Monday, June 26, 2017

Yarn Is Life

As some of you may know, I've become slightly obsessed with knitting. It never ceases to amaze me that two sticks and a bit of string can make pretty much make anything short of an internal combustion engine. But lately I think it's more than just the end product of knitting that keeps me going, it's the metaphor for life that it is. Let me explain.

1. Take on new challenges.
My friend/cousin Eileen taught me how to knit using some scrap acrylic yarn and chopsticks. And after some fits and starts, I became the scarf queen. But I limited myself to rectangular objects until I met my neighbor, Sarah. I told her I wasn't able to take on more complicated projects and she said, "Bullsh*t." (maybe she said it nicer, but I don't recall) and proceeded to make me knit socks. I knit a few pairs of socks and suddenly there wasn’t any project I wasn’t willing to take a shot at. And life is like that; you can limit yourself to what you know, but it's more fun to take a risk and push yourself, and the rewards are greater (and prettier).

2. Don't be afraid to re-do it.
It is a bit of sport for my church small group to make fun of how many times I'll knit something, take it apart, and then re-knit it. Maybe three times or more. But that's the beauty of yarn: you can use and re-use it until you're happy with the end result. As Sarah has reminded me, you're the boss of the yarn, it's not the boss of you. So if something is not quite the way you want it, do something about it. Don't be afraid to start from the beginning if you have to.

3. Sometimes, though, you gotta let it go.
On the flip side, this ability to rip stuff apart has to be weighed against what you're giving up. I recently completed a complicated cable-knit shawl. Then I noticed a dropped stitch. My small group friends would assume I'd just rip it out and start again, but I have to weigh this against a few other criteria: how noticeable is this flaw? Is it really that big a deal or is it my pride? Is there another project I need/want to move onto? Sometimes you need to make dramatic changes in life, and sometimes you need to let it go and move on.
Where's Waldo?!?

4. Don't rush it.
A recent piece I worked on called for repeating a pattern 28 times. By the fifth repetition, I was ready to be done. Kind of like raising my kids, I wanted to rush through the high maintenance baby-age but, in doing so, I think I missed a few things. And boy-howdy, I'd like time to slow down now that they're older. If I could be like Madame DeFarge (the knitting information into my project, not the hell-bent on revenge part), I'd knit Galatians 6:9 into my next project, because patience and perseverance makes for a nicer piece.

5. Long and boring can result in beauty.
And speaking of patience, just because something is long and boring, doesn't mean the results will be the same. I've knit some pretty complicated stuff. You know what gets the most compliments? You know the piece I use most? A cowl I made that repeated a shell stitch 1,306 times. No fancy cables, no luxurious merino wool, no cool hand dying, just a tube with a repetitive pattern.

6. Don't forget the finish work.
It's tempting to finish a piece and not want to do the finish work of weaving in the ends and blocking. I mean, I just finished knitting a stitch some gazillion times in a row, can't someone else do the tidying up for me? But like any task in life, you need to see things through to the end. No one can do the finish work for you because they all have projects of their own to finish.
A warm bath and rest remedies a lot of problems

7. Share the beauty.
There's only so many shawls I can wear. And half the reason I knit is for the challenge of the project (the other half is to justify the binge-watching). So what to do with the many items produced? Spread the love. 

Dragonwing Shawl for the '16 Junior League of RI Knit a Thon

Dr Who shawl

Chuck Taylors!
Infinity shawl

p.s. If you want to support my yarn habit hobby, check out my Etsy store.
p.p.s. If you want to knit for charity, here's a few.
p.p.p.s. The Junior League of RI Knit-a-Thon is coming up soon. Expect to hear from me!

Friday, November 18, 2016

Veteran Resources

If you're here from my Facebook post, I'm glad you clicked over. For the rest of you, there was a period of time where people were posting videos of themselves doing 22 push-ups on Facebook to raise awareness of the fact that every day 22 veterans commit suicide. Since I would probably need medical intervention after 10 push ups, and some people I tag to do push-ups might never speak to me again, I've decided to do something different. Every day, I posted one thing people could do to help veterans or veteran organizations either through volunteer efforts and/or financial donations. I decided to post the full list here.

