17 January 2017

In Which I Try To Figure Out Why I Leave the House; or, To Quote My Mother, "Oh For God's Sake!"

Seriously, I just have to wonder sometimes.

This coming weekend is the Women's March on Washington.  When it was first announced, I really wanted to go, but I knew it would be a tricky thing for me financially. Then they announced that there would be a march in Philadelphia as well.  I was so excited, and signed up right away!  I was thrilled that I would have a chance to do something active to show that I was not a supporter of the ascendancy of the Orange One.  Some friends were also planning to go, and whether or not we went together, I was just happy that so many were participating.

I encouraged people to sign up.  I supported the whole Pussy Hat idea though it's not my cup of tea.  I kept thinking that the whole experience would make me feel like I was and could be doing *something* even if it was not everything I could or would hope to do.

But as it turns out, while everyone else is at the various marches, I'll be at home, able to support them in spirit only.  You may be asking yourself, "WTF, Bridget?  Why the change in plans?"

Let me introduce you to The Broken Ankle of Doom.


Or, as it is more commonly known, my own right ankle.  Which is now broken.  Because why not?

Last Wednesday, I was walking home from work, and walked past a bunch of the workers building the new(er) Comcast Building (as soon Philadelphia will likely become Comcastadelphia, but I digress).  One of the men bumped into me, and I turned my ankle.  It hurt, but it often hurts when you turn your ankle.  I continued home, did some stuff that evening, and when I went to go to bed, I noticed that my ankle was really swollen.  I put an ice pack on it overnight.

In the morning, it was even more swollen and incredibly sore.  So I determined that I should have it looked at, in case it was a really bad sprain.  Rather than spend tons of time at the ER, I decided to stop at the Urgent Care place on the way to work.  Where they took x-rays and determined that I had a broken ankle.  (Thanks, Comcast.)  They put a temporary splint on it and told me to get a permanent cast within 24-48 hours.

I called the place they suggested, which is a really well-known orthopedic institution, and was told they could see me on TUESDAY (remember, I was calling on Thursday).  I told them that the Urgent Care place said I should get it set and cast within 24-48 hours, and the woman on the phone said, "Oh, they always say that, it doesn't matter."  This just rubbed me the wrong way, so I called the orthopedist I'd seen for a problem a few years back, and her office scheduled me on Friday morning.

The good news:  it's a clean break, and in alignment.  The dr said it was the best possible outcome, and would mean it would be very unlikely that I would have to have surgery.  Also because of that, she put a walking boot on it, so I can still take a shower (for which I - and anyone else around me - am truly grateful!).  I'll wear it for four weeks, they'll do more x-rays to see if it's healing properly, and then if all is well, I'll wear it again for 2-4 more weeks.  She also said as time goes on, I will likely be able to switch from crutches to a cane.

So though I am depressed and frustrated about the whole thing, I'm also incredibly grateful and relieved that it is not as bad as it could have been.

Today was my first day back to work (we had MLK Day off), and it was pretty brutal.  Not the least because none of the elevators in the building were operational. Which is not a completely uncommon occurrence.  And I had to go back today, or be placed on temporary leave and not be paid.  Ugh.  I managed, but what a mess!

ALL I WAS DOING WAS WALKING HOME FROM WORK.  So I have to ask myself, WHY do I leave the house???  Sigh.  I can hear my mother saying not just "Oh for God's sake!" but also hear one of her favorite expressions, "It's either an *ss or an elbow."

So that this is not a complete self-pitying post, I can say that at least I've been able to finish two books I was reading, and the pair of socks I am knitting for myself are nearly finished!  Not that I'll be able to wear them anytime soon, but I was kinda thinking of doing the thing where you try to knit a pair of socks each month, but put them away and don't start wearing them until next year.

And the crutches have been a joy for the cats, so there's that.  Now instead of just weaving in and out of my legs as I walk, they can also weave in and out of the crutches!  And Jack is having a wonderful time attacking them and knocking them over while they are propped up next to the bed overnight.

