Book Report: Answers in the Form of Questions

Rating: 3 out of 5.

I’ve been sitting on this book report for a few days, because there were so many things to write about that I actually had a backlog! So, today let me share about Answers in the Form of Questions: A Definitive History and Insider’s Guide to Jeopardy! by Claire McNear. I wanted to read this book so much that I bought it twice. The first copy seems to have been taken from the office porch or delivered to another address. I do hope whoever got the book read it and enjoyed it!

As someone who’s been fascinated by words and word games my whole life, I was thrilled to learn this book came out. I enjoyed Answers in the Form of Questions, and would recommend it to anyone interested in the game of Jeopardy! (exclamation point mandatory) and its history. You learn a lot about how people prepare, as well as what people who have been on the show do later. Apparently, they hang out a lot and go to trivia events at various bars and restaurants.

I gained even more respect for good ole Merv Griffin, who invented that game and Wheel of Fortune (among others). I always thought he was that boring guy who asked Charro funny questions in the afternoon when I got home from school, but nope, he was a pretty darned smart and innovative television pioneer.

I enjoyed learning more about Alex Trebek and his personality. I had no idea how popular his mustache was or how upset people got when he shaved it off! Dang!

I guess this was the world’s most admired ‘stache.

There were a couple of things that I had trouble with in the book. McNear repeats the same information more than once in different chapters, so you read the same stories multiple times, as if she forgot she mentioned something. A good editor would have caught this and had her refer to the previous tale rather than repeating them.

The sun in the process of attacking my desk chair a few days ago. Note a Big Boggle game beside my chair. No one will play it with me. Sniff.

And the book really could have stood to have its publication delayed by six months or so, since it was written during the awkward time when many changes were about to happen for Jeopardy! People were about to retire, changes were about to be made, and Alex Trebek was still alive, but obviously terminally ill. It would have been nice to wait a couple of months or add an addendum with kind words about him and information on how the show is going forward. Maybe they will add something in a second edition.

I get that they probably rushed the book out to cash in on interest following Trebek’s death. It’s marketing!

Goodbye for now from my home office sanctuary. I’m enjoying the view of phoebes, meadowlarks, and mockingbirds until the sun attacks me every afternoon. I need a darker Roman shade!

Shawl for Comfort for Me and Recipient

Sometimes you can give and receive comfort at the same time. I showed you the beginning of my Transition shawl last week. I finished it this afternoon. Here’s the link to the project on Ravelry, if you want details.

Cozy Transition shawl, on top of my previous afghan using the same yarn.

Since I was making the pattern up based on how the yarn’s colors fell, it wasn’t stressful. I just had fun alternating garter stitch and stockinet stitch (bumpy versus smooth). It was quite soothing, which I’ve needed the past few days. This project came at the perfect time!

There was obviously no plan other than cheerful stripes.

I took a chance and decided to do a ruffle cast off, rather that doing it plain. It’s a version of a simple picot cast-off. Just Google it; there are plenty of instructions out there. I like how it added a feminine touch, which is perfect for the recipient!

Little bumps!

All went well as I proceeded along the edge of the shawl, until I felt a strange lightness in the yarn. Oh no, I was out of yarn. There was not any more whatsoever. I completely finished both skeins. Poop.

So, it’s not perfect. Just like me.

I did have enough to finish if I just bound off normally. So, I regretfully did so. There were other options, but none would result in the pretty white edge. The shawl isn’t for wearing in public, just to sit around the house, so maybe it’s okay. I may look for a skein of super bulky yarn that is a similar white, though. Having the edge a slightly different white might be okay.

Any knitters out there have another suggestion?

Here’s the next yarn. Noro Kureopatora (that’s Cleopatra in Japanese) 100% wool.

A Gift from the Heart

This repetition may be getting tiresome, but I’ll say it again. No matter what stress and strain life presents, there are always bits of happiness that help you get through. Yesterday was one of those times!

My husband, Lee, followed through on a promise he made to me a few years ago, and made me a headboard for our bed out of recycled materials. The headboard was originally a set of double doors that led from the living room to the dining room in one of the houses we owned on Travis Avenue in Cameron. We had taken that wall and another one down to make the living area of the house larger.

