28 April 2016

Throwback Thursday - Pip's First Day

Look at little baby Pip!  This picture was taken by The Tim on the first day Pip came to live with us.  He's not a lot bigger now, but he has filled out a bit.  And he is one of the sweetest, most affectionate, and talkative cats I've ever known.

I am usually the first one to go to bed around here on any given night.  Pip always brings me one of his toys and puts it next to me in bed.  I think he feels like it will make me feel safe until everyone else is around.  (Sometimes it's extremely disconcerting to move in bed, and feel something unfamiliar next to you, or on the blanket ... )

We are lucky to have him in our family.

26 April 2016

Tuesday's Monday Meme (huh?)

Hello all!  This morning I was Voter #16 at my polling place.  This pleases me.  I like it when I get a number that I like.  Once I was Voter #119, and though I was glad so many people had been there before I was, I'm not really a fan of that number.

Anyway, if your state is holding a primary today, please VOTE.  People have died for the right to vote, and I wish everyone would take it more seriously.

End of Public Service Announcement.

Now it's time for Kathy's Monday Meme, which I'm able to do on Tuesday this week!  (I'm so proud of myself.)  Let's see what is on the agenda this time around.

1. Have you washed your winter woolens and put them away?

Just a few.  I plan to do the rest this weekend.  I started a few weeks ago, and then it got cold again, and I needed some of my sweaters!

2. What do you wash your wools and knits in?

I use a delicates wash product from Nordstrom.  I would link to it to show you, but I always have trouble finding it on their website.  It comes in unscented, or very lightly scented lavender.  A big bottle lasts a long time, as you only use a small amount.

3. Do you have a favorite iced beverage in the warmer months?

Iced tea.  I love iced tea all year round, I must admit, but in the summer, it's either cold water or iced tea.  I do enjoy treating myself to the Passion iced tea at Starbucks from time to time.

4. Would you consider yourself or a family member in your house to be a nosey neighbor?

Not really.  I know everyone on our street to see, and say hi to at a minimum, but don't pay much attention to their lives.  The Tim could never be considered nosey, as he is lucky he remembers to pay attention to our lives!  There are things I would love to know, but we were raised to not be nosey, because, to quote my mother, "No one likes a nebshit."  So there you go.  The nosiest members of our family are the cats.

5. Time when you were hungry and ate something and thought it was amazing when you knew it wasn't.

I can't think of anytime recently.  I have bought something to eat thinking it would be good and have been disappointed, but never the other way around.

6. I read that department stores are going to have to close many sites.  I'm guilty, I order by mail.  Is there a store you would really miss if it closed a building but stayed open online?

I do some online shopping, but I do like brick and mortar better.  It's really hard for me to buy clothes and/or shoes online, so I would miss anyplace that sold those items.  And no matter what, I think bookstores and yarn stores are more fun in real life!

7. What was your most recent purchase related to knitting?

A few weeks ago, I bought a project bag I loved, that was on sale.  Because apparently having approximately 2000 already isn't enough ...

8. Do you use a row counter?

Not for everything, but sometimes.

9. What is the main color of the current project you are devoting your precious knit time to?

Navy blue.  I'm making a Turn-A-Square hat for a Christmas gift, and the main color is navy (the other is gray, for those wondering).

10. What's the longest and shortest your hair has ever been?

There is a picture of me at approximately 6 years old with shoulder length hair.  The shortest my hair has ever been is a short pixie, and I'm hoping to get one at my hair appt this weekend.  I cannot deal with a lot of hair on my head or neck during warm weather!

Care to share?  Feel free to do so in the comments, or write your own post!

21 April 2016

Poem in Your Pocket Day

Thanks to Kym, I have learned that today is Poem in Your Pocket Day. I have always had a weird relationship with poetry.  As a young kid, I loved rhymes.  As an older kid and school student, I was frustrated by it, since I never could pick up what was going on what the "real" message was.  Only as an adult, when I could pick and choose and not be graded on it, did I start to enjoy poetry.  I'm still no expert, and cannot discuss poetry with those in the know, but now I consider poetry to be my friend.

And so here is my poem to share today.  I hope you enjoy it.

