A funny thing happens when one straightens up the clutter in one’s craft room. One finds a project that one had forgotten one started. By the way, one = yours truly, in case you hadn’t figured that part out yet.

Orange Sampler Afghan 1This is a sampler afghan made from some vintage Rowan Plaid (the orange multi) and a chunky wool blend (the solid) from um, Plymouth? Plymouth Encore Chunky, maybe? The ball band is long gone on the solid rust-colored yarn, so I’m relying on a vague memory. I have enough of these two yarns left to make another square plus a border. Each piece is roughly one square foot, so it currently measures about 3×4. With the addition of a thick border, maybe in simple double crochet or perhaps more decorative in some kind of shell stitch, I can finish it off at about “lapghan” size. Boom! A Christmas present for somebody somewhere.

Mom's Tunisian 16Speaking of presents, I’m also still plugging away at The Tunisian Terror for my mother. Egad, how bored am I with this project? *hangs head in shame* So bored that I look for any excuse not to work on it, but gradually the squares are adding up. Currently at 34 squares, so not quite halfway done. According to the pattern, I’m almost finished with the solid squares; the multi-colored ones are coming up shortly. At least that will be something different.

Rustling Russet 2Further speaking of gifts, and guilt, I’ve officially started my first Christmas gift of the year. I know! It’s a miracle! Here’s where the guilt comes in. I looked at my list of people I had promised to make gifts for (or had decided on my own they were deserving of a handmade item because they were generally all-around awesome human beings), and nearly fell over. This is a list of somewhere around 40 names, because it includes the last three years’ worth of “pay-it-forward” hand-made gifty challenges I had left undone. *more head hanging in shame going on* And one name that had been crossed off had to be added back because his present vanished somewhere in the mail between Atlanta and the West Coast city where he resides. (Don’t even get me started on that loss.) That being said, and no longer wishing to live as a guilt-ridden hag, I started a hat with stash yarn (Copper Corgi Savannah Sock in “Devil’s Kiss”) and a stash pattern (Rustling Leaves by Alana Dakos).

After I had gotten about three inches into the hat, I realized I should have used a long tail cast-on instead of a knitted cast-on because that bottom ribbed edge isn’t really sturdy. I mean it won’t unravel or anything, but it’s kind of wobbly and insubstantial. Stitch Along WednesdayAt that point in the knitting, however, I also realized I didn’t want to rip back the last three days’ work and start over, so I’ll persevere. I think it will be okay. When the hat is worn, no one will be able to tell, anyway, right? Right? Please tell me I’m right.
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This post is part of Stitch Along Wednesdays, hosted by Gracey’s Goodies. Click that badge over there to see what other folks are up to this week, and link your own WIP Wednesday story!

The Innocence DeviceThe Innocence Device by William Kowalski
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

In the near future, the United States is divided into prisons, and the majority of the men in the country — especially men of color — are prisoners. The majority of the women serve as guards. People are sentenced to prison for the most minor of infractions committed as children, and then sentence after sentence is piled on top of the already-incarcerated individual for things like insubordination (i.e., talking back to a guard), theft (i.e., taking an extra food allotment), or any number of other potential crimes. Here’s the rub, though: virtually everything is a crime. This is “zero tolerance” run wild.

Within the prison, a hierarchy has evolved that determines where one lives and what sort of privileges one may receive. Our hero, 24-year-old Chago, is a poor laborer whose only goal involves seeing his son (by one of the prison guards) as often as he can. When the warden of the prison announces the invention of new technology that can determine one’s innocence or guilt, Chago is eager to step through the Innocence Device. He knows he didn’t do anything really wrong — in fact, he’s not entirely sure why he’s in prison; he only knows he was about six or seven when he was first sentenced — and he’s certain the Innocence Device will set him free. Alas, all is not as it seems, and when a prison riot begins, Chago’s entire world is thrown into chaos.

