31 December 2019

Be Brave

If you're brave enough to say goodbye, life will reward you with a new hello 
-- Paulo Coehlo

Oh 2019, you weren't the worst year ever, but you sure weren't the best one, either.  All the same, I'm sorry to say goodbye to you, as I do not like most goodbyes, particularly those that can put me further away from those that meant something to me, or things and places that I love.  

I really do wish that I could say it's been a wonderful year, but well, it just hasn't.  I'm ending the year feeling that a lot of things that weren't that great to start are not getting better, and probably won't, if I'm being realistic.  At least not anytime soon.  Which is disheartening, but so much of it is seriously out of my control, that I need to learn to accept it the best I can for now.

Instead, I want to think about the things I can control in my life, and the good things that have happened, even if they didn't seem to be the overarching moments in my immediate memory.  I've said it before, and I'll say it again - no year is all bad or all good.  

And so, my hope for all of us is that we will give 2019 a break, because there were in fact moments of joy and fun and happiness, even if those are not the ones that immediately place themselves in the front of our memories. 

We're all still here.  That's what matters.  I hope your new hello will make you smile more than anything else in the next year.

28 December 2019

Hamlet's Most Excellent Christmas Day!

I am guessing if you are reading this, you made it through Christmas Day, and are [hopefully] still enjoying Christmastime.  Our Christmas Day was especially nice, and it seemed like a nice long day, instead of just speeding past before we even realized what was happening. 

Everyone was very pleased with their gifts - most of the treats for Hamlet and the kitties have been consumed, other than those in large bags or containers.  And with the addition of toys, boxes, and ribbon, it was just what you could want.  The Tim really liked his gifts, and was thrilled with the socks that I had knit for him.  Of course, even though I had been working on them in front of him a few times, he clearly had not been paying attention since they were a complete surprise.  :-)

I received some really great things, though nothing knitting-related.  Though to be honest, I'm not sure what I could have received, since I have plenty of just about everything I would ever use or need.  Only one item has to be exchanged for a different size, so I call that a success!

Hamlet in particular seemed to enjoy himself all day long.  Of course, whenever everyone is home, he thinks that's the best, so it started with that.  But he definitely thought his gifts were good ones.

I made him lie down for this photo before we started opening things.  The Tim said he is giving me a look that says, "PLEASE hurry up and get this done!"

His true favorite gifts (besides two pup cookies from Santa, one in the shape of a snowflake, and the other in the shape of a Christmas tree) were his chew toy and his unstuffed chicken.

The unstuffed chicken is apparently an excellent sleeping companion. 

Of course, just like kids, as soon as he was enjoying a gift, one of the cats had to try and horn in - but he gave as good as he got, so it all worked out in the end.

Later in the afternoon, we went for a walk and he wore his reindeer antlers - which he didn't used to like, but now that he realizes that they can get you some extra attention, he thinks they are great!

Needless to say, after all of the excitement, The Tim had a hard time getting him to go for an evening walk!

The Tim had to work on Thursday and Friday, and originally I had hoped to get together with some people during those days, since I was still off and had the time to meet for lunch or whatever.  And so of course for both of those days I was overcome with panic and anxiety about the fact that next week I would have to go back to work where things are particularly tense and miserable, and that was that.  The thought of having to even talk to someone - about anything, even the good and fun stuff - was overwhelming to me, so in the interest of my sanity, I just kept to myself and did things around here.  The kitties and Hamlet and I had some lovely days together, and I am feeling somewhat better, so that is good.  But I don't have many chances to get together with the people I'd hoped to see, so that was disappointing to say the least.  Hopefully I can figure out a way to make plans with them very soon.

And before we know it, 2020 will arrive, so there are all kinds of possibilities ahead, right? 

Enjoy your weekend!

24 December 2019

Christmas Eve 2019

"May you never be too grown up to search the skies on Christmas Eve"

... no matter who or what you hope to see.

Have a lovely Christmas Eve, and blessings to you and yours from everyone at our house.

23 December 2019

Go Easy and Be Kind

This isn't the post I was originally planning to write today.  Not that what I was going to say was life-changing and important, but I had something else in mind.

As I was walking out the door this morning to church, our next door neighbor was coming up the street towards their house.  I was surprised to see him, because I knew their teenaged daughter's school was already closed for the holidays, and we expected that they would be spending their holiday in Maine.  They are in the process of building a vacation house there, and love to go up and spend time there whenever they have a bit of extra time off.  I mentioned this, and he said that was the original plan, but things changed suddenly.

His mother died this past Thursday.

Now we don't know his parents well, but we saw them regularly when they would visit next door.  They moved from their family home in Illinois about five years ago to be closer to the couple who lives next door, and I always thought it was especially nice how much they seemed to love their daughter-in-law, and how she was crazy about them.  Todd's mother was a lovely woman, always smiling, and with a wonderful sense of humor.  In the past few years, she had two hip replacements and bounced right back with few problems.  Todd said that she had a massive stroke last Tuesday.  Apparently her birthday was last Wednesday, and she told them she wanted to hang on for that.  She had always insisted that her birthday be celebrated separately from Christmas, so they had cupcakes and sang Happy Birthday to her, which she really enjoyed.  She told them it would be OK to have to leave now, and she died the next day.

That is so poignant to me.  I'm very glad she didn't linger and suffer, and I know it's a shock for all of her family, but to some degree it sounded like she did things her way, on her terms.  And in the end, she was surrounded by those she loved and who loved her, and frankly, I envy her that.  Todd says that she had always wished her adult children and their families would spend Christmas together, enjoying each others' company and telling funny stories, etc.  He said that in the saddest way possible, she finally got her wish.  They are all going to try and have as good a Christmas as possible in her honor.

Todd also told me that his dad and his mom were "lifelong buds," having met each other in elementary school.

I guess you don't really need to know all of this.  But I wanted you to know, because I think it's important to know that someone is no longer here who mattered to so many people.  We get so caught up in our own plans, thoughts, and problems, that we forget that when someone - anyone - dies, it's a ripple effect to an extent we might never know.

