The Wolf is Back!

Hello!

As soon as I saw these sheep, huddled together in a field, I realized that something was wrong. They looked distressed. Looking into the distance, I saw the reason why. Oh no! A dead sheep, and the owner and somebody else looking upset, searching for something. Tracks? Other evidence of the culprit?

Only DNA-testing can tell whether this sheep was killed by a wolf or a dog, but chances are that it was a wolf. We hear about sheep being killed by wolves around here on a weekly basis now.

For the people who lived here long before us, those who built the impressive megalithic burial monuments called hunebedden, wolves must have been a fact of life to be reckoned with.

But for us, in the 21st century it’s a phenomenon we’re not familiar with. There haven’t been any wolves here for at least 120 years. And now, all of a sudden the wolf is back! Arriving here from Eastern Europe via Germany, the wolf is supposed to eat roedeer, rabbits and other furry creatures. But it isn’t playing by the rules, because why waste energy chasing a meal that runs away fast when there is so much juicy mutton to be had with far less effort?

I’m talking of ‘it’ and ‘the wolf’, but it is uncertain how many there really are in this area. There is at least one, probably a couple, and maybe even a third. This newcomer is certainly causing a lively discussion. Some people are thrilled, while others are of the opinion that there is no place for wolves in this small, densely populated country.

I have mixed feelings. On the one hand I think, who are we to decide who or what is to live in this corner of the world? We are happy that the raven is back. We are happy that the otter is back. And we are happy that the badger is back. There are badger trails everywhere nowadays – zooming in, you should be able to see their paw prints.

Shouldn’t we be happy about the wolf being back as well?

On the other hand, when I hear of a wolf jogging past a playground full of playing children in broad daylight in the village where a friend of mine with school-going children lives, well, I don’t know…. How dangerous are they?

It is hard to imagine these otherwise peaceful surroundings being populated by packs of wolves in the future. Will guests of this Bed & Breakfast hear them howling at night in a few years’ time?

I’m fairly certain that the Highlands belonging to the B&B owners will be able to defend themselves with their fierce horns.

But how about me? I have no idea what to do if I were to come face-to-face with a wolf. Take photographs? Hide behind a tree? Call in my own personal superhero, ‘HELP! DO something, shoo it away!’?

Or strike up a conversation like Little Red Riding Hood?

Inside, I still feel like Little Red Riding Hood, but to all intents and purposes I’m becoming more like her grandmother by the day. In fact, I am becoming a grandmother this spring. And I may even need hearing aids before long.

Ménière’s disease is affecting my hearing. Although I’m still managing in everyday life, I can’t hear the little birds high up in the trees anymore. Fortunately I do not have the dizzy spells that go with it very often, but I’ve recently had one.

It wasn’t so bad this time that I’m in bed. And it’s never bad enough for me to be wearing a frilly cap.

It does mean that I need to take some rest and limit my screen time. So if you’ve posted a gorgeous FO on Ravelry or published a great blogpost and haven’t heard from me, please know that it isn’t because I’m not interested.

I’ve spent quite a bit of time quietly knitting, but had to rip out almost as much as I knit because my brain wasn’t functioning properly. Awooo! No, I wasn’t really howling like wolf. I thought, oh, well, we all have times like these and hope to show you some progress next week.

Stay safe! xxx

Nettle Socks and Nettelbosch

Hello!

Today’s post has a nettle theme running through it. To begin with, I’ve knit a pair of socks with nettle fibre in them. That was interesting, because the yarn (Onion Nettle Sock) behaved a little differently from the usual all-wool or wool-and-nylon sock yarn. Let’s take a look at the thread first:

As you can see, there is maroon fibre and white fibre. The maroon fibre is superwash wool (70%) and the white fibre is nettle (30%). Nettle doesn’t take the dye used for wool and stays white, which gives a nice marled effect. Here and there thicker bits of nettle stick out, but on the whole the thread is smooth. Nettle is a very strong fibre, and the thread doesn’t break easily.

