Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Magpie Murders - Another Summer Read

Couple of things before I get to actually reviewing the book.

First, growing up in Duncanville, Texas in the late 60's meant once I had finished all the children's books (which occurred in early middle school), I had to move onto adult fiction. The librarians carefully let me read a lot of Gothic novels and Agatha Christie mysteries. And what better introduction to murder mysteries than Agatha?

Second. I had read about magpies but had never seen any until I moved to Montana. We just don't have them in the South. So I was thrilled to finally see some. I'm now over my excitement of them.


when I caught sight of this book, I couldn't resist. And boy, am I ever glad I didn't!

Horowitz writes Magpie Murders as a book within a book. Kind of a Neverending Story approach.

The premise of the book is fairly simple - to start. Alan Conway is a best selling author and Susan, his editor. Problem is, he is more than a bit of a jerk, but a huge money maker for her publishing house. Susan settles down to read his latest manuscript. And then the trouble begins!

The 'book' within the book is a great tribute to the Christie style. Set after WWII in a small village in England, it comes complete with the lord of the manor, the village busybody, a foreign detective with troubles of his own, and a couple of murders. That story alone is worth reading the book for.

At the end of the book (or is it), Susan discovers fiction is mirroring life and is soon on her way to solving her own mystery.

Since the page count is different based on which 'story' you are reading, I can't tell you the page count, but it's  probably about 500 pages. So not a one day read. Which is just fine. You'll want to draw this out. The book within the book makes me want to go back and reread Agatha this summer if nothing else. 

Of course, a cup of tea would be required.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Week In Review - July 9 - 15

It has been a long week.

Texter was helping to run the last NaguCon, so was out of pocket from Thursday to Saturday night. Therefore, I was the babysitter of Lady K for three full days. A four-year-old is exhausting!

Which worked out pretty well. Savvy joined us Friday for a dip in the 'big pool' and lunch out at Fiesta Mexicana. Filling up on chips and queso helps a long way to coming home and taking a nap (for all of us!)

Other food related activity involved 'remembering' that Just Tapped has a Tuesday lunch to either eat in or take out. We opted for take out after swim lessons.

Even though it's now within walking distance, I tend to forget about Just Tapped. It's in one of those locations you have to plan your entrance and exit, as it's not easy. But I resist going in because I want one of everything. 

This past week's lunch was a meatball sandwich and a Strawberry/Blueberry/Walnut salad. And while I am normally not a meatball sandwich fan, I ate this like a starving person. At $8 it is about what you would pay for a meal driving through somewhere, but a ton better. I am proud that Texter, who is normally not adventurous with her eating, loved it. We are planning on this as a weekly treat now.

I have basically been playing catch-up with my Almond Country Beauty squares and picked up Week 6 instructions Tuesday. So I am now halfway through. And loving the new iron.

I love it's little 'push-ups' it does and the fact I can just move it over and iron and not have to pick up and put down all the time.

I received my 'kit' for this month's Year of Techniques Antirrhinum Socks. The technique focused on is heels of socks. My Achilles!

I started, had a cuff done and then dropped some stitches which I could pick up, so I frogged the entire thing and moved back to my plain vanilla socks, pouting. But I am starting again.

I finished the rainbow afghan for Lady K which has disappeared somewhere into the bowels of Texter's room

The majority of the week has been spent avoiding the heat and Tour de France watching.


  • 3 posts written
  • 4 books read
  • one t-ball practice and game in the heat

The coming week...

  • Get back on my routines!
  • Two t-ball games and swim lessons
  • Savvy on vacation and we are doing a detox 
  • Cleaning off my desk and getting my Montana scrapbook updated
  • Pick up Week 7 of the Almond Country Beauty quilt
  • Finish watching the Tour de France (ends next Sunday)
  • Get back into meditation and vitamins
But for now, more coffee and men in spandex!

Mandala Monday - It's All Material!

It's all about the fabric!

After catching up on my Almond Country Beauty blocks and the accompanying companion Batman quilt, I pulled out all 18 blocks made so far (9 per quilt).

I finished up Week 6 of the 12 week project and am staying caught up. So I thought, since they are round and 'mandala-like' I would combine a post on my progress with my Mandala Monday post. (The heat has fried my brain, so I couldn't think of two separate posts!)

Since I am using fabric from my stash for this quilt, I am using yellows for the background on the arches and then the white/blue fabric for the outer arch and center of the circle. I only have a limited amount of it and need to stretch it out to the end.

I also love how the black and red on the split spikes really looks good. 

