Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Bright Spots

Last week Margene commented wisely (as she so often does), "With all the darkness in the news there is one thing I have come to understand and that is I must create my own bright spots and take care of my own heart (and soul)." 

I have been thinking about this ever since then, and decided she is absolutely right and I absolutely need to start creating my own bright spots. I've tried to think of some catchy or alliterative name to share these, but I couldn't, so they will simply be bright spots. 

And who doesn't need a bright spot at the end of January?

I think they look like fireworks of flowers!

Monday, January 30, 2017


Don't worry, I'm not going to give you tips on dusting or vacuuming. Those definitely won't be coming from me! I've got a couple of blog housekeeping things that I wanted to be sure and mention.

First, thank you all so very much for your support and uplifting comments last Friday. I felt incredibly buoyed up by all the positive thoughts from all of you, and I'm very grateful. We live in dark days with some amazing bright spots, and this community of knitting bloggers and readers is one of the brightest and most positive spots in my life. 

I would also like to apologize for whining about what, in retrospect, was a relatively minor incident in which only my feelings got hurt. I'm a middle-aged, white, female, US citizen, not a promising Iranian student now banned from entering the US to pursue her PhD despite having a valid visa, nor one of the 65 DACA students halfway through medical school, but fearing certain deportation when the DACA program is surely ended. I'm not the Egyptian woman who works with my husband, now questioning whether she should return to her birth country, along with her US-born children to avoid being deported and separated from them because the application for her green card is at a dead end. I thank every one of you for your support, and for the support I am sure you are giving to everyone that needs it in these dark days.

In addition, I've now got quite a few ways to take constructive action.
It looks like a long list, but much of it is informational. The actions haven't taken nearly as much time as I initially thought. I put my senators' contact info. in my phone (their local office numbers, their DC office numbers, and their addresses), and that makes daily phone calls easy. While Cory Booker makes it tough to get through to an actual person, he does have a voice mailbox and it's never been full when I've called. The staffers that I've spoken to have all been pleasant and assured me that the senators get a full report each day of the number of calls received and the issues that we, their constituents, are calling about. Twenty minutes every day and another ten for postcards written on the weekend is time that I am finding worthwhile for productive resistance.

And look, I even knit most of a Pussyhat while I was on the phone this week!

My last bit of housekeeping is related to comments. I try to respond to every comment by email, but depending on how you sign in to comment, blogger doesn't always provide me with your email address. I've been trying to reply directly to your comment in the blog if I don't have your email, but that means you would have to look back at old comments to see a reply. This is my long-winded way of saying that I appreciate the time that each and every one of you has taken to read and possibly comment, whether I have been able to reply to you or not. You are always welcome to contact me (upper right, under the picture of the pi/e dish).

Once again, I offer my sincere gratitude. You've given me the fortitude for another week of phone calls and maybe another Pussyhat!

Friday, January 27, 2017

Not Ready

This has been a challenging week. I'm not sure why I had deluded myself into thinking things would get better, or at least there would be less time for high-handed judgments and name-calling as we all buckled down to the serious business of running the country and carrying out our responsibilities as citizens, but that has definitely not been the case.

We need to be able to carry on conversations with each other, ones where we respect the other person as a human being and really listen. In my experience, that isn't even close to happening. This week I've been told to keep my opinions to myself if I'm speaking against the President, that my knitting was degrading to women, and that I'm just a terrible person. These comments were from friends and family, and happened when I was simply expressing my respect and appreciation of Obama without even mentioning the current President. The comment about my knitting was completely surreal because I was working on a Pussyhat, which I wouldn't have been knitting at all if Trump had not made degrading comments towards women. Maybe I am a terrible person, but now I'm also mad as hell.

I've tried, but I can no longer accept the personal attacks aimed towards me, my opinions, and for heaven's sake, what I choose to knit. The fact that these attacks came from people I considered friends and family just plain hurt, a lot. Maybe it's because I was feeling a bit raw and emotional, but I'm done with tears and now I'm glad these people told me how they really felt. I'm not ready to make nice; I'm certainly not ready to back down, and I can't just get over it. I sincerely thank them for the reminder that I should never resort to name-calling, for making my skin a little thicker, and inspiring me to be even more ready for the work ahead.

