Forum Holitorium

The Parsimonious Onion Greets Winter

A while back I wrote about how stubbornness need not be viewed negatively. While cooking down onions last night, the word parsimony came to mind, one of those words I have rarely heard anyone say but know from reading. In the beginning, parsimony was not tarred with the connotation of stinginess, of miserliness. It simply meant frugality or thrift and was derived from the Latin parcere, to be sparing, to refrain from or to economize. Cheap and easy to store for weeks on end, onions are a parsimonious vegetable. Just one can add a basic layer of flavor to any vegetable dish. Whenever I sauté vegetables, I inevitably start by sautéing onions for 10-15 minutes before the main actor makes an appearance. A couple of months ago, we bought a big 10 kilo / 22 pound sack of onions for a mere 4 euros. My original plan was to make a lot of onion jam, but that didn’t happen. Instead, we have had a constant supply that will peter out in a couple of weeks, coinciding well with our departure for the holidays.

Last winter I discovered a recipe in The Moosewood Cookbook where onions play a starring role in a sauce paired with pasta. A modified version graced our table for dinner last night. Cooked buckwheat groats, which are very warming on a cold evening, replaced the pasta, and we used up most of the rest of an open bottle of white wine “bought” using frequent flyer miles. The handful of arugula was thrown in for free at our local greengrocer’s – it pays to be a regular customer. And TC gathered the walnuts himself this fall. A thrifty yet very filling meal.

Onion Sauce with Buckwheat

4-6 medium sized onions, sliced

1/4 cup olive oil

1/2 tsp salt

1 cup / 125 ml white wine

One bunch of greens (here arugula), chopped

1/2 cup chopped walnuts, toasted

Cooked buckwheat groats (125 grams before boiling)

Sauté the onions in olive oil on medium-high heat for 15 minutes. Add salt, lower heat, and sauté as long as you like but at least 15 minutes. Add white wine, turn heat back to medium-high and sauté another 15 minutes. Add greens and cook 5 minutes more. Stir in walnuts and buckwheat. Serves 2-4 depending on how hungry you are.

My needle case knit from part of a skein of yarn dyed in onion skins is finally done. It was a good challenge – not the knitting but the finishing, which demanded that I learned how to properly sew in a zipper, first backstitching and then basting. This tutorial was very helpful. Perhaps there is hope for me yet as a seamstress. Adding the zipper is one small baby step toward being able to sew. Matching the needle case well, the candles are TC’s masterpiece. He bought a candle mold and used the beeswax stubs of last year’s Advent candles to fashion new ones that will outlast than the Christmas season.

Though there is a lot to be thankful for, this Thanksgiving rings a bit hollow because I am not able to spend it with my family, which for me is what Thanksgiving is about. I am thankful, however, that I will be able to spend Christmas with them. And there is something important to celebrate today: the promise of winter, the shift from the gold and orange autumnal palette to the grey and white sheen that covered the land and sky this morning as the first snow of the season arrived.

Take pleasure in observing the colors around you and spending time with people whose company you enjoy!

Exiting October: A Still Life

Why is it only today that I realized how much I enjoy still lifes and that I would like to learn more about their history? In art museums, I gravitate toward them, not portraits or landscapes, perhaps because they offer a glimpse  into the everyday life of the painter, the objects lying around at the moment brush touched canvas. Food is a common subject – fruit, for example – and flowers too. And then there are still lifes with a momento mori touch: a skull here, an hourglass there, reminding the viewer that everything in life is in a state of perpetual change, that all is fleeting.

Of course still lifes can be joyful, a carefully arranged composition of disparate objects. The one you see above offers a visual summary of the previous week. I finished knitting a cabled rectangle that will soon be folded and made into a pencil/double point needle case. A friend gave me the blank yellow notebook for my birthday. The pendant with the Roman goddess Ceres is a souvenir of a trip to the living history museum at the site of Carnuntum, a camp along the Limes which protected the ancient Roman province of Pannonia and where Marcus Aurelius wrote his Meditations. The loaf is a Striezel, a braided yeast bread with raisins typically eaten on All Saint’s Day in Austria and southern Germany. TC will make a batch of laundry detergent with the horse chestnuts we gathered. And the leaves are from one of the oldest trees in Austria.

