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January 2017

Friday Catch Up With Added Amaryllis-Watch Bonus

It's Friday, and there are a few loose ends I need to tie up.  Let's roll.


The weather.  Ugh.  So tedious.  First, there's snow.  Then there's polar vortex.  Then a freakish warm up.  With lots of wind.  And rain.  Which melts all the snow and then . . . freezes.

So there's that.

Next up?


I wore my hat - With Pom - the other day.  Just out running errands, getting gas, that kind of thing.  The pom-pom drove me nuts.  I could feel it back there, bobbing around.  It had to go.  (Yeah, it was a nice color combination, but it really bugged me.)  I like the hat much better Without Pom.

In other news, Linda from Grand Rapids was the lucky winner of my extra copy of Making magazine.  I finally got it shipped off to her yesterday.  (I'm notorious for preparing a package for mailing, and then driving it around in my car for days before I actually get to the post office.) 


Ugh.  Winter with no snow is just . . . bleak.

Good thing I have amaryllis (in various stages) to help me through these dark days.

My grocery-store-rescue amaryllis is on the last legs of it's second set of blooms.  I'll spare you that view (because we're way past the exit at this point), and share this one instead.


This one is pretty cool.  It's called Tres Chic (from White Flower Farm).  (Now that it's blooming, I can identify it.)  The blooms are much smaller than typical amaryllis -- but look closely at the center of the photo.  There are going to be SIX blooms on this stalk, rather than the typical four.  I can't wait to see all six blooms at once.  Or. . .  let's just say I HOPE I get to see all six blooms at once.  This one is making me a bit nervous -- because the bulb is actually rotting.  (Yeah.  It's pretty gross.)  This is a risk of planting the bulb in stones with water.  I'm keeping my fingers crossed . . . that the blooming happens before the bulb gives out.

This next one, though, is looking good.  The bulb is healthy and the first bud should be popping open any day now. 


This one?  Almost in the same state.  Maybe next week?


Remember the bulb I thought was going to be a fail?  Well.  Turns out it's just v-e-r-y s-l-o-w.


The bud finally emerged, but it's really taking it's sweet time making progress.  That's just fine with me, though.  Because it means I'll have blooms all the way into February!

And . . . that's a wrap!

Have a great weekend.



Tea for Two

I was almost 3 when my sister was born.  When my mom was in the hospital following her birth (for a whole week) , I stayed with my grandmother during the day while my dad was at work.  I got a few new bribes toys from my parents during that "New Big Sister" week -- to entertain me while I was at my grandmother's not-so-child-friendly house.  My favorite was a miniature Blue Willow china tea set.


I was allowed to play with my tea set as a child, so most of my original pieces were broken.  Over the years, though, I've picked up replacement pieces at various antique shops.  It remains one of my favorite things -- and a wonderful reminder of a happy childhood.

I'm pretty sure that my original Blue Willow tea set inspired my life-long love of adult-sized tea sets -- and tea parties.


Tea parties are so simple . . .

Tea.  Milk and sugar.  Something sweet.

Nothing much to fuss about and easy to throw together.


Tea sets hold memories.

The teacups above were my grandmother's -- part of her Godey's Lady's china collection.  My first cup of tea - ever - was served in one of these tea cups.  My grandmother was very generous with the milk and sugar -- and used actual sugar CUBES, which were just kind of magical to me when I was little.  The teacups below belonged to my great grandmother - part of her "wedding china."


Tea parties are old-fashioned.

Like most people, I tend to meet my friends "for coffee" these days.  But every once in a while, I invite a friend over for tea.  I may not actually say, "Come to my tea party."  But I still get out the tea set.  And serve a sweet treat.  And probably have a little flower arrangement for the table.


Tea parties are elegant.

It just feels kind of special to drink tea from a lovely tea cup.  Makes you kind of want to stick that little pinky finger right out, y'know?  Sometimes, it's just nice to treat yourself and your guests to the ritual of a tea party.  And besides, it gives you a chance to get out your grandmother's old silver tea service!*


Tea parties are intimate.

Guests feel pampered and a bit special at a tea party.  Conversations tend to be more personal, because it just feels easier to share confidences with a tea cup in your hand.


So, although today's Think Write Thursday topic is all about hosting a dinner party, I'm going to go rogue . . . and give a tea party instead.

I'll get out my cheery yellow tablecloth.

And use my Spode Blue Italian tea set.

I'll put together a simple little centerpiece.

And make Ina Garten's Lemon Yogurt Cake.

And who would I invite?

Why . . . 

Michelle Obama, of course! 

Sugar, Michelle?


* Which I will not be picturing.  Because it so desperately needs polishing.  (Maybe another day.)


Today's post is part of Think Write Thursday.  To read other posts today, click here.  And to sign up to receive weekly prompts, click here.



So Complicated

If your house was anything like my house back in 2002, this song was probably blasting from your kids' boomboxes all. the. time.  (Right up there with Pink's Get This Party Started and anything by N'Sync.)


As soon as I read through the cable chart for my latest knitting project, this "golden oldie" from Erin's middle school days popped right into my head!