For me, the problem was that the yarn has hardly any elasticity at all. At my first try, with a few centimetres of knit 1, purl 1 rib followed by stocking stitch, the sock became too loose. Casting on fewer stitches would give a tighter fit, but also a stiff sock. After throwing it into a corner taking a break from it, I had a lightbulb moment: what the yarn lacks in elasticity, can be added by using a stretchy stitch pattern! So, I knit the leg and the top of the foot in k2, p2 rib.

TIP: Here is something I learnt from my mum and she learnt from hers: start on the toe of the sock when the little toe is covered. I can’t guarantee that it works for very long toes, but I think it’s a good rule of thumb.

Laid out flat, the ribbing is all bunched up and the socks look rather narrow.

But on the foot, you can see how the rib stretches out and the socks fit perfectly.

I had my doubts about this yarn, but I’m happy with these socks now and hope the friend I made them for is too. Still, they’re pretty basic. I have more of this yarn for another pair and have an idea for making those a little more exciting. More about them in a few weeks’ time, I hope.

Q: Does nettle yarn sting or itch?
A: No more than any other sock yarn. It feels surprisingly nice, really.

All this focus on nettle fibre gave me an idea for a little outing to the Nettelbosch, a garden in the nearby town of Steenwijk. Come along! Up, up, up the stairs we go, on to the top of the old town wall.

After a short walk we go down another flight of stairs…

… and arrive at the entrance gate. Apart from the name of the garden, it shows a simplified map of the old town centre, with its wonky star-shaped defensive walls.

Long, long ago, there was a garden here, too. But it became a neglected spot – a tangle of nettles that was known to the locals as De Nettelbosch. When in 2018 the municipality decided to give the town centre a ‘quality boost’ by creating a new garden, the spot kept its name.

The small, stony pond looks nice all year…

… thanks to its attractive leafy bridge.

For the rest, De Nettelbosch looks rather bare and bleak at this time of the year.

At least at first sight. Spending a little longer looking around, small details catch the eye, like these seed heads.

There is also some colour to be found.

And even a few signs of spring!

These bulbs (daffodils?) are much further along than those in our garden, probably because of their sheltered situation behind the town walls. I’ll certainly take you back here in spring, to see what De Nettelbosch looks like then.

Goedgoan!*

*Local expression for Bye!

Knieperties

First of all, Happy New Year! It’s a bit late, I know, but I still want to wish you all the best for 2022.

We’ve had an uneventful but nice and relaxing week, and I hope you’ve had a good time, too. My Christmas Break knitting project is almost finished. I’ll share that with you next week when it’s all done (I hope).

What I’d like to share with you today is the recipe for knieperties, paper-thin waffles that are traditionally served on New Year’s Eve and Day in this part of the Netherlands. They can be eaten flat or rolled up. Similar ones are also baked in Germany, which isn’t all that far away from here.

Baking knieperties (pronounced something like kneepertees, with an audible k and stress on the first syllable) is a tradition passed on to me by a neighbour across the street. She baked stacks of them on New Year’s Eve for her extensive family and always brought us and other neighbours some, too. After she died about a decade ago, I decided to continue the tradition.

Traditionally knieperties were baked using a cast-iron waffle iron held over a fire, but nowadays everyone I know uses an electrical waffle iron. Mine is from German manufacturer Cloer.

INGREDIENTS:
(makes about 100)

  • 150 butter at room temperature
  • 325 g fine caster sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 500 g flour
  • A pinch of cinnamon
  • 600 ml lukewarm water

METHOD:

  • Cream the butter together with the sugar and the eggs.
  • Stir the cinnamon through the flour.
  • Add small quantities of flour and water alternately to the butter-sugar-egg mixture until everything is stirred in (the batter should be quite thin).
  • Preheat the iron for about 10 minutes until the little light switches off – heat setting 3 (middle top) works best for me.
  • Place one tablespoon of batter on the waffle iron. Close it and keep it firmly closed with your fingers. Hot steam will come out – take care not to burn your fingers!
  • Open the iron when steam stops coming out. The waffle should now be a pale golden brown. Quickly transfer it to a chopping board.
  • Leave to cool flat or roll up very quickly using the handle of a wooden spoon.

From start to finish, baking this quantity will take about 90 minutes to 2 hours.

Knieperties are deliciously crunchy and so thin that they are almost translucent.

