Good Morning! I had a hard time this morning wrapping my mind around the fact that it’s already been a week since I last published my weekly newsletter. I had so many things on my to-do list last week and didn’t move as many as I had hoped to the ‘done’ list.
By and large, I am a one-woman operation. Of the over 800 articles on this site, I’ve created, written, and photographed 775 of them. I knit every project, cooked every recipe, canned every jar of jam, created every craft, decluttered all the spaces, etc…
In truth, if I didn’t operate this site, I would be doing those things anyway…that’s just what I like to do. But, when I made this blog my job, I imposed certain expectations on myself! I want to constantly be putting out new content for you, my readers. I want to give you something in return for spending your precious time with me every week.
All this to say, I’m struggling to get it all done lately! I’m not looking for sympathy, in fact, I’ve been busy with other great things. We love fiddling in the garden and my garden is just lovely this time of the year, which means it constantly calls me to fiddle. We day tripped to visit our daughter and deliver her dog and rabbit back to her. (Sidenote: rabbits are the MESSIEST house critters on the planet! Their cute, cuddly factor is severely challenged by the enormous, non-stop mess that they make!) Then we came home and did a deep clean of the areas in which the aforementioned messy rabbit resided for the past month.
I guess my biggest challenge is that I have a hard time giving myself a break and offering myself a bit of grace. And I’m pretty sure I am not alone in that. Giving myself grace doesn’t mean I won’t endeavor to achieve my goals, but I need to accept that life happens and that other priorities may need to take precedence. If I siloed myself off from the world, I could surely achieve my goals, but that’s not a life I want to live.
So, while I did not get as much done as I had anticipated this week, just wait until next week! 😉
new on the blog
For my knitting friends, these Garter Stitch Trivets knit up quickly! Not only are they useful for your kitchen, but I’ve never met anyone whose trivet stash couldn’t use a refresh! These chunky trivets make economical and welcome gifts.
from the kitchen
- Did anyone else grow up with a 7-11 down the street that had those outrageously delicious Big Wheel Ice Cream Sandwiches in the chest freezer right inside the door? That’s the food I associate most with my teen years…it was a de rigueur stop on the way home from the beach or a party. Sadly, and for reasons I can’t fathom, they no longer sell this delectable treat, which prompted me to try to make my own. So, here’s my version of the Big Wheel Ice Cream Sandwich!
- This is Lemon Pepper Seasoning’s season…so to speak! It’s the perfect seasoning to sprinkle over the shrimp or chicken you are getting ready to grill.
- Not to be outdone, Blueberry Apple Crumble would like to have a word about being a great summer treat, too!
- And finally, how can you talk about summer food without talking about burgers? This post shares tips for making and grilling great burgers, as well as our delicious burger seasoning.
from the knit studio
- Take a deep dive into yarn! We chat about the different fibers, how weight is determined, what weights are best for which projects, etc… Everything you didn’t know you wanted to know about yarn is in this post!
- Pair that yarn post with this post about knitting needles! We discuss different knitting needle sizes and materials and what are the best knitting needles for beginners. We will discuss different types of knitting needles, such as straight, double-pointed, and circular knitting needles, and when you would use those needles. Finally, we talk about knitting needle organization and share a Knitting Needle Conversion chart that you can print off for your reference.
from the crafts studio
- If you’ve had a long day working in the garden, reward yourself with a Herbal Bath soak! Made with muscle-relaxing Epsom salts, lavender, rosebuds, and chamomile, this bath salts recipe is just what your body and mind need after a long day. And not for nothing, a jar of these bath salts makes a great gift.
- Add bars of moisturizing handmade Goat’s Milk Soap to your to-do list. Add your favorite scents to suit your needs. Again these bars make great gifts.
in the garden
- Are you saving your eggshells to use in your garden or for the birds?
- Last week, we chatted about composting, in general. This week, we are taking it a step further and discussing Compost Tea: what it is and why it is beneficial. If you are interested in compost tea for your garden, you’ll want to check out this how-to for making your own compost tea brewer, which was my Mother’s Day gift several years ago! (Tell me my hubby didn’t get lucky! This year I got a leaf blower!)
I’d love your input!
