Posted in Life in general

Phoebe

In 2003, shortly after the spouse and I moved to Little Rock, a miniature fox named Phoebe came to live with us.

PhoebeSnow2 (2)

My sister had acquired Phoebe from another Pomeranian breeder to diversify her kennel.  After a failed attempt at showing her — because she was just too timid for the show ring — Phoebe came to live with us as a pet.  She was about two years old at the time.

CleanPhoebe2Spouse and I already had cats, and we had never owned a dog together. We both grew up with dogs — his large, mine both large and small — so we were no strangers to the canine persuasion. Phoebe launched herself into our hearts and onto our furniture in no time flat.

Although Phoebe lived with us, my sister still used her in the kennel breeding program now and then.  She had two litters of pups, six in total, and even fostered a puppy when that little one’s mama didn’t have any milk.  Phoebe was an excellent mama and made pretty puppies.

Puppies

When we moved from Arkansas to California, we left Phoebe behind for a while so she could have one last litter. After they were weaned, my sister had her spayed. Sometime later, I flew back to Arkansas for a quick visit and to bring Phoebe home. She packed herself.

PhoebePacksHerself

It was the cutest thing I ever saw.

Phoebe was a great traveler and we took her with us to a lot of places.

Like 17-Mile Drive in Carmel.

And out for lunch in Seaside.

Preparing to run the gauntlet

And the Peach Festival in Marysville.

HikingToGlassBeach

Hiking to Glass Beach.

PointReyesWind

And windy Point Reyes.

Phoebe loved her walks.  She also loved her fellow critters, and got along with the cats who graciously shared their space with her.

What do you mean, this is YOUR sofa.

And years later, when Chloe came to live with us, she pretty much adopted the new fuzzball as her own.

100_1278

Told you she was a good mama.  She also tolerated the occasional goofy dress-up.

Phoebe goes Hollywood

And was especially beautiful when she was fresh from the groomers.

After the groomer

We loved her every minute of every day.

Today was her last day.  She had kidney disease and had been steadily failing since last Christmas.  Today spouse and I made the decision it was time to break our hearts and let her go.

Sweet dreams, my sweet sweet Phoebe.  Run fast, run free.  The beach and the butterflies await you.

All smiles
Phoebe, 10/1/2001-8/15/2019

 

Posted in Knitting, Work in progress

Progress on Mom’s sweater

The Delsea Pullover is knit side to side, and will be grafted together in the center.  I finished the left half, and cast on for the right half.  Although it’s not pictured, I’m currently working on the increase section of the sleeve.

100_5181 (2)

I think it’s going to turn out well.  So much stockinette…I’m actually bored with it and itching to cast on something new. But I promised my mother I would have this done for her birthday.  That’s in November.  Since rehearsal for my next play starts in two days, my knitting time will soon be severely limited, so I must exercise (gasp!) self-discipline.

Posted in Book review, Books, Reading

Book review: The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry

The Essex SerpentThe Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Not your usual love story. Not your usual happy ending.

Cora, recently widowed — and frankly, quite pleased to be free of her marriage — decamps to the Essex countryside with her companion Martha and her son Frances for a change of scenery after her abusive husband is laid to rest. There she meets Will Ransome, the local vicar, and his angelic wife, Stella. Cora and Will immediately take to each other in an intellectual sense, debating matters of biology, naturalism, and faith with vigor and passion; Stella looks on in bemusement and a secret delight that Will has met someone his intellectual equal. Stella is ill, although she hasn’t told anyone; as the novel wears on, one suspects she doesn’t object to Will’s friendship with Cora because she expects Will to turn to Cora after Stella passes on.

In the meantime, Aldwinter (the village) is roiled by the rumor that the Essex Serpent of the title has resurfaced after an absence of some 200 years. Cora is thrilled at the story and believes the Serpent may be a prehistoric creature. Will believes the story is stuff and nonsense but is pleased church attendance is up. Still, he is unsettled by the reason: many in town believe the End Times may be at hand, or at the very least, God is unhappy with the town and is punishing them with this beast. The townsfolk are skittish and superstitious; they keep their children in and their livestock tied, and hold vigil at the edge of the river, watching for any sign of the creature so Aldwinter can be warned and ready.

