Monday, October 15, 2018

Sometimes Monday ...

... is a wonderful day to enjoy a thoughtful gift!

Justin made a quick, unexpected visit home this weekend, and brought me a present - wireless headphones! He is getting some new ones, and thought I might enjoy his old ones. He knew they weren't something I would purchase for myself, and thought they would be a great way to listen to audiobooks. And he is right!

It's a chilly, rainy day in MD, and I have the pleasure of listening to some good books with my new headphones, along with tea and knitting. These delightful headphones make listening a wonderful immersive experience, and a practically perfect Monday. Thanks, Justin!

Friday, October 12, 2018

Monarch on Mums

We had six inches of rain throughout the day yesterday, followed by strong winds overnight, but now the storm has passed and fall is finally blowing in on 20 mph winds. I have windows open to to get rid of the humid, stuffy air, and my spirit feels revived by the fall breeze. I feel like I can finally buy mums, so when I was adding that to my list this morning, it reminded me of these monarch on mums photos I took back in 2011.

His wings looked a little bedraggled, but still beautiful. I think their epic migration takes a big toll and he was miles away from the usual coastal path through NJ.

I was glad that the mums were blooming profusely as there wasn't much else to provide nectar and pollen in November.

You can tell that he is a male by the "eye spots" on his hind wings.

I like to think that his perseverance and a resting place on my mums in the fall sunshine for several hours before he flew away helped him make it to Mexico.

The fall migration is currently underway; you can see a map of sightings here. I'm going to be out looking for monarchs myself in NJ and MD. Wishing you a good weekend, and maybe even a monarch sighting or two.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Three on Thursday

Joining Carole for Three on Thursday, and today it's with more mushrooms. It's been warm, humid, and rainy, providing perfect conditions for fungus. Thanks to my mushroom book, now I know what these are called.

The book seriously calls these Little Brown Mushrooms (also Little Boring Mushrooms or LBMs)! "This catch-all term is used even by professional mycologists to refer to any of a number of common, medium, brownish mushrooms that are difficult to identify precisely, and are usually considered not worth the bother." These LBMs are growing in a fairy ring; it looks more like a fairy square or maybe fairy blob to me, but it seems these professional mycologists call it a ring even if it's a disorganized one. 

This Green-Spored Lepiota (Chlorophyllum molybdites) is distinguished by its greenish spore print. Really that just means I broke the cap off of the large mature one and looked at the grayish-green color of the mature gills on the underside. Part of the trouble with mushroom identification is that they change a lot as they mature. These are all the same, but the young specimens have elongated caps with bumps (scales) before they open up. They are labeled as TOXIC in the book, and the accompanying skull and crossbones looks like they mean it. 

When I first saw these, I wondered how pine cones ended up at the base of one of our big oaks. (I blamed squirrels.) They encircle most of the tree, with more showing up every day. These are actually Hen of the Woods or Grifola versicolor. "These large woodland species are fibrous, and overeating can cause digestive issues." Good to know, but there is no danger of overeating Hens here. 

Mushroom identification seems to be a somewhat imprecise science, at least for someone like me. I don't intend to eat any of them, and am just curious about what the multiple types that pop up in my lawn might be called. My identifications are really best guesses, and now that I know about LBMs, I will probably be seeing a lot more of those. 

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

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Unraveled Wednesday

Joining Kat and friends for Unraveled Wednesday.

There hasn't been any unraveling this week, but not quite enough raveling either. I'm working on the second fingerless mitt for Ryan. They were intended for his birthday, but I'm already three days late. I'm not quite sure where the time has gone, but he's already got snow and freezing weather, so now I've got extra incentive to get them done - soon!

I'm feeling a bit slow and uninspired as far as reading goes, but I think (hope) that it's just a small slump. I've got some good books lined up to read, but none of them have really captured my attention. E.B. White always has something to say to me, so I'm re-reading Essays of E.B. White and One Man's Meat. His writing about politics and war, along with life on the farm and fishing is honest, poignant, and helpful. 

What are you making and reading this week?

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Gratitude for a Gift

It's been a while, but remember this lovely hibiscus I received as a gift?

It now looks like this, branched out, a little bit bigger, and with three or four buds that I hope will open soon.

