Monday, November 29, 2021

What's On the China Cupboard?

If you were following along last week with What's In the China Cupboard you may have noticed some things sitting on the china cupboard last Tuesday.

The boys' college graduation pictures are sitting on top, and there are a couple of woven oak leaves and copper star ornaments hanging on the knobs. The things I'm talking about today are the two possibly slightly-out-of-place hunks of lumber.

Shortly before we went to CO to help Ryan pack and move this summer, John went out to clean up his workshop. It's in the top floor of our barn, and the boys used to play out there a lot when they were young. I suspect that John didn't actually clean up much, but he did bring these two hunks of lumber back to the house. 

You'll see that this one lists the members of the very exclusive Ryan's Club House.

There is room for a third member, but I don't believe I've ever been considered for membership. Underlining and three exclamation points make it clear that it's for members only.

The other seems to be a scene at sea, or maybe a boatyard.

I like the smiling sun, that the boats are numbered for some reason, and the gently rolling ocean waves. I haven't been able to relegate them back to the woodpile in the shop, so they continue to elicit a smile from me whenever I pass through the dining room.

Friday, November 26, 2021

What's in the China Cupboard: Friday

I'll finish out this week with a few of my favorites from the china cupboard. One thing that I didn't have originally was a teapot. Both my mother and sister-in-law liked to gift me additional pieces for my birthday and Christmas. One year, I must have mentioned to both of them that I would like a teapot, and that was the year I got two teapots for Christmas. 

The teapot features Donnington Castle on the lid and Farnham castle on both sides. And if you have teapots, you also need cups and mugs. The original set had plenty of cups and saucers, and there was one year my mother gave me 12 demitasse cups and saucers. I've never served espresso in them, but they are adorably cute.

The cups are only 2 1/4" across and feature Nottingham Castle on one side and Ludlow castle on the other. There is a regular cup and saucer behind them, and I love the floral scroll inside the teacup.

I've got lots of regular teacups and demitasse cups, but I bought four mugs several years ago. They are newer pieces and don't feature castles at all, but I like the Christmas tree on them, and I use them often throughout the holiday season.

Thanks for reading this week as I looked at what's in the china cupboard. I wish we could share a cup or mug of tea together!

Thursday, November 25, 2021

What's in the China Cupboard: Thursday

Today I'm featuring the platter that will be holding our turkey (and ham, too, because John really likes it). 

The platter features Stafford castle, complete with two large towers and crenellations. It's pretty hefty at slightly over 16 inches across, but that ensures that none of John's ham will accidentally touch my turkey.

Wishing all who are celebrating a very happy and healthy Thanksgiving, and a very happy and healthy Thursday to those who are not!

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

What's in the China Cupboard on Unraveled Wednesday

I don't want to miss linking up with Kat for Unraveled Wednesday, so I'll take a small break from the contents of the china cupboard, and return to it tomorrow. But wait, my china set did come complete with several different yarn bowls! 

The covered version even has Windsor Castle inside, for when you want a fancy yarn bowl. 

I finished the ribbing on the body of the sweater, and have just started the stockinette portion on larger needles. Only 18" to go before I join the sleeves! 

I only finished one book last week, but it was a good one - The Chancellor by Kati Marton. It's a biography of Angela Merkel who I have long admired. After reading the book, I have even more reasons to appreciate her accomplishments. Merkel is intensely private and didn't speak to the author for the book, but I give her a lot of credit for keeping her ego out of her leadership (and out of the news). It's certainly a stark contrast to what goes on in the United States! 

Several books that I had requested months ago came up on Overdrive, so I've started These Precious Days and The Christmas Promise. These Precious Days is a collection of essays from Ann Patchett, and they've been great listening so far while I've made pies, stuffing, side dishes, and cleaned. The Christmas Promise is the latest book by Richard Paul Evans. This isn't the type of book I usually read, but I was feeling a bit tender when I first saw it and thought it was a book my mother would have loved. It may be formulaic and schmaltzy, but I'm hoping it won't be the worst book I read this year. If it's too bad, I've got another book of essays that I need to read and review on my Kindle - Bomb Shelter

What are you making and reading this week?

