21 August 2017

An FO Post for Eclipse Monday

Hello everyone!  I hope you had a good weekend.  Ours was fantastic in Baltimore - though the last part of the trip driving there was blinding, torrential rain.  It could only go up from there, right?  Well, it definitely did!  And ... I took zero pics of anything.  Others took a few, so if we are FB friends you may have seen them.  But for a brief recap, it's mostly The Tim in his Mr. Bean t-shirt on our boat ride.  Good times!

I am quite pleased, because finally - between arthritis flareup, falling and banging one of my hands, and just general other stuff-ness - I have an FO to show you!  [cue applause and awe]


Project:  Bridget's Social Security Number Socks
Pattern:  I just use my go-to plain vanilla sock pattern for worsted weight yarn.  It's based on Classic Socks for the Family from Yankee Knitter Designs (Rav link)
Needles:  Size 5US
Yarns:  All of the yarns used at Plymouth Encore Worsted Weight yarn, left over from various and sundry projects over the years (trust me, I have plenty left!)
Modifications:  I striped the pattern, but otherwise nothing else
Notes:  These are QUICK.  Each one took only a few evenings or weekend afternoons to complete.  I made the gray one first and though I like it, decided it was too "serious."  So I decided to make socks that matched but didn't match, and changed around a couple of the colors.  I like they way they look and the fact that they are a quick project is quite satisfying.

These will go and live in my Box o' Socks until next year, when I can pull them out and wear them during the cold months in our house.  We have hardwood floors, so it can feel pretty chilly!

Since The Tim is on vacation this week, I decided to take time also.   We will be taking day trips and also doing stuff around the house/garden, taking The Koodle and Jack for vet appts, and other various things.  This afternoon, we're going to walk over to the Schuykill River Park, since Philadelphia is supposed to get an 80% effect of the eclipse.  It's a beautiful clear day, so we will be able to recognize that it's actually happening.  We have our eclipse glasses ready to go.  In a way, this works out to be our big activity for the day - our weekend was quite busy, so a day of more or less down time works well.

And that's that.  I hope this will be a good week for everyone.  Today would be my father's 101st birthday, which I just cannot imagine, and as you saw in my Friday post, it would be our Tess' birthday as well.  In another odd coincidence of life, The Tim's dad also had his birthday on August 21st!  How weird is that?  So happy birthday to three of the best!  We love you and miss you every single day.

18 August 2017

Furball Friday

This is our girl Tess, who died a few summers ago.  Her birthday is this coming Monday, and I've been thinking about her lately.  She was quite the character, as she never really settled down after being brought inside when we found her as a stray.  Even though she terrorized the other cats, she was really affectionate with us, and was one of the kissing-est cats I've ever known.  We miss her every day.

Enjoy your weekend.  As a matter of fact, enjoy it YOUR way - just like Tess always did!

16 August 2017

Knitting, Reading, Babying

Today is another Unraveled Wednesday, so it's time to show you what is going on with me as far as reading and knitting.  The "babying" part of this is my effort to not do too much knitting at all until my arthritis flareup has disappeared.  It's much better than it was, and if I can just knit a bit and then put it down for a while, it should be fine.   I just have to keep reminding myself so I don't get carried away!

Over the weekend, I started this book:

So far, I'm enjoying it.  There have been a couple of times when it's made me laugh out loud, and these days especially, that feels good.  I hope it will continue to be a good read - it aggravates me how so many books are good at the start and then suddenly it seems like the editor feel asleep.

During the past year or so, I've been usually only working on two knitting projects at a time, and that has been a good practice.  But currently I have three things going: my Scattered Wishes Shawl, my Social Security Number Socks, and these:

The Scattered Wishes Shawl does not look much different than the last time I showed it.  I got to the lace border, and was going along *very* slowly when I realized I'd made a huge mistake.  So I ripped back the 6 rows and will be starting over.  Not a big deal, but since it requires concentration, I just haven't picked it up in the past week after ripping out.  The lace also requires some needle maneuvers that I think are probably better done when my hand is in better physical condition, so it may be another week or so until I try again.

I finished the first one of my Social Security Number Socks, and have just finished knitting the gusset of the second one.  I switched around a couple of the colors, so they will match but not match once finished.  Which pleases me.

You saw the yarn above in last week's post, wound into a skein ready to knit.  This is the very beginning of the first sock of a pair.  I'm using the Solar pattern, which is easily memorized, and so far seems to be a happy match for this yarn.  Incidentally, the project bag is one of Mrs. Brown's Bags, but I got it as part of a combo from Yarn Ink - it was the July Bag + Yarn Club choice (and we nowhere near as expensive as the June choice on the website!).  I've always like the bags, and had hoped to get one, but the shipping was just too much for me.  This offer of the yarn and bag together was a better deal, and I'm glad I went for it.  The bag pattern is made from a print of this yarn knit up into a large stockinette swatch - how cool is that?

I'm making slow progress on each project, and haven't yet started the swatch I mentioned doing in the other yarn shown in last week's post.  Mainly because I hate making swatches for knitting in the round, but I'll get to it soon because I really do want to knit the item.  

On an unrelated note, we had a Customer Service workshop at work yesterday, and here is an actual exchange that happened at the beginning:

Instructor:  The most important thing to remember is that you should smile.
Attendee:  Are you saying this to men who are in these workshops as well?
Instructor:  Well, we are telling them to look approachable.
Attendee:  By smiling?
Instructor (big sigh): It's a well-known fact that people like to see women smiling, whereas it's fine for men to look approachable and serious.


And .... OK, I'll admit the "Attendee" was yours truly.   But ... but ... GRRRR.

13 August 2017

Random on Sunday

We are having a lovely day today.  The weather is nice (no humidity!), and the sky is bright blue with the puffiest clouds you could imagine.  We spent pleasant 1 1/2 hours at the pool (city pools close this coming Friday, we are trying to fit in as many visits as possible), where there were others around but it wasn't crazy busy (it probably is by now).  Came home, and I did some kitty cuddling while watching a podcast, and then after a few attempts, I successfully sewed together the shoulder seams on my long-finished-and-blocked-but-still-in-pieces Custom Fit sweater.  (Next up - sleeves!)  And now I am enjoying a glass of wine while sitting here writing this post.

Makes it seem like the world is nothing but perfect.  Of course it isn't and it never has been.  And this past week, especially yesterday's events in Charlottesville, Virginia prove that.  There is nothing I can say that hasn't already been said.  Suffice it to say that I am angry, heartsick, and depressed at what our country has become under someone who is so despicable, I can't even mention his name.  I am hoping, praying, and doing what I can to not just battle the feelings, but the ideas and the person.  We are better than this, and if we all step up, we'll be able to prove it.

