Good Morning, friends. Welcome to Monday!
We had a very bittersweet weekend. Our daughter and her mini-zoo came for a quick visit, which is always wonderful. However, we also told her this weekend that our sweet Flora, our Pretty Princess, the best pup in the world, was just ‘diagnosed’ with leukemia this past week. I use quotes around ‘leukemia’ because the only way we would know for certain is to run a battery of tests, including a bone marrow biopsy, and at 12.5 years old, we are not doing that to her.
Our vet has over 25 years of experience, and given the tests she can run in the office, Flora’s symptoms, her age, and her breed (Golden Retriever), she is 95% certain we are dealing with leukemia. We will get additional test results this week, giving us more information.
We have medications to keep her comfortable and increase her appetite, and they are definitely working. Flora has spent her entire 12.5 years bringing joy to our family, and we will make sure that however many weeks or months she has, she will know she is loved and adored.
Gosh, I don’t want to start your week off on a downer. Of course, we are sad (I’m having difficulty typing through the tears), but we are also pragmatic. As I said, we have had 12.5 years with this practically perfect in every way pup, and for that, we are so very thankful. I think we can all agree that dogs, cats, and other cherished pets don’t live long enough, but we know that going in.
This quote always speaks to me…
Blessed is the person who has earned the love of an old dog.Sydney Jeanne Seward
So…(as she wipes her eyes and juts out her stiff upper lip), let’s switch subjects!
With that news and that my trusty laptop is on its last leg, I’m thrilled to have new content for you this week. I had planned to get two new articles out, but I’m content with just one. Sometimes, we must accept that the universe has other plans, and we are largely just along for the ride.
And for those curious about Mom’s Pinewood Derby Race, there’s always next year! 🙄
new on the blog
As promised, I have a new knit pattern for you. Actually, it’s a knit and a bit of a sewing project. It reminds me of the braided rag rugs my Grandma would make. This I-Cord Trivet Pattern involves knitting an i-cord and then coiling it to make a lovely and robust trivet. I know you’ll want some for your kitchen, but they also make great gifts.
from the knit studio
- I love it when you share your finished knit projects. Kim in South Africa shared her version of the Grace blanket. She used 100% cotton in mint green.
- I have a question for you! Look at the Magic Loop Tutorial I published last week and the I-Cord Trivet Tutorial I just published this week. I go back and forth in my mind as to which way of instructing is most helpful and effective, and these two articles show two different ways. If you have an opinion on the most helpful, please share your opinion. Thanks!
from the kitchen
- Fromage Fort is such a great way to use up those bits and bobs of cheese in your fridge or freezer. Add herbs and wine that you have on hand for a delicious spread.
- Looking for a way to get more fiber in your diet? Who isn’t? These Fiber ‘Cookies’ are chock full of healthy fiber and actually taste good!
- This curry salad dressing recipe is one of our all-time favorite salad dressings. It is one of those salad dressings that is perfect with just a simple bowl of greens or with a heartier salad. Just a little bit of this dressing adds a unique and delightful taste profile to your salad and will quickly become one of your go-to salad dressings.
- The secret ingredient to making a creamy, almost fat-free, Cream of Tomato Soup? Pureed white beans? A delicious and healthy alternative to heavy creams.
- I slightly altered my Grandma’s Date Nut Bars Recipe. Substituting brown sugar for white sugar gives this classic recipe a richer flavor with just a hint of molasses.
from the craft studio
- If it is too hot outside, make a terrarium to keep your green thumb busy!
- Love a copper tub but don’t love the copper tub price? How I ‘fauxed’ my way to this copper tub.
- While we are ‘fauxing’, this handy tray was the outer part of one of those acrylic frames that have a cardboard interior. I faux-marbled it, which is one of my favorite things to do. The beauty of a project like this is that if you aren’t happy with your results, paint it over and start again. A video shows my process.
house and home
This time next week, I will be visiting friends in Charlottesville and helping my friend jumpstart her decluttering process before she moves. If you have a big declutter project and are stuck, I highly recommend reaching out to a friend who you know will keep you accountable. I also suggest you keep these 10 questions handy. The answers to these question prompts will really help you figure out what should stay in your home and what needs to find a new home.
I also find it really helpful to figure out in advance where you want to take your discards. Contact your church or other organization you support and ask them what they need or accept. Knowing that someone needs something you are on the fence about may help push you where you need to go. Here’s a list of places to take your donations, discards, and recyclables.
on my nightstand
At the end of every month, I share my ‘reviews’ of books I’ve read and where I stand for the year. I’ve set a goal to read 33 books this year. Many of you have written that you enjoy and appreciate my ‘book reviews’ (if you can call them that!), but I always struggle with not giving too much away and am also cognizant that my likes are not everyone else’s likes.