The Sweetness of Dogs

What do you say, Percy? I am thinking
of sitting out on the sand to watch
the moon rise.  It's full tonight.
So we go

and the moon rises, so beautiful it
makes me shudder, makes me think about
time and space, makes me take
measure of myself: one iota
pondering heaven. Thus we sit, myself

thinking how grateful I am for the moon's 
perfect beauty and also, oh! how rich
it is to love the world. Percy meanwhile
leans against me and gazes up
into my face. As though I were just as wonderful
as the perfect moon.

-- Mary Oliver

My very own "Percy" (aka Dug the Doodle Dog):

20 April 2016

I Know It's Not Monday ...

and frankly, I'm glad, since one Monday per week is plenty, thank you very much

But I do enjoy Kathy's weekly memes that she posts on Monday.  However, Mondays are usually a mess for me, energy-wise and by the time I sit down in the evening after everything is done, I am often not in the mood for anything that requires thought!

However, Dee mentioned to me that I don't have to do it on Monday.  (Light bulb goes on over head)  So here are my answers for this week.

1. What's the most you would pay for a skein of sock yarn?

OK, socks are my very favorite thing to knit, so I'm usually willing to consider not-on-sale-yarn.  I would be willing to go as high as $40.00, but it would have to be amazing yarn that was not readily available to me on a normal basis.  For instance, when we last went to Ireland, I bought some local yarn and it was more than I'd usually pay, but it was only sold in a little village yarn store.  Most of the time, I'm willing to pay up to $25.00 or so.

2. What part of a pattern intimidates you?

" ... and at the same time" makes me break out in a cold sweat.

3. What is the most delicious thing you have eaten lately?

The other day I really treated myself, and got a just-out-of-the-oven, warm, gooey sticky bun with pecans on top.  YUM.

4. If you had the grave misfortune of being in a fire, would you grab your stash or your FOs?

I have been in two fires, and frankly, neither one of these would make the cut, unless for some reason I knew I had a lot of time to grab other than the essentials.

5. What is a big compromise in one of your relationships?  (Shh, you can tell us!)

My life is a series of small compromises in all of my relationships, every day.  I can't think of a big one at the moment.  I'm sure it's there somewhere, but since it's not happening right now, my mind is blank ...

6. Do you bathe your pets?

We bathe Dug when he needs it.  Fortunately he enjoys it, so it's not terribly traumatic.  The only cats I've ever bathed were two that were strays that we adopted and they were so filthy, we just had to bite the bullet and do it.

7. Have you ever been bitten by your pet?

Paraphrasing my response to #5, my life has been a series of being bitten.  Fortunately, none of the current group of cats are big biters, and if/when they do, it's never very serious.  I don't know that it would ever occur to Dug to bite anyone.

8.  How do you deal with pooling colors?

I leave them alone.  I'm OCD about a lot of things, but that isn't one of them.

9. Have you knit a Christmas or holiday gift for 2016?

I have one underway, and plans for a few more.  I think my plans are doable.

10. Do you enjoy Monday Memes?

Yes!  I enjoy reading everyone's responses, I like the varied questions and topics, and have had lots of fun doing this one.  Thanks, Kathy!

19 April 2016

Music That Stays

I love music - practically all kinds.  I spend pretty much every moment that I am awake with at least one song in my head.  OK, so occasionally it's an earworm that I can't shake, but most of the time it's something that I'm happy to have with me all day.

So for today, Carole wanted us to list 10 Albums I Love - meaning, you don't just like one or two of the songs, but all of them.  There were two parts of this that were hard for me: 1) choosing just ten, and 2) figuring out what was on an album, as I tend to listen to a lot of things in a random order!

But here are ten that came to mind, not because I love them more than others, but just because they were the first ten to come to mind ... in no particular order.

1.  Listen to My Heart - by Nancy LaMott.  I love her voice, and since this is the first one of hers I bought, I decided to include it.

2.  Soundtrack to "Room With a View" - one of my favorite movies, and listening to the music allows me to picture the scenes in my head.

3.  Love Songs - The Beatles.  I'm a big Beatles fan, and this is a fave, because it's an unusual one, and just makes you feel happy when you listen.

4.  Soundtrack to "Sweeney Todd : the Musical" - so often, lines/tunes from songs in this show run through my head.  I also am a big fan of soundtracks.

5.  Now That I've Found You - Alison Kraus.  Like #1, this was my introduction to her, and it's still a favorite.

6.  Never Been Gone - Carly Simon.  So many of these songs were new to me when I first bought the album, and now are old friends.

