Wednesday, January 27, 2016

It's the Little Things

Since I've been writing down something good every day to put in my jar, I've begun to notice the little things and how much they mean to me in everyday life.
  • When I warm up my tea in the microwave, I always push the popcorn button (it heats for 2 minutes) because I love how this inanimate object tells me to"EnJOY".

  • This teeny, tiny, little O ring is a flow restrictor from our shower head. I had to call a plumber to resolve some issues and while he was here, I mentioned that the flow from our shower seemed to be getting worse. In about 30 seconds he unscrewed the showerhead and pried out the flow restrictor, fixing the problem perfectly.

  • I can hardly ever manage it myself, but I love that John and Justin can peel clementines in one piece. We put the peels on our radiators because they smell nice.

  • When John or Justin thanks me for dinner. It's happened twice this week so far, and it's only Wednesday!
  • Looking through old photo albums to find gems like these.


It really is the little things!
What little things make you happy?

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Ten on Tuesday - Welcome to Historic Flemington

I hadn't planned a Ten on Tuesday post for today because I honestly couldn't think of Ten Interesting Things About My Community off the top of my head. After reading Carole's post and consulting Wikipedia, I may have some ideas. My community is Flemington, located in central New Jersey.

1.   We're a small borough (1.077 square miles) of about 4500 people, and the County Seat of Hunterdon County.
2.   As the County Seat, this means we have two courthouses, the old one that could not be made ADA-compliant, and the new Justice Center. Naming it the Justice Center means that at least two people per week stop in front of my house and ask where the courthouse is.
3.   The old courthouse was the site of the Lindbergh trial in 1935 where Bruno Richard Hauptmann was found guilty of kidnapping and murdering Charles Lindbergh's son.

4.   Flemington was settled in the 1770s, formed as a town in 1870, and incorporated in 1910. The early settling means that seemingly almost everything (65% of the borough) is on the National Register of Historic Places.
5.   Since we're rife with history, that means we have to consult the Flemington Historic Hysterical Preservation Commission before we do any external work on the house. When we wanted to replace our leaking 150-year-old slate roof, we had to have our new shingles approved.
6.   The only famous person I know of that is from Flemington is Danny Federici, keyboard player in Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band.

7.   Flemington was home to Fulper Pottery, then Stangl Pottery. The restored building now houses an indoor farmer's market, a restaurant, and our only coffee shop.

8.   We're also the site of the Flemington Egg Auction, the country’s first, and, at one time, the largest, cooperative egg auction. It operated here from 1932 until the 1970s. It's a beautiful building with lots of carved wood inside and a castle-like exterior. It now houses offices.

9.   We have the highest property taxes in the country. Lucky us!
10. We have three traffic circles in town. They may be roundabouts or rotaries in other parts of the country, but we call them circles in New Jersey. When we first moved here I used to plan ways to get around to completely avoid them. They can be quite confusing, but once you get used to them they're really not so bad. Just keep moving!

From the NJ Driver's Manual. With no set rules and a plea for common sense to prevail, what could go wrong? :-)

I'm looking forward to reading all the other interesting things that Ten on Tuesday
 participants have in their own communities!

Monday, January 25, 2016

The Big Dig Out

Just in case you haven't seen enough snow pictures from the east coast storm this weekend, I've got a few more. Here in central New Jersey we ended up with anywhere from 27" to 34", depending on where you measure; the official National Weather Service amount was 28.3". We had some drifts like this one that were over 40".

The wind scoured the snow away from the back corner of our house 
(thanks, wind, that was one less downspout I had to dig out!), but also managed to nearly
 bury my neighbor's cars. There is a Volkwagen under that pile of snow behind the
maroon van. The wind was fierce but thankfully we didn't lose power.

John and Justin waded through thigh-high snow to dig out the snowblower.

This mountain of snow at the end of the driveway may melt by March or April.

Here you can see some of the 34" walls of snow we had to dig through to
 clear the sidewalk.

It looks like I won't be hanging out any laundry for a while, not without putting on my
hip-high waders. My sister did point out I could hang short things. :-)

Here's Justin, our snow-clearing hero, relaxing in the sun after tunneling through one of the 40" drifts. He manned the snowblower while John and I shoveled all the places that aren't snowblower-accessible, then grabbed a shovel to help us dig out all the vehicles and aid his weary parents with the final clean up. It took the three of us six hours to dig out, and I'm so grateful we had Justin's help!

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Saturday Sky

So far, this Saturday Sky has brought us 18" of snow and 40 mph winds, 
with another 10-12" predicted before it ends tomorrow. 


Wednesday, January 20, 2016

And So It Begins ...

Stolen from my sister and lots of other people on facebook.

