29 July 2007

Coming Soon to the West Coast ...

the Sockapalooza 4 socks! Ta-da! I finished them this past week, and they have been on the blockers for a couple of days. (I block socks that are gifts for people - the few I've made for me go right onto my feet!)

I'm really pleased with the way these turned out. They still remind me of lemons and limes, and the colors are actually much richer knitted up than they were in the ball. I really hope my sock pal likes them, and that they fit her. I did my best to make them according to the measurements she submitted with her Sockapalooza 4 questionnaire. She had a baby boy a few months back, and from the pictures on her blog, he is adorable. So I have something to put in the box for him as well. (Though it isn't knitted. That would just be pushing my luck.) Anyway, here are the specifics of The Lemon Lime Socks:

Pattern: Classic Socks for the Family, from Yankee Knitter

Size: Women's size, for a 9-inch foot

Yarn: 100% wool superwash, hand-dyed by a former swap pal, Sarah

Needles: Pony Pearl, size 2

(And speaking of Sarah, she just recently had a baby boy, too - take a look at her blog, and see how cute he is!)

I was telling a knitting friend that it recently occurred to me that I would be getting a pair of socks in the mail as well, from my unknown swap pal. So I can look forward to a package in the mail, which is, as you probably know, one of my favorite things to have happen ...

On another note, I thought you might like to see a couple of things I ordered through the mail at different times in the past couple of months, using my Yarn Store Money.

The stick pin just below is my most recent acquisition. It is a sterling silver ball of yarn on a rosewood stick. The picture does not really do it justice, but trust me, it's beautiful. The other pin to the right, is a sterling silver kitty shawl pin. It's really delicate, and so well made that it doesn't catch on the yarn at all.

Now, someday when I actually finish a shawl, I'll have a choice of pins to wear with it!

Both are from Designs by Romi, in California. Romi (Rosemary) does beautiful work, and has a lot of things to choose from at her site. You may want to look now, and order something, since there is free shipping until August 1st. But even if you have to pay for shipping, I can say that it's worth it. She is great to deal with, and the items arrive quickly, and are packaged beautifully.

And so, what knitting now, you may ask? Well, I need to work on the Baby Kimono, for the last class this coming Thursday. As it turns out, no one in the class could make it this past Thursday, so it was rescheduled for this week. Which worked for me, since I was having trouble with my right thumb, which is apparently afflicted with trigger finger. It's not as bad today, as I saw the doctor on Friday, and he gave me the second of a series of two cortisone shots. (Which incidentally REALLY HURT!) I figure if I can work on the kimono a little bit at a time, I should be OK by Thursday.

Once I have that completed, I'm going to start something else. At this point, I'm still deciding what it will be. But I'm making sure to do my "homework" before I get involved with anything new ...

Speaking of last classes (yes I was, two paragraphs above), tomorrow night is my last yoga class. You may recall that in my last report, I sucked, but was making a smidge of progress. Well, I still suck, but have made a smidge more progress, meaning I have moved up to an overall rating of a bit of progress (smidge + smidge = bit). The last two classes have been especially nice, since I've been the only one who showed up - so I've gotten two private lessons from the instructor. I am really going to try and keep up with it, and have even investigated places nearby that have yoga classes, figuring maybe I could take a class once a week to be sure I'm doing things correctly. I may not be too good at it, or have a considerable amount more of flexibility or balance right now, but I like it, and I think it has improved my posture quite a bit.

So namaste to all of you, and have a good week!

28 July 2007

July Book Report

I usually wait until after the end of a month to talk about the books I've read during that time, but I'm doing my July report now, since I have finished the two that were part of reading challenges, and will only otherwise be reading the 7th Harry Potter book. I will likely say when I have finished that what I thought about it in general, but won't say much about details, since I would not want to spoil it for anyone who hasn't read it yet.

So here's what I read in July:

Armchair Traveler Reading Challenge

The first book I read for this challenge was The Bookseller of Kabul, by Asne Seierstad. I read The Kite Runner about a year and a half ago, and found the descriptions of life in Afghanistan in that book interesting and quite evocative. So when I had a chance to read The Bookseller of Kabul, I couldn't wait to see what it was like.

What a book! Seierstad is a Norwegian journalist who was reporting in Afghanistan during the fall of the Taliban. She meets Sultan Khan, a bookseller with a shop in Kabul. After spending some time talking with him, and learning more about him and his family, she approaches him with the idea that she will move in with him and his family for a 3-month period, to live as they do, and learn about their daily lives. When she meets Khan, she thinks she has met someone who is atypical of others she has met during her stay: he knows how to read and write, he lives in an urban area, he owns his own successful business, and he is fairly wealthy by the standards of the country.

