Friday, February 28, 2020


I've got snowdrops blooming and I wanted to share this photo of the one I couldn't resist picking and bringing inside for a preview of spring. Have a happy weekend with plenty of hope for spring!

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Three on Thursday

I'm joining Carole and friends for Three on Thursday, today with three wonderful things that have been shared with me this week.

The world has seemed especially troubled (and troubling) to me lately — Democrats fighting bitterly amongst themselves during the sideshow of debates to the detriment of all of us simply trying to learn about their positions, the spectre of our current president for four more years, the possibility of a worldwide pandemic and all the concomitant unknowns associated with COVID-19, the consequences of global warming that affect so many aspects of our lives while many continue to deny this fact. I've tried staying away from the news, but this was not the answer for me. I have changed how I get my news by reading it on the NPR website and receiving The New Paper emails, but I have found that I still need something else. That something else has been delight. So here are three delightful things that have been shared with me, and I'm passing them along to you.

Many of you may read Vera's blog, and yesterday she shared a link to a piece by Margaret Renkl. I spent lots of time reading anything I could find by Margaret Renkl and her writing style of combining nature with our place in it really spoke to me. She doesn't sidestep the bad stuff but her pieces left me feeling hopeful. I have Late Migrations on hold and I may just break down and buy it if I have to wait too long. Thank you, Vera!

This next delight is a book recommendation from a friend, The Book of Delights. I had come across this one previously but discounted it as a probable feel-good-on-the-surface book, a type that I really dislike. But this friend's reading opinions match well with mine and she said this book made her remember that delight was still present in the world despite Trump. That was enough for me and the book is now on my Kindle for an occasional dose of delight. 

My last delight is some special yarn from Prado de Lana. Patty told us about this farm and their unique virtual shepherding project a few weeks ago. While I was perusing their website I came across this lovely grayish CVM named Mijo because it's spun from the fleeces of a mother and son. This is my sometimes nickname for Justin so I felt an attachment and ordered it. It surpassed my hopes - soft, squishy, and wonderful. Just having it near me and considering what I'll knit with it is providing delight. Thanks, Patty!

While delight doesn't remove the horrors that we see daily, tragedies and delight can still coexist. Sometimes we just have to search a little bit harder and pay special attention to the delight. 

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

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Read With Us: Fever Summary

Six months ago, Kym, Carole and I launched our Read With Us experiment.  Kym came up with this great idea, we thought it sounded like fun, but we had no idea if anyone else might agree and, more importantly, participate. 
Would you think it was a good idea?
Would you like the books we chose?
Would you join in?
Would you Read With Us?
And, now . . . here we are at the end of February. We have completed our second read-along, Fever by Mary Beth Keane. That means it's time for a wrap-up. Since Kym did the summary for Just Mercy and we've agreed to take turns, that means I get to write the summary post for our second book. Let's go!
You Thought It Was A Good Idea (for the second time).
I'm inferring things here, but based on your participation in the book discussions, it looks like you did think this "bloggy book club" was a good idea. Good enough that many of you chose to give this a try for a second time (and it looks like we also gained some new readers), read the bookand actively comment on multiple discussion posts. 
First Carole, then me, and finally Kym hosted a week of discussion about Fever on our blogs. We chose to approach the discussion slightly differently this time around, focusing on topics (setting, writing style, social issues, and the historical fiction aspects) rather than talking about it chapter-by-chapter. It would be lovely if we could all gather together in person, but given the constraints of this format, you all had a lot to say and contributed many thoughtful and interesting opinions. If you click on the links above you can check out all the discussions on our blog posts. 
You Maybe, Kind of Liked The Book We Chose? (or gave it a try despite not liking it)
After careful consideration, Kym, Carole, and I chose Fever as our second book. 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 hoped it would be readily available from libraries and be very discussable.
The book synopsis sounded good, Fever was available from multiple libraries and inexpensively from Amazon and seemed to fulfill all of our criteria. The actual book though? I think most of you would agree that it was only a one-three star read and "meh" at best. 
You Joined In (I'd say enthusiastically)!

Despite many of us finding the book less than stellar, it looks like it was quite discussable. Carole began our discussions by talking about setting, writing style, and the novel's strengths and weaknesses. Many of you thought that the author did a good job of describing New York City in the early 1900s — the crowded tenements, filth in the streets, sanitation practices or the lack thereof. Keane's writing style wasn't especially popular, with some ideas belabored and others lacking more substance. 

