Friday, September 22, 2017

Nuts and Balls

This afternoon at 4:02 pm we'll officially welcome fall with the autumnal equinox in the northern hemisphere. This usually means cooler temperatures and a nice, crisp feeling in the air, but our weather has been warm and humid all week, with temperatures of 92° this weekend. Despite the warm temperatures, some leaves have begun to change, but it is also the season of nuts and balls in our neighborhood. 

Garden on the left, barn in the background, giant walnut tree on the right. 

My neighbor on one side has a huge walnut tree. It was originally planted almost 90 years ago, and as far as I can tell, people have been complaining about it for at least the last 30 years. Three different families have lived in that house since we've been here, and all of us hate the tree for different reasons. The biggest reason is the walnuts themselves. They have dented and stained my neighbor's white car; they are messy and there are hundreds (if not thousands) of them. I have to spend too much time picking up the ones that have fallen on our lawn (bushel baskets full!) before I mow. Walnut trees contain juglone in the leaves, roots, bark, and the nuts themselves, which is unfortunately toxic to many plants, like the ones growing in the garden we have planted nearby. I've offered to share the cost of cutting down the tree that nobody likes with each of the families that has lived next door, but it's still here, dropping nuts to taunt me. 

We've got our own nuts from two big oaks in our yard. They don't cause many issues beyond clogging the gutters. Now that acorns are dropping (and this is a big year for them) I've been cleaning out the gutters weekly, and shaking my fist at the squirrels who seem to deliberately throw them down on me.

My neighbor on the other side has balls instead of nuts. He has a sweetgum tree right next to our driveway, and while the leaves are prettily star-shaped, the spiky seed pod balls are a nuisance. The tree is laden with green ones right now, but they will be drying and falling soon. That means it's time for me to get out my gloves and snow shovel to clear them off of the driveway.

So welcome fall, welcome nuts and balls!

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Three on Thursday

Joining Kat and Carole for Three on Thursday.

1.  Decisions, decisions. We went out to dinner with friends last night, and the place they chose had an ambitious menu with lots of interesting choices. Kangaroo with purple smashed potatoes or maybe a wild boar or llama burger? I decided on wild boar and it was delicious. 

2.  My sourdough starter is coming along well with lots of bubbles and a lovely, yeasty smell. I'm still feeding it and waiting for it to develop a nice sour tang, and will maybe bake my first loaf with it next week. 

3.  Our town is hosting five Seward Johnson sculptures. I have some opinions and may write a longer post about them someday, but my first thought on finding this one was that this poor disgruntled woman might be a good model when I'm ready for some gradient hitchhiker photos. Yet another reason to get knitting so I finish before we have to return the sculptures.

Read other Three on Thursday posts here.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Unraveled Wednesday

Joining Kat and friends for Unraveled Wednesday.

I'm still knitting monogamously on my Faded Tardis Hitchhiker; hopefully giving it plenty of attention will ensure that I actually finish it someday in the nearish future.

My reading has been a little more scattered as I've been trying to catch up with too many books from Overdrive showing up all at once. Over the past week I finished Little Fires Everywhere and The Red House Mystery. Is anyone else surprised to find that A.A. Milne wrote a mystery? I was, but I also think he was smart to write only one and move on to Winnie-the-Pooh. I also started listening to What Happened, and am currently reading Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine. What Happened is great in parts, but I've also been glad to have Eleanor Oliphant on my Kindle for a break from Hillary. For some reason I was under the mistaken impression that Eleanor was similar to Don Tillman in The Rosie Project, a quirky character somewhere along the autism spectrum, but I don't think that is the case at all. I'm only on chapter 11, but there seems to be something darker happening, and both the story and the characters are compelling enough to make this a book I want to keep reading to see what's going on.

What are you making and reading this week?

Monday, September 18, 2017

Wild Weekending

Nothing says wild weekend like knitting in Newark airport on Saturday and Sunday nights.

Flights are no longer listed as "Delayed"; they are "Awaiting Aircraft" or "Air Traffic Control". Hmmm ...

