30 May 2011

Memorial Day 2011

Well, how do you do, Private William McBride,
Do you mind if I sit down here by your graveside?
And rest for awhile in the warm summer sun,
I've been walking all day, and I'm nearly done.

And I see by your gravestone you were only 19
When you joined the glorious fallen in 1916,
Well, I hope you died quick and I hope you died clean
Or, Willie McBride, was it slow and obscene?
Did they Beat the drum slowly, did the play the pipes lowly?
Did the rifles fire o'er you as they lowered you down?
Did the bugles sound The Last Post in chorus?
Did the pipes play the Flowers of the Forest?
And did you leave a wife or a sweetheart behind
In some loyal heart is your memory enshrined?
And, though you died back in 1916,
To that loyal heart are you forever 19?

Or are you a stranger without even a name,
Forever enshrined behind some glass pane,
In an old photograph, torn and tattered and stained,
And fading to yellow in a brown leather frame?

Did they Beat the drum slowly, did the play the pipes lowly?
Did the rifles fire o'er you as they lowered you down?
Did the bugles sound The Last Post in chorus?
Did the pipes play the Flowers of the Forest?

The sun's shining down on these green fields of France;
The warm wind blows gently, and the red poppies dance.
The trenches have vanished long under the plow;
No gas and no barbed wire, no guns firing now.

But here in this graveyard that's still No Man's Land
The countless white crosses in mute witness stand
To man's blind indifference to his fellow man.
And a whole generation who were butchered and damned.

And I can't help but wonder, now Willie McBride,
Do all those who lie here know why they died?
Did you really believe them when they told you "The Cause?"
Did you really believe that this war would end wars?

Well the suffering, the sorrow, the glory, the shame
The killing, the dying, it was all done in vain,
For Willie McBride, it all happened again,
And again, and again, and again, and again.
Did they Beat the drum slowly, did the play the pipes lowly?
Did the rifles fire o'er you as they lowered you down?
Did the bugles sound The Last Post in chorus?
Did the pipes play the Flowers of the Forest?

-- "The Green Fields of France"
Eric Bogle

22 May 2011

Everyone Else Just Carry On ...

I'll be MIA for a while.  Pneumonia.

18 May 2011

Well, I Have Actually Been Knitting ...

It's been a while since I've actually talked about anything that I've actually been doing, knitting-wise, hasn't it?  Well, it's been a weird few months for me, between being discouraged about work, having my osteoarthritis flare up (particularly the "new" one in my thumb joint), and then my latest bout of cold-into-bronchitis. 

And, though I've been hit-or-miss, I have been working on things, albeit slowly and sporadically.  As a matter of fact, I've even actually finished one thing.  (I should have warned those of you with delicate dispositions before just putting that out there.  Sorry!)

You may recall that one of my birthday gifts from The Tim was a Nook Color - the Barnes & Noble e-reader.  I decided that I really needed a nice knitted case for it, particularly since the cases you can purchase were $30.00 and up and even though The Tim would let me buy it with his discount, I am a cheapskate when it comes to some things.  (Other things ... well ...)  So off to Ravelry, to find a pattern, since I am not too keen on the design-your-own things, as they involve Math, which is one of my few true nemeses.  But I digress.

I found this pattern, which I really liked, as it involved a cable, one of my very favorite things in the universe.  So I poked around in my stash, and found some Wool-Ease, in an oatmeal shade, that I decided fit the bill just perfectly.  With spring and summer coming up, who wants a dark, wintry color for their Nook cover?  And being that I am not as, er, careful as I should/could be with things, it also had the bonus of being something that could go into the washer and dryer should it need such attention.

One Sunday afternoon shift at Rosie's and an evening later, voila!

View A:

(Crappy photo taken by me)

View B:

(Better photo, taken by Andrea)

I'm overall pleased with it, and ready to make another one for the Fall-Winter season.  I did decide that my next one will have a few changes, and I've outlined those on my Ravelry project page.

One of the best things about this knitting project?  It finally gave me a chance to buy a button that I have been wanting for over a year.  I didn't want to buy it until I had something in mind, because I figured it would get lost in the effluvia that is my life and possessions.  Fortunately, when I would proudly show it to friends and acquaintances, they were less than interested in buying it;  but every time a customer came into the shop looking for buttons, I would hold my breath, lest they decide they needed it.

Behold what is quite possibly the most awesomest button ever.  Ladies and gentlemen, I give you


(This picture also by Andrea, in case you hadn't already guessed ...)

