Friday, July 30, 2021

Just a Few More Questions

Earlier this week, John brought in two gigantic zucchinis that he said had been hiding under the leaves. I wish I had taken a picture of them, but they were at least 16-18" long and 12" or more in diameter. I wondered what to do with them, briefly considered leaving them on a neighbor's doorstep, and then thought about the chocolate zucchini bread recipes I've been wanting to try. 

I had several candidates, but eventually narrowed it down to this one. I wondered it it would be too moist or even gloopy as it calls for four cups of shredded zucchini and my tried-and-true regular recipe only uses two cups, but I threw caution to the wind and made it according to the recipe (with one small exception).

I did add about 1/3 cup of chocolate chips to the batter, just because. I think it was a wise choice. 

I like my regular zucchini bread and often freeze grated zucchini so I can make it during the winter. I may have to be careful not to make this too often as I think I like it even better.

John thought it smelled good, but wondered if it would be "too chocolatey". Ha! That description doesn't exist in my world and I thought it was absolutely delicious.

It's a bit of a reach here to relate this delicious new recipe to some questions, but I wonder if you've got any new/novel/delicious recipes that use zucchini? Or how about what is your favorite thing to bake? Your favorite thing to eat if you're not really a baker? Tell me anything about food, and I'll be glad to read it. (Bonus points if you include a recipe!)

Thursday, July 29, 2021

Three on Thursday: More Questions

I'm joining Carole for Three on Thursday, with three more questions. I've been having fun asking my kids some of these questions, and I may have asked the clerk at the library the one about the best lesson she had learned from a work of fiction. 

A friend sent me this photo and said seeing the smiling sun hot air balloon fly
over her neighborhood was the best thing that happened to her this week. 

In the spirit of fairness, I've included my answers. 

1. What strange or uncommon food combinations do you really enjoy? 

It's not all that strange, but I love to dip pretzels in slightly melted chocolate ice cream. What I enjoy is the sweet/salty combination, but my father made a big deal out of it for some unknown reason and wouldn't let me do it when I was growing up. Now I'm the boss and I feel like I'm getting away with something when I dip my pretzels in my chocolate ice cream.

2. What’s the best lesson you’ve learned from a work of fiction?

He is not my favorite Agatha Christie character (that would be Miss Marple) but I've learned some lessons from Hercule Poirot. Because he is a detective, his primary traits were to be curious, seeking, and detail-oriented and this has validated my desires to be observant, stay authentic, and be comfortable with who you are. He believed curiosity feeds the intellect, and I agree. 

3. What was the best thing that happened to you this week?

It didn't happen to me, but it is still the best thing that happened this week. Over the weekend, Justin got a call from the HR person at his workplace that he had been exposed to someone who tested positive for Covid. He had a test scheduled for Tuesday morning and the best thing was that it was negative. He already had a vaccination appointment scheduled for tomorrow, so I'm very glad that that can proceed as planned.

Answer one, two, or all three questions, or make up your own. I'm looking forward to reading what you have to say!

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Unraveled Wednesday

Today I'm joining Kat and friends for Unraveled Wednesday. I barely knit a stitch on the Drachenblut Hitchhiker while we were driving back, but I've been slowly pugging away away at it since our return. 

It's the perfect project to work on when I've got a few minutes in between weeding, mowing, and doing laundry (and much more pleasurable than any of those chores). I've already started daydreaming about adding several solid red stripes at the end even though I'm nowhere near the end. 

I also didn't do much reading while in CO, but I did listen to The Narrowboat Summer and This Is Your Mind on Plants. I had been "saving" The Narrowboat Summer for the drive, but when it dawned on me that this was not the type of book Ryan would enjoy, I started it as soon as we got to Philadelphia airport and listened to it on the plane. The cover gives the impression that it might be a light read, but I didn't find it so and thoroughly enjoyed itEach of the three women in the book has something that the others need and they come to recognize this, even if the rest of the world doesn't often see their gifts.

I always enjoy a book by Michael Pollan, especially if he narrates it himself, and that is the case with This is Your Mind on Plants. He talks about three mind/mood-altering plant-derived substances - opium, caffeine and mescaline, their history, and his personal experiences with them. It leans pretty heavily towards his personal interactions and experiences, and I would have liked a bit more science. It's essentially a rehash of some of his previous writing, but still enjoyable. 

I've had a hard time settling down with something to read, but got an idea when a great reading friend gave five stars to Miss Buncle's Book. She rarely rates book this highly, so I ran to the library at the first opportunity to get a copy. So far, it's been as good as I had hoped. There is just something about an old book that is slightly tattered and falling apart at the spine that seems to hold the promise of an intriguing story.

My question today isn't very thoughtful or controversial, but what are you making and reading this week?

