Category Archives: Family time

The Wanderers Have Returned -8/28/18

Our vacation to Hawaii was both wonderful and fraught with stress.  Between cancelled and delayed flights we lost the Priority Boarding and extended leg room for tall hubby that we had paid extra to have, and resulted in late boarding and often very poor seating in both directions.  We were able to get a refund for the additional fees after arriving home.  While away, we had a family emergency back home that isn’t my story to tell, but that seems to be resolving hopefully.  The pending hurricane while in Hawaii was also stressful.  Though some parts of islands were badly damaged by flood waters from the heavy rain, though the storm was to the west of us and we were on the west side of the island, it was the east side that got slammed by the rain, we only had lighter rain and high rough surf.

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East side of O’ahu, first half of week, sunrises.

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Steep volcanic mountains behind the house.  These mountains are where Jurrasic movies and Jumanji were filmed.

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Lush Airbnb in Kona Hawaii where we spent second half of week. Luxury, pool, gardens.  Thanks to our family members who arranged this.

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Desolate beauty in the lava fields of Hawaii.

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Heavy surf from the hurricane off the coast.

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And the gorgeous sunset from a second floor open restaurant also from the storm off the coast.

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A new treat, that fortunately we can’t get here, or I would blow up like a balloon in weight.  It is Hawaiian Shave Ice.  A conical shaped cup half filled with shave ice (it doesn’t have a “D” on the end to make it shaved), a scoop of vanilla ice cream, more shave ice, up to three syrup flavors of your choice, molded into the rounded shape, and topped if you desire with various other toppings.  Served with a spoon and a straw.  They were enjoyed several times on Kona.

Back home after the delays and cancellations and more than 25 hours of airport and air flight time just to get home, we are still jet lagged even after two days home.

The garden had reverted to a weedy mess in 10 days and the first day home was spent weed whacking the aisles, hand weeding the beds, removing blister beetles, picking the too big cucumbers for the chickens, grabbing a few tomatoes and a pumpkin out of the garden.  Day two was spent on the riding mower, reducing the very tall lawn to a manageable length after the 10 days away and rainfall while we were gone.

The driveway took a hit from the rain, the blade is going to have to be afixed to the tractor and some grading done.  The two currently unused chicken pens are more than waist high in weedy growth, another weed whacking session is needed or to borrow a couple of goats (not really an option unfortunately.)  Sometimes, I think a couple of goats would be great to have to reduce some of the overgrowth in areas that can’t be mowed.

The Asian Pears and tiny misshapen apples are ripe.  This evening the apples will be pressed into cider and some cider frozen for winter.  Some of the Asian Pears are going to be made into a couple of batches of jam.  I would like to press the rest into pear cider, but lack my own press.

The fog is finally lifting, so some more yardwork is in order.

Love being home on our mountain farm.

Away and back – 8/10/18

My visit with my siblings is over.  Instead of the one night I was going to stay, because I finished the deck wood cleanup  on Tuesday, I chose to stay for two nights.  Several of us walked up the mountain to where my Dad’s ashes are scattered and we laid flowers there, had a few quiet reflective moments, shed a few tears and hiked back down.

The group this year was small, my brother and sister in law, their younger son, his wife, and their two sons, my sister and her young adult granddaughter, a family friend, and me.  We played some games, chatted, enjoyed an adult beverage or two (not the two littles but all of the adults), ate, laughed, cried, and had each other to lean on emotionally and harrass as siblings do for a few days.

Home by lunch time today, a quick trip back out to deliver the Friday eggs and to haul the trailer a few towns over to pick up the riding mower, back to our community to  the Ag Fair to take my two knitted items for the judging tonight and the display tomorrow.  Tomorrow, we will go back to the Fair and enjoy some of the fair exhibits, demonstrations, and food.

If it is possible to be both tired and refreshed, I guess that is where I am. Below is Crenshaw, the cottage the family has used the first full week in August since my younger brother was a little dude.  Now we are all senior citizens, the patriarchs are all remembered on the plaques in the header, I am now the oldest of the clan.

