Monday, July 28, 2008

More Books

I've been reading up a storm over the last 2 weeks. Nothing heavy however. I've surpassed my goal of reading 50 books and am now working on reading 100 books this year. These represent books 55 -61.

First up are 2 more Aunt Dimity books by Nancy Atherton, Aunt Dimity Beats the Devil and Aunt Dimity: Detective. This series is thoroughly enjoyable. Lori is an American woman who inherits an English cottage from her mother's best friend Aunt Dimity. Aunt Dimity still inhabits the cottage in an old journal through which she communicates. Lori solves mysteries with the help of Aunt Dimity's advice. I'd class these in the "cozy mystery" genre and I'm looking forward to reading the rest in the series.

Next are 2 books in the Elm Creek Quilt series by Jennifer Chiaverini series: The New Year's Quilt, and The Winding Ways Quilt. I also enjoy this series - it's gentle storytelling, although by this time the books are also pretty formulaic and predictable. I listened to The Winding Ways Quilt, and thought it was perfect as an audio book. This book tells the "back story" of most of the supporting characters, and each story was very engrossing. In fact, several times I got so lost in a particular character's story, I forgot I was listening to a book.

The Weaver and the Factory Maid is the first book in a series by Deborah Grabien. Ringan Laine has moved into a cottage that is haunted and he and his girlfriend figure out how to lay the ghosts to rest. Each of her books is named for a traditional English folk ballad, and the story is based on the story told in the ballad. It was quite an interesting read.

The Amethyst Heart by Penelope Stokes was next. The story was trite, and the author's heavy-handed proselytizing was annoying. I think the best Christian fiction makes its point without preaching.

The next book I finished was Home by Julie Andrews. I enjoyed this memoir but was disappointed that it ended with Mary Poppins. She had a very difficult childhood, but she persevered. I was interested in her accounts of the difficulties she's had with her voice - I guess I never realized just how difficult it can be to sing professionally.

Finally, there's Twilight, by Stephanie Meyers. Since most of the girls in my classes were reading this book last spring, I decided to read it myself. I can certainly understand why they're attracted. I didn't hate it, but I can't say I love it. It was too long, and dragged out, and frankly, I got bored about half way through. I won't put it on my classroom shelf, because while there's no explicit sex in it, it teeters on the edge. I didn't find it objectionable as an adult, and I think for older teens it's not objectionable. I don't think 11 and 12 year girls need any more titillation that is already out there. I put in the category of it's okay with me if you read it, but I'm not going to give it to you.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Finally - A ME ME MEME

I've been slow to respond to this meme after being tagged by Cathy. Too many thunderstorms kept me off the 'net!

Here are the rules:

1. List these rules on your blog.

2. Share 7 facts about yourself on your blog.

** I went to Cuba when I was 13 months old! I have no memory of this trip, but there are lots of pictures. I look like I was having fun most of the time. We were visiting my father's family.

** I spend most of my free time knitting, reading, or on the internet. Occasionally I do housework, but only when necessary!!

**I have lived in CT, NJ, OH, CT again, with summers in IN, and in NH for the past 32 years.

** I chartered a sailboat for our 25th wedding anniversary. We invited my cousin and his wife to join us, and we spent 10 days sailing the British Virgin Islands in the sailboat. It came with a captain and a cook! We spent most of our time snorkeling.

** I've worked at Burger King, as a library page, as a switchboard operator, a church secretary, an office manager, a bank teller, a bookkeeper, a special ed paraprofessional, and for the last 14 years as a 6th grade teacher. When I retire from teaching, I'd like to work as a church secretary again. I really liked being a switchboard operator too - back when you wore headphones, and actually plugged wires into the switchboard!

** I almost failed algebra in 8th grade. I got a D on the final exam only because my teacher took pity on me! I aced geometry though, freshman year, and actually ended up taking algeba 2, analytic geometry and trigonometry, and calculus. I even took a college calculus class and 2 other math classes in college. The only math I really understood though was geometry and game theory!! I'm good at memorizing algorithms and formulas!

