Saturday, January 31, 2009

Knit Two

Knit Two Knit Two by Kate Jacobs

My review

rating: 2 of 5 stars
This continues the story of the knitting group that gathered at Walker and Daughter. Georgia Walker has died, and this book picks up several years later. Each of the people introduced in the previous novel are dealing with their grief in their individual ways, but few have "moved on", including Georgia's daughter Dakota. It took me a while to reconnect with the characters, and at a few points I wanted to shake a few of them into their senses. It was an okay read.

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This past week seemed to drag by even though it was full of events and busy-ness. I started the week by attending the school board meeting and ended it by going out to a fabulous dinner with friends. I had an hour long physical therapy appointment, 2 water aerobics classes, a snow day, a 2 hour delay day, and a 2 hour association meeting after school. Oh, and I had a formal observation done too. And in between I taught, did my PT exercises, ran errands, and tried to sleep.

Because of all the days we missed from the ICE STORM, our school board has decided to add 30 minutes to our teaching day from Feb. 9 to May 8th (55 days!). This is what a majority of middle school and high school teacher wanted to have happen, though that wasn't necessarily true of the elementary schools. The 30 minutes will be added at the end of the day. In our school that means that our core classes (math, reading/la, science, and social studies) will have 10 minutes added to them, while a skills class will be cut by 10 minutes. We're happy about having 60 minute classes. Of course this has an impact on our contract which was the topic of the 2 hour association meeting. At any rate it will make the next three months of school VERY interesting.

On the physical therapy front I've been dealing with a pinched nerve combined with a shoulder impingment and possible carpal tunnel syndrome. So I had to figure out how to schedule 8 appts before 4 pm with a longer school day. The toughest part of the PT is that I have to severely limit my knitting. I am having major withdrawal symptoms.

My observation went well, and I got good feedback. Of course WHILE I was teaching the lesson, I felt like nothing was going well. I had not been formally observed for over 5 years so it was especially nerve-wracking.

Finally last night, we went with friends to a fabulous restaurant, tucked away in the woods. The food is superb and the ambience and service are excellent. It's definitely on the upper end of affordability for us, but it's well-worth it once or twice a year.

Next week should be a little less crazy -- no meetings scheduled, only one appointment, and fingers crossed, no weather incidents to cancel school!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

On Pins and Needles for the Reading Round Up

I've been getting quite a bit of reading done so far this month. I've already lapsed into the area of "light" reading, but between that and knitting, it's how I relax. I haven't been quite as able to knit as I'd like either. I apparently have a pinched nerve and/or some carpal tunnel issues, along with a chronic shoulder impingement that's acting up, and knitting is exacerbating the symptoms. I'm in the "diagnostic" stages of determining what's going on. I have constant pins and needles and numbness in my right hand, a severely aching shoulder, and some issues with a ring finger joint locking up. All of this started just before Christmas, and I am slowly making my way from my PCP to a specialist to physical therapy and so on.

So the first book this week is on my Middle School books Read:

A Drowned Maiden's Hair: A Melodrama A Drowned Maiden's Hair: A Melodrama by Laura Amy Schlitz

My review

rating: 3 of 5 stars
As I was reading this novel at school, one of my 6th grade girls stopped by my chair and gushed, "Oh I LOVED this book! It was SO good!" She is an avid reader, and is truly gifted in the areas of reading and language arts. I was still at the beginning of the book so I just said, I'd let her know how I liked it when I was done.

I'd like to say I loved it too. I can't say that. It was only okay as far as I was concerned. But I can see the appeal for some of my readers. The author bills it as a melodrama, and that is certainly what it is. It's 1908-1909 and Maudy is an orphan in the cliched bleak orphanage. She's the girl who's always in trouble, not pretty in the classic sense, and a bit of a rebel. She is adopted by 3 spinster sisters who turn out to be spiritualists and are looking for a young girl to assist them in the "family business." Maudy is glad to be away from the orphanage, and is enjoying a somewhat luxurious life, but is puzzled about why she has to be a "secret daughter" and is concerned a bit about what she's eventually asked to do. This novel has all the ingredients of a melodrama, and the author does a nice job of using them all. I think that this book will appeal to those stronger adolescent readers with a leaning towards books like "The Secret Garden" and "The Little Princess". I think that if I had read this book as a 12 year old, I would have gushed over it too.

