Saturday, January 31, 2009

Two Hands are Better than One

Look at this gorgeous lady!!! I am so thrilled with all the work I have done so far! I really feel like I’m in the home stretch but I know it will be a while before it’s all complete. She now has two hands and I am just mesmerized by the movement in the skirt! Can’t you just feel the warm wind and smell the cherry blossoms just by looking at it! I’m so in love! Check out the second flower; I haven’t done the back stitching for it yet. Can you see the difference in the two? The one without the backstitching looks so two dimensional whereas the other one just pops!!! I love it! I love it! I LOVE IT!!!

Books Set in a Well Known City

To Whom it May Concern by Pricila Uppal was an absolute pleasure to read! It is a modern retelling of King Lear and it must be the most dysfunctional functional family I’ve ever read about! The dad is an Indian immigrant who is also a quadriplegic and he has an array of very interesting homecare workers that scatter through his house. Oh and he’s about to go through a foreclosure on his house. His French Canadian wife left him because she couldn’t handle the changes in life after he was injured in the hit and run accident. His eldest daughter is about to get married. His other daughter is deaf and works part time in a piercing/tattoo parlor after school. His son is in the middle of a master’s degree in anthropology where he studies curses and the occult and just realized he is gay. What an assortment of characters!!! This is the story of “a father desperate to protect his modest kingdom, and his children, tormented by their desire to escape.”

The best part of this book is that it’s set in Ottawa! I went to university in Ottawa and I just adore that city and really miss it from time to time. Have you ever read a book that is set in a place that you know like the back of your hand? It makes the story so much closer to you and somehow less fictional. I was side by side the characters while they studied at Morriset Library on the Ottawa University campus, or had a pint at the Royal Oak, skated along the Rideau Canal and then had Beaver Tails and hot apple cider, or wandered through the Rideau Center at Christmas!!! This book brought back so many warm memories that I had completely forgotten about!

Do It Yourself Insanity

I seem to be on a slight Do It Yourself craze lately! I started with making my own cat litter and I have to say it is still working incredibly well! Aside from the lack of clumping, I really think it works better than the regular stuff because it smells so much less! Next, I moved on to making my own bread. I bake rolls and loaves every few days and I’m having so much fun! The bread I bake is so much tastier, cheaper, and more filling then what I used to buy at the grocery store. But, the best part is that the house smells INCREDIBLE!!!! The smell of fresh bread baking must be one of my all time favorite smells! YUM YUM YUM!!!

I’m trying a new experiment now: homemade wine! Has anyone done this before because any tips would be seriously appreciated!? It’s not necessarily wine but more of a fruity alcoholic mishmash but whatever! I had a bunch of canned fruit that I didn’t know what to do with because I never think to eat canned fruit. Well, it’s all in a giant wine jug thingy with some extra sugar and water fermenting away in the basement!!! The kind man at the Do It Yourself wine making place gave me some wine yeast for FREE!!! I just love it when people give me free stuff! Well, as I said it’s bubbling away in its fermenting process and I’ll definitely keep you posted as to how it works out. Wish me luck!!!

Look at these faces!!!

For those of you that read this regularly, you know that I volunteer at my local Humane Society. I absolutely adore helping out there! It’s such a special moment when I get to be a part of a family meeting their newest member; it’s like being in the delivery room when a baby is born! LOL! (Maybe not quite the same!) Anyway, I am so pumped to go in this Sunday because we’ve got a bunch of new kittens!!! I love it when we get a plethora of new kittens! The last time I was in we got this little guy named Danny. Here’s a picture… can you believe that someone just found this little 6 week old treasure wandering around on his own outside!!! Break my heart!!!

We are a no-kill shelter here in Burlington. We only put down animals when we absolutely have to, like when they have a very serious incurable disease and they are in a bad state with it. Other than seriously extenuating circumstance we never put anyone down. We just rescued this latest batch of kittens from another Humane Society that is not a no-kill facility and that had no room for them and so were going to have to put them down. Would you look at these faces!!! They were going to put them down and we’ll be surprised if they’re not all adopted by the end of the week!!! Every time I come home my husband asks me if I smuggled out a new tiger for us and sometimes I’m seriously tempted!!!

