29 June 2008

This, That, but Not the Other Thing

You know, I spent my entire childhood free of serious health issues - never broke a bone, never got the measles, you get the idea. But once I passed the age of 35, I've been nothing but a magnet for physical trauma!

For example, this past Thursday, I was walking to work, and I fell on one of the brick sidewalks that are so prevalent here in Philadelphia. No, it wasn't raining, but it was uneven, and I neglected for a second to look where I was walking. I ended up with my left knee mangled, scabby, bruised, and the size of a round watermelon.

Since then, I've been keeping it raised, with ice on it, and it went down to cantaloupe size, to today's peach size. So I'm making progress, using summer fruits as my standard of measurement.

But oh, it's ugly. The kind of ugly that could scare small children, and cause elderly people to expire on the spot. And guess what? I have a job interview tomorrow! So I hope it's OK to wear a nice slacks outfit to an interview, because a dress or a skirt just isn't happening - even if the people interviewing me didn't care, I would hate to see the carnage that resulted in my walk to and from the interview ... (I can just hear the "Breaking News" headlines: "Local woman's battered knee claims lives - film at 11")

As my mother used to say, it's either an ass or an elbow.

But I do have one FO (finished object) to report, even if belatedly. I finished the Hedgerow Socks I have been knitting. They turned out really well, and I was even sorely tempted to keep them for myself. But I'll make a pair for myself once all of the gift socks are knit. Details are here on Ravelry, and if you are not on Ravelry, but would like to take a sneak peek, you can see them here. Another Christmas gift taken care of, so I'm pretty darn pleased with myself, I must say!

And finally, I saw this One Word Meme from Literary Feline (Wendy R.), and thought it looked like fun:

Rules: You must answer the questions using only one word. Then tag four others.

1. Where is your cell phone? Non-existent.

2. Your significant other? Home.

3. Your hair? Short.

4. Your mother? Crazy.

5. Your father? Funny.

6. Your favorite thing? Books.

7. Your dream last night? None.

8 Your favorite drink? Tea.

9. Your dream/goal? Author.

10. The room you’re in? "Office"

11. Your hobby? Knitting.

12. Your fear? Drowning.

13. Where do you want to be in 6 years? Home.

14. What you’re not? Patient.

15. Muffins? Yes!

6. One of your wish list items? Book.

17. Where you grew up? USA

18. The last thing you did? Wine.

19. What are you wearing? Shorts.

20. Favorite gadget? MP3.

21. Your pets? Cats.

22. Your computer? Dell.

23. Your mood? Content.

24. Missing someone? Always.

25. Your car? Blue.

26. Something you’re not wearing? Fur.

27. Favorite store? Nordstrom.

28. Like someone? Unlikely.

29. Your favorite color? Green.

30. When is the last time you laughed? Today.

31. Last time you cried? Monday.

Now, let's see - I'm going to tag Melanie, Kim, Claudia, and Carrie - if they are so inclined!

27 June 2008

Two-fer Friday

What is the weather like today where you live? It's hot and humid, and we are under a severe thunderstorm watch. Summer.

On a scale of 1-10 with 10 being highest, how career-minded are you? I would put myself at about a 7 - I want to work at something I enjoy, at a place that values my work. But I cannot imagine ever letting my career run my life.

What type of window coverings do you have in your home? Blinds, curtains, shutters, etc.? For the most part, we have curtains. Occasionally a set of blinds has worked its way in ...

Main Course
Name something that instantly cheers you up. Animals.

How many times do you hit the snooze button on a typical morning? Once.

1. Birthdays are always fun to look forward to!

2. Fall is my favorite season because I enjoy watching the leaves turn, I like the holiday seasons, and it's the time of year when I got married.

3. I feel my best when I am left to my own devices.

4. Potatoes are my favorite food!

5. First impressions are usually quite telling for me.

6. The best piece of advice I ever received was to try and enjoy living in the present, instead of always waiting for something else to happen.

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I’m looking forward to some knitting and listening to the latest audiobook I downloaded onto my MP3, tomorrow my plans include going to the farmers' market, and Sunday, I want to buy a book, since I got paid today!

