Mercimek Çorbasi

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Sorry, sorry, I know I promised a total crochet post on the finished Dotty Blanket, but it seems I needed to get this out of my system first. But it’s coming, and soon. I may actually have a bit more time to write on my hands for a little while, which feels odd because I’ve been so busy over the last 9 months. But I’m (almost) done with the crafts books now, only some more proofing required, yay! The English version of the gorgeous embroidery book is available already, go check it out, it is wonderful, easy to understand and unexpectedly cool :-)!

But back to the subject matter. Living in this city, you can’t really help picking up some Turkish; migrant families have enriched Berlin’s cultural and culinary landscape for decades, and we enjoy the fresh produce in Turkish markets, the energetic salvos of people chatting in their native tongue in the streets, the huge, happy families picnicking at the park, not to mention the many excellent street food vendors that are so hard to pass by without grabbing a quick döner kebab, lahmaçun or fresh, minty bulgur salad, dinner at home be damned.

I first had mercimek çorbasi, the iconic lentil soup (for that’s what it is you’re seeing in that picture) shortly after moving here in 2000. There used to be a very good Turkish restaurant right on Hackescher Markt that supplied all sorts of comfort food to the media and advertising crowd (sorely needed because of our psychopath of a CCO… that dude was the only person who ever made me have stress dreams about work, ’nuff said).

The soup is made of red lentils and veggies, boiled down and pureed. It’s a staple, and as my Istanbul-savvy friend M. tells me, it is also an effective remedy for when you’ve had too much raki in one of the many bars there, if eaten late at night. We usually have it for dinner on miserable, cold days, and my brood insist on a pile of buttered garlic toast on the side for dipping. Usually, you add a dash of cream, but I’ve found that it’s actually better with coconut milk, so you’re getting the vegan version in this write-up today. Here goes:

Mercimek Çorbasi

250 g red lentils

2 shallots, chopped

1 piece of leek (white portion if possible), chopped

3 carrots, chopped

1 parsley root, chopped

2 celery sticks, chopped

Handful of parsley stems

2-3 cm piece of ginger root, chopped

3 TBSP tomato paste

Salt, pepper, paprika, cumin, pinch of sugar

1 can coconut milk

Vegetable broth to taste

Cooking oil

Lemon wedges to serve

Peel and chop the veggies as you see fit and heat a bit of cooking oil in a large saucepan. Put the veggies in and gently stew for a bit, until shallots look translucent but aren’t brown. Add hot water and lentils. No salt though! As you know, we always add salt only _after_ the lentils are tender, for otherwise we might wait forever for that to happen. Same goes for the broth.

Let stew at medium heat, and only after you’ve bitten into a lentil to see whether they’re done, add your spices, broth and tomato paste. Discard the parsley stems. You could leave them in and puree with the rest, but you’ll get a prettier color with no green ingredients in there. Puree the mixture, add more water if necessary, as well as coconut milk, and season to taste. I like the soup to be thick, but not too solid, others prefer a puree-like consistency – ultimately, it’s up to you how much liquid you add. It should be a nourishing bowl of yellowish-orange, slurpy happiness. Squeeze a lemon wedge over the soup before eating, dip in a piece of bread, or your spoon, and enjoy!

As a sidebar only, here’s a couple of things I made after I was done with my daughter’s blanket:IMG_5563.JPGA slouchy knit hipster hat for my birthday girl A. in California, modeled by yours truly, threads not darned yet when the picture was taken. A. had very specific ideas for – well, just about everything concerning that hat! Yarn (acrylic, no wool, ‚cos it’s scratchy), shape (slouchy), color (periwinkle), pattern (stockinette with a rib cuff) … I so hope she’ll be happy with it. I enjoyed wearing it, and it sure wasn’t scratchy but soft and cozy.

Also, check out what I’ve been experimenting with for a couple days now – these are crochet frisbees. You wouldn’t believe they actually fly that well, but they do! I can personally attest to their functionality – we played with the first prototypes over the weekend, and they’re great! 🙂 They sell them (more professionally looking models than mine, but I’m just starting out!) at the coolest toy store I know, Flying Colors on Eisenacher, and I happen to know the lady who makes them, who was good enough to send me some pics. Of course, I’m always on the lookout for new crafts things to make for the school fairs, and this is one very cool idea right there!

