Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Needlework Tuesday - Frustrated Knitting

Needlework Tuesday is an occasional post detailing my needlework and/or crafting projects.

These last two weeks were mostly frustrating when it came to knitting. Two of my projects were not working out, so I put down the needles until I could figure out what I wanted to do with them.

If you remember a couple of weeks ago I was working on the latest project from the Mary Maxim's Knit Club of the Month, a mesh type carry-all bag. Well, I finished the bag, after making more mistakes in the mess pattern, and started on the handles. The pattern said to make 2 handles 19" long and attach them according to the photo. That's where the problems started. In the photo, it looked like the bag only had 1 handle worn over the shoulder. After some measuring, I determined that the handle had to be longer than 19" if I (or most adults) wanted to use the bag as pictured. Dilemma! I decided to follow the pattern, make 2 handles, and figure it out once they were done. Well, that didn't work out so well. The handles were too short to put over my shoulder, yet too long to carry in my hand without the bag and all of its contents dragging on the ground. Darn! So,  I then decided to make 1 long handle by adding onto one of the handles using the yarn from the second handle. It's better, but I somehow managed to sew the handle on backwards the first time! I think it looks okay now, but it was frustrating figuring it all out.

I'm hoping I have more luck with the next pattern, which should be here in a week or so.

The other bothersome project was a cabled scarf I was knitting for myself. First of all, I had lots of trouble following a pretty straight forward pattern. I read the pattern and knew how it should look like, but when I started knitting, it didn't turn out. I'm chalking it up to being distracted by the TV rather than several senior moments. ;)  Then, I got about 3" done before I decided I didn't really like it. I'm using a 70% acrylic, 30% wool worsted weight yarn with the suggested needle size of 5.5mm. That size might be a little too large because it's coming out lacy, light and airy and not really thick and cuddly like a winter scarf should be. Uggg...After knitting my husband's scarf that seemed to take f-o-r-e-v-e-r, I certainly don't want to make a scarf for myself that I don't love. So, it sits in my knitting basket at 3" long.  By the way, the colour is a bit off in the photo.  It's a cream-coloured fisherman's Aran yarn. 

I like the middle cable section, but that's where it's the most lacy.  There are holes big enough for my fingers to pop through where the two cable lines come together and then split apart.  I'm not sure what I'm going to do with it yet.  I guess one option is to use smaller needles.  The yarn has been sitting around for years and I was trying to use it up for something/anything, so scrapping it all together isn't a big loss.  Another idea is sure to come along at some point. 

You'd think after all of that I wouldn't try to do any more knitting, however, I'm still working on my temperature scarf. Luckily, it didn't give me any trouble. Here's the latest, with a side-by-side comparison with the scarf from two years ago (old one on the left, new one on the right).

It's a little hard to see, but we've had fewer hot days (red) and more cooler days (light yellow), but a longer more consistent "middle"/orange range.  I'm running out of orange and hope I have enough to finish the scarf in May/June next year.  Perhaps I should go purchase more now before they discontinue the yarn or something. 

Needlework Tuesday is hosted by Heather over at Books and Quilts. If you've done any crafting this week, please head over to Heather's blog and use the Mr. Linky to link up your post, so other can enjoy your creations.

Friday, September 19, 2014

The Night Before by Lisa Jackson

In The Night Before, Caitlyn Bandeaux wakes up one morning, covered in blood. The night before she was supposed to meet her sister, Kelly, for drinks, but Kelly was a no-show. That's all she can remember. Soon, she learns that her ex-husband was murdered last night and she doesn't have an solid alibi. Did she kill him? Could all of this blood be his? Or was he killed by a serial killer that has taken others over the years. Others who've been known to Caitlyn. Fearing that she's losing her mind, Caitlyn turns to a Adam Hunt, a new psychologist, who contacts her after her regular therapist disappears.

I enjoyed this book first book in the Savannah series. I really liked the way the story unfolded and the way Jackson revealed certain parts of the story. It was really suspenseful, but perhaps a little long. I wasn't bored at any point and I can't think of specific anything that could have been cut out, but my overall impression was that it was longer than needed to be.

