Sunday, July 31, 2011

Too Hot For Much Else....Reading in July

Welcome again to my monthly book round-up! I wanted to first let you all know that I love your comments on these posts, and I do have a list of books started from your recommendations to me!

1. The Help, Kathryn Stockett (lib, ebook) - To be honest, I wanted to hate it. Anything that becomes as popular as this book probably has something wrong with it....goes my typical thinking. To my great surprise and delight, it was a lot more fun and a lot more thought provoking than I expected it to be.


2. Wicked Bugs, Amy Stewart (lib, ebook) - Talk about fun! Stewart was interviewed on NPR's Fresh Air, and when I saw this pop up in my library's online selections I knew I had to read it. Deliciously creepy and frightening...don't read this nonfiction book if you have a serious bug phobia in any way.


3. Await Your Reply, Dan Chaon (lib, audio) - I believe this book was either a finalist or the actual Columbia One Read book last year. I've not been involved with the project (although this year they are reading the truly excellent Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks), but I had picked the book up a few times to read the cover. Audio was a good compromise...but truth be told I almost gave up on it a few times. I'm glad I stuck with it to the end, though, because it did at long last deliver some true surprises.


4. Townie, Andre Dubus III (lib, audio) - A Books On the Nightstand memoir recommendation. I didn't finish it. I found after a while that my horror and sympathy at the type of hardscrabble life Dubus grew up with only went so far.


5. Bright's Passage, Josh Ritter (ebook) - Go buy it and read it immediately. Please. You will love it! Harry Bright comes home from WWI with an angel. That's all I'm saying. (And thank you very much BOTNS!)


6. Naamah's Blessing, Jacqueline Carey (print) - Carey's books are among my guilty pleasures. Adventure, romance, mysticism and magic...they kind of have it all. I love them so much so that I still buy them all in hardback. Excellent summer reading.

7. Color of Love, Gene Cheek (lib, audio) - This was a shattering memoir of a boy who grew up in the Jim Crowe south and who eventually had to make a heartbreaking decision. It's not available in print anymore, but it's worth it if you can track it down.


8. The Double Comfort Safari Club, Alexander McCall Smith (lib, ebook) - and after that, I needed some comfort reading. I love the #1 Ladies Detective Agency books.


9. Robinson Crusoe, Daneil Defoe (lib, audio) - I've just about exhausted all of the downloadable classics available through my library, but this was one I had never read. (And it turned out to be one of my favorite male readers for Blackstone Audio.) I don't know if laughter is the appropriate response....I kept imagining our poor hero banging his head on a rock saying, 'stupid, stupid, stupid.....'

10. A Thread of Grace, Mary Doria Russell (lib, CD) - My second must read recommendation for the month.....go get it now! Russell wrote one of my all-time favorite books, The Sparrow, but I hadn't tried her other books because she chose to change her genres, and I was nervous about that. A Thread of Grace tells the story of the Italian front during WWII, which is honestly a topic I knew little to nothing about. In that respect, I would compare it to The Invisible Bridge, which is also a WWII novel about a little known area. Books such as Bridge, though, tend to feel a bit dishonest because sometimes the main characters come out better than you suspect they really would have during the Holocaust. It's as if they are too precious to the writer, and having created them he or she feels like they must protect them even if it doesn't make sense. Russell has absolutely no qualms about fully exploring tragedy, and days later, I'm honestly still feeling a bit traumatized. I also feel like I've found truth. Apparently five years of research went into this book, and you can tell. For the record...I am also a sucker for a good frame for a story, and Russell's beginning and ending were pitch perfect.

11. The Saturday Big Tent Wedding, Alexander McCall Smith (lib, CD) - yep, definitely needed after A Thread of Grace. This was my first foray into audio for McCall's books....and I'm not sure I like it that much. (Ok, and part of this is because I have my own pronunciation for all of the African names and was largely disabused of my correctness in that matter.) Audio just doesn't seem to be a good fit for these books...which are quick to read but slow in plot and development.

