Sunday, March 30, 2014

What Did I Read In March? Let Me Tell You!

1.  The Law of Dreams, Peter Behrens - I wanted something Irish this month, and I got it.  Behrens came to my attention shortly after I started listening to Books  on the Nightstand, and thanks to the popular sale page on iTunes I finally picked  it up a month or so ago.  This is not a book for the faint of heart.  Set in the Irish famine and subsequent immigration, it's tragic, violent, brutal and heartbreaking.  It's also a lovely, lovely book with some of the most beautifully written prose I've come across in quite some time.  Behrens has a second book based on the Irish experience....I don't know that I will ever read it.

2.  Shadow Magic, Patricia C. Wrede - It pains me to say this.  I adore Wrede.  In fact, her books are amongst my favorite YA fantasy novels, and I've reread two of her series multiple times.  But.  I could not get through this book.  It just didn't seem to have the spark that her books normally have, although most of the elements were certainly in place.  (Plucky heroines are Wrede's specialty.)  Perhaps it just felt too...too done before...too typical of fantasy....too uneventful...too stock character...too common.  I'm going to try to read it at a later date and see if a fresh approach changes my mind.

3.  The Paleo Approach, Sarah Ballantyne - Ballantyne is the author of my favorite paleo blog, www.thepaleomom.com  As a research scientist, she has the gift of explaining the science behind health and diet in a way that is both incredibly detailed and approachable.  Ballantyne's specialty in the paleo world is autoimmune disease, which is the specific focus of her book.  Autoimmune diseases have been approached in at least three other paleo books I've read, but generally they only get about 2-3 pages.  Ballantyne's book weighs in at over 1,000 pages.  I will admit, I did skim through the early, heavily scientific chapters.  (Which were almost more than I could understand.)  However, this was still one of the most amazing health books I've ever read, and I cannot recommend it enough.

4.  Bird By Bird, Anne Lamott - I adore this book more than I can possibly say.  A big thank you to my writing partner for recommending it!  Bird By Bird is Lamott's book on the writing process, and I found it best to read in small chunks - a chapter or two at a time - so that I could fully digest and ponder the content.  (Still have a bit to finish, but as the bulk of it was read this month, it goes on this list!)

5.  Hollow City, Ransom Riggs - The sequel to Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children.  I still love the concept, and I still love the crazy vintage photographs.  Not going to lie, though, this was not even remotely as much fun as the first book.  It was much more serious, and included considerably more doom and gloom.  I'm actually annoyed that there's a third book coming.  Enough already.  Bummer. 

6.  The Crystal City, Orson Scott Card (audio) - A while back I listened to the first five books in the Alvin Maker series - thank you library - and enjoyed them.  At the time, the library didn't have this final book, so I was pretty excited when I discovered that they'd added it to the catalog.  So here's the deal...When I finished the first five I did a bit of research and discovered that Card had loosely based Alvin Maker on Joseph Smith, the founder of the Mormon Church.  I found this fascinating ( I belong to a church that shares roots with the LDS church), and particularly enjoyed reading a few academic papers I found online that trace the books' connection to Joseph Smith.  With all of this in mind, I really thought I would enjoy returning to Card's magical version of early America.  Oddly enough, though, I listened to a few hours and discovered I no longer cared.  Didn't bother finishing it.  Last fall I read a biography of Joseph Smith's wife, Emma, and perhaps that was part of my issue.  There was a lot of sadness in their early marriage - separation, loss of children - and those things were reflected in The Crystal City.  Also...because of that history, the tone of this book was darker, more sad, not as charming.  Must admit, the quaint Americana style which charmed me through the first five books came across as hokey this time.  Drat.

7.  Life After Life, Jill McCorkle - In one of those curious cases, this book came out at the same time as Kate Atkinson's Life After Life, and in fact both books were discussed on the same episode of Books on the Nightstand.  I finally picked it up because it was available through my library's downloadable services.  It's a lovely book in so many ways - beautiful language, well-drawn characters, grand themes, etc....but it's also a book that leaves a mountain of loose ends, which drives me crazy.  There are a lot of people who will say, 'yes, but life is often like that...we don't always get everything wrapped up with a neat little bow.'  Darn it, though, I need resolution in the books I read.  It particularly reminds me of In The House Of Gentle Men, another book that I adored until the end - at which point I felt cheated.  (Both also have major crimes occur at the last minute which the authors let the perpetrators get away with.  It bugs me.  A lot.) In a single word...irritating.