I am doing the Goodreads Reading Challenge again this year. Last year I read thirty books, and this year upped it to thirty-three. So with that said, I’ve read 15 books thus far in 2023. Here is my quick and dirty review with one to five thumbs-up.
- The Road by Cormac McCarthy 👍🏼👍🏼👍🏼👍🏼👍🏼 Wow, where to begin with this one? It’s a quick read, but it doesn’t feel quick. There is very little ‘feel good’ in the book, which is not a reason not to read it. McCarthy’s sparse prose puts you right in the midst of this post-apocalyptic world, where, despite the suffocating hopelessness, a father and son still find hope. McCarthy does such a phenomenal job putting you in that world that one morning after I had read it the night before, I was slightly startled to hear birdsong.
- Howard’s End by E.M. Forster 👍🏼👍🏼👍🏼👍🏼👍🏼 On the other end of the prose spectrum, this was an at times humorous and at times somber satire of the social strata of early 20th century England. I had never watched the movie before and followed the book by watching the Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson movie. The movie takes very few liberties, following the book closely.
- Burial Rites by Hannah Kent 👍🏼👍🏼👍🏼👍🏼👍🏼 When I was describing this book to my mom, I read the first paragraph of the book jacket and remarked, “not sure why I choose to read something that sounds so depressing, but I’m glad I did.” It is a historical fiction based on the last beheading in Iceland in the early 19th century. Kent does a brilliant job with her prose of placing you in the stark and merciless world of Iceland at that time. We know how the story ends before it begins, but it is the way that the tale of our protagonist, Agnes, unravels that will keep you totally immersed in the book. It is a rare day that I take time during the middle of the day to sit down with a book, which I did with this one over the weekend. It is haunting, yet somehow lovely at the same time.
- Brain Maker by David Perlmutter 👍🏼👍🏼👍🏼👍🏼 A little non-fiction intermission! I am interested in gut health and how it affects our entire body. If this area interests you too, you’ll find this book enlightening. The bottom line, we are what we eat.
- Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell 👍🏼👍🏼👍🏼👍🏼👍🏼 Oh my heavens, I am on a roll! I’m afraid to say that out loud for fear of jinxing myself, but this was another gorgeous book! This book is meant to be savored; it is not a page-turner. O’Farrell has an incredibly poetic way with words that creates lush and melodic prose. This is ostensibly the story of Shakespeare, his wife Agnes, and their young son, Hamnet, who died from the plague. I say, ‘ostensibly’ because while Shakespeare is never named, you know it is him. And it is less about Shakespeare and more about his wife, her interests, her passions, and their relationship before, during, and after the death of their only son. Once again, I enjoyed this book so much that I reserved several more of her books from the library.
- The Hand that First Held Mine by Maggie O’Farrell 👍🏼👍🏼👍🏼👍🏼.5 There is no ‘half a thumbs up’ emoji…hence the .5. The only reason this is a 4.5 is that I don’t want to be too generous with the 5 thumbs to lose my credibility, and compared to Hamnet, it wasn’t quite as lovely. All that said, it is still a good book! Once again, not a page-turner but a slow unveiling of the relationship between two women of two different eras.
- The Good People by Hannah Kent 👍🏼👍🏼👍🏼👍🏼. Like her Burial Rites, this is based on true events. This time the story is set in early 19th century Ireland amongst a group of people struggling with poverty and a hardscrabble life. The belief in fairies (The Good People) figures heavily in this story, as does the conflict between that belief and the church. This ended completely differently than I expected and has I predicted last month! It is a sad story for all of the characters.
- I’m on a bit of a Maggie O’Farrell bent. I just really appreciate her writing, it is almost poetry. Her book, I Am, I Am, I Am: Seventeen Brushes with Death👍🏼👍🏼👍🏼 is my least favorite, but I still enjoyed reading it. A bit of a biography and I appreciate the insight into her life.
- The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox 👍🏼👍🏼👍🏼👍🏼 by Maggie O’Farrell is the story of two women of different generations who are related, but did not know it. The younger character takes in the elder and uncovers her heartbreaking past. The story does go back and forth in time, which didn’t bother me at all. O’Farrell does such a great job making you really care for her characters.
- This Must Be the Place 👍🏼👍🏼👍🏼.5 by Maggie O’Farrell. Clearly I am still on my Maggie O’Farrell binge! This was another gorgeous book. At it’s core, it is about love, in all of its forms and variations. I struggled a bit with the back and forth in time and place, but she did bring it together. The story revolves around Daniel and Claudette, their marriage, their past marriages, their children and their past history that has brough them to their inflection point.
