Sunday, March 30, 2008

Horseshoe Bend

Yesterday it did not storm as predicted, so Amy and I took the five youngest children to Horseshoe Bend National Military Park to see the reenactors for the Battle of Horseshoe Bend. The day was sunny and pleasant and we found several "soldiers" willing to talk to the children and answer their questions. We also enjoyed looking at the displays of Creek Indian life. The guns were a bit loud, but after that we ate lunch and everyone was happy.


Friday, March 28, 2008

South to Bataan, North to Mukden: The Prison Diary of Brigadier General W. E. Brougher

General William E. Brougher's diary kept while he was a prisoner of the Japanese in World War II was my reading list selection for March.

Although it was skillfully edited by D. Clayton James (who also provided a very good summary of the events leading up to General Brougher's capture by the Japanese), Gen. Brougher's talent as a writer is evident throughout this book. He did not write his diary with the intention of ever publishing it (in fact, it was published six years after his death in 1965), but it reads as though it was written with an audience in mind.

In the preface Mr. James writes:

"Through his diary Brougher reveals the anatomy of the mind of a good professional soldier. Straightforward and matter of fact, he accepted his enslavement with some grumbling and criticism, but unlike the more high-strung and deeply introspective prisoners, he suffered no serious emotional effects.... He stoically found his happiness and peace in memories of loved ones, a small group of close friends in prison, and such humble activities of daily life as gardening and writing. He almost seemed, at times, to be independent of the depressing, sordid external world about him, as if he had overcome it by mastering himself, his passions and moods. A man of strong character and high morals, Brougher refrained from vulgarity and meanness with amazing restraint. His simple and conventional, yet sincere and meaningful, beliefs about his nation and his religion, as well as his deep devotion to his family and friends, provided him with a hope which seldom wavered even when prison life was at its worst."

His kindness, humility, and his love for his family and concern for his fellow prisoners are evident in his diary entries. I especially liked his entries about the books he read while a prisoner, and his thoughts on them.

He also was able to see humor and enjoy it. On June 2, 1945 he wrote:

"...but we have with us an Argyle Scot, Brigadier Moir, who is almost a typical Wodehouse Englishman in speech and a really loveable character. Here are a few 'Bobby Moirisms':
(1) I met Bobby returning at noon from working on the farm at Shirakawa. His section had been picking worms off cabbage. I asked, 'Well, Bobby, what have you been doing this morning?'
'Searching for slugs. Deucedly uninspiring task, you know. There was an air of general lassitude about the whole affair.'
(2) Bobby lost his N. mittens. On being questioned by N. inspecting officer about the loss, he said: 'I looked here, I looked there, I looked everywhere, and they were nowhere.' "

Good book.

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Living without a dryer is so hard I'm leaving home and going to the Bahamas. Actually, Steve and I are going to the Atlantis Resort on a company-sponsored trip for a few days. The dryer should be repaired before we leave. (Last year when we went on the company trip the heat pump died and had to be replaced.)

I've packed my clothes, books, and knitting. Just have to throw in my toothbrush, hairbrush, and sunglasses the day we leave, and I'll be set.

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Thursday, March 27, 2008

No dryer until April 1

The heating element in our clothes dryer quit. Our dryer is 4 years old. I'm glad it's just the heat, and not something more serious - like something that would require me to buy a new dryer.
In the meantime, thirteen family members in this house have clothing and linen that need to be washed and dried. I thank Steve for my clothesline and I thank God for sunny, breezy days.

And I wait patiently for April 1 and the repairman to arrive.


Monday, March 24, 2008

Log Cabin baby bib

I have lots of bits of cotton yarn left over from dishcloths and a few baby bibs. Last week I got out my copy of Mason-Dixon Knitting and used the pattern for the Log Cabin square and the instructions for the knitted baby bib and made a Log Cabin baby bib. It was fun, and I think it turned out well enough to use on a two-year-old, so I'll definitely be knitting more of them.


Saturday, March 22, 2008

April sock finished...

...and now I have a pair! The pattern is Conwy from Knitting on the Road by Nancy Bush. Knitted on US size 1 needles - a bit loosely, because the pattern is rather tight.


It's spring

David took his schoolwork outside to do, and Abbey tagged along.

