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Saturday, August 30, 2008

Kettle Cove, Cape Elizabeth

We spent the morning at Kettle Cove, which is the free side of Crescent Beach State Park. It's not quite as beachy, especially today, as we arrived at the highest point of an usually high tide. It was also strangely quite for a holiday weekend. We had our pick of parking, and were able to stake out the tip of the grassy area on one of the little rocky points.

It was a lovely place to spend the morning reading. There was a bit of a breeze, so we ended up leaving when the sun disappeared for a little while, and the breeze jumped into uncomfortably cool territory.

Coyote Blue - Christopher Moore

Read for the TBR Reading Challenge

Christopher Moore writes a great comic book. He can bring humor to situations usually better left touched only with great gravity and tack. I hate to say it, but I wasn’t feeling that so much with Coyote Blue.

The premise is certainly a good one: a Crow Indian named Samson Hunts Alone has run away from the reservation, leaving his heritage behind and assuming the new identity of Samuel Hunter, expert salesman. Life is going great until the ancient trickster god Coyote decides that Sam needs to help, and hilarity ensues. I kept waiting for the hilarity. It actually wasn’t a bad story, except that it was a Christopher Moore story, so I expected it to be a bit more over the top. Instead, Coyote is a good seemingly out of touch with the modern world. I’d think of any of the old gods, the Trickster would be the one to keep up with the times.

The book does have the introduction of a recurring character in some of Moore’s other story lines, so that at least was a satisfying part of the story.

My final thought upon finishing the book is that Neil Gaiman does it better. If you want a fun romp through the world as the old gods meddle in the lives of us mere mortals, read Anansi Boys.

Monday, August 25, 2008

R.I.P III Reading Challenge

Well, now I know the summer has been flying along. It's time again for Carl V's R.I.P. Reading Challenge. (The mind boggles!)

I'm going to do Peril the First this year. This involves reading four books out of any of the subgenres represented in the challenge, sometime between 9/1 and 10/31. I've actually been saving up books all year for this list. I've got six to choose from, just to make sure library or mail delays (yay Paperspine!) don't thwart me.

My picks are:

The Ladies of Grace Adieu and other Stories - Susanna Clarke
Blood and Chocolate - Annette Krause
Twilight - Stephanie Meyer (Yes, I have managed not to read this yet...)
Living Dead in Dallas - Charlaine Harris
Nocturnes - John Connolly
Tamsin - Peter Beagle

I'm really excited to get started with this challenge, and since I've just got one book to go for the Mythopoeic Challenge, that should be shortly.

Sock Yarnista

My first Sock Yarnista shipment has arrived! I got the Silver Bay colorway of this month's Beckon Super Merino. Sadly, the light's not so good today, so the photo above doesn't really do the color any justice. It's definitely a good icy blue.

I'm really tempted to start on this month's sock pattern. I need to sit down and figure out how to switch it over to DPNs. I don't think it'll be that hard, but I may wait until after I've got some progress going on the Maelstrom socks I'll be doing in September. I don't want to start these and have to pause in the middle. So we'll see. I really love the pattern.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Knitting Notes

Jaywalker sock number one is done! I have absolutely no idea when sock number two will get done, as I seem to have acquired a number of other project I should really be doing in September, but I can't afford to tie up my sock needles. So we'll see when I get started on number 2. The pattern is at least super easy, and shouldn't be a problem to pick back up again.

In our travels yesterday, I picked up some Trekking Hand Art Yarn at the Yarn Sellar in York. (BF was finishing off our Flo's hot dogs lunch, so I had some time at my leisure :)

I'm planning on doing the 2009 Sockdown Challenge on Ravelry. September's challenge is to do either an orange sock, or a Cookie A sock. I've been lusting after Maelstrom ever since Twist Collective went live, and I think the blues in the Trekking yarn will look great in that pattern. (On a side note, I have to add to everyone that's been singing the praises of the Twist Collective Patterns. They've very nicely written, with lots of photos. I'm quite sure I'll be buying more from them.)

