Monday, August 31, 2015

Summer Reading, Part 3!

1.  Hidden Warrier and 2.  The Oracle's Queen, Lynn Flewelling - The second and third books in The Bone Doll's Twin trilogy.  I love these books, more than I can possibly say.  I read them at a very slow pace - there being no urgency to find out what happened on this reread because I already knew - and so was able to truly enjoy Flewelling's prose.  So awesome.  Truth be told, I think this series deserves a slot on the list of all-time best fantasy series. 

3.  Luck in the Shadows, Lynn Flewelling (audio) - Then I discovered that the first few books of Flewelling's Nightrunner series are now available in audio through my library, so I decided to reread them, too!  There are seven or so books in this series, so I had forgotten more of the details than I realized.  The Nightrunner books are set about 600 years after the events of the Bone Doll books, and are more lighthearted by nature, although the plots do wade into rather grim events from time to time.  (They are still long - 18 - 21 hours/book in audio)  Excellent.  Alec and Seregil are amongst some of my all-time favorite characters, and their love story is amazing. 

4.  Fool's Quest, Robin Hobb - Man.  I know this most recent trilogy of Hobb's hasn't received the best of reviews, but I'm totally loving it.  The pacing is slow, and the focus is really on the characters.  Yeah, she could probably have edited a lot of it out, but it doesn't feel like a slog when I'm reading it.  Can't wait to see how she finishes it!  As a side note....the one thing that kept cropping up in my mind as I was reading it was wow...this is a writer with multiple trilogies, all big books, all in the same world, and the way she keeps them all 

5.  Stalking Darkness, Lynn Flewelling (audio) and 6.  Traitor's Moon, Lynn Flewelling (audio) - books 2 and 3 o the Nightrunner series.  Sadly, our library only has the first three available in audio.  True, I have copies of all seven books and could finish the reread in print if I wanted...but I kind of want to listen to them this time around.  They are super fun as audio, and are an excellent companion to the projects I'm working on now.  Curiously enough, I felt more urgency to get through the Nightrunner books.  In part, I couldn't wait to rediscover what I had forgotten, but also I was just sooo anxious to get to the parts I remembered! 

6.  Glimpses, Lynn Flewelling - I looked her up in ibooks when trying to remember the order of the Nightrunner books, and found this small collection of standalone stories from the Nightrunner world which fill in a few of the gaps in the novels.  They also include a lot of super-fun fan art of her characters.  (And how cool is it that she included that!) 

7.  The Fifth Season, N.K. Jemisin - I'll be eternally grateful to my friend Lana for introducing me to Jemisin, who is one of the most innovative and literary fantasy writers that I've found in quite some time.  Her books are quite simply exquisite.  This is the first in her new series, and it was a preorder that I waited for impatiently.  As with her Killing Moon books, it took a little while to settle into the prose, but once I did I was swept away.  It's hard to find 'original' books in my beloved genre, and Jemisin does not disappoint.  Her characters are so beautifully drawn.  The only problem?  I have to wait for the what's to come....

1.  Ancillary Justice, Anne Leckie (unfinished) - I picked it up on was an award winner with lots of buzz...I LOVE what Leckie did with gender and pronouns (very, very thought provoking)..but seriously, it was a space book.  With the exception of The Martian, I generally don't do space books.  I prefer the fantasy portion of the sci fi/fantasy section.
2.  Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister, Gregory Maguire - Also on the sale table.  Don't even know why I bothered. While I appreciate what Maguire did with the  Oz story (and there are some gorgeous lines in Wicked) he's really not my cup of tea. 

Curious note:  My X-Files addiction has seen me through the second and third seasons. In season 2 there is an episode called The Calisari which deals with a child being haunted by a twin that didn't survive birth.  There are many eery connections to Flewelling's series on Tamir, and I may have to do some research to track down the folklore that no doubt influenced both books and X-Files episode. 