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I did some knitting and finished reworking the fingerless mitt pattern and the sample pair.

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My sister is my hand model and I think she wanted to take them home.  Maybe a pair will show up in Kansas.

 

 

Sunday Was Not A Day of Rest – 7/16/18

The young one was still complaining of a belly ache and spent the day resting and sleeping on the couch in the midst of the household chaos.  He and his granddad, who also didn’t feel well were the only ones who rested and worked at recovery.

Sausage gravy and biscuits were made, but only son and I ate them. Daughter and her two littles arrived just before 10 a.m. with a flat of jars.  Everyone was Deep Woods Off sprayed, given pails of varying description and off we went to pick enough berries to make a batch of jam.  The littlest, almost 7 year old ate everything she picked.  The eleven year old ate about half of what he picked, but daughter and I were able to accumulate enough berries that after we picked over them and crushed them, we had almost 8 cups, enough for about a double recipe of wildberry jam.  While the jars heated in the canner, sandwiches were made for all who wanted one and once that was out of the way, the berry jam was started, jarred, and water bathed.

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We ended up with eight 12 oz jars of wildberry jam for her.  One was left uncanned, back left for them to begin enjoying and so it didn’t have to be canned in two batches.  My water bath canner holds 7 narrow mouth pints, the big pressure canner holds 10, but it also tends to bubble over when you fill it an inch above the lids to water bath, so we only canned 7 for her pantry shelves and one she took home in hand to put in the refrigerator.  The remaining 7 will be taken over to her house today along with a hat that was left behind.

About two years ago, the top boards on our large south facing deck began to decay and I put a foot through a board one day while out watering deck plants.  In an attempt to keep with the green building theme that we had adopted while building the house, the deck was built with borate treated wood instead of pressure treated wood and we later found out that it should be under roof to make it last.  It isn’t under roof, it gets wet and it bakes, getting too hot to enjoy on a summer day.  We began replacing the rotting boards with pressure treated ones, but then it became apparent a year ago that the entire top needed replacing and we began looking into Trex or one of it’s competitors for durability and so it didn’t have to be restained every couple of years.  Deconstruction was begun but with his schedule, it sat over the winter.  His wife worked on it some while she was here farm sitting in February, and he attacked it yesterday with intent. To help speed things along, I joined him to stack boards that were to be burned, removed nails, screws, and brackets from boards.  Also I was cutting boards to a length to fit in a burn barrel and cutting out sections that were still sound, though they were few and far between, most of the boards are rotted to mulch consistency.  Unfortunately, removing the boards, we realize that the joists are also bad for the top couple of inches, so it looks like we will be starting over.  I hate this for son, he built the deck for us, reinforcing it with hurricane brackets and making it solid and large and we enjoyed it for about a decade.  As the day wore on, with us working together in the heat (both of us are fair, so it is long pants, long sleeves, and broad brimmed hats, we made good progress.

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The section with no top used to be about a third again larger to the left of what you see, so most of the top boards are gone except just in front of the dining room doors and the joists for part of the large part of the deck are down.

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Flipping the boards to remove nails and screws revealed some interesting life forms.  This is a fungi, I guess.  It was about the size of a quarter, some others like it were smaller, but they looked like sea anemones that looked like they should be swaying in the ocean.

 

We finally quit around 4, so he could pack up his car and take the still ailing grandson home.  We took them into town for a bowl of Chinese hand pulled noodle soup and sent them on their way.

Once home, sore and tired, but fed, the weekend pickles making results were shelved.

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So pretty to look at and enjoy when we need a jar of jam or pickles.  The ferment was tasted and it is delicious, it was refrigerated this morning.  As soon as there are more cucumbers and jalapeños to pick, another jar will be started.  It is about time to start this year’s kraut, I sent the last jar home with son as they eat more of it than do we and it only takes a few days to ferment.  I think I will wait for the ferment weights to arrive to help hold it in it’s own brine though.

