Friday, June 02, 2023

It's Friday -- Right?!

Has anyone else been really confused all week about what day it is? Having Monday off really threw me for a loop, as much as I enjoyed it. We even forgot to put out the trash -- a combination of uncertainty about what day it was and the fact that trash collection was pushed back a day because of the holiday -- so if you were in my neighborhood yesterday morning, you might have seen me running after the garbage truck with my trash can in my pajamas!

The start of meteorological summer has brought with it decidedly summer-like temperatures. We're supposed to hit 90 today, which is making me really happy that we recently replaced our AC units. We haven't had rain in quite a while, either, which means Mo and I have been doing a lot of watering in the afternoons to make sure our newly planted stuff doesn't die.

I've been fairly monogamous of late with my knitting and have been working diligently on my Shoulder Season. As a result, I'm a little more than halfway through the body.

I have now pretty much memorized the six-round pattern repeat and can tell where I am by looking, which has made things a lot faster. I did have a slight hiccup yesterday when, while investigating why my stitches were getting caught up when I was trying to move them along the needle, I discovered this:

Please excuse my messy cuticles!

I've had some less-expensive needles fail on me before, but never before have I had an Addi do this! Fortunately these needles come with a lifetime guarantee, and though the usual procedure is to return a pair of defective needles to the point of purchase, in my case that store is no longer in business, so I'll be sending this pair back to Skacel. (Here's information on their warranty, if it's helpful to you.)

This morning I'm headed back for another mammogram. I have to take back pretty much everything I said about going in on a Saturday, as it seems the speed of the appointment is the only good thing about it. I should have guessed I'd have to come back when the woman doing my scans was complaining that my ribs were getting in the way. The results were basically inconclusive (which I can only suppose means they just weren't good enough to read), so I have a do-over appointment today. The radiologist will actually read the scans while I wait this morning, and if I need additional images to be taken, they'll do them right away. That means I might end up waiting longer, but at least I'll have my results right away. And I'll take a book so I can at least get some reading done while I wait. [Edit: All was fine! Seems the issue that caused them to call me back was from folds of healthy tissue.]

The hot weather is sticking around this weekend, which should make for a warm day at PNC Park on Sunday, when we're going to a Pirates game as part of a fundraiser for Mo's school. I think it's been at least a decade since I've been to one, so while I imagine we'll be sweaty and stinky when we leave, it should be fun!

I hope you have a fun (and not too hot) weekend ahead!

Wednesday, May 31, 2023

Unraveled, Week 22/2023

What, a third blog post from me in as many days?! Well, you know I wouldn't miss an Unraveled Wednesday with Kat and the Unravelers, but you will get a break from me tomorrow!

I don't have much of a crafting update since Monday because I spent a fair amount of time yesterday undoing a little bit of a mess I made with my Shoulder Season on Monday evening. It was entirely user error to blame; I misread some directions and did the wrong thing on the wrong round of the pattern repeat. I tried to undo and correct a stretch of stitches without tinking back entirely, but that just made stuff worse. But now I'm back on track. I also made myself a cheat sheet for the six-round repeat that's a bit easier for me to follow than the very specific instructions in the pattern to help me keep my place better.

I did find some time yesterday to skein and wash my latest handspun as well. This is skein number 12 of Southern Cross Fibre club shipments for the year!

This is Peaceful Shores on Bond wool from that dramatic month of March 2020. I spun this as a two-ply fractal, as I did for the last skein, but this one ended up a bit thicker because I spun the second bobbin of singles in a bit of a hurry and apparently was not as consistent. It's in the sport/DK range but closer to DK at 284 yards. No matter -- I'm happy to have it done. And I am officially upping my target "to spin this year" number to 24. I figure if I could make it through a dozen shipments in five months, that's a very reasonable total. I have 19 bags of SCF fiber in my possession at the moment (four of which were prizes), and I am really liking the thicker yarns that are faster to spin. So we shall see how much of my stash I am left with at the end of the year.

While the past week has been a bit busier at work and did not allow for that much reading time, I managed to finish two more since this time last week.

