Monday, September 30, 2019

Made by Hand

A long time ago I started telling you about some of the things around my house that have been Made by Hand. I've found myself without much to write about today, so I decided to return to this topic and tell you about a special object.

Back when my kids were in high school, they both took ceramics as electives, and I was the lucky recipient of some very nice pieces. They're things I truly like and appreciate, and not just because my kids made them. In Ceramics I, they had to use some specific processes, but could use them in whatever way they chose to make whatever they wanted. The process specified for this piece was to make a coil pot, and Ryan chose to make a DNA candle holder. 

The coil technique is pretty obvious, and the green-dark blue and orange-light blue glazed parts represent the adenine-thymine and guanine-cytosine base pairs in the DNA double helix. I thought this was a clever and unique approach to the coil pot technique, and I still display it on my kitchen window sill ten years later.

I also use it often, especially in the fall as the light wanes. The candle holder fits a Yankee Candle jar perfectly and means so much more than something I might have purchased. A decade later I'm still delighted that Ryan made me something so wonderful by hand.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Three on Thursday

I'm joining Carole and friends for Three on Thursday, today with three things that I did this week.

I renewed my passport.

I was expecting a long bureacratic mess with lots of frustration, but our County Clerk's office has finely honed the process. I would like to be able to fly after October 1st of next year, but New Jersey in its infinite wisdom has elected to begin issuing Real ID licenses by appointment, after they work out the kinks in the process. The estimate is that they will only be able to issue Real ID licenses to 20% of NJ license holders over the next year, so I checked my passport, went to renew it, and was done in 45 minutes. 

I saw the Downton Abbey movie.

Simply put, it was a delightful escape! I couldn't find anybody who wanted to see it with me, so I went alone and enjoyed myself immensely.

I said "Finally!"

There is a long way to go, and there will be lots of evidence, rhetoric, and bluster to wade through, but at least the official process has begun. 

Imagine being so clueless that you think this memo helps you!

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

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Unraveled Wednesday

Joining Kat and friends for Unraveled Wednesday, and this week is more of the same.

It's still a Hitchhiker, still dark green, and since you've already seen the previous two iterations of this, I'll spare you any more repetitive photos. I did try to read while I knit on this, but I was unsuccessful, just like previous attempts. It required the unraveling of four rows when I accidentally split the plies of the yarn, so knitting and reading will have to remain separate activities for me. 

I tried to read Just Mercy in real book form, but the pages kept flipping, so then I attempted Snowball In a Blizzard on Kindle without much luck either. Both are good books, but both of them need and deserve attention and mine was too divided. 

It seems to me that one of the great luxuries of life at this point is to do one thing at a time. One thing to which you give yourself wholeheartedly, uni-tasking.
~ Michael Pollan

And if Michael Pollan says it, I'm willing to believe it. 

What are you making and reading this week?

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Please Come Along and Read With Us!

Kym has come up with a great idea, and I'm here (along with Kym and Carole) to help announce this idea - a virtual "bloggy book club" called Read With Us!

So many of us are readers and share the books we've read on our blogs, goodreads, and in comments. But there is still something missing - the chance to actually engage in book discussions with each other, gain new viewpoints, and maybe even learn a thing or two. It's our hope that this virtual book club will provide some of those additional things and bring even more enjoyment and understanding to reading for all of us.

So how does this work in general? The book club will take place on our three blogs, with the discussion happening in the comments. We will read one book quarterly, with some introductory, promotional, and informational posts from us, followed by the actual discussion posts, breaking the book up into manageable parts so you'll have plenty of time to read. There is no need to sign up to join; just read along and participate in the discussions. 

Here is a rough timeline so you have a better idea about specifics. All of us are introducing Read With Us along with this quarter's book selection today. On subsequent Tuesdays in October, we'll each do a promotional post with more information about the book, details about how to participate, and what to expect in terms of discussion questions. On Tuesday, November 5, we'll start the discussion of the first third of the book, followed by two more discussion posts on subsequent Tuesdays in November. At the end of the month, there will be a summary, then we'll announce the next book we're reading, and we start all over again for the next quarter. This is a "beta" run to see how things go, and we would definitely welcome your feedback along the way.

