The Saturday Update: Weeks 42 and 43, 2021

Halloween. It is cold and raining outside and all of the leaves are now off my trees. The plants in my gardens are bedded down under mulch to stay safe in the overnight freezes that are on the way and the bunnies of summer are no where to be seen. The children of the neighborhood have also gone somewhere else this evening as there isn’t a “trick-or-treater” in sight; the cats and I laid in some candy but no one has come.

Mateo: We got Halloween toys!!

Knitting

I’m seriously struggling this week as I adapt to a new medication, but that is a whole other post. I did manage to get my new Snark-O-Meter shawl finished and blocked in spite of tremendous cat help. Hannah loves the blocking mats and it was a battle to convince her to let me use them for, you know, blocking purposes. The kitten, faster then seems catly possible, was the master of flashing claws and nipping chompers as I tried to pin the shawl into place; he did leave the field of battle once I began spraying water on the shawl. Yay for the sprayed water blocking method! He is a brave boy, however, and was immediately back once I started to layer towels on top of the wet shawl to protect it from cats. Not to be outdone, Hannah decided that she should burrow into the towels. Luckily I had more blocking combs.

Do you understand how all this could be exhausting?

Anyway, the shawl survived blocking and looks fabulous!!

I just love how this shawl came out! All of this yarn was from the stash, and two of the colors (the gold and the orchid) had been languishing for years as I never found the right project for them. The gold especially was a problem as it is 100% silk yarn and I felt that it needed the right vehicle to show it off. The lace of this shawl with the rich colors and varied textures is absolutely perfect! You can’t see it in these pictures but the gold yarn glows in the lace and background sections.

I absolutely have to mention that Sharon from Security, the designer of this shawl (with some help from Casapinka) was banned from Facebook this week for threatening Finn, the newest (and somewhat shady) employee in the Casapinka world. Too much snark, it seems. There are some negotiations underway because both of these individuals are… cats. Hopefully Sharon will be back next week. If that isn’t the most 2021 thing that has happened this year, I’d like to hear of any others that beat it. ūüôā

Books

I finally scored a copy of The Madness of Crowds from the local library. I’m early in the book and struggling a little with it as it is about the danger of ideas, misinformation, catchy messaging, and mob action. Umm… kind of the situation right now in the US. I’ll give it a little more time and then if it doesn’t perk up I’ll be going back to another science fiction novel with a strong female character who can cope with absolutely anything that the universe cares to send her way.

I’ll close with a shot of the kitten’s tail.

This is the crate that holds my blocking towels. There’s only room for one cat in the crate. The cats ruthlessly grab it when empty shutting the other one out. Kind of silly kitties, right?!

The tail is almost as big as the kitten! Do you see how much fur is on it? Maintaining that tail is almost like feeding another cat. No wonder the kitten is always hungry.

That’s it. Have a great week everyone!

Read a little, knit a little, and garden like your heart can’t live without it.

Happy Halloween!!

Book 1: The Beautiful Mystery by Louise Penney

I did it! I went to Goodreads and joined the 2015 Reading Challenge with the goal of reading 100 books this year. That was the New Year’s resolution, and I am sticking to it!¬†Luckily the weather is cooperating. It is cold and snowing again, and the cats and I are piled in bed reading between snow-shoveling breaks. If this keeps up I will have the 100 books done in no time!

Cat in snow.
Hunting for a warm and dry patch in the yard. Sorry, guy. There just isn’t one. Too bad kitties can’t shovel snow.

No, I will not be reviewing all of those books on this blog. (Did I just hear a sigh of relief from my sister in San Diego?? ) ¬†Seriously, that might cut into my knitting time!¬†Besides, I really have no intrinsic desire¬†to become a book reviewer; too much like doing book reports late Sunday night like I did in school.¬†¬†Every once in a while, however, there is a book that I feel compelled to write about. It consumes me while I am reading it, it forces me onto the internet to track down information, and leads me into¬†reflection on the¬†personalities and motivations of the story’s characters. I’m almost forced to write about it to get it out of my system. ¬†Having said that, let me present to you the first book of 2015. Ta-daa!¬†The Beautiful Mystery by Louise Penny.

I’ve been reading her¬†Chief Inspector Gamache novels steadily since I read the first one in early December, ¬†Still Life. What a series! I’ve grown to love the people of Tree Pines even though they seem to have too many murders in their tiny, artistic village with its great food and crazy duck-loving poet. ¬†The complex relationships between the Chief Inspector and his staff, the hint of a conspiracy of immense magnitude, the ongoing themes and mystery plots keep me reading each new book as I care about the people in them so much.