7.  Soundtrack to "Guys and Dolls" - yeah, I know another soundtrack.  But the songs are great, and there are some true classics.

8.  Take Me Back - Tim and Mollie O'Brien.  I love the songs, and knew both of them growing up as we all went to the same elementary school.  Then later, my brother-in-law joined their dad's law firm as a partner.  They don't often perform together, but this album is one of their best.

9.  Christmas - Michael Buble.  OK, so I LOVE practically every Christmas album I own, but this one is lots of fun.

10.  Tapestry - Carole King.  One of the first albums I ever purchased for myself, with my own money, in my life.

Seriously though - we have SO much music, and so many albums, I can't really say that these are the ten I most love, or even most listen to; but these are all definitely some of the best.

16 April 2016

Some Saturday Stories

Hello and I hope you are having a lovely Saturday!  Mine has been nice so far.  I met up with my friend Andrea this morning for coffee, and we discussed our plans for Maryland Sheep and Wool.  Then The Tim and I went to Ikea and Lowe's to look at various things.  Now we are home and just taking a breather. Today is a lovely day, so that makes it seem even better as well.

I don't have anything much to tell you today, but I did come across some interesting things this week on the interwebs, and thought maybe you would enjoy some/all them as well.

Linda Wells is the former editor-in-chief of Allure magazine, but her day spent at Sephora still surprised her.  (And for the record, I've *never* had anyone in any Sephora call me "hon."

This past week was National Library Week, but this congressperson thought it would be a good time to annoy librarians.

I didn't know anything about this, though I did know that the person was the last one to be executed in Pennsylvania.  The book "Silence of the Lambs was bad enough, but finding this out made me feel itchy all day.  Creepy.

I really liked this local story.

After reading this review, I put myself on the list at the public library for the book.  I think I'll like it - I'll let you know!

I made this recipe for dinner the other night, and can highly recommend it.  Fast, easy, healthy, and defintely yummy (I used a lot less butter, btw).

Did you ever go to a Mary Kay Cosmetics party, or know anyone who was a Mary Kay salesperson?  I had a friend at my first job out of college who sold Mary Kay.  She seemed to do quite well. But this article was pretty interesting.

OK, that's it.  Enjoy your Saturday!

13 April 2016

The Quiet of Early

I never used to be a morning person.  Granted, I was not a person who slept late until noon or after, but 9:30-10:00 a.m. on a weekend or a day off was not that unusual.

But 12 years ago yesterday, I had the first major surgery of my life.  And the next morning, at 5:00 a.m., there were suddenly about 8 people around my bed, and a HUGE BRIGHT light above me was turned on - time for rounds, which is what happens when you are at a teaching hospital.

That continued for the 5 days I remained in the hospital, and I got used to it pretty quickly.  But it never occurred to me that it would change my mornings so drastically.  Ever since then, I have become someone who loves/craves morning time to myself.  Now on a weekend, if I sleep past 6:30 a.m., I feel like I've missed out on a good part of the day.  (I know.)

During the work week, I get up at 4:45 a.m. (which even I think is early).  I feed the cats first thing because, you know it's been HOURS since they last ate and they are of course so near to death from starvation.  I used to do my exercises next, but then Dug joined the family.  So now I put on my dog-walking clothes, and Dug and I head outside for our morning walk.

And you know what?  It's the best.  Most of the year, it's still dark.  Granted, sometimes it's raining or snowing, and both of us would rather be inside, but otherwise, it's a whole different universe out there that early.  It's quiet.  You can hear the trains coming and going across the river, taking people to and from exotic or ordinary places.  Buses pass by, with sleepy-looking passengers who are either starting their day, or ending their night shifts.  There are always at least a couple of birds already up and singing.  We often run into the neighborhood opossum, who needless to say, is not interested in hanging with us (though Dug really wants to be his friend!).

We pass people delivering things to the market around the corner.  They always say hello, and give Dug a pat on the head.  We exchange good morning wishes with the lady who delivers the newspaper to houses in the neighborhood.

But we mostly just walk, and Dug has a good sniff at everything ("checking his pee mail," as a neighbor says), while I look at any stars or the moon, occasionally see planes flying overhead, and sing to myself.  Occasionally, we will have a brief "conversation" (which consists of me saying something, and Dug looking at me because he loves it when people talk).  We're usually only out for 20 minutes or so, but it's so lovely, and so quiet, and it feels like you own it.

