Noblesville, Yarn, and My Seashore Shawl

Noblesville, Yarn, and My Seashore Shawl

Seashore ShawlOn a recent trip, I found myself in the delightful town of  Noblesville Indiana, with plans to meet some friends for lunch at Rosie’s Place.   Someday I want to live in a town like Noblesville, a quiet suburb just northeast of Indianapolis. As I walked to lunch I couldn’t help but notice the courthouse that anchored downtown Noblesville –  backed against the White River and  surrounded by shops and businesses which then gave way to homes built before I was born.  Perfect.

I’d done my research ahead of time, and found not only the lovely diner where we’d meet, but a yarn store that looked quite promising.  So, of course, I made a point to arrive a little early to check out  Black Sheep Yarn and Fiber Arts,  housed in a beautiful old Victorian conveniently right next to public parking.  Which cost twenty-five cents an hour. Twenty Five Cents an Hour.


So I found this Freia yarn I hadn’t seen before.  It caught my attention and I’ll tell you why .  First, the name was Freia*.  Freia is an old Nordic name., lso spelled Freyja, Freja, and Freya.  It means “lady” and is the name of the goddess of love, beauty, war and death in Norse mythology.  Freya also happens to be the name of one of my sisters. And, in my lifetime, I’ve met very few people blessed with that moniker.  I’ve heard it has recently become popular in Great Britain – I’ll be keeping my eyes and ears open on my next trip across the pond.  In any case, so the name caught my attention.  And the color ways… oh my!  Well, and then as I looked more closely – this yarn is merino/silk and well worth a quick fondle.  I was enamored.  In any case, this delightful little skein made it into my bag, the back of my car, and after a more than a few hundred miles, onto my needles at home.  And you can see the results – my Seashore Shawl.  I’m pleased with the results, I received a couple of compliments, and, well, life is pretty good.


* For more information about Freia Fibers, check out their site: Freia Fibers.  But be warned – that delicious merino/silk is not available online, but only through a limited number of retailers.  I’ve put in a request at my LYS and the owner tells me she’s on the waiting list.  Fingers crossed.



parsley-in-bedParsley!  Who would think this humble herb would have such strong attachment to my Italian heritage?

It is early spring,  cold and damp enough to require extra layers. One of those sun-barely-up mornings that calls me to wander the yard and see whats up.  I’m in my jammies and bare feet, against every ounce of my common sense adultness.  All around me is tinged a warm sort of pink from the rising sun.  No cars, no planes, no music or doorbells or conversations, just an occasional twitter or tweet, the kind that birds make.  Emergence and rebirth, the scent of damp earth, a scampering bunny escaping the threat of me… this time of year a survey of my city-lot size domain of green brings peace, stillness, a calm.  Steam swirled up from my coffee cup, my only source of warmth. It’d be a short exploration.

As I wandered into my rain-soaked garden I  saw determined parsley plants pushing up through the mud.  This year, they’ve beat they’ve managed to beat the chives and the daffodils.  Determined little plants!  Back in the day, my Italian grandmother, Nonni, grew  parsley.  She was in California, so her garden had bundles of green year-round.  They grew in a long bed that followed the fence delineating property boundaries.  On the other side, the Gaspars had concrete, but my grandparents yard was green everywhere.  The parsley shared space with lilies of the valley.  Wow, I wish I’d have a high definition camera back then.  Or any camera, for that matter.  I think I was six, and of course preserving what was plain old normal at Nonni and Grandpa’s never crossed my mind.  Now, decades later, I can still see, smell, feel that little tiny piece of my past.

Back then, the only parsley everyone else knew about was that curly stuff. It usually showed up on a restaurant plate next to the baked potato.  And nobody ever ate it, ever!

But my Nonni grew flat-leaf parsley from seed she’d brought from Roccamonfina. That parsley came across the Atlantic in steerage, tucked away in a little packet just like the ones that held future tomato and zucchini and pepper plants.  Nonni nurtured and pampered and encouraged those little seeds into a small but productive garden in the tiny lot they shared with several families Methuen.  Then they made it over to Lawrence, again a small city lot, hardly enough sun, but they grew and ate every year, and saved seeds for the next season.  Finally, a big move to sunny southern California.  Oh my, the garden flourished!  Grandpa was retired by then, and he would spend half his days puttering, trimming his roses, plucking tomato beetles, shooing the chickens, trimming the lawn. Grandpa had a green thumb.

