Covid Crafts

So, my son’s girlfriend was tested Covid positive, and we’re waiting for P’s test result to come in tomorrow; it would be short of a miracle if he didn’t have it, either with or without symptoms. Just in case, we’ve taken the necessary precautions inside the house. However, there is a high probability of us being infected as well, because we are a touchy-feely, affectionate family. In fact, that is the thing I find most vexing, not to be able to touch my boy :-/. I mean, I don’t wish for getting sick, I really don’t. In fact, we’ve been more careful than some of our friends, and doing our level best to avoid it, up to now. Still, a part of me can’t help thinking if it wouldn’t be best to just get it over with?

When I called our pediatrician, they recommended to isolate ourselves as a family, until the boy’s test result is in. So, to pass the time in a meaningful way, I’ve resorted to crafts.

This is my contribution to the festive decoration of the school building. With my fellow Waldorf mom E, I did three of these large twig stars:

You may not be able to tell by the picture, but they’re huge – like 1 m in diameter. Fun and cheap to make too. What you do is:

  1. Collect a huge pile of thin twigs.
  2. Cut out a circle of thick cardboard in the desired size.
  3. Heat up the hot glue pen.
  4. Keep the garden shears ready to shorten twigs to desired length.

And round and round you go!

(Of course you don’t need to make them this big – you can easily make them the size of a plate, or even cutesy little ones with the thinnest twigs, to hang on your Christmas tree as ornaments. Those might benefit from being double-sided.)

One of the branches I brought home wasn’t suited for the project, but I loved it so much because there was some very pretty moss growth on it.

So I was thinking it might be nice to use it for hanging stuff from. Something fluffy, seasonal – it made me think of the tiny snowflakes I crocheted when I was still learning, seven years ago.

Looking at my branch, and its size, I thought what if I made those with a really bulky yarn, so they’d be huge? In my stash, I had some single ply, squishy, ultra-soft merino wool and a few other yarns in the same color, and decided I’d use them all at once, crocheting with a really big hook. I looked up the pattern once again at attic 24, unsure whether the proportions would work, but then I gave it a try with a size 6 hook, and I’m pretty pleased with how it turned out:

The Attic 24 blog has been one of my most important inspirations when I first started to crochet (the other being this YouTube channel – an amazing source for any and every question a knitting or crochet enthusiast, may they be beginners or advanced, might have. In effect, Elizza, the Nadelspiel host, taught me how to crochet!).

Lucy, the Attic 24 host, on the other hand, opened up a whole new universe for me with her impeccable sense of color composition and uniquely cheerful style. It may also well be down to her that I even started this blog. Her documentation of everyday life with children, and crafts, and her pretty pictures of the British countryside, as well as occasional recipes, sounded so appealing, and relatable. Her stories, told with little fanfare, but a lot of kindness and sense of humor, resonated with me to a degree that made me brave enough to start sharing mine.

Professionally, my life was at a crossroads then, and I had yet to make the leap to becoming a full-time translator. Crafts kept me sane (as they still do) and gave me something rewarding to do, over the many hours spent nursing my daughter whose immune system didn’t pick up speed until she was five or six, back to health, again and again and again…

Blogging about our life, my crafts projects and what was cooking turned into the classic weblog you know (and choose to read, thank you so much!) So, here’s to Lucy – who doesn’t know me from a bar of soap, but has been important to me, as a crochet artist and as a writer, all the same ;-).

As you can see, I’ve also made progress on my daughter’s pink sweater, while watching Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, enjoying the Agatha-Christie-y vibe of the cases, the gorgeous period-piece set and costume design, and Miss Fisher’s significant mischievous eyebrow quirk. The knitting is quick work, and I’m planning to try something new with the sleeves. Have you done dolman sleeves before? I have not, and we’ll have to see how it goes.

When making the cats, I found other patterns for Waldorf knit animals, and these looked easy enough to to, so I made one just to see if I could. Not exactly the most perfect design, and the proportions seem a little wonky – or is this just the way chickens look? As ever, my problem is more with the shaping and finishing than it is with the knitting…

Oh, and check out what I found at my favorite local yarn store! Isn’t it the most festive yarn imaginable? Soft, and deep red and glittery – Christmas socks, I was thinking :-). For whom, we shall see!