A winter Nor'easter is predicted for much of the east coast in the coming days. We are supposed to have heavy snow, possible ice, and strong winds between Friday afternoon and Sunday morning. Snow amounts I've seen so far have ranged between 6 and 32 inches (really!) but I'm sure we'll see more accurate predictions by tomorrow. Meteorologists seems to agree that wind gusts may reach 40 - 60 mph, leading to downed power lines, especially if they have snow and ice on them. This is a rude awakening since we've been skipping merrily through a mild winter. So, like everyone else in the Northeast, I'm starting my storm preparations. 
  • First and foremost, go to the grocery store. My clever plan includes going today, well before the Thursday and Friday onslaught for everything I think we might need.
  • Do not forget a trip to the liquor store. It will be more crowded than the grocery store, so go early with a list.
  • Fill the gas cans. This is cans, plural, a lesson we learned the hard way during Sandy when we were without electricity for five days. Make sure you have plenty of fuel for both the snowblower and the generator. 
  • Be very grateful that your 22-year-old son has moved back home while he is looking for a job and will be a huge help with snowblowing and shoveling. 
  • Prepare emergency storm food. These are things you can warm up if you still have electricity, but also eat easily if the power goes out. My usuals are chicken noodle soup, several loaves of bread, lots of muffins, and calzones. 
  • Put a supply of wood in the root cellar where it will be dry and accessible for fires in the fireplace.
  • Charge all the things that need to be charged - phone, ipod, Kindle, rechargeable flashlights. 
  • Enjoy that snow day sense of anticipation (as much as possible).
  • Prepare your reading. Make sure you have plenty of books on your ipod, Kindle, and the good old fashioned kind that doesn't require electricity. 
  • Make sure you have enough knitting. I ordered some yarn that I hope will be delivered on Friday. This wasn't really part of my storm preparations but I believe the National Weather Service has advised that sport weight alpaca for warm fingerless mitts is the measure of true preparedness.
How do you prepare for winter storms? I haven't made French toast in quite a while, so it sounds like a delicious Saturday breakfast idea. Time to head out for lots of bread, milk, and eggs!

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Ten on Tuesday

Today's Ten On Tuesday topic is in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service -  
10 Things You Can Do To Serve Others.
  1. Shovel for your neighbors. We've finally had a little bit of snow, and while it's not much, the frigid temperatures have created a lot of ice. I've cleared my 85-year-old neighbor's walks and salt has been spread.
  2. Scrape your husband's car while he is getting ready for work. It was 5:30 am and 8 degrees, but I hope it got his day off to a good start. :-)
  3.  Donate warm clothing. I cleaned out our winter gear crate, getting rid plenty of mittens and hats that we no longer wear and put them in the box provided at our library. I'm hoping maybe I'll be walking along Main Street and see some of the mittens I knit keeping a child's hands warm!
  4. Provide food. Our local food pantry always needs donations, and it seems like people forget about them after the holidays. 
  5. Smile and greet people. This one may sound silly, but when John and I take our walk, we've started saying "hello" or "good evening" to everyone we meet. It seems to take many people by surprise!
  6. Put your phone away. I think this is a simple way to serve others by showing that you respect them enough to pay attention to them and not be distracted by your phone. 
  7. Avoid and guard against gossip. I'll admit this is tough sometimes, but gossip can be really harmful to friendships, careers, and lives. 
  8. Donate blood. Simple, relatively painless, plus you get juice and cookies afterwards!
  9. Knit chemo caps. After my mother passed away, I looked for a way to mark her birthday. Knitting and donating a few chemo caps every year was good for me and our local cancer center always seems happy to receive them.
  10. Support the ways in which others provide service. I have a friend that teaches in a very poor district, and she tries to provide warm clothing and supplies that her students just don't have. She lives 500 miles away, so I send her a check every year so she can buy some of the much-needed items. 
 “The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable,
 to be compassionate, to have it make some difference 
that you have lived and lived well.” 
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

I'm sure you have all discovered this, but when you are useful, honorable,
 compassionate, and doing service for others, you will be happy.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Right Now - January 2016

Watching - The Detectorists, a quirky, endearing, compelling British series on Netflix. The storyline is summarized thusly: "The lives of two eccentric metal detectorists, who spend their days plodding along ploughed tracks and open fields, hoping to disturb the tedium by unearthing the fortune of a lifetime", but it is so much better than that dry description. There are only six episodes in the first season, but I've watched them all at least three times. Season 2 has been shown in the UK, so hopefully it will be available here soon. The theme song above is hauntingly beautiful and figures brilliantly in Episode 3. 

Knitting - A Twisted Rib Cowl (note to self: forgotten yarnovers are not fun to fix, especially three long rows later) and my seventh pair of Jacoby fingerless mitts, now with more alpaca.

Learning - Calculus. (note to self: calculus is hard.)

Reading - My Name is Lucy Barton and When Breath Becomes Air. Both books are original and wonderful in their own ways so I'm reading slowly and savoring.