Weekends are different, in that we go walking later, it's almost always light out, and more is going on in general.  It's nice for different reasons.

But the early morning quiet of the weekday gives you a whole other way of being in the world.  And now I'm glad that I have become a morning person, because it makes me feel like the day is all mine.

08 April 2016

March Harry's Hundred Update

I have been meaning to write this post for a few days, and kept forgetting to download pictures from my camera to include my contribution!  But finally it's done, and so here is what has been added to Harry's Hundred for the month of March 2016.

The baby blanket and the two lap blankets above were knitted by redindian (Ravelry ID), and I am blown away!  Do you know how long it would take someone like me to knit ONE of these, much less three???  Anyway, she said she wanted to do something for a baby in a shelter, and she thought the baby blanket looked like it could be for a little boy - I think she's right, don't you?  And the lap blankets are so bright and cozy, surely someone will smile when they receive them!  She is in the United Kingdom, and I truly *love* that the project will reach across the Atlantic.  :-)

Next, we have my wonderful friend Kim who made these fingerless gloves for some lucky person.

I love not just the colors, but that they are nice and long, so that the wrist can keep warm too!  Thank you Kim, for being a generous regular in this endeavor.

Finally, my project which was finished a couple of weeks ago, but I kept forgetting to take a picture ... then I kept forgetting to upload the picture.  At last I got my act together, so here is a Seafarer's Scarf that I hope will make someone feel warm and cuddly.

I love this pattern, and have never given one of these scarves to someone who didn't love them, and the way they stay around your neck.  

Thanks to everyone who has contributed, not just in March, but so far all year.  I cannot express how happy it makes me to know that people are willing to help reach the goal.  

Goal:  100
Current tally:  23

Not bad, right?  I mean, the first quarter of the year is over, and we're very nearly a quarter of the way there.  THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!  

Onward for April - please consider joining us ...  :-)

05 April 2016

Unflappable? Flappable? What?

This week, Carole asked us to list 10 Things You Do to Calm Down.  Hee hee.  I am amused for several reasons, mainly that apparently I give the impression of being calm and reasonable about things when I am screaming my head off inside of my head.  I think this is because I am at heart an anxious worrier, and have learned to hide it, because a) it is usually over something that even I at the time realize is insignificant, and b) the people around me don't want to hear it/see it/think about it from me.

I have several methods to calm myself, which may or may not be successful at any given time.  It also depends on what I am calming myself down from - an anxiety attack?  Having to talk to a group of strangers? Worrying about a sports result as in the VILLANOVA GAME LAST NIGHT OH MY GOD?

Also, am I at home?  At work?  In the wild?  That makes a difference too.  I'm not just an anxious worrier, I'm an anxious worrier with context!

Anyway, here are some of the ways that work for me.

1.  A cup of tea.  For as long as I can remember, a cup of tea is the answer to just about anything, good or bad.  Without a cup of tea, I could be neither as happy nor as sad as I've ever been and go on with life.

2.  Cuddle with the kitties and/or Dug.  Because they understand how it works.

3.  Remember that there are other people with worse problems who manage to survive, even if they never have the luxury of thinking about how they calm themselves down.

4.  Channel Scarlett O'Hara, and remember that "tomorrow is another day."

5.  Sing to myself.

6.  Pray or think/say a word or series of words (out loud or internally) to myself . The repetitiveness and rhythm helps me to settle my brain and soul.

7.  Think of something ridiculous or silly.  Laughter is the cup of tea of the non-physical world for me.

8.  Breathe in a conscious manner.  Remember to breathe in and breathe out, and take my time doing it.

9.  Take a walk and describe (to myself) things I see  as I go.  Distraction helps.

10. Have a good cry.  Sometimes it is the only way.


Now I have to think of ways to keep myself awake at work, since I stayed up way too late last night, watching the basketball game.  But it was worth it.  :-)

02 April 2016

Book Report for January, February, and March

I have been in a reading groove since the beginning of the year.  Even the times when I haven't felt like knitting (shock!), I've been more than happy to read.

Here are my thoughts on the things I've been reading.

Twisted Threads, by Lea Wait.  This was an enjoyable, quick read.  I saw that a friend of mine had read and enjoyed it, and decided to read it myself.