** I was married jointly by my UCC pastor and a rabbi in an interfaith wedding. We married in the DAR Chapter House where the women in my family were members. The best man was Roman Catholic, my maid of honor was American Baptist, my bridesmaids were Presbyterian, and my musicians belonged to a Swedish Covenant church. I've always said we were multiply blessed! We actually got married twice in the same ceremony - both clergy did their complete liturgies!

3. Tag 7 people at the end of your post by leaving their names as well as links to their blogs.

Here are a few people I'm tagging- lots of other have already been tagged. If you would like to join the fun, feel free, and let me know!

Panhandle Portals
NH Knitting Mama

Friday, July 18, 2008

Friday Five- What's In a Name?

If you are a regular reader of Songbird's blog, you know that "The Princess" has requested a new name. Her older brother changed his "secret identity" a while back and now this lovely young lady is searching for a new name on her mother's blog. This got me to thinking. How do we come up with all of these names? There must be at least a few good stories out there.

1. So how did you come up with your blogging name? And/or the name of your blog?

I knit. I teach. Therefore knitnteach. I've used dswgr6 from the start of my email/internet experience. My initials and grade 6 combined. Not very original.

2. Are there any code names or secret identities in your blog? Any stories there?
Not really. I don't identify people by name, usually just by identity - i.e. my husband, elder son, younger son, and knitting buddy. I keep thinking I ought to think of clever code names, but never quite get around to it.

3. What are some blog titles that you just love? For their cleverness, drama, or sheer, crazy fun?

Blog names that have attracted me and kept me as a reader:
Knitting & Other Nonsense in Edith's House
Possible Water
Don't Eat Alone

4. What three blogs are
you devoted to? Other than the RevGalBlogPals blog of course!

Blogs I read daily include a number of the RGP blogs - you probably know who you are, plus
The Yarn Harlot, of course,
Don't Eat Alone
Panhandle Portals

and it's not a blog but I check in daily with a number of groups on Ravelry.

5. Who introduced you to the world of blogging and why?

I don't remember! Probably the Yarn Harlot, and Cathy's Grace Notes. I found these blogs early on and decided I wanted to blog too!

Bonus question: Have you ever met any of your blogging friends? Where are some of the places you've met these fun folks?

No, I haven't --Yet! I'd love to meet up with them.

A Lazy Week?

I can't say there are too many VISIBLE accomplishments this week. I did finish my Lace Ribbon scarf - or at least finished the knitting. I have to block it but need to borrow my knitting buddy's blocking board, and she's in Los Angeles visiting her son. (And yes, for those of you who read my blog, her son and my son hang out together sometimes - in fact, 2 of my son's housemates are kids he grew up with here in our little NH town.) Anyway. Mostly I relaxed and I can't tell you how good that feels. I've been staying up til midway through the 11 pm news, knitting while I've watched DVD's of Dark Shadows (a gothic soap I adored as a teenager), Battlestar Galactica season 1, or season 1 of Deadwood. During the day, I've gone to the Wellness Center to get in my required exercise, puttered in my garden/yard, read, and listened to audio books while I've sat on my porch and knitted. Yesterday I started this, my new knitting project.

Nantucket Jacket
Originally uploaded by dswgr6

It's Norah Gaughan's Nantucket Jacket. I'm using Berroco Pure Merino in a periwinkly blue. The yarn is so soft and springy and the pattern is just challenging enough to be interesting without being frustrating. Not exactly mindless knitting, but very enjoyable. I'm listening to Winding Ways Quilt by Jennifer Chiaverini, and it's a perfect foil to my knitting. So, while I haven't accomplished some of the goals I've set myself for the summer (organizing my house, repapering a bedroom, etc.) I'm doing a great job on the biggest goal --- relaxing and recharging.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Books #52-54

The first book I read was Miracle on 49th Street by Mike Lupica. This is a middle school novel set in Boston and NYC. Molly's mom has died and she is living with her mom's best friend in Boston. Just before her never-married mom died, Molly found out that her dad was the star of the Boston Celtics. Molly's mission is to convince the MVP that he is indeed her father. This book was well-written, though from my point of view, predictable. I think my 6th grade girls especially will find it engrossing. I'm considering using it this year along with another Lupica book Heat.

