Jul 152014
 

and also why I haven’t posted anything.

It all started when we weregoing to Crete on Pentecost. The days before were a little stressful what with the usual things, and a friend staying overnight, and all the packing and preparing for a week away.

On the flight to Crete I was somewhat cold, and regretted not taking a scarf. The next day my throat was sore, and I felt the beginning of a sinus infection. So I spent the first day of vacation in bed, didn’t go to the beach, and hoped to be better the next day.

Which I was.The next day we walked six kilometers along the beach to Rethymnon which is beautiful, and went sightseeing there, and had fabulous lunch, and then walked all the way back with our son protesting loudly, and in the evening my left ear hurt. I took some ibuprofen, and hoped I would be better the next day.

The next day we had booked a guided tour to Knossos and Iraklion and such. My ear hurt very much during the night, it reminded me uncomfortably of all the middle ear infections I had as a child but otherwise I was feeling alright. No fever. Although it was a little hard to tell with all the heat and sweating because not only was Crete a little warmer than I had hoped, our hotel room also didn’t have airconditioning, and tended to get hotter and hotter during the day until we ad a choice of sleeping in an oven at night, or be woken up every few minutes by dogs barking, and goats and sheep baaing in a field right next to the hotel.

The guided tour was very nice, only we went from the really chilly airconditioned bus to the really hot Knosses site to the bus to the hot town center, back and forth. Because my ear hurt so badly, and it was windy all the time I had put a piece of tissue in my left ear by then. When I pulled it out some time during the dayt looked rather gross, a little bloody and by now it was really clear that there was some kind of infection raging in my ear.

When I googled my symptoms back at the hotel I found that yes, this was a middle ear infection, yes, my ear drum had ruptured, and also that there wasn’t much I could do. I was not keen on finding a doctor and trying to talk to someone who probably could speak Greek and not much more, so I kept taking ibuprofen, and also some of the nose spray my husband takes, and on top of that the antibiotic that we had happened to have lying around at home, and had taken on vacation as a silly precaution.

At that time I couldn’t hear properly with that ear as well but I thought that would become better once the infection would be gone.

So after that it was clear I was really sick, and we spend the rest of the week at the hotel with short walks to the supermarket, and while my husband and son went to the beach swimming I spent my days in the shade reading, away from the wind and sun, or in our hotel room sitting in bed and reading. I did try knitting and spinning but mostly it was just too hot.

I did stay deaf in that ear for the rest of the week which was rather disconcerting and inconvenient.

We came back after a week, and were very happy to be home again, I unpacked all the things, spent one night in my own bed (without goats blearing, and much cooler), and since I was still sick, and since I still couldn’t hear much I went to my ENT on Monday morning.

He told me that yes, I was almost deaf in that ear, that I had a toxic inner ear which sounded rather ominous, that the antibiotic I was taking would not help against ear infections even though it said so on the package, and also that I needed a tube in my ear drum, and infusions, and that I would go home, pack a bag, and go to the hospital over night.

So I went home, told my husband who was desperately wrangling laundry at home, and dealing with a week of neglect in the garden that I would go to the hospital now, and stay over night, and then I went to get my toothbrush and pajamas and such, and repacked a bag.

The doctor had told me I only had to stay one night but I would have packed fresh clothes anyway, only I didn’t have any fresh clothes. Laundry hadn’t happened just before we went away, and therefore I was wearing my last set of clean underwear.

I went to the hospital, got admitted, got my tube put in by a really nice young doctor, and it only took four or five tries, and that one time when he almost didn’t get it out again, and then I got a nice bed, and my own TV, and prednisone and antibiotics via IV, and the doctors told me that I could surely go hometwo days later.

My hearing got somewhat better with the tube because there wasn’t all that fluid clogging up my ear but there were still quite a few frequencies I couldn’t hear properly, everything sounded as if I was sitting in a tin drum sloshing with water but I pretended to be patient.I also called my husband and asked him to bring me fresh clothes, and all the chargers for all my electronics.

And then I spent the next three days sitting in bed, reading until the battery of my ebook reader gave out, and knitting awkwardlybecause I had an IV in my left hand. (I have really bad veins, and at first the nurses had wanted to put the IV in the back of my right hand which would have meant I coudn’t have done much of anything.)

Fortunately I had a room to myself for most of the time because otherwise I would have gone crazy. Also nobody told me that prednisone makes you unable to sleep, and rather hungry, I only wondered why I was so restless.

On the fifth day after arriving in the hospital I could finally go home.That day I wondered why I felt so tired, and exhausted, and weak but by now I can tell you that that are the effects you get after you have taken large doses of prednisone because then your body has to make its own again, and that takes a few days.

So I went home, spent the next few days in bed reading, and continued taking antibiotics.And being grateful that it was still Pentecoste break because if your self-employed it is a little hard to spend a week in the hospital. But since I didn’t have to teach anyway I was good.

Then I started teaching again, without most of my hearing in my left ear, and that made students sound rather badly but it couldn’t be helped. The bad thing was that my hearing wasn’t improving. So I went back to my doctor, and he suggested another round of prednisone shots. Which I had to pay for myself. So I went to the doctor three days in a row, on a weekend, and got more prednisone. With the not sleeping on that weekend, and the subsequent crash the next few days.

By then I was growing a little desperate because I still couldn’t hear properly. I didn’t want to go anywhere, and I didn’t listen to music, and I wasn’t playing any music because t all sounded horrible. And all in all I had taken antibiotics for about three weeks in a row because the infection wasn’t going anywhere as well.