During Week 2, we discussed social issues, such as personal freedom vs. public health, nationality, gender, and socioeconomic status. The consensus was that public safety always comes first, but that Mary Mallon's case could have been handled better. The fact that she was a poor Irish, unmarried woman may have played a part in Mary's life-long quarantine, but she also proved herself unwilling to cooperate with restrictions when she was freed. 

Kym discussed the historical fiction aspects, and of course, this included Alfred! All of you thought the book would have been much better without him (especially because he wasn't even based on a real historical figure)! The interesting possibility that the author kept Mary at a distance from the reader to show how Mary kept life and feelings at a distance was also raised.

It's tough to summarize three weeks of discussion, but it seems that many of you felt that the book would have been stronger with more attention paid to George Soper, and with perhaps more focus on the factors that led to the link between Mary Mallon and her identification as an asymptomatic carrier of typhoid fever. Most of us agreed that it's critical to protect public health, but we also felt that Mary Mallon was treated unfairly because she was a poor immigrant and a woman.
I personally think that Keane chose a very difficult subject to write about. Very few of Mary's original words and writings exist today, so almost everything we learn about her has to come through other people. The book would have been much better if it had focused more on George Soper and Mary and left the invented Alfred out of it entirely. There are publications written by George Soper and newspaper articles, but it is very hard to paint a balanced portrait of Mary Mallon. I think we did all learn about New York City in the early 20th century, typhoid fever, and the possible pitfalls of historical fiction.

Rest In Peace, Mary


I haven't forgotten the promised “book lovers' surprise package” thoughtfully and generously provided by Kym, to be awarded to one lucky Fever reader! Your names were placed in a hat EACH time you made a comment on each of our book discussion posts ...

Your names were placed in an actual hat

and the winner is ... Vera! I have your email and will be contacting you shortly for your address. Congratulations, Vera, and thanks to each and every one of you for participating! 

And that's a wrap on our second Read With Us read-along . . . Fever by Mary Beth Keane.  
Next week, we'll be announcing the NEXT book that you can . . . Read With Us!  
In the meantime, we'd love your input!  Please click here to take a very short online survey.  It's only 8 questions and your feedback will help us make future Read With Us choices, directions, and discussions better. We want to hear from you whether you read along with us this time or not. Thank you!

Monday, February 24, 2020

Sometimes Monday ...

... means a cascade of changes. 

When we bought our house in NJ 30 years ago, the elderly woman we bought it from left a lot of stuff here. This was initially quite a shock during the walk-through, but we elected to go ahead with the closing. I spent almost a month getting rid of things we didn't want (like horsehair mattresses!), but we did keep a lot of the left-behind furniture.

Among this was a bedroom set in what eventually became Justin's room. The triple dresser, tall chest, headboard, and footboard were functional, usable, and Justin didn't object to them. We also kept the mattress that had been left; it wasn't horsehair but was relatively comfortable so it stayed.

Years passed, Justin left for college, then a ranch in Texas, eventually landing in upstate New York. For many good reasons, he has given notice at his current job and will be moving back home while he figures out what is next. He asked several months ago if he could get a new mattress. We decided that since he's slept on it for the past 30 years and who knows how old the mattress was before we inherited it, it was definitely time. We did have to pay a bit more than $59.50 for the new one.

The new mattress was delivered on Saturday while Justin was unloading tubs from his NY house, so this is what my house looked like for much of the weekend.

Yes, that's a fence post with barbed wire. I'm not exactly sure what it's for, but I'm sure Justin will use it for some important project.

Justin has headed back to NY for his final week of work and to pack and bring more stuff home. I'm not sure where it will all go, but hopefully, the dining room won't be the final destination. 

We did get the new bed set up, while the old headboard waits on the landing to see if it can be used.

I have to remind myself that I'm usually only here in NJ on weekends, so the stacks of tubs and stuff shouldn't really bother me. I'm sure it will all get sorted out in time, and it will be nice to have Justin home for a while. 

I think several of you have contemplated getting a new mattress, but it does seem like a big deal with lots to consider. You can now tell yourself that "hey, at least I didn't procrastinate for 30 years like Bonny did!"

Friday, February 21, 2020

Sky Watcher

Robins enjoying some holly berries, and the brick chimney from the kilns at the old Pfaltzgraff factory in Flemington and a robin on the wing. I hope your weekend also includes some blue skies and robins!

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Unraveled Wednesday

Joining Kat and friends for Unraveled Wednesday, today with more of the same old, same old. 

My current Hitchhiker is growing slowly (36 teeth and counting) and I very carefully clothespinned it to the ivy on my neighbor's fence in MD so I could see it spread out. This is the same ivy that grabbed and tore one of my John Deere Hitchikers at the cast-on stitches last fall, but I fixed that and prevailed over the ivy this time. 

