Pieces

My eyes are sore and my eyelids are swollen, puffed up like blisters.  I cried myself to sleep, and I can’t shake my thoughts, so here I am.  Writing is therapeutic.

Grief still hits me out of nowhere.  I keep thinking it has been over a year, I should feel better by now.  And I do feel better, mostly.  I read, though, that grief lasts longer than a year.  Grief lasts so long, you may as well not put a timeline on it.

Last night and this morning Grief is frustrating me. Continue reading

Slipper Reviews and Errata

My two oldest kids asked me to make them some “warm socks” for Christmas.  I said I would, and wrote down the colors they wanted, which were green, red, and blue (blue for Roonie, but that was my choice).  They asked for the socks in November, so I figured I had a lot of time.

Then, suddenly, I had one week left before Christmas.

I set aside my knitting project and picked up my crochet hooks and found a pattern that looked easy enough to follow, and quick enough to finish in time.  I settled on this one, which was nice because it allowed for adjusting sizes.  I love patterns that end up being more like guidelines.

Here are the finished “woolies”, as I like to call them:

slipper socks

I had so much fun whipping out three projects in a week (I find crocheted projects are quicker, and I’m not sure if it is because I have been crocheting for longer or if it really is just faster), that I decided I needed to crochet a couple more things after Christmas, just to feel like I was accomplishing something.  Since I hadn’t been able to get anything for Ben, I decided to make him some slippers.  I asked what color or colors he would like, and he told me “brown or red, or brownish-red.” I came across this pattern for crocheted moccasin slippers, and decided to go for it.

I raided my stash and found brown yarn and red yarn, both in natural fibers (my ravelry notes are here ).  The pattern calls for using double strands so that a thicker, sturdier garment is made, and I had enough of each to be able to do this.

The soles were made first, and I had fun watching them take shape. I actually think I might save this part of the pattern to make other slippers too.  A person can also crochet two sets of soles, and attach the second set to the bottoms of the slippers to make them extra thick.

Then I came to the sides, and I noticed that things weren’t quite lining up.  I’m not really sure if this is what the pattern creator meant to do, but I decided to do things differently, as the original way was turning out to be a bit lopsided.

These are my “corrections”, if you will, for the size large (third number in the brackets):

Working the Sides

Round One – single crochet 17 instead of the 19 indicated.

Round Two – single crochet 19 instead of the 21 indicated.

Round Three – slip stitch in the back loop of 27 instead of the 30 indicated.

Round Four – slip stitch in the back loop of 27 instead of the 32 indicated.

I wondered whether my round four corrections would work out or not, but they seemed to do just fine.  I added the top, and it looked how I had envisioned it would.

slipper1

At first, I worried the slippers might be too small, and that I would have to rip everything out and start over.  Thankfully, they fit just right – snug, but not too tight.  Like other garments – especially knit and crochet – slippers stretch out a bit, so tight was welcome and actually necessary.  I hate when slippers won’t stay on!

I crocheted the second slipper and gave them to Ben.  We had some fun taking silly pictures of him posing like a ballerina.  I like the way they turned out.

 

If you came here from ravelry to check out the errata, I hope they were helpful!

Happy Creating.

 

Writing a Garment

I read a blog post a while back, maybe two or three months ago.  I don’t remember which blog, just the point the writer made – great writing happens when you have something great to say; don’t force it because you have to meet a word count quota or a certain number of posts a week.

I took what the author said to heart because I recognized some of my own concerns in the reasoning. I want what I write to be meaningful (isn’t that every writer’s dream?). I don’t want to feel forced to write because a magical formula to gain readership says I have to post something everyday. I want it to come naturally. Continue reading

One Review of Wuthering Heights

I took the kids to see Ben’s parents the week before Thanksgiving.  The plan was to leave them there and come home on my own; his parents would bring them back for the holiday.  Knowing I would have a long, 10 hour stretch of lonely driving ahead of me, I decided to download an audiobook to listen to.  A free – or almost free – audio book.

There are plenty of books on my “to read” list, but none of them fit my cost criteria, so I browsed until one caught my eye- Wuthering Heights, by Emily Brontë.  A classic I hadn’t read before?  Why not?