Great premise, right? It’s why I signed up for this book through the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program. Sadly, the writing itself failed to live up to that premise. This short novella — hardly more than a short story, really — can’t seem to make up its mind whether it was written for an adult or a YA audience. The language is simple, perhaps written at about a fifth- or sixth-grade level, but the protagonist is an adult in his early 20s. The copy is printed in large type with widely spaced lines, which is why I say it’s hardly more than a short story. Had it been printed in normal-sized book type with normally spaced lines, its length would have most likely been around 50 or so pages: a lengthy short story, yes, but still a short story. Plot development is minimal, character development is somewhat better (for Chago, at any rate), both of which generally can be forgiven in fiction of this length. However, there’s a gaping plot hole in the last few pages that, combined with the simplistic grade-school language, left this reader deeply dissatisfied. This plot hole almost feels like the author wrote something else in between the last chapter and the epilogue that he later took out, but he didn’t go back and smooth out the edges of the excision.

The premise of The Innocence Device is one I would enjoy seeing rewritten in adult-oriented language, and greatly expanded with more plot development, more character detail, more of the whys and the hows, the politics and the social disorder that must have led to such circumstances as exist within this novel. As I read through it (which took about 40 minutes — really, it’s just that short), I could almost see the full-length novel lurking in the shadows of each paragraph, waiting for someone like Hugh Howey, maybe, or Ben H. Winters, or (be still, my heart) China Miéville to flesh it out and bring it to life.

Too bad one of them didn’t think of it. Hey, Mr. Kowalski! Will you sell this idea to China Miéville and make me a happy woman? No? Two stars for you, then.

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Death Comes for the ArchbishopDeath Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A meditative ramble through the lives of two French Jesuits sent to the United States to take over administering the New Mexico diocese in the latter half of the 19th Century, Death Comes for the Archbishop is filled with poetic descriptions of the mesas and the desert and peppered with bits and pieces of Native American religious belief. It’s difficult to describe how a simple novel that follows the quotidian existence of priests and their parishioners in a harsh, unforgiving land can be so lyrical and so profoundly moving, so maybe you can just take my word for it. And while the title is technically a spoiler, there’s really no surprise here. Truly, in the end, Death comes for us all.

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Sharp ObjectsSharp Objects by Gillian Flynn
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Although Sharp Objects is my third Gillian Flynn novel, it’s Ms. Flynn’s first, for which she won a well-deserved Edgar. It’s beautifully written, deeply disturbing, and knock-your-socks-off holy-cow-what-the-hell-just-happened good.

Camille Preaker is sent by the editor of the tiny Chicago daily where she works back to her hometown of Wind Gap, Missouri, which is little more than a wide spot in the road, to cover the story of two murdered girls and the potential story of a serial killer. Camille left Wind Gap years ago to escape her toxic family and save her own life. She’s not sure she’s managed to do either; in Chicago, while she may have been suicidal, at least she wasn’t carving words into her own skin. Still, Camille is severely damaged. When we meet her mother and stepfather, we begin to understand why.

Because her newspaper doesn’t have the budget to put her up in a motel while on assignment, Camille must stay in her family home while she is in town. Her mother Adora, with an eye to “what would the neighbors think?”, grudgingly grants Camille shelter but insists she keep “all that unpleasantness” out of her house. All that unpleasantness encompasses not only the murders of the two girls, but anything unpleasant that has ever happened, up to and including the death of Camille’s younger half-sister Marian when Camille was 13. Camille has another much younger half-sister, Amma, whom she barely knows, who at times seems just as sickly as Marian was, but at others is robust enough to excel in her “Mean Girl” “Queen Bee” role at the local middle school. Throw in Alan, Camille’s ineffective and virtually silent stepfather, and this dysfunctional family is complete.

We see all this through Camille’s eyes; we are privy to her inner dialogue with all its twists and turns and justifications and attempts to make sense of how she ended up back in the same hellhole she tried to escape. As she reacquaints herself with Wind Gap, she recalls incidents from her past associated with each place. In the park where one girl, Natalie, was last seen alive:

The dirt from the baseball field hovered a few feet above the ground. I could taste it the back of my throat like tea left brewing too long…Garrett Park was the place everyone met on weekends to drink beer or smoke pot or get jerked off three feet into the woods. It was where I was first kissed, at age thirteen, by a football player with a pack of chaw tucked down in his gums.

