Wednesday, April 30, 2014

The (I Really Wish I Could Come Up With A Clever Title) April Reading Report

1.  Americanah, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie - If I'm honest, I can't remember where, exactly, I first heard of this book.  There's a reason for that - it made many, many best of lists last year, and garnered a lot of publicity.  I do know that I set my mind to reading it when I heard Adichie in an interview on NPR's Fresh Air.  I then stumbled across her TED talk during a TED binge...and wow.  I'm trying to be a  good girl, though, and am trying to up my library usage even more...so I waited, and waited, and waited.  Now I must buy my own copy.  It's so beautiful.  For me, it was also a rare example of a book that needed to be read a bit slower...savored, enjoyed in it's fullest.  I did get worried towards the end when there was, I felt, rather a lot of things that needed to be wrapped up...and not nearly enough pages to do so.  Rest easy, there is a definite end...and this time it was such a surprise, such a delight and such a joy that it made me cry!

2.  What Makes This Book Great, Jo Walton - I fell in love with this book precisely five minutes after I checked it out of the library as I sat waiting for my daughter to finish her dance lessons.  Walton, the author of the phenomenal book Among Others,  has been writing a blog for TOR books for a long while, and this book is a collection of many of her blog posts.  The cool thing is that she was asked to only blog about books that she reread...which means that many of these are older books, and most certainly they are beloved by her.  These are not reviews, but are instead reflections and commentary.  I chose not to read it in order, but to skip around as fancy took me...which was a lot of fun.  Actually, I originally checked it out from the library, but realized I had to have my own copy so that I could really take my time with it...and return to the posts as needed.  The only problem?  Damn it...it made my wish list grow exponentially.

3.  Book of Ages, Jill Lepore - I thought this would be a fun book, but darn it, I HATE Lepore's writing style.  She's unnecessarily repetitive, overly dramatic and heavy-handed at times, and I honestly wonder about some of the conclusions she draws.  I would have preferred a more  straightforward analysis.  I'm afraid I gave up on the story of Ben Franklin's sister about half way through the book.  Part of the problem is that Lepore assumes the reader doesn't know much about the plight of women in that time period, so a lot of time was focused on general info that I already knew.

4.  House Girl, Tara Conklin - I find I have mixed feelings about this book.  It was a Books On The Nightstand recommendation, and I'm rather glad I checked it out through the library's digital services because I would be annoyed with myself had I paid for it.  It's not a bad book at all.  In fact, the characters are pretty darn awesome, I like the two separate time periods and the way they interacted, and the plot was interesting.  Having said that, I was very bothered by the fact that the two stories intersected way too neatly (and way too improbably).  I also found myself annoyed with the inclusion of a love story for the modern character, which was completely unnecessary. 

5.  Shards of Time, Lynn Flewelling.  Sigh...the last of her Nightrunner books.  Yes, as with all series these books floundered at times, but they were still better than most of the dreck out there.  They are also readable, and are not the 800+ page tomes that litter the fantasy aisle.  (OK, I loved 800+ page tomes...before I had kids.)  I must admit, I had trouble getting started - largely because I didn't want to have to say good-bye to Alec and Seregil at the end!  What's a girl to do but reread?

6.  The Mystery of Grace, Charles DeLint (audio)  My heart told me I needed to reread this book.  I tried ignoring the call..time has been short this month..but I couldn't get it out of my mind.  When our library introduced it's new Hoopla service, I was delighted to find that the audio was available.  Listening to it was rather like church, and in this 20th anniversary month of my Grandfather's passing it was just exactly what I needed.

7.  Seven Wild Sisters, Charles DeLint, art by Charles Vess - I'd been saving it for a rainy day.  The rainy day came, and it was perfect.  There is more than a little bit of magic in the collaboration between these two artists, and that magic whisked me completely away for a time.  I can't wait to read this one with Tanith!  I really rather think I'm a Sarah Jane sort of girl, and honestly I think I would be quite happy moving to a quite farm up in the hills near the forest....

8.  Jack In The Green, Charles DeLint, art by Charles Vess - A new DeLint is ALWAYS a treat!  .  (At this point I feel I should point out I didn't PLAN on making this month all about my favorite writer...it just kind of happened.  Also, I now feel a need to reread several other of his works.  And I really should write him that thank you letter.....)  I'm super-glad I found out about the signed copies available through Subterranean Press before they sold out! 

9.  Moonheart, Charles DeLint - The audio was also available through Hoopla, and so of course, I HAD to listen to this too.  It's been a long while since I read Moonheart, so listening was really a rediscovery for me.  I was struck all over again by just how well DeLint writes female characters, and I could hear the music in the background that I so often hear when reading his books. Magic!

