18 July 2018

Christmas in July : Part 3

OK, I don't know about you, but I'm surprised it is already the THIRD week in July - seriously, how have I missed it all??  But the good news is, today marks the third giveaway for Christmas in July!

I have to tell you guys, I'm thrilled this has gotten such a wonderful response.  I knew I would enjoy it, but I didn't know if anyone else would be as excited about it as I am, and it appears that at least some of you are.  

This week's package is primarily made up of things I have in duplicate.  First, I Dream of Yarn, a coloring book for knitters and crocheters, with the images drawn by Franklin Habit.  I received my first copy of this in a prize package from Kim, and had fun with it.  However, in the next couple of months, I received FOUR more copies from people who "knew I liked knitting."  I gave the others to friends who were interested, but I still have this copy, and thought maybe some of you who "liked knitting"  might like to have this as well.   Then, another book, Knit the Sky, that is also a duplicate of a title I already have (coincidentally enough, also from Kim!)

On the bottom level, there are a pair of stretchy house slipper socks (commercial made), one with Santa's face and one with Mrs. Santa.  And finally, a copy of Elizabeth Zimmerman's Baby Surprise Jacket pattern. 

To be eligible for this giveaway, you need to answer the following question:

Good news:  You have just won a trip around the world, all expenses paid!
Bad news:  You have to be ready to leave in 24 hours, and you are only allowed to bring two crafty projects for the duration of the trip.
Question:  What two projects will you bring along and why?

Let me know your answers in today's comments, and I'll choose a winner at random on this coming Sunday, July 22, at 5 p.m. EDT. 

Good luck!

15 July 2018

Second Giveaway Winner!

If it's Sunday, it must be ... time to find out who won the second giveaway for my Christmas in July!

There were fewer entries this time, which I expected, since the prize was sewing-related as opposed to knitting-related.

But those who did respond had some really great ideas - none of which I didn't have in some way myself - about what they would do if money were no object and they could do whatever project they wanted to do.  Some reponses even added to my own ideas. :-)

So I cranked up the old Random.Org, and demanded that it tell me who would get the package.  I am always surprised by how quickly the response appears - but I guess when it's your only job, you need to do it well, right?

The number it chose was response #2, from Kat!  Her response was:

"Oh my... if time and money were no issue, I would love to go to Alabama Chanin and take a work shop! What fun that would be! Also, high on the list would be to join Maryjane Mucklestone and Gudrun Johnston in Scotland for one of their knitting tours!

Good luck everyone!"

I thought it was a funny coincidence that she mentioned the Scotland knitting tours, since my friend Kathy (she of helping me seam together my Custom Cranberry Sweater) was in Shetland at the time, on a knitting retreat/tour/workshop!  The photos she was posting on Instagram made it look even better than it had all sounded before she even left.

In any case, Congratulations Kat!  When you have a chance, please send me your mailing address at thekittyknitterATverizonDOTnet, and I'll put the package together to send.

Well, that was even more fun than last week.  Join me again this coming Wednesday to see what the next giveaway will be!


In related news, yesterday I finished the first of my Christmas in July Socks:

These were fun to knit, and I had no issues, so hopefully sock #2 will go as well as this one.  The colorway of this yarn is Peppermint Mocha, and I think it's definitely truth in advertising! 

I hope the upcoming week is a good one for all of you.  I have Part 2 of my dental implant procedure tomorrow morning (ugh), but next weekend should bring something fun.  I'll keep you posted. :-)

13 July 2018

For Friday - Let's Look At This FO!

Do you ever have a knitting project that you really want to make, and things go OK for most of it, until they don't and then you are Just.Done. ??

That happened to me with this project.  You may or may not recall that at the beginning of last summer, I started knitting the Strawberry Field Socks.  I was knitting along, loving the pattern, and then I tugged on the yarn and was faced with the most incredible amount of yarn barf ever.  I made a concerted effort to untangle the yarn, and gave up when it just wasn't happening.  The yarn was chucked into the trash, and I moved on to another project.  But in the back of my mind, I still wanted to knit that pattern.

Fast forward to this summer, when I came across the perfect yarn in my stash, and decided to give it a try again. It started out really well, and again, I was enjoying the pattern.

Because I was in a bit of a knitting slump, and just wanted to get the pair finished, I decided to make the foot of the pair plain, thinking it would make the whole thing go more quickly.  And soon sock #1 was completed.