And getting ready for Natalie’s funeral:

My mother was wearing blue to the funeral…She also wore blue to Marian’s funeral, and so did Marian. She was astonished I didn’t remember this. I remembered Marian being buried in a pale pink dress. This was no surprise. My mother and I generally differ on all things concerning my dead sister.

Camille is more resilient than she knows, but not quite as strong as she needs to be. She drinks too much and too often. She writes the names of the murdered girls and other words on her skin, using ballpoint pen and lipstick instead of a knife. She has questionable judgment in sex partners. And investigating these murders eventually leads her deep into her own history with devastating consequences.

In Camille, Gillian Flynn has created a deeply flawed protagonist who makes bad decisions out of weakness, out of trauma, out of a desire to flee from raw emotion, and she makes us cheer for her even while we shake our heads in dismay at her poor choices. And in the end, I loved Camille and wished her the very best future she can possibly make for herself.

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Let's All Kill Constance: A NovelLet’s All Kill Constance: A Novel by Ray Bradbury
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

My favorite author in the world can write clunkers, or so it seems. How else to explain why it took 11 days to finish a novel that barely cracks 200 pages?

On a dark and stormy night (literally — that’s how the novel opens), circa 1960, Constance Rattigan bursts through the door of our narrator’s rustic beach house — panicked, incoherent, completely rattled — and tosses two phone books at him. Ominously, some of the names in the phone books are scratched through, and some are circled. Those scratched-through names are already dead. Those circled, our narrator surmises, soon will be. But Constance is gone too quickly to be questioned, and thus our narrator sets off on his quest to (a) solve the mystery of the circled and scratched-through names and (b) find Constance. This quest takes him from his peaceful retreat in Venice Beach to the rattletrap Grauman’s Chinese Theater projection room, to the depths of the storm drains running beneath the City of Angels, and many odd points between.

Along the way, our narrator picks up various cohorts, including a police officer, a film producer, and a blind man, and involves each of them in his quixotic search. Copious quantities of alcoholic beverages are consumed, clues are gathered, and Exclamation! Points! That! Don’t! Make! Sense! Pepper! All! Dialogue! (Admittedly, as much as I usually admire the man’s writing, this is a Bradbury trademark that I’ve never liked.) All is revealed in an homage to Agatha Christie locked room mystery, with our narrator as Hercule Poirot and all the players gathered in one room for the dénouement.

The pacing is breathless and breakneck, and much of the story seems to rely on a subtext that I just couldn’t get. I will give The Great Man this much credit: flashes of his customary brilliance shine through here and there, in character descriptions, in some of our narrator’s internal musings, and especially in the “locked-room” bit near the end of the story. Mostly though, I was thoroughly confused.

Thus only two stars for “It was OK.” And I can’t tell you how much it pains me to give my beloved Bradbury only two stars.

P.S. In reading through some of the other reviews of Let’s All Kill Constance, it appears this is the third book in a series, which may explain why I was left scratching my head at times.

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2014 wasn’t a productive year for yarncraft. I finally figured out why this past weekend, after Jacquenetta was gone. When she became so ill, she spent so much time in my lap during the evenings that knitting and crocheting came to a virtual standstill. I couldn’t work on projects without getting her fur all over them, but I could read, so I traded yarn for books. Snuggling her for the last few months of her life was worth every moment, and be damned to lackluster productivity in the yarn arena.

Projects finished in 2014: Three.

Wanderer Scarf 2The first, finished on New Year’s Day 2014, was the Wanderer Scarf, seen here modeled by spouse. The pattern and the yarn are from Rowan. It was intended as a gift for a friend in Washington, and finally was mailed off to said individual shortly before Christmas.

Buds and Blooms 21Next was my new favorite cardigan, A Rose in Winter, finished January 31. The pattern is “Buds and Blooms” by Alana Dakos. The pattern calls for endless endless stockinette, but that only serves as a backdrop for the gorgeous details: the buds and vine pattern up the back, the flowers on the pockets, the deeply ribbed collar. I also loved the yarn I used (Chris by Schaefer, now sadly out of business), and that gorgeous pomegranate color.

