Thursday, June 21, 2012


Okay. It's been two weeks since I last posted and I'm sure you've been wondering what's up. Well. The truth is that the book binge turns out to have been more than just a holiday weekend fling. Back on June 6, I was at 66 books for the year.   Tuesday night I finished book 79. Yep. Thirteen books in two weeks is almost one per day. Which wouldn't be so impressive, except that after 9 hours at work and 2 more commuting plus assorted household and hygenic activities, it doesn't leave a lot of day for reading. (Obviously I had my nose in a book for a good part of the weekends!)

Highlights from the list:

1493 by Charles C. Mann- from which I learned just how much I don't know about Central and South American history. Not to mention the history of agriculture around the world. Basically, it's a book about how globalization has changed the world. Where 'globablization' refers to the exchanges of plants, animals and people that started with the galleon trade in the fifteenth century. And it expands vastly on the Eurocentric view of New World colonization and cracks the cover on the volumes of history of African emigration to North and South America.

Fated by Benedict Dakka- the second Harry-Dresdenesque London urban fantasy in this a way I'm sorry I found them so soon as now I will be stuck waiting for the next one .

Scarecrow Returns by Matthew Reilly (American title- elsewhere in the world it is 'Scarecrow and the Army of Thieves')- which I listened to as an audiobook and enjoyed immensely. I clearly need to get more audiobooks, as they make my commute much easier to bear. And the book (4th in the Scarecrow series) was great fun- a big cinematic over-the-top wildly improbable thriller. My husband read one of the previous ones and gave me his patented, 'what drugs are you on again?' look, but I am unreasonably charmed by Reilly's fast pacing, big explosions, and touches of humor. Like in the first book (Ice Station) where the main character assures a little girl that he won't get killed doing something insanely dangerous. "How can you be sure?" she asks. "I can't die," he explains, "I'm the hero of this story. "

London Under by Peter Ackroyd This was rather slight, but it takes a survey of all the things buried underneath London- from rivers and streams to the thousands of years of history to the cables, tunnels and sewers that make the city work. It's the sort of thing that would make any imaginative child- or grownup- wonder about the fantastical things that lurk just beneath the surface of the world we see.

And I finished Catching Fire and Mockingjay, the last two books of the Hunger Games trilogy. Which were very well paced and compelling. I can see why they're popular, but I'd describe them as an allegory of teenage life, rather than science fiction. Generally, the worldbuilding makes very little sense. Now- that having been said, I read the last two in a single evening, and enjoyed them.

Which is not to say I have done nothing but read in the last two weeks. My parents came up Saturday for a pre-Father's Day lunch, and I spent a whirlwind morning in the kitchen making a green salad, a potato salad, a big batch of homemade granola (that was for a gift), and a mince pie to go along with the grilled steak kabobs my husband cooked for lunch. It was gorgeous- sunny but cool and breezy and we ate out on the deck. Delightful.

And so you can see that I come by my mechanical inclinations honestly, my dad left with us a huge trove of erector set parts. Being my dad, he of course had to try them out first:

(Those are a Ferris wheel and a drawbridge.  Both motorized and working.  Plus three large boxes of additional building materials. I believe my husband's plan is to check them out thoroughly and then pass them on to our nephews when the boys are a bit older.)

And my mom brought me some beautiful yarn (from a yard sale, I think). It looks like handspun wool to me- and more to the point, smells like it, too. Biscuit and I wound it it into balls after my mom left.

Biscuit turns out to be a cat of exceptional taste in fiber, since he kept trying to roll on the yarn and was in general way more excited about the handspun than he usually gets about commercial fibers.

I went to the local knitting group:
(Here are, from left to right; Karen, Barbara and Kali...all delightful knitters of taste and discernment.)

I finished the Mexiko Spring Socks:

I cast on a pair of Karisma mittens, just for a change from all the plain mittens I've been doing:

I have continued painstakingly stitching the zipper into my sweater. Between books. (It's coming along, but still has some work left.)

And I have studiously neglected the sewing, so my sleeveless top has made no progress. But it has turned quite hot, so perhaps that will motivate me to finish it up so I can wear it.

And last but not least, I have watched the cats. They have been exceedingly playful this week and have requested toys at frequent intervals. (Cookie goes to the closet where the toys are kept, squeaks, and rubs against the door. Perfectly clear.) Possibly the wildlife has been getting them all hot and bothered--they were birdwatching the other day with dedicated attention. For a while the tails were swishing back and forth, perfectly synchronized.

