Thursday, December 31, 2015

Am Cam Catch-Up

The Am Cam had some technical difficulties (I got too busy to take photos), 
but it's time to catch up.

Look who bloomed on Christmas!

Minerva opened up her first bud, and since Christmas here was weirdly warm
 (72 degrees!), I took advantage of the weather to take her outside. 

We've since had a return to more seasonable weather, but that has also meant gray, dark, dreary skies. It's tough to find enough light to take photos, but here are
Minerva, Sakura, and Scarlet together.

Sakura has one flower shoot, getting ready to open soon. Maybe for New Year's Day? Minerva has three gorgeous flowers open, another bud on that shoot, and a second flower stalk with yet more buds. She'll be blooming for a long time! Scarlet blossomed a few weeks ago, and her flowers faded quickly. I cut off her flower stalk, and she's now finally growing some leaves. 

Here's hoping that 2016 provides plenty of opportunities for
beauty and blossoming for all of us.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Ten on Tuesday

Since this year is rapidly waning, today's Ten on Tuesday provides the perfect opportunity to list 10 Things You Did in 2015 That Made You Feel Proud. Making this list required a review of my year since I couldn't think of anything off the top of my head. Reading through a year's worth of blog posts did remind me of a few things.

  1. Started making walking a priority. This was easy in the summer, but became more difficult when daylight saving time ended. There are days that I don't do 10,000 steps but I still walk every day. Something is better than nothing!
  2. Justin's college graduation. I didn't do any of the hard work, but would like to think that I provided plenty of support. 
  3. Kon-Maried quite a bit. There is still more to do, but I got rid of enough stuff that I can see the difference.
  4. Read 81 books (so far -- there are still two more days in 2015!). I'm not sure this is a major accomplishment because reading is something I love to do, so the real challenge for me is not reading, especially when there is something else I should be doing.
  5. Completed Book Bingo this summer. Again, not an earth-shattering accomplishment, but it did take a focused effort and was a big help in broadening my reading horizons.
  6. I knit more in 2015. Okay, I only finished one more project than in 2014, but I think my goal of two more projects in 2016 is a realistic one!
  7. Started Calculus One. I had plenty of calculus and math in college, but that was decades ago. Attending several of Ryan's Calculus Two classes showed me how much I had forgotten, so I'm slowly but surely working my way through this Coursera online course. While it's not easy for me, I am finding it fun, interesting, and challenging. I will try Calculus Two at some point, but what I'd really like to do next is a good course on Dante's Inferno.
  8. Made some difficult decisions. I have quite the knack for shying away from the tough choices, but there were several this year that I faced head-on and did what had to be done.
  9. Became more adventurous. Only some small, subtle changes might be evident to others, but I'm ever so slowly becoming more adventurous in what I eat, what I do, and how I think. It's hard to teach an old dog new tricks, but I'm trying.
  10. Thought long and hard about a New Year's resolution. I hope the feeling of pride will come at this time next year when I see how well I've carried through, but it is a good and necessary goal that I'm excited about (and maybe already a tiny bit proud because I've made some baby steps this year.) More about this in a later post.
I didn't cure cancer, solve the global warming crisis or do anything really big in 2015,
 but my small accomplishments still make me feel a bit of pride.
What are you proud of this year?

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Not a Creature Was Stirring ...

Not even a mouse.
Wishing you all time to enjoy the quiet beauty and peace of the season.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Ten on Tuesday

Today's Ten On Tuesday topic is like a balm to my soul. Carole has asked us to list 10 Things You Look Forward to Doing After The Holiday Rush, and I'm so looking forward to doing these, starting the afternoon of the 25th! Due to some major family and work commitments I've done next to nothing for Christmas, but this time crunch has helped me to decide what is really important.