End Note:  Thus I officially close the door on my summer of fantasy novels.  While there are a few 'regular' books that I think I'm ready to read now, I think by and large I'll be sticking with fantasy through the fall and winter.  I still have that Kate Elliot series I want to rediscover/finish, and in digging through my boxes of books recently I rediscovered at least three other series I'm seriously contemplating rereading.  (It's been 15-20 years since I read those books!)  Oh yes...I've plenty to keep me busy for a while! 

Friday, August 28, 2015

A Glimpse Into My Workbasket

Remember when this was a knitting blog?
Thought I'd take a moment this morning to show you what I've been working on lately.
 I bought the kit for my Mesmeric cardigan in the spring, when it was first released by Knit Picks.  I did the shoulder saddles over the summer, but wasn't able to focus on the tricky short row part until the girls went back to school last week.  I really, really want to have this sweater to wear this fall and winter, so I'm devoting as much time to it right now as I possibly can.
 Meanwhile, I'm almost there on my Estonian Crop Circles Shawl.  All I have to do is to finish the second half of the edging.  It's a bit of a slog...but fortunately it's not a big enough slog to make me too crazy.  I estimate a good two days of knitting to finish it.  Then...then the dreaded sewing.  (Why did I do this the traditional way?)
 A basic sock for myself.
 Oddly enough, I have two basic socks for myself on the needles...don't know why...
The lovely Kodama shawl is on hold for now.  I most likely am going to rip it out and start over with a bigger needle.  It's very low priority. 
And, of course, I have both of the girls' scrapbook blankies.  Only five more years until the first goes to college!

Monday, August 24, 2015

How I Became A Runner

If you had told me - 5, 10. 15. 20 years ago - that I would eventually become a runner, I would have laughed in your face.
I grew up believing in the absolute truth that I was NOT an athletic child.  I was horrible at sports, was always among the last few kids picked for any team, and I dreaded P.E.  (I'm still not sure quite how I managed A's in gym in middle and high school...that might be one of the greatest mysteries of my life.)  I gritted my teeth every time I HAD to participate in any sorts of athletics, and happily walked away from it once all academic requirements were met.

The great tragedy of this was that I grew up in a small town where athletics were king.  If you didn't do were nobody.

The great irony is that I was a dancer...but this was back in the day before the skill and physicality of dance was recognized as being just as powerful as that of sport.  You could be a dancer or you could be an athlete, but never the twain shall meet.
 So yes, there was no way in the world that Kristin was ever going to become a runner.  It wasn't in her nature, and she wasn't even remotely interested in it.  Ugh.

To be sure, I did make a brief attempt to learn to like running shortly after my husband and I got married, when I discovered that my husband was a capital R runner...of the sort who basically could not function without his four post-work runs every week.  I remember being completely shocked when he would come home, change clothes, and turn right back around and walk out the door.  Seriously, the dude could barely speak to me until after his run.  Well then, I thought I would join him.  I think that lasted approximately two runs before we both realized I was always going to be TOO SLOW for the experiment to work.  If we kept trying, he would have wound up being annoyed and I would have wound up feeling hurt.  So that was that.
It wasn't until 2007 that the first glimpses of my running future materialized.  I signed up to walk a marathon through Prevention magazine, and while ultimately problems finding shoes for my crazy feet would derail my efforts to do a full marathon, I did complete a half and discovered that I truly enjoyed both working with a good training schedule and the atmosphere and excitement of an actual race.  Sad to say, though, that I didn't follow up after the race, and so what could have been a great start fizzled.
Two years later we signed up for a gym membership, and I decided to focus on rebuilding my health...which was in the toilet at that point.  (Thank you Sean's new job!)  I splurged on a 30 day makeover program in which you were able to work with a personal trainer, and was paired with Meghan, who not only was a phenomenal trainer - we worked together for a year - but who is still a good friend.  I think we'd been working together for less than a month when she sprung on me the idea of running a local 10K in September.  That's right...she wanted me to RUN a 10K with only three or so months of training.  I - being atypically game, and maybe a bit crazy - said yes.

It was amazing.

The weather was horrible - very cold and rainy.  Part of the trail was underwater.  I was used to running on a treadmill and not outdoors.  Despite Meghan running the whole thing with me (because she's awesome like that) I didn't have one tiny bit of confidence.

