Friday, January 25, 2013

Finishing and Starting

I'm starting off with TWO book reviews today!  Yes, TWO.
Ferris Beach by Jill McCorkle:  I loved this book.  It is a coming of age story that takes place in the early 1970's.  Katie is an only child, shy, self-conscious and lonely -- then Misty and her family move into the neighborhood from Ferris Beach (an exciting and wonderful place to Katie).  Misty and her mother and exciting and outrageous, and everything that Katie wants to be.  They become fast friends.  Then something happens that changes all of their lives, and we see it all unfold through Katie's eyes.  It is a heartbreaking, funny, touching story with family secrets, teenage angst, adult angst and mother-daughter dynamics.  The writing is wonderful and the author did an excellent job of developing each character (lots of them) so I really understood them.  Excellent!

Notorious Nineteen: A Stephanie Plum Novel by Janet Evanovich:  I've read every book in this series and this one did not disappoint.  The continuing saga of Stephanie Plum, amateur bounty hunter and the troubles she encounters not only with her "skips" but also in her conflicted love life (Ranger vs. Morelli).  Lots of fun and excitement and a little drama thrown in.  I was starting to feel that maybe these books were starting to be a little too familiar (same things happening, just different people) and that maybe I wasn't enjoying them as much.  But, when I read this one, I still read it quickly - as I usually do her books, since the pace is always fun and exciting - and found myself wanting to turn the next page.  I think I can relate it to a great TV show that's been on for years that you love - you may have an idea of the style of the show and the kinds of plot lines, but it's still fun and exciting to watch because you are familiar with the characters.  And maybe have a little allegiance to them too.  And I'm still waiting to see if Stephanie will ever choose between Ranger and Morelli.

[P.S.  Short public service announcement.... Did you know that if you click on the links I provide and buy something from Amazon, I will get a tiny kickback from your purchase?  That also goes for if you click on my side bar of "My Favorite Stuff".   Even if you purchase something other than what's on my list, it will count -- you just have to get there through my link.  That's what helps this be my third part time job!  End of commercial.   Ooh, except thank you for your support of my blog!]

On to Knitting News:
I'm starting more projects.  Without even touching any of my languishing unfinished projects.  That's all I have to say about that.
I started the Trousseau shawl.  Here is the pattern picture:
Mine looks like this:
I'm making a modification in that I'm making it larger than shown in the first picture.  That one ends up just below the shoulders and I think this one will go closer to the waist.  I think.  I hope I did the yarn calculation correctly...

And I started the Little Coffee Bean Cardigan:
pattern picture
 Mine will be in these colors:
I know!  Totally outside my box (which is mostly purple or blue/purple).  But I love it.  Nice and bright and great for a baby.

Both of these will be for classes, hopefully in March.  And I'm also going to work on a little spring/Easter project too.  Details later...

In News from Home:
They told us this would happen but now we have proof:

Our wood floors are getting darker.  You wouldn't know it to look at them but when we pulled the rug back it was really noticeable.  LOVE. OUR. WOOD. FLOORS!

Phoebe now loves her new bed:
See?  Doesn't she fit in it so much better than the other?  So much cozier!

And today, Paul comes home after being in Bangor, Maine for work since Sunday.  So, I'm surprising him with his favorite:
Pot roast!
Mmmmmmm.  I put in sweet potatoes and purple potatoes, carrots and onions.  And a McCormick spice mix thing that will make the gravy.

And now I'm off to print out clue #3 of my mystery sock knit-a-long.  I'm just loving these knit-a-longs!

Monday, January 21, 2013

Back in the Saddle

I procrastinated all week.  I just didn't want to re-knit that whole mitt that I had knit wrongly.  I knitted ANYTHING else I could find.  Including the rest of my sock knit-a-long clue:
Coming along nicely, don't you think?