This is my set-up, with from left to right: chopping board for cooling knieperties, wooden spoon for rolling them, waffle iron, plate for stacking cooled knieperties, small bowl of batter (works easier than big mixing bowl; refill from time to time), pancake turner (bottom right-hand corner) for flipping knieperties from iron to board.

And this is the whole batch, excluding the ones that got eaten during the process. Rolled-up knieperties can be filled with whipped cream if you like.

In the pouring rain (we’ve had quite a bit of that here lately) I took them around to several neighbours. A great opportunity for catching up on the latest news.

Knieperties are not just served around New Year’s, but also on other special occasions.

Instead of an ordinary Christmas card, dear friends sent us this:

A wonderful pop-up card of Villa Rams Woerthe, a historic house in a nearby town. The last time we visited it, we were served tea and knieperties in the drawing room. ‘Must enjoy baking knieperties’ is high on the list of requirements for anyone who wants to work there as a volunteer.

This is what it looks like from the back:

And this is what it looks like in real life (photo taken in spring):

I’d love to visit it again someday soon. Ah, so many plans and ideas for the New Year! I’ll try to share anything I think may be of interest and hope to ‘see’ you here often.

Places to Sit and Knit 3

Hello, and welcome to the 3rd episode in the irregular series Places to Sit and Knit. For this Christmas special, I’m inviting you into our home. You’ll recognize it by the paper stars on the window.

What better place to sit and knit at Christmas than at home? Especially this Christmas. I don’t know what it’s like in your part of the world, but here in the Netherlands we’re in a strict lockdown again. Everything is closed, except essential shops (unfortunately the powers that be don’t count yarn shops among them) and other essential facilities. Let’s hope it’s enough to prevent black scenarios early in the New Year.

We’re only allowed 2 visitors a day (4 at Christmas) in real life. Fortunately the number of virtual visitors is unlimited, so come on in! Would you like a cup of coffee or tea?

I was given a box of Austrian Advent Calendar Tea at the end of November, filled with green, black, white and herbal teas. It started with Gute Laune (Good Mood) tea on December the 1st.

Today, the last offering is Heavenly Christmas Delight, a spicy blend with cinnamon, orange peel, apple and clove. It sounds delicious, don’t you think? Please take a seat while I make our drinks.

This is the sofa where I sit and knit at this time of the year.

My knitting chair by the window was moved away to make room for the Christmas tree.

Apart from finishing several pairs of socks, I have finished the body of a roomy cardigan knit from two lace yarns held together. I have even blocked it before starting on the sleeves, which are knit from the shoulder down. It looks a dark grey in the photo below, but actually is a lovely teal.

I have also made a start on the socks for my friend, the ones from the yarn with nettle in it instead of nylon. This yarn (Onion Nettle sock yarn) knits up differently compared to the yarns I’m used to. Here it is next to a sock from a traditional sock yarn that I’ve just finished.

Using the same number of stitches I usually cast on, the cuff turns out much wider. The yarn is also less elastic. Knitting on like this, I wouldn’t be happy with the end result.

So what am I going to do: cast on fewer stitches, start anew with smaller needles and/or use a different stitch pattern? Twisted stitches in the ribbing, perhaps? Hmmm, need to give that some thought.

For the time being, I’m putting all my WIPs on hold to focus on two special Christmas Break projects. (There is that word again: focus, my word of the year 2021. Did I make any progress on that? Well, yes and no. I’ll try to write about that in January.)

The yarn for these projects is already in the baskets beside the sofa. The first is a simple, oversized, comfy sweater in a lofty yarn – Lang Cloud – in many shades of red, burgundy, pink, purple etc. I’ve photographed it outside to do the colours justice.

And my other Christmas Break project is knitting swatches. I’ve collected quite a few interesting yarns in undyed or neutral shades over the past couple of years. Somehow I never got round to them, and it feels like a real treat to finally get to try them out. My plan is to knit stocking stitch swatches on different needle sizes and try the yarns out in different stitch patterns as well, hoping that this will give me new ideas for things to design and make.