On the adult side, I read Rumer Godden's Coromandel Sea Change. This is one of hers I hadn't read before. It takes place in India, probably in the 1950's. I found the plot a bit dated, but the writing is wonderful.

Finally, I LISTENED to Janet Evanovich's Fearless Fourteen. I wanted to knit on my porch and I wanted to read. Voila! Audio books. I enjoyed the experience, but wish I had read the book instead of listened to it. Because this is a series that I love, and have read, I have developed very strong character visualizations. The reader's interpretation of Ranger drove me nuts, thus taking a bit of the pleasure out of the book. I also got a bit tired of all the "bad" language --- it's not horrible, but I never noticed it while I read. Despite all that, the plot was good, the potato cannons and the monkey made me laugh out loud, and I got a lot of knitting done. I think that in the future, I will choose books to listen to in which I haven't invested quite so much imagination.

Speaking of bad language, I guess I shouldn't complain. I started watching the first season of Deadwood, and while I really like the story, every other word of the dialogue is a "F" word or worse. I don't get it. I guess I wouldn't mind so much if the vocabulary was a little larger, but to hear the same 3-4 words used repeatedly is a little much!

I'm still working on the Lace Ribbon scarf. I think I'm on the last pattern repetition. I hope so -- I love the pattern, but I'm tired of it. And I'm basically a monogamous knitter. 99% of the time I only have one project going at a time, although I have been known to have a pair of socks going at the same time as big project for portability's sake. But this scarf was supposed to be the portable project, which it is. It's been to Los Angeles, Connecticut, and Rhode Island in the last 3 weeks!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

A Visit to the Toadstool

We are blessed in this region of New Hampshire to have an amazing bookseller called The Toadstool. There are 3 locations, and it's an independently owned bookstore that competes with a Borders. The Toadstool has been around for about 30 years, I think, -at least as long as I've lived in this neck of the woods. Each of their locations is different, but all of them offer an amazing selection of books, an extremely knowledgeable staff, and a wonderful browsing atmosphere. They also are wonderful to teachers. Teachers get a discount for classroom books ranging from 20%-25% off.

This morning 2 of my teaching colleagues and I met at the local shop to browse for books for our classrooms. We have the grand total of $139 each to spend on our classroom libraries or to round out our novel sets for language arts. I already knew what I wanted to buy, but I had fun browsing the shelves for great middle school novels. I will be purchasing a classroom set of Mike Lupica's Miracle on 49th Street. I already have a set of his novel Heat which I used last year. My kids, girls and boys alike, enjoyed Heat, but I wanted a novel with a female protagonist as a counterpart to it. So that eats up most of my portion of book money.

I did buy a couple of other titles - books that either intrigued me or that I know are popular with the middle school set and I just haven't read them yet. (With my own money of course!) I got a copy of Stephanie Meyers' Twilight because I know that the girls are all reading this. It's not what I would choose to offer 6th graders, but I want to stay current. I also bought The Mysterious Benedict Society on the recommendation of my incoming 5th grade niece. She and her brother have led me to some great books! Finally I found a book called Theodosia and the Serpents of Chaos that intrigued me. It's set in London in 1906 and appears to be a combination of adventure, magic, and mystery. Amazon describes it as mix of Nancy Drew and Indiana Jones. So I have my next set of books to read!

We're headed to Providence this afternoon to celebrate Elder Son's birthday #28. It's hard to believe - he's as old as his dad was when we got married. Where does the time go!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Vacation Week #2

I spent most of the week since we've been home from LA trying to get my days organized. I'm hoping to have a yard sale later this month, so I've started working in various rooms to get that organized. We had carpeting put in last winter, and in the process dislodged much junk that has just been piled in corners. Now that school is out, I'm trying to go through the stuff and either toss, put away or earmark for the yard sale. On top of that my husband is moving his office out of the house and has piles of boxes in at least 2 rooms. I feel like we're perpetually moving!

