Archive for January, 2011

January 31, 2011

The Big January Snow

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Despite the fact that my right wrist is seriously sore, I am loving every snowflake of this beautiful winter. This week’s storm socked us in Rye Brook with about 16 inches of gorgeous white stuff. The skies were blue and even though it took me three and a half hours to completely shovel the walks and driveway, it was a fantastic snowfall.

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January 25, 2011

Less Is More

The coincident process to undergoing the great purge is the re-orientation of thoughts and expectation to the idea of doing more with less.

It seems the hallmark of our current economic situation that many people are going through the process of learing to do more with less. The excess and materialistic culture that seemed to prevail during the 90’s and first decade of this millennium seems now passé and undesirable. Admittedly, some of this change in attitude was not voluntary, but no matter the catalyst, the end result can be very harmonious. Not unlike the feeling of having eaten way too much for too long during the holidays, shedding the excessive consumption of the last years is freeing.

Recently I decided that after two and a half years of constant use, my glasses were boring and I needed a change. Normally,  I would have gone to the store, picked out new frames and ordered new glasses. But when I was cleaning out a drawer, I found a stash of past eyewear. They were pretty nice frames and, since my prescription hadn’t changed much, I simply chose a different pair. No fuss, no muss and I didn’t spend a bunch of money. When I get tired of these glasses, I can change to one of the other two pairs I have on hand.

It was kind of a big, sloppy habit to over-consume. Making careful choices about new purchases makes the purchase somehow even more satisfying. Realizing you can forego a purchase because you have something on hand will do is even more satisfying.

How long will this mindset of less is more survive the eventual return of more robust economic times? Does it change one’s expectations forever to go through an economic downturn as we are currently and to learn to do with less? It makes me think of my parents’ generation and all of those who lived through the Great Depression. I think they were forever impacted by the economic tribulations they faced. Will we find that one positive outcome of our current travails is a better, more responsible attitude to consumption? That could only have a positive impact on the environment and on our lives.

January 23, 2011

The Great Purge

We’ve lived in our house for about fifteen years now. It has been a very comfortable house to live in and we have been blessed with ample storage room. Ample storage room isn’t always a plus though and both Jim and I agreed it was time to do some serious de-cluttering.

It ties in perfectly with the beginning of the new year. It is also a great mood lifter to see one’s surroundings looking clean and sleek. Well, we’re not at clean and sleek yet, but we’re moving deliberately in that direction.

Infusing the offspring with this desire to de-clutter has been very slow going. They ignored us steadfastly for as long as they could. But as the piles of items to be shed grew and it was clearer and clearer how serious “les parents” were about this action, there has been some grudging movement.

One of our first big actions was to prune our book collections. We had books everywhere and in great disorganization. We now have subject areas throughout the house and certain shelves have Jim’s books and certain shelves hold mine. We must be shedding about 200 books and that doesn’t include Peter, Ellie and Alex. Meanwhile, Jim has built himself a young adult/teacher’s resource library in his office which will be incredibly useful to him as he moves forward.

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January 16, 2011

Craftaganza over the holidays

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One of the great pleasures during that quiet week between Christmas and New Year’s is spending some quality time crafting. This year I was able to enjoy the cold winter weather, a bonanza of a snow storm and hours of happy knitting, beading and a little sewing. It was a craft-extra-vaganza!!

I never remember to take pictures of things I finish, but here are a few…I didn’t knit these all from start to finish over the break, but I always have a million projects going and these are the ones I finished. Sometimes I hallucinate that I will complete my unfinished projects, but Sunday I started three new ones so I think we all can be pretty sure that will never happen.

Since I seem to be pretty prolific, one of the ideas I have been playing with is taking a booth over the summer at a craft show or two. Usually, I like to make things specifically for people as gifts, but I have just too many ideas buzzing in my head and so I thought it might be fun to see if people would like what I make even if they have to pay for it. I have been amassing beaded crafts, knit things and other items for this purpose. At the very least, I might clear enough to support my “habit(s).”

January 15, 2011

Chinese Fortune

The one waiting for you when you get home will be your friend for life

This was Ellie’s fortune when we got Chinese the other night. We both thought it was a particularly lovely fortune. How nice to think that those at home are truly your friends for life. How nice to contemplate going home to good friends who love you. And, of course, home can be many places.

This fortune makes me begin listing those who wait at home. I think of Ellie, Jim, Peter and Dakota. Alex would be on the list if he were home.

