Friday, May 31, 2019

What's the Ratio?

I woke up yesterday and while sipping my morning tea, I decided that I wanted some biscuits. They are one of my favorite things to eat, but I don't make them very often, because of calories. Those concerns got overridden because I remembered Ryan's ratio of work/deliciousness.

When he was first learning to cook, he saw the process in a slightly different way. First, he made a judgement of the work involved. Was this simply mixing in water, like making Jello? Were there multiple complicated steps involved, or were you required to make something before you could proceed further to make the final product? And then there was that all-important deliciousness factor. How good did it taste? He found himself preparing things with a relatively low work/deliciousness ratio. Pancakes are good, but the work involved is minimal, even from scratch. French toast is even better - really delicious, but there's nothing difficult about soaking bread in an egg mixture and frying.

Pasta sauce has a few more ingredients, but the work involved is just a bit more chopping, and it's made in the same pan. Pad thai gets a lot more complicated with procuring out of the ordinary ingredients, a lot more prep, and good timing during preparation.Yes, it's delicious, but the work:deliciousness approaches 8/9, and it's really easy to order from a good Thai restaurant. Lemon meringue pie is another good example of high work, but also a high deliciousness factor. The worst would be a dish with high work but low deliciousness. I can't even think of an example, probably because I would probably not even consider making such a dish. Chicken liver souffle?

I determined that biscuits had a 2/8 work/deliciousness ratio and I could always feed the extras to the birds, so I made them. They were quite tasty and comforting. Now I'm looking forward to dinner over the weekend with hamburgers on the grill (2/9) and potato salad (3/9). I do hope your work is light and deliciousness high this weekend!

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Three on Thursday

Joining Carole and friends for Three on Thursday, today with Three Books. I haven't written about books for a long time, except randomly on Unraveled Wednesdays, so it's high time. Here are the last three books I've read and one bonus.

1. The Things They Carried  
My review - 3 stars

The brother of an acquaintance is in the Reserves, but has recently been sent to Fort Dix, then on to TX, then to the Middle East for two years. With the current saber-rattling around Iran, I think of him every day. And of course, every soldier that the US has placed in harm's way is someone to somebody, so this book stood out to me during a recent perusal of library books. I also thought Memorial Day weekend would be a good time to finally read it. Its raw tales of friendship, soldiering, what those soldiers carried, and what they did are at times hard to read. This book didn't change the way I feel about Vietnam, but I don't think it's possible to make sense of the terror, destruction, and loss of war. Mainly I was reminded of how very young these young men were and how heavy the things were that they carried, both the physical battle armor and those things that were carried within.

2.  The Bright Hour
My review - 5 stars

That is Morning. To cease for a bright hour to be a prisoner of this sickly body and to become as large as the World. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

The Bright Hour is a beautifully written book that I will place alongside Atul Gawande's Being Mortal. Nina Riggs has written the story of the stages of her life, and while it is sad, poignant, and filled with cancer and death, that is ultimately not what the book is about. Instead, Nina writes about "how to distill what matters most to each of us in life in order to navigate our way toward the edge of it in a meaningful and satisfying way." That makes this a valuable and luminous book, and one that I think might be able to ease my own fears of death.

I am reminded of an image...that living with a terminal disease is like walking on a tightrope over an insanely scary abyss. But that living without disease is also like walking on a tightrope over an insanely scary abyss, only with some fog or cloud cover obscuring the depths a bit more -- sometimes the wind blowing it off a little, sometimes a nice dense cover.
3.  We Need to Talk
My review - 3 stars

If you have an iota of common sense, you can probably guess much of what Celeste Headlee recommends in We Need to Talk: Listen more and talk less. She does elaborate on this point, telling us not to multitask, don't repeat yourself, don't pontificate, be brief, etc. These are all important points, as is the overall premise that conversation skills are important. I'm just not sure there is enough here to fill a whole book. Watch the TED talk and see what you think.

4.  Inland
My review - 5 stars

(I debated not including this book because it won't be published until August 13th, but it's so good that I wanted to give you a chance to place an early hold at the library!)

