30 July 2008

Technical Difficulties ...

Our home computer is currently being repaired, and we are not sure when we will get it back. (I'm writing this from work on my lunch hour.)

I'll be back as soon as it's possible.

Also, if you have sent me an e-mail and I don't respond, it's because I won't have much opportunity to check e-mail at all until our computer is back.

So carry on, and I hope your week is better than mine!

24 July 2008

Beginnings ...

Suggested by: Nithin

Here’s another idea about memorable first lines from books.

What are your favourite first sentences from books? Is there a book that you liked specially because of its first sentence? Or a book, perhaps that you didn’t like but still remember simply because of the first line?

I really like this question! Like most people, the lines I immediately thought about were "Call me Ishmael" (Moby Dick), or "Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again " (Rebecca), and some of the others that anyone who has ever taken a literature course - or watched an episode of Jeopardy! - can remember. But as I thought about it, I decided that beyond all of those, these two were my favorites:

"When he was nearly thirteen, my brother Jem got his arm badly broken at the elbow." (To Kill a Mockingbird)

"When I was young, I used to think of ways to kill my daddy." (Ellen Foster)

I think I chose these two because, whether reading them on a page, or hearing the line spoken, I am immediately transported to the time and place evoked by them. (It also helps that these are two of my favorite books ...) Which is not to say that any book without a first line that grabs you is not worth reading. I just think that anytime something can pull you right in from the very beginning, the adventure of reading is even more fun.

Besides those beginnings ...

I have finished the first of the Bon-bon Socklettes! I consider this to be quite an accomplishment, in that I seldom make so much progress so quickly, especially when I am not working on a single project. I am pleased with the results:

On to #2!!

21 July 2008

Good Things

I hope Martha Stewart won't mind if I borrow her phrase ...

Well, it's still "Too Darn Hot" - and Lorraine, you are so right, Ann Miller did sing that in "Kiss Me Kate!" Which of course, got me to thinking about Ann Miller. Now a lot of you youngsters probably don't even know who that is, but she was a singer and dancer, both on stage and in the movies. I was always fascinated by the big pincurls she often sported in front of each ear - they were perfectly formed curlicues and of course never moved even one millimeter! Especially as a kid, I thought it must be some kind of glue that held them in place. And of course, once I was old enough to understand how it all worked, realized that it actually was a glue of a sort ...

Sadly, I couldn't find a picture that showed her pincurls. But when I Googled her, I was led to this website. Who knew such a thing existed? And apparently Ann was quite a busy gal!

Anyway, it was enough to distract me for a little bit from the incredibly awful heat and humidity. I keep trying to think of blizzards, but even though I can imagine them in my head, my body remains unconvinced.

In other good news, I was lucky enough to find a copy of the book Christmas Stockings to buy for myself! I had been thinking about getting a copy, but of course didn't when it was newly in print. Last year, I had it in my cart at the Interweave Press Hurt Book Sale, but then cancelled it when the shipping was nearly as much as the book. Turns out that was pretty stupid, because it's out of print, and though copies are available, most of them were way out of my price range.

Enter Ravelry, and its endless possibilities for finding all kinds of things. With some poking around and inquiring on a couple of forums, I was led to Kathy (Ravelry link), who was selling a copy of the book for an incredibly reasonable price. This of course meant that I had to ask her, did she realize that she could get a lot more for it? (This is one of those times when my mother would have said, "Oh for God's sake, there's no reason to be so damn honest!") Long story short, she did raise the price, but still well within reason as far as I was concerned - she even thanked me for being so nice! So the payment was sent, and the book should be on its way to me. I am quite pleased with the whole experience. I hope she is as well.

In knee news, things are on the mend. I will not bore you with the detailed story of the bandage, the allergic reaction, and the call to the dr's office that was never returned. But things are improving, and I've been using tough love to treat it as much like a regular knee as possible. It doesn't look nearly as scary and disgusting as it did even just last week, and I can move it a lot more than I could before.