As the year rolls by, passions rise and fall; quarrels come and go; people leave and return; letters are written and exchanged; the Serpent lurks; death stalks; love awaits; and peace, while elusive, is eventually found.

Lovely writing, lovely story.

View all my reviews

Posted in Book review, Books, Reading

Book review: A Column of Fire by Ken Follett

A Column of Fire (Kingsbridge)A Column of Fire by Ken Follett

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This third installment of Ken Follett’s Kingsbridge series covers the Elizabethan era of England’s history, with its attendant political intrigues, religious persecutions, and assassination plots. While our chief protagonist, Ned Willard, and his family are fictional, famous historical personages inhabit the plot: William Cecil; Mary, Queen of Scots; Francis Walsingham; Francis Drake; and of course Elizabeth Tudor.

Ned Willard goes to court as a young man, after having been disappointed in love, and is promptly taken under the wing of William Cecil, Elizabeth Tudor’s chief advisor. Together they oversee a network of informants and spies, rooting out planned rebellions and foiling attempts on the Queen’s life. The majority of the political story concerns the tension between staunch Catholics and Protestants, each believing they follow the One True Faith; and the accompanying efforts to sway England, France, and Spain toward one religious tradition or the other.

I liked this book. It’s well-written and steeped in historical detail. But I didn’t enjoy it as much as I enjoyed the first of the line (The Pillars of the Earth, set in the 12th century), or even the second (World Without End, set in the 14th century). That may be because I am utterly fascinated by the Middle Ages — far more than with any other period in history — and thus novels set in other historical eras don’t engage me as much. Still, Elizabethan England is a dramatic setting, and the dramatic plotline delivers one punch of excitement after another.

Given that the three books in this series each take place approximately 200 years apart, I venture to guess that the next installment, should there be one, will cover the American Revolution, and will take place in both England and the New World. We’ll see.

View all my reviews

Posted in Book review, Books, Reading

Double book review: In Memoriam; The Borrower

In MemoriamIn Memoriam by Nathan Burgoine

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It’s nearly impossible to review this novella without spoilers, so let me just say this: James Daniels found a unique way to deal with the memory loss that accompanies his brain cancer, and said method is lovely and satisfying and heartwarming and sweet.

A beautiful piece of writing.

The BorrowerThe Borrower by Rebecca Makkai

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Lucy Hull has a favorite library patron, young Ian Drake. Unfortunately, Ian’s mother doesn’t approve of Ian’s reading tastes, nor of Ian himself, apparently. Early one morning, Lucy opens the library to find Ian camped out in the stacks, having run away from home. He convinces Lucy to take him somewhere else, and she obliges.

What follows is a haphazard road trip from somewhere in Missouri to Chicago and Pittsburgh and points northeastward, all directed more or less by the boy in the passenger seat, with Lucy’s passive acquiescence masking her inner turmoil at being led around by the nose by a 10-year-old. But this journey isn’t about Ian, really; it’s about Lucy coming to terms with her passive acquiescence of everything except her family legacy; and how family shapes who we are whether we like it or not; and how blood will out, regardless.

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. The short chapters written in the style of various children’s books were amusing and poignant and sharply aimed.

Highly recommended.

View all my reviews

Posted in Book review, Books, Reading

Book review: The Map of True Places by Brunonia Barry

The Map of True PlacesThe Map of True Places by Brunonia Barry
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

After the suicide of a client, Zee Finch leaves her fiancé and her Boston psychology practice to care for her ailing father in their Salem family home. Very little drama ensues. Really.

Honestly, I didn’t see any point in this novel. I didn’t particularly like Zee (although I loved the fact that her given name was Hepzibah) or her eventual love interest, Hawk; the emphasis on navigating by the stars was weird and contrived; in fact, the whole of the story felt contrived and weird and and incoherent, like a series of set pieces linked together only because they involved the same characters. Zee traveled some small distance as a character, but in the end I felt she was little different from the wishy-washy human being that began the story.

