Friday, May 25, 2018

The Blessed Event

Back in the winter, a friend was given a luna moth cocoon as a gift. This might sound like a slightly strange present, but she texted me excitedly, and I got excited, too. She called me the other day, yelled, "It's happening!", and I got there in time for much of the blessed event. It was so interesting to watch that I didn't get a lot of pictures, but here are the few I did remember to take.

I've seen a few luna moths before, but never one emerging from its cocoon. We looked up lots of information during eclosion (the technical term for coming out of the cocoon) and read that the new moth's wrinkled wings would get pumped full of hemolymph (what invertebrates have instead of blood), and then its wings would dry and harden. At that point, the moth can fly. My friend kept it overnight because she thought it would be safer from predators, but let it go the next morning. We had also read that adult moths only live for about a week, and because they don't have any mouth parts, they don't eat, and really just mate and lay eggs during their brief life. She didn't want this poor moth missing out on anything!

We think this one is female because its antennae aren't very large. Males have much larger and more feathery antennae, the better to "smell" the pheromones released by the females. So fly free and lay eggs, Lady Luna. I'm going to be keeping an eye out for luna moth caterpillars and cocoons this summer and fall. This is something I'd love to see again!

Here's hoping you get to experience some lovely natural blessings during this long weekend!
Just to let you know: Blogger has stopped emailing me when people comment. This seems to be the case for everyone on the platform, and I really hope that this is fixed soon, but it doesn't seem to be anything that I can remedy myself. Please know that I do read, value, and appreciate all of your comments. I hope this issue is short-lived and I hope to be able to reply to you very soon!

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Three on Thursday

Joining Kat and Carole for Three on Thursday, and today it's with three things I learned this week.

This is the back of a chair in a library I recently visited. It doesn't have anything to do with the post, but I needed a photo.
  I think it's really interesting and reminds me of Peter Max posters I had in the 60s and 70s.

1.  I learned that TIL is an acronym for "today I learned" (thanks to my kids).

2.  The Dunning-Kruger effect can explain so much! Simply put, it says that sometimes we are just too ignorant to even be able to assess or understand how ignorant we really are. We don't know what we don't know, and this can lead people (and I include myself) to overestimate their capabilities. I've had a week full of examples of the Dunning-Kruger cognitive bias!

3.  "Illusory Superiority" is another interesting term I learned while reading about Dunning-Kruger. It's just what it says, a tendency to overestimate our positive qualities and abilities and underestimate our negative qualities relative to others. Think Lake Wobegon, where “all the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and all the children are above average." John and I have had fun this week, calling each other on our own illusory superiorities. It turns out that he may not know as much about knitting as he thinks he does (when he picked up my Match & Move and tried a few stitches), and I don't know as much about running an air compressor as I thought I did. Luckily neither one of us ruined anything with our illusions of superior knowledge, but it was a distinct possibility!

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

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Unraveled Wednesday

Joining Kat and friends for Unraveled Wednesday.

We had some really big thunderstorms last night, so everything outdoors is still soaking wet. The best way I could think of to show my current Match & Move progress is with Justin's rattlesnake from TX that I had previously "blocked" and hung.

After ripping out too many rows and sections, something finally clicked in my brain, and now I seem to be able to consistently remember the ssk and kfbs. I will soon switch to Body Pattern II, and that will be something new to remember, but I think I'm up to the challenge.

Reading has slowed down a bit, but that is mostly my own doing. I was ready to jump right into Winter after I read Autumn, but decided to "save" it for Summer Book Bingo. I finished The Crow Trap, the first in the Vera Stanhope series, but am waiting to start the next one, Telling Tales, until SBB officially begins. The Vera series could possibly work for three squares on my card, so hopefully I'll fill at least four squares - three with Vera and "with a cover that matches a current wip". I'm quite excited about that last square!

I am currently listening to Michael Pollan's How to Change Your Mind. I've read many of his other books and had decided to skip this one, but then I heard Terry Gross interview him on Fresh Air and I was hooked. He has a wonderful voice for narration, an intense curiosity, and is an excellent researcher and writer, all of which work together to make a pretty good book so far. 