Lee held on to those doors all this time, hoping to be able to do something to recycle them. He also knew I’d been asking for a headboard for our bed at the Hermits’ Rest house.

The doors right after painting.

He decided to do it this year, and figured out a plan. It sounds like it was a lot of fun to work on, hiding in the garage room. He and his nephew apparently had a lot of fun asking at the hardware store for a brownish kind of red color to paint it. They ended up with a lovely color called Red Ochre. That reminds me of all my reading on the color red! Ochre is the first paint the people used in caves, other than charcoal!

At last the weather cooperated enough that he could paint the doors. They called me in to take a look, and I was so touched to see it the red doors. Lee was trying to make them look rustic, and did a great job not making it look perfect.

You can see bits of the original wood stain, and the brush strokes. It’s intentionally rustic.

Once he scraped off the paint on the panes of glass, it was quite lovely.

Here you can see the supports behind the headboard. Also, you can see an electrical outlet. Luckily, there was a broken pane of glass RIGHT where the outlet for the cord that keeps the bed pumped up is!

Last night, Lee installed it, all by himself (tiny help from me and the nephew, but mostly him).

It’s up. Great picture of Lee’s bed that raises up and down, too.

There’s a ledge of trim that connects the two doors and turns them into one piece.

Here you can see how the headboard sits on something sturdy. The piece of trim does a great job connecting the doors. We left the holes for the handle, for authenticity.

There are also many screws, and such, including an invented kind of attachment that holds the bed to the headboard, courtesy of our resident mechanical genius. I’m just amazed!

The dogs were relieved to have their bed back. They did not like it moved to the middle of the room.
Happy headboard user.

I don’t have a picture of everything completely set up, but you can get the idea.

I slept well last night, thanks to my new bed. I felt loved and appreciated. I’ll think of Lee every time I walk into the bedroom now (as if I didn’t, anyway).

What treasured objects remind you of someone you love every time you look at them?

Suna Conquers the Ridiculous Ranch Closet

There’s so much in life you can’t control. You can’t control whether people like you or not, whether you’re treated with respect, the actions of faceless government agencies, or groups of people who think differently from you. I can’t control those things, either, but, I made myself better by totally dominating my Hermits’ Rest house closet. It has bent to my will and now can be used with ease. It’s like a rural version of those fancy closets you see where ladies (or others) sit around and sit champagne while gazing at their shoes. Sorts.

Yes. There IS a chair there, and there ARE a lot of shoes, organized by type and function, mostly.

Does that photo scare you? Well, if you know me, you’ll know the story of the immense closet in my house, but let me share with the rest of you.

The doors lead to the main bathroom. I like the birds on a branch hangers. There is now only ONE thing per hanger. Thank you, Suna.

The deal is that our house is based on a floorplan for a 3 bedroom 3 bathroom house I found online and ordered the blueprints for. I did ask for some modifications, because the kitchen was really small and I knew there would be lots of cooks. I added an island with a second sink and the cooktop on it. OK, so yes, that made the second floor a bit bigger, too. I also added a laundry room/mud room, so the original laundry area could be a really big pantry (and safe room, long story). That added another few feet.

There’s a 3-way mirror in the corner, and that big square thing is all drawer space. I love the stone, which is actually natural quartz, not granite. My children gave me the obelisk the first Christmas we lived here. We were so thrilled by the island that we opened our Christmas gifts there (closet wasn’t in use yet).

Then, when the dudes started building the house, they asked if they could simplify the second floor. This turned some space that was attic storage into full height closets, and made the upstairs even bigger (also, now Lee has two large closets of his own for his stuff, do don’t jump on me for taking this whole thing).

As of last week, all those storage cubes were a mess of things, and the whole top shelf was shoe boxes. Um, so was most of the shoe shelf. I threw away a lot of boxes I was saving for some project or another.

What ended up happening was that our bedroom is ridiculously large, and has a sitting area and a coffee-drinking table and chairs. And my closet, which started out as a perfectly reasonable walk-in closet became as big or bigger than many bedrooms. It was sort of embarrassing.