While this is not how they are assembled in the quilt, it's going to be a really bright quilt and a fun one. Texter is loving it. But I can see where I will need to do some juggling and planning when it comes to laying out the quilt and to remember to mix up my yellow background more. Once again, the yellow is from my stash and trying not to have to go look for 'more'.

But not to be forgotten is the Almond Country Beauty itself.

Every week I wince at the fabrics as I pull them out of the bag to be used. By the time I finish the block I am in love with them. I guess one of the big advantages to participating in this BOW is using fabrics I wouldn't ordinarily pick for myself. I do try to separate the purple/blue fabrics from the orange ones and use those together. It will be interesting to see the final quilt top. 

I am saving the scraps (of course!) from the quilts and will probably figure out how to make some kind of string quilt with them. Or just through them into my scrap bin for a future string quilt.

So nine blocks made so far and 6 more weeks of making them. Staying on track will score me the border kit FREE! Incentive if nothing else.

Note: pictures were taken on my 'design floor' as I don't have a design wall these days. With the assistance of Lady K.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Three Summer Reads...

or rather, 

two reads and a listen.

First up, I finished listening to Neil Gaimen's Norse Mythology.

And while I don't normally care if a book is audio or print, this is one I would strongly urge to go with the audio version.

First, you can have all the 'weird' words pronounced for you!

I have always been terrible at 'sounding it out' and this helps.

Secondly, Neil Gaiman reads it himself and has a wonderful voice. Almost Alan Rickman-ish at times.

But a great read/listen, learning all the back story of Odin, Thor, Loki and the like - where they came from and where they went.

I think this would please both adults and kids on a long car trip this summer.

Continuing in the magical trend, I read Mark Tompkins The Last Days of Magic.

I had seen several rave reviews on it and our library had it in large print, so I borrowed it. And Diana Gabaldon liked it. (And if you don't know who she is, stop reading now!)


I waded through the first half and then skimmed the rest. Not a favorite of mine.

I think my problem with the book was the mish-mash of Judeo-Christian lore (fallen angels and the like) with Celtic mythology, thrown in with Chaucer and the Roman Catholic Church. 

It starts as a mystery in the present day, quickly reverts to medieval times and only at the end returns to the original mystery.

Now, in the back of my mind, I truly believe there are elves and fairies and brownies and the like. Fallen angels, check. Lilith and all her trouble making, double check. I also feel the reason they aren't around anymore is the old trope 'magic is failing because we don't believe in it anymore'. 

It was OK and while I won't say, don't read it, just put it at the bottom of the stack.

Oh, and by the way, large print editors, check the books better and don't rely so much on the computer. The book had several places were there was only one word in the middle of the sentence on a line because no one bothered to double check it. (And it wasn't a device of the book - just sloppy printing.)

If you are going to read one book this summer, let this be the one!

Jane just lost her husband to suicide. And it seems there has been a rise in the number of suicides, but no one is mentioning any of that. Did I mention Jane is a crack FBI agent?

So Jane goes to 'the silent corner', off the grid, so to speak, where she can't be traced, because it seems there are some really bad people not liking where she is poking her nose.

The story has a great premise and very believable. The action keeps you on the edge of your seat. And while the mystery has been solved, the story isn't over! So I can look forward to more about Jane and her adventures.

So now, back to my Robert Jordan odyssey. I am currently listening to book four, The Shadow Rising. And listening to Brandon Sanderson's Bands of Mourning. On the bedside table is a huge stack of to-be-read books, so stay tuned.

Friday, July 14, 2017

This is MY Reality...

I have a new morning ritual these days. 

Well, actually, it is almost an overnight ritual.

You see, it's F***ing hot here! 

When your phone flashes "excessive heat warning", it's hot!

And guess what!

Most of Montana is without air conditioning. Central air is almost nonexistent.

But it does cool down. At night. About 2 a.m.

So I get up and open up the windows to let in the cool air. 

And then about 10 a.m. I go back around and close them, turning on the window unit we have. And all the fans. And close all the curtains.

This is after I have moved water sprinklers around the yard for some water. Like watering the HUGE spruce at the corner of the lot. As in a 100 plus year old spruce tree.

This makes my lack of energy and progress a bit more understandable.

So today, it's a trip (maybe) to the swimming pool with Savvy and Lady K while Texter is working her convention. 

Then more TV time knitting or working on my Batman blocks. I am staying caught up on the Almond Country Beauty blocks themselves and have the Batman blocks ready to go together after I piece 3 more curves with spikes.

