Let the past sleep, but let it sleep in the sweet embrace of Christ, and let us go on into the invincible future with Him. (Oswalt Chambers)

Friday, February 29, 2008

Big Bird, Small Bird

So far imagining spring hasn't changed the weather outside the windows. It's snowing.

If this wasn't Leap Year, today would be the first of March and we would be spouting the old wives tale about "March comes in like a lion and out like a lamb."

Instead, it's February. Michigan motorists are having fender benders, sliding off the highways, and sometimes rolling over. It's a great day to be retired. I'm staying home.

We had a rare and special visitor last week. He wasn't very social, staying up in the tops of the tallest trees and ignoring the seed and suet feast at the feeders.

Pileated Woodpeckers are like that.

This is only the second time I've ever seen a Pileated Woodpecker and was delighted that he hung around for some picture taking, even if he wouldn't come within good camera range.

Pileated WoodpeckerThis side view is NOT my picture, but I just had to show the full majesty of this huge, eighteen inch long, bird.

I'm hoping he found something good to eat in our treetops and will stop back to visit again.

According to my favorite bird book, this little Marsh Wren doesn't usually winter over in Michigan.

Normally they're a shy bird and don't visit feeders. With their normal diet of spiders and insects not available in this weather, the peanuts and suet have lured them (there are at least two) close to the house where we've enjoying watching them.

Marsh Wrens are about five inches long from the tip of their long curved bill to the end of their perky little tails.

For months now I've been trying to get a picture that does justice to their beautiful warm brown, almost auburn, coloring. This is the best I can do for now.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

I Declare Winter Over

Just because it's snowing again is no reason to keep thinking winter. I'm looking ahead to spring things.

Thanks to everyone who helped me get through February by leaving a comment on my Let's Generate Some Comments post. I said I would visit the blog of everyone who commented and leave a comment in return. It's taken almost the entire month to do so, but I'm done. If you think I missed you, please let me know.

There were 61 readers commenting on that post. 22 commenters, over a third, were from blogs I had never visited before. I took my time to absorb and enjoy them. 7 were from readers without blogs. I emailed in response to their comments.

Now I know some of my readers better and my Bloglines is overflowing with interesting blogs to read. Somehow I need to control my blog reading time, but that's a problem for another day.

Springtime means Granddaughter Sydney is having a third birthday April 5 in Idaho. Lord willing and Northwest Airlines cooperating, I'm flying out April 2.

This is a picture taken right after her first professional haircut a few weeks ago. She enjoyed the experience. Looks like her curls are even curlier now that she has a good haircut.

Springtime means new yarn. Yesterday I ordered twenty skeins of worsted weight alpaca from Elann to knit the Set-in Sleeve Aran from Janet Szabo's book Aran Sweater Design.

Thanks to Ronni, I've renamed the sweater Chenille. Ronni pointed out that the cable designs are similar to patterns found in old fashioned chenille bedspreads. Yes! Why didn't I see that? Thanks Ronni. I'm going to enjoy this knit much more now that the sweater has a fitting name.

Dorothy and I (and anyone else who would like to join us) aren't scheduled to start knitting on Chenille until the very end of April. That will give me a couple of months to pet and swatch the alpaca before the knitting begins.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Guess What! We Have More Snow

We've been sitting in this bush getting snowed on all night long.

Now where is that woman with the seed? Doesn't she know Cardinals like to eat at dawn?

When I come down from the north in autumn it's time for snow to start falling. Some SW Michigan people groan when they see me and call me "Snowbird".

My real name is Junco. And I'm not to blame for all this snow. Maybe I should have gone a bit more south for the winter.

Or maybe not. The lady who lives here makes sure I have food everyday.

I think I'll stick around for a few more months before migrating back up north.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Getting Socks to Match

**This is a slightly edited republish of a post from November, 2003.**

Occasionally I get asked how I get my self-patterning socks to match so perfectly.

This past week, February 20, 2008, Marianne asked how I got the stripes to match on John's Redskin Birthday Socks. She didn't say anything about the match being perfect.

The "perfect" match is an illusion, but "close enough" looks perfect when the socks are on two separate feet.

First, let me say that I find exactly matching my self patterning socks a fun challenge. For those who find it more frustrating than fun, I see nothing wrong with socks not matching if that is the knitter's intention.

