School Trips

Yesterday morning I took the son to the airport: together with his classmates and two teachers he will spend a week in London (he really gets to travel! Valence in January, now London …). The program will be tough, one of the teachers told me at the airport. London is not Club Méditerranée and he is not an entertainer. I am not sure those kids were aware of that. And no matter how much fun I had, watching this happy pack of teenagers – hats off to all those who offer, organize and accompany school trips!

Each teenager was allowed to take carry-on luggage, that is to say: one small suitcase each. As a result, the son’s mobile phone nearly collapsed on the eve of the journey … He received an unbelievable number of WhatsApp messages on who takes what and why, what is vital (I think that can be summarized with technology and cosmetics) and what not (school supplies) – real drama. Teenagers …

So now he is gone (again). Time to prepare my own trip. In a way, that too feels like a school trip or maybe the first day of school in a new class … Yes, I am little nervous. Or would ‘excited’ be more to the point? It takes me about 7 hours to go to Herbolzheim, home of Schachenmayr, by train. Travel time that I am looking forward to, no less than to the event to come: A company producing yarns for handknitting since 1822 that I have meant to visit for a long time. Their sock yarn (Regia) is definitely among my favorite yarns, many of the monsters and blankets I have crocheted are made of their cotton yarn (Catania). Both yarns will be in the limelight for two days. Last but not least, I am very much looking forward to getting to know 15 blogger and instagrammers whose profiles might be familiar to me, but not (yet) their faces.

So exciting to be part of #blackforestcrafts!

Hence, last weekend, I finished two projects, to be able to cast on something new on the train. First thing off my needles, was a sweater made of the yarn that once was to become my Birkin. Yarn, I had frogged five times and didn’t want to touch again any time soon. What can I say? Andrea Karminrot and her beautiful Afmaeli made me change my mind. I had had the pattern for ages – seeing her wear that sweater made me start mine the very same day.

© Andrea Karminrot // pic: Instagrammer stagepress

I knit it up in less than two weeks. Now, when I compare both Afmaeli – hers and mine – I am (once more) fascinated how colors make the difference! Two totally different sweaters!

On Sunday, I finished the Color Tipped Scarf (what took me so long?!). It is wide and long and soft and wonderful.

Yes, I could not be happier with the sweater and the scarf. I really need to check the weather forecast. Maybe I’ll take both of them along with me when going south.

 

February

The son is sick. A stomach bug … Ill spare you the details. No matter how old a child – once they’re sick, everything is different. Reset.

My office is no longer in the office, but at home at the kitchen table. Work is improvised, as I’m unprepared and – of course – the documents I need to be able to work from home are not here but there. Once I am back at work, I will always (!) scan everything (!). Every single piece of paper. But that does not help me for the moment.

Food is different too. Chicken and rice. Biscotti, Rice and chicken. Biscotti … Pretzel sticks and coke are no longer recommended when sick – I knew that already. Grated apple and mashed bananas aren’t good either when you have a virus (too much fructose) – that’s what the doctor told us this morning. Hence, I won’t give it to the son any more. Two liter of camomile tea instead, says the doctor. … So far, my patient has had three cups. And he may not even drink one liter by tonight, I am afraid … He’s a teenager after all. Reading the Guiness Book of Records, bored beyond belief, playing games on this cell phone. Halfway sick, on the mend – sounds familiar?

On the positive side: outstanding weather! Hence, I spend most afternoons outside in the garden, hand digging goutweed. I struggle every year with this beast, trying to eradicate it, but I don’t think I’m winning. Ever. Goutweed is a Hydra. Every tiny rootlet will soon become a new plant. A web of underground rhizomes from which each leafstalk emerges. Bigger and stronger than before. Yes, I know, one can make salad from it. Apparently it is delicious. However, I don’t want to. I could supply all of Berlin with goutweed salad, maybe even Northern Germany …

And then there is wood. Again … Close to work two big birches had to be cut and I may have been a bit too fast when lifting my finger … Now, it is all mine and that is a lot of wood! Load by load I am bringing it home in the car. To cut and to stack it, together with the son – that was the idea.  Instead, most of it is in our driveway now.  Tomorrow is Friday. The man will be home, ready to work the wood splitter. Voluntarily (those who know him will laugh now).

At night, I fall into bed. No surprise. Lights off at 10 pm. In the morning, muscles ache that I didn’t know I had. You can tell: there is not much knitting around here right now. Not much blogging either.

But soon my knitting mojo will be back. Then, I will show you the sweater I am working on with the yarn that once was to become a Birkin sweater. However, it is a totally different pattern now and knits up fast and easy. Fortunately! I will not frog this yarn again.

What else? It was the man’s birthday last week and he asked for a “cellar cake” as his birthday cake. Coconut fat, raw eggs, cocoa powder, a reminiscence of childhood – however, I dread that cake  🤢. But I would do anything for love … Hence, I found another recipe of the very same cake:

Heat 1 cup of cream, melt 3 cups of coarsly grated chocolate in cream, add 1 cup of butter. Stack with biscuits in a cake tin and refridgerate for a few hours. Done.

Lots of calories, I know. So what? Three ingredients, each of them is good, together they are perfect. Try it, it is so worth it!

