Wednesday, October 25, 2023

Unraveled Wednesday: 10/25/23

I'm joining Kat and fellow Unravelers today, still plugging away on my Woolly Waffle Shawl. It looks much the same as last week, except it might be a bit smaller. I found several mistakes (knit when I should have purled and vice versa) and created a hopeless mess when I tried to drop down about 20 rows to fix them. I ended up frogging and tinking, finally got my mistakes fixed, and I'm cautiously optimistic and knitting forward. I'm still many rows away from reaching virgin yarn, but now I know I need to check every couple of rows and pay more attention.

As far as reading goes, I did finish several books. The first was an awful John Grisham novel, The Exchange. It's a sequel to The Firm but was missing much of what I enjoyed in It; there are no courtroom scenes, the characters lack depth, and there are many meetings. It was only two stars from me. 

I listened to Before Your Memory Fades, one in a Japanese series of books about a magical cafe. I think that most of us have had interactions that, upon reflection, we wish we had handled differently. The cafe in Japan in this series provides a way to do this, in the time it takes for a cup of magical coffee to get cold. There are specific rules - the customer has to sit in a specific chair, they cannot leave the café and can only interact with past moments that have taken place within its walls, and if they do not finish their coffee before it gets cold they’ll be stuck in the café as a ghost. This visit with the past can't change the present but the coffee-drinkers who have time-traveled are often changed, see things in a more positive way, or at least feel more at peace. The stories are heartwarming and melancholy, and this three-and-a-half-star book is worth reading, especially if you are feeling philosophical.

I also finished my reread of The NixAfter reading Wellness I decided to reread The Nix. I've never wished for the ability to give more than five stars before, but this book deserves many more. The second reading gave me even more to appreciate, and Nathan Hill is definitively my favorite author. I don't know what he might be working on next but I will be first in line to read his third book.

What are you making and reading this week?

Monday, October 23, 2023

Right Now: October 2023

Here's what's going on in my world Right Now in this full last week of October.

Patting myself on the back - for doing all the mending that had been piling up on my sewing machine. It was really only a few nightgowns and shirts of mine along with a few shirts of John's, but I finally quit procrastinating and just did it.

Paying - property taxes. They are so high in NJ that we have to pay them quarterly. Usually, I just grumble about them, but when I went over to the borough office with my check and third-quarter coupon, I was pleasantly surprised to find a plastic pumpkin full of Halloween candy. I took a Reese's peanut butter cup, and then because I was also paying my water and sewer bill, I took a second one. It was a nice bonus and I suggested to the borough clerk that they give out candy all year. 

Buying - these washable and reusable sponges. I handwash my dishes and usually use Scotch Brite sponges, replacing them as they get worn out and/or smelly. It seemed like I was throwing away a lot of sponges this summer, so when I saw the washable and reusable ones, I decided to give them a try. I've used four of them and they are wonderful. I've washed them (in the washing machine) three or four times and they look almost new. It's a little strange to get excited about dish sponges, but I am!

Watching - Madam Secretary. It's political but still entertaining; I can listen while knitting and still follow the story, and there are six seasons. I'm often looking for shows I can knit to and this is a good one. 

Meeting - Dee and Vera on November 4th! Dee had a great suggestion for a place to have coffee, knit, and then have lunch and Vera should be done with her incredibly busy time at work, so I'm excited!

Making - venison stew, homemade bread, and zucchini bread for dessert. This makes sure I keep using all the deer meat and shredded zucchini that are in my freezer and also makes some fairly good meals. 

Chopping - all the end-of-season tomatoes and peppers along with onions, shallots, lime, and cumin to make salsa. It's one of the best ways to enjoy vegetables and use up whatever is left in the garden. 

Looking forward to - watching the Swedish Death Cleaning show. Later this week I'm heading to a good friend's house because she's got a subscription to whatever streaming service it's on. We both enjoyed the book and are always decluttering and getting rid of crap we don't need. I'm anxious to see the show. 

Excited about - finding my crochet snowflake patterns, hook, and thread. A long time ago I crocheted a bunch of snowflakes for my mother to take to Sweden as gifts for relatives. I was thinking about them and found what I was looking for after only five minutes. I even found a few completed snowflakes in the bag and will try my hand at crocheting a few this year. Crochet is just like riding a bike, right? ;-)

Wishing For - a Gobbler from WaWa. For those of you who might not be on the East coCoastWaWa is a convenience store and they make a hoagie that contains turkey, stuffing, gravy, and cranberry sauce. It might sound slightly awful, but I do like them. It's only available for a limited time and I missed it last year, so I'm going to make sure I get one this year. 