So right when I was about to resign myself to stay half-deaf for the rest of my life I went back to the doctor, did my sixth hearing test in two weeks or so, and found that my hearing had actually gotten better. There still was the tinny sound, and I still had a tinnitus but I was almost hearing properly.

So right now I’m hoping to get my hearing back, once that tube is taken out. Which will happen tomorrow. I am not thrilled by the prospect of having someone poke in my ear again, especially since it is really, really loud when someone is working on your eardrum but I hope to get rid of that cheap sound in my ear for sure.

Sorry this is so long but now you probably understand why I wasn’t doing much of anything in the past few weeks.

 

Jun 202011
 

We spent last week visiting my parents in Northern Germany, and I thought you might like a few impressions from that trip. The weather wasn’t that gorgeous but we only got rained on once or twice. We were unusually active that week, went to the pool twice, borrowed bikes from an aunt of mine, and had a little bike tour on the day before leaving. Of course that was the day it rained but we only got mildly damp so all was well.

So we went to an open air theater and saw a production of Pippi Longstocking:

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My mother’s roses on the living room table:

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Our son got to play with my cousin’s Lego train set:

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And my mother’s garden full of roses (I have a thing for roses but I’ll spare you the other rose bush pictures):

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At the place where my parents live (not where I grew up but where my mother grew up), there’s a genuine castle on a hill right at the town center:

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Castle entrance:

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Inner entrance (whatever it’s called):

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The keep (I think):

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Courtyard:

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Different view:

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Where you get your tickets (we didn’t go inside this time):

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Castle with sheep (You know I had to take that photo don’t you? And no, I don’t know which kind of sheep this is or where to get the fleeces, sorry.):

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Castle from the other side of the hill (I know it looks as if there were a forest but there’s actually a park a bit further down):

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And that’s it. I didn’t take the camera with me on the bike ride, I didn’t take any pictures while playing mini-golf (my son’s first time), and I totally forgot to take pictures most of the time.

Now I’ve one week left before resuming regular teaching, and I really hope to pop in here once or twice in the near future.

 

May 242010
 

There are two reasons I’m thinking about packing right now: 1) I’m about to visit my parents for ten days com Wednesday, 2) through the Unclutterer website I found an article on minimalist packing last week or so.

I like to travel light as much as the next person, and I’m always making fun of people like my mother who always takes about three times the clothes I do, and ends up bringing things home that she didn’t even wear on the trip. Of course, the secret to packing light is not to mind if you look the same every day, and to have comfortable shoes that you can wear day in and day out. (Sometimes I think wearing shoes like that might be one of the secrets of happiness but this is not about shoes.)

Still, when I’ll be getting out of the door to travel my luggage will be quite a bit heavier than the one described on the minimalist blog. Why is that so?

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Well, for one I’m not staying in a hotel so I will bring shampoo, and soap, and a hairdryer (a tiny one but still), I will bring an emergency travel towel (something that really comes in handy more often than you think), I will take a second cardigan, and contact lens solution, and my cell phone charger, my camera charger, my ipod charger, and my PDA charger.

Why do I need all these gadgets? Well, I won’t bring my laptop, and my PDA with its foldable keyboard is my means to get my 500 words a day in.

I will also bring more clothes than her because while I could wash my clothes while away I don’t like to do so when I’ll be only gone for a little more than a week so I’ll bring four tees, a cardigan, four pairs of socks, and four changes of underwear in addition to what I’m wearing the first day. Depending on the weather forecast I might also bring a pair of sandals in addition to my grey walking shoes, and I’m contemplating to add a pair of slippers since we will be spending quite a bit of time sitting around indoors.

I will bring a bathing suit because we plan to go swimming, I will bring a lace shawl or two, and I will bring a bottle of wine and some dark chocolate as presents for my parents.

I will bring a notebook for my morning pages, and another one for just general notes, I will bring my best pen, and a book to read, and I already bought three new books for my son to read, and I will bring a pack of Uno cards to play with my son. Last year I took three books for me but this year I decided to only take one paper book, and I have a couple more on my ipod. But I can think of a lot of situations where you don’t want to bring an electronic reading device, or where you can’t charge your ipod, or just imagine what if it falls to the ground and breaks, and then you’re stuck without a book to read.

We will have two eight hour train rides to fill, and a whole week’s worth of evenings sitting in our rented apartment while out son is already asleep.

I will also take a bottle of water or two, and sandwiches and cookies, as you do when you’re traveling with a child, and a husband who is lactose and fructose intolerant. We will also take tea, so that my mother doesn’t have to buy some that she’d never drink anyway.

And of course I will bring knitting. You didn’t think I would forget that, wouldn’t you? I already started a pair of socks who’ll come with me, and I will start another lace shawl, one that’s intriguing but not as complicated as the one I’m currently working on. I also will bring a spindle or two and 100 grams of fiber, and if everything goes according to plan I might have a nice pair of socks made from that fiber upon our return. If everything doesn’t go according to plan I will have lugged around 100 grams of fiber, a 15 gram spindle, and a set of double pointed needles.

I will also take some sheet music since my husband plans to bring both an electrical guitar and the violin with him, and since the guitar is already there I might finally get around to practice the songs I’ve been teaching my students lately. (That’s the “so you’ll have to play it this way, only much faster, and as you can see you have to look out to not make this mistake I just made”-school of teaching. In my defense I have to say that they are playing quite well.) So. Sheet music, picks, guitar tuner, and a capo.

