Thursday, October 31, 2013

My B-Day + Fall Colors: John Bryan State Park

Last Sunday was my 28th birthday, and while we didn't do anything as cool as parasailing down Waikiki Beach (what we did for my 27th birthday) I had a really wonderful time. We spent Friday evening and Saturday in Indiana with my grandma and aunt and uncle. It was the first time I'd spent my birthday with family in years, and I got two delicious cakes out of the deal, plus an amazingly good dish of apple dumplings from my grandma.

On Sunday we decided to check out John Bryan State Park about 20 minutes away from us near Yellow Springs, Ohio. Before we left I couldn't resist snapping a few shots of our gorgeous maple tree. Over the course of the week its morphed from yellow-orange to a fiery orange-red and it is absolutely beautiful!
Anyway, on to John Bryan State Park! There are a few easy trails in the park and we randomly selected one that took us down to the Little Miami River.
It was definitely beautiful, but I was a little disappointed that most of the leaves had already changed and departed their branches. We'll know for next year to go a little earlier.
This was my favorite spot of our walk.
On the way back we passed this pretty scene in Yellow Springs.
And then we passed this kooky Roswell scene in Fairborn, the town where I work. There's a big Halloween store called Foy's in the little downtown, and apparently giant carriages, headless horseman, 9-foot-tall monsters and aliens start popping up in October. The store is right by the library, and I've enjoyed driving past the Ghost Busters car parked out front every time I go to work!

Friday, October 18, 2013

Furry Friday

Last week my fancy new not-quite-DSLR/not-quite-point-and-shoot camera arrived from Amazon and I promptly took a gazillion pictures with it. I seem to be allergic to reading instruction manuals, but it's clear after playing around with the camera that I'm going to have to peruse this one. Some riveting reading, to be sure!
Here are two of my favorites featuring -- who else? -- Lily and Conan:

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Book Review: "The Husband's Secret"

"The Husband's Secret" by Liane Moriarty
First published in 2013
396 pages
My rating: 4 out of 5
(image source)

The plot of "The Husband's Secret" wasn't quite what I expected after reading the book jacket, but maybe that's a good thing because I was completely enthralled.

Australian author Liane Moriarty introduces us to three very different women whose stories are all destined to intertwine. Tess just found out her husband is in love with her cousin, elderly Rachel is still mourning the decades-ago unsolved murder of her daughter, and perfect wife, mother and Tupperware consultant Cecelia is happily going about her life. But when Cecelia stumbles upon an old letter written by her husband -- to be opened only in the event of his death -- she sets into motion events that will change the lives of all three women.

Moriarity crafted a captivating story that kept me turning page after page. Even after the mystery of the letter's contents is revealed there's plenty more suspense to keep readers intrigued. I thoroughly enjoyed Moriarty's writing, and I thought she was very successful at making her characters seem real and relatable -- both likeable and flawed.

"The Husband's Secret" was a thought-provoking page-turner. It's quick and easy read, but it might make you reflect a bit on your own personality or the way you'd handle the mystery letter and its contents.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Top Ten Books I Was Forced To Read

This week's Top Ten Tuesday prompt at The Broke and the Bookish is the top books you were "forced" to read -- at school, by a friend, etc. All the books I've listed are ones I read for class in high school and college -- and I still have many of them on my bookshelves today.

This amazing graphic novel is a powerful Holocaust tale, based on the life of the author's father. It made those horrible events hit home for me in a way that no other text ever has.
"Reading Lolita in Tehran"
I learned far more about the history of Iran from this book than any class I took in college.

This is quintessential required reading. I read it in both high school and college and it has stuck with me more than any other book I read at school.

"The Great Gatsby"
I first traveled to West Egg and met Nick, Daisy and Gatsby in high school.

"The Things They Carried"
This Vietnam War book really illustrated the miseries of war and has stuck with me long after anything I learned in the college class in which I read it. Note: Fans of this book should check out "A Pillow for My Helmet" by Robert Lickie.

"The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn"
I just loved this book. It was my favorite required reading in high school.

"The Dispossessed"
I read this science fiction novel as part of a utopias and dystopias literature class I took in college.

 "Slaughterhouse Five"
This is a hard-hitting WWII novel written from a soldier's perspective.
"Jane Eyre"
Though I love all the movies, I haven't actually read many of the classics. This was assigned reading in high school and I loved it -- and I always mean to read more books of the same kind. I actually own "Sense and Sensibility" and "Wuthering Heights." Someday I'll get around to them!

"The Hound of the Baskervilles"
I got my introduction to Sherlock Holmes -- and the infamous English moors -- in a wonderful high school elective class in which we read mystery novels all semester.

