Friday, May 31, 2019

May Books!

Total towards 2019 reading goal: 44/80 books.  (unfinished books don't count towards my goal)

1. White Knight, 2. Small Favor, 3. Turn Coat, 4. Changes, 5. Ghost Story, 6. Cold Days, 7. Skin Game, Jim Butcher ( books 9-15 of Dresden Files, combo of audio and print) - What can I say, I enjoy the long game.  This series did get considerably better after the first few books, and I like the long arc.  Things need to change when you have this many books in a series, while honoring the fundamental principals and characters the books are built on...and Butcher has managed that beautifully.  Super fun to be able to read so many books back to back - and to see the quality remain high throughout.

8. A Brightness Long Ago, Guy Gavriel Kay - I inhaled this book in two days.  I've always loved Kay's beautiful use of language, and no one else can really touch him for his character development.  I wept in one section.  I rejoiced in anther.  I loved the fact that he created female characters who were fierce and powerful - despite the constraints of the fictionalized version of Renaissance Italy it was set in.  This was actually a prequel of sorts to another book Kay wrote a few years back, and I'm not trying to decide if I have time to go back and reread it.

9.  Stories of Your Life, Ted Chang (only a few stories) - The short story that the collection is named after was the inspiration for one of my all-time favorite movies, Arrival.  I found the book on the sale table, and was curious enough about the source material for the book that I picked it up immediately.  Chang is an excellent writer, and I do love his work - which is interesting and varied.  Stories of Your Life, though, is a short story that completely blows me away.  He managed to capture a mother daughter story in a way that shocks me....because of his gender.  I shouldn't be biased, but I have so rarely found a male author that writes women well that I almost can't believe that it wasn't a woman who wrote this particular tale.  It's a gorgeous story...and there were passages that I read over and over and over again.

Unfinished:

10.  Bad Blood, John Carreyrou (audio) - So everyone seems to be fascinated with the Theranos story right now...and I'm completely m'eh about it.  It's a very well written, well researched book, but I just couldn't care about any of it, so I didn't bother finish.  Maybe if it didn't come across as if almost everyone involved was an idiot?  I mean, seriously, in retrospect I can't understand how anyone fell for it.

11.  The Near Witch, V.C.Schwab - I hope to finish it at some point.  The entire set up and the main character are intriguing, and I do love Schwab.  The problem is that it's very obviously a first book.  Even the best writers have to start somewhere, and Schwab isn't the first who's first book I've found dull or difficult to get through.  It needs to be appreciated for what it is - the first step on the journey of an amazing writer.  Right now, though, I'm in a place where I need to be fully engrossed by my books.   I'm setting it in the unfinished pile, but this is one I hope to go back to someday.

Monday, May 20, 2019

At Long Last

I shared this handspun with you on April 29, 2008.

I was so, so proud of this laceweight.  It had been a joy to spin, and it had proven to be everything I wanted it to be.  It was the first time I'd set out to spin a specific type of yarn, and the results had far exceeded my dreams.

It was literally the 7th post on this blog.

From the very beginning, it was always intended to be a lace shawl...a shawl that I designed myself.  After all, special yarn deserved a special pattern, and this was to be mine from beginning to end.

But I never got around to it - even though I went so far as to publicly share my intentions to do that work in March of 2014, thus hopefully putting a bit of public pressure on myself to get my but moving.

We could discuss the whys for days.

I was overwhelmed with options.  I'd never designed my own anything before.  I didn't know where to start.  I was afraid of making a mistake.  It could turn out terribly. I didn't really know what I want.

In the end, all that really matters is that it's been sitting in my workbasket for 11 years.

Over the weekend I found myself in between projects - turning back to my spinning wheel for the first time since I went back to work.  It was a homecoming of sorts, and I was relieved to find that my hands remembered what to do after all.  (Silly me...of course they know what to do...my hands are clever.)  I also spent a little bit of time going through my fiber and handspun stash.

Which is when I heard this wee circle call my name. 

So here we are again...it's time to begin again, again.

Some decisions:

  1. I already know that I want to use Shetland lace patterns.  Much as I love other traditions, Shetland lace was my first great knitting love and it is the style that calls to me again and again and again.  (Besides, I only have about 1,000 yards, and I don't want to waste yarn on Estonian nupps...much as I love them.)
  2. I want the shawl to tell a story, much as the Spider Queen does.  But what story do I want to tell?  That question deserves some thought over the next few days.
  3. I'm keeping the central circle as is. 
  4. In fact, I will stick with Elizabeth Zimmerman's pi shawl as the central inspiration.
  5. Originally I had considered beads...but I think I'll let the yarn speak for itself. 
So here we go...another adventure with the Green Woman, hand in hand.

