Previous month:
January 2020
Next month:
March 2020

February 2020

Workin' On Her Fitness: February Update

It’s hard to believe that we’re already here . . . at the tail-end of February!  It’s time to check in with Kim again – to see how she’s been doing with her fitness and self-care program this month.

(In case you missed the first post in this series last month, you can read all about it here.)


Kym:  Hi Kim!  Let's start with an update:  How is your fitness program going this month?  How are you feeling?

Kim:  It took me a few tries to find things that work for my back, but I have finally settled into a routine that is working well for me.  Every day I work out to either Kathy Smith’s “Fit over Forty” doing her circuit with weight training or one of Leslie Sansone’s walk workouts on YouTube -- sometimes with weights or resistance bands.  (You can see the Kathy Smith circuit videos here and the Leslie Sansone walking videos here.)

I’m also going to Tai Chi twice a week, and we do try to snow shoe one day on the weekend.  I have found out just how tight my hip flexors are! 

Kym:  Last month when we “chatted”, you were planning to get outside for exercise, you were going to do fitness workouts using Beach Body On Demand, and you had just ordered some weights.  Are those plans working for you?  Any changes to report?

Kim:   It’s been very challenging to get outside except on the weekends because of the weather and the lack of morning light before work, but when I can, I do get out -- and love it!  Instead of Beach Body on Demand, I am working with the videos I mentioned earlier and I’m really enjoying them.   I like being able to work out at home.  I have moved from my 3-pound weights up to the 5-pounders, so that's a bonus.  My muscles are definitely feeling the workout, but it’s a good pain. :)

Kym:  Can you tell me more about your self-care group?  How did you find the group — and what’s involved?   How is it helping? 

Kim:  I am working with a group that meets online called SCI (Self Care Initiative) founded by a man named Jason Seib.  I found his book "Body Beliefs” (which is a free download) through Facebook, and decided to join his group after watching a video he had up.  (Here’s a link to the video Kim watched; you need to register for access.)

He opens up the group to new people every now and then.  There is a $30.00 monthly charge, but you get a lot for the little it costs.  He does a weekly podcast, puts up a weekly focus video, and has a very active FB group where he is always there to help.  He also offers a one on one program for with people (it’s called SCI Accountability).  It’s more expensive, but when he opens that up again I will probably sign up.  

You know we “Obligers” do better when we are held accountable . . . ha!  I know doing this monthly blog check-in with you has made me commit to working out every. single. day.

Anyway, the group focuses a lot on looking at your thoughts and how they affect the way you react to situations.  One of the key questions he has us ask ourselves . . .  is how a thought that is “self deprecating” (for example) is really about self care; how it impacts the way we care for ourselves.

He also helps us look at stress and stressors in our lives, and explains that by taking out the emotion and by keeping focused on the facts, we’re usually able to deal with our stressors much better.  When faced with stress, he encourages us to ask ourselves a series of questions -- and by the time we’ve really examined it all, it’s easier to remove the stress by focusing our work on the stressor.  

This has really helped me!  In the past I would often have sat ruminating about something over and over in my head.  Now, instead, I’m applying a non-emotional way to confront the situation and resolve it with no bad feelings on either side.  It feels like a gift to be able to communicate more effectively.

It’s hard to describe, but I have found this group VERY helpful, because the focus is always on “Self Care” right down to the food we put in our mouths.  I’m sure that there are a lot of self-care methods out there that are equally as helpful.  Anything that helps us to value ourselves more is something we should all be practicing don’t you think?

Kym:  It sounds like you’ve found a program that is really changing the way you think and respond, Kim.  You’re so right – anything that helps us value ourselves more is something we should all be practicing!  I’m so happy you’ve found this group – and that it’s working for you.

This is Kim's tai chi t-shirt, along with a book she's currently reading.

Kym:  I know it’s hard to go back to work full time — AND manage the rest of your busy life!  How are you fitting fitness activities into your days?  Is it harder than you expected?  What are the barriers you’re encountering?  And - any tips at working past those barriers?