I mean, really, can you believe how great this button is?  It's just perfect for my Nook Cozy, as far as I'm concerned, and it pleases and amuses me each time I see it.

Though a small project, this has already been valuable in protecting the item inside of it.  The Tim has even taken it to the bookstore to show people, in spite of the fact that it isn't my best knitting ever.  It's gonna be hard for the Fall-Winter Nook Cozy to top this, let me tell you ...

I've also been working on a pair of socks, and have gotten to the point where, after what seems eternal swatching, I'm ready to start knitting Narrangansett.  And of course, there are a couple of other things that I've been working on when the mood strikes, but are just making very.slow.progress.

I'll be sure to keep you posted on those.  That is, if you can stand it, after knowing that I scored The Button ...

13 May 2011

Last Night's Post This Evening

Well, I didn't mean to leave you all high and dry, wondering how MD Sheep and Wool was.  But this was a crappy week, and when I was finally ready to post last night, Blogger was down.  So here I am tonight to fill you in on all the details.

First of all, it was probably the only time I've gone (and granted this may have only been my 3rd or 4th time) and the weather was Absolutely.Perfect.  Sunny, but not hot.  Nice breezes, but  not making you feel chilled.  I think the weather also made everyone who attended feel in a better mood, 'cause I didn't run into any whiny people like I have at other times.

The bus ride from Philadelphia to the festival grounds was pleasant, and I even won one of the raffle prizes - a throw kit from Schaefer Yarns!  It was beautiful, but with my efforts to be more cognizant of what I will eventually/actually knit or not knit, I knew it would just linger in my stash.  But my friend Kate, who was attending her first MDSW, was thrilled to take it off my hands, and the colors included were ones that she is always using and wearing.  So it was a win-win after all!

Two buses from Rosie's made the trip, and unfortunately for the one that left ahead of us, upon arrival at the parking area, the bus got stuck in a ditch.  They finally let everyone off both buses, since it was clear that it was gonna take a while to resolve things.  So, after an oatmeal-chocolate chip cookie for sustenance and energy from Andrea, the three of us (me, Kate, Andrea) headed off for our adventure.

We headed to the Festival Store building first, 'cause we wanted to see if we, ahem, needed any festival gear.  Turns out that Andrea and I needed T-shirts, and Kate needed a backpack.  Then we got going in earnest, starting at one end of things and working our way through. 

Of course, we saw lots of wonderful animals.  But I realized towards the end of the day, that I'd only taken these pictures of any of them:

 Black sheep

I guess after being sheared, these two had no desire to
walk to the front of the enclosure to be petted!

I loved the fact that this sheep had these small white spots on her, that showed up so well on her black coat:

Black sheep white spot

And this guy - well, I HAD to take a picture of his curly horns - he was quite proud of them, with good reason:

Curly Ram

I guess the things about having horns, is that you never have a bad horn day ...

And what, you may wonder, did I buy?  Well, as I said beforehand, I wasn't really looking for anything in particular, so I didn't feel the NEED to buy something.  Other than my T-shirt, I did decide to get these two things for myself.

Though I am not usually a huge fan of orange, this skein of yarn at the Dancing Leaf Farm booth really appealed to me.  I thought it looked like a Creamsicle.

Sock  Hop

When I bought it, I was thinking that maybe the Citron pattern would work, but it's slightly less than is called for in that pattern.  So it may just become socks, I don't know at the moment.  But I think it's pretty, and I'm glad I have it now.

And, while perusing the Bartlettyarns booth, I saw these and bought them, for some future and yet-unnamed project:

Ram buttons

They are a nice size, and a decent weight without being heavy, so I know that someday they will be just right!

We walked around and saw just about everything, I think.  It was crowded enough, but didn't seem as packed as previous years, which kinda surprised me, given the weather.  The other thing that was even more in focus than last year was the emphasis on spinning.  There were a LOT more vendors with spinning supplies and rovings than I ever remember being there before.  I don't know how to spin, though I would like to learn how to spin with a drop spindle - just because I feel like it would be a good thing to understand.  But I still enjoy seeing the beautiful rovings, and feeling their softness. 

Our bus ride home was quick and uneventful, and as usual, much quieter than the ride down to Maryland, as by the end of the day, even the most intrepid among us were tired!  And about an hour after arriving home, it started to pour rain, so our timing was excellent as well.

All in all, a successful day, and a fun one.  I came home with most of my money, and a few special things I was happy to buy, as well as the contentment of being around, and being able to pet, a lot of excellent animals. 

Sometimes, I really don't ask for much in order to be happy!


