Thursday, February 25, 2021

Signs of Spring

As someone who runs cold and has a tendency toward seasonal affective disorder, it's fair to say that winter is not my favorite season. I also live in a place where winter can stay past its ending date; we've been known to get snow into the early days of April. But around this time of year, when we're not far from the start of meteorological spring, we start getting some hints that winter is slowly giving up its grip. Yesterday we certainly got a big tease of things to come -- we hit a high temperature north of 60 degrees! It made me think of other ways nature reminds us that winter can't last forever, and because it's Thursday and Carole is hosting us for our weekly link-up, here are three that I've been noticing lately.

1. A change in the light
Have you noticed lately that the days are not only getting longer but the light is better? That's because during the winter, the sun's highest position in the sky is actually lower than it is during the summer. So not only is there less total sunlight during the winter, but the intensity of it is actually reduced. As we get closer to the spring equinox, I am noticing both that I am turning on lights later in the day and that I need them less often during even cloudy days. This does a lot for me, because it's the darkness that I find most depressing during the winter.

2. Morning birdsong
Bonny mentioned earlier this week that she viewed sightings of robins as a harbinger of spring. I haven't stopped seeing robins around me, but I have noticed a definite uptick in the noise from birds in the mornings. Winter days are usually quiet in this respect, aside from the occasional squawk of a Bluejay or Grackle, but in the past week or so, I've been treated to a small chorus of birds greeting the rising sun.

3. Spring flowers are on their way
Yesterday's mini heat wave served to melt a lot of snow and ice, uncovering much of the ground that had been covered for several weeks. While I was out on my daily walk, I was treated to this very welcome sight:

Nature is pretty amazing, isn't it? Despite months of cold and snow and ice, life still finds a way.

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Unraveled, Week 8/2021

Last week, when I had a "short" work week because I took Monday off, felt really long. This week, I'm surprised that it's already Wednesday. Time is such a fickle thing, isn't it?

But it is Wednesday, when I link up with Kat and the Unravelers to talk knitting and books, so let's get to it.

My primary WIP has been Rainbow's Little Boxy, which suddenly seems to be growing! As of last night, I've knit 11 inches of the body; I need to get to 14.75 inches before I divide the front and back. Although it's somewhat slow going because there are so many stitches on the needles, it's mindless knitting that's easy to do while watching TV, listening to something, or sitting through a work meeting.

Yes, that is sunlight illuminating the photo!

I am eager to finish this up not just so that Rainbow can wear it but also because I made a discovery this morning in the stash room. After weeks of looking, I finally found that bag of handspun I'd mentally designated for my Ramona Cardigan (Ravelry link)! Didn't I say it would just show up when I'd stopped looking for it? It was all in one bag that had fallen behind another one, so it was just out of my line of sight.

I've finished one book in the past week, but it was a good one.

I am working my way through that stack of three print books I blogged about last week, and the first one I read was Natasha Trethewey's memoir, Memorial Drive. What a gut punch this book was! In terms of total pages, it's not very long, only a bit more than 200 pages. But this is not a book you can rush through; every single word carries so much weight. Trethewey's memoir covers what it was like to grow up as a biracial child in the South whose parents divorced when she was young and then who had to deal with a new reality when her mother remarried a man who would end up killing her. She reflects as an adult what it was like to lose her mother to an act of violence, a trauma she has lived with for decades. You can tell that she is a poet by how beautifully she puts together words that so painfully convey her heartache. I rated this 4 stars on Goodreads, but it's probably closer to 4.5 stars. Highly recommend.

I am now reading two books. The first is an audiobook from the library, Barack Obama's A Promised Land. A number of you urged me to read this with my ears rather than my eyes, and you were so right. I'm sure I would be enjoying it in any format, but it's been an absolute delight to listen to him read it. I have been listening on my walks and a bit at other times, and even though I've put in extra time since I started it on Sunday and am listening at 1.25 speed, I'm still not quite a quarter of the way through with it! I usually like to get my library books back before they're due, but this is one I might need the full three weeks to finish.

