Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Feathers on the groundFeathers on the Ground
DH Bob and I both enjoy the quiet of country living, but sometimes things are too quiet for comfort.

Saturday morning the bird feeders were quiet. Bob filled the Chickadee feeder early in the morning, yet there were no Chickadees. Usually the cute little birds are waiting for their food and can hardly stay away from the feeder long enough for us to fill it.

We call it the Chickadee Feeder because the Chickadees are the tamest of the little birds that feed there. We also have numerous goldfinches, tufted titmouses, nuthatches, and an occasional woodpecker feeding there. None of them showed up on Saturday morning.

Once the birds returned, we forgot about the birdless hours - until Monday morning.

Monday morning I sat in the living room working on my laptop and watched a large hawk patrol the east side of the property. All the little birds were lying low. The crows tried to chase the hawk away, but failed.

I know the hawk is part of nature. I know the hawk is a beautiful bird. But I wish it would go hunt somewhere else.

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Questions from Sunday Brunch.

"George Washington had a vision for this country. Was it three days of uninterrupted shopping?"
-Jeff Melvoin, Northern Exposure

1) Do you enjoy shopping at the mall?
No. Try to avoid it as much as possible and find that it usually is possible thanks to internet shopping.

2) What is your favorite mall food?
Cream cheese pretzels. Wish I had one right now, but I don't. One of the dieting advantages of living miles away from places that sell food.

3) What are your three favorite “mall” stores?
  • Barnes and Noble - because I love books.
  • Mrs. Fields Pretzel Time - for the obvious.
  • Sears - because they have Land's End there now.

4) What is your favorite mall?
Lakeview Square in Battle Creek. It's all on one floor and I don't get lost in it.

5) Do you have one special person that you enjoy going to the mall with the most?
Daughter Heather. She gets excited about the things she likes. Then I look at them with new eyes and notice things I wouldn't have seen without her company.

For example: I never tried one of those yummy pretzels until I was with Heather one day and she bought one for me.

I'm looking forward to shopping with her next Saturday. Monette and I are going to meet Heather in Battle Creek so Heather can help us buy Christmas gifts for Granddaughter Kimmy. The best part of the day will be lunch. And maybe a pretzel.

Saturday, November 27, 2004

Winter Wonderland
Michigan license plate from 1967 Water-Winter Wonderland was the Michigan slogan forty years ago.

Water Wonderland appeared on Michigan license plates beginning in 1954. It took ten years for the folks in charge of attracting tourists to realize that for three Michigan seasons out of four, no tourist cared about coming to a cold Water Wonderland.

The slogan got changed to Water-Winter Wonderland in 1965.

1967 was the last year Water-Winter Wonderland appeared on Michigan plates. In 1968 the plates proclaimed the new state slogan, Great Lake State.

I had to Google to refresh my memory on all this when the phrase "Winter Wonderland" popped into my mind while looking at the pictures I took on Wednesday.

Out the front window - pine tree laden with snow.On the busiest travel day of the year, the snow came down. And it wasn't just a nice little dusting. It was wet, heavy, slippery, and nasty.

I was cozy and warm in the house watching winter arrive and cooking for Thanksgiving. My only concern was the power. The snow was so wet and heavy that branches were breaking off trees. All our powerlines are above ground and many links we depend on go through wooded areas.

Fortunately the power stayed on. Unfortunately this beautiful pine tree in the front yarn ended up losing several large branches in the evening, after the picture was taken.

Otu the front window - snowy scene including woods across the streetThis is how it looked out the front window about three o'clock in the afternoon. Before it finished snowing Wednesday evening, we had six inches of snow in our Southwest Michigan Wonderland.

Friday, November 26, 2004

Thanksgiving Thoughts
The whole list of things I'm thankful for is very long, too long to write. If I did write it, it would read like the story of my life. I've been abundantly blessed.

Here are a few things I'm thankful for this November:

  • Seasons of Violet. Over the past year writing this blog has resulted in a new closeness with family members who live far away.

  • My husband. We've been home together for a year now and we still like each other and laugh together.

