Thursday, October 21, 2021

Three on Thursday

I'm joining Carole for Three on Thursday this week, with three questions each for two three distinct groups of people that I've wondered about this week.

For those that have a blog: Why do you blog? Have you thought about quitting? What keeps you going?

For those that don't blog: Have you ever thought about blogging? Do you have reasons for not blogging? What has kept you from trying it? 

Edited to add because Valerie helpfully pointed this out: For those that used to blog but gave it up: Why did you quit? Do you ever regret it? Have you ever considered starting your blog again? 

It seems only fair that if I'm going to ask questions that I should also answer them.

I started blogging back in 2013 when Ryan moved to Colorado. It felt like something was missing (really it was someone). I needed some sort of outlet, so on a whim, I started to write. I have looked back at some of my first entries and cringed. The photos and content were crap, but they were mine. 

I have contemplated quitting, mainly because I run out of ideas to write about. My grandmother always said "There's no point in talking if you don't have something to say", and I think about that often.

I think that several things keep me going. The first is that I write mainly for myself. It helps me to get things out of my mind, write them down, and it just happens to be in a public sort of format. I can refer back to my blog to remind myself about when things happened (as several of you have written about recently)! The other main reason that I am still blogging is that I enjoy the personal contact. I've only met two bloggers in person (Dee and Vera at NJ Sheep & Wool), but I feel like many bloggers and commenters are friends (even if some people think they are "imaginary friends"). I'm grateful that you have chosen to read what I've written; I take joy in reading the comments, and often look forward to responding and continuing the conversation by email. I appreciate the personal interactions (be they words of encouragement, book recommendations, recipes, differing opinions, and possibly some help with a sweater in the future), and they have all added something valuable to my life. 

This was back in 2018, the good old days pre-covid.
We all look much better than this now!

Thank you in advance for your answers to any questions that you choose to answer!

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Unraveled Wednesday

I'm joining Kat and the Unravelers for Unraveled Wednesday, with some of my usual knitting and also something new.

I found this Hitchhiker in a project bag and remembered how nice the yarn is. These aren't exactly fall colors, but it looks like I put it on my Ravelry challenge list to finish this year. Seeing as how I started it back in 2017, it really is time to get it finished. 

And there is also the prospect of a sweater. Justin gave me a Webs gift certificate for Mother's Day and I bought some lovely dk weight yarn. I swatched, but have since fallen out of love with the pattern I intended to knit. After searching patterns for a long time, I just can't get the Antler cardigan out of my mind. It's meant for worsted, but plenty of people have used dk, so I'm going to give it a try. I'm doing some more swatches but will start with the sleeves (maybe later this week?) so I can more properly assess gauge before I start on the body. I'm going slowly because my first sweater attempt in 30 years feels like a big deal.

Since last week I've finished The Five Wounds (an excellent book that I highly recommend) and re-listened to several Gary Paulsen audiobooks (Tracker, Hatchet, Brian's Winter and Brian's Return). I'm waiting for lots of books in hold queues, but a friend just finished The Lincoln Highway and gave it five stars. She rarely rates books this highly unless they are deserving and has never led me astray, so I've just started it this morning. 

What are you making and reading this week?

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

It's the Final Countdown ...

... or a close estimate.

I've previously mentioned my dislike for the weekly drive from NJ to MD on Sunday and then back to NJ on Thursday or Friday. Last week John told his boss that he is retiring and he has a meeting with HR today to talk about some details, like the actual date that he's leaving. This is most likely in February or March of 2022, so there is light at the end of the tunnel (or the always-congested Delaware Memorial Bridge). 

I'm doing laundry and ironing today, but my new sense of hope has inspired me to do a final countdown of all the things I dislike about living in two places. These aren't hard and fast numbers, but a rough estimate is still a very good thing.

Round trips between NJ and MD that we'll have to make: 18

Number of John's work pants and shirts that I'll have to wash and iron: 48 (too high, but I may never iron again after he retires.)

Times I will have to pay duplicate electric, water and sewer bills, Comcast, and property taxes: 25

Trips to the grocery store to keep two houses stocked with basic food items: 16 

Times I purchase heating oil for two houses: 2

How often I wish that I had something that I've left in the other house from where I'm currently located: 54 (yarn, clothing, kitchen utensils, etc. This happens at least three times/week.)

Vegetables that I will have to blanch and freeze from the garden in MD: 0! I did ~20 lbs. of carrots last weekend in NJ, but in a less-than-efficient way because my food processor was in MD and I had to slice them all by hand. 