Moving on to other topics, I have been trying really hard lately to pay more and better attention to what I eat and drink, and also trying to be more active.  I used to do a good job of all of that, without really thinking about it, but slipped back into bad habits.  I'm happy to report that in the past couple of weeks, I have been making real progress, and it's starting to feel like "normal" again instead of a huge effort.

Alas, I'm having another arthritis flareup, so my current knitting projects are languishing.  I know it's a waiting game until it all calms down, but it is frustrating nonetheless.  At least I can still read!

A retired curator at work who still comes in every day, gave me 5 tomatoes from his wife's garden, because he said they are being overwhelmed with tomatoes.  They are some of the juiciest, most tomato-ey tomatoes I've had this summer!  The Tim and I are hoping that he'll bring more.  He usually brings in goodies from his garden and offers them to us, and fortunately for me, I'm the only one who likes tomatoes!  (What is wrong with people???)

The other day on my way to work, I saw a woman walking an Old English Sheepdog.  He was the friendliest dog, and when I went to walk away, he tried to come with me.  The woman said that I was the first person who paid him any attention that morning on their walk.  (Again, what is wrong with people???)

My sister in  California called today, and was telling me that in the next few months, she is going to be really busy traveling.  My brother-in-law does workshops related to a specific part of business training, and goes all over the place doing them.  They have requested his workshop in Kuala Lumpur and Dubai, among other places, and Nancy is going along because she figures it will be a once-in-a-lifetime chance to go.  She said the flight from LA to Kuala Lumpur is 25 hours.  OK, that would be the down side ...

We are headed to Baltimore next weekend, and I am ridiculously excited about it.  I always look forward to going, and we always have the best time, but this time I am looking forward to it more than ever.  I think because we haven't really gone anywhere since Memorial Day, and that seems a long time ago.

Before then, however, I have my annual visit to the gynecologist tomorrow, and a haircut appt on Wednesday.  This week will be busier than any I've had for a while.  I'm not really looking forward to the first one, though I'm not dreading it either.  But ... well, you know.  Not something that is exactly "fun."  I am looking forward to getting my hair cut, since it's looking a bit shaggy.  It's just at the point where you start to think you might cut it yourself.  Fortunately, I have learned my lesson there.

Hopefully this will be a good week.  Let's do what we can to make it so!

09 August 2017

Halfway and Beginnings

Hello all - I hope your week has been going well.  Mine has been ... well, fine,  especially since we are again enjoying lovely summer weather, with low heat and no humidity.  Mornings are cool enough to wear a sweater while walking to work, which makes me happy.

Today I thought I'd join up again with Kat and others for Unraveled Wednesdays.  

Reading-wise, I started this at lunchtime the other day, and even though so far I've been only able to read during lunchtimes, I'm about halfway through (it's a short book).

So far, it's interesting - about life in modern-day Ireland during the recession when so many lost their financial safety nets.  Each chapter is told by a different character, and you learn how their stories are woven together while still being separate.

Moving on to knitting, I have one of my Social Security Number socks finished - I forgot how quickly worsted weight socks knit up!  I tried but could not get a decent photo, so you'll see them another day.  And I cast on the second sock, and think I might make some of the colors represent different numbers, so I can have socks that are the same but different.  Since they are to wear around the house, it will be fun to have a really odd pair. :-)

So those are underway, but I really wanted to work on some other things as well.  I've reached the lace border part of my Scattered Wishes shawl, which means only one or two rows at any given time, as even the simplest of lace patterns can be misinterpreted big time by me.  I'll get there, but I can't just sit and knit on that like I used to be able to do.

The answer: start another pair of socks and swatch for another project.

On the left, is the yarn for socks, from Yarn Ink, a new dyer (at least to me).  It's difficult to photograph, since it is very light, but trust me, it's AMAZINGLY PRETTY, with colors and speckles throughout.  The colorway is Beach Life, and so far I have a bit of a cuff knit, and oh do I love it!  

The yarn on the right is Quince and Co. Tern in the Dusk colorway.  Depending on the light, it looks lavender, or slightly gray, or purple-blue.  Even though it's August, I want to swatch for this pattern, and even if I can't wear it until next spring/summer, I'll have it, right?  

You may ask, why am I even thinking of knitting a garment, when I have - at best - a spotty history with garments?  Well, I just want to give it a try, and do it as properly as possible.  I *think* I have a much better understanding of swatching than I used to, after a class I took a couple of years ago at Loop.  Believe me, I'll keep you posted!

What are you reading and knitting these days?  Are you involved in any make-alongs in preparation for Rhinebeck?  I've noticed a few seem to be getting underway.  As you know, whenever I join a KAL or something similar, I seem to have a severe attack of knitter's block.  And since I'm not going to Rhinebeck (though I would certainly LOVE to someday!), I'm just going to enjoy seeing what others are making and enjoy their anticipation.  Vicarious knitting and travel can still be fun, you know?

04 August 2017

Old Photo Friday - Early August Edition

In one of Kathy's recent Q&As, she asked if we had a favorite summer photo.  I had stuff going on that week, and never got around to posting responses to that Q&A, but I immediately thought of the photo below.  I've posted it before, but it never ever ever ceases to amuse me.

I don't know what the initials on the caption stand for, but this was taken at the pool in Oglebay Park, which is a GORGEOUS municipal park and resort in my hometown of Wheeling, West Virginia, in 1938.  The woman on the far left who looks annoyed is .... you guessed it, my mom!  I love this picture because she looks so annoyed, while the others all look like they are enjoying being at the pool.  When I would ask her why she had this expression on her face, the answer was always some version of: "Oh for God's sake, how the hell do I know, it was a long time ago."  (Said in an *extremely* indignant tone.)

I think I love this photo because I find it so amusing, but also because it captures the essence of my mother - she loved to have a good time, but was easily annoyed.

Not that it is like anyone *I* can think of ... ;-)

Have a great weekend, even if others are annoying.

03 August 2017

So ... We Arrive at August

For today's Think Write Thursday, Carole and Kat provided the prompt "Hello, August."

So hello, August.  Like all other things, you arrive every year, regardless of whether or not I am ready, happy, or whatever.  And that is a good thing.  It means *I'm* still here to say, "Wow, it's already August."

Like all months, you have things I like and things I don't.  I used to dread you as a kid, since you meant school started again soon.  But I also liked you, because you were usually the month we went on vacation.

Right now, I guess you are OK.  I'm not happy about the fact that at least around here, you are still pretty hot and humid.  But I am happy that your arrival means that end of that is coming.  You are the month when the farmers' market has a lot that I look forward to seeing in abundance: tomatoes, corn, peaches, and early apples.  So I enjoy that about you, I think more than anything else.

