What a weird reading month! I don't think I've ever had a month of so many mediocre books. There were 3 books that I liked: Sulfur Springs, Magician of the Gods and The World Played Chess. The Last Queen was mostly interesting and The Murder of Mr. Wickham was silly entertainment. I wish I had skipped the others.
There are only 8 books this month because 1 of them was 30+ hours and another was 15. My total listening hours for December were 5822. That's 97 hours and 2 minutes. The 30 hour book was such a trudge that I think I avoided reading during that period and that really cut down on my book reading time.
My total reading time for the year is 1348 hours and 13 minutes. That's 56 days 4 hours and 2 minutes for the year. Since this is the first year that I've tracked my reading time, I have no idea how it compares to other years. It was just interesting to find out that I spent about 15% of my year listening or reading books. It seems like a fine use of the time and I'm sure that I didn't watch anywhere near this much TV.
Nobody's Child by Susan Vinocour - supposed to be about the history of the insanity defense. Couldn't get past the weak narration and slow start.
I've listened to a lot of Podcasts this year. I especially listened a lot this month as I avoided finishing The Ink Black Heart. Here are some of my favorites:
No Such Thing as Fish - this is our go-to for road trips. It's a British trivia discussion show. Each of the 4 panelists discuss their "fact of the week". It's hilarious.
Bad Bets - Each series tells the story of a faild business. Season 1 is about Enron, Season 2 is about Trevor Milton. I would not be surprised of season 3 is about FTX.
Criminal - Hosted by Phoebe Judge, this is a true crime podcast with a different crime profiled in each episode. Many are very old crimes. The most recent Episode, #203, is a wonderful compilation of animals commiting crimes. It's hilarious. Judge has a beautiful voice and I often listen to these to go to sleep.
This is Love - Another podcast produced by Phoebe Judge. Each episode is a wonderful love story, often profiling people with long relationships.
99% Invisible - A fun and informative series about urban environments and life.
Disgraceland - Profiles notorious and tragic people from the music industry.
Business Wars - History of business rivals. The most recent series is about Honda vs. Toyota
This Is Actually Happening - People tell their individual stories of trauma and survival. It's a hard listen but will make you feel better about the strength of the human spirit. Makes me appreciate that life I've had. Many of the stories are hard to listen to.
Other Interesting True Crime podcasts:
Small Town Dicks
Scoundrel: History's Forgotten Villains
Interesting Health Focused Podcasts if you want to delve into the weeds of healthy living
The Drive with Peter Attia - focused on longevity
Healthy Rebellion Radio
Great podcasts for putting you to sleep:
Nothing Much Happens
Send Me To Sleep
I hope you will share your favorite books and podcasts that you have enjoyed in the month of December. Here's to a great reading year in 2023!
Sulfur Springs (665)
By William Kent Krueger, Read By David Chandler
This is #16 in the Cork O'Connor series.
One of the things I love about this series is that Krueger keeps things fresh. He's not afraid to kill off a beloved character and he's happy to change venues. Changing venue is what he does in this book.
Cork and Rainey got married in the last installment and they are off to Sulfur Springs, AZ to try to find her son. They received a cryptic message from him that leads them to believe that he is in grave danger. This book takes on the border crisis by bringing together all sides of the issue.
The Hanging Valley (540)
By Peter Robinson, Read By James Langton
This is #4 in the Inspector Alan Banks series. I really enjoyed the first 3 books in this series but this one was a slow mover for me.
In this beautiful English valley, most people come to relax and take in the breathtaking views. The small local village caters to hikers and tourists but underneath there's lots of tension among the local. One day a hiker finds a gruesome murder and that brings Alan Banks to investigate. Could this murder be tied to a disappearance several years before?
It was an interesting enough story but it sure dragged.
The Ink Black Heart (1962)
By Robert Galbraith, Read By Robert Glenister
This is the 6th book in the Cormoran Strike series and, in case you don't know, Robert Galbraith is JK Rowling. I have loved every book in this series....until now.
At 32+ hours, this was an investment of time and I did finish it but, frankly, I didn't enjoy it. It needed some serious editing and it was not a good book for audio format. If you decide to read this, read it in paper version.
The story is about the murder of a woman who was co-creator of a YouTube comic series called The Ink Black Heart. She is murdered in the graveyard that is the setting for the comic series. The victim, Edie Ledwell had been to the office of Cormoran Strike prior to her murder to ask them to help her find the identity of Anomie, a person who has been harassing her online. The declined the case but after she is murdered they are drawn into the case.
There are a few problems with the book but the biggest for me was that much of the dialogue happens in online chat rooms and narration of online chat simply doesn't work. It was painful. The other problem I had with it was the underlying theme of the "alt-right" being to blame. As you are introduced to the characters it's clear that none of them are "alt-right", or even politically motivated in any way. They are all way too self-absorbed and anti-social to be political. I just felt like that theme was gratuitous and added nothing to the book. But you could make one hell of a drinking game out of the number of times "alt-right" is said.
The final problem with this book is the 6 volume sexual tension between Cormoran and Robin, his business partner. These two people are adults. He's 40ish and she's 30ish and their inability to tell each other how they feel over 6 long novels has just become tedious.
The Murder of Mr. Wickham (723)
By Claudia Gray, Read By Billie Fulford-Brown
After the slog of The Ink Black Heart I needed something easy to listen to and I got it with this book.
Claudia Gray had brought together characters from each of Jane Austen's books for a party at the country estate of Mr. Knightly and Emma. She has aged the characters based on the publication dates of the books so that Mr. and Mrs. Darcy are old enough to have an adult son, Jonathan, that they bring along on the trip. Catherine and Henry Tilney are also there from Northanger Abbey with their daughter, Juliet. There are guests in attendance from every book and who arrives uninvited but Mr. Wickham, our favorite villian. It seems that Wickham has made a career of swindling people out of money and almost everyone there has been a victim or knows a victim. It doesn't take long for him to meet his demise and now everyone in the house (excluding the servants) is a suspect. Jonathan and Juliet take it on themselves to solve the case because no one seems to trust the local magistrate, Frank Churchill.
The World Played Chess (603)
By Robert Dugoni, Read By Todd Haberkorn
If you like William Kent Krueger, you will like Robert Dugoni. If you are a mystery reader you may already know him through his Tracey Crosswhite, Charles Jenkins and David Sloane series. Jenkins is my favorite of the three series but I read all of them.
This is a stand alone novel that turned out to be a good Christmas season read for me because it was written from the POV of my generation, so it was relatable. The underlying theme that is relatable to everyone is about how we can impact people's lives in very small ways.
In 1979 Vincent Bianco get a job on a remodel construction job for the summer before he goes to college. He is working with 2 Vietnam veterans. One of them is dealing with undiagnosed PTSD and Vincent proceeds to get an education that he never expected. He is also realizing that he's naturally going to grow apart from the high school friends that, until graduation, he thought he would never lose.
The book is told from 3 perspectives, Vince, William (one of the Vietnam vets) and Beau, Vince's son as he's graduating high school and trying to find his own identity. If you were born around 1960 this book will bring back so many memories of the current events of our lives as well as people you might ahave known. It's a very good coming of age story.
The Last Queen (821)
By Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, Read By Sneha Mathan
If you like British royal history then this is a book for you. Rajit Singh was the first monarch of the Sikh empire and Jind Kaur was his 3rd "official" wife. He had as many as 30 wives/concubines. This book is about Jind, the most consequential of his wives. Her son, Duleep Singh, rose to power at the age of 5 and she became Regent. This was in the 1840's when the British were taking over India.
The story seems to remain true to the major events of her life (if Wikipedia is right) and it makes for a good base for a novel. There was as much palace intrigue in India at that time as there was in Britain. The palace intrigue got a little tedious but I expect it was pretty accurate.
Magician of the Gods (893)
Written and Read by Graham Hancock
I'm not sure how I found this book but I'm glad I did. I think Hancock is most well known for his book Fingerprints of the Gods. Hancock proposes the possibility of the existence of an advanced civilization that existed prior to the ice age and he proposes the possibility of a major meteor event that brought on the end of the ice age. It's a detailed, and fascinating, walk through various antiquities sites around the world. He is, of course, hated by "mainstream science" and he may be totally wrong but it's a very interesting read.
This book is also an exception to one of my cardinal rules. Hancock narrates his own book and does a great job.
Tending Roses (615)
By Lisa Wingate, Read By Allyson Ryan
I have read a few books by Lisa Wingate. Before We Were Yours and The Book of Lost Friends are two of my favorites. They are historical fiction. This one is a straight up novel.
Kate Bowman and her husband move temporarily to the family farm in Missouri to care for her Grandmother for a few weeks around Christmas. The story is basically a Hallmark-type story and you could easily write the plot. I thought the narration was a bit weak too. It's not a bad book, it's just not the genre for me.
Mom and I are supposed to meet up with my cousin for lunch today so I've been pushing to get this blanket done for her husband. Barclay went to college at University of Richmond and the school colors are blue and red. When I started making this one he was the first person I thought of.
This is the 5th blanket that I've made with this pattern. It finished about 47" x 66". I have enough yarn to make 3 more big blankets and 1 small blanket. Good thing I'm not tired of this yarn but I might use a different pattern on the next one.
This yarn is so soft and squishy and makes a beautiful blanket. It's too bad it's discontinued but there are lots of other similar yarns available. Premier Puzzle comes to mind.
I can hardy believe that I finished 4 of these this year along with 8 other small blankets for donations. But most of the patterns I choose, especially this one, go really fast.
Here are all the details:
Cascade Cartwheel Yarn, 7 balls,
Pattern from BagODay Crochet, pattern repeat is 8 stitches plus 3
I used a K hook and chained 147 stitches (with an L hook)
It's been so nice to spend some concentrated time in the sewing room the past few days. I got both of the chandelier quilt tops done and ready for quilting. I love how these turned out and was very happy to use a lot of leftover veteran quilt backings as the background for these quilts.
After I finished the quilt tops I still wanted to do more sewing but I'm not ready to start another quilt project yet. Looking around my sewing room I found a couple of 100 yard reels of grosgrain ribbon that I purchased specifically to use to make surgery drain bags. that seemed like a perfect project to start and work on for a few days. I've had this key print fabric in my stash for a long time so I cut it all up into pieces for these bags and I cut up a leftover camo fabric that I used for a quilt back. Both of these would work well with gray ribbon as the strap. I think I have 33 in progress.
I really want to get some veterans quilts loaded for quilting but I was out of backings so I headed to the studio yesterday to quickly dye some backings.
Each bin is one piece big enough to quilt 2 quilts, except for the single light blue on the right. Here I have 2 gray, 2 medium blue and one light blue. That's enough for 9 quilts.
But that's not all! I have 2 golds and 1 green for 6 more quilts.
We also buy some printed backing in bright blue and tan so I pre-cut a few of those to have ready to go as well. I think I have about 10 tops that Brenda and I will be able to get started on this weekend.
I'm also finishing up Barclay's blanket and should have it to share tomorrow as my last finish of 2022.
Whether you celebrate Christmas or not, I hope you had wonderful weekend. If you are in the US I hope you were able to stay warm! As soon as we got back from Chesapeake we cranked up the wood stove and the house has been quite toasty. In fact, as I write this Sunday evening, I'm sitting in short sleeves while it's 30 outside.
We had a really nice (and quick) trip to Chesapeake to visit my brother and I was finally able to deliver his afghan to him. Of course, I knew that it would be adopted by their princess. She likes the quilts that I've made for them too. She pretty much owns every surface on the house.
When we were growing up we always had a train running under the Christmas tree. It was the American Flyer set that my Dad had. My brother's best friend has an even more serious train legacy with his Dad. Now, every year, Eddie and John set up a combined display in John's garage and we got to see it for the first time. They put it up every October and leave it through Christmas. They had all of the trains running for us today. It's really cool in a nerdy sort of way.
They have all sorts of buildings and scenes but I cracked up when I saw that they even had a chain gang!
It was fun to see it and appreciate all of the work that they put into it.
Between the drives and time in the hotel, I had a lot of time to finish off a few crochet hats. The top 2 are made of Feels Like Butta-type yarn and I'm making those to be men's chemo hats. The others are the Chunky Guy hat that I'm currently loving for donation hats. They don't look great flat but they look really good on the head. These three are thick and warm. I've already donated my winter hats for this year so I'll put these in a bag and start collecting for next year.
Since my last post I finished one of the 2 Chandelier quilt tops. My first goal of today is to finish the second one. There's also chores. I need to get outside and pick up the ton of sticks and branches that fell during the windstorm Friday and Saturday.
I've also decided to power through and finish this blanket over the next 3 days. I only have one ball of yarn left. I'm making it for my cousin's husband and I'm seeing her Thursday for lunch. It should be pretty easy to get this one wrapped up as my last finish for 2022.
My only wish for the last week of 2022 is that there not be a lot of yarn sales to tempt me into buying yarn that I do not need!
We don't have a lot of Christmas activities but we have just enough. Mine kicked off Tuesday night with drinks with my college roommate and then yesterday I took Mom to Newport News to visit with my brother #3. I got to see my beaded ornaments again and forgot to take a photo. Today I have my monthly crochet/knit group and then get to meet up with another friend for drinks tonight. We will spend Friday afternoon with brother #2 and then go to Chesapeake Christmas Eve to go to brother #1's party. Then we are quiet until next Wednesday when we go to Charlottesville for dinner with friends. All-in-all it's going to be a great holiday!
That's why I'm not posting again until Monday. I'm going to relax and just relax and enjoy Christmas festivities.
I will have some time for sewing and other pursuits and I've decided to work on two veterans quilts. These are the blocks that I made at our sewing retreat this past weekend and I'm going to go ahead and finish these tops.
It's a simple Chandelier quilt. The red is much brighter in real life. I have enough blocks for 2 quilts and should have them all together by Monday.
If you celebrate Christmas, I hope yours is very happy. If you do not, I hope you have a relaxing and productive weekend. I hope everyone in the US cold snap stays warm!
The day that I was tying up all of the tshirts I noticed the rest of the stack of tea towels that I had been dyeing before. There were 16 towels left and I decided to dye all of them. Eight of them were tied and I just used whatever leftover dyes I had from the tshirts. There was no planning at all and I'm really happy with the results. I will absolutely tie dye more and almost wish I had tie dyed all 16 of the ones I had. But I decided to use the Color Magnet on the last 8 to make some more gift sets that weren't seasonal.
Of all 16 the top one is my favorite of the bunch but I'm not unhappy with any of them. Here they are...
These 2 are pretty spectacular too!
This last one is pretty cool too.
Here are the 4 sets that I screen printed with Color Magnet. On a couple of them I did overall designs instead of just edge designs and I think they turned out nice. All of them were done quickly without a lot of thought. I delivered one set last night as a housewarming gift for my college roommate's Mom and some of the others are already designated for gifts but I'm keeping a couple of the tie dyes for myself!
These are my last gifts for Christmas and I even have them done a few days early! All of these are for my SIL's daughter's families. There are 2 daughters and they each have 2 kids. We are happy to be included in a lot of their family events. I don't other kids in my life and these 4 are a lot of fun.
The first part of the gifts are family shirts. Both daughters went to JMU so each member of each family gets a JMU shirt in purple and gold. Working with complementary colors is always risky because when they blend you just get brown. There's a little brown in these but I did pretty good keeping the colors separated.
Each of the kids get 2 more shirts. Eli and Ella are the ones I see most often because they live locally. They go to a school that has Seattle Seahawks colors so their Dad suggested shirts for school spirit days.
These are their other 2 shirts and I suppose you can figure out which shirt is for which kid.
Lincoln is the youngest of the 4 kids. I think he's 3 and he said he likes green and blue so that's what he got.
Sawyer is the oldest of the 3 boys and his school colors are navy and white. He was also the only one of the kids that said he liked bright colors so I had some fun on his second shirt.
My favorite of all the shirts is the navy and white one.
All that's left is the gift wrapping!
I also dyed 16 more tea towels but I didn't get in the sewing room to iron them today. I had to do some shopping this morning after a productive visit to the chiropractor. Then I spent the afternoon baking bread and testing out a new cookie recipe. I'll iron the towels today and have them to share tomorrow.
I have a few December birthdays and one is 2 days before Christmas. My only goal with the cards for these birthday girls is to make these cards look decidedly non-holiday. I was a little behind in getting these done so Friday evening I had to get busy and get them knocked out. One of them is already a week late!
These cards started with some sunprints that I made a few years ago. I can't tell you how many times I've pulled these prints out to try to figure out something to do with them. I've been trying to use them as a the whole card image and nothing ever inspired me. Friday evening I pulled them out again and thought that cropping the image might just do the trick.....and it did.
Some shiny, bright pink stitching was all that was needed to finish them off. I made 6 and mailed two of them Saturday. In the end I think they are pretty cute!
I did lots of other things this weekend but I don't have photos yet. The tie dye tshirts are all done and I started 2 new veterans quilt tops that I'm going to probably finish this week. I don't have any other sewing projects queued up so I'll put these two simple tops together. Photos of all those things will come in the next few days.
Before we get to the photos I want to answer 2 questions from yesterday.
About the glass ornaments. I've been collecting them at least 20 years. I usually pick them up on vacations. Pretty much every tourist gift shop has blown glass ornaments. But another great source for them is Etsy. I've bought some of my most unique ones from Etsy. But before you go there, make a cup of coffee and get comfortable, you are going to be there a while!
About tie dyeing shirts on commission. Sorry, I do not do that. Honestly, I don't really enjoy tie dyeing that much. I do it because the shirts make great gifts and people seem to love them. Heck, I like wearing them. I just don't love making them so I only do it when I'm in the mood. But if you want commission shirts I'd also point you to Etsy. There are tons of tie dyers there that do custom dyeing.
Tie dyeing actually takes me a long time. I have a lot of angst about color selection and placement. I did get some color advice from the parents for this group of shirts which made things easier. With 3 boys the responses were mostly green and blue. I did get to do a couple of rainbow ones and I got to do some pink and purple for Ella.
This tray also has 3 tea towels. Those are the long ones and the spiral in the upper let corner. I didn't really pick colors for the towels, I just used whatever was left over. I think the two rainbows at the bottom might actually be tea towels too.
I finished off the day with the JMU shirts and, frankly, I'm worried about them a bit. My color recipes sometimes don't translate perfectly to tie dyeing or immersion dyeing. These are looking a little too blue (instead of dark purple). I am holding out hope because the blue used does wash out a lot so they still might turn the right shade of purple.
Dyeing all of that took about 4 hours and I was beat when I was done. Today I'm happy to head off to my quilt club for our monthly sewing weekend. I'm working on a chandelier quilt top this weekend. I think there might even be 2 quilt kits in this one.
For the rest of the weekend my main goal is to get the December birthday postcards made and in the mail Monday morning. One of them is already a week late.
Wednesday is my usual dyeing day for the shop. If I start on Wednesday I can have the fabrics ready for the shop by Monday. My schedule is a little more complicated this week because I have a bunch of tshirts to get tie dyed by next week too. Yesterday I did my normal dyeing and today I'm doing the tie dyeing. In my free time the past 2 days I worked on the hard part, the tyeing.
These 8 will all be dyed in JMU colors (purple and gold) so that both families can have matching team shirts. The adults do not know that they are getting shirts too.
Each of the kids will get 2 more shirts. To keep the straight I used a Sharpie to mark a code on the shirt label and I have a cheat sheet so that I get the right colors on the right shirts.
I finished these about 7 last night and the looked over and saw the stack of remaining tea towels.
Oh, why not....
Eight tea towels tied....
...and then there will be 8 more printed with Color Magnet. No holiday themes in this batch so I'll have gifts read for the year.
It's going to be a busy day!
Since this is kind of a boring white post, here are some of my favorite ornaments from my tree. I use all glass ornaments and have been collecting them for years. The white one with red spots one is the one I purchased this year to add to the collection.
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I'm Vicki Welsh and I've been making things as long as I can remember. I used to be a garment maker but transitioned to quilts about 20 years ago. Currently I'm into fabric dyeing, quilting, Zentangle, fabric postcards, fused glass and mosaic. I document my adventures here.