Because 17 symbols in an 18-row chart is . . . well.  Complicated.

Plus . . . changing stitch counts.

And "borrowing" stitches from the next round.  (Sometimes 2; sometimes just 1.)

See what I mean?


But nice hat, huh?

I'm not so sure about the pompom, though.

I think I'll pull a Tom + Lorenzo here . . . 

IN or OUT?


I knit this hat as part of a quick-and-informal knitalong with Kat and Juliann.  Ravelry details here.


Action Tuesday: Let's Read

I just love Goodreads!  It's like a virtual library . . . you can wander through all the virtual bookshelves you could ever imagine.  It's such a handy place to keep track of books you've read, books you want to read, the books your friends read.  You can write reviews and award stars.  There are even virtual book groups and author book talks.  

And, best of all, at the end of the year, Goodreads provides you with your reading stats.

Screen Shot 2017-01-09 at 5.19.07 PM

In looking through my year-end stats on Goodreads, I see that I gave 26 books a 5-star rating. In fact, my average rating for the year was just over 4 stars . . . which tells me I'm a pretty good judge about the kinds of books I'm going to like to read!

If I were going to pick my 5 favorite books in 2016, it would be these:

I've already made a good start with my 2017 reading.  I have a few specific goals.  

  • First, in terms of quantity, I set my Goodreads Challenge at 75 books this year.  This is an increase, but manageable.  And, truth be told, much more in line with the # of books I typically read in a year.
  • Next, in terms of quality, I always have a goal of reading many/most of the nominees from my favorite book awards:  The Orange Prize, The Man Booker Prize, and the National Book Award.  (I have never read ALL of the nominees.  Ever.  But it's always my goal!)
  • And, new for me this year, I want to try to read books that will shake up my perspective and worldview a bit.  You see, since the election this year, I have come to realize that I really and truly hang out in a very specific . . . bubble!  I need to get outside that bubble - even if I don't want to, and even if it's going to make me uncomfortable.  

In other words, this year I'm going to read a few books that I might never (in a million years) choose to read otherwise.

It's another way to take ACTION:  to learn; to expand our perspective; to get out from under our bubbles.  In the words of New York Times columnist Ross Douthat*, reading books that critique Western liberalism can give us a "clearer sense of [our] own worldviews, limits, blind spots, blunders and internal contradictions."

With that it mind, I'm planning to read a couple of books already on my Goodreads To-Read shelf.  These two are books that might help me understand the "red state" thing from a different perspective: Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance and Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning in the American Right by Arlie Russell Hochschild.

I'm thinking about reading How Propaganda Works by Jason Stanley.  Although this one looks a bit ... academic ... it might help me understand how propaganda is working to undermine democracy, and maybe get my head around this whole "post-truth" concept.

I'll definitely read this article in The Atlantic by Ta-Nehisi Coates.  His writing always challenges my  thinking -- and it's essential to understand the racial element of Trumpism.

Ross Douthat of the NY Times recommends The Revolt of the Elites by Christopher Lasch and Who Are We? The Challenges to American National Identity by Samuel P. Huntington.  According to Douthat, both of these books illustrate how Western elite has "burned the candle at both ends," resulting in a rather gross mis-read of the political situation in both Europe and the United States.  

These books will not be "light" reading at all, and - in fact - many of these titles sound downright disturbing to me.  But.  I will be reading at least a few of these books this year.  Because it's important to understand the context of our world.

Bottom line?  READ something unexpected.  Step out of your bubble.  

That's ACTION!


You can read Ross Douthat's recent op-ed piece in the New York Times, Books for the Trump Era, here.

Find the Good

"Find the good.  It's all around you.  Find it, showcase it, and you'll start believing in it."
                                                           ---  Jesse Owens

Okay.  So I've established that last year . . . was a pretty crappy year for me.  I've whined about it, I've complained about it, I've shed more than a few tears about it.  (Because it WAS crappy.)


There was also so much good in it.

I've decided . . . that's the trick to moving forward.

Find the good.

I mean, just look at this photo of my sister and I on Thanksgiving.  


It was the week of my mom's memorial service.  We were terribly stressed out by a number of issues - both personal and political.  Sad.  Emotional.  Tired.  But we were together.  Enjoying each other.  Laughing, even.

It was good!

That photo of my sister and I is going to serve as a reminder for me this year . . . to find the good.  Because, yep.  There are going to be crappy days.  (That's how life works, y'know?)  But there will be something good even in those crappy days.

Pollyanna-ish?  Maybe a little.  But I think it's also a mindset; a way to move forward.  

This weekend, I decided to reflect back on that crappy year that was 2016.  I went through my journals, my planner, my blog . . . just to remind myself of everything that happened.

I made a list.  I found the good.

And, well.  2016 had plenty of Good.