Sophomore novels are often a let down after brilliant debuts. The Lace Reader was brilliant. This? Not so much.

View all my reviews

Posted in Book review, Books, Knitting, Reading

Book review: NOS4A2 by Joe Hill

NOS4A2NOS4A2 by Joe Hill

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“She breathed deeply of the scent of decaying fiction, disintegrating history, and forgotten verse, and she observed for the first time that a room full of books smelled like dessert: a sweet snack made of figs, vanilla, glue, and cleverness.”
~~~
Pause for a moment and ponder that quote.
.
.
.
.
I’d substitute cardamom for vanilla (because I’m not overly fond of vanilla), but otherwise, yes. This is what books smell like. Imminently satisfactory, is it not?

Charles Manx loves children. He wants children to be happy all the time. He seeks out special children so he can take them to Christmasland where, as you may have guessed, it’s always Christmas and children are always happy. Taking these children to Christmasland and leaving them there has the side effect of keeping Manx young and vigorous, but that’s merely an inconsequential bonus to Manx’s generosity of spirit.

Victoria McQueen, usually called Vic, rides her bicycle as an escape from her tense home atmosphere and warring parents. One day when she is still quite young, she discovers her bicycle gives her the ability to travel across a non-existent bridge and find things. She finds jewelry, and scarves, and photographs, and all manner of lost things. She tells the grownups cover stories about where she finds these items, and as she grows older, eventually comes to believe these stories herself. Because riding a bicycle across a non-existent bridge and coming out miles or even whole states away would be crazy, right?

On one of these excursions, Vic encounters Charles Manx. Manx recognizes Vic’s special talent and wants to take her to Christmasland. Of course, her talent will fuel his continued youth, but that’s not his primary motivation, of course. He has true compassion for Vic’s unhappy life and wants to alleviate her pain and suffering. Really, he means nothing but the best for these special children.

Vic manages to escape Manx. She grows up, grows older, has a child, endures multiple hospitalizations and medications (both doctor-ordered and self-prescribed) to deal with the trauma of her kidnapping and the constant murmur of voices in her head.

Then Charles Manx takes her son. And Vic must summon all her courage to go after him.

That’s the story. But this book is really about love. Vic’s love for her son and for Lou, the father of her son; Lou’s love for Vic and their child; Vic’s parents’ love for her, although she didn’t recognize such love until nearly too late; the sacrifices all parents make to keep their children safe; even Manx’s twisted version of love for the children he “saves”: all of it, every word of this novel turns on love in its many-splendoured and sometimes malformed manifestations.

NOS4A2 isn’t the best book ever, but it’s well worthy of the multiple award nominations it received and it’s certainly worth the time one spends delving into its nearly 700 pages.

Hint: Make sure you read to the very last page. Really. The VERY last page. Otherwise, you miss out.

View all my reviews

This book was read as part of the 2017 Award-Winning Science Fiction/Fantasy Reading Challenge.  Click that badge on the right to see what other participants have read.

Posted in Crochet, Finished object

A blanket for Liam

Stripes and Hearts 10I have a new grand-nephew on the way. And, of course, I made him a blanket.

Pattern:  I Got You Babe-y by Marty Miller, from the Jan/Feb 2012 issue of the now-defunct Crochet Today.

Yarn:  Bernat Gloucester Sport, 2.8 skeins (308 yds), colorway “French Blue”; Mirasol T’ika, 4 skeins (364 yds), colorway 502 “Light Blue”.

Hook:  H for body, I for borders.

Mods: Did not do the lacy attach-as-you-go border between panels. Rather, did single crochet edging around each panel and sewed them together. Three rounds of single crochet in alternating colors around entire blanket for the edging.

84df2-knit-your-library_2016Satisfaction with end product:  I think it’s lovely.  The 100% cotton yarn makes it soft and absorbent, besides making it an easy-care baby item; I’m sure my niece-in-law will appreciate that.

You can see more project pics at the Ravelry project page.

Still “knitting” my library.  Please join us!

Posted in Book review, Reading

Book review: Song of Susannah by Stephen King

