28 April 2022

All In One Week!


This woman illustrates how I've been feeling at times this week - annoyed with everyone and everything.  Not that I'm never annoyed other times, but in general the big annoyances tend to space themselves out.  

Since today is Thursday, I'm going to join Carole and the others to tell you Three Things That Have Really Annoyed Me This Week:

1.  On my way to work on Monday, I realized that I'd forgotten to bring the lunch I packed and it was still in the refrigerator at home.  So I stopped at the Wawa that is on the way to work, and picked up a yogurt with granola to have for my lunch.  Since we only have 20 minutes, running out for something at lunchtime can mean that you have time to get whatever it is, but not necessarily to then eat it.  

Anyway, I happened to hit the place at a time when a lot of other people were there, picking up odds and ends as well, so there was a line of about 8 people ahead of me.  We were in line for *maybe* 10 minutes, tops.  But of course, when the woman ahead of me in line got to the front, she put her one item on the counter, waited for the store clerk to ring it up, and ONLY THEN OPENED HER PURSE TO SEARCH FOR HER WALLET.  

Now, if you are standing in line with ten things in your hands, trying not to drop anything, that's different.  But this woman had one small item.  Did she use the time in line to at least search for, and pull her wallet out of her purse?  Did she at least do that once she was at the front of the line and put the item down?  Of course not.  And then of course, she had one of those humongous purses that required digging around until she found her wallet.

This is the same kind of thing as when you have been waiting for the bus to come for 20 minutes, and it finally pulls up, and ONLY then does someone in front of you start to look for their bus pass or bus fare.

This makes me so stabby, I can barely keep myself from commenting.  But I just stand there annoyed instead, so that someone doesn't punch me.

2.  Do you ever have these kinds of conversations with someone?  In this case, yesterday I had one of these conversations with The Tim (this is a made up conversation by the way, for the purposes of illustration, it's not what was actually being talked about).

The Tim: I wonder what Mary's favorite color is?
Me: She told me it was yellow.
The Tim: Oh I don't think that can be right.
Me: Well, that's what she told me when I asked her.
The Tim (in a snippy, aggrieved tone): Oh well then I guess I'm wrong, I don't know anything.

O.M.G.  I am just saying what another person told me when I asked the same question he was wondering about. And somehow, he has become the injured party.  I promise that I didn't say anything in a smart-aleck way, but the other person (in this case, The Tim) is somehow deeply offended that I would contradict them.

Most of the time, when I see it coming, I can stay out of these conversations with other people, but every once in a while, I'm clearly not paying enough attention, and it happens.  

It's so hard to deal with this when you are perfect like me. 😏

3.  There are a myriad of ways to spell my first name.  If someone doesn't know me at all, or has only met me/talked on phone/whatever once or twice, I a more than willing to let it go, and it's no big deal.  But when you have been seeing the same doctor for over ten years, and they still write down your name incorrectly, or you have been working with someone in the same dept for years and they always misspell your name, THAT'S annoying.  

One of my doctors *always* writes my name on prescriptions, etc., as "Bridgette."  Then on one of the forms that you have to check to make sure your insurance, etc. is correct, it says under my name, "aka Bridget."  No, that's not who I am Also Known As - *your* version is that, if you want it to be.  GRRRRR.

The only current co-worker remaining in my dept has worked here for 5 years, and seldom speaks to me because she a) doesn't like me, and b) seldom speaks to anyone else because she doesn't seem to like anyone else, either.  She continually writes my name in e-mails as "Briegette."  I'm sure part of is is passive-aggression, but then in the case of things like e-mails, other people use her version EVEN THOUGH I MY NAME IS RIGHT THERE WHERE I HAVE SENT A RESPONSE.

Yesterday, I sent out a group e-mail, and both in the FROM part of the e-mail, and in my signature, you could see my name the way I spell it.  The aforementioned co-worker responded first, and then the other three people involved also used her spelling.  In the life I live in my head, I will start responding to everyone else's e-mails by some creative spelling of their names.

And that is why this week has been super annoying to me.  I ask myself, could these things not have at least been spread out over several weeks, so that my desire to stab someone would not be as strong as it is right now?  Apparently not.  Which is reason #560285473 that it's a good thing that tomorrow is Friday and I have taken a vacation day.
 

26 April 2022

Let's Give This Stitching a Try

You would think that international press coverage would follow once I decided what my next stitching project would be, the way it took me weeks to decide.  Meanwhile, I care, and maybe one or two other people.  Maybe.

But decide I did, and here is my contribution to Tiny Needle Tuesday.

This past weekend, in what I have started to call Stitchy Saturday, I pulled out this kit that The Tim had given me for my birthday two or three years ago.


It's been a loooooong time since I've done any embroidery - I took a class a couple of years ago to refresh my memory, and I enjoyed it, but then as is usually the case, did nothing.  I do remember when I opened this gift, it was with some other stitching things - extra needles, a notions pouch - and The Tim said something to the effect that he knew it wasn't cross stitch, but he thought I'd like the teacup and flowers.  And he was not wrong.

So I got myself a cup of tea, and got all situated to get started.  I decided it would be good company to watch the latest Flosstube video from Floss Toss, which is done by Rachel of Treehouse Fiber Arts, and Sue, who is one half of the Legacy Fiber Artz team.  I don't watch all of their videos, but those I've seen, I've really enjoyed - those two do some amazing stitchery!


The really weird/funny thing was, in this episode they were discussing their latest obsession - embroidery!  Isn't that funny?  It made for even better company while dipping my toes (well, fingers) back into an embroidery project.  As with all things, I started with completing the flower part of one of the flowers (above), and by the time the podcast was finished, I had this:


Three flowers done!

