Friday, December 8, 2017

Decorations Delivered

I like using greens to decorate for Christmas, and debated buying some bunches when I was out searching for glitter-free poinsettias. I decided against it at the time, thinking that a walk in the woods at my mother-in-law's this weekend would do me good, and I could cut plenty of pine, cedar, and holly myself.

But then these guys pulled up early yesterday morning. They are "my" tree guys, but they were here to trim my neighbor's trees. They wanted to use my driveway, apologized for the noisy chipper but chuckled politely when I asked them to use it on the quiet setting, and got to work.

I got a little more excited when they moved the truck and I saw that they were also going to trim my neighbor's pine tree. I ran out to talk to the guy on the ground and after he handed me a hard hat, I asked him if he minded if I cut some of the greens that they were trimming. He told me to take all that I wanted, so I got my clippers and stood back in my hard hat. (Sorry there's no selfie; he already thought I was a little odd.)

Thanks, guy in the bucket. The best greens are a little higher up.

Yes, please trim some for me from the very tippy-top!

How lucky I am to have a big basket of decorations delivered! I haven't done anything with them yet, but my hands smell delightfully piney and I've got loads of greens to decorate with. Thanks, tree guys!

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Three on Thursday

Joining Kat and Carole for Three on Thursday.

Aside from a few poinsettias, I haven't decorated much (yet), but I have been noticing decorations in my travels. So today,
Three Interesting Christmas Decorations.

Remember these trees at the tree farm next to my mother-in-law? I was at my mil's earlier this week, and decided to walk over for a closer look. I talked to Harry (he runs the tree farm) and he told me the trees are sprayed with a latex colorant. He further explained that Christmas trees have been sprayed green by tree farmers for many years (Harry called this green spraying "just a touch-up".) This is usually done to treat chlorosis, a natural yellowing of the needles caused by shorter day length, because it makes the trees look healthier and easier to sell (I had no idea, and feel a bit deceived and disturbed. We've always gotten a real tree, but real trees may not be completely real. Hmm ... ) A few years ago, someone got the bright idea that if they were spraying the trees green, then other colors would be good, too. Harry said this type of spraying is labor-intensive because each tree needs to be manually sprayed for even coverage, and it can only be done when the temperatures are above 40 degrees. He thought they were eye-catching, but has only sold two painted trees so far. Interesting, but not for me. 

While I was at Lowe's looking for poinsettias that were not artificially colored or sprayed with glitter, I came upon this "handmade" amaryllis with no need to water. Curious? Here's what it looks like.

It seems like the bulbs are dipped in some sort of rubbery wax, and then a circular spiked base is stuck into the bulb so it will stand on its own. This one is budded and getting ready to bloom, so I guess these "handmade" amaryllis do work. Interesting, but still not for me.

Lastly, someone has given Disgruntled Shopper a hat. She doesn't look any less disgruntled but she does look slightly more festive. Interesting, and this one I like.

Head on over here to read more Three on Thursday posts.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Unraveled Wednesday

Joining Kat and friends for Unraveled Wednesday.

Maybe you remember last week when I hoped to have a completed pair of mitts by today? If you don't remember, that's just fine, because this is all I've got.

Outlander is the cause of Kat's short row shaping problems, and I place the blame for my lack of progress squarely on Amazon and Comcast. I've been chatting daily with Amazon customer service, and knitting during these surreal conversations. Every conversation seems to end with "please be patient; your package will be delivered tomorrow", but tomorrow hasn't arrived for the past four days. I should know better than to knit in situations like this, and all the unraveling I've done to correct my mistakes has finally taught me. 

But this morning Comcast joined in the fun. I usually start my day with tea, emails, blogs, and some work, but without internet this morning, it was just tea. After investigating things on my end with no fix, I had to call Comcast. I had returned a non-working modem several weeks ago, but it seems they had mistakenly decided to deactivate my working modem last night at midnight. The good news is that I was busy enough resolving the Comcast issue that I didn't have time to chat with Amazon. 

So tomorrow is a new day, and I am starting anew by following Kym's process for starting my morning with tea and knitting. No internet, no customer service, no emails, just centering and meditating with knitting. I feel better just thinking about it. 

