Friday, April 29, 2011

A Month Of Truly Fabulous Books

Let's do this a bit differently this month. Instead of separating my books by type, I'm going to list them in order from least favorite to the best of the bunch.

6. I Think I Love You, Allison Pearson (audio): Confession, I only listened to about an hour of this book. Honestly, it is not the sort of book I would normally pick up, but it had come with stellar reviews and I had really enjoyed a Fresh Air interview with the author. Less than 30 minutes in I realized that I couldn't relate to anything at all in the book. The world of a 'typical' teen girl deep in a crush on a pop star is not one I ever inhabited - or wanted to inhabit. The main character was therefor more alien to me than actual aliens in science fictions books.

5. Swamplandia!, Karen Russell (eBook): Hmm, what to say, what to say.... OK, this is Russell's first novel and it was basically an expansion of a story from her brilliant short story collection, St Lucy's Home For Girls Raised By Wolves. It was not my favorite story (St. Lucy's's phenomenal.) but I do love Russell's writing style...and I can honestly say that I loved the first half of the book. For me it disintegrated after that for two big reasons. First, I saw one of the major plot points coming from a mile away and it annoyed me. Second, there was little to no resolution in the end as it wrapped up in a very quick manner which contradicted the slow, leisurely pace of the rest of the book. It was ultimately a huge disappointment.

4. Little Bee, A Novel, Chris Cleaver (audio): The bad news is that this end also disappointed me, leaving more questions than answers. The good news is that the rest of the book made up for it. The characters alone are so unique that they make the ride more than worthwhile. Besides, I am fully willing to admit that my own preference for nicely wrapped up endings flies in the face of a broad literary tradition of making people imagine their own ever afters.

3. American Rose: A Nation Laid Bare: The Life And Times Of Gypsy Rose Lee, Karen Abbott (eBook), It was fun to learn more about such a colorful character. Abbott's back and forth storytelling style was a bit disjointed sometimes, and occasionally I had to work harder than I would have liked to figure out what she was saying (A case of style taking precedence over substance when it should have been the other way around). All in all, though, an enjoyable book....and definitely worth reading in print form because of the incredible photos!

2. The Invisible Bridge, Julie Orringer (audio): Thoroughly satisfying. If I had one wee complaint it would be that the main character seems possessed by incredibly good luck which gets him both in and out of situations in a slightly incredulous way. Having said that, I adored the characters and was swept up in a WWII story that was both familiar and unfamiliar. I couldn't put it down...and wound up staying up way too late more than once to find out what would happen next.

1. Blackout and All Clear, Connie Willis (audio for both): I practically turned cartwheels when I discovered that my library had acquired the audio versions of all of Willis's books. She's a brilliant writer, and I love her time travel books. Fortunately I managed to check out both of these books - which are really parts one and two of a bigger story - at the same time so that I could listen to them back to back. I fully recognize that 42 hours of audio is a daunting task, but my oh my am I glad it worked out that way! England in the Blitz, Dickensian names/characters, beautifully researched detail, stories of ordinary people in extraordinary times, and a thrilling plot....I laughed AND cried my way through both books, and was sorry when they actually came to an end because it meant I had to say good bye for now. In all honesty, these were the best books I've read in a very long time.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Happy Easter!

From Our Family To Yours....

I hope you've had an Easter filled with beautiful things,

a sense of peace and rebirth,

and, of course, an Easter Bunny or two!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Happiness Is

a really strange cat who likes to clean your entire hand when she gets happy

silk....glorious, glorious silk!

tea and knitting with good friends

Starlight tickets for the summer to THREE great shows

roast asparagus - lots of it

a new teapot and teakettle

the option to sleep in as late as I want on Saturday mornings

Shetland lace

children who are capable of entertaining themselves

books - in any form

Thursday, April 21, 2011

My Budding Poet

Tonight we attended the Second Grade Share Fair...a much anticipated event.The theme of the evening was "Poetry" We were delighted that our Princess had volunteered to read one of her original creations to an entire gym full of second graders and their extended families. Such a brave and talented girl!

After the program, we were sent to the classrooms so that our children could share their poetry books with us.

And of course, I knew immediately that I wanted to share my girl's work with you all. The books are rather cleverly made of brown paper bags, which allow for two pull-out pages. The last page is an author page. You'll be glad to know that my daughter credits her cat as being her inspiration and concludes her bio with, "She has goofy parents."