Since the flower stall isn’t off limits yet today (as of tomorrow, it may well be, should my boy test positive), I went out and bought a huge armful of fir branches to be able to make my advent wreath next week. It must be the earliest I ever did that, a week in advance!

Side note: I know that crafts are no real solution for dire circumstances (being out of a job, having financial troubles, health issues and dealing with close quarters related psychological problems). I’m not in any way trying to make light of the situation, for it is an existential catastrophe for many, and I’m well aware we have been so very fortunate so far, to be able to stay healthy and sane, as well as busy and getting paid for it. It’s just my go to thing whenever shit gets real to go and make something, or cook something, or take a long walk. These things make me feel better, but may not help you at all. Although, since you are here of your own free will, it’s probably correct to assume you enjoy these things, too ;-).

Leaving here today with a picture of this beautiful leaf (maple? sycamore? can’t be sure!) that had the first frost on it when I saw it while walking Charlie in the morning. It suddenly made me realize it’ll be Christmas in a matter of weeks. Hang in there – and fingers crossed for our virus situation.

Meep!

Is this fellow adorable or what? Also, really tiny. When he speaks, he sounds like a little bird. He will eat anything he can get his cutesie little paws on, which forces us to keep the kitchen tidy – not a bad thing, all things considered.

These two Waldorf kitties were a present to my daughter’s little friend who asked for ’something for her two cats‘ as a birthday gift – remarkable for a 12-year old, I thought. Since it seemed weirdly impersonal to just buy a voucher from the pet store, I decided to try my hand at the knit cat pattern I’ve had for a long time. I’m afraid the first attempt was so terrible it had to be thrown out, but after a bit of tinkering, I stuck with the knitting pattern, ignored the finishing instructions, and shaped the cats the way I thought they should be. Made more sense to me than doing what the pattern said. Maybe I’m just too dumb for those. But in the end, I was happy with the result, and the kitties were completed and delivered to great success.

When I was done with that, the pink yarn I ordered came. I plan to make amends for my son’s washing efforts‘ collateral damage – it was my daughter’s favorite sweater. I started on that while binging Star Trek. Are any of you watching Discovery? Awesome, right? In between new episodes, we like to watch old reruns, all available on Netflix.

To me, it doesn’t get much better than that: Snuggling with husband and dog while watching intrepid space explorers boldly go where no one has gone before, knitting or doing crochet all the while. We’re well into the fifth season of Voyager now. That particular part of the franchise always reminds me of when I watched it first, rented in stacks of video tape boxes for the weekend, from a video rental place close to my apartment. (Millennials: there was no Netflix, nor were there computers at our houses, nor did we even have cell phones. To you, no doubt this sounds like the Stone Age! Even I must confess I can hardly remember what it was like before Internet access.) But, in my memory, it was not a bad time at all. Maybe because I was young?

As stockinette stitch lends itself to bingeing (you don’t have to look all that hard at what you’re doing), I managed to make good progress:

Initially I wanted to work in secret, to then pull a surprise hand-knit sweater out of my hat for Christmas, but now my daughter has spotted it and all is known. Maybe I’ll wrap it anyway. I chose this particular yarn quality (4-ply sock yarn, 75% wool, 25% acrylic) because I wanted something that would not be in danger of getting damaged when being machine-washed. I also had difficulty finding this particular shade of pink – other than in a very exclusive cashmere yarn, which, well, no.

As for work, I’m done with yet another urban fantasy (Demons Do It Better was the catchy English title ;-)), and am looking at two weeks of clearing up my desk, paying bills, submitting invoices, and my end of year doctor’s appointments (bloodwork, ugh, diabetes check, ugh, OBGYN, not that bad because I love her so much I don’t even mind her poking and prodding me), before diving into the next fantasy slash love story, and then … starting on volume II of the Most Famous of All Cookbook Authors‘ French Cuisine, which is an honor and a pleasure both.