This oak tree near Bad Blumau in eastern Styria is more than 1,000 years old – not the oldest oak in Europe as it claims to be, but still awe inspiring. Younger than the Roman walls at Carnuntum, yet older than the House of Habsburg. It was wonderful to be able to approach it, to walk around it, to touch its bark. I am thankful it was not roped off like a museum piece. My thoughts meandered back to a story I had just heard. There was a storyteller at Carnuntum reading ancient Roman myths. TC and I sat down to listen to one. It just happened to be a version of Ovid’s tale of Philemon and Baucis. The gods Jupiter and Mercury disguise themselves as peasants and visit a town, looking for a place to sleep at night. The only people to offer them hospitality are an old couple, Baucis and Philemon. As a reward, the gods grant them one wish. Satisfied with their life up till that point despite living in poverty, they ask to die at the same time so as not to be alone in old age. The gods grant them their wish, and after the couple die, they are transformed into two trees, an oak and a linden, whose roots grow together intertwined, keeping them united in death. I did not see a linden near this oak tree, so it must have been a bachelor.

After our visit to Carnuntum, we took a stroll along the Danube at Bad Deutsch-Altenburg, a small spa town also dating back to Roman times. We were not alone as we watched the traffic on the river. I have heard of trainspotters, so I assume the middle aged man taking a selfie of himself against the backdrop of each of the boats that went by is a member of the species Homo sapiens boatspotterus. In a lovely park full of fallen leaves, we happened upon this sculpture of the river god Danuvius. Previous visitors had left him an offering of horse chestnuts.

Autumn is a beautiful word, derived from the Latin autumnus of uncertain origin. One theory I like is that it comes from the Etruscan and means the passing of the year. Its synonym, fall, comes from the Old English feallan, to fall or die, indicating the prevalence of deciduous trees in the area where the language developed. The German word for autumn/fall, Herbst, is related to the English word harvest. The Polish word for November, listopad, means leaves fall, and by the end of the upcoming month this natural process will be complete for the year. Only a few more weeks to marvel at the blaze of yellow and feel the sink of your feet into a layer of leaves.

Enjoy the fleeting beauty of everything around you!

Peter Quince and Nick Bottom

The autumn rainy season arrived last week and continues. When there is a pause of an hour or so in precipitation, TC and I throw on the wool and hiking shoes and head out in search of adventure. One such foray led to a serendipitous sighting of three donkeys chewing on a fence near the parish church in Straßengel. I feel a certain kinship to donkeys, and not just because my great-grandmother’s maiden name was a Tuscan dialect word for donkey: this animal and I are willing to work hard to do what we want to but have no difficulty refusing to do something that another creature wants us to do if we are not convinced of its appropriateness. Stubbornness need not be seen as a negative quality – a stubborn individual is not easily pushed around.

After a few failed attempts at sweater projects with this yarn, I finally finished a bulky jacket of handspun wool from sheep on an island in the Baltic Sea whose name eludes me. I modified a popular pattern by adding an intricate cable from a scarf and lengthening the sleeves. There are so many cable patterns out there. While many speak to me, others leave me cold or make me wrinkle my nose. The trend at the moment is extravagant. Designers seem to be capitalizing on the appeal of cables by trying to cram too many into a single project. (This may have the inadvertent effect of scaring away potential cable knitters who are daunted by the number of different charts they need to follow on one piece.) Just a few well positioned cables on a classic design (like the mostly stockinette base of the jacket above) are all you need to jazz up a basic sweater. I’ve started printing out cable patterns that I like and collecting them in a folder. Then when I find a basic pattern I like, I will be able to incorporate cable elements into it. There is still so much to learn, but it is fortunate that there are so many good resources for knitters available on the Web.

