Thursday, April 30, 2009

Tea Time for the Traditionally Built

Alexander McCall Smith's book, Tea Time for the Traditionally Built, is arguably one of the best in the series thus far. Precious Ramotswe has only a few mysteries to solve in this latest book (I think only three cases come to her notice), but they're good and she manages in her gentle and delicate way to get to the bottom of each one.

Violet Sephotho resurfaces and in her deceptively evil, snaky way tortures and confounds poor Mma Makutsi. Mma Ramotswe helps the owner of a football team find out why his once-winning team is now losing so many games, and she also helps a woman with relationship troubles.

Mma Ramotswe also has to do something about her beloved tiny white van, now on its last legs, mechanically-speaking. I really do empathize with poor Precious in her devotion to her van. I felt the same way about my van, although it was blue and white and was not tiny, but held fifteen passengers. It served me well for nine years, and though it often had mechanical problems, they were always repairable and it kept on running. I was very sad when Steve sold my Ford 15-passenger van and replaced it with a new Chevrolet 15-passenger van. It's not the same vehicle in so many ways. Her feelings about her white van strike a chord, as does her gratitude for Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni's kindness in solving her vehicular problems despite the fact that he cannot understand her love for that white van.

It's a great feel-good book.


Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Beach Street Knitting Society and Yarn Club

When I saw Gil McNeil's book, The Beach Street Knitting Society and Yarn Club at the library last week, I checked it out thinking it would be a predictable book.

But it was not predictable. The title is misleading, in that this is not the typical ladies' knit group story. Instead it's about a woman, Jo, whose husband announces one day that he's divorcing her and starting up with another woman. Before Jo has time to break the news to her two young sons or anyone else, her husband is killed in a car accident. Jo's financial state requires her to make changes, so she sells her house, moves to a seaside town where her grandmother lives, buys an old house and takes over her grandmother's wool shop.

The rest of the book is about Jo and her sons learning to live a different life than the one they were accustomed to, making new friends, understanding how to cope with and flourish in the new family dynamics caused by the death of her husband.

There isn't much knitting and not a lot of yarn, but there is a good story.


Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Granny squares baby blanket

I took the 16 small granny squares I crocheted a few weeks ago and seamed them together, then added a border with the rest of the leftover bits of yarn. Now it's ready to give away - to a girl baby, I think.


Monday, April 27, 2009

Mitered squares there...

Still knitting away on the Mitered Squares Blanket. I have 20 squares so I'm 25% done! I took a break from it last weekend, but I'll be back to it this week.

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Friday, April 24, 2009

Book overflow

The living room is usually our calm space. It contains no electronics, only books, a table, some artwork and seating. Every night we have our family devotions there. Most afternoons I sit there and read a newspaper, a chapter or two in a book, or perhaps a magazine. It's where I spin fiber and often it's my favorite place to knit or crochet.

But now it doesn't feel so calm because the books are spilling out of the bookcases. There are books on top of books, books on the floor, books on the table. It bothers me. And it bothers me that the chaos is preventing us from finding books we know we have.

I bought a little bookcase today to alleviate some of the book clutter caused by the history and biography books (those are the books that live in that room), and I have a lead on two more bookcases that I'll see tomorrow to possibly use upstairs for the fiction and the picture books.

My afternoon will be spent rearranging books so we can once again enjoy our calm place.


Thursday, April 23, 2009

More tea...

Yesterday Steve asked me to stop by World Market on my way home and pick up a couple of bottles of wine for him. I also needed to get tea for me.

I managed to remember his wine, but forgot my tea, so today I'm drinking tea made from tea bags while I read the latest book by Alexander McCall Smith. But it's okay; I have four tea bag holders to hold the spent bags.


Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Teapot cozy

Last weekend while I was reading and drinking tea, I thought I'd like to knit something new while I read. The Mitered Squares blanket requires a little bit of attention, although I have sometimes read while working on it. And Dad's sock is still a work in progress, but I really wanted a new project. One that could be done in an afternoon or evening. One that could use up a leftover skein of yarn. One that did not require a lot of thought.

