Saturday, December 31, 2016

"Life is a constant change"

The year 2016 was marked with change for me and my family.

In spring, Terry and I welcomed our first grandchild...

And six months later, to the date, my mother passed away.

As she would often say: Life is a constant change.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Squirrel Food in Winter

I'm always fascinated to watch neighborhood birds and non-hibernating wild animals, (like squirrels and rabbits) survive - and even thrive - in winter, when everything outdoors to me looks bleak and cold.

Recently, after a day of stormy weather, I noticed dozens of pine cones that had fallen from a tree outdoors...

There it was! A picnic lunch on the snow, ready for some hungry squirrels!

Thursday, December 29, 2016


I recently bought three balls of yarn to make a sweater for myself - adult size large.

Somewhere I read that two balls of this yarn suffice for most sweaters. I found that hard to believe, so I bought three. (The pattern did indicate that sizes large and extra-large required three balls.

The yarn is very gauze-like, but not transparent, when it knits up...

But I was still amazed to find so much yarn left over after I had finished the front and the back.

If these partial balls of yarn will be enough to complete the sleeves, I may try to exchange the remaining untouched ball for the same yarn in another color and make another sweater, if this one fits well!

I can't wait to finish it and try it on!

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

New Indoor Rink

One of the large shopping malls in our city has installed a small rink made with plastic "ice."

We recently asked about it, and were told that it's made of the same kind of plastic that table-top hockey games are now made of.

Apparently the plastic is so slippery that special skates are needed to skate on it.

(Perhaps that's why I've only seen adults try it out so far.)

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Knitting Again... In French

I used to comfortably knit in four languages. Friends had helped me translate French, German and Hebrew knitting abbreviations. But for quite a few years now I have only been following instructions in English. Recently I downloaded French instructions for a sweater I wanted to make... and soon discovered that I had forgotten key knitting words.

What to do?

Find a French to English knitting glossary on the internet, of course! Google led me to a few. 

I ended up using one by Sylvie Damey at

I like it because it's clearly laid out and easy to understand.

(What would I do without the internet?!!)

Monday, December 26, 2016

Personal Epiphany

I had a "personal epiphany" recently when I walked into a new arts and crafts store in our neighborhood.

As my eyes scanned the store, they passed the many shelves of paints and paper... and zeroed in on the yarn way at the back!

I headed straight for it!

I realized then that... though I love playing with shapes and colors in many art forms... from the time I was 17 and started making sweaters for myself, I've had a special affinity to yarn!

Sunday, December 25, 2016

A Christmas Tree: A Powerful Symbol

Years ago one of my students from Japan told me that many people who are not Christian have Christmas trees in Japan. There is something almost magical about a lit evergreen at night.

There is no Christmas tree in the original Christmas story. Yet I see the decorated tree as a powerful Christian symbol: Like us, an ordinary evergreen becomes extraordinary - when touched by the light of God's love.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

New Chair

My favorite spot in the house is my sunny "no-tv" room, full of windows, books and plants.

I've had the same chair for quite a few years now, but as we (the chair and I) both get older, I've had to add an Obus form for back support, and a thick cushion to help me sit higher to alleviate knee pain.

Maybe it's time you got a better chair, Terry suggested a while back... So I went out hunting.

I discovered that the "perfect" chair - whatever that is for each person - is very hard to find! But we finally made a purchase, and I consider it my early Christmas gift!

So a few days ago, I cleared the room in anticipation...

I hope it lasts a good long time!

Friday, December 23, 2016

Knitter's Tree Ornament

An interesting tree ornament recently caught my eye on Pinterest...

(Not that I need another pre-Christmas project...!!)

Impulsively I headed down to my nearest craft store and bought the last two clear plastic tree ornament balls they had in stock.

I pulled out some thin sock yarn and my finest knitting needles... and tried to replicate the design.

It was harder than I thought! First, I made the knitting too wide, I think, for the toothpick knitting needles (12 stitches)...

I redid it with 9 stitches but only knit for about an inch. It should have been longer to fill the ball.

Never mind! That will have to do for this year! Next year, I may try it again!

And if I see any more clear plastic Christmas tree balls, I think I'll pick them up!

(That's how a crafting stash grows!!)

Thursday, December 22, 2016

My Annual Poinsettia Plant

Nothing says "Christmas" to me as much as a red poinsettia plant!

I often buy a small one - to put in a central location, like the dining room table...

Here is the one I got this year. It doesn't need to be large to make a difference indoors when the world outside is white with snow!

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Shortest Day of the Year

For the past few months I have been looking forward to today - December 21 - the shortest day of winter.

These days, as I drink my early morning coffee and think about my day, I am very aware that, though  it may be six or seven am, outside my window the world is still dark!

The lit windows of neighbors in the distance remind me that many are getting ready for work and school.
A while later, at around 7:30 am, dawn breaks.

Then, a mere nine hours later, darkness returns around 4:30.

In my working years, I would drive to work in the dark and return home again in darkness. The only daylight I would see was through the window.

So why am I looking forward to today? Because, from now on, days are now going to get a little longer... Every morning, day break will be a little earlier, and twilight a little later... until June 21, when days start to shorten again!