My sister-in-law's flight was delayed more than an hour, so I did have the opportunity to have a lovely conversation with a man from India. He lives in Phoenix, had just returned from a trip to Iceland with his wife, but she had also just departed to Orlando to pick up their 16-month-old daughter from her parents. He admired my knitting and told me how much he had appreciated his Icelandic wool hat during the cold temperatures on his trip. He regaled me with delightful descriptions of how warm and comfortable he was while watching the northern lights outdoors in his hat, and I how I really needed to knit with Icelandic wool at least once in my life. Our conversation ranged from knitting to what makes a good parent to the varied behavior of people in airports and how and why travel is broadening, It was a wonderful way to spend time waiting and one of the nicest conversations I've had in a long time.

So I guess Newark airport wasn't so bad after all!

Friday, September 15, 2017

A Few New Things

Way back at the end of June I wrote about Ryan's encouragement to try one new thing each month. I have been making a real attempt at this, so it's time to catch up. None of these are earth-shattering or major, but just getting into the mindset of trying new things has been a very good thing for me.

Thank you, Kym! This daily reminder on my refrigerator is just what I need!

My new thing for July was an archery seminar at Cabela's. Both John and Justin shoot bows and it's always looked like something I might enjoy. The seminar was okay, but it was a long four hours that didn't really teach me anything new. I had hoped there would be some hands-on time actually trying bows at their indoor range, but that wasn't something they could do with 30 women. I did learn that archery is an expensive enough hobby that I'm not sure I'm ready to invest in just yet. I have been looking for used bows on ebay, but then there are also arrows, a sight, an arrow rest, etc. I keep thinking that money could buy a lot of yarn, but a bow is still under consideration.

In August, my new thing was that I finally got rid of our land line. I have been ranting about and threatening to do this for several years, and since we very rarely got calls that weren't somebody selling something we didn't want, we had basically stopped answering it. I was expecting a semi-important call but I wasn't sure how the name/number would show up on caller id, so I actually answered the phone for almost two weeks. That experience showed me that we were getting at least five or six nuisance calls every day, and paying $50/month for that privilege. As soon as I got the important call, I cancelled the land line and it's been fine so far. I have to make sure to keep my cell charged and keep it nearby but I don't regret the decision. Cable TV may be next.

For September, I went out to dinner by myself. My desire for fish and chips overcame my reticence, so I went back to the English brew pub, ate, took some photos as proof for Ryan, and found it was wonderfully pleasant. I went yesterday and was feeling exhausted after only three hours of sleep and my airport drive, so I didn't risk having a beer and falling asleep on the way home, but I took my Kindle, read a bit, and had a great dinner. John leaves again for work travel on the 24th, and since I'm no longer afraid of going out to dinner by myself, I will definitely do this again.

Have you done anything new recently? It's much more fun than I thought it would be!

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Three on Thursday

Joining Kat and Carole for Three on Thursday.

1.  I'm writing this ahead of time because if all goes as planned, I am now back home and sleeping. I left this morning at 3:00 am to take my sister-in-law, my nephew, and his fiancée to Newark airport. They are family, I love them, and want to help, but even those reasons can stretch a little thin at 3:00 in the morning.

2.  Then it's back to Newark airport on Saturday evening to pick up John and Justin returning from a trip to Montana. Their plane is scheduled to arrive at a more reasonable 6:30 pm.

3.  But wait; there's more! I head back to Newark airport on Sunday evening for the third time in four days to pick up my sil, nephew, and fiancée. Their plane is due in at 8:30 pm, and it better not be late.

The next time I go to Newark airport I hope I'm the one flying some where, and I hope it's not for a 5 or 6 am flight. Here's hoping your three things are much better than three trips to Newark airport!

Read other Three on Thursday posts here.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Unraveled Wednesday

Joining Kat and friends for Unraveled Wednesday.