What are you making and reading this week?

Monday, May 21, 2018

Bits and Pieces from the Weekend

This weekend was nice, normal, and best of all, spent at home and not house-hunting in DE. We've looked at pretty much everything in our price range that is worth looking at, so we took this time to regroup, plan our next visit, and recover a bit from the disheartening and disappointing search. Instead of traipsing around looking at houses with termites and septic drain field problems, buckled hardwood flooring because of a roof leak, or ungrounded two-prong electrical sockets throughout, I watched it rain for most of Saturday.

I've often wished for a water feature, but I wasn't thinking of a small pond in the middle of the garden. 

I forgot about the royal wedding, and by the time I remembered, Justin had claimed our only TV to play a video game (on my X Box!). That was okay; I watched plenty of it on line, while I made chocolate chip cookies for Justin who wondered "why we didn't have anything good for breakfast."

Sunday was cloudy but not raining, so I could at least get out and mow the jungle that the yard had become, and take a look at my orchid cactus blooming on the porch.

I also spied the first blossom on my lime tree, and will be hoping for more.

And most importantly, I found time to make Squirrel Stop 2.0™. It's not pretty, but I think screening will work much better than a soggy, damp paper plate. I do hope the squirrels don't get clever enough to chew on the rubber band holding the screen, but for now I'm winning. 

I hope your weekend also had plenty of fine and lovely moments.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Enough/Not Enough

The word I chose for this year is Enough. I mull over enough on most days and have come to discover that there are many different meanings of the word, an almost infinite number of situations in which I could exclaim, "Enough!", and an equal number of situations in which it would be appropriate to quietly whisper, "enough". This week Kym was very kind to share a poem with me entitled Enough by David Whyte. 

Enough. These few words are enough.
If not these words, this breath.
If not this breath, this sitting here.
This opening to the life
we have refused
again and again
until now.
Until now.
~David Whyte, Where Many Rivers Meet

Interestingly enough, while I was searching for more about David Whyte, I came across this from the same volume:
It is Not Enough
It is not enough to know.
It is not enough to follow
the inward road conversing in secret.

It is not enough to see straight ahead,
to gaze at the unborn
thinking the silence belongs to you.

It is not enough to hear
even the tiniest edge of rain.

You must go to the place
where everything waits,
there, when you finally rest,
even one word will do,
one word or the palm of your hand
turning outward
in the gesture of gift.

And now we are truly afraid
to find the great silence
asking so little.

One word, one word only.

~David Whyte, Where Many Rivers Meet


Enough vs. not enough. Here's hoping you find the middle ground that is just right for you. 

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Three on Thursday

Joining Kat and Carole for Three on Thursday, and today it's with three interesting little things I saw this week.

The fortunes from our local Chinese place have been going downhill, but so far, the ones from DE don't even make sense (to me, anyway).

John wondered if "Moisted" is a word. It is not. 

This one is my favorite from Justin. My kids know me well; I'm all about protecting the furniture. :-)

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

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Unraveled Wednesday

Joining Kat and friends for Unraveled Wednesday.

It's the same Match & Move, just in a slightly different location (brighter, more reflective, and with a glimpse of another "interesting" hotel carpet). I've had more KWW (knitting while waiting) time, without any unraveling, so progress continues slowly but surely.

I've also had plenty of driving (thus listening) time, so I finished Autumn, and just started Winter. Autumn was so good that I decided to save Winter for a little while, and listen to the first novel in the Vera Stanhope series, The Crow Trap, on the drive down to Delaware. I'm well over halfway and Vera has only made one almost incognito appearance, but the story is quite good. There is an added bonus; it looks like the books in the Vera series might even fit easily into three squares on my Summer Book Bingo card. 

Because of time constraints this summer, I think my approach to Book Bingo is going to be different than in previous years. I've always pressured myself to achieve a cover-all on my card, but I wonder why? This summer is going to be about reading when I can, looking for interesting books that might fit into squares, but with no stress about how many books I read or squares I cover. Book Bingo will be a fun way to record what I read, with no pressure to read things I don’t want to. 

