Thursday, November 28, 2013

The All-Girl Filling Station's Last Reunion by Fannie Flagg

In The All-Girl Filling Station's Last Reunion, Sookie Poole is looking forward to relaxing after having married off the last of her daughters. She gets a huge surprise when she stumbles upon a secret that her overbearing mother has been keeping for 50+ years. It sends her into a tailspin and she's not sure of anything anymore. As she searches for the truth, Sookie learns more about a woman named Fritzi, who in the 1940s ran an All-Girl Filling Station.

I really enjoyed this book. It was laugh-out-loud funny at times, while being heartfelt and touching at other times. Flagg is a fantastic story teller. I love how she uses Fritzi's war-time letters to get story points across. The story spans two time frames and locations: near present day Alabama and the 1940s, state-side WWII. A wonderful way to get this story across. It's not my favourite Flagg books, but it was still terrific.

The title and cover of the book are a bit of a misnomer. The book is more about the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP), than about the filling station. That's not too much of a spoiler, is it? Anyway, I loved all of this information. I hadn't heard of the WASP, so it was all new to me. Flagg's work is fiction, but it was still interesting to learn about these amazing women.

As for characters, I really liked Fritzi, but Sookie was a little annoying. However, she did experience quite a few shocks, so maybe I can forgive her. I did want to give her a little slap, though, so she'd snap out of it. I didn't find Lenore, Sookie's mother, terribly overbearing, but Sookie certainly thought so. I really wanted Sookie to stand up to her.

Flagg included a couple of nice twists near the end that kept me guessing as how it was all going to end. Well done!

I've also read two other books by Flagg, both of which I adored: I Still Dream About You and Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe, which I read before I started blogging. I have a few of her books in my to-be-read pile, which I hope to get to sooner rather than later.

Highly recommended. I think those who enjoy reading books about strong, independent women would really like this book. I'll definitely book looking for more of Flagg's books to read. She's fabulous.

For more information about this book, please visit the RandomHouse website.

For more information about the author and her other books, please visit the Fannie Flagg's website.

I'd like to thank those nice people at RandomHouse for this review copy.

The All-Girl Filling Station's Last Reunion by Fannie Flagg, Random House, ©2013. ISBN 9781400065943(Hardcover), 347p.

Tangled Thursday - Coloured Ornaments

Tangled Thursday is a new occasional post on this blog. Heather at Books and Quilts is hosting these challenges in which we share our latest Zentangle inspired creations.

Since the challenge this week was to do ornaments in colour, I figured it was a good time to try out a couple of Zendalas (outlines downloaded from The Bright Owl), which look like ornaments to me already. I didn't know how I was going to tackle the colour part exactly, so I came up with three different methods. Here they are with my work:

1) Create the Zentangle pattern, then fill in some colour
Tangle: Auraknot
This first one is obviously not a Zendala.  I used a star stencil for this one, but in the past I've done a number of these freehand.  It's one of my favourite patterns to do.   I deliberately kept the colour minimal. 

2) Use coloured pens

Tangles: Keeko, Bales, Tipple, Knight's Bridge, Beadlines
3) Colour the shape first, then create the patterns afterwards

Tangles: Purk, Holibaugh, Mooka, Tipple, Pippen, Mr.E

I did both of the Zendalas on plain paper because I downloaded and printed out the outlines.  Besides they were my first one and I didn't know how they were going to turn out.  My pens didn't bleed through, but I much prefer working on cardstock or something much thicker.    I'll have to figure out a transfer method if I'm going to do more. 

I started a few others that weren't Zendalas, but didn't get to finish them. If I do, I'll present them in a post further down the line.

I believe it's my turn to pick the challenge for next week, Dec 5. I think we should all do monotangles. That is, your whole creation should contain one tangle pattern. Yep, only one tangle pattern. That doesn't mean you have to start with one shape and fill it in the same way. You could start with numerous shapes or a string and do many variations on the same tangle in each of the spaces. A quick Google search turned up several examples if you need inspiration.   I have a couple of tangle patterns that I just love, so I'm going to be playing with them to see what I can come up with this coming week.   

Be sure to check out the other Ornaments in Colour creations on Books and Quilts.   If you'd like to join us, please do so by linking your post to the Mr. Linky on Heather's post.  

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Needlework Tuesday - More knitting

Today I have just a quick update on my needlework projects. 

