30 July 2021


I had a different post in mind for today, but it can wait.  I wanted to ask you to please keep a good thought and if you are the praying type, a prayer for some friends of ours.

Yesterday, Hamlet's fellow guide dog and partner, Karma, headed to doggie heaven.  They lived together for 9 years, and guided their people Sharon and Jeff for all of that time.  Sharon and Jeff of course, loved them both as their dogs, not just as their guides, and Karma was one of the happiest pups ever.  She was a black Lab mix, slightly smaller than Hammy, but with the biggest puppy personality!  She was all wiggles and kisses.  Shortly after Hamlet retired and came to live with us, Karma was retired and went to live with a friend of Sharon and Jeff's named Karen.  That was another match of epic love, and Karma had a happy retirement filled with another family of love, fun, and adventures.

My favorite Karma memory was of the couple of times we visited Sharon and Jeff to see if adopting Hamlet might work out.  Karma immediately fell in love with The Tim.  Whenever we would sit down, she would actively push me off of the couch, so she could cuddle up next to him!  She would give him about a thousand kisses and demand constant pets (and of course he loved it too).  She was one of the sweetest pups I've ever met or been around, and I know that today, Sharon, Jeff, and Karen and her family feel bereft that she is no longer around to give them cuddles, comfort, and kisses.

Here is a photo from a few years ago, when we all converged on Jeff and Sharon's house to have a reunion, as well as meet their new guide dogs.  This is Karma and Hamlet giving nose kisses (after which they both went crazy realizing who each other were!), while Sharon is in the background with her new guide dog, Oakley, who clearly wants in on the fun.

When you think about it, guide dogs have such a broad grouping of family - their original families when they are born; then the puppy raisers who socialize and give them basic training; then those that they guide; and then finally their retirement families.  That's a lot of changes for a doggie life - but it's also a LOT of love from so many people the whole time!  

Happy trails, Karma, and enjoy wiggling, cuddling, kissing, and playing all of the time in heaven.  Thank you for being an angel on earth before you became one of the angels above.

29 July 2021


I wanted to post for Three on Thursday today, but couldn't think of three particular things to talk about. Then I started thinking about things grouped into threes.

Not only were there Three Little Pigs, but if you take it further, the Big Bad Wolf threatened to "huff (1), and puff (2), and blow the house down (3)."

Three things that all of us are encouraged to do.

It's one, two, three strikes you're out at the old ball game!

The Three Bears were not all that pleased with a visit from Goldilocks.

And I could go on, but since it is in fact supposed to be Three on Thursday, and I've already shown four things, I will stop.  But it did get me on a tear, I have to say!

Having said all of that, just remember that according to Paul Simon, there are Fifty Ways to Leave Your Lover ... 😏

28 July 2021

Week 4 - How Is It Already Week 4??

Hi all!  I'll admit I wasn't ready for this!  Though in many ways July felt eternal (it was soooooo hot and sooooo humid!), I find it hard to wrap my head around the fact that this is the last week of July.  

Which also means it's the last week of
Christmas in July 2021!!

I have to tell all of you that I have really appreciated your willingness to play along and answer my mostly silly questions.  It really would be fun to be able to send a package to every single person, but until I win the lottery (meaning I would have to actually purchase a ticket), I fear that will not be the case.

Anyhoo, here is the prize for this week's giveaway:

It's a basket of goodies!

Obviously, this small basket - large enough for a sock project or some other small item.  You could also store needles, notions, or whatever strikes your fancy in it.

Also included are a set of stitch holders, and a skein of Must Stash Sock Yarn in the Father Christmas colorway, which as you can see has lovely shades in it, and it is not IN YOUR FACE Christmas-y.  This is a stripey skein, I think it creates 10 stripes per repeat.  (The skein is currently upstairs and I am currently downstairs.  I'm afraid that laziness wins out here, people.)

Like what you see?  Well then tell me your answer to this question:

What is one of your VERY FAVORITE holiday dishes that you cannot wait to have at a holiday, and for whatever reason you never make any other time of the year, even though you could?

Potato salad only on the 4th of July??  Pumpkin pie only at Thanksgiving??  You get the idea.

If you are interested in being part of the giveaway, post a comment containing your answer on this post only, no later than 12 noon U.S. Eastern Daylight time on Sunday, August 1, 2021 (August 1!!!).  I'll choose a winner, once again relying on the random number generator, and announce said winner on Monday.   

My answer to this question would have to be stuffing.  I absolutely adore stuffing at Thanksgiving and Christmas, and I start to think about it at the beginning of November, and my mouth waters at just the suggestion!  Could I make it anytime during the year?  Of course!  Do I make it at any other time?  Nope.  I don't even consider making it.  I like to think that it's because only having it those two times during the wintertime holidays makes it extra special, and maybe even extra yummy.  But it could also be that I am just not as motivated to take the time to do it any other time of year ... 

Right now though, some stuffing would sure taste good. 😋

P.S. Please once again excuse any weirdness in layout, font, etc. here.  After posting last week from my tablet, everything is now changed in settings for the blog, and I probably won't be able to adjust things until this weekend.  Just wanted to let you know - I'm sure you're all up in arms about it, right???

26 July 2021

Two Winners, But Only One Is For Week 3

Hello and I hope your weekend was a good one!  Mine was frustrating, but OK.  You may have heard that Google sent out an update for Chromebooks with a typo in it, causing users to not be able to log in.  They sent out a fix, but as of right now, my laptop has not been updated, and I need to use my laptop for work, so I will have to use the nuclear option, and wipe it clean and start all over, losing some stuff again.  I'm upset, but since I lost SO MUCH MORE when my previous laptop died, I'm kind of just numb about it now.

But overall the weekend was fine, and there's more about the best part at the end of the post.

Now to the reason most of you are here, the announcement of Week 3's winner.  Roll the drums, because the winner is:

EllenD !!!!!!

This was her response to the question about reading words, thinking they were pronounced one way, and then hearing/learning the actual pronounciation.

