Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Unraveled Wednesday

I'm joining Kat and friends for Unraveled Wednesday, with the return of the second Nervous Breakdown. I enjoyed knitting and finally finishing the Creamsockles enough that I was compelled to immediately order some eye-searingly bright sock yarn. It hasn't arrived yet, and my fingers were itching to get back to knitting a Hitchhiker, so that's what I'm working on. I really enjoy the rhythm of knitting Hitchhikers and the joy that those colorful speckles give me. (They are much brighter up close and in person.)

On the reading front, I finished two books, Broken Ice and The Shallows, which are the second and third installments in the Nils Shapiro mystery series. They are both enjoyable 3.5-4 star books, and there is one more book in the series that I will read eventually. I accidentally left my copy of Night Waking in NJ, but luckily I've had some other reading, the real copy of Shuggie Bain I got from the Elkton library last weekend.  So far I'm finding it a compelling, immersive, beautifully-written book about some ugly (but very real) subjects. 

What are you making and reading this week?

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Fall Back

I'll admit up front that this post is the result of blatant thievery. Carole mentioned last week that she was thinking about ideas for blog posts, came up with the topic of "ask me anything", and invited people to pose questions they were curious about. In the comments Becky asked "What are the fall back recipes you make over and over again? I wish someone would do a post about this so I could get some new ideas. Cooking dinner must happen daily, and variety is not my superpower. I know this is a boring question, but it is something I struggle with daily."

I perked right up when I read that because I experience the same struggle on a daily basis. I thought if I posted some of my own slightly boring and often overused recipes, maybe you would do the same and we could all have a new variety of dishes to answer the eternal question of "what should I make for dinner?" So apologies to Becky and Carole for stealing this, but I'm desperate and tired of making the same things week after week.

I may make this a regular thing, but here are my first five recipes. I make these (or some simplified version of them) probably at least every other week or so. I chose these to start because they come out near the top of what Ryan calls the work/deliciousness ratio. The ideal recipe requires little work but produces something quite delicious, and I think these recipes qualify.

Chicken Pot Pie - I found this recipe a few months ago, have made it several times, and it is delicious. It's not a lot different than most other chicken pot pies, but the filling is made from scratch and I think the heavy cream in it makes it above average. 

Goop Chicken - We call this Goop Chicken because one of the boys once asked me what was in the goop and the name stuck. When a friend first gave me this recipe I thought it sounded slightly revolting. Italian dressing mix, cream cheese, and cream of mushroom soup? But it was something I could easily throw in the crockpot and everyone in our family liked it. That alone made it a worthy recipe. there have been fights at our house about not getting enough goop, so I almost always make it with three cans of mushroom soup, two packages of Italian dressing mix, and 8 oz. of cream cheese. I don't even care about the chicken (I just put chicken breasts in the crockpot and pour the goop mixture over them), I like goop on rice just fine.

Sausages with Peppers and Onions - This is another recipe that is easy to prepare. Just chop up peppers and onions, sear whatever sausages you like and place on top, and cook in the crockpot. Sometimes I use beer if I've got it, but I've also used water or cider and they work equally well.

Bacon Wrapped Cheesesteak Meatloaf - This recipe may look a little fussy, but I make an easier modified version of it. I season hamburger or ground venison, pat it into a rectangle, put provolone in the middle and roll it up. I usually put a few slices of bacon on the outer top, but rarely wrap the meatloaf in "a lovely bacon jacket".

Loaded Shepherd's Pie - Everyone in my family likes shepherd's pie, but one day Ryan said it needed more flavor. This recipe is proof that most things are made better by adding cheese and bacon. 

So there you have it, five of the fallback, foolproof, recipes I use with ideal work/deliciousness ratios. Please, please let me know about one (or more) of your own fallback recipes in the comments and rescue John and my family from eating the same thing night after night!

Monday, March 29, 2021

Sometimes Monday

 ... feels a little bit different than usual. 

The freshly rototilled garden with freshly planted peas.
 It looks like soil and straw now, but use your imagination.