After talking to Todd, I walked up to church, and as it turns out, a baby girl was being baptized today.  There she was, dressed in a fancy christening dress, with her proud parents, older brother, and others, all smiling and beaming because of the occasion.  And I thought, wow, universe, way to remind me of the circle of life and all that.  That little girl will never know Mrs. Drake, but she will meet others like her; she has a grandmother that means everything to her.  Or maybe she'll have next door neighbors with a mom like Mrs. Drake.  She will undoubtedly have an intersection in her life with someone like Todd's mother, though she may never realize what that woman means to others.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that there is no doubt that everyone has lost someone along the way.  And no matter what, it's not easy, and it is never fair.  Having loved someone and/or knowing they loved you is so hard, but so worthwhile, even when you have to say goodbye.

Tread lightly around others when you can.  You don't miss someone only when they die, any more than you are only happy when someone is born.  Smile at someone and mean it.  Wish someone a Merry Christmas.  Make someone laugh.  Hold someone's hand.

Be kind.  We can't always love everyone, but we can try to be kind and that's better than nothing.

21 December 2019

Winter Solstice and Last Sunday of Advent 2019

stitched by an angel
on the winter 
solstice night.

- "The Little Square"
by Liliana Ursu, 
translated by Mihaela Moscaliuc

17 December 2019

In Which The Tim Gets One of His Christmas Wishes

This will always be one of my most favorite Christmas photos.  Every cat we have had has had to be in a photo with Rudolph, but I was lucky enough to catch this instant when it looked as if Jetsam and Rudolph are kissing.  :-)  I miss my Jet so much, but this makes me happy even so.

Today is the December meeting of our crafting group at work.  I brought in some cookies to share, and hope that more than just myself and my co-worker show up.  It's a hit and miss thing - one month there will be three of us, and the next time, twenty people show up!  I didn't bring in a whole lot of goodies, but at least made an effort.  One of the other members also usually brings a treat (her "craft" is baking), so I'm hoping she'll be there too.  It's a nice break in the day, even if not a lot of people are able to fit it into their schedules.  Quite a few of the people who have been laid off (excuse me, "restructured") have been in the group since the beginning, so I hope they can come today, since it might be the last time we'll get to hang out ... our institutional holiday party was mysteriously cancelled, due to "scheduling issues" which all of us take to mean that the administration didn't want to have an event that might turn into a farewell party for the people previously mentioned.

Anyway, we should have a good time - I'm looking forward to it.

I apologize if I've told you this story before, but I at least find it amusing every year.  About three jobs ago, one of the women I worked with was a former pastry chef who had chucked that career for one with "regular" hours.  She was simultaneously the oddest person and one of the funniest persons I've ever worked with, and I was one of the few people she never seemed to be feuding with (and I have no idea why, but it really doesn't matter in the end).  Her husband died from melanoma, and shortly after that, she married his best friend who lived in Maine, and moved there.  On occasion, if she came back to town to visit family, we'd meet for lunch or coffee, and frankly, I was always a little puzzled why she went out of her way (clearly I'm really good at friendships ...).  But every single year, at the beginning of December, we would receive a large box from her full of various types of fancy - and extremely delicious - cookies.  For someone who seemed to truly dislike most people, it was always a compliment, but a puzzling one, since I guess I never really "got" our relationship.

Anyway, last year, we didn't get the box until the second week of December, and The Tim (who can't even make an effort to remember her name, calls her "Your Cookie Friend") was quite put out that they arrived so late.   As of the end of last week, we had not received the box yet and frankly I was surprised I hadn't heard his "concerns" about it.  This past Saturday afternoon, as he was taking a nap, our mailman delivered the Box o' Goodies.  When The Tim woke up and asked if we'd gotten any mail, I said, "Well, you'll be relieved to know that your cookies have arrived," and he responded, "Oh I'm so glad!  If they didn't get here this weekend, I was gonna ask you to ask her if she was sending them this year."  OH.MY.GOD.  I would *never* do such a thing.  But now I've decided that if I happen to finish my journey on this planet before he does, he will not be likely to ever let this woman know ...

Now also keep in mind, if someone else said something like this, he'd talk about it non-stop.

Go figure.

What a weirdo.

16 December 2019

Well That Was a Good Weekend!

I decided on Thursday afternoon of last week that I was going to take the day off on Friday.  The week leading up to that had been bad enough, but Thursday itself was a nightmare, and I decided that it was more important to save my own mental health than it was to not use a day of leave. 

I tell you, it was one of the BEST decisions I have ever made!  The Tim had to work on Friday, so it was just me and the critters.  But that's fine, because it was a perfect day.  I didn't do anything amazing or unusual, and that is part of what made it so good.  I took my time over a cup of tea and some oatmeal in the morning, took Hamlet for a nice walk, and then stopped at the market for a few items that I needed for some cookies I was planning to bake.  Then I took a little reading and knitting break, and then it was time to do some baking! 

I made Seven-Layer cookies, which are one of my favorites - easy to put together, and excellent payoff!  They turned out really well, and I'm guessing they will be gone soon ... then I decided to work on the craft room/junk room/office, which was just in sad shape.  But no more!  I got it cleaned up, organized, and set out my sewing machine, which will good for two reasons: 1) it means that I will use the sewing machine because I won't have to take the time to clear off the table and then haul it out, and 2) there won't be to room pile up all the crap that tends to accumulate on said table.  It also meant that I could finally put the Christmas decorations in that room.  There aren't many, but I always refuse to put them out in there until it's cleaned up.  It was a good feeling to have accomplished so much, and still have the rest of the day to just relax.  It made a HUGE change in my whole being.

Saturday, The Tim made pizzelles, while I worked on a bit of laundry, and we mostly just hung out and enjoyed some Christmas music, Christmas shows/movies, and watched the Army/Navy football game.  He also made vegetarian shepherd's pie for dinner (not "peppered with actual shepherd on top" for those wondering ...), which was pretty amazing.

Sunday, The Tim was at work during the day, and I did some more laundry, some cleaning, and fixed homemade mac and cheese for supper.  It was a good mix of doing some things that needed to be done, and just relaxing. 

Today, of course, it's back to work, but at least it's a day when it turns out that I will be the only one there, so that's a good way to ease back into the week.  Because no one wants to be in prison at Christmastime, am I right??? ;-)

Here's hoping this week will be a good one - or if not that, a quick one!  Take care.