I’d like to do a little crowd-sourcing for an article on money-saving tips. I’m always looking for ways to save money and figure I am not alone in that endeavor. And I’m 100% positive that you have ideas and processes you’ve put in place to save money on daily living. Please take a minute and respond to this email with some of the ways you save money. Thanks in advance.
in the house and home
- Eco-Friendly products and tips for a sustainable kitchen.
- Will you be hosting houseguests this summer? Check out tips for making houseguests feel welcome.
- What are the best oils to season cast iron? We’ve got the lowdown here.
on my nightstand
At the end of every month, I share my ‘reviews’ of books I’ve read, as well as where I stand for the year. I’ve set a goal to read 33 books this year. Many of you have written that you enjoy and appreciate my ‘book reviews’ (if you can call them that!), but I always struggle with not giving too much away and am also cognizant that my likes are not everyone else’s likes.
I am doing the Goodreads Reading Challenge again this year. Last year I read thirty books, and this year upped it to thirty-three. So with that said, I’ve read 15 books thus far in 2023. Here is my quick and dirty review with one to five thumbs-up.
- The Road by Cormac McCarthy 👍🏼👍🏼👍🏼👍🏼👍🏼 Wow, where to begin with this one? It’s a quick read, but it doesn’t feel quick. There is very little ‘feel good’ in the book, which is not a reason not to read it. McCarthy’s sparse prose puts you right in the midst of this post-apocalyptic world, where, despite the suffocating hopelessness, a father and son still find hope. McCarthy does such a phenomenal job putting you in that world that one morning after I had read it the night before, I was slightly startled to hear birdsong.
- Howard’s End by E.M. Forster 👍🏼👍🏼👍🏼👍🏼👍🏼 On the other end of the prose spectrum, this was an at times humorous and at times somber satire of the social strata of early 20th century England. I had never watched the movie before and followed the book by watching the Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson movie. The movie takes very few liberties, following the book closely.
- Burial Rites by Hannah Kent 👍🏼👍🏼👍🏼👍🏼👍🏼 When I was describing this book to my mom, I read the first paragraph of the book jacket and remarked, “not sure why I choose to read something that sounds so depressing, but I’m glad I did.” It is a historical fiction based on the last beheading in Iceland in the early 19th century. Kent does a brilliant job with her prose of placing you in the stark and merciless world of Iceland at that time. We know how the story ends before it begins, but it is the way that the tale of our protagonist, Agnes, unravels that will keep you totally immersed in the book. It is a rare day that I take time during the middle of the day to sit down with a book, which I did with this one over the weekend. It is haunting, yet somehow lovely at the same time.
- Brain Maker by David Perlmutter 👍🏼👍🏼👍🏼👍🏼 A little non-fiction intermission! I am interested in gut health and how it affects our entire body. If this area interests you too, you’ll find this book enlightening. The bottom line, we are what we eat.
- Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell 👍🏼👍🏼👍🏼👍🏼👍🏼 Oh my heavens, I am on a roll! I’m afraid to say that out loud for fear of jinxing myself, but this was another gorgeous book! This book is meant to be savored; it is not a page-turner. O’Farrell has an incredibly poetic way with words that creates lush and melodic prose. This is ostensibly the story of Shakespeare, his wife Agnes, and their young son, Hamnet, who died from the plague. I say, ‘ostensibly’ because while Shakespeare is never named, you know it is him. And it is less about Shakespeare and more about his wife, her interests, her passions, and their relationship before, during, and after the death of their only son. Once again, I enjoyed this book so much that I reserved several more of her books from the library.
- The Hand that First Held Mine by Maggie O’Farrell 👍🏼👍🏼👍🏼👍🏼.5 There is no ‘half a thumbs up’ emoji…hence the .5. The only reason this is a 4.5 is that I don’t want to be too generous with the 5 thumbs to lose my credibility, and compared to Hamnet, it wasn’t quite as lovely. All that said, it is still a good book! Once again, not a page-turner but a slow unveiling of the relationship between two women of two different eras.
- The Good People by Hannah Kent 👍🏼👍🏼👍🏼👍🏼. Like her Burial Rites, this is based on true events. This time the story is set in early 19th century Ireland amongst a group of people struggling with poverty and a hardscrabble life. The belief in fairies (The Good People) figures heavily in this story, as does the conflict between that belief and the church. This ended completely differently than I expected and has I predicted last month! It is a sad story for all of the characters.
