Sunday, February 28, 2010

The Futility of Window Washing

We moved into the Gingerbread House in autumn last year and promptly set about removing 40 years of, ahem, decorating left behind by the previous owner. The previous owner, who has variously been called a number of names, all along the spectrum of RUDE to EXTRAORDINARILY RUDE, had a problem with naked surfaces. Every square inch - yes, read that again: Every. Square. Inch of this house was covered in layers of wallpaper, on top of tiles, on top of cork tiles, topped off with another layer of sixties-style wallpaper. We chucked out full containers of rubbish, sacks and sacks of styrofoam ceiling tiles and swathes of net curtains yellowed and waxy with nicotine.

The upshot of this little rant (aside from looking for a little sympathy) is that by the time we made the house barely habitable, we were exhausted and worn-out from hammering and plastering and pulling and dragging and hoovering up the fine dust left behind by the builders and plumbers, we were just happy to have a roof over our heads that didn't leak (except it did. But more about that another time.) This meant that we didn't have the physical energy or the mental wherewithal for the niceties of interior decoration, like clean windows, or even curtains for that matter.

Anyway, who needs curtains when you've got dirty windows? And who notices how dirty a window is in winter, when you've only got an hour of daylight every day? Wonderful. The Gingerbread Husband even went so far as to suggest that the dirt was actually providing an extra layer of insulation, which sounded perfectly plausible to me. Then, suddenly, spring arrived yesterday and we realised with horror how filthy our windows were. Of course, we tried to ignore them, but as the sun shifted, the dirty streaks on the windows threw shadows across the floor and finally Mother Nature shamed us into being better housekeepers.

Three hours later, our windows were done - sort of. Our windows are double-glazed windows, so when you're finished cleaning the inside and out, you open up the double panes and clean the insides of each of them. No matter how much you rub and scrub, there's always a streak somewhere and because each window has a double pane of glass, there are essentially four potential streak-bearing culprits. It's exhausting, a true Sysiphus task, as the Germans would say.

To make matters worse, the weather today is the worst weather you can imagine after a session of window-washing: there's a storm brewing and a frisky wind is whipping up leaves and rubbish along the street, making tumbleweeds of dirt and dust fly across the church square. I went out for a walk to take some photos and came back with twigs lodged in my hair, spitting dirt out of my mouth and with a stray plastic bag tangled around my foot. My lovely (nearly-)clean windows are about to battered by dirty, lashing rain. What a waste. My only consolation is that our house is modestly equipped with windows - it could have been so much worse, as the photo of the house around the corner shows:

Phew. I feel so much better now.

Saturday, February 20, 2010


I know to English-speakers that sounds like a rude word ("Stop honking your horn at me, you Krapfen!") and, goodness knows, dozens of Irish visitors have had a hearty snicker at this unfortunate name ... but their snickers are soon silenced when a bag of Krapfen are produced and their senses are allowed to feast on the sight and smell of its jammy, sugary goodness.

Yes, a Krapfen is what we in Ireland would call a jammy doughnut. And as I write, the pictured doughnut is sitting on a plate beside the laptop. I can smell it. I can actually smell the fat it was fried in, I can smell the sugar and if I tried really hard, I could probably smell the jam. These doughnuts are traditionally eaten in the time before Lent, the Carnival (Fasching) period and traditionally should be given up on Ash Wednesday. However, the Gingerbread Husband practically runs on sugar, so there's no chance that he'd give up his near-daily doughnut for, say, the Almighty. He can devour a doughnut in three bites and, given the opportunity, he will. In fact, so prodigious is his propensity for baked goods, that the baker near our old house used to throw in an extra doughnut for him when we shopped there - a kind of frequent-flyer doughnut, if you will. And I've often come home from work to find sugar powder in his beard: "Oh no," he'll say, "I'm not really all that hungry. I had a big lunch." A big lunch my foot.

Anyway, I see no other option but to put the kettle on and make a cup of coffee. Say goodbye to the Krapfen, gentle readers, it's about to be devoured.

Blocking? I'm sorry, come again?

I'm flying through my new Babette. Last night I decided to block the squares. For those of you who don't crochet or knit, blocking means you wet the squares, yank them into shape so they're all the same size and, err, squarer and then let them dry in shape. I'd never done this before because (excuse me please while I shine my fingernails on my collar in pride) my squares are usually ... square. But I'd read so much about the wonders of blocking that I had to try it out for myself. I set up a 'blocking station', laid out my squares, squirted and yanked (ooh, that sounds a bit naughty.) This was the result:

Impressive, eh? Gingerbread Husband was ever-so-slightly bemused by the process and even dared to ask if I was making a woolly tablecloth. I explained to him what blocking was, but he really didn't see the point.

And to be honest, dear readers, neither did I. Sure, it was fun to spray them with my little star-shaped bottle (Pow! Bang! Whish!) but the end result wasn't noticeably different or better than the original. View, if you will, an unblocked square (left) and a blocked square (right):

Eh? I feel a bit cheated. I think the unblocked square is even ... squarer. Am I doing something wrong I wonder?