Kim:  Well, I have cut way back on my yarn business, which has gone a long way towards reducing my stress.  I’ve changed from doing "dyed to order", to having "dyed inventory in my shop.”  I will be making a lot of decisions this year concerning how much longer I will continue with my yarn business.  Working full time really does make things so much more challenging – especially because I still want to find time to have a fulfilling life outside my work.

In order to get a workout in before I leave in the morning, I really have to prioritize my time so I can get out of the house.  Having 5 older dogs that need attention, putting a healthy lunch together, squeezing in a little meditation time, then a workout, a shower, etc. usually has me running out the door in a flash . . . ha!  I am fortunate in my new job that I work 3 days alone in the office, so I am able to slow my pace down a bit on those days once I am there.

I find the more I can try to get ready the night before (such as making my next day lunch if I can, getting my clothes ready, etc.) really helps the next morning go a little smoother.

Kym:  You mentioned to me earlier that you’re learning ways to work out so you don’t aggravate your back issues.  What kind of advice do you have for other people trying to work out after prior injuries or surgery?  What do you find to be the best strategy for figuring out what you can and can’t do regarding fitness activities? 

Kim:  I found out very quickly that there is no way I can do any type of stomach crunches unless I do them supported on a ball!   I have found that you can work on your core muscles and abs when you are standing with little modifications.   It’s important to figure out what kind of exercises work for you with any physical limitations or injuries.   

The videos I’m using have been good for me.  Kathy Smith’s ab workouts don’t work for me with my back issues, so on those days I use Leslie’s videos instead.  What I like about Leslie’s videos is she has options within each video so you can tailor it to your needs, but they are all based around walking.  Sometimes the people in the video with Leslier are a bit corny, but the workouts are good – and effective!  I do work up a sweat, and it starts my day off so much better.  

I’m sure as the year progresses and I gain strength, I will eventually join one of the gyms up here.  It’s sad that our big local gym closed.

Kim's tai chi studio (can you spot Kim???)

Kym:  How are you dealing with the tedium and fatigue of a long, New Hampshire winter?  How do you keep your energy up at this time of year?

Kim:  Winters up here are just so blessed long!  I find that by the beginning of March, I am really looking forward to spring  - and playing in the dirt again.  I love to read, so I tend to immerse myself in reading stories I can get lost in (and forget about winter).  I usually do a lot of knitting and sewing in the winter, as well.  This year I have been trying to clean out “stuff” from our old house.  We are hoping to move closer to the ocean when we finish renovating this house, so re-homing things that we don’t use any longer will go a long way to making the move easier.  It also is freeing up space in my brain!  

I always try to learn something new in the winter, as well, and lately I’ve been playing with the app Procreate on my iPad.  It’s a fun program that is stretching my brain a little bit.

Kym:  Thanks so much for taking the time to check in again this month, Kim!  I’m really excited to be following your progress – and I’m happy to offer some “accountability” for your Obliger-self!  Maybe by next month - when we catch up again – we’ll be seeing signs of spring!  (Fingers crossed.)


Enjoy your weekend, everyone!


Gittin'r'Dun in February!

At the beginning of the month, I set out with this (rather ambitious) "bucket list:"


(And, yeah.  There it is again.  Still with the mattress. . . )

But now . . . here we are, running smack-dab up against March already, and I'm happy to report I've got nearly everything crossed off my list!


(YES!!!  Oh, Hallelujah!  Even the mattress!!!)

And I still have a couple of days left, even!

(Guess what I'll be working on before the weekend turns into March. . . )

Starting Things Off

"Flow doesn't come to those who try to do things well.  It comes to those who try to do things freely."
                    --- Barry Michaels


Each year, I always begin to think about and work with my "one little word" the same way:  by inviting the word into my life.


I start with tangible things:

  • I find quotes that inspire.
  • I put the word in front of me.
  • I start a word-inspired playlist.
  • I identify books I want to read.
  • I create a dedicated word journal.
  • I search for a poem.

