Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Slowly but surely

See? I'm learning already! See the links on the side?? See the Knitting Olympics button?? Isn't it wonderful? Thank you to Kate and Keith for helping me. This is very confusing stuff!

Wondering what the Knitting Olympics are? Read all about it by clicking on the button. I have decided what I'm going to make. Drumroll please.................I am going to make a lovely scarf for my lovely friend Doreen for her birthday. Here's the scarf, but it will be in a cranberry red color because Dennis (her husband) said that would be the best color choice. I never would have guessed red, but I'm sure Dennis knows best.

I am more than 3/4 done with Elliot's sweater (which will really be Teddy's sweater because I doubt it will fit Elliot). Hopefully there will be pictures of it and other completed projects here as well.

Monday, January 30, 2006

First Hello

Hi everybody! Please be patient with me while I figure this all out!

GO STEELERS!!!!!!!!!

got ben?

Sunday, January 15, 2006

The Nest

This is where I live. It's a very old house...built in the 1920s by Sarah B. Cochran.

Next door to the house is the Cochran Memorial United Methodist Church. My husband pastors this church along with two other churches that make up the Dawson United Methodist Charge. It has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1982.

This is the front hall of our house. The stairwell is all dark wood and beautifully carved. I try to keep the banisters clear of coats and book bags. This photo must have been taken after a spontaneous cleaning!

These photos are of the living room. It's really a great big room. It was bright, neon yellow when we moved in, but I papered 3 of the walls and painted the other wall to match the sofa. You just haven't lived until you've papered 10 foot ceilings by yourself!

This is the dining room. Again...the woodwork here is awesome. I don't even have a good picture of the ceiling which is the best part. It's is all crossbeams of dark wood. Very impressive. The diningroom set, buffet and china closet are original to the house. I'd like to say they're mine, but they're not! I'm glad they were here though because my small, oak, country-style table would have looked ridiculous in here.

The kitchen may be my favorite room in the house. I painted all of the woodwork a bright, berry red used a lot of primary colors and black to accent. The pot rack was a Christmas present from my mom and dad. It needs a lot of modernization and new countertops, but it makes me happy. I really like the art of Mary Engelbreit and I thought this looked like one of her illustrations. One thing is for sure...whoever follows us into this house will HATE me if they don't like red!

The pantry off the kitchen is painted with yellow to compliment the red in the kitchen. This is the view out the small pantry window.

This is a picture of the landing on the stair well...

and this is a close-up of the stained-glass window.

Behind the house is our garage which is actually more of a carriage house. The "stalls" are too small for today's cars, probably because they were built to accomodate horses and a carriage! Above the garage is a lovely 5-room apartment which is now occupied by a nice little family of four.

This great tree is in the backyard, which is one of the nicest parts of this property. The kids have plenty of room to run around and a big tree for a tire swing. In June, the yard twinkles with fireflies. Summer in Dawson is just like a Country Time Lemonade commercial. I love it!

Friday, January 06, 2006

Finished Knitting Projects

Finally finished these socks for Carlie! I hope she likes them...surely she has a pair of Chuck Taylors somewhere to match them. I used the Trekking XXL yarn again, color 123.

Three for three...the bear sweaters for Kathy are all done and ready to ship.

Two down, one to go.

The first of three bear sweaters I need to finish for Kathy.

Both socks now finished

After finishing the sock, I felt I needed a little break so I finished this super-simple washcloth. It's my first experience using cotton yarn...I liked the way it held the stitch pattern so well, but it is a bit tiring to knit with, at least for me. The pretty posies are from my husband. He met me for dinner last night and walked in with them. People must have thought we were on our first date!

Does one sock count as a finished project? Sure it does. Especially if you had as much trouble with it as I did! The yarn is Trekking XXL in Pastel.

Made these two scarves for my mom. The lighter one is Patons Allure in Sable and the black one is Patons Cha Cha. I definitely preferred the Allure...much easier to work with and I prefer the final result, too.

Whipped up this poncho in a day or two. I got the yarn at Walmart and it's actually a Walmart brand. I don't usually like this super-trendy yarn, but it's nice for a project like this.

Candy, Claire's bear, sporting her new Sugar 'n Cream Bear Sweater. I just used Red Heart yarn in Lavender from Walmart. It's not the nicest yarn, but it will hold up well for this active bear and the price was right. The texture comes through pretty nicely with the worsted weight yarn, too.

