19 April 2024

Book Report: January, February, and March 2024

You will probably not be at all surprised that I have been reading away, even when I haven't felt like doing much else. Here are my thoughts on the books I've read during the first three months of this year.

The Mortal Groove, by Ellen Hart. This book started in an interesting way,and had my interest for a while. But a little more than halfway through, I got bored and antsy reading it. I wanted to know what happened in the end, but only skimmed to find out. And even then it was underwhelming.

In the Midst of Winter, by Isabel Allende. Once again, Isabel Allende does not disappoint. Though I was not familiar with this book, which was apparently published in 2017. 

It takes place during a blizzard that happens between Christmas and New Year's Day. Richard Bowmaster, a professor and human rights scholar who lives in Brooklyn, hits a car driven by Evelyn Ortega, an undocumented worker from Guatemala. After giving her his insurance information, Richard returns home and doesn't give it much more thought. But then Evelyn turns up on his doorstep, frightened and asking for help. Richard turns to Lucia Maraz, a lecturer from Chile and his basement tenant, for help. And thus begins a truly amazing story, not just of what happened leading to the car accident, but what led each of the three to where they are today.

Each character has the chance to share their story with the others, making them each feel closer to one another, as well as creating sort of a family among them. There is one serious complication to the story that forces them to make a difficult decision and a difficult journey. But to be perfectly honest, it's the lives of each of them to that point that makes the book even more interesting.

The stories are even more timely, given the current issues with immigration and the southern border of the United States.

You can't go wrong giving this book a read.

I Have Some Questions For You, by Rebecca Makkai. When Bodie Kane, a film professor and well known Podcaster, is asked to return to the New Hampshire boarding school where she spent her high school years to teach a mini-mester after thr Christmas break, she welcomes the opportunity.  She is separated from her husband, looks forward to seeing her good friend who is currently still employed at the school, and has recently been drawn into online speculation about a classmate's murder their senior year.

As a couple of her students choose the girl's murder for their class podcast topic, Bodie begins to review her memories of that time from a more adult perspective. Honing in on a faculty member and his interactions with students, she has more and more questions about how she thought things were then as opposed to now.

There is a lot in this book. Bodie's life has been a messy one, and boarding school was a place slightly more important to her than shenanigans have realized at the time.  Being back tests her memories and her feelingssbout herself.  

There is something here. I think the book is extremely readable,  and well worth the read. This is the second book I've read by this author, and it did not disappoint.

Wintering : The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times, by Katherine May. I found this book interesting and very nicely written. May has taken a period of her life when things came tumbling down all at once - her husband gets seriously ill, her son doesn't want to attend school, and her career is giving her immense stress - and written the story of how she taught herself to cope. 

Beginning by pointing out that animals prepare for winter without question,  she wants to acquire a mindset that allows her to not just prepare for winter, but make it meaningful - experience it, not just survive it.

It is obviously written by someone with a degree of privilege - she can afford to leave her job, when her son has problems in school, she can keep him at home with her - but there are things her that anyone can take away from her writing and take to heart. I'm not a person who struggles with winter (I love it, and find summer depressing), but there was a lot to like and to consider in this book.

My Husband, by Maud Ventura. Good God this book was annoying. I got almost halfway through and returned it to the library.

We Are All the Same In the Dark, by Julia Heaberlin. I rated this book 3 stars because it did make me read to the end to see what had happened.  But I can't say I enjoyed the book.

It's basically a story of family violence, mysteries, and severe dysfunction.  It starts with Odette, a cop in a small rural Texas town, trying to solve a mystery of a missing girl. It ends with a girl called Angelica solving the mystery of the missing girl as well as the murder of Odette.

Like I said, I read to the end because I wanted to know if there was resolution and if so, what it was. But the whole thing was pretty unpleasant in my opinion.

Things You Save In a Fire, by Katherine Center. When Cassie Hanwell's life implodes, she reluctantly moves from her beloved Texas to the Massachusetts shore to help her estranged mother deal with some health problems. She gad managed to get work as a firefighter in a small town nearby, but it's nothing like her firehouse and colleagues back in Austin. 

Cassie has managed to develop a hard shell of protction around herself and regarding her feelings, but the longer she stays with her mother, the more things start to change. And through she is pretty much not that well accepted by her new colleagues, she manages to get them to grudgingly accept that she's good at her job.

When she is faced with both personal and professional life changing situations,  Cassie really begins to learn about the person she is and wants to be.

This was a pretty good read.

Hiss Me Deadly, by Miranda James. Charlie Harris and his cat Diesel end up involved in another murder case in this installment of the series. When Wil Threadgill, who was a couple of years ahead if Charlie in high school and is now a successful composer in Hollywood,  returns to Athena for a series of seminars for the college's music students, his past seems to want to even a score. As past and current members of his band and entourage are killed or attacked, the question is who is behind all of it?

The story definitely keeps you reading, and I sort of - but not really- figured out the identity of the killer. But once again there is mention of Charlie's job as a rare book librarian and cataloger, which always makes my nerdy cataloger heart happy.

After a few serious and intense books in a row, this was an enjoyable  read.

Played By the Book, by Lucy Arlington. This series is doing well, I think.

Lila Wilkins is feeling excited. Her boyfriend - who also happens to be the chief of police - has arranged a dinner at one of the nicest restaurants in town. Lila had recently overheard him ask her son if it would be OK with him if they got married, so she is expecting a proposal. Except it doesn't happen, since his work keeps him from meeting her for dinner.

In the meantime, Lila's boss has informed her that she is not only helping plan a book signing and dinner for a visiting garden and lifestyle expert, but that her own garden has been added to the garden tour happening on the same day. When Lila's son and his friends are helping her dig up some plants to move elsewhere, they discover a human skull.

Then a popular member of the garden club is found murdered in her garden. With everything going on, Lila is stressed, busy, and concerned, not to mention irritated with her boyfriend.

A lot happens in this book, with various stories swirling around at the same time. I wondered how they were going to tie things up with so many little side things, but I think the author did reasonable job.

A Murder of Crows, by Sarah Yarwood-Lovett. Dr. Nell Ward, a respected ecologist, is working on a land survey and is partway in a hidden tunnel on the site when she thinks she hears something. She talks herself out of worrying and finishes her study. 