And when you think about it, isn't all worth it, if you can entertain family members?

For any of you marching this weekend, Godspeed.  I'll be there in spirit at least.

16 January 2017

Book Report for October, November, and December

In my attempts to "finish up" things from 2016 before we get too much further into 2017, here are my thoughts and views on the books I read during the last few months of last year.  Be prepared for a lot of "themed" books, as I do like to read things related to various holidays, and these months are chock-full of them!  But there are non-holiday ones worth knowing about thrown in too, so maybe you'll see something that sparks an interest.

Brownies and Broomsticks, by Bailey Cates.  It turns out that this was not a Halloween-themed book, but it was about magic, so I kept reading.  And it's not that I hated it - it was fine.  Just not exactly what I usually enjoy.

Katie Lightfoot has just moved to Savannah, Georgia, to open a bakery with her aunt and uncle.  She is a trained baker, but between not really liking her previous job, and a recent breakup with her boyfriend, she's ready to start over.

When a local society matron is found murdered in her car after a business meeting at the bakery, and Katie's uncle is the prime suspect, she decides to do whatever she can to find the real killer.  The kicker is that she learns that her aunt and the women who are her group of friends are witches - and so is Katie!  Her parents are also witches, but chose to turn away from it, and never told Katie.

So that was just kind of weird, though not as hokey as I was afraid it might be.  And the search for the real killer was interesting.  And there are some amazing-sounding recipes at the end.

I liked it well enough, but it just wasn't quite my cup of tea (though I am going to try one of the recipes ...).

Candy Corn Murder, by Leslie Meier.  Another Halloween-themed book, which was a fun read.

Everyone in Tinker's Cove is excited about the Pumpkin Fest being sponsored by the local chamber of commerce.  Lucy Stone, a local reporter for The Pennysaver, a weekly paper, is busy with reporting on preparations and also taking care of her family, which includes her 4-year old grandson, who is staying with them while his parents are on a medical mission in Haiti.  Her husband is working with a neighbor to build a pumpkin catalyst, so they can participate in one of the Pumpkin Fest events.

Certain things leading up to the big event make Lucy slightly suspicious about it, but when a body is found in an old car during the pumpkin catalyst event, and it is the neighbor who had been helping Lucy's husband, she knows for sure that there is something that needs to be investigated.  And when her husband is arrested for the murder, it's up to Lucy to find out what really happened.

Entertaining and a fun holiday read.

Death by Pumpkin Spice, by Alex Erickson.  The final book I read for this Halloween season.

Krissy Hancock is the owner of a bookstore cafe, who apparently (in previous books I have not read) finds herself investigating and helping to solve murders in the community.  A local doctor who she hopes will become her boyfriend invites her to a swanky Halloween party.  She would rather stay home, but does not want to miss the opportunity to spend time with this guy, Will.  So she gets a costume together and they go to the party.

When one of the guests is murdered, the party pretty much stops, but no one is allowed to leave the house.  The investigating officer Paul - who Krissy also dated and likes - is also a guest at the party, so the two of them start trying to figure out what happened.

Besides Will and Paul, Krissy's ex shows up, hoping to win her back.  And the other police officer called to the scene is not a fan of Krissy's and she is pretty sure he wishes he could pin the whole thing on her.  Eventually things are resolved.

This was another OK read.   I didn't love it, but I also didn't hate it.  It was just acceptable.

I need to start finding books for Halloween reading that engage me more ...

A Biscuit, A Casket, by Liz Mugavero.  Kristan "Stan" Connor is feeling happy that she left her stressful job and moved to Frog Ledge, Connecticut.  Even better, her organic pet food company has been gaining more and more business and she has even been asked to make all of the treats for a dog birthday party (!) at a local farm.  She is excited because it's also the opening night of the Halloween corn maze, and the whole town has been talking about it.

