Saturday, November 18, 2017

Sky Above, Earth Below

I've been trying to time our walk so we're at the top of the hill in the cemetery when the sun sets. Here are two of my favorites from this past week.

Since we've lost about four minutes of daylight this week and the same next week, I'm not sure I can be in the right place at the right time to capture too many more sunsets.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Mum's the Word

We used these mums as decorations at the 40th wedding anniversary party we threw for my in-laws. There had been some debate about waiting until their 50th anniversary, but we were very glad we hadn't delayed when my father-in-law died the next year. Looking back at that party is poignant, but filled with good memories (but I digress). I can't throw out plants, so I brought some of the mums home and planted them. These have been growing and spreading in my front flowerbeds for about 20 years, and they are always a delight when they bloom.

They don't bloom until late October-early November, so they seem to serve as a great source of pollen for many bees and a stopping point for other insects when there aren't many other flowers around.

The best one of all was this visitor.

He visited on November 6, very late for monarchs to be in this area, but seemed glad to have found a place to rest and warm his wings. (You can tell it's a male from the black spots on his hind wings.) He's also far away from the usual monarch flyway in NJ, so I do hope rest and some pollen helped him find his way to Mexico.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Tea on Thursday

Joining Kat and Carole for Three on Thursday.

We had some real cold last weekend, with temperatures in the low teens overnight. Monday's weather brought the dreaded wintry mix, and because of some car troubles I had to walk home from the car repair place in a bit of snow, sleet, and rain. I arrived home wet and freezing, which prompted me to make soup, bake bread, wear a Hitchhiker and some fingerless gloves, all in an attempt to get warm. But before I did those things, I made a hot, steaming mug of tea to begin the warming up from the inside. So, today, Tea on Thursday.

  • Tea India has been my favorite morning beverage ever since one of the scientists in John's team brought some back from India as a gift. It's just regular orange pekoe, but I think it has a nice, strong flavor without being bitter. I like it so much that I've quit using my coffee maker for coffee, and just put the tea bags in the basket to make a whole pot. I'm glad I can order it from Amazon and don't have to make a trip to India.
  • I had perfect dirty chai (chai tea with a shot of espresso) in Fort Collins, but our coffee place here at home makes awful chai, and I didn't think espresso would improve it. I was glad when Celestial Seasonings came out with dirty chai tea bags, so that's another tea I buy from Amazon, six boxes at a time. It's not quite as good as the perfect one from Fort Collins, but still spicy, warming, and delicious.
  • Lastly, there is peppermint tea. I drank lots of it iced the summer, and it's equally wonderful hot. Sometimes I add a little bit of peppermint mocha creamer if I'm really feeling decadent.
Head on over here to read more Three on Thursday posts (best enjoyed with a hot cup of tea).

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Unraveled Wednesday

Joining Kat and friends for Unraveled Wednesday.

It's the same knitting as last week (and the week before that, and the week before that ... ) but there has been some reading progress this week. I finished Stillmeadow Seasons, WinterdanceTrauma Room Two, and The Children. Three exceptional books with only one clunker makes for a pretty good reading week. I've started A Stash of One's Own (which has reminded me that Stephanie Pearl-McPhee really is a wonderfully eloquent writer) and Millard Salter's Last Day on Kindle.

<small rant> I do wish that publishers would think long and hard about what seems like a common practice of comparatively marketing books. The publisher's blurb says that Millard Salter is written "in the spirit of the New York Times bestselling A Man Called Ove", but I'm not finding this to be the case. I loved Ove, and I'm enjoying Millard so far, but to me they are different books. I think it does both books a disservice to compare them like this when all they really have in common is a main character with a similar goal. I'll probably have more to say when I finish reading Millard's story. </small rant>

What are you making and reading?

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

On (Not In)

Last week Vicki told us about the exciting delivery of her new refrigerator, and shared what she had chosen to display on the refrigerator. Along with checking out friends' bookshelves, I'm always interested to see what people have on their refrigerator doors. Our refrigerator is the no-frills, basic type, but it's the only one that would fit between a supporting beam and an existing cabinet. It still provides plenty of space for all the stuff of life that I like to see on a daily basis.

This is the side I see most often, so it has the calendar for what's going on, my Romney Ridge calendar for sheep, fortunes, appointment cards, and magnetic boxes to file things for each of the boys. This started as a way to keep all those school papers straight, but they're still useful even though they no longer live here.

 Also a magnet from Kym, and a quote I liked so much that I had to cut it out of a catalog.

The front is full of photos and some other things that make me smile, laugh, and remember.