Trusting - That the universe is unfolding as it should, and sometimes wishing that I could nudge it to unfold in slightly better ways. :-)

What's going on in your world right now? 

Thursday, October 19, 2023

A Gathering of Poetry: October 2023

It's the third Thursday of the month so I'd like to welcome you to A Gathering of Poetry. I never have a good response when the clerk asks if I've found everything; this poem has given me one that I will be using for a while.

Everything, Anything
by Laura Grace Weldon
“Find everything you’re looking for?” a clerk asks
and I say, “I’m still looking for world peace.”
“Can I get you anything else?” a nurse asks
and I say, “Yes, a safe haven for refugees.”
For a millisecond, their faces soften
as they take a deep breath of imagining
then laugh or shake their heads
or commiserate. For a few minutes
we might even discuss
our planet’s highest possibilities.
Maybe that deep breath,
that imagining,
is a starting place.
Weldon, Grace Laura. "Everything, Anything." Poems of Presence II, edited by Phyllis Cole-Dai and Ruby Wilson, Grayson Books, 2023, pg. 48. 
You can read more about the poet here
Thanks for reading and joining us for our monthly Gathering of Poetry. Be sure to visit Kym and Kat so you can gather more poetry and you can add your link below if you would like to share one of your favorite poems. The more the merrier!

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter

Wednesday, October 18, 2023

Unraveled Wednesday: 10/18/23

I'm joining Kat and fellow Unravelers today, plugging away on my Woolly Waffle Shawl. Kat very thoughtfully wrote a post for today before she left for vacation, so I hope she's having a grand time and I thank her very much for providing us with a place to Unravel.

The shawl is definitely getting larger but I did some slightly depressing math. I'm at 168 stitches and need to increase to 226. That means I need to increase 58 more stitches, and since there are four stitches increased for every eight rows, that means I have between 14 and 15 more groups of eight rows before I bind off. That works out to be between 112 and 120 more rows, and those rows are getting longer. Once I switched to a 40" needle the knitting was easier, but not exactly like the wind as I had hoped. I need to remember that it's not a race and I'll just go at my own pace. 

I enjoyed Wellness so much that I decided a reread of Nathan Hill's first book was in order. I read The Nix six years ago, and because I have a mind like a sieve, I only remembered the very basic storyline and it's almost like a new book for me. There is so much that I had forgotten, and I'm especially enjoying the embedded choose your own adventure book. In my first review, I said, "Nathan Hill is a damn fine storyteller", and now I can appreciate that even more. 

What are you making and reading this week?

Friday, October 13, 2023

Museum of Me: October 2023

October's Museum of Me installation is one that I bet a lot of you can relate to with stories of your own: c
ompare and contrast your worst and your best boss. 

Let's get the worst boss out of the way first. It was my last boss, a librarian in a middle school library. I feel a bit mean-spirited saying this because overall, she was a kind and generous person, but as a boss, she was very difficult for me to understand. She was a flighty type-A person, so she would give me instructions and then 10 minutes later, instruct me to do the opposite. I remember my first day when she told me to arrange and catalog our magazines by interest which seemed like an odd way to do it, but I tried. She came back from a meeting and decided that arranging them alphabetically would work better. That was much easier, but it was my introduction to doing things her way. I would be in the middle of checking out books to impatient 7th graders and she would tell me that cataloging and processing five carts of books had to be done now. She rarely checked books out and almost always made mistakes if she did. There was a day I was off and none of the books she thought she was checking out actually got checked out. That meant that we basically gave away 170+ books that day and had to wait until they (hopefully) got returned. There were only two of us running the library, so I had to learn to do what I thought best to actually get things done. It's a relatively minor thing, but in seven years she never learned to spell my name correctly. I told her once that it bothered me, but she continued to spell my name "Bonnie". As a bad boss, she wasn't too bad, but we were definitely different people. 

McDonald's grill in the 1970s. Not the one I worked at, but ours looked just like this.
(And no, we didn't wear gloves either.)

My best boss was the manager at the McDonald's I had for three summers in high school. Craig was kind, understanding, and never took any of us for granted. He had assembled a pretty good early-morning crew (we started at 6:00 am) and he treated all of us well, if only because he knew how difficult it was to find people to work that shift. He was even willing to look the other way if any of us were slightly hungover and had to go sit on the five-gallon buckets of pickles in the walk-in refrigerator. He let us use the plastic coffee stirrers that McDonald's used to have for the sculptural creations we made. We would melt the ends on the grill and stick them together to make people, animals, and once even a merry-go-round. There were four of us on the crew and since we were all the same age, I think Craig may have shed a few tears when we all graduated from college and didn't return to McDonald's. The worst thing he ever did was try to convince us that we should go to Hamburger University and become McDonald's managers (but he always spelled my name correctly).

