Sunday, January 30, 2011

thoughts on: Murder at the Vicarage

Murder at the VicarageMurder at the Vicarage by Agatha Christie

I'd never read a mystery novel before, which is rather surprising because my mom loves them, and our house was always littered with mysteries.  They just never called out to me; there was always so much else I wanted to read.  Last year, after reading Connie Willis's Blackout/All Clear, I read that one of her inspirations was Agatha Christie.  In fact, she considers Blackout/All Clear to be her Agatha Christie novel.  I loved Blackout/All Clear, so decided that I must read an Agatha Christie.

Then, of course, there was so much else I wanted to read that I did not get around to reading Agatha Christie.  This year, because of my blanket knitting goal, I'm planning to listen to books on tape.  So when I was at the library and saw the mystery section of audio books, lightbulb! 

I chose this as my first Agatha Christie because it is the first appearance of Miss Marple.  I'd read that she is less likable here than in later books, but I enjoyed her in the Vicarage.  This was an easy listen:  nicely written, appealing story, good reader.  I enjoyed the first person narrator, the Vicar.   Is that usual for Agatha Christie? 

I'm sure I'll listen to another Agatha Christie in the future, but I did not love it so much that I'm ready to embrace the entire genre.  There is just so much else out there to read.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

365/26 Trixie thinks we walk too slowly.

It is so warm today, we decided to take Trixie for a walk around a frozen pond nearby.  Frozen pond, warm day, such a winning combination.  Notice the taut leash.  Notice the no-pull harness.  Notice the alert expression.  That is how every walk with Trixie looks.  She is tiny, but fast, strong, and alert.  She flushed several birds and one rabbit out of the reeds surrounding the pond.  I think that qualifies as a good day for a dog.  Great would be being allowed off the leash to chase the rabbit, but that did not happen. 

Shooting Mitts

After I made my son's mitts, my husband requested a pair.  He thought they'd make good shooting mitts.  Of course, I dilly dallied about and didn't start them until a few days ago.  Luckily, it has been warm this month, so he's not been desperate for them.

For his, I used the staghorn cable from the Arco Guide to Knitting Stitches and the mitten numbers from Ann Budd's Handy Book of Patterns

I wish I'd offset the cable further away from the thumb gusset, but done is done around here.  The staghorn cable is easy-peasy, so I didn't even need to keep the book nearby. 

The yarn is Knit Picks Wool of the Andes, which I bought at the library.  Yes, the library.  The central branch has a yarn shop in it, the profits of which are used to support the Fresh City Life* programs.  The shop has set hours, but if one of the employees is in the office and you knock on the locked door, they'll let you in to shop.  I love the Fresh City Life programs, so I like to buy yarn there.  Their prices are exactly what other shops charge.

*The library is completely changing entire software and site this week, so I cannot link to it right now, but I will come back and add it later.

thoughts on: Backs to the Wall

Backs to the WallBacks to the Wall by Leonard Mosley

I've read other books about life in London during the Blitz, written in a similar style, but this book covered both a longer time period and a broader segment of society, giving a more complete picture of London during the war.  Backs to the Wall covers the entire war, beginning with the phony war, and ending at VE Day, so we hear, in first person accounts, not only of the solidarity during the Blitz, but the frustrations over food rations, the disgust over the decline of morals, and the sheer exhaustion of the later years of the war.

Mosley draws heavily on first hand, contemporaneous accounts, diarists and Mass Observation Volunteers, who wrote extensively about their daily lives.  He included people who are often not given more than a cursory mention in writings on home life:  women who turned to prostitution, men who refused to fight.  As much as possible, he lets people speak for themselves, quoting their own writings. So we read about the terror of the V1's and the thrill of finding a single lemon for sale.  The humiliation of imprisonment for sleeping with the enemy and the quick forgiveness offered by one's friends upon release.  The excitement of a little boy who has off school, because it has been bombed, and the grief of parents who have lost a child in the bombings.  The recovery of a young pilot suffering massive burns whose sole desire is to return to combat, and the musings of a conscientious objector. 

It's all there:  life, good and bad, which carries on in peace and war.