Except shortly after she arrives, the farmer is found dead at the entrance to the maze.  With a sickle sticking out of his chest.   As the police try to figure out who killed the farmer, we learn that he was actually not that interested in the farm, and had other activities going on.  Stan volunteers to help the farmer's wife straighten out the books, and starts to learn that there were real problems with cash flow.  It leads her to some suspicions about others in the farm co-op, as well as trying to figure out if her friend Izzy was involved.

In the middle of all of this, her mother shows up for a visit.  Stan is truly thrown for a loop, as her mother is not known for enjoying small towns, and is really critical of Stan's latest venture.

This was an entertaining read, and enjoyable for the Halloween season.

The Wolfe Widow, by Victoria Abbott.  I started this book because it was listed as a Thanksgiving themed book, and those are few and far between.  And yes, it took place during the week of Thanksgiving, and at the end there was a big dinner, but that's it.

Jordan Bingham works for, and lives in the home of, Vera Van Alst, a woman whose family was once quite prominent in the town, but is now hated due to loss of jobs at their factory.  Jordan is quite pleased with her job as a live in book-collecting/book-selling consultant for Vera's amazing collection.  Until one evening a mysterious woman named Muriel Delgado shows up unannounced and takes over everything.  Jordan finds herself out of a job, and cannot figure out why.  She becomes determined to find out why Muriel is able to wield such power over Vera, who is usually a force to be reckoned with.

I read the entire book, and it was interesting enough, but frankly it didn't really do anything for me.  Everything about it was just OK - the characters, the story, the setting.  And in my opinion it has no business calling itself Thanksgiving themed.

Overall - meh.

The Guineveres, by Sarah Domet.  I received this book via a Goodreads giveaway.

This was an interesting and different book.  Four girls, each named Guinevere, are left by family members to live and be educated at a convent for various reasons.  The narrator is one of the Guineveres.  They form a strong and lifelong bond, growing up in a different atmosphere and world than where they started out, and rely on each other throughout the story.

At first it's difficult to determine the time period, but I decided it was during World War II.  The girls really want to try and escape to the outside world, but one time when they are caught, part of their service to make up for misbehaving is to work in the sick ward of the convent, which also has patients from the outside world.  For the most part, they find it tedious.  That is, until four wounded soldiers who are all in a coma arrive on the hospital wing, having been war casualties.

The soldiers' arrival changes everything for the Guineveres.  Each of them "adopts" a soldier, and as the book goes on, they become obsessed with learning their identities.  They see them as their way out of the convent, both into the real world again, but also eventually as their wives.

The book is a story of friendship, and love, and religion, and how four girls in basically the same situation grow up and have differing lives once they leave the convent.  For all of their desires to leave, they also realize that the nuns and other students are basically all the family they have.

In some ways, it's a story of being careful what you wish for; but the core of the story is one of survival by four girls whose worlds were turned upside down, and how they deal with it and the effects on the rest of their lives.

I really enjoyed this book.

Strangled Prose, by Joan Hess.  When Claire Malloy reluctantly agrees to host a reception her friend's new book, she is mainly dismayed because she doesn't generally sell steamy romances at her bookstore, the Book Depot.  But when the reception is interrupted by a local women's group, and selections are read aloud that bear an unsettling resemblance to some in attendance, and even to a part of Claire's past, she is both surprised and annoyed.

When she later receives a call from the friend's house, saying she has been murdered, and then the police think she is a suspect, things start to get really sticky.  When she starts looking into things herself, she finds that the book wasn't the only place where there were some secrets.  And there were a lot of people in the town who could have been involved - but hopefully not her teenage daughter!

This was a quick and entertaining read.

You'll Grow Out of It, by Jessi Klein.  Jessi Klein is a comedy writer who has worked on "Saturday Night Live" and is currently a writer for "Inside Amy Shumer."  This is a collection of her writing, covering her childhood through her current existence.

This was an enjoyable read, really really funny in places, and just plain funny in others.  I only gave it two stars because towards the end it went a little bit too much into her and her husband's effort to have a baby and related things.  I'm sincerely glad for her that it worked out, but I have to admit I'd like to read one thing sometime where having a baby isn't the pinnacle of the story.