Inland is a western, but a new and exciting kind (to me, anyway). Think News of the World or The Son, with non-stereotypical characters, exquisitely descriptive settings, and almost fantasy-like plot lines. Obreht writes beautiful sentences that you will marvel at, but her writing never fails to tell a terrific story. 

In the midst of a drought in the Arizona Territories in 1893, we meet Nora, an independent frontierswoman, and Lurie, a former outlaw. Nora is waiting for her husband and sons to return to the parched homestead, while her youngest son is convinced that there is a mysterious beast prowling about. Lurie is haunted by the ghosts of his past who want him to take an epic journey. Nora’s story is told in one long, hot day, while Lurie’s takes place over decades. Their intersection is the perfect combination of magic and realism. 

While the book is densely written, required my attention, and I had to start again from the beginning after I stopped reading for a few days, once I read about the U.S. Army’s camel corps and 
understood that both Nora and Lurie speak to the dead, it was one of the best books I’ve read in quite a while. Read to the very end and you will be rewarded.

How about you? Read anything good (or even not so good)? Let me know!

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Unraveled Wednesday

Joining Kat and friends for Unraveled Wednesday, with just a bit of an unraveled feeling. I was on the porch chatting with John on the phone (he's in MD, I'm in NJ) last night when my phone starting beeping with a tornado warning. My neighbor said there was a tornado on the ground a few miles from here, and I should head to the basement.

So I did, taking my Hitchhiker with me. 

I sat on an upturned bucket in the doorway. This is on top of a huge stone in the foundation of our old house and I figured the timbers had stood for almost 200 years, so it was probably a reasonably safe place.

The wind blew, the rain and hail flew, but the storm was over before I knit three rows. I don't think we had a tornado here in my neighborhood, and luckily not even any water in the basement. 

I did take a look around before I headed back upstairs and spied a strange sight: 

I have no idea how or why this dead snake was there, but I removed it with a shovel. I guess if the worst thing you get from a tornado warning is a dead baby garter snake, things are good. Our weather predictions are the same for this afternoon and tonight, so now I've put a real chair down there, along with some water, snacks, and no dead garter snakes. I may be knitting in real comfort this evening!

On a completely different note, I read a wonderful book, and highly recommend it, but only if you're in the right frame of mind. It's The Bright Hour: A Memoir of Living and Dying by Nina Riggs. She has written the story of the stages of her life, and while it is sad, poignant, and filled with cancer and death, that is ultimately not what the book is about. Instead, Nina writes about "how to distill what matters most to each of us in life in order to navigate our way toward the edge of it in a meaningful and satisfying way." That makes this a valuable and luminous book, and one that I think might be able to ease my own fears of death. 

What are you making and reading this week?

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Balance in May

This last Tuesday of the month is time to talk about my progress with my one little word. As I explore the ups and downs of balance, I've learned a few new things about balance this month. 

One of the things I've learned is that balance includes plenty of gratitude. Honore was kind, thoughtful, and generous and sent me this lovely reminder. Justin thought it would useful in several ways, both when I was feeling out of kilter or off balance:

and a beautiful sign when I had gotten myself back into balance. 

Either way, I love it and thank you, Honore, for your help in my quest to achieve balance!

I've been practicing meditation daily as a way to maintain a sense of balance, and this has been helpful, but I've also begun feeling and listening to my breath throughout the day whenever I want to let go of mounting stress and focus on mindfulness. Poetry, stillness, gratitude, meditation, and breathing are all going a long way towards helping me find my own best ways of being balanced. 

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Unraveled Wednesday

Joining Kat and friends for Unraveled Wednesday, with a small glimpse of something I've been waiting for. Can you see it?

How about here? I've pretty much run out of yellow on the blank, and the yarn is gradually transitioning towards green. It's gradual, but that is exactly how I hoped it would be. Hopefully you'll be seeing much more green next week. 