Barbara Kingsolver's debut novel, The Bean Trees, is the next one we're discussing in our study of her books. I thought for sure I had read this one, but I didn't remember any of it, so it's possible I only meant to. Our main character, Taylor Greer, is feisty and independent (and she rather reminded me of Demon). On her long drive west to escape the inevitable of Kentucky, she's given a Native American toddler and told that her parents are gone and the best thing for her would be to leave the reservation. Taylor makes herself a new home in Arizona and has to negotiate becoming a mother to a child about whose past she knows nothing, though what she suspects is not good. Even though this book was written in 1988, so many of the issues that are raised feel extremely relevant today. I gave it 4 stars, and I'm looking forward to rereading the sequel (I know for sure I read it because I remember doing a project on it in eighth grade!).

I finished my penultimate book in the Women's Prize shortlist on Monday afternoon. Black Butterflies is set in 1992 and deals with the siege of Sarajevo, something I lived through but really didn't know all that much about. This book also feels very relevant; even though the events of the book are in the past, the unrest among the various ethnic and religious groups have caused conflict for a long time, and recent violence has been in the news in just the last few days. Drawing on the stories of her relatives who lived through it, Priscilla Morris shows just how harrowing it can be to live through a war. Though we hear plenty about casualties on the battlefield, it is rare that we get such an honest, unvarnished portrait of the struggle of the civilians who are caught in the middle. This is a sad read, but I think it's worth it if only as a reminder of our common humanity. I gave it 4 stars.

I'm currently reading the last title I have left on the shortlist, Pod, which is really unlike anything I've read before. I also finally started Doctor Zhivago, which I am reading along with Katie as part of our yearlong buddy read of Big Russian Books, and I'll be picking a new audiobook to start today on my run.

What are you making and reading this week?

Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Embrace in 2023: May

More than any other month so far this year, this one has seemed to have sped by, so I'm glad the Monday holiday has given us an extra day to come up with our monthly One Little Word check-in posts. Many thanks to Carolyn for hosting us every month and for giving us extra things to think about with respect to our words!

My former boss was fond of saying that the only thing that was constant in life was change, and I think he was really right. In thinking about how my word has made itself known this month, I realized that a lot of my day-to-day has been about adjusting to change. First, my newest nephew arrived earlier than expected. Then there were some pretty big changes at work: knowing that one of my coworkers was going to be leaving at the end of the month, the arrival of our new "big boss," and then the surprise announcement just about a week ago that the head of my unit is leaving. All of these work changes may have big implications for me; certainly in the near term, the loss of a member of my group likely means more work for me. And there are a lot of unknowns about how things will change within the small group and the larger office.

Embracing such changes is a challenge. By nature, I am not someone who likes surprises or unpredictability. I like to be in control of my life as much as possible, and I like to know what to expect so I can mentally and emotionally prepare for things, especially those that are challenging. But these last few years have been one giant experience in having to get through life while being totally out of control of the circumstances, and I think the result is that I've become much more flexible when it comes to changes. I don't always have to like it, and I can certainly complain about it to anyone who asks, but I have accepted it as a fact of life.

Oh, and as to my nephew arriving early? That's been something I can truly embrace -- quite literally!

Monday, May 29, 2023

A Monday Pause

I always enjoy having a Monday off. It was a real treat to be able to sleep in this morning (though it's the time of year when the bedroom is so bright that it's hard to sleep too late). Though we didn't have much planned for the weekend, it ended up being busy with errands, chores, and the usual stuff that gets put off during the week, so I'm looking forward to having nothing to do today.

I have sadly done very little knitting this weekend, but I did manage to get my Shoulder Season joined up under the arms and am now working in the round on the body. I still have to pay attention because the patterning changes every round, but at least now there is no more flipping back and forth. I plan to weave in the remaining ends before I plow ahead, just so there's less to do at the end.

Also on tap for today is plying some handspun. I finished up the first bobbin of singles on Friday and spun all of the second last night:

Before any of that, though, I have a run on tap this morning, and I might actually have to do a little work (we've got a really tight deadline and I don't want to be totally stressed out tomorrow, so if I can get some done today when there are no distractions of meetings and emails, it will do a lot for my sanity). We had our families over for a cookout yesterday, and we have tons of food leftover, so I don't have to worry about cooking tonight.

If you're off today as well, I hope it's a relaxing day for you. I will be back tomorrow with my One Little Word reflection for May -- a month that has truly gotten away from me!

