FO – Cadence Socks

Maybe it’s because it’s so hot out. Maybe it’s because I don’t want to carry around a bunch of stuff. Maybe it’s because I don’t particularly care for the feel of heavy wool right now.

A Combination of those perhaps?

All this to explain that my next few Finished objects will be socks.

I have heard knitting buddies say that they don’t particularly like knitting sweaters in the summer. I’ve always said “OK” because it didn’t bother me much. Well, this year it does. My motto this summer: Small projects for the WIN!!!

Cadence Socks

Pattern: Cadence Socks by verybusymonkey from SKA March Mystery Sock, March, 2011
My Ravelry Project Page
Yarn(s): Blue Moon Fiber Arts Socks that Rock Mediumweight, .75 skeins, 300 yards.
Colorway(s): Spinel
Needle(s): US 1 – 2.25 mm
Casted On: February 13, 2012
Casted Off: June 16, 2012
Modifications: None.

Cadence Socks

…mind the leaves on the bottom of my feet….

I think there was something I missed in the directions about the direction of part of the calf pattern and it was supposed to make the socks symmetrical.

Cadence Socks

Whoops. That’s about as exasperated as I can get about it. I hardly notice it.

I really enjoyed knitting these socks because they were a little longer than most published patterns and, for me, that’s a plus because 1- I can use all the yarn (or more of a majority of it) and 2- this means my legs will be warmer :-) No complaints there!

Book Review – City of Ashes

What I’ve recently finished:

**City of Ashes by Megan Chance**
GoodReads
Amazon
World Catalog

What is it about?
This book centers around two young women. Set in the late 188s, Geneva Langley is a Chicago socialite who loves being surrounded by artists and free thinkers. Her husband, on the other hand, wants her to fit a rather strict mold of upper class woman hood-paying calls, attending balls and being a model wife as his business develops. Geneva (or Ginny) pushes the edge too far and they both find themselves banished to the developing city of Seattle. The second woman, Beatrice Wilkes, is an actress already living in the cut throat world of the newly developing Seattle theater scene. She has lived on her own since her mid-teens and because of this, she trusts no one living in this kind of environment – someone can be her friend one day and then steal her part the next.

These two women might initially strike the reader as opposites – Ginny getting many things handed to her with little work needed on her end and Beatrice who has had to work hard for everything from her food to her position in her theater company. But the Seattle fire of 1889 forces a bond between these two unlikely women and helps them attain what they both want – freedom and position and they pair together in a rather creative way in order to do just that.

Why did I read this?
I read Megan Chance’s book The Inconvenient Wife and thoroughly enjoyed it. City of Ashes is set around the same time as this other book but during a more specific event, The Great Seattle Fire. I had never heard of this, unfortunately, so that made me want to read it.

What impressed me about this book?
I’m a sucker for books told in various points of view. Many, if not all, of the characters were sneaky and dishonest. It was interesting read Ginny, for example, see her husband do something out of character and then, in the next chapter from the husband’s point of view, you can read what he was thinking and know why he did it.

I also liked the descriptions of the city both before and after the fire. It made the book quite interesting.

What disappointed me about this book?
Since this was the second book I read by the author, I couldn’t help but see a familiar and almost formulaic timeline between the two books. (I won’t state much else because I don’t want to include spoilers)

Historical Relevance:
When Ginny and her husband first arrive to Seattle, you read of a city with very little archetectural structure. For example, shops are on streets however they’re not all aligned correctly. And many of the buildings were made from wood. So imagine a great fire hitting a city like this? It is because of these circumstances, the fire did as much damage as it did. Because of this, many policies were changed during its rebuilding. I’ll take text straight from Wikipedia:

The city made many improvements in response to the fire. The city’s fire department shifted from a volunteer to a paid force with new firehouses and a new chief. The city took control of the water supply, increasing the number of hydrants and adding larger pipes.The advent of brick buildings to downtown Seattle was one of the many architectural improvements the city made in the wake of the fire. New city ordinances set standards for the thickness of walls and required “division walls” between buildings.These changes became principal features of post-fire construction and are still visible in Seattle’s Pioneer Square district today, the present-day location of the fire. At Pioneer Square, guided tours are also available to paying customers. Also at this location visitors can tour the Seattle Underground, where they can visit remains of buildings that were built over after the fire.

What reading challenge(s) did this book apply to?

Overall Grade?
Rating: ★★★½☆

Book Review – The House at Tyneford

What I’ve recently finished:

**The House at Tyneford by Natasha Solomons**
GoodReads
Amazon
World Catalog

What is it about?
Elise Landau is a Jew living in Vienna in the late 1930s. As it becomes more and more unsafe, her family, used to a sophisticated and rather elite life, separate and attempt to leave the country. Elise goes to work as a maid in the House at Tyneford. The story centers on this rather dramatic change in her lifestyle–from elite to service.