My tea pot is one Aunt Donna gave us. It originally belonged to a friend of hers who brought it back from Japan. It holds 4 cups (if I use the cups and saucers my grandmother gave me) of tea. It's aluminum and the pot and handle get very hot when it's full of tea. A tiny tea cozy with a little hot pad for the handle seemed like a good idea for a project, so that's what I made. I also decided to be extremely lazy and not get up from the sofa once I began working on it.

Tiny Teapot Cozy with Hot Pad

leftover DK/light worsted weight wool yarn
U.S. size 5 16-inch circular needle
size F crochet hook

Cast on 100 stitches. Join in the round. Place marker.
Purl 1 stitch, *knit 8 sts, purl 2 sts* nine times, knit 8, purl 1 stitch.
Do every round for 7 rounds or until work measures about 1 inch from cast-on row.

On 8th round work until final purl stitch, then turn work and work back and forth in pattern (On wrong side: knit 1, *purl 8, knit 2* nine times, purl 8, knit 1; on right side: purl 1, *knit 8, purl 2* nine times, knit 8, purl 1) for about 15 rows, or about 2 inches. (This makes a gap for the spout.)

On right side, begin to work in the round again with purl 1, *knit 8, purl 2* nine times, knit 8, purl 1 on every round for 7 rounds, or until piece measures about 1 inch from top of gap.

Begin decreasing
Round 1: Purl 1, *ssk, knit 4, k2tog, purl 2* nine times, ssk, knit 4, k2tog, purl 1.
Round 2: Purl 1, *knit 6, purl 2* nine times, knit 6, purl 1.
Round 3: Purl 1, *knit 6, purl 2* nine times, knit 6, purl 1.
Round 4: Purl 1, *ssk, knit 2, k2tog, purl 2* nine times, ssk, knit 2, k2tog, purl 1.
Round 5: Purl 1, *knit 4, purl 2* nine times, knit 4, purl 1.
Round 6: Purl 1, *knit 1, bind off 2 stitches, knit 1, purl 2* nine times, knit 1, BO2, knit 1, purl 1.
Round 7: Purl 1, *knit 1, cast on 2 stitches, knit one, purl 2* nine times, knit 1, CO2, knit 1, purl 1.
Round 8: Knit all stitches.
Round 9: Knit all stitches.
Bind off all stitches.

Weave in ends. Crochet a chain about 24 to 28 inches long to weave in and out of eyelets and tie with bow. This probably would be better (prettier) done as a 3-stitch i-cord, but I didn't want to get up and find my dpns to do it and I had a crochet hook in my knitting bag.

I also crocheted a little circular lid to put over the lid of my teapot, but as I have no idea how to crochet such a thing I winged it and cannot write out what I did.

The hot pad pattern is the standard easy one I've done before, only smaller.

The best part is that I used up every inch of that leftover yarn!

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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Mitered squares here...

Honestly, I think we have enough colors of yarn to make each square a different color combination.

That bright yellow is causing me some concern. The picture doesn't show it, but it is not a delicate yellow, nor is it a cheery yellow. It's a very violent yellow, somewhere in the area of mustard and finding the right accompanying color to tone it down is taking some time. Navy blue helped it, and we're thinking brown or gray might work, too.

(This may be Penny's fault. She was with me when I bought that yellow yarn. I suppose she was too well-mannered to ask me, "Why on earth are you buying that screaming, obnoxious shade of yellow?" Clearly I was not asking myself the right questions.)

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Monday, April 20, 2009

Lemon Cake

On Saturday I made the Natural Lemon Cake from Jane Brocket's book, The Gentle Art of Domesticity.

It was light, delicious, and a perfect mid-afternoon treat for the entire family. I cut thin slices so everyone could have more than one if they liked. It disappeared quickly and I promised to make it again later this week.


