Thursday, March 31, 2011

If you water it, it grows. . . .

Today I soaked my Clapotis to block it. This was a much more complicated procedure than it should have been. About 2 years ago, I happened to be with my husband in a welding supply shop, and I purchased, for a mere pittance, the stainless steel wires for lace blocking. I brought them home and put them away, and then proceeded to knit garter-stitch afghans and Wonderful Wallabies and socks for a long time. Long enough to have forgotten where I put those darn wires. I can’t seem to find them anywhere. So, this morning, I used cotton string and a needle to prepare the Clapotis for string blocking. (Thanks, Yarn Harlot, for your instructions.) Right after lunch, I put the Clapotis in to soak with a little Euclan. I just pinned it out. This is not particularly a hard blocking, and I went for shawl width rather than length in my stretching. It is pinned out across the length of the blocking board and to the bed on each end and then hangs down to the bottom of a rather thick mattress. That must make it about 8 feet! Width is 22 inches. I may have to rewet and pin out those ends separately after this much is dry, but crawling on the floor to pin out the entire piece is just beyond me. I hope this is not too long, but as I am more than ample in size, perhaps it will be just right.

Schedule check—The gas meter people came today instead of Tuesday.

OTN—a Jacques Cousteau hat in Shine Worsted for Hats for Sailors. If you are interested in the project, click on the button to the right. There is also a Ravelry group.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Too Pooped to Photograph

I just finished knitting the Clapotis.  I will photograph in the morning and then wash and block it.  It was great fun, but I’m ready to move on.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Book Recommendations

I must admit that I am generally much fonder of fiction than of biography, but there youthare a few books that have caught my attention over the years.  One of them, Testament of Youth, is a memoir written by a British woman who survived World War I, even serving as a nurse during the conflict.  I read an excerpt that was in a high school textbook, became interested, and ordered the book itself by interlibrary loan. 
The other book written about the same era is The Flame Trees of Thika.  I admit to Thikabecoming interested in it after seeing part of the 1981 miniseries.  The author, Elspeth Huxley, writes about her childhood in colonial Kenya before and at the beginning of World War I.  Seen through the eyes of a child, her life on a coffee plantation is fascinating, but the reader is nevertheless aware of the abuses of colonialism.  The idyllic life is cut short by the war and the Germans. 
Both of these books are interesting looks at life at the beginning of the 20th century.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Monday Beginnings

Life is much less organized since we retired.  Of course, I’m comparing now with a life controlled by the ringing of a bell every few minutes and time divided into six-week intervals.  Furthermore, I had to write down what I was going to be doing during those time periods and turn it in to someone.  Every nine months, everything came to a full stop, you evaluated the past year, and then you started over.  Now time just flows, and there are no bells ringing.  One commitment a day seems like enough. 
My “have-to” calendar for this week:
  • Monday—Mailed package of ebay merchandise.  Prepaid, so just involved driving through and dropping in outside mailbox.  Called the gas company and scheduled a time for meter replacement.  (THIS turned into a major nuisance involving lengthy holds and repeating the same information over and over.  The waiting music was, however, pleasant.)
  • Tuesday—Noon Bible Study, beginning the Book of Hebrews.  I’m planning for a lunch from the Tasty Cream to bring home with me.  Replacement of gas meter.  After 20 minutes of calling, I have an appointment for them to come between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.  The replacement will be followed by the ceremonial relighting of the pilot light on the water heater.
  • Wednesday—Perhaps help DH replace tags on car and pickup.  One vehicle just needs a new sticker attached to the windshield.  The other one needs the sticker and actual new metal plates.  (I’m excited!  I am old enough to remember when there were new metal plates every year, and I always feel somewhat cheated by just stickers. With the infrequent replacement of the actual plates, you don’t see people using them for metal siding on the garage or tool shed, either.  A whole style of folk architecture has disappeared.)
  • Thursday—Call to find out what days the Driver’s License office is open because I have a birthday coming up and this is my turn to actually go in physically to renew my license.
  • Friday—Who knows?
Every day, I plan to knit on my Clapotis.  I have finished the middle, and I’m into the decrease section.  That’s over 80% done, using the rule of fifths.  I will also be reading and listening to audio books while I knit.
Not exactly earth-shaking, is it? 