Why did I read this?
I love Downton Abbey and naturally I wanted to read some stories set during that time. I found this helpful list on Goodreads and mingled. Granted, The House at Tyneford is set during World War II (as opposed to the first) but it still seemed interesting to me.

What impressed me about this book?

  1. The author clearly gives an impression of the changes Elisa had to go through, as I’ve mentioned before.
  2. The descriptions of the setting. I felt like I was there! (and usually this kind of text, I won’t lie, makes me want to skip a few paragraphs ;-)

 

What disappointed me about this book?
A lot.  This story’s excitement is centered on the house mater”s son, Kit. I won’t include spoilers, of course, but I will say Elise and Kit form a bond and reading this relationship develop was enjoyable. Unfortunately, he’s not present during much of the book so I finished the book almost glad that it was over. It’s a shame too because this story’s premise had potential to be exciting. Unfortunately, for me, it just wasn’t.

Historical Relevance:
For this section I wanted to concentrate on Jews in hiding as servants. Unfortunately no numbers exist (and I don’t think they ever will) on how many Jews fled Nazi-occupied countries under the premise of a job elsewhere in service. That said, I did find some interesting stories centered on women like Elise, who escaped to serve another family AND there were some resistance movements where servants were a pivotal part in plotting and carrying out work of their movements or getting information on the Nazi’s next steps.

  • There is mention here of a maid serving a pivotal role in the Belarusian Resistance during World War II.
  • Here is a story of a woman working as a maid in the Gestapo office where she overheard plans to arrest the father of someone she knew. Upon hearing that, she warned that family
  • There is an exhibit at the Holocaust Museum and Study Center in New York that broadly shows the roles children played in their hiding during the war. Working as field laborers, farmers or servants was quite an effective disguise.

What reading challenge(s) did this book apply to?

Overall Grade?

Rating: ★★★☆☆

Book Review – Insurgent

What I’ve recently finished:

**Insurgent by Veronica Roth**
GoodReads
Amazon
World Catalog

What is it about?
I read Book I in this series earlier this year for a book club and enjoyed it way more than I thought I would. This is a sci-fi series set in a dystopian version of Chicago. This society is divided into five strictly segregated factions. At the age of sixteen, every kid must pick a faction in the annual ceremony. The Five Factions are listed quite well in this site here. The book’s protagonist, Tris Prior, in the first book selected the Dauntless faction who believe that cowardliness is at the root of society’s problems. Interestingly enough, she was raised in  the Abnegation faction that values selflessness. For more information about the first book, check out Divergent on Goodreads
Often with second books in a trilogy, the book serves merely as a gap between a big start and grand ending. I believe this book had more of a foundation to it – You see the main character struggle with current life decisions and ones she made in the past. Her society is in the middle of quite a revolution and this story is about each character’s motivation to side with one particular view. I think this society is starting to realize, one can not be all of one faction too.

Why did I read this?
Like I stated before – I read Book I for a book club. This book was rather thick….500 some pages but even with that, it was a quick read. So, when Book II (Divergent) came out, I wanted to see what would happen next!

What impressed me about this book?
I appreciated how thoughtful Tris was. In the previous book, she did and witnessed some things that take a lot of time to get over. I read the Hunger Games Trilogy and wondered how Katniss can go through such experiences and then be OK making TV appearances for Panem. Yes we see that both she and her fellow survivors struggle with it but I never got how they affected her specifically. Tris is more thoughtful and the reader starts to understand her feelings during and afterward.

What disappointed me about this book?
…then again, Tris is still a sixteen year old girl, who, at times, can be a little self-absorbed. So yes, there were times when I was rolling my eyes at her. But really, that is a phase, like it or not, we all go through. ;-)

Historical Relevance:
Non-applicable seeing as how this was set in the future ;-)

What reading challenge(s) did this book apply to?

Overall Grade?

Rating: ★★★★☆

Update on Hobby Progress on Blog

OK Notice how I have Goodreads widgets on the left? Last night I wondered – WHERE DID MY RAVELRY PROJECTS GO?!

I remember I had progress bars and thumbnail pictures but something happened with the coding. It was difficult to get it there in the first place so I couldn’t help but be exasperated by adding the code again because I simply couldn’t remember how I did it.

But I found a very helpful widget for WordPress blogs that I wanted to share. The My Ravelry Widget helped me turn adding this into a three minute production as opposed to what I did before…lots and lots of tweaking and let’s not even go into how much time it took to figure it out in the first place!

