Winter. Ugh. Tea, syrup, and sunsets. Good.

Winter is not my favorite season, not even close. The kids were supposed to go back to school last Tuesday after their “winter” break. They went a total of one day. So far, this week is starting off with a bang, too. There’s a two-hour delay this morning, because we had freezing rain for most of the night. I looked outside, and it looks like about a half-inch of solid ice coating everything. I doubt that’s going to melt anytime soon. I’m surprised that we still have electricity and internet. I suspect that the end result will be a call in an hour or so canceling the remainder of the day as well. Yippee. Hallelujah. Where’s the Tylenol?

There are very few things that I like about winter. Fires in the fireplace are nice, but you can’t have one when it’s in the single digits, because then you’re just sending your expensive heat up the chimney, for the most part. Sunrises and sunsets can be extraordinary, especially here in the flatlands with no hills to block out the view. I love a brilliant red sunset with bare tree branches silhouetted in the distance. Red sunrises, if you believe the old sailor’s warning, can spell trouble later in the day (like yesterday), but they make the sky look as if it’s on fire. That’s something wonderful to watch while you drink your morning coffee.

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Sunset

Since we, mostly David, started producing maple syrup three years ago, that has become one of my favorite things about winter. We had been buying syrup from local producers in the adjoining county, which has an abundance of maple trees, but when David retired and was looking for a project, a friend who was visiting from Michigan suggested he try making syrup. Being an engineer by profession, he researched and designed and planned the heck out of his new hobby. A good strategy, of course, and it has paid off very well. His first year was the learning year, but he still managed to make quite a lot and sell a lot at the local farmer’s market. Last year, he designed a reverse osmosis system to remove about 50% of the water to speed up the evaporation process. He made 17 gallons of beautiful amber liquid gold, even though it was a short season. Ironically, he couldn’t sell it at the market, because there was no time due to the moving, so we had a LOT to give away to friends and family, and for our own use. We use it to sweeten pretty much everything that doesn’t require sugar for structure, such as cookies.

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The made in the USA evaporator doing its work.

Probably my favorite thing about winter is tea. I love hot tea, all kinds. I can’t really drink it in the summer, because it makes me break out in a sweat. Coffee doesn’t, but hot tea does. I don’t know why.

Black tea (Lipton’s is the best), rooibos, herbal, fruity blends, cinnamon-y ones. Coffee is my wake-up call. I set the pot to be ready in the morning, so when I head down the stairs, I can smell it wafting up to me, calling my name. But tea saves me from killing people who are stuck inside because of bad weather. I can drink it all day long.

My favorites right now include loose teas that I bought from Tea Forte´. African Solstice, English Breakfast, and Earl Grey, which is amazing. If you’ve never used loose Earl Grey, you haven’t really experienced it.  I also love their cute individual tea pyramids. I bought their Kati brewing system, the one with the birds. It doesn’t have a handle, but it’s double-walled, so the tea stays hot longer. Tazo faves are Zen and organic baked cinnamon apple. Then there’s Yogi Detox and Stress Relief. Good Earth Sweet and Spicy. Lemon and Raspberry Zingers and Sleepytime from Celestial Seasonings. Yep, there’s a whole cabinet shelf dedicated to tea. It’s my winter blahs therapy.

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Sunrise, Butler County

BTW, they just called to say school is canceled.

See you soon,

Susan

Addendum: I should really reread my previous posts, as I duplicated some maple syrup talk in this one. Oh well. It’s good stuff and bears repeating. 🙂

Random musings—mostly food

I wish I could like quinoa

I’ve tried quinoa. In fact, I have a Pinterest board that I titled “It’s pronounced KEEN-wah!” The pictures look beautiful, and it’s so healthy for you. I tried it once, and that was enough for me. There is something about the texture that makes me shudder. That little pop/crunch when you bite into it. It’s probably the same reason that I don’t like caviar. I also don’t like the slight sweetness. I’m not sure why I don’t delete the board on Pinterest. Maybe it makes me look more interesting, or healthy, or something.

