31 January 2020

Final Friday of January - A Poem for You

Like the joy of the sea coming home to shore,
May the relief of laughter rinse through your soul.

As the wind loves to call things to dance,
May your gravity be lightened by grace.

Like the dignity of moonlight restoring the earth,
May your thoughts incline with reverence and respect.

As water takes whatever shape it is in,
So free you may be about who you become.

As silence smiles on the other side of what's said,
May your sense of irony bring perspective.

As time remains free of all that it frames,
May your mind stay clear of all it names.

May your prayer of listening deepen enough
To hear in the depths the laughter of God.

- "For Equilibrium," by John O'Donahue

Happy weekend, friends - may February bring you happy thoughts and good times.

29 January 2020

A Finish, a Good Book, and No Unraveling!

It's been too long since I joined in on Unraveled Wednesday, hosted by Kat!  I always enjoy hers and others' posts, talking about what they are reading and making.  So I am making sure that this week I can be part of the fun.

I'm feeling quite proud of myself, because this past Sunday, I finished the second slipper sock of the pair I was making for The Tim as a Valentine's Day gift.  Here they are, ready well in time for the day, and it's a bonus that they are made with yarn from my stash.  YAY!

Now, granted these are worsted weight, but I am still surprised at how quickly I got them finished.  It was a good way to start the year, and my 2020 Box of Socks. 

Reading-wise, I'm currently about halfway through this book.

The Tim gave me this book for Christmas, and it has been my lunch hour reading so far this week.  Elaine Stritch was quite the character, and learning the details of her life is really interesting, and often funny.  For instance, I found it amusing that the playwright Noel Coward said that the best martinis were made of gin, "and then you held the glass in the general direction of Italy before taking the first sip."  Stritch's career was mainly on the Broadway stage, but if you watched the TV show "30 Rock," you would have seen her playing the role of Jack Donaghy's mother (his character played by Alec Baldwin), and she was perfect for that.  I'll probably finish this over the weekend at the latest, and part of the reason this is currently my only book is because I'm in one of those I-want-to-read-everything-but-also-not-anything moods.  So hopefully this will be my palate cleanser, and I'll be ready for something else.

And that's it for today.  Hop on over to Kat's blog (link above) and see what she and others have to say!

28 January 2020


NOTE:  This is long and somewhat rambly, don't say I didn't warn you!


Last week, there was a meme going around on Twitter.  It was for you to create your campaign slogan, and it was your last name, plus "2020," and the last thing you said to your pet.  Some of them were really funny, and some a bit disgusting, but mine would be:

Clancy 2020: Please Try to Be Sweet to Each Other

It amused me, and when I told The Tim, he said, "That's actually a great slogan.  But you'd be slaughtered by the Republicans for something like that."  He had a point.

But I was thinking about it, and of course, what I meant by "sweet."  That's a loaded word.  Of course, it can simply mean a piece of candy, which - if you know me - works just fine.  But when you are talking about behavior, it can mean two different things:  "Sweet" as in disgusting - you know, all bubbly, too pink, and, to quote my mother, "Something that makes you just want to slap a person."  But then there is "sweet" in the sense of being kind, considerate, and just nice to yourself and others.  I always tell the pets to try to be sweet to each other when I leave the house because that is actually what I would say to whatever family I would have, be it human, furry, feathery, etc.  You don't need to be perfect, and you don't need to overdo it, just try your best to be good and be good to each other.  In this case, I mean that I hope they will at a minimum leave one another alone, and at best, cuddle and interact from time to time during the day.  Pay attention to each other and be considerate.

And then, this morning as I was walking to work, I turned onto a street that I usually don't walk along on my way, and I was truly dumbstruck by something.  I happened to look up, and straight ahead.  The way the houses and the trees framed it, I saw in front of me an absolutely stunning sunrise.  It was the kind of sight that makes you wish you could take a photograph, even if you know the photograph would not come close to showing what you see.  It seriously took my breath away.

Then I started thinking about the last time I had purposely seen an amazing sunrise, which was a few years back when we took a road trip vacation through New England.  We were in Bar Harbor, and had visited Acadia National Park the day before.  While there, we read that when the sun rose on Cadillac Mountain in the park, it was the first daylight to hit the United States, and that it was a sight to behold.  The next day we were leaving to head back south and eventually home, but we decided to be sure to see that sunrise.  Needless to say, about 50  other people also had that idea, but there was plenty of sunrise for everyone.  It was unlike any other experience ever, to stand silently, hearing the ocean crashing on the rocks below, and then suddenly see light starting to show.  And then it seeemed that inch by inch, the sun kept creeping up until all of a sudden, it was a new day!

(From the Bangor Daily News, but this doesn't come close to capturing the real thing!)

I remember the day we saw this, it was just a couple of months after our dog Dug had died, and I thought how he didn't have a chance to see any more sunrises, nor did any other loved ones who were no longer here.  How seeing a sunrise means that in spite of all the odds, you have woken up to see another day. 

Seeing the sunrise today made me realize that all over again, and also made me think about how amazing it is.  I just happened to turn on to that street, and look up randomly and see a new day in the most literal sense.

I used to have a supervisor who, when someone would seem to be settling for less than they should, would say, "Raise your sights."  Today I did just that, in a different way, and just by chance, and it has made a difference.  All I did once I raised my sights was to actually look, to pay attention, to consider what I was really seeing.  I was attending my life.

