28 May 2013

The Extra-Long Weekend

Today's topic for Ten on Tuesday is:  10 Things I Did Over the Weekend.

Well, in a way, I'll be cheating, because today is the last day of my long weekend.  We had originally planned to go to West Virginia to see most of the family and have a Memorial Day barbecue.  Then it turned out that our usual cat-sitter was going to be out of town, and I couldn't find anyone else who was available, and we couldn't afford to board the cats while we were gone (Dug was going to go with us).  So, we ended up just staying put.  I decided that I was just going to go ahead with my plans to take Friday and Tuesday off from work as well.

It was a wonderful weekend, and I'm so glad it turned out that way!  So here are some things that I did, in no particular order.

1.  Did some shopping.  The Tim wanted to drive out to a mall that had a New Balance store, so he could try on some new walking shoes.  I went along, since he offered to take me out to breakfast as part of it, and was actually successful in finding a nice summer dress on sale.

2.  Watched way too much TV and movies we recorded.  And of course, we had snacks and drinks and stayed up later than usual.

3.  Finished the Big Garden Cleanup and planted a few more flowers in the garden. It's now to the point that we can actually sit out there and enjoy it - yay!

4.  Did some reading and some knitting.  No surprise, but I didn't have to "fit" either one into my schedule, which is just such a luxury.

5.  Got a pedicure.  Now my toes look glamorous, even if the rest of me doesn't ...

6.  Made potato salad and brownies for our little picnic yesterday.  And there are leftovers, which makes me crazy happy because they were both so good!

7.  Got some cleaning, shredding, and organizing done.  When I can do it without giving up a whole day of a weekend, it makes me happy.  But I'm usually too tired when I get home from work to do it on weekday evenings, unless we are having company or something.

8.  Went on some long walks with Dug.  Friday was rainy, but the rest of the weekend was so nice, you just really wanted to get outside when you could.

9.  Had a migraine.  Not fun, but at least it wasn't as bad as some, and I got it over with on Saturday.

10.  Treated myself to a yarn purchase.  I have been very good about keeping to my no-yarn-buying rule since January.  But today The Plucky Knitter had an update, and one of the yarn colorways was Good Ole Pip. PIP!  How could I not buy it?

And I still have the rest of today.  It's rainy again, so I guess I'll just have to do more knitting and reading.  But I'm pretty sure that I feel up to the sacrifice ... :-)

27 May 2013

Memorial Day

Your silent tents of green
We deck with fragrant flowers;
Yours has the suffering been,
The memory shall be ours.
  - Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

20 May 2013

There Has Been Knitting ...

Yes, there actually has been knitting, but after my flurry of FOs, I'm back in WIP-land.  None of the things I'm working on now are for anyone but me, so I feel no pressure to hurry up and finish - except that I've told myself I can't start anything new until something else is finished.  *That* is my motivation!

I'm currently almost [finally!] to the end of the raglan sleeve increases of my Breezy Turquoise, which I want to finish NOW even if it gets too warm to wear it until next spring again.  I do love this sweater, and can't wait to finish it, but it has been the unfortunate victim of other projects taking precedence, and then lack of knitting activity altogether.

And the two new things I've started are a pair of socks:

Apple  Pie Circus wip

This is the beginning of my Apple Pie Circus socks, using Apple Laine Apple Pie yarn that I received a few years ago in a swap.  It's so soft and yummy, and the color is more green than in this photo.  I'm knitting these for The Sexy Knitter Second Quarter KAL on Ravelry.  The pattern is Cirque Socks, and this is actually the second cuff.  Since I have two skeins of the yarn, I knit one cuff, then the other, one leg and then the other, etc.  That way, when I finish sock #1, all that is left on sock #2 is the toe, which means no dreaded Second Sock Syndrome.