Angie Curtis has returned home to coastal Maine when her grandmother calls to tell her that the body of her mother - who disappeared ten years earlier, when Angie was a child - has been found.  When she gets home, she also learns that some thing have changed in the small town where she grew up.  For one, her grandmother has started her own business, Mainely Needlepoint, which was very successful until the agent hired stopped communicating and stopped paying them for their work.  No one has heard from him for months.

Angie decides to stick around and see if she can find out what happened to her mother - it turns out she was shot in the back of the head and put into a freezer in a personal storage facility.  She also promises her grandmother that she will put her private investigator skills to work trying to track down the absent agent for the needlework company.

While readjusting to life in Maine, helping her grandmother, and trying to figure out who killed her mother, Angie finds things comfortingly familiar and at the same time, completely changed.

This is the first in a new series, I'll be sure to try the next one.

A Pattern of Lies, by Charles Todd.  When Bess Crawford runs into one of her former battlefield patients when accompanying some of her current patients home to England during WWI, she learns that his family has become the victim of townspeople who blame his father for an explosion at a gunpowder factory two years before.  When she visits the family home, she is witness to something threatening and decides to try and figure out what is going on.

As usual, she enlists the aid of her father, his former assistant, and a Sergeant back in France to find out what has been going on, and who is responsible.  As she gets more involved, her life is threatened as well.

This is another good read in this series.

The Last  Days of Magic, by Mark Tompkins.  I had an Advanced Reader's Edition of this book, which has since been published in February 2016.

There is just way too much covered in this book to give a detailed review, so I'll just try to give you the basic idea.  As the book starts, a young woman gets a frantic phone call from her grandmother, asking her to find some particular book that she had given to her, and to bring it to the grandmother, very carefully.  The young woman, Sara Hill, is a scholar, and she knows that her grandmother was involved with one of the scholars who was translating the Dead Sea Scrolls before he died.  Her grandmother tells her to be very careful, so that the book does not fall into the wrong hands during her journey.

Sara gets ready to go, and then starts to look at the book.

It's at this point that we are transported back to Ireland in the 1300s, when the Irish Christian Church was new, and various inhabitants now said to be mythical inhabited and ruled the island.  The bulk of the book is the particular story of Aisling, who with her twin Anya, is the Morrigna - goddesses of Ireland.  Anya is killed as a young girl, and it is up to Aisling to carry on.

Meanwhile, both England and the Vatican are trying to gain a foothold in Ireland.  Richard II of England wants it for the empire.  The Vatican wants it to become part of the Roman Christian Church.  These powers plot separately to take over the country.

The book covers the struggles of those already in Ireland to save their country and their way of life from outsiders.  At the same time, you get a history lesson - not just Irish history, but English, religious, Viking - a little bit of everything!

Then at the very end, we are back with Sara Hill, in November 2016 (!) on her ship voyage to her grandmother.  I'm not giving away any spoilers, though, so if this sounds interesting to you, you'll need to read it on your own.  :-)

I really liked this book though it was long, and often I lost track of just who was who - especially with the English characters.  (I think this may be genetic, lol.)  It was a fascinating look at the time, and the beliefs of those who were in charge, and what they actually worried about - spells, witches, potions - and I really found a lot of it fascinating.  It was a wonderful story about Ireland, and the different lives of those who lived there, and it was interesting to compare it to the Ireland of today.

If you like sagas, history, Ireland, and mythology, you will enjoy this book.

Fates and Furies, by Lauren Groff.  Yeah, I know - 2 stars on Goodreads.  And that is only because I found the writing to be pretty amazing.  But unlike everyone else I've heard of who has read this book, I just did not like it.

The book is divided into two parts - Fates is the story according to Lotto, the husband, who is from a rich family and eventually becomes a beloved, much-admired playwright.  Interesting, but I found him to be annoying and completely self-absorbed.  Furies is told from Mathilde's point of view, the wife.  Among Lotto's friends, she is a polarizing figure - some think she is amazing, others find her to be like an ice princess.  I found her to be at best boring, and totally unlikeable.

The book itself is well-written which is the only reason I gave it two stars.  I guess I'm glad I read it, since it is such a current cultural touchstone.  But it was hard to care at all about either character.  I feel they deserved each other.