What are you making and reading this week?

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Plethora of Petals

I live across from our little borough park and I often take note of the changing seasons by admiring views of the park from my bedroom window or front porch. I've been gone quite a bit in the past month and a half, and my absence has made me oblivious to the beauty that's been unfolding as spring made its slow approach.

This weekend I had to run to the post office, and the fastest way is through the park. I have missed the peak of flowers on the blossoming cherry trees, but I was greeted by showers of pink petals. It was lovely enough I had to slow down, take a few photos, and appreciate.

I'm not sure what the folding chair was meant for, but I used it to step up on and get a different view.

There are still plenty of flowers left, but what I enjoyed most were drifts of the petals everywhere.

Pink petals can even beautify dumpsters.

I showed my pictures to a friend and told told her how lovely my few minutes spent with Petals Galore were. 
She thought that Petals Galore sounded like a stripper's name, so Plethora of Petals it is!

Monday, May 14, 2018

Sometimes Monday ...

... can look a little bit hopeful. I'm trying to practice the art of staying positive, minimizing my expectations, all while staying realistic and financially responsible. This is a tough balancing act, but a valuable life skill!

Friday, May 11, 2018

Bits and Pieces

Today I've got some random bits and pieces gathered this week.

I call this KWW (Knitting While Waiting). John took the work "party bus" to DE yesterday and I drove down to to pick him up and look at a couple of houses. I texted him when I got there and he said he'd be "right out". I always like to guess how long that might be. This time it was a pleasant five rows worth on Match & Move (almost 20 minutes)!

Justin's birthday is on Tuesday and our plans were to go to NY for a visit and take him to lunch, but work responsibilities have interfered. That means I need to package up his presents and go to the post office this morning. When I made Christmas bags, I also made bags for each of the boys that I used for their birthdays. Even though these are 13 or 14 years old, his fascination with deer still continues (and they make wrapping very easy)!

A few weeks ago, Penzeys called out the President on his shift from "I have not committed any crimes" to "it's a crime to investigate my crimes" and offered their American Soul box of spices for free as part of their call for Americans to stop pretending that things were in any way normal. Bill Penzey has been speaking out against T.rump since he was elected, and this is a company that truly walks their talk. I can't not support a company that does business this way, so I took advantage of their offer, bought another box as a gift for my new neighbor, and also several of their cinnamon boxes as gifts. If you don't already shop at Penzeys (and I know that many of you do), please consider them next time you need spices. They are an extraordinary company with a soul and wonderful products.

I was happy to see a flower stalk on one of my little grocery store orchids. I'm grateful that they thrive on my benign neglect and reward me annually with beautiful, long-lasting flowers (soon)!

Once again (always?) I'm engaged in an epic battle with squirrels. It's been warm enough that I've put my indoor plants outside, including my immigrant hibiscus. The squirrels seem to be obsessed with digging in the pot, many times each day to the point that I'm afraid they are beginning to break and damage the roots. I cursed the squirrels and replaced the soil too many times, so I grabbed a paper plate and scissors, and fashioned my patented Squirrel Stop™. It's worked just fine for several days, but I have thought about improvements to the prototype. This weekend I'm going to look for a section of screen and fit that to the pot as a barrier so the soil will be more open to sunlight for evaporation and for easy watering. Bonny - 1, Squirrels - 0 (for now). 

Wishing you a wonderful weekend!

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Three on Thursday

Joining Kat and Carole for Three on Thursday, and today it's with three things growing in the garden. 

There are peas,

 with their lovely tendrils that will soon be climbing the fence,

long rows of spinach,

and my favorites, tomatoes. 

None of these look like much now, just small green plants in lots of mundane brown soil, so here is a bonus fourth and prettier thing on Thursday, some early columbines.

Here's hoping your garden is growing well, whatever you happen to be growing!

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

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Unraveled Wednesday

Joining Kat and friends for Unraveled Wednesday.

