DOWN TO EARTH SIMPLE LIVING FORUMS

DOWN TO EARTH SIMPLE LIVING FORUMS
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17 May 2012

Working with the seasons

As you can see, I've changed the template again. My apologies to those of you who visited yesterday while I was working on it. There were all sorts of strange things on the blog while I sampled different templates. I wanted one with a post date and a footer and while the one I eventually chose doesn't have everything I want, it's close enough for the time being. I still have some work to do on it - such as removing that grey band, working out how to swap the time for the date, moving the navigation bar and a few other tweaks, but at the moment I've given as much time to it as I have and now it has to wait for a day or so until I have the time to finish it.  I'm sorry for the inconvenience it causes but I love change and do change the look of my blog every few months. It's slow because I have to teach myself the coding as I go. Still, I look on it as a learning exercise and I am grateful for everyone of those.

Hanno asked me to thank everyone for their kind thoughts and messages. We will go back to the doctor and physiotherapist today and see what progress has been made. He is still in a lot of pain but he said yesterday that he thinks it is easing slightly. When I get Hanno back home again and settled, I have a couple of meetings to attend this afternoon, then I'll go into Brisbane for the talk and book signing at Avid Reader. I'm really looking forward to it because I've been told so many good things about that wonderful book shop.

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The bunnies are warming themselves on the flannel sheets.

Today I want to talk about the seasonal work we all do. We live in the sub-tropics so we don't experience the full wonder of four seasons. I would say we get a very brief autumn and spring and a long winter and summer. Nevertheless, as soon as the cool weather arrives, I feel like I'm deep in the heart of  New England or Manitoba, and I start my autumn tasks. We have no fire wood to gather here but I have on my lambswool slippers and extra layers of clothing but my most important ritual is to take the flannel sheets from the linen cupboard and make the bed warm and cosy.


Just doing that one thing takes me instantly from thoughts of a cool salad for dinner with ice cubes in water to going into the kitchen to get out the slow cooker. When those flannel sheets are on the bed and wool slippers are on my feet, everything changes.


When you do most of your own cooking at home, you notice how much the weather effects what you do. Bread takes longer to rise, yoghurt needs an extra covering overnight and you need to find a warmer spot for your sourdough starter and fermenting. But here it is also a good time for cheesemaking. We're about to eat two very good looking camembert cheese I made a while back, soon I'll have a hard cheese on the go too, with the option to leave it to ripen on a cool shelf instead of in the fridge.


So while a beef casserole and herb dumplings bubbles away slowly in the kitchen, we also have our garden to look after and that takes on a different feel in the cooler months. In summer it's all heat, humidity and bugs here. In autumn and winter it's perfect growing weather and there's a slight feel of urgency in March as we sow seeds and Hanno prepares the soil for yet another year's planting. Watering the garden takes on a different feel too. Instead of the playful and cooling exercise it becomes later in the year, in winter, I rug up and wear gloves when I water the garden.

I love working to the seasons. It gives a new feel to the work we do. In the cooler months I feel I'm providing protection from the cold and warming food to those I love and in the hotter months, it's all shade trees, ice cubes and salads. One day I would love to build a fire in the fading light of day and sit near a wood stove to warm up and knit at night but in the meantime, tell me how you stay warm in winter and how you go about your seasonal work.


48 comments:

  1. Here in North Carolina, our spring is ending and we're headed for summer where it will be very hot and humid until around mid-September. So, I'm starting to think about meals that don't require a hot oven, and drinking lots of iced tea. I love sitting on my screened in porch and will be able to use that most of the summer - at least until it gets so hot. Mornings with my paper, laptop and coffee are lovely on my porch right now.

    I enjoyed your description of preparing for colder weather. I love that time of year, too, which will come around December or January for us.

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  2. I love the new look here, and it's way easier to view on my phone now. Don't know how that was accomplished, but I wanted to say thank you for the change.

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  3. One of the things I enjoy about following blogs from all parts of the world is the seasonal aspects. I'm in New England, and have not yet taken the flannel sheets OFF the bed! Maybe soon...

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  4. How I stay warm in winter, I come to Australia. :)

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  5. Hi Rhonda. I love winter! Making warming food, the sunny days. My winter tasks actually aren't so different to my summer ones, but I seem to have more energy for them. The heat saps my energy so I enjoy crisp morning walks and being in the garden without wilting.