I wish I didn’t love sugar

You know it’s bad when you start wanting dessert after breakfast. I almost always eat a healthy breakfast. It’s usually one of three things: plain yogurt with dried cranberries (or fresh fruit in season), my homemade muesli, toasted slivered almonds, and a touch of granola for sweetness; steel-cut oatmeal with walnuts, cinnamon, raisins, and maple syrup; or, unsweetened boxed cereal, fortified with muesli, nuts, and a little granola. Occasionally I will have eggs and toast, or pancakes with our homemade maple syrup. But, when you’re done with breakfast and immediately think about having a cookie, that’s bad. I haven’t done it yet, but it’s tough resisting.

As I told my friend Bella, I’m my own worst enemy. The holiday season starts me off with a bang. I try not to bake much during the year, except for birthdays and special occasions. I don’t like having the temptation around. I know I can’t resist the sugary delights. I will nibble and munch my way through hundreds of calories before I realize what I’ve done. Then comes Thanksgiving with the array of pies—pumpkin, pecan, apple. I never used to like pecan pie. Too sweet, I said. Until a few years ago. Now, I really like it. I really, really like it.

Then, of course, Christmas with all the cookies, fudge, gifts of candy from other people. I thought I got rid of all of that by sending it away with other people. So, what do I do? I made brownies the other day “for the kids.” Who can resist a slightly warm brownie? Or two. The next day, yesterday, I decided I had better use the bag of cranberries in the crisper drawer before they went bad, so I made streusel-topped cranberry pecan muffins. They were a big hit. Especially with me. I had two while they were still warm from the oven. The crunch from the sweet streusel combined with the soft cake and tartness of the cranberries. Oh my goodness. The good news is I probably won’t have any this morning, because I really only like them when they’re fresh.

Rachael Ray owes me for dinner

While perusing the January/February 2015 EveryDay with Rachael Ray, I came across the recipe for “Turkey or Veal Meatball Stroganoff.” It looked delicious, and sounded achievable, even for cooks with less experience than I have, which is to say, I feel that I’m a pretty good cook with years and years of experience in the kitchen. I should have trusted my instincts in at least one stage of the recipe. It said to soak the fresh breadcrumbs in milk while preparing the rest of the ingredients, and then to squeeze the excess milk from the breadcrumbs before adding them to the turkey mixture. Have you ever tried to do that? It’s virtually impossible to have anything but a big soggy, slimy mess. I maybe got a tablespoon of milk out of it. Fighting my instinct to start all over with dry breadcrumbs, I added the mess to the other mess, and, voila, ended up with a big sloppy bowl of turkey goo. There was no way to “roll walnut-sized meatballs” with my hands, so I used my little cookie scoop and plopped them into the hot frying pan, whereupon, they immediately became “meat flats” (from my friend Cindy), instead of balls. At this point, I’m thinking, there is no way on earth that these grandkids are going to eat this. I wasn’t even sure that I wanted to try it.

I had doubled the recipe, because it served four and we have seven people here. So, it took forever and a day to fry all of those “meat flats.” I had to keep the finished ones warm in the toaster oven while I finished the rest. To make a long story even longer, the sauce was thin, the sour cream wouldn’t incorporate well, and well, the meatballs had a weird texture. Big surprise. Oddly enough, the kids ate what was on their plates, with Kaitlyn even pronouncing that she loved the meatballs. What??? This is the kid who complains about everything I put on the table, if it isn’t pizza, spaghetti (no sauce), or plain rice. Go figure. I thought it was barely okay, and vowed to never make the recipe again. Or, in any case, I would do it my way, with ground beef, and no soaked breadcrumbs. And it definitely took longer than thirty minutes, especially the cleanup. Rachael, you failed me.

It’s almost maple syrup time

David is getting his “sugar shack” (see header picture) ready for the sap when it starts to flow. Last year, his second, on the Bear Swamp property, he made seventeen gallons of beautiful, delicious liquid gold. He had planned to sell most of it at our local farmer’s market. In fact, he joined and paid his dues, but with the moving of two houses, there was just not enough time to go even once. We had plenty of syrup for our family, plus lots of giveaways to friends and extended family, four gallons of which went to the old farmer on whose property he bowhunts. Mr. Eugene has diabetes, and he swears that since he started using maple syrup for all his sweetening, he’s been able to keep his blood sugar counts under control. That’s a lot of syrup for one man to use in a year’s time. Even with all the giveaways, David managed to sell almost $400 worth.