Thinking about - What to make for dinner. It seems that I make the same six or seven things in an endless boring cycle. Maybe it's just because I'm making a lot of soups and stews lately, but it wouldn't hurt to add some variety and spice to the rotation. 

Drinking - Lots of hot tea to stay warm.

Eating - Game meat. We've been gifted with some red deer, bear, and venison, which are all perfect for winter soups and stews.

Starting - To think about what to plant in the garden this year. This would be hard not to do with the avalanche of tempting and hopeful seed catalogs that have arrived.

Hoping - That John survives some long, intense, and important projects at work. He's working 12-hour days, doing work "homework" when he does come home, and working weekends. I'm hoping February is a kinder, gentler month for him.

Wishing - That we had a third person to play Euchre. Justin's internship ended, so he's back home and looking for a job. He learned to play Euchre with the great bunch of guys he worked with, taught us, and I've really enjoyed learning the game and am beginning to understand strategy. You need at least three people to play, but John's been so busy (see above) that he can't join us. Justin isn't interested in Scrabble or Monopoly, so we have even considered resorting to a jigsaw puzzle.

Dreading - The approaching tax season.

Planning - A summer vacation. Maybe Alaska? Maybe Victoria, BC? Maybe both?

Trusting - That the universe is unfolding as it should.

What's going on in your world right now? 

Friday, January 15, 2016


Well, at least it makes a good bookmark.
(And some very interesting discussions about what we would do with our winnings.)

Wishing you a winning weekend!

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Throwback Thursday - Truck

Back in December, Vicki mentioned Michael Perry and some of his wonderful books, including Truck. She also had high praise for Population: 485, so I found a used copy, read it, and completely agreed with Vicki. I listened to Truck as an audiobook, read by Michael Perry himself, and absolutely loved it. I can't exactly explain why; I have no interest in fixing up an old International Harvester pickup, but this book is about so much more. The book and everything that Michael had to say about life just spoke to me, maybe because trucks have always seemed to figure into our lives. My husband John has owned, worked on, and driven numerous old trucks.

This is the 1933 Ford. It did have a cool paint job, but was distinctly lacking in amenities like power steering, comfortable seats, leg room, and insulation between the engine compartment and the passenger's legs.

This is John's current baby, a 1968 Ford.

I don't remember what the mechanics were working on that day. It could have been the electrical system, exhaust, or any number of other things. I recently spent an afternoon in the driver's seat alternately pressing and releasing the brake pedal while John was trying to install brakes that actually worked. Fun times!

It is getting to the point where most of the important stuff works and we can actually drive it out of the driveway, although John's wondering posture (hands on hips, wondering where the oil is leaking from or what will break next) is still seen alarmingly often.

Justin is on his second truck. The first was a 2006 Ford F250 that was sadly was totaled in a slippery snow storm in March of last year.

That got replaced with a 2002 Ford F250. This is the truck that got him to Montana and back, but he's learning that older diesel vehicles require plenty of time and money to fix the fuel leaks, malfunctioning thermostats, heater cores, and serpentine belts.

While these have all been fine and occasionally useful trucks, I do have a favorite.

Old Dog wasn't much to look at, but he was the best truck.

No pretensions, just plenty of torque to get things done. None of our other vehicles could be driven into a field to pull out a tractor that was stuck in the mud, chained to old bushes with deep roots to pull them out, or taken for a drive on a summer evening and receive lots of smiles, thumbs up, and appreciative honks. Old Dog was what I pictured when I was reading Truck, remembering him with affection.

He developed problems with the electrical system, so we were never sure if he was going to start or stay running. Old Dog was fun to drive, but when he would come to a dead stop in the middle of traffic, that quickly crossed the line from fun to "oh, crap!" John eventually sold him and moved on with his vehicular affections, but I'm not sure I have. I drive a boring Subaru Forester, but someday I'd like to have my own (working!) Old Dog, complete with his name proudly emblazoned on the hood.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Am Cam Finale

Scarlet didn't bloom on New Year's Day, but she did produce four bright red blossoms soon after. Her crimson flowers, along with Minerva's multitude of blooms
 has made for a lovely Am Cam finale.

I'll be cutting the flower stalks off after these blossoms die back, allowing the bulbs to grow their glossy green foliage and store some energy to hopefully bloom again next year.

I can't imagine getting through the rest of the winter without flowers blooming,
 but never fear.

The parade of hyacinths is about to begin!

