Sunday, November 29, 2009

Book 99 for 2009

I'm falling behind in my reading for this year! I was on track for 150 in mid summer but my pace as slowed down. Oh well. Here's #99

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Millennium, #1) The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I wish there were a ratings comment like this: Compelling but disturbing read. Or, perhaps: Well worth reading, but I can't say I liked it.
Either one of these is how I'd rate this one.

Mikael Blomkvist is the publisher and leading journalist of Millenium magazine, and he has just been convicted of libel. Henrik Vanger has hired him ostensibly to write a biography of the Vanger family, but in reality, wants him to solve the 40 mystery of his niece Harriet's disappearance. Blomkvist and the very odd, very talented researcher Lisabeth Salander team up to investigate Harriet Vanger's disappearance. Along the way they discover family secrets, industrial espionage, and unspeakable violence against women. I couldn't put this one down, but I'm not sure I will read next one.

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A Pretty Thing


This is indeed a "Pretty Thing." It's a pattern by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, aka The Yarn Harlot. I knit it from Jade Sapphire Cashmere. The color is called scarab. It's a deep teal green, though the picture looks grayer than it is in reality. It is going to be a gift, but I really want to keep it myself! I've never knit with cashmere before and I loved the experience. It's so soft. I did have a few issues with the yarn breaking but I survived the trauma. It was not hard to knit, once I got appropriate needles. I started on double points because all my circulars are longer than 16 inches. I hated the fiddliness of the dpns. One night while I was just dozing off to sleep, I came suddenly awake with the "duh" experience. Use 2 circular needles! That worked fine but I did end up breaking down and purchasing a WEBS interchangeable needle tip set and cables as a way to "try them out" before deciding I want the whole set!
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Saturday, November 21, 2009

Another Friday Five - On Saturday

From RevGalBlog Pals:

The Cure

Lying around all day
with some strange new deep blue
weekend funk, I'm not really asleep
when my sister calls
to say she's just hung up
from talking with Aunt Bertha
who is 89 and ill but managing
to take care of Uncle Frank
who is completely bed ridden.
Aunt Bert says
it's snowing there in Arkansas,
on Catfish Lane, and she hasn't been
able to walk out to their mailbox.
She's been suffering
from a bad case of the mulleygrubs.
The cure for the mulleygrubs,
she tells my sister,
is to get up and bake a cake.
If that doesn't do it, put on a red dress.

--Ginger Andrews (from Hurricane Sisters)

So this Friday before Thanksgiving, think about Aunt Bert and how she'll celebrate Thanksgiving! And how about YOU?

1. What is your cure for the "mulleygrubs"?

It used to be to go out shopping for something I didn't really need, but that I really wanted - kind of "I deserve this" mentality. Nowadays, I tend more to call a friend, or to cozy up on the sofa with my knitting and a Netflix movie.

2. Where will you be for Thanksgiving? We're going to my youngest sister's home to celebrate with her family. They used to live about an hour from us, and we shared Thanksgivings with each other. They've moved further away, so now it's a 5-6 hour drive. We both miss the huge family celebrations of our childhood - our family of 7, my aunt and uncle and their 2 children, another aunt and uncle and their 2 children, and very early on, my grandmother. As the years went on cousins married and added their families. I think our largest celebration had almost 30 people around the table. This year, one son is in Los Angeles, and the other is on his way to spend the holiday with friends in England. So there will be 6 of us around the table.

3. What foods will be served? Which are traditional for your family?

Turkey with stuffing (inside the bird, and outside the bird), mashed potatoes with gravy, cranberry sauce, squash, turnip, green bean casserole, pumpkin pie, apple pie, and mince pie. All of these except the green bean casserole are "our" traditional foods. The green bean casserole is traditional in my brother-in-law's family. This is a somewhat pared down list of the traditional clan foods which also included creamed onions, a tray of celery/carrot sticks, olives, sweet pickles, mixed nuts in the shell, tangerines, dates, grapes, figs, and pecan pie.

