03 December 2023
01 December 2023
30 November 2023
24 November 2023
I hope you have a lovely weekend, finishing off Thanksgiving and all that surrounds it. I have a few small things to do tomorrow, and also have to clean the bathrooms (I ran out of energy today), but most of the day is mine to do what I like. Sunday is a work day, and I'm sure we'll be busy since there is a special promotion going on (a holiday project bag) that seems to bring people out of the woodwork, both in person and online. That's sure to make the day fly by!
Take care, and I'll see you next week.😊
22 November 2023
20 November 2023
17 November 2023
As you are reading this, The Tim and I will be on a train headed to New York City for an overnight visit as part of his birthday weekend. It should be fun, I haven't been to NYC for a while, and it's always a treat. We have the whole day today once we arrive to just do what we want to do (and of course we have too many plans) and then tomorrow is the matinee, after which we'll make our way to Penn Station and back to Philadelphia and the kitties, for the rest of the weekend's celebrations. 😊
But I didn't want to miss a Friday gratitude this week, so I wrote this post and set it to publish this morning. This week I'm grateful that both of us are still healthy enough and able enough to go on these little adventures together. I know we'll both be exhausted when we get home, and the change in our routines will throw us for a loop (not to mention interrupting the cats' usual schedule - uh oh!). But how great is it that we can even do it, and with a little bit of extra scraping around, afford to make it all possible? Even a couple of years ago, it would have been an unlikely thing - I probably couldn't have taken the extra day off work, or would have been made to feel guilty if I did. Friday is one of my days off, and I made arrangements long ago before we even had any plans for someone else to cover my Sunday shift so we could have a birthday weekend celebration. I'm lucky, and I know it, and I'm grateful for all of it.
I hope you have a good weekend, even if your adventure is at home, staying cozy, or getting ready for Thanksgiving, or just knitting or reading. I'll be back next week to catch up on things. Enjoy!
16 November 2023
Hello and Happy Thursday! I hope the week has treated you well. Mine started out questionably - I woke up on Monday with a UTI, grrrr - but fortunately my doctor sent me a prescription right away, and by Tuesday afternoon I was feeling much better. Which is a good thing, because I had a lot I wanted to accomplish this week.
As I mentioned, The Tim's birthday is almost here - it's this coming Saturday, to be exact. Of course we always celebrate, though the down side for him is that it marks the beginning of a four-month period where we are the same age, and he hates being "old" like me. 😏
And as you know, I have a pair of Christmas socks that I knit to give to him. But about a month ago, he said to me one day, "You have been extremely generous this year for my birthday, thank you." And I responded that I was happy I was so generous, and maybe he could tell me what I'd done that was so wonderful. He then informed me that I had bought two tickets for us to see "Sweeney Todd" on Broadway on his birthday! (Let me tell you, once I saw the invoice, I was shocked at how generous I had been. But you only live once, etc., and I was benefitting from this gift as well, so ...) I also have a t-shirt that the cats will give him, and who knows if I'll find some other little thing on my outing today when I go to a dr appt?
So, yes, I would say he will be having a lovely birthday and birthday weekend. But it got me thinking about how this is the time of year for gifts, and I do love making gifts for people and finding things that I think they will really enjoy. I'm lucky that way, because I don't find the holiday season to be a chore. I have quite a few things I've collected and made along the way already, but yesterday I decided to actually poke around and make a list of what I already had. Then yesterday in the mail, I got a catalog from Uncommon Goods, which I *think* I've heard of, but I don't know why. Anyway, there was something there that I immediately decided would be good for one of my nieces and her husband. I showed it to The Tim, and he said, "Order that now." Here's the link to what they are receiving, and I'm ridiculously pleased to have found it. My niece will find it amusing, if not slightly "inappopropriate," and her husband's inner 10-year-old boy will enjoy it on a whole other level. Sometimes you just get lucky with what you find, you know?
How about you? Are you a person who loves choosing and giving gifts? Granted, I only give gifts to a very select group of people, so I never am in a situation where I suddenly have to buy something for someone I barely know or have never met. Maybe that's why I enjoy it so much, because it's not a chore for me. I think I just like the idea of finding something that a person might really like, or that I know they would like but may not be expecting to receive.
