A Domestic Post

I love our apartment. It’s spacious, with large windows and just the right mix of slightly shabby bohemian turn of last century chic and modern amenities. The children get their own rooms, we can each be by ourselves whenever we choose to be, and there’s still enough room to converge for a meal, a movie or a game. But despite all that space, my favorite few square meters over the few precious months of warm weather we get in this climate are our two (!) balconies. One faces East and the other West, so we get both morning and afternoon sun.

IMG_2599The above is the kitchen balcony we share with our neighbors next door. They rarely take advantage of it, because they’re not home a lot, but I always use it for growing herbs. As of last summer, I’ve been proud owner of this fabulous urban gardening contraption, but it’s only recently that I’ve actually begun using it in its designated capacity. It’s a euro-pallet we found in the street, and my son took it home, painted it, lined it with plastic foil and made me this planter for my herb plants for my birthday last year. I’m having a lot of fun with it.

Last week I made a quiche from a random assortment of bits and pieces found in my vegetable drawer (leeks, zucchini, fennel, carrots and a leftover boiled potato), pimped with an unusual combination of herbs I had at my fingertips thanks to that planter (tarragon, mint and thyme – in bloom). Because I’m still trying to substitute as much wheat as I can, I used 2/3rds rye flour for the crust, which added a nice nutty flavor. I topped it with a few slices of goat cheese and thyme flowers …

IMG_2593IMG_2602… and look how pretty it turned out. It was very good, too.

I will tell you how I made this, but be warned: it’s not a lightweight, and that’s just how it is. Shortcrust needs butter (or in some recipes that are not mine, even lard), so if you’re counting calories, you’d better count in some time on the treadmill too ;-).

Veggie Quiche on a Rye Crust

The crust is pretty straightforward – flour, cold butter, 2 yolks, some salt. Some ice water if needed. Quickly make a smooth dough, chill for 1 hour, roll out and bake. Let cool for a bit. Then add the sauteed veggies, pour on the eggs-and-cream mix, and bake until puffed up and lightly browned.

You will need

200 g rye flour

100 g wheat flour

1/2-1 TSP salt

150 g chilled butter (sorry!)

2 egg yolks

2 TBSP ice water if needed to make dough smoother

Quickly knead the ingredients to make a firm, smooth dough. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for 1 hour.

In the meantime, get out a large skillet and sauté in olive oil:

1 leek, the white portion, cut into 1/2 cm rings

3 green onions, cut into rings

2 carrots, cut into thin slices

1/2 bulb of fennel, chopped

1 small zucchini, chopped

1 leftover boiled potato (but only because I had it, the quiche certainly doesn’t need any additional carbs!)

1 TSP thyme

Salt and pepper to taste

1 TSP fresh tarragon, chopped

A few careful leaves of mint to taste, chopped

(The above is what I used. You can, depending on the season, on what looks good that day and your personal preference, use any vegetable and/or herb that strikes your fancy – bell peppers, broccoli, spinach, chard, cabbage, or I suppose even kale, asparagus, beans, green peas, onions, eggplant, okra, squash, mushrooms and seeded and juiced tomatoes …)

Cut up the veggies and cook them with the herbs at medium heat for a few minutes. Season to taste, then let cool in the skillet until you’re ready to fill your quiche.

After 1 hour in the refrigerator, take out the dough and with a rolling pin, quickly roll out a 3-4 mm thick crust. Butter a baking dish and dust with flour. Line it with the dough evenly. You’ll probably have to do some patchworking here and there, because the dough might tear as you transfer it to the baking dish, but don’t worry, it’s not going to show after you bake the crust. Next, pierce the crust with a fork every few centimeters, preheat the oven to 160 °C and bake until the dough sets – 20 minutes should be enough. Let cool for a while.

For the topping, you will need

4 eggs

200 ml whipping cream

Salt and pepper

1 goat cheese log, cut into 5 mm thick slices

Fresh thyme flowers, one for each slice of cheese

Now beat 4 eggs into 200 ml whipping cream and add salt and pepper to taste. Transfer the vegetables to the crust and spread evenly. Place as many slices of cheese as you like on the vegetables and top each slice with a thyme flower. Pour the egg mixture in the pan and bake for about 30 minutes at 150 °C, until the surface puffs and browns lightly. Serve with a large bowl of salad so you have a chance to have some non-fattening food with that indulgence :-).