(disclaimer: I have tried to find organizations that do honest and honorable work but investigate for yourself! Before you give, you can check the charities out here: OR OR

Day 1: Understand the problem of veteran suicide. Read more about it here:…/the-missing-context-behin…/
and here:
Know the signs and know what to do: this site can help you discern what is a signal and what isn't.…/warning-signs-risk-factors-protectiv…/

If you see something, act!
To contact the VA’s Crisis Line: Call 1-800-273-8255 and push “1” for Veteran services. Veterans Chat can be accessed at Veterans Text is available at 838255.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255

Day 2: Homelessness.
Nationally, you can click here:
Or here:
In Lil' Rhody, you can volunteer or donate here:
Or here:

Day 3: Addiction.
Read about it here:…/dru…/substance-abuse-in-military
Get help here:
US Dept. of Veteran Affairs Substance Abuse Program Locator (
Alcoholics Anonymous (
Narcotics Anonymous (
Gamblers Anonymous (
pornography (
Celebrate Recovery (

Day 4: Visit a retirement home. Call your local nursing home and find out. Sometimes there are Scout troops or homeschooling groups that already make regular visits. Maybe you could tag along with them and brighten someone's day

Day 5: Everyone has a story.
Do you have a veteran in your family? Get their story. You can even record it for the generations to come via OR
You can find photos of services records on

Day 6: Housing. Click here to learn more: about OR (this one was started close to home in Taunton, MA)
Also - some vets might not qualify for the above programs or maybe just need some help with a project on their house. Lend a hand!

Day 7: Transportation. Volunteer to drive here:

Day 8: Service Animals. Find out more here:

Day 10: Education/GI Bill. Read about it here:
And help out here:

Day 11: Advocate! Find out who your congressmen and senators are here:

Day 12: Female Veterans.

Day 14: Teach your children.
Suggest this program to their school:…/…/articles/take-a-veteran-to-school
Here are the activities happening in our area:…/2016-ri-veterans-day-eve…

Day 15: Happy Veterans Day! First of all, let's make sure make sure we're honoring the right people here. Memorial Day is for those who have died in service of this country. Veterans Day is for honoring those who have served and are still serving. Picky detail you say? Ask a veteran, I say. Veterans Day was originally celebrated as Armistice Day, the day World War I 'officially' ended in 1918. The treaty was signed at 5:00 AM and a cease-fire was to take place at 11:00AM on November 11th. Tragically, knowing that they had until 11:00 AM to continue hostilities, "Eleven thousand casualties suffered–more than during the D-Day invasion of Normandy. Why? Allied commanders wanted to punish the enemy to the very last moment and career officers saw a fast-fading chance for glory and promotion."
~ "Eleventh Month, Eleventh Day, Eleventh Hour: Armistice Day, 1918, World War I and Its Violent Climax." by Joseph Persico.

Day 16: Support the caregivers of our wounded warriors.

Day 17: Home away from home. Fisher House ( or here:

Day 18: Prosthetics. This foundation helps out in all those areas:

Day 21: VA Hospital Volunteer. You can call your local VA hospital or go here:

Day 22: Wrap Up. I strongly recommend this book as a starting point: "Tribe" by Sebastian Junger.
Still can't decide what to do? Just donate here: or here: or here:

Friday, August 19, 2016

Facebook Spouse Thing

I've already been tagged twice in this Facebook challenge of posting pictures of me and the Bo Hunkmeister so I guess that must be a sign to go gather up some pictures. But I'm way too lazy/forgetful to post one a day for seven days in a row so I'm putting them all here.

I've already written about how we met here, but no photo collection of us as a couple would be complete without the original Spaghetti Dinner invitation where we met.

This is our wedding photo. I think the frame was a wedding gift from my brother's friend, Steve Schwartz. The guy behind me is my man of honor, Matt Bender. If anyone knows where he is, tell him I said hey. Bo's best man was his college room mate, Lewis Roane, the very first one to break Bo of some of his only child habits. You're a good man Lewis.

I like this photo of the wedding. It was a casual affair at a restaurant. 

I think this was taken on a trip to Vermont. We were trying to take a selfie in the early 90's without a smart phone. The struggle was real, people.

We asked a photographer friend to take some photos for us before we had the kids.  This photo now hangs upstairs in our house. The kids look at it and say, "Who's that guy you're with, Mom?!?" 