8.  Bleak House, Charles Dickens (audio - Craftlit) - I've listened to this before, and I adore it.  As the most Dickensian of Dickens novels, it is always a treat!  Heather Ordover is producing it as bonus content for subscribers, and as always I find her commentary insightful and helpful.  It's a doozy...40+ hours of audio with the commentary...so I was not able to finish it all this month.  (And indeed, Ordover hasn't finished all of the episodes yet). As with Lamott's book, it fits in with this month because this is when I read the bulk of it.

9.  Alena, Rachel Pastan - WOW!  Alena was inspired by Daphne de Maurier's Rebecca, which I really must read.  (It has shown up in Sooooo many of the book recommendation lists that I'm a bit shocked I haven't read it yet.)  Alena was recommended by NPR, and I am so very glad I read it.  The language is gorgeous, the characters are memorable, and the art....oh the art is rich and beautiful.  This is an example of a book being somewhat light on plot...but you really don't care because the characters and atmosphere are so very wonderful.  The problem with finishing it?  Now I feel a need to tour as many museums as I can possibly find asap.

10.  The Wife, the Mistress and the Maid, Ariel Lawhon (audio) - This is Lawhon's take on the infamous disappearance of Judge Joe Crater in the 1930s, as told through the perspective of three women in his life.  In this fictional version, those women know more about what happened than anyone thinks.  The audio was fun, with my only quibble being that the female reader's male voices were a bit odd.

11.  Eleanor & Park, Rainbow Rowell - This book landed on many, many 'Best of 2013' lists, and also came recommended by friends.  It's YA...and it's an example of very beautifully written YA.  Eleanor & Park is the story of a first love, and my goodness...I wasn't quite expecting to become so very emotionally invested in the book.  The book left me feeling nostalgic, and also profoundly grateful that my own memories of first love are so very sweet.

12.  The Incrementalists, Steven Brust and Skyler White - I have a particular soft spot in my heart for Steven Brust as he was my entry point into fantasy and scifi back in college.  I picked this up on a whim when I stumbled across it while browsing books online, and I really enjoyed it.  It's not quite as much fun as his other collaborative work - Freedom & Necessity, with Emma Bull - and it doesn't quite reach the heights of my personal Brust favorite, Cowboy Feng's Space Bar and Grill, but it was a rollicking good time anyway! 

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Stating My Intentions Publicly

 
I'm finally....
 
FINALLY
 
designing my own lace.
 
And if I tell you all now, I can't worm out of it later.
 
Those of you who know me and who know lace shawls will easily recognize this as being an Elizabeth Zimmerman pi shawl.  I chose it as the basic structure for my first design attempt for very simple reasons.  First, I adore knitting circles, and the mathematics of this particular shawl structure appeal strongly to me.  Second, it's a relatively easy design to plug lace patterns into - making it a nonthreatening sort of basis to build my first shawl on.
 
The yarn...now that's the truly special part....the yarn is hand spun....YUM!
 
That's all I will share for now.  Hopefully I'll have a gorgeous shawl to show off soon!
 

PS.  Clearly the Green Woman and I have made up.  She's sitting in my orange chair right now, leafing through my gazillion stitch pattern books for some inspiration.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

In Spring....We Spin

Let's play a game!
 
You pick what I spin next...leave your selection in the comments!
 
1. Some sort of blend...I lost the label
 
2. Merino/Tencel
 
3. Merino/Tencel

4. Blend with blue sparkly stuff

5. Merino/Bamboo/Nylon

6. Merino/Tencel

7. Merino/Tencel

8. Merino/Tencel

9. Merino

10. Merino/Silk

11. Shetland

12. Silk

13. Silk/Merino?
 
14. Merino/Silk

15. Silk

16. Milk Silk

17. Merino

18. Wool/Angora Bunny

19. Jacob

Project: Jumpstart

This is what the Green Woman and I did yesterday after reading my letter together and hugging it out.

