Knit One, Read One

Whenever the temperature begins to drop and the end of Daylight Saving Time is upon us, I tend to spend more and more nights cozying up on the couch with a cup of tea, alternating between a good book and my trusty pair of knitting needles. This year, instead of having to choose between reading and working on a new project, I came across the perfect solution that would allow me to combine them both!

Debbie Macomber’s Blossom Street series + Knit Along with the Blossom Street series

I’ve mentioned my fascination with Ms. Macomber’s fictional town of Cedar Cove before, and if I were to ever visit, I’m sure the majority of my time would be spent on Blossom Street. It has everything a girl like me needs: a cafĂ©, flower shop and, of course, A Good Yarn — the yarn shop that’s the setting of The Shop on Blossom Street, the first book in the Blossom Street series. Not only is it a place where the characters go to pick up yarn, but it’s also where they come together and bond with one other while creating scarves, baby blankets and other knit projects.

I’ve read books that feature knitting before, and I have to say, there’s something so warm and fuzzy about them. I don’t know if it’s because the characters who knit are always so amiable or if it’s because I imagine the knit blanket in the story draped over me while I read. Either way, it’s been my experience that you can’t go wrong with a story about knitting. Plus, with the holidays approaching, I’m sure that cozy feeling will only be intensified as decorations go up and the smell of firewood begins to waft through the air.

Anyway, back to the books. There are currently ten books in the Blossom Street series and most, if not all, feature knitting in one way or another. After reading each book, you can knit the projects mentioned in the story with the patterns listed in the Knit Along With Debbie series. For instance, after reading The Shop on Blossom Street, pick up Knit Along with Debbie Macomber – The Shop on Blossom Street to find the pattern for the baby blanket mentioned in the story. A word to the wise, though — you’ll want to make sure you’ve read the story beforehand, or else you may come across spoilers while looking up the patterns.

I’ve already got a fresh skein of yarn, now I just have to pick up the books. Between the series and knit along books, there’s no doubt I’ll have plenty of stories to get by during the holidays, not to mention an assortment of homemade knit projects to give as Christmas presents. How do you like that? Killing Knitting two birds with one stone two needles without having to leave the comfort of my own couch. Now that’s what I call multitasking.

Extras! Extras! Read All About ‘Em!

I tend to have mixed feelings when discovering a book I really love. On one hand, I rejoice in being able to lose myself in the story and connect with the characters; on the other hand, however, I know that this compelling story will have to end at some point. By the time I come to the last paragraph on the last page, I’ve fallen so in love with the characters and setting that I wish I could actually live there. Since that’s pretty much impossible (I say pretty much because while there is the power of imagination, that kind of extensive daydreaming would earn me a one-way ticket to the looney bin), the next best thing is to discover that the author has provided supplemental material to said books/series.

One example that springs to mind is Susan Mallery’s Fool’s Gold, CA series. The only thing that’s better than getting lost in a good book is being able to keep up with the characters even after the story has finished, and Ms. Mallery has splendidly provided readers with plenty of series extras. The Fool’s Gold site is chock-full of extras, from FG cheerleaders, to customizable e-postcards, to even detailed FG magazine issues about the town and its notorious bachelors. What’s even more fun is how the site boasts festivals and other town happenings — while they may be fiction as well, it’s fun to explore and picture yourself mingling with the townspeople.

Another great example of fab, in-depth extras is Debbie Macomber’s Cedar Cove series. I’ve mentioned before how Cedar Cover is at the top of my “Ideal Small Town” list, and I still stand by that notion. From a detailed town map, to Covebook (Cedar Cove’s version of Facebook), this town’s got it all! The biggest upside, though, is that it’s loosely based on a real coastal town called Port Orchard, so technically it’s possible to visit to get a feel for what Ms. Macomber writes about in her best-selling books.