Then there are some yarns with short color bursts where trying to get an exact match will only result in a headache: yarns like Opal Crocodile, Opal Handpainted, Opal Cool Ocean, Regia Line Steps.

For those yarns I just weigh the skein on a kitchen scale, wind until half the skein is in a ball, cut the yarn and start winding a second ball.

Green Opal Magic socks with matching stripesThat said, this is how I get the perfect match as displayed here in the pair of green Opal Magic socks I knit for my mother.

Take the band off the skein and weigh the skein on a kitchen scale.

Put the skein in a slippery bowl with tall sides or a wastebasket so it won't roll all over when winding. I usually wind from the outside of the skein.

Write the color changes down on a piece of paper as the yarn is wound so you can get a feel for the pattern and the repeat. Write whatever it takes so you can recognize the repeats.

It might look something like this:
  • White with one inch black blobs
  • Light green
  • Light green with navy dots
  • Dark green
  • Etc

Use the kitchen scale to determine when half the skein has been wound. Cut the yarn at the end of a color band.

Sometimes when I have a picture of a finished sock, I know where I want the cuff to start, so I make sure that stripe is the last color wound.

The second ball wound is not likely to end at the same spot as the first. But if the socks are going to match, it's necessary to have it end at the same color band as the first ball. Frugal people will have a hard time with this, but there will be a little ball of waste yarn at the end of the second ball.

Once you have two balls, very carefully measure the distance from the caston knot to the end so the second sock is caston in exactly the same place.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

She Said Front Finished, Neck Decision Time

So far I've followed the pattern except for substituting short row shoulder shaping for bound off shoulder ladders.

Next the front and back shoulder seams will be joined with a three needle bind off. Then, it's time for the neck decision.

What style neck do I want on this sweater?

A high, tight turtleneck ala the pattern doesn't look so great with my grandmotherly chin. I could knit a turtleneck with less height or create a crew neck with pretty ribbing.

Once the shoulder seams are joined, I'll throw the sweater over my head, look in the mirror to see where the head hole edges hit my neck, and decide. I'm hoping once I see the partial sweater on myself the right neck style will be obvious.

Pattern: She Said Aran by Barbara Venishnick

Yarn: Cascade 220, 100% wool worsted weight

Color: 8708 Violet

Needles: Options #5

Gauge: 28 stithces/29.5 rows in 4 inches on lower sweater. 26 stitches/33 rows in 4 inches for upper sweater.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

More Winter Babbling

I'm happily knitting away on the She Said Aran front. It should be done and ready for a picture before the weekend is over.

Meanwhile, in SW Michigan we always have the weather to discuss.

Shirley asked . . .
Your region has had so much snow which makes me wonder if this is your normal snowfall. Living in the South most of my life, I cannot imagine so much snow.

We're a little over average for this time of year, but average is just that. Average. Having lived through fifty plus Michigan winters, I don't regard this winter as unusual.

It's not the snow I mind so much as the cold temps. Below 20 degrees the road salt doesn't work and the snow packs down on the roads, even the highways, making them snow covered and slippery.

Now that the days are getting longer, the winter is easier to take, except for the feeling that it's never going to end.

Most years we have snow on into April. Daffodils bloom mid April, and it's not unusual for them to get covered with snow as the weather shifts back and forth between spring and winter.

This daffodil picture was taken April 12, 2007, after eight days of freezing temperatures and snow.

Daffodils are extremely hardy flowers. And Michiganders are hardy people who enjoy making small talk about our interesting weather.

One thing about spring in SW Michigan - by the time it gets here we all appreciate it. I'm even looking forward to picking up a million sticks (may not be an exaggeration) from all the wind we've had since last time the lawn was mowed.

Proof that Verizon reads my blog.

All I had to do was post a picture of the wire mess and here comes a repair crew.

Five degrees this morning and they're trying to thread wires back in a plastic tube. Hope that little tent of theirs has a heater.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Staying Home For A Few Days

Last night it was snowing and the wind was blowing, but I thought Sunny and I could make it to doggy school. When I got her belted into the car, I noticed the end of the driveway was drifted over. Then, when I turned the headlights on, I realized it was difficult to see down the road.