Khan agrees, and the experience begins. Seierstad writes in the foreword:

"I was just a guest but soon felt at home. I was incredibly well-treated; the family was generous and open. We shared many good times, but I have rarely been as angry as I was with the Khan family, and I have rarely quarreled as much as I did there. Nor have I had the urge to hit anyone as much as I did there. The same thing was continually provoking me: the manner in which men treated women. The belief in male superiority was so ingrained that it was seldom questioned."

Soon Seierstad is involved with all of the family members. She is there when Khan decides he needs a new, younger wife, and weds a teenager, thereby shaming his first wife. She learns that his daughters long to go to school, which is allowed since the Taliban is no longer in power, but Khan thinks education is a waste of time for women. He also refuses to allow his sons to attend school, but rather sets them up with a bookstand of their own. He tells them that the best way to learn about becoming a successful businessman is to work, not to go to school!

The book is extremely readable, and gives the reader a sense of what life must have been like under the thumb of the Taliban, and how it has changed - or not changed that much - since. Sultan Khan turns out to be not that atypical from the average male head of household in Afghanistan after all, a finding that seems to dismay the author.

One thing I found really interesting was the entire issue of leaving the house wearing a burkha. After the Taliban left, women were not required to wear the burkha in public, but most of them still do, because a woman walking through town not wearing one is often mocked, followed by men, and sometimes even can have stones thrown at her. I thought that it would be very frustrating to technically have a choice, but not really.

The book made me think, about my own values and assumptions, and about the life of people in a country that longs to become modern, but has a largely poor and illiterate population. I did wish there was some kind of follow-up, such as knowning whether or not the Khan family had a chance to read the finished book, and if so, what they thought of the way they were depicted.

I would recommend this book, if you are interested at all in life in Afghanistan post-Taliban. I have a new respect for those who managed to survive the domination of their country.

Book Awards Reading Challenge

I chose On the Black Hill, by Bruce Chatwin, as my first book for this challenge. The book received the 1982 Costa/Whitbread Award. It tells the story of Lewis and Benjamin Jones, twins born in 1900, to their eightieth birthday in 1980. It also tells you the story of their parents, Amos and Mary, and their tumultuous relationship throughout their marriage. Mary was the daughter of a missionary, and had traveled the world. Amos had always lived in the same place, and felt that Mary put on airs too often. When Mary sends the twins to school, and they begin to learn about the world, Amos insists that she take them out and teach them at home, so they won't think they are better than everyone around them.

The brothers are interesting, mostly in the way twins can be, with their routines and behaviors that can complement or differentiate them. The "Black Hill" refers to the area where they live in Wales, on a farm called The Vision. England is on one side of their property, and the black hills of Wales are on the other.

Lewis and Benjamin are basically quiet men, who do not have many opportunities to ever experience life outside the few square miles where they were born. This is fine with Benjamin, but near the end of the book, when their nephew takes them on a plane ride for their eightieth birthday, Lewis - who had always been interested in flying - has an epiphany when he is allowed to steer the small plane:

"And suddenly he felt - even if the engine failed, even if the plane took a nosedive and their souls flew up to Heaven - that all the frustrations of his cramped and frugal life now counted for nothing, because, for ten magnificent minutes, he had done what he wanted to do."

Though I found the passage above poetic, and to some degree romantic, it mostly depressed me. Lewis and Benjamin lived lives that were extremely limited, first by their father, then by their own resistance to changing things once both of their parents died. They even slept in the bed where their mother had died, both of them, because it kept them close to her. Though I understand this, I also found it a little bit creepy. They had lives that suited them for the most part, even if to an outsider, they seemed limited and extremely provincial.

This was a departure from anything else of Chatwin's that I have read, in that he is usually talking about traveling to a place that is foreign, different from everyday experience. He does that here, but in a completely different context. Once again, my own opinions and values made it difficult for me to really like Lewis and Benjamin Jones. But I think Bruce Chatwin told their story well.

26 July 2007

Best moustache-twirling ...

Well, after last week’s record-breaking number of responses (92 last time I checked–an all-time BTT record), I was tempted to use this week’s question to ask what you all thought about Harry Potter 7–but since a decent proportion of you weren’t going to be reading it at all, that seemed unfair. So instead . . .

Who’s the worst fictional villain you can think of? As in, the one you hate the most, find the most evil, are happiest to see defeated? Not the cardboard, two-dimensional variety, but the most deliciously-written, most entertaining, best villain? Not necessarily the most “evil,” so much as the best-conceived on the part of the author…oh, you know what I mean!

