Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Unraveled Wednesday

Today I'm joining Kat and friends for Unraveled Wednesday with a new project. Since I finally finished the never-ending Nervous Breakdown II, my thoughts have turned to knitting that would serve me well on the flight to CO and the 1800 mile drive back from CO. I decided to wind one of my my Mother's Day gift yarns (Wollmeise Pure in Drachenblut), because not much could be better (and easier) than a Wollmeise Hitchhiker.

I've thought about adding beads to the tips of the teeth on a Hitchhiker for a long time, so I knit a little swatch to try bead colors and the technique. 

It's not meant to be patriotic, but I did try red, blue, and clear (silver-lined) beads. Adding the beads isn't difficult at all, but I was kind of underwhelmed by the results. I just didn't feel that they added enough for me to be juggling beads in the passenger seat of Ryan's Subaru as we drive eastward on Route 80. I decided to cast on yet another regular old Hitchhiker, but knit it without beads. I do have some ideas for further "prettification" for this one, along with other beading ideas for other Hitchhikers, but those will have to wait until later. 

I haven't knit much at all, but this is what it looks like so far. Those five teeth are the result of knitting a few rows when I've been on hold with the bank yet again, trying to get instructions on how to send a wire by phone, or while chatting with the title company in Fort Collins to clear up document issues. Fingers crossed we close on Ryan's house in CO today after a delay and some scrambling yesterday.

I managed to read a couple of books this week, a pre-publication copy of Smile and Project Hail Mary. Smile is a memoir from playwright Sarah Ruhl about a decade in her life when she suffered from Bells' palsy. It made me think about our smiles, faces, how our physicality can help determine our emotions, and how we perceive others. Project Hail Mary is a great science-fiction story from the author of The Martian. There was plenty of science that I didn't understand, but I found the story to be creative and compelling. I'll be concentrating monogamously on Unsettled Ground so I can return the library book before I have to leave for CO. 

What are you making and reading this week?

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Right Now - end of June 2021

I haven't done a Right Now post for at least four months, so it must be time for one. I've been really busy driving to MD and back to NJ, getting everything in order to close on buying Ryan's new house, and selling his house in CO (so many details!), getting ready to fly out to CO and help him pack, and then drive 1800 miles back. This is a good way to tell you about some of what's been going on.

Happy to See - This Red-Spotted Newt. I took a walk in the woods in PA over the weekend and spied this sweet little newt. They are my favorites and I haven't seen one in years, so I felt lucky to discover this fellow.

Avoiding - The heat. It's been 90-95 degrees here recently, so I've been walking early in the morning and trying not to be outside when the heat and humidity is at its worst. 

Enjoying - The central air conditioning in MD. We don't have it in NJ, and it was 81 indoors when I left on Monday morning. Ugh!

Appreciating - Ice cubes! Even the sound of them clinking in my glass makes me feel a little bit cooler.

Making - Lots of salads. John sowed some leaf lettuce seeds in the garden this year and we've got tons of the stuff. He said, "It's only half a row," but we've got enough lettuce for everyone on our street. We don't yet have cucumbers or tomatoes, but they're coming. (if only we could grow croutons!)

Reading - I have been listening to audiobooks, but I'll save the specifics for Unraveled Wednesday tomorrow. 

Knitting - I did a swatch where I finally tried knitting with beads. The technique was successful, but I don't think I want these beads on this project. (More details tomorrow.)

Considering - What books and knitting to take to CO. I'll be traveling light, so I'm thinking I'll just take one Hitchhiker for the plane out and 3 days in the car driving back. I may make one last in-person visit to The Loopy Ewe when I'm in Fort Collins and try to limit my purchases to a skein or two. (If not, I'll just have them ship my purchases!) All the books I'm considering will be on my Kindle and ipod. 

Looking Forward To - Being done with closings. John and I signed papers for Ryan's new house last Friday, and a notary is coming to MD this morning so we can sign documents to sell his house in CO. I'll be happier when all these details are wrapped up and done (hopefully successfully) and then all we have to do is fly out, pack, and drive!

Hoping - That the moving process goes smoothly. The sellers of Ryan's new house in PA are building a new house in SC, and they had hoped it would be finished by July 15. That's the official date for the closing on that house. It turns out their builder needs another 2-3 weeks to finish their house, so we will be moving his stuff into a storage facility nearby and will then have to move it again when they vacate the house. We knew about this possibility when we bought the house, but had hoped to be in by July 15th. They have to be out by August 15th, so that's my new hopeful date. 