My first Sock Yarnista package went out of Friday, and since a number of people have already received theirs, I'm hoping mine will show up on Monday. I've already gotten the pattern, which is called Barrow, and is an incredibly cool Celtic knot pattern. It's done on circs, so I'll either have to learn how to do that, or figure out how to adapt the pattern to DPNs. So I may not be able to make it immediately, but I definitely want to make it some day. (If it's easily adaptable to DPNs, that might be sooner rather than later.)

Around York County, Maine

We spent yesterday tooling around York County, something we used to do with a little more frequency in the summer before gas prices went through the roof. It was definitely nice being on the road and seeing what was open/closed/changed since the last time we went through.

We stopped at a couple of used book stores, meeting the gentleman above, who obviously has good taste. I've found over the past couple of years that my relationship with books has changed. I'm much less likely to stock up on books, no matter how much I like them. I lost most of my Mercedes Lackey Tregarth books several years back to a borrower who never returned them (I think I'd brought over around 20 of the books, because I had previously trusted this person). I could have bought one of the now missing trilogies at one of the stores yesterday, but I realized that I didn't really need them taking up space in my house, when I probably wasn't going to be rereading them anytime soon. This is a fundamental change in my thoughts on books, and is still leaving me in a weird pondering place today. (I did buy two books that I'd never read before, and would probably not come across in another place. Those seemed worth the money/space.)

Another stop was at the Stonewall Kitchen headquarters in York. I don't know who does their landscaping, but that person is a genius. I look forward every year to seeing what they came up with this time. This years theme seems to be big and tropical:

The row of elephant ears up the front walk is incredible. They have them in these interesting spiral metal planters, so they have an impressive height to them. Very cool display.

I also noticed this angel's trumpet, which is right in the corner near the door, for the first time. It's actually an impressively sized speciman, considering that these do not over winter up here. I can't remember seeing it before, so I wonder if it was just never in bloom, or if they brought it in specially this year for the tropical theme, and someone overwinters it in a greenhouse. It's gorgeous whatever the story is.

They also maintain a cutting garden, which they use for the cafe. The zinnias and dahlias are in full, gorgeous bloom, and were host to a bee smorgasboard.

We stopped and had an early dinner with T, on her break from work in NH, and then head back over the border, to York Beach.

This was actually our second try to get parking. Dinner time seemed to be the charm, and the BF head into the Fun O Rama to play some video games, while I wandered around the souviner shops to see what knick knacks are available for the tourists this year.

I actually like hitting York in the summer at least once, because it reminds me how lucky we are to have this place all year. The summer visitors see the view we had yesterday, which is clogged with people and traffic. I've been to the beach in the winter when there was no one there, and it was actually quiet enough to hear the pounding of the surf. And you know what? Sure, it's cold in the winter, but I still think my quiet view is the better of the two.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Austenland - Shannon Hale

Read for the TBR Reading Challenge.

I had a sudden thought about half way through Austenland. What would Jane Austen think of the many books that have been written based upon or in homage to her books?

I enjoyed Austenland. The story centers on Jane Hayes, a woman in her early thirties who has finally realized that she’s given up on every man in her life because they didn’t mention up to Mr. Darcy of Pride and Prejudice fame. It’s not something she’s proud of, and one of the few people to figure this out is her great aunt Carolyn. When Carolyn dies, she leaves Jane a trip to a regency themed resort in England.

Jane’s three weeks at the resort are interestingly documented, and followed many of my own thoughts about how much I think I’d actually like living in Regency times. It all seems very romantic on the surface, but the three weeks give Jane a surprisingly long time to think about her life, and what she really wants from it.

There is romance in the book, and it was both predictable and ultimately unpredictable. I blew through this book in two nights (probably could have managed one night on a weekend), and that was two nights enjoyably spent.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Moonheart - Charles de Lint

Read for the Mythopoeic Awards Reading Challenge.

Charles de Lint is probably best known for his books set in the city of Newford, but this novel, one of his earliest, is set between Ottawa and the forests of the Otherworld. It was very much a story of the old world vs the new world, and having recently read American Gods, made an interesting contrast.