12. The Last Werewolf, Glen Duncan (ebook) - literary horror, a BOTNS recommendation. (Almost done...should finish in the next day or so.) Now, I like a scary book as much as anyone else, and I love books that delve into character and philosophic debates. I'm just not sure I like them all tucked into one book so much. Having said that, I found myself highlighting a LOT of passages and phrases (Gotta love being able to do that on the iPad!) Also, because it needs to be said, I am glad the monsters aren't cuddly. They owe a huge debt to the masters and originators of the genre - Bram Stoker, Mary Shelley, Gaston Leroux - which made my heart sing.


13. Little Red In The City, Ysolda Teague (print) - This is actually a knitting book...but I found I had to read it cover to cover because Teague has some FANTASTIC information in there about working with patterns in order to make the garment fit the individual. There have been books before which were written with a fuller figure in mind...but this book takes one pattern, shows it on two radically different (and blessedly real) body types and then tells you how to muck around with it so that it fits you. Once my year of socks is over I intend to delve into sweaters, and I imagine this book will be heavily used.

Whoops! Forgot one!

14. Mr. Peanut, Adam Ross (ebook) - Ok, so this is the THIRD must read book of the month. Yes, it is a BOTNS recommendation. Goodness bless them, they've done well by me this month. I don't want to ruin the fun, so all I will tell you is that this book is more than I really expected it to be. Sooo, sooo much more!

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Single No More!



Fiesta Feet Bright Kit from Tradewind


(kit included 2 skeins Koigu in cream and 1 skein in bright rainbow)


2.25 mm Knit Picks Harmony DPNs


Dec. 7, 2010 - July 30, 2011




One wee mod...I picked up an extra stitch at the base of each side of the heel flap to make a tighter corner.




Other than that, I followed the directions exactly as written...which is kind of new for me!


The heel flap stitch was fun.
I did not care so much for the bobbles and the leg pattern. They were both really, really slow and were hard on my needles.

My favorite part was the crazy birdtrack pattern!

(And for the record, this is the best picture of the color I managed....they are much more vibrant in person than they appear in most of these photos.)



Would you believe it only took me one day to do the entire bird track/foot section of the second sock?! Really! That's how much I liked that part!


I bought the kit after taking a workshop with Lucy through my guild, the Columbia Weavers and Spinners Guild, back in late 2003. I had fallen in love with her sample pair...really with almost ALL of her samples...and decided that I needed something fun to knit. When I received the kit I took an initial dislike to the rainbow skein, which is probably why the kit was then shoved to the back of my stash. As you know, though, part of the reason why my friend Shelda and I took on our sock project, though, was to tackle this exact sort of problem....sock projects that have been haunting us for one reason or another.



To my great surprise, when knit up the rainbow yarn transformed into something magical. Once I saw that it was just a matter of getting it done.....and some of the stitch patterns slowed that down quite a bit as they just weren't my favorites.

To be honest, I don't love them. I like them a great deal, and I'm looking forward to wearing warm and toasty socks this winter. (My husband rightly says they look awfully warn. Colorwork socks have an extra layer, which is part of why I love them.) However, they are rather over the top for me, and in the end I find I prefer my colorwork to be more of the traditional variety. Fiesta Feet are, in my opinion, a case of too much is too much.

But I'm still glad I made them!

Friday, July 29, 2011

Lost & Found Friday

I've spent a lot of time this summer contemplating the idea of a second blog devoted to living and thriving with food allergies. If it happens, the official launch is going to have to wait until the first of September as this summer has been simply too busy for me to do either the research or the planning that I would like to do.

There has also been the wee issue of my attitude. I'll confess, until fairly recently I've been really angry about the whole thing...and no one wants to read a blog written by a bitter, angry woman. It's taken some time to find acceptance and to be able to let go of the negativity, but after an incident this week I think it's safe to say that I'm past the tipping point. Everything is going to be ok....and hey, the fact that I've started to feel really good is definitely a plus!