Smiling - Because I have new sunglasses. My prescription glasses have Transitions lenses in them that get darker, but they never seem to get dark enough for me, and I'm always squinting when I take walks and drive. I saw my nephew's wife over the weekend, and she was telling me about the $20 pair of polarized sunglasses she got at Walmart. They fit over her prescription glasses and voila - no more squinting! I had a headache when I drove down to MD yesterday, so I went right to Walmart and got myself a pair. We laughed because we know they aren't the epitome of fashion but they get the job done well. We agreed that we looked cool enough and the cashier at Walmart told me I looked like a rock star. That's good enough for me!

I'm much happier than I look!

What's going on in your world right now? 

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Unraveled Wednesday

Today I'm joining Kat and friends with a completed Nervous Breakdown II. Finally!

I did enjoy knitting it but those last few teeth were a slog. I was happily knitting away on Saturday night when I thought that my rows were getting pretty long, so I decided to time myself. Each row was taking me 12 minutes, and at that point, I had 42 rows left. A little math told me that I still had more than eight hours of knitting to go! Normally, I only knit one or two hours each day, so I quit doing math, buckled down, and dedicated myself to knitting (as fast as I was capable of, but I may be the world's slowest knitter). 

It's quite large, with 59 teeth it stretches the length of the sofa. I made the first Nervous Breakdown the same size because I like large Hitchhikers to wrap around my neck several times, and that is also true for Ryan. 

The skeins that I used for Nervous Breakdown I (on the left here) may be a little brighter, but I will let Ryan choose the one that he likes best. I had planned to send his to CO, but I'll be heading out there in about two and a half weeks to help him pack. I'm not going to risk having the USPS lose all that work, so I'll just put it in my cedar chest here and save it for a housewarming gift once he's back on the east coast.

I've been knitting much more than reading, so I only finished one book, This Song Will Save Your Life. It's a YA book that I really should never have checked out, but that will teach me not to choose books late at night. I am decades beyond being the target audience so it was just a so-so book for me. I did start Unsettled Ground (our current Read With Us selection) and Tears of Amber based on a wonderful review from Debbie. It's a WWII story, but different from anything else I have read about the war, and very good so far. 

What are you making and reading this week?

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

It's a New Book Announcement!

We know that many of you have been anxious to hear what the next Read With Us title is so you could read it for Summer Book Bingo. I hope that this one will fit into a square for you, and if not, I hope you'll be inclined to read it anyway. 

We considered several books, and Kym asked book consultant extraordinaire (hi, Margene!) for a few recommendations. We noted that several of you already have this book on your tbr lists or are even reading it now, so we agreed on this one fairly quickly and unanimously.

It's Unsettled Ground by Claire Fuller. 

I love this cover and I hope that the story contained within is just as good. I'll admit that I've been a little wary of Claire Fuller ever since I read Our Endless Numbered Days. I found that book unsettling and horrendous, but the reviews for this one are much better. (I checked multiple sources!)

Unsettled Ground was available from the Elkton library with only a short wait. The Kindle version is $12.99 from Amazon, and the audio version is available from Audible. Don't forget about your local independent book store if you're lucky enough to have one.

We'll be doing promotional posts in July, with the blog and Zoom discussion of the book scheduled for Tuesday September 14th. I hope you'll Read (Unsettled Ground) With Us! 

Monday, June 21, 2021


Nothing says Happy Father's Day to your favorite father than presenting him with a pile of goo that you scraped off the kitchen floor after you dropped the zucchini quiche you were taking out of the oven. (My epithets were quite a bit stronger than "whoops".) I had just mopped the kitchen floor the day before, so John said the "five minute rule" was being instituted. So while the quiche looks like garbage, it did taste okay, the kitchen floor got mopped again, and a load of laundry got done.

I hope your week is off to a better start than mine was yesterday!

Thursday, June 17, 2021

Three on Thursday

I don't have any poetry today because I couldn't find a poem that spoke to me. But I do have three random things from this week, so it's a perfect opportunity to join Carole for Three on Thursday. 

1. It's a cute robot! John loves Chinese buffets, so for our first foray out into the wide world, we went to one that had just reopened in Newark, DE. A live person greeted us, but then she asked us to follow the robot to our table. It was a little odd, and I can't see that the robots save any labor or personnel, but they are entertaining. There was another type of robot that seemed to have shelves but it wasn't serving drinks or clearing dishes. (It didn't even have a cute face.)

