Tuesday, September 30, 2014

What I read in September

Here's what I read in September. I had named it the month of the novel and read a few. I started a few others but decided they weren't for me and returned them to the library.
Still Writing by Dani Shapiro. 
Not a novel but I really enjoyed it. I enjoyed it so much that I requested the rest of her books from the library. A mix of novels and memoirs. Should make for some interesting reads. One quote I wrote down from the book above was: "Fill your ears with the music of good sentences, and when you finally approach the page yourself, that music will carry you." Sounds good to me.

The Writer's Little Helper by James V. Smith Jr.
Great little book. I've already bought myself a copy. I like his tone and that most of the information is put in point form/ checklists which will be great to refer back to. Highly recommend.

The Wives of Los Alamos by Tarashea Nesbit
I was really enjoying this novel until a historical error right near the end almost completely ruined it for me. Definitely written with a unique voice. Told as a collected we of the wives, no I voice used. Read reviews of this after and a lot of people didn't like the voice but I enjoyed it. Felt more like poetry. Highly recommend. 

The House We Grew Up In by Lisa Jewell
Well written but I'm not sure if I like it. It's about a family and what happens as they grow up. The mother becomes a hoarder and the kids are left cleaning up after her. One of the brothers had committed suicide as a teenager and the reason for it is finally revealed near the end and ... I just didn't buy it. Everything before and after that is okay. The family moves on and everyone is friendly at the end. I don't want to say I'd wouldn't recommend it but it's amazing how one little detail affects the whole book.

One Bowl Baking by Yvonne Ruperi
Used this book to make...

... this birthday cake for me. Not bad. Great book. Good pictures which is a deal breaker for me and cookbooks.

The Simpsons and their Mathematical Secrets by Simon Singh
I enjoyed this a lot more than I thought I would. You don't have to be a fan of The Simpsons or math to like this book. I learned a lot and it has added a few other books to my list (from my husband's bookshelf). Joseph is going to read it, too. He has stated that if he could do it again, he'd get a degree in mathematics so he will definitely enjoy it. Now I find myself watching Simpsons looking for numbers. The book also discusses Futurama.

Never Mind Miss Fox by Olivia Glazebrook.
Highly recommend this book. Plot was believable but unique. Kind of saw some of the plot twists coming but still liked it. Novel is about a couple and their daughter who gets a new piano teacher, Miss Fox. The parents know Miss Fox from before they were married and had just started dating. Miss Fox has a secret about the dad which eventually comes out. The rest of the novel deals with  how does a family move on after a crisis. Do they forgive? What kind of compromises are parents willing to make for their child's happiness and for each other? Great read - I read it in a day.

Five Days Left by Julie Lawson Timmer
 My feelings towards this book are still very raw, even though I finished it a few days ago. 
The novel is the story of 2 people who only know each other via an online forum for different kinds of families. Scott and his wife are currently foster parents to an 8 year old boy who is the half brother of one of Scott's former students (their mother is in jail for drug charges). He has to return the boy to his mother in 5 days - thus only has five days left with him. The other character is Mara who has Huntington's disease. After she is first diagnosed 4 years prior, she decides that she will commit suicide on her next birthday once the disease goes from its early stage to advanced stage. As the title suggests the signs come five days before her next birthday. She spends the novel preparing for her death (no one knows her plan) and debating with herself whether she can wait another year.
After reading the first 100 pages, I was crying to my husband about the what-ifs. What if one of us got terminally ill? What would we do? I prepared myself for the ending of the book. To be sad and crying but that didn't happen.
I think this book could have been two novels instead of one. Mara and Scott are two very different characters and could easily carry their own novel. I enjoyed Scott's storyline but it felt like filler until the novel returned to Mara. I'm not sure why the author felt the need to put them together. Perhaps Scott's storyline allows readers an emotional break from Mara's?
I think I am most struggling with the ending. (SPOLIER) The letters that Mara writes to her daughter and husband to read after she's gone finish the book . They almost felt unnecessary, like I was reading something private. Something I shouldn't be reading. I think the book would have been better if it had stopped at the end of the previous chapter when Scott was wondering where Mara was on the online forum they both were members of. The letters were too much. Like the author wanted me to cry - but I didn't. I didn't want to read them. Those were private and I sound crazy. 
I don't think I'd recommend it. It felt like the author was playing with my emotions. The book has definitely stayed with me though and forced my husband and I to have a conversation about terminal diseases and what our wishes would be. Not fun. The author is local and giving a reading tonight. I almost want to go and ask her why she included the letters at the end but I won't. Some people will probably really enjoy this book, I'm just not one of them.