Knitting-wise, I'm still plugging away on my Bon-bon Socklettes, and Blueberry Waffle Socks. I didn't make as much progress as I'd hoped last week, so any pictures of the current state of things would look pretty much the same. Even though they are small items, when it is this hot and humid, it's hard for me to get motivated to knit much of anything!

OK, that's it for now. Hope it's more comfortable wherever you are!

20 July 2008

12 July 2008

Some Catching Up

Mon Dieu! I have been neglecting to show you pictures of my knitting projects lately, and I actually have ones I can show you!

To the right is the beginning of the first of the pair of Bon-bon Socklettes that I am knitting for my Tour de France KAL 2008 project. I chose them because I liked the look of the pattern, and because I wanted something with a French-sounding name for the KAL. This pattern took me way too long to get going correctly, as it is not that difficult. But I seem to have finally figured out how it works, and now it's going smoothly. I am hoping to give these to my niece Lauren for Christmas. I am not sure if she wears socks much, or would even really care if she received handknit socks, so I chose this pattern, so that I wouldn't have spent as much time on them if she doesn't like them ... I am using Regia yarn, rather than the heavier weight yarn suggested in the pattern. Since she lives in San Francisco, lighter weight socks made more sense to me.

Remember the Blueberry Waffle Socks? Well, I'm moving right along on those as well:

I'm really pleased with how well these are turning out, and will probably be able to finish them soon. They are my first project for the Summer of Socks 2008. I figure if I'm knitting socks anyway, I might as well sign up for that KAL as well!

Details for both of these are listed on Ravelry, here and here, if you are curious.

Questions and comments

Several of you asked in the comments a couple of weeks ago, what book I would buy/bought when I mentioned I was buying myself a book since it had been payday. I treated myself to Bend the Rules Sewing, by Amy Karol. I took a look at it a while back, when I got a new sewing machine for my birthday, and thought it was really a great source of ideas, so it's now part of my collection. Someday when I can figure out where to set up my sewing machine, I may actually make something from it ...

Kim's comment on my last post (she's listed there as KSD) absolutely cracked me up! And it's continued to crack me up every time I think about it. Thanks, Kim, I could use a good laugh like that about now.

I'm also glad that you enjoyed the story about me, the audiobook, and the Shuffle setting on my MP3! As embarrassing as it is, I'm also highly amused by it. Talk about a "duh" moment!

Knee-d an update?

Ah yes, my poor knee. Well, the swelling went down quite a bit (in keeping with the summer fruit size standard theme, it reached about peach size), but then the bruise started to spread. So last week at this time, it looked like this:

Kids - don't try this at home - I'm a trained professional!

Well, the bruise started to get lighter, becoming more of a pink than dark purple, but there was a little knob to the side of my kneecap that hurt even more than the rest of it, so my dr sent me to see an orthopedic dr.

That was yesterday. I spent practically the whole day at the place, while he checked the x-rays, sent me for an MRI, and then performed a "minor procedure," after which he put a compression bandage around my knee, and told me to return on Monday to see how it's all doing. As "procedures" go, it was minor, but it HURT like you wouldn't believe - I mean, imagine someone sticking a needle into your knee!

Then he sent me home with instructions to not take a shower or bath until he could check it on Monday, and gave me a knee brace, so I it would stay straight.

Now it looks like this:

Sigh. All dressed up and no place to go ...

So - how's your weekend been????

10 July 2008

June Book Report

June was a great month for reading! Three excellent books, all different and all interesting.

The first was Prophet Annie, by Ellen Recknor, winner of the 2000 Spur Award, and my final selection for the Book Awards Reading Challenge. The book begins with a letter dated 1943 from Annie herself to a publisher in New York, which accompanies the manuscript she has written about her life, hoping that it will be published "to set the record straight." She mentions various things that have been written about her that are not true, and sees her telling of the story as the definitive version.

