the right); it wasn’t supposed to be all flowy like some ponchos are either, and that’s where I went wrong the second time around. I went overboard with the increasing, and then had to unravel _again_. But now I’m finally on the right track, I think (pic on the left).

Finally, my Icelandic Sweater came :-), by crafts Artist Særun Osk. It’s a bit bigger than I thought it would be, but both my son and my husband do not mind AT ALL, which seems fair considering I constantly borrow their sweaters. It’s a family affair, and it’s exactly the right thing to wear in this unstable April weather.

Hope you have something pretty to snuggle into yourself. Here’s to a nice and rainy spring – it makes the mushrooms grow come summer and fall. And now it’s back to work for me, duty calls.

All Work and No Play

As anticipated in my last post, it’s been a busy few weeks. Apologies for my absence here, but there was actually precious little to tell. I got up, walked the dog, worked, walked the dog, worked again, made dinner, walked the dog, worked some more, slept – and rinse, repeat.

We had a wonderfully warm late February, after all the cold and snow and ice, and it felt awesome to finally wear something else than my down coat. But then temperatures dropped once again, and all the early blooms and budding shrubs seem to have stopped in their tracks. But it’s lovely to walk around our neighborhood this time of year, and see the snowdrops and crocuses poke their pretty heads out of the still mostly barren soil. I can’t wait for the scent of nature waking up and finally spoiling us with color and brightness once again.

Meanwhile, my kids are soldiering through home schooling like a couple of champs, my son is buckling down for his upcoming exams, and my husband went and got a hip replacement, defending his title as Bionic Man. He’s being amazingly brave, self-sufficient, and all mind-over-matter. I’m not sure I’d be any of that in his shoes, and I admire the heck out of it.

What has me so busy is the fact that I didn’t like to say no to any of my three current projects with kind of competing deadlines. It’s manageable, but there’s not a lot of leeway, on either one of the books, so I need to keep a tight schedule. I’m trying hard not to melt into the computer and transform into a sentient Translator Bot.

Not sure how much else I’m good for at the moment. I do try and cook every day, so there’s that. But there have been frozen pizzas (always with a home made soup or salad so we won’t die of scurvy), grilled cheese, and quick pasta dishes, more often than not.

I try to take weekends off, though, to catch up with chores (boring), sit and crochet (amazing), and try to spend some time with the family. How lucky am I to have had so many years of being able to adapt my schedule to the kiddos‘ needs? I don’t know how I’d have survived this kind of workload when they were young. Also, I doubt we’d have much of a relationship if I’d been as absentminded then as I am oftentimes now. They don’t seem to take it amiss, thankfully, and learning to be a little more independent is not a bad thing for them, all in all, I suppose. This is a conundrum every working parent needs to find their own solution for.

I recently remembered white beans the way my dad would make them. Here’s the convenience version that suited my schedule better than the soaking and cooking for a long time that he used to do. (Cooked beans, 1 shallot, 1 strip of bacon, cut in thin slivers, chopped parsley, bay leaf, salt, pepper, and 1 chopped tomato, bit of olive oil – 15 minutes in the pan, the end.) I mashed mine up with a fork and had a slice of crusty French bread with it.

Last Saturday, we had one of the school crafternoons – via zoom, these socially distanced days, of course. I was excited to learn how to needle-felt, a discipline I’d somehow never tried before, not sure why. I always did other things during the crafternoons. But I thought it might be nice to do that with my daughter, and produce something cute for the school’s bazaar stand. So we made fruit and other edibles, check it out:

A new skill, and a fun afternoon with my fellow Waldorf crafters. I don’t do as many zoom meetings as most people, and even after a whole year, it’s still a little weird for me. But it’s always really good to see everyone’s faces, and a nice time was had by all.

I’ve read a little about the various psychological side-effects of the pandemic, and discussed them with friends. One thing most people are saying is that it makes them lose focus, and start many things but only finish a few. Well, this tendency certainly manifests in my crafts projects. I have no less than four WIPs, each of which would require me to just sit down and do them. For some reason or other, this is just not happening. Socks are easiest, I find, and felting was the same. Small things, quick to finish, move on. When in a pandemic …

Last weekend, I _was_ going to finish my poncho, the one in what my husband calls the Winter Colors. Well, it turns out that I couldn’t. I found it needed to be looser that I’d made it, after all, and after careful consideration, I ripped it back up to a certain point below the shoulders (top down). Also, I ditched one of the colors (yellow) like my sweet friend M had told me to all along. She was right, and everyone who suggested it needed to be more flowy was right, too. This is what it looked like before I made the executive decision to frog:

This weekend, I look forward to some time for working on the looser version, having been a good little translator and meeting my target for the week.

Have a nice one, take care – and thank you for dropping in!