Friday, March 24, 2017

We Interrupt Our Regularly Scheduled Programming ...

... Because the scanner is broken so I can't scan the photos for my regularly scheduled Across America travelogue. Hopefully I'll figure something out for next week, but in the mean time, here are some random bits of beauty, blooming, delight, and wonderfulness that I've come across recently.

Yellow blooming trees against a blue sky.

Fuzzy magnolia buds against a blue sky.

Grape hyacinths responding to increasing warmth and sunlight.

Interesting shadows on the patio and driveway.

I found out that authors' names matter when I accidentally got this book from the library instead of the one Kat recommended.

I disliked this cover so much along with the first chapter that I made a second trip back to the library and got the good right one.

Kat is right; The Night Gardener by Terry and Eric Fan is magical (and now I want an owl topiary).

And finally perfecting a crispy, cheesy crust on baked macaroni and cheese was one of my favorite things this week.

Hope your week was a good one and your weekend is even better!

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Think Write Thursday - The View From Here

The Think Write Thursday topic for today is to look out a window you don't normally look out of and tell us what you see.

This is one of the windows in Ryan's room. I rarely go in his room since he moved to Colorado; I've turned the radiator off and keep the door closed in our ongoing efforts to save on heating costs in this drafty old house. 

The first things I notice are that the brown blinds really clash with the bright blue walls, but Ryan insisted on both of them when I painted his room about 12 years ago. I made the valances and I can also see that they really need to be washed. 

This is what the view used to look like after Ryan saw A Beautiful Mind with Russell Crowe as John Nash writing proofs on his windows at Princeton. He said it helped him to better see solutions. Alas, the illumination hasn't worked so well for me. 

When I open the blinds, I can see that this really is a nice view. There is the roof I occasionally climb out on to clean the gutters and my neighbor's lovely brick house. 

I wonder what happened to the shutters on my neighbor's second story windows? They are probably in his garage and he'll get them out in a few weeks to paint them. I also notice that they even have curtains in their attic window! 

My favorite part of the view from this window is our old oak tree. I usually have a much lower viewpoint when I'm on the patio enjoying its shade or filling the bird feeder, but I appreciate this second story view to get a better look at its massive branches, gnarls, knots, and lichens. There have been times when having this huge tree so close to the house has been a concern (during Hurricane Sandy), but I've always viewed it as more of a guardian than a threat. 

Thanks to Carole and Kat for helping me take a look at some things I pass right by and for providing me with a fresh perspective!


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

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Attitude Adjustment

Does this slightly disgusting thing look like it could be used to adjust attitudes? It did for me.

I had plans and a schedule yesterday. Everyone in the borough has to have their water meter replaced, so I made my appointment and knit while I waited for the plumber. He arrived an hour late and replaced the meter, but when he turned the water back on there was a fountain from the toilet and several inches of water on the floor in a matter of seconds. I grabbed towels to mop it up, turned off the water in the bathroom, and surveyed the situation. The plumber came up from the basement when he heard me yelling. He took a look and told me the part I needed to replace, assured me it was an easy 10 minute job, and I wouldn't have any problems. I'm always skeptical when someone says that, but I had to give it a try and headed for Lowe's.

While standing in the plumbing aisle looking for my needed part, I was surprised to see a friend who was also looking for toilet parts. We laughed, helped each other find what we needed, and I asked her if she was interested in meeting for lunch. She lost her husband in January, and I've been meaning to call her, but the road to hell is paved with many of my good intentions. We agreed to meet in a couple of hours and both went home to work on our repairs.

My repair was successful (with the help of several you tube videos), but lunch was even better. As my friend shared how her life had changed in so many ways she couldn't even anticipate, the inhumanity and callousness of lawyers, civil servants, and banks that she has had to deal with, she also shared that we had stumbled upon each other at just the right time. She was ready to go sit and cry in her car in Lowe's parking lot because she hadn't been able to get a plumber to fix her leaking toilet. I told her that she had come along at just the right time for me. I had big plans to finish my Hitchhiker, take some photos, write a post, and luxuriate in my FO, and I was angered beyond reason by the bathroom flood that waylaid my plans and schedule. She helped me put things in perspective and realize that my issues were simply minor molehill inconveniences that had been dealt with, not really the mountainous problems I had made them into.

So, here's my Hitchhiker, pretty much where I flung it down when the flood erupted. It's 6 rows and a cast-off away from completion, but I'm glad I learned a lesson today instead of checking it off my list. It will be finished soon enough, and I hope I'm reminded of the difference between minor inconveniences and real problems when I wear it.

Also, a big thank you to Kat for listening to me vent and her wonderful suggestions for this post. THANK YOU!

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Oak Watch

About three weeks ago, I wrote about my souvenir oak trees from acorns I've collected. The acorns I planted back in February haven't grown much (if any), but I also included a photo of an oak "stick" from a previously planted Gettysburg acorn. That was then:

Feb. 27, 2017

This is now:

March 20, 2017

I've got two other oak sticks that had leaves last year, dropped them in the fall, but don't yet show any signs of life. 

