Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Unraveled Wednesday

Joining Kat and friends for Unraveled Wednesday.

I had hoped to have an FO to show you, but miscounting and unraveling have prevented me from doing that this week. Instead, I'll tell you the good news.

In my continuing efforts to explore Elkton, I went to the one and only coffee place, East Main Cafe. Ryan and I often use dirty chai (chai with a shot of espresso) as a benchmark for whether the place is any good or not. Fort Collins has three very good coffee houses that are separated only by which barista is working and how hot is it (one isn't air conditioned); Flemington only has one coffee house and the dirty chai is awful, the worst I've ever had. My hopes started to rise when I asked the barista if she could please make me a dirty chai, she knew what it was, and didn't use a mix. One sip, and I was elated; it was just how I like it! Not too sweet, not too peppery, but just right. It worries me a little bit that I was the only person there for two hours, so I'll make a point of supporting them whenever I'm in Elkton. 

My reading news is about the same as knitting. I'm undecided about whether to abandon Unsheltered and I also don't know if I should start Transcription. I'm pretty much done with Barbara Kingsolver lecturing me through her fiction (whatever happened to show, don't tell?) and I'm afraid I'll also be disappointed if Transcription turns out to only be a 2-3 star book. While I decide, I'm just going to enjoy this 4.5 star dirty chai.

What are you making and reading this week?

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Pleasantly Overwhelmed

After Saturday and Sunday, I wanted to take it a little bit easy yesterday. I washed and hung out all of our fiberglass clothing, and then it dawned on me that there was no immediate house project to work on. Vera had been kind enough to recommend a local yarn store, so I thought it was high time I paid a visit.

The Vulcan's Rest is in Chesapeake City, but I didn't know exactly where that was located. I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was a mere seven miles away, and packed with gorgeous yarn. I meant to ask about their unusual name (is this the Spock kind of Vulcan or the Roman God of Fire?) but I completely forgot once I was inside.

They carry so many types of yarn that I've never seen in person that all I could do initially was stand and look with my mouth open. In addition to all of the wonderful yarn there's a lovely sitting area up front and a big class area in the back.

Their whole name is Vulcan's Rest Fibers because they realize that knitting is not the only fiber-related craft, so you can also find supplies for crochet, spinning, weaving, and even pot-holder looms, needle felting, and reeds for basket-weaving.

They are looking for a tenant for the coffee shop that is under construction through that window you can see on the back wall. I'm afraid I might never leave when that happens.

I only bought one skein and some Chibi needles but I know I'll go back, soon! Thanks, Vera!

Monday, October 29, 2018

Sometimes Monday ...

... is a day of rest, mainly because you are so sore that you struggle to move. This weekend we insulated the attic in the MD house.

There was some insulation up there, but in the 66 years since it had been installed, it was very smushed down (technical insulator's term) and it had been placed upside-down.

John calculated, ordered 36 rolls, and since it wasn't doing anything just sitting in the garage, we had to suck it up (not without a face mask!) and put it in place.

I measured and cut sections and John laid them in place. It was hot, dark, and difficult, working on catwalk sections that we had placed on top of the rafters.

We worked on Saturday until we couldn't work any more, then got up on Sunday and worked until the job was done. I call it a success because nobody fell through the ceiling.

I honestly think it's some of the hardest work I've ever done and my knees, back, legs, and arms (and oddly, my thumbs, too) are more sore than I remember. But, hey, the house feels warmer already!

Friday, October 26, 2018

Look Who's Back!

A friend sent me this and was I ever glad to see her!

I've wondered where she ended up, and was glad to find out that she is now at the National Harbor along the Potomac River in Maryland. She looks even more realistic this time without the base that was attached last time. Her packages haven't changed; her lovely expression hasn't changed, and I'm guessing that she hasn't changed either. I am a bit concerned that she's hanging around outside of a liquor store, but it does look like it's in a ritzy neighborhood. The same old Disgruntled Shopper that we know and love!

