24 April 2023

In Answer(s) To Your Questions ...

Hello and happy Monday! I hope your weekend was a good one. Mine was quiet and enjoyable, nothing elaborate to report. Yesterday was the last day of the Anniversary Sale at the yarn store (it's been around for 18 years!), so it was kind of crazy busy on top of Knitting Circle. It makes the day go by so quickly, which works for me. 

Anyway, I had posted last week, asking all of you if you had any questions for me. I promised to answer them as well as I could today, so here you go. 

Dee wanted to know:

This question comes from a book I just started reading -- The Measure by Nikki Erlick.

If someone gave you a box and inside was the answer to how long you would live, would you open the box? I'm reserving my answer until I finish the book. I have an inkling that my answer now and my answer at the end of the book may not be the same.

My answer: This is something I actually ponder from time to time - would I like to know how long my life will be? To some degree, it would be nice to know. You could "make the most" of your time at least in theory. But would you? I fear that I would start out that way, and then give up because what would it matter, etc.? So for the most part, my answer is no. I try to enjoy and be thankful for what I have while I have it, and do the best I can. I became aware at a very young age that death doesn't care how old you are, or what you would still like to accomplish, so I think I've always been super aware that my time being alive was tenuous. Currently I've outlived my father by 14 years, and in a few years if I'm still here, I'll have also outlived my mother. 

Having said that, an unopened box in a house full of cats is a problem ... 

Valerie wanted to know:

If you could travel to any one place in the world, where would it be and why?

My answer: This is another thing I think about a lot, and to be honest, the answer kinda depends on which day you ask me. Right now, today, I would like to go back to Nova Scotia and/or Newfoundland, because I loved them both when I was there before, and also because when I visited them previously, I was not a knitter. Since then I've learned of a few shops that sound fabulous in both places so I'd love to check them out. Also, since finishing the book Still Life, my lifelong wish to go to Florence, Italy has been rekindled.

Who knows by tomorrow what my answer might be??

Deb's question was:

I'd love to know what the best selling yarns are in the different weights.

My answer: The only one I know for sure that is the best selling yarn in the shop all the way around is Malabrigo Rios. People LOVE that stuff! (Us, not so much. It generally arrives tangled in the skein and winding it is a complete nightmare.) It's also worsted weight, so it has a lot of uses in different types of projects. 

If you ask me this question during the holiday season, my answer would be any of the bulky or chunky weight yarns. Those suckers fly off the shelf at that time of year.

Others that are regularly popular are Rowan Felted Tweed (DK), Fiberstory DK and sock yarns, Biches et Buches Petit Lambswool (fingering) and Mohair (laceweight). The store brand Loop yarns are also popular, particularly for anyone who is visting from out of town and wants to buy local yarn.

Kym inquired:

When and how did you learn to knit? And what was the first finished thing you ever knit?

My answer: When I was in about the fifth grade, I was home from school with mononucleosis. The neighbor lady across the street came over one day with some bright red yarn (I'm sure it was acrylic), and said she thought I might want to learn to knit to have something to do while I was recovering. She had cast on some stitches, and taught me the knit stitch. I knit-stitched that sucker until I ran out of yarn, and I'm sure it was a mess, though I have no memory of how it looked. However, by the time I was "finished" those neighbors had moved away! No one I knew or that my mother knew ("Oh for God's sake!") could knit, so I actually have no idea what happened to that long red piece of fabric. Since we moved a lot, it probably got tossed when we moved away from that house.

Years later, when I was married and living in Chicago, we lived not far from a Lee Ward (remember those?) in one of the nearby 'burbs, and I bought some yarn (acrylic), and got someone there to show me how to cast on. I knit a really long scarf for my mother for Christmas, and the lady there also showed me how to bind off. It didn't turn out that bad, and my mother actually loved it. But it was probably another ten years or more until we moved here, and there was an actual yarn shop, and I took formal lessons to learn to knit. My first project that was completed as a result of those lessons was a sweater vest for The Tim. 

Kim and Shirley had similar questions:

Kim - What does your home look like? I think you live in urban Philly, and I think you have several floors, but I also think you have some kind of back yard but no front yard? But maybe that's just the movie in my head?

Shirley - I would love to see a tour or photos of your home - inside and outside. Just a few your are comfortable with sharing. My impression is that you live in a historic home.

My answer: 

You two have given me an idea for blog posts! 

Most photos I have of our house are related to holidays, knitting, or our pets, so I've decided to work on taking photos that are just of our house, street, etc., to show you at some point. The photo above I've posted before, but for those who do not remember, this is the street where we live in Center City Philadelphia. We live in an area with many historic homes, but ours is not officially historic. Our house first shows up in census records in 1850, so it's at least that old. 

We have three floors, plus a basement, and street planters as well as a side garden. The side garden is where another house used to be, and at some point, someone who owned our house tore that house down and turned it into an enclosed garden, which is both lovely and rare in the middle of the city.