These storage cubes now hold the things that were randomly scattered around the room, like tote bags, purses, plastic bags (for trash), bathing suits, hats, etc. I still have a few for future items. I also had them add these two windows, so I don’t need to turn on the lights to find things. Energy efficient!

On the other hand, it was great, and I could organize things and find them. Our contractor did a GREAT job making this a great closet without spending too much money on it. The storage cubbies are lined with cedar, for my hand knits, he built me a jewelry holding area with cork to hang things from AND a chest of drawers for non-hanging things, plus the mirror and the chandelier. It’s nice, but not California Closet crazy.

The jewelry area and ironic sign. By the way, the cubes at left weren’t organized yet in this photo. All those things on the top are now nicely organized in a storage bin.

As years passed, my organizational scheme went awry, and I ran out of clothes hangers. I do probably buy too many clothes. But I do wear them! By a couple of weeks ago, there were piles of things that needed sorting all over that pretty quartz island, I couldn’t find any of my jewelry, and those endless shoe boxes made the room look just awful. I did NOT take “before” pictures.

Essential oils are alphabetized and just need me to bring the rest of them in from various places. Note the trash can is up high, away from dogs. The photo is of my dad after winning a boxing tournament as a teen.

So, I was sad about things going on that I can’t control, like COVID, my family issues, a person I was trying to help but wasn’t able to, things at work. But by gosh, I could make that closet do my bidding. All I had to do was order 100 coat hangers, some drawer organizers, and 16 storage bins. For less than $50 I was ready to tackle the mess.

It was a lot of fun collecting things to donate to charity, organizing other things, dusting, vacuuming and even putting in decorations, so it didn’t look quite so boring.

In THIS photo, the cubes next to jewelry world look correct. You can tell how high I can reach, can’t you?

Sure, no one needs a closet this big, but if you DO have one, the least you can do is make it usable! I can find all my clothing, including pants, dresses, shoes, winter things, summer things, etc. And wow is that jewelry under control (um, now I have to organize the jewelry at the Austin house, sigh…I also have way too much costume jewelry, as part of my coordination obsession). Chaos has departed this one tiny bit of my life, and when I want to breathe, I can go into my closet, spray some rose room scent, and relax. Ahh.

This is ridiculously organized. Who took over Suna’s brain?

To all my friends with small closets (including me at my other house), I hereby promise to keep the ranch closet organized and usable, even suitable for visitors. When we are pandemic free, you can come over and see it.

What do you have under control where you live? It could be something big or small. It could even be in your mind!

500 Things

No, this is not one of those annoying blog posts that lists a certain number of things, where the blogger just looks stuff up and cuts and pastes. Oops that an opinion, not the start of a post. Anyway, 500 always feels like it’s halfway to somewhere, and it’s popping up for me.

Master Naturalist 500 hour pin.

First, I managed to reach the milestone of doing 500 volunteer hours with the Texas Master Naturalist program. That came faster than expected, thanks to doing the chapter blog, Nature Along the El Camino Real, being secretary substitute, and being president. I won’t make the next 500 so fast, since my iNaturalist observations here at the Hermits’ Rest no longer are acceptable as hours. You aren’t supposed to observe on your own property. Those of us who live on large properties are not thrilled. And with COVID, it’s hard to go many places. But, yay 500 hours. It’s a glass half full, glass half empty deal!

That was fast.

The other 500 achievement was that I got the notice that this blog has 500 followers. Surprise! That came only a little over a month after it hit 400 on December 4. To contrast, it took 7 months to get from 300 to 400 followers. This reminds me of how I track my exercise on my watch. I’m always thrilled when I hit a milestone, even though I’m not competing against anyone other than myself!

I see some sharing algorithms at work, which is fine. I’m just glad for the readers who are real people and who comment and share with me. Getting to know new friends and learning more about old friends is the best part of sharing my journaling online. And MY blog readers, at least, aren’t mean. I get enough of that in other arenas.

The mysterious hallway henge at the winter solstice.

