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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Family Ties, Biological and Chosen

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On a global scale, the past week was certainly remarkable for reasons I talked about in my last post, and I will actually only say this on the matter: ’nuff said.

But last week also saw a wonderful reunion with my sweet friend A. who stayed with us for a few nights while in town on business. A. is (among many other things!) a dedicated knitter, and she makes beautiful hats, socks and sweaters, as does A.’s mother-in-law K., who is also a seasoned crafts lady. A few years back, when our girls were little, K. had made a funky stripy hat with a long, pointed tip and a pompom for her granddaughter. I always loved that hat, and when I prepared the guest room for A. I was reminded of it, as I had already begun knitting a stripy hat for my friend’s new baby boy, to go with the stripy socks I already showed here. Long story short, A.’s mother in law was kind enough to dig out the pattern for the so-called Pixie Hat, and I tried to do it justice, see pic above.

I’ve written about the DIY community before, and how connected I feel to many of its members who are bound together by a joint enthusiasm for all things to do with crafts. In a way, we’re each and every one of us part of a chosen family, and I feel close to A. in Munich (knitting), N. here in Berlin (color & crochet), A. in California (sewing), A. in Frankfurt (Master of All Things Creative), K. in Montana (knitting) and my friend’s mom in Iceland who knits these amazing sweaters:IMG_3319 I guess it’s all a matter of perspective what family really is. It certainly is a choice who we decide to care about, and blood ties don’t necessarily have that much to do with it. I once read a book by Robert A. Heinlein (not sure which one it was – this was in my early twenties, so a loooong time ago.) Anyway, in this book, children could divorce their parents – and I found that concept really intriguing, because my mom and I were at complete odds by that time. In a way, it helped me detach, so thank you Mr. Heinlein, for facilitating my personal autonomy!

That said, I do care about my few relatives left, a lot. In fact, I’ll ditch this computer now to go finish a pair of socks for my godson in Sta Barbara, who will be six in a matter of weeks. Time certainly flies – seems I was there only yesterday when he was born…

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Signing off now with a pic of the gorgeousness that my friend E. gave me when I cooked lasagna for them last week – amazing, isn’t it?

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Un.F…ing.Believable.

When I went to bed yesterday night, I wasn’t worried. I really wasn’t. I was sure people would do the right thing and vote for Hillary even if they weren’t seeing eye to eye with all she says or stands for. Voting is always a compromise, and this time it was all about preventing the worst possible outcome, or so I thought. After all, this is the same nation that elected a black president with an Arabic name – twice in a row. I had faith.

This morning, right after checking the news feed, I was on autopilot while waking up my kids, making them breakfast and preparing their lunchboxes. Texting to and fro with my folks in California, expressing my shock on Instagram, wondering what our world is coming to. Brexit, right-wing parties rising to power left and right, public hate for refugees … and now this. My dearest relative in the world will now have to bring up my godson in a country I’d be loth to call the land of the free anymore. Home of the brave maybe, but I know people who have stated they were going to leave the US should he who must not be named in my sweet innocent blog be elected president. I do not blame them.

As a woman, as a mom, as an immigrant, as a supporter of gender equality in all the colors of the rainbow, as well as a human being with a heart and a brain, I’m deeply worried on this Very Bad Day.

So, what should we hope for? Can you think of anything positive that may come from this? I mean, anything at all? If so, do not hesitate to tell me, because I desperately  need some perspective.

In Close Quarters

When I was little, I was alone a lot. My parents were both working, and I had no siblings (other than my considerably older half brother who never lived with us). I taught myself how to read even before first grade simply as a way to kill the interminable hours my parents needed to do grown-up stuff. I remember envying my friend U. who shared a room with her two younger sisters – how amazing it must be to always have someone to talk to or play with! I loved it at their house, and I was there a lot. But of course even they had other things to do sometimes, and I remember walking the streets of my small home town many afternoons. I would check out shops, I’d visit the Natural History Museum close to our house, and I must have spent hours on the swing at the park close by, generally by myself.

Looking back, it seems bizarre how nobody seemed to feel I needed to be watched more. But evidently that’s how it was, and my parents certainly had enough shit on their plates, what with my dad’s chronic arthritis pain, my mom’s nervous breakdown and the massive cluster-fuck not being a party member in communist Romania entailed. But I do recall feeling lonely more often than not, and I suspect my decision to work from home was heavily influenced by my conviction that it’s a huge advantage to be available when the kids come home from school.

So why was I was thinking back to those days?  I just spent two rainy weeks at our house in the country with kids, cats & my husband who commuted to town to work every day. For the first time, we were the only ones there in our little country community. The other families were traveling or otherwise busy over fall break, and that left my daughter in pretty much the same predicament I remember so well from my childhood. There were a few grown-ups around, but no children to play with and to talk to about all the stuff that’s important to little girls. Now my daughter is not exactly an introvert, and if she’s bored or annoyed, everyone around her will know about it! So there I was trying to juggle her interests (8th birthday! Unbelievable but true…)

img_0232 an urgent proofreading assignment and my own stress relief. Tempers were short, and the weather got worse and worse, which resulted in a lot of time spent indoors.