How I wish I could respond as eloquently as Bertrand Russell.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Mirror, Mirror ...

The Think Write Thursday topic for today is to write about what our mirror would say if it could talk. So I asked it, "Mirror, mirror on the wall, what the hell is going on?", and it replied ...

"I simply do not know. Yes, I'm a magical mirror on an antique wardrobe, but even with those things going for me, I don't have a clue. In all my years of reflecting history - Margaret Sanger advocating for birth control, the Nineteenth Amendment, the Equal Pay Act, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, Title IX, Roe v. Wade, Barack Obama's presidency - I have never seen times like these. My surface is streaked and I've lost much of my silvering through the years, but I still reflect truthfully and honestly. Sadly, you are now living in a world with alternative facts, damaging and rampant misogyny, gag orders, anti-environmentalism, corruption, hate, xenophobia, and people proud of being ignorant and cruel."

"I wish I could let you step through my wardrobe into Narnia, where good triumphs over evil, but we both know that's a fantasy. Keep up the work for equality and human rights for all humans. Continue with the calls and protests against the Swamp Cabinet and lies. Don't stop advocating for healthcare for everyone and don't stop knitting pussyhats. Call bullshit when you see it, maintain hope and resilience, and good will triumph over evil."

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

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Bright Spot

It's been grey, rainy, windy, and generally gloomy here for almost two weeks. It feels like darkness within, and darkness outside.
I did manage to find one bright spot.

There are actually at least two bright spot blossoms ...

and four more to come!

Here's hoping that you also have plenty of bright spots in your week!

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

In Which I Block a Rattlesnake

Justin works on a ranch in Texas so he has plenty of opportunities to capture rattlesnakes. They are everywhere! He taught himself how to tan the skins and recently gifted us with a rather long one. 

He advised me to gently rinse it in a bowl of water to remove any loose scales, just like giving a knitted piece a good soak
 (but without Eucalan).

I normally use my drying rack for socks and other small items, but here it's being used to dry the wet snake skin.

The next step in blocking is pinning, which I did after finding an old barn board in our old barn.

It's almost like blocking a six-foot scarf with an argyle-like pattern, except for one small large difference.

Friday, January 20, 2017

No News is Good News

In my efforts to cope today, I have declared a complete news blackout for myself (yes, that includes facebook also because I don't want to read anything about today's activities) and will instead spend the day doing all the good things I can think of. Some are selfish for my sanity, and some are less so.
  • Working (a necessity, so I can continue to donate to Planned Parenthood and the ACLU)
  • Donating to our local Food Pantry
  • Coloring bags for Meals on Wheels. Yes, it's a small thing, but every day volunteers bring warm meals to home-bound seniors and when the meals come in a decorated bag, they also bring a smile.
  • Assembling three different types of care packages for hospitalized children at the Hunterdon Medical Center
  • Writing emails to the Obamas, Joe Biden, John Lewis, Cory Booker, and calling my representatives
  • Knitting my Peace Cowl
  • Drinking
I will be raising my glass to all of the sensible, caring, concerned, and like-minded people that I know are out there, and I'll be drinking my second glass to all of us who demand equality and inclusion for everyone, in hopes that we can begin to help others understand the wrongs that are being perpetuated, and that bullying, xenophobia, misogyny, ignorance, and arrogance are not the way to proceed.

I'm also going to be remembering these quotes from two people I will miss very much:

"... what we’ve also tried to teach them is resilience and we’ve tried to teach them hope and that the only thing that is the end of the world is the end of the world." - Barack Obama during his final press conference

"You gotta get up." - Joe Biden

I'm going to try.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Memo to the President

For today's Think Write Thursday topic, Carole and Kat have asked us to write about three things we would do if we were President of the United States. Let me state that I have absolutely no qualifications for this job, and would make a very poor Commander in Chief. Don't you think only highly-qualified and eminently suitable people should hold this important job? So while I will never actually work in the Oval Office, I do have at least three ideas to focus on, so here is my memo to the next President.

