Friday, December 30, 2016

I Am Not a Believer ...

in signs and portents, but I found this.

While cleaning out my knitting closet and going through all the project bags I had stuffed in there, I came upon this bracelet. I have absolutely no memory of it, nor do I know how or when it could have ended up at the bottom of a knitting bag. When I turned it around I was even more surprised.

Too often I'm in search of inner peace and it had fallen right into my hand! Peace should not be tarnished, so it's now polished and shining on my wrist. Just because I'm not a believer in signs and auguries does not mean I shouldn't be paying attention.

So I'll be focusing on peace this year, inner peace, outward peace, and ways that I can choose and manifest peace in my life.

May Peace be with you and all of us in 2017.

I'm going to be taking a short break, but hope to be back in the next week or so.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016


By necessity, I've had to curb my news intake since the election. I used to read BBC news every morning, and always had NPR on when I was working in the kitchen, but since every day brought new horrors as Cabinet choices were announced, I've cut down drastically. I read and listen enough to stay informed, make my donations, and practice peace and tolerance.

I work at home, and sometimes it gets pretty quiet. Because I was no longer listening to NPR all the time, I thought maybe a Netflix series would make good background watching/listening. I had watched The Crown twice, so the bar was fairly high, and then I remembered The West Wing. The first four seasons portrayed the wonderful kind of fantasy world that I liked to imagine represented the Obama administration - caring, intelligent, thoughtful people always trying to do the best for their country. And then I came to the end of season four.

I had completely forgotten about John Goodman as House Speaker Walken, who becomes President when President Jed Bartlet (Martin Sheen) invokes the 25th Amendment. President Walken is a bully, ready to wage war and bulldoze everything that Bartlet's team has accomplished. We see him arriving at the White House as a dark, looming shadow, then striding confidently into the Oval Office. He takes over, saying, "Now, I thought you all had some good ideas, but somebody ought to make it clear to the people in this room that someone is in charge." 

Soon after, President Walken says, "I'm going to blow the hell out of something, and God only knows what happens next." 

I could only play a few episodes of season five before my imagined similarities of life after January 20, 2017 became too much for me. It looks like I'll be giving Stranger Things a try. Your suggestions for other good series to watch are welcomed!

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Looking Back, Looking Ahead in Books

Goodreads has been telling me I should look at my year in books, so I finally did. The number of books I read doesn't really matter to me; quality is much more important than quantity. But, like many others at this time of year, I can't resist looking back at some of my favorite books of 2016.

These aren't in any special order, but if I had to pick my top three, they would probably be One Man's Meat, The Nix, and The Lost Painting of Sara de Vos, but then I would feel bad for not also including Lost Property, The Son, What a Fish Knows, and The House of Owls. I really loved reading all ten of these books.

I'm also looking ahead to some new books in 2017.

I have the gorgeously illustrated biography of E. B. White, Some Writer!, on the top of my TBR pile and it will probably be my next read. I'm not sure when I'll get to read The Underground Railroad as I'm eighth on the library hold list; they only have one copy so that means at least four months. The Keeper of Lost Things sounded wonderfully intriguing to me, and also has a beautiful cover, but it won't be published until February 21. I'll have to wait until March for Beyond Infinity, but I do have plenty to read in the mean time. :-)

If you have any 2016 favorites and/or books that you're looking forward to reading in 2017, I would love to hear about them!

Friday, December 23, 2016

Wishes and Hopes

Wishing every one a truly wonderful Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or just a great weekend if you're not celebrating anything special.
 I hope it's full of love, peace, enjoyment and hope.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Think Write Thursday

It seems as if I can count on Carole and Kat to come up with Think Write Thursday topics that I need to seriously think about and work on. Welcoming December, holiday spirit, and now another big one: talk about the ways you stay positive when it feels like everything is going wrong. We all have those times - something expensive breaks or you have to cancel special plans or you're dealing with something stressful at work - but we also know that staying positive really helps. What do you do to get through those times and stay focused on the good?

I'll be honest; many big things in my life have felt like they have been going wrong for a while now. My father has end stage bladder cancer, end stage kidney disease, end stage cardiovascular disease - multiple things that eight doctors have been calling end stage for a long time and yet his pain and suffering have continued for two years. The demands of care-taking are often overwhelming. My mother-in-law has many of the same health problems, and I've got some serious health issues of my own. There are plenty of days that I wish it was simply something expensive breaking, cancelling special plans, or dealing with something stressful at work. I give you details not to complain, but to better explain my answer. I know that every single one of you has issues small, medium, and gigantic that you are dealing with every day. 