So now I have my One Little Word for the year:  Attend.  I want to attend my life, and be in it.  I want to pay attention to what I have, and what I can do.  I want to attend to myself, my family, and my life in a more conscious way, trying to remember that no matter what else is going on, if I wake up and the sun is going to rise, I need to attend to it, because I've been given another chance at making the ultimate gift mean even more.

I want to attend, and by doing so, listen to my own campaign slogan, and try to be sweet to others.

27 January 2020

Rain, Sorting, and Ick - A Weekend in Review

I must agree with this pup.  But just as I'm sure his day went on, and hopefully improved, mine will too. 

It was an odd weekend.  Not terrible, just ... odd.  Saturday was a major rain day here in Philadelphia.  I mean, it POURED for the bulk of the day.  And it was windy, too, so if you never looked out the window, you might have thought you were on the English moors of Wuthering Heights.  The good thing about that is that I used a good chunk of the day to review/organize my stash and knitting supplies.  I found some things that had been given to me over the past year that I just wasn't loving, and nowadays if I don't love something, I tend to give it away or donate it.  I have finally gotten my stash to the point where what it contains are things I am keeping on purpose because I plan to actually use them.  Over the years, I had bought so many yarns "just because" that when I decided several years back to be ruthless and realistic, I was left with a stash that was mindful.  In the past year, a few people have given me yarns that they found in a relative's belongings, and passed to me 'since you know how to knit.'  And that's fine, because I have the distinct feeling that if I didn't take the stuff, it would be trashed rather than donated.  But it was almost all things that I either don't like (yarn with stuff in it - you know, like buttons, etc. that make it "artistic") or that I just know I won't ever use.  Since we have a women's shelter in town that has a knitting group, I like to pass that stuff on to them.  According to the person who runs the group, the women get excited to have things that are new/different to them. 

Anyway, I got those things together, as well as some extra needles and notions and got them ready to drop off.  This also served to get the whole room in better order, a bonus for sure.

We also watched some shows and movies during the afternoon and evening.  Every year, we try to make an effort to watch some movies that are nominated for Oscars in one category or another.  So far this year, we've seen "Marriage Story," "The Irishman," and "The Two Popes."  Eclectic, no??

Sunday it wasn't raining, but ugh.  I woke up with all kinds of aches and pains, and for a good part of the day, gastrointestinal issues.  I didn't feel terrible, but I didn't feel good.  So I mostly stayed put, and the good thing is that I got very close to finishing a pair of socks I'm making for The Tim as a Valentine's Day gift!  I have just a couple of inches on the foot of the second sock, and then the toe, and they will be finished.  This makes me happy because now I don't have to worry about them being finished in time.  It also means I can start on a test knit I'm doing (who AM I?) for one of the ladies who runs Nice and Knit.  Then in March, my friend and former Rosie's co-worker Andrea and I are having a sock knitalong.  We are going to try the Clark Socks by Jaclyn Salem.  I'm looking forward to it!

One funny thing about us having a knitalong - when we worked together at Rosie's, every time we'd see a pattern that we liked, or a new book/magazine arrived, we'd find something we both wanted to make.  We would spend time choosing what yarns to use, and discuss it ad nauseum.  Do you know how many things resulted from these various knitalongs?  Zero.  :-)  So it will be fun to *actually* cast on and get going this time ... 

I'm feeling better today (of course, it's a work day, right??), and hoping that this week at work will be as uneventful as possible.  We are in the near-end stages of a renovation of our workspace, and it has been horrific.  Theoretically, this week should be quieter.  We'll see.

Anyway, here we go with another week and the last one in January at that.  Let's hope it's a good one!

24 January 2020

Friday Funnies

Well, it's Friday, and that's always reason to smile, right?  But in the event that you need a little bit more of a push to get smiling, I thought I'd share these with you.

Poor pup - the Cone of Shame (though he seems pretty happy anyhow ...)

I really love this one!


This one made me laugh, since recently I was reading something where 
the writer said, "Why do people think it's funny to act like they
have your nose??"

Parents and kids - the same forever?

Stupid - but hey, I laughed ... :-)


Here's hoping you have a good weekend, with the chance to do what you like, and with at least one good laugh!

23 January 2020


It's another Thursday, and another week where I have decided to take part in Three on Thursday.  Todays list are things with no relation to one another, but there are three of them, and so here we go.

1.  Something I will probably never knit = a coat/full-length sweater.  For example, something like this pattern:

It's pretty, the yarn used is bulky, but nonetheless, it would take me forever, and I would be unlikely to wear it more than once a year, if that.  Life is too short, and there are soooo many other things I would like to knit!

2.  Something I will likely never subscribe to = Patreon accounts.  I know that a lot of podcasters in all areas (aka not just fiber-related) have Patreon accounts that provide them with additional funding in exchange for additional content.  Which is fine, and I understand that podcasts - be they video or audio - take a lot of time, work, and effort.  But the whole idea just frankly bugs me.  I guess I'm just not a fan of having to pay more for extra content about most topics.  There are so few things that are "free" and that I actually enjoy, it kind of annoys me to then also pay something so that someone can show me something else they are making, where they went on vacation, etc.  It's just not for me.  And I felt this way before our funds were incredibly tight, so it's not just that I can't justify it at the moment.

3.  Something I really want to do = get more plants and have them grow successfully.  I showed you these last year, and do you know not a single one has survived??  "Get succulents, they said; it will be easy, they need almost no care."  I guess *they* were wrong in my case.