I'm not pleased that I fell yesterday and really messed up my right hand/wrist and knee - nothing really drastic, just painful, uncomfortable, and not pretty.  At least I'm left-handed though, so I can still do most things pain-free.  And I know I didn't fall because it was August, so I'm not blaming you for that.  :-)

I did remember the #augustbreak2017, albeit a few days late, so that is definitely a good thing.  (Though I posted tomorrow's prompt today.  Sigh.)  I particpated last year, and enjoyed it quite a bit.  I like Instagram a lot, and it is fun to have the various prompts.  So thanks for that one!

I hope to spend most of your month trying to remember to live in the moment, enjoy my life, and be as happy as I can be.  So I think it will be OK, you know?

Having said that - if you wanted to cool down weather-wise, that would be great ...

02 August 2017

Undecided But Not Unraveled

A lot of the time when I finish a pair of socks I've been knitting for a while, I already have an idea of what I want to knit next - pattern, yarn, or both.  But this time - zippo.  Lots of things floating around in my head, but nothing that I have really been dying to make.

Thinking about it, I remembered that I did want to make myself a pair of Social Security Number Socks.**  I'd made a pair years ago as a Christmas gift for The Tim, and he still has them (though he deserves a newer, not-as-worn-out pair!), and I'd always thought I'd make a pair for me, but forgot completely until recently.

So, I think that may be my next project.  Of course this begs the question: What colors will I use?  I want to use Encore yarn, since they are around-the-house socks, and Encore wears well while also not feeling like icky acrylic.  I have a lot of Encore, both because I've used it for knits that were gifts like baby stuff, or gifts for people that I know can't be bothered to handwash anything.  I like Encore for that reason, but also because it does not require a huge investment of funds.  I have some that I bought on super sale when Rosie's closed, as well as odds and ends that are leftover from projects in the past.  What I'm saying is, I have a lot of color choices.  Which of course, means there is a lot of indecision happening before I even cast on ...

Currently, these are the choices.

However, since I can't cast on right away, due to an arthritis flare-up, it could all change by the time I actually do anything. Or not. Indecision, thy name is Bridget ...

As far as reading, I recently started this book.

It's been on my to-read list for a while, and my turn finally came up on the library's hold list.  Right now, I'm not sure if I like it or not.  I know a lot of people who have read it and loved it, but I'm reserving judgement until I have read a bit more.

I'm also listening to this, and really enjoying it:

I've liked Al Franken since he was on "Saturday Night Live."  He is reading the audiobook, and it's both funny and truly interesting.  I'm not very far into yet, since I haven't have a lot of chances to listen for any length of time.  But so far, so good!

Today, I'm joining Kat and everyone else this week for Unraveled  Wednesday, and am looking forward to hearing about what others are making and reading.

**Social Security Number Socks - I heard about these years ago on the Knitlist (anyone remember that??).  There are really no hard and fast rules, but the basics are that you determine each unique number of your own or someone else's SS#, and choose a corresponding color.  Then you knit stripey socks based on it.  The ones I knit for The Tim were plain stockinette socks, but you can be as creative as you like.

Example:  If your SS#s is 456-78-9012, you would start by knitting the color that you've matched up with the number 4 for four rows; the color for number 5 for five rows, etc.  For zeros, you can do a different stitch, or improvise however you like.  When I knit them for The Tim, I used black for the zero in his number.  

Anyway, that's the basic premise, it's up to the knitter to make it their own.

When I made the pair for The Tim, someone said, "Well, that just makes it easy for someone to steal your Social Security Number!"  Personally, if anyone wants to get down to my socks, count the rows, and figure it all out, and I haven't noticed, it seems to me that there are bigger problems happening ... ;-)

28 July 2017

OK Here Is an FO Post for You

Hello Friends.  And I mean Friends - you guys are really the best.  Words cannot express how much your kind, sweet, and heartfelt comments to my post about having to say goodbye to our Jetsam meant to all of us.  It's still awful, and all of us are still hurting.  But life is for the living, cliche though that his, and to use another cliche, it does go on.  It only makes sense to continue and keep going.  I am also firmly of the belief that none of our loved ones would ever want their loss to be the complete and total end to our worlds.  I know that for myself, when I depart this mortal coil, I want my friends and family to miss me, yes, but not stop living and enjoying their lives.  Even though it sucks.

So in the interest of that, I'm doing an FO post.  After what seems like a long time, I have finally finished my shortie socks, which are "shortie" only in descriptive terms!

Project:  Berry Mixed Up Bashful Socks
Pattern:  Not really a pattern - just made a plain pair of socks much shorter ...
Yarn:  Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock in the Mixed Berries colorway (leftover from these); cuff/heel/toe is Knitted Wit Gumballs Fingering in the Bashful colorway that I bought in a mini-skein to try.
Needles:  Size 1US
Modifications: Well, I modified a plain sock to make it shorter, but otherwise just kept knitting.
Notes: I like these.  And the end of the second sock was nice enough to keep my brain occupied after the events of last week. so that was good.  The Knitted Wit yarn is really nice, and comes in lovely colors, it was nice to be able to try it without breaking the bank.

I'm still a pair behind on my sock quest for 12 pairs for this year, but if that's how it turns out. I'll survive, you know?

In other news, my Scattered Wishes Shawl (aka Sonora) is growing and is now just about too large to fit in the project bag where it has been living.  It's also too big to photograph easily, so I shmushed it for a photo.

I continue to really enjoy knitting this, and am loving the way it's looking.  I *think* I'm about 2/3 of the way through the pattern.  I'm not in any hurry, but it is becoming a bit unwieldy!

This weekend I am hoping to cast on another pair of socks, and wind some yarn for another project I'd like to start.  It's supposed to be really rainy here starting tonight into tomorrow, so one or both of those may actually happen. :-)

I hope all of you have a good weekend!  And thanks again for being such wonderful and kind friends.

22 July 2017


That's how we are feeling.  This past Wednesday, July 19, 2017, we had to say goodbye to our sweet kitty Jetsam.

And it hurts even more than usual.  I think because he was fine, except for his lower jaw.  On his last day with us, he ate, drank, used the little box, got brushed, played a game of catch-the-laser-dot, and purred like he always does.

 You may remember that he was diagnosed with cancer of his lower jaw a couple of months ago.  It's very aggressive, and even the most radical treatment does not provide a good quality of life.  His lower jaw got swollen, and he drooled more, but he was managing to eat and drink OK, and didn't seem to be sick or in terrible pain, so we let him be his usual self.

But then on Wednesday morning, we noticed that the tumor had broken through and his chin was bloody, which meant that infection could really easily occur.  And we had early on decided we did not want him to suffer at all.

He didn't want to get into the carrier, but once we got him there and out, we petted him and he cuddled and purred.  He purred until the last, while we stroked him, sang to him, and talked to him.

We will pick up his ashes probably in a couple of weeks, when the vet's office calls us.