My muse of creativity has been quiet for a while, but she hasn't forgotten me.




Sunday, May 12, 2019

Just Because

 A few months ago I fell down the rabbit hole, losing an entire afternoon to browsing Ravelry for tea cozy patterns.  I drink a LOT of tea, and had been wrapping my tea pot in a tea towel...which is clearly unacceptable when you are a knitter and are perfectly capable of making an actual tea cozy.
I'm not sure what I expected to find when I searched Ravelry for tea cozy patterns.  To my utter delight, I was completely charmed by page after page of whimsical tea cozies.  As it would turn out, they are the perfect vehicle for creativity.
My original intent was to find a pattern that worked with yarn that I already own, but when I discovered that there was a kit available for the Retro Tea Cozy - and I mean, what could be cuter than a sweater for a tea pot?! - and then when that kit proved to be on sale for a very reasonable amount....well, it was meant to be! 
Retro Tea Cosy
By Charlotte Walford
Yarn purchased as kit from Fyberspates.com
Fyberspates Scrumptious DK, 1 skein natural and two mini skeins, slate and biscuit
Addi Turbo 24" circulars, size US 6 (4.0mm) and US 2.5 (3.0mm)
March 2-3, 2019

This was a very fast and easy knit for me, and it was a complete delight.  I absolutely adored the yarn, and am very sad to hear that it's no longer being made as I'd hoped to use it again in the future.  It's just nice to do a project once in a while that is super fun and super quick!  The fact that this is something I will use often and will get to enjoy...even better!

Monday, May 6, 2019

Another Lil' Punkin

 Couldn't help it...she needed this hat! 

Patrick's Pumpkin Hat
by Lee Ann Bonson
yarn: Knit Picks Palette Misc. (from my giant drawer...it goes on forever)
Needles: US 6 (4.0mm) and US 8 (5.0mm)
October 3, 2018
For my beloved niece, Ashby, who makes her Auntie Kristin very, very happy by loving every single thing that I make for her.  Of course, it helps that she has parents who also love every single thing that I make for them...and who actually USE their handknits! 

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Spring is For Reading! April Books

35/80 books for the year!

1. The Red Threads of Fortune, and 2. The Descent of Monsters, Jy Yang - It took me a long while to get into Yang’s work, despite glowing praise I’ve seen around the internet.  These are the second and third of their novellas, and although it took me a while after reading the first to get to them I read them back to back, and enjoyed them greatly.  Once again, fantasy with a different cultural basis is really appealing to me these days.  Yang’s characters are fascinating, and I love what they do with gender.  Looking forward to the next book, which I’ve already preordered.

3. Faith Unraveled, Rachel Held Evans - I’ve loved Evans from the first paragraph of the first one of her books that I read.  She gives me hope for Christianity, and she confirms and encourages my own beliefs.  She makes me think, and she challenges my old belief systems and prejudices.  I was delighted to have the opportunity to actually meet Evans two years ago when she attended Spec as a special guest.  I loved the sermon she delivered, and the hour that I spent with her in a special class in the chapel has stuck with me for many reasons.  I don’t know why I hadn’t read this book yet.  It was as special as her others.  Being so fresh on my mind, it was then so horrible to learn of her illness just before Easter.  As of the writing of this blog, she remains in a medically induced coma...although today’s update from her family indicates that they are trying to wake her up.  Evans is 7 or 8 years younger than I am, with small children and a lot of work left to do him this world.  I hold her and her family in prayer and I invite you to do so as well.

4. Summer Night, 6. Death Masks, 8. Blood Rites, 9. Dead Beat, 11. Proven Guilty, Jim Butcher (audio) - What can I say?  The Dresden Files have grown on me, and I think they’ve gotten better as the series has continued.  There’s enough self-awareness and self-deprecation to address the few issues I had at first, and at the end of the day they are on the better end of the urban fantasy/detective sub genre that I love so much.  (I think we can thank Buffy for that!). I also happen to be in a place right now where I’m spending a lot of time in my car and am very stressed out - both setting me up for a need to be told a good story.  Podcasts are too short and disjointed right now.  The long arch of this series is speaking to the part of me that wants to be told a story.

5. When Breath Becomes Air, Dr. Paul Kalanithi - I think everyone should read this book.  It’s really that simple.  I’ve owned it for a while.  No idea why I decided to pick it up now, of all times, when you would think that the subject matter would be deeply upsetting and hard for me to read.  It is, after all, the story of a young doctor’s cancer - a book that he spent the last year of his life pouring his heart and soul into.  I sobbed when it was over, a catharsis that was a gift.  It’s not really a book about death, but rather is a book about the beauty of life.  I’m ordering a hardback copy to keep on my shelf, and I will go back to it again and again.

