Saturday, May 30, 2009

Another sewn bag

Here's a little project I made during my recent vacation.

And look, it's reversible!

I think I'm getting the hang of this sewing thing.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Luxe : a review

I will freely admit that what first drew me to The Luxe by Anna Godbersen was the cover. The story takes place in 1899 Manhatten, and as the lavish cover suggests, it centers around some young society girls who are always dressing up to attend fancy balls and charm the available young men. But it's not quite the easy life we might imagine, as evidenced by the first pages of the book, which describes the funeral of main character Elizabeth Holland. The story then backs up, describing events leading up to the funeral.

Elizabeth and her younger sister Diana find that their family is in financial trouble and a marriage is quickly arranged with the wealthy Henry Schoonmaker. The match is unappealing to pretty much everyone except the parents of the bride- and groom-to-be. There are various romantic twists and entanglements, peppered with a healthy dose of teenage backstabbing and even a servant girl gone wild.

I loved the details about life during that period, and the way that each chapter began with a news item from the newspaper society pages or a tidbit from an etiquette book. I'm happy to see that there are already two more books in this series (both with similar and equally appealing covers) and I will be reading those in the very near future. It's a great premise and the well-developed cast of characters is sure to keep things interesting. Highly recommended!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Leyburn Socks

My first inclination upon finishing these socks was to burn them. They were trouble, every step of the way. And when I put them on to take pictures, the second one was much too tight, probably because I was in such a hurry to finish that I didn't stretch my floats properly. Hopefully it will stretch with wear, or I can just block it.

Pattern: Leyburn Socks by MintyFresh (free Ravelry download)
Yarn: Madelinetosh Tosh Sock
Needle: Addi Turbo size 0

So I will never make these again as this pattern is from Satan, but they are cute, no? I love the yarn, too. I think Madelinetosh is my new favorite sock yarn. It's expensive so it's not an everyday sock yarn, but if you want to give yourself a lovely gift, it's perfect. This project took me three months, which is a pretty long time, but now it is over and I can move on with my life.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

A Proper Education for Girls by Elaine DiRollo

In 1857, twins Alice and Lillian are separated, Lillian married off and banished to India after a scandal. Back in England, their father intercepts the mail to be sure they can't communicate and Alice is stuck with the huge project of photographing his large collection of curiosities. Intelligent and determined, both women rebel against the confines of their lives and hope that they will soon be together again.

The story flipped back and forth between Lillian in India and Alice in England, and though their situations were very different, they both struggled against sexual repression and the restrictions placed on women's lives during that period. The whole cast of characters were cleverly crafted, from the creepy Dr. Cattermole to the amusing array of older aunts, and these characters added depth and uncertainty to the story. It's hard to tell who will be allies, and how - or if - the young women will manage to escape their difficult situations. I loved this book.

Two great books in a row. I think I've lucked out recently!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Little Bee by Chris Cleave: a review

I had no idea what this book was about before I began reading it. All the reviews, and even the book jacket, are deliberately vague. But I think there are some things I can tell you without spoiling the story. I can tell you that the story is about two woman, and that one of those women is a Nigerian refugee and the other is an English suburban mother. The first time they met something happened, and they have both been trying to escape this part of their past. The book begins two years later when they meet again.

This is an amazing novel. It was a pleasure to read every sentence, even though many things that happen in the story aren't pleasant. The characters are realistic and complex and admirable. Although it is fiction, many of the situations are based on reality. I wanted to just sit for hours and read until I finished. This is a definite two thumbs up.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Just in time for summer: Marseilles Pullover

Finally, finally I have pictures.

Pattern: Marseilles Pullover by Kathy Zimmerman from Interweave Knits Summer 2006
Yarn: Cascade 220
Needles: Size 7
Modification: The only mod I made was on the neckline, as many others (such as Mind of Winter) said it was too open. So I kept all the stitches live until I was attaching the front and back, and only then did I decide how large to leave the neck opening.

For the most part this sweater came out well. It's a little small, and a bit too short, but I think it will be ok. It feels pretty good (though too warm for May!) The difficulty with planning this project is that the sizes I had to choose from were 34" and 38". I wanted it to be around 36"-37" so it was kind of a guessing game. One cannot block something smaller so my inclination is always to knit on the small side and block larger. I had heard that this sweater grows a lot with blocking and I realize this partly depends on the yarn, but the stitch patterns also affect this. So I went with the 34". The problem is that I probably should have gone up a needle size, but this is what the swatch told me to do. (Swatches, they lie - believe it.) The armhole is a little tight (which seems to be a recurring theme in my life) but it's actually fine if I just wear a little camisole or something under it, rather than a long-sleeved t-shirt.
But hey, it's purple!

The front and back pieces are identical, and took a long time. It's all charted, and you really have to pay attention because usually on the wrong side of something like this you're just knitting the knits and purling the purls, but there is a lot of garter stitch in this pattern. I definitely did some ripping and re-knitting when I began the project, but it became easier as I moved along. The sleeves went very quickly, for which I am grateful.

All in all, I love how it looks, and I'm really glad it's finished!

Friday, May 8, 2009


I attended one day of the Massachusetts Library Association Conference, my first time at this particular conference. The three sessions I attended were, I'm happy to report, all informative and helpful.

Booktalking 10 Ways: How to Use books to Enliven and Extend the Library Program
Although I don't do booktalks, I have a strong interest in readers' advisory, so I attended this session hoping to get some ideas. Although the equipment wasn't set up until about 20 minutes into the session (!) the presenter was very good, organized, and creative. She gave us a sampling of booktalks (and I added some things to my "to read" list), and then talked about other ways to promote books through displays, blogging, twitter, wikis, podcasts and all the cool technologies that kids use these days (this was a youth services focused presentation.) I always love getting more ideas about how to promote books. Yay, books! A more detailed summary of her presentation is here.

Manage Up!
This was the best and most useful program I attended. The presenter was lively and dynamic (which helps SO much!) and we dealt with real-life situations. The program was all about how to get people above you to listen to and implement your ideas. She talked about being aware of your boss's situation, pressures, and favorite issues that they are excited about. Then she spoke about being very aware of the ramifications of your idea, and putting it all together to form a strategy of how, where, and when to present your idea. We broke into groups who each had an idea we wanted implemented, and were given slips of paper listing various pieces of information about our boss and we had to come up with a scenario about how we would try to convince them of our idea. Really good exercise! Here is a more detailed write-up of this session.

How the Way We Talk Can Change the Way We Work

The two librarians who presented this workshop met at a leadership symposium, similar to the one I'll be attending in July (which I don't think I've blogged about yet, but will) so I think this may be a taste of things to come. The ideas explored here were about looking at what is behind our complaints and trying to turn it into something positive and constructive. One of the handouts was a Communication Toolbox where we each chose a complaint and then went through a worksheet, breaking it down and looking at what is behind it, testing assumptions, etc. I'm really interested in these types of workshops, but my problems never seem to fit in the little boxes. I stayed after the session and talked to the presenters a bit more and they helped explain things a little further and pointed me to some more resources. Included in their handout was a bibliography of further reading, which I will most likely check out. Notes on this session are here.

Session I wish I had attended: Black Belt Librarians. Attendee Clayton Cheever blogged this session and it's worth reading, so check it out.

I also stuck around to watch the Massachusetts Book Cart Drill Team State Championships, which was a hilarious and enjoyable way to end the day. The event was MC'd by children's author Mo Willams, who is also very hilarious and enjoyable. There were only 3 libraries that entered the competition, but they were each very creative and talented. This event alone was worth the price of admission!