Now, don't get all excited because my embroidery skills are not even in the same universe as expert, but making these flowers was just so enjoyable to me.  And since 99% of what I do craft-wise is to please myself, who cares if it's not perfect?  I had so much fun doing this, and it also gave me a nice way to have a "goal" - I told myself that I would try to complete the three flowers on Saturday, and it was not only a reasonable expectation, but I could immediately see what I'd accomplished, and some days that is exactly what I need!

I cannot tell you why Saturdays are the days I usually work on some stitching.  Maybe because they are generally quiet days, when I can have a stretch of time to really concentrate.  Maybe because I just like the sound of "Stitchy Saturday" once it occurred to me.  No matter what, Saturdays seem to be when I most feel like pulling out anything I'm working on or starting that is not knit-related. 

This coming weekend, we'll be out of town with family stuff going on, so I probably won't even take this along.  But that gives me plenty of time to decide what segment to try and complete next.

25 April 2022

Book Report for January, February, March 2022

I realized over the weekend that this is the last full week of April, and I never told you about the things I'd read during the first three months of the year - whoops!  So, no time like the present to blather on about books and my opinions of them, right?

Murder At An Irish Christmas, by Carlene O'Connor.  This was an entertaining and interesting book.

Garda Siobhan O'Sullivan and her siblings are in West Cork, Ireland, the week before Christmas.  Her brother's fiance lives there with her family, and her father - a renowned conductor - is planning a concert on Christmas Eve where he will "make a big announcement."  

The problem is, they find his body in the restored mill building where the concert was going to be held.  It appears that he fell - or was pushed - from a balcony, and a harp landed on him.  So beside the fact that everyone is trying to prepare for Christmas, now they have to try and learn just what happened.

The small town and its characters, as well as Siobhan's soon-to-be-in-law's family, make for an entertaining and puzzling story.  A lot happens in a short amount of time in this book, and people and events keep shifting your suspicions around. 

Murder in Merino, by Sally Goldenbaum.  I really wasn't actually planning on reading this for a while, but it was on my Nook reader, and one day at work it was the only book that would load!

In this installment of the series, everyone is talking about Jules Ainsley, a young woman who is visiting Sea Harbor, but who seems to be befriending everyone.  Then when she purchases Izzy Chambers' house everyone is surprised - who goes on vacation, and buys a house??  But things really get going when a very popular local bartender, who is a fixture in Sea Harbor is found murdered right outside the garden shed.  He had contacted Jules to meet with her, saying he had something for her.  

Jules immediately becomes the likely suspect, but the Seaside Knitters aren't convinced that she really had anything to do with it.  As they get to know Jules better, they find out her real reasons for coming to town, and eventually uncover not only why Jeffery wanted to meet with her, but who killed him and why.

This was actually a pretty interesting story.  The whole series of events and background was a bit more complex than is usually in this book, and the reader really wants them to figure it out!

A Lady's Formula for Love, by Elizabeth Everett.  I gave this book two stars, because it does have possibilities.  It's about a young widow who is more interested in science than in fashion or parties, who creates a club at her house for female scientists to pursue their dream, during a time when women were not supposed to be anything but wives, mothers, and pillars of society.  Because the whole endeavor is seen as shocking, the club is presented to the outside as a women's social club.  But someone is trying to shut them down, so the widow's stepson hires a bodyguard for her.  The two of them fall madly in love.

OK, fine.  I made my way through half of the book and bailed on it.  I am more interested in the women scientists unwelcome in society, than in the love story, and at least for the first half of the book, that is the primary focus.  For all I know, the last half could have been more about the scientists and their acceptance/non-acceptance to the London society scene, but I decided it was too tedious to keep going.

I'm not against love stories being part of a plot, this just started to annoy me.

A House in the Country, by Ruth Adam.  This is one of the most enjoyable books I've read recently.  This is the true story of the author's family and two other couples who purchased a manor house in the countryside after World War II.  All of them dreamed of being the perfect English people in a perfect English manor, and since wartime rations and materials were more readily available, they jumped at the chance to live the life of a country squire.

Except it wasn't quite what they were expecting.  As the author states, the house was built with the expectation of plenty of staff to help keep it going.  At the time of their purchase, only the old family gardener remains, and he is of great help to them for years after.  But this is the story of what is actually required to keep a huge manor house and grounds going when you are six adults and a few young children.  As they go along, the other couples move on and out, so that by the end of their eight-year tenure, the author, her husband, and their young children are the only ones left living there.  Even once they open things up to tenants and boarders, it just isn't working and they sell it and move back to London.

Of course, they foolishly think that once they have moved, that will be the end of that.  Until they receive legal notice that they owe a huge sum of money because of "dilapidations."

Adam writes in such a way, that you feel she is one of your friends, telling you about her experiences while living in the manor house.  The lovely parts, the frustrations, the money worries are all presented with enough good humor to make reading even about terrible things enjoyable.

All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr.  This was a good book, well-written, and considering everything covered in the detail the author provided, it was very readable.

Marie-Laure is a young blind girl, living in Paris with her father, who is in charge of all of the keys to the Natural History Museum.  She accompanies him to the museum every day, learning about the collections, befriending others who work there, and reading book after book while waiting to go home every day.  When she is 12 years old, the approach of the Nazis to Paris leads to Marie-Laure and her father leaving to go to Saint-Malo where her older, eccentric uncle lives.  Unknown at the time, to Marie-Laure, her father takes with him one of the most valuable items in the museum's collection, which -down the road - the Nazis will hope to find and take for their own future empire.

In Germany, in a children's home, Werner Pfennig and his sister Jutta live with some other children and are take care of by Frau Elena.  Even as a young boy, Werner becomes interested in radios and electronics, and teaches himself how to repair them and rewire them.  When his talent is discovered, he is sent to a special school where boys are educated to fight against Germany's enemies.

