Monday, December 30, 2019

Sometimes Monday ...

... is a day to stop in say hi!

This is just a quick post to say hello. I hope you've all enjoyed a nice Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Solstice, or simply a pleasant end of December as 2019 winds down. I meant to be back to posting at the end of last week, but we've been taking advantage of John using up vacation days to make some spontaneous short trips. We've traveled to NY to visit Justin, and when you read this, I will be on my way to northern PA to spend some time with John's sister and her husband. We've had a delightful week and a half of spending time in unplanned, fun, and free-spirited ways! 

We won't be back until Wednesday, so I want to wish all of you a very Happy New Year. I sincerely hope that 2020 is filled with peace, hope, health, joy, and contentment for you!

Monday, December 23, 2019

Sometimes Monday ...

... is a relaxed day to knit and take it easy.

My to-do list has dwindled, and all I have to do is walk up to Main Street and get some truck magazines, lottery tickets, and cigars for Justin's stocking. (He smokes five/year when he's fishing in the summer.) "Wrap" is also on the list, but that isn't a big deal because of all the Christmas bags I've made through the years. It will take me about ten minutes this afternoon.

I decided against a tree, real or artificial, this year, and it's been quite freeing. I do miss displaying our special ornaments but for now, I'm happy with the owls in my Norfolk island pine. 

So today is a quiet day, in which I hope to finish knitting my last Christmas hat, and maybe even return to a bit of selfish Hitchhiker knitting. I'll be back at the end of the week. I hope your holiday week, whatever you are celebrating, is filled with moments of peace, joy, and contentment.

Friday, December 20, 2019

Sky Watcher

It was a week of opposites here, at least in terms of the sky.

We had sleet and freezing rain at the beginning. It was a bit treacherous but we were left with beautiful blue skies and sparkling ice on everything once it cleared.

The end of the week brought sudden and intense snow squalls that darkened the sky to a flat gray and dropped a couple inches of snow in a short time. The blowing snow made it difficult to even see my (crazy?) neighbor who was out with his leaf blower during the squalls. Forty mph winds made his efforts useless (but amusing to me!)

I hope your weekend has more blue sky, but less gray, ice, and snow!

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Three on Thursday

The older I get, the less I decorate, so the decorations that I do get out of storage and clear of dust have to be important. These all fit the bill beautifully and it makes me happy to see them displayed, so here are three of my favorite decorations. 

These are tomten that my parents brought back from a trip to Sweden. I have eight of them, but these four like to hang out in the ceramic archery tableau that Justin made. My mother retired from the postal service with big dreams of traveling. She and my father went on a trip to Sweden, met relatives, and had a grand time. Shortly after they returned my mother was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer and she didn't get to travel anymore. These tomten remind me of the importance of doing things when you can because time is never guaranteed (plus they look cute and mischievous!)

This sparkly sequined ornament is not really my style, but when Ryan was young and before Justin was born, we used to go to church rummage sales. He picked out this ornament kit, and when he was not willing to part with it, we bought it, brought it home, and put it together. It's not perfect, but we had a good time together, and I think we did pretty well considering one of the crafters was only two years old. It reminds me of the sweetness of that two-year-old and that good enough can often be far better than fussing over perfection.

Our nativity set is full of memories. John built the manger out a clementine box (back when they were wooden) and some plywood. You can't see them very well, but the kids helped paint a star and there is also an owl painted on the rafters inside. We found inexpensive figures of Jesus, Mary, Joseph, the three kings, a shepherd, and animals that we liked, and the boys were happy to set them up, finding just the right spots for all of them. 

It turns out that Justin had stolen a "holy raccoon" figurine, but we didn't discover this until much later, and he has graced the nativity ever since. At some point, Ryan added the "holy hedgehogs" so they also have a place of honor next to the raccoon. Not exactly traditional, but they remind me that the message doesn't always have to be conveyed in the usual conventional way. 

What are your favorite decorations? I hope they hold lots of memories for you and bring you happiness!

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Unraveled Wednesday

Joining Kat and friends for Unraveled Wednesday, today with two non-Rikke hats. One is done, and I hope to finish the second one later today or tomorrow. 

After that, I would be quite happy if I could complete just one more Rikke hat. It would be for Justin's girlfriend, and since they've been together a year, it's about time I knit something for her. I'm not sure she'll even like a handknit hat, but I think I'll enjoy knitting one for her. 

