Thursday, April 30, 2020

Three on Thursday

I'm joining Carole and friends for Three on Thursday, today with three poetry books, a magnificent snippet, and a poem that I wish I had written for and about my husband. 

I've lost a lot of my reading focus for my usual fiction, so I decided to wander through Overdrive and check out some of the available books of poetry.

The first book I read was The Circle Game by Margaret Atwood. While I've enjoyed much of Atwood's fiction, this volume of poetry left me feeling mainly puzzled and disoriented. Many of the poems interested me, but I didn't feel that I could relate or understand. I'm fairly sure the fault lay with this reader.

The second book was Easy by Marie Ponsot. The author was described by her publisher as "graceful", and I would describe her poetry the same way. I found these poems both beautiful and accessible, especially this brilliant one entitled "Magnanimous, Magnificent", which ends with these lines:

Say you like it. Admit you've had some good luck.
Thank your friends for arriving on time. To the others,
the ones you dream of as enemies,
smile and say Thank you., and then try to mean it. 
As the music stops you'll miss its lilt.
Keep dancing, keep listening. Speak up. 
Ask for more music, more. In case you don't know,
what you want is magnificent, yours for the asking,
the rhythm of magnanimous exchange.

The last one I read was Listening Through the Bone by Willy Conley. The author is deaf, and says he doesn't "write with the ear as most poets do, but with the eye." His poetry examines life cycles, the natural world, and his experiences as a deaf individual. This volume also contains some arresting photographs. I read this one to John as it felt very personal and could have written about him. 

The Proof of the Pudding

He loved rice pudding,
especially the way his mother made it.
When he and his girlfriend got married,
his bride cooked him rice pudding.
"Nope, not like my mother's."

His wife flipped through
another cookbook and 
tried a different recipe.
"Nope, not like my mother's."

She would take her husband
out to eat at a fancy restaurant.
For dessert, she ordered him rice pudding. 
"Nope, not like my mother's."

One of her friends, a gourmet cook,
prepared an extraordinarily
irresistible rice pudding recipe
when they came over.
"Nope, not like my mother's."

One day, his wife went to the A&P
and bought ready-made rice pudding.
When he wasn't looking, 
she spooned it out in a bowl
and sprinkled on a little cinnamon. 
"Yep, just like my mother's."

Read any good poetry lately? I'd love to hear about it!

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

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Unraveled Wednesday

Joining Kat and friends for Unraveled Wednesday, with a bound-off Hitchhiker and several others in progress. 

I bound off the last stitch on the Nervous Breakdown last night. There are still a few ends to carefully weave in, but I've heard that if I put it under my pillow tonight the Weaving-In Fairy might pay me a visit. I'm hoping that's true, but I may start on them myself this afternoon, just in case.

Then it will be time for blocking and moving on to the next few Hitchhikers in progress. 

I started The Ten Thousand Doors of January and A Keeper in audio, and while they are both good books, I seem to have lost much of my ability to concentrate and hold on to the thread of the story in audiobooks this week. They've been temporarily replaced by reading poetry, and that has been a good thing. 

What are you making and reading this week?

Monday, April 27, 2020

Monday is for ...


I know many of you have already sewn masks, but I've been putting it off because I am not much of a sewist. I have my mother's old Singer sewing machine which works perfectly well, but it's the person operating the knee control that is none too confident. 

But Ryan needs to wear masks, so I needed to sew some. I think of these as prototypes. I made two different patterns, and hope that once he tries them, he can let me know what changes and modifications I need to make in the next iterations. It doesn't help that he's not here to try them on, but I did the best I could. 

This one had clear directions (an Instagram video from Eloquii) and the elastic/fastening is adjustable. I also included ribbon, cord, and a lock so Ryan could see what he thought worked best. I'm not sure it will be large enough, but it would be easy enough to make it bigger. 

The second one is my attempt to make a mask with a little more thickness and filtering capability than two layers of cotton. 

I made a two-layer mask but left part of the seam open so I could insert a "filter". My filter material? A piece cut from an old mattress pad. It was almost exactly what I was looking for, but I don't know if Ryan will be able to breathe through it or if it will be too hot. The mattress pad was in the Goodwill bag, so I was glad to be able to use it. 