And the cherry tree is almost in full flower.

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Friday, March 21, 2008

Sad new recipe

I have not posted a new recipe for several weeks. Back in February we tried a new recipe from one of my favorite slow-cooker cookbooks. This was the recipe:

Teriyaki Chicken
6 bone-in chicken breast halves
2 16-oz. cans pineapple chunks, one can drained, one can undrained
1 c. teriyaki sauce

Put in cooker and cook 6 to 8 hours on low, or 3 to 4 hours on high.

But it did not turn out well for us. We put the ingredients in the cooker at 8:00 a.m., left for church, and arrived home ravenously hungry and ready for our delicious lunch at 1:00 p.m. only to find a burnt mass in the cooker. It was awful. It wasn't just burnt, it was a carbonized lump that had fused with the metal insert of the cooker.

We soaked the cooker liner in water for a few days. The lump did not budge. We chiseled at it with knives, tried to pry it out with forks - to no avail. I thought I might have to throw away my cooker (horrifying thought!) and get a new one (and this one is only a few years old), but that didn't seem like a good use of money.

Karin finally went to the store for me and bought as much baking soda as she could buy with $4.
And for a week this was my new recipe:
Removing Burnt Food From Cooking Pot
-lots of baking soda
-water to fill pot
Boil water and soda in pot for 30 minutes. Allow to cool. Remove burnt residue. Repeat if necessary.

It took 6 lbs. of baking soda, and 4 times of boiling the water and soda to remove all that nasty stuff. But I have my cooker back now!

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Thursday, March 20, 2008

High school diplomas and truth

Today while at the museum I took a picture of a diploma that makes me laugh every time I see it. It belonged to Max Vines, who was born in the house we now own, and who lived in it with his parents and his sister and her family until he died (sometime in the 1930's or 1940's). Max graduated from high school in 1908, and I think he was about 16 at the time.

The diploma reads: "This Certifies That Max Vines has completed in a satisfactory manner the studies prescribed for the High School and by proficiency in scholarship and integrity of character has merited honorable Graduation and is therefore entitled to the award of this DIPLOMA... ."

And in between "the studies" and "prescribed " someone inserted the phrase "except geometry."

Because the handwriting isn't like that of the signatures at the bottom of the diploma, I'm guessing Max himself inserted those words after he received the document. But whether he wrote it, or whether a teacher dedicated to being brutally honest about her pupil wrote it, I find it funny and it makes Max more real to me. So I'm thinking he did not major in math when he went to college... .


Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Enter Three Witches

Jacy recommended Enter Three Witches by Caroline B. Cooney for Sarah, Joan, and me. Ms. Cooney obviously had a good time with this book. It's a clever retelling of the story of Macbeth. The main character is one Ms. Cooney added to the story: a 14-year-old girl named Mary, the daughter of the original Thane of Cawdor whom Macbeth replaces.

As the story begins, a kitchen maid in Macbeth's castle, Inverness, is telling the other servants about the three witches. Mary, a ward of Lord and Lady Macbeth, is eavesdropping, and as she listens her thumbs begin pricking and causing her pain. The entire story is told from Mary's point of view, and she meets the witches, overhears their prophecy for Macbeth, and lives out the rest of the story very close to all the action.

It's a lively and entertaining tale.


New paint

Last week the mollies that held the toilet paper roll holder to the wall in the half-bath gave up and left unsightly holes in the sheetrock. Steve patched and sanded, but the wall looked bad and we knew we'd have to paint.

No problem! We have lots of paint left over from Tom's cottage and Steve's office, and all of it is either gloss or semi-gloss, which I much prefer over the flat paint currently on all the walls of our house.

My only dilemma was to choose a color that wouldn't overwhelm such a tiny space. I decided to go with the tan Tom had custom-mixed for his bathroom. Joan taped and painted, Sarah helped her clean it up, and yesterday we had a beautiful "new" bathroom. Now Steve thinks we need to paint the rest of the rooms downstairs.


Saturday, March 15, 2008

One March sock - done

Last night I finished my sock for March: a single "Conwy" from Knitting on the Road by Nancy Bush. I began casting on for the second sock of the pair, but only got 50 stitches on the needles before quitting and heading to bed. It was an odd place to stop, but I'll get back to it today.