Now, I had no idea what to expect when I started listening to it.  I knew that a lot of people either love or hate it.  I also knew about the time setting, so – based on other Victorian literature – I was prepared for proper dialogue, social classes, long dresses, servants, courting, and tea.  Oh, and I had heard the name Heathcliff tossed around a few times.  I figured it would be a lot like Jane Eyre.  In some ways it was, but it many ways it wasn’t.

Have  you ever started reading a book and thought it was dreadful after only a few pages in?  The antagonists were bad, but it was the antics of the protagonists that made you cringe? And the weather descriptions made you feel gloomy and cold?  Despite all of that, you found yourself drawn in, unable to stop reading because you had to know the end?  You had to know that the characters changed, that conflicts were resolved?  Deep down, you weren’t entirely sure that they would, because chapter after chapter continued in the same dreadful way, and each one left you hanging?  Did you wonder why you were enjoying it so much?

Wuthering Heights was such a book for me.

Just so you know, right now, I am not going to summarize the entire book, but I do intend to write about it as if you have read it too.  Consider this your “spoiler alert”.  And maybe you should read it if you haven’t, and if you do, then read it before you read the rest of this so I don’t cloud your judgment.

Wuthering Heights surprised me.  The first surprise was that it includes ghosts, or one ghost anyway. I’m not sure why I had forgotten about other Victorian literature that includes “ghosts” ( A Christmas Carol has Jacob Marley, and Jane Eyre has a crazy lady that may as well have been a ghost, just to name a few), but I did forget.  So, when Lockwood spent the night at Wuthering Heights and had a nightmare that Catherine, who he only knew of from snooping in a diary he came across, was trying to climb in the window, I was on the edge of my seat.  I probably would have driven a little faster than I should have if I hadn’t turned on cruise control.

The second surprise, which came shortly after that, was that Heathcliff actually had a heart buried somewhere within his bitter exterior. In the story, Lockwood screamed himself awake, which sent Heathcliff in, who acted as though the specter of Catherine was real. Up to that point he had been rude and mean (to put it mildly) like many other male, Victorian protagonists who tend to have rough exteriors that melt away to reveal true gentlemen inside.  Heathcliff had been so crude up to that point, though, that he didn’t strike me at all as a character who could possibly love another person. I didn’t want to think of him as a protagonist.   Yet, there he was, standing at the window and beckoning with intense longing for Catherine’s spirit to come home.  This surprise set me to wondering how Heathcliff became the demonic character portrayed.  I would soon find out.

The third surprise was how easily I was lead to think that the protagonists were awful.  They behaved so terribly, that I struggled with my believing it.  They manipulated people and situations just as much as they verbally and physically abused each other.  It was horrifying. I shook my head a lot as I listened, and thought I certainly hope people were never really like this, even though I’m pretty sure these types of people do actually exist. Nevertheless, I started to wonder if I had missed some key parts revealing good natures, but I came up with nothing except for the moment Lockwood described Heathcliff calling out to Catherine.  It didn’t help that Heathcliff had a reason to hate everyone at Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange. Was his reason good? I don’t know.  A lot of people despise their bullies and the people their bullies loved.  And his main bully, Hindley, was mean because he was jealous.  To say it is complicated merely scratches the surface.  Brontë gave them all enough good and desires to make them believable, and more than enough faults to make them interesting.

Then, I remembered that the story was being told to Lockwood by Ellen, the house maid who had been with the family from the beginning.  I started to wonder whether or not I could trust Ellen.  Was she just gossiping?  Lockwood had hoped she would.  Did she really know all of these events, or did she just make them up?  Lockwood’s own description of the people he met seemed to coincide with Ellen’s story, but he was sharing the experience from his own point of view. Ellen told the story as though she had the ability to be in more than one place at a time. Was she only saying these things because she had heard them from others, including the protagonists?  If so, how reliable were they?  Did they have their own agendas?  Her descriptions of them wouldn’t make me think otherwise.  Was Ellen portraying the protagonists in this way because she had been treated as a lowly servant, and felt slighted?  Wouldn’t I focus on those things too, if I had been treated as she was?

I wonder if Emily Brontë knew that people would wonder whether Ellen was a trustworthy story teller?    If so, she was brilliant in the use of this character device.