4. How do you feel about Thanksgiving as a holiday?

I love it! I hate the growing trend of this holiday being overshadowed by Christmas advertising and hoopla. It's being lost. I think I love it because it's such an inclusive holiday - no matter your faith, no matter your lack of faith, everyone has an opportunity to recognize the things they are grateful for. It also triggers strong childhood memories for me: Making an elaborate centerpiece when I was about 6 years old. A weird one, for sure, but I remember the effort I put into it -- a mirror that I laid flat on the table and surrounded with cotton balls. Then I made clothespin Pilgrims and had them ice skating on the pond. I don't have any idea what inspired this delight, but I remember the pride I took in it, and I can only imagine what my mom was thinking as I created this -- Pilgrims ice skating???

5. In this season of Thanksgiving, what are you grateful for?

I am grateful for many things, big and small. My children are happy with their lives and are good men. My husband and I have jobs and are relatively healthy. We have what we need. The stars in a clear night sky. Coffee. My washer and dryer. My fleece robe and slippers. The chance to go visit one of my sisters and her family. . . .

BONUS: Describe Aunt Bert's Thanksgiving.

Aunt Bert, sitting at a card table in Uncle Frank's room. The table is covered with a lace tablecloth, and a huge 3 layer coconut cake sits in the center. Aunt Bert is slicing the cake. Her red dress is protected by a voluminous apron. They are smiling and talking with each other.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Relative Time

The concept of time is pretty weird. I just finished balancing my checkbook. I do it every month ... I thought I did it every month. I was shocked to discover that the last time I balanced it was in August, right before school started. And that was the July statement!! Where the heck did the time go?? Luckily we handle our money pretty well and haven't had any setbacks to give us nasty surprises. No checks bounced, and I actually had more money in the account than I thought I did. The last 3 months have flown by when I judge it by one set of standards. And yet when I look forward, it feels like it's a VERY long time to June. But I know that it's suddenly Thanksgiving, and tomorrow it will be Christmas. I guess it all depends on whether you're anxious for something to start, or something to end!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

. . . But on the Other Hand . . .

Today was the first day in almost 2 weeks that I finally felt pretty good -- not sick, not fighting being sick, not getting over being sick, but actually felt normal. I did NOT have H1N1. I did not have a normal garden-variety cold either. I started with 24 hours of a scratchy throat, then a day of what threatened to be a major sinus problem, then a day of bronchial coughing, then 12 hours of low fever, drippy nose and itchy eyes, then heavy sinus stuff, and so on. For most of the days I've had a very productive chesty cough, but no fever except for the 12 hours over a week ago. I did take one sick day, and I spent 2 weekends doing absolutely nothing. I spent last week coming directly home from school, napping, and going to bed early. Most nights I had no problem sleeping, and I only went through 2.5 boxes of tissues. So it's been a weird collection of symptoms. I did call the dr on my sick day, but was told it wasn't flu. So that was the good news for the day.

On the other hand, I had a really difficult day with one of my classes. There are 4 students in that one class who regularly act out, usually one at a time. Today all 4 of them were "off". None of the usual tricks of the trade were working - pulling aside, moving seats, time-out, change task, etc. On the bright side however, a number of the other kids in the class took it upon themselves to start exerting some positive peer pressure -- one of the popular kids (who's not always perfectly behaved, but who is just your normal 12 year old who occasionally makes a bad choice blurted out "Will you guys knock it off! Mrs. W is trying to teach us!"' Gotta love that kid!

Report cards went home today too. Most kids had decent grades, but a few received failing or close-to-failing grades. I know I will get some parent feedback, and unfortunately it's usually of the "It's your fault, not my child's fault" variety. On the other hand, I did get an email from a parent who said that until his child's grades improve, his child will not be allowed to play video games, and also asked if there was any way his child could stay after school occasionally to get some extra help.

I stayed late tonight too --- I needed to rearrange some furniture, clean my desk, and finish putting together a project the kids will start next week. On the other hand, we don't have school tomorrow in honor of Veterans' Day. I'm all set for Thursday and Friday, and have my planning done for Monday and Tuesday too.

So, tonight I will relax, watch some TV and get some knitting done. On the other hand . . . I could go to bed early and read late!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Friday Five: What's New -- On Saturday Morning

From Songbird at RevGalBlogPals:
There's a new baby on my street, a double PK whose Mom and Dad are Methodist pastors and church planters. I'm hoping to go over and meet her today. I love new babies, the way they smell and their sweet little fingers and toes. Little K has me thinking about all the new things that please us with their shiny freshness.