With a sigh, I unhooked Sunny and we went back into the house to hunker down for the evening and let the driveway finish filling in.

The snowplow went by this morning to insure we weren't going to drive out without some serious shoveling. But it snowed all day, the wind chill didn't get out of the single digits with the actual temperature never getting out of the teens. Except for a few short dog walks we stayed in.

The forecast for tomorrow is 90% chance of heavy snow with wind chills in the minus numbers. Another good day to stay home and hibernate.

The birds are fluffed up and well fed.

This little junco looks like a ball of feathers.

Let's Generate Some Comments progress: I've responded to 45 out of 60 commenting readers.

I'm enjoying the process of reading the blogs as I visit them. A large percent are new to me, so I linger. Getting to know more of my readers is an enjoyable February passtime.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Once Upon A Time

Yesterday the sky was a very strange color. Couldn't resist taking a picture.

Reading Alwen's blog today, I learned that SW Michigan has 205 cloudy days a year with cloudy being defined as 8/10ths to 10/10ths average sky cover.

Those in the US who are into climate stats need to pop over to Alwen's blog for some links to look up your own area.

Remember last summer's road construction? The construction guys waited and waited for Verizon to come dig up the phone lines. Then one day they stopped waiting.

The construction crew dug up the phone lines and threw them along side the road, where they still are to this day. (Yes, that is a phone line wrapped around that tree.)

There are some days when my dial up connection is horribly horribly slow. Even slower than a horribly slow normal dial up day. This is one of those days.

Oh goody. It just started raining ice. That should help.

Something a bit more cheerful, a White-breasted Nuthatch on a bag of peanuts.

They prefer to be upside down. They approach their food upside down, landing above it and climbing down to it. Then they eat upside down.

Friday, February 15, 2008

She Said Aran - Back Done


I planned to sit for a half hour and finish the last few rows this morning. So, I sat, picked it up, and realized I had never done short row shoulder shaping on a cabled pattern before. How difficult could it be?

The first attempt took over an hour and got frogged. Then I got serious, hauled out a big piece of paper and a pencil and drew out a plan. With all distractions turned off and plenty of stitch counting and talking to myself, I achieved acceptable results the second time around.

Changing the shoulder shaping to short rows is the only change I've made to the pattern so far.

The pattern was written with those ugly, bulky, stair step shoulder decreases which then add insult to injury by leaving a jagged bound off edge with no way to sew the shoulder seam attractively.

Using short rows for the shaping provides a straight edge and live stitches for a three needle shoulder bind off.

Pattern: She Said Aran by Barbara Venishnick

Yarn: Cascade 220, 100% wool worsted weight

Color: 7808 Violet

Needles: Options #5

Gauge: 28 stithces/29.5 rows in 4 inches on lower sweater. 26 stitches/33 rows in 4 inches for upper sweater.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Chat Back for February 13

I'm knitting away on my new sweater project and will show a picture as soon as I get the back completed. Hopefully by Friday.

Meanwhile, there have been some good questions in the comments:

Leah asked two things . . .
1) The snow picture is one that makes you glad you are inside knitting. Would that be what is called a Blizzard?

I think of a blizzard as a heavy snowfall resulting in over a foot of snow with winds and drifting. To more accurately answer your question, I looked up the definition of blizzard in Wikipedia -
"In the United States, the National Weather Service defines a blizzard as sustained 35 mph (56 km/h) winds which leads to blowing snow and causes visibilities of ¼ mile or less, lasting for at least 3 hours. Temperature is not taken into consideration when issuing a blizzard warning, but the nature of these storms are such that cold air is often present when the other criteria are met."
So by that definition I guess we almost had a blizzard. The winds gusted up to 35 mph, but they weren't sustained. Because it was so cold the snow was light and fine and easily blown all over to cause drifting and whiteouts. Without the sub-zero temps I think it would have been a more normal snowstorm.
2) Do the birds puff up to get air in their feathers to keep warm or why do they do that?

That's correct. Just the right amount of fluffing to keep the bird comfortably warm is maintained by the muscles in a bird's body.

Even a small bird like this Swamp Sparrow may have well over a thousand feathers. In super cold weather like we've been having in SW Michigan the fluffing muscles get a good workout.