25 June 2008

Belated pictures

It just occurred to me over last weekend, that I had meant to share some pictures, and I'd forgotten altogether. So here they are, better late than never!

From World Wide Knit in Public Day:

I wish I could tell you in detail who all of the people are in the pictures, but I met most of them for the first time, and sadly their names are lost in the same recesses of my brain that stores the solution to Fermat's Theorem.

I can tell you that in the first picture, the woman in the green shirt in the front is my friend Amanda. We headed up to Rittenhouse Square together early in the day, having seen that the Third Street Ravelers were planning to meet there. I was surprised how many people there were, given that it was 11:00, which for a lot of people on a Saturday is equivalent to the middle of the night ... when we walked by later in the day, there was a larger group.

These knitters were all very friendly, cheerful, and fun, so even though I don't remember their names, I know it was a great time!

(BTW, my friend Amanda is moving to Atlanta later this summer. Which is sad for me, 'cause we have a good time together. So any of you who live in/near Atlanta, you'd better be nice to her if you meet her, or I will hunt you down like a wanted criminal. Just so you know.)

The next set of pictures are from our weekend in Baltimore, May 31/June 1. Of course, there were tons of pictures taken, but these of Zach were my favorites ...

Because my family is nothing if not inappropriate (but oh do we enjoy it!), my niece Amanda thought that Zach might like to have a drink with the rest of us when we arrived. So she poured him a "grown-up" glass of cider.

Now don't get your knickers in a twist, it really was just sparkling cider, and
he really enjoyed drinking with us. (Which is a good thing, 'cause otherwise it's going to be a long and lonely life ...)

I may be prejudiced, but Zach is such a cutie! He is also one of the most well-behaved kids I've been around - I didn't hear him whine or cry the whole weekend, and for a 3-year-old, that seems pretty amazing, at least in my opinion. He is pretty happy just to go with the flow, and enjoys hanging out with anyone who is around.

On Sunday, we all headed to the Inner Harbor and went on a tour of the tall ships. Zach was so happy to carry his ticket with him. It was marked "Stowaway" which cracked me up.

Here he is getting a real charge out of ringing one of the ships' bells:
That's his Aunt Amanda holding him (they are great buddies), his mom La Liz in the background, and me on the right. (I have no idea who the geezer in the far background is.)

After touring a ship and a submarine, it was time for some lemonade.
And it really is lemonade. 'Cause I know what you were thinking ...

21 June 2008

Happy News!

At 10:53 AM on June 20th, Doughboy officially became a big brother! Ben and Halden had their baby yesterday morning, and everyone is doing just fine. I'll post a picture or two (or eight ...) once we've had the chance to meet him.

19 June 2008

What the L??

Yes, I'm amusing myself again, with my very own rapier wit (well, that's what I call it anyway ...)

First a little background for you. Nearly every Easter, I either buy an Easter flower (hyacinth, lily, tulip, etc.) for our table, or someone gives us one. When it has lived it's life indoors as a potted plant, I take the bulb and plant it in our garden, always hopeful that the next year, it will come back and we can enjoy it again. At this point, we should have a pretty full patch o' spring flowers in the garden.

We don't.

True, one year, a hyacinth grew, and was really healthy while it lasted. Then nothing for years. So imagine my puzzlement a week or so ago, when I was outside, and noticed some really long, leafy plant, growing out of the ground cover! I then recalled that about three years ago, I planted a lily bulb. And lo and behold:

L is for Lilies!!

And not just one, but count 'em - three blooms! Hooray! And appropriately timed for the letter L in the ABC Along 2008, even better! They are really beautiful, if somewhat lonely-looking, all by themselves in the corner of the garden. But it's still very exciting for however long they last ...

Anything eLse?

(Once again, amusing myself, sorry about that.)

The other day I came home from work, and there was one of those little pink slips in the mailbox saying a package was waiting for me at the post office. If you know me at all, or have ever read more than one posting here, you know that I LOVE to get packages in the mail. The Tim was off the next day, so he was kind enough to pick it up for me. I got home the next day, and saw that the box was from my niece Amanda, who lives in Baltimore. I opened it up, and there were all kinds of fun things!

Such as:

(From left to right, a patriotic one, a party one, and a beach-loving one ...)