This kind of "stuff" helps me get my word firmly in my head, and sets the tone for the thinking-work ahead. 

Next, I come up with a list of . . . things? activities? themes? . . . that might help me link up with my word through the year.  Of course, this kind of list - put together at the beginning of the year - will change and evolve as the year goes on, but it does give me a place to begin.  

On my list this year:

  • Pay attention to things that flow (lunar cycles, my attention span, water . . . ).
  • Give myself space (in my life, in my days, in my closet . . . ) to let ideas and thoughts flow more freely.
  • Practice flow, especially related to my own creative activities.
  • Analyze my own work flow -- figuring out how to give my days the structure I need while still allowing flow to happen.
  • Show up in the "now" with intentional work on mindfulness and presence.
  • Explore the work of Mihaly Csikzentmihalyi, the founder of the "flow state" concept in psychology.
  • Bring more yoga-flow to my life by doing . . . even more yoga.
  • Let love flow by more intentionally practicing kindness.


I have no clever conclusions or meaningful progress or life changes to report yet.  Just forward movement -- and a whole lot of ideas!


If you choose a word, what are some things you do as the year begins?

Vroom! Vroom!

The Monday morning after a sunshine-filled weekend makes it ever-so-slightly easier to . . . 


(On Monday mornings, I share a few things I found over the weekend.)


"Keep some room in your heart for the unimaginable."
                --- Mary Oliver (from the poem 'Evidence')




Here's a word I stumbled across sometime over the weekend.  
(But right now I can't remember where.)  
Whenever I encounter this word, I always know what it means.  But I can never quite articulate the definition!

It's a great word, though, isn't it?  so much fun to say!



Although I haven't spotted a robin in my garden yet this season, I know it won't be long before I see them everywhere!  Here are some facts about robins, compliments of one of my local greenhouses (Wenke's) in their latest e-newsletter:
You might be surprised but robins can withstand very cold temperatures and while some American Robins do migrate, many remain in the same place year-round. According to Cornell Lab, over the past 10 years, robins have been reported in January in every U.S. state, except Hawaii, and in all the southern provinces of Canada.
As with many birds, the wintering range of American Robins is affected by weather and natural food supply, but as long as food is available, these birds can do well for themselves by staying up north.
One reason why they seem to disappear every winter is that their behavior changes. In winter, robins form nomadic flocks, which can consist of hundreds to thousands of birds. Forming flocks allows for many eyes and ears, which is helpful when watching out for predators. Usually these flocks appear where there are plentiful fruits on trees and shrubs, such as crabapples, hawthorns, holly, juniper, and others.
When spring rolls around, these flocks split up. Suddenly we start seeing American Robins yanking worms out of our yards again, and it’s easy to assume they’ve “returned” from migration. But what we’re actually seeing is the switch from being non-territorial in the wintertime to aggressively defending a territory in advance of courting and raising chicks.
Last week, I mentioned that Mercury was retrograde again.  Wonder what that means, exactly?  Here's a great explanation for you (from the Audible blog).  (And since it's Audible, there are even 8 book selections to help you get through this Mercury retrograde time of year.)
Whenever I even just hear the words "piano man," the Billy Joel song plays in my head, in its entirety - complete with harmonica.  I can sing every word (and have actually, many times in many places . . . and often with strangers who end up bonding to a rousing group rendition of Piano Man).   I'm sure this is true for many of you.  But just in case that's not true for you, you might want to pause for a quick listen before proceeding.
And then . . . 
read this.  Just for fun.
Have a great Monday, everyone!


Asking Questions . . . An Interview With Fiber Dyer Chris Roosien

Welcome to the third installment of my Asking Questions blog series – when I ask questions of people in the fiber world that I particularly admire (and think y’all do, too).