One of the reasons it's growing slowly is that I've been feeling a bit unraveled. It hit me all of a sudden on Sunday — headache, body aches, fever, the usual viral symptoms. Tea, Tylenol, soup, and naps have been helping, but I've found myself holding my knitting on my lap more than doing any productive knitting. It's comforting. :-)

The same has been true for reading this week. I've started a few books but they are on hold because my headache has made it difficult to read. 

But enough whining and complaining from me. What are you making and reading this week?

Monday, February 17, 2020

Sometimes Monday ...

... is a day for little surprises in the form of little purple flowers. 

I have a collection of "purloined plants" on my kitchen windowsill in MD, small cuttings that I've come across and stuck in water in mason jars. Some of these are from my SiL, and the others come from overgrown plants in community planters along the streets in NJ and MD. At the end of the summer season, many of the plants have grown leggy, long enough to drag on the sidewalk, and I know that they'll die and be thrown away after the first frost. I rescue a few cuttings at this stage and bring them home to bring me joy while I do the dishes. Sometimes they bloom early and make me even happier!

I hope your week is off to a bloomin' good start!

Friday, February 14, 2020

Sky Watcher

Happy Valentine's Day and I hope your weekend is a lovely one!

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Three on Thursday

I'm joining Carole and friends for Three on Thursday, today with three things I bought recently. This might sound like an odd topic, but I'm not much of a shopper (except maybe at The Loopy Ewe). To have purchased three things in just the past few days is not my usual, but since there happened to be three things (and I couldn't think of anything else for today), I'm going to tell you about them.

You already saw the first purchase yesterday — the skeins I ordered from The Loopy Ewe when I had a moment of inspiration with my Nervous Breakdown Hitchhiker. I'm anxious to get to the point where I add stripes of these colors, and I'm getting quite a bit of enjoyment from just having these skeins next to my knitting chair.

I thought that maybe my sister needed another gift in addition to socks for her 60th birthday, so I searched Etsy for something she loves — sea glass. I don't think she reads my blog, but if you happen to see this, Jill, please act surprised.

I came upon this next one while I was looking through Etsy. It was inexpensive, cobalt blue, small, and unique, so now it's mine. It's an antique dosing cup, although I don't know exactly what was being dosed. Maybe something alcoholic? I was intrigued by the markings for tea and dessert, so now it's on my windowsill in MD.

Recently it's felt like things are going to hell in a handbasket at the speed of a runaway roller coaster, and while I know it's not the answer to things that are beyond my control, a little retail therapy certainly didn't hurt! What have you purchased lately?

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

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Unraveled Wednesday

Joining Kat and friends for Unraveled Wednesday, today with glimmers of a new idea for the Nervous Breakdown Hitchhiker. I've been working on it almost monogamously. Spending lots of time meditatively knitting causes me to become contemplative, and last week I was thinking about why I enjoyed it so much and what might add even more enjoyment. The answer to both questions? More color!

So I placed an order with Loopy Ewe and had these skeins in my hand in record time. I think they'll work wonderfully for what I'm imagining. 

It's not just more bright color that I'm craving, but also what those colors have come to represent in my mind. There are areas of brownish-gray in this yarn and I've come to think of these as depressive periods (even though I think this gray is lovely).

There are also areas of bright pink and these remind me of happy times.

Lastly, I've noticed some isolated stitches of a lovely blue that I've come to think of as times of being balanced and calm.

I think as I approach the last quarter of the shawl, I'll add one stripe of each color. I'm not sure how wide I'll make them. Maybe I'll just live on the wild side, knit them and see what I think works best. 

I'm still reading The Topeka School and better read harder because the wifi gods will whisk it back to the library in three days. I finished Caffeine which was a quick two-hour freebie from Audible, authored and narrated by Michael Pollan. I wish it had been longer because Michael Pollan! I also finished Indistractable but it was just a three-star average book for me. If you are interested, you can read my reviews by clicking on the books in the right-side sidebar.

What are you making and reading this week?

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Read With Us: Fever Discussion 2

Hello and welcome to our second discussion of Fever by Mary Beth Keane. This time we're focusing on social issues — personal freedom vs. public health, nationality, gender, and socioeconomic status. Some details regarding the discussion and how it will work: Please join the discussion by leaving a comment here on the blog. I'll 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. 

Like Carole mentioned last week, this time around we've got an added bonus to participating in the book discussion. We have put together a “book lovers' surprise package” to be given to one lucky Fever reader! Just leave a comment on any of our book discussion blog posts. Your name will be placed in a hat EACH time you make a comment — so the more you share, express your opinions, and comment, the more chances you have to win the prize. The winner will be revealed as part of our wrap-up post on February 25.

