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)!

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Three on Thursday

I'm joining Carole and friends for Three on Thursday. I try to be thankful every day, but I find myself actively looking for things now that Thanksgiving is just one week away. Here are three things I'm thankful for, encapsulated in one photo taken while I enjoyed lunch at C3ntral Tavern. 

  • Meditative knitting with one of my favorite yarns, in one of my favorite colors, for one of my favorite sons.
  • A wonderful drink made with orange vodka, triple sec, peach schnapps, pineapple juice, and cranberry juice.                     (Gotta get my Vitamin C.)
  • Swedish meatball mac & cheese, delicious and delectable!


The man in the yellow graduation gown, sparkly red sequined hat, and several long pearl necklaces walked in and sat down while I was having lunch. I don't know if the other guy at the bar knew him (I've often seen him walking around Elkton), but he offered to buy lunch for the graduation gown man, whatever he wanted. He opted for just a soda, but I'm grateful to live in a place where such acts of kindness are so freely given. 

Be sure to visit Carole for more Three on Thursday thoughts. (I'm betting you'll read about lots more gratitude!)

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Unraveled Wednesday

Joining Kat and friends for Unraveled Wednesday, today with another completed Rikke hat and a new one on the needles. 

The blue one is for Justin for Christmas, and the next red one may be for Ryan for Christmas, or it might go into the gift pile. I'm using Madeline Tosh worsted (instead of the dk the pattern calls for) from stash, so I'll see who it might fit with my modifications. Who knows, it might be for me!

I finished Solar, and for me, it was a two-star book narrated by the five-star Roger Allam, which bumped it up to three stars. Another Ian McEwan book, Saturday, is ready for me to pick up at the library, but to be honest, I've got several other books that I'd rather read first. Carole's self-care post piqued my curiosity enough that I've started Reiki by Pamela Miles. I figured that it's not fair to make a judgment until I learn some more first!

What are you making and reading this week?

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Something Different

John's advisor and major professor was originally born in Japan, came to the United States to do his Ph.D. in Iowa, and luckily for all his students, stayed here to teach. He has been a teacher, mentor, and a powerfully positive force in John's life. So much so that John and his previous boss (who both came from Dr. Nakatsugawa's lab) continue to visit him twice a year, making the eight-hour round trip drive to Syracuse even though they graduated 30 years ago. 

John returned with this thoughtful gift after his most recent visit a few weeks ago. Dr. Nakatsugawa knows that John loves roll cake and thought this one would be "something different". I am not a big fan of green tea, so I initially resisted. The center has some anko (sweet azuki bean paste) inside and while we had been introduced to this in ohagi (Japanese sweet sticky rice balls) at delicious dinners prepared by Dr. Nakatsugawa's wife, it is a bit of an acquired taste. John didn't want to have to eat a whole roll cake by himself, so I finally tried a slice. 

It was absolutely delicious! The green tea flavor was light and almost floral, the cream was sweet but not cloying, and I remembered how much I enjoyed the different taste of anko. I tried not to gobble it all down, but I did get the last piece.

Something different and おいしい (delicious in Japanese)!


Please be sure to head over to Carole's today for Week 3 of Read With Us and join in the continuing discussion of Just Mercy!

Monday, November 18, 2019

Sometimes Monday ...

... is for blossoms, 


and more to come!

Be sure to join us for the Read With Us book discussion - Week 3 - over at Carole's tomorrow!  

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Three on Thursday

I'm joining Carole and friends for Three on Thursday, today with three life lessons I was reminded of while winding yarn. I wind all my yarn by hand, mainly because I'm cheap and would rather spend the money that a swift and ball winder would cost on yarn. There is the added benefit of knowing the yarn, spotting any joins or knots, and it's also nicely meditative. Here's what I came away with.

1.  Get comfortable.

Yes, I'm winding yarn in my flannel nightgown. It's warm, comfortable, and I have tea nearby. These all help me sit still for the 20-30 minutes it takes to finish the job. Being comfortable can help you manage ... more comfortably.

2.  Appreciate the small, beautiful things.

Seeing this little bit of blue and the interplay of so many bright colors made winding this yarn an even more lovely experience. Pay attention to the little things.

3.  When you encounter knots (literal or figurative) don't overreact.

Don't yank on the knots, tighten them, and make things worse. Loosen up, consider carefully, and start winding a small ball from the opposite end. Approaching things from a different direction sometimes helps.

There you have it -- life lessons learned from winding yarn. 

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

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Unraveled Wednesday

Joining Kat and friends for Unraveled Wednesday, and it turns out that traveling is good for finished objects. I'll gloss over the fact that both of these were about 75% finished before I flew to CO, but now they are officially done.

First, there was a Rikke Hat for Ryan.

This was a fun knit, and after Ryan tried it on, I was able to easily finish it while we played Scrabble. I picked out some yarn from my stash for two more Rikkes for Christmas gifts, and I might even knit one for myself. 

The third Wollmeise John Deere Hitchhiker also reached the finish line. I think it might be my favorite, or it will be when it's dry and I can wear it. It's blocking right now,  but luckily I have a few other Hitchhikers to wear in the meantime. 