Nonni would hand me the shears and scoot me out, the screen door banging behind me.   And I would  snip parsley, just a little from each plant, not too much, so more would grow back for next time. I’d come back into the house with an armful of fragrant greenery.  Then I’d help her mince and mash that parsley with salt and lots of garlic, making a pungent paste. It would seem to take forever to come together into the absolutely smooth consistency Nonni required.  Later, my mother would be express her horror that  Nonni had let a youngster handle a sharp knife.  That perfectly smooth paste would go into Nonni’s braciole. I still dream about that rolled steak and the cooked-all-day sauce that went with it.

Our Italian heritage is more than name, language, history.  We find our culture and our past in the simplest of things sometimes, and some of our strongest connections come at random… like walking through a rain-soaked herb garden just after dawn on an early spring morning.

Macaroni and Cheese, Family History, and the Blue Box

Macaroni and Cheese, Family History, and the Blue Box

american-kraft-macaroni-cheese-family-size-dinner-306-pI never tasted skinny orange macaroni and cheese from a blue box until I was married.  Some would consider me to have been deprived of a normal childhood.  I may have considered myself a victim, had a known back in the day.

Macaroni and cheese in our home consisted of a large pot full of elbow macaroni with a cube of butter melted over and  lots of grated parmesan (or romano) cheese.  Sometimes it was bowtie noodles or those cute little shell ones.  I remember once it was little orecchiette that a great aunt brought back from a trip back to the old country.  Our macaroni and cheese was never baked in a casserole, never had a crunchy topping, and was most certainly never orange.  And we never knew we were missing out on something everyone else took for granted.  Poor us!

Way back when, my new husband asked me to make him mac and cheese… from a box.  I bought the blue box, which back then set us back about twenty cents, and carefully followed the instructions.DSC_0084 Switching from butter to margarine was something new.  Substituting day-glo orange powder for actual cheese tested my limits.  But I persevered, and successfully prepared the dish.   Which my husband put in a bowl, sprinkled with salt, and ate with a fork.  And he was pleased.

So then this recipe for pressure cooker mac and cheese crosses my path. Humph.  All these years of not eating the stuff, and this comes along.  Call the carb police, because this creamy, crispy-topped gooey cheesy heaven is pure comfort food.  Sincere thanks, Mike.

This Muggle Thinks Bad Owl Coffee Wasn’t So Good

This Muggle Thinks Bad Owl Coffee Wasn’t So Good

IMG_1774Sometimes I wake up at 3:00 with a compulsion to write.  I have never ever awakened at 3:00 am with a compulsion to write a restaurant review.  First time for everything….

That New Harry Potter Themed Coffee Place in Vegas

I’m not a wand-carrying Harry Potter fanatic, but I do think the book and movies are (1) pretty darn good and (2) kind of iconic.  And who doesn’t love coffee?  Well, lots of people, but I’m not one of them.  I like coffee.

So, when my social media exploded with news of a Harry Potter themed coffee place opening in Las Vegas NV literally days before I was to be in sin city, I had to add it to my itinerary.  You have to know I have an amazingly transparent internet presence, so of course I’m not in the least amazed at the magic of such precision targeted marketing.  In any case, I made it a point to drive myself down there to give it a try.  Henderson is kind of off the tourist beaten track, and this place is in a strip mall at the far end of a Eastern Ave, the long busy street with every chain restaurant and retail establishment imaginable.  And the traffic to go with it.  So getting there was a bit of an effort.

We arrived early afternoon, and spent a good ten minutes finding a place to park.  The line out the door testified to the success of the blitz marketing campaign.  Bad Owl Coffee had been open for exactly two weeks and there was a line out the door.  Good sign, right?

My companion and I took our place in the queue and glanced around.  It was immediately clear that we were decades beyond the target market in age, attire and demeanor. The clatter and chatter, high ceiling and hard surfaces made conversation nearly impossible, so we perused the coffee/tea menu and took a look in the pastry case.

While we waited, surveyed our surroundings to evaluate the Harry Potter-ness of the place.  There was a really really nifty metallic owl sculpture on the counter.  I’d have been happy to take that home and put it in my office.  A brick wall in the back with a Hogwarts Express sign.  Beyond that, a wooden direction sign back near the restrooms likely had familiar destinations, but I never actually got close enough to confirm that. The tables had themed words and symbols etched into them, pretty cool.  Definitely not in-your-face Harry Potter, but enough to claim a theme.  Fans will be pleased, I think.

We made it to the front.  I was curious about the Butterbrew latte, particularly since it was the only drink on the menu that that gave a nod to the theme that had been so highly hyped in all the press.  Well, okay, they did offer a lavender latte, and there is a Lavender Brown character in HP.  I suppose I should give them that, too. Other than that, a typical menu of the same old  hot and cold coffee drinks and some nice teas.