Farm Wife

Farm Wife

Hers is the clean apron, good for fire
Or lamp to embroider, as we talk slowly
In the long kitchen, while the white dough
Turns to pastry in the great oven,
Sweetly and surely as hay making
In a June meadow; hers are the hands,
Humble with milking, but still now
In her wide lap as though they heard
A quiet music, hers being the voice
That coaxes time back to the shadows
In the room's corners. O, hers is all
This strong body, the safe island
Where men may come, sons and lovers,
Daring the cold seas of her eyes.

~R.S. Thomas


Saturday, April 18, 2009

Ferns are up

David and I found the chains and hooks and the porch is ready to enjoy. (Well, once all the pollen stops it will be ready to enjoy!)

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A Grace for Ice Cream

A Grace for Ice Cream

For water-ices, cheap but good,
That find us in a thirsty mood;
For ices made of milk or cream
That slip down smoothly as a dream;
For cornets, sandwiches and pies
That make the gastric juices rise;
For ices bought in little shops
Or at the kerb from him who stops;
For chanting of the sweet refrain:
"Vanilla, strawberry or plain?"
We thank Thee, Lord, who sendst with heat
This cold deliciousness to eat.

~ Allan M. Laing


Friday, April 17, 2009

Death of a Witch

M.C. Beaton's latest Hamish Macbeth story, Death of a Witch was pretty good entertainment. Ms. Beaton made sure to re-introduce plenty of the characters in case one reading this book was unfamiliar with the series.

Self-proclaimed witch, Catriona Beldame, moves to the village and begins causing trouble. Not too surprisingly, she turns up murdered after a short time, and Hamish looks for the killer. Unfortunately one death leads to another, and more, and Hamish is forced to imagine that the murderer might be a villager rather than an outsider.

Of course, another love interest for Hamish is introduced, but this time he's not charmed so quickly - perhaps he'll be settling down in another book or two?


Ferns at the ready

Yesterday the local master gardeners' group held their annual fern sale. Dad bought four new ferns for my front porch. Lucky me!!! Now I have to find the chains and s-hooks and hang them up and my porch will be ready for summer.

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Real Education

Real Education by Charles Murray is a small book with a lot of content.

Charles Murray discusses education from kindergarten through post-graduate education. He makes some assertions that will offend those who believe that every child can perform at the same (top) level given enough money and attention. He states that variations in linguistic and logical-mathematical abilities do exist and no amount of education can completely change that. In other words, educationally-speaking, there are low-ability, average-ability and high-ability children.

Mr. Murray's goal for American education is to change the way it currently works in order to provide for the entire spectrum of children an education that works for whatever level their abilities might be, instead of insisting that everyone can be (or wants to be) a super scholar.

He sums up his plan this way:

"-Establish the limits of the possible.
-Find out what each child's abilities are.
-Give a safe and orderly classroom to every student who is trying to learn, no matter what.
- Teach the core knowledge curriculum to every student.
-Let gifted children go as fast as they can.
-Teach the forgotten half how to make a living.
-Expand choice.
-Use certification to undermine the BA."

All these ideas are fleshed out reasonably and thoughtfully. Mr. Murray also asks (and answers): Is college for everyone? Should every child in America be encouraged or expected to go to college? What sort of education should college provide? What should be the result of a college education, particularly a liberal arts education?

I liked this book a lot and am planning to loan it out to several friends of mine who also home school their children.


Thursday, April 16, 2009

More mitered squares

I've made 8 squares and have a ninth on the needles. The Mitered Squares Blanket pattern calls for 80 squares. This will ensure a busy summer.

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Coffee arrives, that grave and wholesome Liquor,
That heals the stomach, makes the genius quicker,
Relieves the memory, revives the sad,
And cheers the Spirits, without making me mad...



Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Story of Edgar Sawtelle

The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski was one of the books on my reading list for this year. I bought the book when it was first published, but hesitated to read it because of reviews I'd read and remarks by friends who had read it. Thankfully, no one spoiled the story for me, but having heard that it was a "disturbing" book, I decided to wait until I felt very cheerful to read it.