But that’s me nattering on. How are you doing? What is life like for you at the moment? Have you planned any special celebrations? Or are you working over the holidays, in health care or another essential job? Are you struggling to stay positive, like me? How do you keep your worries at bay? Do you have something nice on your needles? Any special knitting plans? I’d love to hear about them. Please leave a comment if you feel like sharing. It’s also perfectly fine if you don’t feel like it. I understand – I often feel too shy to leave comments, too.

Now, how about some fresh air? Let’s go for a walk. (We can only go for walks in ‘groups’ of 2 at the moment IRL, but again, the numbers for virtual walks are unlimited.)  It’s often dark and dreary here at the end of December, but this year it’s been a true Winter Wonderland on some days. So far, it’s only been hoar frost, but we may even get some snow over the coming days.

I’ve planted the pots around the house up with some mini conifers, ivy and checkerberry.

Almost every day, all year long, I take a stroll around our village. At this time of the year I love looking at other people’s Christmas trees.

But on clear, frosty days it’s nicer to head out of the village. This is the view a two-minute-walk from our home.

We are very fortunate to live here, and I never take it for granted. It’s not all idyllic, of course. But on some days even the local factory gets a magical quality, mirrored in a stream.

A little further on a blue heron is mirrored in the same stream.

Father Frost has covered the plants with icy needles.

Truly magical.

Well, I think it’s time to head back home and light a few candles. Thank you so much for stopping by – I really, really appreciate your spending some time with me here. Apart from all of you, we’re expecting very few real-life visitors over the coming days and weeks. Only two, in fact. And we won’t be going anywhere either. We love seeing friends and family and spreading good cheer, but we’d hate to spread the virus, so we’re keeping ourselves to ourselves this year.

I’m taking a break from my blog for a while, to just sit and knit (and read, go for walks, eat some delicious things prepared by my other half, and watch The Lord of the Rings for the umpteenth time).

All the best for a safe and peaceful festive season and I hope to see you here again in the New Year!

The other episodes in this series:

Folding Paper Stars

Hello!

A long time ago a friend taught me to fold stars. Made from transparent paper, they showed lovely patterns when the light shone through them. Because this friend is going through a difficult time at the moment, I folded a small star and sent it to her tucked between a postcard with a personal message – a reminder of good times and a symbol of hope.

Then I folded some more to give away. Then I folded a few for our own kitchen window. And then I thought, ‘Why not share them with you here?’

What you’ll need:

  • Sharp paring knife
  • Clear glue
  • Transparent kite paper (available as larger sheets and as blocks of squares in a rainbow of colours)

Tissue paper can be used as well, but tears and fades more quickly. (For the tutorial steps below I used ordinary printer paper for the sake of clarity only.)

1) For each star, cut eight squares using the paring knife.

The paper in my block measured 16 x 16 cm (6.25 x 6.25”). For a large star I cut two sheets into four squares each (eight 8 x 8 cm squares in total). For a small star I cut half a sheet into eight 4 x 4 cm squares. The size does not really matter, as long as you end up with eight square pieces of paper. Start with a larger star – the smaller ones take a little practice.

2) Fold the paper in half diagonally, so that the points marked with asterisks in the example lie on top of each other. Then open again.

3) Next fold the asterisks toward the line in the middle, along the dashed lines:

You’ll end up with a shape like this:

Make eight of these.

4) Using a small drop of glue, stick the points where the asterisks are in the example in place.

5) Finally assemble the eight points into a star as shown in the picture below, using a little bit of glue where the points overlap.

It’s important to use clear glue or it will show when the light shines through.

Tadaaah – one transparent paper star!

For a different variation, open the flaps last folded again and then fold them inward, with the imaginary asterisks tucked away inside.

Glue the points together to make a star as before. This simple adaptation immediately gives a much more intricate look:

Finished, my larger stars measure approx. 23 cm (9”) from tip to tip, and my smaller ones 11.5 cm (4.5”). Use a small piece of clear tape folded double (or double-sided tape if you have it) to stick stars to a window pane.

The same friend who taught me to fold stars, recently gave me some sock yarn. She had planned to knit socks with it herself, but realized she would never get round to it. It is a yarn with nettle fibres for strength and durability instead of the usual nylon.

