About Pain

 

img_1513As the daughter of a rheumatoid arthritis patient, I’ve been familiar with chronic pain from a very young age. I’ve seen it reduce my sophisticated, witty, creative gorgeous hunk of a dad to a barely hanging in there shadow of himself – until the next dosage of his meds would finally kick in, and there he’d be, back again, (almost) his old self.

So, I basically grew up with a firm belief in Daddy’s Little Helpers, because I experienced empirical proof for their effectiveness on a daily basis. No wonder I’m generous with the Ibuprofen myself. Gotta watch that, I know.

I also know pain isn’t necessarily a physical phenomenon only. At least, it’s not the actual pain that makes it horrible but the way it eats up who we are, the way it makes us crawl into ourselves and hide like a frightened young child. It’s scary to feel overpowered like that, and as a migraine patient I’m aware it can hit you out of nowhere at any given time, and hold you in its clutches for days if you’re too late in taking your drugs. Some might argue that migraines are the worst, but after a while, you learn that they have a certain dependable rhythm, and that they eventually will go away again, a perspective that makes them bearable.

This isn’t the case when you’re unlucky enough to have a condition like my dad did. I got a taste of what that might be like when I found myself with an aching jaw last week, which I first assumed was another symptom of the bad cold I was recovering from, and maybe due to the chilly first nights at our country cottage (I think we had 3 °C in there when we arrived. My daughter and I both wore our knit hats to bed!).

img_1534It wasn’t so much a toothache. My whole lower jaw was hurting, and it gradually got worse. Unfortunately, there was no doctor to see out there, and besides, I was busy with wood-burner maintenance, catering for the brood and occasional strolls through the snow-covered forest.

Also, I was mentally gearing up for my son’s 15th birthday, so didn’t have a lot of time to think about myself. Finding him a cool present the last minute because he couldn’t make up his mind which new bike to choose … left me with no present, which was unheard of. Thank God for amazon prime! Have you guys ever heard of Fidget Cubes? They’re awesome. One of my son’s teachers actually allows him to play with his in class because she thinks it enhances his concentration. Well, as long as it doesn’t drive the others bonkers, right? I’d certainly kick his ass if I were to sit next to him trying to work on my French grammar or a math problem while he was click-click-clicking away …

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We went back to town on Friday. Can you believe I really only see how beautiful it was out there now when looking at the photos? I’d been popping Ibuprofen for 2 days, and when we got back, I was barely hanging in there as the pain got more debilitating by the hour. But my husband made me use our infrared lamp, and that did help a little, so when midnight rolled around, I had baked a pretty cake, organized our folks to come over for brunch, made a very yummy chicken salad and when we toasted with champagne around midnight, I was tired, but doing alright.

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Family brunch was great and the Fidget Cube was delivered on time. But as I was relaxing into our Big Boy’s Big Day, the pain came back with a vengeance. It hurt when I had salty things, sweet things, apples, hot beverages – in fact, everything I put in my mouth made my whole jaw hurt. It was starting to wear me thin, and by nightfall, I was actually considering going to the ER – but then changed my mind when I thought about how I’d be sitting there next to stab wounds and broken bones and traffic accident victims – with what exactly? A toothache? Come on. So, more painkillers.

My son’s friends came over, we gave them his favorite Chili and cake, they gave him a cool teeimg_1579

and then they watched a Marvel movie, munching on popcorn. I have to say I really don’t like the Cap very much at this point. He seems very … um … Republican? I get how he would be a bit conservative, and thinking inside his little pre-war-values-do-the-right-thing-box, because he was frozen for decades, I really do. But screwing over Tony Stark like that? Who does that? Anyway, after a fascinating post-movie discussion of superheroes and Avengers and whatnot and whether Marvel was superior to DC (duh!), eventually the youngsters retired to my son’s lair for the slumber part of the party, and I went to bed too.