For now, I thought I would give you a taste of the type of content I'm considering. My plan would be to actually expand on some of these ideas as they are great jumping off points for essays. I think they show the good and bad side of food allergies....but in hopefully in a way that shows that the long-term effects of my diagnosis will only be for the good.

Without further ado.... Lost and Found Friday!

Lost: coffee
Found: green tea

Lost: yogurt
Found: I don't ever have to force myself to eat yogurt again!

Lost: chocolate chip cookies
Found: compassion for the Amy Winehouses of the world

Lost: warm oatmeal
Found: a pain-free tummy...who knew?!

Lost: convenience food
Found: the Farmer's Market and Bounty Boxes

Lost: bread
Found: greater body awareness

Lost: Dried spices and condiments
Found: A beautiful, fresh herb garden on my porch

Lost: cheese
Found: energy

Lost: eating out
Found: answers

Believe me...I could go on and on and on with dozens of these. What do you think?

Thank you for indulging me today. The Green Woman and I have more crafty/artsy goodness coming for you soon!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Our New Favorite Thing

The squeals of delight you heard coming from my house this afternoon were from two little girls opening this week's Bounty Box from the Root Cellar. This is only our second box, and already we look forward to it with great excitement.


This week our box included: corn, onions, beets, peppers, jalepenos, cherry tomatoes, regular tomatoes, Asian greens, zucchini, and locally made whole wheat pasta. One of the things we really love about our Bounty Box is that it includes a newsletter which lists where all of our produce comes from (multiple independent farmers - all within about a two hour drive from Columbia - whatever is fresh and available), as well as recipes for what's in the box.


One of the benefits of having a subscription to the Bounty Box is that you also get a discount on other products and produce in the store on pick up day. We also came home yesterday with a fabulous watermellon for Sean and the girls and a few fresh peaches for myself.


And of course....our wonderful Farmer's Market is on Saturday, so if we need anything else I can pick it up then!


A VERY big thank you to my BKB, Jenn, who first told us about this magnificent program!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Speedy Gonzoles

Classic Kilim

pattern by Stephanie van der Linden



1 skein Regia stretch in white


July 18 - 26, 2011


I love everything about them....except for the fit. This classic Turkish style sock has a pointy toe and heel which are quite annoying. However, they are beautiful, so I will give them a pass!


Sock #2 took less than two days because I was so excited about them.


Colorwork is definitely my cup of tea.


Notes will be forthcoming on my colorwork obsession.







Thursday, July 21, 2011

Can't Post...Must Knit....

This fabulous yarn is creating
A sock that I could possibly love more than the sheepy socks.

I don't know what it is about colorwork, but my pretty sock is flying off of the needles!

And I'm crazy enough to have started a second pair of colorwork socks....although there is proving to be less contrast in the color than I need. I'll finish the entire toe before I decide. (It's supposed to be a bright purple/green combo...and I didn't realize how much green was in the purple yarn.)

Believe it or not, I cast on a new silk shawl as soon as the last was done. In this weather, silk is the only thing that is bearable to work with when outdoors...which means this is my pool knitting.


More details on all to come.....


Right now I'm anxious to get back to the needles!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

I've Got A Horse Right Here,

If you would have asked me a couple of years ago what I do for fun, I would probably have gone blank and been unable to answer.


Literally.


It happened multiple times...with my acupuncturist, my trainer, my doctor....


Sad.


SO, I have been trying to change all of that.


You might not know this about me, but I adore musical theater. In fact, since high school the only music I've purchased (with a very few exceptions) has been soundtracks to Broadway shows. My wedding? The music was all from musicals and movies. It's just me. Too bad I can't sing worth a lick!


My husband has indulged me by going to see a few guy-friendly productions, but by and large it just isn't his thing.


Enter Frankie Pooh...the friend I babysit for. Half way through this last school year she asked me if I would like to get season tickets to Starlight with her. (For those of you not from the KC, MO area, Starlight is one of the last two outdoor theaters left in the country.) Would I?!!!!! Heck yes! After some debate we settled on a three-pack of tickets, and last Saturday night we attended our first show.