    I hope Hanno is on the mend and the booksigning goes well this afternoon.

    Eliza in Sydney

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  6. This format is so much nicer than the one you had a couple of days ago, it is friendlier to the eye. I was disappointed that you had changed the format, but this one is nice. I approve ;).

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  7. Here in Melbourne, it has been cooler weather for a few weeks now. We have the heating on every day, and have to rug up to go outside. Usually at this time of year, I am starting to think about soups and stews, but for some reason this year I don't want stews or to get out the slow cooker. Maybe in a few months I will, but for now I'm trying to think of other frugal meals which won't wreak havoc with the budget!

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  8. Living in southern U.S. it is starting to get hot here. The summer garden is not producing yet. The berries though are just about ready to eat. Oranges done for the year and the new crop of lemons are on the trees along with a few ripe ones from last season waiting to be used. Avocados and other fruits just starting to grow on the trees. Winter blankets are washed and stored away and windows now open in the early mornings and evenings to catch any coolness. Now it is a dance of watching to see when the crops need watering or are fine for the day. We try to let them dry out enough to send down roots to the cool earth and be more independent on a daily drink. It is more desert here so it is a real dance. Temps in the 100s are not uncommon. We can grow veggies all year though. We try to let some soil go vacant each season and renew it. The space we have for plantings is not very big. There is not much change of the seasons here at all. The holidays help us keep a change of things. We only get snow maybe every couple years and then it comes down it usually does not stick. We also do not get that much rain..especially all through the summer. Planning ahead is the key for my summer chores. I get worn out so much quicker in the heat and humidity. Working outside when the sun first comes up or right before it goes down really helps. I remember living where the seasons actually had a dramatic change. I do miss that. Yet every place on this earth has its good and bad points and you have to love where you live and work within it.
    I am glad Hanno feels there is a little improvement in his back. By now I sure hope he feels even more.

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  9. My seasonal changes are very similar to yours Rhonda, being only a few hours away. I enjoy noticing that the day darkens earlier, and cools quickly, and love to close up the house after ensuring the chooks are settled snuggly into their coop for the night. No flanny sheets, or wood fire, but I also pull out my woolly boots, and put quilts and soft rugs over chairs and sofas, for somewhere cosy to read or stitch. I've just had a door put in between lounge and kitchen to keep each of those spaces warmer, and not waste energy trying to heat a huge space. Bring on winter! Have fun at your book signing.

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  10. I am in North Carolina like Pammie too! What a small world. I received your book in the mail today and was so excited! It looks so nicely done, I can tell you spent a lot of time on it. Well the worth the cost to have it shipped to the USA!

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  11. Good Morning Rhonda. I love the onset of winter too! The cold mornings and the first job is to open up the wood fire,adding a little kindling and the satisfying reward of cheerful flames and instant heat. Flannelette sheets.Drifts of Autumn leaves.Homemade soups and casseroles. Best of all are the changes in our garden, things pop up that we had forgotten we had, leaves fall allowing sun to come into sheltered corners and we can load on fresh mulch

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  12. The new format is very crisp and clean but I really miss your header Rhonda with its photos and description of what down to earth is all about. Will you ever reinstate it? I'm not a huge fan of fancy patterned templates which distract from the writing and photos but the new format feels more like a newsletter from an organization. Hope you find time to give it some homely tweaks! But I'll keep on reading as you are my one stop shop for simple living advice. I received your book for Mother's Day and I am just digesting each chapter and savouring it. The concept of our 'life hours'and how we sell our them to someone when we work outside of the home really set me thinking. Have given much thought over the last few days to how I spend my life hours here in the home. I don't want to waste them and to be as productive as possible!
    Hope Hanno's back pain eases soon and that your trip goes well. I always know winter is coming when the coconut oil starts to solidify in the jar!

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  13. Good morning Rhonda,
    Firstly it is so nice to see that pretty face back up there. The colour of your blouse really suits you. Sounds like your day will be rather busy, whilst mine will be quieter as I'm going to spend the day mending and stitching. i just love these days of cool crisp mornings. This morning was very nippy. We sit on our verandah with our coffee and watch the sun come up and today we really had to rug up. Now we have a lovely clear day. Can i ask what is in those plates on the third picture. it looks delicious. Have a good day and I look forward to saying hello here again tomorrow. I just realised that this is just like having a quick chat over the fence with my lovely neighbour next door as I pop out to hang my washing on the line.
    Blessings Gail

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  14. Hi Rhonda...So excited that I just ordered your book from Fishpond! Living here in Florida we are having hot weather and have planted our summer garden. Hope that Hanno is feeling better. Blessings, Carolyn Gilbert

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  15. Love the new photo!