The book starts out very strongly, introducing us to Jamie Tams, and his niece Sara Kendall, residents of Tamson House, a sprawling house that takes up an entire block in Ottawa. It’s the kind of house that seems to go on forever, and you never know quite who you’re going to meet there.

Into this mix comes Kiernan Foy, and his mentor Thomas Hengwr, both wizards. Before too much longer, Tamson House, and a number of interesting characters including the bard Taliesin, are caught up in a battle that spans time and worlds. It’s hard to know exactly who the enemy is, or how that enemy will be defeated.

I very much enjoyed the beginning of this book, but got a little bit bogged down toward the end. This is not to say that the story didn’t end well, but it somehow seemed to lack some sort of polish that the author’s later books have. But, it’s entirely possible I’m just being picky because I have been exposed to a number of the author’s later books. I can definitely see where the de Lint is playing with the themes he later uses in the Newford books.

This is definitely an enjoyable read, and might be a good introduction for someone that doesn’t want to try and find the logical place to start in the Newford books. (Though I feel compelled to note that The Little Country would also fulfill this criteria, and boasts a thoroughly satisfying ending as well.)

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Around the Lower Penobscot River, Maine

Today is my aunt and uncle's 40th wedding anniversary, so we headed up to Stockton Springs for a celebration of that yesterday. We had a great luncheon, with a decent chunk of my mother's extended family. There was good food, and tons of little cousins running around causing much noise and fun. Hands down cutest moment of the afternoon was when my 2-year-old little cousin J decided to try and emulate the older boys when they were rolling down the grassy hill we'd taken pictures on. J didn't quite get the concept of rolling, so was instead inching down the hill like an inch worm. Cutest thing ever.

The after party turned into an imprompto historical tour of the lower Penobscot River Valley.

The BF and I started the afternoon with a side trip to Fort Point State Park in Stockton Springs. The actual fort (Pownall) is long gone, but you can still see the vaguely four-sided star shaped walls. There's also a small lighthouse and belltower, and plenty of picnic space and shore to wander. The fog horn out on a ledge in the middle of the river was going great guns while we were there, despite the brilliant sunshine. I suspect there was a fog bank hovering closer to the mouth of the river.

After Fort Point, we met up with several of my cousins at Fort Knox State Historic Site a little further up the river in Prospect. I'd been to Fort Knox before when I was much younger, which is the best time for a first trip. It was a blast being there with my cousin K's four boys, who were having the time of their lives wandering around the grounds.

The fort is fairly well preserved, and you can wander around in the tunnels in the hillside that lead to the batteries. There are parts where you really need a flashlight, which of course are perfect for scaring the living daylights out of the kids, who mostly love every minute of it.

It's possible to get up on the roof level, which offers some great views of the town of Bucksport on the other side of the river, and all of the surrounding scenery. It also offers a good view of the two year old Penobscot Narrows Bridge (which is currently fronted by the smaller Hancock-Waldo bridge it replaced). The old bridge there was pretty tall, and was always exciting to cross, so the new, taller bridge is even better. (It was really neat watching as they built it. They started on either side, and built out to meet in the middle.)

The other really cool thing about the bridge is that they built an observation deck into the top of one of the towers. It's just an additional two dollar charge to the Fort Knox entrance fee (a whopping $5 total for an adult) to get in. Anyone that doesn't like heights should stay away, but for everyone else, it's a great experience. The tower is essentially the tallest occupied structure in Maine, and the view is amazing.

Yesterday was just hazy enough that we couldn't see the furthest away features, like Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park, but there was still plenty to see of the river valley and some of the slightly less far away topography. Definitely a cool way to end the day.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Knitting Notes

The gauntlets for L are done! And only three project changes later. I really hope she likes them, when she finally gets to wear them down in that hot Texas weather.

