Monday, June 26, 2017

Books, Books, Books

Once again, my reading has been interrupted by other things.  I'm trying something new to ensure that reading doesn't get lost during these summer months.  I have a 90-minute date with a book before bedtime every night and I find that by keeping to a specific bedtime and not reading in bed, the quality of my sleep has improved.

Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See

This was Lisa See's best book yet. In the past we read about California with a China backstory, but the tables were turned this time. This was set in China with a California backstory and as we knew from the press release, it was a story of a Chinese mother and her daughter adopted by a California couple, so I expected a predictable story told in two voices. Not so! We read about the Hill People and their cultural and economic struggles to survive. We read about their minority status and the problem with opium. We read about Pu'er tea, all about Pu'er tea. I was introduced to Pu'er tea through my Tai Chi school, plus two of my friends are adoptive mothers of Korean babies, now grown. This book felt very personal. I loved the ending.

Seventh Heaven by Alice Hoffman

The setting is a Levittown-type of community where all houses are uniformly the same, yet the living is not. Couldn't anyone please love, listen to and appreciate someone else?! These neighbors were anything but neighborly, just going through the motions. As for the children, it was Lord of the Flies meets Long Island.

The writing was so compelling that I kept reading in spite of liking just about no one. The community was manufactured out of a potato field and the people who moved into it tried to create community from scratch. They were going through the motions of living the life they thought they were supposed to live and when they gave up, the solution seemed to be to leave. Nora was a breath of fresh air as she fought to not drown in the community's rejection and to give her sons more than she had grown up with.  Hoffman's choice of title is pure irony since these people were not living in that state.

A Piece of the World by Christine Baker Kline

The story is based on Andrew Wyeth's painting by the same name and unfolds with Christina as a young girl. A childhood illness left her with difficulty walking and no cure for her bone disease. As she grew older, the effects worsened leaving her crippled making her farm chores difficult. A bright student, the opportunity to further her studies to become a teacher were dismissed early by her parents. Her future only left her with two choices, to marry or maintain the farm. Sadly, she had very few opportunities to make romantic connections leaving her with no escape. Christina is not the most likable character, but by reading the book you become sympathetic to her disposition. Andrew Wyeth developed a relationship with her over many years and was able to capture a different side of her in his painting.  I gave it five stars.

Beartown by Fredrik Backman

After reading two of this author's earlier books I received this one up from NetGalley, expecting some light reading but instead found myself in a layered tale of a struggling small town and doing what's right. I'm unfamiliar with hockey and have never seen a game so I found it hard to get into the book at first because hockey is one of the major characters!

Beartown is struggling to hang on to it's ever-shrinking existence. The major employer "efectivized it's personnel" for the past three years in a row and residents were moving away, leaving those remaining to pin their hopes on a successful season for their hockey team - a winning season. If they lost their hockey club, would they next lose their remaining school? People in desperate situations resort to desperate means. That's what this book is about. It's "all" for the hockey club, but what is "all?"

These students and hockey players have been friends since kindergarten, but at a drunken celebratory party something happens that changes everything. How quickly hockey club supporters convince themselves of a lie and turn against Maya, the victim, and throw her under the bus because they're desperate to win. Sune, the team's coach, watches helplessly, knowing that "we love winners even when they're very rarely particularly likable people." And how quickly the lie turns to hatred which seeps through their town all the way down to the children. Anyone who questions their personal actions reminds themselves that it is for the good of the club - they believe that a winning star player means a winning team and a winning town. The beginning was slow for me, but it turned into a page turner, right up to the end.  Another five start book for me.

Oh My Stars by Lorna Landvik

Tall, slender Violet Mathers is growing up in the Great Depression, which could just as well define her state of mind. Abandoned by her mother as a child, mistreated by her father, and teased by her schoolmates (“Hey, Olive Oyl, where’s Popeye?”), the lonely girl finds solace in artistic pursuits. Only when she’s hired by the town’s sole feminist to work the night shift in the local thread factory does Violet come into her name, and bloom. Accepted by her co-workers, the teenager enters the happiest phase of her life, until a terrible accident causes her to retreat once again into her lonely shell. I can't believe I gave a mystery five stars. I always say that I don't like the mystery genre and than I have to qualify that by adding, except for Tony Hillerman. He had an uncanny way of placing me in the story, the sounds, the vistas, the culture - I overlooked the formulaic pacing. After a stretch of years I went back and read them all again.

Oh My Stars is Lorna Landvik’s most ambitious novel yet, with a cast of characters whose travails and triumphs you’ll long remember. It is a tale of love and hope, bigotry and betrayal, loss and discovery–as Violet, who’s always considered herself a minor character in her own life story, emerges as a heroine you’ll laugh with, cry with, and, most important, cheer for all the way.