Since this is still not that kind of blog, just a quick word on how pleased I am at the way the American people have spoken, effectively throwing the current public embarrassment to a prestigious political office out on his despicable ass. I think they did their country as well as the whole world a great service, and I feel we have a lot to be thankful for next week.

Incidentally, thanks to Covid, this will be the first time in years that I have no Winter Fayre to prepare on Thanksgiving weekend, and I’m looking forward to celebrating, even it will only be with my nuclear family instead of Friendsgiving like we used to do. This is fine. We haven’t spent all that much time together, the four of us, for months. Our son and GF tend to prefer to be alone. Our daughter has more and more Most Important Friends Stuff to do, and so we’re left to our own devices a lot of the time. It’s a new era of growing back into being a couple once again – it certainly is a process, and I’d be lying if I said I don’t find it hard sometimes.

This is a spot that I’m particularly fond of. As you can see, it’s an old oak grove (old in terms of a human lifespan, barely middle-aged in terms of tree life, no doubt), and to me, it’s an enchanted place. I always stop for a minute and just breathe whenever I walk there with Charlie. In early spring, winter and fall, it’s a light-filled space that reminds me of a church with no roof. Maybe the spiritual vibe is all in my head, maybe witches or druids used to converge there, no idea. It’s one of my favorite places in this forest, and I feel grateful every time I have a good reason for being there :-).

The recipe I want to rec today is not my own, but from a food blog I like very much. I stumbled across the blog while working on Ruth Roger’s River Café cookbook last summer, and it’s lovely and inspirational. I get notifications for new posts by Email, and the dish read so intriguing that I clicked on the link right away. I mean, pasta with creamed pistachios, with a dash of whisky or brandy? Come on!

https://authentisch-italienisch-kochen.de/ricette/pasta-ai-pistacchi-e-panna/?utm_source=mailpoet&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=newsletter-a-i-k-de-newsletter-post-title_2

The recipe is in German, and you’ll have to piece it together as best you can if you don’t speak the language. If you can read German, and love Italian cuisine, it’s definitely worth while to follow!

The gist of this particular dish is that you briefly sauté and heat the ingredients, then puree, topping your pasta with the creamy result. I assure you it’s amazing – here’s what ours looked like when we made it last week:

Even my daughter had a large plateful, and you know she’s not easy to please. Talking to my vegan friend A. on the phone, we reflected on a dairy-free alternative. I assume you could use a vegan cream substitute, soy or oat-based maybe? Not coconut milk though, I don’t think the flavor would go well with the pistachio and shallot. I will try that variation next time.

Have a good week, everybody. Stay healthy, and keep wearing those masks.

No Politics, Just Crafts

I’m very consciously avoiding refreshing the polls page every few minutes. Can’t concentrate for s… today, so might as well talk about other stuff instead.

I bought the yarn for the socks above at the supermarket – couldn’t resist the pull of the warm orange, and decided I need the socks as a bright spot for the dark months to come. They make me very happy! I don’t usually go in for the industrially pre-dyed patterned yarns, but I love the socks anyway.

They were finished Sunday night, after an eventful day that involved driving a few hours, vehicular knitting, visiting the shelter and bringing home yet another feline family member.

This is Mogli. He’s winsome and mischievous, and he is making a little girl very, very happy :-). Look at that impish little face with the huge ears!

I’ve always enjoyed knitting socks. It’s gratifying to me because it doesn’t take a lot of time, and you can do most of it without paying too much attention. Looking at your socked feet is nice, too – and of course they keep your feet warm, always a plus in ancient buildings like the one we live in.

Initially, I was going to make these for myself

but ended up making them a wee bit too small, and so handed them over to my daughter, who loved the color combo as much as I did.

The amazing fall break week off I gave myself seems to have initiated a crafts energy boost, and after all the socks, I’ve taken up the Waffle Blanket once more. The status quo is this:

That’s fifteen (!) balls of yarn in, the orange being the sixteenth. That blanket will not be a lightweight, that’s for sure. But I’m pleased with the look, and I’m not even agonizing about size and colors anymore. I now have enough yarn to make five color blocks if I want it longer after all. Every blanket is a journey, and this one is no exception.

