Happy 2023!

Gelukkig Nieuwjaar! May 2023 be filled with happiness for you and your loved ones. I hope you’ve had a great time over the Holidays and a good start to the New Year.

As for me, I spent part of the last day of the old year baking a big batch of knieperties (recipe here).

Keeping a few back for ourselves, I filled several bags with knieperties, closed them with cheerful ribbons, put them in a basket and distributed them among our neighbours. We don’t see much of each other at this time of the year, and it was nice to catch up on their news.

In exchange for the knieperties, some of them gave us home-made oliebollen and appelflappen. Yum!

When the clock struck 12 and the fireworks started, it was 15 ˚C (32 ˚F) – a nice temperature for a sunny day in May, not the middle of a night in December! Reading about the terrible snow storms and torrential rain some of you have had, I wish things could have been distributed a bit more evenly across the globe. I hope all is more or less back to normal now where you live.

Our Holiday break was uneventful, and I’ve been knitting quite a bit, finishing the Advent calendar mittens.

They were getting neater and neater as I went along – practice makes perfect (or at least improves skills). Taken together the backs make a lovely sampler of Norwegian colourwork that could be used for all kinds of other projects (description of how to download the pattern at the end of this post).

I’ve put them away now, moth-free in plastic, and made notes in my planner here and there to remind me of finding small gifts, poems and quotes to put inside. And especially to remind me of gifting them before December 1, 2023.

The life-size mittens I’ve also been knitting were less of a success, turning out a wee bit too small, and will have to be re-knit. More about those if/when I’ve found the courage to start anew.

Beside a few walks and a great family get-together, we also enjoyed a concert of a group of midwinter horn blowers. They called it An Ode to Peace through Connection.

It was great fun, seeing and hearing these strange traditional wooden horns, made by the players themselves.

The concert lasted all of 15 minutes, with each of the players doing a solo first, and finally all of them ‘making a lot of noise together’, as they themselves put it. The group has members aged from 7 to 70+ and each player has their own technique, resting the end of the horn on the ground or holding it high up in the air.

They’re an elusive bunch, these people, playing their horns from late November through the first week of January in a dozen or so villages around the area. Excepting this afternoon concert, you never know where they will pop up. Their announcements say: You’re most likely to hear us somewhere around 6 pm.

Did you notice the 2023 from buttons at the top? Well, I’ve also been rummaging through my button box. If I can get my act together, I’ll tell you more about that next week. Hope to see you then!

PS. If you’d like to hear the weird and wonderful sound of midwinter horns, there is a video on YouTube here. This isn’t ‘our’ group, but the sound is similar.

Nearly Finished

Hello, and welcome to my last blog post for 2022. While I am typing this, the Christmas stollen my husband has baked is cooling on a wire rack in the kitchen, filling the house with its delicious warm smell.

We do not celebrate Christmas in a big way, but there are certain traditions we hold dear. Like the above stollen, a Christmas tree with the same baubles every year, and a Christmas dinner prepared and shared with love and attention.

We also enjoy visiting a Christmas market in Germany when we can. So on a frosty morning, just before the sun came up, we set off for Münster.

On the way there, I knit a few rows on a simple sock in a lovely hand-painted yarn, the only suitable knitting project to take along – everything else was either too complicated or nearly finished.

Actually there isn’t a Christmas market in Münster but six, on various squares around the beautiful old city centre.

They are all slightly different. Some are more food-oriented, some more about gifts and handmade things. And one small new one was focused on organic, sustainable and fair-trade products. Even the mulled wine was certified organic.

As our gift-giving moment is already behind us, we didn’t need to shop for gifts and were free to stroll around, enjoy the sights and each other’s company, and have a bite to eat here and there. I love the traditional hot and golden Reibekuchen mit Apfelmus (potato fritters with apple sauce).

I also quickly popped into the yarn shop in the city centre, thinking it might be nice to write about, but popped out just as quickly – nothing to write home about there. Well, never mind, there was enough to enjoy without yarn.

To be honest, I have mixed feelings about this time of the year. I really love Christmas. And no matter what, how, or where we’re celebrating, I think we can all do with a message of peace and light.

But I can also relate to newspaper columnist Doortje Smithuijsen, who recently wrote, ‘… it’s the time of year again when we feel that at the end of the month the world is coming to an end – the time when everything needs to be finished NOW […] The time of year when you’re feeling vulnerable, looking for something to hold on to.’ (De Volkskrant, V2, 15 December 2022, my translation).