And that show was the fabulous classic, Guys And Dolls.


Guys and Dolls holds a special place in my heart because my high school performed it during my senior year. The drama club had become my special haven by that point, a respit to the stress of my academic life. Given my spectacular lack of vocal talent, I helped out as much as possible behind the stage. My primary job was to choreograph everything but the Hot Box dancers. This job landed me right in the middle of helping choreograph the fight scene in Havana (which was spectacularly fun!)....which led me to a small roll as the Cuban Dance Girl.


Oh yes, you can laugh.


The running joke for the last 20 years has been, "Because you look REAL Cuban!"


In fact, that's the first thing my husband said when I told him the story Saturday night.


Nevertheless, I had an infinitesimal career on the stage as part of the dancing couple in this and one other local production since I and my best friend, Mel, knew how to at least fake it and no one else did.


So that's me in that picture - the palest, blondest Cuban dance girl in the world - with Mel as Sky Masterson. He always played the lead because he was just that good. It was my one and only performance in a musical, and is a memory that I will always treasure.


And by the way...Starlight's Guys & Dolls was phenomenal, I had forgotten how much I love the music, and I can't wait for our next two shows!


Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I am having fun again.


Thanks Mel for letting me use that picture!

PS. I think I perhaps might have been the finest Cuban Dance Girl there ever was.


Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Le Tour De Not

The picture you see in this post is of exactly how much I have spun in the last month or so.

(Imagine chirping crickets here.....)

I had planned on joining the Tour De Fleece once again this summer. I was even going to join the Ennea Collective Team. While I hadn't officially set in stone my Tour goals, I was leaning towards something involving color and/or my drop spindles.

And then I got distracted by other projects.

And I don't regret it.

Much.

It's just too hot to spin right now - even though I would be spinning in my nice, cool basement. I know that doesn't make much sense, but there you have it. I also have the weight of a 'must spin' project on my shoulders, and am consequently avoiding the whole shebang.

Now back to the happy socks, the silk lace and the pretty embroidery!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Friday, July 15, 2011

L'Etoile Chocolate



Gradiance Colorway - Cafe Au Lait

Size 8/0 triangle seed beads - Earth Faire

5 tubes, slate blue lined topaz

Addi Turbo, US 5, 3.75 mm



Modifications:

1. Instead of following the recommendations of the Unique Sheep as to how to calculate the color changes, I determined how much yarn I would need to do the transition, measured that amount from the end of the yarn and worked until I was close to that point. I have roughly 10 yards left of each of the first three colors.

2. Because I wanted to use as much yarn as possible from all of the colors, I added an extra lace band - 6 stitches wide - to the border. Could have made it even wider, but I needed to be done.


Comments:

1. Because I am frequently asked how much time is involved in the knitting of a shawl, I did keep track of this one. There are roughly 30 hours invested in the center and 24 in the edging. Ordinarily, the edging would not eat up so much time, but as there are six beads every other row which must be added individually via crochet hook I was considerably slower than normal.

2. The ONLY thing I dislike about the yarn was the way the fourth color striped in the border. I tried to figure out how to avoid that, but it striped with every single thing I tried.

3. I've done many circular shawls. This is the first time I've ever put the border on counter-clockwise as per instructions. It was a bit odd to adjust to. Then again, most circular shawls use a garter border, and this one was in stockinette.





















Thursday, July 14, 2011

While Patiently Waiting

I know, I know....I promised a new shawl today. It is still drying on the floor, though, and I am trying to figure out how best to photograph it. It's going to be a tricky one due to the color, and let's face it...I'm not the world's best photographer.

In the meantime, I have some random to share.


  • I am starting to feel really good again. It seems like the magic formula is: allergy diet+thyroid meds=good health+feeling great.

  • I am glad that my doctor let me test my thyroid by dumping the medication for a while because I know I would always have resented that pill had I not known for sure that I need it. (We initially thought my TSH bump might have been a reaction to the surgery.)

  • Having said that, WOW....it does make a huge difference. But it only makes a huge difference when combined with the allergy diet.