And I loved every minute of it.

I would complete one more 10k, but unfortunately a series of health issues - including two unexpected surgeries and all of the allergy stuff - would largely derail my efforts over the next few years.  I regret the time lost...but it is what it is, and under the circumstances I know I did my best.

Last July I was finally able to stage a comeback.  This time around, I found a running partner to help keep me accountable and we made the commitment to work with the Couch to 5K training program.  My running partner and I worked diligently all summer, moving past the 5K program when we completed it.  I was able to run the Turkey Trax Thanksgiving morning run - something I'd wanted to do for YEARS - and together we did a Jingle Bell run in December.  While no one would ever accuse me of being fast, I was very pleased with what I was able to accomplish.  After the Jingle Bell run the weather got to us, and so we wound up giving it up for winter. 

We got back to it this spring, and despite our season off we were able to start a month or so into the 5K program.  For various reasons my partner and I haven't been able to run together that much this summer, which has given me the opportunity to relearn how to run by myself while testing myself a bit. 

I've been joking that I earned my Capital R Runner status this summer because my desire and need to get out there and run has finally become stronger than my dislike of running in the rain, my preference to only workout in the morning and my need for any sort of accountability system.  It's true...I feel better when I run, and if I miss it for a couple of days I'm not happy.  Even when it's a tough run for whatever reason, I'd still rather be out there.  It's in my heart and soul now, and I'm not going to easily let go of it again.

After testing my ability to run distance a few weeks ago, I signed up to do the 10K again this fall.

It's good to be back.

Yet another piece of myself reclaimed!

My post-run red face from today.  I always look a tad like I'm dying...but in truth I felt great!

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

The Things That I Learned

On August 9th I posted the following status update on my Facebook page:

"After giving it some thought today, I've decided to take a bit of an Internet sabbatical over the next week or so. No worries, all is well! The introvert just needs some quiet space as she enters what is traditionally her most difficult season. Much love to you all. If you need me, feel free to call or text!"

Truth be told, I think such public declarations are not only a bit silly, but I also think they can be attention-seeking and/or vain.  However, I chose to put up the notice because there are a few people who would be concerned if I suddenly disappeared from FB.  I did rather roll my eyes at myself, though. 

And then, I followed through.  I deleted the Facebook app from my phone, walked away from my social media, stopped all online browsing, and stopped visiting the news and entertainment sites I frequent.  I did allow myself to check my email twice/day to clean out the junk and make sure there wasn't anything important coming through (I only answered top priority emails...which there weren't many of.)  I also did go online if I was needing specific information about an actual project I was doing, which meant that I visited ravelry a couple of times for some knitting info.  That was it.  For a week.

I had hoped to give myself a little bit of a vacation so that I could find some peace before the school year started again.  I wasn't kidding when I said that fall is my most difficult season.  It's my peak allergy season, and although most of my symptoms are under control it is a time when I do have to take care of myself rather carefully.  I could feel that my edges were starting to feel a little bit raw, and some quiet was just what the doctor ordered. 

What I hadn't intended was for the week to become a pretty incredible learning experience for me.  It's given me much to think about, and I may need to repeat the experiment periodically to make sure I retain those lessons. 

