Just a quick check-in today as this week has been a doozy at work and I have meetings right up until 5pm today that will likely run over.
1. The red squirrel has moved into the deluxe birdhouse thankyouverymuch.
2. The weather here in Southeast Michigan this week has been really nice. It’s hit the 50’s several days with copious sunshine, and we’ve lost most of our snowpack. It’s still cold at night so I am loving the humidifier and fuzzy sheets but the break in the winter weather has been enjoyable for everything except for my sinuses and allergies.
3. Brandon & I got out for an afternoon of cross-country skiing last weekend, just on the cusp of the warmer weather. It was my first time so I spent a fair amount of time on my ass but at the end of it I’d sort of gotten the hang of it. And really enjoyed it. I would love to do more next winter. An afternoon of strenuous activity and sunshine after a period of cold and sloth was just what I needed.
4. My folks got their first Covid vaccine this week and I am so relieved. So far their aftereffects are minimal so fingers crossed that their second shot in a few weeks is as smooth.
I am happy it’s Friday and I am looking forward to Chinese takeout tonight and hopefully more nice temperatures and sunshine. What are you up to? Whatever it is, I hope you have an excellent weekend with your special ones.
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Miss L had the week off for her winter break so we scampered up north for a few days to visit the folks.
It was pretty cold – a few degrees above zero Fahrenheit- but Miss L still wanted to ice skate at the local rink. She spent a fair amount of time shoveling and sweeping the rink free of snow, which I suppose is an occupational hazard for kids in the northlands.
We also played quite a bit of poker with my folks & tried to get their cats to love us (in vain).
I’m working on a pair of sock yarn mittens – the Mittens to Fit pattern by Slavi Thomsen is a Ravelry pattern and I’m using some old – very old – sock yarn from my stash. (Leftover from legwarmers, it’s Berroco Sox in the now-discontinued Huddersfield colorway.)
I’ve been looking for a sock yarn mitten pattern for awhile and this one is very cute, except as I start the second mitten I am plunging into the unknown. The pattern is written for the right mitten and the pattern note says to be aware to make the thumb on the opposite side for the left mitten, so they fit your hands. There aren’t any other pattern instructions as to how to put the thumb on the opposite side. I assume that I just reverse the pattern for the increases for the thumb? I’m going to try it. If worst comes to worst, I’ve tried the right mitten on my left hand and it seems to look fine, so maybe if I utterly can’t figure it out I can just knit two “right” mittens but if any crafty knitters know how to do this, please leave it in the comments!
My mom made a great Bay City ham and sent us home with a big container of leftovers so once we got home I put a pot of white bean and ham soup simmering on the stove for dinner.
The great thing about a vacation in the early part of the week is that you get back and it feels like a Monday but here it is Friday and I only have one day of calls and catch-up before the weekend! It is warming up into the mid-20’s F. here so Brandon and I are going cross-country skiing tomorrow – it’s my first time and I can’t wait! What are you up to with your weekend?
Be well and enjoy. xoxo
PS – I also wanted to share the great news that one of my favorite vlogs – A Simple Swedish Life, about a Korean / Swedish family living in Stockholm – now has an Instagram account. His vlog is simple, silent, about the Swedish lifestyle, and his imagery is minimalist and striking. His subject matter is heartwarming and pure, especially when he features his cooking, musings, his wife, and his 1.5 year old son. Please go follow @asimpleswedishlife if you have an IG account – well worth it. Thank you!!
My first-ever hand-knitted sweater- It only took 2 years and 3 restarts! I generally like my sweaters roomy and boy-fit but I definitely could have sized down on this one – it’s pretty boxy. And there will always be little imperfections that I see and wish I had done differently. But I am really pleased overall with my first foray into garment knitting and am already perusing my next project.
Winter – real winter – has finally arrived in Michigan with a vengeance. Lake Michigan is protecting us from the truly arctic temps sweeping down from Canada but it’s still dang cold. To that end, I am eager to see everyone’s reads this month and pad out my TBR list cuz I’m NOT going outside for awhile!
