Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The 2009 Evergreen List

One of my goals this year was to read most of the books on the 2009 Ontario Library Association's Evergreen list. I didn't think at first that all of them would interest me or even if that were the case, I'd manage to get through all of them, but I did! Even better, some friends and family members joined me in reading these through our book club. Here's a quick run-down:
  • Apples to Oysters: A Food Lover's Tour of Canadian Farms by Margaret Webb. Journalist Webb examines 11 Canadian foods and how they are produced, with a focus on sustainable farming. Fascinating stuff. I bought Ambrosia apples for the first time after reading this book. Would like to try dulse too, but not sure where to get it locally.
  • The Calling by Inger Ash Wolfe. This is a psychological thriller, gruesome at times, written by Wolfe, a pseudonym for a supposedly well-known Canadian writer. Wolfe develops the characters well and does a good job of portraying small-town Ontario. The second book in the series, The Taken, has just been released.
  • The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway. This is a compact but intense story about three people trying to survive during the siege of Sarajevo. The title refers to the real-life cellist, a mostly symbolic character in the novel, who risked his life to play Albioni's Adagio to honour the dead. Definitely recommended!
  • Coventry by Helen Humphreys. Humphrey's spare and poetic style really appealed to me and it was a pleasure to read this story about two women whose lives cross during wartime.
  • Good to a Fault by Marina Endicott. This book, about a middle-aged woman who takes in a family after she accidentally crashes into the car in which they've been living, explores the notion of being "good". It's an engaging story.
  • In Spite of Myself: a Memoir by Christopher Plummer. Plummer's book is long and verbose, with names dropped on every page, but it is full of hilarious anecdotes and a must-read for fans of the theatre.
  • The Killing Circle by Andrew Pyper. This is the story of a struggling writer who joins a writing circle and finds himself and his son drawn into the world of a serial killer. Wonderfully suspenseful, scary and disturbing!
  • The Outlander by Gil Adamson. The story of a young widow's flight through the wilderness of western Canada and US in the early 1900s, this was my favourite book of the ten. Beautifully written and a page-turner at the same time.
  • Payback: Debt and the Shadow Side of Wealth by Margaret Atwood. Taken from the Massey Lectures, Atwood's discourse on debt (a historical, philosophical and literary view rather than a financial guide) is thought-provoking and timely. I do enjoy her fiction more, though.
  • Ragged Company by Richard Wagamese. This was the biggest surprise for me. Had never heard of Wagamese but absolutely loved this book about four homeless people who win the lottery. Wonderful storytelling!
And the winner is .... The Cellist of Sarajevo! The Distinction of Honour goes to Coventry. See the announcement on the Ontario Library Association's Web site.

The new Evergreen list will be released in February 2010. However, the other 2010 OLA Forest of Reading lists are available now. Kate plans to participate in the Silver Birch Fiction program again this year.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Julia's Slouchy Beanie Pattern

Julia and I had seen a few slouchy hats in the clothing shops at the mall and I figured this would be easy to make. I had the perfect yarn for this project -- the gorgeous Tanis Fiber Arts yarn I picked up at the Waterloo County Knitter's Fair in September. Julia loves orange and this yarn has the most beautiful shades of that colour. Too bad the photos can't really do it justice. I include the pattern below for your enjoyment.

Size: teen or adult small. Final circumference is 51cm/20in but will stretch to 56cm/22in.

Yarn: 1 skein Tanis Fiber Arts Hand Dyed Yarn (100% superwash merino wool), Green Label Aran Weight (115g/4oz, 196m/215yds per skein) in Orange Blossom.

Gauge: 20 stitches and 26 rows over 10cm/4in square using larger needles.

Needles: 3.75mm and 4.5mm (set of 4 double-pointed needles or 2 circular needles) or size to achieve gauge.

K: knit
K2tog: knit 2 together
M1: make one new stitch by picking up, twisting and knitting through bar on previous row

Instructions for Hat:

With smaller needles, cast on 88 stitches. Join in a round, making sure the row is not twisted and do 10 rounds of 2x2 rib (K2, P2 around).

Change to larger needles and start stockinette stitch, knitting every row in the round. In the first round, increase 11 stitches as follows: (K8, M1) 11 times. (99 stitches)

Continue in stockinette stitch until the hat measures 24cm/9.5in from the beginning.

Start shaping for crown.
First round: (K9, K2tog) 9 times. (90 stitches)
Next round: Knit.
Next round: (K8, K2tog) 9 times. (81 stitches)
Next round: Knit.
Next round: (K7, K2tog) 9 times. (72 stitches)
Next round: Knit.
Next round: (K6, K2tog) 9 times. (63 stitches)
Next round: Knit
Next round: (K5, K2tog) 9 times. (54 stitches)
Next round: (K4, K2tog) 9 times. (45 stitches)
Next round: (K3, K2tog) 9 times. (36 stitches)
Next round: (K2, K2tog) 9 times. (27 stitches)
Next round: (K1, K2tog) 9 times. (18 stitches)
Next round: K2tog 9 times. (9 stitches)

Draw yarn through all 9 remaining stitches and close tight. Secure yarn in a knot. Weave in ends.

Sunday, November 1, 2009


Here's my crazy family on Halloween night, minus Julia who was in bed with the flu. Kate very generously offered to share her loot, which goes to show that little sisters aren't always annoying pests.

I'd bought Kate this lovely white princess dress for Halloween last year but she'd refused to wear it. "Princess" just isn't her thing. Instead, she opted to shred it up with scissors and splatter it with (fake) blood, for the zombie-bride look. (Personally, I think she looks more like Lady Macbeth with that knife.) We were especially pleased to find the perfect fabric for her veil at Len's Mill, but it made me sick to my stomach to think of how much I'd paid for my own wedding veil 18 years ago. To think that I could have made do with a $2 piece of fabric, a $1 head band and two safety pins ... but it's too late to return it to the bridal shop now. Todd opted not to repeat the Napolean Dynamite act (too embarrassing to Julia, who cringed at the thought of her friends seeing him on the streets) and went for a more basic look.

I stayed home and passed out candy to over 230 kids before shutting down at 8:30pm. When you have a crazy family down the street who sets up a huge and elaborate haunted house and opens it up to the entire community, you can expect a lot of trick-or-treaters. I don't mind, though, and the kids are always pleasant and polite.