Amount of money that we will pay in tolls on the Delaware Memorial Bridge: $90.00

How much we will pay in tolls on Route 95: Anywhere from $0 - 200.00. We had an easy way to travel without any tolls but construction started on that about 2.5 years ago and is ongoing. We've been using an alternate route with only one $5.00 toll but construction started on that yesterday, so I'm not quite sure how we'll go when we head home to NJ this week. We'll just be glad to find a not-too-congested route (just like everyone else is looking for) and not worry about tolls. 

Hope that the house in MD will sell quickly and for a decent price after we list it: Infinite!

Monday, October 18, 2021

Thank You, Gary

A friend texted me Friday morning to let me know that author Gary Paulsen had died on Thursday. It's a bit difficult to explain, but I felt saddened by the news all weekend. His books were a big part of our lives, and I know that's true for many other readers and families. 

Justin was a reluctant reader. I used to cringe when he told me he had to do a book report in elementary and middle school as I knew there would be a fight (or two) and some tears before the dreaded book report deadline. He would only read books about nature, animals, or adventure, so first came the issue of choosing a book. I think Justin chose Mr. Tucket himself based on the cover, but once he had discovered Gary Paulsen, choosing a book, reading it, and even writing the book report became much easier. 

Thankfully, Paulsen was a prolific author. The Tucket Adventures is a series of five books. He primarily wrote for children, but I think adults could learn a thing or two from his books. Some of them deal with adult topics, like Soldier's Heart and The Rifle, but he never wrote down to kids. I distinctly remember the discussions Justin and I had after he read those two books, and they were valuable for both of us. 

Then there is the Hatchet series, the books Paulsen may be best known for. Thirteen-year-old Brian Robeson is on his way to Canada in a small plane when the pilot suffers a heart attack, the plane crashes, and Brian has to survive with just his hatchet and resourcefulness. Gary Paulsen wrote four sequels to Hatchet, The River, Brian's Winter, Brian's Return, and Brian's Hunt. In Guts, Paulsen does just what the subtitle suggests, tells the true stories behind Hatchet and the Brian books. He could write these stories and readers responded to them because he lived them. In addition to his career as an author, he also worked as an engineer, construction worker, ranch hand, truck driver and sailor, and twice competed in the Iditarod. All of these served as inspirations for his novels. In his personal survival story, Gone to the Woods, he wrote the story of surviving his own lost childhood. What saved a young Gary Paulsen was the library and a librarian.

"And it became a sanctuary for me. The librarian - she watched me for a while. I was kind of this urchin, you know, a street urchin. Then she finally said, you want something? I said, nah I'm OK. And she gave me a card and - hard to talk about it. It was a card with my name on it. And, God, nobody had given me a - anything like that. Nobody gave me anything. She said, you should write down some of your thought pictures, which I called them, you know. I said, who - for who? And she said, me. None of this would have happened except for that."

It's sad to think that Gary Paulsen is no longer with us to write stories of survival and the wilderness. But he's left a legacy of over 200 books for readers of all types to discover, appreciate, and grow through reading. My sincere thanks go out to Gary Paulsen for all he has given and written. 

Thursday, October 14, 2021

Poetry on Thursday

Jane mentioned that she had read The Lost Words by Robert Macfarlane and illustrated by Jackie Morris a while ago, and I put it on my list. I didn't know what a treat I was in for when I started to look for the book. 

Back in 2007, more than 40 words were removed from the Oxford Junior Dictionary. Words like acorn, bluebell, bramble, dandelion, heather, kingfisher, magpie, newt, otter, weasel, and willow. What happens when we lose the names for ferns, herons, and wrens? Do we lose the ability to notice them? Do we lose the ability to care about them? Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris set out to create a gorgeously illustrated book that conjures these lost words and and species back into our everyday lives.

The book was published in 2017 and is often marketed as a children's book, but I think it's for everyone. It's large, 11 x 15, and presumably beautifully illustrated. I haven't seen the actual book yet as none of my libraries have a copy, but I was able to find it on Overdrive as an audiobook. I was initially disappointed, but hearing the poems read by the author and others, interspersed with bird song, rain sounds, and the music of the natural world in the background was its own lovely experience. I searched all over for a video of Mr. Macfarlane reading Acorn and couldn't find anything, so I'm sharing the poem here. 