Today, I really am going to rest.  I am running on fumes and need some stiff sore muscles to have a chance to recover.  Yesterday’s expected rain never happened, today’s chance has dropped from an almost sure thing to it may not happen.  The flowers and garden are getting too dry, it is hot and brittle.  We need some rain.

Another Day, Another 16 pints – 7/14/18

Of canned goods.  Saturday mornings are Farmers’ Market morning and breakfast out.  For the past 3 weekends with the farm apprentice here, we have gone to our local diner that is open only for breakfast and lunch.  For the past two Saturday’s, that breakfast has not sat well with me.  I don’t know if they have changed cooking oil or brand of bacon or whether I have just become intolerant to anything with oil in the morning, I have been eating whole grain toast with homemade jam for several weeks.  Today however, after a couple of hours, grandson said his stomach hurt too, so something wasn’t right.

Since I had just been to market Wednesday evening and with him going home tomorrow, I only got pickling cucumbers and zucchini to make pickles, along with a bit of salad greens.

Son arrived around lunch time and daughter had asked him if he would put is stone masonry skills to work to reset a huge rock in her driveway retaining wall before her homeowner’s association got after her about it.  Once I had fixed him a sandwich, we loaded the Xterra with mortar mix, sand, lime, the metal wheelbarrow that doesn’t go in my garden, and the tools.  A stop at Lowe’s to get a bit more sand and an afternoon of his toil and labor while daughter and I sideline supervised and the wall is repaired.

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Before he arrived, I had cut the cucumbers, onions, and peppers and salted them to put in the fridge to wilt and drain.  The zucchini and remaining cucumbers were made into dill spears and zucchini pickles and canned.

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Tonight after dinner was prepared, enjoyed, and cleaned up, he installed the replacement burner for my glass top stove.  My preferred small burner, due to being a lefty, is the front left and it has burned out twice in the eleven years we have been here.  I had ordered a new one, but didn’t get brave enough to install it myself. After the stove was cleaned up, repaired, and put back in place, the cucumbers that had been sitting in salt all day were drained and rinsed and the bread and butter brine made.  Eight pints of spicy bread and butter pickles were made and canned tonight.  A total of 16 pints of pickles made today.

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Tomorrow, daughter and grands are going to come over to pick wild berries so that I can make and can a batch of wildberry jam for her household.

Grandson spent the afternoon and evening still dealing with a tummy ache.  Hopefully, he will be better tomorrow before they have to drive back to their home with a box of jams and pickles, as well as the poster and basketball he got at camp.  It has been wonderful having him here for the past 3 1/2 weeks.

Farm Apprentice-7/13/18

My farm apprentice goes home on Sunday.  We have had 3 1/2 great weeks with our eldest grandson.  His first full week here he attended basketball camp at Virginia Tech.  His stay has been a blend of fun and work and I am going to miss his help on the work days.

This morning, before anyone else arose, I did get three more of the saplings planted.  It was still cool outdoors.  Using the tractor bucket, I scraped off the grass in patches the width of the bucket and about 3 feet across, then hand dug holes in the bare soil.  After delivering eggs in town, we purchased a few more bags of hardwood mulch and my farm apprentice was given another opportunity to drive the tractor as he delivered the bags to the newly planted trees.

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I wouldn’t trust him alone, but he can drive it slowly with reminders.  He did have a glitch with stopping once and almost took out one of the new saplings, but he got better as I let him move it around as we moved mulch and water to the new trees and the extra mulch to the garden.

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They are tiny now, but hopefully will grow to continue providing a wind barrier on the west side of the house.

I took over to mow a path through an area that is outside of the hayfields and repeated the removal of the grass layer to make spaces for the two sweet gums trees.  We didn’t want them in the lawn area, having had several in our yard when we lived in Virginia Beach.  He helped dig holes and plant the two remaining trees.  We then spread two of the bags of mulch in vegetable garden aisles over thick paper layers.

Last evening, when I went out to collect eggs, I also collected a hand full of Jalapeño peppers and two pickling cucumbers and started a ferment of them, a half onion, some fresh dill, dried dill seed, bay leaves, and sea salt.  They will be refrigerated once ready and enjoyed later.

