Friday, June 24, 2022

Five Questions (or Maybe Seven)

A couple of weeks ago, a friend and I were discussing small talk. I had to attend a function (it was a Medicare information session, not even a social event) and I was amazed at the number of people who shared their life stories (including medical information) while we were standing around chatting before the session began. Being an introvert, I tend to be terrible at small talk. I am curious about people and their stories but have to be careful not to ask too many probing questions too early.

My friend sent these two articles and I wondered what you thought about the questions contained in them:

5 Questions the Most Interesting People Will Always Ask in Conversations

7 Questions Interesting People Always Ask in Conversations

Are they questions you might like to be asked in a conversation? Can you recommend anything to improve my small talk? I'm not necessarily trying to be interesting while conversing with a stranger, just like a relatively pleasant human being that can carry on a conversation. 

And while you're looking over those articles, feel free to answer any of the questions in the comments. I am always curious about people and would love to hear about a book that has influenced you or what excites you right now! 

Thursday, June 23, 2022


Who knew that a little bit of time invested in meal planning might save me frustration, aggravation, and maybe even some time in the long run?

Maybe many of you who have planned your meals knew this secret, but I'm really just beginning to give it a try. Cooking is solely my responsibility, which is okay because John usually takes care of plumbing and electrical issues (not at the same time). Often, I just stand at the kitchen counter while sipping my tea in the morning and wonder "What in the world am I going to make for dinner tonight?" I try and figure something out based on what I've got in the refrigerator and freezer, along with the additional questions of "What do I feel like making?", "What are the easiest, yet tastiest things I could make?", and "Why isn't John happy with just a salad for dinner in the summer?" It seems as if thinking about dinner, making dinner, and trips to the grocery store to get just a few things I'm lacking for that night are taking up far too much of my time, so I decided to try some meal planning.

Yesterday I needed to grocery shop, so before I went and wandered the aisles aimlessly, I made a menu list for six days. This is the scribbled list on the blue index card above. I had two trout in the freezer from fishing last weekend, and fresh snow peas in the refrigerator from the garden, so yesterday's dinner was easy. Then I just started writing down possibilities for the remaining five days. I'm not a big fan of pork chops (dinner tonight), but I'm a grown-up, don't have to eat any pork chops, and I'm also making a pasta salad that I do like. I thought about things that I haven't made in a long time (corn salad, broccoli salad, and a raspberry jello salad) and put them on the list. I have a wild turkey breast in the freezer from Justin's spring turkey hunt that should be used, so we'll be having wild turkey nuggets this weekend. 

Then I made a grocery list from the meal planning list so I would be sure to have all the ingredients on hand and wouldn't be running back to the grocery store for raisins or black beans or something else I was missing. (Shredded cheddar and bacon are both on the list twice, but you can never have too much bacon or cheddar.) I'm really not much of a planner so this is not my usual modus operandi, but I hope it pays off in the long run. (We'll see how long I stick with it.)

So how do you deal with the eternal question of dinner? Do you plan? Make things on the spur of the moment? Are you lucky enough to be part of a family that shares cooking, offers meal ideas, or is at least happy with a good salad in the summertime? I'd love to hear how things work at your house!

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Unraveled Wednesday

I'm joining Kat and fellow Unravelers for Unraveled Wednesday with a few projects. 

I finished my second Peace Cowl, and I'm pretty pleased with it. I used Kym's trick (Ravelry link) and knit four rows of stockinette at the beginning and end. This rolls nicely to provide a faux i-cord look without any of the i-cord angst like the pattern suggests. I used up some partial balls of the great merino, alpaca, and silk yarn left over from my Antler cardigan, and ended up with a lovely soft cowl that I'm looking forward to wearing in cooler fall weather. 