This installment features an interview with yarn dyer Chris Roosien, owner of Briar Rose Fibers.  (You can find Chris on Instagram, Facebook, or on her newly-refreshed website.  There’s also an aptly-named Ravelry group: Briar Rose Fibers Fans.)  I always love the beautiful colors and textures in Chris’ yarns.  Her charming booth is the one I visit first every year at the Michigan Fiber Festival – and I usually come home with enough Briar Rose yarn for several projects.  I was eager to learn more about Chris’s work, her background, and her life – especially since she lives just up the road (well . . . highway) from me.

I think you’ll all enjoy learning more about Chris.  She is a true master of color.


photo provided by Chris Roosien; yarn is Briar Rose Fibers 'Abundance'

Kym:  Hi Chris!  I’m so excited to have you join me here for this Asking Questions blog post.  Let’s start at the beginning.  Can you tell me about learning to knit?  Like . . . when did you learn to knit?  Who taught you?

Chris:  I am so glad you asked!  I love to tell this story.  It was about 15 years ago.  We were traveling back and forth to northern Michigan a lot, and I couldn’t quilt in the truck.  (I’m a quilter, too.  Or . . . I used to be.)  Knitting is so much more portable than quilting -- so I wanted to learn to knit.  I crocheted when I was in high school and made several blankets, but I never learned to knit.  I am left-handed and no one in my family could teach me.  So, I turned to my good friend Nancy and she helped me so much!  I had others who helped along the way, like that phone call to another friend when I needed to ask “how do you bind off?”

(As a side note, my friend Nancy’s parents were instrumental in helping me get my business off the ground.  They talked to me about customer base lists and about displays and gave me huge support!  I might not have a business if it wasn’t for this wonderful family.)

IMG_1674 2
photo provided by Chris Roosien; yarn from Briar Rose Fibers is great for showing off texture in your knitting projects

Kym:  That’s a great story about learning to knit.  Knitting friends are such helpful resources!  How long were you a knitter before you started dyeing your own wool to knit with?  I imagine it must be very satisfying to knit a sweater with your own yarn!  Do you have any favorite knits?

Chris:  I actually only learned to knit about a year before I started dyeing yarn. I like to knit most everything but scarves (I find them boring) – and I love cardigans and yoke sweaters.  I like simple, but yet crave something that has a design challenge.  I really like trying new techniques.  They all sound so hard, but in reality they are not.  Learning how to do the tubular cast on was the best thing I ever learned -- and it looks so professional.

Kym:  So when did you first try dyeing? Was it something you’d always been drawn to? How long have you been dyeing as Briar Rose Fibers?

Chris:  I’ve been dyeing yarn and combed top for over 14 years now.  When I first started dyeing, I made sweater kits for my friends.  I could never find enough wool in dark colors to make sweaters for myself, so I started dyeing.  I remember telling my husband one night, “I haven’t felt like this much of an artist in a very long time.”  (I used to paint landscapes when I was younger – with oils.)

photo provided by Chris Roosien; yarn is Briar Rose Fibers 'Fourth of July'

Kym:  What initially drew me to your yarns was the COLOR!  Your yarn is unique and so beautiful.  Where do you find the color inspiration for your dyeing?  Do you have favorite color combinations?

Chris:  I love deep, dark, moody saturated colors, but I dye lots of colors -- because not everyone loves dark.  I am inspired by a lot of things … but mostly just what’s in my head is what ends up on the yarn.  I don’t use formulas and I really just “paint.”

Kym:  Most knitters are exposed to your yarn through fiber festivals. What can you tell us about the “festival circuit?” As a knitter, I love to visit vendors at festivals --- but it looks like an awfully lot of work to me. What would you like knitters to know about being a vendor at a fiber festival? How long does it take you to prepare for festival season? What do you do to wind down at the end of a festival?

Chris:  Yes, doing fiber festivals is a lot of work -- but I love it so much!  I only have a few weeks off during the year.  I start dyeing for the season right after the New Year, and I dye all year long, so there really is no down time after a festival.  I usually need to dye colors that I have sold from the previous event, and then when the season is over, I need to work on getting my website restocked.  (It never ends.)

