Monday, May 30, 2016

Hooks, Books & Music

It finally feels like Spring here in Colorado and with that, the creative part of my brain that deals with writing both fiction and non-fiction has gone on an extended vacation and my musical brain is back in full force. I don't know what it is but maybe because Fall and Winter are so grim (for me) that I feel the need to escape in a different world of my own creation and now that it's sunny and perfect weather, I feel the music humming through my blood. 

I don't have a piano at home and the only musical instrument that I have here is a Lazer Soprano Recorder (that my dog hates because of the high pitch) and a Yamaha Alto Recorder (that my dog loves to grumble and whine at) that I'm trying to learn and be more proficient at (hence the grumbling and whining, most likely). My Weinstein Acoustic Upright Piano (with the cracked sound board) and my Yamaha Electone Organ (one of the foot pedals need to be checked as it was no longer producing any sound) and all of my music books and sheet music were all left behind in Manila, Philippines and probably not being used for the last 7 years since I left (sad thing!). At least my beginner Hoeffner 4/4 Violin has been sold 2 years ago to a lady looking for a violin for her child and asked my mom if she was selling my violin while waiting in line at the FedEx office. My mom was going to get a quote from FedEx on shipping costs. Lucky! 

My mom prefer that I ship my Yamaha Electone Organ to Colorado due to sentimental reasons (it was the last thing her own mother/my maternal grandma bought for me) and I prefer to buy a new one for practical reasons (cost of shipping + repair). I think it's cheaper, more convenient to buy a new one here in the U.S. instead of shipping a huge instrument halfway across the world (not to mention the warranty) especially since I've narrowed my piano choices down to the Yamaha Portable Grand Digital Piano DGX-660 or the Yamaha Portable Digital Piano P-255

I'm leaning towards the Yamaha DGX-660 because it combines the different instrument voices and rhythm styles of my Electone Organ with the full 88-keys and graded hammer standard action of my acoustic Weinstein piano. Why am I obsessing about pianos right now? Because I am finally going home to visit my family in Manila in December and I am bringing back all of my music books but first, I will need a piano.

So for musicians out there reading this, have you tried any or both of these digital pianos? What are your thoughts on it? I'd really appreciate it if you could share your thoughts with me in the comments box below to help me make a final decision on which model to get.

On the crochet related side of things, I received a set of 9 rubberized comfort grip crochet hooks from Happily Hooked Magazine and if you missed the in-depth review, click here to read it.

I have finally decided to make shawls for Christmas. Now I just have to select the correct type of yarn and the colors to make sure the shawls aren't moth magnets and not too warm for tropical climates. Any suggestions?

Books I've Read Since Last Blog Post

Currently Reading 

Product Reviews


Just in case, I would like to share the blogs and/or podcasts I'm really enjoying which are also listed on the side bar...and these are in the order I discovered them...hope you'll enjoy them too!

Monday, May 16, 2016

[Review] Comfort Grip Crochet Hooks from Happily Hooked Magazine

Comfort Grip Crochet Hooks

Thank you to Happily Hooked Magazine for sending me these hooks! I received these free comfort grip crochet hooks with a plastic yarn needle in the mail on, Saturday, May 14, 2016 courtesy of Happily Hooked Magazine in exchange for an honest review. 

I have been crocheting since 2013 with the Clover Soft Touch crochet hooks and ever since these colorful rubberized comfort grip hooks hit the market, I've been wanting to try a set and now, here it is! 

First off, I love the wonderful colors these hooks came in. There’s 9 hook sizes from 2.0mm to 6.0mm and it came with a plastic pink yarn needle. There’s actually a pleasant rubber smell to it, which reminds me of those wonderfully scented pencil erasers when I was a kid. 

Whether you hold your hooks in a pencil grip or knife grip, these hooks are comfortable. It has more "meat" in the thumb grip area compared to the thinner design of the Clover Soft Touch hooks. And because the handle is made of rubber, there is less chances of dropping the hook onto the floor. If you hold your hooks in the pencil grip, the rubber thumb grip makes it slightly harder to twirl the hook around to pull through loops and if you hold the hook like I do where a finger is stretched out over the shaft to keep the loops in place, the rubber handle actually pinches your finger. But if you hold the hook where all of your fingers are in the thumb grip/handle area, you should be fine using this.