  • I feel like I'm starting to 'sparkle' a bit.

  • I haven't felt this way since I was a teenager! Which is odd to say, because even when I was a teen I felt like an old woman much of the time. Hmmm....

  • Over the last few weeks I've returned to the gym.

  • Yesterday I ran for the first time in months, and I am quite happy to say that I found my happy running place. It was divine.

  • I also pulled something in my hip badly enough to make me limp all afternoon in pain. It's much better this morning, and I promise I'll be careful. As I said to a friend last night, I don't want to cause an injury bad enough to derail my return to my gym rat ways. I need those exercise endorphins too much for that!

  • I am thinking about hiring a trainer to help me start again. We'll see.

  • I really miss Meghan, the most fabulous trainer in the world.

  • She had me spoiled.

  • I reward the girls for going to the playroom with pool time afterwords. Now that they are big enough to play on their own in the water I can park myself under a tree with my knitting for a happy hour.

  • Good times.

  • We've had a bit of a crisis on Mom and Dad's farm this week. JoJo, our favorite llama (the male, spotty one) almost succumbed to heat exhaustion. We had a miracle, though, and he pulled through.

  • There have been a lot of tears and prayers for this silly llama. As it would turn out, we're all ridiculously fond of him.

  • Dad has worked with heat exhaustion and heat stroke in animals during his entire career, but llamas behave very differently and because of that he missed some critical early warning signs.

  • We've all been doing research because the miserably hot, humid weather isn't supposed to end anytime soon, and now we have an action plan in place to help JoJo.

  • Llamas just aren't made for Missouri weather.

  • The other llama, Josie, hasn't been affected at all. Weird.

  • Meanwhile, the sheep are also fine. Wool is a magical fiber, and as it would turn out they have just the right amount of it right now to insulate them from the heat.

  • Have you tried banana soft serve? Freeze a couple of ripe - but not brown - bananas, throw them in the blender or food processor, blend until the consistency of soft serve ice cream. It is FABULOUS!

  • I added frozen berries as well, and honestly can't tell the difference between it and soft serve ice cream. I threw in a tbsp. of unsweetened cocoa for the girls last night, and it might as well have been chocolate soft serve....no sugar or sweeteners necessary at all.

I promised the young ones donuts for breakfast, and so I'd best get moving before they begin to protest!

Have a great day everyone, and be sure to check back tomorrow for the promised shawl post.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Someone Else's Brilliance

As I wait for my latest shawl to dry out on my living room floor, I have to fess up a certain amount of ambivalence towards this entire project. As I have no intentions of saying anything negative about it when I present the finished project to you, I thought I would go ahead and get it off of my chest this evening.



If I am honest, there are two main problems.



One.



I never, ever should have done this project as part of a knit along. I know myself, and I know that I am the sort of person who loses interest as soon as something (books, knitting patterns, movies...you name it) becomes popular. There are a lot of really nice knitters involved in this KAL, but I'm just not someone who enjoys or benefits from working closely with a large group on a single project. I'm also not into classes at the gym, preferring to work on my own. That's just the way I roll.

The more I've heard about the KAL, the less I've wanted to actually knit this shawl, and the less value I've placed in the final project. It is, after all, just one of many being made here in town right now, and each will be beautiful. There's nothing special about my version at all.



Why did I do it? Well, I had been planning on knitting up this pattern for quite some time. When I discovered they were using a yarn I was interested in it seemed like the perfect opportunity. The LYSO caught me on a good day, and I didn't stop to think about the full ramifications of my decision.

Lesson learned.

Two.

The phrase 'someone else's brilliance' has been playing over and over in my head over the last few days as I've worked to finish up the edging.

Yes, it's pretty...but it's someone else's design.



You could argue that I picked the color and the beads.....but again, it was someone else's design and someone else's idea to use the gradiance colorways.

I've thought about putting it up on the wall in my living room, but do I really want to put someone else's brilliance on my wall?

It just doesn't feel like it's mine at all.