Penny's Granny 2The only other finished project was a giant granny square baby blanket, made for the new grandbaby of one of my colleagues. I grabbed a variety of high quality acrylic leftovers in my stash and threw them together to come up with the color scheme for the blanket. This is the fastest, easiest baby blanket I’ve ever made, and the pattern become my go-to pattern for quickie shower gifts.

Projects started in 2014 and not yet finished: Three.

Wildflower 6The day after the Rose in Winter cardi was finished, I cast on another of Alana Dakos’ patterns, the Wildflower Cardigan, using Elsebeth Lavold’s Silky Wool in a deep caramel color. This is another cardigan with vast expanses of stockinette but exquisite little details that make those vast expanses worth the tedium. The back of the cardigan is finished; the right front has been sitting here in my craft room, waiting patiently for me to pick it up again. Soon, my darling, soon.

Tunisian Terror squaresAt Christmas 2013, Mom picked out a blanket pattern in one of my afghan books. In April 2014, she bought the yarn and shipped it to me. Thus, the Tunisian Terror was born. The thing that slows me down with this project is the boredom. Each square is the same: one color surrounded by a border of black single crochet. The pattern calls for some multi-colored squares, but I haven’t got there yet. And each square, once finished and assembled, will be cross-stitched, so there’s some excitement to be had down the road. The finished blanket has 63 squares. I’ve got roughly half of those done.

Ultra Pima cardi attemptCome summer, I decided I needed to knit a lacy cotton cardigan to wear over sleeveless dresses, which serves two purposes: warding off the air-conditioned indoor chill that is everywhere during summer in the South; and making said sleeveless dresses appropriate for the office. Yes, I know it’s old-fashioned of me, but some reptilian portion of my brain won’t quite accept that “sleeveless” is now in keeping with professional office attire. I am determined to use this turquoise-colored Cascade Ultra Pima that’s been hibernating in my stash for several years, but have had nothing but trouble in finding the right pattern. I think I’ve started three or four separate patterns with the Cascade and ripped each one of them out after getting roughly five inches into the piece. I’ll keep experimenting until something clicks.

Projects started in previous years but not finished: Nope, not telling. Let’s just say there is more than one (*cough*spouse’s socks*cough*)

New techniques learned:

  • Tunisian crochet: Learning Tunisian crochet (Tunisian simple stitch only) was easier than I thought. I will no longer shy away from Tunisian patterns, even if they call for something other than TSS, because if I can learn that stitch by reading the directions, I can learn them all!
  • Mitered squares: This technique was taught me in a class at Stitches South in April. I have yet to put the technique to use, but the instructions and my practice swatches are sitting right here in my craft room, just waiting.

Stash acquired: Um. A lot. A good sight more than I used, that’s for darn sure. And that’s all I’m going to say about that.

Stash used: Not very much. As noted above, I only completed three projects. I’ll never go cold sheep, because such is beyond my willpower, but this year will probably be a diminished year in stash acquisition because I’m not going to Stitches in April. It’s been moved to Nashville and the travel budget just isn’t available. So, yay for the bank account? And yay for shopping the stash!

So, here we go, 2015! New year, new crafting opportunities, new patterns to read, new AND old yarn to fondle, new techniques to learn or put into practice. It’s going to be a good one.

I got much more reading done this year than I expected. Part of that was due, I believe, to acquiring a Kindle and being willing to take a chance on Amazon freebies, some of which were hits, others misses. It’s easy to read the Kindle on the train; that extra uninterrupted 40+ minutes of reading time each day added up to a lot of pages. 31,567 pages to be precise.

Goodreads said I read 83 books in 2014. I actually started 83 books. I finished 76. Seven books were set aside before finishing because they were just too awful to continue. (I told you some of those Amazon freebies were misses.) However, one of those set aside was The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love by Oscar Hijuelos, so even Pulitzer Prize winners are sometimes misses for me. Anyway, out of those 76 finished, five were re-reads. So 71 new-to-me books in a single year. I call that a win.

Several of those 71 books were stand-outs.

