Books I Read in October 2021

Better late than never. I can’t believe it’s mid-November and I’m just getting around to sharing the books I read in October. Insulating and dry walling the upstairs of our workshop seems to be taking up all of our time. Between that and raking leaves, I haven’t even had time to dig up my gladioli bulbs yet. I did manage to dig up the dahlias. I don’t have as many of them.

Without further ado, here is my list of books from last month.

  1. 101 Best Businesses for Pet Lovers-Nigro and Nigro

This book covers some new ideas I hadn’t thought of, as well as the old standbys. Gives a bit of very general information on how to get started. It was fun to browse for new ideas.

2. The Darkest Evening-Ann Cleeves

British Policewoman Vera Stanhope is on another murder investigation. The case may involve her wealthy and estranged family. A young mother is murdered. Vera finds the mother’s young son stranded and alone in a car during a blizzard. I loved this book and will definitely read the others in this series. I was not familiar with the author, but apparently these books are the basis for the television series Vera. I will also be searching out the show to stream and see how I like it. I have high hopes after reading this book.

3. The Hill We Climb-Amanda Gorman

This is the inaugural poem read on January 20, 2021. Everyone should hear or read it. In fact, if you have, read it again. It is a work of beauty.

4. Death by Chocolate Snickerdoodle-Sarah Graves

Another saga in the Jake Tiptree series that is centered around her bakery The Chocolate Moose in Eastport, Maine. This one kept me guessing who the murderer was until the end and is filled with lots of references to life in an oceanside town. The murder victim was despised by all and there are lots of suspects.

5. The Italian Slow Cooker-Michele Scicolone

I didn’t find any recipes here that I wanted to try. I felt that most of these would be better, and nearly as easily, cooked by traditional methods. That’s just me.

6. The Best of Us-Robyn Carr

I got this book because I have become a fan of the author, who writes the Virgin River series. This book takes place in Sullivan’s Crossing. Dr. Leigh Culver has moved to the area and is figuring out her life as settles in and forges relationships with the locals. I enjoyed it.

7. Fix It and Forget It Slow Cooker Comfort Foods-Hope Comerford

This is a cookbook for the beginning cook. Most of the recipes are, put all ingredients in crockpot and turn it on. This book also has meat in most recipes, so didn’t suit me.

8. Platters and Boards-Shelly Westerhausen

This book discusses all aspects of charcuterie boards. There are some recipes, but mostly it suggests types of boards (dessert, breakfast, teatime, etc.) and things to put on them. It was fun to look at.

9. The Ultimate Guide to Hiking-Len McDougall

I checked this book out of the library, thinking it would have generic info that everyone already knew but I would give it a read. What a wealth of information. Most of it applies to longer hikes than the 1-2 hours that we usually take, but you just never know when a bit of info might help you out on the trail. The most important and simple thing I learned is to have a compass with you at all times. I have had occasion to use the one on my phone, but as the book points out, phones fail, especially in cold weather when is especially crucial not to get lost. I ordered a carabiner style compass/thermometer duo today!

10. Christmas at Holiday House-RaeAnne Thayne

Nurse Abby Powell agrees to go to Silver Bells, Colorado with her young son to care for her friend’s grandmother who has had a fall. They end up decorating the huge house for a large Christmas event. Of course, they fall in love with the town and the people in it. The story was predictable but still fun.

From this list, I would have to pick the Ann Cleeves book as my favorite. Now that I have discovered the Vera Stanhope series, I will definitely be reading more of it.

Magazines:  Akron Life, Cottages and Bungalows, Southern Lady, Ohio Magazine, Real Simple, Farmhouse Style

Self Seeding Plants

CosmosCosmos

Walking around the yard last month, I realized there are a number of plants growing that I didn’t plant. They are added blessings or gifts of nature, if you will. The cosmos all self-seeded from plants that my daughter gave us last year. My favorite is the dark pinkish orange that grew up in the crack between two sandstones. You can see its bare roots, but it is growing tall, nonetheless.

