Finishing Up Project Linus 2013

I didn’t finish as many blankets as I expected, but that was because I was working on a project for my grandfather’s church.  I will do better next year.  These were the last of 2013:

61 - 65 2013These five were from November.  I couldn’t really tell you anything about the yarn

66 2-13This one with the ladybugs is one where I did the foundation row and my mother finished it.  It counts.

67 - 69 2013

And the last three.  The bears on the left and the new fangled Holly Bobbie on the right used Red Heart Royal Blue.  The pink in the center has the applique fleece pieces that another volunteer does before handing it off to me to stitch.  The yarn is Red Heart Spring Green.  And that brings the total to 69 on the year.

Finishing Up the 60 Book Challenge of 2013

Book 71: Seems I forgot to log my fourth book in the Christmas Spirit Reading Challenge:A Christmas Visitor, by Anne Perry

Three brothers plan to return to the (relatively new) family estate for the holiday.  The brother who lives on the property has died while the others are in transit.  The mystery is pursued by the widow’s godfather.

Everyone in the family is likable enough, and while I can’t say the ending is happy, it is satisfying.

Book 72: Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn

Another really disturbing mystery by Gillian Flynn.  Wife disappears on the morning of her fifth wedding anniversary.  One of the endorsements said it was like Scenes from a Marriage written by Alfred Hitchcock.  Yeah.  And I understand Ben Affleck is going to play the husband in the film.  I will not be seeing this film.

To go into any detail at all about the plot would be to spoil it for serious.  Having said all that, I could not put this book down.

Book 73:  The Book of Daniel, by E.L. Doctorow

Fictional account of the Rosenberg saga from the point of view of their son, who was 11 or so at the time of the trials.

I had remembered that the trial was very controversial and there was some doubt as to whether the Rosenbergs were guilty of passing the secrets of the bomb to the Soviets.  This book, written in 1971 was extremely sympathetic to the family.  So I had to go back and read a bit of history.  There have been several recent developments in the last decade that suggest the wife was completely innocent and the husband was guilty of something.  Perhaps even the charge for which they were convicted which was Conspiracy, as opposed to straight up Treason.  But the theory is there was no way Dude knew enough to actually pass on atomic secrets to the Soviets.

So besides a really well told story, (although I really could have done without Daniel’s abuse of his young wife) I also had the benefit of historical perspective.  Glad I read this.

Book 74: Hitch 22, by Christopher Hitchens

So my count didn’t match what GoodReads says I read this year and I had to go hunt for the book I hadn’t counted yet.  I read this memoir by Christopher Hitchens over the summer.

Hitchens died a year or two ago, but he finished this before he knew he was sick.  I don’t agree with everything he says, but he tells a good story.  He will be remembered, I think, for two things – his outspoken atheism and his defense of Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses (which is on my shelf and I really need to read).  He talked about both of those things.

I miss Hitchens’ column in Vanity Fair magazines.  In fact, I just realized that after Hitchens and Dominick Dunne died, I haven’t really been reading it.  Happily, there are a few books left in the repertoire that I haven’t read yet.

I’m Never Filming at the Right Time

IMG_0804Before dinner, I had just put the birds back in their room and we were in the kitchen with the dogs. There is a baby gate between the two rooms. Kiwi the Grey started swinging from her rope toy, ringing the bell. Fiona the Crazy Herding Dog jumped up on the baby gate and bark/whined at her.

Kay: Fiona, Kiwi is just teasing you again. You have to learn to ignore her.
Me: You can’t rationalize with a dog. Give her a command.
Kay: I can rationalize with the dog. I can’t rationalize with Kiwi.
Kiwi: WHAT?!?!?!
Me: (laughing)
Kay: Kiwi, are you getting sassy?
Kiwi: You’re all done.
Me: (laughing harder)
Kay: Is that her entire repertoire?
Kiwi: AAWWWWWWW!!
Me: She just went three rounds with you. In context!
Kay: (Sighs) Fiona, go now.
Kiwi: Come on, Shadow!

OK, Shadow was the name of the last dog and Kiwi hasn’t learned to say Fiona’s name or Gibbs’. But that last part – giving the dog the opposite command as my mother’s – was also in context.

I freakin’ love that bird.

I am Half-Sick of Shadows, by Alan Bradley

Book 70 of 60 Book Challenge, Book 5 of Christmas Spirit Reading Challenge

This was the fourth book in the Flavia de Luce series – the 11-year-old British girl solving mysteries in a small town in the 1950s.  And for once I have read the earlier books in the series.