The book goes back in forth in time, and also from character to character.  It manages to be neither confusing nor annoying - rather, it tells you what you need to know at the time.  Eventually, Marie-Laure and Werner cross paths and both of their lives are changed.  

The story illustrates how lives are determined and changed by circumstances as much as anything else.  With every brutal act, there are also shreds of humanity and kindness and proof that sometimes doing your best means following your conscience.

The book is overall very sad, because in Werner's case in particular, things could have been so different for him if the Nazis had not sucked him into their universe.  Marie-Laure's story is more hopeful and satisfying.  But the fact that the war happened and that people had to figure out just how to survive among the destruction and cruelty just brought home how one group of fanatical people can destroy lives everywhere.

The Bishop's Wife, by Mette Ivie Harrison.  When we lived in Chicago, the person who was my husband's boss was also a Mormon bishop.  His wife volunteered in the office, so I had a fairly basic idea from knowing them what life was like for a bishop's wife in the Mormon Church.  And I knew some basic facts about Mormonism, based on a comparative religions course in college.

But reading this book was a whole 'nother story.  It includes some of the details of Mormon life, and was eye-opening.  I do not think I would be a good Mormon, let's just leave it at that.

Anyway - Linda Wallheim is the wife in the book's title.  She has raised 5 boys, the youngest of whom is still finishing high school.  Her husband is the bishop of their ward.  When a young husband arrives at their house with his little girl, saying that his wife mysteriously disappeared, the whole story is set in motion.  Linda knew the wife, but not well, and starts to wish she had gotten to know her better.  She doesn't trust the husband, and worries for the little girl.  As the story continues, the twists and turns get weirder and weirder.

Plus, an elderly man in their community dies, and a disturbing secret is revealed - or at least everyone thinks so - but is it his secret, or someone else's?

This book is based on an actual case, and it's both interesting and disturbing, and a really good read.  But I found it most fascinating because of the information about being a member of their church.

Tangled Up In Brew, by Joyce Tremel.  Like the first book in this series, I enjoyed the mystery and all of the Pittsburgh-ese of the story.

Max O'Hara's brew pub in the Lawrenceville section of Pittsburgh is doing well, and she decides - along with her boyfriend Jake, who is also the brewpub's chef - that they will participate in the first of what is hoped will be an annual beer and burger festival.  When one of the judges has to cancel, the replacement judge is someone that makes all of the participants but one unhappy.  And that one is over-the-top positive about the guy, a local restaurant critic who is scathing with his reviews.

When the critic/judge dies on the first day of the festival, it's a shock - especially when the ambitious young cop working with Max's father, a veteran on the force, says that he is convinced that a bottle of water from their stand had the poison in it that killed him.  He vows to bring Max and Jake to justice.

Of course, both of them realize they had nothing to do with it, but when it seems like the young cop will do just about anything to get to them, Max takes things into her own hands and starts to investigate.

After another death, things start to get really scary.  And Max learns why a lot of people had truly serious grudges against the guy, and maybe more important, why the person praising him has something to hide.

I enjoyed the story, and the mystery was a pretty good one.  This was a perfect book for my brain at the time I read it.

What Are You Like?, by Anne Enright.  First of all, just let me say that every time I read a book by Anne Enright, the same kind of thing happens.  I start out enjoying it, then it starts to drag somewhat and I wonder if I'm even invested in any of the characters, and then it gets to the ending and I am glad I read through.  This book is no exception.

The story does have an interesting premise: Maria is a young Irish woman living in New York City, in a doomed relationship. She finds a photograph in the man's wallet that is of her as a child - except that it's not.  The little girl looks exactly like her, but Maria knows she never had those clothes or has ever visited the place where the photo was taken.

Rose is a young Irish-born woman living in London, and working as a social worker.  She knows she was adopted, and begins to try and learn of her parents and biological family.  Her search leads her to Ireland, to Dublin, where Maria grew up with her father Berts, and her step-mother Evelyn.

Maria's mother died in childbirth, she knows that much, but not much else.  When she returns to Ireland, rather than going back to the university, she gets a job as a changing room assistant at a dress shop.  One day during some quiet time, she takes a look at herself in the mirror, and suddenly sees four of herself - two real people, two reflections, identical.

As I said in the first part of this review, the beginning was interesting.  The middle dragged, mostly because I was not that invested in Maria, and we get a lot more of her story than that of Rose.  But the ending was pretty interesting, and for what the book was, as satisfying as I would have expected.

Murder At Archly Manor, by Sara Rosett.  This is the first book of the series, and it is highly entertaining - if you are in the mood for a fun, enjoyable read that doesn't require every bit of your concentration, you'll like this book.

Olive Belgrave has been raised to be a lady, but her family is not titled, nor do they have much money, other than their country house property.  Olive's father has remarried after her mother's death, and her stepmother is younger, and working to eliminate any trace of Olive's mother's presence ever in the house.  So Olive journeys to London, hoping to find a suitable job and become a career girl.

She has no luck with that, and is barely hanging on, when she receives a note from her best childhood friend saying that she needs help, please come home right now.  It turns out that Gwen (the friend) is very concerned about her younger sister Violet, who has become enamored - and eventually engaged - to a young man named Albert who just seems questionable.  He provides very little information about his past, saying only that he grew up in India where his father was a British civil servant, and only returned to England to live with his godfather after his parents were killed in a car crash.

They have all been invited to a house party at the home of Albert's godfather, and Gwen and her mother offer to pay Olive if she will investigate his past and report back.  When things go wrong at the house party, Violet becomes a prime suspect, and Olive is determined to find out what really happened and who is responsible.

A quick read, with entertaining characters.

