29 February 2008

February Book Report

Leap Day seems like an appropriate time to talk about the only book I actually finished this month - but since I actually did finish the book, I'm feeling much better about things. It is so discouraging to me to start a book and never finish, but it's worse to force it.

Anyway, February was a light reading month for me as far as books were concerned. I did manage to catch up on some of my magazines, and I got a fair amount of knitting done. But for whatever reason, I didn't do nearly as much book reading as usual. Fortunately, the book I did read was a good one.

Women in Their Beds : New and Selected Stories, by Gina Berriault, was my February book for the Book Awards Reading Challenge. It is a collection of short stories, and won both the 1996 National Book Critics Circle Award, and the 1997 PEN/Faulkner Award. Reading the stories, I can understand why. Berriault writes spare language stories that are still loaded with description - of people, places, and events. Most of the stories in the book take place in San Francisco, or at least start out there.

The title story is about a woman who works as a social worker on a ward for women with mental health problems. By observing the women, their families, the constant coming and going of the patients, she sees herself in a different light, and thinks how her life might be if she is ever one of the women in their beds. I really liked this one, because the writer managed to run the gamut from happy to sad, silly to serious, without seeming false or forced.

My other favorite story in the collection was "Lives of the Saints," about a young man whose father (that he has never met) is a world famous sculptor. The background is that once his father learned that his mother was pregnant, he decided that it couldn't be his child (though the mother had been faithful). He abandoned them both, and was reborn as a celibate artist, devoted to the lives of the saints and what he could learn from them. When his son becomes an adult, he decides to go to all of the towns in California where one of the sculptures of the saints can be found. I liked the way Berriault described the sculptures themselves, and how she made the impressions of the son conflicted, as I can imagine they might be. At the end of the story, the son reads in a newspaper obituary that his father has died, and only then does he feel he has really been born. Trust me, it reads much better than my lame description!

If you are in the mood for some short stories, I think this collection would be a good choice. I will admit that I didn't read every single one all of the way through, but I did completely read most of them; the ones I skipped were simply those that weren't interesting after the first four or five pages. But the beauty of a short story collection is that (usually) you don't have to read every story to enjoy any of them.

28 February 2008


Who is your favorite female lead character? And why? (And yes, of course, you can name more than one . . . I always have trouble narrowing down these things to one name, why should I force you to?)

I've been giving this some thought today, and overall, my choices are Jo March in Little Women and Anne Shirley from the Anne of Green Gables series. They appeal(ed) to me because both of them loved to read and write. They both had a tendency to be dramatic, which I must admit is also something I tend towards (my mother used to call me Sarah Bernhardt when I was a little girl). I envied Jo March her "garret" because I had no idea what that meant, but it sounded perfect if it was someplace you could go to be left alone. And I never really understood Anne Shirley's desire to have lots of friends, since I preferred being left alone for the most part (still do). But mostly, they seemed real to me, and I understood a lot of their thoughts and feelings.

23 February 2008

The Good, the Bad, the Tuna Fish

The Good: I am [finally] finished with the sampler size fair isle tam from my class with Beth Brown-Reinsel last month. It is blocking as I type this.
The Bad: I am still working on the ribbing for the vest I'm making for my class at Rosie's. (No progress at all there ...)

The Good: I ordered the yarn I'll need to knit two more gifts for Christmas, plus the baby hat I'm going to make for Doughboy's baby brother.
The Bad: Our mortgage payment has gone up. Why does everyone else's go down and ours never does? (Rhetorical question, we know we need to refinance.)

The Good: I am very nearly finished with the first of the Christmas gifts I'm knitting.
The Bad: I feel sick today.

The Good: It's the weekend!
The Bad: It was an uber-sucky week at work, with no immediate promise of getting better.

The Good: It's an election year.
The Bad: None of the candidates inspire me. Or really even appeal to me that much. I will vote, however, and be grateful for the privilege.

The Good: I have a haircut appointment two weeks from today.
The Bad: I have to wait two more weeks to get my hair cut.

The Good: We got out of work early yesterday due to ice and snow.
The Bad: I had to trudge over to work in the first place in the ice and snow.

The Good: I got paid yesterday.
The Bad: There are bills waiting to be paid.

The Good: The Tim is downstairs making pizzelles.
The Bad: OK, no bad side to that ...

Oh well, maybe that's how life is, when ...

You Are a Tuna Fish Sandwich**

Some people just don't have a taste for you. You are highly unusual.

And admit it, you've developed some pretty weird habits over the years.

You may seem a bit unsavory from a distance, but anyone who gives you a chance is hooked!

Your best friend: The Club Sandwich

Your mortal enemy: The Turkey Sandwich

**Oddly, this is quite true I think ... though I admittedly don't know the sandwich types of my friends and enemies ...

19 February 2008

[Belated] January Book Report

I forgot until today that I had never posted about what I read in January. This is largely because I didn't get a whole lot of reading done that month, but I did give it the old college try, so to speak.

The Known World, by Edward P. Jones, was my January choice for the Book Awards Reading Challenge. This title won the 2004 Pulitzer, as well as the 2005 IMPAC Dublin Award. I remember when it came out, reading several reviews of it, and knowing that someday I really wanted to read it. It sounded very interesting, and very different from other books of its overall type.

The book tells the story of a free black man, whose freedom was purchased by his parents when he was a child, in rural Virginia. The twist, if you want to call it that, is that he owns quite a number of slaves, who work on his small plantation farm, the same way that his parents worked on the plantation of a wealthy white landowner until they could purchase their freedom from him.

I tried. I really did. I read slightly more than half of the book, but I had to just call it quits. The story changed viewpoints and time periods too often for my taste, even though that is not usually a problem with other things I read. But primarily I couldn't finish the book because it just disturbed me. At one point, I realized that I didn't have to finish it, so I just returned it to the library.

I can't pinpoint one single thing that was the problem, and maybe it's just a case of "white man's guilt" about slavery and the treatment of African Americans, particularly during the period in our country's history when slaves were property and little else - certainly not real human beings. I guess one thing that disturbed me was the idea that someone who had been born a slave, and had been a slave, not only owned slaves of his own, but didn't really treat them with any more respect than anyone else did. I realize that he was a man of his time, and that he was not individually responsible for all of the other slaves, past, present, and future. But the main character was just not appealing to me, and it made it hard to appreciate his story.

I will say that the book is well-written, as far as the language goes. I had no trouble picturing the primary characters, the houses, streets, the slave quarters, or any number of other things, as Jones' prose was quite evocative.

But I didn't finish the book, and instead moved on to my next choice, which has been enjoyable so far.

However, speaking of books ...

I did not have to go to work today, as the power was off in our building for electrical work (this was more than fine with me, by the way). So I headed up to Barnes & Noble for a booksigning by Lisa Scottoline. I *love* Lisa Scottoline, she is an absolute hoot in person, and getting the signed book is just a bonus. She talks a mile a minute, while throwing Tastykakes (a Philadelphia specialty) to the audience. She is originally from South Philadelphia, and her books name places and introduce characters that are familiar if you live here, and I would think make it sound pretty interesting if you live someplace else!

Today she talked about how she writes, why she writes, and what she has learned about herself from creating her characters. She fascinates me, and though she has several best-sellers under her belt, I am certain that if you ran into her someplace, she would want to stop for coffee and talk about the latest episode of "Deal or No Deal," or something like that. You know, a regular person (who happens to be a lot of fun, and famous to boot). If you are anyplace where she will be signing books, treat yourself to some time with her and all of her stories.

She did say that she thinks everyone has at least one good book in them, whether it's something that is published by a publishing company or not. She admitted that she spends "way too much time" reading blogs, and that she sees a lot of good writing in many of them. There was a gentleman in the audience who said he was hoping to write a book in the next year or so, and she told him to e-mail her if he had questions. Which is pretty nice, when you figure that there were probably at least ten other people there who will e-mail her as well - and she will respond to them all!

Someday - when I'm a famous author [ahem] - I hope I can be as gracious, and even half as much fun ...

15 February 2008

Let me see how I like this ...

So, this template is OK so far. I'm not sure I'm in love with it, but it's nice and clean looking, and the different color is a nice change. Of course, I have spent all day fooling with an image for the header, and can't find one that I can size correctly to have it *just right.* I looked at the code for the header size, and there is some blathery text in it that says it's not a standard size or whatever. But I shall keep trying a few more times, and hope that dumb luck will serve me well.

Garden Kitty and Jetsam send their thanks for the nice birthday wishes. They had a very exciting birthday, involving a catnip mouse and treats. It would appear that they are still enjoying themselves today. (Much to Tess' dismay ...)

In knitting news, I am making progress on Christmas gift #1, and I should probably finish it by the end of the month. Which puts me slightly behind where I wanted to be, but not too much. And I don't want to be too terribly pleased with myself, since that nearly always leads to my immediate downfall.