As flake is to blizzard, as

Curve is to sphere, as knot is to net, as

One is to many, as coin is to money, as
  bird is to flock, as

Rock is to mountain, as drop is to fountain, as
  spring is to river, as glint is to glitter, as

Near is to far, as wind is to weather, as
  feather is to flight, as light is to star, as
  kindness is to good, so acorn is to wood.

I hope you can find a copy of The Lost Words to look through or from Overdrive to listen to, and help return some of these words to our lives. 

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Unraveled Wednesday

I'm joining Kat for Unraveled Wednesday, and am especially excited because I've finally finished the Drachenblut Hitchhiker!

It's ~95 inches across in wingspan, so a little difficult to photograph, but it's done and I'm happy with it. Now all I need is some much cooler fall weather so I can wear it.

Last week I also finished three books. Two were four-star books for me, No Cure for Being Human and Everything Happens for a Reason. These are both memoirs written by Kate Bowler who was diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer at age 35. I especially appreciated Bowler's candid assessments of some of the lies and platitudes fostered by religion, as she is a person of faith and teaches at Duke Divinity School. She can write about religion without being overly religious. 

The third book was Bewilderment by Richard Powers, and I don't think I'm his primary audience. I liked individual parts of this book, but as a whole I was underwhelmed. The writing is lovely, but I found myself wondering what much of it meant. This book was only 2.5 stars rounded up to 3 for me. 

I was in the process of reading Matrix, our current Read With Us book, but Overdrive whisked it back before I finished it, so now I have to wait a month for my hold to come up again. That's probably for the best as I will be able to remember more if I read it closer to our discussion in January.

What are you making and reading this week?

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

A Walk in the Woods

A couple of weekends ago, we went for a walk in the woods by my mother-in-law's house. She's been gone for a couple of years and John's brother lives there now, but we still say we are going to Grandmom's. It's a nice little remembrance. 

We saw a lightning-struck tree,

and the bent cherry tree. It's alive and growing like this and John and his brother have been calling it the bent cherry tree for more than 50 years. 

I almost stepped on this fellow,

and here he is in a more close up view.

A few minutes later I came across another turtle, with pretty markings and lovely orange head and feet.

I also came across a couple of farmers outstanding in their field of sorghum.

It's peaceful and restorative to take some time to wander in the woods and see all the things that await. I hope you have the opportunity to take your own walk and see some interesting things!

Monday, October 11, 2021

All the Points

When the boys were growing up, I made dinner almost every night. That meant that every so often we would have leftovers, stored in a collection of containers in the refrigerator. Some had just a few bites in them, like leftover spaghetti and meatballs that Justin couldn't finish, or maybe a spoonful of green beans that Ryan didn't really like. Once the leftover containers had taken over the refrigerator, and I couldn't transform the leftovers into soup or something else, I would declare a smorgasbord night, put out all the containers on the counter, and everyone could decide what they wanted for dinner.

John loves leftovers, but they weren't very popular with the boys. There were "good leftovers" (macaroni and cheese, mashed potatoes, lasagna, or meatloaf) and the less popular "yucky leftovers" like peas, pork chops, or broccoli. One night the boys were moaning about how we didn't have anything good and they were tired of eating yucky leftovers, and I said, "Well, if you finish everything in a container, you'll get a container point!" I don't remember how old the kids were, but they were young enough that the idea of earning points won them over. They proudly tallied up their container points, and it wasn't until the next smorgasbord night that they wondered how to redeem their container points and what they were good for. I hadn't thought too far ahead, and wasn't willing to bribe my kids to eat leftovers with any real or monetary reward, so I just told them I'd figure out something.

I never did anything with the container point redemption scheme, and it eventually became a family joke. Even as adults, they still occasionally ask about container points. But a few weeks ago I discovered another type of point. 

A bunch of warning lights came on in John's truck after he had driven over some rumble strips on the way back from MD, so he took the truck to the dealer. They said he had a bad wheel speed sensor, and they would try to order one. It's one of those parts that has a rare and hard-to-get electronic chip in it, so they weren't sure if it would be available. They called me when John was on vacation and I decided it would be best to take it right into the dealer since they had actually found one. My service advisor was a woman who wondered why I was bringing in John's truck. I explained the story and told her that I was just trying to increase my good wife points. She found this fairly amusing and could barely get over the fact that I was going to sit there for three hours and wait for his truck.

When the truck was done I was pleasantly surprised to find that my good wife points had been upgraded. I'm guessing that the redemption is similar to container points, but I'm just happy to have my points officially documented (and to have earned so many)!