The Many Deaths of the Firefly BrothersThe first five volumes of George R. R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire cycle consumed a goodly portion of the first quarter of 2014. I expect I’ll start re-reading them as soon as I hear of a publication date for Volume VI. I’m hoping that publication date will be later this year.

The Many Deaths of the Firefly Brothers by Thomas Mullen was a roller-coaster ride through the Depression with a pair of bank robbers who just won’t stay dead. This is one of those books that grabbed me first because of its enigmatic cover art but kept me intrigued by its premise and execution. I read this one on the plane during a flight to California.

Perdido Street StationPerdido Street Station by China Miéville astonished me, sickened me, disturbed me, and amazed me. I seldom give five stars to any book, but this one deserved top billing without doubt. As I said in my review, Perdido Street Station isn’t for everyone — it’s a challenge in both language and content — but I’m going to recommend it to everyone regardless. Seriously. Don’t miss it.

Max Barry’s Lexicon, which deals with a secret government entity that uses the power of words and knowledge of certain personality traits to manipulate people into particular actions, cured me of taking any more Facebook quizzes and posting them Lexiconto my wall. Barry has a gift for plot-driven stories that move forward at Warp 10 but still manage to give the reader decently-realized characters and generally plausible Night Filmstorylines. Lexicon is a fast fun popcorn novel that scared the bejabbers out of me.

I read Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl in 2013 and thought it was excellent. Based on that experience, I grabbed Night Film as soon as I found it in my library’s catalog. I was not disappointed. Night Film explores the aftermath of a suicide, the power of film, and the boundaries of obsession. It’s dark and dreamy and enigmatic and twisted and a disturbing pleasure to read.

Tell the Wolves I'm HomeTell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt introduces us to a grieving 14-year-old June Elbus after the death of her beloved uncle Finn. June’s mother, who is Finn’s sister, doesn’t seem to care much that her only brother has died, and June doesn’t know why. Then June meets Finn’s roommate, Toby, and discovers hidden aspects to her uncle’s life. This novel works on a number of levels: an exploration of society’s reaction to AIDS in 1987, a not-so-typical coming-of-age story as June realizes her uncle had an entire life that didn’t include her, and a dissection of family dynamics when one member of the family is considered an untouchable by the others. Plus it’s gorgeously written. So, yeah, if you haven’t read this one, put it on your list.

WoolFinally, I want to mention a couple of trilogies. First, the Silo Trilogy by Hugh Howey, consisting of Wool, Shift, and Dust. I’ve read a lot, and I mean a lot, of post-apocalyptic stories, and the Silo Trilogy was hands-down one of the most original explorations of that theme I’ve seen in a lifetime of reading. In the not-so-distant future, thousands of people, survivors of an unnamed apocalypse, live underground in a silo. They don’t know how long they’ve been there; they don’t know how long it will be before they’re allowed to live above ground; but in the meantime, there’s work to be done, repairs to be made, and people to feed. Discontent is brewing, though, and revolution is in the air. This trilogy, while very well done, is not without its flaws, especially in Book 3, but its overall excellence makes those flaws worth overlooking.

The Last PolicemanThe other trilogy worthy of mention is technically “pre-apocalypse”, because the world-ending event hasn’t yet happened, but it’s post-apocalypse in the sense that global societal structure has already collapsed. In The Last Policeman Trilogy by Ben H. Winters — The Last Policeman, Countdown City, and World of Trouble — a previously unknown asteroid has been verified to be on collision course with Earth, and the date of impact is approaching. Detective Hank Palace of the Concord, New Hampshire, Police Department keeps showing up for work while more and more of his colleagues and fellow citizens bail out of their jobs, their marriages, and their lives to fulfill lifelong dreams or, as is all too often the case, to kill themselves in despair. Each novel takes us closer to the impact date and deeper into Hank’s efforts to find meaning and purpose in these last months and weeks and days. He clings to his humanity, to his belief in goodness, and to his life itself, despite recognizing that everything he knows and everyone he loves is gone. Hank is a gorgeous, generous, determined character, and this trilogy, although deeply sad, is a testament to the beauty of life even in the face of extermination.

You can see the entire 2014 list on Goodreads here.