7. Pride and Prometheus, John Kessler - A dear friend recommended this book a while back, and I truly wish I’d read it right away.  Kessler has written a really fun mash up of Frankenstein and Pride & Prejudice, and I loved every single minute of it.  Kessler has fast become a writer I’ll watch.  His work is really hard to put down, and the concepts and perspectives he comes up with are truly interesting.  Now, of course, if I had time I’d reread both source books!

10. A Ring of Endless Light, Madeleine L’Engle - This has long been one of my favorite L’Engle books, and I felt called to read it again this month in the midst of some tough things that I’m dealing with.  Not wanting to waste time trying to find my beloved, battered old copy in my book crates, I bought a digital copy.  I’m glad I did that.  I highlighted everything that struck me, and have gone back multiple times already to read through those quotes again.  A part of me has always known that my idea of God was heavily influenced by L’Engle’s work.  Reading this book again showed me just how deep that influence runs.  I’m so very grateful to Madeleine...for the gift that she gave me through her writing.

12. Grief is the Thing With Feathers, Max Porter - I found it on the iBooks sale table shortly after a friend brought it up in conversation.  It’s interesting, and I think perhaps even a bit profound.  It’s also a curiously written work, with a style that feels very true to the way that grief is experienced.  Having said that, I skimmed through it pretty quickly.  The unusual, poetic style didn’t allow me to truly connect to the work so it remains an intellectual curiosity/appreciation without having touched my heart.

Monday, April 8, 2019

Catching Up

I went through the blog at the beginning of the year, and discovered that there were several projects that weren't recorded for posterity's sake.

Whoops.

I present: 4 pair of socks!

Pair 96, for me
Dec. 27, 2017 - May 27, 2018

Pair 95, for me
February 1, 2017 - December 12, 2017

Pair 97, for me
May 27, 2018 - June 10, 2018

All of my socks are made from Opal, because it's my favorite and because I keep buying loads of it on mega sale at Little Knits.

All are knit on Knit Picks wooden DPN's, size US 0, 2.0mm

The standard recipe is that there are 76 stitches, with 23 rows of 2x2 rib and 50 rows of plain stockinette in the leg, and 60 rows of stockinette in the foot.

Pattern is, as always, Ann Budd's Basic Sock pattern from The Knitter's Handy Book of Patterns.

Pair 93 - for my husband
Opal Orange Sparkle
June 26 - Sept. 27, 2016
(no, I can't explain why I missed this pair when I finished them well before I went back to work...)
Most of the details are the same - same yarn, same pattern.
For Sean, though, I use a US 1, 2.25mm needle.
The recipe details: 80 stitches, 76 rows in leg and 60 in foot, all 2x2 rib.

And now, we should be caught up on socks!

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Reading in March

 Progress towards 2019 Reading Goals:  23/80 books.

March was an excellent month for reading!  I’m finally feeling a bit better, and decided to make room to return to audio books as I reincorporate the things I love into my life.  Win-win!  More knitting, more quiet time, more books!

1.  Death and Night, Roshanin Chokshi (audio, novella) - I adore Chokshi.  She’s a storyteller in the best sense of the word.  I enjoyed the audio of her first novel during my marathon training last year, but for some reason hadn’t gotten around to this novella yet - which is a bit of a prequel.  Beautiful and fun, and as always I’m thrilled to be introduced to fairy tales from another culture!

2.  That Ain’t Witchcraft, Seanan McGuire - Newest InCrypted Book, which is McGuire’s “popcorn” series.  Fun and lighthearted, I look forward to easy entertaining reads from this particular series.  One thing that’s been interesting is that McGuire has focused different books on the different siblings in the central family.  I’ve decided that this and the previous two - about youngest sibling Antimony - are my favorites.  She’s moving on to other family members with the next book, which feels right and good.

3. The Measure of a Monster (novella), Seanan McGuire - I highly approve of McGuire’s apparent new habit of putting novellas in the end of her new releases.  Pretty fun!

4. I Think You’re Wrong, But I’m Listening, Sarah Steward Holland and Beth Silvers - In today’s political climate, I think this is a must-read book.  I discovered Holland and Silver’s podcast, Pantsuit Politics, right before the 2018 election, and it’s become one of my favorite podcasts to listen to.  I love their ability to have deep, nuanced discussions that go way beyond the talking (screaming) points that dominate most political discourse - and feature respectful listening to both sides of the aisle.  This book is a how-to to creating space for those talks in real life, and features concrete examples from big time issues to finding commonality.  We’re only going to find solutions by working together, and in order for that to happen we really need to learn to listen to each other.