2. We often see ... different things on our walks in Elkton, and this is one of those things. This car has been parked here for several months and doesn't seem to move at all, but the skeleton in the driver's seat is a new addition. It's always nice to be entertained on a walk!

3. I did enjoy my raspberry cheesecake birthday ice cream from UDel creamery. I've heard that they also used to sell blue and gold yarn (the school colors) but they didn't seem to have any when I visited. Maybe I'll ask about it next time. (A place that sells ice cream and yarn would be genius!)

I hope that your random encounters this week are surprising, cute, different, and delicious!

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Unraveled Wednesday: 56

It's Wednesday, so it's time for a highlight of my week, Unraveled Wednesday. I'm joining Kat and friends with a close-to-completed Nervous Breakdown II.

I'm done with the stripes so I just have some teeth in the Nervous Breakdown color to knit. Ryan would like it in an XL size with 59 teeth. I'm at 52, so there are just seven teeth left to go. My posts this week have been lending themselves to numbers in the titles, so that comes out to 56 more rows.

I spent an afternoon weaving in the ends from the stripes and alternating skeins, so I'm glad that pesky chore is done. Once I overcame my initial resistance to the task it wasn't really that bad.

I'm still reading Shake Down the Stars (except I forgot the book in NJ) and I finished The Hand That First Held Mine and The Wife Upstairs. It was interesting to read a book that Maggie O'Farrell wrote 10 years before Hamnet (which I absolutely loved), and see her growth as a writer in that time. While not my usual type of book, The Wife Upstairs was available on Overdrive, and it turned out to be a fun re-imagining of Jane Eyre. Even though it's far from my usual fare, I wanted to keep listening to see where the book was going. On the recommendation of a friend, I've started This Song Will Save Your Life and am also re-listening along with Ryan (for the third time) to one of my all-time favorites, The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid

What are you making, reading, and counting this week?

Tuesday, June 15, 2021


That was my bus number from first grade all the way through my senior year in high school, but it's also how old I am today. The number bothered me a bit when I turned 60, but now I hope that I'm becoming older and wiser with each birthday. (I'm trying!) 

Me at 5 years old, just because I like this picture.

John and the kids have asked me what I want for my birthday, but I really do have almost everything I need and want. I haven't even started knitting with my Mother's Day yarn yet and I've got plenty of books to read and listen to. I hope Ryan and Justin will call or text, and my only other wish is to head to UDel creamery tonight for some delicious birthday ice cream. I am content with much of my life, and very grateful for all that I have. 

Me at 64 years old, ready to blanch snow peas.

Be sure and visit Carole's blog today for a wrap-up of our Shuggie Bain discussion. And because we knew that many of you were anxious for the announcement of our next Read With Us book (so you could possibly fit it into your Book Bingo cards), check back here next Tuesday June 22nd for an important announcement!

Monday, June 14, 2021


Our wedding anniversary was yesterday, and John and I have been married for 40 years. That sounds like a loonng time to me, but I've known John for at least 48 years. 

This is what we looked like on June 13, 1981

Like any marriage, there have been ups and downs, but we're lucky that there have been many more times on the upside. We've never been one of those couples that is joined at the hip, so we each do plenty of things on our own. Shockingly, John has little interest in reading and knitting, so those are solo pursuits for me. I'm not a big fan of hunting, so that's an activity he pursues by himself or with Justin. We've spent plenty of time apart; the summer after we got married, John was at Woods Hole and I stayed home and worked. A few years later, he took three months off from his graduate program and headed out west while I stayed in Syracuse and worked. He's been in MD for the past two weeks while I took care of things in NJ. I wonder if our time apart might help (and can you tell that I'm a bit nervous about him retiring next year and being around all the time)?

This is what we looked like on June 14, 1981.

Whatever the reason, my life is better with John than without him, and I hope he would say the same thing. 

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Unraveled Wednesday

I'm joining Kat and friends, with a big thank you to Kat for hosting Unraveled Wednesday for us each week. I've been feeling a bit unmoored lately. My nephew's memorial service was last Saturday, so I've been thinking about him, my sister, and the rest of her family almost constantly. That has led me to think about the things that I do help me to feel a bit more stable, and Unraveled Wednesday is one of those things. There are many days when I struggle to find something to write about, and then struggle to write, but Kat makes it a pleasure to show up on Wednesdays to talk about knitting and reading. These have been important anchors during this unmoored time and I'm grateful to have these pastimes to fall back on, and to Kat for providing us with a place and space to talk about them. 