Monday, September 29, 2014

September Goals - How'd I do?

You can go back to this post to see my original goals for the month. Here's how things went.

Knitting Goals
I made some serious progress on the Dundurn for my mom. I wanted to finish it this month but finishing the back feels almost as good. This took months. It wasn't difficult, I just can't cable with a baby which leaves it to either nap time knitting or late night knitting and I just didn't get it done. So happy to be this far. I feel motivated to finish the whole cardigan up.

Cast on the second sleeve and am making good progress on that too. I finished the first sleeve last year. I started this cardigan last July to give to my mom for Christmas - last year. Maybe this year? 

And I did cast something on for myself even though I didn't finish Dundurn. I couldn't help it. This  sweater is for me and is the Sun Rose pattern. I tried it on last night and decided to add another 1.5 inches to the body before starting the hip increases. 

Quilting Goals
I finished this baby quiltMy sister gave me the quilt top, although I don't believe she made it. I think she won it - I'll have to check with her. It came with the binding. I only had to provide the batting and backing.

I did a very loose free-motion flower quilting all over. This is for a baby girl (a friend's niece) who has a neutral nursery with giraffe accents. I think this will work. The mom didn't want anything really girly.

Pieced 2 green fabrics together to make the back. Glad to have something complete. Only took 4 years.

Finished the Made in Cherry quilt top. Happy with how it turned out. Still need to even out the edges.  I didn't have to buy any greens for the top, all from stash. And I still have some greens left.

A rabbit came by to check out the quilt while I was taking pictures.

I can't wait to quilt this and use it on our bed.

I didn't get the Terrain quilt finished as I ran out of batting and never got to the store to buy some (wasn't on sale anyway). I basted the Rebel Flock quilt but wasn't sure how I wanted to quilt it so I haven't yet. Might need to buy thread for it, too. I haven't bought thread in over a year! 

I also didn't touch the pumpkin quilt. I wanted the pieces ironed and cut this month so I could piece and quilt it in October but that just didn't happen. I did finish up another UFO that I'll post later this week. Sewing the binding down by hand so it's taking longer than usual so it wasn't ready to be photographed this weekend.

Christmas Goals
I did a post last week on how Christmas plans are progressing. 

Writing Goals.
I did some writing. Not enough and definitely not everyday. Will try harder in October. Did have fun with Blackout poetry.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Around the Web with a Cup of Tea

I am currently drinking a cup of tea out of the mug in the picture while writing this post. Trying to have a relaxing Sunday morning - although 3 kids can make that difficult, sometimes. Here are some of the interesting things I found on the internet this week.

If we didn't have a ton of mugs already, I think I'd have to buy one of these.

Here is some info about Blackout Poetry you might find interesting if you liked my Wednesday post. There's even a book.

This looks really interesting. Especially the Caryatids.

One of these sampler kits might end up on my Christmas list. 

I'm on Goodreads but I think I might join this, too.

I don't know why, but I really like this quilt.

A great blog post. I have thought a lot about blogs and the future of blogging. I left on comment on the post but I can sum it up here. I blog because I want to share. Even if my only reader is my mom. Love you, mom.

Hopefully posts will be more regular this week. Tomorrow I plan to post how my September goals went and Tuesday's post will be about books I read in September. I hope to get more sleep this week which should help. After going three months without getting a new tooth, the Little Guy got 2 this past week. I think that explains the rough nights and hopefully he'll be in a better mood now.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Thinking of Christmas

Can you believe that it is only 3 months until Christmas? I feel like I've been thinking about and preparing for this Christmas since last year's was over. However I'm not I'm ahead of making what I'd like to make. Instead I've saved and come up with more ideas and tutorials than I could ever make and now I need to really decide what I'm going to do. Here are some ideas that have been kicking around for a while. I need to do something about them or get rid of the supplies.
I've been wanting to make a hollowed out book for over a year now. I bought some used books and set aside our dictionary (which we never use) and my old history textbook. I'm sick of them taking up space on my shelf. I either make them this year or the books will be donated. I plan on doing a practice book during the next couple weeks to figure out how difficult it is and how much time it will take me. These would be gifts for the majority of our nieces and nephews with a small gift inside. Probably not for the youngest ones. 