Honestly, I could not do any of the events without my dear guy.  He packs, unpacks, helps set up the booth, and is the cashier.  Then he helps pack up again for the next event.  We make a great team.  He helps me at the festivals -- and I do all of the bookwork for our custom home building business. (I have done that for more than 30 years.)

The folks who I do events with (booth mates, if you will) are so kind and friendly … we are sort of like a big family.  Hugs are usually first before setting up the booth!  We have made really good lifelong friends through this fiber thing. 

IMG_0356 2
photo provided by Chris Roosien; Briar Rose Fibers booth

Kym:  I love that your husband is your partner-in-fiber and that you have worked together for so long. (I do the books for my husband’s consulting business, too.)  I would think it would be hard to do the “fiber thing” without that kind of support!  How long does it typically take for you guys to set up your booth?   (By the way, I think your booth is one of the most attractive and “cozy” set-ups I see at fiber festivals.)  Do you switch things up in the booth very often?  

Chris:  It takes us around three to four hours to set up a typical booth.  We keep things generally the same from festival to festival, as we know what works for traffic flow and how the yarn displays well.  Some booths are smaller, some larger, so some adjustments are made.  I am so grateful to Roger for building my lovely display units.  Thank you for your kind words about the booth.

photo provided by Chris Roosien; yarn is Briar Rose Fibers 'Abundance'

Kym:  One thing that I’ve noticed about your shop is that you pay close attention to the more popular (“trending”) patterns on Ravelry that work well with your yarn, and then you highlight those projects in your booth.  For example, I had been interested in knitting Andrea Mowry’s Night Shift shawl for months, but was a bit intimidated by finding the “right” yarn.  Then I visited you at the Michigan Fiber Festival and discovered you had put together kits for Night Shift!  I was thrilled — and my finished shawl is stunning!  Your colors make a magical version of that shawl.  Anyway . . . how do you discover the designs that work up so beautifully in your yarns?

Chris:  I spend quite a bit of time looking at patterns on Ravelry.  I try to have an assortment of projects for every skill level.  As we have learned over the years, some folks want super easy and some want a challenge; some want small projects and others want to knit a blanket or two.  Some customers just want to knit when they get home from work, to unwind -- and they want something simple. 

We have also found over the years that samples really help sell the yarn.  As an example, we have the Love Note Sweater by Tin Can Knits and people say it looks so different in real life.  And as you can testify to, the Night Shift Shawl …  looks so different in my yarn.

I have several designers that I really like in the way they write their patterns, so we carry those in the booth.  And I am eternally grateful to the sample knitters I have!!  I could never dye all this yarn and knit all the samples as well.

IMG_6884 2
My Night Shift shawl, knit with Briar Rose Fibers 'Fourth of July' -- in kit form!

Kym:  How do you like to spend your time outside of your dyeing work? Do you have “hobbies” (“practices”?) that influence your work?

Chris:  I knit!!!  I LOVE to knit!!!  I love making everything from hats to cowls, to boot toppers to sweaters.  I have a little Featherweight sewing machine and a big stack of fabric waiting for me upstairs and it calls to me once in a while to make pillowcases.  I used to be a quilter, and made large quilts.  So I have a large fabric “stash.”  I keep saying . . . one of these days . . . I will make a couple of quilt tops. 

Kym:  How do you deal with stress in your life?

Chris:  Me?  Stress?  Just ask my dear friends!  I have stress just like anyone else, but I have amazing friends who I can talk to. And my dear husband has my back, always. Honestly I have the best life!

Kym:  Would you like to promote anything?  Upcoming books?  Classes?  Anything at all?

Chris:  I’d like to invite everyone to visit our newly-refreshed website!  It’s easier to navigate - and shop! - now.  There is a handy list of events, too, so you’ll always be able to find me.  