The Book That Matters Most, by Ann Hood.  Ava is feeling lonely at the beginning of this book.  Her marriage has fallen apart, and her husband has moved on with a younger woman.  Her son Will is in Africa studying gorillas, and her daughter Maggie - who has a history of drug use and bad behavior - is doing a year abroad for her art history studies in Florence.  When Ava's friend Cate, a librarian, asks her to fill a vacancy in their book group, Ava jumps at the chance.

The others in the group are varied in age, experience, gender, etc. and though she feels like an outsider at first, Ava becomes comfortable very quickly. The group theme for the next year's reading is "The Book That Matters Most" - meaning a book you read at any point in your life that had a deep meaning at the time and that you have never forgotten.  Ava chooses a book she read as a child, after her younger sister died in an accident, and her mother committed suicide.  She remembers everything about it very clearly, and how when she was reading it, she felt it had been written just for her.

Meanwhile, Maggie has left her academic program, and is now in Paris, making bad decisions, and taking drugs again.  After a near overdose, she finally discovers a bookstore that she had always heard about, and starts to spend days there, reading, napping, and occasionally helping out.

The book is the story of Ava, Maggie, and the secrets that can be kept even among people who dearly love one another.  And it's an interesting book, keeping you guessing both what might become of Maggie, and what will come next for Ava.

I enjoyed reading this book, but the ending was a little bit too tied-up-perfectly-in-a-bow for me.  Not unrealistic, just not what the book up until then had led me to think.

Highland Fling, by Nancy Mitford.  This is Nancy Mitford's first novel, and it is the story of a group of Bright Young Things (as they were known at the time) who visit a Scottish castle and have to interact with their elders.

The young people are all well-off enough, leading lives that are basically idle. They paint, they write poetry, but are not really interested - and to some extent expected to - have serious careers that provide a decent living.  Rather, they spend a good deal of their time visiting one another, jaunting around London and the countryside, and enjoying their lives.

When one couple is asked to host a gathering at the family's Scottish castle because the senior family members can't make it, they invite another couple to join them.  The story mainly deals with this time frame, and how the young people and the older people do not understand much at all about each other.  But of course, Nancy Mitford makes the read an amusing one.

Knit One Pearl One, by Gil McNeil.  This was a fine read when you want something that doesn't require tons of concentration. Keeping the characters straight is easier if you've read the first two in the series.

The continuing story of Jo McKenzie and her life in a small seaside English town was interesting  enough, but I doubt I'll go out of my way to read others in the series.

Designer Dirty Laundry, by Diane Vallere.  This was a freebie for my Nook reader, so I figured I'd give it a try.

When Samantha Kidd returns to her hometown to become the trends analyst for a large department store, she is thrilled: she'll be working with one of the most well-known designers, she has bought her parents' home where she grew up (they have retired), and she is looking forward to a better work/life balance than she had in her high-powered position in New York City.

So when she shows up on her first day of work, and her boss is found dead in the elevator, it's not the best way to start afresh.  Even worse, no matter what she does to find out what really happened, all of the evidence keeps pointing to her.

This was a fun read, and some of her internal monologuing was particularly amusing.

The Lost Boys of Montauk : The True Story of the Wind Blown, Four Men Who Vanished at Sea, and the Survivors They Left Behind, by Amanda M. Fairbanks.  I read a review of this book and thought it sounded interesting, so I added it to my library holds.  I'm glad I did, because although it's a sad book, it's also fascinating in that it deals with family, friendship, and memory.

In March of 1984, a ship that had been out for about a week fishing for tilefish was caught in a quick-developing storm.  The bulk of the ship and the bodies of the four men in the crew have never been found.  The book delves into the backgrounds of all the crew, who were a mix of sons of well-to-do families who summered in Montauk, New York, and sons of year-round families.  This was before Montauk became a place where homes were in the millions of dollars.

The captain of the ship, Mike Stedman, was from a wealthy family, but decided that he wanted to be a fisherman rather than work on Wall Street or somewhere else in Manhattan. He'd saved for years to buy his own boat after working for years on other fishing boats and party boats.  When he purchased the "Wind Blown" from someone in Texas, and brought it back to Montauk, nearly everyone who saw it had serious doubts about its seaworthiness as a fishing boat, but due to bonds of friendship, or just because of Mike's enthusiasm, didn't push the issue.  The other crew members - another guy who grew up wealthy but wanted to be a fisherman, and two locals (one of whom was only eighteen) made up the crew.  All of them were experienced, both on fishing boats and party boats.

The real bulk of the book is the story not just of each crew member, but their families and their friends.  It's fascinating in that although it's a deep dive, you really get a feeling for the crew as whole, and why they became the people they were.  You also find out how their immediate friends and families dealt with the fact that since no bodies were ever recovered, there was never really a feeling of closure.  The book also gives you the sense of how it must have felt, and still feel, for the working class people of Montauk who live  and work there all year, now that the whole area has become one of the big locales for the ultra-rich to build McMansions to live in during the summer only, having elaborate parties, and large household staffs.

The author, who moved with her husband and child to Montauk permanently after spending some summers there, was inspired to write the book after starting to work for the local paper.  She interviewed so many of the friends and family members involved, and it's interesting to learn the things that they remember and how they view them/remember them.  As I said a the beginning of this, it's a hard read because you know from the beginning that it didn't end well, but I found it really very interesting and I'm glad I read it.

The Secret Life of Dorothy Soames, by Justine Cowan.  Justine Cowan grew up in the San Francisco area in a wealthy family.  Her father was an attorney, and her mother was an elegant, English-born socialite.  Justine and her mother had an extremely fraught relationship, and when she became an adult, it was her chance to put some serious distance between them.  The puzzle starts when Justine comes across her mother sitting with a piece of paper in front of her that says "Dorothy Soames."  Since this happens once her mother begins her descent into Alzheimers Disease, Justine has no explanation about who Dorothy Soames is/was.