Normally we head home to NJ over the weekend, to check the mail, pay bills, see Justin, clean as necessary, grocery shop as needed, and generally check on the house. This weekend we stayed in MD for several reasons. John wanted to look for shed deer antlers down here and we will probably go home to NJ next Wednesday and be there for a week because we are getting our second vaccine shots. It's also nice not to have to make the four hour round trip to only spend 36 hours in NJ doing chores and fighting traffic on 95.

My blueberry bush is beginning to bud.

I can't remember the last time we spent a weekend here in MD, but I have plenty of knitting and books so I was happy. I took some long walks, cleaned out the flower beds, bought some lavender, supervised John's roto-tilling of the garden, helped him plant peas, and even mowed a little bit (the onion and sedge grass was rampant and needed to be knocked down.) There is still lots of brown in the landscape, but more and more green every day. I got takeout from my favorite place (Central Tavern), made some not-half-bad pulled pork barbecue, and baked some sugar cookies. I even went into the newly re-opened Elkton library and checked out a copy of Shuggie Bain. Nothing terribly exciting or adventurous (although it was thrilling to visit a library in person), but it still felt different from my usual weekends. And in these times, even a slight alteration in the way I do things can feel like quite a change.

I hope your weekend was enjoyable, maybe a little bit different in a good way (hopefully without severe storms and flooding), and your week is off to a good start.

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Poetry on Thursday

In my search for a poem to share today, I couldn't stop thinking about the grocery store shooting in Boulder where ten people were killed on Monday. Ryan and I have talked every day since it happened, as my sweet, pacifist, lonely-because-of-covid son is now even more fearful of going to the grocery store. He's about an hour away from where this happened, and King Soopers is where he does his grocery shopping. Both Ryan and CO governor Jared Polis said “Never ever does it cross your mind that that trip to the grocery store could be your last moments on earth." Except that the danger has been there for years, whether we recognize it or not. You can be shot if you're Black, Asian, asleep in bed, watching a movie, or simply attending school, so grocery stores are not exempt. I simply didn't have the heart to say to Ryan that gun violence is always close.

Boy Shooting at a Statue by Billy Collins

It was late afternoon,

the beginning of winter, a light snow,

and I was the only one in the small park

to witness the lone boy running

in circles around the base of a bronze statue.

I could not read the carved name

of the statesman who loomed above,

one hand on his cold hip,

but as the boy ran, head down

he would point a finger at the statue

and pull an imaginary trigger

imitating the sounds of rapid gunfire.

Evening thickened, the mercury sank,

but the boy kept running in the circle

of his footprints in the snow

shooting blindly into the air.

History will never find a way to end,

I thought, as I left the park by the north gate

and walked slowly home

returning to the station of my desk

where the sheets of paper I wrote on

were like pieces of glass

through which I could see

hundreds of dark birds circling in the sky below.

Collins, Billy. "Boy Shooting at a Statue". Bullets into Bells: Poets and Citizens Respond to Gun Violence, Beacon Press, 2017.


From raising two sons, I know that pretend gun play may be part and parcel of being male. Justin once chewed his toast into the shape of a gun, and he used a banana when we took away a toy gun because he was pointing it at his brother. John and I taught them both that you never, ever point a gun at a person, and I wish that was a lesson that everyone could learn.

We all offer up thoughts and prayers, but we also know they are not going to solve anything. Joe Biden has called for a ban on assault rifles and improved background checks, but Congress has not been up to that massive task before. Here are some possible ways to take action:


I wish you mindfulness, good health, peace, freedom from gun violence, and poetry as the week winds down.

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Unraveled Wednesday

I had hoped to join Kat and friends for Unraveled Wednesday today with a completed pair of socks, but it's just an almost completed pair of socks.

The second sock just needs a toe and then kitchenering, but I didn't want to rush and make a mistake. This will be my first pair of completed socks in four years, so they can certainly wait another day! My fingers are itching to get back to my current Hitchhiker, so that's what up next. 

I managed to finish two books during this past week. Thanks to Kat's review last week, I downloaded 84, Charing Cross Road from my library, and it was as charming as Kat said it would be. A friend has offered to loan me the followup/sequel, so I hope to read The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street in the near future. 