We’re hoping this year’s weather will cooperate and give a bounty of sap. We don’t have as many maple trees on this property, but our next-door neighbor has eleven acres, and they told him he could tap all he wants. Plus, our former neighbor and friend is letting him tap trees there, as he has done the past two years. And the couple who bought our house is letting him tap there, so it all depends on Mother Nature.

Speaking of Mother Nature

It’s -5°F here in central Ohio this morning, with a wind chill of -22°. They cancelled school again this week. Tuesday, which was supposed to be their first day back from Christmas break, was cancelled due to icy road conditions and snow. So, January is starting out like a bitch. Let’s hope it isn’t as bad as last January. Our furnace is pretty much running non-stop. We don’t have the wood-burning insert now, just a fireplace, which is so inefficient. We won’t even have a fire when it’s this cold, because you send more heat up the chimney than you actually get in benefit. I really miss that woodburner. Hurry up, Spring!

See you soon,

Susan

SIMPLE MUESLI

4 1/2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats

1/2 cup flaxseed

1/2 cup oat bran

1/2 cup toasted wheat germ

1/2 cup sliced almonds

1/2 cup dried Zante currants, raisins, or your choice of dried fruit (I prefer the currants)

1/4 cup brown sugar

Toss all together in a gallon Ziploc bag and store in airtight container.

Into the Woods

There are so many movies out right now that I’m dying to see. I had planned to visit the theatre and indulge more than once over the holidays, but with one thing and another, it didn’t happen. However, I did take Nathan (11) and Kaitlyn (9) to see “Into the Woods” yesterday.

Knowing how complicated Stephen Sondheim’s lyrics can sometimes be, I wondered if they would be able to follow the story and not be bored. I certainly wasn’t bored. I’ve never seen the Broadway musical. Didn’t really even know that much about it, other than it was written by Sondheim, and that it had quite the long run on Broadway.

If you love musicals, as I do, you will love this one. The lyrics are delicious and definitely keep you on your toes. It intertwines the lives of a baker and his wife, who desperately want a child, with a witch who lives next door. Unbeknownst to them, the witch had placed a curse on the baker’s parents when he was a child, because the baker’s father (also a baker) had stolen greens and veggies from her garden. Also part of the story are the stories of Cinderella, Rapunzel, Little Red Riding Hood, and Jack and the Beanstalk. Somehow, the baker and his wife must gather four items from each of these characters to give to the witch so that she can remove the curse.

The casting is superb, starting with the wonderful Meryl Streep as the witch. She tears up the scenery with her performance and has two showcase songs that she performs beautifully. The baker is played by an actor who I hadn’t heard of before, James Corden. He is kind of hapless, and wouldn’t get far without his take-charge, but gentle, wife, played by Emily Blunt. Cinderella is played by Anna Kendrick. Chris Pine makes a perfect Prince Charming who can sometimes be not-quite-so charming. Christine Baranski is Cinderella’s stepmother. Her scenes with the two step-sisters are too funny. Tracey Ullmann plays Jack’s mother. It was nice to see her again in a role that suited her to a tee.

Johnny Depp is a perfect Big Bad Wolf. A little too perfect, in my opinion. The song he sings is creepy, and brings to mind child molestation. I’m sure I’m not the only person viewing it who has had the same feeling. The play was first performed in 1987, and maybe that particular song didn’t have the same connotations that it does now, but for my part they could have left that one out. I was very uncomfortable listening to it.

All of the actors do their own singing, and they sing wonderfully. The most classically trained is Anna Kendrick, which was a surprise. She is best known for her role in the Twilight Saga movies, but she was also nominated for a Tony for her work in “High Society.” Emily Blunt who was not known for her singing abilities has a lovely voice. My favorite was Lilla Crawford who played Little Red Riding Hood. She was droll and funny and held her own against Johnny Depp’s Big Bad Wolf. She’s an actress to watch for. This was her first feature film.