Am I the only one who is happy that it's "gifty-gift time?" Let me know!
14 November 2023
10 November 2023
03 November 2023
27 October 2023
Yikes! I realized earlier this a.m. that I never posted my quarterly book reports for July, August, and September - and it's nearly the end of October! I probably thought about it several times when I was either away from the laptop, or just before falling asleep, and then of course started thinking about pie or something else and WHOOSH! - gone.
So here you go. The good thing with books is that it usually takes a long time for them to go out of print, and then even usually the library has them, so if you see something of interest, hopefully you'll still be able to find it.
Rock Paper Scissors, by Alice Feeney. This had a decent premise, but became boring about halfway through. As much as I usually find the author's books readable, I gave up on this one.
The Heart's Invisible Furies, by John Boyne. This us a really intense book, covering the life of Cyril Avery, a gay Irish man, from shortly before his birth in 1945 until his death in 2015. It's a harrowing tale of growing up in a country where for so long, the Catholic Church ruled every aspect of life.
Cyril's mother, Catherine Goggins, traveled from her small town in the Irish countryside after bring thrown out of her family, her parish, and the town. Shortly after his birth, he is adopted by Charles and Maude Avery, a wealthy but strange couple, ill-suited to parenthood. Cyril travels through life hiding his real self, except when he can find a kindred soul for sexual satisfaction. Through a series of events, he and Catherine Goggins meet several times without knowing they have a connection.
Cyril's life covers most of the major events of the latter half of the 20th century, into the beginning of the 2000s. It's a riveting, often very sad and frustrating story, about attitudes in Ireland towards homosexuality, attitudes everywhere about AIDS patients, and how people search for love in their lives.
This is not a book for the faint of heart.
Musseled Out, by Barbara Ross. This was a really interesting book in this series.
Julia Snowden is getting things closed up for the end of the season for her family's clambake season in Maine. She has to decide if she wants to stay there or return to her job and life in Manhattan.
But while in the closing up process, she becomes embroiled in a murder investigation involving a possible business competitor, where one of the suspects is her brother-in-law Sonny.
A lot is included here, making it slightly different than the usual cozy. There's war happening between lobstermen in the area, drug trafficking, and the issue of oxycodone addiction. The author has managed to weave it all into the story in an interesting way, while still keeping a lot of what makes us a cozy mystery.
It. Goes. So. Fast. : The Year of No Do-Overs, by Mary Louise Kelly. This book was interesting in many ways. The author is a reporter for NPR, and when her oldest child was a senior in high school, she realized that there was so much she had missed in his life, and decided to be present for the last year the daily would likely all be living together under one roof full-time.
Kelly details times when her work sent her overseas, often to dangerous areas, and her kids were sick, or had a soccer game, etc. - the types of experiences familiar to so many working mothers. At different times, it occurs to her that maybe her kids didn't think anything of her absences, but she still feels that she should have been there.
I think this is likely more interesting to women with children, as the author writes about experiences - at least in the most general of senses - that they have in common.
It was also interesting to read about some of the inner workings at NPR.
Jane Darrowfield, Professional Busybody, by Barbara Ross. This was just what I needed after reading a fairly intense book.
Jane Darrowfield is a divorced, retired woman who lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts. She has a son in San Francisco who she doesn't really speak to. Recently she's had some success helping her friend with uncomfortable things: switching hairdressers, dealing with nice, but difficult neighbors, etc.
So when she is contacted by the administrator of a local retirement community (after a friend recommends her), she dives in. Apparently there are issues among different groups in the community,and he would like her observations and advice.
But when someone is murdered, well, Jane has a whole different story on her hands.
A light, entertaining, enjoyable book.
Dial P for Poison, by Zara Keane. After finding her husband having an affair with his legal assistant, Maggie Doyle leaves the San Francisco Police Department for her aunt's house in Ireland. She figures it will hive her a chance to recoup and also reconnect with those she knew from spending her childhood summers there.
But when one of her aunt's cafe customers is found dead in her seat after an event Maggie suspects foul play. Since the local police officer seems more intent in simply arresting her aunt and returning to his golf game, it's up to Maggie to try and figure out what really happened.