Who is waiting for you when you get home? Who is your friend for life?  

 

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January 13, 2011

Swedish Proverb

 

Fear less, hope more, eat less, chew more; whine less, breathe more, talk less, say more,

hate less, love more; and all good things are yours.

–Swedish Proverb

During the infamous walk, our tent neighbors across the row had decorated their tent with sayings all of which were on laminated cards and tied to their tent with pink ribbons.

Neighbors were encouraged to select a tag which meant something to them and take it with them. I picked the proverb written above. I liked it for several reasons. First of all, and most important, I liked the message. All good things to keep in mind in terms of living a better life and being a better companion on this earth. I also liked the somewhat clunky translation. At least, I attribute it to the clunky translation and not some rather microscopic focus in the Swedish mentality. I get the point of “eat less, chew more” but would never have thought to express it quite like that.

In any case, the saying hung from my knapsack during the walk and now hangs on my bulletin board where I can see it.

As part of the focus on resolutions for January, I share it now. May all good things come to those who read and try to live this proverb.

January 12, 2011

Camp Pendleton

This week we finally got Skype up and running and we have been having great fun talking to Alex at night. The sound isn’t fantastic, but we can see him and we all crowd around my laptop to have a chance to chat.

Last night Alex told us his big news. He got his orders for after his current training in Pensacola. He will be attached to the First Radio Batallion and stationed in Camp Pendleton. He expects to rotate to Afghanistan next December. How he knows that I don’t quite know.

But Camp Pendleton will be great. Fantastic part of the country and it is supposed to be a good base. He seems happy and excited. He’ll get some leave before he heads out, but hopefully we’ll be able to go out and visit him while he’s there, too.

January 11, 2011

Garden Notes 2010

I know perfectly well that I will never remember all the lessons I learned from this year’s garden if I don’t write them down. So, with this in mind, here are my thoughts. Would love to hear from all gardeners with their ideas, advice, etc.

This year’s garden was a pretty good success. The mix of items could be improved and there were some things which we just didn’t enjoy, but we sure got a lot of tomatoes and cucumbers and it looked spectacular with the shooting sunflowers in the center.

Lettuce. We had way too much lettuce. I planted it in flights about three weeks apart as recommended, but we couldn’t eat it fast enough and much of  it went to seed. Peter didn’t like the lettuce because it wasn’t what he was used to (iceberg). I have four packets of lettuce seeds left over from this year. At the end of the season after I had cleaned things up for the winter, I opened the gate to the garden and let the bunnies come take care of the lettuce. They thought it was quite tasty.

Cucumbers. Ellie begged me to plant cucumbers. I don’t really like cucumbers, but Jim does and Ellie does. We had cucumbers coming out our ears and no one wanted to eat them. Not unlike zucchini, they grew with terrifying rapidity. Giant cucumbers would emerge from the lush vines. And the vines were crawling everywhere. I had to stop using the gate and step over the fence because the cucumbers owned the passage. Deep six next year.

Swiss chard. Planted it for Jim. He loves swiss chard even though I hate to clean it. We ate it once and the rest just sat. Deep six next year.

Sunflowers. Planted “Supersnack Hybrid” sunflowers from Burpee. They are supposed to have inch long seeds which are perfect for roasting. They grew tall and gorgeous, but then the flowers died and we never got any seeds. Try another variety next year. I did love the profusion of tall plants spraying up like a fountain from the middle of the garden.

Herbs. The herb garden was fun and mostly a success. Basil was good. But I ordered six different varieties. Next year I will just plant the normal kind. The more unusual varieties were not as useful. San Remo and Pesto Perpetuo Basil were both good. I ordered them as plants from Burpee. Thyme and marjoram were both fun as was Rosemary. I used the last of those herbs in December for a big pot of soup. It was deliciousw soup and I was so happy to brush the snow away and find a few last home grown herbs. 

Tomatoes. Tomatoes were the stars of the garden. I adore tomatoes and I would spend any amount of time out there trimming and caring for my tomato plants. Some varieties were great, others less worthwhile. I planted 14 tomato plants which was arguably too much both in terms of available space and the ability to keep up with yield. Some tomatoes withered on the vines because we just couldn’t eat fast enough. I distributed many to the neighbors, the mailman, the pool man and anyone else who happened by the cul de sac—like Peter’s driving teacher.  Next year I think I will reduce the number of plants to no more than 9 or 10.

