Friday, February 23, 2024

Let's Wrap It Up

Happy Friday, dear readers -- it's been a long week! And it was an early morning for me, as I was off to the orthodontist shortly after 7 so they could look at my broken retainer/night guard and scan me for a replacement. I will say that the nice thing about such an early appointment is that I was able to find a parking space easily, right out front, and I didn't have to wait. And I was even home before the Mister and Mo had left for work and school! It has been a long week, and I'm very happy to see it come to an end today.

My sweater is continuing to move along at a good pace. I tried to take a modeled photo of it for you (because my face has healed enough at this point that I'm willing to show it on camera now), but between the dim light this morning and my general lack of skill in taking selfies, it did not go well. So you'll have to settle for a photo of it on Matilda:

My first sleeve is pretty much halfway done, and I am completely tickled that it appears that the stripe sequence will work out perfectly to result in the cuff in light blue to match the collar and the hem! Whereas I went through the sequence three times on the body, it'll be four times on the sleeves. I'm still weaving in ends as I go, which does slow my progress down a bit but is something I know I'll thank myself for doing when I get to the end.

Although I'd like to get this sweater done by the end of the month and probably should really focus on it to do that, I felt I needed to get another spinning project going, particularly as the most recent club shipment just arrived. So I've started in on the shipment from last August, Island Sunset on grey Merino:

I love how the gray base fiber add such depth to the dyed colors! I've split the fiber into strips lengthwise and am spinning them one after another to chain-ply the resulting singles and end up with a self-striping yarn. I didn't do a great job of splitting and ended up with three strips rather than the four I was aiming for, but that's okay. I decided to put the biggest of the three in the middle, so I'll end up with slightly longer/bigger stripes in the middle of the skein and narrower stripes at the beginning and end.

I'm hoping for a calm last day of the work week and a productive weekend of sleeve knitting. Happy Friday!

Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Unraveled, Week 8/2024

I know that February is a short month, but I feel like I've missed a week somewhere. At least I know what day of the week it is! It's Wednesday, which means it's time to link up with Kat and the Unravelers.

As I'd hoped, I was able to ply my latest singles on Monday, and the heat is still on enough that I could leave it on the radiator overnight to be dry by yesterday morning. This skein ended up more or less as I'd expected:

The finished yarn is in the heavy fingering range and approximately 357 yards. I do like how the blues and grays ended up pretty evenly distributed. I'd hoped for a little more yardage, but clearly I wasn't spinning as fine as I thought. I've already pulled out the fiber for my next spin but haven't yet decided how I want to spin it, so I haven't started on it just yet.

And check out my progress on my sweater!

I tried it on again yesterday while I was almost done with the 12th stripe to verify that it was long enough and was satisfied with the length. Now it's on to the sleeves!

It's been a very good week of reading here.

I have a feeling that several of you who are on NetGalley also downloaded Real Americans when it was available (no approval required) for a limited time. This is a family saga spanning three generations told by three different characters at three points in time. Each character's section reveals a bit more about this family and their struggles, but there are themes that run through all three: the parent who wants the best for their child but struggles with how involved in that child's life to get, the repercussions of the decisions a parent makes with regard to their child, and the many facets of identity and how they play a role in fitting in (or not) in a given society. While there were some strands of the plot I wanted more of, I really enjoyed this book and think it would make for great discussions because of some of the moral and ethical questions it raises. I gave it 4 stars.
I received this book from NetGalley and Knopf in return for an honest review. This book will be published May 30, 2024.

I am late to the party on this one -- like more than a decade late! -- but I so enjoyed Kate Atkinson's recent collection of short stories that I finally decided to read Life After Life. Though I missed this one when it first came out, it had been on my radar for a quite a while, so I'd bought it on Kindle when it was a daily deal several months ago. Now I wish I'd read it sooner because I simply adored this book! The premise is an interesting one: Ursula Todd is born and dies and is born again, repeatedly, and in each life things go a little differently. It's a bit like a Choose Your Own Adventure book, except that there are no choices to be made. I think what I loved most about this book wasn't the creative structure of it but rather the vivid portrait it paints of life in England in the first half of the 20th century and the beautiful family relationships it portrays. It's a long book but went quickly, and I'll admit I didn't want it to end when it was over. I gave it 5 stars.