I finished the blue Bernat Boa scarf. I ended up ripping out what I had and following another pattern I found online. This one for a scarf. It's 4" short even though I followed the pattern exactly. It must be a gauge thing, but who'd think to check the gauge for a scarf. Anyway, it's long enough for a scarf, but too short to sew the ends together and double-loop it into a cowl. Oh, well. Next, I'll be knitting the matching hat. This simple project sure turned into a bit of a headache. Here's the scarf:
I still have the white Bernat Boa yarn, so I might try a cowl with it. *sigh*

As for my dark rose sweater, I finished the sleeve and started on one of the fronts. The sleeve was a little boring to knit, all ribbing, but I'm not going to complain too much because I love ribbing and it really knit up fast. Right now, I'm knitting the instructions for the Left Front, however, since I'm a southpaw, it's going to end up being the Right Front. At least, that's what I'm hoping is going to happen.  I hope I don't have to make any other adjustments. Here's the finished sleeve laid out flat:

I'm still holding back the photo of the finished back. I'll show that next week, if I remember. Currently, the front I'm doing looks pretty much like the first part of the sleeve, so I'm refraining from posting a photo of that.

I also worked a little on the collar of my old sweater, the one where the collar was too tight. I had a hard time isolating the row that needed to come off, so I spent part of the week tracking down the pattern in my messy craft room. I finally found it and discovered that the trim was two rows of slip stitching rather than a row of single crochet. I also thought that the collar was actually part of the sweater. After referring to the pattern, I now know that it's a completely separate piece and could be removed if necessary. That is, I could follow Heather's advice from last week and make another collar. For the time being, I'm still going with Plan A, which is to remove the slip stitch rows and see if it makes a difference. So far, I've removed about 3/4 of a row and it's quite a bit looser, so there's hope.   You'd think that a slip stitch would be easy to undo, but for some reason it's not. 

That's it for this week. Next week, I'll have an update on my temperature scarf, which will definitely have some blue yarn in it. Needlework Tuesday is hosted by Heather over at Books and Quilts

Monday, November 25, 2013

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

In The Rosie Project, Don Tillman, a genetics professor, is in search of a wife. He constructs a 14-page questionnaire to help him in his selection and weed out those who are undesirable. His Wife Project, isn't going all that great, until Rosie, who definitely wouldn't make the cut, walks into his life and changes him in ways he couldn't imagine.

I really enjoyed this wonderful debut novel. It's such a lighthearted, cute book with an exceptional quirky fun main character. At times, the story was laugh-out-loud funny. However, it wasn't always in your face. My favourite thing about the book was the subtle humour. There were a few times that I didn't get the "joke" until I had read a few sentences past it.  

Another thing that I liked about the book was that most, if not all, of the major characters experienced some personal growth over the course of the story. Don was the one I was cheering for the most, but the others also changed in positive ways.

From the first page of the book, the reader knows that Don Tillman is quirky and not like most other people. While it doesn't exactly pinpoint Don's condition, I think it's implied or hinted at that Don has Aspberger's syndrome, an autism spectrum disorder. Don has some of the same characteristics of Dr. Sheldon Cooper from the TV show, The Big Bang Theory. I absolutely love Sheldon, so it was terrific to read about a character like him. Their shared characteristics make them who they are; sometimes annoying, but always loveable.

The book is written from Don's perspective, which really is ideal for this story. It gives the reader insight as to what he's thinking and why he does what he does. In some ways, I could relate to him. For instance, lately I've been creating a number of small projects to tackle within the next year. I'm going to have to start giving them names. ;)

Even though I really enjoyed this book, at times it felt a little superficial. I don't think I fully connected with Don or Rosie because of that. While I loved Don, I thought Rosie was kind of abrasive. I didn't much care for Gene, Don's friend and confidant, but Gene's wife, Claudia, was okay. Don asked both of these people for advice on his Wife Project a number of times. Considering their marriage arrangement, I thought that was funny.

If you loved this book and want to read about another character with autism, Lisa Genova's Love Anthony (my review) is an exceptional book. It's very different from this one, but it can give you some insight into the mind of a very special little boy.

I could probably write a lot more about this book, but I think it's best if you just go read it.

Highly recommended.

For more information about this book, please visit the HarperCollins website.

I purchased this book at Costco.