My Stripy Sweater from last year has undergone final design changes. Planned as a square shaped affair,

it wasn’t really right for my figure, drawing more attention to my chest than I feel comfortable with, so I sewed an elastic in at the bottom edge, and it now looks and feels good to me.

Since the washing machine (and my son who is not yet familiar with the hand wash cycle) effectively ruined my daughter’s favorite pink sweater, I’m planning to make her a new one for Xmas. I’m looking at two weeks off between projects this month, so I’ll get a nice head start on it.

Work-wise, I’m fortunate enough to have been booked for sequels and follow-up projects until April next year. I’m as good as done with the demon urban fantasy that kept me busy over the last few weeks, and have an absolutely fabulous cookbook to look forward to as well. Also, several gorgeous free copies to give to my friends.

Today is a sunny fall day, and there was a first light bite of cold air in the morning. Every time I walk among the beautiful fall-colored foliage we have for a few weeks, I’m reminded of a story my parents used to read to me when I was little: Frederick the Mouse. It’s about a field mouse who does things a little differently from all his fellow mouses – which in the end is a gift to everyone, his family as well as those who get to enjoy this awesome classic among children’s books.

Another nice thing to think about is the fact that it’s pumpkin season. For me that means the Hokkaido variety, which I prefer to Butternut or other winter squash – I enjoy the creaminess and the potato-like texture. Now, I could eat soups every day, and not only when it’s cold out, and pumpkin soup has to be one of my all time favorites. The same is not true for my family, alas. But yesterday when I thought about what to make for dinner, I had an idea. What if, I thought, I were to add little spicy meatballs to the soup? I thought it might be nice if they were to taste a bit exotic, and since I had fresh cilantro and ginger in the fridge, I went with that. I added a little rice, don’t ask me why, it was a spontaneous decision, and then they turned out like pretty little hedgehogs, completely by happy accident:

And what do you know, everybody loved the soup! Even my daughter who hasn’t touched it for years asked for seconds, which I consider high, high praise.

Pimped-up Pumpkin Soup

2 small Hokkaido pumpkins, cleaned, seeded and cut up

3 shallots, peeled and roughly chopped

1 stalk celery

1 small parsley root, peeled and chopped

1/2 clove garlic

250 g ground beef

1 egg

1 handful broken rice

1 piece of ginger, 2 cm, peeled and chopped

1 handful mixed fresh herbs (I used cilantro, parsley and dill)

salt, pepper

vegetable broth to taste

1 cup cream

First, sauté in olive oil 2/3rds of the shallot and half of the ginger. Pour on water, and add the pumpkin, parsley root and celery. Add broth, salt, pepper and maybe a pinch of sugar to taste. Put to the boil.

Now prepare the meatballs. In a bowl, combine 1 egg, the herbs, the rest of the ginger and the shallot, garlic, salt and pepper. Puree with a stick blender. (I do this because my daughter dislikes it when meatballs contain chunks of onion or the likes. It’s completely optional, you might as well chop if you prefer.) Add the ground beef and the handful of rice. Combine to a solid mass, then form small (like 1,5 cm diameter small) balls.

In the pot, watch out for when the pumpkin starts to fall apart, then take the vegetables out of the broth with a slotted spoon. Set aside.

Now add your meatballs to the broth and cook for about 15 minutes. When done, fish out of the broth with your slotted spoon and set aside.

Put the vegetables back in the pot and puree with your stick blender, adding cream and spices to taste.

Finally, put the meatballs back in the pot, turn off the heat, put the lid on and let sit for a few minutes, while you cut up bread or lay the table.

And then – enjoy an autumnal bowl of fragrant, creamy, rich goodness.

Glad you joined me for a little walk away from the news! Let’s hope they will be good. And thank you for dropping by.