Fast forward many years and many children...We went to see comedian Tim Hawkins and were not satisfied to take the usual meet and greet pictures. Tim doesn't seem to mind, though.

This was taken last year at Mystic Seaport. We've taken up pirate re-enactment for the purpose of education, dramatic displays, parades and general purpose fun. A couple that pillages together, stays together, right?

So what's the next Facebook Challenge?

Friday, May 06, 2016

Mother's Day 2016

Happy Mother's Day Ladies! To all you moms, moms-to-be, newly minted moms (I'm lookin' at you Kerri & Chris!) and even those who 'mother' the nieces/nephews/friend's kids/wandering children you come across, I salute you!! In an effort to help those who love you celebrate the awesomeness that is you, I have compiled a few gift suggestions. Shall we review?

1. Yarn and a place to store it in.
I love knitting and crocheting and you should too. If you don't, you should learn. Just think of all the fun things you could make:

You could take revenge on a person, they wouldn't know it and it would be totally legal.

Anyway, I love to knit and I want more yarn for all the projects I have lined up. But Bo is fussing at me about sharing the bed with hanks of yarn so I need more storage space. These simple sheds should do the trick:

3. Recipe Sorter
I have recipe issues. I have collected thousands over the years (thanks a lot internet!) and now I need someone to sort them into the following categories:

a.) The Faithful: the ones I use on a regular basis, but always forget to put back in the right place so, even though I use it once a month, I can never find it.

b.) The Dream: the ones that I will use one day when my house is filled with people who have adult palates, and not people who think peanut butter and Fluff is a viable dinner choice.

c.) The Delusional: the ones I collected on a whim but really, when am I ever going to use sumac or cook sous-vide?

Sure! Just put that dainty little thing on the counter next to my fry-o-lator.

4. Condiment Cleaner
This will probably be along the lines of the pantry diver that I wanted last year. I need someone to clean the schmeers of Nutella out of the peanut butter jars, the butter out of the jelly jars and the I-don't-know-what out of the butter tub. Don't judge.

This was invented by a Mom who got tired of picking bits of peanut butter out of the jelly jar

5. Style Force Field
This is like that StarTrek cloaking devise only far more useful. On those days when I'm dressing for comfort (which is pretty much every day since my wedding) I still want to look like I have my act together and I haven't completely given up on any attempt to look presentable. The Style Cloak will make this look

Look like this to all see me

Not too hard to do, right?

Well, that's it for me. What's on your gift list?

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

A Story by Cousin Tom

More fun found in Grandpa's geneology files. I found a copy of an article published in a magazine. Unfortunately, whoever made the copy did not include the magazine title or date in the copy. The article is a story written by my father's cousin Tom. I believe it's about his step-grandfather who married Tom's grandmother before he was born. I don't know where or when this story was first published. Tom would later profess vows with the Marionists in 1956.

My First Employer
by Thomas Oster

     Gramp, to the average person, is a normal man with gray hair and a dark complexion, but to me he isn't comparable to anyone else I have ever met. He is short now, but some pictures of the "good old days" show him to be a good two inches taller than any other patron in Pat's Bar. His face is a dark, reddish-brown, whereas the top of his head is tinted baby pink, for it has been protected from the sun by an old tattered straw hat. His hair, what's remaining, has been bleached white by sixty-five years of work.

     Grandfather is a jack of all trades and a master of many. When the weather is good, he farms and when it's bad he improves and repairs the buildings and equipment.

     He is an old timer in some respects but usually won't hesitate to purchase some useful new-fangled dudad if it cuts down his work or helps him to relax. He's got a radio, a phonograph, a telephone, a tractor, and a car, if you want to call it that. The car he has now is a 1935 Packard Limousine. He bought it from his brother-in-law who is a funeral director. The plans for today's tanks must have come from the builder of this car. Any car that Gramp drives has to be built strong. Gramp drives correctly only when he is teaching someone else how to drive. He usually owns a big car for he finds that such make good moving vans. When taking a small calf, sheep, goat or bull to market, he takes out the back seat and chauffeurs the animal away.

     City people depend considerably on other people's goods. Gramp, on the other hand, can get along pretty well by himself except for electricity and whiskey. What electricity won't supply usually the whiskey will. Gramp isn't a drunkard; he just gets working power from alcohol.