15 December 2019

Third Sunday of Advent 2019

little tree
little silent Christmas tree
you are so little
you are more like a flower
who found you in the green forest
and were you very sorry to come away?
see i will comfort you
because you smell so sweetly
i will kiss your cool bark
and hug you safe and tight
just as your mother would,
only don't be afraid
look the spangles
that sleep all the year in a dark box
dreaming of being taken out and allowed to shine,
the balls the chains red and gold the fluffy threads,
put up your little arms
and i'll give them all to you to hold
every finger shall have its ring
and there won't be a single place dark or unhappy…

-- "Little Tree," by e.e. cummings

11 December 2019

Only the Plot is Unraveling

Hello all!  Here's hoping you are enjoying your December, and not feeling stressed or overwhelmed.  Wednesdays are usually The Tim's day off, so he is planning to get a Christmas tree today and have it set up when I get home.  He'll likely have the lights on, so all that will be left is to fill it with ornaments, which is always fun.  

And of course, the cats and Hamlet will think it's all very exciting!  :-)

Do any of you ever watch or listen to a knitting podcast and think that the person or one of the people on it (if it's more than one) is just too something to be able to take?  I realize that everyone has different tastes, and I'm not gonna name names because that is unnecessary, but there are a couple that I have tried, and in one, the person's voice just annoys me, and in the other, the one person is just too precious, if you get my meaning.  Both are ones that so many others just love, so I know it's just a personal thing with me, but fortunately there are tons of others to try!  I guess in some ways that is the difference between a "professional" podcast and one that someone just does on their own - if you are a professional, you generally have to have a voice that most people can tolerate.

OK, that was a ridiculous digression, sorry about that!

Back to the original reason for this post - I wanted to join in this week with Kat and everyone else for Unraveled Wednesday, since the past few weeks have been busy, and I'm missed the chance.

What am I knitting these days?  Well, as I have said previously, now that the gifts are finished, I'm making a pair of socks for myself.  This is my progress so far on the first sock.

You can't really see it in the photo, but there's an interesting pattern after the cuff for a few rows, and then the remaining texture is from purling and knitting through the back of the loop.  I'm about 7 rows from starting the heel, and I've been enjoying the knit.

As for my reading, I've noticed that an awful lot of others are reading Meaningful Books, and unless that is an assignment for a class, this is not a time of year when I can do that kind of reading and enjoy it at all, regardless of how interesting the book may or may not be.

Right now, I'm nearing the end of this book:

I am really enjoying it, mostly because it contains two of my favorite things: Flavia de Luce, and Christmastime.  The writing is so good, and Flavia is one of my all time favorite characters.  I'm actually a bit upset that I only have about 60 pages left in the book, I'm enjoying it so much.  I haven't quite decided what will be next, so I should start giving that some serious thought!

Other than that, I'm just working on getting rid of my cold, or at least keeping it from progressing.  I want to get started on some Christmas cards as well.  Yes, I still enjoy sending Christmas cards, and I love receiving them, even though there are fewer and fewer every year, which I think is really sad.  So far, we have received four cards - one from Chewy.com (!), two from longtime family friends, and one from Kim - YAY KIM!!!  Last year we received only twelve cards in the mail, which was really depressing.  I know most people prefer to send e-cards if they send anything at all, and those are just fine (I mean, you do you, OK?), but it's not as fun if you ask me.  You didn't, but now you know anyway.  ;-)

Well, before I go on and on any more about what I like or do not like, it's time to get going on the day.  Have a good one!

10 December 2019

Christmastime Random

Hello all!  I hope you had a good weekend.  Mine was OK, but not as good as I was hoping, since I am apparently really coming down with a cold, as evidenced by waking up on Saturday with a really sore throat and coughing.  (Spoiler alert: I didn't die.)  Still, I got some things accomplished and with enough cough syrup and cold meds, I'm doing fine.

So here goes.

I have a Starbucks card with some money left on it, so I stopped on my way to work this a.m. becuase I decided to have a Cranberry Bliss Bar (for medicinal purposes, of course!).  There were a few people in front of me in line, and one person kindly decided to pay for another's coffee.  It was a nice thing, and I'm glad I saw it.  Of course, the woman in front of me had to say in a really loud voice: "If you want to buy someone coffee during the holidays, you should go somewhere else.  Anyone who can afford Starbucks coffee doesn't need financial help.  Then she turned to me, really proudly and said, "Can you believe some people?" and I just smiled and said, "Merry Christmas!"  Walking the rest of the way to work, I wished I'd said, "Tell Mr. Scrooge I said hello when you get where you are going."  But the best comebacks always come to me way too late.

All gifts being sent to family are now on their way.  I managed to finish wrapping stuff and getting the box ready so The Tim could mail it yesterday.  Now the only things left are for us, and to finish decorating, baking, etc.  The Tim's day off is tomorrow, so he is going to choose a tree, and I can't wait!

You may recall that I said a co-worker and I were planning to decorate our desks this past Friday.  We had so much fun doing it, and our workspaces look very festive.  In the afternoon, one of the scientists stopped in.  He stood on our side of the office and said, "Merry Christmas!  Happy Holidays!" then stepped to the other side of the office and said, "Get off my lawn!"  It was really funny.

Many of you already know this, but every year I am reminded of how much cats and dogs enjoy gift wrapping.  For cats, it's the boxes, the paper, the ribbons, and for dogs (at least for Dug and now Hamlet), it was that you are in one place and if like me, you sit on the floor to wrap gifts, a dog can fit right in front of you, or possibly ON you - what could be better?  In our house at least, it's not worth doing it unless you have a lot of time to deal with, shall we say, the "extras" ...

This Christmas commercial from Poland is lovely.

Enjoy your day!

08 December 2019

Second Sunday of Advent 2019

It was a time like this,
War & tumult of war,
a horror in the air.
Hungry yawned the abyss -
and yet there came the star
and the child most wonderfully there.

It was a time like this
of fear & lust for power,
license & greed and light - 
and yet the Prince of bliss
came into the darkest hour
in quiet & silent light.

And in a time like this
how celebrate his birth
when all things fall apart?
Ah! Wonderful it is
with no room on the earth
the stable is our heart.

-- "Into the Darkest Hour," by Madeleine L'Engle

06 December 2019

Five Favorites for This Friday

Hello fellow Friday-ers!  I hope you are able to get through the stuff you need to do today so that you can enjoy the weekend.  It's December - we should especially be able to enjoy ourselves, right?

I realized the other day that it has been a little bit more than 2 years since I did a five things on Friday post - what??!!  I enjoyed those, and for whatever reason it fell off my radar.  So what better time than now to do it again, when there are many things to enjoy and that make me happy?