This is a stretch, but I wanted to share this. The solstices are halfway points through the year, ya know, .500. This year, Lee discovered that we had oriented the ranch house to where the morning sun on the winter solstice shines straight through the upstairs hallway!

We didn’t get a picture on December 21, but the above photo was taken by Lee soon after. I remember being blinded by the morning sun blasting my eyes for about a week! Isn’t that cool? Hallway henge at Hermits’ Rest. Future generations will film dorky shows wondering why the builders of this house oriented it this way!

Thanks

Thanks for all the kind thoughts about yesterday’s post about my son. It helped me get through a long, hard day of endless meetings and people expecting me to solve problems that I can’t. It’s a challenging time, and I don’t post all the stuff here, believe it or not.

I thought y’all might enjoy some positive news today. There’s more to come. I’m doing lots to keep an upbeat focus and do what I can to improve life. What little things are you doing?

Thirty Years Ago Today

On January 15, 1991, the Gulf War was all that was on the news. I was, however, preoccupied with other things, since the previous day, I’d taken a very bumpy and snowy drive to the local hospital in Urbana, Illinois, where I’d spent the least-pleasant day and night in my life. No one wants the gory details, but in the end, the day dawned with a new human being in the world, my son, Kynan. The name means high and mighty in Welsh, or something like that.

Cute little tongue!

I have to say that this baby brought so much joy to his parents, grandparents, and friends that it was totally worth the interventions and ickiness of his birth. We had so much fun with this bright, funny, and entertaining little soul.

He started talking at nine months. We went into the back yard to look at the stars, and he pointed up and declared, “Moon!” He’s never done things the standard way. My dad said K. was revenge for how I was as a baby and toddler. I apparently talked constantly, too. Lucky for me, I was in my element gabbing away and reading to my little buddy.

Woodland exp0lorer (sorry, bad photo; it’s high on a shelf)

He was also an annoyingly early walker, but again, that was fine. He got his dad’s athletic build and skill, that’s for sure.

Raising this young man was one of the great joys of my life. I always enjoyed his friends and was impressed with his loyalty to them. If a friend crossed some line, though, they were out. His sense of right and wrong has always been very strong. His intellect is bright and very sharp; he’s fun to debate with (he was good at it in school!). He’s a gifted musician, and I always loved listening to him play his mandolin.

Stick a beard on it, and that’s him as an adult.

The other greatest joy I had was proofreading his college papers. It was awesome to see how his writing became better and better during college. By the time he as finished, he wrote as well as me and didn’t need my help (and I couldn’t really understand the philosophy stuff, as he’d passed me long ago).

I’m very proud of his work as a high-school teacher, and have worried about him a lot during the COVID-19 period. That has had to be so challenging for someone who cares so much for his students.

Here, he looks like an angel. Even though it hurts, I look at this every day.

Anyway, it’s a sad day for me on January 15, 2021. Like many people I know, I have a child who will not communicate with me. The last time I heard from him normally was two years ago today. It’s been a hard time for both of us, I think, as there have been many challenges in both our lives. I hope though, that he is happy with his family and household, and thinks of me in positive ways, at least occasionally. I know when he’s ready, he’ll get in touch again and I’ll find out what caused him to ghost me two years ago.

If you have a close relationship with your children, tell them you love them often! And if you’re estranged, hold hope and love in your heart. That’s about all I can do. I’m not looking for advice, just sharing how things are right now. My sadness today is perfectly normal, and I’ll be fine and keep coping.

My children aren’t big on gift giving. This is my treasure, which he had made for some band fundraiser in high school.

Change is always possible, and is inevitable. I’ll be here for my son whenever he wants me to be.

Sneaky Vlassic!

Vlassic, my black dachshund mix, is always a good source of funny stories. Since Penney showed up, we don’t get to hang around constantly, since he’s been quite happily keeping Lee’s brother company over at the RV, but still, we have our good times.

BUDDIES!!

Yesterday I was pretty happy to have time to walk to feed the horses. Since Vlassic was out running around, leaping and jumping, he got to come with me, which he usually does when Sara and her dogs aren’t there. We had a good time heading up to the barn, greeting Copper, the other dog on our property, with no problems.