By now you're probably thinking "Enough! Tell me about the book already!" It's Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson. I know several of you have already read and enjoyed it, and there is even a goodreads giveaway for the book, open until September 30. It's a timely, relevant recounting of the Equal Justice Initiative, a nonprofit founded by lawyer Bryan Stevenson. The EJI is a law office in Montgomery, Alabama, dedicated to defending the poor, the incarcerated, and the wrongly condemned.

"EJI is committed to ending mass incarceration and excessive punishment in the United States, challenging racial and economic injustice, and protecting basic human rights for the most vulnerable people in American society." 

I think this will be an incredibly worthwhile, important, and eye-opening book for all of us, to better understand justice, injustice, punishment, and redemption. So please come along and Read With Us!

Monday, September 23, 2019

Sometimes Monday ...

 ... is a day for wildlife. I took a walk (sometimes two!) every day last week, varying my usual route and was rewarded with plenty of animal sightings, along with some in my own environs. The fawns above were in my yard while I was hanging out laundry,

while their mother sat in repose nearby in my neighbor's yard.

I saw this rabbit while on my walk and it let me get fairly close for quite a while.

There was this shy box turtle with beautiful markings near the creek, but it seemed to sense I was nearby and wouldn't stick its head out, even after I stuck around for ten minutes.

I headed down to my mint patch to make a last pitcher of mint tea and spied this praying mantis, and I've seen it several times since. I think it might be a female, so I'm going to be looking hopefully for a praying mantis egg case in the next few weeks. Fun facts: female praying mantises have 6 abdominal segments while males have 8. The final segment of the female is much larger than the others while the male has several small segments towards the end of the abdomen. Also, Males generally have longer and thicker antennae than females do. 

I live in central New Jersey, but there is still plenty of wildlife if you look around and keep your eyes open (even in New Jersey)!

The winner of the yarn giveaway is Sarah, and your yarn will soon be on its way to you. I hope you knit something lovely with it, and I thank everyone for playing!

Friday, September 20, 2019


Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall
F. Scott Fitzgerald

The autumnal equinox doesn't happen for three more days, but we've had a lovely stretch of cool weather this past week, perfect for walking, working in the garden beds, and knitting on the porch with a warm cup of tea. Never mind that temperatures are supposed to head back up to 85-90 degrees this weekend (with some accompanying humidity, of course), but I've enjoyed the preview of what is to come. Here's to crisp weather and good weekends!

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Three on Thursday

I'm joining Carole and friends for Three on Thursday, today with three extraordinary things
 about a bookI recently read, Lanny by Max Porter.

The Story
Since I just struggled over a review for goodreads and I don't have the writing abilities of Max Porter, I'm simply going to repeat it here:

I'm not sure what to say about Lanny. No review that I am capable of writing can convey the originality of the story, structure, vocabulary (and typesetting!) in this gem. It's about some seemingly mundane things like the elfin boy Lanny, his resigned parents, a reclusive artist, Mad Pete, the English village where they live, along with its gossip-mongering, prejudiced residents, and a kind of green leaf-spirit called Dead Papa Toothwort. Lanny disappears, and the book becomes even more intriguing, puzzling, and compelling. In the end, free spirits win out over society and anxiety.

Max Porter uses words exquisitely to tell the story without quite spelling things out exactly, and to express the troubled depths of the human mind. He is able to combine realistic observation with surreal fantasy and have it all be believable. I had to hunt for this book and was finally able to read it through interlibrary loan. It was well worth the effort, and I highly recommend this strange and moving tale.

"What or who is supposed to manage and regulate Lanny and his gifts," he asks. "Oh fuck, it's us. Who can have children and not go completely mad?"

