6

Sugar Gliders and Other Ways We’re Passing the Time

Posted by mrssmythe on March 20, 2020 in Mrs. Smythe |

First off – I hope you are well and in possession of toilet paper. Has your life changed as drastically as ours has?

Here in Massachusetts, we’re doing our best to self-quarantine, dashing out for groceries about once a week and otherwise staying home. Pepper is on spring break, soon to start online versions of her classes. Ginger continues to plug away at home school. Her sewing and dance classes have been cancelled until further notice. CPT A’s office is functioning at limited staffing, so he’s been home too. Which is not a bad thing, of course. We always like having him around. Besides, home has been a lively and interesting place of late.

For one thing, we’ve had visitors – a pair of sugar gliders we watched while their owners were visiting family in another state. Their care fell largely to Ginger, but we all enjoyed interacting with them.

They’re very amusing little creatures. Lively at night, docile by day. Occasionally, we’d hear one “bark” in the wee hours. They’re about the size of chipmunks and very soft.

When it was time for them to leave, Ginger packed them up in their little carrying case and CPT A drove them and their cage home.

It was a nice diversion for all of us.

Despite a recent snow storm…

…things are heading toward spring.

Lilacs are budding.

And the bulbs are starting to come up.

These are my giant allium…not so giant, yet.

Nearby yards have crocuses blooming in the warmer spots. It’s a welcome sight.

The other day, I squatted down to get a shot of some emerging daffodils and my camera flipped its view and I got this photo instead:

“So, this is what the flowers see,” I thought. I’m starting to save these “surprise” photos. Sometimes I like them better than the more posed and contrived ones I take.

Inside the house, the geraniums continue to bloom.

It’ll be time to put them back outside, soon.

And, with everyone home, the pets have received an enormous amount of attention this week. CPT A was even able to groom all of them. Here you see Mr. Wa getting a good brushing (note the gloves – Mr. Wa does not like to be brushed!). Ginger had to stand by with cat treats to try and distract Wa while CPT A worked. The grooming session did not last long, and Mr. Wa sulked and hissed at the dogs for the rest of the afternoon.

Mr. Wa – like many people – tends to take his irritation out on those around him.

From the dining room table, getting ready to watch a movie (Rawhide) and drink some tea,

Mrs. Smythe

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8

Seeking Color

Posted by mrssmythe on March 12, 2020 in Mrs. Smythe |

There’s always a sort of color “drought” between the months of January and March, and I find myself strongly drawn to anything bright and cheery during this part of the year. Do you feel this way, too? Here are some of the things that have been helping me recently as I wait for the flowers and leaves return.

Ginger’s crafting:

Ginger’s crochet projects are always colorful and cheery, but her latest – a spring-heralding pony – tops them all. It actually evolved from a problem she was having with a pattern she’d bought. She wasn’t able to figure out the mane portion, so she went in a completely different direction and adorned the horse with flowers and vines instead.

What a happy accident!

In my own crafting, I’ve continued to work on my vibrant knitted afghan in the mornings while CPT A reads the news to me. I’d say at this point, I’m about halfway done. Shadow approves.

The girls celebrated Victor Hugo’s birthday in February by baking a French flag-inspired cake. This was the fitting conclusion to our family’s Les Mis marathon. In the span of about four weeks, we watched four versions of the film along with two anniversary concerts. Now, when conversation lags, we just debate which Javert we prefer. I’m partial to Geoffrey Rush’s version.

Thankfully, the weather has been mild lately, and, though the landscape is bleak, I’ve been able to sit out in the sun with my feet in the grass on several occasions.

And, we’ve been able to work in the yard a bit, too, which is good because we lost another portion of one of our pine trees last month.

CPT A grabbed the chainsaw and went to work as soon as we spotted the damage. Thankfully, he managed to fell the limb without taking out a lilac bush that lay in its the path.

The playscape did get a bit crunched, though. But, as the children have long since abandoned it, we weren’t too concerned

The chickens and turkey came over once the chainsaw stopped. They were looking for bugs, and seemed to approve the change to the landscape.

After a bit of tree sleuthing, CPT A concluded woodpecker holes in the tree had let moisture in. That moisture then froze on the inside of the trunk and eventually compromised the tree.

Now, we have the task of cleaning up and disposing of the wood. We’ve taken care of most of the branches at this point, but the trunk is pretty thick and will take some doing.

In the meantime, I’ve been studying the insect tracks on some of the wood I’ve found. Doesn’t it look like ancient writing? Maybe the bugs are trying to send us messages.

