Twilight – Stephenie Meyer

Read for the RIP III and YA 2008 Reading Challenges.

I finally succumbed to all the hype and read Twilight. Per usual with this kind of book, I approached it with a great deal of trepidation, and was rather pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it.

I can’t say this is the best romance I’ve ever read, but it had a certain honesty about it I could appreciate. (I didn’t once have the same wanting to reach through the pages and throttle the female protagonist reaction I had to Blood and Chocolate.) For the most part, Bella’s relationship and experiences with the world with genuine, and while I didn’t have too much of a problem putting the book down, I also really looked forward to when I could pick it up again.

I also liked the unique version of vampirism that Meyer brought into the story. I still don’t get entirely why the heck Edward decided he needed Bella as much as he seems to, but I was actually ok with not getting that.

So, I’ll never be a rabid fan girl, but I did go ahead and put the rest of the books into my Paperspine queue.


The Ladies of Grace Adieu and Other Stories – Susanna Clarke

Read for the RIP III Reading Challenge.

One of the things I really enjoyed about Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell was the way that the author wove the fairy aspects of the book into the story in such a way that it came off just as much as a historical fiction book, as much as a fantasy book. In the same vein, The Ladies of Grace Adieu can be seen through the lens of either a supplemental history text, or as charming fairy stories. The forward actually gives the stories some historical context, which is amusing. (The illustrations by Charles Vess are also charming additions.)

Several of the stories, including “On Lickerish Hill” and “Mrs. Mabb” have the air of classic fairy tales. My favorite of this bunch is “John Uskglass and the Cumbrian Charcoal Burner”, where a lowly charcoal burner gets the best of the Raven King.

The other stories have a more historical flavor. The title story is the only one to feature characters from JS&MN. I got a kick out of “Antickes and Frets”, which features Bess Hartwick, the ancestress of dukes of Devonshire, a family currently being featured in the film The Duchess. (I read a fascinating real book about this family in college, and I love when they show up in historical, or even false historical notes in my reading.)

My only slight disappointment was “The Duke of Wellington Misplaces His Horse”, which is supposed to be set in the world of Neil Gaiman’s Stardust. It didn’t necessarily strike me as any different than the other stories of this book, and I didn’t see the need for it to be set in the Stardust world.

I definitely enjoyed this book, and would be very pleased to read any other offerings that Susanna Clarke might be able to produce from this lovely fairy-tinged version of our world.


I’m still recovering from yesterday’s trip down to Boston for B’s birthday celebration at the Cafe Flueri Chocolate Bar. I’m mildly mortified to admit I only managed two trips, but trip number two was this:

That would be a chocolate crepe filled with white chocolate, dark chocolate, coconut and mixed berries, flambeed in Grand Marnier, and drizzled with Creme Anglaise. I realize now that I probably should have paced myself a bit better on this round, and I might have managed a third. But oh, was it goooooooood.

The hotel is located right in the middle of downtown Boston, hence the pictures that started this post. I don’t actually get into downtown Boston that often, both because I refuse to drive there, so it always involves some sort of combination of BF driving, bus, train and/or T, and because my friends have mostly moved out of the immediate Boston ‘burbs, so we have less reason to go down there.

I finished out the day by rolling myself over to the Museum of Fine Arts. While Portland has an excellent art museum, I really enjoy having the chance to go to museums that aren’t all about paintings, because most paintings don’t do much for me (gasp!). I had a great time wandering through all of the ancient artifact collections at the MFA. They also had an Art Nouveau jewelery exhibit that was beautiful, if a little on the overly crowded side. And the musical instruments room was a lot of fun. It was a great way to spend the afternoon, though I was a bit disappointed in the museum store. I like getting postcards of some of the things I’ve seen that I found most interesting on a particular trip, but their postcard selection wasn’t very impressive, so I actually came away empty-handed.

Knitting Notes

Even with the marathon quilting sessions this week, I’ve also been doing some knitting. I finished Maelstrom sock number 1 last night. It’s definitely a great pattern. I’m sort of wishing I’d chosen a different yarn, because some of the stitch definition is getting lost in the dark colors, but I do still really like the color, so I’ll live. I probably won’t be casting on the second sock until next week, but that’s ok, since I still have the month of October to finish the pair and still have it count for Sockdown.

I’ve also done some more work on the Brocade Leaves sweater. It doesn’t look like much, but that’s because I had to frog the dang thing, again! It was the transition row that got me, again! Unfortunately, once that’s messed up, I’ve been unable to rip back the row and do it again correctly to recover. This time, I finally got smart, and paid attention to where the SSKs were falling in comparison to the row before. Had I bothered to do this earlier, I could have saved myself a great deal of mental anguish. On the bright side, I’ve at least memorized the pattern now.

Lastly, I’ll be casting on Jaywalker sock number 2 today so that I have something relatively straightforward to work on on the train tomorrow. The sweater would actually be easy enough, but I don’t think it’ll fit as well in my bag, so Jaywalker it is. (And since Boston jaywalkers were the inspiration for the pattern, it does seem rather apropos for a Boston train ride.)

Vacation Project Success!

Blueberry’s quilt is done! I sewed the back of the binding last night (perfect evening to be forced to have a lap quilt, I might add), and ran it through the wash this morning. It’s all set to go down to Boston on Saturday. I’m really pleased with how it turned out, considering I choose all the fabric spur of the moment on Monday. Turns out my stash is occasionally good for something!

More Fun with a Sewing Machine

This morning flew by. I got a lot more then I thought was possible done on the quilt. In order, we have step 4: arrange squares, step 5: sew them all together, and step 6: make the quilt sandwich. At that point, I decided to tie the quilt rather than quilt it, because I have yet to find a good enough quilt pen to make visible marking on dark fabric, and I can’t freehand designs. So it became a tie quilt. Last but not least, I cut out the binding, pressed that and sewed it on. So, above, in the lower right corner, is the nearly finished project. I just have to sew the binding on by hand (which I can probably do tonight if I don’t go anywhere), and then I can run it through the wash and be done with it.

So I’m actually done with the sewing machine for the quilt. I did keep the machine out though, because my mother found this in her stash:

It’s too perfect not to make a gift bag out of. I’m so looking forward to bringing this down on Saturday 🙂

Mackworth Island, Falmouth, ME

Today’s reward for working my butt off all morning on the quilt was a walk around Mackworth Island. I managed to reverse my all low tide all the time trend for this year, and arrived at high tide (and a high high tide at that). I’ve decided I actually like the island better at high tide. I love the way the water plays up all the other colors when it’s closer to shore. I definitely prefer low tide if I’m in the mood for exploring, but high tide is better for pictures.

It was actually fairly cool when I got there, and much more so at the landward side, which is the opposite of how that usually works. The seaward side gets a lot more sun, so despite the sea breeze, it was actually more comfortable over there. There was a fantastically ominous fog bank (above) hanging just over the next ring of islands, so it was nice to have the sun to enjoy.

The fall flowers are out in full. (Ok, mushrooms aren’t flowers, but they looked so cool I had to include them.), and there was even the odd example of fall foliage. (The particular bush above always seems to turn early.) I’ve always loved asters in the fall. They look so good mounded up in a field, or on the side of a wooded trail.

And finally, because of my recent Fort Williams stair post, I just had to include a picture of my absolute favorite random staircase in the world:

Fun with a Sewing Machine

I did all the set up work to get the squares for Blueberry’s quilt today. I love this pattern, because it’s basically: 1. Cut a bunch of strips. 2. Sew a bunch together and do a bit more cutting. 3. Sew everything that’s left together.

I’m now ready for step 4, which is arrange everything so you like the way it looks and sew those together (I decided to wait for sun tomorrow to do this). And what results is something that looks far more complicated than it really is. So I’ll be doing that tomorrow. Before I’m done, I’ll also need to sew the top to the back, and then figure out the eternal tie vs. quilt question. And once that’s done, I’ll need to do binding. And then I really should give it a test run through the washer. And all this needs to be done in Friday, as I’m leaving bright and early Saturday morning for Boston. I can definitely do it, but it’s going to be tight.

Since I was smart and brought my computer chair out to the table to sew, I was actually willing to keep going once I’d gotten to square stage on Blueberry’s quilt. So out came the strips from the sunset quilt I started back in February (I’m so ashamed to realize it was that long ago), and I got those sewn together. I’d kept them to only an inch to keep the vertical scale I wanted, but the resulting horizontal scale will probably allow me to get two separate quilts out these strips. This is actually pretty cool, as that means I can make one for myself, and give one as a gift. So I’ve now got some additional motivation to get this done, because I can think of several hard to buy for people that would enjoy the finished product as a Christmas gift. I’m definitely bringing the computer chair out to sew more often! (I was on such a roll, I had to refill my bobbin three times!)

Fort Williams – Cape Elizabeth, ME

I was in South Portland yesterday for a haircut, so decided to head over to Fort Williams in Cape Elizabeth when I was done, since I haven’t been there in ages. Fort Williams is on Shore Road in Cape E. If you’re not from the area, I will only add that Cape E is one of the most (if not the most) affluent communities in Maine, and Shore Road is indeed along the road, so I’ll leave it to your imagination of what the houses along the way look like. Let’s just say it’s a drive I prefer to make as a passenger, so I can gawk sufficiently.

Anyway, Fort Williams was in fact a working fort through WWII. After that, most of the batteries were buried, but you can still see evidence of the military past throughout the park. The battery closest to Portland Headlight is now a terrific hill with the great winds for kite flying, an activity my family frequently did there when I was younger. (As a side note, that hill actually isn’t that great for sledding. That prize goes to the hill along the entry road.)

The main reason most people end up in the park is Portland Headlight, which is in the picture above. It’s the oldest commissioned light house in the country, commissioned by George Washington, blah, blah, blah. It is a really lovely lighthouse, and it guards a particularly nasty section of channel. (If you look to the right of the picture above, you can see the Ram Island light out on a ledge in the water. It’s actually much closer than the picture would suggest, and shows just how nasty that channel is, and how much guidance ships require through there.) It’s also clogged by tourists and tour buses all summer long.

The rest of the park is somewhat less crowded. It’s classic rockbound coast of Maine scenery here, and there are walking paths along the coast, which are actually fairly navigable, considering the terrain.

I did have one disappointing discovery upon my arrival. The castle has been fenced off, and you can no longer go inside! (Ok, so it’s not really a castle, it’s a mansion that later functioned as the officer’s club for the Fort, but I’ve been coming here all my life, so it’s a castle in my mind…) When my mother first moved to Portland in the 70s, there was a still a second floor you can climb up to. By the time I was a kid, the second floor had been knocked down for safety reasons, but you could still walk inside the ruins. Sadly, that’s no longer the case, and I was definitely disappointed to have to walk away without a turn through the mansion. This really was the closest thing to a ruined castle that I saw before finally going to Europe, and it has that kind of a presence in my mind.

Finally, two more entries in my random staircase gallery. The first is to a little stone pavilion near the parade ground that’s currently used for picnics. The second is at the far side of the parade ground, and once led to a defunct pathway that quickly trails off into nothingness. There was actually another smaller staircase a little further up the hill, but it was so overgrown that I wasn’t able to photograph it in such a way that the stairs would still appear. I can totally see them as a fairy path in a story that spring to life once a year on some special fairy festival day.