  1. Decorate the tree. This one may sound a bit facetious, but we finally made time to get a tree just last night. This is what it looks like now, but decorating may happen in the near future, maybe even before Christmas. 
  2. Spend time with my kids. It doesn't happen often enough, but both kids are here for a short while and I'm enjoying every minute of having the whole family under one roof.
  3. Making (and eating!) prime rib. Our Christmas dinner is simple -- prime rib, twice-baked potatoes, and Brussels sprouts from the garden. It's easy to prepare and I can't wait to eat some delicious prime rib with some wonderful people around the table.
  4. Finish some Christmas knitting. I have 7/8 of a hat done and have only just cast on for some fingerless mitts, but I hope to relax with my knitting someday soon.
  5. Visit the alpaca farm. Ryan and I have a tradition of heading to our local alpaca farm together where we have a great day visiting the llamas, alpacas, and yaks, and he buys my Christmas present. I always look forward to spending time with him during this wonderful low-key day.
  6. Knit a Baa-ble Hat. I've seen some really nice ones, and I think Donna has knit more than one. Every time I see a new one, I want one of my own even more.
  7. Read. I've been listening to some audiobooks, but nothing that has been able to hold my attention while my mind feels scattered and worried. I really want to get lost in a great book.
  8. Kon-Mari some more. I went through our Christmas lights in hopes of getting them on the tree some day, and was shocked to find six strands that didn't work (even though they were in the box labeled "lights that work"!) I hope to cull some more decorations along with whatever else does not bring me joy.
  9. Get organized electronically. My laptop has a charging issue that probably means I'll need a new one in the new year. I'm going to go through files, photos, documents, etc. and not just transfer them without some thought and organization.
  10. Spend time judiciously. I've been forced to think about how I use my time since there has really not been enough of it lately. There have been plenty of days that I have wasted time, and I find myself wishing I had some of it back. I want to consider the tradeoffs we have to make between presence and productivity and live my life well so I have fewer regrets. Annie Dillard said it well:  
"How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour, and that one, is what we are doing. A schedule defends from chaos and whim. It is a net for catching days. It is a scaffolding on which a worker can stand and labor with both hands at sections of time. A schedule is a mock-up of reason and order—willed, faked, and so brought into being; it is a peace and a haven set into the wreck of time; it is a lifeboat on which you find yourself, decades later, still living."

What are you looking forward to doing when things slow down a bit?
  I hope you find make time to do it soon.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Light and Shadow II

“For a while they stood there, like men on the edge of a sleep where nightmare lurks, holding it off, though they know that they can only come to morning through the shadows.”
J.R.R. Tolkien, The Two Towers

There has been a lot going on here in the last month, some good, lots that has been not good. I've felt like my life has been metaphorically cloaked in shadow much of the time (sorry for the dramatics!), but leading to the Solstice today and the lovely return of light, I started paying attention to actual light and shadow and saw some interesting things (to me anyway.) When I was helping Ryan move to Fort Collins several years ago, I was struck by the patterns of light and shadow in his house, and have been intrigued to find many more instances around me when I looked.

I have old, wavy glass in many of my windows, but I never realized
 just how wavy it is until I started paying attention to these reflections.

I am even beginning to see a bit of color!

Friday, December 11, 2015

Amaryllis Cam(aryllis) - Week Five

She's not quite at her peak, but Scarlet does have some color to show this week! 
Minerva and Sakura are continuing to grow, thrive, and delight me daily.

Scarlet, Minerva, and Sakura - Week Five

I love the faint touches of green at the tips of Scarlet's petals. 
They're not so evident from the from the front in direct sunlight,

but can be seen in the buds and on the backs of the petals.
 I'm looking forward to what next week will bring on the Am Cam.

Scarlet, Minerva, and Sakura - Week Four

Scarlet, Minerva, and Sakura - Week Three

Scarlet, Minerva, and Sakura - Week Two

Scarlet and Sakura - Week One

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Ten on Tuesday

The Ten On Tuesday topic for today is 10 Things You Truly Enjoy About the Holiday Season.  Twenty years ago, I read Unplug the Christmas Machine, and the main message that I remember from it was to choose three things that are important to you during the holiday season and concentrate on those. I still do this in a loose way, so while my list may have fewer than ten things, these are the things that I truly enjoy.