Paradoxically, my strategy when cornered is always to withdraw even more. I like my headspace, and I need my alone time so I don’t turn into a sociopath. Does it get worse as I get older? Yup. Do people think I’m weird? Probably. Am I worried to end up a funny old lady who talks to herself? Not really. I mean, I’m pretty certain I will become that eccentric elderly person, but I’m not worried ;-). As for being bombarded with constant attention-seeking, conversation and needs – I don’t cope with that very well. At all.

I think both my daughter and I are probably fortunate to usually be surrounded by other family members and friends who act as deflector shields. It was an exhausting two weeks of perpetual push and pull. It may well have been the first break I was relieved to see come to an end, and this morning, waving goodbye when everybody left, I felt genuine relief at the prospect of 7 hours of not being talked to … and yet here I am, communicating with you on my blog. Humans are illogical, as Spock used to observe. (Cocking Vulcan eyebrow^).

Between birthday celebrations, cabin fever, stomach bugs and urgent deadlines – was there any time to do crafts? Why yes, there was! Let’s see. First, I finished these …

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… as well as these ‚welcome-home‘ socks. I made them during my daughter’s first class trip. I just love this hand-dyed yarn, it reminds me of glorious early summer roses:img_0194The yarn below was purchased in an attempt to capture some fall colors before they all go away. Check it out  – doesn’t it resemble the birthday bouquet I picked for my daughter?img_0224

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I’m making a very fluffy, soft cowl in brioche stitch, see? To give it a more orange shade, and to take the fluffiness to max level, S, the yarn shop lady, recommended adding a bright orange mohair yarn to the soft baby alpaca blend. Here’s how it’s turning out – I’m pleased despite having to work with such humongous needles, ugh.IMG_0339.JPG

Also, my old friend A. has a very cute new baby boy :-). So of course I went and bought yarn for a pair of stripy socks and hat. It’s a beautifully soft merino and silk blend, and it should keep young C.H. nice and warm. Here’s how far I’ve gotten:

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My daughter chose the color combo because I couldn’t make up my mind that day, and since it’s such a very classic design with the navy-and-white, I’m pulling a little color sequence switcheroo – can you see?

Last but not least, I fell in love with this rainbow yarn, look:

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I’m planning to make quite a few kids‘ socks from this beauty. You can never have too many rainbows in your life, am I right?

I can not believe it’s just a matter of weeks until Christmas, can you? I always feel that over the last couple months of the year, time keeps accelerating. I already know I’ll have to speed-walk through November to get my stuff done. But hopefully, I’ll be able to slow down a bit again in December. A girl can dream.

I always seem to end my fall posts with a toadstool pic – can’t help myself, they’re just so pretty.

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Have a good November, and of course: Happy Halloween everyone …

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I Can Eat Zucchini Too, Dammit

Every year, it’s the same. Summer’s here, and with it an abundance of fruit to choose from (Strawberries! Cherries! Raspberries!) Once the strawberries start to peter out, I’m OK, because we get peaches, grapes, fresh apples and pears, yay! So I’m all set on the fruit front.

I love fruit and vegetables the summer season has to offer, and I enjoy eating salad every day, buying fresh eggplants, new potatoes, cucumbers and tomatoes that don’t taste like rain (that’s what my dad used to say, and he was rarely wrong about food) … all good, were it not for the dratted green-peeled, really productive but (to me anyway) bland-tasting vegetable my husband and his garden are forcing on me. Try as I might, I just don’t love them :-/. And for that, we do get a lot of them, sigh. This one was forgotten for 2 weeks, and I will say that it looks kind of impressive. I’ve shied away from cooking it – it just seems too big to be tasty, even those who love Zucchini have said so.

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There was a smaller one right next to it on the plant, and since I was feeling hungry just a half hour ago, charitable, inspired and what not, I decided to give it a chance. As you know, I try to stay away from carbs whenever I can, so pasta was not an option for lunch, and it’s horrible outside so I wasn’t feeling like salad either. So I dug out one wedge of a vegetable I do love (Hokkaido pumpkin) and another I don’t (guesses?) from my vegetable cooler, as well as a shallot, some ginger root and a bit of leftover Feta cheese. I sauteed the cubed stuff in olive oil, and lo and behold, with a bit of sage and black pepper, it didn’t turn out that badly. Actually, it was pretty good. :-). This may be the Hokkaido pumpkin’s doing (I love that in every way you can eat it: soup, risotto topping, stuffed, baked, or – case in point – cubed and fried). But all in all I just had a nice lunch, despite the fact that half of it consisted of a piece of Zucchini. Check it out:

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Feeling proud of myself for getting over myself, I needed to share this with the class. Which reminds me of a really lovely pop song from quite a few years back – smile, and listen to Heather Small:

Proud