Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Stop the presses!

I still knit and have actually finished something! I love this Happy Times with Ryan Hitchhiker because its colors go with everything; the colorway is named Happy Times and I bought it at The Loopy Ewe while visiting with oldest son Ryan for his birthday, and it kept me company during youngest son Justin's surgery. This project has been my security blanket for a while now, so I kept knitting and finally bound off at 54 teeth. It will keep me cozy, warm, and thinking of happy times.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Ten on Tuesday - 10 Favorite Books of 2014

This week Carole asks about a topic near and dear to my heart - Your 10 Favorite Books from 2014. I'll spare you my sometimes rambling reviews here, but have linked the books to goodreads so you can better decide if any of these might be enjoyable reads for you. In my humble opinion, there are some definite must-reads in this list! My 10 11 favorites in 2014, in no specific order, are as follows:

1.  This Is How by Augusten Burroughs

2.  The Snow Queen by Hands Christian Andersen

3.  The Children Act by Ian McEwan

4.  Wave by Sonali Deraniyagala

5. The Secret History by Donna Tartt

6.  Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

7.  How Not to be Wrong by Jordan Ellenberg

8.  All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

9.  The Antidote by Oliver Burkeman

10. Wild Ones by Jon Mooallem

11. This Is The Story of a Happy Marriage by Ann Patchett - I couldn't leave this one out, so here's a bonus #11.

I'm very surprised that half of my favorites are non-fiction or memoirs; I think of myself as mainly a fiction reader. Goodreads also provides some other interesting statistics; I read 71 books in 2014, 18,459 pages, and my book star ratings approximate a bell-shaped curve, which is about what I would expect. I've never thought of reading as competitive, but it looks like I'm gradually reading fewer books and pages each year, so I'd like to make a conscious and concerted effort to read more in 2015. I hope to start by adding some books from all the other ToT lists today!

Monday, December 29, 2014

Loss for Words

Back on December 15 I wrote a post about my father. He had been in a serious car accident and had some fairly serious injuries. While these didn't initially seem life-threatening, that changed quickly, and I deleted the post. As the week progressed, his condition worsened, we said goodbye, and our family found themselves in the terrible position of waiting - waiting for more news, tests, doctors, hope, loss of hope, impossible decisions, lessening of his pain and ours, the end of suffering, peace.

Miraculously, my father did not pass away, although his recovery is tenuous and uncertain at best. I am at a loss for words to write about this, so I simply want to sincerely thank those who offered much-needed and greatly appreciated thoughts, prayers, and support. They helped more than you may ever know, and I am very grateful.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Amaryllis Cam(aryllis) - Week Three

A broken bone, Ten on Tuesday, the excitement of making our last undergraduate tuition payment, and stormy weather that made it far too dark to take pictures have all delayed week three of my amaryllis watch for a few days. It's snowing today and really still too dark for a decent picture, but Ruby, Rosa, and their new friend Blossom have been clamoring for their photo shoot.

Ruby and Rosa Week Three, with Blossom Week One
Ruby and Rosa have both doubled in height in the last week, but Ruby is still the slow and steady grower, while Rosa is a big show-off that shows no signs of any leaves. Hopefully Blossom will live up to her name with peachy-pink and white striped double-flowered blooms. So far, this is the extent of my Christmas decorating, but I may be working on that this afternoon.

Ruby and Rosa Week Two
Ruby and Rosa Week One

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Hot Damn, Woo-Hoo, and Huzzah!

I just made our last undergraduate tuition payment!!! I do think the Bursar could have acknowledged this in a much more celebratory way, but I'm sure the balloons, confetti, noisemakers, and champagne will be arriving shortly.

We'll probably do something practical, like put the extra money in our 401K, or spend it on home repairs and maintenance, but for now I feel like frolicing!

Hot Damn, Woo-Hoo, and Huzzah!

I just made our last undergraduate tuition payment!!! I do think the Bursar could have acknowledged this in a much more celebratory way, but I'm sure the balloons, confetti, noisemakers, and champagne will be arriving shortly.