Finally I treated myself to a little light murder mystery. I'd read Magpie Murders a couple of years ago and had been meaning to get to the sequel, so when I was in need of an audiobook over the weekend, I decided now was the time for Moonflower Murders. As with the previous book, this mystery contains a separate book within it, so it's kind of like getting two novels in one. While I can see the very strong influences of other mystery writers (and certainly Atticus P√ľnd feels very much like Hercule Poirot to me), this one hit the same sweet spot for me as Masterpiece Mystery shows do -- and, in fact, I was rather tickled by the fact that the audio is read by two of the actors who starred in the Masterpiece dramatization of Magpie Murders! I gave this one 4 stars.

Now I'm trying to finish up Larry's Party and deciding what my next ebook will be.

What are you making and reading this week?

Monday, February 19, 2024

Let's Not Have a Repeat

Good Monday morning, friends! I'm feeling fairly chipper this morning, but I'm also hoping that this Monday is not in any way like the last one. I am healing and looking much better, but I was also awakened at 4 a.m. yesterday by the realization that my retainer/night guard had broken in two, so I'm feeling a bit like I still have some bad karma related to my teeth. Calling my orthodontist is on top of my to-do list today!

The weekend was very quiet and relaxing, which was what I desperately needed. There was a lot of baking. I made challah on Friday, of course, and then I made cookies just because on Saturday and Mo and I make pumpkin bread/muffins yesterday because she'd been craving them.

The cookies were made using this recipe, though I made a half recipe, omitted the marshmallows, and used half chocolate chips and half peanut butter chips that I found at Trader Joe's recently. They are amazing! I also made chicken soup from scratch yesterday for dinner, so needless to say that house smelled pretty good all weekend.

Having a warm, sweet-smelling house felt very appropriate given that we woke up to about half a foot of snow on Saturday morning! This was predicted, though they'd said 3-5 inches, and luckily it was light, fluffy snow that didn't really stick around much on the roads, so it caused minimal disruption. Much of the day was sunny, though still cold, and occasionally the wind picked up and blew the snow around. When I came downstairs Saturday evening, I was treated to this sight out the back of the house, which faces west (please excuse the dirty windows):

Though some of the weekend was spent doing the usual household chores, I also got quite a bit of crafting done. For one thing, I've finished the singles on my latest handspun project, so I'm ready to ply today:

And I also worked quite a bit on my sweater while the soup was simmering yesterday afternoon and am now closing in on the end of the body:

I've got a long to-do list today aside from anything that comes up at work, so I'd better get started! Have a good one, and I'll see you back here on Wednesday.

Friday, February 16, 2024

Week's End

I want to start off by thanking all of you for your comments on Wednesday's post about my accident. I really appreciate your concern and your well wishes! I am definitely improving every day; the scratches are healing and shrinking, the bruises are diminishing, and the sore spots are getting less so. I will have to wait a bit until my smile looks normal; once my lip fully heals, I'll go back to the dentist for a veneer to cover the broken tooth. But the dentist was able to smooth the rough edges of the tooth, so at least it feels less awkward in my mouth now, and I'm more or less able to eat normally. I imagine I'll have some pain and sensitivity in the front teeth for a while, but I'll take it given how much worse things could have ended up. I may even attempt a run today -- don't worry, I'll take it slow and be extra careful!

I am very happy that it's finally Friday -- needless to say, it's been a long week! Mo is home with me today and Monday, as her second trimester ended yesterday and the teachers have in-service days. Even though I'm still working, it feels a bit like a break to me, too, because I get a couple of days off from getting her out of bed and out the door in the morning.

I have been slowly and steadily working on my STRIPES! this week, and at least according to the pattern, I'm now more than halfway through the stockinette portion of the body.

The pattern says to work for 12 inches below the underarm, and the math works out really well for me because each of my stripes is an inch wide, so with a four-color stripe sequence, that works out to three repeats. I'm currently on the seventh stripe (which you can't really see because the bottom is curling up). What is also pleasing me is that, assuming I don't want to add any additional length to the body, I'll be doing the ribbing at the bottom in the light blue, which will match the collar.

I'm also still working on my color-coordinated spinning, and I'm nearly finished with my second bobbin of singles.

My next club shipment arrived earlier this week, so I'm trying to hurry up a little on this so I can fit one more spin in this month.

In a happy note, my parents came home from Florida earlier this week in order to get their taxes organized and spend some time with the family, so tonight we will have our usual Friday night dinner. Mo and I plan to bake challah later to take with us. We're supposed to get some snow tonight (I know!), so I predict it will be a cozy weekend spent mostly indoors.