The Vocabulary
The author uses words exquisitely, in a way that is seamless and adds to the story, but is never jarring. I kept a list and found myself re-reading sentences out loud to myself, just because they sound so good to my ears. A few examples:

The Typesetting
I don't know any details about typesetting, but some of Dead Papa Toothwort's sections are a marvel. I went back to pore over them after I had finished the book.

I highly, highly recommend Lanny!

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

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Unraveled Wednesday

Joining Kat and friends for Unraveled Wednesday. This week you may think I've gone off The Deep End, so that's what I'm calling this Hitchhiker. It's not my fault and I can explain.

I have some leftovers from these mitts plus one other skein that I was contemplating using for a two-color shawl. Ryan volunteered to go to The Loopy Ewe, take his mitts, and find a solid navy or red yarn to match. He went, but let me know that there was nothing that matched ... at all. He said that he had picked out two other skeins, had The Loopy Ewe send them to me, and he hoped I liked the surprise. 

I was indeed surprised when I opened the box. He had chosen a lovely blue sock blank called VergiƟmeinnicht  (however that is pronounced, it translates to forget-me-not),

and another John Deere sock blank. When I called and asked about the third John Deere, Ryan said this one had much darker green, less yellow, and some really interesting brownish-golden tones. He thought he might like this one best, so could I please knit his Hitchhiker with it and maybe I could gift the other two to some knit-worthy relatives? Hey, he's my kid and I love him, so I'm willing to go off The Deep End and knit a third green to yellow Hitchhiker for him. Knitting that I do for a loved one because they asked me nicely makes them knit-worthy, and the knitting is completely enjoyable, even if it is the third time. 

My reading isn't quite so reminiscent of Groundhog Day. I've been reading The Testaments and finding it interesting. I was a little afraid that it would make me feel terrorized like The Handmaid's Tale but that has not been the case. So far, there are no big surprises, but I'm enjoying the additional explanations concerning Gilead. I've also gotten Lanny through interlibrary loan and am reveling in the story, structure, and vocabulary in this gem of a book. 

What are you making and reading this week?

Also, don't forget to leave a comment here by this Friday, Sept. 20th at 5 pm EST if you are interested in my giveaway of this yarn!

Monday, September 16, 2019

It's a Boy!

Last weekend I was outside weeding and pruning in some of my flower beds when I heard my neighbor yelling. I went over to see what was going on, and I'm glad I did. It was a birth day!

My neighbor had noticed the monarch caterpillar in her garden and had kept a close eye out for the chrysalis. She's got this pierced metal garden decoration thing and with her keen eyesight had spied the chrysalis inside.

Her excited yelling signaled that the monarch was emerging.

You can tell it's a male from the black spots on its hind wings and thinner black webbing within the wings. I've been hoping and looking for a caterpillar, chrysalis, or any signs of a monarch in my own yard and on my walks, so I was glad to be alerted that it was happening next door.

It was a wonderful weekend and wonderful sight!

Friday, September 13, 2019

My Gain Could Be Your Gain!

In other words, it's a Giveaway! I've been threatening to clean out my yarn closet for a while now, and today is the day. I was up early, took everything out of the closet Ć  la Marie Kondo, did a preliminary weeding of clothing and yarn (this closet is also where I store off-season clothes) and now I'm starting the delicate process of choosing what to put back. I came across this yarn, hemmed and hawed about whether it went in the keep or donate pile, and thought a giveaway would be ideal.

Here are four skeins of Hedgehog Fibres Skinny Singles, 100 grams/366 meters (400 yards), 100% merino, in a Potluck color. I fell in love after seeing them on Instagram and had to have them. Now they just don't spark joy, so if you are interested, please leave a comment on this post by next Friday, Sept. 20th at 5 pm EST. I'll draw names randomly from a hat and let the winner know by email. 

I hope someone would like this yarn as I think it deserves to be knit into something lovely, but I don't think it will ever be me. I gain space to keep four other skeins of yarn, and you gain some beautiful yarn! Good luck!