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Babette colourburst in a monotone winter

Funny how a project quickly gets out of hand. I started another Babette, this time with fewer colours and all from the same colour family. Once again, intended for my Gingerbread SIL - but after finishing the first ten squares or so, I realised that a friend of mine in the south of Germany would like this one so much more. She loves deep reds and strong oranges and sunshine yellows - so what can I do? I have to give it to her, and poor SIL gets shoved down the 'To Do' list.

I took a walk yesterday in the brief window of sunshine (3 seconds). There's still snow everywhere and no one is optimistic enought to believe that we've seen the last of it this season. On the contrary, the general consensus is that we'll be, ahem, enjoying intermittent snowfall till April. This makes me feel like a toddler in the supermarket: "Wh-hh-hh-hy? Why? I don't want any more snow this year! I've had enough!" - and I actually have to stop myself from stomping my feet as I type this. Everyone seems sick of it - even inaminate objects are beginning to look a bit cheesed off at the snow. Exhibit A, your honour (I think he's actually tapping his foot in impatience)

But there is hope: I used my burgeoning photographic skills to snap yesterday's one ray of sunshine.

Actually, I lie. My burgeoning skills consist of me pointing and clicking. I got lucky. But don't tell anyone.

But seeing as how I was wandering through the city with my camera in hand, I came upon this door, which I've walked past a million times but in my winter colour-deprivation, I had to stand in front of it and just soak in its lovely blueness.

Rumour has it that the sky might return to this colour at some point.
Huh. Let's wait and see, shall we?

Sunday, February 14, 2010

My Ugly Babette

If you've read some of the previous posts, you'll remember that at the end of January I was planning my first Babette. I was aided and abetted (or hindered, if you so will) by my dear husband, and I finally just gave up on the colour-tussles and went ahead and DID it with whatever I had at hand. I was aware as I was doing it that it wasn't particularly pretty but I was struck by a fit of bullheadedness and decided to do it anyway.

As you can see, I also refused to block. I never do, anyway. I expect the squares to bend to MY will!

It's finally finished:

Quite frankly, it's hideous. Really horrid. The colours are discordant and not in the least bit harmonious, but it has actually crossed the line and become strangely mesmerising in its ugliness. In fact, it's almost pretty ... and interesting. Anyone I've shown it to recoils at first, then cocks their head sideways and says, "Actually, it's not too bad, is it?"

Sadly, it's not something my Gingerbread SIL would fancy, so it's back to the drawing board (or yarn basket) for me. This time, I think I'll leave the Gingerbread Husband OUT of the planning process and just choose the colours myself. The actual making of the Babette blanket is very exciting: it involves a chart, a table, a pen and a highlighter... all the things that gladden my nerdy little heart. There's nothing I like more than crossing things off a list, and a pattern that involves a lot of colours plus list-crossing is just perfect, in my opinion.

Anyway, no point in dwelling on it. On y va, as the French say: onward and upwards to the next Babette!

Happy Valentine's Day!

Sorry about the long absence, gentle readers, but the reason for this is simple - I've been grumpy.
Yes, grumpy.
And I figured the last thing the world needed was another blogger whinging about her grumpiness and polluting cyberspace with negativity. Besides, as we all know, blogs are supposed to be the display cabinet of the more attractive aspects of one's life, and I really didn't think you'd be all that interested in seeing piles of grammar exams and dirty tea cups. But I'm back now - with some marginally interesting developments in the world of the Gingerbread Lady.

First of all, Gingerbread Husband is now the grumpy one, and quite frankly, I'm not surprised. Cast your eyes to the right and you'll see what's filling his little gingerbread head these days.


Tomorrow is his maths final and he's not a happy camper. Neither of us are paricularly mathematically inclined, but I had the good sense not to pursue a career where complex mathematical formulae are (excuse the pun) part of the equation. Anyway, he's studying hard, reminding me of his plight with periodic sighs but I have become surprisingly resistant to math-induced drama. After all, I did my driving test - that's right, I completed an exam in a potential death-machine, despite an utter lack of depth perception and spatial vision - so if I can do it, so can he.

Anyway, today is Valentine's Day, a day which we generally ignore, except to swap chocolate. I did actually get a rose this year, but it was a present from our retired neighbour as a 'thank you' for my snow-sweeping prowess. I've cleverly managed to clear snow at the peak times of day, the times when most of our neighbours actually see me on the street with my shovel. The Gingerbread Husband, by comparison, doesn't time his snow-clearing very well - no one ever sees him at it. As a result, I have garnered a reputation among my (elderly) neighbours as a Good Hausfrau, which is high praise indeed. The Gingerbread Husband is on his way to being regarded as a Lazy Ne'er-Do-Well by the senior citizens on our street, so he'll have to get out and do some ostentatious tidying and sweeping in order to redress the balance.