Hello, everybody, and welcome once again to the Apple Basket!
I do hope you have had a lovely week, be it winter break, plain ol’ winter, autumn or whatever.
So, this week there will be no ranting about politics, I promise; only talk of books and music and children and knitting. And baking: I made the marzipan-filled rolls last Sunday as planned, and they came out beautifully. This recipe is a keeper; I found it through an ALT for Damerne newsletter (a ladies’ magazine), and I will give you an English version of it, as the link above goes to the Danish page.
It is winter break, so the boys have been home from school all week, enjoying late mornings and no schoolwork. The week did turn out to be quite full, though, what with several family visits and a musical outing.
My sister came down for a couple of days with her children; when they are in town, they stay at our parents’ house, since they have room for everybody, and so rarely come by us. But this time, we managed it.
Three-and-a-half year old Laura particularly wanted to see our house and to understand the concept of having rooms upstairs; and Emil, who is nearly 2, was happy about the stairs in themselves, going up and down several times.
And the playground outside in the snow is a great attraction, not least with the big cousins (Thomas and Victor) to pull their little sledges. So, we had fun, and the box of Lego Duplo was brought in from the cold (literally, I took it inside from the shed a couple of days in advance in order for it to thaw out).
Oh, and I got my birthday present a week early: a skein of Mary, Queen of Socks from Superknits in the colourway Come Back To Me Colour TV, a lovely variegated tealy turquoise (that doesn't really show in the photo, sorry about that). Yummy.
And: a personal gift certificate to a yarn or knitting event, on domestic or foreign ground, to be redeemed sometime in the next 10 years. Let’s just think about that for a moment ... the possibilities are legion. Yumminess will ensue.
Valentine’s Day this year was all about music; last year I decided to read Picnic at Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay, since the day of the picnic in question is Valentine’s Day 1900. I hadn’t read the book before; we watched the movie and analysed symbolic imagery in it back in school about a hundred years ago, so it was fun to revisit the scene, so to speak.
The American born composer and professor of electronic music in Aarhus, Wayne Siegel turned 60 this week, on 14th February. In honour of this, a concert was arranged with six of his pieces performed by professional musicians and certain talented young musicians.
You have probably guessed where I’m going with this: Victor (along with five of his friends and his guitar tutor) was among the 36 guitarists to perform Domino Figures, an 18½ minute piece in which short musical motifs are passed along from one guitarist to the next, all placed in a half circle, by a tipping of the guitar. The motion is meant to resemble the falling of dominoes, and all of the performers were required to dress in black to themselves resemble dominoes.
|Victor is no. 3 from the left ...|
So, we drove to Aarhus; the guitarists met at 2 p.m., which gave me a whole afternoon to spend. The weather did not invite strolling about, but I did get quite a bit of walking done in the icy, windy streets, as parking a car turned out to be a challenge, and it ended up down by the harbour; my dad came later in the afternoon for the concert and to get some shopping done before that. So we walked back and forth, from the harbour to the shop, back to the cars with a heavy box (containing a computer table for my mum), and up again to find food – and warmth. We ended up going to Musikhuset, where the concert was, an hour early, just to be indoors.
And so we met an old school friend of my dad’s, and in the course of the small talk, after I had pointed out Victor and (proudly, of course) mentioned that he was going to play in the Dominoes, the husband of the school friend says: ‘That piece is dedicated to me.’ Wow. As it turned out, he is Erling Møldrup, retired professor of guitar at Musikkonservatoriet (The Royal Academy of Music / Aarhus); I recognised his name from Victor showing me on the music sheet and talking about it. Wow again. Of course, I made sure that Victor and he met in the interval – it never hurts to know people in the business. Apart from it being fun to meet this nice old man who taught Victor’s present guitar tutor back in the day, when she was at the Academy.
So, I am finally reading The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins; when the promos for the first film began, I went to my default position Read The Book and bought the trilogy. And now, prompted by Heather Ordover on CraftLit, I am reading.
This is not to say, of course, that one shouldn’t watch the movie; Thomas read & watched in school and tells me that it is done well.
In case you don’t know the Hunger Games trilogy – well, you have been living under a rock, but that’s okay, I tend to that – here’s the deal (without spoilers):
The story is set in the country Panem, formerly known as North America and now divided into thirteen Districts ruled by the capital, Capitol; seventy-five years prior to the narrative present, a rebellion in the Districts caused the Capitol to obliterate District Thirteen and subsequently punish the remaining Districts by every year ‘reaping’ two teenagers, one male and one female, from each, to fight to the death in an artificial arena. One victor makes it out alive and is rewarded (though not unequivocally).
The story is told as a first-person narrative in the present tense by Katniss Everdeen, a 16-year old girl who becomes a ‘tribute’ in the Games; and it is told so brilliantly that often, the reader knows or can deduce more than she does herself, which is quite a feat.
To a classicist, this story and its world are rich in context:
- The reaping of the teenagers recalls the tribute that Athens had to pay to Crete: seven girls and seven boys to be eaten by the Minotaur, in the ancient story of the hero Theseus. The reality behind this myth probably has to do with another arena sport, bull jumping; it is not hard to see how this can lead to tales of youths being devoured by a bull-monster.
- The reference for Suzanne Collins’ world is Imperial Rome, in which the privileged few lived for luxuries and entertainment, while the majority toiled and sometimes starved – and in which the whims of the Emperor decided who should live and who shouldn’t; this is the Rome described by Suetonius and depicted in the HBO series of the same name. (And described, very well, by Steven Saylor in Empire, his sequel to Roma; these two books go through the history of Rome in a Rutherfurd-esque way, following members of the same few families through many generations.)