This was an enjoyable enough read, and a good palate cleanser.
The Golden Thread : How Fabric Changed History, by Kassia St. Clair. This is a fairly comprehensive story about textiles - from the very earliest threads found by explorers to techno-threads for astronauts and athletes.
The author divides the sections by time period and geography, and has very clearly done a lot of research. There's a lot of detail here, so this isn't necessarily a casual read; but it's presented in a very readable way. I learned a lot while reading this book, some really fascinating and some that was just interesting (like the relationship between NASA and Playtex!).
I do have to say that I borrowed this from the library, where others were waiting for it so I couldn't renew it right away, so I had to hustle to finish it before it was due - but it was worth it!
Against the Currant, by Olivia Matthews. Lyndsay Murray - with the help of her family - has finally achieved her dream of opening a bakery in the Little Caribbean neighborhood in Brooklyn, where she can provide the foods of her Grenadian heritage to locals,and introduce others to the delights of the cuisine.
But when another local baker, who was not happy about Lyndsay's bakery and sees it as competition, is found dead with one of her knives and her charm bracelet at the scene, things get troubling. The other baker, Claudio Fabrizio, caused a scene at the opening of Lyndsay's place, and the police see her as the main suspect.
This was an OK book. I just felt that there was something vital missing, that would have made it more engaging.
The Lantern Men, by Elly Griffiths. When a convicted killer mentions there were other victims that he buried, he tells DCI Nelson that the only person he'll discuss it with is Ruth Galloway.
But Ruth has moved, moving in with her American boyfriend and now teaching at Cambridge. But she agrees to return to Norfolk to help with the case, which bring she and Nelson back into each other's orbits. The legend of the Lantern Men - who appear to help travelers but in fact kill them - plays a large role in this story, as it begins to appear that someone has been doing just that.
A good installment but not my favorite.
The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid, by Bill Bryson. Such a fun and enjoyable read! Bill Bryson had written a memoir about growing up in the late 1950s/early 1960s in Des Moines, Iowa. it's a story of life when Americans were coming out of the restrictions of wartime, when optimism was high, and brand new products and ideas were sending everyone forward at warp speed.
So much of what Bryson talks about is a love story to his hometown and his family, but if you grew up during any of that period, you can understand every experience.
It's also a story of a time when each place had its own identity, before chain stores and big box stores were the same everywhere. Like Bryson, I'm glad I can remember those times and appreciate the fact that you could really feel that where you lived was different and special (for better or worse!).
The Girls, by Emma Cline. It us 1969. Evie Boyd is 14 years old. Her parents have divorced, her father now living with his new, younger girlfriend. Once the summer is over, she will be sent off to boarding school, not really something she relishes.
She comes under the spell of a young woman named Suzanne, who is under the spell of a man named Russell, who runs a commune. For a while Evie lives there, more to stay near Suzanne than anything else. But one-night when they dump her out of their car on the way to a nighttime "surprise" visit, it turns out to be a good thing.
I know the author was trying to make this seem like a version of the Manson Family and the Tate-LaBianca murders, but it lacked a lot. I only finished it because Evie mentions she "missed" the big event at the beginning of the book and I was curious as to how/why.
I just didn't think this was a very good book.
The Burning, by Jane Casey. Maeve Kerrigan is a detective with the London police, and she is assigned a case whereabouts woman's body is found in sn out of the way spot, tortured and burned. Their is currently a serial killer on the loose, torturing and murdering young women and then setting their bodies on fire. They call him Burning Man, and though many think this case is another of his victims, Kerrigan isn't convinced.
Through interviews with colleagues and friends of the victim, Kerrigan finds someone who seemed on top of the world, but was slowly unraveling. But did any of her friends or colleagues want her dead? Is this a Burning Man murder with a slightly different M.O., or is it a copycat killing?
I thought this was a good read. There were places that I thought some additional editing could have helped tighten the story, but it didn't really make me lose interest. I would definitely read another in this series.