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

What's in the China Cupboard: Tuesday

Before I take the rest of the week telling you about things in the china cupboard, I should probably tell you just a little about the china cupboard itself and how it came to be filled with china.

There's a little niche at one end of the dining room that is just the right size, so we bought the china cupboard at the same time we bought the dining room table after we moved into the house in NJ. For a long time, I didn't have anything to put in it.

For almost four years it was empty, but then John's grandmother passed away. She was called Mom-mom, and John's mother cleaned out her house, then called me wondering if I was interested in Mom-mom's china. Nobody else in the family wanted it, it was the last thing she needed to take care of, and she could bring it right over. Even though I'm not really a china person, I couldn't stand the thought of taking Mom-mom's china to Goodwill, and I did have this empty china cupboard. 

My mother-in-law did bring the box of china over, and my excitement grew as I unpacked the pieces. There were lots of dinner and salad plates, cups, saucers, two platters, bowls, a creamer and sugar bowl, and a gravy boat. The pattern is Old Britain Castles, and each piece features pictures of one or two (you guessed it) old British castles. I was thrilled to receive this, especially because it's a pattern I would have picked out for myself. 

It's still in production today, but the original pieces have a crown back stamp. These were produced in 1930 through World War II when production was stopped. Production resumed in the post-war period, and the pattern is still made today, but in China and without the crown back stamp. 

One piece I always make sure to use is the gravy boat. 

The gravy boat has Rochester Castle on one side and Runnymede on Magna Carta Island on the other. The underplate has Warwick Castle on it. My family enjoys gravy when I serve mashed potatoes, and the gravy boat needs to be refilled several times to make sure there is enough gravy for turkey. The boys were always careful when passing it at the table, especially because the underplate isn't attached. It's a bit more elegant than serving gravy from a measuring cup (which is what I often end up doing for regular weeknight dinners). 

I'll be back tomorrow with another piece from the china cupboard along with some knitting and reading.

Monday, November 22, 2021

What's in the China Cupboard: Monday

For much of this week, I'll be featuring a special piece or two from my china cupboard. I was inspired when I reached in to see what might need to be washed so I could use it for Thanksgiving. It occurred to me that there were several stories contained in these pieces, and now might be a good time to share some of them. 

The first thing I noticed was my mother-in-law Sylvia's teapot. This has been on the shelves of her china cupboard ever since I first met her in 1974 (and probably long before). She used it often, usually for mint tea. We were invited to share stories of Sylvia at her memorial service, and the first one I shared was about this teapot.

More than 45 years ago, Sylvia offered to make mint tea for a family friend and me, so she went out to pick the mint, put the kettle on to boil, got out the teapot, and we all waited for the tea to steep. After several minutes, she poured the tea into dark mugs, and the friend and I took sips of the mint tea we had looked forward to. We looked at each other questioningly and took a few more sips. Neither one of us was quite sure what to say, but I finally had to blurt out, "I don't think this mint tea has any mint in it!" Sylvia looked a bit surprised but started to laugh when she saw the mint she had picked was still on the kitchen counter. That was the day my future mother-in-law served me hot water, but it was prepared in her lovely teapot. She continued to laugh about it for many years afterward.

It's not a fancy or expensive piece, but she was always careful with it. Some of the gold has worn off in places, and I especially like the place on the top of the handle where her thumb rested while pouring. Nobody in the family remembers when she got the teapot, but I'm grateful to have it in my care now. I think about my mother-in-law every time I make tea in it.

Friday, November 19, 2021

Friday Letters

This week I take my virtual fountain pen in hand to write a few thank yous and send someone an important message. Let's open the mail ...

Dear Whirlpool,

Thank you for making a dryer that has lasted at least 18 years, and I'm sending additional thanks for what I hope is a simple fix. All John has to do is wrap a new 91 inch belt around the drum and the motor pulley, and my dryer should be back in business. After watching several youtube videos he has assured me that this is a 10 minute fix (but we'll see).