So I tinkered with the crocheting in the round and the increases a bit, and in the end I even wrote down how it’s done. In case you’d like to try your hand at it, here’s what I did:

Cool Crochet Frisbees

Using a #5 crochet hook and appropriate yarn, crochet 7 SC into a magic ring and pull tight.

1st round: 2 SC into each stitch, always stitching into the back loop only so the fabric stays nice and flat.

2nd round: SC into every stitch in the round.

Use a marker – even I got confused without it and I’m usually not a great friend of markers at all as I find them cumbersome. Also, start each round with a chain stitch – it helps you find your start of round should you for some reason misplace the marker. It happens!

3rd round: Repeat *1 SC, 2SC into next stitch* all around.

4th round: SC into every stitch in the round.

Repeat 3rd and 4th rounds until you’re happy with the size. It could be that you’ll have to do *2 SC, 2 SC into next stitch* the last couple rounds so the edge doesn’t curl or make waves (you really need it to be solid, even and flat for this one), or, as it happened when I was doing the spiral pattern, do no increases at all in the last few rounds. I’m assuming it depends on how tight your crochet is, and on the type of yarn you use. You’ll get there!

Decrease round: SC into every second stitch all around.

Do two more rounds of SC into every stitch, bind off and darn your threads in carefully. These babies need to be able to withstand both the laws of physics and grabby little people’s hands.

I love that you can actually use these frisbees indoors also, without being too worried about the Ming vase (not that I have any), or giving someone a black eye with it.

Leaving this post today with a few uplifting spring pics – I say we earned this spring, don’t you think???

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What’s in a Name?

Remember when there was no Internet? We used dictionaries, encyclopedias and we bought newspapers. We wrote letters to our friends, and when we were on the phone, we needed to be home for it. There were phone booths and the fastest way to send a written message was telegrams. Everything took longer. I wonder if we ‚knew‘ less people then. I certainly wrote to fewer.

So yesterday, I was contacted via Instagram by a person from Latin America who was looking for a way to get in touch with a mutual friend whose name I had mentioned once in a hashtag. A couple weeks ago, I would probably have passed on my friend’s details without blinking an eye. Yesterday, I did not. The reason for that is a big ugly catfish.

We’re all aware that the Internet is anonymous – duh. Creating an online persona is a piece of cake, and the younger generations grow up with Social Media being a given. There are forums and platforms for just about anything out there, and people connect, even when they’re thousands of miles apart or on different continents. Nobody has to be lonely anymore if they have an Internet connection. And that’s a beautiful thing, right?

I must admit, though, that one of ‚my‘ author’s recent exposure as a fraud gave me pause. Long story short, apparently the person, who had been writing under a pseud, allegedly because of their working in education in America, is not a he but a she, and a straight woman and not a bisexual man at that. They’ve caught some flak for that, as they have for using online friends‘ personal stories in their books. But what (understandably) upsets their fans most is their pretending to need cancer treatment without actually being sick, and accepting financial support from their community – which leaves a very bad aftertaste indeed… Shame, for I thought they were really talented. Needless to say, their publisher and co-author have dropped them, and their writing career is probably shot to shit. But seeing how easy it is to be someone else online, we may be hearing from them again after all without being aware it’s them. I imagine it must be so hard to stop being a writer if you have stories to tell, so what else are they going to do with themselves?

Self-absorbed as I am, it made me wonder how this translates into my own online identity, not so much as a blogger (for it’s my sneaking suspicion that stitch readers are mostly people I actually know). No, it occurred to me when I was thinking how it’s even possible that the author’s agent and publisher didn’t know their true identity. But then I realized that even I don’t really know most of my own clients in person. I’ve been shying away from the whole networking thing because I’m an introvert, I’ve not been going to the book fairs and conventions because crowds confuse me, and I’m not even a member of the translators‘ associations because I don’t really care. I might be a con person myself, and my work might be done by a slave I keep in the basement … kidding, I’m kidding! You know what I mean though, right?

So, weirdness happened. Please let me know your thoughts – have you ever experienced anything like this? As you can see, it is on my mind. But don’t worry, I’m fine, just a tad disappointed I won’t be translating this author again, probably.

I’ll go back to work on my completely down to earth knitting book now. The editing phase, sigh. Wishing you a lovely weekend with a pic from ‚my‘ spot by the lake around Easter.