My other current read is the second in the stack of print books, A Thousand Ships. I am getting through this one a bit faster, and I'm enjoying it immensely. Reading this account of the Trojan War from the point of view of the women on all sides of it is taking me back to my college days (did I ever mention that I minored in classics in college?). Aside from the fact that my hands are not used to holding a book open, I am not missing being able to do something else while I read with this one.

One other reading-adjacent rabbit hole I've gone down this week is listening to author interviews. Someone in my Sunday Zoom group shared an interview with Barbara Kingsolver, and then Mary gave us links to two sessions with Colum McCann about the book Apeirogon in preparation for a discussion we're planning to have this coming weekend. One of those was from the Edinburgh International Book Festival, and as I was watching and listening to that one, I saw a suggested video off to the side with an interview from the same event with Maggie O'Farrell on Hamnet. It's about an hour long but well worth your time if you loved the book as much as I did.

I hope your reading and crafting has giving you as much joy this week as mine has!

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Not *Quite* Spring

I just checked the calendar and it's still February, so still winter. And yet there are signs that spring is coming. Yesterday we had a bit of snow early in the morning that turned into rain. This morning it was already above the freezing mark when we woke up and I heard birds singing while I was eating breakfast. Tomorrow, we might even hit 50F! I'm sure winter isn't ready to release its grip on us just yet, but it's clear that we're headed out of it.

So, naturally, I knit myself a new hat over the weekend, because of course I did.

I've kept my giant bag of sock yarn scraps next to my work chair, which means that I am constantly looking all it and getting inspired by all the color. I've been trying to remain diligent about working on WIPs (specifically Rainbow's Little Boxy), but last Friday I had another four-hour Zoom workshop for work and needed something with a bit more instant gratification to keep my hands busy. Another one of my scrappy marled hats was just the ticket.

I followed my usual recipe for this one (though I went down to 100 stitches rather than 104 for a slightly snugger fit) and used some leftover Knit Picks Hawthorne in a deep purple for the color that was consistent throughout (it was nearly a full skein) and scraps of a Gale's Art sock blank as well as some Fibernymph Dye Works Bounce in a self-striping for the other colors. I used up nearly all of the latter, which was leftover from a 2016 project. In all, there's about 280 yards of yarn used in this simple hat -- though the bag of scraps doesn't look any emptier, I'm afraid. I guess I will need to keep knitting scrappy hats for a while yet!

Monday, February 22, 2021

Balance in 2021: February

Your eyes do not deceive you -- this is a rare Monday post from me. It's the last Monday of the month (yes, really!), and today Carolyn is hosting us for our monthly One Little Word link-up. So today is my day to reflect on Balance and the role it's been playing in my life this past month.

Lately I've been thinking a lot about Balance as it applies to my reading life and how I can be more focused and intentional in what I read. I've been inspired by Mary and her effort to "read better" this year. For so much of my life, the reading I do for pleasure has been almost exclusively focused on just that, pleasure, and my choice of what to read next has largely been dictated by what's caught my eye. But in the more recent past, and this year especially, I am trying to be more discerning in what I choose to read, with the hope that I can strike a balance between reading that is strictly for pleasure and reading that helps me grow in some way. This means reading nonfiction as well as fiction and reading voices that are typically less amplified in our society.

Here is a snapshot of my 2021 reading shelf thus far:

It's obviously hard to get a good handle on how well I'm doing only two months into the year, but if this is representative of the trends of the year to come, I think I'm doing pretty well: Six of these titles are by authors of color. Eight are nonfiction. Ten are by female authors. One is a work in translation.

Looking ahead to the rest of the year, I hope to continue to diversify the books on my Read shelf. Specifically, I want to read more books by authors of color, more nonfiction that helps me to educate myself about racism and anti-racism, and more books that challenge my perspectives and that are outside my sphere of experience.

