I feel the Earth move under my feet

May 16, 2011 § 2 Comments

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Do you know like we were saying, about the earth revolving? It’s like when you’re a kid, the first time they tell you that the world is turning and you just can’t quite believe it ’cause everything looks like it’s standing still. I can feel it – the turn of the earth. The ground beneath our feet is spinning at a thousand miles an hour. The entire planet is hurtling around the sun at sixty seven thousand miles an hour. And I can feel it. We’re falling through space, you and me, clinging to the skin of this tiny little world. And, if we let go… That’s who I am.

These days I barely realize how fast time flies by, until another week has gone by and I’m going square dancing and barbecuing and doing yarny stuff over at Annelie’s and taking guided tours around my neighborhood and having business lunch with my friends and climbing up church towers and saving our little grill from the sudden downpour. My Ravelry project page certainly reflects that – I just updated it with a shawl I finished on April 4th, but other than that I just have a ton of half-finished projects flying around. I did finish the socks I started when I needed something to knit for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part I back in, uh, November, and I’m almost done with a precious little baby set in red and yellow – it’s funny how Elizabeth Zimmerman’s patterns totally work if you actually follow them.

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Also, this week Annelie and I finally got around to dyeing some yarn, with easter egg dyes, Kool-Aid and onion skins. There was a whole rainbow of little skeins of wool that she’d inherited from her great-grandmother, and then five big skeins that we met up to untangle and wind into balls just yesterday.

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(from top to bottom: kool-aid, easter egg dye, onion skins first skein, onion skins second skein. yes, I am aware of the fact that these are only four skeins; Annelie had already started winding one)

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I love winding yarn into balls, or in my case flat yarn cakes that don’t roll around quite so absurdly. It’s a very social thing, absolute teamwork, with one holding the skein and the other one winding the ball, and while you’re connected to thousands of years of history, you have tons and tons of time on your hands to just talk. And with five 130 g skeins of fingering-weight yarn, that’s quite a lot of time. Good times. We split the onion skeins fraternally (or sororically) and are planning on a glove KAL; the blue-and-green skein is mine and mine alone, yes yes my precioussss, and Annelie promptly cast on another Baby Surprise Jacket with the Kool-Aid skein.

I cannot stress how heartbreakingly gorgeous the first onion yarn is. The second, paler one is still quite pretty, but the first one… It’s like spun gold. Which quite frankly I hadn’t expected from onions. Of all things, really.

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And so, life goes on and on. Down from the road where it began. (speaking of which, today is the first day of Sherlock shooting in Cardiff. I can’t wait for the second season!) There are two weeks left until the Wollefest, two months minus one day until I have to hand in my Bachelor’s thesis. And before I’ll know it, summer will be over and done with, and the leaves will turn to gold, and nothing gold can stay. I feel the earth move under my feet…

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Jitterbug

April 22, 2011 § Leave a comment

“My father was a beekeeper before me, his father was a beekeeper before him; I wanna walk in their footsteps.” And their footsteps were like this: [running wildly from imaginary bees] “I’m covered in bees!” (Eddie Izzard)

Like all knitters, I’m fairly concerned about moths. And when I say fairly concerned, I mean absolutely hysterical if a moth just shows so much as the tips of its wings, regardless of whether it’s an actual wool-eating moth or just a butterfly that prefers to stay on the nocturnal side of things.

But apart from moths, I don’t have any particular beef with the generously-legged part of the world population, as long as they’re reasonably small, don’t try and suck my blood, and don’t flutter hysterically into my face. (Or are behind plate glass.) I have my windows open 24/7 as soon as the weather allows, so it’s only natural that between April and September, a fair share of small insects gets confused by my lamps and decides to pop by for a visit.

As far as insects go, my favorites are the stripey ones. Wasps just look really cool in their sleek, patterned body-armor. Bumblebees are fuzzy and adorable, and look ridiculous when their hind legs are so thickly covered in pollen they can barely lift off. And bees are also fuzzy, with the added bonus of making honey.

So when a bee flew into my room the other day, hung around under my desk for a bit and buzzed off again, I didn’t pay it much attention. And when it (or another bee with a very strong family resemblance) came back a couple of times, I still wasn’t worried. I was annoyed, yes, at some point where a bee headbutted me in the knee at 5.30 in the morning until I was very much awake (at 5.30. ngh.), but, y’know. What was a bee gonna do under my desk? Climb in through the back of my stash and build a hive? Absurd, right? Hah, hah, haaa…

My diabolical laughter suddenly rang hollow in my own ears. I opened the lowest drawer of the three, the one most accessible from the back, since the backing doesn’t go all the way to the bottom. I saw… nothing. Poked around a bit. Still nothing. Lifted up a bag of alpaca roving. Wondered whether alpaca roving was generally supposed to buzz, until a fairly enraged bee popped up and flounced indignantly out of the window, calling my mother names while doing so (I imagine).

