Sunday, July 16, 2017

"Hooked" on Mom's Crochet

As I have expanded my contacts within the blogging community, I have been impressed with how many of my favorite bloggers crochet.  So, while I am not in that sisterhood myself, I wanted to share the creations of my mother, who invests many of her waking hours plying her crochet hook to the benefit of others.
Mom takes great joy in crafting gifts for her great grandchildren, who currently number 16 (with 2 more on the way)!  She started with baby blankets, hats and booties. (On our weekly Skype call today, we got to talking about the gender of the greats because the two on the way are both boys.  That means boys 11, girls 7 - come on, girls!!!)

More recently she has been on a kick with animals.  My Mom lives independently at the St. Leonard's senior living community, and one of her favorite activities is contributing crochet projects for Creative Corner.   In addition to a year-round shop, Creative Corner hosts a special holiday Bazaar in November.  The leader of Creative Corner gave my Mom the pattern for the giraffe with a request to make one; Mom has now produced a small tower of giraffes (a group of giraffes standing is called a tower; a group in motion is called a jenny) that have found homes through the shop and with her great grandchildren around the world.

(Upon request, even us kids can have an animal - I have a giraffe I named Tank; he is in storage until our log house is finished - I can't wait to be reunited with him!)

This was snapped up quickly at Creative Corner
Even arthritis does not stop her - she employs an ergonomic crochet handle and it means a world of difference with the aching - even when she does a large project like this throw with 50 stars - she almost regretted that we have so many states when she grew weary of hooking numerous stars. 

So what do you say to 100 stars?

Designs come from various sources - Mom discovered the pattern for the throw above on the back of a crochet wrapper.  Others she locates on the Web.  As she puts it, she has a 'lovely lady' at St. Leonard's who prints the patterns for her.  The Lovey Blankets below were found by her leader at Creative Corner, and every one of them is so cute you want to squeeze it!  No surprise that I have asked Mom to make me a couple of the owls for the babies of friends of mine!

Some of her creations are hard to part with - I remember that Santa and Mrs. Claus were couch companions for many months until she finally had to turn them over for the Bazaar.  Raggedy Ann and Andy also took up residence for a while before making the trek to Creative Corner.  Don't you just love the hair on those two?

Be wary of admiring something in her house, or that she has given someone else - you will probably get one from her in the future.  So it was that I received these too-nice-to-use potholders.  If you look closely, you can see the delicate nature of the hooking - this was not done with the ergonomic handle and  I can only imagine the physical investment Mom made with these.  I am honored and I am hooked!

Linking to Embracing Change
Embracing Change

Linking to Mosaic Monday

Friday, July 14, 2017

Report: Week 19 of Retirement (or Man With Hat)

As long as I can remember, there has been the hat.  The hat that came with us on every vacation.    The hat that always has a whiff of insect repellent, sun cream and fish bait.  The hat that occasionally gets lovingly repaired.  Actually, I guess it would be more accurate to say that I remember the hat came after the kids.  Why?  Because my first real memory of the hat is Spousal Unit clapping it onto his head on the first day of a family trip, and declaring to me and the kids "Now we're on vacation."  And that catchphrase became the hallmark of every vacation since then.

Yorkshire Dales with my sister, my brother-in-law and
Man With Hat
So, does the catchphrase still have meaning now that we are on a 'permanent vacation'?  As I have pondered this, I have cast my mind back to those family trips and how I felt when Spousal Unit would utter his proclamation.  A warm glow would come over all of us in anticipation of new adventures and fun together as a family.  Adventure.  Fun.  Togetherness.  Laughter.  Later, as the kids got older, there was a shared look and smiles that communicated "There goes Padre again!"  And yet, there was comfort in this tradition that continued regardless of time and place and the number of changes that might be going on around us.

Man With Hat hiking Jewel Basin near Kalispell
Man With Hat on the Highline Trail in Glacier National Park
And so I have concluded that his droll catchphrase still has meaning for us in retirement, and maybe even more so.  Adventure.  Fun.  Togetherness.  Laughter.  Tradition.

Happy Birthday to my dear Spousal Unit.

If I Should Fall Behind

We said we'd walk together baby come what may
That come the twilight should we lose our way
If as we're walking a hand should slip free
I'll wait for you
And should I fall behind
Wait for me

We swore we'd travel darlin' side by side
We'd help each other stay in stride
But each lover's steps fall so differently
But I'll wait for you
And if I should fall behind
Wait for me

Now everyone dreams of love lasting and true
Oh, but you and I know what this world can do
So let's make our steps clear that the other may see
I'll wait for you
And if I should fall behind
Wait for me

Now there's a beautiful river in the valley ahead
There 'neath the oak's bough soon we will be wed
Should we lose each other in the shadow of the evening trees
I'll wait for you
Should I fall behind
Wait for me

Darlin' I'll wait for you
Should I fall behind
Wait for me
Yeah, I'll wait for you
Should I fall behind
Wait for me
I'll wait for you
Should I fall behind
Wait for me
© Downtown Music Publishing
For non-commercial use only

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Down the Riviera

Garden retreats are a balm for my soul, and one of my favorites has been lovingly created over several years by my dear in-laws.  As in many UK communities, Mom and Dad have access to allotments, which are garden plots that can be rented from the town council.  Unique in their case is the fact that their allotments are directly across the street from their front door.  The wonderful result is a view of their garden and the farm fields beyond.   