I've always found that a good bout of cleaning, reorganization, and purging is good for the soul and can help get the old creative juices flowing again.  Here are my instructions to a happy office/studio/corner. 
  1. Clean out your bookshelves
    1. Be sure to get rid of any and all books (gasp!) that you don't want anymore.  Seriously.  Yes, I did say to get rid of books.  There are a few that can go out the door.  (If you have to stop and read them all.....)
    2. Purge paper patterns.  Maybe 1/3 of them are purchased patterns that you should keep.  The rest are copies of stuff you can find online.  Recycle them, baby!
    3. Pack up random office supplies and find someplace to store them.
    4. Consider the magazines....oh, the magazines....10 years of knitting mags that you NEVER go back and look through again.  Might be time to purge.  Feel free to take your time with this.  You will have to go through each. individual. magazine. 
  2. Sort and Organize the chest of drawers.  Again.
    1. You had forgotten you had so many bags, hadn't you.  Whoops.  Anything damaged or nasty needs to go.  (Yeah, that skunk bag....the smell may be gone, but you can't forget.)
    2. Cool.  The rest isn't so bad at all.
    3. Actually touch all of your yarn.  Makes a difference.  Remember the stash naps of old?  From when the stash lived under the bed?  Yeah, do as much of that as you can.
  3. Go through all handspun yarns. 
    1. Just as with the storebought, touch it! 
    2. Pull out the stupid yarn balance and figure out your yardage.  You need clothes?  You have at least two massive skeins in there that are surely big enough for SOMETHING. 
    3. Alternatively, measure one time around the skein and count the # of wraps.  Either way is annoying...but you do need to have an estimate of yardage.
  4. Stop and Watch General Hospital.  You deserve it.
  5. Dig through fiber stash
    1. OK, there is some older fleece from our sheep that could be passed along.  You have a gazillion sheep to choose from now, and you've not touched any of it since you finished the parental sweaters.
    2. While you are at it, you can photograph all of it and enter it into your Ravelry stash page. 
    3. Dratted cameras....stop and take some time to experiment with the new phone to figure out which device gives you better pictures and color. 
    4. Pick something to put on the wheel.  ANYTHING.  You really need to use this lovely stuff.
  6. Get back to those magazines.  (You didn't think I was done, did you?) 
    1. Call Mom to see if she wants any.
    2. Start a give away/recycle bag.
  7. Take those pins out of the wall.  The lovely shawl they once helped displayed has gone on to a new home (which makes you very, very happy) and until you figure out what you want to hang in that spot the pins are an eyesore.
  8. Put away the handspun.  Today is NOT about starting a new project.  Don't bury it, though. 
  9. Um...you've had that latch hook cat kit since you were about 8.  I don't think it's ever going to be finished, do you?  You can keep the basket it's in.  After all, that's from Haiti and is special.
  10. Remind yourself that you've given yourself a deadline of dinner time tonight to get this done....and get back to work!
  11. Send a PM to a friend to see if she wants a bit of your stuff.  Do a happy dance when she says yes.
  12. You need a picture of your fairy godmother on your board. 
  13. Consider the clutter on your desk
    1. Is there anything you can get rid of?
    2. Do you really need four of the exact same beanie baby dragons?  (The ONLY beanie babies you ever had, thank GOD.) 
    3. Clean out that drawer of random paperwork.  It's been in there for so long that you have no idea what it's all about.  Might be a good idea to figure that out.Once all is well, dust, vacuum and clean the glass.   
  14. Now that you are done, you can have fun!

Monday, March 10, 2014

Dear Green Woman,

My dear...we have a problem.

I'm quite annoyed with you, you know.  For a magical being who theoretically is supposed to be my muse, you are doing a pretty horrible job right now.  In fact, you've been slacking for most of the last year. Knitting has stagnated, I'm nervous about spinning, I have zilcho interest in that box of embroidery floss, ditto the tatting supplies, I'm actively avoiding writing anything, and darn it...I'm NOT HAPPY ABOUT ANY OF THIS!