I'm also excited to share a photo of this new shawl, knit by my friend Susan using my Sea Pearl yarn.  It's the Borage pattern from the new shawl book, To The Point.

photo provided by Chris Roosien; Susan's Borage shawl from To the Point, knit with Briar Rose Fibers 'Sea Pearl'

Kym:  Thanks so much for taking the time to talk with me, Chris.  It’s been great hearing about what you do – and a little behind-the-scenes look at fiber festival life, too!  Now that I’ve finished the gray cardigan I’ve been knitting since the holidays (and once I finish a special-request hat for a particularly knit-worthy friend), I’m going to be casting on for the new Rays Crop sweater (by designer Annie Lupton) with your beautiful Abundance yarn.  I can’t wait!


Not only was Chris gracious enough to answer my questions, but she has also offered the following extra-cool treats for my blog readers:

  • From now until February 26 (next Wednesday!!!), all Stepping Away From the Edge readers will get 10% off their purchase of yarn from Briar Rose Fibers.  Just enter the coupon code STEPPING when you check out on the website, and the discount will be taken off your order.
  • AND . . . If you respond with a comment to this blog post, you will be automatically entered into a drawing for Briar Rose Fibers yarn!  There will be THREE yarn prizes, as Chris has offered one hank of Sea Pearl AND one hank of Abundance yarn AND one hank of Fourth-of-July yarn as prizes (the winners get to pick their color).  These yarns are gorgeous!  This is a very special treat.  The deadline for commenting is Thursday, February 27, 2020.  Winners will be notified by email.


So. What Comes Next?

(If you are looking to join this week's Read With Us discussion of the book Fever, here it is!)


Now that the gray cardigan is finished and in my closet (well . . . technically, it's not in my closet much because I'm wearing it all the time, but you know what I mean), what comes next?

I can honestly say . . . I'm not sure.

I do have a little "palette cleanser" knitting going on at the moment.  (And it's not going well, truth be told.)  Last fall, I made a fun little curling hat for Tom.  Another curler saw it -- and admired it.  (Like . . . she wanted to learn to knit so she could make one for herself.)  I really like this curler -- she is kind and good and fun and VERY knit-worthy.  So I decided to knit her a hat as a little surprise.

It didn't turn out like I had hoped.


I know some of you are going to look at this finished (without pompom) curling hat and think it looks just fine.  But it isn't.  I made it a size smaller than the one I made for Tom -- and with that color work band in there, it just doesn't have a lot of give right where you want a hat to have a lot of give (y'know?), so it feels pretty tight.  Plus . . . I made a poor color choice for the handles of the curling stones.  The gold and the red are too close in value, so the handles just disappear in the design-- and especially from a distance.  I tried some duplicate stitch (no photo) with a more contrast-y color, and although it's better, it's not what I want.

If it were a hat for me, I'd just move on.

But it's not.

So I cast on for another one (bigger size) last night.  I'll make better color choices this time.  It'll be fine.  Which means . . . I still have about a week to decide what to knit next.  Here are three things I'm considering:

1 -- Ray's Crop.  As soon as I saw this design, I knew I'd need to knit it.  (I'm a sucker for garter stitch, and I love the shape of this sweater.)  Pros:  Big yarn, big needles, crop length means it'll go quickly.  Plus I already have the perfect yarn.  Cons: I can't really think of one.

2 -- Stashdance Cardigan.  This is the one that has been haunting me!  This is the design I wished I'd been knitting while I was knitting the gray cardigan.  I was obsessed with the thinking about it.  I went through my stash multiple times to check out my options.  (Found several. . . )  Pros:  I'm motivated and obsessed, I have great yarn options, it looks like fun.  Cons:  The contrast yarn I want to knit with is a long-run gradient and I'll need to plot out the color changes carefully for the sleeves to (at least sort of) match up with the body . . .which will take a bit of finagling.  Also, the main color will be gray (again) (I know), and I'm not sure I can do more gray quite yet.   I WILL knit this; I'm just not sure it'll be next.  

3 -- Little Rabbits.  I have two very sweet and very knit-worthy little grand nieces.  I've been planning to knit them little rabbits (with some outfits) for a while now.  If I don't get to it soon, though, they'll be too big to play with them!  (Not exactly true.  I have a couple of years before that happens.)  Pros:  Cute and adorable, will be well-received by the girls.  Cons:  I need to knit 2 of them, and they are futsy.  I will also need to figure out something else for their big brother who IS getting too old for a stuffed toy (although he might like it if it came with Star Wars outfits).