Under the alpaca roving, there was a second skein of the yellow yarn I made the Swallowtail Stole out of, and nestled carefully among the eggyolk-yellow extrafine merino, I found this:

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I feel a bit conflicted, to be honest. I mean, obviously I can’t have a beehive in my room. But on the other hand, I’m destroying the work of what as far as I could tell was a single, lonely bee, slavering away for days and days, having found the perfect, cozy, dark spot with a narrow entrance and lots of space inside, and now trying to build a new future.

Still, I did the only sensible thing.

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HYSTERIC AMOUNTS OF TAPE.

Man, I could’ve shown you the cool stuff I ordered from Ravelry, or how I’m getting back in the lace groove, or the tons and tons of yarn I bought on our road trip to the Hamburger Wollfabrik. And what am I blogging about? Fuckin’ bees, man.

But hey, at least it wasn’t a moth.

Amongst our weaponry are such diverse elements as: fear, surprise, ruthless efficiency, an almost fanatical devotion to the Pope, and nice red uniforms – Oh damn!

March 24, 2011 § 4 Comments

I’ve been taking full advantage of the beautiful spring weather. It’s been a balmy 15°C with lots of sun and barely a cloud in the sky, so yesterday while I had the Armada pinned out on my bed I went to the park with Saskia, to soak up sun and eat delicious Middle Eastern snacks while wearing a skirt, a t-shirt and ballerinas. After we had enough of the park we had coffee in front of our favorite café just around the corner from our house, and I didn’t even mind going back home because this is what greeted me when I stepped into my room.

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Turned out it blocked out to slightly bigger than 1.20m, but I could pin the slack down on the side of the mattress. Thank god for the aluminum rods! Using them on all four sides would’ve been too fiddly (not to mention the injuries I probably would’ve suffered from tripping over the two protruding bits) but two sides was perfect.

What I love about lace, apart from the general and obvious gorgeousness, is how small it folds. Even hairsprayed into oblivion (I’m paranoid when it comes to blocking and like to fixate with a bit – or half a can – of hairspray before pulling out the pins), it was still barely bigger than my Moleskine calender.

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And then today, I grabbed Saskia by the hair and dragged her down to the canal and forced her at gunpoint to model the shawl for me. I might have been more of an asking-nicely thing than brutal blackmail, but, y’know. Anything for a dramatic hyperbole.

Anyway, she did a beautiful job, and oh my, I’m so in love with this yarny monstrosity. It’s like the Big Green Monster v.2. I don’t even know how to wear it. But it’s amazing.

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So this is it. Spanish Armada by MMario with an edging by Utlinde (I’d love to link to the PDF, but I got it from her personally and it’s neither in her nor in Mmario’s patterns). This shawl measures approximately 127 cm by 127 cm (about 4’2″ by 4’2″) and was knit in 81 days with an entire skein of Filatura di Crosa Centolavaggi (100% merino, 1400m/100g, color 151), mostly on 3mm bamboo needles. I say mostly because for the last quarter of the edging, I gradually switched down to a 2.25mm DPN and one 3mm tip of the circ because yarn was getting scarce and I was getting scared.

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In the end, I was more than glad I went down a couple of sizes because I finished with nothing at all left over and a half-corner that consists of about half the short rows normally required. ‘Tight squeeze’ doesn’t even come close. I spent about a week frantically weighing and re-weighing the little ball of yarn that got even smaller at an alarming rate, and the adrenaline rush when I just barely made it had me woozy for at least half an hour.

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I cast on with Fleegle’s Cast-On For Circular Shawls, which is insanely difficult if you do it wrong and a revelation once you hold the yarn the way you’re supposed to.

[UPDATE: I saw that people have been searching my blog for a good way to cast on for this, and I’d like to add that while Fleegle’s Cast-On is awesome and I’ve used it many times to great success, TECHknitting has a disappearing loop cast-on that works the same way, only you can cast on an even number of stitches, eliminating the need to sneak an increase in somewhere.]