This is the scarf I made for the Knitting Olympics. The pattern was Ann Norling Stitch Sampler Scarf and I used Plymouth Encore Yarn (75% Acrylic/ 25% Wool)

This is the ugliest sweater I have ever seen! Even Teddy would only pose for one picture. Check out the complete Rainbow Sweater Saga here.

This is my second pair of socks using the Lion Brand Magic Stripes Yarn (Stonewashed Blue Pattern). These were for Miss Valerie, my son's wonderful preschool teacher who wears sandals to school every day...even in the winter! Thanks to Kate for modeling.

A sling for a water bottle knit with Moda-Dea Sassy Stripes Yarn (Crush). I can't tell you how many guesses I got about what I was knitting. Good grief!

A poncho for my neice, Rahne (modeled by Claire):
Lion Brand Boucle (Gelato), trimmed with Lion Brand Fun Fur (Hot Pink)

My First Pair of Socks: Lion Brand Magic Stripes Yarn (Jellybean)

This is probably the first knitting project I ever finished...the hat, that is. I just used bargain acrylic Red Heart yarn. The scarf was made by my friend, Doreen years ago before I even knew I'd be able to knit, too! There are matching mittens, but they weren't waterproof or warm enough for the snow. Great smile, Claire!

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Monday, January 02, 2006

Good Books

...and yes, I DO look exactly like Marilyn Monroe when I read in bed!

Please note, that while I link to Amazon for each book this is primarily for convenience sake. I would encourage you to support your local bookseller!

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy: Man! This is a really big book! I've been reading it since vacation and while I'm aware that I'm reading an amazing piece of writing, I'm not entirely sure that I'm enjoying it. It is my chosen "Summer Reading" though, so I'll soldier on. I did take a break to read Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows!

Recently Read:
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling: (no spoilers) I can't believe it's over! I've read each and every one of the Harry Potter books and I've loved them all. This was an amazing end to an amazing ride. Everything is tied together in the end and it all makes sense. I actually cried when I finished it because it's the last one. I promised no spoilers, so all I'll say is that this is going to make one bloody wicked movie!
Those Who Save Us by Jenny Blum: This was a very difficult book to read. It was about a German mother and her child during the second World War, things they did to survive, and the guilt that haunted them the rest of their lives.

