Monday, April 30, 2007

Simple Genius

In Simple Genius David Baldacci appears to have picked up where he left his readers after Hour Game. I'm glad this was my second Baldacci thriller to read - it wasn't as scary as Hour Game, but it was as interesting, following the lives and activities of former Secret Service member Michelle Maxwell, and lawyer Sean King. This time they're in Tidewater Virginia snooping around a couple of secret compounds investigating the murder (suicide?) of a brilliant scientist/genius. The CIA, FBI and several other secret agencies are involved in a sort of spy/counter-spy activity. The quick turn-arounds of good guy/bad guy who's who makes for fun reading. It was a quick and entertaining read - perfect for the brink of summer.


Doggie bed is getting bigger

Cocoa's bed is now 50 inches in diameter and I have 8 skeins of yarn (out of the 18 I started with) left. It's beginning to feel like it's never going to end... .


Sunday, April 29, 2007

Cocoa sleeping

I can't believe she finds that position comfortable for sleeping!


Friday, April 27, 2007

Training Your Labrador Retriever

Since Cocoa arrived I've been reading about labs and dogs in general. Three books I enjoyed this week were Training Your Labrador Retriever by September B. Morn, The Guide to Owning a Labrador Retriever by Richard T. Burrows, and Cesar's Way by Cesar Millan.

(As I read these books I enjoyed Diet Coke Plus - with vitamins and minerals! - the perfect beverage to accompany books about actively training dogs...)

Training Your Labrador Retriever was full of useful information about the breed: the history, the physical characteristics, possible health issues, how to care for the dog, how to train, tricks to teach, how to teach it to hunt and retrieve. It also had lots of good pictures.

The Guide to Owning a Labrador Retriever earned a special place in my heart and library as being the best pet manual that follows Strunk & White's admonition to "Omit needless words." It contains much the same information as the first book, but in a slimmer, trimmer package. And it still has lots of good pictures.

I've seen The Dog Whisperer maybe half-a-dozen times, but each time I've sat mesmerized, amazed at what Cesar Millan is able to accomplish with misbehaving dogs. Refreshingly honest - he asserts that a dog is a dog, not a person with four legs and fur - he establishes his place and the dog's place, and everyone is happy in the end. His book is very interesting, and we've been using a lot of his information to good use with Cocoa.

I'm enjoying this immersion into dog training - I only regret that I didn't read these books before we got the puppy. That way I would have been prepared and ready to start, instead of playing catch-up.


The Good Husband of Zebra Drive

You've heard of "dinner and a movie," but lately I've been enjoying "a drink and a book." Alexander McCall Smith has scored again with his latest in the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency Series. The Good Husband of Zebra Drive is just as good, if not better, than the seven books that precede it.

In this latest installment, Mma Ramotswe, her husband, Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni, and her secretary, Mma Makutsi, all investigate cases. Each has a different style, and life on Tlokweng Road is intertwined throughout. Like the other books, this one is nice. It is mild. It is plain, everyday life. I savored this book for over a week - limiting myself to a few pages or a chapter per sitting. It ended too soon. But... I found the perfect drink to accompany my reading: Tetley Vanilla & Pear Rooibos Tea. Now if Mr. McCall Smith would kindly write a little faster and oblige me with book #9 before a year has passed, I will be most grateful.


The World Is Flat

My April "must-read" was The World Is Flat by Thomas L. Friedman. I did enjoy it, not least because of Friedman's upbeat, cheerful sense of wonder and enthusiasm at what he sees taking place in the world because of innovations in communication and trade. Friedman's journalistic style and liberal use of anecdotes liven up what could otherwise be dull reading.
Because Steve is a computer geek, technophile, and IT guy, most of the information was not new to me. However, usually I read articles about off-shore jobs, outsourcing, and world trade written in dour, pessimistic, hand-wringing prose. Friedman is probably too optimistic about too much, but his optimism was encouraging for the most part, and in places he sounded a warning about the pitfalls of this "flattening" of the world.
My favorite bits were his sections on Wal-Mart, UPS, and EBay and PayPal.