The mattress pad wasn't the only thing I put to good use. Look familiar?

The fabric is leftover from when I made curtains for Ryan's room, about 19 years ago. I bet he'll laugh when he gets the masks and my grandmother would be so proud of me!

If you've found a mask pattern that you've been happy with, isn't overly complicated to make, fits well, and has the option to add more layers, I would greatly appreciate it if you would leave a link in the comments. (I'm sure Ryan would also be grateful.) Thank you!

ETA: Here is a good explanation of why wearing masks is important, mainly to protect others. I had never heard it explained in terms of ingress and egress, so maybe I will try to perfect my basic cloth mask and not worry so much about thickness or filtering. My mask protects you; your masks protect meThanks, kmkat!

Friday, April 24, 2020

Down By the River

State and county parks have been closed in NJ since April 7th, and that was quite a blow to our family. Justin and John are avid fishermen and park users, and I often go along to hike, discover, and see what I can see. I understand the reasoning behind the governor's decision, but that doesn't mean it's not yet another loss due to the virus. 

But one thing they can't close is the Delaware River. Justin and I desperately needed to get out one night, so we went down to the river. It had rained for the previous 3-4 days, so we knew the river would be high and murky but it didn't even matter. Justin had a new bait caster reel and wanted to try it out, along with the custom lures he had created. He felt better just casting several hundred times, and I felt better watching him and listening to the river. 

The evening and its feeling reminded me of a poem I only vaguely remembered but looked up when we got home.

River Roads
Carl Sandburg

Let the crows go by hawking their caw and caw.
They have been swimming in midnights of coal mines somewhere.
Let 'em hawk their caw and caw.

Let the woodpecker drum and drum on a hickory stump.
He has been swimming in red and blue pools somewhere hundreds of years
And the blue has gone to his wings and the red has gone to his head.
Let his red head drum and drum.

Let the dark pools hold the birds in a looking-glass.
And if the pool wishes, let it shiver to the blur of many wings, old swimmers from old places.

Let the redwing streak a line of vermillion on the green wood lines.
And the mist along the river fix its purple in lines of a woman's shawl on lazy shoulders.

 I hope there is some nature and renewal ahead in your weekend.

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Three on Thursday

I'm joining Carole and friends for Three on Thursday, today with how one thing led to another, which ultimately led to three things.

Earlier this week, I decided that I was hungry for ziti. One of the benefits of being the designated cook is that I usually get to make what I like when I like (assuming I can buy the ingredients at the grocery store). So ziti was prepared.

I've been baking English muffin bread, but when I checked on how much was left of the loaf I had just made the day before, I realized that John must have eaten several slices about two-thirds of the loaf. So another loaf of English muffin bread was baked. 

When I realized that we had two parts of a decent meal, I thought that of course, we needed dessert. So I made raspberry crumb bars.

It was a winning dinner trifecta!
Be sure to visit Carole for more Three on Thursday thoughts.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Unraveled Wednesday

Joining Kat and friends for Unraveled Wednesday, with some knitting on a Hitchhiker or two.

I thought I had finished the knitting on the Nervous Breakdown Hitchhiker and sat down to bind it off last night. But then I made the mistake of watching Frontline. It was a story of two Washingtons - Washington state and their prepared and ready response to the first case of covid-19 in the US, and Donald Trump in Washington, DC, thwarting the states' efforts at every turn with his dismissals, inaction, and lies. I got so angry that I just kept knitting, so I'll assess where I am today and knit some more, or maybe not and actually bind off.

I've also been knitting on the No Regrets Hitchhiker. That's the name of this colorway and I have no regrets about purchasing it. It's a lovely Julie Spins MCN blend that seems to calm me down every time I pick it up. My hands are dry and scratchy from washing them so much, but handling this lovely yarn reminds me to use hand cream so I don't snag it.

And there has been some excellent reading! I finished This Is Chance!, a five-star book about the catastrophic 9.4-magnitude earthquake in Anchorage, Alaska in 1964, and Afterlife by Julia Alvarez. I also read The End of the Day by Bill Clegg, and that book occupied my thoughts for several days after I finished it. It's a domestic drama of friendships and family told in a way that I really enjoyed and became immersed in - several characters and storylines intersecting, while the reader wonders how they will all come together. I originally gave it four stars, but couldn't stop thinking about the story and the characters, so I had to revise my review to give it the five stars it deserves. I was lucky enough to get a pre-publication copy as it won't be published until June 2, but I think it's worth waiting for. I can also highly recommend Clegg's first book, Did You Ever Have a Family (longlisted for the National Book Award and Man Booker Prize in 2015). He's not an author that you hear about very often, but with these two books, he has become one of my favorite writers..