After her mother's death, she begins to try to figure out who her mother was, as she never told stories about her childhood, never had any friends, and never mentioned her family of origin.  She finds some information in files in her father's home office that start her on a path of discovery about her mother and who she actually was.

It turns out that Justine's mother was born in England, out-of-wedlock at a time when that was a major societal taboo.  Her birth mother was able to have her accepted at the oldest foundling home in England, where she was given the name "Dorothy Soames."  

The book details the history of the institution and those like it in England, which were not orphanages, but more like a small step up from workhouses for children who were illegitimate.  Justine is able to piece together her mother's childhood, and what life was like for all children in these foundling institutions.  The more she learns, the more she begins to realize just what her mother experienced and overcame, and maybe some of why she acted towards her daughter and family the way she did.  The author is able to track down other foundlings who knew her mother and were friends with her in the home, and she learns first hand more about what their lives were.

This was a really interesting story of not just one person's family, but of the system in place in England that started with the best of intentions, but turned out to be a horrifying place for those who grew up there.  So much of it seemed unbelievable and shocking to me, but also sadly believable.  

By the end of the book, Justine of course wishes she could have learned this from her mother directly, but as she says, she finally felt like she knew and understood that little girl that was her mother.

Snow, by John Banville.  This story takes place in Ireland, in 1957 - a time when the Catholic Church had a lot more power in daily lives than it does today.  St. John Strafford is put on a murder case - a parish priest has died in a country house in a smaller town outside of Dublin.  It's Christmastime, and very snowy.

Strafford knows he's been assigned the case because the people owning the house where the priest died are wealthy Protestants, and he was brought up in the same religion and same class as they were.  His boss knows they will be more accepting of him and his investigation.

But the priest hasn't just been murdered, his body was mutilated as well.  When Strafford and his assistant, Jenkins, begin looking into it and questioning people, everything seems to go round in circles. 

This book is not really a read for the fainter of heart, but it is a good read.  The depictions of the snowy, cold weather provide an extra chill to the weather, and the characters are not necessarily endearing, but interesting given their milieu.

There is a brief section in the book called "Interlude, 1947" that is particularly disturbing, so don't say I didn't warn you.

A Villa in Sicily : Olive Oil and Murder, by Fiona Grace.  Audrey Smart has spent her entire life in Boston. She is now working there after completing studies to receive her veterinary degree. Her high school reunion is coming up, and though she is going, she's kind of dreading it, since it seems like her other classmates have all done so much better than she has.

The high school reunion is pretty much a dud, and she has a run-in with another vet at work and decides on the spot to quit.  Of course, she has no idea what is next, but then she sees an ad on social media about houses in Sicily that are for sale for a dollar.  At first she figures it's just a scam, but when she decides to call, it turns out that it isn't a scam, and she decides it's her chance to live a different life.  

Having never traveled much, and never out of the country, she nervously arrives on her doorstep to learn that her one-dollar-deal house is ... kind of a dump.  But she is determined to make it all work, so she slowly finds ways to fix things, meet other people, and figure out just what needs to be done.  It turns out that the house across from her is being renovated by an American Instagram influencer, and though she wants nothing to do with Audrey, a few days later when Audrey is looking to apologize to the construction foreman over there, she finds him dead in the back yard, having fallen off a cliff.   Even worse, Nessa (the influencer) tells the police that Audrey is likely the one who pushed the guy, leading to her death.

So now Audrey is spending all of her nest egg to fix up her house, is a suspect for murder, can't leave the little town under the orders of the police, and is getting dirty looks from everyone.  When she was asked to help someone who found an injured fox in their yard, she ends up taking him home with her for treatment.  And guess what? It's illegal for people to own wild animals as pets in the town, so now she has yet another problem!

As Audrey tries to figure out who really killed the construction foreman, and how to make her house more livable, we are introduced to the small but amusing group of people in her orbit in the small Sicilian town.  Then she is contacted by her former boss at the animal clinic in Boston, saying she has done some house-cleaning with the staff, and would love for Audrey to return.

So now Audrey has to figure out a murder, decide how to re-wild Nick the fox, and figure out if once she can move about more freely, if she wants to return to her life in Boston.

This was an enjoyable read for lunchtime at work.  The ending surprised me a tiny bit, and I did start to wonder if they were actually going to find out who the real killer was, since it's not resolved until the book is almost finished.  I'll probably read another in this series.

And now I also wish I had a pet fox.

Every Last Fear, by Alex Finlay.  This was a real page-turner, I have to say.

When Matt Pine gets back to his dorm room at NYU one morning, still kind of out of it after a night partying after his girlfriend broke up with him, there are federal agents waiting for him. His parents, younger sister, and little brother have been found dead at the place they were staying during a spring break trip to Mexico.  Right then, it's suspected that a gas leak killed them all.

Matt is of course gut-punched, but there's another problem - the media.  His older brother Danny is in prison for allegedly killing his girlfriend when they were both in high school.  A recent documentary series explored the case, making the argument that Danny was innocent, and stirred up a lot of interest.  So now, the family being found dead is big news.

When Matt travels back to his original hometown in Nebraska for the funerals, all of the old suspicions and gossip returns.  But other things begin to happen, and all of a sudden, Matt is learning all kinds of secrets that never even crossed his mind.

The books is primarily about Matt, but it gives each of the family members a chance to enter the narrative, and you end up feeling that you know the Pine family maybe even better than Matt does. And at least one part of you can understand the dogged determination of a family whose lives were ripped apart because of something that they believe one of them did not do.  And then, with the documentary, how things become even more intense.

It's not necessarily a happy book, but it was a good read, and the family was an interesting group - you wanted better things for all of them, as it seemed they might be finding their way.

A Case for the Winemaker, by Candace Havens.  It's opening day at Bless Your Art, a new artisan market in Sweet River, Texas that provides several different types of artistic products, craft materials, and even wine. It's the brainchild or Ainsley McGregor, who has moved back home after a few years living in Chicago.  