And two yoga DVD’s. I’m not taking my running shoes though. See, I’m sensible. And I will exercise in my pajama bottoms.

And before you think I’m totally crazy I might have to add that when my husband and I went to Brazil for two months all the luggage we had were our two backpacks (one is about the size of a carry-on, the other is a bit bigger), and each of us had a second backpack in addition to that. We could easily carry all out stuff around. So, the clothes I take for ten days would be enough for any amount of time, I only would have to wash them.

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We didn’t bring a guitar, though, we bought one there.

So I can never decide if I’m a light traveler or not. I try to be prepared (sunscreen, water, a hat, an umbrella, a pocket knife) but not overloaded. It’s a tricky balance. What about you? Do you travel light or not? How many pounds of knitting do you usually take? Or books?

Sep 202009
 

(Of course, there’s part 1 and 2 before this.)

Since the meeting started earlier on Sunday – at ten – and I had to pack, and have breakfast, and check out of the hotel before that I was in a bit of a hurry on Sunday morning. Of course that didn’t prevent me from talking for too long again over breakfast. Since I had to catch a train in the afternoon, and since the Bürgerhaus is near the train station but the hotel isn’t I decided to take all of my luggage with me.

At first I had felt very smug that I still could close my backpack after all the yarn I had purchased the day before but then I found that my second knitting bag, the one with the workshop supplies still sat outside. Oops. Then I found that I had to get more cash for the rest of the day because while I already had bought all the yarn I wanted I also wanted to have something to eat that day, and maybe buy some stitch markers and knitting needles. So I went in search of an ATM machine only to find that my card couldn’t be read. The same with the next place. (Note to self: get card replaced because that happened again last week.) Fortunately my other card got accepted. So now I’m the happy owner of some KnitPro wood needles, and some new stitch markers.

After finding a place to hide my enormous backpack I went to teach my knitting workshop for the second time. It was as delightful as the first time though we all had a bit less energy on this second day. Then I found some potato soup to eat before going back to the classroom, this time to take a workshop myself. That was the “finishing techniques” workshop taught by Sharon Brant. I didn’t really expect to learn something new in that workshop but I did. 1) It’s a good idea to use checkered fabric for blocking finished knits because it’s easier to lay the pieces straight. 2) How to get a buttonhole tidy, though I haven’t done a buttonhole in ages. And most interesting that 3) I am a quite fast knitter. I felt a bit sorry for the teacher because every time I’d looked up from my completed assignment I felt like putting her under pressure but really, I was content just to sit there and wait. I also knew the feeling because in my own workshop that day there had been a very fast knitter who got up and left with her finished sock heel as the other just started to ask me to show them the second step. I didn’t compete in the speed knitting contest, though, because I didn’t realize there was one until after the winner was announced.

Also, I still don’t like to knit sweaters flat and sew them together, and though I hate to admit it, my mother taught me well. I felt a little defensive, just sitting there in the workshop instead of oohing and aahing about all the exciting new things Sharon showed us. It was like when there was a knitting daily post about “the best way to pick up stitches for a sock gusset” or something, and I had really high hopes for that, only to find that the “very best way” was the exact same way my mother had shown to me, and her mother to her before me, and that’s the exact same method that has me having holes in my traditionally knit socks all the time. Sigh. But then I have to remember that I have been knitting for thirty years so far, that I made it through the knitting craze of the 80s without much in the way of patterns, always trying out new things. And that I have – for the past two years or so – learned more about knitting techniques from the internet and books than I ever knew before.

So, the workshop was great, and did indeed show you the things that you can’t learn out of a book. Unless you buy Sharon Brant’s “The ultimate knitting bible” or something, that is.

After that I went back to the marketplace to show my handspun shawl to Christine from Drachenwolle because she had dyed the fiber for that. And I talked some more, and some more, and I was very sorry to leave in time to get to the train.

My trip back home went smoothly, and I was so full of all the sights and sounds of the weekend that I haven’t been able to knit anything more complicated than stockinette in the round since then. I came back to my family and somehow things didn’t went as I imagined them, and we all celebrated my return by having a big fight. None of us wanted to but we were all so tired. My husband found out that I indeed do some of the housework when I’m home because my absence was noticeable.

I came back, unpacked my bags, wanted to force everybody to look at the yarn I had bought, failed, and then we just decided to call it a day. Since then I have been back to teaching again, my son has had his very first day of school ever, and the week went by in a flurry of minor excitement, and phone calls from students, and forms to fill out.

He loves school, he loves his teacher, he loves homework, and tomorrow will be the first day that he is going to school all alone without one of us with him. It’s really easy, he just has to leave the house, turn left and keep going, only it would be a good thing to remember to look out for cars before crossing streets. He already made a new friend, so everything is going well.

And here’s a picture of the things I got at Backnang:

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7 skeins of Drachenwolle sock yarn, roving and lace yarn from Spinning Martha in the front, a special ravelry bag, turquoise Merino-Cotton for my husband, a gift skein from Filatura di Crosa (very soft and nice), knitting magazines (also a gift from them), and some knitting needles and removable stitch markers. Today I showed all this to my husband and son and my husband agreed that, indeed, I had been sensible in my purchases and didn’t buy too much. Now I only have to find a place to store the yarn…

Sep 202009
 

(Part 1 is the post before this.)

Saturday I could have slept in but, alas, I woke early. With the free wifi in the hotel I found myself surfing the net even before breakfast (no family to keep me in check), and had to question my sanity at this point. When I went down for breakfast it turned out that the whole hotel was firmly in knitterly hands, and once again I chatted non-stop until I had to go and get ready for the meeting itself.