Right before Christmas, I did buy a tiny poinsettia that's hanging in, as well as a new Christmas cactus, and they joined my two plants whose names escape me that the lady at the plant place told me don't need a lot of sunlight.  So far, they are all doing OK, even if they are not wildly thriving.  I used to grow wonderful violets, but sadly, there is no sunny place I can put them where the Koodle can't get them.  The place above in the photo is not sunny enough, and he has knocked down any I've tried to put anywhere else, so many times that they gave up the ghost.  But I'm hoping to find some that will survive, because I do love having house plants.  


If you read my post last week, and wondered which of the three things was not true, I answered that earlier this week, in this post.  Thanks to everyone who played along!

21 January 2020

Now You Know

I have to tell you that I got a big charge out of your responses to this post.  As I said at the beginning of the post, most people have at least one or two interesting stories about their lives or family members.  And in the case of children, I think most of them assume that all families are like theirs, until they go out in the world more and realize that perhaps that is just not the case.  I *may* have spent a lot more of time realizing that than others I know ...

In any event, the first story is true.  I did in fact learn the knit stitch from the lady across the street whose house burnt down when the dryer caught fire.  She thought it might be a good way for me to entertain myself while I was home sick.  And I did find it fascinating, even if there was no additional time spent with her to learn more.  No one in my family at that time was crafty at all (though later my mother would become an expert in counted cross-stitch), and that was one of my first introductions to the kinds of things you could do to create fabric.  I didn't get another chance to even think about learning to knit for 30 more years, but alls well that ends well, right?

As for the second story, I had the opportunity to do so many things I would have never been able to do thanks to Rosie's father, the mobster!  Of course, he was always so nice to all of us kids, and though we knew he was "famous," we largely didn't know details or care, as long as he was able to pay for all of us to go to movies, plays, concerts,the circus, etc. in style.  Rosie and her younger brother knew at a certain point all about their dad, and I can remember once in school that our teacher was going around the room asking what our parents did at their jobs, and Rosie - rather than saying whatever "legit" business her father had - responded, "he takes care of people who get in his way."  Most of the rest of the kids in the class had no clue what she was talking about, and the teacher quickly moved on, but I found it hilarious because via my parents (who knew lots of shall we say, "independent businessmen," and were not ones to use euphemisms with us), I knew just exactly what Rosie's dad did for a living.  About 20 years ago, he died of cancer, which always seemed ironic to me.

 My parents, sometime during the late 1940s or early 1950s

And so that leaves the third story, which by now you know is not true.  It was, however, a story that my mother loved to tell people, "to see how goddamn stupid they are."  Of course, growing up, we learned immediately that being gullible in our house meant that you would be tested every minute, and I still think that is why I am not an automatic believer of most people.  When I was in college, my mother worked in the Development Office of our school, and so many students who would have part-time jobs there would come up to me and say, "Wow, I didn't know your parents used to be a nun and a priest, that's crazy."  At first, I would set them straight, but after a while I didn't care enough to do so because most of them didn't talk to me otherwise, ever.

To paraphrase the opening of this show, "There are a ton of stories like this in our family.  These are a few of them."

Leo Tolstoy is quoted as having said, "All happy families alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way."  I'm not sure what he would have said about mine ... 

20 January 2020

Back to the Needles

Today I am more grateful than usual for a long weekend.  I had a busy weekend, but it was busy in that I was doing a lot of cleaning up, packing things away, and some necessary running around trying to get some things taken care of that had been waiting too long.  So having an extra day off is even more welcome than usual.

Plus, it means I don't absolutely *have* to go out today in the cold and wind, unless I really want to go somewhere.  As I'm typing this, I'm wrapped up in my pjs and robe with a cup of tea and a purring Pip on my lap.  :-)

Yesterday at a certain point, I just plain ran out of steam.  So I finished up whatever I was doing, and got things together to start a new knitting project.  This was one of the projects that I would have knit for a Christmas gift, but I ran out of time and inclination, and decided to do it as a Valentine's gift.

This is the beginning of a pair of house socks for  The Tim.  He is an extremely knitworthy person, and had said a few months ago that he would like another pair of house socks.  Since he wears socks rather than shoes at home, and we have mostly wood floors, he needs socks that are sturdy but also can go in the washer and dryer without problems.  

So I looked at my stash of Encore yarns, and pulled out these two colors to make him a pair.  My plan is to have this series of stripes at the top and then have the toe in the lighter blue as well.  So far I like they way it looks, and since Encore is worsted weight yarn, these should go pretty quickly.  It's nice to have a project underway, since after finishing the one sock of my Christmas pair, I hadn't cast on anything new to knit.  Now I'm on my way again, so to speak.

As those of you in the U.S. are aware, today we have a national holiday in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday.  I remember so vividly images from TV and the newspaper of the marches he led, and his speeches that would inspire so many.  I also remember being both confused and hurt when he was killed, and especially feeling bad for his kids because they lost their dad forever and I knew how horrible that could be.

Having said that, I hope you will not mind this story that is indirectly related to all of this. I mean absolutely no disrespect to Dr. King by telling it, it's just a silly family story.

My niece Amanda, is married to a guy named Pat, and he is just one of the best people ever.  He has a cousin who is older than he is, who has apparently always been in one kind of trouble or another for as long as anyone can remember.  At some gathering of our family, Pat was updating us on the latest news with "Cousin Corky."  At one point, my sister said, "What is Cousin Corky's real name?  Surely Corky is not his given name, right?"  And Pat, in a manner indicating that all of us must be the thickest set of brains in the universe, sighed and said, "His real name is Martin - everyone knows that Corky is a common nickname for Martin."  And all of us looked at each other as if to day, WTF?