I've done some more knitting on the Lace Ribbon Scarf mentioned previously. It's now about 25 inches long. I need to start another project, but I can't decide which of the many I have queued on Ravelry to do --- Seville Jacket? Nantucket jacket? Vintage Vest? Or should I do some more socks? Or what about all the yarn I bought to knit another Modern Classic? I can't decide so I just knit on the scarf!

I had 2 really vivid, weird dreams last night. I was with a group of teachers and we were in some sort of school or retreat center. It was very late at night, and we were in a lounge. We were holding a worship service of a sort, and a colleague with whom I'm presently at odds with, held up a clump of eggplants (like a cluster of tomatoes) and suggested we all go around the group and use the eggplants to inspire a prayer or share an image it brought to mind. She asked me to start and I began to share. As I started to say what came to mind, she interrupted me and said, "No, it shows togetherness and community." I started again, and again she interrupted me. Finally I got out "Yes, the eggplants together show unity, but what it suggests to me is that I am not part of that group. I am separated from the group and am other." The 2nd dream also involved school, teachers and students. We were hiking along a deserty mountain trail and the bell rang for the end of recess. I was following a group of students back. The shortest way back was down a very steep cliff above a shoreline with lots of rocks and a rough sea. The longer way was less steep, but we couldn't see how it would get us to where we were going. Most of the kids took the steep path but I followed the group that took the longer, more gentle slope. As we went down, there were side paths but all of the routes were really difficult. One student (someone who I'd never had as a student, but had worked with him in an afterschool activity) decided to take one of the short paths. He got to the water's edge, and decided to jump in and swim the rest of the way. When he jumped in, he hit his head and slid to the bottom of a tide pool. From where I was up high, I could see him lying under the water, unconscious. I couldn't get to him, so I started shouting for help. Across the way, another teacher heard me and she started scrambling down rocks to help. That's where the dream ended!!!

I know that I have a few issues that I'm trying to figure out. I do feel like "odd man out" all the time at school, and I am trying to decide what do to about that. I don't feel like I have any options. I also am "at sea" about church at the moment. I haven't been going to services lately. I burned out in leadership roles, and have not been able to warm up to our interim pastor. I'm not interested in going to a different church; I love the people, the denomination, the way my church lives out its understanding of Jesus' Way. I just can't seem to go sit through a service. So I'm praying about that, and trying to decide what to do there too. I guess in some ways I feel "odd man out" there too, because most folks seem to love the way things are right now. Any ideas out there??

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Reading Review

Now that school's out, I've really been reading up a storm. As usual, it's mostly fluff. However, the first book I finished was Michael Pollan's In Defense of Food. His premise in this book is that few of us are eating food anymore. Instead we eat food products. Just about everything we eat is processed, and if we took our great grandmother to the grocery store, she wouldn't recognize many of the products there. Since the dawn of "nutrition science" just after WWII most of our basic foods have become products, with preservatives, additives, enrichments, etc. His advice is to shop the perimeter of the store, read labels, join a CSA where possible, shop farmers' markets, grow your own where possible, and just be aware that most of what we put in our mouth is the PRODUCT of a food industry instead of the original food itself. He also argues that it really doesn't matter which "diet" you choose, as long as you eat in moderation, and you base your food choices on food , not product. Thus his opening words "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants." This is the 2nd book of his I've read. Several years ago I read The Botany of Desire which discussed the relationship of 4 plants with humans - tulips, potatoes, marijuana, and apples. That was a fascinating read!

