Wednesday, November 30, 2016


As I reflect on NaBloPoMo 2016, I'm so very grateful that you have taken the time to read my ramblings. Time is an incredibly valuable commodity for all of us, so I truly value that you have used some of it to read what I've written, and maybe even comment. I started writing as a way to record my thoughts when my life changed with my oldest son moving to Colorado from home here in New Jersey, and while my blog still serves that purpose for me (especially with my youngest son now living in Texas), I'm also astounded and gratified by the wonderful people I've met. Readers have provided me with support, humor, affirmation, knitting help, book recommendations, opportunities to learn, and just plain friendship, and I'm thankful for each one of you.

So with this last post of NaBloPoMo 2016, I say congratulations to everyone that managed to post daily; congratulations to everyone that posted at all, and a gigantic thank you to all the readers and commenters.

See you sometime in December, but after 30 consecutive posts, probably not tomorrow.

(Whoops. I forgot about Think Write Thursday, so I guess I will be back tomorrow!)

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Tree ID

Last Wednesday I was returning from the grocery store after picking up the final few things I always seem to forget for Thanksgiving and I took the scenic way home. I drove by some trees that were so interesting I had to turn around, park, and get out to take a better look.

It was the incredible bark that attracted me.

They were growing in clumps of two, three, and four in front of a doctor's office building.

Most of them had brown, horizontally peeling bark, and then I saw this most intriguing one at the end of the row.

This clump of three brown-barked trees and one white-barked really captivated me, so I gathered a few leaves to try and identify them. That one white tree looks exactly like chocolate crinkle cookies, but I resisted heading back to the grocery store for those ingredients. 

The leaves I collected along with the Trees of North America told me that the trees were most likely yellow birches. There was just one more piece of information that I needed; how did the twigs taste? My trusty tree guide said that "slender twigs have a wintergreen flavor", so I went back to taste a few twigs. Sure enough, they did have a faint but distinct wintergreen taste. I even found out that I could make wintergreen extract, but since they aren't my trees, I don't think I'll be snapping off twigs to try this. (I'll just drink the called-for vodka instead.)

I still can't explain the chocolate crinkle tree (maybe a regular paper or white birch?) growing in the same clump with three yellow birches, but a little tree mystery doesn't make them any less beautiful. I think I'll go back in the spring to get a better look when they have new green leaves and maybe even taste a few more twigs.

Monday, November 28, 2016

I Wonder ...

Why Turkey Trotters can't walk from the town's huge municipal parking lot but instead choose to block my driveway (every year, for 27 years)? It's a Thanksgiving tradition! My thought is that if you're running 5K, you can also manage an extra 528 feet.

Why a Turkey Trotter left us a snow shovel? I saw a runner remove it from his trunk before the race, and it's been leaning against our wall for three days, so I guess it's ours now.

What to say to the women behind me in line at the post office wondering "why they have to sell Diwali stamps? It's not even an American holiday!" Their conversation went downhill, and I never did call them on their prejudice, mainly because I didn't know what to say. I'm only good at thinking of things to say hours or days afterwards, so next time I'm going to be ready and say that even though I'm not Hindu, I welcome anything that celebrates "the victory of light over darkness, good over evil, knowledge over ignorance, and hope over despair."

And on a lighter note, I wonder why Christmas cactuses bloom at such different times and in so many ways? I have a large plant with only one lonely bud, one that started blooming around Halloween and still has a few blossoms left, another hanging one that seems to be blooming all at once, and yet another that is just developing buds. I do love the flowers and am quite happy to see them bloom any way they want to, at any time of year.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Sunday Selection

The Peace of Wild Things

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

Wendell Berry, from The Selected Poems of Wendell Berry. Washington, D.C.: Counterpoint, 1998.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Saturday Sky

Another gray November sky, but much better than seeing snow falling from those moody gray skies.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Please Don't Interrupt! I'm Watching ...

Gilmore Girls: A Year In the Life. Watching and knitting is so much more enjoyable than Black Friday shopping.

Nice knit hat, Lorelai!

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wishing all who are celebrating a very Happy Thanksgiving, 
and a very Happy Thursday to those that aren't!

Read other Think ... Write ... Thursday! posts here, and sign up for Carole and Kat's great idea here

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Thank You For the Comfort, Lucy and Anne

I haven't been able to focus on reading lately, and it is becoming a bit worrisome. In addition to knitting, reading has always been something that reliably provided me with information, entertainment, access to people and cultures different from my own, solace, escape, and comfort, but that has not been the case for several weeks now. Books that I started weeks ago, The Dog Stars and Idaho, have not held my attention, nor have the myriad of other books that I've looked at and put down. I'm tempted to blame my disquietude on anguish over the election and continuing horror over cabinet appointments, but whether those are the reasons or not, it was time to find a solution.

After searching my bookshelves and Audible library to no avail, I went to the library for some peace, quiet, and inspiration. I found it in the children's room.