  1. Having the kids here at home - Ryan has his plane reservations, and I'm keeping my fingers crossed that Justin will be able to be here also, even if it's only for a day.
  2. Decorating - Less is more for me. I Kon-Maried my Christmas decorations last summer, only keeping things that I really, really love - a sequined ornament that Ryan and I made when he was six, five of those light-up little houses from my mother's overwhelming collection of hundreds, garland for the spinning wheel on the porch, the holy raccoon that Justin added to the Nativity. These and the tree are perfect.
  3. Making a few gifts - I'm not a big Christmas knitter, but I'm working on two knitted items for the kids that I think might be just right. Knitting on these in the evening is what I truly enjoy the most right now.
  4. Cookie Day - Almost all of the women from John's side of the family gather together to bake and exchange cookies together. It's a long, tiring day, but the fun and friendship make it worth baking for more than eight hours. It's happening on Saturday, so hopefully I'll remember to take a few pictures after I wash the red and green sugar off of my hands.
  5. Making (and eating) Christmas dinner - For years, Christmas dinner was essentially a repeat of Thanksgiving - turkey, ham, a gazillion side dishes, etc. Three years ago someone (maybe John?) suggested that we try prime rib. This sounded delicious, but I was incredibly nervous about cooking a very pricey hunk of beef. I found this recipe, took a leap of faith, and it was wonderful! So now Christmas dinner is easy - prime rib, some mashed potatoes, and vegetables frozen from our garden.
  6. Candles - The prolonged dark in the evenings is made bearable if I burn candles for light and calm.
  7. Celebrating the Winter Solstice - This really only involves lighting some candles and being thankful for the increasing daylight in the coming days, but that is what I'll be doing on December 21 at 11:48 P.M. EST.
  8. Love Actually - It's a corny movie, but I love the characters, how their stories are intertwined, the humor, awkwardness, and that it is all about love, actually. 
  9. A Christmas Story - The movie isn't bad, but I try not to watch it too often so it doesn't become routine. What I really enjoy is the original Jean Shepherd novel. A friend loaned me In God We Trust: All Others Pay Cash back in 1971, and I was struck by Shepherd's wit and detail.
  10. Feeding the birds - (This one is a bit of a stretch, but I couldn't just leave the list with only nine items.) I feed the birds all year, but one of John's Christmas gifts to me is always a 50 lb. bag of birdseed and some suet. This way I get to enjoy feeding the birds without wrestling with 50 lbs. of birdseed.  

So, what do you truly enjoy about the holiday season?
 I hope you get plenty of time to truly enjoy those things with people you love!

Monday, December 7, 2015

O Canada!

I've had the same phone number since I got my first cell phone back in 1998. In the beginning the only people that called me were the kids. In spite of my instructions that that they should call me at work only if someone was injured, bleeding, or on fire, they occasionally called so I could arbitrate arguments, they could tattle on each each other (Ryan was playing Gameboy before his homework was done, or Justin was taking eggs out of the refrigerator yet again to hide them in his slippers in hopes of hatching a chicken), or just to tell me that they were hungry and there was nothing good to eat.

About nine years ago I started getting calls from a number I didn't recognize. This only happened three or four times a year, and because I was usually busy working in the library, the callers left messages. The first message I got was someone asking me to reactivate their phone service because they were on their way home from Florida, and several months later the next message was someone complaining that their bill had been paid so why was I still sending them letters about past due charges. Over the years, the calls have increased in frequency, along with various sad, bewildering, and humorous messages. Five years ago it became disruptive enough that I tried to figure out what was going on.

It turns out that my phone number is the same as Bell of Canada's, except for one digit. Bell of Canada has a 5 in their area code; I have the number 8 in mine, and the 8 happens to be directly below the number 5 on the dial pad.

I changed my voice mail message to say that I was NOT Bell of Canada, but people didn't seem to listen, including some family members. My father and mother-in-law both told me that something was wrong with my phone because the message said they had reached Bell of Canada. (This may be related to poor hearing and refusal to wear hearing aids.)

I'm not going to change my phone number, so now I have a ringtone for all the people I actually want to talk to, ignore the calls from everyone else, shake my head, and laugh. I had three calls on Friday from one persistent Canadian, so someday I may make this into a drinking game. I have had the pleasure of speaking with a very funny and apologetic man in Castleton, Ontario and also the Peel Regional Police in Brampton, Ontario who wanted to ask me for suggestions on how to deal with telemarketers. I explained to the officer that he had misdialed and should redial the correct number carefully; you can probably guess who I was talking to again just 15 seconds later.

Wilbur's is a liquor store in Fort Collins. We do have liquor stores here, but I may have been Christmas shopping.

This is just my small contribution to bringing the US and Canada closer together, 
one wrong number at a time.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Friday, December 4, 2015

Amaryllis Cam(aryllis) - Week Four

It's too cold for a photo shoot outside today, but there is good news from the Am Cam ... 
Sakura is beginning to thrive! Slowly, but surely. 

