Category Archives: Knitting

Corduroy Mansions

My new listening to audiobooks while knitting obsession? … Corduroy Mansions, the serialized digital book by Alexander McCall Smith. I’m late to the party — the first chapter was actually published on September 15th, but it’s better late than never. A new chapter is being published each weekday for 20 weeks, (roughly 100 chapters or so) and he’s now up to 60 or so chapters. You can read each installment online, or download it into your iTunes. I’m not quite caught up to the current chapter yet, but I’m making great progress with my knitting project and enjoying the listening.

I’m sure my brain was primed for the experience of reading a serialized novel by those early years of watching all those movie and TV serials with my brothers. This book is a set of stories that take place in the Pimlico part of London, in a building named Corduroy Mansions. The stories are all about the different residents of that building and neighborhood, so there’s no end to possible ideas for the book! Reading this novel is a very interactive experience, as McCall Smith is also giving his readers a chance to respond and make suggestions for things to add to or change in the story line. I know it also adds to my enjoyment of the listening that the narrator is Andrew Sachs, who played Manuel in Fawlty Towers.

Corduroy Mansions is an unassuming large house in London’s Pimlico, inhabited by an assortment of characters and one dog, writes Alexander McCall Smith.
The date of the building is indeterminate, but there are Arts and Craft features that point to the very late nineteenth century.
It is believed to have been built as an asylum, or possibly a school, or a mansion block.
In fact, nothing is known about the building’s history, although it does feature in a guide to the architecture of Pimlico.
It is described there as “a building of no interest whatsoever”.
The nickname Corduroy Mansions was given in jest by a fashionable person, and stuck.

As always, with McCall Smith’s writing, it is humorous, cheerful, and a fun reminder not to take life so very seriously all the time. No matter how busy my day, or how tired I come home from my school day spent with 7 and 8 year olds, I can listen to an installment, chuckle, knit a couple of rows, and decompress from life’s intensity!

Try it, you’ll like it!

Here’s a video of Alexander McCall Smith introducing his book and the Pimlico neighborhood in which the story takes place:

Our Man in Havana

I know…I know…the photograph above is obviously not an illustration from the book, Our Man in Havana, by Graham Greene, but it’s the project I worked on while listening to this audiobook. I enjoyed both the reading/listening and the knitting! I’d never read any of Graham Greene’s books before, but had looked at them in the bookstore for years thinking I really needed to read one someday. Someday finally came, and I’m glad it did.

Our Man in Havana is a political satire, written in 1958. James Wormold is a vacuum cleaner salesman in Havana, and he has a 17-year old daughter, Milly, that he dotes on. He really can’t afford all the things Milly demands, so when a British Secret Intelligence Service agent approaches and tries to recruit him, he agrees. The money is good and will get even better if he can recruit other agents. However, Wormold really doesn’t have the nature to be a spy, nor does he have the contacts. He has imagination, however, and makes up his contacts and their reports. When pressured by the home office for photographs of secret military constructions, Wormold draws some diagrams of “new weaponry” based on his most updated vacuum cleaner, and sends them off to England. The problem is…some of the agents he’s invented bare a resemblance to real people, and suddenly those “agents” are in mortal danger.

There is a film version of this book, starring Alec Guinness (who would be perfect as this character) and I would love to see it. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to track it down on either video or DVD.

This was another enjoyable book read for Carl V’s R.I.P. III Challenge.

Knit Kimono

KnitKimono, by Vicki Square, is an unusual book for me to review on my blog, but I love to knit and recently discovered this book in the knitting section of the bookstore. I stood there transfixed by the gorgeous photographs and projects in this book, and had the overwhelming urge to head straight to the knitting store to buy some yarn. I haven’t gone there yet, but I bought the book and have been enjoying it in the evenings when I’m too tired to actually knit. It’s not a matter of self-control that kept me from heading straight to the knitting store, but my indecision over which of these absolutely beautiful projects to choose first!

The book has the instructions for 18 different designs/kimono, but it’s more than a pattern book. I am fascinated by the background of the kimono as described by the author.

In a traditional sense, the particular color, cut, and design of a kimono conveys social messages: gender, life/death, season, age, formality or occasion, or propriety.

She explains kimono basics: Kimono are generally constructed from rectangular pieces of fabric in standard widths. A bolt of cloth, called a tan, is cut into seven straight pieces: two long body panels, two sleeves, two overlaps, and a neckband.

And she also includes a brief, but very interesting, history of the kimono that describes changes during different periods of time from ancient Japan to the present.

All of this makes this a very interesting read, but it’s the creativity and artistry of the author/designer that deserve accolades. This is a beautiful book, full of beautifully designed projects! And it was very nice addition to the books I’ve read for Dolce Bellezza’s Japanese Literature Challenge.

Vacation Destination: Narnia

Sometimes the best vacations are taken right in your own living room or sitting out on your deck. I have been completely carried away to another land recently, listening to the audio book version of The Chronicles of Narnia, by C. S. Lewis. It’s a 31-disc adventure to listen to all seven books (I can’t believe I’d never read them before!), but I’m enjoying them very much (and am getting a lot of knitting done, too.) There is a different narrator for each book — a wonderful group of the best actors/voices/talent possible! If you and your family are heading out for a road trip before the end of summer, (are road trips things of the past now?), these wonderful adventures will keep you all entertained for miles and miles.

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe: narrated by Michael York.


Prince Caspian: narrated by Lynn Redgrave


The Voyage of the Dawn Treader: narrated by Derek Jacobi


The Silver Chair
: narrated by Jeremy Northam


The Horse and His Boy: narrated by Alex Jennings


The Magician’s Nephew: narrated by Kenneth Branagh


The Last Battle: narrated by Patrick Stewart

Tying Up Loose Ends

There’s a great sense of satisfaction in tying up loose ends. That’s what I’ve been doing this morning as the jet stream blows in another heavy rainstorm straight from Hawaii. (It’s called the “pineapple express,” and the moisture-laden storms line up in the Pacific and head straight for the Northwest, letting loose tons of warm moisture to make this area green and gorgeous, but it is also why much of the area is on a flood watch until Tuesday.) As long as you’re not on watch for flooding, it’s great weather for knitting and reading.

So this morning, I reset all the clocks in the house, and was reminded by Mom to reset the clock in the car.

Then I finished another Grammy knitting project…a little cable sweater for precious grandson, Kai. That required weaving in all those loose yarn ends.

This weekend I’ve also been helping my daughter finish moving out of their old place into their very nice, new place. And all the while I was helping her, I was thinking of our bookshelves and bookshelves full of books at home and wondering how many heavy boxes it would take to move US at this point? Which reminds me of what the checker at the grocery store said to me recently when she read my favorite sweatshirt that says, “There’s no such thing as too many books.” Her quip: “Oh yes there is!…when you’re moving!”

Also, yesterday I met with my substitute and helped him fill out report cards for this term…a big Leave of Absence loose end that I had agreed to be part of when he took over my 6th grade classroom for me.

But I’m not quite ready to tie up my reading loose end yet, although I am almost finished reading Out of Africa