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion, HarperCollins, ©2013. ISBN 9781443422666(Trade paperback), 324p.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Maya's Notebook by Isabel Allende

In Maya's Notebook, Maya, abandoned by her parents, is raised by her grandparents. Nini, her grandmother, is outspoken and a "force of nature". Her grandfather, Popo, becomes a stabilizing figure that Maya needs in her teenage years. When he dies, Maya goes crazy and gets into all kinds of trouble, including being enslaved by a drug dealer in Las Vegas. With the help of her grandmother, Maya is sent to live with Manuel, a friend of her grandmother's, on a remote island off the coast of Chile. Once there, Maya has to learn a new way of life while dealing with the past and the new people around her.

At first, I didn't know if I was going to like Allende's modern story. I've only read (and loved) a couple of her historical novels and I didn't know if it was going to work. However, there was no need to worry. This amazing story was extremely compelling.

The vivid details regarding Manuel's torture during the military coup and Maya's life in Las Vegas were definitely hard to read about. Despite this horror and sadness, though, Allende managed to include some humour in the overall story, which I appreciated. It gave me a much needed break.

I loved that Allende included lots of information about Chile and the island of ChiloƩ. What an amazing place! I love reading books set in places so different from where I live. It gives me a perspective on the world. Learning new things about the world is one of the reasons I love to read her books.

I liked all of the characters, but especially Maya and Manuel. Their relationship was unique; they seemed to be quite distant a lot of times, but I don't think they could have lived without each other. Besides them, one of my favourite characters was Freddy, the young man that Maya met in Vegas. His whole story was quite sad, but something about him appealed to me.

Even though I loved the book overall, I have two small complaints. The first is that the story doesn't necessarily read like a diary or notebook. The story works regardless, but then the title doesn't really fit. The second is the cover. I don't think it does the story justice. Generally, I don't like book covers with character photos, so it's just a personal bias.

The book contained a few new-to-me words. They are: inculcate (page 54): inspire, encourage odalisques (page 184): enslaved women in a harem

Highly recommended for fans; for those looking for a great read, and for those who haven't read Allende before because they aren't into historical fiction.   

For more information about this book, please visit the HarperCollins website.

I'd like to thank those nice people at HarperCollins for this review copy.

Maya's Notebook by Isabel Allende, Harper (HarperCollins), ©2013. ISBN 978062105622(Uncorrected Proof), 387p.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Tangled Thursday - Thanksgiving

Tangled Thursday is a new occasional post on this blog. Heather at Books and Quilts is hosting these challenges in which we share our latest Zentangle inspired creations.

This week's theme of Thanksgiving was suggested by Tami. Even though our Canadian Thanksgiving was last month, celebrating our thanks can be done at any time of year. Having said that, I drew a blank on this challenge. I think I burned myself out last week with too many ideas that this week I didn't have a clue what to do.

Nevertheless, I came up with a couple of tiles. The first one is supposed to be a leaf. However, it doesn't really look like one because of the patterns I choose. I added some shading to suggest veins, but it doesn't quite work. The only thing I like is the sparse colour I added:

 Tangles: Nine Patch, Riki-Tiki, Inapod, Ionic, Triadz, Beadlines, Ahh, Paradox
My second one is more successful, in my opinion, albeit plain. It's probably the best Mr. E I've ever done: 
 Tangles: Mr. E, Tipple
I also worked on my Zentangle project.  I have two more tiles to complete before putting it to bed.  I probably won't be posting any more photos of it.  I think it's run its course. 

Be sure to check out the other Thanksgiving creations on Books and Quilts.   If you'd like to join us, please do so by linking your post to the Mr. Linky on Heather's post.  

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Needlework Tuesday - Old and New

Now that winter has descended upon us, I dug out an old zippered cardigan that I made many moons ago. I rarely wear it, though, and that's mostly because of the collar. Way back when, my crochet skills were crap (they still are) and the single crochet around the collar is way too tight. You can see in the photo that it pulls in. It doesn't help that I have a short neck and the collar bothers me to no end. So, after all of these years I've decided that I'm going to remove the single crochet around the collar to see if I can fix it. I don't know if I'm going to leave it be or redo the crochet part. Even though the sweater is probably 20 years old and is pilling a little, it's worth fixing...I think. Believe it or not, I think I still have some of the yarn.   I'm quite proud of this sweater.  It has slit pockets and has some really fancy stitches that I love. 