  • My dogs. They are a constant supply of amusement, love, and reasons to go out on walks.

  • My mother. A remarkable woman who is a great example of aging with class, grace, and vigor.

  • My daughter. She met adversity head on and kept going until things got better again. She deserves the best and I hope she never settles for less.

  • My granddaughter Kimmy. Ever since she was ten minutes old and grabbed my finger, we've been bonded. I'm thankful that she is maturing into a fine young lady and still has some time for her grandma.

  • My son. He's a hardworking, easy going, caring man with a heart of gold. I'm so thankful he inherited the best qualities from both sides of his family.

  • My daughter-in-law. She's the perfect match for my son and she's going to be a good mom to my unborn granddaughter.

  • My unborn granddaughter. She's healthy and active, waiting to be born and delight her new family. We love her now, and we're going to love her even more when we meet her in April.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Something Very Different
While procrastinating getting up to make the Green Dream, I'm going to share two knitting/crochet sites with you.

You don't need to know anything about knitting or crochet to enjoy these pictures or to shake your head in disbelief.

Heather Sullivan has posted the cutest pictures of her hamsters in crocheted hamster hats.

She says:

Yes, I'm a batty lady with too much time on my hands. My hamsters are very well cared for and are quite happy to pander to my daily cuteness needs. They are not left to wander around with the hats on unsupervised and I don't recommend anyone keeps any yarn or fabric around hamsters at all because they can eat or chew on it and have lots of various problems with it(including death from the fibres causing a blockage in them).

I like this lady. She loves animals and she knows how to have fun.

Second is a knitting pattern in the Winter 2004 Knitter's magazine, a Sock Scarf, complete with randomly placed heels. According to the magazine blurb
We chose to stagger them (the heels) so the scarf would not lie flat, no matter how you wear it.

Isn't a scarf supposed to lie flat?

I'm guessing there is a minimum of $30 of yarn in this scarf. It's fingering yarn, so there are many little stitches. It would take me, a medium speed knitter, at least 20 hours to knit it - not that I would.
Correction Note added November 30, after receiving the actual magazine: The scarf is knit using Schoeller/Stahl Big Mexiko, a worsted weight yarn. It takes 5 skeins so the price is approximately $30 to knit it. The time it would take is much less than my previous estimate, as worsted weight knits up much quicker than fingering weight.

This scarf's only redeeming quality would be if it amused me, and it doesn't. Hopefully it amuses someone.

Do you like it? Would you wear it?

And, an even more interesting question, what would you think if you saw someone wearing this scarf?

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Happy Thanksgiving
Questions from Sunday Brunch.

"I awoke this morning with devout thanksgiving for my friends, the old and the new." -Ralph Waldo Emerson

1) How do you cook your turkey? (Stuffing, spices, cooking bag, etcetera)
Stuff it with a bread stuffing and slowly bake it in a roaster in the oven with periodic basting.

2) What is your favorite Thanksgiving dessert?
Back in the 80s when I worked for The Upjohn Company the cafeteria had a chef who made wonderful things from scratch. The Upjohn Pumpkin Torte is one of those wonderful things.

It's a rich, heavenly dessert. Takes a little effort to make but it's not difficult and well worth the effort.

It tastes even better after being refrigerated for a day, so I'm making it on Wednesday and dessert will be ready for Thanksgiving dinner.

3) What are you doing this year for Thanksgiving?
Staying home and fixing turkey dinner for DH and Mom.

4) Do you have any family traditions at Thanksgiving?
I've been making Green Dream for over thirty years so I guess it's a family tradition.

It's made with lime Jello, melted marshmallows, milk, cream cheese, Cool whip, Miracle Whip, and crushed pineapple. The recipe is here.

The perfect holiday side dish for adding a slightly tangy accent with roast turkey, it's especially good to eat with cold turkey leftovers.

The Green Dream needs to be made ahead, so it's one more dish that will be prepared on Wednesday.

5) What one dish does it just not feel like Thanksgiving without besides turkey?
Mashed potatoes and turkey gravy. Have to have that or why bother cooking a turkey?