Our street is - as you can see above - *really* skinny. Trash trucks just barely fit through, and it is too skinny for snowplows when it snows. It was built to accommodate horses and carriages, and never widened after that (not uncommon in Philadelphia).

So Kim and Shirley, even though I have only shown one photo and filled you in on some of the details, I have to thank you for giving me ideas to go forward. I'll start taking more photos and organize them into one or a few posts. 

andrea rules had a bunch of questions, so I'll put my answers right afterwards:

1. if you have to type a string of letters that are capitalized, do you hold shift down for all of them, or put on caps lock for all of them? I used to do caps lock, but haven't figured out how to do that with my Chromebook, so I have to go the first way.
2. if you could go back and do things over, would you pick a different profession and what would it be? If I couldn't be a librarian, Id' want to be a writer, which is even less lucrative (if that can even be applied to librarianship, haha), and more difficult to make a career from. So I would probably have spent even more time unemployed. If I could do things over and be rich to start with, I'd start an animal rescue.
3. least favorite word and why? Preventative. Preventive is right there, people and sounds better!
4. what food fad do you hate the most? Subsistence food that becomes a trend. Case in point: ramps. Growing up in WV, ramps were something people had because they were a) everywhere, b) cheap as dirt, and c) something green that you could afford (see A). Now, ramps are very chic, and people act like they just invented them out of leftover avocado toast or some dumb shit like that. (Disclaimer: I love avocado toast. I have loved it for years. But of course, now it's a thing. Ugh.)
5. tell us a strong opinion you have about something truly inconsequential and silly, and yet it baffles you that other people do not feel the same. Oh Andrea, you know me so well - but you also know that this could be a series of posts in my case, right? Currently, I just read an article that said Oprah was a "true spiritual leader." And if that is the case, please just kill me know. I cannot stand Oprah in the first place, but a true spiritual leader - give me a break! Also, Tom Cruise is neither handsome nor a good actor (I will fight you on this one).  I'll stop now, but there you go. 😀

Carol wanted to know:

I'm originally from Baltimore (lived in NE Baltimore City and Baltimore County) - now I'm in NC. What are your favorite places to visit in Baltimore and Philly?

My answer: I love walking around in my niece's neighborhood in Baltimore (I think she lives in Federal Hill?) - lots of historic buildings, some cute shops, and good places to eat. There's also a lovely park nearby to just hang out and people-watch. I love walking around in downtown Baltimore as well, and there is an area whose name I don't know but it's not that far from the Harbor and there are all kinds of twisty streets and funky shops and a really good bagel place.

In Philadelphia, I love going to the Japanese House in Fairmount Park and walking around there and the Horticultural Center, and I also enjoy walking around the Wissahickon Trail and looking for areas I haven't seen yet. Running into people on horseback is just a bonus. 

Kim's question cracked me up:

What is the title of your memoir?

My mother named me for her maternal grandmother, and she used to say it was a good fit, because both of us would "just as soon look at you as go to hell." I of course have no idea what exactly that means, but I think I get the gist. So I think my memoir would have at least the working title of Now That You've Read This, Leave Me Alone.

OK, this is long and somewhat rambly, but there you go. You asked, and I answered the best I could, and enjoyed it all. I hope you found my answers worth reading, and enjoyed seeing what others wanted to find out. 

Let's keep our fingers crossed that this week treats all of us well. Thanks to everyone who asked a question, and thanks to all of you if you have read this far!

21 April 2023

Fitness, Falling, Friendship

I think I mentioned last fall that my friend Lisa, my niece Amanda, and myself had created a little fitness challenge group on our text chain. We started slow, and then each month would switch up part or all of the challenge. Each day we did some sort of exercise/movement/effort, we would text when we were finished and encourage each other. 

The accountability has kept all of us going, and we are still doing it! We are all realistic - for instance, during the holidays, we allowed ourselves some grace, since we knew that each of us would be busy with work, holiday plans, etc., and each of us managed to keep going. I'm really proud of us.

I had a hiccup at the beginning of October, though. 

Substitute "walking" for "running" above, and this could easily be me. After a week of rainy days, we had a beautiful, sunny, fall day. So I took myself out for a nice long walk outside. It was glorious, and I had walked quite a distance, had turned to head home, crossed Washington Avenue in South Philly (if you are local you know Washington Avenue, it can be harrowing), and then ... 

Well, I *sort* of remember someone saying, "Don't worry honey, I'm a nurse, I've called an ambulance. Oh dear, look at her teeth." And I *sort* of remember a paramedic asking me how to contact my husband and being with it enough to give him my phone to call. But mostly the next thing I remember is waking up in the Trauma Center at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital. 

Yes, I'd fallen. Just like years ago when walking the dog. PLOP and then waking up and remembering absolutely nothing about it. Last time, I had lots of bumps and bruises, and had broken a tooth and my glasses. When they had scanned my person for interal injuries, they had found the kidney cancer, which turned out to be a good thing because I could have it dealt with before it got really bad. But overall, it was a terrible fall that hurt, nothing more.

Many tests, many doctors, and many tellings of the story over, the closest they could come was that I had had an episode of syncope. Gradually, I managed to regain confidence and went along with my life.