All of our other cats, and then Dug, were heartbreaking to lose as well.  But all of them had been sick and physically declining, so even as much as it hurt to do it, it made sense so to speak.

But this didn't make sense in that way, and so it is crushing.  All of us are bereft, as well as discombobulated.  The others keep looking for him, which is devastating.  Jack is the only one who has not experienced this (though I'm not certain the others remember), and Jetsam was his idol, so he is particularly confused.

We will be OK eventually.  As my mother always used to say, you never get over it, you just get used to it.

For those of you who never knew Jetsam's story, you can read it here.

He was one of the smartest cats we've ever had.  He was an INSANE kitten, and his idol was our late and beloved Garden Kitty, who I'm sure is glad to be with him again in heaven.

He was the only cat I've ever known who purred while he ate.

He loved to cuddle, and it was a morning routine for us to have a quiet cuddle together without any TV or radio, or sometimes full lights on when I would first get up on weekend mornings in cool or cold weather.  He would jump on my lap and we would sit like that for anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour.  It was just the way the day began.  I know that's gonna be one of the things I miss most.

He adored being out in the garden.  He loved to play Kitty Tease, but when we got his diagnosis, I bought a new laser toy, since I figured that would mean he didn't have to grab anything with his mouth, and our other one had been lost a while back.  He loved everything associated with holidays, and was my primary helper most of the time, since he'd always be there until the end, when the others had given up and moved on.

He greeted you every time you came through the door, and loved meeting new people.  He loved catnip, running around the house crazily on his own or with the others, and he loved to play.

Mostly though, he loved all of us and we absolutely adored him.  I hope that Dug did what we used to call his "Doodle Dance" when they were together again.  That was the dance he would do when he got really excited and/or happy.

I put a small post on Facebook and Instagram yesterday, but was unable to write anymore until today, and this is getting to be beyond my abilities at the moment.  But I wanted all of you to know.  And to understand if I am not commenting on your blogs for a bit.  Since he would often join me when I was using my laptop, it's kinda hard right now.

As I said in the FB and Instagram post, please give your family members (furry and otherwise) a kiss and a cuddle, and do something kind.  That was Jetsam's essence, and will make him happy.  Along with the rest of the family.

God bless you, Jetsam.  Now you aren't sick, and for that all of us are grateful.  
We will always love you more every day.

Thank you for being our boy.
Thank you for saving our lives.

Now you are truly our angel.

16 July 2017

This FO Post Is Overdue

I realized that I never wrote a post for my last pair of completed socks.  Well that's just wrong - I have so few FOs, they should all get their own post, right? So let's get it done.

Top view

Project: Hannah Socks
Pattern: Petty Harbour, by Rayna Curtis (free on Ravelry)
Yarn: Ancient Arts Fibre Craft Superwash Wool Fingering Sock; colorway, Orange Tabby
Needles:  US 1
Modifications:  I made the leg a bit longer than indicated in the pattern.
Notes: I love these socks!  I have named them "Hannah Socks" because when Ancient Fibre Arts first introduced their Meow Collection, I bought a skein for each kitty we had at the time.  And we had a cream-orange tabby named Hannah.  The yarn is great to knit with, and has lovely stitch definition.  The Petty Harbour pattern is fun to knit - it has enough interest to make you pay attention, but is not overly involved and is easy to memorize.  I recommend it if you are a sock knitter.

Side view

So this pair is happily tucked away in my Box o' Socks, ready to surprise me all over again in 2018.  Since I had started another pair before these that were going along well until the yarn exploded and could not be untangled, I'm a pair behind on my goal of 12 pairs for myself.  Which is kinda frustrating, but then again, I'm doing it informally and for fun, so there's actually no real pressure.

I see also that now Ancient Arts Fibre Craft has not just the Meow Collection, but the Woof Collection.  Which means I may have to take a look and buy some yarn in honor of our Dug. :-)

Seriously though, this yarn and this pattern were both well worth the time to knit!  You should give them a try.

14 July 2017

Five Favorites for This Friday

Hello - Happy Friday and Happy Bastille Day!  I hope this finds everyone doing OK.  It's been a tough week, but if you are reading this, it means you survived it, just like I did.  That counts for a lot.  Right now it's raining here in Philadelphia, but that's good because a) rain for the plants, flowers, trees, etc., and b) it's supposed to chase away the stupidly high heat and humidity, and make it breathable again.

Here are five good things from my past week.  I need to remind myself that there is always at least one thing that is good, no matter how everything else has stacked up.  :-)

1.  Laughing.  I love to laugh, and this week has had some really funny if stupid things that happened that made me laugh until I cried.  Most of them are the kind of things that would be too hard to explain to anyone who wasn't around, but even remembering them now pleases me.

2.  Fake margaritas.  The Tim has recently taken to buying this:

He pours some tequila in a glass with this, and some ice cubes, and voila - fake margaritas!  They are mighty tasty, let me tell you!

3.  This is a nice story - how kind of Chris Martin to bring the guy onto the stage.  (Yes, I know it was dangerous for the guy to be crowd-surfing, yadda yadda yadda, but I'm focusing on the good here.)

4.  Petting dogs.  On my walk to and from work, I often run into people taking their dogs for a walk, and a lot of the time, I get to pet said dogs.  It always makes me happy, and sometimes the dog seems pretty pleased too!  This past week there were more opportunities than usual, so that was a real plus.

5.  Packages in the mail.  This week I got 4 packages in the mail!  It was all stuff I'd ordered, but nonetheless, it's such fun to have something waiting for you when you get home from work.  I love getting mail in general, and getting a package amps it way up.

What things have made you smile or just feel happier this week?  I hope there's at least one.

Have a good weekend - as far as I know, nothing special is happening with us, but sometimes those are the best weekends, right?

12 July 2017

Short and Sweet But Long

Here we are on a Wednesday when it is - to use one of my mother's expressions - hotter than Billy be damned.  (I cannot explain - I have no idea who Billy was, or why he was damned.)  And tomorrow is supposed to be worse!  I have been drinking even more water and iced tea than usual to help keep cool, and even though it is currently about 8:30 a.m., I'm already sloshing when I walk!

Oh well, it's time for Unraveled Wednesday, so let's move on to that, shall we?

Here is sock #1 of my latest pair, which was finished last night.  As you can see, it's a shortie sock.  I decided to knit a pair of shortie socks because a) I was behind on my goal of one pair a month, and I thought a pair like this would be quick, and b) I was uninspired as to what to knit next, sock-wise.  So I grabbed some leftover yarn from an earlier pair of socks, and a mini-skein I had, and started knitting.

I'm calling these my Berry Mixed Up Bashful Socks, because the main yarn is called "Mixed Berries" and the pink accent yarn is called "Bashful."  I like the way the first one turned out, but you know what?  It didn't go quickly at all.  Noperino, this single sock took me two weeks to complete.  Which isn't really that long, but for some reason, I'd imagined myself nearly finished with the pair by now.  

Such is life.

Reading-wise, I'm nearly finished with The Gilded Hour (shown in my last Unraveled Wednesday post) - only a little over 100 pages left!  It's a long book (700+ pages), but fortunately interesting for the most part.  It's not quite a saga, as it takes place in a relatively short time period, but there are many aspects to the story and the characters.  

And that's the story from here.  Time to go find a cool drink of water!

11 July 2017

Kathy's Q & A a Day Later

Kathy's Monday Q & As are always fun, but sometimes I don't have much to say, and other times - like today - I don't get around to answering until a day or two later.  

Here we go for this round.

*I'm overjoyed that the mason bees are putting their eggs in both pollinator boxes here.  What kind of crops do you see in your state?

Pennsylvania has lots of corn, tomatoes, beans, squash, and the like.  New Jersey (right next door) has blueberries, peaches, and tomatoes and they are THE BEST ever.

*When was the last time you wore a handknit?

I would have to say late May, when I wore my Portfolio Scarf a few mornings when the walk to work was chilly.

*Have you ever seen the Secret Service in person?

Big time!  First of all, living in Washington, D.C. for 7 years means you see them a lot.  Also, having worked for a U.S. Senator while living there, I not only saw them a lot, but had many conversations with some of them.  They are good people,  and you could not pay me enough to do their jobs.

*Do you know a poem by heart?

Yes.  I can recite "O Captain, My Captain!," "To An Athlete Dying Young," "The Red Wheelbarrow," and several Ogden Nash poems, if you count that as poetry ... there are probably others I just am not thinking about.  When I was in elementary school, poem memorization was a pretty regular thing.  I can remember that, but not the thing I just walked downstairs to get ...

*What is a rule in your house?

If you use the last of the ice cubes, YOU refill the trays!

*Have you been stuck behind a cyclist, a tractor, or a bus most recently?

A bus.  Skinny city streets mean that you're stuck behind buses a lot here.

*What's your favorite summer pie?

Lemon meringue.  My mother used to bake two pies a year: butterscotch in the fall, and lemon meringue in the summer, so I've always associated that with summertime.  And it's funny you should ask, since I have been thinking about making one ...

(image from pillsbury.com)

*Do you know a clever yarn shop name?

There used to be a yarn shop in Narberth, PA (the 'burbs) called Ewe and I, but sadly it closed.  I always liked that name, though.

*Are you still hearing fireworks?

Occasionally.  Some nights after a Phillies home game, there are fireworks.

So now I'm hungry for things from the Farmer's Market, and some pie ... 

08 July 2017

March, April, May, and June Book Report

OK, folks, this is a long one!  I realized when I started this, that I'd never written about the books I'd read during March, so this has four months worth of reading instead of just two or three.  Rather than break it up more, and risk forgetting more months, I decided to just put them all into one long post.  

Hopefully if you slog through the entire thing, you'll find something of interest.

Furiously Happy  : A Funny Book About Horrible Things, by Jenny Lawson.  This is truth in advertising - it is a funny book about horrible things!  Jenny Lawson writes about her mental illness and how it affects her life and her family in an honest and mostly humorous way.  So many of her stories were ones that made me laugh out loud, but were also in the laugh-instead-of-crying category. 

I think this book is a worthwhile one to read for anyone suffering from mental illness, even if just a small amount.  I would like to say it's worth reading for family and friends as well, but based on some of my personal experiences, I'm not convinced that it would always be helpful in making them try to understand others.

A Square Meal : A Culinary History of the Great Depression, by Jane Ziegelman.  Let me start by saying that I didn't give this book 2 stars because it wasn't a good book; I gave it 2 stars because it was often a slog to read, due to the more academic nature of it.  I will admit I was expecting something that was not quite so "serious," and was more readable for leisure.

Having said that, it's well-written for what it is, and and is a pretty extensive look at food, food habits, social changes, and the farm vs. city developments that all started at the end of the first World War.  It discusses the changes that occurred as the population became more urban, and had less space to grow their own food.  Farm life changed as well, with many modern conveniences developed to help the farm wife be more efficient. based on motion studies (some done by the Gilbreths of "Cheaper by the Dozen" fame!).  It also discusses the attitudes of individuals and the government when so many people started losing their jobs after the stock market crash of 1929, as well as the sea change that people started leaving the Dust Bowl states and heading west.

I liked this book well enough, I was just hoping for something different.

Faithful Place, by  Tana French.  I really like Tana French's books, and I was getting ready to start reading the 5th in the series when I realized I had read 1, 2, and 4 - never the third installment!  So I decided to read that before going further.

And I'm so glad I did.  This is a heartbreaking story.  It starts when Frank Mackey, an undercover police officer in Dublin, receives a phone call from his sister.  A suitcase has been found in an abandoned house on their childhood street, Faithful Place, and it belonged to Rosie Daly, Frank's girlfriend whom everyone assumed left Dublin for Ireland as a teenager.  This really hits home for Frank, as he and Rosie were planning to elope to England, and from what he could figure out, she stood him up, and left on her own.  

Frank has moved on, and is now divorced with a 9-year-old daughter.  After his failed meeting with Rosie to escape their families, he never went back home and is estranged from most of his difficult family, except for his sister Jackie.  

The book really gets going when a body is discovered buried in the basement of the same abandoned house, and appears for all intents and purposes to be that of Rosie Daly.  But who killed her?  Suddenly Frank is back among his family and those he knew in high school, trying to figure out what happened and when.  Then someone else close to him is found dead, and though the police are inclined to say it's suicide, Frank does not believe them.

Once again, French has created a world that is all too real, showing the power and problems of family.  Does moving away and making a life for yourself make you a bad person?  Does it mean you think less of those who are still in the same place?  As Frank Mackey works his way through this book, he learns things that, though they might help him understand aspects of his childhood, he really didn't want to know.

You really can't go home again and hope it will be the same.

St. Patrick's Day Murder, by Leslie Meier.  When Lucy Stone heads to the harbor to talk to the new harbormaster, for a newspaper story, she gets more than she could have imagined.  The owner of the local dive bar, where all of the fisherman go for their cheap drinks, is found washed up, the body without a head.  "Old Dan" as he was known, was not overly popular, but it's still puzzling to everyone how anyone in the town could have committed such a horrible crime.

Old Dan's brother, sister-in-law (both actors in Ireland), and young niece arrive in town at the same time, having been "hired" by the local Catholic church for their yearly St. Patrick's Day fundraising play.  This year, the play is "Finian's Rainbow," and one of Lucy's friends talks her into auditioning.  Ending up in the chorus, she sees first-hand how tense things become with the new director, who automatically casts his wife as the lead.  When Lucy is kind enough to offer to have the young daughter over to her house with a play date for her own young daughter, she soon learns some things have been left unsaid that could affect the murder investigation.

Between the play, her family, her job, and the mystery of Old Dan's death, Lucy has a lot going on.  But things seem to come to breaking point, and she is determined to figure it out.

Combining small-town life, religious conflicts, family conflicts, and a possible political scandal, this murder mystery covers a lot.  But it was an enjoyable read nonetheless, and completely perfect for a time when I wanted something to read, but wasn't in the mood for anything too intense.

History of the Rain, by Niall Williams.  Ruth Swain lives a quiet life in a small Irish town, Faha, in County Clare.  Her family's house is along the River Shannon, and has some of the worst conditions for farming anywhere.  She has a "blood disease" (leukemia?) that necessitates hospital stays, and then when she is home, staying indoors most of the time.  But she is a writer, and this book is the story of her father, Virgil the poet.

It's also about her twin brother Aeney, her Mam and her Nan, and the history of Ireland.  It's about words, literature, faith, and imagery.  It's about the rain.  The story meanders as a river might, around, over, down, but staying on course nonetheless, so the story can be told.

The History of the Rain is not the easiest book to read, but it's a good one.   I had a bit of hard time getting used to the way the author told this tale, but by the time you have reached the end of the book, you know why it was told that way, and also that it could not have possibly been told in any other way.

A Murder of Magpies, by Judith Flanders.  A really fun, entertaining read!

Samantha "Sam" Clair works for a publishing company in London, and as the book begins she is concentrating on two of her authors - one has sent her a new manuscript that just seems awful, and the other, Kit Lovell, has written a new book exposing a scandal in the world of high fashion.  Prior to a lunch meeting with Kit and his agent, Sam gets a visit from a police officer, regarding a fatal accidet earlier in the day where a bicycle courier was killed and a book manuscript he had been set to deliver, stolen.

When Sam gets to her lunch appointment, Kit is a no-show, which is odd but not too worrisome.  However, when she can't get in touch with him, she begins to worry.  And when her flat is burglarized, and she is knocked out, it's clear something both serious and suspicious is happening.

Things explode from there, and soon Sam is involved in an investigation that reaches into the world of international money-laundering and other illegal activities.  As the book continues she finds that not only Kit is in trouble, but someone will do anything - including getting her out of the way - to see that the book isn't published.

This is a quick read, and though some of the money-laundering stuff gets complicated, for the most-part, it's a lot of fun, with just the right amount of suspense.

The Swans of Fifth Avenue, by Melanie Benjamin.  What an interesting, funny, and sad book! 

Melanie Benjamin has taken us into the world of Truman Capote and his "swans" - a group of attractive, wealthy women (Babe Paley, Slim Heyward, Pamela Churchill, C.Z. Guest, etc.).  When Capote is an up-and-coming writer, he meets Babe Paley and they immediately "click."  Through her, he meets the other swans, and is ushered into their world, which is a heady mix of wealth, glamour, travel, and most of all, gossip.  Which of course Capote soaks up like a sponge, and also encourages.  The book mainly concentrates on the extremely close relationship between Capote and Babe Paley - two immensely insecure souls longing for acceptance and admiration, and still at a loss once they have it.

After Truman Capote becomes the toast of the literary world, things change as he doesn't spend as much time NYC.  Encouraged by his publisher to follow-up with another book soon, he claims to be working on one, but instead is caught up in the world of fame with all of its downfalls.  As a last-ditch effort, he writes a short story that he claims is an excerpt from the next book.  It is a thinly disguised look at the swans and their family and friends.  He reveals the intimate secrets they told him, and mocks a lot of their lifestyle.  When it causes a rift, and they no longer speak to him, he begins a downward spiral.  Babe Paley in particular is heartbroken, thinking he had truly been her friend an confidante, and as a result becomes rather adrift.

The swans go on, but it's not the same.  They are aging in a world where youth is taking over (the '60s).  As they worry about their looks, their influence, their importance, they realize that the lifestyle they have always enjoyed is no longer as important to the world at large.

This is a book about friendship, love, and wealth.  It is particularly the story of two people who had the world at their fingertips and were still basically insecure and lonely.  It was a really great read, and so incredibly poignant and sad that you wished all of the characters had just paid more attention to the truly important things.

Anything Is Possible, by Elizabeth Strout.  This is a wonderful set of stories about people in the town of Amgash and nearby, who also appear in Strout's book "My Name Is Lucy Barton," which I have not yet read.  These stories can easily stand on their own, nonetheless.

Strout has an eye for small details of small-town life.  Her characters are familiar, but never boring, and never cliches.  Her writing is so evocative, you feel that you can picture the people and the places that you are meeting in each story.

It's hard for me to choose a favorite one here.  I do think that the final story, "Gift," is one that brings a lot of the characters and themes of the other stories into a final package, so to speak.  Lucy Barton makes an appearance in one of the stories, and she is referred to in nearly every one, so I'm guessing if you have read that book, this one fleshes things out a bit more.  Apparently they were written in tandem.  

I had an Advanced Reader Edition, but once this book is published, I recommend it as a quick, but worthwhile, read.

No Ordinary Time : Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt : The Home Front in World War II, by Doris Kearns Goodwin.  Yes, it took me a LONG time to finish this book.  For two reasons: 1) it was an audiobook, and I wanted to only listen to it when I actually had dedicated periods of time, because 2) there is just so much here, you have to pay close attention.

But it was worth it.  I have always been intrigued by the Roosevelt family, and this was an excellent installment in their story/our history.  The bulk, of course deals with FDR's time as President, and the evolution of Eleanor as a force to be reckoned with, and as a modern First Lady.

Reading/listening to this right now also provided an interesting experience.  FDR was a man born of great privilege, and was not automatically sympathetic to the plight of the common man; but as he grew, as he listened to advisors and learned from Eleanor how average people lived their lives, he was able to make changes that aimed to give everyone a chance, even while growing the government and the military/industrial complex.  He surrounded himself with people who were well-educated, and interested in serving.  He didn't always have the opposition on board with his policies and ideas, but he was nonetheless respected by most of those who encountered him.

Then there was Eleanor, who started out as someone who was extremely shy and socially awkward, and became one of the most well-known women of the 20th and 21st centuries.  She was often FDR's social conscience and had a great deal of influence over him.  She became a force in society, and worked for minorities and for women at a time when most people thought she was just meddling in too many things.

It's hard to summarize the book.  Therefore, I'll just say that if you are interested in U.S. history, social studies, or even personal profiles, you'll enjoy this book.  Doris Kearns Goodwin has written a book that gives you an inside look at two people and their lives that is both personal and political.  It is an excellent read.

Let's Pretend This Never Happened : A Mostly True Memoir, by Jenny Lawson.  This book is Jenny Lawson's "memoir," and tells the story of her childhood in rural Texas, with an unusual family.  Her father was a taxidermist, who was always bringing home roadkill to stuff and mount.  There were always an odd assortment of live animals around the house as well, and her mother seems like a long-suffering type who just tries to keep her daughters safe, even under weird circumstances.

Even once she is older, and meets her husband Victor, her life continues in its funny and weird way, and she seems to be happy with how things have turned out.  It's clear that Victor and their daughter Hailey are her lifelines, and give her a reason to keep going when her crushing depression and anxiety come to call.

I read this book after reading her second book, and though I liked it, I think I might have enjoyed it more if I had read it first.  But there are still enough events and entertainment here to make it a fun read.

Murder at the Courthouse, by A. H. Gabhart.  This was a good read for a time when  didn't feel well enough to concentrate, but wanted to read something engaging.  Mike Keane is a cop in Hidden Springs, Kentucky, a town where he grew up, and left for a while.  But after a few years in Columbus, Ohio, he decided policing in a big city was not for him.  Hidden Springs is a small, quiet town until the morning the body of an unknown man is found on the courthouse steps.  

I liked the book, though it was nothing amazing.  The mystery was good and complex enough to keep me reading, and some of the characters were interesting.  In an unusual occurrence, I suspected the right person as the killer.

I don't know that I will go out of my way to read others in this series, but this was right for the time.

Women's Work : The First 20,000 Years, Women, Cloth, and Society in Early Times, by Elizabeth Wayland Barber.  This is one of those books that you have to read slowly and intently if you want to make it worth your while.  The author uses evidence - written, material, archaelogical - to discuss why/how/when women worked with cloth in early societies (early as in B.C.), and what importance it had.

I found this book interesting especially since I was reading it for my own pleasure, so there was no pressure to remember everything and every date/place perfectly for a test or to write a paper.  Instead, I was able to learn about the women of early times and the types of materials and tools they used to create fabric as well as why they were the ones primarily engaged in this activity.  Barber discusses weaving and spinning and how they were practiced differently in various areas of the world, and when things began to change and why.  It's an interesting study of the type of work done for so long by women in households as well as household slaves, out of necessity and also to illustrate social standing.

I learned a lot reading this book, and also now have a new respect and admiration for modern scholars who study this work using tools and methods originally developed for other things to increase our knowledge of the importance of cloth and its manufacture in ancient worlds.

The Girl in the Red Coat, by Kate Hamer.  I won a copy of this book in a Goodreads giveaway.

Beth is a somewhat newly-single mom, taking care of her young daughter, Carmel.  Carmel is a happy child, with a huge imagination; Beth is constantly worried of losing her, and tends to be overprotective.  One day they head out together to a local festival, during which time they are briefly separated, and Beth's nightmare comes true: Carmel disappears.  She disappears, even though Beth was only distracted for a moment.  But how can that happen?  And how can no one find her, as she was wearing a bright red coat?

The story is told by both characters.  Beth questions everything about her parenting abilities and about her life.  She has to figure out what to do next, how to move on.  She hopes against hope that Carmel is still alive, but as the years pass, she realizes there are not guarantees.

Carmel is taken from the fair by an older man claiming to be her grandfather, when he tells her that her mother has been in an accident, and eventually, that she is dead.  She ends up as one of the central characters in a bizarre religious cult, who travel across America.  But she never forgets who she really is, and always hopes she will see her mother again sometime.

This book keeps you reading, because you want to see what will happen, and when.  The author makes the characters seem like real people, flaws and all.  You keep reading and you wonder how both Beth and Carmel manage to go on, and it makes you realize that there are people in similar situations that you may see every day and you don't even think about it.  At the point where Carmel is missing for a year, what should Beth do, and how will she be able to continue?   Does Carmel keep believing that the man keeping her is actually her true grandfather?

I'm actually not sure how I expected the book to end.  But I will say it ends as it begins - not quite as you expected, and all of a sudden.

Moon Spinners, by Sally Goldenbaum.  I will say first of all, that I really enjoy this series.  I love the location, I enjoy the characters, and it's fun to read about fictional characters knitting - at least I think it is!

In this installment, a prominent woman in the community is killed when her car goes off a cliff; upon investigation, everyone finds out that the brakes on her car were tampered with, which means that someone murdered her.  Rumors and suspicions fly, and a suspect is arrested.  However, the Seaside Knitters are not convinced that the person in jail is the guilty party.

This mystery was well-done, in that the person murdered was not very popular, so red herrings abound.  It was a fun read.

VB6 : Eat  Vegan Before 6:00 to Lose Weight and Restore Your Health ... for Good, by Mark Bittman.  I was curious about this book, and was able to borrow it from the library.   I'm not necessarily interested in becoming a vegan, but wanted to see what he had to say.  I think if I had never read any of his articles in the NYT, I would have given this book a higher rating.  As it was, there was really nothing great and new in it that I found interesting or inspiring.  

I do like the premise, but a lot of the info was not just already read in some of his articles, but things I already knew based on reading other things.  The recipes were fine, but there were none that I really wanted to try - again, they were not anything different from things I've seen/tried elsewhere.

I'm glad I borrowed the book, I would have been disappointed/annoyed if I had purchased it.

Flaneuse : Women Walk the City in Paris, New York, Venice, Tokyo, and London, by Lauren Elkin. 

This book was disappointing.  I felt it had such potential, and even the way it was set up was promising.  The author wrote each chapter about one of the cities listed.  Each chapter dealt with some of the historical aspects of each city, and about her relationship to it, as well as looking at the way women could/could not/had/had not been able to walk about the city freely.  

I guess the author's style just didn't gel with me - there were good personal stories, some excellent  feminist points being made, and I love reading about places' histories.  But no matter how much I tried, the book did not keep my interest or attention.  

This book filled my first square for Summer Book Bingo 2017, which was "Sub-title on the cover."

Drinking with Men : A Memoir, by Rosie Schaap.  I originally decided to read this book because I was planning to take an online writing course taught be the author.  Financial plans changed, so I wasn't able to take the course, but the library hold came in anyway, so I decided I might enjoy it regardless.  And I did!

Rosie Schaap tells her own story, starting with the time as a teenager when she told fortunes on an Amtrak train in exchange for beers (she was underage at the time).  From there, she moves on to college, post-college life, marriage, 9/11, the death of her father (sportswriter Dick Shaap), and the aftermath.  With each significant part of her life, she is able to find a bar that is her second home, where she is one of regulars - and nearly always the only woman.  

Schaap is not an alcoholic.  She enjoys drinking, but for the most part drinks to be social, and to have a place to be with friends, not simply to get drunk.  In each place, at each part of her life, she finds comfort, friendship, and conviviality at "her" local bar.  Very seldom in the book does she even mention or describe what she drank - rather, she describes the place itself, and the people who frequented the place.

