Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The Dark Side in Five Easy Steps

1. This morning I was happily reading the blogs that I follow, and both Kym and Donna posted about different Mystery KALs. So far, I have never knit a mystery anything and vowed to never knit a mystery anything in the future, but...

2. They both echoed my feelings about Mystery KALs, and then wrote quite convincingly about how and why they are now participating! Since they so kindly provided links to patterns and yarns, I had to to look at them. I vaguely remember promising myself that I wouldn't buy more yarn unless it was absolutely positively necessary, but a perusal of my recently-organized stash revealed plenty of yarn that would work.

3. I paused in my MKAL considerations to check email and it seemed the Goodreads Quote of the Day was also urging me to join:
Never say 'no' to adventures. Always say 'yes,' otherwise you'll lead a very dull life. 
Thanks, Ian Fleming! 

4. The pattern I chose is very reasonably priced, so it would just be silly not to buy what sounds like a lovely scarf/shawl that I will most likely use. If I don't like the end result, I have plenty of potential recipients.

5. After purchasing the pattern and making sure I had enough yarn, I decided it would provide more motivation for me to actually knit the project if I joined the Fans of Through the Loops group and created a Ravelry project page.

So here I am, having slid down the MKAL slope to the Dark Side. I'm calling this a Mystery KAL Lite, as I'm traveling on vacation when the first two clues are released and I'm not sure how much knitting time I'll actually have. I'll try my first MKAL without too much pressure so maybe I'll actually do another one someday. That's how we do things on the Dark Side!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Ten on Tuesday - Try This!

This week's Ten on Tuesday topic is Ten Things You Want to Try. I've just started my list and I already have five things, so I might not even have to try too hard!

 (Not really; I just like The Simpsons!)

1.  Pickled Chard
Our garden grows lots of things, including chard. I know it's healthy, but it's still not my favorite, unless I add bacon, defeating the healthiness. I found a recipe for pickled chard stems, so I'm hoping that may actually help make that row of chard more palatable.

2.  La Folie and Transatlantique Kriek
Beer is not my beverage of choice, but a few months ago I had some Kriek at a brewpub and really liked it. Nothing similar is available nearby, so I was thrilled to see these two beers available at New Belgium Brewery. We're visiting Oldest Son later this summer and he's been kind enough to test these and pronounce them delicious. I'm looking forward to the aroma (and taste) of "wise cherries"!

3.  Hiking in Fort Collins
After enjoying some beer, I'm going to need some exercise. Luckily, Fort Collins is a great place to do that. We've explored Fort Collins a bit on some previous visits with Oldest Son, but we're ready to see and do more. I found two books on hikes in and around Fort Collins and already sent them to Oldest Son so we can enjoy some quality time together in the outdoors.

4.  Garden gloves that actually work
I've been digging in the dirt almost every day lately, and my hands and nails look awful. My SIL gave me some gloves that actually fit for Christmas, and while they are good for things like pruning and mowing, they're still too robust to allow fine weeding. I'm going to try weeding in surgical gloves later today!

5.  Becoming more patient
I'm not a patient person. I'd like to think I have become a bit more patient over the past several years, but I'm not sure my family would agree. I would like to make a real effort at gaining some patience, but I'm not sure how to begin and proceed. Suggestions welcome!

6.  Go back to school
Oldest Son is pursuing his Ph.D. and Youngest Son will graduate from college next year at this time. That means we've only got one more year of tuition payments, and I'd love for it to be my turn again. My college and graduate school days were many years ago, but I'd love to take some real courses just for the sake of learning, not because they're required for a major. Apiculture, Virology, and Literary Interpretation? Sign me up!

7.  Reading (a bit) outside my comfort zone
My reading time is very valuable to me, so I tend to choose what I'm reading very carefully. I try to make sure I'm going to enjoy my next book, based on reviews and recommendations. While this has worked well, I'm beginning to see that I may have bypassed some books that could have enriched my reading. I've been afraid to read A Constellation of Vital Phenomena because I don't know enough about Chechnya. Margene was kind enough to mention that it was the best book she read last year, so this is going to be my next book and I'm looking forward to it!

8.  Some new recipes 
I make dinner for two, three, or sometimes many more almost every night. My cooking creativity is running low after years and years of dinner-making, and I'd love to try some new recipes that are easy, not fussy, nutritious, use pantry staples and/or fresh garden produce. In the summer I grill a lot, so I'd love a really good chicken marinade. Heck, I'll take any suggestions I can get!

9.  Travel to the Pacific Northwest
I've seen much of the country, thanks to our big cross-country RV trip and family vacations to National Parks, but the one area I haven't been to is the Pacific Northwest. I fully intend to see Washington and Oregon, and would like to try to "Keep Portland Weird"!

10. Try to perfect my pie-making skills
My grandmother always said that people are either cake bakers or pie bakers. She could do both, but she made excellent pies (and occasionally baked them in a wood-fired oven!) and she made it look easy; my MIL does the same. Cakes come more naturally to me, because I have never, ever been able to make a pie crust without plenty of strong language and patched pastry. Since Youngest Son is home this summer, it seems like an opportune time to try to better my pie-making skills.

“Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.”
-Thomas Edison
What would you like to try?

Friday, May 16, 2014

Twenty-one Year Salute

It happened, no matter how much I tried to deny it; Youngest Son turned twenty-one yesterday. He is many things:

Diesel truck enthusiast - he's #56 on the right.

 Avid Fisherman, no matter the size of the fish, but always catch and release. 
  He chose a college with a large pond so could fish every day!

  Appreciator and protector of wildlife in all seasons.