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The rest of today I will rest and knit. Tomorrow, my apprentice’s Dad will come and Sunday, they will return to their home.

Garden Therapy – 5/4/2018

It has been a rough week with a lost and finally found cell phone resulting in an extra 3 hours on the road on Sunday morning.  A sprained wrist by hubby playing basketball with eldest grandson, that seems to be healing.  One of our dogs taking off on Sunday night while she was visiting our town family and not being found.  All of this softened some by having our eldest grandson here with us for the past 4 days.  This morning early, we put him on a bus for home to play in his basketball tournament this weekend.  He very responsibly checked in at every stop on his route and is safely back with his parents.

All this required some garden therapy.  I have been slow to get the garden up and running this year with the fickle early to mid April weather and foot of snow.  I did get the onions and garlic in the ground when appropriate and they are up and looking good.  The asparagus finally broke ground just before we left last weekend and have been enjoyed a couple of times with another harvest done this morning that will probably find it’s way to our daughter’s kitchen for her to enjoy as well.

After the bus departure and the Friday morning egg delivery, we went and bought starter plants, 4 each slicing tomatoes, Amish paste tomatoes, Serano peppers, Jalapeno peppers, and spinach plants.  Once home and awaiting the arrival of the delivery and installation of our over the range vented microwave to replace the one that failed a few weeks ago, I attacked the garden.  It is still early, so most of the weeds are easy to manage, plus I put a thick layer of spoiled hay over everything in the fall.  A long bed was weeded and the tomatoes planted, the end of the long bed containing the garlic was planted with the hot peppers, another long bed cleared and two kinds of peas planted, and the spinach that I started as well as the heartier ones we bought were tucked into the end of a 4 X 4 block bed.  In a couple more weeks, the corn, beans, cucumbers, and pumpkins will go in and if I can find some Poblano peppers, they will be planted also.  The nursery said their Poblano seed was bad with very poor germination and they only have a few plants too small to sell yet.  The half barrels that used to grace the deck with herbs had to be moved off the deck in the fall when it started to fail and is in the process of rebuilding, so two of them were moved to the side of the house where I exit to the garden and coop and planted this morning with new rosemary plants, wild flower seed in one, and edible flower seed in the other and fencing around them to keep the chicken from hopping up and digging around in them.

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The tree nursery bed needs the trees removed and transplanted and one more long bed to weed.

I guess I should dedicate a short time each morning when I go to let the chickens out and each evening when I go to lock them up to weed one bed or one aisle and maybe the garden won’t get ahead of me this year.

The microwave installers kindly left me the box it came in as well as a washer and dryer box they had in their truck so perhaps I can mulch down some aisles to also make the task easier.

We continue to be saddened and worried about our country pup lost and hungry in town, but have done about all we can but keep hoping that she finally comes to someone and they can get her back to us.

And So We Endure Jan. 14, 2018

After the nearly 3 weeks of Arctic weather, we were due for a reprieve.  Daughter and family had moved  out nearly all of their furniture that had been moved in for their period of house sharing with us and our furniture that had been relocated to other parts of the house or stored returned.  Jim and I dismantled the bunk bed, storing the full size bottom bunk in the garage until they could pick it up yesterday and the twin size top bunk set up in a corner of the basement to provide another place to put family members if we have too many for the other beds.  The smaller south bedroom was scrubbed down, vacuumed, dusted, and the full size bed, tall chest, nightstand, and rocking chair returned to it.  New Navy blue curtains were hung, but once out of the package, I realized that they are not lined, so some lining fabric will be purchased and I will make the lining and sew it in.