Delaware River Waves wip

This is  a pattern called Ocean Waves Scarf, which is an old house pattern at Rosie's. I'm calling this my Delaware River Waves Scarf, because the yarn is some Black Bunny Fibers Merino Laceweight, in the colorway Ben Franklin Bridge.  Since the Ben Franklin Bridge crosses from Philadelphia to New Jersey, I have christened mine as such.  This took me a while to "get" but now I have the pattern seared into my brain, and am enjoying it so much.  This will probably be my at-home project, to work on when I'm not in the mood for anything else, and don't want to have to concentrate on my knitting pattern and nothing else.  I think it's turning out to look so pretty, I can't wait to wear it ... NEXT Spring!  :-)

Another thing that is making me happy is that the yarn for the socks and the scarf is from my stash, so even though the dent is really not noticeable, it's still a dent!

So, I'm knitting away, and enjoying it, but it might be a while until any of these are FOs ...

14 May 2013

Ten TV Mothers

Today's Ten on Tuesday topic is:  Your Favorite TV Moms. I think this is a fun one, so here is my list, in absolutely no order.

1.  Peg Bundy - on "Married with Children."  In a lot of ways, she reminded me of my own mother - particularly the smoking-while-cooking shots.  She was realistic about her family and still had a pretty good time.

2.  Lily Munster - on "The Munsters."  She thought her family was just so amazing, and that her husband was so incredibly handsome - I used to love it when she was worried that other women would try to steal Herman Munster away from her!

3.  Lorelai Gilmore - on "The Gilmore Girls."  She was far from perfect, but lots of fun.

4.  Lois - from "Malcolm in the Middle."  She had a crappy job, and annoying kids, but was still so great.  I always loved how the boys would warn each other "Don't look into her eyes, don't look into her eyes!"

5.  Evelyn - on "Two and a Half Men."  I haven't seen this show in years, but I always liked the episodes where she had a major part of the story.

6.  Laura Petrie - on "The Dick Van Dyke Show."  She was so glamorous, and they always managed to have a party that would allow her to dance on the coffee table.  I never knew anyone's mother who did that!

7.  Lucy Ricardo - on "I Love Lucy."  She was always so determined to do things her way!

8 and 9 - Abigail on "The West Wing" and Veronica on "The Good Wife."  Both played by Stockard Channing.  Different types, but both forces to be reckoned with.

10.  Hyacinth Bucket - on "Keeping Up Appearances" on PBS.  Hyacinth is so devoted to her son, Sheridan, who never actually shows up but is constantly calling for money from his parents for himself and/or his "friend" Tarquin.

I'm sure there are others, but this group came to mind first.  Clearly, I'm not someone who finds "perfect" mothers appealing.  The others are just so much more interesting!

12 May 2013

You Don't Need to Be a Mother to Love Yours

Happy Mother's Day, Mom.  I love you and miss you.

All women become like their mothers.  That is their tragedy.
No man does.  That's his.
~ Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest, 1895

08 May 2013

April Book Report

Well I appear to be on a four-books-a-month kick.  That's OK, since especially the last few weeks, the fact that I've been able concentrate well enough to read anything is amazing.  My boss at work, who I and the others in our department like both professionally and personally, gave two weeks' notice that she was leaving.  We all knew for a while that she was feeling frustrated with how she was being treated by the administration, but until she told us she had resigned, she gave no indication that she was thinking of leaving so quickly.  And since she had been serving as Interim Director and her original job, we now have lost two positions instead of only one.  Needless to say, we were all upset and worried, since she was the person who was more or less guarding our jobs as well.  So - the fact that I read anything and comprehended it is a relief and somewhat of a surprise.

But life goes on, and you need to keep moving forward.  And I read some interesting things last month, so here they are, along with my thoughts about them.

Truth and Beauty, by  Ann Patchett.  I read Lucy Grealy's autobiography last fall, and wanted to read this because it was the story of Lucy Grealy and Ann Patchett's friendship.  I wondered how Lucy was seen by those outside of her family.

Lucy and Ann both attended Sarah Lawrence College, where Ann knew who Lucy was, but was never sure that Lucy knew who she was.  Then, when they are both admitted to the Iowa Writers Workshop, Lucy asks her to find an apartment when she goes out to find her own place to live.  Ann is only able to find an apartment in a house, not a magnificent place, but a place they can afford if they become roommates.  On their first meeting there, Lucy reacts as if Ann is her best friend in the universe, and for the rest of Lucy's life, they are the closest of friends.  