- I’m on a bit of a Maggie O’Farrell bent. I just really appreciate her writing, it is almost poetry. Her book, I Am, I Am, I Am: Seventeen Brushes with Death👍🏼👍🏼👍🏼 is my least favorite, but I still enjoyed reading it. A bit of a biography and I appreciate the insight into her life.
- The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox 👍🏼👍🏼👍🏼👍🏼 by Maggie O’Farrell is the story of two women of different generations who are related, but did not know it. The younger character takes in the elder and uncovers her heartbreaking past. The story does go back and forth in time, which didn’t bother me at all. O’Farrell does such a great job making you really care for her characters.
- This Must Be the Place 👍🏼👍🏼👍🏼.5 by Maggie O’Farrell. Clearly I am still on my Maggie O’Farrell binge! This was another gorgeous book. At it’s core, it is about love, in all of its forms and variations. I struggled a bit with the back and forth in time and place, but she did bring it together. The story revolves around Daniel and Claudette, their marriage, their past marriages, their children and their past history that has brough them to their inflection point.
- A Ghost in the Throat 👍🏼👍🏼👍🏼👍🏼 by Doireann Ní Ghríofa. This was a recommendation by one of our readers and I am so thankful for it! It’s a little hard to describe, but I’ll give it a go. It’s a bit of an autobiography by a young mother, also a published poet, who is fascinated (maybe a bit obsessed) by a famous poem written in the 18th century by another young Irish mother, Eileen O’Leary. The author, Doireann, traces the truth behind poem and the poem’s author, which centers on the murder of Art O’Leary. She hooks you with her opening line, “When we first met, I was a child, and she had been dead for centuries.“
- The City of Thieves 👍🏼👍🏼👍🏼👍🏼.5 by David Benioff. I loved everything about this book which was recommended to me by my brother! It is the story of Benioff’s grandfather, a Russian teenager during the siege of Leningrad and another young Russian soldier he meets in jail. Not to be cliche, but it will, in turn, make you giggle and make you cry. You witness the atrocities of the war at the same time you witness the evolving friendship between these two young men. The two main characters are immensely likable and have stayed with me even after finishing the book.
- The Marriage Portrait 👍🏼👍🏼👍🏼👍🏼 by Maggie O’Farrell is the story of Lucrezia de Medici who was married at age of 13 to the Duke of Ferrara, 11 years her senior. Sadly, Lucrezia dies one year later under suspicious circumstances. What we know about this event is minimal, so O’Farrell adds much flesh to the bare bones. I’ve said that I am entralled by her style of writing, which remains true in this book.
- The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon 👍🏼👍🏼👍🏼👍🏼 This was a project and hard to summarize in a few sentences. On its surface, it is the story of two cousins in NYC at the beginning of World War II. Between the two of them, they create comic book heroes that tackle the injustices being inflicted on the innocents in Europe. But this story is much more than that; it is the story of one of the young men worrying about his Jewish family that he left behind in Czechoslovakia. Not only does he worry, but he feels immense guilt that he escaped and attempts to use his earning from the comic books to bring his younger brother to safety. It is the story of the other young man coming to grips with his sexuality. Chabon weaves non-ficton into his fiction, featuring Salvador Dali and Orson Welles in vignettes and has a beautiful way with words; having a dictionary handy may be useful! I’ve truly just scratched the surface of the book, which mostly moved along quickly, though I did feel it lagged in a few spots.
- If you like espionage and spy thrillers, you’ll enjoy I Am Pilgrim, by Terry Hayes. 👍🏼👍🏼👍🏼 It took me a while to get into it. He had this long rambling chapter at the beginning of the book that almost lost me, but once I got into the book it made sense. Set shortly after 9-11, it is the story of two characters; one who is bent on destruction and the other trying to prevent that destruction.
- I am halfway through The Last Painting of Sara de Vos by Dominic Smith. The story focuses on a single painting and weaves through three different characters related to that painting during three different time periods; the Netherlands in the 1630s, New York in the 1950s, and Sydney, Australia in 2000. I’m enjoying getting into the characters, as well as the details of painting and forgery that the writer lays out. I know not everyone loves books that travel back and forth in time, but I’m not having a problem with it at all.
Well, my friends. I hope you have a wonderful week! We leave to visit our son on the West Coast this Friday, but I’ll still check in with you on Monday.
Many, many hugs!