We had a week off from school, two days of which were spent on the Autobahn No. 9. Car travel is always hell for my back, but good for crafts projects when I’m not driving. Here’s what happened on that front:

Originally, this was planned as an addition to my ‚give that couch some color‘ quest, but then my daughter pointed out how very well the color scheme matched that of her room, so … I’ll have to come up with another design for the couch, another time.

Right now, I’m grappling with my first amigurumi crochet project – very exciting, and so much more counting stitches than I’m usually comfortable with, but it’s for a good cause, so I’ll just have to cope ;-)). My sweet niece M.’s birthday is coming up, and I’m making her a unicorn, check it out:

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To come full circle with the domestic topics (notice how I didn’t mention work even once 😉 ?) let’s have a look at the first green peas my husband grew in his vegetable patch, proudly presented by our own little Sweet pea:

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Signing off today with a piece of interior decoration I saw in my mother in law’s guest bathroom:

IMG_2535For those who don’t know any German, it says: Sometimes it’s just better to blame others. It made me laugh out loud, because it’s so to the point for everyone who was, like me, brought up to be a ‚Good Girl‘. Not sure how well that worked out, but I do know that I’m still working on ditching some of that early childhood imprinting :-).

Have a great month of June, everyone!

The Ides of May – a Mother’s Day Post

IMG_2302The first ten days of May have come and gone, you know, the bad days when I think about Dead People a lot, and ponder the transitory nature of life. This year, I counteracted with a buttload of work, always a good strategy when feeling morose. Busy days and a couple of late nights later, one job is all but finished. IMG_2288

I’m being supported by my friend F. on this one, who not only has a brilliant academic mind and a keen eye for any typos that might lurk, but with whom I also share a deep love for crafts-related things, so we’re obviously collaborating on the Sewing Book :-).

The other project I’m currently spending most of my work time on is far from done, but we’re about half-way through, and I feel confident we’re doing a very good job of it. I’m co-translating this one with a friend who is in charge of the project, and enjoying every minute of it. We’ve worked together before, so I knew it was going to be good going in, and it is.

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All the while, crafts needed to take a time-out. I finished the pale blue stripies for my sweet A. because I was on a deadline, in fact it’s her birthday today, and although she won’t receive her gift until end of May, probably, I still wanted it to get to her as soon as the logistics of snail mail will allow.

And then yesterday night when I was catching up with all the episodes of Marvel Agents of Shield I missed over the past way too busy weeks with my squad, I finished the latest addition to my Mission To Brighten Up The Grey Couch: The Zig-Zag Cushion.

I’m pleased with how it turned out, and I like how the cushions are not even remotely alike. The next one may be something Granny Square-y, not sure yet, or even a knitted cable pattern, just one color and lots of texture. We’ll see.

For now, I’ve started with a little summery sweater for my daughter. It was one of those spontaneous yarn purchases made with no particular design in mind. I just liked the yarn, and after playing around with it today a bit, I decided it needed a seed stitch, and that I’d make her a boxy sweater, not too long, not too short.

As many of you are probably aware, it was Mother’s Day today – usually a great day for being brought tea in bed, the kids making you your favorite breakfast, and giving you flowers, handcrafted gifts and the likes. And while I got all of that …:

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… the blissful laziness came to an abrupt halt around noon, when I had to say goodbye to my favorite boy for 3 weeks. He’s off to intern on a farm, as part of the 9th grade curriculum. He applied to a sustainable goat farm, got in, and he’s greatly looking forward to working with the animals. Hopefully he’ll even get to learn how to make cheese. How cool is that?

The only downside is the fact we’re not supposed to have any contact with the children over the whole period, and I have to say that right now, 3 weeks seem like an awfully long time to me. I have gone a week without before, for class trips are usually like that also with the no phones policy. But I always have a hard time being away from him, helicopter parent (within reason, at least that’s how I see it ;-)) that I am. Oh well. Kids are supposed to become really independent when doing this, so there. Everything for healthy character development… And although it’s not going to be pretty, no doubt, in the words of the immortal Queen of Disco, Gloria Gaynor, I will survive.