It is amusing for the most part, and a very quick read.

Not a Creature Was Stirring, by Jane Haddam.  This book introduces us to Gregor Demarkian, a retired FBI agent, two years after losing his wife Elizabeth, and at somewhat of a loss.  On the one hand, he was more than ready to retire; on the other hand, he hasn't really found a way to fill his time in a satisfactory way.

A local Orthodox priest makes a request of Gregor.  A well-known local millionnaire, Robert Hannaford, has asked the priest to ask Gregor to call him.  He receives an invitation to dinner at the family home in Bryn Mawr (PA) on Christmas Eve.  Which seems especially odd, since Gregor has never met anyone in the family, including Robert Hannaford.

When he shows up, having been slowed down a bit by a terrible snowstorm, some has murdered Robert Hannaford.  On the one hand, it's no surprise, as all of his seven adult children are known to hate him.  His wife's dress is covered in blood, but she is in the final stages of MS, and is frail and can barely even feed herself.

And so Gregor Demarkian gets involved in the case, later on a more official basis when the chief investigating office asks him to consult.  During the course of the book we learn some of the family's secrets, and other family members are murdered before Gregor can figure it out.

As if all of that was not enough, his neighbors in the Armenian neighborhood are busy trying to help him restart his life, and asking him to help with a neighbor's disappearing boyfriend.

I enjoyed this book, because it was a different type of story.  The Hannford family was not that likable, but you still wanted to find out what was going on both with the murders and other things causing conflict.  And Gregor's neighbors and the description of the neighborhood were really entertaining.

I think I'll likely try another in this series to see it continues to be interesting to me.

The Mistletoe Murder, by Leslie Meier.  This was a perfectly entertaining read for the holiday season.  I've read a couple of books in this series (well out of order), but apparently this is the first one.  Which was kinda funny since Lucy Stone (the main character) has young kids here, and a job other than the one she has in the later books.

Anyway, Lucy is working the overnight shift at Country Cousins, a catalog mail-order company in her town (think along the lines of LL Bean).  It's Christmastime, things are pretty busy.  While on a break one night, she finds a car in the parking lot that has its motor on with a hose into the front seat.  She is able to offer some help, but it's clear that the person in the car is dead - and it's the owner of Country Cousins!

While doing all of the other things everyone does at holiday time, including dealing with a visit from her recently widowed mother, Lucy tries to figure out why her boss was killed, and who killed him.

Like I said, it's an entertaining read and I for one was surprised at the end to learn the identity of the murderer.

The Santa Klaus Murder, by Mavis Doriel Hay.  When Sir Osmond Melbury decides - well demands - that his entire family come for a visit for Christmas Day, what he has planned is a visit from Santa Klaus and a Christmas tree.

What ends up happening is his murder.

This is an interesting take on the classic "country house murder" genre.  Each person present has their own issues, of course, but also has a potential reason to benefit from Sir Osmond's death.  Everyone is restricted to the house and the grounds once the crime has been committed, and not being a family that enjoys spending a lot of time together, tensions and suspicions mount with each passing hour.

I enjoyed this book.  Though some of the characters were somewhat cliche, the overall story kept me entertained, and wondering who the murderer would actually turn out to be.

I Am Half-Sick of Shadows, by Alan Bradley.  Flavia de Luce is at it again!  This time though, she has set quite an undertaking for herself:  to prove or disprove the existence of Father Christmas, using science of course.  Flavia has begun to question the hows, ifs, and wheres of Father Christmas and his secret delivery of presents at Christmastime.  Scientifically speaking, she cannot imagine that it can be true.  But on the other hand, every Christmas morning, there are presents under the tree, and no one else seems to have a clue how they got there.

As she is making her plans to "trap" Father Christmas if he does in fact exist, she learns that a film crew will be setting up a Buckshaw, the family home, to shoot a movie staring the famous actress Phyllis Wyvern.  Though disappointed that there will be others traipsing around the house and grounds while the family is trying to celebrate the holidays, she also realizes that her father agreed to the shoot because the film studio would pay well for the opportunity of filming at Buckshaw.