Modifications: I added one ‘leaf’ repeat to the Print o’ the Wave. I wish the chart had lined up so I could’ve changed some of the k2tog to ssk to get nicely defined lines like in the edging, but spilled milk and all that. I think I added about a repeat and a half to the English Mesh just for the heck of it, and skipped the very last chart in favor of the sideways edging. It was originally for a triangular shawl, so I stared with the middle row of the corner chart after the provisional cast-on. After the first corner was unsatisfyingly loose in the middle, I started to wrap & turn and do a [pick up wrap, k2tog] row instead of the charted middle row for the other corners and they came out much, much better. I had to fudge away a couple of stitches here and there and I’m pretty sure the amount of scallops is different on each side, but there’s enough of them for me not to be too bothered by that. The entire edging took 35g, but with two or three grams more there would’ve been a lot less stress and a much smaller number of shortcuts.

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Now that it’s all nice and blocked, the ratio between the Print o’ the Wave and the English Mesh doesn’t seem as off as it did pre-blocking, for which I am intensely grateful. At times, the only thing that kept me from ripping back half the edging, the Mesh and the extra repeat of the Print o’ the Wave was the fact that I was on an already tight schedule, and it turns out it works just fine like this.

I think this has been my most challenging project to date. This was partly due to the pattern being difficult to grasp intuitively, so that I had to work each row with intense concentration and even more intense counting. But although I’d knit lightweight lace before, I’d never worked with yarn that fine before: my usual lace yarns run somewhere around 600m/100g, and even Misti Alpaca Lace is only 800m/100g, which is still 600m less than the Centolavaggi. The thing that had worried me most, the >800-stitch-long rows towards the end, ended up being the least of my concerns. I’m not a patient person by nature, but with lace I can scrounge up a surprising amount of the stuff. Also Centolavaggi is a thoroughly enjoyable yarn to work with, I’m intensely glad I have another skein (apple green this time) in my stash. I guess since lace shawls are relatively impractical by nature (compared to, say, socks), I turn into somewhat of a process knitter when working on them, whereas with socks I have the biggest trouble psyching myself up for the heel because it takes so long.

Now, after all this serious!knitter stuff, for the most famous reindeer of all:

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You’re just a cannibal

March 5, 2011 § 5 Comments

It’s funny how I constantly blog when there’s absolutely nothing going on, but as soon as I’m actually doing stuff, all my motivation for keeping a log just kind of circles the drain.

The long-overdue Berlin recap: Berlin was four days of walking in the wrong direction, getting lost, discovering wonderful things because of a total lack of a general sense of direction, and buying lots of yarn and even more books. I have no sense of self-discipline, I swear. Also, we totally discovered a pub called The Oscar Wilde, and had a drink in his honor there.

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(Also, I tweeted Stephen Fry about it, and he tweeted me back saying he already knew it. On the other hand, HOLY SHIT STEPHEN FRY TWEETED ME BACK.)

We visited a total of three yarn shops: Loops at Prenzlauer Berg, Fadeninsel in Kreuzberg, and handmade Berlin in Mitte. All of them were amazing; Loops and Fadeninsel carried many of the same yarns including two different brands of laceweight (always a surprise to find), handmade Berlin was just stuffed with luxury yarns. Oh my. It was amazing, tons and tons of cashmere and silk and alpaca and stainless steel and paper and Fiber Artist and Handmaiden and more cashmere.

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(and this is just one wall, in one of two rooms. Heaven, I tell you!)

My total haul (minus a little skein of purple silk that I bought for Saskia; it was so slippery we didn’t manage to wind it into a ball):

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(clockwise from the top: Handmaiden Casbah, Blue Sky Alpaca alpaca/silk, rosewood 4mm circs, handmade Berlin Yarn Edition Scottish wool/linen blend on the cones, Sheepland lace yarn, ggh Baby Alpaca, Kia Ora NZ merino/possum blend). I’ve already knit up half of the Yarn Edition (more on that later.)

However, on the whole I went rrrrrelatively light on the yarn, because we discovered not one, but two full-size English bookstores: one inside Dussmann, and another one right across the street from Loops which happened to be a used-book store that was crammed full to the stucco. It was amazing.

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We went there twice, and I bought a total of eight (I could’ve sworn nine) books there, the most expensive costing €7 (that’s the Wilde bio), the others all under €5. The clerks were stupendously nice, and the beat-up chesterfield was the comfiest sofa I’ve ever sat on.

The downside: dragging it all back to Leipzig.

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Berlin also has a button shop that isn’t hard to find if you don’t first walk a kilometer in the wrong direction (guess how I found out). It’s also crammed full, which seemed to be an ongoing theme that I heartily approve of. It’s also very convenient to know there’s a button shop in a city closer to me than London.

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My special favorite are the two Aslan buttons. I almost keeled over with joy. The big horn one’s already on my Girl Friday cardi, and the three little sunburst buttons are also already on knitwear. (again, more on that later.)