I slept OK, and it actually seemed I’d gotten better in the morning – that is to say until I had my first sip of hot tea. The pain flared back up, and from then on it only got from bad to worse, and it’s no exaggeration when I say I was a complete mess when I finally sat in the dentist’s chair on Monday. They checked out my teeth, which seem to be alright, oddly, in fact the doc said they looked great. Plus, there actually are no maxillary sinuses in the lower jaw, so the source of the pain remains a mystery. Neuralgic something or other. Uh-huh. But I left there carrying a prescription for high-dosage Ibuprofen and an antibiotic, and praise be for Sir Alexander Fleming: after taking my meds like a good little patient for 2 days, I’m actually better, and my brain is waking up.

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So why am I writing about all of this? Because I find it interesting. I couldn’t have put down any of this yesterday – although I’ve reflected on the subject a great deal. But my brain kind of shuts down when I’m in pain, to the point where all I can do is exist and wait for it to stop. I’ve had two babies the ’natural‘ way, the first one without an epidural and the second one with, and I can’t even put into words how different the experiences were – complete helplessness, pain and horror versus feeling in control and actively participating in giving birth. I know many women don’t take any drugs and they can handle the process, too. And while I admire that, I’m self-aware enough to know I simply could not have done it. I don’t know how I would have delivered my son without medical assistance and a vacuum extraction. After 19 hours of constantly increasing pain, I was completely exhausted and unable to do anything but say ow, ow, ow – I didn’t even have enough strength left to scream. I think a few decades back, one of us wouldn’t have made it, probably me. Or they would have given me a Cesarean, which would have been absolutely fine with me after hours and hours of labor pains ;-).

So, pain management – a fascinating topic. I just read a novel about a soldier who is captured and interrogated under torture – grim stuff. He is part of a special ops unit and actually trained to withstand pain. What makes him break in the end (for, as his torturer informs him in the beginning, everybody does eventually, and I believe it) is that they tell him the love of his life is dead, thus taking away the one safe place in his mind, the perspective of reuniting one day. It made sense to me, even though I don’t know how that whole mind over matter thing even works.

My therapist once asked me what pain meant to me, and I think I answered that it was the most powerful force in the world. It dictated my childhood because everything in our lives revolved around my dad’s pain. And it’s a thing I feel I have no control over. Dr K. helped me see that the unusually frequent migraine attacks I was experiencing at the time were actually code for my feeling overwhelmed by other issues in my life. Pain, to my subconscious, seems to be a way of telling me to slow the hell down. It was easily the most enlightening of all our sessions over the 2 1/2 years I was seeing her. And of course it has to be noted that the migraines actually stopped after that session. How’s that for successful treatment? I’ll bet I made it into being a case study for her own supervision ;-). And I’m so grateful she always knew which questions to ask.

So now that I’ve shared all that with the class, I’d like to know about your own perspective on pain. I’m sure you must have something interesting to add…??

Also, I’d like to show off socks I made over the last 2 weeks – the green pair was finished while I was getting all annoyed with Captain America ;-).img_1591

And the first Very Pink Sock for my girl J. is done – I like it. And of course, so does my daughter who told me I needed to make her a pair just like that when I was done with J.’s.img_1529

Wishing you a completely pain-free February, I’m off to catch up with writing I’ll be paid for, too!

Choices

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If only every mistake in life were as easy to undo as a piece of knitting!

That up there was supposed to be a gauntlet. I swear this time I even looked at patterns before I started out, and then decided the ones that I liked were too complicated for me and went with a simple single cable. And when the first one was as good as done (which took about 3 episodes of Lethal Weapon) I decided it looked boring and ripped it back up. It felt good, because it just wasn’t right.

All the things I wish I had had the courage to go through with that easily in the past would probably fill a book, and it would not be a fun read either. Suffice it to say that I’ve lied to people by omission (to spare their feelings, or to spare myself having to lock horns with them, probably a bit of both), I’ve said things in anger that I regretted later (and apologized for some but not all of them), I’ve pulled back from people who depended on me when I couldn’t handle the extra pressure anymore (again to avoid confrontation), and I’ve dropped out of people’s lives altogether when I found greener pastures (how exactly would you even tell someone you’re going to do that without coming across like a major asshole?)