Speaking of the press, remember how I said I didn’t feel particularly special about getting that marketing blitz on my screens?  Man, was I right about that.  A quick google search brought up what appeared to be a very  intentional marketing explosion.  One had the owner expressing “surprise” that so many people had heard of them.  Every single article/tweet/post featured “Harry Potter” prominently  To be honest, I’m impressed with the marketing – the place had been open exactly two weeks and there was a line out the door.  Well done.Screen Shot 2016-03-02 at 3.31.53 AM

Okay, back to the front of the line.  I asked how long they’d been open.  “Weeks”, was the response.  I don’t know why or how, but she made “weeks” sound vague. Wow, I’ve been at new eateries and coffeeshops bunches of times, and they can usually tell you the day , the date, sometimes the hour they opened. They’re  proud and excited and pumped. Clearly not the case with this young lady.  Fine, maybe she’s had a long day.  I can sympathize with fatigue.

So I let it go and inquired “What flavor do you put in the Butterbrew latte? Butterscotch?  Or something else?.”   “Butterbrew is butterscotch and a secret flavor I cannot reveal.” The response was flat, as if she’d answered that question a thousand times already.  She probably had,  but hey, every customer right now is still brand new. If you’re already bored with it, then why am I here?   The shine of all that promotion was beginning to tarnish.

Of course I ordered the Butterbrew latte – that was why we’d come.  I told her I prefer my drinks not so sweet and asked for half the typical syrup.  She replied that there drinks weren’t too sweet.  Okaaaay.  Then she asked, I kid you not, if I wanted the espresso shots in my drink.  I am taken aback.  What? Aren’t their lattes made with espresso?  Well, yes, she explained, but sometimes we leave the shots out for children.  Excuse me?  I’m a middle aged woman and my companion was 20 years my senior.  Children?  Yes, of course I wanted the espresso shots in my latte. By now I am as close to speechless as anyone has ever seen me.  As we turn to the next spot to pay, she rolls her eyes.  Apparently she thinks un-hip women over the age of 22 who want espresso in their espresso drinks are blind as well as overly demanding.  Wow.

I loved that they had a chip-reader that worked – so many businesses are still working on that.  I didn’t love that I was charged $2.00 more than the price on the menu.  Are coffee taxes that high in Las Vegas?  By now my companion was uncomfortable with the noise level and was eager to escape the chaos, so I just skipped the option to tip between 15 and 30 percent and signed the tablet.  I glanced at the tip jar, which contained three five dollar bills.  No change, no singles.  Five. Dollar. Bills.  Seriously?

So we waited.  And  then waited.  And waited some more.  And then my name was called, mispronounced horribly, which is just not acceptable in such a hipster environment.  And I was handed a three-quarters-full lidless cup.  Maybe they were having a milk shortage.  My job, apparently, to grab the lid from a pile and wedge it on the cup myself.  SomeIMG_1776day they’re going to regret that idea when the cup slips and someone’s drink splatters all over that tablet.  Thankfully, that day was not today and that somebody was not me.  I know, people close to me will be amazed.

We escape to one of the two outside tables for relative quiet of the parking lot and street traffic.  We sit, and I take a sip.  My 12-second old latte was lukewarm.  I cannot taste the secret ingredient.  I cannot taste the espresso, though I saw them put it in there.   I can taste butterscotch syrup.  Lots and lots and lots of butterscotch syrup.  Maybe it needed a mix.  I swirled the cup, took another sip.  Even more cloying.

For the first time in my life, ever, I threw away a six and a half dollar coffee drink.

Full disclosure – I am picky about my coffee.  At home I drink a light roast espresso that comes from Italy.  When I’m not traveling, I prefer a local place that roasts their own organic beans.  I don’t like to drink “brews” from that giant chain that not longer actually pulls shots because yuck.  As for chains, give me Dutch Bros, who knows how to make a good cuppa and has fun doing it.

But I am cheap and I like my caffeine and I’m almost certain I’ve never ever discarded a just purchased, full cup of anything.  I’ll choke down almost any beverage if I’d payed that much.  Ask anyone who’s ever met me at a Starbucks.

So, final take?  The decor is as Harry Potterish as they can be without violating Universal’s

copyrights, I suppose.  The owners have marketed the hell out of the place.  The butterscotch concoction is a nod to Harry Potter fans, but poorly executed.  The price is high, the coffee isn’t that good, and apparently customers who aren’t young and hip and extra attractive need not wander in.