Have you read Wuthering Heights?  What did you think?

 

Moosing Around

I have been pretty busy!

I tried to write 50k words for the NaNoWriMo challenge, but I fell short.  Am I disappointed?  A little.  I am actually more proud of myself than anything though.  I started a story, and my oldest son is excited about how it is turning out.  I could go into all the reasons why I didn’t reach the goal, but it doesn’t really matter.  I will finish it; it is taking me longer than a month, that is all.

I have a few other projects I have been working on too.  One is a knitting project- Monsterpants- for a friend’s little girl.  They are pretty fun, and I’ll share more about them soon.

Another project has been a drawing for my husband’s little cousin.  She saw my drawings for the September challenge, and requested a moose.  So, here he is!

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What have you been up to?

A new hole in my sock

Immediately after stepping on a tack head (the kind that attaches linoleum to the floor), and it ripping through one layer of my socks, I said “grrrr”.  

Meanwhile, in Ashley World, I saw myself sticking more tape over the top of it later today.  I then imagined myself in the someday, far-off future, when we have extra income to use on floors instead of just food, shelter, and student loans when we can.  I pictured a new, rubber, seamless, floor border, and caught myself thinking that would make me happy.

Feeling overwhelmed by the need for creature comforts, I sighed and made my pot of coffee, measuring Folgers into the press, and measuring my attitude with each scoop.

Attitude.  I’m sick of reading and hearing “attitude is everything” and “it’s all about your attitude.”  I’m burning through my good attitude, no matter how much I pray, no matter how many times a day I recite “I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me” and “be the change you wish to see in the world” and countless other mottos, no matter how many times I go through the many things I am thankful for each day, no matter how many times I tell myself “doing these things is going to help me.”

I see the well meaning images on greeting cards, calendars, and my Facebook feed.  The words in scroll letters, set over a majestic mountain, dazzling sunrise, or dewy rose, calmly telling me to change my reaction because I can’t change my world.

Really?  

So, it’s not okay to feel stressed about the uncertainty of making ends meet?  

It’s not ok to worry about my partner, who is working three different, very part time jobs and trying to start his own business and be a family man?

It’s not ok to feel exhausted because I’m working as an independent consultant, running a household, and teaching my school-aged child at home?

It’s not ok to have negative feelings about negative circumstances?

Really?

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m thankful for the help and encouragement we’ve received from family and friends.  I’m thankful we have the opportunities we do. So thankful that I can’t really express it completely in words.  We’ve tried to help others when we can as well, but even that doesn’t feel like enough to express gratitude.

And I’ve told myself to stay positive, over and over.  

Maybe all the well-meaning people are right, and that is why this last year hasn’t done us in.  But I’m still stressed, worried, and tired.  

I’m just stressed, worried, and tired with a smile on my face… 

… and a new hole in my sock.

A Soup Dilemma

I turned 31 on Monday.

The day was pretty laid back, which is extremely enjoyable for me.  My mom brought a birthday pie, took us out to lunch, and colored in coloring books with me and the kids.   I heard the birthday song more times than I cared to count, because my kids love singing it.   

It was my birthday, so I allowed the kids to sit on the table so they could get into their coloring.  No rules on mom’s birthday.

Then, I further enjoyed my birthday by letting my kids watch more TV than is probably good for them while I folded the entire backlog of clean laundry.  We are allowed to break the rules on or birthdays, why not include rebeling by doing housework?  Honestly, I folded non stop for 3 hours. The peace of mind I felt afterward was my birthday present to me.

By the time I was done, it was almost dinner, so I asked Ben if he could cook.  Little did I know he had called a sitter and was taking me out.

This is where my day got extra interesting.

Ben took me to Brick 29 Bistro.  Neither of us had been before, so our waiter told us a bit about it.  The big deal was that their menu features all locally sourced ingredients.

As I listened, my mind took a temporary vacation to a memory of an episode of the comedy Portlandia*. In the episode, a couple visits a local foods restaurant, where they proceed to ask about the restaurant’s menu, where the chicken was from, what the chicken’s name was, and so on.  This memory made me smile.