And then about a minute later, The Tim said, "If that's the case, how come we never celebrate Corky Luther King Day?"

And now in our family, that is how this day is known.

And for the record, I've never met *anyone* else who thinks that Corky is a common nickname for Martin.  Maybe I just run in different circles???  ;-)

16 January 2020

It's Interesting, But Is It True?

I think it is a universal truth that everyone has something interesting to offer about themselves, their experiences, etc.  Some are more interesting than others, and some are pretty far-fetched.  On occasion, you find out that the far-fetched ones are sometimes either just plain old made up, or embellished somewhat.  But a lot of the stuff is 100% true and you are left thinking, Whoa.

And so, since it is Three on Thursday, I thought it might be fun to state three things about me and let you decide which one is not true at all. 

1.  I first learned to knit when I was home with a bad bout of bronchitis in 5th grade. The lady across the street came over with yarn and needles.  She cast on, showed me the knit stitch, and a week or so later, I had a very long, very wonky, red "scarf" ready to bind off.  However, a few days prior to that, the woman's house burnt down when her clothes dryer stopped tumbling, and as a result, caught fire.  I never saw the woman again, nor did I know how to bind off.  (The woman and her family were not at home when the fire happened, so they were all fine, btw.)

2.  One of my neighborhood friends in elementary school was a girl whose father was a locally well-known mobster, and was regulary having people killed for one reason or another.  He was, however, fond of his children, so he was always buying tickets for them and their friends to go to all kinds of cool events.  As an adult, I asked my mother if this used to worry her, and she said, no because he had more bodyguards "than God," so she figured I was actually safer than I was normally.

3.  I am the child of a couple who were failed religious.  My mother left the convent and my father left the priesthood to get married.  This was at at time when it was quite scandalous.  (Well, except to them, I guess.)  It was never a big deal to us, but other people were always shocked when they would find this out.

Hm.  Which one of these is not true?  Feel free to take a guess, and I'll let you the answer know soon.  :-)

13 January 2020

Back to the Plain Life

Hello all!  I hope you had a good weekend, or at a minimum, not a bad one.  I spent the majority of my time during the days putting away our Christmas decorations.  There are still a few odds and ends, and some Christmas linens to be washed and put away, but basically it's taken care of and packed away safely until later this year.

Which means we are back to our plain life - no more festive trim, lights, etc.  Not that we live a minimalist lifestyle, but you know how it is - you take down the Christmas decorations and everything looks bare until you get used to it again.  :-)

I also finished two books that just had a few chapters left to read, and [finally] finished the first sock of my Rudolph and Clarice yarn:

The pattern I'm using is Vintage Fairy Lights, by Helen Stewart.  I love the way it turned out, and I wish I could get a good photo of the detail right below the cuff, but given my lack of real skill in photography I couldn't get a successful shot.  But you can see close-ups of other projects here.

This will be a HO (half-finished object) for a while.  As it turns out, I really didn't knit much at all during the Christmas break, so although this sock had been moving along before, it still took me until now to finish the first one.  So I've decided to go to another project for the time being, and save these to finish either during Christmas in July, or sometime in November or December later this year, when I'll find it more fun to be working on the second sock.  I  know I will definitely finish them, because a) I really love the pattern and yarn and want to wear them during Christmastime 2020, and b) I do not like to leave socks for any long period of time in a state of not being done.  

What will the next project be?  Well, I have a couple of things in mind, but I need to do some clearing out (mentally and in my craft stuff) before making a final decision.  In the meantime, I can add more squares to my Cozy Squares of Memory blanket, which deserves some love.

And that's it from me today.  Here's hoping this week will move itself along during the work day, and give us nice evenings to do whatever we like.  :-)

10 January 2020

Friday Stuff

FRIDAY!  I love Fridays, not just because it's the end of the work week, but because of the anticipation of the weekend.  Even if absolutely nothing is planned, it's two days that are MINE. 

The only plan for this weekend is to undecorate the house, and take down the tree.  We always celebrate Christmas through January 6, so we are generally putting stuff away after most other people.  It's always a little sad, but I lecture myself the whole time about how if the stuff was up all year, Christmas wouldn't be as special, and think of the fun getting it all out again next year will be.  Also, even if I wait to really clean up after, I can fool myself into thinking that the house looks cleaned up once the boxes are all put away.

Remember this?

Well, it is [very close to being] no more.  I got a few rows beyond this with one of the colors, and ran out of yarn.  Hm.  So, I thought, well, let me see if it's just this mini-skein, and kept going.  Sadly, it was not just the one mini-skein.  Since I am not in the brain mood to figure out how I could keep going with what I had, etc.  I started ripping it out.  I have just a little bit left until it's all wound back into little balls.  I'll put it all away until I decide if I want to figure out a way to do this, or just choose another project.  It's disappointing, but I'm a lot less sad about it then I expected to be - I think because even though I had quite a bit done, and was loving the project, I wasn't anywhere close to even being halfway finished.  Or perhaps subconsciously I knew this was coming.  I don't know, but it's all OK and the mini-skeins will reappear one way or another this year.

The Free Library of Philadelphia has a speaker series that happens September-December, and January-April (sometimes May), and they always have some very interesting people (well, I guess they are all interesting one way or another, maybe just not to me).  Anyway, in March, Hilary Mantel will be there, discussing her latest book (for those not familiar with her, she wrote Wolf Hall - which was made into a miniseries - as well as Bring Up the Bodies).  You have the option of just going to her talk, or also getting an autographed book.  We watched the "Wolf Hall" mini-series, and The Tim has read both books, as has my niece Amanda.  So The Tim sent Amanda an e-mail, asking if they wanted to come to town and go to the book talk, etc.  Never have I seen such an enthusiastic response to something!  So now we have something extra fun to look forward to in March.