Because I'm a reader, I've always looked for solutions to problems in books. Sometimes it's easy, like looking for a good cornbread recipe or how to do the Old Norwegian cast on. Other times, books may not provide the answer, but they do offer plenty of ways to deal with the realities of life. Books are how I get through those times and try to stay focused on the good. 

This Is How by Augusten Burroughs
I stumbled upon this book two years ago during a particularly distressing time in December. It was the perfect book at the perfect time, and I appreciated Burroughs' honesty and logic on how to deal with some awful situations that positive thinking just can't fix.

The Antidote: Happiness for People That Can't Stand Positive Thinking by Oliver Burkeman
Oliver Burkeman is not out to bash positive thinking, but rather to explore “the negative path”, the idea that the more we search for happiness and security, the less we achieve them. He encourages readers to embrace insecurity, and stop searching for happiness and quick fixes. . 

One Man's Meat by E.B. White
While this is not a "self-help" book in any way, it is a collection of White's essays written between 1938 and 1943. While reading it, I was continually struck by how White's personal recountings of his daily life and thoughts could be so applicable to me, a 59-year-old woman living her life 70 plus years later. White writes with thoughtfulness, insight, wit, and humor; he is one of the very few authors I have read that can combine both the internal personal and the world outside with his spare, straightforward writing and perfect word choices. This book has made me think about both my life and the world more than any other book I've read.

I'm not very patient with platitudes or trite prosaicism but these three books have provided me with forthright, logical, and considered reflections for some tough times.

In the end, it may be even simpler than reading a book. I used to work for an oncologist and one evening after a particularly tough day, I asked him how he could continue to practice. I'll always remember his answer, "It's simple, but not easy. I adjust my expectations and do the best I can." That is what I try to do (and keep on trying).

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

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Let There be Light

There is a scientific and astronomical explanation for the Winter Solstice, and I'm grateful for the Earth's rotation, revolution, and 23.5° tilt on its axis. For me, the most wonderful and significant thing about the Solstice is the gradual lengthening of daylight and shortening of night. Let there be (more) Light!

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Libraries Are A Luxury?

Carole posted about her Peace Cowl and how knitting it may have helped her stay peaceful when someone called libraries a luxury at a town meeting. (She's picking her battles and saving her rousing speech for when it's time to actually request money.) I was aghast, outraged, and dumbfounded (and probably naive) that anyone could consider libraries a luxury and have been thinking about it since then.

It's probably preaching to the choir as I've yet to meet a knitter who isn't also a reader, but it's not the choir we have to convince. I worked as a library assistant in both elementary and middle school libraries, and lost my job when Chris Christie and our own school district didn't value libraries enough. I was called "low-hanging fruit" and my position was considered "low value-added" at multiple board meetings, but the worst part was that these adults charged with educating students in the best way possible did not have an inkling of what we did in the library or how important it is. We invited all of the school board members to spend a day with us and see that we taught research methods, how to evaluate sources, critical reading of those sources, what constitutes plagiarism, and how to become literate seekers of information, educated users of all types of information technology, and enthusiastic readers. Not a single board member took us up on it, and after this year's election I know many adults desperately need these lessons. 

I live in New Jersey, the state with the highest property taxes, the eighth highest state and local taxes, the fifth highest income tax, and the third highest overall tax burden. Want to know where I got those numbers? From the reference librarian at our county library. I want my taxes to support education and libraries because they are important providers of information, education, and recreation to all. 

Libraries will get you through times of no money better than money will get you through times of no libraries. ~ Anne Herbert

What a school thinks about its library is a measure of what it feels about education. ~ Harold Howe

The library card is a passport to wonders and miracles, glimpses into other lives, religions, experiences, the hopes and dreams and strivings of ALL human beings, and it is this passport that opens our eyes and hearts to the world beyond our front doors, that is one of our best hopes against tyranny, xenophobia, hopelessness, despair, anarchy, and ignorance. ~ Libba Bray

A library is not a luxury but one of the necessities of life. ~ Henry Ward Beecher

The above are quotes that I've used when I needed to defend libraries. Anne Herbert, Harold Howe, Libba Bray, and Henry Ward Beecher are not well-known names, but want to know where you can find out more? At the library, and a librarian will be happy to help you. Advocate for your libraries and librarians, make your opinions known to the library board and the government that is funding these important resources, and check out the American Library Association for ways to save libraries in your state. 