A Transatlantic Blanket

It was almost a year ago when my girl A. and I conspired to make a very special crafts project happen, for a baby that would make us Aunt and Great-Aunt respectively. The parents had decided they’d name him only after they’d had a first look at his face, so at the time we just called him J.’s baby.

We’d decided early on we wanted to give the young family something hand-made, pooling our respective crafts skills: A. knows how to sew (boy, does she ever) and I know how to crochet. We agreed on a play blanket for the floor, for the many hours they’d spend lying, rolling, crawling and cuddling with their new son. I fondly remember those days :-)!

There was tremendous searching of crafts blogs, Ravelry, etsy and Pinterest, making suggestions and swapping ideas, and finally we agreed the blanket was going to be navy blue, with little crochet animal appliqués. Once A. was done sewing in California, the blanket was mailed, in good time too, some time in September. We reckoned it would get here by mid October, well before our fall break, during which I was planning to make all the animal appliqués. The baby was due end of October, so we thought we were being good planners.

And then the package didn’t come. The American PO couldn’t tell us where it went, the German PO couldn’t find it either, it was a total mystery. We had the receipt, so we could file a complaint and have it searched for (the least they could do considering the outrageous shipping cost), and thank goodness they ultimately unearthed it again. It got here some 4 weeks late, in a heavily damaged package, that had evidently been opened by customs, or the DEA, or who ever must have deemed it suspicious; even the blanket itself had been unseamed in one corner, and rudely not been stitched back together. Repairing the seam by hand took some swearing, and careful stitching.

Then came the really scary part: sewing the appliqués in place. You can’t screw up doing that, because undoing those seams would be a literal nightmare. So I enlisted help, and with my son and my friend M. sewed the animal appliqués on. Then I took the pics you see below, wrapped the finished blanket up again, and prayed it would arrive in one piece when I mailed it, and it did.

If you’re wondering how the appliqués are made – I didn’t really have a pattern. You basically make a round shape for the face or body, and then smaller, black and white ones for the eyes. Other extremities like ears and such I just winged. It was a lot of trial and error, and waaaay to much stitching together for my taste, but it had to be done. My personal favorite is the jellyfish :-). Looking at the pictures again, I’m really pleased with how it turned out. A very successful two-continent collab, right there!

Since we didn’t get to see much of each other this year due to travel and health restrictions, we sadly didn’t get the chance to play with young K. on the blanket in person. And it’s only now, one year after the fact, that I realize I never wrote about the project at all. It’s only fitting to do it now, with his first birthday only a matter of weeks away.

It seems bizarre how fast the past 12 months went by. But then, there’s really not much that doesn’t feel bizarre these days, is there? Despite all the weirdness, there were many good things. After the terrible start into my work year, I’ve been fortunate with being assigned a series of cool book projects, one after the other. We have so far escaped getting infected, knock on wood. My daughter sang solo in front of an audience for the first time. My boy got his license and enjoys driving us around. My husband has successfully led his team and done excellent work from a distance, while keeping a healthy work-life balance, for the first time in years. We said goodbye to a cat, and, after a few weeks of mourning, took in a new one. We spent a great deal of time out in the country – which has been the ultimate blessing. All in all, we’ve been very fortunate, and it’s always a good thing to remember that.

Leaving here today with a picture of my latest brightly colored color block socks:

I look forward to wearing them. Have a good weekend, and thank you for reading!

Fall Post

Gorgeous shades of red, right? This is our kitchen window framed in luxurious fall colors, as every year, for a couple of weeks. It makes me very happy that I got lucky with the light and the angle, and caught it exactly as it looks like. 🙂

As the year starts drawing to an end, I’m looking at a trip of a special kind. I’ve written about my parents‘ grave site and its imminent expiration date before. If you don’t feel like reading an old post: My family’s time in the place they were buried is up – after being granted two additional years as an exception. I’m planning to go there one more time next week, to find closure, pay my respects, say a prayer, and then a stonemason will come and remove the construction. Said stonemason will also be kind enough to cut a piece off of the headstone for me, which I can come pick up and put in my garden, so I’ll have a memento I actually get to keep, and maybe give a final place of rest – for now.