Such a great song. There, I feel better already ;-).

And of course I’m not as bad off as the moms of only children, as I have my young daughter who is happy enough to have me all to herself for a while. Today, we did this:

It took me a while to remember the rules, but my daughter refreshed my memory, and then we had a lot of fun with this board game I brought back from Greece once upon another lifetime.

I mended a pair of jeans for her, brushed her hair and watched one of her all time favorite movies with her when the weather did what it does this spring – it turned bad again, so no Fro Yo bar day yet again. And now I get to pour all these mixed feelings into my little speaker’s corner of the www, so I’m guessing the day is drawing to a close on a reasonably content, if not ecstatic note.

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I took this gorgeous pic on the one sunny afternoon we had the past week. We need to count our blessings, right? Hope all you moms out there had a wonderful time with your children today. Have a great week!

About a Bag Lady

When my son told me yesterday there was a homeless person sleeping on the lawn in front of our building it made me wonder what their story was, as it always does whenever I see someone in their situation. Everybody living outside of the normal societal spectrum has one, and some have even made it into our pop culture – remember ‚The Fisher King‘ starring Robin Williams and Jeff Bridges? It’s one of my favorite movies ever.

When I was cleaning up our balcony yesterday, getting rid of the sad shriveled stalks that were my plants last summer, I suddenly thought – what if they’re dead, or sick? So I peered over the railing to check whether the person had moved, and found that it was a woman who looked Latin American, with beautiful long black hair. She had made herself as comfortable as she could on a thermo picknick blanket, her backpack, sneakers and a paperback novel neatly arranged next to her. It felt weird looking down on her like that, as if I were intruding, so I didn’t stare once I had established she was alive.

Today, my neighbors from downstairs went out to take her a drink, which didn’t really go well. She lost it, yelled at them for their trouble, and finally they had to ask her to leave. They said she seemed pretty tweaked out on some drug. She’s gone now, and I hope she found another secluded (and safe) place to crash.

A friend pointed out to me recently that in Germany, nobody really has to sleep on the streets if they don’t want to. He said it’s always a choice people make, probably to do with some psychological disorder more often than not. Or even with a profound need to be alone, to the point of preferring a patch of front lawn to being crammed into a shelter, sharing space with a group of strangers.

I’ve said it before – I enjoy solitude a great deal myself, but unlike the bag lady, I’m privileged enough to be able to be alone in comfort rather than having to sleep on a park bench. Suddenly, being alone up here in my comfortable, central heated apartment with a bathroom, food in the fridge and WiFi seemed special and not something I should be taking for granted. In the end, we may not be that different, she with her paperback novel and me with my e-book, I thought.

It made me appreciate my life, which is always a good thing. My family have gone to the country for the long weekend, I’ve stayed back to do some work, and now I’m ready to welcome back the noise, the laughter and the mess that is my sweet kids and husband.

Did I do any crafts the past week? Well, it was a busy few days work-wise, also there were parents‘ meets, and my sweet girl J. came to stay with us for a couple days after winning the award for Best German Computer Game 2017 – a major achievement she can be soooo proud of! If you’re a gamer, you absolutely need to check out Portal Knights, it’ll be out for XBox on May 19th.

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As you can see, I have been knitting over the past week: another pair of stripy socks in the coolest shade of rockabilly baby blue. These are for my girl A. whose birthday is coming up in 2 weeks.

IMG_2158Remember when I was so bamboozled with my many color choices for my friend S.’s socks? The blue ball of yarn was one of the ones I bought that day. These are the ones for S., all wrapped up pretty, and modeled by myself.

When I’m done with the socks, I want to finish the Zig Zag crochet cushion I started over Easter. Without realizing, I included the pansexual colors (and a few more), what do you know. I was really just using up leftover yarn, not trying to make a political statement! But I think it’s going to be so pretty, another spot of brightness on the dark Grey that is our new couch.IMG_2228.JPGAnd now I have go check what to make my people for dinner. Have a good week, everyone!