Friday, May 26, 2023

An FO and a New Start

After another long week, I was delighted to wake up this morning and realize that it was finally Friday. Mo had her final exams the last two days, which meant a disruption to the usual routine because she was done with school at 11 a.m. both days, but today it's back to the normal schedule -- though it's all fun for her at school today. They're going to see The Little Mermaid and then having a pizza party for lunch, followed by a performance of the lower school's musical. Youth is truly wasted on the young, am I right? Fortunately I also get to have a nice start to the holiday weekend because my office is closing at 2 p.m. Our new "big boss" only just started last week, but it seems she's already aware of the office tradition of closing early on the Friday before a holiday weekend.

As promised, I have an FO to share -- one you didn't even see as a WIP because it came together so fast!

Pattern: Rain on Notre Dame (Ravelry link) by Sarah Schira, neckwarmer size
Yarn: my handspun, approximately 127 yards
Needles: US 4 (3.5 mm)
Started/Completed: May 21/May 23

This was another project knit primarily for the SSK knitalong, but I've been wanting to knit this pattern for a while. There are two lengths given in the pattern, the closer-fitting size that I did and a longer version that can be looped around the neck several times. It's also designed for worsted weight yarn, but my yarn was more in the fingering to sport neighborhood, so I adjusted my needle size accordingly. Fresh off the needles, it was fairly close fitting, but I blocked it by placing a rolled-up towel inside to both stretch it out and prevent it from having fold lines while drying. Now it has some lovely drape.

True to my prediction, I have started another two-ply fractal spin. I found what is now the oldest Southern Cross fiber in my stash -- Peaceful Shores on Bond from March 2020:

and I split it up:

I was intending to split the one half into four strips like the last spin, but the fiber naturally divided itself into thirds, so I went with it. I have started spinning the singles but haven't gotten very far, so I'll wait to share an in-progress photo until there's something to actually show.

Really what I've been focused on the past couple of days is my Shoulder Season, which is finally looking like a sweater!

Yesterday I finished the two front panels on either side of the neck opening and just joined them, so now I have about 36 rows to knit on the front before I join the front and back and start working in the round on the body.

We have a fairly quiet holiday long weekend ahead. We are having our families over for dinner on Sunday but otherwise have no plans. I'm hoping to spend some extra time outside, weather permitting, and fit in some more reading time. I hope your weekend includes some relaxation time!

Wednesday, May 24, 2023

Unraveled, Week 21/2023

Did anyone else wake up this morning and think, "Is it really only Wednesday?" It feels like it's been a very long week already, probably in part due to the four-hour Zoom workshop I attended to for work yesterday. It wasn't too bad because I could knit my way through it, but it did mean a lot of sitting around and it messed up my usual schedule (I usually go for my walk or run in the morning and couldn't go until after lunch yesterday). Anyway, it is Wednesday, which means it's time to check in with Kat and the Unravelers!

I'll start off by sharing my latest skein of handspun, which I actually got done over the weekend but decided to save for today because of all the other stuff on Monday. I'm absolutely delighted with this one!

This was the oldest Southern Cross Fibre club shipment in my stash -- One Fish, Two Fish on South African Superfine from January 2019. I spun it as a two-ply fractal, meaning I split the top in half lengthwise and then split one half into four narrow strips, then spun all the pieces in the same order. That means the colors repeat in the same way in both plies but at different rates. This really allows for great barber poling:

After washing, it's approximately 305 yards of sport weight. I had so much fun with this that I might repeat it with my next skein. I'll also note that this is the 11th skein of SCF fiber I've spun this year, so I am on track to achieve my original goal of 12 before we're even halfway through 2023. Seems like I need to double down on this goal!

I snuck in a quick handspun project over the last few days, but it requires a good blocking before I share it, so you'll have to wait until Friday to see that. But having finished up that and the baby sweater (which I mailed on Monday and which was already delivered yesterday!), I've pulled out my Shoulder Season again.

I still have quite a bit of garter stitch to do on the back before I move on to the next step, so that's at least some easy knitting to do while in meetings or watching TV or reading.

Reading has been pretty steady and enjoyable this past week!

Margaret Renkl's newest collection of essays, The Comfort of Crows, took me back to the early days of the pandemic, when amid all the uncertainty of life I found comfort in nature and in its ability to continue to grow and change even as the world seemed to be falling apart. In reflecting on the plants and animals in her backyard over the course of a year and the change of the seasons, Renkl reminds us that while it's hard to stop nature, our impacts are changing it and that we have a responsibility to do right by our fellow creatures. Her writing is calming and comforting, even as it raises the alarm of climate change. Highly recommend!