This time, however, the results were much worse (well, OK I didn't have cancer again, but ruling that out and moving along). I had fractured my nose, shredded the septum, and all of my top front teeth had been pushed back into my mouth. Plus of course cuts all over - my knees were shredded, I had serious cuts on my face - and bruises to give me "color." 

That night, a maxillofacial surgeon came to my hospital room and with the help of his resident, pulled my front teeth forward again and put them in temporary braces. Those were on for eight weeks. 

The next afternoon, an ENT surgeon got my nose back where it was supposed to be on my face, repaired the septum, and placed splints in my nose to keep it in place until it healed.  That took 4 weeks until the swelling abated, and 4 weeks until the splints were removed.

After that nose surgery, I was allowed to go home. THANK GOD. I had to sleep sitting up for two months, but I was home! I missed four weeks of work, and could not wear my glasses for those four weeks. Which meant not only could I not knit, but I couldn't read, or even watch TV that well. 

In late February - again, after many many tests for heart issues, neurological issues, and any other issues anyone could think of - I had a cardiac loop monitor implanted in my chest so that any irregularities could be seen whenever they happened, not after the fact. 

And really, I'm doing OK at least as far as anyone can tell. So that's good.

My fitness check-ins became the "today my neck doesn't hurt as much" variety, but Lisa and Amanda still kept me in the text chain like I was exercising as usual. Which really kept me going, you know?

And gradually, I've upped my activity and gotten back into the swing of things. 

But I do have to admit that this time around, it is taking me longer to regain my confidence when I am outside walking or bicycling. I do it, and fortunately nothing terrible has happened, but since my injuries were so awful, I tend to worry I'll fall and hurt myself again, or worse, not make it across a street, but collapse in the middle of one (for instance, if I had collapsed while crossing Washington Avenue instead of after crossing, I might have just been a goner. Yikes!)

Lisa and Amanda are not here in person, BUT they are not only helping to keep me inspired to keep moving, the fact that we still check in with each other is a kind of comfort, since I know if they didn't hear from me, and didnt know ahead of time why, they would check with The Tim. 

Still though, I'm now hyperaware of where I am and if people are around or not.

But I'm getting there. I'm still doing my best to keep fit, and my friends are doing it with me. I have something in my body that will immediately alert the doctors if something happens, what exactly happens, and hopefully why.

My hope is that it never happens again, and never that the monitor never has to report anything. In the meantime, all I can do is keep going. And I hope this will encourage you to find one or two more fitness friends, to both get you going and keep you going. You won't regret it. Ever.


Don't forget - you can ask me any question you may have (even related to this story) in the comments of this post! There aren't many questions at this point, so head on over and add yours, and I'll answer them all on Monday, April 24.

In the meantime, have a good weekend, and if (God forbid) you are like me, try really hard to remain upright! 😊

18 April 2023

Tiny Needle Tuesday (After a LONG Time!)

Every week, I read people's Tiny Needle Tuesday posts, and I think I need to get back to my stitching. And then life happens, work happens, and I just don't pick it up at all.

But last Thursday, I was just more in the mood to stitch than I was to knit or do anything else. So I pulled out my embroidery project and added the blue flowers, and two of the rose colored flowers that consisted of French knots, as well as adding the yellow French knots. I was quite pleased, even though my French knots are kind of messy. But again, I'm doing this project for me, and I like the way it's looking.

Then on Friday, I decided to work on it a bit more. So I started on the green leaves. They are actually two different shades of green, so I started with the dark green first. I got all of them done, except for one where the stem of a flower in the lighter green cuts through. I decided to do that next and then finish the dark green leaves. But I'm really happy with my two days' work.

And I realized that once I get all of the leaves and stems finished, all I'll have left is the outline of the tea cup! I've even already started to look at frames for the finished piece, because I would like to hang it up in my craft room (aka the everything-gets-piled-there-room). I'd like to put it in a nice hoop style frame, and so now here is my question. 

The hoop I'm using to stitch it, is a 6-inch hoop. Should I also look for a 6-inch hoop frame for it? Of course I would center it, etc., but do you think that will look like too much white background? For those of you more experienced with this, please let me know if you have a rule of thumb that you use when you frame something without a real border.

It will still take me a while until it's completed, but now I'm back in the groove and loving it again. 😃

P.S. Don't forget, if you have a question you'd like to ask me, go to this post from yesterday.

17 April 2023

It's Been a While, So ...


Let's do this again! It appears that the last time I did an "Ask Me Anything" post was this one in 2021. I do know that it was fun to see the questions, and even more fun coming up with the answers, so after about two years, let's see what comes up this time.

Leave your questions for me in the comments of today's post only, and I'll post my answers next Monday, April 24 in a post. You can - as shown above - ask me anything you like, but I do reserve the right to not answer anything too terribly personal or that I think is inappropriate. (Unless I'm in a mood, in which case I may give an answer that you may not wish to see.) It can be any topic, even if you think it's way out there and I've never talked about it at all. 