As always, I am joining the link-up hosted by Steph and Jana!
I’ll review my two “Nordic Noir” reads first – both recommended by the excellent Crime by the Book. The Butterfly House by Katrine Engberg is the second book in the Korner and Werner series. Bodies drained of blood are showing up around Copenhagen, and as Korner investigates, it appears that they all have links to caregiving institutions. Werner is on maternity leave after an unexpected pregnancy, chafing at being home with a newborn and struggling to cope with her new normal. When she decides to do some independent sleuthing on the case, it exposes both of them to a murderer bent on vengeance. The strength of this series, to me, is the human element of Korner and Werner’s personal lives as they intermingle with their investigations, and the relationship between these contrary characters. A solid follow-up to The Tenant.
My starred review this month, however, goes to The Hypnotist by Lars Kepler. It knocks every other Scandinavian thriller into the ditch and is not for the faint of heart, but I absolutely could not put it down. The book opens with the grisly murder of a family in Sweden, a sole surviving teenager, and a hypnotist called in to try to see the murderer through the boy’s eyes. The book ties unexpected yet expertly woven threads of the hypnotist’s past and his family as well as the shocking secrets of the murdered family and the surviving boy. Overseen by charismatic lead detective Joona Linna, the action hurtles to its crazy climax with a tight, fast plot, excellent characters, and many twists and turns. Warning – it contains distressing elements of child abuse and murder, as well as incest, so probably not for everyone.
I read one other mystery this month, The Searcher by Tana French. I’ll start by saying that I love Tana French and normally I can’t put her books down. This one, however, was disappointing. The writing was solid and engaging, and I liked the main character, Cal Hooper, a retired American detective who has pulled up stakes in Chicago and moved to a small village in rural Ireland. His life is absorbed in renovating his dilapidated house and brooding about his broken family until a local boy shows up for help in finding his missing brother. Unfortunately, I just could not get engaged with the kid or the plot. I enjoyed French’s Dublin Murder Squad mysteries as well as Witch Elm but sadly this one just didn’t click for me.
My last read is a divergence but very enjoyable if you are a fan of Laura Ingalls Wilder. Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography, edited by Pamela Smith Hill, is the first manuscript that Wilder set down about her childhood and family. If you thought you knew anything about the Ingalls family from reading the Little House books, you will find that the true story is very different. It shouldn’t surprise anyone that Wilder and her daughter Rose Wilder Lane, a writer herself, collaborated heavily on the juvenile series, changing the history of the family and blending and creating characters that would appeal to children. This book is the real, adult telling of their journeys – it’s an absolute treasure trove of photographs, journal entries from both Laura Ingalls Wilder and Rose Wilder Lane, and includes amazing details about their creative partnership to bring the series to life. It also discusses with clarity the more troubling aspects of the juvenile series, and thoughtfully discusses the racism in the original books (heavily rooted in concepts of Manifest Destiny, their view of Native Americans as less than human, and yet also very evident in other scenes – remember Pa’s participation in the ‘minstrel show’?) An all-around excellent and absorbing read.
That’s it! With my library reopened, I hope to do lots of good reading in February and I look forward to sharing at our next link-up. Until then, as Mr Williams, the school superintendent, said to Laura’s pupils at the Brewster School during his unexpected visit, in Chapter 9 of These Happy Golden Years, “Whatever else you do, keep your feet warm.”
Is anyone else having crazy dreams? My nocturnal ramblings have been very bizarre this week, from not being able to pack chaotic luggage to missed flights in Japan to being lost in technicolor Asian shopping malls to being tricked into ingesting Epsom salts at my grandparents’ house and having subsequent dream-within-a-dream hallucinations.
It might be the weather, which has taken a precipitous dive from somewhat mild to sleet, snow, and deep freeze temps for this weekend. We are overdue for some real winter.
