Monday, February 25, 2008

Knitting, Books, and Grandma Stuff

I mentioned in a previous post that I planned to knit a blanket for the Victory Junction camp as part of the Ravelry group Go Fast, Knit Left. I chose a driver whose colors matched some suitable yarn I already had in my stash--I actually have a couple of drivers that I don't like and many that I cheer on. The red, white, and blue matches Dale Earnhardt, Jr.'s color scheme on his National Guard car even though Junior Nation is now wearing the green of his other car. I decided rather than making a bunch of blocks for someone else to have to put together, I would make a Mason-Dixon Moderne based on the baby blanket with additional strips added to get it up to the size needed for Victory Junction. Since I've never actually made one of their log cabins before, I have been knitting like crazy to see if it works. From here on out, I will just knit mostly during races. Since I'm turning in a finished blanket, I don't have to be finished until October. I only had three colors instead of the four shown on the original pattern, so I'm substituting stripes for the 4th color. The yarn is Caron's One Pound, and it seems to be working up rather well, although lots of garter stitch in acrylic get a little hard on my wrists. I plan to put on a patch pocket with an intarsia 88. I would also like suggestions for the edging. Do I do the one called for in the book, or do I use an I-cord edging? I do think it looks kind of racy.
I also finished reading Hidden Prey by John Sandford. I really like his books. His plotting is interesting, and he always makes me glad I don't live in Minnesota in the wintertime.
The second of our newest DGDs had her first birthday party this weekend, a perfect excuse for a family get-together. Her mom made a cute birthday cake that looked like a giant cupcake. The two older DGC had lots of fun opening the presents for the little one, who was mostly still interested in the paper. It was great fun!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Books and Audiobooks

The audiobook of Elizabeth George's With No One as Witness was, predictably, an interesting listen, perfect for spinning and knitting when the writer's strike still has my favorite shows out of production for awhile. Inspector Lynley and Sergeant Havers were there usual selves, and the plot was satisfying.

After listening to her previous book, I bought Joshlyn Jackson's Gods in Alabama. Although this novel is very different from her second book, I found it satisfying. I did not seem to identify as strongly with the narrator, but perhaps that was a function of reading for myself instead of hearing the story told in the first person.

Right now, I'm in something of a snit because an audiobook download from Overdrive failed. It appeared to download just fine, but when I try to transfer to my MP3, it says that file 4 is defective and stops the transfer. The interface will not let me redownload to write over the file. I can't download again until after the 26th. Why is this a problem? Well, I've become spoiled to doing Saturday morning chores while listening to an audiobook from the player in my pocket. It makes the work go fast. Now I don't have one when I should, and it really ticks me off!

I have been knitting, and I will post pictures this weekend sometime. It's "crunch time" for English teachers in Texas right now. THE test is on March 5, and we will all be so glad when it is over. The other three core subjects are still under the gun until the last week of April or so.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Something for Everyone

A rant-like educational comment, school "vacation," a book review, knitting and spinning news--take your pick.

I spent yesterday with the rest of the English Department "refreshing" my skills in evaluating to what extent English Language Learners have progressed in their learning of English--speaking, listening, and writing. I have no complaints about actually doing it. However, the on-line training--furnished by that big supplier of educational testing evaluation--was unbearably slow. We had to watch minivideos in the speaking and listening parts that took forever to load--would have been more efficient on You Tube--so that you were trying to evaluate the halting English of a speaker while having a constantly interrupted video stream. There were other inefficiencies as well--passwords that hadn't arrived and a help line that took forever to answer. Grrrrr! Next year, I'm taking a sock. I could have gotten a lot of knitting done while waiting for computer loading.

School vacation--Our district used to have a midwinter break. Some people went skiing, others used it so students wouldn't have to miss so much time for the San Antonio Stock Show. It also dovetailed with All-State Band and Choir. I think it started out with an early dismissal on Friday, followed by Monday and Tuesday off. It was sometimes Friday and Monday. Finally, it was just early out on Friday and then Monday off. This year, due to our legislature's mandating a later start for the school year, it turned into 2.5 hours on Friday afternoon. It was an extremely nice 2.5 hours, and I squeezed in a hot bath, a novel, and knitting (not in the bath).

