Posts Tagged 'book review'

March Update

I’m not exactly sure how, but March appears to have arrived.  And with March, Autumn has also arrived.  Just 7 days in and already mornings are darker, and colder. The weather is much more changeable, with rainy days alternating with fine days.  This morning we woke to the mountain dusted with its first sprinking of snow.  The girls had gone to bed in their summer jammies the night before… maybe for the last time this season, unless we have an unseasonably warm spell I guess! 

Of course autumn and winter are lovely times for year for knitters. Already I seem to have more ideas on what to knit, and am starting to put together a ‘knit list’ for the girls and I.  I do have a few finished items to photograph, so I’ll rope in DS tomorrow to get some pictures to share.

In the meantime I’ll show you my latest toy…

Yep ( my sister will likely be laughing now as she showed off her Nook to me at Christmas time…) I decided it was time I got with the information age and bought a Kindle.  It’s been a lot of fun getting used to it, and it has been fabulous so far.  I have read a number of books on it already, including some bought for very little.  Notably I bought, for the grand sum of 99c US a copy of The Works of L.M. Montgomery and have spent some weeks reading through old favourites: Anne of Green Gables, Anne of Avonlea, Anne of the Island, Anne’s House of Dreams, Rainbow Valley, and Rilla of Ingleside.  In fact I don’t know if I ever read the last of these novels, I didn’t recall at all the final book which is set during the first World War.  There are four more books in the collection to read, but I’ve put these aside for now. 

I’ve also read a few of the free books, most of them are short and easily read… After the Leaves Fall, Homespun Bride, Goodness Gracious Green, Just as I am, and Stuck in the Middle.  None of them are hugely recommended but neither are any of them awful.  Very light reading!

One book that came highly recommended to me was Room by Emma Donoghue.  A stunningly written book, I loved the language and viewpoint: it’s narrated by a five year old who has never been outside the room that he shares with his mother: never been outside, or seen the world outside his room. The characterisation of Jack is great – his development throughout the novel and looking back at how he became to be the unique character he is, is very insightful.  His Ma is also really well written, she and her actions really resonate.  It’s not a cheerful story, but it is well worth reading.  I can’t recommend this highly enough for both the quality of the writing, and the story. I’m delighted to hear that it has been shortlisted for the Man Booker prize – it’s certainly a quality piece of writing that deserves recognition.

Or if you want some light reading, I can recommend the Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder by Joanne Fluke. It’s the first in a series that are available either on Kindle or the old fashioned paper copies.  The heroine, Hannah Swensen mixes cookie dough and runs of cookie/coffee shop as a job and dabbles in solving murders in her spare time. Filled with delectable sounding recipes, this is probably not recommended for people on diets… But for the interests of reporting in here, I felt it important to bake at least one of the recipes and report back!  I chose the Chocolate Chip Crunch Cookies, and they were a huge success.

I wasn’t sure about putting the recipe here, but a quick online search showed me it’s already published online, so here goes (with thanks to About.com.

Chocolate Chip Crunch Cookies
1 cup butter (2 sticks melted)
1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 tsp vanilla
2 beaten eggs (beat with fork)
2 1/2 cups flour (not sifted)
2 cups crushed corn flakes
(crush them with your hands)
1 – 2 cups chocolate chips
Melt butter, add the sugars and stir. Add soda, salt, vanilla and beaten eggs. Mix well. Then add flour and stir it in. Add crushed corn flakes and chocolate chips and mix it all thoroughly.Form dough into walnut-sized balls with your fingers and place on a greased cookie sheet, 12 to a standard sheet. Press them down with a floured or greased fork in a crisscross pattern (the same method as peanut butter cookies).

Bake at 375 degrees for 10 minutes. Cool on cookie sheet for 2 minutes and then remove to a wire rack until they’re completely cool. (The rack is important — it makes them crisp).  I made around 60 cookies from this size mix.  They didn’t last the week out. All gone.