To:          The President of the United States
From:      Bonny
Date:       January 19, 2017
Subject:  To-do list

I haven't been sleeping well lately due to some concern over the state of the United States, so in the interest of helping you out with the tough job you are undertaking, I came up with this list of three things I think you should focus on.
  1. Education
  2. Equality and rights for everyone
  3. Universal healthcare for everyone
I firmly believe that education is incredibly important. This doesn't mean only college, but all forms of learning - pre-school, K through 12, tech. schools for learning a hands-on trade, community college, continuing education. I'm not necessarily advocating free post-secondary education as I think people learn more, better, and have a real stake in things if they are contributing in some way. Whether they are paying tuition themselves, doing work-study, or receiving grants, we must do all that we can to make many forms of education more accessible and affordable (but none of that Trump University scam stuff).

Equality is another important area. Our government and President should be inclusive of ALL - regardless of race, creed, color, or religion. I'll admit that this is a goal that can only be begun and worked toward over generations, as it requires both legislation and a change in mindset to open people's minds and hearts. To begin the process and continue what has been accomplished so far, the President must believe in and work for equality at every opportunity.

Healthcare is also critical, and perhaps even more difficult than the others. I don't have any brilliant ideas on how to pay for this, but I think everyone both needs and deserves healthcare. Some of the hardest things in this area are going to be getting to the bottom of why healthcare costs so much in the United States, and beginning to think about quality of life vs. length of life. I'm not talking about "death panels", but we as consumers of healthcare need to take active responsibility for preventing disease with proper diet, exercise, and preventive medicine, and take a long, hard look at end-of-life care.

Yes, I realize it's a tough to-do list, but I am willing to help, as are millions of Americans. Give me a call and let's get it done together!
Read other Think ... Write ... Thursday! posts here, and sign up for Carole and Kat's great idea here.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Remember When

Remember when I used to knit? I do, and it's a fond memory. I still knit every day, but there are days when all that I can manage are a few rows, rounds, or even just a few stitches. My time has been pretty limited, but I have to admit that I also don't actively make time. It feels like since the election, there have been too many evenings when I've ended up just sitting with my knitting on my lap. While I may blame he-who-shall-not-be-named for many, many things, he is probably not responsible for my lack of knitting process or progress.

I have knit a few small things and made a tiny bit of progress on others, so my hope is that if I do a knitting catch-up here, this will strengthen my resolve to make time for knitting (and actually knit during that time) going forward.

There were some requested dishcloths for Christmas.

A hat for Justin in Texas.

And some Really Warm Mitts for Ryan in Colorado.

In the WIP department, I've got:

A Hitchhiker (of course!)

Some Really Warm Mitts for Me

and my Peace Cowl.

These three projects are just enough to keep me realistically busy and happy. Time to stop just sitting with my knitting!

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

A Bit Different ...

but incredibly delicious!

I got Ryan The Bob's Burgers Burger Book for Christmas. I've never watched Bob's Burgers myself, but Ryan does and I thought the book might give him some interesting burger ideas. He called on New Year's Day and raved about the recipes he had tried, so much, in fact, that I had to try at least one of them myself. His favorite (so far) is the "Bet It All on Black Garlic Burger", so I went on the hunt for black garlic.

Ryan had told me that it was not an easy-to-find ingredient, but for him that meant he had to drive about a mile to Whole Foods, find that they didn't carry it, then drive another mile to Trader Joe's where they had lots of it, and for a decent price. My nearest Trader Joe's is about 30 miles away, but Ryan assured me that the trip would be worthwhile. I went, spent some enjoyable time wandering the aisles, found the black garlic, and came home to give it a try.

This what the bulbs look like. It's easy to peel the skin off, place the cloves in a bowl, and mash them with a fork.

Yum ... black goo!

Mix a bulb of mashed black garlic with 1/2 cup mayonnaise and you get this delicious condiment.