The novel was T is for Trespass, my newest trip into the Kinsey Millhone novels by Sue Grafton. A few years ago, I faithfully read all of them in order, but I read faster than she wrote, and then I got confused about which ones I had read and which ones I hadn't, so it's been awhile since I've read any. I think I missed some between H and N, and I don't think I've read any since N. This book was as dependably interesting for escape reading as I remember. I will have to stop by the Gs in the library and determine which ones I've skipped. This is not my favorite mystery series, but it is a series that can be counted on to be varied and interesting while still having enough sameness to make you feel comfortable.

Knitting--OTN--large garter-stitch object from stash. To be revealed in a future post.

Spinning--I finished one skein of worsted bulky weight that I spun from gray roving from The Sheep Shed Studio. Long draw, 2 ply. I'll start more this week.

And #88 won the Shootout and the Duel at Daytona!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

A Trip Down South via Audiobook

I am always somewhat hesitant when I notice that an audiobook is being read by the author—that is, if the book is fiction with a number of different characters. Just because someone is a writer doesn’t mean that he can read the characters aloud in a distinctive way. This book is an exception—Between, Georgia by Joshilyn Jackson. I downloaded the unabridged audio from Overdrive and then couldn’t put the MP3 Player down. At one point, I was trying to juggle my player while doing a household task and dropped it, clearing the hard drive, and had to reload the novel. If you like strongly-defined female protagonists who come into their own in the course of a novel, quirky and crazily eccentric Southern characters, interesting plot twists, and a little mystery and romance thrown in, you will enjoy this book. An extra plus is the depiction of a person living a rich and full life even though Usher’s syndrome has made her both deaf and blind. I have been on a book diet—public library only—but I just made a Barnes and Noble stop for another book by the same author. I’ll have to read this one to myself, but I’m sure I will be hearing her voice while I do it.

I’m continuing my catch-up on the works of Julie Garwood and just finished Killjoy. It is a modern novel, rather than historical, and was a very satisfying read.

Monday, February 11, 2008

The Weekend

I have NO knitting to show, not that I didn't do some, but I was swatching for a project for "Knit Fast, Turn Left," a NASCAR fan Ravelry group. We're going to be knitting blankets for the pre-chase part of the season for the Victory Junction camp. Some will be doing blocks that will be shipped off and sewn together, but I've decided to do a M-D Moderne blanket--in between the baby size and the big one. It will be acrylic because of the kid/washability factor, in red, white, and blue. We all have to choose a driver we're knitting "for," and even though I'm not particularly a one-driver fan, I've chosen Dale Earnhardt, Jr. Any suggestions out there about how to work the number 88 into a garter stitch block? I'm considering illusion knitting. My choice must have been a good one, because Junior won the Budweiser Shootout Saturday night.

I had another "cultural" experience Saturday. I went to a meeting in the nearby city on planning to use Teacher Retirement successfully. I don't know about other states, but in Texas, there's a lot more to it than just retiring and drawing a pension--all sorts of options for how you do it. Anyway, I wasn't sure how to dress for the occasion--it was at the regional service center where we most often do professional development. I finally opted for a handknit sweater, slacks, wool socks, and comfy shoes. I was going to spend the rest of the afternoon and early evening with a couple of 4-year-olds and two babies. Well, I needn't have worried--many people obviously have their outside-of-teaching lives well in hand. The row immediately in front of me appeared to be going hunting, I hope, right after the luncheon. (If they weren't hunters, they were from some survivalist group or something.) Immediately in front of them were the mechanics--reminded me of the commercial that says some guys relax in a comfy chair, but to others there's nothing more comfortable than cardboard on concrete. To my right was a couple in absolutely beautifully tailored motorcycle leathers, both jacket and chaps or leggings, with patches all over from various charity rides. Everyone else was dressed in various degrees of formality. I was sort of encouraged to see that we have such a variety of side interests and people willing to display them. And, darn it, I had gotten off from home without a sock OTN!

