Friday, March 29, 2024

Someone I Could Feel Good Voting For?

You've probably seen this, but I can't help feeling a little bit of hope about this story. I definitely don't, can't, and never will support Trump, but I also think it just might be time for Biden to leave the political arena, even though he is clearly more sane and principled than his opponent. So who to vote for? Literally Anybody Else. 

This story tells us about the Texas teacher who legally changed his name to Literally Anybody Else because he was unhappy with the candidates for President. Chances are that his name will not even appear on the TX primary ballot because an independent candidate needs to obtain the signatures of 113,151 registered voters who did not vote in the presidential primary of either party. That is an oddly specific number but it's also a very high bar to meet. 

But Mr. Else has given enough thought to his candidacy to put his policies on his website. I would love to support a candidate who would work for quality healthcare for every American, improving education for tomorrow, housing affordability for all, and securing our borders responsibly by promoting "legal immigration pathways while simultaneously fortifying border security to deter criminal elements." These items along with his other policies are things that I would like to think all of us want. 

"For too long have Americans been a victim of its political parties putting party loyalty over governance. Together let's send the message to Washington and say, “You will represent the people or be replaced.” America should not be stuck choosing between the “King of Debt” (his self-declaration) and an 81-year-old. Literally Anybody Else isn’t a just a person, it’s a rally cry."

I may be putting this bumper sticker on my car:

This is all slightly amusing but it's also sad and serious. (You have to laugh so you don't cry.)

Thursday, March 28, 2024

A Bunch of Books

Since I haven't posted about books that I've read for several weeks, I decided to put them all together in a book post. They are all Advance Reader's Copies and I enjoyed some good reading!

The first is entitled Same As It Ever Was by Claire Lombardo. I had some trouble getting into and enjoying Claire Lombardo's debut novel, The Most Fun We Ever Had, but I slid easily and enthusiastically into Same As It Ever Was. The description of the story may sound dull and banal, but I found it completely immersive. At fifty-seven, Julia Ames finally feels like she may have gotten a handle on things. She was raised by a mother who didn't understand her and seemed emotionally unavailable; Julia got into some emotionally devastating situations. She is understandably prickly and standoffish, but she marries a man named Mark, has two children of her own, Ben and Alma, and tries her very best, all the while feeling like she isn't doing anything right.

While shopping for her husband's 60th birthday party, Julia runs into a friend who 20 years ago made her feel seen and understood, but also made it possible for Julia to continue her self-sabotage. Claire Lombardo successfully explores friendship, long-term marriage, motherhood, and family dynamics through her stunning writing, taking us from Julia's adolescence through her marriage, to her deep friendship with Helen Russo, and all that came afterward. This is domestic drama at its best; by that I mean a story that is written with understandable emotions and realistic well-drawn characters. One of the things I liked best about Same As It Ever Was was how it made me feel seen and understood. This was five stars for me. 

Thank you to Edelweiss and Doubleday for providing me with a copy of this book. It will be published on June 18, 2024.

If you enjoy fantasy or tales of King Arthur, I can highly recommend The Bright Sword by Lev Grossman. When I read that Lev Grossman had written a new book, I went right to Edelweiss to request a copy of The Bright Sword. It was everything I hoped it might be and more. I read that the author has been working on the book since 2015 and it shows, in extensive research and amazing storytelling. While the subtitle is A Novel of King Arthur this is not simply a mediocre retelling of the King Arthur story that so many are familiar with. Grossman introduces a new knight as the protagonist, Collum of the Out Isles. Collum makes his way to Camelot only to find most of the knights gone and the Round Table in shambles. Arthur is dead, along with most of his knights, and there is no heir. Those who are left are mainly previously minor characters that other authors have not found worthy to tell their stories. In this author's hands, Sir Dinadan, Sir Bedivere, Sir Dagonet the Fool, and Sir Palomides rise to the forefront. It is up to Collum and these not-so-minor characters to see if things can be set right. The Bright Sword has all that we've come to expect from Arthurian legend, magical swords, knights, and evil wizards, but Lev Grossman has written with originality and given characters new motivations that make this a book well worth reading. This was another five-star book for me. 

Thank you to Edelweiss and Viking for providing me with a copy of this book. It will be published on July 16, 2024.

Agony Hill by Sarah Stewart Taylor is the only four-star book in the bunch. It's the first book in a new series featuring Franklin Warren. Set in 1965, Detective Warren leaves Boston because of a tragedy in his own life and moves to Bethany, Vermont as a State Police Detective. There is a barn fire on his first night there, and Warren is charged with determining if the death of Hugh Weber was suicide or murder. Weber was found in a room in the barn that had been locked from the inside, so while things seem clear at first, they become murkier on further investigation.