    Tony left a message before he left for the shop "Ask Rhonda how my mate Hanno is going."

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  16. Autumn and winter are my favorite seasons. A few years ago we purchased an Esse Ironheart wood oven to use for cooking and heating in winter and we just love it! But not so our electricity company as our bill in winter is so small. Here in Sydney there is a real distinction between the seasons and I have already put the 'flannies'' on the beds. I love making the children's 'nests' nice and cozy for the cold nights ahead.

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  17. Glad Hanno is feeling a bit better. I hope you have a nice time at the book signing.
    I've been changing my blog around a bit as my interests have changed since I've been a regular visitor here and on the DTE forum and I wanted the blog title to reflect that. I think your grey line is to do with editing the header in layout and putting in a picture in background. I had to remove the header image as it was interfering with the background picture (and it's alignment). I don't seemed to have explained this very well but it may give you a place to start.
    Cheers,
    Robyn

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  18. Hi Rhonda, I too like the new format.It was cool and foggy here in the Hunter Valley this morning but is shaping up to be a sunny day. I have a busy day planned but i'm hoping to spend a few moments outside in the warmth this afternoon before closing up the house and lighting the fire.I love autumn! How is Hanno feeling? Hope he's on the mend.

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  19. I have just returned from a walk with my energetic dog down Mudjimba beach Queensland (where I live). I am enjoying the crispness of the Autumn air however the blue sky and the sun reflecting off the waves reminds me how blessed I am to live in such an amazing place. Enjoy your day.

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  20. g'day
    i've been getting back into knitting, putting another blanket on the bed & eating baked foods & stews.
    we live in a drafty old cottage in need of flooring, esp in winter what with the cold winds blowing through the floors here. wish there was a wood stove here that would be so cosy & warm.
    keep warm everyone & hope all is good news for hanno
    cheers
    selina from kilkivan qld

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  21. Hi Rhonda, here we are enjoying the rapid growth of the winter vegetables...I am picking all matter of 'greens' for the table every night....I am enjoying a 'time off' in the garden in SA as it looks after itself in the Winter, and all I need do is plant and pick really, not much watering at all.....meals are becoming simpler as I find Winter time dinners are pasta, soups and sandwiches...breads and egg nights...a time to pull in the purse strings as I find the Winter makings for meals more frugal than Summer for some reason......a warm dessert a couple of times a week is a welcome treat for the children too...wheat bags are heated for night time warm toes for the children and flannelette sheets will be going on the beds this week...sitting with blankies to watch a bit of teli and I am never without my slippers in the house at the moment too....Its quiet here today , home with my three year old...I can see the leaves dropping outside right now...I am looking forward to a cup of tea and a sit down today if I can manage it to start reading your book which I received on the weekend...have a lovely day..Suzanne

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  22. I'm really enjoying the change of season here, eating lots of warming soups and find the sun each morning to defrost in. Your dinner sounds like it would smell delicious and be keeping you toasty inside. I think I might buy some flannel sheets for us soon we don't have any. I hope the physio has some positive things to say today about Hanno's progress. Catherine

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  24. I'm down the bottom of Australia - Mount Gambier - South Australia and this year our Autumn has been very cold. Much colder than the past couple of years. I have a wood fire stove in the kitchen, an inbuilt wood fire in our 'TV room' and we have an open fire in the lounge room, a pot belly in our garage (only used for parties) and we have a chiminea outside! Lucky we get our wood from the family farm for free! We just have to go & get it ourselves...but that's a good outing and exercise for a day! I have had a wood stove for my entire 29 years of marriage and wouldn't be without it! I enjoy summer but I also love the homely feel that the wood fires create in our house.

