30 May 2014

Ending May

Today is the second-to last day of May.  This year May actually contained a true springtime here in Philadelphia.  Instead of the two-days-of-spring-let's-go-right-to-awful-summer, we had actual spring temperatures and the real feeling of moving from winter to spring.  It was sometimes too rainy all at once, but I have really enjoyed this spring.  

Anyway, there are still things I want to tell you about that happened in May and are long overdue: Maryland Sheep and Wool, a finished knitting project, our trip home for the Memorial Day weekend, and probably other things that don't immediately come to mind.  And I'll get there ... :-)

Reading some of the other blogs I usually do, it seems that there are some others who had a mishmash of things going on in May, and to be honest, it made me feel better, because even though it was a good month, I felt somewhat all over the place with everything.  

In any case, I still have all kinds of projects - knitting and otherwise - in my head that I want to do/work on, and I also hope to take some of my vacation time, even if just to enjoy not being at work.  (Of course, the problem is being allowed to take the time, but I will not bore you with the annoying saga of that whole thing!)

So in the event that you wondered what had become of me, the answer is, I've just been going along, and have either not had the time or the ambition to sit down and check in.  In that way, I hope June will be a little bit more amenable to me doing the things that *I* want to do.

Have a lovely weekend, I'll be back soon!

20 May 2014

And Then There's Also ...

This week's topic:  

10 Things You Want to Try

Oh, I'm sure I can think of ten things.  Or seventy.   Or agonize over coming up with even two.  Let's see.

1.  Spinning.  OK, this seems like a slippery slope to me - I don't actually need another hobby.  But I think it would be fun to try, and I do have a drop spindle.  Then a friend told me about this

which is apparently called a Hitchhiker, and is very portable.  Which makes the slope even slippery-er ...

2.  Learning Gaelic.  I have a sense of a lot of words, but would like to understand pronunciation patterns, and increase my vocabulary.  Actually that goes for any language other than English.

3.  Biking further.  Or this year at least, biking at all.  I have my bicycle all tuned up and ready to go, and one of my goals for years has been to increase my endurance and travel further.  I have a spot chosen for my destination, and though it's not that far if you are an avid bicyclist, it would be a real accomplishment for me to reach that.

4.  Snorkeling.  I think this looks like fun.  A few things that make it seem unlikely though: I don't know how to swim, I'm nervous about being underwater, and I don't live near a place with clear, tropical waters.  Oh well.

5.  Cross-country skiing.  This always sounds so cool to me, and since I have no interest in downhill skiing (other than watching it on TV during the Olympics), it would be a fun thing to try in the wintertime.

6.  Seeing more of the world.  This is theoretically doable, but finances often get in the way.  But even if I can't become a globe-trotter, I do hope to see at least a few more places, whether near or far.

7.  Weaving.  Yeah, another hobby I don't need.  But I think it would be fascinating and fun, and a weaving shop just opened near my house.  Classes are uber-expensive, but maybe I'll save some money someday for something like that.

8.  Writing more letters, more regularly.  I love to get mail, and I love to write letters.  But I always feel like I want to wait until I have a nice amount of time to sit down and write a long letter.  Which is funny, because: a) I don't have to, and b) most people I know are puzzled when I send them a note/letter anyway, and would not be likely to write back.  At all.

9.  Unplugging for a week.  And sometime I'm actually gonna do this.  The conundrum for me is that I am stuck at work being plugged in all of the time for things I don't really want to be. So I like coming home and checking my personal e-mail, etc. to see what's new with everyone, and reading blogs, etc.  

10.  Taking better photos.  I don't think I'll ever have the patience to be an excellent photographer, but I wish I could take better photos.  My little, old, dinky digital camera is fine, but it doesn't have much "range" shall we say.  And I haven't found any "next level up" camera that I can afford.

I'm sure there are more things I'm always saying that I'd like to try, but these are what arrived in my brain for now.  I'll be curious to see what others have to say.

Happy Tuesday!

18 May 2014

Cross-Pollination Friend

A friend of mine has stated on more than one occasion how she enjoys the "cross-pollination" of friendship on Facebook.  And regardless what you think about that particular social media, I happen to agree with her.

Though I was hesitant to join, when I did, I ended up enjoying "talking" with people I don't get to see enough, and since I hate talking on the phone, it was a way to touch base, even if we didn't say anything IMPORTANT.  One of the things I really enjoy is the live commentary by my nieces whenever an awards show is on TV - they give The Fug Girls a run for their money then, and it is truly hilarious!

