Books Read in 2018

54. Hawk, Brust, Steven
53. Vallista, Brust, Steven
52. Tiassa, Brust, Steven
51. Iorich, Brust, Steven (reread)
50. Dzur, Brust, Steven (reread)
49. Issola, Brust, Steven (reread)
48. Orca, Brust, Steven (reread)
47. Athyra, Brust, Steven (reread)
46. Jhegaala, Brust, Steven (reread)
45. Phoenix, Brust, Steven (reread)
44. Tekla, Brust, Steven (reread)
43. Jhereg, Brust, Steven (reread)
42. *The San Andreas Shifters, Carriger, G. L.
41. Dragon, Brust, Steven (reread)
40. Yendi, Brust, Steven (reread)
39. Taltos, Brust, Steven (reread)
38. Why Kill The Innocent, Harris, C. S. (re-re-read)
37. Where The Dead Lie, Harris, C. S. (re-re-read)
36. When Falcons Fall, Harris, C. S. (re-re-read)
35. Who Buries the Dead, Harris, C. S. (re-re-read)
34. Why Kings Confess, Harris, C. S. (re-re-read)
33. What Darkness Brings, Harris, C. S. (re-re-read)
32. When Maidens Mourn, Harris, C. S. (re-re-read)
31. The Ocean at the End of the Lane, Gaiman, Neil (reread)
30. Cold Comfort Farm, Gibbons, Stella
29. Crystal Dragon, Lee, Sharon and Miller, Steve (re . . read)
28. Crystal Soldier, Lee, Sharon and Miller, Steve (re . . read)
27. Emergence, Cherryh, C. J. (re . . read)
26. Convergence, Cherryh, C. J. (re . . read)
25. Visitor, Cherryh, C. J. (re . . read)
24. Tracker, Cherryh, C. J. (re . . read)
23. Peacemaker, Cherryh, C. J. (re . . read)
22. Protector, Cherryh, C. J. (re . . read)
21. Intruder, Cherryh, C. J. (re . . read)
20. Betrayer, Cherryh, C. J. (re . . read)
19. Deceiver, Cherryh, C. J. (re . . read)
18. Conspirator, Cherryh, C. J. (re . . read)
17. Deliverer, Cherryh, C. J. (re . . read)
16. Pretender, Cherryh, C. J. (re . . read)
15. Destroyer, Cherryh, C. J. (re . . read)
14. Explorer, Cherryh, C. J. (re . . read)
13. Defender, Cherryh, C. J. (re . . read)
12. Precursor, Cherryh, C. J. (re . . read)
11. Inheritor, Cherryh, C. J. (re. . read)
10. Invader, Cherryh, C. J. (re. . reread)
9. Foreigner, Cherryh, C. J. (re . .reread)
8. Guilty Pleasures, Hamilton, Laurell K.
7. *Romancing the Werewolf, Carriger, Gail
6. *Imprudence, Carriger, Gail
5. *Prudence, Carriger, Gail
4. To Say Nothing of the Dog, Willis, Connie (reread)
3. The Perilous Gard, Pope, Elizabeth Marie
2. Emergence, Cherryh, C. J.
1. Convergence, Cherryh, C. J. (re. . read)

* Ebook

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After A Brief Digression, A Return to Business as Usual, Sort Of

As I have mentioned, I do have some health concerns, and they are ongoing.  I’m now just over a week out from a 10-day hospitalization which was prolonged because of hospital-acquired pneumonia.  Now I’m on home oxygen because I can’t even walk from one end of the house to the other without getting short of breath despite being on oxygen. I’m tethered to an oxygen concentrator by this 50-ft tube which I have to drag all over the house, and it’s infuriating.  The worst part of it is whenever I leave the house, I have to schlep this 10 lb metal oxygen tank on a little hand trolley everywhere I go.  I’m too used to being independent and being able to go where I want when I want, and this recent development is about to drive me crazy.  I am going to wean myself off the tube and regain my independence if it harelips the governor.*  I’ll spare you the rest of the rant.

Enough of that.  Let us now move on to more pleasant topics:

We are in the middle of a heat wave — weeks of 100F+/32C+ temperatures (my electric bills are higher than giraffe’s ears!) with occasional scattered thunder showers and other assorted pyrotechnics.

We got this little thunder boomer on 19 May, 2018, but we’ve had a couple more since.  As you can see, the hail is ricocheting off the neighbor’s roof, then off my porch and into my storm door.