I'm still processing, but here is some of what I learned:
  1. That I have some super-bad habits when it comes to my devices.  I check them obsessively, and had started to become one of those people who was more focused on my phone than on the people right in front of my face.  I was setting a very, very poor example for my kids and was living the type of online life I despise.   
  2. Conversely, as an Introvert of the highest order, I do actually need social media. It provides a necessary barrier between me and the real world...and a more comfortable mode of communication than the phone.  Without it, I might have wound up living in a cave.
  3. I have a bigger problem with envy than I thought I had...even though I don't regret the choices that our family has made.  I would rather have time than money, and I would rather have a home that is focused on the family than on a parent's career - but that doesn't mean that it's easy to bare witness to the vacations, and new homes, and big parties, and fun get the idea. We all struggle with our decisions sometimes, even when we know they are best for our individual families.   FB can sometimes be the tool for comparison that leaves us feeling like we are coming up short.*
  4. I spent the first part of the week keeping a mental list of the things I wanted to share on FB.  I even considered writing a blog post called "The Things I Wanted To Post Last Week" or some such nonsense.  In the end, I posted one picture.  One.  An entire week, and the only thing that was truly worth sharing was One. Picture. 
  5. Which leads me to the social media clutter problem.  Truthfully, there is so much content online every day that I don't give a flying fig about, and life is truly a heck of a lot more peaceful when you don't have to wade through it.  (and yes....given #4 I recognize that I am part of the problem.)  Wading through all of the crap every day to find the it worth it?
  6. Wow.  Look at how much more reading I got much more focus I had for my work and family and much more energy I had.
  7. While it's true that FB has helped me to rebuild relationships and has given me access to some amazing people, it's also torn up some relationships.  For good or for ill, people seem to be amplified when they are online.  I rejoice in the good friends I've made or rediscovered, but I grieve for those who I've lost. 
  8. This very much confirms my long held position that the internet is NOT the place to have certain discussions and/or debates.  (and I'm not at all afraid of unfollowing people to make sure that the friendship remains intact)
  9. I didn't realize how much of my privacy I'd given away until I took it back.
Going forward, I definitely think I will be more mindful of the things that I post online.  I don't know that I regret the past...but I do know that I want to change my future a bit.

*Edited to add:  My comments on point 3 about our family choices were not in any way, shape, or form meant to be an indictment on any other family's decisions, nor were they intended to spark a debate about such choices.  Rather, I was pointing out that *I* have a specific problem which I need to address....and it's a problem I wasn't entirely aware of until last week when I had some time to sit with myself and figure some things out.  To be absolutely clear, our decisions about work and family were made from personal experience, and that is what I was referencing in those comments. 

Sunday, August 9, 2015

At A Stand Still

The's not going so well this week.
 Problem #1:
I made the decision to do an Estonian shawl following the traditional methods - which means that the edging is knit separately and then sewn onto the center.  Now, if you know me at all you know that I'm someone who ordinarily goes to great lengths to avoid seams - especially on lace.  (A valuable lesson I learned very early on from my friends in the Columbia Weavers and Spinners Guild!) 
Yeah, so now that I'm faced with the reality of that, I'm really darn tempted to forget the edging and leave it as is.  While I know full well that I'm capable of sewing that type of edging on, the idea of actually having to do it fills my knitting heart with a dread bordering on a phobia.
What to do...what to do....
Problem #2:
This one is less of a problem, but it still has tripped me up.
In short, I decided to knit my latest on a US 3 needle, and I really like the way that it looks.
The BUT, though, is that the piece is turning out to be a lot smaller than I want it to be. 
There are things I can do to make it bigger - repeating the last pattern, changing up the way it's finished off (which I'm totally planning on doing anyway) - but at the end of the day it probably should be redone on a US 4 needle.  I would like it to be bigger both so that I get a better "fit" on the finished shawl and so that I can use up more of the yarn, which is scrumptious.
No, I have no problems ripping it out and starting over.  I've done it before, and I've done it on projects that were much closer to finished than this one.  The thing that's tripping me up is that - again - I truly like how the lace is looking with the current needle.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

I Don't Know What I Think

Picking out beads can be tricky.  If you match the color too closely, they disappear into the knitted fabric.  If you go too far the other way they are all you see.
I thought I had found a perfect match - deep chocolatey brown yarn and a pale Antique pink bead.
 But after spending a day pairing them  up, I wasn't so sure.  All of the sudden it looked like I had waaaaaayyyyy too high of a contrast in colors.