What are you making, reading, and/or doing to get through this week?

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Read With Us: I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter

I'm not sure that I can add very much to Kym's excellent introduction of our current Read With Us book, but I will try. Kym explained how and why we chose I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter and the value of keeping an open mind while you read because it is young adult fiction. 

When I worked in an elementary school library, the librarian and I spent a lot of time discussing ya fiction. She had a theory that authors of ya fiction often wrote better books than authors of adult fiction because they had to write things better, more succinctly, and more clearly without dumbing those ideas down to their intended audience. I'll let you be the judge of whether Erika L. Sánchez accomplished that or not as she tells the story of Julia, a confused, miserable, and angry daughter of Mexican immigrants. She's also grieving because her perfect older sister has been killed in an accident, and this leads her to feel her parents' disappointment in her even more intensely. In an interview, the author says, "Sometimes she says unkind things because she is in so much pain. Julia is the kind of girl who will say exactly what she feels, and I hope that readers become intrigued by that, particularly young women of color. We’re rarely allowed to be flawed in literature, and I’m so tired of that."

In the same interview, the following question was asked, and I thought Erika L. Sánchez's response was an interesting one:

"Julia is a wonderfully complex and interesting character who is a big reader and who wants to become a writer. Aside from the fact that you’re a writer, why did you put a budding author at the center of your debut novel?

People often wonder if I'm Julia, but the truth is that she is smarter and funnier than I ever was as a teenager. There are definitely many parts of myself in her, but I didn't want to be limited by my own experiences. However, I decided to write about a budding writer because young girls of color don't often see themselves portrayed as storytellers. I want them to know that they can have a voice, that it's okay to dream big. Also, the world needs to know that brown girls can be intellectual, that they can have complex inner lives. We're not a homogenous group of people like the media would lead you to believe."

One more thing; Erika L. Sánchez is also a poet. Her poems are not light and pretty; the Washington Post called her "fierce and assertive". Since it is National Poetry Month:

All of Us 
Erika L. Sánchez

Every day I am born like this—
No chingues. Nothing happens
for the first time. Not the neon
sign that says vacant, not the men
nor the jackals who resemble them.
I take my bones inscribed by those
who came before, and learn
to court myself under a violence
of stars. I prefer to become demon,
what their eyes cannot. Half of me
is beautiful, half of me is a promise
filled with the quietest places.
Every day I pray like a dog
in the mirror and relish the crux
of my hurt. We know Lilith ate
the bones of her enemies. We know
a bitch learns to love her own ghost.

Copyright © 2018 by Erika L. Sánchez. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 27, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

We're reading I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter this month. Local libraries are closed, but you can find the book on Amazon ($7.39 for the dead-tree version and $10.99 for the Kindle version), and both audio and digital versions may be available to borrow on Overdrive. Next month, we're changing up the discussion format a little bit to something that we hope will be new and exciting. On May 12 you'll find a book discussion question on each of our blogs and on May 19 we're going to host a real-time, Zoom book discussion get-together. (Details to follow.) As a white 62-year-old woman living in central NJ, I know very little about the things that Erika L. Sánchez writes about. I look forward to reading and learning.
I hope you can obtain a copy of the book . . . and Read With Us! 

Monday, April 20, 2020

Flowers ...

... are magical, on Monday and every day.

This past weekend I was blessed with lots of flowers blooming indoors.

 One amaryllis,

a second amaryllis,

a completely unexpected bonus Christmas cactus blossom,

and some hot pink Easter cactus blooms. 

I said a little thank you each time I passed them for my fulsomeness of flowers! I hope you also enjoyed something a little bit magical in your weekend. 