Not surprisingly, with all this hot weather, I am on an iced chai laté kick, and here’s my recipe.

WOL’s Iced White Chai

Ingredients:
4 tbsp of sugar (white or brown) or 3 tablespoons of honey, as you prefer.
1 bag of Twining’s Earl Grey Tea
1 bag of Twining’s English Breakfast Tea
2 bags of Twining’s Chai
6 cups of boiling water
a 16-oz bottle of Coffee-Mate Natural Bliss Vanilla Almond Milk creamer.

Implements:
a heavy glass or crockery heat-resistant 2-quart pitcher **
a large metal spoon or ladle
source of boiling water.

Fill the pitcher with straight hot tap water and leave it sit for about 10 minutes to preheat the pitcher. This is an important safety factor as it will help keep the pitcher from shattering when you fill it with boiling water.  Right after you empty out the hot water, put the sugar in and affix the tea bags to the side of the pitcher with a clip or clothes pin. Again, for safety, place the large metal spoon into the pitcher and pour the boiling water onto the spoon. Let the tea bags steep until the pitcher has cooled to room temperature.  Pour in the whole bottle of Natural Bliss, stir well, cover and refrigerate. Serve cold.  Enjoy. 

In the knitting news, I got me some of what we good ol’ girls in the knitting group I go to refer to as “snob yarn,”  i.e., the kind of high-end, natural fibers, exotic blends, artisanal (hand spun, hand dyed, etc.), limited quantities, only sold on websites or yupscale “Fiber Shoppes” at $15-$40 for a 50 g twist yarn.   I got it on closeout sale (50% off).   It’s called “Sublime,” a blend of 75% cotton and 25% silk.  It comes in 50 g (125 m/137 yds) “donut” skeins.  I wanted it for a summer hat.  I got 2 skeins of the above blue, as well as 2 skeins of silver, a skein of charcoal, and 2 skeins of purple.  I’ve got it all rolled into balls and ready to go.

Since I can’t wear wool and I knit a lot of chemo hats, pretty much all the yarn I buy is either acrylic (hypoallergenic, machine washable and dryable) or cotton yarn you can buy at Michael’s and Walmart.  (Life is too short for special care instructions.  If you can’t throw it in the washer and dryer, I don’t have time for it.) But I wanted something special, something breathable with a soft hand for a summer hat because I’m worth it.  However, I can’t start on it just yet because I want to do it on my size 9 (5.5 mm) 16-inch Red Lace Chiaogoo’s, and I can’t until I finish the without beads variation of this hat (see above) because it’s being done on my only set of 16-inch 9’s.  I have about 18 rows to go on it.  This is the first knitting I’ve done since I got out of the hospital last week.

Gratuitous product plug:  ChiaoGoo makes needles with standard points in wood, bamboo and stainless steel, circulars, DPN’s, single points, and interchangeables.  If you do a lot of lace knitting, however, you might want to try out one of their ChiaoGoo Red Lace circular needles.  The Red Lace needles have stainless steel tips which have a longer taper that make knitting stitches like k3tog, p3tog, sssk, psso, and multiple yarn overs easier.  The ChiaGoo Red Lace circulars come in all the standard diameters and in lengths from 16-inches to 60-inches. They have a flexible, memory-free, nylon-coated steel cable with superior joins.  They are also quite reasonably priced (around $9-$11 depending on size and length).  I really, really like them.  Confusingly, ChaioGoo also has an SS Red product line, which have stainless steel tips with a standard taper, so if you want the longer tapered lace tip, be sure to order the Red Lace needle.

One thing I want to try out on the body of this new hat I’m making for me is a k1, p1 pattern worked over 81 stitches per row.  Normally, seed stitch is worked over an even number of stitches with a row of k1, p1, alternating with a row of p1, k1, whether you’re working flat or in the round.  However, if you’re knitting in the round, working k1, p1 continuously over an odd number of stitches will accomplish the same thing without you having to keep track of which row you’re on.  The odd number of stitches will automatically alternate between k1 and p1 as the first stitch on the row and produce the pattern.

I’ve been having my hair cut Anne Lennox short (hear her fabulous voice) and will keep it that way for the foreseeable future, although I hate my hair short.  It’s just so much easier and quicker to wash and dry short, and until I can get my health issues sorted,  I’m having to ration my spoons.  My hair has a mind of its own, however, and sometimes it will be sticky-outy despite my best efforts to get it to behave.  (I do not blow dry, perm, color, or use jgels, mousses or any other kind of “product” except Johnson’s Baby Shampoo on my hair.  My hair is too fine and fly-away, and life is too short for all that high-maintenance nonsense.)  Hence, the hat.  Stay tuned.