Because libraries are an absolute necessity.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Merry Christmas to Me

I am a terrible Christmas shopper. As I peruse websites, catalogs, and shops, far too often I find things that I like. I almost always resist temptation, but while looking at JetPens for a gift certificate for Ryan, I gave in and bought myself a gift.

I've been thinking about a fountain pen for months, and JetPens makes it too easy to choose exactly the type of pen that will fulfill your writing desires. I ended up with a small stainless steel Kaweco pen, an extra fine gold nib and a Leuchtturm notebook. They are perfect, and I was enthralled from the first moment I started writing. I just use these for my to-do lists and daily notes, but the pen and notebook make my lists and thoughts feel more considered and important.

I'm afraid that this may be just the beginning. There is a whole big world of pens, beautiful inks, and notebooks that I've just started to explore. I may be purchasing less yarn in 2017, but possibly more fountain pens and inks!

Friday, December 16, 2016

Amaryllis Watch - Week Two

For this second week of Amaryllis Watch 2016 - 207, I present to you all the excitement and fast-paced action of watching plants grow.

Nothing visible has happened with the old bulb I planted last week, and it's the same story with the "new" old bulb I planted this week. My rescued amaryllis is very, very slowly beginning to straighten, by about 25° over the week. That's what my protractor tells me, and science is nothing without data.

Last week was very grey and overcast, with only about six hours of sunlight bright enough to cast a shadow all week. I'm hoping for more light next week, some tiny little bit of green appearing on the old bulbs, and some more straightening.

It's a good thing I work at home so I can carry my amaryllis around the house to various windowsills so they get the most light possible throughout the day. An outside employer might not be so understanding of my caretaker responsibilities! I shouldn't be taking credit when really it was the sun and plant hormones doing the work. Come on auxin!

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Think Write Thursday - Holiday Spirit

For Think Write Thursday this week, Carole and Kat would like us to write about holiday spirit. What does it mean to have holiday spirit? Do I feel like I have it this year, and why or why not? Discuss :-) I've mulled this over for much of the week, and may finally have a few answers.

For 18 years of my adult life, Christmas meant that I had to work. I was a medical technologist in hospital hematology labs, and because hospitals never close, labs don't either. In the beginning I had to work because my seniority was way down at the bottom, but later when I became the supervisor, I worked because I chose to. I still got to celebrate with family and friends, it was just later (sometimes in June, but better late than never!). By volunteering and putting myself on the schedule, it made a big difference to someone with lower seniority who might have had to work. For many years, that provided me with a wonderfully quiet feeling of holiday spirit - giving of myself to make someone happy.

Years passed, I began to work part-time doing lab work for oncologists who were closed on Christmas, and I had two sons. Celebrating Christmas with my boys filled me with holiday spirit - creating the fun, joy, anticipation, and magic of the season is easy and comes naturally with children.

Now the boys are grown, and because of work and distance, neither one can be home for Christmas this year. Initially, this made me very sad, but while striving to be the highly reasonable person I want to be, I could see it was for the best, and need not diminish the holidays. I won't be moving the fire screen to make sure Santa can get down the chimney, eating half a carrot and claiming the reindeer did it, or making Santa's boot prints by the fireplace to delight the boys, but I am beginning to embrace the changing of traditions. This will be our first year for an artificial tree, the first time that all the gifts have had to be carefully planned and mailed early to make it to CO and TX on time, the first year that I will be cooking one small prime rib roast instead of two huge ones.

But that's okay and the universe is unfolding as it should. I think I can honestly say that yes, I do feel like I have holiday spirit this year. I've knit gifts for both of the boys that I hope they'll like and use, and I'm knitting dishcloths for three different family members that requested them (even though the worsted cotton is not my favorite). I'm shopping for items that are needed at the senior center and will drop them off this afternoon; I'm baking cookies and leaving them on my neighbors' porches. I used to think that having holiday spirit meant that I was in a perpetual good mood and celebrating in a spectacular, over-the-top way, but that has really never described me. I'm simply enjoying knitting with love and peace, connecting with people by phone, email, or video chatting if it can't be in person, recognizing and appreciating those small, quiet moments of love and joy, and trying to give of myself to make others happy. Those things feel like Christmas spirit to me.