I rarely read mysteries, but I stumbled across Gone to Dust and was intrigued enough to listen. It features an ex-cop turned private investigator, Nils Shapiro, solving the unique murder of a woman covered in dust from multiple vacuum cleaner bags. This seriously compromises the DNA evidence, but Nils is likeable, intelligent, and able to logically reason things out. Both the characters and plot were well-developed, and I liked it enough that I'm listening to the next one in the series, Broken Ice

What are you making and reading this week?

Monday, March 22, 2021

Add a Bow Tie

I'm kind of at a loss for words this morning. I don't have anything specific to say (my weekend was full of chores and travel from MD to NJ and back again) but I didn't want to not post. So I'm sharing this photo that makes me laugh and wondering how you put a figurative bow on your chicken hat and get on with your life in the best way you can? Let me know your thoughts in a comment and maybe you can make us all laugh (or at least smile) on this Monday morning.

I'll start things off. If I want to make a statement and get on with things, I wear my "f**kity f**k f**k mask" It makes me feel more powerful and I just love how it looks like an innocuous floral print but says something quite different. It never fails to elicit smiles and comments from people around me, and I haven't yet received a negative comment.

So how do you dress up your chicken hat and get on with your life? I'd love to know!

Thursday, March 18, 2021

Poetry on Thursday

I've been feeling cautiously hopeful recently, after being lucky enough to receive vaccine shot #1, the gentle approach of spring, and maybe finally a reluctant acceptance of how things are instead of fighting the circumstances I find myself in. This calls for some hopeful poetry. 

This Morning
by Jay Wright

This morning I threw the windows
of my room open, the light burst
in like crystal gauze, and I hung
it on my wall to frame.
And here I am watching it take possession
watching the obscure love
match of light and shadow—of cold and warmth.
It's a matter of acceptance I guess.
It is a matter of finding some room
with shadows to embrace, open. Now
the light has settled in, I don't think
I shall ever close my windows again.

Wright, Jay. "This Morning." Soulscript: Afro-American Poetry, edited by June Jordan, Doubleday, 1970.

You can read more about Jay Wright here.

I wish you mindfulness, peace, good health, windows wide open, and poetry as the week winds down.

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Unraveled Wednesday

I'm joining Kat and friends for Unraveled Wednesday, with one Creamsockle sock finished and the second one cast on. Kitchener almost kicked my butt, but I prevailed in the end. I need to knit the second sock quickly so I don't forget the sock skills I've recently remembered. I haven't been doing a lot of knitting as I've been concentrating on taxes (boo!), reading (yay!), and more walking (hooray!) 

I finished several books this week; two of them were from Netgalley. I receive an Advance Reader's Copy from Netgalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review. I had three Netgalley books on my virtual shelf, so I thought it would be a good idea to actually finish and review them so I would continue to be approved for new books in the future. One was A Place Like Home, a collection of previously published short stories by Rosamunde Pilcher. The Shell Seekers will always hold a special place in my heart, so I was anxious to read this. It was a 4-star book for me, with an extra star probably just because they were written by Rosamunde Pilcher. 

Everyone In This Room Will Someday be Dead was also a 4-star book. I initially chose this one because I thought the cover was interesting and the title was intriguing. It's the story of a gay, atheist woman in her late 20s who is suffering from profound anxiety and depression. It's not a light-hearted book although there are some humorous and poignant moments. I thought it was a genuine portrayal of someone suffering from depression. 

And then there is Klara. I was excited to read Klara and the Sun because the author is Kazuo Ishiguro and the premise sounded both interesting and original. The first part of the book was quite good as the reader is introduced to Klara (an Artificial Friend) and her unusual abilities, but for me it devolved into a YA-type of romance. Since this is science fiction, I think detailed world-building is important, but I found it quite weak and could only muster 2.5 stars. (Your mileage may vary!)

If you are interested in reading my more detailed reviews on goodreads, just click on the book in the right-hand sidebar. 

What are you making and reading this week?

Monday, March 15, 2021

At Last!