As the story progressed, I feared that it was headed for a dreaded clich├ęd ending. I won't say what I thought was going to happen because that would give too much of the story away. I will say that I'm so glad I was wrong. It was much more complicated than I had imagined.

I liked a number of characters in the book. What I enjoyed the most about the characters was the way Jackson held back some details of the relationship connections and character traits until later in the book. It left me wondering about some of their motivations at times, but it really added a lot of suspense to the story. As for specific characters, Caitlyn was a little flighty, but considering everything that had happened to her, that's understandable. I liked her regardless. I also liked the police officers, Detectives Pierce Reed and his partner Sylvie Morrisette, who were assigned to the case. Their back and forth banter and Sylvie's filthy mouth made reading about them more fun.

Some serial killer novels come across as believable; other ones, not so much. I'm afraid that this one falls in the latter category. It was just too fantastical and "out there" to be plausible. Despite that, the book was entertaining and fun to read.

I've read one other book by Jackson and really enjoyed it. Tell Me is the third book in the Savannah series featuring Pierce Reed, Sylvie Morrisette, and Nikki Gillette.

Highly recommended. I have the next book in the series, The Morning After, in my to-be-read pile. I hope to get to it soon.

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

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

Thanks to those nice people from Kensington Books for this review copy.

The Night Before by Lisa Jackson, Zebra Books (Kensington Publishing), ©2013. ISBN 9781420133714(Mass Market), 444p.

Extraordinary Rendition by Paul Batista

In Extraordinary Rendition, Byron Carlos Johnson volunteers to defend a man, Ali Hussein, who's suspected to be the banker for Al Qaeda. Almost immediately, Johnson's life is under scrutiny and in danger from both the government and terrorist operatives. To get through this case, Johnson must use his all of his skills to outwit those who have surrounded him, in a world where no one is who they say they are.

When this book first arrived, I found the description intriguing. I don't think I've read a book before that focused on the American legal system at a federal level. Having said that, I wasn't at all sure I was going to enjoy it. I thought it might be beyond my understanding because I don't follow American politics or the war on terror that much and figured that most of it was going to be inaccessible to someone like me. However, that wasn't the case at all! I really enjoyed it. It was immediately engaging and interesting enough that I really didn't want to put it down. It really is a great book!

I think the author could have explained the title a bit better. According to Dictionary.com, the term extraordinary rendition is defined as "the process by which a country seizes a person assumed to be involved in terrorist activity and then transports him or her for interrogation to a country where due process of law is unlikely to be respected". Essentially, detaining then sending a prisoner suspected of terrorism to a country where he can be treated inhumanely in exchange for information. Since I was unfamiliar with the term, I was left wondering what it really meant. If the term was spelled out in the book, I don't think it was done as clearly as this.

While the author included some details of Ali Hussein's treatment, he didn't go overboard with the gory or horrific bits. I think that would have made it too hard to read. That isn't to say he minimized them or trivialized them. What happened to this man at the hands of a supposedly respectable first world country is inconceivable. Generally, the book left me appalled by what a government can do all in the name of fighting terrorism. It's sad, really. But this is fiction, right?

The ending surprised me at first. However, upon further reflection it couldn't have ended any other way. Overall, it's top notch story telling!

Highly recommended. I'd definitely read another book by this author.

For more information about this book or to purchase it directly from the publisher, please visit the Astor + Blue Editions website. Other retailers: Amazon, B&N.

I'd like to thank Nicole at Astor + Blue Editions for this review copy.

Extraordinary Rendition by Paul Batista, Astor + Blue Editions, ©2012. ISBN 9781938231261(Trade paperback), 314p.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

The Girl Who Came Home by Hazel Gaynor

The Girl Who Came Home tells the story of Maggie Murphy, a young Irish girl who set out from Ireland with 13 other members of her town to sail on the Titanic to a better life in America. Much later in life, Maggie finally opens up to her great-granddaughter about that ill-fated trip.

I loved this book. Told from two different time frames: 1912 and 1982, the book is based on true events using fictional characters. I especially love how the story unfolded, but I admit that it was really hard for me to read at times because it was so incredibly sad. I had to put the book down a number of times in order to compose myself before continuing.