Friday, January 28, 2011

365/25 100 Balloons

The kindergarten down the hall from me celebrated their 100th day of school by releasing 100 balloons, biodegradable balloons, with notes attached.  I was invited to the launch.  
Very exciting day in kindergarten!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

365/24 Smiley

Fluorescent lighting + wiggly baby = I need to figure out how to shoot on manual.
All the best smiles are blurred, because she wiggles when she's happy,
and the fluorescent lighting is so bright, many of the shots are washed out.
I know how to set the white balance for flourescent; it's all the other choices that overwhelm me.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Monday, January 24, 2011

365/21 & 22 Lions

Today, the lions were the most  interesting animals at the zoo.  There are three lionesses and one lion at our zoo.  The lion was focusing all his attention on one lioness today.  Not the lioness pictured above; she was contentedly sunning herself.  The lioness receiving all the attention was restless.  She is the one pacing behind the lion below.  The lion looks all cute and kittenish here, but he was marking that tree, not sweetly scratching his head.  I was wondering if the favorite was in heat or pregnant or what.....I don't know enough about lions to know what would merit a lioness all that attention.  There were no visible signs of either of my guesses, but I'm hoping for cubs. 

Those are my "good" lion photos for the 365, ie they are in focus.  The next ones are blurry, but they show the lion in action, which I think you'll want to see.  When the lions were fed (lucky us - we happened upon feeding time!), the restless lioness held back about getting food, letting the other two go first, but the lion was not at all pleased with this plan and chased off the other lionesses until his favorite went down from the rock where she was perched and ate.  The lion himself did not eat.  He just watched her eat.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

365/20 Me Heater

My personal source of warmth.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

365/19 Pink Puffs

I don't know what these fluffy pink puffs are, do you?

365/18 Orchids

We stopped by the Botanical Gardens today.
I loved the stripes on these orchids.

thoughts on: Nothing to Envy

Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North KoreaNothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea by Barbara Demick

An eye opening account of life in North Korea, Nothing to Envy gives the reader a glimpse into a nation that has been closed to outsiders for decades.  Through the lives of six ordinary individuals, we see the effects of Kim Il-Sung's totalitarian regime on every aspect of life in North Korea.

The individuals who shared their stories with the author had all survived the famine of the 1990's, and later escaped the prison-like existence in the hope of a better life in South Korea.  Hearing about the "Arduous March" .... the slow deaths from starvation, the long term effects of severe starvation on the survivors, the refusal of Kim Jong-Il to let foreign aid reach the people .... heartbreakingly sad. As if life in North Korea had not already resembled life in a prison camp, they were now faced with daily deaths and mass burials. 

We also see the dynamics of very different families, from diverse backgrounds, and how those lived before the famine, what they did to survive it, and how they deal with the guilt of what it took.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

365/16 Sun-drenched Citrus

The sun here is very bright, and it is hard for me to predict whether it will be too intense in photos.
Sometimes it washes out the subject, like a too bright flash.  Other times, crazy dark shadows.
Then, there are times it just works with the subject. 

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Coffee Cozy

Saturday afternoon, I wanted a project to keep my hands busy while my husband and I listened to Nothing to Envy, a book about life in North Korea, and I decided to use some little tapestry yarns I'd acquired to make this cozy for the single serving French press.

I don't drink coffee, but my husband does, and I usually wrap a towel around the press when brewing coffee for him, to keep it nice and hot.  I thought this would be a nice way to both use up the odd yarn bits and try out this design, which has long interested me.  It is an adaptation of a sweater pattern in an old magazine.  Not something I would wear, but I like the way the colors merge into each other, and the dots in squares.  It kept my hands occupied as I listened, and it was fun to play with this pattern.  I think I'd like to do it again, but in a finer gauge, so the circles look more circular, maybe double knit coasters or something.

And now for something slightly different....

A handknit sweater worn by an actual baby, not a toy bear.  It fits perfectly, so now I know that the bear is about the size of a seven to eight pound baby.

Here is my little office mate, in action.  She is such a sweet, content baby.  Loves being held, but also loves laying on her back, looking around, wiggling, kicking, stretching, cooing, and smiling.  She was in wiggly mode when I photographed her today. 