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

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Ryan's Quiche

We had to attend a party last Saturday and were asked to bring an entree. I wondered about what to take, as it had to be easy to make and transport; I probably would not be able to warm it up after it had been sitting in the back of our cold car for the hour it took for us to get here, and it had to be non-messy to eat because we would be balancing our plates. All of this meant that my default lasagna or meatballs in the crockpot wouldn't work. I was eating brie and apples one evening while I recounted my dilemma to Ryan and he suggested making a brie and apple quiche. We talked about some of the details and he came up with a delicious solution.

1 pie crust
1/2 pkg maple sausage, browned and crumbled (probably ~8 oz.)
1/2 apple, sliced very thinly
1/3 lb brie, rind removed
6 eggs
1 cup milk
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp salt

Add the browned and crumbled sausage to the pie crust.

Layer sliced apples on top of the sausage. 

Cover the apples with brie cut into slices (or hand-squished into flat pieces).

 Whisk eggs, milk, salt, pepper, and nutmeg together.

Pour the egg mixture over all the rest of the yummy stuff in the pie plate.
Bake at 350° for 50-60 minutes. 

I think it's better eaten warm while the brie is nicely melted, but it also works if you have to make something easy to take to a party that won't spill in your car, will be edible even though you can't warm it up, and won't be too difficult to eat even when you're juggling a plate and a drink. Enjoy! 

Monday, December 12, 2016


Over the past week I have discovered that glögg (a high-strength Swedish mulled wine concoction) can give you the fortitude to cast on 318 stitches for the third time, deal with a finicky furnace when the temperature is 22°, calm your nerves after a day filled with delays and aggravation, and even recover after a party where some people made spectacularly ignorant and intolerant comments (but you were afraid to say anything because they happen to be your husband's bosses). 

I was lucky enough to receive this as a gift from a lovely and thoughtful friend, but I've enjoyed my evening imbibement so much that I think I will make some myself when this jar is sadly empty. There seem to be many, many recipes out there, but I will probably try the simplest one first, the one that has ingredients I can actually obtain. Even Penzey's doesn't seem to carry Indonesian long peppers, but I did order cardamom seeds.

If you get a chance to sample glögg or even make it yourself for some delicious, holiday warmth, I'd highly recommend it. Glögg is good for what ails you, and may also work wonders if you're lucky enough not to have any ailments.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Amaryllis Watch 2016 - 2017

Have you seen those commercials where Sarah McLachlan talks about donating to the SPCA and urges people to consider rescuing animals while heartbreaking pictures of the cats and dogs are shown? I know it's not quite the same thing, but I could have sworn I heard Sarah McLachlan's voice as my cart veered toward a large display of amaryllis while shopping the other day.

There were probably a hundred or more bare amaryllis bulbs, packaged in a pot with a cardboard cover tight on the top. I don't need any more amaryllis as I have five or six ready to be repotted for reblooming. But then I spotted the one valiant, dauntless bulb, that even without soil, light,or water had still managed to produce a flower stalk which was growing sideways out from under the cardboard cover. That seemed an amazing feat to me, so I rescued it, brought it home to plant, and so begins Amaryllis Watch 2016 - 2017.

It's obviously the one on the left with the flower stalk and leaves bent at right angles, but I'm hoping that with a little TLC and sunlight, positive phototropism will work its magic and it will soon straighten out. The one on the right is one of my old bulbs that I repotted in hopes that they would provide each other with a little company and encouragement.

Sunlight has been in short supply here for the past four or five days, but now that I've rescued this amaryllis, we're both going to be looking for the light.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

To ornament ...

is to embellish, enhance, enrich, and grace. These are the words that immediately came to mind when I considered today's Think Write Thursday topic of writing about my favorite holiday tradition. For me, the holiday is Christmas, and the tradition, while not terribly original, is hanging two very cherished ornaments on the tree. Many of our ornaments are special and have stories behind them, but these two always crown the tree.

I've written about my first grade teacher, Mrs. Neusch before, but I'm not sure that she knew back in 1963 that she was beginning a Christmas tradition. She put up a tree in the classroom and our homework one weekend early in December was to make an ornament for it. I remember bursting in the back door after school and telling my mother about the assignment and all the ideas I had come up with on the bus ride home. My ornament was going to be pink, with sequins, glitter, and diamonds, and be the best ornament ever.