Monday, October 14, 2013

In The Halloween Spirit: Knitted Candy Corn Garland Pattern

Last weekend I was browsing Halloween DIY ideas on Pinterest and saw several crocheted candy corn garlands. I don't (yet) know how to crochet, but I was so inspired that I went to Hobby Lobby the very next day, bought some yarn, and created my own easy-peasy knit pattern.
You can obviously knit these on any size needles and with any yarn you want, but I used worsted weight and size 9 needles. This yielded candy corns about 6 inches on the top and 6 1/2 inches on the sides.

With size 9 needles and yellow yarn, cast on 24 stitches.
1. knit
2. knit
3. k1, ssk, knit to 3 before end, k2tog, k1 (22 stitches)
4. k2, yo, k2tog, knit to 4 before end, k2tog, yo, k2 (if you don't want holes to string the i-cord through, just knit this row)
5. knit
6. knit
7. k1, ssk, knit to 3 before end, k2tog, k1 (20 stitches)
8. knit
9. knit
10. knit
11. k1, ssk, knit to 3 before end, k2tog, k1 (18 stitches)
12. knit
13. knit
14. knit
15. k1, ssk, knit to 3 before end, k2tog, k1 (16 stitches)
16. knit
17. change to orange yarn; knit
18. knit
19. k1, ssk, knit to 3 before end, k2tog, k1 (14 stitches)
20. knit
21. knit
22. knit
23. k1, ssk, knit to 3 before end, k2tog, k1 (12 stitches)
24. knit
25. knit
26. knit
27. k1, ssk, knit to 3 before end, k2tog, k1 (10 stitches)
28. knit
29. knit
30. knit
31. k1, ssk, knit to 3 before end, k2tog, k1 (8 stitches)
32. knit
33. knit
34. knit
35. k1, ssk, k2, k2tog, k1 (6 stitches)
36. knit
37. change to white yarn; knit
38. knit
39. k1, ssk, k2tog, k1 (4 stitches)
40. knit
41. knit
42. knit
43. ssk, k2tog (2 stitches)
44. knit
45. k2tog
Break yarn and thread through remaining stitch. Weave in ends.

I knit a really long i-cord on size 9 needles to string up my garland, but I toyed around with using different colors of yarn braided together, ribbon, and more. Ultimately I liked the look of the i-cord best. Since I used large needles, it really didn't take as long as I thought to knit several feet of i-cord -- in fact, I did most of it on the hour-long trip to and from the vet last Wednesday for Conan's chemotherapy. I'm glad I took the extra step as I think it gives the garland a nice finish.

Happy October!

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Book Review: "Bristol House"

"Bristol House" by Beverly Swerling
First published in 2013
398 pages
My rating: 3 out of 5
(image source)

"Bristol House" -- a historical mystery playing out in modern-day London -- was, overall, a bit of a disappointment. It had lots of the things I like in novels, but it somehow lacked any sense of urgency or an edge-of-your-seat climax, and I didn't really identify with the protagonist. In fact, I found her to be annoying at times.

Annie Kendall is an architectural historian and recovering alcoholic who is struggling to regain her footing and her credibility in the academic world. When she receives an offer from the Shalom Foundation to spend three months in London researching the existence of a Jewish man who secretly resided there in the 1530s and purportedly distributed some ancient and very valuable Jewish treasures, she jumps at the chance.

But there's more to the story than she could ever imagine -- including the fact that the flat where's she staying is haunted by a Carthusian monk, also from the 1530s. And there are signs that the head of the Shalom Foundation has a much grander and more sinister scheme in mind for whatever Annie unearths than he let on.

Swerling attempts to combine history, religion, suspense, mystery and romance, but I just didn't feel it. "Bristol House" was like reading a really, really dull Dan Brown novel. I kept waiting for the moment when I couldn't stop turning the pages, dying to know what happens next, but it never came. And I didn't really care what happened to Annie. I felt the subplot of her alcoholism was totally unnecessary to the story and didn't do anything to make her more likeable.

"Bristol House," which is advertised as a ghost story plus historical mystery that must be solved to avoid imminent danger, was a bit of a snooze. It was hardly the worst book I've read this year, but I'm sure you can find something much more engrossing.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Stacking the Shelves

Each Saturday Tynga's Reviews hosts a link-up for bloggers to share the new reading material they obtained that week, from purchased books to library books to e-books and beyond. Here's a look at my haul:

From the library:

I first read about this sci fi/fantasy book several months ago and have been anxiously awaiting its release. It came out back in August, but it's just now finally in at the library and I'm the first one to check it out! Hopefully it lives up to its hype.

This newer release is about a woman who stumbles across a letter her husband meant for her to read upon his death. The contents of the letter changes everything.
From the library's ongoing book sale:
Lots of new mystery books had appeared on the book sale shelf when I went to work yesterday and I couldn't help but browse on my break!

I've read a few of Meg Cabot's other books and I see the Heather Wells mystery series pop up on blogs now and then. I couldn't resist giving it a try for 50 cents!

I'd never heard of the Mr. and Mrs. Darcy mystery series, but this book sounded cute and should make a nice cozy-up-by-the-fireplace read this winter.

I'd made a note to look into Stephanie Barron's Jane Austen mystery series but haven't gotten around to it yet. This book isn't part of the series but the plot sounds intriguing.

What new books have you added to your collection this week?

Monday, October 7, 2013

Books for a Blustery Day

It was a dark and stormy night... and I had my head buried in a book! We had rain, thunder, wind and general fall bluster this weekend, and as I was immersed in Beverly Swerling's "Bristol House," I started thinking about how some stories are just meant to be read -- somehow enhanced -- on a day when you're tucked cozily inside while it's gloomy and inhospitable out, preferably with a cup of tea and a fire blazing.

For me, these books usually involve mystery or fantasy and have some sort of historical element. I've read tons of books that would fall under this category, but here I'm highlighting some on my to-read list; all but two are already sitting on my bookshelves, awaiting the perfect stormy night or perhaps a blizzard. (All images from Goodreads.)

"Bristol House" takes place in England and has a Dan Brown-ish element of imminent danger related to religious history. It even includes the ghost of a monk, haunting the flat in which architectural historian Annie, our protagonist, is staying. I'm a little over halfway through and enjoying the novel so far.

This book has been on my to-read list since it came out, and I've just never gotten to it. It pops up all the time on lists and blogs, so it must be good!

I've been toting this book around since college! I spotted it on clearance at Barnes and Noble and couldn't resist picking it up, but I've always put off reading it because of it's massive brick-like size.

Can you think of a better detective to hang out with on a yucky day than Sherlock himself?

This newer release takes place in the 1600s and features a chambermaid as the amateur sleuth.

A few of my favorite blustery day reads:
the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
"A Discovery of Witches" and "Shadow of Night" by Deborah Harkness
the Lady Emily mysteries by Tasha Alexander
"The Historian" by Elizabeth Kostova
"The Beekeeper's Apprentice" by Laurie R. King
"The Secret Keeper" by Kate Morton
"Death Comes to Pemberley" by P.D. James

Have you read any of these novels? What do you like to read when the weather's crappy and you're stuck inside?

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Book Review: "The Passage"

"The Passage" by Justin Cronin
First published in 2012
784 pages
My rating: 5 out of 5
(image source)

I finished "The Passage" -- the first book in a planned trilogy -- over a week ago, but I've been delaying sitting down and writing a review. I think it's because there was so much going on in the book -- so many characters and viewpoints and subplots -- that summarizing this apocalyptic epic is a bit overwhelming!

The book opens in the near future, when a military human-weapons experiment conducted on death row inmates goes terribly wrong, releasing 12 vampire-like monsters into the Colorado wilderness. Before long, most of the North American population has been killed or infected by the "virals."

We then jump forward over 90 years to a small colony in California, originally a survivors' camp set up by FEMA in the midst of the disaster. Peter Jaxon is our main protagonist here, and while reading about the post-apocalyptic day-to-day life of the colony's residents is fascinating, it shortly becomes clear that Peter and his friends have a higher purpose.

Just as life at camp is suddenly and rapidly devolving into chaos, the impossible -- immortal -- Amy appears at their doorstep. At just 6 years old, Amy was the last test subject in Project NOAH, the military's catastrophic experiment. She appears to be a regular teenage girl, except she's 100 years old and holds a sort of mental power over the other virals. Most importantly, she -- and Peter -- may hold the key to saving humanity.

Fans of fantasy, dystopias or shows like "The Walking Dead" should love "The Passage." Though it was long, the shifting points of view and action-packed storyline kept me riveted page after page. I also found the writing to be easy, interesting, skillful and full of clever analogies. I will definitely be continuing the adventure with Peter, Amy and their crew soon with "The Twelve," the second novel in the series. Book three comes out next year, and a movie version of "The Passage" is already in the works.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Turning The Page On September

Happy October and welcome to my first monthly recap! I thought it would be fun to look back each month at some highlights, both book-related and personal. Here goes!


Books Read:
This might be the first month in a decade that I have only read one book in an entire month! As you can see here in my post about my disastrous summer of reading, I started several other books but didn't finish them. (image from Goodreads)

Book I'm Most Excited to Read in October:
There are lots of books coming out in October that I'm dying to read. But the finale of Veronica Roth's dystopian Divergent series is the one I really can't wait to get my hands on. (image from Goodreads)

Knitting Projects Completed:
knitting sept
1. The Summer of... Sweet Corn and Mountain Air MKAL Shawl
2. Jack Frost Cowl
3. Cabbage Patch Doll Baby Hat
4. My knitted Christmas wreath! I'll have more pictures and instructions when I finish it up (i.e. pop a huge bow on the top).
What's on the Knitting Agenda for October:
*Gateway to Fall MKAL (shawl)
*Rabbit Hole Knits MKAL (stuffed animal)
*Splitstone vest (I'm about 1/3 of the way done with my first vest!)
*A pair of boot toppers