Now, I’ll make another pot of chamomile tea and then I’ll go back outside. Goutweed is awaiting me …

 

#blackforestcrafts

Once upon a time, there was a ball of yarn, looking forward to its birthday. And as it was a milestone birthday, the ball of yarn made plans to have a party.

This is how a fairy tale might start. However, it is not a fairy tale but a wonderful invitation by Schachenmayr, hosting a blogger event called #blackforestcrafts: their sock yarn Regia will turn 70 this year, Catania, the cotton yarn, will be 30 and the party is for real.

Luckily, I confirmed attendance before I knew where the party would take place. Let’s put it this way: Herbolzheim is not around the corner from where I live … Hence, now I will spend Friday (full of anticipation) and Sunday (exhausted but happy) on the train with German Federal Railway (a knitter friend calls trips like mine “precious knitting time”), to party on Saturday until late at the night with Schachenmayr and other crafty people.

I am so looking forward to it!

Catania was my choice of yarn, when I first started crocheting monsters that gave my blog its name. Only later (and to this day) did I become a self-confessed sock yarn addict.

As a warm-up (and because Michaela inspired me), I spent a few nights taking care of my socks’ drawer: cleaning up and mending. Those green socks needed new toes, the legs of the black pair had always been too short (however, the toes were always colorful). Now, that I am done, I like both pairs even better than before.

Let’s see, I might even take them to the Black Forest with me.

This is going to be so good!

 

The Birkin sweater – finally!

In early January 2018, I bought yarn in Sweden to knit the beautiful Birkin sweater (pattern by Caitlin Hunter). A good year later, what fits so easily in a single sentence, was about to become a nightmare. Somehow, the Birkin and I did not get along. At all.

In a first attempt, I had five colors, two of which did not fit. Maybe in terms of color, but the yarns were just too different. I should have realized that before starting to work with them, however I did not. Hence, I started over. In a second attempt, I made a bad mistake when doing increases, after the first branch of leaves and immediately frogged the whole thing.

In a third attempt (February 2018) the yoke turned out way too tight (and yes, I did swatch to obtain gauge). It would have been perfect for someone without shoulders. Someone drop-shaped. Not for me. Searching for #birkinsweater on Instagram showed me that I was not the only one having problems – look for Valerie or Vivian or Kristen – very comforting but it did not help me and my sweater.

Finally, in a fourth attempt, everything seemed to work out, until I realized that the whole yoke turned out way too long, too low (if that is the correct word). All was well, as long as I did not lift my arms. However, it rode up whenever I lifted my arms, all the flowers moved too (Marjorie had the same issue). And I knew, I would never wear it that way.

Hence, a fifth attempt (July 2018) omitting some of the flowers, which did not help. At that point, I was on the verge of … well (every little dot a curse word)… omitting the whole Birkin idea. I did not and this last failed attempt would sit on my sofa for weeks …

Until January 2019, when my wonderful friend Bettina flew to Dublin to see her daughter, bringing local yarn for me to have on the way back. Just like that. Because she is wonderful. Donegal Aran Tweed, 8 balls in green, a red and a white one, two in a color called aqua.

So, I started over in a sixth attempt and this time (Caitlin Hunter may forgive me) I would listen to Elizabeth Zimmermann, her book “knitting without tears,” and nobody else. Doing a swatch first and then the sweater – bottom-up instead of top-down, aran instead of fingering, three flowery twines instead of five and decreases adapted to my body. All of a sudden everything was easy. The sweater was done in a week.

All is well. Hard to believe though.

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January

In November, seven out of 125 ninth graders were offered the opportunity to spend four weeks in Spain on a high school exchange program. Seven out of 125 … As the son has caught the travel bug, he really wanted to apply. Hence, he filled out the questionnaire, accurate and complete – no allergies, math as his favorite subject, basketball seven days the week – and handed it in.

I told him that there was only a slim chance they would choose him with all that basketball and then we waited. But not for long.

Three days later we received an email from Spain and in early January he took off for Valencia. A very nice family, a new friend, even school seems to be cool, and outside 18°C / 65°F (quick reminder: Berlin -7°C/20°F). It could have been worse …

When he was gone, I thought that a month wouldn’t be all that long (wrong), that time would fly (wrong), and that finally I’d be able to do all the things I had meant to do for so long (wrong).

At least, I started and finished some “knitting on demand” that I am not (yet) allowed to show (except for the yarn).

Then, my nieces came to visit. Again, I cannot show pictures (because they do not want me to), except for this one of my older niece in a café.

I have finished a second polka dot wrap – almost identical to the red one I had made last summer – but haven’t taken decent pictures yet. So far, only a detail in lamplight. Heaven knows why those blue dots look like squares.

What else? A sixth Garter Ear Flap Hat came into being. Just because I needed some mindless (and small) knitting to go.

Last but not least, tackling the Birkin is high up on my list again. I have frogged the fourth attempt (see picture above). Even though I had done it without half of the flowers, it would not work out. I kept knitting nonetheless – ripping it was painful but a relief.

All this was done in late summer. I cannot believe I never blogged about it. Version N°5: I am starting over. For the last time. Different yarn, different approach, different colors. same flowers. Looking good so far. Let’s see how this will go.

In short: I have been busy, however all these piles (filing, sorting, discarding) are not much smaller than they were. Tomorrow, I will start to catch up.

Tomorrow, the son will be back 😍.

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