Before I ripped it out, though, I decided to see what it would look like if pinned out and blocked.
Now I'm not so sure.
What do you think?
For reference, this is the pattern.  The beads in the original don't show up at all, so for better pictures of their placement, check out the gallery of finished projects.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Coming Home To Myself

Back in April I hit what I believe was my rock bottom with my allergies.  Sitting in my the exam room for my regular check in, I sobbed to my allergist that my life was just so small and so hard.  Loosing certain foods was almost too much to be born, and I just didn't know how I was to do that for the long term.
"You have to find replacements," she said.
How on earth do I do that? 
When food is so big in my our family...and in our culture?
That little bit of advice - no matter how impossible it seemed in the moment - did sink through, and a month or so ago I made the decision to go to Lowe's Home Improvement to spend some time in the greenhouse.  I'd had a rough few days, and I desperately needed something to help me cope with the stress.  Spending time in greenhouses was something I used to do a very great deal of...until we had children, and like so many things it went by the wayside as my life was turned upside down.
You see, I fell in love with houseplants back in college.  At one point, I even worked for a local florist, and part of my job was to care for the plants in the store.  All through college and for years afterwords I kept many, many gorgeous growing things in my home.  If I had to guess, I'd say that I averaged 75 houseplants at any one given time over the course of 10 or so years.  I loved them dearly, and nothing was more fun or relaxing than spending a day watering, grooming, pruning, repotting, fertilizing....whatever they needed.  Every few weeks I would drive around to all of the local greenhouses, just to see if there was anything new.  It was heaven.
But I had forgotten.
As I walked up and down the rows of plants that evening, I felt something inside of me start to wake up.  I didn't go home with anything that evening, but I went back a few days later and have since started to slowly bring a few new babies home to add to the few that I've had for years.  The crazy thing is that not only has it been very good for my heart and soul, but it's also made our house feel more like a home.
I thought I'd introduce you to all of my green lovelies.  At this point, I'm content with what I have, but who knows...I'm always open to something new.
 I actually bought the big guy from a sale table several years ago.  He's found his happy place in our bedroom, where he's trying to take over.
(and my husband fixed the mirror right after I took this picture...)
 He's been joined by a new snake plant - which I've wanted for a long while.
 Rounding out the group is an antherium I rescued from a grocery store sale bin years ago.  He had grown root bound, so I've upgraded him.
 My husband bought me this giant "space" violet for mother's day.
 My bathroom is home to my collection of orchids.  They love it there, and reward me with frequent blooms.  The one on the left came home with me recently.
 The bathroom also houses a Christmas cactus I've had for several years and two new violets. 
 My BKB and I found this lovely on the sale table at Lowe's for only $12 recently.  We bought him together, split it apart, and now each have about half.  That's right...this is HALF of a $12 plant.  I'm not sure you can really tell how big it is from this angle, but it is a monster, and I adore it.
 My old pothos didn't rebound from it's recent trim like it usually does.  So, I bought two new small ones from the sale table and added them in with the little bit that survived.
 My fiddle leaf fig - I kid you not - is about 20 years old.
 My aloe is a year old.
 Every couple of years my spider plant dies back and I have to start over with some of it's babies.  We've just gone through the dying back phase, and I'm trying to save what's left while encouraging a pot of the babies.
 Chuck and Josh
 Starts from a friend...they need a pot very soon
 Extra hen and chicks should the squirrels get mine outside again.  They come from my parents' farm.
 The best improvement lately has been in my office/studio corner.  It's amazing what some plants do!  I'm soooo much happier with a little bit of green there.
 I went with tough, low-light plants.
 They are in pots the girls decorated for me years ago.
 And, of course, a new philodendron.  I adore them, and I adore hanging plants!
 Which is why I now have two varieties of Hoyas in my kitchen!  I'm really good with them, and can usually get them to bloom.  I've really missed having them in my home.
 I'm also more than a little partial to ivy.  This is the biggest of the new purchases.
 I decided to start small with other ivy varieties.  I'm kind of partial to variegated leaves, and I'm happy to say that I've found the perfect spot for them in this house.
Unusual leaf shapes are a plus.
The tricolors have always been a favorite.
Of the three wee ivies, this is the one that's not new.  It was a gift from church at the start of Lent. 
Violets are cheap, so I always have a lot of them around.

 I try to keep a variety of colors.
 The more the merrier!
 Seriously...I used to keep 30 at a time, and I had grow lights. Promise I won't go that far again!
I love strawberry begonias. I found this one on the sale table, and it needs a bit of tlc.
So that's everyone...for now!

Saturday, August 1, 2015

My TV Confession

It started innocently enough. 