So many Things to Do, So Little Time

Sometimes I wonder if I wouldn’t have made one heck of a housewife. You know, cooking (check), bringing up kids (check), community work (check) but no job (well…) and a few lovely hobbies (check) instead. I very much doubt I’d have been bored. A solid fine arts education gives you a wide enough horizon to be an interested human being, after all. Maybe I’d practice piano again. Or sign up for Arabic classes like I’ve been wanting to do. Ha. I bet the very thought of a stay-at-home-mom daughter would have made my brainy mother and her women’s lib generation shudder. But as my fabulous and equally brainy sister-in-heart A. pointed out, that generation fought for us having the choice as well as the opportunities. She’s right – and it was what I needed to hear when she said that, as I’d been struggling with the whole ‚OMG why did I not make more of the chances I was given in life‘ … in connection with the big 5-0 approaching. Anyway, that isn’t how things have worked out for me, and that’s fine. I get to do things that I love, which is anything but a given.

Where did this train of thought come from anyway? It’s my friend A.’s fault. She asked me for a lasagna recipe earlier today, and since I already wrote mine down a while back, all I needed to do was point her here. And then she said, Jeez, when do you even find the time to write all this stuff? Which made me feel like a weirdo. I’m certainly not an artist by any stretch. I don’t feel compelled to tell stories like I imagine authors do, I have no fictional characters in my head, I’m not plotting any story arcs, and I don’t think my musings and pics posted here are of great importance. And yet I find the whole blogging experience gratifying, and when I’ve done a good job with a post, I feel reasonably proud of it, in much the same way I feel happy with a piece of knitting or crochet that turned out well. Obviously it’s a time-consuming hobby, and sitting my butt down to write a post seriously cuts down on my free time, for unlike with crafts, I can’t really do anything else while writing. I guess you’d have to be a blogger yourself to understand why I do it. I certainly didn’t get it before I started this blog, even though there were a few bloggers I was following. It’s a mystery I won’t be solving tonight, that’s for sure, as I need to go put my kid to bed, stat.

IMG_2102.jpgAn hour later. Kids. When you have them, they rule your life. Seeing that my mood has changed completely in the meantime, I’ll just continue this post with remembering one of the coldest Easters in years. But the crazy weather did make for some amazing light – magic, right?

IMG_2034My current crafts WIP is a pair of socks, for my friend S. in Frankfurt. Yesterday was her birthday, and I was going to finish the socks before that. I bought the yarn in good time, but I swear it took me 3 days to decide on a color scheme. I even did a color survey on Instagram because I just couldn’t make up my mind: IMG_2158.JPGDespite sound advice, I still wasn’t happy with any of the choices. I ended up trying out quite a few things – I don’t think I ever ripped up so many swatches. When I’d had it with that, I decided that stripies were the way to go, and here’s what that led to: IMG_2178I’ll finish the socks tonight so I can mail them to my friend tomorrow. She’s an alternative medicine practitioner, with beautiful long honey-blond hair and amazing eyes, blue and green and some grey – and I seem to remember she wears white to work, so I hope the socks will go well with her coloring. They’re made of a soft merino mix (mint green) and the downiest baby merino yarn (off-white). I think they’re really pretty in a retro kind of way, and also they feel really snuggly. Handmade socks warm your heart from the feet up, don’t they ;-)?

The rest of my week looks kind of crazy, wish me luck with not dropping too many of the balls I need to juggle. I guess that’s what you get for being brought up with the notion that since you can do it all, that’s what you’re supposed to do, too … No wonder people all suffer from burn-out syndrome these over-achieving days!

Stay sane, stitch readers, and remember to breathe.

The Day It Was Spring …

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… was Saturday last week. This picture was taken after an extraordinarily busy week during which I translated a huge number of pages, participated in two parents meets, worried about my mother in law who underwent major surgery and tried planning our summer around three book projects, one wedding, a trip to France and two families‘ (located on different continents) schedules …

The week after that was basically more of the same, and therefore mostly remarkable for offering the perspective of a Week With No Alarm Clock to follow. Not that it means I have a week off, but sleeping in is usually only happening on weekends, and I’m taking full advantage.

Unfortunately, the weather has been more rain than shine, less degrees than we hoped, and a chilly Easter to look forward to :-/. But we get to be in the country, so we can run outside as soon as the rain stops. Also, we’re here with our friends, and that is a treat whether the weather be good or bad.