I'm still working on Hitchhiker stripes, and have just started the third (pink) one. The last one is orange, then a few more teeth in the Nervous Breakdown color and I'll finally be done. Margene said that the stripes give this Hitchhiker some happier pizzazz, and I agree.

There are a few ends to weave in, and there will be a few more, but they shouldn't be too big of a deal. I'll keep plugging along (and will maybe be done by next week).

I've been lucky enough to spend a lot of time reading lately. There have been some unexpected surprises available via Overdrive (The Plot, Challenger Deep, and The Best of Me). You can read my humble opinions on these books by clicking on the links in the right-hand sidebar. My big book treat is a book that I have been looking for for several decades. I have always loved The Shell Seekers by Rosamunde Pilcher, and ever since I first read it back in 1990, I've been searching for something similar. There are authors similar to Rosamunde Pilcher, like Maeve Binchy and Marcia Willett, but I've never been able to find a book that captured me like The Shell Seekers. Until now. I stumbled upon Shake Down the Stars by Frances Donnelly and this just might be it. The first similarity was the requisite flowered cover, and now that I've received and started reading the used copy I ordered, the setting (WWII in England) is also similar. Neither The Shell Seekers nor Shake Down the Stars is great literature, but they are both feel-good, comforting books. Novels like that will always occupy a valued place on my bookshelf.

What are you making, reading, and thinking about this week?

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Shuggie Bain

 Hello and welcome to the Read With Us Shuggie Bain discussion day!

I hope you've read this stellar book (my humble opinion, but you are welcome to disagree). Shuggie Bain is the story of young Hugh "Shuggie" Bain, a sweet and lonely boy who spends his 1980s childhood in run-down public housing in Glasgow, Scotland. Margaret Thatcher's policies have put husbands and sons out of work, and the city's notorious drugs epidemic is waiting in the wings. Shuggie's mother Agnes walks a wayward path: she is Shuggie's guiding light but her alcoholism is a burden for him and his siblings. 

Douglas Stuart's mother in 1973

The book is titled Shuggie Bain, but it is really the story of his mother, Agnes. Shuggie's love for his mother is of such an intensity that, at times, it almost seems overwhelming. How do you feel about that?  Shuggie's two half-siblings manage to escape her influence, but Shuggie remains, always trying to save Agnes from herself. There were many times that I wondered why Shuggie didn't also leave, and I wonder if any of you have thoughts about why.

Agnes always takes pride in her appearance and values good manners. Maintaining her dignity is important to her, yet she frequently fails to do so. How do you feel about Agnes, as a mother, wife and woman? I think Agnes did the best she could, but sadly, her best was lacking in so many ways.

Feel free to leave your answers or thoughts in the comments, and I hope you'll join us tonight at 7:00 pm Eastern. Let me know in the comments if you'd like to attend, and we'll make sure you get a link to the Zoom meeting. 

"I am always looking for tenderness in the hardest places," says Douglas Stuart, and he has certainly done that in Shuggie Bain, his portrayal of Shuggie's devotion to Agnes, and the dedication to his own mother who died of alcoholism. 

Monday, June 7, 2021

Don't Forget

This is just a reminder that tomorrow we'll have our discussion of Shuggie Bain

Author Douglas Stuart with his Booker Prize-winning novel

Kym, Carole and I will each pose a different question on our blogs. You are welcome to answer them if you would like to, or just comment with your thoughts about the book. Tomorrow night at 7:00 pm Eastern we'll be hosting a Zoom discussion of the book, live and in person. If you would like to participate, just leave a comment and we'll make sure to send you the Zoom link. I do hope you'll consider this as our previous Zoom meetings have been a lot of fun, and have added to my perceptions of the books. Shuggie Bain is no exception as this is a book that needs to be discussed. I hope your Monday is a good one and I hope to see you tomorrow!