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Next on my list is another China Bayles installment:

Chile Death (China Bayles Mystery, Book 7) Chile Death by Susan Wittig Albert

My review

rating: 3 of 5 stars
This was a lighter-hearted installment. McQuaid is recuperating and starting to join back into everyday life by judging an annual chili fest. There's a death, an investigation, and romance is back on track. A quick, easy read.

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This next book is also part of a series == I bought it last year when I was reading the series, and apparently never read it. I found it under a stack of books I was moving. So I read it "out of order" which I hate to do. I still enjoyed it!

Aunt Dimity Digs In Aunt Dimity Digs In by Nancy Atherton

My review

rating: 3 of 5 stars
This was fun! The twins are 4 months old, Lori is overwhelmed by new motherhood, and Finch is in an uproar! The vicar has promised the schoolhouse to an archeologist so he can use it as his base, but has forgotten Peggy Kitchener's need for it for the Annual Harvest Festival. All of the villagers are taking sides in the ensuing battle royale that is developing, and a mysterious document is stolen from the vicar's home. But never fear, here comes Francesca, a gorgeous nanny, and of course Dimity to bring order to the chaos Lori is embroiled in.

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Sunday, January 18, 2009

2009 Books - #9

Love Lies Bleeding (China Bayles Mystery, Book 6) Love Lies Bleeding by Susan Wittig Albert

My review

rating: 4 of 5 stars
This installment in the China Bayles series was really good! Susan Wittig Albert throws a very realistic twist into China's relationship with McQuaid, and the title of this particular volume is particularly apt in several ways. I don't want to say anymore! I can't wait to read the next book.

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Saturday, January 17, 2009

Jennifer gave me this award which surprised and humbled me. Thank you! Be sure to visit her blog. I've been blogging now for just about 3 years, and my blog has evolved during that time. It's kind of exciting to "meet" people in other parts of the world and get to know them in this way. Maybe I'll have a chance to meet some of my new friends in person in the future.

The sentiment behind the reward is this: "These blogs are exceedingly charming. These kind bloggers aim to find and be friends. They are not interested in self-aggrandizement. Our hope is that when the ribbons of these prizes are cut, even more friendships are propagated. Please give more attention to these writers. Deliver this award to eight bloggers who must choose eight more and include this cleverly-written text into the body of their award."

I nominate these friends whose blogs I read regularly:


and these bloggers who have been nominated by others, I second! I follow their blogs too.


Thursday, January 15, 2009

A Sensitive Book on a Sensitive Topic

Totally Joe Totally Joe by James Howe

My review

rating: 5 of 5 stars
This book is awesome! And I found it entirely by accident. I picked up a bunch of new books in my library, and recognizing the author as the "Bunnicula" author, grabbed this one. This book is VERY different, and deals with a much-needed, though sensitive, topic. Joe is in 7th grade and his teacher has assigned a year-long writing project -- an alphabiography. For each letter of the alpabet, Joe has to write about himself. Early in the alphabet, we learn that when Joe was little, he preferred Barbies to GI Joes, and hated the trucks his grandparents gave him. We soon learn that Joe has always known he's different, and in fact, he knows that he is gay. As he writes in his diary/alphabiography he's always been attracted to guys, loves E.T., thinks Keanu Reeves is hot, and has a crush on another 7th grade boy who likes him back. Joe is not afraid to be "different" but he is picked on and most of his classmates know, at least on some level, that Joe is gay. His boyfriend also knows he's gay, but unlike Joe doesn't have a supportive family to lean on. I like the way the subject is dealt with -- with great sensitivity and honesty. I would love to find a way to teach with this book. I am glad it's available in the library.