Things seem to be going really well, the day is a huge success.  That is, until Ainsley and her Great Dane named George Clooney find the body of an unpleasant man who was arguing with the winemaker (who was also Ainsley's friend), with one of the friend's wine bottles nearby.  That's bad enough, but as she starts to try and figure out what happened, she starts to receive threatening notes.

Was it worth the move to her small-town home from the city, only to have something like this happen?  The story moves at a fairly quick pace, with enjoyable characters and an easy feel.  I read this book during my half-hour lunch breaks at work, and it was perfect for that.

The Story of the Lost Child, by Elena Ferrante.  I read this book even though Book #3 did not appeal that much to me, because I wanted to know the end of the story of Lena and Lila as adults.

This covers the time after Lena has left her husband to be with Nino, who she has loved since she was a child, to the "present day" so to speak, when she has been searching to locate Lila who disappeared without a trace.  

I have to say, I didn't really find this book much more to my liking than I did the previous one.  It was interesting to read about life and politics in modern/current Italy, but I sincerely got to the point where I was only finishing the book to see what became of Lila, and honestly, by this time I found both she and Lena annoying and boring.

Maybe I missed something, but I thought the first two in the series were great, and the last two only mildly interesting at best.

Admissions : A Memoir of Surviving Boarding School, by Kendra James.  As this book opens, the author is preparing for another round as an admissions counselor for diversity for a group of schools in New York City.  As happens, she ponders the value of what she is doing, and wonders if it's really a good thing.

Which leads to the bulk of the memoir, where she describes her high school years at the Taft School in New Hampshire, one of the most elite boarding schools in the nation.  She was one of the very few students who was not white, and she was also a legacy student - her father had graduated from there.

The book details her life on campus, being one of a handful of non-white students, and how that felt, and how she processed it - both then and now.  It's a telling story of institutions who have always been for privileged (and some scholarship) students who were white trying to adjust to being more inclusive and diverse by recruiting Black, Latinx, and Asian students.  It's about how good intentions are not enough to make people act differently or to make institutions realize how embedded certain beliefs, traditions, and practice are.  

Kendra James' experience, which is sometimes astonishing, sometimes really funny as she tells it, but always at a minimum interesting, provides a first-person tale of the adjustments she had to make, and how some of the things that happened didn't really resonate with her until she was older and had perspective on that time.  It reminded me a lot of some of the descriptions in another book I've read, "Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria," by Beverly Daniel Tatum.  James provides her actual life as the example that is so often talked about in that book.

A Finely Knit Murder, by Sally Goldenbaum.  We are back in Cape Ann with the Seaside Knitters in this installment, where things are busy preparing for a gala at the Sea Harbor Community Day School.  The new headmistress, Elizabeth Hartley is doing a great job as far as most people are concerned, but the complete opposite is the opinion of Blythe Westerland, the descendant of the school's founders, who still believes that her opinion is the one that matters.  After more or less forcing the board to agree to fire a popular art teacher, Blythe now feels that the way is clear to get rid of the headmistress.

At the end of the evening of the gala, Blythe's body is discovered among some boulders by the coastline on the school's property.  Since Birdie's granddaughter Gabby attends the school, the Seaside Knitters are particularly interested in finding out what happened this time.  

There are a few really good red herrings in this story, and of course this series appeals to me due to my love of Cape Ann and all of the area around it.  This was a good read.

Devil House, by John Darnielle.  I had high hopes for this book, based on reviews that I had read.  But even though I kept trying, I just could not get interested in it enough to continue.  So I decided that it was time to just return it to the library.

*****

And there you go - I know some people enjoyed some of these books much more than I did, but that's horse-racing, as my mother used to say.  Let me know if you've read anything really great lately - or just as important, if you have a title you think should be avoided at all costs!

Here's hoping this week is a good one.

22 April 2022

The Things We Didn't Know

Happy Earth Day!

As I was walking to work this morning, I made up a little song in my head (as I am wont to do) thanking the earth for existing, and also apologizing that for a lot of us, we spent years doing damaging things, not out of spite or avarice, but because we just didn't know.  

I remember one of the first grades I was in (we moved four times during first grade!), we used to get a morning break, and they would give us little glass bottles of milk to drink.  How I loved those little glass bottles!  They had such a pretty design, and I always felt like someone in an old-timey movie where the milkman would deliver bottles of milk.  As a kid who loved drinking milk, it was a treat, both aesthetically and physically.  

That was in the first of the first grades where I went to school.  At all of the ones after that, we first of all, didn't get a morning break, and secondly, when you got milk at lunchtime, it was always in those plastic-coated cartons.  Which was also what we had at home, so it was no big deal.

Of course, at the time, the things we didn't know about (at least the average American didn't know) was the impact of a) using a glass bottle once and then tossing it, b) the problems with plastic (it was such a big thing - so convenient, it didn't break, it was lighter to carry!), and of course 3) the impact of farming (especially once factory farms got going) on the environment.  

Anyway, then I moved on to other things that - at least in my case - I didn't do, because I just didn't know.  I have always been someone who turns beet red in 10 minutes or less if I am outside in the direct sun and not completely covered up.  I can remember as a kid, my mother would slather suntan lotion on me, thinking it would protect my skin.  Because again, the average person had never heard of something like sunscreen, and especially as a kid, I didn't want to walk around all year in long pants and long sleeves.  I did usually wear a hat, especially after a bad burn on my scalp one year.  I spent a good deal of my life looking for shade to be honest (still do!)

There are so many other things that were innovative, convenient, and inexpensive that we used (i.e., styrofoam), or wore (i.e, polyester), or loved (i.e, driving EVERYWHERE, even if a block away), only to learn years later that they were sometimes bad for us, and almost always bad for the earth.  