This yarn has been around for a while, but I haven’t used it before. I’m looking forward to giving it a try. And what am I going to use it for? Two pairs of socks for my friend, of course!

Star light, star bright,
First star I see tonight,
I wish I may, I wish I might,
Have the wish I wish tonight.

My wish for you today is that you may have some time to yourself over the coming week, to fold a star, knit a sock, or simply spend some time outside at night stargazing.

Saturday Knitting

Hello! This week I’m writing from a white and frosty village. We’re not entirely snowed in, but last Sunday we were treated to a beautiful thick blanket of snow, blown up into dunes here and there by strong gusts of icy wind. And because it’s stayed (far) below freezing even during the daytime, the snow is still here. A rarity nowadays and utterly lovely!

Before anything else, I need to show you this. The snow-shovel guy reversed and drove up several times specially so that I would be able to take a good picture for my blog.

Thank you Mister Snow Shoveler! Enjoy your moment of fame 😊!

It’s tempting to natter on about the snow, but I have made quite a bit of progress on the knitting front, and I’d like to talk about that, too. So let’s do that first, and have a few more snow pictures afterwards.

Recently, I wrote a very long post about my possible need for a little more focus. I don’t know if you’ve been able to plough through it all, but one of the insights I gained from a book I read on the topic was: ‘Different (knitting) tasks use different parts of the brain’. I realized that for certain aspects of my knitting projects, I needed to find moments during the week when the active thinking part of my brain would be fresh.

Saturday seemed like a good time, especially Saturday mornings. So I thought about what I would like to accomplish and noted it in my planner. The first thing I wanted to focus on was the sleeve cap of my Panel Debate cardigan. A puzzle because I’d enlarged the armhole and could no longer follow the pattern – how could I make a sleeve cap that would fit into the armhole and around my shoulder?

Spending several hours tinkering with it with a well-rested brain really worked.

I finished the sleeve cap. And using the parts of my brain that do the more automatic tasks, I was able to almost finish the rest of the sleeve in the evenings. Yes, progress!

The next task I wanted to tackle was finishing one of my UFOs (UnFinished knitting Objects that have been lying around for a long time). I chose a scarf and wrote that down in my planner for the next Saturday.

All I needed to do was weave in the ends and give it a Spa Treatment. Here it is, doing a stretching exercise after its bubble bath.

As always, the transformation was magical – the lacey holes opened up nicely, and the rest of the knitted fabric did too.

Before blocking
After blocking

This is what the scarf looks like when ‘worn’.

It is the Polka Dot Scarf by the Churchmouse design team. The pattern describes two sizes and I made the larger one. The yarn I used is Debbie Bliss ‘Rialto lace’, a very soft merino.

For a long time I disliked polka dots. I think it was because of that horrible sixties song about the Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini. Do you know it? But these subtle ‘dots’ made me overcome that.

Looking around for matching things for pictures of the scarf, I discovered that I actually have several other items with polka and other dots.

All in all this has become a generous airy shawl that will make a lovely gift for someone. Happy with it.

I’m also happy with my new Saturday knitting plan. Being able to make considerable progress with such a small adjustment to my life, has really given me a positive boost. In addition to these two projects, I have even made some progress on a new design of my own.

Until now, this winter I have felt sort of lost on Saturdays, with nowhere to go and no one to visit. This focused Saturday knitting has also solved that. I don’t know if I’ll be able to keep it up once we get back to a more ‘normal’ life and the gardening season starts again. But I won’t look too far ahead.

For the time being the garden doesn’t need anything doing to it. All I need to do at the moment is admire the hyacinths I planted in pots in November…

… enjoy looking at snow-covered shapes, like the dead flower heads of the Marjoram…

… and feed and talk to the birds.

I hope you’re all snug and safe, wherever you are. Bye for now, and ‘see’ you again soon!

Beautiful Houses (and a Spectacular One)

Hello!

Today I’d like to take you along for a bicycle ride. The traffic signs can be slightly confusing, but don’t worry, I know the way.

My foot injury is healing really well now, and I’m able to go for short walks, but my daily exercise still mainly takes the form of cycling. I’m so glad I’ve been able to continue doing that – it keeps me fit and healthy.