The book recommends using a blender, but my blender jar is pretty big for such a small amount, so I just mashed up the garlic. You could use an immersion blender if brown mayonnaise with black bits seems a little off-putting. Then simply build your burger: bottom bun spread with black garlic mayo, some raw baby spinach, burger topped with mozzarella, and the top bun spread generously with more black garlic mayo.

I didn't have any baby spinach, but the mozzarella and black garlic mayo is such a delicious combination that I don't think I was missing anything. It's hard to describe the taste of black garlic, but it's kind of earthy, sweet, and almost balsamic-like. To make it, bulbs of garlic are heated for a long period of time (30-40 days at ~ 140°) in a humid environment, producing wonderful caramelization (that famous Maillard reaction).

I'm not sure what I'll try next, maybe a mushroom and black garlic risotto, an omelette with black garlic and mozzarella cheese, or a simple tomato sandwich with the black garlic mayo. Whatever it might be, I'm sure it will be incredibly delicious!

Friday, January 13, 2017

One Art

One Art

By Elizabeth Bishop
The art of losing isn’t hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

I lost my mother’s watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn’t a disaster.

—Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan’t have lied. It’s evident
the art of losing’s not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.

  • Elizabeth Bishop, “One Art” from The Complete Poems 1926-1979(Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1983)

My word for 2017 is Peace, and this poem seems intimately connected somehow. I came upon it last week, and have read and thought about it countless times since then. 

I am not a master of the art of losing. I keep thinking about how much I hold on to ... stuff, yarn, books, words, and emotions. The fact is, I don’t just hold on to things; I desperately clutch them close. Holding on does have a time and place. Holding on to truth, love, and wisdom are all good. For the sake of Peace, I need to search my heart and try to hold loosely whatever it is I’m clutching on to for dear life. We can continue to hold on to hope, while never forgetting about release and letting go. The prospect of loss may feel like an impending cataclysm, but none of my losses so far have brought disaster. Recognizing this may be the first step towards Peace for me. 

Thursday, January 12, 2017

You are cordially invited ...

The Think Write Thursday topic for today is an interesting one; plan a dinner party, inviting three people, living or dead. I've sent engraved invitations to three authors that I would honestly love to meet: E.B. White, Nathan Hill, and Bill Bryson. There are many authors I am interested in meeting, but because I'm currently reading a wonderful biography of E.B. White, Bill Bryson's The Road to Little Dribbling, and Nathan Hill's book, The Nix, was one of my favorites of 2016, I can't wait until they arrive this evening. 

I've asked each of them to bring one of their books in hopes that they will read a bit to us. Bill Bryson has a marvelous voice, and I'm sure that Nathan Hill and E.B. White will also read eloquently. I'm envisioning an evening of questions, answers, and lively discussion. How did Nathan (I'm already calling my guests by their first names!) deal with the struggles of writing The Nix for over a decade? How does success feel now and what's next? Tell me about video games, please! I'm going to ask Bill about his intense curiosity and how he continues to enjoy the preposterousness of life instead of becoming a grumpy curmudgeon. And I'm just going to ask Andy (that's what E.B. White's friends called him) how he kept his love of the world around him while living on a farm and butchering pigs and thank him for caring so greatly about how he wrote things.

The menu has presented some difficulties, but I eventually decided on a simple venison stew in the crockpot, made with venison I butchered and carrots that I grew. I have this (possibly misguided) idea that Andy will appreciate this, and Nathan and Bill probably won't object. I'm also going to serve homemade bread, beer (something English for Bill?), wine, coffee, and tea. Dessert will be pie, one blueberry and one apple, something Andy mentioned in his poignant essay, "Once More to the Lake".

I'm hoping that none of my guests are bored, by me or each other, but since we are all a bit older (except for that youngster Nathan, who is only 41), I can't imagine that it will be a terribly late evening. However long we end up sitting around the table, I do hope the evening is full of literary discussion, laughter, companionship, and maybe even friendship.

(Oh, how I wish that this could be a reality!)