I didn't like this book as much as I expected to, mostly because I didn't really end up liking Lucy that much.  Which is not to deny her situation, and her grit in pushing through and trying to do what she wanted to do in her life.  But rather than come across to me as a likable person, she seemed extremely manipulative.  Having said that, a person can only succeed at being manipulative if those being manipulative let it happen, and Ann definitely did.  Ann admits that Lucy was difficult, self-centered, and as frustrating as she was all the things that made Ann love her, but I kept wishing that it was not such a one-sided relationship.  Ann seemed to love Lucy as a friend, but also kind of worship her.  I realize that saying this about a person like Lucy Grealy is like saying that Jesus was probably an ugly baby, but I don't think I would have been able to be friends with her.

I think Lucy and Ann were lucky to have each other, but I also think they were in a lot of ways each other's worse enemy.  I have read some articles saying that Lucy's surviving family members were upset with this book, and I can understand that, as Lucy comes across as a needy, often whiny, even pushy person who is not happy unless the world is paying attention to her.  And in her autobiography, she makes it clear that by being the most special case, that's when she is happiest.  But of course each party is viewing Lucy from their own standpoint.  It is odd that in this book, there is never mention of Lucy's siblings having any contact with her, or she with them.  Ann's family more or less becomes her family.  Which makes a certain sense, since it's Ann's version of things.

Like everything in the world, there are probably 20 versions of Lucy's story, depending who is telling it.  It is clear that she was a very smart, constantly inquisitive person, with a lot of talent in her writing.  And it is clear that Ann Patchett's life as an adult was framed by her friendship with Lucy Grealy.  

I liked this book well enough to want to read the whole thing, but I don't think it's anything I'll ever consider reading again.

Room, by Emma Donoghue.  I finished this book a few weeks ago, but needed time to think about it before writing anything.  During a week when the Senate voted down any type of gun control, bombs went off at the Boston Marathon, and a fertilizer plant blew up in Texas, reading this book showed that horrific stories are, in the end, very personal.  And how someone deals with such events is personal as well.

When the book opens, Jack and his Ma are celebrating his fifth birthday.  It appears that they live a very simple life, and you briefly assume it's because they are impoverished.  But as you keep reading, you realize that they are living in an 11-foot square room with soundproof walls, a door that opens only from the outside, and only a skylight -  the "Room" of the title.  Jack is the narrator of the story, and he appears to be a very happy little boy.  His mother, though, has been living in Room for seven year, having been kidnapped at the age of nineteen.  Jack is of course, a child of rape, but he only knows that his Ma and Room are his world.  They subsist on the barest of essentials, provided by a man that Jack calls "Old Nick," who is his mother's kidnapper.  Jack knows that they depend on him for their food, heat, etc., but he has no idea why.  

At one point, Ma devises a plan that might help them to escape, but it fails, and because Old Nick is angry, he turns off all of their power for two days.  Then Ma comes up with another plan that is extremely risky, and relies on Jack.  He is hesitant, because he is frightened, he doesn't want to be away from Ma (they've never been apart in his life), and he doesn't understand why she wants to leave Room.

I really don't want to say much more, because I think this book is well worth reading.  The way that Ma has been able to carve a "normal" life for Jack is a testament to how much she loves him, because he has no idea that they are prisoners.  She has spent the last seven years of her life away from the rest of the world, continually being molested by Old Nick, and yet Jack feels safe, happy, secure, and loved.  He has no idea that the world outside exists, or that it is so incredibly vast, with people, places, and things to see and experience - he doesn't even realize that he has an extended family.  

I liked this book, even if it felt claustrophobic a lot of the time.  But if Ma and Jack could live in Room for all of those years, we can certainly read about it for a week.

Too Big to Miss, by Sue Ann  Jaffarian.  This series is new to me, but after reading two pretty intense books, I was ready for something else!  Odelia Gray is a paralegal in southern California, who is also a member of a local group that works to end discrimination against heavy/overweight people.  She has a life she enjoys, friends, and a job that she likes, in spite of the fact that it turns out that her boss is retiring, and one of the attorneys she doesn't like is going to be her new boss.