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**

So that was Berlin. Since I came back, I’ve made some considerable progress on the Spanish Armada, I’ve finished the sock I started for Berlin and got regrettably little knitting time on while actually there, although I couldn’t yet be arsed to cast on its twin, and I’ve knit a pattern that is well-loved by many, and as I find out, for a reason. And that reason is that it’s so. damn. clever.

I’m talking, of course, about Elizabeth Zimmermann’s Baby Surprise Jacket. Annelie recently found out she had a knitting neighbor, who loaned her a couple of EZ books. And one of these books, I discovered to my endless delight, has the BSJ pattern in it. Hallelujah! After the disappointment of the Knitter’s Almanac not featuring it, that was a real miracle right there.

And the BSJ is kind of ridiculous, if you think about it. Actually, it’s ridiculous the whole entire time you’re knitting it, because you’re making this… this misshapen piece of fabric. Which looks so unlike a baby garment that the pattern specifically states, “Work will start to look very odd, indeed, but trust me, and PRESS ON.”

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The whole time I was knitting it, I was trying to figure out how to fold it, and only on the last third or so did it approach something approaching sensibility. But when you’re done, and you’ve cast off, the magic happens. You fold it…

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… and fold it again, and sew up the shoulder seams, and attach a couple of buttons, and holy shit it’s about the cutest baby jacket ever.

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It’s so cute that when I was done making it up and photographing it, I pulled out another ball of fingering-weight yarn and started casting on another one… and then gently reminded myself I had more pressing projects. I still see a couple more of these in my future though. SO CUTE. Both of my flatmates, upon entering the apartment and seeing the BSJ drying on the rack, dissolved into helpless squeeing. While sewing I occasionally caught myself cooing embarrassingly at the thing. It’s terrible.

So there’s that. BSJ, and I’m currently reconstructing the pattern of a shawl Annelie’s great-grandma knit way back in the day. It’s garter stitch, and my first try was knitting the center triangle and then knitting on the edging in two pieces. Turns out, when I was staring at it during breakfast at her house just after I’d proudly shown off my swatch, that it’s all in one piece, and still every bit as clever as I thought. Good times.

We’re gonna turn this sow’s ear into a silk purse

February 7, 2011 § 5 Comments

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(We’ve been having some lovely weather lately. I just sat on the Augustusplatz and knit for half an hour today, in the blinding sunlight with my jacket open, just because I could.)

I’d love to pull a Yarn Harlot and proclaim my infection with finish-it-up-itis, but while I don’t maintain it doesn’t exist, it certainly isn’t happening to me. Or I’ve already had it for months, it was just that my projects weren’t as wisely chosen as these days?

First, the purchases of the week:

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That’s a skein of Wollmeise (color: Frosch) on top of the Lucifer Box novels by Mark Gatiss, which really deserve their own post and I could go on and on about them. So I’m just gonna say that they’re brilliant, and fun, and adventure-laden, and the hero is the perfect mix of James Bond, Sherlock Holmes, every single character out of Dorian Gray (no, seriously. every single one of them. Well, maybe not Sibyl Vane. But everyone else.), and Captain Jack Harkness. They’re written in the first person, which isn’t normally my thing but works wonderfully with the wit and sparkle Lucifer Box has, and, you know. Even Stephen Fry couldn’t get enough of them. As of now I’ve finished the first two books, and I loved every page. Mark Gatiss is my new hero. (A brilliant gay sci-fi and adventure writer whose well-written hero is cheerfully bisexual but not utterly defined by some stereotype. What’s there not to love?)

Seriously. I’ve been recommending it all over the place for a week, and I’ll do it here as well: If you only discover one author this year, let it be Mark Gatiss. At least read Vesuvius Club. You won’t be able to stop there, anyway.

Second, I finished the Kai-Mei socks! I admit it’s kind of embarrassing that I’m the first one to finish a design out of Saskia’s birthday present, but, eh. They’re warm and lovely and SO CLEVER, and I think I’m going to knit a couple more socks with that construction, although not necessarily the same lace panel.

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I wore them to Annelie’s to show them off, partly because it’s always nice to show off an FO to real people, and mostly because Annelie had given me the yarn. And once again, it was one of these things that only happen with yarn people.