This time I was in the company of other knitters and so I did manage to find both the yarn store where we were to get our tickets and the way to the Bürgerhaus where the actual meeting took place. That yarn store the Wollstube Wollin is truly amazing. I’m used to yarn stores that carry only one or two brands of yarn but this is wool paradise. At that point I was really good and only bought this:

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One skein of Drachenwolle, and two balls of Merino/Cotton for a hat for my husband (I got that at 50% off in his favorite color.)

At that point of the day I still had hopes of having lunch somewhere but ended up in an ice cream place that was so overwhelmed with all these guests that I sat there, knitting about a third of a sock without even seeing a waiter. Then I left. Next to our tables there were three people shaking their heads exclaiming, “They’re all knitting! All of them! Look! they are all knitting.” They might have been additionally confused by the fact that one of us was in fact, male.

So off I went to the Bürgerhaus, my fellow knitters had left me to take their new yarn to the hotel, and to change shoes, and was greeted by what has to be the most photographed statue in all Germany after this event:

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Of course, since I had only bought 200 grams of yarn (at that point) and was wearing my trusty if unfashionable sneakers I was ready for everything. You know, I felt a bit weird at the beginning of the day with my two knitting bags slung over my shoulder but once again – I wasn’t the only one. Knitters and bags seem to got together like hot water and tea. Inside I was greeted by an explosion of color, and a hall full of chatting knitters. Splendid. And then I even managed to grab something to eat and some water. I had been afraid that I would have to teach my first workshop on an empty stomach, not a good thing at all.

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When I went to check out the room where the knitting workshops were taking place I almost ran into “Mama and Papa Ravelry”, Jess and Casey. I managed to not go squee! and rush towards them, and immediately afterwards I turned shy as I sometimes do (not very often but always when something is important to me) so I didn’t speak to them at all. For the whole day. They entered the hall and we had some speeches of which I didn’t take any pictures. But here’s yarn, and knitters:

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The one thing that I didn’t like as much was the fact that all the workshops were in the same room. We had big tables and each workshop gathered round one. Originally I had planned to talk a lot in the beginning but then I soon found out that people couldn’t hear me anyway so I just shoved my scripts in front of the participants and told them to start knitting.

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I had been quite nervous because I had never taught a knitting workshop before. I was teaching “sock construction according to Cat Bordhi” and I was afraid that all the participants would sit there, “New Pathways for Sock Knitters” in hand and ask me about wing stitches and what to do if your ankle is that size, and your foot is that size, and all sorts of technical questions that I would then have to look up in the book, and probably screw up.

Instead they all were very, very nice. Most were quite competent sock knitters of course, since the topic is somewhat special, but in the end each and every one of them left with their own little sock heel and saw that, yes indeed, it works both toe-up and cuff-down. I even had to explain how to work “wrap & turn” for short rows which I hadn’t expected. It seems that most Germans do what we call “Doppelmaschen” when working short rows. (The link leads to a German pattern. To see a picture of the “Doppelmasche” (that would be double stitch which is not the same thing in English, sorry) scroll down to the bottom.) After a seemingly endless time that I had to wait until everybody finished their gusset increases and that I tried to pass by telling interesting bits about sock construction and knitting in general, and by simultaneously knitting a gusset myself which I then screwed up because I can’t teach and keep track of my sock heel without using a row counter. Then instead of using my very big prepared sock heels for demonstration I just went round the table and showed everyone individually.

It’s truly amazing how different people knit. Some are very fast, some are much slower, and they all look different even though I only had “continental knitters” in my group.

After my own workshop I went back to the big hall and bought yarn. And talked, and met people, and took out my spindle to spin with some of the others. Then I just sat down with a couple of people I had met before because I experienced a bit of people and yarn overload.

After that I went directly to the after-hours-party, I think. (That can’t be, I must have unloaded my two bags of shiny new yarn and fiber first.) We had excellent food there, buffet style, I had some beer, and talked and talked. I enjoyed the talking so much that I stayed way later than I had wanted. The beer was a bit of a disappointment, by the way. I like to sample local beer, and I had some at the place where we ate the night before but this very excellent restaurant only had beer that is local to Munich. And when I’m home I don’t usually drink it because there is better stuff to have.

So I went home late, then decided to finish off my half-bottle of wine afterwards while reading. Which – somehow – led to me being somewhat late on Sunday. Interestingly I didn’t have a headache. Must have been good wine.

(And yet too long so there will be – part 3.)

Sep 192009
 

and I had a blast.

I’m perfectly aware that that was last weekend but then I seem to become busier and busier, I really should do something about this, one of these days, you know, when I have some spare time on my hands.

(This is a series of too long posts about that meeting. Feel free to skip.)

Before going to the meeting in Backnang (that’s near Stuttgart, and I didn’t know there was such a place before either), I went hiking in the Alps with my husband and son on Wednesday, and to a writer’s meeting on Thursday complete with shopping for all the school supplies and clothes my son will be needing until the end of the year. Even my to-do-lists were making to-do-lists but, strangely enough, I managed to do everything on time without forgetting anything important. I don’t even think I forgot anything. I might be getting better with this after all.