Anne of Green Gables was one of my absolute favorite books when I was growing up, and it hasn't let me down after rereading it several times as an adult. Goodreads tells me that I've also read Anne of Avonlea and Anne of the Island, along with several other Lucy Maud Montgomery titles, but I don't remember ever reading the rest of the series. I think it's high time to reread and finish the Anne series and blow the fogs out of my soul.

“It was November--the month of crimson sunsets, parting birds, deep, sad hymns of the sea, passionate wind-songs in the pines. Anne roamed through the pineland alleys in the park and, as she said, let that great sweeping wind blow the fogs out of her soul.” 
~ Anne of the Island,  L.M. Montgomery

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

No Longer a Virgin

I read Mary's post about Five Things: The Story Behind the Photo with interest. I was touched and a bit envious that she has a group of friends that she can discuss the election and many other things with. She talked about her first red Starbucks cup of the season and enjoying her first Holiday Spice Flat White.

I don't speak Starbucks, so I had to look up what was in a Holiday Spice Flat White. Plenty of calories and fat, but espresso with cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, clove, and tangerine sugar sounded quite intriguing. Starbucks just opened here last spring, but I commented to Mary that I have never had coffee at Starbucks, ever. She called me a Starbucks virgin! :-)

And look what I found in my email. 

Mary thoughtfully made it easy for me to try a Holiday Spice Flat White myself and even provided some helpful ordering tips to lessen the sweetness and calories.

So I ordered my tall, with non-fat, extra hot milk and one scoop of Holiday Spice and may be in trouble now. It's delicious and I'm already thinking about how much extra I need to walk if I drink one of these every week. There is the fact that it's a seasonal offering, so maybe I should just enjoy them as much as I can while they're still around. 

I sat, sipped, knitted (although only two rounds because there were no seats inside and my fingers were frozen in the 35 degree weather outside!), thought about how wonderful the friendships in our knitting and blogging community are, and thoroughly enjoyed myself. The only thing that would have made this better is if we could have been enjoying this together in person. Maybe next time in GA where it's warmer!

Thank you, and here's to you, Mary! 

Monday, November 21, 2016

Love to Watch Her Strut(s)

(Terrible video, but the audio is good, and I do admire the maraca player's enthusiasm!)

Actually, it's struts, plural. Last week I sat at the car repair place, trying all the flavors of coffee that they have, reading Car and Driver magazine, knitting, listening to the clank of wrenches, the squeal of air compressors, and singing this song in my head.

I did love to watch my struts being installed, as they must really be something special for the price of $889.89. I had high hopes (although not realistic ones) that these might make my car fly like Mr. Weasley's Ford Anglia. I thought about singing a few lines of Her Struts for Kenny the mechanic, but since I do like him, I decided against it.

They wouldn't let me go into the garage area to take any pictures, but in my search for one more lousy photo, I climbed under my car to see what struts are and what they do. They do look substantial and seem to have something to do with holding the car up. All I can think about is how much yarn and how many books I could have purchased instead (and my car still doesn't fly).

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Sunday Selection

A friend shared this on facebook after the election, and said it was a quote that has served her well throughout her life, during all the challenging times we all inevitably face. Eleanor Roosevelt's words speak to me also, certainly about the horror that was the election and other more personal things that I may think I cannot do. Fear is what I am feeling and I must face that fear. Eleanor was an extraordinarily strong woman and a knitter, so I've got this on my refrigerator and will try to take it to heart often. 

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Saturday Sky

Gray clouds moving in
Backdrop for dark tree branches
Snowflakes after dark

Friday, November 18, 2016

Tale of a Hat

Back in the beginning of November when I was expressing gratitude for knitting, I shared Justin's hat and received some very nice compliments. Now it's time to share the full Tale of a Hat with you.

Four years ago Justin saw the woodsy association pattern on the cover of a Knitpicks catalog and said that he would really like a hat with all the animals on it. I don't think he had ever asked me to knit anything for him before, so of course I had to order yarn and start immediately.

I decided to knit the Scraptastic Hat with a few modifications and duplicate stitch the animals on it. The fingering weight hat took me forever, and duplicate stitching all the creatures even longer, but at last I was done. I proudly presented the hat to Justin when he came home from school for the weekend, and was happy that he seemed to like it enough to wear it when he headed back. It was quite possibly the best thing that I had ever knit.

So where is the hat now?

See those bags in the freezer behind the beans and vegetables?

That's where the hat has been for the last three years. When Justin was packing to go back to school for his junior year (which involved picking up a lot of clothing from the piles on his floor), he brought me the hat, showed me a hole, and asked if I could fix it. My heart sank as I looked at it closely and found a second hole. I was feeling a bit perturbed that he might have treated this hat carelessly, but when we also found a hole in Justin's wool hunting pants, my anger was quickly redirected at carpet beetles. I couldn't find any evidence in Justin's room, but the hat, yarn, and wool pants immediately went into the freezer while I thoroughly cleaned his room.