There is still much to learn about quince processing as well. TC transformed our first windfall of quinces into membrillo, or quince paste, and quince jelly. The second group of beauties shown above came from the farmer’s market. Since their beautiful skin is unriddled by bruises, they should keep awhile. What an intoxicating aroma they give off! I can’t bear the thought of cutting them up. I think we’ll plan on getting uglier ones at the market on Saturday, ones that need to be processed right away.

Though the lack of sunshine (and thus adequate light for taking pictures) is getting to me, rainy weather is conducive to reading and knitting. I have decided to experiment with setting specific goals for what I want to read and knit over shorter periods of time and see if this helps me work through my stacks of books and yarn stash any quicker. I’d like to read the books and knit up the yarn in the picture above by the beginning of November. If this weather holds, it shouldn’t be difficult.

 Keep warm and dry, be stubborn when necessary, and good luck with your projects!

The Woods are Watching the Bounty


We thought we were alone, walking along the trail to the reconstructed Celtic farmstead near the village of Kleinklein. But then I spied this fellow, most likely an intimate of the Green Man, and recognized my error. These hills have long born witness to settlement, to cultivation of the land, to farmers and smiths and weavers and people not incredibly different from you and I in their hopes and dreams. Love, understanding, acceptance, meaningful work, prosperity, good health, enjoyment. In our pursuit of our dreams, we humans tend to leave traces, and those in southern Styria date back more than 6000 years. This past weekend, TC and I visited numerous sites populated by the Romans, the Celts, and those who came before them. The lush, fruitful landscape of the Sausal region is still an attractive place to live, work, and play, with a microclimate much warmer than the Alpine region located just to the north and nourished by the Sulm and Lassnitz rivers. It is equally beautiful yet much more peaceful than the popular South Styrian Wine Road to the south.


Harvest time: gathering, collecting, celebrating the year’s bounty. The grape harvest is in full swing. Apples, pears, and quinces may or may not still hang heavy on the trees in the Streuobstwiesen, or traditional small orchards that can feature a variety of different kinds of fruit trees and that are unfortunately endangered by the spread of monocultures like grapes or corn and the building of new houses.


Though the idyllic image of life in the countryside rests upon the expectation of peace and quiet, working farms are loud with heavy machinery like tractors, harvesters, and liquid manure spreaders – at this time of the year in particular. The fresh air often contains pockets of diesel fumes from said equipment or tourist automobiles (thank you, VW). Nonetheless,the chance of finding pockets of stillness where you can breathe deeply without fearing for your life is much higher than in the city, and we were very fortunate. Autumn is truly a splendid time to visit the Sausal.

The hikes we took over hill, over dale, over the rivers and through the woods, were incredibly restorative. At night when the clouds rolled away, I could see the stars and waning gibbous moon. In the early morning when the mist had risen up from the valley, I felt cozy and happily cut off from the rest of the world. And in the late afternoon sun, it was so warm that I was able to sit outside knitting, drinking lemon balm tea, and savoring homemade walnut cake.

Yes, it is nut season, and I am married to a squirrel. We drove home with a car weighted down by 10 kilos of walnuts, 2 kilos of chestnuts, and several kilos more of apples, pears, and quinces. Bounty: abundance, plenty, something given in generous amounts, a word that dates back to the 13th century, when it meant goodness or generosity.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Enjoy the bounty of the season!

Space for Autumn

The autumnal equinox is a good moment to pause and think back on summer. It is one in which I swam against the current. While harvest time is a time of abundance and seeing the fruits of your labor, my actions over the past three months have been devoted to reducing what I have and emptying the space around me.