In other knitting news, I’m about half finished with both my shawls (sorry, I don’t have a more recent picture of the blue one).  The light teal one is the Cable Edged Shawl.  The blue one (I’m calling it “Cobblestone Lace”) is my own pattern, and I will publish it on my knitting site and on Ravelry once the shawl is finished and I have a good picture of the completed shawl.

*a "harelip" is now considered to be a politically incorrect term for congenital cleft lip deformity, which is a birth defect.  However, it also refers to a type of through-and-through laceration of the upper lip resulting from being punched or struck in the mouth, i.e., a lip that is split below the nose like a hare's.

** I would not use an aluminum pitcher as aluminum will alter the taste of the tea.  You could use a stainless steel pitcher, but I prefer glass or crockery as neither affects the taste of the tea.  Pyrex glass  or heat resistant glass carafes work, too.  Never make tea in something that has previously been used to make coffee.  No matter how thoroughly you clean it, you cannot remove all the residual oils from the coffee, which will ruin the taste of the tea.

Maire Popkin

There is a website where a picture, painting or photograph would be posted, with the challenge to take inspiration from it for a piece of creative writing — a poem, vignette, essay, whatever. Unfortunately, the lady who ran this lovely website decided to put it on the back  burner several years ago.  Because I had participated now and again, I continued to issue these “mag challenges” to myself when the mood took me.  It occurs to me I have not set myself a “mag challenge” in a while.  There’s only one other mag challeng post on this blog, but there are quite a number of them here.  If you will go to the bottom of the right sidebar to “Categories” and select the category “Mag Challenge,” you can find the ones there.

Maire Popkin

She wasn’t Cockney, she was Irish, so that was wrong, but she did have the large black umbrella with the ivory handle carved into a macaw’s head, which had come down to her from her grandmamá.  (It was mastodon ivory and her grandmamá and great grandmamá had eaten off its former owner for a month, but that was neither here nor there.)  She had simply shown up shortly after the coroner’s wagon had left and announced herself to Constable Harker, who was under the impression headquarters had sent her — and not a moment too soon, if you asked him. The lady’s maid was practically hysterical and the cook and parlor maid were not in much better shape.  As for the poor child, all she did was sit there wide-eyed and silent.   Shock, of course.  The constable conveyed the woman straightaway to Chief Inspecter Philbeam.

“Sir, they’ve sent a matron to take charge of the little girl.”

“About time,” The chief inspector replied gruffly.  He hated these domestic cases, especially when there were children involved.  He glanced at her, then took a second look.

In the cold, unblinking light of early morning, she was a woman drawn in pen and ink, with ink-black eyes and raven’s wing brows stroked onto paper white skin, ink black hair pulled severely back over her white shell ears and completely restrained in a tight bun at the nape of her neck.  She wore a black felt hat with a narrow brim and a black grosgrain ribbon for a hat band, secured to her head with a jet beaded hatpin.  Indeed, the only bit of color about her was her woolen coat of graphite grey, which she wore buttoned up to her chin.  The hem of it brushed the top of her black leather, lace-up boots.  She was holding the bottomless carpet bag in one black-gloved hand, so that bit was right as well.   In reality, she was of average height for a woman, but she carried herself like a queen and seemed half a head taller than she actually was by virtue of it.  Philbeam’s critical eye searched her carefully but could detect no nonsense about her, and that was a great relief.

“Maire Popkin,” she said, and though she had pronounced it ‘Moya,’ she added, “That’s M-a-i-r-e, if you please,” to make it quite plain.  Oh, and she had ‘the voice’ as well, wine dark and soft as velvet, too quiet and reasonable to be disobeyed.

“Nasty business, this,”  Philbeam said,  “The child is upstairs. Harker will take you up.”

It was the sort of house one would expect of a family of their social strata;  fashionable address, fashionable décor, quality furnishings and appointments, but the colors were rather insipid and spiritless.   Harker paused on the first landing and murmured, “Governess.  Murdered both parents then hanged herself.“

“About four months along, I’d expect,”  was her terse comment.

“Eh?”

“The governess.”

It took Harker a moment to fit that into context. “Shameful.”

