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Thursday, April 22, 2021

Poetry on Thursday: Good for a Laugh

Though the month is flying by, we still have two Thursdays left in National Poetry month, and today's theme is poetry that is humorous or clever. I mentioned yesterday that I really enjoyed the volume of Carol Ann Duffy's poetry that I read last week, so I thought I'd share the two shortest poems in the collection. They're both ones that made me laugh at loud, and we could all use more laughter in our lives. These are also two for which you're likely to know the reference of the named male counterpart (and thus get the full effect of the joke).

Mrs Darwin

7 April 1852.

Went to the Zoo.
I said to Him --
Something about that Chimpanzee over there reminds me of you.


Mrs Icarus

I'm not the first or the last
to stand on a hillock,
watching the man she married
prove to the world
he's a total, utter, absolute, Grade A pillock.

From The World's Wife (c) Carol Ann Duffy 1999

Be sure to visit Kym, Kat, and Bonny today for more poetry!

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Unraveled, Week 16/2021

Wednesday again! It feels like it's been a very long week, even though we're not officially halfway through. Obviously work has kept me very busy, and then there was the verdict yesterday, which had me in knots until it will announced. I'm still feeling the tension, however, because tomorrow I have to go back for a follow-up mammogram after some "nodules" were found on my previous scan. I've been assured that I shouldn't worry too much and that this is not uncommon, but try telling a naturally anxious person not to worry and see how well that goes!

In any case, it is Wednesday, despite the fact that it's snowing right now and feels more like February than late April. As per usually, I'm linking up today with Kat and the Unravelers to talk about knitting and reading.

Last night, because I was feeling so wrung out by work stress and verdict anxiety, I decided not to pick up the first sleeve of my Aldous and instead finished up this brioche cowl for the charity pile. It's nothing terribly exciting, but it used all but 6 grams of the yarn leftover from the two charity hats that I just knit (the yarn is Fibernymph Dye Works Cozy, a worsted weight superwash merino).


I had a little more of the blue colorway than the yellow/green, so I did a few rounds of 1x1 rib at the top and bottom in just the blue (which you can see better on the inside). I don't remember how many stitches I cast on for this -- I just cast on until it more or less filled my 16 in. circular needle and then made sure I had an even number -- but I did plain-old two-color brioche until I didn't have enough of the yellow/green to work another round and then finished off with the blue. I ended up using 42 grams of each color or about 185 yards in total. It feels really good to have used up just about every last bit of those two skeins of yarn.

Very little reading has been happening this week, but I did quite a bit since last Wednesday that was excellent.

I'd had Writers & Lovers tagged "to read" on my Libby app since hearing it recommended on the What Should I Read Next? podcast, and when I was ready for a new book and saw it had no wait, I thought I'd give it a try. This book grabbed me and pulled me in from the first chapter. I can't put my finger on exactly why this book had such a hold on me, but it felt familiar and comfortable and I just could not put it down. I suppose I identified with the main character -- a woman in her early 30s struggling with the recent death of her mother, the writing of her first novel, her love life, and trying to work off huge student debt -- despite the fact we seem to have nothing in common besides our gender, but I felt so at ease in her thoughts. I gave this book 5 stars and highly recommend it.

Nadia Owusu's debut memoir Aftershocks was another phenomenal read that I couldn't put down. The daughter of a Ghanaian father and an Armenian American mother, Owusu beautifully and lyrically writes about her parents' split, her mother's abandonment of her, her complicated relationship with her stepmother, her struggles with mental illness, the death of her father (who she saw as the one stable constant in her life), and her ongoing difficulty in understanding her identity and a search for her home. This isn't an easy read, but it is extremely well done. I certainly hope that we hear more from Owusu, as it's clear that she is an extremely talented voice. I gave it 5 stars.


Finally, I rounded out my week with a volume of poetry. I've recently started listening to the Novel Pairings podcast (following Mary's recommendation) and listening back from the beginning. One of the earlier episodes was about poetry, and one of the hosts mentioned a new-to-me poet, Carol Ann Duffy, and specifically this collection of her poems, The World's Wife. I couldn't find it from the library so ended up buying a Kindle copy, and I'm delighted I did. All the poems in this collection are told from the point of view of women in myth and history. Some are sad, some are saucy, some are laugh-out-loud funny. It's a quick read (I started reading one night at bedtime and finished the next morning) and one I'm sure to go back to. I gave it 4 stars.


I am still reading The Giver, which I really could finish in an afternoon if I wanted to, but I have chosen to read it at the same pace as Rainbow so I don't inadvertently spoil anything, and on Monday I started reading The God of Small Things, though with my work schedule this week I haven't gotten very far. I hope to spend some time getting lost in it toward the end of the week.

How are your knitting and reading going this week? I hope you have more time for both than I have so far!

See you back here tomorrow for some more poetry!