I know I have a lot of blogging friends that have WordPress blogs, so I wanted to share this helpful widget to you all.

And I’m a happy blogger – both hobbies with equal real estate on this blog. Yay :-D

Where have I gone?!

Goodness it feels like a long time since I’ve updated my blog. So much for my original idea of having a digital scrapbook!

Well in chronological order, this is what I’ve been up to:

  1. June 20- June 25 – I visited my mommy and her sweetie husband in South Carolina. Wonderful little vacation. Relaxing was my word for it :-D
  2. June 29 – A Derecho hit our area. What’s a Derecho? Wikipedia says it “is a widespread, long-lived, straight-line windstorm that is associated with a fast-moving band of severe thunderstorms. ” What do I call it?? Simply put – an ass kicker of a storm. See:


We lost power Friday night and it returned Tuesday night. I distinctly remember during the Snowcopolypse of 2010, enjoying it a little. Jermaine and I were walking around wearing five sweaters and we played Trivial Pursuit. Sure, it got old but at least the first day was fun. This storm? Not a bit of it was fun because very hot days followed. Jermaine and I had just gone grocery shopping Friday night and we were mad as hell when we had to throw away a majority of our fridge.

3. So yes. It’s been very very hot too. I know many prefer heat over cold but I do not. I haven’t had much energy lately to eat much less update projects here or review books. This smiley, actually, sums up how I’ve been dealing with the heat

 

But since the last entry, I have completed two socks:

And I’m absolutely giddy about this pair I’m working on now:

Herringbone Rib Socks

On the book side of things, there has been A LOT read, which has led me to wonder if I want to review Every. Single. Book.

Books I’ve finished since last book review: (Some of these might have already been read since June 12)

Finished 5/13 Finished 5/20 Finished 6/1 Finished 6/5

Finished 6/22

Finished 6/23 Finished 6/29 Finished 7/24

So Book Bloggers – Question for you – Do you review every book you read? Why? If not, what makes you want to review a book and what makes you just skip it? As I delve more into reviewing books, it would be interesting to see what others do.

FO – Pointelle Socks

I’m doing more than reading! :-)

Sometimes I can’t keep all my hobbies straight. I never thought I’d say this but I appear to be reading more than knitting. I don’t feel bad of course but I guess I just want to acknowledge how people’s hobbies can change or expand

I finished a pair of socks from Knit. Sock. Love. Pointelle was one of my favorite new patterns in this book and I finally finished my own pair

Pointelle

Pattern: Pointelle Socks by Cookie A from Knit Sock Love
My Ravelry Project Page
Yarn(s): Frogtree Pediboo, 1.5 skeins, 382 yards.
Colorway(s): 1146
Needle(s): US 0 – 2.0 mm
Casted On: January 2, 2012
Casted Off: June 9, 2012
Modifications: None. I knit the larger size at a smaller gauge so the sizing would turn out correctly. (The larger sock required 70 stitches for cast on. I’m usually ok with size 1s and 60 stitches so using a smaller needle helped balance everything out.

I love Cookie Patterns! I can’t get enough of them. These certainly kept my attention with the curving vine going across the instep.

Pointelle

Here is a more detailed shot of my left and right foot up against each other so the foot lace pattern is more prominent:

Pointelle

And this color!

I saw a woman on Downton Abbey wearing a skirt made out of this light green and I just went “WANT!” and I seem to be attracted to this color for the time being. Case in point: Some of the loot I got at this past year’s Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival:

My creation

And it was interesting hanging out with my friends at MDSW. One friend was on a silver theme and another a blue theme. This year was pleasant because I didn’t pick my usual purples or deep reds

Well anyway…I finally was able to finish these socks after they spent some time in my project box and I certainly love how they turned out. I’m just about to finish these socks as well, to continue with my sock theme.

Cadence Socks

Cadence Socks

Book Review – Mr. Churchill’s Secretary

What I’ve recently finished:

**Mr. Churchill’s Secretary by Susan Elia MacNeal**
GoodReads
Amazon
World Catalog

What is it about?
What a fabulous beginning to a series!