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Thursday, April 26, 2007

Joan paints again

Joan painted a picture similar to this, but with the sky colors in reverse order. I saw it and asked for one, and this is what she made for me. I love the glitter across the top - when seen in real life it really looks like stars twinkling!


Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Flying Finish

Flying Finish is not the best book by Dick Francis that I've read, but it was still enjoyable. (Which makes me wonder: Are even weak books by Francis still good? A "bad" Dick Francis mystery is delightful.)

The horses were incidental to this mystery, which really involved flying, spying, and sinister business. I passed it on to Mom, but I think I might end up wanting to reread it at some point, so I'll probably get another copy.


Hour Game

Mom loaned me Hour Game by David Baldacci for the trip to Cancun. I pulled it out to read the second day we were there, and would have finished it in one sitting, except that it was rather chilling in parts, so I had to alternate it with two other books so I wouldn't get too scared to sleep!

This is a murder mystery, and also a book about crummy families. I was fairly surprised when the killer was revealed, but then the book wasn't over yet. I had about a chapter or two to go when we deplaned in Atlanta, so I finished it while running through the airport behind Steve to the customs line. Yeah, it was that compelling!

The book is set in a small town in Virginia, fairly close to Washington, D.C., with a couple of former FBI agents as the detectives. The action moved along, most of the plot was convincing, and just about everything came together in the end. I'll be reading more books by David Baldacci in the future.


Monday, April 23, 2007

Doggie bed

I did decide to go ahead, be silly and foolish, and knit a bed for Cocoa. In my yarn stash were 18 skeins of Patons UpCountry in the "silvermist" color. Using the Kitty Bed pattern by Wendy as a basic reference, I cast on 9 stitches using size 15 double-pointed needles. Then I followed the kitty bed instructions, and kept on going. Now I have 288 stitches on size 15 Denise needles, using 4 cable lengths. I'm knitting 48 rows of 288 sts., then will work a welt ridge before knitting up the side. I have approximately 38 rows to go before the welt, and I have 11 skeins of yarn left. Hopefully, my yarn will hold out. After I finish, I'll go to the local laundrymat and use a gigantic washing machine to felt the bed.
LL Bean has a lovely dog bed for large dogs and its diameter is 52 inches. So if my knitted and felted bed doesn't come out right, I have a replacement option already picked out.


The Prom was on Saturday...

...and Jacy went with a friend of Diana and Kristin. Everyone had a good time together.

Joan and Sarah did Jacy's hair and make-up. Marley provided moral support. Jacy borrowed the dress from Mary Beth, her shoes and purse from Hamilton, and nail polish from Joan.

After we made pictures of Jacy and Steven, they went to his house so his mom could also take pictures.

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The puppy is home

Dr. Lisa's diagnosis of poison appears to have been correct. The antidote worked, and Cocoa came home over the weekend. Now she's back to her usual behavior, for which we are all grateful!

Yesterday afternoon she enjoyed the lake with us.


Saturday, April 21, 2007

Mindless knitting in Cancun

While we were in Mexico I knitted a linen shawl while I read. It was pure, mindless, knitting bliss. Using two skeins of green Sun Drenched Linens by (that I bought several years ago at the Fall Fiber Festival in Virginia) and size 15 Denise needles, I cast on 40 stitches, then knit every row, increasing in the first and last stitch on each row. I did not use all my yarn (each skein had 170 yards), but I came close.

Isn't the front porch rocker a good model? But Marley tried it, too.

I think I'll enjoy using it as a summer shawl.


Dancing Crayons - third square

The third square is done, and I'm ready to pick up stitches and start square #4. This has been fun movie-knitting (we watched Martin Chuzzlewit while I knitted), so I'm not going to start the next square until we get Our Mutual Friend.


Friday, April 20, 2007

Cocoa is sick...

(Cocoa looks like she's smoking, but it's a rawhide chew toy in her mouth.)

This is what I feared when we discussed getting a dog. Eventually a pet gets sick. It may need medical care, or it may get better on its own.

