What’s A Week-end…?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Quarantine Crafts

One thing I’ve noticed over the course of the Corona crisis is that my capacity for being surprised seems to have diminished. It’s probably a coping mechanism, emotional detachment, or just my psyche reacting to all the weirdness by refusing to engage. I mean, everything seems so different from what we’re used to, and you can’t freak out all the time, so it seems just as well to stay aloof.

So I’ll just mention, with little emotion, that it seems unusually chilly for May. Mother’s Day which is this coming Sunday (don’t forget, those of you who still have moms!) used to bring peonies and lilies of the valley … which I have already seen, so it may be a glitch or the Ice Saints…IMG_3929Anyway, it did register that the pup was shivering when I met an old friend yesterday morning and stopped to chat for a minute. Putting him in his winter coat seems excessive, it’s like 10 °C. A sweater, on the other hand – well. Who would say no to a stripy sweater?IMG_4100Second project: yet another Ripple Baby Blanket – in two colors this time, no more. I know I started out with the monochrome Granny Squares

but somehow, me and the pattern just didn’t click, so I ended up doing something both completely different and more than familiar, as you can see.

There’s a subtle difference to all the other blankets I’ve made in this pattern, though – the pink stripe is a single row of SC at a time, instead of repeating the ripple pattern, which is based on DC. This makes the colored stripe thinner and more noticeable both, if that makes any sense. Anyway, I like it, and I’m making decent progress on it, while watching old Star Trek episodes with my daughter most nights.

It will go to my downstairs neighbor who had her baby last but last week – it’s s cute sound, hearing a new tiny voice in the house. I’ve yet to meet little R in person, but I’ve received pics and she looks very, very cute.IMG_4082As you can see above, my socks are finished, and I’m enjoying them a great deal, even though the colors are NOT my usual palette. They remind me of spring, and of daffodils, which I love, despite their intense shade of yellow. Yellow is not an easy color to wear, but on my feet, it should be fine ;-).

Asked by my daughter what my next project will be, I had to confess I didn’t know yet. Maybe finally finish the couch throw I started two years ago ;-))?

The truth is that I’ve frogged most of it (down to the turquoise bit), and I’m not even sure I actually like the DC pattern anymore. There’s so many textured stitches that are more interesting – we’ll see. But it does seem like a nice project for the summer, looking at those pics.

Also, my little monkey’s outgrown most of her hand knit socks, so I may end up making new ones for her first. Lord knows I have quite the sock yarn stash to work with.

Any crafts projects you’d like to share? I’d love to see them, please send pictures, since we can’t meet in person for the time being.

Stay well, everybody, and if you’re a parent, enjoy the extra time we’re given with our kiddos. There’s a gift in there :-).

Not Very Focused

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Carbohydrates

IMG_3363People frequently complain about gaining weight over the holidays, and that makes so much sense, given the general notion of joy equaling rich foods, heavy with butter, sugar and meat – all very customary around Christmas time. It’s also cold and dark in the mornings when we get up, and it’s cold and even darker when we come back home from work or school, so it’s understandable that we resort to comfort foods (few of which, unfortunately, seem to be calorie light-weights) to give morale a much needed boost. But it is unsurprising we feel it later on the scale or at the waistband.

I guess I must be some sort of freak, because it’s not really the holidays but the year’s darkest months, January and February, that get me in trouble. Eating for comfort is one aspect, but my working longer hours because of my lunch breaks spent at the park or community forest now, instead of at my desk, is another. Working late means eating more. Simplest of math.

IMG_2408To me this means carbohydrates. I don’t do well on a protein-heavy diet, such as Atkins and keto, especially not in the winter when I crave something comforting and filling. Over the summer I might be fine eating salad and a piece of meat or fish for dinner. But in the winter, I need to have carbs. Rice, pasta, polenta, potatoes, bread … Any of those will do the job, but to say I can easily resist freshly baked goods would be lying. I’ve gotten better about cake, because anywhere that’s not a hipster organic bakery, this automatically means wheat flour, which I try to avoid. Unfortunately, I know how to bake cakes, too, and I use other types of flour.

It might be a losing battle. My solution for now is restraint, and to have less of the stuff than I would have done when I was young. (Spaghetti Carbonara plus the contents of a bread basket for lunch?! Yup, that was me, and I was still skinny. Youth metabolism, sigh.)