I remember my father noticing lengthening and shortening days - while I, a teenager, looked at him in bewilderment, wondering what all the fuss was about.

Do we become more light-sensitive as we age? As a child and teenager, I was oblivious to whether days were long or short. It just didn't register with me!

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Knit Vest Done... But Not Perfect

I finally finished knitting my second top-down vest... which looks more like a short-sleeved pullover.

I was running out of yarn, so - halfway down - I added yarn of a different - but similar - color (and weight), alternating the rows.

It's done... But the crocheted neck seems a little tight.

I think it's puckering a bit.

Hmmm. It would be easy to pull that out and redo it, more loosely.

That could also make it a little bigger.

Here it is, the neckline redone... Wider now, but still not perfect - as the curved stripe at the neckline shows... But good enough!

Monday, December 19, 2016

What to Do With My Mother's Crafts?!

One of my winter goals is to try to get rid of things we no longer need.

I recently opened up my mother's old trunk in our basement. The last time I opened it up, the strong moth ball smell made me quickly close it again! In the meantime, I totally forgot what was in it.

Inside I found some yarn and a few pieces of crochet and needlework.

I pulled out the yarn to let it air. It could be useful for some future project...

Elsewhere I came across an old, well-worn quilt of my mothers. What to do with it? It was torn but had carded wool batting.

My cousin Rhonda, who also makes quilts with wool batting, was happy to take the quilt apart and harvest the wool.

A child of the depression years, my mother would have been delighted to see her things used... and re-used!

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Planning to Paint

Winter - when I can't get out a lot - is the time I plan to spend my mornings doing arts and crafts. Last year I watched daily online videos by a British water color painter, trying to pick up tips from him.

In anticipation of a future painting season, I often take photographs of scenes I'd like to paint.

The shadows of the trees on the road make this one interesting for me.

This old red stable in Cumberland reminds me of stables of my childhood...

There are so many beautiful scenes in my collection of photographs saved on my computer.

The contrasting different kinds of trees interests me here.

I should go through them all soon... and print or back them up - before my computer suddenly stops working one day and they are lost!!

That too is another winter project for me!

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Winter is Definitely here!

We've had several snowfalls... and the snow is piling up.

Our quiet street is not a high priority for city snow plows, and our neighborhood still has ditches which are less noticeable in the snow...

So occasionally people who park on the street end up stuck in the ditch!

A few days ago, one was in the ditch... The driver called a tow truck - and the tow truck also ended up stuck in the ditch! A second tow truck came - and the driver of this one wisely chose to stay clear of the road. He parked instead in a driveway as he pulled both the first tow truck and the car out of the ditch!

In the midst of this chaos, with cars blocking the road, the snow plow finally arrived. He managed to get by - but had to wait till the car and trucks had driven off to finish clearing the street. Terry (who often chats with strangers) started up a conversation with the driver and discovered, in their conversation, that the driver's wife had recently given birth to twins, born prematurely. He was concerned for the health of all - the babies and his wife...

It's easy to forget that those we see around us - police, firemen, ambulance drivers, sales clerks, shoppers... and snow plow drivers - may also be going through challenging personal times.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Knitting Markers That Work For Me

My top-down vest pattern, knit on a large circular needle, called for markers to remind me when to increase... (Where the sleeves and the front and back sections meet.) When knitting a sweater bottom up in four pieces - front, back and two sleeves - the edges are physically present to remind me that an increase - or decrease - may be needed.

There are a lot of markers on the market. Over the years, I've used plastic ones as well as large safety pins. My complaints are that the round plastic markers tend to fall out, and the safety pins sometimes get caught in the yarn.

The best markers for me are pieces of leftover yarn in a contrasting color. I just tie them around the needle where needed. If they tend to come loose, I tie a double knot.

They are definitely the simplest - best  - and cheapest(!) - knitting markers for me!

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Baked Canaloupe

I recently had more cantaloupe than I could eat before it went bad, so I did an online search to see if cantaloupe could be cooked or roasted. It was starting to get watery...

I came across this recipe for roasting it...

The recipe suggested adding sugar if the cantaloupe wasn't sweet enough. Mine was sweet, so I didn't bother.

I just put my cantaloupe chunks into aluminum foil pie plates. (I accumulate a lot of those, and re-use them. I don't mind if food burns on and the pie plate won't come clean. In that case, I simply recycle it.)

All I did was preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and spread the chunks out in several aluminum pie plats. I baked them for 20 minutes.

They were really good! I refrigerated them, using them up by adding them to plain greek yogurt.

And the pie plates washed up easily... I didn't have to recycle a single one!

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Christmas Baking... From the College

I stopped doing Christmas baking when my kids left home and I was told to eat a lower carb diet. But Christmas isn't the same without a few specialties of the season. So I usually buy a few Christmas treats - and try to enjoy small amounts at a time. Earlier this year, I bought a small fruit cake, but I took it to a pot luck dinner, so it's gone!

Recently Terry saw some fruit-filled "stollen" at our nearby college bake shop - where students' baking is sold. (I suspect he was hoping to find a carrot cake!)

I told him to buy two, as they were small... Now I have to make sure I don't eat them both before Christmas!