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P.S: My next post will be about my great pride and joy, the Dotty Blanket, which I’m about to actually finish. Take a peek:

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Obsessing

When it comes to liking something, I have a tendency to go a bit off the deep end. I’ve been known to re-read books for as many as 10 times (Lord of the Rings!), and whenever a piece of music leaves an imprint on my soul, I just need listen to it over and over and over again, to the great annoyance of my environment, no doubt. To me, it’s like whenever I find a thing I love, I latch onto it and then I kind of take it with me wherever I go, whatever I’m doing.

I grew up an only child, and I probably spent more time than the average kid in my own headspace, which was not a lonely place anymore after I learned how to read. I’ve been escaping from reality that way for as long as I can remember, and if that makes me an addict, hello world, my name’s Johanna and I’m addicted to ­– well, I guess, emotion is what it really comes down to.

I have neither time nor inclination to enumerate everything I’ve been obsessed with over the decades. But a few things come to mind for which (addict or no addict), I cannot help but feel particularly grateful, for they helped me or made me happy in challenging times.

In terms of music, oh my, there’s a lot. Bach’s organ toccata and fugue in d minor. Turning up the volume when nobody was home and letting it hit me is a distinct memory.

After having seen Amadeus in the early Eighties, starring wonderful Tom Hulce, Mozart’s unfinished Requiem was a perfect soundtrack for coping with grieving for my Dad who passed away a year or two before.

It was a bit later that I discovered one of my favorite albums of all times, The Velvet Underground’s banana album. It was already almost 20 years old then, and to say I was cursing the cruelty of late birth would be a vast understatement. Poor Nico was already dead by then.

I loved many of the bands of the Eighties and early Nineties, and was faithfully following some of them when in high school (as I feel necessary to point out in this digital day and age, following in a very literal sense, as in driving a car down to other towns to see several shows of a particular band’s over the course of one tour). Oddly enough, my obsessing never went as far as my becoming a groupie. When any of the musicians would notice I kept showing up at the concerts and tried to put the moves on me, I was appalled. What the hell?! From today’s perspective it doesn’t seem that unreasonable for a guy to think that if a girl is coming to see all of your shows wearing your band t-shirt, she’d probably be interested, but at the time I didn’t really see their point and told them to fuck off ;-).

Anyway, to me, it was never about meeting these people, or having sex with them to prove what ever it is that makes fans do that kind of thing. Listening to the albums and seeing the shows was more than enough for me, and again, everything happened mostly in my own head. Also, those guys in their twenties were, um, old people to me, so not even registered on my radar. Later on, my first two boyfriends were in bands, though, whatever that has to do with anything.

In terms of movie actor crushes, I’m probably more a fandom person than anything else, meaning that it’s the character they play I care about, mostly. (Good thing for everyone, too, for I won’t go and stalk anybody, like, ever. I imagine that aspect of being such a public figure, the endless autographing and being asked the same questions over and over again every stop of the promo rally must get so old!) But is obsessing over the characters really any better than stalking people’s social media and real life? I’ve read my fair share of fan fiction and Live Journal entries. There’s some seriously good writing going on there (and, as everywhere, a whole lot of bad). I have to say I find it comforting to find fellow obsessers to whom discussing at great length a character’s behavior on a show is a completely reasonable thing to do. One of the most talented (IMHO) writers of the Queer as Folk fandom was doing this brilliant episode by episode analysis for the first two seasons. For whatever reason she stopped there, to my chagrin, for I could have gone on reading forever. She had a few cool stories to tell, and she had so much insight on writing for a TV show; she was discussing character development, story arcs, meta and screenwriting on such a profound level that I learned a lot about the whole creative process that goes into making a TV character who they are. Very interesting stuff (to me, anyway).

TV shows are a great place for obsessive fans, I think. Everybody is saying how we live in the great age of TV shows that try to tell epic tales, show in-depth character portrayal and are really pushing this formerly sneered at format to an art form. When Breaking Bad wrapped 5 years ago, as you may remember, Sir Anthony Hopkins actually sat his highly esteemed butt down to write Bryan Cranston/Walter White the sweetest fan letter any actor could ever wish to receive.

So, if you’re like me, and see an identification platform in a TV show character, you’re probably going to feel stranded when the show tanks, or ends, unless you find a kind (and in my case, talented, for I can’t really accept bad syntax and lame storytelling) soul in the fandom willing to tell you how things went with your beloved characters afterwards. To me, that has been the methadone I need until I stumble across my next obsession 😉 a few times.