Then, our waiter began to tell us about the evening’s specials, starting with “Hawaiian black striped marlin”… I smiled politely as my mind tried to wrap around something from Hawaii being local. It’s not that it bothered me; I just found it kind of ironic.

He finished telling us the specials and asked, “Any questions?”

“Yes,” replied Ben, stealing me away from Ashley World, “Did you catch the marlin in Lake Lowell?” (For non-locals, Lake Lowell is rumored to have been toxic.  Just a rumor- one that everybody believes.  It may or may not be toxic now.)

At first, I couldn’t believe that Ben said what I was thinking.  But then I believed it because the waiter blushed and backtracked to say that some things can’t be local.  What a sweetheart.  We all had a pretty good laugh, and Ben asked a few more questions about the menu, such as “Where do you get your eggs?”.  Seriously, you guys. I felt like I was living the Portlandia episode.


We ordered some fries covered with swiss fondue as an appetizer.  They were the best fries I have ever eaten.  Ever.  Have you ever had a really strong craving for something, but you couldn’t put your finger on what it was?  The B29 Fries are what.  Yes, EVER.

Then, our waiter brought out our soup and salad.  The only problem was…it was the wrong soup.  I ordered mushroom bisque, but he brought out pumpkin bisque.  I’m not entirely fond of pumpkin or squash soup.  I find them too sweet most of the time. Sometimes they are good, but I suppose I am finicky.  I prefer salty and savory to sweet and spicy.  I tried it anyway, because I do not like to cause conflict.  I figured that if it was something I could enjoy, I would just eat it.  But, no, it was not to my liking.

Ben noticed right away that the soup bothered me.  “Wrong soup?”

“Yes,” I replied.  He tried it, and said it was delicious, of course.  But he insisted I ask the waiter to take it back.  Thus began a fierce internal dialogue about not wanting to hurt anyone’s feelings, wondering if I had accidently ordered the pumpkin bisque or hadn’t spoken loud enough to be heard.  I imagined the waiter thinking that I am too uptight and hard to please because I wouldn’t eat the wrong soup.  I wondered if they were out of mushroom bisque, and they were hoping I wouldn’t notice the difference.  I wondered all this and more, while wishing for more fries.  You guys, my mind is a million worlds, and most of them are hypothetical.  All of them are silly.

As I wrestled silently with this soup dilemma, Ben finished his salad.  Now there was no turning back.  My mind jumped to the fact that our waiter would notice Ben had inhaled his salad, but my soup was mostly untouched.  This hypothetical situation turned out to be true, because no sooner was he done, than our waiter walked up with our entrees and looked quizzically at my full cup of soup.

“Did you not like it?”

I told the whole truth, including that I am a social pariah because of my dislike for almost all pumpkin dishes and beverages.  I made more excuses, such as “I probably spoke too quietly”, and I assured him that Ben thought the soup was delicious. I really wanted the mushroom bisque.  And he assured me that he must have written it down wrong, and that he would get me the correct soup.

And everything was ok.

But, I’ve been thinking about that incident ever since getting my mushroom bisque (which was amazing, and well worth asking for it again).

Why was it so hard for me to ask the waiter to correct the mistake? Why did I feel that I had to help make excuses for why the order was wrong?  I have worked in food businesses before, and I never felt slighted when patrons asked nicely for something different.  I say “nicely”, because some people are rude when their order isn’t exactly what they wanted.  And I know that I am not rude, so the waiter had nothing to worry about.  I also know that mistakes happen, and it isn’t always the waiter’s fault.

I don’t know the answer to those two questions, and honestly, I’m not sure it matters.  I got the correct soup.  I enjoyed the Bistro Chicken with creamy bourbon sauce and crispy polenta, and I have since been dreaming about the B29 fries.

Also, my husband made me laugh on my birthday, which is the best gift by far.

*In case you want to know what I’m talking about, here is the episode of Portlandia .


Autumn Leaves

  

I was meditating about trees yesterday, how the leaves fall off in order for the tree to survive long, dark winters.  Then, as light returns, they sprout anew.

Maybe our stories are like leaves.

They bud out of dark times, then develop, sustaining us, and we share their beauty.  