Odelia's world is rocked when her friend Sophie London is found dead from a gunshot wound, in what appears to be a suicide.  Odelia cannot fathom Sophie killing herself, as she was the driving force in the support group, Reality Check, and was instrumental in helping women of all ages deal with their size and the issues around it.  But as it turns out, Odelia learns that Sophie shot herself on camera, on the her own porn website!  Odelia cannot believe that Sophie had a porn website, any more than she can believe that she shot herself because she was depressed or unhappy.  Named the executor of Sophie's estate, she learns more and more of her late friend's secrets, and also becomes more and more convinced that Sophie was murdered.  

This was an enjoyable read, with a set of characters that dealt with issues not usually part of the main storylines in books, particularly mysteries.  I enjoyed learning about Odelia, and though it became a little bit confusing to keep track of everyone once she started investigating her friend's death, there were some interesting twists and turns on the way to the end of the story.

The Cruelest Month, by Louise Penny.  Oh how I wish I lived in Three Pines!  Though people are always being murdered there ...

This is another story of the small Quebec community of Three Pines, nestled in its own lovely spot, a couple of hours away from Montreal.  The townspeople are familiar, and you can picture them and the village in your mind.  This book begins on Good Friday, when - as a lark - a group of people gather for a seance, which is not successful at all.  Someone suggests that they try again, but in another location - the Hadley House, which is currently empty but has a notorious reputation as a place where others have died, and terrible things have happened.  A person visiting the town for relaxation, who is also a practicing Wiccan, is talked into conducting both seances.  

During the second attempt, the participants are nervous and scared to begin with, and then it turns out that someone at the table drops dead!

Enter Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, of the quiet and approachable disposition and sharp mind, who is sent to investigate once it's determined that the cause of death was poisoning.  Gamache knows these people, knows the Hadley House, and he and his team dig in to the case.

At the same time, a Montreal tabloid newspaper is publishing derogatory stories about Gamache and his family.  The attacks escalate, and Gamache finds himself trying to solve and murder, and find out who is giving information to the paper and why.  It's clear that it stems from the "Arnot case" which involved another office in the Surete (police force).  The reader learns that members of Gamace's team may be directly involved ... or are they?

I enjoyed this book as much as I have enjoyed all the others in the Armand Gamache series.  Louise Penny has created a fascinating detective and a bucolic location for him to carry out his investigations.  The mysteries are as cerebral as they are mysterious, and Gamache is such a great character.  

I can't wait to read the next one!


I'm afraid that I gave away the only hard copy of these books that I had, to a co-worker who asked if she could read it when I was finished.  The other three were books I read on my Nook, so unless I give you that, I can't share them, and I really enjoy my Nook, so you are out of luck!

I do have to say that I am feeling somewhat more haunted by Room, since the news story this week about the three young women held captive for 10 years, one giving birth, by the lowlife in Cleveland.  I can only hope they recover as well as the characters in the book seemed to be on their way to doing.

05 May 2013

After the Fact Baby Sweater

Back towards the end of February, The Tim forwarded me an e-mail from one of his brothers, announcing that there was a new family member.  The Tim's oldest niece Laura, and her husband Lee, had a baby girl on February 8, and named her Fiona.  There were a couple of pictures from the hospital, and of course she looked red and scrunchy, with dark hair.

This was a complete surprise to us.  The Tim's family is not known for being particularly close, even though some of them don't live that far from us, and thinking of it, I guess we should be glad we found out as soon as we did - by comparison, his brother-in-law who was the best man in our wedding, died in January, and no one bothered to tell us until March ...

But I digress.  We had a new great-niece, and I wanted to knit something for her.  Since I had had so much luck with my great-nephew Parker's Owls Vest (Ravelry link), I wanted to try another project other than a hat.  A few of my friends had knit the Garter Yoke Baby Cardi, by Jennifer Hoel, with varying types of yarns and modifications, so I thought I'd give that a try.