Cocoa is sick. We took her to the vet this afternoon. Lisa, the veterinarian, examined our puppy, ran a blood test, and gave us our options. For now we are opting for Cocoa to stay overnight at the clinic. Lisa will call us tomorrow morning to let us know if Cocoa is better, or if we need her to remain there until Monday.

And we are praying for wisdom for our vet and for discernment for us if we have to eventually make hard decisions for Cocoa.

Update: Lisa called me at 7:30 p.m. - she thinks it was poison. Steve put some fire ant poison out a few days ago and Cocoa may have walked in it, then licked herself. Certainly the list of symptoms from ingesting that type of chemical match several of the symptoms Cocoa has. So we'll hear from Dr. Lisa again tomorrow morning, and we're hoping Cocoa will be better.


Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Airport (and airplane) knitting

After hearing and reading several horror stories of knitters having needles confiscated by airport security I decided to take one skein of sock yarn and two sets of double-pointed needles in my carry-on bag and pray that one or both sets of needles would make it through.

My needles were Clover bamboos, US size 2 (7 inches), and Chargue wooden needles, US size 3 (5.5 inches). The Clovers are longer and pointier, and were my preferred choice. When we went through security in Atlanta both needle sets were in their holders and the sock yarn was still undisturbed in the skein. After we passed through security I quickly sent a text message to Penny because she was praying the needles would pass with no problem, then Steve and I walked/trotted to concourse E. (We wanted to exercise a bit because we knew we'd be sitting still in the plane for over 2 hours.) After walking around for some time, I sat down and cast on for a sock using the Clover needles.

I knitted at the gate until we boarded the plane, then continued knitting for the entire flight to Cancun. Two of the flight attendants were knitters and they came and talked to me about my sock, felt the yarn, etc. (I wish I'd gotten pictures.) After we landed I put the sock away and knitted on the shawl while we were at the resort.

On the return trip I took the Clover needles out of the sock and replaced them with the Chargue needles, thinking that the shorter needles would attract less notice. And if anyone in security felt the need to dispose of any knitting needles, I'd prefer to say "adios" to the Chargues rather than the Clovers. There was no problem, however, and I knitted away in the Cancun airport, transferred the sock back onto the Clovers after we boarded the plane, then knitted and read on the flight to Atlanta.

Now I need to finish my Cancun socks.


Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The trip was nice and it's good to be home again

The company put us up in a first-class resort. I knitted a linen shawl while we were in Cancun, read a lot, enjoyed friends, ate great food, and shopped for souvenirs for the children. Steve swam in the ocean, read a lot, and cheerfully walked around town with me. Unfortunately he was very sick for most of our stay there, so he did not get to do many of the activities he'd hoped to enjoy. And he couldn't eat - poor guy!

We stayed at the Fiesta Americana. The staff there were amazing people. I think we could have never left the resort and been perfectly content.

We arrived home last night, tired and extremely happy to be back.


Tuesday, April 10, 2007


The puppy is spoiled. I wonder what sort of families her 11 brothers and sisters got? We are pathetic people who cater to whims the dog doesn't even know she has. Mom and Dad have promised to look after Cocoa (and their grandchildren) while Steve and I are in Cancun.
And I started knitting that dog bed I was thinking about... .


Monday, April 09, 2007

Out of the Depths

Out of the Depths: Restoring Fellowship with God by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones is a small book on repentance, and what that means for a non-believer or for a believer. Dr. Lloyd-Jones uses Psalm 51 to take his audience through the steps of repentance, and to show what repentance looks like and what is the result of it.

When a person repents, one sees these characteristics:
1. an awakening.
2. realization of the need for forgiveness; turning to God; desiring God's mercy.
3. knowledge of a need for rebirth and a new nature.

The consequences of repentance are these:
1. the possession of joy and gladness.
2. distrust of self and realization of the power of God.
3. desire to live for God's glory, and a longing for others to be able to do the same.

I think the book may have been intended primarily for non-believers, but I enjoyed it very much as a study aid in looking closely at Psalm 51.


Knit One, Haiku Too

Knit One, Haiku Too by Maria Fire is a short memoir of her life as a knitter, interspersed with haiku. I enjoyed it (Thanks, Meg!) and will doubtless read it again from time to time.

