Thursday, January 18, 2018

New manifesto

I have found myself planning another road trip while recovering from the flu this cold January. My desire to travel alone has done nothing but increase since my April 2017 trip to Scotland. Certainly this trip was a boost to my confidence and capacity to successfully navigate away from home. Those days spent without a tour group or guide allowed me to realize that I can cope with different customs, countries and transportation without much trouble and I actually enjoyed taking the time to wander through these challenges. Truly, my most horrific travel situations occurred in the US, returning from Scotland, where several of my flights were rescheduled then canceled causing me to sleep on an airport cot overnight, before returning home.

My road trip to Devil's Tower, WY with the associated camping bolstered my enthusiasm for solo travel as well, reaffirming I still possessed useful skills for successfully "roughing it" without a hotel room. I have found I am now actively looking forward to another road trip/camping exploration. I believe this desire to get out and explore is colloquially known as "itchy feet" (see here for the Urban Dictionary definition

My recent trip to Florida had me realizing how few material items I needed to care for myself, and how valuable the time I have to see the world has become. While age hasn't been uppermost in my mind, I realize that I have much less lifetime remaining than I did in my youth, consequently I had better start using it to my benefit.

No longer am I going to worry about job-hunting, obviously, I can carefully manage my lifestyle without giving forty hours of life time away each week to an employer. No longer am I going to feel like a failure because I am unhired. No longer am I going to put my interests on a back burner because I think they are less important than something else, nope, this year I am going to finally explore my interests. So begins a year of adventure...

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Depth of winter

We have been bitterly cold with single digit temperatures for a couple of weeks, then two lovely days of 60F/15.5C before weather returned to the chilly teens. I have noticed how often I begin my blog with a mini weather report, but frankly climate change is apparent in my area and I am obsessed. At least, the winter blooming plants are still on schedule, my 30 year old Cymbidium orchid is flowering. I leave it on my front porch all summer and into fall until temps are about 50F, then shelter it in my chilly basement under artificial lights. This year its blooms are lovely. See care here

We welcomed the New Year in with temps so cold my champagne was frosting the glass! Of course, I got chilled and then the "flu" hit a couple of days later. I haven't been sick, not bedridden (as I was) for over ten years, but this viral infection laid me low. Thank goodness for Extra Strength Tylenol, carbonated water, Airborne and Progresso Lemon Orzo soup. So while I was over the acute "flu" phase eight days ago, I am still coughing. Apparently, this cough can last up to six weeks, so I am just  trying to stay warm, rest and hydrate until the cough resolves.

Consequently, reading and knitting have been high on my activities list. Here are a few of the novels I have finished so far this year: Ghost Bride, by Yangze Choo, Three Souls and Dragon Springs Road, both by Janie Chang and finally, Love and Other Consolation Prizes, by Jaime Ford. A bit of a theme going here, but pre-war China and Malaysia are fascinating and Ford's book is an enlightening window to Seattle society at the time of the 1909 World's Fair.

On the needles right now are my stashed Icelandic Lettlopi Yarn skeins 109 yds, in colors that reminded me of the Icelandic landscape. I am knitting Mary Jane Mucklestone's Flying Geese Cowl, see on Ravelry here 
I am hoping this pattern will show off the lovely complementary colors of this yarn. So, I will brew myself another cuppa tea and settle in for a quiet evening

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

and 2 Months later...

I have found myself busy, distracted and traveling again. The weather had remained unseasonably warm through early December, when I found myself only hours ahead of a snowstorm along coastal Mississippi. I had driven down to the Tampa FL area for an extended visit with relatives and found myself racing winter on returning to Missouri.
Happily I didn't plan on camping during the two day drive down to Florida and then back, but I did arrange to stay at state park cabins along the way. Tombigbee State Park in Tupelo, MS had some charming cabins, built in the 1930s by the CCC. The cabins have a fully equipped kitchen, including microwave & coffee maker, and an  assortment of silverware, dishes and pans. Standard amenities include central heat, bed sheets, indoor plumbing, fireplace and TV, and all for a lot less money than a local hotel room. Most state parks are a ways out of town, so do plan on finding the park site well before dark, as the countryside does not usually include streetlights. I found myself driving along some winding stretches of single lane road, and almost thinking I was lost before I saw the park's main gate. 

