Busy week at work, and I am tired. But at least the big weekend thing is over. And now I am super tired. Fortunately I have some time off coming up. Next week.
But aside from work, this week has been… nice? I mean weather-wise (because I know you’re all here for my weekly weather updates). July is usually hot and muggy and generally uncomfortable, but so far this month has been mostly fine. Which is weird, because I’m hearing about super hot temperatures out west and a tropical storm along the eastern seaboard, and other wild weather in other parts of the country, and we’re hanging out with some pretty decent weather overall. Except that big storm last weekend, but that’s almost par for the course around here. So. Weirdly nice. I’m not sure what to do about it.
I suppose my only real complaint is that the people in the pretty house across the street ripped out their perfectly lovely bushes, so now there’s this ugly patch of torn up dirt and the mud from the alley beyond in my view instead of a big row of bushes. And I am disgruntled about it.
Obligatory Mina Photo:
Mina has been throwing around some serious attitude this week. Whether she’s giving me side-eye for doing awful things like walking into the room or shooing her off the counter (she knows she’s not supposed to be up there, but she jumps up anyway), not giving her treats immediately after coming home (she has to wait a whole two minutes after I walk in the door, and you’d think she was starving to death as much as she carries on), or sitting down on my couch when she’s napping (I don’t even touch her, but she acts like my sitting down is the most inconvenient thing I’ve ever done), she is acting like a teenager from a CW melodrama.
Is it a phase she’s going through? Is there a point when the drama will die down and she’ll settle down and want to do puzzles and read the paper and not be up until three in the morning like a sensible adult? Because I am ready for that.
What I Finished Reading Last Week:
I didn’t read much last week, partly because work was so busy (and zapped my energy by the time I got home), and partly because out of the blue, my brain decided it wanted to read fanfiction from a particular alternate universe based on a show I haven’t watched or read fanfic about in more than ten years. What. Even? My brain is weird. I mean, I only started a fast-paced historical thriller that started with a bang, but I guess why read that when there’s this 130,000 word fanfic I could read instead?
But whatever. That fanfic story was fun. That’s why I read the whole thing.
- The Virgin in the Ice (Chronicles of Brother Cadfael #6) by Ellis Peters, narrated by Patrick Tull
- The Lights of Prague by Nicole Jarvis
The Virgin in the Ice is definitely my favorite of the Cadfael books so far. It was fantastic! So many unexpected twists and turns, so many people being flawed and relatable humans, and the revelation Cadfael had at the end was so unexpected and so believable. I didn’t mind the formulaic plot of the first few books, but I’m so glad that Ellis Peters changed things up in this one. And I really hope that Olivier shows up in later books.
The Lights of Prague was a fun gas lamp fantasy set in 1880s Prague. While it wasn’t the most original thing I’ve ever read, I really didn’t mind. Not every book needs to be wildly out there to be satisfying. Sometimes you just want a book that mostly does what you expect, and that’s what this was. A story about vampiric creatures of the night and the clandestine group of people who hunt them to keep the city safe for humans. Domek was a compelling character who was always trying to do the right thing, even when he screwed things up, and I liked that Jarvis successfully wrote Ora as an old, old character who believably fit into the modern (to her) setting. I also liked that she hadn’t just happened to have met every historical luminary who ever existed from the time of her birth to the time this story started, because that always seems to happen when characters have lived a long time. Because they’re obviously going to know exactly who is going to become historical legends, even if the people they’re bragging about having met were not that well known in their own times. But anyway. The Lights of Prague isn’t a perfect book; some of the writing is a little clunky and the pacing is sometimes odd, and I wish there was a little more atmosphere that made me feel like I was in Prague, but it’s a debut and I enjoyed the book, so I’m willing to overlook some flaws. Jarvis left room open for a sequel, so if she publishes another in this world, I will definitely read it.