With heavy hearts, my husband and I announce the loss of our beloved and beautiful Jacquenetta, age 20 years, 10 months, and two weeks.

Jacquenetta entered my life as a six-week-old kitten in late March 1994. She was one of two kittens that came home with me from the Garland County (Arkansas) Animal Shelter (the other kitten, Puck, was sadly lost in the woods several months later). She was quiet and affectionate and loved sitting Baby Q 1behind me on the back of the sofa so she could groom my hair.

She was a mighty hunter in her day, a terror to the local rodent and bird population. Many’s the day I came home from work to find an offering on the front porch: a field mouse, a vole, the occasional sparrow, once even a baby rabbit. Then came the day she hopped in through the hole in the screen door and dropped a bluejay at my feet. A live bluejay, which promptly flew about my kitchen in a panic while I chased it around with a dishtowel until I managed to herd it out the back door.

Q and Teenage MoteWhen Jacquenetta was about three years old, I brought another rescued kitten home and Miss Q immediately began mothering him. She and Mote became bosom companions, and could be found snuggled up together most evenings.

Snuggle KittiesAfter my husband and I met, moved in together, then married, Jacquenetta became a well-traveled kitty, because that’s when we started moving around a lot. She became an indoor kitty, as well, because when we moved, it was out of the country and into town. She never lost her sense of adventure despite her confinement to well-defined square footage. Bill and Miss Q on the LedgeIn fact, she scared me nearly to death when we lived in a condominium with a 20-foot vaulted ceiling and a plant shelf at about the 12-foot mark. I looked up one fine day and saw her on that plant shelf, shrieked, and sent spouse upstairs to coax her off the shelf. She cooperated, and we blocked the pass-through to deny her future access.

Due to either my work or spouse’s work, we moved from that condo in South Arkansas to another condo in Little Rock and then to a house in the Quapaw Quarter; from there we went to California for a few years; returned to the South in 2010, and finally we landed in the Atlanta metro in early 2013. During those years we added two Pomeranians to the household. All animals handled the moves well, including being driven across country twice.

Playkitty1And somewhere during all these moves, Jacquenetta found time to pose for Kitty Hustler. Okay, not really, but that’s what we called it whenever she sprawled out on the sofa like she was waiting for someone to hand her a beer and the TV remote.

It was shortly after we moved to Atlanta that I noticed Jacquenetta wasn’t her usual self. She spent most of her day upstairs, away from the exuberance of the dogs and the noise of the television. She would come downstairs to eat and use her box and for the occasional snuggle with me or Mote, but generally she could be found in the dimness of the upstairs hall just outside the door to the guest bedroom. I put it down to her age but I watched her. We started getting more concerned when she could no longer groom Warm Noses 3herself as usual and became matted in her hindquarters. She also couldn’t tolerate being brushed for long, so keeping the matting under control became difficult. Then one day last April, she had a horrific seizure. Spouse and I rushed her to the vet, who kept her several days for observation and testing, and then delivered the diagnosis: end stage renal failure. This condition could be managed for a while, but in the end, it would be fatal.

“Is she hurting?” I asked. “No,” said the vet. “It’s painless.”

Spouse and I chose to manage Jacquenetta’s condition at home, with medication to prevent seizures and twice-weekly subcutaneous fluids. We ground the Valium and calcium into a fine powder and mixed it into soft foods; we hung the IV bag from the dining room light fixture while we pumped saline solution under the skin between her shoulders. Mote recognized his life-long companion was desperately ill, and spent as much time snuggled up with her as he could. We also let her outside now and then to bask in the sunshine on sun-warmed concrete.

Miss Q in the Sunshine

Jacquenetta 12-30-14
Shortly before Thanksgiving, I noticed Jacquenetta no longer climbed upstairs; instead, she lay across one of the floor vents downstairs for the warm air rising through the register. I laid a towel across the vent so her paws wouldn’t get caught in the grating and told spouse it wouldn’t be long now. A couple of weeks later, we put up the Christmas tree and spread the skirt out in such a way that her preferred floor vent was covered and she could still rest on top of the warm air. She stopped eating the Sunday or Monday after Christmas; when I came home from work Tuesday, spouse said she was passing blood in her urine. We called the vet and we all agreed it was time.