I also cast on with my Sunset yarn. I had spent hours perusing Ravelry for the perfect shawl pattern, but after dithering for far too long without anything on my needles, I gave in and cast on yet another Hitchhiker (big surprise!) So far, I like it and these colors are helping me feel warm and happy during these grey, blustery, and snowy days.

I didn't do a lot of reading but managed to finish A Circle of Quiet (four lovely stars) and started listening to Solar (I'm still reserving judgment). But Roger Allam is the narrator so I'm definitely enjoying that!

What are you making and reading this week?

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Read With Us: Book Discussion Week 2

Welcome to the second Read With Us book discussion post!

Some details regarding the discussion and how it will work: Please join the discussion by leaving a comment here on the blog. I'll (hopefully) be responding to your comments directly IN the comments, so please do check back once in a while to see how the discussion is going this week. Please feel free to respond to other commenters as well. We realize that this is not the most ideal discussion format and that it's somewhat cumbersome and a little awkward -- but it's the most reasonable way we could think of for our beta test.

Kym offered us wine and homemade brownies, but since this is a morning meeting (well, I'm publishing it in the early am), I've got coffee, an assortment of teas, and pastries for you. Grab a mug of your favorite stimulant beverage, make yourselves at home in the living room in MD, and we'll get started. Last week Kym started off the discussion, and today I'll be continuing where she left off, talking about the middle third of the book, specifically Chapters 6-11. 

In these chapters, the reader gets more heartbreaking stories of how injustice has been perpetrated when we learn about 14-year-old Charlie who was held in an Alabama jail on capital murder charges. Charlie went through a horrifying experience when his mother's drunken boyfriend beat her into unconsciousness and Charlie shot him. Stevenson succeeded in getting Charlie relocated and eventually introduced him to a couple who supported him and financed his college education.

It's not only minorities and minors that experience unjust incarceration. We also read about 52-year-old Trina Garnett, a mentally ill woman who has served 38 years in prison. She is one of nearly 500 people in Pennsylvania who have been condemned to mandatory life imprisonment without parole for crimes they were accused of committing as minors between 13-17 years of age. It is the largest population of child offenders condemned to die in prison in any single jurisdiction in the world. This was simply shocking to me. Today more than 50 percent of prison inmates have a diagnosed mental illness, a rate nearly five times greater than that of the general adult population. Stevenson argues that we get angry when people fail to recognize the need for thoughtful and compassionate assistance when it comes to the physically disabled, but because mental disabilities aren't visible in the same way, we tend to be dismissive of the needs of the mentally disabled and are quick to judge their deficits and failures.

This part of the book also tells of setbacks and ultimately good news of a sort in the case of Walter McMillian. The Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals denies McMillian's appeal, but eventually, 60 Minutes covers the case. They do not portray the county and the prosecution very favorably, but the heightened awareness of the case convinces the Monroe County District Attorney to bring in the Alabama Bureau of Investigation to reinvestigate the case. They find strong evidence of McMillian's innocence and the DA agrees to drop all charges against Walter. The court rules in his favor and after six long years on death row, Walter becomes a free man.

The following questions are simply meant as a way to start the discussion. We don't want this to feel like high school where good books can be analyzed to the point that you don't enjoy them anymore, so please feel free to answer any questions you wish and ignore those you don't, offer your general opinions and comments. We value all of them and thank you for your input!

1.  Is justice being served when children and the mentally ill are sentenced to die in prison? If prison is not the answer for children and the mentally ill, how should society deal with them and carry out justice for both the victim and the perpetrator when crimes are committed?

2.  Walter’s unfair incarceration took a permanent toll on him and his family. Did Walter finally obtain justice? Do you think this case represents the best, the worst, or some combination of our justice system?

3.  In light of Stevenson’s many examples of injustice, an obvious question is how state and federal governments ought to reform their criminal justice systems to eradicate such tragedies and prevent future ones from occurring. While policy reform is certainly essential, a theme of Stevenson’s stories is that the injustices are a product of a set of deeper cultural norms. How do we begin to change these?

In case you are interested, the EJI website has a "Get Involved" link that I've been perusing. I can't read this book and not begin to take some small steps toward justice for all. If you have any other suggestions for possible actions, they would be very welcome.

Monday, November 11, 2019

Sometimes Monday ...

... is a day to return, re-enter, and resume real life. 

Ryan has successfully purchased a new (to him) car that is hopefully safe and reliable.

A celebratory meal was enjoyed by both of us, 

along with some other interesting food. (That's macaroni and cheese pizza.)

I enjoyed Fort Collins, just like I always do. 

Now that I'm back in NJ, I've done loads of laundry, cleaned bathrooms, vacuumed, re-stocked the pantry, returned books to the library, and paid oodles of bills. Today I'm heading to MD to do the same things all over again in a different location. I hope your week is off to a good and productive start!


Please join me here tomorrow for our second Read With Us book discussion post of Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson. I'll be continuing the discussion where Kym left off last week, talking about the middle third of the book, specifically Chapters 6-11. I hope you'll join in!