Then she learns that a socialite was murdered in that very tunnel - and she is the primary suspect! What follows is an interesting and quite involved organization and series of events. We also learn that Nell is actually Lady Eleanor Ward-Beaumont, which throws her colleague and friend Adam into a tizzy, and causes headaches for the police investigation. 

A really interesting book, with some natural science thrown in. I will definitely read  the next one.

We All Want Impossible Things, by Catherine Newman. Ash and Edi have been best friends since they met in kindergarten when both were four years old. As the book begins, Edi's doctors tell Ash and Edi's husband Jude that it's time to arrange for hospice care for her. Jude hopes to find one near them in NYC where they live, so that he can still be near their young son Dash. But when none of them have available space, they decide to move Edi to one near Ash's home in New England.

And so, Ash becomes the constant at Edi's side at the end of her life. While also trying to care for her own family, Ash recalls their lives together and just how intertwined they are. She also starts to realize that love and loss are so much more than ehat we believe they are.

This book is sad, funny, frustrating, poignant, and true. It describes caring for someone at the end of their lives in a way that can only really be understood if you've done it. You know going in that there's heartbreak, but there's so much more to be found. And when Edi dies, her son experiences something that is so similar to my own, I had to stop reading for a moment.

A beautiful story of love and friendship,  but also a reminder to make the most of what's in front of you.

Everything I Know About Love, by Dolly Alderton. This sounded like it would be enjoyable when I read a review of it. 

It was not. Back to the library unfinished, and on to something else.

Beartown, by Fredrik Backman. The story of a very small town where everyone knows everyone and hockey is king. When the young men's hockey team makes it to the finals, everything seems to be on the upswing. Until an event that threatens one boy's future, and people take sides. 

A classic tale of boys will be boys, and do we believe women and girls when they could mess up something great.

Madness : Race and Insanity in a Jim Crow Asylum, by Antonia Hylton. This book should be read by everyone. 

The author tells the history of Crownsville State Hospital, originally established as a Maryland hospital facility for the "Negro insane." It is a story of racism, institutional neglect and overcrowding,  and lack of funds from government agencies. But it is also a harrowing history of how some of the most vulnerable members of society were thrown into places ill-prepared to care for them. The history of our care for those with mental health problems is dismaying at best.

But at Crownsville, the problems were exacerbated because of prejudice against black people and the lack of black psychiatrists and other health care workers. "Be good or you might get sent to Crownsville" was used as a threat to children to get them to behave.

The author has done a deep dive into the surviving - and terribly incomplete  - archival records of the institution,  and tracked down some of the people who worked there or otherwise were affiliated. It is an amazing and eye-opening story. Hylton also weaves in the story of someone dear to her who struggles with their mental health, but also struggles to find care and someone in the mental health field who can be trusted.

Crownsville is closed now, having been closed by the state in the early 2000s, and Anne Arundel County where it is located is deciding what should be done with the grounds. 

Maryland history, Annapolis history are the focus here, but sadly there are likely many other examples we will never know. 

Such a good book, and hard to summarize here, because it just contains so much.

Before We Were Yours, by Lisa Wingate. Avery Stafford is back home, on leave from her job as a US Attorney in Washington,  DC, to be with her father on campaign stops while his health is faltering. She is considered the heir apparent to his Senate seat, so she wants to become familiar with things as well as help him out. During a photo-op visit at a nursing home, an elderly woman mistakes her for someone else, and takes her bracelet, a gift from her grandmother,  who has dementia and has just moved to a different nursing home.

In 1939, Rill Foss is trying to keep her siblings together while her parents head to the hospital miles away when her mother faces complications in childbirth. Rill's family are dirt poor, and live on a river shanty, a shack-like structure that poor people used for housing and traveled along rivers. Without warning, strangers arrive one day and, claiming to be there to take the children, get them all off the boat. Instead of what they are promised, they are taken to the Tennessee Children's Home, known now as a place of horror and illegal adoptions.

The separate stories converge in this book,  based on actual historical events and the writings and interviews of the children who actually experienced life there.  It is both heartbreaking and appalling,  and seems like something completely made up. Instead, it continued for years, and some families were never reunited. The author does a good job if making a terrible story very readable.

The Woman Who Died a Lot, by Jasper Fforde. Another visit to the world of Thursday Next, where things are familiar enough that you know what's happening,  but crazy enough that it's hard to keep up. 

In this book, Thursday is named chief librarian in her town, with the budget problems and complaints from the public you'd expect.  But the Goliath Corporation is still trying to grab hold of control if the world through the actions of Thursday's nemesis, Jack Schitt and Braxton Hicks. It doesn't help that Thursday keeps being replaced by temporary versions of herself.

Meanwhile, her teenage daughter Tuesday, who is a girl genius, is trying to perfect her Anti-Smite shield, so that when the Almighty smiles the town square, it will be deflected (it's all happening that week,  by the way), andher son Friday is trying to deal with his Letter of Destiny, which gives him a dreary future. 

There's a lot going on. But with the usual amusing literary references, and Thursday's determination, the world is safe again. At least for a while ...

These books are so much fun to read!

One Summer in Savannah, by Terah Shelton Harris. Sara Lancaster never had plans to return to Savannah. But when her father suffers an aneurysm and his partner tells her she needs to return, she takes her 8-year-old daughter Alana, a child genius, and they leave their home in Maine.

Things are going OK until one day when she is helping out in the bookstore her father owns, and her rapist's twin brother walks in. No one in town knows that Sara was impregnated by the rape, and she does not want his family - who are prominent in town - to find out, in case they try to take custody of Alana.

There are a lot of emotional parts of this book, and of everyone's story. But in the end it is a story about what it takes to reach forgiveness, and what it can mean to take yourself on the journey.

Lessons in Chemistry, by Bonnie Garmus. Elizabeth Zott is a brilliant female chemist. But in the early 1960s, none of her coworkers at the Hastings Institute take her seriously. From asking her to make coffee, to stealing her research, and even sexual assault, she is constantly forced to try and prove herself.  Then she meets one of the other scientists in another lab - Calvin Evans is a brilliant, Nobel Prize winner who is also an odd man out, so to speak. He and Elizabeth become partners,  but when he is killed in an accident, and she realizes she is pregnant with his child,  she is even more of an outcast as an unwed mother.