At the moment, I’m living in the enchanted realm of Call Me By Your Name, which is a sublimely written stream of consciousness told from the perspective of a 17-year old boy, who is testing out the boundaries of his sexuality and opening his heart to another person for the first time, with a limitless generosity not all of us ever get to experience in our lives. The novel is vexing to read at times in its intensity, but it sure makes a brilliant case for obsessing (thereby validating my own perspective, so I guess, thank you, André Aciman!). The movie is a bit easier to stomach than the book, and obviously equally touching and beautiful. By now the two have sort of melded in my head, and never will the protagonists wear anybody else’s features than the two extraordinary leading actors’, Timothée Chalamet and Armie Hammer, who have given the world a great gift by lending themselves to this love story. Also, the movie pays greater attention to the compassionate and wise monologue young Elio’s father gives at the end of the movie – it was Michael Stuhlbarg who made the lines I had read but not really understood in the book before really resonate with me. I feel every parent in the world should be made to watch before they’re even allowed to bring up children of their own.

So that was on my mind this fine Friday. What about you? Who and what are you obsessed with? Can you relate to that kind of thing at all, or do you think I’m a bit cuckoo? Don’t worry, I won’t be offended. I know I’m not alone ;-).

I’m rushing back out today with a little something my fellow crafts aficionado N. made for me last week:

It’s a sleeve for my e-reader, which was until now mostly carried in one of my daughter’s old knit hats. What a sweet gift, thank you so much N.!

I have little time for crafts right now, but plan to finish the Dotty Blanket once I’ve submitted my current book manuscript next week, insh’Allah.

Have a great weekend, and enjoy your own private obsessions, whatever they may be :-).

 

Ba-ba-ba-Banana

Everybody already has a recipe for banana bread, I’m sure, and if you don’t, there’s always Jamie Oliver or Martha Stewart or Cynthia Barcomi to look to. I started experimenting with banana bread using Jamie Oliver’s recipe, in fact. He uses a lot of honey, and the overall experience is kind of sticky, and too solid for my personal taste.  With absolutely no disrespect to any of the paragons of modern cooking, I feel the compulsion to share with you these fluffy, moist and wholesome banana buns today. There’s next to no sugar involved – all of 2 TBSP is all the dough needed. I did use 10 fresh dates (my new favorite sugar source), which I pureed with the bananas. You see, it’s like this: My daughter claims to detest dates, so I thought it might be wise if she wasn’t even aware she was eating any. Seems to have worked, too, she and her sweet friend wolfed down 2 apiece after school ;-). Wanna give these babies a shot? Here’s how you go about that.

Boombastic Banana Buns

4 overripe bananas

10 fresh dates (or more to taste, pitted)

2 eggs

100 g butter, melted

1 glass of milk, warm

1 TSP sea salt

1/2 p vanilla sugar

Zest and juice of 1/2 lemon (it was just there, you know how that goes)

1 p dry yeast

500 g spelt flour

Potato flour, maybe a large handful

2 TBSP sugar

Some spelt semolina (or flour, which I was out of, hence the semolina which added some nice crunch, though)

Warm milk and melt butter in it while you’re at it. With a stick blender, puree dates and bananas. Add vanilla, eggs and the liquid butter and milk. Add salt, sugar, flours and yeast. Grate the lemon zest and squeeze. Knead the dough until ingredients have blended well. The dough will be somewhat sticky, but that shouldn’t faze you, as you’re going to use a muffin tray later on so you don’t need the dough to hold its shape.

Set aside to rise. I left it to its devices for approx. 2 hours.

After, I preheated the oven to 160 °C and buttered my muffin tray. With a large TBSP, I scooped out portions of the dough and set them in the tray.

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The coarse stuff you see is a bit of semolina – I was out of spelt flour and felt the surface needed a little dusting of, well something that wasn’t wheat flour, as I gave that up for lent. Joking, I’m joking. I’ve not gone all Catholic on you all of a sudden. But I am taking a break from wheat, in the (maybe futile) hope this will make my belly fat magically disappear. We’ll see. It’s a long-term experiment.

