Dancing With Lord Stanley

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The Captain kisses the Cup. (Robert Reiners/Getty Images)

As you know, in addition to being an avid knitter and spinner, I am also a sports fan and a self-described hockey nut. I love watching ice hockey, and I’m a big fan of the NHL. So big a fan, in fact, that my husband has started buying me Center Ice for my birthday every year so that I can totally pig out on hockey.

My very favorite hockey team is the Pittsburgh Penguins, and since we now live in Pittsburgh, we are able to actually attend some games instead of just watching on television. The DH and I attended four games this past hockey season and saw the Pens win three time and lose only once, and that was in OT.

It was a rough season for the Penguins. Second year head coach Mike Johnston seemed to be in way over his head, and the boys didn’t look like they were enjoying themselves on the ice. They were inconsistent from one game to the next, losing more games than they should have given the level of talent on the team, and playing the most boring style of hockey imaginable.

Thankfully, after a couple of months, GM Jim Rutherford saw fit to fire Johnston and bring up Mike Sullivan, head coach of the Penguins’ AHL affiliate in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, to take over the duties as bench boss. He also realized the team needed more speed if they were to turn things around, and he made some brilliant trades to achieve this. Between the acquisitions last summer and before the trade deadline in February and players brought up from WBS, the team was revamped and went from being a slow, plodding, boring team to an offensive and defensive juggernaut driven by skill and speed.

When Sully took over the team, they were out of a playoff spot, but that soon changed. The Penguins moved up to a wildcard spot in the standings, then made a charge in the month of March that pushed them up into a solid second place in their division.

Playoff hockey started in April, and the Penguins had a tough row to hoe. In the first round they faced a strong, physical New York Rangers team; in the second, they went up against the winningest team during the regular season, the Washington Capitals; in the third round, they had to play against last year’s Stanley Cup Finals finalist, the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Going into the first round, we were without our starting goalie, Marc-Andre Fleury, and our back-up goalie, Matt Murray. The third goalie, Jeff Zatkoff, stepped up to the plate and won the first game of the series, but lost in the second game. Fortunately, Murray was able to return to the line-up, and except for a hiccup when he was pulled in the third period of a game and sat out the next game, he played brilliantly and joined an elite group of goalies who have won 15 games in the Stanley Cup playoffs as rookies.

Going into the final series, the Penguins were up against the Western Conference Champions, the San Jose Sharks. Not many people outside the Pittsburgh fan base were giving the Penguins much of a chance. In the past 10 years, the Western Conference has won most of the finals, and the sports pundits all seemed to think that the bigger, harder-hitting Sharks would overcome the skill and speed of the Penguins. But there’s a reason why the games are played. Reality painted a different picture. The speed and skill of the Penguins neutralized the Sharks’ attack, and the Penguins won the best-of-seven series in six games, holding the Sharks to just two shots in the third period of game five in San Jose. It’s hard to score if you cannot get the puck to the net, eh?

Had it not been for the stellar goaltending of the Sharks’ goalie, Martin Jones, the Penguins may well have swept the series and every game probably would have been a rout.

The Penguins faced and overcame a lot of adversity to make it to pinnacle of sport, and for us fans, it was amazing to watch this team go from being directionless to being single-mindedly focused on playing the best hockey they could play. The young players who were called up from WBS to become starters or to fill in temporarily for injured players fit in smoothly, and the newcomers quickly developed chemistry with veteran Penguins and with each other. Coach Sullivan was able to put four strong lines out on the ice knowing each line would play well in all three zones, and all three defensive pairings were reliable. Add the solid netminding of Fleury and Murray and you have the perfect recipe for winning Lord Stanley’s Cup.

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A moment to remember. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Let’s do this again next year!

Rememberance

On the 17th of September, 1940, 19-year-old Thomas A. Snodgrass of Monongahela, Pennsylvania, traveled to nearby Pittsburgh and enlisted in the U S Army Air Corps as a private.

Following his training, he arrived at Nichols Field near Manila in the Philippine Islands on July 9, 1941, where he served as Chief Metallist with an Army Air Forces ground crew.

That is where Pfc Snodgrass was when the Japanese attacked the Philippines on December 8, 1941, just hours after bombing Pearl Harbor. On August 13, 1942, his family was notified that their son was missing in action. On January 30, 1943, they learned he was being held by the Japanese as a prisoner of war. He had survived the Bataan Death March and was doing his best to survive the extremely harsh conditions of PW Camp #1 Cabanatuan, PI. His family received occasional cards from Pfc Snodgrass up until they received word from the U S government that their son had died on October 24, 1944, when the Japanese prison-ship on which he was being transported had been sunk in the South China Sea. He was 23 years old.

The prison-ship that took Pfc Snodgrass to his death was the Arisan Maru, a Japanese freighter that was a so-called hell ship used to transport POWs from camps on the Philippine Islands to camps in Japan. 1783 U S prisoners of war were crammed into the hold of the Arisan Maru, which had no markings on it to indicate it was transporting POWs.