Friday, October 8, 2021

Museum of Me

Last month, Kym introduced this wonderful idea, The Museum of Me. I thought it was terrific, and the whole time I was reading her post, I kept thinking about how I could tactfully ask her if I could steal the idea. (Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, after all.) But part of her brilliance included an invitation to create our own museums, and she even sent her "exhibit schedule" so we could participate. So I'd like to welcome you to my Museum of Me. This month's exhibit is Me As a Child.

As you enter the main display hall of the museum, you'll notice a large portrait. It's a fair-haired young girl, about six years old. She's a quiet and reserved child, but her expression looks like she might be secretly quite pleased. 

It may not be clear from the first glance, but she is not a ballerina. Once you've noticed her crown and star scepter, it becomes evident that this young girl is dressed as Glinda the Good Witch.

(The resemblance is almost uncanny.)

When I was a child, my mother always asked what I wanted to be for Halloween. Halloween was never my favorite holiday, and I'm still not a fan of dressing up, but my answer every year from when I was six years old was that I wanted to be Glinda. That was the year we got a color TV, and I saw The Wizard of Oz in color. 

In 1963, VCRs and DVDs didn't exist (or we didn't have one), so watching The Wizard of Oz on TV was a special occasion since it was only broadcast once a year. The first time I saw the change from black and white to technicolor when Dorothy opens the door in Oz was truly amazing to me.  And when I saw Glinda in that gorgeous pink dress, I thought she was the most beautiful witch person ever. I truly wanted to be her, and since I was six, I thought maybe I could be. 

My mother and grandmother sewed the costume for me, and while I was initially disappointed that it didn't have a full-length skirt, I loved the satin cape, and glittery crown and star scepter they made. I'm sure that people answering their doors on Halloween thought I was a ballerina, but once I politely informed them that I was Glinda I'm sure they understood. I wore that  costume for as long as it fit, and there were many days that I remember walking home from school and changing into it. I thought Glinda was stunning, and I can still remember how beautiful that costume made me feel. Everybody should have at least one outfit in their life that makes them feel absolutely beautiful, and this was mine.

Thank you for visiting The Museum of Me. Be sure to visit Kym today for her new exhibit. The museum exhibits will be changed monthly on the second Friday of the month, so please stop by again in November for the next carefully curated installation. (The gift shop is on the right on your way out!)

Thursday, October 7, 2021

Happy Birthday!

Today is Ryan's birthday, and he's 31 years old. For the past few years his birthday has brought a tinge of sadness to me because we've been 1700 miles apart. I visited him in CO several times for his birthday, but it wasn't like a big family celebration. 

This year is different. He is coming over tomorrow night and cooking dinner for us. He enjoys cooking and welcomes the chance to do it for other people. Venison steak with mushrooms over mashed potatoes with green beans should be delicious. My grandmother used to say that food tasted better if somebody you loved made it for you, and I think that's true.

I will making him some zucchini bread, which he wants instead of a regular birthday cake. It will be made with extra love so I hope it will taste extra good. 

He had a tough time in CO, by himself, with some big challenges of several types, all beyond his control without easy resolution, and then there was the pandemic. I'm proud of all that he's managed to do, the person he's become, and especially glad that he's doing it all a little closer to home. 

Tuesday, October 5, 2021

Read With Us - It's a New Book

After we finish with the Zoom discussion of a Read With Us book, our thoughts turn to "what next?" Sometimes this discussion begins even before we've finished the current book; sometimes we can arrive at a new book choice quickly, but there are other times when it takes a long time, lots of e-mail discussion, consideration, and re-consideration. This book was one of those other times. 

We had a few suggestions, expressed our thoughts, kind of chose a book, but then we un-chose it. There were more suggestions, Kym even made a pro/con list for each of the books, and we finally arrived at a consensus. I'm telling you about the procedure we used to arrive at this book so you'll know it has been well-considered and reasonably thought out. The book we chose is Matrix by Lauren Groff.

As so often is the case, I'm much more intrigued by the UK cover.

I know that several of you already have this on your TBR list, and possibly have it on hold at your library. I'm currently listening to the audio version and only had a short wait for it from my library. It's available from Amazon for Kindle for $14.99 and $17.99 for hardcover. It's also available from Audible for one credit or $22.05 for the member price

Carole, Kym, and I will be writing promotional posts for Matrix on November 2, November 9th, and November 16th, with our Zoom discussion scheduled for January 11, 2022. We hope that will be plenty of time for you to get the book and read it. At only 272 pages, it isn't a long one.