Mom and Dad were both raised in this mining village; their current home was built to provide housing for the miners and their families.   In the early days, they had one allotment and Dad's sole focus in the garden was supplementing the family table.  Spousal Unit describes a garden 'green with vegetables', replete with potatoes, huge onions, spring cabbage, Brussel sprouts, turnips, carrots, and mounds of beet root. (Of course, no English garden would be complete without strawberries.)  All of Dad's work in the garden was done by hand (no roto-tillers here!) as it is still done today.   During our recent visit, I had the good fortune to receive Dad's first tomato of the season - I like to tell Spousal Unit that he comes last after the grandkids and me!

The allotment (along with many others on the street) has been home for pets and animals as well.  Spousal Unit kept rabbits (Chuchyface, Blacky and Smoky) in the garden when he was a young boy.  Chuchyface ate mashed potatoes and yorkshire puddings!  When our expatriate assignment came to an end and we returned to the US, Mom and Dad cheerfully accepted the kids' two rabbits (Butterscotch and Sooty) and my guinea pig, Quiffy.  (During his time with Mom and Dad, I would say Quiffy even came ahead of the grandkids! He had an apartment in one of the sheds, and came into the house to stay in the back lobby if the winter nights were too cold.)  Number One Daughter (#1D) recalls how Quiffy learned to associate the opening of the garden gate with food, and that he would start to twitter as soon as he heard the sound. 

Currently, Dad looks after one hen for a lady who has an allotment down the street.  When we are visiting, I love going with Dad to put the hen in for the night and to check for eggs.  She always uses the same box and reliably produces one egg every other day.

A Young Samurai

Our kids also enjoyed the allotment.  If you were to notice some white specks on one of the sheds, most likely they are spit balls left over from vigorous fights between Dad and Number One Son (#1S).  #1S found some plastic tubes in the shed and hatched the idea of the spit ball fight.  Lo to anyone caught in the cross fire!!!  An orange tree planted by #1S from an orange pip still grows strong in either the shed or the greenhouse, and he also remembers digging a large hole in the garden because he could!  #1D has fond memories of pea and corn rice, accompanied by charcoal grilled sausages during barbecues. 

#1D with Nana's Squirrel

Many a day Mom and #1D would feed the farm horses carrots and apples (ultimately, Mom stopped this practice because the horses developed an appetite for her flowers just over the fence).  #1D will tell you that not all was rosy in paradise - she often had hay fever attacks during our visits ....

Over the years, Mom and Dad gained an adjoining allotment from a neighbor.  Eventually, Mom joined Dad in the garden and flowers as well as fruit trees were gradually added.  Mom's numerous bird feeders attract a wide variety of creatures.  Mom enjoys experimenting with a variety of flowers, and in true gardener fashion, divides some plants in order to augment other sections of the beds.  They both take great joy in 'pottering on', and it shows in the beauty and variety of the space. 
Ultimately, Mom and Dad added a sitting area in the garden, tucked behind one of the sheds.  From this corner of the allotment, you are far from the road, and have splendid views of the flowers, fruits and vegetables, as well as the horses in the field.  'Twitching' (watching the birds) is possible since the feeders are nearby.  You can truly imagine that you have been transported to another time and place.  So it was that some years ago, during one of our visits, the sitting area became known as 'the Riviera.'  Now, whenever we are home with Mom and Dad, going 'Down the Riviera' is one of our favorite past-times.
Abandoned blackbird nest

This blog post is dedicated to Mom and Dad and all those who apply elbow grease to make their allotments a place of harvest, beauty, serenity and family memories. 

Linking to Saturday Critters

Linking to Mosaic Monday

Saturday, July 1, 2017

My Hiking Journal – Entry 2

Tuesday, May 9 – South Spencer Trail – 4 miles out and back

This was the day I discovered the Calypso Orchid, and I am obsessed.

In many respects, this was not a great hike.  It was shorter than we planned, and became an out-and-back rather than a loop, all because logging had disrupted the trail so much it was indiscernible.  But, Number One Son was with us (bonus number one) and because we had to back track, Spousal Unit saw a bird fly out from the same spot twice.  Number One Son discovered the nest with four eggs (bonus number two).  I studied information on NestWatch, and this is most likely the nest of a Dark Eyed Junco.  Other possibilities are Brown Thrasher, Song Sparrow and Spotted Towhee.

It was the day for yellow flowers, as you can see in the collage below.

And then I saw the orchids (bonus number three).  A single grouping on a hillside.  Brilliant colors.  So ornate.  I could not wait to get home to look for more information about them.