Here's a snippet - Maria tells of her beloved grandfather, "Sugar - Sug for short," and time spent with him at his home in North Carolina when she was a child:

"Afternoons we spent hiking through the woods around Sug's house. I took short, quick steps to keep up with his long strides. In the evenings we sat on the porch and watched the sun set. At dark I switched on a lamp so I could knit, and I asked my grandfather to recite poetry. He knew long passages of classical poems by heart. Much I didn't understand, but his sonorous voice wrapped the night around us - and my busy fingers danced to the music of his words.

Warm words in night air
Pine smell and needles clacking
Oh, sweet obsessions! "

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Saturday, April 07, 2007

Rejoice - Christ is risen!

"For I delivered to you as of first importance what I received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures... "(I Corinthians 15:3,4)


Friday, April 06, 2007

The puppy is here

Marley has her puppy - Cocoa. Steve, Sarah, and Marley arrived home just a few hours ago and we're ga-ga over this dog. She's so sweet and so cute - and it's been 16 years since we last had a dog.
So we're nuts. Jacy keeps referring to the puppy as "the baby." Tom rolled around on the lawn with it. Sarah lets it lick her face. David, Sam, and Joan have run around with it and held it, and introduced toys to it. I made it dinner (a mix of rice, oatmeal, carrots, and chicken breast, in case you're interested in how crazy I am) and cannot sit and serenely knit on my cabaret raglan because bizarre thoughts of knitting a huge dog bed out of bulky wool on size 15 needles - then felt it, I think - keep occupying my mind.
But she is a cute puppy!


Thursday, April 05, 2007

Travel plans

A week from today Steve and I fly to Cancun, Mexico for a four-day vacation. We'll leave the children here with the grandparents and a new puppy. This will be the first time we've flown anywhere together. It will be the first time I've ever flown anywhere with an adult. All my air travel has either been in the company of children, or by myself. I wonder how well we will travel together? What is our travel itinerary? Where are we staying? What will we do? Which clothes shall we pack? I don't know.

The really important questions have been asked by Tammy :

"What will I take to read?" and "What will I take to knit?"

To read: two books by David Baldacci (Mom and Dad have strongly recommended these books, so I think both Steve and I will enjoy them); two books by Dick Francis because I've enjoyed several mysteries by him; The World Is Flat by Thomas L. Friedman because it is on my list to read in April, and because it is a big hardback that should stay open on my lap so I can read and knit.

To knit: one skein of Sockotta for socks because it's 45% cotton, and I can't imagine knitting with wool in Cancun; two skeins of green linen yarn that I think I'll knit into a light and airy (translation: garter stitch on big needles) shawl; and two skeins of Peaches & Creme cotton yarn to knit dishcloths.

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From the American Dictionary of the English Language:
"parody, n. 1. A kind of writing in which the words of an author or his thoughts are, by some slight alterations, adapted to a different purpose; a kind of poetical pleasantry, in which verses written on one subject, are altered and applied to another by way of burlesque."
I like parodies. Since I have no creative talent, writing poems or short stories was very difficult for me in school. However, I was able to parody favorite poems (not well, mind you, but feebly enough) to earn a passing grade in whatever class I was in.

Two favorite parodies come from these poetry books in my collection:

"To the Kittens to Make Much of Time" is from Poetry for Cats by Henry Beard and "Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer's Day?" is one of the "Modified Sonnets" by Howard Moss in This Powerful Rhyme, edited by Helen Plotz.

To the Kittens to Make Much of Time (by Robert Herrick's Cat)

Get ye a human while ye may,

When you are still a kitten,

For by a cat too long a stray

Men's hearts are seldom smitten.

The master of yon cozy house

May wed a maid with puppies;

Or set a trap to catch that mouse,

Or buy a bowl of guppies.

Cold rains will soon the summer drown,

And ice will crack the willow;

And though the snow is soft as down,

It makes a chilly pillow.

Then hands that would have stroked your head,

When you came in from prowling,

Will hurl at you a boot instead

To halt your awful howling.

(Robert Herrick's "To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time")

Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer's Day?

Who says you're like one of the dog days?

