Saturday, May 30, 2009

This is what half-way looks like

Here are 40 squares for the Mitered Squares Blanket. Forty more to knit, but I am encouraged that I'm this far and it's not yet June! Unless I lose steam, this blanket should be finished well before January.

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Friday, May 29, 2009

Lunch is just ...

...a bowl of cherries.

And they were delicious!

The Forgotten Garden

Kate Morton's book, The Forgotten Garden was a fantastic surprise. I picked it up thinking it would be somewhat entertaining and then I found myself totally immersed and unwilling to stop reading. Good thing Steve was on a business trip last night, because I stayed up until after 2:00 a.m. to finish the book.

This book reminded me in different ways of so many others. First, and most obviously, it's like Frances Hodgson Burnett's children's book, The Secret Garden. Similarities include a weak, sickly cousin entertained and helped by a robust, healthy cousin who happens to be orphaned; a walled garden planted with beautiful flowers and trees; and a few servants who are kind and willing to help more than duty requires. Ms. Morton even has one of the book's characters read Burnett's book, Little Lord Fauntleroy, and Mrs. Burnett appears briefly in the book at a reception in her honor.

Second, this novel reminded me of Diane Setterfield's book, The Thirteenth Tale. But I think it's better. Really better. There's a mystery surrounding the identity of Nell, introduced at the beginning of the book as an old woman dying in Australia. Her granddaughter, Cassandra, flies to England to search out the answer to the question, "Who was Nell, and how did she end up alone on a ship bound for Australia at the age of 4?" Part of the mystery, or one of the clues, is a book of fairy tales, and several of the tales are included as part of the book. (That also reminded me of A.S. Byatt's book, Possession.)

Throw in a few characters and situations reminiscient of the best of Charles Dickens, and a smidge of Charles Kingsley's children's classic, The Water Babies, and you have a book that's almost a fairy-tale for adults.


Thursday, May 28, 2009

These Old Shades

One of the books on my reading list for 2009 was a novel by Georgette Heyer, These Old Shades.

Unlike previous novels by Heyer that I've read, this one was set in France, rather than England. It involves a dissipated duke, intent on revenge, and a case of mistaken - or possibly, changed - identity. I found it somewhat similar to some of Shakespeare's comedies with touch of Pygmalion.

Good diversionary reading for summer.

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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Tiny hat for a tiny baby

A baby girl that was due in July was born two weeks ago. I'd already crocheted a blanket for her, but I wanted to make a hat or two also. The pattern I used was one Penny gave me years ago from the Fiber Factory.

I took the aqua hat and the blanket to the baby's mama yesterday, and I have a lavender hat on the needles to finish today.

I'm praying that sweet little K grows so quickly she'll barely have time to wear the caps!

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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

40 Mitered Squares

We continue to have rain and cloudy days, but the squares for the Mitered Square Blanket are bright and cheerful. Forty squares are now knit and blocked - I'm halfway done!

Well, halfway done with knitting the squares, that is. Doubtless joining the squares together and knitting a border around the entire blanket will take time. And yarn.

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Monday, May 25, 2009

Memorial Day

I am grateful to all that have served our country in the armed forces. One cousin died in Vietnam. All of my uncles served in Europe in WWII. My mother's father served in the Pacific theater in WWII. My father's father served in France in WWI. Several friends have died in service in recent years.

Thank you all for sacrificing to protect my freedom.


Saturday, May 23, 2009

Large brown socks

I finished Dad's socks and gave them to him tonight. I had yarn to spare after finishing the pair - thank you, Opal sock yarn! Cast on 72 stitches on US size 2 needles, knit a 9 inch cuff and 9 inch foot.

Next up: two pairs of socks for Mom.

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Friday, May 22, 2009

My Spy: Memoir of a CIA Wife

Several years ago our home school group took the kids to the International Spy Museum.

In the museum gift shop there were many interesting books. I decided to get Bina Cady Kiyonaga's book, My Spy: Memoir of a CIA Wife.

I brought the book home and put it on the shelf to read soon... and I read it this week.

This book was not what I thought it would be. I imagined cloak-and-dagger, thrilling, mysterious meetings with strange and dangerous people would be the focus of the book. To my surprise, this was really the story of a marriage - a marriage between two very dissimilar people who loved each other despite and through their differences. Bina Kiyonaga tells about her life as an Irish Catholic from Baltimore, Maryland who married a nominally Catholic Japanese-American man from Molokai, Hawaii. They made it work beautifully, living around the world, under various "covers," raising five children, until her husband died from cancer at the age of 59. She waited thirty years to write her story, but it was worth the wait.

Upbeat, encouraging, pro-life, and joyous are the adjectives that best describe this book.


Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Hot Springs, AR is aptly named

We had a fun and educational time in Hot Springs. I guess I'd never given any thought to the name of the place and neither had the kids. So we were surprised that the water from the springs was HOT - 143 degrees Fahrenheit.