There has also been a lot of sprawling due to the heat:

And now....who knows what I'll be doing? Certainly not me! But there's a book sale this evening, so it's possible the reading binge will continue.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012


It's been a bit since I last posted, and that's because I've been feeling like there wasn't much to show you.  Not that I'm feeling dull or even disenchanted with any of my current projects--But.  I'm stuck in the crafting doldrums where I'm awash in a sea of WIPs and although I keep working on them, I don't seem to be getting anywhere.   For example:

1.  There's the Celtic cable sweater, which needs half a sleeve and a zipper.  Except that I'm procrastinating on finishing the second sleeve because I suspect I need to do something different with the increases on the first one (which looks a little odd).  And while my last zipper experience was ultimately successful, it was quite annoying.  There's no reason this next one should be nearly as fussy- I don't have to deal with steeked edges and I have thoughtfully armed myself with the copy of Vogue Knitting from the library so I know how it's supposed to be done.   But it's fussing and sewing rather than knitting, and so I keep putting it off for an evening where I have the mental energy and patience to deal with it.

2.   The Mexiko spring socks- nothing wrong with these at all.  I'm on the leg of the second sock, nearing the cuff.  I keep checking to make sure I haven't inadvertantly made the leg of the second sock twice as long  as the first since that's how long it seems to be taking, but really, it should be done soon.

3.  After the first two projects, I've hardly touched the bamboo fine gauge sweater.  Which really is taking a long time, not least because I'm not working on it.   I've promised it a couple of weeks as primary traveling project after the socks are done.

4.  And then I could not resist the new yarn.  I broke into the new Encore skeins for a pair of mittens.  Make that two pair. 

Oh, and two more pair that I did before the Webs trip and hadn't gotten around to posting a photo.

5.  Another item cutting into crafting time has been books.   I'm up to 66 for the year, about ten of which have been in the last two weeks.  Okay, there was a holiday weekend in there.  But still.  Among the new reads were "The Hunger Games", which Toni-in-FL among others has recommended to me.  I enjoyed it, but I had some trouble turning off my inner science geek, because I kept finding myself wondering things like, 'how does the economy of this place work exactly?'.    I will certainly be reading the sequels, however. 

And if there are any Harry Dresden fans out there, I highly recommend checking out a new series by Benedict Jacka.  I just read the first book, "Fated", and I'll be headed to a bookstore shortly to pick up the next one, "Cursed" which was just released in the US.   It's an urban fantasy set in London, and the first book is a Dresden-esque tangle of magic and mystery.  In addition to the twists of the plot, I like the setting-  the main character lives in Camden Town, a place I remember fondly (I've been to a couple of musical events at Cecil Sharp House in Camden, home of the English Folk Dance and Song Society)  and many of the other London settings are likewise familiar and fondly remembered. 
Camden Town in 2001.

6.  There's a house project too (of course) which I started a month ago and need to get back to.  And that's in addition to the pool, which was looking pretty good Memorial Day weekend--and since then we had a heavy fall of pine pollen that turned the pool green and days of rain that have filled it to overflowing and wash out the chemicals almost as fast as I can put them in.   Also,  I haven't had much chance to run the filter since I have this niggling feeling that it might be better not to be messing with an electric pump in a downpour.  No doubt I'm overly persnickety about these things.

7.  And because of course the thing to make projects go faster is to start something new*, I've started a sewing project.   Mom, you may want to sit down before reading this.  I'm making myself a new summer top.   Okay, that doesn't probably sound shocking to most of you, but my mother gets this look in her eye sometimes, and I look down and realize I'm wearing some article of clothing she made me.  Possibly when I was in high school.  Certainly prior to 1995.  And the last time I actually went out and bought new things was in the early 90s (I remember because I was going on vacation to Florida and realized I didn't have enough warm weather clothes for a week without doing laundry).    Now it's not like I haven't got anything newer than that- there have been a few souvenir and freebie T-shirts, and I get the fallout from my sister's wardrobe (she's a genius at finding great stuff in thrift shops and rummage sales).  But something brand new?   It's been a while. 

Anyway, sewing being new and interesting, the furry contingent has been fascinated.  Both Biscuit and Cookie helped me cut things out.  Cookie decided that after the excitement of cutting fabric, he really needed a little lie-down.  (He's  a much more mellow sewing assistant than Biscuit.)
 Cookie assesses the comfort of the pattern.

Biscuit launched a fierce assault on the interfacing  and I had to take it away from him.  (And he was so over-excited he bit me.)  Ironing is less exciting, particularly since we aren't allowed to attack the electric cord.   There was the keen observation of the sewing machine (I had to take great care to ensure that no paws, whiskers or fingers were sewn).  And as a bonus, Biscuit sat on the directions so I couldn't read them.     Pinning is boring (I unsportingly shut the drawer so the pincushion could not be batted or threaded needles eaten), so he wandered off at that point.  Now, I tend to be a deliberate seamstress (I don't really much practice sewing compared to other crafts), but with all that help, is it any wonder the top is going slowly?

*Besides, how else was I to get my list to seven items**?
**Seven is traditional*** for blog lists.
***I have no idea why or who started it.