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And now for something completely different! People have mentioned that I never really talk about my work on here. It’s sort of true, I mostly discuss crafts and cooking and stuff that’s on my mind. This may give the impression that that’s all I’m about, and since nothing could be further from the truth, let me put that in perspective a bit.

As you guys know, I’m a copywriter turned translator. My former and my current jobs are similar in terms of requiring you to become familiar with a new subject matter in record time, enough to be able to credibly pretend you know what you’re talking about anyway. In copywriting, that’s usually all you really do. Obviously it helps if you love words and know how to be witty, but it rarely goes any deeper than that, mostly because lot of bomb-ass ideas get trashed before they ever see the light outside of the dungeons of the art department.

Translating is different. When I translate nonfiction, I learn so much from my authors – and if I’m lucky enough to translate something I love, like a cookbook or a crafts book, it all adds to my own expertise. This past month has seen me buckle down and learn about sewing. And it’s great! All the yummy new words I learned, all the insight on fabrics and patterns and needles and utensils. I had FUN!

When translating fiction, it’s great to transpose a whole world, a culture, the main characters, and to make the readers get them, or even like them. When the readers don’t really notice they’re reading a translation, I’d say I did a good job.

As I’ve mentioned before, I have a weakness for (gay) young adults fiction, and the millennials in particular. So far, I’ve translated two novels by Santino Hassell, both set in the very diverse gay culture of New York. The first book, Sutphin Boulevard, was well received and got good reviews, even a little love for the translator, which was such a relief because as a hetero cis-gender female translator, I was apprehensive as to whether I had done the work justice. It’s a deeply romantic love story, but in parts kind of dark. Not an easy read at all, but it’s got great protagonists, interesting character development and (because it’s Santino) some very explicit and highly emotional sex scenes.

The second book, Sunset Park, came out mid March, and oddly, it seems the reviewers have little patience with the woes and struggles of younger people. Why then would they even buy a book like that, I wonder. Just go for the grown-up books section and skirt everything that reeks of coming of age, finding out who you are and what you’d like to do with your life, falling in love and discovering your (sexual) identity… I’m sure Sunset will find its readers anyway, because it’s a great story, and very very funny.

When translating the first book, I struggled with finding the right tone for the sex scenes – ultimately, in German, we don’t have the playful and fun vocab English has for anything sex related. German tends to be either overly romantic, off-puttingly clinical or flat out vulgar. It was a challenge, but in the end I guess I pulled it off. The second book taught me (among other things) about Grindr, the gay sex dating app. I liked the pragmatism, the acronyms, the lingo … the whole system was fascinating to me. And since Santino doesn’t do sex for sex’s sake in his novels, there’s a very intense Grindr chat in one of the first chapters that is absolutely crucial for the whole story arc, and I just needed to nail that (no pun whatsoever intended). So now I know my way around that (not entirely sure what good it’s going to do me – again, straight cis-gender female – but it was cool to explore that parallel universe anyway.) And of course, translating two characters who are both funny as all hell, snarky and sweet, one with a Latino background who sounds a little ‚hood, and the other a clean-cut white boy from Connecticut who went to Brown. I found both of them equally lovable, and they’re my favorite couple in that ‚verse so far.

I’m supposed to work on the third book over the summer. It’s about two guys who’re both almost 40, so the most adult people he’s written about so far. We’ll see how I do with them.

Until then, I have the great honor of chipping in on the translation of a true cookbook classic – not supposed to say which one yet, but it’s huge, and I’m loving it SO MUCH!

So there, now I have talked about work – to those of you who thought all I do is bring up kids and crochet and knit, sorry to disappoint, not that kind of lady.

But I do do these things all the time anyway, because I’d go insane if I didn’t. Here’s some things I made over the past few weeks:
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Look, the soft pink socks for Sweet C. are done :-).

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As are two new sofa cushions to add a splash of color to the solemn grey.

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Voilà, the latest glittery sock creation for my daughter.

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This was enlightening – can you believe I made all of those…?

Signing off tonight (for it’s late!) with a series of my teenager creating street art with garbage. Love the way his mind works :-).

