Saturday, February 20, 2010


I find it hard to choose what I am going to do once I come home from work these days.

I adore Dancing to the Precipice. It is well written and reads as smoothly as a novel. Absolutely absorbing. I love the fact that fashion and color and food are so entrenched into the French culture that even in the 18th century people would riot if there weren't enough apricots at market and the way one rebelled/revolted was by the manner of dress and the colors they wore.  Well, before the real bloodbath began this was also true. And it definitely is not seen as clearly as the sans-culettes to the American who has no real grasp of the French sensibilities, especially those of the 18th century French.

Neither one of these things come as a surprise. This blood soaked, splattered, and smeared period in history follows the Renaissance, the Sun King, etc etc. However, after reading other books about the French Revolution I feel that Caroline Moorehead incorporates the whole culture into the telling of this one woman and her families lives and how utterly changed their lives become. She leaves no rock unturned.

That is my first conundrum.

Do I read the night away? Taking a break to prepare and eat dinner and enjoy time with my family of course.


Do I knit.

I tried knitting with needles and it was so terribly painful for me. Of course my tension was way too tight, but I couldn't get past that no matter how many times I tried. I held those needles like my life depended on it....much like I hold a pen when I am writing!  My hands are long and thin and after decades of writing and typing and making, building, and playing with clay they are not what they used to be. My mother had given me a set of Knifty Knitter Looms saying she couldn't figure it out and had lost interest.  They had been sitting around for quite awhile.

Knifty Knitter looms are plastic looms, that have a very large gauge (you would use size 11-17 needle to be about the same gauge as the knifty knitter loom.) I decided to see what I could do with them. I researched online for about a week, looking at other sites and found a select few that made sense to my beginners mind. Isela Phelps is the queen of the loom, at least what I can tell by who publishes and who has the most comprehensible You-Tube tutorials.There are some funny You-Tube videos out there and I think I saw most of them. Her instructions were very easy to follow and so I set to work.  I made my first hat in about 4 hours, spread between 2 days. It will fit a child, as on an adult it has a reservoir tip and that is not good fashion. Well unless you are promoting safe sex.

After my hat I decided I would try several other stitches. The knifty knitter instructions are very poor and according to them there is one stitch. And it is a really ugly stitch and if you do not double your medium gauge yarn  or wrap the pegs 4 times and leave four pegs wrapped at all times your hat tends to look anemic. So back onto You-Tube I went and Voila! I found how to knit and purl as well as how to make a flat panel on a round loom, and how to make your flat panel lay flat and not curl. I think I found others, but can't be sure and to be honest right now that is all I am going to use for awhile until I get confident in using the loom. As I recall in all my reading and researching about knitting, knitting and purling are used in a great many other stitch patterns.

I love knitting looms! However, chunky yarn is not a yarn for all seasons. I began to look for looms of smaller gauges and found them. They are expensive when you realize that a set of 4 round knifty knitter looms are 12.97 at your local Wal-mart. I decided to go look at a few craft stores and see what I could find. I also needed more yarn for this twin sized crochet afghan I have been working on since December.  I settled on a knitting board (found it on clearance!) A knitting board is the same concept as a loom just a rectangular piece made of oak with solid stainless steel pegs. The pegs do lack the grooves that the plastic pegs have on the knifty knitter. I like the grooves, it keeps the pin tool from slipping off, but the knitting board has a bit of a different technique I guess. I really don't know, I have not used it yet.It is also a table project and not a lap project, which could prove to be difficult if I keep sidetracking myself away from finishing my office once and for all!

Right now I am working on a shawl for my mother. When I last talked to her she must have insisted that I find a pattern for a shawl about 4 times. We were on the phone for about ten minutes. I asked her if she wanted a shawl and she never she's getting one out of the crappy homespun I have, that she gave to me with the looms. It is about a third of the way done. It looks fantastic! No dropped stitches and if and when you do drop a stitch you follow your new loop back the the old tightened one and that one will loosen up without an issue. I don't care for homespun ( I think this may be why my mother gave up on using the looms.) It's a fussy frayed yarn that looks pretty as a skein and as a finished project, it's just a bugger to work with!
It's very high maintenance.

On the reading front I am almost half done reading, but I am taking notes (there is an awful lot of info and I : want to learn this info so I can make nerdy references that no one else understands-joke! I am noting for my own purposes so that when I sit down to write about this period I have notes I can refer back to, rather than shuffle through a million pages.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Dancing to the Precipice

This book is not a diary that was translated. I suppose that is what I expected when I ordered it. I am pleasantly surprised. Antonia Frasier can be a bit dry and is the author of the majority of the biographies I have read. I like Alison Weir, but some of her books have been slow and I have struggled to get through the ones I have read. Dancing is not only written as a biography of one woman's life; Moorehead also studies and explains clearly what shaped the early 18th century and family in which Lucie was born.

And that is what excited me most. There is plenty of rich description to really pull you into the streets of Paris, the country retreats, the salons of the aristocracy where so many ideas of the Enlightenment were discussed, l'art de virve was cultivated and nurtured. And as much as I am not a slave to fashion this book does delve into the insane costumes of the French aristocracy. But it does not dwell.