So without further ado, let's see what I come up with, shall we?

1.  Knitting a pair of Christmas socks for myself.  I realized that I hardly ever end up knitting a pair of Christmas socks for myself, and so immediately decided to remedy that.  (And I failed to take a photo for this post, but I promise one soon!)  I am knitting the Vintage Fairy Lights pattern, which I started a couple of years ago, but decided it was too much brainwork and just switched to a plain sock.  However, I decided that I could figure it all out this year, and I did, so I am well underway, and they are making me very happy!  It doesn't hurt that the yarn I am using is in a colorway called Rudolph and Clarice. :-)

2.  Watching Vlogmas videos.  I really enjoy seeing how others are observing/enjoying this season, though I am also intrigued by how their Christmas decorations seem a) in a theme, and b) very fresh.  Ours are, shall we say "eclectic," and a lot of them are clearly loved many years.  Which is fine for us.  But I do like seeing into other peoples' lives, even if it's a specifically-set time, place, etc.  In my deepest heart, I'm a nebshit, what can I say?

3.  Lights and candles.  They make everything look happier and prettier, and I also find that they make me feel cozy.

4.  Decorating my desk at work.  God forbid our whole department put up any decorations, since they are on their best days, Scrooges, but - there is one other person who decorates her desk and since we are the only two that will be at work today, we've decided to have a decorating party, complete with Christmas music and cookies.  One of the few times it will be fun to be at work (at least for part of the day, if not the whole time).

5.  Turkey and dumplings.  Well, vegetarian turkey and dumplings, but in any case, I am planning to make that for dinner on Sunday, and I'm looking forward to it.  I love making dumplings almost as much as I like eating them.  Granted, the "recipe" I use doesn't really make what most people think of as being dumplings, but that is what we always called them growing up, so there you go.  A couple of times during the winter, I make this meal, and it's one of our favorites.  I realized last year that one of the times I make it is during Advent, so this will be the weekend this year!

Do you have five - or more or less - things that are currently your favorites?  I hope so. 

Have a good weekend, and if it is cold where you are, make sure to stay warm.  :-)

03 December 2019

Tee Top Tuesday - An FO Post

Happy Tuesday all!  I'm here with an FO post of something you have heard me talk about for months.  My Pabaigh top is finally finished!!

[crowd goes wild]

Yes, I managed to finish it last Tuesday night, then it took me a while to weave in the ends (so many ends, due to the balls of yarn not having a lot of yardage).  I soaked it and blocked it on Friday, and it was finally dry by Sunday night.  

Here is a terrible selfie I took yesterday morning to give you an idea of how it looks.

Project:  Red and Tweedy
Pattern:  Pabaigh, by Kate Davies Designs
Yarn:  Milarrochy Tweed, in the colorway Cranachan
Needles:  US size 2 and 3
Modifications:  I made the body and the sleeves much longer than called for in the pattern (really, I did!), and made the funnel neck 3 inches shorter than called for in the pattern.
Notes:  This was not a difficult knit, but it took me longer than it should have for a couple of reasons - one, I ran out of yarn and then the extra yarn I ordered never arrived, so I ordered it again, and then of course it all arrived; two, I stopped to knit some Christmas gifts while waiting for the yarn to arrive, and wanted to finish them before going back to this project, since it was for me and had no real deadline.

The Milarrochy Tweed is a nice yarn, however, you have to be careful when you knit with it - when you say, get to the beginning of a round, and want to pull the yarn to make sure things tighten up, it can break.  That's largely because it is a thick-and-thin yarn, and a couple of times I didn't pay attention and tried to tighten things up when it was at a thin part.  Other than that, it's lovely yarn and I can tell you it makes a warm tee top - I wore this to work yesterday with a cotton turtleneck underneath and was plenty toasty!

I am not generally a fan of cropped sweaters - frankly I will be happy when the current trend for them is over.  But this hits me at my hip which is OK, so it's not as cropped as it could be; and since it's a layering piece, that also helps.  I think it will be especially nice to wear over a shirt with a pair of jeans, since it is definitely pretty casual.  I was determined to wear it yesterday to work though and it looked fine with a nicer pair of slacks.

Yesterday morning, I asked The Tim to take a photo for me for the blog and for my project page.  After a HUGE SIGH (he is SO put upon, WHY do I ask him to do things???  Please keep him in your prayers, people!), he took this one, where I look slightly crazed.  But if you know my history with The Tim and project photos, you know this was as good as it was gonna get.  His only comment (having been FORCED to do this) was, "It looks nice.  But the picture will be red against red, good choice."  Being that it is Christmastime and he is a bigger PITA in the mornings than the rest of the day, I just smiled and said, "Thanks for doing this."  (But I will admit I mentally slapped him.)

I'm glad this is finished, and I have to say it is a pretty easy pattern which would likely go quickly if you didn't have yarn issues and then get interuppted with gift knitting.

And if you knit this, PLEASE don't ask The Tim to take a photo of the finished item, he is apparently *very* busy with other things ... ;-)

02 December 2019

Happy Birthday to My Mom and Virtual Advent Tour 2019

Happy December!  Today would be my mother's 101st birthday, and though I wish she could be here to celebrate, I also cannot imagine her being that old!  I do miss her every day, but have so many good memories that I feel her with me.

Because her birthday was December 2, we never ever did any major decorating for Christmas until afterwards - though there were always some things that came out on December 1, because to quote my mother, "It's the first day of Christmastime, we're not going to ignore it altogether!"  Actually, I always liked doing it this way - you had the fun of getting started, but didn't have to have everything done right away.

The Tim and I still do that - well, I do it, I'm 99% sure he doesn't necessarily pay strict attention.  Though when he sees it, he always smiles and says, "Well, here we go!"  ;-)

Anyway, I have usually put away the fall and Thanksgiving decorations by the end of November.  And then, every single year like clockwork, December 1 means the displaying of the cardboard Christmas wreath on the inside of the front door:

(That's the peephole on the door in the middle there, in case you were wondering ...)