I think I mentioned that I am taking a colorwork class at Rosie's. It's called Krazy Kolors, and everyone in the class is making a pattern of Kaffe Fassett's. It's fun, since most of the people in the class are completely new, or somewhat new, to colorwork, so it's not intimidating at all. I chose this project, from Rowan Magazine #40, called Dotty. I'm using a couple of Rowan yarns, but others as well. I had another project in mind, but The Tim really liked this, and it was a vest (as opposed to the sweater I chose - sleeves!), so I decided it was a good starter project. It also works towards meeting one of my New Year's Knitting Resolutions, which was to learn fair isle knitting.

The class has already met twice, and we have two more sessions. The first two sessions were to get everyone started, then we have another one in March and the last one in April. There is also a blog for the group, to post questions, progress, etc. I think it's a great idea, and hope that they will decide to have other classes with a similar format. There was some talk about doing classes for Alice Starmore and Eunny Jang's designs as well. Once I have a row with color knit, I'll post a picture to show you my progress.

Did I tell you that Halden and Ben (Doughboy's parents) are expecting a baby? Yep, at the end of June. They found out it's a boy (which dismayed The Tim, who was hoping it would be a sister, and they could name it Doughgirl ...), so I pulled out my copy of Itty-Bitty Hats and decided to make this one:

It's so cute, I can't wait to make it! I thought it was particularly appropriate, since I know they both know how to sail. Baby hats are my usual gift, and I try to knit something that I think fits when or where the baby is born, or the parents' tastes. And they are one of the few things that I usually have no problem knitting in time to give as a gift.

Hopefully I will be able to keep all of my projects balanced and not get stressed out over any of them. I mean, this is supposed to be fun, right???

13 February 2008

Zachary's Birthday

This past weekend, The Tim and I headed to Baltimore, so that we could attend my great-nephew Zach's 2nd birthday party. One of the best things about it was the chance to see my sister and brother-in-law (Zach's grandparents), Liz and Greg (Zach's parents), Amanda and Patrick (Zach's aunt and uncle), and Michael and Virginia (no official relation, but always present at family events). But most of all, it was fun to see Zach, who now looks like a little kid instead of a baby:

The guest list was a combination of friends, family, and neighbors, including Zach's next-door friend, Kaylee, who as it turned out was in nearly every picture we took! For instance, this one:

We don't see Zach all that often, but for Christmas, The Tim had made him a copy of the "Shaun the Sheep" series from the BBC. This was a BIG hit, and from what we have heard, somewhat of an obsession ...

Well, for his birthday, among other things, we gave him a copy of season 2 (I may have mentioned before that we are not above buying the love of nieces, nephews, and their children). But the funniest thing was on Friday evening, when we stopped at their house. At first, he wasn't too sure who we were. Then my sister said, "They gave you Shaun the Sheep," and we started to sing the theme song. His eyes got really wide, he smiled, and started dancing to our [poor] rendition of the song. It was really funny, as if he was thinking, "Oh they are wise people, those who know of Shaun the Sheep."

Before we left though, Zach gave us a present, which is now proudly displayed on our refrigerator:

It's Shaun the Sheep, it's Shaun the Sheep, he even mucks about with those who do not bleat ...

In other news, I may begin to experiment with the look of things here, so don't be surprised if you check in one day and things look different the next day. I have a long weekend coming up, and what better time to fool with things on the computer? Hopefully, I will not get carried away, and suddenly end up losing things without any idea what I did or didn't do. But don't be surprised if that happens too!

I didn't see the Westminster Dog Show on television (we don't have cable), but I had a good time reading about things, and got a charge out of reading about the beagle who won Best in Show. Mr Puffy must be so pleased! I like it when it seems that the dog is as happy as the person when they win.

Tomorrow is a big day at chez Ravell'd Sleave - it's Valentine's Day, and the birthday of our two boys, Garden Kitty (he'll be 9), and Jetsam (he'll be 2). I'm certain a good time will be had by all ...

10 February 2008

Ou est La Gitte?

That's the subject line of my friend Lisa's e-mails when she hasn't heard from me for a while. Never fear, I'm still alive and kicking, just busy with various things that have kept me from writing a post recently.

Extreme Makeover [not] - Blog Edition

I've had it in my head for a while to "remodel" the blog, but I have no idea what to do. I've fooled around with the other available templates on Blogger, but none of them really grab me. And I don't know enough to create a custom template of my own. Then occasionally I see nice templates on other people's blogs who use WordPress or something else and think maybe I should switch to that. But I'm not sure that would be any easier in the end, so I just get frustrated and stick with what I have ... the weird thing is, it must be something that is going around, because a lot of other blogs I read are remodeling too! If anyone has any brilliant suggestions, or recommendations, please feel free to pass them along.