Friday, April 17, 2020

Pamplona, Madrona, Dalgona

It seems like you can't look at a recipe site on the internet without finding someone writing about Dalgona coffee. I have had a problem remembering what this concoction is really named, explaining to John that the brown goo in the bowl is Pamplona coffee, no wait, it's Madrona, no it's called Dalgona coffee for real. (Imagine him looking both puzzled and uninterested.) I usually drink tea but I was both curious and disbelieving, so I had to try it for myself. 

2 Tablespoons instant coffee, 2 Tablespoons sugar, and 2 Tablespoons hot water,

whisk for ~ 2 minutes,

and voilà; it does work! The mixture changes color and then gets thicker, just as it is supposed to. I probably could have whisked for another couple minutes, but I was anxious to taste it. (My immersion blender is in MD, but I think it would be the perfect tool to use.) I poured half of it into a glass of warm milk (cold would work just as well), mixed it up, and enjoyed. 

A warm, creamy glass of coffee made a comforting thing to hold onto and drink while the furnace guy was here to repair our broken furnace. We talked to each other from about 10 feet apart, but I was a little bit nervous when he coughed a few times. It could have been the caustic chemicals he was using to clean the boiler coil, but I was glad for a warm drink to hold and sip. 

If you'd like to enjoy your own bit of coffee magic, whisk up some Pamplona/Madrona/Dalgona of your very own!

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Three on Thursday

I'm joining Carole and friends for Three on Thursday, today with three things I've found out about sourdough bread.

It didn't rise as high as I might have expected or hoped. I should have made just one loaf and baked it in my Dutch oven. 

I need a sharp(er) knife to slash my loaves before baking. Even my serrated bread knife wasn't sharp enough so I ended up tearing and deflating the dough.

I didn't get that desired San Fransisco sour taste.

That was my whole reason for starting my starter. Years ago, John had an office in Richmond, CA that he had to visit monthly. He used to bring me a loaf of sourdough bread every time he went there, and it was one of the best things I ever ate. My own starter didn't produce anything resembling that delightful tang.

Ryan often judges foods using a ratio of work/deliciousness. First, he looks at the amount of work involved in the cooking process. Is this simply mixing in water, like making Jello? Are there multiple complicated steps involved, or are you required to make something before you could proceed further to make the final product? And then there is that all-important deliciousness factor. How good does it taste? Ryan often prepares 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 (at least in Fort Collins). So with a high work/deliciousness ratio, I'm not sure I'll be making sourdough bread again with my starter. The hoped-for deliciousness was too disappointing. 

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

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Unraveled Wednesday

Joining Kat and friends for Unraveled Wednesday, with an interesting observation. It's amazing how you can make visible progress when you actually knit on projects every day!

I've completed blue, purple, pink, and orange stripes. I like the first three but I'm unsure about the orange. I'm going to get an expert opinion from my color consultant (Ryan) about whether to keep the orange, and I also need to ask his opinion about another possible color. 

Some days I knit for a few hours, and other days it's only a couple rows, but I'm really enjoying #the100dayproject  and #100daysof hitchhikers. Knitting these stripes has been something I could actually control, and it's also calming, meditative, and good for my soul. 

There will be a few ends to weave in when I'm done, but I'm going to make sure I'm keeping the stripes before I start weaving any ends. The end of this one is in sight, and then on to the next Hitchhiker! 

I started reading Afterlife by Julia Alvarez, but haven't progressed beyond the first couple of chapters. It's me and my lack of reading focus, not the book, but I'm sure I'll read more at some point. (Maybe when I'm done with Hitchhikers!)

What are you making, reading, and/or doing to get through this week?

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Better Times

Kym's link yesterday to virtual strolls through Longwood Gardens prompted me to reminisce about some of my own visits to Longwood Gardens. Reliving some of the lovely memories of seeing all the beautiful things growing there cheered me up on a day with driving wind and rain (we also had a leak, the side door fell off the hinges, there was a tornado watch but no tornadoes in my area thank goodness, and my chicken leaked all over the kitchen floor which meant I had to mop, but I digress). Some photos:

Longwood Gardens was my Mom's favorite place at Christmas time and we got her a membership for many years. It's stunning at Christmas, in spring, indoors, and out. 

You know what else cheered me up? Based on the comments on Kym's post, the possibility that I could maybe meet up with quite a few knitters at Longwood Gardens when all of this is over. It's a dream I'm holding on to!