The story begins around the time of the California Gold Rush. Through a series of involved events, Annie learns upon her mother's death that she has been promised in marriage to an old family friend. (Old in both the literal and figurative sense.) Despite her disappointment and misgivings, she leaves Iowa, where she grew up, and heads to The Arizona Territory, to marry a man who is much older. On their wedding night he collapses and dies, leaving Annie to care for the house he built for her, his business dealings, and two elderly sisters, who more or less think she killed him somehow on purpose.

Things seem to be headed downhill pretty quickly, except for one thing - Annie notices that her dead husband is talking through her! As you go on reading, you learn that he is in "the white room" (through a clerical error!), and is in more or less a holding pattern with the great minds of the past and the future! So not only does he speak through her, but he predicts the future. At first, she is really angry, and of course, people are suspicious. But she decides when the money is low that she will join a traveling circus, as "Prophet Annie," predictor of the future.

I had a hard time getting into this book, but at a certain point, it just clicked, and I really enjoyed reading it. Annie is an interesting character, and so are her compatriots, as well as the people she meets and befriends through her life. At one point, she leaves the circus she started out with, and starts to work for P.T. Barnum. The descriptions of the various characters she meets and the places she travels over time are well-written, and though the whole thing seems improbable, it also seems like she is telling the truth. As I read the last pages, I thought to myself how much I had enjoyed spending time in Annie's world.

This book was a good end to this challenge for me. I had purposely chosen books that I may have never heard of, or thought of reading, to broaden my reading experiences, and this one did just that. I would not have ever likely picked it up on my own, and prior to signing up for this challenge, had never even heard of the Spur Award.

Next, I read my first novella, for The Novella Challenge. The House on Mango Street, by Sandra Cisneros, is a series of vignettes, written as observations of a young Hispanic girl, Esperanza, who longs to live on a nicer street. Her descriptions of her family, the neighbors, and the life of her neighborhood in Chicago are at times funny or sad, but always interesting. They read like a conversation, as if Esperanza is sitting there with you, describing individuals and giving you their stories.

I had heard of this book when it was first published, and though I had not purposely avoided reading it, I had no real desire to read it either, so had never even given it much thought. But now I'm so glad that I had it on my list of choices. Cisneros manages to make Esperanza's voice true as that of a young girl, who is sometimes embarrassed by her family and where she lives, but also realizes the importance of those things to making her what she is. The book never seems forced, and there are no false notes. I think it was an excellent introduction to the genre of the novella.

The final book was actually an audiobook - Break No Bones, by Kathy Reichs, read by Barbara Rosenblat. I saw it at the library, and decided since I am enjoying my MP3 player, I'd see how I liked listening to a book. This is one of the Temperance Brennan stories, on which the TV series "Bones" is based. I enjoy that show, so I thought I would give it a try.

Two things struck me right away. First, the character of Temperance Brennan was quite different than the character on the TV show. Sure, the basics were the same, but she had quite a different type of personality, and a very different lifestyle. Since I haven't read any of the previous books, I don't know if this is something that has evolved, or if the TV series and the books are purposely different. In any event, neither was ruined for me.

Second, if you ever see a book you are interested in listening to, and it is read by Barbara Rosenblat - get it! She is incredible, and managed to make every single character a different, unique person.

Anyway, the story begins when Temperance is supervising some college students at an archaelogical dig near Charleston, South Carolina, on some land that is being developed for condominiums. On the second to last day of the dig, they find a shallow grave, indicating a recent burial. This mysterious death/murder begins a series of events and poses questions that become more and more puzzling as the story continues. Another aspect of the story is Tempe's soon-to-be-ex-husband's investigation of a local evangelical group with health clinics in the area.

The story is interesting, and there are enough twists and turns to keep you reading. At first it was hard for me to keep all of the characters straight, but like when I read a book, it soon became clear to me who I really needed to remember. The writing is particularly sardonic in places, and Rosenblat's delivery made it even better. It was an excellent choice for someone like me who was new to audiobooks. I thought it was fun, and a good summer reading choice.