Friday, March 14, 2008


Ever since I finished Lizard Ridge I've been looking for a knitting project that would be colorful and fun, but not too complex so that if I had to put it down for a few days (or weeks) I would not forget how to do it.

I believe Posey fits the bill. Lisa Kay has designed a beautiful sock that looks like it will be fun to knit. The instructions are clear, and I love to knit with Koigu.

I think I'm going to have to figure out a way to knit these socks sooner rather than later!


Small town life

Last night we had a minor emergency. Tom was eating supper with us when he (who has been ill and had just seen the doctor and received several medicines) began having trouble breathing. When we asked him if he was okay he had trouble responding.

Steve jumped up and went to Tom's side. Steve tried to get Tom on his feet and get him to walk to the car. I ran to the phone yelling, "Car or 911?" When I heard Steve say, "He's going down, and I can't get his pulse," I called for an ambulance.

The dispatcher took my name, our address, and the nature of our emergency and said they'd be at our house in a few minutes.

The ambulances make daily runs up and down East Street, which borders the side of our house, and is the quickest, most direct route from the hospital to the highway. They never go down the street in front of our home, which is also the street on which is our address.

When the ambulance pulled up at the front of our home a few minutes later, we thought it odd, but were just relieved to have the EMS guys so quickly. They walked in the house, checked Tom, looked at the medicine he'd taken, and were pretty certain one of the meds caused his distress. By that time Tom was sitting up, and though he was a ghastly greenish-yellow color, he could speak coherently, and decided he didn't need to go to the hospital.

The phone rang. It was Chuck (who lives a block away, but on the same side of the street as us) and he wanted to know if we were okay. I explained to him what had happened and asked how he knew the ambulance was here. He said, "Small town. Everybody knows what goes on." I replied, "I'll bet Scoon called you." (Scoon is one of Chuck's close friends, and he and his family live catty-cornered across the street from us. If it weren't Scoon, I figured it would have been Harriet, Scoon's sister, who lives across the street from Scoon, and two houses up the street from us. She can see our driveway from the windows of her house.)

Later, Scoon came driving by while I was outside talking to another neighbor and he confessed that it had been he who called Chuck and told him, "Something's going on at your sister's house." I told Scoon what had happened, so he could pass it on to everyone else who wondered.

In the meantime, Steve had asked Mike and the other man why they'd driven up to the front of the house rather than coming up East Street, as they normally do. Mike said, "Well, your wife gave us your address. We're more familiar with landmarks. Now if you'd told us you lived in the old Tucker house, we'd have been here sooner. "

Now I know - unless there's good reason to believe otherwise, assume my fellow townsmen grew up here and give both our address, and the name of the house as it's been known for the last 50 (almost 60!) years: The Tucker Place.


Thursday, March 13, 2008

Cherry tree blossoms

Our cherry tree is just starting to bloom.

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Layne's socks are ready to mail

Layne's socks are the Ragg Socks from Morehouse Merino Farm. They were knit on US size 6 (gasp! - yes, it was like knitting with baseball bats!) dpns. I think the best adjective for these socks is "rugged." I hope Layne has hiking boots.


Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Socks in progress

I have too many socks going right now and I'm feeling overwhelmed. Knitting socks is supposed to be relaxing, not stressful. From right to left in the photo: my March sock ("Conwy" pattern from Knitting on the Road), a sock for Janet (the pair has to be complete by the end of the month), and a sock for Layne that's from a Morehouse Merino kit. I think I can finish Layne's socks tonight and ship them off to her tomorrow. (And Sam has politely asked for a pair of "Auburn socks" and Amy needs more socks... .)


A Charmed Life: Growing Up in Macbeth's Castle

Liza Campbell's memoir, A Charmed Life: Growing Up in Macbeth's Castle caught my eye at the library last week. Ms. Campbell's father, Hugh, was the twenty-fifth Thane of Cawdor, and Liza was the last child to be born at Cawdor Castle.

She tells of her childhood as the second of five children growing up in Wales, then moving to Scotland when her grandfather died and her father became the new thane. Unfortunately, Hugh Campbell was a selfish, brutal man who loved nothing and no one but himself. He was an abusive alcoholic who also used cocaine, beat his wife, was cruel to his children, had numerous adulterous relationships, and ultimately squandered the family's and estate's funds to support his own whims.