The rest of the weekend was lovely--a flea marketing trip with my DH, lunch with my DD and her family, visiting with DS and his wife, feeding ducks and geese at the park with grandchildren, taking my DGS to another park to use the playground, and lots of babyhugging.

I also finished an audiobook and a novel and fell off the wagon at Barnes and Noble. I'll review the books in another post; the audiobook in particular was great fun!

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Book Reviews

Hard Truth by Mariah Stewart (unabridged audiobook)--definitely a light reading mystery. It is, however, suspenseful enough to make a long drive interesting and to knit by. It would have made good spinning fare as well, but I missed my spinning night this week. There are some other audiobooks in this series, and I will download them.

The Lake of Dead Languages by Carol Goodman is a hard book to define. I think it must be a first novel, since I find no others listed. The setting is a girls' school in upstate New York, during the present and in flashbacks to the 1970s. The narrator, a former student, is now the Latin instructor at her alma mater, where she is being haunted by the horrible happenings of her past. The story is both eerie and psychological. This type of reading is not my usual cup of tea, but I found the story to be compelling. If I write anymore, I'll give away something about the plot, so I'm going to shut up.

FYI--Branagh Hamlet=1 sock leg

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Tagged again!

I sometimes ignore being tagged, but not if it involves literature.

I was tagged by Sweetpea’s Patch. The rules are to pick up the nearest book of 123 pages or more, find page 123, find the first five sentences, post the next three sentences, and then tag five people.

Sweetpea is reading Pride and Prejudice. I’ve just begun a book by Carol Goodman called The Lake of Dead Languages. I heard about it on the Ravelry Book Challenge group, but I haven’t read very far, so I haven’t yet formed an opinion of the novel. Here are sentences 6-8 on p. 123:

They were furnished in the same overstuffed and overpolished colonial style as my own house. But whereas my mother regarded each chair and end table as a prized possession, there was an air of disregard and neglect in Hannah Toller’s decorating. It looked as if the furniture had been picked off the showroom floor with no regard for what my mother called "color coordination."

I have absolutely no idea how those lines fit into the story. I'm not nearly that far yet.

I'm tagging the following blogs: The Adventures of Flutterbug and Punxsey; Sooner Be Knitting; Ridiculous Obsession; Knit n Teach; and Lizzy's Loose Ends. It will be interesting to see what everyone is reading.

As for me, I'm off for an afternoon watching the entire Branagh version of Hamlet in preparation for beginning to teach the play next week. (I do have a sock OTN in preparation.)

C'est fini. . . mostly

We live in a 1959-60 era home, and we've been working on updating a little at a time. This is the typical pink/gray bathroom of that era--sort of. You can't really tell in the picture, but the gray is not gray, but a steel bluish color, and the pink fixtures are a peachy shell pink rather than a true pink. Matching either is a nightmare. The pink wallpaper dates from the '70s--the original was a dark gray. The commode area is around that short wall on the right, with no light. There are two recessed lights over the vanity and a ceiling fan/heater with a single bulb. The tub area is also very dark. The only reason these pictures look as bright as they do is because of the camera flash.

I wanted lighter, brighter (I'm a bathtub reader), and more of a spa-like feel. Changing the fixtures was out of the question expense-wise. Besides, that's one of those extra deep cast iron tubs that I don't want to give up. So we went with white.

As you can see, there is now a light in the "throne" area, which also lights the entire bathtub area as well. There are new blinds, and I copied and tinted old family black and white snapshots in order to blend the gray and the pink. Perplexingly, these pictures don't look as bright as it really is because it was so bright the flash didn't come on. My photography skills still need improvement.

I still need to find a new toilet seat, so that's the reason for the "mostly" in the title of the post.