Thursday, June 3, 2021

Poetry on Thursday

Last week I chose a poem (or it chose me) by William Stafford. Jane told me about his Methow River Poems, and I was fascinated. It's a series of poems located in scenic spots along the Methow River in Washington state. In 1992, the Methow Valley Ranger District asked William Stafford to write these poems to honor the landscapes of the North Cascades. They were looking for something more than the normal natural history signs that we often see, and hoped that poetry would serve as a way to connect visitors to these special places. In the year before his death in 1993, Stafford wrote the seven Methow River Poems. You can purchase a book containing these poems, but it's now a bucket list dream of mine to see and read them in situ.

A Valley Like This
William Stafford

Sometimes you look at an empty valley like this,
and suddenly the air is filled with snow.
That is the way the whole world happened—
there was nothing, and then…

But maybe some time you will look out and even
the mountains are gone, the world become nothing
again. What can a person do to help
bring back the world?

We have to watch it and then look at each other.
Together we hold it close and carefully
save it, like a bubble that can disappear
if we don’t watch out.

Please think about this as you go on. Breath on the world.
Hold out your hands to it. When mornings and evenings
roll along, watch how they open and close, how they
invite you to the long party that your life is.


Stafford, William. "A Valley Like This." Even in Quiet Places, Confluence Press, 2010. 

You can read more about the poet here


I wish you mindfulness, peace, good health, the ability to watch how your mornings and evenings open and close, and poetry as the week winds down.

Wednesday, June 2, 2021

Unraveled Wednesday

Last weekend's rainy and chilly weather made it ideal to stay indoors and knit, read, and nap. I had thought that I was approaching the end of this lingering Hitchhiker, with maybe 10 or 20 rows to go. But then I pulled out the first one and was confronted with reality. 

I wrote down the stripes and number of rows on the purple post-it and was surprised to find that I still had 104 rows to go. I'm not sure how or why I had fooled myself into thinking I was almost done, but at least now I have an honest total. I've made some progress (14 rows) so there are now 90 rows to completion and weaving in a bunch of ends from the stripes. I have to mow the lawn later today but aside from that, I hope to be sitting and knitting. No more fooling myself!

Reading has been satisfying this past week, with two wonderful four-star finishes. Writers & Lovers was a good coming-of-age novel. My only small issue was that it wrapped up a bit too quickly with everything worked out perfectly. (Real life doesn't often work that way!) I felt lucky to find a copy of The Office of Historical Corrections on Overdrive, so I checked it out, downloaded it and was enthralled. I finished it in two days, and as I'm writing this, I'm wondering if I should bump up my four stars to five. It was a unique and original collection of short stories, and I will be looking for Danielle Evans' first book of short stories, Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self. I stumbled across The Push while I was looking through Overdrive, and checked it out because I was curious. Ugh! This book was only 1.5 stars for me, and served as a reminder that I don't have to check out books just because they've received good reviews. I also don't have to finish them when it becomes clear just how bad the book is. But I've started Braiding Sweetgrass and Challenger Deep, so I've got plenty of good listening while I knit.

What are you making and reading this week?

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Brood X

Brood X cicadas have arrived in MD, and they are numerous and noisy. 

Beginning in mid-May, we noticed a few of their discarded carcasses on one sycamore tree along our walk. The birds were quite happy to see them, and we've seen the neighborhood sparrows and cardinals feasting on them. 

Then we started seeing more and more cicadas. I have to avoid them when I'm hanging laundry and John always has a few hit him in the chest when he goes out for a bike ride.

In real life, they are about an inch long with a four inch wingspan. They don't bite, sting, or harm humans or most plants. They lay their eggs in trees, so some small tree branches can be harmed if too many eggs have been laid on them, but plant damage isn't common. They should be active above ground until the end of June, when the young drop to the ground and burrow into the soil. There they'll molt four times over the next 17 years and then the cycle will start again. 

While they don't harm humans or most plants, they are the loudest insects on earth. Male cicadas use their wings and special organs called tymbals to create their "song" (and I use this term loosely). The chorus of male cicadas is about 100 decibels, or about as loud as a lawnmower. It seems to be at a frequency that hurts my ears and feels like its burrowing into my brain. But with cicadas estimated at a density as high as 1 million per acre, they win.

I took this short video to try and illustrate what it sounds like outside. These are on the ivy covering the trunk of the pine tree in our back yard, and hopefully you can get an idea of what their "song" sounds like. (My neighbors' poor dog feels compelled to bark at the cicadas whenever he's outdoors, so you'll hear him, too.)

I'm personally looking forward to the quiet that I hope is coming at the end of June!