Dear John,

Thank you for attempting to fix the dryer when we head back to MD. I know you've said it should only take you 10 minutes, but I am ready for it to be a bit longer, and I'm also ready to come be the very important work-light holder. (I may also be readying myself to hear some swear words. I believe they help lubricate repairs, especially ones with tight pulleys and even tighter belts.)


Dear G'ma, (this is what I called my grandmother),

I felt pretty lousy during the first part of this week after my covid booster shot, so I decided to take your advice. I got up, took a shower, and got dressed, just like you always used to tell me when I felt poorly as a child. That didn't seem to help me feel any better, so I decided to take some more of your advice - take a walk and get some fresh air. I did just that, but see how that picture looks blurry? That was what my vision actually looked like because my head hurt so much. So I went back home, laid on the sofa, and remembered some more of your advice - things always look worse at night. They did at that point, but after I finally got a good night's sleep (and my headache and fever went away), I felt much better in the morning. All of your advice may not work all the time for every situation, but things almost always do look better in the morning. Thank you for all of the advice you imparted to me, and I've passed it on to my own children. (At least one of them believes some of it.)

P.S. You were 14 years old during the 1918 pandemic and I wish I could ask you what things were like for you. (But I'm also glad that you don't have to see another pandemic.)


Dear Ryan,

I know that you hate shopping for clothes, but that may be the reason why you only seem to have three pairs of shorts and four t-shirts. I know you hated the thought of me dragging you to Target to buy some pants and long-sleeved shirts, but we were both pleasantly surprised at how quickly we accomplished this. The moment at the end was a little poignant when you said you didn't know if you deserved a $28 sweater. I was busily blinking back a few tears when the woman shopping nearby with her mother and daughter said, yes, she was absolutely sure that you did. She was right; you do deserve that $28 sweater and so much more. 


I wish you a lovely weekend with appliances working as they should be, people willing to fix them if they are not, good advice, and remember that you also deserve your own $28 sweater (even if your $28 sweater isn't actually a sweater). 

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Unraveled Wednesday

I'm joining Kat and the Unravelers for Unraveled Wednesday, with two sleeves. (Please insert "ta-da" and its appropriate sound effect here).

I had an appointment to get my covid booster shot on Monday evening, so I cast on for the body of the sweater on Monday afternoon. It was 219 stitches, so I counted multiple times, and when I kept getting different results, I separated the stitches into groups of 10 and counted several more times. My dryer had also died Monday afternoon, so I didn't get a chance to actually start knitting since I was busy at the laundromat. I had a pounding headache, fever, and chills after my second shot, so I'm not going to actually start knitting the ribbing until I know I feel well enough not to make stupid mistakes.

I have finally finished Matrix (and am looking forward to our discussion on January 11) and also finished Small Pleasures. It was on the Women's Prize for Fiction 2021 Longlist, so I had slightly higher expectations, but I thought the author tried to combine two different storyline ideas that never should have been combined in the same novel. I am currently reading and thoroughly enjoying Immune (and its terrific illustrations and endpapers). 

I would love fabric like those endpapers so I could make some interesting immune project bags!

What are you making and reading this week?

Monday, November 15, 2021

Sometimes Monday ...

 ... is for miscellany. I have a bunch of pictures in my Miscellaneous folder, but none of them warrant a post of their own. Today I'm cleaning it out, hopefully putting together a post with some of the things I found in it, and maybe providing an update or something mildly interesting.

You may remember when I posted a picture of this car I see every day on my walk in Elkton (or maybe not, as it was way back in June).  The car has still not moved, but there is now a passenger.

Skelly's pal, cheerful Rover, has joined him on his trip to nowhere. I've never seen anybody outside when I was walking past or I might ask them about the car, but I'll just keep taking pictures as additional passengers climb in.