I used to feel really guilty about all of this.  But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I was just doing the best I could with what I had to work with, financially, and informationally.  Once we started to learn more about organic things, sustainability, etc., I tried hard to start "doing the right thing," even when it was hard to remember and/or afford to do.  So although I regret that it all turned out this way, I no longer feel guilty, because there is a huge difference between willful ignorance and plain old ignorance, and the "bad" things I did were from plain old ignorance.  

The things we didn't know, right?

Give thanks to your Mother Earth today, if nothing else for allowing you to still be here.  And have a lovely weekend!

(Now I have to go as it is time to make up a little song in my head about how I can't wait for the workday to be over ... 😏 )

20 April 2022

Easter Socks for ... Next Year?

Today I've decided to join Kat and everyone for Unraveled Wednesday, since I (finally) have a knitting photo to share.

Below is one of the socks of a pair I am knitting, using yarn in the colors of Easter (or spring, actually, but I think they look like Easter eggs).  When I started these, I figured I could have them finished to wear then, but that doesn't really work when you go for about a week without knitting a stitch, so that was not in the cards for this year.  But Easter and springtime show up every year, so there's no reason to call it quits.  I made up a little pattern for the leg of the socks, but will do the foot in just plain stockinette.  


Since this yarn was divided into two skeins, I'm able to make two socks at a time - which means that at some point, I'll just have to finish the toe on the second one and I'll be finished!  I like when I can do that, but am too lazy to divide yarn myself when I'm winding it ...

I haven't done much more on the cardigan that I'm knitting, so no photos of that project.

I also just started two books, and am enjoying them both so far.

This is my at-home book:


It's so lovely so far!  I have a feeling this will be one of those books I won't want to end.

And this is my read-at-lunchtime book at work:


So far, I'm intrigued, especially since it takes place at a museum.  Though I read these kinds of things, or watch a show or movie about a murder in a museum/library/archives, occasionally I wonder as I arrive at work in the morning, "I hope I don't find someone's body."  Also, I hope *I'm* never the body found by someone else!  Needless to say, this doesn't seem to be a common crime, so it's not really something that keeps me up at night ... 😊

In other news, last night we walked over to a graduation recital for one of the students at the Curtis Institute of Music.  This particular student had Part 1 of his graduation recital a couple of weeks ago, and we also went to that one.  He is a double major in piano and violin.  The first recital was all piano, but last night was piano and violin, and he played both during one piece!  Well, OK, apparently there are pianos (even Steinways, like the Curtis uses!) that record your playing and play it back - actually, the way the keys moved, it reminded me of the player pianos from old movies.  Anyway, he had recorded the piano parts and then accompanied himself on the violin.  WHAT?  It was excellent, though I pointed out to The Tim that I think it would have been more impressive if the violin had played itself while he played the piano ... fortunately, I told him this while we were walking home, because we both got such a charge out of visualizing that I'm sure we would have been thrown out of the performance if I'd told him at the time.

Anyway, that meant I was up later than usual (for me on a work night - for most people, no big deal), so today I'm really tired.  I think I may need to be sure I have an extra cup of tea so I can be sure to stay awake until it's time to go home ...

Have a good day, and if you are working, I hope you too can stay awake!

18 April 2022

A Closer-to-Normal Easter

I hope that all of you had a good weekend, whether you celebrated a holiday or not. Our weekend was great, as for the first time in 2+ years, we had the chance to have our usual guests and do some of the things that make Easter extra fun.

My niece Amanda and her husband Pat came up for the weekend from Baltimore, and it marked the return of a fan favorite - Inappropriate Easter Eggs!  So without further ado, I present our work.

First up, Celebrity Eggs - at the top, RIP Bob Saget; in the middle, Britney Spears now that she has been freed from her conservatorship; and, Madeleine Albright, wearing one of her brooches.


Next up, Current Events and Statement Eggs - top row, from left to right, Vladomoyr Zelenskyy egg; Slava Ukraini egg; America egg, with the bald eagle crossed out and a gun in its place; January 6 insurrection.  Bottom row, pandemic masked egg; Russian warship egg (on the back it says, "You sunk my battleship!"); and, an Elon Musk tries to buy Twitter egg, which was created by Pat who also had to take it home with him because we didn't want it in our house any longer than necessary!

As Amanda pointed out, we didn't/couldn't cover as much as we would have liked to, because we only had 18 eggs to work with, we had to make some name/family eggs, and there was more than 2 years' of people and activity! ("The celebrity death eggs alone would need a couple of dozen.")

As you can imagine, there was a lot of hilarity, stories, and overall ridiculousness.  Pip and Milo thought it was the best, since Amanda always brings them tons of treats, and she and Pat pay them so much attention, the level of purring is just out of control.

They headed home after brunch yesterday, and we just had a relaxing rest of the day.


Best of all, the Easter Bunny showed up to leave goodies for everyone!

The weather was cool but sunny all weekend, and it rained a bit on Saturday night, but mostly overnight, so that worked out nicely.  It was so nice to feel like things were normal-ish again, and to have some company.

So Easter 2022 was a happy success. Hopefully, things will continue in that direction. Though today in Philadelphia, we are back to mask mandates indoors, since Covid cases are on the upswing. Since we have not stopped wearing masks indoors, it's not that big of a deal for us, but as you can imagine, a lot of people are extremely unhappy about all of it.  

But at least our holiday weekend was a happy one.

14 April 2022

Pleasing

Hello, I hope all of you are well. It's Thursday, and I'm going to participate along with Carole and some others for Three on Thursday - so here are three things that are pleasing me today.