Please share with us five things you like *especially* when they are new.

In no particular order:
1. New notebooks and/or pads of paper There is something about a brand new notebook or pad of paper that calls to me. I can't wait to start writing. I wish I could say that I was inspired to create something terrific - like the next bestseller, or a beautiful poem, or even a thoughtful reflection. Usually it's something much more mundane, like a grocery list or to do list. Notebooks make me feel organized too.

2. New leaves on trees. The delicate green of new leaves fill me with a feeling of promise. The leaves stand out against the dark branches, and catch the spring sunlight. There is a brightness and glow that seems to emanate from them. As the summer moves on, the color deepens and flattens out.

3. New clothes I guess I love new clothes because I hang on to my old clothes for so long. I get so bored with the same outfits all season, that it just lifts my spirits to get something new, especially in the middle of a season.

4. A new book by a favorite author or a book in a new series that I will love. I love finding a new book series to read. I am currently in search of one -- I've read all the Claire Fergussons, I've read all China Bayles, I've read all the Aunt Dimitys and Maisie Dobbs'. Any suggestions?

5. Newly-mowed grass - What can I say, the fragrance of just-cut grass conjures up summer vacation back when I was a kid. The kind of summer that probably only exists in idyllic memory, and that I wish I could re-live.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Almost to My Goal: Book #96

Echoes Echoes by Maeve Binchy

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I really enjoy Maeve Binchy's novels, and apparently this is a reissue of one of her very early ones. This story focuses on 3 characters: Angela O'Hara, a spinster teacher caring for her invalid mother; David Powers, the only son of the town's doctor and his unhappy wife; and Clare O'Brien, the intelligent, ambitious daughter of a shopkeeper. The lives of the 3 are closely intertwined, and we follow them through the 1950's and early 1960's. Clare rises "above her station" and wins a scholarship to secondary school, and again to university. David becomes a doctor. Angela finds happiness, after years of trouble and care. Binchy depicts the minutia of daily life in a very small Irish village brilliantly, and while at times, the story threatened to get bogged down in details, overall the details were what brought the characters to life. The ending is bittersweet, and I think came too quickly. After the years of build-up of the relationship between David and Clare, I felt that the denouement deserved the same amount of attention. I wasn't totally satisfied with the ending either, but it was realistic. I did really like this book.

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Sunday, November 1, 2009

Knitting Content

I finished this recently as a baby shower gift. It's made from Plymouth Encore which I purchased from WEBS from a Lion Brand pattern. It was a surprisingly easy knit, and it was fun to do.

From Knitting Gallery
I ended the month with a sore throat, achiness, and general fatigue. And I did something I haven't done since I had pneumonia a couple of years ago -- I spent the entire day in my pajamas! I just didn't have the energy to shower and dress, so I didn't. I curled up on the sofa and watched a bunch of DVR'd shows, and I slept a good part of the day. I got up a couple of times for juice, tea, soup, and a piece of Halloween candy, and then finally, got up about 7:30 pm to go to bed. I slept for a few hours, and then woke up about midnight not able to sleep anymore. I read this instead:

Aunt Dimity and the Deep Blue Sea Aunt Dimity and the Deep Blue Sea by Nancy Atherton

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
This was the only Aunt Dimity I hadn't read yet, and while I enjoyed it, it was least like any of the other books in the series. Lori and her twins have been sent to a castle on one of Scotland's Western Islands to keep them safe while Scotland Yard investigates death threats against Bill. Lori has nothing at all to do with the solving of this mystery. While on the island, a secret is uncovered, but only accidentally, and while her presence was the catalyst, she was not purposefully trying to uncover it. I have enjoyed all the books in the series, and I did like this one. The series is light-hearted, and perfect for reading when you don't want to have to work at it!

View all my reviews >>

It's still really early, and my throat is still sore, but I'm feeling better --- no achiness and some semblance of energy. I will have to skip church, a baby shower, and the Ecclesiastical Council for our in-care seminarian because I don't want to spread germs. But hopefully the energy will stick around long enough for me to get some work done ---- lesson-plans, unit plan, billing, and finish the art-work for the class I'm taking. At least the paper for that class is done.