What I’m Currently Reading:
- The Treason of Isengard (The History of Middle-earth #7) by J.R.R. Tolkien, edited by Christopher Tolkien (226/512)
- The Eyes of the Queen (Agents of the Crown #1) by Oliver Clements (37/304)
- The Shining Court (The Sun Sword #3) by Michelle West (54/737)
Once we get past the chapters set in Rivendell in The Treason of Isengard, things move along in a hurry. There aren’t all that many changes from early drafts to the final version of The Fellowship of the Ring, except when we’re looking at the first set of notes where Tolkien was trying to figure out where the story was going to go after the fellowship leaves Lórien. There’s a quote from the Professor where he states that the tale (of The Lord of the Rings) grew in the telling, and you can see it in the notes. The notes from Moria and on have things happening in a very compressed fashion, and Rohan hardly enters into the story(!). But once Tolkien settles down into the story, things are expanded and the story settles into the path we’re accustomed to. Aragorn (son of Celegorn) is still called Trotter instead of Strider, and Boromir is from the land of Ond rather than Gondor, but aside from dialogue being refined and clarified (and names and titles being finalized in later drafts), the story is pretty much the same from the fellowship’s journey from Hollin to Lórien.
The Eyes of the Queen begins with a breathless action sequence that follows Sir Francis Walshingham and one of his agents on a desperate chase through Paris during the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre, where, in 1572, a mob of Catholics attacked and slaughtered Protestant Huguenauts in a day of horrific violence that Walsingham was actually witness to. The scene captured my attention immediately, but then I didn’t get much of a chance to read it for the next two days, and then fanfiction. I plan to read more of it this afternoon. If I can get an hour or two here or there to settle down with it, I should be able to finish it pretty quickly as it’s very fast paced.
I’m barely into The Shining Court, so I don’t have a lot to say, other than that I wish Jewel would stop dithering and just go and do the things that she knows she needs to do, and realize that her friends are capable adults who can actually get things done even if she’s not there to look over their shoulders at every turn. But it’s good to see Serra Teresa and Diora again, so I’m not complaining too much. I’m really wondering if Jewel and Diora are going to meet in this book or not, and if so, what Jewel will think of Diora?
What I Plan to Start Reading This Week:
- The Viking Heart: How Scandanavians Conquered the World by Arthur Herman, ARC provided by NetGalley
So I turned the page in my planner to look at what I have on tap for next week, and lo and behold I’d scheduled a book review for The Viking Heart. For Tuesday. I haven’t even started reading it yet, so obviously that’s not going to happen. Fortunately, the book isn’t out for another couple of weeks, so I have some time to read it and write a review before its publication date. Oops.
I did two sewing things last week: mending and making.
I’ve had my beloved winter pea coat for about fifteen years. It was, to that point, the most expensive piece of clothing I had ever bought for myself. I’d gotten a good job out of college (the one I still have), and I needed/wanted a new coat to get me through winter. I don’t know what happened with the previous coat. Maybe I wore it out? Maybe it just wasn’t my style anymore? But anyway. After saving up enough to get myself a nice coat, I took myself off to the shops and started searching.
I found my lovely black pea coat on the clearance rack at a slightly upscale department store, no less- and for good reason. There are not many women who can fit into a coat that is a ‘petite small’. Why is that? Because not only was it a size small, but the ‘petite’ designation meant that it was made for a short woman- which I am. The coat fit perfectly. The shoulder seams hit me in the right place, the sleeves were just the right length, the coat itself was the right length above my knees, and it buttoned just right- even over cardigans and scarves! And to make things even better, when I was chatting with the department clerk we realized that we’d worked in neighboring departments in our previous jobs. Thanks to that connection, she took extra time out of her day and hunted down a coupon to apply to my purchase, making my perfectly fitting clearance rack coat even less expensive! Score! (and it goes to show that being polite and friendly with store clerks is far more likely to get you excellent service than being a complaining jerk)
But. Over the past fifteen years, and because I wear this coat all the time for 4-5 months of the year, it’s starting to show its age. By the the time spring rolled around this year, the edges of the collar and cuffs were wearing out and showing the lining, part of one of the outer pockets’ structure was coming apart, and the buttons were getting loose. I’d managed to fix the problem pocket structure, but I wasn’t sure how to mend the worn cuffs and collar. Then I found a book about mending at the library (I know, I’m a thrilling human), checked it out, and found a stitch that I thought would do the trick. With the materials in hand, I set to work on the worn out parts of the cuff and collar, and I think I’ve done a decent job of patching it up. It looks fine, but we’ll see if my amateur mending puts up with the wear and tear of a full Nebraska winter.