Unlike Doortje, I’m not joining MyInnerHealthClub. I don’t need to look far for something to hold on to – I have my knitting needles. Like her, I feel the urge to finish things, and I try to have all my knitting projects finished before the end of the year/world. My navy blue cardigan is nearly finished.

I also hope to finish my Advent calendar mittens soon. I am really, really enjoying knitting these, and if the world doesn’t stop turning at 12 pm on December 31, I’d love to do more Norwegian knitting in the new year.

I’d also love to knit more for our grandson, more socks (not just simple ones) and more things designed by myself, and to write about what I’m learning along the way. I won’t be able to finish my new shawl pattern before the year is out, but I’ve already wound the yarn for the final version. I hope to be able to tell you more about it in January or February.

I’m taking a break from blogging now to spend time with my loved ones, knit, read and go for walks. Thank you so much for reading my blog over the past year. It’s been lovely hearing from some of you now and then. I hope to ‘see’ you again in 2023, and wish you and yours a happy and relaxing festive season!

7 Small Things

Hello! No big projects or FOs today, but 7 small things that have made me happy over the past week.

1. A walk
The nights have been frosty this week, with temperatures just above zero during the daytime. On Sunday morning it was dark, cold and foggy, and I didn’t feel much like going for a walk. We went anyway. The heather and grasses were still white and frozen.

But the trees were already dripping.

It was cold, it was wet, it was gloomy. And it was lovely.

2. Small hands, big hands
Our grandson and his parents came to celebrate Sinterklaas last Saturday. At 8 months, he was more interested in the wrapping paper than in the gifts inside them. His small hands next to my husband’s big ones made me sigh a sigh of happiness.

3. Jingle bells
Sinterklaas brought me a few gifts, too. One of them was a small tin filled with jingle bell stitch markers.

4. Small bird feeder
A dear friend came on a very belated birthday visit bearing gifts. One of them was a new bird feeder, hand-made from willow. Too small for woodpeckers and too difficult to hold on to for house sparrows and finches, it is specifically for great and blue tits. I asked them if I could post a picture of them eating pieces of peanut from it on my blog, but they said: uh-uh, we value our privacy! So here is just the feeder.

5. Small cable
The same friend also gave me this:

Only a fellow-knitter would know how happy that would make me. It’s a new type of cable for my Chiaogoo circular knitting needles. I am trying it out on the small Advent mittens I’m knitting with the magic loop technique.

What can I tell you about it? Well, the Swiv 360 cable is quite a bit thinner than the original red cables, and it is also a lot more flexible – very nice! These cables are attached to the ends that screw onto the needle tips in such a way that they can rotate freely – a tremendous improvement.

The only downside of these new cords is that there is a slight hitch where the cable is attached to the ends, which makes sliding the stitches from left to right over them towards the tip (when moving from one needle to the next with the magic loop method) a little more difficult. But, all in all, I’m very happy with it!

6. Mini-mittens
I’m not quite but almost on schedule with the Norwegian mini-mittens I’m knitting for an Advent calendar to gift next year. Number 13 has just slid off my needles.

It’s great fun, knitting these. My idea was to spend some quiet, contemplative time burning a candle and listening to music while knitting one of these every day. In real life it’s more like 15 minutes here, 20 minutes there, sometimes with, sometimes without music, often forgetting to light a candle or to be quiet and contemplative.

Still, I’m getting there and enjoying these knitting moments. The only thing I’m not quite happy with is the bumpiness of the sides of some of the mittens and the irregularity of some of the stitches. But let’s look at it from a positive side: I still have things to learn – yay!

7. Mini-sock
The first Christmas card arrived accompanied by a small gift – a mini-sock. No, actually it wasn’t a Christmas card but a New Year’s card. The friend who sent it explains why on her wonderful blog about her life, knitting, walks with her dog and music. It is in Dutch, but Google does a fairly decent job of translating it. You can read about and see all of the mini-socks she knit here.

I’m happy and honoured to be the recipient of one of these sweet little socks. I’ve attached it to the zipper of my babysitting bag, so that it will travel with me every time I’m looking after our grandson.

May your weeks be filled with small things that make you happy, too.

Little Red Riding Hood or Grandmother

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!