Morning glories

Morning glories

The morning glories reseed themselves prolifically every year and have done so since I first moved into this house. In fact, I didn’t even plant the first ones. They just magically appeared.

Cosmos

Cosmos

This glorious stand of cosmos also self-seeded.

Cleome

Cleomes

The cleomes have been coming up on their own each spring for several years now. I did plant three of them about five years ago. That next year I weeded out dozens of baby cleomes that sprouted all over my rose bed. Now we seem to get just the right amount and I am thankful for the pop of color they add to the fall garden.

Moon flower

Moon flower

We have a couple moon flower progeny that survive from plants we put in years ago. We get less each year. They seem to have trouble sprouting through the mulch and ground cover.

It is fun to see where these self- sowing plants will emerge in the spring. They often come up in unexpected places. Places where I would never plant them myself but that I later decide is just right. In between flagstones on the patio or coming out vertically between retaining wall stones of a flower bed. Occasionally, I transplant young sprouts to a more prime location. Other times Mother Nature does know best and I let them be.

Hiking: On the Trail Again

Fall Leaves

We didn’t hike much over the summer. It was too hot for me. Once the weather reached 80 degrees I started whining about it and when it hits 85 degrees I won’t even go. Not too mention the biting flies, mosquitos, and gnats.

But with the cooler fall weather, we are on the trails again. Fall is my favorite season, not only because of the temperatures, but the colors are just so beautiful. The maples are putting on a show with their golds and oranges. I especially like seeing the colors on the trees against the blue of the reservoir water at West Branch State Park where we usually hike.

Fern moss.

It doesn’t matter how many times we hike at West Branch, we always see something new to us that we hadn’t seen before. Last week I thought we had discovered something called a fern moss. Fern mosses are mosses that have a fernlike appearance and there are numerous types.

Another fern moss.

Upon further research, I discovered that these two photos are not of fern mosses at all. These are apparently something called ground pine or clubmoss. They are more closely related to ferns than either pine or moss. The plant with the flat needles is called ground cedar. As near as I can tell, the other one is called tree clubmoss.

These tiny plants grow very slowly. It takes up to 15 years until they are mature to the point where they can reproduce. For this reason it’s best to leave them alone.

We often see other sights that are new to us as we are out in the woods and walking along roadways. We see birds, snakes, minks, weasels, etc. It is fun looking them up in field guides or online to learn about exactly what it is we have encountered.

We take all five dogs with us when we hike. It seems funny not to have Nikki waiting for us back at home anymore after her passing last week. You can read about Nikki at this link. Miss Nikki Pouncer Pants: A Tribute

Stay tuned for more hiking adventures.

Miss Nikki Pouncer Pants: A Tribute

Nikki

Nikki, October 15, 2007-October 15, 2021. Our oldest dog passed on to the Rainbow Bridge yesterday. She lived to be exactly 14 years old. She had a stroke last week. We were hoping that she would rally and have a few more months with us, but it was not to be. Yesterday, the day she passed, was her birthday. She got to spend a few hours on her last two days in the pasture with the other dogs, enjoying the sunshine and nice weather. She spent Friday afternoon on my lap where she passed away while I was holding her and surrounded by the rest of the family.

Nikki came to us through Northeast Ohio Shetland Sheepdog Rescue. We were her foster family until we adopted her. She was nearly five years old. Her original owner was in the hospital and no longer able to care for her three dogs. Nikki was the only sheltie of the three so came to our rescue. At the drop off, I was told that Nikki had been abused by some young boys earlier in her life. She was spunky and happy all the time that I knew her, although she did have one slightly deformed back foot. It didn’t slow her down though. She went on walks with us until a couple years ago. Her feisty personality caused me to call her Miss Nikki Pouncer Pants. That and her fluffy butt.

Nikki on a nursing home visit.

Nikki loved to visit her friends at a local nursing home and did so right up until Covid stopped us from going. As soon as we passed through the facility’s door, Nikki made a bee-line for the couch in the lobby and hopped up. Residents soon swarmed around and they all wanted to sit by Nikki and pet her. She was happy to oblige. Here she is visiting with our friend, Bob, who was always up for some conversation and having Nikki by his side. She brought joy to many and was greeted with a smile wherever she went.