From the dining room table, sincerely hoping there aren’t any more pine trees planning to topple this season,

Mrs. Smythe

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2

Dogs and Chickens…and a few other things

Posted by mrssmythe on February 9, 2020 in Mrs. Smythe |

The days must be getting longer because more of our birds are laying now, including the turkey! Suddenly, we find ourselves with a surplus of eggs again.

In other poultry news, we attended the Northeastern Poultry Congress in January. This is one of our favorite events – the number and variety of birds is amazing. Here you see Pepper enjoying the ducks.

And, this gives you an idea of the number of chickens we saw. This was only a small corner of the expo building. Row after row of cages with glossy birds of all shapes and sizes. It was a lot of fun to see.

Just weeks later, in the same place, the Great Barrington Kennel Club held its dog show. I’ve never seen so many golden retrievers in one place – they seemed to be the most represented of the breeds. Also – the dog owners were so serious! It was fascinating to walk around and watch all of the grooming taking place. So many incredibly clean dogs!

I went home afterward and brushed our own dogs for a good thirty minutes. I’ve decided I haven’t been doing a very good job with their grooming. I ended up with a massive basket of fluff – and I still could have gotten more if I’d kept at it. Since then, I’ve tried to do a little bit of grooming each afternoon. I don’t think our dogs will ever be to show standards, but it has been an improvement.

Crafting continues with scarves being my project of choice lately. Here you see a cowl I finished last week. The yarn is the “flamingo” colorway of Lionbrand’s Stitchbird line.

Another recent completion – this “Seed and Garter Stitch Scarf”, made with Cupcake yarn in “apple picking”. This was a wonderfully easy knit and the scarf isn’t overly bulky, which I like.

In other news, January brought very high winds, and we lost a significant portion of one of our large backyard pine trees. Ian was out in the cold this afternoon, hacking away at it with his chainsaw while I raked up debris. This is the fifth tree we’ve lost since moving to our house, so we’re getting to be old hands at clearing away fallen limbs.

Thankfully, only a small portion of the back fence was damaged.

We’ve also had ice, and though I don’t enjoy what it does to the roads, I do like what it does to the garden.

Since I last wrote, we’ve lost nearly all of our snow, but not before it revealed a network of vole trails that had been carved beneath the drifts.

It’s amazing what goes on just under our noses in the winter.

Now, as we head into February, I find myself very much looking forward to spring. Are you? It will be nice not to have to bundle up quite so much on the afternoon dog walks.

From the dining room table, getting ready to take a nice, hot bath to chase away the chill,

Mrs. Smythe

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6

December Recap

Posted by mrssmythe on January 6, 2020 in Celebrations, Chickens, Crafting, Family, Garden, Holidays, House Plants, Out & About, Travel |

Hello! And welcome back after what I hope was a lovely holiday season.

We had a very nice Christmas. This year, we splurged on an artificial tree. Here’s Pepper at Home Depot, assessing the selection.

I was set on getting one of the cheaper models, but then this tree caught our eye, and when CPT A (via text) gave it his vote as well, we went ahead and made the plunge.

I’m so glad we did. It’s my favorite tree to date. The glittery “snow” makes it very pretty – even in the sunlight. And, it was nice not having to water a tree or vacuum up needles. Also, I didn’t have to be concerned about the tree drying up in the sun. The biggest challenge was getting it back into the box…and, we never did get the entire thing to fit. So, now we’ll need to get some sort of a storage bag. But, overall, I’m very glad we made the purchase.

The past few weeks brought a couple of fun travel opportunities for our family. Pepper went to New York with her drama club in December to see Phantom of the Opera.

She had such a great time, she asked to go back a few weeks later for her birthday. This time, Ginger and I tagged along.

We took a bus into the city and had enough time for a bit of shopping and a matinee performance of Aladdin.

It was wonderful! Unlike the girls, I’m not a huge fan of music theater, but even I was amazed by the costumes, the sets, and the special effects – not to mention the singing and dancing.

Now, let’s see, what has been going on around the house….

More eggs!

Now, two of our hens are laying – surprising, considering the lower levels of daylight, but very welcome, I assure you.

And, the geraniums we brought in at the end of summer continue to bloom.

It’s always nice to have something flowering in winter.

Toward the beginning of December, we had lots of snow and ice. All of the shoveling I did gave me plenty of opportunities to try out one of my recent knitting projects – a “dickey.” Are you old enough to remember when these were sold in stores?

You wouldn’t think it would deliver much warmth – but it does! And, it’s wonderfully convenient, because, unlike a scarf, there aren’t any ends dangling and getting in the way. On extra cold days, I wear it around the house – especially if I’m wearing my hair up. It keeps the back of my neck from getting cold.