We had to take turns reading aloud (and I hated doing it).  I pronounced the word "pigeon""pie-gee-n" and the whole class burst out laughing.  I was so embarrassed!

Ellen, CONGRATULATIONS on being the winner this week!  When you get a chance, please send your complete name and mailing address in an e-mail to thekittyknitterATverizon.net (I promise that's  correct!).

I had so much fun finding out that all of you also had experiences similar to mine - isn't it funny how words - often even simple ones - can throw you off a cliff?  Thanks for participating. 😊

So I mentioned last week that I was headed out on Sunday to a baseball game with my friend Lisa.  Well, that was yesterday, and boy did we have fun!  It was absolutely wonderful to get to see and hug her in person bed catch up!  Plus it was amazing to get to see this in person again after so long:

The usher in our section was kind enough to take our picture:

The Tim: WHY does your hair look weird?
Me: Because I was super sweaty and had just taken off my hat.
The Tim: Well it looks really weird.
Me: Go away.

Aaron Nola pitched, and wow was he on point!  I the 9th inning, the Phillies were ahead 2-1, we needed only one more out to win, and a Braves hitter got a home run - at which time the manager TOOK HIM OUT OF THE GAME, much to the extreme dismay of those of us in the stands (of course, EPIC booing ensued).  But fortunately as soon as the next guy was pitching, he struck him out and we won the game!!!

I was exhausted by the time I got home,  but in the best way.  It was a wonderful day, an impressive game, and a win on top of it was the perfect way to end the weekend.

Let's hope this week will try to be as agreeable. 

***Apologies for any weird formatting or other wonkiness in this post.  I'm not that good with all of it on my tablet,  and have only so much patience at any given time to figure things out.

21 July 2021

Week 3 Is Already Upon Us!

 Hello there, and welcome to Week #3 of Christmas in July!!  

If this were Double Jeopardy, I would say that this is when the scores double, and anything can happen - but it's not, and we are not keeping score (well, at least I'm not), but I guess anything could still happen ...

In this week's drawing, the giveaway prize definitely NOT be a year's worth of Rice-a-Roni.  (When I was a kid, it seemed that a lot game shows had the consolation prize of a year's worth of Rice-a-Roni, "The San Franciso Treat" - I found this intriguing, because a) I had never ever had Rice-a-Roni, and b) it was always shown with a stock image of a cablecar, and that seemed incredibly exotic to me!)

Anyway, moving away from game shows, let's see what the prize is for this week:

Though the project bag is Christmas-themed, the book is most definitely not!  

This is a project bag that is definitely a good size for a sock project, or any other smaller types of things you may be knitting.  I purchased it from Sugar Tots a few years ago, but I have so many holiday-themed project bags, I have never ever used it.  It's so cute, I wanted it to have a happy home with a knitter who would use it and appreciate it.

As for the book, the Goodreads summary is here, and my review of it is here. It does take place in Philadelphia, but you don't have to be familiar with the city to enjoy it.  It's a good story, and is as much about families and relationships as it is about opioids and those who are suffering addiction.  (But it has nothing to do with Christmastime or the holiday season as a setting to the story.)  I won my copy in a Goodreads giveaway, so it seemed only fair to pass it along in another kind of giveaway.

Here's your question for this week:

What is a word or phrase/expression that you first encountered in print, and mentally pronounced one way, only to then actually hear it, and you'd missed the right pronunciation altogether?

Let me know in the comments on this post only.  You have until 12 noon (U.S. Eastern Daylight Time) on Sunday, July 25, 2021.  I'll once again call on the random number generator, and announce the winner in a post on Monday.  And don't forget - any comments will also give you an entry into the final prize for this year!

My answer - well, I have two that came to mind.  I used to love Nancy Drew mysteries, and sh would be referred to often as a "girl sleuth." I understood what it meant from the context, but in my head I thought it was pronounced as SLEE-UTH.  I was amazed to learn that "sloth" was correct.

The other was the expression "C'mon," which for who knows what reason I thought was short for "See you on Monday."  It didn't necessarily make a lot of sense when someone in a book would say, "See you on Monday, let's go to the store," but I would just move along.  Then one time I heard someone reading aloud say it, and then it made a lot more sense ... 😂

Your turn!

19 July 2021

Week 2 - We Have Another Winner!

PLEASE NOTE: I mis-typed my e-mail address in the original version of this post, and I apologize.  It has been corrected below.

(How sad is it when you can't get your very own e-mail address correct??)


Hello on a Monday, and as promised we have a winner for Week 2 of our giveaways for Christmas in July!  There weren't as many entries for the actual prize this week as there had been for last week, but I think some people either just don't do counted cross-stitch, or have tried it and don't care for it.  Which I get - I know very few people who love doing all of the craft things they have tried.

Anyway, Ye Olde Randome Numbber Generatore was consulted, and without any bias, it told me that the winner for Week 2 is:

Kim in Oregon!!!

This was her answer to the question: What is your favorite TV show ever?

"I think I'll have to say either 'The West Wing' or 'Sports Night.'  They're sort of related."

In my opinion, these are excellent choices!  I also really liked both of these shows, and as a matter of fact, we are currently on Season 4 of our re-watch of "The West Wing."  And I also get what she means about them being somewhat related.

So please join me in a round of applause to congratulate Kim!  Please send your name and mailing address to me at thekittyknitterATverizonDOTnet, and I'll let you know when the package is on the way.

Thanks to all who participated, you'll have another shot at things in a couple of days.  😊

NOTE to Karen51:  I never received your e-mail, either in my regular mail or in the spam/junk mailbox.  Please try sending it again to the address above, as my e-mail has been known to have weirdnesses, and it's worth another try.

I really enjoyed reading about the shows people like(d).  I'm also pleased because all of them were things I knew about, so I didn't feel like I'd missed out on something good that everyone else knew about.  God forbid, I miss a good TV show,  you know ...