She almost rolled over just after I put away the camera.  If her left arm hadn't got in the way, she'd have done it.


thoughts on: When Helping Hurts

When Helping Hurts: Alleviating Poverty Without Hurting the Poor. . .and OurselvesWhen Helping Hurts: Alleviating Poverty Without Hurting the Poor. . .and Ourselves by Steve Corbett

I'd recently read The Hole in our Gospel, and thought it a compelling call to action.  This book, recommended to me by a friend, is a plan of action.  Well, not a plan perhaps, but a set of guidelines and considerations on how to help effectively.  Basically, it about how not to make things worse by throwing money around and attempting to rescue those who do not need *you* to rescue them.  It focuses on the need of both rich and poor for the true Savior to rescue them, and how to effectively minister to the poor in ways that do not rob them of their dignity and continue patterns of paternalism which lead to further feelings of hopelessness.

The book is written so that it can easily be used for group studies, with the questions preceding and following each chapter for discussion and thought.  It addresses issues of poverty in both third world nations and those living in poverty in America, pointing out both similarities and differences in their assets and needs.  Asset Based Community Development was one of the areas of focus which was new to me, and one which I will continue to think about and use in my approach to helping others.

I liked this so much, I recommended it to my pastor.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

365/14 More Sweetness

Another sweet baby for me to cuddle and enjoy!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Blue Laurels: A New Favorite

It's only January, and I'm one quarter of the way to my goal of 12 blankets.  It helps that I started in November.  So, yes, that is one blanket each month, but it sounds more impressive the other way.

This pattern may be my new favorite.  It has only three rows, one of which is knit, one is purl, the third a simple pattern.  Better than that, however, is that it looks the same on both sides.  I love that in a blanket!  I'll probably knit this one again soon.

The pattern is from Our Best Knit Baby Afghans, and the yarn is Lion Brand's Pound of Love.  This is my favorite yarn for baby blankets, because there is no joining skeins, no extra ends to weave in or to pull out with later use.  These blankets are for a nursing home, and will be washed often, so it's perfect here, too.  The two other blankets I've finished for this goal were made with Caron One Pound, and I will not buy that again, even though the color selection is better for adults.  It is not nearly as soft and doesn't drape as well.  I think the yardage is less, too.

As an aside, I'm considering doing that Amazon affiliate link thing.  Anyone have any experience or thoughts on that?  Do people really buy things that you link on your blog?  Or I'm I misunderstanding how it works?  I do not want ads on my blog.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

thoughts on: The Map that Changed the World

The Map That Changed the World: William Smith and the Birth of Modern GeologyThe Map That Changed the World: William Smith and the Birth of Modern Geology by Simon Winchester

I considered dropping this book at the half way point.  I'd already begun skimming, which is never a good sign.  I decided to continue skimming to the end, in case Winchester returned to the story of William Smith and his map.  He did, but I skimmed that, too.  It just was not that interesting.

The information known about Smith would have made a very good magazine article.  He was a remarkable man, and the map, the first geologic map of an entire nation, England, an amazing feat.  However, not enough is known about him to write a book.  Winchester filled out his book with descriptions of the geology of England, rants against the church standing in the way of science, unconnected stories about other geologists and fossil hunters of Smith's day, and a chapter about how mean the nuns were to him on kindergarten field trips (which may explain the earlier rants about the church).  In other words, there is a lot to skim through to follow the story of Smith.

365/13 Looking forward to Tuesdays

That is the day my new little office mate will be in.
She was six weeks old today.
Don't you love that wispy baby hair?

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

365/12 Food Rules #1

I'm making my own personal food rules.
Rule 1:  Less Cheddar, More Chocolate
My unrequited love for certain cheeses has gone on too long.  Cheese has never returned my affection, but recently, it has turned spiteful and vindictive.  It's time to end this relationship, and replace it with something that loves me back.  
That's right, chocolate.  Chocolate, despite my being fickle, sometimes desiring it, sometimes feeling entirely indifferent to its appeal, has never withdrawn its favor from me.  Never.  
So it's less cheddar, more chocolate for me in 2011.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Monday, January 10, 2011

thoughts on: The Hole in our Gospel

The Hole in Our Gospel: What does God expect of Us?  The Answer that Changed my Life and Might Just Change the WorldThe Hole in Our Gospel: What does God expect of Us?  The Answer that Changed my Life and Might Just Change the World by Richard Stearns

I do not think I can do this book justice in a review.  It confronts readers with how little they are doing to alleviate the suffering of the poor world-wide and what God has said of this in His Word.  It challenges us, as individuals and the church, to respond with whatever means we are able to put our faith into action in meeting the needs of those living in conditions unimaginable to most of us.  To me, certainly. 

