Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Unraveled Wednesday: 11/29/23

I'm joining Kat and fellow Unravelers on this "bonus" fifth Wednesday in November. The Thanksgiving leftovers are almost all gone and turkey barley soup has been made. I did order yarn for the semicircular version of the Woolly Waffle shawl but I'm not in a big rush to cast on. Instead, I've returned to my old favorite, Hitchhiker knitting. This yarn (Kaleidoscope deluxe sock yarn from MarianthiYarns) is soft, luscious, and a real treat to knit. My hands and heart are happy to be working on a Hitchhiker again. 

I have thought about some Christmas knitting, and I usually try to knit something for the boys. They've both told me they have more than enough fingerless gloves and hats, but I have yarn that I think will work so I might knit them each a pair of Hot Waffle mitts. I was ready to cast on, but I couldn't find any of my size 5 double points for some reason. John said he didn't take them, so I ordered another set. I'm sure I'll find the bag with my other size 5 dpns when the set I ordered is delivered. 

I finished one book, read a strange short story, and started an entertaining fantasy. I had hopes that How to Know a Person by David Brooks might give me some useful information on how to better speak with family members and others whose political views are different from mine. I haven't read any of the other books that David Brooks has authored, but I've read his pieces in multiple outlets and have always thought of him as a well-reasoned intellectual, even while I've disagreed with some of his politics. How to Know a Person reads like a slightly highbrow self-help book, but it still has many of the same issues that pop psychology often suffers from. Brooks provides some personal anecdotes and the writing seems heartfelt, but there is also a lot of theory and research. That is necessary to support arguments, but it seemed to be fragments chosen randomly. I had hoped that this book might provide more guidance on how to help heal political divisions between people. There is a lot of common sense here, but much of Brooks' advice seems abstract and superficial, with no real solutions on how to resolve deep divisions. This one was three stars for me.

I saw that Margaret Atwood had a short story on Prime Reading entitled My Evil Mother so I gave it a try. This was just too weird for me, so it was only two stars. 

Much to my own surprise, I started Fourth Wing. It was on sale at Audible so I couldn't resist some entertainment. I'm not much of a fantasy reader, but this is part romance and part fantasy, with dragons and lots of action and entertainment. It's a fun ride so far!

What are you making and reading this week? 

Friday, November 24, 2023



It's important to keep up some traditions to ensure feelings of continuity and groundedness. I have a piece of birthday cake for breakfast the day after my birthday and a piece of pumpkin pie with whipped cream is my day after Thanksgiving breakfast. 

I hope your long weekend is off to a delicious and relaxing start!

Thursday, November 23, 2023

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wishing all who are celebrating a very Happy Thanksgiving, and a very Happy Thursday to those that aren't! I'm grateful for you and that you take time out of your day to read my thoughts and share yours. Thank you!

(I post this same picture every year on Thanksgiving, but it's simply because I like it so much and it says exactly how I feel.)

Wednesday, November 22, 2023

Unraveled Wednesday: 11/22/23

I'm joining Kat and fellow Unravelers on this Wednesday before Thanksgiving with my finished Woolly Waffle Shawl.

The true color is most like the first photo taken outside on the patio. I took the second one indoors on the mud porch when John was "too busy" to help with a photo. I guess he'll just be cold while I'm wrapped up in my soft warm shawl. And it is warm. I didn't block it all because I love the squishy waffle texture and didn't want to lose any of it. It was a delightful project and I even learned a few new-to-me techniques, like I-cord tab cast on, how to fix your i-cord when you make mistakes, and i-cord cast off and grafting. Stephen West has lots of really helpful instructional videos to help with anything you might not be familiar with. I would knit another Woolly Waffle Triangle in a minute, and Stephen West also has a semicircular Woolly Waffle Shawl that I've been thinking about.

Most of my reading this week has been recipes, but of course, I decided to stick with the same old favorites I always make for Thanksgiving. I am listening to a book while I bake pies and crescent rolls, but I've just started Fourth Wing, so I don't have any opinions yet. Justin's girlfriend has been trying to convince that Fourth Wing is amazing and Carole told me that while it was not great literature, it was "entertaining as hell". That sounds good to me!

What are you making and reading this week? 

Monday, November 20, 2023

Sew Great!

Even though Justin has his own house, there is still a lot of his stuff here at our house. Whenever he stops in, I encourage him to take some of his stuff to his house. When he was here the other day I asked him about this wool, fleece-lined coat. He used to wear it a lot, but he said that the zipper was broken so I could take it to Goodwill. The whole slider tab was missing and I'm not very good at sewing in zippers, but I figured I could find someplace to get it replaced. 