Friday, November 19, 2004

Gloomy gray skies and empty tree branchesHuddling under an umbrella, I went out with my camera this afternoon to try and catch the mood of the dark, drizzly, gloomy weather we have had for most of the week. The forecast for the next five days is for more of the same.

I've always thought I liked the four seasons and wouldn't want to live somewhere that didn't have them. Today I'm wondering if that is true.

Maybe I have preseason SAD, Seasonal Affective Disorder. According to the National Mental Health Association the symptoms include a craving for sugary and/or starchy foods. I've had five cookies today. That's five more cookies than I usually eat in a day and five more cookies than I can eat in a day and still maintain my weight loss.

Wet cement and leavesThe temperatures are mild for this time of year, in the 50s (10 to 12 C) during the day, and it hasn't been windy. It would be perfect leaf raking and leaf burning weather except it is too wet. So I sit inside doing things I love to do - reading, knitting, blogging, reading Yahoo groups - and feeling guilty because it's looking more and more like those leaves are going to be on the ground until spring. Again. Without the excuse that I have a job and there isn't time to rake them.

Which brings me to the introspective question: Will I ever get old enough and wise enough not to feel guilty about things that don't really matter like getting all the leaves up in the fall?

Downspout drizzling water onto the sidewalkI have my own theories on why this time of year is depressing, at least for me. The reasons can easily be related back to the SAD model.

In the spring I have energy and big plans. The days are getting longer, the sun starts to warm the earth, and everything is fresh and green. I know that this is the year I will have a wonderful garden, redecorate my house, organize my life, and spend hours and hours doing all the things I love to do.

In the fall reality hits. The days are short, the air is cold, and everything is brown and gray. My energy has disappeared. I have to face the fact that somehow most of my plans didn't happen and now it's too late for this year.

On a more positive note, I have much to be thankful for. Onward to Thanksgiving - and then Christmas. The turkey is thawing in the refrigerator and I'm going to be making that wonderful Upjohn Pumpkin Torte.

Life is good. Now, where's the sun?

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Granddaughter ultrasoundPromise of Joy to Come
This is the twenty week ultrasound of my granddaughter. She is due to arrive April 4, 2005.

In the meantime, she is having a good time in the womb.

Her dad reports:

She was very active during the ultrasound, too. She would shift and wiggle around. One time she even stretched her arm up above her head. The tech was having a lot of fun doing the ultrasound, she said, because the baby was so active.

That is this picture. The head is on the left and her arm is in the air.

Dad continues:
Her heart was visible during the ultrasound and we could see it thumping away.

The last couple pictures in the ultrasounds are of her profile. During the time when the tech was looking around and checking out this part we could see her open her mouth a couple times. She also moved her eyes once.

The most important ultrasound result is that the baby is healthy. The next most important question was "Boy or girl?"

It appears she is going to be a kind and considerate child like her father was. She kicked up her little legs to show us that she definitely has no male parts. So glad she cooperated.

Son John has written about the experience on his blog. Grandma has read it several dozen times. It makes me smile every time I do.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Chocolate Candy
Questions from Sunday Brunch.

"A little nonsense now and then, is cherished by the wisest men."
-Roald Dahl, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

1) What is your favorite flavor of M&Ms?
Reese's pieces. Love that chocolate and peanut butter combination.

2) Is there a special edition of candy that you wish they would make a permanent item on the shelves?
A couple of years ago there was a Nestle's Crunch made with white chocolate. I think it was responsible for several of my overweight pounds. I'm relieved that it is no longer around to tempt me - but I still think about it.

3) What is your favorite flavor of Hershey’s Kisses?
I'm not familiar with the different kinds of kisses. Maybe I need to check this out?

4) What is your favorite candy bar?
Swiss chocolate from Switzerland. Occasionally my mother gets a shipment from our Swiss cousins and sometimes she shares. Swiss chocolate is so much better than American chocolate (sorry, but it's true). I find most American candy bars to be way way too sweet and full of wax.

5) Do you prefer milk chocolate, dark chocolate or white chocolate?
I love love love white chocolate. There has never been any white chocolate in the Swiss chocolate deliveries. At least none that Mom has ever let me see.