"Why are they not afraid of me, I wonder? "

Next up, Catholic School salt and pepper shakers. One is a nun, and the other is a scared-looking student.

The back of the package is hilarious - there is a student is writing all over the blackboard: "I am personally responsible for the sins of the world" - perfect!

But wait - that's not everything! Nope, here is the piece de resistance:

A copy of Warren Brown's book Cake Love, inscribed to us! Amanda had called to tell me when she and her husband Patrick went to the booksigning, that it was really fun, and they ended up talking to him for a really long time, and that he was so friendly, etc. So I knew she had gone to get one of the books, but really was not expecting her to get one to send to us as well, so it was a great surprise.

Plus, it's all about CAKE. Throw in something shiny I've reached nirvana. (Not to mention that Warren Brown is pretty cute. So even if you don't want to bake a cake, you can just enjoy the cover. Yep. Win-win ...)

Now I must go lie down - all the excitement, you know ... and tomorrow is Friday!

13 June 2008

Something new!

Do you consider yourself to be an optimist or a pessimist? Optimist. A cynical one, but an optimist nonetheless.

What is your favorite color of ink to write with? In elementary school, we used fountain pens, and I remember I had some ink that was peacock blue. I think it was really pretty, but realize now that it was wasted on schoolwork ...

How often do you get a manicure or pedicure? Do you do them yourself or go to a salon and pay for them? I give myself a manicure once a week, and a pedicure about once an month, sometimes more often in the summer. I go to a nail salon for a manicure every couple of months, and always get a salon pedicure at the beginning of the summer. I love them, but can't afford them on a more frequent basis. True divine decadence, as far as I'm concerned.

Main Course
Have you ever won anything online? If so, what was it? Yes, I have won yarn in a couple of blog contests. It is so exciting, since before I started knitting, I had never won anything.

In which room in your house do you keep your home computer? Our computer is on the third floor of our house, in what can be a guest bedroom, but is where we have the computer, all of my craft and sewing stuff, and where there is a desk and file cabinets.

And, before I sign off, the fierce, ferocious* Garden Kitty would just like to say:

Happy Friday the 13th!

*OK, so he was starting a yawn when I took this picture, but I'm sure he could be fierce and ferocious if he needed to be!

12 June 2008

Booking Through Thursday


A combo of two suggestions by: Heidi and by litlove
Have you ever been a member of a book club? How did your group choose (or, if you haven’t been, what do you think is the best way to choose) the next book and who would lead discussion?
Do you feel more or less likely to appreciate books if you are obliged to read them for book groups rather than choosing them of your own free will? Does knowing they are going to be read as part of a group affect the reading experience?

As soon as I read this question, I knew I wanted to write a post to answer it!

When I worked at the University of Pennsylvania, I found out that there was a Library Book Group that met once a month. I had never belonged to a book group before, and was hesitant to join this one. Mainly because I feared that the discussions would have a lot of terms like "deconstructionist" and "postmodern" and similar terms used by the literati. (We are talking Ivy League here, after all ...)

But in the end, my love of reading, and my desire to be around people who also liked to read made me give it a try. It was one of the best experiences of my life. The bulk of the members worked in the various campus libraries, but there were also members from other academic departments, both professional and support staff. The group had been started years before I had joined, so there was no squabbling about who did what, how things were decided, etc.

Were there "literati" there? Some, but most of the people just wanted to talk about books, and even said things like "I just thought the character of ____ was a jerk." True, there were some members that after a few meetings, I knew could be expected to insert comments to let us all know how smart they were - one woman always managed to start one of her comments with, "I remember when I was at Wellesley ...", and another person would always say things like, "I remember when I first read the original French version ..." And though I still think it is obnoxious to be like that, I got to the point where I would make little internal bets with myself to try and guess when/why/how they would work it in.

The rules were simple: The book had to be available in paperback. Each person had a chance to choose, and it was in alphabetical order by first name. Other than that, it could be fiction, poetry, biography, anything. We would meet once a month at lunch hour and discuss the book. It was a lot of fun, a great way to meet people, and a learning experience, since everyone brought a different background to their opinions and observations.