Reading is part of my 21 in 2021 list as well, and I've been able to cross a few items off that list this month. To date, I've completed six items on my list thus far:
- Bake challah
- Sew a project bag
- Knit or crochet a toy
- Read a biography/autobiography
- Spin the oldest fiber in my stash
- Knit five items for charity

I've got plans to cross off a few more in the next month or so, too, and I like how this list is helping me to balance (see what I did there?) how I choose to spend my leisure time.

I look forward to hearing about how your One Little Word has been making itself known in your life this past month, and I'll see you back here tomorrow for a regular post.

Sunday, February 21, 2021

An Equinox in Wool

Yesterday afternoon I met up with Eileen, Kat, and Jane online to chat about spinning. This is the second time we've done this, and I think we'll continue to do it for the foreseeable future. While we were chatting, I managed to chain-ply an entire skein of handspun! This is the Loop Bullseye Bump that I've been spinning for the past week or so. The colorway is Vernal Equinox, and it's a mix of pretty pastel colors interspersed with black. Here it is fresh off the wheel last night, right before I put it in to soak:

I know the lighting is terrible, but I think you can get the picture -- it was a little limp and scraggly, clearly in need a good long spa treatment. This morning, it looked much better:

The yarn was fingering-ish weight fresh off the wheel, but it plumped up nicely to more of a sport/DK after washing and drying. There's also the tiniest bit of sparkle in it, just enough to catch the light every now and then.

This isn't very consistent yarn, which I expected. I typically spin from combed top, in which all the fibers are nicely aligned and lend themselves to a smooth yarn. This fiber, however, comes in roving form, so even though I used my typical short forward draw to spin it, the prep makes for a slightly more textured yarn. I'm not really bothered by the inconsistencies, and I think it actually works with the fact that the yarn is mostly merino -- it's got a soft fuzziness to it.

Speaking of merino, I have already pulled out the next bit of fiber to spin. I am tackling that big backlog of Southern Cross Fibre club shipments, starting with the oldest one, which happens to be organic merino.

I spent some time contemplating how to spin this. First, there was the number of plies to consider. I was tempted to do another end-to-end chain-ply, but it's been a while since I did something a bit more fun, so I've come up with a different plan. I pulled the fiber apart so the green/blue areas are mostly separated from the brownish gray areas and weighed what I had to more or less divide it into thirds:

I'm going to spin a traditional three-ply, and I'm hoping that if I've thought this out correctly, I'll end up with something like the Spincycle yarns. I've had to borrow a bit of the blue/green fiber to add the the brown/gray in order to have the bundles weigh closer to the same amount, but I think if I distribute them evenly, it won't be too obvious. I'm really excited to see if it works out as I'm hoping -- it's a good thing I got an audiobook from the library that should keep me entertained for a while!

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Three on Thursday: From the TBR Pile

While I have certainly increased the number of books I've read over the past few years, the vast majority of them have been digital books. Why? Because they enabling multitasking -- I can read while I knit or spin, and thus I feel like I'm getting more done in my limited downtime. Because of this notable shift in my reading habits, my physical To Be Read pile (the one that sits on the shelf of my nightstand for easy access when I get into bed) has gotten a bit unwieldy of late, and I'm determined to tackle it. So for Three on Thursday, which Carole is so nice to host each week, I've picked out three physical books I would like to read in the near future.

1. A Thousand Ships by Natalie Haynes
This was recommended to me by Margene, and like her, I ordered my copy from Blackwell's so that I had it before it was actually published in the U.S. It's a take on the Trojan War from the point of view of the women, and it was short-listed for the Women's Prize for Fiction. I'm very much looking forward to reading it.

2. Memorial Drive by Natasha Trethewey
Natasha Trethewey is a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet and former U.S. poet laureate. This memoir tells the story of her mother's murder at the hands of her stepfather. My friend Louisa (a member of the Sunday morning Zoom crew) passed along her copy to me. Tracking the package was an exercise in frustration, so I was delighted when it finally got to me.