This isn't a book to be read and pondered.  It is a call to action.

365/10 On Thin Ice

Sunday, January 9, 2011

thoughts on: The Three Musketeers

The Three MusketeersThe Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas

I alternated reading and listening to this.  I expected to enjoy it more than I did, having loved The Count of Monte Cristo.  It has two distinct parts, the first, being primarily about D'Artagnan, delights with comedy.  Dumas is very sly, making constant jests about the morals and character of the time.  Had the entire book followed this pattern, I'd have liked it more.

The latter third focuses on the infamous Lady de Winter, and that was melodrama, made painful by the awful rendition of female voice by the narrator.  Chapter upon chapter of her seduction of Felton were excruciating.  I think I would have been better off reading that portion. 

Overall, though, I did enjoy it, and I'm looking forward to discussing it at book club this month.

365/9 A Girl and her Dad

Saturday, January 8, 2011

365/8 Cheetah

Free day at the zoo, and the weather was lovely.

365/7 Rhino

If you enlarge it, you can see green slime in its nostril.  Or not.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Bring Your Baby to Work Sweater

I knit this one for my new office mate.  Her mommy's maternity leave ends next week, and she'll be bringing her baby to work with her when she returns.  I'm looking forward to sweet baby snuggles. 

This was a very quick project:  two evenings and done.

I've been listening to The Three Musketeers on cd while knitting lately.  It's my book club's selection for the month.  I alternate reading it and listening to it.  What a fun read/listen, we're enjoying the fun Dumas' has at his characters' expense.

The pattern is available here.  I made a few changes, shortening the length but making it a bit fuller by adding a couple stitches and switching to bigger needles for the lace. 

365/6 Hawk

We see hawks soaring over the prairie dog fields often, 
but to see one sitting so nicely is a treat.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

365/5 Jeremiah

My Precepts Bible study class starts Jeremiah tonight, and my homework is done.  
It's always exciting starting a new book:  so much to know, so much to grow!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

All buttoned up

My communication skills need work.  I forget that most of you do not hear my voice when you read my blog.  You are, however, the sweetest, most encouraging readers I could ask for.

I never considered saving the buttons for a future project.  I am not a save-for-special-occasion sort of girl.  I'm a use-it-and-enjoy-it girl.  I just find it amusing how often I hear people speak of saving (rather than using) something as an heirloom, simply because nobody else had used it before them.

So the buttons are in place; the sweater is done; and, since the recipient is about the size of this bear, it has room for growth, which is good, as babies grow like wildflowers.

365/4 Inquisitive Robin

The robins like to congregate in the trees in my neighbor's yard, just on the other side of this fence.  I like to try to photograph them, but they usually hide when I come outside, darting in and out of the pines.  My patience paid off this time, however, because eventually this one decided I was not a threat and perched on the fence to get a better look at my curious behavior.

Monday, January 3, 2011

365/3 Vintage, Like Me

I finished knitting this baby sweater Saturday.  It only needs buttons to complete it.  I found some off white ones that would work in the button bucket (a little tub of buttons I bought years ago for use in various children's crafts - it has been a good source of buttons for sweaters, too), but they were not exactly right.

Then I remembered there were some buttons in my sewing box, so I looked there.  I found these perfect pink buttons.  Look at the price.   These were probably purchased when I was a baby, making them vintage like me.

I am tempted to save them for a bigger project, since there are ten of them, and buy a new set of five for this sweater.  Little pink hearts or flowers, maybe?  Save these "heirlooms" for a future grand-daughter's sweater?  Or maybe it is time to use these sweet pink buttons, rather than leave them in the sewing box to be inherited by my own daughter.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

365/2 Leftovers

My favorite part of eating out may be taking the leftovers home.  It's so nice to open the fridge and see delicious food ready to be eaten, no thought or preparation needed.  No dishes to wash, either, if, like me, you are happy to eat most foods cold from their box.  Spicy Thai Eggplant, eaten twice this weekend - yay!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

365/1 A Little Extra Love on New Year's Day

We had a special treat for New Year's:  Grandma and Grandpa were able to spend the night on route further west.  
What a fantastic way to end one year and start the next!