This one was hard, since most of the villains that immediately sprang to my mind were from movies I'd seen, that were either never books, or not books I'd ever read. But then I remembered reading The Woman in White a few months back, and how much I absolutely detested Sir Percival Glyde (OK, to be honest, his name being "Percival" didn't help matters ...). From the moment he appeared in the story, I knew I didn't like him. His character really had no redeeming qualities.

I also thought of Dolores Umbridge, of Harry Potter fame. Yes, her character is a revolting one, but I think what made me really latch on to her as evil was that she reminded me of so many people in the world today who have power, whether legitimately or not, and feel that it is their right to make the rest of us bend to their wills or opinions.

I'm sure I could think of some others, but since this is Booking Through Thursday, and not Booking Through the Week to See What You Come Up With, I'll settle for those two ...

And Now For Something Completely Different ... (no, not The Larch!)

I was reading through some knitting blogs today, and saw one of the best T-shirts ever here. Go to the entry for July 25 and take a look - I think I may have to get one for myself. Especially since the sheep looks so happy!

22 July 2007

Music, Music, Music

Earlier in the week, Melanie tagged me for a music meme. Since I love practically all kinds of music, I decided to play along. I have been thinking about it off and on, and to be honest, I have probably changed my mind approximately 1578 times. But a few things stayed on the list, so I'm going to go with them ...

Here are the "rules":

1. Name between 5 & 10 songs that have made an impact on your life. I'll leave it up to you to decide how many you wish to describe.

2. Pass it onto five other people with a link back to your own post and this one as the original.

I've seen others' lists, and an awful lot of them included a majority of classical pieces. I do enjoy classical music, but must admit that I hardly ever know the actual titles of my favorite pieces. Usually, I'll have to turn to The Tim and say, "Is this the one that goes '[insert hum]'"? (I make no apologies, though, as I have an easier time remembering something like Tiger Rag, as opposed to Symphony 86 in B minor. Kinda like works of art called Untitled. Come on, you know you understand what I mean!)

Without further editorial commentary, here's my list:

Happy Birthday - I love birthdays, mine and everyone else's. So I love singing this to them.

I Will - either the Beatles version, or Alison Kraus'. I just think it's a great song.

Always (by Irving Berlin) - because whenever I am somewhere with The Tim, where they play this, or someone sings it, he grabs my hand and squeezes it. (Yes, I'm sentimental. Deal with it.)

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer - if you have to wonder why this makes the list, you haven't been paying attention.

Hallelujah Chorus (by Handel) - because one of the first times I heard it performed live, was one of the best evenings ever. Plus, it's catchy.

Any song I've ever made up for a pet - every pet I've ever had, or ever will have, gets their own little [dumb] song, that I make up and sing to them. Even Doughboy, who technically is not my pet, has a song!

Take Me Home, Country Roads - I sing this to myself whenever I'm thinking of home.

Here Comes the Sun (Beatles version) - I would like this played at my funeral. (Not anytime soon, hopefully ...)

The [Little?] Beggar Man (an Irish folk song) - because when we had our original cat Molly, Tim made up a version of this to sing to her. She would purr like a truck as soon as he started. When she was dying, he sang it to her at the vet's office, and she still purred, and she died purring.

Pretty Women (by Steven Sondheim) - sung by two men with good voices, it's just beautiful, and extremely evocative.

**And one more, just for The Tim: The Happiest Girl in the World - we have some old recording of a show whose name escapes me, with this song on it, sung dramatically by a woman in a very high voice. When I imitate her, it gets him laughing, and he doesn't crack up that easily. But I get him with it. Every. Time.

I'm not really sure where to pass this from here. Maybe Lorette would like to give it a shot, I know she enjoys different kinds of music. Otherwise, feel free to consider yourself tagged. If you don't have a blog, feel free to share in the comments.

21 July 2007

The Saturday When Everyone Else Was Reading

Yep, that was today, when everyone was busy with the new Harry Potter book. The Tim said it was really busy at the bookstore today, and people were already lined up this a.m. when he opened up. So not everyone went to the late night party last night! This makes me feel better, as I think it would be fun, but have a hard time staying up that late on my best nights ...

Since I was not reading the book yet, I did some other things today - laundry, for instance. Not glamorous, but necessary. And I went out to buy some gift cards for birthdays of nieces and nephews who live out of town, a birthday present for my great-niece Naomi, who will be 2 years old next Sunday, and a baby gift for the new baby across the street. Then I checked out a place where my yoga teacher has classes that is pretty close to home. (Only two more yoga classes to go.)

I stopped at the farmer's market, the regular market, and the dry cleaners. Who says I'm not fun???

Anyway, I came home and baked Chocolate Chip Zucchini Cookies, since my friend Sharrie had given me some of her "overflow" zucchini. I had some butterscotch chips, so I added them, too. Time will tell if that was a good idea.

