Saturday, April 5, 2014

Latest Crochet Project Started and Finished

My latest crochet project, the Aruba Storage Basket from Crochet In A Snap:
Where the original pattern called for solid colored yarn, I happened to have a couple of skeins of the multicolored line, pictured to the right, which I used instead. Also, I omitted the colored stripes from the pattern - which possibly made the process somewhat more boring. Next time I think I want to try doing this pattern in something closer to the suggested yarns, although I really don't care for Red Heart Super Saver. I find it to be quite scratchy on my hands as I work. Still, for this kind of project it works well, and I will use it again.

One of the things I did like about this basket is just how quickly it worked up. I got it finished in about three days. It's also pretty sturdy, probably because of the way the stitches were all done with two strands of yarn - a first for me.

I found that the best way of dealing with the project was to use two skeins at the same time, rather than to try doing something like winding half of a skein into a new ball to work with. A rather good choice, as I have the feeling that to use one skein for this project, it would have to be a jumbo skein - I used up nearly all of both skeins.

Simple stitches, but some new techniques nonetheless. I like it, and I'll probably end up making more of these storage baskets.

And, a third photo. So cute, I just couldn't resist:

Friday, March 21, 2014

Spring Gardener Greenhouse

I know, I know, this is a book blog. So, what am I doing posting about greenhouses of all subjects?

Well, now we have the house with lots of yard-space and a vegetable garden under construction. So, I've wanted to have a greenhouse for a few years now - especially now I'm planning to start growing things from seeds, rather than buying everything in pots in order to save money.

There was no way we could easily build one from scratch, but we saw a nice little kit at the store: the Spring Gardener Greenhouse kit, which bills itself to be easy to assemble with no tools needed.

Two windows open, showing the bug netting
that covers the inside.
 Of the three sizes available, we decided on the middle one: 8 feet wide by 10 feet long by 8 feet high in the middle. The other two sizes were 6x8x7 and 10x20x9, which we decided would be way too large for our needs.

Our initial impressions of the setup:
Very simple and easy to do, although even with the labeling of the poles and joints, it is possible to connect them wrong. It's easy to fix though, as all the pieces are connected by wing-nut bolts - as they say, no tools (other than a stepladder) needed.

Overall, it took us about at most two hours to assemble and pull the covering fabric over the frame. And then, the two of us were easily able to lift and carry the greenhouse for short distances to get it put in exactly the spot we wanted it. The ladder was used in two places: tightening the bolts along the roof-line, which were out of my reach, and also for making it easier to lift the cover over the roof.
The Spring Gardener Greenhouse end view
with both doors rolled open and fastened up.

We've anchored it down with tent-pegs, and that seems to be holding the greenhouse firmly. One very important thing while anchoring the greenhouse: make sure that the legs are not splayed outwards at all, or the zippers on the doors won't close.

Other than that, which was about a ten minute fix at most, everything with the greenhouse is working as it should be: the doors zip and unzip nicely, the velcro for the windows works, and what's more, it's definitely warmer inside the greenhouse than it is outside.

Now I just have to come up with some plant stands and or a workbench/table for inside so I can work in there as well as having a place for all the seedlings and their little pots to sit.

Once seedling season is over, I'm planning to use the greenhouse for growing tomatoes and peppers - neither of which I've had much luck with in the past in other gardens. On balconies though, it's been a slightly different story - so maybe the extra warmth of the greenhouse will be the trick.

What are your favorite vegetables to grow in the greenhouse? I'd love to know, because I'm sure it's useful for more than just tomatoes and peppers.

I'd also love to know how effective or not a greenhouse is at extending the growing season into the fall and winter for things like lettuces and other greens.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Current Projects

Of late I've been really into spinning and working with fleeces. The current enthusiasm, I think is partly because spinning and yarn-craft is something that works well with the lifestyle I'm trying to encourage in my new home, but mostly I simply enjoy it. The regular arrival of Spin-Off magazine, and other new spinning-related items, including a fleece I have to process and card before I can spin it are also keeping my mind geared towards spinning.