This was a gift from long-time family friends, Joe and Vicki, grown from cuttings from the original plant that Vicki's brother brought from Poland over 90 years ago.

Joe died over the summer, so Vicki lives by herself now and is finding it increasingly difficult to get around and do things. She offered me her last big hibiscus plant because she couldn't lift it or take care of it any more, and I gladly accepted her generous gift, especially when she was kind enough to say that she wanted it to go to a good home.

I'm not sure if it will stay in NJ or end up in MD, but It's going to live outside in NJ for a while so I can give it some special TLC. It's got a serious infestation of whiteflies. I tried washing them off with soap and water in the shower, but that didn't get rid of all of the insects and eggs, so I sprayed the plant with imadacloprid last weekend and that seems to be working well. As soon as I'm sure all the little sap-suckers are gone, I'm going to repot the plant because the roots are growing out of the bottom. I may also prune it a bit, but I'm going to do all of this slowly and carefully. I really don't want anything untoward to happen to this lovely hibiscus, a gift that's a wonderful reminder of some special friends. I'm grateful for both the friends and the gift. 

Monday, October 8, 2018

Sometimes Monday ...

... is a day to get up, take the lessons you've learned from a weekend of sadness, pondering, and wondering how to go on in a country where disdain and contempt for women is the norm, and move forward.

This letter from E.B. White, written in response to a man who had lost his faith in humanity has always helped me, and re-reading it helped me again after Mr. Kavanaugh's confirmation. 

Dear Mr. Nadeau:
As long as there is one upright man, as long as there is one compassionate woman, the contagion may spread and the scene is not desolate. Hope is the thing that is left to us, in a bad time. I shall get up Sunday morning and wind the clock, as a contribution to order and steadfastness.
Sailors have an expression about the weather: they say, the weather is a great bluffer. I guess the same is true of our human society — things can look dark, then a break shows in the clouds, and all is changed, sometimes rather suddenly. It is quite obvious that the human race has made a queer mess of life on this planet. But as a people we probably harbor seeds of goodness that have lain for a long time waiting to sprout when the conditions are right. Man’s curiosity, his relentlessness, his inventiveness, his ingenuity have led him into deep trouble. We can only hope that these same traits will enable him to claw his way out.
Hang on to your hat. Hang on to your hope. And wind the clock, for tomorrow is another day.
E. B. White
So by all means, hang on to your hat, your hope, and wind the clock, but we must also educate ourselves, vote, and volunteer (here, here, or here are just a few possibilities). Make sure that Mitch McConnell learns how very wrong he was when he blithely stated that "these things always blow over." 

Friday, October 5, 2018


I'm a little too pragmatic to be a big believer in signs and portents, but when I was greeted with a wall of Ivin's Spiced Wafers at Acme, I couldn't help but feel that my father was saying hello. He loved these cookies, and bought multiple boxes when they were available in the fall. He left them open in the cupboard until about January or February to let them get soft, the way he loved them best. I sent my sister the photo, and she knew just what it meant.

These cookies are a local specialty, and only sold in the fall, so it's not surprising at all that I would run across them now. I rarely go to Acme, but it is my closest shopping option in MD. Whether it's really a sign or not, these familiar orange and black boxes were a nice reminder of my father, and a chance to share remembrance with my sister. So hello, Dad. You are missed.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Three on Thursday


Joining Carole for Three on Thursday, and today it's with three things I found in Elkton. 

I walked to the post office a couple days ago, and decided to explore downtown a bit. Like many other small towns, Elkton has a combination of empty storefronts, a few established businesses, and some new ones just starting up (including two breweries!). The little one in the middle had a cart of books outside, so I had to go in and check it out.

The Palette and the Page is a delightful little gallery where local artists display all kinds of arts and crafts - calligraphy, ceramics, glass, jewelry, paintings, photography, textiles, and more. They carry books from local authors, along with gently used books, and hold local wine and beer tastings and workshops. I hope to attend the wire knitting and chain maille workshops some day if they are held when I'm here. 

Here are three things I admired during my visit.

Beautiful woodworking. All of these pieces are lovely, and I'm wondering if I might need one (or both) of those small tables for plant stands.

Lots of ceramics, 

including the two little trays I purchased. 