The countryside around here is not as flat as most parts of the Netherlands.

It is slightly undulating and riding an ordinary (not electrically assisted) bicycle like mine, is a good workout.

While I’m cycling, I love looking at beautiful houses, like this one basking like a cat in the late afternoon sun.

Or this one with its cheerful shutters.

Or this one in a lovely sheltered spot.

Or this one with the day’s washing drying in the wind.

My family is always laughing at me, when I show pictures of beautiful houses like these on my blog, saying, ‘People around the world reading this will think that we lead charmed lives and all live in picturesque thatched cottages or farmhouses!’

They are right, we don’t. Our house and most others are more modern and modest, and we get our fair share of woes and worries. Only last year a crystal meth lab was discovered in a picturesque house along today’s route (not in any of the photos) and a cocaine laundry in a farm building along one of my other routes.

But I’m not fooling you. It IS true that there are a lot of these lovely houses around here. Just like it is true that we really have windmills, although most of them are no longer working.

It was late afternoon. Taking pictures along the way slowed me down, and in the end I had to hurry to reach the best house of all before the light had gone. It’s not just a beautiful house, but a downright spectacular one!

This is its front door.

And here it is in its entirety.

From a distance it looks like an age-old castle, but it was built in recent years. From reclaimed materials.

The castle has lots of whimsical details – let’s zoom in on a few of them.

Here is one richly decorated turret, with coloured bricks, tiled squares, a spider’s web stained-glass window, and a couple of golden ‘girls’.

A fierce looking bird on another one.

While I was looking at the castle, I was wondering what the things sticking up in the air on the battlements of the north tower were. Zooming in on the photographs at home made me laugh out loud – they were the legs of upside-down mannequins.

I wasn’t exaggerating when I said it was spectacular, was I? The owner/builder must be a person with shedloads of focus. And a great sense of humour!

On the way back, I saw the first newborn lamb of the year. I don’t know what breed it is.

The light was fading quickly.

It was good to come back to our own unspectacular but beautiful-to-me house.

In addition to working on, ahem, ‘several’ other knitting projects, I’m knitting rows of beautiful blue-green houses for another Thús 2. More about that when it’s finished.

Thank you for coming along!

Sunshine Inside

Hello!

Well, it’s been quite an eventful week on a national and global level, what with the resignation of our government, the inauguration of a new POTUS, and the introduction of a curfew and other stricter measures here. I frequently needed to remind myself to keep breathing.

On a personal level, one uneventful week follows another. And that’s a good thing in a way – it means that we’re OK.

THE event of our past week was SNOW! Last Saturday it started snowing in the evening, when it was already dark. On Sunday morning, I could hear rain drops pattering on the roof, but the garden still looked lovely with its thin white blanket.

When I went for a bicycle ride after lunch, there were just a few patches of snow left. It stayed longest on the thatched roofs of some farmhouses.

An hour or two later all of the snow had gone.

Ah, well, it was lovely while it lasted. Snow days are a rare pleasure.

Now we’re back to more ordinary January days – dark, windy and rainy. A good time to bring some sunshine inside.

To do that, I filled a large platter with decorated citrus fruit, taking pictures during the process to share here. (I was lucky that the sun peeked out from behind the clouds now and then, giving the fruit a cheerful glow.)

It all starts with gathering everything that is needed. First of all, different kinds of citrus fruit.

Lots and lots of cloves. (For 1 orange, 1 lemon and 3 tangerines I used 45 grams of cloves.)

A large platter, and winter greenery and other ingredients to decorate it. I picked some rosemary, thyme and bay leaves from the garden, but conifer sprigs or other evergreen twigs or leaves would be fine, too.

I also had some jumbo cinnamon sticks I once bought at the garden centre. Not terribly fragrant, but still a nice addition to the spicy scent of the cloves. Star anise would be nice as well, if you have some.

And finally a few tools and other bits and bobs. Scissors and secateurs, twine for tying the cinnamon sticks together and the twigs into bunches, a thin knitting needle (I used a size 2.0 mm/US 0) or a skewer, and a cloth to mop up the juice and dry your hands from time to time.