Above is my current project, a 50g Fleece Artist braid of silk and mohair that I got quite a few years ago now. I'm spinning it as finely as I can, with an eye to attempting a chain ply once the singles have been spun.
This is the first of three skeins (two full-size from my jumbo bobbins and flyer) and the third only half the length, yardage unknown that I spun and chain-plied from a pound of shetland rams' fleece - the same ram that I have the last fleece from.

Aside from spinning, I've also been doing a lot of work outside, fencing in an area to use as a vegetable garden and putting up a green house from a kit. The last few things I need to do before we can start planting are to put in the frames for the raised beds, get the soil to fill them and to make a table for inside the greenhouse.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Outlander TV Show Trailer

I'd heard rumors that Outlander, the first novel in the series by Diana Gabaldon was going to be made into a TV show. It definitely looks like it's gone beyond the rumor stage, as I've just seen the first trailer for the series:

I have to say, it looks really good, although that's a bit hard to determine based on only 48 seconds. Still I think I'm going to try and watch it when the show comes out this summer.

It's been a long time since I've been actively interested in watching a TV series.

I have to ask, what are your thoughts on the trailer and the forthcoming series?

Storm Rising - Mercedes Lackey

Storm Rising - Mercedes Lackey
Storm Rising
Mercedes Lackey
Daw Books
Copyright: 1996

The product description:
In Storm Rising, mysterious mage-storms are wreaking havoc on Valdemar, Karse, and all the kingdoms of the West, plaguing these lands not only with disastrous earthquakes, monsoons, and ice storms, but also with venomous magical constructs - terrifying creatures out of nightmare. Both Valdemar's Heralds and Karse's Sunpriests struggle to marshal their combined magical resources to protect their realms from these devastating, spell-fueled onslaughts. But as the situation becomes bleaker and bleaker, the still fragile alliance between these long-hostile lands begins to fray. And unless Valdemar and Karse can locate and destroy the creator of the storms, they may see their entire world demolished in a final magical holocaust.
Storm Rising is the second book in the Mage Storms trilogy, following on Storm Warning. This one and it's sequel are two of my favorites as well. One big reason for that - and the reason I spent several years tracking down the hardcover editions of the whole trilogy: some of the best artwork inside. My favorite is the image from chapter seven of the two firecats. Unfortunately, in the paperback editions (which I'd bought first), these beautiful grayscale illustrations had pretty much become obscured into gray squares.

So, for this trilogy, I highly recommend getting the hardcover editions.

Another fond memory from this series: these were the first books I was reading and having to wait for the next book to be released - the same year I started reading Mercedes Lackey's books altogether. I remember that waiting to know what was going to happen next and knowing it was likely to be at least six months, if not a year before I'd find out. On the up side at that point, there were two series on the go. IIRC, this was the same time the Mage Wars trilogy was being released.

Storm Rising picks up with Karal having been confirmed as the Ambassador from Karse after the death of his friend and mentor Ulrich and the effects of the mage-storms have been temporarily halted. That's on the Valdemar/Karse side of the story. Grand Duke Tremaine has settled into Shonar for the winter, still feeling the growing effects of the Storms, including some truly horrific weather.

This is where the story really starts tying the "prehistory" of the world together with more "current events", as more and more connections with the end of the Mage Wars and the Cataclysm are being made. Hints of it were made through the earlier trilogy of the Mage Winds series, but now it's all being put together.

In terms of reading, I strongly recommend starting with Storm Warning for this trilogy, otherwise it's going to be confusing. I got away with it this time because I've read the whole series several times now, but even so, I found myself trying to remember events every now and again - usually with little luck.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Mailbox Monday - March 17

Since I last did a Mailbox Monday post (it has been a long time), the home for this meme has moved. Now, Mailbox Monday has it's own blog!

The goal of the meme hasn't changed though, and neither has the warning about the increases to readers' TBR piles.

In the last week I've received two items, one of which is not properly a book - I've been looking forward to it for long enough though that I wanted to say something about it anyway.