A few years later, an encounter with the father of one of her daughter's classmates leads to Elizabeth as the host of a cooking show - which she approaches as a chemistry lesson. In spite of herself, she becomes a celebrity. But a magazine articles turns her life upside down. 

I liked this book, in spite of the fact that it reminded me of how extremely limited women were not that long ago. One of my older sisters graduated with a degree in chemistry in 1970, and she has so many stories that echo events experienced by Elizabeth. She was fortunate to have a research job in a cancer lab at the National Institutes of Health, but even as someone low in the pecking order, she dealt with a lot of crap from male scientists and members of society.

Anyway, Elizabeth's journey is an interesting one, and the relationships she builds throughout the book are really interesting. 

There's a dog in this book. Anyone who knows me will not be surprised that the dog was my favorite character.

The Patron Saint of Liars, by Ann Patchett. When Rose Clinton arrives at the St. Elizabeth Home for Unwed Mothers in Kentucky, she is pregnant, but married. She has driven from California to give birth there and then to give up her baby. Instead, she decides to stay and to keep her baby. 

Rose works in the kitchen at the home as the cook for years; she marries the handyman,  and as far as her daughter Cecilia is concerned,  he is her father - the only one she knows. But Cecilia always finds her mother mysterious and somewhat aloof, and wonders why she is like that.

When Rose walks away from everyone and everything with no explanation when Cecilia is a teen, she realizes that there are somd secrets people just never share.

Hello Beautiful, by Ann Napolitano. I wanted to like this book more than I did. 

William Waters grew up in a house where his parents showed him no love. His older sister died when he was only a few days old, and the parents seemed to lose all interest in everything and everyone when that happened. When he leaves home to attend Northwestern University, he meets Julia Padavano, and the rest of his life is intertwined with the Padavano family.

I didn't dislike this book per se, but I just never embraced any of the characters. It was all readable enough, just nothing that seemed to make it stand out to me.

The Guncle, by Stephen Rowley. Patrick O'Hara is a somewhat retired actor, living in Pal Springs, California. He loves his family in Connecticut - his best friend Sara,now his sister-in-law; his brother Greg; his sister Clara; his parents; and of course Sara and Greg's young children Maisie and Grant. 

But when Sara dies, and Greg has to go into rehab, it's decided that Patrick, their GUP/Guncle (Gay Uncle) should take the kids with him for the summer. Thus begins an adventure for all three them. 

I really enjoyed this book. Patrick's commentary and conversations with Maisie and Grant are highly entertaining, and the kids are drawn pretty accurately. 

It's a book with a little bit of everything, and clearly written by someone with a real heart.

The Diva Cooks Up a Storm, by Krista Davis. This was an enjoyable palate cleanser after some other, darker reads. Sophie Winston and her friends are back at it in Old Town, Alexandria,Virginia. 

This time, Sophie finds one of her neighbors in the street, gasping for air - after he had previously told her he feared he was being poisoned. When he dies, immediate suspicion falls on his young, second wife, who is believed to have broken up his marriage. But as Sophie gets to know the young woman, and learns more about the neighbor's ex-wife and associates, she finds it hard to think the second wife is the killer.

This one had a lot of possible suspects, and kept me guessing.

Persons Unknown, by Susie Steiner. Detective Manon Bradshaw is adapting to a lot of things: she is 5 months pregnant, has moved her family back to Cambridgeshire, where she is working on cold cases, and she isn't sure things are going to work out. She wanted her adopted son Fly to get in a better school,  and to be out of London, where he was suspected of everything due to the color of his skin. He isn't adjusting well, and when a wealthy man collapses in a woman's arms after being stabbed, Fly becomes the main suspect. But is he really guilty at all? Manon's former partner Davy wonders why the Superintendent is so intent on charging him.

But this book ends up having A LOT going on. Manon's sister is acting weird. Manon's personal investigation turns up international criminal activity, legal corruption, and she falls in love. I was surprised how all of the plot lines interacted.

A really good read.

*****

So there you are. As you can see, there were some that I thought were real duds, but the majority of them were things I enjoyed, with a few that were standouts. 

What have you been reading? Anything good, or for that matter - particularly avoidable? Let me know.

I hope that all of you have a good weekend. I am currently sitting in the living room while our new door is being installed, so it's not exactly a quiet day at home. But it will be worth it. And then tomorrow, the city is planting a new tree for us, so one side of our house is definitely getting a "glow up." 😊

Take care, and I'll check in again next week.

17 April 2024

Update: Me, The Garden, A Knitting Project

Hello everyone! I hope this finds you well and that you are having at least a tiny bit of springtime weather to enjoy. 

I am back, with just a tiny bit of my upper respiratory infection left - you know, enough of the cough and congestion to keep you remembering that it's not *quite* done with you. In my previous short post, I mentioned that I was hoping to get some help from my dr's office with some medications. Well, it turned out that they had me trudge over to the office to see a nurse practitioner. She informed me that I didn't have pneumonia (knew that); that it seemed I had an upper respiratory infection (duh); and that I would just have to "wait it out" because no one at their office prescribed medications anymore for it, because too many people "thought they needed it, when in fact there is actually no real treatment." 

So I trudged back home and coughed until I cracked a rib (which they said Tylenol would help), and did not get more than 3 hours of sleep for about the last ten days. Good times. 

Also - the cats are NOT amused. They liked the idea that I was pretty much just always in one spot, since I was really wiped out. But they were highly annoyed with my noisy, violent cough and the fact that I kept blowing my nose. Please offer a thought for them during their time of need.

Anyway, I'm more with it now, which is an improvement, and things are gradually settling down. But I still think I would have felt much better much sooner if I could have had some cough syrup at a minimum. (No, I'm not a doctor, but I think I could play one on TV.)

Anyhoo, I'm on the mend, just a lot more slowly than usual. Onward, right?