So off for more coffee and today's stage of the Tour de France.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Week in Review - July 2 - 8

Today is also "Mandala-less Monday". I have been rather busy this week with the start of the Tour de France and just didn't get it done. Which is why I am a day late posting my week in review. Today is a rest day for the Tour, so while I am sewing my Almond Country Beauty blocks today I will be semi-watching repeats of the past couple of days.


Despite hot temperatures this week, we have managed to stay fairly cool and comfortable. Thus, I was able to crochet, not one, but two afghans!

My position during the Tour and 'inspections' from Lady K on my progress.

Savvy's was done first and it has disappeared into the bowels of the basement or somewhere. Lady K's turned out to be very, very long and narrow. I did see Texter with it wrapped around her like a shawl. And on Lady K's we had to have only 4 large tassels, because, you see, she is only 4.

Both both were rather quick. One was out of Thick Yarn and the other was two strands held together and I used a V-stitch pattern. Easy and (almost) mistake proof. But they are now done and gone.

But starting back on the 2nd of July...

The kitchen was taken over by Savvy and friend (with assistance from Lady K) making pies. Strawberry/rhubarb was the primary pie. There were a couple of mixed berry pies in there too.

We had a 'surprise' visitor at our T-ball game on Wednesday night. Lady K's future husband if she has her way. He assisted in coaching during the game. She was so thrilled and so shy.

And later in the week, she wore her new 'ballet' clothes....around the house, to bed to sleep in.

Her 'intended's' sister is in ballet and this is an outfit she has outgrown. Along with another skirt and slippers. 

For myself, before I got distracted by rainbows, I made progress on the second sock...

We attended 4th of July celebrations at the park where I learned more about the back story of the creation of The Star-Spangled Banner.

A day trip to pick up my winnings from the local shop hop.  I had already picked up one prize, which was a wonderful bundle of goodies and then my second winning prize was a coloring book of quilt patterns from the Upper Thread in Anaconda.

But the really exciting prize?

When Quilter's Corner Etc. in Deer Lodge called to let me know I had won an iron, I was thinking a little travel iron. Instead, it's an iron which is smarter than me (which doesn't take much these days).

It lifts itself up and down!

I have only used it just a tiny bit and it will take some getting use to. But when you touch the handle it lowers itself and when you let go, it lifts itself up! Almost makes me want to iron some shirts!

And I have temporarily abandoned my striped socks to work on the Year of Techniques project for July which is a pair of socks. They are concentrating on heels....which is my Achilles!

Otherwise this week...

  • Wrote 3 posts
  • Finished 6 books (some were already in progress, I just finished them)
  • Helped Texter color her hair red again and she did mine purple again
  • 'Survived' the earthquake

This week...

  • NaguCon for Texter is this week, so lots of one-on-one time with Lady K
  • T-ball practice, game and pictures
  • Put out blankets Friday and then attend Symphony Under the Stars on Saturday
  • Finish up last week's and pick up this week's Almond Country Beauty Blocks
  • More Tour de France watching 
  • Try and stay cool during another warm week
  • Swim lessons, round 2, for Lady K

Well, it's time for another cup of coffee and rewatching some of the Tour before swim lessons.

Wednesday, July 05, 2017

"Pride" Afghan Completion

I am two or three weeks behind being 'up' on recent changes to the Gay Pride Flag. To be more inclusive, they have added black and brown stripes.  

And then it hit me, I would make an afghan for Savvy. Something I could work on while watching the Tour de France and went with a simple "V" stitch pattern.  

On Monday, I dashed out to Joann Fabrics before the race watching started.

I originally thought normal worseted weight yarn, but then went with the "Thick and Chunky" to make it a quick crochet project. I didn't want a project lingering around for days and weeks since I should be knitting on my socks (and other projects already started).

And sure enough, it was a quick job to have several rows done while watching TV.  

Only problem....Lady K zeroed in on the yarn and knew immediately it was a 'rainbow'. And huge hazel eyes looked at me and I was informed she didn't have a rainbow blanket. Now I'm glad I went ahead and bought both sets of yarn!

Texter was recruited to hold and I discovered 'something' occurred in the middle of the afghan I didn't know about. And her face was at Lady K who had come outside without shoes and had to be given mine so she could walk on the 'crunchy' grass.

I wish the purple, blue and yellow had been more  purplish, bluish and yellowish, but I went with what was on hand.

And I added tassels on both ends.

Savvy was thrilled with the blanket and it's already in use, despite the hot temperatures. It is heavy! Each stripe is a full skein of yarn less just a tad. 

So why a Gay Pride Afghan?