Vacation is over as of today.  At least I don't actually have to go into the building for work until tomorrow, that helps some.  But I am grateful first of all that I had vacation time that I could take, and second of all, that I enjoyed every minute of it so much!  Now to look forward to the next day off/vacation time.  

We had a nice weekend, not a lot of activity, but it was very enjoyable to just spend some quiet time together.  Yesterday was a day when I should have just not even tried at all to knit, though.  Have you ever picked up your knitting, and for whatever reason, it's like you have either never knit at all, or you have completely forgotten how it works?  That was me yesterday.  Anything in progress I tried to work on, I ended up ripping out.  And then I attempted to start a pair of socks, and that was just 100% a disaster.  So late in the afternoon, I just decided to put everything away, out of immediate sight, and read for a while instead.  Hopefully when I pick anything up next time, I'll remember how to use knitting needles!

So that's the news from here.  I hope all of you enjoyed a good weekend, and that we all have a week that treats us well, or at least kindly.  Take care.

16 July 2021

For Once, I Wish It Was Not Friday

You can probably guess why - it's my last day of vacation.  I shouldn't complain, because I had a really lovely week (well, interspersed with whatever dr appts I'd managed to fit in, so as not to have to use time in a work day), but in some ways the fact that it was a lovely week makes it worse, you know?

Anyway, I did have - and am still having - a really great vacation week.  The weather was not at all cooperative, it was in the high 90s temperature-wise, with thick, ick, humidity every single day and then not that much cooler at night.  So except for necessary things, I pretty much stayed inside.  I tell myself that when I take some time in the fall, I'll be able to go out for long walks, etc. then.

Staying inside though, did mean that I was able to do some things on my own schedule that I usually just have to fit in among everything else, so that was a real bonus.  

For instance, I sewed four hanging kitchen towels:

I didn't have a pattern to work with (no kidding, look at the wonkiness!), but I am happy with the results nonetheless.  These are for us, and they are usable and cheery, so I'm pleased with them.  We really like the hanging kitchen towels, and they are not that easy to find.  So a couple of months back, when I was at a Joann's Fabrics, I bought some terrycloth and some cotton to make these.  I still have enough for a few more, but my plan was to get at least four made this week, so there you go.

I also did lots of reading - I mean for a few hours at a go, which is just THE BEST!  To sit and read and not have to worry about when your lunch hour is over, or if you are supposed to be doing something else or be somewhere else, is such a nice luxury.

I also worked on some knitting - my summer top got some attention, and I started a birthday gift for one of my nieces:

This is the beginning of the Lightweight Hipster Shawl.  The niece I'm making it for as a birthday gift is truly a hipster, so I thought it was a good fit.  As you can see, I have only the first part done; I stopped at the next part, where it starts dropping stitches, etc., because it was later in the evening, and I didn't want to challenge my brain OR mess it up and have to start over again at that time.

I do have a funny story from one of my dr appts. I see a cardiologist yearly, and I really love this guy.  He is so personable, and such a good communicator.  Anyway, he was saying that he didn't quite agree with something about some test results that my internist had told me.  But, as he said, "It's not that big of a deal, it's not like I'll fight her on it.  Besides, I think she might be able to take me."  

So I told him that periodically, The Tim and I will discuss that if we ever got into a physical fight, who would win.  He thinks he would win, because he is bigger and stronger, but I always say I would win because I'm meaner.  The cardiologist laughed, and then he said, "Wow. Sounds like when Kierkegaard and Nietzsche would get together to discuss the meaning of life."  That just cracked me up!

And that, friends, is the story of What I Did Over My Summer Vacation.  As I said, it's still happening, at least until Monday, so there is some comfort in that.  But I'm really happy that I had such a good week because I wanted it to be that, and for once nothing put a wrench into it.

I hope all of you have a good weekend, and are able to just enjoy some time the way you would like.  Don't forget that Sunday at noon is the last chance for you to comment on the latest giveaway post here.  

Take care, and I'll announce a winner on Monday.  In the meantime, I thought you might get a chuckle out of the cartoon below.  Take care, everyone!

14 July 2021

Attention Cross-Stitchers! Christmas in July Week 2

I'm sorry for anyone who is disappointed this week, but rather than a knitting-related prize, I have one for those who enjoy counted cross-stitch.  I know some of you do more than one craft, so you may not be as disappointed as others, but it seems only fair to branch out with some of the prizes.

For the second week of Christmas in July, the giveaway prize is this one:

OK, so it's not completely as pictured above, BUT - it is a kit that includes the pattern, all of the floss needed, and the fabric, so I think that's a good deal!  As a matter of fact, I thought it was such a good deal, I purchased it on two separate occasions.  😲

Sigh.  Yes, I had seen this on the Floss Toss podcast, on one of the early episodes, and I loved it!  So I found a kit on 123Stitch.com, and bought one for myself.  Then a few months later, I remembered how much I liked the project, but did not remember having purchased the kit - so I bought another one.  Only when I actually went to pull it out and start stitching, did I realize I had two of the same thing.  

Two good things did come out of this experience, however: 1) I now remember to check before I even look around online for any cross-stitch projects, and 2) I had a stitch prize for Christmas in July!  

Interested?  Well then, to be considered for this prize, let me know the following:

What is your favorite TV show ever?

Let me know in the comments on this post only.  You have until 12 noon (U.S. Eastern Daylight Time) on Sunday, July 18, 2021.  I'll once again call on the random number generator, and announce the winner in a post on Monday.  And don't forget - any comments will also give you an entry into the final prize for this year!

My answer?  My favorite TV show ever is "Mr. Ed."  I have always loved that show, in spite of how ridiculous it is.  Mr. Ed had the best lines, and I used to love how he used the telephone, watched TV, and would not say anything if anyone other than Wilbur was around.  I still watch the reruns, and you may be interested to know that on more than one occasion, I have won a Mr. Ed sound-alike contest.  Talk about hidden talent, right??  (Most people prefer it remain hidden.)

OK, your turn!  

And good luck, Wilbur.  😘

13 July 2021

FO Post: Blueberry Souffle Socks

Hooray, it's a finished project!

You are probably not completely surprised to see it's a pair of socks. 😊

Project:  Blueberry Souffle Socks (Ravelry project page)
Pattern:  Vanilla Souffle Socks (free pattern - Ravelry link)
Needles:  US size 0 and size 1
Yarn:  indigo dragonfly Socktabaa, in the colorway Cerealism
Modifications:  None
Notes:  I can't remember now where I saw this pattern (probably someone showed their FO on a podcast), but I was intrigued by the texture created on the front top of the sock:

Seeing that it was a free pattern, I figured why not give it a try.  Well, it's fun to knit, let me tell you!  Once you do the first pattern repeat (4 rounds), it's really easy to remember.  And since it's only on the front of the sock, you get a "break" with just knitting for half of the round.  Because the texture pulls in the sock somewhat, I made the larger size, and it worked out just fine.  The pattern is clearly written, and it didn't take me as long to knit them as my Ravelry page might indicate - there were a lot of times when I didn't work on them at all for a few days.

The yarn is deep stash, and though at first glance, it looks like it's just a light blue, there are flecks of dark blue, turquoise, and purple thrown in which also makes the knitting fun.  

I highly recommend this pattern, give it a try!

12 July 2021

Week 1 Winner and Wow Did I Enjoy That!

Hello all, here's hoping that things are OK where you are.  Though between weather, the Covid variant, and everything else that seems to be going on in the world, I know that can seem like somewhat of a tall order.  

However, we do have something fun to talk about, and that is we have our first winner for the 2021 version of Christmas in July!  I have to tell all of you, I have seldom enjoyed reading comments as much as I did for this - I truly love this kind of thing, as I am fascinated by people's life progressions.  There were SO many fun surprises to read about, and did you happen to notice that one of the people who commented currently lives in Wheeling, West Virginia - hometown of MOI???  I have a thousand questions which I will of course not ask, because they are none of my business, but I so want to know where she lives there, does she know anyone I know, does she want to be best friends, where does she work, etc.?  I've decided to just answer those questions in my own brain the way I want to answer them, that way she retains some privacy and I continue in my fantasy.  😊

In any case, yesterday I called up the ever-reliable random number generator, and it chose the comment from:


Here is her response to the question: Where were you born?

I was born in the Ripon, Wisconsin hospital.  We live about an hour and a half south of there now.  Left the state for 13 years and then returned.

Please give a round of applause for both Karen51 and Ripon, Wisconsin!  I have never been to Ripon, but I have been to a few different places in Wisconsin (which were lovely), and I have heard of Ripon College.  

Congratulations, Karen51!! Please send me your complete name and mailing address via e-mail - my address is: thekittyknitterATverizonDOTnet.  In the subject line please say something like "Address for prize package" so that I don't think it's spam.  I will let you know when your package is on the way.  

I love that so many people lived near to, or in the same place where they were born; and it was so fun to read about other people's journeys from points A to B in a roundabout way.  Thanks SO much to everyone who was willing to participate - and remember, this makes you already eligible for the big prize at the end of all of this!


In other news that is good, I am on vacation this week - YAY!  No, I'm not going anywhere other than my own house and the coolest room in it, since we are in the high 90s with my unloved humidity added to the mix for the whole week.  But that is fine because I don't even have to think about work or anyone there.  And other than a dr appt in an hour or so this a.m., my time is my own.  The big question is, will I accomplish even one of the approximately 4000 things I have on my list of what I would like to do?  Stay tuned ...

OK, I'd better get myself in gear to get dressed, etc. to go to the aforementioned dr appt.  Thanks again to all who played along, and don't forget to check again on Wednesday to see what the next thing will be!

Take care, everyone, and have the best week you can.

09 July 2021

Book Report - April, May, and June 2021

Hello and Happy Friday!  Though between heat waves and tropical storms, it seems that there is only a teeny bit of the U.S. having OK weather ...

Before July carries on much more, I wanted to post about the books I read during April, May, and June of this year.  I always get a lot of comments from people saying they enjoy these posts, so I'm happy to hear that.  😀

Just a reminder - if you are interested in being part of the current giveaway, don't forget to check out this post.  Sunday at noon, Philadelphia time is your last chance to add a comment!

OK, here is what I have read in the past three months, and what I thought about each title - don't forget to let me know what you have loved, or even what you haven't, during your reading these days.

The Book of Longings, by Sue Monk Kidd.  This book really didn't take me as long to read as the start/end dates imply. I started reading it shortly after I checked it out of the library, and then got sidetracked by other things, and finished reading it in a three day period.

The narrator of this book is a young woman named Ana. She is the daughter of a man who works at the palace of Herod Antipas, and as such has a fairly comfortable life and existence. She is more fortunate than most females of the time, since her father has allowed her to learn to read and to write.  Ana is encouraged in these endeavors by her father's sister, Yaltha, who was sent to live with them when her husband died, and it was suspected that she had killed him (she did not, but that did not keep those in charge from thinking she had). There is also another member of the household, the son of Ana's mother's brother. The brother and his wife were killed by the Romans when their son was young. So he has been living in the household as part of the family, and though he is Ana's cousin, she considers him a brother, and they are very close. His name is Judas.

The "longings" in the title are of two different kinds: Ana's desires to write down the stories of brave women she has only heard about from others, so that there stories could be kept forever, giving them, and herself a voice. Her other longing comes as an adult, when her husband leaves to go forward and spread the story of God and his love for all peoples. Though she is originally betrothed to an older man who she has no desire to marry, after that man dies before the marriage can actually take place, she marries a young man she met by chance, whose name is Jesus. Because he is not of their social class, her parents reject her, and she moves with him to live with his mother Mary, and his family.