So, if you have any solutions for a methadone program for carbs addiction, please let me know, but don’t come at me with eat more meat, that just won’t cut it for me. Legumes are not a solution for every day, but I like them, I can live with eating more of them, and I am.

So much about the food conundrum, which I’m so very well aware is a luxury first-world problem. We are very lucky to be able to be this picky, also neurotic about our weight, and I know that.

Moving on to crafts, which keep my hands busy, my mind at peace, and if all goes well, give me (and you, I guess) something pretty to look at when I’m done.

This yarn was an impulse purchase at a cheap store, where the motley colors and fluffy softness strongly suggested to be used for making a new couch cushion, which I hadn’t done in a long, long time. I tried out a few stitches and made my daughter choose, who decided for this:

Knit two, purl two, repeat. The end. That cushion took only a couple of hours to make, but I had to take breaks in between. My fingers get tired really fast when I’m forced to work with anything thicker than a 3 or 4 needle, and this was probably a 7 or 7,5. Charlie promised to leave the cushion alone, and so far he has, despite the suspicious demeanor displayed in the pics.

I’m also steadily knitting new color block socks on the side, whenever I’m just sitting and doing nothing else, playing with colors as I go. IMG_3366The blue ones will be for my daughter, and the yellow ones I will probably wear myself. Few people really like yellow, even though it’s such a happy color. Not easy to wear when you’re light-skinned, but I suppose on my feet it will be just fine.

And now my dog feels I really need to stop writing and take him out to pee:

IMG_3367Gotta run, thank you for reading, lovely people, bye :-).

Work Stuff

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

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

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

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

2. Install in-between reviews.

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

4. Strongly advise client to have the translation edited.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

IMG_3252

Fight Racism in the Street and in your Mind

That’s what it said in Futura Bold on a T-shirt I was given by my sweet friend M., way back in our salad days. It was the corporate font of the ad agency he was working for, one of the more interesting places of the Nineties ad scene in Frankfurt, a place called Trust. They were remarkable for well designed and implemented corporate culture, and sneered at by the more conservative ad crowd, for being a bit flashy, in your face, and bold, but looking back, probably mostly for being different.

From today’s perspective, it was simply decent corporate design, and as far as I know the owners had a deep understanding of the secret weapon used by even the smallest enterprises today: the corporate idea. They were trying to establish something special and new (for Frankfurt in those days anyway). They certainly were hard to overlook.

One of the things the agency would do was print T-shirts with clever taglines like this one (kudos to whoever was responsible for it, could find no reference online – if anyone should know the wordsmith, please tell me and I’ll shout their name from the rooftops, here in my own small Speaker’s Corner of the Internet). The T-shirts were handed out to the staff, and my friend swiped one for me, good man. He really was. We lost touch when I moved away, and I miss him.

As my 25 years older self, I think it’s a huge, tall order, what it said on that T-shirt. Even though a migrant myself, I am not free of racism. In fact, while feeling kinship towards my Egyptian bestie N., my Spanish friend M., my daughter’s Romanian piano teacher etc. etc., I sometimes feel sort of a reverse xenophobia towards whoever makes stupid comments about race, gender, or sexuality. Not sure if that’s a thing, or just me being weird. Talk to me if you have experienced similar things?

In a way, this makes me no better than a right-out racist, I feel. And I get now that this is exactly what ‚in your mind‘ means. Why would I resent people only because they don’t share my own values? Gotta watch that. And fight it. In my mind. And in my children’s, whom it’s my job to bring up as smart and open and tolerant people. I should make them their own ‚Fight Racism‘ T-shirts. I’m sure my son would wear one.

So, that got a little deep ;-). Want to see a few pretty fall pics to lighten the mood?

One of the pics above was not taken in the country, can you guess which one?

Oh, and here’s my favorite shot, with a strange, extraterrestrial feel to it. Also, ears :-).IMG_1889.JPGIn terms of crafts, I used my free time to finish projects. First, rainbow baby blanket for tattoo artist, check.

As you can see, I added a picot border, and I’m not sorry.