It is an absorbing book. I sit down to read it and am loathe to break away. Unfortunately, I've been struck with a cold so I have not been able to do as much reading as I'd like, but I think after I get enough rest and my sinuses decide to clear I'll have ample time over this long weekend to really dig in.  I even may do a bit of knitting. I was given some new looms that I would like to try out.

* a little about me*
I lead a quite life for someone in their 30's. I have not been graced by the little pitter patter of human feet. I am married and work ( sometimes too much) as a counselor in my community and do not engage in too many activities of indulgence. I love to laugh and find pleasure in simple things like books, a cup of rich coffee, a small piece of dark good chocolate, a glass of red wine, fresh strawberries and brie, intelligent conversation that is sincere and not laced with sarcasm and invalidation. I am fond of the outdoors, but am not a camper.

Sunday, February 7, 2010


  It was a great book, a haunting melancholy love story, that had very little action in the romantic novel sense. The novel is more about the love for one's country, one's countryman, and fair treatment of others. It is a hero's novel that has passion for justice. I am thankful it wasn't romantic dribble.

The author stitched together a very believable novel and as he put it in his own words " My job, then, was not to change what is known but to use my own imagination to fill in the gaps of what isn't known." ( Tipton, James, 2009.)  

Annette Vallon was , in real life, a counterrevolutionary, who aided  refugees during the Terror, the Directoire, and Napolean. She was also the mother to a child of Wordsworth and was watched, suspected, but never caught by The Committee of Surveillance, later the Committee of Public Safety, and  Napoleon's Secret Police.  For twenty-five years this woman with no thought of personal gain aided persecuted persons.

I do have to say that many books lead me on a kind of scavenger hunt. I love the author who gives me a book list or reading/learning material. James Tipton did not disappoint.

New books of interest:
David Andress, The Terror, Civil War in the French Revolution (2005)
Emilie Legouis, William Wordsworth and Annette Vallon (1922)
R.R. Palmer, The Twelve Who Ruled (2005)
Aileen Ribeiro, Fashion in the French Revolution (1988)
Simon Schama, Citizens (1989)
Elisabeth Scotto, France, The Beautiful Cookbook (1989)

I have picked up The Seven Ages of Paris (2004) by Alastair Horne and am reading the 100 or so pages that concern the reign of the Sun King to Napoleon. I use this book as a primer, something to fill in the gaps where my information is lacking or just not there. I have not read it from cover to cover and probably won't. It's kind of like the additional material a college class gives to increase your understanding.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Have I found a new gem!?

As the title of my blog suggests I am obsessed. Obsessed with history, particularly with Restoration England, the French Revolution, and a pretty big francophile and Anglophile. I am nearly done with James Tipton's Annette Vallon and would like to remain in the same era, rather than traverse into Renaissance Scotland/ England and read Mary Queen of Scots. I knew I should have started with her first!  But who knows that could have led me off into a whole other era and I am really happy where I am at the moment.

I'll get to that book eventually, later this year. But I have an awful lot of reading to do now to fulfill my current learning compulsion.

The new gem I think I have found is Dancing to the Precipice: the Life of Lucie de La Tour de Pin , Eyewitness to an Era by Caroline Moorhead. At first I wondered if this was the same author who wrote that horrid Hidden Diary of Marie Antoinette, but thankfully it is not!  Hidden Diary was just drab,cold, and dry. It lacked emotion and detail in the retelling of history and if I had wanted that I would have bought a textbook.

Dancing is non fiction, a biography, that is pieced together from the memoirs of an incredible survivor.Below is an article from Time on this amazing woman....the article does not talk about this particular book though.

The reviews are good, but I have a hard time putting much faith in reviews. I am ordering it, by the time I am finished with Annette it should be here....Yippee!

Sometimes I think I should have just become a librarian. I probably would have been so much happier.

Books: Portrait of a Lady

Books: Portrait of a Lady

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The fly on the wall.

Annette Vallon: A Novel of The French Revolution is a marvelous novel!

  I am an elitist snob when it comes to books. There is an awful lot of books out there and I am not about to waste my hard earned money on too many that are flops.I buy many more new books than old. I re-read if I cannot find a book to take my interest. I will spend hours in a library happy just to be near the books. Books make a house a home to me. It does not matter where it is at, as long as I have some of my library I am at ease. Like old friends the characters will take me on their adventures while I am safely ensconced in my armchair. This book will definitely be something that is read again, saved on the shelf, and offered out on loan only to those responsible enough not to lose, tear, or spill coffee or tea on it.

  This novel reads smoothly, there are no jumps in time that are not clearly defined and no 21st century silliness inserted into a historical character. Mr. Tipton has researched his characters, the times, the social norms of the period and worked within those parameters. He did not resort to cliche to describe, but has allowed the characters to gracefully show themselves as they are. The scenes are allowed to develop and the events are naturally occurring. Nothing feels forced or contrived. The authors word choice is perfect. The language that is used is intelligent.

  On the topic of the French Revolution I do not feel cheated in any way, shape, or form. The author does not skirt the issue, but brings it into the forefront and makes one able to empathize with the characters and their plight.With the fair amount of knowledge I have about the French Revolution and the Reign of Terror I have not been confused or left to look up a term  The reader is the fly on the royalists walls.