On a completely different subject, I was asked to fill out a library survey about accessibility and if I felt welcome using the library. Several of the questions pointed out to me that I might need to do some reading about gender and sexual orientation.

I've never thought much about what gender and orientation could mean, and how many variations could exist. I like that "Questioning" is a choice for gender and "Two Spirit" is completely new to me. I only did a little bit of reading, but it refers to a person who identifies as having both a masculine and a feminine spirit, and is used by some Indigenous people to describe their sexual, gender and/or spiritual identity. There are plenty of arguments about whether this should only be used by Native Americans or even if it should be used at all. It was created in English and translated into Ojibwe, and was "meant to serve as a pan-Indian unifier, to be used for general audiences instead of the traditional terms in Indigenous languages for what are diverse, culturally-specific ceremonial and social roles that can vary widely." I've come to think of gender and orientation as sort of a spectrum, and think that much of the terminology can be used to include or exclude. Whatever you think about all this, it still seemed fairly progressive for a library survey. 

Changing the subject completely again - Really, Hallmark?! Was this necessary? I am not always up on popular culture, so I may be missing something, but I don't think a sparkly rainbow poop ornament will be on my Christmas tree. Of course, it was the last one, so maybe I should have grabbed it. 

This is exactly what I intend to do on this Monday. Here's hoping you can, too. 

Friday, November 12, 2021

Museum of Me : A Collection

The Museum of Me staff has been hard at work installing a new exhibit for November. This has involved some dusting, rearranging, and visiting with a few old friends. If you'll please follow the docent, she'll show you around this month's exhibit, simply entitled A Collection. 

I don't actually have a lot of collections so this was an easy one to feature. It's made up of Steiff stuffed animals. (The small group of salt cellars and knife rests above the animals might look like I am a collector, but maybe we'll talk about those pieces in another exhibit someday.)

This collection makes me happy because I didn't actually pursue any of these animals for the sake of collecting, and I'm emotionally attached to all of them. It started with my mother. Several of these were hers, and when my sister and I were cleaning out after Mom died (17 dumpsters worth), I couldn't bring myself to give them away. My sister was having a harder time parting with things, but I was so tired at the end of each day of cleaning that I found it easy to limit myself to just a few small things, and these animals were perfect.

My mother seemed to have mainly cats and rabbits, but there is also Flossy the goldfish. I wish I had had the chance to ask her about them. Many of them still have have their name and ear tags and don't look like they were well-played with, but I will never really know their backstories.

I like that this collection has three different Mannis. The one on the far right was my mother's and the other two were given to my sister and I, most likely for Easter. The Museum of Me does not deal with illegally-obtained artifacts, but I will admit that several of these may have originally been given to my sister. Let's just say that they're on permanent loan. The rabbits below (two Snuffys and the sweet little bunnies that fit so nicely in the palm of your hand) are also on permanent loan (as decreed by the museum director):

I did use babysitting money to purchase several Steiff animals as a teenager. 

These included a deer,



and Joggi the hedgehog. The Museum hasn't added to the collection in decades, partly because the board would not approve the expense, and mainly because any more additions to the collection would exceed the museum storage space. The director briefly entertained adding a reindeer to the collection, but ultimately resisted. 

Some of you may have noticed the slightly bedraggled-looking bear on the far left. He doesn't have an ear tag or a name tag, and is technically a fake. But this is "Coffee Bear", named when one of the boys spilled coffee on him and liked how he smelled afterwards. When the Museum was culling its larger collection of stuffed animals, the curator could not bring herself to get rid of him, so Coffee Bear sits proudly next to the "real" Steiff bears. He is real because two little boys loved him. 

After I brought these home from my mother's house and installed them in the Museum, I started looking up values for some of them. Some of them are worth quite a bit, but I eventually stopped. I can't imagine selling them, and although they aren't played with and are just displayed on one shelf, they are priceless pieces in The Museum of Me.

Be sure to visit Kym today for her new exhibit, and several others may also be participating. The Museum exhibits will be changed monthly on the second Friday of the month, so please stop by again in December for the next carefully curated installation. (The gift shop is on the right on your way out!)