I am still trying to figure out my One Little Word for this year.  The past couple of years, I've had a hard time deciding, and part of it is I'm sure, that I overthink it.  So I'm just going to try and not worry about it, and hope a word comes to me. 

That's it for now.  I hope everyone has a good weekend, see you around the bend!

09 January 2020

In Which I Am Further Puzzled by People

Hello all!  Here's hoping that you are doing well, or at least not terrible.  Today at Carole's blog, people are participating in Three on Thursday.  I feel like I haven't done that for a while, so here are three ways that I am truly puzzled by people.

1.  When they are dressed in a fur coat, walking a short haired dog who is clearly way too cold, and the dog has no coat at all.  First of all, don't get me started on fur coat-wearing people.  BUT - if you can afford a fur for you, you can surely afford a coat for your pup.  No, the fact that your pup has fur does not mean they are automatically insulated.  Short-haired dogs, regardless of size, don't have enough fur to keep warm in cold temperatures. 

2.  When you say "excuse me" to someone to their face approximately four times before they even react, and then they give you a dirty look as if to say you are the one being rude.  Yesterday on my way home from work, I was waiting to cross the street when the light changed.  A couple was standing in front of me, talking.  When the light changed, they made no effort to move, so I very politely said, "Excuse me."  They both turned and looked at me, and kept talking, without crossing the street or moving out of the way.  Finally I said it the fourth time (having decided that instead of a fifth time, I'd just push them, even if into traffic), and they both shot dagger looks at me.  They did finally move so that I could walk by, and as I passed them, I heard the one say, "Honestly!" 

3.  Why someone spends money every morning on their way to work to buy a muffin to eat when they get here, then throw the entire thing away once they arrive, since they have "changed their mind" and are not hungry.   One of my co-workers does this.  She apparently does not eat breakfast before she leaves for work, so she buys a muffin every morning.  Then she gets here, decides she's not really hungry and throws it away.  About an hour later, she always proclaims that she is starving and cannot wait until it is lunchtime.  Seems like she could save a lot of money by not buying a muffin if she is only going to toss it.  It's a waste of money as well as food.  I just don't get it at all.  No one else in our dept thinks it's weird at all.  Maybe everyone else has endless pots of cash, who knows?

And that is my latest installment in Weird Things People Do and Why I Am Not the Worst Person on the Planet, part of an occasional series ... ;-)

06 January 2020

Last Reads of 2019 - Book Report for October, November, and December

I hope you had a lovely weekend.  Mine was nice, one of the kind where some things get accomplished, but there's plenty of time to just be.

Today is the last day of Christmas, and also the anniversary of when we adopted Dug the Doodle Dog.  So it's bittersweet in a couple of ways, and I wish it was not on a Monday but since I do not control the calendar, I have to accept it all.  Such is life, no?

Anyway, I wanted to finish up my "last year" posts with my final thoughts on the books I read in October, November, and December.  Apparently I read 69 books last year, which for my slightly OCD self is frustrating because if I had been paying attention, I would have made sure I hit the number seventy!  These are the kinds of things that annoy me in an unreasonable fashion.  I mean, other than myself, who cares?  It's not like I'm getting paid for each book I read or anything like that, I would just prefer an even number here.

In any event, here you go for the end of 2019.

Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay, by Elena Ferrante.  This book in the series finds the two friends as adult married women.  Lila has left her husband Stefano and is living with her young son while working as a laborer.  Elena has finished at the university, had her first book published to some acclaim, and is now married to a college professor and has two young daughters.  Though they no longer live in the same place, they remain as connected to one another as ever, for better or for worse.  I would say that I liked it well enough to finish the book.

Lila becomes inadvertently involved in the student labor movement of the 1960s at the beginning of the book, and by the end of the book is working as a computer expert in a company in their hometown, run by one of the Solara family, which shocks and angers Elena.

Elena by the end of the book has left her marriage and children to run away with Nino, her true love from childhood.

I will definitely read the fourth book to see how/if things are resolved, but I have to say that I found this book disappointing and annoying.  I guess since I have never had a friendship remotely resembling the one of the two women here, I find it hard to understand why they remain friends.  And to be honest, I found Elena's leaving of her marriage and family too expected to be interesting.

H.M.S. Surprise, by Patrick O'Brian.  Full disclosure: I did not actually read this, it was read to me. 

This is another entry in the series, and as in the two previous ones, a lot happens in a single book.  In this one, Captain Jack Aubrey is trying to make sure that the French ships sent by Napoleon do not overtake the English ships involved in the East India trade.  One enemy in particular is a threat and though they do everything to avoid a confrontation, one still happens.  Aubrey's ship is bruised but not defeated, meaning there is treasure to be shared by all of them.

Jack and Stephen Maturin also face a lot of romantic obstacles in their respective lives during this book, with only one of them facing a happy ending.

Once More We Saw Stars, by Jayson Greene.  I read this book because a couple of onlined friends mentioned that they liked it, and I was intrigued.

The author and his wife suffered an incomprehensible loss - their two year old daughter Greta, was sitting on a bench with her grandmother in the Upper West Side of NYC, and a brick fell off the building, hitting Greta in the head and killing her.  The book details what happened in the immediate aftermath, at the hospital waiting to see what might happen, deciding to donate her organs, and then going home childless.  We see that friends and family held things together for Jayson and his wife Stacy, and then how they managed and worked to deal with it all once all of the activity of the tragedy was over.  Finally, the book details their journey to live their lives afterwards, with Greta gone but still with them.