Saturday, March 26, 2011

An Outstanding Audiobook

This novel definitely falls into the category of one that I knew I ought to listen to but The Helpwasn’t too excited about.  In fact, I had it on My Holds for months before the download became available.  (My personal rule is that I save my one Audible credit a month for a book that I cannot download free, no matter how long it takes. Since I now have two library sources, my waits should shorten.)  Once I got started with this one, I had earphones on every available minute, even waking up in the middle of the night to get up and listen.  The audio performance was outstanding, and the subject matter was compelling. 
I lived in a Southern state in the early 1960s.  The years in this book were my junior high and high school years.  However, I lived in the northern, fairly sparsely- populated and later-settled part of that state.  I attended the first public school in Texas to integrate, back before I started to school.  The Black community in our town was very small anyway although there was a fairly large community of Hispanics from Mexico.  Were these people treated as second-class citizens? Yes. Was this so culturally ingrained that most of us were unaware that was what was happening?  Mostly.  Do some of the same problems exist today?  Yes.  However, our culture never had the complicated rules of behavior of places that had been part of the Old South.  I remember going to the Capitol in Austin in the spring of 1964 and being utterly shocked at the idea of separate rest rooms and drinking fountains.  (I also remember taking my own daughter to the Capitol when she was about the same age.  We were in the new underground part and visited a beautifully tiled restroom.  I mentioned to her how shocked I had been to see the Black and White restrooms on my first visit.  She looked around her at the lovely neutral color scheme and said, “I see what you mean.  I like this tile much better than black and white.”  I’m not sure that she entirely believed me when I explained, and I hope it was because she was growing up in a different and better time.)
The Goodreads summary is fairly accurate regarding the outline of the plot of this book. I don't wish to include spoilers in reviewing it, so I won't say much more about the plot.
Because the point of view of this novel shifts from one of the main women characters to another, the choice of multiple readers for the narrative was a wise one.  But this audiobook goes much farther.  Because these fine actresses use their skills to bring minor characters to life, the listener has the feeling of hearing a more extensive cast.  In short, this is a novel that is beautifully suited to audiobook presentation and the producers did an excellent job. 
The background of the book is daily life in Jackson, Mississippi, during the turbulent 1960s days of the Civil Rights movement.  Against the backdrop of Vietnam, political assassinations, the spread of air conditioning, the influence of television, birth control, changes in the role of women, and civil rights demonstrations, each individual citizen must come to terms with morality and change.  It is so easy now to take the attitude that the choices in that day and location would have been easy ones, but this novel makes the reader examine himself and how he would have fared in that culture and how he faces similar situations today.  The author has given us what is very much another version of Twain's "good heart v. deformed conscience" debate.
In short, this book is indeed a good read, but I suspect it is an even better listen.

Knitting—still on the Clapotis.  I got so involved listening that I failed to check off my chart and had to tink five rows to get back on track.

Monday, March 21, 2011

A Light-Hearted Mystery

KoalaThis is the second book in this series that I have listened to.  They are great entertainment.  On a light-to-serious scale, I would put them as more serious than Stephanie Plum but less serious than Agatha Christie, probably the closet equivalent would be the quilting mysteries of Earlene Fowler. 
The plotting in the book is very solid. 
The main characters that continue from one book to the next are becoming more well-developed.  The protagonist is Theodora “Teddy” Bentley, a thoroughly modern woman who works as a zookeeper even though she is a descendant of the primary founding family of the tiny and wealthy California town of Gunn’s Landing.  Her particular branch of the family has fallen on hard times because her father was a crook who got caught and fled the country.  He provided a secret account for Teddy and left her his boat.  Teddy, however, chooses to live mostly on her salary from the zoo and lives on the boat as an economy measure and for independence from her very overpowering mother.  There is also a blossoming romance between Teddy and the Sheriff, who was a high school sweetheart.  
As a side benefit, I am much better informed about Giant Anteaters and Koalas and somewhat better informed about a few other animals that enter into the story as other than the title animal. 
Of course, humor is a given when people are dealing with animals.  In this particular novel, zoo animals and a talk show host provide a laugh, as well as bringing back all those hilarious memories of Johnny Carson and the animals from the San Diego Zoo.
Audiobook downloaded courtesy of the Harrington Library Consortium through Friona Public Library.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Somewhat Scattered Saturday

Review
I am just going to copy and paste my review of the new Preston and Child book, Gideon’s Sword, which became a great Clapotis aid yesterday.  I want to get a review out there since I feel this book is getting some bad reviews that it doesn’t deserve.  Often it seems to me that a book or movie gets bad reviews from someone because it is not what it was never supposed to be in the first place.
The information on this book says it is number one in the Gideon Crew series, and I certainly hope there are more books to follow.  I have seldom been disappointed by Preston and Child, and I was certainly entertained by this book.  Crew is an engaging protagonist, and he is not quite so hard to figure out as Pendergast in the Relic series.  I actually did not want the book to stop because there is more that I want to know about some of the situations that are obviously ongoing.  This book romps through a variety of settings and cultures, again making particularly good use of New York City, as Preston and Child have done in the past.  I certainly believe that this book is an auspicious beginning for a new series.  I could give you some very specific reasons in detail about things I liked, but that would be spoiling the book.
Just a note--I listened to the audiobook, which was well-performed.  I was able to put it on hold pre-publication with the Philadelphia Free Library, and I got it rather promptly after the book came out. 
Goodreads.com has a good summary that is not a spoiler.  Basically, this is a good thriller, but if you expect Crew to be another Pendergast, you will be disappointed.  Crew is more an Everyman-type character.
Knitting
Finally, here is a picture of the Clapotis, exactly 40% of it.  Unblocked, of course.