And since I'm discussing kittens in this about some funny pics because everyone needs a giggle from time to time!!!

And here's some for the puppy lovers!!!

Friday, January 30, 2009

Unearthing New Authors

Ok, so Elizabeth Chadwick is definitely not a new author but she is new to me and so she can still count as a Newbie!

I honestly adored this book and can’t wait to pick up more! I was so thrilled to see that my library has more of her work!

Surprise, surprise… I am back in the world of historical fiction! The Time of Singing is set in 12th century medieval England during the reign of King Henry II. This novel is all about social ties, social climbing, the restoration of family and titles, and medieval life in general. I liked this one so much because it is completely based on the actual Bigod family who actually existed but no one has ever bothered to tell their story before. Love it!

This author seems to only write about this one era in history and each of her novels follows a different character at a different time or place. Perhaps by reading more, it might feel like a series, but I’m not sure so I’ll have to get back to you on that one!

For some reason this novel kept on making me think of Ken Follett’s The Pillars of the Earth which is a good thing because I loved that one too! If you are one of the millions of people who read that then you will love Elizabeth Chadwick!

Also, this book is 517 pages and so it counts as my second Chunkster!!!! Wooo Hooo!!!!

My cats are circling me; it must be time for them to herd me up to bed! LOL! They’re so funny about their little schedules! Are yours like that too? If I stray from their feeding/sleeping/ cuddling schedule by even half an hour they’re on hot bricks! LOL!

Until next time…(and I promise my next post will be stitch related because I can't wait to show you my progress!!!)

Bubble, Bubble, Toil, and Trouble

I don’t normally read non-fiction because I feel like I’m reading a textbook the majority of the time. However, with this one I made an exception and I’m very glad I did. I saw this book in the new release section in my library and something about it called my name! The Enemy Within by John Demos is about the history of witch trials. I didn’t know much about this topic; being Canadian and not American the Salem Witch Trials were never part of my school history curriculum. (Maybe that negation isn’t because of being Canadian…maybe I just went to a bad school? LOL!) This book did discuss Salem and the mystique that it has created through time but it also went right back to the beginning. It discussed the way our idea of God and therefore the Devil came into our lives and ultimately caused the idea of witchcraft. Next, this book came right back to just about the present day to discuss more contemporary forms of witch-hunts such as McCarthyism. This was a pleasantly interesting read. I think what made it feel less like a textbook was that the author chose to have two vignettes of actual specific case stories in each section which were able to keep readers like me entertained as well as informed!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

My First Chunkster

Revelation by C.J. Sansom

This is the fourth book in Sansom’s Shardlake series; I have read none of the other three and so parts of this book went completely over my head because of references to past events unknown to me. I’ll have to look up at the library and see if they have any more but right now I’m at my ‘hold’ limit…did you know you’re only allowed to have 50 books on hold at a time! LOL! I have issues, I know!!! But a lot of my holds are on books the library is still acquiring or movies that I’m literally 100th in line for!!! LOL!

This novel is set in 16th century England. I seem to have a predisposition to this era! LOL! Perhaps it’s because it was the age of Pisces instead of Aquarius! LOL! I really have to idea. Anyway, I digress… the novel is set around the time of Henry VIII’s marriage to Catherine Parr and jointly the religious persecution throughout the city. Meanwhile, the London streets are being ravaged by a serial killer that is reenacting passages from the Book of Revelations. I am embarrassed to admit that I have only read bits and pieces of the Book of Revelations but from what I understand it’s pretty horrifying stuff!

I enjoyed the aspects of rudimentary science and medicine that this book discusses, mainly the first areas of psychiatry in the Bedlam Hospital. There is a woman there whose only ailment is agoraphobia and yet she has been locked up like a common nut even though she is perfectly capable of living normally as long as she stays indoors. I have agoraphobia!!! I’m not a nut!!! LOL!

I am super excited about joining in on the Chunkster Challenge!!! This is a reading challenge whereby you read chunky books. I LOVE chunky books and so I hopped right on that bandwagon! A chunky book is anything over 450 pages. Revelation ranks in at 550 pages and so it counts as my first Chunkster! You’re supposed to put a list on your blog of the chunky books you intend on reading but I’m going to pass with that aspect. I’ve been reading a lot of library books recently and I never know when they are going to be ready. Thus, I’ll tally up my Chunksters as I go!