I’m supposing many people have done – or decided not to do – stuff like that themselves. As we get older and more experienced, we learn to avoid engaging with people we don’t find all that interesting in the first place. We learn to say what’s on our minds without being rude. And we know when taking a break can be more beneficial for a relationship than trying to work out issues for which there’s no solution that will make both parties happy anyway.

Assuming we’re for the most part responsible for who we are, how we feel and how we act is one approach (not my own, duh. The credit for the principles of Nonviolent Communications obviously goes to Marshall Rosenberg). Our actions may impact others, but ultimately it’s their own choice whether to be bothered by what we said or did.

Take He Who must not be Named on my blog who moved into the White House over the weekend. If he’s done one thing consistently over the past years, he’s been badmouthing immigrants, especially from Mexico, and women. And yet he had a whole community of Latino women voting for him. Their choice, I suppose, even if I don’t get them. At all. If I were an American, I’d have been on the streets just like all the others who marched on January 21st, more power to them.

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Apparently, making America great again began with taking (among other minor issues such as climate change^^) the LGBT rights page and all mention of LGBT acronyms off of the White House’s website. Approx. 9 million people, erased, just like that. I can’t help but find that appalling (my choice entirely!). And once again, I feel so lucky to be living in this very awesome city where seeing two guys kissing in front of the store just last week made me smile, as young love always does, whatevertheheck the gender.

Oh well. Crafts are comparatively easy ;-). I decided to set the red yarn aside for now and start on my new socks project instead:

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Very pink socks for my girl J in Frankfurt who asked for a new pair – at least here I know what I’m doing, knit 2 purl 2… but isn’t that shade of pink really something else? As you can see, I’m combining two thinner yarns in electric pink, one pure new wool and the other a very soft baby alpaca quality, which will result in seriously cozy socks, I’m hoping.

How about you? How have you chosen to begin the year, crafts-wise and in general? Let me know!

A Pure Food Post

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Bircher Muesli. Yum.

4 large apples, peeled and grated

4 TBSP ground almonds

6 TBSP oatmeal

250 g yogurt, plain (or more if you wish)

1 TBSP maple syrup (or more if you wish)

aaaand, as of last December, 1 orange, filleted, and its juice

A delicious, wholesome breakfast food, easy to make, and only using staples we almost always have at home. Therefore it’s OK to decide you absolutely need this spontaneously whenever you feel like eating this rather than other weekend breakfast foods. Have to confess I wouldn’t do this on a school morning. Those extra 10-15 minutes it takes to make go a long way around 6.30 in the morning. But on Saturdays and Sundays, it’s a thing I enjoy doing, for my husband, my teenager, and last but not least myself. Obviously my daughter detests it – mixed, no clearly discernible ingredients … no way José is she going to eat that and like it. Cereal for her, toast and jam, granola if we’re lucky, and fruit on the side please, only no oranges, no khaki fruit, and absolutely no kiwi. I’m hoping it’s a phase, sigh.

But about that famous Swiss concoction. You grate your apples, add the almonds and oatmeal, yogurt and syrup, then you fillet the orange, catching every bit of juice, so use a plate rather than a cutting board when you slice it, add that, fold everything in carefully, let sit for a few minutes, taste, add more of any ingredient you feel it needs. Then get out the bowls and spoons and call in the hungry clan members. That’s how it works around here anyway.

The orange was something I never used to do before my goddaughter J told me about having stayed at this fancy resort once where they soaked the oatmeal for their Bircher Muesli in fresh OJ overnight. That gave me pause because it never would have occurred to me to add orange to that mix. But I was curious enough to try it, and was instantly convinced I never wanted to change that recipe ever again. Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it! And by all means, enjoy  :-).

Oh, you want another? Hm. Why not eat our way through a whole day while we’re at it? Let’s make some lunch next, assuming I was good and productive for a couple hours in the meantime.