As I tell people when they come into the yarn store and say, "I have a stupid question" - "Well then, I'll do my best to give you as stupid answer. 😉"

So start asking!


The weekend was a nice one. As it turned out, it didn't rain too much at all, and was a beautiful Saturday. We took care of our errands in the morning, and then spent the rest of the day poking around doing whatever, watching a basketball game, and it was lovely. Yesterday was a busy one at the yarn store, and just a nice day all the way around.

A young woman came to Knitting Circle yesterday, who had been in the shop before Christmas buying mohair yarn for a vest she wanted to make. She had found a design of a country cottage in a landscape, and wanted to knit it into a vest. Now first of all, I found this to be ambitious, and wanting to do it in mohair even more so. Fast forward to yesterday, and she showed up to Knitting Circle to finish knitting the v-neck - and oh wow, you should have seen the amazing job that she did! I wish I'd thought to take a photo, but trust me when I say it was ridiculously good. She said she started it after Christmas, and was just now finishing it, and that the only hard thing that she discovered was knitting intarsia in the round. 

It always astounds me when people decide they want to try something and then the result is *exactly* that. One of the other people asked her how she did it, and she said in the most casual tone possible, "Oh I took the design and just plugged it into Excel, and went from there."

Which I almost didn't hear because anytime anyone mentions Excel, I feel faint.

But anyway, people are so creative, and it never ceases to be something that I can appreciate, even if it's not something I care to do myself.

So that's that. I hope your week goes well, and remember, if you have something you have been dying to ask me, go for it, and I'll post the answer next Monday. 😃

14 April 2023

The State of My Knitting

Hello and Happy Friday to you! I have really been enjoying my week of no medical appointments or obligations with other people at certain times. I hope your week has been a good one as well.

Now that my cardigan is finished - and someday I do promise a photo or two - I can cast on other things, which is so exciting! So I thought I'd show you where things currently stand with my knitting projects.

Last Friday, I cast on a beret. It's going along quite well, and now I'm at a part where I am just knitting around and around for a while. It's living in my tea bag (see what I did there?) from By the Lakeside. I especially love this bag because most fabrics show coffee cups, and it was fun to find one with nothing but tea! 

This is the first time I'm knitting with one strand of fingering yarn and one strand of mohair. So far, it's fine, but I'm not sure I'd like using it for an entire sweater. Anyway, it's going pretty quickly, and though I won't be wearing the finished item anytime soon, it will be waiting for me when it gets cold again.

This past Sunday (Easter), I cast on a new pair of socks. The first sock is now ready for the heel, so I really zipped along with it. The bag is a giveaway for one of the Stitch 'n Pitch nights (remember Stitch 'n Pitch? I LOVED that, and miss it so much). I thought about using contrast cuff/heel/toe yarn, but didn't want to take the time to look through my scraps, so these will be just the main yarn all the way through. 

I know I bought the yarn online sometime, but for the life of me can't remember when or why. But I do like it, and enjoy seeing the different colors pop up somewhat randomly as I'm knitting.

And, I have some yarn ready to go to start the next project:

My plan is to start a Pressed Flowers Shawl with these. The color of the "red" yarn is really closer to a pumpkin-y orange, but you get the general idea. The light, variegated yarn will be the flowers. My plan is to start this today or tomorrow, depending on when I have a chance to sit down and concentrate for a bit. 

So, two small, quick-ish projects, and one that will be more long-term (at least at the pace that I knit). All of them are making me very happy, and encouraging me to keep going. I have approximately 52 things in mind to cast on after I finish these, so we'll see what happens as spring and summer move along.


Other than knitting, my weekend plans include a trip to Lowe's for plant and garden stuff; a stop at Michael's for some craft-y things I need and know they have there; and, maybe a stop at Ulta (which is right in the same strip mall space as the Michael's) for something I want to sample. That's the plan for tomorrow, which is probably a decent plan, since it's supposed to be rainy here, so I'm glad I wasn't counting on being outside.  Sunday I'm back to my shift at the yarn store - it was so nice to have a Sunday off last week! - and corraling the members of Knitting Circle, etc. 

And that's the news from here. Whatever your plans may be, I hope you will get some time to do your own thing, even if it's just taking a nap. Enjoy, and I'll check in again next week.

13 April 2023

Book Report for January, February, and March 2023

I meant to write this post last week, but time and activities got away from me, so here is the rundown on what I have read in the first three months of this year. 

The Murder Rule, by Dervla McTiernan. Hannah Rokeby is a 3rd year law student in Maine who has decided to go to the University of Virginia for a semester, and work with the well-known Innocence Project, that works to free people from prison who have been wrongly convicted. Maybe she has stretched the truth to be accepted, and about her background, and maybe her specific agenda is a little bit different than others, but now she is there and hopes she can make a difference. She's hoping that she can make her mother's life better.

However, things happen and come to light that are definitely  not what she expected. And her opinions and ideas are challenged and her thinking starts to shift. Suddenly, everything she felt so certain about turns out to be different.