Oh, and if you’re working at a wooden table like ours, don’t forget to cover it with a whipeable table cloth or place mat, because juice will drip out of the fruit.

Now the fun starts. Prick holes in the fruit before inserting the cloves.

Make lines, circles, spirals, crosses, diamonds or other patterns.

There! It’ll give you sticky hands, but doesn’t make too much mess. And it’s an uplifting project that is also lovely to do with children.

Now it’s time to arrange everything nicely on a platter, together with the greenery and other spices. Tadaah!

I can’t guarantee that the fruit will keep for months. Sometimes it dries out nicely and will keep for a long time, and sometimes it gets mouldy. In the past, I’ve tried dusting it with a mixture of orris root and cinnamon powder. In theory, that should preserve it better, but it didn’t. I’ve also wrapped the fruit in tissue paper and stored it in a dark cupboard to dry, but that didn’t always work either.

My experience is that it is largely a matter of luck whether the fruit keeps well or not. But no matter how long the fruit lasts, the sunny colours are a feast for the eyes and the lovely wintry scents are a delight for the nose!

Word of the Year

Hello again!

It’s good to be back here after a 2-week break. I hope that, in spite of everything, you’ve had an enjoyable festive season and a good start to the New Year.

We had a quiet and pleasant time, and on New Year’s eve I baked a big batch of knieperties. These very thin wafers are a traditional end-of-the-year treat in this part of the country. I always make more than enough to share with several neighbouring families.

This year’s conundrum was how to hand them over at a safe distance? It didn’t feel right to place them on people’s doorsteps. I came up with this solution:

Loops of silver ribbons tied to the bags to hang them from the hooked stick we otherwise use to open our attic hatch. It was great fun, really, and brought smiles to everybody’s faces, including my own. The anderhalvemetersamenleving in action.

Anderhalvemetersamenleving (1.5-meter-society) was chosen as Word of the Year 2020 in the campaign organized by our leading Dutch dictionary Van Dale.

A word that sums up a lot about the past year, and also a word that we will not be leaving behind us soon, I fear. (As a former translator, I have a thing for words. Although I worked with digital dictionaries for years, I still treasure my paper ones.)

My knitting during the Christmas break was entirely in the spirit of the Word of the Year 2020. It’s an exactly 1.5 meter long scarf for my brother who lives in Germany.

Knit in 2-by-2 ribbing it is very tight and narrow now. It will need some TLC (a bubble bath, some steam, and an acupuncture treatment) to relax.

More about that and the matching hat soon.

I have very little knitting to show today, but there will be more over the coming months. Lots more, I hope. Looking back at 2020, I realized that I haven’t finished those UFOs that I planned to turn into FOs. Not nearly all of them. Am I beating myself up over that? No, I don’t think that will help. But their state of unfinishedness did set me thinking. It’s not just those UFOs. I currently also have 4 WIPs as well as loads and loads of plans for new knits. What might help, is a personal word for the year 2021 to give me some direction.

At first I thought of ‘limits’, but on second thoughts that sounded too bleak. There are so many outside limits already. (Our present lockdown lasts until January 19 and we don’t need a crystal ball to predict that it will be prolonged.)

A word with a similar meaning that sounds much friendlier is ‘focus’. Maybe more focus is what I need. Or maybe not. During the past year I’ve become a very focused grocery shopper.

On the left an old-style shopping list with everything in no particular order and room for browsing around. On the right my new-style shopping list with everything neatly arranged along the supermarket aisles. Pro: More focus makes for very fast shopping and I’m not in anybody’s way for long. Con: It sucks all the joy out of shopping.

But still, I have a feeling that the word ‘focus’ may help me in my knitting as well as in other areas of life. At least it is something to explore. I don’t know if it’ll be worth writing about here, but we’ll see.

Now for something completely different. Spring is still a long way away, but even at this time of year there are a few bright and flowery spots in our garden. There’s the Viburnum tinus (top) that gives us flowers for a long, long time and provides a great hiding place for the sparrow family. The hazel shrubs already have catkins…

… and for the first time this year the Cyclamen coum is flowering. Its bright pink flowers are only about 7 cm (3”) high, but they cheer me up no end every time I look out the kitchen window.