A word on potato flour while I’m discussing unusual ingredients. The other day, when searching for a recipe for one of my favorite Arabic indulgences (and there are many), Oum Ali, a creamy-bread-pudding-raised-to-the-max, I stumbled across a charming food blog. It’s called Cleobuttera, and the Cairo-based blogger lady is fabulous, in an almost anarchistic calories-be-damned way. Maybe she’s very young, maybe she has an enviable metabolism, or maybe she just doesn’t care. Either way, in the recipe linked above, she explains all about the use of potato flour, so I’ll just let her do the talking. She makes a valid case, and I’ve been substituting a portion of regular (or as the case may be, spelt) flour with the fine white powder ever since I read that post. I’ve also bought Za’atar ;-). Yum. Not on banana buns, though. Duh.

I put the tray in the oven and baked it for approx. 30 minutes. Mine is a gas oven, so yours may need other times – just watch the buns like a hawk after 20 minutes. They should look like this when they come out:
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Whether you eat them with butter, cream-cheese, jams, honey or Nutella is entirely up to you. I had mine with apple slices, which was all I needed this greyish cold end of winter afternoon.

Work-wise, I’ve submitted my piece of the Story of Food – a book as huge as it sounds; I translated about 250 pages in a matter of weeks, phew … After what felt like a full day of exhaling, I started on my next book project, a very cool modern embroidery book by crafts artist Kristin Morgan whom you can also find on Instagram as marigoldandmars. Such pretty, creative hoops :-).

Because of my recent work overload, my own crafts projects needed to take a backseat for a while. But I picked up speed again after submitting the manuscript a week ago. Here’s what happened:

Pair of new hand-knit socks for my little squirrel.

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A bright little mandala for my friend A. who turned 50 and will hopefully enjoy seeing it when taking luxurious sips of outrageously expensive Sencha green tea from her pale green Japanese cup ;-).

And I have begun the process of assembling the Dotty Blanket, finally, check it out:

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So many Granny Squares, OMG … one day I’ll have to work out how many hours of happy crochet went into that blanket. It’s seriously the most time-consuming project I’ve ever worked on. But I have a feeling it’ll be worth it once I’m done.

Punching out today with a few ice skating pics I took last Saturday – check out the magic, misty early spring sunlight, and my two hobby figure skaters:

Enjoy the sunshine while you can … and do let me know how your banana buns turned out!

Age(s)

Over the last couple years, I’ve been thinking about age more than I usually am. As you people know, I turned 50 last year, which, oddly, didn’t bother me after all – it was a beautiful summer day and I enjoyed hanging with so many of my besties who were cool enough to come out. But time stops for no one, obviously, and last year marked not only my ominous birthday but also my daughter celebrating her 9th, my husband who’s the same vintage as I am famously not celebrating his, our being in a relationship for 18 years (and married for 16), which is bizarre but lovely, my baby J. whose diapers I used to change getting married, and so on and so forth. Looking at pictures from the Nineties has become a bit surreal, and even the early 2000s not only seem but actually are a long while back.

Is that what getting old is? Looking back on things and people and feeling like all of that happened to someone else?

I still love some of the music from those days, and there’s nothing that can bring back the way we were quite like the playlist I like to call Forever Young. It’s all on there, from the Cramps to the Cure to Hüsker Dü to REM and They Might Be Giants. Ha, and the Queens of Disco too, obviously. Remember Divine? You should ;-). I love that song!

Speaking of which, my son turned 16 a couple days ago. He was gone for 4 consecutive weeks, for an internship out of town, and then his girlfriend’s parents took him snowboarding. He came back taller still, his voice has dropped some more, and he’s being more obstinate than before in his quiet powerhouse way. No wonder it made me think of ‚you think you’re a man‘ …

And that, my friends, is making me feel my own age. I can so remember myself shleping him around as a baby, and seeing him be almost as tall as my husband is whacking me over the head with the fact that we have left those times behind for good. Ugh.

My daughter is 9, and she’s beautiful, smart and a riot – but she still insists on my putting her to bed every night, and braiding her hair, and picking out clothes for her. She’s very much a little girl still. I enjoy that, a lot, but I have to say it’s getting to be such a dichotomy, being the parent of these two. When we had her, my son was only 6, so they were both kids for the longest time. And now it feels more like we’re three parents bringing up a kid together.

With my own parents out of the picture before I even became a mom, I guess I’m experiencing only one half of the typical generational handing down of wisdom, recipes, experience, history … which I’m feeling more acutely now than when I was younger. I have no significantly older friends, no mother or father figure to look up to or hit up for advice. In fact, I tend to steer clear of elderly people, probably because I found so many of them so obnoxiously patronizing when I was younger. Maybe things would be different now that I’ve passed the Rites of the Five-O, maybe not. I only hope I won’t be such a know-it-all when I’m older!