I should not have worried. It is a well-written, interesting story-- one that was hard to put down. I won't give away the plot, and I'd recommend to anyone else that you don't read the dust-jacket or any summaries in order to fully enjoy the book.

My overwhelming thoughts after finishing reading it were that bitterness, selfishness, and a need for revenge can destroy any chance of contentment and happiness in the life of an individual. Kindness and goodness may not bring material rewards, but they still are what makes a life that matters both to an individual and to others.

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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

I Like Housecleaning

I Like Housecleaning
Dorothy Brown Thompson

It's fun to clean house.
The food isn't much,
And paint's all about
That we mustn't touch;
But strange stored-away things,
Not like everyday things,
Make marvelous playthings
From attics and such.

The boxes come out
From closets and chests,
With odd sorts of clothes
Like old hats and vests,
And photographed faces,
And ribbons and laces,
And postcards of places,
And cards left by guests.

The Mother says, "Throw
The whole lot away!"
And Father says, "Wait--
I'll need this someday."
But either way's meaning
A chance to go gleaning
Among the housecleaning
For new things to play.


Mitered Squares Blanket - the fun has begun

I can already tell that this blanket is going to be fun - at least until I get to the part where I have to attach all the individual squares to one another and put the border on it.

But color combinations? Fun, fun, fun! And working with wool in warm weather won't be bad because the squares are about the size of a dishcloth: portable and not likely to make one sweat while knitting.

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Monday, April 13, 2009

Baby blanket - crocheted using odds and ends of yarn

Between granny squares and this crocheted baby blanket, I've used all my leftover bits of baby yarn. Now I can justify buying more baby yarn to finish the granny squares blanket - and maybe start another baby blanket or two... .


I've Got a New Book from My Grandfather Hyde

I've Got a New Book from My Grandfather Hyde
Leroy F. Jackson

I've got a new book from my Grandfather Hyde.
It's skin on the cover and paper inside,
And reads about Arabs and horses and slaves,
And tells how the Caliph of Bagdad behaves.
I'd not take a goat and a dollar beside
For the book that I got from my Grandfather Hyde.

I like this poem because I had a grandfather who gave me books and as I got older, recommended books. He died when I was 14, but he was a strong influence in my love of reading and -more importantly - was a shining example of a life lived loving and serving Christ.


Friday, April 10, 2009



Thou, whose sad heart and weeping head lyes low,
Whose Cloudy brest cold damps invade,
Who never feel'st the Sun, nor smooth'st thy brow,
But sitt'st oppressed in the shade,
Awake, awake,
And in his Resurrection partake,
Who on this day (that thou might'st rise as he,)
Rose up, and cancell'd two deaths due to thee.

Awake, awake; and, like the Sun disperse
All mists that would usurp this day;
Where are thy Palmes, thy branches, and thy verse?
Hosanna! heark; why doest thou stay?
Arise, arise,
And with his healing bloud anoint thine Eys,
Thy inward Eys; his bloud will cure thy mind,
Whose spittle only could restore the blind.

~Henry Vaughan (1621? - April 23, 1695)


Thursday, April 09, 2009

The Antioch Effect

Ken Hemphill's book, The Antioch Effect was one of several books mentioned or recommended at our church's mission conference back in February.

I couldn't find it on PaperBackSwap so I bought a copy, and now will probably buy several more copies - it's that good.

Mr. Hemphill's book is about church growth, but instead of putting out a plan or a strategy, he takes the reader to the book of Acts and the church at Antioch. His primary point is that church growth is supernatural. Only God saves people and brings them into the church. We can do nothing at all to truly "grow" the church.

The first half of the book is lessons from Antioch for every believer. The second part is directed more towards church leadership, specifically pastors (and elders). I raced through the book and gave it to Steve and begged him to read it. He started it and gave it a thumbs-up (and he's pretty picky).

It's an exciting book and one that is on my recommendation list for every Christian.