There is a tailor in town but several friends have had less-than-ideal experiences with him. Google gave me a listing for "Mary's Sewing and Alterations" so I thought I'd give her a try. 

I went to the residential address that was given, and it looked like it might be the right place.

When you go through the door, you enter the breezeway. It has several lovely blooming plants and lots of bags that I assumed had repairs that were ready for customers to pick up. 

I rang the doorbell and got to meet Mary. She's probably about 80 years old, and when I explained the zipper problem to her, she said that she was sure she could fix it. She took me to a back bedroom and showed me a large box full of zipper sliding tabs. She told me that when she had to replace a zipper, she took the tab off of the old zipper and saved it for future repairs. She thought she could find a new tab in her box, and if not, then she would replace the zipper. She would call me when it was done, and I could pick it up, and leave the money in the bunny.

It took me about 10 minutes to get home, and as I was walking in from my car, Mary called and said she was able to fix it with a new tab. I could pick up the jacket from the breezeway anytime. 

When I went to get the jacket, there was no little piece of paper pinned on it saying how much she had charged. I rang the doorbell again and asked what I owed her. She told me that since it only took her 10 minutes she couldn't charge me anything. I tried to tell her that she had done something great and deserved to be paid for it, but she kept refusing. 

Now Justin has a warm jacket that was fixed in record time, for free, and I found someone that does wonderful sewing and alterations. It's all sew great!

Thursday, November 16, 2023

A Gathering of Poetry: November 2023

It's the third Thursday of the month so I'd like to welcome you to A Gathering of Poetry. I chose today's poem because it spoke of hope to me. I might add a few things at the end, but I'll leave it to you to determine what really matters. 

It Could Be
by Julia M. Fehrenbacher

a smile or a poem. Or new day light
that finds you through an open
window. Or perhaps, remembering
that tomorrow was never promised.

It could be the scent
of baking bread, the first chill
of autumn that has you reaching
for your favorite wool sweater. Or maybe
it's the noticing of how easily
red maple becomes and lets go.

It could be taking today off
to be still, to un-know,
to notice. To practice loosening
your troubled grip
because grace can never
be gripped or grabbed.

It could be choosing
softness in a world grown hard
because you're tired of hurting
and being hurt and mercy
is the best kind of medicine.

It could be an invitation to gather
around the listening table
where every color is beautiful, where
there is no blame,
no shame, no them—no other.

It could be any of these things
or no thing at all, that remind
you that, really, only a few
things matter—

Food, Trees, Words, Love, Mostly love.


Fehrenbacher, Julia M. "It Could Be." Poems of Presence II, edited by Phyllis Cole-Dai and Ruby Wilson, Grayson Books, 2023, pgs. 28-29.

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, November 15, 2023

Unraveled Wednesday: 11/15/23

I'm joining Kat and fellow Unravelers on this third Wednesday in November. I agree with everyone who has mentioned that the month seems to be flying, but I'm just sitting here slowly doing the i-cord bindoff on my Woolly Waffle Shawl. I originally thought this would be some sort of difficult, half-magical technique, but it's really not hard to do at all. It is a bit slow and cumbersome (or maybe that's just me) but the end result is lovely. I do hope to have a finished shawl to show you next week. 

Since November is zooming by, I decided to try my hand at crocheted snowflakes. I made a bunch of these years ago when my mother visited Sweden and wanted something lightweight to take as gifts for Swedish family members. I could use some for my own tree, and I really love the patterns I got from John's grandmother.

This "Christmas Special" is from sometime in the 70s the best I can tell. My favorites are the two on the bottom and there are many more nice ones inside. I'm pleased that I remembered enough crochet to make five snowflakes so far.

They look a bit like crumpled-up tissues now, but will hopefully look much better after I starch and block them. John's grandmother used to use sugar water to stiffen hers, but I think dilute starch or Elmer's glue might be better.

I read a couple of decent books over the last week. I borrowed A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking based on the fun title and found the book enjoyable. Mona is a 14-year-old bakery apprentice who can magically enhance her baking skills by making her bread rise and gingerbread men dance. She is seen as a minor wizard in a world where magic is common but that's okay with Mona because all she wants to do is bake well. Things go awry when she finds a dead body in the bakery. I liked that Mona is a somewhat meek rule-follower, not the typical heroine in a middle-grade or YA book. But someone in the city is out to get wizards, so Mona has to fight back. She does so by creatively using the skills she has to the best advantage. After being suddenly exposed to the darker side of the world, the book becomes a coming-of-age story, with an examination of some bigger questions. Details like Bob the sourdough starter provide plenty of humor. This one was three stars for me.