So yes, the narrator of the book is the wife of Jesus. Which adds a whole other level interest and plot (so to speak) to the story. Presenting a young man who works as a tradesman (carpenter) but also appears to have an extremely personal relationship with God, the Jesus in this book is extremely human, with the kinds of feelings, existence, and worries of the average person in this time. He is also presented as someone with a good sense of humor, and who is only different in the way that he seems to be able to embrace and feel love for all kinds of people. When he lives to take on a bigger role in his ministry, Ana is left behind. She continues with her chores, and her writing, but at one point she receives a letter from Judas which alarms her and makes her feel Jesus may be in danger.

At this point in the book, the entire story taking place between Palm Sunday and Good Friday occurs, with Ana as a witness to her beloved's suffering, crucifixion, and death. And though this is a major event in the book, the real story in the book is that of Ana, her aunt, and the community of women they return to after Jesus' death. It is a group of people who worship, pray, work, and take time for contemplation. Ana works in the library, where she finds a place to store her stories and scrolls, having made them into codices.

Needless to say, I've left out a lot of the events and characters in the book, mainly because there are so many layers and pivotal moments, to recount them all would give away the book. But I found Ana's story fascinating, as much for the descriptions of her daily life and the lives of people during these times, as for her desires - "longings" - to have a voice and to keep the voices of other women alive after they had been silenced for so long.

I found the book a tad difficult to get into at the beginning, but very soon I was interested in the story and how it was planning to develop. I thought it was a good read.

Gone to Dust, by Matt Goldman.  This was an intersting, and slightly different kind of book.

Nils Shapiro is a private investigator in Minneapolis.  He was formerly on the police force, but things didn't work out.  He is divorced from Micaela, but still loves her, and they can't really stay out of each others' lives.

When a friend from the police academy who is on the force in Edina, Minnesota calls him to work on a murder case, he figures it's another open and shut deal.  But when he gets to the scene, the victim and her house are covered in a weird gray dust.  And no one in her friends and family circle can imagine why anyone would want to kill her.  Nils starts looking into it, and finds a couple of "mystery" characters as well as an old friend and his brother who are involved.

As the story goes forward, there seem to be more things going on - political corruption?  A lesbian lover?  What is the dust?  By the end, Nils has figured it out, but not until there have been a lot of twists and turns.  

I will most likely read others in this series.  I enjoyed this one.

Break In Case of Emergency, by Jessica Winter.  Jen is the main character in this book, and after beimg laid off from her job as a communications director at a foundation that supported women's causes after the recession, she eventually finds a similar position at LIFt.  This foundation is the brainchild of a former TV star, reality star, and now ex-millionaire's wife.  

The really good part of this book was its skewering of the kinds of organizations that are everywhere these days: they have a mission to help a certain group and pursestrings to get off the ground, along with a founder with a wide network. But internally, they are full of people who are only interested in being seen and heard to do wonders, and treat the actual workers with either no respect or complete disrespect.  The author managed to get the true feel for the jargon used in today's workplaces ("empowerment" "team" "we are in this together") while also showing how in practice that is not the case.

In this book, LIFt is the place where Jen eventually realizes that she is being used and abused.  Her workplace is trying to control her life, leading to her having real resentment towards her husband and her two best friends, who happen to be in much better financial standing than she can ever imagine being.

I will admit that I did a lot of eye-rolling and some chuckling at situations and people in this book that we all know or have either worked with or spent time with.  They are not necessarily bad people, they just live to be "yes" people to the nearby shining star.  In that way, this was an amusing read.  But it was hard to feel a lot of sympathy for Jen, because for so much of the book, she was in a place that supposedly empowered women, where she felt completely unempowered for so long.

The Sweeney Sisters, by Lian Dolan.  The book begins as each Sweeney sister - Liza, Maggie, and Tricia - learn about the death of their father, William Sweeney.  He was a literary lion, with all of the complicated behaviors and acts that come with it.  But for the three girls, they remember their happy lives in Southport, Connecticut in the family home, where there father did his writing and commuted back and forth to his teaching job at Yale University, and their mother, who died too young, wrote her poetry and made their lives magical.

Each sister has something else going on their life that is brought to the fore by their return home to bury their father, and deal with what they learn about his life and his estate.  In the middle of all of this, they also learn there is another Sweeney sister, the result of their father's affair with the next-door neighbor.  Serena is a well-known journalist, who just learned her father's identity through a DNA test.  At first their interactions are uneasy, and somewhat suspicious, but when they find their father's final manuscript that he wanted published only after his death, the revelations within bring them together more than any of them expected.

This was a good read.  Not as soapy as it could have been, and more of a character study of how each daughter carved their own identity in a family where the parents were bright lights, but also managed to build a support system for each other within.  And how the sudden appearance of a new sibling rocks all of their worlds, but in the end strengthens the bond among all four of them. 

The book also did an excellent job of portraying the character of someone seen by the world as one sort of person and experienced differently by his own family.

The Stranger Diaries, by Elly Griffiths.  Clare Cassidy is a high school English teacher, teaching in a school that was the former home of R.M. Holland, a Gothic horror writer who Clare is also writing a book about.  When a colleague is found murdered, and a note is nearby that contains a quote from Holland's well-known work, "The Stranger," it seems not just horrible and creepy, but more than a coincidence.

Then one day, Clare goes to write in her diary, and notices handwriting that isn't hers, which says, "Hallo, Clare. You don't know me."

Between trying to figure out what is going on with the murder investigation and who might have gotten into her house to write in her diary, Clare is busy enough - but when another murder happens, with another Holland note nearby, things ratchet up a notch and seem to be heading out of control.  The question becomes who is the murderer, who may be someone Clare knows, who is reading her diary, and is her life in danger as well?

This was really interesting, and the newly-introduced character of the detective - Harbinder Kaur - who turns out to have attended the high school where Clare teaches, is an interesting addition to literary detectives.  I enjoyed this book, and suspected almost everyone of being the murderer except who actually was.

Crampton Hodnet, by Barbara Pym.  Oh how I adore Barbara Pym!  The worlds she creates in her books, and the interior commentaries of the characters are so exquisite.