Wonder if they have Swiss white chocolate?

Since I'm maintaining a 40 pound weight loss, I don't get to eat much candy. What am I missing?

What's your favorite?

Saturday, November 13, 2004

First pond freeze over of 2004Where Are My Mittens?
Mother Nature is bringing on winter whether we are ready for it or not. I'm not.

This morning the pond was covered with a thin layer of ice. Not too shocking. Afterall, it is November in Michigan.

What was shocking was when I went outside this afternoon and the layer of ice had not melted. Time to hunt down my gloves, scarves, and boots.

What ever made me write a blog entry on bathroom humor? It's really not my style. It occurred to me today that I did the same thing once before when I posted a link to ICBE, the International Center for Bathroom Etiquette.

Curious as to why I would do such an uncharacteristic thing twice, I checked out the date on the ICBE link. December 4, 2003. It seems to have something to do with the onset of winter.

Any theories on how cold weather and bathroom humor are related?

Friday, November 12, 2004

PappyTwo Years With Pappy
Pappy just celebrated his two year anniversary as part of our family. We are so happy to have him and so pleased that he has turned into a loved member of our family.

Pappy is a 14 pound Papillon. He was our first mature rescue dog. We're not sure how old he is or where he came from. He's not young and he's not old. He got shuffled from one rescue organization to another, until he ended up in a foster home with six other little dogs. His foster mom put him on Petfinder where we found him

We do know that at least some of his life before coming here was very awful. He has one ear with the cartilage broken down. He has a large scar across his shoulders. And recently, he had the dead tissue from on old wound erupt on his hip.

When we got him, he had an infected mouth and tear stains under both eyes. He was very shy and afraid of us. For the first several months he chose to be by himself in the back bedroom when the family was together in the living room or kitchen.

Now he is very healthy and without tear stains. He loves going to doggy school, especially agility. His favorite spot to be is where ever the family is, and he's often cuddled up next to one of us.

He's very intelligent and, now that he is comfortable displaying his real personality, he is a people dog. We love him and he loves us.

Most rescue dogs have "issues". Some were given up because of their issues. Some developed issues because they were mistreated and/or ignored. We were fortunate to have a good doggy school and a great dog trainer to help us work out Pappy's issues. And we are blessed because Pappy was a dog worth the time and effort required to bring him back to himself.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

When I lost my job last January family and friends mostly agreed I was going to get bored. So far I refuse to admit to being bored.

There are some weeks that are more interesting than others, though. And this evening I just accidently ran across a website named Bored.com, "for when there is nothing to watch on television".

I'm bookmarking this site. It appears to be well designed and full of intersting links.

For example, it has a link to the Bathroom Habits Survey where you can find out what strange habits other people have when going to the bathroom. All answers are anonymous.

Approximately 850,000 people have taken this survey, so if you want to know what goes on in other people's bathrooms this is the place to check it out.

I was grossed out to learn that 50% of adults admit to urinating in a swimming pool and 74% admit to urinating in an ocean, lake, or river. Yuck.

At the bottom of the Bathroom Survey stats page, there is a link to Bathroom Life billed as "The Web's largest source of bathroom humor: farting, pooping, peeing, burping, vomiting, and more."

I've never been big on bathroom humor, so even as I write this I wonder why I am visiting these sites. Could it be that I really am getting bored?

Toilet paper over or under? (Can you believe that 34% of survey respondents don't care?)

Sunday, November 07, 2004

Fruits and Vegetables
Questions from Sunday Brunch.

"The finest qualities of our nature, like the bloom on fruits, can be preserved only by the most delicate handling. Yet we do not treat ourselves nor one another thus tenderly." -Henry David Thoreau

1) What is your favorite vegetable and your favorite fruit?
Hummm. I've never thought about a favorite. I have my fruits and vegetables divided into three categories: enjoy eating, will eat, and would rather not eat.

One of my favorite fruits is fresh peaches.

But, now that I've thought about it, my very favorite fruit is fresh Michigan strawberries mashed up with a little bit of sugar and spooned over Bisquick shortcake.

