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Friday, May 24, 2024

And We're Off

Just a quick post from me today -- we're leaving this morning for the airport for our quick weekend trip! I've taken the day off from work, Mo is done with her finals, and we're looking forward to celebrating with family this weekend. I don't anticipate a lot of knitting time this weekend, so I'm just taking my current pair of socks in progress. But I did cast on a my Rift tee on Wednesday evening and got some of the ribbing done:

I'm playing it a bit fast and loose with this cast-on; I didn't really get gauge, but the fabric was so loose and flexible and this tee is so forgiving that I'm plowing on ahead with the suggested needles. I will check the fit as I go, and if the worst thing that happens is that I have to rip and start over, I'll manage. It's been a long time since I last knit with needles this big -- US 8/5 mm! -- that I can't imagine it will take me too much time to make a signifiant amount of progress, at least once I get past the twisted ribbing.

This afternoon we have tickets to the Art Institute of Chicago, and I can just imagine us reenacting the scene there from Ferris Bueller's Day Off. (If you don't know what I'm talking about, see this clip.) If you follow me on Instagram, you may get to see some shenanigans.

Have a wonderful long weekend if you're in the States, and have a great weekend if you're not!

Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Unraveled, Week 21/2024

Greetings from a warm Southwestern Pennsylvania, where we are having a brief taste of summer! I believe it hit (or got darn close to) 90ºF here yesterday, and if you ask me, it's much too early for that here. It's Wednesday, which means it's time to join up with Kat and the Unravelers again.

I am happy to share that my colorwork cowl, while not yet blocked, has officially been finished, with ends woven in and openings grafted.

The only reason it has not yet been blocked is because my blocking racks are currently full with another load of sweaters, but they should be dry by today and I can get this in to soak. As you may be able to tell from the photo, there's a twist in the cowl so that it sits nicely around the neck. I like the effect, but I'm also pondering how best to block this thing, and I have a feeling some towels as props might be involved.

Because that's now off the needles, I've started swatching for a new bigger project: a Rift tee.

I am using yarn that I won from the Unraveling podcast sometime last year. It's called Uru Yarn Asher (it was an exclusive yarn for Knitcrate, which was since folded), and it's a sport weight with a chainette construction. It's a really interesting fiber blend: 34% cotton, 35% linen, 19% Lyocell, and 11% nylon. The color in the photo is not quite accurate; it's more of a pale yellow-y green called Cucumber. As you can see from the swatch, it's got a bit of crunchiness to it, so it's not going to be the smoothest fabric, but I think it'll be really comfy for summer and will probably soften up with wear. Assuming I can get gauge, I'm going to be knitting the smallest size in the pattern, which is a 40" bust. The pattern calls for 6-12" of positive ease, but the 5" I would get from this size should be plenty for me and my little chest.

It's been another excellent week of reading with two finishes -- both yesterday, in fact!

The Reading List came out nearly three years ago but didn't get onto my radar until recently, and it was a lovely audiobook listen over a few days. There is a nice story, but I think the bigger message of it is about the power of books (and libraries) to bring people together, to help people understand others, and to improve themselves. It's quite clear that books and libraries are important to the author, and I consider her one of My People! I quite enjoyed the narration as well. There is a list of books that's central to the story, and I believe I've read all but three of them. In fact, this book and the list are the impetus for several of us who are tackling the biggest book on the list this summer! There are sad moments in the book, but overall I found it to be a joy. I gave it 4 stars.

My other finish is a book that's really amazing but also amazingly hard to describe. Same Bed Different Dreams was a finalist for this year's Pulitzer Prize for fiction, an honor well deserved if only for the craft. There are so many pieces to this novel that weaves together strands as disparate as the history of Korea, a technology giant that seems to own and control almost every facet of life, the assassination of President McKinley, film criticism, cultural identity, adoption, science fiction writing, religious cults, and many other random stories and factoids that somehow all come together. I spent much of the book thoroughly confused but also fascinated, and even though I felt very satisfied at the end, I also felt like I should start the book over because I was certain I missed so many things! This isn't an easy read and definitely won't be for everyone, but I thought it was brilliant. 5 stars!

Now I am trying to finish up Kairos before we leave on our trip because I don't really want to take a hardback book with me, and I've got quite a lot on my Kindle shelf to choose from for my next book.

What are you making and reading this week?

Monday, May 20, 2024

That Was Unexpected

Ah, Monday again -- how soon you always arrive! The weekend went by quickly, as it always does, though it was a surprisingly beautiful one! We'd originally thought Saturday was going to be a rainy day, but it ended up being clear and sunny. And that wasn't the only surprise. Late Friday afternoon, a quick but powerful storm moved through the area. In our neighborhood, we just had some heavy rain, but not that far away were four confirmed tornadoes! The closest was less than five miles from our house, not far from the Pittburgh Zoo. Fortunately, it seems like no one was hurt and the damage left behind wasn't too bad, but it was still pretty scary. For context, the last time a tornado touched down anywhere close was 25 years ago, and I remember that storm clearly because it was quite violent and scary.