In this, one of her earliest books, a small group of people in North Oxford interact as only they can in a Barbara Pym novel.  There is the very proper older woman who considers herself the arbiter of all that is good in society; her companion, the unnoticed but mentally sharp woman; the Oxford don who has a fling with one of his female students; and the young curate who boards at the older woman's house.  Their interactions, the "scandals," and the whole milieu makes you never really want the book to end.

If you have never read a Barbara Pym book, be sure to check your local library - I sincerely doubt you will be disappointed.

The Fortune of War, by Patrick O'Brian.  This audiobook finds our heroes enmeshed in the War of 1812, and being held as prisoners of war in Boston.  Stephen Maturin discovers through a mutual acquaintance that his former love, Diana Villiers, is in town and he is invited to a dinner that she will be attending.  Jack Aubrey, meanwhile, is hospitalized with a serious injury that happened during the battle where their ship was lost.

As usual, there are some funny segments here, and the aggravation of Jack often seeming to be really out of the realm of reason a lot of the time.  And though I knew from the get-go that Jack and Stephen would somehow prevail, I still was hoping that the Americans would win in the final skirmish of the book.

Hamnet, by Maggie O'Farrell.  This is a lovely, but also very sad book.  It tells the story of Hamnet, the young son of William Shakespeare, who died at a young age from the plague that was houding Europe during the 16th century.

In the book, we meet all of the family, including the mostly absent father who is in London writing plays.  Most of the story is of course, fictional, but it is based on the facts we do know about Shakespeare and his family.  Though he is present in the book, we come to know his parents, brothers, wife, and children much better than we know him - he "drops in" so to seap, when his schedule allows.  So in a way, we experience the story much like his family experienced it, without a lot of direct involvement from him.

Hamnet (a name which apparently was not just common at the time, but interchangeable in records with Hamlet) is a young boy who dearly loves his family, particularly his twin sister Judith.  He has a quick mind, and though he enjoys school and learning, he is easily bored and distracted.  Through this book, you realize not just that he was a real child, but also a child that is not that different from someone of his age today.

The first part of the book is about his life, and that of his parents - particularly his mother - leading up to his death.  The second part is a heartbreaking tale of the family trying to adjust to their loss.  In the very end, when Agnes Shakespeare travels to London in a fury, because her husband has dared to write a play, a "tragedie" called "Hamlet," you are not prepared (much like she is) for the absolutely heartbreaking way the book ends, when she has the chance to see a performance of the play.

You don't have to know anything about literature or Shakespeare to enjoy this book - it's a wonderful work all on its own.

Love in an Undead Age, by A.M. Geever.  I will admit that this is not the kind of book I usually read, or that usually appeals to me.  But a friend of a friend had written it, and my friend gave me a copy.  I found myself in one of those moods where I wanted to read something, but couldn't settle.  So I thought I'd give it another try, given that my first attempt soon after receiving it ended after about the first 10 pages.

This time around, I actually finished it, and it was pretty interesting, if still not exactly my favorite kind of reading.  

It takes place in the future, after the Zombie Apocalypse (aka ZA), in Silicon Valley, California.  To quote the character of Stefon from "Saturday Night Live" - this book has everything: Zombies, Jesuits, vaccines, romance, and even a cult.  One very reassuring thing in this book is that the main character has a dog, and by the end of the book, even with everything that has happened, the dog is still alive.  That alone gives it a positive spin from me.

But it was an entertaining read, and though I don't know I'll go any further, seeing now that it's a series and this was the first installment, I am glad that I finally sat down and gave it a chance.

A Great Reckoning, by Louise Penny.  Armand Gamache is starting his term as the new Commandant at the academy where officers are trained for the Surete - the same place where he trained years ago. But he has come out of retirement to get things back in order after a serious corruption scandal. 

But when one of the professors is found dead in his room - one Gamache allowed to stay, hoping to find out more about the corruption and where some of the money came from/still is - things get complicated very quickly.

Between the murder and a mysterious map found in the wall of the bistro back in Three Pines, there are a lot of mysteries, as well as an interesting reveal in this book. But as usual, I was not disappointed.

His & Hers, by Alice Feeney.  Another Alice Feeney novel that draws you in, and keeps you guessing the whole time.  Just when you think you know who did what, something happens to throw you off again.  Creepy but a good read.

Anna Andrews is a news presenter for the BBC who has been filling in for the regular person, who is out on maternity leave.  She runs into her ex-husband (a detective) when he is investigating, and she is reporting on, a murder in a small town near London.  It turns out that they both know the victim - she is former schoolmate of Anna's, and of Jack's younger sister, who went to school with Anna.  But that isn't the only twist, and as the story continues and other girls - now women - in the friends' group are killed, it all just gets weirder and creepier.

This book isn't really scary, or gory, it's just creepy, and then at the end you are left thinking, "Wait - ..."

Dear Child, by Romy Hausmann.  Well.  This book is pretty insane.

When a couple gets a phone call from a police friend of theirs, saying that their only child, a daughter who disappeard 13 years ago might have been found, they are excited and relieved.  However, when they get to the hospital, the person in the bed is not in fact their daughter.  But that person's daughter is a dead ringer for the missing daughter at the same age!  They feel sure that somehow, the little girl is their granddaughter.

The story is told by several narrators: Jasmin, the woman in the hospital; Hannah, the little girl; Matthias, the grandfather; and occasionally some other characters, but those three are the focus.  This book is disturbing, interesting, mysterious, and weird and every time you think you might know something you find out that you were completely off base.

This is a psychological thriller, and at the end, you are really not sure how to feel, or if anyone involved had a happy ending.  It's extremely readable, and puzzling at the same time.

According to summaries, it is supposedly evocative of "The Girl on the Train," and "Gone Girl."  I didn't read the second one, and absolutely hated the first, but I felt this one was actually pretty good.

Swimming Lessons, by Claire Fuller.   read about a quarter of this, and just gave up.  It held some interest for me, but I just never felt hooked by the story or by the characters.