Out of Circulation, by Miranda James.  I needed a happy, friendly, book to read, and this fit the bill perfectly.  Charlie Harris and his cat are again involved in trying to solve a murder in their small town.  At a fundraising gala for the Friends of the Library, one of the most well-known (and most disliked) women in the community has a fatal fall.  But Charlie and others think it may have been murder, and when Charlie's housekeeper becomes a prime suspect, he is determined to find the real killer.

I enjoyed the various characters as usual, but in this installment of the series, Charlie gets to dig through some archival materials, and I liked that the author worked in some of the things/policies that apply to archives in real life.

I will admit that I was not able to figure out who the killer was, until the very end when it was (I think) supposed to become obvious.

Another fun read in this series.

A Window Opens, by Elisabeth Egan.  I received this book through the Goodreads Giveaway Program.

At the beginning of this book, Alice Pearse has a pretty nice life.  She works part-time at a women's fitness magazine, and helps out at her friend's local bookstore.  Her husband is with a large law firm in Manhattan, and she has three lovely kids.  Her father seems to have kicked throat cancer.  Life is pretty good.

But when her husband doesn't make partner at his law firm, and quits to start his own practice, Alice knows that she needs to contribute more to the household income, and looks for a full-time job.  She finds one at Scroll, a new company whose plan is to revolutionize the e-book industry, and reading in general.  It seems like an exciting opportunity, and like a great place to work, and Alice is thrilled.

The description of Scroll, the work place and Alice's co-workers just really entertained me.  Scroll is a business who is trying to be *exactly right* both environmentally, electronically, and for the community.  Each new employee receives a first edition of their favorite printed book (know at Scroll as "carbon-based products" and deeply frowned upon.  The book is wrapped in plastic, cannot be opened, and must be returned to the company when the person leaves.  The entire Scroll part of the story was just ridiculously amazing.

However, as time goes on, things start going downhill.  The Scroll job changes focus, and Alice no longer feels comfortable with her role.  Her husband is having a hard time getting things started in private practice.  Her kids begin to act up when they are with her, rather than with the babysitter.  And possibly worst of all, her father's throat cancer returns.

This book is a good read, and a quick read.  There are parts that seem predictable, but the resulting actions are sometimes very surprising.  At the moment, I could identify with Alice's work issues, since I am currently in a job that has changed focus, and I am feeling trapped.  Fortunately, for Alice, she finds a way to resolve things, and by the end of the book, things are better if not perfect.

Atchison Blue: A Search for Silence, a Spiritual Home, and a Living Faith, by Judith Valente.  This is a lovely book.  The author shares with us her visits to a Benedictine monastery - Mount St. Scholastica - in Atchison, Kansas, where she finds she is able to learn so much.  She initially visits to see if she can take a break from her hectic, noisy life.  But she returns again and again because she finds the place and the sisters there to be transforming in her life.

The book is a memoir of her visits, varying in length and in time of year, but each one giving her something about herself to think about, learn to accept, or discover.  It is in no way a religious book as far as saying "Here is what you should do/believe/think."  Rather, Valente shares with the reader her experiences as a way to remind us that change is possible and that it can never hurt to know yourself better - even if sometimes you wish what you learned was a lot nicer!

I liked this book because it was honest, interesting, and because I think only in books about others' experiences can we get an idea of the life of religious orders these days.  The nuns here are regular people, with regular jobs, family members, illnesses, and many of the same things as the rest of us.  They have a different way of life, and a calling, but they are no less human.  They are however, able to live their lives in a way that is both rewarding and very different from most of us.

There is a lot to take in and a lot to learn here.  I also have to say that there was a section about the death of one of the sisters, and it is one of the most beautiful things I have ever read.  I'm glad I read this book, and hope that in some way, I can take some of the ideas and lessons offered by the author and place them into my own life.

Knitlandia: A Knitter Sees the World, by Clara Parkes.  First of all, I have to say I was inclined to really like this book before I even had it in my hands.  I met Clara Parkes a couple of years ago at Maryland Sheep and Wool (well, OK, I went up and gushed and introduce myself ... but I like to think we "know" each other), and she was so nice, so normal, and seemed like such a fun person, I loved her immediately.  Then I started following her on Instagram and Facebook, and so I just thought if this book was one she wrote, it would have to be good.