Song of Susannah (The Dark Tower, #6)Song of Susannah by Stephen King

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

2016 Re-read

The sixth volume in The Dark Tower series begins moments after the events that end the fifth volume. Our heroes and the townfolk of Calla Bryn Sturgis are weary, shell-shocked, and uncertain of their future. Susannah has disappeared, Eddie is frantic, Jake is grieving, and Roland is desperate to discern their next steps.

Roland, Eddie, and Jake eventually figure out they must separate: with the aid of the Manni, Roland and Eddie will go through the door in the Cave of Voices to 1977 Maine, contact Calvin Tower and Aaron Deepneau, and make arrangements to protect The Rose; Jake and Father Callahan (and Oy) will use the same door to journey to 1999 New York in search of Susannah.

In New York, Susannah and Mia struggle for control of their shared body while Mia’s pregnancy advances at an accelerated pace.

Also in New York, Jake, Oy, and Father Callahan are hot on the trail of the combined Susannah-Mio, hoping to find them before the baby is born.

In Maine, Roland and Eddie encounter good guys, bad guys, bullets, and Stephen King.

Even though its subject matter may be more suited for a melancholy folk ballad, Song of Susannah is a techno dancetrack that unfolds at a breakneck hellbent-for-leather pace. In the end, new life and more than one death follow our heroes into the final volume.

Again, I’m glad to have re-read this, because once more I had forgotten not only the details but the main events of this novel, including the extended metafictional encounter with Stephen King. For reasons that spoilers prohibit me from revealing, King wrote himself into his own novel, not as a measure of vanity but as a unique plot twist that won’t make sense until much much later. (EDITORIAL NOTE: This review was written after finishing Book VII. So trust me on this.)

Author King views Character King with the dispassion of distance, and does not shy away from a frank discussion of his younger self’s shortcomings. In truth, I found this section of the book weirdly therapeutic. How many of us now in late middle age would NOT jump at the opportunity to speak to our younger selves with the benefit of experience and 20/20 hindsight? Metafictional therapy aside, Character King’s presence serves rather than detracts from the plot and sets up critical events for the final volume.

2016SFFChallengeNicely done, Author King.

View all my reviews

This review was written for the Award Winning SF/Fantasy Challenge, hosted by Shaunesay at The Space Between. Click the badge to learn more about this challenge, and maybe even join in! There’s still plenty of time left to read some award winners of your own.

Posted in Finished object, FO Fridays, Knitting

FO Friday: Kayson’s Blankie

100_4662-2By the time this post appears online, my family will have increased by one.  My niece expects to deliver her second son sometime between September 7 and September 14.  All new babies in my family get a special blanket made just for them, and Kayson is no exception.

Pattern:  My design, and it doesn’t have a name yet.

Yarn:  Bernat Handicrafter Cotton in Caramel, a discontinued colorway; 1.1 skeins for a total of 767 yards.

Needle:  US 9; I used Addi Turbos Circular.

Size:  34″ x 24″, after a machine wash and dry.

Satisfaction with end product:  It’s soft and absorbent and can be thrown in the washer and dryer.  That’s the perfect baby blanket as far as I’m concerned.  I hope my niece likes it.

The pattern came about because I couldn’t find a blanket that I liked among all the blanket patterns that I already have.  Let me rephrase:  I couldn’t find a blanket pattern that I liked that suited this particular yarn, and I was determined to use this yarn because of its easy care.  And so I fiddled around for a while with stitch patterns and finally settled on a classic basketweave, but with a twist: the small basketweave sections that bookend the center portion of the blanket.

This time as I made the blanket, I remembered to make pattern notes.  I’ll get the pattern written up and made available eventually.  I have to figure out how to upload PDFs to Ravelry someday, don’t I?

Here are a couple more pictures of the blanket, for good measure.  Click the pic to see it larger.  And you can click that large picture up top to go to the Ravelry project page.

FO Friday Avantaknits Badge (2)Do you have a finished project to show off? Please share it with us by linking up here. You’ll be glad you did!