The raveler meeting was on Saturday and Sunday but I decided to go there on Friday because otherwise I would have had to get up really early on Saturday and teach a workshop after a long train ride. I tried to pack lightly as I always do but failed miserably. Not only did I put two knitting projects, an extra knitting bag for my workshop, books and handouts, I also packed enough clothes for a week. Since I planned on buying yarn and spinning fiber I took the big backpack, the one my husband used when we were traveling Brazil for two months, and it was full. As was my giant purse/knitting bag. Also my muscles were still sore from four hours of hiking in the mountains on Wednesday. When I got on the train a woman was looking at my huge rucksack and said, “That will be a long trip, won’t it?” Um, well, only this weekend.

In my defense I have to say that I also brought a bottle of wine for Friday night’s “pajama party” complete with two wine glasses and a corkscrew. For the whole trip I was unsure if maybe those people with ridiculous trolley suitcases on wheels do indeed have a point but every time I went my merry way, up stairs, down stairs or on and off trains I remembered why I choose to carry all my luggage on my back.

In order to get a cheap ticket I had booked a train that arrived at Stuttgart Friday noon but there wasn’t anything to do for me in Backnang until the evening when I had a date with a couple of twenty or so other knitters for dinner. So I decided to stay in Stuttgart for the afternoon and visit the Lindenmuseum. I had been there before, back in the days when I still studied cultural anthropology. I found that I already new most of the exhibits but it was very interesting to see how I had changed in the meantime. Ten years ago I was mostly interested in West Africa, and America, this time I spent a lot more time in the Asian part of the exhibition. Also my interest in African musical instruments has waned somewhat and instead I studied every piece of fabric, every garment and every tapestry.

There was a part of the exhibition showing Japanese interiors and tea things that I loved, and then I rounded a corner, saw a big Buddha in the corner, and had to stop myself from bowing before him. That wouldn’t have happened to me ten years ago for sure.

Backnang, the place of the meeting (for once I’m trying to stay on topic here because there will be quite a few knitters interested in this and they won’t be interested in hearing about museums I guess) is very picturesque. I can’t show you, though because as always I didn’t take a lot of pictures.

The hotel was splendid, I had a really nice very big and comfy room, and I didn’t even get back pain after sleeping there. That never happens. When I entered the lift that took me up to my room I already met a woman with big bags of spinning fiber. I looked at her saying, “You’re here for the meeting, aren’t you?” “Yes,” she said, “I went to Wolle Traub today.” I looked into her bag, “That’s Ashland fiber, isn’t it?”. And yet, it was, and yet she didn’t find me peculiar for knowing that.

When we knitters booked the hotel we were said to hear that there was no bar or restaurant to gather in so we decided to have a little party in our rooms. Hence the “pajama party”. In the end the very nice hotel staff put some chairs and tables in the yard for us so we could sit there and chat.

After putting away my mound of luggage I explored the city of Backnang, and totally failed to find any of the important sites for the weekend. That’s what happens when you don’t want to look touristy and refuse to take out your map. You wander around, manage only to find big box stores and buy underwear for your son instead of yarn or something interesting. I also felt a bit lost and therefore phoned my husband who, of course, didn’t hear the phone ring and didn’t answer.

That was the last moment I felt alone, or lost, or lonely for the next days. You know, I often feel a bit weird with my knitting and spinning obsession and I do know that it’s not entirely healthy and a bit out of control but it was very, very nice to be in the company of people who were the same. I found my tribe! Almost 300 people in one spot who all carried gigantic bags with several knitting projects, people who wore wool sweaters, shawls, and socks in weather better suited for short sleeves and bare feet. People who, like me, first looked at your knitted item, asking you about the yarn or the pattern or both, then looked at your button with your ravelry username, and then looked into your face. All of a sudden I wasn’t the only one who lost her train of thought in the middle of a conversation because she wanted to figure out where she had seen the pattern for the sweater the woman on the table next to her was wearing. (By the way, there was a dark haired youngish woman at the Kunberger Aura on Saturday evening who wore an orange cropped cardigan with cabled lapels and hood. She had a red t-shirt underneath. Does anyone know her, and what’s the sweater called, please?) [Edit: And thus is the power of the interwebs and of knitterly friends, Frau Schlamuser just told me that it was Arwen’s Cardigan made by Catluzipher. I just knew that I had seen it in Interweave Knits and I was right.]

But back to Friday evening. (I might have to write this in several installments, it’s getting huge.) There were already half a dozen knitters gathered in the hotel lobby when I came down the stairs. One of them was Frau Schlamuser whom I had met a couple of weeks before in Munich. We had decided that it was a bit weird to travel hundreds of kilometers to see each other when we are living next to each other already. There were others that I recognized from their avatars, and/or the user names they had on their buttons. A bit later I had a button of my own and there were quite a few people looking at me saying, “Oh, you’re that creativemother!” knowingly.

We all went to a new restaurant nearby. That restaurant had only just opened, the menu was very short, the waitress was totally new to this, and they all were quite overwhelmed by a group of twenty or more people. We had to wait for our food a long time, it was partially cold, all in all one can only hope that they will get better at this. We did have a lot of fun though:

portugiese.jpg

I’m only showing you some of my pictures because I know that not everyone is comfortable with seeing his or her picture on the internet. So, instead of gathering for our little “party” at nine, as we had planned, we only started that quite a bit later. And when I finally brought my wine and glasses and such, almost no one wanted any more. So after a delightful evening I was stuck with half a bottle of wine left. Oops.

I’m really too lazy to link to everyone I met but it was so nice to see the faces of people I only knew through their forum posts or blogs (and that in my mind’s eye looked like their cats or like a bunch of socks or something because that’s what their avatars look like on ravelry). I also met a lot of people I hadn’t known before. And all of them were nice, and sociable, and fun to talk to.