10.  Redefining Realness, Janet Mock -  I honestly can't remember where I first heard about Mock's memoir.  I put it on my library hold list..and then waited for months.  I finally got ahold of it a few days ago, and within a few pages Mock became my new hero.  She's an amazing writer, and her story carries a powerful message.  Read the book, and check out her website.  You won't be sorry. 

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

When It's Good

 
my fingers fly
 
the pattern sings
 
the yarn delights
 
the needles are me
 
time loses meaning
 
the world goes away
 
my heart knows joy

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

In Case You Were Wondering...


I decided to finish it.
 
The Green Woman was right.  Despite my cavalier attitude towards frogging projects that just don't work, this is the one time that I'd really be annoyed with myself if I gave up.

This morning I started the edging.

It's going to be good.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Fields of Green

 Stanley's Shamrocks
Trifolium Design by Marianne Kinzel
in the Second Book of Modern Lace Knitting
Hedgehog Fibers Silk Lace (Etsy store)
US 2 1/2 (3.0 mm) needles
March 18 - April 8, 2014
Alterations:  Shortened the mesh section between shamrocks and edging.
Only did two rounds of flowers at edging.
 
My only complaint - and, sadly, I kind of expected this with a yarn from an independant dyer - is that the yarn bled color like crazy when I washed this piece so that I could block it.  Honestly, I lost track of how many times I had to rinse it...and the water still wasn't clear when I called it and decided to stop.  The finished piece is still gorgeous, but the color is nowhere near as rich as it was when I purchased the yarn.  Bummer.
 
The good news, it whispered to me this morning where it wants to live....





Monday, April 14, 2014

Stop or Go?

This is my Mandala Shawl. 
 
It has some issues. 

Let's take a look:
  1. This is my third attempt at this pattern.  Versions one and two failed because there was too much variegation in the yarn I selected and it muddied the pattern. 
  2. One of those early version was done with Malabrigo laceweight, which was a pain in the tush. 
  3. It took another three years to come back to that pattern...
  4. I picked it up again as a way to ease myself into designing, given the choose your own adventure style of the pattern.  What ended up happening instead was a lot of dithering and looking at what OTHER people have done.
  5. Seriously....I stressed about my selection way more than I should have.  It wasn't fun.
  6. It's been sitting for months.  I started it last July, and probably haven't touched it since August.  This is a huge red flag with my knitting. 
  7. The yarn is Zephyr.  It's a fantastic working yarn..but if I'm honest, it's not my favorite. 
  8. I have two other large Zephyr shawls that I don't use, which doesn't bode will for this one.
  9. I spilled coffee on it.
  10. This morning I worked on the foundation row of the pattern for the outermost section which has well over 1,000 stitches.  Dude.  I have two extra stitches....or am 5 short.  That sucks.
  11. Am I using a return to this shawl to avoid working on my own shawl pattern?  Good question.
  12. It's going to take forever to finish.  There are lots and lots of stitches to go with the last section and the lace edging.  I'm quite frankly not sure I care enough to continue. 
So.
 
Do I stop or do I go?
 
Whichever I chose, I need a definitive plan of action.  I'm getting tired of it just sitting around!
 
What do you think?

Friday, April 11, 2014

Shamrocks for Stanley

Grief is a strange beast.

You can spend years and years and years being ok...only to completely fall apart when you least expect it.

Which is exactly what happened to me on St. Patrick's Day, when an old, old grief came roaring back to life.

You see, St. Pat's was my beloved grandfather's favorite day.  He was a man who loved his Irish heritage, and every year he and my mom would go a little crazy with their celebrations.    For the most part, the rest of us would just look on...shaking our heads and enjoying the little extra bits they would throw our way....considering ourselves lucky that we were allowed to eat their corned beef!  It was almost as if they had their own little club and no one else quite made the cut.

I wanted in.

I wanted in BADLY.

Fortunately, that was a wish that came true.

By the time I was a teenager Mom and Grampa had finally decided that I was one of them, and so once a year I would ignore my mostly German background to celebrate that small part of me that was Irish through and through.  I loved every minute...and I loved that extra bond with my Grampa, who loved me more than anyone else ever has.

I was a very lucky girl.

This month marks the 20th anniversary of his passing.

I long ago worked through the worst of the pain.  Grampa's death was sudden and traumatic, and I was lucky enough to have been seeing a counselor when it happened and smart enough to take full advantage of that and of a grief counseling group that my university offered.  I was also truly blessed with the friends who surrounded me and in the opportunities I had that year.  I was very well cared for, and now when I think back to that time what really comes to mind first and foremost is how loved I was.

