14 September 2014

On To the Next Thing, Whatever That Might Be

Tomorrow I return to work from my medical leave.  To say I am not looking forward to doing so would be an understatement.  However, it is what it is and I know that I am incredibly lucky to have a job in the first place, and to be well enough to return to said job.  Plus, it will be really good to start getting paid again, since I have not been paid during my medical leave.  In the end, having money to afford to live and pay bills does make a big difference, you know?  ;-)

I am a little disappointed that I had to give up my standing desk, per my dr's instructions.  He said that in a year or so I could go back to it, but by then who knows what will be going on at my workplace, or if I'll even still be there - things are "changing" all the time.  Granted, I would be miserable with a standing desk at least for a while, but the good thing about it was that it made me move around more, and believe it or not, I slept better at night!  Again though, see first paragraph - I'll live ...

In the meantime, I've been trying to get some things done that are low-energy but decent results around the house while I've been home.  I finally got around to sorting through towels and sheets to keep those usable, and organize the linen closet.  That was something I've wanted to do for a long time, and I could do it sitting down.  The end result was a much cleaner-looking and better organized linen closet, and some towels to donate to our local vet and one of the local animal shelters.  Win-win.

I also asked The Tim to get out my sewing machine (it is stowed in the sewing table, but is too heavy for me to currently lift), because there were a few things I wanted to do.  I experimented with making some kitchen tie-towels out of some of our extra kitchen towels.  These days, I don't see them anywhere to buy, and we use ours ALL the time.  I had a teeny bit of success, but have in mind what I want to try next so that (theoretically at least) the results will look more like this:

The two that I completed are usable, but I don't expect them to last long due to some things I failed to take into consideration.  Still, I'm on  my way.  

The item I am most pleased with was something that I had been thinking of trying for a while.  I have had a Nook Simple Touch for a couple of years, and always have used the bubble wrap sleeve that came in the packaging with it to carry it around.

I was always intending to knit a cover for it, like I did for my Nook Tablet, but never ever got around to doing that.  But then I had an idea to sew a pouch for it, that would hold he bubble wrap container as well, so it would still be cushioned.  So I poked around in my fabric stash, and found something I thought would be perfect for it.  Some measuring and sewing, et voila!

I put velcro strips on the inside top seam, to keep it closed, but found this button and thought it gave the whole thing just a little more zip.  I am really happy with the result, though I know that the Sewing Gods and Goddesses were appalled that I didn't press the fabric at any point during the process.  But I was on the third floor, and the iron and ironing board were in the basement, so it just wasn't gonna happen.  And since it was neither an article of clothing nor a gift, I was fine with skipping that step - it's not like it's gonna stay crisp and fresh-looking once I start schlepping it around in my bag anyway!

The sewing machine is now put away, since I knew that I wouldn't get back to it for at least a few weeks, since I'm sure that heading back to work will wear me out.  Since space is not overwhelming in our house, it's better to put the machine away until I use it again.

So the last few days of my time at home have been busy but in a good and relaxing way.  Now it's back to the usual, but different, routine and figuring out the cans and cannots of that.

Never a dull moment, huh?

Have a good week, everyone!

08 September 2014

And Here Is Some Knitting

As I mentioned in a previous post, even if I couldn't really enjoy reading while I have been recovering from surgery, at one point I was able to knit basic things.  One of my goals while I was going to be home from work was to knit a little sweater for an upcoming great-niece.  My niece and her husband who live in San Francisco are having a baby girl, due on September 19.  I am not all that sure that they will be thrilled with hand knit items, as they didn't seem thrilled the year I knit everyone socks and sent them for Christmas (well, maybe they loved them, but I never heard one way or another), but since I have knit things for the other great-nieces and nephews, I was going to knit something for this baby.

Normally, I would wait until the baby was actually here, and I was certain the package had been received, but since I know that my niece doesn't read much at all, much less read my blog, I decided to go ahead and share now.

So here you go.

Project:  Arielle's First Sweater
Pattern:  Yoked Cardigan by Hannah Fettig (Ravelry link)
Yarn:  Blue Sky Alpacas Worsted Cotton, colorway 627 Flamingo
Needles:  Size 8US
Modifications:  None
Comments:  This is a very fun pattern to knit.  Though basic, you do have to pay attention.  There is a lot of purling, so if you are one of those people who will do anything to avoid having to purl, this may not be the pattern for you.  For whatever reason, as I was knitting it, I decided it needed to have navy blue buttons.  The ones I ended up finding are not a dark navy blue, but they are a darker-than-baby-blue, and I like the way they look.  This is the first Hannah Fettig pattern I've knit, and it's really well-written.

The little sweater is on its way to California as I am writing this, where hopefully it will be put on the kid at least once for a photo!  :-)

04 September 2014

July and August Book Report

Granted, this is actually more of a July book report, since reading was not something I was able to do in August - darn if those words didn't swirl on the pages when I would try to read something while taking heavy duty painkillers!  But I did listen to an audio book, so there was actually a book "read" in August - just by someone else, while I listened.  :-)

Here you go.