After all that talking and drinking and eating it got a bit later than I had wanted. I was in full-blown people-and-talking mode but I think I stopped all my story-telling and general talking now and then to see if the people around me looked bored, or wanted to say something too. Most of them weren’t shy themselves so I was cool. All Friday evening (and Sunday) I had to answer the question, “Is that Ishbel?” because I wore my handspun Ishbel that I stil haven’t taken a picture of, and on Saturday I contemplated pinning a note to my shawl saying, “Yes, that’s Wollmeise. Yes, it is a Faroese shawl, the pattern is Irfa’a by Anne Hanson. I’m not sure about the colorway, I think it’s Red Hot Chili.” But then, where else to wear a lace shawl like that but to a knitter’s meeting?

I’ll continue this in part 2.

Oct 072008
 

As I have written before, I went to a family reunion last weekend. I left here Thursday in the morning and came back on Sunday just in time to have dinner with my own family.

My father was the one to organize this, and I didn’t realize how much organization there was needed until I saw that there were 27 of us, who came from all corners of Germany, and that our days were nicely structured. I was a bit scared beforehand because I didn’t know anybody there, apart from my parents and me, that is.

On Thursday I was mightily proud of myself because I had everything packed the day before, and I left with time to spare, and I was calm and composed. It seems that in going in panic mode the week before I had gotten over it. The whole train ride was very pleasant, even changing trains went smoothly and uneventful. The only thing I didn’t like was that the table in the train was so small that when the woman sitting across from me put her laptop down there wasn’t any place left for me. I ended up squeezing my lace pattern under her computer cables, where it was hanging precariously. (And on my way back the same thing happened. First a guy with a laptop (who also kept his big luggage under the table so that I didn’t have any room for my feet), and then a woman with a big writing pad and a newspaper. Next time no table for me.)

The hotel we stayed in was about the ugliest hotel I’ve ever seen. (I won’t link to it here for obvious reasons.) The rooms though were big, and so sparsely decorated that they had a serene feeling.

After unpacking I went down to have dinner with the first bunch of relatives. Four of my father’s cousins with their respective spouses. I was surprised at how nice and kind everyone was. Through the whole weekend I felt blessed that these people on the whole are very friendly and warm, intelligent, and with a sense of humor. (I always had taken sense of humor for granted until I met a bunch of my mother-in-laws relatives. Somehow they just don’t get this whole laughing thing.)

The next day the reunion started in earnest and the remaining people arrived. We had lunch together, and then went for a guided tour of Wernigerode. The guide was not as funny as he thought he was, he played guessing games and gave away bonbons for correct answers but at least we got to see something of this really beautiful town. At one point in the tour the guide’s wife approached him saying, “Is this the second tour? When will you be home?” And he answered he’d be home at half past four but you could see that she didn’t believe him. At which point I gave up on ever being warm again.

On Friday evening we had dinner at the hotel, again, talked to each other, and saw part of a video about a historical play one of my father’s cousins has written about the town where my great-grandparents come from. It’s a bit weird to be related to so many people with a totally different dialect. A lot of these people are from Erzgebirge, that’s Saxony, another group came from Hamburg (you know about Hamburg, don’t you, no need to link this one), and the rest from various places around Germany, Hesse, Lower Saxony (totally different from Saxony, and in a completely different part of Germany), and then there was me, living in Bavaria. In viewing the film it was evident that quite a few people didn’t understand a word of it because the actors talked dialect, and two thirds of the audience didn’t understand a word. Interestingly I didn’t have much difficulties. Living in Bavaria for ages and having friends from all over the country obviously has trained me in understanding different dialects. Well, German ones at least.

There was another thing that had me wonderfully prepared, my father sent me an e-mail beforehand, explaining who was expected to come and whom they were related to. I took that out quite frequently to help all those conversations that went like, “And that is Fritz, I think, and he’s the son of the youngest daughter of my great-grandmother. And this is my grandmother, and the guy over there is my father,…” and so on.

There was only one other person in my age group, also a singing teacher, and also called Susanne who came with her son. Creepy, isn’t it? And our mothers have the same first names too. It would be even creepier if both the name Susanne and our mother’s name weren’t so common in our respective age groups.

It also seems that all of my paternal grandmother’s relatives like to sing. There was an episode on Saturday with spontaneous bursting into song. With harmony. Nice. Who would have thought.

It was really fun to look at all these faces and see their similarities, and differences. To see people in the hotel lobby whom you had never seen before in your life, look at them and think, “Oh yeah, she’s one of us, just look at her nose.”

On Saturday we took a steam train up to the Brocken, the highest mountain in that area. Sadly, it was a very foggy day but we were lucky, and just before we had to go down again the fog lifted and we could see a bit of the beautiful landscape.

On Saturday evening the hotel had a dancing party, and someone (might have been my father, also the hotel manager) thought it would be a good idea to attend. Well, the food there was the best I had in that hotel. (The food I ate in those four days had me longingly think about vegetables, and even salad by the second day. They did have salad, in a way, but it mostly consisted of cooked green beans and shredded carrots with sugary dressing.) But then there was a big woman telling jokes, interspersed with one of these unspeakable dance duos, you know the kind, a keyboard and a guitar, and one of them sings, and they play all the songs that I try to avoid as much as possible. And then the music is so loud that you can’t talk to anybody.

And so I excused myself just after dinner, went up to my room, knitted and read the latest Terry Pratchett. A very nice evening but I regret that there were some of my relatives that I haven’t spoken to.