So how about you? I'd love to hear about your best and/or worst boss. I'll be back on the second Friday of November with a brand-new installation. Thank you for visiting The Museum of Me!

Wednesday, October 11, 2023

Unraveled Wednesday: 10/11/23

I'm joining Kat and fellow Unravelers today, with some knitting on both of my shawl projects. The Hitchhiker got some time when the weather was still quite warm last week; it was more comfortable to work on a small lightweight project when the temperature was 85 degrees. 

But then over just a few hours, the temperature dropped to 60 and it felt decidedly autumnal. I put the Hitchhiker away and got out the Woolly Waffle Shawl. 

I'm just barely halfway on this shawl but I would like to wear it sometime this fall, so I'll keep plugging away. Maybe when I switch to the 40" needle I will be able to knit like the wind. (Not really, but I can hope). 

I read The Caretaker by Ron Rash last week, and I loved it. The cover is beautiful and so is the story contained within. I had other library books that were due back in several days, but The Caretaker kept me reading and ignoring the other books. Blackburn Gant is the solitary cemetery caretaker in Blowing Rock. His face has been disfigured by polio but he has found a good friend in Jacob Hampton, son of a prominent family. When Jacob is drafted into the Korean War he asks Blackburn to extend his caretaking duties and look after his pregnant wife. Blackburn has a strong moral compass but he is not a black and white character. Even he has his moments of weakness when the reader is not sure what his decision will be. There are a lot of emotions in this dramatic story, but you can tell that Ron Rash is also a poet. His prose and imagery are lovely and his writing sidesteps melodrama. Friendship, honor, loss, love of all types, what we will do for love, and how self-interest can be disguised as love are all covered beautifully. I will definitely be reading more from this author.

I picked up a book of Rash's short stories from the library (In the Valley), and while they were written with the same wonderfully descriptive prose and storytelling, the short story format just didn't provide a way for them to shine. This was only three stars for me, but I may read more of Rash's novels in the future.

And speaking of covers, I'll be finishing up this book soon:

It's science fiction/fantasy, complete with sentient cats and supervillains. I chose it solely because of the cover and have been glad to find that the book is fun and humorous.

What are you making and reading this week?

Tuesday, October 10, 2023

Read With Us: It's a New Fall Book!

If you weren't able to attend our last Read With Us Zoom book discussion, you might be wondering what we are reading next. Today's the day you get to find out and it's a good one! *

It's The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store by James McBride. 

From Goodreads: "In 1972, when workers in Pottstown, Pennsylvania, were digging the foundations for a new development, the last thing they expected to find was a skeleton at the bottom of a well. Who the skeleton was and how it got there were two of the long-held secrets kept by the residents of Chicken Hill, the dilapidated neighbourhood where immigrant Jews and African Americans lived side by side and shared ambitions and sorrows.

As these characters' stories overlap and deepen, it becomes clear how much the people who live on the margins struggle and what they must do to survive. When the truth is finally revealed about what happened on Chicken Hill and the part the town's white establishment played in it, McBride shows us that even in dark times, it is love and community - heaven and earth - that sustain us."

KymCarole, and I will be talking about the book, giving additional information, and doing promotional posts throughout November. Discussion day for The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store is scheduled for Tuesday, January 9, 2024, at 7:00 pm Eastern time, so mark your calendars. We'll ask questions on our blogs that day and then host the always fun, educational, and entertaining Zoom discussion.

The hardcover, Kindle, and audio versions of the book are all available from my library with some wait, but you do have an extended time for this book because of the holidays. Hopefully, this will give you plenty of time to place a hold, get the book, and read it.  The Kindle and hardcover versions are priced reasonably on Amazonand I'm sure your local bookseller could order a copy for you if you're lucky enough to have a local bookseller. 

I do hope you'll come to The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store and Read With Us!

*At least I think it is. I haven't finished the book because it was due back to the library before I could complete it, so I'll be reading the book along with you. The first third that I did read was intriguing!