Back On Blossom Street by Debbie Macomber: A continuation of the Blossom Street books (probably all reviewed here). It was an enjoyable enough read, but a bit more predictable than the first two. While I think Debbie Macomber is a passable storyteller, I start to pine for plot twists and intrigue after I read too many of her books. Wonder if there will be more Blossom Street stories?
Mrs. Kimble by Jennifer Haigh: This is an interesting story of three Mrs. Kimbles, all married at different times to the same man. His method of operation is clear to the reader by the middle of the book, but the women in his life are unsuspecting. The story spans several decades and reflects those eras very well. Most heartbreaking is Ken Kimble's impact on his children and it is their story that really makes the book. Also by Jennifer Haigh, listed here, Baker Towers.
Big Stone Gap by Adriana Trigiani: A book about relationships. The main character, Ave Maria, tries to come to terms with who she is in light of her mother's recent death and the long-hidden secrets revealed about her life. I found the romance story line a bit predictable, but enjoyed the story about the family and the underlying "prequel" story about Ave's parents.
Back Roads by Tawnie O'Dell: This was a really well-written book, but not a happy book by any means. At times it was very difficult to read as there is a lot of suffering and unpleasant situations. I really enjoyed the words and phrasing she used to describe what the characters were feeling and found it eloquent even when the action or story was ugly. I also enjoyed the fact that the story takes place in Western Pennsylvania (as does Coal Run, listed here) and mentioned such familiar things as Pittsburgh and Eat 'n Park.
Twilight by Stephanie Meyer: I read this book because both of my older children (age 16 and 13) raved about it and finished it in record time even though the paper back edition is a good 500 pages. I found it very exciting and a nice change from the usual "adult" read; it was a page turner. There are some liberties taken with traditional vampire lore (oh, by the way, it's about vampires), so if you're a vampire expert you may take issue with it's "authenticity", but it was, overall, a very wholesome book. I believe it is going to be a movie starring Orlando Bloom, but what do I know. There are also two sequels which I haven't read yet.
Stephanie Pearl-McPhee Casts Off: The Yarn Harlot's Guide to the Land of Knitting by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee (duh): Another humorous book about knitting and the knitting culture which also talks about the disrespect we knitters recieve in the non-knitting world. Knitters rise up! My copy is especially terrific because it is autographed by The Yarn Harlot herself! For details about this thrilling detail go here. This book was good, but not nearly as funny as the other books of hers that I've read. But it is autographed. (Did I mention it's autographed??)
There's a big gap here that I can't recall what I read, but I'll try to remember...
Shamus in the Green Room: A CeCe Caruso Mystery by Susan Kandel: Since American Idol has started, I guess I'll tell you what Randy Jackson would say..."It was awight, dawg".
Blessings by Anna Quindlen: A light enough read; enjoyable. There's really no great plot, though and I was disappointed by the ending.
The Thirteenth Tale: A Novel by Diane Setterfield: Very creepy and gothic. It reminded me of Rebecca (see below) by Daphne DuMaurier. It made me a little nervous reading it late at night, especially since it was about creepy twins and I happen to sleep beside a creepy twin. All in all, I liked it a lot. I found the ending a little confusing, but I may have rushed through it because I was anxious to see how it all would end.
When Christmas Comes by Debbie Macomber: An enjoyable fluffy Christmas book by the author of The Shop on Blossom Street (see below) and A Good Yarn. I like to read a Christmas novel or two during November and December to help me get in the spirit of things. This was a typical Debbie Macomber tale. I could swear that the movie The Holiday is based on this book, but I can't find verification of this anywhere!
Finding Noel: A Novel by Richard Paul Evans: Another predictable Christmas story, but enjoyable enough.
Midnight at the Dragon Cafe by Judy Fong Bates: I thought this book would be an interesting snapshot of the life of a Chinese family living in Canada in the late 1940s. It was an interesting view, but ultimately only a moderately interesting book. There were some parts that I felt went nowhere and overall it was a pretty miserable book! This was a book I read for my local book club at the Jefferson Hills Public Library. I completely missed last month's discussion, even though I read the book! (See "Beautiful Lies" below)
A Shortcut In Time by Charles Dickinson: Trying to recapture the magic of Jack Finney's books I've read (listed here under All-Time Favorites) I selected this book because it's about time travel and the reviews likened it to Jack Finney's work. I wouldn't say it was anywhere near as good as Time and Again or Time After Time, but it was enjoyable. I found myself with a lot of questions about the time-travel stuff and tried to not focus too much on what I thought were flaws in the plot. Let's not get too geeky, right??!!
Beautiful Lies by Lisa Unger: I read this book for my book club and then completely missed the discussion night! I was all prepared.....but a week too late. This was a real page turner, a good thriller without too much gore or too much upset. I was very "into" it within the first two chapters.
Watermelon by Marian Keyes: A fluff book, but interesting enough; the story of a young woman whose husband leaves her on the day their baby is born. Rather than being depressing, it is often filled with humor and determination. It is written in a light-hearted way, but deals with some difficult issues.
Knitting Rules!: The Yarn Harlot's Bag of Knitting Tricks by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee: It's The Yarn Harlot...what can I say? I didn't uncover any information I hadn't read before, but her way of writing is so relaxing and comical.
Standing in the Rainbow by Fannie Flagg: A light-hearted read taking place in the forties through today. I thought the narrative really made you feel like you were living in small-town America during "the good ol' days". I don't know how good the good ol' days were, but it sure seemed a lot simpler!
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini: A good book with a message of hope, but not a happy book. Having no prior knowledge of Afghanistan, except that in my lifetime it was always "war-torn", this book shed light on Afghanistan as more than a place of violence and oppression. The story is basically a common story of friendship between two boys that could happen in America or London just as easily as in Afghanistan. The narrator retells his childhood and the events that have shaped his coming of age. It was really very good and sparked some good discussion at my book club.
Ireland by Frank Delaney: This was an interesting look at Ireland and its history. Some of the tales were told from a strictly historical standpoint and many of the stories (particularly the oldest stories) were told by the people themselves or a wandering storyteller whose own story was interwoven into the book. It was not a particularly a quick read, but it was enjoyable. The story within the story was my favorite part.
The Shop on Blossom Street by Debbie Macomber: Character driven, light reading, fairly predictable with lots of knitting stuff thrown in like a pattern, terms and common knitting experiences. It was like comfort food...enjoyable and reliable! I hope to pick up the sequel, A Good Yarn, soon.
Dance of Death by Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child: even though this has a ridiculous title, it was a pretty good book. I would even consider it a page turner. I also read their book Relic and enjoyed it too.
The Yarn Harlot: The Secret Life of a Knitter by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee: I got this book for a Christmas present and read it in one night. I kept waking my sleeping husband because I was laughing out loud! This book set me off on my knitting spree, too. But I related to more in the book than knitting...Stephanie talks about parenting and being a wife and all kinds of things. At the risk of sounding like a review of Cats, "I laughed. I cried." I told my mom it read a bit like some of her Erma Bombeck essays she read over and over when I was a child.

Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry: I reluctantly started reading this book because my husband was ranting and raving about how good it was. It took a while for me to get into it, but I have to admit that it is a fantastic book. It is such a complete work; you feel completely surrounded by the world McMurtry creates and you really feel you know the characters. Augustus McCrae, who was played by Robert Duvall in the mini-series is number forty-one on this cool list of the 100 Best Fictional Characters Since 1900.

All-time Favorites:

These are book that I really wish I could read for the first time again. There are probably a lot more, but these are the ones that came to my mind first. I'll add on as I think of others.

Memoirs of a Geisha: A Novel by Arthur Golden: Not really a happy book, but a fascinating look at another culture. My friend, Doreen, gave me her copy to read before she moved to Ireland. Unfortunately the last two pages were missing!!! I had to go to the library to get out another copy so I could finish the book. I gave Doreen a big hug the next time I saw her and then smacked her upside the head! I read this before it was made into a movie and haven't yet seen the film.

Girl with a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier: Another book I read that was then made into a movie. I haven't seen it either, but wasn't surprised that it was chosen for a screen play. Scarlet Johansson is a perfect choice for the main character.

The Time Traveler's Wife by
Audrey Niffenegger: This is a great love story if you enjoy time travel stories...don't think about it too much or you may get a headache!

Time and Again by Jack Finney: A time-travel classic by the author of The Body Snatchers...a lot of detail

From Time to Time by Jack Finney: The sequel to Time and Again

The Secret History by Donna Tartt: Another dark choice (what's wrong with me?), but a good read

The Mitford Series by Jan Karon: If you live in a small town with lots of "characters" you'll love these books. They are very enjoyable, often thought-provoking and well-written.

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon: The first of the Outlander Series. This is one of my all-time favorite books. I was really, really obsessed with these stories! I don't know why so many books on this list involve time travel...I didn't consciously choose books with that theme, but that's just what happened. This is historic fiction based in Scotland in the mid-1700s (and other times, too!) with romance, adventure and a great deal of humor.

Scarlet Feather by Maeve Binchy: Maeve Binchy is always a good choice. When I think of snuggling in with a good book I turn to Maeve Binchy. Nothing too deep or upsetting, but better than Romance novel fluff.

Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier: A classic; surprisingly creepy

Mrs. Dewinter by Susan Hill Long: I don't remember the details of this sequel to Rebecca, but I remember thinking that they new author did a good job of writing like Daphne Du Maurier.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee: Quite possibly the best book I've ever read

The Shadow of the Wind: A Novel by Carlos Ruiz Zafon: A very absorbing book...I just wanted to read it all the time

The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley: A wonderful Arthurian story (with sequels I don't list here) from a highly respected Arthurian author.

The Firm by John Grisham: Terrifying

Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank: I avoided this book for the longest time, but found it very uplifting

Timeline by Michael Crichton: Yes, a time-travel book

Harry Potter (books 1-6) by J.K. Rowling: I found myself wishing I could find "adult" books even half as enjoyable. They are just delightful!

Audrey Style by Pamela Deogh Clarke: Isn't she lovely?

Coal Run by Tawni O'Dell: A good read for anyone from Western PA or a mining town

Baker Towers: A Novel by Jennifer Haigh: a smiliar shapshot of Pennsylvania mining towns

The Rule of Four by Ian Caldwell & Dustin Thomason: This was a book along the lines of Davinci Code, but without as much action and controversy. I thought it was more character driven and again, I actually found myself missing the characters when I was done with the book.

Davinci Code by Dan Brown: A bunch of hooey, but a very good book

Sunday, January 01, 2006