Sunday morning I went back, this time the trains were a bit more crowded but not unpleasantly so.

I found that I really enjoy traveling alone. It was very relaxing to just do what I wanted when I wanted to without having to consult with anybody. It was nice to have my own quiet room. It’s also much easier when I only have to pack my own things without trying to cram my son’s stuff into the same backpack as well. It was lovely for a change but I also missed my family (you know, my son and husband) and was very happy to be back home.

As I’m writing this I’m still a bit tired and overwhelmed by my weekend, and I feel that this account is brittle and dry and doesn’t do it justice. Anyway it was decided then and there to meet again, in about two years at the place where my parents live. And I’m looking forward to it.

Sep 292008
 

And as everybody knows a post that starts like this can only be more than a thousand words, not less. I am, again, in mild panic mode. In fact this may well become my new “normal”. This time it’s because I will be away for the weekend. Yes, you heard right, I, a capable, somewhat intelligent woman, am completely flustered because I will be going on a trip from Thursday to Sunday. Alone. On a train. In fact, all I have to do is to remember to take my wallet, ticket, and toothbrush and be at the station on time.

I really despise people who make a big deal out of nothing but, sadly, I appear to be one of them. I have been thinking about what to wear since June, and have gone into more detailed planning mode since two weeks ago. I still don’t know how the weather will be. So, I asked my husband to please wash all my clothes and hang them up to dry today because I had a very urgent hair dresser appointment.

I’m sorry to say that I spent hours of my life debating which purse to take, and – much more important – which books, and which knitting projects. I decided not to take a drop spindle though. (And I won’t take my spinning wheel. I’m sure you’re happy to know.)

So, where am I going, you might ask? Well, it’s a family reunion. Cousins of my father will meet and I thought it might be fun and/or interesting to meet a whole bunch of relatives that I’ve never seen before. There aren’t even that much stories about them. They are all descendants of my maternal grandmother’s siblings. Of her many siblings (and I don’t know how many there were) none is still alive.

Since most of my father’s relatives come from Saxonia there was a long time after World War II when it was very hard to meet. They lived in the GDR, and we lived in the FRG. Nowadays there is only one German Republic again, and so, some years ago, my father went to see his relatives again. That family reunion seems to have been a success and so they planned another one. Which I’m going to attend.

At first I was all excited, and then I realized that I would spend a weekend with my parents without my son and husband as a buffer between us, and that – because my son will stay at home – they will be smoking constantly all day long. Also, I’m nervous about the 25 or so people that I will meet for the first time. I want to make a good impression. On the other hand, these are people who have known my father for more than sixty years, and they still want to meet him.

I wonder if these relatives of mine will look like me. I’m looking more like my father than like my mother, and I have been told by my grandmother that I resemble her grandmother very much. Will there be more who have heads shaped liked that of Bert from Sesame Street, who have a yellowish tinge to their skin (like Bert again, come to think of it), and freakishly small hands?

My father sent a newsletter to everyone beforehand where he misquote me, told everybody that I was excited about meeting them because I had heard so many stories, and got my whole education wrong. The problem is that I was interested in the meeting because I didn’t hear any stories at all.

So I might be facing a weekend of meeting cousin this, and cousin that without ever getting them straight.

Of course, like usual I deal with all this uncertainty by worrying about the least important things first. What to wear. And I know perfectly well that I always do this, and that I still hope to somehow magically conjure the perfect traveling wardrobe that transforms me into the woman I long to be without having to iron anything or wear heels. It’s like I still dream of this very stylish hairdo that will make my hair look much more thicker and luscious than it actually is and that only needs to be dried off with a towel, and maybe brushed casually. Just today my hairdresser reminded me – again – that she can’t work miracles and so I’m looking like I always do only without my bangs hanging into my eyes.

Same with the wardrobe. I’ll wear the same things I always wear. Though if I manage to buy a button for my new, um, cardigan, and sew said button on I might have something new to wear. My mother won’t like it though. She’ll pull at the hem every time she sees me from behind, and tell me I should have made it longer to hide my big butt. And then I had this fabulous idea of knitting myself a matching scarf from my handspun. Until Thursday. I’ll only have to wash and dry the yarn, and then knit about a hundred hours or so. That shouldn’t be a problem, shouldn’t it?

So I keep telling me that there is nothing to get nervous about, and that I just pack the same things I always pack, and that everything will be alright.

You know what I’m looking forward to the most? On Thursday and Sunday each I’ll have eight hours on the train. All by myself.

May 252008
 

You might have noticed that I read and commented even less than usual last week. The reason for this was my trip to my parents. As you know, “Reisen bildet.” (Travel gives you an education.), and so I present you with the things I learned through that trip.

