Thursday, March 31, 2016

Right Now - March 2016

The end of March snuck up on me, so before it's over, here's what's going on in my world right now.

Worrying About  - Justin. He had truck trouble in Mississippi, got towed to Louisiana, and has been there for three days while his truck (hopefully) gets repaired. Frustrating and costly, but today may be the day he finally attempts to get back on the road to Texas.

Doing - Lots and lots of laundry. Today looks like the last good outdoor drying day before three days of rain (and snow!) so I'm keeping the washing machine busy.

Knitting - The same Hitchhiker. To be honest, I haven't knit as much as I'd hoped because I've been busy texting with Justin, talking to AAA, finding a reasonably priced hotel in Metairie, LA, finding a different reasonably priced hotel in Kenner, LA when his truck was towed to a second diesel shop, and fussing far too much.

Learning - That "let it go" and "mindfulness" aren't just words for me to throw around, they're necessary, but difficult, things to really do.

Reading - The Genius of Birds and In the Footsteps of Sheep. Both are very good so far.

Drinking - Tea. I'm drinking up the tea stash (a whole drawer in the pantry cupboard), but I've got some celebratory Stella Artois stashed for as soon as I've got something to celebrate. (Is there such a thing as a beer stash?)

Eating - Asparagus and salads with spring greens, looking forward to enjoying rhubarb and spinach (not together).

Watching - Birds, both in person at the feeders, and just-born eaglets via webcam. Compelling viewing!

Wishing - I had two nearby people to play Euchre with. John doesn't like any kind of games (there were some childhood traumas :-) but Justin and I could convince him to play once in a while. With Justin gone, I may be reduced to wandering the neighborhood with a deck of cards, looking for willing participants.

Dreading - Dealing with digital photos. I've been talking about organizing them for months, and now that spring is approaching, I have so many better things to do outside that I feel bad sitting inside in front of the computer all day. "Maybe it's a project better put away until next fall and winter," she said in an attempt to allay guilt.

Loving - The spring light streaming in the windows, but now I can see all the dust!

What's going on in your world right now?

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

It's Amost Like a Miracle

I started some of the seeds for our garden earlier this week, and while they don't look like much now, these cups of dirt will soon show sprouts like these from last year:

Then comes the part where the soil warms up, I rototill once more, and start planting seeds and seedlings in the soil.

After that, there are a few weeks where I watch the weather forecast carefully for any mention of frost so I can cover my precious tomatoes and check the beans and cucumbers for evidence of that little bit of green popping up.

There will be battles against fungus, cabbage moths, drought, squirrels, and crows, but hopefully I'll be victorious enough to end up with something like this:

It's almost like a miracle that all of this happens, and in just a few short months!

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Ten on Tuesday - Get Out There!

With warmer weather approaching in fits and starts, today's Ten on Tuesday prompt is
10 Things You Love To Do Outside. The rain is coming down in buckets and 30 mph winds are blowing the rain sideways as I write this, but I bet I can still think of some good outside things. Just not things I want to do in the rain; I might melt. :-)

View from the porch on a nicer day. Please ignore the parked car and electric lines.

  1. Work in the garden. It doesn't look like much at this time of year, but I have started seeds indoors and soon enough I'll (hopefully) be planting the tomatoes, beans, snow peas, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, and more in the garden.
  2. Putter around in the flower beds. I've got various beds around the house with ivy, clematis, roses, hydrangeas, etc. My favorite thing to do is just appreciate the flowers growing there, but to get to that point they require plenty of attention at this time of year. Removing leaves, pruning, weeding, mulching, moving plants, replacing dead ones -- I enjoy most of it and have spent lots of time doing it over the last few weeks.
  3. Sit on the porch. Once it's warm enough, this is the perfect place for drinking my morning tea, reading, and knitting.
  4. Watch birds. I've got quite a few bird feeders and I love to watch the birds that visit them.  
  5. Try to identify bird calls. This is a new one for me and came about when I started reading The Genius of Birds. I've always enjoyed listening to birdsong, but trying to identify single birds by their calls is going to require some real listening and practice.
  6. Eat. Once it warms up, we almost always eat dinner outside at the picnic table, especially if I've made something on the grill.
  7. Take a walk. John and I walk almost every evening, and it's a delightful way to watch the seasons gradually changing. 
  8. Hike. This is different than just taking a walk. I walk in New Jersey, but when I'm visiting Ryan in Colorado, I call it hiking. That's because it's usually a bit more strenuous, involves climbing a lot more elevation, and watching out for rattlesnakes.
  9. Mow the lawn. In our division of labor, this job is mine, and I do love it. There is something about doing a necessary chore and getting exercise at the same time that just makes me feel good. I also love that mowing is a job that has an end point (at least for a week or so), you can see the results of your work, and I feel perfectly justified in rewarding myself with a nice cold beer when I finish on a hot and humid August day.
  10. Play "the wood chucking game". This is really Kubb, a Swedish lawn game, but we've always called it wood chucking. It's incredibly fun, especially if the players are of varying ages and abilities, and you play while drinking some good beer. 
What do you love to do outside?