Ever since Justin got The World's Best Cat ©, I've been thinking about how I might also need a cat. I'd like one like my son's cat, Nugget, who is engaging, adorable, and sweet, but doesn't seem to need constant attention. I already knit and I'm an old woman, so clearly I need a cat, but my husband is not 100% convinced. While I try to persuade him and continue my quest toward becoming a crazy old cat lady, I thought James Herriot's Cat Stories would be a good one to listen to. It's full of the heartwarming and gentle stories that I've always associated with James Herriot, from kittens to older cats, ones that he has "owned" (or at least fed and tried to get close to), and ones that he has taken care of. Mr. Herriot reminds us that death is part of life, but all of the stories are still charming. I listened to the audiobook, but since the hardcover book contains illustrations, I may need to get that version, too. This book was a clear four-star winner.

“I thought afresh that a nice cat washing his face by the hearth gave extra comfort to a room."

What are you making and reading this week?

Tuesday, November 14, 2023

Read With Us: Heaven & Earth Grocery Store

Last week, Kym gave you an introduction to our current Read With Us selection, The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store. This week I'm going to tell you a little bit about who and what inspired James McBride to write this novel.

When McBride was 19, he saw an ad for a dishwasher at a sleepaway camp for children with disabilities. He worked for four summers at the Variety Club Camp for Handicapped Children in Worcester, Pa., and out of this experience came the idea for The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store. He started writing the book about 15 years ago and originally set it in a summer camp but “like many works of fiction, it morphed into something else." The book is set in the real-life town of Pottstown, Pa., in a Black, Jewish, and immigrant neighborhood called Chicken Hill. Even though the setting is changed from the Variety Club Camp, the book still contains the “lessons of inclusivity, love and acceptance” that he learned at the camp. 

The book is dedicated to the retired director of the Variety Club Camp: To Sy Friend, who taught us all the meaning of Tikkun Olam (literally "repairing of the world", it is a concept in Judaism, which refers to various forms of action intended to repair and improve the world.) 

Here are James McBride's words about what made the camp so special to him and to this book: "I worked there for four summers, and what Sy really taught us, and what the children taught us, was equality. Love was the dominant force.

Camp taught me to question what is “normal.” Those kids were from all different races and religions, many of them from working-class backgrounds. They did not get caught up with a lot of the differences that most of us get caught up with. Sy was responsible for that. What Sy did for this book was he implanted the seed of equality and justice and fairness. That notion guides the entire book.

I fell in love with those kids. I’m still in touch with many of those campers. They gave me so much. Their philosophy, their ability to negotiate life with so much less than what I had — without complaint, and with a sense of joy — was something that I never forgot.

Sy will tell you that it was the campers who made the experience for all of us, and I would agree. But Sy was the conductor of the orchestra. The life affirmation that you come away with after an experience like that is life-changing. You get so much more back than you give."

Much of what I've written about came from this Washington Post article. There are many more details in it if you'd like to read it and be even more inspired while you read The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store.

The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store is currently available from Amazon in hardcover ($16.99), paperback ($20.85), Kindle ($14.99), or from Audible. You can check your local bookstores for a copy — and, of course, the book should also be available at most libraries. I know that many of you are in long hold lines for the book at your library, and I can sympathize because that is also my situation. Libby keeps telling me that my library has acquired additional copies and I am moving up in the queue, so hopefully, your libraries are the same and we'll all get our hands on a copy long before January. If you've got a Little Free Library nearby maybe you'll be lucky enough to find a copy like Sarah did!  :-)

Our book discussion day for The Heaven and Earth Grocery Store will be Tuesday, January 9, 2024. Carole, Kym, and I will each post discussion questions on our blogs that day, and then at 7:00 pm Eastern time we’ll be hosting the always educational and fun live book discussion on Zoom.

We do hope you'll come along and Read With Us about equality, justice, and fairness!

Friday, November 10, 2023

Museum of Me: November 2023

Hello and welcome to the Museum of Me. It's the second Friday in November and time for a new installment. This month we ask the important question:  What words or expressions from your childhood still echo in your head? 

There are some months when I have to spend quite a bit of time mulling over the Museum of Me prompt and carefully crafting my answer. This month is not one of those. As soon as I read it, I knew exactly what expression I would write about. 

My mother used some of the standard maternal phrases during my childhood:

  • If you keep making that face, it'll freeze that way.
  • I'm cold; you should put on a sweater.
  • Because I said so, that's why!
  • Quiet down, I can't even hear myself think.