Granted, not all book and series extras have to be this detailed; I get excited over simple guest posts written from the POV of a book’s hero/heroine — or, in the case of Dr. Hot and HoneyPot from Inez Kelley’s Turn It Up, their own Twitter account. Regardless of the medium, I just love being able to continue interacting even after the book is over. Not only does it add a certain level of depth to the story, but it also makes me more inclined to check a certain author or series out, because I know there’ll be the option of exploring more once I’ve finished reading.

ROAMING QUESTION: What do you think of books/series with “extras” or “bonuses”? Do you read them at all? If so, what’s the most memorable one you’ve ever come across?

Where Everybody Knows Your Name

Who wouldn't want to live in this charming small town?“Gilmore Girls” is one of my all-time favorite TV shows. From the witty, fast-paced banter to Rory’s love for books to the close-knit mother-daughter relationship (my mom & I used to watch it together, and still sometimes refer to each other as one another’s ‘Rory’ and ‘Lorelai’), what was not to love? To this day, I still religiously watch the reruns on ABC Family. However — books and banter aside, another love of mine was the show’s fictional town, Stars Hollow. Each time I watched the show, I marveled at the town’s quaint structure and charm and its friendly (and often quirky) residents. Everything appeared perfect and picturesque, and I fantasized about moving to Stars Hollow and living out my days gossiping with the nosy dance teacher and quarreling with the uptight grocer.

This got me thinking about contemporaries I’ve read and the fictional towns where I wouldn’t mind living, especially if it meant stumbling across the unavoidable hunky hero (because in romance, every town has one). So let’s take a roadtrip to my favorite I-wish-they-were-real-so-I-could-live-there small towns (seat belt mandatory, cheesy girl-pop playlist optional).

First stop is in Truly, Idaho. Readers are first introduced to this little Northwestern gem in Truly, Madly Yours (aka, The One That Started It All) when Delaney Shaw returns home and is forced to stick around for a year as indicated in her stepfather’s will. Delaney might’ve snubbed her nose at the tiny town, but being surrounded by sexy bad boys like Nick Allegrezza doesn’t seem so bad to me! (PS: Truly makes another appearance in Gibson’s Tangled Up In You…as does another bad boy hottie)

After a quick stop for fuel, 7-Up and gummi bears, we head south to the aptly-named Heaven, Texas (penned by one of my fave authors, Susan Elizabeth Phillips) where everything really is bigger — from the hair-dos to the men. Prime example: Bobby-Tom Denton, the cowboy hat-wearin’, over-the-top, flashy football player. Poor Gracie may have her hands full with him, but in a town where the hospitality is as grand as Bobby-Tom’s cowboy boots, you just can’t help but want to take a trip down south to experience some good old country livin’ for yourself. (PS – for those who’ve read Heaven, Texas & are looking for a little something extra, SEP has posted a never-before-seen epilogue for Bobby-Tom and Gracie HERE)

We wrap this roadtrip up with a trip to Tumble Creek, Colorado, which is the small town setting for Victoria Dahl’s Tumble Creek series. So far, I’ve only read Talk Me Down (Tumble Creek #1), but it was uh-mazing! The characters were so realistic, yet were still people I’d actually want to hang out with! Plus, the town’s sheriff, Ben, is my kinda hero — I definitely wouldn’t mind being pulled over by him for speeding!

There you have it — three towns where I could happily see myself as a resident. Sure, small towns may have their downsides — nosy neighbors, no Starbucks, 9 p.m. curfew — but I still think it would be fun to live in a place where everyone knew your name and watched out for each other. As someone who’s lived in the city for all of her life, I welcome the eccentricities and intimacy small towns offer.

By that notion alone, I’ve added a few of Debbie Macomber’s books to my TBR pile. Her stories are set in the fictional town of Cedar Cove, which is loosely based on Port Orchard, Washington. I have an affinity for coastal towns, and as far as I can tell, Cedar Cove seems like the perfect place to add to my “I-wish-they-were-real-so-I-could-live-there” list!

ROAMING QUESTION: Do you have your own I-wish-they-were-real-so-I-could-live-there small towns? If so, what are they and where did you find out about them?