I showed the yarn earlier this month and mentioned I planned to knit little people for nieces. Of course these little people will need a place to live and the altoid tins will be made into little homes. If everything goes right. If not, I can finally get rid of them too. I won't tell you how many times I have moved those tins and hid them from my husband who would think I was crazy for keeping them.

My daughter and I started this quilt last year after the lego advent calendar was a bit of a disappoint for her. With three very different children at very different ages, I think this is the way to go instead of a store bought calendar. Some pockets will contain goodies like chocolate and candy canes but I also hope to put some little toys or notes in others. And since we usually open our presents here around the solstice and spend Christmas with all the grandparents, I might make fewer pockets to count down to the 21st or 22nd instead. I'm thinking 21 so the quilt can be made with a 3 x 7 block grid. Or I might keep the original 24 and use the extra pockets to hold treats/ games/ books for the drive to our families. Decisions, decisions.

Yarn to make gifts for my kids. The blue is for a Flax for my 8 year old son, pink is a scarf for my daughter and green is an Owlet for the 16 month-old. Glad I have my daughter's sweater complete.

This might become a sweater for a niece. This idea isn't set in stone and it might become a birthday present instead or become something else altogether. We'll have to see how October goes.

I also need to make a stocking for the Little Guy to use at my parents house. I have an idea that I've  started but no pictures yet as it might not turn out. Not using a pattern so who knows what will happen.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Writing Wednesday : Well loved books

I know today should be a post about all the books I read this month but there's enough days left in September that I'm trying to get a couple more finished and I'll write a post next week. 

Today's post is about my love of Russia. Well, Russia before the Revolution. I think two things in childhood started my love of Russia and it's monarchy. First was the Catherine the Great mini-series staring Julia Ormond. I can remember watching that with my mother and loving it. I can't believe that was 1991!
The second, is this book. For some reason it wasn't with my mother's books but sat with some other novels on the kid shelf. I can remember holding it and staring at the cover. When I left home I took it with me. I eventually borrowed a copy from the library and read it, since this one was in rough shape. I know I did a project about them but I can't remember if that was my last year of high school or my first year of university. I also read Massie's second book about them (I own it as well) and have a book that contains most of Nicholas' and Alexandra's letters to each other. I don't know why I'm interested in Russian monarchy, how they treated their people, their wealth and the revolution that ended it all but I am.

The Little Guy got hold of the book one morning and within a couple seconds the book was in pieces and I was almost in tears. I love the cover and that it was now in two pieces broke my heart. Who knew it meant so much to me.

I also remember reading this page over and over again as a kid and being in shock that these were real people.  The heading is perfect: "THEIR LOVE COST AN EMPIRE". Who would't want to read more?

But my son's destruction of my beloved Russians didn't end there. This is what my copy of Doctor Zhivago looks like. He's lucky that he's so cute or he'd be out of here.

Now I  need to decide what to do with my destroyed novels. They aren't worth fixing but I can't bring myself to throw them away. I love these words but they are unreadable as is. Then I remembered something I've been wanting to try for awhile but haven't. Blackout poetry.
I started with the Contents page of Zhivago.

Blacked out some lines and came up with this:
Express World
Farewell Journey.
Part Arrival.
The Forest House

It's not great but it was fun and creative. And I couldn't stop at just one.

The translator's note has been transformed.

Then I started with some of the pages that came loose from the novel. The first few I started at the top and worked my way down. Then I started by picking a few words near the middle of the page. Then I would go to the top of the page and leave either individual words or several words exposed with the others blacked out. This was a lot more enjoyable than I thought it would be. I think I need to buy some more sharpies. If you click on the pictures, they will enlarge and you can read them. I'm thinking of continuing this project and adding a page for it on the blog. I'm unsure what my mom will think of this. I'm glad I got to do this with a well loved book instead of one I didn't care for. It somehow makes the "poems" more special.