Happy reading, happy stitching, and happy knitting until next time!!!

My Cooking Skills are Sadly Apparent

The Book of Unholy Mischief by Elle Newmark

I’m back in Venice again during the 16th century with this novel and completely loving the journey! This novel begins on the streets with a young boy that is on his own and just trying to stay alive. While stealing to quench his hunger, the boy is accosted by the chef of the doge and made to return his bounty. The chef brings him back to the palace kitchens and makes him his apprentice. There are some scenes where the boy, in the middle of the night, tries to create marvelous concoctions to impress the chef. His main rule of thumb is that if all the individual ingredients are tasty then so will be the finished product. I’m personally pretty domestically inept in the kitchen and while the reader is meant to see that his recipes are putrid, it sadly went right over my head! LOL! (There’s a reality TV show… Martha Stewart can come to my house to teach me how to be domestic but she’ll end up helping me put out the small fires in my kitchen while I order a pizza for the family! LOL! I don’t think she’d go for it though… it might give her a small mental breakdown! LOL!)

Anyway, the novel deals with the city’s hunt for a legendary book which supposedly contains love potions, an elixir for immortality, and much other sage wisdom. The novel is a fine bildungsroman. It has a reverence for the mysteries of the kitchen and how food can transform moods and change the course of history. It’s very entertaining and quite funny in portions too!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Flower in Random Places and Hockey Pucks No More

Check out my progress with Elegance of the Orient! Just gorgeous in my opinion! LOL! The shawl is over half complete with the majority of its back stitching done and now I’m working my way down the skirt. The flower on the kimono looks absolutely amazing! There are only two flowers on this and I’m kind of wondering about the positioning of this one! LOL! It seems to be in a rather interesting spot! LOL! It’s been quite cold and snowy recently (it’s -30 outside with the wind chill and it’s so cold that the salt they put on the roads isn’t working! I didn’t even know that could happen!!!) And so a lot of my time is spent indoors with my many projects and I couldn’t be happier! I’m already looking through my stash and trying to decide what to do next! LOL!

I was at my Mom’s house yesterday and she was teaching me how to make bread. Everyone says how easy bread is but every time I make try it turns out like little hockey pucks! I made a loaf the other day and my husband asked when the football game was going to begin with the squirrels! Cheeky Bugger!!! Well, I am happy to report that with my Mom’s help I was able to make two quite tasty loaves! I now know what it’s meant to look like at all the different stages and so hopefully I can do it on my own. (What would we do without our Mommys!?) Hopefully soon I won’t be so domestically inept! LOL!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Shakespeare's Lost Manuscript

The Book of Air and Shadows by Michael Gruber

This story begins with a fire in a rare book store. When one of the workers opens up the bindings of an old novel in order to salvage the pieces, they find in the binding some old letters. These letters tell about spying on William Shakespeare with a plot to ruin him. Amidst these letters there is discussion of an unknown and lost play which deals with the turmoil between Mary Queen of Scots and Queen Elizabeth. The novel is the story of hunting for this manuscript with mafia and corrupt book dealers on their tail with murders and kidnappings popping up all over the place. This story has two narrators; one is an intellectual property lawyer who is cynical and very witty who speaks directly to the reader in a very unique tone; and the other is a young man who is an aspiring film maker and so everything from him has the undertones of a film (i.e. This can’t be the end because we haven’t had a twist in the plot yet, etc.) This book was a happy find for me and I hope it will be for others too!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Archaic High Class Hookers

I finished reading another book by Sarah Dunant, In the Company of a Courtesan:

This book is set in 16th century Italy and revolves around the life of a courtesan. She had to flee during the sack of Rome to Venice and the story shows her getting back on her feet (no pun intended! LOL!) in a new city. The list of characters is very different: the courtesan, her dwarf servant (also the narrator), a blind and crippled healer, an array of strange servants, and a few real historic figures such as the author Pietro Aretino and the aritist Tiziano Vecellio (Titian). Just like Dunant's other book, Birth of Venus, this is a very carnal book but not to the extent of lewdness. There is a hilarious scene in church where no one is interested in the sermon. Instead, everyone is flirting with each other, either for courtesan services or trying to find a spouse! Very funny!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Free Cat Litter!!!!