A couple of weeks ago when a yarn shop near my house had her there to sign, I could not wait.  Neither she nor the book disappoint.

I can also say that because I had high expectations, I was hesitant to start the book in case it didn't live up to what I hoped.  I have to say it went beyond that.

The book is as much a travelogue as it is about knitting-related things.  But as one who enjoys both, it was just so incredibly enjoyable  Each chapter is about a different place she visits regularly/has visited, and she is able to write about it in a way that makes you feel how it might be the share the experience.  My absolute favorite parts were about Iceland, Paris, and Edinburgh, for different reasons.  But let me tell you, there are NO parts of this book that are not enjoyable to read.  Parkes has a lovely way with words and her descriptions of time and place are truly wonderful.

I think that even if you have never picked up a ball of yarn or knit a stitch, you could enjoy reading this book.

The Pursuit of Love, by Nancy Mitford.  Oh wow did I enjoy this book!  I had read a comment about it on a blog somewhere and thought I would try it.  It was one of the most entertaining reads I've had in a long time.

The story is narrated by Fanny, telling of her experiences when staying with her cousins in the countryside of England.  Fanny and her cousin Linda are inseparable, and along with Linda's siblings and her parents we learn about the eccentricities of their class, and of these individuals in particular.  The story begins when they are young girls and goes through their adult years, ending towards the end of World War II.

The writing is wonderful, and the characters well-drawn and really funny.  I was enjoying this book so much, I finished it in two days, even not having a lot of time to read because of being at work.

Tail Gait, by Rita Mae Brown and Sneaky Pie Brown.  This is another installment in the Mrs. Murphy series, which take place in Crozet, Virginia, and reacquaints us with a lot of the regulars, while introducing us to some new characters, both current and historical.  When one of the most popular history professors at the University of Virginia who has retired to Crozet is murdered, everyone wants to know not just who was the murderer, but why anyone would have killed the man.

Harry Haristeen, her cats, Mrs. Murphy and Pewter, as well as Tucker the corgi, start trying to figure out what happened.  When the pets dig up the body of a former UVA football star who has since become a homeless beggar, Harry is convinced the two murders are connected.

This book contains a parallel story taking place during the Revolutionary War that plays into the current story, and ends up helping Harry to solve the murder.

As usual, a fun read, and this time with some really interesting history included.

Florence Gordon, by Brian Morton.  This book was a quick, enjoyable read, but don't let that fool you - it really makes you think.

As the book starts, Florence Gordon has decided to write her memoir.  At 75 years old, the well-known feminist scholar has a lot she still wants to say.  Florence is a straightforward, blunt woman who does not suffer fools gladly.  Things get complicated when her son Daniel, his wife Janine, and their daughter Emily turn up in NYC for the summer.  Suddenly, Florence has to deal with them and their problems/issues/lives.  And she is really not interested.

She hires Emily to be her research assistant.  At first, Emily is not thrilled about things, but as the book continues, she comes to learn how amazing Florence is, how much she has experienced in her life, and how dedicated she both was and is to making the world a better place.  Florence realizes that she actually likes Emily, though of course she would never say so.

When Florence's latest book gets a really positive review in the New York Times by a well-known female philosopher, she is suddenly on everyone's radar again.  Even her ex-husband Saul, still trying to live his life based on glories from forty years ago, tries to get her to use her new influence to get him a job he covets.

But while all of this is happening, Florence is also having trouble with her left foot.  Her doctor gives her a diagnosis that she is determined to keep secret as long as she is able.  She wants to remain independent, she wants to still do things on her terms.

The thing about this book is that we all know someone like Florence.  And we all know someone like Emily, who ends up being one of her biggest supporters, admirers, and who is helped by Florence more than Florence can ever know.  Emily sees Florence in a completely different way at the end of the book than she did in the beginning.

I really liked this book.  It was an enjoyable read, but it also made me think - about family, relationships, and self-worth.  And it made me think about how some people can make such a difference in your life, even if a lot of times the relationship seems one-sided.  The ending was sad, but not for reasons you might expect.  I think this book was very well done.

Second Street Station, by Lawrence H. Levy.  A really interesting work of historical fiction.  As a young girl, Mary Handley is a witness to something that the doesn't fully understand.

A young woman later having just been fired from her job at a hat factory, Mary wonders what will become of her.  Her mother of course wants her to stop being so headstrong and independent, so she can marry, have children, and settle down into a good life.  Mary is not really interested in that.  When she has the chance to assist the NYPD to solve the murder of a former assistant to Thomas Edison, she finds herself involved in a series of disturbing incidents as well as some life-threatening situations.

Some of the characters in this book include J.P. Morgan, Edison, Nicolas Tesla, the Goodrich Family, John and Charles Pemberton (with their invention, Coca Cola), George Westinghouse, and Edweard Muybridge.  Mary finds that their stories are intertwined for better and for worse, and she does her best to stay true to herself while tiptoeing around a lot of big egos.

And oh - there is also the man who she thinks she recognizes, but cannot remember exactly why.

I enjoyed this book, and plan to read the next in the series.

A Red Herring Without Mustard, by Alan Bradley.  This was another enjoyable read about Flavia de Luce, her family, and her investigations.  Not the best one I've read, but still good and full of both weird and interesting characters.

The book begins with Flavia visiting a fortune teller at a local festival, and accidentally setting her tent on fire.  Later, when she notices the gypsy's caravan, she enters to find the gypsy having been beaten and near death.  Thus begins Flavia's investigation into the who, why, when, etc., using both her detective methods and her scientific know-how.

Part of the story, but also somewhat related to the main story, is her realization that her father is having financial troubles of a larger nature than she ever realized before.  When she discovers some of the family silver being packed up to go for auction at Sotheby's in London, it forces her to accept the reality, and to consider her father in a different light.

Very entertaining, very quick read.

Her Royal Spyness, by Rhys Bowen.  This is the first book in a new-to-me series that was recommended by a co-worker.

The book is narrated by Lady Victoria Georgiana Charlotte Eugenie (aka "Georgie"), who is 34th in line for the throne of England in 1932.  Georgie lives in Scotland at the family manor with her half-brother Binky, his wife Fig, and their young son.  She is of marriageable age, but has not found anyone who even interests her, much less being someone she wants to marry!  When she overhears a phone call making it clear that a boring prince is being invited to meet her (and a match made), she decides to take herself to London, under the guise of helping an old friend prepare for her wedding.

Of course, Georgie is ill-prepared for life on her own, and without servants, but she makes do.  Then it turns out that her brother comes to town on what is found out to be business threatening the family.  When the person threatening them is found drowned in the tub of their London home, Georgie has to try and clear Binky's name after he is arrested.  In the meantime, the Queen (her cousin) has requested that Georgie spy on the Prince of Wales, who will be at a house party with "that horrible woman."  (Turns out to be of course, Wallis Simpson.)  With everything happening in her life, Georgie thinks this assignment will be a nice break, but she is in more danger than ever!

I enjoyed this book.  Georgie's narration is in the vein of a Bertie Wooster-type story, which made it amusing.  The mystery was pretty good, and the time period made it all very entertaining.  I can see reading another in this series.

The Silence of the Library, by Miranda James.  This was another enjoyable, quick  read in this series.

Charlie Harris is working with colleagues on a special exhibit at the college library about childrens' series authors - read Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys, etc.  When they learn that one of the authors of a favorite series who is local is still alive, excitement builds and they are able to meet with her and plan to have her appear at the exhibit opening.

Then things get sticky.  The local woman who created and published a newsletter about the author is murdered, and files are taken from her house.  Charlie meets with the grandson of the author at the grandson's request, but finds that all the young man is thinking about is how he can get some money out of the whole situation, and Charlie declines to get involved.

Other characters who are interested in the book and the author start to act in a way that seems both suspicious and unethical.  Charlie and his Maine Coon Cat Diesel, do some amateur sleuthing on their own, and as usual end up helping to solve the case.

Very entertaining.

The New Me, by Mary Marcus.  Here are the good things about this book:  1) it was short, 2) it was not the worst thing I ever read, 3) I did finish it, to see if anything would actually happen.

The story was basically one woman's written account of her 20/20 hindsight of the dissolution of her marriage, and her part in it. No one seemed likable, and the narrator was only marginally interesting.  I kept thinking something would make the story better.  Nothing did, except being finished with it.

Sadly, it's probably somewhat true to life, in that many people seem to have a hard time recognizing when things are actually over.


What about you?  Have you read anything especially good - or even especially bad - lately?  Feel free to share in the comments.

Have a lovely weekend!