  1. When your taxes are due to file in the week when you’re away it might be a good idea to do the taxes slightly earlier than the day before you have to leave.
  2. When you finish your taxes the afternoon before you have to leave it’s not a good idea to think, “I’ll just put together my new desk chair before I pack.”
  3. It’s a good thing to have all the clothes laundered before leaving.
  4. It’s also a very good thing to lay out everything you want to take with you in advance, and pack the bags the day before.
  5. When you have washed and dried and laid out the only pair of jeans that currently fits you and, upon putting them on, you think, “These jeans are awfully tight, I can’t have gained that much since Tuesday.” it might be a good idea to check if these are indeed the pants you intended to wear instead of the other pair that’s a size too small.
  6. If since last year you have gained weight enough to need bigger pants you might also consider to buy new pantyhose for the skirt you brought.
  7. When you decide not to take your bathing suit this time because you haven’t needed it the last thirty times that you visited your parents, this will be the time you’ll go and do aqua fitness with your mother for the first time ever. (In a bathing suit borrowed from her that while being the right size (she had three sizes to choose from) might be suiting a, well, slightly different fashion sense.)
  8. When you go on a thirty minute hike with your child, and your child has spent some time playing in the sandbox beforehand it might be a good idea to empty said child’s shoes before going on the hike, not after. The hike will be much more pleasurable for all parties involved.
  9. When you’re staying in the middle of nowhere for a week it’s a good thing to stack up on sock wool beforehand. Especially since the middle of nowhere doesn’t contain a yarn shop.
  10. When you’re visiting smokers who think that a slight draught in all rooms is the best way to make sure that the rooms don’t reek of smoke, it’s a good idea to take an extra layer of clothing or two.
  11. When somebody pays for highspeed and wireless internet access it doesn’t mean that any of those have to work. You might have to fall back on stealing bandwidth from a neighbor so you can at least check your e-mail.

I’ll resume regular blogging shortly (I hope), also I will be reading your blogs in the course of the next week…

Apr 222008
 

Last Friday I did two things I’ve never done before, I went on a little trip just to buy yarn, and I met some people whom I only knew through there blogs before. I have an excuse though. A) I don’t get out much, and b) it was Wollmeise-yarn. Claudia, the Wollmeise, has become increasingly famous for her beautiful, colorful hand-dyed yarn. When she updates her online shops these days, it takes about 30 seconds for everything to become sold out again. So when I heard that she would be at a market nearby I immediately decided to go.

Since I didn’t know the place where the market was supposed to be, at first I thought we’d have to take the car and make a family day trip out of it but further research showed me that getting there was actually quite easy. I only had to get on the train that passes the nearest train station and stay in there for about 50 minutes. Then I found out through ravelry, the knitting and crochet community, that of course there were a lot of people planning to go there, and i figured it’d be best to go there right when the market opened.

So I dropped off my son at kindergarten, for once wearing makeup and carrying my enormous purse with my knitting and something to read and such, and got on the train. I had posted on ravelry which train I planned taking and there had been a couple of other people saying they would be on the same train, so I sat in the first car, knitting, so that they could find me.

That didn’t work out though. At one station suddenly the train was turned around. The first car became the last. Just before leaving the train though I spotted Elemmaciltur, Mrs. B, and needlegnome (That last one is link to a ravelry profile. You have to be a member to be able to see that but she doesn’t have a public blog.) We went to the market together.

I’m not meeting many knitter in real life and so I found it quite refreshing to hear things like, “Is that the Kaffe Fasset-yarn in your scarf?”. Also it got me so confused that I answered yes before realizing that the Kaffe Fasset-yarn actually was in my purse instead of around my neck, and that probably nobody there possessed x-ray vision. I also did that confusing thing where I talk English a lot, and then with different people keep switching between English and German until I need a few seconds to answer to anything because I first have to make clear which language I’m currently hearing.

The market was very nice but of course we made a beeline to the Wollmeise’s booth first. I had prayed beforehand that it would be a pleasurable experience for me, and it was. Though right after we arrived all hell broke lose. I went in with a vague idea of wanting about four skeins of sock yarn, preferable oranges and reds with at least one skein of something turquoise like Pfefferminz Prinz for my husband, and at best two skeins of lace yarn, preferable something earthy, and something orange or red. When I went in the lace yarn was invisible under all the people so I just grabbed one delightful skein of sock yarn after the other, then when there was a slight opening at the lace yarn basket, dived in, pulled out the two reddest skeins I saw, decided that I didn’t like the other colors that much, found a salesperson, paid, and waited in front of the booth, the paper bag with my yarn firmly clasped to my bosom until everybody else was finished.

wollmeise sock yarn

I had ample opportunity to see that not all shoppers are as decisive as me. I saw one woman agonizing over a skein of lace yarn for about half an hour. She put it next to herself and looked in the mirror, she asked a friend and two other people for advice, she thought about whether it would be enough or not… I saw people going in there with a list as long as my arm, people who had to get something like 20 skeins for other people. I can tell you, I was very happy to be standing a bit apart from this. Well, I could have had a list too, you know, in fact I did have a list. I told one woman whom I met on ravelry that I would bring her something, if possible. She told me her favorite colors, and I was happy to have found something she’ll like.

wollmeise sock yarn

After that we wandered around the rest of the market, I bought a marble for my husband, had waffles, and then after hitting the booth a second time (not me) we went home.

It was an interesting experience to meet people whose podcast I have been listening to and blogs I have been reading for months. Mrs. B started to tell me about the spinning wheel she borrowed and I already knew it. I felt a bit like a stalker. Especially since none of them reads my blog.

I’d love to meet knitters more often but then I’m already doing too many things as it is. The only meetings I could manage to attend would be on Sundays and that’s family time.

The very best thing for me though was that I found out that there is such a thing as enough talk about knitting (and spinning) for me. When I came home on Friday hungry and thirsty, and my husband had prepared a lovely meal, and I then started to teach again I was so happy to making music again! I had feared that my longing for knitter talk were bottomless. With the people I know I usually talk about knitting until their eyes start to glaze over and then I try to stop. But there I met people who are willing to talk about fiber and such for hours on end without getting tired of it. And that eventually I was ready to talk about other things again. You know, like other people.