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Sauteed Winter Salad

1 bag baby spinach leaves

1 small head radicchio, sliced

1 handful pine nuts, roasted

400 g cherry tomatoes, halved

1 cup Mozzarella cheese (I used the baby sized balls to match the cherry tomatoes, but you could easily use the regular size and cut it up into cubes)

1 clove garlic, sauteed, then crushed in the garlic press later on

Very good olive oil

Dash of dark Balsamic vinegar

Pinch of salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Wee bit of sugar to taste

The way this salad came to be was literally by accident. What happened was that I had been storing all my veggies on my awesome shelf on the kitchen balcony – still proud of this, it was my son’s birthday present for me, yay! img_0183

Sadly, those days with the blooming oleander are so over, which brings me to the reason I sauteed the spinach and radicchio rather than use them fresh and crunchy: all my fresh produce had frozen out there over night, and the spinach in particular looked pitiful. I felt pretty damn stupid when I looked at the stuff as I was preparing dinner – and then it occurred to me the salad might be saved if I just threw it in a hot pan with olive oil, garlic and a wee bit of sugar – and it actually worked out beautifully.We had my mother in law staying with us over the holidays to boot, who hates throwing out food with a passion – so nothing was tossed, no precious food went to waste, grace was saved and nobody was any the wiser. Do I sound smug? Well that’s because I was. Everyone was praising my barely salvaged salad, hehe.

I sauteed the spinach and radicchio, sliced the tomatoes, roasted the pine-nuts, crushed the garlic I had sauteed with the leaves, added a generous amount of decent olive oil, baby mozzarella and a dash of Balsamico, black pepper and a bit of sugar to taste, and there it was. A nice winter salad. Next time, I may add some croutons like you do for a Caesar salad – that would be a whole meal right there. As you can see, recipes are, as so many things in life, a fluid thing.

So, that could have been lunch, with some nice, crusty Italian bread.

Now again, please assume I was busy working on my cookbook assignment in the meantime. The kids will have come home from school by now, making hungry puppy eyes at me. And as it’s so cold and dark outside, and we’re still processing the untimely death of our sweet kitty, we’ve been in dire need of comfort food lately. Which obviously brings me to my version of

Mac and Cheese

500 g macaroni, boiled

4 handfuls of grated cheese (anything with a bit of a stronger flavor will do – Cheddar, Parmigiano, Gruyère, Swiss … whatever you have at home will work just fine for this)

250 ml cream, plus 1 cup of milk

2 eggs

2 shallots, cubed

1-2 cloves garlic, crushed

Salt and black pepper

Olive oil for brushing the casserole

Since at our house, this is True Comfort Food, I’m usually on my last leg when preparing this meal. Therefore, I don’t make a fuss with preparing a roux, adding mustard or other condiments – what I do is I boil my pasta, cube my shallots, crush my garlic, grease my casserole, grate my cheese and whisk together eggs, cream, milk, salt and pepper. Drain pasta, add to casserole, add cheese, eggs-cream-milk mix, shallots and garlic and carefully combine. Cover casserole and stick in a 160 °C oven for about 25 minutes. Not much longer, and not much hotter, because I like the pasta to be soft and coated in a cheesy, creamy, yummy substance, but still have a bit of a crust if you know what I mean. In the end, it usually looks like this:
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Please forgive the very slice of life photo – the kids were way too hungry to take a picture before digging in.

There was, as you can see, a cucumber salad on the side. Oh, you want that one too? Come on, you guys know how to make cucumber salad, right? At the risk of being really redundant, here’s

My Kindergarten Cucumber Salad

2 cucumbers, thinly sliced

1 small shallot, very thinly sliced

3 TBSP cooking oil

1-2 TBSP white balsamic vinegar

Sugar, salt, white pepper if you have it, if not, don’t worry about it and use black

2 TBSP chopped dill (this you do need, and not the frozen variety either!)

100 ml plain yogurt

Dash of Worcestershire sauce if you like

I used to make this for the kindergarten kids all the time, who were really into it -hence the slightly nostalgic name.

First, slice your cucumbers. After a couple minutes, press excess water out of the slices by taking them by the handful and squeezing. Great for your hands‘ skin, too, as not many things in a kitchen are, so enjoy that!

Add the shallot and dill, make a salad dressing and combine. Let sit for 30 minutes before serving to allow the flavors to mix.

It truly is the perfect salad for Mac and Cheese, in my book. And what do you know, even my daughter eats it, so it must be really something else!