I haven't done anything to Nicholas and Alexandra. Yet.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

A Birthday Gift to Myself

Over the last couple years I've knit several shawls, scarves, cowls and other knits for myself. At first they fit in my dresser with the rest of my clothes but soon I needed more space. They've sat on shelves and on top of my dresser in piles but it's been difficult to find the perfect space. Especially for the shawls and scarves.
Here is an honest photo of what my side of the closet looked like. My dresser is currently in the closet since the baby's bed takes up so much floor space. I had two bins overflowing with sweaters and shawls which wasn't very practical or kind to the knits.

After some searching, I finally found this hanging organizer. I needed something short to go over my dresser, pockets for shawls/ scarves and other small knits and shelves for sweaters. It's not perfect but it fit all my requirements. It would be nice if the side pockets were bigger but they were made to hold shoes not shawls. I still need to switch out my summerish knits for my winter ones but so far everything fits. The top shelf has my bigger shawls, Boneyard and Herbstwald. Middle shelf has short sleeved knits (that will probably be packed for the winter), Elfe, February Lady and Ditto. While the bottom has some long-sleeved knits, including the sweatshirt sweater I recently finished.

On the bottom row of pockets I was able to fit my Vertex cardigan. Since I fixed the holes that appeared during blocking, another hole has appeared. I might have to toss this one but I haven't been able to bring myself to do that yet. Beside it is a purple shirt that hates to stay on a hanger. Lucky for me it fits in a pocket all rolled up.

Plenty of room for more knits. There are 24 pockets in all. I have plans for at least 3 shawls/ scarves this winter. I love being able to see what I have and am looking forward to the cooler weather so I can wear some.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Around the Web and Some Gifts

     I didn't get my usual Around the Web with a Cup of Tea post up yesterday for a couple reasons. First, I just wasn't on the internet much last week. Days are busy with kids and crafting and my evenings were full of the Roosevelt series on PBS. Second, we enjoyed a day as a family which included going for a walk and flying kites for the first time all summer (we got it in just under the wire) and watching a movie with my husband who was very patient about the 7 part Roosevelt series. We watched The Amazing Spider-Man 2 and both of us miss Tobey Maguire. Enough said. 

If I had done a post yesterday here are the two things I would have linked to.

     The Toronto Book Fair. I've been thinking about it all week and been trying to figure out how to go. With a toddler. Impossible. I think I'll go in a couple years. Although Margaret Atwood and Meg Wolitzer are at the one this November. Hmmm.

     And since I mentioned it so much already, here is where you can watch The Roosevelts online. I need to rewatch a couple of them as I fell asleep. I fell asleep because the Little Guy likes to get up at 6am and not because they are boring. And sometimes I had to watch the 10pm repeat instead of the first showing at 8pm and I was just done. I figure this series saved me from reading 3 biographies and I learned a lot. Being Canadian, I knew the basics about the Roosevelts but really enjoyed learning more about them. Spoiler - they all die.

Saturday, my best friend and I had our birthday supper. It's nice to go to a restaurant with no kids and talk. I had my first beer in two years. It was great and took me almost 2 hours to drink. And I had the biggest and best piece of chocolate cake ever. I'd go back just for another piece of cake. And the waitress must of overheard us talking about our birthdays as we both got our desserts for free. Above is a slipcover I made for my friend. They bought a new couch this summer and the pillows that came with it were ugly. Her mom had given her this fabric several years ago and she asked me if I could make her some new covers with it. I made them for her last week and gave them back to her on Saturday.

I used an envelope cover so she could take them off if needed.

However, I suggested she never take them off. The fabric was not cotton and frayed a lot. I warned her about it when I gave them to her and that I was afraid her two cats might wreck the fabric with their claws. I offered to make her new ones when these ones get ruined.

I zigzagged over every seam to try and help with the fraying. We'll see how long they last.

I had been making her a scarf but decided to make her this list guy instead. A Cyclops Cactus for her desk at work. In October she'll celebrate one year at her job.

I think she's pretty cute and would love to make more.

Little flower on her head.

And in return, she went into a quilt store for the first time and gifted me the charm pack and pattern. I think she got the post-it notes from somewhere else but they are so me.

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