It's a very well-written account, and I think it's valuable in that it proves that life can and should go on, and that doing that never means forgetting, stopping the love you have, and that it's OK to feel good and happy again, even though the whole thing is always with you, sometimes hitting you when you might least expect it.

My mother used to always say that you never get over someone dying, you just get used to it.  And everyone does it in their own way.  Jayson and Stacy were lucky - they lived the kind of life that allowed them to make a lot of arrangements that others might not be able to do.  They did not have any other children at the time Greta died, so they only had to deal with their own grief.  They were financially able to afford to move, and to travel to other places for workshops and experiences that would help them cope and give them some peace.  Most people don't have those luxuries and just have to move on the best they can manage in their own circumstances.  In that way, Jayson and Stacy are not like the rest of us.  But their grief, anger, and exhaustion trying to go on with life is expressed here in a way that every single human being can understand, and for that reason I think it's a book that could benefit some people.  They come out of it different people, but still capable of love for each other, their family, and Greta.

If Walls Could Talk, by Juliet Blackwell.  This series was recommended to me by a co-worker who knows I enjoy cozy mysteries much like she does. 

Mel Turner is the owner of Turner Construction, the business that her father ran until Mel's mother's death two years prior to the opening of the book.  She stops in to check on a house that a friend of hers is planning to renovate and sell in a tony neighborhood in San Francisco.  The night before, he had invited friends and some celebrities he knew to a DIY Demolition party (against Mel's advice).  Everything is trashed, and when Mel and her friend are talking, the friend's business partner shows up bleeding with his right hand missing.  Soon after arriving at the hospital, the business partner dies, and Mel's friend is arrested.

Weird things start to happen - for instance, the business partner, Kenneth, shows up as a ghost, freaking out Mel and making her question her sanity - and as she tries to figure out what happened, she finds evidence that there was forgery of her name and company's services on documents, people and places associated with her start to get hurt or property ruined, and the police just don't seem that interested.

Between dealing with this, keeping tabs on her father, helping her friend's son and her ex-stepson deal with things, and trying to actually get some work done, she's got a lot on her plate.  She learns from her father that her mother used to "sense" things the way she does. 

So much more goes on, but you get the gist.  This book was enjoyable because the characters were interesting, the story was about historical properties, which I always enjoy, and Mel's ability to see and talk to ghosts is presented in a non-schlocky way.  She isn't quite comfortable with it herself, and of course is hesitant to bring it up to anyone else.

I will definitely read more in this series.

Autumn, by Ali Smith.  I had been looking forward to reading this book, since I had heard good things about it.  But after finishing the first section, I just couldn't get into the rest.  After a couple of different tries, I gave up. 

Maybe I'll try again sometime, but it just didn't work for me right now.

Wicked Autumn, by G.M. Malliet.  I don't know how/where I heard about this book and mystery series (maybe one of the "If you read X, you might like these?"), but I really enjoyed this first book.

Max Tudor left MI5 work after an experience that killed his partner, and during his search for meaning, felt called to be an Anglican priest.  Once his studies were completed, he found a position in a small English town called Nether Monkslip.  He is finally starting to feel like the villagers are accepting him, and has come to know the individuals and their stories. 

During the annual Harvest Fayre, a prominent - and annoying - woman is found dead, and appears that she ingested peanuts, and everyone knows she was highly allergic.  So what happened?  When detectives arrive from London to investigate, one of them who knows Max asks for his assistance finding out what happened. 

This was a good book for the first in any series - the main character is compelling, and the supporting characters all unique enough that you enjoy finding out about them.  The story moves along well and there are details but not too many, so that the ending is pretty satisfactory.  I will definitely read more in this series.

Death Overdue, by Allison Brook.  This was a good introduction to this series.

Carrie Singleton is living with her aunt and uncle and working at the Clover Ridge Public Library in Connecticut when the book opens.  She has been a bit of a nomad, job and otherwise, and is thinking it might be time to move on again, when the director offers her the position as Manager of Prorgramming and Events.  The director wants an answer ASAP, so Carrie decides to give it a try.  This angers another long-time staff member, who tells Carrie that not only is she not qualified, but that she only got the job because her uncle (who is on the board) insisted that the job be offered to her.

Carrie is doing pretty well, and is happily looking forward to her first program, where a retired detective who is writing a book will announce that after having messed up the case years before, he finally knows who killed a woman with a husband and family, who also happened to work at the library.  Shortly after the program begins, the detective drops dead.

Carrie realizes that she needs to try and figure out just what happened.  Along the way, she gets help from the aunt of the librarian who is mad at her, who just happens to be a former staff member ... and a ghost.  The murdered woman also worked at the library.  Carrie has to settle in to a new job and find a killer.  In the course of things, she finds new friends, a romantic interest, and some new self-confidence. 

I'm not saying more so as to avoid spoilers, but this is an enjoyable read, with a lot of interesting characters.  The ghost librarian is done in a way to be a helper to Carrie, rather than a spooky presence.  And at least for me, I didn't suspect the killer until nearly the end.

The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher: A Shocking Murder and the Undoing of a Great Victorian Detective, by Kate Summerscale.  I've been wanting to read this book for a while, since the story detailed within it has been said to have created the detective mystery.  And I do love detective stories!