No pinched fingers on the Clover Soft Touch because of the smooth plastic material of the handle.

Pinched Fingers with the Rubberized Hooks using the Pencil Grip

Pinched fingers on the Rubberized Hooks using the Knife Grip

Another important thing to consider is the type of hook it has. These hooks have tapered hooks so for those who prefer inline hooks, you can give it a try and see if you can work with it. I prefer working with tapered hooks so for me, the type of hook here is a non-issue.

These have tapered hooks

I was working on a washcloth with Lily’s Sugar & Cream Worsted Weight, 100% Cotton yarn using a US size G (4.0mm) Clover Soft Touch hook and thought I’d try out these rubberized comfort grip hooks from Happily Hooked Magazine. So I took out the 4.0mm hook and I have to say that there’s a very noticeable difference in the sizes compared to my Clover Soft Touch hooks. Using the Susan Bates Knit-Check Gauge, these are what the hooks actually are sized at:

Comfort Grip Crochet Hook Sizes
Actual US/mm Sizes
Lime Green Hook Size 2.0 mm
B or 2.25 mm
Yellow Hook Size 2.5 mm
C or 2.75 mm
Orange Hook Size 3.0 mm
D or 3.25 mm
Pink Hook Size 3.5 mm
F or 3.75 mm
Purple Hook Size 4.0 mm
7 or 4.5 mm
Dark Green Hook Size 4.5 mm
H or 5.0 mm
Blue Hook Size 5.0 mm
I of 5.5 mm
Plum Hook Size 5.5 mm
J or 6.0 mm
Red Hook Size 6.0 mm
K or 6.5 mm

The ends of the rubberized handle is engraved with the millimeter sizes. No US letter sizes on these. Because it has a rubberized grip, yarn fibers tend to stick to the handle. Also, I noticed that the bigger the hook size gets, the thicker the handle gets as well. Compared to the Clover Soft Touch, these hooks can get really bulky. With my small hands, and the pencil grip I usually crochet with, I find that my fingers gets cramped a lot easier compared to the Clover Soft Touch hooks.

Same width of the thumb grip on the front
Rubberized Comfort Grip hooks have a thicker thumb grip

When it comes to how smoothly the yarn glides on the shaft, I noticed how less smooth it feels and I've tried these hooks on Lily's Sugar & Cream, Worsted Weight, 100% Cotton; Loops & Threads Soft & Shiny, Worsted Weight, 100% Acrylic; Patons Worsted Weight, 100% Wool and Deborah Norville Serenity Sock Weight, 50% Superwash Merino, 25% Rayon, 25% Nylon.

On the 3 smaller sized hooks, there is a visible difference along the base of the shaft. Compared to the Clover Soft Touch, the rubberized hooks have a longer and more pronounced difference in the base of the shaft. So for beginners, it is important to be aware of this design in the hook shaft in order to keep your stitches even.

Longer shaft base difference with these Comfort Grip Hooks
Shorter shaft base difference with the Clover Soft Touch

While testing out the different hook sizes on the different yarn materials listed above, I thought the rubberized hooks are very slightly, almost unnoticeably heavier. To prove I'm not going crazy, I used my Knit Picks Digital Scale to weigh the smallest and the biggest hooks to compare.

Smallest 2.0 mm Comfort Grip Hook

Smallest 2.25 mm Clover Soft Touch Hook

Largest 6.0 mm Comfort Grip Hook

Largest 6.0 mm Clover Soft Touch Hook

Obviously, aluminum and plastic will make for a lighter weight hook giving the crocheter a much longer time being comfortable while crocheting.

Overall, if I didn't have a full set of the Clover Soft Touch crochet hooks, I'll actually be happy with these provided, I re-train my dominant hand to keep all fingers on the handle. I feel that this set is actually better to learn with than the cheap aluminum set from Boye and Susan Bates mainly because of the comfort grips whether you have nerve/arthritis problems or not.

I hope you enjoyed this review and if you found it helpful, please share this post.