I wasn't zooming along, but all was well.  I was moving down the leg of sock #2, and it happened again - yarn barf.  Ugh.  I put the whole thing down for a few days, and then tried to untangle this yarn.  This time though, it was not as much of a mess, and I managed to get it untangled with only a minimum of aggravation.  

The problem?  At this point, I just wanted to get the things finished.  It felt like I'd been knitting this particular pair for approximately 2 years.  So I carried on, but sadly did not really pay the attention I should have to the stitch pattern, so there was a lot of fudging around and just making it work, because I did not want to pull it out and re-knit where the mistakes had been.  I finished the leg, and the rest of it went along for the most part without major incident, but with other mistakes and fudging along happening pretty often.  

Thank the Lord, they are FINALLY finished!

Project:  Hot Mess Socks
Pattern:  Strawberry Field, by Sirkku Siiskonen (I made the 38 size)
Yarn:  Cedar Hill Farm Company Mission Sock, in the Sweet Strawberry colorway
Needles:  US size 1
Modifications:  I knit the foot plain.  Though I wish I'd done the pattern down the foot.  But it was not to be.

I am happy with the finished socks.  I love the color, and unless you are holding the socks in your hand, and looking at them closely, you can't see where the fudging occurred.  I love the color of the yarn.  I think I will like these socks a LOT more once I take them out of my Box o' Socks next year and have forgotten how sick I got of knitting them. With all of the issues related to just finishing this pair, I decided Hot Mess Socks was the perfect name for them.

Fortunately, the current pair I'm knitting are going along much better (plain socks help out), and I'm more in the mood to knit them anyway, so it's all good.

On that note, I wish you a lovely weekend, filled with knitting - if that's what you are in the mood to do - and other good stuff.  I have plans to do nothing in particular, and am looking forward to it.  :-)

11 July 2018

Christmas in July : Part 2

It's that time again!  Today marks Week #2 of Christmas in July!!

This week, the giveaway package is geared towards people who: like to sew, used to sew and want to get back to it, want to have inspiration and a simple project to learning how to sew, or those who know someone who sews and wants to give them a package of goodies.

Of course, having said that, anyone at all can participate - maybe you just want to try and win something - I don't know your life. ;-)

In any event, we have a tin of Milk and Honey Lotion Bar, in Citrus scent.  (This stuff is really great - I bought one for a gift a while back and then couldn't find it, so I bought another one.  Then, guess what??)  We have a printed pattern for the Endless Summer Tunic, which I liked so well, I bought two!  (OK, I forgot I'd already ordered it.  Do you detect a theme?)  It's a wonderful pattern, and really quite simple though I'm sure you could glam it up or add to it via the next item, the Alabama Stitch Book, by Natalie Chanin and and Stacie Stukin.  I bought this for myself last year, and though it's a really cool book, and pretty inspirational, I have come to the conclusion that I will never, ever, make use of it.  So I'd rather pass it along to someone who can act upon the inspiration! 

This week, I want to know the following:

If time and money were no object, and you were suddenly granted the ability to do any craft you wanted in the most amazing way possible, what item/pattern/project would you most want to knit, crochet, sew, cross-stitch, etc.? 

If you would like a chance to win this giveaway, tell me your answer in the comments.  I will keep the thread open until Sunday, July 15, 2018, at 5 p.m. EDT. 

Good luck!  I can't wait to see what all of you have to tell me this week!

10 July 2018

Book Report for April, May, and June 2018

Before July gets much more underway, I wanted to share what I have read in the past few months.  As usual, it's kind of a mish-mash of things, and some times I read more than other times, so it's always unpredictable to me what I can expect to get done.  I decided not to participate in Summer Book Bingo this year, because to be frank, I didn't really enjoy it that much last year.  I do like reading others' posts about it, and finding how they made things work for the bingo squares - it just wasn't fun for me.

Anyway, moving on, here's what I read, and what I thought about it.

The Crossing Places, by Elly Griffiths.  This was a new series for me, and it was pretty interesting. Ruth Galloway is a forensic archaeologist who is asked to assist when some bones are discovered near the salt marshes where she lives.  Though they turn out to be from the Iron Age, Ruth remains involved in the investigation to locate a missing young girl.  This turns out to throw a lot of her beliefs in friends and colleagues out of kilter, as well as making her think about her own life.

This was an interesting read.  I think I'll read another in the series to see if it really grabs me.