Last week, I mentioned that I was going to make a scarf or cowl/hat set with Bernat Boa speciality yarn. I choose the Blue, called "Blue Bird" because it's such a pretty colour.  
I really like this yarn. It's a speciality yarn, so I wouldn't make anything big with it, but it's nice for scarves, hats, etc. I think Bernat even has a short vest pattern. Anyway, the yarn is quite thin and includes a fringe. It's not that slippery on plastic Aero needles and is pretty easy to knit with. However, it can be hard to see the stitches on the needle. I generally "feel" them rather than trying to "see" them when I'm knitting.   I wouldn't recommend it to those just learning to knit.  Here's a close-up shot to see what I mean (the needle is at the bottom):
I chose a really simple pattern, from Bernat, and changed only the stitch that I used. Instead of garter (straight knitting), I used a stocking stitch, knitting the first 3 and last 3 stitches of each row. The pattern called for two skeins and the item was supposed to end up being 50" long. So far, I knit through one skein and only got 18" worth of skein should have been closer to 25". Any knitters know what I did wrong? Does the stocking stitch use more yarn than garter? Here's the scarf/cowl so far:


The other item I spent some time on was my dark rose sweater.  I finished the back after measuring the armholes 30 times to make sure I had them the right size.  Seriously, I thought I was losing my mind and had developed OCD. I measured and knit and measured and knit and measured and measured and measured.  Then knit some more.   Finally, I called it done and started a sleeve.  I'm not going to show you the back just yet.  It turned out really nice, though.  Here's the beginning of the sleeve: 

It won't be too exciting because it's all ribbing...the whole sleeve...all the way up to the shoulder.  A ribbing-lover's dream!  It should knit up fairly quickly, though. 

I think that's it for this week.   Don't forget to head over to Heather's website to see what she and everyone else is doing. 

Needlework Tuesday is hosted by Heather over at Books and Quilts

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Tangled Thursday - Hearts

Tangled Thursday is a new occasional post on this blog. Heather at Books and Quilts is hosting these challenges in which we share our latest Zentangle inspired creations.

This week's Heart theme, suggested by Elaine, gave me some trouble. It wasn't that I couldn't come up with an idea, it's that I had so many ideas that I didn't know where to start. I had four tiles going at once so that I could get all of my ideas on paper before I forgot them.   I'm presenting 3 tiles today, but I don't think any of my ideas were fully realized.   The barber pole heart (2nd tile) was stolen from something I saw online, but I can't remember from where so that I could give the person credit.  Sorry about that.  

Tangles: Tipple, Heartstrings, Heartvine, Up N Down, Hearty, Eylet Lace, Knight's Bridge, Jax

Tangles: W2, Barber Pole, Tipple, Laced, Keeko, Exis, Betweed

Tangles: Purk, Scrolled Feather

The scrolled feather design is from Helen Williams from a little lime. She's a fabulous artist with a wonderful, informative website.  If you haven't checked out her work yet, what are you waiting for?  

I won't be giving an update on my Zentangle project this week. I thought I might have some time to get caught up, but that didn't happen. I have pretty much given up the idea of doing it everyday. However, I do have some unfinished work with regards to that that needs to be completed. I don't want to totally give up on it yet, but I know the parameters need to change. I'll be thinking about that over the next week or two.

Be sure to check out the other heart creations on Books and Quilts.   If you'd like to join us, please do so by linking your post to the Mr. Linky on Heather's post.  

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Needlework Tuesday - Knitting, Knitting and Knitting.

I've been in a knitting mood lately. I'm thinking it's partially because of the colder weather and partially because I have a new project to work on.

The first thing I've been knitting is my temperature scarf. I'm completely up-to-date and am really liking how the colours are going together. As you can see, I'm into the greens now.  Yesterday we were less than a degree away from a blue (that's Brrr...) and tomorrow we might actually get back into a yellow. Yay! It'll only last a day, though, but I'll take it. Here's a small snippet of the scarf:

I've also been making good progress on my sweater. I'm just about to start decreasing the stitches for the arm holes on the back. Here's what I've done so far:

I fixed a mistake I made in the beginning (because of a mistake in the pattern) and then went on to start the cable section on the back of the sweater. I love cables. They look complicated, but aren't. They are almost like magic! I managed to screw up one of them by doing a C4B, C4F instead of a C4F, C4B. By the time I found it, I had already done a row and a half past the mistake. Somehow, I managed to fix it without undoing a whole lot of work...only 2 half rows. Amazingly, I can't tell where the fix is.   I'm really pleased about how quickly it's knitting up.  Instead of starting the front next, I think I might tackle a sleeve.  They are all ribbing and as much as I like cables, I think I'll need a little break once I finish the back.   