- A Ghost in the Throat 👍🏼👍🏼👍🏼👍🏼 by Doireann Ní Ghríofa. This was a recommendation by one of our readers and I am so thankful for it! It’s a little hard to describe, but I’ll give it a go. It’s a bit of an autobiography by a young mother, also a published poet, who is fascinated (maybe a bit obsessed) by a famous poem written in the 18th century by another young Irish mother, Eileen O’Leary. The author, Doireann, traces the truth behind poem and the poem’s author, which centers on the murder of Art O’Leary. She hooks you with her opening line, “When we first met, I was a child, and she had been dead for centuries.“
- The City of Thieves 👍🏼👍🏼👍🏼👍🏼.5 by David Benioff. I loved everything about this book which was recommended to me by my brother! It is the story of Benioff’s grandfather, a Russian teenager during the siege of Leningrad and another young Russian soldier he meets in jail. Not to be cliche, but it will, in turn, make you giggle and make you cry. You witness the atrocities of the war at the same time you witness the evolving friendship between these two young men. The two main characters are immensely likable and have stayed with me even after finishing the book.
- The Marriage Portrait 👍🏼👍🏼👍🏼👍🏼 by Maggie O’Farrell is the story of Lucrezia de Medici who was married at age of 13 to the Duke of Ferrara, 11 years her senior. Sadly, Lucrezia dies one year later under suspicious circumstances. What we know about this event is minimal, so O’Farrell adds much flesh to the bare bones. I’ve said that I am entralled by her style of writing, which remains true in this book.
- The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon 👍🏼👍🏼👍🏼👍🏼 This was a project and hard to summarize in a few sentences. On its surface, it is the story of two cousins in NYC at the beginning of World War II. Between the two of them, they create comic book heroes that tackle the injustices being inflicted on the innocents in Europe. But this story is much more than that; it is the story of one of the young men worrying about his Jewish family that he left behind in Czechoslovakia. Not only does he worry, but he feels immense guilt that he escaped and attempts to use his earning from the comic books to bring his younger brother to safety. It is the story of the other young man coming to grips with his sexuality. Chabon weaves non-ficton into his fiction, featuring Salvador Dali and Orson Welles in vignettes and has a beautiful way with words; having a dictionary handy may be useful! I’ve truly just scratched the surface of the book, which mostly moved along quickly, though I did feel it lagged in a few spots.
- If you like espionage and spy thrillers, you’ll enjoy I Am Pilgrim, by Terry Hayes. 👍🏼👍🏼👍🏼 It took me a while to get into it. He had this long rambling chapter at the beginning of the book that almost lost me, but once I got into the book it made sense. Set shortly after 9-11, it is the story of two characters; one who is bent on destruction and the other trying to prevent that destruction.
- The Last Painting of Sara de Vos by Dominic Smith. 👍🏼👍🏼👍🏼The story focuses on a single painting and weaves through three different characters related to that painting during three different time periods; the Netherlands in the 1630s, New York in the 1950s, and Sydney, Australia in 2000. I enjoyed getting into the characters, as well as the details of painting and forgery that the writer lays out. I know not everyone loves books that travel back and forth in time, but I didn’t have a problem with it at all.
- Circe by Madeline Miller 👍🏼👍🏼👍🏼👍🏼 I loved that this book brought to life and retold the story of the Greek goddess Circe as well as several other minor and major Greek Gods, heroes, and monsters. If you aren’t well-versed in Greek mythology, you might find it helpful to have a resource nearby as you read the book. I’m anxious to read her other book, The Song of Achilles.
- Verity by Colleen Hoover 🙄 Color me dumbfounded! At the risk of offending Colleen Hoover fans, why this book rated 4.6/5.0 stars on Amazon made me shake my head in confusion. Sorry. It was one of the dumbest books I’ve read in a long time. I’m all about a book that prompts me to suspend disbelief: give me all the Harry Potter books, Cloud Cuckoo Land, etc. But, I can’t do it when an author tries to sell a story of real life that doesn’t pass the common sense and logic test. And I’m fine with sex scenes, but there was so much gratuitous sex …I guess solely for the shock factor? I don’t know. This book earned the very first ‘eyeroll emoji!’
- Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver Thankfully, the book gods came to my rescue with this wonderful palate cleanser after Verity! (time for me to get off my soapbox?) Think Mark Twain meets David Copperfield meets Lincoln Highway (one of my favorite books!) and you have a good feel for Demon Copperhead. I thoroughly enjoy every sentence of this book, even with the sad and heartwrenching tale it weaves! The characters are so brought to life so lovingly; there are several to whom I’ve formed an attachment. Barbara Kingsolver is just so uniquely gifted! I’m about 3/4 into it, but not ready for it to end.
Well friends, thanks for being here today, for letting me cry on your shoulder, and for giving me something positive on which to focus my thoughts and energies! I’ve got a lot to do before I head out of town on Saturday.
I have every intention of getting ‘stuff’ done this week, so plan on a newsletter next week!
Have a great week.