I definitely liked the Socks that Rock Raven Clan Valkyrie that I used for the gauntlets. The colors blend really interestingly. They definitely remind me a of the colors in a feather. I did get a slight bit of bleed of the black onto my fingers as I was knitting, but nothing too bad. I gave them a good vinegar bath last night, so that will hopefully set the last of the dye. The water was clear the entire time I was washing them.

I have almost half of the skein of yarn left, so I'll have to think of something fun to do with that. I'm tempted to do baby socks, but I'm not sure if I want to scar any parents for life if I forget to warn them that baby might have black feet the first time s/he wears them.

I'm about two rows away from turning the heel on the Jaywalkers. I had to a take a forced break today when I managed to give myself a paper cut right on the pad of my pushing finger. That was not going so well. I'm hoping to get these done before I get my first Sock Yarnista package from Three Irish Girls, but we'll see. I'm won't be too cut up about it if I don't.

Sunday, August 10, 2008


I finally remembered to take some pictures of the back garden today. I'm not sure why I've had a mental block on the back garden for the last month. It's actually been doing pretty well back there, in some ways better than the side garden. (The side garden is definitely suffering from all the rain we've gotten over the past week. Since it's right underneath the gutterless side of the roof, quite a few plants have been knocked around, and there aren't very many flowers at the moment.)

I can definitely see the advantage of container planting in this garden. It gives the appearance of being very lush because I can cram all the plants right up against each other, rather than give them some space like you need to when they're in the ground.

The garden, and back yard in general, are now getting quite a bit more sun then they have for the past five years. My landlord came in a couple weeks back, and decided to "trim" the lilac bush:

Don't get my wrong, the lilac needed some serious pruning, but this isn't exactly what I had in mind. If it survives the winter, it can probably recover within a couple of years, but the poor thing is going to have a hard time of it. He also decided to "trim" the climbing roses in the side garden. It's not nearly as bad, but I'm doubtful we'll get any blooms next year.

In other interesting if you're into that kind of thing news, there's a garden spider living over the front of the back garden. I managed to catch her today as she was putting up supper:

Pretty interesting sight there. She's been over those plants for at least a month, which has to be a record for spiders remaining in one place in our yard.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

First Test - Tamora Pierce

Read for the YA 2008 Reading Challenge.

First Test
is the third trilogy set in the land of Tortall (the present day, as it were, until the story in Terrier). In it, we met Keladry of Mindelan, the first girl to openly attempt to become a knight in at least a century in Tortall.

This was a sweet book, extremely reminiscent of Alanna, the First Adventure, with an interesting contrast, since although the reader knew Alanna was a girl, she had concealed that fact from everyone in the story.

Here, Kel is trying to prove that Alanna was no fluke, and women deserve to serve as knights. Naturally, many of the men need some time to get used to this idea. First Test follows Kel’s first year at the palace.

The one thing I really noticed about this book, having so recently read Terrier, is the noticeable contrast in length and complexity between these two books. I believe it was in one of the Trickster books (the duology that comes after this series – yes I’ve gotten myself out of order), or perhaps in an interview with Tamora Pierce that I read during the time I was reading those books, where she noted that one of the things that Harry Potter did for the young adult market that she really appreciated was to make it acceptable to write longer books. I hadn’t realized how true this was until I read Terrier, published within the last several years, and this book, published in 1999, back to back. Pierce’s earlier works, both the Tortall books and the Circle of Magic books, are smaller books, easily read by an adult in a day, if you don’t need to take a break. The newer books are definitely longer, and I’m really happy to realize that. I’ve long been a big fan of the young adult section, and in more recent years, I’ve found more new books there that I’ve loved than in any other section. I’m excited that the genre seems to be growing, and people are feeling free to really great, complex books for young adults.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Knitting Notes

I've actually finished one half of take three on my gift for L, so I'm now confident enough to actual say what it is. Socks just weren't working for with this yarn, for some reason, so I decided to go with Dragon Scale gauntlets, and I finally found a pattern I like, and that works with the yarn. The left one is done, and I'm actually feeling good enough about the project that I may be able to get it to her by her actual birthday (this would be a first, as we normally have to wait until the next gift-giving holiday to exchange presents from the last one).