In reading, I've finished All the Ever Afters and enjoyed it very much. It's a fairy tale retelling from the point of view of Cinderella's stepmother. Sometimes fairy tales are retold with lots of romance to appeal to a more young adult audience, but that was not the case here at all. I found this book to be a wonderful combination of a good story, beautiful language (I learned a few new words!), and a departure from simple characterizations. Cinderella's stepmother is often portrayed as simply evil, without a shred of decency, but in this book we learn about Agnes' life, the hardships she endured, and most importantly, how she learned to make the best of her situation. In making choices that furthered her interests and those of her daughters, it may have seemed she was sometimes acting in an evil way, but I think this book showed her as having more than one dimension. Just like in real life, she was neither all good nor all bad, but simply a person willing to work hard and make the most of herself. Class, feminism, the importance of physical beauty, it's all there, along with pox, consumption, back-breaking laundry from dawn to dusk, and manorial life. You'll have to read this for yourself to see if it ends happily ever after (but I highly recommend that you do). 

What are you making and reading this week?

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Time Talking

Rail delay scarf

There have been plenty of examples of knitting being used for data representation - the Sky Scarf for looking to the sky and knitting the weather, Temperature Scarf for documenting the daily temperature during a given time period, Mood Scarf for knitting your mood, Scoreboard for recording points scored by your favorite football team, and even a rail delay scarf knit by a German commuter. This one seems especially helpful, as it helped the knitter deal with her frustration, and she also sold the scarf and raised $8650 for a German charity that provides assistance to people at train stations.

But here is a new one - a shawl being knit by Côte-des-Neiges—Notre-Dame-de-Grâce Mayor Sue Montgomery that shows how often women and men speak at city council meetings. 

Even though city council is made up of 31 females and 34 males, Ms. Montgomery estimates that so far her shawl is 75% red for males with just a few bits of green for women. She explains this by saying "The women are much more efficient, stand up, make their point, sit down. Men like to hear themselves talk. What can I say?" 

The mayor knits because it helps her concentrate, but said that long speeches where points are repeated decrease the efficiency of council meetings, and make them less accessible to the public. "Frankly, it's quite boring," she said.

Sue Montgomery says that she is aware this is a generalization, and that not all men on council tend to use up blocks of time pontificating, but "There's a handful of men who take up a lot of space." I think we have all run into those men; congratulations to Sue Montgomery for calling attention to this gender disparity (and good luck weaving in her ends and blocking).

Monday, May 20, 2019

Sometimes Monday ...

... is a day for some floral appreciation!

For decades, I've been buying flowers for my Mother-in-law for Mother's Day, and I've always had a wonderful time doing it. This year I was a bit sad not to have any mothers to buy flowers for, so last weekend I went to the nursery and hit the jackpot. (I'm a mother, after all!)

I love fuchsias and found this one with huge buds and big, beautiful blooms. But wait, there's more!

My sister-in-law has her grandmother's bougainvillea, and I've always been envious. Now I've got one of my own.

I was thrilled to find this pot that had plants with both hot pink and apricot bracts.

These make me quite happy, and I hope your week is off to a beautifully blooming start.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Three on Thursday

Joining Carole and friends for Three on Thursday, today with Three Ways That A Pulmonary Embolism Changes Your Life. I made a deal with myself not to focus too intently on this, but it happened, so I also can't deny it. Here are a few things I've been thinking about recently. 

1.  No flights for six months. This isn't a huge deal, but we've always gone to visit Ryan during the summer. I can't fly until the end of September, but John is talking about visiting Ryan by himself before that since he hasn't seen him since last summer. Of course, Ryan can come east and visit all of us, but there isn't quite as much to do in Flemington as Fort Collins. Actually, there is almost nothing to do in Flemington, and Ryan would have to sleep in his childhood single bed instead of his comfortable king size, so Fort Collins does have big advantages. We'll see ...

2.  Bleeding. After you have a pulmonary embolism, you are usually placed on an anticoagulant to prevent future clots. The doctor prescribed Eliquis for me, and it's wonderful because I take a small pill twice a day but don't have to have any special monitoring with blood work or follow a restricted diet. It is very expensive, but that's what our Health Savings Account is for. 