Nikki chilling.

Nikki was also a veteran at working public events to spread the word about shelties in rescue. She volunteered with me at many an event promoting our rescue group. She was also a frequent attendee of our group’s business meetings. She would sit on the couch near me and bask in the attention she got from other members.

Nikki during pasture time.

Nikki was tolerant of all animals. She saw quite a few foster dogs come and go over the years. She was equally unaffected by the cats that entered the household and became family too. Nikki loved to go out to the pasture with “the big dogs” and would jump up and run to the door, out onto the porch, and down the driveway until they all ran through the gate to the pasture. She was still doing this just last week. You had to get her attention by waving your arm because she couldn’t hear you, but she still wanted to go. Nikki was considerably smaller than our other dogs. She only weighed 20 lbs. We used to joke that we were afraid that some of the large birds of prey would swoop down and get her. She was never outside without her larger pack members, ranging in size from larger shelties to greyhounds, so she was fine.

Nikki relaxing.

Nikki was an easy dog to have around. She never caused any trouble. Even in her last week of failing health, she never had one accident in the house. In her early days with us, she liked to do what we called “the bicycle.” If you motioned at her with your index finger, she would sit up on her back legs and move her two front legs in a circular motion like she was pedaling a bicycle. This was her version of play fighting and she thought she was tough. She was so cute that we let her think so.

She was a favorite of the young and old alike. Not only did she do nursing home visits, she often went along to visit my nieces. My older niece would hold Nikki’s leash on walks from the age of three. When I came through the door, the first words I heard were “Did you bring Nikki?” If I answered no, I was meet with “awww.” I didn’t blame them. Nikki was cute!

Nikki’s happy face.

We have five other dogs, but without Nikki’s presence, the house feels empty. She was a good little dog and we miss her. My last words to her were “Momma loves you.” Truer words were never spoken. Until we meet again my little one.

Books I Read in September 2021

Bag full of magic. Library books!

Once again I have not read as many books as I had hoped because life got in the way. This month it was providing support to my husband as he works on our house. This project is part of the roof structure, soffits, and fascia on the west side of the house. I did get up on the scaffolding a few times to hold things, but believe me, my husband did the brunt of the work. There is also some gable work to be done. In fact I was called away from this post for paint chip clean up.

Oh, and I have also spent quite a bit of time and extra work transitioning our new kitten into the house! See the photo at the end of this post for a glimpse of Jasper. More on him in a future post. He fits right in with our pack because he was a foundling, of course!

And so, on to my slim list of readings for the month of September.

  1. The Kew Garden Girls-Posy Lovell

During World War I, a group of women takes on the challenge of keeping the Royal Botanic Gardens in good upkeep. The book also takes on a number of social issues of the day. After having never heard of the White Feather Campaign before, this is the second book I have read this summer that addresses it. Also discussed are the Suffrage Movement, women’s rights, and domestic violence. The characters in the book become family to each other. A good read.

2. At Lighthouse Point-Suzanne Woods Fisher

This is the third book in a series. I have enjoyed them all and become attached to the family as they go about getting their lives in order. The setting is a Maine island near Bar Harbor, so of course I would be a fan. The youngest daughter Blaine has always been impulsive. Returning from two years in Paris, she sets about figuring out the course of her life, even if it doesn’t go as planned. All the sisters are featured in this latest installment.

3. Pup Fiction-Laurien Berenson

Another gem from the Berenson dog show circuit mysteries. Melanie’s friend mysteriously becomes the owner of three show quality Dalmatians. Shortly thereafter, her friend’s ex-husband shows up, murdered nearby. How could two unlikely events be related? You’ll have to read it to find out the answer.