There are always dark times, though severity varies, and the stories we shared before continue to nourish us in those times, just as fallen leaves add nutrients to the soil and feed the trees from the depths of earth.

This month, I am participating in National Novel Writing Month.  It will be my first time, actually.  I’m scared and excited.  Part of the fear is me wondering “will I reach the word count?”.  Most of the fear, though, is wondering what I’ll wrestle with as I pull from personal experience to tell my story.

My story is fiction this time, and I’m writing it for children, but it is already feeding me.  I hope it will help others someday.

Happy NaNoWriMo.

  
May we all sustain one another. 

Meet the Ladies

It probably comes as no surprise to you all that I have still been pretty busy.  Thankfully, I am feeling like I have a hold on things enough that I do not feel overwhelmed when my alarm sounds in the morning. Before bed last night, I wrote down a plan for what I would do right after my alarm.  I think giving myself a reason to be up helps a lot.  At any rate, HELLO!  How have you been?

Friends and family who know me outside of the blogging world already know this, but in the case that you don’t, here it is – Ben and I are now keepers of some fun little hens!

Ben bought the bunch a few weeks ago, and then set about to making them a chicken tractor, which turned out pretty nice for being his first big wood-working project (Yes, I’m a proud wifey).

I think what I’m most impressed with is how easy it is to find information and learn new things on our own.  Ben found a step-by-step plan, followed it, and learned new skills as he went.



It was fun watching it all come together!

The ladies are all pretty used to their new home by now, and the little red hen, who I call Rowan, is very friendly.  She already eats from my hand, and perches high to greet me when I come out.  Maybe we’ll be friends. She is also the last to run when the kids show up.

Another hen has been named Amelia Earhart, after her day of “flying the coop”.  We remedied that situation pretty quickly, but the name has stuck.

The only other bird we have named is Henrietta.  Shira actually came up with it.  Poor thing is quite obviously the bottom of the pecking order.  She looks a sight when you add in the fact they have all been moulting. She is the next friendliest, I think because she is pretty submissive.  I wouldn’t know for sure though.

Sometime soon, probably as they get more comfortable with me bumbling about their run, I’ll be able to get some decent glamour shots of them, and maybe come up with some more names.  They all have some interesting personalities for sure.

Have you kept chickens before?  What was your favorite part?  Was there anything about it you hated?

Garden Sauce

Our garden is starting to show signs of fatigue, though it is still producing like mad; we have plenty of fresh vegetables, especially zucchini and tomatoes.  I was starting to worry they might start rotting, and then my folks suggested roasting the tomatoes, making them into sauce, and then freezing it in small batches. 

And that’s just what I did.  My first batch was just tomatoes, with some onion and garlic for flavor.  

For my second batch, though, I used tomatoes, onions, garlic, and zucchini. And I’m calling it garden sauce.

I think a person could use any combination of vegetables from their garden.  If I’d had carrots ready, I would have thrown one or two of those in.  

I plan to use this sauce for pizza, pasta, bread dipping, and a base for soups. 

Following are the basic guidelines:

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

2. Cut tomatoes and other vegetables in half and place in deep baking dishes (lots of liquid comes out).

3. *Optional, but adds great flavor* Peel and add 1/4 onion, chopped, and 3-6 whole cloves of garlic, also peeled.  I like garlic a lot, and will likely add more when I cook the sauce for pasta later.  

4. Drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with fresh cracked pepper.

  
5. Place your full dish, or dishes, into the oven and roast the vegetables, uncovered, for 30-45 minutes (until they start to look like they’ve had enough).

  
6. Add the roasted vegetables and their juices to your blender or food processor in batches.  The vegetables are still hot, so be careful and make sure you have a way for the steam to escape.  I use our VitaMix (a very good investment, by the way. Our’s is the same age as my oldest child) and make sure the lid’s center cap is set to allow steam out.  I gradually increase the speed so the contents don’t shoot out.  Then I blend for about 30 seconds, or until everything looks well combined.

  
7. Pour the sauce into a bowl to cool.  Or, if you made a small batch, pour it into a pan and cook it, adding salt and herbs to your liking.

  
8. When the sauce has cooled, freeze it in bags or jars as you wish.  I used quart freezer bags so I could stack them.

Thanks, mom and dad!