Because Eliquis is meant to prevent clotting, that means bleeding can be a concern. I shave my legs with an electric razor and am very careful with kitchen knives now. I pinched my index finger trying to open a stuck window in MD and it started to bleed. Forty minutes and half a roll of paper towels later it was still bleeding. It finally stopped after almost an hour, so I took that as a reminder that it is worth paying serious attention to the risk of bleeding.

3.  Anxiety. When I was first discharged, I paid attention to every little physical twinge I felt and started to drive myself crazy. After a couple of weeks when I began to feel well enough to exercise and mow, my anxiety really ramped up. The doctor reassured me that I was doing well, so I've tried to take a more reasonable approach. Meditation has helped, and so has telling my family members how I feel. I wrote letters to my children after I realized that any pre-PE sense of immortality was false and tomorrow was never guaranteed. Post-PE recognition of mortality is hard to accept, but it's honest and has helped me to live in the present, express my feelings, and appreciate what I have today. Now it's time to go mow and appreciate that I can get out in the sun and fresh air, move my muscles, and sweat a bit!

Head on over to Carole's for more Three on Thursday thoughts.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Unraveled Wednesday

Joining Kat and friends for Unraveled Wednesday, knitting away on a different Hitchhiker. I cast this one on a long time ago, and it's been my traveling project. I got it out during the recent three days of rain and gloom we had, and and might even finish it soon (soon is relative). 

I've reached 40 teeth and only have a little bit of the first skein left, but I like my Hitchhikers big and wrappable, so I'll be using at least some of the second skein. The yarn is JulieSpins MCN, so it's a real pleasure to knit. 

I stumbled upon All the Ever Afters, the story of Cinderella's stepmother from her point of view. I enjoy fairy tale retellings, and this is one of the best. Well-written, well-researched (I had to look up some interesting laundry methods), and a well-told story so far. 

What are you making and reading this week?

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Right Now May 2019

It's been almost a year since I did a Right Now post, so clearly it's high time for one! Here's what's going on for me Right Now in the middle of May ...

Enjoying - Watching the garden grow in MD. We've had many issues with the garden in NJ over the past four or five years - the fact that it's located under our neighbor's walnut tree, the presence of a persistent fungus, drought, cabbage looper moths, etc.  

Tomatoes, Napa cabbage, Brussels sprouts, peas, and beans are off to a good start, and even some sunflowers that I planted have survived John's hoeing.  It's just the beginning of the garden season, but things in MD are looking good so far.

Looking Forward To - Trying some of this Snickers creamer in my tea tomorrow morning. Snickers are my favorite candy bar, but I haven't had one in probably eight or ten years. I saw this in the grocery store and just had to get it. My morning cup of tea is what gets me out of bed on most mornings, and I bet Snickers creamer will provide extra impetus.

Also Looking Forward To - A new vacuum cleaner. The house in MD has a ventral vacuum system. I didn't think I would like dragging a big, long hose around, but it's actually quite light, the house is tiny so there isn't much dragging around, and it has super suction. My vacuum is NJ sucks in the suction department and it finally broke last weekend, so now I can justify getting a new one. I've shopped around but will order one from Amazon to arrive in NJ by the end of the week. You know you're a boring adult when you're excited about a new vacuum!

Excited about - Our new picnic table. It's nothing fancy, but it will fit on the back patio in MD, hopefully last for the next two or three years that we are here, and provide a pleasant place to eat, knit, and have a beer after I finish mowing.

Making -  An apple spice cake. This one does not have maple whiskey in it because my bottle is in NJ, and it's pouring here in MD so I didn't want to walk to the liquor store. But I had apples, a spice cake mix, and time to bake a cake, so I did. 

Drinking - Crimson Fawn Sour Ale with Blood Orange. I bought this before I had my PE, but when I was discharged from the hospital the doctor said "No alcohol". I followed medical instructions to the letter for five weeks, but when I had my followup visit I asked him if there was some medical reason for this instruction. Since I'm on an anticoagulant, he didn't want me drinking to excess, falling down drunk and suffering a brain bleed, so I promised to enjoy in moderation. That's easy; a glass of this ale or two fingers of whiskey is about my limit under any circumstances, and I'm glad to enjoy alcohol again with the doctor's blessing. 