- The Capitol was the centre of ancient Rome; and the inhabitants of this Capitol accordingly have Roman first names: Cesar, Seneca, Plutarch, Cinna &c.
- The favourite pastime of the Romans was watching people and animals fight to the death in the arena.
- What the Emperor needed to pacify his population – or put another way: what the people got in return for giving up influence – was Panem et Circenses: Bread and Games.
- Bread and food in general play a huge role in the story: the suppressed people in the Districts are always on the brink of starvation, while the inhabitants of Capitol gorge themselves on delicacies (much like the ancient Romans); and during the games themselves, that usually last a couple of weeks, the tributes need to constantly search for food to not starve to death.
There is so much more to this, but I don’t want to reveal anything that can spoil it. Go read, if you haven’t already.
Well, my driftwood jumper, the so-called Juniper, is bouncing along: for most of this week, it has all been stocking stitch in the round, a.k.a. insanely boring, especially as I’m not even doing the stripes and also omitting the increases in the body. This made for excellent concert knitting on Thursday, though, and conversation knitting that no-one could blame for taking away my attention.
In a bit it will be long enough to do the bottom ribbing, so next week I will be moving on to the sleeves. I am looking forward to wearing this, though on trying on it did seem rather wider than I expected. That may just be because I am comparing it to the more fitted Georgia, though, and this one is supposed to go over something else and so needs to be more roomy.
The Blues Riffs socks are proving to be somewhat of a challenge: first, I made the toe on 2.5 mm needles and found out it was too loose, so that had to be redone on 2 mm needles. Next, I was all of a sudden too far up the foot and had to go back a bit to start the gusset, which on these socks happens rather earlier than I expected – and it would of course have been way too easy to read the pattern properly to begin with.
Now, I worked the gusset and the patterned heel – and decided to try the thing on the relevant foot before proceeding up the leg: and the back part of the sock was too big. The heel itself fits nicely, the front end of the sock fits nicely; but the gusset has too many increases, or Victor’s instep is not as high as the average instep (I had the same issue with the Watson socks). So, the next step will be to frog the bit of leg, the heel, and the last bit of the gusset back to where it fits. And then do the math to make the riff pattern match up – because that is really well done in the pattern.
I need to keep reminding myself that the second sock will be much quicker to do ...
Going to a family birthday do Saturday evening, I had to come up with presents for my cousins: a girl cousin who is 24, and a boy cousin who will be 20 in a month.
He got a Nottingham hat for Christmas, that was a teeny bit small, not too small, but still; so this time, I made him a Shilling hat. This is one of the many free Ravelry downloads, a textured hat with cables running up and sections of garter stitch alternating with stocking stitch to all in all give a plaid impression. A quick knit, done in a couple of days. The pattern instructions call for two and a half repeats of the 17 rounds before the decreases; but when I had done those, the hat was tall enough already, so I frogged the half repeat and started the decreases with the third repeat.
My girl cousin actually knits, so I made her a set of stitch markers in her favourite colour: green.
I had, not surprisingly, brought my Juniper along for the evening and made it all the way down to the ribbing. As usual, I got a couple of comments along the lines of ‘I have never seen you without knitting’ (which they probably haven’t, so that’s fair enough); and the boyfriend of my cousins’ cousin decided that knitting can’t be that difficult, and since he learned to knit in school like everybody else, he was going to knit his girlfriend a pair of socks – in an evening. What could I say, except ‘Good luck with that.’
When presented with luxury sock yarn (the MQS), you have to browse sock patterns, right? So I spent half an evening on Ravelry going through gorgeous photos of cute and quirky socks, finally deciding on a pattern and immediately putting it in my queue – at the very top, no less. At some point, if I survive the Blues Riffs, I may actually get to knit it. Socks for me, yay!
So, this week I will end on a sweet note, with the Fastelavnsboller / marzipan filled rolls.
Keep happy, keep healthy, keep crafting!
Classic Danish Shrovetide Rolls
Sweet yeast rolls with marzipan cream filling and cocoa icing on top.
Work time: 40 minutes plus time for rising and baking.
100 g butter (4 oz)
200 ml milk (8 oz)
50 grams fresh yeast
2 tablespoons sugar
1 whole egg
a pinch of salt
450 g wheat flour (1 lb)
1 egg for brushing
100 g marzipan (4 oz)
100 g soft butter (4 oz)
100 g sugar (4 oz)
100 g icing sugar (4 oz)
2-3 tablespoons good cocoa, e.g. Valrhona
a bit of hot water
Melt butter and warm up milk to hand temperature. Pour into bowl and dissolve yeast. Add sugar, salt and egg. Add flour and knead until smooth.
Cover dough and leave to rise for about an hour.
Meanwhile: grate marzipan and mix with sugar and butter into a smooth paste.
Roll out dough onto a flour-sprinkled surface into a 30 x 30 cm (12 x 12 inch) square. Cut into 16 small squares.
Place a dollop of filling on each square; fold in points and press edges together to keep filling inside. Place rolls joins down on a sheet of baking paper.
Leave to rise for about 20 minutes. Brush with whipped egg.
Bake for about 15 minutes at 200°C / 392°F.
Allow to cool.
Mix cocoa icing and place a dollop on top of each roll.