An Affair to Dismember, by Elise Sax.  This was a Friday cheapo book for my Nook - for 99 cents, I decided to try it.

This is hands down one of the most stupid books I have ever read in my life.  First of all, the main character is learning to be a matchmaker from her Jewish grandmother who is ready to retire.  OK, I suspend my disbelief for a lot of stuff I read.  But it was just terrible and stupid.  The only reason I read until the end was because I was actually interested in who the murderer turned out to be, and even that was stupid.

I don't care if you want a quick and easy summer read that requires no concentration - this ain't it, let me assure you.

The Thoughtful Dresser, by Linda Grant.  I really enjoyed this book.  The author writes it in a chatty and engaging style, so that you don't feel she is preaching at you to make you feel like you are a loser, style-wise.  She discusses fashion, style, shopping, and what clothes do mean and can mean to the wearer.

Besides her own observations, she focuses on a few individuals and tells their stories.  In some ways, this book feels more like a series of essays, but they it all works put together this way. 

If nothing else, borrow this book for the library so that you can read the beginning of one of the later chapters her commentary on seeing the designer Alexander McQueen and the discussion of some of the well-known high-end designers.  Her comment about Karl Lagerfeld made me laugh out loud!

I wish I had read her blog when it was current, I think she would have been a happy, interesting spot in the world of style blogs.

If you enjoy hearing about fashion, style, and some history, you will probably like this book.  I borrowed my copy from the library, and am seriously considering purchasing one for myself, so I can dip into it every once in a while.

Lilli de Jong, by Janet Benton.  Here's what I really liked about this book:  it takes place in 1880s Philadelphia, and so has references to actual locations in the city.  It's also a good depiction of society and what is and is not accepted at that time. 

Here's what I didn't like about the book:  there were about 50 pages towards the end that a good editor could have cut, without losing the heart of the story. 

Lilli de Jong is a young Quaker woman who finds herself pregnant after a night of passion with her betrothed, before he leaves to find work in Pittsburgh.  She fully expects him to send for her quickly, and for them to be married and have a life together.  When that does not happen, and her stepmother learns she is pregnant, she is thrown out of the house because of the shame it brings to her family.

She finds herself at a home for unwed mothers, where life is not perfect, but it is bearable.  The expectation is that she will surrender her baby for adoption, but once her daughter is born, she cannot bear the thought of doing so.  Her decision means that her life will be a struggle, as single women with children are not accepted in a respectable society.  For a while, she finds a position at a wet nurse for a well-to-do couple, but her continued worry about her daughter, who is in care, keep her from being able to behave in the way her employers expect.   When a specific incident leads to her being fired, her options become much more limited, and possibly dangerous.

I liked this book well enough, but especially towards the end, it became somewhat predictable.

Bad Feminist, by Roxane Gay.  This book was excellent.  Granted, some of the topics discussed were dated because it was written a few years ago, but nonetheless Gay's writing is true, articulate, and often very funny.  Whether she is discussing the presence of "magical Negroes" in movies, the whole set of issues around Tyler Perry and his work, or the meaning of "feminist" and how the label can have an effect on the way others treat you, she is spot on and approachable in each essay.

I don't read a lot of essay collections, but every single on in this volume was worth my time.

The New Garconne : How to Be a Modern Gentlewoman, by Navaz Batliwalla.  Meh. 

I guess I didn't pay enough attention to the summaries of this book before I decided to request it from the library.  It's a series of interviews with women who were fortunate enough to be born into, or marry into families with resources, and often with one or more creative parent.  After about the third interview with someone who grew up with wealthy parents who often owned artistic companies, I just skimmed the rest.  They interviews were mainly snippets asking how they got started, how they decided on their styles, etc. and then at the end of the book there were resources for the reader indicating where some of the things included could be purchased (if you are someone who can afford Hermes bags and such).

Next time, I'll pay better attention - this was probably fine for what it was supposed to be, I was just going into it with completely different expectations.

Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows, by Balli Kaur Jaswal.  I really wanted to like this book.  But for whatever reason, I just couldn't get into it or care about the characters.  I read about 75-100 pages, and it just wasn't working for me. 

Your mileage of course may vary.

Craeft : An Inquiry Into the Origins and True Meaning of Traditional Crafts, by Alexander Langlands.  I've been wanting to read this since it was published. 

I found it interesting, but really sloggy in parts.  The author does a good job of relaying the information, but occasionally details are overdone.   Which is probably done on purpose, but I was expecting something much more readable.