And, as implied by the title of the post and the first paragraph, you end up "meeting" people through your other friends.  Someone makes a comment on a friend's update, or expresses an opinion that you agree with, or think is funny, etc., and often it turns out you become Friends on Facebook.   It's weird, but also fun.

One of the people I met through my friend Carol is a woman named Kristi who lives in Massachusetts.  Kristi sounded like she was a lot of fun, but also truly thoughtful and caring.  She is dealing with her spouse's Alzheimer's, but does not let it define her.  The really cool thing was getting to meet her in person last year, when she visited Philadelphia for a weekend.  She was even better in real life.

Recently she took a trip to Iceland, which I think must be a trip that you'd never, ever forget.  From her pictures and descriptions it sounded wonderful.  When she returned, she sent me a message asking for my mailing address, since she wanted to send me "souvenirs."  I was expecting a postcard, or magnet - you know, the type of thing I would send someone.  And I really didn't care what it turned out to be, because a) someone was actually being nice enough to think of me, and b) it would come in the mail - a package!!

Then it arrived, and I could not believe the wonderful things that were inside - I felt really overwhelmed and excited.  And I am finally getting around to posting about it.  (And next, I need to write a proper thank-you note. Ahem.)

There was a keychain:

A mini-Icelandic sweater, with a little sheep charm! (Bad photography by yours truly, of course)

Really cool postcards:

Aren't they the best?  I am especially amused by the giant cats next to the buildings.  And the middle one is from, er, here.  (She said she decided she would spare our mailman but just including it in the box!)  I can truly say I never expected to even know such a place existed, much less have a postcard from there and write about it on my blog ...

But there was still one more thing:

This tea towel actually made me squeal with delight!  All kinds of sheep doing all kinds of things.  Every time I look at it, a different one is my favorite - for instance, today I am loving the sheep holding the barbell in the lower left-hand corner.

What a nice group of souvenirs right?  It still makes me smile to think that Kristi sent this package to me.**

In conclusion, I have to say that I don't think I would ever have known her except for Facebook and cross-pollination.  For all of the annoyances and issues with social media, you can actually get to know some amazing people.

And if you are like me, you spend too much of your daily existence around less-than-amazing people, so knowing the other kind are out there is golden.

**This package also made me realize that I am a crappy souvenir-buyer.  Sigh.

14 May 2014

Well, It's May 14 ...

And I never even thought about my monthly goal project!  May has been busy, and I think I just got caught up in all the things I had to do.  But I really want to try and keep myself going on this, so here is what did or did not happen as part of April's five goals.

1. Get back to more regular exercise.  So, I only made it to the gym once, but that was once more than previous months.  And I have also been doing more walking, with nicer weather and less ice and slush.  I took my bicycle to be tuned up, and am hoping to ride this weekend.

2.  My Agnes sweater is now history - at least until later in the year.  I just never picked it up after I got started, due to overall malaise, and just not being in the mood to knit a bulky sweater when it started to warm up.  I said if I didn't do any more on it, I'd frog it and wait, so that is what happened.

3.  Clean out a closet, and get rid of things that can't be repaired and/or are no longer worn.  I'm still working on this, switching my winter clothes for lighter-weight things.  But I did complete a clean-out of our bathroom closet, which was pretty daunting, let me tell you.  Here is the "before" picture:

Maybe it doesn't look that bad to you, but it was really a mess.  Stuff was piled on top of stuff, there was a ton of expired medications, there were things in there that neither of us knew why we had.  Every time I'd need something from there, it would drive me crazy trying to find it.

Here is the "after" picture:

Some fabric and plastic bins to organize things as well as some metal mesh drawers meant that not only were things more organized, but they were easier to find!  And there was a lot more room in the closet than it appeared to have in its previous incarnation.  You can't really see the top shelf, but the stuff up there - a lot of extra light bulbs and such - are in a fabric bin, instead of rolling around, getting knocked down and broken.  WIN!

4.  Make/fix something using my sewing machine.  I did clean the piles o' stuff off the sewing machine, but then I decided that the room should be rearranged a bit, so didn't want to get started on anything.  I still want to start using it, but am determined to get the room in better shape before I do, so there is less moving around to do each time I want to get started.

All in all, I did a decent enough job in April.  Since I just thought about this now, and May is nearly half over, I'm going to just keep working on some of the above goals instead of adding new ones.  Hopefully the little bit of momentum will continue.