Princess's reading teacher is going to enter her poem "Willow" into a competition. We're just happy that she's so comfortable sharing her creativity with us all!

Once again, we feel very blessed to have had such wonderful teachers at our school. We couldn't ask for a better education.

And this year we have TWO special teachers who've guided our daughter through the year.

Thank you VERY much Mrs. Heath and Mrs. Nichols!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Fit For A Princess

Ordinarily, I would have tried to get some nice photos of the Princess wearing her shawl...but as soon as the blocking pins were pulled the child claimed it and I haven't seen it since. This particular shawl was a special request. My first Damson was claimed by the Pixie, and my Princess wanted one as well. (You would think they were around someone who wears shawls all of the time, the way they carry on....ahem.)
I did the first Damson on a size 6 needle with an exaggerated loose hold. The second was done on an 8, and that exaggerated hold just kind of happened. It therefor wound up being considerably bigger. (To be fair, the little one has been worn a lot and I haven't reblocked it. This photo is thus not quite an accurate comparison.)

I should have taken measurements before I let the Princess whisk it away...but I didn't, and so you just have to look at it against the couch for a decent idea.

If I ever catch the child wearing it, I'll take a picture.

Claudia Hand Paints fingering yarn in Strawberry Latte - 4 skeins*

Addi Turbo - US 8

April 13-16, 2011

Yes, it was that fast!

And by the way, I still absolutely LOVE the edging and bind off for this shawl. Not only does it look great, but it also is a perfect way to get a nice, stretchy edging on the shawl.

*The yarn has been a thorn in my side for years. When my LYS started carrying Claudia I fell head over heels for the colors and bought a LOT of it. Then I made a pair of socks...and within two washings the color had bled so badly that it was almost unrecognizable. A shawl followed shortly thereafter, in a deep brown that stained my hands badly during the knitting process. I took most of the yarn back to the store, and they graciously exchanged it for me. This particular batch, though, I'd had longer than the rest and I didn't want to take advantage of the store's generosity. SO, I've been holding on to it for years, knowing it had to be a shawl so that it wouldn't be washed but once or twice that way and yet also aware of the fact that there was too much variegation in the colorway for lace. Damson was a perfect solution!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Little Lamb, Little Lamb...

Honestly, I didn't notice Duncan's smile until a rather unusual number of comments started popping up on this picture in my Facebook Album. Jacobs are supposed to have a black muzzle, and so his lack thereof is problematic. We are probably going to weather him and keep him for wool.

In the last week I have:

Edited, burned to disk and backed up to online storage over 7,500 photos.

In the process realizing that I do have the most beautiful girls in the world and that my own health has come a long, long way in a relatively short amount of time.

Knit all but the last 5 rows of a beaded shawl....which I will finish just as soon as the last bag of beads arrives in the mail.

Knit 3/4 of a shawl for my Princess, fulfilling a promise and making her very, very happy.

Tried unsuccessfully to find letter writing stationary. You've no idea how sad this makes me.

Spent a fabulous morning with my BKB. We don't get to spend enough time together anymore....and it would have been even better had a third friend been able to make it.

Realized that I - who have never had this problem before - have second sock syndrome when it comes to knitting fancy socks. Odd, that.

Learned the ins and outs of my new iPad, which has become indispensable. Kudos to Apple for making a product so easy that even I can figure out how to use it.

Picked up the silk yarn for an exciting new shawl project.

Rediscovered my love and joy with the Princess Shawl. I'm happy to report I'm back to work on the edging, and it just may be finished before my children graduate from college.

Loved on my children.

Appreciated my husband.

Considered the future.

Felt blessed and content with the life which I have been given.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Thursday, April 7, 2011


Whoops! I forgot to show you the Princess's new kitten!

Her name is Shamrock, and she was technically the reason why we went to the Central Missouri Humane Society. Following the Guinea Pig debacle, we had given the girls time to grieve and then allowed them to chose what they wanted to do next. My Princess wanted something more durable, and family circumstances were such that a cat made more sense than a dog. A spur of the moment decision took us to CMHS, and after a family meeting that evening we had our decision. I went back to fill out the adoption paperwork the next afternoon.

My beautiful Opal (who remains camera shy) was - ahem - not a part of the plan. I just couldn't get her out of my mind...and hours after filling out the adoption paperwork for Shamrock I called CMHS and told her we wanted her too.