We wound up having dinner with my side of the family on Friday (where my brother spent a good portion of the evening trying to keep my nephew from wiping his lasagne-covered hands through his hair) and then with the Mister's side of the family on Saturday, so we had a lot of family time. I also took Mo to get a haircut on Saturday afternoon, had a couple of good walks, and spent some time in the garden, filling up the new planter with soil and spreading more of it around the flower beds. Thanks to all that enjoyable time doing other stuff, there wasn't a ton of crafting time over the weekend, but I am just about done with  my cowl thanks to a few episodes of Downtown Abbey (we're into season 4 now) and my Sunday Zoom session:

The last step in the finishing is grafting the two ends together, something that I don't mind doing (yes, I'm one of those weirdos who loves to graft) but that will take a bit of time. And then of course I have to write up the pattern, though I don't expect that to take very long because once you cast on, it's just a matter of knitting around and around in the colorwork pattern until it's long enough.

I also pulled out the Felici socks I've got on the needles when we were at dinner on Saturday and managed to knit and turn the heel, and then I got through the gusset decreases and into the foot yesterday afternoon while keeping Mo company while she was studying:

Mo has her finals in math and French this week, on Wednesday and Thursday. Friday is a make-up day, so as long as nothing prevents her from taking her tests on the scheduled days, she'll be off from school -- which is perfect, because we're going to Chicago for the weekend for my cousin's daughter's bat mitzvah. We're flying in midday on Friday and will be coming home Sunday so that we still get a day off. Next week, she has several days of fun mini courses, and then she graduates from middle school that Friday afternoon. And then she'll be home with me for the summer! She doesn't have any camps or anything this year, but I've told her that I expect her to wake up at a reasonable hour and get some useful things done every day, like helping out with chores around the house and getting some exercise. We're going to do some more cooking together for sure, and she said she'd help me with one of my summer projects: reorganizing my bookshelves. I also hope she'll take advantage of the time off to do a lot of reading for pleasure.

Okay, friends, time to get my day going so I can get in my run before it gets too hot. Have a good start to your week, and think of me tomorrow morning when I am (sob!) back in the office!

Friday, May 17, 2024

Almost Time for Weekending

It's been one of Those Weeks here, so I am very happy to see Friday come. I have been into the office twice this week for meetings, and starting next week, I'll have to go in Tuesday and Thursday mornings. I'm not very happy about it, but perhaps someone will realize before too long that I don't get anything done in the office that I can't get done at home and I can go back to full-time remote (I certainly plan to bring it up at my annual review, that's for sure). The Mister's also been away on a work trip for a couple of days, which on the one hand means I've been sleeping better but on the other means I'm doing two school runs a day. Needless to say, I plan on getting in some extra relaxation time this weekend!

Although I've been kept busy during the day, Mo and I have continued our Downton Abbey watching in the evening (we just finished season 4 last night!), and I've been working on my colorwork cowl. I'm getting closer and closer to the end -- I'm on the fifth repeat, and I'm hoping that when I finish it, I'll be happy with the length and can close it up.

Although I didn't plan it this way, the yarn I'm using for the colorwork pattern is just a tad thicker than the background color, and I love how it looks a little three-dimensional here. I expect things will even out with blocking, but it's fun for now.

On a totally different subject, I know at least a couple of you have tried the Tin Can Knits app and, like me, were a little annoyed that it didn't keep your place in a pattern. Well, yesterday I got an email from the TCK folks in which they specifically asked for app feedback, so I sent off a message expressing my frustration with this one thing. Within just a few hours, I got a reply back from Emily that the app does in fact keep your place! Perhaps this has changed since I last used it or I was doing something wrong, but either way I'm happy to see it working as I always thought it should.

Here's a screenshot from my iPhone (it may look different on a tablet or an Android device). When I opened up the pattern, I kept hitting that yellow/orange down arrow button to move on to the next step. I verified that when you quit the app, reopen it, and pull up your pattern again, it does indeed go back to where you were. This make me very happy because the TCK Simple Collection is such a great one for baby knits, and it's always nice not to have to find a paper pattern that I printed out and then misplaced.

We've got close to nothing on the calendar this weekend -- just a haircut appointment for Mo. It's supposed to be rainy again, at least on Saturday. I'm hoping to get some soil to fill in the second planter for the front yard and put the last of my Mother's day plants in. And we might have to do a little shopping ahead of a trip out of town next weekend for my cousin's daughter's bat mitzvah. Whatever's on the schedule for you, enjoy it!