Calypso is a genus of orchids containing one species, Calypso bulbosa, known as the calypso orchid, fairy slipper or Venus's slipper. It is a perennial member of the orchid family found in undisturbed northern and montane forests. It has a small pink, purple, pinkish-purple, or red flower accented with a white lip, darker purple spottings, and yellow beard. The genus Calypso takes its name from the Greek signifying concealment, as they tend to favor sheltered areas on conifer forest floors and bogs.  The fairy slipper requires specific mycorrhizal fungi to survive. 

Calypso bulbosa var. occidentalis, the Western Fairy Slipper, is found only in the Cascade mountain range and west of the Rockies in Alaska, British Columbia, Washington, Oregon, California, Idaho and Montana. It has a white beard and a lip that is heavily spotted with brownish-purple.

Maybe because it was early in the season, there was only the one grouping.  As you will see in future hiking journal entries, I saw many more in other locations.  Perhaps this was just meant to whet my appetite!

Linking to Mosaic Monday

Sunday, June 25, 2017

I love food (and this is why I run!)

I am not sure if I have so many photos of food because I am blogging (and I want to have pictures to post), because we eat out frequently, or because Spousal Unit is such a good cook and I love to document his masterpieces.  In any event, I think it is time to get some of these wonderful pictures into the public domain.  I am salivating even as I think about it!

Since we moved to Montana, we have been searching out new restaurants.  We especially enjoy venues that have outside dining.  One such find is the 406 Bar and Grill in Kalispell.  In addition to the fine patio, they have an eclectic food and martini menu.  What's not to like?

The next few pictures are from the kitchen of Spousal Unit.  Since retirement, I will offer recipe ideas from Pinterest, and he will execute the ones he likes.  Case in point: (left) Egg and Cheese Hash Brown Waffles and (below) Zuppa Toscana.  Of course, everything tastes better when eaten outside with a cup of fresh coffee!

Breakfast Burrito a la Spousal Unit
Other delectables, such as the burrito, are purely his creation.

Zuppa Toscana (recipe from Pinterest)

We are currently on holiday in the UK (visiting my in-laws and hosting my sister and her husband), and our visits here are never complete without sampling the wares of the local pubs.  And sample we have!  (When I was younger, I always heard that food in the UK is bland.  Clearly, people must have been visiting another country!)

Can you tell that we like pies (the savory kind?)

We have been enjoying the great British past-time of walking (hiking) with my sister and her husband; the public footpath system in the UK offers an unparalleled opportunity to see the countryside.  My sister's phone tracks the number of steps and elevation gain (in the form of flights of stairs) that she does each day.  Our record walking day culminated in 26,101 steps: 11.2 miles and 22 floors.  I think we earned our food each day - what do you say?

Back at home, we had been aching to try out the Kila Pub (yes, another pub - but this one's in Kila, Montana), and we finally had our chance a few weeks ago.  (It is the closest restaurant to our future home and we want to give it a lot of support to ensure its ongoing existence.)  And we were not disappointed.  The food and the drinks and the VIEW were all tailor made for a Friday afternoon!

As you may have figured out, these delicious dishes are (mostly) timed for days when we are going hiking/have been hiking and we can afford the calorie count.  If that is not the case, I will work in a 6-mile run.  The delight of the eating is worth the effort of the workout!

Linking to Mosaic Monday

Sunday, June 18, 2017

For the love of a cat (who doubles as Houdini)

Miss Maggie
Since arriving at our new home in Whitefish, we have had a child gate installed on the stairs to keep the cats from going into the carpeted areas of the house.  (For those of you who have been reading this blog since its inception, you will know that we have two cats – Maggie, a 16-year old veteran who lords it over Josie, 2 years her junior.  Maggie persists with her dominance despite her advanced age and an obvious hitch in one of her hips.)  The gate is partly for our benefit (avoids the necessity to clean cat puke and other secretions from the carpet) and partly for Maggie’s benefit – we don’t think it’s good for her hips to use the stairs, and she is already at a low weight. 

Miss Josie

Despite the gate, we have discovered Josie upstairs numerous times.  It was a question for the ages.  Was she jumping the gate?  Squeezing through it?  Bumping the gate until the spring released? 

While puzzling over this, it occurred to us that maybe she was feeling restricted and bored.  (It should be noted that we were also finding litter on the black kitchen countertops each morning – she was clearly jumping up on them at night to get to higher ground.)  So, we decided young Josie needed a cat tree.  With time on our hands and the budget of the retired on our minds, we determined that we would build our own cat tree rather than resort to PetSmart.

The Web yielded a few reasonable ideas (for those with no fingers and all thumbs). 

We looked for a used step ladder at the ReStore, but no luck there had us in Lowe’s to buy our raw goods (and Spousal Unit gets all the credit for the measurements, etc. to make sure the thing would actually go together!)  Below are several pictures of the tree in progress.
In the garage

Ladder complete
Fabric added to platform

Platforms attached to ladder

And I am pleased to say that Josie is using the tree – see below.

Linking to Mosaic Monday

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