This is from the publishers review but it was the dose of chick lit I was looking for.

Song of the Lion by Anne Hillerman

I can't believe I gave a mystery five stars. I always say that I don't like the mystery genre and than I have to qualify that by adding, except for Tony Hillerman. He had an uncanny way of placing me in the story, the sounds, the vistas, the culture - I overlooked the formulaic pacing. After a stretch of years I went back and read them all again.

And then along comes his daughter, writing the things I had enjoyed so much but from a woman's perspective. Her writing is literary while holding true to the mystery who dunnit expectations. As a weaver I am especially excited about the culture she weaves into her stories, pun intended. I know for a fact that this is first mystery I've concluded choked up with sentimental tears. I'm a fan.

The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert

I have to write reviews of the books I receive through NetGalley so I rarely write for other books.  Once again, this review is from the publisher.  It's my favorite book so far this year and when I finished reading, I felt like I knew Alma, that she was a real person.  She was very real to me. This is a six star book!

Exquisitely researched and told at a galloping pace, The Signature of All Things soars across the globe—from London to Peru to Philadelphia to Tahiti to Amsterdam, and beyond. Along the way, the story is peopled with unforgettable characters: missionaries, abolitionists, adventurers, astronomers, sea captains, geniuses, and the quite mad. But most memorable of all, it is the story of Alma Whittaker, who — born in the Age of Enlightenment, but living well into the Industrial Revolution — bears witness to that extraordinary moment in human history when all the old assumptions about science, religion, commerce, and class were exploding into dangerous new ideas. Written in the bold, questing spirit of that singular time, Gilbert's wise, deep, and spellbinding tale is certain to capture the hearts and minds of readers.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Mary Mary Quite Contrary

How does your garden grow?  Not very quickly, I can tell you that! Saturday morning I picked up a couple of my prints from the studio to work on here at the house and I got caught up by a sign that said Plant Sale, so like Hansel and Gretel, I followed the signs until I arrived at this residence about a mile from our house.  I put up no resistance.
The plants are hearty and local and sold for $6 per gallon plants.  I bought six and came home to plant them.
They sure look a lot smaller when they're in the ground.  It's been overcast and in the mid-60s for most of June, with yesterday being the first nice day.  It's now in the 80s as though someone turned a temperature knob.  I said I was done planting, but this time I mean it.
This is my favorite outside sitting area and where I like to drink my morning coffee.
My work is beginning to pay off though most of the summer color is from annuals.  The perennials have some more growing to do before they'll flash their pretty colors.  I'm hoping for a showy display next summer.

We have a lot of overgrown junipers that I've decided to turn my attention to now.  They dominate four areas and I've going to just focus on one at time, this being the first.
This is all the further I got after about an hour of hand trimming this morning. Ian is going to have to make quite a few dump runs and it's a good thing it's only a mile from here.  I think if I work a bit each morning that I can make this an attractive plant.
This is what I don't want to have happen.  Our subdivision was built and planted about 1990 and we're not the only house struggling with overgrown junipers.  This is ugly!
I was anxious to finish these two scarves and in my hurry gave no thought to beat.  Never has "haste makes waste" but more appropriate.  I beat these much to hard, and while they're pretty to look at, they're stiff.  I've decided to take a break from weaving for a couple months this summer.  I'm feeling pulled in too many directions.
I think rather I'll focus on printmaking for a while, especially since I can do my relief block carving at home.  The right is a wood block I did a couple of months ago and I did it again in linoleum last week, so Friday took both blocks into the studio to print and proof.  Linocut is much easier to cut but I clearly don't have a feel yet for removing background chatter.  I'll clean up the block and print again.

I've been experimenting with my monoprints and at the present I prefer nonrepresentational abstractionism.  I'm spending about eight hours a week at the studio between my volunteer shift and studio time and feel a lot of relief from my decision to take a weaving break.  I had gotten into a mindset that I "should" weave instead of I "want" to weave.  I have enough inventory that picking back up at the end of summer I'll still have time to weave for the holiday sales.  Weaving pays for my arts supplies on top of the yarn!  I'll be back.