I've wanted to see something blooming for quite a while now. I have a few leftover Christmas cactus blossoms, and I bought a miniature rose at the grocery store just for the flowers. But after several days of warm temperatures last week, I finally got my wish. 

Crocus just coming up (alongside a squirrel-chewed antler)

Crocus in an ivy bed (that needs to be cleaned out)

Crocus at the base of our big oak tree

Close-up crocus

And a little bunch of snowdrops

We're back to more seasonable temperatures now, but that's okay. I've seen the signs that spring is definitely on the way, and I have a snowdrop on my windowsill to remind me.

Thursday, March 11, 2021

Poetry on Thursday

Late last night I was scrolling through Instagram (I know), but this time I found something worthwhile. I stumbled upon Kate Baer. Her poems stopped me in my tracks and kept me from scrolling further. As I read, I was struck by her language, what she says, and how she says it. Here are a couple of them.

To Take Back a Life
by Kate Baer

First you must learn desire. Hold its
fruit in your hands. Unmarry it
from the hunger to be held, to be wanted, to
be called from the streets like the family
dog. You are not a good girl. You are not 
somebody's otherness. This is not a dress
rehearsal before a better kind of life.

Pick up your heavy burdens and leave
them at the gate. I will hold the door for

She also does some "blackout poetry" where she takes the ugly messages that men have sent her about her "ugly leftist agenda", calling her fat and dumb, and transforms them into something beautiful by deleting their own words. This is a little more difficult to share, but you can see this example on Instagram here

I found her poetry to be accessible and speak to what many women are thinking (at least this woman). 
You can read more about Kate Baer here

I wish you mindfulness, peace, good health, and the understanding that this is not a dress rehearsal before a better kind of life as the week winds down.

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Unraveled Wednesday

I'm joining Kat and friends for Unraveled Wednesday. Another Nervous Breakdown is still in progress but I'm also working on another wip I dug out of my yarn closet.

It's a sock! I was composing a blog post in my head while I happily knit round and round. It went something like "knitting socks is just like riding a bicycle. You never forget!" But then my training wheels broke and I fell (twice!) while turning the heel and decreasing for the gusset. I ripped it out, got back on track, and now I'm cruising down the foot.

These were socks I used to take along when I took my father to radiation and doctor appointments, but I put them away after he died. It feels nice to work on them now, especially since I'm not doing it in any doctor's offices or hospitals. When Justin saw them, he asked how the Creamsockles were going, so that is what I'm calling them.

A friend dropped off some Girl Scout cookies on my porch and I opened the lemon ones. I haven't had these Lemon-Ups before and they are very good. I've eaten "I'm a go-getter" and "I'm a leader" and saved "I am creative" for the photo. Not that knitting socks is especially creative, but it feels that way after remembering how to turn a heel, pick up the gusset, and decrease the gusset stitches. I'm not even going to open the Thin Mints. 

I'm still reading Night Waking, but for a little bit of variety I started Klara and the Sun in audio format and a pre-publication copy of A Place Like Home from Netgallley on my Kindle. They are providing necessary comfort and solace after I work on taxes. (Begin rant) I officially hate the state of Delaware and their far-reaching taxation. Their state motto is "Liberty and Independence" but it should be "Give Us All of Your Money". (End of rant)

What are you making and reading this week?

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

How It's Going

I posted this list back in mid-January and since we're now into March, I thought I'd check it and see how I'm doing.