So it was a bit of a surprise when grief hit me anew last week...as if the death was days old instead of decades.

There was a trigger.

For years and years the only green I have worn on St. Pats is the two tiny stained glass shamrock pins my grandfather made.  When I went to put them on this year I could only find one, despite the fact that they've lived together in the same drawer forever.  I spent an hour searching the house, convinced that I had done something stupid last year, and finally had to leave with only one shamrock pinned to my sweater.

The good news is that I did find it later.  It had fallen out of the drawer of my jewelry box and was underneath it - completely safe and unharmed.  The bad news is that I was rattled and as soon as that second pin was in place the tears began.

And I cried.

and cried

and cried.

I texted my  brother...who told me I was not, in fact, being ridiculous.  (Thank you Erin)

I called my Gram so that we could mourn together for a moment.  (Sorry Gram)

Then I did something about it - because wallowing never helped anyone, and because grief - as much as it hurts - actually is a gift.

I say that because it's one of the first great truths I learned in life.  When you grieve, it's a sign that you were blessed with love in your life.  Yes, it totally sucks...there's no getting around to that...but if you put in the work, allow yourself to truly feel what you feel, and focus on all of those good memories you can come through it with a profound gift.

So I took that gift - and decided to turn  something beautiful - to take the reminder of the love that I had been so generously blessed with through my very Irish grandfather and manifest it in real life...a symbol that I could hold on to.

You know where this is going, right?

There just so happened to be a skein of Irish green silk laceweight yarn in my stash - something I bought once upon a time and have been saving for a special occasion

There also just so happens to be a gorgeous lace shamrock pattern in one of my vintage lace books.  I've loved that pattern for a very long time, but for some reason I'd never worked it up.

Before the sun set on St. Patrick's Day I had worked the center portion of the piece.  I spent all of my spare time with it over the next three weeks, finishing it just yesterday.  I'm not entirely sure what I will do with the finished piece.  It could be used as a scarf...but it could also dress my Grampa's roll-top desk.  I'm sure it will tell me what it wants to do when it is time.

For now, I run my hands across the shamrocks and smile.

Beauty from Heartache.

Love made Real.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

My youngest daughter had a really rough day. 

She left her school folder at home, and so didn't get to turn in the homework that she'd worked so hard to finish.  I took pity and delivered it to school, but for some reason the folder didn't make it back to her classroom.  She has a long term sub, so the classroom routine has been upturned. Ants invaded the lunch box bucket, rendering her lunch inedible.  For some odd reason the other kids blamed her for the ants and teased her for the rest of the day.  As she didn't eat anything at lunch time, by the time she got home she was exhausted and emotional. 

We snuggled for a long while, and then came the question that I had been expecting.

"Mom, can we go to Starbucks for a treat?"

She asked again as I was getting ready to go pick her sister up from an after school activity. I smiled at her and said, "Honey, I am not going to give you food that's going to make you feel not so good when you're already having a hard day."

She tried again when I got home.

"Mom, can we bake something?  That would make me feel better."

This time, I simply said, "No."

No we can't, sweetheart.

The fact is, it's my natural inclination to go running for food for even the slightest of excuses.  I WANT to give my girls food to make them feel better.  I want to 'treat' them.  It's how I was raised.   It's what I do.  Rough day at school or work?  Go out to dinner.  Not feeling so good?  Junk food of just about any sort helps that.  Saturday? Bake.  Bored?  Broken-hearted?  Tired?  Sad?  Happy?  Excited?  Celebratory?  Food...food...food...you get the idea.

But no more.  It is time to change this family's story because I don't want my sweet girls to rely on food as an emotional crutch.  I want them to grow up with healthy bodies and healthy attitudes.  I want them to have it better than I did. 

And so...it's time I learned how to say...No. 

No, sweetheart, because I love you.

Thoughts On A Monday...Er, Tuesday....Er, Wednesday...Aw Heck.

Opal the Great
You've no idea how glad I am that she lets me take her picture now!
 