We'll probably do something practical, like put the extra money in our 401K, or spend it on home repairs and maintenance, but for now I feel like frolicing!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Ten on Tuesday - the Happy Titanium Clutter All Around Me Edition!

Today's Ten on Tuesday is a really excellent one - 10 Random Songs From Your iPod.
Here are my 10 shuffled songs:

1.  "Guitar Sound" by Ronald Jenkees from Disorganized Fun

2.  "The Island: Come and See/The Landlord's Daughter/You'll Not Feel the Drowning" by The Decemberists from The Crane Wife

3.  "Titanium" by The Piano Guys from The Piano Guys album

4.  "Bad Day" by R.E.M. from The Best of R.E.M.

5.  "Le Hardy Rapids" by Music of Nature from Echoes of Yellowstone

6.  "Clutter" by Ronald Jenkees from the Ronald Jenkees album

7.  "All Around Me" by Flyleaf from the Flyleaf album

8.  "Let It Go" by Pentatonix from That's Christmas to Me

9. "Happy (Gru's Theme from Despicable Me 2)" by Pharrell Williams from the Happy album

10. "The Ashgrove" by Philip Boulding from the Elegance of Hammered Dulcimer album

This random list is so perfect for me today that I have to think that the universe randomized and provided just what I needed. I've created a playlist and am happily singing, humming, and dancing my way through it as I write. I'm really looking forward to reading everyone's random song lists, as I'm sure more crooning and cavorting will ensue!

Monday, December 8, 2014

The Best Laid Plans...

Change quickly when Youngest Son's x-ray looks like this:

While it's not the end of the world, the bone on the far right isn't supposed to be broken and pointing in an odd direction. Calling it a displaced fracture of the distal shaft of the right fifth metacarpal doesn't make me worry less. Now we have to wait and see if a closed reduction will work or if he'll need surgery to pin it, and try and figure out how he's going to take finals this week. I'm keeping my fingers crossed for good news and I wish his hand wasn't so swollen so he could cross his fingers also!

Update: We spent all day at dr. visits and testing, but Justin now has surgery scheduled for the 16th. It's a relatively minor same-day procedure to pin the bone so it will heal properly; this is important for a kid who lives for archery, fishing, and working on his truck! He's got some understanding professors who are allowing him to take finals this week with me as typist/scribe, so I've learned about limnology (freshwater science); later in the week I'll be broadening my horizons with ornithology, alternate ag. animals (alpacas!), and GIS! Thank you all for your concern, good wishes and healing thoughts; they helped calm a worried mother!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Tinsel Thursday

I started thinking about tinsel after reading the comments on Margene's post. You may remember the good old days when we had real tinsel, the kind with lead in it.

My father was almost a tinsel tyrant. After we decorated the tree with ornaments, he got out the tinsel and we all started carefully placing it on the branches, one strand at a time. That was fine for the first five minutes, but my sister and I quickly tired of one strand at a time and moved to the back of the tree where we could put on clumps of tinsel. After a few minutes, we were even more impatient and tried to get away with the Cardinal Christmas Sin of throwing tinsel at the tree. My father always noticed, reprimanded us, and gave us the annual lecture about how one strand at a time placed carefully and thoughtfully on each branch was the proper was to decorate. By this time my sister and I had often started crumpling the lead-based tinsel into balls to throw at each other.

But tinsel (properly placed!) did make our trees look like this.


The real tinsel was discontinued in 1972. I think my father stockpiled several boxes and we actually took it off the tree and tried to save it for a few years, but the strands broke and looked quite bedraggled. I wonder if I might have been a bit smarter if I hadn't been exposed to so much lead while decorating one strand at a time and my sister throwing lead tinsel balls at me?

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Ten on Tuesday - The Shop Talk Edition

Today's Ten on Tuesday topic is 10 Stores You Like (the brick and mortar variety). I'm not much of a shopper, but let's see what I can come up with.

1.  The Loopy Ewe is one of my favorites stores of any type. They do sell yarn and fabric online, but ever since Oldest Son moved to Fort Collins I've been thrilled to visit their wonderful store in person. Full of so much great yarn it's almost overwhelming, but Sheri and the Loopy Elves have things so well organized that I've always been able to find exactly what I'm looking for and much more.