I've been feeling a bit unraveled lately, but as wise Becky commented, "that just means more knitting for stress reduction, right?". I have been making a concerted effort to knit more, even if it's just a few rows here and there. I don't know if it has resulted in much progress on projects, but it has resulted in less stress. So my Match & Move and my sister's socks continue slowly but steadily.

I finished A Mind at Play, which I found sadly disappointing, and The Feather Thief, which I thought was quirky, fascinating, and wonderful. I've been on hold for Autumn and Winter by Ali Smith, but after Carole wrote about Winter yesterday, and after seeing how any of you loved it, I gave in and purchased Autumn. I keep mistakenly calling it Fall, but so far it's an incredible book no matter what you call it. 

What are you making and reading this week?

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

The Whole Story

Does anyone else compose blog posts in their minds? I often do, while I'm digging in the garden, ironing, or sometimes while I'm on a walk. They are usually fairly complete, with words or phrases that I want to use, and complete with photos that I've also composed in my mind.

So in the space above, imagine a photo of John and I smiling cheerfully in front of a modest, cottage-like house located in Elkton, MD. While we're composing this imaginary picture, please feel free to add some lovely clematis vines twining on the porch supports, a nice shade tree or two, and maybe a useful mud room along with a three-season sun room. We'll add the porch swing and the rest of the landscaping later after we've lived there for a while.

I've been imagining this place since February when John learned his job was moving to Newark, DE. We're not yet old enough and definitely not financially ready to retire, so we pretty much have to move. The whole thing is complicated a bit by the fact that John's group will double in size, and he'll still need to manage people in NJ, in addition to the people in Newark, DE and Harrogate, UK. The timeline is really compressed (he needs to be in DE by Sept. 1) so our plan is to try and keep the NJ house, get a small place in DE, sell the DE and NJ houses in 3 years, retire and move to wherever (CO? MT? I can't even predict now).

I've been adding details to this picture in my mind since March when we started looking for houses in the area. I know it's a dream, and I've run face first into reality which happens to everyone looking at houses. We've been driving down to DE once or twice a week for several months, and last weekend I made three round trips (about 2.5 hrs. each way) in four days. We put an offer on a place on Fri., and then got home about midnight. We found out Sat. that the house had active termites and expensive septic issues, so we pulled that offer. We left NJ again at 6:00 am on Sunday, drove down and looked at another house, made another offer, and then figured out that the seller does not own the land that the driveway is on. John and I figured this out by finding the deed on line once we got home and working it out ourselves with our GPS coordinate drawings scattered among the sewage disposal inspection paperwork photo from yesterday. The driveway is on an undeeded right-of-way, and supposedly the seller did not know this. I find that hard to believe, but I'm not a gambler and want deeded access to any place I buy. (I know; I'm picky!)

So that's the whole story - so far. We have to relocate (in a part-time, halfway, half-assed sort of way), I really don't want to, the finances of this are keeping me up at night, but there are others in the company who have it much worse. Many are trying to decide whether and how to split up their families, careers, kids, and lives. The relocation assistance that is being offered doesn't come anywhere near keeping employees whole, and the new tax plan screws us all as far as not being able to deduct moving-related expenses.

There are some bright spots. The company's research center is on the DE/MD state line, and we could live in rural Elkton and have a 10 minute commute. I've spent quite a bit of time in the Elkton library while John has been trying to work, and it's wonderful. And banana bread beer (which surprisingly tastes very good) is readily available in the area!

If you've made it this far, thanks for reading. I think I'm done picturing this imaginary house, especially because we're going back to DE Saturday - Tuesday, and I hope to finally find something simply suitable, affordable, with a driveway, but without termites and septic problems. Fingers crossed (and a banana bread beer to celebrate if it happens)!

Monday, May 7, 2018

Sometimes Monday ...

... is just way too crazy to write a decent blog post. I promise details when the story stops changing every five minutes.

Friday, May 4, 2018

Friday Letters

I haven't written any Friday Letters for almost a year, but have taken my virtual fountain pen in hand this week to say what's on my mind, take the opportunity to offer a thank you, and wonder about things. Let's open the mail ...