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Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Spring haiku

the songbird's song--
it stops what I am doing
at the sink


the dawn of the day
on the tip of the barley leaf
the frost of spring



Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Repair work

Jacy sent her Lizard Ridge Afghan home to be mended last week. There were a couple of holes where the seaming yarn between two squares had broken.

I love the look of mattress stitch seams, but must admit they probably are not strong enough for something that will endure a good amount of stress.

Jacy and her three roommates and their friends use this afghan constantly. I'm glad it's popular and I'm always happy to educate young people on the amazing goodness of wool, but I repaired it using the back-stitch instead of redoing the mattress stitch.

Now we have unseasonably cold temperatures for the next two days and Jacy has her wool afghan back.


An Irish Country Doctor

A few weeks ago I saw a large print edition of Patrick Taylor's book, An Irish Country Doctor at the library. I brought it home and read it in a few hours - I love large print!

Lynne and Carrie read and reviewed this book and posted the reviews at Semicolon's Saturday Review of Books months ago. It sounded like a book that would transport me to another place and time that was reasonably pleasant, so I put it on my list of books to look for.

Patrick Taylor's characters are an amiable group and the story is similar to that of James Herriot's books, but with a young doctor, Barry Laverty, rather than a young veterinarian, and set in Ireland rather than Yorkshire. There's also an older, bachelor doctor, Dr. Reilly, who hires Dr. Laverty and makes him his partner, and an older woman who comes in and cooks for the doctors, and a young woman Dr. Laverty meets and thinks may be the one for him.

I loved Herriot's books and I loved this one, too. I bought the second in the series, An Irish Country Village and hope to start it soon. But I might end up saving it for a time when I need a sweet and funny and nice story to take me away.

One last thought I had was that this book also favorably reminded me of Arthur Jackson's books about an English doctor in a country practice: Tales from a Country Practice, More Tales from a Country Practice, and Further Tales from a Country Practice. I'd recommend them to anyone who enjoyed Patrick Taylor's book.


Monday, April 06, 2009

The Moderne Log Cabin Blanket is finished

While Penny was here for the weekend I finished the Moderne Log Cabin Blanket for Sarah. As much as I love the Lizard Ridge Afghan I made for Jacy, I think this design is warmer because of the garter stitch and sturdier because all the blocks are knit together rather than seamed. And it's L-A-R-G-E.

Now I can start Joan's Mitered Squares Blanket.

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Friday, April 03, 2009

That Distant Land

This rather large collection of short stories by Wendell Berry includes several stories from other collections (Fidelity and The Wild Birds). Once again, characters from Port William and the neighboring countryside tell their stories.

My favorite, most attractive stories in That Distant Land are the ones that feature Ptolemy Proudfoot and his wife, Miss Minnie. They're sweet and generous characters with few flaws, making them rank up there with Andy Catlett in my mind.

For now, this ends my reading of Wendell Berry. In the last six months I have read eleven of his novels and collections of short stories. Now I'll think about them and maybe in a few months start reading some of his non-fiction books.

Book give-away:
In celebration of Wendell Berry's fiction and the enjoyment it has afforded me recently I'm going to give away a hardcover copy (with dust jacket) of A World Lost. If you would like a chance to win, leave a comment at this post between now and April 6. In the comment, be sure to tell me if you want to be in the drawing and leave a way for me to contact you via email to get your mailing address. On April 7 I'll put the names in a bowl and have a family member draw for me. Then I'll notify the winner and mail out the book post haste.


The Wild Birds

The Wild Birds is a small collection of short stories by Wendell Berry. Wheeler Catlett, Andy Catlett's father, is the character that brings these tales together. I thought as I read it that the common theme was old men and death.

Not a bright and cheerful book, and perhaps I'm about overdosed on Berry's fiction to appreciate it as I should have.

I'd love to read someone else's thoughts on the book.



Wendell Berry's novel, Remembering is another story that features Andy Catlett as the main character.

As I read this book I wondered if Andy Catlett is the character most like the real-life Wendell Berry. Many of the thoughts and emotions Andy voices in this novel seem much too real to be figments of Berry's imagination.