I hope all of you are having a good Friday the 13th.  Alas, I especially miss the Garden Kitty today.  But as he is not sick anymore, it's OK after all.

Happy Weekend!

05 May 2011

April Book Report

Happy Cinco de Mayo everyone!  We celebrated with a Mexican-themed dinner, cooked by The Tim (El Tim?) and quite tasty. 

Last night we went to a Phillies game, and though it was cold, we enjoyed it a lot - especially since a) we were properly dressed, and b) they won!  Which is a significant event, as the other few times one or both of us attended a game in person, they've lost.  Regardless of how well they had been playing up to that time.  We were starting to get a complex.  So the curse seems to have lifted, good news for all of us.  (Well, not good news for the Nationals last night.)

Saturday I'm taking the Rosie's bus with Andrea, my friend Kate (who is also our cat sitter), and many others to Maryland Sheep and Wool.  I'm looking forward to it, and right now it sounds as if the weather will cooperate quite nicely.  I don't have anything specific that I want to get, but I don't care.  I just love seeing the animals (and petting any that I can!), looking at the yarns, etc., and people-watching. 

This will be the first year in a long time that I'm not walking in the Race for the Cure (this coming Sunday), and I feel bad about that.  I just completely didn't recognize it on the radar and didn't sign up in time.  (Yes, you can sign up that morning, but I absolutely hate that kind of thing.  And scoff at those who can't plan ahead.  Ahem.)  I'm not that crazy about the whole sisterhood aspect of it, but I know that I am a heck of a lot more lucky than others, who either are not able to walk, or not here to walk.  I'll just have to make more of an effort to do the American Cancer Society walk in the fall.

My, that was a lot of blathering, no?  Especially if you only wanted to know what I'd read last month.  Let's just decide that the subtitle of this post is "Tolerate the blathering; stay for the book report," and get moving.

The Map of True Places, by Brunonia Barry.  I really wasn't sure what to expect from this book, but once I started reading, I just had to keep going! It covers a year (well, intensely three months) in the life of Zee Finch, a therapist practicing in Boston who also engaged and living what appears to be a nice, comfortable life. That life is thrown for a loop when one of Zee's patients commits suicide.

What starts as Zee attending the patient's funeral, and then going to visit her aging father in Salem, turns into a story of a woman and her family. Zee's mother committed suicide when she was a young girl, and Zee starts to realize that she had started to confuse her mother with the patient who just committed suicide. Her father, who she hasn't seen for a while, has Parkinson's Disease, which she realizes is much worse than it was when she last saw him. He is getting to the point where the disease merges into Alzheimer's. Her father has thrown his partner of many years out of the house, after an incident that her father can't tell her about, and his partner doesn't want to talk about.

Zee decides that she needs to take a leave of absence to care for her father, being hesitant to place him in a nursing home. She also begins to think about where she is in her own life, and what she really wants or needs. As her father's condition quickly deteriorates, she begins to realize things about her mother that she never understood. Her feelings about a lot of things - including her fiance - change, and she tries to move forward and release herself from the guilt she has always felt because she couldn't save her mother, and because she didn't see any warning signs in her patient who committed suicide.

I don't want to go into a lot of detail, because if you are planning to read the book, I want you to be able to enjoy it without too many of my expectations laid over it. I will say that the book was interesting, and written in a way that made you want to keep reading to find out what would happen. The characters and their stories are multilayered, and there were two parts of the story where I was truly surprised by the turn of events.

Another thing I liked about it was the setting - Salem, Massachusetts, a place I've only visited once but loved, and would like to visit again sometime.

Though I think a lot of people would find this novel depressing, I did not. Sure, there are sad and depressing themes that make up the story, but upon finishing it, I felt fairly satisfied rather than sad. (Advance Reader copy up for grabs!)

Final Appeal, by Lisa Scottoline.  This is one of Lisa Scottoline's early books, but it was new to me.

Grace Rossi is a lawyer in Philadelphia who has started working part-time after a divorce. She gets a job with a federal appeals court, and is overall quite pleased with it - until she is assigned a high-profile death penalty appeal case. She also learns that her boss, who she has secretly always found attractive, finds her attractive as well. One night while working late, they admit to their feelings and make love. The next morning, her boss is found dead in his office - supposedly a suicide, but Grace is not convinced.

While Grace begins to investigate, she uncovers a lot of disturbing facts, not just about her boss, but about the other judges, some of her co-workers, and the appeals court in general. The story is very suspenseful, and I completely chose the wrong person as the murderer (as usual). I liked the unexpectedness in some of the characters, and the internal conversation that Grace carries on in her mind during some of the book.