I finished two books last week, but neither one was really the book for me. How to Be a Good Creature had some wonderful naturalist observations on animals like emus and octopuses, but there were many more jarring memories of the author's grief at the death of her pets. The Night Circus was a truly intriguing premise, but for me, it failed to live up to its initial promise. I'm currently reading a pre-publication copy of The Red Lotus. I've been reading this before bed, so you can possibly understand my slow progress. As always, you can click on individual books in the sidebar on the right for more detailed reviews. 

What are you making and reading this week?

Tuesday, December 17, 2019


When I hear the word embargo, I usually think of trade bans, economics, and political circumstances between countries. But a different type of embargo has been happening since November 1, and if you are a library patron, this is affecting you. 

Poudre River Public Library

Elkton Library

Macmillan Publishers has recently introduced a "1-copy only" embargo of all their new eBook titles for the first 60 days of publication. Because of this change, we will not be purchasing any Macmillan titles until 60 days after publication.

The above statement appears on the website of two different libraries where I am a patron. Kym has talked about this before, and as a librarian, Carole is dealing with the headaches and finances of ebooks every day. There are new purchasing models so that instead of libraries having perpetual access to each book they purchase, they have to re-purchase the books after two years. Macmillan Publishers is going as far as to impose an eight-week embargo on public libraries for the purchase of new ebook titles. Libraries may only purchase a single copy of new ebook titles during the first eight weeks of its release. I think most of us have noticed an increase in wait times for ebooks. While lengthy wait times are not solely due to Macmillan's one copy embargo, it is a contributing factor. When it comes right down to it, Macmillan is limiting public library access. 

Here's the truth: Limiting access to new titles for libraries means limiting access for readers like you. 


So what can you do? Go here and sign the American Library Association (ALA) petition demanding ebooks for all. This may seem like a relatively minor thing now, but it particularly affects readers with disabilities who may not be able to just stop by the library to pick up a hard copy. While Macmillan is the only major publisher to currently institute this policy, things could get much worse if the other four major publishers do the same thing. I can't imagine any publisher instituting similar convoluted and expensive policies on print books, and I don't think it's fair to deny access to ebooks. 

Thanks to Becky, who sent me the ALA link and asked me to share this on the blog!

Monday, December 16, 2019


This weekend was a good one -- a few things were accomplished, I did some fun stuff, and it was the perfect combination of getting things done and low-key, quiet enjoyment.

On Friday, I took my iPod, pleasant and patient attitude, and the box I was mailing to Ryan and walked up to the post office. I have approached the mailing of his gifts with trepidation ever since the post office lost his boxes two consecutive years. They were eventually located in the Newark, NJ distribution center in mid-January, but I always drop things off at the post office with a little wish for their safe, speedy, and efficient travels.

I only had to wait an hour in line, and the clerk said she would take special care of my package when I told her it contained two handknit items. You can see a corner of it on the cart, ready for its journey. The box is currently in Denver, so it looks like her special care has worked so far!

John, his brother, and one of his sisters had some family decisions to make about things that belonged to his mother. We were going to take pizza and beer over to his brother's house, but when his brother said he had pizza Friday night and didn't feel like it two nights in a row, I decided to make lasagna and take that instead. I had to make yet another trip to the grocery store (I had been twice in the past two days), but after shopping, I made the lasagna, took it over, they discussed things while the lasagna baked, and I drank beer and knit. It was quite a pleasant evening.

For fun on Sunday, I took my inspiration from Kat. After laundry was done, it was time to make Kat's raspberry and brie puff pastry tart. While my raspberries boiled down, I decorated a little bit.

Then I put the tart together and waited impatiently for the first delicious taste. It was delicious! Kat's mods of subbing raspberries and bacon for cranberries and pancetta sounded so good that that's what I did, too. I've eaten two of the corners, and since John is in MD and I'm here in NJ to do some Christmas things that only I can do, I get to enjoy the rest of it by myself this week. Thank you, thank you, Kat!

Sunday evening I watched Love Actually and worked on finishing a waffle hat. I was initially dismayed to find that nobody (Netflix, Amazon, or Hulu) seemed to be streaming Love Actually, so it was a pleasant surprise to find the DVD in our cabinet. It was a lovely end to a very nice weekend. 

I hope you, too, had a good weekend and your week is off to a good start!

Friday, December 13, 2019

Sky Watcher

Gray and snowing sky to dispersing clouds to full-fledged sun, all in about four hours.

What's your sky looking like today?