Happy Easter, everyone – let’s hope the Easter Bunny will be generous this year!

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It’s Not About You

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Depression sucks for everyone involved. The patient is suffering, and if they’re not careful, friends and family will exhaust themselves in vain attempts to ‚do something‘. Trying to cheer the other person up, attempting to make them feel better and look on the bright side – it can get frustrating because that’s just not how it works.

When one of my closest friends got sick, my own approach (after silently freaking out for a while) was to detach myself enough to be able to be or do what she needed. It took 3 very long weeks of allowing her space to find out for herself what the heck that even was. I found a way of letting her know I was thinking of her without pressuring her, but the incommunicado was not easy for me. What helped me was to tell myself every day that it wasn’t about me. In the meantime, I learned that there will be good days, and there will be very bad days. It gets more complicated the more you love the depressed person, because you’ll see them fall apart, and there won’t be a damn thing you can do but listen, hold them, be there and pray they’ll eventually find it in themselves to climb out of that bottomless pit.

In the beginning, it was such a paradigm shift to understand that what is troubling her has absolutely nothing to do with me, or with what I did or didn’t do. This is probably even more difficult if you’re a spouse or a parent, because these relationships are more codependent than a friendship by definition. Not that friendships never are, and not that it’s necessarily a bad thing. Depending on friends is what they’re there for, thick and thin, good times or bad. Right now, my job is to be there for my friend while being mindful of my own needs at the same time. And while it seems illogical to detach yourself in order to stay close, it seems to me that that’s one of the few things that can work.

I’m not entirely new to this. An ex-boyfriend of mine was both depressed and drinking. Our relationship was an absolute train wreck, but at the time, I genuinely believed he needed me, so narcissistic of me. In the end it was him who ended it, which, from today’s perspective, was the sanest thing he could have done. It broke my heart, but it was clear we really had nowhere to go – and I wasn’t even helping him with his issues. He did what he needed to do.

Then, there was a friend who became depressed over the course of a brief marriage that ultimately failed. There was really not a lot I could offer but a couch, a friendly ear and encouragement to seek professional help. She did, and she got better, and she learned to be happy again. But it took me years to accept that there was nothing else I could have done, and to be OK with that.

Interestingly, it was only recently that I understood the difference between feeling empathy for someone and trying to absorb their pain. It’s probably the secret weapon that enables therapists to do their jobs without going crazy themselves. This may be a bunch of BS from a professional standpoint, but for the current situation with my friend, it’s my strategy for standing by her to feel her sorrow but not own it.

Sorry for dumping this heavy business on you, stitch readers. I know you probably came to see some crafts projects, or check for new recipes.

If any of you know more about depression though, please let me know, I’m sure I still have a lot to learn. I read that doing crafts is being offered as a part of therapy in psych wards – guess we’ve come full circle there. Anyway, here’s my current WIPs:

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Birthday socks for my friend C., mom to my Most Excellent Godson R., in a lovely shade of soft pink called ‚Winter Sorbet‘ – poetic name, right?

The Dotty Granny Blanket may or may not, depending on my stamina, become a cushion instead. It’s a lenghty process, making all those pretty dotty granny squares. We’ll see.

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The one above is definitely a cushion front – a color explosion in rows of half double crochet, complete with bobbles that add to the Seventies lava lamp feel of the piece ;-).
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The back will look like this – a deep shade of blood red, also in HDC but without bobbles.

That’s all I got for today. Thank you for dropping by and reading.

OK, you asked.

If you’re like me a firm believer in chicken soup for basically any ailment from germs to a broken heart, you tend to have excess meat on your hands once the dregs are slurped up. Sick people (especially the little ones) don’t usually have huge appetites, and all they really want is the broth anyway. As a rule, I’ll be saddled with 1 leftover chicken breast and thigh minimum. There are a number of ways to put that meat to good use. Chicken fricassee (I just don’t love it, there, I’ve said it), enchiladas (yum), chicken-tomato sauce pasta with lots of basil (yum again) … or you make a chicken salad, one of my husband’s all-time favorites. Here’s how I do it:

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Chicken Salad for G.