Monday was supposed to be the first warmer day and the grand’s first day at their new school, but Ole Man Winter decided to play a trick and instead of a warmer dry day, we got an ice storm warning.  Schools closed throughout the region in anticipation and we ended up with the grands with us.  Grandson arrived in a too small knit hat that looked like a mouse had chewed it.  He helped me pick yarns and I told him I would trade him a new hat for the one he was wearing

Though initially we thought that it was unnecessary to close the schools, we did indeed get ice.   We got the grands home before it got too bad, but Monday night Jim went out to try to get the two male dogs back in and slipped, landing hard on his hip.  I didn’t hear him calling for help until he had crawled back to the front porch in pain.  As the night wore on, his more intense pain subsided, but he has continued to have a lot of soreness, not enough to keep us from our walks when weather permitted.  Tuesday the schools were to be delayed two hours to give the roads a chance to clear, but by 9 a.m., they again closed.  We were unsure we could get down our mountain road to get the grands, so SIL had to wait for the alternative care program to get straightened out and took the kids there, going in to work late.

The week did finally warm up and we enjoyed a few nice day, enough for the ice on the creeks and the blocks from the chicken watering pan to thaw.  Each day the pan was dumped and fresh water poured in and the yard and chicken run were littered with blocks the shape of the pan or the bucket.  Friday we got much needed rain, and mud.  The dogs come and go through the front door as the deck repair is still in progress out the back.  Late Friday, the rain turned to sleet then to snow and the temperature dropped.  It was 40ºf colder yesterday than Friday.  We got no more than a dusting as the snow blew horizontally until early afternoon when the wind died down, the clouds broke but the thermometer didn’t rise.  Our high yesterday was 21.  Last night to 10.

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The cold, blustery, snowy day encouraged me to continue putting the house together, the front bedroom received the same treatment that the other one got last weekend.  The walls swept down, windows and floor vacuumed and mopped or wiped down, fresh linen on the bed, the heavy quilt that has been stored for 3 years was returned to the bed and new insulated, room darkening curtains hung.

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Friday night when they came to pick up their dog and two housecats, he got his new hat, just in time for yesterday’s frigid weather.

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He had it on yesterday when they came to get the bed and a few more boxes.  I hope it keeps him warm as we endure another week of subfreezing days and bitter nights before the next break.  In the meantime, I am again accumulating blocks of ice from the water pans and buckets and though I thought I only got 1 egg yesterday, this morning when I let the hens out into the yard, I found 4 more, frozen and cracked in a corner of the coop, not in nesting boxes where they could be found.

The Empty Nest

When I moved to the mountains, leaving hubby to work on the coast for a couple more years, we still had one young adult at home and he and hubby shared space for those 3 years.  I was in an apartment for about 15 months, solo except for visits by hubby, son the younger,  or daughter, then moved into the house that we were building with son the elder, daughter in law, and grandson #1.  They shared the house for a couple of years then moved to town as hubby retired and moved to the mountains, leaving son the younger on his own, soon to become engaged and then married.  We had an empty nest for a few years, adding two dogs to the household.  Three years ago daughter and her two kids and their dog moved here while her husband stayed to sell their Florida house and find work here, he joined them in May of that year, bringing their two house cats.  The house has been full of life and energy for the past three years.  We have gotten the kids up  and ready school,  home from the afternoon bus and to Taekwondo a couple days a week for a couple of those years.

In November they bought a house about 18 miles from here in a different school district, but probably 30 minutes closer to work.  They continued to stay here while they got the house ready to move in and while they moved their household furniture and other accouterments from storage  and to allow the grands to finish at the school they started this year up to the Christmas break.

On Thursday, they spent the first night in their new home.  On Friday they got to go to see their new schools and grandson got to meet his teacher.  As their furniture has been removed from two bedrooms, ours has returned.  One room has been cleaned from top to bottom, the bed set up with a brand new mattress, the chest, night stand, rocking chair and lamp that have been stored or relocated for the three years , and that room has been sealed off from the cats.  Tomorrow new curtains will be purchased for that room as one of the Roman shades has been broken and the other two  shades are dirty and faded.

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The other bedroom needed new bed rails and though it has been put back together, their animals are still here until the end of this week to allow floor installers in their house without the dog and cats trying to escaping.  Once they are moved to their new house, that room will be wiped down from top to bottom and the decorations and heavy quilt returned to it.  It will get new curtains soon also as the decade old shades are dirty and faded.