This wreath is probably one of the first, if not the very first, Christmas decorations we bought when we first got married.  Until last year, you could see the sticker on the back that said, "15 cents," which is a pretty good deal - then and now!  We put it on our *outside* door then, as we lived in a small apartment building where you came in through a main entrance and then walked up to each door.  It was our first apartment, in married student housing at the University of Notre Dame, where The Tim was in graduate school and I worked in the main library.  We had a really nice one-bedroom apartment with a little patio, and we were determined to decorate for Christmas, in spite of not having much money or much room!

And every year since then, this cardboard wreath is pulled out and put onto the front door on the first day of December - now on the inside, so the weather doesn't destroy it.  As you can see if you look closely, there are some spots where the cardboard has gotten a small fold, or started to separate from the color image a bit.  But that only makes it more valuable.  It's a reminder of our first Christmas together, our first apartment, and that you can have a very festive space for just a little bit of money.  Yes, we have quite a few more elegant or nicer things as part of our Christmas decor, but this is the one that started it all, and still does.  :-)

I think remembering your beginnings is important, not just in life, but whenever you are able to find something that still makes you smile after 40+ years.

This post is also part of sprite's Virtual Advent Tour for 2019 - check it out, and join us if you like - it's really lovely and a nice way to enjoy the season.

Have a good week, everyone!

30 November 2019

Saturday FO: The Last of the Official Gift Knits

I am feeling very proud of myself - last weekend, I finished the last of the "official" gift knits for this year.  What, you may ask is an "official" gift knit?  Well, that is a gift knit that you planned in advance for a specific date - in this case, Christmas - and finished and is ready to gift.

Here they are - finished, with all of the ends woven in as of Sunday, November 24, which I might point out is a full month before they needed to be ready.  This is a new record for me.  Granted, in the past, I have put aside knitting for The Tim until the very last minute, so finishing and weaving in ends late on Christmas Eve and then hurrying to wrap the gift has in fact happened.

But not this year.

Project:  Christmas Vacation Socks
Pattern:  Generic Vanilla Sock pattern in my brain
Needles:  US size 1
Yarn:  Desert Vista Dyeworks Viso, in the "Oh Clark!" colorway
Modifications:  Nope.
Notes:  As I mentioned here once before, our family has a ridiculous and wonderful connection to the National Lampoon movies, especially the Christmas Vacation one.  So when I saw the name of this colorway, I decided to break my no-buy and get the yarn to make socks for The Tim.  These were fun to knit, watching the stripes and speckles show up.  They went quickly since there was no real pattern to concentrate on, so I was able to work on them while watching TV, or listening to music, watching a podcast, etc.  I also worked on these while The Tim was around, and I am 99% sure that he will nonetheless be compeletely surprised with them on Christmas morning.  :-)

The only concern I have is that this yarn seems like it might not be too sturdy.  I hope I'm wrong, but I just got that feeling while I was knitting.  It didn't give me problems while knitting, it just didn't feel like a lot of other sock yarns.  We'll see.

Now, my big decision is whether or not I want to start any other quick projects and still call them potential gifts.  I am seriously considering starting something and not calling it a gift, or calling it a gift for myself.  We'll see.  I also want to cast on 1,000 things, so I just really need to narrow it all down and start something and just enjoy the knitting.  That's the whole reason for doing it in the first place anway, right?

29 November 2019

In Which I Create a List That Is Especially Pleasing

How was your Thanksgiving?  I hope you had a chance to enjoy the holiday, rather than have one that was tense or unpleasant.  Every time a holiday comes up where family gets together, I realize how lucky I am.  Whereas I know people who are trying to figure out ways that they can avoid getting together with their family, or who are dreading it all, I'm someone who wishes I could see my family.  We truly have such a good time together, and truly enjoy things as a group.  Due to work schedules and distance, we no longer get to see anyone during the fall and winter holidays, and though The Tim and I enjoy our own traditions, it would be fun to get to see others at least occasionally.

Anyway.  That was a huge digression, just to say I hope your holiday was full of good food and good people and good animals.  :-)


A week ago this Sunday, two things diverged that led to the subject of this post.  The day itself - November 24 - was the 50th anniversary of my father's death.  Always a bittersweet day, since he was a holiday lover like me and it seems unfair that he died during his favorite time of year.  Of course, it's unlikely that even if he had been healthy, he'd still be here as it would mean he would be 103 years old.  Anyway, he was especially close to me that day, and then I was reading some blogs and came across a person who was sharing their Christmas Bucket List.  Hers was more about being organized, what gifts to buy, etc., but it was an interesting idea to me.

For whatever reason, I am in especially good stead this year as far as holiday gifts are concerned.  Not because I consciously decided to do X by X day, but more just because I was thinking about what I might want to make/do/buy for individuals.  So I don't need a list of what is left to do, since almost everything is done in that area.  I decided to make my own Christmas Bucket List, with my own spin on it.  Normally, I would wait until today or tomorrow to make it - but since in my OCD way, I wanted it to look good as well as anything else, I spent way too much time last weekend getting it to "look nice."  Because I guess you could say that's my thing - I love lists, but I want them to be pretty too.

(This looks nice to me.  Because this is as "artistic" as I get.)

Anyway, I finally got it to look the way I wanted it to, and I am ridiculously excited to share it with you.  This is a list of things I would like to do, and though they have been "assigned" certain days - it's more like a list of reminders and activities that I enjoy rather than instructions for particular things on specific days.  And some things are more than one day - for instance, I do baking on more than on day.  The only one that will be done on the day it is listed is the first one - "Put up cardboard wreath," because that is something I do every year on December 1st.  :-)

Anyway, here's what is on my list:

1.  Put up cardboard wreath. 2.  Baking! 3.  Listen to Christmas music. 4.  Make a decoration. 5.  Make holiday cheeseball. 6.  Decorate the house. 7.  Put up/decorate tree. 8.  Neighborhood walk to see lights/decorations. 9.  Have some eggnog. 10.  Pay someone a compliment. 11.  Participate in Giving Tree at church. 12.  Watch cheesy Christmas movie. 13.  Have some hot chocolate. 14.  Wrap gifts. 15.  Attend holiday event (play, concert, etc.). 16.  Donate to an animal shelter. 17.  Mail cards/gifts. 18.  Enjoy some quiet. 19.  Walk every day. 20.  Take something to security guard at work. 21.  Stocking stuffers! 22.  Buy a Wawa gift card for a homeless/needy person. 23.  Enjoy it all! 24.  Light some candles.