And we are incredibly happy to have them both.

I'm not overly fond of kittens, prefering greatly to adopt older cats.

But...well, she's just so darn cute and she has the loudest purr in the house right now. Besides, Shamrock has done a masterfull job of winning over my husband's old cat, and the constant kitty games are a source of great amusement for all of us. (Opal even joins in once in a great while!

Our house feels complete again.

The basket held all of my sock yarn leftovers for my blanket. It was about 3/4 full of yarn, and apparently made such a great bed that Shamrock just couldn't resist. I shooed her out of that basket probably a half dozen times yesterday. Today I gave up and relocated the yarn to another basket.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Big Pink Thing (At Last) And Then Some

Just before Spring Break I teased a new finished project, and here it is! Juneberry Triangle, pattern by Jared Flood Yarn - my own handspun merino fiber from Greenwood Fiber Works 2 ply, fingering weight, using about 5.5 oz. Needles - Addi Turbo US 9 Size - 62 inch wingspan and 31 inches deep March 19-28, 011 I love EVERYTHING about this shawl, and I can't say enough good things about either the pattern or the fiber.
The color is the most true in this picture. It's a non-reproducible colorway made with leftover dye from other projects. You can see the variation in this picture - mostly rose with shade variations and some brown in it.
I can't wait to wear my new shawl next year!
And in case you were curious....
The blanket has come out of it's basket again, and I've been working steadily on it as well.
I estimate I've about 1/5 of it done.
When I step back, I can't believe how beautiful it is!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

March Books

I hope you enjoy my book lists as much as I do! Print: (All three recommendations from Books On The Nightstand) 1. Mr. Chartwell, Rebecca Hunt. I was intrigued by the premise - a young woman lets a room to a gigantic black dog - and I knew that ultimately this was a book about depression. I did not expect to be so completely caught up in Hunt's narrative that I would still be turning passages over in my mind weeks later. Hunt has really captured something special in this book - and I think it's a must-read for anyone who's ever been touched by depression. (By the way, this was also my first ebook, read on my Dad's kindle!) 2. War & Peace - I started a yearlong read along. I read it in college, but don't remember a word because I was only reading it so that I could say that I had. This particular translation is absolutely beautiful, and I think at some point I'll have to write more about this book. It's too bad it has the reputation for being a slog because it really is an incredible book. 3. Major Pettigrew's Last Stand, Helen Simonson - It really is Austin for the modern day, and if you don't find yourself falling in love with the Major and Mrs. Ali than there really is something wrong with you. I needed a fun book after so many serious topics lately, and that's exactly what I got. In fact, I pulled an all-nighter with it because I just couldn't put it down! Audio: 1. Kraken, China Mieville - Selected it on a whim when I discovered that my library's selection of sci fi and fantasy had grown quite a bit over the last few months. Knew many of my friends like Mieville. Hated the book. In fact, didn't finish it. I think perhaps it lost a lot in the translation from print to audio...and it was at times very difficult to follow. 2. Cutting For Stone, Abraham Verghese - I fell in love within a few minutes. Quite simply, it's one of the best books I've read in a long time, and I urge you all to go out and buy/check out a copy right now! (Another stellar recommendation from The Books On The Night Stand Podcast.) I find I'm actually at a loss as to what to say about this book...other than to gush silly nonsense about how great it. It has definitely stuck with me in a very good way. 3. You Don't Look Like Anyone I Know, Heather Sellers - Another I didn't finish, although this time I think I can blame the publicity machine behind this book. A few hours into it, I realized I wasn't hearing anything that I hadn't already heard in interviews or read in the press. That was disappointing as face blindness is a fascinating topic and Sellers does have a knack for storytelling. Podcasts: 1. An Affair at Styles (Classic Tales Podcast) by Agatha Christie - Oddly enough, I've never read Christie before, so this was an entirely new experience. I enjoyed it very much, but must admit that this type of book qualifies as fluff for me, and I probably won't remember the details for long. 2. A Woman In White (CraftLit), Wilkie Collins - Again, I had listened to an audio version of this about a year ago, so I made the decision to skip the text in the podcasts and just listen to Heather's commentary. There just aren't enough hours in the day, and this is a book I know too well to really enjoy the reread right now.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Missed You!

We've had a fabulous week on the farm with the baby lambs and my fantastic parents.

I have lots to share with you, and will be back to regular blogging tomorrow!