Savvy identifies with it. And I feel (proudly) even if she didn't identify with it, she would still support it as we both have several friends who do. I am so glad she is a strong female who stands with her friends.

Downside of this? A quilt is being designed. She has requested a quilt with the different flags for the LGBT movement. where are all my solid colors?

Note: Yes, I have started on Lady K's rainbow afghan (with the black and brown included per her directions) last night. I was severely chastised because I wasn't working on it at one point! Same pattern, yarn doubled.

Monday, July 03, 2017

Sunday, July 02, 2017

Week in Review - June 25 - July 1

Where is the year going?!?!?!

July already!

Oh well, that means it's...

Tour de France Time!

And while weather has been a bit on the cool side so far this year, July is already making itself known for being HOT!

Saturday was the first hike in a long time with my Helena Hikers group. We went to First People's Buffalo Jump .  And because it was a short, easy hike, Texter and Lady K attended also. 

But more on that hike later in the week.

And because the temperatures for July are forecast to be HOT, HOT, HOT, I bit the bullet and purchased a window unit for the front room on Saturday evening. We had one unit which came with the rental which we had installed in Texter's bedroom. 

Her room is always warm - no air circulation at all. But I'm old and cranky in the heat, not to mention Noel is too old and cranky to be uncomfortable. So I dug in the pocketbook and 'splurged' on another air conditioner. So I can knit and watch the Tour de France comfortably. And nap comfortably. You know, the important things in life.

Otherwise this past week...

  • Finished 4 books
  • Finished 6 bags for my knitting projects 
  • Started the Disney Villains quilt
  • T-ball practice and game
  • Finished 1 sock and started the second one
  • Signed Lady K up for the next round of swim lessons
  • Found out I won two more prizes in the local quilt shop hop!

The coming week...

  • Watching Tour de France and knitting!
  • Trying to stay cool
  • Another T-ball game
  • Trip to Deer Lodge and Anaconda to pick up my winnings!
  • Finishing up another audio book and onto the last one in the series
  • Staying up on Almond Country Quilt and finish piecing the Disney Villains quilt top

Well, off to put on clothes and another cup of coffee. Have an early morning grocery store run with Savvy for sugar for her pie making with a friend today.


Friday, June 30, 2017

Summer Rolls Along

We had a couple of 'warm' days here in Helena in June, but for the most part it has been pretty cool. Not really feeling the summer vibe. But of course, in true Montana fashion, if it's in the 40's, on goes the shorts. Go figure.

But today the temperatures are set to start going up for the next week or so. Which means watering the lawn and my tomatoes daily. 

Anyway, my June goals were...

  • Gym time - HAHAHAHAHA!
  • Writing - morning pages if nothing else and more extensive journaling - another HAHAHA!
  • Start the Almond Country BOW quilt (supplies and backing purchased) - staying on top of it and making a second quilt at the same time
  • Local Quilt Shop Hop and start the Row by Row hop - did the local hop and won from one of them and will collect more 'license plates' as we do day trips
  • Big Sky Fiber Festival - 
  • Swim lessons and t-ball start for Lady K  - which is one reason why no gym time!
  • Texter takes her written driver's test so she can start practicing driving
  • Crystal Park to dig for crystals - did!
  • Gulch Distillers for a class on making syrups - I have a jar of simple syrup, ginger syrup, and raw sugar syrup
  • Lots of knitting! - so-so, wrapping up the Mystery Wrap
  • Even more reading! - read enough to turn in a Book Bingo sheet at the library

So for July...

  • Texter has NaguCon and I am the babysitter (3 days)
  • Symphony in the Park with the 'gang'
  • Copper K Fiber Festival and a drop spindle class
  • Two hikes - one with Lady K and Texter and one without
  • Staying up on the Almond Country Quilt and the Batman Quilt
  • GYM!
  • Reading (or listening to audio books)
  • T-ball and second round of swim lessons
  • Phillipsburg (candy) and Gem Mountain day trip
  • Finish knitting Mystery Wrap, Trout Creek Shawl and one pair of socks (have one sock done!)
  • Start on (and hopefully complete the top for) the Queen of Ween and the Disney Villains quilts. I have one top designed and the other I am using a Moda pattern on.
  • Trip to Phillipsburg to the Sweet Shop 
  • Help/participate in a cleanse with Savvy while she is on vacation (of course, this is after the trip to the sweet shop
  • Couple of hikes with the hiking group
  • Taking a "Birds of a Feather" quilt block class
  • Texter taking her driving test for her learner's permit now that a replacement birth certificate has arrived

But for now...more coffee to go with some baked apple donuts.