Spin-Off Magazine - Spring 2014 Issue
Spin-Off Magazine - Spring 2014
The theme of this issue is all about colour: dyeing, plying, blending etc. I'm really looking forward to the read, although I haven't tried any dye-work yet. I'd like to in the future though. At the moment, however, I'm more focused on finding the best way to clean up my first sheep fleece and preparing it for spinning. A definite challenge, given that I had to pick a ram's fleece.

Individual articles include a couple on dyeing with natural dyes - one of which is about using weeds from the writer's back yard. There's also an amazing shawl pattern - the waterfall shawl that I hope to one day attempt now that I'm slowly teaching myself to knit.

The other item is a book:

Women's Work: The First 20,000 Years - Elizabeth Wayland Barber
Women's Work: The First 20,000 Years
Elizabeth W. Barber
W. W. Norton and Company
Copyright: 2005

The product description:
New discoveries about the textile arts reveal women's unexpectedly influential role in ancient societies.

Twenty thousand years ago, women were making and wearing the first clothing created from spun fibers. In fact, right up to the Industrial Revolution the fiber arts were an enormous economic force, belonging primarily to women.

Despite the great toil required in making cloth and clothing, most books on ancient history and economics have no information on them. Much of this gap results from the extreme perishability of what women produced, but it seems clear that until now descriptions of prehistoric and early historic cultures have omitted virtually half the picture.

Elizabeth Wayland Barber has drawn from data gathered by the most sophisticated new archaeological methods—methods she herself helped to fashion. In a "brilliantly original book" (Katha Pollitt, Washington Post Book World), she argues that women were a powerful economic force in the ancient world, with their own industry: fabric.
One thing I need to make clear about this book - which is highly recommended - is that it only covers as far forward as the Mycenaeans according to the table of contents. I'd like now to find something similar for Classical Greece on forward into the Medieval times.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Indexing Names - Edited by Noeline Bridge
Indexing Names
Ed. Noeline Bridge
Information Today Publishing
Copyright: April 2012

The product description:
Don't be deceived into thinking names are easy to index! They can present a challenge that consumes a disproportionate amount of an indexer's time. Now at last we have a book wholly devoted to the subject. Coverage includes names from classical and medieval times and those belonging to particular ethnicities and nationalities, along with those peculiar to specific genres, especially biography, religion, and the performance and fine arts. Fictional, corporate, and geographical names as well as those of royalty and nobility are discussed. You'll find advice on when and how to index names mentioned in peripheral ways and guidance in avoiding the pitfalls of automated name indexing.

With Indexing Names, Noeline Bridge and her contributing experts from around the globe have created an essential reference for all indexers working in the English language and an instant classic within the field.
Names are a key element in indexing any book and it's absolutely integral to make sure that they are indexed correctly. This may seem to be the easiest part of any index, but as Indexing Names soon proves, the job is far more involved than it seems at first glance. The table of contents alone quickly proves that:
  1. The Seven Problem Approach to Indexing Names by Noeline Bridge
  2. Classical and Medieval Names by Kate Mertes
  3. Arabic Names by Heather Hedden
  4. Dutch Names by Jacqueline Pitchford
  5. French Names by Noeline Bridge
  6. German Names by Jacqueline Pitchford
  7. Spanish and Portuguese Names by Francine Cronshaw
  8. Chinese Place Names by Liquan Dai
  9. Hawaiian Names by Ruth Horie
  10. Hmong Names by Madeline Davis
  11. Indonesian Names by Madeline Davis and Noeline Bridge
  12. Te Reo Maori Names by Elaine N. Hall
  13. Thai Names by Sue Lightfoot
  14. Names in Biographies by Martin L. White
  15. Religious Names by Kate Mertes
  16. Titles of Royalty and Nobility in the United Kingdom by Auriol Griffith-Jones
  17. Names in Art Books by Enid L. Zafran
  18. Names in the Performing Arts by Linda Dunn
  19. Name Problems: Dispelling the Simplicity Myth by Sherry L. Smith
  20. The Hurdles of Automated Name Indexing by Seth A. Maislin
  21. Names in Fiction by Enid L. Zafran
  22. Corporate Names by Noeline Bridge
  23. Geographic Names by Noeline Bridge
  24. Using the Library of Congress Authority File by Janet Russell
  25. Resources for Personal Names by Noeline Bridge
Indexing Names is a very substantial reference work covering naming conventions through history as well as in different countries and languages. Definitely worth the price (this is not the least expensive reference work I've bought, but I believe it's well worth it).