I posted this on Instagram, and mentioned that it combined two of my favorite things - lists and Christmas!  I think it will be fun to have this guideline, and be able to mark things off as they are done.

If you know me at all, you know I love to find ways to enjoy Christmastime and the whole holiday season.  This, for me, is actually a list that I am looking forward to using, and I hope that I can check off every single thing - and maybe think of things to add next year!  I am also sure that my dad would approve ...

I'll keep you posted - and if you decide to join me, let me know!

Here's hoping that the rest of your Thanksgiving weekend is relaxing, fun, and enjoyable in anyway you might like it to be.

28 November 2019

Thanksgiving Day

To my American readers, no matter where you are located, have a wonderful holiday.  
For everyone else, I hope your Thursday is a good one.

I saw the quote below the other day, and though I don't remember who said it, I think
it is something worth keeping in mind.


"Be thankful for what you have.  Your life is someone else's fairy tale."

27 November 2019

Thanksgiving Eve People

Yesterday afternoon (which is technically Thanksgiving Eve Eve), I had delivered something to another person at work and as I was leaving their office, I said, "I hope you have a Happy Thanksgiving."  Because I knew it was unlikely that I would see that person today.  And her response was, "HOW can you tell me to celebrate a holiday that is all about the oppression of Native Americans and celebrates gluttony?"

Look.  I get it, I really do.  There are lots of problems with American history, white privilege, and oppression and exploitation of non-white peoples.  And I am also aware that the first Thanksgiving was not two groups of people joining together to sing "Kumbaya" and say that everything was perfect.  (OK, I especially hope they didn't sing "Kumbaya," but you know what I mean.)

I do want the world to be better.  I even try to do what I can to make it so, and I wholeheartedly support those who make it their lives' work to fight for justice.

But I also love Thanksgiving, and what it means in the most general sense.  Yes, I know we should all be thankful every day, and I do try to do that.  But I love that we have a national holiday devoted to that.  It's the coziest of holidays, if you ask me, and I know that for some this holiday - or any holiday really - is fraught with stress and/or unhappiness, and that makes me sad.  I am however not directly responsible for what others experience or feel on or about the holiday.  I can only live my life with  my truth.

And all of that was my long-winded and ranty way of getting to the topic of the people I interacted with on my way to work on this Thanksgiving Eve (btw, I hope you also enjoy today,Kym, since I know you also "celebrate" Thanksgiving Eve).

First up was a woman and her dog that I see on occasion when I am leaving for work.  She appears to be a lovely young woman, and her dog looks like a mini-Golden Retriever.  We always stop and say hello-and-how-are-you to each other, and of course I make a fuss over the dog.  We had a lovely, if brief conversation, and she was looking forward to going to her parents' house tomorrow (with the dog) and enjoying the meal, even though she is disappointed that she has to work on Friday.

A few blocks away, I met a young guy with a black Labradoodle puppy (9 weeks old!) named Monty.  As you can imagine, Monty was ADORABLE, and very kissy.  The guy said he was a puppy who was "simultaneously cute and a demon," which made me laugh. 

The I decided to stop and treat myself to a cup of tea at a place on the way.  The young man who took my order said "Have a wonderful Thanksgiving," as he handed me my change, he also smiled.  While I was waiting for my order, a guy moved in front of me to get a napkin.  He had on a sweater with a really beautiful yoke design.  I complimented him on the sweater, and he pointed to a woman nearby and said, "Thanks - but you should really compliment her, she knitted it.  She also made me this hat," and the three of us proceeded to have a very pleasant conversation about knitting and knitting for those who appreciate it.  (The sweater was this pattern, for those wondering.)

This was a really nice way to start a morning, any morning, but especially this one, after my last interaction of the day yesterday was with someone who gave me a lecture. 

And you know what?  These are some of the things I am thankful for - the actual kindess of strangers.  People usually think that cities are just a bunch of nameless people ignoring each other, or worse, doing/saying terrible things and not caring.  And trust me, people in Philadelphia do not suffer fools gladly (maybe that's why I like living here)!  But it occurred to me that overall, I have more interactions like those this morning than negative ones.  As a matter of fact, a lot of the negative interactions occur more with people I actually know.

So on this Thanksgiving Eve, I find myself being happy that people I do not know, some of whom I am likely to never see again, were able to be kind.  I am happy that they reminded me that each of us is doing the best we can to get through life, and that it doesn't have to be perfect to be OK. 

I hope your day goes as well.  :-)

26 November 2019

In Which I Have Nearly Everything Except ...

The small hoops - where are they????  I didn't really expect to have anything to actually show you for Tiny Needle Tuesday, but I thought I could at least tell you about my next project. 

About ____ years ago (I don't remember, it was so long.  My nieces were young children, so ...), I stitched cross-stitch ornaments for everyone, with the idea of attaching them to the bows on their gifts.  This was a great idea, and I got nearly all of them stitched.  Then I fail to remember what happened, but the pieces and the supplies got put away into a box and that was the end of that. 

Fast forward to now, when I realized that I could a) put the ornaments already finished together, and b) stitch some more.  Because now there are a lot of different people who might enjoy them.  I found the box, and the stitched items were safely inside.  I found more of the patterns/kits that I had to move forward, as well as needles, fabric, and floss (so much floss from my mother!**). 

What I did not find?  Small hoops.  Not a one.  Now I am not a person who can successfully "stitch in hand," as they say, particularly on really small items.  So I need the hoop.  I do not consciously remember throwing away the ones I'd had, but after looking in all the places I could guess they might be, I still came up empty handed.  Sigh.  It's like a version of "Water, water, everywhere and not a drop to drink." 

This is of course not insurmountable.  I can walk to A.C. Moore over the next few days and buy a few hoops.  Or at least I hope I can - I just heard on the news this a.m. that A.C. Moore is going out of business, and that some of the stores will re-open as Michael's, but not until after the first of the year. 

I think I will however, not count on doing anything for this year - I can get a start on next year because since they are small items, they don't take long to do, and would be good palate cleansers in between projects. 

But I still need some hoops.  :-)

In Larger Needle News, I did the bind off on the funnel neck of my Pabaig sweater, so there are just the sleeves left to knit.  I also received the second set of yarn that I ordered to finish it - that came in record time, of course.  Anyway, I'll knit the sleeves, and the leftover as well as extra yarn will be incorporated into a hat or something like that.  But I feel certain that I'll able to finish the sweater soon, which pleases me, since I wanted to at least be finished in 2019.