I left work early Wednesday and we took Jacquenetta to the clinic. They wrapped her in a soft fleece blanket and let me hold her while they administered the medicine that would let her rest. Spouse and I both petted her and loved her and talked to her while she went to sleep for the last time.

Sweet dreams, baby. You were loved so very very much.

Jacquenetta

Jacquenetta, 2/15/1994-12/31/2014

It’s been forever since I wrote about yarnie goings-on. Mainly that’s because I’ve been in a slump for several weeks — um, months — and have hardly touched any of the pending projects. In fact, I just took a look back and the last time I posted anything yarn-related was in June.

*sigh*

Tunisian Terror squaresThe only project that’s seen any significant progress is the Tunisian Terror. This picture was taken in July. Since then I’ve completed several more squares but haven’t taken any more recent photographs. If I buckle down, it’s possible I might get it completed by Christmas, which would make Mom happy, but part of the trouble I have with this project is the process of making the squares bores me silly. After about the third or fourth square, I’d mastered the Tunisian simple stitch and there’s simply no challenge any longer. Something to look forward to, though: The pattern calls for several squares that require color changes; however, due to some color and yardage Wildflower 8
Wildflower 6limitations, I had decided to wait until all of the solid squares were completed before getting into the mixed colors. I’m regretting that decision. It’s still the right decision, and I won’t change my mind, but I keep looking longingly at the directions for the multi-color squares…

The Wildflower Cardigan has had virtually no progress. The back was completed several months ago, and the left front was started, but once I got into the part where I had to follow the chart for the pocket design, I fizzled out. Again, this photo was taken in July. I have done some work on the first few rows of the pocket chart, but again, no pictures. In the meantime, please admire the scalloped bottom detail. And those little flaps on the stitch holders are the pocket backs. :)

Ultra Pima cardi attemptThat turquoise blue cotton lace shrug stalled right at the point the ribbing was done and the lace pattern began. I hated the lace pattern, so I put the poor thing in a bag for a time-out while I rethought the whole thing. Here we are, months later, and over the weekend, I finally did a couple of fresh Ravelry searches, which resulted in a few other lace cardigan or shrug patterns that may work. I just have to grit my teeth and rip this piece back to the beginning. Again.

Spouse's socks 6And the less said about spouse’s socks, the better.

Normally, I’d refer you to Tami’s Amis for the usual WIP Wednesday roundup, but there isn’t one for this week. If you’re on Ravelry, though, you can look in the group The Blog Hub for the WIP Wednesday thread and catch up there.

RIP 9 Peril on the Screen
I almost forgot I pledged to join “Peril on the Screen” too. Luckily, spouse’s and my general TV/movie viewing choices tend to fall into the mystery/horror/thriller/suspense categories anyway. I can’t recall all the way back to September 1 by myself, so we’ll check the Netflix “recently watched” list and get started.

Actually, no. First, let’s talk about TV!

Walking Dead Banner
Naturally, The Walking Dead season premiere was avidly consumed this past Sunday, and it took up almost immediately where last season left off. I was rather surprised by the way the episode turned out with regard to a certain threat, but I’m awfully happy to see Rick putting the band back together. I’m so glad this show is back, even if it’s more gory than ever! Yeah, I usually watch a good third of each episode through my fingers. Love the story but the blood? Not so much. But I’m looking forward to the rest of the season, regardless.

Sleepy Hollow TV Banner 1
Then there’s Sleepy Hollow, back for its second season. The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse are still approaching: what will Ichabod and Abby do next to thwart their plans? Spouse and I both love this show not only because of a distant family connection with its source material, but because it’s so well done! The storyline is utterly implausible, of course, but the acting is wonderful, the stars very easy on the eyes, and all the supporting players are superb. I don’t quite know what to think about the newest character, Nick Hawley the “antiquities” hunter, but I’m sure his loyalties will be revealed soon. And let me just say this: I’m extremely happy to see a mainstream network (which Fox is now) series featuring a woman of color in a powerful leading role without making her a racial stereotype (at least, not so far as this middle-aged Caucasian woman can discern).

