Friday, February 21, 2014

Shadows of shame

Our world is more unsettled. Certainly with current extensive media coverage we can view the pain of nations in intimate detail from our homes; the horrors of the protests in Ukraine where snipers are killing citizens, the horsewhipping of Pussy Riot by Cossacks, riots in Caracas,Venezuela, the North Korean genocide and the ongoing devastation of Syria. Corrupt government officials seem to be at the root of all these crises with citizens & activists taking the punishment. Worrisome class divisions, poverty and corruption seem to effect every country and culture in the world. How will these disparities resolve? What can be done to correct the injustices? Will good prevail and what is that good? Where is the conscience of the world? People are dying...

Sunshine & warmth!

Missouri is simply a freaky weather state! Yesterday it was 65F/18C, so all of the ground covering snow has melted. Small rivers flood the streets as water flows to the culverts. The forecast thunderstorms never happened nor the flurries, so here we are outdoors in light sweaters while the sun is shining. It becomes winter-like only in the evenings when nighttime temperatures fall into the thirties.

I've been wearing a tee shirt with my jeans and hoodie. It was gloriously sunny and warm; what a boost to morale! The dogs got walked and we rolled up our sleeves to absorb a shot of natural vitamin D. We probably should have worn boots and the dogs were a mud spattered mess, but we were all smiling afterwards. Nothing like a brilliant day to re-energize your outlook!

The Maine Morning mitts are finished & look wonderful. They look as lovely as the pot of hyacinths I purchased for Valentine's Day. Nothing like the scent of flowers filing the dining area to cheer the mood, combined with the warmth of the weather and sunshine, well, we just feel happy! The snow is gone for now and this reprieve is a wonderful event.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014


Wow! There was sunshine today! Still very cold at 14F/-10C and colder tonight. I have not been outside walking because of the ice & snow and I truly miss it. The family I live with is busy working various shifts, taking classes and avidly working at their hobbies. I am here lingering about, mostly free of mother responsibilities and somewhat directionless in the purposeful activity department. Believe me when I say housework has never been my forte; I get the work done and don't look for more. Cooking is only a little more appealing because it is creative, but truthfully, aside from the enjoyment of eating, I view cooking as a mess making activity. So boy, do I have free time! I missed the application date for university classes due to my knee injury, but yes, I have applied and will start in the summer semester.

So to circumvent a severe case of "what am I doing with my life?!" I have been reading. Nothing one could consider too challenging, just some interesting novels, to transport me to a different place and time. I had a little trouble with the colloquial dialog initially, but overall appreciated War Brides by Helen Bryan (480 pp), set in 1945 coastal England during the blitz and concluding fifty years later on VE Day; with interesting plot twists to an already dramatic era. Another novel, The Thinking Woman's Guide to Real Magic, by Emily Croy Barker (576 pp) is a fantasy about Nora who enters a portal to another world; a medieval setting, amidst a war between humans and what are essentially fairies. Be forewarned, the book is full of medieval life details, but a bit slow in the beginning setting the scene. I'm not sure I consider Nora the "thinking woman" of the title until the last few chapters when she shows some real skills in problem solving. Even so, the ending is incomplete, some characters suspiciously vanish and I suspect it will be a series. I will most likely read book two though just to get answers to those dangling plot lines. Anyway look at me go, over 1000 pages a week. I guess that bodes well for my return to school. 

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Projects with sticks & string

We've been indoors doing creative projects with the latest attack of winter. My daughter gifted me at Christmas with this gorgeous cable knit purse and I have finally attached a terrific button & crocheted the button loop. The yarn is a lovely Rowan Colorscape Chunky in rich colors of blue, forest green, violet and pink, which I had purchased a couple of years ago intending to knit a sweater vest, but the yarn continued to linger in my stash. Since we were planning a budget-cautious Christmas, my daughter wanted to knit all her gifts. Coincidentally, she owns a nifty cabled purse I have admired, envied and basically wished was mine so, by providing the yarn, this is the beauty I got in my basket under the tree...

Instead of starting on our Spring sock-a-thon I am knitting Val a pair of fingerless mitts first. Lately, I have been hooked on Brown Sheep Company Lamb's Pride Worsted, 85% wool & 15% mohair, the website . I can't gush enough about this yarn, reasonably priced, the colors are terrific, it has a springy twist and it's a pleasure to the hand. It is factory spun but still seems to have a bit of yarn variation which gives a nice character to the project. For the mitts I am using Clara Parkes' excellent pattern, Maine Morning Mitts, from her book, The Knitter's Book of Yarn and also available as a free PDF download on Ravelry, here . I adjust the length to the base of the thumb to between 5"-6" and the only other change I make is to pick up extra stitches at the thumb gusset to prevent any holes in the knitting. The Lamb's Pride color I'm using is M-225 Elderberry Wine, a skein with beautiful lavender to deep violet variegation. These will be my fourth pair of mitts and by far, the Lamb's Pride is my favorite yarn for this project.
Noro yarn mitt on the right, same pattern