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Now Departing for Sleeve Island

The best thing I can say this morning is that it's Tuesday -- i.e., it's not Monday anymore. Yesterday started off really well, but then I got a ton of work dumped on me and ended up working until 6 p.m., and that's looking like it will be the general trend for the week. I am glad that I decided to take a personal day on Friday (Rainbow is off from school for parent/teacher conferences and asked me to spend the day with her), even though it will mean more work to make up for it.

Because this year is all about balance for me, I made a point to round out a stressful day yesterday with some pleasure. After putting Rainbow to bed, I put on the most recent episode of the newest Masterpiece production, Atlantic Crossing (it's really good -- but be aware that it has a lot of subtitles!), and pulled out my Aldous. Last night I officially finished the body:


I thought about picking up for the first sleeve before bed, but in the end I decided that probably wasn't the smartest thing after a long and stressful day, so I wove in a few ends instead. Tonight I'll get started on that sleeve. It would be great to get them both done by the end of the month, for no other reason than it's an arbitrary deadline -- although, if you can believe it, we are expecting snow here tomorrow! It's possible that if I finish this sweater soon there might be a chance to wear it once or twice before it's packed up for the fall, but really I'd just like to get it off the needles so I can start something new.

I'll be back tomorrow with an update on my reading life. Here's hoping Tuesday treats us better than Monday!

Sunday, April 18, 2021

Overcompensated

I'm happy to report that I am upright and feeling mostly okay this morning! My arm is a little sore, and my joints are a little achy (and between that and the Mister's snoring, I did not sleep all that well last night), but a little Tylenol and a couple cups of coffee have done a word of good. It's still quite chilly here, but the sun is out and it looks like I'll be feeling well enough to go for a walk later.

And on top of that good news, I managed to finish my skein of Polwarth/silk! It took me all day to ply it on Friday (not all at once, of course -- that's several sessions of sitting down at my wheel over the course of the day) and probably more than 20 minutes to skein it yesterday. Here is what it looked like fresh off the wheel, before wet finishing:


It was fairly well balanced when I took it off my Super Skeiner, and that's the result of being very conscious of not putting in too much twist when plying. For one thing, when Polwarth does poof up when it's washed, a side effect is that the ply often tightens on its own. And while I may not know very much about weaving, I do know that yarn meant to be woven does not need to be as tightly plied as it does for knitting. Here is a closeup shot so you can get a sense of the looser ply:


Under normal circumstances, I'd call this underplied, but I knew that if it didn't tighten up enough in the finishing process, I could always add more twist by running it back through the wheel. I was also making a conscious effort to spin my singles fine, with the hope that after it was plied and washed the yarn would be fingering. But it appears I may have overcompensated just a bit:


Notice how you can barely make out the strand of yarn running over the dime in the center of the skein? Yep, my yarn is closer to laceweight than fingering, and there's more than 680 yards of it in this skein!


The skein did shrink up quite a bit in the finishing (it went from 72 inches around to 56 inches), and the ply did tighten up, but it still has good drape, and I am really pleased -- and I hope Rainbow is soon. The challenge now will be to spin the muted Polwarth fiber I shared last week at roughly the same grist so that they can be woven together, and I am eager enough to see how they look that I don't think it'll take me too much time to spin up the second skein. It may even get started today, provided I'm feeling up to it!

Friday, April 16, 2021

Plan for the Worst, Hope for the Best

Well friends, tomorrow is the day: I'm scheduled for vaccination #2 at 3 tomorrow afternoon. At least part of my wardrobe is sorted:

I have been looking forward to this day because getting past it means being able to be with more friends and family safely, but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't worried about side effects. Pretty much everyone I know who is fully vaccinated has had some reaction, but they've ranged from things as mild as feeling tired or having a slight headache to being down for the count for several days. I'm really hoping for the former, obviously, though we've planned it so that if we're not feeling well, we'll be able to take it easy. Rainbow is going to sleep over at my parents' on Saturday night and likely hang out there for most of the day on Sunday. We'll try to get as many of the weekend chores and errands done tomorrow morning. And I might even make a batch of matzah ball soup tomorrow so we'll have some "Jewish penicillin" on hand should we need it!

I am still planning a spinning post on Sunday, though I may write it ahead of time and schedule it to post automatically just in case. With any luck, I'll be feeling just a little tired on Sunday and will just have to have a quiet day of knitting.

I hope all you, my blog friends, have a lovely weekend. Here's to more shots in arms and better days ahead for all of us!

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Poetry on Thursday: Spring/New Beginnings

This week's poetry prompt from Kym was "spring/new beginnings." When I think of spring, I think of nature and the flora and fauna of the world know when spring is coming even when it feels to us humans like winter will never end.