In the movie theatre, I just happened to be seated by a woman who was obviously enjoying it as much as I was. After the credits rolled, I asked her if she had ever seen the musical on stage. She not only had seen it numerous times, but she had also acted in it in local productions as the witch and the baker’s wife! That was her second viewing of the movie. She said that it was very good, and they had only cut a small part. It was long, over two hours. It was a nice little bonus chatting with her.

So, I’m sure you get the idea that I loved the movie, but I was still a little concerned that the kids were bored with it. I think Kaitlyn was a little bit during a couple of the longer numbers, but Nathan gave it two thumbs up. He looked a little surprised when I asked him if he liked it. Grammy, he said, I never thought I would say this, but it just replaced “Frozen” as my number two movie of all time. Number one is Big Hero Six. Now you can’t get much higher praise than that.

See you soon,

Susan

I don’t make resolutions

Can it really be the last day of 2014? For a year that started out horribly wrong, it has ended up being peaceful and good. We made some huge changes this year. We moved our daughter and her four children in with us, which we soon realized necessitated another big change, finding a house that would accommodate seven people comfortably. We sold two houses and bought this one, and nearly worked ourselves to a frazzle in the process. David lost about twenty pounds, and I lost ten or twelve, half of which I’ve gained back. But I expected that. I was physically working at an ungodly pace, and was usually too tired to eat much of anything at the end of the day.

Life has taken on a new normal. We never expected, at this stage of our lives, to be helping raise four grandchildren. It’s a trial some days, but for the most part, it has been a breeze. They are great kids, and the toddler has given us a new lease on life. He keeps us moving and motivated, and best of all, he makes us laugh all the time. And our hearts melt with love every time we hold him on our laps. He’s teaching us as much as we’re teaching him.

Having him around has been especially good for David. When our children were young, he worked and traveled a lot, so he missed so much of their growing up. He’s getting a second chance now, and enjoying every minute. His little shadow follows him everywhere.

I don’t make resolutions, but if I did, I would make these:

  1. I will be more patient. Sometimes I tend to be testy, especially if someone has asked me the same thing ten times, and the answer is still the same as it was on the first asking.
  2. I will not let things and happenings take over my own good sense. Scale back, sit down, and let it be “good enough.”
  3. I will spend more time with my friends, including couple friends. I don’t need to be here all the time. Most of the people in this house are pretty self-sufficient, except for the toddler, and he has plenty of people around him that will see to his needs.
  4. Get more real exercise. I know, everyone puts this one on their list. I’m busy and moving most of the time, but it isn’t the real thing, and I know it, and my butt knows it. If I want to be around to see these grandkids reach their full potential, I’ve got to do something about it, and not just say there’s always tomorrow. We all know tomorrow never comes.

That’s it. My theoretical resolution list. Not too unachievable, I think. I’m not even going to wait until tomorrow. I’m starting today.

Happy New Year to all of you! Thank you for being here!

Random Christmas musings

I have tried to write two posts in the last week, both of which have ended up who knows where. Here is my third attempt. We shall see if it actually happens.

Superwoman is felled by nasty common cold virus.

Sick two days before Christmas with the nastiest cold I have had in a long time. I could barely raise my head from my pillow. There was still a mountain of gifts to be wrapped in the basement, hardly any of the food for the Christmas Eve Party was made, the house was a mess…I was panicking, when I could think straight. Finally, on Christmas Eve morning, I felt like taking a shower and getting dressed, but I knew there was no way I could complete all of the party foods on my extensive menu, so that was my first red pencil act, slashing the new appetizers I had planned to try, and trimming some of the cookie choices (thank goodness I had made some in advance). Then the hard decision of uninviting our friends and former neighbors, and the family who bought our old house. They were very understanding, and made offers of help, which I turned down. I knew I would barely be able to be presentable for my family, much less for anyone else.

I managed to get the pork shoulder browned on the grill and into the Crockpot, and spent the next five hours wrapping gifts, hoping that our son and grandsons didn’t show up too soon. I made it through the pile, and got everything organized for the Eve openings, and the gifts to be opened at home. There was plenty of food, even enough to send home with our son, and to take to my in-laws the next day. David just had a told-you-so look on his face, because he had tried to get me to cut back even before I got sick. My face just said shut your pie hole.