In some VERY exciting news, today I went out into the garden and brought these inside:


For the first time since I bought a lilac bush three years ago, there were blooms! These are all of them, but they make me so happy, and even though the bush itself is pretty spindly, if I can get a few blooms every year, that's fine with me. I figured that since it is supposed to rain later today and through the day tomorrow, I would bring these inside for us to enjoy. I've always wanted lilacs, and I'm happy for any this plant will provide.

Also, I noticed when I was outside that my clematis plant has approximately 20 buds on it - if even half of them bloom, it will be absolutely stunning! I'm sure you'll be seeing photos of it down the road, because well, any blooms in my garden are miraculous as far as I'm concerned, since I'm not a talented or very dedicated gardener. I was thrilled when my spindly forsythia plant had blooms on it around Easter, since they are another fave of mine. 

We may have to disrupt things in our garden this year since a neighbor might have to have some work done on a wall we share (long, unpleasant and very annoying story, I'll spare you), so I don't know if I'll try to plant very much. I'm hoping we'll know sooner rather than later if anything is going to have to happen. Fingers crossed it will be able to be left alone. 🤞

I did feel good enough after our guests left on Easter Sunday to finish the body of my bulky sweater that I've been knitting.


The color is more of a light blue than this photo shows, but I was happy to make progress. I managed to get one sleeve underway, but put it aside because it was hard to concentrate with all of my coughing, etc. 

It's funny, because when I started it, everyone kept saying, "Oh you'll be finished before you know it, bulky knitting goes so fast." Well, maybe for them it does. I do want to finish this sweater, even though I won't be wearing it until next year. But I can't say I'm a fan of bulky knitting. This has taken me as long as it has because after a pretty short amount of time, my hands hurt from the large needles. So I can't really sit and work on it for any more than maybe an hour or so, which explains why it has taken me so long to make any progress. Not that I had a deadline, but I have to say I will be glad when it is finally completed, and I can go back to "regular" sized needles! 😊

And those are the main updates for you today. I have been up since 1:05 a.m., when woke up coughing, and then was just plain wide awake. Sigh. But at least it wasn't a work day for me.

I have a few small things I want to accomplish today, but otherwise I hope to read and knit. Tonight I'm planning to make quiche for dinner, so I walked over to the market to buy some frozen pie shells (my pie crust skills are quite tragic. Not bad - tragic!) We have some nice peppers and mushrooms to include a long with lots of nice cheeses, so I think it will be yummy. And I'll make some roasted asparagus to go along with it. There are some frozen homemade brown-and-serve rolls in the freezer that The Tim made at Easter, so I may give us each one of those as well. 

(Now I've just made myself hungry.)

Anyway, I hope you are able to enjoy the rest of your day, and manage to fit in some time to do what you like. Take care.

08 April 2024

Ugh

Well, I didn't mean to be gone for so long, and this will probably be kind of a short post. We had a good Easter and visit with Patrick and Amanda, but last week ended up being kind of a blur. Things were really hectic and difficult at work, and a ton of people were coming to the house otherwise for repairs, estimates, etc. On top of which I felt really awful, and figured I was getting hit with allergies.

But instead, over the weekend, I realized I had an upper respiratory infection, which is a "regular" event for me, but had taken a break for the most part during and shortly after the pandemic.


I feel like the poor pup above. The worst parts are the severe coughing and exhaustion as a result because I get very little sleep. In the past, I would call my dr's office and she would call in some cough syrup for me, so that the coughing would settle down enough that I could sleep for a few hours at a time. But that Dr - who was one of my fave people ever - joined an MD-VIP practice which I could a) not afford, and b) have philosophical issues with, and so I switched to another practice somewhere because the one I was with for so long had no other drs taking new patients. And when I called this morning to ask for medicine, I was told I would have to visit the office first, and they would contact me later for an appt on either "Thursday or Friday." And I get it, I really do, but I have had this so many times that I know exactly what it is. So I have at least a couple of more days of feeling just plain awful before there is any relief in sight. 😕

I can read for little bits of time, but don't have the concentration to knit. So at least for the immediate future, I can't even take advantage of feeling like all I have the energy to do is sit in a chair. 

So that's where I've been and where I am at the moment. I'm not sure if I'll feel with it enough to post again soon, but if I do, you'll hear from me.

In the meantime, I hope if you are in the eclipse area, you enjoy seeing it, and no matter where you are, I hope your week goes well. That's it for now.

29 March 2024

Good Friday FO: Birthday Socks

Well, OK it just so happens that I am writing this post on Good Friday. But I had these socks finished weeks ago, I'm just finally getting around to sharing the FO. 

With thanks of course to Alfie, who made it all possible ... 😂

Project: Birthday Socks
Yarn: Freckled Whimsy Serendipity Sock, Colorway Pisces
Needles: US size 0/ 2mm
Pattern: my own vanilla sock pattern

Notes: I have had this yarn for a couple of years, but every year would forget about it until well after my birthday. This year, I made sure that I put the sock set where I would see it, and finally, I could knit myself a pair of birthday socks! 

I didn't plan for this to be my birthday cast-on, rather I wanted to be able to wear them on my birthday. I started them in early February, so that I'd have plenty of time to finish them. Which turned out to be a good idea, since for a few weeks I lost my mojo, and I was also working on other projects, so my knitting time was divided among three different types of knitting.

The first sock was finished pretty quickly - that was before I lost my mojo. But the second sock suffered a bit, but I was still determined to get them ready for my birthday. And I did, finishing them a little bit more than a week ahead of time. I happily wore them on my birthday, and can attest to them being very comfortable, even though it was an unusually warm day for March. 


I really love the finished pair. The sock set came with the bright turquoise blue yarn for the cuffs, heels, and toes (I just did cuffs and toes). They are a closely related pair, but not identical, which is always fine with me. 

*****

As I mentioned above, today is Good Friday for Christians who observe the Easter season, with Easter itself on Sunday. My niece Amanda and her husband Pat are coming tomorrow to spend an overnight with us. We are looking forward to it, since they were not able to be here last year, and we really missed seeing them! This also means the return of the Inappropriate Easter Egg Contest, and it seems there are an overabundance of possible themes for this year! I have a really great idea (if a highly rude and inappropriate one) for an egg, but my challenge is also the drawing of my idea, so we'll see if I have any luck with that. I've considered a couple of ways it might work out, but the plan in my head doesn't always translate to the work of my hands, LOL. So we'll see.