But finally, on Saturday night, I sat down to re-knit and get back in the saddle and in the knit-a-long race (which it isn't, really).  The next clue was coming out Sunday morning after all. So, by Sunday afternoon, I was back to where I should be.  Then, luckily, the next clue was short, so that got finished today!:
Front and back.  The left one is the one I re-knit --- with the eyelet pattern now in the right (and also correct) spot.  The mitts are almost finished!  The most recent clue had us finishing the top of the hands and thumbs.  Next clue will apparently be to address the provisional cast on. I. LOVE. THEM.  I wasn't too sure how they'd be -- I thought they might be too lacey-froofy --- but they aren't.  They are nice and fashionable and somewhat casual and I can't wait to wear them.  AND, i love the yarn I used -- Cascade 220 Sport Superwash -- so nice and soft and just wonderful to knit with (although a tad bit splitty).

In the meantime, while I was procrastinating getting the left one re-knit....  Paul's friend came to pick up his car - the one Paul was painting.
It matches his truck!
Know what's great about this?
Bye-bye Rob's car....

Hello GARAGE SPACE!!! I missed you so.....

In other fascinating news around here.... I got Phoebe a new bed. One that is deeper and sooooooo much cozier:
Apparently not.

And we are enjoying our winter view:

Next post:  A book review!  It's a good one too.....

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

...the behinder I get

Here is my progress on my Downton Abbey knit-a-long:
I made some great progress during naptime yesterday (my neice and nephew's, not mine). I'm not sure if I told you, but the knit-a-long clues have been for the right mitt.  Since I, and many others, like to do the other one at the same time, I started the left mitt too.  There is a "right" and "left", so there are some modifications to be made, for example where the thumb goes.  That there mitt on the right (the "right" mitt) is now knit with the thumb gusset complete!

I went to the left mitt to figure out what modification would need to me made to get the thumb in the correct place and when I turned the mitts over, this is what I saw:
These should be mirror images of each other.  They aren't! That there mitt on the right is the "right" mitt and is right (as in correct).  The "left" mitt is so terribly wrong.  The little patterned section is supposed to be way over on the right side of that left mitt, not in the middle.   Apparently, when I made that modification - the one where you place the little eyelet holes lengthwise along the underside of the mitt, where we will place some yarn/ribbon to cinch them up - I did it wrong.   BECAUSE.... when I read the knit-a-long discussion on Ravelry, the instructions said that for the left mitt, instead of doing the lacey bit at the end of needle 1, I should do it at the beginning of needle 3.  So, I went ahead and did at at the beginning of needle 1.  I'm so great at following instructions.

There is no fudging this one.  No way to hide it somehow or just keep going.   No saying, "No one will notice."  And so:
I'm behind again.  This project is currently in time out, thinking about what it's done.  I'm currently working on the sock knit-a-long and when I'm done with that clue - as long as I'm doing it correctly - I will pick it up again.  Hopefully to get it done in time for clue #3!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Book Reviews, Some Knitting and Some Whining

FINALLY!  Some book reviews for you....
The Twelve Tribes of Hattie by Ayana Mathis:  I heard about this book on the Books on the Nightstand podcast.  The hosts had not even read it but had talked to so many booksellers and others who had read it - and they were all raving about it - that they wanted to mention it.  So..... my first inclination was to think that I wouldn't get it since it was just out and, therefore, in hardcover, so it would be too pricey.  But then, the stars aligned and I had a coupon and a one day discount thing, so it only cost $10 and I had to get it.  (and on Amazon - see below -it's not too bad either!)   What a great book.  I loved it.  First of all, the "tribes" referred to in the title are Hattie's twelve children.  Each chapter is titled for each of her children and at different, progressing times from 1925 to 1980.  Hattie came north to Philadelphia from Georgia when she was 15 to make a better life for herself.  It didn't turn out as she had planned - she meets her husband, August, and gets pregnant almost immediately - and we learn about her and her struggles, starting with a traumatic event in the first chapter,  through the various chapters about each of her children.  We see through all this that she never really recovers from that event and how it has affected her and her children's lives.  The writing is excellent and really draws you into the story.  I've read some reviews on Amazon and agree with some that mention a couple of the chapters leave you hanging and wanting some follow up that we don't really get.  But to me, this was minor and didn't affect my overall feeling about the book.
Click here to get it on Amazon:

I also finished Let's Pretend This Never Happened: (A Mostly True Memoir) by Jenny Lawson.  I talked a little bit about this book some time ago.  I started this book back in September but put it down about 3/4 of the way through as I got a little overloaded on the writing style.  Jenny writes the blog The Bloggess and is hysterically funny.  The most charming part about her blog is her way of running away with a topic, getting totally off-topic with run-on paragraphs that show us her self-admitted twisted and anxiety ridden mind, and then coming back around to her point.  Her book is very similar and reading chapter after chapter can get a little trying.  That being said --- I really liked the book.  She talks about her colorful childhood in very rural Texas and some of the things she thinks lead to her eventual anxiety disorder and depression diagnosis, then how she met her husband and built their family life, all in a hysterical blathering.
Click here to get it on Amazon:

In Knitting News:
I'm already behind for knit-a-long number 1- the Downton Abbey one. [ I'm putting a picture of my progress, but I don't know where it will end up since I'm writing this on my iTouch and it's not very clear how I'm supposed to insert a picture...]

I'm blaming it on the printer. On Sunday, I went to find the second clue and then remembered that I can't print from my net book. Don't ask me why I forgot - again- since I've had it for 4 years and have never been able to. Mind you, I COULD have been printing for at least the last 2 years since we got a wireless printer.... So, I decided that THAT was the day to figure out how to print wirelessly from my netbook. Eighty hours later (but still on Sunday....) I got it figured out. All of this as an explanation as to why I'm behind in the knit-a-long. That eighty hours seriously infringed on my knitting time. I was hoping to work on the second clue during the second episode but couldn't do that until yesterday. Now I'm about halfway through on both mitts. BUT, I still have lots to do on knit-a-long #2 - the socks- before the next clue comes out Friday.

And in other news-and-reasons-why-I-couldn't-knit..... I was painting trim around the living room window and the stair risers. Blech. I am so sick of painting. When we lived in Vermont we painted every room (and kitchen cabinet) in the house. We moved here and painted every room. Paul pointed out that that was over 5 years ago now but that just doesn't matter. I have an aversion to it. AND now that we put in the wood floors, I don't like the living room paint do we are going to re-paint. Paul isn't looking forward to it because I'll whine my way through the whole thing..... "this is BORING" (because it will be).... "argh! I spilled it" (because I will)...... "do we HAVE to do two coats?" (hoping he will say no, but he won't) ... "let's take a cookie break" (because we'll need one... Especially him!)

Saturday, January 12, 2013

The BEST cookie ever made

You HAVE to make these.  I think they are the best cookie I have ever made.
They are called Caramelitas from the Cookies and Cups blog. (click back there for the link to the recipe)  Basically, they are an oatmeal chocolate chip cookie with a Rolo inside.  You would not believe how well the oats, chocolate and buttery caramel go together.  LOVE. IT.
While they are a tiny bit time consuming - you need to chill the dough and freeze the Rolos, then completely wrap the Rolo with the dough, so things won't get messy - it is well worth it.
Example of things getting a little messy --
oozing Rolo.
I brought them to the knit-a-long at The Spinning Room today and they were a big hit with lots of requests for the recipe. (So, here's the recipe ladies! Click up there on Caramelitas...)

Speaking of knitting... it's been knit-a-palooza around here.  I told you about Knit-a-long the First in the last post.  Soon I will be starting the second mitt to catch up to where I am on the first, before the next clue comes out tomorrow.  I hope. (read on...)