I have to say that one of the biggest benefits for me was reading things that I may not have ever even thought about choosing for myself. There were plenty that I didn't like, or didn't finish, or just didn't get, but there were some real gems too, and it broadened my reading considerably. And for me at least, knowing it would be discussed never made the reading experience any more or less enjoyable.

I miss that kind of thing, as there has never been such a group anyplace else I have worked since. A couple of times, I thought about getting a group together myself, but usually it would turn out that the interested people only wanted to read mysteries, or classics, or something else very specific. Which is fine, but part of the reason I enjoyed the Library Book Group is that we read a little bit of everything.

So now I just usually spend my time reading on my own, in the original language versions, just like when I was at Wellesley ...

Oh - except I never attended Wellesley, and have read very few entire works in a language other than English - but other than that ...

08 June 2008

Changing the subject ...

Yes, I'm changing the subject, because it's June 8 (only June 8), and it's way too hot and way too humid, and it's not even really summer yet, and it's one thing to have this weather at the end of July or during August, but having it now sucks, and it shouldn't be allowed.

That's why I'm not going to talk about it ...

Instead, how about a picture of a pair of socks underway?

Blueberry Waffle Socks

I started these last week, and actually the second sock is started as well, at least the cuff is finished. When I have two balls of yarn for a project, I try to knit them together, so that by the time I finish one, I only have the toe of the other to do. So I knit a cuff, and then knitted this cuff, and then started down the leg. When I get to the heel of this one, I'll knit the leg of the other one, and so on.* But I digress ...

These are a Christmas gift for my nephew Chad. I know I haven't shown you any of the other gifts I've knit so far, other than on Ravelry, but I figure it's safe to show you this one, since I know that neither Chad nor anyone in his family ever reads my blog (or even remembers that I have one), and none of his cousins will blab (right Amanda? La Liz?).

Anyway, they are a nice easy pattern, and they go along pretty quickly, which is a nice switch from the Hedgerow Socks that I am in the process of finishing, and that you can only see on Ravelry (sorry). They are turning out really great, but take a bit of concentration and attention.

Speaking of Ravelry, I put these two groups of yarn up for trade or sell there last night: Heirloom Breeze in lavender (7 balls), and Rowan Summer Tweed in medium purple (4 skeins total, 1 of the skeins wound into a ball). There's nothing wrong with either, but the Heirloom Breeze just didn't do it for me, and I tried using the Rowan Summer Tweed, and didn't enjoy knitting with it. If you are not on Ravelry, and think you are interested, let me know, I'll send you a picture so you can see if you like it. (I tried posting pictures here, but Blogger got weird, and I'm not in the mood to fight with it at the moment.) Edited June 9, 2008 to add - Summer Tweed has been sold.

In news that sucks, I saw Ben and Halden today, and as of yesterday, they have a contract on their house. The closing date is set for July 25. Which means that not only will they and their new baby (due at the end of the month) be moving, but also my true love, Doughboy. Le sigh. Ben told me the people who are buying their house have a cocker spaniel, which I was glad to hear, but let's face it, that dog won't be Doughboy. Hopefully the new neighbors will be people that we like, and will let me take care of their dog when they go away.

By the way, I know that news does not suck for Ben and Halden (though I know they wished they could stay in the neighborhood), it's great news for them, and for that I'm happy.

That's about it for this installment. Time to go and drink another 5,426 gallons of water, and slosh my way through the evening ...

*Yes, I could do the same with one ball of yarn. But I am too lazy to divide it into halves and wind them both. I can live with it.

05 June 2008

May Book Report

May was not a great month for knitting, but it was a pretty good month for reading. I finished three books, each one *very* different from the other. If you don't feel like reading my blatherings about each one, just check the titles, and know that I liked them all!

Soldier's Heart : Reading Literature Through War and Peace at West Point, by Elizabeth D. Samet. This is one I learned about through a review on one of the book blogs I read (sadly, I can't remember which one right now), and it intrigued me. The author is a woman who has no military connections or background but accepts a job teaching literature courses at the United States Military Academy at West Point. She discusses the culture shock involved in being someplace where everyone has a formal rank, where even the difference between the classes of students (meaning what year they are academically), can make a vast difference in how they are treated.