What are you making and reading?

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

And One for Me

I love all kinds of books, but children's picture books hold a very special place in my heart. Many happy memories with my own boys come from reading to them, and I worked in elementary and middle school libraries for lots of years. Now that my sons are grown, and I don't have a good local book store, I don't often get a chance to browse and appreciate wonderful new picture books.

But I do have five great-nephews and two great-nieces, ranging from four months to 16 years old, and I'm the great-aunt that gives them books. (Books may not be a child's first choice in gifts, but they're not quite as bad as Ralphie's pink bunny suit or underwear.) I shopped on Amazon last weekend and a big box o' books just landed on my porch. It was almost like Christmas (for me)!

I ordered some old favorites, along with some new ones, hopefully choosing books tailored to each child's age and interests.

But there was one book that I just couldn't stop thinking about, The Antlered Ship, written by Dashka Slater and illustrated by the Fan Brothers (the same siblings that wrote and illustrated The Night Gardener).

I'm not exactly sure why, but once I read the description and saw the illustrations, I was hooked. This book was in and out of my cart many times, and in the end, I just ordered it, with no specific recipient in mind. I'm so glad I did.

It's a creative and beautiful story with gorgeous illustrations that carry me away. I had intended to gift it to someone once I had a chance to read it, but that may not be happening. So far, I've resisted buying yarn, adult fiction, tea, wine, alpaca hats and scarves, fountain pens, and a cutting board made from whiskey barrel staves for myself while Christmas shopping for others, but this time I had to give in. I'm happy to give the gift of books, and one for me.

Monday, December 4, 2017

In Which I Deal with BS*

*Brussels sprouts!

The garden has been done for a while now, with only the Brussels sprouts remaining. John wanted to pick them a month ago, but I kept hearing my grandmother saying that they are always better after a few hard frosts. That finally happened, so I decided it was time to quit procrastinating, get out there, and deal with them.

 I yanked them all out,

then cut off the leaves and the roots. Some of the stems were big and tough enough that I had to try a bigger tool than pruning shears. Here's my gardening tip of the day: don't use the saw to try and cut through Brussels sprouts stems. It won't work (and you might end up saying bad words).

So I left the roots on and sat outside at the picnic table to pick the sprouts off.

Why, yes, this did feel like a lot of work for not too many sprouts, especially when they still needed to be cleaned, trimmed, and blanched.

I just guessed at how long to blanch the sprouts because I had a combination of tiny little ones and slightly more normal sized ones. If Barbie ever grows Brussels sprouts, I'm pretty sure they'll resemble the miniature one on the left.

Lots of tedious work yielded only five packs of sprouts for the freezer, but that is better than none, and I don't have to deal with BS for another year!

Friday, December 1, 2017

Peace Be With You

Beginning today, The Healthy Knitter is hosting Project Peace for the second year, and who doesn't need more peace in their life? This year's pattern is a lovely shawl with a feather and fan lace edge; you can find the pattern here on Ravelry. You can also check Michelle's blog every day from today through the Winter Solstice for some peaceful reading and an opportunity to incorporate peaceful strategies into your life.

My own Peace Project is a little different this year. I've favorited and purchased the pattern, but I don't think I'm going to be knitting it (at least not now). I complained about how long the Peace Cowl took me last year, but I really do like it and wear it often. So I'm going to be knitting last year's pattern with some very special alpaca worsted that I got in Montana. 

To promote more peace, I've decided that there are no rules, no judgement, and no deadlines for this project. It might be nice to finish it in time to wear this winter, but if not, I'm betting winter will also arrive again next year at this time. I hope that just feeling this lovely yarn flowing through my fingers is going to bring some peace every day, no matter whether I knit ten stitches, ten rows, or ten pattern repeats. 

And if you need something to help the peace process, here is the Campari Spritz from Mary. Delicious and beautiful! Mary did warn that it might be a little more bitter than I was used to (and it was), so mine has an added glug of orange juice. I wanted to try this one because I think Mary may be posting two more cocktails tomorrow! 

So cheers to the weekend, and cheers to peace, however you can achieve it.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Three Thoughts on Thursday

Joining Kat and Carole for Three on Thursday.