Friday, March 25, 2016

Ramblin' Man

Packing all the important things. Can you spot the knitted item?

And, he's off again. Justin came back home in January after his internship at a deer ranch in New York state ended. It was great to have him home for a while, and he used the time to relax, regroup, and look for a job. Full-time jobs for a Wildlife Management major are a bit difficult to come by, so he's expanding his skills, resumé, and horizons by heading to a very large deer ranch in Texas. This could be a short-term thing, or if he likes it (and they like him), the possibility might exist for longer employment. We shall see ...

I worried when he drove more than 2,200 miles to Montana, and I'll be worrying for the next three days while he drives 1,920 miles to Texas. As before, I'll be keeping very busy, walking my miles, saying quite a few prayers, knitting, waiting for texts that tell me he's stopped for the night and the eagerly anticipated and most welcome one that tells me he has arrived safely at his destination. Knitting seems to offer something practical, soothing, and calming to do instead of useless, incessant worry, and I feel lucky to have that in my life.

So, Justin, be careful, safe travels, and have fun!

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Hey, Bud!

We had a bit of snow on Monday, and it's still below freezing at night, but during my walks around the yard and neighborhood yesterday I was surprised by the number of buds I saw.

My favorites are the delicate buds and flowers on our apricot tree
 and the still-closed pinkish buds on the nectarine.

Some plants, like my grape hyacinths, are moving quickly
 beyond the bud stage to full bloom.

I'm not even sure what this tree is, but I think it's beautiful. John says it's some sort of ornamental cherry (not with yellow flowers!), but it reminds me of a sassafras. Maybe I'll figure it out once leaves appear.

There are also buds indoors. My confused Christmas cactus has at least three,
one of which might even open by Easter.

I have a soft spot for pussy willows.
This is one that I'm trying to root, stuck in a begonia, but still buds.

And because I love the flowers, bark, buds (and hopefully the fruit this summer), 
here's one last photo of the apricot.

I hope Spring is beginning to bud out in your neighborhood!

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

On Target

Justin saw this hat on an archery forum that he frequents, and decided that he needed one. It is a little disconcerting to knit a hat with an archery target on it for your son to wear on his head, but since this is only the second or third thing he has asked me to knit for him in 22 years, I got started immediately.

The pattern is for a beanie and Justin favors hats with a fold-up ribbed brim to keep his ears warm, so I modified it a bit. I got started on the target rings and realized that the hat was going to be way too tall if I kept following the pattern, so I ripped it out twice, decreasing the number of rows for the target rings each time. The third try was acceptable, but I still think the hat is too big. Justin is happy with it, but I plan to knit another one in the near future, even if it's just to prove to myself that I can do a much better job. I'll use a thinner yarn than Red Heart (maybe Cascade 220 or Plymouth Encore, depending on which one has the best colors), do less ribbing, and make a fold line in the ribbing. Red Heart is washable and has great colors for an archery target, but I really dislike the awful acrylic squeakiness and stiff fabric. Hopefully I can score a bullseye with On Target Version 2.0. 

Ravelry details here.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Thank you, Knitters!

When I asked my clown barf question on Wednesday, I never imagined that I would receive so much good advice! Every single person that commented provided a helpful idea -- from suggestions of what to wear it with, to don't focus on the colors so much, keep knitting until I've got more fabric and make a decision then, and really helpful pattern suggestions if I do decide to frog it.

