30 November 2019

Saturday FO: The Last of the Official Gift Knits

I am feeling very proud of myself - last weekend, I finished the last of the "official" gift knits for this year.  What, you may ask is an "official" gift knit?  Well, that is a gift knit that you planned in advance for a specific date - in this case, Christmas - and finished and is ready to gift.

Here they are - finished, with all of the ends woven in as of Sunday, November 24, which I might point out is a full month before they needed to be ready.  This is a new record for me.  Granted, in the past, I have put aside knitting for The Tim until the very last minute, so finishing and weaving in ends late on Christmas Eve and then hurrying to wrap the gift has in fact happened.

But not this year.

Project:  Christmas Vacation Socks
Pattern:  Generic Vanilla Sock pattern in my brain
Needles:  US size 1
Yarn:  Desert Vista Dyeworks Viso, in the "Oh Clark!" colorway
Modifications:  Nope.
Notes:  As I mentioned here once before, our family has a ridiculous and wonderful connection to the National Lampoon movies, especially the Christmas Vacation one.  So when I saw the name of this colorway, I decided to break my no-buy and get the yarn to make socks for The Tim.  These were fun to knit, watching the stripes and speckles show up.  They went quickly since there was no real pattern to concentrate on, so I was able to work on them while watching TV, or listening to music, watching a podcast, etc.  I also worked on these while The Tim was around, and I am 99% sure that he will nonetheless be compeletely surprised with them on Christmas morning.  :-)

The only concern I have is that this yarn seems like it might not be too sturdy.  I hope I'm wrong, but I just got that feeling while I was knitting.  It didn't give me problems while knitting, it just didn't feel like a lot of other sock yarns.  We'll see.

Now, my big decision is whether or not I want to start any other quick projects and still call them potential gifts.  I am seriously considering starting something and not calling it a gift, or calling it a gift for myself.  We'll see.  I also want to cast on 1,000 things, so I just really need to narrow it all down and start something and just enjoy the knitting.  That's the whole reason for doing it in the first place anway, right?

29 November 2019

In Which I Create a List That Is Especially Pleasing

How was your Thanksgiving?  I hope you had a chance to enjoy the holiday, rather than have one that was tense or unpleasant.  Every time a holiday comes up where family gets together, I realize how lucky I am.  Whereas I know people who are trying to figure out ways that they can avoid getting together with their family, or who are dreading it all, I'm someone who wishes I could see my family.  We truly have such a good time together, and truly enjoy things as a group.  Due to work schedules and distance, we no longer get to see anyone during the fall and winter holidays, and though The Tim and I enjoy our own traditions, it would be fun to get to see others at least occasionally.

Anyway.  That was a huge digression, just to say I hope your holiday was full of good food and good people and good animals.  :-)


A week ago this Sunday, two things diverged that led to the subject of this post.  The day itself - November 24 - was the 50th anniversary of my father's death.  Always a bittersweet day, since he was a holiday lover like me and it seems unfair that he died during his favorite time of year.  Of course, it's unlikely that even if he had been healthy, he'd still be here as it would mean he would be 103 years old.  Anyway, he was especially close to me that day, and then I was reading some blogs and came across a person who was sharing their Christmas Bucket List.  Hers was more about being organized, what gifts to buy, etc., but it was an interesting idea to me.

For whatever reason, I am in especially good stead this year as far as holiday gifts are concerned.  Not because I consciously decided to do X by X day, but more just because I was thinking about what I might want to make/do/buy for individuals.  So I don't need a list of what is left to do, since almost everything is done in that area.  I decided to make my own Christmas Bucket List, with my own spin on it.  Normally, I would wait until today or tomorrow to make it - but since in my OCD way, I wanted it to look good as well as anything else, I spent way too much time last weekend getting it to "look nice."  Because I guess you could say that's my thing - I love lists, but I want them to be pretty too.

(This looks nice to me.  Because this is as "artistic" as I get.)

Anyway, I finally got it to look the way I wanted it to, and I am ridiculously excited to share it with you.  This is a list of things I would like to do, and though they have been "assigned" certain days - it's more like a list of reminders and activities that I enjoy rather than instructions for particular things on specific days.  And some things are more than one day - for instance, I do baking on more than on day.  The only one that will be done on the day it is listed is the first one - "Put up cardboard wreath," because that is something I do every year on December 1st.  :-)

Anyway, here's what is on my list:

1.  Put up cardboard wreath. 2.  Baking! 3.  Listen to Christmas music. 4.  Make a decoration. 5.  Make holiday cheeseball. 6.  Decorate the house. 7.  Put up/decorate tree. 8.  Neighborhood walk to see lights/decorations. 9.  Have some eggnog. 10.  Pay someone a compliment. 11.  Participate in Giving Tree at church. 12.  Watch cheesy Christmas movie. 13.  Have some hot chocolate. 14.  Wrap gifts. 15.  Attend holiday event (play, concert, etc.). 16.  Donate to an animal shelter. 17.  Mail cards/gifts. 18.  Enjoy some quiet. 19.  Walk every day. 20.  Take something to security guard at work. 21.  Stocking stuffers! 22.  Buy a Wawa gift card for a homeless/needy person. 23.  Enjoy it all! 24.  Light some candles.

I posted this on Instagram, and mentioned that it combined two of my favorite things - lists and Christmas!  I think it will be fun to have this guideline, and be able to mark things off as they are done.

If you know me at all, you know I love to find ways to enjoy Christmastime and the whole holiday season.  This, for me, is actually a list that I am looking forward to using, and I hope that I can check off every single thing - and maybe think of things to add next year!  I am also sure that my dad would approve ...

I'll keep you posted - and if you decide to join me, let me know!

Here's hoping that the rest of your Thanksgiving weekend is relaxing, fun, and enjoyable in anyway you might like it to be.

28 November 2019

Thanksgiving Day

To my American readers, no matter where you are located, have a wonderful holiday.  
For everyone else, I hope your Thursday is a good one.

I saw the quote below the other day, and though I don't remember who said it, I think
it is something worth keeping in mind.


"Be thankful for what you have.  Your life is someone else's fairy tale."

27 November 2019

Thanksgiving Eve People

Yesterday afternoon (which is technically Thanksgiving Eve Eve), I had delivered something to another person at work and as I was leaving their office, I said, "I hope you have a Happy Thanksgiving."  Because I knew it was unlikely that I would see that person today.  And her response was, "HOW can you tell me to celebrate a holiday that is all about the oppression of Native Americans and celebrates gluttony?"

Look.  I get it, I really do.  There are lots of problems with American history, white privilege, and oppression and exploitation of non-white peoples.  And I am also aware that the first Thanksgiving was not two groups of people joining together to sing "Kumbaya" and say that everything was perfect.  (OK, I especially hope they didn't sing "Kumbaya," but you know what I mean.)

I do want the world to be better.  I even try to do what I can to make it so, and I wholeheartedly support those who make it their lives' work to fight for justice.

But I also love Thanksgiving, and what it means in the most general sense.  Yes, I know we should all be thankful every day, and I do try to do that.  But I love that we have a national holiday devoted to that.  It's the coziest of holidays, if you ask me, and I know that for some this holiday - or any holiday really - is fraught with stress and/or unhappiness, and that makes me sad.  I am however not directly responsible for what others experience or feel on or about the holiday.  I can only live my life with  my truth.