I also tested the Pecan Chews recipe – and since I found that on Wikipedia, I’ll pop it on here too… But with a warning. Miss 4 told me that they were ‘bland’. It’s her new favorite word. I didn’t think they were bland. But I did need to add another half cup of flour to the recipe so it wasn’t so sticky.

Pecan Chews Hannah Swensen Cookie Recipe from Joanne Fluke’s book, “The Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder”

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, rack in middle of oven.

1 Cup butter 3 Cups brown sugar 4 eggs, beaten with a fork 1 tsp salt 1 tsp baking soda 3 tsp vanilla 2 Cups finely chopped pecans 4 Cups flour, unsifted

Melt butter. Add sugar and mix. Add eggs and mix. Add salt, soda and vanilla and mix. Add pecans and flour and mix thoroughly.

Roll into walnut-sized balls. If dough is too sticky, chill for an hour or so and try again. 12 cookies per sheet. Flatten balls with spatula. Bake at 350 for 10–12 minutes.

Cool for a minute or so on cookie sheet, then move to cooling racks. Don’t leave too long on cookie sheets after baking because these cookies will stick.

I halved this recipe, so got around 40 cookies. They also disappeared quick smart (I made the batches a week of so apart…) and I think everyone liked them. Or maybe they were just pleased to get a break from food with zuchinni and/or lemons in them. 

I do have a couple more books I’ve read since I last posted about reading here, but I can’t think what they were right now – so I’ll check my bookshelf and fill you in more later.

Shortly Reads Too…

 I know it’s not *exactly* the start of the new year anymore, but I thought that I’d try to keep a record of what I’ve been reading this year, and  here seemed as good as any other place. I read a lot, probably about as much as I knit, so it will give me a little more to talk about 😀

So, for starters, here’s the pile of reading I finished while I was on holiday in Christchurch. I took the picture on the windowsill of our bedroom at my parents-in-law’s house.  Looking out at a lovely day in their country idyll. Seems a million miles away from our rainy windy Taranaki day today, that’s for sure!!  Anyway, I was able to start the year with a few nice new books thanks to some Christmas gifts and gift cards for bookshops. I also had a few reward vouchers for Whitcoulls. And I was horrified at the price of new books – I’ve been largely subsisting on library books and second hand books for a long while now… However, that aside it was nice to add a few new books to my collection.

First up was Freya North’s Secrets.  Chicklit. Need I say more? Lightweight, inoffensive, a bit more sex than the average novel perhaps, but a pleasant enough read.  I picked this one up cheap from a remainder bin… And it was a nice light piece of reading for the start of the holiday.

The next in the stack is the last one I finished, Owen Marshall’s book of poetry titled Sleepwalking in Antarctica and other poems.  I was gifted this by my PIL for Christmas – a signed copy no less. Lovely! I really enjoyed reading this collection, some of which are about Marshall’s time  in Antartctic as  an Antartica Fellow in 2010.  While his’ poems about Antarctica are nice, I found his poetry about life in general, especially life in New Zealand particularly enjoyable and touching.  A favourite pair are Motel Diary and The Roosting Tree which created a touching contrast between the ‘numbered crypt of/throughfare’ and the importance of having a roosting place of one’s own ‘some high, safe place/of happy congregation when/the night is cloaked for/hunting.’  I also enjoyed several poems about dating or former loves, especially Flashback and From the Back it was Just Like You.  My parents in law try very hard to choose an appropriate book for me, and this time they, again, hit the nail on the head  – a lovely, light read, and a very enjoyable collection from Marshall.

The final three books all come highly recommended – if you don’t mind losing several days in reading them that is!

I read The Gurnsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Anne Shaffer and Annie Barrows with a large degree of enjoyment – it is set in World War Two England and Gurnsey Islands.  I’m very fond of historical novels – and this was both a well written story and enlightening in terms of the history at the time.  The book consists of letterns, narrative, different points of view, and sympathetically presented characters.  A great read – I hope you enjoy Juliet Ashton and the cast of characters from Gurnsey’s book club as much as I did if you read this book!