“Yes, it is, when it is left to one of the victims to hold the guilty accountable for his crimes because society won’t.  And the child?”

“What?  Oh, er, right.  Aged six.  Name of, um,” he consulted his notebook.  “’Cecily Grace.’”

He hustled her quickly past the first floor hallway where several uniformed policemen were standing, and up the considerably more narrow stairs to the second floor where the nursery was located.  One of the maids, red-eyed and sniffling , stood by the cold and empty  nursery fireplace wringing her hands.  The child was sitting in one of a pair of small chairs at a small deal table.  Before Harker could speak, Maire Popkin turned him out of the room and shut the door behind him.   She set her carpet bag down beside the door, laid the umbrella against it, took off her gloves and pocketed them, and began to unbutton her coat.

“And who are you?” she asked the maid in her velvet voice that had a silken lilt to it.

“Emma Turnipseed, miss.” The poor girl’s voice trembled on the brink of tears, stumbled and fell. “Oh, what’s to become of us, miss?” she blubbered.  “Nobody ever seems to think of that.  No place, no references, and now we’ve got an ‘istory.  They’ll never take you if you’ve got an ‘istory.”

Maire Popkin studied her a moment, reached into her coat pocket, and pulled out several folded pieces of paper.  She selected one, opened it, refolded it, selected another, opened it and smiled.

“Here,” She took the maid’s hand, put the paper into it and folded her fingers around it.  “Married couple, no children, arrived from India two days ago.  They’ll be needing a parlor maid, an upstairs maid, a scullery maid and a cook.  Apply Friday.  You’ll be a godsend.”  Then she ushered the poor girl gently but firmly out the door.  She turned to the child and finished unbuttoning her coat.

“Are you Cecily Grace?”  she inquired.

“Yes, miss,”  the child replied in a barely audible voice.  She had limp, mousy brown hair, large brown eyes, a pale complexion, and was little better than skin and bones in her plainly cut, unadorned navy frock.  Her stockings had a small hole at the ankle, and her shoes had noticeable bulges at the tip from the crowd of toes beneath.

“You may call me ‘Maire Popkin.’ “  She slipped off her coat to reveal a plain, black wool dress with a high collar and long, fitted sleeves.  A plain gold pendant watch was pinned to the bosom of it.   She looked around for someplace to put her coat, spotted the only adult sized chair in the room and draped her coat over the back of it. She balanced her hat atop it.   She went to the other small chair, pulled it out and sat down in it facing the child across the table.

“Well, Cecily Grace, I suspect nobody has thought to feed you this morning.”

“No, miss.”

“Do you think you can possibly hold on for one more hour?”  Maire Popkin asked seriously.

“I think so.”

“There’s a brave girl.”  She looked the child over for a long thoughtful moment.  “No doubt you are aware that something terrible has happened, and your life is never going to be the same again.  But all is not utterly lost.  I am come to help you over the rough patches and see you settled.”

“Mummy is gone, isn’t she.”  Cecily Grace said with hollow certainty. A single tear dripped down from the corner of her eye.  She wiped it away with a furtive, almost guilty swipe of her hand.

“I’m afraid so.  And we will deal with that in its time, but first we must get you packed and take you someplace kinder,” Maire Popkin said firmly.  “And get a decent breakfast into you.”

The little girl’s bedroom might have been pretty if the fabric and wallpaper had been done in brighter roses and pinks instead of washed out puces and mauves. Tucked as it was up under a northern eave and with only two small dormer windows to light it, the room was small and rather dark.  Still, it had a majestic view of the roof of the house behind and the mountainous forest of smoking chimneys beyond.

Maire Popkin turned to the girl, fixed her with a serious gaze and said, “Now, Cecily Grace, once you leave this house, you are never coming back again.  I want you to carefully consider which of your things you would be most sorry to lose.”

Cecily Grace looked at her solemnly, frowning slightly in thought.

“I want you to gather those things and put them on the bed here, so we will be sure not to leave them behind.”

The girl went to the far side of the bed, knelt beside it, and worked loose a floorboard.  She retrieved a lawn handkerchief which was dusty from being hidden away there.

“These are all but one of my most precious things.” She said, laying the bundle on the bed beside the carpet bag. “There’s a locket which I had from my real papa when I was a baby,  Mummy had given it me to wear on a ribbon, but when I showed it to Miss Grimsly, she said I was much too young to be entrusted with such valuable jewelry and that I must give it to her to keep for me.”  Though her voice was carefully neutral, her dark eyes were hard with the unfairness and sheer injustice of it.