Second, Starry Night socks for my daughter, check. Of course, I ran out of yarn on the last few cm and needed to improvise with another navy blue yarn. I blame the dog, who stole my ball of yarn and played with it a bit, entangling it to the point that forced me to throw out a considerable piece, the very length that would have enabled me to finish that sock, probably. Thankfully, my daughter still loves them despite the patchwork.

img_1336.jpgAnd third, don’t even know if you remember, I started out to make a stripy sweater in early spring, made from an ancient stash of silky black mohair yarn, a yellow skein of organic pure new wool I had bought at the school fayre last year, and some off white cashmere silk blend I had left from the lace mittens I’d made for my MIL two years ago.

The color scheme was inspired by Finnish crafts artist Tuija Heikkinen whose Instagram I follow. She’s a true genius, and I admire just about everything she creates. She posted a piece of  I don’t even know what to call it? It was these little mannequin-like dolls dressed in what I would call Swinging London Sixties dresses, featuring the colors I used, among others. I saw her post, loved it, my imagination ran with it, and it resulted in this:

I had no pattern, but I have a favorite similarly cut sweater I used as a model. As usual, this method involved some trial and error, there was swearing and frogging, but in the end it was pretty straightforward once I had figured out the design. I’m really pleased with how it turned out, as well as very proud to have finished it, and it’s still 2019 :-)).

This week, it was back to school and getting into the groove of city life, which is so much easier now I’m taking daily walks by the lake in the community forest.

Work-wise, there may or may not be romance novel(s) in my near future, which would be lovely, so please keep your fingers crossed for me.

Enjoy your weekend, and the hour we’re getting back tomorrow, for summer time is no more.

The Ultimate Sandwich of the Season

d14a8ad5-ceae-483a-b0c3-53d1be19bc98 2This was me yesterday after finding this big ass porcini mushroom… which, as it turned out, was way too old, and inedible to anybody but the maggots that were already feasting on it. There may be people who welcome that extra protein and just eat it anyway, and more power to them – my husband always says we’ll be eating bugs instead of chicken sooner or later. I’m not cut out to hack that. But it was fun to discover that Old Man Mushroom all the same.

So, mushroom picking is one of the things I love to do most in the fall, as I probably said before, and porcini mushrooms are my absolute favorite. They have a subtle, bacon-y flavor that goes perfectly with just about any carbohydrate imaginable: rice, pasta, potatoes, polenta, bread … and of course many people enjoy porcini as a side with meat roasts. I don’t like to add too many ingredients to mine, aside from a little butter and/or olive oil, salt and pepper.

After finding no less than 7 of them when walking the pup this morning, I made this:

First, I sauteed the thinly sliced baby porcini mushroom you see in the middle of my cutting board in a bit of olive oil and butter, with a few slivers of garlic and a bit of salt. Then I threw a slice of bread in the frying pan so it could soak up the juices, arranged the mushrooms on it once cooked, added a handful of arugula and called it lunch. I’m not sure I ever had a better sandwich.

As you may have guessed, I’m out at the cottage, planning to spend 2 lazy weeks doing little else than be outdoors as much as possible, feed the woodburner, read, do my fancy ZEIT crosswords (for US readers, this is the German equivalent of the NY Times crosswords, style- and challenge-wise), do crafts, cook for my kiddos and sleep in as long as Charlie will let me. He is not an early riser (he will get up if need be, but he’s just as happy to dog-nap until a very civilized 9 a.m.). Sounds like a plan, right? I feel I deserve it, having swapped my summer vacation for the translation of a thick cookbook. I’m going to enjoy the heck out of the next 2 weeks :-). The second week, we’ll be three, then a lot, because my daughter has asked her sweet girl friends out here for a birthday slumber party. She’ll be 11, and it’s nothing but bizarre to me. Wasn’t she a baby just yesterday?

IMG_2664.JPGMoving on to crafts :-).IMG_1762The above is what became of the rainbow pattern baby blanket. I’m still debating whether to do a picot border – but I could easily imagine just leaving the slim border of SC stitches all round. Opinions on this matter would be very welcome! I brought what feels like ALL the other yarn, so I’ll be tinkering and that is an awesome way to spend my free time.

And now, nature calls. Going to take the doggo for a long sundown walk. Have a lovely week, everybody, and take advantage of the sunshine as long as we get it!