Then I got a text. Sara was home and heading over. Oops. I asked her if she could leave her dogs, but she didn’t get the message. Vlassic knew just what to do, though, and ran in the tack room, waiting for me to shut the door. He learns FAST.

I’m always up to something. Fish food is tasty!

Naturally, the cattle dogs lost interest, and we were able to leave, though he yelled at me before I picked him up…he has some delicate spot that bothers him. So, back we went, enjoying the weather, etc.

When I got back to our ranch, I stopped to talk to CC, and we were just chatting away, while Bertie Lee pecked at my shoes, as usual. At one point, Lee’s brother opened the RV door and called for Vlassic to come back in. Hmm, where did he go?

We called a bit more vigorously, and he came absolutely flying out of the garage. I noticed, through the blur, that he had something in his mouth. It was round. After he disappeared in the RV, I figured it out. He had found an EGG!

No wonder he ran so fast, that sneaky boy! CC went in to look for the contraband. Vlassic was innocently installed in his bed, looking very nonchalant. But, sure enough, sitting on the dinette seat was a Bertie egg. Obviosly, she didn’t get locked in the coop long enough to teach her to lay eggs in the henhouse.

The front egg is the one we found in the garage. The other two were in the henhouse, courtesy of Star and Springsteen.

The egg had bite marks on it, so we left it for Lee’s brother to cook ASAP. Then we searched the garage for the new egg hiding spot. I was very proud to live up to my “finder” reputation, because I spotted a little brown egg under the utility sink. Oh, Bertie.

CC put stuff in the new spot, to block it off. I looked today, and she hadn’t laid an egg there yet. I’ll have to search around later today.

All that Change Embracing Gets Tedious

This is a time of upheaval, and I’m really glad I spent my whole life up to now preparing for lots of stress and lots of change. I think if the past year had happened with my coping skills back when I was 20-something, I’d be curled up in a ball every single day. So, if you are that way now, don’t beat yourself up over it.

Such a happy gal

This week I have three meetings for three different organization, and of course I’m the secretary of all but one (that means I have to pay attention). Plus, there have been lots of shakeups and changes at my Austin job. Hard ones, some of them. But, I was doing well today, having finally gotten the temperature in my office under control, my webcam set right, and a fine ambiance. I even took a cheerful photo of myself to use on some PowerPoint for a work project.

Suddenly, I got a message that I have to be out of the office for two weeks, to be sure we’re all safe and following instructions from the state. I was like, “Right now?” Yep. Thank goodness I could finish the meeting I was in! So, I untangled all my cords and wires and brought all the things I needed over to my office at the Hermits’ Rest, which I’d been avoiding using for work, due to barking dogs and such.

I appear to be frazzled at the ole home office. And I appear to have developed a lazy eye in my old age.

Lee brought my office chair, so I don’t have to sit in a dining chair! Once you get things all set up for a modern “work from home” situation, you don’t realize how much stuff is involved. I had to move my fancy work headphones, my HD webcam, my ergonomic mouse, and my cute keyboard. Oh yes, and all the power cords and USB attachments for all of them. Good thing I have a lot of USB plugs. We did have to go back and get things I forgot, but now I’m set.

That’s my view. I guess it will make me concentrate more on work.

I got everything plugged in and working, though it’s not pretty. The desk is pretty (solid labradorite), but it’s pretty much all cords.

Well, I have no choice but to embrace this change and find the good parts.

  • Working in my office/den will encourage me to clean up some clutter that’s showed up here (I did clean up the air bed leftover from our last guest).
  • I have a really nice bathroom with birds all over it.
  • I have usually well behaved dogs lying around and sighing.
  • I brought all my pens, so I can write in color!
  • I get to look out a window and see birds and trees.
  • I can go feed my horses this afternoon with plenty of time to come back for my evening meeting, rather than having to drive back and forth to the office.

Um, and the commute is shorter! I will welcome more snow!

Oh, really, this is just a little glitch, and it will all be just fine. I’ll deal with it, I’ll deal with whatever comes up at work, I’ll deal with challenges my friends are facing, and I’ll do my best to remain positive about how next week will go, government-wise.