The following questions are simply meant as a way to start the discussion. I don't want this to feel like high school where good books can be analyzed to the point that you no longer enjoy them, so please feel free to answer any questions you wish and ignore those you don't, or offer your general opinions and comments about the social issues covered in Fever. We value all of them and thank you for your input!

1.  The story of Mary Mallon exemplifies a conflict between personal liberty and public health. Because there are always two sides (or more) to the story discuss whether you think Mary's case was handled well, and consider how it might have been dealt with today.

2.  In early twentieth-century New York, class and background dictated a person's prospects. Do you think Mary was discriminated against because she was a poor Irish immigrant woman? How does Mary handle these situations? Are there any instances when Mary uses her identity to an advantage?

3.  During Mary’s imprisonment, other healthy typhoid carriers are discovered and allowed to continue their lives as long as they take precautions to not spread the disease. So why is Mary kept imprisoned? Is it because she was the first? Because she refuses to admit her guilt and cooperate? Because she is a poor, unmarried, Irish woman at the dawn of the twentieth century or are there other reasons?

4.  After her first release from North Brother Island, Mary abides by her promise not to cook. But as time passes she is eventually drawn back to her profession, first at the bakery and then at the hospital. How does she justify her decisions despite the risk to others? Do you think she believes she is responsible for passing typhoid fever through her cooking? 

Be sure and check in with Kym next Tuesday for her discussion of the historical fiction aspects of Fever; characters and events — what (and who) was based on historical fact and what was fabricated/fictionalized. I'll be back here on February 25 with a summary of Fever. 

Monday, February 10, 2020

Sometimes Monday ...

... is a day to check in on amaryllis. 

They are all sprouted and growing. I hope your Monday is off to the same good start!

I hope to see you back here tomorrow for our second Fever discussion, this time focusing on social issues. 

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Three on Thursday

I'm joining Carole and friends for Three on Thursday, today with some admiration for Nancy Pelosi.

Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Image

Simply put, she's my hero. I don't see her tearing up the speech as rude or classless, but rather what you do when you are presented with a "manifesto of mistruths". Here are three quotes from the Speaker of the House.
  • You have to believe in who you are and what difference you can make. You have to care about the urgency and the difference it will make to your community, and you have to, again, have confidence in the contribution that you can make. You believe, you care, you have confidence in the difference that you can make. And that's not to be egotistical, it's just to be confident.
  • Go to find common ground; where you can't, you stand your ground.
  • Just as I do as a mother, as Speaker I intend to do a great deal of listening. But when necessary, I am not afraid to use my mother-of-five voice to ensure that I am heard. 
Carry on, Ms. Pelosi and be heard. You are fighting the good fight. 

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

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Unraveled Wednesday

Joining Kat and friends for Unraveled Wednesday, today with an FO, another sock, and my ever-present Hitchhiker. 

I'm glad these socks are done, and they only took me ten years! 

Finishing one pair of socks does not necessarily mean a return of any sock mojo I might have once had, but we'll see. I dug around in my craft closet and found this one. It's a sock I was working on when I took my father to doctors' appointments, but I put it away when he died. It does have a nice story associated with it, so I think it may become what I work on during the weekly NJ-to-MD-and-back-again trip. 

I'd still rather work on my Nervous Breakdown Hitchhiker, so that's my main project. It's growing (and I just might have more Nervous Breakdown yarn to knit another one with eyelets). 

I finished The Wife by Meg Wolitzer and it was an average, yet interesting book. It made me want to see the movie with Glenn Close as I think she might make the movie better than the book. I also started The Topeka School, and so far it's dense, challenging, and intriguing. Semi-autobiographical, debate and forensics, toxic masculinity, fear begetting violence, psychotherapy -- it's all here and I hope it comes together. Even though I'm only a little way into the book, it's easy to tell that it was written by a poet, National Book Award finalist, Fulbright scholar, Guggenheim scholar, and MacArthur genius. Clearly, Ben Lerner is some author and I hope I'm up to reading The Topeka School.

What are you making and reading this week?

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Right Now - February 2020

While there aren't any hyacinths blooming in my world yet, the photo above reminds me that we're getting closer to spring. Here's what's going on in my world Right Now.

Making - Chili in the crockpot. It's pouring today, and the rainy, cold weather is predicted to continue for the next four days. Warm chili and cornbread always make me feel warmer when it's a damp and chilly winter day.