Hope you have a great weekend, rain or shine (or snow)!

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Unraveled Wednesday

Joining Kat and friends for Unraveled Wednesday, today with two more Rikke hats in progress, and on the brink of becoming finished objects. 

The blue one just needs to be gathered at the top and the woodsy one is ready for the decreases once I free up the dpns. I've got two more hats in the queue, but I hesitate to label them "in progress" as this is what they look like now. 

I hope they will actually look a bit more like hats later today.

It's snowing and dark here, so I want to show you my fancy photographic setup. That's the best arrangement I could come up with to take these bad photos!

I started The Night Circus audiobook, but tragically left my iPod in NJ when we drove to MD on Sunday. It's affected my whole week in a pretty negative way, and I can't wait to get back home and look for it. I was able to rise above my grief and start reading The Red Lotus on my kindle, but I'm still missing my iPod (a lot!)

What are you making and reading this week?

Monday, December 9, 2019

Sometimes Monday ...

... is a beautiful day despite the very gloomy, gray, rainy, and dreary weather. I haven't been in MD for two weeks, so I was delighted to be greeted by my Christmas cactus when I stepped into the "plant room".

My SiL divided hers (it was twice as big as this one) and gave me half last year. I put it in what I hoped was a good location, and it looks like the plant has been happy with its new home. I'm so glad I didn't miss the show.

 Flowers are indeed magical!

Friday, December 6, 2019

Sky Watcher

Red sky at morning, sailors take warning. (Here's an explanation.)

Hope your weekend is full of clear skies!

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Three on Thursday

I'm joining Carole and friends for Three on Thursday, today with three weird things. I was grocery shopping at our local Walmart, so perhaps I should not have been surprised to see odd things there. 

My butt probably needs smoothing and toning, but it may be well past any help that a sheet mask can provide.

I might prefer boneless goat cubes, but their goats roam free on native pastures and rangelands. I don't think I've ever eaten goat, but I looked up recipes and curried goat stew gets some high ratings. I might try it someday and see if John can guess what he's eating. 

This glow-in-the-dark duck (duct?) tape struck me as a little strange at first, but on second thought it might be useful. In fact, the next time I'm at Walmart, I might even get some to put in John's stocking. Then I could use some on our flashlights and my bright yellow walking vest so I can be seen. 

Since the last one wasn't too weird, I've included a bonus. I'm not a pet owner, but Petchup and Muttstard definitely sound strange to me. Do you think these condiments are meant to be used on dogs' food? Human food that you're feeding to your dog? Is there a reason that dogs can't have regular ketchup and mustard? Inquiring minds want to know! 

Be sure to visit Carole for more Three on Thursday thoughts.

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Unraveled Wednesday

Joining Kat and friends for Unraveled Wednesday, today with two more Rikke hats in progress. You cast on on size 4 needles and then switch to 7s, which provides the perfect opportunity to have two Rikkes in progress. It's all Rikkes, all the time here, in an attempt to provide the maximum number of family members with warm hats for Christmas. 

I've been home by myself this week, which means no cooking, more knitting time, and more audiobook listening time. Because I've been frustrated by six-twelve month waiting times on Overdrive, I've been searching a little differently. By applying the "available now" filter, I can easily find audiobooks that I can check out without any wait. I've been surprised by how many books are available, ones that I meant to read but missed for some reason. In just the past four days I've flown through Daisy Jones & the Six and Red at the Bone (both very good four-star books for me), and I'm currently reading How to Be a Good Creature and Evvie Drake Starts Over. Next in the queue is The Night Circus. I'm not sure if it's actually a prequel to The Starless Sea, but it looks like I'll be reading it soon, and then I'll be happy to purchase Starless Sea. You can click on any of these titles in the right sidebar if you are interested. 

But now it's time for me to turn off my iPod, pick up a Rikke, and watch what I hope is more unraveling of this presidency. I remember watching the debate on the articles of impeachment during the summer of 1974, and I hold out hope that there is a similar outcome this time. I have my doubts about whether there are any Republicans in the Senate that are willing to face facts and do what is right when the time comes, but again, I have hope.

What are you making and reading this week?

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Read With Us - Book Two

Have you been curious about the next Read With Us Book? After careful consideration, Kym, Carole, and I have finally chosen one. And we really did consider carefully. We thought fiction might be a good choice after Just Mercy, and Kym's goals were to find a high-quality book that was a little more obscure — but not TOO obscure, under 350 pages, not newly published and that might appeal to a broad range of readers. We hope this one will be readily available from libraries and be very discussable.