All these recipes feed 4 or 5, btw, in case you were wondering.

Wow. That was one long, food-y post, wasn’t it?

Crafts will probably be up again next time – for I have not been idle, knitting away some of the grief I guess.

Signing off today with an awesome piece of art by my son who is one lucky kid to actually be taught graffiti in school, look:

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and the sweetest birthday present ever – my daughter made this for her daddy end of December. Gotta love those kids :-).img_0847

Rest in Peace, Beautiful Friend

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Those of you who read my last post will probably guess what happened. Our sweet companion of 11 years is gone. I have no words to really express how much I’m missing her, but I’ll try anyway. Maybe some will find it weird that I hardly make a distinction between my kids and my pets, but I really don’t. Unlike my kids, this cat slept in my bed every night – come to think of it, even more regularly than my husband who travels for work a lot. How do you not miss someone who purred you to sleep and whose beautiful amber eyes you woke up to for such a long time?

Putting an animal to sleep is as awful as it is unspectacular. The first shot makes them very tired – it’s like the good stuff they give you right before the actual anesthetic you get for an operation. They go all limp and relaxed in your arms, and after a couple minutes, they get another shot that actually kills them, right into their rib-cage. They kind of curl up in fetal position, drawing in their limbs, it’s a reflex, nothing more, and then their hearts stop beating.

I’ve been through this with three cats, and I’ve sat with my mom when she died. And every time it struck me how absolutely unique death looks. It’s impossible to confuse it with sleep, and every time I see a corpse in the movies, I feel it looks completely wrong.

My children went with me to the vet’s yesterday. They wanted to, that is to say my son wanted to come and my daughter who as the (much) younger kid always worries she might be left behind for Something Important, wanted to go too, and so I respected that and hope the teachers will too. If they don’t, they can all take a hike. It was important to us.

Our vet is as much of a people person as he is an animal person – which certainly isn’t true for all of his ilk. I like him a lot, and he has the exact amount of reason and empathy I needed to be able to go through with everything yesterday. He seemed really moved by our little family affair – I think I saw him blink tears away himself. Dr S rocks, he really does.

Needless to say, we had a black day after we left around 10.30. We went straight back home, cuddled our bereaved (now only) kitty, made hot chocolate, watched movies and took turns crying all day. At my age, this leaves a highly unattractive puffiness around the eyes, and my son’s acne broke out like you wouldn’t believe. It’s fair to say we both looked like shit this morning when I woke the kids. But my therapist used to say that tears are good, and since I can’t stop the waterworks anyway, I’ll just let myself cry whenever the tears start flowing …

… and maybe write some of it out of my system. Thanks for reading, and thanks for calling and texting, everyone – you know who you are. You’re the sweetest, kindest and most understanding bunch a girl could ask for. Thank you for being my friends, I love you.

Life, Death, and Some Stuff in Between

Hi everyone, and a happy new year to you people. May there be love and laughter, happiness and good health in your life over the course of the next 12 months.

These Forever Young days, we do have a tendency to take being healthy for granted, don’t we? It’s a side effect of all the live-sustainably-eat-well-work-out-and-don’t forget-to-de-stress way of life – quite opposed to my youth in the Nineties when we were all working and partying hard, smoking too much and sleeping too little, and spending considerably more time under the club lights and on the tanning bed than on the running track or at the gym.

My own give-no-fucks attitude really only changed when I became a mom. Not when I was pregnant – that doesn’t suddenly make you a responsible person over night, although the nausea in the first months of pregnancy certainly slows you down with a lot of the bad stuff (and some of the good – I wouldn’t have touched a vitamin C with a ten foot pole, as anything fresh made me puke.) But things changed when my son was born and became part of my life. We sort of grew up together, if that makes any sense.

But back to the gift of being healthy. I usually don’t appreciate it enough, that’s for sure. And right now, life is whacking me over the head with the issue.

It’s not about myself. No, tomorrow, I get to decide whether the beautiful creature you see in the pics above gets to live for another round of treatment or not. I’m really torn. I look at her, pet her gorgeous soft fur and listen to her purr in my ear. Who am I to put a stop to that? Is it the right thing to do to end an animal’s life before things get really bad, or do I wait until they do? I’m hoping I’ll know tomorrow morning.