 Very helpful when it comes to shoveling, painting, and trapping squirrels in the attic,

 and an extraordinarily wonderful son!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Family Plot

Spring has been full of changeable weather here - rain, snow, hail, frost, wind, and even a bit of sun! We decided to take a leap of faith and plant our tomato and Napa cabbage seedlings, along with lots of seeds. The sugar snap peas have sprouted, and string beans, radishes, carrots, zucchini, and cucumber seeds are in their rows. We ran out of room and stole some space in my MIL's garden for peppers and watermelons. I know that bits of green in a brown landscape don't look like much now, but to me it's finally beginning to look like a real garden after The Woeful Winter of Endless Wretchedness!

 I didn't look at the seed envelope, but this spinach may be the Never-Die or Superhero variety. We planted it late last fall in an effort to get a second crop, but it got snowed on in October before it matured. It was buried under three feet of snow and ice for much of the winter, but once the garden thawed out it only took a week of warmth for it to revive and thrive! I've cut the row three times so far and we've been eating lots of spinach and strawberry salads, steamed spinach, spinach quiche, spinach lasagna...

  Our apple trees are blooming but I haven't seen any bees, so I need to get out there with my paintbrush and do some pollinating myself.

 Here's hoping that Spring has really arrived for you!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Ten on Tuesday - Tell Me More About That!

I think it might only take me ten minutes to make my list for this week's Ten on Tuesday topic - Ten Things (Or Subjects) You Wish You Knew More About. I see myself as a very curious person who wonders about all kinds of things, so there is always something I wish I understood better.

1.  Tatting
     My grandmother did shuttle tatting and I really wish I had asked her to teach me. I think I could probably learn from youtube, but that's certainly not the same as having your grandmother patiently show you how it's done.

2.  Sewing
     My grandmother was also a genius at sewing - with a pattern, without a pattern, and with any type of fabric. She sewed my first pair of bell bottoms with a wild flowered fabric that I can still picture, and made my sister and I matching white vinyl jumpers sometime in the 60s. She also recovered our couch and made it look easy. I can sew a seam and mend, but any sewing I do is purely basic.

3.  Foreign languages
     I took four years of French in high school, back in the olden days when learning a language  consisted of listening to a speaker on a record and then the class was expected to repeat what had been said in unison. Not a lot of actual learning went on, but I can count to ten and order "veaux et epinards". I don't think I will want veal and spinach when I am dining in France.
4.  Genetically-Modified (GM) Foods
     Both my husband and I work in agriculture-related fields, and we both have some understanding of GM foods, but I wish I knew more details, pros, and cons. It's such a hot button issue that it's difficult to find unbiased information. 

5.  How sugar is made
     Last week during one of our our walks, my husband was telling me about his visit to a sugar estate (cane fields and processing). I never really thought about how sugar is made, but it's kind of fascinating. Sugar content in cane is only about 10% by weight, so I'm surprised that sugar is relatively inexpensive. I would like to know more about growing the cane plant; it re-grows from the roots after cutting!

6.  How Google decides who to doodle 
     I love learning about unsung heroes and wish that many of them were more recognizable than sports icons and Kardashians. Monday's Google Doodle honored Dorothy Hodgkin, who was completely unknown to me. Now I wonder how Google comes up with their seemingly endless list of subjects.

7.  Kiev, Ukraine, and Russia
     This one is a bit embarassing, but when I hear about Kiev, Ukraine, Russia, and the separatists on NPR, I only have a vague idea of what they're talking about. This probably stems from my lack of Eastern Europe geographical knowledge. I thought Kiev was a city in Russia, but it's been the capital of Ukraine since 1991. I knew about the collapse of the Soviet Union, but not much more than that.

8.  Botany
     Specifically, how and why are my chrysanthemums spreading so far and fast? I have so many baby plants where I don't want them that I've started yanking them out like weeds. I would like to take a botany course (along with a related apiary science course) just for fun, maybe when we're done paying college tuition for Youngest Son!

9.  Shoma Morita
     I'm reading a fascinating book (The Antidote: Happiness for People That Can't Stand Positive Thinking) and the author has just mentioned Shoma Morita, a clinical psychologist in Tokyo. His methods, based on Zen Buddhism, can be expressed simply: accept your feelings, know your purpose, and do what needs doing. I was having/creating great difficulty with an issue on Sunday, and just reading about this helped a lot. I will definitely be finding out more about Dr. Morita.

10. Electron microscopy 
     I took an electron microscopy course in college, and when I was recently looking at a particularly interesting micrograph, I remembered how much fun I had that semester. I invested many, many hours in learning to make glass knives, fixing, embedding, staining, and sectioning specimens, and setting up the microscope, but it was such a pleasure to ooh and ahh over my very own micrographs of mitochondria. Seeing things went a long way towards helping me really understand them. I'm sure EM has changed quite a bit in the past 36 years and I'd like to know more.

I can't wait to read all the other lists as I'm sure they will provide many more things for me to wonder about! What do you wish you knew more about?

Monday, May 5, 2014

It all starts with Streptococcus


  • If you give a boy group A strep, he's going to end up in the hospital with a scary high fever.
  • When his mother races to the hospital, she will end up with group A strep herself.
  • When his mother gets strep, she's going to wish for some help at home.
  • When she wishes for help at home, she will discover that her husband is stuck in Germany due to a Lufthansa pilot strike.
  • When her husband returns from Germany, he is greeted by a small meltdown/explosion in our old steam boiler furnace.
  • When the complicated and expensive furnace replacement has begun, it will be time for the refrigerator to die.
  • When the new refrigerator is delivered, we will give thanks and hope that this Series of Unfortunate Events is at an end!