I had a wonderful family visit over the Thanksgiving holidays. It had been almost ten years since I had seen my sister! It was definitely good to "catch up" with everyone over the holiday meal. It seems that Floridians like to get all their Christmas decorations up early and there were definitely some amazing yard lights and inflatables. I watched this local Great Blue Heron pose near this string of holiday bulbs for over an hour one afternoon!

Back home in Missouri, there has been about 3" of snow and absolutely bitterly cold temperatures. Tonight we will drop to 1F/-17C, our daytime high was only 11F/-11C. The local radio station announced that Anchorage, AK was warmer at 17F/-8C! We definitely had a "white" Christmas this year.


Friday, October 27, 2017

Put on a hat & coat

L to R: Luna, Trixie & Emma
Finally getting cold here... the first chilly day of Fall so far this season 48F/8C. We might have frost in the garden tonight. I have covered the tomato plants with a sheet as there are still many cherry and yellow pear tomatoes on the vine. Not much seasonal leaf color but the maple leaves are starting to fall. I think the plants are really out of their natural annual rhythms; the sunshine angle and duration is autumnal but it was 76F/24C just two days ago.

Seasonal preparations are ongoing here. I made a coat for my daughter's dog, Luna. Both my dogs have furless bellies, so I got creative with the sewing machine. I suppose the dogs don't really need coats, but they seem to appreciate their warmth, even wearing them to sleep. Dogs do keep track of who gets what, so now Luna won't feel left out of the "pack" when she comes to visit.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Woodland Escape

As tensions mount over our "crazy" political & health care situations here, it had became clear I needed to plan another escape to cope with all the bad news. This has become my ideal coping option for problems beyond my "sphere of influence."

Daughter and I just returned from a one-day getaway campout at our local Klondike Park. This area had been a silica-sand quarry and there are lovely white sand beaches around the lake. This park is in the heart of our local wine country and we paid a visit to the Yellow House Winery in Defiance, MO (see on the way to the campground. The weather was cool and crisp, just like autumn should be, and some of the leaves had begun to turn color too.

I have been so excited about camping since my return from the Wyoming/South Dakota trip, and I wanted an excuse to go tenting again. My youngest has never camped, so we had a "girls" overnight escape where she got to learn setting up a tent, meal prep and campfire basics. We hiked lots, and I know I feel calmer after being out in nature and so does she. Simply disconnecting from the media, and the continuing stresses/worries associated with Presidential decisions was a relief...

Monday, September 25, 2017

Road trip

Devil's Tower, WY
After a depressing & unsuccessful search (so far) for employment, I decided to brighten my spirits with a road trip. A "bucket list" review put Mt. Rushmore first in contention, until I heard on NPR that this year is the fortieth anniversary of the movie, Close Encounters of a Third Kind. Yes, I am a total geek about that movie; who can forget the model of Devil's Tower Richard Dreyfus sculpted out of mashed potatoes, then constructed in his livingroom?

I have happily planned and executed a 3100 mile trek to Wyoming and back, with Devil's Tower my first major tourist destination. I also saw Pipestone National Monument, Mt. Rushmore, the Crazy Horse Monument and lots of US country-side. Of course, I incorporated a mini yarn crawl into the mix as well, visiting shops in WI and SD. (Separate yarn shop post upcoming).

Mt. Rushmore, SD
I also camped, which hasn't been on my vacation itinerary in over 20 years! I have to say that of all the experiences I had, tent camping really was wonderful. I had somehow forgotten the depth of my enjoyment at living closer to nature, seeing the stars and successfully starting a campfire. I really got my confidence back from managing to "rough it" outdoors. I intend to continue to camp and enjoy hearing the wind, and breathing the air that rustles the leaves.