Then, and I don’t know why, but I decided I needed to make another witch hat this week. So I started it, and it’s in process and it’s… fine?
The funny thing about this project is that I made a witch hat (a la Bernadette Banner) last winter or so, but it ended up not fitting. The brim was too small, and so it didn’t sit on my head very well. The funny thing was that I had made two brims for the first hat. The first was far to small, so I made a new, wider pattern. But the second brim was also too small, and I don’t know what went wrong. So I ended up giving the hat to a friend’s young daughter who loves to play dress-up, and she was thrilled to have her own witch hat (she may end up being a witch for Halloween because she has a fabulous hat)
Then I let the rest of my wool just sit on a shelf while I decided what to make with it.
Turns out that I was going to finally decide to make a new witch hat. Weirdly, while I still had the pattern for the crown piece (aka the pointy part), I did not have the pattern for the brim. That was easy to make, as I merely had to measure the circumference of my head while my hair was up in its usual style (a bun of some kind), and then add about half an each for ease. After figuring out the radius (geometry comes in handy, kids) I drafted a new brim pattern and set to work.
I sewed the two brim pieces together, completed the top stitching for the brim, and sewed the crown piece far more quickly than I did last time, partly because my skills have improved and partly because I realized that A) I didn’t have to backstitch seams that aren’t going to be under much, if any, stress, and B) I didn’t have to make my stitches quite so tiny. I did put the topstitching a little too close to the outer edge of the brim, but I’m probably the only one who will even notice, let alone be bothered by it.
Once I pinned the brim and crown together I tried the hat on and… It was too small.
I still don’t understand. I measured everything multiple times! I followed the directions correctly, I thought. But it was still a bit too small. So I put the hat away for a couple of days and came back to it, having put some distance between me and my little (ha) problem.
The only thing I can think of is that the multiple layers of wool that come together at the seam between the crown and brim is causing the circumference to be smaller than I anticipated. So I trimmed a bit of fabric out of the seam allowance of the inside of the brim, re-pinned the two pieces, and tried it on again. Much better! It’s still a bit smaller than I intended it to be, but I think it will be okay. If all else fails, I’ll just have to get myself a lovely hat pin that will allow me to not only pin the hat to my hairstyle (as they did in the Edwardian era), but provide me a self-defense item in the case of churlish folk who decide to hassle me because of my fabulous hat.
So here’s the hat as it is now. The seam between the crown and brim is wonky because it’s pinned together and not sewn, I need to poke out the top of the point with a pencil or something, and I need to press the brim again as well as the seam of the crown, but I’m happy with it so far! Right now, I’m planning to use a bit of dark blue polyester for the lining because I couldn’t find anything else that was silky enough and not stretchy at the craft store. But I’m not that chuffed about using polyester, so I’ll put it in there for now and keep an eye out for different linings, as I can always rip out the felled seam and replace the polyester lining with something else.
I’m quite happy with it so far, though I doubt I’ll be able to sit down and finish it up until my several days off come around next week. I need to buy a bit of bias tape to cover up the raw edges that will be there when I sew the pieces together, and I’ll have another look around at the fabric and see if there’s something that’s silky and pretty and not polyester when next I go to the craft store (which will probably be later today).
I’m sure this new hat will have plenty of flaws (the topstitching, the fact that it will probably be a bit small), but that’s okay. It’s better than the first hat, I’m practicing new skills, and I’m figuring out how to solve sewing problems as they pop up. I’m looking forward to finishing this hat and then moving on to the next project.