Monthly Archives: September 2015

WIP Wednesday Finally !!

I’m baaack! It has been way too many Wednesdays to count, but there is no time like the present to get back to WIP Wednesdays.

We took a wonderfully relaxing vacation to the Florida Keys a few weeks ago. We swam, kayaked – yup, even I can do it! – had fabulously fresh sea food and did a bit of sightseeing. This was the view off of our balcony.

DSC_0003_01

I did a bit of knitting, but actually decided that project was not for me. So I took it off the needles to save the yarn for a project I like more.

After I got home I finished the blanket third blanket for a friend at work. The picture shows a big variation of color that is much more subtle in person. I couldn’t get the same dye lot, so I alternated the 2 dye lots of the same color to make a striped pattern. If course I forgot to take a pic in natural light, so the glare of the lightbulbs made it look oddly colored.

Donita blanket #3_2

I’ve started on the lavender blanket she needs next.

The Scoreboard KAL is coming along well. The only problem is my scarf is going to be more orange than navy since the Bears are not having their best year.

Bears_KAL 2

Instead of working on my projects last Sunday, we visited a couple of Alpaca farms. It was Alpaca Days, a yearly “open house” at local alpaca farms, if you key “alpaca days” in google, you might find a local farm you can visit next fall. The alpacas were friendly and cute and of course I got some wonderful hand-spun alpaca yarn and can’t wait to use it for a winter hat. I may not have time to start it until after Christmas, but time will tell. My hubby liked the alpacas why more than looking at the yarn 🙂

Alpaca Farm

My favorite was Waldron Grove Alpaca Farm

http://www.susanwaldronart.com/specialevents/specialevents.html

Everyone there was really nice, They were informative & told us interesting facts about the Alpacas and fiber. If you are in the Chicago area, they are having a Christmas Open House in late November. They have beautiful hand knits for sale, works of art and natural fiber yarns in plenty of time to make a last minute gift.

Hopefully this week I’ll catch up the week and a half I’m behind on the Bears scarf and make good progress on the lavender baby blanket. Time will tell. Hope you all have a great week doing something you love to do 🙂

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Filed under alpaca, art, baby blanket, Florida Keys, Knitting, WIP Wednesday, yarn

Book Review: Sherlock Holmes The Missing Years: Japan

Sherlock-TMY-JAPAN-180x276

Sherlock Holmes The Missing Years: Japan

Vasudev Murthy

270 pages

Sherlock Holmes died at the hand of his arch nemesis Professor Moriarty. Much like Elvis, he is spotted in odd spots around the world afterwards, but his loyal friend and confidant Dr. John Watson has reconciled himself to the death of his dear friend and retired to the country with his wife. He has his papers and his memories as well as Holmes’ treasured Stradivarius, a thoughtful gift from Holmes’ brother Mycroft.

After two years he is comfortable with his life but a mysterious letter arrives beckoning him to Japan. It appears to be written by Holmes’ hand, in the brief style Holmes preferred. The entire message is as follows: “Watson, I need you. My violin, please. S. H.” . The envelop it arrived in also contains a first-class ticket aboard a merchant ship bound for Yokohama.

So begins Watson’s journey. Aboard the ship he encounters a deceptive bunch of characters. When his fellow passengers began dying, Watson jumps knee deep into the investigation, which unfortunately puts him on the murder’s radar.

After eluding total disaster, the very much alive Holmes and Watson begin a globetrotting race against time to get critical information to the Emperor of Japan to avoid disastrous events that may result in war. To compound the problem, Holmes can’t trust anyone because high ranking officials are colluding with Moriarty. The business of international drug smuggling is worth killing over, and the thugs involved are more than willing to execute anyone that gets in their way.

I love Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s books. Written from 1887 – 1927, are a hard act to follow. Murthy did an admirable job. The first half of the book was fabulous. It took me back to all of the original stories by Conan Doyle that I have read. The fast paced, smartly written, intriguing plotline had me turning pages to see what happened next.

Then the plot seemed to deviate a bit by adding long letters from others around Holmes during the missing years. Watson received them to fill in information he did not have first-hand knowledge of. These tended to be long-winded and dragged the forward motion of the book to a crawl. The footnotes about the editor (Murthy’s notes) were just a distraction.

The pace picked up a bit during the final chase and conclusion, but by then I was not as drawn to the plot as I was in the beginning.