I didn't even try to resist. When you're feeling inspired and excited, that's the time to cast aside the fiddly beads from last week and cast on with new yarn. I've always wanted to knit a gradient Hitchhiker, so from just two starting stitches I'm up to 15 teeth. I'm anxious to see how the gradientness (gradientosity? gradientiality?) plays out, so stay tuned.

The new and shiny also captured my attention in reading. I was all set to start Hillary Clinton's What Happened, but I got an email that my Overdrive request for it won't be ready until next week. (edit: It's here this morning, and I've just downloaded it, so today I'll be raptly listening to Hillary explain to me what happened!) I've been waiting for the publication of Little Fires Everywhere since January so that's what I'm listening to. It's set in the planned community of Shaker Heights, which wants to promise its residents “protection forever against…unwelcome change” and “a rather happy life”. What could possibly go wrong?!

What are you knitting and reading this week?

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

In Which I Exercise Self-Restraint

I told you about the sheep yesterday, so today is for fiber. I did not need any yarn, but had checked the vendor list and thought there might be something wonderful that should come home with me.

But then, with perfect timing, I got a call from Ryan. It was only 7:00 am Mountain Time on Saturday, so I knew something was up. After reassuring me that he was okay, he gave me the sad news that his computer had died, fixing it was iffy at best, could he please use the credit card to buy a new one, and he would pay me back. My heart sunk a little bit, but at least I knew about this before I spent too much on yarn. He's a poor graduate student so I know my chances of being paid back are fairly slim, but he's also using his computer to write his dissertation, so I couldn't say no. That is far more important than yarn, so I wandered through the vendor barns with my revised budget in mind.

It was fun to look at so much beautiful yarn from so many dyers. I had heard of some of them, but many were new to me. After several circuits around, I started to hone in on what I really wanted, and I knew that included something from Marianated Yarns. This is the yarn that Margene used for her Brilliant Spices shawl, and the colors are even more saturated and beautiful in person. The gradient and Marianade sets are stunning, so after a long time considering among eight that I loved, I bought Dragon Scales. I don't have a plan for it, but love each of the colors, singly and together.

This alpaca cowl kit from Berry Meadow Farm was under serious consideration, but on my way back to make a final decision I got waylaid.

I spied this at the June Pryce Fiber Arts booth, and was smitten by my absolute favorite color in a gradient, so I had to add Fading Tardis to my other purchase.

In the end I decided against the alpaca cowl kit, but only for reasons of economy. Now that I've posted the photo I'm feeling a little regret that I didn't get it, so we'll see how long my self-restraint lasts. I'm pretty sure that seeing the Visa bill with a new laptop on it will help with that. :-)

Monday, September 11, 2017

Sheep and Fiber

I was afraid that some family commitments might keep me from going, but luckily things worked out so I could get to the Garden State Sheep Breeders Sheep & Fiber Festival this weekend. This is a Goldilocks kind of event for me - just 15 minutes away at our county fairgrounds with lots of parking, no big crowds, lots of sheep, a parade of breeds, sheepdog herding, and three barns of vendors. Not too small, not too big, it's just right!

There were sheep of all breeds and colors.

After visiting all the sheep, I was awed the sheepdogs and their amazing abilities.

That'll do.

I even learned that there are sheep that don't need shearing! This shepherd's flock is about 50% Katahdin sheep, which she keeps because they shed their winter coat and don't need to be sheared.

The rest of the weekend was full of worry about those in the dangerous paths of weather and wildfires, but I was very grateful to be able to enjoy this oasis of peace and calm on Saturday morning.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Speaking of Tomatoes ...

Kat's Pickled Tomatoes are delicious! I tasted two of them last night, and they have a delightful pickle/tomato flavor combination with a wonderful crispness. I haven't yet made a bloody mary because I have to do a lot of driving today (with my mil in the car). A breakfast cocktail sounded like a very bad idea, but I am definitely trying one this evening.

And I have another entry in the delicious tomato department. Yesterday's visit to the garden produced a few tomatoes, peppers, and baby zucchini, but I didn't know quite what to do with them until I remembered Vicki's Roasted Tomato Sauce. (Click on the link for Vicki's recipe, and be sure to scroll down so you can see her gorgeous Parcheesi as she started seaming!)