And lastly, I was fascinated by these paintings on feathers. The images were tiny, precise, and quite beautiful. I'm wondering if someone in the family might need the cardinals for Christmas.

It's a lovely, peaceful place that I thoroughly enjoyed. Their front window says "enriching lives through art & beauty" and I certainly found that to be true. 

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

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Unraveled Wednesday

Joining Kat and friends for Unraveled Wednesday.

A few years ago I made Ryan some fingerless mitts for his birthday, knit with yarn that matched his favorite flannel shirt. The shirt had fallen apart several years before, so I was quite happy to find a new one, and Ryan also seemed quite pleased with the gift. 

He found some yarn that he loved at The Loopy Ewe last fall, so I decided to knit some new mitts for his birthday this year. I found a flannel shirt that complemented them, and cast on. Initially I wasn't sure that I liked the colors together, but while I was knitting it dawned on me that these are the colors of the Obama Hope poster, so I like them much more now. 

I felt a little unraveled when it became clear I wasn't going to finish the second mitt in time to send the pair to Colorado by his birthday, but I mailed Ryan a few other gifts and decided to take my time and finish them properly. Today is a day devoted to knitting Ryan a Happy Life (the name of the Berry Colorful Yarnings colorway) in hopes that I can send them by the end of the week.

Reading has slowed down while I've concentrated on knitting, but I'm still working on The Art of Logic in an Illogical World and Farsighted. My next read will be Almost Everything: Notes on Hope by Anne Lamott. I feel like I need logic and hope now more than ever. 

What are you making and reading this week?

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

You're Right, Winston!

Give us the tools and we will finish the job. ~ Winston Churchill

When we outfitted the house in MD, it was with a combination of things from NJ, things from thrift shops, and some new things. Some of the new things were from Walmart, and some of those were big mistakes.

The other day I decided to make mashed potatoes to go with the marinated steak I was grilling. I got out the paring knife from Walmart and attempted to peel potatoes. The knife was so dull that it was almost impossible to peel the potatoes, and the cook's knife was just as bad, barely able to chop potatoes in half. John came home and I finished the job with the little Swiss army knife he carries on his key chain. 

As soon as we were done with dinner, I searched for a good kitchen store in Elkton. There doesn't seem to be one, so I checked Amazon. Last year I got some decent knives for Ryan for Christmas to replace his Walmart knives, and he had raved about how good they are, so I ordered some for myself. They arrived the next day and I excitedly opened the package and started making potato salad. 

Oh, the joy of a good sharp knife! I cut potatoes, I sliced olives, and I chopped celery.

I chopped more celery because I was having so much fun.

I looked around for more things to slice, but all I could find was a banana to slice into my yogurt for lunch. A sharp knife wasn't necessary, but it was a pleasure to use!

My grandfather was a woodworker and he always told us to use the best tools we could afford. I really should have known better than to purchase good kitchen equipment from a big box store. 

The knives I ordered from Amazon are Victorinox, and my grandfather would be proud. They are sharp, reasonably priced, and the best tools for the jobs I need to perform in the kitchen. I got an 8-inch chef's knife, a 6-inch utility knife, a 4.5-inch serrated utility knife, and a 4-inch paring knife. John's Victorinox Swiss army knife worked well, and these Victorinox knives work even better. 

I'm making tacos for dinner tonight, and I can hardly wait to chop tomatoes and lettuce with my new knives! :-)

Monday, October 1, 2018

Sometimes Monday ...

... looks green and growing.

My SiL has the greenest thumb of anyone I know. She puts all of her plants outside in the summer, and when it's time to bring them back indoors in the fall, she takes cuttings, divides them, and does general plant maintenance. This year I was the lucky recipient of most of these. She gave me lots of Christmas cactus cuttings and I'm excited to see what colors their varied blossoms turn out to be.

I was also the very lucky recipient of these orchid cactus cuttings and this Christmas cactus. My SiL divided the original Christmas cactus and gave me half. This half is huge, which meant the original was twice as big! Right now they're in an unfinished little nook off of the kitchen. We've discussed whether it should maybe be a half-bath or pantry, but for now, it's going to be the plant room. Finally having plants in the MD house makes it feel much more homey.