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Do You Mind?

Today I'm asking some questions that I've been wondering about for a while now. Do you mind foul language in a book? When is it warranted? How much is too much? Is the presence of swearing enough to make you stop reading? I rarely read reviews on Amazon, but I've looked at a few recently and was surprised at the number of people that objected to "the F-word" and seemed to judge the book solely by what they considered bad language, without considering characterization, plot, etc.

Here are a couple from A Big Storm Knocked It Over by Laurie Colwin: 

I personally love Laurie Colwin's non-fiction food writing along with much of her fiction, and had honestly never thought of her writing as containing much vulgarity. I don't think I would actually read Go the F*** to Sleep by Adam Mansbach to a child, and the book may just be a gimmick, but it clearly expresses what every exhausted parent has thought at some point in their lives. There are plenty of one-star reviews for it on goodreads:

There is an app called Clean Reader that will remove profanity from electronic text. It allows users to search the text, and “put a non-transparent ‘highlight’” over anything potentially offensive. The blanked-out word is replaced with one judged suitably safe. I respect readers' rights and personal preferences, but this sounds dangerously close to censorship to me. E.B. White wrote, vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. This requires not that the writer make all his sentences short, or that he avoid all detail and treat his subjects only in outline, but that every word tell.” 
Holy motherforking shirtballs (this will make sense if you've watched The Good Place), sometimes a good swear word is just what is needed. 

I think that including expletives for their own sake is often a sign of poor, sloppy, or immature writing, but sometimes they are necessary to make a point or make dialogue ring true. I respect a reader's right to not read language that offends them, but I'm not prepared to discount a book solely on the basis of bad language. I'm much more offended by bad writing, poor plotting, and weak characterizations. What do you think?

Monday, July 26, 2021

Sometimes Monday ...

 ... is a day to begin to catch up in MD, and it's also a day for questions. 

Carole encouraged readers to ask her questions, Kym asked her readers a week's worth of questions, and then Kat answered questions from comments. These posts have all been very interesting to me, so I'm borrowing/stealing the idea this week. I don't have big detailed plans for how this will work, and am just going to hope it evolves. 

Today I'll pose a possibly boring question, but it's come up because it's concerned with what I have to catch up on in MD - paying bills. I have always been the kind of person that wanted to receive a paper copy of bills in the mail, which I then put in a special place in my desk, and then paid with a credit card online. That system has gradually fallen apart as I'm not always where I need to be to receive a paper copy of the bill, several companies have even stopped sending bills and now send emails, and quite a few companies impose a surcharge for paying with a credit card. I've been gradually using my bank's Bill Pay features which allow me to receive "e-bills" that I can then pay easily through my checking account. They are very good at notifying me when there is a new bill, so I no longer have to worry about terrible mail service or being in MD/NJ to get the bill. 

Then there are still the bills that have to be paid by check. I hate writing checks, addressing the envelopes, finding a stamp, and going to the post office. Too many steps! Most of these bills are for quarterly property taxes in NJ, quarterly water and sewer bills in NJ and MD, and annual property taxes in MD. They all accept credit card payments, but the surcharges really add up, and I'm too cheap for that.

So my questions today are do you have any sort of system for paying bills? Do you pay them as soon as you receive them or wait and just pay them all at one time? Am I missing some wonderful function of Bill Pay that would make this all easier? Have you given up the illusion of control (one that I am still clinging to) and signed up for auto-pay for your bills? I'd appreciate your thoughts and ideas!

I would also like to say that if you have any questions you would like to ask me (about almost anything), please feel free to leave them in the comments. Knitting, reading, gardening, cooking, biggest pet peeve, family, mental health, biggest fear, things I'm proud of, things I regret - it's all fair game!

Thanks for reading and I hope your week is off to a good start!

Friday, July 23, 2021

The Road to Heaven

Many years ago I was talking to my sister on the phone, and said something like, "You know what they say about good intentions." She completed my thought by saying, "Yes, the road to heaven is paved with good intentions." I hated to burst her bubble by explaining that it was actually the road to hell, but it still makes me laugh when I recall that conversation.

I had good intentions when I headed out to CO. My main goals were to help Ryan finish packing, maybe enjoy ourselves a little bit, co-pilot and do my share of driving on the way back, and knit and listen to audiobooks along the way. 

I accomplished some of those intentions. We did have all the packing finished by the time the moving truck arrived last Friday morning. We did enjoy ourselves; John fished almost every day, we ate at our favorite taqueria, Ryan and I went to The Loopy Ewe and we went on one of our favorite Fort Collins hikes to Reservoir Ridge looking for musket balls (and found some). 