If you are a Holmes fan, by all means read this book. It is well written with a solid storyline. The characters are interesting and are not at all who they seem to be, much to my delight. Thinking back over the cleverly subtle clues, all of the information needed to know “who done it” was there. But the number of red herrings rivaled those written by Conan Doyle – I’m sure he would have approved.

Copyright © 2015 Laura Hartman

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy that I can keep for consideration in preparing to write this content. I was not expected to return this item after my review.

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Filed under Book Review, books, Japan, Mystery, Sherlock Holmes

Book Review: Waiting for the Cool Kind of Crazy by M. D. Moore – I Loved This Book

Cool Crazy

Waiting for the Cool Kind of Crazy

M. D. Moore

287 pages

This novel begins with Harmon and his mother Cece being arrested. This is Harmon’s third strike and he could be looking at serious time in prison. Then a strange twist of fate sets him free from prison, but not his private hell.

If troubles were money, Harmon Burke would be the richest man in town. But they are not, so he is not. As a matter of fact, he is in desperate need of money. His life hinges on him finishing a job restoring several historic furniture pieces and selling them before his cancer kills him. If he can complete the restoration, he can pay for his treatment and hopefully continue to live.

But cancer is just a sidebar in his messed up life. Being the oldest son of a paranoid schizophrenic mother has never been easy for Harmon. His father is non-existent; his little brother Connie needed someone to raise him because his mother is unable to. This job falls to Harmon, who does the best he can.

Growing up with Cece was a string of false promises and events that no child should have to experience. When she is on her medication, life is better. But unfortunately for the two Burke boys, their mother was often off her meds. Something happened during one of her bad times that will haunt them forever, coloring their lives with more crazy than anyone can handle.

Now a grown man, Harmon is trying to control his mother, help his brother, raise enough money for his medical treatment and not die in the meantime. Enter the woman he has always loved, but lost many years ago to a man now powerful enough to ruin his life with a snap of his fingers. She needs Harmon’s help, but he can hardly hold his head above water, so how can he save someone else?

When Harmon grudgingly starts seeing a therapist, he begins to remember parts of his past he buried long ago. He is trying to learn how to cope with current troubles, and accept what happened in his past. But when a revelation comes to light crashing those two worlds together, it could be the end of him.

I could not turn the pages fast enough to read Moore’s debut novel. He draws the reader into Harmon’s world with empathy and honesty. Addressing mental illness is not easy, but he digs into every uncomfortable corner of Cece, Connie and Harmon’s minds to show all the highs and lows of a family in crisis. The picture he paints with beautiful prose will haunt you way after reading his book.

Sanity is a tenuous thread that can be broken easier than we could ever imagine. Waiting for the Cool Kind of Crazy explores this from every angle. I can’t wait to hear more from this talented author.

Copyright © 2015 Laura Hartman

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy that I can keep for consideration in preparing to write this content. I was not expected to return this item after my review.

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Filed under Book Review, mental illness, Writer & Book Reviewer

Book Review: Unleashed by Eileen Brady: Stellar Second Cozy Mystery

Unleashed (A Kate Turner D.V.M. Mystery) unleashed

by Eileen Brady

Poisoned Pen Press

225 pages

Genre: Cozy Mystery

Dr. Kate Turner is back. Doc Anderson is still on his world cruise, but that is ok with Kate. She has settled in nicely in cozy little Oak Falls. They need a competent vet while Doc was off on his adventure and she needs the tranquility of small town life in upstate New York.

Most of the people she comes in contact with have become fast friends or quirky acquaintances, but they all value her expertise as the person that takes loving, skilled care of their pets and farm animals. It isn’t the animals that are causing the problems in Oak Falls, it is humans.

Claire Birnham is found dead of an apparent suicide. She was a well-liked, talented artist with a bright future that gave no indication of distress or worry, certainly nothing that would sound an alarm with her friends and family.

Kate cannot believe her friend would kill herself. There were so many reasons for her to want to live. First and foremost, Claire’s love and devotion for her dog Toto. Named after the famous pooch in The Wizard of Oz, Toto is a dog with an attitude. He is a pussycat with Claire, but is intolerant of almost everyone else.

Lucky for Toto he was at the veterinary clinic at the time of his mistress’ demise. And lucky for Kate, her kennel helper Eugene is one of the few people Toto doesn’t try to eat.