I was then apparently feeling sock deprived, because I cast on some Jaywalkers in my Sophie's Toes Handsome Park Ranger. I really like this yarn. Love the base yarn, and I'm liking how the colors are combining in the socks. It occurred to me after casting on that it was perhaps not the most brilliant of ideas to cast on socks in my most used needle sized so close to my first Sock Yarnista Club delivery, but I guess I'll have to cross that bridge when I come to it.

On the sweater front, I've been facing a bit of a moral quandary. I bought the yarn to make a Pearl Buck Swing Jacket, and then discovered the February Lady sweater (along with half of Ravelry). I've had the yarn for it in my shopping basket on Knitpicks for a month or more, but have been feeling bad because of the Merino Style I had kicking around already, because the swing jacket just isn't doing it for me anymore. And then I realized that it's the same yarn I'd need for the Brocade Leaves Pullover in the latest issue of Knitscene, and the guilt is gone. Combine this with the realization that I have enough leftover shine worsted in a really nice green color to make a new Baby Yoda Sweater for Blueberry, and life is good. I now have a Knitpicks order all ready to go with yarn for February Lady, a hat I want to make for Blueberry, and some needles I need to accomplish this. I think both sweaters will be great for Fall, and I'm looking forward to making them.

In final news, in a fit of crazy, I joined the Sundara Seasons club, with a subscription for Summer. I would have gone with Autumn, but I really want some blue, and Summer just edged out Winter after looking at pictures of last year's yarn. I'm really looking forward to actually getting my hands on some of this yarn, since my lifestyle just doesn't accommodate stalking her site for updates.

Cordelia Underwood - Van Reid

Read for the TBR 2008 Reading Challenge.

Cordelia Underwood or the Marvelous Beginnings of the Moosepath League is a fun historical adventure/mystery/very slight romance set in my home state. The story is engaging, as a Mainer, watching the action move my hometown (Portland) up the coast, through Bangor and into the woods of Millinocket (the only location in the book I’ve not visited) is just tons of fun. You can tell the author did his research by the care he uses with his locations.

Cordelia Underwood is a young woman living in Portland, who suddenly finds herself the heiress to some land her uncle, a sea captain, owned in the woods of Maine. Her family’s adventure while visiting this land is central to the story.

Also central to the story is Tobias Walton, a genial older gentleman, returning to close up the family home after the death of his aunt. He’s not been back to Maine in years, and finds a great deal more adventure than he bargained for.

There are a number of characters introduced in the story, and since this is the first book of a trilogy, I’m sure there are more opportunities to get to know them.

I thoroughly enjoyed the book, and will definitely try to get my hands on the next two. The book seemed well received by critics, but I’d be interested to get the reaction of a regular non-Maine native, just so I can try to sort out how much of my enjoyment was location based, and how much was story based.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Knitting Notes

I'd cast on the Glorianna pattern from the Elizabeth I scarf pattern set a few weeks back, but a few frogs later convinced me that I need to ease myself into the lace knitting a little more. I had several dropped stitch incidents that caused said frogging, and it was really starting to get on my nerves. So, I cast on Town and Country instead last night, and the above is the progress I was able to make while watching Top Gear episodes. I'm liking this pattern much better, on a keeping my sanity level, already. I think I may ease up to Dainty Bess next, and then hopefully, I can finally hack Glorianna. I certainly have enough lace weight yarn lying around to accomplish all three, and I think they'd make great Christmas gifts.

I've also rethought my gift to L for the 50-billionth, ok, 3rd time. However, since I seem to be changing my mind every other second, I think that's the only mention of it I'll make for the time being. The pattern I'm currently working on seems to be working out pretty well, but I thought the River Rapid socks were coming along pretty well until I got done with the heel, and it was enormous, so what do I know? I think I need to get to a finished product before I trust that this current decision will actually work.