Crazy Horse, SD
I continue to travel alone and find that there are some fine, sociable folks in this country willing to chat or share a meal. I had my map atlas and itinerary notebook on the passenger seat and did fine navigating the whole trip. It is enlightening to realize how little stuff it takes to be comfortable & happy exploring around this world. It's the experiences that are such a great value on their own. I'm glad I chose to see some of the sights that make our country unique. The cultural diversity that founded our nation is truly apparent and it's presence colors every monument and locale.

Lovely high plains of SD

 Landscapes of the high plains are so vast, and a pleasure to view. Very different from the Midwest rolling hills and greenery. I even saw four buffalo outside of Custer, SD. I am so impressed at how environmentally and geologically diverse our country's landscapes appear as well. Driving this distance gave me lots of time to appreciate the land, and see all the wind farms that have been erected to create energy. It is encouraging to realize that many states are enterprising enough to explore alternative sources of energy, instead of fossil fuel. I did not see a single oil well on this trip. The windmills were huge in WI, MN and parts of SD. Their presence reassures me that in this year of powerful storms and heat, some local governments are embracing the importance of alternative energy in the face of climate change. I'm hoping it offset all the gasoline I consumed on this trip...

Windmill farm Lakefield, MN

Saturday, July 29, 2017

A few bags less

My Grandmothers' things
I have been indoors cleaning & clearing out while the weather has been so hot 96F/35C and humid. Whenever I get stressed I clean, sort, and scrub, usually filling one trash bag and a couple of bags for donation during this process. It always amazes me how much paper manages to stealthily clutter throughout the house. So, just like pruning in the garden I have been busy excising stuff and streamlining my home environment.

A couple decades ago my mindset about stuff used to subscribe to the philosophy, "maybe I'll need this someday," now it has changed, and radically so...  I have felt almost possessed by the urge to clear out. While I continue to be seriously sentimental, I have realized that the physical burden of am item sometimes overshadows the underlying meaning or memory of the memento.

When these periodic purge-modes take hold, they get me to shed all sorts of possessions that have been languishing in dark corners or no longer benefit my lifestyle. While it is tempting to pawn some of these things off on my kids, I realize that I am doing them no favor by just shifting junk around through households.

I have been to many estate sales that were cluttered with the detritus of a long life; so many tchotchkes, years of "Precious Moments" figurines gifted when the family couldn't decide what to give a Mom for holidays. Believe me, estate sales are littered with useless stuff that cost hard-earned cash to purchase, yet is not worth $1 for anyone to buy on the second-hand market. That theory also applies to "Beany Babies," Hummels, Christmas plates or any other collector special edition knickknack.

I buy second-hand frequently, because I look at it as an effort to reduce, reuse and recycle, but trinkets from another person's life are rarely valuable outside their family. Occasionally, I will buy something to collect, but I have learned the best collections are intensively curated, not overwhelmingly large.

Conscientiously, gathering items of interest and beauty marks us as human. Our endeavors to possess or preserve something precious is a trait even Neanderthals demonstrated, buried with their artifacts. It was only when the elite began gathering treasures that the value of stuff started to be ingrained into all levels of society.

By1884, Lt-General Augustus Pitt Rivers had collected 22,000 cultural artifacts whose donation to the University of Oxford started an era of museum acquisition and private collections of "curiosities." In the U.S., George Gustav Heye accumulated a one million piece collection of Native American artifacts, opening the Museum of the American Indian in 1916 . Even Sigmund Freud collected Middle Eastern and Etruscan art, considering it "an addiction, rivaled only by nicotine," see

While it seems I have placed myself in lofty company, all I am trying to say is collecting is universal and profoundly human, providing connection to our memories, and desires. Sometimes, though these physical/emotional links to stuff become a psychic and physical clutter; few of us would be eligible, or even invited to open our own museum. The stuff simply continues to occupy more space in our lives, add our current capacity to purchase in-store or online, and almost limitless amounts of stuff accumulate.

So, I try to keep in mind those packed estate sales, considering the stuff burden my children might face, and I happily prune out the deadwood of my possessions. Some things my kids would like now, some later, but the rest... if I don't see a need for it, well, it goes back out into the world to benefit someone else. It still seems like I have more than I need, but I'll keep weeding things and eventually, I hope to leave a tidier, curated legacy of just cool "heirloom" stuff.