Sunday, January 31, 2016

My Favorite Reads in 2015

Before the first month of the new year (that really isn't that new anymore and already feels a bit worn) is completely over, I want to share with you my favorite reads in 2015.

I love to read. It's a great day if I can spend several hours curled up on the sofa, reading. Of course this almost never happens. Warm summer evenings often see me sitting under the photinia with a book in my hands and a glass of wine on the little abandoned table and the birds are chirping around me.

I used to read a lot. Not so much anymore. In 2015 I only read 41 books - that really is not a lot. This year doesn't look much better; in January I only read two books. Not a good start.

While I do like to read fiction and non-fiction, my favorites are novels.

The picture above shows my favorite novels from last year. If I have to choose a favorite out of these ten books, it would be Jamie Ford's "Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet". The story about the childhood friendship between Chinese-American Henry and Japanese-American Keiko during World War II has touched my heart.

I bought Anna Quindlen's "Still Life with Bread Crumbs" when I was learning to take still life photos. However, this book really has not much to do with still life photography, but the heroine is a photographer pretty much at a point in her life where she needs to break away from her former life and settle in the middle of nowhere. It is beautifully written.

A couple years ago I had read Michelle Richmond's "The Year of Fog" which I both liked and disliked. I saw this book in a thrift store and took it home, not expecting too much. I loved it! It is an intriguing story about two sisters, one of whom was murdered 20 years before. I liked the main character a lot, and I always enjoy when a novel's setting is a place I know - in this case San Francisco.

"Kindred Spirits" is a beautiful tale about the friendship between women - heart-breaking and heart-warming at the same time.

My expectations for "Last Summer" by Holly Chamberlin were very low - boy, was I wrong. This is an excellent novel about teenage bullying, how hard it is for the children and how difficult for the parents. It asks good questions about the nature of bullying, where it starts and whether we all have done it without being aware of it. It was quite the eye opener!

I loved "Calling Me Home" - sad, funny, heart-warming. A road trip of an 89-year old white woman and her black hairdresser during which the old woman tells about her past when she had a forbidden relationship with the black son of her family's housekeeper.

Set in England, "One Moment, One Morning" follows the events and three women after a man dies on the Brighton-London commuter train one morning. It was a beautiful read. And talking of trains, "The Girl on the Train" by Paula Hawkins was another favorite that I read by the end of the year. An excellent mystery novel that sometimes made me want to shake the 'heroine'!!

"The Wives of Alamo" by Tarashea Nesbit is not a traditional novel but more a collection of what life was like for the wives of the scientists etc. who worked on the Manhattan Project in Los Alamos, how they dealt with the secrecy and the less than ideal conditions in their own little world with little connection to the "outside" world. Very interesting.

Jay Treiber's "Spirit Walk" was weird but good. I can see that many people wouldn't like this story. I found it fascinating and very beautifully written, taking place in Arizona which I love and I could imagine the landscape he is describing in this kind of gritty tale.

Last but by far not least, "Dog on It" by Spencer Quinn. The entire story is told from the perspective of the dog of a not very fortunate detective - it is hilarious. This, too, takes place in Arizona and you can feel the landscape (or better smell with a dog's nose). This was enjoyable and I will look out for the sequel.

By the way, only two of these books I bought in a bookstore (Los Alamos and Still Life), all the other ones I found in thrift stores. I love to look for books in thrift stores, they're dirt cheap and thus encourage me to read books I have never heard of. If they're not good or I don't like them I can simply donate them back.

Do you recognize this sheep cardigan? This is the little girl for whom I made it. Last Friday was her first birthday and her wonderful mom posted this picture on my Facebook timeline. Isn't she adorable?

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Sheep in a meadow

Sometimes I would like to meet my terrible needlework teacher from fourth grade again, just to be my eight year old self again and sticking out my tongue at her, showing her that all her humiliating behavior didn't stop me in the end (although it took many many years until I picked up those knitting needles again). She probably would have never thought that I was actually able to knit a sweater! Well, she's long gone I assume, sitting on a cloud knitting slippers for the angels (or "horn warmers" for the devil?).

Two weeks ago I finished this baby cardigan - the very first cardigan I ever knit. It is far from perfect, but I'm immensely proud of it.

I first saw it in my favorite yarn store and immediately thought that this would be perfect for a very special girl whose first birthday is at the end of this month. She lives in the Chicago area and can definitely use a warm sweater. The owner of the store gave me the link to the pattern on Ravelry, and a few days later I cast on the stitches. If you look at the pictures of the original pattern you see that it is a bit different than the cardigan I made, which was inspired by the yarn store.

Instead of two there is only one line of sheep, happily hopping along the "meadow". I think two lines are just too busy for such a small piece of clothing. My sheep are purled with two strings to give them a more fluffy look - they're sheep after all! While we were in Colorado over winter break I found these adorable sheep buttons at a yarn store in Boulder - they had the right size and were just perfect for my project!

I used Malabrigo Rios yarn in lettuce - a pure superwash merino wool that is perfect for baby clothes. I love this yarn. It feels good, is very soft and easy to work with. I usually knit with bamboo needles and the stitches smoothly glide off those needles. It makes for fast knitting.

Here is the cardigan - probably still too big for that special girl, but she will grow into it.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

We Have a Winner!!

It's a rainy day here in Northern California. We have several storm systems coming through our region and they are supposed to dump a few inches of the lovely wet stuff onto our county. That is good because we need the rain and I sincerely hope that all these storms will finally have ended our four year long drought by the end of the winter.

But you don't want to hear that. You want to know who's the winner of the Oregon Coast calendar giveaway.

Well... I put the names of all the commenters in a basket and then pulled out one... and it's (drumroll please)....

Cheri !!!

Congratulations, Cheri - I will get in touch with you this weekend.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Moonrise Over the Land of Enchantment

Sometimes there are moments in your life that will stay in your heart and soul forever. Just thinking of them will lead you back into a land of dreams and longing - longing for the beauty of nature.

We experienced a moment like this when we were traveling in New Mexico over the holidays. We were on our way from Santa Fe to Colorado on Christmas Eve, driving along the almost deserted Interstate 25 when we saw the moon rising over the horizon. It was the biggest moon I had ever seen, painted in a very soft pink. It was almost magical.

Since I was driving on the freeway I couldn't stop on the road and had to wait for the next exit which we reached after five more miles. By then the moon had already risen further up into the sky, but still held the same magic as a few minutes before.

Of course I couldn't resist turning the moon into a pole dancer.

New Mexico calls herself the "Land of Enchantment" - I didn't have to look far to find out why.

Of course with increasing darkness and a higher moon the first magic slowly vanished. But the Christmas moon still was wonderful and has found a safe place in my memory.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Let's Begin the Year With a Giveaway!

How has 2016 been treating you so far? I hope you had a lovely start into the new year and that 2016 will be a good year for you.

It's been a long time since I had a giveaway on my blog. In 2011 I gave away a Yosemite calendar that I had made, and I thought why not do something like that five years later? Only that this time the calendar is not about Yosemite but the Oregon coast instead.

These are the photos for the 12 months of this year:


Each photo is 8 x (almost) 11, and each month has an entire page. Here is a sample for the month of August:

Now, what should you do if you want to win this calendar? Please follow my blog and leave a comment, telling me how to reach you. That's it!

I will choose the lucky winner on Saturday, January 16th, 2016.

Good luck!