Some day I'm going to actually knit one of these medals.  © elf518

1.  We did it! Congratulations to everyone who made it through 30 days of posting. It's always nice to set a goal, and accomplish it (even though on some days this one was tough going)!

2.  You did it! You are the ones who chose to use your valuable time to read and comment. I realize this is a big deal (especially because there is so much to read during NaBloPoMo!), and I feel honored and grateful for all of you who take the time to read. Thank you!

3.  I am very glad it's done! Happy December!

Head on over here to read more Three on Thursday posts.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Unraveled Wednesday

Joining Kat and friends for Unraveled Wednesday.

Now that my favorite mitts have turned up, I was happy to do a little unraveling for Unraveled Wednesday. I was only halfway into the ribbing on these replacement mitts and there are too many other projects calling, "Knit me! Knit me!", so a spare pair can wait.

I've been plugging away on my gradient Hitchhiker. Last night John asked if there was something wrong with the dyeing and I explained that it was a gradient and meant to look like that. He just shrugged and said he like the dark blue, but not the color change. Good thing I'm not knitting it for him!

I'm putting this photo here as motivation for myself to get going on these mitts for Ryan. I did finally talk to him about how long he wanted them, but I've worked on them very little since then (and I do want to finish them in time for Christmas). Next week I hope to be showing you a photo of a completed pair of mitts. (Feel free to place your bets!)

I finished Promise Me, Dad last week, and while it gave me interesting insights into Joe Biden as a person and politician, his grief was sometimes almost too much to listen to. He has led an extraordinary life, filled with tragedy, profound grief, and triumph, but has still maintained his humanity and hope. In the book, Biden cites Immanuel Kant's "Rules for Happiness: something to do, someone to love, something to hope for", and he is working hard in numerous ways to make sure that he has those things in his life. I'm still listening to The Golden Compass, and it's full of much more excitement and adventure than I had remembered.

What are you making and reading?

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

What Is It?

Today's post is simple, straightforward, and short. I've searched through my bag o' blog topics, and this is just about the last one left.

Does anyone have any idea what this is? My sister-in-law found it years ago on a Pacific beach in California. She loves new and interesting things from nature, so she had to collect it and bring it back to Pennsylvania in her suitcase.

She doesn't know what it is, and over the years we've discussed and researched it a lot, but haven't had any luck in identifying it. We've both asked "plant people" that we know and I showed the photo to folks at our Extension Services, but so far nobody has a clue. We've always assumed that it was some sort of plant or blossom growing upright on a stem that she is holding, but the last time we were together speculating (and enjoying lots of elderflower cordial mixed with St. Germain), John had an idea we had never considered.

He hypothesized that maybe it actually grew this way, and the parts now at the bottom might be roots with just one stem growing upwards. Either way, we still don't know.

It may be a long shot, but I'm hoping it looks familiar to someone (and I've got nothing else to write about today). Thanks in advance for any clues, or even creative or humorous guesses!

Monday, November 27, 2017

Good, Not So Good, Fun, Weird, Lovely, and Great

Some scenes from the weekend:

I had a good time visiting with the llamas while Christmas shopping at WoodsEdge Farm on Saturday morning.

Not so good was the rest of the day spent with John in the ER while they checked out the "cobwebs" and light flashes in his eye. The ophthalmologist thought his problem was most likely a small retinal tear that should heal on its own. He has a patch but won't let me take or share a pirate photo.

I had fun shooting my bow on Sunday afternoon. It felt really good to get outside in the fresh air and shoot multiple rounds.

I shot at my mother-in-law's house, and she lives next to a Christmas tree farm. I thought the pink, blue, and purple trees were just plain weird, but to each his own, I guess.

I was treated to a lovely sunset after I took a walk through the woods at my mil's. I much prefer the hues of pink and purple in the sky than on spray-painted trees.

And Mary's Spiced Rum Cocktail was just great! It was exactly what I needed at exactly the right time after getting home from the ER. The spiced simple syrup is every bit as good as Mary says, and I enjoyed some in my tea on Sunday. I haven't yet tried the Campari Spritz, but that is what I'm looking forward to tonight. So cheers to Mary and her sister Karen, cocktail geniuses; cheers to the week ahead, and cheers to the last few days of NaBloPoMo!