“Tch. Worse and worse.”  Maire Popkin frowned thoughtfully.  She sat down upon the bed and motioned the child to her.  “Give me your hands, child.”   Maire Popkin gently folded the child’s hands one atop the other, palms pressed together, and cupped her slender white hands around them.  “Now, close your eyes and think hard about your locket.  Picture it in your thoughts as clearly as you can.  Remember what it looked like on the outside, all the little details, and what it looked like on the inside.”

The child frowned with the effort of it.

“Now.  Remember Mummy giving it to you.  Remember how it rightfully belongs to you and how much you want it back, and how much you will treasure it once you have it back again.”

The child’s features settled into grim determination.  Abruptly, her eyes popped open with astonishment. As Maire Popkin opened her hands, the child opened hers, and there resting between them was a gold oval keepsake locket strung on a blue silk ribbon.  With trembling fingers, the child opened the catch to reveal the entwined locks of hair it contained behind its little glass fronted frame.

“The dark hair is my real papa’s.  The golden hair is mama’s.  She cut the locks and braided them together the day papa left for the Crimea, so they would never be parted.”

Maire Popkin gently closed the locket and tied the ribbon around the child’s neck loosely enough that it did not touch her throat, but tightly enough that the locket could not be taken off over her head. Then she slipped the locket beneath the neck of the child’s plain little frock and carefully concealed the ribbon ends in back until nothing was visible.   She considered the child a moment, then she stood and turned to look about the room.

“You’ll want your hat and coat.  It’s quite chilly out.”  These were located.  The coat sleeves were almost an inch too short.  The hat ribbons were noticeably frayed.  Then Maire Popkin stepped to the center of the room.

“You’ll need something to wear until better can be gotten for you.”  She said, and made a broad, sweeping gesture with her hand as if snatching something from the air and tossing it into the open carpet bag.  “And we’d better have that trunk in the attic.”  She snatched something from the air above her head and tossed it into the carpet bag as well.  Then she walked to the bed, took the handkerchief full of treasures and placed it carefully within the carpet bag.  Slowly Maire Popkin studied the room, taking in the cheap hairbrush and comb upon the dresser, the mismatched basin and ewer, the old furniture, the rag rug.  “No dolly?”

“No,” the child replied mournfully.

Maire Popkin closed and latched the carpet bag, took it by the handle and headed back into the nursery, beckoning for the child to follow.  She quickly donned her own coat and hat, slid the handle of the carpet bag over her arm, hung the handle of the umbrella over her arm beside it, then held out her other hand to the child.

“Come, Cecily Grace.  It’s high time we were going.”

The child took her hand with a shy, wan smile and they set off, leaving the nursery door ajar behind them.  At the first floor landing, they encountered Constable Harker.   Maire Popkin drew a folded piece of paper from her coat pocket, shook it open, glanced at it to verify what it contained, then handed it to Constable Harker.  “We shall be at that address until further notice.”

Chief Inspector Philbeam was remonstrating with two of his subordinates and did not notice them leaving, nor did the gaggle of curious bystanders who had collected in the street before the house.

A short way up the street awaited a neat little brougham with a sleek bay between the shafts.  Leaning against it was a tall, slender man in a dark suit and a top hat.  He had a very prominent nose underscored by a cavalry mustache.  He looked much too young for the curls of his hair to be so liberally grizzled with grey. As they approached, he opened the carriage door and flipped down the steps, then gravely helped them inside.  He shook out the thick woolen lap robe to put over them and as he helped to twitch it into place, he leaned in close to the child and whispered, “It’s been almost seven weeks since Tabitha Mouser had her kittens.”  He put one long thin finger across his lips, winked, then closed the coach door.  Cecily Grace looked up at Maire Popikin, but she was busy looking at the ceiling, an angle that obscured from view the tiniest of smiles that flitted like a cloud shadow across her lips.   The horse did a little dance, the brougham began to move, and Maire Popkin put her arm about the child’s shoulders, pulling her close.

“Now then.  Once we get to where we’re going, there’ll be a nice hot bath waiting for you, fresh clean warm clothes, and then breakfast.  Do you prefer kippers or sausages?”

“I don’t know, Maire Popkin, I’ve never had kippers,”  the child said sadly.