I hope everyone has a good weekend, maybe even catching up with an old friend!

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Three on Thursday

Joining Carole for Three on Thursday, and today it's with three things I see on the way to Maryland.

First is the Delaware Memorial Bridge. It's always a guessing game to see which lanes are going to be closed. Today it's the far left lane.

Next is a lovely eight-lane highway. This is where you know the traffic is getting serious.

Now we're getting closer. See the Welcome to Maryland sign?

We're here!

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

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Unraveled Wednesday

Joining Kat and friends for Unraveled Wednesday. 

Ta-da! At long last, I've finally finished Ryan's birthday fingerless mitts.

Even though they're late, I still think he'll enjoy them.

I've learned my lesson, and in a few days when the yarn arrives, I'll be starting on his Christmas fingerless mitts. 

What are you making and reading this week?

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Monday, October 22, 2018


It was a lovely fall weekend here in central NJ. There was plenty of garden clean-up, pruning, and hopefully a final mowing. We've had several frosts, but not a really hard one yet. I spied a woolly bear on the mums.

His reddish middle section looked pretty large to me, so maybe a harsh winter? I'm going to continue to look for more. I've only seen two so far and need a bigger sample size.

We had guests for dinner on Friday, so I made Kat's apple cake for dessert. It was perfect - easy and delicious! I used one tsp. of vanilla and three Tbsp. of whiskey and everyone loved the taste. There were four of us for dinner, and not a crumb was left.

There was puppy wine from Justin's girlfriend. She's a vet. tech. and lives about an hour south of us, so she was very kind to drop off some wine she got at a shelter fund raiser. It goes well with apple cake, which I made again on Sunday when we had unexpected guests for dinner.

I was looking forward to enjoying a little piece with my tea this morning, but just like on Friday, not a crumb was left. So, thank you, Kat! Because of your cake (it's called Kat's cake in my recipe box now) we had a delicious weekend.

How was yours?

Friday, October 19, 2018

Thanks, Dad

Today would have been my father's 86th birthday. I mowed the lawn in MD on Thursday, and it dawned on me that I've been mowing twice as much this summer, and each time I've thanked my father. I'm not even completely conscious of doing it, but I whisper a little "Thanks, Dad" every time I mow on a slope. Here's the story.

I desperately wanted to mow the lawn when I was growing up, but my father didn't just fill the mower with gas and let me loose; he embarked on a series of safety-based teaching sessions. First, he made me change my shoes from flip-flops to sneakers and told me to never, never mow the lawn in flip-flops. Then I learned how to start the mower and he walked beside me while I cut a few rows. Our front yard was a long slope, and when we got to that part, he told me to turn the mower off and we would try it again next week. We did the same thing for the next few weeks, and finally he decided that I was ready to mow the slope. He turned the mower off, and explained in detail that I must always mow the slope from side to side, never, never up and down. Grass is slippery, and if I slipped, my foot would slide directly into the mower blades. He had me repeat this several times, and then we started to mow the slope, side to side. He walked beside me, we finished the lawn, and we mowed like that, together, with Dad supervising, for the rest of the summer.

He did finally allow me to mow by myself the next year, checking that I had sneakers on and with a warning about mowing side to side on the slope. It was my job to mow the lawn until I went to college, but then I didn't mow for years because I lived in apartments. We bought the house in NJ where the whole back yard is a long slope, and I thought of Dad for a moment almost every time I've mowed there.

His health started declining almost a decade ago, and he was eventually diagnosed with diabetes, heart disease, end stage renal disease, prostate cancer, bladder cancer, and complications with all of these. He was sick, scared, and in pain, and because of those things, our relationship deteriorated to the point that he would barely speak to me. My sister and I took him to daily radiation treatments, doctor appointments, the pharmacy, grocery shopping, and a million other things almost every day for several years, but he wouldn't even say hello or goodbye at the end. It was a difficult time for all of us by the time he passed away in January.