Each of the essays in the book is well written and interesting - some of them from more than an indexers point of view, I have to admit. I found the chapter on Classical and Medieval names to be a particular favorite and a fascinating addition to my historical reading too.

Another bonus is that each essay has its' own bibliography and reference list if you need more information on a particular sub-topic. All of this is added to comprehensive examples and tables and clear writing.

This is a book that will be useful for more than the novice indexer - I've seen a couple of reviews from indexers who admit that the book spends more time on their desks than on their shelves, which is something I think I'll find too.

Well done everyone!

Monday, March 10, 2014

New DVD Arrival

A few weeks ago, I ordered myself a copy of From Wool to Waulking: Spinning Wool And Creating Cloth by Norman Kennedy, and it finally arrived today.

This is a short snippet of what's on the DVD (which I am looking forward to watching over the next few days.

I have to say that it was a really pleasant surprise too. I was expecting something that was maybe an hour in length. What I got instead is two DVD's which are an hour and a half each, so I now have three hours of information on spinning and wool.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

A Little Night Music - Kristine Kathryn Rusch

A Little Night Music - Kristine Kathryn Rusch
A Little Night Music
Kristine Kathryn Rusch
WMG Publishing
Copyright: February 20, 2014

The product description:
Andrew has problems fitting in. But for a change, he’d like to stand out for something he does well. If only the adults in his life will let him.  
Another one of Kristine Kathryn Rusch's short stories. This one's shorter than most (Amazon lists it as being only nine pages long), but extremely beautiful and thought provoking. I'm just not too sure what I can say without spoiling it, aside from "I really think you should read this".

I certainly enjoyed reading A Little Night Music, and will probably read it again.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Teaching myself to knit

I've decided, after several years now of crocheting that it's time to teach myself to knit. Mainly because I want to knit socks (Thanks Elizabeth Moon for constantly posting those progress reports on your blog, it's extremely inspiring). Not to mention the numerous other beautiful patterns I keep seeing. This is no slur against crochet. From the moment I first tried crocheting, it felt right, and I plan to keep it up.

Anyway, I've tried learning to knit at least twice before - once as a kid, and once again in the last ten years or so (after I started spinning). The last time I gave it a very brief try was last year - didn't even go a day before giving up.
This time though, I'm going with a different book. Last time it was the Dummies knitting book, but this time I'm going with one that a former co-worker recommended several years ago: the Stitch'n'Bitch Knitters Handbook. At the time, the store didn't have it in, but did have the Crochet book, so I went with that with quite a bit of success.

The recommendation was backed up today by the two workers at my local yarn store, so I decided to go for it. Enough talk about learning to knit, it's time to actually go through with teaching myself.

So, I'm working on trying to remember how to cast on. Which I seem to have succeeded at, although right now it's driving me a bit nuts (second try). First try ended up too tight, and I have the feeling that the second try is going to do the same thing. I'd go to a larger needle set, but I'm working from a miscellaneous collection gifted to me from a couple of different sources. As a result, I've got a lot of fine and medium (many of which have no size markings) and then it jumps to quite a bit larger. Guess I might end up doing some poking around at the Salvation Army Thrift Store next time I'm there.

Of course, that issue doesn't help with the bad habit of the loop I'm working with slipping off the needle every now and again - usually taking the next stitch with it too, which slows me down even further.

Still, I'm remembering how to cast on, which makes me happy as the only method at the beginning of the book is the one I've been told is the long-tail cast on: Debbie Stoller calls it the double cast on.