Based on your comments, my plan is to keep knitting, make another judgement when I've knit more fabric (10" or so) and can see better if pooling happens, and let it go if I'm not happy at that point. I'm modifying the pattern to make it a bit shallower, so I am interested in seeing what happens with colors and pooling since the rows won't get quite as long as a regular Hitchhiker. I've only knit a few more points since Wednesday because I got a request for an "emergency hat", but the intention is to keep going forward and see what happens. (Good advice for knitting and life.)

I'm a solitary knitter (I know this sounds sad and lonely, but I haven't yet found a knitting group) so I don't have any nearby knitters to consult in person. I really value the considered thoughts and opinions that everyone took the time to express. While this could certainly be classified as a first-world problem, I feel much better about knitting this yarn and pattern, and I know that all of you understand the importance of feeling good (or at least hopeful) about your knitting. Thank you, thank you!

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Wednesday is for Wondering ...


Does this look like clown barf? 

I don't know whether it was the wool fumes or just the fun of shopping at The Loopy Ewe, but I fell in love with this skein of Meadowcroft Dyeworks Rockshelter Sock yarn. 

I thought it was beautiful in the skein, but I loved it a little bit less once I wound it. It seemed destined to be a Hitchhiker, but now that I'm knitting with it I'm really not sure how I feel at all.

When I'm knitting during the day and can admire the lovely saturated colors, I'm quite happy with it. At night, under artificial light, I just think, "Alas, clown barf!" (Clown barf is not a good thing, in my opinion.)

So, a poll:

Does this look like clown barf?

Maybe So
Absolutely! You should definitely quit now and knit something else!
Hmmm ... I'll explain my thoughts in the comments.
Do Quizzes

Like I say to my family, this isn't a trick question. I'm honestly interested in how other people see this yarn (and maybe a little bit in seeing if I can get this poll to work), so please don't be afraid of insulting me or hurting my feelings. I can't even say that I'll frog this or keep knitting depending on the poll results; I'm just curious about how it looks to other knitters. Thanks in advance for your valued thoughts and opinions!

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Ten on Tuesday - Comforting

The Ten On Tuesday prompt for today is one that is very near and dear to my heart,
10 Favorite Comfort Foods. When I'm feeling in need of comfort, food (and drink) is one of the first things I turn to to soothe my soul. I may even play fast and loose and include drinks in my list.

  1. The first one has to be macaroni and cheese. Homemade with gouda, smoked mozzarella, and sharp cheddar, then baked with breadcrumbs on top is my ideal, but even Velveeta boxed shells and cheese will do in a pinch. The Kraft stuff of my childhood (orange powdered cheese?) just doesn't do it for me. 
  2. Grilled cheese sandwich, with or without tomato soup.
  3. Chicken noodle soup, with extra noodles, please.
  4. Mashed potatoes, extra butter, please.
  5. Soft egg on buttered toast. This is really a poached egg, but since we called them soft eggs when I was growing up, that's what comforts me.
  6. Corn fritters. These are best when made by my grandmother and eaten with my sister and cousins while we have a contest to see who can eat the most.
  7. Biscuits, warm with melting butter.
  8. Snickerdoodles. I don't know Mrs. Sigg, but her Snickerdoodles are the best.
  9. Scrapple. In case you're not familiar with this, it's essentially mush made with pork scraps and cornmeal, then fried to delicious crispiness. I haven't had it in decades, but I grew up in eastern PA where it was common, and now I want some. 
  10. Hot tea. Obviously not a food, but very comforting in almost any form. English, peppermint, chai -- a mug of hot tea provides immediate comfort to the body and soul.
A small caveat -- many of these are better if someone else prepares them for you
(with love), but they are all comforting even if you have to get out the cast iron skillet and fry your own scrapple.

What are your favorite comfort foods?

Monday, March 14, 2016

Weekending - Now With Double Good Wife Points!

And how did I earn those bonus points, you ask?

First, I worked in the paint room in the cellar, consolidating all of our old paint into 10 one-gallon cans. This was extra-strength Kon-Mari'ing, as I had to pry open more than 20 rusty cans to be able to combine them. Then I loaded them into the car, and headed off to my destination.