Dear MetLife,

Thank you for having at least one customer service representative that has actually provided some customer service. You administered one of my father's pensions, and after notifying you in February of his death, you've been busily sending me loads of letters. They've been increasing in number weekly, but also causing increasing confusion. Some letters say that his pension ended upon his death and no more payments will be received; others say that you need a new bank account number for the direct deposit of payments you haven't been able to make, and others say that I need to return the overpayments you have made. I've been calling you for several months, but the letters continue, almost like the scene in Harry Potter where all the envelopes come flooding into the Dursley's house. I called yet again earlier this week, and Anna was able to figure out that three different "life event" managers had been assigned to my father's account, all sending different letters. Anna seems to have fixed the problem, and I hope that next week marks the momentous occasion of one whole week without a letter from MetLife!


Dear Social Security Administration,

I've been busy over the past three months filling out forms, having forms notarized, going to court, writing letters, making copies and phone calls, and filling out more forms. You guys have provided the few moments of levity I've had in the job of executor, and I do appreciate it. You originally received notification of my father's death from at least four different sources, and all of them included original death certificates, so I did have to laugh at the letter I received yesterday. It was a fun one addressed to my father stating that errors have been made in the past when dealing with the SSA, and could he please verify that he was really dead. Yes, your language was a bit more convoluted, but that was really what you wanted to know by asking me to fill out the enclosed form and return it with another original death certificate. John didn't believe me at first, but also laughed after he read it and agreed that it really was an "are you sure you're really dead?" letter. Way to go SSA; bureaucracy and humor all in one!


Dear XBox One, 

The more comfortable I get with you, the more I love you, especially now that I know you turn your controller off automatically. I understand the futuristic glowing XBox button, along with the primary colored A, B, X, and Y buttons. There are still the left and right sticks, bumpers, and triggers for me to figure out, but who knows, I may even be playing a video game next week! 

Maybe this one ...

I hope your weekend includes more fun and games than bureaucracy!

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Three on Thursday

Joining Kat and Carole for Three on Thursday, and today it's with three "interesting" views of hotel carpets. Yes, I know that sounds really weird, but all of them are in the same hotel, and each one struck me so much that I just wanted to ask "What were you thinking?!" I understand they need to choose floor coverings that don't show dirt and wear, but I do wonder why they also have to be so darn ugly.

This is the first carpet you see in the lobby - big, wild, and all I could think of was that it looked like some abstract depiction of a cell, complete with nucleus, mitochondria, and Golgi apparatus. 

Here you can see the big picture. 

This next carpet stopped me in my tracks when I got off the elevator. It's even wilder, and carpets every hallway leading to rooms. It reminds me of that awful Monster energy drink that Justin used to have in the refrigerator when he was a teenager.

I had to take a quick look in one of the ballrooms to see what lovely choice they had made for the carpeting there, and was not surprised to find this.

I think the yellow squares outlined in red make it really beautiful. ;-)

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

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Unraveled Wednesday

Joining Kat and friends for Unraveled Wednesday.

Spring has finally arrived, the season where I can place my knitting on various blooming plants for photos. 

I call this one sock with bleeding heart.

Sock in redbud.

Sock in plum tree.

Sock with hyacinths, clematis, and grape hyacinth.

All of these are to show that I'm trying to be monagamous with my sister's found socks to actually finish them before too much more time passes. I've got two more four-row repeats of the waffle pattern before the heel flap, so progress is being made.

Spring has meant a little less time for reading as I've been doing lots of yard and garden work, but I did finish Stephen Fry's excellent reading of Sherlock Holmes in audio while raking, weeding, clearing, and planting. Fry and Holmes are a combination that was meant to be and I know I'll re-listen in the future. I also finished another excellent book that I know I'll re-read, Foolproof. It's about math, but the author Brian Hayes is so skilled a writer that he can explain almost anything mathematical. This book seems to have cured my previous reading slump, so I've just started A Mind at Play, a promising book about Claude Shannon. I'm hoping to make some time in the next week for Claude and sock knitting.

What are you making and reading this week?