I know I’m supposed to embrace change! Honest! But, we are allowed to get a little annoyed, for a little while, before moving on and getting things done, doing the needful, etc. Keep me in your thoughts, and I promise to do the same!

Comfort Walking and Knitting

Another crazy day in the US, but I’m feeling a little better, because I took my own advice and got outside more. It helped that the weather was a bit better. Even just taking a walk around the office brought me delight. I picked these pretty pecans (which I will take home and eat!).

Such pretty nuts

I also enjoyed stopping at one of the least-attractive parts of my walk to enjoy the Carolina snailseed vine in its winter glory.

The seeds look like little jewels.

The vine really grew over the summer as no one’s maintained the properties this fence supposedly demarcates.

Note the little strip of leftover snow!

When I got home, I enjoyed walking to see the horses. They’re all fine. I keep having to fix Lakota’s blanket, but it’s gonna get cold again, so he needs his comfort blanket.

Speaking of comfort, my knitting has really provided a lot for me this week. I knit hugs into every stitch. Look how big it is now!

I’ve gone through all the colors.

I hit a snag last night, though. My knitting needle tip came out! That caused stitches to go BOING. Oops. Thank goodness I have two sets of this size needle tip, and I can switch them out. I’m sad, because I love the set I’d been using, but I realized they are at least ten years old!

This is an original KnitPicks interchangeable needle set.

I like the clear ones, too. They are a little more “sticky” so I like them for lace. They’re working fine on this shawl. Thank goodness I have so much knitting stuff I hardly ever have to buy anything.

See through needle tip. It’s pretty.

Nowadays there are much fancier sets, but these work. And my old friend needles bring me comfort. I’ll take it wherever I can get it.

What’s comforting you?

A Dark Time. Is Light Coming?

This week, all I’ve heard is that it’s the darkest time for the country where I live, at least since 9/11. I’m not doubting that. It’s probably not been a great idea, but I’ve been reading a lot about how to help people who’ve been deceived by repeated lies, help cult members move on, etc. The best article I read is this one, “Can members of the Trump cult be deprogrammed after the leader falls?,” from Steve Hassan in 2019, and I wanted to share it, in case it’s helpful for any readers.

Perhaps the beauty of this guinea fowl feather will help us keep breathing.

I have been doing a fairly good job of keeping good spirits until last week, when I saw how many people whom I’ve been extending the benefit of the doubt, supporting their right to their beliefs, etc., are willing to try to bring down the government and the precious Constitution they kept braying about for so many years. Beating police officers, whose lives I thought mattered to them, with American flags, which I thought they held sacred, etc., all brought out my worst fears.

Knowing me, and I sorta do, it’s clear that I can handle one or two crises at a time pretty well. By the time yesterday came along, the crisis count went over my limit. There are a couple of things that I can’t talk about but weigh heavy on my mind. Plus way too many horrible illnesses in my extended circle. Then stuff happened at my job over the past week or so went over my limit for calmly dealing with the barrage of change that comes with an Agile organization owned by a new set of venture capitalists.

Feathers and some nice grounding quartz. Ahh.

By the time my final meeting ended last night, at 7 pm, I’d had it. The darkness enveloped me, literally and figuratively, as I made my way back to the ranch, and I just couldn’t take another thing. I want to help people, I want to talk to folks who need to talk to me, and I want to get things done that I’ve committed to do. But wow, I’m only human.

You know what, all of you are only human, too. It is important to know when you’ve hit a limit and do something about it.

My Zoom background decorations. Perhaps over the top.

I am not someone who feels better by just ignoring current events, but I CAN find good things to balance them. That’s my hope for all of you, too, that you keep listening to the advice I repeatedly give to turn to nature and find its timeless beauty. Breathe. Take a walk. Surround yourself with what makes you happy (like all my silly Valentine’s Day decorations in the office). Talk to a friend. Maybe talk to a friend who is NOT overwhelmed like me!

My view from the desk tries to tell me love wins.

I will now sign off and follow my own advice. Love to all, and I mean ALL.