Time off, for me, also means crafts, as you are aware if you’re here. I’ve had a long hiatus due to my broken elbow, but started again as soon as I was allowed to ditch the cast :-). I consider it to be a very effective type of PT, exceptionally good for the fine motor skills. As it is, both my orthopedist and the PT lady have been impressed with my healing process, so I guess I’m lucky on that front.

My current WIPs are:

The dog sweater is done,

the socks are not (but a few episodes of the latest Queer Eye season will rectify that). As for the blanket, you all know that is a process. Some take years to finish,

others are done more quickly:

The Waffle Blanket is turning out to be one of the former category.

Finally, a word on overalls. I’ve worn a couple of these over the decades, and it’s completely my old friend M’s fault who was famous for wearing them in the early Nineties. He also had an egg slicer necklace, which he always said was proof he was a crazy ass mofo :-)). He was the sweetest boy that lived in Frankfurt when I was young. He was the yin to my boyfriend’s yang, and we hung out a lot, the three of us. We took a long road trip all across the States, transferring a red GMC Sierra truck from Massachusetts down to the Tucson airbase. It was a great trip, and a wonderful ride. His dungarees were OshKoshs, and he lived in them, much as I lived in my 501s, then. Anyways, I blame him for getting me hooked on them. I got my first pair not long after.

My favorite pair were from a GAP store in Manhattan. They were forest green corduroys, and I wore them for years, but unfortunately lent them to a pregnant lady I knew, who never gave them back to me after she had her baby :-(. Then I had a pair made of black twill, which were great for the summer, and I wore those to death. My last pair were also lent out as pregnancy garb, which people evidently never return, and I guess I forgot how much I loved this Most Comfortable Garment in the world. Now that I finally have a pair again, I’ll try not to forget that again :-). They make me really happy.

I have no new revelatory recipe to share this time, probably because we haven’t been cooking elaborate meals lately. I was busy, so didn’t pay a lot of heed to what went on our plates. We had a lot of pasta, which is not great for my quest of minimizing my carbs intake, but it’s the best overlap with the kids‘ tastes, and also doesn’t take long. I tried to have more vegetables than pasta, at least :-).

Now, I’m off to this place with Charlie. Here he is in full speed:

Have a great October, and thank you for checking in!

p.s.

Mornings doing crafts in bed are a precious and rare indulgence!

Oh, Man …

I don’t know about you guys, but at this point I’m kind of resigned to the fact that 2020 is a bust, and a broken elbow (multifragmentary radial head fracture) fits in with the overall theme of things just being unexpected, and shitty this year.

Since I’m on a deadline (aren’t I always), I usually try to type for the translation only, in order not to overexert my right hand. Developing tendonitis in my good arm on top of everything else is all I need, right?

But today, I have to take a break from the manuscript, simply because I failed to pack it, so I thought I’d drop in and say hi. Injuries very effectively slow us down, don’t they? De-escalate us, as the new age lingo puts it. Now you would think I wouldn’t greatly mind that, in general, and I don’t. What I find challenging is not being the one who decides when to go at what speed exactly. Not used to being bossed around anymore, I suppose.

Also, asking for help is difficult. Especially since nobody is exactly thrilled to come do things for me at the drop of a hat … I’m sure I’m not being the best patient. My orthopedist suggested it’s an exercise in humility. He says he had the same injury himself, twice, so I guess he knows what he’s talking about.

So that’s my news, since my life came to a screeching (bone-crunching) halt ten days ago. And since I don’t really cook now, I’m posting a thing I made before the accident.

I was going to bake a loaf of bread, the one that uses a mix of oats, spelt and millet, when I realized we were out of oatmeal, and began rummaging for a substitute. I found cornmeal, which led to me thinking about tortillas, and so, on an impulse, I added more water and made a soft dough of spelt and cornmeal, and a handful of millet thrown in, also a baggie of dry yeast. After letting it rise, I formed little balls and rolled them out really thinly, then pan-fried them in olive oil. So that resulted in a sort of a tortilla flatbread, and I enjoyed dipping it into a basil-heavy, chunky tomato sauce.