Gaynor, the author, used entries from Maggie's journal as well as a few letters from Seamus, the boy Maggie left behind in Ireland, to tell parts of the story. I loved how restrained she was in doing so. It definitely wasn't overdone. She also included some real Marconigrams from the time period, some from the Titanic itself, at the beginning of different story parts.

I also loved the lovely little twist at the end about Maggie. I didn't see that coming, but it definitely made the ending a bit more uplifting. I don't want to say more than that for fear of giving too much away.

Although I hadn't seen any of the Titanic movies/TV specials/etc., I did see an exhibit of Titanic memorabilia. I loved the exhibit, but I don't think I truly appreciated the magnitude of the event or the suffering of everyone on board. Hearing/reading the personal account a survivor, albeit fictional, really accentuated all of that.

This edition of the book contains a P.S. section, which features information about the author, the story behind the book, a glossary of Irish terms, and some reading group discussion questions. The whole thing was worth the read, but I especially loved the story behind the story. It explained which parts of the book were based on real life events.

Highly recommended. I probably could go on and on about this book, but I'll leave it there. I'd definitely read another book by this author.

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

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

The Girl Who Came Home: A Novel of the Titanic by Hazel Gaynor, William Morrow (HarperCollins), ©2014. ISBN 9780062316868(Trade paperback), 359p.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Needlework Tuesday - Knitting...Still

Needlework Tuesday is an occasional post detailing my needlework and/or crafting projects.

This week I worked on two projects. I (mostly) finished the bathmat. I haven't decided yet if I'm going to add a fringe on the short ends. It looks okay without it, but I'm still deciding on that. It really needs to be blocked and I hope to get to that this week.  Here's what it looks like:
The other thing I was working on was the next project in the Mary Maxim's Knit Club of the Month, a mesh type carry-all bag.   I hadn't knitted anything in a round before and I admit I had lots of trouble starting. After watching a few YouTube videos, getting the right length of circular needle, and working the first dozen rows or so, it all started to come together.

I only have a couple more inches to knit on the main part of the bag so you'd think I'd be comfortable with the pattern, but I'm not at all. It's only 4 rows long (2 of them are straight knitting), but every second stitch is a yarn over (yo) on the other two rows and I have a hard time seeing if I'm on track or if I've somehow dropped or missed one of those yos...well to me it's just confusing.

Anyway, in the photo just below the centre you can see a section where the mesh pattern is a bit off. I knew it wasn't right, but I couldn't tell where I'd gone wrong. There was no way I was going to be able to just rip out a couple of rows, so I kept going and eventually figured out that I needed another stitch to get back on track. Since I was already 4-6 inches in and was finally over the beginning stages I didn't want to start again. I've convinced myself that it's only "subtly" different. There is one small part about 4 stitches wide on 4 rows (not shown) where it's obviously incorrect, but I'm calling it character and moving on. One day in the distant future I might make another one of these and at that time I can redeem myself. I'd definitely feel differently if this project was a wearable item or if I was making it for someone else. A tote bag for me isn't worth stressing over.  Here's a shot of the mess...I mean...mesh:    

I'm still loving the colour and I did learn how to do the long-tail cast on, so it's not all bad. I don't think it was required for this project, but in watching the videos it seemed that most people had used that cast on method for knitting in rounds and it was just easier for me to follow those videos if I did it, too. I'm not sure how often I'll use it, but I guess it's something good to know.

Needlework Tuesday is hosted by Heather over at Books and Quilts. If you've done any crafting this week, please head over to Heather's blog and use the Mr. Linky to link up your post, so other can enjoy your creations.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Tangled Thursday - Starting Anew

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.

In an effort to get back on track with these Zentangle challenges, I suggested that we all post something Zentangle related. Whether it be a new creation, a link to a Zentangle-related website or blog, or an old creation not shared before, it was all game.