I took the hat out a few weeks later and picked up the live stitches but then put it right back in the freezer.

Today when I thawed the hat for photos, I noticed that some of the white duplicate stitching on the owl's face had also been gnawed on by the hateful critters.

I'll probably fix this someday, but I'm going to have to work up the fortitude to face that task. I've also thought about starting a whole new hat now that I've learned better ways to cast on, but that is a "someday far, far in the future" project.

So for now, it's back in the freezer for the hat and yarn. Justin did wear the hat at least twice, and maybe after another three years in the freezer I'll fix it so he can wear it for a third time.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Think ... Write ... Thursday!

My sister and I looked at each other in disbelief. Unwrap the sliced turkey in the refrigerator and reheat it? Make a double portion of Hungry Jack instant mashed potatoes? Get two jars of the Heinz gravy out of the pantry and pour it into the gravy boat? Thanksgiving 1976 was the year my mother gave up cooking.

I grew up in a house with a mother did not like to cook. Sure, she produced dinner every night, gladly passing this task to my sister and me when she started working in the 1960s. I finally realized just how much my mother hated cooking when I went home for Thanksgiving my sophomore year in college to find that she had ordered Thanksgiving dinner from Boston Market. We ate dry, reheated turkey, instant mashed potatoes, and glutinous stuffing. My mother did like the lime jello salad with canned pineapple that she grew up with, but boiling water, opening a can, and stirring the Jello was the extent of her cooking that Thanksgiving. The meal tasted as appalling as it sounds, but it was also an epiphany for me: I was perfectly capable of producing a tasty meal myself instead of just expecting the home-cooked deliciousness I had been hoping for. That marked the beginning of my cooking in earnest.

Fast forward several decades to when I had children and a home with a 12-foot dining room table. I'm lucky that I do enjoy cooking and was looking forward to having everyone gather at our house for Thanksgiving. Ryan had seen a photo of homemade crescent rolls in a cook book and thought they looked so special that he insisted we make them, asking persistently in the way that five-year-olds are so good at. The original recipe was time-consuming and a bit fussy, but the kids helped and we all had great fun.

Ever since then, homemade crescent rolls have been a part of our Thanksgiving for the past 21 years. I've changed the recipe over the years to lower the fat and calories a tiny bit by not laminating multiple layers of dough with butter, but the kids and I agree that these are the best, even if they're not quite as flaky.

The recipe makes two dozen, but that was never enough to have any left over. Some years I've made as many as six dozen depending on the number of people I was feeding and mostly because Justin liked to eat them as a snack, six at a time. (Teenage boys can eat an incredible amount of food!) The amounts in red are for making 3 dozen, which was just right when both boys were here.

Neither Ryan nor Justin will be here for Thanksgiving, so I've been trying to decide if I even want to make the crescent rolls this year. The recipe brings back so many wonderful memories of being in the kitchen with the boys, their eager anticipation and enjoyment of eating them that I think I'll make a dozen, even if it's just for those memories I hold dear.

Our Think Write Thursday topic for today was to write about a favorite recipe and share why we are grateful for it. I'm grateful for so many things that I associate with this recipe - happy times with my sons, feeding people good food, making something that everyone in the family loved to eat, and maybe even having a recipe and loving Thanksgiving memories that Ryan and Justin will associate with me when I'm no longer the one making the crescent rolls. Food says I love you, whether it's homemade crescent rolls, reheated turkey from Boston Market, or lime jello salad.

Read other Think ... Write ... Thursday! posts here, and sign up for Carole and Kat's great idea here

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

The Winner Is ...


She left the fifth comment on Sunday's post, and the random number generator chose her.
Debbie, I've emailed you to check on your address, and I'll be sending your copy
 of The Nix as soon as I can get to the post office. 

Thanks to everyone for playing (and providing me with an extra post for NaBloPoMo). 
I hope you are all engrossed in a good book and wish you Happy Reading!

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Words in the Wild

Neither one of my sons will be home for Thanksgiving, which is what happens when they grow up, have jobs, begin to live their own lives, and move far, far away. That is okay and as it should be, but that doesn't mean I don't miss them (very much).

On Saturday morning I made a batch of chocolate chip cookies and packed care packages for both Ryan and Justin with the cookies, some candy corn, new flannel shirts, and a few other goodies I thought they would like. I taped them up, printed postage, and headed to the post office before they closed.

On my walk through the park I was brought up short by some words in the wild.

This is a small park in the middle of  a tiny town, but it has lots of pathways. I wish I could show you a big picture of how many times (probably hundreds) peace and love had been written on the bricks of the walkways. It was a lovely and uplifting sight.

Maybe, just maybe, after footsteps and rain begin to wear away some of these words, someone might possibly see how the words
peace, equality, fairness, and kindness fit on the bricks ...