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Speaking of Fox, we’re also rather impressed with Gotham, the network’s take on the origin stories of Batman, Catwoman, Penguin, and so forth. Thus far, young Bruce (played by David Mazouz) is rather whiny and self-involved, which is understandable due to his age and trauma, and Fox has wisely limited his screen time, preferring to concentrate on the adults in the series and the events that will give rise to the Caped Crusader and his sworn enemies. The bad thing about young Bruce’s limited screen time is it also limits the screen time of the loyal Alfred, played by Sean Pertwee (yes, the son of the Third Doctor and a marvelous actor in his own right).

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Finally on the “small screen” is Fox’s Gracepoint, a nearly shot-for-shot remake of BBC America’s Broadchurch, aired earlier this year, and featuring David Tennant reviving his Broadchurch role as a detective brought in to investigate the murder of a boy in a small town. I wasn’t sure I was going to watch this, not even for the pleasure of Mr. Tennant’s company (and his partially successful American accent), since I’d already seen the BBC America production, but then I learned it would have two or three more episodes than the BBC show, and possibly a different ending. Thus far, nothing new has been revealed, but the casting is good, the acting is very good, and the location (northern California coast, ostensibly Mendocino or Humboldt County) is gorgeous.

The Last Days on MarsOn the big screen (which, in our house, means movies we watched at home because we seldom go to the cinema), Netflix must serve as a reminder. In September, we saw The Last Days on Mars, which to tell the truth I remember virtually nothing about except that it starred Liev Schreiber (yum) and had a bunch of folks in spacesuits running around trying to kill each other. According to Netflix, I gave it three stars (for “I liked it”) so it was at least enjoyable.

A Japanese film with English subtitles caught me by surprise. The Doomsday Book is a sci-fi anthology flick: three separate stories, three separate takes on an apocalypse (actual or implied). In the first segment, zombies. Second segment, robots. Third segment, death from the skies. Of the three segments, I think the zombie story is the least successful. I loved the Zen robot in segment two; and the third story was quite good and funny, but left me scratching my head (which means I should probably watch it again because obviously I missed something). The subtitles are only a marginal distraction from the gorgeous cinematography. It’s not rated, but I wouldn’t call it family-friendly by any means.

How I Live NowHow I Live Now (based on the YA novel of the same name) was another post-apocalyptic flick that came as a pleasant surprise. Daisy, an American teenager, is sent abroad to spend the summer with her English cousins. Shortly after she arrives, nuclear war breaks out, leaving Daisy and her cousins alone in the countryside to survive as best they can. In the beginning, Daisy is clearly a bitter, self-entitled, selfish little beeyotch; she’s as unlikeable as a character can be without murdering someone. As the film progresses, though, we learn just a little about what made her that way, but more importantly, we watch her grow up as she is forced to care about someone other than herself. Some truly heart-rending scenes and lovely acting by all involved.

Solomon KaneAnd finally, Solomon Kane, an historical horror story that gets its history all collywobbled, but still manages to be entertaining. The title character is an evil mercenary who plunders and pillages and murders at will in what appears to be the Middle East (circa 1600). But when he’s confronted by The Devil’s Reaper come to claim his soul, he escapes to his native England and takes up residence in a monastery to atone for his lifetime of sin. A year later, the abbot tells Kane his destiny does not lie within the abbey walls, and he must leave his sanctuary to seek his true path. Naturally, his true path leads to encounters with witches, demons, and other types of evil. It’s actually rather silly, and I suspect the historical context is there only for the mud and the blood and the general societal belief in witchcraft, because English Catholicism is awfully conspicuous for events taking RIP 9 Portraitplace in the last few years of Elizabeth I’s reign. Still, the film stars James Purefoy (yum) and features the marvelous Pete Postlethwaite (may flights of angels sing him to his rest) and equally marvelous Alice Krige in crucial character roles.

And that’s it thus far for Peril on the Screen. Click that badge over there to be whisked away to a list of other R.I.P. IX blog entries.

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