2.  Bucks Country Gardens is a garden center that I really like. They have beautiful plants in every season, and I'm looking forward to making my annual holiday trip soon. Even if I don't buy anything, it's a real pleasure to look, stroll, and take in all the sights.

3.  Little Bros. is my favorite local liquor store.  Beer, wine, cider, craft brews, they have it all and they're only five minutes away!

4.  Penzey's is an excellent spice shop, with stores throughout much of the United States. I've only visited in person once, but the aromas are even better than you can imagine. Their double-strength vanilla and many types of cinnamon are second to none and well worth the price.

5.  Wegmans is a semi-local grocery store chain, with stores on the east coast from New York to Virginia. They originated in Syracuse, so they were my local grocery store when we lived there. They stocked bulk and natural foods before anyone else did, and have continued to grow into kind of a food wonderland. The closest one to me now is over 30 minutes away, which is a good thing because I always spend too much there.

6.  Finkle's is a nearby 94-year-old local hardware store. It is cluttered, charming, and eccentric, but also a great place to find what we've needed for our old house. They are the only place we can buy flush valves to fit our old toilets. The parts are much cheaper than replacing fixtures and it's a fun place to visit.

7.  The Fudge Shoppe is a local candy store, full of delicious homemade chocolates, and of course, fudge. It's a great place to buy gifts and eat samples while shopping.

8.  REI is a national seller of all things outdoors, and  I really enjoy their stores. It's where Oldest Son headed when he realized he would actually need a winter coat and boots when he moved to Colorado, and I have a fondness for comfortable walking socks from REI. Plus, I hear that they have a really wonderful sales associate working in the Fort Collins store!

9.  WoodsEdge Wools Farm is an alpaca, llama, and yak farm, but they also have a store at the farm that I really like to visit. Full of alpaca yarn, sweaters, socks, scarves (and also yak meat!), it's a really nice low-key shopping experience with the added fun of visiting their animals.

10. Nature's Own is a store I like in Old Town Fort Collins. They sell science and nature "stuff", including lots of minerals, fossils, rocks, and geodes. It's a lot of fun to browse, and where else can you buy a T. rex half skull for only $7500?

Making this list made me realize how much I shop online, how much I miss having a local book store, and how much I don't like big box stores.What are some of your favorite stores?

Monday, December 1, 2014

Amaryllis Cam(aryllis) - Week Two

Ruby on the left is growing very slowly but steadily, with the beginnings of leaves and the flower stalk just starting to show. Overachiever Rosa has shot up about three inches during this past week, but she's not showing any signs of leaves yet. Blanche had already been adopted by the time I got back to the grocery store, but I have a plan that will hopefully come to fruition by Week Three. Ruby and Rosa have two other amaryllis cousins cooling their heels, but they won't be ready to wake up for reblooming until late December or early January. This is my favorite kind of holiday decorating!

Ruby and Rosa Week 2

Ruby and Rosa Week 1

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Challenge Met!

I decided to commit to NaBloPoMo and post daily during November on the spur of the moment back on October 31. I hadn't been very happy with my posting frequency, and I thought this would be a way to make me think about topics, sit down and write, and just do it. I'm happy to say the challenge was accepted and I met the challenge!

I have loved looking forward to and reading daily posts from many friends. Some of my own posts are more worthwhile than others, but that is true even in months other than November. It was difficult at times, time-consuming, but also fun, and made me think. Thank you to everyone who took their valuable time to read and/or comment, especially because many of you were busy writing your own daily posts. Now that it's over, I may actually consider doing it again next year!

We all deserve a medal!

Farquhar, Betsy. Knitted Military Medal. Digital image. Ravelry. Web. 26 Nov. 2014. <>.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Saturday Snippets - The Here and Now Edition

Saturdays are for small bits and pieces, and here are the small pieces going on here and now.

Bemoaning - The fact that I confused my deodorant and Icy Hot stick this morning. This was not a good idea.

Hoping - That I learn from my mistake and never do that again.