Friday, June 09, 2017

Getting in the Summer Groove

I made a momentous decision this week.  I've put my spinning wheel into it's carrying bag, not to go somewhere but to be stored in the closet.  I've spun almost every day for the past 20 years, that is, until we moved here and there's just not enough time in the day.  Maybe later.
This Wednesday was the first day of the downtown farmers market and we were eager to shop.
The only thing we got this time was salad greens and this $5 bouquet of flowers.  Later in the summer we will need two bags to carry all our haul, especially when the melons are in season.
And this week is also kickoff for the Bend Elks, a college summer league.  Wednesday night is Seniors night so we got in for a buck each.  The kids met up with us after work and it was great - lots of laughter, stadium food and beer, and the game was good too.  This year one of the players is from Bend, a hometown boy which makes it extra special.  Cal played in Little League with grandson Logan and his dad was the team coach.  We happened to sit next to his parents so it was fun for Missy and Josh, visiting with their friends.  It's fun for me to "know" someone on the team.
The planting of the hostas was the easiest part.  Last year Ian pulled up two huge root systems from the Frankenplant that is still vexing us with residual runners.  Think twice before planting Honeysuckle Bush Copper!  The last unwanted plant to come out of this shady bed was a spindly forsythia.  Ian finished that on Monday so Tuesday I bought two bags of compost to replace the missing roots and finished pulling out the weeds and native yarrow.  It's been rainy for the past two days and these guys are loving it.  The timing is perfect to help them get established before the heat hits.  The work was worth it!
I'm still weaving, just not as often as I was during the winter months.  This is from the third of the workshop painted warps and looks like a sunset to me.
I used red weft on the second scarf.  I really like it, but I'm concerned that the curious color combination will be a tough sell.  I'd like to weave the last warp soon, as my granddaughter Alexia is coming in July to stay for a month.  She says she wants to come weave and knit with me and I'd like this loom to be for her use while she's here.
I'm knitting Heidi Kirrmaier's Quick Sand pattern again, but this time in Malabrigos Rios, colorway Bobby Blue.  I had one skein left after Owen's cardigan and when Diane Soucy visited last summer, she offered to send me the two extras she had so I ordered two more from Yarn Barn, for a total of five skeins.  The problem is that one of the skeins from Diane is substantially darker than the rest.  I've spent months trying to figure out how to make this work and finally decided to knit the sleeves first and knit the last 3" in the dark yarn.  I'll do the same with the body and also knit the bands with it.  The gauge isn't right for the pattern so I've done a little fudging but my math-challenged brain believes that it will fit in the end.  So that's what I do in the mornings instead of spinning.  I knit on the patio and have my coffee.

Sunday, June 04, 2017

Another day in Bend

Spring just doesn't want to let go this year.  I had to wear a sweatshirt on my walk this morning though there's a rumor that summer-like weather is coming tomorrow.
I put the cucumber seedlings in yesterday and should have waited a couple more days.  It's supposed to be close to freezing tonight.  Grrrrr.

Ian planted the tomato seedlings a week ago and probably should have left the cover on for a while.  This is my first try with planting my own seeds.  As in everything I learned how to do it better next time.
I pruned and cleaned the lilacs last year and am excited to have cut flowers in the house!  They smell as pretty as they look.
Yardwork is a huge priority right now.  Last year was our first summer here and while we planted some flowers, we mostly performed maintenance, cutting back overgrown shrubs and removing dead ones.  This year is much more rewarding.  We're still pulling up grasses and native yarrow but we're starting establish beds.  It's still early so there's not much to see.  This trip to the nursery we bought hosta which I have wanted to grow forever but have never had the conditions for them.  I naively thought we'd go home and pop them into the ground.  Wrong!  We're pulling up root systems and cleaning up years of neglect.
About the time I get discouraged with our progress, I have a moment like this.  Poor guy.  He was taking a nap under the tree and I woke him up to take his picture.  He saundered off but a couple hours later was back with a couple of friends.  We welcome their grazing on all the native plants in our front yard.
Or I have a moment like this morning.  I heard the scrub jay squawking like mad and it took me a while to figure out why he continued his tirade outside our door.  The bird feeder is empty and I think he's figured out that Ian comes out of the door and fills it up.  He even jumped up on the fence outside our kitchen window and continued his tantrum there.  Maddie was very amused.
I finished three scarves this week, all disappointing.  I need to get back to dishtowels which are far more rewarding.  Ian and I met up with friends for lunch downtown on Friday.  This sticker was on a car that we passed on our way out of the parking garage where parking is free.  Oh wait, Bend sucks.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Not enough hours in the day!