It's an interesting premise - a man looks out the window one day, and thinks he sees his missing wife walking down the street.  He follows her to the local beach, and takes a nasty fall.  His adult daughters return home to help him. 

No one knows or understands where the wife/lmother had gone.  Any clues are found in letters she wrote to her husband a long time ago, and hid in the books in his library.

I wanted to like this book, to read the story of the couple/family and what happened to them, but after really trying, I decided it just was not the book for me.

Beautiful Day, by Elin Hilderbrand.  This was just the book I needed to read at the time I read it - nothing but a story, descriptions of places and people that are beautiful but have problems, and though things end up fine basically, it's not a happy ending tied up in a bow.  My first book after Memorial Day this year, and starts the summer well.

When the Carmichael family all join together in Nantucket for the youngest's wedding, they all know that she - Jenna - will be following The Notebook that her mother wrote for her as she was dying to the letter.  It has all the information that her mother had planned herself for when Jenna got married, and it's become like the Bible to her.  Along with this, each family member comes with their own issues, and along with some of the bridesmaids, other guests, and the groom's family with their own stuff going on, the whole wedding weekend is not as perfect as it may look from the outside.

With excerpts from the Notebook, and chapters voiced by different characters, you get all of the hidden thoughts, problems, hopes, and disasters that happen over these days.

This was an enjoyable read, and as with most of the Elin Hilderbrand's books that I have read, manages to show families pretty close to how many of them actually are - loving, but not even close to perfect.

Afterlife, by Julia Alvarez.  I just loved this book. It tells the story of Antonia Vega, who is still adjusting a year later to both being retired and being widowed - her beloved husband was killed in a car accident on his way to meet her for a celebratory retirement dinner. 

While learning how to live alone and capably in their house in a small Vermont town, Antonia is faced with so many questions, added to by non-citizen workers on the farm next door, who trust her because she is like them - though she will point out to the reader that she is Dominican - and then also when a family crisis involving one of her sisters arises.

This story is a beautiful meditation about love, life, and learning how to pick up and move along without the usual anchors of your life.  Its about accepting your age, as well as your emotional limitations. Antonia is so identifiable,her character let's you see yourself as well.

A Crafty Killing, by Lorraine Bartlett.  When Katie Bonner's business partner, Ezra Hilton, is found murdered at Artisan's Alley, she becomes the main owner.  Not that she ever wanted it in the first place, but Katie's late husband invested, and his share come to her upon his death.  Now Katie is left not only wondering who would have killed Ezra, but how to deal with Artisan's Alley - a workspace for artists to sell their wares, but that hasn't been updated for years.  And once she starts going through the records, she finds that bills have piled up as well.

As she tries to get a hold on things, she also becomes acquainted with the other merchants in Victoria Square and learns more about Ezra and how his nephew (the now only other shareholder) wants to buy Artisan's Alley to developers working on a new marina.  Slowly, Katie comes to know the other merchants better, as well as the people who have booths in her business.  She decides to quit the full-time job she hates, and devote herself to making a go of this new business.  Then one of the artisans is murdered in the building.  She begins to wonder if she has made the biggest mistake of her life.

This was much more of a story and mystery than I was expecting it to be.  Yes, it still falls into the cozy mystery category, but a lot of things you expect to be there are not.  For instance, Katie's crappy full-time job is one that most readers could understand and identify with; her conflicted feelings about her late husband - they had been separated - seem like those a real person might have.  And though things look promising by the end of the book, every single thing is not tied into a neat ribbon for the ending.

The Diva Serves High Tea, by Krista Davis.  I haven't read in this series for a while, and I forgot how entertaining the books are. 

In this installment, when Sophie Winston's friend Natasha faces an intruder in her home, and then shortly after a local antiques dealer is killed, Sophie wonders if there is a connection.  The antiques dealer died from botulism poisoning, and the last place he ate or drank anything was a new tea parlor in town. 

When Sophie's ex-husband - who has ever visited the tea place - comes down with a very mild case of botulism, things get even more puzzling. 

This was a fun read, and it did manage to keep me guessing.

I'll definitely read another in this series.

Standard Deviation, by Katherine Heiny.  This was the first time I have read any of this author's work, and I really am glad I found out about her, because at least with this particular title, I found her writing to be wonderful and enjoyable to read.

The story is narrated by Graham, who is currently married to Audra (much younger than he is), and they have a 10-year old son with Aspberger's named Matthew.  They live in New York City, and have a very comfortable existence.  One day at lunch, Graham ends up in line behind Elspeth, his first wife whom he has neither seen nor talked to for years. They have lunch together, and Graham pretty much thinks that's the end of it, but Audra insists that they arrange to have dinner with Elspeth and her current boyfriend.  And in this way, Elspeth re-enters Graham's life.

The bulk of the story is about how Graham's current life in no way resembles his life when he was starting out and was married to Elspeth.  She lived life by very strict rules, and was very steady, it was always easy to know what was or was not happening.

Audra, by contrast, is a whirlwind of actions, activities, conversation, and plans. She forms immediate and lasting relationships with people that Graham forgets they have even ever met.  A lot of Audra's commentary in the book is both amusing, and reminiscent of some people most of us know, who always seem to be talking, who know everyone and everything about them, and who are likable almost in spite of themselves. 

Graham cannot help but wonder how he went from one life to another, and was one better than another? In the middle of everything, each of the main characters in the book has something that changes them in the course of the story, and for a while, it seems as if things are starting to in a completely different direction. 

I found this book really amusing, and in some ways also really sad.  It emphasized that the connections we have with other people do matter in the end, and that we can always find ourselves surprised by our own actions.

Glass Houses, by Louise Penny.  There is a lot happening in this book.  It goes back and forth between our hero Armand Gamache testifying in a murder trial during a ridiculously hot summer, to the months before, in early November, when a mysterious figure robed in black appeared on the green in Gamache's home village of Three Pines.  But it also involves a detailed plan by Gamache and selected people who work with him to try and stop an international drug shipment heading from Canada into the U.S. through the border with Vermont.