Since the actors are there anyway, they agree to do a small performance for the townspeople to raise funds to make repairs at the church.  Two major events occur related to this:  there is a terrible blizzard that takes place while everyone is at Buckshaw, causing everyone to have to remain at the house until it's clear and safe enough to leave, and Phyllis Wyvern if found murdered in her room.

Now Flavia suddenly has a lot on her plate, and her curiosity and desire to investigate put her in the thick of things.

This was enjoyable, not just because of Flavia's plan to trap Father Christmas, but because of her naivete regarding so much of adult life, and life outside of her family and small village.

Murder Under the Mistletoe, by Janice L. Davis.  I gave this book four stars, not because it was amazing literature, but because it did such a wonderful job of evoking time and place.

It's Christmastime 1946, in a small town in Wisconsin, and the annual Christmas carnival is ready to start.  Shockingly, the town's mayor, Max Mueller is murdered at the Christmas tree lighting ceremony!

Enter Agatha Larsen, a retired schooteacher, and her two granddaughters.  After a friend is also murdered, they start looking into things themselves, and discover that their small, quiet town is hiding a lot of secrets.

I enjoyed this book for several reasons:  1) the time period.  Not that long after World War II has ended, and people are happy to be back to their normal lives;  2) the feeling of small-town life.  Some of the events and characters were so on point for not just 1946, but for many years, if not decades, after; 3) the writing.  Though not amazing, it was lovely, quiet, and carried the story well.

The ending was fine, though not quite what I was expecting.  Overall, this is a lovely read for a break during the holidays.

******

According to my Goodreads tally, I read 70 books last year.  Not bad!  Of course, I was prompted to set a goal for this year, and I almost did.  But then I decided not to do that.  I'm just gonna see what happens, and not think about a number.

Have you read anything good lately?  Feel free to suggest some good ones!

14 January 2017

December Harry's Hundred Update and Final Tally

WOW.  I don't know that even in my wildest hopes and imagination that I thought this project would end up the way it did.  To be honest, I thought it was a nice idea, but I knew that I was not the world's fastest knitter on my best day, and I knew that most of my knitterly friends had plenty of their own projects to work on, and own lives to live.  When I posted about Harry's Hundred to a Ravelry group, in their Knitting for Charity thread, I'd hoped to get a few people to donate one or two items in the name of the project, and hoped that might get us close to 100 items by the end of 2016.

Did I HOPE we could reach 100 items?  Yes, or I wouldn't have even decided to try.  But I was also trying to be realistic, and knew that there was a good possibility that it wouldn't end up the way I liked.  But I felt it was worth doing, and any items donated would be a plus.

Let's see how December worked out, and then do the final count, shall we?

The two items below were knitted by GringaTurista (Rav link) and donated as part of the project:

She calls this one the 70s Subdued  Cowl - I think the colors are great -
bright but also still something that even "manly" men would feel comfortable wearing.
Plus, nice and cozy!

These are "Grey Guys : The Sequel, and being a fan of tweedy yarn, 
I think they look quite elegant.

Next up, redindian (Rav link) knit and donated this blanket, which she calls the Green and Cream Blanket:

This is beautiful, right?  I love the combo of the cables and the seed stitch,
and the outline in black.  Imagine the joy that a person 
receiving this felt!

Then there's her Staggered Cables Blanket, finished "in the last hours of 2016":

I am extremely fond of cables, so this one is really appealing to me.

And then, Kim wowed me even more than usual with her contributions!  Look at this lovely hat and scarf:

There's no way these aren't the softest things in the world, right?

But then she sent me this picture of her last group of items donated to a shelter:

5 hats
4 scarves
14 washcloths
A total of 23 items, just in this photo!