And then there’s a dear client of mine who is bravely battling breast cancer, there’s a close relative who checked herself into the hospital to get treatment for her colon cancer today, there’s the friend who seems to have won that fight, for now, and my sister in law who did not. It’s impossible to escape these things, and we all have to draw our own conclusions as to how we want to live.

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Sorry for being morose – you probably just came here to see a few new crafts pieces. Obviously I had time for that too over the holidays. Here’s what I made:

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Voilà, the rainbow socks on their new owners‘ pretty feet – don’t they look amazing?

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My godson wearing his new heather grey, extra fluffy socks only minutes after I darned in the last thread. Far as I heard, he only takes them off for washing ;-).

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The gorgeous motley yarn ended up a cool stripy cowl for my daughter – check out the checkerboard stitch. I was bored with the old knit-two-purl-two, although that’s obviously precisely what you do in this pattern also, albeit with a twist. Well, I think it looks more interesting this way, so there.

My mother in law has asked for gauntlets to wear with her white duffel coat, and we agreed the beautiful hand-dyed yarn from my favorite yarn store would work perfectly. img_0781

It was the same yarn that I made the welcome home socks for my daughter from:

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No food this time. I’m sure everyone feels quite saturated after the holidays, as do I. There’s only so many cookies a person can eat, right…? Of course, it’ll still be fun to make them again come December, no doubt. But until then, to paraphrase the One and Only King of Rock’n’Roll – a little less carbohydrates, a little more salad please … And a sound clip, for that song just blows my mind, every time.

A Little Less Conversation

Thoughtful End to an Awful Year

It takes a lot of discipline to be self-employed. Some tend to be stricter than any regular boss would be with his employees. Others tend to constantly live in fear of ending up as a bag lady if a few days pass without anyone calling with a new assignment. Me, I always try not to stress too much – thank you  so much for driving that home, Dr. K. Right after I submit a big project, my brain is usually fried, and I need some tangible work to come down. This usually results in cleaning sprees, this time around: my desk, look:IMG_0574.JPG

Can you believe how neat it looks? Obviously this didn’t last long. My roommates tend to leave stuff on there because it provides an invitingly free flat surface (drawings, iPhone chargers, tax statement papers, mail, hairbrushes and -clips …) ugh. Anyway, cleaning, tidying, scheduling long overdue doctor’s appointments – that’s my post-project coping mechanism, if I have the time, and this year, I actually do. Also, I’m able to think of Christmas before the actual holidays, as well as my husband’s birthday right after. I’ve composed a greeting card I’ll send out to my favorite clients next week, and I’ve been busy knitting my way through a pile of accumulated sock yarn.

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The last one may in fact end up becoming a scarf for my daughter who complained that I had this

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while she did not. She has a point. But before I actually get around to that, I have to make more socks.

One pair will go to my amazing godson R. here in Berlin, who is now 16 and the baby sax player in a jazz band of twenty-somethings – I saw them live on stage a week ago, and was pleasantly surprised at how good they were! It’s definitely discombobulating to see kids whom you’ve known since they were in diapers go and Do Great Things. I’m only now beginning to understand what Dr Seuss was talking about in ‚Oh, the Places You’ll Go…‘. The rainbow socks are for my goddaughter in Frankfurt and her younger sister, and the corn yellow ones will go to my sweet friend and compadre of 25 years, A. There are not many people in the world who look great in that color, but she does. I bought that yarn when I was making her the Funky Blanket, and I didn’t really use a lot of it, so I had plenty of leftover yarn for socks.

Whenever do I find the time to do all that? Well, it’s not like I ever really go anywhere without a crafts project in my bag. I do have to wait in doctor’s offices just like everybody else, just as I do when I sit and observe certain young ballerinas change from their tutus into their jeans (I’m always astounded how time-consuming this process can be!), and I also watch a few shows with my husband and son – a great time for knitting projects you need muscle memory rather than brain capacity for. Additionally, I’m notorious for knitting at parties, and of course there’s the cherished afternoons when I get to hang out with my friend N. while our kiddos have their piano lessons, which take place at either one of our houses … so that’s when.

