Through the Back Loop

Adventures in knitting, fiber arts, and family.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Happy 77th Birthday, Oma!

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"Oma" and "Opa" are German for "grandma" and "grandpa". My mother-in-law, Oma to my daughters, is one of the greatest women that I have ever met. She lived through WWII as a teenager in Germany, caring for her six younger siblings and rushing them off to safety in the wheat fields when bombers flew overhead and dropped their explosives on her town. One time, during the night, the entire family fled down their street, only to come home and find that their neighbors house had been hit, and everyone inside killed, including my mother-in-law's friend who lived there.

She came to the US in 1953 with her husband and their oldest child. My sister-in-law was two years old when she came here, and two more children were born in the U.S. - another sister-in-law and my husband. Oma and Opa worked tough, physical jobs and fought for every penny they earned. In the 1980's they bought their first home, and my MIL still talks about this as one of her proudest achievements.

A few years ago, she suffered a stroke, but she was still her fiesty self afterwards. Last year, in September, she suffered a much larger stroke that has robbed her of her short term memory and a lot of her independent care skills. We celebrated her birthday today, and it was a true celebration. Oma had been in the hospital for several weeks with a bladder infection, and a medication update that was made to help make her happier and less depressed and angry since her strokes. It seems to have worked. Although she STILL won't smile for a picture - she jokes around and sounds more like her old self.

In the picture above she is wearing one of my gifts to her. I made her a bedjacket. It is basically a shawl with cuffs, and it is the first project I have made from yarn I spun myself. I picked out the color with her in mind, it's called Weathered Barn. And the bedjacket was actually a marriage of two different patterns - a fan and feather shawl with cuffs from another pattern so that the shawl won't fall off of her shoulders, especially when she uses her walker. Oma's short term memory loss made it possible for her to enjoy her gift every 20 minutes. She would ask, "Whose is this?" grabbing the shawl and looking at me, using long term memory to know that I am the knitter in the family.

"It's yours," I would tell her.
"Oh, my goodness. Really? It's beautiful," she would exclaim as she stroked the wool against her cheek, closing her eyes.
"Yes, I made it for you, and I spun the wool myself."
"Really? You made this yarn? It's beautiful. Thank you!" she would say. Then about 20 minutes later we would have the exact same conversation.

It is hard for her to put on the shawl by herself so she may just hold the shawl and enjoy the feel of the wool - she was also a knitter and crocheter before her strokes, and has always enjoyed the feel of wool. I also made it for her for this reason, hoping that if she didn't wear it, she would enjoy just touching it. I think I succeeded.

My second gift to her was this:

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This is Buttercreme Torte, and I was the first one other than my MIL to make it. It is a huge family tradition, one of those recipes that isn't written down, but rather kept in someone's memory. Over 10 years ago, I sat down with my MIL and asked her to tell me all of her recipes. This was one of them, and it happens to be her favorite torte. She would make it every year on her birthday.

When she was discharged from the hospital on Dec. 26th, she knew that her birthday was coming up and kept commenting that she wished for a Buttercreme Torte. It takes two days to make and uses 3 sticks of butter combined with thickened pudding for the frosting. Truly NOT a diet food. In the past two weeks, Oma wouldn't eat anything at the hospital. She lost 20% of her bodyweight during that time.

She polished off two pieces of the Buttercreme Torte and told me that there was only one thing wrong with it. I braced myself for her honest criticism.

"The one thing wrong with it," she said, "is that it tastes like more!"

Happy Birthday, Oma! We love YOU more!

Thursday, December 07, 2006

It's a Small World.....

What, pray tell, could bring me back to blogging after such a hiatus? Well, a moment on Tuesday gave me something to talk about. Something good that filled my heart with those warm, hot chocolate with mini marshmallows kind of feeling. The kind of good that comes from cupping your hands round a hot cuppa tea on a chilly day.

Each month I go to spinning guild. I am the “newbie” of the bunch as I have only been spinning for two years. There are three new ladies who have joined us, taking the newbie pressure off of me, thank goodness! Our meetings are all pretty much the same. Set up and spin for awhile, someone brings us back to the “topic of the day” and we do any guild business which is usually passing around flyers, magazines, and mail that the guild has gotten over the last month, a show and tell time, and then we spin until we feel like going home. It’s pretty low key.

Our guild is pretty funny… I’m convinced that I shouldn’t be a member because there must be some unwritten rule about having a certain first name to be in the thing. There is Mary, MaryAnn, Marilyn, Ann, Annie, and then us losers who were named Kristyn, Carol, Nancy, Pat, Margarite and Amy (at least these last two could follow the initial letter rule that Carol, Pat, Nancy and I just completely ignored). Even the new people have followed the rules. There is a Mary Ellen!

On Tuesday, we shivered in the woolen mill where we meet each month and watched part II of our DVD learning session on novelty yarns. I became quite proficient at the knotted yarn technique. I sat between Mary and Nancy. Nancy’s knotted yarn was much thicker than mine and really showed the knots off better, but mine was pretty delicate looking.

Near the end of the night, Pat shared this awesome gooey pumpkin bar with crystallized ginger sauce. I’m still licking the sauce off of my fingers. It was super! The perfect thing for such a chilly night. Then it was time to pack up. Pat came over to me and mentioned a project that I had made a year ago for the first child of my cousin in Germany. She complimented me on it and said that her friend also knew about the sweater set and had seen it.

“Really?,” I asked.
“Yes. You know her. Her name is Vicki and she said that she has seen the sweater and she thought it was really nice, too,” Pat replied. My mind began spinning (no pun intended) while I’m picturing everyone I knew who had seen it. Vicki? Vicki? I couldn’t think of a Vicki.

Pat must have noticed the confusion on my face, so she helped me out by telling me Vicki’s last name. “Vicki M.,” she said, “Vicki had seen a picture of it online or something.”Immediately I got it. Pat is from Brillion, which is close to Appleton, which is where knitorious lives. Well actually, knitorious lives in Kaukuana, but that is a stone’s throw from Appleton. VICKI! “Oh! You mean Vicki Knitorious!” I cried excitedly.

“Vicki who? No. Vicki M.” was her reply. Isn’t it strange? A blog name, to me, means as much as a surname. Vicki M. didn’t make any sense to me, but say Vicki Knitorious and I was jumping for joy while Pat was confused. The name knitorious made no sense to her. “You know her?” I asked.
“Yeah, of course. I work with her husband and I know her really well.”
Small world. Vicki Knitorious and I have never met in person (although we NEED to!). But I have always known that I like her a lot, and now it is certain. Pat is so nice, and because I like Pat as much as I do and she likes Vicki, well then it’s a done deal!