Samet began her tenure prior to September 11, 2001. She discusses how different students were then, compared to the students that came after that day. The pre-9/11 students were a generally optimistic bunch, happy to be learning and ready to take on the world in whatever way they could be of help. After 9/11, she notices students who are overall more somber, anxious to confront an enemy, and make the world understand what America has to offer them. After the stories about Abu Ghraib prison hit the news, her students become somewhat demoralized, as that is not an example of the Army they wanted to be part of - and the continuing loss of life in Afghanistan and Iraq gives some of them a pretty fatalistic outlook.

This book was really interesting to me. I will admit that I have seldom considered - as Samet points out - that even though West Point is a military college, it's still a college. The students still are usually between the ages of 17 and 19 years old when they start, and are like teenage freshman students at most other colleges. They have different interests, and - just like other students - question the need for literature classes, seeing them as something completely impractical and non-relevant to their lives. Samet talks about various students that left a particular impression on her, not all of whom turned out to be literature majors. Reading the book, I was reminded that soldiers are individuals, even though I tend to think of them as a single unit (much like the military does). This was a book that gave me a lot to think about, while also opening up an alien world in a manner that I could understand.

Lady Killer, by Lisa Scottoline. OK, you already know that I love Lisa and her books, so yes, I was somewhat predisposed to like this one. But for the first time in several years, Scottoline returns to one of my favorite heroines, Mary DiNunzio, a nice Italian girl from South Philadelphia, who is an attorney in an all-woman firm in the city. I am neither Italian, from South Philly, or an attorney (and not even all that nice, to be honest!), but Mary is a character that I completely appreciate and understand. I went to a talk/booksigning at Barnes & Noble, and Lisa Scottoline said that she loved Mary, because Mary is a kind of alter ego. She had not been able to write books for a few years where Mary was involved, because of her (Scottoline's) father's death. She said when she would sit down and try to write something about Mary, it would all just be too emotional, so she had to wait until she was really ready.

In this installment, Mary is visited by a former high school classmate, Trish Gambone, one of the most popular girls (Mary has always called her "Trash Gambone"). Trish's boyfriend has started to get involved in some business deals that make her uncomfortable, because she knows he is involved with the mob. She thinks he is getting ready to propose marriage, and fears that if she refuses to marry him, he'll kill her. She comes to Mary for help, even though she did nothing but make fun of her all the years they were in high school together.

This was an enjoyable read. The characters are both interesting, and true-to-life (well, at least I could name several of my own acquaintances they resembled), and the dialogue is fast-paced but also really funny. Mary is a sort of Everywoman, and you really want her to succeed, even while you know she doesn't seem to do anything the easy way. Most of the rest of the book details Mary's involvement in the case, particularly once Trish goes missing. I would recommend this book, as it has just enough twists to keep it interesting without getting too confusing, with some great characters thrown in for good measure.

The Undertaker's Wife, by Loren D. Estleman. I read this as one of my books for the Book Awards Reading Challenge. It was the winner of the 2006 Spur Award, an award given annually to celebrate and honor the best writing about the American West. This book fascinated me. It starts out in 1900, when Richard Connable, a retired undertaker, is called upon by several powerful men to prepare the body of a business tycoon for burial, after he dies unexpectedly on a train trip. When Richard leaves, his wife, Lucy, begins to reminisce about their lives together. She starts with their first meeting, when Lucy's brother dies, and she goes to the Richard's father's funeral parlor to make arrangements for his burial. She meets Richard at that point, and after they marry, he decides to strike out on his own, and become independent of his father.

The author manages to make you not only care about the characters, but gives you an insight and an understanding of the work of an undertaker, especially in the mid-1800s to the early part of the 20th century. From their lives in San Francisco, right around the time of the Gold Rush, to their moves to Montana, Kansas, and various other places, Estleman writes in such vivid detail that you can picture all of it in your mind. Richard and Lucy are somewhat unusual, but sympathetic characters who develop into different people than they were at the beginning of the book.