However... Liza Campbell has managed to bring out the best of her childhood while exposing the nastiness of her father. Her account of her life up to her father's death is very forgiving, without excusing him or his behavior. It's a hopeful book, and I liked it and recommend it.


Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Birthday things

A birthday package from Barbel arrived filled with sock yarn, sheep things, chocolates, Haribo candies, lotion, leis, and German Weight Watcher food and a magazine (and the German WW foods taste soooo much better than the American products). Penny, Meg, Karen, and my parents called. Helen and Mimi Facebook messaged me birthday wishes, and over the last week I've spent time with some of my favorite people.

It's a wonderful birthday.

I am well and truly fortified to face AARP things in the mail now, should they care to send them. 47 looks like it's going to be a good age this year!

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Friday, March 07, 2008

Layne was here

Layne arrived Wednesday afternoon and left this morning. It was too brief a visit (I'd hoped for 4 days), but it was a wonderful visit. We haven't seen each other in almost six years, but have kept in touch sporadically via phone.

Layne is a talented needleworker and I was able to persuade her to take all the patterns, fabric, beads, needles and thread I had stored for a few years. (I optimistically thought that some day I'd see well enough to cross-stitch, embroidery, and do hardanger again. It's not going to happen.) But Layne can use it - or she can give it way to someone else.

Last night Tom and Karin made Frogmore Stew and invited several friends and all of the family to eat with them. They set up a couple of long folding tables, scrounged chairs and benches from both houses, covered the tables with newspaper, and poured the strained stew on the newspaper. We all ate with our fingers out under the stars. It was delicious, and the conversation was entertaining. After supper we put away the chairs and benches, rolled up the newspapers with the corncobs and shrimp shells and threw them away, wiped down the tables and folded them up and stored them back in the garage. Tom and David washed the pots, and that was it.

Layne and I retired to the living room where I gave her a crash course in sock knitting on two circulars and on double-pointed needles and showed her how to knit the Mason-Dixon Ballband dishcloth.

This morning she left (without Delilah, although she warned us several times that she just might have to take the cat home with her).


Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Marley's tea party

Yesterday while I was at the library Marley prepared a tea party for us to share. She decorated the porch with camellias and camellia petals, made lemonade and iced tea, baked cookies and cut fruit, and arranged everything nicely on trays. I walked home from the library to meet Marley and as I approached the house I heard John Rutter's arrangement of "All Things Bright and Beautiful" playing on a CD player Marley had brought outside. It was a perfect moment.
And when everyone else wanted to join us she graciously agreed to include them all.


Monday, March 03, 2008

7 things - for Julie

Julie tagged me to list seven weird or random things, so here are seven weird or random book-related things about me:

1. When I read a book, I read it all - preface, acknowledgements, introductions, publication information, etc.

2. When I was 12 my father asked me to keep a list of the books I read and write a brief summary of each on a 3x5 index card. He had me do it for two years because he didn't believe I was reading all the books I checked out of the library, and I was constantly bugging him to take me back to the library for more books.

3. Since then I've continued to keep a list of the books I read - pretty faithfully. There are occasional gaps, and at some point in a military move I lost the little index file box that contained the first few years of my book listing habit, but I still have the notebooks containing the lists of books read from 1979 until the present.

4. I hope as my children marry and move away they will raid my library of their favorite books and take those volumes with them.

5. In my life I've only had four friends who think a fun time is to sit in the same room with another reading friend and silently read for hours.

6. I've bought duplicate copies of old books with pretty illustrations thinking I would cut out those illustrations, frame them and use them as artwork on the walls of my home, but when it came down to it I couldn't bear to destroy the books. So I gave them away to other readers.

7. Beth sent me a picture of this library in a staircase and I'm wondering how hard it would be to tear into the walls of our staircase and put in a few shelves?

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Saturday, March 01, 2008

Socks for Beverly

Amy said that whenever Beverly sees Amy's hand-knit socks, Beverly says she wished she had some, too. So this past week I knit two pairs of socks for Beverly. Amy and the girls will be going to visit Beverly for a week and they will give her the socks for me.