The All of It, by Jeannette Haien.  This is a small but very intense book, taking place in a small Irish village.

Father Declan de Loughry is salmon fishing on the last day of the season, in the pouring rain, against everyone's suggestion.  But he uses the time to muse over something one of his parishioners told him as he lay dying, and that he learned more about afterwards.  Though shocking, it is presented as something that "just happened" and that no one else really needed to know about. 

Father Declan cannot let go of the feeling that on the one hand, he failed in his duty as God's representative on earth when he learned the news.  Then again, those involved were both dedicated to each other and though they never confessed to anyone else, it was largely because "no one ever asked." 

As he recalls the conversations with the deceased's wife, he is reminded that some see his life as one of futility and sadness, since he is unable to have a family and feel their constant support and love.  This realization leads him to consider a course of action never expected at the beginning of the book.

The Amber Spyglass, by Philip Pullman.  This book took so long for me to finish because I don't keep up with audiobooks as well as I do with books I actually read on paper or on my Nook.  In any case, I wanted to finish this book because I have read and enjoyed the previous two in this series.

Once again, Pullman has made a complex story with fantastical happenings both interesting and enjoyable.  Lyra and Will's journey throughout the series is so interesting to me, and in some ways feels very personal.  In this book, Will manages to rescue Lyra from her mother, who has kidnapped her and kept her hidden from her father and his men.  The two then try their best to get home, and in the course of the story, visit the Land of the Dead, lose their daemons briefly, and move into young adulthood with the usual strong feelings and hopes we have all experienced at one time or another.

Some found the ending to be upsetting, but to be perfectly honest, I found it to be very hopeful. 

I'm not usually a reader of fantasy/otherworld type of stories, but this series is excellent.

You Can't Spell America Without Me : The Really Tremendous Inside Story of My Fantastic First Year As President Donald J. Trump, by Alec Baldwin.  I listened to this "book" as filler between other reads.  It is silly, with Alec Baldwin narrating it as Donald Trump, and contains all of the expressions and poor uses of language that Trump uses on a regular basis.  I listened to it and finished it before the current horrors started (as opposed to the "regular" horrors we have experienced since Inauguration Day), so I could laugh exhaustedly at the stupidity of this man.  While of course, still hoping and working for his downfall.

A Bed of Scorpions, by Judith Flanders.  This is the second book in this series, and I enjoyed it just as much as the first one.

Sam Clair works in publishing, and is dating a police detective.  At the start of this book, one of Sam's exes who is now part owner in an art gallery finds his partner dead.  Was it suicide?  That seems to be the prevailing opinion, but the police are still investigating.   Then Sam has an "accident" on her bicycle, and weird things start to happen.  It seems like someone is out to get Sam, but she (and the reader) don't know why.

This was an enjoyable read, and I will admit that I had about four different theories about what happened, and who the murderer was.  (None were correct, for what it's worth.)  The story moves along at a good pace, and there are some entertaining parts and commentary along the way.  Sam is a heroine in her 40s, and that's a nice change.  Her relationship with her boyfriend and her mother are realistic and though they are part of the story, they don't interfere.

Needles and Pearls, by Gil McNeil.  This was an enjoyable read when I couldn't decide what I wanted to read.

Part of what I enjoyed about the first book in this series is that it wasn't a story about a woman whose husband had died, and her goal in life was to find love again.  It wasn't sappy, and the main character was not perfect and lovely.

That continues in this book, when the main character, Jo, finds herself in a situation she never imagined, while life in the small town where she has moved with her young sons goes on.  This book could have jumped the shark and become really sweet and sappy, but instead it just continued the story in the way a life continues.

It's not the best series out there, but it's a nice break from a lot of the other types of books that would be in the same kind of category.

The Sweet Dove Died, by Barbara Pym.  Humphrey and his nephew James, who run an antiques store, meet a woman named Leonora at an auction when she buys a valuable book.  As time goes on, they befriend her, and she is attracted to each of them for different reasons - James in a romantic sense, and Humphrey as an elegant companion and friend.  When James goes away for an extended period, and returns with a close male friend, his and Leonora's relationship changes quite a bit, and she becomes more reliant on Humphrey.

This book is typical Barbara Pym - observant, funny, and often poignant.  Loved it, as I do all of her books.


I hope you are reading something enjoyable, and managing to keep cool!  Let me know if you have any suggestions for really good books to read - or even ones to avoid!