Thursday, November 11, 2021

Three on Thursday

I was driving home from Ryan's house last week and noticed the striking clouds. I'm always an admirer of interesting clouds, so I pulled over to take a picture:

I drove a little further and almost gasped when I came down the hill to the Delaware River and saw the sunset:

It was a stunning sunset and the reflection on the river made it even more so. I parked so I could walk out on the bridge and took lots more pictures.

Normally I'm concerned about driving in the dark, and especially just after sunset. There are so many deer around and they dart out in front of cars all the time. I'm afraid I won't see them in time to avoid a collision. But that evening the beauty overtook any fear of deer and I just couldn't get enough of the sunset. I'm so grateful that I happened to be in the right place at the right time. 

Be sure to check in with Carole for more Three on Thursday thoughts. 

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

Unraveled Wednesday

I'm joining Kat and the Unravelers for Unraveled Wednesday. I had hoped to be done with both sleeves, but a sleeve and a half is good, too. I suspect the body will take me just a bit longer than a week, but progress is being made. At this rate, I might just finish the sweater by spring, especially when a poor, neglected Hitchhiker is calling to me from a knitting bag that I haven't opened in over a week.

My big accomplishment this past week was figuring out how to get epubs on my Kindle. This might not seem like a big deal, but it took me several hours. In the end, all it took was sliding a switch on my Kindle settings and installing the Cloud Library app, but it's allowed me to read a lot more library books. Some books are only available in epub format and it isn't always convenient to read them on my laptop. Sometimes I need to see the words to really understand what I'm reading and I can now do that during the ride to and from MD. So I've been reading lots of books this week, but have only finished one. I'm reading the epub version of Matrix on my Kindle and enjoying the experience much more than the audiobook version I had tried to listen to previously. I'm also reading Immune and listening to Small Pleasures.

The book that I finished was a bit of a surprise - Laundry Love. Vicki read it, I put it on my list, and it was the first book I read once I unlocked epubs. I read this book it in one evening, getting a little more excited with each chapter. The author's respect and enthusiasm for textiles is contagious, and he really does provide scientifically-based ideas. I can't say that I'm ready to throw out my big plastic jug of detergent immediately, but I will at least give soap flakes, bleach alternative, washing soda, and Fels-Naphtha a try. I haven't tried any of the author's stain-removal techniques, but I will the next time Justin comes home with deer blood, diesel fuel, or transmission fluid on his clothing. A book about laundry might sound silly, but I really liked it!

What are you making and reading this week?

Monday, November 8, 2021

Cookie Report

Last week I showed you this picture of Apple Butter Snickerdoodles from Ryan's food-truck friend and mentioned that we were going to try them sometime. 

And we did last Friday. I mixed up a batch of dough and took it over to Ryan's to bake. He is cooking with gas for the first time, and while he's used the stove a lot, he hadn't tried the oven yet.

We both thought they were good, but different from regular snickerdoodles, in both taste and consistency. My regular snickerdoodles spread a little bit in the oven but these did not, at all. I used butter like the recipe called for and thought maybe I would see what they were like with margarine. These tasted like a soft ginger cookie, which was not bad, but there isn't any ginger in them. 

I brought a few cookies home from Ryan's and luckily for me, Justin ate them all. So on Sunday I mixed up another batch, using margarine this time. 

And they turned out exactly the same - chewy and tasting like a soft ginger cookie. I didn't put the extra cinnamon and sugar on top, so that might change the taste a bit. Justin says these cookies taste good if you eat them sitting in a tree stand hunting for deer, and you don't want to get extra sugar or cinnamon on your bow.

My thoughts on these cookies are that they are good, but possibly mis-named. They don't taste much like snickerdoodles to me, but the apple butter does give them an interesting flavor. They might be a little better with cinnamon and sugar on top (or at least more like snickerdoodles), but they are quite tasty whether you enjoy them with tea or sitting in a tree.