Anyway, time to move along, people.

Awards Season

Melanie and Ann and Liz both named me for a You Make My Day Award, which I take as a great compliment, thank you! I will admit that it has taken me a while to get around to it, so a lot of people I may have given it to have already received it (some several times!), so I didn't want to repeat that. I'm supposed to name ten other people, so I decided to name some of the blogs that I read (though not all have been added to my sidebar yet), that as far as I know, haven't been named yet. So here they are, in no particular order:

1. Anne, of The Bookworm's Knitting
2. Dave, of Criminy Jickets
3. Debi, of FluffyKnitterDeb
4. N. Maria, of The Knackful Knitter
5. Mary, of Pembroke Purls
6. dmaxi, of Under Me Oxter
7. Yoko, of The Ballad of Yoko
8. Brigitte, of Wrapped Around My Finger
9. Lorraine, of Sheriff of Knittingham
10. Wendy, of Knit and the City

I really enjoy reading these blogs, and am always happy to see new posts in my Bloglines.

Brought to you by the Letter C



As you may have noticed, Chumleigh and Clancy are black cats. They live with my niece Amanda and her husband Patrick in Baltimore, and we visited with them this weekend. My nephew Zachary turned two years old on Friday, and his parents (my niece Liz and her husband Greg) had a birthday party for him. So we stayed at Amanda and Pat's house, and I decided that even though I have an infinite number of pictures of my own kitties, I'd make these two the stars for C in the ABC Along. Chumleigh is striking his best John Barrymore pose, and Clancy is concentrating on watching the laser toy so that she can kill it! They are extremely sweet cats, and we enjoy seeing them as much as getting to see everyone else.

Our trip was a lot of fun, and we were glad to be able to go to Zach's party, since we don't get to see him as often as we'd like.

That's it for now, time to catch up on some movie-watching ...

06 February 2008

OK, I guess ...

First of all, 6:49? Are there others who are 6:48? 6:23? Granted, I have in my old age become an early morning person, but this just seems weird ... though I'm glad to know that the reason I move slowly is because I'm like a relaxed cat, instead of because I'm just plain slow ...

Anyway. I guess it's a lot better than a result like: "You are 12:30 midnight, when most people die, " or some such thing.

'Cause that would just be weird.

01 February 2008

Bloggers' (Silent) Poetry Reading

Melanie sent me a note, inviting me to participate in the Third Annual Brigid in Cyberspace Poetry Reading. It is to celebrate the feast day of Brigid, aka Groundhog Day (and, I might add the birthday of James Joyce).

I am happy to participate, but being that I have always observed the feast day on February 1st, I'm posting my poem today. This one amuses me, and as this is supposed to be a celebration, seemed more appropriate to me than something serious and filled with angst. And I decided that a poem about her was particularly appropriate for me to share.

"The Giveaway"
(from The Love Letters of Phyllis McGinley, New York, Viking Press, 1957)

Saint Bridget was
A problem child.
Although a lass
Demure and mild,
And one who strove
To please her dad,
Saint Bridget drove
The family mad.
For here's the fault in Bridget lay:
She would give everything away.

To any soul
Whose luck was out
She'd give her bowl
Of stirabout;
She'd give her shawl,
Divide her purse
With one or all.
And what was worse,
When she ran out
of things to give
She'd borrow from a relative.

Her father's gold,
Her grandsire's dinner,
She'd hand to cold and hungry sinner;
Give wine, give meat,
No matter whose;
Take from her feet
The very shoes,
And when her shoes
had gone to others,
Fetch forth her sister's and her mother's.

She could not quit.
She had to share;
Gave bit by bit
The silverware,
The barnyard geese,
The parlor rug,
Her little niece's
christening mug,
Even her bed
to those in want,
And then the mattress of her aunt.

An easy touch
For poor and lowly,
She gave so much
And grew so holy
That when she died
Of years and fame,
The countryside
Put on her name,
And still the Isles of Erin fidget
With generous girls named Bride or Bridget.

Well, one must love her.
In thinking of her
There's no denial
She must have been
A sort of trial
Unto her kin.
The moral, too,
seems rather quaint.
Who had the patience of a saint,
From evidence presented here?
Saint Bridget? Or her near and dear?