The final two books of the Millenium Trilogy, The Girl Who Played With Fire, and The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest, were totally absorbing.  I stayed up altogether too late on more than one occasion while reading these books.  I hadn’t bought into them previously, but a conversation with a workmate last year planted a seed of curiosity in my mind (after he and his wife saw the movie of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo). When I realised these were thrillers, I was suddenly more keen to read them.  And I’m super glad I did – Stieg Larsson has written superbly crafted novels – I think I possibly enjoyed the first one the best, but they are full of twists and turns in their plots. Not in a one-upmanship type of way I’ve seen authors write (I’m looking at you, Dan Brown) but in an authentic way that links to the complex characters who he has created.  Lisbeth Salander is a someone who finds it hard to understand ‘read’ other people, but it certainly is not hard to find yourself sympathising with her.  Mikael Blomkvist is not someone I’d probably like in real life, but again he makes an excellent hero – someone multi-faceted, loyal, determined and intelligent.  I finished my year’s reading with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and was super glad the other two books were available straight away, I don’t like waiting for my sequels!

I should probably write about books soon after reading them rather than waiting several weeks as it makes it harder to write about them – so I’ll try to update my reading list in the next couple of days before my next few books all begin to blur together!

#18 It’s not just me who is knitting obsessed

Well, meyKADD buddies, nice to see some of you coming out of the woodwork. Thanks for putting your knitting needles long enough to comment 🙂 Those of you that did…

Rachelle commented that spinning is yet another symptom of knitter’s ADD… I have to confess that there’s a lovely bunch of spinners in my local knitting group who produce tempting yarns for us to admire. They also show off the most stunning batts of fibre in tempting combinations of fibres. But I just can’t help thinking of all the knitting that they are missing out on when they are spinning.

Anyway, I digress. I wanted to show you a lovely book that we picked up at the library this past Sunday.  It’s a children’s book called Milo Armadillo by Jan Fearnley.  Now, to set the context: we visit the library fortnightly on a Sunday. Sundays are cruisy days for us. It’s my appointed sleep in day, and the instant I get up I get smothered in cuddles and demands to make pancakes. Pancakes despatched the girls are usually full of fun but eventually we get shoes and socks on and away we go.  The library is in the centre of our small town, but so are many churches and parking is at a premium. It was raining here this Sunday and after circling the block a couple of times we settled for a P30 park right in front of the library.  After just one right up the two-storey escalator and down the steps, the girls went with Daddy downstairs to the children’s section while I selected my books. When I got to the basement I discovered… the children’s section had been turned into a stage for Indian dancers!

But they hadn’t started yet. 

I got ‘permission’ from the librarian to pop in and choose some books. Usually it’s a leisurely activity, but this visit was rather rushed as I didn’t have a sari, any ankle bells, and I certainly didnt’ know the steps! Plus my car park would run out…

So, I hurriedly selected a handful of books, some old favourites and some by familiar authors. But Milo Armadillo caught my eye.

Miss 4 has been delighted not just with the story, but with the gorgeous illustrations too. And in the story, there’s knitting! I love me a good knitting story. And in this story, Talullah’s grandmother knits her an… armadillo.  A pink fluffy armadillo.

Miss 4 is delighted with the illustrations and spends ages looking at the details, exclaiming over new things each time “Look, there’s knitty Mum!”… “Even that cloud is made from knitty!” Seems I’m not the only one who is knitting obsessed: me, Miss 4, and the illustrator of Milo Armadillo makes three.

What a fortuitous chain of events to lead us to such a lovely book. I think it will be one we search for on the shelves again and again.

Book Review 1

I was a very lucky girl for my birthday – one of my gifts was a gift voucher to Amazon.co.uk.  Given that reading books are easily borrowed from our library or picked up cheaply from our local hospice shop, I thought it would be a good opportunity to build up my knitting library a little more.  The voucher in pounds went a rather long way, so I’ll split up the reviews of the books over several posts so that you don’t get overwhelmed, and so that I have something to post about.

For today, I’ll post about my favourite of the books I bought, which is New England Knits by Cecily Glowick MacDonald and Melissa LaBarre.