I've also decided to give up on Project Spectrum for the year. In some ways, I liked the structure, but right now, I'm sort of enjoying being able to change my mind, and just go with the flow. If I do it seriously, I'd like to be able to use it to make a variety of things, and I seem to be stuck in a small project rut at the moment, plus I have some baby knitting I should get started on coming up fairly soon. I also hadn't really planned out what to do for the last two elements very well, so this way, I can just go with the flow of what I want to be doing, and not have to worry about fitting it somewhere within Air and Water. (I'd also gotten started late in the first place, so haven't shared any of my projects with others anyway, so I think it might be a better idea to see if I can fit this in better the next time around.)

Friday, August 1, 2008

Vacation Day 5

First, a quick note about vacation day 4. I spent the morning doing chores before meeting up with T so that we could take a stroll around the Old Port. Naturally, yesterday was the first day it rained this week, so we didn't do quite as much strolling as we would have liked. However, we were planning on ending the day with a trip to Flatbread, so we just headed there a little earlier then we otherwise may have, so life is still good.

Today, for my last weekday of vacation freedom, I'd planned to go tool around Cape Elizabeth. The day dawned fairly cloudy, so I was starting to get a little worried about my plans, but by lunch time, things were starting to brighten up here in Portland, so I headed out.

I started out with lunch at the Lobster Shack. Not only are the fried clams (among other things) excellent, but the restaurant is right next to Two Lights State Park, so you get the benefit of some of the cool coastal rocky scenery, without having to pay for it.

It was quite foggy when I arrived today, but that actually worked out well. It moderated the temperature quite nicely, and there's nothing right off the rocks at this point of the coast anyway, so as long as you can see the rocks, it's all good. The restaurant is also right next to a fog horn, which I think is still ringing in my ears.

The other neat thing I like about this restaurant is their garden, which is quite well done, even more so when you consider all the salt spray they get there. I had a lovely time taking pictures of that while waiting for my lunch order to come up.

Once I was done with lunch, because of the fog, my plan was to head to Kettle Cove, which is the free side of Crescent Beach. However, once I hit the road going back to Route 77, the sun had come out, so I figured it was worth the money to pay to get into Crescent Beach State Park.

It was indeed beautifully sunny right on the beach, but the fog bank was looming just off shore. In the picture below, Richmond Island, which is a pretty decent sized island, should be sitting just off the coast. If today had been my first visit to Crescent Beach, I would never have known Richmond Island was there, even when I got on the trails that run along the shore parallel to the island.

Below is a picture back in the other direction, where you can see the edge of the fog bank that was still sitting on Two Lights. It's likely still there. When I drove home, I drove through a pocket of fog right at the turn off for the park.

The fog was still burning off as I arrived. The below picture is back on the meadow about the beach, and the fog here burned off as I walked toward it. It looked a lot like I was walking through a cloud forest.

Because I had more time than I usually do, and because I'd actually paid the money to get in, I decided to take the trail through the meadow all the way to the end and walk through the woods behind the beach. It was lovely and cool under the trees, and there was plenty to see that I don't normally get on a beach walk.

I actually prefer this walk to a walk through the woods on Mackworth Island in many ways, because this is a more genuine woods walk. Since Mackworth is a ring trail, it's much more open (well, that and all the moderately recent storm damage), so you don't get quite as much of the true woodland plants as you can get right at the side of the trail here.

I finished off at Crescent Beach with a swing in the old playground. I faced the water, like I remember doing when I was young, but I think they've let the roses grow in the two decades since I've done this with any regularity, because I remember jumping off the swings when I had some good air, and I don't think I'd want to do that today.

My last stop on the way home was at the Kettle Cove ice cream stand. One dish of Needham ice cream later, and I was ready to go home.

It's hard to believe that major part of my vacation is pretty much over. I do have the weekend left, but the week itself has flown so much, I half expect to wake up tomorrow morning, and find that it's actually Monday morning.

I didn't accomplish quite as much around the house as I would have liked (I had a couple of specific craft projects in mind), but I have another week off in September, and I suspect the climate will have improved for such housebound things like that by then. I do feel lucky to have had all the good weather this week so that I actually wanted to be out and about doing things.