Although Andy is a middle-aged man, this book has many characteristics of a "coming-of-age" story. Over a space of several days or weeks Andy figures out: what's important, what matters to him; where he belongs; what he must do.

Within the story is the battle of family farms against big agriculture. Andy (and Berry) draws a distinction between agriculture as a business and agriculture as farming. Agriculture as a business uses (to the point of using up) the land, the tools, the people. Agriculture as farming offers a way of life that sustains and gives purpose.

It's a melancholy story, but with redemption in the end. And Andy is still my favorite character in Wendell Berry's fiction.


Thursday, April 02, 2009

The World According to Bertie

The World According to Bertie is my favorite book thus far in Alexander McCall Smith's Scotland Street series.

While Pat is still interesting, she's lost first place to Bertie on my list of interesting characters. And Matthew's life took a twist - a nice one - that was completely unexpected.

Reading this so soon after Espresso Tales and Love over Scotland was the right thing to do in terms of enjoyment, but now I'm ready for the next installment in the series - whenever that will be.


Curry sauce

The DeputyHeadmistress posted a brilliant recipe using lentils, rice, chicken and curry sauce.

We had everything but the jar of curry sauce, but I did have most of the ingredients to make a curry sauce so we took this recipe from Jennifer Brennan's cookbook The Cuisines of Asia and made our own sauce.

Quick All-Purpose Indian Curry Sauce
2 tablespoons ground coriander
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 1/2 tablespoons curry powder
1/3 cup white vinegar
3 medium onions, peeled and chopped
4 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and minced
8 tablespoons clarified butter
6 cups of chicken or beef stock
1 cup plain yogurt (may substitute coconut milk)
1 1/4 teaspoons Indian Sweet Spice Mix (I did not have everything for this part so I substituted a mix of cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and ground black pepper.)
1 teaspoon salt

1. In small mixing bowl combine dried, powdered spices with vinegar into a paste.
2. In food processor or blender, grind onions, garlic and ginger into a rough puree.
3. In large saucepan place clarified butter (I used regular butter without clarifying it) and fry puree mix, stirring constantly.
4. Add spice paste and cook, stirring for at least 5 minutes.
5. Pour in the stock and let it come to a boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to medium-low and stir for 10 minutes.
6. Increase the heat and stir in the yogurt or coconut milk. Add Indian Sweet Spice Mix and salt to taste. Stir again, set aside and let cool.

This recipe makes a lot of sauce: 8 cups. She recommends bagging it into 2 cup bags and freezing it so there's always curry sauce on hand when you need it.

I may do that next time, but this time we ate every bit of it. I ladled some on top of the chicken while it baked. Then I cut the cooked chicken into chunks, mixed it with the rest of the sauce and allowed everyone to put as much or as little as they wished on their rice and lentils. It fed 10 of us with seconds and leftovers for the next day. Not many leftovers, but enough for a couple of family members.

It was delicious!

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Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Paths of Glory

Jeffrey Archer's latest book, Paths of Glory is a biographical novel about George Mallory and his attempts to reach the summit of Mount Everest.

As usual, Mr. Archer has written an interesting, absorbing story. It's a quick read and Mallory appears to have been a fascinating man. This is the first fiction work I've read about a mountain climber, and I think it compares favorably to my favorite non-fiction books on that topic. (Into Thin Air by John Krakauer, Left for Dead by Beck Weathers, The Climb by Anatoli Boukreev, and Touching the Void by Joe Simpson are all good.)


Reading list for G20 leaders

Courtesy of the Telegraph :

An alternative reading list.

The comments are full of good reading suggestions for those leaders and politicians, too.

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The next blanket

I might finish Sarah's blanket next week. (Penny's coming this weekend, so I'm not even going to attempt to finish it while she's here - why waste a friend's visit on an ongoing project?)

So already my thoughts are turning to the next big knitting project: Joan's blanket. Joan wants the Mitered Squares Blanket from Mason-Dixon Knitting.

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