This book surprised me. I liked it well enough for most of the story, but at a certain point WOW did things change, and I couldn't stop reading.

The Mother-in-Law, by Sally Hepworth. This was such a good read! The primary storyteller is Lucy Goodwin, who married into the well-off Goodwin family. Having lost her own mother very young, Lucy hoped to create a bond with her mother-in-law, Diana. But Diana is not the person Lucy was hoping for - successful, self-assured, and not a cozy warm person. At the very beginning of the book the police come to Lucy and her husband Ollie's house to let them know that Diana was found dead in the family home, with a suicide note. But as the story progresses, it seems more likely that it was homicide.

In chapters told primarily by Lucy and Diana, in the past and the present, we learn more about the whole family, their relationships, and tensions that ebbed and flowed among them. It's a really interesting look at what makes individuals who/what they are, and how family dynamics affect everything. 

I was somewhat surprised by the ending, but also thought it was a reasonable one for the story.

Wrong Place Wrong Time, by Gillian McAllister. This was a book that required suspension of disbelief, but it was worth it. 

A woman is waiting for her teenage son to come home from an evening out when she sees him stab someone to death right in front of their house. She's never seen the man before, and her son has never been in any kind of trouble. The police seem ready to charge the boy with murder.

When she wakes up the next day, it's the day before. Can she stop the murder from happening altogether? Each day when she wakes up, she is further into the past. How far will she gave to go to change things in the future, and what will she learn on the way?

I had my doubts, but this book ends up being really interesting and thoughtful. It makes you consider all the moments in your life that were actually the important things, and how you might be caught up in too many unimportant things to really be paying attention.

At first I wasn't sure I liked the ending, but with more thought, I have decided it was the only way it could have been true to the story that was being told. There are lots of surprising twists that keep you going.

The Woman in Blue, by Elly Griffiths. When Ruth Galloway's friend Cathbad is cat sitting for a friend, he sees a vision of a beautiful woman in a blue cape in a graveyard, and wonders if he has had a vision of the Virgin Mary. When the body of a young woman in a blue dressing gown is found in that location the next day, it is determined that she is a murder victim.

Meanwhile, another friend of Ruth's from college who is now an Anglican priest contacts her to say she's attending a course nearby and could they meet while she's there. As it turns out, she has been receiving really frightening letters from someone who does not think women should be priests. And when another female priest, who happens to resemble the murder victim is killed, it begins to look like the murders and the letters could be related. 

Ruth, DCI Nelson, and the usual cast of characters start trying to find the murderer, the letter writer, and also deal with events and revelations in their own lives. 

This was a interesting installment in the series, with everything coming to a head during a performance of a Passion Play on Good Friday. It wasn't as creepy as some of the other books, but still a good read.

Someday, Maybe, by Onyi Nwabineli. This book is a rare being - a book that is fiction, but can capture the truth of experiencing real grief.

The main character, Eve, has to deal with the discovery of her husband and best friend's body after he has committed suicide. Quentin (or "Q" as he is known to those close to him) showed no indication to his friends or family that anything was bothering him, or that he was in any deep emotional turmoil. Eve is fortunate in one way, in that she has her parents and siblings nearby to where they lived in London, so they can keep things going while she deals with unimaginable grief. Her parents, Nigerian immigrants and medical professionals, want so much for her to deal with things in a way that they thing will help her, but Eve points out more than once in the story that you can't grieve on others' schedules, no matter how much they may want you to.

There's also the complication of Aspen, Eve's mother-in-law, Q's mother, and one of the most well-known people in England, due to the family fortune. The ultimate upper-class rich WASP, she has never approved of Eve or her family, and blames Eve for Q's death. The one thing Eve is able to do while grieving is manage to hold control of Q's funeral and burial, knowing what he really wanted, despite what Aspen thinks he wanted.

There are so many layers to this book. Grief, and how it completely incapacitates you. The fact that most people compartmentalize grief, and feel that you should be fine shortly after - you know, ready to "carry on" and return to the world. The fact that no matter how close you might be with someone, how you can never possibly know every single thing about them, and how it may be clearer to complete strangers. How at different points of grieving, different feelings and desires take over your life. And how family struggles - both immediate family and in-law families - can add so many complications to every single aspect of grief and recovering.

This book reminds you that you never really get over the death of someone you truly love. Yes, life does go on, and it can be sweet afterwards - Eve is starting to learn and understand that at the end of the book - but no one is ever the same. 

Apparently this is the debut work of this author. I sincerely cannot wait to see what comes next.

Dear Edward, by Ann Napolitano. This is a very bittersweet story. Edward, who starts the book as "Eddie," is a 12-year-old boy flying from New York City to Los Angeles,  where the family is moving, when the plane crashes over Colorado. Edward is the sole survivor, and goes to live with his aunt and uncle in New Jersey. The book tells the story of Edward, but also some of the other passengers. As he navigates his changed life, he changes and so do those around him. 