Those of you who follow me on IG know that I finally cast off on my Pink Memories sweater last weekend! I plan to block this weekend and have a knitting post next week. In the meantime, I’m noodling on some sock yarn mittens and pondering my next project.
Miss L got a major haircut this week, losing 9 inches from her red locks in the sweetest, sassiest bob. There is always something about a slim little back of the neck with a sharp edge that I love, probably because my hairline at the back of my neck is full of cowlicks and never looks clean like this.
It looks like Brandon’s furlough will soon be over as his company ramps back up. It will feel lonely around the house during the day without him. We each have our own daily routines and I’m in my home office most of the day, but we enjoy our lunch breaks together. He’s made the most of his break with skateboarding, writing, and doing extensive renovations and repainting in the house. But he’s eager to go back and you know, a little space in togetherness isn’t such a bad thing…
It never fails that either he or Miss L or one of the cats will come looking for me when I’m in the bathroom. Privacy!!!!!!
I hope everyone stays warm and cozy this weekend and has a great array of snacks for Super Bowl Sunday.
As I’m writing this I’m watching the demise of the old willow tree that has proudly resided in the backyard for decades. The tree guys came this morning & will be here for the next few hours (they are funny guys and one of them asked if he can use our microwave at lunchtime to warm up his chili – that’s a man after my own heart).
This is a melancholy moment- I loved that tree just like I love ALL the mature trees in my yard. This despite the undeniable truth that it has become a potential hazard to the neighborhood’s power lines. I am sad to see it go, but relieved in a way, too, and I am not looking forward to the gaping bare spot it will leave.
This week, I’ve been reading a couple of good books and I received a happy mail order. As I make my way through “Pioneer Girl”, the annotated autobiography of Laura Ingalls Wilder, the manuscript that she and her daughter Rose Wilder Lane adapted into the juvenile series “Little House on the Prairie”, I noticed a photograph of Lane’s journal. It was a five year diary with each day on the same page, so at the end of the five years you can look at any date and see five years of entries.
I loved this idea and immediately ordered one for myself.
I can’t believe that Miss L will be 17 when this journal is completed.
It was a full moon yesterday which means I slept poorly and have a full docket of meetings and tasks to take me through until almost quitting time. I can’t wait to shut down my computer and brain at 5:00. Brandon and I have had to dial way back on intense movies and shows lately, finding them just too much on top of everything else. So I subscribed to PBS Documentary via Amazon Prime. We are happily working our way through the Ken Burns oeuvre starting with “Country Music” and that’s no doubt where we will spend a few happy hours this weekend.
I also hope to spend some time with the other book I’m reading- completely dissimilar to “Pioneer Girl” but also utterly absorbing. More about both of these in the next Show Us Your Books (always the second Tuesday of the month).
I hope you enjoy your weekend and get a lot of rest and good things to eat.
“Walking on willow tree roads by a river dappled with peach blossoms, I look for spring light, but am everywhere lost. Birds fly up and scatter floating catkins. A ponderous wave of flowers sags the branches.” – Wang Wei
Editor’s Note: I have changed the format of my Friday posts a bit, focusing on the TGIF rather than having five items. Forgive me but sometimes I just can’t come up with five (although maybe someday I’ll have SIX) and I’m not sure I ever did the whole Friday Five thing right anyway! But this week I do indeed have five so let’s get rolling.
TGIF my friends. We made it through another long, dark winter week and having spots of brightness and optimism helped.
1. As Van Jones said:
I’ve never been a big watcher of inaugurations but I will never again take for granted the ceremony and meaning of these occasions. After being so deeply in fear that a peaceful transition of power would not take place, the symbolic importance of the day, and the presence of so many different voices and people from both sides of the aisle, was something I was very grateful for. 🇺🇸
The Bernie memes have been amazing. My faves:
The inauguration was of course the biggest high point of the week but I also have some superficiality- so now on to the minutiae!