If you celebrate, I wish you a very Happy Easter! If you do not celebrate, I hope you have a wonderful last weekend of March, doing what you like. 

I'll see you next week!

27 March 2024

I Was That One


I was thinking about this the other day. See the image above? In my family, I'm the kitty in the middle. And it's always amused me how I'm sort of the "other" one in my family.

I have two older sisters, quite a few years older than I am. But they are a little over a year apart (aka Irish Twins). They are both very tiny people, both in stature and in weight. Not that I am a towering giant of flesh, but by the time I was about ten years old, I was taller and bigger than both of them. They both have brown eyes. I have blue eyes. Growing up, both of my sisters had thick, dark brown hair, with a natural wave. I had stick straight, very fine and thin blonde hair.

My middle sister was the "odd" one, skin-tone wise - where the rest of us have very pale skin with pink undertones, she has olive skin. When we would go on summer vacations to the beach, 4 out of 5 of us would be lobster pink, and one of us would have a lovely tan.

But otherwise, I was the one that was not like the others. And when I was a little kid, it kind of bothered me because people would always comment on it, and not in a necessarily sweet or kind matter. It was not unusual for people to see all of us together and say to me, "But you're so BIG!" or, "You just don't look like you belong to anyone, do you?" Now to my mother's credit, she would always tell me to just ignore people who were "ignorant enough to say ridiculous things." 

This kind of thing did make me very self-conscious a lot of the time though. Being reminded that I wasn't "tiny" or that I didn't look like I belonged to my own family was unsettling. Of course, as I got older I realized none of it mattered, especially to my family. 

Every once in a while, I'll overhear someone say something similar or equally as rude to a child or even an adult, and I just wonder if people ever hear themselves. Being generous about it, I truly don't think the people who said things to me about being the different one growing up meant to be mean or unfeeling. They clearly just didn't think about what they said - or maybe that's how someone had talked to them, and so they thought it was OK.

I'm not the nicest or the kindest or the most well-mannered person on the planet. Not by a long shot. But my experience has taught me to be more thoughtful when I make comments to someone. I try not to go with my first thought - which is a good thing since I admit that my first thought is not always the kindest thought ... I mean, I pride myself on never actually having said to someone, "When you looked in the mirror today, did you really think that you looked good?" 😂 (Of course, being a perfect example of someone who is ALWAYS perfectly attired makes me more critical ... )

I know that for a lot of people, getting older means that they are less filtered in what they say, do, wear, etc. And I'm not ever in favor of being so honest that you are cruel. I think we shouldn't always worry about what everyone else thinks of us, because that can make life miserable. But I hope as I get older, and my filters begin to drop, that I never turn into one of those people who tells a child they are too big, or don't fit into their family, or something that is both hurtful and none of their business anyway.

Don't tell people to be themselves and then criticize them for being different. 

21 March 2024

New York, Day Two

OK, here are the photos and blathering about our second - and final - day in New York last weekend. So you only have to hear about it one more time. 😊

Saturday was another perfect weather day. On our way to breakfast at our favorite bagel place, I snapped this photo - I love clock towers, and this also shows what a beautiful sky greeted us early in the morning.

After breakfast, we walked south a bit and saw them setting up for the "Jameson Experience" since it was St. Patrick's Day weekend.


We had decided to spend the day before we headed to get the train home in Greenwich Village. I've never been there, and The Tim had been there, but it was years ago. So we got back onto the subway, and headed south. 

We had a fabulous time, walking around, people and dog watching, and just going places that looked interesting. One of our stops was the Stonewall Inn, someplace I've always wanted to see.



There was construction stuff everywhere, and a sign said they were opening a Visitor Center in June 2024. I would love to go back and see that sometime.

Then we headed to Washington Square Park for some sitting, and people and dog watching. It looked like everyone was having a good day.



Even more trees and flowers were getting ready to bloom! There was music, and a kind of crafts market, and some chess matches happening. I think every single bird in the New York area was there, singing loud and clear.

Last weekend was the first Greater Philly Yarn Crawl, which I was missing. So The Tim found us a yarn store in Greenwich Village!


West Village Knit & Needle was a teeny shop with lots of yarn and lots of [primarily] needlepoint supplies. The women who worked there were so lovely, and one of them had her dog there, so we got a dog fix as well!

Even though I had my Lent intention not to buy things, I broke it. I'm glad I did, since I found things that are not available around here; I still told myself that it was OK since I was on a trip (I can justify anything if I need to! 😂)


I asked about local products, and they directed me to some Japanese knot project bags - I decided to buy the one with the cherries and bananas. It's a nice size, and the workmanship is excellent!

And then I also bought some yarn:


This is from Life in the Long Grass, a brand from Cork, Ireland. Look at that green! Nowhere around here carries this yarn in person, and I've looked online at it, but never bought any. I decided that since it was my birthday weekend, St. Patrick's Day weekend, and green yarn from Ireland, I just *had* to buy it! (See justification comment above.) And I already have a plan for what I'll knit with it, so I don't feel like I bought yarn just to buy yarn. The Tim said to just consider it my mini-yarn crawl.

We also came across a really cute, small, but packed with good stuff bookstore, Three Lives & Co. Bookstore. I saw this book and decided that it sounded interesting - and anytime an Edward Gorey image is involved, count me in!


The justification for this one is that it allowed me to support a small, independent bookstore. (That's my story and I'm sticking to it!)

The last place we stopped on our roaming around tour was Sullivan Street Tea & Spice Co. The smells were heavenly, and it was a really cute little shop with all kinds of interesting things to see (and inhale). This was where The Tim found some goodies.


We both love celadon pieces, and he found these pretty tea mugs, as well as this teabag holder.


Which is proof that I am not the only one in the family who likes cat/animal-themed things. 

All of these goodies fit just fine into our backpacks so we had nothing extra to carry with us on our way back to the train station. Neither of us had really planned to shop or buy anything, but we ended up finding items that were special, so what the heck?