“Well, then you must have some of both, so that you can have a proper taste of each, and give the matter due consideration before you make up your mind.  One ought not to jump to hasty conclusions.”

“No, Maire Popkin.”

After a long moment of silence, Maire Popkin remarked conversationally, “The coachman is my brother, you know.  His name is Diarmuid.  It’s an Irish name.  It means ‘all knees and elbows.’”   She gave a little sideways glance down at Cecily Grace, and her black eyes were twinkling with unshed laughter.  After a moment she said with perfect seriousness, “’Maire’ is an Irish name as well.  It means ‘practically perfect in every way.’”  With equal seriousness, she added, “’Cecily Grace,’ on the other hand, is Anglo-Saxon.  It means, “she who suffers a great loss in childhood, but who wins through to find a great deal of happiness and love not long thereafter.’”

Cecily Grace suspected that Maire Popkin had completely made up that last bit to try to make her feel better. Oddly enough, it had worked.  She leaned her head against Maire Popkin’s soft woolen coat tiredly.  She was coming to realize how very heavy grief is, and how very fatiguing it is to bear up under it, especially on an empty stomach.  They clopped and rumbled along for a bit with neither of them speaking.

“The wind shifted round before dawn this morning and is now in the south, which means it will be sunny and warm next week,” Maire Popkin said, apropos of nothing in particular.  “Once the weather settles and you are able to play out of doors, my brother might turn into a dog for you – if you ask him politely and say ‘please,’ that is – and then the two of you might go across to the park and play fetch in the sunshine.  We shall have to find some leather gloves for you to wear, of course.”  She thought for a moment, then added by way of explanation, “When Diarmuid is a dog, he must carry the ball in his mouth because of having paws instead of hands.  Unfortunately, the ball gets rather damp as a result. But if you have leather gloves on, you shalln’t mind, shall you?“

“No, Maire Popkin.”

“Good.”

Cecily Grace was almost positive that people couldn’t possibly turn into dogs, but felt it might not be a good idea to say so.  Then she remembered about the locket and began to be less sure that it was quite as impossible as she had first thought it to be.  From there, it was quite easy to fall to speculating how the coachman might go about it, and what sort of dog he might turn into.  She had begun to wonder if it was something he could always do, or if he had been taught to do like lessons, when the little brougham with the tall lean coachman at the reins turned a corner and was swallowed up in a swirl of early morning fog.

Books Read in 2018

43. Jhereg, Brust, Steven (reread)
42. *The San Andreas Shifters, Carriger, G. L.
41. Dragon, Brust, Steven (reread)
40. Yendi, Brust, Steven (reread)
39. Taltos, Brust, Steven (reread)
38. Why Kill The Innocent, Harris, C. S. (re-re-read)
37. Where The Dead Lie, Harris, C. S. (re-re-read)
36. When Falcons Fall, Harris, C. S. (re-re-read)
35. Who Buries the Dead, Harris, C. S. (re-re-read)
34. Why Kings Confess, Harris, C. S. (re-re-read)
33. What Darkness Brings, Harris, C. S. (re-re-read)
32. When Maidens Mourn, Harris, C. S. (re-re-read)
31. The Ocean at the End of the Lane, Gaiman, Neil (reread)
30. Cold Comfort Farm, Gibbons, Stella
29. Crystal Dragon, Lee, Sharon and Miller, Steve (re . . read)
28. Crystal Soldier, Lee, Sharon and Miller, Steve (re . . read)
27. Emergence, Cherryh, C. J. (re . . read)
26. Convergence, Cherryh, C. J. (re . . read)
25. Visitor, Cherryh, C. J. (re . . read)
24. Tracker, Cherryh, C. J. (re . . read)
23. Peacemaker, Cherryh, C. J. (re . . read)
22. Protector, Cherryh, C. J. (re . . read)
21. Intruder, Cherryh, C. J. (re . . read)
20. Betrayer, Cherryh, C. J. (re . . read)
19. Deceiver, Cherryh, C. J. (re . . read)
18. Conspirator, Cherryh, C. J. (re . . read)
17. Deliverer, Cherryh, C. J. (re . . read)
16. Pretender, Cherryh, C. J. (re . . read)
15. Destroyer, Cherryh, C. J. (re . . read)
14. Explorer, Cherryh, C. J. (re . . read)
13. Defender, Cherryh, C. J. (re . . read)
12. Precursor, Cherryh, C. J. (re . . read)
11. Inheritor, Cherryh, C. J. (re. . read)
10. Invader, Cherryh, C. J. (re. . reread)
9. Foreigner, Cherryh, C. J. (re . .reread)
8. Guilty Pleasures, Hamilton, Laurell K.
7. *Romancing the Werewolf, Carriger, Gail
6. *Imprudence, Carriger, Gail
5. *Prudence, Carriger, Gail
4. To Say Nothing of the Dog, Willis, Connie (reread)
3. The Perilous Gard, Pope, Elizabeth Marie
2. Emergence, Cherryh, C. J.
1. Convergence, Cherryh, C. J. (re. . read)