 

I ordered this sight unseen, just going on what I knew of Melissa LaBarre’s designs, and I am really happy that I did.  It is a beautifully presented book, really evocative of the New England area, and has lovely photography.  And all of that in addition to the 25 knitting patterns.

Many of the patterns are for tunics, sweaters of hoodies – in fact that takes care of 18 patterns. There are also a number of accessories – two hats, a bag, gloves, a cowl, and even a skirt.  I adore the sweater on the cover, and also the Providence Hoodie, below.

 

This tunic, the Greylock tunic,  looks fun, for those who are enjoying warmer weather than we are.

Perhaps this cardigan might be my first knit from the book though:

This is the Greenfield Cardigan, and I love its simple lines and cute leaf detail. 

You can see it’s knit in garter stitch – excellent for the lazy knitters or as an in-between project, and DK weight yarn is readily available here, so I might check out my stash to see what it offers.

I do have a decided preference for LaBarre’s designs – although that was the case before I bought the book too, so that’s no surprise. She designed several things I have knit in the past, including the Garter Yoke Cardigan and the Tea Leaves cardigan which is currently awaiting a FO photo. She also designs super cute hats, and I knit a couple of her Crooked Paths berets earlier this year.  So, if you like to knit seamless garments from the top down, usually with a yoke rather than raglan increases, you might well like this book as much as I do – certainly a good buy!

Birthday girl or mutant?

I had a birthday this week. And, lucky me, I have a husband who is well trained. He *asked* me what I wanted, and top of my list were two sock knitting books. I told you I was addicted to sock knitting, eh?

First on my wish list was Sock Innovation by Cookie A. I drooled over the patterns when it first came out, and having seen some finished products on Ravelry, I’m still drooling now. Only one problem – it’s sold out on Amazon! So, this part of my birthday present will be delivered in a couple of months time. One way to prolong the celebrations.

And second on my list was Wendy Johnson’s Socks From The Toe Up.  This is newly published, so I thought that I could offer a bit of a review.

First, this is a beautiful book, with lovely clear illustrations, each sock is pictured numerous times, taken from different angles. The patterns in the book are intended for solid of semi-solid yarns and are pictured in a range of lovely colours and beautiful yarns. The layout of the book is logical and accessible. Beginning with a section on techniques, it then moves through three basic sock patterns, and then onto sections on lace socks, gansey socks, cabled socks and sportweight socks. Within each of these sections there is a range of patterns, and all begin with the most simple patterns first and get progressively more challenging.  This allows the knitter to choose wisely, and gives a sense of the difficulty involved.

Picture 2197

And what review would be complete without me throwing a sock pattern onto the needles? I had been thinking about casting on the Noro sock yarn I bought a couple of weeks ago, and wanted  a stripy pair of socks. So, I cast on one of the basic sock patterns, the Gusset Heel Basic Socks.  It is a simple knit with a wide toe and an interesting gusset heel rather than a heel flap, not something that I have come across before. 

Now, here’s the mutant part.

The pattern says to knit the length of the sock 5- 6.5cm shy of the length of your foot before beginning the gusset. Which I did. Yet when I tried it on later, it was too long. I decided I must be a mutant.

Until I finished it and tried it on the other foot. And it fit.

I forgot I have one foot longer than the other.

Mutant.

So, now I have to decide: do I knit the other sock the same length and have it slightly too long, or do I knit it to fit my smaller foot. They are going to be fraternal twins anyway – totally different colour combinations so I think that I might make it a centimeter shorter and embrace my inner mutant.

Aside from this, it is an easy pattern. It would be an excellent pattern for a first-timer, with a Turkish or Judy’s Magic Cast On, simple gusset heel, and not a lot else for challenge. I chose to do a sewn bind off -my first blast at it – which is described in the techniques section. I like this a lot, and see myself using it for my toe up socks. I don’t like the really wide toe though. I think I prefer a narrower toe, but that will be easily remedied.

Picture 2199

I can see that I will be knitting lots of patterns from this book. It’s an excellent buy. And by arriving two months before its competitor, it has the jump.


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