There are a whole host of suspects and others living in Bethany, and it is a lovely quaint setting with excellent descriptions of Vermont. Several of the characters (like Alice Bellows and Arthur Crannock) seem extraneous and a distraction in this novel, but they may become more important in subsequent volumes. I enjoyed this initial novel and getting to know Franklin Warren and his neighbors and colleagues in Bethany, and would consider reading subsequent entries in the series. 3.5 stars rounded up.

Thanks to St. Martins Press/Minotaur Books and NetGalley for providing me with a copy of this book. It will be published on August 6, 2024.

Lastly, there is
Sandwich by Catherine Newman. 
The author's previous novel We All Want Impossible Things was an average three-star book for me, but Sandwich was easily five stars. It's the story of Rachel (nicknamed Rocky), her easy-going husband Nick, and their grown children Willa and Jamie (and Jamie's girlfriend Maya) vacationing for a week at the same beach house on Cape Cod that they've rented for 20 years. Newman's writing about the mishaps of vacation (clogged toilet, strep throat, and a hospital visit) is very realistic but also quite funny. Throughout the week, Rocky reminisces about the early days of motherhood and these are also honest, poignant, and funny. Rocky is currently menopausal and prone to hot flashes, so we're treated to more humor and realism combined perfectly. The whole book was the perfect combination of realism, some not-very-good things, poignancy, humor, a few secrets, and lots of love, respect, and communication among family members. I'm fairly sure that Sandwich will be one of my top books this year.
"And this may be the only reason we were put on this earth. To say to each other, I know how you feel. To say, Same. To say, I understand how hard it is to be a parent, a kid. To say, Your shell stank and you're sad. I've been there."
(This quote will make complete sense if you do yourself a favor and read the book.)

Thank you to Edelweiss and Harper for providing me with a copy of this book. It will be published on June 18, 2024.

There are currently giveaways for The Bright Sword, Agony Hill, and Sandwich on Goodreads if you are interested. Here's hoping you're reading some good books!

Wednesday, March 27, 2024

Unraveled Wednesday: 3/27/24

I'm happy to join Kat and her Merry Band of Unravelers with a new project. This is the beginning of a Hitch on the Move (Ravelry link). 

There has already been some unraveling. I split the yarn in one of the kfbs, and my attempts at fixing it were unsuccessful. I unraveled 20 rows or so, counted carefully, placed my marker, and resumed knitting. I hope it's okay now and it was a good exercise for me to really get the pattern clear in my mind.

I last talked about books a couple of weeks ago, and I've read several in that time. Since there are four of them I'll be back tomorrow with a post just about books. 

What are you making and reading this week?

Friday, March 22, 2024

Unraveled Wednesday on a Friday: 3/22/24

Ta-da! My Hydrophily is done! I struggled to find a way to take pictures that showed just how lovely it is, and in the end, I took a bunch and hoped for the best.

Sarah's pattern really is a marvel. I followed along while she was knitting her sample and anxiously awaited the pattern release. I think it's a wonder that she could conceive of something so beautiful and then figure out the mechanics of how to knit it. She did that incredibly well and I thank you, Sarah! 

I had an idea in my mind and I'm so pleased that it worked out with a gradient set and a couple of lovely skeins of gray fingering. 

I'm wearing it over my gnome overalls and it probably deserves a much fancier outfit, but until I get my ball gown (just kidding; I don't really have one) back from the cleaners, this will do just fine. 

Now it's time to finish winding my yarn for my second Hitch on the Move. My last one was not quite large enough to suit me, so this time I've got four skeins so I can make it as large as I'd like. That's a good thing but it means I've got four skeins to hand-wind because I'm too cheap to buy a swift and winder. It looks like it's going to be a rainy weekend here, but I'm content to sit inside wind, knit, and read while wearing my Hydrophily. I hope you all enjoy a lovely weekend with things you enjoy!

Thursday, March 21, 2024

A Gathering of Poetry: March 2024

It's the third Thursday of the month so I'd like to welcome you to A Gathering of Poetry. Since the spring equinox happened on Tuesday and we are approaching gardening season, I thought this poem was appropriate. A friend sent it to me over a month ago, and as soon as I read it, I knew it was perfect and needed to be shared.

Compost Happens
by Laura Grace Weldon

Nature teaches nothing is lost.
It’s transmuted.