So that's it for now.  I have some more things to tell you, but they are for future posts.  Until then, I hope you are gaining some momentum as well on things you want to do.  Even baby steps are still steps, right??

08 May 2014

March and April Book Report

OK, this will bring me current with  my book reports.  Hopefully, I will remember to do it regularly like I used to, so I don't get behind and aggravate myself!  :-)

A Beautiful Blue Death, by Charles Finch.  Charles Lenox is a society gentleman and sometime explorer in 19th century London, who investigates crimes.  In this installment, he is investigating two murders: the first, a servant girl in a prominent home who is found dead in her room.  At first her death is ruled suicide, but Charles finds evidence indicating she was poisoned, including a bottle with traces of blue indigo ("beautiful blue") a poison from a rare plant, grown only in a few places.  The second death is an important gentleman in financial circles, who is murdered at a society ball, in the same household where the servant died.

I expected to like this book much better than I did.  It was entertaining enough, but did not want to make me go out of my way to read later books in the series.  Charles and his friends are somewhat interesting, and the story was intriguing, but none of it really grabbed me.

Howards End Is On the Landing : A Year of Reading From Home, by Susan Hill.  This was such a fun, interesting read!  

When Susan Hill is looking for a book that she KNOWS she owns, but cIf annot find, she realizes just how many books she owns that she has never read. So she devises a plan to read only books in her home for the next year.  The resulting book leads her to musings on books, literature, poetry, authors, life, and brings back memories related to people she has met, known, and worked with during her life.

There is discussion about how to organize books, which was something I enjoyed, since everyone I know who is a book lover seems to organize their books differently.  And as a library cataloger - a professional book organizer - I can understand every aspect that comes into consideration.  

Hill has had an interesting life, being surrounded by books and literature - as well as meeting many well-known literary figures - and it is fun to read her thoughts and vicariously enjoy her experiences.  

She gives books personalities, ponders what they "think" while sitting on a shelf, read or unread.  

Gallows Lane, by Brian McGilloway.  This is the second book in a series featuring Benedict Devlin, a detective in the Garda who is stationed in a town in the Republic of Ireland that borders Northern Ireland.  In this installment, Devlin is facing a wife who wants him to pull back on his work, feeling they are in danger, as well as facing a promotion interview.

He is also trying to keep track of James Kerr, who has been released from prison in the North.  Kerr has "found God," and has returned to the Republic "on a mission," which he assures Devlin is not related to criminal activity.

Add in attacks on two local girls (on separate occasions), where one was killed and one survived, having been taking from the same popular club.  The attacks seem to be very similar, and it's assumed that the same person was responsible.  In another story line, a hidden cache of drugs and weapons are found on a local farm, and the investigation leads to surprising behavior and information about various local residents and businessmen.  

As the story progresses, Devlin becomes more involved in all of it, as well as worried about what has become of Kerr.  

There is a lot of suspense, and very surprising developments as things continue.  I also found the relationship between Devlin and his counterparts in Northern Ireland interesting.  

I am already looking forward to the next title in this series.

The House Girl, by Tara Conklin.  It took me a while to get into this book, but it was worth keeping on with it.  

The story intertwines the lives of Josephine Bell, a "house girl" slave in Virginia in the 1800s, and Carolina "Lina" Sparrow, an attorney and daughter of a well-known artist in present-day New York City.  Josephine Bell is rumored to be the true artist behind a series of works by the acclaimed artist LuAnne Bell, and when a show opens in New York, Lina happens to meet someone who claims to be her descendant at the show's opening.  Which is exciting for Lina, who has just been assigned a reparations case at her law firm, which needs a descendant from a slave to be the face of the case.

The book goes back and forth, providing details on Josephine's life, and then also details about the modern-day life of Lina.  Lina is also dealing with her father's sudden interest in a show devoted to his wife, and Lina's mother, who was killed in a car crash when Lina was small.

The story is told in a way that weaves together the themes of family, truth, work, values and makes the reader anxious to see it all resolved.  
My biggest complaint with this book was that, like many other newer books, the ending seemed rushed.  You go through a very long, detailed story, and then it seems that all of a sudden, in the last 20 pages, everything is rushed along and the book is over.  I keep feeling that the author tired of the story, or the editor did major chopping.  But I find it frustrating.

Having said that, this is a good read.

Murder Past Due, by Miranda James.  Charlie Harris is a cataloger and part-time archivist at a small Mississippi college library, and living in a house inherited from his late aunt.  He shares his life with Diesel, a very companionable Maine Coon Cat, and Justin, a student at the college who is a boarder and the son of a former classmate.