It started with pulling all of my clothes out of the wardrobe and removing what I no longer wear, what didn’t suit me anymore, what was unflattering or getting threadbare. Every time I open the door now, I get a little thrill at how nicely organized everything looks. Then the bookshelves came under scrutiny. I forgave myself for what I hadn’t read yet and realistically never will, separated the wheat from the chaff, and decided to donate or sell a significant amount. Next, I sorted and brought order to all the bookmarks in my web browser and deleted over half of my computer files. A friend quipped: if I lose files now, it will only be the important ones. Though that is not likely to happen because after seven years of living dangerously, I have finally backed up my hard drive. And the coup de grâce: I got rid of the wooden inbox tray on my desk, working through what needed to be done and tossing what I realized I would never do. It is a wonderful feeling, no longer being confronted by a stack of unfinished business each time I sit down to work.

When you undertake a decluttering action, you see how easily your life can become full of unimportant things. I have weeded out most of what I don’t need and am curious what will arise in the newly created space. One voice has already become audible: learn more about sustainable textile production and design, take the plunge and finally learn how to sew and how to spin fiber. Will it get louder?

TC’s pullover, meanwhile, is nearing completion. I just need to sit down for an hour or so and do some short row work on the collar and then he’ll be ready for cooler temperatures. I started a bulky fisherman’s rib scarf and continue working on a thin brown cardigan for myself.

Coming to the end of this post, I realize what I said at the start is false: I haven’t been swimming against the current. Before you bring in the harvest, you need to have an empty storage space, and I’ve made room for what I need to nourish me through the winter. TC has started working on his walnut collection; now it’s time for me to start stocking up.

Good luck making space and bringing in the harvest!

To know emptiness…is more like stumbling into a clearing in the forest, where suddenly you can move freely and see clearly. To experience emptiness is to experience the shocking absence of what normally determines the sense of who you are and the kind of reality you inhabit.” – Stephen Batchelor, Buddhism Without Beliefs.

On Staples of All Kinds

This year I have done the incredible: I have bought just one book. If this were my normal rate of acquiring books, my living space would be less dusty and cluttered and dangerous. (Yes, safety would increase because there would be no danger of accidentally knocking over a stack of books and having them fall on your feet.) Said book is Vegane Köstlichkeiten – libanesisch (Lebanese Vegan Delights) by Abla Maalouf-Tarner. Since it was welcomed into the fold at the end of April, I have been discovering its charms, one by one. Since TC and I had a guest for dinner last night, it was a good opportunity to try out some new recipes. Our guest voted for the dessert pictured above as the tastiest of all: namura, a semolina cake flavored with orange juice and sesame.

The staples of Lebanese cooking are olive oil, chickpeas, lentils, bulgur, and rice. Garlic, onions, tahini, lemon juice, and pomegranate syrup flavor dishes showcasing spinach, Swiss chard, tomatoes, zucchini, potatoes, dandelion greens, and eggplant. I enjoy eating all of these foods, and so far there are no duds among the recipes. About the only change I have made is to radically reduce the amount of olive oil in some cases. You really don’t need 100 ml olive oil to sauté one or two onions, do you?

Speaking of olive oil, the sour cherry birthday pie above from earlier this month had an olive oil crust. The wonder of cooking and baking is you can’t predict when something you’ve made many times will turn out beautifully – or just so-so. The crust above – my standard crust – was just incredible. In contrast, the lentil dish laced with pomegranate syrup TC and I inhaled last weekend that I tried to recreate last night was a bit lackluster. The more I cook, the more I agree with the Ayurvedic notion that the state of mind of the cook has an influence on the meal. I was very relaxed earlier in the day when I prepared the dessert; there still was lots of time before our guest arrived. The lentils, however, were prepared in tandem with potato-tomato turnovers – which tasted good but whose dough was…how should I put it…not very aesthetic in its presentation as I used my hands instead of a rolling pin to prepare the rounds and didn’t let the filling cool off adequately before putting it all together. Multitasking is extremely distracting.