Spread between rows of beans,
last year’s rusty leaves tamp down weeds.
Coffee grounds and banana peels
foster rose blooms. Bread crumbs
scattered for birds become song.
Leftovers offered to chickens come back
as eggs, yolks sunrise orange.
Broccoli stems and bruised apples
fed to cows return as milk steaming in the pail,
as patties steaming in the pasture.

Surely our shame and sorrow
also return,
composted by years
into something generative as wisdom.


Weldon, Grace Laura. "Compost Happens". Blackbird, Grayson Books, 2019.
You can read more about the poet here
Thanks for reading and joining us for our monthly Gathering of Poetry. You are more than welcome to add your link below if you would like to share one of your favorite poems. The more the merrier!

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Click here to enter

Wednesday, March 20, 2024

Unraveled Wednesday: 3/20/24

Just a quick note: I have a very busy day today and tomorrow is A Gathering of Poetry, so my Unraveled Wednesday post is being moved to Friday. Hydrophily is blocking and deserves to have its own unrushed debut. I hope to see you back here on Friday!

Tuesday, March 19, 2024

Read With Us: Time for a Discussion

I wish that I had had a group like you to talk about The Poisonwood Bible when I first read it in 2000. I gave it three stars, thought it was too long, and wondered why the Orleanna Price didn't take the first boat home from the Congo when it became clear how ill-prepared the family was and how dangerous the Reverend Nathan Price was. I didn't consider what year it was (1959) and that she really didn't have the means (physical, emotional, or monetary) to escape the depths of the jungle. With my second reading 24 years later, I was better able to appreciate so much more in Kingsolver's writing - how she wrote the book, the way she told the story, which characters she chose to tell their stories, and the many political influences at play.

Kingsolver has said, "Before I wrote The Poisonwood Bible, it haunted my office for a decade in the form of a file cabinet labeled "DAB" – the Damned Africa Book. Into that cabinet, I stuffed notes, clippings, photographs, character sketches, plot ideas, anything that struck me as relevant to the huge novel I wished I could write. I did not believe I would ever be writer enough to do it." She clearly was enough of a writer, and I'm glad that I was finally enough of a reader.

So let's get right to it; here are my questions about the book. Why do you think that Reverend Nathan Price is not given a voice of his own? Do we learn enough information through his wife and daughters to formulate an adequate explanation for his beliefs and behavior? Does such an explanation matter?

I'm very interested in many aspects of this novel, and I'll be glad to share my thoughts about these questions tonight during our Zoom discussion. These questions on our blogs and the Zoom discussion are your chance to express your ideas. Be sure to check out Kym and Carole's blogs for their questions, too. 

So what do you think? I can't wait to hear your thoughts!
The in-person Zoom discussion will be at 7:00 pm Eastern this evening. You can send me an email (the email address is in the upper right) to RSVP and I will make sure you get an invitation with the Zoom link if you haven't already. I hope to see you there!

Friday, March 15, 2024

Dinner and Dessert

Sometimes I'm at a loss about what to make for dinner, but I found this recipe and it's a keeper. I made it for John and I and we liked it enough that I made it the next week to take to Justin's. Now that I'm writing about it, I might just make it again this weekend.

I could eat lots of things with a garlic cream sauce.

I used a pound of pasta, half a pound of bacon, half and half in place of heavy cream, and an extra tablespoon or two of ranch seasoning, and it still all fit into a 9 x 13 pan. 

Since this dinner was a good one, a delicious but not too sweet dessert made it even better. I had almost a full five-pound bag of self-rising flour in the cupboard and King Arthur was kind enough to provide a peanut butter cookie recipe when I decided I needed to use it up. This recipe only uses one cup of flour but I will certainly make it again in the future.

It's quick and easy to mix and make and I got 18 cookies when I baked them. This is probably still more cookies than two people need, but we managed to eat them in short order. 

I'm a selfish baker; the big cookie is for me!

Whatever you're having for dinner and dessert this weekend, I hope it's tasty!

Wednesday, March 13, 2024

Unraveled Wednesday: 3/13/24

I'm happy to join Kat and fellow Unravelers with what I hope is a nearly completed Hydrophily. 

What you see above is the first stripe of the last gradient color (on the far right-hand side), and there are four more stripes to go. When I say "nearly completed", I still have 61 long rows left but I really hope I can finish this week and get it into a nice bath for blocking. While it's blocking, my plan is to wind my new yarn for my Hitch on the Move and get that cast on. 