Drinking - Home-brewed pear cider. John works with a guy who grows his own fruit (apples, pears, berries, etc.), presses it, and brews his own cider. We gave him buckets of extra tomatoes from the garden last summer and he gifted us with several different varieties of cider. It was a delicious trade.

Resisting - Starburst Jelly Beans. Even though Valentine's Day is still 10 days away, Easter candy has made an early appearance, and of course, I've been thinking about jellybeans since I first saw those bright red and yellow bags on the grocery store shelves. We'll see how long my resistance lasts. 

Watching -  Broadchurch on Netflix. This is a British police procedural that is tough to watch at times, but I do love David Tennant and stories that unfold over a series of episodes. To counter the serious and sobering themes of Broadchurch, I've also got Ford vs Ferrari lined up for a possible family movie night next weekend.

Avoiding - This speech. It's after my self-imposed no-news curfew of 8:00 pm. Also, I just don't think I have the fortitude to watch or listen in this bizarre convergence with the Iowa caucuses and the foregone conclusion of the impeachment vote. 

Procrastinating - Working on taxes. It probably can't really be called procrastination yet as I'm still receiving forms, but I do have that slight feeling of dread that I get every year. Everything I have so far is gathered in a folder, so I suppose that's a good enough start for February 4th. 

Glad About - The fixed oil leak in my car, and maybe even more so that I stood up for myself concerning the bill. The original quote was $1500, but when I went to pick it up my service advisor handed me an invoice for $2400. After picking myself up off the floor I asked what the extra $900 was for. He just shrugged and said "extra labor. This was a complicated repair and we had to remove the engine." He didn't say "you're just a woman and wouldn't understand", but that's what I heard. I asked for a detailed invoice and he gave a big sigh and disappeared in the back room. After waiting for almost 15 minutes another service advisor offered to help. She also disappeared into the back but returned after five minutes and said she would honor the original quote. Trish is my new best friend at the Subaru dealership. 

Wondering - What the extra $900 was for and why the dealership thought they were going to get away with it without a detailed invoice and complete description of the work they had done. I'm also wondering if anyone will read the review I submitted about this experience. 

Planning - when to start seeds for the garden in MD. I started them really late last year because I was in the hospital, so I'm going to have to look up last frost dates and germination times to plan my seed starting and planting calendar.

Getting ready to tackle - Some medical and insurance issues. I need to make an appointment with the hematologist to discuss what we should do with medication almost one year after my pulmonary embolism. I've been on the anticoagulant Eliquis and I'd like to stay on it if possible. The doctor has to approve that medically and financially as it costs an arm and a leg and the insurance company needs to be convinced that it is medically necessary.  

Hoping - That Ryan's corneal issue begins to get better. He has another appointment today, but because there hasn't been much improvement, the specialist is talking about possible lasers and/or surgery. Any good eye juju you can send his way is greatly appreciated.

What's going on in your world right now? 


Be sure to visit Carole today as she kicks off our Read With Us discussion of Fever. Share your thoughts about the book (and there may even be a prize)!

Monday, February 3, 2020


I hope your weekend was as nice as mine. I didn't do anything extraordinary, but it was a wonderful combination of some of the usual and a few things that were unusual for me.

I bought chocolate doughnuts at the grocery store and managed not to eat all of them. I never buy donuts, but sometimes you just have to give in. 

I made almost 100 venison meatballs. We had enough for dinner and also froze some for later.

I drank some peanut butter whiskey. It sounds strange and awful, but I assure you, it is not.

There was an FO, but I'm saving that for Wednesday. I excavated another sock; this one is only three years old. I'm finding that socks make the perfect project to work on while John drives to MD and back to NJ. 

I fixed the showerhead with a double point needle. The flow had dwindled to a trickle over a couple days, and when I removed the showerhead to investigate I noticed a broken plastic piece was blocking the water. I figured I couldn't break it any further, so a double point needle made the perfect tool to pry the broken thing out and remove it. It now works perfectly!

Most unusual of all, we went to a bar. It's kind of a dive bar, but my nephew and his wife were down from Albany; Justin had arranged to meet them there and he invited us. A long time ago Ryan told me I should try one new thing every month, and since I've let that go by the wayside I decided to begin again, starting Saturday night. The music was incredibly loud but it was a fun time!

John and his sister

Justin and his girlfriend Jess

My nephew and his wife


I hope your week is off to a good start. It's supposed to reach almost 60 degrees here in MD so I'm going to enjoy it, hang out some laundry, and get out for a good long walk. 


Be sure to check in with Carole tomorrow when she begins our discussion of Fever. I hope you'll consider participating!