Tortilla Flatbread Sorpresa

1 p dry yeast

1 TSP salt

1 TBSP sugar

250 g spelt flour

150 g cornmeal

Handful of millet

300 ml warm water (approximately!) to make a soft dough

Combine, let rise for 1 hour, then form balls of small handfuls of dough. Roll out to fit into your frying pan. Heat olive oil and fry from both sides until crisp. Drain on kitchen paper.

They were very good torn into bite-sized pieces and dipped into tomato sauce, I’m sure they’d be great with salsa, and the next day they were also nice as a breakfast burrito. (Lettuce, tomato, egg)

Sadly, I have next to nothing new on the crafts front, as my right arm activities are rationed to typing now, and resting my right wrist is paramount. I’m still rewatching Star Trek Voyager, and enjoying it very much, especially Mr Tuvok the Science Officer, who is a distinguished Vulcan :-).

I did make a little something for Granny Square Day on August 15th. Always a happy occasion, and as good a reason to play with yarn as any! I must have liked 100 posts with that hashtag that day :-). Amazing what true yarn artists can do, I just love that community.

So I hope everybody is keeping out of trouble, wearing their masks, and enjoying the late summer – isn’t going to the market the best now? Grapes and peaches and apples and plums and blackberries …

A Month Went By. Things Happened.

Oiwei, new technology. I hope everyone will appreciate how much of an effort I’m making just to get this post out there, once you read about my plight with the HEIC format photos!

So, my two favorite IT guys deemed it necessary to update my computer. Apparently, I skipped an update or two altogether. Oops. One of the new things is that HEIC format photos have replaced the JPEG format, which is cool enough because the new type of pics take up a fraction of the space JPEGs do and offer super quality to boot. Unfortunately, WordPress doesn’t support the format and refuses to upload my pics as I snap them on my iPhone. So it turns out if I want to use them here, I have to convert my photos back to JPEG, which is very cumbersome indeed, especially if you’re not exactly a tech wiz. So my son downloaded me a little program that does the converting for me, and thankfully it works. Unfortunately this means that instead of taking less space on my hard drive, it actually now takes up more, because I have both the HEIC version and the JPEG version of the pics I’m using on here, so I guess that update was not really all that helpful to me, as a blogger and user of Apple devices. Ugh. Who knew I’d one day write two whole paragraphs about tech?

But enough with that, and on with the more pleasant stuff.

That was the first day of my vacation mid July. We had the loveliest day on the water: Rented three rafts with friends and spent all day chilling, bathing, eating our pot-luck picknick (it was not a bad turnout, four foodie families made and brought stuff) and (for my part) hanging with my apprehensive dog who is not happy getting his feet wet even, but after a while learned to appreciate the sunshine and the breeze you get while being on a dry surface. A week later, we took him canoeing, and I got him used to regularly going out with me on the SUP. And yes, I know it means Stand Up not Sit Up, don’t get on my case.

The summer went by pretty much as summers in the country go for us: Visitors, outdoorsy activities, gardening, cooking, some work, some play, friends to hang with. My summer posts always talk about these types of things, I’ve realized.

Unlike in former years, there was notably little family time, though. Our son grudgingly agreed to spend two of his six weeks of summer break, his girlfriend also dropped in, which was lovely, but of course then it was them spending time with each other rather than with us. Stands to reason, too. They’re young and in love – and, in fact, gracious to hang with us at all. Our daughter was either busy with the other families‘ kids, or with her two friends from the city who each came to stay for a week, so we weren’t really needed for much else than feeding, and occasional shuttle services.