     Grandfather's education was very meager, for his parents were poor immigrants when he was born and reared on the American soil. His small list of English adjectives is supplemented when possible by a cuss word or two. He never uttered a vulgar word or curse, but used cuss words only for emphasis, description, or opinion.

     As mentioned before, he worked hard and couldn't get along with any one that didn't. When I began to spend my summer vacations on the farm, he took it upon himself to make me a good worker, no matter how much it would hurt me. The day began at six o'clock for me. Gramp would be up at five-thirty but wouldn't wake me until six. From about six-thirty in the morning until seven o'clock ay night we worked. Breakfast was at seven, dinner at twelve, and supper at six. No periods of rest or relaxation followed the meals, except on Sundays.

     Life on the farm can be very interesting; for there are only a few jobs that have to be done every day. There are seldom two days alike, for a farmer has a large variety of jobs. One day a farmer may be doing carpentry work; the next day he may be out fixing a fence.

     I got up and dressed from six to six-fifteen. I then staggered downstairs, washed up and went outside to do morning chores until Grandmother made breakfast. For breakfast, we always had eggs in some form or other. After breakfast I fed and watered the chickens, while Gramp prepared for his work that day. In the beginning, the days I worked with Gramp were few and far between. My main job was to keep the place clean, healthy and orderly.

     When I was thirteen years of age, Gramp began to show me how to farm. Up until then, it was theory; now the practice began. At the breakfast table Gramp would tell me what he wanted; then it was up to me to do it. My first jobs were small, maybe just to harrow a field. The harnesses were heavy, and the horses were very big when I began to work with them. Life was a little lonely at times, for often I was out in a large field for as long as eight hours at a stretch with no one to talk to except the horses, and they were always too busy to say anything.

     After the crops were planted the farm work lightened a little, but there was always cultivating to be done, either by machinery or by hoe. Near the top of the list of those things which I don't like to do was hoeing.

     When summer began to fade and harvesting time approached, all odd jobs were dropped. The grain bags were inspected, patched and counted. The granary was cleaned and set up. After the machinery was put in shape the available farmers were asked to come over on a specified day and thresh Gramp's crops.

     When the threshing machine arrived, the turmoil began. The filled wagons and trucks of grain were driven one at a time along side of the machine. The bundles of grain and straw were thrown on a conveyor belt coming out of the machine. From the opposite end hung a long, large stove-pipe affair. Out of this snorkel came the straw, chaff and plenty of dust. The grain was separated from the straw within the machine and came out by way of a worm gear, through a chute and into burlap bags. The filled bags of grain were thrown on a truck and hauled off to the granary where they were emptied. At dinner time the machines were turned off and the crew washed up in some basins setting outside before coming into the house to eat. After dinner the bustle began again and didn't stop until about five o'clock.

     The work was hard then, but as the years rolled by new machinery was developed, and the farmer could live a little easier.

     Gramp "combines" his crops now and saves himself a lot of hard work. The combine moves over the field and separates the straw from the grain. The grain collects in a bin on the side of the combine and then is transferred into bags. Gramp can thresh his crops now with just two or three men, whereas before he needed to engage maybe fifteen men.

     Gramp's crops aren't as large as they were in bygone days, for his body is worn and his movements slower. His thoughts and actions turned more towards God as the years flew by. He receives the sacraments often and even abstains from his whiskey during Lent.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Grandpa's Story

My grandfather had always been interested in geneology. I remember visits with him when I was young where he'd pull out his notes, letters and charts to show me how far back he had traced the family. At some point in the 70's, he wrote down his own story which I thought I'd share here. I decided to leave in all the typos and misspellings. I'm not sure why, it just seemed more authentic that way.

I, your grandfather Samuel Francis Owen Grattan born 10 Jan 1903 in a small house on a farm known as the Vanderstilt 1 place located a few miles southeast of Wakefield, Clay County, Kansas.

My parents (renters) moved in 1905 to a larger farm known as the Conover place located in Sherman Township, Section #11, Dickenson County, Kansas.

I grew up on the Conover place, my school days were spent at a rural one room school house known as Praire Dell, District #70 2.

After graduating from the 6th Grade in 1915 my school days were over and I worked on my parents farm, our country was engaged in World War #1.