John is the cause of my Hydrophily slowdown. He's had some cervical neck issues that have required multiple doctor visits, an mri, a cat scan when he had an anxiety attack in the mri, and chauffering to physical therapy. 

These things just haven't been conducive to sitting and knitting like I'd rather be doing, but fingers crossed he can resolve this without surgery. We'll see, but that's all the more reason to have a Hitch on the Move cast on and maybe a backup Hitchhiker for waiting room knitting. 

I did finish several books this week. Now that winter is ending, light is returning, and the daffodils are almost ready to bloom, I thought it was time to finally finish Winter Solstice. My outlook is a bit different in March than it was in the depths of January, but MacLaughlin provides us with a wonderful meditation on all aspects of the winter season.

“Winter tells us, more than petaled spring, or hot-grassed summer, or fall with its yellow leaves, that we are mortal. In the frankness of its cold, in the mystery of its deep-blue dark, the place in us that knows of death is tickled, focused, stoked."
I found this to be true and especially agreed with the author when she wrote about our urges to honor the dark with festivals of light. I liked thinking about the universality of the experience, even if the winter solstice occurs at different times of the year for those of us in opposite hemispheres. This is a book I'll reread next winter and I look forward to MacLaughlin's Summer Solstice

As soon as I finished Leaving two weeks ago I looked for more of Roxana Robinson's writing. She wrote Sweetwater 21 years ago and I think her writing was much less developed than it was in Leaving. Sweetwater is the story of Isabel, her life with her husband Michael and his mental health, their struggles with fertility, Michael's death, and her subsequent unsatisfactory life with her second husband Paul. It's told in non-chronologic order which caused me some confusion, but it's also a very bleak story. There was an event that happened so quickly without explanation that I had to go back and re-read to make sure I hadn't missed something. Much of the novel takes place in the Adirondacks and these sections helped me to round this 2.5-star book up to 3 stars. This book felt shallow yet filled with despair, and I would recommend Robinson's more mature writing in Leaving over Sweetwater.

I thought that Languishing was a book that had been pretty much written for me once I read the summary, so I was a bit surprised to find that it was just average after reading it. Corey Keyes first does a decent job defining the terms he is talking about. Languishing is an “absence of wellbeing that millions of people were experiencing but found hard to put into words” during the Covid-19 pandemic. He explains that this state of mind involves a lack of excitement, community disconnection, and “the constant feeling of unease that you’re missing something that will make your life feel complete.” Languishing is not depression or sadness, but Keyes does say it is the opposite of flourishing.

The author then goes on to discuss the daily practices he feels are necessary to move from languishing to flourishing: Learn Something New, Build Trusting Relationships, Move Closer to the Infinite, Find Your Purpose, and Play. Do any of these sound familiar? I haven't read a lot of self-help, but I think that these things have been mentioned in almost every self-help book available. I can't argue with any of them; they are so obvious as to almost be common sense.

While I respect Mr. Keyes' research in flourishing/languishing, some of his action plans seemed a bit vague to me and I'm afraid they would also feel overly forced. I think that the pandemic was an obvious time for so many people to feel as if they were languishing; before vaccines, we needed to be mired in a state of languishing to feel safe. But I also think that languishing has been a "normal" state for me after times of great change such as having children, the kids leaving home when they are grown, changing jobs, or or retiring from work. I view it as a time where I've paused and asked myself "What's next?". It's not just a stop on the way to flourishing or happiness, but using periodic languishing can be a way toward finding contentment. I think this subject and pertinent information could have been better presented as an article or TED talk.

What are you making and reading this week?

Wednesday, March 6, 2024

Unraveled Wednesday: 3/6/24

I'm happy to join Kat and fellow Unravelers on this first Unraveled Wednesday of March. I'm still working on my Hydrophily, but because it looks much the same (I've only knit another couple of rows in the penultimate purple yarn in the gradient) I'll spare you another photo. I was going to cast on for these mitts (ravelry link) but a couple of 65-degree days and generally warmer weather made me think they could wait. But every blog post needs at least one photo, so how about one of the yarn for my actual next project?

Vera has inspired me so it will be another Hitch on the Move, except this time I've got enough yarn to make it as large as I would like. I really, really love this yarn so I am anxious to finish up my Hydrophily and get started on this HotM. I'll have to remember how good the anticipation of a new project feels when I get to the "slog" portion of the shawl. 