You're nicer. And better.

Even in May, the weather can be gray,

And a summer sub-let doesn't last forever.

Sometimes the sun's too hot;

Sometimes it is not.

Who can stay young forever?

People break their necks or just drop dead!

But you? Never!

If there's just one condensed reader left

Who can figure out the abridged alphabet,

After you're dead and gone,

In this poem you'll live on!

(William Shakespeare's "Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer's Day?")

[I apologize for the lousy spaces between lines - I've worked all day trying to make the page behave, but Blogger won't co-operate, or I'm a lousy operator... probably the latter.]


Thinking blogs

Carmon very sweetly tagged me as a "thinking blogger." All you need to know about the Thinking Blogger Awards can be read at the Thinking Blog.

According to the rules, I must now tag five other blogs that make me think. There are more than five blogs that make me think, so whittling it down took a good bit of time yesterday. And quite a few of the blogs on my "thinking blogs" list have already been tagged.

So, without further ado and handwringing, here are five blogs that make me think:

Dy's blog, Classic Adventures, and Marla's blog, Contented Journey make me, in my role as homeschooling mom, think of how I can mesh everyday life and learning as those two ladies do it. Dy from her home in rural Alabama, and Marla from her home in Croatia, enjoy each day and the opportunies it brings.

At Hidden Art, Dana's blog, I think about how I can use the talents God has given me to encourage my family and create an environment that will inspire them to discover and develop their own God-given talents, and in turn use them in serving others.

Tracy's blog, Wool Windings, chronicles her adventures in knitting and spinning, but she also is like Dorcas from the Bible, using her kntting to benefit others. Lately she has made me ponder ways that I can bless others with what I enjoy doing, too.

And finally, one of my favorite "thinking" book blogs is Will Duquette's The View from the Foothills. Will reviews books, including books read aloud to his wife or children. He also publishes reviews by others in his monthly column Ex Libris Reviews. His last column was published in January (I take it he's been busy with other things lately), but the back issues are worth reading.

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Wednesday, April 04, 2007

We are well

Last night it rained. Today the sun is shining. It has been more than 24 hours since anyone was ill. Thank you, everyone who prayed for us!

And this arrived in today's mail:

It's fleece from Jan. She sheared her sheep (brother and sister Hampshire/Finn crosses) a few weeks ago and kindly shared a bit of fleece with me to spin when I work at the museum this month. Toodles' fleece is the cream-colored bit, and Ivy's is the black.

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Tuesday, April 03, 2007

We're sick

We are sick with a nasty virus. Sarah, Joan, and David have suffered the most - I'm praying that the rest of us stay well. Last night when it was evident that Joan and David were going to need to sleep downstairs so I could keep an eye on them (and so that they could be close to a bathroom) I thought, "This will be nice. I'll sit up late knitting and reading and comforting my sick children."

The reality was that I was up late running between bathrooms and sick children, washing floors and walls with bleach and other disinfectants, and finally fell asleep on the floor of my bedroom around midnight. Shortly before 4 a.m., David shook me awake to ask if he and Joan could have a sip of water, as neither had had an "incident" since midnight.

They appear better today - water and chicken noodle soup with crackers hasn't hurt them - and although they are weak, they don't have the misery with it. So they are sleeping the day away and I am washing lots of linens with bleach and disinfectant. And scrubbing floors and walls and bathrooms and bedrooms.

But I have something to look forward to when I finish my work. Yesterday and today the UPS man brought me these books and this movie:

Maybe I can sit and knit and read and watch a movie tonight before I nod off.


Monday, April 02, 2007

New ferns

I'm so glad I have a gardener/green-thumb dad who likes to share the plant-love with others! Last week Mom and Dad bought a bunch of ferns being sold as a fund-raiser for some worthy group, and they gave us six of the plants. Not only that, but Dad installed hooks, got hanging baskets and hung all the ferns for us.

Dad put two on the carport...

...and four on the front porch.


The boys are having fun

Sam and Jeshurun are playing pretty much non-stop from the time they wake up until they go to sleep at night. Today they were on the trampoline being Spider-men when I got a picture of them.

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