This is the story of a murder of a child in the 1860s in suburban London.  It was only recently that detective squads had been created, and the public was doubtful about their value.  When Detective Whicher is sent to investigate the murder of Savile Kent, he uses his abilities to determine that the murder must have been committed by the older half-sister.  The investigation is already questionable as far as the family and the townspeople are concerned, because they do not really trust Whicher, and the idea that someone is asking questions of members of the upper and upper middle class is both shocking and to some extent, unacceptable.

The book is not just about the murder and its aftermath, but also about the rise of the roles of detectives and detective fiction.  I found it to be interesting, but not the best book I've ever read.  Having said that, I am glad that I finally got the chance to read it.

Turkey Trot Murder, by Leslie Meier.  Lucy Stone is making every attempt to train for the Turkey Trot, a run that will happen in her small Maine town on Thanksgiving Day.  During one of her training runs, she discovers a young woman's body in the icy lake.  This sets into motion a series of disturbing events, as the young woman was the daughter of a controversial millionaire who lives in town with his second wife, a young and very pregnant woman.

The late girl's father is also a major "America Only" type, reminiscent of Donald Trump with his views towards Mexicans.  When a new restaurant is being opened in an old space in town, trouble starts because the followers of the girl's father have rallies and protests that become violent while trying to prevent the restaurant's opening.

There was a lot more happening in this book than usually in this series.  Perhaps because Lucy's character has developed, and the author feels more comfortable making her more of a person living in the world we all share.

The Horseman, by Tim Pears.  This was the next book in our reading aloud sessions between my husband and myself.  It is a really interesting book, full of period detail, as well as giving you a true sense of life on a rural estate in England prior to World War I. 

The primary family in the book is that of a farmer on an estate.  You get to know not just the characters, but what their work entails, and how their lives rely as much on the animals around them, as the animals depend on them.

I really liked this book a lot, and was truly surprised by the way it ended.  But I also can't wait for the next one in the series!

From Here to Eternity: Traveling the World to Find the Good Death, by Caitlin Doughty.  A really interesting (and relatively short) book about how different cultures and locations not only view death, but what they do when a loved one dies.  The American funeral industry has become big business, and the author's premise is that we are now more removed from death and dying than we have ever been. 

There was so much interesting information here, and it makes you think about what you would really prefer for yourself when your death comes.  I for one will give it serious thought and make sure that my loved ones know my preferences.

Death is hard enough to deal with, without having to go bankrupt and only hope you are doing the right thing for your loved ones.

Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew'd, by Alan Bradley.  Flavia de Luce is at it again.  She has returned from her ill-fated trip to school in Canada, only to find that her father is in the hospital and she cannot visit him until he has a chance to try and rest.  When she stops to visit the vicar's wife, and is asked to deliver a message to a wood carver who lives nearby, she finds him dead and hanging upside down.

Needless to say, Flavia is unwilling to simply let the police work the case.  She begins her own investigation, which is not just full of twists and turns, but also leads to some really surprising relevations.

All of this is taking place at Christmastime, but unfortunately (for me only, I'm guessing) this is not really a "Christmas" book.  But I'm always happy to spend time with Flavia, and see how she will figure things out.  This was another excellent installment of this series, with a totally unexpected ending.

Bittersweet, by Susan Wittig Albert.  This was an interesting read for a number of reasons.  First of all, I thought it was a Christmas-themed book, but it takes place at Thanksgiving, which is fine with me because I seldom see books I want to read that include that holiday.

Anyway, one of the topics in this story is the imporation of deer from one state to another for "canned hunts," and how some of the deer are bred to have ridiculous antlers, aka "racks" which are of course the ultimate trophy.

China Bayles, the main character in this series, is preparing to visit her mother and stepfather for Thanksgiving.  Shortly before she arrives, her mother calls to let her know that her stepfather is in the hospital with a serious heart problem.  China worries, not just because she adores her stepfather, but because he and her mother are preparing to open a lodge on their property as a bird sanctuary.  They have made arrangements for help, but the primary person they are relying on ends up murdered.  China and her cohorts investigate to find out just what is happening, and if the woman's murder is related to the murder of a well-known and well-loved area veterinarian.

This is an excellent addition to the series.  What I like about this series is that the books are very readable, whether or not you read the series, or even read it in order (which I do not, for the record).

A Christmas Visitor, by Anne Perry.  This is a short novella that is a good read.

Henry Rathbone is heading to the country at Christmastime to help a friend.  His lifelong friend Judah Dreghorn has died after slipping on ice near a pond on his property and hitting his head.  Judah's wife, Antonia, is Henry's goddaughter, and he will spend Christmas with her, the couple's young son, and Judah's siblings, all of whom are on their way but have not yet learned of his death.

One of the townspeople is badmouthing the late Judah, saying that the estate where he lives was stolen from him and that Judah is a cheater.  As each character learns of Judah's death, and is puzzled by the circumstances, and then learn about the rumors being spread, they determine that Judah was murdered, mostly likely by the person spreading the rumors, a man who was sent to prison for 11 years by Judah and who was recently released.

The main characters begin to investigate to not only find out what happened, but to clear their brothers' name. 

This was a short but intense story, with interesting characters and a plot that is effective and moves quickly.

We Wish You a Murderous Christmas, by Vicki Delany.  This was the second book I read in this series, and it was actually better than I was expecting.