Macs are wonderful until they’re not

We’ve had this MacBook for four years, and had never had a moment’s trouble with it, except having to replace a battery about two months ago. Until last week. Because of my cold, I thought I had better clean the keyboard before handing it over to David on Christmas Eve morning. Forgetting everything I knew (my brain was a little muzzy from the snot buildup), I used a disinfectant wipe on it without turning off the computer. Big NO-NO! David since surmised that it’s possible that all of the errant and random keystrokes must have made it lose its mind. Things were going everywhere. Screens jumping back and forth, losing posts and comments in the middle of writing them, the screen getting larger and smaller all on its own, and other weird happenings. It was impossible to control, so I just gave up and hung my head in shame. It still isn’t quite back to normal. I’ve had a bit of a challenge getting this post written, as it randomly jumps the cursor to a different place in the text while I’m typing, so if you see some random words inserted in places where they shouldn’t be, don’t blame me, blame the Clorox wipe.

Christmas happens whether you’re ready or not

Thankfully, I managed to get the bare minimum done, and stayed on my feet until all the gifts that I spent five hours wrapping were opened in fifteen minutes by six insane kids. Well, the older four did theirs in that time, the two younger ones were overwhelmed and had to be helped. They had plenty of that, because the older ones had nothing to do after they tore through their own piles. By this time the toddler was showing signs of being sick as well. We had to start his asthma breathing treatments, so he wouldn’t end up in the emergency room. By 9:00 p.m., he and I were out like the Christmas lights.

On Christmas morning David and I always go to his parents. They don’t like to travel in winter, and we don’t want them to be alone on Christmas. When we had talked about going a week before, the toddler overheard and started jumping up and down, saying, “Go to Ge-ma’s and Ge-pa’s house! Go in car!” Of course, he thought we were leaving that minute, so it took a bit of convincing that we would take him along when it was time.

So, not having had time to get anything ready in the days before Christmas, we had to pack clothes, food, and gifts (which I didn’t even get wrapped, but they don’t care anyway) into the truck. At the last minute, Kaitlyn decided that she didn’t want to be left at home (a decision that she would later regret), so we had to wait for her to get her things ready, and decide which toys she would take. All the while, Joshie (the toddler) is standing at the door yelling “Ge-ma’s and Ge-pa’s house!” over and over. And it was raining, so David couldn’t even take him outside to run off a little steam.

We finally got on the road, and as usual on Christmas day, there was no traffic. There were also no restaurants open for a three hour trip, except a Pizza Hut Express in a truck stop. I faintly remember the same thing happening the previous year, but not in time to plan accordingly. The pizza was awful—too much cheese that wasn’t baked thoroughly, the sausage was gross, just ugh. We ate enough to keep from starving, and put the rest in the back of the truck to take to the in-laws. They think frozen box pizza is just fine, so…

When we arrived at the in-laws’ house, and after graciously handing them the plastic bag wrapped gifts, I had to immediately throw myself into dinner preparations. My father-in-law wanted lasagna, which was sounding less and less appealing, especially after the “Italian” lunch we had just had, but I soldiered on and finally produced a reasonable facsimile of his beloved lasagna by 6:30. By then, everyone was starving, because they’re used to eating earlier, so it was highly praised, except by David and me (we could barely stand to look at it), and Kaitlyn, who decided plain noodles looked pretty good to her. Joshie just ate some cereal and some of the bread.

David’s cousin George and his wife Linda, one of my best friends, stopped by while we were eating, and stayed for a few hours. I hadn’t seen them in quite a while, so I was happy for their visit, but I wasn’t able to clean up the kitchen, and Joshie had to have his breathing treatment, which makes him wild enough to shoot at. So, after having only a five minute nap in the truck, five minutes before we arrived, he was up, running around like a little banshee, until they left at 9:00 p.m. It took me another hour to get him settled down enough to go to bed. I managed to get a cover on the lasagna pan and get it shoved into the fridge, and get the plates into the dishwasher before I laid down with him. I fell asleep before he did, while he was still chattering away about airplanes and monster trucks and goats and Santy Caus and Let It Go (lay it go in toddler speak.)

Frozen is just another word for mind control

We made the mistake of letting Joshie watch the Disney movie Frozen a few weeks ago. Now it’s all he thinks about. “Watch Lay It Go!” We hear this at least ten times a day. He’s two and he knows a lot of the songs, and sings them, in tune. We have to watch it at least once a day. Aimee took him for his annual well-check on the Monday before Christmas, and his doctor was pleased with how smart he is and how he’s growing, and he cautioned that he should get no more than two hours of screen time a day. He asked if we were sticking to that guideline, and Aimee agreed that we were. At home, she added, “If you don’t count Frozen.”

I understand his fascination. I’m kind of in love with the movie myself. I’ve always loved a good musical, and this one has some very good songs. Memorable songs. The kinds of songs that wake you up at three in the morning with the lyrics running through your brain on a constant loop. Did I mention mind control? And this Disney princess movie is based on a story by Hans Christian Anderson, The Snow Queen. It doesn’t have just one princess heroine, but TWO, and they’re beautiful. One funny and clumsy, one sad and tragic, but loving and sacrificing for her sister. I have to confess, when it’s on, I sing right along with them, and catch new little nuances every time. The writers and artists were very clever in that.

Really, I’m almost done

So, I survived another Christmas. I’m hoping I can invite my friends over on New Year’s Eve for a few of the things that I wasn’t able to make for Christmas Eve. I’m not inviting them yet, because I don’t want to jinx things. I’m nearly back to normal, whatever normal is, and the toddler is off the treatments, and back to his toddler self. Unfortunately, I think one of us gave Ge-ma our cold. She seemed to be starting symptoms last evening, when David called to let them know we arrived home safely. I feel guilty about that. But then it wouldn’t be Christmas without some kind of guilt floating around me.

Here’s wishing all of you a belated Merry Christmas! And a very happy New Year!

Random musings

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Elf on the Shelf

In a moment of madness a couple of weeks ago, I succumbed to the current craze of Elf on the Shelf and bought one of the little buggers from a display at Kroger. I was inspired by all of the photos and ideas that people have posted on Pinterest. I was pinning cute and clever Elf ideas right and left—hundreds of them. Literally. Some of them sure to wow my live-in grandkids, especially if they thought I came up with the ideas myself, and who would be crazy enough to disillusion them? Then I started running into blog posts about how the Elf nearly drove the parents crazy. They would be settling into slumber, having finally gotten the overexcited and overstimulated youngsters into their own beds for the night, when suddenly they would realize that they forgot to set up the new Elf scenario for the following morning! So, they would have to get up and create some elaborate Elf shenanigans so that Junior wouldn’t be disappointed when he rubbed the sleep out of his eyes.

I hadn’t yet taken the Elf out of the clever hiding place in the car, and I still had the receipt. I decided right then and there to save myself the month-long aggravation, and I returned the Elf to his rightful retail owners the very next day. The kiddos will never know any differently, unless, of course, they read my blog, and I don’t imagine that happening until they are well out of their Elf on the Shelf years.

Letting go

Decorating the Christmas tree is usually an activity that I look forward to each year. I have lots of beautiful glass ornaments that I have collected over the years (some are just memories), and I like to place them just so. I have to admit that I haven’t been quite as eager to get it done the last few years for various reasons. We got a new tree this year. A 9 1/2 foot tree to replace the 6 1/2 foot one. Yes, they’re fake. The last cut tree we brought home, meaning we went to a farm and cut it ourselves, got so dry by Christmas Day that the needles fell off by the handful if you accidentally brushed by it. The possibility of it catching fire and burning down the house scared me so much that I haven’t bought a “fresh” one since.

Anyway, decorating the tree has been the sole occupation of myself since day one of our marriage. Until this year. The live-in grandkids wanted to help. The oldest is thirteen, then there’s the eleven-year-old, the nine-year-old, and the toddler. The toddler was safely napping, so I said what the heck. Have at it. I knew I would micro-manage, so I took my knitting and a cup of tea and sat in the living room while they did the decorating with some help from their mom and her boyfriend. It was the most relaxed I’ve ever been during tree decorating, and I must say, they didn’t do too badly. They took into consideration that the toddler(s) would be VERY interested, and placed delicate ornaments up high or in the back, and sure enough, the toddler has since decorated the bottom third of the tree several times. Every day, actually. But it’s okay. I’m chill with it.

Speaking of knitting

I’m trying to teach myself to knit. It’s painful sometimes, both literally (carpal tunnel and arthritis) and figuratively. I’ve found a very helpful video series or two, but they can’t see what I’m doing and correct my mistakes. There’s a knitting class at the library, but it’s held at an inconvenient time for me to attend, and I don’t know anyone who knits who could help me, so for now, I’m on my own. I started out using a knitting loom, which is kind of fun and really fast, but it’s not real knitting, you know. I want to hear the click of the needles as I whirr speedily through a scarf or hat or mittens. I think I’ve mastered the garter stitch, and I’m attempting a scarf for Nathan, the eleven-year-old. He wanted bright orange, his favorite color, but I had this crazy bright ombre with orange in it, and he went crazy for it, so that’s what he’s getting. It’s coming along pretty well, but I dropped a stitch on one side the other day and couldn’t figure out how to pick it back up, so it’s a little funky right there, but Nate didn’t mind. It’s also quite sturdy, and I’m not sure why. It could be I’m knitting too tightly and the yarn is a bulky one, so maybe I should be using larger needles? Well, too late to go back and start over with bigger ones. I’m halfway done. If it doesn’t work out as a scarf, he can use it as a snuggly at bedtime. He’s very into soft, snuggly things. He never carried around a “bankie”, so I suppose he’s making up for it now.

There’s music in our house

We have two music students living here. Kaitlyn is taking piano lessons on a piano that we bought from the previous owners for $100, because they didn’t want to pay to have it moved. It’s kind of beat up, but it has a very nice sound. We love her teacher, Miss Emily, whom I found on Facebook before I quit going there. She’s been taking lessons since the first of October, and already had her first performance. It was last Saturday at the local art league. Miss Emily is a member there, and all her piano students performed for the people who were wandering through the open house. Mostly the audience was made up of proud parents and grandparents and siblings, some of whom are also taking lessons. The piano there is even older than ours, and in worse shape. The middle C sticks, so Kaity was a little frustrated while playing Jingle Bells and We Three Kings, but she handled it with aplomb, and Miss Emily kept smiling through the whole recital, so everybody was happy.

Our other music student is Nathan. He has not been a joiner of things. He hasn’t liked sports ever since he tried soccer when he was three, and wouldn’t go out onto the field, because he didn’t want to fall down in front of people. We’ve tried to encourage him to try different things without so much as an “I’ll think about it.” I’ve been talking up band for a couple of years. About how much fun it is in high school to ride the bus to football games and competitions. Of course, I left out the part about freezing your butt off during the games, but he’ll find that out in a few years. I enthusiastically waxed poetic about the idea of being part of an organization, and how you sometimes make lifelong friends. Anyway, something I said worked, or some of his friends were going for it, or something, and he decided he wanted to try band this year in sixth grade.

Nate wears braces, and he wanted to play clarinet at first. We went to the music store and one of the clarinet experts demonstrated one for him, but I think he was discouraged by the complexity of it. The young lady working out front also happens to be a trumpet player and asked him to give it a try. We were concerned about his being able to play because of the braces, but she and his band teacher assured us that he would be able to adjust. The clincher was the fact that Ohio State only has brass and no woodwinds in their marching band.

At first, as with most novice band students, the sounds coming out of it were enough to make one want to stick one’s head under a thick pillow. After about two weeks of band class, Nate was getting very discouraged and wanted to quit like some of his classmates had done, but we encouraged him by telling him that every music student goes through this and that it would get better. It wasn’t a week until the sounds coming out of the horn actually started sounding like music! He was playing MUSIC! Now he loves it, and the band had their winter concert this week. They sounded great, actually better than my lame high school band sounded back in my day. At the end, the band director even let them play “Let’s Go Band!”, which is their favorite, because they get to shout the title at the end of each stanza. It was awesome, and he is truly hooked. Let’s go band!

See you soon,

Susan