Monday, September 29, 2014

Mudbound

MudboundMudbound by Hillary Jordan

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


I think every American should read this book.  And PARTICULARLY every resident of Ferguson, MO.
This novel does so much to touch on the follies, wounds, and dangers of racism from multiple points of view.  All of the characters have flaws, and yet all (but one) are likeable.  I think any reader could find someone to identify with.  Because I don't want to reveal ANY spoilers, I'll just say, go read this book.  Weep if you must, but then recover and touch hearts.



View all my reviews

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Words I rarely say...

Sometimes Red Heart® is the BEST!


Most of my knitting friends abhor knitting with any synthetic fiber.  And 100% acrylic is DEFINITELY synthetic.  And Red Heart is an old-time, synthetic stand by.
But if you are wanting to knit something INDESTRUCTIBLE, and SOFT for a baby and his/her new mom who can't be bothered with hand-washing and blocking,

RED HEART® IS the BEST!!

I was happy to discover that my local JoAnn's carried all 17 colors of Red Heart®'s "Pound of Love"!!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Like a Pub Crawl, except you can still drive...


 Sunday morning early, I revved up the car and headed for Chelmsford, MA for the first stop on the 2014 Greater Boston Yarn Crawl.
It had started Thursday, my daughter and I wanted to have a mother/daughter day, and schedules being what they were, Sunday it was.
I think it was noble of the yarn stores to extend themselves for us Sunday knitters (although we made it worth their while!).



It was almost more like Spring than Fall-- muggy, a little foggy and overcast.  We had rain showers some of the time, but it was still thrilling to watch for places where the leaves were already beginning to turn.
 Aunt Margaret's Yarn and Gift Shop  was our initial rendez-vous point.  Door prizes and treats were promised to the first 15 arrivals.  We were, in fact, first into the parking lot, even before the owner.

Aunt Margaret's Yarn and Gift Shop in Chelmsford, MA
 Darling Daughter live-blogged the day.  She took selfies of the two of us.  I just took pictures of her at the door to each store.  I anticipated a good mood and attitude as soon as I saw the "group therapy" banner by the front door. 



















There was a collection of knitting and crochet buttons-- many of which I hadn't seen before.  I might have to start a collection on one of my knitting bags... like the badges people get at the Olympics.

And this bumper sticker which is truly true.




 Besides knitting supplies and yarn, there were many sheep related gifts.  DD spied the Sheep Mug.  Resting on the rim, it looks like a doting lamb.  But if you need your coffee or tea, she happily balances on her nose and ears!!





Someone is making little wooden sheep with knit coats.  I suppose if Darling Husband and I get desperate we could make these and take them to trade shows. It's not the first choice kind of crafting for either of us. 

You can get the pattern in a this book or in digital format..
I don't have enough time to make this for my granddaughter's birthday (and besides I have another project in the works), but if she is still in princess-mode, I might give it a whirl.












Spice Berry was a wonderful, nubby yarn from Universal Yarn company.  They didn't have much and some colorways have been discontinued, but for scarf gifts, you don't need much and the tufts of color means that plain old garter stitch looks great.   Universal Yarn isn't carried all that universally, but their patterns and colorways are worth finding... in a store or on-line.
We made a detour to drop of DD's automobile and pick up a pattern book she agreed to let me borrow.  Doesn't her doorway look festive?
 Stop No. 2 was an old favorite:  The Woolpack in Acton, MA.

 Their stock is opulent and sort of overwhelming.  This was the welcoming display.
I liked the "knerdy" knitting bag.  DD liked the one from Amy Butler.  She made sure I took a photo of her with it... just in case  I had money burning a hole in my wallet.

 


While at Woolpack, we got to meet the brains, brawn and talent behind A Hundred Ravens. Kate (on the left) is the principle dyer and merchandising maven.  She's put together kits and clubs catering to fans of Dr. Who, Downton Abbey, and more.  Rachel is one of the primary pattern designers.  DD and I decided we want to be their friends.  They said they were having a pre-Christmas knit-in in December.  Might have to travel to their place.
Stop No. 3 was Craftworks in the hinterlands... I mean Northborough, MA. 
The shop is half artisan consigned items (it used to be run as an artist co-op) and half yarn store.  I was concerned that there wouldn't be enough yarn and that the gifts wouldn't be of interest.  WRONG!

We got to meet another yarn dyer.  Ellyn Cooper has "protein" yarns (wool, silk and the like) as well as synthetics like rayon.  You can tell how much she loves colors and mixing colors.   Click on the link to see the varying weights and plied styles she makes.
 




Kollage Yarns had sent a sample card, but the yarns themselves were not in the store.  This company (from Alabama) also makes square circular needles, which I hope to try soon.  Rumor has it that one is much more likely to "get gauge" with square needles.
Like most successful yarn companies these days (big OR small) they have a blog, some free patterns, and some patterns for purchase. Their colors were in the middle of the "brights" and the "blands" that other companies produce.

 Each location has a "grand prize" which will be drawn for on September 30.  I made sure I had an entry for this prize:  setts of knitting needles, crochet hooks, kits, yarn bowl....

They called me yesterday to say I had won the "daily" prize, which is a pattern kit for fingerless gloves, IF I remember right.  Stay tuned.




I liked this display of "Cardinal Candy" (birdseed), bright Fall flowers and another wooden sheep.


 Eclectica Designs are the creation of Nancy Opp.  I love discovering business started and run by women artists.  Again, one can tell she loves color... whether in her weaving or Kimono-silk sewn combinations.
 Even a  humble clay cat caught my eye.











See the heading:  Life's too short for matching socks.
My sentiments exactly.  I always get comments AND compliments on mine.













By then we were footsore AND hungry.  DD's wisdom, combined with YELP found us a Greek restaurant just down the road from Craft Works.  It is a treasure, and I'll plan to stop by when I pick up my door prize.  Owned and run by a father and son, it was like visiting a favorite uncle who just happened to be a terrific cook.  Felt like home.  Didn't hurt that the senior owner gifted me with some lemon-chicken soup when I found out that's what I would have gotten if I'd asked for the soup of the day.  It made a wonderful supper when I got home.
Oh, and he told us his history of 40 years of cooking, and running 10 different restaurants.  Now he consults with new restaurant operators (think of a GENTLE Gordon Ramsay) all over the country, except when he's here making soup.  His wife made iced pistachio petit-fours that were a gratis treat.  Also yummy! θαυμάσιος!

 Invigorated, we headed for Yarn Shop No. 4.
Iron Horse Fiber Arts, in Natick, MA




 Arriving only hours prior to the conclusion of the yarn crawl, the store owner and assistant seemed happy to chat as well as sell.  I had reached SABB status (stash acquisition beyond budget), so I wasn't looking to buy more yarn.  DD, however, helped their profit margin quite a bit.


 In addition to a vast selection of knitting and crocheting tools and accessories, lots of patterns you could buy individually.  As always, I couldn't resist their greeting cards.


The PollyMacc Designs were displayed with sample knits that proved irresistible!  I bought two baby-toddler patterns because it seems that all my younger friends are having babies this winter.  That's saying a lot when you consider that I have Elizabeth Zimmerman's endlessly adjustable pattern books, Sally Melville's as well as some Zoe Mellor and Debbie Bliss.  Yipes!
We decided that shop No. 5 would be the last for us.
 
Only a hop, skip and a jump away in Needham, MA.  (We got to pass Wellesley College and see lots of brainy young women walking from place to place!)

Here, too, we met a yarn dyer, Nancy Sherman.  If I understand it correctly she is one of the owners of Black Sheep Knitting as well as owner and creator of Bashful Bags and Fibers.Wonderful textures and daring colors.  She has a presence at Etsy and I hope to get some of her big fat skeins of lace-weight or fingering yarn after the holidays.
Black Sheep Yarn also had knit samples of patterns I didn't know existed.  Lots of them are free on Ravelry (Hooray!!)
Swirling Petals (Ravelry)


"Hester" from Malabrigo book 5

GapTastic (Ravelry)

Polka Dot Cowl (Ravelry)

Simple Seamless Cowl (Free from Black Sheep pattern book)

Child's Garter Ridge Cardigan (Black Sheep pattern book)

Cameo (Ravelry)

I was well and truly popped when I got home with my purchases, patterns, insights and happy memories of the adventure with DD.  
The trip odometer showed 161.8 miles.  NO WONDER I was tired!! 

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Maybe not you, but somebody asked for it


 So.  Every weekday morning at 8:45, I report to the Commonwealth Oncology Hematology Cancer Center at Newburyport Medical Center on the Anna Jacques Hospital campus. 

(Don't you love the clear blue skies of September?)








This is the patient waiting room.  Even though there is ample seating, there have never been more than three people waiting.  The radiation therapy machine can only take one person at a time; the X-ray diagnostic and measurement equipment can only take one person at a time, and Dr. Fung is the only full time oncologist.  So:  the possibility of 3 patients and possibly their friends or spouses.
Note the supply of coffee and snacks!

 There is also a puzzle-in-progress.  Amazing how concentrating on a jig-saw makes it easier NOT to think about cancer, fatigue or side effects.
Last week there was a 1000 piece puzzle, 30% done, that somebody decided was just too difficult.  He took it all apart, put it back in its box and got out a 500 piece puzzle with much bigger pieces.  How do you suppose the people felt who HAD been putting together the challenging one?!

I was inspired to buy a puzzle for home.  :-)



And here's the machine.  It clicks, whirs, buzzes, whines and rotates around me.
I hope you never have to see ones of these up close and personal. But it IS pretty fascinating.
 I don't know how many companies make "stereotactic radiation" equipment, but this one is by Elekta.  The company was founded in 1972 in Stockholm, Sweden.  No doubt the founder,  Lars Leksell was raised on lefse!  Their main US office is in Atlanta, AND they actually have a FB page!!?  Let's hear it for medical and scientific research and government and university funding for the same.  Thank you, Sweden, for making my treatment as helpful and pleasant as possible.

Of course at Newburyport, it is STILL the professionalism and personability of the staff that makes the biggest difference.  They are pretty camera shy, however.

This is "my" radiology oncologist, Clair Fung. She is one smart cookie!   My primary care doctor says the radiology oncologists were the really smart ones... has to do with extra detailed biology, physics and CALCULATIONS! Glad to hear it!

Claire Y. Fung MDThis is a photograph on one of the web sites that lists her. She was elected one of the "Best Doctors in America" for radiation oncology. In spite of her stellar credentials and subject specialties, she is warm, caring, and fun to be with (even under these circumstances).  I wonder if oncologists have the same "no personal relationships" with patients rules that psychotherapists do.  She'd be a wonderful friend.