I poked around the stash, since I'm trying not to buy yarn until I've used some that I already have, and found a skein that I thought would do the trick.  So I sat down to get started, and once I could finally actually start casting on the correct number of stitches and getting started without messing up, I was on my way.  And I was very pleased with the result:

Fiona's Sweater 2

Then I was able to find some really adorable wooden buttons, with  a teddy bear carved into them.  (There are no pictures, since I couldn't get any that showed the detail, you'll just have to take my word for it.)

I think it's so cute!  I sent it in the mail, and about two weeks later got a lovely note from our niece thanking us.  She said she thought it was beautiful and admired my handiwork, but never mentioned trying it on the baby - which makes me think it was too small.  But, them's the breaks when people find out after the fact that a baby is on the way, right???

The color was hard to really capture with my limited photography skills, but it is really more of a pinky-lavender, with the occasional dot of blue, which I thought was nice for a baby without being a) too babyish, and b) too girly.  Though I'd originally bought the yarn for socks, I thought it made a lovely little sweater.

The details:

Project:  Fiona's Sweater
Pattern:  Garter Yoke Baby Cardi, by Jennifer Hoel
Size:  newborn - 3 months
Yarn:  Dream in Color Smooshy, colorway Wisterious
Needles:  size 4US
Modifications:  none
Comments:  This was a very straightforward pattern, and fairly easy to knit.  The resulting sweater is really cute, and I think it's one of those that could be made to be adaptable to any yarn, or design (one friend I know made the yoke stripes, which looked fantastic), or personalized for just about any baby.  The Smooshy yarn is superwash, so it is also nice when you don't know how likely the person is to handwash anything - and I'm doubting that many new parents want to spend time handwashing baby clothes.

I would recommend this pattern to any more-than-beginning knitter, since it is easily completed, and can be made in nearly any weight of yarn.

Most amazingly for me, this is the third FO I have for 2013 - which, considering that in 2012 I knitted 6 things and made a quilt, is already putting me on track to do better than that!  

01 May 2013

I Haven't Forgotten, But ...

I did forget to show you these pictures from our trip to Ireland before I showed you the pictures from Limerick.  But I know you'll do your best to overlook that and just enjoy them.  If not, your problems are clearly not solvable by anything I can do ...

When we last visited the photos from our trip, you saw some of the highlights from our visit to Limerick, but I forgot to show you the pictures we took during a stop on the way there.

The last time we were in Ireland, we quickly drove through the little town of Adare, County Limerick, on the way to our airport hotel, and it looked very pretty.  So this time, since it was fairly early in the day, we decided to stop and look around.  What a good idea this was!  It was what you envision a small Irish town to look like in your head (well, at least in my head), and there is even a castle that is turned into a luxury hotel with what sounds to be a pretty amazing golf course.  (Not that I play golf, but this is info I gleaned from one of the locals.  So there.)


As you can see, Adare has a lot of thatched-roof cottages, some still residential, but those along the main street are tea shops, or small boutiques.  They are so pretty, and seem like pictures from a storybook.  We were both completely enchanted.

We stopped at a tea shop for tea and a scone, and this guy was sure we were going to share:

There was only one problem:  we were inside and he was out the window!  And whereas, we were amused, he was dismayed ...

There were also quite a few medieval sites, as there are in all of Ireland.

Ruins of St. Nicholas Church

Interior, Trinitarian Abbey (1230 A.D.)

There was also a lovely city park, with a very small fountain in the middle, and walking paths that went from the center like the spokes of a wheel, into more woodsy areas.  We did take pictures there, but since it was slightly overcast and the trees blocked a lot of light, those didn't turn out too well.

We walked up the carriageway of Adare Castle, but it was blocked after a certain point unless you were a guest, so we didn't get a chance to do much exploring on the grounds there.  We did see a small building a the entrance to the carriageway, with a sign that indicated that originally, anyone entering the property had to pass through there and be admitted by the gatekeeper.  So in some ways, nothing much was changed!

We only spent about half a day there, but it was so picturesque and quiet, and the people were so incredibly nice, that it felt like a big part of our trip.

Oh Ireland, we miss you!