Debi asked . . .
With all the gorgeous hand painted, indie dyed yarn available, why mostly Opal?

It all started about eight years ago (guess) when I won a skein of Opal yarn and learned the joys of knitting and wearing wool socks. I joined OpalChatters, now defunct, a fun group of knitters in love with Opal yarn. That resulted in more Opal purchases and the Opal never disappointed.

Many of the socks I knit now are for gifts to people who don't want to treat their socks with special care. I trust Opal to machine wash and dry and wear like iron. (It just happens today I'm wearing the very first pair I ever knit.)

Lately I have been trying some different sock yarns, but for most gift giving I still depend on colorful, indestructible, warm, comfortable Opal.

Let's Generate Some Comments progress: I've responded to 35 out of 58 commenting readers.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Waiting for Spring

John's Birthday Socks Finished

Done and ready for their trip to Idaho.

The yarn was so so. It's OK, but I wouldn't go out of my way to buy more of it.

There was a knot with a new, unwanted color starting partway through one skein. I managed the matching challenge, but wasn't happy. Knitting men's socks there is always that worry about having enough yarn, and it doesn't help when a big chuck in the middle of a skein needs to be cut out. At least the colors didn't start coming out in reverse order like I've had happen.

Sometimes color is all important, and John bought this yarn because of the Washington Redskin colors. Can't argue with that. I'm happy with them.

Pattern: Basic 64 stitch sock with k7p1 wide ribbing on cuff and instep

Yarn: Cascade Sassy Stripes, 75% wool, 25% nylon

Color: 718

Needles: Options #1, 2.5mm

Gauge: 8 stitches/inch, 10 rows/inch

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Snowy Sunday

I wasn't going to post today, but can't resist giving my warmer readers a chance to be glad they're not in SW Michigan.

This is almost a complete whiteout. The picture was taken out the front window this afternoon and "shows" the road (lower part of picture) and the woods across the street.

In a picture taken before this one, I captured a total whiteout. It looks like a gray rectangle.

This afternoon during the time when we normally get our high for the day, it's 3 degrees F (-16C) with a windchill of -17F/-27C.

It's snowing and the wind is blowing. Did I need to say that?

The birds are as puffed up as they can puff.

Most are sheltering in bushes, trees, or brush when they're not eating, but mourning doves aren't the brainiest in the bird kingdom.

Mr. Bluejay thinks it's about time I should bring out the next load of seed.

I did. None of our birds has gone hungry today.

And here is a puffed up Cardinal for Dorothy who likes to see them.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

She Said Aran - Starting Babble

It's so easy to pick a pattern based on the picture without looking closely at the picture and the pattern.

Take this picture, for example. I loved the cable progression in this sweater the minute I saw it on the cover of the Winter 1999 Knitters. It wasn't until nine years later, after I had the yarn ordered, that I closely inspected the picture.

Some sweater patterns leave plenty of room for size variation. A little off with gauge, it still fits OK. Sweaters with set-in sleeves are much trickier to get a fabric that works and a correct fit.

It's clear this sweater does not fit the model. Both of the shoulder areas are bunched up and being held in place with hands.

Since this pattern is written by a respected designer, Barbara Venishnick, one can assume the sample sweater, knit in size M with a 43.5 inch underarm, is too big for the model. The whole story can be found in the pattern schematic.

Looking at the schematic, I see a personal sizing challenge. For a good fitting sweater I need between 40 and 42 inches in the bust. With set-in sleeves, 40 inches is better. Because I want this sweater to hang and not cling tight around my butt, I need 42 inches in the hips. Although with the nature of the ribbing pattern I'm not sure even that will help.

This pattern has a size S = 39.5 inch bust and a size M = 43.5 inch bust. Normally I would go with the 39.5, but the schematic shows the hips as three inches smaller than the bust. There is a change in gauge due to change in stitch pattern.

A moment of envy here for all who have a bust larger than their hips.

I cast on for the M, and started knitting and worrying. Is my shoulder section going to fit me like the model's? Will DH be willing to follow me around and hold up my shoulder seams each time I wear this sweater?

When in doubt, swatch. All intelligent knitting decisions are made from swatching. It's the only way one knows for sure.