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Sunday, January 11, 2009

Knitting Content

From knitting2

This is the first project I've finished (except for blocking and facing). It's from Family Circle Easy Knitting and it's called the Modern Classic. This is the 2nd time I've knit it. The first one was knit in the summer of 2005 and it kept me occupied while I took the night watch at my mom's death bed. It was the first knitting project I'd done in over 20 years and the simple stockinette helped me center myself, and stay present for my mom during that bittersweet summer. Every night for almost 6 weeks I sat with her during the long watches of the night and as she drifted off into sleep, I knit. She never saw the finished sweater; and it was really too big, but I still wear it schlepping around the house. This sweater fits really well, although despite all my efforts, the sleeves could still be shorter. I need to do a final block, and I am looking for the grosgrain ribbon I need to face the front bands. I have been to Joanne's, Michael's, 2 Walmarts, and an independent fabric store to no avail. Either they have the color but not enough (I only need two yards of 7/8 inch ribbon) or it's too narrow, or they don't have it. I wish now I'd gone with my first idea and made the bands a teeny bit wider and put buttons on it!

From knitting2

These are Spirogyra, from I used Berroco Sox. They took me 4-5 evenings of about an hour each to complete. They were easy to knit, and they make me smile when I wear them!

From knitting2

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Two Middle School Novels and A Mystery for Adults

Here are two books I read from my school library this week. The first will appeal to younger readers while the second is aimed at the older middle school reader. I think both books are interesting, and will appeal more to the girls than the boys. I still continue to be encouraged by the number of good books out for our middle readers that also appeal to adults!

The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy by Jeanne Birdsall

My review

rating: 3 of 5 stars
An enjoyable book that will appeal to some of the girls in my 6th grade class, especially the "younger" ones. Four sisters spend a summer in a rental cottage on a large estate. They make friends with the snobby estate owner's son, get into all sorts of scrapes, and make new friends. It's a gentle story.

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And the second recommendation is this:

Peeled Peeled by Joan Bauer

My review

rating: 3 of 5 stars
Hildy is a journalist, working for the high school newspaper. Her family owns an apple orchard and she splits her time between school and the family business. Her small town is experiencing some scary times that are centered on the town's alleged haunted house, and fear is building in the town. At the same time, the mayor has announced a new economic initiative that threatens the orchards of some of the town's growers. Hildy uses her journalism skills to get to the bottom of things, and she and her friends "break the story." Joan Bauer creates believable teenagers, engaging stories, and I think this story will appeal to many middle school girls.

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And for the grown-ups I offer this next book in the China Bayles series:

Rosemary Remembered (China Bayles Mystery, Book 4) Rosemary Remembered by Susan Wittig Albert

My review

rating: 4 of 5 stars
This is book #4 in the China Bayles series. While I did end up suspecting the correct villain, I was surprised by the means, and I wasn't sure of my suspect until close to the end. I really like this series. The characters are believable, the plots are twisty enough to confound the casual armchair detective, and I'm always interested in how all the relationships evolve in Pecan Springs. Pecan Springs is alive in my imagination, and I enjoy spending time there.

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Friday, January 9, 2009

I Forgot!

I forgot to mention this book, one of the last I read for 2008. I like books like this -- I learn something new, since the book is based on historical fact, it's engrossing, 0and it has that gentleness and genuineness I like.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer

My review

rating: 4 of 5 stars
This was a gentle, enjoyable read. A writer, looking for an idea, stumbles upon a love story, and becomes part of a small community on the island of Guernsey. The time is just past WWII and she discovers how a small community survived German occupation by creating a literary society. She also discovers that love knows no boundaries. The entire novel is based on a series of letters from the writer to various islanders, to her editor and her friends, and from the islanders and her friends back. Through the various letters, a very vivid picture of the community emerges.

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Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Book #2

I guess this should be partly 2008 since I started it during Advent. But I am counting my books when I can add them to my finished shelf.