Eating - Thanksgiving leftovers, of course. These are some of my favorite foods - turkey sandwiches, cranberry orange relish, homemade crescent rolls, and fried stuffing. That last one may possibly be a bit unhealthy, but I only eat it once a year, so that's my justification.

Reading - A Spool of Blue Thread. All I really want to do is read and knit, but work, Thanksgiving, laundry, etc. keep getting in my way. I'd like to say I'll be done soon, but some Christmas planning needs to happen before I can just sit and read.

Knitting - Still working on Happy Times with Ryan.  Projects don't get done very quickly if you fall asleep while knitting.

Dreading - Christmas planning. This mainly means shopping. I have a bunch of gifts that I've already gotten, but I need to evaluate what I actually have and what I still need to get. My biggest problem is coming up with ideas.

Counting 1.0 - The days until Youngest Son is home for Christmas break - 14!

Counting 2.0 - The days until Oldest Son is home for Christmas - 21!

Hoping - That both sons will want to play some board games with me. I love Yahtzee, Scrabble, Monopoly, St. Petersburg, and even Cards Against Humanity, but my husband refuses to play. I think this is due to some traumatic childhood tantrums and tears as his brothers and sisters feel the same way.

Trying -  This French Onion soup recipe.

Drinking - Bitter Elder. St. Germain is also good in chamomile tea, but this may contribute to the falling asleep, noted in knitting above.

Listening - To Yo-Yo Ma, "Attaboy" from The Goat Rodeo Sessions.

Enjoying - Writing the penultimate post of NaBloPoMo!

What bits and pieces are happening in your life?

Friday, November 28, 2014

Craft Friday

Beverly came up with the idea of Craft Friday and as I began to read about it with increasing frequency on quite a few blogs, it seemed only natural that I should declare myself as a participant because:
  1. It's what I would normally be doing on Friday after Thanksgiving (and most other days).
  2. I really dislike shopping, especially on Black Friday. 
  3. I get to knit vicariously together with friends!
  4. I can blog about it. There are only a few more days in NaBloPoMo and I'm really searching. 

My plan for today is to knit and sew. I'll be finishing the Gabriel Roni hat for my brand new great-nephew, working on my Happy Times with Ryan Hitchhiker, and sewing some of these rice-filled shoulder heating pads. It's going to be a low-key, no-pressure day, with Thanksgiving leftovers, Netflix, maybe an audiobook, knitting, and sewing. I really want to finish Gabriel's hat as he's two days old and deserves a warm welcome to the world, but my only goals for the other projects are progress and enjoyment.

So Happy Craft Friday to all! Just think how much happier we are, crafting, far from the madding crowds!

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving!

May the biggest part of the wishbone be the end that's held by you!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Portmanteaus or where is the faction section?

While checking out Into the Wild at the library, the clerk told me that he heard it was a good piece of faction. I figured I hadn't heard him correctly, but in response to my quizzical look, he said, "You know, fact-based fiction - faction." I pointed out the 917.98 call number and mumbled something about it being non-fiction, but figured the people in the growing line behind me weren't interested in this discussion.

I did think about this on the way home, and it seemed odd that someone working in a library didn't understand the difference between fiction and non-fiction, and was also making up a classification  that this particular book didn't even belong in. He is a teenager with an after-school job so this wasn't the end of the world. But after hearing about faction, it seemed that I noticed portmanteaus (combinations of two or more words and their meanings into a single new word) everywhere. With the epic lake effect storm in Buffalo came snowmageddon, snowpocalypse, snowverkill, snowvember, snowmergency, and snowmania. I heard stagflation (stagnation + inflation) used in a discussion about Ben Bernanke. A woman buying donuts at the convenience store told the clerk she was hangry; I had to look this one up and found that it means your extreme hunger has caused you to be angry. While searching for music gifts for a young teenager I came across the song Alcoholiday.

There are some portmanteaus that seem natural and descriptive to me, like brunch, jackalope, smog, and moped. I'll admit we have and use sporks, but metrosexual and hangry just seem silly to me, clear examples of poormanteaus!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Ten on Tuesday - Thankfulness Edition

Today's Ten on Tuesday topic is, of course, 10 Things You Are Thankful For. I'm blessed, lucky, and grateful that I have so very many things on my list.