Since I haven't drawn all summer, I really wanted to create something new, but first I had to find my Zentangle gear....pens, paper, patterns, etc. In case we got flooded, we had moved many items up from our basement, where my craft area is.  Because of that, I really had no idea where my stuff even was. As it turned out, it was easier to find than I thought. Since we couldn't realistically move everything out of the basement, I had just moved some stuff to a higher shelf in the cabinets hoping that would be enough. We did get a little water in the basement, but the damage was contained to the carpet and some drywall...no craft paper or supplies. What I didn't account for was the extra humidity we had in the basement. While the paper didn't suffer damage from direct contact with water, it did feel like it had a little more moisture in it. Next time, I'll be moving it!!! It was still fine for drawing.

Anyway, with my gear found and intact, I created two new tiles.  I figured I'd start with Paradox because that's the first pattern I learned way back when.  I tried something new (for me) with the shading, but it doesn't really show up too well in this photograph.
Tangles: Paradox
The second tile I did uses some patterns that I've done in the past. I wasn't up to learning something new just yet.
Tangles: Well, Tipple, Warped Eggs, Betweed, Hollibaugh, Purk
Sorry about the photograph.  The flash reflected off the shading and created a weird reflection in places.   I'm never sure how to end a pattern once it reaches the border.  Do I draw a line like I did on the left or do I just let the pattern trail off like I did on the right?  Not sure.  Likewise with the string.   Do I treat it was a hard edge or something more transparent? Maybe I'll pay more attention to those two things when I'm looking at tangles online.    

In addition, through my travels I have come across two Zentangle-related blogs. I'm sure most people already know about these, but I wanted to mention them anyway because both contain exquisite art work.  Tickled to Tangle by Adele Bruno and Enthusiastic Artist by Margaret Bremner inspire me every time I visit. If you haven't already, please visit both of these very talented artists.

Be sure to check out the other 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, September 9, 2014

Needlework Tuesday - More Knitting

Needlework Tuesday is an occasional post detailing my needlework and/or crafting projects.

These past two weeks have been busy as far as knitting goes. I'm really glad I have a number of projects lined up to do in front of the TV. It really helps with the stress I've been feeling over our water situation, which still isn't resolved because of all of the rain we've gotten in southern Manitoba.

As far as projects go, I finished all four of the Christmas placemats from the 1st project I received from the Mary Maxim's Knit Club of the Month. I'm quite pleased with how they turned out. I haven't blocked them yet, but I still have a few months to do that. I only made two of the coasters because I wasn't sure I'd use them at all. Here's a photo of the finished placemat:

I also finished the matching hat for the scarf/hat set I was making for my husband. Here he is modeling the finished set:

If the weather we had today is any indication, he might need them really soon.  As if the temperatures weren't low enough, there's a strong north wind that dropped the "feels like" values into single digits.  It feels like late October, not early September.  Brrrr...it supposed to be like this all week.  At least, it's not the snow that fell in Alberta.  Anyway, you can see a front view of the scarf here. After knitting the scarf for what seemed f-o-r-e-v-e-r, the hat knitted up in no time. I was done before I got bored with it.

While I was waiting for my next project to show up in the mail, I started a bath mat to use up some Bernat Handicrafter Cotton yarn I purchased many moons ago. I made a large number of kitchen dishcloths in the past and didn't need anymore, so I thrilled to find a free pattern online for a 20"x"28" bathmat. I didn't have as many colours as I needed to follow the pattern exactly, so I made it up as I went, changing yarns when I felt like it.  It was supposed to be all garter stitch, but I decided to add some seed stitch for texture. Unfortunately, the seed stitch section worked out slightly wider than the garter stitch section so it doesn't quite lay right, but I'm going to live with it.  I'll might try blocking it.  Here's a section of it:

I'll probably finish it within the next couple of days and post a full photo next week.

I mentioned above that I was waiting for the next project in the Mary Maxim's Knit Club of the Month. Well, that showed up yesterday!!! This month's project is a carry all bag. Here's a photo of the project kit:

I just love the colour.  I haven't knit anything in rounds before, so I'm really excited to try that.  I'll be starting that as soon as I get the bathmat off the needles. Yay!

That's it for this week.

Needlework Tuesday is hosted by Heather over at Books and Quilts. If you've done any crafting this week, let me know in the comments.   If Heather posts a linky this week, I hope you'll consider linking up so other can enjoy your creations.