It's a really interesting book, and Rosie is an interesting person.  In a unique fashion, this is her coming-of-age story, her journey to adulthood.  I really enjoyed the book, and wish I could have taken her class (maybe next year?).

Upon finishing the book, I realized it also completed a block on my Summer Book Bingo 2017 card: "Memoir or autobiography," and that was a nice surprise.

Messenger of Truth, by Jacqueline Winspear.  I realized as I was finishing this book that I've now experienced all of the Maisie Dobbs series as audiobooks.  I think this is definitely a benefit, as I am now used to the readers' characterizations, but I am certain I would like these books even reading them from printed pages.

In this book, a twin sister of an up-and-coming artist employs Maisie to investigate her brother's death.  It has been ruled an accident, but the sister finds it hard to believe that is the case.  Maisie has been recommended by the headmistress of the school both women attended - at different times - but she agrees to take the case.  It is a really interesting mystery, with shades of betrayal, jealousy, and even diamond smuggling becoming part of the plot.

Also part of this particular story is Maisie realizing that she is not interested or ready to settle down into an engagement or marriage to Andrew Dean, a young doctor that she has been involved with for a while.  Though to some degree she is pained by this realization, she is also determined not to talk herself into doing something that would interfere with her career or the level of independence she enjoys.

The reader is also exposed to the impoverished life of Billy Beale, Maisie's assistant.  When Billy's young daughter becomes seriously ill, and Maisie steps in to help, she is faced with the way the family and so many others in similar situations have to exist.

I really enjoyed this book.  Maisie is a multifaceted woman, who is both a product of her time and someone who is not of her time.  Her work is something she both values and takes very seriously, and at least at this point in the series, the solutions are neither obvious nor cut and dried.

The Secret Place, by Tana French.  I remember when this book was first published, my husband read it. He said that he liked it overall, but he was disappointed because the teenage girls in the book talked just like American teenage girls.  

I finished this book, and yes, I agree with him, but it made me think about how teenagers are the same in so many ways, regardless of geography.

The book takes place in a girls' private boarding school in Dublin, Ireland.  It's a year after a student from the neighboring boys' school was murdered, and his body found on the grounds of the girls' school.  The case is a cold one, until one of the students brings a clue to Detective Stephen Moran.  He wasn't involved in the previously mentioned case, but was involved years ago with the student who hands over the clue, and trusts him. 

Moran is paired with one of the original investigators of the case, Antoinette Conway.  She is the sole female on the Murder Squad, and not well-liked at all.  Each of them is motivated for their own reasons to solve the murder.

The book alternates between the events of the day Moran and Conway arrive to investigate at the school, and the months leading up to the student's murder.  Lots of red herrings, lots of suspects, with ideas of who the murderer is constantly changing.  It's a good story, and I at least kept changing my mind about the suspects as I read.

However, it did remind me all too much of high school.  French captures the attitudes, worries, relationships, and traumas of that time in life expertly.  So while I liked the book, I didn't really enjoy "reliving" some of my high school experiences!

This book filled another square in my 2017 Summer Book Bingo, the one for "Set in another country."

Meow If It's Murder, by T. C. LoTempio.  This was a new series to me, and I enjoyed the book.

Nora Charles is a former investigative crime reporter who worked in Chicago or for years before moving back to her hometown in California.  When her mother died, she decided to move back and take over Hot Bread, the sandwich shop owned and run by her mother, and a fixture in the community.  It's a comfortable existence, and she enjoys reconnecting with old friends.

When Lola Grainger, a friend of her late mother, who is married to an influential man is discovered to be drowned after an apparent fall from the family's yacht, something just doesn't sit well with Nora.  She remembers her mother telling her that Lola was fearful of water, and the official story doesn't mesh with that.  Her old habits lead her to nose around a bit to see if she can discover what may have really happened.

In the course of the story, she adopts a cat who she names Nick, who had belonged to another investigator who mysteriously disappeared after getting a phone call from Lola Grainger's sister.  But that's not all - suddenly she is in the thick of a mysterious series of events that involve the Mob and the FBI.  

This book was well-written, and though it is not classic literature, there was a lot to recommend as far as character development.  A few things seemed rather fantastical to me, but then again, I was reading a cozy mystery!  

At the end of the book, there are recipes for two of Hot Bread's famous sandwiches, The Thin Man, and The Michael Buble Burger.  As a result, this book fills in my Summer Book Bingo Square for "Contains recipes, puzzles, or patterns."

The Shattered Tree, by Charles Todd.  This book was much more involved than the previous ones in this series.  A wounded soldier is being treated at the field hospital where Bess Crawford is a nurse during World War I.  At one point when he becomes agitated, he begins to shout in German ... but he is wearing the tattered uniform of a French  soldier.  She later learns he was transferred to the hospital in Rouen.  

Shortly afterwards, Bess herself is injured and sent to Paris to recover.  She is shocked one evening when she is convinced she sees the soldier in question in a passing taxi.  This begins a dangerous and complicated series of events as she tries to determine if her eyes told her the truth, and if the soldier is actually in the French Army.

There are numerous twists, mysterious events, and characters throughout the course of the story.  I liked the book, but not quite as much as those where Bess is back in England on leave for one reason or another, and the reader gets a taste of what life was like during World War I.

This book takes care of my Summer Book Bingo square, "Written under a pseudonym," as Charles Todd is a pseudonym for a mother and son writing team.

Rules of Civility, by Amor Towles.  On New Year's Eve 1937, two young girls are celebrating as best they can given their humble circumstances when a young man named Tinker Grey comes into the same jazz bar and sits down at the table next to theirs.  Thus begins the story of Katey, Eve, Tinker, and those around them, primarily taking place during 1938.  Told from Katey's viewpoint, this book evokes the time, place, and characters in a way that almost makes you feel you were there.

As the book begins, Katey is a member of the secretarial pool at a large law firm, and by the time it ends, she is working on a new magazine at Conde Nast.  In between, there are different friends, different affairs, and some shocking occurrences, all involving her circle of acquaintances.  

I enjoyed this book because it didn't hesitate to make the characters flawed.  It had humor and sadness that were identifiable, and it also illustrated how some friendships never die while others are extremely brief.  The time period is also an interesting one, as it takes place when the U.S. was slowly coming out of the Depression, and things were starting to look up.

Another thing I enjoyed were the descriptions of New York during that time, when it was a place containing the dreams of so many from somewhere else.

This book will fill the square on my Summer Book Bingo card for "Told in the first person."


So there you go, a little bit of everything, and varying degrees of interest to me.  Feel free to let me know in the comments what you think about any of these if you've read them, or what you have been reading lately.  And I promise next time to review my reading more regularly!  :-)

Have a good weekend!