1.   My Family - A wonderful husband, two terrific sons, a loving and accepting extended family - I couldn't ask for a more wonderful bunch of people.

2.   A (recently replaced) roof over my head and a comfortable home - I am grateful that we were able to find a great roofer and afford to completely replace the roofs on our house and barn. Now I smile when it's raining instead of worrying.

3.   Enough money for a comfortable life - This one is huge and I'm thankful every day.

4.   The ability to read - I'm thankful that Mrs. Neusch taught me to read in first grade, that my mother always supported my reading habit by not telling me to go outside and play too often when I was immersed in a book, that I have access to some great libraries, and that I can find out almost anything I'm curious about by reading.

5.   The ability to knit - I'm thankful that my grandmother taught me how to knit, my mother reinforced it and helped me when I got stuck, that I can buy yarn even when I don't need it, and I can show people how much I care by knitting for them.

6.   Health - Overall I'm in good health, and so is my family. We've had some years where this hasn't been the case, so we try to take care of ourselves and I don't take good health for granted.

7.   Access to health care - We have health insurance, and while it has a fairly high deductible, we can afford it and it is insurance. I hope we never meet the deductible because that would mean someone is quite ill, but it's comforting knowing that insurance and access to health care is there if we need it.

8.   Four seasons -  I've lived in Florida where there is just "hot and sweltering season" and "a tiny bit cooler than torrid season" so I'm happy to live some place that has four distinct seasons, each one with its own beauty.

9.   Learning from mistakes - I've made my share of mistakes, both big and small. I'm glad that I'm really learning to see my mistakes as learning opportunities instead of embarrassing failures.

10.  Our upcoming last undergraduate tuition payment - This one is a big, big, BIG deal! I'm grateful that it's the last one, but I'm also very thankful that we were able to make those payments.

I'm thankful for everyone that takes the time to read my ramblings. Thank you!

Monday, November 24, 2014

Amaryllis Cam(aryllis) - Week One

I had to run to the grocery store the other day for some forgotten but necessary items, and I couldn't resist the amaryllis on sale. It (let's call her Ruby, on the left) seemed a little lonely, so a few days later when I was buying a new carbon monoxide detector, I brought home a friend (let's call her Rosa) for Ruby. There may have been some talk about how much their friend Blanche would also like to live here, but we'll see. They're not much to look at now, but hopefully they'll encourage each other, engage in some healthy competition, and be blooming in the depths of winter. 

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Sustenance on Sunday

Sundays are for writing about food. Today it's something that many people have most likely made, but it has proven itself to be a worthy opponent in my kitchen - Libby's Pumpkin Roll. I've tried to make this many times over the past few years, and while it's tasted fine, I could never manage one that didn't crack (usually multiple times) when I attempted the roll maneuver. This year I decided I would not be bested by a mere pumpkin roll. The pressure was on because this was going to be dessert for company.

I read all the tips I could find, looked at different recipes, and applied some common sense. I had always used the jelly roll pans I had on hand, but this year I got one that was the specified 10"x15" size. In previous years I  rolled the cake in a kitchen towel dusted with confectioner's sugar; this year I used parchment paper to line the pan and roll the cake. I let the rolled cake cool completely instead of being impatient to spread the filling. It worked and I won! The first one worked so well I made a second one just to test my new-found confidence and it worked, too! I was grateful to have at least one presentable pumpkin roll that I could serve to company but it's a good thing I made two.

This is all that's left - one last piece for the baker.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Saturday Snippets

Saturdays are for small bits and pieces that I love. No children's books today, but instead it's the books I'm reading, attempting to read, or planning to read.
Books I'm Reading:
  • Centennial by James Michener - I started this during my last visit to Colorado, and just added an "in it for the long haul" shelf to Goodreads, specifically for this book. It is interesting and worth reading, but at more than 900 pages, it's definitely a book that requires a long-term commitment. 
  • A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving - Another epic novel. It's very good so far, but I'm easily distracted by new and shiny books. Monogamy may be required here, or at least giving this book the attention it deserves. 
  • A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler - This is the new, shiny book that has distracted me. Anne Tyler has said this will be her final novel, and that along with a cover I love made me want to read it immediately. Luckily, an advance copy came my way so now I've started reading it in earnest. It's good enough so far that I've chosen to read this instead of knitting in the evening, and that's saying something.