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With them gone, the house looks and seems empty and quiet.  I miss them though we will still see them often, but the quiet is nice.  It is going to take some time to readjust to the empty nest.

Grandson #1 will be happy to have “his” bedroom back when he visits.  For the years he lived here and when he visited until they came, he slept in the south, smallest bedroom that the resident grands have been sharing.  While they have been here, he has slept on a futon in the basement during his visits.  Son the elder and his wife prefer the 4th bedroom in the basement as it is quieter and away from the animals that aggravate allergies.

With the basement, bathroom, two bedrooms, and kitchen cleaned up and reorganized, I need to tackle the loft and our bedroom.  Since hubby got me a nice Dyson vacuum for Christmas (yes, I asked for it), a thorough deep cleaning is in order.  Spring cleaning in the middle of winter.  Come spring, screens need to be repaired or replaced and windows cleaned, but that will wait for warmer weather.

 

 

Olio – January 3, 2018

Olio: a miscellaneous collection of things

The holidays are over, the decorations packed away, but the cold has really settled in.  Cold is relative.  There are parts of the world, even the USA that have the temperatures we are experiencing every winter and are prepared for it.  There are parts of the US that are used to very mild winters that are experiencing temperatures that we consider normal for this time of year, but they aren’t equipped for it.  It is cold here.  Our nights for the past couple of weeks have all been single digits.  The days in the teens, low 20’s if we are lucky.  But it has been dry.  There is some light snow expected tomorrow as another Arctic blast hits us, but no other real precipitation due as far as I can see in the forecast.  There is a light at the end of the tunnel though, if the forecast holds true, we will climb back up into the 30’s with mid 20’s at night in a few more days.

With the frigid weather, the dogs run out and back in.  The chickens have remained cooped some days and if it is sunny and calm, let out to free range on other days.  If it snows tomorrow, they won’t come out of their coop, no white stuff for them.  The shortened days and extreme cold have seriously curtailed egg laying.  Instead of 6 dozen or so a week, the 16 ten month old hens are providing less than half that a week.  The days are beginning to lengthen and the cold will abate, so hopefully they will begin to lay again soon.

We rarely go out for New Year’s Eve, but this fall, we saw a billboard for a New Year’s Eve event at Mountain Lake Lodge, the site of the filming of “Dirty Dancing.”  As soon as they were taking reservations, we booked one.  This lodge is 5 miles further up the road  our road descends from, an elevation change of about 2000 more feet and we were greeting with snow and frosted trees, a veritable winter wonderland, where though we are cold, we have no snow.

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The event included a stellar buffet dinner, a room for the night, a grand party with live band, favors, and champagne toast, and topped off with breakfast on New Year’s Day.  We met some wonderful folks, enjoyed their company, danced and partied, then walked upstairs to our lovely room for the night.  Such a great event we will probably repeat it next year.

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We got home on New Year’s Day to discover that the dripping faucet in the utility room had been turned off and the hot water line frozen.  We have kept the cold dripping, the heat turned up in there and a hot fire burning in the wood stove in the basement near where the pipe enters the utility room slab.  After three days of this treatment, the pipe finally thawed this afternoon and now both hot and cold are running at a slow trickle to prevent a recurrence.  The washing machine drain is still frozen though the sink drain is not.

I was knitting a Hitchhiker scarf and hoping to wear it last weekend as my last project for 2017, but ended up taking it with me with only 8 rows to complete.  Sitting in the tavern before dinner in front of a fire with a glass of wine, I saw an error a few rows back and had to rip those rows out to fix it.  It ended up being my first finished project of 2018.

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Knit with Freia Fibers Shawl ball

To get out of chronological order here, the past couple of weeks have been busy.  Daughter’s family has been moving into their new house a trunk full or our 5 X 8′ open trailer full at a time.  They have cleared the storage units that have held most of their belonging for the past three years that they shared our home with us, have moved toys, books, games, and shelving that held some of that in our rec room, and this past weekend, their master bedroom returning our furniture that they have stored.  They are still staying here until some flooring is laid, then they will move the kids dressers and part of the bunk bed and a few more smaller items and their pets.  The house is going to seem so empty after having the kids here.  They are close enough for us to still help out when needed, but in a different school district and closer to work.