(I also need to knit another baby sweater, but I have a bit of time yet for that one.  While it's percolating in my head, it's not on my "what next" radar quite yet.)

So.  There you have it.  Opinions?  Thoughts?
(Also, how do YOU decide what to knit next?)



Just What I Needed

(If you are looking to join this week's Read With Us discussion of the book Fever, here it is!)


Let's start today's post with a soundtrack, shall we?  (And this one is worth clicking into!  It's a live performance by The Cars when they appeared on on The Midnight Special back in 1978.)

Way back last winter, I decided I needed a gray cardigan in my life.  And then I proceeded to get distracted by many a colorful sweater.  And holiday knitting.  And pretty much anything BUT a gray cardigan.  (I also had a hard time deciding on the right pattern, because I had something particular in mind . . . and I already had the yarn.  So that did complicate things a bit.)  (Do you know how many sport-weight cardigan patterns there are out there to choose from?)  (Many.  There are many.)

Anyway.  I finally started knitting my gray cardigan on New Year's Day.  
And, yeah.  It was a bit of a slog.
And, yeah.  I whined about it.

But.  In the end?


It's . . . just what I needed!

you always knew to wear it well . . .
and you look so fancy I can tell . . . 


I guess you're just what I needed . . . 
just what I needed!


Get all the details here on Ravelry.


Be sure to visit Kat today for more Unravled posts.


Fever: Week 3 Discussion

Read With Us

Welcome to the final Read With Us book discussion for Fever!

Please join the discussion by leaving a comment here on the blog. I'll be responding to your comments directly IN the comments, so please do check back once in a while to see how the discussion is going this week. Please feel free to respond to other commenters as well.

As Carole and Bonny have already explained, this time around we've got an added bonus to participating in the book discussion. We have put together a “book lovers' surprise package” to be given to one lucky Fever reader! Just leave a comment on any of our book discussion blog posts. Your name will be placed in a hat EACH time you make a comment — so the more you share, express your opinions, and comment, the more chances you have to win the prize. The winner will be revealed as part of our wrap-up post on February 25!


Now.  On with our discussion!


It's kind of interesting to host the final discussion.  I'm already privy to many of your thoughts and insights about the book, based on your comments in our earlier discussions hosted by Carole and Bonny.  I know, for example, that many of you felt that the book would have been stronger with more attention paid to Dr. Soper, and with perhaps more focus on the factors that led to the link between Mary Mallon and her identification as an asymptomatic carrier of Typhoid Fever.  I also know that while most of us agree that it's critical to protect public health, we also feel that Mary Mallon was treated unfairly because she was a poor immigrant -- and a woman, to boot.

What else can I even ask . . . in this 3rd and final discussion?


First, let's talk about Alfred, shall we?

The character of Mary's long-time partner, Alfred Briehof - a German immigrant with addiction problems, a spotty work ethic, and commitment issues - was not based on an actual person in Mary's life (according to the available historical records and details). While it is nice to think that Mary had a "special someone" to share her life with, it seems to me that the author gave the character Alfred a lot of "space" in the story (even allowing him his own "point of view" for a few rather confusing chapters there in the middle of the book).

What did you think of Alfred?  Did the relationship between Mary and Alfred help you understand Mary's life choices better?  Did their life together ring true in this particular historical setting and context?  Did you think Mary's behavior toward Alfred was consistent with the rest of her character?  What do you think of the author's choice to focus attention so heavily on Alfred?


Next, let's talk about Fever as a work of historical fiction.