21 Things I Want To Do in 2021:

1.   Bake cinnamon-sugar doughnuts - Done and they were pretty good.
2.   Make jelly donuts - Done and they were not very good at all. 
3.   Finish 4 wips - In progress. I've finished two and am working on a third.
4.   Make 4 new dinner (entree) recipes  - In progress. I've made salmon and pasta with shrimp; both were good. 
5.   Read a graphic novel
6.   Complete 20 yoga sessions
7.   Meditate daily - Still going
8.   Read The Portrait of Dorian Gray with Ryan
9.   Read The Mill on the Floss
10. Write a card/letter to all relatives - In progress. I'm trying to write something personal and original in each letter, but I'm running out of steam on this one.
11.  Make at least 3 Christmas gifts
12. Make at least 3 Christmas ornaments
13. Crochet at least 3 snowflakes
14. List the rest of the Dept 56 houses for sale - Done. There were only 10 or twelve, but they're all gone now and my Christmas decorations are pared down.
15. Breed flowers in Animal Crossing (green mums) - Done. (See photos.)
16. Bake cinnamon raisin bread
17. Bake scones
18. Make Swedish meatballs
19. Try three new kinds of tea - I tried five or six different kinds from Plum Deluxe thanks to Sarah's link. I've found a new favorite chai and will continue to try more new types.
20. Clean out the cedar chest - Done. I got rid of things, rearranged things, and generally improved the situation.
21. Read a fantasy series with at least three books
22. Swap one item on this list for something I'd rather do

Completing six items with four in progress is enough to make me feel like I'm moving forward. I'll check back in a couple of months to let you know how things stand then (and if I've had to resort to using #22 yet). 

Hope your Tuesday is off to a good start!

Monday, March 8, 2021

Sometimes Monday ...

 ... is a day for the underperformers.

I started these amaryllis bulbs a month or so ago, and was initially excited to see the appearance of green leaf shoots. I keep watching and waiting for bud stems to appear, but there is nothing so far.

I've successfully rebloomed these bulbs several times before and treated them exactly as I did before. They spent the summer outside, I stopped watering them before frost and then placed  them in my root cellar for the winter. Once I brought them out of their hibernation, I repotted and started watering them, but here I am with no flowers. I think I'll let them continue to grow, put them outdoors after the danger of frost has passed, and maybe give them some extra fertilizer when I water them. Everyone and almost every plant deserves a second chance, and I'll give these guys theirs next year. 

Thursday, March 4, 2021

Poetry on Thursday

The poetry I chose to share today is really different, with the added plus that I didn't need to search for associated pictures for the post. It's called visual, collage, or erasure poetry, and I think Sarah J. Sloat is a master at it. In 2016 she began a project in which artists were assigned a Stephen King book to create visual poems. Her book was Misery, and she worked on the project for three and a half years. The poems she created were eventually published in 2018 as Hotel Almighty. Below are a few examples.

This one, “Textbook Intro”, is sourced from The Accidental by Ali Smith:

The last one, "Tatters", comes from Pincher Martin by William Golding. This poem is sewn!

Sometimes the poems are not easy to read, but I love the idea that they exist inside other books, just waiting to be found, released and embellished by the artist. I read Misery years ago and never thought about the possibility that it (and other books) might contain poetry. Someday I might try a few of my own with some of those yellowed and falling-apart paperbacks on my shelves.

Sloat, Sarah J. Hotel Almighty. Sarabande Books, September 2020. 

Here are links to some interviews with Sarah Sloat and further examples of her visual poetry:

I wish you mindfulness, peace, good health, and the joy of finding, creating, and embellishing a poem or two of your own as the week winds down.

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Unraveled Wednesday

Joining Kat and friends for Unraveled Wednesday. I'm still working on Another Nervous Breakdown, but in an effort to avoid showing you the same slow-growing Hitchhiker photo for weeks on end, I'm going to show you my concurrent comfort knitting.

This is a Sockhead Cowl (ravelry link) in Wollmeise Blend, a lovely mix of merino and cashmere. This is my third one, and they've been spaced out enough that I've forgotten how much of a slog they can be. But this yarn feels delicious flowing through my fingers and I'd like to finish the ribbing and get it done, just in case I get a chance to wear it this winter. It would have felt good yesterday with wind chills in the 20s and 30 mph winds. Just another few inches of ribbing and I'll get my wish.

I've become a faithful, monogamous reader in the past week, and I anticipate this trend continuing until I finish reading my pile of Sarah Moss novels. I finished The Tidal Zone and as much as I enjoyed Summerwater and The Ghost Wall, The Tidal Zone was all I had hoped for and more. I don't usually do this, but I'm copying and pasting my review here in hopes that maybe others will be intrigued enough by her stunning prose and premise to give the book a try. 