He was never a warm and talkative man, and things were quite sad, frustrating, and difficult at the end. But with all the mowing this summer, and being careful on the slopes, it finally dawned on me that even if he wasn't the kind of father I wanted, he had still cared about me, as evidenced by all the care he took with teaching me how to mow. I do apologize for this rambling post that isn't like my usual, but it's something I've been thinking about a lot, and I wanted to write it down as it has resolved a lot for me. So, be safe, go side to side on the slopes, and thanks, Dad.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Three on Thursday

Joining Carole for Three on Thursday, and today it's with three different sky views. I'm still working on organizing my digital photos, and yesterday I combined quite a few different folders labeled "sky", "skies", and "look up" into one, and then spent an hour or more going through all the photos. I've probably got more than 100 pictures of skies, so you may see more of them on future Thursdays.

First, a rainbow that appeared right in front of my house just as I went out to look for one after a thunderstorm. 

Here is a stormy sky during sunset. I saw this just as I reached the top of the cemetery hill during my walk. I didn't have my phone, so I ran home to get it. I'm glad I did because the view was even more dramatic when I got back to the top of the hill.

Lastly, this is one of my favorites, taken from our bark yard after Ryan and I had a very nice mother-son conversation. It's a pretty photo that always evokes loving memories.

I hope you have a lovely view of the sky above you today.

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

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Unraveled Wednesday

Joining Kat and friends for Unraveled Wednesday. There's been no unraveling of knitting this week, but I'm going to own up to to some unraveled thinking. 

When I come down to MD I pack a knitting bag with one or two knitting projects. It's usually just what I'm working on currently, and maybe a back up, just in case. I'm not sure what happened this week, but I was living in a dream world very optimistic.

I brought Ryan's fingerless mitts (which still aren't done), my almost completed Match & Move, a half-finished Hitchhiker, and a Hitchhiker that I've been fiddling around with, but have only progressed as far as two teeth. Four projects is really quite laughable, especially when I'm having trouble completing one. I'm going back to NJ tomorrow, and will try to pack more realistically next time.

I did get two books by Anne Lamott from the library this week, Stitches: A Handbook on Meaning, Hope, and Repair and Almost Everything: Notes on Hope. Given the general state of things, I was desperate to feel even a smidgen of hope after the Supreme Court hearings. I've never read anything by Anne Lamott before, and she has her own distinctive style, but reading these is helping me to see a tiny glowing ember of hope. 

What are you making and reading this week?

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Words in the Wild

These words are a bit weird and unsettling, and the photo may be even more so, but I'm sharing it in case someone can maybe give me a clue.

Yesterday was cold, rainy, and raw, the perfect day for some chicken soup. I was looking for some actual chicken to put in the soup and came across these first. My mother-in-law used to add chicken feet to her stock, but that was because they raised chickens and used everything. Has anyone ever seen these called chicken paws or actually used them? Is this a southern thing? We're in MD, which I don't think of as "the south", but they sure don't sell chicken paws (or even chicken feet) in NJ! I'm just curious; there's really not much chance of me putting these anywhere near my chicken soup. :-)

Monday, October 15, 2018

Sometimes Monday ...

... is a wonderful day to enjoy a thoughtful gift!

Justin made a quick, unexpected visit home this weekend, and brought me a present - wireless headphones! He is getting some new ones, and thought I might enjoy his old ones. He knew they weren't something I would purchase for myself, and thought they would be a great way to listen to audiobooks. And he is right!

It's a chilly, rainy day in MD, and I have the pleasure of listening to some good books with my new headphones, along with tea and knitting. These delightful headphones make listening a wonderful immersive experience, and a practically perfect Monday. Thanks, Justin!

Friday, October 12, 2018

Monarch on Mums

We had six inches of rain throughout the day yesterday, followed by strong winds overnight, but now the storm has passed and fall is finally blowing in on 20 mph winds. I have windows open to to get rid of the humid, stuffy air, and my spirit feels revived by the fall breeze. I feel like I can finally buy mums, so when I was adding that to my list this morning, it reminded me of these monarch on mums photos I took back in 2011.