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  25. Hi Rhonda:)
    I love the new blog look!I live in the mountains in Melbourne,freezing here this morning,for most of the year we have our Rayburn going in the kitchen,which I cook on,our water is heated and of course gives us warmth.When we knew we would live here being in such a cold climate,we installed a Masport wood stove in the lounge as well,and it does get that cold up here that we do light both fires in the middle of winter!
    You so have to get yourself a wood stove,I recall you mentioning it awhile ago and I just thought I could see you knitting by your fire:)
    Lastly it was my birthday last week and my husband and children gave me your book as my gift (they knew I how much I wanted it:)it is beautiful and it takes pride of place in my kitchen,I must admit it was pretty hard knowing the book was hidden in the house for three weeks before my birthday,lol,I wanted to peak so much..but didnt!!
    Carleene

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  26. I really do like the new look of your blog. The only thing that is disconcerting is that the posts, while they have a timestamp, they do not have a date. I'm not sure if I'm reading a current post or something older...

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  27. Hello Rhonda! I love seeing your photo again!
    I am heading into Summer here,getting the garden planted and trying to keep up with the weeds.
    All the Winter clothes have been put away,but reading your post made me hope for one more fire in the woodstove before I am done. Maybe in the morning,it will be quite cold.Good thing I haven't planted the tomatoes yet!
    My best to Hanno,hope he is without pain very soon!

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  28. Hi there Rhonda,

    We are getting very crisp down here in Canberra! We had our first frost a few days ago, the girls didn't know what to think at first, but I let them rug up and go crunching through it in their ne snow boots, and they approved!

    I haven't got to flanny sheets out yet, but I did put on the heavyweight doona. I find I sleep so much better in winter!

    I do love that new photo of you on your laptop, very pretty :)

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  29. I just took the flannel sheets off the bed last week as it was 30degrees C. Now it's supposed to snow tomorrow and go down to 8 degrees for a few days. Crazy weather here in Southern Alberta, Canada.

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  30. Last week we had 26°c, tonight we had frost! I run out in my nighties to check my tomato plants, they look alright (I have them in pots and still in a protected place). I think I will wait some more time before I put away the winter clothes.
    Yout plates look lovely. Are they "Petite Fleur" by Villeroy and Boch?

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  31. Cape town south Africa has a Mediterranean climate which they say is moderate but when snow falls on the mountains across the bay we feel that icy chill. While it rains most of winter we can still grow veggies all the way through the year, things just slow down. Just last night my children all asked for their extra winter blankets...the season has changed!

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  32. Yes Hilde, I've had the set for such a long time and I still love them.

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  33. Living in the Southeastern part of Pennsylvania, we are just about entering summer. In the winter, we have a wood stove down in the lower part of the house and use that for heating for the most part. It will soon be time to take the flannel sheets off the bed and replace them with some cool cottons. This morning was a bit chilly at about 50 degrees F, but that will soon change. Around here, we use Mother's Day as the safe time to plant annuals outdoors and my flower garden is planted and some veggies have been planted, like potatoes, green beans and tomatoes. The herbs are all outdoors and the strawberries are getting big and soon ready to turn red. This is my favorite time of year here at my homestead. It is comfortable enough to sit out in the sun room and relax. The lower level of the house will not be used as much until fall sets in, as it is dark down there with no windows and I prefer to be out in the warm sunny areas on these beautiful days and the days to come here in the next several months.

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  34. I love using the good old fashioned HOT WATER BOTTLE. They are awesome. My two young children are learning to enjoy them too, being pampered and tucked into bed to enjoy the warmth and charm!

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  35. Your new layout looks great and it's not inconveniencing at all! It takes time to find the best layout...

    We're just transitioning into Summer ourselves - though I wish it would hurry up and send these rain clouds away. We might as well get our flannel sheets out as well!

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  36. I also love flannel sheets on the bed in winter, but until today we were still having good weather in Perth. Today was cold and wet. Isn´t it strange how we change the type of foods we eat to eat cool or warm us during the different seasons. For me soup and some fresh bread is the ideal winter food.
    I like the new blog look too.

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  37. I never fail to do a double take when I read your posts. The internet brings us all closer together as if we were next door neighbors. Its hard to wrap my head around the fact that you are literally a half a world away. Today you are wearing Uggs for warmth. lol I'm on the west coast of Michigan and it will be in the 80's this weekend. Really a little too warm for the season. Time for shorts, tank tops and just working up the garden space!

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  38. Hi Rhonda. Brisbane has been a bit nippier. For me, winter means SOUP! Lots of soup that's cheap, delicious and freezable.