Knit-a-long the Second - the Mystery Sock V "April Showers" with The Knitter's Brewing Company - started yesterday.
And now I have both toes started.....
It's hard to see but those are the beginning of little flowers that will be on on the top of the foot.  I used Judy's Magic Cast On for the toes, which is quite fiddley especially when trying it for the first time (and sometimes the twenty first time in my case) but an excellent cast on since it makes for a seamless toe! Still a ways to go for this clue, and I need to be done with it by next Friday.  Seems do-able.  For now. (read on...)

Knit-a-long the Third - The Great American Afghan started today at The Spinning Room, hence my bringing the awesomely delicious goodies  to share -- that's another link to the recipe in case you missed the other one.  We are starting with square three and despite everyone having some trouble on row 5 of the chart - cables, a bobble and more cables - it seems to be fairly easy and those troubles will work themselves out quickly as we get used to the pattern.  Here's mine so far:
Just finished row 5 - bobble smack dab in
the middle of the row up there on top.
This knit-a-long is a little less rigid, so I can take my time with it.  Which is good since I've got deadlines for the other two!  That's a crazypants lot of knitting and I still want to get back to my unfinished Harumi Cardigan since I'm supposed to be working on those unfinished ones.

Ok, but here are some finished things to show you.  Here is a picture of the finished Gelsomina wrist warmers being worn:
This is still a terrible picture.  But I do like how they came out - very pretty cables and a nice accessory.

I also finished the Ravine hat!
(Caramelitas cooling in the background... that's
another link to the recipe)
I don't think it's really my style - not even sure I have it on the right way - but I brought it to the shop and it looked great on the owner of the shop, Deirdre.  (der.  should have gotten a picture of her...)

While I was frolicking at the yarn shop today, Paul was making this mess:
Then when I got home I had to help him clean it up by getting the white car ("my" car, with no motor and a stuck brake) back into the garage.  This involved using the ATV because of the aforementioned no motor and stuck brake.  I was in charge of driving the ATV to push/pull the car so Paul could "steer" (using that term loosely because of the aforementioned no motor and stuck brake). And, as usual, my use of the mechanical devices usually ends up with some sort of destruction:
Didn't quite clear the doorway...
But, on the bright side, Paul showed me the veritable treasure trove of parts he located in the garage attic that happen to be perfect for "my" car....
I know - I was speechless too.

Next post:  a book review! (finally.... and I think I'm already behind on my 2013 reading goal....)

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Knitting Coordination

Check out this picture:

Notice anything?  The other day, after I had lined up my knit-a-long projects, Paul asked if I was trying to match my yarn to our plates.  I had no idea what he was talking about and then he pointed to the dining room.  Ha.  Guess I like those colors.

Have I ever told you about this most incredibly awesome kitchen gadget ever made?:
My pineapple corer-slicer
I. Love. This.  LOVE!  It's the OXO Good Grips Stainless Steel Ratcheting Pineapple Slicer (click there to get it on Amazon)  It makes the totally annoying task of preparing a pineapple so fast and easy.  Here's a closeup of the end that goes on the top of the pineapple:
Then you just twist it until it comes out the other end.
Then, while it's still on the thingamagig, I slice it from top to bottom all the way around, then dump it into a bowl and wa-la, perfect bite sized pieces.  Did I say... LOVE?!

In Knitting News:
So, I did get to finish one unfinished project.
Full disclosure: I had already counted it as done - back in April -when it wasn't quite done.  Why? Because of the "finishing" bit of sewing that needed to be done of course.  Took me 15 minutes to sew up the spiral.  Seems I'll never learn that some finishing just isn't that bad.  But buttons always will be.

I finished my Gelsomina wrist warmers:
Currently drying next to the fire.  Once it's done, I'll take a picture of it on my wrist.  They are very pretty and I like them.  However, they are slightly snug for my wrists.  I have stretched blocked them as much as I could and they are still snug on me.  They could be made a little bigger, but then the pattern wouldn't match up at the seam.  Some people would be bothered by that.  I wouldn't.  But I'm not making them again.