Prior to reading this, I did not really know any particulars about the work of undertakers. The book takes place at a time when the profession was beginning to gain respectability, and new methods were being tried. The character of Richard is particularly interesting in this aspect, as he is continually trying new methods, which advance both the profession as a whole, and his reputation in particular. I will admit that occasionally I was a little bit creeped out, but for the most part, it was fascinating to me.

I enjoyed this book a lot more than I expected that I would. It had, at least as far as I'm concerned, the perfect blend of story, good character development, historical context, and new information, all in one place.

See? Three really different titles, but all of them well worth the time!

02 June 2008

A, B, C ... K; Two New Challenges; The Weekend

K is for ...

My original thought for the letter K in the ABC-Along 2008 was, of course, knitting. But then I decided that was just too predictable, and wanted to find something else. And so, ladies and gentlemen, and children of all ages, I am declaring that that K is for:


A couple of weekends ago (May 18, to be exact), we walked over to the University of Pennsylvania to attend Karen's graduation. Sebastian was there (of course), along with Karen's sister, and some of her other close friends. She was receiving her Master of Liberal Arts degree, and we were all thrilled for her. It's been a long and sometimes frustrating road for her, and all of us were excited to see her officially receive her degree.

Left: Karen and her sister, Joyce.

Right: Sebastian and Karen

The day was cloudy, and there had been a couple of heavy downpours throughout most of the afternoon. But the weather held out until about an hour after the graduation, so the most anyone had to deal with was soggy ground in the tent where the ceremony was held.

This is by far my favorite picture of the day:

Congratulations, Karen!

Count 'em - two new challenges!

You may have noticed some new things listed in the sidebar. I have gone and signed myself up for two more reading challenges. Not because I wouldn't read otherwise, but because they each provided an opportunity to read things that I might otherwise not make a conscious effort to read. I like to think that I'm open to different genres, authors, and styles that I haven't dealt with before, and these two challenges were a) doable, and b) nice introductions for me.

First up is The Novella Challenge, where the participants are to read six novellas between April 2008 and September 2008. There is a list of novellas on the challenge site, to give you something to work with, but each person can decide what they would like to read. Here's my list:

Mrs. Dalloway – Virginia Woolf

The House on Mango Street – Sandra Cisneros

No One Writes to the Colonel – Gabriel Garcia Marquez

The Uncommon Reader – Alan Bennett

Shopgirl – Steve Martin

Daisy Miller – Henry James

As you can see, I'm hoping to continue my love affair with Gabriel Garcia Marquez (it's safe though, 'cause neither The Tim nor Senor Garcia Marquez are worried about it), and I am embarrassed to say it, but this will be the first time I have read anything by Virginia Woolf. (Though I don't know why I feel so awkward admitting that, since I'm pretty sure that she hasn't read anything I've written either. And being dead is no good excuse on her part.) The others are either things I've read reviews about and thought sounded interesting, or just things I decided I might enjoy.

The second one is the Southern Reading Challenge. The rules are pretty straightforward:

"The rules are easy: 3 Southern Setting Books by Southern Authors in 3 Months beginning May 15 through August 15! "

I am not all that familiar with a lot of Southern literature, famous or otherwise, so I thought I would give this one a go. Here's my list for my Southern summer reading:

The Optimist’s Daughter – Eudora Welty

Selected Short Stories – William Faulkner

The Keepers of the House – Shirley Ann Grau

Now is the time to come clean for this one, and say I've only ever read one thing by William Faulkner, A Rose for Emily, though I have seen movies that were adaptations of his work. Since I've never consciously decided to read Southern literature, and know that he is supposed to be hard to "get," I guess I figured there was no reason to agonize over reading something when it wasn't like there would be a test at the end ...

I'm looking forward to these challenges, and hope that I'll find some new "friends."

The Weekend

This past weekend, The Tim, Sebastian, and I headed down to Baltimore for an overnight visit. We stayed at my niece Amanda and her husband Patrick's house, and luckily got to see my other niece Liz, her husband, Greg, and their little boy Zachary. We had a blast, and it really felt like we had a nice long visit with everyone. Many photos were taken, so I may have some to share later in the week.

I can tell you, though, that Zach is really cute, and very smart. And I'm not just saying that because he is my great-nephew. I'm saying it 'cause it's true!