It would be good to be in the right state of mind when I finally get around to hand felting this bag, which is destined to hold library books and notebooks and other staples. In dread of blue fuzz getting stuck in the washing machine, I have decided to do it long hand, so to speak, but am still hunting for the right method. One interesting one I found online requires a plastic bucket and a plunger, but since I have spent many an hour decluttering and getting rid of excess objects this year, I find it decadent to buy a second plunger just to use for felting. Have you ever felted anything by hand and if so, do you have any tips for this novice?

The faithful reader will note that the bag matches a jacket I finished knitting this spring. Since my last post, I have not only come to terms with the approaching autumn but look forward to the return of woolen wardrobe staples. On the needles now are a pullover with cables for TC and a thin cardigan for myself. Enjoy the waning summer and good luck with your preparations for fall!

Gift Fig

The doorbell rang Monday morning, announcing the first fig delivery in 2015 with a warning that many more will follow. One of my best culinary experiences ever was eating figs fresh from a tree on the island of Rab. As you might expect, these figs from my father-in-law’s garden in Graz can’t live up to those Croatian figs whose taste has assumed legendary proportions; they are often large but watery. But you should never look a gift fig in the mouth (nifty palindrome, eh?). My strategy in the past to render them more flavorful has been to poach them in red wine or port, but this year I decided to try oven roasting them. Yum. Slice 500 g/1 pound of fresh figs in half, place them face down in a casserole dish, drizzle 2 Tbs port and sprinkle 1 Tbs of sugar on top, and bake them in the oven for 30 minutes at 200°C/400°F.

The basket of figs showed up in the company of a basket of tomatoes and a tall, slender sprig of rosemary exuding a wondrous resiny fragrance. I am letting them ripen further and see shakshouka in my future. Yes, it has been a week of food offerings. On Saturday friends showed up to dinner bearing the first hokkaido squash of the season. I must admit I hesitated before receiving it with grateful hands. Like plums, I associate ripe Hokkaido with fall, and both have appeared recently at the farmer’s market with a message I wasn’t quite ready to accept: the wheel of the seasons is turning and I can’t hold it back.

It had been a gloriously warm and sunny summer until the middle of last week, when a cold front moved in behind thunderstorms. It is July, yet I am wearing wool socks and sweaters again. I look out the window and see rain and grey gloom. Is it September or October? I check my calendar: no. There comes a point every summer when I suddenly realize that we’ve reached the summit and it’s all downhill from here on in: fall and winter will come without fail. That point was reached last Friday. Perhaps that’s why I took to the needles with the first of several hats I have planned, using up stash yarn to make gifts to keep the people I love warm. Above you see my first stab at brioche knitting, a watch cap as introduced by Elizabeth Zimmermann in one of her newsletters collected in The Opinionated Knitter. It took a while to get the hang of the two row repeat, but then it knit up in no time at all – though I needed more than the two hours Zimmermann required to complete the hat.

Carrying on the green theme, our garden zucchini continues to smile. Just when I think I’ve used up the ones in the fridge, the next ones are ready to be picked. TC and I will be garden sitting for the month of August and are responsible for overseeing the peach harvest. Dear readers, what is your favorite way to eat peaches? Any suggestions on how to broaden my peach horizons? Hope you are enjoying whatever is ripe where you are.

One Wedding and an Anniversary

Friday we had a room with a view of Längsee, a lake in the Austrian province of Carinthia nearly small enough to fit in this picture. Dear friends of ours got married in the town of Metnitz, home of one of Europe’s most interesting Totentanz (Dance of Death) frescos, a European genre of art which arose in the 14th century in the wake of numerous famines and the Black Death. I have always been fascinated by this type of fresco, and one of my favorite places in Istria is the Holy Trinity Church in Hrastovlje which has one from the 15th century. The Dance of Death depicts people of all professions and walks of life, from baby to king, from farmer to doctor, standing next to Death as represented by a skeleton or equally creepy figure. The artwork serves as a reminder, a memento mori, that no matter who you are, how high or low your status in the community, we are all equal in the face of death and share the same fate in the end. Alas, there was not enough time to check out the museum devoted to the Metnitz frescoes, a visit probably more suited to somber reflection on a cold winter day. We were there to celebrate one of the high points in life. The joyful party moved on to Stift St. Georgen, a former Benedictine monastery perched above the Längsee.

The monastery was founded by a countess in the 11th century and has been in operation for over one millenium. The hotel rooms, however, offer thoroughly modern comfort. The restaurant and its deck overlook an orchard of around 50 fruit trees. The Stift was a beautiful, tranquil place to spend a few days. There was naturally a monastery garden with all sorts of herbs and medicinal plants, yet it was surprisingly unkempt, as if the gardener had up and quit two months ago and no replacement had yet been found. I resisted the urge to start weeding.

In the evening, TC and I took a lovely walk through the lavender labyrinth. Yes, the paths were edged by lavender bushes, all in bloom and buzzing with bumblebees. A labyrinth is not to be confused with a maze. There are no dead ends in a true labyrinth. You enter and keep walking along until you reach the center, after which you turn around and walk out again. At the center of this one was a stone emitting the heat it had absorbed from direct sunlight all day. We perched on it like happy lizards.

The last wonderful walk we had taken together had quite a different view: the bay of Trieste. Just a few weeks earlier, we dashed away to Trieste to celebrate our anniversary. We took the most direct route and arrived at Opicina high on the cliffs above. Near the famous obelisk statue, erected in 1830 when the road between the Karst and Vienna was finally completed, start several shady trails through the pine trees, from some of which you can admire the Adriatic below. Then it’s time to let gravity do its thing and pull you down the winding road to the city and the sea.

Ah, Trieste, a city existing of layer upon layer of memory of visits past that I can no longer keep separate. I always mean to be a proper tourist, to use that German art history guide I bought on a visit long ago, but once I set foot in the city, it casts its spell so that all I am able to do is stroll along the mole, drink coffee, page through the local Il Piccolo newspaper, reread Jan Morris’s Trieste and the Meaning of Nowhere, and stroll some more, admiring the stray cats near San Giusto instead of the collections of art the city supposedly harbors.

This time I discovered something new that is quite old: Arco di Riccardo, or Richard’s arch, one of the last vestiges of the Roman walls. Yes, the Romans were here too. The name Trieste is derived from the Roman name Tergeste, which in turn most likely contains the Slavic word trg, or market. Trieste has a unique position at the crossroads of the Slavic, Germanic, and Romance language and cultural spheres.

Like the city, the cuisine is also a melting pot. At Siora Rosa, the gnocchi with apricots turned out to be more like Marillenknödel jazzed up with a decadent cinnamon sauce than your typical gnocchi. Yet the vegetable platter was more Italian in nature and preparation: Swiss chard, peppers, zucchini, olives, and radicchio doused liberally with olive oil. The boiled broccoli was perhaps a nod to the north and east.

No visit to a city is complete without a visit to the local farmers’ market, which in Trieste is located in the Borgo Teresiano quarter just inland of the Canale Grande. There we picked up white polenta, honey with propolis, and a 1.5 kilo melon. Why oh why don’t Austrians grow melons? There is nothing better on a hot summer day than biting into a slice of ripe, juicy melon. As soon as we got home, we devoured the whole thing.

I hope you are keeping cool with delicious fruit and relaxing like this jellyfish!

Zucchini Season is Open

To my surprise, the friend whose garden is hosting our two zucchini plants informed us that one zucchini was ready to be picked. Though I had already marveled at the variety of local vegetables and fruit already available at the farmer’s market last Saturday, the thought hadn’t crossed my mind that our plants might also have reached that point. We have planted very little this year, trying to use up our stockpile of seeds and limiting ourselves to what we eat the most. None of the carrots and only one of the radishes we planted from seed grew. Two bean plants survived a slug attack and are now finally working their way towards the sky. We bought two young zucchini plants at the annual plant market at the end of April, and there were three others going to town when we picked the first Cocozelle von Tripolis (Cucurbita peop var. garomontiina), an Italian heirloom variety. The striped fruit keeps with the color scheme of the week: greens of varying shades in a scarf I just completed. The lace pattern is called old shale, a Shetland pattern reminiscent of shells (shale = Shetland dialect pronunciation of the word shell).

There has been much going on lately with unexpected and troubling news arriving from many directions. In the end, all you can do is enjoy what you have and try to reduce suffering and share happiness. Beautiful sunny weather was undercut by a few dismal grey rainy days. Good for zucchini, but poor for our spirits. In the midst of one of the downpours, I spotted a bee on its back on the patio. Frantically waving its legs, it couldn’t get out of a pool of water. TC is an incorrigible insect rescuer. He brought it to a dry place next to the door and got it back on its feet. Unfortunately, when we checked back on it a few hours later, the bee had stopped moving. Even though it didn’t save the bee, I feel the gesture was important. We did what we could.

The cycle of life goes on. Our agapanthus is channeling its energy into a lone bud that will blossom in the near future, reminding us of Portugal and our honeymoon, which will soon be three years ago. I hope that buds are appearing all around you, ones that produce blossoms that are a balm to your eyes and bear delicious fruit that bring delight to your palate.


I am dreaming of the day that I have a house of my own, one where I can step outside into my yard and not be seen by my neighbors if I so choose, where I don’t have to repeatedly clean up plant material falling from the neighbor’s patio above onto my own, where the cell phone conversations of others do not rouse me from the delicious indulgence of an afternoon nap, and where the stink of perfume does not invade my bedroom when I want to open my window to start my day listening to the birds singing. Edible bushes of savory, raspberries, and blackberries will array the perimeter of this delicious space of my own, and a wind chime will hum in harmony with the wind. Someday.

The multiple strawberry plants in pots and the large planter are now yielding fruit. The Mara des Bois, a smaller French variety, is my favorite kind of strawberry, a concise burst of flavor. During my absence of nearly a month, the herbs and berries continued to grow. The only vegetable I am trying in pots this year is Swiss chard, and the three tiny plants I left in mid-May are now ready for larger pots of their own.

The second brood of tit birds (Parus major) nesting in the pine tree next door are growing too. We can hear their excited chatter each time mom or dad returns to the birdhouse with a juicy green caterpillar hanging from its beak. The first brood left the nest mid-May. Flying for the first time is tough, calling for good coordination as well as good navigation skills. One tit was baffled when it flew onto our patio, falling between the strawberries and the rue. After hopping around and chirping for help which never came, it managed to find its way to the bushes into which its siblings had already flown.

Besides listening to birds and watching the plants grow, I am reading the book Refuge: An Unnatural History of Family and Place by Terry Tempest Williams. Williams recounts the experience of watching her mother die of cancer and the waters of Great Salt Lake rise and flood a wildlife refuge dear to her over the same period of time. One question she asks herself in the book struck me to the quick: why do we distract and excuse ourselves from our own creativity? Why indeed? Why such a long season of silence with this blog? It is not from a lack of ideas or inspiration.

The needles keep flying, nonetheless, and I continue to gain ground on meeting the knitting goals for 2015 I made in a post earlier this year. Of the six sweaters I set out to knit, two are finished and one simply needs to be stitched together. Of the twelve pairs of socks, four are finished and a fifth is nearly half done. The Lake Michigan jacket below kept me warm along its shores over the past few weeks. Now it’s time to turn to projects of cotton and linen more suited to the burgeoning summer here in Graz.

Take refuge in your creativity and enjoy the company of considerate neighbors!


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