The color is reasonably accurate.  I did not get it draped so that the diagonal nature is apparent in this photo.  For those of you who are unfamiliar with the pattern, the rows of dropped stitches are on the bias, a design feature that gives movement and drape to the fabric.  You will also notice that the real knitter/bloggers have those fabulously artsy wicker or wrought-iron mannequins to display this sort of thing--I have a computer monitor.  However, I would not want to fail to include a glamour shot:
IMG_0543
Now I need to make my second-ever Russian join and continue knitting.
Spring
Spring is finally arriving in all of its windy splendor.  At 9:30 a.m. yesterday, I drove in my driveway and noticed that my pear tree had a slight greenish tinge.  By noon today, it had leaves! 

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

OOPS!

In the previous post, I reviewed a film.  Unfortunately, I gave it the wrong title.  I actually watched The Young Victoria.  Victoria and Albert seems to be available only on DVD.  Sorry about that.  I did really like the film that I watched.  Must have been the Clapotis fumes.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Reviews

  • Knitting—I’m still working on my Clapotis, and I can see why so many people have knitted it. As I finished the increase section, I wondered what the big deal was about a big piece of flat knitting with a twisted stitch every so often, but then I started the middle section and dropped that first set of stitches. Oh, my! The texture that it gives to the piece is lovely, and the squishiness and drape of the fabric is wonderful. It is not the world’s most exciting knit, but it is still enjoyable.
  • Movie—I know I’m years late in writing this, but while knitting on my Clapotis this afternoon, I wrested control of the television and watched Victoria and Albert on Netflix Watch Instantly. This film was a real treat! The costuming and sets were outstanding, but the portrayal of the difficulties of the young Victoria and the way she had to grow up were something I had never thought about. Everyone acknowledges the difficult political path that Elizabeth I trod, but I had always assumed Victoria was as loved always as she was later in her reign. It was an interesting film and a great love story.
  • Books—a few comments. Lisa Kleypas’ Hathaway series—titles in my Goodreads panel in the sidebar—was perhaps even more interesting than the previous series that I read. Great entertainment. I did not review each novel at length. The Goodreads summaries will give you a good idea about each book. I also read another Bob Lee Swagger book by Stephen Hunter—Night of Thunder. This is about as far from a romance novel as you can get, but I found it to be an interesting coincidence that I read the book now, right before this year’s NASCAR race at Bristol, the race that forms the background for the book. Finally, I began with The Mistress of the Art of Death, the first of a series of medieval forensic mysteries featuring a female protagonist. I immediately read the second book in the series, The Serpent’s Tale, and I’m planning to move on to the others. In spite of the occasional anachronism, which are fun to look for, the books are interesting, both historically and socially, as well as being good mystery puzzles.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Nostalgia Time

Dear Hubby and I were watching a lengthy fundraising effort on PBS the other night that featured clips of early rock and roll from the Ed Sullivan Show.  We were talking about how there are no more programs like that one on television right now that provide such a wide variety of programs for the public.  We can remember when a number of those shows were what we watched on our two or three channels.  Because the entire family watched, the variety shows made an effort to have something that appealed to everyone in the family. 
Then I went on YouTube hunting down a performance by Merle Hazard of Mason-Dixon Knitting fame if you’re a knitter or economist fame if you’re of that profession.  I am still trying to surface.  I find something interesting and those darn links on the right side just slide me over to something else.  Much of it has been a walk down memory lane. 
In keeping, however, with what Hubby and I were talking about, here’s a clip from a show that was required watching every week at our houses—the Tennessee Ernie Ford Show.  I’m including the link because of some uploading problems.
No knitting—I’m having to give my hand a rest.  I’ll post again soon “if the good Lord’s willin’, and the creek don’t rise.”

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Happy Birthday, Texas!

March 2 is the 175th anniversary of the signing of the Texas Declaration of Independence at Washington-on-the-Brazos in 1836.  The Texas Revolution had begun at Gonzales the previous October.  By the end of February, the defenders were under siege in the Alamo, which would fall on March 6.
alamo
Take care of my little boy. If the country should be saved, I may make for him a splendid fortune; but if the country be lost and I should perish, he will have nothing but the proud recollection that he is the son of a man who died for his country.  --William Barrett Travis, Last Letter from the Alamo
Following other disastrous battles, most notably the massacre of Texas troops at Goliad later in March, the Mexican army was defeated by Republic troops under command of Gen. Sam Houston at San Jacinto on April 21. 
If you visit San Antonio, take time to visit the Alamo.  It is easy to find because it is in the heart of downtown.  The grounds and building are maintained with beauty and dignity not by the government but by the Daughters of the Texas Republic.  Go early in the morning before the crowds arrive and wander the grounds, read the memorials, and enter the mission itself.  It is a good place to contemplate the meaning of liberty. 
Thanks, Cindy, for your reminder!