Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Ten on Tuesday - the Housekeeping (or not) Edition

I have to admit that this week's Ten on Tuesday topic, 10 Favorite Housekeeping Shortcuts, made me laugh (at myself), long and loud. I considered not participating since I don't have much meaningful to contribute, but decided I would make my list anyway:

Ten One Favorite Housekeeping Shortcuts:
1. Don't do it until absolutely necessary.  

I wish I had shortcuts, but housekeeping comes in very low on my list of things to do. Maybe it's just because there are so many other things that are much higher on my to-do (or want-to-do) list. Housework is certainly a necessity, and it definitely needs to be done, but I tend to resent most of the time I spend doing it. The only way that really works for me is to just do it, usually because I can't stand the mess any longer or I'm having company. I definitely look forward to reading others' lists in hopes of learning some time-saving shortcuts. Perhaps I'd learn better if someone came to my house and demonstrated these shortcuts!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Yarn Along - Goldfinch and Gifts Edition

 (My apologies for a less than stellar photo; we're in the middle of a Nor'easter
 and won't see the sun until Friday.)

Audiobook: The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. I'm only about halfway through, but this is quite possibly one of the best books I've ever read, the perfect combination of a fascinating story, incredibly well-told and beautifully written. I'm listening to it in audio form; the photo above shows the print copy I bought to give as a Christmas gift. It's such an extraordinary book I'm tempted to give it to everyone on my list!

Print Reading: Longbourn by Jo Baker. I haven't had much time for print reading so I'm progressing slowly with this one. It's told from the viewpoint of the servants and domestic staff at the Bennet's estate, Longbourn, from Pride and Prejudice. I'm enjoying the realism of scrubbing petticoats and chilblains without the romantic swooning over Mr. Darcy.

Knitting: O Christmas Scarf, O Christmas Scarf! and Blue Lobster Waffles are both gift knitting. I don't knit very many Christmas gifts, but these were specifically requested. I feel grateful that family members value my knitting enough to ask for it!

What are you reading and knitting this week? Join in this week's Yarn Along, with Ginny at Small Things

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Ten on Tuesday - 10 Things I'm Thankful For

I've been very busy over the past several weeks, too busy to do Ten on Tuesday, but this week's topic of 10 Things I'm Thankful For is exactly what I need. It's definitely time for me to take the time to reflect, think, and be grateful.

1. My Family!
Of course they're first on my list and in my heart. They add inestimable love, enjoyment, good company, fun, humor, education, and so much more to my life.

2. Good Food
I'm thankful that my budget allows me to purchase good food, and I'm also grateful that I'm able to grow good food in the garden. Our home-grown string beans, brussels sprouts, turnips, and even the bizarre humanoid carrots will be on the table at Thanksgiving.

3. Technology
Oldest Son will be celebrating Thanksgiving 1700 miles away from home but we'll all be able to visit with him through the magic of Skype. This will be quite a new experience for my father and my mother-in-law, so I think part of the fun will be watching their response. Hopefully my mother-in-law won't be too concerned when she sees my son starting his own Thanksgiving tradition of having Chinese food.

4. Knitting 
I'm currently knitting some Christmas gifts, but only because they've been requested. I'm grateful that others value my knitting enough to ask for it; I'm thankful for some very nice yarn to knit gifts with, and I'm thankful for everything that knitting gives me in return.

5. Cold Weather
This one might be a bit different, but I hate heat and humidity. I thrive and feel best in the fall and winter, so I welcome the return of cold weather, frost, and even blustery winds and snow. I'm also thankful for the ability to easily heat my home!

6. Longtime Friends 
Last weekend we had the pleasure of entertaining friends that we have known for almost 40 years. They have lived in Canada, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Washington D.C., Hawaii, and now back to Canada permanently, so because of the distance, many years elapse between in-person visits. While I was preparing for their visit, I was a bit worried about whether we would have things to talk about. As soon as they walked through the door we were busy chatting, catching up, and thoroughly enjoying each other's company. I'm thankful that we have friends that remain friends, no matter the years and miles.

7. Thanksgiving/Christmas Cactuses
I'm really partial to these easy-to-grow plants and have many of them, including some grown from cuttings from my mother and my husband's grandmother. When things start to look grey and dreary, I'm always thankful for their brilliant blossoms. They're called Christmas cactuses, but some of mine start blooming at Thanksgiving and continue through Christmas; I even have one that blooms at Easter!

8. My Senses 
They're all important, all the time, but lately I've been especially thankful for them. I've enjoyed the enticing smell of a prime rib roast roasting in the oven, the wonderful scent of spaghetti sauce made from our home-grown tomatoes, basil, and oregano, and the delicious scent of the bread for stuffing that I have baking right now. I look forward to touching the mink and cashmere yarn I'm knitting with, hearing the voices of my family near and far, and enjoying the smell and taste of wonderful warm mugs of tea and chai.

9. The Library 
As soon as my bread is done baking, I'm heading to our local library to pick up some books I've reserved. I know my tax dollars help support the library, but I gain so much more than I give. I enjoy books, audiobooks, ebooks, programs, art, music, book recommendations, and a huge used book sale. Thanks, Hunterdon County Library!

10. The Good Wife
I don't watch a lot of TV, but while I wait for the return of Downton Abbey and House of Cards, I've started watching The Good Wife. It's a legal soap opera, but I like seeing old faces in new roles (Julianna Margulies and Matt Czuchry) and even though they're lawyers, some characters do the right thing (or at least think about it!) The drama and availability of five seasons makes it an excellent program to watch while knitting.

I'm also very thankful to anyone who has taken the time to read my ramblings here!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

The Harvest Is In

Before some real frosts last week, the garden harvest was completed.

 No matter how early I start seeds indoors this is about as big as my watermelons get. 
Someday I'm going to grow a real one!

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Family Matters

Because Family Matters So Much, sometimes family matters can be a bit overwhelming. There's nothing really big or life-threatening going on right now, but I've had more than enough family worries lately and find myself nostalgically longing for the days when problems seemed small and consisted mainly of lack of sleep for me and boo-boos that could be kissed away.

 I know in reality that there were plenty of sad, grumpy, disagreeable days, complete with lots of hurt, anger, fears, and tears, but how I wish I still had the ability to solve their problems and put big smiles on their faces with a bowl of strawberries or a blue lollipop. 

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Ten on Tuesday - Quite a mouthful

Today's Ten on Tuesday is quite a mouthful, both literally and figuratively (also creative and interesting!) - 10 Foods You Eat Regularly Now That Were Exotic (or unheard of) When You Were a Kid. None of the foods I eat now are particularly exotic, but I was a kid in the late fifties through the seventies, so remember that jello salads were exotic, and spaghetti with Ragu was an ethnic dish!

1. Yogurt
I had never even heard of yogurt before I was in college, and then it was the fruit-on-the bottom Dannon. I made my own with a yogurt maker in the seventies, but since it stopped working, I just use the crockpot-wrapped-in-a-towel method.

2. Whole wheat bread
We only ate white Sunbeam bread (Batter Whipped?!) when I was a kid, but during that broadening of my horizons that was college, I discovered whole wheat bread. Now almost all of the bread we eat (except for homemade cinnamon rolls!) has some whole wheat flour in it.
 3. Muesli
I had never heard of this until some European friends shared theirs with us 30 years ago. It used to be impossible to find, but Amazon and health food stores make it easy now.

4. Chard
I honestly hadn't eaten this before my husband started planting it in our garden about five years ago. It's not one of my favorites, but I'm experimenting with new and better ways to prepare it, so I like it a little more every year.

5. Fresh tomatoes
I grew up in a non-gardening family, and we ate supermarket tomatoes, even in the summer. Once I tasted fresh tomatoes from my father-in-law's garden, there was no going back to the sad supermarket imitation of a tomato.

6. Turnips
My husband loves these, so we eat them often since we've been growing them in the garden. Crapshoot (our version of clapshot) is my favorite way to fix them.

7. Brussels sprouts
These were definitely not in my mother's rotation of frozen vegetables when I was a kid, but I have my husband to thank for these also. I probably like the way they grow and their cute miniature cabbage appearance a bit more than the taste, but growing them yourself does make them taste better.

8. Marinated anything
While marinating isn't terribly exotic, my mother didn't marinate anything. I found the world's best beef/game marinade about 15 years ago, tinkered with it over time, and now use it weekly, especially in the summer. I'm still looking for the world's best chicken marinade, so I'd love your suggestions!

9. Game meats
I'm lucky enough to have a family with two hunters, so we eat a lot of game meat. The taste was an acquired one for me, but I'll always choose venison or elk over beef now. Venison is a staple in our house; we've also enjoyed elk, squirrel, rabbit, and bear.

10. Pad Thai
I'm thankful that my older son helped me branch out and eat a tiny bit more adventurously. We searched for Pad Thai during our road trip across the country to move him to Colorado, and had fun trying all the Thai restaurants in Fort Collins. My area back in NJ is woefully deficient in decent Thai food, so I may try making my own Pad Thai as soon as I can find rice noodles, fish and oyster sauces, and tamarind concentrate!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Yarn Along - the Tortoise Edition

Print Reading: Come, Thou Tortoise by Jessica Grant. I haven't had much time for print reading so I'm still reading the same book I started last week. It's also possible that I'm going slowly because I really love the serendipitous matching of my book and knitting bag!

Audiobook: One Summer: America, 1927 by Bill Bryson. I'm also still listening to Bill Bryson. We had a day of storms yesterday with lots of rain and wind, so that means lots of leaves are down to begin the raking season. I listen to audiobooks while doing yard work, so I may be making some progress on this one while raking this week.

Knitting: Hitchhiking Who Knows Where and My Heart Belongs to Blue. Hitchhiking is my travel project so it has only grown by five teeth or so. I'm just past the halfway point on My Heart but because it's lace and needs to be blocked to show the heart border to full effect, it looks less than beautiful at the moment. I'm knitting it with DIC Smooshy with Cashmere, so what it lacks in beauty now is more than made up for by my decadent enjoyment of this yarn.

What are you reading and knitting this week? Join in this week's Yarn Along, with Ginny at Small Things.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Yarn Along

Print Reading: Come, Thou Tortoise by Jessica Grant. I've just started this, and while it's a little quirky so far, it's interesting quirky as opposed to weird quirky. I had some trouble finding a copy, but that just made me want to read it even more. It was a happy coincidence that my knitting bag matches my book!

Audiobook: One Summer: America, 1927 by Bill Bryson. I don't have a lot of interest in the 1920s, but I am very interested in reading anything written by Bill Bryson, especially when he narrates it himself. I can't tell you how much I'm looking forward to 17 glorious hours of Bill Bryson reading to me!

Knitting: My Heart Belongs to Blue and Hitchhiking Who Knows Where. I'm going to hear Temple Grandin speak tonight and needed a take-along project that doesn't require counting so I decided to start my third Hitchhiker with a couple of yarns I found in my stash.

What are you reading and knitting this week? Join in this week's Yarn Along, with Ginny at Small Things.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Ten on Tuesday

When I first read this week's Ten on Tuesday topic, 10 Chores You Hate Most, I thought I'd easily be able to name 20 or more. I was really quite surprised that I could only come up with a few, so I'm calling my list The 5 Chores You Hate Most.

1. Dusting
I don't mind vacuuming; I love laundry, and sometimes I even enjoy washing windows, but I hate to dust. I think that's because I don't enjoy moving everything to dust surfaces, dusting the stuff, and putting it all back. Too much work!

2. Mending
As a mother of two boys, it seems like I was always mending something while they were growing up - torn knees in jeans, replacing buttons on shirts, fixing zippers on coats, or repairing backpacks worn thin by dragging them on the ground. This doesn't happen nearly as often now, but I still have to mend knit items. While cleaning Younger Son's room the other day, I found this hat I had knit for him last year, and almost cried when I saw the holes in it. I've Googled and watched plenty of reknitting videos on Youtube; now I'm just gathering my strength and patience while the hat rests in the freezer, just in case it was moths and not the carelessness of a 20-year old!

3. Taxes
I do our taxes, and while they're not especially difficult, I resent every single minute I have to work on them to get a refund of our own money, or worse yet, to find out we owe money. 1040, W-2, W-4, 1099, Form 8283, 5498-SA,  - I hate them all!

4. Painting
I don't like scraping, sanding, priming, masking, and trying to paint straight lines around woodwork. About the only thing I do enjoy painting is nice, big, flat surfaces where I can't make too much of a mess.

5. Polishing Silver
Polishing silver may seem like a bit of an anachronism, but I do have some family silver pieces that I love. I enjoy the gleam of these pieces when they're polished, but my enjoyment of the polishing process wears thin before all the silverware, serving pieces, and the whole tea set is shining.

Maybe I should put on Downton Abbey, get polishing, and quit whining!

So what chores do you hate most? I'd be happy to do some of your most-hated chores if you want to do some of mine!

Monday, September 30, 2013

Signs of Autumn

While the autumnal equinox arrived more than a week ago, I've been noticing more and more signs that autumn is really here. In the garden, the tomato vines are rapidly senescing, but they're still valiantly producing tomatoes.

The tomatoes are getting progressively smaller and greener.

Brussels sprouts are sprouting. I'm not a huge fan of the taste of these little buds, but their growth habit is kind of amazing.

Of course, changing leaves are another signal of fall,

along with acorns,

and ubiquitous mums.

But I know autumn has really arrived when I feel compelled to bake