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Ten on Tuesday


I wasn't going to write a Ten on Tuesday post for today (10 Favorite David Bowie Songs) because I couldn't seem to think of ten David Bowie songs. When I gave the topic a little more consideration, I realized that so many of his songs had provided a sound track to my life over the years. So, in honor of his music and a great songwriter, musician, actor (he'll always be the Goblin King to me), collaborator, developer of personas, and man who greatly influenced music as we know it:
  1. Rebel, Rebel
  2. Changes
  3. Dancing in the Street
  4. Let's Dance
  5. Golden Years 
  6. Space Oddity
  7. Fame
  8. Modern Love 
  9. Young Americans  
Number ten is one of my favorites. David Bowie said that he appeared on Bing Crosby's Christmas special because "I just knew my mother liked him." That's a reason any mother can appreciate, and listen to what their partnership produced.

The New York Times says of David Bowie that "his message was that there was always empathy beyond difference", something we would all do well to remember, celebrate, and put into practice.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Christmas Knitting Retrospective

I'm not sure that two finished objects make up a retrospective, but since I managed to finish two projects in a semi-timely fashion and am talking about them several weeks after the fact, that's what I'm going to call it.

The first FO is a hat for Justin. Every morning during his internship, he had to check the eight-foot tall fence surrounding 140 acres of the ranch. He did this on an ATV in all types of weather. Neither snow nor rain nor sleet nor temperatures below zero kept this young man from the swift completion of his appointed round, but even with a hat on, he still got very cold. If one hat didn't work, maybe two would do the trick, so Run the Fence to the rescue.

His double-layer, reversible hat did keep him warm. I really wish these colors were available in nice wool instead of this icky acrylic, but it is washable and much better suited to a 22-year-old male than something requiring hand-washing.

The second FO was intended as a Christmas gift, but I didn't finish it until more than a week afterwards. When I knit Nostalgia for Ryan's birthday, he said that he wouldn't mind having a pair of fingerless mitts with just black and grey stripes. I found the exact yarn he wanted, so Your Wish is Granted. The photos aren't great because there wasn't much light when I finished them at 1:00 am, just five hours before taking him to the airport to head home to Colorado. But I did finish them, and they are proving useful in the 3° temps he's had.

Now it's time for some selfish (and warm) knitting for me!

Friday, January 8, 2016

Oh, Really?

Knitters and people that live here beg to differ!
Hope everyone has a great weekend, no matter what weight yarn you're knitting with.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Throwback Thursday: From the Needles of Sylvia Becker

Back in the beginning of December, Mary wrote a lovely post about a sweater that her mother-in-law knitted for her almost 35 years ago. Reading the story and admiring Mary's bright green sweater reminded me that I had something very similar.

My sweater is a stranded  pullover instead of a henley and is knit with acrylic instead of wool, but it was also knit for me by my mother-in-law. She made it as a Christmas gift the year I was a senior in high school, so that makes it 41 years old. I remember feeling very loved and quite grateful that she had taken the time to knit me a sweater and I wore it all through college. After college I moved to Florida so the sweater was put away in my cedar chest. I did wear it when I left Florida and moved to Syracuse, but I haven't worn it in several decades. Even though it's acrylic, it seems to have shrunk over the years, as I can no longer fit into it :-) It does still has a special place in my cedar chest, next to all the baby sweaters and booties that Sylvia knitted for my sons.

My grandmother taught me to knit when I was a young girl, but I wasn't really a knitter when I first met my mother-in-law. We never knit together and I regret that. For many reasons, she hasn't knit in years, but was generous enough to pass on some wonderful vintage patterns to me when she stopped knitting. When I knit a baby sweater, it's from the same pattern that Sylvia used to knit sweaters for her children and grandchildren.

Maybe someday I'll have a daughter-in-law that will wear my sweater and grandchildren that I can knit sweaters for with the handed-down patterns, but even if those things never come to pass, Sylvia's knitting legacy still continues, and I thank her.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Let's Go To The Alpaca Farm!

Ryan and I have a tradition of going to our local alpaca farm, WoodsEdge Farm, when he visits us here at Christmas. Not a big fan of shopping, Ryan's solution was to suggest a leisurely trip to WoodsEdge where we admire the animals and he thoughtfully purchases a Christmas gift for me. This is our fourth year, and it's something I really look forward to and wholeheartedly enjoy.

We went last Saturday and were greeted by this adorable
Huacaya alpaca soon as we got out of the car.

After he posed from many angles and made sure we had properly admired him,
 we wandered over to check out the yaks that are also bred and raised at the farm.

They are large and imposing animals!

We had a wonderful time admiring sweaters, vests, socks, and yarn,
considering, trying on, chatting with Brent (one of the owners), and shopping. 
I am the lucky recipient of a beautiful and warm sweater from Ryan, and a lovely scarf that I purchased. (You can tell how much I love my gift because I'm willing to post a very rare selfie.)

I think these are Suri llamas. Even if I've misidentified them, they're still gorgeous.

WoodsEdge is a working farm year-round, but the farm store is only open on weekends from November into January. Brent mentioned that next weekend would be the last time they are open until November, with the added bonus that they are having a sale. 

Guess where I'll be next weekend!