The stories intersect, but there are a whole lot of twists and turns in each part of the book.  The robed figure is creepy, but the background provided about such a character is both creepy and interesting.  There are also some light moments, mainly in dialogue among characters.

As I have with most of the Inspector Gamache books, I really liked this one and found it to be an engrossing read.

Class Mom, by Laurie Gelman.  When Jen Dixon's friend talks her into being the class mom for her kindergartner's class, she gets more than expected in return.  Jen already has two college-age daughters (probably with different musician fathers), but now she has Max, and has the support system of her husband Ron as well.  

This book is pretty amusing, as long as you don't have to live it.  Jen sends e-mails to the parents about events, asking for volunteers, contributions for parties, etc. - what you would expect.  Besides just the usual things you expect, there is of course a super-aware mother of a kid with allergies, two moms who seem to have their own universe and see themselves as Kansas City's version of the Real Housewives, a kindergarten teacher who is beloved by the kids even if something seems off, and also the Big Man on Campus from Jen's high school years.

The book is amusing in a lot of ways, and I love that some of the parents just don't get Jen's sense of humor (being a person who has a sense of humor that is often lost on others).  It's not a great book, but it's a fun read.

The Last Thing He Told Me, by Laura Dave.  Hannah Hill has moved her woodworking business from New York City to Sausalito, California, to live on a houseboat with her new husband Owen Michaels, and his teenage daughter Bailey.  She feels as if her life is going along well, if she could only get Bailey to accept her.

One day, a young girl shows up at the door with a note from Owen to Hannah - the note says only, 'Protect her.'  Then when Hannah goes to pick up Bailey from school, she finds that Owen left a note for her as well, AND a duffel bag with thousands of dollars in cash!

It turns out that Owen's software company and the founder, Owen's boss, has been found to be doing some very iffy and very illegal things.  But - Owen has completely disappeared off the face of the earth.  The FBI is looking for him; a U.S. Marshal is looking for him; and needless to say, Hannah and Bailey would also like to know where he is.

This book took a few unexpected turns along the way, and even at the end, it was not exactly what I was expecting.  But it does raise questions about how well we know those we love, and whether or not we could keep loving them no matter what we might learn about them now or in their past.

Thistles and Thieves, by Molly MacRae.  Janet Evans and her moved-from-America-to-Scotland crew are feeling more and more at home in their new country of Scotland, and their bookstore and tea room are doing great business.  When Janet is riding her bicycle one morning in training for a local race, she stumbles across the body of a local doctor.  It's not clear what happened at first, but soon it is determined that he was murdered.  Which sets Janet and the others into action, trying to determine what and who.

A mysterious box of books left in front of the bookshop before opening one morning also supplies a mystery.  As other people are killed - the late physician's brother and a local district nurse - things get even more puzzling.  Did the books belong to the dead physician?  Were they in fact stolen, as the his sister claims?

This was an enjoyable read in the series, and at least to me, had a surprise ending.


So there you go - a little bit of a lot of different things.  

I hope you have a wonderful weekend, and have time for lots of reading, or anything else that YOU want to do!

07 July 2021

Here We Go Again! Christmas in July - Week 1


Hello there, and welcome to the Fourth Annual Christmas in July here at The Ravell'd Sleave!  Who'da thunk I would be doing this for the fourth year in a row?  I have a hard time doing much of anything for four years, though it helps if it is something fun.  😀

For any new readers - and to review for the regulars - here's how it works.  Each Wednesday during July, I will have a post that has a prize associated with it.  To participate, I'll ask a question that you should answer, or ask you to talk about something specific, etc.  Then you leave your comment on the post for that week, and on the Sunday of that week, I choose a winner.  Monday's post will announce who that person is, they contact me, and I send them the goodies.  I must add a disclaimer: I often don't send the prizes until I send them all at the end of the month.  In any case, I always let the person know when things are on their way.  This is open to anyone, anywhere in the world.  I set aside a bit of money throughout the year for everything, so don't worry about postage costs, etc.  

Something is new this year - at the end of the month, I'll choose someone from ALL of the comments on ALL of the posts, and they will be the recipient of an extra-special prize!  I know that I originally said that I would announce all of this ahead of the first week, but I kept changing my mind about what the extra thing would be, so you're getting it now.  All prizes are related to knitting/crochet, needlework, and/or reading.  So you may only be interested in some of the giveaways, but remember that any comment on any week's post will make you eligible for the big giveaway.


Now that the details are done, here is the prize for this week:

This is a kit I purchased a while back from Molly Klein Design, called The Santa Paws Kit.  I love it, but realized a while back that if I hadn't used it by now, I was probably not going to use it.  So, I thought that I would like to give it a good home.

The project bag is so cute - a little Christmastime village scene that includes a weiner dog in a festive sweater!  And the accompanying yarn is her Sweet Tea Sugar Sparkle Sock (100 g/463 yards; 75% superwash merino, 20% nylon, 5% silver stellina).  It's really so pretty, and the teeny bit of sparkle really works with the colors of the yarn, and makes it look more holiday-ish.

Just FYI, my yarn and project bags, etc., are stored in bins that also contain mothballs, and the dog and cats are just not interested in them, nor do they go near them.  Also, I have had the prizes out of the bins for a couple of weeks, so they no longer have mothball smell!  

If you are interested in being in the drawing for this giveaway, here is your question for Week 1:

Where were you born? 

And I don't mean "in a hospital," or "under a tree" (though that might be interesting!), rather I mean, in what geographical location?  I am always interested in this, because some people were born in the same place where they currently live, while others were born in a far flung place from where they find themselves now.

My answer:  I was born in Wheeling, West Virginia.  After that we moved around a lot, then we moved back there - it was weird, because my sisters and of course my parents were familiar with everything, but I had no memory of any of it!


Leave a comment on this post only no later than 12 noon (U.S. Eastern Daylight Time), on Sunday, July 11, 2021, and you will be part of the drawing.  I'll use a random number generator to choose a winner, and announce it in a post on Monday.

Good luck!