So, Harry Potter fans will check it out.  Once.  At least for now, until that double-edged social media sword swings.  Even without a high-precision carefully executed marketing plan, the word will get out.

Good luck, Bad Owl Coffee.

What, Me? Committed?  About Those Resolutions…..

What, Me? Committed? About Those Resolutions…..

2015_16So I took several posts to share my plans for the New Year.  My resolutions, if you will.  Then I sort of fell off the virtual earth.  Been awfully quiet around here, I know.  So, after taking a peek back at what I said, I think it is only fair to share what I actually did.  Here we go.

I’ll start right away with That Temperature Scarf.  I’ll admit I did get a bit behind.  I used my most recent road trip as an excuse.  Who wants to haul 8 balls of yarn around?  In any case, I found a great website, wunderground.  It’s a weather site, and the fun part is that people who have home weather stations can post all kinds of weather-related activity.  So, I found one right near my house, and, funny world that we live in, I actually know the folks who are sharing their data.  She’s a talented (read: published) novelist and they have two super-smart sons.  Daughter used to play tennis with the older one, back in the day.  But I digress.  I printed up a blank calendar, and, from their weather station, I jot down the high and low temperature for each day. Since each day is only two short rows of knitting (it is a scarf, after all), I sit down every week or two and get the needles going. Since it was so cold, I decided to make a daily low scarf.  Perhaps later I’ll make another for high temps.  I’m pleased to say not only is January complete, but based on one month’s worth of stitches, it looks like my scarf-of-lows will be a bit long, but not freakishly so.

Good for me!

Now, let’s talk about Taming the Paper.  I’m proud to say my kitchen counter is clear, the shredder is busy and I fill my recycle bin each week.  I do have a couple of paper projects to finish. I need to send that registration paperwork for Rosy the Therapy Dog (and AKC Canine Good Citizen!).

paperworks needs to be done- stack of papers, folders and envelops

A bunch of bill-paying is set to automatic now, wish I’d done that ages ago.  Taxes are nearly done, FAFSA will be finished right after Uncle’s stuff gets e-filed.  What is FAFSA, you say?  Lucky you!  Someday when your offspring head off to college, you’ll know the pleasure and pain of FAFSA.  Simply put, FAFSA is an annual online entry of a bunch of information you’ve already shared with the IRS.  Your child(ren) don’t get any financial aid if FAFSA isn’t done.  Magazine piles are gone – yay me!  Why am I still getting magazines?  Oh well, they’ll all expire eventually.  I’m using all the time I’m saving to plan a big trip.  Anyone have good hints on cheap car rentals in Europe?

So far, so good!

Those Genealogy Files.  Well, I’d kind of vowed to go through and remove errors and get everything organized and beautiful.  I made some progress, I really did!  I’ve got an indexed list of everybody and another list of all the things that need rechecking.  I’ve added a bunch of photos to dead people’s profiles.  I made it through a major genealogical panic when it looked like my software was going kaput, and found a solution and rode out that storm with only a few chewed fingernails.  I’ve backed up and got caught up on correspondence.

But the occasional search is just way too tempting.  And how can you deny me the pleasure of finding treasures like this?   I mean, honestly, this is just too fascinating to let go.  The_Escanaba_Daily_Press__Escanaba__MI__4_May_1948__Tue__death_of_Helen_Duprie_at_age_36I’m not exactly sure who she is, but I’m almost certain she’s related to my great-grandfather.  This clipping is from 1948.
So, not only must I find some time to figure out exactly who she is, but I must, must do a little digging and see if they found out why she died after eating a hamburger.  Did she choke?  Was she poisoned?  Did the counter clerk hit her over the head with a brick for non-payment?  Seriously, this merits attention.  Then I’ll get right back to organizing and cleaning my genealogy files, I promise.

Now, about that long list of Random Resolutions.  There were twenty of them.  I won’t bore you with every detail, but I have managed to keep on top of 18 of them.  I even scheduled the damn mammogram.  It is so very difficult to not yell at the tv, what with this being an election year, but I’m trying.  I’d say 50% success on that one.  I’ve blown it completely on baking cookies more often.  In my defense, however, I’ve been getting my fanny to the gym and just snagged a treadmill.  Why would I bake cookies when I’m working so hard to remove the sweets deposited on my hips?  I will make a batch soon, and it will go straight in a box to be sent to Daughter at college.  My plants are watered, I knit and write and read nearly every day, and I watch His shows without whining too much.  And I’m giving that forgive thing a great effort.  I’d say mostly a win on Resolutions 2016.

Granted, it is only February.  I may have to revisit this in a couple of months.