Wednesday, October 4, 2023

Unraveled Wednesday: 10/4/23

I'm joining Kat and fellow Unravelers today, for the first Unraveled Wednesday of October. I've been happily knitting on my Woolly Waffle, stopping every now and then to feel its lovely texture and squishiness. I made some sort of mistake on the i-cord edging and spent a few hours tinking back on Sunday afternoon, but then I found this youtube video about how to fix an i-cord edge, and voilà, it was fixed! 

Did you know that Elizabeth Zimmerman coined the name "i-cord"? The "i" stands for idiot, as she declared this technique to be so simple that absolutely anyone could do it. I learned that while searching for a fix, so I know what that says about me!

I finished two books this week. I gave the first one, Of Time and Turtles, three stars. The author has written more information about turtles than I ever thought there might be, but a big part of this book is about the humans who care for turtles. We're introduced to the Turtle Rescue League, a two-person organization (along with plenty of volunteers) that rescues turtles, repairs their shells, houses them if necessary, and is hopefully able to nurse them back to health. There is also the global Turtle Survival Alliance that operates from a secret location in South Carolina to protect the turtles from the illegal wildlife trade.

I did learn plenty about turtles, such as there are more than 300 species of turtles and tortoises and reptilian hibernation is called brumation, but I also learned that turtles are not just slow, plodding animals, and there are lots of people who are very devoted to their survival.

I had to wait seven years after The Nix for the publication of Wellness but it was certainly worth the wait. Wellness is the story of Jack Baker and Elizabeth Augustine, how they meet, have a child, and live their lives in Chicago. My simplistic explanation may sound dull, but the book is definitely not; it is one of the best books I have read this year. Nathan Hill has painted a complete picture of a relationship over the years, and it was easy to recognize some life events and thoughts that are similar to my own. Jack and Elizabeth are interesting characters and Hill writes about them with almost perfect prose. The section about Jack growing up on the prairie is especially beautiful. The author has also written about technology, health, wellness (including placebos), social media, art appreciation, medicine, finance, parenthood, community, and education. Even the long section about social media algorithms and how they contribute to Jack's relationship with his father is poignant. One of the best things I can say about Wellness is that after reading the book's more than 600 pages, I still wanted more. (Also, please try to write your third book a little faster, Nathan Hill. I'm not getting any younger.)

“Believe what you believe … but believe gently. Believe compassionately. Believe with curiosity. Believe with humility. And don’t trust the arrogance of certainty.”

What are you making and reading this week?

Monday, October 2, 2023

The Lost Weekend

Last weekend felt a bit lost to me, and I'm blaming Pfizer, CVS, my immune system, and some aggravation on my part. 

I made an appointment for my covid vaccine/booster (whatever we're calling it now) a few days after the FDA approved the newest vaccines. When I went to CVS, the pharmacist said that Medicare had not yet updated their systems and they were unable to process it for reimbursement. I could pay $200 out of pocket, but I chose not to and went home without a shot. 

I made another appointment eight or ten days later, called that morning to ask if the Medicare reimbursement glitch had been worked out, and the tech said she thought so but wouldn't be able to tell for sure until she tried to process it. So I went in for appointment  #2, and sadly, came home with the same results. No shot.

Surely the third time would be the charm, so I made an appointment at a different CVS and hoped for different results. For some reason, we have three different CVS stores in our small town, but this gave me three options. Originally I wanted to get my covid shot first and get my flu shot two to three weeks later. I've had mild to moderate reactions from them before and didn't want to multiply the fever, headache, and body aches by getting both shots at the same time. But since time had been ticking away waiting for Medicare to get their act together, I was aggravated and made an appointment to get both shots. The third time was (sort of) the charm, but only because the pharmacist may have been tired of seeing me and maybe felt a bit sorry for me. This time the Medicare computers were down, but the pharmacist took my information, said he would submit it later, and checked me in for the shots. I got both covid and the flu vaccine from a personable tech with lovely purple hair and went home to celebrate my success. 

Friday night I woke up with a headache, fever, and shaking chills. I took some ibuprofen and went back to sleep. I slept until mid-day Saturday, waking up only to take more ibuprofen and get an ice pack for my headache before returning to sleep. I woke up at 8:30 pm, had some yogurt and more ibuprofen, and went back to sleep until Sunday morning. I woke up feeling almost normal and it was great to finally get up, get dressed, and get on with all the things I had neglected.

I am glad I was able to finally get both vaccines and am ultimately grateful for Pfizer and the fact that I had fairly good evidence that my immune system was responding as it should, even if it meant that I lost 36 hours of the weekend to sleeping and feeling crappy. I hope your weekend contained a bit more fun!