Merry Wilkinson owns a shop in Rudolph, New York, a town where Christmas is celebrated all year round - but Christmastime is even more special.  As the town gets ready to pull out all of the stops for their upcoming Christmastime celebrations, a friend of Merry's parents who owns the Yuletide Inn suffers a heart attack.  When the man's son - who Merry remembers as a particuarly unpopular high school classmate - returns to help out, they learn that he is the sole heir to the will, and that he has plans to develop the land where the Inn is located, and turn it into a budget place.  People are up in arms, and soon the son is found stabbed to death on the grounds of the Inn.

For a good part of the book, Merry's father, who is a former mayor and longtime town Santa Claus, is the chief suspect.  Between worrying about that, upset with the weather forecast that predicts warm temperatures and no snow, and the fact that people have begun cancelling their visits, things are getting tense in the town.

Even if the weather doesn't cooperate, no one wants to visit a town where the Santa is accused of murder.

Merry tries to find out what is going on, and only when things are looking their most grim, does a clue show up that eventually shows that her father is innocent.

There was more plot and character development in this book than in the first one.  It was an enjoyable read.

Christmas at High Rising, by Angela Thirkell.  This was a really enjoyable collection of stories, only a couple of the directly related to Christmas, many with recurring characters.

It is leading up to and during World War II in England, and in these stories, various denizens of High Rising, a small village with many prominent citizens (a well-known biographer, a novelist, art afficionados) are all busy with various activities.

My favorite stories deal with a group of children who are friends, and whose parents all know and tolerate each other.  The one child in particular - Tony - is someone that we have all known in childhood and later, and the reaction of the adults is particularly entertaining. 

Recommended reading.

Deck the Hounds, by David Rosenfelt.  This book was really an enjoyable read.  Though it is the 18th in this series, I didn't feel puzzled about anything because I had not read the previous books.

Andy Carpenter is a criminal defense lawyer who is able to retire because of an inheritance, but who keeps getting sucked into cases, usually via his wife.  In this book, it's Christmastime, and a homeless man has been attacked, and his dog bit the attacker.  As Andy gets to know the man, he realizes that his background as a soldier in Iraq has left him with PTSD.  As the Carpenters move to help him and get his dog back to him, they learn the man has been accused of murder.  But the circumstances don't add up.

Andy begins to investigate, and things get complicated but also very interesting.  The story soon becomes one of greed, mob involvement, and things weave in several different directions. 

I thought this was wellk-written and really interesting, and can see myself reading more in the series.


That's that - now on to 2020, and a hopefully "acceptable" number of books by the end of the year. ;-)

What have you read that you did or didn't like recently?  Let me know!

03 January 2020

2019 Knits and New Year's Day Cast On

Before we go much more into this year, and I have it in my brain, I thought I would share what I knit during 2019:

When I first made this mosaic, I was a little disappointed that I had not done more over the past year.  Then I realized that until the end of March, I couldn't knit at all, due to my broken wrist.  Then when I was allowed to knit, it wasn't for very long or to do very much.  When I gave that some thought, I decided that I actually did pretty well!  (Because of course if I had been able to knit the whole time, I'm sure I would have completed 12 pairs of socks for my Box o' Socks, and made about 50 other things, right???)

In any case, I'm pleased with what I accomplished.  I hope to do a little bit better this year, at least I hope I can do more socks, and maybe complete the 12 pairs!  Also - please note that I did actually complete TWO SWEATERS - a big thing for me.  Yes, I know there are people who make tons of sweaters, but I'm still relatively new to sweater knitting, so getting two of them knitted makes me really happy.  :-)


Did you do a Christmas Eve cast on?  I never have, mostly because I'm usually busy all day and evening on Christmas Eve, and don't want to take the time to stop and cast on a project.  Instead, I decided to do a New Year's Day cast on, so that I could begin the year with something new.

I don't know if you remember, but in 2018, I had saved up to purchase a yarn Advent calendar.  Of course, I had no idea that I would not be able to use the yarn right away, though again, I'm busy during Christmastime and would likely not have been able to open the yarn, wind it, and knit on a project for the 24 days leading up to Christmas Day.  Anyway, the broken wrist meant it wasn't happening no matter what.  I had decided a few weeks ago that last year's Advent calendar was going to be used for my New Year's Day cast on.  So I started winding the mini-skeins, and then on Wednesday, got started.  I chose the ADVENTurous Wrap by Ambah O'Brien for my project.

What a fun, addictive pattern!  This is what I had after only a few hours:

It's one of those "let me just do one more color" things, and the only frustrating thing for me was that I could not find the #5 mini-skein (the last color on the top), so I just substituted something I already had.  I also worked on it yesterday, and here you can see that I've made even more progress:

This weekend I plan to wind all of the rest of the skeins so that I don't have to interrupt any future activity because I've knit all that were ready so far.

Right now, my only other project I have going is the pair of Christmas socks I was making for myself.  I was on the foot of sock #1, and realized I'd made a major mistake that I just couldn't live with, so I ripped out everything up to the patterned part, and started again.  I'm now a bit further than I was before, so I'm moving along.  I'm going to have them be my first pair for my 2020 Box o' Socks.  I know in the "official" KAL, you can't start with a WIP, but since I'm on my own, I can do it my way.

I'm really happy with how my 2020 knitting projects are starting, and hope this is a sign that whatever else I work on this year will be a good project.

Have a good weekend!

01 January 2020

2020 Begins

It's clear that you are now too old
to trust in good Saint Nick; 
that it's too late for miracles.
-- But suddenly, lifting your eyes
to heaven's light, you realize:
your life is a sheer gift.

--"1 January 1965," by Joseph Brodsky

Happy New Year, my friends.