I think I've only used those last two on my own kids and I immediately found myself thinking, "Oh, no! I've turned into my mother!" That is not exactly true, but while raising my boys I did gain a better understanding of some of the things my mother had gone through. Along with understanding came more empathy. 

It was my father who used the expression that still echoes in my head: Do as I say, not as I do. I hated to hear it as a child, and I still dislike it even as a 66-year-old woman.

This is my mother and father sometime in the 1960s. (You can tell by my mother's groovy blouse.) If you look at the end table to the right of them, there are two lighters, one cigarette holder, and an ashtray. 

Here's my father on the other end of the sofa. This end table has a lighter, a cigarette holder, and an ashtray. Both my father and mother smoked while I was growing up and it seemed almost normal to me. There were lighters and ashtrays in every room and everyone in the extended family smoked. I don't have any pictures of my parents smoking but here's one of my uncle holding a fish and a cigarette!

Sometime during elementary school, the school nurse made visits to our classrooms and told us how unhealthy smoking was and why we should never start. If our parents smoked, we should tell them how unhealthy and dangerous smoking was and try to convince them to stop. So I did just that. I was young enough that I didn't fully understand and was convinced that my parents would die in just a few days. I remember a conversation at the dinner table where I presented my reasons why they should stop smoking and I even remember crying. My father just said, "Do as I say, not as I do." and that was the end of the conversation. 

I brought up the smoking conversation a few times each year throughout my childhood, and my father's reply was always the same. When I was 16, I told him I was going to start smoking and he still repeated that same tired phrase. It made me angry then and still does. I swore that I would never say that to my own children and I'm kind of proud of the fact that I never have. (I know it's silly to be proud of that, but there I am.)

So how about you? I'd love to hear about what words or expressions you still remember from your childhood. Words spoken when children are young matter, long into old age! We'll be back on the second Friday of December with a brand-new installation. Thank you for visiting The Museum of Me!

Wednesday, November 8, 2023

Unraveled Wednesday: 11/8/23

I'm joining Kat and fellow Unravelers on this second Wednesday in November. I finished the shiny Gap-tastic Cowl for Jess, and it turned out pretty much how I wanted it to. I tried it on to see if it would wrap around twice without being too tight, and while it's fine as far as fit, I discovered that the yarn smells like a barnyard. (Yuck!) It's now soaking in a nicely scented Soak bath after which it will be drying and ready for Christmas gifting. 

While I was knitting it I thought I might need one for myself, but after knitting with size 13 needles and yarn that felt like the same diameter as rope, I won't be making one for myself. It's back to the Woolly Waffle Blanket; only 14 more (long) rows to go and then an i-cord bind-off.

I read two four-star books, Congratulations, the Best is Over! by R. Eric Thomas and Day by Michael Cunningham. 

I was not familiar with R. Eric Thomas before I read Congratulations, the Best is Over!, but I'll admit the cupcake on the cover caught my eye. It's an interesting collection of essays - some humorous, some poignant, all of them seemed candid and honest to me. I listened to the audiobook and found his exclamations of "Who, me?" and "Wait, what?" felt a little forced, but I also realized that it's not my job to judge an author's speech patterns. His description of depression is a good one: “It’s really more of an ongoing partnership than a struggle.” Whether R. Eric Thomas was writing about digging up his yard to find pieces of slate for a path or “dozens of loud-ass homosexual frogs”, I always looked forward to reading the next essay and would read more by this author.

I'm not sure how Michael Cunningham conveyed so much information and so many exacting details about siblings Isobel and Robbie in Day, but his precise and beautiful writing is no small part of it. Cunningham gives the reader snapshots of the family for April 5 over three years, 2019, 2020, and 2021. I don't think that many other authors could manage this nearly as well, but this book is a triumph. Given the years that Cunningham has chosen, we know ahead of time that the pandemic will be a part of the story, but the well-developed characters drive this novel. Cunningham's writing explores the inner lives of the characters in this great premise for a wonderful book.

Thank you to Penguin Random House and Edelweiss for providing me with a copy of this book. It will be published November 14, 2023.

What are you making and reading this week?

Monday, November 6, 2023

A Fun Saturday With Friends

 Look who I had the pleasure of spending several hours with on Saturday: 

Dee and Vera

We met at the 9wonderful Lumberville General Store, had delicious coffee and chai, and knit for a bit. I got to see Dee's sparkly Christmas socks, the start of Vera's socks for Mailing, and I even got to see Vera's magic circle crochet start for granny squares. If I had been a little bit smarter I would have taken photos while were were knitting so you could also see what we were working on, but we were too busy solving the world's problems. Next time! We didn't even have to go elsewhere for lunch; we just ordered some delicious sandwiches here at the same place and kept on talking.