As the Arisan Maru was sailing along with a convoy of Japanese destroyers, it was torpedoed by the USS Shark, a submarine that was subsequently lost with all hands. After the Arisan Maru was hit, the Japanese crew locked the hatches to the hold, cut the rope ladders, and abandoned ship leaving the prisoners to their fate. The POWs managed to get the hatches open, and most if not all of them escaped from the hold. But then the ship broke apart and sank, leaving the men stranded in the water. Many tried to swim to the Japanese destroyers, which had picked up the Japanese crew, but the destroyers were moving away from the wreckage, and the Japanese crew on board the destroyers were beating off any POWs who got close.

Only 8 of the POWs survived, and of those, only 5 escaped the Japanese and made it to China.

The sinking of the Arisan Maru is the worst maritime disasters in U S history. To give you an idea of the scope of loss of life, more people died when the Arisan Maru went down than in the sinking of the Titanic.

On this Memorial Day, please pause to remember people like my mother’s cousin, Tommy Snodgrass, and the suffering he endured and the sacrifice he made in military service to his country. Let’s remember people like my father’s brother John, who died when the B-17 he was piloting was shot down over France. There is nothing glorious in war, just death and destruction. Remembering those who lost their lives in war and honoring their sacrifice is perhaps the best way to remember that war is a horrible thing to be avoided at almost any cost.

My mother kept the bulletin from her cousin's memorial service all her life. I found it among her things after her death.

My mother kept the bulletin from her cousin’s memorial service all her life. I found it among her things after her death.

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A young man’s life ended far too soon.

Purty Flars

So, Sunday was Mother’s Day in the the USA, and my son and DIL sure didn’t disappoint. They showed up at my door late Sunday afternoon, a surprise to me but not to my DH who knew they were coming. (No, they didn’t come from far away. They live around the corner.) And they were bearing a gift.

Beautiful pink New Guinea impatiens all ready to hang on the front porch. As soon as we can scare up an S-hook. :-)

A basket of beautiful pink New Guinea impatiens all ready to hang on the front porch. As soon as we can scare up an S-hook. 🙂

Be still, my heart. I love impatiens, and this basket will look fabulous hanging on my front porch.

At Last

Finally, after fourteen long, long, long months, the kitchen is finished. Well, sort off. There is still a little bit of painting to do, and we ran four pencil tiles short thanks to me changing the design on the fly without giving a thought to the number of tiles we had. But the painting will get done soon, and the tile is on order and will just need to be cemented into place and grouted once it arrives.

I’m very pleased with the work the tile setters did. There was one hiccup along the way,

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I didn’t like the way the corner blocks were laid, with long butting on long, short butting on short. The the outside edge with the mitered long bull nose tile was not even close to what I wanted.

 

but it was taken care of to my satisfaction, and the tile looks marvelous!

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I think the corner looks much better with long tile butting short tile, and the outside edge is now exactly what I had envisioned.

And now the kitchen looks the way it is supposed to.

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Now I don’t have to worry about splattering food and grease on the painted walls. Tile is so much easier to clean, and the grout is stain-resistant stuff that doesn’t have to be sealed repeatedly.

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I changed the design to have tile all the way up to the window sill instead of keeping the wood apron that the previous contractor had put up, and that’s why we ran short of the pencil tile that separates the mosaic tile from the subway tile. I thought I had told our backsplash designer that that is what I wanted, but apparently there was a misunderstanding.

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The chase that holds the stack was the trickiest part of the entire job, but the tile setter was up to the task.

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The metal strip on the corner is called a Schluter, and it gives the glass tile a nice edge while adding a nice accent.

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The tile setter put a strip of wood in the place where the pencil tile goes. When the tile arrives, we will just need to unscrew and remove the wood strip and glue the tile into place, then grout it.

Words cannot express how happy I am to finally have the kitchen finished.

Did You Notice?

I have been using the same theme, Liquorice, since I moved my blog to WordPress and today I decided I needed a new look. So I searched the available themes and settled on one that is very similar to Liquorice. Go figure.

I hope you like the new look, but if you don’t? Oh, well.

It’s Not Knitting, But It’s Still Good

For many years now I have been a subscriber to the Library of America. LOA books are the only thing I truly collect. I have over 200 volumes; the LOA covers a wide range of topics and authors. The writings of America’s founders, slave narratives, reporting on wars and on civil rights, sermons and poetry, and some of the best fiction ever written. Mark Twain to Philip K. Dick, Nathaniel Hawthorne to Shirley Jackson, James Fenimore Cooper to Kate Chopin, Henry James to Philip Roth, the best of American writers are represented in the LOA. Edith Wharton, Willa Cather, Steinbeck, Faulkner, Singer, Thurber… The list goes on and on.

And look what I got from LOA today. OMG, I know what I’m going to be reading for the rest of this year and into the next.

Yes, it's Elmore Leonard, who was not just a great storyteller, but a great writer, period.

Yes, it’s Elmore Leonard, who was not just a great storyteller, but a great writer, period.

 

And this is just the beginning. There are two more Leonard volumes to come.

And this is just the beginning. There are two more Leonard volumes to come.

Anyone who has ever read anything written by Elmore Leonard knows that he writes the best dialogue ever. Best. Dialogue. Ever.