* Ebook

Moving Right Along

Things have been pretty same-old, same-old, except that I did write that center portion of the Cobblestone Lace Shawl pattern, and I’ve got one repetition knitted, two more to go. I’ve  got 12 more pattern repetitions of various patterns left to finish it: 2 of the center portion, 9 of the decrease and 1 of the ending pattern.  This is an old picture of it.  It’s about five inches longer now than it was then. 

I’m coming along nicely on my cable lace shawl (right).  I made a pact with myself that every time I sat down to knit on it, I would knit three repeats of the lace edging pattern, and I am happy to say I’ve now passed the halfway mark. I like to change up projects like this, because when you get this far along on a project, you practically have the pattern memorized, and then you start making mistakes — forgetting that Row 15 starts with a (K2tog) x2 instead of K2 like all the other right sided rows do.  or that the (yo, K2tog) on row 1 is x3 instead of x2 like the other right sided rows.  When that starts happening, I switch to the other shawl and work on it a while, which is what I’m doing now.

It’s been hot.  We’ve had a couple weeks now with highs in the 90’s F/32+C.  I shudder to think what my electric bills are going to be like.  They’ll most likely be higher than giraffes’ ears till well into October.   We still haven’t had any rain to speak of.  I may have to break down and water my yard.

Right now, I’m in the process of rereading the Steven Brust Vlad Taltos books.  Since I first read them in publication order, I am rereading them in chronological order.  i’m about 4 books in at the moment.

When Your Brain Plays Mind Games With Your Head

On that old TV show, “Laverne and Shirley,” that little hopscotch rhyme they do at the start of the theme song — it goes:

“one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight,
schlemiel, schlimazel,
Hasenpfeffer Incorporated.”

I mention it because:

I’m doing a Spiral Staircase Hat, leftward twisting version, but I’m using a DK weight yarn on a US4(3.5 mm) needle, so I had to adjust the pattern to a cast-on of 90 stitches.  I threw in an increase to 99 stitches in the hat body to make 11 stitches instead of 8 in the sections.  I also changed up the order of the stitches to “kfb, k8, ssk” in the hat section to give it a slightly different look.  So I’m knitting away at it, and all the sudden, I’m chanting the little Laverne and Shirley rhyme as I knit and it fits exactly what I’m knitting. . . . !

one, two, (kfb) three, four, five, six, seven, eight, (the next 6 knit stitches)
schlemiel, schlimazel, (the next 2 knit stitches)
Hasenpfeffer (slip 2 knitwise) Incorporated. (knit slipped stitches together through the back loop — which is how you do an ssk.)

As to how (never mind why) my brain dredged up that rhyme and discovered it fit what I was knitting and then just put it in my mouth . . .  Very strange.  Probably the prednisolone.  I get really wired when I take it — like practically bouncing off the walls.  I’m on day 4 of a 5-day “burst” of the stuff.  Thank goodness I take my last dose tomorrow. 

 

Inside Out or Outside In?

Skeins, balls and cakes of yarn that pull from the center are all the rage with some of the people in my knitting group — but not me.  The way yarn is commonly sold is in pull skeins (which are tools of the Devil, by the way).  People who have never dealt with one before tend to pick the end that’s easy to find — the one on the outside, which is OK for a novice knitter, or people who have one of those fancy yarn spikes that is on a turntable. Pull skeins are actually designed to pull from the center, which you quickly figure out once you are able to knit fast enough to be frustrated with how cumbersome it is to have to stop and unroll more yarn (because if you give the yarn a hard yank, you have to chase the skein when it jumps off onto the floor).  However, once you figure that out, you then learn that (a) the inside end is tricky to find and (b) when enough yarn has been pulled out of the skein, the thin outer shell that’s left has a frustrating tendency to implode into yarn barf*.