I'm having so much fun knitting that I'm going to try to a third needlework project, but just a small one. Many moons ago, I picked up some Bernat Boa for less than a dollar each. I've already made the orange into a hat/scarf set, I'm thinking I'm going to make another set in either white or blue. I'm hoping to have time this week to at least start one of them.

Needlework Tuesday is hosted by Heather over at Books and Quilts

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Tangled Thursday - My Name

Tangled Thursday is a new occasional post on this blog. Heather at Books and Quilts is hosting these challenges in which we share our latest Zentangle inspired creations.

This week I asked the other participants to create a tile representing their name. Basically, we were to divide our drawing space into the same number of sections as there were letters in our name.  For example, I need 5 sections in my tile for my name. Then, fill each section with a pattern that starts with one of the letters in our name. So, I’d pick a pattern that starts with an M, an A, an R, etc.

Here's mine for this week:

M.A.R.I.E - Mooka, Asian Fans, Reticulated, Indy-Rella, Eylet Ribbon (Mostly in order from the bottom left.  The last two patterns are reversed.)

I had fun doing this one and really enjoyed finding new tangle patterns with which to complete it.  It's not as neat as I hoped, but I still like it.   I was hoping to do a few other variations, but the week got away from me. 

I'm a bit behind on my daily Zentangle project, but I did mange to do a little every day.  Hopefully, I'll be able to post an update on that next week.

Be sure to check out the other name creations on Books and Quilts.   If you'd like to join us, please do so by linking your post to the Mr. Linky on Heather's post.  

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Needlework Tuesday - My New Sweater!

Other than keeping up on my temperature scarf, I didn't really do much in the way of needlework...until yesterday. When the sweater kit I ordered from Mary Maxim arrived. 

I really had a hard time deciding on the colour, so I went with a Dark Rose, the one pictured. I'm not a girly-girl, but for some reason I wear a lot of pink.  I was hoping that it was going to be more on the red/raspberry side of the colour spectrum, but nope, it's definitely dark Oh, well. Like I said I wear a lot of pink, so it'll fit right in with my wardrobe.

I couldn't wait to get started, but the pattern intimidated me within 5 seconds of opening it up. I've made sweaters before, but not for a number of years.

Here's the problem:
  • I really don't understand the gauge instructions. I know how to check my gauge (although I rarely do it), but this one is overly complicated., at least when I read it.  I decided to skip it and hope for the best.  
  • The pattern uses stitch markers. I haven't used them before, but after a quick Google search, I found out that it's really straight forward, so that's one less thing to worry about.  I'm going to use some cute paperclips and/or dental elastics instead of buying some. 
  • There's a mistake (at least by my calculations) on the first row!!!! of the pattern. Sheesh. I couldn't figure out exactly what the instructions should have been, so I just ended up purling a few more stitches on the end of the row. That had me worried about the rest of the pattern, so this morning I pulled out my calculator and went through a number of the other rows to make sure I understood what to do and to make sure that the stitches added up correctly. So far, so good.
Not a good way to start what I was hoping was going to be a fun, relaxing project.   I'm hoping it's going to get easier once I get into it.  I remember when I knitted my Aran Fisherman's sweater a number of years ago, I ran into all kinds of obstacles, but I eventually overcame them myself.   If needed, I have a couple of neighbours who are avid knitters, who might be able to help if I run into major problems. 

The yarn feels really nice and so far it's been easy to work with.   I love that the Mary Maxim included a plastic zipped bag to hold the yarn while I'm knitting.  I imagine that it could also be used to store my cardigan once it's complete.   I also ordered the pewter buttons for this sweater, but I'll show them once I'm more into the project. 

Anyway, here's what I have done to date:

Needlework Tuesday is hosted by Heather over at Books and Quilts.  Today she's posting about her temperature scarves.  She's even thinking about doing two more!!!!