His wings looked a little bedraggled, but still beautiful. I think their epic migration takes a big toll and he was miles away from the usual coastal path through NJ.

I was glad that the mums were blooming profusely as there wasn't much else to provide nectar and pollen in November.

You can tell that he is a male by the "eye spots" on his hind wings.

I like to think that his perseverance and a resting place on my mums in the fall sunshine for several hours before he flew away helped him make it to Mexico.

The fall migration is currently underway; you can see a map of sightings here. I'm going to be out looking for monarchs myself in NJ and MD. Wishing you a good weekend, and maybe even a monarch sighting or two.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Three on Thursday

Joining Carole for Three on Thursday, and today it's with more mushrooms. It's been warm, humid, and rainy, providing perfect conditions for fungus. Thanks to my mushroom book, now I know what these are called.

The book seriously calls these Little Brown Mushrooms (also Little Boring Mushrooms or LBMs)! "This catch-all term is used even by professional mycologists to refer to any of a number of common, medium, brownish mushrooms that are difficult to identify precisely, and are usually considered not worth the bother." These LBMs are growing in a fairy ring; it looks more like a fairy square or maybe fairy blob to me, but it seems these professional mycologists call it a ring even if it's a disorganized one. 

This Green-Spored Lepiota (Chlorophyllum molybdites) is distinguished by its greenish spore print. Really that just means I broke the cap off of the large mature one and looked at the grayish-green color of the mature gills on the underside. Part of the trouble with mushroom identification is that they change a lot as they mature. These are all the same, but the young specimens have elongated caps with bumps (scales) before they open up. They are labeled as TOXIC in the book, and the accompanying skull and crossbones looks like they mean it. 

When I first saw these, I wondered how pine cones ended up at the base of one of our big oaks. (I blamed squirrels.) They encircle most of the tree, with more showing up every day. These are actually Hen of the Woods or Grifola versicolor. "These large woodland species are fibrous, and overeating can cause digestive issues." Good to know, but there is no danger of overeating Hens here. 

Mushroom identification seems to be a somewhat imprecise science, at least for someone like me. I don't intend to eat any of them, and am just curious about what the multiple types that pop up in my lawn might be called. My identifications are really best guesses, and now that I know about LBMs, I will probably be seeing a lot more of those. 

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

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Unraveled Wednesday

Joining Kat and friends for Unraveled Wednesday.

There hasn't been any unraveling this week, but not quite enough raveling either. I'm working on the second fingerless mitt for Ryan. They were intended for his birthday, but I'm already three days late. I'm not quite sure where the time has gone, but he's already got snow and freezing weather, so now I've got extra incentive to get them done - soon!

I'm feeling a bit slow and uninspired as far as reading goes, but I think (hope) that it's just a small slump. I've got some good books lined up to read, but none of them have really captured my attention. E.B. White always has something to say to me, so I'm re-reading Essays of E.B. White and One Man's Meat. His writing about politics and war, along with life on the farm and fishing is honest, poignant, and helpful. 

What are you making and reading this week?

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Gratitude for a Gift

It's been a while, but remember this lovely hibiscus I received as a gift?

It now looks like this, branched out, a little bit bigger, and with three or four buds that I hope will open soon.

This was a gift from long-time family friends, Joe and Vicki, grown from cuttings from the original plant that Vicki's brother brought from Poland over 90 years ago.

Joe died over the summer, so Vicki lives by herself now and is finding it increasingly difficult to get around and do things. She offered me her last big hibiscus plant because she couldn't lift it or take care of it any more, and I gladly accepted her generous gift, especially when she was kind enough to say that she wanted it to go to a good home.