When he and a friend discover duffel bags full of letters in the uncle's garage, they start reading them.  "Dear Edward" they all begin, and as they read them, Edward realizes that people want to know that he saw/talked to the person they knew and loved on that flight, that he had some connection. 

I think the author did an excellent job with this book, and this kind of story. Using a 12-year-old boy as the hero in this kind of story could have resulted in things going a complete different way. But we see Edward clearly, feel his confusion and his pain, and understand that in the end, life is good.

The Widowmaker, by Hannah Morrissey. I gave this book 2 stars because I did want to read to see how it all worked out, but I can't say I liked it. I didn't really click with any of the characters, and the story was dark, kind of twisted, and frankly it just took too long to get to where it needed to be.

Strangers At The Gate, by Catriona McPherson. Good Lord, this book has a lot going on! It seems like a quiet book at first, with a couple moving to a small town in Scotland where the husband has been offered a small law firm partnership, and the wife a part-time deacon at the local church. The circumstances of the offers and arrangements for their housing are a bit unusual, but you figure Oh well it's one of those stories.

But definitely not! For instance the first day the couple are in town, they are invited to dinner at the senior partner's house where they spend a nice evening.  On their way home,  the wife realizes she left her bag at the house; they return to retrieve it, and find the couple murdered in the kitchen! And believe me, that's the most normal thing that happens in the whole book. 

It's very readable, and interesting for what it is. But I should have guessed that since I didn't feel a connection with any of the characters, it wouldn't be a book I loved.

A Room With A Brew, by Joyce Tremel. This is another entertaining entry in the series. 

Max O'Hara and friends are prepping for the first ever Oktoberfest at her brew pub. Things are going smoothly, and she invites the group to accompany her to hear the band she has hired for the festivities. All goes well, until one of the band members insists that he knows her friend Candy. Candy, usually the friendliest of them all, is just downright rude. The next day, another band member calls Max and asks her to meet with him, acting rather mysterious. When she finally tracks him down, she finds his body instead of finding out what he wanted to tell her.

So the search begins to find out who killed him and why.

The story is readable enough, but as usual what I enjoyed the most were all of the references to people and places in Pittsburgh, and the "Pittsburgh-ese" spoken by some of the characters. I did supect part of the plot resolution, but didn't have everything figured out.

Agatha Christie : An Elusive Woman, by Lucy Worsley. This was a really good book, well-written, and though probably more academic than I was expecting,  it was very accessible.  Granted, I didn't know a whole lot about Agatha Christie to start, but I would guess there is plenty here that a lot of readers didn't know. 

Christie was an interesting character on her own, who lived through a lot of change during her lifetime. As a result, her character and her life were full of changes and contradictions that make thebook interesting.  I think that Lucy Worsley has created a very detailed story of Christie's life that gives the reader anew appreciation for her place in literature,while also providing background for so many of her stories.

Vexed on a Visit, by Fiona Grace. This was an amusing and quick read, and the break I needed.

This time around, Lacey is worried because her dog Chester is sick, and will have to stay at the vet. And she and her boyfriend Tom are planning a romantic getaway.  But Lacey's friend Ginny assures her she will be happy to visit Chester during that time. 

But another major glitch comes up when Lacey's family - her mother, her sister Naomi, and her nephew Frankie - show up to surprise her with a visit on their way on a trip to Scotland. Tom invites them to come along and there goes the romantic part ...

While the others go shopping, Lacey and Frankie go exploring. They stop at an antique shop where the owner is a really unpleasant character. They buy grab bag of old coins, and later when Frankie is sorting them they find a gold coin that looks to be from Roman times.

After an unpleasant confrontation with the shop owner in a local restaurant (he accuses them of stealing the coin), the shop owner is found murdered in his store. Now it's up to Lacey to figure out what happened so suspicion is off her.

The mystery is interesting enough, but also the depictions of Lacey's family - loud New Yorkers in a quiet English village - makes it entertaining.

Bookplate Special, by Lorna Barrett. This was actually better than I was expecting it to be. When Tricia Miles' college roommate Pammy Fredericks comes for a "surprise short visit" Tricia didn't think she would mean two weeks. Realizing that Pammy stole one of her checks, wrote it to herself for $100 is the last straw, and Tricia kicks her out.

Later the same day, Pammy's body is found in a large trash bin, which doesn't make Tricia look good. But asTricia looks into things, she finds out that Pammy had made a lot of enemies during her visit, and was telling people that she would be coming into a lot of money soon. 

But there's so much more happening in this book, several subplots of interest as well. I enjoyed it.

Voyage of the Narwhal, by Andrea Barrett. During the mid-nineteenth century, exploration of the Arctic was the goal of many expeditions. Among the most famous was the ill-fated Frankilin Expedition, where the crews of two ships were trapped during an Arctic winter anniversary heard from again.

Erasmus Darwin Wells, a naturalist in Philadelphia, is asked by a family friend to join his expedition on a ship called the Narwhal to forge new Arctic paths and perhaps locate members of, or information about what happened to those with Franklin. The friend, Zeke Voorhees, is young, from a wealthy family, and it is assumed that on return he will marry Lavinia, Erasmus' sister. Though Zeke is inexperienced, Erasmus is thrilled to have a chance to explore the Arctic flora and fauna, and hopefully save his scientific reputation which had been damaged in a previous naval expedition. 