Scarlet, Minerva, and Sakura - Week Four

Minerva and Sakura wanted a closeup so you can see that they both have flower shoots emerging. Boastful Minerva even shouts that she has two, while shy and retiring Sakura seems happy to just be and grow at her own pace.

Minerva and Sakura - Week Four

I'm looking forward to seeing what next week brings!

Scarlet, Minerva, and Sakura - Week Three

Scarlet, Minerva, and Sakura - Week Two

Scarlet and Sakura - Week One

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Ten on Tuesday

The Ten on Tuesday topic for today is the 10 Best Things You Did in November. Thankfully, I have 30 posts from November to refer to while making my list.
  1. Got to enjoy having Justin home for Thanksgiving!
  2. Made plane reservations for Ryan to come home at Christmas!
  3. Successfully completed NaBloPoMo. While this didn't better the world in any way, it's still an accomplishment (and I'm very glad it's over).
  4. Paid more attention to my world and what was going on around me. This was mainly because I was looking for post ideas or interesting things to take photos of, but I hope I continue to do this.
  5. Raked leaves ... a lot. It needed to be done and was good exercise.
  6. Started some amaryllis bulbs.
  7. Finally painted the kitchen window that I've put off for far too long. Bonus: I also painted two other windows.
  8. Dug up some really cool carrots!
  9. Discovered that E.B. White was more than the author of Charlotte's Web. I started reading Letters of E.B. White because of this letter and am discovering that he was a very interesting human being.
  10. Read four other books, none of which was outstanding. I've been a bit distracted by life so I haven't had much reading time, but I need to simply make time in December.
I'd love to hear some of your book recommendations if you've read anything wonderful recently. I think I'll stay much more grounded and avoid the craziness if I've got some great reading to look forward to in December.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Finish Line!

We did it! I won't pretend that I'm not relieved that this is the last NaBloPoMo for this year, but I'm also glad that I did it. The experience has taught me several things.

Thing the first: I should not just wait until the muse strikes and a fully-developed post springs forth from my mind, fingers, and keyboard. What has worked for me this month is to write drafts (even if they're just snippets or a few lines!) about anything that sounds even remotely interesting and develop and refine these drafts later if the idea still seems worth writing about.

Thing the second: take photos of everything! I may not have even a fragment of a good idea rattling around in my brain, but a photo might help me conjure one up. Prior to this month, I've mainly written first and taken photos to fit the post later, but doing it the other way around has worked at least as well, and maybe even better for me.

Reading daily posts from many friends has been a great pleasure, learning more about them while they generously shared the happy and sad, ordinary and extraordinary aspects of their lives. Thank you to everyone who took their valuable time to read and/or comment here, especially because so many of you were busy writing your own daily posts.

To celebrate finishing NaBloPoMo, I've also finally finished my latest Hitchhiker. This may be my favorite one so far, but I think I say that with each one. I love the yarn, so I kept knitting to 53 points, and will enjoy snuggling in it while I enjoy the many good memories that it holds. I'll be using the time I gain from not posting daily to cast on a few non-Hitchhiker Christmas gifts!

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Sunday Supper

(But it was actually Thursday.)

I started cooking Thanksgiving dinner when we moved into this house 26 years ago. The house has a huge dining room, so we bought a 12-foot table to fill it. We're about an hour away from both of our families, so it was great fun to have everyone filling all the chairs around the table.

Things changed over the years, as things always do. Family members have passed away, moved away, divorced, started working at soulless, greedy stores that are open on Thanksgiving, and bought their own dining room tables where they want to serve their own Thanksgiving dinners. That's okay -- that's life.

Even though the people around the table have changed somewhat, my Thanksgiving menu hasn't changed much in 26 years. These are the tried and true things that work for us, and if something's not broken, I don't mess with it. One of my favorite things to make (and eat!) is homemade crescent rolls. I don't honestly remember how or why I started making them, but they are a family favorite, and far, far better than the kind from the tube. Justin especially loves them, and I look forward to seeing him enjoy every one of the six or eight that he usually eats. Seeing people enjoy what I've cooked, baked, and prepared for them always puts a smile on my face.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Saturday Sky

"Be happy for this moment.
This moment is your life"
        ~ Omar Khayyám