Knit-a-Long the first - the Downton Abbey one - started this past Sunday.  The first episode of season three was excellent.  love, Love, LOVE Violet the Dowager Countess.  She's got some real zingers.   We now know the project will be some fingerless gloves, based on the ones Violet wears to dinner parties.  Here is my first glove so far:
Provisional cast on and a rosebud lace pattern.  They apparently will go halfway to the elbow.  They also have an eyelet section on the backside the will have yarn run through so you can cinch them up and make ruching (gathers).  Not sure if they will be my style but it's fun anyway!  Each clue will come out on Sundays before the next episode.

In Book News:
Upped my 2013 Reading Challenge goal to 45 books.  At lunch with Paul I was telling him that I was shocked that I had read 13 in 4 months and he looked at me like I was nuts.  He said, "You are ALWAYS reading."  But all of a sudden I feel like the book I'm reading is taking me forever to get through!  Hopefully by my next post, I'll have a review of it for you....

Sunday, January 6, 2013

2013 Reading Challenge

I decided to take the Goodreads 2013 reading challenge.   For those of you who don't know, Goodreads is a website for the reading community - a place for you to keep track of books you've read, are reading or want to read, chat in various groups about books, and give or read reviews about books.  And, a la facebook, you can "friend" people and see the books they are reading etc. Very fun and the solution to my problem of forgetting all the cool books I've wanted to read because I've never taken the time to find an organized way of writing them down and then not lose the paper I wrote them down on.

Their monthly newsletter came out recently and indicated they do this yearly challenge. I'm supposed to pick a target number for the amount of books I'd like to read in 2013.  Here's how clueless I am:  I said to myself, "Hmmmm.  I think I should choose 12 - one book a month.  That's a good goal and one that would not really be a stretch." Don't want to set myself up to fail the first time out, right?  So I clicked on the link and it brought me to the sign up page where it directed me to put in my goal.  Then I noticed in little parentheses under the space, it says, "You read 13 books in 2012."  What?????  Wow, I should adjust my goal a little higher, right?  Then, I said to myself, "Wait, I didn't even know about Goodreads until well into 2012."  And I clicked the link that would show me the 13 books I read.... since August.  Thirteen books in four months?????  That's a book a week, more or less.  Who knew?  So, guess what my goal is now?  26 books.  For some reason I just didn't want to push it.  Wonder what that says about me?  After writing all this, I may change it, but I just can't imagine putting down 52 books as a goal - that seems like so many books.  Yes, I realize it makes sense if I read 13 in four months, but come on, 52 books?!?!?  That's crazypants.  Right?

And speaking of books, I forgot to show you the books my sister-in-law gave me for Christmas (thanks Anita!):
Elizabeth Zimmermann's Knitter's Almanac which is a book of 12 classic Elizabeth Zimmerman patterns (one for each month).  But the best part about her books are the stories she tells about her life, in and around talking about the patterns.  She believed knitting should not be stressful or hard and often talked about knitting as if one could do it lickety split, with no worries at all.  One of my favorite quotes from her:  "Really, all you need to become a good knitter are wool, needles, hands and a slightly below-average intelligence.  Of course, superior intelligence, such as yours and mine, is an advantage."  And my really most favorite quote is, "Knit on, with confidence and hope, through all crises."

The Principles of Knitting is an updated, reprinted book that has absolutely everything you want to know about knitting.  It's about 3 inches thick.  An excellent reference book. Love. It.
On to knitting news:
I'm ready and waiting:
.... for all my knit a longs to start.  SO excited for all my knit a longs, that last night I wound my yarn and got everything ready.  Up at 5am today and the Jimmy Beans Wool blog still hasn't posted the first clue for their Downton Abbey mystery knit a long that starts today.  What slackers!  Ha.  The yarn for that is on the left.  The yarn in the middle is for my Knitter's Brewing Company mystery sock knit a long that starts this Friday.  And the yarn on the left is for the Great American Afghan knit a long that starts this Saturday - we are starting with square #3 since it is apparently one of the easier ones.  Seriously, when will I be knitting my unfinished projects that I vowed to finish?