I'm trying out a new cat litter! I saw this tip on someones blog and thought it was the greatest idea EVER!!!! I only have two cats but I must spend a small fortune on litter and so this was such a great find for me!

Basically, this is what you do: Take all junk mail, last year's calendar, old bills, scrap paper in general and shred it in a shredder or cut it up nice and small. Next, put it in a pot of boiling water with a bit of dish soap for about half an hour to an hour to get the dirt and most of the ink off. Drain the soggy mixture in an old colander and then with your hands break it up into little pieces and leave it on an old cookie sheet for a few days to dry. Sprinkle it with baking soda or some other smell sucking agent and VOILA!!! Free Cat Litter!!! It makes a kind of pulp which dries to a crumbly mess. But it's FREE!!!!

I've been adding it in to my cats' litter box a bit more each day and so far there are no protests so I'm very pleased. The only negative is that it doesn't clump but that's not the end of the world! And since it's free I plan on changing the entire box every few days with free stuff.

The best part of it all is that now my cats are peeing on my Christmas Visa bill and it feels SOOOO GOOD!!!!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Sweaters, and Stitching, and Lists, OH MY!!!

At long last here is a picture of my lovely white sweater:

It’s she lovely!!! I just adore this sweater and it’s SOOOO warm! LOL! I think it will be my new tobogganing sweater! I wonder what I should knit next… I really need a pair of gloves or mittens and maybe a cute hat to match! I’ll have to go through the patterns that are saved on my computer and see what tickles my fancy next. FYI: I get all my patterns off the free database on the wool websites (Patons, Bernat, etc.)

And, here is an update for my Elegance of the Orient:

She’s coming along so nicely now. I’ve been working on the other side of the shawl and I can’t wait to work on the backstitching for it because it changes the whole look of the project. I really do love Dimensions products because of the detail they provide with the backstitching. I love my Lissandrea too but when I work on her I really miss the precision that my Elegance of the Orient has in its detail.

I just realized that I never did a list of New Year’s Resolutions with you. I usually make resolutions and I’ve usually gotten sick of them by about January 2nd. Do you make resolutions? Do you keep them? How do you do it?! Anyway, here is my list of resolutions for this beautiful year of 2009:

1)Finish all outstanding cross stitch projects
2)Finish outstanding projects around the house (i.e. Painting walls, moving furniture, hanging pictures, organizing kitchen and closets, etc.)
3)Work on reading through Harold Bloom’s western canon
4)Lose the 30 lbs of “Happy Fat” that I found when my hubby and I met a few years ago!
5)Earn $1 million dollars….LOL!

Wish me luck with that list!!!

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Small Reading Binge and Knitting News

Well, I was up late on New Year's Eve and I brought in the new year with my knitting project on my knee. I got up early to sew it all together and I got it done in time for our New Year's Day party. I was sitting at the mirror finishing my face I realized just how warm the sweater was. We go to my hubby's family for New Year's Day and the whole family is there and we really look forward to it. However, with all those people in the house it gets pretty warm. So, I took off my beloved sweater and put on a t-shirt instead! LOL! It was the right choice because I was even warm in my t-shirt! Sadly, I still haven't worn my sweater because the next day I was doing crafts with my nieces and nephews (we made peanut butter and seed smeared pine cones for the birds...a white sweater would have been a BAD idea) and today I was at the Humane Society for my volunteer shift and you never know what you're going to get on your clothes there! LOL! Maybe I'll wear it tomorrow!!!! I'll try and coax my hubby to take a picture of it so I can post it! It turned out so nicely! I'm so proud!!!!

I've been on a small reading binge lately! I just finished another one: Pompeii by Robert Harris.

I read about this book on some one's blog and it sounded really interesting. I can't remember whose blog I was reading so if it's you I'm sorry I didn't put a link. The story takes place within four days. The first two are before Vesuvius erupts and the next two are the eruption and aftermath. The main character is the new aquarian of the Augustus Aqueduct. He's the first person to notice that there is something wrong with the mountain because the water starts to get sulfur in it. It was a really good read and definitely interesting to see people deal with a volcano back in 79 AD before they even had the word volcano in their vocabulary!!!