Here's a closer look at my favorite card from my sister-in-law, magnetic poetry composed by Justin, and note paper from the Studley hotel. John stayed here when he was in North Yorkshire, UK for business and I thought it was a hilarious name. Also, November has been declared Bonny Becker Month!

Justin did experience a little confusion between Santa and Gandalf when he was around six, so my other sister-in-law cut this out for me.

A closeup of photos (and people) I love.

The bottom section has loads of photos from all stages of the kids' lives. It used to be filled with drawings from the boys, but neither one of them has drawn anything in years. I miss that artwork (but of course I've saved most of it). 

I don't look at the far side quite as often, but it's also got some favorite photos and a 16-year-old newspaper clipping. Eleven students in our school district lost a parent in the World Trade Center on 9/11, and "Patriots for Peace" is a student drawing that was part of a fundraiser for a scholarship fund for those students. I can't bear to throw it away. 

Thanks for visiting my kitchen, and Happy Bonny Becker Month!

Monday, November 13, 2017


I was all set to do my usual weekend chores and write my usual weekending post, but things veered off in a sightly different direction. I got started on my list - taking the sheets off the bed, getting them started in the washing machine, gathering towels for the next load, making the bed with flannel sheets, loading my car with all the things I got rid of during my first round of Swedish Death Cleaning - and then sat down to check email while the first load of laundry finished. I often quickly delete emails trying to sell me something, but this time I actually read through the one from Amazon telling me about Prime Reading. I had never used this before as I can't even keep up with my Overdrive requests, but I decided to take a look. I stumbled upon Trauma Room Two, borrowed it, and that's when I got waylaid.

It's a collection of short stories written by an emergency room physician. Unlike other medical fiction I've read before, these stories are written with enough medical detail to ring true, and enough honesty and emotion to be profound and poignant. I started reading the first story, told myself, "just one more" and then read three. I made myself go hang out laundry and get the next load of towels started, but then had to return to reading. Once I got to "The Crew", a story about the dread that every member of the trauma crew feels while they wait for an ambulance to arrive, fearful that it might involve one of their own sons or daughters, I gave up on the mundane chores.

Thankfully it's not a long book because I couldn't put it down. Dr. Green is exhausted and possibly burned out, but he writes sensitively about the tragedies he sees on a daily basis, and the last story is a beautifully fitting ending. After I finished the book, I made myself at least finish the laundry and make the bed, but my other chores seemed so insignificant compared with the things that had happened in Trauma Room Two. I simply could not stop thinking about this book.

Dr. Green has written another book, People of the ER, and I hope it's as good as his first. My approach with this one is going to be a little different. Before I even downloaded it to my Kindle, I used some self-discipline on Sunday to put a roast in the crock pot, do some grocery shopping, buy a new iron, finish the pile of ironing, and deliver my donations to the Salvation Army. My Monday is now relatively free, so once again, I'm going to love getting waylaid by a book.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

A Request

I may be patting myself on the back for this post; it's an honest request for help plus blog fodder on a day when I really don't have much to say!

We've been invited to my husband's boss' Christmas party on Dec. 16th. Last year was the first time we received an invitation, and I spent much of the evening marveling at their house (especially the incredible kitchen with dual Viking ranges and a butcher block island larger than my dining room table). Once I had a drink, relaxed a bit by the massive fireplace, and talked with some of John's co-workers I only knew by name, it was a wonderful evening with some very smart, interesting, and accomplished people. 

We have been asked to bring our favorite hors d'oeuvre, main dish, or dessert, so that is where my request comes in. Last year I took a sausage, apple, and brie quiche which I thought was delicious, but it just didn't seem quite special enough, and I'm not sure other guests loved it as much as I did. I would love to hear your recommendations for something delicious that can be transported fairly easily. It doesn't have to be a fancy or fussy showstopper, just something you make that your family and guests love. The kind of thing that people ask you for the recipe, and you come home with an empty dish because it just tastes so good. 

Last year there were amazing chicken wing appetizers, meatballs, stuffed mushrooms, curried chicken salad, a seafood salad, and loads of tasty brownies, cakes, and pies. John's suggestions were spinach dip with some homemade rye bread, or maybe cinnamon rolls. The cinnamon rolls are delicious and not too difficult, but I can't decide if they are Christmas party fare. A friend suggested honeyed cashews or Christmas crack, but I'm just not sure. 

So, I would love to hear your thoughts, recommendations, and recipes. Thank you in advance, and I really appreciate your help. Even if I do end up just taking spinach dip, I look forward to trying your delicious suggestions.

(But no cookies with gumdrops and ketchup, lime jello with crab, or leftover turkey cheesecake, please.)