Next up on my finished list are two nostalgic re-reads: In this House of Brede by Rumer Godden, and Dawn's Early Light by Elswyth Thane. I read both of these in junir high/early high school and found them sitting forlornly on the library shelf while I was browsing. I had really enjoyed them as a teenager and wondered if they stood the test of time. In the House of Brede deals with a successful businesswoman who leaves her high-powered career to join the Benedictine nuns. Dawn's Early Light is set in colonial Virginia, just as the Revolution breaks out. Julian Day is a newly arrived from England and gradually becomes converted to American ideas. He befriends an abused child, Tibby Mawes, and their lives become intertwined. This is the first of a series of books featuring Julian and his descendants and I remember loving this book. It's still a pleasant read, but definitely not as gripping as it was when I was 14 or 15.

A very different type of read was Sacrifice by S.J. Bolton. This is a thriller/mystery set in the Shetland Islands, in Scotland. The mutilated body of a young woman is found buried in a field. Was she murdered as part of a cult sacrifice? The plot revolves around some ancient Shetland legends,and it was a very gripping read. The author created a very plausible world and evoked what felt like an authentic atmosphere. This was a first novel so I will be looking for a second one in the future.

Another "different" kind of book was historical fiction, set in colonial Massachusetts. This was called Bound by Sally Gunning. Alice is indentured as a house servant at age 7. All is well, til she turns 15 and is abused by a member of the household. How she handles the abuse and the consequences of her choices make up the rest of the novel. I was disappointed in the book, mostly because of the remoteness of the narration. I never felt a connection with any of the characters. The author did a good job of illustrating the institution of indentured servants.

Finally, pure fun! Aunt Dimity's Good Deed by Nancy Atherton. This isn't the first book in the series, but it's the first I've read. I thoroughly enjoyed this, and look forward to finding others in the series. Aunt Dimity is actually dead, and sends messages to her adopted niece through a journal. While the premise sounds silly, it's actually quite fun --- kind of a Ghost and Mrs. Muir feeling, if you remember the TV series with Hope Lange.

That's it for this installment. It's time for another trip to the library. And in case you think I just read fluff --- I also read Time magazine, US News and World Report, the daily paper, Sojourners magazine,
and a few other heavier things!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

The 1st Week of Summer Vacation


We took a short trip to Los Angeles to visit our younger son - an extended weekend trip of sorts. We flew out Thursday and came home on the red-eye Monday night. On Saturday, the 3 of us went to the Temecula Valley to visit 3 of the more than 30 wineries located there. As you can see from the photo, we made a few purchases. We visited Ponte Family Winery, the Wiens family winery, and Mount Palomar. DH and I had been to Temecula 3 years ago and couldn't believe how much the area has grown in those few years. The last time we went there were only a handful of wineries on the main road. We sampled wines at all 3 wineries, and made some purchases at all 3 of them. I really enjoyed the Mount Palomar winery the best -- knowledgeable pourers, great ambience, and great wines. I bought an "everyday" wine Shorty's Bisto red and their signature Solera Cream Sherry. I wanted to buy a couple of others but my budget was shot! At least now they ship to NH so if I get so inclined, I can order on line. I really like the Ponte Zinfindal port too. At Wiens, we sampled a really nice orange champagne which my son bought. I loved their white port, but had already bought port.

We also visited the Getty Villa in Malibu. This is a smaller museum than the Getty Center, built as a replica of a Roman villa to house Getty's collection of Roman and Greek sculptures and antiquities. It was beautiful there, and it was really interesting to see sculptures and pots that are pictures in the resources I use with my students.

We had some great meals too --- Brazilian at Fogo de Chao, Mexican at Don Antonio's, omelettes at Santa Monica's Omelette Parlor, and an amazing lobster and goat cheese frittata at Literati II, where my son's housemate is the sous chef.

I love LA, but just to visit -- too much traffic, smog, and threats of wildfire for me to live there.

I also started a new project - The Lace Ribbon scarf from
Here are a few photos.

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I'm using Classic Elite Alpaca socks on size 3 needles. It's an easy to remember pattern, but since it's fingering weight it's slow going! I did several inches on the plane ride back from LA.