The month of December had us on the road a lot.  We went to the coast to visit son the younger and his family one weekend, home the next for the second Holiday Market, then north to son the elder and his family, returning home on Christmas eve.  Son in law is from an Italian family and their tradition is pasta and antipasto on the eve and we arrived home to a delicious meal.  Christmas Day after gift exchange with daughter’s family and watching the children with all of their new things, I prepared a turkey and ham meal with all the trimmings.

The week after Christmas, our local yarn store closed for a week to relocate much closer to where I live and our spinning group that usually meets there on that Thursday of each month chipped in with other volunteers to help them with packing and actually moving so that they didn’t have to rent a truck.  A friend volunteered her pickup, I volunteered our larger SUV and the trailer and with a couple of other vehicles and two days, all of the fabric, yarn, and fixtures were moved in sub freezing temperatures.  They reopen on Friday and I am excited to see how all of the stuff we helped move will be displayed and so that I can purchase another Freia Fiber Shawl ball in another color way for my cruise knitting.  Our cruise is only a bit more than a month off.

I hope my readers have a very happy and prosperous New Year.

Memories – December 11, 2017

Our memories of Christmas together go back 40 years and most are wonderful memories, a few sad, a few where a silent primal scream in the kitchen was in order.

As our daughter was born in late November, as soon as she had a voice and an idea of what a birthday was supposed to be, decorating was forbidden until the day after her birthday.  Usually the outdoor wreaths would go up the day after Thanksgiving whether it was the 23rd or the 29th, but the indoor decorations were left in the boxes in the attic or storage closet (depending on the house) until the 30th.

Early on in our relationship, a Santa collection was begun and as the family grew, so did the collection as it made a great gift from the kids or from hubby.  We lived in the Hampton Roads part of Virginia at the time and in the town of Portsmouth was a Nursery and greenhouse that in addition to selling Christmas trees, turned the entire property into a winter wonderland with animatronic displays of various themes, the Santa workshop, Candy factory, train displays, with one room of one building selling tree lights, ornaments, gifts, and hot cocoa.  Our first Santa and his Mrs. came from Coleman’s Nursery.

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Several of the more than 100 also came from there as I discovered the gnomes of Tom Clark and they became my favorites.

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At some point, a tiny village was also started and occupied the mantel when the children were small and later the corner of the hutch.

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Sometime in the late 1990’s, Coleman’s burned and they lost a lot of their displays, but vowed to rebuild.  In 2003, we heard that Coleman’s was closing and selling off their  remaining animatronics and trains and though we hadn’t been in a couple of years because it just wasn’t the same after the fire, we returned and came home with an addition to the village.  Most of the Santas and village pieces are dated by me and often have either where they were purchased or who gifted them to me.  One year at Coleman’s, we discovered that daughter, then maybe 4 was breaking out with chicken pox.  I always wondered how many children we infected that night before we realized, she never felt ill and fortunately didn’t get too many pox, but another memory.

There were Christmases when money was tight and we struggled to make sure that the kids got at least one major gift from their list.  Of course our kids were of the age to want Cabbage Patch doll or Transformers, sending us on merry chases to try to locate the gift that every other child of that age wanted that year.

One year, a small animatronic Santa with a working clock and tape player that played the Night Before Christmas Story appeared.

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He always sat in our foyer at Christmas, but has been stored away for more than a decade.  This year, not knowing if he even still worked, he was brought out for the resident grands and with a battery in the clock and a good dusting, he still works, including the cassette.

There were the sad Christmas times as I lost both of my parents in December, many years apart and the unwrapping of ornaments and Santas from them bring tears of love and sadness.

The memories, oh the memories.  I hope my children have mostly good memories of Christmas, I do.