And all of that was my long-winded and ranty way of getting to the topic of the people I interacted with on my way to work on this Thanksgiving Eve (btw, I hope you also enjoy today,Kym, since I know you also "celebrate" Thanksgiving Eve).

First up was a woman and her dog that I see on occasion when I am leaving for work.  She appears to be a lovely young woman, and her dog looks like a mini-Golden Retriever.  We always stop and say hello-and-how-are-you to each other, and of course I make a fuss over the dog.  We had a lovely, if brief conversation, and she was looking forward to going to her parents' house tomorrow (with the dog) and enjoying the meal, even though she is disappointed that she has to work on Friday.

A few blocks away, I met a young guy with a black Labradoodle puppy (9 weeks old!) named Monty.  As you can imagine, Monty was ADORABLE, and very kissy.  The guy said he was a puppy who was "simultaneously cute and a demon," which made me laugh. 

The I decided to stop and treat myself to a cup of tea at a place on the way.  The young man who took my order said "Have a wonderful Thanksgiving," as he handed me my change, he also smiled.  While I was waiting for my order, a guy moved in front of me to get a napkin.  He had on a sweater with a really beautiful yoke design.  I complimented him on the sweater, and he pointed to a woman nearby and said, "Thanks - but you should really compliment her, she knitted it.  She also made me this hat," and the three of us proceeded to have a very pleasant conversation about knitting and knitting for those who appreciate it.  (The sweater was this pattern, for those wondering.)

This was a really nice way to start a morning, any morning, but especially this one, after my last interaction of the day yesterday was with someone who gave me a lecture. 

And you know what?  These are some of the things I am thankful for - the actual kindess of strangers.  People usually think that cities are just a bunch of nameless people ignoring each other, or worse, doing/saying terrible things and not caring.  And trust me, people in Philadelphia do not suffer fools gladly (maybe that's why I like living here)!  But it occurred to me that overall, I have more interactions like those this morning than negative ones.  As a matter of fact, a lot of the negative interactions occur more with people I actually know.

So on this Thanksgiving Eve, I find myself being happy that people I do not know, some of whom I am likely to never see again, were able to be kind.  I am happy that they reminded me that each of us is doing the best we can to get through life, and that it doesn't have to be perfect to be OK. 

I hope your day goes as well.  :-)

26 November 2019

In Which I Have Nearly Everything Except ...

The small hoops - where are they????  I didn't really expect to have anything to actually show you for Tiny Needle Tuesday, but I thought I could at least tell you about my next project. 

About ____ years ago (I don't remember, it was so long.  My nieces were young children, so ...), I stitched cross-stitch ornaments for everyone, with the idea of attaching them to the bows on their gifts.  This was a great idea, and I got nearly all of them stitched.  Then I fail to remember what happened, but the pieces and the supplies got put away into a box and that was the end of that. 

Fast forward to now, when I realized that I could a) put the ornaments already finished together, and b) stitch some more.  Because now there are a lot of different people who might enjoy them.  I found the box, and the stitched items were safely inside.  I found more of the patterns/kits that I had to move forward, as well as needles, fabric, and floss (so much floss from my mother!**). 

What I did not find?  Small hoops.  Not a one.  Now I am not a person who can successfully "stitch in hand," as they say, particularly on really small items.  So I need the hoop.  I do not consciously remember throwing away the ones I'd had, but after looking in all the places I could guess they might be, I still came up empty handed.  Sigh.  It's like a version of "Water, water, everywhere and not a drop to drink." 

This is of course not insurmountable.  I can walk to A.C. Moore over the next few days and buy a few hoops.  Or at least I hope I can - I just heard on the news this a.m. that A.C. Moore is going out of business, and that some of the stores will re-open as Michael's, but not until after the first of the year. 

I think I will however, not count on doing anything for this year - I can get a start on next year because since they are small items, they don't take long to do, and would be good palate cleansers in between projects. 

But I still need some hoops.  :-)

In Larger Needle News, I did the bind off on the funnel neck of my Pabaig sweater, so there are just the sleeves left to knit.  I also received the second set of yarn that I ordered to finish it - that came in record time, of course.  Anyway, I'll knit the sleeves, and the leftover as well as extra yarn will be incorporated into a hat or something like that.  But I feel certain that I'll able to finish the sweater soon, which pleases me, since I wanted to at least be finished in 2019.

And that's the plan ... I'll keep you posted.

**Seriously, folks, I have A LOT of floss - if you need some for a project, feel free to contact me before you buy any - I'm happy to send some to you if I have it!

25 November 2019

Recipe: Mainstay French Toast

Why not start the week by sharing a recipe?   Since this is the time of year that a lot of people have guests or extra family visiting, I though I'd share one of our favorites that is always a big hit.  It makes a nice amount and you organize it the night before you are going to serve it. 

The Mainstay Inn is a bed and breakfast in Cape May, New Jersey.  I've never stayed there, but years ago, the local newspaper had a feature on the best recipes from local B-and-Bs, and this was one of them.  I've made it several times and it has always turned out perfectly. 

Mainstay French Toast


1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup butter
2 Tablespoons corn syrup
2 tart apples, peeled and sliced
5 eggs
1 1/2 cups milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 loaf French bread

Cook sugar, butter, and syrup until well mixed and syrupy. 

Pour into a 9 x 13 baking dish, and spread apple slices over mixture.

Slice bread into 3/4 inch slices and place on top of apples.

Whisk together remaining ingredients and pour over bread.

Cover and refrigerate overnight.  When ready, heat oven to 350 degrees, and bake uncovered for 40 minutes.  Serve with spicy apple syrup if desired.

Spicy Apple Syrup

1 cup applesauce
1 (10-oz.) jar apple jelly
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
dash salt

Combine ingredients in a small saucepan.  Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until jelly melts and syrup is hot.


*Even though I have made this numerous times, I have never made the apple syrup, so I can't say how good it is.  We just always serve it with maple syrup.

*I have also on occasion added raisins, dried cranberries, or dried sour cherries to this along with the apples. 

*This recipe as well as others I've shared here will always be available at the Recipes tab of the blog.

Let me know if you try this, and if so, what you think!

Bon appetit!

24 November 2019

Sunday Silly - Thanksgiving Week Edition

This made me laugh, because nearly everyone I know has issues with this word!

Enjoy your Sunday.  :-)

23 November 2019

So Far Today

So far today, I have:

Gone for an early-morning walk with Hamlet;

Enjoyed cuddling with Pip for nearly two hours while he sat on my lap;

Taken The Tim out for breakfast as his birthday week starts winding down;

Finished putting together a package and walked to the post office to put it in the mail;

Also bought some Christmas stamps while I was at the post office;

Gave the first floor a good clean;

Moved a lot of stuff on the third floor out of the way so The Tim can take the a/c unit out of the window;

Walked over to CVS to pick up an Rx that was waiting;

Knit about 3 inches on my Pabaig sweater (it felt so weird, since it's been so long since I picked it up!)

Sat down to start watching the Boston College-Notre Dame football game; 

Wrote this blog post.

And now I have decided that I get to just enjoy the rest of the afternoon and all of the evening however I would like to!  I feel more knitting and a manicure in my immediate future ... ;-)

I hope your Saturday has been a good one as well.

22 November 2019

If ... Then

OH EM GEE.  Friday, you have no idea how welcome you are!  'Nuff said.