Whatever you have planned this weekend, I hope it's a good one!

Wednesday, February 14, 2024

Unraveled, Week 7/2024

Oh friends, it seems I was a bit too enthusiastic about how my Monday was shaping up when last I posted and karma felt the need to bite me.

After I hit post and sat through my daily morning meeting, I went out for a run. It was cold again, but the sun was out and I was feeling good. Just as I was nearing the 3-mile mark, I took my eyes off the sidewalk to look at one of the cute neighborhood dogs -- and promptly tripped on the sidewalk and went flying into it face first. I will spare you all a photo of my poor mangled face; suffice it to say it's not pretty. I've scraped up much of one side of it, required a couple of stitches in my upper lip for a gash, have a black eye, and broke off a pretty sizable piece of one of my top incisors. I also keep discovering new sort places and bruises on various other parts of my body. But I am very thankful it was not worse. I didn't lose consciousness or break any bones (aside from my poor tooth). The woman walking the dog immediately came to help me. The Mister was able to leave work right away to take me to urgent care and, while I was getting stitched up, called my dentist to get me in for an emergency appointment this morning. The scrapes are starting to heal and the swelling is going down, but I'm going to look like I just came out of a boxing match for a while. I'm posting all this not to gain sympathy (really, I'm okay, more annoyed at myself than anything) but because some of you may see me on a Zoom in the next several weeks and I wanted you to be prepared!

But now back to the usual business -- it's Wednesday, which means it's time to check in with Kat and the Unravelers!

Aside from the loss of time spent sitting and waiting at urgent care (for which I was very thankful for the Kindle app on my phone!), this injury has not affected my crafting. I have mainly been spinning the past couple of days and have a finished bobbin of singles to show for it.

I've added a bit to my sweater as well, though it doesn't look all that different from the last time you saw it. Reading, though, has been quite good in the past week.

I can't remember exactly when I heard about In Memoriam, but I'd had it on hold at the library and read it in two days after I got it. This a story about two young men who meet and fall in love at a British boarding school and whose lives are torn apart by World War I. But it's about much more than that. It's about the unbelievable horrors of war and about the effects of being a soldier on the psyche. It's about the bonds of friendship formed among young people. It's about a search for identity -- nationality, sexuality, purpose in life -- in the midst of one of the greatest tragedies the world has ever seen. I'll admit I wasn't blown away by the writing, but it's a good story decently told, and I enjoyed it, despite the difficult subject matter. I gave it 4 stars.
I had requested The Berlin Letters via NetGalley after reading the synopsis and read it quite quickly after I received approval. This is a story that takes place in two timelines. In the prologue, we see the beginning of what will become the Berlin Wall, as a toddler Luisa is quickly passed over the barbed wire to her grandparents on the western side by her mother. We meet Luisa again in Washington, D.C. in the late 1980s. Having flunked out of CIA operative school, she is now working for the agency as a codebreaker because of her natural talent for the subject -- a talent that was encouraged by her recently deceased grandfather. When a coworker comes to her for help with the letters referred to by the title, Luisa notices a small mark on a letter that she knows she has seen before, and she goes looking through her grandparents' house in search of some clue her grandfather left her. She had been told her parents had died when she was young and that was why her grandparents had raised her, but suddenly she's not so sure they had always told her the truth. She soon finds evidence to suggest that not only was her grandfather known to the CIA, but her father is still alive -- and she may be the only one who can save him from an infamous Stasi prison. This is an entertaining and tense ride through the repressive years of the DDR, with the constant threat of surveillance, betrayal, and "accidental" deaths. I have no idea if the codebreaking details were accurate, but they felt well researched. The writing isn't great, but it's entertaining enough and certainly kept me reading. I gave it 4 stars.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from NetGalley and Harper Muse. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own. This book will be published March 5, 2024.

Finally, I listened to Erasure, the 2001 novel on which the recent movie American Fiction is based. Thelonious "Monk" Ellison is a novelist whose novels are critically acclaimed but commercially failures. When his most recent manuscript is rejected by more than a dozen publishers and yet a book that he sees as a sell-out stereotype called We's Lives in Da Ghetto becomes a huge success, he decides he can do better and writes his own satirical novel of what white America thinks life is like for a Black man. Naturally, it becomes the next big thing, bringing Monk fame and fortune even as he as ashamed of selling out. At the same time, he is dealing with challenges and tragedies in his personal life. The book is brilliantly written, but I think I missed out on a lot because I listened rather than read with my eyes. There are some seemingly unrelated interludes that I didn't really understand, and the entirety of the book Monk writes (which is included as part of the book) made me really uncomfortable, though I realized that was the point. I gave it 3 stars.