I was really disappointed that the yarn I dyed in tidepool colors in our painted warp workshop was pretty much unweavable.  The slubs got caught in the heddles and I cut it off in exasperation after completing the first scarf.
I put on a 2 1/2 yard Tencel warp and used the pieces as weft.  I figured nothing ventured, nothing gained.
I've been rather stalled on the knitting front since I finished my NCAA sweater so am playing around with knitting bears from this basket of various colors of Cascade 220 superwash.  One bear down, I haven't decided how many to go.  The pattern is available here.
I've been stalled on the spinning front for longer than I care to admit but our guild program this month was on drop spindles.  I had a spindle with some wool/silk on it and it's been on it for at least a year.  I picked it up and started trying to spin again, to the point that it was full.  I have it plied and am working on the second half of the roving which should yield this much yarn again.  I won't mess up my head trying to figure out what to do with it.  Once it's all spun I'll calculate yardage with my McMoran yarn balance and try to enjoy myself until then.
Our friend Petey is visiting us this week so we've been doing some touristy things. The Metolius River is reputed to be the prettiest river in Oregon so we drove up yesterday to check it and it truly is spectacular.
The minerals in the water make it this spectacular color.  This was at Wizard Falls next to the fish hatchery.  The river is fly fishing only, catch and release.
The hatchery was built in 1947 and has dozens of concrete ponds, some no longer in use, and raises both trout and salmon. Water is piped from the hatchery ponds into this settling pond where the sediment settles down and brings the water into purity standards before being released into the river.  All of these fish are escapees from the ponds. When we walked up, people were leaning over the rails to watch the fish and I was reminded of Fanny Bridge in Tahoe City.
I took this picture after Petey tossed in the handful of fish food he bought from one of the vending machines.  These guys are huge.
This pond was the baby fish, ready to stock streams and lakes.  The water is dense with them as best seen in the foreground.
We wanted to get photos of the Cascades but the forest is so dense up there that it was just about impossible, plus the traffic was pretty heavy at the start of a holiday weekend.  The only picture I managed to catch was this one of Three Finger Jack
On the way home we stopped in Sisters for lunch at the Three Creeks Brewery.  I got a kick out of this sign on the window looking into their brewery.  I'd recommend the fish tacos and Ian gave the Thai Chicken Rice Bowl two thumbs up.
My Yarn Barn order of 8/2 cotton arrived along with the chenille I got from their Mill End Club. I've never woven with it but that's about to change.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Road Trip

Friday morning Ian and I drove to Susanville for his granddaughter's graduation from high school, our first trip south since we moved here 18 months ago.  We are totally inexperienced with driving in agricultural areas in summer.  Our car and most importantly our windshield was slathered with bugs.  At times we had to run the wipers at minute intervals just to maintain visibility.  Other than that, it was an easy drive.
Margi asked us to be there by 4:30 for pictures and we were there in plenty of time.  We have a very blended family so this is Margi, Elise, Yolanda and me, the stepmom.  The celebration party was the next day so Ian and I called it a day shortly after the ceremony.
We returned from breakfast Saturday morning to find that our maid was midstream in cleaning our room so we went for a little walk.  It turns out that our Best Western was right next to the Lassen County Fairgrounds and they were having a swap meet.
I don't know why it was so much fun but it was.  I found this Edward Hopper print in a bin of pictures. The glass was missing and the print was dirty and badly damaged.  The documentation on the back said that it was from the New York Graphic Society and at one point had hung in the Burlingame Public Library.  It made me sad to see the neglect.  I ended up buying two brass candlesticks at $.50 a piece.
Our friend Liz Blaustein and her friend John drove up from Lake Tahoe to have lunch with us.  Margi invited them to the party but they just wanted to visit and then head back: a one-hour visit for a four-hour drive.  Ian and I have never stopped in historic Susanville because we were always on our way somewhere.  We ate lunch at the Lassen Aleworks in the old Pioneer Hotel building.  The food was fantastic as was the visit, plus the restaurant was charming.
My daughter Chris and her husband Mike both work at the University of Nevada, Reno and because they had to work graduation ceremonies both Friday night and Saturday morning were unable to come up until afterwards.  They were starving when they rolled into town so we met up with them at Frosty Mill where Elise works.  Table for six please!
Ian took this picture of Elise with two of our shakes.  She's planning to attend the local community college in the fall.  She loves horses, loves to ride and plans to major in agriculture.

The caterer made an impression spread as well as this cake.  Ohana means family in Hawaiian.  And truly the party was a celebration of family in addition to celebrating Elise's milestone.
Goofball Alexia put on her mom's sunglasses and declared herself to be six eyes.  She wants to come up for a month this summer so she and I can knit and weave.  I got permission today from Master Chen to bring her to Tai Chi classes and she's really excited about that.

Yolanda is a high school counselor in SoCal so Mike took the opportunity to talk through an incident at Alexia's school with her.  Some of the conversations were serious like that but mostly we talked and laughed.  There just aren't that many opportunities for our families to get together and we made the most of it.
Yesterday was the first day of summer weather so today between Tai Chi classes I finally was able to sit out and read for a bit.  The Smart program of reading to kinders is over for the year and I need to step back from taking art classes so I can spend more time at home and finish some of the projects that have been on hold.  But for now we're looking forward to a visit from our friend Petey who is driving up from Davis, California tomorrow.