This was perfect because I didn't have a lot of any one vegetable, but it still turned out wonderfully, especially when I threw in the mushrooms I've been meaning to use. I think it's beautiful before roasting ...

and looks, smells, and tastes divine after roasting. I think dinner tonight might just be some crusty bread spread with this sauce, accompanied by a bloody mary with pickled tomatoes. Heaven!

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Three Things on Thursday

From Carole and Kat:
We're starting to feel like this whole Think Write Thursday thing isn't going so well. Participation isn't high and it's been dropping off steadily for the last little while. We don't want anyone to feel bad or guilty about not playing along - your blog, your rules! - but we are hoping we can revamp things a bit and kickstart some energy back into this weekly blog prompt. So, we're going to try something new, sort of a riff on Three Things on Thursday. This week we are asking you to share 3 things on your To Do List with all of us. Everybody likes to write lists, don't they?!

I wondered about my participation this week; I do write lists for myself, but I'm fairly sure they are some of the most mundane things you will ever read. If I am completely honest, sometimes I include things on my list just so I can experience the pure satisfaction of crossing them off. But since Carole and Kat have put some thought into this, the least I can do is give it a try.

Weed - This is self-explanatory. I've been putting it off for quite a while, but after two days of rain, I think the ground is sufficiently saturated to make weed-pulling as easy as it's going to get. I'm going to put a good audio book in my ears, get out there, and just do it!

Renew license - I thought I could just do this online, but it turns out I have to take my 6 points of id to the DMV and hope that I can prove I'm who I say I am. This means my birth certificate to prove I'm a US citizen, my marriage certificate to prove why my current legal name is different from the name on my birth certificate, my social security card, a recent bill to prove my address, and possibly a dozen Krispy-Creme donuts as an offering to Chris Christie. (I know that's not very nice, but he is not a very nice person, and definitely a lousy governor.) Wish me luck.

Zucchini bread to E - I promised zucchini bread to my old neighbor who has since moved to a nursing home. This may be a bit clandestine as she wasn't sure she would be allowed to have it. She's not diabetic, but I don't know if she's on any kind of special diet, so I will have to okay it with a nurse. Just imagine me smuggling zucchini bread in under my trench coat. 

There are other dull and ordinary things on the list, but I chose three of the least boring and not work-related. As a bonus, if I get everything done, then I'm going to get pad thai for dinner, watch the last episode of Endeavour series 4, and knit. Those rewards ought to help me get everything else done and crossed off!

What's on your list?

Read other TWT/3ToT posts here, and sign up for Carole and Kat's great idea here.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Unraveled Wednesday

Joining Kat and friends for Unraveled Wednesday.

You've probably seen enough pictures of my No Regrets hitchhiker, and knitting on it continues slowly and steadily. Because I care about you as a reader and don't want you to be bored, I decided to start something new. The beads are a new thing for me so I feel like I'm all thumbs, but hopefully I'll get better at placing them with practice. I'm still not 100% sure of my bead placement (on the second stitch of the k2tog or the single stitch produced by the k2tog) and I think I'll try placing the beads with a flosser instead of the crochet hook, but a little experimentation and practice should help. I've barely begun, but I think I'm going to like it. 

We're in the middle of some fearsome thunderstorms, so this photo is way too dark.
 Imagine something more along the lines of the color above with sparkly silver-lined beads. 

I'm looking at an avalanche of books because I might have over-requested from Netgalley and Overdrive, and of course, many of them came in at once. I've got Robin Sloan's latest, Sourdough, on my kindle which I need to finish and review for Netgalley. I procrastinated for almost a week because even though I loved his first book, Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore, this one sounded a little too out there. I finally just started it, and it's actually a pretty good read so far. (Good enough that I was up until 2 am reading it!)