I did my share of driving, but I barely knit a stitch and we didn't listen to any audiobooks despite my careful consideration of listening materials, knitting projects, and our intentions. Ryan and I talked a lot, but with the crazy high speed limits on Route 80 (80 mph in Wyoming, and 75 mph for most of the other states we went through), neither one of us was very relaxed while driving and we needed to keep our attention focused. We drove five hours on Friday and got to Nebraska, but Saturday was a terrible 17-hour day on the road. We couldn't find any hotels with vacancies despite checking 16 of them in South Bend and Elkhart, Indiana. We were lucky with the 17th hotel, and got what was probably the last room in Elkhart around 1:00 am. We were determined to get home on Sunday, so we spent a mere 12 hours on the road that day and then and fell exhausted into bed in NJ on Sunday night. 

Ryan is a minimalist, but we still cleaned out and donated 11 bags of stuff to Goodwill, and packing up everything in his house gave me a new appreciation for all of the stuff/crap that is in our house in NJ (and let's not forget MD)! One of my intentions going forward is to really clean out over the next year. I've already been putting things in the Goodwill box as I notice them, and there will be many, many more boxes in the future. Hopefully I'll be able to pave a road to a far less cluttered house and not one in the other direction. 

So what are your own good intentions and how are you sticking with them?

Thursday, July 22, 2021

I'm Back With Three Things

After a long week of cleaning out and packing, driving for 1750 miles and 27 hours, and several failed attempts to meet the moving van at the storage facility before we finally succeeded, we are back. I enjoyed sleeping in this morning and not having any scheduled tasks that had to be started at the crack of dawn. There is still plenty to do - catching up with bills, laundry, and life in NJ before I head to MD next week to catch up there, making room for Ryan and some of his stuff since he can't move in to his house until Aug. 15th, and making a little time for a bit of reading and knitting.

Since it's Thursday, I thought I might ease back into blogging and share three things we saw during the drive from CO to NJ.

1. Some interesting skies

I took this one on Saturday morning as we left Kearney, Nebraska. There were torrential thundershowers that woke us up frequently during the night, but at least we didn't have to drive in the pouring rain.

2. Thousands and thousands of acres of corn

All we saw through Nebraska, Iowa, and much of Indiana was corn, with a few soybeans for contrast. Nebraska is the Cornhusker state, and it turns out that Iowa grows more corn than any other state in the US (2.7 billion bushels). We got a real feeling for just how vast corn production is in these states.

3. Wind Turbines

We got to see hundreds of these along Route 80, and they were interesting every time. Most of them were in Nebraska with a few in Iowa, and most had their rotors turning slowly and steadily, even though there was no wind evident at ground level. 

We saw several trucks towing turbine rotors and they gave us an even better idea of how massive these things are. It took us a while to figure out what they were were!

I'm glad to be back. Be sure and check in with Carole to see what three things others are writing about today.

Wednesday, July 7, 2021

Unraveled Wednesday

Today I'm joining Kat and friends for Unraveled Wednesday with the Drachenblut Hitchhiker. I've only worked on it a little bit here and there, but have made some progress. I really like how the colors are playing out, and I think this will be the perfect cross-country project.

I thought that I might need a second project so I cast on for a pair of socks. I've knit the pattern before and forgot that I had used 1x1 ribbing for the cuff before knitting the leg in 3x1 ribbing. My mantra for the remainder of the summer is "keep it simple", so I ripped out four rows, put the yarn away for later, and went back to my Hitchhiker.

The only book I finished this week was Unsettled GroundIt was a library book that I needed to make sure I returned, so that gave me a good reason to just sit down one afternoon and enjoy reading. I keep thinking about the characters and am looking forward to discussing this in September. I've got Mrs. Lorimer's Quiet Summer on my Kindle, and The Narrowboat Summer and Empire of Pain on my ipod, just waiting until I step on the plane to CO before I start them. I'm not sure I can wait, but I might just start The Narrowboat Summer. As long as I've got wifi, I can always download more books for the drive back.

What are you knitting and reading this week?


This is my last post before I leave for CO. I'll be busy helping Ryan pack up his house and then driving back with him, so I don't think I'll write any blog posts until I'm back on the east coast. I'm not sure exactly when that will be, but maybe somewhere around July 26th? While the blog will be on hiatus for a bit, I might post on instagram if I see any interesting sights. I'm readknit on ig if you'd like to take a look. 

Be well, stay cool, and I'll be back soon!

Tuesday, July 6, 2021

Unsettled Ground

 Our current Read With Us book is Unsettled Ground by Claire Fuller. 