I don't remember the actual making of the ornament at all, but it's pretty clear that it is my mother's handiwork. No first grader could blow out an egg, dye it pink, and glue on felt holly leaves, sequins, glitter, and diamonds, but my mother did. It seemed wondrous to me that she had created the ornament of my dreams, and I thought (and pretty much still do!) it was the best ornament ever. Part of the Christmas miracle of this ornament is that is has survived, uncracked and undamaged, for 53 years.

The second ornament is the one that Mrs. Neusch gave me as a gift that Christmas. She chose a different one for each of her students, and she said that this one reminded her of me because the angel had blonde hair and open arms, and was reaching for the stars.

These ornaments are important to me because they are reminders of people that loved me, listened to me, and believed in me. They are also important reminders that people are always more important than things. My own sons know how special these ornaments are to me, but I may have stressed that too much when one Christmas Ryan told Justin to be careful because I might love these ornaments more than anything. That was terrible to hear, but a perfect opportunity to hug both of them tightly and tell them that I would always love them most of all. Someday the egg will break, and all the glitter will fall off the moon, but I will always have lovely memories of loving people.

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

Wednesday, December 7, 2016


Today is my grandmother's birthday. It's an easy date for me to remember as she always joked that it was "a date which will live in infamy". I don't know what year the picture above was taken, but that is how I often think of her. A kind and gentle woman, but photos don't show that she was also independent, creative, and even rebellious if it meant doing what she believed was right.

Born in 1904, she became a schoolteacher as many women did then. She met my grandfather, but didn't let the fact that Ohio schoolteachers weren't allowed to be married in 1927 deter her. They ran away to West Virginia, got married in secret, and kept that secret for a year by living apart. I marvel at the courage it would have taken to defy her parents, society, and jeopardize a job she loved and needed. She told me, "It isn't fair that a woman should have to give up everything of herself when she marries."

I was the oldest grandchild of five, and while she always made me feel as if I was special, I think my sister and cousins would all say the same thing. Even though we lived more than 400 miles away, my grandparents came to visit us at least four times a year and we spent two weeks with them every summer. Those were glorious days when she taught me to knit, sew, crochet, garden, and cook. On walks through the woods she showed me how to identify trillium, bloodroot, and dig sassafras roots for a spring tonic. I'm not sure when we started calling her G'ma, but she loved it and it stuck.

G'ma was an excellent seamstress, sewing dresses for us for every occasion. This is my sister and me in new dresses, with our mouths and hands full of the licorice and gumdrops G'ma kept in the canister in the kitchen, just because she knew we loved them. Her sewing abilities extended to drapes and slip covers, almost always without a pattern, but fitting perfectly.

G'ma excelled at traditional "women's work", but didn't think twice about doing "men's work", too. This is the cabin that she and my grandfather built, and the outhouse that she dug a six-foot deep pit for. I wish I had a photo of the wood-burning stove inside where she cooked meals, and baked bread and cakes, after she had chopped wood for it.

Because I know how much G'ma loved me and appreciate everything she taught me, I think of her almost every day. Sometimes it's when I'm making dinner (city chicken because cubes of pork and veal on skewers used to be cheaper than chicken). Other times it's when I'm thinking about taking some half-assed shortcut and hearing G'ma's voice saying, "That's not how we do things, Bonny!" But it's always with love because I would not be the person I am without G'ma.

Monday, December 5, 2016


Is anyone else decompressing from NaBloPoMo? Trying to come up with a blog post every day in November caused me to start viewing everything in "blog mode". If I found myself doing anything that could even possibly provide blog fodder, I took photos, jotted down a few thoughts, and sometimes started a draft post. While going through the photos on my phone, it became clear why I never used some of these ideas.

All of the Christmas catalogs I received in just one day.

The cranberry pie I baked after cleaning out the freezer and finding six bags of frozen cranberries.

My results after Justin told me he microwaved an egg in a round Tupperware container to make a breakfast sandwich. 
Good idea, but I should have added cheese and bacon.

An odd (but interesting) heavy hunk of stainless steel that I found in the street during a walk. 

A broken-striped newt picture that Justin drew for my sister-in-law probably 15 years ago that she framed and still displays.

Yesterday I was baking cookies to send to Justin and realized while I was taking photos
 that most of you had probably made cookies before;
 I no longer had to write a post every day, and this was not a blog-worthy event.

Living in blog mode is interfering with my being present in the moment, so I'm going to decompress a bit, quit thinking about NaBloPoMo, and post when I have something worthwhile to say, while hopefully remembering to still take photos occasionally.

All right everyone, back to your knitting.