And I must admit to something that will probably amuse you. As you may or may not remember, I received my MP3 player as a Christmas gift. Not being too much of a gadget person, some of the - shall we say - "nuances" of setting things up were not evident to me. When I first started listening to the book, I was really getting confused, as the story seemed terribly disjointed. Then The Tim asked me if I had checked to see if it was on the "Shuffle" setting ... funny how once I took it off that setting, it made much more sense!

05 July 2008

The Week That Was

I've spent all day today, thinking it was Sunday, and being really happy when I realize that it's only Saturday! Having yesterday as a holiday threw me off - however, I'm not complaining, trust me.

Gone to the Dogs

This week our house was Dog Central. The week started with us taking care of Fiona, who is my friend Lilli Ann's chihuahua. Fiona is a sweet little dog, but really high maintenance! I tried to get a couple of pictures of her, but they were either too blurry or too dark, so just imagine a chihuahua who is white with tan spots, and that's her! She left to go home this past Wednesday.

Then yesterday morning, my friend Amanda and her fiance Sean dropped off their pup for the weekend. They were headed to a family wedding in Vermont, and at the last minute the person who had originally said she would dog-sit backed out. So Cyrus has been staying with us.

Cyrus is 2 years old, and is not only
a sweetie, but extremely well-behaved. We've really enjoyed having him visit, and he seems to be pretty happy to be here (even when I am not giving him treats!).

He is somewhat wary of the cats, which suits them just fine ...

This afternoon, we thought that Cyrus might enjoy some pup company, so we invited Doughboy over for a visit. At first, Doughboy - who is usually overly-excited to see other dogs - was somewhat perplexed by Cyrus' intense enthusiasm! After a little while, though, they were enjoying each other's company. It was hard to get a picture of them both being still - these were the best results (waiting for treats, of course):

Sadly, Cyrus and his parents are moving to Atlanta at the end of the month, so we are not likely to have another visit from him. Doughboy is moving at the end of the month also, but fortunately, it's only about 10 minutes away, across the river in New Jersey. So we know we'll see him and his family pretty frequently.

(By the way, Ben and Halden say that Doughboy seems to be fine, having a baby in the house. They will all be here next weekend for an evening, so I'll see if I can get some pictures of sweet baby James then.)

Ain't Love Grand?

Did you see any of the news stories about Ben Franklin and Betsy Ross' wedding here on July 3? Yep, those two crazy kids tied the knot - you can read about it here. We didn't go, because The Tim had to work that evening, and I had already made plans to go to the mall, shoe-shopping with Dolly Madison. And she takes it very seriously, so I didn't want to risk cancelling on her!

I did hear that the bachelor party the night before at Alexander Hamilton's house was quite raucous. At least here in Philadelphia, we are so over Hamilton and Aaron Burr dueling it out every chance they get ...

Hooray for Pittsburgh!

OK, that's not something that anyone in Philadelphia is known to say very often if ever at all. But I grew up not far from Pittsburgh, and The Tim is from there, so we are both quite fond of the place, and have always known the good things about it. But the New York Times has a great article about it, and I can tell you that if nothing else, a ride on the Incline is worth the trip!

Speaking of travel ...

Sebastian and Karen left this past Tuesday for a month in Oaxaca, Mexico. Karen is working on a sabbatical project, and Seb will be visiting with his father, and will likely work on some art projects with him. We miss them so much already! But the good thing is, they have started a blog, so we can keep up with their news that way. If you want to see the pictures they have posted of the house where they are staying, take a look here. Pretty nice, no?

Finally -

Thanks to everyone who left a comment, or sent an e-mail, wishing me luck on my job interview this past Monday. I think it went really well, and except for the fact that my knee was killing me by the time I got home, I had a good feeling about it. I'll keep you posted on any future developments.

04 July 2008

Independence Day

Happy July 4th!

I prefer liberty with danger to peace with slavery.
~Author Unknown