 I'm still going to hold out hope that they wake up and produce some new leaves.

There are also some tiny buds on my Easter cactus:

These buds and leaves indoors make me anxious to get outside and get my hands in the dirt!

Monday, March 20, 2017

Don't Repeal, Don't Replace

I've been busy making daily phone calls to my members of Congress, objecting to the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, and letting them know that I vehemently object to replacing it with the American Health Care Act, especially after the Congressional Budget Office said that it would leave at least 24 million more Americans uninsured. It looks like Republican leaders will bring the bill to the floor of the House for a vote next Thursday, so you can find out where your members of Congress stand on the bill here, and call to make your opinion known.

While I was busy with phone calls, it looks like Hasbro did some repealing and replacing of their own. I was completely oblivious to the voting that was going on to choose Monopoly game tokens, and I can hardly believe the results. The boot has been booted, along with the wheelbarrow, and the thimble. Personally, I'm okay playing without the boot and the wheelbarrow, but I always play as the thimble (and will continue to do so). The three old tokens have been replaced with a rubber ducky, T. rex, and penguin.

There were 4.3 million votes from 146 countries, so I guess I'll just have to live with the results, but I do have to wonder if they were rigged. Who wanted to keep the top hat and when did we get a cat as a Monopoly token?

Luckily, I have my childhood, taped-together, copyright 1961 version of the game, with all the classic tokens I grew up with. I'm pretty sure there are some Clue pieces mixed in (in the form of guns and a knife), but there is also a delightful pie and my beloved thimble.

If only healthcare was as easy to keep as my favorite Monopoly tokens.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Across America Part III

At the end of  last week, we had gotten up early and hit the road, heading for Wyoming. At the campground in Estes Park we had picked up a brochure about the great dinosaur collection at Western Wyoming Community College in Rock Springs. Since we tried to break up the long drives with things that might interest the boys, we made a stop. What a great place!

They had a multitude of bones and fossils besides Triceratops and Xiphactinus Audax, and with plenty of opportunities for Ryan to point things out à la Vanna White, it was a really enjoyable time for all of us.

Another thing we liked to stop for was a good hiking opportunity. Here is Justin, nature observer extraordinaire, looking for wildlife on a hiking trail in Rock Springs.

After staying the night in Rock Springs, we headed to another great town in Wyoming, Jackson. We all loved the antler arches around the Town Square. Jackson Hole is home to the National Elk Refuge, and for more than 50 years the local Boy Scouts have helped to gather the antlers that the elk naturally shed over the winter. Some of these antlers are auctioned off and some have been used to build the iconic arches. Someday I'm going to visit Jackson Hole in the winter so I can see the thousands of live elk on the Refuge and not just shed antlers.

Now it's time for a true confession: I love fish hatcheries. I don't know why, but I find the idea and process of raising thousands of fish fascinating. When I saw the sign for the National Fish Hatchery in Jackson, we had to visit.

They raise trout (mainly cutthroat) for stocking waters in Wyoming and Idaho. We met a retired couple that were living there in an RV for the summer and volunteering at the hatchery. Who know, that might be us in five years or so!

I mentioned last week that Rocky Mountain National Park was one of my favorite National Parks, but Grand Teton National Park is also right up there in my top three. The views are stunning from almost every place in the park.

Snake River Overlook:

My all-time favorite family photo taken at Oxbow Bend:

And examining stumps and skipping stones at Jackson Lake:

It's a known fact that breakfast even tastes better if you eat it next to Mount Moran.

Next week: Yellowstone Ho! (I bet you thought we were never going to get there.) 

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Libraries, Near and Far

Like so many of you, I am a library user. I have two local libraries, but also a sightly complicated relationship with both of them. I live in a borough that is politically distinct from the township that completely surrounds it, and because of library rules dating back to 1901, my card has to be issued by the borough library.

This doesn't present any problem, but because they are a very small library and not well-supported by our local taxes, they can't afford OverDrive. My card entitles me to check out books from the local County Library system, but it does not allow me to use OverDrive from that same County Library.

I have fought this for years, by writing letters to the County Library Directors and meeting with several of them and presenting my tax bill showing that 70% of the tax money I pay toward libraries as a borough resident goes to the County Library. The answer has always been the same; that's their rule and my only recourse is to join the County Library as a non-resident at a cost of $100/year. I finally gave up that fight.

When Ryan moved to Fort Collins, one of the first things I did on my first visit was to check out the Poudre River Public Library. With three branches (one of them is right across from The Loopy Ewe!), incredibly friendly and caring staff, and an extensive number of books in OverDrive, I decided that I would get a non-resident card. They asked if I paid any taxes in CO, and when I explained that Ryan and I split his property tax bill, they cheerfully gave me a card, along with access to their OverDrive collection. They've been my "local" library for almost four years now, even though they are 1700 miles away. 

And now I've got another "local" library, McCracken County Public Library in Tennessee. I don't remember where I first read about this, but they will issue a computer use only card (free of charge) to you by simply filling out this registration form. I was skeptical, but my card arrived last week, and I've already borrowed two books from their OverDrive collection.