    It was wonderful to meet you at Avid Reader tonight. It really brightened up a dark week for me (I'm Erin in reality and got a copy of The Book signed for my mum). Even though I read your blog and have read the book, it was just lovely to hear you speak and read and answer Qs (we weren't a talkative bunch. I was thinking of something intelligent to ask, but couldn't, so just gave up. hehe). My friend I was with was very inspired- she has a beautiful suburban backyard veggie garden and I know she'll enjoy your book just as much as I did.

    Many Thanks.

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  39. Here in England we're going the opposite wa with our seasons. Our sprung this year is very late - up in Scotland they had snow again earlier in the week, and it's been too cool even down here to plant many seedlings out. How strange to think that across at the opposite side of the world, our growing season is the same as yours, though!
    The new template is nice - very calming and relaxed. The content is still great regardless of its background and that's what's really important.

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  40. Hi Rhonda,
    I'm in Manitoba! I had to do a double-take when I saw a shout-out in your post today :)
    We are entering spring/summer and this weekend is the traditional "get the plants in the garden" weekend. I'm also putting the screens on the windows, digging out dandelions and generally cleaning up the winter "mess".
    :) Erin

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  41. After growing up in Northwest Australia and then Hawaii and afterwards moving to Southern California, I've never had a real winter and the seasons changing was minimal. We never owned flannel sheets and called flip-flops - slippers. In California we owned bed slippers, but never really wore them.

    This was my second winter in the PNW where it gets cold (for me) and rainy in the winter and dry and warm in the summer. I will be taking the flannel sheets off today. We haven't used the pellet stove for a month now. It is wonderful to warm the house through cooking soups, roasts, casseroles, and breads.

    I enjoy watching the seasons change and the new thoughts, foods, and feelings that go with them.

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  42. wood fire now up and running garden all ready for planting chooks are moulting and laying less stew and dumplings and home made bread on menu ahh winter is coming!!

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  43. Log Cabin LadyMay 18, 2012 4:18 am

    Hi Rhonda- Spring is in full bloom here in the mountains of central Pennsylvania, even though we still get some chilly nights and mornings. When it's cool and damp I build a fire in the fireplace to warm up the living room of our log cabin. We heat with wood and my husband is already cutting firewood for next winter. Our garden is flourishing thanks to an early spring. Lettuces, spinach, onions are ready to eat now, but peas, radishes, carrots, etc. won't be ready for weeks. We'll plant beans after Memorial Day, and put out tomato plants then too. We try to grow heirloom varities as much as possible. One of my favorite things at this time of year is visiting the Amish greenhouses and produce stands- they grow such beautiful things. Because they are down the valley they are about 2 weeks ahead of us in the growing season. I also love the local farmer's markets. Local to us is a 30-40 minute trip down the mountain!
    I get your blog around noon and love reading it, and learn so much from it. I'm making the laundry detergent today. Thank-you, I hope your husband is feeling better.

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  44. Here in South Africa, we had our first hard frost last night that damaged my basil, green peppers, cucumber and marrows that I was pushing way into Autumn to get every last fruit I could. So today I made pesto for the last time until Summer. Gearing up for Winter here is all about keeping the home cosy with wood fires burning for warmth, soups and stews, and comfort food. Breakfast changes from being muesli, fruit and yoghurt at least three mornings a week to steaming porridges cooked in milk and topped with honey or bottled fruit. Thin summer duvets are changed for down duvets, knitted blankets and sleeping with socks on. Even my dogs wear jackets to bed.

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  45. Fall is canning season, winter is soup and rolls, spring is wild greens and sewing and summer is clothesline season. Each one has something to love about it. This has been the most pleasant May that I can remember so my spring and summer are overlapping a bit right now.

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  46. FrancesmoniqueMay 18, 2012 8:10 pm

    Preparing for Winter in North Queensland coastal area means getting out a few light jackets to wear over our Summer clothes on some occaisional nights. It is the most glorious time of the year here.

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  47. Rhonda,
    I love your new look. I was hoping to get your button, but I don't find it. I started your book (Fishpond) and it is wonderful! Your experience is precious wisdom to us.

    When I was a wee girl I used to knit and crochet. My grandmother taught me, but I stopped as I grew older. A week ago I crotched my first dishcloth. It is not anything to rave about, but I did start to remember and it has given me something constructive to do when I am waiting somewhere or just unwinding.

    I hope your husband feels better soon!

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