Watching - Endeavour Season 5. I know this has been available for quite a while, but Endeavour is my absolute favorite so I've been "saving" it. I'm trying not to watch more than one episode a day, but we'll see how long that lasts.

Wondering - How mothers and sons communicated before text messaging. Both of my sons seem much more open to expressing themselves in text messages, saying things they won't bring up in person, and writing heartfelt words that their mother loves to read. Oftentimes these texts are sent late at night (i.e. after I've gone to sleep) but I'm happy to be awakened by some of these lovely messages and grateful to receive them.

What's going on in your world right now?

Monday, May 13, 2019

Sometimes Monday ...

... is so gray, rainy, and downright cold

that you have to get out the bright and cheerful knitting. Here's hoping your Monday is off to a nicer start!

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Three on Thursday

Joining Carole and friends for Three on Thursday, today with Three Ways to Enjoy Maple Whisky. Ryan enjoys whisky, as do I, but his tastes run to really peaty and smoky. I enjoy something more mild and mellow, so the last time we talked on the phone he was excited to tell me about his latest find - maple whisky. 

He saw it on Letterkenny and thought it was worth trying. He's not giving up his peaty, smoky, "real" whisky, but thought the maple was quite good, and also thought I would like it. So of course I had to get some and taste it; he's right!

We chatted about other ways to enjoy it besides simply sipping, and here's what we came up with. We haven't actually tried any of these, but were busy brainstorming and then looked up recipes so we didn't have to reinvent the wheel. When I've got mint in my garden, fresh peaches, and an occasion to bake a cake so I don't have to eat the whole thing myself, I'll definitely be making these.

1.  Maple Whisky Mojito 
The maple whisky, fresh mint, and brown sugar in this mojito make it sound delightfully different, and like a drink I might have to be careful not to drink more than one (or two).

2. Maple Whisky Peach Buckle
What else goes well with whisky and maple? Peaches! (plus this recipe is gluten-free.)

3. Jewish Apple Cake, Jazzed Up a Little
I don't have a link for this one, but I do have a family recipe for Jewish Apple Cake. It's one of our family's favorite cakes, and even though it's delicious, Ryan and I both thought it would only be improved with the addition of maple whisky.

Cheers to maple whisky!

Head on over to Carole's for more Three on Thursday thoughts.

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Unraveled Wednesday

Joining Kat and friends for Unraveled Wednesday, while I continue to unravel and knit on my bumpy Hitchhiker with crinkly ramen yarn.

I'm up to 25 teeth, and I've even knitting slightly faster now. I originally cast on with some Zings needles, but they had a rough connector that was snagging the yarn, so I switched to my favorite Chiaogoo Lace needles. No more snagging and I find I'm knitting faster. The Chiaogoo needles are smooth stainless steel instead of having tiny grooves like the Zings, so at least in my hands, knitting slides more easily and is faster. 

I finished Normal People and a book of poetry, Good Bones. I'm still reading Inland, and stumbled upon a new-to-me novel, The Last Thing You Surrender by Leonard Pitts, Jr. I'm surprised that I had never heard of the book or the author before, but it tells the neglected story of how African-Americans experienced the Second World War, at home and on the front lines. I can hardly stop listening. 

What are you making and reading this week?

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

We've Reached the End

A favorite photo of my father and sister

I'm home in NJ this week for something I've been waiting for, but now that it's almost here I wouldn't mind stalling it for a while longer. After 17 months, hundreds of hours, and lots of legal mumbo-jumbo, we've reached the end, and it's time for the final distribution of assets from my father's estate. His was not a big estate, and it's certainly not a lot of money, but he does seem to have made it more complicated, leaving small sums to grandchildren and minor great-grandchildren. I do feel good that as executrix (that is a funny word that still amuses me!) I was able to carry out his wishes, even if I might have handled things differently myself.

I'm writing out a bunch of checks at the lawyer's office on Wednesday, signing letters and assorted other paperwork, and then we're done. I've wished for this day for at least 16 months, but now that it's almost here, it involves another bit of letting go that is a little sad. I won't miss him any more or less, but it just feels like the last tangible piece of him will be gone somehow. I don't mean to be maudlin, but just wanted to mark the occasion by saying goodbye Dad, I love you, and thank you.