Things don't go as well as expected, and not only must they winter over on the ship, but eventually a skeleton crew manages to make their way back by other means, broken, grief-stricken, and just barely with their lives.

As the story is told, we learn that Zeke did not really assemble a stellar crew; that he was in it for his own glory; and that, as things go along, he becomes more and more convinced that only he knows anything.

Tha story of the voyage is interesting if harrowing at times, but the story of the aftermath is just as riveting and horrifying in its own way.  Andrea Barrett has managed to make you feel invested in the characters, involved in the time period, and appalled at the way humans can behave. The ending is hopeful, and you want to learn more about everything during that time.

Out of the Clear Blue Sky, by Kristan Higgins. Lillie Silwa is a lifelong resident of Cape Cod, a certified nurse midwife, a wife and mother. The night before her son's high school graduation, her husband tells her he wants a divorce because he has met someone younger, who brings him joy. The book is basically Lillie's story after this announcement, and how she deals with all of it.

The book is a mixture of sad, frustrating, shocking, and sometimes quit funny. Lillie knows what she should do, but often allows her emotions to rule. 

Her ex-husband and new young wife area continual part of the story, and the way Lillie's interactions with them change over the course of the book us more interesting than I was expecting.

Shrines of Gaiety, by Kate Atkinson. I gave this 3 stars because even though it's interesting and a good enough read, it's also depressing. 

The story revolves around Nellie Coker and her adult children, who run several dance clubs in London during the 1920s. The local police are believed to be corrupt,  so someone from Scotland Yard is sent to find the sources. There are also young girls disappearing and their bodies being fished out of theThames to be resolved.

Apparently the book is based on a real person, with a similar lifestyle to Nellie Coker. I think a book about her would have been more interesting.

Kingdom of the Blind, by Louise Penny. This book finds Armand Gamache on suspension from the Surete du Quebec, after he supposedly "allowed" a huge amount of drugs more deadly than fentanyl cross the border from the U.S. 

But it begins with Gamache, Myrna (the psychologist turned bookstore owner in Three Pines), a young builder being called to a meeting with a notary,where they learn they are the liquidators (aka executors) if the sill of a recently deceased woman.  Which is interesting,  because none of them have a clue who the woman was.

These two stories develop and are eventually resolved by the end of the book, but there are so many aspects of each story involved, you really wondering there can be any good solutions.  Once I reached the end of the book, I was really wanting to read the next, to see how things move forward.

The Chalk Pit, by Elly Griffiths. When digging for a new, trendy underground restaurant, some bones are discovered.  So Ruth Galloway is called to do an excavation,  under the assumption that they are medieval bones.  But when it turns out that they are more recent, the police are called in.  Atthe same time, some homeless men have been found stabbed, and a few women have completely disappeared, including Detective Inspector Clough's partner. 

This was both an interesting and disturbing book, involving underground societies, people who think their ideas are reasonable when they are in fact crazy, and the possibility of cannibalism. 

But there are also big changes for main characters in the series, when Ruth's mother has a stroke, Nelson's wife surprises him with shocking news, Clough gets married.

I have a few suspicions about where things might be headed as the series winds down ... but I've been wrong before, so we'll see.

Still Life, by Sarah Winman. I loved this book. 

I'm not even going to try and summarize what happens, because it is too much and there are so many characters that are "main" enough characters that it would take too long. 

But I will say that if you like to read about history (WWII and beyond), art, relationships, family, Florence, E.M. Forster, and the journey of several lives that intersect, I don't think you can go wrong reading this book. It is one of my favorite things I've ever read, and beautifully written. 

The author does an amazing job of evoking time and place, and making each character real and alive.

The Book of Goose, by Yiyun Li. I wanted to like this, but really didn't from the start, so after about 5 chapters, I decided it wasn't for me.

And that's it. Let me know if you have read anything recently that is worth a look or even not worth even starting. I have a large pile of books to be read, and some on hold at the library, but I'm always happy to add to the list!

10 April 2023

Easter Goodies

Hello all, and I hope you had a good weekend. Ours was very nice, and it was even sunny on Easter Sunday! It was chilly, but I don't care, because I was just happy it was sunny for all the people who were traveling or being outside.

We were thrilled because clearly the Easter Bunny thought it was worth it to stop at our house.

The kitties each got a basket, and a can of fancy food. Their baskets were a big hit.

Pip loved his so much, he knocked it over about four times while rubbing against it.

Milo the Koodle was somewhat suspicious of the Peep included in his basket.

And Alfie was intrigued by the whole thing - maybe he never got a basket before?

The Tim and I got some goodies too, if you look in the first photo. There was a chocolate bunny and a chocolate chicken sitting on a basket for us. We have no complaints ... 😊

It was a relaxing day. The Tim took two naps (what else is new?) and I took a short walk to get outside, then did some knitting and some reading. (It felt good to not have to work on a Sunday!) Dinner was yummy, and though we missed our usual company, we had a really good holiday weekend.

