26 February 2014

Some Greenery

Winter may still be here in full force, but I'm feeling good because of some greenery.

I finally finished these socks!  It's not that they were particularly difficult, or that I didn't like them.  But I started them and got going, and then put them down to work on so many other things, both successful and non-successful.  I had hoped to finish them in January, and came close, but then a couple of weeks ago I closed up the toe and wove in the ends on the second sock.  For all of my sock-knitting, these are only the third pair I've ever made for myself.

Project:  Emerald Hedgerows
Pattern:  Hedgerow Socks
Yarn:  Apple Laine Apple Pie, in the Yoda colorway*
Needles:  US 1 1/2
Modifications:  None
Comments:  This is the second time I've knitted this pattern.  I made a pair of these for one of my nieces a few years ago, and enjoyed knitting the pattern - easy to remember, but challenging enough to keep you interested.  I received the yarn a few years ago in a swap, and have always wanted to use it.  I think I found a good fit with the pattern and the yarn.  The resulting socks are soft, cushy, and very cozy.

I'm going to wear them to work this Friday, and expect them to keep my feet warm walking to and from work in the return of the Polar Vortex.  Also, I am going to the first meeting of a group of knitters and crocheters during lunchtime at work, so it only seems right to wear my new socks for that, right?

*Before anyone mentions it, I do know that Yoda was not green since at least 100 people have told me as I was knitting these.  But I'm not the one who named the colorway ...

21 February 2014

Five Favorites for This Friday

It's time to get back to thinking about the good things from this week, which has otherwise been full of annoying co-workers, epic nosebleeds, a cold, and so many other things.  But it is Friday, and  I'm still here, so something is working, right?

1. Melted ice.  For the past week or so, going outside meant taking your life into your hands unless you were a member of the Ice Capades.  Now, you can actually walk on the sidewalks.  (And when/if you fall, it's up to you to find a reason!)

2.  Fog.  I don't have to drive or fly an airplane, etc., so when it is uber foggy like it is today, I can just enjoy it.  I like the feeling of being tucked away in the universe.  I'm sure I wouldn't enjoy it if every day was this foggy, but fortunately it's not.

3.  Extra cuddly kitties.  Jetsam has been so much more cuddly than usual this week.  Every evening, he has sat on my lap or chest and purred his little head off, and then when I go to bed, he snuggles up right next to me.  The best.

4.  Long-lasting manicures.  Last night, I finally removed my nail polish from my manicure last Friday!  It had only started to chip.  I've never had one last that long, and this week, there was a lot of extra hand-washing, etc.  (see above)

5.  Friday evening.  Full of anticipation, even if your weekend is more or less free of specific plans.  Cozy, homey, and worth every second.

What about you?  I hope you can find some good things from your week to think about.  And no matter what, have a good weekend!

18 February 2014

Relaxation With No Regrets

Here are some of the things I've been doing the past few days.








And then Monday morning my cold kicked in, so now I'm also


At least I didn't have to take a sick day, even though I felt lousy.  And it just meant I had to just relax some more, and I was OK with that, you know?

Today, though - back to the real world.  But at least it's a four-day work week!  Let's hope it's a good one for all of us.  :-)

15 February 2014

Extra Long Long Weekend

Oh the wonderfulness of being at home!  And I have been since Thursday!

I usually take Valentine's Day as a day off, if I can.  Because it's Jetsam and Pip's birthdays, and it's Valentine's Day.  Unlike most other people, I actually like Valentine's Day.  I think of it as a day when you let people know that you are thinking of them and love them, as opposed to a day only for romantic love.  Growing up, we always got a card on Valentine's Day, and usually some little gift - often candy, maybe a book, a pair of earrings, something.  And yes, I do agree that you should let people know that they are special/that you love them every day, but so what?   Should I skip my birthday because other people may have also been born that day?  (As Basil Fawlty would say, "Not bloody likely.")