And that’s what I’ve been thinking about over this lunch break. Hope it wasn’t too deep or incoherent for you guys.

I have little else to say today other than that I’ve been working a lot, which will only ease up in May, so I’ll probably not be here a lot over the next couple weeks. I’m sure we’ll all live ;-).

And if you have anything interesting to add, I’ll be very interested to hear it, like I always am.

Here’s a few Valentine’s pics from yesterday:

Oh, and my new RayBan readers 🙂

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Have a good February, everyone.

What’s on Your Mind?

This is how my template greets me when I log onto wordpress, which is genius, because it’s about as certain to get me talking as the well-tried therapist’s opening question ‚How are you today?‘. It’s a common topos in Science Fiction for the cyber intelligence to ask human beings this question, and as everyone knows who is online more that out in RL, it does the job nicely.

But this is me, actually asking you, dear stitch readers, because I really want to know how you guys are doing and what you’re up to. I hope you rang in the new year with (a) loved one(s), and I wish you all the best for a happy and fulfilling year to come. Despite the highly dubious situation of world politics, I have a good feeling about 2018. I’m not going to brood too much about that, and just enjoy the serenity while it lasts :-).

After a comparatively quiet Christmas, which we spent among our little nuclear family of four (five, if you’re counting the cat, sorry Fritzchen). We didn’t even squabble this time, let alone have any epic fights. Tree was lovely, we didn’t make a big fuss about cooking, and we didn’t celebrate my husband’s 50th birthday _at all_ – because he didn’t feel like it. I did meet his cake request, however, albeit with some trepidation. Therefore I am proud to report I now have a new notch in my baking belt, check it out:
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As you can see, it’s a meringue pie (of the lemon variety), and may I say it was as good as it looked – not always the case when I bake, but you obviously don’t know that because I wouldn’t be showing any shitty looking cakes here, duh.

I also made a couple really really nice salads. IMG_4621Lamb’s lettuce with red beets, radishes, green onions, quail’s eggs and goat cream cheese, dressed with a classical vinaigrette. I made that one twice because we loved it so much :-).

IMG_4671Romaine with green onions, orange fillets, fresh dates, roasted pine nuts and blue cheese, dressed with an orange juice based vinaigrette (guess you could call it an orangette ;-). I made it for New Year’s, with my Egyptian bestie Princess N. in mind.

On the crafts front, I have been sooo busy. I did some knitting for a few people before and over the holidays – notably, these lace knit wrist warmers for my mother in law:

They’re in the knitting book I’m currently working on, a whole book about mittens and gloves and, obviously, wrist warmers, and I simply couldn’t resist wanting to recreate their intricate beauty. I just happened to have a gorgeous skein of baby alpaca/silk/cashmere blend that seemed perfect, and I combined it with a thin off-white merino sock yarn to give it a bit more stability.

I’m not gonna lie, these beauties were a challenge to make indeed. Initially, after a few false starts (my brain had some trouble comprehending the chart) it went relatively smoothly. The first mitten hardly gave me any trouble. But then I didn’t immediately move on to the second – big mistake, as it turned out, because my lizard brain or muscle memory or whichever part of the system must have gotten instant amnesia. I needed to rip up the second one three(!) times, which sucked big time. Had I had any other gift option, I would have thrown in the towel… But with way more stamina and persistence than I usually have, I managed to finish them, and my MIL seems really happy with them. She appreciates my making the effort (as she should, she used to teach crafts in elementary school so she def. knows the drill).

I also made socks, socks and some more socks. Everybody seems to want hand-knit socks this winter, and obviously I always say yes. Here’s the models of the last couple weeks:

Upper left went to my favorite girl in Reykjavík, upper right went to my godson here in town, the wildly colored pattern was obviously for my tiny-footed baby girl, and the elegant purple ones went to my worthy Assistant Children’s Birthday Bash Manager C. for her birthday.