This week is actually - at least at this point - looking pretty quiet, which is fine with me. I'm hoping I can get a couple of declutter projects started, and I'm thinking of getting a pedicure later this week, just because. I also want to get out into the garden later in the week and start cleaning up out there. Other than regularly scheduled work, there are no other specifically scheduled things happening, which is nice because next week looks like it will be a real killer.

I hope the coming week will be a good one for all of us. I have a reading report and some new knitting starts to share with you, so look for those to show up. 

Have a good springtime week ahead!

07 April 2023

Easter Weekend

Hello all! I hope if you are celebrating Passover, that you are having a happy and joyous one. I knew that it started this week, and then I lost track of the days, so I know things have already begun, but please know I'm thinking of you and hoping it's a wonderful holiday for you and your loved ones.

Today in the Christian world is Good Friday, a somber day leading to Easter Sunday, which is of course the complete opposite. Right now, in Philadelphia, it looks like the weather is somber as well - kind of bright, but not too bright. At least it's not raining!

Yesterday, I got a wonderful Easter surprise. Actually, it happened on Tuesday, but I only discovered it yesterday. I was cleaning out the backpack I've been taking with me to work, because it's a dark color, and once spring arrives, it just looks too dark and serious to me, so I switch to another bag. Generally speaking, other than adding my water bottle and my lunch each day, I don't check everything else in it each time.

So imagine my VERY happy feeling of surprise when I pulled out this plastic Easter egg!

This alone would have made my day. I expected it to contain maybe a couple of chocolate candies, but instead, I found this:

Can you stand it??? Such an adorable little bunny sitting in its own little nest of grass! Apparently on Tuesday, my co-worker Kathy (who I love and who is leaving after next week, sob) snuck this into my backpack. I would never have the patience to make something so small, but she makes all kinds of adorable things like this, and I was so incredibly thrilled to find one for me!

I hope that if you celebrate, you have a very Happy Easter. If you do not, best wishes for a lovely springtime weekend. And regardless of what you are or are not celebrating, I hope there is a good surprise in store for you.


04 April 2023


Happy Indictment Day to all who celebrate!!


03 April 2023

Jazz Time

Hello all! I hope you had a good weekend, and had some time to read, or craft, or walk, or just whatever you felt like doing.

We went to a jazz concert on Saturday evening at the Philadelphia Clef Club, which is someplace we have passed so many times, but never visited until then. 

A few months ago, The Tim had bought us tickets for this event:

Joey DeFrancesco was from this area, and was well-known in the jazz world for his talents as a jazz organist, trumpeter, and saxophonist. He died last August from a heart attack, and this was a tribute to him and his legacy, with the proceeds going to a fund to teach jazz to young people.

The Clef Club was really so neat inside - there were several levels for the audience, with tables and chairs where you could sit and listen to the music, have a drink, and even order something to drink. 

Needless to say, the music was great. These three gentlemen - Lucas Brown on the organ, Anwar Marshall on the drums, and Terrell Stafford on the trumpet - had all worked together and with Joey DeFrancesco for a long time. All of them had good stories to tell. We also heard from his wife, his brother, and one of his first music teachers. I was not overly familiar with him, but it was clear that even from a very young age, his talent was outsized.

The Temple University Jazz Ensemble performed and wow, are those kids good! It was also fun to watch them when some of the others played, to see how much they enjoyed watching the pros.

And then this guy - Jerry Weldon on the saxophone, who has clearly been on the scene for a while. I told The Tim that I expected that any second, 1952 would call and tell him to come back. And when he finished playing, it really wouldn't have surprised me at all to hear him say, "And now ladies and gentlemen - The Rat Pack!" 😊

It was a fun evening, listening to people who clearly enjoyed themselves playing wonderful music, for a lost friend and a good cause. 

Walking home afterwards, we kept commenting on how many people were out and about ... and then realized that of course, it was a Saturday night! Since we seldom are out and about after 8 p.m., and hardly ever on weekend nights, it was once again eye-opening to remember that for some people, that's what they anticipate all week. Another 'duh' moment.

My plans for today are to pay bills, get some things decluttered, and soak and block the cardigan that I did in fact finish on Friday! Which also means that once the things I *must* do are completed, I can cast on something new. I'm ridiculously excited about that. I have some yarn wound to knit a hat, so I think I'll start on that first. 

I'm surprised that next weekend is Easter - I thought there were still about two weeks left. We are bummed that this year, my niece Amanda and her husband Pat won't be joining us. They have a friend who is celebrating her 50th birthday by having all of her friends join her for a weekend in Rehoboth Beach. Which should be fun, but it means no Inappropriate Easter Egg contest this year - it's not any fun with only the two of us. But we'll still have a good holiday weekend, with egg coloring, goodies, and baskets for the kit kats. At this point, it even sounds like the weather might cooperate, which would be a plus.

Let's hope this week is a good and happy one for all us.