So, I had planned the day off on Friday, and then it turns out that Monday is President's Day, which is a holiday where I work.  A nice four-day weekend.  Then it snowed big-time on Wednesday, so we actually had a snow day on Thursday - that hardly ever happens!  But it did mean I ended up with a five-day weekend - YAY!!

Granted, I have not felt great, as I think I am getting a cold - sore throat, congestion, aches - but the fact is that I AM NOT AT WORK.  And I'm loving every single minute.  I'm getting things done, but also enjoying lots of down time, cuddles with the kitties and Dug, and time with The Tim when he is home.  My time is my own, for real.

A lot of people might think that I should use this time to do as much as possible.  But I am trying to: a) avoid getting really sick, so taking it easy, and b) making an effort to tell myself that every waking minute does not have to be "useful" to be worthwhile.

Plus, I get to be at home!  As much as I enjoy traveling and exploring, home is truly where my heart is.  and there are two WHOLE days left!

Sometimes, life is good.  :-)

Our front gate

09 February 2014

So What's What?

  • We just returned earlier today from a weekend in Baltimore, where we went to visit with family and celebrate my great-nephew Zach's 8th birthday.  Zach is truly an amazing kid.  He is funny, talented, smart, but most of all, he's a nice kid.  I mean, truly nice.  Well-mannered and polite, but so much fun to be around.  As we always say, he may be spoiled since he is the center of so much of our attention, but he is not in any way a spoiled brat.   Which makes all the difference.  I took lots of pictures (for once, I not only took my camera, but then also actually took pictures), and I'll share some of them in a later post.  But as much as I enjoy being with my family - and I really do enjoy them, we always have a great time - I am always happy to come home to be in my own house with the kitties and Dug.  I am still working on getting myself organized this year.  Which is OK, and I'm not worried about it, but I am surprised that February is already underway, you know?
  • I have been reading and knitting, as usual, and I really wish I could devote more time to both.  One of the things I want to try and work on this year is giving myself more time to do things I enjoy.  I read an article recently that stated that people who "goof off" - meaning, those who allow themselves time to spend time how they would like to - are truly happier than those who are always "accomplishing" something.  It also fits in to my desire to follow my word for the year, Grace.
  • This Friday is not just Valentine's Day, but the day we celebrate the birthdays of Jetsam and Pip.  I have a lot of comp time at work, so I am taking the day off, and will have an extra long, long weekend, since we are off on Monday for Presidents' Day.  I'm looking forward to it, and am deciding what birthday cake to bake ...
  • The Tim and I have recently become fans of the show "True Detective."  It has Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey, and the weird thing is, I'm not really a big fan of either, but I think they are fantastic in the show.  It's weird and a little bit disturbing, but really well done.  Turns out that almost everyone in my family is watching it too!  So there were many discussions about it this weekend.
  • The Olympics.  As usual, I told myself that I didn't care, and wouldn't get involved.  And as usual, of course I'm watching.  Annoying commentary and all.
  • And that's what's what around here.  What's going on with you?  Whatever it is, I hope your week goes well.

07 February 2014

January Book Report

Before much more of February happens, I figured I'd give you a review of what I read in January.  At some point later this month, I'll figure out what books I have to offer from the last few months of reading, so that they can find new homes.  But for right now, you just get to hear about them ...

City of Hope, by Kate Kerrigan.  I am not exactly sure what I think about this.

I won this book in a Goodreads First Read drawing, and the author was kind enough to send this along with the first book, "Ellis Island," which I read a couple of months ago.  

In this book, the heroine of the earlier book, Ellie Hogan, has lived in Ireland for the past ten years with her husband John after leaving her somewhat glamorous life in New York during the 1920s.  She has made a life for herself by having a few busineses of her own going, and is making a nice living.  Even though they are childless (she has suffered several miscarriages), John and Ellie are happy in their life together.

When John dies suddenly of a heart attack, Ellie leaves his graveside service, packs a bag, and heads back to New York.  She tells herself it's for a "holiday," to grieve and pull herself together.