2. I read a review of L’Oréal Elvive Wonder Water and for $9 I was intrigued to try it. The texture is weird but it really works to make my hair soft and shiny. Without a blowout and a straightener, my hair is wavy underneath and straight on top which can make it look poofy and unkempt. This product makes it noticeably straighter and more manageable without styling. Which is good, because in the age of remote work, I still shower and wash my hair every day – yes, every day, it’s a tic that I cannot feel clean or productive if my hair isn’t washed- but mostly I’m just blowing it a bit dry and twisting it up into a clip. Warning, it does make the shower floor extremely slippery so use caution.
3. I am a huge fan of Finnish writer Tove Jansson and I recently saw a collection of yarn inspired by her Moomin characters. uhhh…. this could get expensive.
4. Speaking of knitwear…my parents got me Bombas for Christmas…FROM THE SESAME STREET COLLECTION. This is my fave sock brand and I can’t tell you the happiness it brings me to look down during the day and see Grover or Oscar on my ankle.
5. Josie aka Pot Roast is by far the cleverest cat I’ve ever had. One day I pulled up a YouTube video on my computer monitor and let her chase a cartoon mouse across the screen for awhile. I called it “feline enrichment” a la the Kitten Lady (check her on IG). This was all cute fun and games until Pot Roast caught sight of the television monitor. Now she chases Green Bay Packers across the screen, punches out Audrey Hepburn during “Charade”, and thinks she can dunk a basketball like a Laker. Her particular faves, however, are Brandon’s old Kung fu films that he likes to watch before he falls asleep. The funniest thing is hearing a bit of a scuffle in a dark bedroom then seeing Pot Roast’s little ears and head rising up in silhouette against the television screen, looking like Tom Servo or Crow from MST3k. We don’t have the heart to discourage her but that will undoubtedly change when she knocks the TV off the wall and feels pleased that she finally bested Commander Wong.
I hope you have a fantastic Friday and weekend ahead. xo
I have to remind myself that Januaries are always difficult for me, and Februaries, as well. As is the case for many people, things are a bit of a grind here in suburban Elysia just at the moment. But I can’t judge 2021 too harshly on its face, just yet.
My expectations weren’t high. The pandemic wasn’t going anywhere. The riots at the Capitol and the continued insanity of Trump, MAGA, and Q….well, that’s a big bunch of demerits for sure.
We’ve had a mild winter so far, without a lot of snow or extreme temps, which is sort of nice but then again every day is just more Michigan grey. At this point I’d relish a nice whomp of snow just for something different.
I’m still working away in my back bedroom / office and still having to make hundreds of quick transitions between employee / parent / teacher / chef / home project manager / therapist / partner / lover every day. Which is not ideal but which I think many of us are struggling with. This will likely continue through April or May, at the earliest, if I’m not mistaken, and perhaps longer depending on how we handle Miss L’s continued remote school through June. This paying job I’ve done for the past 10 years – at a company I’ve been with for 19 – is its usual mix of stability, ennui, consistency, tedium, stress, aggravation, reassurance and comfort, all at once. I try to remind myself to get out for walks or runs and fresh air, get enough sleep but not sleep too much, to have gratitude, take my vitamins and watch my diet and keep to-do lists and make time for self care but sometimes things fall off the plate and I have to start all over again.
Maybe my daily commute (30 minutes to an hour plus one way, depending on weather and traffic), which I always bemoaned in the past, was more beneficial than I thought- time to transition from one role to another, catch up on news or audiobooks or podcasts.
Note before I start: I’m equal parts enraged and exhausted by the attempted coup last week. The images of white supremacists and alt-right extremists storming our Capitol, at the urging of our president, armed with Confederate flags and zip ties, made me sick to my stomach. Yet for anyone who has kept their eyes open about Trump and his followers, they are no surprise. I can only pray that now that he is deprived of some oxygen, days from his departure from a position of official political power, that his deplorable supporters sink back into the woodwork where they belong. PS – it wasn’t Antifa. It was Trump and his trolls. Own the violence, own the inflammatory rhetoric from the Trumps and Giuliani that exacerbated and urged it moments before it exploded, and punish it accordingly.