So I've been thinking about various random things this week - more so than usual - because I needed to be able to get out of my brain even more than usual.  This has been one of those weeks when, both in thought and deed, I've wanted to go up to people and say, "You know, IF _______, THEN _____, so deal with it."

Since it is neither socially acceptable to do this to others (particularly strangers) - and could even be dangerous - I'm going to say it to all of you.  Should you find yourself feeling addressed or even attacked in any of these circumstances, please do not take it personally.  But you might want to give things a bit more thought ...

IF you are a person who usually complains at a fever pitch about holiday decorations, music, etc. being in the stores too early. but you have for whatever reason decided that this year, you are embracing it all right away because "it's been a tough year,"
THEN maybe shut up about it related to any place or any person going forward because you no longer have the "moral imperative."  Stores do things for business reasons, they always have - get over it.  People do what they want to do, when they want to do it because it is up to them.  Just because *this* year has been tough for you (which, truly I'm sorry that's the case), it doesn't mean that if next year is great, you can go back to your previous proclamations.

IF you bake a delumptious birthday cake, and have some for dessert every night,
THEN don't be surprised that it is gone after a few days; but, THEN remember that Thanksgiving is next week, which = PIE!!!

IF you don't pay attention to weather forecasts,
THEN don't be surprised and/or complain all day when it is cold, or raining, or whatever and you are inappropriately dressed.

IF you realize/decide that you have lots o' knitting supplies that you don't need/don't use/don't want/don't whatever,
THEN put them into a box and donate it to a women's shelter, an old age home, or even a local school.  Lots of times these places have knitting/crocheting groups or lessons, and rely on donations for supplies.  For anyone in these situations, having access to the supplies, nice yarns, patterns, etc. is a wonderful treat since they are generally not in a position to treat themselves to those things.

IF you are constantly talking on your phone and not paying attention to what is happening around you,
THEN do not give others dirty looks when they try to pass you, or they bump into you because there is no place to move on the sidewalk and you were not paying enough attention to move to the side.  Also, who are you always talking to?  And about what?  I'm lucky if I can come up with ten minutes' of conversation twice a month with one of my sisters!  Of course, maybe that's because I am working on the assumption that, much like me, they do not care to have a moment-by-moment rundown of my life ("Right now, I'm walking past a store.  Now I'm crossing the street.")

IF you start knitting/making gifts for people early in the year, or just earlier than usual, and actually finish them all well before the deadline(s),
THEN do not decide that you need to make several more, especially if others would not appreciate said handmade gifts as much.  You have just been given the chance to either a) make something for yourself, b) make something for the holiday on your own time, or c) just enjoy being finished with it all.  Geez.

IF you are with your child in a public place, and said child is running around screaming and hitting people for no real reason, and you are either not paying attention (perhaps you are on your phone), or don't seem to care,
THEN don't get annoyed at people for telling your darling spawn to stop doing it.

IF you lay off approximately 25 people suddenly (two departments' worth of people) in early November, and then don't address it with the rest of the staff until the end of November,
DON'T act surprised/hurt/attacked when the room is tense and the questions are pointed.  Jesus Christ on a snowmobile, grow a pair!

IF someone pays you a compliment,
THEN say "thank you" at a minimum and leave it at that.  When you say something in response like, "Oh this is old," "Oh I don't really like it," or any such apologetic/negative remark, you are negating the kindness of the person who took the time to compliment you.  Someone is being nice.  Smile, accept it graciously, and move on.  Learning to do it this way may be difficult, but soon you will realize that your smile is a genuine one and that you truly are appreciating the compliment. 

IF you have read this far,
THEN have a good weekend!


21 November 2019

Fascinating and Beautiful

Occasionally, I look at the website for the Astronomy Picture of the Day.  I came across this by accident once at a previous job, and the images generally fascinate me. 

Today's is both fascinating and beautiful. 

You can read about it here.  I do have to say that this one really really appeals to me. 

Just a reminder that the world is amazing, whether or not we consciously pay close attention.

20 November 2019

Sew ... Here's a Plan ...

Oh I have to tell you how much I enjoyed everyone's comments about "Poverty Meals" from my last post, and reminders of some of the other things that were regular meals/foods growing up.  Isn't it funny how - especially when you are a kid - you just figure everyone else's family does the same things, eats the same food, etc.?  And then the first time someone mentions something different or you visit a friend's house, it's like WHAM!?

Thanks for the trip down memory lane (though who am I kidding, The Tim and I still like some of that stuff).

I know I don't talk about sewing here very much, though I have a sewing machine and enjoy the basic things I know how to do.  But I seldom use my machine, mainly because I pile so much crap on the table above it, I would need to clean it off first.  I had been toying with the idea of setting it up on the table on January 1, and just leaving it out, thereby providing fewer possibilities to create piles o' crap.

Then a few weeks ago, I was scrolling along on Instagram, and saw that someone I followed had linked to this post.  Hm, I thought, this might be worth looking into.  So I watched the informational video, and decided to sign up.  This will provide me with actual incentive to use my machine, and - at least theoretically - by the end of 2020, I'll have added some useful things to my household and repurposed some materials. 

I'm sharing this with you because it occurred to me that some of you may also be interested.  If you sign up before November 30th, the cost is half, even though the full amount is not that expensive.

Not that this means I'll be only sewing in the next year, because I would miss knitting too much.  Rather, this is just a plan to help me get back on track with sewing, and also refrain from creating too many piles of random stuff around the house.  So hopefully for me, it will be a win-win!

I have been thinking of goals for the next year, and I'm hoping that this one will actually stick. 

Stay tuned ... :-)

19 November 2019

Did You Eat "Poverty Meals" When You Were Growing Up?

Thanks for all of your kind words and wishes for The Tim's birthday.  He seemed to really enjoy his dinner and his cake, and was thrilled with his Crazytown Hat!  I'll see if I can get a photo of him wearing it.

When I told him I had made his birthday cake like they did in Roman times, he looked puzzled and then said, "Did you put columns on it?" which amused me.  He appreciated my "artistic" efforts.

It was a good weekend and a good day all around.

A friend of mine sent me this link, with the message - "Wait! Did you know these were 'Poverty Meals'" and my first reaction was to laugh, but then it got me to thinking.  I know I have mentioned before that we were very poor growing up, but to some extent, we didn't know it unless others pointed it out.  We were lucky to have something to eat every day, and clothes to wear (even if they weren't necessarily nice clothes) and occasionally we were farmed out to live with relatives for a while, but that was always presented as an adventure rather than something that was a problem.  

But I remember being shocked years ago, when a discussion about foods we ate as kids but would never eat today was going on.  I mentioned that one of my favorite things as a kid was fried bologna sandwiches, but I would never eat one today, because a) I am a vegetarian, and b) I knew there was no way I could successfully duplicate the ones my father used to make that tasted SO yummy.  At which point, a co-worker said, "Fried bologna sandwiches????  That's what poor people eat!"  

I have to be honest, that never occurred to me.  Just like most of the things mentioned in the linked article never seemed like things we ate because we were poor.  Of those things mentioned on the list, we regularly had all of them except chicken livers and fruit in condensed milk (I feel pretty certain that my parents must not have liked them).  They were just part of the regular rotation of meals.  There are some I still happily eat today, that until I read this article, had no idea were originally around because of their low costs.  And for better or worse, I think of some of them as treats (cinnamon and sugar toast, for instance).  