I'm hoping you will Read With Us, give Matrix a try, and plan on joining the Zoom discussion. I think (hope) it will be a good one!

Monday, October 4, 2021

Tea Time

I spent two glorious weeks in NJ, enjoying time by myself, doing all the extra laundry tasks I rarely have time for (washing curtains and some rugs), and even accomplishing some fall cleaning. It's been very nice knowing that things I've cleaned will stay clean for a while, and having whatever I want for dinner whenever I felt like eating it. I'm not quite sure how it started (maybe the first chilly day after I was tired of taking down curtains, doing four loads of laundry, hanging them out, and then putting the curtains back up), but I've been enjoying a cup of tea each afternoon around 5:00 pm or so. 

At first, I contemplated having a beer or cocktail as a reward for my work, but decided that maybe drinking by myself wasn't a great idea. A warm cup of tea is still a lovely reward, and because it was so nice and marked a break between working and relaxing in the evening, I've kept it up.

Sometimes it's a cup of the usual PG Tips that I wake up to in the morning, but I've also been branching out. I love Celestial Seasonings Peppermint and Tension Tamer teas, and they provide a very enjoyable caffeine-free cuppa. 

Other days I take more time and prepare a cup of loose-leaf tea. One of the things I did during my two weeks was to clean out my pantry and kitchen cupboards, so now I can see all the teas I have available. I have a bit of a tea fetish that I try to wrestle under control every now and then, but I like having a varied choice every day, especially now that I can see exactly what my choices are.

I've been watching Call the Midwife in the evenings, so I may have gotten the idea for my new tea time ritual by seeing the many times the characters put the kettle on and how they treat tea as calming and restorative. My tea time started without much thought, but now it's an important part of my day and one I look forward to. I might even bake some scones this week!

Friday, October 1, 2021

Just a Couple of Pictures

I sat here in front of my laptop for a few minutes, wondering what to write. After about five minutes, I thought that maybe I should wait until Monday to post since I couldn't seem to come up with anything. Then I remembered a few photos that I took this week. We had some storms on Tuesday in both the morning and evening, and the clouds produced a lovely sunrise and sunset.



Here's hoping your weekend is a beautiful one!

Thursday, September 30, 2021

Three on Thursday

On this last day of September, I'm joining Carole for Three on Thursday, with all things pumpkin spice. (There may be far more than three.) I went grocery shopping yesterday and was greeted with several large displays of pumpkin spice "stuff".

Starbucks pumpkin spice coffee seems fairly normal.

Pumpkin in baked goods also seems commonplace to me. I considered some pumpkin donuts, but decided I didn't need the calories, nor do I need pumpkin cookies. Those pumpkin donut holes are small, so surely they don't have many calories, but the box says 60 calories each, so I didn't get them either.

It's a big NO to pumpkin spice Special K and the same for pumpkin spice tortilla chips. 

How about some pumpkin spice Spam? I didn't actually see this at the grocery store, because it's only sold in Canada. Justin uses Spam for catfish bait, but I don't think PS flavor will help him catch more fish. 

Another item I didn't see at the grocery store, but it is real! I'm wondering what kind of day I might have if I walked around with pumpkin spice latte-scented armpits. I'm not sure when the season ends, so be sure to get your pumpkin spice products while you can! 

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Unraveled Wednesday

I'm joining Kat for Unraveled Wednesday, today with some unraveling of a different kind. 

Justin is tough on his work pants. He works on a grounds crew, and even though these pants aren't very old, the left knees are ripped and unraveled. While he's on vacation, I thought it would be a good time to try and repair some of these tears. I personally would have gotten rid of these long ago and bought some new pants, but he likes to wear things until they are threadbare.

He's equally rough on jeans, but I'm not even going to attempt to fix these. 

Patching just one pair took me most of last evening, trying to figure out the best way to do it, and then sewing with my mother's old sewing machine. 

I had some success with patching small holes in the back and the crotch. 

The knee patch doesn't look pretty but it might serve the purpose. 

I ended up putting fabric behind the holes to provide something to stitch into and then just zig-zagging the best I could. It was frustrating and probably not worth the time it took, so I think I'll fix the gray pair this afternoon with iron-on patches . Maybe the pants will be good for another month and Justin will finally admit that he needs new ones. 

I finished Mary Jane and What Strange Paradise last week and highly recommend Paradise for a difficult but necessary look at the global refugee crisis through the eyes of children. I've started Bewilderment and Matrix, but haven't read enough of either book to form any opinions yet. 

What are you making and reading this week?