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

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Have a Little Fun/Pun

I was browsing in a book store last week (a rare treat!), and came upon Have a Little Pun by Frida Clements. Since I stood in the store and laughed my way through it (twice!) I had to buy it. Some of the best ones:

And my very favorite:

I am seriously contemplating buying another copy just so I can trim out "For Fox Sake" and frame it for my kitchen wall. If you enjoy puns, I think this is a fun book to page through, laugh, and appreciate the illustrations. I'm not lion!

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

A Tale of Two Signs

I saw this sign at a Giant grocery store in Pennsylvania while shopping for my father and mother-in-law, and just shook my head. Less vs. fewer is a pet peeve of mine. Less is used when referring to something that can't be counted or doesn't have a plural (like money, air, time, music, rain); fewer is for things that can be counted or for plural nouns. I make mistakes with grammar every day, and I know this is definitely not a big deal in the scheme of things, but it still bothers me. This sign seems especially unclear; how many is "about 15 items"?

But there is good news at my local Stop & Shop! I wonder if the cashiers got tired of hearing me tell them that fewer was correct, not less? I can just imagine them pleading with their manager to please replace the old sign that said "12 items or less" so that crazy lady would stop lecturing them about grammar every time she shopped. This new sign is clear in its meaning and grammatically correct, and that makes me happy. Thank you, Stop & Shop!

Monday, January 9, 2017

For the Birds

Here in my neighborhood, we get rid of our Christmas trees on the street, and the borough guys collect them to chip into mulch. For several reasons we didn't put up a tree this year, but I was thrilled to see that at least two of my neighbors had, and that they had also taken them down for disposal just when I wanted them.

I have lots of bird feeders and love to watch the birds that frequent them, but two of the feeders don't have much nearby cover which the birds really want. When I take down our old Christmas tree I usually lean it against our small pear tree for the winter, and it seems to be one of the birds' favorite feeding and hiding places. With no tree of our own this year, I resorted to stealing my neighbors' trees, especially when I heard snow was in the forecast.

My thievery turned out to be serendipity at its finest, with the smaller tree fitting perfectly in my usual place next to the pear tree, and the larger tree placed right next to the the feeder in a maple tree. It seems my next-door neighbor even unknowingly helped me out by placing a zip tie at the top of their tree which I can use to tie it to the maple tree so it won't blow over in the wintry winds.

You can't see it clearly in the photos, but the birds seem quite happy with their new trees. There have been plenty of chickadees, juncos, and doves, along with lots of rabbit and deer tracks. Feeling generous, I even spread some peanut butter on pine cones and placed them in the middle of the trees for special treats.

The woodpeckers only want their suet cake, so I've also supplied them with their favorite tidbit. I enjoy my favorite soups, stews, and breads in the winter, and it makes me quite happy to provide the birds with their favorites along with protected (purloined) places to safely enjoy them.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Amaryllis Watch

I've been away from home this week, but as soon as I walked in the door I went to check on my amaryllis. 
What I found was kind of a bad news, good news situation.

The two pots in the back (the ones that look like soil with just a few tiny shoots) are amaryllis bulbs that I tried to rebloom this year, with very little success. Neither of the two main bulbs has done anything; there are just the beginnings of struggling green leaves from two little bulblets off the bulb on the left. I'll probably just leave them (ha, ha!) and see what happens.

The pot in the front is my "rescue amaryllis" with the flower stalk that was bent at a right angle when it called to me. It did straighten up quite nicely, which I appreciate since I carried it around from window to window to provide it with maximum sunlight. I did not appreciate that I had missed the flowers, with only dying blooms left. But then I took a closer look ...

and saw a new flower bud emerging beside the yellowing stalk! I'm not sure who the patron saint of flowers is, 
but I would like to express my thanks for this reward and the promise of more blooms!

I do have one more bulb that I may have been slightly more successful with. 
I'm trying not to check this one more than five or six times a day. 

I've also got some backup insurance in my quest for flowers in the winter - hyacinth bulbs! I was happy to find that I had indeed put some in the refrigerator in the fall. They feel a bit dehydrated in places and maybe just the tiniest bit mushy in others, but I'll be watching them closely for root growth over the next few weeks, while imaging their heavenly fragrance in February. Fingers crossed!