Leftover boiled (or fried) chicken (1 chicken breast and 1 thigh, for instance), meat boned, skinned and cubed

1 shallot, chopped

1 apple, cubed

1 egg yolk

4-6 TBSP Cooking oil

Dash of olive oil

1 TBSP white Balsamic vinegar

1 TBSP Dijon mustard

Pinch of sugar

Lemon

Salt

Black pepper

125 g plain white yogurt

Watercress

1 TBSP pink peppercorns

Home-made Mayonnaise

Never made mayonnaise from scratch before? Well, it’s really easy if you pay attention to a few little things. I assure you that, once you’ve got the technique down, if you’ll ever look at the Miracle Whip jars at the store again, it will be with well-deserved, snobbish foodie disdain.

When it comes to making your own mayonnaise, there’s a lot to be said for some really anal prep – it’s most annoying when you have to hunt in the back of the fridge for your jar of mustard, cup of yogurt or lemon while your mayonnaise may begin to curdle. I usually start out with setting out all my ingredients on the counter, plus a bowl large enough to hold the salad later on, and my flat wire whisk, the one I also use for stirring sauces. (Which is of course what mayonnaise really is, albeit cold.)

Peel and chop the shallot, cut up the apple and meat, then set aside.

Now for actually making that mayonnaise. Separate the egg and put the yolk in your bowl, saving the egg-white for something else (whether you use it – and another 7 or so – for a supple cheesecake or for making a modest egg-white omelet is entirely up to you!). Add salt, pepper, sugar and mustard. Beat vigorously – the yolk needs to absorb all those ingredients, as well as the oil you’ll be drizzling on it in a minute. Keep beating until you’ve incorporated all the oil. Your mayonnaise should now be pale, yellow and thick – the consistency not unlike the store-bought variety you’re familiar with. Now add vinegar and lemon juice to taste, keeping in mind that you’ll be diluting the mayonnaise later on with yogurt (or cream cheese, should you find it too liquid after all), so it’s OK if the flavor is tangy and intense. Keep stirring, then add the yogurt and pink pepper. Taste frequently but don’t double-dip, you’re dealing with raw egg after all, and don’t want any bacteria in there. Add more salt/pepper/lemon juice/sugar/mustard/vinegar to taste. And, of course, other spices, if you want. Some people like curry powder or chili powder or even smoked paprika in this.

When you’re happy with your mayonnaise, add the chicken meat, chopped shallot, apple and pink pepper. Sometimes you need to add more yogurt at this point, in case you have too many solid ingredients. It’s a matter of taste, really, how much mayo you like in your chicken salad.

Cover your bowl and place it in the fridge. Only add the watercress shortly before serving with some really good bread. This is perfect for sandwiches, as a starter, as a dish for brunch, or as a late-night snack – my husband would probably say that there’s no such thing as a bad time for a good chicken salad.

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There is little else to report from the past few weeks. I was editing the heck out of the latest translation project, a cookbook, and it was a big deal to me (even more so than all my translation projects are anyway), because I was working for a new client, one of the Big Publishing Houses, and of course I want them to be happy and come back with more work. Fingers crossed – I submitted the translation yesterday, and as per usual, I’m feeling a bit brain-dead in the aftermath of such high-level concentration over a longer period. Battling a bladder infection at the same time did _not_ help.

But I did manage to watch a few shows with the 2 dudes, and you know that means I needed something to do with my hands. Here’s what I made:

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Another pair of SUCH PINK socks, this time for the little squirrel burrowing under my duvet on a lazy Saturday morning. And, while waiting at the doctor’s office on Monday, I started on these: IMG_1704.JPG

Yarn was picked by my glitz and glam loving daughter (Lurex!) a while back, for practicing her crochet skills. She did that for a while, too – but doesn’t seem to find it as fulfilling as I do, and the yarn was abandoned soon after the first enthusiasm had worn off. So I grabbed it and let muscle memory do the rest while I was waiting to see the doc. The colors are interesting, and the socks will turn out gorgeous, I think. You can never have too many pairs, living in this climate, that much is certain.

I’m signing off today with a very cool shot of gracefully executed Double-Dabbing by my daughter and her friend S.

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Enjoy the first days of March, and the rays of sunshine peeking through. Spring Is Coming!