Oh, and speaking of that....  I was at The Spinning Room yesterday and saw my friend who is also knitting the Umaro blanket.  Here is mine:
It's actually about twice the height now which is still not
very far along...
We got the yarn (over a year and a half ago!) at the same time and had a very informal lets-knit-this-at-the-same-time-but-it's-not-a-formal-knit-a-long thing.  She's now done and it's gorgeous!  Now, I'm all antsy to work on that.   But I have one more wrist warmer and a hat to make for class samples.  Whine, whine, life is rough right?  I'm happy to have a hobby I love.

Finally, a couple of pictures of winter around here:
If only I knew how to photoshop out those
power lines!

No idea how that's working...

Friday, January 4, 2013

Back to Normal

Ha!  I should have written "Normal" (in quotes) since it's all relative right?  The crazy awful pre-holiday and holiday weeks are over and we're getting back to our somewhat regular routine.  Whew!

We went to my sister's last weekend to finally celebrate Christmas with them.  Despite driving through a frickin' snowstorm in the Berkshires - of course, because it's always snowing there when it isn't snowing anywhere else - we had a nice time.  Knitted presents were loved!
Socks for my nephews and my sister
Here'e a not-as-blurry close-up:
My dad's slippers:
He didn't want to put them on again by the time
I got my camera out!
And I forgot to take a picture of my mom with her present, but here it is:
A cotton face cloth that I gave her with
some Burt's Bees face soap.
Ooh!  And check out my mom's creative packaging in the face of having no tape:
Duct tape!  I love it!

Our drive home that day was uneventful and even kind of pretty:

In Knitting News:
So, now I'm knitting like crazy - bet you thought I was done with that after the holidays - for upcoming classes to teach.

I made the Pretty Thing cowl by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee (aka The Yarn Harlot - click there for her blog):

And the Winter Leaves Scarf for a basic lace knitting class:
Now I'm working on, and hoping to finish at least one by today, the Gelsomina wrist warmers:
After the wristers I've got one more project, the Ravine hat, and then I'll move on to my next projects.  One of them is the Great American Afghan knit-a-long at The Spinning Room.  Here is a sneak peak at 2 of the 5 (or so) colors:
That lighter color is actually more of a blue/green
and is really pretty.  The darker color is
actually lighter.  Ugh, will try for a better pic...
Oh, and next week starts the Mystery Sock V:April Showers sock knit-a-long!  Remember that?:
And then, I'm going to get back on track with finishing my unfinished projects.  Seriously, I am.  No more procrastinating.  No getting distracted by other cool new patterns........  Like this mystery knit-a-long to go along with season 3 of Masterpiece Classic: Downton Abbey starting this Sunday!

In Book News:
Yay!  Lots of Barnes and Noble gift cards for Christmas!!! So excited since I have a long list of books that I want to get.

I finished Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay. Wow.  What a great book.  It starts in 1942 Paris with the "roundup" of Jewish residents to later be brought to Auschwitz.  When the police come to her house, a young girl named Sarah hides her brother in their secret cabinet, takes the key, and tells him she will come back for him.  She has no idea that she and her family are being taken away from their home for good.  The story then fluctuates back and forth from her story to a present day journalist who is researching the roundup, and how their stories end up intertwining.  Very engaging and the author does a great job of relaying the story while going back and forth in each chapter.  Highly, highly recommend!  Here is a link to Amazon:

I just started another GREAT book that I'll tell you about next time....

That's it for now.  Except for one last picture of Mandy that I took several weeks ago, since she was, again, creatively using her pillow: