Forum Holitorium

Month: February, 2018

Krapfenzeit

Snow keeps falling here in the mountains, but the days are getting longer and the cycle of seasons continues to turn.  Marking the end of Carnival, Faschingsdienstag/Mardi Gras/Fat Tuesday was yesterday, and the first day of Lent is today. In Russia, Maslenitsa or Butter Week also takes place this week. The Chinese New Year or Spring Festival starts with the new moon on Friday (or Thursday in Europe and the Americas); soon it will be the Year of the Dog. This week Tibetans are also celebrating Losar, the new year, Friday through Sunday. Interesting how so many holidays around the world have converged this week.

To celebrate Mardi Gras, my high school French teacher made crepes with us, letting each of us flip a crepe with the pan in one hand and a coin in the other to bring good luck. It has become my tradition to make buckwheat crepes for Mardi Gras (without a coin in my hand). The only Austrian culinary tradition associated with Fasching (as the pre-Lenten season is called) is eating Krapfen – doughnuts filled with apricot jelly and dusted with powdered sugar. Before this week, it had certainly been a few years since I last had a jelly-filled doughnut. For whatever reason, this year I felt it was important to eat Krapfen. The two and a half I ate were fresh from a local bakery and delicious.

In Austria, Lent is a time where it is easy to use “I’ve given it up for Lent” as an excuse not to eat or drink something. On a whim, I decided that I will give up sugar for Lent. Since I am not a “Naschkatze” (literally a snacking or nibbling cat, meaning a person with a sweet tooth), this should not be too hard. A friend gave up sugar last year for Lent and felt she had a lot more energy. As winter winds down, even a little more energy sounds great. I will give it a try.

May you enjoy any celebrations that occur this week!

Aunts and Blankets

A week ago I had a dream about my aunt who has been dead for nearly eight years. I was standing in my grandparents’ kitchen and saw her sitting on the couch in the living room watching TV, bundled up in an afghan as if it were a cold winter evening. She appeared as she looked in the early eighties, slender and with short permed hair that had recently been cut. She turned her head and saw me and a smile spread across her face. A tremendous yet calm joy began to radiate from her. We smiled at each other awhile, and then I woke up.

I am lucky to have four aunts – three of whom are still here. They are all very different and special in their own way. The aunt I dreamed about liked to knit and crochet. Her specialty was afghans. When I was a child, she crocheted me a pink and lavender afghan. Though I can’t stomach the colors any more, I have held onto it because she made it for me. Funny to dream of her right after I finished making my first throw blanket. After a few attempts at knitting various cardigans, I decided the heavy alpaca-wool mix might be better as a blanket. It needs a good blocking, but it is nice and warm on my lap. It is quite different than the colorful cotton blanket with Celtic designs that has followed me around from apartment to apartment since I was a teenager.

Last summer I knit an eggplant colored merino wool baby blanket for my cousin, who was expecting her first child. Since she and her husband do not have siblings, their daughter does not have any aunts. I have always wanted to be an aunt and especially to have a niece, but that is also difficult as I don’t have any siblings either. When I lived in Poland, I learned that many of my friends had a “ciotka”, and auntie, who wasn’t technically the sister of their mother or father but simply a woman who was close enough to have this title bestowed on her. So maybe one day I too will be called aunt. At any rate, I have already behaved like my aunt by knitting a blanket that is now keepiny my cousin’s daughter warm. The cabled blanket below was a gift from a woman who you might say is an unofficial aunt of mine.

The days are getting longer, but it is still blanket and afghan weather. Since I have enough to keep me warm inside, my focus is now on jackets and cowls for staying warm outside.

May you enjoy and appreciate your aunts and blankets!