After You'd Gone, by Maggie O'Farrell.  This book was a little difficult at first, as it tends to switch points-of-view and time periods without much warning.  But once I got used to that, I found it to be a fascinating read.

Alice is a young woman who wakes up one morning and decides to take the train to Edinburgh to visit her two sisters.  They meet her at the train station, and stop for tea.  Alice goes to the rest room, and something she sees while there causes her to rush out of the rest room, and back to her sisters, saying she is sorry but she has to go back home immediately.  Without further explanation, she gets on the train and heads home.  Once home, she walks to the local market to buy cat food, and just as she steps off the curb to cross the street, a car comes ...

As Alice lays in a coma, her parents and family gather at her bedside.  The question comes to be, was it an accident, or was she trying to commit suicide?  And what did she see that started the whole chain of events?

As we learn more about Alice's life, childhood, and family relationships, small pieces start to seem to fall into place, but instead of fitting the puzzle together, they just seem to swarm around for a long time.

I thought this was a compelling book, and that the author did a good job (once I was used to it) with different characters' voices.

By the time you reach end end of the book, you know an awful lot about Alice.  Even though she has only been an active character for a small part at the beginning.  I enjoyed this one very much.

Classified as Murder, by Miranda James.  I was in the mood for something like this, and it fit the bill.  It's the second in the series featuring Charlie Harris, rare book cataloger, and his Maine coon cat, Diesel.  When an elderly and wealthy library patron asks Charlie to help with an inventory of his collection, it seems like a great opportunity.  James Delacorte is known as a collector with excellent taste.  But when Charlie meets the rest of the family, he's not so sure about them.  Delacorte fears that someone is stealing from his library, but can't prove anything until he checks, item by item, and that is what Charlie is hired to do.  But of course it can't be that simple, because barely into the project, Charlie returns one day after lunch to find Delacorte dead in his own library!  Was it natural causes, or murder?

In a side story, Charlie's son Sean has unexpectedly come to visit from Houston, where he works as a successful attorney.  This gives Charlie another mystery to solve, since Sean doesn't seem like his usual self.

These books are entertaining and engaging enough to be a fun read.  I am jealous of Charlie, since he gets to bring his cat to work with him ... ;-)

Miss Buncle's Book, by D.E. Stevenson.  Barbara Buncle is a single woman who lives in a small English village called Silverstream.  She is not known for anything in particular, other than living there and being thought somewhat dowdy.

When money gets tight, she writes a book, about life in a small English village called Copperfield, using the pen name John Smith.  To her great surprise, not only does a publisher grab onto it for release, but it becomes a best seller!

That is when Miss Buncle's problems begin.  The folks in Silverstream read the book, and decide/realize that the characters are based on them.   And they do not always like what they see.  It becomes quite a sore spot for certain people, and more than one do everything they can to have it recalled, with no success.  Finding out the true identity of John Smith becomes a regular pastime, particularly for those who feel they were treated poorly, a society leader in particular.  On more than one occasion, she admits to being John Smith, but of course no one believes her.  The ending of the book turns out to be rather amusing, and not necessarily as contrived as it might sound if I described it.

This book was fun to read.  I liked the tizzy that the villagers got themselves into over a book that in the end, was harmless.  There were some really amusing characters, and it was also amusing to be inside Miss Buncle's head.

Not quite the level of Barbara Pym, but evocative of her work.

The Perfume Collector, by Kathleen Tessaro.  Grace Munroe is a young English woman in London in the 1950s who has just learned that her husband is cheating on her.  She also receives notification from a lawyer's office in Paris that she has inherited the estate of a recently deceased woman.  The thing is, Grace has never ever heard of the woman, Eva D'Orsey.  She travels to Paris to meet with the attorney, and to try and figure out what exactly is happening.

Eva D'Orsey's story takes place in the early part of the 20th century, into the 1920s.  Though born in France, she starts out as a maid in a New York City hotel after her parents die, and her aunt and uncle in American don't quite know what to do about her.

The story is told in chapters that alternate between Grace's story and Eva's story.  Grace has had a relatively easy life, though as a married woman she is not very happy.  Eva struggled for years, and had to take advantages of opportunities that came her way, even if they were not always elegant or all that legitimate.

I enjoyed this book.  The story was nicely paced, and the characters of Grace and Eva were interesting and somewhat different.  I liked learning about how perfume is made, and I always enjoy stories that take place in the post-WWI period.  The primary supporting characters were also well-drawn, and I think the author did a good job of making us appreciate each woman's situation.  And in the end, it made me even more determined to visit Paris one day.

In the Shadow of Gotham, by Stephanie Pintoff.  I have no idea how I found out about this book, but I really enjoyed it!  First of all, it takes place in one of my favorite places and times: New York City at the turn of the twentieth century.  But whereas most of the other books I've read about this time and place deal with well-to-do types, this one focused more on working people, and poor people.