So what is the book? (Insert drum roll here) Fever by Mary Beth Keane. It's a historical fiction novel about the real-life woman known as “Typhoid Mary,” the first person in America identified as a healthy carrier of typhoid fever. 

From Mary Beth Keane's websiteOn the eve of the twentieth century, Mary Mallon emigrated from Ireland at age fifteen to make her way in New York City. Brave, headstrong, and dreaming of being a cook, she fought to climb up from the lowest rung of the domestic-service ladder. Canny and enterprising, she worked her way to the kitchen and discovered in herself the true talent of a chef. Sought after by New York aristocracy, and with an independence rare for a woman of the time, she seemed to have achieved the life she’d aimed for when she arrived in Castle Garden. Then one determined “medical engineer,” noticed that she left a trail of disease wherever she cooked and identified her as an “asymptomatic carrier” of Typhoid Fever. With this seemingly preposterous theory, he made Mallon a hunted woman.

Our timeline is just a little bit different because of the holidays. We wanted to announce the book now to allow you (hopefully) to get it from your local library if that's your choice. We'll be waiting to do our promotional posts until after the holidays in January, and then discussing the book in February. 

I hope this book sounds as intriguing to you as it does to us, and you'll Read With Us once again!

Monday, December 2, 2019

Right Now - December 2019

I'm not sure why I keep forgetting about Right Now posts at the beginning of a month, but since the last time I wrote one was seven months ago in May, it's high time for one. Here's what's going on in my world Right Now. 

Making - Turkey noodle soup! The house smells wonderful and simmering soup always makes me feel thrifty and cozy. These are good things, especially in light of what I'm watching (below).

Watching - The weather. This kind of snuck up on me. I had plans to head to MD with John on Sunday, but after checking the weather I decided to stay in NJ. We were supposed to start with snow and ice early Sunday morning, then a change to rain, followed by snow until early Tuesday morning. So I'm here in NJ to get a bunch of stuff done, plus shoveling. We have estimates of 4-12", so I'm hoping for the lesser amount. 

Surveying - My pile o' purchased presents. 

Planning - What else I need to get for Christmas. I still need to make a trip to the liquor store (after the weather clears), a few gift certificates, and there is always a Rikke hat (or two) on the needles. 

Looking forward to - A trip to the oil company. This probably sounds a little odd, but for years we struggled with what to get John's mother for Christmas. One day it came to me -- a gift certificate for heating oil would be perfect! She was on a fixed income and always cold, so I know she looked forward to receiving this gift, and I've looked forward to gifting it for the past 10 years. She passed away in January, so I've been thinking about her often. John's brother lives in her house and we decided he now gets the heating oil gift certificate. I wonder if he'll turn the heat up above 60 degrees after opening it? (There is the added bonus of the National Parks calendars from the oil company. It's the little things!)

Getting ready to tackle - Wrapping the presents. If I get this chore done before next Saturday I can deliver gifts in person instead of having to mail them. This just may provide the incentive I need

Anticipating - Family Cookie Day next Saturday. Women in the family have gathered for ten years or so to bake, exchange, and eat cookies. That's part of what I need to do on Friday -- bake dozens of cookies and make chili so we can eat something for lunch besides cookies. There are 8-10 of us, so I bake my cookies ahead of time to ease the waiting-for-the-oven backlog. 

Hoping - That the oil leak my car has doesn't get any worse before I can schedule and afford the $1500 repair.

Wondering - Why I seem to have such trouble communicating with the men at my local Subaru service center. Maybe I don't understand all the correct terminology, but I try, ask lots of questions, and it seems like it is their job to be able to explain things to all of their customers. It almost feels like they try to obfuscate the situation, but if I'm going to be paying $1500+, they can explain what the cam caps and cam carrier are and why they are dripping oil onto the manifold.

Trusting - That the universe is unfolding as it should, and sometimes wishing that I could nudge it to unfold in slightly better ways. :-)

What's going on in your world right now? 

Friday, November 29, 2019

Sky Watcher

Today's sky is one that I've been seeing for much of this week, the flat gray sky of November. I often dismiss these skies simply because the sun isn't shining brightly, but while I was taking photos I began to appreciate that they do have their own type of beauty. 

What you can't see in these photos is the blustery wind that was blowing at 20-30 mph. The temperatures weren't too bad, but the wind made it feel much, much colder.