1.  This boy.  I took this photo this morning after I finished eating breakfast.  Pip had just finished giving himself a thorough bath.  He is truly one of the sweetest kitties I've ever known.  By the way, do you know why he is named Pip?  His shelter name was Legolas (this was when the LOTR movies had come out and people were obsessed), which was a play on the fact that he has only three legs.  We didn't think it was fair to call him that, so we decided we would change his name.  Eventually, we chose Pip for two reasons: 1) it was clear that he *is* a pip!, and 2) we wanted him to have Great Expectations.  😊


2.  Today is my last day at work until next Tuesday.  I usually try to take Good Friday and Easter Monday off, and this year is extra pleasing because after two years of not getting together with my niece and her husband, they are joining us again this weekend!  I have an appt tomorrow morning for a haircut, but otherwise nothing major, so it should be a nice quiet day.  We always have a good time with Amanda and Pat, so I'm sure that this weekend will be a lot of fun.

3.  Today is Wawa Day.  Which means a free coffee of any size all day long at their stores.  I don't drink coffee very much at all, but I always have a free cup on Wawa Day, because if you add enough milk it all tastes just fine.  And I like the fact that they have a day where they give away something to anyone and everyone.  Today on the news, they said the first Wawa opened 58 years ago, and I was a bit dismayed that I was older than the Wawa.  But then I decided that since this is the first place I've lived where they existed, I couldn't have known, and therefore it really didn't matter.  And that my friends, is what you call Perfect Logic.

I hope that you are able to find at least three things that please you today.  Take care!

08 April 2022

To Whom It May Concern

 

You know what I haven't done for a long time? Friday letters.  So what the heck, let's give it a try.

Dear Milo the Koodle,
I know you have only lived with us now for TEN YEARS, but do you think you might be able to learn to keep your claws in?  I realize that your mother was a feral cat, and so she probably kept her claws out, and nice and sharp, because she actually needed to do that. But seriously, there is no reason you have to always have your claws ready for attack. I cannot remember a single incident during your life with us that required such defenses.  Signed, Most of My Sweaters, All of My Arms, and Some of My Face

***
Dear Phillies,
Today is Opening Day for baseball. I hope you have a winning season for a change. But if at all possible, could you not have another season where you are seemingly on fire, winning most games, and then all of a sudden, seem to forget how to play baseball altogether and tank for the rest of the season. That's just rude.
Signed, Most Baseball Fans in Philadelphia

***
Dear Basketball-Playing Kid in Front of Our House,
Good for you for having something you'd rather do than beating others up and/or shooting them. And I'm glad the next-door neighbors have no problems with you using their hoop to shoot baskets now that their kids have all moved out. But I would like to request that you stop at 11:00 p.m. or sooner on nights that the weather is nice, because particularly on nights when I have to get up early for work the next day, it's hard to fall asleep with the sound of bouncing basketballs right outside.  
Having said that, if you feel your only other option is crime, bounce away!
Signed, Your Neighbor Who Is Really Trying To Be Nice About It

***
Dear the 53 Senators Who Voted to Confirm Ketanji Brown Jackson,
Thank you.
Signed, A Citizen

***
Dear the 47 Senators Who Voted Against Her Confirmation,
Words cannot express what I hope happens to you someday. Telling you to go to h**l would be too kind.
Signed, A Citizen

***
Dear Whiny People Who Actually Have Nothing Whine About,
STFU.
Signed, Myself and Mostly Everyone I Know

***
And that's it.  I hope you have a lovely weekend, full of what you want it to be.

05 April 2022

Last Week's Tiny Needle Tuesday

Last Tuesday, I was so darn proud of myself, because I had progress on a cross-stitch project to share. So of course, I couldn't get the image to load. After six tries, I just gave up because I'd reached the stage of just hoping my computer would die. That's never good.

So, here I am, posting my progress for last week's Tiny Needle Tuesday, this week:


I finally finished all of the words on the project I'm stitching. I was determined to get them done before the first day of Spring, but I missed that. However, I did finish them the next weekend, so not bad. Now the project is tucked away until next fall, because I'm itching to work on something more spring-y.  I'm not sure yet exactly what I'll choose - there may end up being more than one, but since Winter is officially over, and the above project is not on any deadline, it will have a rest. 😊

I'm also hoping that since the remainder of the project is a bit more border, but mostly a sheep, that it will all go much more quickly.

Or ... not.  We'll see.

04 April 2022

Remember When You Didn't Get Sick?

Ugh. I have a cold. A really awful, coughing, tired, blow-my-nose-all-the-time cold. Not Covid (at least according to the test), but a real cold.  The Tim had one last week, and I think I caught it from him, because actually the only place I regularly do not wear a mask is at home. I suspect he caught it from a co-worker, as he told me that a couple of weeks ago, one of his co-workers had a cold and he had to sit near them at lunchtime. Sigh.


I have the red nose and the box of tissues, but this woman looks a whole lot better than I do right now!

Anyway, I felt truly miserable starting on Friday, and then just awful over the weekend.  I still feel crummy today, but not any worse than before, so in theory perhaps that means things are moving towards feeling some better.  The Tim is feeling better, but still has a cough.  Both of us mega-masked up and went to work today, him because he is feeling better and missed most of last week, and me because I don't really see anyone else at work in any way that could be considered close (I mean, we might be on the same floor of the building, but most of the time I'm on my own for the entire day). If I had still felt really awful, I would have stayed home (and likely been lectured about it by the annoying supervisor), but since I only feel tired and have to blow my nose a lot at this point, I figured I might as well show up.

Over the weekend, I kept trying to figure out why I was suddenly sick, when I haven't been sick for a bit more than two years. And then it struck me - of course! For the past two and a bit more years, people have stayed home, stayed apart when they had to be in the same area, most of them (at least around me) wore masks, and as a result, I felt fine.

So although I think Covid has and still does suck big-time, there were advantages to certain aspects of life when everyone was being so careful.

Now please excuse me while I open a new box of tissues.