There have been money problems building in the family.  Giant estate, mom is long dead and dad sort of lives in a fog.  But he snaps out of it long enough to rent out the house for the holiday season to a production company making a film with a rather well-known actress.  Big Actress also agrees to a small charity performance at the house and the whole town shows up only to be snowed in on Christmas Eve.  And can you see where this is going?

I guess you can call this a SPOILER but, you’d have to be completely new here not to pick it up:

When our heroine – a budding chemist – goes up on the roof to set a trap for Santa.. she will really end up catching the killer.  But the point is that Dude wrote a character that I totally believe at age 11 would:

  1. Not be entirely sure whether there is or is not a Santa Claus (blame her rotten sisters)
  2. Decide she needs scientific evidence one way or another
  3. Figure out how to obtain scientific evidence using chemicals in her laboratory

Shut up.  It was charming.

Some progress was made in the ongoing meta drama of the sisters and the family finances.  And can I just tell you that Dogger, the war hero/family retainer  (he’s like the literary love child of Alfred the Butler and Boo Radley) is the best thing ever and now I am going to sit here for a minute and decide who is going to play him when the film rights are sold.  I’m thinking Gary Oldman, but I’m always thinking Gary Oldman.

Christmas Princess Shopping

This year, my family finally got its act together and made some Amazon wish lists.  The adult ones are incredibly boring, but for the kids, it is quite useful.  Then this happened.  From the list of Ashlyn, age 3 1/2:

That is a Barbie Mariposa Fairy doll.  I presume that it is from some Barbie movie or TV show about which I want to know exactly nothing.  So this is what I think of as “The Princess Dilemma”.  On one hand, I do not want my nieces to be engulfed in the princess culture.  I do not want to contribute to the princess culture.  But particularly in the context of Disney, this stuff is ubiquitous.  They’ve already been exposed to it, they already want these toys.  And I want to bring them things they like.  So my response is not to fight it, but to use the toys as an opportunity to talk about stuff.  For example:

A few years ago, my nephew Alex (then age 6ish) asked who my favorite princess was.  When I told him it was Belle, he asked why.  I told him to guess.  He thought for a minute, lit up and said, “Because she likes to read books!”

Absolutely.  She also rescues her father and the Beast and saves the day.

Around the same time, my friend Elijah (just turned 8) announced that he didn’t like Ariel, The Little Mermaid.  He said, “She makes bad decisions.”

Yes!  I am eternally grateful to Elijah, because he showed me how to explain my disgust with Snow White to the children without having to use the words “complete moron” or “makes me want the bad guy to win”.  Snow White makes a very bad decision.  And you know what?  Ainslie, age 5, is already starting to outgrow Disney princesses.  This year for Halloween she decided to be a lady bug, while Ashlyn was Cinderella.  But back to Barbie.

I am somewhat less worried about the body image thing than many people.  This is a post for another day, but I am rather  convinced that the true enemy is Photoshop, not Mattel.  But it has always irritated me that the Barbie dolls in my day were all Malibu, Cheerleader, Figure Skater blahblahblah.  At least now Barbie has a career.  Or several.  So I bought that fairy Barbie doll.  And a doctor Barbie doll.  And an astronaut Barbie doll.

 This is how I do Christmas.

Deck the Halls, by Mary Higgins Clark and Carol Higgins Clark

Book 69 – 60 Book Challenge 2013, Book 3 of The Christmas Spirit Reading Challenge

The mother and daughter mystery writers took two of their sleuths and wrote them into a story together.  It was a Christmas kidnapping.  The director of a chain of funeral homes is held for ransom, along with one of his staff, by two of the dumbest criminals of all time.

The criminals were so dumb that there was little doubt as to the outcome of the story.  Wait – I suppose there was a bit of tension in the idea that the criminals were so dumb that they’d get our heroes killed by accident.  But the set up was interesting and the red herring was quite charming.

P.S.  Unless the book is a memoir, I am not sure that authors should be the audiobook readers.

The Christmas Cookie Club, by Ann Pearlman

Book 68 – 60 Book Challenge 2013, Book 2 – The Christmas Spirit Reading Challenge

This was chick lit, but decent chick lit.  A dozen women gather each year for a Christmas Cookie exchange and the founder of the tradition is our narrator.    For each character, we get a backstory and a cookie recipe and then our narrator sketches out a short history of one of the ingredients (vanilla, sugar, etc.)

I finished the book a few days ago, but the interweaved histories are already fading from memory.  It was a lot of people to follow, so there wasn’t much depth.  The interpersonal tensions were not so tense that there was any doubt as to the outcome.

But there was a bunch of Christmas Spirit.