I'm not sure if it will stay in NJ or end up in MD, but It's going to live outside in NJ for a while so I can give it some special TLC. It's got a serious infestation of whiteflies. I tried washing them off with soap and water in the shower, but that didn't get rid of all of the insects and eggs, so I sprayed the plant with imadacloprid last weekend and that seems to be working well. As soon as I'm sure all the little sap-suckers are gone, I'm going to repot the plant because the roots are growing out of the bottom. I may also prune it a bit, but I'm going to do all of this slowly and carefully. I really don't want anything untoward to happen to this lovely hibiscus, a gift that's a wonderful reminder of some special friends. I'm grateful for both the friends and the gift. 

Monday, October 8, 2018

Sometimes Monday ...

... is a day to get up, take the lessons you've learned from a weekend of sadness, pondering, and wondering how to go on in a country where disdain and contempt for women is the norm, and move forward.

This letter from E.B. White, written in response to a man who had lost his faith in humanity has always helped me, and re-reading it helped me again after Mr. Kavanaugh's confirmation. 

Dear Mr. Nadeau:
As long as there is one upright man, as long as there is one compassionate woman, the contagion may spread and the scene is not desolate. Hope is the thing that is left to us, in a bad time. I shall get up Sunday morning and wind the clock, as a contribution to order and steadfastness.
Sailors have an expression about the weather: they say, the weather is a great bluffer. I guess the same is true of our human society — things can look dark, then a break shows in the clouds, and all is changed, sometimes rather suddenly. It is quite obvious that the human race has made a queer mess of life on this planet. But as a people we probably harbor seeds of goodness that have lain for a long time waiting to sprout when the conditions are right. Man’s curiosity, his relentlessness, his inventiveness, his ingenuity have led him into deep trouble. We can only hope that these same traits will enable him to claw his way out.
Hang on to your hat. Hang on to your hope. And wind the clock, for tomorrow is another day.
E. B. White
So by all means, hang on to your hat, your hope, and wind the clock, but we must also educate ourselves, vote, and volunteer (here, here, or here are just a few possibilities). Make sure that Mitch McConnell learns how very wrong he was when he blithely stated that "these things always blow over." 

Friday, October 5, 2018


I'm a little too pragmatic to be a big believer in signs and portents, but when I was greeted with a wall of Ivin's Spiced Wafers at Acme, I couldn't help but feel that my father was saying hello. He loved these cookies, and bought multiple boxes when they were available in the fall. He left them open in the cupboard until about January or February to let them get soft, the way he loved them best. I sent my sister the photo, and she knew just what it meant.

These cookies are a local specialty, and only sold in the fall, so it's not surprising at all that I would run across them now. I rarely go to Acme, but it is my closest shopping option in MD. Whether it's really a sign or not, these familiar orange and black boxes were a nice reminder of my father, and a chance to share remembrance with my sister. So hello, Dad. You are missed.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Three on Thursday


Joining Carole for Three on Thursday, and today it's with three things I found in Elkton. 

I walked to the post office a couple days ago, and decided to explore downtown a bit. Like many other small towns, Elkton has a combination of empty storefronts, a few established businesses, and some new ones just starting up (including two breweries!). The little one in the middle had a cart of books outside, so I had to go in and check it out.

The Palette and the Page is a delightful little gallery where local artists display all kinds of arts and crafts - calligraphy, ceramics, glass, jewelry, paintings, photography, textiles, and more. They carry books from local authors, along with gently used books, and hold local wine and beer tastings and workshops. I hope to attend the wire knitting and chain maille workshops some day if they are held when I'm here. 

Here are three things I admired during my visit.

Beautiful woodworking. All of these pieces are lovely, and I'm wondering if I might need one (or both) of those small tables for plant stands.

Lots of ceramics, 

including the two little trays I purchased. 

And lastly, I was fascinated by these paintings on feathers. The images were tiny, precise, and quite beautiful. I'm wondering if someone in the family might need the cardinals for Christmas.

It's a lovely, peaceful place that I thoroughly enjoyed. Their front window says "enriching lives through art & beauty" and I certainly found that to be true. 

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