We spent a few hours in the old downtown admiring the old spas (see two of them across the street behind Sarah, Sam, and Jacy?) and the old hotels.

After a delicious supper at Bubbalu's we ambled down the promenade built in 1958 and marveled at the number of springs that were capped and admired a few that sent hot water and steam down the hill into pretty pools and streams.

I loved this old building. It dominated the skyline and we could see it from our hotel, which was some distance away.


Monday, May 18, 2009

Time for summer

The lake is almost full. The days are getting warm enough to use the fans and AC. We're just about done with schoolwork. Sarah's ready to graduate high school. Summer guests will soon be coming to visit. Summer camps are scheduled.

We're already enjoying swimming at the lake on the weekends, but I'm thinking it's time to make it a daily activity.


Saturday, May 16, 2009

On the road again

Sam, Sarah, Jacy and I are heading to Arkansas today to take Jacy to camp. Steve decided I should rent a car, and this bright red vehicle is what the rental agency brought out for me. The idea was that I'd be driving a full-sized car to get a feel for the next car we might buy. This one is not what either of us had in mind.

But I think it's going to be fun to drive it!

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Friday, May 15, 2009

Woo-hoo! 32!

Not yet half way on the Mitered Squares Blanket, but I'm working on it. Joan and I made a list of color combinations and I'm marking each one off as I knit it. I hope not to repeat any combinations. We might have to make exceptions for favorite color pairs, though.

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Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

Jamie Ford's novel, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet was reviewed by several readers (Joy, Caite, Petunia, and Rebecca have posted reviews at Semicolon). The reviews I read made me very interested in the book, so I read it last week.

It was every bit as good as everyone said it was. Even better, it was a clean book with a good, compelling plot and no objectionable language or situations. A rare find in novels.


Thursday, May 14, 2009

Waiting for the Weekend

I chose Waiting for the Weekend by Witold Rybczynski as the April book for my 2009 reading list.

While I did start reading it in April, I just now finished it. It was not as gripping as several other of Mr. Rybczynski's books that I've read and it took me a few chapters of reading before I was really interested in the subject matter: the weekend. Leisure time isn't a subject one generally wants to spend much time or energy contemplating, unless one is planning the activities for the weekend - and that's where the book gets interesting.

What I take for granted was not always in existence. The two-day weekend of Saturday and Sunday is a very recent innovation. Various nations and cultures throughout history have had holidays, festival days, and religious celebrations, but typically those particular days had their own rules and activities. The idea of a day or days to what one wants - or choose to do nothing - is modern and was helped into being by a confluence of several things - at least, Rybczynski makes a good argument for them: the Industrial Revolution; labor unions; the automobile as personal transportation; and solitary reading.

"The privatization of reading has been called one of the major cultural developments of the early modern era. It was also a milestone in the history of leisure. Solitary reading is the ideal vehicle for individual leisure. The reader can do something--or nothing. He can pick up one book or another. He sets the pace, reading uninterruptedly or leafing through a book at random, letting his imagination free to make what connections it will. Reading requires long periods of calm--at the comfortable rate of two hundred words a minute, it takes about fifteen hours to complete a typical novel. Reflection, contemplation, privacy, and solitude are associated with reading books. And withdrawal. Both withdrawal from the world around one, from the cares of everyday life, and withdrawal into oneself."

This book ended better than it began - sort of like the weekend after the work-week.

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Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Natural Elements

The cover art for Richard Mason's novel, Natural Elements is attractive and it caught my attention at the library. Not wishing to select a book for its cover, I quickly read the first several pages, decided I'd like to read more, then I checked it out.

The novel is set in 2000-something London and South Africa and in South Africa and London during the time of the Boer War (around 1899 - 1902). Using the relationship between elderly Joan and her middle-aged daughter, Eloise, as the frame, Richard Mason manages to tell a modern story about a child dealing with her aging mother and the extra care she needs in the early stages of Alzheimer's Disease. At the same time, and as a part of Joan's memories that she thinks are currently happening in her life, Mason also tells about Joan's childhood and the history of her family in South Africa, particularly the hard times experienced during the second Boer War when the family farm was destroyed and the Boer settlers were rounded up and confined to a concentration camp of sorts.

The strangeness of Joan's thoughts and emotions as she slips deeper into Alzheimer's seems very realistic, as does Eloise's frustration and love for her mother and her desire to get the very best care for her mother.

Mason drew upon his own family history in South Africa for a lot of the story, and I found the historical bits fascinating. It turned out to be a book that lived up to its cover.


Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Hats for babies

Our knitting group at church has been knitting baby hats for a women's pregnancy clinic. Last week I knit a basic hat in seed stitch and one using the Lion Brand Yarn Mini Sack Hat pattern. The mini sack hat was a lot of fun and is great for using up leftover yarn. I want to knit several more of them.

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Monday, May 11, 2009

Mitered Squares are everywhere

Yes, I am blocking each square with a hot iron and steam after I finish knitting it. However, I'm not weaving in the yarn ends. I think I'll use them to reinforce the seams so I don't have to worry about the squares coming apart from a lot of use.