Lying In Wait, by Liz Nugent. What a strange book, though very readable. It's basically the story of how a murder affects two Irish families over the years. Each chapter is narrated by a different character, and as the story moves along, you realize that one of them is a narcissistic psychopath. By the end of the book, you wonder two things: there are people who think they are so perfect that get away with anything, and that appearances can be extremely deceiving.
The book starts with a young woman's murder, though we're not really sure why it happened for a while. But the remainder of the book tells us how every person in each family ends up in the aftermath as the years go by. In the end, it's about one terrible character ruining lives like it's a game.
I'm not sure how much I actually *liked* this book; but I did want to read until the end to find out how things turned out.
Bad Summer People, by Emma Rosenblum. This book was pretty much what it was supposed to be - a story of rich people doing awful things, having "romantical problems" (a perfect phrase coined by the Fug Girls).
A group of rich people from New York descends on a small town on Fire Island for a summer of leisure, gossip, tennis, and affairs. This year, there's a new tennis pro, adding to the mix, as he is young and quite good-looking.
It's pretty much what you would expect, and slightly better done than usual. I must admit that a nugget of information - almost a throwaway line - at the very end was a real surprise to me, which was part of why I gave it four stars.
It's a summer read, and fulfills that.
You Could Make This Place Beautiful : A Memoir, by Maggie Smith. This is a lovely book and meditation on the author's life after discovering her husband was involved with another woman. Short chapters, essays, and some of her poetry take us along on her journey to make a new and different life for herself and two children.
Of course the writing is beautiful and honest, but by the end of the book, her initial heartbreak and confusion has become a sort of strength. It is not a "happily ever after" ending, but it's one that the reader can appreciate and understand.
Murder at Lambswool Farm, by Sally Goldenbaum. I just enjoy this series.
This time, it's nearing the end of summer and everyone is looking forward to the run-through dinner at Lambswool Farm, which had belonged to series regular Birdie's late husband. It has been restored and revived as the ultimate farm-to-table restaurant. But on the night in question, the beloved town doctor, Alan Hamilton, collapses and dies.
Once it has been determined as arsenic poisoning, the town is abuzz with rumor and fear. Is it the somewhat friendly stranger whose car broke down and has stuck around for a while, or one of their neighbors? The Seaside Knitters decide to investigate, and they learn some things about the suspects along the way that surprise them.
As usual, there are several little side stories going on, lots of knitting, and good-sounding food. Cape Ann, where the series takes place, is one of my favorite places, and I enjoy spending time with this group of fictional friends.
Foster, by Claire Keegan. Claire Keegan does it again, with the story of a young girl who is sent to stay with another couple while her mother gives birth to another child.
The couple she stays with treat her with love and affection, something in short supply in her life up until now. But things happen, and soon she must return to her real family though she has decided that it isn't what she's been hoping would happen.
A short but really lovely book.
The Good Life : Lessons from the World's Longest Scientific Study of Happiness, by Robert Waldinger. I wanted to read this book ever since I saw an interview with one of the authors. It's a really fascinating, detailed account of results from s longitudinal study done at Harvard University, also incorporating results from additional longitudinal studies. Using case studies as examples, we learn about the things that make people feel they have led a good life, the things that make them happy.
To an extent, some of the results are not surprising. Most of us can admit that being healthy, secure, and loved make life better. But this goes into more depth, and the biggest takeaway is that what gives us a feeling of a good life is relationships - but not necessarily only intimate relationships. Any interactions with others, be it a hello to the mailman, waving to a neighbor, or even smiling at a stranger, can boost our feelings. Relating to the world around us, whether in a big, extroverted fashion, or in a quieter, introverted way, gives meaning and joy to our everyday existence.
The book is written for general reading, so though there are statistics and detailed descriptions, it's very accessible for a "regular reader. I read it chunks at a time, and that worked fine for me.
The St. Ambrose School for Girls, by Jessica Ward. Sarah Taylor arrives at St. Ambrose's against her will, her mother having done all of the steps for application, including the submission of an essay that Sarah hoped no one else would ever see.
Across the hall is Greta Stanhope, the Queen Bee of St Ambrose,who almost immediately hones in on Sarah - someone who is different, dresses all in black, and clearly does not come from a money background. Fortunately, Sarah gets a roommate who she adores, and who is clearly on her side.