Our trip back to Philadelphia on the train was very pleasant, and as much as we had a wonderful time, it was nice to be home with the kitties. A nice thing about an overnight trip is that unpacking is finished in about 20 minutes (I hate to unpack after a trip). I usually take St. Patrick's Day as a day off when I can, so I got to spend the day at home the next day, which was the perfect way to end the whole weekend. 

This weekend we will be staying put - which is a good thing, since it's supposed to be a day of heavy rain here tomorrow. I'd much rather spend a rainy day at home than have it interfere with plans on a trip.

I foresee a day of knitting, reading, and watching movies. I hope your weekend turns out to be one that agrees with you, too.

20 March 2024

New York, Day One

I had hoped to post this yesterday, but my plans were foiled. We had electricians in the house all day into the evening (a whole 'nother story), and no electricity and therefore no WiFi. I could have used the data on my phone to post, but I have a hard time formatting posts, etc. on my phone, so I decided to just wait.

DISCLAIMER: For anyone who follows me on Instagram or Facebook, you've already seen/heard all of this, so feel free to skip reading and carry on with your life.

Onward.

Anyway our overnight trip to New York last Friday and Saturday was absolutely perfect. No glitches, and ridiculously nice weather, so the travel gods were clearly smiling on us.

We got off the train, and immediately took the subway to the American Museum of Natural History. Neither of us had visited before, so we spent most of the day trying to see as much as we could.

Of all the stuff we saw, this one is the one I photographed. A mammoth model of a mosquito. Because - just NO. Mosquitoes are a major nemesis of mine, and of course *that's* the thing they create as a major part of an exhibit. 


We had a great time and spent the majority of the day there. Then we left and sat outside for a while in the nice weather, people-watching and petting dogs.

Modern entrance to the museum

Original entrance to the museum

As it was just so lovely, we decided to just walk back down to our hotel in Times Square. We had the best, prettiest walk through Central Park.

John Lennon Memorial in Strawberry Fields

The Dakota - where so many famous people, including John Lennon and Leonard Bernstein, lived (not together, hahaha!).


So many of the trees and flowers were budding - daffodils and crocuses were already in full bloom, along with forsythia. But it was just so nice to walk around and take different paths. 

We checked into our hotel, and relaxed for a bit, and then it was ready to find some dinner and go to the show we'd come to see. We were disappointed to find that one of our fave places to eat had closed, so instead we found one of the bazillion Chinese restaurants in New York, and had dinner there. It was actually kind of a treat for us, since our go-to place in our own neighborhood in Philadelphia closed last year, and we're still trying to find a replacement for it that isn't too far from us. Anyhow we ate a yummy dinner and then headed to the theater.

The ceiling of the Hudson Theater lobby - so elegant!


And there we were, waiting for the show to begin. The seating area of the Hudson Theater had been redone (I'm not sure exactly when) and the seats were actually very comfortable and you didn't feel squished in to the person next to you, which was really nice.

And the show - OMG. So much better than we could have even hoped for, seriously. If you enjoy musicals at all, find a way to see "Merrily We Roll Along" on Broadway - even if you have to take out a second mortgage on your house! It's just that good. We were both blown away. Every person, including the ensemble players, was incredible.

Then we headed back to our hotel, and decided we would get a cup of tea before going to our room. Well, we lucked out with that because the hotel lounge was hosting a jazz group with a singer. 


So we enjoyed our cups of tea while listening for about half an hour. Once they packed up, we figured that was a sign to head to our room and get ready to wind down. It wasn't incredibly late, but for the two of us, it was REALLY late! 😂 Plus we had been going since early Friday morning, so releaxing and going to sleep sounded pretty good. 

So the primary reason we had made this trip - to see the show - was well worthwhile, but we also had such a wonderful day all the way around. Needless to say, we both slept very well on Friday night ... 

Tomorrow I shall regale you with our Saturday shenanigans, before it was time to take the train back to Philadelphia. Spoiler alert: a yarn shop was involved!

15 March 2024

Birthdays, Train Trips, and Weekends

Hello! I just wanted to check in before we leave our house to walk to 30th Street Station here in Philadelphia for our overnight trip to New York. I didn't mean to be gone for so long, but this week brought more things going on than I had originally planned, and this was my first chance to write a post.


Milo the Koodle had a wonderful birthday on Monday - and has loved being spoiled a bit extra all week long. He is my Birthday Buddy, and it's fun to celebrate with him.

I had my birthday party (just us and the kitties, as usual) last night, and we had a good time. I also had a lovely day, since it was much warmer than March 14 usually is, so I was able to get outside and have an extra enjoyable walk. I was also doing some things in preparation for today and the weekend, but it was all stuff I wanted to do, and I was not on a tight schedule, so it was a lovely, quiet, pretty day.

Once we arrive in NYC later this morning, we are planning to visit the American Museum of Natural History for a couple of hours, since we can't check in to our hotel until 4 p.m. So we'll spend some time there, and then have a late lunch/early dinner, check in to our hotel and freshen up, and then head to the theater to see "Merrily We Roll Along." Talk about a full day! Then tomorrow, we plan to just head out for a nice long walk wherever our noses take us before making our way back to the Moynihan station to come home.

Of course, the combination of a change to our usual routines, and walking around outside for longer than usual will mean that we will need the rest of Saturday and all of Sunday to recover, LOL! But Sunday we will celebrate St. Patrick's Day altogether, without anyone having to be at work, so that will be the best. 

I hope your weekend is a good one, whether you are traveling, staying home, or even just staying in the house being cozy. I can't believe that Spring starts on Tuesday! After days of 60s-70s (F) degree weather, they are saying here that the first day of spring should have a high temperature of 45 degrees (F) - so I'm sure a lot of people will have a shock to their system. (Face it, we all know people who think that once the first day of spring shows up, they can put away all of their winter gear. As if.)

So enjoy, and hopefully I'll have some tales to tell about our trip the next time I show up here.

07 March 2024

Carrying On

Well there isn't much to report today. I am working on some projects around the house before I go for a walk. It's not sunny today, but it's not raining, so I can go outside and not get drenched, which is what happened on the way home from a Dr appt yesterday. 😒

We are going to see a play tonight, which both of us have been looking forward to seeing. We've seen this actor in two other shows he has done where he plays Groucho Marx, and I have to say, it's hard to think it's not really him. And it's always fun to go to the Walnut Street Theater, and wonder if you'll run into one of the Barrymores. (Not Drew, though.) We could both use some really good laughs and this will fit the bill nicely.