Monday, May 6, 2019

Sometimes Monday ...

... is finally dry enough to hang out some laundry!

Monday was almost always laundry day for my grandmother, and she was also a big proponent of hanging laundry on the line to dry. (I don't think she even had a dryer.) So now I'm wondering what she did if it rained on Monday. She was a formidable enough person that perhaps Mother Nature didn't dare rain on Monday (at least near Cleveland).

I'm hoping that it doesn't rain tomorrow, as there is plenty more laundry in the form of sheets and towels to do. Maybe you can arrange another good drying day for me tomorrow, G'ma?

Friday, May 3, 2019

The Last One

I think my amaryllis blooms have finally reached an end. This last blossom has been growing very slowly and waiting patiently in the wings since February, almost as if it wanted to do a solo show.

Maybe it felt that it couldn't compete with some of the larger, showier blooms.

But even though it's only six inches tall with small blossoms and tiny leaves, I think it's still beautiful and a fine finale.

Farewell, amaryllis, 'til next year!

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Three on Thursday

Joining Carole and friends for Three on Thursday, today with Three Lies My Parents Told Me. Just to clarify, my parents were not evil people, sitting around thinking up falsehoods to feed my sister and I, but they did tell me things that I later learned were completely untrue or meaningless rules. I figure that they were basically things Parents Had To Tell Their Kids In the 50s and 60s.

1.  Just Ignore Him and He Will Leave You Alone 
My grandmother sewed several dresses for me when I was in first grade, and they all had pinafores, white apron-like garments that were worn over the main dress underneath. I sat next to a boy in the lunch room that liked to grab my pinafore and use it as a napkin to wipe his mouth on. This really upset me because I loved those dresses. My grandfather nicknamed him George Mouthwiper and my mother told me to just ignore him and George would leave me alone. It did not work, and the only reason George stopped was because he moved when we were in second grade.

2.  You Think Too Much and If You Keep Asking Questions Nobody Will Marry You
I was the kind of kid who asked a lot of questions and wondered about many things. I'm pretty sure my parents said this in an attempt to curb my endless questions. I do remember being a little concerned when I was in second or third grade that I wouldn't be getting married, but quickly got over that. Can you imagine anybody saying this to a child today?! It's pretty laughable (and John doesn't seem to mind too much).

3.  Only Barbarians Have Pierced Ears
My father was fairly strict and felt very strongly that proper young ladies should not have their ears pierced. He asked me if I wanted to be seen as a Barbarian every time I brought it up. When I went away to college, one of the first things I did was sneak out and get my ears pierced. (I was a daring rebel!) I was petrified that he would see the "Barbarian holes in my ears" when I came home at Christmas, so I removed my earrings and only put them back in when I was safely back at school. He did finally discover the truth after my freshman year, but just scowled in disapproval. The whole ear-piecing thing backfired on him though; now I have three holes in each ear lobe and in later years I used to tease him that he made me do it with his restrictive rules.

Someday I may ask my own kids about the lies/ridiculous rules I told them. I'm sure they won't be able to think of any. :-)

Head on over to Carole's for more Three on Thursday thoughts.

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Unraveled Wednesday

Joining Kat and friends for Unraveled Wednesday, with some good unraveling and simultaneous not-unraveling. I'm going to continue unraveling my Wollmeise blank and re-knitting, based on the little experiment I conducted.

Before: a slightly bumpy, uneven-looking Hitchhiker

During: soaking. Will the bumpiness block out?

After: Yes! It's not perfect, but good enough is good enough for me.

In reading, I really enjoyed Fall Back Down When I Die (my review is here if you're interested), and I'm about 75% done with Normal People. I'm still reading Inland, but I'm finding that book to be more dense, so it demands my attention and consideration. I was concerned about what I would read next when I finished Normal People, but perhaps I will just concentrate on Inland. I don't think I've monogamously read just one book for quite a long time!

What are you making and reading this week?