It was wonderful to get together in person and spend some very enjoyable time with you ladies, and I thank you for inviting me. Knitting is often a solitary activity, but it's much more fun with these two good friends!

Friday, November 3, 2023

Soup's On!

Fidelity manages our retirement savings, and this has required plenty of meetings since John retired. We meet with Joe and Chad once each quarter, sometimes at their office in Princeton and sometimes over Zoom. I kind of like the office meetings because afterward we go across the street to Olive Garden and have soup, salad, and breadsticks for lunch. 

John made an appointment for the end of November but he chose a Zoom call. I was a bit disappointed because that meant I wouldn't be enjoying chicken gnocchi soup and breadsticks, so I decided to make some myself using this recipe. First, I chopped the onion and carrots.

I didn't use celery because I didn't have any, and I also used shallots instead of garlic. John grew shallots in the garden this year and I have lots of them to use up. Next, I sautéed the vegetables. 

Then I added the chicken broth and chicken, brought the mixture to a boil, and added the gnocchi. I didn't make my gnocchi from scratch because I don't have a potato ricer and it sounded like more work than I wanted. The gnocchi from the grocery store worked just fine, and I doubt that there is a chef in Olive Garden's kitchen making their gnocchi by hand. 

I decreased the heat, added half and half (I didn't have heavy cream but the half and half worked), spinach (I used frozen chopped spinach because that's what I had on hand), thyme, salt, and pepper, and voilà, soup!

It was pretty good and made enough that we are having leftovers tonight. Next time I think I'll use garlic instead of shallots and rough chop fresh spinach instead of using frozen. It would also be better if a waiter brought me unlimited breadsticks, but I'll make these the next time I make soup. 

I enjoy making soup in the fall and winter and I'm already perusing recipes for what I'm going to try next. What's your favorite soup recipe? 

Wednesday, November 1, 2023

Unraveled Wednesday: 11/1/23

I'm joining Kat and fellow Unravelers on this first day of November. I'm still plugging away on my Woolly Waffle Shawl but I got a little distracted by something new and shiny over the weekend. I saw this yarn being knit into a hat on Instagram, said, "Ooh, shiny!" and set about looking for some. I couldn't find it at Joann's or Michael's online, but Amazon was happy to send me three skeins. I received it within about 12 hours of ordering it, so I took that as a sign that I should cast on immediately. 

I had Jess (Justin's girlfriend) in mind for this yarn but I've knit her two hats as Christmas gifts that I've never seen her wear, so I thought maybe she would like something else better. I perused ravelry and settled on the Gap-tastic cowl. I didn't knit one several years ago when the pattern was so popular because of the endless seed stitch. While I still don't like seed stitch (especially on size 13 needles), I do like sparkly yarn and Jess, so here is my sparkly cowl so far. 

I hurt my left hand over the weekend because I used it to push a big knife through two butternut squash. I roasted the squash in the oven with some blood orange olive oil and cinnamon, and it was quite good, but there may be a lesson here. I've never injured myself while opening fun-size Snickers, so be careful while cutting vegetables. My squash-related injury has limited my knitting time, but hopefully, it will feel better in a couple of days and I can get back to seed stitch, sparkly yarn, and size 13 needles. 

When I was much younger I was an avid reader of Stephen King; the scarier the better.  'Salem's Lot scared me so much that I imagined vampires outside of my second-floor apartment windows, put the book in the freezer, and called my sister at 2:00 am so she could reassure me that vampires weren't real (despite what I was seeing). I remembered Cujo and  Pet Sematary as being equally frightening books.

Now that I'm much older and real life can often be quite scary in itself, I thought it was time to reread some of my Stephen King favorites. Pet Sematary was as horror-filled as I remembered it, and maybe even more so than when I read it in my 20s. Now that four decades have passed, I've had two children and also experienced the loss of my parents and many other family members and friends. I understand the idea of wanting to do anything to keep your children safe, imagining losing them as the worst thing possible, along with how deep and terrifying grief can be. I have a new appreciation for Stephen King's ability to write horror in more ways than just what will scare you when something goes bump in the dark. The details he seems to effortlessly include make what seems like an illogical premise much easier to understand.

After finishing Pet Sematary last week and finding it quite disturbing, I decided I didn't need to reread the other two. Now I'm going back to my normal non-horror reading.

What are you making and reading this week?