Margaret Hope finds herself in England as World War II breaks out. She put her graduate program at MIT on hold to go across the pond from the United States to sell her grandmother’s house. Clearly trying to sell a home in a city where war is about to break out makes for a questionable housing market so she opens the house up to a few young women to be her roommates. We meet her a few months into the war and then the reader slowly starts to learn of her back story. Maggie was raised by her aunt who lives in the US after her parents’ death. This aunt is apprehensive of Margret’s presence in the UK because she fears Margaret will come across the truth about her childhood. I will stop there ;-)

Now let’s throw in some historical events! Margaret receives a job as a typist in the Prime Minister’s office (hence they book’s title). She was looked over for a job as a PM’s Analyst because that position was not suited for a females. As the PM’s office concentrates on the movement of Germany and wonders when the United States will be involved, the country starts to forget the IRA until they start conducting random acts of violence throughout the city of London! Thanks to Margaret’s wit and smarts she is able to break the codes she sees but the process of her doing that is really quite thrilling.

Why did I read this?
Honestly, I think I was wondering around Amazon one weekend and found it. Didn’t I say that last time? :-) It was available in Target one evening with I was there.

What impressed me about this book?
This was one exciting story with a very very likable heroine! This, I do believe, was my first spy book and I liked that it was fast-paced without getting overwhelming

What disappointed me about this book?
…but I will say, and maybe this is just a personal quirk, that I had a very difficult time keeping characters straight. And honestly, if that’s the only gripe I have about the book, then I say it is still a keeper.

Historical Relevance:
I couldn’t help but feel sorry for Margaret, in a way….to be so smart but not be taken seriously whether it was in 10 Downing Street or in Britain’s security agency, Mi5. It didn’t take till the 1970s for women to be accepted as full officers in Mi5. Women held mainly secretarial jobs and did not do so for long. When they got married, they would be “encouraged” to go home to take care of their families. I found myself applauding Margaret throughout this book. She showed her intelligence in really smart ways. I can’t help but wonder how much of a typical woman of the times she was? I would venture that she definitely stood out from the typical woman of the times. And, because of that, I very much look forward to the next book, Princess Elizabeth’s Spy.

What reading challenge(s) did this book apply to?

Overall Grade?

Rating: ★★★★½

An additional field for Historical Fiction reviews…

Yes. I am a history nerd. I will always have historical curiosity as I read my favorite genre of books – historical fiction.

While reading, I ponder:

  • How true and accurate is this book?
  • Are the characters described here typical __________ of the time? (This was a favorite question of one of my favorite professors in college when we read primary sources written by women from various time periods in American history)
  • What influence did historical events play on the work of fiction?
  • What kinds of social norms were displayed in this book and how accurate were they to that society?
  • …and questions similar to that

This is why I read historical fiction a lot—Because I wonder these very same kinds of things!! And because I wonder about these kinds of things, I’ll add another field “Historical Accuracy” to historical fiction book reviews. I am not trying to turn this blog into one of term papers but I would like to comment on a few of these thoughts. Sometimes I’ll do a little research about the topic and discuss something at length (i.e. a few paragraphs) or sometimes I just might have a few comments.

Finishing “Blue Asylum” got me wondering about women in asylums in the 19th century:

**Blue Asylum by Kathy Hepinstall**
GoodReads
Amazon
World Catalog

As a result, I did some research about the reasons women were sent to insane asylums in the 19th century.

Why the main character was sent to one:
The main character, Iris Dunleavy, is a plantation wife in Virgina during the American Civil War. She marries her husband without knowing much about him and quickly finds herself alone during the first few years of her marriage to him. During this time, she experiences first hand the horrors of plantation life, a prominent one being slavery. As the Civil War approaches and begins, she finds herself disagreeing strongly with both the institution of slavery and the society around it. Because of this growing resentment, she joins a group of slaves in their tragic attempt at an escape. They’re caught and killed while Iris is sent to the insane asylum for insubordination, basically.

That (as well as many other books I’ve read where this has occurred) got me thinking about the real reasons why women were sent to insane asylums. My husband and I spent some time in Bed Bath and Beyond this weekend and we disagreed slightly on the type of sheets we needed. If this were 150 years earlier and we disagreed on something in the general store, would I have been sent to a “rest home” as characters some times called it?

The answer is probably yes! :-(

I found this very interesting article from the Oshkosh Scholar written by Katherine Pouba and Ashley Tianen, “Lunacy in the 19th Century: Women’s Admission to Asylums in United States of America” where these two authors examined reasons behind female admittance to insane aslyums at the time.

As the writers state, An anonymous writes

“It may be considered a sort of national phenomenon, that the universally received opinion on this subject should declare a women’s only calling to be that of a wife and mother; and failing this, consign her to the hopelessness of a ‘vocation manqué’” (pp. 3-4, 1855).

Blue Asylum alluded to that. I read this book from the local library and returned it before I could get this exact quote (It was somewhere near page 80, if that helps?) but the doctor was talking to Mrs. Dunleavy and stated that the definition of insanity was when a patient went beyond the social norms of the time.