Hazardous Waste Clean Up Day! The county has begun providing a way to dispose of old paint, insecticides, mercury, asbestos pipe wrap, fluorescent tubes, etc. in the proper way. They did state that they would not take radioactive materials or explosives.
Good thing I didn't have any of those.

Even though I got there early, the line stretched as far as I could see. 
The line behind me was even longer. 

I had knitting with me, but the guy in the car next to me must have gotten bored
 without his knitting. He got out of his car, went up to the guy in front of him, and said, "So, whatcha got?" They spent a fun 20 minutes comparing whose hazardous waste
 was bigger and/or more hazardous. Only men ...

After two hours, I had finally inched my way up to the drop-off point, where the 
Tyvek-suited workers sorted and tossed into gigantic dumpsters. I do wonder where
 all this hazardous waste ultimately ends up, but there was no time to chat
 with anyone about that.

When I got home, I decided I had had such good luck in line that I took John's car to wait in another long line at the inspection station. His car passed, and I got to check two dreaded tasks off my list.

While time spent at a New Jersey Hazardous Waste Clean Up day and the inspection station doesn't make for a very picturesque weekend, it did give me a chance to feel a little extra virtuous, and that's always a good thing. 

How was your weekend? I hope it was picturesque, productive, relaxing, and/or fun!

Friday, March 11, 2016

Well Done, Arizona

On Sunday we turn the clocks ahead one hour to return to Daylight Saving Time. While the fantasy of saving daylight to use it in times of darkness sounds like a good thing, it's something my inner biologic clock rebels against. I do appreciate the extra hour of daylight at the end of the day to take a longer walk, spend some time in the garden or sit and knit, but sleep feels disrupted and disjointed for several weeks or more. We were all at loose ends when the kids were little since they seemed to resist all my efforts to change their schedules. I had to laugh when I was telling my grandmother about this, and she said the boys were just like the cows. She grew up on a farm and their cows were particularly cantankerous when their milking schedules were changed. John does a lot of business globally, so he will be busy trying to figure out the correct times for calls and video conferences since the European Union doesn't change time until March 27, the states in Brazil that use DST have already made their adjustment in February, but Argentina, Chile, and China don't use DST at all.

Ryan is heading to the Arizona Winter School for his spring break (or as we call it, mathematicians gone wild). I reminded him to turn his clocks ahead on Sunday, but he pointed out several reasons why he wouldn't be doing that. His few clocks are on his computer and phone, both of which adjust automatically. The second reason is that he'll be in Arizona, where they don't observe DST. I didn't know this, but congratulate Arizona (and Hawaii) for their sound and logical choice. We're anxiously waiting to see if his computer and phone are smart enough to know they're in Arizona.

Dr. Till Roenneberg, a German chronobiology researcher said it well: "When you change clocks to daylight saving time, you don’t change anything related to sun time. This is one of those human arrogances, that we can do whatever we want as long as we are disciplined." So, no thanks to you, Ben Franklin, inventor of this crazy idea, but well done, Arizona.

Happy weekend and I hope you all have an easy adjustment to Daylight Saving Time! 

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Throwback Thursday - Cakes, Cookies, and Pie

I've been trying to organize our digital photos, without much success, if I'm honest. I may have created a bigger mess than when I started, but during my initial cull and deletions, I was struck by one thing - the number of photos we have of cakes, cookies, and pie. These are just a few among hundreds.

I had forgotten that I would use almost any reason to bake a celebratory cake. 

 There was a requested congratulatory cherry cheese pie when Ryan got a 5
 on the AP chemistry exam. 

Who doesn't love a good plant cell cake, complete with fruit roll up cell wall
 and cookie nucleus?

 We celebrated Ryan's first birthday away at college by taking his favorite zucchini cake
 to him at Gettysburg.

I wasn't always the baker. Justin made a delicious apple tart and deer antler cookies.

Ryan made me a birthday cake, complete with chocolate syrup writing.

And the kids got clever on John's 49th birthday.

Our digital photos may still be in disarray, but in trying to organize them I'm reminded of 
how much I treasure and miss these sweet times.