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Guess What I Found!

I've been searching for my lost mitts, and it was really beginning to bug me because the beige pair were my favorites. I got in my car yesterday to head to the alpaca farm, spied my ice scraper, and all of a sudden I knew were they were.

This is a cupboard in our barn where John stores car stuff (complete with help from the kids the first time we painted the barn.)

One morning a few weeks ago I went out to my car and discovered I needed to scrape the windshield. Somehow my good scraper had gotten put away, so I needed to look for it. I was carrying my mitts, set them on the pile of barn gloves when I opened the cupboard (see them there on the top, just to the right of the red oil funnel?), grabbed my scraper, closed the cupboard, scraped the windshield, and went on my way, leaving my mitts just where I had put them.

I know there's no frost on the windshield in this photo, but I was thrilled to find my mitts and put them on immediately. There was enough light for a photo and I liked the reflection, so I wanted to celebrate their glorious return.

It made my day to finally remember where I had put them, and finding them almost made up for the fact that I had carelessly misplaced them and forgotten where for a few weeks. My blue pair is still missing, but I have high hopes they'll show up in some slightly interesting place.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Sky Above, Earth Below

I found this caterpillar hiding under a pile of leaves and got all excited about what an all-black woolly bear meant for the severity of winter.
I checked The Old Farmer's Almanac, but they just told me that the more black there is, the more severe winter will be. That doesn't bode well.

My next source, the National Weather Service, went into a lot of detail about whether the head or tail is dark predicting the severity of the beginning and end of winter, and if the caterpillars are traveling north (mild winter) or south (cold winter). This was more complicated than
I really wanted, but it did lead me to my third source.

I learned that this isn't an all-black woolly bear at all, but rather a Giant Leopard Moth caterpillar. It has distinctive red bands between segments, but apparently no weather prediction abilities.

I haven't found any real woolly bears around here, but the "Winning Worm" (the overall winner of the 1,000 entrants in woolly worm races) at the Banner Elk Woolly Worm Festival seems to predict that it will be a fairly average winter. Nothing says excitement like woolly bear races!

Friday, November 24, 2017


This baking happened on Wednesday when I wrote this, but I'm posting it today because it's about as close as I can get to taking a day off during NaBloPoMo. In real life on Friday, I'm eating pumpkin pie for breakfast, still in my pajamas, knitting, reading, and that's my plan for the rest of the day.

My family has always loved crescent rolls, and it started with the kind that came in the tube. The boys liked to whack them on the counter to open them, helping to roll them up, and enjoyed eating them even more. As they got older and I had more time, I decided that I could make better crescent rolls than the tube kind. My first attempts were the full-on roll out the dough five times, spread with butter and laminate kind, which were delicious but also took eight hours and loads of work. As Ryan put it, they had a very high work:deliciousness ratio. Over the years, I've changed and modified things to arrive at a roll that still tastes wonderful, but doesn't make me crazy in the preparation. A much lower work:deliciousness ratio!

I cheat and use my bread machine to make the dough. I think it does a much better job of kneading a really smooth dough than I can.

After the dough is made, it goes into my bread bowl to rise for about 90 minutes.

Then comes the fun part - rolling, cutting, and shaping the dough into actual crescent rolls. John made my rolling pin for a Christmas gift one year and it's the perfect weight and smoothness to roll this dough easily. I love it and always welcome a chance to use it.

Next, the formed rolls rise for about an hour before the real excitement of baking them. I wish I could somehow attach the delicious smell!

And voilĂ , four dozen crescent rolls! It looks like a lot, but we eat them with Thanksgiving dinner, with leftovers, and Justin has been known to eat six at a time for breakfast. Hopefully a few will be left to enjoy with turkey soup, but we will have them all gone in just a few days. 

*The Great Bonny Baking Show
Paul and Mary from The Great British Baking Show would probably hate these since they are not uniform or real croissants, but guess what? They're not invited (but at least I don't have any soggy bottoms).