One of the doctors gave me quite a scare last week – in fact, there were four days of major panic because it seemed that the pregnancy diabetes from 9 years ago had caught up with me, and it was only Thursday that I learned that all was in fact great, and I’m as healthy as they come. What a relief! I don’t even have high blood pressure, and I don’t have to change a thing about my nutritional habits. Of course, no sooner had I gotten my own clean bill of health that one of my kitties needed to get checked out, and two trips to the vet and 200 bucks later we knew she had a full-blown bladder infection, poor thing. Duh. No wonder she was pissed off (literally!), there’s few things as unpleasant! I can totally relate.

I was freaking out at the mere thought of having to do the strict nutritional regimen again (next to no carbs, next to no fruit, tons of meat if I want it (I do not) and of course a lot of veg (but not too many cooked carrots or squash please, as they contain too much sugar)… But I actually wouldn’t mind the diet as much as I would resent having to be thinking about calories and doing the constant finger-pricking blood tests, and, ultimately, I guess complying with my body’s needs rather than the other way round, the way I’m used to.

I suppose that’s what the physical side of aging is all about. Accepting things, not being able to do as you please, coping with unpleasantness. No wonder people have a hard time with that, I will be one pissed off old lady whenever I do get sick. I’ve been aware that I’ll very probably be dealing with diabetes later in life ever since I had my daughter (docs call that a disposition for XYZ). But for now, apparently, I’m in the clear, and I’ve been celebrating with the annual Christmas Cookie Extravaganza:

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… which the famous Lemony Shortbread from my last post is obviously an integral part of:
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I would have baked all this stuff anyway (mostly for the fam), but it’s nice to know that – for now – I can have a cookie or two if I feel like it without its being a severe health hazard.

It seems that I’m looking at a quiet end to this remarkably shitty year, which is probably a good thing because it gives me a breather and a chance to process all the insane things that have been happening over the last 12 months, rather than being buried in work until the very last moments of the year. We won’t be going anywhere, and I’m looking forward to hanging out with the family, cooking, listening to music, meeting friends and napping whenever possible. We still have to get a tree and design our annual calendar. But unlike the years before, it’s looking like there will actually be time for that.

Looking at the world out there, I am so intensely grateful to be living where I am. Right-wing idiots aside, our little corner of the world is one of the most hippie-ish, diversity-friendly, least homophobic and most fun places I know. The number of health-food stores still equals the regular grocery stores, and there’s always quirky things to be discovered whenever I leave the house:
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Put that in your pipe and smoke it, mainstream clothes chains :-)).

On that note, let’s wrap up this year already to the best of our abilities, and try and do better in 2017.

Every Mom Is Awesome!

 

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Dear stitch readers, say hi to the little motivational stamp I put on my blotting pad this morning 😉 – such a simple, small thing, but I assure you, it goes a long way for a parentless, slightly overworked and underrested woman on the last leg of her Forties.

Read on at your own peril, for there is no real point to this post (yet) other than reflecting on how a fair number of people have told me that I’m awesome over the last few weeks. Guys, you know who you are – and I appreciate the positive reinforcement so, so much – thank you!

What goes around comes around: I’m always impressed by what you people accomplish. I certainly don’t feel I juggle more than most women I know – given that I work from home, my schedule may even be a bit more flexible than others‘. But I deeply admire you guys for all you manage to do, create, think, write, cook and learn, and today, I want to say to you: GOOD JOB, Y’ALL!!!

Now we’ve gotten that out of the way, here’s a few things I did over the last weeks, when I wasn’t editing the hell out of the novel I was working on.

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With a li’l help from my friends (again, you know who you are!) we pulled off a sensational Halloween-themed birthday party for our daughter, complete with a treasure hunt in the dark that included finding a special headstone at the close-by cemetery, I kid you not! In the end there was also the first pinata we ever did. It was so much fun that I do believe we’ll have to make it a tradition :-)))).