I'm listening to The Child as an audio book, and it's a mystery. It fits into the mystery genre, but it's also a mystery as to why I might have requested it in Overdrive. Did I do it by accident, or get confused in my post-Book Bingo rush to read something different? It's quite outside my usual reading tastes, but I thought I might as well listen since it was already checked out to me. I think I guessed the outcome but am going to finish it to see if I am right. Then it's on to the rest of the books in the Overdrive queue, hopefully before What Happened is published next Tuesday.

What are you knitting and reading this week?

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

In a Pretty Pickle

My to-do list for Monday looked like this:

I wanted to get laundry done and hung out on the clothesline because we have rain predicted for four days beginning today. The lawn was already too long, so again because of the predicted rain, I really needed to get it mowed. Bills have deadlines and had to be paid. Beans needed to be picked and frozen. The front flowerbeds are an embarrassment of spent roses and weeds. I had promised zucchini bread to three people and I hate to break promises, even if they are only for zucchini bread. But then I read Kat's Monday post and couldn't stop thinking about pickled tomatoes.

They sound a bit odd, but oddly intriguing. I thought about them while I tended to laundry, while I mowed the lawn, and while I paid bills. After I picked, blanched, and froze beans I began to make excuses. The front flowerbeds have needed attention for at least a week or more, but I bet they don't look bad at 25 mph. (That's the speed limit on our street, and most people do 40, so they probably look just fine if people are whizzing past at that speed.) And the weeds will be easier to pull after a little rain. Will people really be pounding on my door if they have to wait for their promised zucchini bread another day or two? I have all the ingredients for pickled tomatoes and it would be a real shame if those sweet little cherry tomatoes shriveled up before I tried the recipe.

So I decided to multitask; I would make pickled tomatoes and write a blog post. It's an easy recipe and they are stored in the refrigerator so there is no canning involved. I can tell you now that they are fun and easy to make, smell delicious, and look beautiful, but I decided to wait the 48 hours that the recipe advises before tasting them. That's real multitasking -- a post now, and another one later this week when I tell you how they taste and use the brine in a bloody mary (another suggestion from the recipe). Thank you, Kat!

Friday, September 1, 2017

I've Got This Covered

And by covered, I mean my Book Bingo card (complete with notes and scribbles). The last time I wrote specifically about what I was reading for Book Bingo was way back at the end of June, so I'm just going to list the books I've read since then with links to goodreads so you can further explore anything that might sound good to you.

The Chalk Artist - About art/artists2 stars

Bambi's Children - Backlist from an author you read for another square, 5 stars

Salt, Acid, Fat, Heat - About food, 3 stars

I Contain Multitudes - Borrowed, 3 stars

Invisible Emmie - Graphic novel, 4 stars

A Full Life - Recommended by a family member, 4 stars

The Hate U Give - Free square, 4 stars

Rain Reign - An author from the state where you live, 4 stars

Whispers Under Ground - Already own, 4 stars

Grief Cottage - That you want to read because of the cover, 4 stars

Broken Homes - An author from a country you've never visited, 4 stars

The Simpsons and Their Mathematical Secrets - Wanted to read for more than a year, 4 stars

Magpie Murders - More than 500 pages, 3 stars

Safe as Houses - Collection of short stories, 4 stars

How Not to be Wrong - Re-read, 5 stars

Where the Water Goes - About nature, 5 stars

The Last Days of Night - Historical fiction, 3 stars

You can also see all the books in one place on my goodreads Book Bingo 2017 shelf here. If I had to pick favorites, they would be Bambi (thank you, Debbie!) and Where the Water Goes, both 5 stars and wonderful books, each in its own way.

It was a good summer of reading, and I want to thank Mary for organizing Summer Book Bingo 2017 and giving many readers (myself included) lots of enthusiasm for summer reading.

So what's next? Lots of books, lots of choices! I'm leaning towards The Resurrection of Joan Ashby, but there is also A House Among the Trees, or maybe The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay? What a delightful dilemma to choose my next book!

Wishing everyone a wonderful (and hopefully long) weekend, hopefully with a little time for some good reading!