I already had a gift for my nephew's wife's baby shower that I attended last Sunday, but somehow I got the idea that she also needed a handknit. The baby isn't due until October, so I have been thinking about some bibs and/or a Baby Surprise Jacket, but I wanted something I could finish in a few hours since I got this idea Saturday night and the shower was early Sunday afternoon. VoilĂ  -- a baby hat. I think I need to have better DK yarn in my stash (that off-white was the only thing I had), but I'll work on that for bibs and the BSJ. (The order that I just placed with Knitpicks should take care of this problem.)

I'm back to working on the old Hitchhiker. It's rapidly losing its allure but that may be because I have some lace weight that I've been hoarding and wanting to cast on for a silk Hitchhiker. I think I better try and finish this one before I cast on something new and shiny or this might never get done. 

I read a few books over the last two weeks -- The Secret Life of Albert Entwistle, As You Wish, A Thousand Ships, How to Be Perfect, and I'm currently re-reading one of my favorites, Miss Marple: The Complete Short Stories. It's a perfect book for summer reading! 

What are you making and reading this week?

Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Summer Solstice

Today marks the arrival of the Summer Solstice in the Northern Hemisphere. That means we are at the point in Earth's orbit angled closest to the sun, so we're experiencing the longest period of daylight (and the shortest period of darkness) in the calendar year. This was always a little confusing to me when I was in school, so a picture might help if you are removed from the astronomic details like I am. 

I don't have any big bonfires planned or other celebrations, but I might sit outside when the sun sets with a celebratory vodka & tonic. It's always nice to slow down and notice the cycle of the seasons. However you choose to mark the day, I hope your long hours of daylight are good ones. 

Monday, June 20, 2022


Last week was a bit much, but this past weekend was almost perfect. The weather was gorgeous - cool, breezy, and almost fall-like, we had a family birthday party for three little boys on Saturday, and a family baby shower on Saturday. Sadly, there were some family members that got covid and couldn't attend, but I got to see others that I haven't seen for two years. We ate, drank, celebrated, and it was great. I know you don't know the people in the photographs, but maybe you can see that we all had a terrific time. 

I hope your weekend was as wonderful as mine was! 

Friday, June 17, 2022

So Where Were We?

It's been a week here, friends. I think I left off on Tuesday with a wrap-up letter to Douglas Stuart about Young Mungo. Several of you thought I should actually send it. Even though that wasn't my original intention, I figured "Why not?" He certainly couldn't object to a book group praising his books, so I sent it to his US contact at ICM Partners, asking her to forward the letter to Mr. Stuart. I did get an out-of-office reply saying that she was traveling and might be a bit slow in responding, but I will be sure and let you know here if I hear anything further.

My view for 6-7 hours on Tuesday. 

Early Tuesday morning, Justin called from work saying that he had hurt his back so badly that he couldn't drive home, and could we please pick him up and take him to the ER, which of course we did. John drove Justin's truck home and Justin and I continued on to the ER. It was an adventure. Only patients are allowed to enter the ER, so I waited outside in the sun and heat for six hours. Eventually, Justin got called into a room (called the "Fast Track" room - ha!) which I was allowed to go in. It was all a bit surreal - the automatic doors into the ER were broken so they had to bring me in some secret back way, there were signs all over saying "don't drink the water", the Code Blue button in Justin's room was broken and we were instructed to dial 444, but there was no phone in the room. At some point, it just became funny. He finally got an x-ray, which didn't show anything, and he was discharged after seven hours with three different pain meds. 

I guess I can wait for some water (there wasn't any available at the front lobby check-in,
  but they were sorry for the inconvenience).

Okay, I don't anticipate a code, and we can always dial 444.

Oops, no phone. 

Wednesday was my birthday and Ryan made me a lovely meal, which was exactly what I wanted. I got a call from the cardiologist saying that they needed me to come back for some more testing, so that happened Thursday morning. It was back at the same hospital we had been at on Tuesday, so I made sure not to drink the water. I have another appointment with the doctor on Monday morning to go over all the testing I've had and see what the next steps are. I would appreciate any good cardiac thoughts you might be able to send my way.

Just a pretty lily hiding in Ryan's hostas. 