I’ve got that frosting down now too, and I’ll have two insanely talented Junior Partners for when we’ll start our very own pastry shop once they finish school. It’s gonna be great :-)!

OK, I wasn’t going to at first, but I guess I need to include my latest baking endeavor. Have you people ever made shortbread? It can be somewhat … bland? Heavy? On the floury side? Well, it doesn’t have to be. I gave it some thought, took the basic recipe and made some adjustments and ended up with a very lemony, buttery indulgence …

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Very Lemony Shortbread

500 g butter

160 g sugar

900 g flour (400 g of which I substituted with spelt flour)

1 1/2 TBSP salt, and don’t be shy!

Grated peel of 1 or 2 lemons, chopped (depends on their size as well as your tastebuds)

Juice of 1/2 lemon

Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

You know the drill: Make a smooth, solid lump of dough of these ingredients and set aside.

This all seems pretty straightforward I suppose. Other than the pinch of nutmeg it’s the basic recipe. I guess what makes _my_ shortbread really special is the icing. It consists of

Juice of 1 lemon

Grated peel of 1 lemon, chopped

100 g powdered sugar

and – get this – 1/2 jar of lemon curd

Using a flat wire whisk, combine well and set aside until you take your shortbread out of the oven.

For baking, line a deep, square shaped baking dish with baking parchment. Put your dough in there and roll it out flat as best you can – it will be grim work. I enlisted my teenager who doesn’t have a f…ed up shoulder. It should be approx. 1 cm high. Try and smooth out the edges, and by all means prick the heck out of that cake with a fork. Again, don’t be shy. It also makes for a pretty pattern I thought. Before you bake it, make incisions in the shape you’d like your shortbread slabs, pieces, squares, what have yous to have later on. Put in the oven at 160 °C for approx. a half hour. Check on it as soon as it starts smelling wonderful – and adjust your temperature so it doesn’t burn. Once it has a golden brown cookie-y look, take out of the oven and with a spatula spread your icing, which should have the consistency of slightly runny jam. Turn off the heat and put back in the oven to steep. Cut into desired pieces. And enjoy :-). Nobody will be greatly surprised to hear that this will be part of my annual Christmas Cookie Extravaganza.

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As for crafts, I haven’t been idle either. Here’s what happened on that front:

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I finished The Fall Colored Scarf (sooo fluffy!!!). I speed-knit a pair of socks for my godson in California – it needed to happen because my husband was going there on business and actually went to see our folks on his day off, yay! I made my goddaughter in Frankfurt a pair of Rainbow Socks for Christmas, and am making another pair for her older sister – alas, shoe size 39, little girls no more… and I’m really proud of my ingenuous little lady whom I helped make that bracelet at my son’s school’s Winter Bazaar. She chose the color scheme, and may I say she chose really well.

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I also bought some yarn, cool stuff to make new gauntlets, as I managed to shrink these to a degree that my daughter of eight is now their proud owner:

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Last but not least, I just submitted the translation of the second novel in Santino Hassell’s Five Boroughs Series, Sunset Park. Needless to say, I was immersed in a really intense round of final editing for a week. And now I’m done, and I finally feel I managed to capture the two protagonists‘ tones of voice. The story’s written from both of their points of view, and both of them have a very distinct way of speaking (even in their own heads). It wasn’t easy to transpose them into German where nobody speaks quite like a Puerto-Rican dude from the hood… The book is also very very funny, which was a challenge in and of itself.

If you’re into gay romance at all, I highly recommend the whole series. I consider myself very lucky to be working on something I’m a fangirl of, even if I felt like smacking the main characters over the head more than once over the course of the book (as a fangirl more than as a translator, obviously). Those two, I swear  … but everything ends well, as it absolutely should in a romance novel ;-).

Can you believe it’s that time of the year again?

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Lovely wreath, don’t you think? I had help this time, which is why it doesn’t look quite as scruffy as my wreaths usually do – thanks a lot, dear B.!

Signing off today with a cool little graffiti I saw on a park bench last week when out for a run: Graffiti artist, whoever you are: Great job, I love it. It put a big smile on my face, as I hope it will on yours!

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