We realized we needed to find something to do that didn’t involve kids, but was for the two of us. So we taught our friends how to play Canasta. I mean, in only a few years, it will be our new normal to be by ourselves. The kids will move out, and we will have to start finding common ground again that is not us being parents. This is harder than you might think: my husband likes biking, which I don’t enjoy. I walk and hike (with dog whenever possible), my husband can’t, because hip. He listens to Jazz and Hip Hop which grate on my nerves, also Seventies guitar rock, which drives me up the walls. I like solo piano, preferably played by Keith Jarrett. Not exclusively, and of course I used to love Indie rock too when I was younger, but when in need of centering and calming music, I’m not going to put on The Pixies. Playing cards seems like a nice way to connect, and no screen involved either.

The past month was a good time for finding Chanterelle mushrooms, as they’re in season and plentiful because of regular rain. I topped everything I could with them: quiche, risotto, even mashed potatoes, roast chicken. I like to make a stir-fry of green beans and mushrooms, like so:

Also, we now own a gelato maker, which pretty much took care of the dessert question. It’s kind of scary how much ice cream this family can put away. My favorite was a complicated recipe (sorry, G!) for vanilla-y Crema di Limone. It uses two vanilla pods, several egg yolks, milk and cream, cooked in a bain-marie until it thickens – and is of course heavy on the sugar because of lemon and peel. I was lucky enough to have it made for me exclusively upon request.

Crafts happened on the regular, because I was on a potholder-making roll. I started out with these for my friend A, who owns the Brightest House in all the Land. I figured they’d be perfect for her kitchen, which is not only pretty but also getting used now they’ve gone vegan and actually need to cook ;-).

Next, I made the ones below for my friend in Bavaria, also a birthday gift. As you may or may not be able to see, I’ve improved the border of these fellows. It looks more even when you use, once again, the very balancing HDC stitch (half double crochet: yarn over as you would for a DC, make a stitch, then crochet all three loops you now have on your hook together.) When you get to the row you started on as you crochet all around the piece, you finish that edge with a row of slip stitch, for you have more volume than on the other three edges because you started out with a chain as a basis for the first row of DC. I’m really pleased with the result :-). It looks quite accomplished, and balanced.

Yesterday, I finished the first one of two I’m giving to yet another friend for his birthday (see below). The other one is going to be a pearly shade of grey, look.

And once I’m done with that, I’ll make my other friend whose birthday is a day after my own a pair of elegant dark grey Waffle Stitch potholders, for good measure. It seems everybody wants these, now! And then, I’ll go and finish my Waffle Blanket:

The turquoise part is almost as long as it should be, and it’s going to be so beautiful. Looking forward to snuggling up under it when it gets cold again.

Which is not now, and hopefully not any time soon. Right now, it’s bordering on too hot for my taste – today was an absolute scorcher, pretty much like the last couple of days have been. Not the best of weathers for the first day back to school. The afternoon’s brief downpour has only added humidity to the heat, not an improvement if you ask me. I’m sitting with a cold pack between my lap and the laptop, to save us both from melting.

I considered myself lucky when my kids missed the train this morning and had to be driven to school. I probably wouldn’t have had the energy for our first walk back in the community forest, otherwise. This was shortly after eight a.m. this morning:

I was actually tempted to follow a lady who was swimming in there with her lab, despite the questionable depths of that lake. It’s designated for the dogs‘ use only – but I did bathe my feet, as did Charlie, and it was wonderful. I’m going back there tomorrow morning, eight o’clock sharp!

I was going to leave you today with a whammy of a summer song, by the amazing Grand Dame of Eighties Rock from Italy, Gianna Nannini. I must confess I’d forgotten about it, as you do when you don’t really listen to a lot of radio. But I got this gem back when checking out the Italian Franchise of SKAM last year – not as amazing as the Norwegian original, but the kids were super cute. And in the New Year’s Eve scene, they were all belting out this song, instantly time-warping me to when I was my daughter’s age, and putting a big smile on my face. Ladies and gentlemen, Bello e Impossibile. Isn’t Italian the most elegant of the Romance languages? Enjoy!

Not Covid

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And now for a much beloved summer recipe.

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

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

Coveted Cherry Clafoutis

100 g flour (I used spelt)

50 g sugar

200 ml milk

2 eggs

Pinch of salt

Vanilla to taste

350 g cherries, pitted

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

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

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 :-).