I'm nearly finished with another ARC, Real Americans, and I've also just started Larry's Party as part of next in-depth book study that Mary is hosting -- this next year, we're focusing on backlist Women's Prize winners.

What are you making and reading this week?

Monday, February 12, 2024

Monday Again

Unlike last weekend, I felt like this weekend needed another day. I think this is probably because I didn't get as much sleep as I probably needed, but such is life. It was still a good weekend overall, in large part due to time spent with friends and family. Mo and I played mahjongg with a couple of friends on Saturday afternoon -- her first time playing without me looking over her shoulder and advising her, and she even won a hand! -- and we had some other friends over for dinner Saturday night. Then we were up early yesterday morning to meet my brother, sister-in-law, and nephew for breakfast, now that he is eating real food. Mo got in some cuddle time:

Then we had snacks for dinner last night for the Super Bowl -- cheese and crackers, Buffalo chicken dip, raw veggies, and homemade soft pretzels:

Mo's been wanting to make these for a while, and they were actually much easier than I expected. We'll definitely be making them again, though we have some adjustments in mind. We watched most of the game but turned it off after regulation ended; I was just not that invested in it to see who won! But Mo was very happy with the result this morning, and anything that gets her up and out of bed on time on a Monday morning is a win for me!

I got a fair amount of knitting done on my sweater over the weekend, and I did confirm that it fits! I'm now in the easy part, the body, where I just have to knit straight until it's time to do the ribbing at the hem.

Each of my stripes is an inch wide, and the pattern calls for working until the body is 12 inches long, so that means three repeats of my four-color sequence. Knowing that is nice because I won't constantly be measuring my knitting -- I can just count stripes! I've also been weaving in my ends as I go, which does slow me down a little but is something I know I'll really appreciate when I get to the end.

In another instance of all my projects matching each other, unintentionally, I'm going to be starting my next spinning project today with this fiber:

This is the other Tour de Fleece prize colorway from last year. It's called Saint-Gervais Mont-Blanc, and it's the same Silky Merino base as my last spin. I'll be spinning another three-ply fingering with it.

Today I am hoping for a calm day. I've got a few loads of laundry to do and a load of socks to hand wash, and I'm sure I will need a cat nap later this afternoon. I hope your Monday is off to an okay start and treats you gently!

Friday, February 09, 2024

I Can Buy Myself Flowers

Yes, if you're wondering, I have had that Miley Cyrus song in my head quite a bit this past week after watching the Grammys on Sunday. But I used it for the title of this post because the skein of handspun I finished yesterday makes me think of my favorite early spring flowers, daffodils. I haven't seen any blooming yet, but there are lots of them coming up in my neighborhood, so I'm sure it's just a matter of time. And they immediately came to mind as I was plying this yarn and seeing the green of the stems, the yellow of the blooms, and the brown of the earth.

This was spun from one of the Southern Cross Fibre Tour de Fleece prize colorways from last year called Bordeaux. It's a delightful 85% Merino/15% silk blend -- it really drafts so easily. I've got about 432 yards of three-ply fingering, and I didn't even use all the singles. One bobbin ran out, and when I tried to bracelet-ply from one of the remaining bobbins, it got all tangled up and I decided to just cut my losses.

Now that this is done, my focus for the moment is my sweater, which is getting very close to the body/arms divide. I did my final increase round last night, which is why it's looking so bunched up on the needles.

At some point I'll get out another long circular needle and transfer half the stitches over so I can try it on, but I'm not terribly concerned about it not fitting. I've worked with this yarn before and am confident in my gauge, so all should be well.

This weekend I'm having my mahj group over to play and we're planning to make snacks for dinner on Sunday while we watch the Super Bowl (I'm not terribly invested in the game itself, but Mo naturally is because of the whole Taylor Swift thing). I am trying to enjoy the unseasonably mild weather we're having this week -- I won't need a coat for my run today! -- before the snow is due to come back next week. Here's hoping you have a relaxing weekend planned!