Wednesday, May 15, 2024

Unraveled, Week 20/2024

Happy Wednesday, friends! Well, I'm not quite sure how happy it will be, as I have to go into work for a staff meeting (boo), but at least it's some time away from a computer screen. On the plus side, it is time to link up with Kat and the Unravelers for our weekly check-in. And I have an FO to share!

I've been working on these socks on and off for about a month, and it was starting to annoy me that they were still on the needles, so I was really focused on finishing them this past weekend and Monday. I used the skein of yarn that was in my goodie bag at SSK last summer, a 90% superwash Targhee/10% nylon fingering from String Theory Colorworks in the colorway Convergent Evolution. Because of the long color repeat and the varying width of the stripes, I didn't bother to try to get my socks to match but instead tried to get the stripes to align on the two socks, and I think I managed that pretty well. I used my typical 68-stitch vanilla recipe with two main changes: I used forethought afterthought heels (meaning I put waste yarn in for the heels rather than just snipping a stitch and unraveling) and I slipped every other stitch for a round when the color changed. They haven't yet been washed or worn, which is why the toes and heels look a little pointy; I expect they will relax a bit once they're worn.

After finishing up my bobbin of Björn singles on Friday, I got out the next blue (Agnetha) and started my second bobbin yesterday:

The blue is looking just a tad brighter in the photo than it is in real life, but I'd call it a sapphire blue. And of course it's delightful to spin.

It has been an excellent week of reading for me, with three more finishes!

I knew that the sequel to The Guncle was coming out soon because it kept getting advertised to me, so on a whim, I decided to see if it was on NetGalley -- and it was, and amazingly I got approved for it almost right away! The first book was one of my favorite books of 2021, one that I recommended to many people and even gave as a gift. When I heard there was a sequel, I was a bit wary -- how could it possibly measure up to the delight and the warmth of the original?

While I'll concede that The Guncle Abroad doesn't quite have the magic of the first book (because, really, nothing can match the experience of reading a beloved book for the first time), it has the same overwhelming sense of delight. The problems facing Maisie and Grant in this installment are less dire; five years have passed since the original, and while they are still grieving the loss of their mother, the pain is not as acute. Now their father is getting remarried, and they're not so sure about their future step-mother. Enter GUP (Gay Uncle Patrick), whose mission is to teach them the many forms of love through a trip across Europe, even as he is facing a recent breakup and anxiety about gettin older. It all culminates in a wedding celebration at luxury hotel on Lake Como in Italy with emotions running high. I didn't cry as much in this installment, but I still laughed out loud frequently, and I loved spending more time with these characters I have come to love. I gave it 5 stars.

Thank you to Penguin Group/Putnam and NetGalley for providing me with an ARC of this book in return for an honest review. This book will be published May 21, 2024.

While I'm not trying to read all of the Women's Prize nominees this year, or even the entire short list, I have already read two of the titles and have a third on hold, and when Mary let me know that Restless Dolly Maunder was available on Hoopla and was relatively short, I figured why not? This novel is a fictionalized account of the life of the author's grandmother, though I did not realize that until the very end. Really, although that fact is interesting, in the end it doesn't really matter because the story of Dolly -- who was born at the end of the 19th century and lived well into the 20th -- is one that is ubiquitous: that of a woman who has ambition and dreams but whose life is circumscribed by the decisions of men. I found her to be feisty and determined but also a bit of a tragic figure; I wonder what she might have been able to accomplish if she'd be able to go to school past the age of 14, marry who she wanted, choose whether or not to have children, and pursue work that fulfilled her. I also quite enjoyed the narration of the book. I gave it 4 stars.

I actually started Good Night, Irene before either of these other books, but I didn't finish it until Monday evening. I picked this one up in my quest to read WWII fiction that tells lesser-known stories, and this is another one based on real people. The author's mother served as a "Donut Dolly" for the American Red Cross, one of the women sent out in mobile kitchens to serve donuts and coffee to the troops and to keep their spirits up. It seemed like an adventure and a more direct way for these women to do their bit, but in reality, they were headed to war and very dangerous situations. And there are some particularly harrowing reminders of just how awful war can be and how awful WWII in particular was. (I'll add a note of caution to sensitive readers here: There is a storyline in which the main characters are sent to Buchenwald just after it's been liberated, and it's just as horrifying as you might imagine.) Ultimately, it's a beautiful story of friendship between two women and a lovely tribute to the women who served in a way that is largely lost to history. I gave it 4 stars.

I'm still reading Kairos -- in all honesty, I haven't picked it up in a while, but I will get back to it eventually -- and just started Same Bed Different Dreams. I'm not sure what I think about that one yet, but I'm not very far into it.

Please keep your fingers crossed for good weather today. After the staff meeting is the annual faculty and staff picnic, and it's outdoors, rain or shine. I don't want to get soaked!

Monday, May 13, 2024

Mother's Day Weekending

Well, it's Monday again, which always seems to happen so quickly. But at least I can say I had a pretty relaxing weekend, and that's just what I want for Mother's Day. Aside from not having a lot of plans, it was also a pretty crummy weekend weather-wise. It rained most of the day on Saturday, and though Sunday was dry, it was pretty chilly. The house was cool enough that we turned the heat back on -- even the Mister was wearing a sweatshirt inside!

I did manage to get a walk in Saturday morning, while the sun was briefly out, and then went to get my first haircut in about a year(!). I now have at least three inches less length and all the dry, unhealthy bits at the end are gone. In the afternoon, when there was a brief break in the rain, the Mister and I went to Home Depot to pick up my Mother's Day gift: plants. We do not have a great nursery nearby like some of you do, so Home Depot is the best we could do, especially because our synagogue's preschool seems to have stopped doing their annual plant sale. We didn't buy a ton, but we got some impatiens and polka dot plants for the front borders along the grass, some more hostas and pachysandra for the back bed (which is very shady and thus not great for the garden I originally wanted there), some sedum and bugleweed to fill in some of the empty areas in the back, and a few vegetable plants for the front planter -- tomato, pepper, eggplant. I have another planter coming for the other side of the yard because we had our landscapers come and remove a tree that was growing at that corner of the house and that prevented most of the stuff I'd planted on that side from growing in years past. There's not much to see just yet, but here's how everything is looking at the moment:

This is the left (and bigger, because of the porch) side as you're looking at the front of the house; if you click to make the photo larger, you might see the impatiens and polka dot plants in the dirt just behind the grass. In front of the porch are hydrageas, and to the right of them are a boxwood that we transplanted several years back, lavender, our Japanese maple, and two arbor vitae shrubs. The smaller green things in front of the downspout are salvia from last year that happily came back.

Here is the other side of the front yard. Right by the downspout on this side (and in front of the view of our neighbors' car) is where the tree used to be. Here you can see the new plants a little better. The other greens are two more arbor vitae shrubs and hostas that I planted last year.

Finally, this is the bed in the backyard where nothing would ever grow well because it's so shady. I planted three hostas and a bunch of pachysandra here in the hopes that it will spread and fill in over time. I also split up the sedum paver with the same idea. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that in a few years, all this dirt will have much more green and we'll have a little oasis in the back.

Yesterday we had brunch at my brother- and sister-in-law's house (this is my SIL who is the fabulous baker, and she's been hosting Mother's Day brunch for many years). Sadly my other sister-in-law couldn't join us, as she's been under the weather the past few days with suspected strep throat (she's going to the doctor today). But my brother and nephew were there and gave me a card that I had to open right away:

That's right -- after three nephews, I'm finally getting a niece! She's due to arrive around Thanksgiving, so you can expect to see lots of girly knits in the coming months!

Friday, May 10, 2024

TGIF

It is a rainy, gloomy Friday here in Pittsburgh, but I finally got a decent night's sleep last night and am feeling much better this morning than I have all week. Of course, the fact that the weekend is only hours away might have something to do with it!

Last night was Mo's final performing arts concert of middle school. She has signed up for the glee club in high school, but that's an elective; in middle school, all students are required to do one performing arts course -- choir, band, strings, or dance -- and thus we sat through performances from all grade levels, some certainly better than others. Obviously I paid complete attention when she was on stage, but for the other performances, it was the perfect opportunity to pull out a vanilla sock:

This is the sock I started when Mo and I went to see Company last month, and I hadn't touched it since that day. I'm planning for these to be for my sister-in-law for her birthday (which is in September, so I've got plenty of time). Last night's knitting got me to the end of the leg, so I am ready to start the heel flap the next time I pick these up.

Today, though, I am hoping that I will see the end of my Björn singles -- this is all the fiber that's left!

I have an excellent book to finish reading while I spin, so it's just a matter of whether or not work cooperates.

The weekend ahead is looking fairly calm and, unfortunately, not great in terms of weather -- cooler temps and more rain. But I have an appointment to get my hair cut tomorrow (it's been a year since my last cut!) and we'll be going to my brother- and sister-in-law's house on Sunday for a Mother's Day brunch. I've also told the Mister that I'd like my Mother's Day gift to be a trip to Home Depot to get plants for the garden, so we'll probably do that tomorrow and I'll have to keep my fingers crossed for some dry weather on Sunday to plant. Sadly my dahlia tubers did not survive their winter in my shed, so they went into the compost and I will pick up some other flowers to plant. If anyone has recommendations for plants that will not get eaten by rabbits, let me know!

If you're celebrating Mother's Day this weekend, I hope it's a good one, and I'm sending love to those of you for whom it's a difficult day. Here's to a relaxing and restorative weekend for all of us!