Sam 1922
A friend and I traveled in his Model "T" Ford to New Raymer, Colorado in the fall of 1923 and worked in the Sugar Beet harvest, Shucked Corn, and other general ranch work.

During that period my oldest brother William Martin Grattan lost his life while on the Police Force of Detroit, Mich.,3 I attended his funeral in Des Moines, Iowa. I moved to Cleveland, Ohio in Mar 1924 and worked on general constructions jobs in and near Cleve. during that period I worked as a common Laborer, house Painter, automobile Mechanic, truck Driver and eventually became an Operating Engineer on Steam Shovels, Steam Cranes, and etc.

The church is on the left. It was torn down and rebuilt in 1937.

Your Grandmother Sophia Josephine Bash and I were married 9 Apr 1932 in St Adelberts Catholic Church, Berea, Ohio., and set up housekeeping at 1594 Hayden Ave., East Cleveland Ohio, in later years we lived in several different locations in Cleveland.

Their first apartment

John William Grattan was born 1933 at St Johns Hospital, Cleveland, Ohio, we were living at 1441 Gridley Ave., Lakewood, Ohio.

Nancy Kay Grattan was born 1936 in St Johns Hospital, Cleveland, Ohio, we were living at [no number given] Bunts Road, (W 140 St) Cleveland, Ohio.

In 1937 we purchased and moved into our home at 14712 Westland Ave. Cleveland, Ohio.

In 1940 we sold our Westland Ave. home, purchase and moved into our home at 1253 Bell Ave., Cleveland, Ohio.

Working as an Operatind Engineer I was employed on a wide variety of Construction Projects i.e. Highway Grading, Buildings, Substructers, Steel Erection, Main Sewers, Steel Mills & Hospitals, Bridges & Power Plants, Ravenna Arsenal, and etc.

Went to Camden New Jersey 31 Mar 1941 for Merrett Chapman and Scott Corp.4 to work as Master Mechanic on thier New York Shipbuilding Yard expansion project.
Merritt-Chapman & Scott ad 1938

When the Camden job neared completion Merritt Chapman & Scott Corp. persuaded me to come to New York and Supervise operation of their Service and Storage Yard, located at Pier 22, Rosebank, Staten Island, N.Y.

We moved out household furnishings from Bell Ave. Cleveland, Ohio in early Dec 1941 to Staten Island, N.Y. After settling all furniture in proper place I connected up our only cabinet type Radio (power and ariel) and tuned it in, the broadcast was President Rosevelt announcing the Pearl Harbor Debacle, 7 Dec 1941.

My job also included inspections of all equipment damaged on active M.C. & S. Const. Projects while in progress and necessitated traveling and spending time at many other places e.g. Argentia  Newfoundland, Kingston & Toronto Canada and many other sites scattered over much of the United States.

In 1945 my position advanced to that of Equipment Manager of all of the Corp's Const. Equipment where ever located, thus my department husbanded the Corp's immense amount of heavy Construction Equipment (4.000 pieces), this necessitated mountains of detail and much traveling on my part.

Your Grandmother Sophia Josephine (nee Bash) Grattan died 15 Dec 1955, interned in St. Peter's Cemetary, Staten Island, N.Y.

Your aunt Florence Beatrice Bash and I were married 9 Jan 1957 in Our Lady of Good Coucil  Catholic church, Staten Island, N.Y.

Much of my time was spent calling on projects e.g. Gorge High Dam in Washington, Priest Rapids Dam in Washington, Cougar Dam in Oregan, Glen Canyon Dam in Arizona, Robt. Moses Hydro-Elect. in New York, Mackinac Bridge in Michigan, Chesapeake Bay Patapsco Tunnel in Maryland, Bridge & Tunnel was the Corp's last major construction Project on which I spent nearly three years full time.

Merritt Chapman & Scott Corp. disbanded their Construction Department in 1964, I transfered into the Corp's Derrick and Heavy Hoisting Department and supervised the remodeling of heavy hoisting equipment, construction of Coffer Dams used on Marine Salvage, and some Heavy Hoisting Operations.