The First Christmas: What the Gospels Really Teach about Jesus's Birth The First Christmas: What the Gospels Really Teach about Jesus's Birth by Marcus J. Borg

My review

rating: 3 of 5 stars
Another interesting offering from Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan. I am one of those who take the Bible seriously, but not literally. I would be interested in the reactions to this book of folks who are encountering these theologians for the first time. I don't think I learned anything brand new, perhaps just stated a little differently. The stories are not diminished in any way. In fact I feel as though the truth of the stories is enriched and enhanced.

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Monday, January 5, 2009

Mixed Emotions

We've been out of school since Dec. 10 due to the ice storm and the normal holiday break. So it was with some resignation that I went to bed last night, lamenting the end of leisurely mornings and flexible schedules. At the same time, I look forward to catching up with my students, and my colleagues. So, this morning, my alarm didn't go off at 4:50. I suspected that it might not work so I'd set a backup alarm, but I ended up not needing either. I woke up all by myself at 4:15 and watched the last minutes of sleep tick away. As I poured myself my coffee, I got the news -- due to some freezing rain, we're starting the day off with a 2 hour delay! Normally I enjoy those, but I'd prefer to know about them before I was dressed and before the adrenaline started flowing. And this has been the strangest school yeat. Between weather, test schedules, odd holiday placements, election day, etc. we haven't had 2 weeks in a row of uninterrupted school. We haven't gotten a rhythm going and it feels like we're constantly "starting over" or trying to get a routine going. Looks like things aren't going to change anytime soon.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

First Book of 2009

I hope to read a little less "candy" this year, and a few more "whole-grain" books. Here's a start towards this goal!

Safe Passage Safe Passage by Ida Cook

My review

rating: 3 of 5 stars
This was a very interesting book. Ida and Louise Cook were two British sisters born in the early 1900's. They were addicted to opera and were early "groupies" of the leading operatic voices of the 1920's and 1930's. Their "claim to fame" however, was the work they did to rescue nearly 30 people, one at a time, from Nazi Germany and Austria in the late 1930's. Neither sister was wealthy; they were resourceful, energetic people who saw that something needed to be done, and they figured out how to raise enough money to support nearly 30 individuals, and provide a safe way for these people to escape Germany. This is a memoir written by Ida Cook who later became a successful British romance author writing under the name Mary Burchell. The author evokes the prewar war years quite successfully, and I learned quite a bit about the opera world.

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Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy New Year


Seems like yesterday we were celebrating the new millenium. I remember the worry and angst about whether our computerized society could handle the switch from 19-- to 20--. Would everything come to a crashing halt because the computers wouldn't recognize the year? There was lots of hoopla in the media about how to prepare for the possibility that you wouldn't be able to access your bank accounts or credit cards. I remember taking some cash out of the bank and putting it in a safe place, just in case. I forgot I had done so, and not too long ago, I found the hidden cash. That was a very pleasant surprise!! And then of course the ball dropped and life went on usual.

The ice storm we just experienced was way more traumatic. At our party last night the consensus was that as our weather becomes more erratic, we should expect more power outages. We are getting more precipitation both in the summer and winter. We seem to be experiencing much more violent winds when fronts sweep through, too. This storm should be a wake up call, and should push us to find ways to be less dependent on the power grid, and more self-sufficient. I don't mean to sound pessimistic or gloomy, because that wasn't the mood. It was much more matter-of-fact.

I have no idea about this year --- I'm not making any resolutions since I rarely keept them anyway. I have some hopes for this year: I hope we can go on a trip this summer, I hope we stay healthy, I hope that my husband's company continues its success, I hope to do a lot of knitting, I hope to get motivated to exercise more and eat less, I hope to regain my zest for teaching (it would help if I could teach social studies again, instead of science!), I hope that my sons find happiness in love and work, I hope that our country finds its way through the minefields of world conflict, economic crisis, and social justice, I hope my church finds a good pastor, . . . my list of hopes go on. . . .

I hope that all of you have a healthy, safe, happy, interesting, and exciting 2009!