Then I took some pictures. Of the completed left front of the baby kimono, for instance:

And then of "the boys" - Garden Kitty on the left, Jetsam on the right. They are nothing if not "helpful" ... as soon as the camera comes out , they are right there, ready for their close-ups. (Tess wasn't around. She was either a) sleeping upstairs, or b) updating her kitty jihad website.)

A quiet, but pleasant day at Chez Ravell'd Sleave. Excellent for a Saturday!

19 July 2007

Just Wild About Harry

This week's Booking Through Thursday question:

1. Okay, love him or loathe him, you’d have to live under a rock not to know that J.K. Rowling’s final Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, comes out on Saturday… Are you going to read it?

2. If so, right away? Or just, you know, eventually, when you get around to it? Are you attending any of the midnight parties?

3. If you’re not going to read it, why not?

4. And, for the record… what do you think? Will Harry survive the series? What are you most looking forward to?

My Responses:

1. Do birds fly? Is the pope Catholic?

2. I won't be reading it right away. This is because there is an unspoken agreement between The Tim and I that he reads it first, and then I get it. This is largely because he will read it much more quickly than I will, and I don't mind the little bit of extra anticipation. Gives me something to look forward to. I won't be attending any midnight parties. Primarily because I find it difficult to stay up that late ...

3. See response to #1.

4. I have been vacillating on this, but in my heart, I think Harry will survive. I am most looking forward, of course, to seeing how it all plays out. But I want to learn once and for all, what is the deal with Snape? Personally, I think he will turn out to be a good guy in the end. I think he was in love with Harry's mother, Lily, so he could never actually harm Harry. And I want good things to come to Neville Longbottom, because I really identify with him. Plus, after learning what happened to his parents, I want him to have a chance to be especially special.

(I would also like to see Draco Malfoy and his parents be turned into slugs and placed in my garden, so I could drown them in beer. Realistically, I know this is impossible.)

15 July 2007

The Sock Lady Takes a Train Ride

This morning, I walked myself over to 30th Street Station, to take one of the commuter trains north to visit my friend Lisa, and hang out with her for a while. It's about a half an hour train ride, which admittedly is not anywhere near how long some people spend on their daily commute, but I knew that I would want to have something to do, for at least part of the ride. The Sockapalooza socks-in-progress project was my choice. Since I am working on the foot/toe of sock #1, it's knitting that doesn't require counting, or other types of close attention, plus it's a portable project. I figured if I got pretty close to the end of, or even finished that sock, I could start working on the foot/toe of sock #2 later this week.

I got myself settled in a three-person seat by the window, all to myself. (Not many people heading that way at 10:30 a.m. on a Sunday ...) I got out my train ticket, then got out my knitting to get started. The train stops in downtown Philadelphia are really close together, so there was a lot of stopping and starting at first, but then we were headed for a bit of a stretch until the train stopped again.

The conductor came by, to punch my ticket, and saw me knitting my sock. He said, "Good Lord, ma'am, what is that?" I responded that it was a sock, and he looked skeptical. But there were other tickets to sell/punch/check, so he proceeded down the aisle. About 5 minutes later, he suddenly sat down next to me, and asked if he could see my knitting close up. Now, I will admit that before I became a knitter, if I had seen someone using what looked like several porcupine quills to do something, I'd be curious too. But you can't tell me that this guy doesn't see dozens of, er, interesting things every single day. Anyway, he asked me to show him how the needles worked, so I knitted a round, and then he wanted to know how I got the yarn to stripe. Since it was self-striping yarn, I just said, "Magic." Well, you would have thought I was playing to a packed house in the Catskills, he thought that was so funny! Then he said, "Sock lady, you're a real pip," and got up to get ready for the next stop. After a few more stations, it was my stop, and when I got off the train, he said, "Sock lady, you have a good day, God bless you."

I had a blast with Lisa, and my trip home was totally uneventful, as most of the other passengers, and the conductor, seemed to be snoozing most of the time.

But I kept thinking about the conductor on the earlier train, and how genuinely interested he was in talking about my sock knitting. And it occurred to me that he probably doesn't have many interactions with passengers during the week, like he did while we were talking socks. I hope that it gave him something pleasant to think about for the rest of his shift.

And I have to admit, I didn't mind being called "Sock Lady" at all; and if God was giving out blessings, even better. Far be it from me to question someone else's good wishes for me.

14 July 2007

Rockin' Saturday

Well, let me tell you, it was a mucho crappy week at work, even more than usual. Things did start to pick up yesterday afternoon, when I had a six-month check-up with one of my many doctors, and he said everything looked well, and he'd see me in six months. (Six months is a lifetime to me these days, so I am perfectly happy to exist in six-month intervals.) Then the evening included a martini with a garlic stuffed olive. Then I knew it would all be OK ...