"The Tidal Zone is my third Sarah Moss novel, and it was so good that I still want more. It's the story of Adam, a stay-at-home dad and his family. One day Adam receives a phone call that his 15-year-old daughter, Miriam, has collapsed at school, and things unfold from there. There are clear and poignant chapters about how things are going in the hospital, interspersed with the rebuilding of Coventry Cathedral after World War II (because Adam is working on a project), and Adam's father telling his own story of his life in the 1960s. Things are not neatly tied up so this may not be a book for everyone, but I love Moss' language, intelligence, and extraordinary writing about the mundane and not-so-mundane. I have dog-eared so many pages that I know I will be re-reading The Tidal Zone at some point. But not until after I finish my next three books by Sarah Moss. Up next, Night Waking...

Although try this: if you could know what is going to happen, if you could know the lives and deaths of your partner and your kids and yourself, if you could know their loves and losses, triumphs and failures, sicknesses and last moments, would you? No. You think you want a story, you think you want an ending, but you don't. You want life. You want disorder and ignorance and uncertainty."

I am currently reading Night Waking, the first in a loose sort of trilogy, and just like my other Sarah Moss novels, this one is even better than the last. I've been reading it before I go to sleep, and I've dreamt about it on several occasions. It takes me right back to the sleepless early years of motherhood. The male protagonist, Giles, is a real a**hole and I've had to remind myself several times not to be angry at my husband because he is not Giles. Sarah Moss' writing is that good and immersive. 

What are you making, reading, and immersed in this week?

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Leave the World Behind Book Discussion

Welcome to the blog-based book discussion for our latest Read With Us book, Leave the World Behind

I personally have some mixed feelings about how I would rate this book if I was just reading it for myself, but I do think (and hope) it will prompt some very good discussions (and maybe help answer some of my own questions). Carole, Kym, and I are each posing a different question here on our blogs today, and you are welcome to answer, discuss, or just leave a comment with your opinion about the book. Thanks in advance for participating in whatever way works for you! 

The question I would like to pose is this: Ruth and G. H. are separated from their daughter and grandsons for the duration of the crisis, while Amanda and Clay have their kids with them. Do you think that changes their response to the situation they are facing together?

The fact that Ruth and G.H. can't even communicate with their daughter but Amanda and Clay are with their kids (even though their daughter is wandering the neighborhood and their son is sick) really struck a nerve with me. I know that my kids and their welfare would be my primary concern if I was facing a distressing and unknown situation. To not even be able to communicate with them by phone sounds like the stuff that nightmares are made of, and I'm pretty sure that would guide my own response. I think that whether my kids were with me or far away and out of reach, I would want to know that were okay. What do you think?

Then tonight at 7:00 pm Eastern, we'll be having a Zoom book discussion! If you haven't already done so, please let Carole, Kym, or me know that you would like to attend and we'll make sure you receive an invitation. I hope to see as many of you that can join us (with your knitting and beverage of choice). We'll have fun and maybe even discuss the book a bit!

Monday, March 1, 2021

(Not) Time Well Spent

One of the things I put on my 21 in 2021 list was to make jelly donuts. This past weekend was rainy and well-suited to baking, so I decided to give jelly donuts a try. I had all the recipe ingredients on hand , so I mixed up  batch of dough, let it rise, rolled it out, and cut out the donuts.

They are ready to rise in the photo above, and the photo below is what they looked like after a second hour of rising time. Not a lot different, but ready to bake. 

While they baked I got my jelly shooter loaded.

Baking time was only about ten minutes, so all I had to do was let them cool and then fill them up.

I ran out of jelly after eight donuts, so the remaining four got filled with whipped cream.

But how did they taste? Not terrific, in my opinion. They tasted a lot like regular yeast-risen rolls filled with jelly or whipped cream, but nothing like donuts. I wondered about the recipe when it only called for 1/4 cup of sugar, but when I make a new recipe, I almost always make it exactly as written and then make changes as necessary. I don't think I'll be making this recipe again because it just wasn't worth the time it took, but I might try this one sometime in the future.

Or I might just stop by Dunkin' Donuts if I want a real jelly donut.