I was surprised, amazed, and grateful, so I called them to ask how to best send a donation. The librarian I spoke to assured me that it wasn't necessary, but I sent a check because I'm happy to support libraries. 

I love libraries both near and far, especially if they are friendly, cater to readers, and are happily willing to share their resources!

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Well ... Crap

I've used the "well ... crap" tag for posts about doing taxes and being trapped in a waiting room with Fox News and Trump supporters,
but it seemed appropriate again today because it's what I muttered when I looked out the window this morning.

We have about eight inches of snow so far, and it's still coming down hard.


The noise that you hear is sleet driven by the wind. 

I did cut the daffodils yesterday so there is something lovely to look at besides the incessant blowing whiteness. Now the only thing to do is pour myself some tea, listen to Exit West on my ipod, and keep knitting. If the power stays on (it's been out once this morning, but came back on after about 30 min.) I'll be baking a pie to celebrate Pi Day and because I think I will deserve it after clearing all this snow and sleet!

Monday, March 13, 2017


This weekend I simmered the last of our frozen garden tomatoes to make homemade sauce,

Made a big pan of baked ziti with the sauce,

And wondered what happened to the previous false promise of spring with our recent snow,
 freezing temperatures, 9 degree wind chills, and the threat of a Nor'easter with more snow on Tuesday.

 I did venture outside to take a photo of the daffodils before they get buried. If it looks like the storm
 is real instead of frantic weather hype, maybe I'll cut them to brighten my kitchen windowsill in a vase.

I had my day brightened when I noticed the heart that formed spontaneously in my tea when I added cream.

I headed to the library, excited to pick up my holds on the first two seasons of Homeland on DVD. When I got there,
 it seems that they had somehow misplaced my Homeland DVDs, so I settled for two very old seasons of ER. 

I did watch this incredible BBC video many, many times. I'm still laughing.

Here's hoping your weekend included plenty of loveliness, warmth, and laughter!

Friday, March 10, 2017

Across America Part II

Last week's installment featured our intrepid travelers making their way from New Jersey to Kansas, and more photos of them swimming than you may have wanted. Today we get to some of the good stuff we had driven more than 1,800 miles to see.

This view of the Rocky Mountains as we approached Denver excited all of us. I enjoy this same scene when I visit Ryan now, and I still get the same thrill whenever I see those snow-capped peaks.

We arrived at Spruce Lake RV Park in Estes Park, Colorado, and all of us were glad to spend the next few days doing things instead of sitting, driving, and spending seemingly endless days in the RV. Ryan and Justin leaped out of the RV, grabbed their bicycles we had strapped on the back, and headed off for a ride. We all fished, played miniature golf, and some of us shopped for groceries, prepared food, and drank Coors. 

We were beginners at this RV thing, so we we weren't confident enough in our driving ability to tow a car behind. That meant that every day we drove the RV to whatever sights we were going to see, but that worked well for a real jewel in our trip itinerary, Rocky Mountain National Park. We drove Trail Ridge Road, which traverses 48 miles between the Park's east and west sides, and provides incredible sweeping views as it gains more than 4,000 feet in elevation.

There are plenty of places to pull over, get out and hike to better appreciate the rapidly increasing elevation and changing terrain. We stopped at all of them.

Rainbow Curve:

Tundra Communities Trailhead:

and played in snow along Lava Cliffs.

Things got a bit worrisome around halfway when we reached the Visitors Center at 11,796 feet elevation. 

Ryan really did feel as bad as he looked. (Yes, I was that awful mother that took a photo of my child before I understood how much he was suffering and that it was a potentially serious situation.) A ranger told us he had altitude sickness and advised us to head back down to a lower elevation immediately, with plenty of stops for water along the way. 

The doctors at Timberline Medical told us the same thing. Altitude sickness happens when people don't acclimate to elevation and ascend too quickly. Even though Ryan now lives only 60 miles away from the park at an elevation of 5,000 feet, he still suffers from altitude sickness above 12,000 feet, as he found out when he tried to climb Grays and Torreys Peak a few years agoBecause we were really concerned about Ryan's headache, shortness of breath, dehydration, and confusion (approaching delirium!) we stayed at a lower elevation for the rest of our time in the park. There is so much to see that this was easy to do. 

Rocky Mountain National Park is one of my favorite National Parks, and Bear Lake is one of my favorite places in the park.

Ryan and Justin were trying to fool me into thinking that there was a bear behind me (there was not). Rangers do tell visitors to be aware of their surroundings and watch for bears, so it was nice to see that my kids had listened.

We spent three days in the park, which really isn't enough. I've been back at least a dozen times since then and never tire of the beauty. 

Last week I mentioned that one of the reasons I was hesitant about the trip was that I didn't want to do the same things I do at home, but have those things be harder to accomplish. I did still have to do laundry in the laundromat at the RV park before we left, but I had the excitement of seeing elk while I did it. That never happens at home!

Next week: on the road to Wyoming