New Recipes Tried and Liked:
Most-Listened-To Song on Spotify:
New Blogs Discovered:
The Perpetual Page-Turner

Favorite Memory:
memory sept
It's a tie... the top right picture is the morning our new toy was delivered, a '67 Camaro! The other three pictures are from the Wool Gathering fiber festival we went to at Young's Jersey Dairy in Yellow Springs, Ohio. I got some lovely yarn and fun handcrafted buttons, and it was so fun to see (and feel) so many different breeds of sheep -- plus alpacas!

Most Looking Forward to in October:
Oh, where to start? October is my favorite month -- fall, pumpkins, my birthday, Halloween, the beginnings of Christmas shopping... But I will say that I'm very excited to order my new camera, so be warned that my posts my be excessively picture-laden the next few weeks!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Knitting FO: Cabbage Patch Doll Baby Hat

This cutie is Nora, the recipient of the hat, at about 3 weeks old.

All of a sudden lots of people are looking at this post (woo hoo!), so I wanted to add a few more details on the making of my knitted Cabbage Patch hat.

1. I wrote up the notes below with the assumption that they would be read (if at all) by fairly experienced knitters who might already have a favorite baby hat pattern. If you're more of a novice or you need a hat for a baby older than a couple weeks, I'd recommend starting with a generic baby beanie pattern (like thisthis, this and this -- all free on Ravelry) and go from there.

2. I knit my hat on size 7 needles in the round with worsted weight yarn. I've knit baby hats using the pattern described below with DPNs and magic loop and both work fine, though I've come to prefer magic loop.

3. For the first several rows of the hat, I worked the ribbing (can be K1 P1 or K2 P2 ribbing, up to you) at the same time as I worked the loop stitch. The first 26 stitches of the round were loop stitch, the remaining stitches were ribbing -- you can't see it in the pictures, but the back of the hat is K1 P1 ribbing for the first five rounds. I thought doing three rows of loop stitch with a plain ribbed round between each looked best, but of course you can do more or fewer rows of loop stitch according to your taste.

If you have any questions, just leave a comment and I'll do my best to help! Thanks for stopping by!


Did you have a Cabbage Patch Kids doll growing up? I didn't -- I was never of a doll fan, preferring instead to give a home to dozens of stuffed animals -- but after doing some reconnaissance I now know that many of the dolls had huge mops of hair made out of yarn. Thus is the idea behind the new baby picture trend of Cabbage Patch crocheted (or knitted) hats.

I never would have come up with this creation on my own, but a friend of a friend is tailoring some jeans for me and asked me to knit her a newborn-size Cabbage Patch hat in return. There are a couple patterns floating around the web but they're pretty much all for crochet so I had to improvise. Below are some notes on how I knitted mine:
Conan the Cabbage Patch Kid/viking.

Start with a basic beanie pattern. I knitted this newborn-size hat in the round using the magic loop method on size 7 needles and cast on 60 stitches. I started decreasing when the hat was around 3 1/2 inches long. My usual newborn hat pattern is entirely stockinette with a rolled brim, but I didn't want this brim to roll so I knit the first five rows in K1 P1 ribbing.

Loopy Bangs:
To make the bangs, I used the loop stitch. It turns out there are several ways to knit loops, but I found this technique and video from to be the clearest. (*I used my index finger instead of my thumb to make smaller loops.) I wanted the bangs to take up almost the whole front half of the hat, so I did loop stitch for 26 stitches (30 would have been half). I did three rows of loop stitch with a plain round in between each (six rows total), then knitted the rest of the hat as normal.
Braided Pigtails:
After I finished the hat, I made two braids (though I've seen other styles of hair, I thought the pigtailed braids were the cutest). I cut 19 pieces of yarn (about 16 inches long) for each, folded the yarn piles in half and knotted them in the center with a good-size length of yarn (what you see hanging from the tops in the photo below), then braided them while my husband held them still for me. I tied the ends of the braids with more brown yarn, then just cut it to match the length of the rest of the yarn ends. All that's left to do then is attach the braids (I marked the spots with safety pins beforehand to make sure they'd be even) and tie on some pink ribbon! (Here's a tutorial for making the pigtails... a bit different than I did mine, but without pictures I'm not sure how clear my method is. )
Here's what the hat looked like before I sewed on the pigtails.

At first I thought the whole thing was a bit odd, but the more I look at the hat the cuter I think it is. And I learned a new skill -- loop stitch -- which is always a good thing. I only wish I'd be able to see it on an actual baby, but the recipient is planning to give it as a baby shower gift. I may have to request that she get her friend to take a photo and send it on to me!
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...