Let's see if I remember how to do this....
  • As you might have noticed, I had intended to write this post on Monday. 
  • Then on Tuesday
  • Then yesterday
  • Life happens.
  • C'est la vie.  
  • I wish I had come out of all of those French classes with better French....
  • Once upon a time I had a French penpal.  Translating her letters was a lesson in humility for this straight A student!
  • I would kind of like to have another pen pal.....
  • Have you missed my digressions?
  • Part of the trouble this week has been that spring allergies have whacked me upside of the head for the first time since I became a patient at Fowler Allergy.
  • This is no one's fault.  The long and short of it is that we had to redo my allergy drops because of what's available to put in them, and so I've been doing a build up on a new combo for the last six weeks....and am thus not fully protected as I normally am. 
  • Man, oh man.  Am I ever glad that I am back on track as of today!  Here's hoping I get to feeling better SOON! 
  • And on that note...how on earth did I live like this for so very many years? 
  • Speaking of allergies, I had a most excellent appointment with my allergist last week.  Yep, I have a lot of room for improvement - especially when it comes to my diet - but things are looking up!
  • The big take-home lesson?  I've only been on this allergy journey for 3.5 years, and I'm trying to heal a lifetime of damage.  It's just going to take time, and I need to be patient. 
  • The good news is that I'm better at patient than I used to be. 
  • A little bit, anyway.
  • A friend of mine briefly mistook a beautiful poem I posted on my Facebook wall for my own writing.  That made me really happy. 
  • I'm writing a lot more these days.  That's a good thing. 
  • I've switched to using an electronic journal, using my ipad and external keyboard.  I'm kind of surprised that I like it so much...but then again, this combo includes the best of both computer and book. 
  • Anything to facilitate more journaling is a great thing.
  • I've not spent any time with baby lambs this spring. 
  • This is bad.
  • And I don't know when I'm going to be able to fix it. 
  • At any rate....
  • I do have several longer posts coming up on various subjects, and I am serious about giving Chez Green Woman a makeover this spring.  So keep an eye out for new things to come!
And that's really all I have for today...mostly because I want to go finish something because I want to blog about it tomorrow!

Sunday, April 6, 2014

The Butterfly Gets Her Due

 I ran into some friends at the Farmers' Market yesterday. Both are accomplished spinners.  He loaned me his lendrum wheel when I was thinking about getting  a new one...with the result that my family now has 4 identical wheels.  She taught me how to finally use my gorgeous Golding Spindles.  I love, respect and admire both of them.
 

 She brought up the Columbia Weaving and Spinning Guild's spinning group, which is now meeting at our public library.  We discussed the fact that even with an easily portable wheel spinning is just not a craft that travels well.  Who wants to lug all of that stuff around?!

At which point he reminded me that a little bit of fiber and a drop spindle fit into a small bag and can go anywhere.
 
He is right.
 
As soon as I came home, I pulled out my Golding butterfly and this oh-so-wonderful wool/silk blend and got to work. I've known for some time that they wanted to play together, and I'm looking forward to spending time with them this summer!
 
Love You,  Jenny and Pfeff!

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Unfinished

 There is a sort-of-sad bag in my finish work basket.
 Inside is an absolutely wonderful baby sweater, which needs to have the ends woven in and the bands at all of the edges sewn down.
 Of course, there are also buttons to add.
 It's a beautiful stranded piece from one of my all-time favorite baby books, and I loved every single moment of knitting this project.  Plus, steeks are just fun!
 The poor thing has been sitting, though, since November.
 
You see..it was intended as a gift, but as I knit it I realized it was perhaps too much of a gift for this particular situation.  (I have a tendancy to want to go big...)  At the end of the day I just couldn't send it.  I've tried to match it up with other babies, but it never quite fit with any of them.
 
I always listen to what my knitting wants.

A few days ago, the baby sweater finally told me what it wanted...
 
...and what it wanted was to be carefully packed away for the just in case of a someday grandchild.  Given how young my girls are, that might seem a bit silly...but then life is little bit silly, and often unpredictable.
 
One of these days, when I'm in the mood, I'll do all of the finish work.
 
Until then...this is a piece that will sleep and dream.
 
Sirdal
Soft Treasures for Little Ones by Dale of Norway
US 0 (2.0mm) and 1.5 (2.5mm) needles
Knit Picks Palette - 3 skeins bark, 3.4 skein of tan, 1/5 skein of cyan
(All yarn purchased from a friend some time ago for $1/ball)
Sept. 23, 2013 - Nov. 11, 2013

Friday, April 4, 2014

The One I Forgot To Show You

For all that they are one of my favorite pair now, I totally forgot to record them for posterity.
 
Whoops!


Opal Sock Yarn
Which, sadly, I did not save the ball band from...
...but I do remember that the color was inspired by Van Gogh
Knit Picks Harmony DPN's - 2.0mm
My usual sizing, which I'm too lazy to look up right now.
January 18-23, 2014
I'm super-fast!