Reflecting on Droplets

Or, I've been playing with photography again. This time, thanks to the snowy weather over the last few days, combined with sunshine today, I've been having some fun with my macro lens. These two photos are the best of the resulting shots.
The above photo was taken yesterday while it was still snowing.

What a difference the sun makes. Both shots might have been even better had I been using a tripod instead of merely hand-holding the camera, but I'm happy enough with them for now - a.k.a. I'm too lazy to want to take my tripod out in foot deep snow and then have to clean it up again.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Cute Cats

I've been on a bit of a humor/cat photography book kick of late. For the sake of my (and your) sanity, I'm just going to group the books I'm referring to here in one post. I just don't think there's enough to them to be able to do them justice in solo reviews. At the same time, I still want to say something about them.

Cat's Cradle
Cat's Cradle
Ron Spillman, Jack Ramsay, Paul Dehn
Copyright: 1961

An oldie and a goodie. I've been reading this one for years now - it was given to my Mom when she was young. Every time I read it, it brings a smile to my face - especially now when I've had two kittens (now cats). The antics that the kitten and puppy get into in Cat's Cradle are exactly the kind of things I found Maddie and Jenny doing when they were kittens (and still do to some extent, though it's less cute now they've grown up).

The black and white photographs in here are sure to bring a smile to any cat-lover's face, as is the text, although some of the references are a bit dated.


Ernie: A Photographer's Memoir - Tony Mendoza
Ernie: A Photographer's Memoir
Tony Mendoza
Chronicle Books
Copyright: 2001

The product description:
Ernie: A Photographer's Memoir was first published by a small Santa Barbara press in 1985. By all accounts, Ernie was a phenomenon, selling an estimated 100,000 copies. Photographer Tony Mendoza had captured the mercurial character of that irascible, self-possessed, utterly lovable cat, telling the curiously moving story of their relationship in the voices of both himself and Ernie. Our beautifully produced hardcover edition of this classic tale is poised to charm legions of new readers. Featuring never-before-published pictures, and a few more private thoughts from Ernie himself, Ernie is sure to steal hearts all over again.
Another of Mom's books, and another one that will bring a smile to any cat-lover's face. The photos in this book are amazing and yet again you'll see your own cat in Ernie. The dual perspectives in the book are amusing too, as the text is a combination of Tony Mendoza and the thoughts of Ernie, the cat.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Centaur Photomanipulation

On occasion I like to post my attempts at either photography or photomanipulation to my blog. In recent months, it's been more photomanipulation than photography, and I realized I hadn't yet posted my most recent attempt.

In A Hurry by Endaewen on deviantART

To be honest, I'm not completely happy with how this one turned out. On the other hand, I'm not too experienced with blending yet, so next time should work out a bit better. I know I need to work on getting the lighting of the two images to blend a bit better in the future.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Dragonflight - Anne McCaffrey

Dragonflight - Anne McCaffrey
Anne McCaffrey
Ballantine Books
Copyright: 1968

The blurb:

To the nobles who live in Benden Weyr, Lessa is nothing but a ragged kitchen girl. For most of her life she has survived by serving those who betrayed her father and took over his lands. Now the time has come for Lessa to shed her disguise—and take back her stolen birthright.

But everything changes when she meets a queen dragon. The bond they share will be deep and last forever. It will protect them when, for the first time in centuries, Lessa’s world is threatened by Thread, an evil substance that falls like rain and destroys everything it touches. Dragons and their Riders once protected the planet from Thread, but there are very few of them left these days. Now brave Lessa must risk her life, and the life of her beloved dragon, to save her beautiful world. . . .
The Dragonriders of Pern - Anne McCaffreyDragonflight is the first book in the Dragonriders of Pern trilogy. The sequels are Dragonquest and The White Dragon, all three of which are gathered together in the Dragonriders of Pern omnibus edition.

To be honest, I was trying to read the whole trilogy - it's only the omnibus edition that I own, but I stalled out again on Dragonquest, even though I really enjoyed my re-read of Dragonflight and I want to re-read The White Dragon. I think it's something about the omnibus edition making me feel as though I have to read all three at once rather than take breaks for other books in between. So. I'm treating the three as separate books this time around.