And that's the plan ... I'll keep you posted.

**Seriously, folks, I have A LOT of floss - if you need some for a project, feel free to contact me before you buy any - I'm happy to send some to you if I have it!

25 November 2019

Recipe: Mainstay French Toast

Why not start the week by sharing a recipe?   Since this is the time of year that a lot of people have guests or extra family visiting, I though I'd share one of our favorites that is always a big hit.  It makes a nice amount and you organize it the night before you are going to serve it. 

The Mainstay Inn is a bed and breakfast in Cape May, New Jersey.  I've never stayed there, but years ago, the local newspaper had a feature on the best recipes from local B-and-Bs, and this was one of them.  I've made it several times and it has always turned out perfectly. 

Mainstay French Toast


1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup butter
2 Tablespoons corn syrup
2 tart apples, peeled and sliced
5 eggs
1 1/2 cups milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 loaf French bread

Cook sugar, butter, and syrup until well mixed and syrupy. 

Pour into a 9 x 13 baking dish, and spread apple slices over mixture.

Slice bread into 3/4 inch slices and place on top of apples.

Whisk together remaining ingredients and pour over bread.

Cover and refrigerate overnight.  When ready, heat oven to 350 degrees, and bake uncovered for 40 minutes.  Serve with spicy apple syrup if desired.

Spicy Apple Syrup

1 cup applesauce
1 (10-oz.) jar apple jelly
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
dash salt

Combine ingredients in a small saucepan.  Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until jelly melts and syrup is hot.


*Even though I have made this numerous times, I have never made the apple syrup, so I can't say how good it is.  We just always serve it with maple syrup.

*I have also on occasion added raisins, dried cranberries, or dried sour cherries to this along with the apples. 

*This recipe as well as others I've shared here will always be available at the Recipes tab of the blog.

Let me know if you try this, and if so, what you think!

Bon appetit!

24 November 2019

Sunday Silly - Thanksgiving Week Edition

This made me laugh, because nearly everyone I know has issues with this word!

Enjoy your Sunday.  :-)

23 November 2019

So Far Today

So far today, I have:

Gone for an early-morning walk with Hamlet;

Enjoyed cuddling with Pip for nearly two hours while he sat on my lap;

Taken The Tim out for breakfast as his birthday week starts winding down;

Finished putting together a package and walked to the post office to put it in the mail;

Also bought some Christmas stamps while I was at the post office;

Gave the first floor a good clean;

Moved a lot of stuff on the third floor out of the way so The Tim can take the a/c unit out of the window;

Walked over to CVS to pick up an Rx that was waiting;

Knit about 3 inches on my Pabaig sweater (it felt so weird, since it's been so long since I picked it up!)

Sat down to start watching the Boston College-Notre Dame football game; 

Wrote this blog post.

And now I have decided that I get to just enjoy the rest of the afternoon and all of the evening however I would like to!  I feel more knitting and a manicure in my immediate future ... ;-)

I hope your Saturday has been a good one as well.

22 November 2019

If ... Then

OH EM GEE.  Friday, you have no idea how welcome you are!  'Nuff said.

So I've been thinking about various random things this week - more so than usual - because I needed to be able to get out of my brain even more than usual.  This has been one of those weeks when, both in thought and deed, I've wanted to go up to people and say, "You know, IF _______, THEN _____, so deal with it."

Since it is neither socially acceptable to do this to others (particularly strangers) - and could even be dangerous - I'm going to say it to all of you.  Should you find yourself feeling addressed or even attacked in any of these circumstances, please do not take it personally.  But you might want to give things a bit more thought ...

IF you are a person who usually complains at a fever pitch about holiday decorations, music, etc. being in the stores too early. but you have for whatever reason decided that this year, you are embracing it all right away because "it's been a tough year,"
THEN maybe shut up about it related to any place or any person going forward because you no longer have the "moral imperative."  Stores do things for business reasons, they always have - get over it.  People do what they want to do, when they want to do it because it is up to them.  Just because *this* year has been tough for you (which, truly I'm sorry that's the case), it doesn't mean that if next year is great, you can go back to your previous proclamations.

IF you bake a delumptious birthday cake, and have some for dessert every night,
THEN don't be surprised that it is gone after a few days; but, THEN remember that Thanksgiving is next week, which = PIE!!!

IF you don't pay attention to weather forecasts,
THEN don't be surprised and/or complain all day when it is cold, or raining, or whatever and you are inappropriately dressed.

IF you realize/decide that you have lots o' knitting supplies that you don't need/don't use/don't want/don't whatever,
THEN put them into a box and donate it to a women's shelter, an old age home, or even a local school.  Lots of times these places have knitting/crocheting groups or lessons, and rely on donations for supplies.  For anyone in these situations, having access to the supplies, nice yarns, patterns, etc. is a wonderful treat since they are generally not in a position to treat themselves to those things.

IF you are constantly talking on your phone and not paying attention to what is happening around you,
THEN do not give others dirty looks when they try to pass you, or they bump into you because there is no place to move on the sidewalk and you were not paying enough attention to move to the side.  Also, who are you always talking to?  And about what?  I'm lucky if I can come up with ten minutes' of conversation twice a month with one of my sisters!  Of course, maybe that's because I am working on the assumption that, much like me, they do not care to have a moment-by-moment rundown of my life ("Right now, I'm walking past a store.  Now I'm crossing the street.")

IF you start knitting/making gifts for people early in the year, or just earlier than usual, and actually finish them all well before the deadline(s),
THEN do not decide that you need to make several more, especially if others would not appreciate said handmade gifts as much.  You have just been given the chance to either a) make something for yourself, b) make something for the holiday on your own time, or c) just enjoy being finished with it all.  Geez.

IF you are with your child in a public place, and said child is running around screaming and hitting people for no real reason, and you are either not paying attention (perhaps you are on your phone), or don't seem to care,
THEN don't get annoyed at people for telling your darling spawn to stop doing it.

IF you lay off approximately 25 people suddenly (two departments' worth of people) in early November, and then don't address it with the rest of the staff until the end of November,
DON'T act surprised/hurt/attacked when the room is tense and the questions are pointed.  Jesus Christ on a snowmobile, grow a pair!