This week has been one of those kind of "meh" weeks up until today. Neither of us have been sick, but I've had a constant headache, and The Tim has been extra tired (which is saying something in his case, him being the Nap King and all). But by last night both of us were doing much better, so the rest of the week should be all good.

Tomorrow I'm getting my hair cut, which always makes me feel better, and then I am heading into Center City to get a small cake to celebrate Milo the Koodle's birthday on Saturday.


His actual birthday is on Monday (we actually know it, since he was born in a friend's back yard). But I work until 6 p.m. on Monday, as well as working all day Sunday. So we're going to have our celebration for him on Saturday, when we're all home all day. 😊 I'm buying his little cake tomorrow since Saturday it is supposed to pour rain all day, and that way I won't have to go out in that weather. 

The only knitting I have that has progressed at all is my pair of birthday socks. I am on the foot of the second sock, so if not sooner, the pair should be finished by the end of the weekend. The headache from earlier in the week meant that I didn't feel much like knitting, and couldn't knit for long when I did. But these will be finished in plenty of time to wear for my day, which was the plan to start, so I'm excited about that. My other two projects are somewhat languishing, but should start getting attention next week when the socks are no longer in rotation.

There's not much else to report. Work has been OK, but there's been a lot of turnover recently, which isn't surprising, since it's kind of the nature of the place. But it seems that a lot of people are suddenly leaving or are gone all at once, which is not surprising but you know how it is when the people you enjoy leave. We are busy getting ready for the Greater Philly Yarn Crawl, which begins next Thursday. Lots of special things will be in the shop for that. (I won't even be around, which kind of bums me out, but then again, I'm not there for a good reason and know I'll have a wonderful long weekend.) If you are in the area, you should go to at least a few of the stores that are participating, it should be a good time. The good part of it as far as I'm concerned is that I am now more familar with some shops not that far away that I'd like to visit sometime.

In other news, I have decided that after not being able to go for a few years, that I want to try and go to Maryland Sheep and Wool this year. It's been so long since I've gone that it will be nice and fresh again. Hopefully I can find someone to go, but if nothing else, I know that The Tim can be recruited to join me. It's not necessarily his first choice of something to do, but he ends up having a good time once he's there. And then he has enough snarky jokes and comments about knitters to get him through a few months ... 🙄

So that's it for today. Off to take my walk and then pay some bills, as my glamorous lifestyle just continues. I hope your day goes well, whatever you are doing or planning to do.

01 March 2024

Happy March!

Happy first day of March! It is starting here with a sunny but cold day, which is more than fine with me. It means that when I go outside to take a walk, it will be especially pleasant. And I definitely want to get in a walk today, since tomorrow is supposed to be continual rain all day. 

Well, the guys came yesterday to do the final measurements for our new front door. And it was somewhat dismaying. When we had the initial measurements, our door was already smaller than usual, so we had very limited choices, and only one that included any glass. I'd been hoping to have one of those panels on the top with a little fan window. But we settled for two little panes at the top. Then yesterday when they did the final measurements, it turned out the door was even smaller than originally thought. Which led to a choice between a door with almost ALL glass, or a door with no glass. Since the door is right on the street, we didn't want a glass door, since it would be like being on display. So now we'll have a door with no glass at all, which is disappointing. It will still look nicer than what we have, but you know how it is. You get excited about one thing, and have to accept another.

Now this is likely to be the only way we get an outside opening on our door ...

Definitely a first world problem, though, so I'll just get over it and be happy we can have a new door at all.

Guess what I'm doing today, though? Laundry - both in the washer and also in the DRYER!!!!! The Tim was able to get the venting set up when he got home last night, and so we're finally good to go. I already put a small load in the dryer earlier, and it dried in so little time, I was really surprised. This may just mean that laundry day will not go overtime into laundry evening, which is a real game-changer. Hallelujah!

So in the world of Operation Home Improvements, we so far have:

New roof - check
New dryer - check
Electricity hook up for dryer - check
New door - ordered, and not quite what we were hoping, but almost a check

Zooming right along, spending money like we have it! 😜
(kidding, we have saved a lot for these projects)

*****

Speaking of spending, I'm pretty proud of myself, because I'm not currently spending. Well, what I mean is that I decided that for Lent, I was going to give up buying things for myself unless it was something I actually needed. I wanted to get out of the habit of seeing something and thinking "Oh I can afford that, I'll go ahead and get it." Now it's not like I was buying big-ticket things, but I'd see a pair of earrings, or a shirt, or maybe even a really nice project bag, and buy it. I would be happy I had it, and always enjoy/wear/use it, but it was never anything I really had to have. So when I realized that Lent was coming along, I thought I would try to get out of that habit. Not that it was in danger of sending us to the poorhouse, but I wanted to get back into my former habit of giving something real consideration before deciding if I wanted to purchase it. 

And you know what is funny about it? There have truly only been a couple of things that I have felt any amount of regret about not buying. And that was only because they were things that I don't see that often at a good price. But neither item was something that I am suffering from by not having in my life. I feel like I'm getting back to my more reasonable self. And I'm saving a certain amount of money each week that I decided was an average of what I would normally spend to donate at the end of the season. So yes, I'll still be "spending" the same amount, but it means that I'm giving up something for Lent in order to give *to* something else, which pleases me.

(Lent gives me a good reason to try and get myself back to some positive behavior each year, a nice re-set, if you will.)

As for this weekend, I have to work as usual on Sunday, but other than that we have no particular plans. I'll probably finish catching up on the laundry, and otherwise I am reading a good book and have my knitting projects waiting for some attention. Rainy days are especially good reasons to just stay put and have a quiet time of it.

I hope you can enjoy your weekend, and have a chance to spend some time doing your own thing. Take care.

29 February 2024

Happy Leap Day!

 

For reasons I am not certain make sense, Leap Day pleases me. Maybe because it makes no sense in some ways, but in the overall sense of time we have it. And of course I am fascinated at the idea of only having your *actual* birthday date happen every four years. But in any case, I hope your Leap Day is a good one.