Other snow gear I finished in December – these mittens for Ginger.

I did not have as much luck with a sweater vest I was attempting to finish in the weeks leading up to Christmas. Here you see it at its start…

And now it is all unraveled and sitting in a pile in the closet. I tried several different patterns with the yarn and nothing seemed to work the way I wanted it to. I do like the yarn, though, so maybe I’ll use it for something simpler…perhaps a scarf.

As a sort of palate cleanser, I’m currently knitting a selection of colorful yarns from Lion Brand’s Ferris Wheel line into an afghan.

Here are the first two squares:

I’m basing my afghan on the Noro “To The Point” blanket. The yarn I’m using is a little thinner than what the pattern calls for, though, so I’m having to improvise. I think my afghan will have 42 squares.

So, that brings you up to date. I hope your New Year is off to a great start, and that you’re settling into cozy, relaxing days after all of the holiday fuss. I plan to drink lots of tea and do lots of knitting and reading in the coming weeks. I hope you have similarly pleasant plans. From the dining room table, getting ready to knit yet another afghan square,

Mrs. Smythe

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6

Craft Updates and Chrysanthemums

Posted by mrssmythe on December 3, 2019 in Baking, Crafting, Garden, Out & About, Seasons |

Well, I’ve finished up quite a few craft projects since my last post. November seems to have been a month for tying up loose ends. First, and most important, I finally finished my fair isle vest.

I’m very pleased with the result. And, since I’ve been working on this project since May, I’m very grateful to be finished with it. I bogged down a bit in the finishing work, but once the weather cooled I dug the vest back out and got to work, deciding I wanted to wear it for Thanksgiving dinner.

I also finished a pair of socks I’d been working on since September. They were an anniversary gift for CPT A. I used my tried and true Patons pattern for socks. If you’re interested, you can find information for it HERE.

Normally, it doesn’t take me so long to knit a pair of socks, but I kept getting distracted with other projects.

…projects like these fingerless gloves.

Aren’t these pretty? I fell in love with the yarn, which is Noro. It’s a lot of fun to knit with – lots of surprising bumpy bits and flashes of color. If you’re interested, you can find the pattern for the fingerless gloves HERE.

For chillier days, I plan to wear these newly-finished thrummed mittens.

I’d never made a pair of these, but they intrigued me, and having put holes in last year’s mittens, I figured I was due for another pair. Here you can see what they look like on the inside.

The strands of wool are supposed to fluff up and felt together as you wear the mittens, making them doubly warm. I’m interested to see how effective and durable they are. I used them today for shoveling snow, and they took a beating, but they also look like they felted some (which is good) and my hands stayed warm, despite the mittens being wet, so I’m optimistic. You can find the pattern I used HERE.

Ginger has been busy with projects, too. Here you see a wolf she crocheted recently. I love the shorts and suspenders. You can find the pattern HERE.

She also made another dragon.

I really like the eyes on this one. If you’re interested in giving this a go, you can find the pattern Ginger used HERE. It’s very customizable, and Ginger has used the same pattern to make a number of very different looking dragons.

When not crafting, we’ve been doing quite a bit of baking. Fall is such a great time for that. We’ve had a couple of birthdays in the family, so carrot cake was on the menu.

And, I found a recipe for Breakfast Cookies. These are delicious, and I love thinking that they are “healthy”. They’re pretty filling, too, and great to grab as a snack when you’re on the run. You can find the recipe HERE.

Oh, and I made mine with chocolate chips rather than raisins.

Finally, a little plant life to round out the post. The girls and I went to the Smith College Botanic Gardens for their annual chrysanthemum show. We’ve been to see the bulbs in spring before, but never to see these lovely flowers. What fun!

The variety of chrysanthemums was amazing. There were huge chrysanthemums and tiny ones. Fat-petaled ones and spidery-looking ones.

There were flowers the size of softballs and tiny little bonsai plants.

It was really beautiful to see – and a greenhouse is always a nice place spend a brisk fall afternoon.

Back home in our own garden, we had a few plants still holding out before the snow hit. I snapped a few photos while raking leaves last week. Here you see the last of the wild yarrow…

…and a very persistent strawflower.

Now, though, everything is under a blanket of snow.

I put up some Christmas decorations on Sunday, and my focus has shifted from leaves to the upcoming holidays. I imagine yours has, too. Do you have Christmas carols playing yet? We do. Christmas music is one of my favorite parts of the holiday season.

I certainly hope your holidays are merry and bright. I’ll check back in in a few weeks to let you know how ours have been. From the dining room table, having just finished round two of snow shoveling,

Mrs. Smythe

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