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Three on Thursday - The Bandwagon Edition

Bridget started it, Kym continued it, and now I'm jumping on the bandwagon. I'm joining Carole and friends for Three on Thursday, today with three things that I hate do not like . . . but that everyone else DOES like. This has been a fun one to think about over this past week.

This photo doesn't have anything to do with the post; it's just a strange-looking sky that I saw at about 4:00 pm yesterday.

Stranger Things - I watched the first season, skimmed the second, and kind of half-watched a few episodes in the third season, but I don't get it. I'm not much for science fiction and horror, and when the two are combined it really leaves me cold. It's just not the TV series for me. 

Avocado - I've tried many times, but I do not like avocado in any form. No guacamole, no avocado toast, and don't get one near my sandwich. I've had people tell me I'm wrong and I must just have eaten a bad one, but since I've tried multiple times, that's not it. I don't like the texture or the fact that it tastes like soap to me, so no avocado for me, please.

Dinner - I enjoy eating dinner, but the thought of deciding what to make and actually preparing it just makes me tired. I've been cooking dinner for approximately 45 years, and if I do the math (45 x 365 then subtract a guesstimated 15% for nights I've eaten out, had leftovers, or not prepared anything), I get approximately 14,783 dinners so far. I may just be done when I reach 15,000. 

How about you?  What do you dislike . . . that most people seem to like?

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

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Unraveled Wednesday

Joining Kat and friends for Unraveled Wednesday, and it's a good one. All the menfolk in my family are in Montana, doing masculine things and eating bachelor food. That leaves me here in NJ to knit and read to my heart's content, and that is exactly what I'm doing. 

There has been some unraveling recently. I had this second John Deere Hitchhiker almost all bound off, but then I discovered that I had dropped a stitch. I tried to fix it, but only succeeded in making things worse, so I finally just ripped back to the dropped stitch. As soon as I'm done writing, I'll get this back on the needles, finish knitting and binding off, then it will get a good soak and block. 

Then it's back to the Stormy Night to Bright Light of Dawn Hitchhiker, beautifully and poetically named by Margene.

I wish I was one of those people who could read and knit at the same time, but I'm not, so I've had to make choices. I read Sarah's lovely review of Once More We Saw Stars just before I headed to the library, and am glad I did. I had heard Jayson Greene interviewed several times, but thought that his book sounded far too sad for me to read. Sarah's review convinced me otherwise, and I was lucky enough to find it on the shelf while I was checking out my hold of The Testaments. I read Once More We Saw Stars until the wee hours and will most likely finish it today; it is a stunning book. Then it's on to The Testaments. Good reading and good knitting; I'm as happy as the proverbial pig in poop!

What are you making and reading this week?

Monday, September 9, 2019

Never Before

This weekend I did something that I've never done before; I went to a fiber festival and didn't buy anything. This was the weekend for the Garden State Sheep Breeder's Sheep and Fiber Festival, and I was not terribly happy to find I had scheduling conflicts. A family obligation prevented me from meeting up with Vera and Dee on Saturday, and I had to wait until the family staying with us left on Sunday left before I could go. They had no desire to come with me to look at sheep and yarn - can you even imagine?! (I'm not sure I'm really related to them.)

I debated about not going at all, but I can't have sheep and yarn a mere 15 minutes away and not at least go and walk around a bit. I got there about 90 minutes before they closed on Sunday, and that was honestly perfect. I took a quick look around, checked out the animals in depth, and then went back to several of my favorite vendors.

I watched shearing,

and showing,

and laughed at this shirt.

It's not just sheep at the show; this giant angora rabbit was quite pettable.

I always enjoy the sheep herding demos and was glad to have been able to catch the last one.

I was tempted by Fibernymph Dye Works,

This cake in the middle almost came home with me, but then I remembered that I've got two skeins from White Birch that I bought last year that I haven't even cast on, so I resisted.

It was really a lovely time, full of sheep and plenty of beautiful yarn, and some self-restraint!