My re-read was inspired by reading the book of tributes to Anne McCaffrey: Dragonwriter. As a result of that read, I was noticing a lot more of some of the elements of the story - especially the lyrics at the beginnings of each chapter as well as descriptive and character elements.

This is definitely a trilogy that's stood up well to the test of time, I have to say: the original copyright for Dragonflight is 1968 and there's nothing about it that feels dated almost fifty years later - at least not that I noticed. A couple of quirky things that contradict later canon, but I think you almost have to be looking for them to notice them though.

Despite my trouble at the moment with continuing on in my read to the next book, I definitely enjoyed re-reading Dragonflight and would recommend it easily.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Dragonwriter: A Tribute to Anne McCaffrey and Pern - Todd McCaffrey
Dragonwriter: A Tribute to Anne McCaffrey and Pern
Editor: Todd McCaffrey
Smart Pop Publishing
Copyright Date: August 2013

The product description:
When Anne McCaffrey passed in November 2011, it was not only those closest to her who mourned her death; legions of readers also felt the loss deeply. The pioneering science fiction author behind the Dragonriders of Pern® series crafted intricate stories, enthralling worlds, and strong heroines that profoundly impacted the science fiction community and genre.

In Dragonwriter, Anne’s son and Pern writer Todd McCaffrey collects memories and stories about the beloved author, along with insights into her writing and legacy, from those who knew her best. Nebula Award–winner Elizabeth Moon relates the lessons she learned from Pern’s Lessa (and from Lessa’s creator); Hugo Award–winner David Brin recalls Anne’s steadfast belief that the world to come will be better than the one before; legendary SFF artist Michael Whelan shares (and tells stories about) never-before-published Pern sketches from his archives; and more.

Join Anne’s co-writers, fellow science fiction authors, family, and friends in remembering her life, and exploring how her mind and pen shaped not only the Weyrs of Pern, but also the literary landscape as we know it.

Contributors include:

• Angelina Adams
• David Brin
• David Gerrold
• John Goodwin
• Janis Ian
• Alec Johnson
• Georgeanne Kennedy
• Mercedes Lackey
• Sharon Lee and Steve Miller
• Lois McMaster Bujold
• Elizabeth Moon
• Charlotte Moore
• Robert Neilson
• Jody Lynn Nye and Bill Fawcett
• Robin Roberts
• Elizabeth Ann Scarborough
• Wen Spencer
• Michael Whelan
• Richard J. Woods
• Chelsea Quinn Yarbro
From the time I first heard about this book - probably last August or September, I knew I wanted to read it. Probably not for quite the same reasons that other readers may have jumped on the book when it came out though. I wanted to read it mostly for the essays by Mercedes Lackey and Elizabeth Moon, two of my favorite authors.

However, on finishing my read of Dragonwriter, I have a new appreciation for Anne McCaffrey and her books - as well as a burning desire to do some re-reading, including those books I don't own, such as The Ship Who Sang, which a lot of the writers in this book were writing about (including the above-mentioned essay by Mercedes Lackey).

Dragonwriter includes essays from Anne McCaffrey's family, people who knew her from conventions such as Dragon*Con, Michael Whelan (who did the cover art for many of the Pern books), musicians who wrote music to go with the lyrics that Anne included in her books and other authors.

Every essay essay was beautiful, be it on Anne McCaffrey's life, her writing, or the impact that both her books and she herself had on the people who knew her. I was left with a lump in my throat on reading Dragonwriter, and a desire to go out and find some of the books by the other authors who wrote these essays - most of whom I've not read.

Honestly, I'm trying to pick out a favorite essay or two to give especial mention to, but I'm having a really hard time doing so. They're all favorites.

I think that all I can say is that if you were a fan of Anne McCaffrey and the Pern books, and you haven't taken the time to read Dragonwriter, you really should. I'm off to see if I can manage to find my copy of The Dragonriders of Pern omnibus edition, which I can't remember if I've seen since my move.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...