And now onto the books, eh?
As always I am joining our hosts Steph and Jana for this monthly linkup.
I didn’t read that much in December – too much else going on at work and at home. But I did get a few books under my belt and one “definite recommend”.
The Girl in Cabin 13 (Emma Griffin FBI Mystery #1) by A.J. Rivers was a Kindle Unlimited selection. (I’ve since unsubscribed from Kindle Unlimited since once my library reopened for at least curbside pickup, I can pretty much get anything I want that way, and the Kindle Unlimited selections weren’t consistently appealing for me.) Anyway, this was a quick read, introducing Emma as an FBI agent undercover in a small town to investigate several deaths / disappearances. I would read more of this series, but in general I’d say if you’re looking for books about strong female law enforcement, there are better selections out there (including the one I discuss below).
Where the Lost Wander, by Amy Harmon, was another Kindle Unlimited. The story of a family setting off on the Oregon Trail mixed with a love story. I love historical fiction but on occasion find it culturally problematic…This one seemed to acknowledge those pitfalls and avoid most of them. My biggest beef was that a major incident occurs within the first 1/4 of the story, and immediately afterwards, the author backtracks to fill in the narrative up to that point. The reader then has to wait until the last 1/4 of the book to find out the resolution of the aforementioned major incident. I know that the author probably thought that dropping the bombshell early and then withdrawing would draw readers on, wanting to find out the resolution, but for me it essentially rendered the entire midsection moot. I don’t care what they packed or what she drew or her relationships with her kid brothers after that, especially when some / all of the characters that the author is laboriously filling me in on may not survive Major Incident. So I ended up speed-reading and skipping large chunks just to get to the resolution. Which didn’t make it an especially enjoyable read.
Death in the Family (Shana Merchant #1) by Tessa Wegert is a much better example of the genre I reference in book 1 above. It’s an Agatha Christie-esque family whodunnit featuring a murder on a remote, storm-tossed island and a gallery of plausible related suspects in a sprawling manor house. Shana has her own demons and has to battle those throughout and the narratives mesh and play off each other nicely. Hugely atmospheric, fast-paced, and kept me hanging on until the last. Highly recommend.
A Rose for her Grave by Ann Rule – another Kindle Unlimited (can you tell that my library closed down in December because of a Covid surge?). True crime queen Ann Rule tells the story of a Blackbeard-type murderer who marries, takes out life insurance policies on his unwitting brides, and dispatches them one after another. If you like true crime, her books are classics.
We spent the end of the year quite pleasurably up north with my parents. I got out for a trail run and the Michigan lakeshore was like an alien landscape, empty, with high waves and wind and a low, pale sun.
“There are such a lot of things that have no place in summer and autumn and spring. Everything that’s a little shy and a little rum. Some kinds of night animals and people that don’t fit in with others and that nobody really believes in. They keep out of the way all the year. And then when everything’s quiet and white and the nights are long and most people are asleep—then they appear.” Tove Jansson, Moominland Midwinter
I got dug into a dense book from my dad’s bookshelf and we played a lot of poker.
My parents are wonderful and we love spending time with them. They are gentle, intelligent, funny, and generous. I have so much gratitude for their continued strong presence in our lives, their good health and safety.
However, their cats hate us – they’re rescue cats and they are accustomed to having a very quiet existence with my folks. I’m making inroads, though.
We left for home on a snowy morning that quickly turned to rain, and now we are home, in front of the fire with many blankets and food and wine, to ring in the New Year.
I love some statistics so here’s my 2020 Year in Books.
Thank you all for reading and following and sharing my ups and downs. There’s nothing else I can say about this year that hasn’t already been said, and said well. So I will end with deep gratitude for what I have and hope for the future. I truly value the connections I’ve made via this blog. Happy New Year to you all and we look forward to a blessed and better 2021.