5. Record of a Spaceborn Few, Becky Chambers - When an old friend, who’s book judgement you really trust, texts you out of the blue to tell you to read this book asap...you do it!  This is actually the third in a series, and ordinarily I wouldn’t jump in like this...but my friend was right in that the first two weren’t necessary to really enjoy this.  I was hooked within just a few minutes of starting this book...and I loved it in a way that I chose to read it slowly, savoring each chapter instead of blasting through the whole thing as fast as I could.  It’s a delicious character study, and I can’t wait to sit down with my friend and talk about it!  Rich, deep characters and a well-thought out setting/world.  I’m looking forward to exploring more of Chambers’ work in the future!

6. The Moon and the Other, John Kessler - A while back Kessler’s other book was recommended to me, and to be honest I can’t remember why I bought this one first.  (Weird) It’s a curious thing for me to have read science fiction twice in one month - it’s not a genre I touch very often.  I absolutely loved it, though.  Kessler has created a beautiful and rich lunar setting, and I really enjoyed exploring his various communities.  Madeleine L’Engle once said that using a fantasy or a science fiction setting allows a writer to really delve into issues in ways that you can’t do in traditional literature.  The foreign or alien nature of the setting makes human issues more powerful.  (This is in her book Walking on Water, Reflections of Faith and Art - or at least that was my takeaway when I read it over 20 years ago.). Kessler has absolutely done that here, with character and societal studies that are truly fascinating.  I wasn’t at all satisfied by the way it ended - but it felt like a truthful ending, so I’m not upset about it.  Really, I’m now a fan and I hope his other books are this rich of an experience.

7. The Night Circus, Erin Morgenstern (audio) - This is the second or third time I’ve checked the audio book out.  It’s my idea of comfort food reading - both because of the book, which is in my top 10 of all time, and because of Jim Dale’s delightful performance.  Not surprisingly, it’s a very popular audiobook and I still have to deal with the wait list when I want it!  I’m taking the unusual step for me of actually buying an audio copy...to go along with the digital and hardback copies I own.  I took this with me on a weekend trip to a dance competition.  I was able to hole up in our hotel room while the girls took classes all day, and I used this book to help me get to a wonderful flow state with my knitting.  It was very much needed...I haven’t found flow in probably two years, and am working to find my way back to it more often.

8. The Mindfulness Based Eating Solution, Lynn Rossy - Lynn’s book was recommended to me by my therapist - we’re using mindfulness techniques to help me address some issues - and curiously enough just days later I saw an ad for her workshop at one of our local yoga studios.  I took that for a sign, and went to the workshop.  There is a lot I could talk about here - but much of that is tied up in the work I’m doing with my therapist which still feels a tad too raw to talk about.  What I CAN say is that Rossy’s book is a pretty darn amazing counterbalance to the toxic diet culture that we live in.  Her book is joyous and seeks to help people build a really healthy relationship with their bodies and with their food.  It’s honestly one of the best resources I’ve found.

9. Storm Front, 10. Fool Moon, 11. Grave Peril, Jim Butcher (audio) - People have been recommending The Dresden Files to me for ages.  I tried reading one of them a long while ago, and felt pretty “m’eh” about it at the time, barely making it 1/3 of the way into the book before I gave it up.  I was looking for audiobooks, though, and decided to give it another shot.  The Urban Fantasy/Hard Boiled Detective mash up is a funky little subgenre that I enjoy sometimes - but which it’s incredibly difficult to do right.  The thing that sold me on a second chance is the fact that James Marsters - Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s Spike - reads this series.  Clearly, I’m enjoying the series enough to have gone through the first three in a matter of a week...and to have checked out books 4 and 5.  They are entertaining and are great books to listen to while doing something else - like my knitting.  Marsters does an excellent job of reading them, too.  I’m super glad that I didn’t pay money for them, though, and am not as crazy about them as everyone who’s recommended them seems to be.  Also, I looked up the series on Wikipedia, and almost laughed myself silly when I discovered the origin story for the series.  Of course it was born when Butcher’s writing teacher suggested he try something in the style of Laurel K. Hamilton’s Anita Blake.  Let’s keep our fingers crossed that the quality stays ok, and doesn’t take the nosedive that Hamilton’s books took after the 10 book or so mark.

Unfinished:

1. Under the Pendulum Sun, Jeanette Ng - Truthfully, I bought this book on the iTunes sale table only because it showed up on a recommended reading list on the Tor newsletter.  (The recommendation was a lot more interesting than the book description on iTunes....which should have clued me in.). I read about 1/4 of the book, and just never got into it.  It’s an interesting concept - Victorianish Christian missionaries going to fairyland - but it was just too slow to get moving, and I never connected with the protagonist.  Gave it a fair shot...not sure if it’s a not now or a not ever type of book.