Thursday, July 31, 2008

World without End

Ken Follett's recent novel, World without End was on my reading list to enjoy during the month of July.

While I found it very readable and a good book for summertime, I don't think it was as good as The Pillars of the Earth. The setting was the town of Kingsbridge (again), and several of the characters were "descendants" of characters in the first book, but this novel was more about a place and time rather than about specific people. And none of the characters were as compelling as those in The Pillars of the Earth - at least not to me. My main gripe was that the women characters seemed to be living out some kind of 21st century feminist fantasy... in the 1300's.

This story takes place in 14th century England and covers the plague and the rule of Edward II, as seen and experienced in the town of Kingsbridge and a few nearby villages. The main characters are Merthin, a builder; his brother Ralph, a squire, and later an earl; Caris, a wool merchant's daughter who becomes a nun; and Gwenda, the daughter of a petty thief.

It's not great literature, but it was a decent escape for the summer.

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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Honey Watermelon Ice

We tried a new recipe this week. It came from a farming magazine - perhaps The Progressive Farmer - and is easy, light, and delicious. Joan mixed it in less than 10 minutes, then froze it, and we ate it the next day.

Honey Watermelon Ice
5 c. cubed and seeded red, pink, orange or yellow watermelon (about 2 lbs.)
1/3 c. fresh orange juice
1/2 sugar
2 T. honey

(We omitted the sugar and in place of it and the 2 T. honey we substituted 1/3 c. raw wild honey.)

Process all ingredients in blender until smooth. Pour mixture into 8" or 9" baking pan. Cover and freeze about 4 hours or until nearly firm. Break frozen mixture into small chunks with a spoon. Place in large bowl. Beat with electric mixer until smooth, but not melted - about 3 minutes. Return to pan; freeze 4 hours longer or until firm. Yield: 5 cups.

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Monday, July 28, 2008

Summer projects

It's been a wonderful month with visits from several good friends, lovely summer weather, fresh vegetables from the garden, and time to finish some knitted and crocheted items.

For Jacy and her roommates to use this year I made 8 dishcloths and 4 potholders. ( The dishcloth on the far right is Parallelograms - Left Slanting and it's a quick and easy and interesting pattern.) :

Miss Betty taught me how to crochet an afghan that is essentially a huge granny square. So I made a baby blanket for a baby due to be born in September:

And I knit a bib for the same baby:

Finally, last night I finished a pair of slippers Sam asked me to knit for him:

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Friday, July 25, 2008

Little Heathens: Hard Times and High Spirits on an Iowa Farm during the Great Depression

I cannot remember where I read about Mildred Armstrong Kalish's book, Little Heathens , but it's been on my wishlist at PaperBackSwap for a long time. I saw it at the library a few weeks ago and was able to borrow it and read it.

It's just what the title says: the tale of a family in Iowa during the Great Depression. Think: "Little House on the Prairie" in the 1930's with a family consisting of a mother, two sons, two daughters, and the mother's parents. Mrs. Kalish shares her pleasant childhood memories of simpler times. Her descriptions of entertainment, food, chores, and education made me wish I could create such a life for my children.

From the introduction:

"In looking back, I realize that I have had the good fortune to have absorbed the events that transpired during my childhood years into my very being, as if no boundary exists between then and now, as if the past has not really passed. For some time, I have had the urge to share that treasure trove, lest it vanish. In the pages that follow I describe the effect of that decade on me as a young child, and introduce you to those altogether decent, tough, eccentric people whose bravery, endurance, dedication, and resourcefulness influenced me during all the years that followed. I tell of a time, a place, and a way of life long gone, nearly forgotten by the world, but still indelible in my memory. It is my hope to resurrect them, to make them live again."


Applied Economics

Last month I read Thomas Sowell's book, Applied Economics as my reading list choice.

I've read quite a few of Mr. Sowell's books on various topics and found them to be well-written and containing good arguments for his points. This one was just as good as the others, and a pleasure to read. It goes beyond his book Basic Economics in applying economic principles to actual events and policies. The economic effects of policies and laws regarding housing, medical care, discrimination, and a few other areas are detailed in easy-to-understand chapters. This is not a textbook for economists, but an enjoyable read for the average citizen. And as always, Mr. Sowell is kind, well-reasoned and sometimes humorous.

I like his remarks in the preface where he writes:

"It is helpful to have something of a sense of humor when considering economic policies. Otherwise, the study of these policies and their often painful unintended consequences can get to be too depressing or you can get too angry. Save your anger until you are in the voting booth on election day. In the meantime, enjoy the process of getting more understanding of issues and institutions that affect your life and the future of the country."

Well-said, isn't it?

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Friday, July 04, 2008

Happy 4th!


There are many flags in many lands;
There are flags of every hue;
But there is no flag, however grand,
Like our own Red, White, and Blue.

I know where the prettiest colors are,
And I'm sure, if I only knew
How to get them here, I could make a flag
Of glorious red, white, and blue.

I would cut a piece from the evening sky
When the stars were shining through,
And use it, just as it was on high,
For my stars and field of blue.

Then I'd take a part of a fleecy cloud,
And some red from a rainbow, bright,
And put them together, side by side,
For my stripes of red and white.

We shall always love the Stars and Stripes,
And we mean to be ever true
To this land of ours, and the dear old flag,
The Red, the White, and the Blue.

Then hurrah for the flag! our country's flag!
Its stripes, and white stars, too!
There is no flag in any land
Like our own Red, White, and Blue!

~Mary Howlister


Tuesday, July 01, 2008

New month, new sock pattern

Sarah chose the sock pattern for July and August: Two at Once, Toe Up Sock Pattern from KnitPicks. It's a FREE pattern, and the web page states that this pattern is so simple that it's easy enough for a beginning knitter. I'm liking it because I'll be learning at least three new things:

1. To knit two socks at once on the same pair of needles.

2. To knit socks from the toe up instead of from the cuff down.

3. To add an "afterthought heel" a la Elizabeth Zimmermann.

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