I swatched the large diamonds that go across the front at the sleeve seams. With a size 5 needle the large diamonds will be 16 inches wide. I think it will fit.

After the swatch was dry and measured, I felt confident to carry on knitting the lower sweater. I'm using a size 5 needle and getting just a tad tighter gauge than the pattern.

I need to be careful about the placing of the graduated diamonds in the vertical measurements. It would be easy to have this sweater turn out too short for my liking.

Before casting on, I gave serious consideration to knitting this sweater top down. If I were to start over, I would get even more serious about knitting top down to better control the fit.

Pattern: She Said Aran by Barbara Venishnick

Yarn: Cascade 220, 100% wool worsted weight

Color: 8708 Violet

Needles: Options #5

Gauge: 28 stithces/29.5 rows in 4 inches on lower sweater. 26 stitches/33 rows in 4 inches for upper sweater.

Let's Generate Some Comments progress: I've responded to 30 out of 59 commenting readers.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Winter Pictures

Yesterday we had an "All-weather" day - rain, sleet, hail, and finally about three inches of snow. Everything but sunshine, sunshine being rare in SW Michigan this time of year.

These pictures were taken this morning on the first dog walk of the day.

It was nice to see some blue in the sky this morning. Maybe a day without precipitation?

By noon the sky had returned to gray. 50% chance of more snow.

Yesterday evening's snow was wet and sticky, making for pretty tree shots this morning.

This type of snow also makes for good snowballs. And, for the less violent, it makes good snowmen.

The creek flows too fast to ever freeze, even when the temps get below zero.

Pappy is sure this bush recently sheltered rabbits and he wants to find them.

Let's Generate Some Comments progress: I've responded to 23 out of 58 commenting readers.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Chat Back for February 6

Some good questions appeared in the comments this past week, and here are the answers:

Shirley asked . . .
Pappy looks much smaller than I thought when I see him with his Opal "pillow". How much does he weigh?

Pappy the Papillon weighs thirteen pounds. That's large for the breed. Papillon size is usually six to ten pounds.

He's not at all fat. He's a trim, fit boy under all that fluffy fur.

Kathleen asked . . .
The sweater looks fun. Is the pattern in the book or do you have to find all of the different stitches and put together your own?

The main thrust of Janet Szabo's book Aran Sweater Design is all the different constructions of cabled sweaters and how to calculate and design them, but there are four complete patterns at the end.

The Set-in Sleeve Aran is one of the complete patterns.

Kathy asked two questions. . .
1) Do you have a huge stash of yarn on hand or do you always use what you have purchased right away?

For sweater knitting - I buy for the project not for the stash. There isn't a single yarn in my stash where I have enough for an adult sweater.

Sometimes there's a pattern I want to knit and I have the fun of finding and buying the right yarn for it. Other times I have a yarn I want to knit and I have the fun of finding the right pattern for it.

Calculating cost per hour, knitting is actually a very inexpensive hobby when you only buy yarn you have a known and immediate use for.

For CIC knitting - I do have a stash of left over wool, sale wool, mill end wool, gift wool, and odd balls bought for swatching. I have over a year's supply of CIC wool waiting to be knit and plan to knit most of it up before getting more - even if a good sale pops up.

For Sock Knitting - I have a stash, mostly Opal. Probably about two dozen pair worth of yarn, small compared to others but enough to make me happy.

2) Do you always intentionally plan to purchase enough extra for each project so you can knit a CIC item also?
I intentionally purchase enough yarn so I don't need to worry about running out before the project is complete. The more complex the project, the larger the amount of safety yarn.

It's a bonus when the yarn is wool and I can use the leftovers for CIC knitting.

Kathy B asked . . .
What is the best thing about your current age?

The ability to enjoy the little pleasures of life.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Now, What Was I Going to Knit With This?

Look what I got today! The Cascade 220 (Color 8708) ordered from a local yarn store two months ago.

The hardest part of waiting two months was keeping the urge to knit this sweater, the She Said Aran designed by Barbara Venishnick from Knitter's Magazine Winter 1999, #57.

Several other projects have tempted my needles, especially after getting the Elann Sample Skeins But I knew this yarn was coming and didn't want to stash it. As of today I'm the owner of ten skeins of very purple Cascade 220, and I'm going to give this sweater a try.