Really?

Can you imagine how detrimental that definition would be to our modern society? I’m not saying our mental health field is without its flaws. I’m sure it has plenty. But not only was the definitions of insanity pretty limiting but the reasons for claiming that were pretty rigid as well.

Pouba & Tianen went on to do a test sample of 60 random women committed to the Mendota Mental Asylum during the years of 1860-1900. Reasons for admittance included:

  1. Suppressed Menstrual Cycles
  2. “Religious Matters”
  3. Overwork and Domestic Troubles

Interestingly enough all these symptoms supported their diagnosis of insanity with very little contemplation about alternatives.

  1. Suppressed Menstrual Cycles – This hits home with me because I live with PCOS, which is an ovarian syndrome whose main symptom is irregular periods. I take birth control for it and luckily that’s as far an impact it has on my life so far. My husband and I understand that it might not be as easy to conceive but luckily I have plenty of girlfriends with that same condition who have had children (one of them was actually a surprise!). Anyway, it’s an odd feeling to know that if I lived 150 years prior and a male in my life wanted to, I could easily get admitted to an asylum. These cases where a patient was admitted because of that were of women 17 years old and 46 years old. As readers know we can easily suggest that perhaps the 17 year old was late in menstruating…perhaps she had PCOS? Anyone reading this might guess (and perhaps accurately?) that the 46 year old was going through menopause?
  2. Religious matters – This case described a woman who disagreed with her pastor husband over God’s existence. Because society had such strict rules about God’s existence, doctors were not taught to be accepting of differences, which is such a frightening thought! (Poudba & Tianen, 98)
  3. Overwork and Domestic Troubles – This reason almost makes me laugh because of just how ludicrous the reasoning was! From the cases that Pouba & Tainen investigated these were from women who had between 8-11 children! Having one to three children puts the woman under a lot of stress and especially during that time when women were house managers and every part of child rearing was on their shoulders. But between 8 and 11 children!? I wouldn’t be the slightest bit surprised if these women would have found time spent in an asylum to almost be at least a little quieter than their home life? (I know very little about their treatments. It could have been excruciating so I won’t say that this was a vacation for them)

Upon reading this article, I can appreciate the accurateness of the Blue Asylum because reasons for admittance to one of these institutions were pretty standard in “dealing” with women at this time, unfortunately.

If you would like to read this interesting article, it can be found here.

Author(s):  Pouba, Katherine; Tianen, Ashley Publisher: University of Wisconsin Oshkosh Citation: Oshkosh Scholar, Volume 1, 2006, Date: May 2006, Permanent link: http://digital.library.wisc.edu/1793/6687

Book Review – Blue Asylum

 

I’m a little back logged as far as books are concerned.

What I’ve recently finished:

 

**Blue Asylum by Kathy Hepinstall**
GoodReads
Amazon
World Catalog

What is it about?
OK Tell my why I seem to be drawn to books where women are thrown in insane asylums for crazy reasons? asks the uppity feminist of the 21st century, reading about women in the 19th and early 20th century. All I have to say, that while women still have a way to go in terms of achieving equality, at least we’ve come far away from that! I’ve read my fair share of books with this premise or I’ve marked books like this as “to read” and I just end up feeling so terrible for these women!
Anyway, this specific book is about Iris Dunleavy, a Virginia plantation wife who is sent to the Blue Asylum off the coast of Florida during the Civil War after she is found to be mad for disagreeing with her husband over ideas concerning human decency and property. Iris is sent to an insane asylum with “modern” techniques to “cure” her. As someone in the 21st century reading this, I could not help but see the differences in the definition of slavery in the 1860s vs now. At this facility, she meets a soldier, Ambrose Weller, who is reeling from his experiences on the battlefields of our nation’s Civil War

Why did I read this?
Honestly, I think I was wondering around Amazon one weekend and found it. Luckily my library had it as well and I was one of the first in my branch to read it :-D (It’s the little things, no?)

What impressed me about this book?
I’m not going to lie–excessive descriptions of settings is a personal pet peeve of mine. I pride myself on the visions of the story in my head. That said, this book is essentially set in a swamp area. While I’ve heard DC referred to one countless times (:-)) , even I can admit I’ve never been. The descriptions in this book were clear without being too verbose.

What disappointed me about this book?
One very abrupt ending – I felt like there was very little resolution for many of these characters. I finished the book and I can’t help but wonder: What happened? And not like when you finish a book and you wonder what happens to them afterward. I genuinely felt like questions were left unanswered.

What reading challenge(s) did this book apply to?

Overall Grade?


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