Before continuing, I have to tell you a funny story about the e-mail she sent with the photo above.  The subject line was "Bound for the Shelter."  Of course, being obsessed with animals, and knowing that Kim has pets, my first (panicked) thought was, "OMG, why is she taking one of her pets to a shelter????" and I almost didn't want to open the e-mail ... needless to say, all's well that ends well as far as that went!

What a way to end the project, with so many beautiful, cozy, and useful items knitted to be given to people who may get nothing else new for months or even a year again.  

Thanks does not even begin to express how I feel, and how much I appreciate not just these items, but Every.Single.Piece. that was made and donated.  At a time when so many of us are feeling uncertain about our futures and the future of the world, I find it particularly comforting to know that the kindness of strangers is still going strong.  There is a well-known expression "Think globally, act locally" and as the year continued, I realized that the Harry's Hundred Project could fall into that category.  

So thanks to everyone who contributed, who thought about contributing, or who just appreciated what I was hoping to do.  

LOOK WHAT WE DID, PEOPLE!!

Goal:  
100 items

Final tally:  
153 items
donated, in the U.S. and Europe

On behalf of my father's memory, I thank you. I'm so thrilled that his 100th birthday was able to be noted in such a meaningful way.  I'm sure he would be even more touched and honored than I am.

08 January 2017

Thinking About 2017

Hello all - I'm still here!  Two days after Christmas Day, I woke up with the start of the cold/crud thing that everyone seems to be getting, has, or has finally gotten over.  Weird, too, since usually I can feel things coming on in one way or another, but this was a complete surprise.  The worst part is that although I feel better than I did, I don't feel like I'm making great progress, even with the help of prescription meds.  Since everyone I know (including my dr) has said this hangs on for a longer time than expected, I'm hoping it will eventually leave and not turn in to anything worse.  But wow, do I feel awful!

In any event, I'm sure I'll survive, and I'm glad I'm not any sicker than I am.  So time to move on and talk about something else, right?

From what I have heard, everyone enjoyed the knits I gifted them for Christmas.  I even received photographic proof for two of them!


This is my great-nephew Zach in the hat I made for him with the colors of the Baltimore Orioles.  My niece Liz posted this picture on Facebook on Christmas Day, and said he wore it outside to play first thing after opening gifts.  (Personally, I hope he removed the gift tag, LOL!)

Then there is Patrick, my niece Amanda's husband (they are the ones with the family house in Rehoboth).  He posted this picture on Facebook, saying it was his favorite Christmas gift.


He also said his friends have given him lots of compliments and asked if I had a website where they could buy one.  I find that hysterical.

But it's always nice to see pictures of gifts you've made for someone.  I always figure that even if they wear it for the photo only, and then give it away, they went out of their way to acknowledge your efforts.

I've also been thinking about what I want to do in 2017 in various areas.  I'm deciding on my One Little Word.  I've decided that for the most part, I'm going to knit for myself, The Tim, or for our house this year.  For the knitting that I do, 99% I give away.  Which is fine, but I really want to make some things for ME!  In that spirit, I did start a pair of socks on January 2.


I'm at the heel flap now, so they are moving along very well.  There are several other knits rattling around in my brain that I want to try and make a list so I'll remember what they are, and try to make some of those.  And of course, I'll still make things for others and for donation, but I think I deserve some stuff for myself.  :-)

I am also thinking of some additional goals for myself this year, and want to narrow it down to those I am most interested in achieving.  I do better with goals than resolutions, because to me they do not seem as restrictive.  I realize it's as much psychology and semantics as anything else, but it works better so that's my story and I'm sticking to it.

That's about it for now.  I'm planning to share my 2016 knitting wrap up, reading wrap up, and Harry's Hundred wrap up with you soon, and who knows what other golden nuggets from my brain will come along?

I hope that 2017 is treating you well so far - it has been so far, so good for us.  There is plenty that I am not looking forward to (aka the ascendancy of The Orange One and his bros), but I'm going to try and not let that define things for me, at least not at the moment.

Sometimes, you have to hunker down into yourself to stay sane ...