The combination of nature and poetry always brings to mind the work of one poet in particular for me: Robert Frost. I think I may have mentioned here before that in my junior year of high school, I was required to pick an American writer to do an in-depth study of and then write a term paper on. I chose Frost and read every poem he ever wrote in preparation to write the paper, and my thesis was that he chose nature as a canvas on which to paint his internal emotional state. Frost was a fairly traditional poet, in that his poems were rhyming and often had regular meter. They're also familiar to many people, even those who don't typically read poetry, because some of them are ubiquitous and easily memorized. But chances are you've never heard or read this one, though I think you'll like it -- to me, it so perfectly captures my feelings when there's the very first hint of spring in the air.

To the Thawing Wind

Come with rain, O loud Southwester!
Bring the singer, bring the nester;
Give the buried flower a dream;
Make the settled snowbank steam;
Find the brown beneath the white;
But whate'er you do tonight,
Bathe my window, make it flow,
Melt it as the ice will go;
Melt the glass and leave the sticks
Like a hermit's crucifix;
Burst into my narrow stall;
Swing the picture on the wall;
Run the rattling pages o'er;
Scatter poems on the floor;
Turn the poet out of door.

From The Poetry of Robert Frost, (c) 1969 by Henry Holt and Company, Inc.

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Unraveled, Week 15/2021

Wednesday again, eh? This month seems to be going by at a pretty fast clip. As per usual, I am joining Kat and the Unravelers to chat about knitting and reading this Wednesday.

I am still working on my Aldous, though I'm in that long straight section of the body that can get a little monotonous, hence the little break to knit the two hats I shared yesterday. I tried it on yesterday afternoon to do a check-in on the fit and all is still well (Rainbow is the photographer of this shot, if you're wondering why the angle seems a little odd -- she's growing but is still significantly shorter than I am!):


I measured the body last night before packing it up, and I'm at 7.5 inches under the underarm, so that means three more inches to knit before I get to the next exciting part.

Even though I know I should really focus on this sweater if I want to get it done soon, I worked on another diversion yesterday:


This sweet little fellow is Jabby the Friendly Syringe from Mochimochi Land. The original is obviously much cuter than mine; I think I executed the knitting part okay, but my face embroidery needs a little work (why do my faces always seem to come out looking angry?). It was a quick if fiddly project using tiny scraps from my big bag. The pattern is very easy to follow, but there are a lot of ends to deal with and knitting with a small number of stitches on DPNs isn't my favorite. I had pulled out a set of Clover DPNs that I'd gotten from a friend when he was destashing and managed to lose two of them. One just split on its own as I was knitting, and another I accidentally snapped in two when I sat on it by mistake. Luckily the original set had six DPNs in the package, so I still have a usable set should I want to use them! The project only took a couple of hours, including all the finishing, so now I have a little mascot to take with me for my second shot on Saturday. If you're thinking ahead to the holidays, I think Jabby would make an excellent Christmas ornament to remember a good part of 2021!

Reading has been really excellent this past week. I have finished three good books.

 

I think I may be the last person to read Summerwater among the group of my blog friends, but my library had only one copy of it and I had a bit of a wait. It was worth it, though -- as promised, it was an expertly written and absorbing read. I would have liked to have been able to sit down and read it in one go, but work wasn't cooperating. It was still a quick read, and I'm definitely interested in reading more of Sarah Moss's books now. I gave it 4 stars.


The Death of Vivek Oji has been talked about quite a bit in my Sunday Zoom group, and it was also on the Aspen Prize long list (I've read everything on the short list, so apparently I'm now working my way backwards!). It's a beautiful book. You know from the outset that the title character is dead, but the narrative moves back and forth in time and between characters to tell the story of how they got to that death. It's set in Nigeria, a country and culture I don't know much about, but all the same it felt relevant to me. It's also a relatively short novel, so one that can be read in a short amount of time -- though I recommend taking your time with it to fully appreciate it. I gave it 4 stars as well.

My final finish in the past week was a real surprise. I don't read a lot of science fiction (though I suppose you could call speculative fiction a subsection of the genre, and I've read my fair share of that). But Mary read Stories of Your Life, a collection of short stories, and raved about it so much that I had to give it a try, and I'm so glad I did. There are two stories in this collection that I could have done without, but the vast majority are fascinating and absorbing. Really, most of these stories could qualify as novellas -- they're not really short! My favorite was probably "The Story of Your Life," which felt incredibly familiar to me until I realized that it was the basis of the screenplay for the movie Arrival. Much of the more scientific content of these stories was completely over my head, but they made me really think hard about so many things, even after I was finished reading. I gave this collection (you guessed it!) 4 stars.

I am still reading The Giver (and Rainbow told me just before she left for school that they'll likely be reading a few more chapters in class today; so far I've been keeping up with her), and yesterday I started Writers & Lovers, which I've been keeping an eye on at the library and happen to catch with no wait. I'm hoping that today will be calm enough to let me finish it, because last night before bed I got a notification that my next hold, Aftershocks, is ready for me.

I'll be back tomorrow with more poetry, but in the meantime, I'd love to hear what you're knitting and reading this week!