Simon Ziele, a former New York police officer, has moved to Dobson, New York, in the Hudson Valley to start over once his fiancee dies.  Dobson is a pretty quiet small town, and Ziele is trying to convince the only other police officer, the captain, that he is not there to put him out to pasture.

When a young woman visiting one of the wealthy families is brutally murdered, Ziele finds himself in New York again, trying to learn more about the young woman and her associates.  He becomes involved with a professor at Columbia and his colleagues who are involved in the relatively new science of criminology, and who are sure that one of their subjects has committed the murder.  Finding him becomes the hard part.

This was a really interesting look into the life of early New York from the standpoints of those who, for the most part, would be considered the "have nots."  Ziele works hard to find the killer, not just to solve the case, but to prove to himself that he hasn't lost his touch.

I thought this was an interesting read, and that the characters were well-drawn.  I certainly couldn't wait to get to the end to find out what really happened!

Birds of a Feather, by Jacqueline Winspear.  I must admit that I listened to an audio version of this book, rather than having read it.  This is partly because, after surgery, the painkillers I've been taking have made it hard to actually read - words and letters seem to swirl on the pages!  So I listened to this book, and admittedly missed portions when I would doze off, but I did get most of it.

This is the second Maisie Dobbs story I've tried, and I really enjoyed it. In this installment, Maisie and her assistant, Billy Beale, are investigating the disappearance of a well-known businessman's daughter.  Their investigations lead to also investigating the sudden deaths of three other women, who turn out to have had an earlier relationship with the missing girl.  As if that wasn't enough, Maisie's father is also seriously injured in an accident at the stable where he works, and she needs to make sure he is recovering well.
And to add insult to injury, Billy has started to exhibit some disturbing behavior, which makes Maisie very suspicious of what he is doing with his free time.

The story moves along at a reasonable pace, and like Maisie and Billy, the reader becomes as involved in trying to figure out what happened to the three other women, as well as where the missing girl might be.

I do have to say that the voice used for Maisie by the woman who was doing the reading was kind of annoying, making her sound kind of fake to me.  But I got over it, and really found this to be a good story right up to the end.

Fortunately, now I am off the painkillers, and can choose to read and/or listen to a book!  The yarn store where I work on Sundays (Rosie's) is starting a Knit and Lit Club that will meet once a month.  We'll read an agreed-upon book and then meet to knit and discuss it.  I really hope it takes off, because I think it sounds like fun.  Our first meeting is September 21, and we are reading A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson, so I'll let you know how it all goes next month!

28 August 2014

One Month Later

Hello again!  Today marks the one-month anniversary of my surgery.  At this time a month ago, I'd been out of surgery for about three hours, and the nurses came into my room and MADE ME GET OUT OF BED AND SIT IN A CHAIR!  My brain knew it was a good thing, but my body was not convinced.  At. All.

I was in the hospital for four days, and though I didn't feel "good," I was more than happy to be able to come home.  It's been painful, difficult, and challenging, but compared to a month ago, I have made a ton of progress.  I walk every single day, twice a day, a little bit further (farther?  I can't remember) each time, which is pretty much the only physical stuff I'm allowed to do until the end of October (!).  I can shower and dress myself, I am no longer on the strong painkillers (though there are times when I wish I still had them), and though I'm not eating a lot, I do have an appetite.

Until recently, I wasn't able to read very much at all, since the words would swirl around on the page.  Fortunately, I was able to do basic (i.e., garter stitch) knitting, so I didn't completely go crazy.

And so, I would like to say a huge THANK YOU to everyone who left kind comments, offered prayers, and kept a good thought for me.  I appreciate it more than you could possibly know, and I truly believe that kind of thing makes a difference in the universe.

I'll be back soon, but wanted to let all of you know that I'm doing OK.  I must warn you, there might be some stories about my surgery and recovery, but you are in no way obligated to read that stuff.  I can also promise though, lots of stories of the kindness of friends, both real and virtual.

So until next time, take care.  :-)

25 July 2014

Quiet For a While

This post is the last you'll hear from me for a while, probably a couple of  weeks at a very minimum.

Remember The Big Fall in June?  Well, they did about a thousand different tests and scans on me during the two days I was in the hospital.  And though I didn't break any bones, and it was determined that the fall was not due to any cardiac problems, they did find a tumor on my right kidney that was determined to be cancer.  As it turns out, falling was a lucky thing, since the dr told me that by the time I had symptoms, there might be very little they could do for me.

So on Monday, July 28, I'm having surgery to remove the tumor.  Hopefully that will take care of it, but if not, I have every confidence in my doctors.  I've been told that there is a good chance that I'll be just fine, I just need time to recover.  I'll be off work for 6 weeks, and I'm hoping that soon I'll at least feel good enough to check in here, and read all of your blogs.

If you would, please keep a kind thought for me, and if you are the praying type, I would appreciate a prayer.  I'll be back as soon as I can be.

Have a good rest of the summer!