3. Sister Bernadette's Barking Dog by Kitty Burns Florey
NERD ALERT! This is a book about diagramming sentences. Yes, you read that correctly. I'm probably one of few people in the entire world who actually enjoyed diagramming sentences (and I'm pretty sure no one even teaches it anymore), and I've wanted to read this book for years. I even remember where I first found out about it: Back when podcasts were a relatively new thing, I discovered one put out by NPR about books, and I jotted down the name of this one when I heard about it (it was published back in 2006, so that gives you a time frame). A couple of years ago, I finally bought a copy. Now I just need to get around to reading it!

Now that I've posted that I want to read these, please hold me to it, friends! I'd also love to hear what books are on your TBR pile that you're determined to read.

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Unraveled, Week 7/2021

A frosty good morning to you! I am posting a little later than usual today because I lucked into a last-minute dentist appointment first thing this morning. The last time I had a cleaning was sometime in fall 2019 (I was due for my next one just when things shut down last March), and the soonest I was able to schedule was May, but they told me they'd call if they had an earlier cancellation and it worked out perfectly! Everything looked good and it was easy to get in and out, but it also meant I was a bit rushed this morning (how easily I have settled into the more relaxed routine of working from home!).

It's Wednesday, so it's time to check in with Kat and the Unravelers on my knitting and reading.

Now that the crochet blanket is done, I've turned to my next WIP, and that happens to be Rainbow's Little Boxy (Ravelry link) sweater. Because I've been focusing on it, I now have about 7.5 inches of body done, and I think I need to get to 13 inches before I separate for the front and back.

The yarn I'm using for this is hand dyed (it's from Ex Libris Fibers) and I think you can tell that one of the two skeins I'm using right now is lighter than the other, so naturally I am alternating skein. There's a third skein in my project bag, and I'll work in all three at some point so that the colors are evenly distributed.

Reading the past week has been mostly good. I finished three books.

While I was between library holds, I decided to read something that was already in my Kindle account. Opium and Absinthe was an Amazon First Reads freebie from sometime last year, and it sounded like it would be right up my alley -- historical fiction with a female main character trying to solve a mystery. Unfortunately, it was a major disappointment. The author spent too much time describing the setting in an effort to make it convincing but didn't take the same care with her characters; they sounded like they were from the 21st century and doing an Gilded Age cosplay. I gave the book 2 stars, but really only because the author managed to do a decent job of keeping the ending a surprise.

If you've been a parent or caretaker to a small child at some point in your life, then you'll likely easily recognize the title of this biography, In the Great Green Room, as the opening lines of its subject's most favorite work. I knew nothing about the life of Margaret Wise Brown, but it turns out that she had a truly fascinating life! She was born in 1910 and died tragically early in 1952, but in her short life she was amazingly prolific as a writer and editor of children's literature -- and her personal life was as colorful as her professional life. My appreciation for her work has grown now that I know more about her (for instance, that Goodnight, Moon was heavily influenced by the style of Gertrude Stein!). I got this as an audiobook from the library, and it kept me company on my walks for several days. I gave it 4 stars.

Speaking of stars, my most recent finish, just yesterday afternoon, is Emma Donoghue's The Pull of the Stars. This book is set in Ireland during the 1918 flu pandemic, but the pandemic itself is almost secondary here. The book is set over a few days and follows nurse Julia Power as she cares for a small group of patients in the hospital who are in the Maternity/Fever ward (that is, they are maternity patients also suffering from the potentially deadly flu). The virus has left the hospital so short-staffed that Julia is left to care for her patients virtually single-handedly, and these few days are filled with life and death and everything in between. I truly loved this book. It's a fairly quick read (less than 300 pages and very fast moving), but it's beautifully written and so moving. 5 stars for this one!

I've got about three weeks until my next library hold comes up (maybe less), so today I get to look at what books I already have and decide what to read next. I hope you're keeping warm and that your knitting and reading are keeping you good company!