Yes, I put the work into it, and yes I'm an excellent technical knitter. However, I think what this is telling me is that I want more and perhaps it's time to start pushing the envelope a bit.



It is most definitely something to think about.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Christmas In July

I had no sooner found my place at our table when my friends from the guild began to present me with leftover sock yarn for my blanket. I squealed in delight...what fun! It really was just like Christmas in July. This jem came from Jenny. Jenny is one sister in a tremendously talented family. (Her sister Bonnie has already sent me some scrap yarn.) Jennie is soft spoken and kind. She's probably forgotten more about fiber arts than most people will ever know, and just so happens to have been the Princess's weaving teacher. I simply can't imagine our group without her!

Colleen had an entire bag full of goodies. Of all of the wonderful things I could tell you about Colleen, I think I will stick to one sweet memory. When the Pixie was a wee three weeks old I took her to a guild meeting so that she could meet my favorite knitters. Colleen quickly claimed my Pixie, and held her for the entire evening. I will never forget the look on her face...she's a woman with a lot of love to give.

As always, my friend Shelda - she of the yearlong sockathon - also had a few little balls of yarn for me. Almost every month now I get the leftovers from one or two pair, and I think it's wonderful that my partner in crime will be so strongly represented in my blanket!

Monday, July 11, 2011

5 Things That Make Me Laugh

I've been working feverishly for the last few days to finish up my silk shawl so that I can show it off at my Knitting Study group tomorrow night. Don't get me wrong...it has been loads of fun...but it has also eaten up just about all of my free time.

As that also means I don't have much to blog about, I thought I would give you a list of the five things that have been making me laugh lately.



  1. My girls have been going through a bun phase lately. They both ask almost every day for a pretty bun, and it makes them look so much like the teen-aged me that I have to laugh. Where did they get the idea? Believe it or not...Star Wars.

  2. My husband's dog - a papillon - lost a toenail last Tuesday evening. This in and of itself isn't funny at all as I'm sure it hurt. However, her reaction was so typically her that one has to grin. She has spent almost every day since limping around the house in high drama, convinced she was going to lose a paw. When she thinks we're not watching she walks just fine. Silly girl.

  3. I no longer have to wear a swimsuit or get in the water when I take the girls to the pool.

  4. My cat has a 'tickle spot' just like dogs do. Instead of thumping her back leg, though, when you pet her tickle spot, located at the base of her tail, she starts spasmodically licking. She'll go through the motions if there is nothing close by, but she prefers to lean over a bit and start licking the nearest human. You would think this would annoy her, but apparently she loves it and is now about a million times friendlier.

  5. The cat thing has started a new game. So far I'm winning, having made the cat lick my husband right between the eyes because he got a bit too close.

I know that is all VERY random. Tune in tomorrow for hopefully a finished shawl and some knitting news!

Friday, July 8, 2011

The Sheep Run At Twilight


Available through Ravelry at the link above
Yarn is Koigu KPPPM
3 Skeins I obtained through a Ravelry swap
Sorry, I didn't keep the bands for the numbers.

Knit Picks Harmony DPN's - 2.25 mm

June 23 - July 7, 2011

The only modification I made was to add 12 stitches around the circumference of the sock for a total of 76 stitches. There is no way it would have fit otherwise (standard 64 st. sock pattern - which I always think is too crazy lose of a gauge for normal wear).

It was a lucky, lucky guess that 76 stitches would give me the fit I wanted. I still haven't figured out why that worked out so well given all of the redo's I've had to do in this crazy sock project...but I'm not going to complain.


There is one modification I would make if I had to do it all over again, and that is that I would change the heel from stockinette to one of the more standard heel flaps with slip stitches on alternate rows. It does concern me that durability was sacrificed for cute (and those two wee sheep looking back are cute). Also, the fit is a bit wonky because the flap is looser than it would have been with a standard stitch pattern.


Of all of the socks that I've ever knit, these are now my favorites....and I can't wait until the weather is cool again so that I can wear them!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Smitten













I am most definitely in love.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011