This was an enjoyable book, and is an interesting look at part of the judicial system that was not at all familiar to me.

Bossypants, by Tina Fey.  I really like Tina Fey. And her alter-ego on "30 Rock," Liz Lemon, is one of my heroes. I wasn't sure that I wanted to read this, 'cause I didn't want it to turn out to be one of those celebrity-waste-of-time books. Fortunately for me, it was worth it.

This is not really an autobiography, or a how-I-made-it-big type of book, though it is about her life and her career. But it's more like a series of vignettes where she tells the reader about various details and experiences from her life so far. Of course, I expected the writing to be good - she is after all, first and foremost a writer - but the tone was very conversational, which meant that her humor and her slightly skewed way of looking at the world came through.

After reading this, I found Tina Fey to be a funny, strong woman, with the same kinds of worries, random thoughts, and funny stories that attract me to people. Not even trying to be "literature" it just gives you a chance to read something for the heck of it.

My only disappointment was finding out that she is not an animal person. As she states, not that she would ever hurt an animal, she just isn't interested in them. Plus, she is allergic, so that probably plays into it somewhat.

Oh well, nobody's perfect. :-)

In the Bleak Midwinter, by Julia Spencer-Fleming.  This is the first book I read on my Nook Color, and I really enjoyed it. I was not familiar with this series, but saw that the first installment was on sale for the Nook, so decided to try it.

Close to Christmas, Clare Fergusson - former Army helicopter pilot and now Episcopalian minister - finds a baby on the steps of her church, St. Albans, in upstate Miller's Kill, New York. There is a note on the blanket, saying tha the baby is named Cody, and should be given to a couple in the congregation hoping to adopt a baby. She alerts the local police chief, Russ Van Alstyne, also an Army veteran, and the two try to figure out who abandoned the baby and why.

Clare is a Southern girl transplanted to the snowy North, and not quite prepared for winter in Miller's Kill. She is also trying to do some different, more progressive things with the church, and the longtime congregation members are not 100% behind her.

This was an interesting book, and I think, a good beginning to a series. Clare is interesting, and "normal" as opposed to overly holy. She is not always perfect and has doubts about a lot of things. But she tries to do good and do the right thing, even if she doesn't always think before acting. Her relationship with Van Alstyne is just starting in this book, and they work together well, at least in this installment. Other characters are introduced, and even if not fleshed out, make an impression in the story.

As mysteries go, this one was well paced, and kept me going back and forth over who was responsible for the baby as well as for the other incidents in the book. I will definitely read other installments of this series.

Okay for Now, by Gary D. Schmidt.  This one was a surprise.  The Tim brought home a copy and said he had read it, and thought I should as well.  (We seldom read the same books, much less recommend one to each other.)  That alone intrigued me, but it was also a young adult novel - a genre he doesn't usually read, as far as I know.  Intriguing, no?

The story is narrated by Doug Swiecek, a 7th-grader whose father moves the family from New York City to "stupid Marysville" New York when he loses his job. Doug's family life is not that great - his father is a bully, and his older brother Christopher spends most of his time trying to find ways to make Doug's life miserable.

The early part of the book is mostly about Doug's home life, and his misery when the family relocates, moving into a house he refers to as The Dump. Doug thinks his mother is wonderful, and senses that his father bullies her as well as the children. One day Doug happens to walk into the public library, and comes upon a volume of John James Audubon's Birds of America elephant folio. The book has a profound effect on him, that even he doesn't understand. One of the librarians (a cataloger, YAY!) befriends him, and as he becomes more familiar with Audubon's masterpiece, makes a friend at school, and starts to settle in, his life changes, even if he doesn't realize it.

His older brother Lucas returns home from the Vietnam War severely injured, and the family has a hard time adjusting. One day, something Doug says and does, which kind of takes your breath away when you read it, changes the whole tenor of the story.

I really enjoyed the book, and found it to be one that resounds with adults, but would be good for kids to read. Doug is believable - he is not perfect, he messes up even when he tries, he loses his temper. But he keeps on the best that he can. His "relationship" with the Audubon work serves as a metaphor for his growth and development throughout the story.

For me, the Audubon has particular meaning, since I currently work in a library that has an original set of the plates and every Friday afternoon, we invite visitors to the museum to come while we turn the page. It's beautiful, and the story of it is interesting, and it's fun to see adults and children alike become engaged in our "big book."

That's all, folks.  Let me know if any of you are interested in The Map of True Places, and I'll pick a name on Monday, May 9.