Sarah's mental illness is a challenge for her, but she manages to function for the most part. But when some secrets are exposed, and everyone reacts, things change in a drastic way for all of the main characters.
This was a good if often harrowing read, but by the end of the book, Sarah has made some discoveries about herself, her mother, and the importance of relationships.
A Better Man, by Louise Penny. This was an especially good entry in the Inspector Gamache series.
When a young, pregnant woman in an abusive relationship disappears, one of the Surete officers asks if they can investigate as a favor to a friend. Gamache agrees to look into it with her.
Meanwhile, the spring thaw is underway in Quebec, and is proving to be more serious than most years, causing more dangerous and serious flooding than ever.
And of course, there is still a lot of criticism for Gamache's return, and lots of gossip and some resentment in the ranks. It's also the end of Jean-Guy Beauvoir's time at the Surete, before he moves with his family to Paris to work in private security.
Back in Three Pines, artist Clara Morrow is facing a crisis of her is - a collection of miniatures that she has painted and that are on gallery exhibit are receiving scathing comments and criticism.
As everything converges in the story, some truly unexpected and shocking things happen, changing the whole narrative.
Louise Penny has managed to weave together some really complex themes and events here, but it completely works. And this book is dedicated to Bishop, her late Golden Retriever, with a wonderful tribute to him and to all animals in the acknowledgements.
The Heron's Cry, by Ann Cleeves. I liked this book because there were several ways it could have gone and of course I missed anything that would have led me to the correct person as the murderer.
Here, Detective Matthew Venn is trying to figure out one murder, when another happens. They are related, but tenuously. The father of one of the artists in a collective is murdered, using a piece piece of her art. As the investigation starts, we learn that the victim was a physician who had recently taken a job where rather than treating patients, he was an advocate for those who had felt abandoned by the system, particularly in cases of mental health.
But when one of the other artists in the collective is found murdered in his workshop using the same kind of weapon, there's no immediate relation to the previous murder, except that both were known to the wealthy philanthropist who allowed his family estate to be used by the artists as their workshops and living quarters.
The story is interesting, delving into issues and problems dealing with mental illness and suicide, and showing how a lack of resources has put pressure on local police to deal with those suffering, much as is the case in the U.S.
Fellowship Point, by Alice Elliott Dark. Agnes Lee us a well-known children's author who has always spent her summers at Fellowship Point, a sort of family compound in Maine built generations before by her Philadelphia Quaker family members. When the land where the houses are - that also includes a bird sanctuary - is threatened with development, Agnes sets a mission for herself to make sure that never happens.
She enlists the help of her cousin and best friend, Polly whose family has the house next door in the compound. But Polly comes with her own challenges.
What starts like this becomes a lovely and often heartbreaking story of family, love, loss, and lost opportunities. We learn about the lives lived by the main characters, their families, and the things they wanted to try and forget.
There's so much more to this beautiful book, and though I didn't want it to end, it ended where it should.
I did enjoy the references to places I knew in Philadelphia which was where the families involved were from, and lived the rest of the year. But that would make no difference to any readers not familiar with the area.
And there you go, the good, the bad, and the ugly, so to speak. I'm glad that I remembered to post this now, because I always enjoy seeing what others have read/might be reading, and find out what they thought about it.
Tomorrow is our 45th wedding anniversary, which is supposedly the Sapphire Anniversary. I've decided that the mistake rib socks I knit for The Tim fit right into that theme because they are dark blue ... 😉 I found someone to take my work shift on Sunday, so I could have the entire weekend off, even though we have no specific elaborate plans. We had a plan in mind, but waited to organize it too late, so couldn't find a hotel. But next Friday we are going for an overnight trip to Baltimore, so we'll celebrate with my niece Amanda and her husband Pat, whose anniversary is today (18 years).
So I predict a dinner out tomorrow and something special for dessert. And that's fine with me, especially since we are going away next weekend, and also in November for The Tim's birthday. I'll just enjoy a whole weekend without having to go to work!
I hope your weekend is a good one. Enjoy it however you can, and I'll see you next week.