One of my favorite vegetables is corn, especially corn on the cob with butter and pepper. Not exactly diet food, but definitely good tasting.

2) How many servings of fruits and vegetables do you eat a day?
Usually three servings of fruit and two servings of vegetables.

Before I lost forty pounds I could hardly find the produce department. Now I spend a lot of time there every week.

Of course, one of the reasons I'm in the produce department so long is because I can't get their stupid plastic bags open to hold the produce I'm trying to buy. Wouldn't you think they could come up with something better than flimsy, melded together plastic bags?

3) Did your parents force you to eat vegetables when you were younger?
Not that I remember.

4) What vegetable can you absolutely just not get down, no matter what you are bribed with?
Winter squash. The orange kind that tastes awful and leaves an aftertaste in my mouth that lasts for hours.

5) What is your favorite way to eat fruit?
Fresh and ripe. Some fruit just begs for ice cream, like the above mentioned peaches.

Cut up juicy peaches over vanilla ice cream. Yummy.

I didn't learn that at Weigh Watchers.
Is there a vegetable you just can't get down?

Saturday, November 06, 2004

Post Election Insults
It's been a difficult week for posting.

I don't usually write about politics, which is the main topic of discussion in the US right now. My email is full of personal jabs at my character and my sanity for voting the way I did and I hesitate to transfer that type of conversation to Seasons of Violet.

Since I've stayed low profile about my political preferences and have not tried to convert anyone who thinks differently, it's been shocking to be sought out and personally attacked by the "blue" people.

Please don't leave flames about this in the comments. I've seen every nasty thing - plus some - that you could possible write.

Calling me names and bashing Bush are not going to impress me with your liberal tolerance and your love for your fellow man.

Any thoughtful, intelligent opinions are welcome, even if they don't agree with mine.

Lots of Hits
On a much brighter note, Stitches of Violet has been getting more views than I ever dreamed possible in one week. And it hasn't even appeared on the Google searches yet.

It's nice to have a place to put my knitting projects and I'm preparing several CIC patterns to post there: Basketweave Toddler Socks and Fluted Banister Toddler Vest.

The pattern writing has been taking some time. Writing patterns is very detailed and time consuming. And, after a while, they just sound OK even when they're not. Rather like writing computer programs, one of my former occupations.

eMail Me
gMail seems to be pretty good at sorting out spam, so I've added my gMail address to the Seasons of Violet sidebar.

Would love to hear from you anytime you'd like to drop me a note.

And, if there's anyone left in the world who wants a gMail account and needs an invitation, I still have many to give away.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Congratulations Mr. President

I agree with my Swiss cousin Jurg, who wrote:

So what we say is, that Bush has to eat his own soup! That means, that the bad things he made, he has to bring it well again by himself!
President Bush now has his chance to finish what he has started and prove himself the capable and intelligent leader most of the country believed him to be shortly after 9/11.

I will be praying for him.

All the Leaves Are Down
View out the front window. Bare trees and leaves on the ground.And waiting to be raked.

It's been cold, windy, and either raining or about ready to rain for days - until today. Today the sun came out, and I think I'm going to miss out on one of the last opportunities to rake.

Yes, I stayed up way too late last night listening to the inane chatter of people trying to fill air time between sporadic announcements of election results. For most of the evening I entertained myself by looking through stitch pattern books to get ideas for a Barbie sweater. About two am, I opened a bottle of white wine and sipped a nice drink. About three am, when I fell asleep in the chair, I toddled off to bed.

I'm feeling a little out-of-it today. Have been sitting here messing around online, reading things I normally would delete as irrelevant. In a way it's rather relaxing, if it weren't for that nagging feeling that my future life would be better served if I was outside raking.

And the Skys are Gray
Sunny and Pappy walking in the colorless fieldThe days are short now. It's dark by five-thirty. Right now it's about three-thirty and, looking out the window, it looks like evening.

The weather forecast is for rain tonight and on into the weekend - unless it gets cold enough to produce sleet and snow instead.

I think I just missed my chance to catch a few rare rays of sun.

Did you stay up to listen to election results?