If you squint you can see all the spiky little balls hanging on my neighbor's sweet gum tree. In the next month or so most of them will be on my lawn and driveway. I've thought about spray painting them gold and making a wreath, but I've never done it. I can't decide whether that would reflect the loveliness of nature or just be tacky. Thoughts? Maybe I won't know for sure until I actually do it. 

I hope your own November skies are reflecting some beauty and the last weekend of November has some rest, relaxation, and reflection in store for you.

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wishing all who are celebrating a very Happy Thanksgiving, 
and a very Happy Thursday to those that aren't!

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Unraveled Wednesday

Joining Kat and friends for Unraveled Wednesday. The turkey is brining, crescent rolls are in for their first rise, raspberry jello salad is gelling, stuffing is stuffed in the casserole dish, and I'll start the pies as soon as I'm done here. It's dreary, cloudy, and grey here, so all I've got is a November-light photo of another completed Rikke hat.

I knit this one with worsted weight but don't like it as much as the dk versions. I'm not sure who this one is for, but I do think it will make a good snow-shoveling hat for someone. Since there hasn't been any unraveling in the kitchen, I hope to have the afternoon free to cast on another Rikke and get a good bit of knitting done. 

I haven't had much time for reading, but I am listening to a delightful full-cast version of A Christmas Carol while I work in the kitchen. It might be a bit early for Christmas listening, but Roger Allam does the voice of Jacob Marley. I get to listen to a hopeful, seasonal story and continue my infatuation with Roger's swoon-worthy voice.

What are you making and reading this week?


If you haven't already, please follow this link to take our quick Read With Us survey.  We'd love your input -- whether you read Just Mercy with us or not.  Thanks for helping us make Read With Us even better!

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Recent Reads

I've read some pretty good books (with the exception of maybe one of them) recently and thought I would link to my reviews of a few of them in case you might be interested. 

Nothing to See Here by Kevin Wilson (4 stars)

Reiki  by Pamela Miles (4 stars)

Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport (4 stars)

The Body by Bill Bryson (4 stars)

Solar by Ian McEwan (3 stars, but ... )

A Circle of Quiet by Madeline L'Engle (4 stars)

The Dutch House by Ann Patchett (5 stars)

If you've come across any good books lately, I would love to hear about them. I'm currently reading only one book with one in my "to be read" pile, so I would greatly appreciate your recommendations in the comments!


Be sure to check out Kym's blog today for her summary of Just Mercy
Kym has also put together a Read With Us survey that we would love you to answer. It's eight easy questions about your experience with our first "bloggy book club", and your chance to provide feedback and recommendations. Here's your chance to tell us what you think! 

Monday, November 25, 2019

Sometimes Monday ...

... is a day to pat yourself on the back! I didn't exactly clean out my refrigerator like Kym and Kat, but after a few hours on Amazon, another few on Etsy, and some texts sent to ask about niece's and nephew's sizes, I completed about 75% of my Christmas shopping.

Nobody from my family reads my blog, so I'm not giving away any secrets. I purchased some wonderful books that I enjoyed this year for people that have called me "an excellent book-chooser", which was lots of fun. I've admired the clear antique kitchen glass panel above for years and finally just decided it was a perfect gift. I wouldn't have minded it for myself, but it did feel great to purchase it as a gift for two dearly-loved family members. 

I still have oodles of hats that I'd like to knit, a visit to the liquor store, and I've only gotten a few things for Ryan and Justin so far, but being 75% done with Christmas shopping made it a pretty darn good weekend. I hope your weekend was equally enjoyable and productive!

Friday, November 22, 2019

Sky Watcher

Once upon a time, many years ago, there was a thing in blog land called Saturday Sky. A blogger named Sandy started it, and people posted photos of the Saturday skies in their neighborhoods. I don't know when it started, nor when it ended. I have Saturday Sky posts from 2015, and I searched several long-time bloggers, looking for more information but couldn't find many details. Margene has stunning Saturday Sky posts dating back to 2006. If you've got some time, take a look at some real beauty here. (I miss you, Margene, your mountain, and Mylo, too!)

I still look up and watch the sky, and yesterday when I was taking down laundry, I did just that. I put down my dry clothes, grabbed my phone, and took some pictures. 

Nothing extraordinary, just some slices of the sky as more and more clouds roll in. Today it's gray with rain threatening, but I got to watch the progression. What's your sky looking like today?

Hope you have a great weekend, rain or shine (or snow)!