The book is classified as historical fiction. It is factually based on a real-life, historical person (Mary Mallon) and features many key events in her history.  It is also fictional -- bringing the past to life for readers by embellishing Mary's life with fabricated details.  Many people in the story were historical figures:  Dr. Soper, the Warren family of Oyster Bay, Dr. Biggs, Josephine Baker, and Ernst Lederle, for example.  And the book tied in some real-life events to help cement the setting and timeline:  the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, and the sinking of the Titanic, for example.  Yet the majority of characters, situations, and conversations are fictional.

How do you think this worked in Fever?  Did you notice any things in the book that seemed out of place or time, given the historical setting?  Did the characters speak and act like people would have done in that period of time/in that situation?  Did the book feel authentic to you?  Why or why not?


And, finally, let's talk about Mary herself.  

Many of us, in our comments in the earlier discussions, mentioned that we didn't feel that we really got to know Mary Mallon.  She seemed enigmatic to us -- sometimes independent, confident, and stubborn, but other times . . .  well, not so much . . . taking on work that would get her in trouble, for example, just so she could feed her boyfriend's addiction.

Do you think this was the author's intent -- to keep us at arm's length from Mary?  Are there things the author might have done differently to draw us closer to Mary?  Were you surprised at how Mary reacted/responded to Alfred's drug addiction given how she handled other situations in her life?  Do you think you may have enjoyed the book more if you could understand (and maybe even cheer for) Mary?  


Would you recommend this book to others?


Be sure to join us next Tuesday over at Bonny's . . . as we wrap up this go 'round of Read With Us and announce the winner of our "book lovers' surprise package!"


Here We Go

It's Monday again!  Time to . . . 


(On Monday mornings, I share a few things I found over the weekend.)


"If the world seems cold to you, kindle fires to warm it."
            --- Lucy Larcom




Did you happen to catch this over the weekend?  Yes!  It's one thing to read an awesome blog post by one of your best pals.  But . . . it's EVEN BETTER to read it again when it's picked up by one of the "big blogs!"  If you haven't already read Carole's most excellent essay, be sure to click in and read it now.  (And if you have already read it?  Well.  Click in and read it again.  Because it's a good one!)  Congratulations, Carole!  Thanks for speaking up - and speaking out!



I tend to think that emojis are generally self-explanatory.  But maybe - before you hit "send" - you have a fleeting worry about that emoji you're using.  Will your recipient understand the meaning you're trying to convey?

Well.  Just in case you want to be certain, there is an encyclopeida of emojis for you to consult!  An . . .  "emojipedia"!  You can even track the "trending" emojis.  Or find the newest emojis.  (Hoo-boy.  Who knew?)  



Hold on to your hats, everyone.  Mercury is in retrograde again!  Curious about what else is happening in the night skies this month?  Here's a quick run down for the month of February.  (I'm happy to be able to see the stars in my night sky again . . . for the first time in months! Thank you clear skies.)


That's it for this Monday morning, y'all!  I hope your week is off to a great start.

And don't forget to check in here tomorrow for the third and final week of our Read With Us discussion of Fever.  (If you've been waiting to talk about Alfred . . . well.  Tomorrow is your chance!)  See you then.



“Nothing makes the earth seem so spacious as to have friends at a distance; they make the latitudes and longitudes.”
                ---Henry David Thoreau


Happy Valentine's Day, my friends!  

However - or if - you choose to acknowledge or celebrate this day of love, please know that I love having this (almost sometimes) daily connection with you all.  I am grateful for your friendship -- virtual and real, near and far, old and new.  Thanks for being here in this space with me.

And now . . . a little something to warm your heart.  This essay from The Washington Post is fairly short and quick to read -- but it packs a powerful punch.  It's sure to bring some joy to your day.  (EDITED:  It was pointed out that this essay is only available for WaPo subscribers.  I am sorry about that.) (EDITED AGAIN:  Okay.  It seems some people who are not WaPo subscribers can still pull up this essay.  So go ahead and give it a try.)  (AND EDITED AGAIN:  Apparently if you are not a WaPo subscriber AND you are trying to read the article on your phone, it will ask you to log in.  If you're reading on your computer, however, you can click through and read it.  So.  Try it from your computer!)

All the love . . . to all of you!