I'm writing this on Thursday afternoon after meeting with our financial planner and hoping that all the crises have been dealt with this week. Our 401k has lost 25% of its value since John retired in February, so we had to do something to ensure it would last a little longer than just this year. Justin is feeling a little bit better each day, he has probably learned that he should not be rolling giant eight-foot sections of a tree into the backhoe bucket no matter how strong he thinks he is, my heart has not stopped yet, and our finances are (hopefully) a bit more secure. I just had a piece of the delicious chocolate cake Ryan made for me, but don't tell my cardiologist. I am learning that life may be short, so make sure you eat chocolate cake when you get the chance. 

I have high hopes for a calmer weekend, and I wish the same for you!

Tuesday, June 14, 2022

Read With Us: Young Mungo Wrap-Up

It's my turn to do the Read With Us wrap-up, and I've been considering what I wanted to say about Young Mungo. I did take plenty of notes during our discussion last Tuesday night (although I completely forgot about taking a picture), and while I was scribbling things down I kept thinking about how much I would like to tell author Douglas Stuart about our discussion and what Young Mungo (and Shuggie Bain) have meant to our book group. So here's the wrap-up, in a letter to Mr. Stuart. 

This photo of Douglas Stuart is a bit different than his usual adult black & white photos.
I like to imagine him having at least a few happy moments growing up in Glasgow. 

Dear Douglas Stuart,

We, the Read With Us bloggy book club, would like to say thank you, and at the same time, what were you trying to do to us?! We read Shuggie Bain back in April of 2021, and it was kind of a landmark book for our group. It was a difficult read but at the same time, it was beautifully written. Our book group had a great discussion, it helped to "crystallize" us as a book group, and we anxiously looked forward to your next book.

We just finished Young Mungo and had our online discussion last Tuesday night. There were about ten of us, and we both loved it and hated it. I'm sure this is a reaction you have heard before, and it encapsulates our feelings. Many of us were upset by the violence and emotional intensity. Several participants agreed that because your writing was so detailed we felt everything that Mungo, Jodie, and James experienced. This was a tough read and quite a few of us had to put the book down and take some pauses. The dual timeline did help but at least one of us had to quit reading for almost six months. We all read the book, even though at least one of us simply did not like it  ... at all. She needed more than lovely writing and was dragged down by simply Too Much - too much violence, homophobia, poverty, alcoholism, sadness, dire despair, and lack of hope. But she showed up for our Zoom book discussion, and we are all quite happy that we could have a wonderful exchange of differing opinions in a civil, respectful, and enlightened way. I think your books help make that possible. 

The leader of our book group found this quote from you about your goal for your novels:

“I think good art's only obligation is to move you, to make you feel rearranged. If you're going to give me 16 hours of your time, then I'm going to try and move you as best as I can to make you think. I like to create an immersive world for my readers because I think most readers might never see a working-class community or people living with poverty or travel to Glasgow. … Before I'm a writer, I'm a reader. And for me, the thing I love most in a book is when I close the last page, I want to think, 'Don't go, stay with me, or tell me what you're going to do next.' And that's all I really tried to do with my books.”

I would like to extend my congratulations because I think I can speak for most of the group and say that we did feel moved, rearranged, and immersed in Mungo's Glasgow. The three days he and James spent together was a simply beautifully written love story, and the time that Mungo was with St. Christopher and Gallowgate was as horrific as anything we've ever encountered. Like one of our members said, "We can do hard things." We found that out by reading Young Mungo, but the reading and our rearrangement were worthwhile. You moved us and did make us think. 

We are mainly a group of knitters who enjoy reading, so we also have an interest in fiber. I've read that your third book is set in the Outer Hebrides with textiles and crofting workers. This sounds wonderful, but can we maybe have just a touch less violence? Just enough to feel moved and rearranged, but maybe a little less so. (Just kidding, you write whatever you want to, and we'll read it.) 

Thank you,
The Read With Us Book Club