The Beautiful Mystery is a book of many layers. In the most simple terms the story centers around the murder of a monk in a remote monastery in the wilderness of Quebec called Saint-Gilbert-Entre-les-Loups. As Gamache and his second-in-command Jean-Guy¬†¬†Beauvoir investigate this crime they discover that the monks, who have taken a vow of silence and devoted their lives to the singing of unique Gregorian Chants, are deeply divided and engaged in civil war. When Gamache’s superior arrives at the monastery it becomes clear that another civil war is waging within the Surete du Quebec. If that wasn’t enough, further events make clear that the monastery’s¬†secret location and devotion to music is part of an ancient division within the Catholic Church. ¬†Good grief!¬†How many layers deep does this go?

It should have been a confusing book, but the many different themes and plots are skillfully woven together and the book is written beautifully. The murder is solved, some of the conflicts are resolved, and others move forward to be continued in further books. I am becoming concerned as this is the 8th book in the series, and I do hope that I will get to the bottom of this immense conspiracy within the Surete soon. Wait, forget I just said that. I think that the suspense was getting to me there. The truth is, this book was simply wonderful. It is a book about faith, love, betrayal and great divisions. It addresses addiction; to music, to drugs, to power, and what people will do to protect and secure their addictions. Easily, and too often, these addictions can lead to murder.

“The Beautiful Mystery” in Gregorian chant is the starting note for the chant; the baseline that can be used to compare all other notes to. ¬†This book is about beginnings, but it is also about endings; the beginning of the conspiracy in the Surete has now been reveled, the sides in the civil war are drawn, the battles have begun and resolution is coming. At the end of the book¬†it becomes clear that Gamache is much more than meets the eye; he has been engaged in a campaign of¬†complex and long duration¬†to clean up the rot in the Surete.¬†He feels he has “been at sea a long time, but he can finally see the shore”.

Please, please ¬†make it soon. I’m¬†running out of books.

I’m starting How the Light Gets In, the next book in the series tonight!

Three Pines Envy: Still Life by Louise Penny

I started reading this book the Sunday of Thanksgiving week, the same day that is the setting of the book. Hey, it’s a sign. As it turns out Thanksgiving in Canada is in October, but still it was an eerie coincidence. Obviously this book and I were meant for each other.

The first sentence: Miss Jane Neal met her maker in the early morning mist of Thanksgiving Sunday. The hairs went up on my arm, and I settled in for the afternoon.

Jane Neal is the retired schoolteacher of the small village of Three Pines located in Quebec. This village is so small that it doesn’t even appear on any maps. Amazingly, it is the home to a small community of complicated and richly conceived characters. There is a lumber mill, a bistro, a new and used book store, a B & B, and all the other small stores and businesses that you would expect. This is also an artistic village¬†filled with introspective, clever and creative people. Some of the people are decidedly odd, but it all works somehow as people interact and support each other.

Chief Inspector Armand Gamache arrives in this village, sets up a command post, and sets about solving the crime. He is stable, kind and gentle. Huh? This is a homicide investigator? Yep. He is the best kind: self-contained, insightful, patient, polite, and powerful. An excellent superior and mentor; he installs confidence and loyalty in those he leads. He listens well, observes even better, makes connections over distance and time, knows that old pains can lead to deaths years later, and is not afraid of decisions or confrontations. With him are Inspector Jean Guy Beauvoir and Agent Yvette Nichol, and together they set about solving the murder. This is how it begins:

In all the years Jean Guy Beauvoir had worked with Gamache, through all the murders and mayhem, it never ceased to thrill him, hearing that simple sentence. ‚ÄėTell me what you know.‚Äô It signals the beginning of the hunt. He was the alpha dog. And Chief Inspector Gamache was Master of the Hunt.

The book is about the hunt. Gamache knows that murder is often personal, and this one may have been years in the making. He engages the community, unpacks their events, secrets and history, and eventually pieces together what happened, why, and by whom. Of course; this is a murder mystery.

I really enjoyed the book. It was well constructed and contained enough suspense to keep me flipping pages late at night. The conclusion was satisfying and believable. What I didn’t expect is how much I would love the writing of this book, appreciate the host of village people (and their amazingly snappy and snarky dialogue!), and long to be a member of this community myself. I so want to pack up my car with the spinning wheel, loom, my yarn stash, as many books as I can cram in and move there! I could get a dog and plant some roses and really, I would be happy‚Ķ

Well, that isn’t going to happen. However, I was thrilled to discover that there are nine more books in the series for me to read. Hey, in a way I can move to Three Pines after all! Happy, happy, happy.