Raymond International, Inc. Two Penn Plaza, New York, N.Y. purchased in 1966 the Derrick and Heavy Hoisting Division of M.C. & S. Corp. in it's entirety including all Personel and operation base.
Soon thereafter I became General Equipment Manager of Raymond's Construction Equipment where ever located, Many of Raymond's Construction Projects were located in Foreign Countrys requiring my travels to England, Italy, Malta, Libya, Senagal, Liberia, Ivory Coast, Greece and Venesuala S.A., Peru S.A., Port O Spain Carib., Paradise Island Bahamas, and many areas of the United States.

During the years following 1958 I hunted and fished and took big game in such areas as; Deer in Nova Scotia, Moose in NewFoundland, Cariboo in Quebec, Deer Elk Antelope in Wyoming, Elk in Washington, Elk in Colorado, Deer in Maine, Deer in New York fished for large Striped Bass in the surf at Montauk Point N.Y. and Sandy Hook N.J. and large Muskelunge in Lake of the Woods & Eagle Lake, Canada

Florence and I spent a month in 1973 visiting-sight-seeing-taking pictures in Zambia and Malawi, Africa.

I retired 10 Jan 1970, sold our home on Staten Island and moved 28 Feb 1970 to Dean Road, Mendham, N.J.

I hope that you will preserve and add your part to this family Biography in the years to come.

1. the name is actually spelt Van Der Stelt
2. Prairie Dell school opened 1874 and closed 1954 (
3. William died 15 Dec 1923, just shy of his one year anniversary to Anna Cavender
photo credit: "MerrittChapman 1938 ad" by Source. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia -

Saturday, May 09, 2015

Mother's Day 2015

Happy Mother's Day!! I hope it's as lovely a day for you as it is for me. In case you haven't planned ahead for a gift, I have a few modest suggestions.

1. Pantry Diver.
Since I haven't received my Asimo robot or my organizer monkey, I need a pantry diver. Someone to dive in and pull out the shortening that's buried beneath 15 other things and then put back everything that fell out so I can continue with my baking. Also to make sure I use up the first package of raisins before I buy more since I can't find the second or third package.
I'm going in for the chocolate chips!

2. National Reading Day. 
I've stopped keeping a list of books I want to read because it's too depressing to look at the list of 40+ books knowing that even if I really tried, I can only do a book a week. That means I'm a year behind in my reading. So I propose a National Reading Day where you're required by law to put aside all other obligations/responsibilities/etc and spend the day reading. I'll even make the coffee and oatmeal cookies for it, you know, to use up all the raisins. I know this idea will probably tank the economy, but that's a small price to pay for a lovely day of coffee, cookies and a good book.

3. Ketchup Cap Cleaner.
I don't know about you but when I have ketchup on the table, it starts off a clean bottle. By the time it makes the circuit around the table, you'd think we turned the bottle inside out. Yet said messy bottle inevitably gets put back in the refrigerator before I see it so when I pull it out the next time, there's fossilized ketchup around the opening. I'm sorry if I just ruined your appetite, but I had to confess that one.

4. Project Finisher. 
I have since taken up crocheting in addition to the knitting and sewing I do because I'm insane and don't know when to stop hurting myself. I think it's a symptom of my Art-School-Itis. On the road to self realization, I have also found that while I have skill in creating and starting a project, my motivation runs out just before the project is done. As a result, I have, among others, a project in which 86 buttons have to be sewn on, tote bags without handles, and scarves with yarn dangling off. I need someone to come in and put the finishing touches on these project yet be ok with me taking all the credit (you're surprised by this?) Said Project Finisher must also be able to fetch me more coffee as I start more projects.

Please. Make her stop.

5. Saucifier.
I have previously written about my recipe issues. A lot of these recipes come with sauces: lemon taziki? roasted tomato relish? banana mustard? sure, why not! 
Yeah, I know this sounds horrific, but the sauce is fantastic!

Of course, once the main course has been eaten up with ketchup (see above), there's always sauce left that I just can't bring myself to throw out. And I can't make a tote bag out of it. But since the entree on which it's served is gone, there's nothing to eat the sauce with. So in my refrigerator they sit. And sit. And sit. Someone needs to come in and either transform the sauces into an edible soup or teach my kids to spread it on their sandwiches. A peanut butter, Fluff, and Buffalo Ranch sauce sandwich is really not as bad as it sounds. No, really.

So there you have it; a short little list of things I really need. Now get shopping while I start this crochet blanket.