One of the ladies in my knitting group is a big proponent of hand-winding yarn into a center-pull ball, but that has the same inherent problem as the pull skein.  Once you’ve pulled enough out of the center of the ball, again, the outer shell tends to implode into yarn barf.  Now, the voice of experience is telling you that if a yarn barf event occurs while you’ve got a knitting project attached to the other end of the ball or pull skein, some serious religion losing will happen.  When you’re in the middle of a knitting project, you do not want to have to stop everything and tediously untangle a big pile of yarn barf.

Nope.  First thing I do on a knitting project is roll the yarn from the pull skein into a ball that starts at the center and winds outward.  You’d think figuring out how to do this would be pretty intuitive.  Apparently not.  I’ve taught more than one novice knitter how to roll yarn into a ball.  Of course, the obvious problem with a ball of yarn is that it rolls.  That’s why I put the ball of yarn in a bowl when I’m knitting.  Once you do that, the ball unrolls smoothly from the outside-in.  Any yarn barf that was going to happen, happened when you were rolling it into a ball in the first place, and it’s already been dealt with.

For a yarn bowl, I recommend something large enough for the ball of yarn you’re using, something with a little weight to it like glass or ceramic or pottery so you won’t pull the bowl over if you give the yarn a little tug as you’re working.  One of the yarn bowls I use I got at a thrift store for 50 cents (at right).  It’s that indestructible restaurant china from the 1950’s and 1960s.  It’s cereal bowl size, and heavy for its size and I carry it in my knitting bag.

The one you see most in my pictures (left) is one of a pair of bowls I got at Pier 1 because I really like the imprinted design on the outside lip of the bowl.  It’s heavy glazed pottery.  My big ball bowl (below) is a salad serving bowl I got off Wayfair.com, again because it’s ceramic and fairly heavy, and I like the impressed design. (It was also on sale!).

[Topic change without segue warning]

I was making a sandwich the other day, and found myself mentally comparing my technique to the parental unit‘s — When she makes one, you get a smear of mayo on the center of one side, and either mayo or mustard smeared on the other, one slice of lunch meat, maybe a slice of tomato, the bottom half of a lettuce leaf on a couple of slices of the local “Wonder Bread” equivalent  — that awful “white bread” that becomes library paste after two chews.  When I make one, I “book” the bread — you take two side-by-side slices out of the loaf and lay them open like the covers of a book.  Whatever is going to be spread on the bread will completely cover that surface.  (Yes, I spike in several places on the OCD spectrum.  Why do you ask? ) If the lunch meat is chicken, ham** or turkey, then it’s mayo spread on both sides.  If beef, then it’ll be horseradish sauce on the beef side of the bread and mayo on the other.  There won’t be any lettuce (I don’t buy lettuce.  I’m not that into salads.) and probably no tomato unless I’m on a cherry tomato kick.   There will be cheese on the sandwich; Muenster or Havarti if it’s chicken or turkey, sharp cheddar if it’s beef or ham.   The lunch meat will be that thinly sliced “deli” stuff, and there will be three slices of it.  The bread will be something with a little more substance to it and a lot more nutritional value — whole grain/multigrain, or ciabatta, or right now there’s this rosemary and olive oil “baked-in-store” bread I’ve been getting that is so yummy.  It makes a killer sandwich with chicken, Havarti cheese, and tomatoes. (I did break down and get a couple of Roma tomatoes when I got another loaf of it the other day because sandwiches. . .)  Of course, since I slice tomatoes a little thicker than most people (“the knife***” is a paring knife with a serrated blade that has needed to be sharpened for years . . .), I always serve any sandwich that has tomatoes in with a folded-paper-towel “diaper” on it.   Nuts.  Now I’m hungry.

Ran across this surreally magical video the other day.

Wouldn’t that make a weird accident report?  “I was T-boned by a hot air balloon that ran a stop sign . . . ”

 

*Yarn Barf -- just what the term implies -- a big tangled mess of yarn.

**ham -- has, alas, been removed from the menu -- I've been put on a low-salt diet. Bummer. 

***"the knife" A paring knife I've had for over 20 years, with a serrated blade.  I use it constantly because it's the only "sharp" knife I have (besides this honking great machete of a bread knife which is probably illegal in any other state except Texas, Arizona, Colorado, Montana and Wyoming). It lives in the silverware cup of the dish drying rack because after each use, the blade is hand washed clean with a squirt of dish soap and put there, because I use it all the time.