Kate starts digging deeper into her friend’s death with the unwilling help of her friend and sometimes boyfriend, police officer Luke Gianetti. Her grandfather, a retired law enforcement officer, is much more willing to help. He even comes to town to do a bit of probing for Kate.

Unfortunately, Kate was right. Her friend Clair was murdered. There are more suspects entering the picture than Kate could have imagined. Line up an ex that is a Rock Singer, an awful alcoholic mother, a vindictive, overbearing gallery owner and someone very near and dear to Kate.

The clock is ticking while Kate immerses herself in the local art scene and investigation. Either one can get her killed. She has to keep looking for the real killer before an innocent person is convicted of the crime.

Eileen Brady has done it again. Wrap a mysterious death in a cloak of critters and quirky characters and you have the makings of a great cozy mystery. Brady writes dialog and descriptions that pulls the reader into the old beat up truck of Doc Anderson’s and takes you along for the oftentimes bumpy ride.

Some of the characters from her first novel Muzzled make a welcome appearance. Both animals and humans have distinctive attributes and voices, all mixing together making a perfect cast for Brady’s cozy mystery.  The witty prose with the underlying knowledge of a practicing veterinarian brings a depth to this novel that some cozies are missing. I can’t wait to read the next one.

Copyright © 2015 Laura Hartman

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy that I can keep for consideration in preparing to write this content. I was not expected to return this item after my review.

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Filed under art, Book Review, books, cozy mystery, dogs, mythology, Writer & Book Reviewer

WIP Wednesday – To Swatch or Not Swatch, That is the Question

I honestly don’t know of any knitter that says they love to do a swatch to check his or her gauge. Personally, I prefer to jump right in, but know I cannot if I am making a garment or accessory that must fit properly. Scarves, afghans, dishcloths and anything else that you make that can be an inch or more bigger or smaller than the pattern reads most of the time end up being ok. But try and put on a sweater after weeks (or months) of knitting and realize it is too big or small due to gauge..this doesn’t end well.

First of all, check the pattern for the correct weight/type of yarn. It stands to reason worsted weight will knit up larger than fingering or sock yarn. Next, use the size needle the pattern calls for – unless you are an experienced knitter than knows you knit tighter/looser, But if you are, you already know all of this anyway!

Your pattern will tell you how many stitches and rows per inch you need to get the proper gauge so your finished garment will fit. The mystery KAL I am making now has a gauge of “8 sts and 13 rows = 2” in stockinette stitch. So the swatch I knit has to be at least a few, if not more, stitches and rows than 8 stitches, 13 rows. Personally, I like to make a nice little square of stockinette so that I can measure smack dab in the middle to make sure the stitches aren’t pulled or rolling along the sides as stockinette will do.

swatch

So I cast on 20 stitches with size 9 needles and worsted wt yarn that the pattern called for. I knit until I had a perfect square. Sometimes I don’t but this time I figured I’d make 2 of the little purple squares, sew them together and stuff them for a perfect doll sized pillow for my cousin’s little girl. She loves purple. 🙂

Using a contrasting yarn, I make a running stitch up 13 rows (gauge from the pattern), then use 3 more bits of contrasting yarn to run along 8 stitches at the top and bottom of the 13 row mark, then another along the end of the 8 stitches to make a box in the middle that should measure 2 inches. If it does, all is well. If not – back to the swatching board. Lucky for me this one was right on target

If the gauge is too small, I need to use a larger needle, too big I need to use a smaller needle because I don’t want to use a different weight yarn. There are tons of websites that explain gauge much better than I do, just google “knitting gauge” and you’ll get instructions, video and one of them will help you learn how to swatch like a pro. I like this one: http://sheepandstitch.com/what-is-knitting-gauge/

Now that I’ve preached the importance of swatching, I’ll catch you up on works in progress. Donita’s next baby blanket is barely begun, but it won’t take long to complete.

Donita blanket #3

I will be starting the Mystery KAL from Melody’s Makings on Ravelry since my swatch is done. 🙂 And since I am leaving for a few days of vacation I am either going to make the second black sock, which is boring but will be used this winter more than the fancier socks in crazy colors that I would rather knit. Practicality may or may not win out, I’ll let you know when I get back.

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Filed under baby blanket, blanket, Crafts, Crocheting, Knitting, Knitting Techniques, WIP Wednesday, yarn