My reading last week was all above average, with each of them worthy of four stars. Mrs. Quinn's Rise to Fame is a sweet story about 77-year-old Jenny Quinn and how she ends up as a contestant on Britain Bakes. (Think Great British Bake-Off but with a few welcome changes). She enjoys baking but is a bit wary about applying to the show so she does this in secret and doesn't tell anyone, not even her husband Bernard. Jenny lacks confidence and worries that she might have been cast as a joke, but that is not the case. The chapters are all named for various things she has baked (a chocolate log, shortbread, cut and come again cake, chocolate and orange battenburg, etc.) and most of these bring up a memory or situation that Mrs. Quinn experienced years earlier. These remembrances all up to a poignant backstory. Even though I found this a sweet and gentle book, Olivia Ford's writing never seemed saccharine to me. I enjoyed the septuagenarian main character, all the baked goods, and the heartfelt story. The only thing that could have made this better was if all the recipes had been included.

Leaving by Roxana Robinson was the kind of book that made me want to simultaneously race through it to see how the story was told but still read slowly to make it last. Roxana Robinson writes about divorced, 60-year-old Sarah who recognizes Warren at the opera one night. They had dated 40 years ago but because of youth and a misunderstanding, Sarah chose to end the relationship. There are possibly some unresolved feelings despite Warren being married for many years because their initially tentative relationship soon blossoms into an affair after they find that their tastes, ideas, and opinions are in perfect synchrony. The book brings up many topics, such as the morality of personal happiness, how much parents owe their children and vice versa, and how our family rights, responsibilities, and obligations fit with our choices.

It was a pleasure to read a novel with beautifully written prose featuring characters of an age similar to my own, and I could understand and empathize with much of what the characters were going through. I also enjoyed that Sarah was an independent woman, and that art was important to both Sarah and Warren in the form of opera and Sarah's volunteer work at a museum. There was one character that I didn't understand, and her actions and the reactions of her family members towards her could have been delved into further. Although the ending was foreshadowed, it was still a gut punch and one I would love to discuss. But these possible drawbacks won't keep me from thinking about Leaving for quite a while.

Glaciers by Alexis M. Smith is a quirky little audiobook that I chose from the library because of its cover. Alexis Smith recounts a day in the life of Isabel, a twenty-something librarian who repairs books, shops at thrift stores, and has an appreciation for ephemera. Bits of Isabel's day are told in vignettes, and though this might sound like the slowest story ever, it was not. There isn’t a definite plot, but the book has depth; it’s beautifully written and engaging. I enjoyed the two-and-a-half hours I spent listening on a rainy Saturday morning and would love to find a dress like Isabel's with teal and sapphire black-handled umbrellas. Three and a half stars rounded up.

"Sometimes she envies his ability to forge into the future while she feels compelled to carry the past."

What are you making and reading this week?

Monday, March 4, 2024


I don't mean displays of affection with that title; it's really just a reminder for myself to Keep It Simple, Stupid. The price for a large pepperoni pizza at our neighborhood pizza place is up to $25, and the kind I really like (barbecue chicken) is $35. This place is nearby and has decent (average) pizza, but once the prices rose that much I decided it was time to start making my own pizza at home. 

I bought a good pizza pan from King Arthur, along with their pizza dough flavor and dough improver. I hate having the dough snap back when I'm trying to roll or stretch it, and the dough improver seems to help. Then I started looking for pizza dough recipes. I looked for the "best" recipes online, jotted them down, and I've tried eight or ten different ones.

I was not completely happy with most of them, so I researched some more, looking for that Goldilocks recipe that was just right. I read forums and calculated dough hydration levels, wondered whether all-purpose or bread flour was best, and considered the length of time I was letting the dough rise. I even looked at some pizza dough calculators. I became slightly overwhelmed by all of it and haven't made pizza for a month or so.

Yesterday I was asking myself the eternal question, what should I make for dinner yet again tonight?, and I decided I wanted pizza. While looking through my recipe box, I came across Jay's Signature Pizza Crust. I had printed it out years ago but then decided it was too sticky to use for making calzones. I don't think I ever made pizza with it, so it was clearly time to try. I also decided that I wanted barbecue chicken pizza and proceeded without consulting any recipes. 

And it worked! The dough wasn't too sticky and I did manage to get it stretched out on the pan without too much trouble. I used a combination of barbecue sauce with just a little hot sauce (don't tell John) and marinated a chicken breast in it while the dough was rising. I sauteed the chicken breast while the crust was resting and used both mozzarella and Gouda cheese. I don't like really thin and crunchy crust, so I don't need a pizza stone or special 00 flour. I just need to remember to Keep It Simple, Stupid!