Focusing on things like this really helps in a world in turmoil. Yes, Focus seems like a good word for 2021. Hope, too, by the way. And Peace.

Comfort and Joy

It’s Christmas Eve, and we’re nearing the end of a challenging year. Thinking about writing this post beforehand, I felt that I should say something Profound and Meaningful, but what? I wouldn’t know where to begin. I’m not some kind of oracle or Wise Woman, after all. I’m just an ordinary person muddling along like everybody else.

In the end, I’ve gone back to what this blog is basically about and decided to share a few of the things that have given me comfort and joy over the past weeks, hoping they’ll do the same for you.

The front door with the lovely garland at the top of this post isn’t ours. It belongs to a house further down the street.

Every time I pass this house, looking at these neighbours’ stylish grey-and-white decorations brings me joy.

Our style is more traditional, mainly red, green and silver. It’s comforting to take the same old Christmas baubles from their box every year. This one symbolizes 2020 for me.

White hyacinths opening their flowers at exactly the right time scent our living room.

The upstairs Advent calendar has now opened its last door. And I put the star on the top of the downstairs one this morning. One of the first creatures I placed on this cardboard fir tree was a woodpecker.

It looks just like the great spotted woodpeckers that visit our garden. They’ve been away for a while, retreating to the wood during their moulting period, but are back in full force now. Sometimes there are four of them at the same time, looking for insects on the branches of our old pear tree and fighting for a place on the peanut feeder.

Watching these beautiful birds always brings me joy. They are fairly shy, but if I’m very quiet and patient, they allow me to take a picture now and then.

Something that always brings me a lot of comfort is knitting. It is the feeling of the yarn in my hands combined with the rhythmic movement that makes it so. And what’s more, knitting things for others makes me feel connected with them during a time we are unable to meet. That’s also a comfort.

Apart from knitting several pairs of socks, a scarf and a hat to give away, I’ve treated myself to two skeins of exquisitely soft yarn for a hat and a cowl.

The hat pattern was a freebie from Churchmouse Yarns & Teas. They have a very active and friendly knitting group on Ravelry that I’ve enjoyed being a part of for years. The moment I saw this simple hat and read that the yarn they used for it was a sustainable cashmere, I knew that this was going to be my special December knit for me this year.

I was not just going to knit the hat, but also a matching cowl. Although I could have finished each of these projects in an evening, I decided to take it slow and enjoy every minute of the process, including winding the yarn and taking photos along the way.

I limited myself to knitting no more than a few rows a day. During these quiet, contemplative moments, I first saw my hat grow.

And then my cowl.

Knitting a pattern thought out by someone else is especially comforting – no stress about how many stitches to cast on, getting the right size, what decreases to use, and whether there will be enough yarn. I’ve given my own twist to it by adding a bit of contrasting colour to the rim of the hat, making a matching cowl, and finally duplicate stitching hearts onto both.

For the duplicate stitching I’ve tried out a new (to me) type of needle, with a bent tip. I’ve laid my ordinary darning needles and the new ones out on the finished cowl to show the difference.

The new ones are officially called tapestry needles, and they are a real improvement for duplicate stitching, I have to say. The bent tip slides easily between the knit stitches and is really nice to work with. (I’ll keep using the regular straight ones for darning in yarn ends, though.)

And here are my hat and cowl all finished.

They were a joy to knit, and I know they’ll be a joy to wear for a long time to come.

Now there is just one last thing I’d like to share with you – a gift we received on Tuesday. This year the organic farm that delivers groceries to our door, gave all their customers a bag of organic daffodil bulbs. It came with a message on a bit of sunny yellow paper. Translated it said:

When all of a sudden ordinary things
Can no longer be taken for granted
We realize how extraordinary
Ordinary things really are

Such a lovely gift – a ray of sunshine and hope during these dark days.

Thank you so much for reading my blog over the past year, and leaving a comment now and then. These small virtual moments of contact mean a lot to me. I’m taking a break now and hope to be back here somewhere in the course of January. I’m looking forward to ‘seeing’ you again then.

I wish you a safe and peaceful Christmas and the very best for 2021!