  • I got a new bike.
  • I took up watercolor.
  • My knee is healing and I can run again.
  • I had a great week with Dale and Carole when they came to visit.
  • I went to Scotland and Ireland with my sister.
  • I celebrated 8 years of remission.
  • And 35 years of marriage.
  • I spent a lot of quality time with my mom before she got sick.
  • I visited both kids with fun trips to Pittsburgh and Boulder.
  • We got new windows in our house -- and wifi at the cottage.
  • My garden looked really great early in the season.
  • I was able to spend a lot of time with my sister.
  • Tom was an incredible support and held me together every day.
  • My dad and I worked together to . . . move mountains.
  • Everyone came home for a wonderful Thanksgiving week.
  • We saw Elton John.  (Also Boston and Kansas.)
  • The J-pups brought much love and wagging tails to every day.
  • Shoot . . . the Cubs won the World Series!

Jesse Owens was right . . . the good IS all around us.

And I'm gonna find it.


Looking Back

As I mentioned the other day, there is nothing magical about turning the calendar to a new year.  The beginning of January does not erase current situations, ongoing projects, or existing problems.


There is something about the fresh start of a new year that brings reflection -- a summing up and moving forward kind of feeling.


For me, the beginning of a new year is a time to . . .




Where am I?  And where do I want to be heading?

Ideally, I'd do this reflecting before turning the calendar over to January.  Y'know?  To be ready to hit the ground running when the ball drops?  But that never seems to happen for me.  (I blame the hub-bub of the holidays.)  

So January . . . serves as my time of reflecting.

It's great to look back over the just-finished year -- to face last year's mistakes and disappointments; to leave guilt or despair behind; to get closure on projects or ideas; to assess what worked - and what didn't.

It's also a perfect opportunity to pause -- to just breathe; to allow my mind to wander; to read poetry; to clear some space for new thoughts and ideas.

All of this helps me gain perspective -- on who I am now, and where I want to head next.

And, although I don't really set any "resolutions" for myself, I certainly do set intentions -- for how I want to live and what I want to especially focus on during the upcoming year.

I guess it's a good thing January is so gloomy and long!  It gives me plenty of time to reflect. . .

Enjoy the weekend.




Hey! January!

Dear January, 

You know, don't you . . . that I pretty much hate you?  That I place you in the category of Most-Hated-Months?  (Along with your partner-in-crime, February?)

Let's just start with your weather.  Snow.  Cold.  Freezing crappy rain.  Dark.  Dreary.  UGH.

You're also really long.  As in . . . feels like you will never end.

(And, oh-my-god . . . those January People at the gym?????)

But I'm trying.

I really am.


Because here's the deal, January.  You also offer a fresh start.  And I'm going to take you up on it.  

Whatever this new year requires of me, let me - in my own small way - be resolved to:

Do no harm;

Protect the vulnerable;

Oppose evil;

And be grateful every day.

Because I think this might be a tough year (on top of a tough year).  And I want to be:


Accounted for; 


Digging in.

(Of course, I'm also going to complain excessively about the January People at the gym, the unrelenting cold, the lack of sunshine, and the ice.

But I'll try to get along.

Really.  I will.

Let's make it work.  Okay, January?


Today's post is part of Think Write Thursday.  To read other contributions, click here.  And to sign up to receive the weekly prompts, click here.


Finding the Right Song

Back in October, I decided to knit a warm and cozy sweatshirt-of-a-sweater.  Kind of an (ahem) instant gratification project.  Simple.  Big needles.  Chunky yarn.


And I cast on during one of the Cubs games . . . on their way to the World Series.  I knit through all the games, and my knitting soundtrack seemed to be David Bowie/Queen's Under Pressure.

I was planning to finish up the bottom ribbing a week later . . . as I watched the election results.  But.  That night I couldn't knit a stitch.  I just sat there.  With my knitting in my lap.

Weeks of angst.  No knitting.  I couldn't bear to pick up any knitting - let alone that particular sweater.  I was dealing with my election grief -- while also hosting my entire family for Thanksgiving and my Mom's memorial service.  My knitting soundtrack switched to grunge . . . insert any Nirvana song here . . . but let's go with Smells Like Teen Spirit.

I started knitting another project - Project Peace, in fact.  Which brought be back to my needles and away from my angst.  After a few rounds of Project Peace, I decided to put it aside temporarily -- and finish up the sweater.

This time, a new knitting soundtrack emerged . . . Foo Fighters Times Like These (here's a nice acoustic version for you).


I, I'm a new day rising
I'm a brand new sky
To hang the stars upon tonight
I am a little divided
Do I stay or run away
And leave it all behind?

It's times like these you learn to live again
It's times like these you give and give again
It's times like these you learn to love again
It's times like these time and time again

And then . . . well.  I finished the sweater easily.  


Sometimes you just need to find the right song.

(Ravely details here.)


The More We Are Seen, The More We Are Heard

Okay, Knitters.  It's time to take ACTION.

Get out your pink yarn.


And join the PussyHat Project!

Knit a hat for yourself . . . knit a hat for a marcher . . . knit a hat for your daughter . . . knit a hat for your friends.  Just . . . knit a pink Pussyhat.

You can read all the details on the PussyHat Project website, including information on where to send hats (if you're knitting for marchers).  There is also a Ravelry group.

Knitting . . . can be a powerful action.
Power in numbers.

Power in pink.
Power in individuality within large groups.
Power in handmade.
Power in pussy.

Okay.  Let's knit hats!