Tuesday, September 30, 2008

September sock on the last day of the month

So sad. I will not finish my September sock in September. Even if I knit for several hours tonight it still won't be done. There's too much left, even though I am close to the heel. The socks will be for Karin, and she has teeny-tiny feet, but I still don't think I can finish the first one tonight.

But I might try to get it done anyway... .

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Back to business

Four days away made a fabulous vacation. I had a great visit with Penny. We spun wool, went to four yarn stores (one had just opened, too), knit on socks and other projects, read books, bought some more books, ate delicious food at restaurants and from grocery stores, watched two football games (Auburn against Tennessee and the Redskins vs. the Cowboys - and our teams won!), worshiped at Briarwood Presbyterian Church, and talked a lot.

And while I was gone, Steve had Israel here as his guest for the weekend. The children were amazing - they grocery-shopped, cooked, cleaned, looked after one another and made sure everyone was where each was supposed to be, when they were supposed to be there.

It's nice to get away - and so nice to come back home again.

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Saturday, September 27, 2008

Spinning with Penny

On Thursday morning I got Penny from the airport and we drove to Harvest, AL to buy fiber at Little Barn. After making our puchases, we headed to Birmingham to spend four days in a hotel spinning and knitting - and reading. I don't know that I'll have enough yarn spun by Monday to knit the pattern I've selected (Penny will - she's FAST), but I'll have made a good start! And spinning with a friend is much more fun than spinning alone.

(The gray yarn is Penny's and the blue is mine.)


Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The House of Lanyon

I read Sarah's review of The House of Lanyon last year and thought it would be an interesting book to read.

I put it on my reading list to read in September. I almost broke my self-imposed rule of waiting until September to read it when, back in April while house-and-grandchild-sitting for us, my mother picked it up and read it. I came back from a trip with Steve and noticed the book was gone. I asked Mother if she'd moved it and she answered, "I'm reading it. Did you like it?" I replied that I had not yet read it and she said, "Oh, it's reeeally good!"

I did wait until this month to read it and I did like it a lot. In some ways it reminded me of The Pillars of the Earth and World without End by Ken Follett, except that I think Valerie Anand's book is better. (It was as good as Down the Common.)

Like the books by Follett, the setting is a small English village and textbook history happens far away with the War of the Roses and the antics of royalty being more in the background. Daily life in the 1400's is what's in view here, and the goings on in the lives of the landowners and the workers of the land. The conflict is between those who own land, and those who would like to own land - specifically, the Lanyon family who want to rise above the Sweetwaters, who are the local gentry. Throw in an overbearing patriarch, a man and woman forced by their respective families to marry when each is in love with another person, and you have enough conflict to make a good story.

The sequel, The House of Allerbrook is now available so I think I'll be looking to find a copy soon.

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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Books: A Memoir

In Books: A Memoir Larry McMurtry shares his love of books and how it started. He grew up in a family with no books on a ranch in Texas. That's right - there were no books in his home.

One day his cousin, on his way to enlist (the country was engaged in World War II at the time), came to Mr. McMurtry's house and dropped off a box containing 19 boys' adventure books. Mr. McMurtry was 6 or 7 years old then and he read those 19 books over and over. That was the beginning of his love of books and reading.

Larry McMurtry is not just a writer (he's written close to 40 books), he's also a dealer in rare and antique books and has been one for about 50 years. In this memoir he seeks to convey the thrill of book selling and book collecting with his stories of second-hand bookstores, book scouts, and book sellers. He laments that many people will not care to read such a book as this, and refers to Christopher Morley's The Haunted Bookshop and Helene Hanff's books, specifically 84, Charing Cross Road, as examples of books that portray bibliophilia in a way that is entertaining and accessible for the common reader. He also mentions John Dunning's bookman series featuring Cliff Janeway and Marianne Mcdonald's antiquarian book series featuring Dido Hoare as successful popular mysteries involving book collectors and book sellers.

I've enjoyed both of the above series and many of Christopher Morley's books and all of Helene Hanff's books, and although I am not a big fan of Larry McMurtry's fiction, I did greatly enjoy this book. He did not mention them, but I think in many ways his memoir is similar to some of Lawrence and Nancy Goldstone's books about book collecting, and would also be enjoyed by anyone who likes books by Nicholas Basbanes.


Homeschooling: starting and adjusting

This year we began by halves; we made a soft start with our academic studies back in August. By mid-September I could see which days were busiest with supplemental classes and outside activities and could adjust our schedule accordingly. Also apparent by then was which material did not work for us, and which did. So I switched David's focus for grammar and writing (twice), and changed Sarah's and Joan's reading lists for literature and now I think we're on the right track for the year - at least for the next few months. (The main thing I've learned from the past 18 years of homeschooling my children is that for us flexibility is the key to a successful and stress-free year. )

Having only five children to teach and no babies or toddlers to care for is very different - but in a pleasant way - for us. So this year I'm able to be a little bit more hands-on and activity-rich in some areas.