IF someone pays you a compliment,
THEN say "thank you" at a minimum and leave it at that.  When you say something in response like, "Oh this is old," "Oh I don't really like it," or any such apologetic/negative remark, you are negating the kindness of the person who took the time to compliment you.  Someone is being nice.  Smile, accept it graciously, and move on.  Learning to do it this way may be difficult, but soon you will realize that your smile is a genuine one and that you truly are appreciating the compliment. 

IF you have read this far,
THEN have a good weekend!


21 November 2019

Fascinating and Beautiful

Occasionally, I look at the website for the Astronomy Picture of the Day.  I came across this by accident once at a previous job, and the images generally fascinate me. 

Today's is both fascinating and beautiful. 

You can read about it here.  I do have to say that this one really really appeals to me. 

Just a reminder that the world is amazing, whether or not we consciously pay close attention.

20 November 2019

Sew ... Here's a Plan ...

Oh I have to tell you how much I enjoyed everyone's comments about "Poverty Meals" from my last post, and reminders of some of the other things that were regular meals/foods growing up.  Isn't it funny how - especially when you are a kid - you just figure everyone else's family does the same things, eats the same food, etc.?  And then the first time someone mentions something different or you visit a friend's house, it's like WHAM!?

Thanks for the trip down memory lane (though who am I kidding, The Tim and I still like some of that stuff).

I know I don't talk about sewing here very much, though I have a sewing machine and enjoy the basic things I know how to do.  But I seldom use my machine, mainly because I pile so much crap on the table above it, I would need to clean it off first.  I had been toying with the idea of setting it up on the table on January 1, and just leaving it out, thereby providing fewer possibilities to create piles o' crap.

Then a few weeks ago, I was scrolling along on Instagram, and saw that someone I followed had linked to this post.  Hm, I thought, this might be worth looking into.  So I watched the informational video, and decided to sign up.  This will provide me with actual incentive to use my machine, and - at least theoretically - by the end of 2020, I'll have added some useful things to my household and repurposed some materials. 

I'm sharing this with you because it occurred to me that some of you may also be interested.  If you sign up before November 30th, the cost is half, even though the full amount is not that expensive.

Not that this means I'll be only sewing in the next year, because I would miss knitting too much.  Rather, this is just a plan to help me get back on track with sewing, and also refrain from creating too many piles of random stuff around the house.  So hopefully for me, it will be a win-win!

I have been thinking of goals for the next year, and I'm hoping that this one will actually stick. 

Stay tuned ... :-)

19 November 2019

Did You Eat "Poverty Meals" When You Were Growing Up?

Thanks for all of your kind words and wishes for The Tim's birthday.  He seemed to really enjoy his dinner and his cake, and was thrilled with his Crazytown Hat!  I'll see if I can get a photo of him wearing it.

When I told him I had made his birthday cake like they did in Roman times, he looked puzzled and then said, "Did you put columns on it?" which amused me.  He appreciated my "artistic" efforts.

It was a good weekend and a good day all around.

A friend of mine sent me this link, with the message - "Wait! Did you know these were 'Poverty Meals'" and my first reaction was to laugh, but then it got me to thinking.  I know I have mentioned before that we were very poor growing up, but to some extent, we didn't know it unless others pointed it out.  We were lucky to have something to eat every day, and clothes to wear (even if they weren't necessarily nice clothes) and occasionally we were farmed out to live with relatives for a while, but that was always presented as an adventure rather than something that was a problem.  

But I remember being shocked years ago, when a discussion about foods we ate as kids but would never eat today was going on.  I mentioned that one of my favorite things as a kid was fried bologna sandwiches, but I would never eat one today, because a) I am a vegetarian, and b) I knew there was no way I could successfully duplicate the ones my father used to make that tasted SO yummy.  At which point, a co-worker said, "Fried bologna sandwiches????  That's what poor people eat!"  

I have to be honest, that never occurred to me.  Just like most of the things mentioned in the linked article never seemed like things we ate because we were poor.  Of those things mentioned on the list, we regularly had all of them except chicken livers and fruit in condensed milk (I feel pretty certain that my parents must not have liked them).  They were just part of the regular rotation of meals.  There are some I still happily eat today, that until I read this article, had no idea were originally around because of their low costs.  And for better or worse, I think of some of them as treats (cinnamon and sugar toast, for instance).  

A black woman I worked with once told me that "no one who was self-respecting" in her community would eat boxed macaroni and cheese.  I was an adult before I realized that people made it completely from scratch - I thought "homemade" mac and cheese meant that they used the boxed stuff and jazzed it up, or that they used the "fancy" boxed stuff!

(regular - we never had it with these 'fancy' veggies!)

(fancy - fortunately for my parents, we didn't like this version as well, 'cause I know it cost more ...)

I did find a recipe for truly homemade mac and cheese years ago that I make pretty regularly now - using whatever cheeses we happen to have - and we enjoy that.  But I've also been known to fix the boxed stuff on occasion ...

So - what about you?  Did you eat "Poverty Meals" and if so, did you know that's what they were?  

Now I'm thinking of some other things that likely fall into that category - in any case, this has all been quite illuminating to me.  :-)

18 November 2019

When You Are Your Own Best Audience

How was your weekend?  Mine was good, with a nice combination of hanging out and also getting some things accomplished.  Today is of course The Tim's birthday, and we went out to dinner last night which was fun.  We tried a new local brewpub and the food was good, but the beers were really wonderful.

Today as previously mentioned, the stuffed cabbage that he requested for his birthday dinner is in the crock pot, and the house really smells pretty darn good!  I baked his birthday cake yesterday, and then added the frosting this morning.  I am always wishing I could think of ways to decorate his cake - not anything elaborate, but just better than a plain cake.  This is mainly because when it is my birthday, he always makes a cake for me that looks pretty as well as yummy.

This year I had an idea, and spent part of the weekend trying to figure out how I could make it work.  I gave it a try this morning, and was pretty pleased with the result.  (If you have already looked at Instagram, you've seen it already - and, spoiler alert, I'll probably post the picture on Facebook later too ...)

I made an old-timey birthday cake, just like during the time of the Romans!


I am not just pleased that I thought to do it, and got it to work, I am ridiculously amused by it.  I mean, Roman numerals!  Frankly, I can't believe it even occurred to me in the first place.  This is the kind of thing that *might* occur to me three weeks from now, and by next year I would completely forget about it.

I crack myself up sometimes.  :-)