Right now, I’m working on a pair for my son who needs them for the ice skating rink (his home away from home during the winter season). They’re made of a very nice hand-spun and hand-dyed grey sock yarn from my favorite local wool shop, as were the other plain-colored ones.IMG_4730.JPGOne of the wonderful, thoughtful, colorful Christmas gifts I got from my dear friend A. in Frankfurt was this crafts sleeve, complete with notebooks, a pretty ballpoint pen and some really cool utensils – sort of like a Knitter’s Leatherman, you probably know the multi-purpose pocket tool gadgets that my son can’t live without, and this is similarly amazing. IMG_4707So, I don’t know about you people, but in my neck of the woods, we’re experiencing this Exceptionally Dark Winter. I can’t even remember having ever gotten this few hours of sunlight in all the 50 winters I’ve been around. It feels like a small ice age, and I’m hating every day that goes by without my much needed lux fix. Despite that, I’ve made the resolution to take a walk every day this year, come rain or shine, and so far, I’ve been good about it. Some days like today, it was actually a treat, for we did get to see the sun.

Checking out now with some pics I took on January 1st by the lake. Sometimes all you need to get lucky is to have a camera on you and randomly press the release button :-).

Wishing you a great start into a happy New Year 2018!

An Advent Post

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See this little fellow? At the Waldorf school, it’s called a snowflake, and they’re one of our staples that sell like hotcakes at the annual Winter Fayre ;-). We made a new batch this last fall, and now they’re all gone!

Luckily, they’re really easy to make: crochet a little white cap, hot-glue it to the top of a wooden pearl, hot-glue a white feather in the bottom, attach a white thread to the cap, and you’re done. I enjoy these simple crafts things, Lord knows I’m not good at many of them, but these I can actually handle. Aren’t they beautiful?

So, how are you coping with the pre-Christmas madness? This year, it took some doing to get me in the mood. I went through the motions: IMG_4458

Made an advent wreath …

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… filled the kids‘ advent calendar with sweets in time before December 1st …

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… baked the first batch of cookies (not even for our own benefit but for the elementary school’s bazaar) …

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… attended the annual decorating of the Christmas tree at the little park next to the elementary school.

But it wasn’t until the night before St. Nick’s day that I was actually beginning to feel festive. So we have this tradition on December 5th. We shine our shoes and set out a little savory snack (we figure the poor guy must be sick and tired of chocolates and cookies, so we give him pickles, cheese cubes and a glass of wine, or a little sandwich and a glass of milk, and this year he got Granny’s homemade cheese biscuits, cocktail tomatoes and some Scotch ;-)). In the morning, the plate is usually cleared, everyone’s shoes are filled with goodies, and he always leaves a note for the kids.

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Usually, after stuffing the shoes, I have little trouble sitting down and writing in the stern but benign tone of voice ‚he‘ always uses. But truthfully, it took the whole glass of whisky to get me there this year… In the end, feeling a bit buzzed and a lot tired, I was basically channeling my own exhaustion mixed with my great love for the kids. I’d say it was the most authentic letter ‚he‘ ever left (saying the kids were one of the sweetest brother and sister ‚he‘ knew, and to not forget to practice their grammar ;-), and confessing ‚he‘ was almost ready to call it a night … And what do you know, all of a sudden, my Christmas Spirit was back, good as new.

Recent events at the elementary school made a bit of a dent in my good mood – actually that’s a whole other post on human rights – but I’m determined to keep the ugly stuff out and preserve my little bubble of happy wintry pre-holiday things.

Last weekend, I started our annual Christmas Cookie Extravaganza by making melt-in-mouth Almond Hearts, the basic recipe for which was stolen from Berlinmittemom’s blog. I recommend that blog for reading about all things urban, stylish, responsible moms with a bit of extra time on their hands might be interested in. Ana Luz is a talented, professional writer – and recipes are actually one of the least frequent occurrences on her blog.

Anyway, I appropriated that recipe a couple years ago, and I’ve been experimenting a bit with it ever since. I’ve added freshly grated nutmeg one year (very nice), two teaspoons of powdered ginger (very British), I’ve loaded the dough with vanilla (classic), and added grated orange or lemon zest (dangerously yummy). It’s a very adaptable recipe! This year, I just added my usual pinch of Fleur de Sel, and lathered the cookies with a bright red, orange juice flavored icing. img_4517.jpg

Other strategies for counteracting the gloomy grey skies out there: I light lots of candles. I cook lots of soups. I make the kids hot chocolate after school. I drink pot after pot of hot tea. And I play music, not while I work, because it messes up my concentration, but in the late afternoons and at night. Listen to this piece and feel thankful with me that there’s people in the world capable of producing such pure beauty:

Parce Mihi Domine by Jan Garbarek & the Hilliard Ensemble from the album Officium

Happy last weeks before Christmas, everyone!