One area of study we're enjoying now is science with Marley and Sam. Back in the mid-1990's I bought Anna Botsford Comstock's Handbook of Nature Study and Dorothy Edwards Shuttlesworth's book, Exploring Nature with Your Child. I used them mainly for reference and enjoyed browsing through them both and comparing them, but they've not been used at all since then. This past summer I pulled them both off the shelf, read through them again, and decided they'd be great to use with Sam and Marley.

We've begun our nature study with birds and have spent the last three weeks learning about and observing birds. Next we'll move on to trees. I think. It may be insects. We may study both at the same time. We can be flexible.


Friday, September 19, 2008

Hannah Coulter

Jill and Holly urged me to read Wendell Berry's book, Hannah Coulter. I said I would, then forgot about it and read other books. But both of them gently (and separately, since neither knows the other) reminded me that I should read it. Because Jill and Holly are two good reading friends who read a lot and often recommend books I enjoy, I finally sat down and read Mr. Berry's book. It's a very peaceful story of a place and a time as seen and experienced by one woman, Hannah Coulter.

And I liked it. A lot. Enough to read it through without stopping until I finished it. I don't intend to summarize it - Valerie Sayers wrote a very good review of it for The Washington Post and it's on Amazon's page - but I will tell what books it was like.

As I read the story I was reminded of Bess Streeter Aldrich's books, especially A Lantern in Her Hand. I also thought of the novels by Agnes Sligh Turnbull, particularly The Richlands.

Now I'm hoping someone will recommend another Wendell Berry book that is a "must-read."


Thursday, September 18, 2008


Gambit by Rex Stout is a Nero Wolfe mystery involving a murdered chess champion, the man who admitted to serving the victim a poisoned hot chocolate drink, and the alleged murderer's daughter, who believes without question that her father is innocent.

I listened to this audio book while working on an intricate piece of needlework, and the turns and twists in the mystery made it the perfect accompaniment to my work. Also, it was a nice, "clean" book - my children could have listened to it with me.

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Inside Mason-Dixon... for Donna

My old Nikon doesn't do the book justice - nor do I as photographer - but these are a few favorites of mine in the book.

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Mason-Dixon Knitting Outside the Lines

When I got home yesterday afternoon I saw that this book had arrived while I was gone.

Thanks to Joan I didn't have to worry about anything so mundane as preparing supper for the family (she threw chicken, rice, and cream of chicken soup in the slow cooker and it was done by the time I got home) so I sat down and read the book. From cover to cover. And now it is my new favorite knitting book. It may even be my favorite book of any kind.

It's hilariously funny. One should not eat or drink while reading this book. Aside from the risk of aspirating food or beverage, it would be terrible to mar the lovely photography that graces each page with anything that came from one's mouth while she was laughing.

The patterns are beautiful and look like they will be fun to knit. And they range from easy to not so easy. Best of all, Kay and Ann have taken the ball-band dishcloth to the next level!

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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Carding and spinning

It's been almost three years since I've carded any wool, but last week I picked up the carders and made rolags from the beautiful fleece that Jan sent me last year from her sheep. I love the feel of the wool with lanolin still in it. It spins so nicely and is much more forgiving than the slick merino roving I recently plied.

I'm trying to get back in shape - spinning-wise - before Penny and I go off on a spinning weekend together at the end of the month. (I told my mother Penny and I would be spinning for four days and she thought I said "spending." Not quite!)


Friday, September 12, 2008

Red homespun

A few days ago I brought my spinning wheel out of the closet where it had been stored since December. Before packing the wheel away I had spun 8 ounces of merino roving. The thread was still on the bobbins and needed to be plied before I started any other spinning projects.

Now the yarn is plied, washed, dried, and ready to be wound into a ball for knitting. (And I ended up with 7.8 ounces - only .2 ounces lost to waste!)

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Thursday, September 11, 2008

Three Bags Full: A Sheep Detective Story

About a year ago, Penny read Three Bags Full by Leonie Swann and recommended it to me.

I put it on my "to find and read" list, but it was not until this past April that I saw it in a bookstore and bought it. In this story, a shepherd is murdered and his flock of sheep decide to solve the crime. Each sheep has a different strength: one can remember things, another is a good observer, and so on, but one - Miss Maple - is the cleverest of the sheep. (I'm still wondering if the author was deliberately making a play on Agatha Christie's character, Miss Marple.) Miss Maple enlists the aid of the rams, ewes, and lambs to help her figure out who murdered George, their kind shepherd who read aloud to the flock and wanted to take them on a tour of Europe.

George's flock determines what happened to him, then finds a way to convey their knowledge to the clueless humans trying to solve the case.

This book was funny at times, and philosophical in some places, and a fun book for a knitter to enjoy.