Aside from that, Carol thinks I am a:

Which is so cool, thank you Carol! Being that I am not necessarily one that you would see on the street, and think was either rockin' or a girl (as opposed to a woman,that is), I am happy to be considered both, at least online ... as part of this, you are supposed to name others that you think deserve the title. Well, in Carol's post, she states: "... Bridget, I would have nominated your Carol for this too, but that would just piss you off." Now that made me laugh out loud! So I definitely will nominate "my" Carol,* as well as Melanie, Kim, Ann and Liz, and Carrie. Let me make it clear that I do not care if they pass it any further, but they are all friends (some even in person!) and I think the world of them, so I've decided they're Rockin' Girls too!

On to knitting news ... remember the Shamrock Shawl? In our last episode, I had ripped out a lot of it, since I had screwed up the pattern, and though there were shamrocks on the bottom of what I had knitted so far, there were amoebas above the first two repeats, as I had lost count, made mistakes, and anything else that could have gone wrong. Well, I've looked at the bag holding it, with the chart, etc., sitting on the rocking chair for a couple of months, and today I decided to see what I could do. Apparently what I could do today was screw up a row of plain knitting. So it's back on the rocking chair for a while. The really sad thing was that when I started trying to work on it today, I hadn't even had any wine yet.

The socks I'm making for my Sockapalooza 4 pal are coming along nicely. I am probably going to concentrate on them more than anything else at this point, since we are supposed to mail them at the beginning of August. When I have the pair finished, I'll take a picture before I send them to their recipient.

The other thing I'm working on, is "homework" for a class I took this past Thursday at Sophie's Yarns, which is near where I work. We are making a Baby Kimono - here's a picture of the store sample.

It's really cute in person, and even though I do not know any babies that need a kimono, learning the construction of it is what appealed to me about the class. It's made from bamboo yarn, and I chose a variegated brown, light gray, beige, and a kind of rose color. We are supposed to have one of the fronts completed for this Thursday's class, which hopefully won't be a problem.

I noticed that my StatCounter thingy is almost to 10,000, and my next post will be #150. I'm surprised to have written 149 posts as of this one. And I guess I should be surprised about the number of visits to my blog, but I've probably made about 9,996 of them ...

*I'm not sure I want to know what having her as "my" Carol involves ...

13 July 2007

A day late ...

Here is my response to Booking Through Thursday, even though it's Friday.


1. In your opinion, what is the best translation of a book to a movie?
2. The worst?
3. Had you read the book before seeing the movie, and did that make a difference? (Personally, all other things being equal, I usually prefer whichever I was introduced to first.)

And, by all means, expand this to as long a list as you like. I’m notoriously awful myself at narrowing down to one favorite ANYTHING. So, feel free to list as many “good” or “bad” movie-from-books as you like. (Heaven knows that’s what I’ll be doing….)

In my opinion, the movie adaptation of To Kill a Mockingbird was an excellent example of a movie that stayed loyal to the book. Also, I think the version of Persuasion made by the BBC a few years back, was good. The way it was filmed made it seem more real, since everyone wasn't prettied up.

For my worst choices, I would have to say that one of the movies that really annoyed me was Emma with Gwyneth Paltrow (and this was before I decided that I just don't like her ...). I found it difficult to believe that Jane Austen's Emma wore so much eye makeup ...

Otherwise, I tend to avoid movies that I don't think will be as good as the book. A prime example is The Scarlet Letter, with Demi Moore (or as we call her, Dummi Moore) as Hester Prynne. I didn't even bother going to see it, because, come on, Demi Moore portraying a Hawthorne character? Then I knew these people that did go to see it, and were so surprised that it was so awful. Eejits all.

I didn't read the book, but The Tim talked me into watching the TV miniseries of Stephen King's It. And I feel that it was however many hours of my life that I will never get back, and even The Tim, who had read the book, had to admit it was stupid.

Given a choice, I usually read the book first, because I like reading, and because I always enjoy getting a picture of the characters in my mind's eye, before having some Hollywood type pushed on me.

In a related vein, I do think that in the case of The Godfather, that the movie was a lot better than the book. To me it seems to be the exception that proves the rule.

08 July 2007

June Book Report

I read two books in June, very different from each other, but both worthwhile.

Excellent Women by Barbara Pym was the first title. I had heard of Barbara Pym, but had never read any of her books. For whatever reason, I thought she was a sappy romance writer. Then I read a post on Melanie's book blog, where she mentioned that Excellent Women was a book she could see herself reading again and again. Since Melanie didn't strike me as someone who was a big fan of sappy romances, I decided to check Amazon and read the reviews.

Mildred Lathbury is a clergyman's daughter, unmarried, and the story takes place in England during the 1950s. Mildred is a person who tries to do good works for her church and her community, and tends to get involved with others' lives and their problems as a result. For the most part, she leads a quiet life, but the characters around her manage to turn things upside down from time to time.

I really enjoyed this book! I had no trouble visualizing the characters, based on Pym's written descriptions. The story was involved at times, but I could keep track of all the main characters without much of a problem. Some of the observations made by Mildred and those around her were really funny, both in the way Pym wrote, and because even though the 1950s were not that long ago, people really did have different expectations about societal roles. This book struck me as a modern comedy of manners, and evoked a place and time that was easy to see in my mind.

The second book is Animal, Vegetable, Miracle : A Year of Food Life, by Barbara Kingsolver. I have not read all of Kingsolver's writing, but enough of it that I am always curious to take a look at anything new from her. This book is the story of her family's move from Tucson, Arizona, to a small family farm, in a small town in Virginia. They decided to try for one year, to feed themselves from their land, their livestock, and from food products produced in the area. They wanted to see if it was possible in this day and age to accomplish a varied, healthy menu, without the absolute necessity of grocery stores.

I thought this book was very interesting. Kingsolver and her family were trying something that I have thought about from time to time, but needless to say, have never done. It was fascinating to see how each family member contributed, and what/how they learned what plants and animals would be successful for them. I have been trying for a while to buy food that is produced locally, as opposed to food produced, say, in China. I'm not always successful, and a lot of the time it's not clear where the actual product originated. Barbara Kingsolver makes a convincing case for the local farmer, and the local community as support systems for each other.

The book includes a lot of detailed information about the plants and animals they raised, as well as how they became part of the local farming community, along with the benefit to each member of the family. Her descriptions include killing of some of their animals so that they, and others in the area, would have food for the table. She makes the argument that vegetarianism is a luxury that only middle class people in developed countries can afford. I was especially interested in the case she made, since a few years prior to this experiment, she and her family had been on a vegetarian diet. She certainly raised a lot of valid points, but this part of the book did make her sound like she was on the defensive. It's not a large part of the overall story, but it does stand out from the rest of the book.

Overall though, I thought it was an enjoyable, and thought-provoking read. It underscored for me the importance of understanding where your food comes from, and how it is produced. I have started to try and pay closer attention to the food I buy, prepare, and eat, not just to help local (or regional) farmers, but also to make myself consider how much fuel may have been used transporting produce from far-flung parts of the world, so that Americans have fresh cantalope in December.

I actually had an experience at our local farmers' market yesterday that was eye-opening. One of the farmers had some garlic for sale, with a sign that said, "Pre-Chinese Garlic from New York State." Of course, I had to find out what Pre-Chinese garlic was - really old garlic, or what? According to him, since approximately 1997, most garlic sold in grocery stores along the eastern seaboard is from China. Prior to that, it was primarily from New York, or from seeds of plants from New York. Since the Chinese product was cheaper for the grocery stores to sell, and available in mass quantities, the New York farmers got pushed aside. So this farmer was selling garlic grown locally from seeds he obtained from a fellow farmer in New York. I had never given any thought to the origin of the garlic I would buy at the grocery store, so this was a revelation to me. So yes, I did buy some, because a) it's garlic, b) it's garlic, and c) it was locally grown.

In knitting book news ...

Yesterday, I helped out at Rosie's for a few hours, since another person was on vacation. While I was there, I had the chance to look through a book that came out a couple of months ago, that I had not seen yet, Knitting Fashions of the 1940s: Styles, Patterns and History, by Jane Waller. What a cool book! I didn't get to spend a lot of time studying it, since I was there to help customers rather than do my own reading, but I did like the illustration methods they used. It would show a black-and-white photo from the original pattern, and then show a color version of the item that had been knitted, with adaptations for today's yarns and needles. I thought that placing the photos right next to each other was especially appealing, and the book seemed to have a nice variety of patterns for men, women, and children. I think I'll have to take a closer look at this title, because it combines three things I am interested in: knitting, history, and old photos. And trust me, some of the old photos are priceless!

07 July 2007

Let's see, where to start ...

OK, you know I had to write something today, being that it's 07-07-07 ...

Anyway, here's an excellent starting place:
1. Sebastian won an award! YAY SEB! This is a picture taken by his mom, Karen, at the awards ceremony. He is receiving an award from the township for an essay he wrote, called, "Why Bridget Is the Smartest, Funniest, Best Person I Know, or Will Ever Know."

OK, I lied. It was an essay about mental health awareness, and being that Seb always complains that he doesn't like to write (which is probably the *only* reason you will never read the first title mentioned), it's an even more significant accomplishment, in my opinion. We are so proud of him!

(I don't know if you can tell from the size of the photo, but he also has a new faux-hawk haircut. Very cool. On a somewhat down note, he's leaving today for six weeks of sleepaway camp. We will miss him very much, but he always seems to have a good time, so it works out in the end.)

2. I have started reading my first book in the Book Awards Reading Challenge, On the Black Hill, by Bruce Chatwin. So far, it's really interesting, though since it takes place in Wales, a lot of the words indicating town names look like this: Wlllyggknnospp. (And they are probably prounounced "Springfield" ...) In the comments from one of my reading challenges posts, Kim asked me how many books I can read at one time. Well, theoretically, two or three. In reality, one at a time, usually. I am going to try my best to read one book for one challenge, then follow it up with a book from the other challenge. I am only 95% convinced that this will work, so I'll just have to let you know.

3. I really enjoyed reading everyone's comments about the book I chose for the Booking Through Thursday post this week. Mary wrote on her blog about the book that got her reading as a child, and asked for others' choices. If you are absolutely dying to know what I said (and, be honest, you are, right?), check out her blog. Check it out anyway, she has corgis and they are so cute! She also has a cat, Percy, who makes cameo appearances from time to time ...

4. The small flag-type decorations in my July 4th post, came to me courtesy of my great-nieces and nephew in Arizona. My nephew's wife, Liesl, involves the kids in all kinds of crafts, and they always send us amazing decorations that they have made. The July 4th items were courtesy of the handprints of Anya, Jude, Lola, and Naomi. I absolutely love them, and hope that others are jealous that they are my great-nieces and nephew, and not theirs. :-)

5. Thank you to the kind person who pointed out to me that Karl Marx was not one of the Marx Brothers, as I had mentioned in a post about looking up my birth date in Wikipedia. I know that, having been a Political Science major, but I was trying to be funny. Because, at least to me, thinking of Karl Marx and the Marx Brothers together is pretty darn amusing. Anyway, for those of you who may have also been worried that I am a total eejit, rest assured that I am in fact an eejit in lots of ways, just not a total eejit.

6. As far as I'm concerned, the only good thing about the Scooter Libby story, was a local newscaster who got tongue-tied reading the teleprompter, and referred to him as "Scooty Liver."

7. I've saved the most momentous, personal item for last, and also for #7 on this day o' sevens. Please begin a virtual drum roll, as I present the completed baby toe-up sock, done with a short-row heel, having finally accomplished the Picking Up of The Wraps!!


05 July 2007

The Great ________ Novel?

Wow, this is a good one for the weekly Booking Through Thursday question:

What with yesterday being the Fourth of July and all, I’m feeling a little patriotic, and so have a simple question:What, in your opinion, is the (mythical) Great American Novel? At least to date. A “classic,” or a current one–either would be fine. Mark Twain? J.D. Salinger? F. Scott Fitzgerald? Stephen King? Laura Ingalls Wilder?

It doesn’t have to be your favorite book, mind you. “Citizen Kane” may be the “best” film, and I concede its merits, but it’s not my favorite. You don’t have to love something to know that it’s good.

Now, I know that not all of you are American–but you can play, too! What I want from you is to know what you consider to the best novel of YOUR country. It might be someone the rest of us haven’t heard of and, frankly, I think we’d all like to get some new authors to read.

When I read this, my first thought was, To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee. And as I continued to think about it during the day, I came up with lots of other books that I think are "great," but stuck with my original thought, if I had to choose just one.

I remember that I saw the movie when I was a kid, before I had read the book, and as a result, really wanted to read the book. When I asked my mother if the book was anything like the movie, she said that it was one of the few that were loyal to the original work. (She was quite the critic ... about everything ...)

Then of course I read the book, and it has always stayed with me. I think it is incredibly evocative of time and place. I like the fact that Atticus Finch talks to his children in a straightforward, non-condescending way; he expects them to be thinking, reasoning people. He also doesn't make everything sugar-coated, so that they aren't growing up with an unrealistic idea of the world around them. He is someone who is trying his best to live his beliefs and principles, and wants his children to grow up to do the same thing. And all the time, his children are watching him, listening, and learning. While, of course, trying to figure out what is the truth about Boo Radley - they are kids after all!

I think that To Kill a Mockingbird was one of the first books that really made me want to be like the main character. I am, unfortunately, not even close to Atticus Finch. But he'll always be there to remind me of the importance of my actions and beliefs.

Finally, I also like the idea that Harper Lee wrote this book, and then no others. And why should she? She proved that she was a writer, and from what I can tell, all these years later, no one has to be reminded of who she is.

04 July 2007

03 July 2007

Wherein I sign up for another reading challenge ...

Because I apparently have a) no self-control, and b) so much spare time, I signed up for The Armchair Traveler Reading Challenge. The basic idea is to read six books between July 1 and December 1, 2007, that are either about traveling to an existing place, or where the place is an important aspect of the story. It just appealed to me, and since it's a six-month challenge, I thought I wasn't biting off more than I could chew by adding this one to the already mentioned Book Awards Reading Challenge. The Armchair Traveler rules say you can cross-list your choices with other challenges, but I decided to try reading different books than those I chose for the other challenge.

So, before I grab my poor, heel-less toe-up sock from the workshop on Sunday, and try to learn how to Pick Up The Wraps, here are the titles for my latest, ahem, reading adventure:

1. The Bookseller of Kabul, by Asne Seierstad (Afghanistan)

2. House of Spirits, by Isabel Allende (Chile)

3. Defending Baltimore Against Enemy Attack : a Boyhood Year During World War II, by Charles Osgood (Baltimore, Maryland, USA)

4. Suite Francaise, by Irene Nemirovsky (France)

5. Devil in the White City, by Eric Larson (Chicago, Illinois, USA)

6. In Sunshine or in Shadow, edited by Kate Cruise O’Brien and Mary Maher (Ireland)

The rules also allow for substitution, so here are those possibilities:

1. Two Towns in Provence, by M.F.K. Fisher (France)
2. Italian Backgrounds, by Edith Wharton (Italy)
3. Pictures from an Expedition, by Diane Smith (Montana, USA)
4. Coastliners, by Joanne Harris (France)
5. A Clearing in the Distance, by Witold Rybczynski (USA)
6. Rice Bowl Women, edited by Dorothy Blair Shimer (China)

(I'm not even going to mention the fact that I also have substitutions for my substitutions ...)

01 July 2007

Oy - the wrapping and the turning!

So today I took a class to learn how to knit toe-up socks at Rosie's. I really enjoy knitting socks, but anytime I've tried to read a toe-up pattern, or figure it out on my own, nothing clicked in my brain. Zippo. Nada.

As a result, I was really looking forward to the class. Kate was teaching it, and she is both nice, and very smart. There were only four of us in the class, which seemed promising. Until two of the people said they had never knitted socks before and/or had never worked with double-pointed needles. (Who signs up for a class where those are two of the requisites???) Anyway, I was thinking that the start would be the hard part, because even though I am quite experienced in knitting cuff down socks, the beginning is always a challenge, mostly because it's kinda fiddly.

Well, once we got started, I was doing pretty well. I was excited, because Kate was showing us a pretty straightforward cast-on, and my mind grasped it right away. Then for a while it was a matter of increasing the number of stitches, and then just plain old everyday knitting for a few rounds until we got to the heel. (Oh, BTW, we were making a baby sized sock, so that, in theory, it would be completed or nearly completed, by the time the class ended.)

I started to feel pretty pleased with myself, because I had cast on, and started without any major obstacles. But, because I apparently never learn, I didn't remember that whenever I start to feel pretty self-satisfied with a new skill, it usually signals my eventual downfall. And that downfall, my friends, manifested itself when we got to the Short Row Heel. I have done short rows, or at least versions of them before, but they have never required the Wrap & Turn (w & t for those of you in the know).

And it was at that point that I encountered my most recent nemesis. Oh, I could w & t just fine. It was when we were coming back along the row, and needed to pick up the wraps, that my brain just seemed to stop working. I understood the concept, but no matter what I did, I could not make my hands work in concert with said brain to accomplish said maneuver. Poor Kate, every few rows, she would check my work, and say, "Uh oh, you have added a stitch," or some other problematic statement. She would then kindly and patiently unknit the stitches to the point where I could start again. So I would zip along, thinking I was doing OK. Except when I should have had, say 14 stitches, I had either 15 or 9 ... (I started thinking that the short row heel had become my "yoga" of knitting - I wanted to do it, I was actually trying, but I wasn't getting anyplace close!)

By the time the class ended, I still hadn't figured it out. So I came home with my yarn, needles, and instructions, determined more than ever to master the Picking Up of the Wraps. I'm going to leave it alone this evening, but you can bet I'll be trying again this week! Kate did mention that there was also the possibility of doing what is called a gusset heel, and I'm sure I want to learn that. But I absolutely refuse to let the PUOTW to win!!

The frustrating thing, was that I was so involved trying to figure out the whole thing, I forgot to buy some sock yarn! I headed up there today, fully planning to take advantage of the first day of Socksational July, and came home empty-handed.

Now that's just sad, don't you think???