A black woman I worked with once told me that "no one who was self-respecting" in her community would eat boxed macaroni and cheese.  I was an adult before I realized that people made it completely from scratch - I thought "homemade" mac and cheese meant that they used the boxed stuff and jazzed it up, or that they used the "fancy" boxed stuff!

(regular - we never had it with these 'fancy' veggies!)

(fancy - fortunately for my parents, we didn't like this version as well, 'cause I know it cost more ...)

I did find a recipe for truly homemade mac and cheese years ago that I make pretty regularly now - using whatever cheeses we happen to have - and we enjoy that.  But I've also been known to fix the boxed stuff on occasion ...

So - what about you?  Did you eat "Poverty Meals" and if so, did you know that's what they were?  

Now I'm thinking of some other things that likely fall into that category - in any case, this has all been quite illuminating to me.  :-)

18 November 2019

When You Are Your Own Best Audience

How was your weekend?  Mine was good, with a nice combination of hanging out and also getting some things accomplished.  Today is of course The Tim's birthday, and we went out to dinner last night which was fun.  We tried a new local brewpub and the food was good, but the beers were really wonderful.

Today as previously mentioned, the stuffed cabbage that he requested for his birthday dinner is in the crock pot, and the house really smells pretty darn good!  I baked his birthday cake yesterday, and then added the frosting this morning.  I am always wishing I could think of ways to decorate his cake - not anything elaborate, but just better than a plain cake.  This is mainly because when it is my birthday, he always makes a cake for me that looks pretty as well as yummy.

This year I had an idea, and spent part of the weekend trying to figure out how I could make it work.  I gave it a try this morning, and was pretty pleased with the result.  (If you have already looked at Instagram, you've seen it already - and, spoiler alert, I'll probably post the picture on Facebook later too ...)

I made an old-timey birthday cake, just like during the time of the Romans!


I am not just pleased that I thought to do it, and got it to work, I am ridiculously amused by it.  I mean, Roman numerals!  Frankly, I can't believe it even occurred to me in the first place.  This is the kind of thing that *might* occur to me three weeks from now, and by next year I would completely forget about it.

I crack myself up sometimes.  :-)

17 November 2019

Sunday Silly

Every Monday at work, I send out an e-mail with a list attached of materials that arrived and were processed in the past week, so that the scientists can decide if there's anything germane to their interests.  I always put a meme or comic in the body of the e-mail, more for my amusement than anything else, but quite a few people seem to enjoy it.  

As you can imagine, in a natural history museum, this one was a big hit.

Have a good one!  :-)

16 November 2019

Of *Course* It Worked Out This Way

Happy Saturday!  I hope you are enjoying yours.  It's cold but sunny here, and I went out again early to do some running around, so right now I'm sitting here working on a pair of socks, watching the Navy-Notre Dame football game.

So ... remember this?

My Pabaigh sweater, SO close to being finished!  I really wanted to finish this to wear in the fall, but because I was making the body longer than the pattern called for, I ran out of enough yarn in the kit I had purchased a while back to finish the sleeves and the funnel neck.  And though I was trying to use up my stash and not purchase more yarn it once again meant that I would have to do that.  Fortunately, it's not too expensive, even with overseas shipping.  So I ordered two more balls of yarn at the end of  September.  I got a notice that it was shipped on October 1st.  

Oh, well, no big deal - I received a notice that it should take 10-14 days to arrive.  So I started other projects, and waited.  Finished a couple of projects and waited.  Finally decided I'd waited plenty long enough for it to arrive from Scotland to Philadelphia, so this past Wednesday, I contacted them and re-ordered 2 more balls, this time paying for tracking.  

We got the mail today, and as you have likely already guessed, this arrived:

with the shipping label dated October 1, 2019 ...  

This is only slightly more annoying than having to buy a whole other ball of yarn to finish the scrappy socks project.  I got notice this a.m. that the second package shipped today, so it's too late to contact them and cancel the order.  


Oh well, at least now I can finish Pabaig before the end of the year, and though fall will be over, it comes every year, and I can wear it as a layer anyway.  I'll use the extra yarn for a hat or something, it won't go to waste, but it just figures that it would work out this way, right?

15 November 2019

Are You Saying That TGIF Means Something Else?

I couldn't resist this image - it made me laugh out loud and I hope it at least amuses you.

There are some weeks where you just wonder ... about a lot of things.  This has been that kind of week for me.  Granted, I'm always wondering about something or someone, but this week outidid itself.  

Because I am privileged to be able to do so, and in order to remind myself of the good, I've decided to do a TGIF post about the good.

Thinking about - The Tim's birthday on Monday.  I have a couple of gifts that I know he will like (this is one of them), and he has requested to go to a new pub attached to a local brewery on Sunday night, followed by stuffed cabbage and birthday cake on Monday.  Sounds good to me, as we have been wanting to try the pub, and stuffed cabbage and birthday cake are always a good idea, as far as I'm concerned!

Giggling about - this morning, when the Koodle entered the room meowing.  I said, "Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome the Koodle!" and the Tim immediately followed with (in a deep, annoucer voice), "Straight from his groundbreaking act in Las Vegas!" and for some reason that is still making me crack up.

Interested in - watching the new season of "The Crown."  I really love Olivia Colman for one, and though I am not a fan of the royal family, I love costume and historical shows/movies.  I hope it will be as good as the previous seasons.

Feeling good about - being more on top of things this year regarding birthdays and holidays than I have been for the last few years.  Granted, last year I had a legit reason to struggle, since I had the broken wrist.  But without really much effort on my part, I feel like I know what I want to do for the people I buy/make gifts for.  I've even started thinking what kind of baking I might do (WHO AM I??).

I hope you can think of at least four good things, and that you have a good weekend. :-)

14 November 2019

Hello Darkness My Old Friend

Well, no, not *that* kind of darkness - though I guess it is an old friend, even if not that welcome - I'm talking about the fact that our daylight hours are fewer right now, and darkness is hanging out in the morning and in the late afternoons, instead of just "overnight." 

Unlike nearly every single person I know, I am always happy when there is so much dark.  Since today is Three on Thursday, and I haven't participated for a bit, I thought I'd tell you three reasons why I really like the darkness.

1.  It means that the holidays have come/are approaching, and if you know me, you know I love the fall and winter holidays!  This is the time of year that I really enjoy, as much for the anticipation of said holidays as for the actual days themselves.  

2.  The lights and the resulting coziness factor!  Lights in houses, office buildings, even car and traffic lights shine as much because they have to as much as anything else.  And then, there are candles, holiday lights, and such, which to me are such happy, twinkly smiles in the darkness.  They all show up so much better when it's dark, and where there is more darkness, you can enjoy them longer.  I never really feel cozy in warmer weather when it is light longer.  And I am all about cozy.

3.  It's easier to relax.  When it's still light during evening hours., there is always the feeling or implication from someone else that you should be enjoying it, doing something, taking advantage of it.  If you're not outside, people wonder if something is wrong with you.  Whereas, if you decide to stay inside during the evening to curl up and read a book during the time of the year when it's dark, no one gives you grief about it.

(And of course, my unspoken reason to enjoy the darkness this time of year - you know it's not gonna be hot and humid!)

Don't get me wrong, I love daylight, and there are definite advantages to longer daytime light, but I realized a long time ago that the darker, colder time of year made me a lot happier overall.