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Friday, May 08, 2009

Potholders must come in pairs

Right? I mean, who gives an odd number of potholders? So when I had enough yarn leftover from the dishcloths to crochet only three potholders, I looked for more yarn scraps to make a fourth that would have some of the same colors as the other three. It's obvious which one is the afterthought, but at least our friends will now have an even number of hot pads to use.


The Mighty Queens of Freeville

I had to read Amy Dickinson's book, The Mighty Queens of Freeville because I used to live near Freeville. It's a tiny, tiny place and I was amazed someone had written anything about it.

This is Amy Dickinson's memoir of her childhood growing up in Freeville, NY, then marrying, moving away, having a child and losing her husband, and moving back - for at least part of the year - to her hometown and the extended family still living there. This is the woman who replaced Ann Landers' column, and she attributes her success at advice-giving to the advice she heard given by her mother, aunts, and other relatives while she was growing up.

I'm a sucker for memoirs, but I think this is one anyone would enjoy - even if one had never been to Freeville.


Thursday, May 07, 2009


Last year Dad asked if I'd heard of Ayaan Hirsi Ali. He'd heard her speak on some TV program. I had seen an article about her (or maybe an interview with her) in World Magazine so I was somewhat familiar with her.

For his birthday I gave Dad a copy of Ayaan Hirsi Ali's book, Infidel. He read it and recommended that I read it, too. "But please read it soon," he said to me, "because I've promised to loan it to several other people also."

So I read it last week. Once I'd begun, I had to finish it. It's a compelling book. Ms. Ali ruthlessly tells all about her childhood and young adult life as a Muslim. Without ever playing the victim card, she openly condemns the cruelty and viciousness of a religious structure that exploits women and those who are weak, yet also finds the positive and hopeful elements of her life to remember and share. She lived in many different African countries, then moved to Germany, then to Holland, and finally to the U.S.

She said she was astounded and amazed at the cleanliness and order that she saw in Germany and Holland. She had always been taught that only nations that embraced the true religion of Islam would prosper and have peace, yet the countries in which she had lived (Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Kenya, Ethiopia) did not have the same material standards as those European countries. She was also surprised at the difference in how women were treated and that was what spurred her into politics and into writing.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali writes:

"Life is better in Europe than it is in the Muslim world because human relations are better, and one reason human relations are better is that in the West, life on earth is valued in the here and now, and individuals enjoy rights and freedoms that are recognized and protected by the state. "

"When people say that the values of Islam are compassion, tolerance, and freedom, I look at reality, at real cultures and governments, and I see that it simply isn't so. People in the West swallow this sort of thing because they have learned not to examine the religions or cultures of minorities too critically, for fear of being called racist. It fascinates them that I am not afraid to do so."

This was a thought-provoking memoir/autobiography, and I'll be recommending it often to other readers. ( I wish I'd had it to read before I read A Thousand Splendid Suns. Now maybe I'll go read The Kite Runner.)


Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Baby Bib O' Love trio

Three bibs are ready for a June baby - don't know if the baby is a boy or a girl. As usual, I knit the Baby Bib O' Love pattern from Mason-Dixon Knitting. Then I sewed on buttons from the stash I inherited from my grandmother.

I guess I could find a fancier bib pattern to knit, but it's so gratifying to be able to knit up a couple of cotton bibs in an evening, so I'll probably stick with this.

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Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Storm damage

Sunday's storm brought a tree down in our yard. Although it fell on a dogwood tree, I don't think the dogwood was seriously damaged.

Marley and Sam and the kitten enjoyed climbing on and around the downed pine. And I was happy for the impromptu lesson on the destructiveness of the Southern Pine Beetle.

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Saturday, May 02, 2009

Dishcloths and potholders

A young couple from our church got married last summer. Now they're graduating from Auburn and moving to Missouri for seminary. I thought I'd make them some dishcloths for their new home. (They're leaving in a few days and dishcloths are the quickest gift I can knit.)

I have no idea what colors they'd like, so I chose bright, summery colors and knit six dishcloths. Now I'm taking the leftover yarn and crocheting as many potholders as I can from those scraps.

(Same dishcloths and potholder, but the other side of the potholder is showing in this picture.)

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Friday, May 01, 2009


I love tables. Small tables. Large tables. End tables. Coffee tables. Plant tables.

A few weeks ago at the antique store I saw this 1950's-era formica-topped aluminum table and fell in love with it. But I turned away from it, knowing I had no need for it and no place for it. Several days ago I was talking to the lady who helps out at the antique store. I told her that I really liked that table, but... and she immediately said, "If you'll buy it I'll give you a good deal." The price was $75 and she told me I could buy it for $45. And she'd deliver it, if I liked.

I went home and talked to Steve and he said he thought I should get it. It'll be useful when he finishes my yarn studio. I can put my cutting mat on it and use it when I cut fabrics for sewing.

And some day, if one of the children needs a kitchen table, he or she can have it.