Black Pearl Tomato– from Burpees. These were very tasty small tomatoes with a dark brown/red appearance. I planted three of them. I ate those right off the vine. I felt like a brown bear standing in the garden and just plucking the little tomatos and popping them into my mouth. I think one bush would have been enough, but I will definitely should plant some next year. They were very tasty.

Big Rainbow Tomato-from Burpee. These were quite beautiful. The plants produced well and I will definitely order next year. Yum, can’t wait. 

Gold-Medal Yellow Tomato-from White Flower Farm. Part of Bobbie’s Christmas present to me. This didn’t yield a lot of tomatoes and they were late in the season. I would like to have some yellow tomatoes, but it might be good to try a variety which matures more quickly. They were tasty, but will try another variety.

Riesentraube Tomato-from White Flower Farm. The name translates to big grape. They are cherry tomatoes with a funny little point on the end. They were very tasty. I think they got overlooked by the Black Pearl tomatoes, but I plan to try them again next year. 

Red Brandywine tomatoes-White Flower Farm. Classic brandywine. Definitely worth buying next year whether from White Flower or elsewhere.

Green Zebra Tomatoes-White Flower Farm. Hard to tell when these were ripe because I kept waiting for the green to leave. Good plant, mark next year so I know they are supposed to be red and green.

Black Prince Tomato-White Flower Farm. This was the kinkiest, most gorgeous tomato. I was sorry that I didn’t get more of them but the plant I had was damaged in a terrible wind storm and I think it was brave to grow at all. Will definitely try again next year. Gorgeous color.

Fourth of July Tomatoes-Burpee. Had ordered three of these. Ordered them because they mature quickly. But they were quite small. I think one bush next year just to have that early tomato fix. I like bigger slicing tomatoes and these were too small to slice. 

Planting formation. The garden was a circle like a clockface. Standing at the gate, facing the garden the tomatoes were planted from 3-6 and 9-12. Herbs were planted from 6-9 and lettuce from 12-4. I need to remember to rotate positions. I also need to remember to spread manure before turning the soil.

But all in all it wasn’t a bad first outing. Again, would love comments and advice.

January 9, 2011

Fiction for knitters (and quilters)

Today’s New York Times featured an Op-ed by Ann Hood on knitting and crafting and recovery from grief and loss. It was a nice piece and it reminded me instantly of the novel Ann wrote THE KNITTING CIRCLE.

This was clearly a somewhat autobiographically inspired book quite unlike most of Ann Hood’s fiction. As Ann relates in the New York Times piece, she came to knitting as a solace and haven having lost her young daughter suddenly and tragically. In THE KNITTING CIRCLE the protagonist turns to knitting to deal with the loss of her own daughter. She is helped both by the zen-like past-time of knitting and the community of women she encounters at her lys (local yarn store for those not in the know).

Ann’s op-ed reminded me how much I enjoy reading fiction about my favorite hobbies. Not only does it extend the pleasure I get from the craft itself, reading crafting fiction surrounds me with a feeling of community. Reading about characters who share many of the same interests–interests not always shared by those around one in real life–presents much the same emotional satisfaction as hanging out in a favorite knitting haunt. 

 Community is a key aspect to all fiction which deals with crafting. While many crafts are practiced individually, they need not be practiced alone. While quilting is well known as a potentially communal activity, gathering to share lives and information while crafting is a long-time tradition. Not everyone has a crafting community, crafting fiction can take the place of the physical community.

Debbie Macomber and Kate Jacobs rank as two queens of knitting literature, but there are many other novels about knitting. And I must confess, some I have enjoyed more than those of the doyennes of the genre. A great reading list is featured on Good Reads http://www.goodreads.com/shelf/show/knitting-fiction.

THE BEACH TREE STREET KNITTING SOCIETY AND YARN CLUB by Gil McNeil was a great read set in the U.K. about a woman rebuilding her life after her marriage ends unexpectedly and irrevocably. Again, the book features the key themes of a woman finding her way after great loss, finding a community to support her and discovering happiness.

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January 7, 2011

Marine Talk

With so much in the news lately about Gates and his cuts to the armed forces, I thought I would text my very own military advisor and see what the men and women with their feet on the ground are thinking.

Text to Alex: What is everyone saying about sending 1400 Marines to Afghanistan? What about Gates’ proposed cuts to Marine force?

Response from Alex: I don’t know. I spent last night talking drunk marines out of hanging bicycles from the pull up bars.

It may not represent a global view on military spending, but it does illustrate a certain aspect of military life.

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