In about an hour, two guys are going to come and do final measurements for a new front door. Because of course our door is not a standard size and will have to be custom made. We have nothing custom-made for our persons, but our door will be custom-made. Seriously. We have the estimate and although it's a lot of money (who knew doors were so expensive? Not us!), it will be nice to have a new door that looks nice and is not drafty. Exciting times around here, people, exciting times.

Now for a dryer update. Good news: It is not only in the house, but is now hooked up to the electricity! Bad news: The venting still needs to be resolved because of course the old vent was no longer working. But The Tim said he got the stuff to install a new vent and get it working. So theoretically, I could be able to do laundry tomorrow and/or on Saturday, which is both a relief and quite exciting.

I tell ya, our lives are just one big thing after another these days, it's hard to keep up.

However, all of these things are making Alfie's life so much better. As far as he's concerned, the more workmen that come to the house and have to be here for a while, the better!  I was telling my friend Lisa that when the electricians came to hook up the dryer to the electrical supply, Alfie was in a bliss. When they went to leave, he followed them out of the house into the rain and then to their truck! Of course then we had about half an hour of him crying at the front door and pawing to get out, because they had left. So she saw this and sent it to me, and it cracked me up.


At least today he will have some chances to "assist" the people coming for door measurements, and I tried to tell him that the electricians would be back in late March for two whole days to rewire a bunch of stuff, but sadly, cats have no sense of the future. I guess it will be a nice surprise for him?

And that's the news from here. I hope your week is going well - I know Vera's is ending on a good note - congratulations, Vera! 

Enjoy leaping around today, and I'll check in tomorrow. 🐸

23 February 2024

Rainy Day Friday

Hello from dreary Philadelphia. The rain is supposed to stop soon, and then it will just be a cold February day. But it's Friday, so that means that once he gets home from work tonight, The Tim can hang and relax with us all weekend, which is the best.

To give you an update, the dryer arrived safe and sound. Much later than expected, but as long as it got here in one piece, we didn't care! Right now, it's sitting in the basement waiting until an electrician can come and get the connection set up and then I have a lot of laundry to do. 😊 But I have to be honest here - I actually enjoy doing laundry. I think the idea that it goes in to the wash dirty, wrinkled, and sometimes smelly, and then comes out clean and fresh appeals to my orderly nature. Having said that, I am grateful that doing laundry is not my life's work, because I am sure that would be exhausting and to some degree demoralizing. I mean, I face the fact that people get clothes and such dirty once a week; if I had to face it every day, I think I would, shall we say, feel less kindly than I already do towards humans as a whole ...

I worked for a bit on my Alpine Bloom Hat yesterday, and thought I'd share an in-progress photo.


I'm pleased with it so far. I did notice one spot yesterday where I stitched using the wrong color. But it was a few rows back, so if it really sticks out when the whole thing is finished, I'll duplicate stitch over it. I'm enjoying the knitting, even though it's not something I can do while watching a tv show or a movie, since I have to concentrate on what I'm doing. I feel pretty certain that I'll finish this by spring. If it fits my big head, I'll wear it next winter; if not, I'll probably give it to my great-niece Penn next Christmas as a gift.

******

This weekend we have no specific plans, other than cleaning up things that we had to move out of the way to make room for the delivery guys to get through the door opening down to the basement. We live in a nineteenth-century row house, and to say that the doorways are not wide would be an understatement. So everything had to be moved out of the way and the door had to be removed. They made it with maybe an inch on each side - phew! 

I also want to pay some bills (well, I don't really *want* to, but there are consequences if you don't pay them, you know!), and I'm thinking it may be time to bake some brownies. We haven't had those for a long time and it would be nice to have some treats.

And that is about as exciting as it will get. Both of us are unreasonably tired due to who knows what, so I sincerely doubt anything much more elaborate or strenuous will be undertaken. Sometimes you just need a break from your exciting life, you know?

I hope all of you have a good weekend, doing what you like whenever you feel like doing it. We'll see what next week brings. In the meantime, thanks for reading and take care.

21 February 2024

Hooray! It's Dryer Day!

Friends, relatives, and mere acquaintances - rejoice with me today, because after a year and a half of anguish and agonizing, at some point this afternoon between noon and 4 p.m., a truck from Lowe's will arrive, and a new clothes dryer will be delivered and the old dryer hauled away. To say I am excited would be an understatement. To say that I 100 percent realize what an adult kind of thing that is to be excited about would be true. But such is life.

Do not be surprised to see a post soon with a photo of said new dryer, extolling its virtues and full of stories of the slow death of the old dryer. Again, such is life.

In the meantime, I have been knitting. One of my projects is what I am calling my Birthday Socks. The colorway of the yarn is Pisces, and since that is my astrological sign, I'm making them to wear on my birthday. Whereas most people cast on a special project ON their birthday, I want to have these finished by then. 

I finished the first sock last week. I'm sure that my erstwhile (yet napping ) assistant was the inspiration to finish so quickly. I plan to cast on the second sock either later today (after the dryer delivery) or tomorrow, and I have every belief that I will be able to finish on time. 


Do you remember a little while back, when I showed you this WIP?

It is no longer a viable project. I kept going nearly to the arm division, and decided that it just was not what I was wanting. So I visited the frog pond, and have cast on for something else. I have a specific thing I'm hoping to end up with, and I think this time I'm on a better track.

I'm also going along pretty well on my Alpine Bloom hat, using the kit I purchased from Barrett Wool Co. It's slow going, but I'm enjoying it, and I just hope when it's all finished, it fits my big head! 😊

I shall do my best to get some decent photos of these items, once the sun sticks around for more than 20 minutes. Today would work, but my afternoon is dedicated to waiting for the dryer delivery, so I don't want to get started on taking photos and get interrupted, as it can be dangerous around here to leave a knitting project out of the project bag and unattended.


Yes, they are resting in a sunspot now. But the lure of a project laid out on the floor would be too much to resist, I'm certain.

And that's what is happening around here. I hope you are having a good week, and that your knitting is behaving well. 

Stay tuned for all of the dryer excitement! But please, don't let yourself get so worked up that you lose sleep until I regale you with the whole story ...