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Sky Above, Earth Below

These photos are a combination of the sky above, earth below, and a reflecting lake. I was driving past Lake Nockamixon in 2015 and was struck by the golden glow, visible even from the road. I turned around, headed down to the lake, and was met with an awesome scene that I can still remember vividly. I haven't seen anything similar since (even though I've tried), but these photos are too good not to share (again).

I wish you could have seen it in person, as my photos don't come near to doing the scene justice. I was passing the lake at just the right time and the glow from the near-setting sun on the trees and the reflection was simply incredible. I spent nearly half an hour along the water's edge, taking photos, lying flat on the ground to try and best capture the reflections, and just enjoying the views. What a treat to be in the right place at the right time, and be privy to something so awe-inspiring.

Friday, November 10, 2017

What I Learned

One of my favorite things to do when I visit Ryan is to attend the class that he's teaching. As a graduate student, one of his responsibilities is teaching. This semester it's MATH 255 - Calculus For Biological Scientists II. I used to know and use this stuff, but based on my previous visits to his classroom, I knew that all I could really hope for was some vague recognition of concepts. So, what did I learn?

Chain rules in multiple variables?

The proper definition of differentiability?

No, not really. I do listen intently and take notes, but it's going to take more than two classes for me to re-learn Calculus II. 

I did learn that Ryan is an excellent teacher, knows his subject, can convey it well to students, cares that they learn, wants them to make an effort, and knows what he is doing. I also learned a new appreciation for what he does on a daily basis. I don't often get the chance to see him thriving as an adult in his own life. Watching him teach gave me that, and I learned that that is a truly wonderful gift.  

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Three on Thursday

Joining Kat and Carole for Three on Thursday.

John loves Chinese buffets, and when a new one opened nearby, he wanted to try it. While they're not my favorite (the food all tastes the same to me), I do enjoy the fortunes. So, today, three fortunes ...

Great! I'm happy to hear that I'm not washed up at 60!

Very true, and a good reminder.

An interesting thought to contemplate.

And a bonus fourth because I like this one:

I hope I can remember this and use it in response to the many times family members tell us how lucky we are.
 We are lucky, and grateful, but it would be nice if our goals and work towards them could also be acknowledged.

I used to love watching these Mr. Rogers "How It's Made" segments with the boys:

Head on over 
here to read more Three on Thursday posts.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Unraveled Wednesday

Joining Kat and friends for Unraveled Wednesday.

I usually take a photo of my knitting all crumpled up, but now that the gradient is finally showing up in this Hitchhiker, I wanted to try and show it. This idea came to me just as I was falling asleep last night, and the only thing that kept me from getting up to take photos was
that it was dark. Taking the photos took a little longer than I thought, since I had to clean to do it. My first attempts showed more grime
than gradient, so I actually dusted and scrubbed woodwork. That's how much I care about my readers! Forty-four points and still plenty
of yarn left ...

I've stopped working on Ryan's striped mitts because I asked him a question about the length a week and a half ago, and he still hasn't replied. So, Ryan, if you happen to be reading (not likely), call your mother!

The subtitle of Winterdance is The Fine Madness of Running the Iditarod, and it is a fine book. It surprised me to find that it's not available on Kindle or as an audio book, so I had to get the real book from the library. It's taking me a little longer to read it because I don't have a lot of uninterrupted time to sit and read, but it's a book worth taking your time with. Thanks, Kathryn!

What are you making and reading?

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

I Voted

It's Election Day, and here in NJ we're voting for governor, lieutenant governor, state senate, general assembly, freeholders (that's county government, but too easily turned into the Freudian slip of freeloaders), and borough council members. That means that by late tonight, Chris Christie will be a lame duck governor (not that he hasn't been lame for quite a while). His incredibly poor performance and the suspicion that the Republican candidate (Kim Guadagno, Christie's lieutenant governor) may have somehow been involved in Bridgegate, along with allegations of pension fraud have all but guaranteed that the Democratic candidate will win this election (But we all know that polls have been very, very wrong before.)

I'm not under any illusions that the next governor will be much better than our last one, but I am quite interested in the borough council results. All politics is local, and several outspoken and honest citizens have gotten fed up enough to run for office. I do have high hopes for them, and count lawn signs every evening when I walk. Based on my unscientific results, it looks like they might have a chance. But even if they don't get elected, there is no way I can be as disappointed, shocked, and sick as I was after the election last year. Fingers crossed for the outspoken and honest and the democratic process!

(And I'm also celebrating the end of campaign mailings. These are all from one day!)

(At least this one made me laugh.)