I received an advanced reader's copy of this book from Spiegel & Grau and NetGalley in return for an honest review. I gave it 4 stars.

I also listened to another title from Ann Patchett's backlist, The Magician's Assistant. This is a quiet book in the sense that it's very much focused on people and relationships rather than on things that happen. Sabine, the widow of the magician for whom she served as assistant for 20 years, suddenly finds that there is a lot about her late husband that she never knew. As she journeys to Nebraska to find out more about the person she thought she knew better than anyone, she learns more about herself, about families, and about secrets. It's a very well-written character study, and I really enjoyed it. I gave it 4 stars as well.


I'm currently reading The Bean Trees (I have about 20 pages left to read) and an ARC from NetGalley, The Centre.

What are you making and reading this week?

Monday, May 22, 2023

Half and Half

This weekend was a mixed bag. I told Mo that it was a good thing we had a fiber festival to go to on Saturday because the weather was just miserable -- it poured for most of the day. That made for pretty awful driving, but I had company, so it wasn't so bad. And the festival, though small, was really nice. We both came home with some nice stuff:

Let me preface this by saying that I did not have plans to buy anything, but I also was not forbidding myself from making any purchases. Mo wanted to buy some soap for a teacher who is leaving her school at the end of the year and also had her eye on some sock yarn. We both came home with a bit more than that. My purchases are on the left. I could not resist the set of four skeins of Fibernymph Dye Works fingering in the bag -- they are Lisa's Ridgetop base, a custom-milled blend, that's now discontinued. I've knit two sweaters from it and really like it, so I figured these would not go to waste. I'm thinking a striped sweater. Mo picked out two colorways from Lisa's new Signature Series: Brights on Bedazzled (her sparkly base) and Neutrals on Mountain Tweed BFL. She wants to learn to knit socks this summer, so these are good motivation! We planned to buy soap from Rebecca at Dusty Tree and picked out a bar for Mo's teacher plus three others to come home with us. She also had some special mystery bags in her booth, each containing a skein of yarn, a soap sliver, a sticker, and a stitch marker for $15, so we picked out two. I ended up with the peachy skein to the left, and Mo opened the dusty pink/gray on the left of her four skeins. At Ex Libris Fibers, Mo selected another dusty pink with gray speckles (yes, that's totally her color of the moment), and we each picked out a sticker. Mine is the one that looks like a tombstone and says "Bury me in yarn and books"; Mo's says "Overwoolmed." Finally, she found an adorable project bag from June Pryce Fiber Arts. There's a large reversible bag with a square base plus a smaller zippered bag. I think we did pretty well for being there for maybe an hour!

I did not get a ton of knitting done over the weekend, but I did finish up the Newborn Vertebrae sweater and blocked it on Friday, and today it's all packaged up and ready to go in the mail.

I didn't purposefully try to match the sleeves, but it somehow worked out that they looked more or less the same, and that kind of serendipity always makes me happy.

Most of my crafting time over the weekend was spent plying my latest handspun. I still have to measure it to get final yardage and photograph the finished skein, but I'm so happy with how it turned out. Here's a preview of it on the wheel just after I finished:

Yesterday's big activity was planting more of the garden. I picked up our plants in the morning and Mo and I put them in after lunch. None of the flowers had actual blooms on them, so it doesn't look too exciting at the moment. I'm hoping we don't have to wait too long for some color!

This is the smaller and shadier side of the yard. I put the hostas in last weekend, and we added the flowers (they're dahlias, supposedly -- hard to tell without any flowers!).

On the more exciting side of the yard, we have more dahlias in the line next to the grass. There's a small patch of coleus in front of the Japanese maple, and in front of the hydrangeas, there's a bunch of salvia. If you look closely (and click on the photo to embiggen), you'll see my new planter with my tomatoes. There will be more vegetables going in soon; I've got radish, beet, bell pepper, zucchini, cantaloupe, and butternut squash seedlings in the house (though not all have sprouted).

Today I'm hoping for a quiet day at work, especially because I have a four-hour Zoom workshop for tomorrow (thank goodness I can knit my way through it!). Here's hoping you have a calm start to your week as well!