The New York she returns to is in the throes of the Great Depression, and life is very different than when she was there before.  With her money and some desire to help the homeless, she buys a house and invites some of the women and children to live with her.  With her money and business sense, and word of mouth, she eventually ends up with several houses, a shop, and a name for herself.  She creates a Women's Cooperative, where everyone shares the work and the profits.  People come and go, problems arise and are resolved, she gets involved with a couple of men (one a former beau), and for all intents and purposes, is a success.  

She returns to Ireland, where she visits her mother-in-law, trying to convince her to return to New York City with her.  She also straightens out her business affairs, clearly not planning to return.

Of course, there are plenty of other developments, and the book is interesting.  But I have had a hard time deciding what I really think about it.  Ellie is a strong, independent woman, and she does help people.  But she also seems incredibly self-involved to me.  (Keep in mind that I am the Queen of Self-Involvement.)  I'm not sure that I like her that much as a person, though I admire her ability to get things done.  In the end, I think she might be too much like a real person to be appealing to me.

Having said that, I enjoyed reading the book, and seeing what would happen next.  

The Hundred-Foot Journey, by Richard C. Morais.  I really enjoyed this book. Admittedly, I'd not heard of it, until I read an article about books being made into movies this year.  Like most books, I think this will likely not translate as well to film, especially if they want to make it more "relevant" or "modern."  But I'm not here to talk about the movie!

Hassan Haji and his family's story begins in their native India, then moves them to London after a family tragedy.  London is not as kind to them as they would have hoped, and eventually they find themselves in Lumiere, a small village in the French Alps.  They purchase a property across the road from a Michelin three-star restaurant, owned and run by Madame Gertrude Mallory, one of the most well-known and respected chefs in all of France.  Hassan's father decides to open an Indian restaurant, which causes problems between the Haji family and Madame Mallory. She does, however, have an encounter with Hassan in the kitchen, and decides he is one of the rare people who are born chefs, and becomes his mentor. 

Years later, Hassan moves to Paris to further his learning and his career, and over the years, becomes the owner of a very well-respected French restaurant, and an expert French chef. 

That's the basic story, but it is all so much more than that.  Hassan is the narrator, and through his eyes we learn about family, love, food, and what it means to be an outsider.  His life becomes one lesson, one experience, one cultural shift after another, and he turns out having friends that change his life in so many unexpected ways.  Throughout it all, his family, and in particular the memory of his mother, guide his way.

This is a really good book about family, food, culture, and how just one person can make all the difference in someone else's life.  Though it is fiction, it's as engrossing as any memoir.

Also, the author apparently lives in Philadelphia, so that was a fun discovery at the end of the book!

All Mortal Flesh, by Julia Spencer-Fleming.  I haven't read a book in this series for a while, and though I still liked this one, I didn't like it as much as the previous ones.  Unlike most people, my favorite thing isn't for characters who are attracted to one another to get together.  Sometimes it makes perfect sense, and other times, it just seems to dilute the premise.

Anyway, as this installment begins, Rev. Clare Fergusson is finishing up a personal retreat in a cabin in the woods loaned to her by one of her parishoners.  A representative of the bishop comes to find her, to inform her that - due to certain "difficulties" (i.e., her relationship with Russ Van Alstyne, a married man and Chief of Police in their town, Millers Kill) - she is being assigned a deacon to assist her with her church duties.  Clare isn't thrilled about this, but she is also relieved the "punishment" is no more severe.

Upon returning to town, she learns that Russ' wife Linda, who recently kicked him out of the house upon learning of his relationship with Clare, has been found murdered in her kitchen.  As the story progresses, Russ is considered the prime suspect, though he is trying on his own to solve the murder.  Later in the story, some think  Clare is the murderer, to get the wife out of the way.  

Several things lead to identifying other suspects, which makes Russ think that the victim of the murder was not his wife, but someone who resembled her.  He begins trying to track her down.