[I especially liked that George was trying to better the quality of their wool. Here's a bit of conversation between the sheep I found amusing:

" 'He wasn't a specially good shepherd,' said Heather, who was still not much more than a lamb and still bore George a grudge for docking her beautiful tail at the end of last winter.
'Exactly!' said Cloud, the wooliest and most magnificent sheep ever seen. 'He didn't appreciate our work. Norwegian sheep do it better, he said! Norwegian sheep give more wool! He had sweaters made of foreign wool sent from Norway - it's a disgrace! What other shepherd would insult his own flock like that?' "]


Tuesday, September 09, 2008

September sock

Penny found a feather and fan socks pattern and we're knitting it for our September and October socks. I think Penny has her first sock almost completed, but I've just begun mine. Not much to see except LOTS of stitch markers:

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Friday, September 05, 2008

The Family from One End Street

Eve Garnett's book, The Family from One End Street was first published in 1937, and was awarded the Carnegie Gold Medal that year. It's a sweet book about a family with seven children. The father is a dustman and the mother is a washerwoman and the children range in age from 12 down to a baby under 2. Each chapter contains an adventure of each family member, and a couple of chapters are about the entire family together.

I bought this book years ago because a paragraph on page 2 caught my eye:

"The neighbors pitied Jo and Rosie for having such a large family, and called it 'Victorian'; but the dustman and his wife were proud of their numerous girls and boys, all-growing-up-fine-and-strong-one-behind-the-other-like-steps-in-a-ladder and -able-to-wear-each-others-clothes-right-down-to-the-baby, so that really it was only two sets, girl and boy, summer and winter, Mrs. Ruggles had to buy, except Boots."

It's a good large-family book, with the children and the parents trying their best to do what's right, even when tempted to do otherwise.

Eve Garnett also illustrated the book.

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The Body in the Gallery

The Body in the Gallery is the latest mystery in the series by Katherine Hall Page. All of "The Body in the..." series feature Faith Fairchild - the wife of a pastor, mother of a son and a daughter, and a caterer and terrific cook - as the sleuth who usually (I think it may be always) stumbles upon the particular bodies referred to in the titles.

The mysteries are usually fairly interesting puzzles - not too easy to figure out, but not too difficult, either - but the main attractions for me are Ms. Page's descriptions of food and the recipes she includes.

See what you think of this:

"He motioned Faith toward the living room. As she followed him she noticed that the flame under the chicken had been turned off. She paused to uncover it. It definitely needed to simmer longer. She replaced the lid and turned the burner on. It was an easy dish and a family favorite. She'd browned the skinless breasts in olive oil, then topped them with layers of thinly sliced onions, red and yellow peppers, plus two cups of fresh chopped basil - the last from the garden. She'd harvested the crop earlier in the afternoon, making and freezing pesto, saving one large bunch for this dish. Salt, pepper, and half a bottle of red wine - she'd had some leftover pinot noir in the fridge - completed the dish, which needed to simmer for at least an hour so the chicken could absorb the flavors. They'd have it with whole wheat couscous, which has a lovely nutty taste, and a salad."

That sounded delicious, so I made it. Twice. And she's right - it's very good with couscous.

The murderer was caught in the end, too.

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Kitchen knitting for Amy's new home

Amy saw the dishcloths and potholders I made Jacy and asked if she could have some, too. I was very happy to oblige, so she chose yarn and I went to work.

They'll be in their new house this evening and I hope she'll use these until they wear out, then ask me to make more for her. Tracy posted a picture of these dishcloths she made as a gift and I'd like have an excuse to make them now.

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Family pictures

Glenn is back in the USA for about three weeks, then he flies back to South Korea until the end of February. He wanted to come back to move Amy and the girls onto their next duty-station and into their new house, get Hayley settled in school, and do any other things he could do to make life easier for his family.

He arrived here last night, and he and his family will leave by mid-morning. We're happy to be able to spend a few hours with him.

On Tuesday I had the brilliant idea to make pictures of all of us (minus Aric, who is in FL) together.

Amazingly enough, I remembered this idea last night and I managed to gather our eight children, two daughters-in-law, three granddaughters, and Steve and kept everyone together on the front porch long enough to get some pictures made. AND I asked Chuck and Kim if they'd come over and take the pictures and they did.

Chuck and Kim, each with a camera, were snapping away as we tried to look "large-group normal" and I thought, "This is great! Everyone's looking in the right direction, smiling - or at least looking pleasant - and we'll probably have more than one good picture to use!"

Then Sam ran out the front door and yelled, "I'm HERE!!"

So now I'm the mom who has never left one of her children behind at church, a store, or a rest area, but did forget to include the youngest child in the once-in-many-years, possibly-not-a-lifetime family photo.


Tuesday, September 02, 2008

August socks - finished

I finished my socks for July and August last Friday. It was very interesting to knit a toe-up, two-at-the-same-time, afterthought-heel pair of socks. My only regret is the heels. I think I messed up somewhere on them, and that bothers me.

But Amy liked them, so I gave them to her. Now we're both happy!

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