4. The Shell Collector-Nancy Naigle

Widow Amanda Whittier and her two children are surviving the loss of their husband and father the best they can. Amanda moves them to the beach town where she met her husband, and they start a new life. The friendships they make, and the one they renew, help them to heal as well as help those around them. Amanda makes friends like the ones we all want to have. This book was so good, it had me in tears near the end. Definitely worth the read.

Magazines:  Eating Well, Ohio Magazine, Oprah Magazine, the Cottage Journal, Cottages and Bungalows, Writer’s Digest

New kitten, Jasper!

The Extent of My Abilities

Curtain
New curtains for door.

This afternoon, I took a pair of floor length curtains and made them into curtains that fit the window on our side door. This is the extent of my sewing abilities. I can do this, hem pants, and sew on buttons. That’s about it.

All my sewing is done by hand. My mother tried to teach me how to sew with a machine. She didn’t have much luck because I was left handed and she said I did everything backwards. She soon gave up. Her attempts to teach me how to crochet and knit didn’t fare any better.

I did have a bit of success at embroidery. Except for the time I embroidered my project to the blanket on my lap.

I did well at cross stitch and needle point. They are repetitive, so the concept is simple. Sometimes I like the repetitive nature. It is soothing to work on while watching television.

And there is an added bonus to the curtain project I did today. I can use the remaining fabric to make curtains for the bathroom window! I’ll save that for another day.

Cupolas Installed!

Cupola installation completed!

And suddenly there were cupolas on top of the workshop, where no cupolas had been before. Ok, so it wasn’t all that sudden, but I am very happy with them.

My husband built and installed these cupolas. I am truly amazed at what he is able to do with some wood, screen, and a sheet of aluminum. Not only that but the act of getting onto the rooftop and installing them was monumental in my eyes. And they look nice too.

I learned a lot about cupolas that I never knew before. I thought they were ornamental but that is not so. Or rather, they are ornamental, but that was not their original purpose. Cupolas, are structures added on top of a building, and they are often domed. They are intended to provide light and/or ventilation. The purpose of cupolas in barns is to assist in the drying of stored hay. The purpose of our cupola is to provide ventilation. We needed a way to release moisture and heat, and we weren’t happen with what ridge vents would offer in this situation.

For some reason the cupolas remind me of Churchill Downs, the home of the Kentucky Derby. Their cupolas are much larger, but there’s no accounting for my mental associations.

Close-up of cupola.

Our cupolas have screens behind all the louvers to keep out bats and other critters. We do have bats around here because of all the dead trees and woods in the surrounding area. While I like bats, I don’t want them in my building, especially when I hope to have an upstairs office there one day. I am perfectly content to have them living nearby though, where they can swoop through the air and eat mosquitos to their heart’s content.

So, there is more than you probably ever wanted to know about cupolas. Enjoy!

My Favorite Part of Retirement

Hanging out with the kitten
Spending time with the kitten.

One of my favorite things about retirement is the end of the day. I used to put off bedtime as long as I reasonably could when I was working. Bedtime meant that my evening was over. Once I went to sleep, it seemed like no time had passed and then it was time to go back to work.

Don’t get me wrong, I liked my job as an environmental scientist. It just got in the way of my life and what I wanted to be doing at home. Now, at the end of the evening when I am tired, I just happily go to bed, knowing that when I wake up I can pick up where I left off. Or do something else of my choosing. I don’t have to put in 8+ hours at work before I can come home again. It’s like endless summer vacation!

I have talked to a few other retirees about this and they feel the same way. Time freedom is a grand thing!

There are many other wonderful aspects of retirement that I touched on in a previous post. You can read about them here. Retirement: Run by Dogs! If you would like to share in finding out more, don’t forget to like my blog and follow along.

Books I Read in August 2021

  1. London’s Number One Dog Walking Agency-Kate MacDougall (Non-fiction)

Tales from the owner of London’s Number One Dog-Walking Agency from start-up through move to the country. You will enjoy meeting the dogs and the people too.