WE need to fix this ASAP!!!!  Before I go even crazier than I am right now!!!!  A non-creative Kristin is most certainly NOT a good thing.  What's the point of having a resident fairy if she isn't doing anything?!?!

So what are we going to do?

I propose that we first take a serious look at the problem.  Perhaps if we figure out what's going on and why we can actually do something about it.  I shall try to be fair, taking the blame for my own role in all of this.  That's only right.

Here it is as I see it:

#1.  I've already climbed my mountain top....twice.  What's left when you've achieved your dreams?

I note that you haven't dropped any more dreams in my lap.  Isn't that your job?  What are you waiting for?

#2.  I'm more than a little bit nervous about spinning.  My nerves fall into three subcategories.
A.  My wheel has been having issues for over a year now.  I *think* they are resolved, but am afraid of working with the darn thing because it will break my heart and/or drive me absolutely insane if it's still wobbly.
B.  Let's face it....it's the wheel's fault that I developed the alpaca allergy.  I'm mad at it.
C.  I'm also afraid that I will develop more allergies.  I am perhaps irrationally convinced that spinning will push me over the edge with wool, too.  And then where would we be?

We've spoken in depth about this.  I know that you are fully sympathetic and also quite perplexed.  You may just need to give me a good shove to push me over this particular fear cliff, and/or you need to tempt me with a project or fiber so wonderful that I can't resist whatsoever.  Do something, ANYTHING.

#3.  I'm trying to be a really, really good girl and am NOT buying any more yarn until I've successfully used up what I've got.  Which means I have two drawers full of yarn that I love, am unwilling to part with, but have absolutely no flippin' clue what to do with.  Yes, you do have my thanks for helping me to cull down the stash (and it is a very, very small stash)  to its current state.  It would make me feel better, though, if we could figure out something to do with it rather than continue to let it sit around.  The guilt of having so much money tied up in something I am not using....well, it's not a good feeling.

You did point out recently that the flip side is that I've pushed myself into a corner.  I get it, I really do.  We just have to figure out how to use up a little bit more of what we have...and THEN we can consider some shopping.

#5.  Speaking of which, do you know how much it sucks to not be able to go yarn shopping in person anymore?  I have been craving a good, old-fashioned yarn shop crawl lately...and I am very sad that we can't do that.  (Stupid alpacas.)  Shouldn't you have figured out a way around this by now?

#6.  What I really need to be doing is to be making clothes for myself.  That not looking like a hobo thing isn't going so well, with this winter hitting a whole bunch of new lows.  We don't really have the time to get into my whacky body image issues, their connection with my knitting life, and whether or not I can get my act together.  It's not like we haven't discussed this before...more often than either of us would like in exhaustive detail.  Honestly, I don't know what to do about it at this point, and I'm open to suggestions.  The one thing I CAN say is that I'm actively working now to improve my lot., and I'm really, really hoping this will lead to long-term benefits for both of us.  And a new wardrobe.

#7.  It would be nice if you could help me figure out how to actually knit a sweater for myself that fits and looks good.  Just sayin'...

#8.  Nothing sounds fun.  This is all your fault.

I think that's everything.  Feel free to point out later anything I might have missed.  We can't fix what we don't acknowledge...and again, this has got to be fixed.

I'm left with no brilliant ideas this morning to help us out of this quagmire.  I'm irritated, annoyed, frustrated, saddened, lost, cranky, bored, harried, anxious, depressed, etc, etc, etc. I'm also aware that we've been through similar straits before and that sometimes a soul must be left fallow if it is to produce again.

It's time to turn it around.

Are you with me?

Sincerely,
Kristin

PS.  I really do love you...even if you're slacking.  

PPS.  It was very clever of you to swipe my earbuds out of my bag and hide them somewhere at home this morning and then break my favorite yarn mug.  Next time, though, if you want me to write can you please do something less destructive?  I loved that mug....

Sunday, March 9, 2014