Books I'm Attempting to Read:
  • The Magicians by Lev Grossman - I read this in 2010, and then forgot about the rest of the series. I've heard wonderful things about books #2 and #3, so I reread this as a refresher. I gave it four stars, but there were definitely things that I didn't thrill me, like the main character's whining and constant unhappiness.
  • The Magician King by Lev Grossman - I recently started the second book in the series, but Quentin bothered me so much that I had to put it away for a while. I still plan to give it a fair chance because I'm assured that this book is even better than the first, and Quentin may even grow up a bit.  
  • The Magician's Land by Lev Grossman - Some readers whose opinion I value have told me his is the best book in the whole series, so we'll see if my attempts to read the first two carry me through to this one.

Books I'm Looking Forward to Reading:
  • Moriarty by Anthony Horowitz - I can't wait until December 9th when this book will be available in audio format. This one may push The Magicians series farther back in the queue.
  • Pioneer Girl by Laura Ingalls Wilder - I've been anxiously awaiting this annotated autobiography since August. I've thought about rereading the Little House series, but I think this will be a much better book for me to read as an adult.
What books are you reading, attempting to read, or looking forward to reading?
 I'd love to hear about them!

Friday, November 21, 2014

Fox on Friday

I didn't take this beautiful photo, but Youngest Son did. He spends hours in the woods in all seasons, and this wonderful photo is one he was lucky enough to capture during those many hours. It's one of my absolute all-time favorites!

Thursday, November 20, 2014


One thing I didn't think I'd be writing about in mid-November is the garden, but the survivors deserve to be celebrated. We cleaned up most of the garden about two weeks ago, but the snow peas and Napa cabbage looked so good we couldn't bring ourselves to yank them out.

The snow peas are still producing peas and even more blossoms through wind, snow, frost, and frigid temperatures. We haven't even covered them, so while I don't completely understand their fortitude, they are still hanging on. I've picked enough peas for two meals and frozen five packs since they weathered the first frost, and I'm picking more for dinner tonight as soon as I put the camera down.

The Napa cabbages are still growing, but since they've withstood the same cabbage-killing weather as the peas, I'll also be cutting them today so their courage and durability will not have been in vain.

Here's to the delicious survivors!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

One of My Better Ideas

Christmas was always a fairly simple, easygoing holiday before I had children. I worked in various hospitals from Florida to New York depending on where we were living, and because hospitals never close, I worked on Christmas for 15 years. By the time we were celebrating our second Christmas with Oldest Son and Youngest Son came along in 1993, it was slowly dawning on me that Christmas was becoming more complex and complicated. I did love orchestrating it for my young sons, but there's no denying that it took quite a bit of time and some late nights. I could see what the problem was but didn't have any good solutions.

I was browsing in the fabric store after that Christmas and chanced upon some Christmas fabric for $1.00/yard. I couldn't resist this incredible bargain, so even though I didn't have specific plans for it, I bought a bunch. On the way home it came to me - I would sew gift bags. Wrapping presents is one of the holiday-related chores that I don't enjoy one bit, and by spending some low-stress sewing time throughout the year, wrapping gifts would be as simple as popping them in a bag and tying the ribbons.

I don't remember how many I sewed that first year, but they were such a success that I've been sewing bags every year since 1994. I enjoy choosing fabric and along the way I branched out into birthday bags.

 I've amassed quite a stash of bags, but that way I almost always have the right size for any gift. When my sons are both settled on their own, I envision divvying up the bag stash and gifting the boys with their own bag collections.

Fabric for a few more bags!
I don't have good ideas every day, but this is one of my better ones and has worked wonderfully for me!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Ten on Tuesday - Dead or Alive Edition

Today's interesting Ten on Tuesday topic is 10 Musicians You Would Bring Back From the Dead. I've had way too much fun searching for whether some of my list ideas are actually dead or not!