2. The White Garden-Stephanie Barron

This book takes place at Sissinghurst Castle during two periods of time. The castle was the home of garden designer Vita Sackville-West and her husband. The plot focuses on determining what actually happened to writer Virginia Woolf during her last days. Was it suicide or foul play? This is a work of fiction and takes liberties with what history records. A fun book, especially for gardeners.

3. Camino Winds-John Grisham

Bruce Cable, wealthy owner of bookstore Bay Books, tries to solve another murder on Camino Island, Florida. A hurricane hits the island causing death and destruction. Bruce finds that his friend was murdered during the storm. He encounters unexpected situations while trying to solve the crime.

4. The Sea Glass Cottage-RaeAnne Thayne

Olivia Harper goes home to help her mother recuperate from an accident and help out with her 15-year-old niece and the family business. She plans to return to her life in Seattle. Many untold secrets surface about Olivia’s family. The truth puts many issues to rest, and plans change.

5. The Pepper Thai Cookbook-Pepper Teigen (Non-fiction)

It turns out that Pepper is the nickname of the author. This is obviously a book of Thai recipes. Many of them look good and it provides handy tips. I will not make many of the recipes because many of them involve fish/oyster sauce and I am the only one here who likes it. I do plan to make the Pad Thai Brussels Sprouts because, hello, how can you go wrong with those two things?!

6. The Book of Hidden Things-Francesco Dimitri

Four friends have a pact to meet each year on the same day in Italy. The leader doesn’t show up this year. I gave it 30 pages and wasn’t into it, so gave up. I have a whole bag of new library books waiting or I might have kept going.

7. Everyone is Italian on Sunday-Rachel Ray (Non-fiction)

Delightful, as are all the Rachel Ray cookbooks I’ve seen. Most of the recipes in this book are ones I want to make when it’s cooler out.

8. Once Upon a Puppy-Lizzie Shane

Unpredictable Deenie Mitchell is always on the move. She stays in Pine Hollow for a while to be with her aging aunt and to help with new programs at the dog shelter. She encounters Connor who has a plan for everything. Both their worlds begin to change and who knows where it will end? This is the second book in the Pine Hollow series, and I have enjoyed them both.

I’m hard pressed to pick a favorite book from this selection. All were good but none really stood out to me. If forced to choice, I would go with The Sea Glass Cottage. Books about relationships and family dynamics always intrigue me.

Magazines: Writer’s Digest, Bird Watcher’s Digest, The Cottage Journal, Everyday Storage, Better Homes & Gardens Secrets of Getting Organized

Making Plum Preserves

Strainer
Straining the plum preserves.

We hard a large harvest from one of our plum bushes this year! We purchased them from our County Extension Office as pencil sized twigs several years ago. The largest is now about seven feet tall. They are covered with sweet smelling white blossoms in the spring. I recently read that the type we have are called wild plums or sand cherries, among a few other names. They start to bloom after three years and produce fruit after four to six years. So we may have even more fruit next year if our other bushes kick in.

I made our first batch of plum preserves last week. I followed a recipe I found on-line which called for lime zest and juice to be added. I strained the final product through a colander which was a bit of work and had some waste. The result was tasty, if a little tart.

Just after that we went to our neighbor’s barn sale. She will be moving soon and was clearing out a lot of things. We will miss Shirley. She has been a good neighbor. And Zekie has certainly enjoyed chasing the geese off her pond. https://sanctuary-acres.com/2021/03/22/a-working-dog/ My husband and I had found a few items and were ready to leave the barn sale when we saw one last item we had to have. It was the colander type strainer with wooden pestle seen above. Our neighbor said she had used it for making applesauce. We knew that it would be perfect for making plum preserves!

I had four more pounds of plums from this week’s picking, so I made more plum jam this afternoon. This time I made plum cinnamon for one batch and the other was plum ginger with freshly grated ginger root. Both are delicious. I used the new strainer set up to remove the plum skins and it worked beautifully.

Preserves
Two flavors of plum preserves.

I also made a peach custard pie this morning with peaches I purchased at a local farm stand. It was a productive day and I am happy we were able to take advantage of local produce.

Peach custard pie
Peach custard pie.