As with any crime like this one, certain facts, secrets, and disturbing things are learned in the investigation about nearly everyone mentioned.  Friendships become strained, careers are called into question, and gossip rules.  

The ending is not all that satisfying, and the discoveries and events leading up to it were really disturbing to me.  I know there are more books in the series, and I am guessing that Clare and Russ end up together.  I'll likely read at least one more to find out, but I think for me they may become less interesting as a result.

The Diva Takes the Cake, by Krista Davis.  I read this out of order in the series, but it was still enjoyable.  Sophie Winston's sister, Hannah, is getting married again, and Sophie has done all of the planning.  She is not overly fond of Hannah's fiance, Craig, but mainly because she thinks he is dull more than anything else.

The wedding weekend gets off to a bad start when Craig's ex-wife - who Hannah didn't know about - turns up dead in the garden of Sophie's ex-husband's house.  The wedding is on again/off again, and more and more suspicious things happen.  Craig seems like a prime suspect, but then Hannah insists he is innocent, and the wedding happens.  Except another body is discovered at the end of the ceremony.

Again, not amazing literature, but this series has some amusing and appealing characters, and I find it enjoyable when I am in the mood to read but not read something complicated and deep.


Have a good weekend!

04 February 2014

A Little Bit Different

This week's Ten on Tuesday is a little bit different than usual.  Rather than a list of ten things, Carole challenged us with a prompt - "I am" - and asked us to write ten things that start with those words.

In some ways, this was harder for me than the usual topics are.  Because, it seemed that there were so many ways to go.  Do I get all philosophical?   Whiny?  Funny?  Boring?  Then I decided I wasn't going to participate, because I was (as usual) overthinking the whole thing.

So of course I changed my mind and decided to give it a shot, just writing the first things that came to mind.

1.  I am often annoying.  Mostly to myself - at least I hope it's mostly to myself and not everyone else!  See the above paragraphs.  What's the big deal??

2.  I am tired of pompous people.  Everyone does good/noble/wonderful things and not all of us have to make sure that everyone knows about it.

3.  I am - overall - pretty content with my life.

4.  I am suspicious of people with no sense of humor.

5.  I am always happier on my own than with lots of people, even if I really like all of them.

6.  I am loved by my family, and I love them all as well.

7.  I am happy we are having a real winter, since the last few around here have been wimpy.

8.  I am sick of cell phones.  Period.

9.  I am lucky in many ways, and grateful for all of them.

10.  I am terrible at math.  Fine with basic arithmetic (addition, subtraction, multiplication, division), but really terrible at math.

So there you have it.  :-)

02 February 2014

But No Cigar

As in "close, but no cigar."  At least not yet.  I got going pretty quickly with my knitting in January, finishing my hat at the beginning of the month.  Having successfully completed it, I was really motivated to finish my Emerald Hedgerows socks.  I started them back in July, and then I put them aside to concentrate on some other things.  I really want to finish them, as I would like to actually wear them, you know?  So I picked them up, and was going along pretty well, until my stupid arthritis flared up, and I had to only work on them occasionally.  So January ended, and they were still underway.  But there's hope, as I am at the beginning of the foot on one sock, and this far on the other one:

So I figure that unless I forget how to knit, I should have them finished by the end of February.

And at the moment, I'm swatching for what I think will be my next project, Agnes.  (Though I'm not sure why I'm tackling another sweater, since my last couple of attempts have failed.  I guess hope actually does spring eternal ...)  I've read some of the notes from others who have knit it, both on blogs and on Ravelry, and I think I'd like it to be a little bit longer and not really as flared out at the bottom, which are fortunately both easy modifications to make.  I bought the yarn and the pattern a couple of years ago, so it's about time I got moving on it!  For the sweater, I'll be using this:

(Puffin, from Quince & Co., in the Gingerbread colorway)

The contrasting pockets will be the same yarn, but in the Parsley colorway.  From everything I've read, this sweater is a quick knit, and goes smoothly.

We'll see about that ...