I signed up for a free trial of Amazon Prime so that I could get the 2-day shipping on a few items I needed sooner rather than later...and then I forgot to cancel Prime before they charged me for a year of the service.


About a month after this happened I decided that I might as well go ahead and take advantage of all that Prime had to offer...which, of course, includes their streaming video services.  I'm not actually much of a tv or movie person at all, but hey - I'd already paid for it!  So I spent an evening browsing through their catalog, becoming more and more excited as I discovered plenty of old and new movies and tv shows that I might want to watch. 

And I decided to start with....

The X-Files!

Back in the day, I absolutely loved the X-Files.  It was one of the only shows that I watched religiously, and I kept the faith even when the last two or three seasons turned out to be so very bad.  I was super disappointed when the shows were released on DVD because they were priced way too high for me to justif, and as the show has largely not been in rotation on cable I've been X-Filesless for years. 

What could be better than watching all nine seasons straight through?  (I'm kind of nuts that way....)  Especially when we are getting ready for the brand new X-Files they are filming right now??! I started at the beginning, and blasted through the entire first season in less than a week with a childlike glee that my husband found hilarious. 

Some comments:
  1. David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson look like they are having a blast - and like they are having trouble taking their job seriously - in the first few episodes.  They can barely keep a straight face!
  2. Seth Greene!  How did I not remember him in this show?!
  3. In episode 9, Mulder and Scully find a man down on the floor, and he yells, "Get a doctor!"  I find this hilarious...
  4. Especially because in the next episode she's a good enough practicing doctor to be commandeered by a local ER to assist. 
  5. She's not a good enough doctor to understand a lot of the medical science that they discuss on the show.  I know, I know....they have to explain it for the audience...but it occasionally makes her look stupid. 
  6. Tooms!
  7. What the heck was up with the wardrobe department?  Gillian Anderson started the series in gorgeous, tailored suits...and finished in the most awful, baggy suits and trenchcoats.  I know it was partly what was fashionable at the time, but the poor woman looks super-frumpy in the last few episodes.  We won't even talk about her hair, which undergoes a similar transition.  I love that she's not hyper-sexualized, and I love that it's her intellect and personality that is showcased.  But still...she doesn't have to look like she's wearing a potato sack!
  8. For supposedly being such a smart guy, Mulder does some really dumb stuff.
  9. Is it just me, or do they act like they are doing a whole lot more cases together than just what we see in the show?
  10. I love that the actors in this show all look like real people. 
  11. True story:  We named our oldest 'Gillian' in part because I really admired Gillian Anderson.  Her middle name was the source of great debate, and we only settled on giving her my middle name, Leigh, after my husband decided to break our 'no naming the kid after anyone' arbitrary rule because he wanted her to share something with her mother.  I looked Gillian Anderson up online after watching a few episodes because I was trying to remember when in the series she'd been pregnant...and I discovered that her middle name is also Leigh.  Blew.  My.  Mind.
  12. I'd heard about an X-Files podcast run by an actor who's going to be in the new series, and decided to check it out.  Now, I have no plans to listen to every show (they do rather run on and on and on), but I did get a few gems from the first episode. 
    1. They pointed out that Mulder and Scully like and trust each other from the very beginning, despite the fact that they are set up to be at odds.  That's pretty rare.
    2. They have obvious chemistry, but the show stays away from the sexual tension that's pretty much expected these days....which led to them being the first ever 'shipped' couple.
    3. The technology in the show is pretty hilarious...but if you think about it, it was done just before the internet became a thing, and that really helped.  The show wouldn't have been near so awesome if they could just google everything. 
And with that, I'll thank you for indulging me.  I won't do this for every season, promise! But I did start watching season two tonight....

*The mystery of the potato sack clothing has possibly been explained.  Gillian Anderson married and became pregnant early on during the run of the show. I knew this, but had thought it came a little bit later on. Her maternity leave was aided through a storyline abduction that began in episode six of the second season.  (She returned two episodes later.)  It's entirely possible that she was starting to show already towards the end of the first season, and they were playing hide the bump with the wardrobe.