It has been snowing off and on the whole weekend with the sunshine absent these last couple of days. The over 21 kids and I decided to go to the Shlafly Taproom in downtown St. Louis for the Cod & Cask Festival; an evening of Icelandic cod, local brew and music. Nothing like good food and a live band, the Trophy Mules were playing last night, to shake out those winter blues. Also, here is a link to the Shlafly site  it's one of our best local breweries. Well, I think that is enough links... Novelty that is what you need during the winter greyness, stuff like yarn re-discovered from your stash, new library books and a night on the town! Don't let ol' man winter getcha down.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Winter & work

Six more inches of snow... At least it was dry, fluffy and ice-free, so shoveling the driveway wasn't very difficult. My daughter and I then loaded a couple 80lb. bags of dry cement into the trunk of my car for added traction on our unploughed streets, preparing for my trek into work. The six mile drive only took twice the time and fortunately, was essentially uneventful. So I'm pleased to have shown up to do my job, too bad my company really didn't care... Yeah, they offered double shifts to the work crew before mine and basically didn't need my help. Good planning on their part, but nowadays workers show up for their shift regardless the weather. Anyway, considering the snowfall & low midweek volume, my work area got shut down after a couple of hours and I went home! Oh, and thanks for coming in...

Hey, Congress, Obama's health insurance isn't going to make people quit their jobs, nope not at all. You know what is going to have people leaving their jobs? Working for companies that don't appreciate them and who consistently cut workers' hours. How many part time jobs am I going to need to get a decent week of pay? This wasn't an issue a few years ago. I hired on part time fifteen years ago with a guaranteed 20-25 hours per week. That time frame began averaging in at about 18 hours per week about five years ago and now has dropped again, to average around 12-14 hours per week in the slow volume months. I make more money on my paid vacation weeks; which probably makes me luckier than most, just because I have paid vacations. The challenges of the ever changing modern economy...

In a more positive theme, this decrease in workload allows me valuable time to pursue my education and other business ventures. Creativity is key to making a buck these days. It also helps to not lust after new stuff, and be satisfied with the status quo. Still, I think flexibility and creativity are significant factors to fashion a new lifestyle in a world which increasingly doesn't require as many working humans to function efficiently. Redundancy has hit the global marketplace and folks need to figure out what independent skill or product they can offer which will produce cash rewards. It's all about marketing our talents to our advantage. I think that used to be called "hustling." Not always a positive reference, so let's stay away from the fraud and prostitution, instead focusing on the term in the sense of "energetic or strenuous efforts to secure money or business." This certainly will be my personal challenge for 2014!

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Shakin' it up

Whew, only a dusting of snow over the black ice that formed from rain! I thought the ice was treacherous enough. So here we are, hanging in there with the ice, wind & cold while waiting for more snow on Tuesday. Today we have the excitement of the Super Bowl paired with the riveting 2014 emergence of Punxsutawney Phil, the weather groundhog. Punxsutawney Phil, unfortunately saw his shadow today at 07:25AM and thus forecast 6 more weeks of winter. How this annual tradition started is beyond me but apparently the groundhog seeing his shadow or not, has been 80% accurate from 1887 to 2013. For those unfamiliar with the tradition check out this official website for the whole scoop. If I had to guess I would concur, winter is far from over...

We've all been a bit "cabin fever" struck, meaning inclined to sleep in later and a tad bored with the daily routine. Certainly the ice, cold and lack of sunshine play a part, but today we thought we'd shake out the doldrums with a barbeque. Yep, hauled out the grill, donned a winter coat (cuz it's 21F/-6C) and threw some recently slaughtered cow, in the form of fresh sausage over the coals. We grilled up zucchini, red pepper and purple onions as well, and lets just say, food & mood Fiesta! Everything had zing! we even broke into song periodically as the radio was tuned to an oldies station. For dessert I served an Apple Crisp, which is the New England staple of baked fruit with a crunchy topping. Since this happy food disappears fast, I increased the recipe to fill a 13x9 pyrex dish. Generally, I improvise the filling and the current favorite is as follows:

8 apples (Braeburn) cored & sliced, saute in 1/4 C. butter in a 6qt. covered pot
2-15oz cans of pitted red tart cherries in water, reserve 1/4 C. of juice
1C. walnuts, coarsely chopped
Add cherries & nuts to apples with the reserved cherry juice. Stir well and season with cinnamon to taste. Cover & simmer about 15 minutes while oven preheats to 350' Make topping in medium bowl.
Half gone already!

1C. quick oats
1/2 C. old fashioned oats
1/3 C. melted butter poured over oats
1/2 C. brown sugar, stirred in
Drizzle the honey bear over the topping and add a couple dashes of cinnamon. Mix well.
Spray or butter a 13x9 baking dish then add the warm fruit. Top evenly with oat mixture.
Bake 25 minutes at 350'

Delicious warm or cold. We pour milk or cream over it and add whipped topping for total decadence. Makes a wonderful breakfast meal too. Fiber & fruit, what can be better! Here's to shaking it up a bit this winter.