I can live with that.  :-)

This street is right near my house - the lights look so much prettier when it's dark (the street has these lights all year long)!

13 November 2019

It's All in the Translation

Hi all - first of all, if you usually hear from me, and have not - in response to comments you left on any recent posts - I apologize.  My e-mail has been all wonky again and returned ALL of them to me as undeliverable, and I have no idea why.  It has to be something on their end, because I double-checked all of the addresses.  Sigh.

In any event, I got a charge out the comments people made, and the private e-mail messages I got regarding my Friday Letters post and the term "nebshit."  I tend to forget that it's a regionalism, from Western Pennsylvania and the area where I spent most of my growing up years (Wheeling, WV, about 40 minutes from Pittsburgh).  It describes someone who is always nosing into others' business, aka being "nebby" or a "neb-nose."  Which you probably got from the context.

I will admit that it's one of my fave words, because it so accurately describes the person being talked to or described.  It's also one of the classic words in Western Pennsylvania English (from Wikipedia):

Western Pennsylvania English, known more narrowly as Pittsburgh English or popularly as Pittsburghese, is a dialect of American English native primarily to the western half of Pennsylvania, centered on the city of Pittsburgh, but potentially appearing as far north as Erie County and Limestone, New York (north of Bradford), as far east as Sunbury, Pennsylvania, as far west as Youngstown, Ohio, and as far south as Clarksburg, West Virginia.

One of the things we never said/did (maybe because we moved around a lot, who knows), was call bologna "jumbo" as in, "Would you like a jumbo sandwich for lunch?"  The Tim's sister Kathy went to college in Cleveland, and when she said to her roomate that she was going to fix herself a "jumbo and ketchup sandwich," her roommate said, "That's not elephant meat, RIGHT?"  Which still makes me laugh to this day.  My mother did however, call rubber bands "gumbands." 

I love this kind of thing - regional words and phrases.  "Yinz" is a real fave as well - it's the plural version of "you."  And the Pittsburgh Steelers are often called the "Stillers." 

But my all time fave - maybe because as a kid it was considered the epitome of impolite - is "jagoff."  That's someone who can be a variety of things, a jerk, an a**hole, really stupid, or just annoying. 

I guess you could say that one of the worst things that could happen would be if yinz had a nebshit neighbor, who never shared a jumbo sandwich at a Stillers game - what a jagoff, right???

There's a million of them, everywhere.  And I love finding out about them!  I think it's sad that so many local expressions are being lost, because people move around a lot, or don't want to seem to be/sound uneducated.  I get it, but I also think we lose a lot of what makes it interesting to go from one place to another and meet people.

Words to live by. :-)

12 November 2019

11 November 2019

Last Gift Pair - an FO Post

OK, so it's just a matter of time until something happens that will either a) make me look like a fool, or b) kick me in the butt.   Why, you ask?  Because I am feeling pretty darn pleased with myself.  Over the weekend, I finished the last pair of socks that need to be sent as Christmas gifts.  

Project:  Zach's House Socks
Pattern:  Vanilla sock pattern, with bands of color added
Needles:  US size 5
Yarn:  Encore Worsted, in the colorways, Red, Navy, and Denim
Modifications:  I made the "fancy" navy pops have a serrated ridge by doing them in slip stitches for the first round of the color change.
Notes:  My niece told me that Zach is particularly fond of reds and blues.  Since I had the most red yarn, I decided that would be the main color.  Haha, said Fate.  I ran out of the red right before the last couple of rows before the blue bands near the toes!  Nothing like having to order more yarn for a scrap project, right? 

But they are finished, and I hope he'll like them and that they will fit.  In any case, all of the knitted gifts for people other than The Tim are now finished, so I'm happily ahead of things that way.

How are you coming along with knitted gifts (if you are in fact knitting any gifts at all)?

10 November 2019

Sunday Silly

Good to know.

Have a good Sunday!

09 November 2019

Saturday Shopping Success

Brrrrr, it's cold here!  So cozy, I just finished a cup of tea and thought I'd write a post before doing anything else.  I'm feeling pleased with myself, because I had a good idea, and got up today and went on a walk into Center City Philadelphia to see if I could make it work.  My idea paid off, and I've already been home being cozy for a couple of hours, so it's all good.  I love it when it works that way.

Among my family members are a set of great-nieces and one great-nephew that live in Arizona.  We very very seldom get to see them, but I try to send them birthday cards and Christmas gifts every year.  Now that they are all teenagers, it's not quite as simple as it used to be, particularly in the price range that I set for gifts that I have to buy instead of make.  These kids are lovely but they are not much for handmade gifts.  I had seen an article somewhere online the other day that listed "stocking stuffers" for teens, and when I read through it, I realized that one of their suggestions would be perfect as gifts for this particular family.  So today I ventured over to the Lush store and came home with these:

These filled all of my categories: small and easy to wrap/send, something they would like/use, meeting my prices, and best of all, cruelty-free!  The packaging is minimal and compostable, which is also a big plus.  So each great-niece and my great-nephew will get a small gift to open and use from us, and I didn't have to break the bank.  These are the smallest sizes, so if they aren't that crazy about the products, they won't have gobs of it to have to use.

And an extra bonus - I can get them organized with other stuff over the Thanksgiving weekend and mail them in plenty of time to arrive!

I gotta tell you, this has made my Saturday - sometimes things just go the way you hoped they would in your mind, you know?

I hope your Saturday is a good one as well.  If it's also cold where you are, stay warm!

08 November 2019

Time for Some Friday Letters

It's been a while, and I haven't shared any Friday letters, so let's give it a go.

Dear Woman Behind Me in Line At Starbucks,

I was already happy because I was stopping there for a treat in the form of a Cranberry Bliss Bar, but it was even better when you gave me the lovely compliment about my coat.  I especially appreciated it since it's a coat I've had for about 6 years that I hope every year will make it through another season.  And then when I thanked you, and you said, "You are very welcome.  I enjoy giving people compliments - they are free, and I feel just as good as they do."  That was not just a wonderful reminder, but it also reminded me that younger people are not all terrible like the ones that work in my dept.  So thank YOU for brightening my morning!


Dear Elevator Repair Guy at Work,

I think you must be one of the most pleasant workmen who ever comes into our workspace.  You always say hello and have a pleasant thing to say.  Even if others don't appreciate it, I do, and thank you for your good will.


Dear Hamlet,

I know.  Since "Hamilton" is currently playing here, everyone thinks that is your name.  Take it from me, after the first couple of reminders, it's easier to just go with it, and doesn't hurt anyone.  They are still stopping to say hello (which you love) and at least their mistake is somewhat close to your actual name.  (Take it from someone who has spent most of her life having people call her Gretchen.)


Dear November,

Thank you for being actually seasonal!  I have been enjoying the sunny, crisp days.  I'm sure everyone else will complain because it is supposed to be extra cold this weekend, but I will definitely be enjoying it.  If you could be seasonal especially on Thanksgiving, that would be the best.


Dear Yarn I'm Waiting to Arrive,

Could you hustle and get here already?  It's bad enough I had to order more, but I'd like to finish the two projects I need you for, and be able to start something else.  I'm sure one of you will arrive soon, but to the other of you, it's been a while and we're running out of the time frame during which you were supposed to be here.