1.   Jeremiah Clarke - If I had to name my favorite song of all time, it would probably be The Prince of Denmark March/Trumpet Voluntary. I walked down the aisle to it at our wedding; it's the ringtone for my family members, and I have an itunes playlist with quite a few different versions.

2.   Johann Sebastian Bach - His organ and harpsichord works are impeccable, and his compositions are often playing when I'm home.
3.   Frederic Handel - Our high school choir sang The Messiah and even after plenty of frustration and endless practices for over a year, it still brings chills and I feel compelled to sing the alto part when I hear it. 
4.   John Lennon - Sadly, he was gone far too soon, and I think he had so many more valuable things to say through his music.
5.   Jim Morrison - Many of The Doors' songs are iconic to me because they provided a sound track to my adolescence. I often wonder what his life would have been like if he had been able to calm down and focus on music and poetry.
6.   Pete Seeger - He wrote so many incredible songs with valuable messages. I've always loved this version of "Turn! Turn! Turn!".
7.   Harry Chapin - I have a soft spot for "story songs" and "Cat's in the Cradle" is one of the best.
8.   Johnny Cash - Even though country is not my genre, I'm a fan of his distinctive voice and songs like "Ring of Fire" and "I Walk the Line".
9.   Harry Nilsson - In college we played his album A Little Touch of Schmilsson in the Night until it was worn out. I'm not sure why, but his voice really stood out on this standards album.
10. Michael Dunford - Not a name that is widely recognized, but he was a guitarist, chief composer, and creative force for the band Renaissance. Their albums provided the soundtrack to my young adulthood, and I'm grateful for Michael Dunford's part in that.

Who would you like to bring back for more music?

Monday, November 17, 2014

Fancy Family Flatware

In 1990 we had just moved from Syracuse and were now close to both of our families; we had bought a house with a huge dining room and a 12-foot table to fill the huge dining room, so I was hosting my first Thanksgiving. I was both excited and nervous while I made my lists and started preparing. I made progress with grocery shopping, cranberry-orange relish making, and pie baking. I had a little trouble finding a tablecloth for a 12-foot table, but my sister-in-law's sewing skills saved me. I did run into trouble when I realized that my stainless service for six wasn't going to work for the 14 people that were coming. While browsing through an antique mall I stumbled upon the perfect solution, a set of Oneida Tudor Plate flatware for 14 in the Queen Bess pattern for $35, and thus began my slight obsession.

It was a set of the basic knives, forks, and spoons, but I decided I needed a few serving pieces. I got several serving spoons, a pie server, cold meat fork and a gravy ladle from ebay, but continued my search after Thanksgiving. 

Over the years I acquired iced tea spoons, jelly spoons, butter knives, and the elusive butter spreaders, seafood forks, and demitasse spoons.

And once I saw the baby and youth sets, of course I had to have them!

I was captivated by the idea that this pattern was part of Betty Crocker's coupon program. Housewives saved coupons from Gold Medal flour and other General Mills products, sent them in with some money, and were rewarded with a new teaspoon or place setting. You could buy one or many pieces at a time depending upon your budget. A teaspoon cost 34 coupons and 5 cents or 2 coupons and 20 cents! The date usually given with this pattern is 1946, but I'm not sure if that's when it was introduced or discontinued. With one of my ebay purchases the kind seller included the original paperwork from when she had sent in her coupons. My growing set began to feel like a family heirloom, one that started with me.

But wait, there's more! I eventually found out that hollowware had also been offered in this pattern. These pieces were much more rare, but I enjoyed the hunt for ones I could afford. After 15 years or so I owned a butter dish, serving tray, water pitcher, vegetable dish, gravy boat, candelabras, and my biggest find - the complete tea set. It's engraved on the back, but that engraving put it into my price range and I do think about the ladies of Emmanuel Shrine #4 while I'm polishing it.

This is probably the only thing I've actively and intensely collected over many years. I had fun finding pieces, but I'm enjoying polishing it less and less. It's more vintage than antique and it's only silverplate so it's not especially valuable, but maybe someday one of my sons will be hosting Thanksgiving at their house and I can pass on the fancy family flatware.