I'll admit that I approached Unsettled Ground with just a bit of trepidation as I found Claire Fuller's Our Endless Numbered Days very unsettling. I needn't have feared; once I had read the first 40 or so pages, I thought the book was difficult to put down. I don't want to say too much about the plot, but the story of 51-year-old twins Jeanie and Julius and their mother Dot is a quiet one, full of buried secrets. The secrets are not the specific focus of the book, but rather why lies were told in the first place and the fallout from them decades later. Fuller uses beautiful language to describe the Seeder family living on the margins in rural poverty, but I did wonder about their lives without bank accounts, tv, the internet, and even electricity. The way that the family lives made it hard for me to place the time frame of this book. There are glimpses of modern life, but it almost felt like the Seeders were living in a previous century. I do know one similar person, but he has a tv and has begrudgingly opened a bank account (a savings account, so he pays his bills by money orders), so I could relate to strongly independent people who just want to live their own secluded and private lives. This is a story about secrets, lies, misfortune, sorrows, how things fall apart, and how some surprising survivals can come out of it all. 

This is also a story that cries out for an accompanying playlist, and Claire Fuller thought so, too. You can click here for her Spotify playlist. I didn't discover it until I was done reading the book, but I think it would make some nice background music while you read. 

Carole and Kym will also be doing some promotional posts about Unsettled Ground over the next two Tuesdays. We'll discuss the book on September 14th (on our blogs and on Zoom), so hopefully you'll have time to read the book by then. I know several of you have already read it, and some of you are still waiting in a queue at the library. I have several questions about the characters and their motivations that I am anxious to discuss with all of you. I hope you'll Read (and talk about the book) With Us!

Monday, July 5, 2021

Sometimes Monday ...

 ... is a good day to remember what a nice weekend we had.

Justin and his girlfriend Jess came down to MD and we went out to Fair Hill Resource Management Area. I'm not sure why it isn't called a park, but there are over 80 miles of trails, so we set out along some of them. 

Justin, John, and Jess had their fishing rods so we headed for the Big Elk Creek. They caught plenty of fish, including brown trout, smallmouth bass, and creek chub. I don't have a MD fishing license so I watched the great blue herons, deer, beavers, and took a few photos. 

There is an old mill along the trail that's really interesting. 

Even though it was the Fourth of July weekend, there were no crowds, and we probably only saw 20 other people. The skies opened up and we had to walk a few miles in the rain back to the car, but none of us melted. 

It's definitely a place I would go back to. 

I hope your weekend included some lovely, peaceful times amongst the fireworks. 

Friday, July 2, 2021

Fun Friday Find

(Disclosure: I actually came upon this yesterday, but "Thursday Find" just didn't have the same alliteration.)

I had to run a couple of errands yesterday, to return a library book and then stop by the liquor store. Those aren't too tedious as errands go, but as I was leaving the liquor store, I spied something intriguing in the back corner of the parking lot. 

A taco truck!

It was 10:30 in the morning, but they were open and I'm always in the mood for a good taco so I had to give them a try.

My go-tos are chorizo and al pastor, so I ordered two of each of them. They smelled so good in the car that I barely had the patience to take a picture before biting into them. Both kinds were delicious, and I was thrilled to have found some pretty darn good tacos in Elkton. It seems like a genius move to set up in the liquor store parking lot, and when I asked them if they had a schedule, they said they were there semi-permanently. I'm not sure exactly what that means, but I'm looking forward to trying more items from the menu. 

I hope you enjoy a wonderful, safe, and delicious long weekend, with some fun finds of your own!

Thursday, July 1, 2021

Three on Thursday

I'm joining Carole for Three on Thursday, and today I was inspired by Sarah's post about three things to pack when traveling. Most knitters will not be surprised that there was no mention of packing proper footwear, enough underwear, or raincoats. It's all about making sure we have enough yarn, needles, and reading material. As I prepare for my own upcoming travels to CO, here are three things that will be in my suitcase.

1. My Kindle 

I'd love to continue reading Shake Down the Stars, but it's a big, heavy, 500-page, hardcover book. So instead of carrying this along, I'll have my Kindle with Mrs. Lorimer's Quiet Summer downloaded, along with a few other library books as backup.

2. My ipod

I love audiobooks, so that's why I'm taking this little device along. I've been saving several books for the trip, including The Narrowboat Summer, Empire of Pain, "re-listens" of Anxious People and Olive, Again, and a favorite of both Ryan and I, The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid. These books make up almost 60 hours of listening time, so I think we're pretty well-prepared for our estimated 30 hours of driving time. 

3. An easy knitting project

For me, this is, of course, a Hitchhiker (and I think forgoing the beads was a wise decision).. I haven't worked on it at all since yesterday, but I know this will keep my hands busy on the plane flight out and the drive back (when I'm not the driver!)

As a knitter and reader who has always over-packed, I know that I may only read or listen to a few books and knit just a few more teeth on the Hitchhiker. But we all know it is far better to be prepared than to be caught short-handed! 

What's in your suitcase this summer?