#HappilyHooked #Crochet

Monday, May 9, 2016

[Book Review] The Winemakers by Jan Moran

My Rating: 4 of 5 stars
EBook Edition
Genre: Women's Fiction

Part 1: From The Book Cover

1956: When Caterina Rosetta inherits a cottage in the countryside of Italy from a grandmother she's never known, she discovers a long-buried family secret -- a secret so devastating, it threatens the future of everything her mother has worked for. Many years before, her mother's hard-won dreams of staking her family's claim in the vineyards of California came to fruition; but as an old murder comes to light, and Caterina uncovers a tragic secret that may destroy the man she loves, she realizes her happiness will depend on revealing the truth of her mother's buried past.

From author Jan Moran comes The Winemakers, a sweeping, romantic novel that will hold you in its grasp until the last delicious sip.

Part 2: Recommendation

I am by no means a wine connoisseur but I did enjoy this book. Set in 1956, Jan Moran captures the traditional views of how society perceived unwed mothers and how the business community are slow to accept women in their circle. Even in these modern times, some parts of the world still have these traditional views on women.

I felt Caterina's need to discover and find out the truth about her family's past that her mother insists on keeping buried. But like all secrets, they eventually come to light. It was also great to see Ava's struggles, the hard work she did in order to reach her goals of becoming a very successful female winemaker and the things she felt she had to do to protect her daughter and those she love.

Though this book is generally about Caterina's story of discovering a tragic family secret, the love she has for Santo, the sickening and disturbing possibility caused by that family secret and her triumphs, I feel that this book should've been Ava's story mainly because I find Ava's life in France, Italy and California having more depth and more interesting than Caterina's.  

Overall, a very pleasant read.

Disclaimer: As a member of NetGalley, I received this galley in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, May 2, 2016

[Book Review] The Rejected Writers' Book Club by Suzanne Kelman

My Rating: 4 of 5 stars
eBook Edition
Genre: Women's Fiction, Contemporary

Disclaimer: As a member of NetGalley, I received this galley in exchange for an honest review.

Part 1: From The Book Cover

Librarian Janet Johnson is puzzled when she is invited—and practically dragged—to her first meeting of the Rejected Writers’ Book Club. This quirky group of women would much rather celebrate one another’s rejected manuscripts over cups of tea and slices of lemon cake than actually publish a book. But good friends are exactly what Janet needs after moving to the small town of Southlea Bay, Washington. Just as the ladies are about to raise a teacup to their five hundredth rejection letter, they receive bad news that could destroy one member’s reputation—and disband the group forever. To save the club, Janet joins her fellow writers on a wild road trip to San Francisco in search of the local publisher who holds the key to a long-buried secret. As they race to the finish line, they’ll face their fears—landslides, haunted houses, handsome strangers, ungrateful children—and have the time of their lives.

Part 2: Recommendation

The title and cover art drew me to download this galley and I'm glad I did. I like stories set in small towns with quirky characters and this is no exception. This book is hilarious and witty and I just fell right in love with Janet. I enjoyed the author's writing style and sense of humor and like Janet, I found Ethel to be a bit disturbing. I feel like there's a story there to be discovered and I hope Suzanne Kelman will write Ethel's story next. 

Another thing about this book that bothers me is that I felt this book was a tad surreal in the sense that all the women just took Dan, a complete stranger, on his word and allowed him to ride with them from Oregon, all the way to Medford and seeing that this is set in this day and age, and with Doris' strong personality, how come Doris or any of the other "practical" ladies in the group never stood up and said no to Dan riding with them or at least have a scene where someone says something about not trusting a complete stranger? Just because a stranger is attractive or good-looking doesn't mean you could automatically trust them. What if he's an axe murderer or something? And talk about stalker tendencies when Dan suddenly showed up in the "haunted house" during a snow storm up in the mountains in the middle of nowhere just to check up on the ladies and of course to be with Flora and even went with them to San Francisco and then back. And then there's Stacy's ice and fire personality which to me, felt like the author doesn't really know Stacy and simply decided to have Stacy as Janet's daughter with a pregnancy crisis in San Francisco just to make Janet's trip out to San Francisco have that personal importance because throughout the book, Janet herself is not that close to the Rejected ladies and their crisis is not of any importance to her and if there's nothing in San Francisco that is urgent/important to Janet, why would she even allow herself to be roped in on this road trip with ladies she doesn't even like that much in the first place? I sure wouldn't. So I felt like Stacy was just the character to tie things up neatly with.

Overall, it was an enjoyable read and I hope the author plans on writing more about the Rejected ladies and their adventures.