Dear Neighbor Nobody Likes,

This time around I'm writing because I want you to know that I will sweep the walk in front of our house when I'm good and ready to do it.  It's not currently dangerous in any way, it's none of your beeswax, and if you are so worked up about it, feel free to sweep it yourself.  No one likes a nebshit.


Dear Administration at Work,

Do you really think that no one has found out that you laid off 20 people, decimating two depts?  It's kind of hard for people who had no warning to keep quiet about being laid off by the end of the year.  And good luck with having volunteers and consultants do those jobs moving forward.  Also, good luck getting the rest of us to believe this will be an isolated occurrence.  If you would just announce that it was happening, you'd at least get some credit for being honest with the rest of us.


Dear Weekend,

I have no specific plans for you, and let's hope it stays that way.  I really don't feel like dealing with anyone else's drama on my days off.  :-)


Here's hoping your weekend will be lovely and also drama-free!

07 November 2019

Would You Rather ...

I was just listening to a book podcast, and the person hosting it was reading the results of questions she had asked her listeners beginning with "Would You Rather," and it was really interesting and fun to hear.  Of course, her questions dealt exclusively with books, but I decided to give it a try based on fibery stuff as well as other stuff.  So here you go.  Please play along if you are so inclined.  :-)

Would You Rather?

Knit   OR   Crochet?

Knit.  I would like to learn to crochet, but I would be surprised if I ever liked it better than knitting.

Read  OR  Exercise?

Read.  Even though the answer should be Exercise ...

Walk   OR  Run?

Walk.  I love walking and walk most places.  I have tried running a few different times, but my knees objected strongly.

Eat something salty  OR  Eat something sweet?


Do you like to knit with other people  OR  Do you like to knit by yourself?

I don't mind knitting with other people, but I generally prefer to be by myself regardless of what I may or may not be doing.

Socks  OR  Hats?

Socks.  I like hats, but at some point you can have too many hats, and I for one never have too many socks.

Design patterns   OR   Dye yarn?

I think it would be fun to design a pattern that people liked.  I don't think I would enjoy dyeing yarn on any regular basis.

Cook   OR   Bake?

Bake.  I love to bake.  I like cooking, but baking is more fun for me.

Sandwich   OR  Salad?

Sandwich - mainly because it involves bread, one of my favorite food groups.

Knit with bright colors   OR   Knit with dark colors?

Bright colors - it's easier for me to knit day or night with them.  When I use dark colors, it's really hard to enjoy at night if the light isn't just perfect.

OK - now it's your turn!  :-)

06 November 2019

[Very Belated] Book Report for July, August, and September

I realized yesterday that I had failed to do a book report for the months above, and decided that I would go ahead and do it - I mean, better late than never, right?  I wasn't about to turn it into a 4 month or plus one -  three months is plenty!

So here are my reads for the end of the summer/very beginning of fall.

Where the Crawdads Sing, by Delia Owens.  I know this book has been getting rave reviews, and that it is the author's debut novel. 

I thought it was good, but not amazing.  It details the story of a young woman, Kya Clark, who lives in the marshes of North Carolina.  When the story begins, she is a child watching her mother walk away, convincing herself that she will return.  Not that long after, her brother Jodie - her best friend - leaves as well, leaving Kya with her alcoholic and violent father.

Time moves along and eventually Kya is living by herself in the marsh, counting gulls and other birds as her friends and companions, and learning about where she lives in a personal and more intimate way than most.   She is known as "Marsh Girl" to those in the town, a place she only visits when necessary.  A new kind of existence shows up in the person of a friend of her brother's, named Tate, who teaches her to read and opens up more of the world to her.

By the summer of 1969, a well-known, popular young man named Chase is found murdered, and Kya becomes the primary suspect.  The story is told in alternating pieces, starting with Kya as a child watching her mother leave, then moving to the discovery of Chase's body, and so on. 

I liked the book.  I thought it was well-written overall, and that Kya's existence was described in a way that made you feel her isolation.  It's definitely worth reading, but I personally didn't find it to be as groundbreaking as a lot of the critics did.

City of Girls, by Elizabeth Gilbert.  What an interesting and entertaining book! 

Vivian Morris, a young woman in the early 1940s, has been sent by her proper and wealthy parents to live with her Aunt Peg in New York City, after failing out of Vassar and not seeming to have another plan.  The book opens with her beginning a letter to another woman, who it turns out is a daughter of a dear friend.  The daughter has asked her, "Just what were you to my father?" and Vivian sets out to tell her story, hoping that by giving her the whole thing, she'll understand the relationship she had.

Aunt Peg owns an off-Broadway theater (well before that was a term), and they put on plays for the neighborhood with a ragtag group of performers, a lot of them former vaudevillians.  This is a whole new world to Vivian, and she gets caught up into the life of those around her, and suddenly has a freedom that she never even thought was out there.

Gilbert writes Vivian as someone with a wry sense of humor, and with enjoyable powers of observation.  There are actually many laugh out loud descriptions of some of the other characters, and of the activities she undertakes with them.  New York City right before World War II is a no-holds-barred, exciting place full of adventure and excitement.  Of course, Vivian is too young to appreciate much of her behavior and its consequences until an incident occurs that changes everything.  And Vivian returns to her rather conservative, proper family.  She tries to live a "proper" life, even becoming engaged to a very nice man.  But things change when she learns her bother has been killed in the war, and fortunately Aunt Peg asks her to return to New York, where, as part of the war effort, she has been assigned the task of creating plays and entertainments for people working at the Navy Yard.

New York City during and after World War II is a different kind of place altogether, but Vivian manages to make a life for herself, and one that makes her happy.  By the end of the book, we have learned so much about Vivian, and also her relationship with the letter writer's daughter.

I really enjoyed this book, as I enjoy reading about New York (and other places as well) at a time described to me by my parents, who were young adults at that time in another place.  So many of the places, people, and activities were already somewhat familiar.  And Vivian's presentation of it all was really fun to read.

Maids of Misfortune, by M. Louisa Locke.  This was an enjoyable book.  It was a cheapie for my Nook, and was one of those "If you enjoyed X, you might like ___." 

Annie Fuller lives in late 1870s San Francisco, having moved there after her husband died, and when her aunt left her a family house.  Annie's husband died with an incredible amount of debt, so her personal fortune was gone.  But she moved to San Francisco and opened her inherited house as a boarding house, and things are going pretty well.

She was also educated by her father to understand a great deal about finance and predicting financial stability, but since she knows that as a woman, no one will listen to her, she takes on the personage of a clairvoyant known as Sybil, since men are more likely to believe fantastical predictions, and it has paid off for her.  When one of her clients is found dead in his home, the police come looking for Sybil, since she was the last one to see him, and is now a suspect.  Annie realizes that she needs to find out what happened, so that her "cover" is not blown.

The bulk of the story involves her efforts, and I enjoyed reading about the people and city of San Francisco at the time time period.  Like most cozy mysteries, there were things that required suspension of disbelief, but for the most part, it was well-written and it kept me wanting to keep going.

I have since learned that the author is an expert in Women's History, and I imagine that is what made the book hold together so well.

Little Fires Everywhere, by Celeste Ng.  I know that everyone has been raving about this book, and I get it, I just was not as enamored as most.

The Richardson family of Shaker Heights, Ohio, have a lovely life, or so it seems.  Mrs. Richardson is a native of the town, having been born and raised there, and whose grandparents were among the first settlers there.  She inherited a house from her family, which she rents out selectively to those she feels that she can really help.  When Mia Warren and her teenage daughter Pearl move into the house, it seems like a good match.  Mia is a struggling artist, and Pearl is the same age as one of the Richardson children, and they become fast friends.

I don't want to give anything away, so I'll just say that certain events lead to an ending that is both relevatory and sad, and the reader sees that regardless of how much someone of privilege thinks they can help others, they bring their own biases to the table that can have a devastating effect.

This book was certainly readable, and interesting enough, but I was not in love with it.

The Pawful Truth, by Miranda James.  Another good entry in this series.  This time, Charlie and his cat Diesel become inadvertently involved in a murder of a professor at the college where Charlie works. 

Charlie has signed up to audit a course in the Medieval Studies dept, taught by a professor that is well-known, and one of the most popular teachers in the college.  He attends the first sesssion, and is both impressed and inspired.  His friend and colleague Melba tells him the professor is known for having an eye for the ladies, and that popular gossip is that his wife, another professor at the college, as well as a popular novelist, does not appreciate the behavior of her husband.  But, there are also rumors flying about that she is also having an affair!

Lo and behold, the professor that the wife is supposedly seeing ends up being a temporary boarder at Charlie's house when his home is being renovated.  Shortly after all of this begins, Charlie's professor is found murdered, and the list of suspects includes nearly every single person involved one way or another in the campus gossip. 

What I enjoy about this series, is that the author is clearly familiar with the academic world, and all of the intrigues - real and imagined - that take place on a regular basis.  She also understands the work of a cataloger in a library, which is extremely rare.  So even if a lot of things seem unlikely, the stories are readable, and the mysteries usually pretty good.

Eventually, Charlie finds out who murdered the professor, why, how, and this time, is nearly killed in the process.  It will be interesting to see if he becomes more "tame" in future entries in this series as a result.

Above All Things, by Tanis Rideout.  This book was fascinating.  It takes the story of Charles Mallory's attempt to be the first to successfully climb Mount Everest in 1924, and intersperses it with the story of his wife, left at home with their children, wishing that he had not gone in the first place, but also hoping for any good news that arrives.

I admire people with a sense of adventure, but after reading 'Into Thin Air' and then this book, I just don't really understand the desire to conquer Everest.  Apparently, Mallory was the first person to give the answer "Because it's there."  The story of the team's efforts to get here, and the extreme conditions and challenges included are both fascinating and depressing.  Frankly, by the time I was finished with the book, I felt that Mallory was incredibly egotistical more than brave.  Though I also realize that ego is often what leads people to even attempt these things.

The parts of the book dealing with his wife and her experiences were both frustrating and sad to me.  At the beginning, he has sworn to her that he is finished with Everest, and that they can begin to lead a normal family life.  Then she sees a telegram congratulating him on joining the team before he does.  Due to social constraints of the time, and the fact that she does seem to genuinely love him, all she can do is express her frustration and annoyance, and then wait to see what happens. 

I was also fascinated to learn that Mallory's body was finally found in 1999.  I guess I never paid a whole lot of attention to him and his story before, mostly because it seemed like another "for God and kingdom" story, which of course it is, but the author managed to use archival materials and actual letters exchanged between the couple to make the story interesting, frustrating, and sad.

Queen Lucia, by E.F. Benson.  This is the first in the "Lucia and Mapp" series of books that were also made into a TV dramatization.

Mrs. Lucas, "Lucia" to her friends, is the reigning queen of Riseholme, a small English town.  She considers herself and her opinions to be expert, and is suspicious of anyone who disagrees.  Georgie Pillson is her neighbor, friend, and on occasion, the one who wants to bring her down a peg.

When a series of events culminates in the arrival of a famous opera singer who moves to the village, it seems that Lucia's reign is over - even Georgie is smitten with the newcomer. 

This is an amusing book, full of the types of characters we all encounter on a regular basis , who act in similar ways and who can be frustrating.  Things look questionable for a while, but everything works out in the end, as you might expect.

The Scholar, by Dervla McTiernan.  Late on a Friday night, Dr. Emma Sweeney is going to her lab on the campus of a university in Galway, when she comes across a dead girl who has been run over.  Her first instinct is to call her boyfriend, Cormac Reilly, who is a detective with the Galway police.  They had moved from Dublin to Galway for her job at the lab, a once in a lifetime opportunity.  Emma is being very successful in her career, now working for Darcy Pharmaceuticals, a private enterprise with their lab on the campus; Cormac has been given cold cases to review, and is getting tired of not being able to have current cases of his own.

At first it is thought that the victim is the granddaughter of the head/owner of Darcy Pharmaceuticals, but then it turns out that it is another young woman.  Mystery surrounds the relationship of the two girls, and why/if/how they worked in the lab together.  As the case moves forward, we learn some upsetting facts about everyone involved, and Cormac becomes more and more concerned first that Emma could be harmed, and later that somehow she was involved.

These books remind me somewhat of Tana French's work, but they stand very well on their own.  This one  is by turns creepy and frustrating.  And the politics of the police station are really interesting to me.  I liked this book a lot.

The Book of Speculation, by Erika Swyler.  I liked this book well enough.  I also know that it's going to be one of those books that everyone I know thinks is amazing not just "good enough" (I'm looking at you, "Discovery of Witches."

Simon Watson is a librarian who lives in the family home on Long Island Sound, a house perched on a cliff that is in terrible and disintegrating shape.  Simon's life takes an unexpected turn when he is laid off as a result of budgetary cuts. This is shortly after he receives a book from a Midwest bookseller because the bookseller thought it might be of value to him, as he suspects it is related somehow to Simon's family.

I'm not going to say much more, because I don't want to have spoilers for those who will like the book.  But suffice it to say that the book leads to a lot of revelations that Simon - and often the reader - are not expecting.  The chapters in the book alternate between current day Simon, and the circus group where some of his ancestors worked, and where the magical realism of the story comes in.

It's not a bad book - it's very readable, and interesting, and I'm glad I read it.

Post Captain, by Patrick O' Brian.  My husband loves these books, and I have read the first one.  He wanted to read this one to me aloud, which is fine with me, I love reading aloud - both to and from!

Captain Jack Aubrey and Dr. Stephen Maturin cover a lot in this book.  Stephen works as a spy for the British government, Jack gets into troubles due to debts, and both of them have issues with female relationships.  Add to that when they are assigned to a new, experimental type of ship, which has its own set of problems and issues.

This was a very enjoyable story, though I'm sure I would have liked it more if I had read the first book more recently - there was a lot of "remind me now, what/who is that?"  At a time when a lot of naval activity was mercenary, it was also interesting to learn how upset the admirals would be if a ship returned to shore with no treasure.  Jack gets upbraided several times in this book for that.

Stephen's character is actually more interesting to me, as a doctor and as a naturalist who sees things in an entirely different light than the rest of the characters, who are primarily those in the navy.

And of course, it's always interesting to see how the smallest, seemingly incidental behaviors of women at the time were interpreted and controlled.

Yarned and Dangerous, by Sadie Hartwell.  A fun read in a new series.  Josie Blair heads to a small Connecticut town to help her great uncle who has broken his leg.  He has been pretty recently widowed, and is on his own.  Josie heads there from New York City, where she is working for a fashion house and being frustrated by not being able to have her designs published.  She hopes the break will refresh her, and since it's just a short time - until her mother returns from a cruise - she thinks it will be pretty easy.

Of course, her uncle is a curmudgeon and only grudgingly happy for her help.  She reconnects with a high school friend, as she lived in the town for a couple of years during high school.  And she also learns that she is expected to clean out and sell the inventory of her late great-aunt's yarn store, Miss Marple Knits.  But when she shows up the first time to do it, she finds one of the women who wanted to buy it strangled in the back storage room.

So Josie finds herself with a lot more on her plate than expected.  Fortunately, some of the local knitting group who were also friends with her late aunt are willing to pitch in and help.  But as the investigation into the murders goes along, Josie's suspicions are raised when various things happen that make her wonder just what is going on in this little town.

I enjoyed this read, and liked some of the main characters.  I can see myself reading the next book in this series.

When You Read This, by Mary Adkins.  I read the first 20 pages or so of this book, which told in e-mail memos and blog posts, at least for those pages.

It didn't grab my attention, and I found it really annoying, so even if it picked up later to become one of the best books ever, I had no interest in going on.

The Death of Mrs. Westaway, by Ruth Ware.  Harriet "Hal" Westaway works as a tarot reader at a pier on the English coast.  She took it over after her mother was killed in a car accident.  Hal grew up there, and her mother taught her how tarot works.  She never knew her father, and doesn't have any other family, so she is on her own, and struggling to pay her bills.  One day in the mail she receives a letter from a solicitor's office, summoning her to a house in another part of England where the will of her grandmother will be read. 

Except Hal doesn't think they have contacted the right person - she is alone in the world, and her mother never mentioned any family, much less one of means.  But when a loan shark starts threatening her, she decides that maybe she could go along with the charade and get at least a bit of money out of all of it to get out of debt.

Things don't exactly go according to plan.  Particularly when Mrs. Westaway's will is read, and she has left the bulk of her estate to her granddaughter, Harriet Westaway.  The story gets turned around here and Hal is thrown for a loop.  But as she tries to figure things out, she learns a lot of unexpected truths about herself, her late mother, and the Westaway family itself.

I thought the book was a good, suspenseful read.

A Forgotten Place, by Charles Todd.  This was a very good book, if sometimes frustrating. 

Bess Crawford, a nurse who endured life on the front during WWI, is now working in a hospital where men have been sent to deal with ongoing diseases, and learn to function as amputees.  When she has leave, she decides to travel to Wales to see one of her patients, an officer whose leg was amputated and whose men in the same situation have committed suicide.

She ends up in a remote town on the coast of Wales, where he has gone to live with his sister-in-law.  The hired car that brought her there left in the middle of the night without letting her know, and the place is so remote, she has little hope of getting out.  Particularly since she had not told anyone where she was going.  The place is full of secrets, and she is seen as a threat to the people of the village, who think she is there to spy on them.

When bodies keep turning up and others are beaten up with no apparent cause, she begins to worry that she will never escape.

A lot goes on in this book, and it is frustrating because you understand Bess' concerns and problems, but also because it's upsetting to read about such a place.

Dandy Gilver and an Unsuitable Day for a Murder, by Catriona McPherson.  This was a really hard book for me to get started.  There seemed to be too much "extra" going on, plus some of the characters were just not that interesting.  But at a certain point, the story started to pull me in and I'm glad I finished it.

The basic premise is that Dandelion "Dandy" Gilver has been called in to find the missing daughter of a well-known retail family in a small Scotland town.  The daughter had become engaged to the son of th family's biggest competitors, and supposedly both families were vehemently against the marriage.  When it looks like the daughter had been murdered, and a few days later her fiancee appears to commit suicide, Dandy and her partner Alec start an investigation, even though they have been formally let go by the family.

There are so many twists, turns, and revelations, I'm not sure I even got them all.  But it was interesting and in some ways entertaining once I got more into the story.  I realize that I might have been more ready to read it if I had previously read any of the books in this series - who knows?

Himself, by Jess Kidd.  Mahony arrives in the small town of Mulderrig with a mission - growing up in an orphanage, one of the nuns gave him a photograph of a young woman holding a baby, with writing indicating it is Mahony and his mother - him, called Francis Sweeney, and his mother, Orla Sweeney.  Mahony wants to find out more.

The people in the town remember Orla - she was a wild young woman who seemed to court trouble.  They all knew she had a baby without being married, which was a scandal.  The story is that she left town with the baby after its birth.  But Mahony suspects that's not the truth.  He hopes to learn more, as well as maybe determine the name of his father.

This is a really good book, a story of a small town, with a lot of small-minded people with long memories who don't want the past dug up.  Anyone helping Mahony or who seems to be on his side raises suspicion.

There are so many interesting characters, so much colloquial language, as well as some doses of myth, folklore, and magic.  The only reason I gave this 3 stars rather than 4 stars is because it suffered from the same thing so many books nowadays do - you are reading along and everything takes its good old time with the story.  Then the big moment/reveal happens, and the ending is very sudden and wrapped up quickly.  When you have gone along for the ride long enough, you want the ending to be more pleasing.

This Chair Rocks : A Manifesto Against Ageism, by Ashton Applewhite.  I wanted to really really like this book.  I made it a bit more than halfway through it.  But at least in my opinion, it was preaching to the choir, and the writing didn't grab me. 

Ageism is alive and well.  I live with it every single day.  I already knew a lot of the information in the book before I ever picked it up.  Maybe for others, and especially for younger people, there will be revelations.  There just were not for me.

Except the Dying, by Maureen Jennings.  I am not familiar with the TV show that is an adaptation of this series, so I had no preconceived ideas about Detective Murdoch or any of his cases.

The book takes place in the winter of 1895 in Toronto, Canada.  A young woman, a housemaid, is found naked in the snow.  The coroner determines that she had opium in her system and was pregnant.  Once the girl's identity is established, she is identified as the housemaid to a prominent doctor's family.  From there, Detective Murdoch and his team try to figure out the details of what happened and bring the killer to justice.

I found this book interesting for a number of reasons.  I liked the backdrop of late nineteenth-century Canada, since I haven't read many books set there during this time.  It was interesting to read about the anti-Catholic sentiment among the upper classes, and in society in general.  Detective Murdoch, for instance, is unlikely to advance in the police culture due to his background and religious faith.  And of course the case itself was interesting.

I would definitely like to read another installment in this series.

The Evolution of Jane, by Cathleen Schine.  This book was a good read.  I wanted to like it more than I did, but it was nonetheless worth reading.

When Jane gets a divorce, her parents decide that she needs a big change in scenery, so they arrange for her to go on a tour of the Galapagos Islands.  She is looking forward to the trip and is truly surprised when she arrives and finds that the guide for her tour group is none other than her cousin Martha.  The same cousin that was her very best friend as a child and teenager, and then just faded away without any warning.

As the tour goes along, Jane finds that the group she is with becomes more interesting, and more convivial as the days pass, and she really enjoys that.  But she is somewhat obsessed with finding out why Martha dropped her as a friend.  The book alternates between the Galapagos trip and the girls' childhood and their relationship.

There's a lot of good stuff here - the natural history of the Galapagos, tales of Darwin and his work, and the story of two girls who become best friends at an age where best friend means "twin."  There's a lot about family and how it can affect relationships, both as children and as adults. 

It's a good book, just not an incredible book.


Have you read anything interesting - or even awful - lately?