When another former classmate, Godfrey Priest, comes to town to promote his upcoming book, things get complicated.  Though Priest was not overly popular with his classmates, everyone is surprised to find him dead in his hotel room.  And Justin is a prime suspect, as Priest revealed that he was the boy's biological father.  Every step of the investigation turns up more questions and complications, and Charlie and Diesel get involved as part of an effort to prove Justin's innocence.

This was an enjoyable read and a good introduction to a new series, particularly following a rather intense book I'd finished right before this one.  

Astor Place Vintage, by Stephanie Lehmann.  This is another book that started out kind of slow, but then grabbed me at a certain point, and I ended up enjoying it.  

Olive Westcott is a young woman who has just moved to New York City with her father, who is in charge of a new Woolworth's in the early part of the twentieth century.  She has had certain advantages growing up, and is used to a certain lifestyle.  When her father dies unexpectedly, it turns out that his money was gone, due to bad investments.  She suddenly has the choice of moving back to her hometown of Cold Spring, and probably getting married, having a family, etc., or trying to make her way in New York.  She makes the decision to stay there, hoping to someday be an assistant buyer in one of the major department stores.  The trouble is, with no money, no work experience, and no family support, she is unable to do much of anything.  She moves to a boarding house, and her life continues from there.

In the present day, a young woman named Amanda finds Olive's journal sewn inside the lining of a muff that is part of a lot of clothing she buys from an old woman near death.  Amanda has a fairly successful vintage shop, Astor Place Vintage, and the woman has contacted her to look through her things.  When Amanda begins reading Olive's journal, she becomes involved in the story of Olive's life.  

Amanda, meanwhile, has to deal with breaking it off with her married boyfriend of six years, who has been helping to finance her shop, as well as having to deal with a huge rent increase.  

Olive's journal and Amanda's life intersect at an interesting point, making the story one of the past and the present intertwined. 

I ended up enjoying the book, and really enjoyed the old photos of New York City.

The Diva Paints the Town, by Krista Davis.  Another enjoyable read in this series.

Sophie Winston learns that her recently deceased, reclusive neighbor has stipulated in his will that she host a Bequest Party, where certain people who have been invited will receive a final gift from him.  He has left the estate to his dog too - if they can find her.

The local design guild decides to use the deceased's house as a Designer Showcase house, which will also renovate the place so it can be sold.  Things seem to be underway somewhat smoothly until Sophie finds the body of one of the designers who was also receiving a bequest dead in the house.  When the police arrive to investigate, the body has disappeared!

It was fun seeing how it would all be resolved.

Travels in the Scriptorium, by Paul Auster.  So, I read this book, and found it interesting. But I wasn't sure I really "got" it, so I read some of the reviews here.  I had figured out some of it, but apparently since I haven't read other Auster books, didn't really understand it.

Mr. Blank is in a room, in some kind of institution.  He doesn't exactly remember who he is, but he does have an overwhelming sense of guilt.  People come in and out of the room, to feed him, give him medications, and occasionally to talk to him.  Some seem very familiar, others he can't quite place.  He begins to read a report found on the desk in his room, and certain things make him feel that he was somehow involved.

It's all very mysterious, and if you are an Auster fan, you immediately know what is going on.  I've never read any of his work, but am glad to know that I had an inkling about the overall theme. 

Weird, but OK.

And that's that.  I do plan a post soon, with some books that I would like to give away, so stay tuned.

02 May 2014

Five Favorites for This Friday

Happy May!  Workers of the world unite!  (Yes, I know that May Day was yesterday ...)

This week has been CRAP.  But, it's Friday, and tomorrow I'm taking a bus trip sponsored by Rosie's to Maryland Sheep and Wool - the weather is even supposed to cooperate, so it's all good!

Here's what I could think of that pleased me this week (and I *really* needed this!):

1.  After months of being paralyzed trying to decide what to knit for my niece who is supposed to be born on May 8, I finally decide on the Baby Tea Leaves cardigan, and get started on it.  I even use stash yarn, so it's win-win!

2.  I finish a book that was a slow start, but that I ended up really enjoying.

3.  My Beginner Knitting class of three students moves along, each at their own pace, but each happy with their progress.

4.  The Tim and I discuss plans for a summer vacation, and plan to actually decide this weekend.

5.   Today is Friday, and tomorrow I'll be seeing yarn, critters, and friends!

Have a wonderful weekend, everyone.