Annelie: Oooh, you finished the socks!
Me: Yup. *pulls up pants leg a bit* … you can touch them if you want to?
Annelie: Ooooh, they’re so soft!
Me: Yeah, I think there may be some alpaca or something in there.
Annelie: No idea. … Honeeeeey! Honey, come here for a second!
Annelie’s husband: … yes?
Annelie: Remember that yarn I had for the longest time?
Annelie’s husband: … no?
Annelie: you know, the one I got from XY, in Karolinsiel, don’t you remember?
Annelie’s husband: … no?
Annelie: well, Patti knit it up into socks. Here, touch them!

I have to say, he’s very well-trained in terms of yarn-related behavior.

Apart from surprise!sock-fondling, we actually got some work done on Sunday. I was at Annelie’s for six hours and I sat at the wheel for at least 5 of those. I had ~flow, man. But now, along with some gorgeous yarn I finished with only seconds to spare before I had to leave, I’ve also got sore muscles in more expected places.

Yes, I finished my first wheel-spun yarn. And I shall subject you all to a lengthy slideshow of every stage of the process.

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Well, actually I won’t. Kind of. I’ll put the major part of the lengthy slideshow under a break so the tl;dr crowd can’t complain (although, pretty pictures. what’s wrong with you people? have you got no soul?), but here’s some of the most important ones. Because I took this here:

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(Drachenwolle, 130 g BFL, color ‘Stroh zu Gold’, gorgeous but useless)

and turned it into this:

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(~130 g, 226m, still gorgeous, knittable!)

and it only took me two afternoons (and a total of two hours or so of pre-drafting on the Saturdays before). How would you not want to see more of where that came from? (Am I trying to guilt you into clicking that ‘more’ link, just so that I can geek about spinning a bit more? Damn right I am!)

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Un amante de lujo

January 30, 2011 § Leave a comment

Now, while I’m pretty much rocking the Sherlook…

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I’m also quite sure he wouldn’t be caught dead with this addition to his wardrobe.

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Now, in my men’s dress shirt and my waistcoat, off to Annelie to spin with freshly-baked digestive cookies in my bag :D

There’s been a run of crazy dreams

January 30, 2011 § 2 Comments

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I don’t know why I don’t post as many pictures of the church next to my house anymore. I used to be such a whore for it and the pictures are always quite stunning. Especially this morning, when it started getting light, and I saw the beautiful misty crispness of the day.

I don’t know why I’m awake – I’ve been up since 6 for no reason at all. All the more stunning since by all rights I should be hung over like crazy. My new favorite cocktail is Agent Jack: 1.5cl cointreau, 2 cl lemon juice, 5 cl whiskey, 18 cl cola. We call it Captain Jack around here.

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News on the knitting front: zero. I’ve been wrestling with the Spanish armada but haven’t gotten anywhere due to the abysmal charts; I’ve done a couple of rows on the second sleeve for Thermal but haven’t gotten anywhere due to my pronounced disinterest.

But I’ve been reading.

It gives me such joy these days. To sit down with a good book is such a simple, overwhelming pleasure, tactile as well as intellectual. Sometimes, I feel like the internet removes us from our senses too much. It’s all the same smooth, sterile, ultimately uninteresting keys. No touch, no smell, no taste. Not that I’m not grateful for the internet, but it’s like apples and oranges.

I’ve been buying books like a madwoman. Dover Thrift Editions and used books on Amazon make it hard not to. Some are totally in my comfort zone – the Lucifer Box series by Mark Gatiss, several Oscar Wilde books are among them, one of them no other than De Profundis, which is beautiful in its bitterness. With some, I’ve surprised myself, like ‘Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde’, or Stephen Hawking’s ‘A briefer history of time’, which is turning out to be the most enjoyable and funny read as well as an educational one. I feel like there’s a whole world just opening up to me. Like the last two years were in this tiny bubble, and suddenly I’m bursting free and expanding.

I hadn’t realized how much I’d missed books.

The Hawking, by the way, is a byproduct of my recent obsession with Benedict Cumberbatch. He played Stephen Hawking in the heart-wrenching BBC movie ‘Hawking’, and there was so much joy in this movie. So much excitement at the wonder of the universe. So much life and joy in such overwhelming sadness. And it makes me feel so humble and small: Stephen Hawking knows where the universe comes from. Last week, I didn’t even know where Stephen Hawking is from.

Funny how you get the most fantastic impulses from the weirdest places. But then, I tackled Goethe’s ‘Faust’ (one of the key dramas in German literature) because the drummer of my favorite band at the time did a stripped-down-to-the-basics audio adaption of it. Another unexpected result of the Cumberbatchitis is that I found a fantastic recipe for Indian/ Parsi scrambled eggs.

So here I am. Reading the possibly longest letter in modern history and eating fantastic eggs. And later going over to Annelie’s to spin.

Have I mentioned how much I love my life?

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