I plan to cast on this evening.

Regular readers may be wondering about a swatch. After looking at this pattern and doing some muttering to myself, I've decided I may as well just start knitting the back and do a wash/block when it's about ten inches. The bottom two thirds of this sweater is nothing but a cabled ribbing - next to impossible to measure accurately from a swatch.

There are now 50 comments on my Let's Generate Some Comments

I'm working my way down from the top to respond and am on number sixteen. So far over half, eight out of fifteen, comments have been from readers I didn't know before getting the comment. As previously mentioned, I'm taking my time but intend to finish the list. Thanks to everyone who left a comment.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

WOW Thanks and Shamrock CIC Vest Finished

So far yesterday's post has resulted in 36 comments. What fun! I've enjoyed reading every comment.

It's not too late to add on to yesterday's comment log.

Last evening I visited the blogs of the first seven commenters in return. Four of the first seven were new blogs to me so I took the opportunity to linger over them, read the current posts, read some older posts, read the author profiles if available, and enjoy the lovely knits.

Visiting all the commenter blogs and doing them justice is going to take some time, so please be patient. I want to take my time and enjoy what you all have to offer.

I'm visiting in the order the comments were left.

Since it was so satisfying to reduce my leftover yarn stash making four CIC sweaters, I decided to dig into the bins and see what other yarn was calling out to be used up.

I found 3.5 balls of Knitpicks Shamrock left over from Frode, a CIC big kids sweater project. With 82 yards/skein there wasn't enough for a sweater, but I was inspired to whip up a simple little size 2, 24" chest vest.

I'm expert at making sweaters with necks too tight. It was fear of a too small neck that caused me to make the front drop almost three inches. The neckline is a little too deep and the curves are a little to angular, but the vest fits over my head and I'm calling it done.

I won't buy Shamrock yarn again. It looks and knits like cotton even through it's 100% wool and I don't care for the way the lighter accent color pools when knit. I'm happy to have Shamrock out of my bins and on it's way to warm a cold child. It will do that well.

Pattern: Made it up while knitting. 110 stitches around. Final vest laid flat measures about 12 x 12 inches.

Yarn: Knitpicks Shamrock, 100% Peruvian Wool heavy worsted.

Color: MacNamara

Needles: #7. #5 used for ribbing.

Gauge: 4.5 stitches and 6 rows/inch

Let's Generate Some Blog Comments

February is the shortest month but always feels like the longest month, the last month of serious winter in SW Michigan. (March is lingering winter, and April is spring even when it's snowing.) So how about some February fun?

Everybody loves to get comments on their blog, Let's generate some blog comments.

If you comment on this post I'll click on over to admire your blog and leave you a comment in return. Be sure and leave your blog address in the area for "URL:".

Since most of you come here for the knitting and/or the dogs and/or SW Michigan nature pictures, I'll post one of each for your commenting consideration. Or say and/or ask any family friendly thing you like.

Dorothy and I and anyone else who wants to join us are planning to knit this sweater starting late April. It's the Set-in Sleeve Aran in Janet's Szabo's book Aran Sweater Design.

I'm not clever at naming knits, but certainly this sweater needs a better name.

Any suggestions?

My friend gave me this beautiful Opal sock yarn for my birthday and Pappy has adopted it as his daytime winter pillow. At night he sleeps on the wall side of my pillow.

When he turns the other way, he can watch the birds at the feeders while he dozes on Opal.

I could put the yarn away, but he would miss it. Yes, he's a slightly spoiled dog.

Do your furbabies like yarn?

Since you probably don't want to hear about the foot of new snow we got last night, here is a colorful picture from last July.

I have a large patch of milkweed in the yard that used to be hidden behind the dozen tall pine trees the county cut down in ten minutes last summer. Now that the milkweed bed is visible from the road, it should be mowed as part of the lawn.

Even though the milkweed look ratty for most of the year, I like them. The smell when they bloom permeates the whole yard. Will I mow them? I'm thinking not.

Are there weeds in your yard that you consider beautiful in their own way?

A couple other questions to consider:
  • What are your thoughts on Ravelry?

  • Have you read any good books lately?

    I've been reading and enjoying the Doc Ford series by Randy Wayne White and the Gail Conner mysteries by Barbara Parker.