Thursday, December 31, 2020

A Fiber-filled Reflection

The last day of 2020 has finally arrived, and I am more than ready to see the year go. But before it does, it's time for my annual look back on my year in making.

According to my Ravelry projects page, I completed 39 knit and crochet projects this year, using up more than 15,000 yards of yarn. I think I've actually used more than that, because according to my KnitMeter counter, I've actually used more than 19,000 yards. (The discrepancy is likely due to my own inconsistent tagging in Ravelry). Those projects included two crocheted blankets, four sweaters for me, 12 pairs of socks, 10 hats, three shawls, and various other projects.

I've also done quite a lot of spinning this year, prioritizing spinning my "back catalog" of fiber club shipments. According to my rough calculations, I converted almost 160 oz. -- that's almost 10 pounds! -- of fiber into yarn. That includes a fleece as well.

I have some plans for the year ahead, but because it's Thursday and Carole is hosting her final Three on Thursday link-up for the year, here are three things I want to finish before the year is out:

1. My mittens
In order to finish off my patterns 20 in 2020 list for the year, I need to finish this two pairs of mittens. I knit up the first pair earlier in the week, and now I've got just a thumb on the first mitten and the second mitten to knit. That might seem like a lot of knitting for one day, but the hands on these mittens (which are later felted) are knit at a very loose gauge and knit up very quickly. Pretty much the whole hand above the thumb on this first mitten was knit in about an hour last night.

2. My Base 12 singles
I really tried to get this done yesterday, but I accidentally nodded off in the middle. Oops. I have a bit of what's currently being spun and the last little bit of fiber left to do. I realized that it was unrealistic to expect to finish the skein before the end of the year, so instead this will be my first finished skein of 2021.

3. My book
I'm nearly finished with a silly Amazon First Reads book that I started earlier in the week. It's not very good, so I really don't want it to be my first finished book of the new year. I have like an hour and 20 minutes left to read, so I figure I can handle that while I'm knitting or spinning -- multitasking for the win!

I hope that in spite of everything the year has thrown at us, you've accomplished something you're proud of, and I'd love to hear what you're planning to cast on first for the new year! For me, it will likely be a Bousta Beanie in my handspun.

Wishing you a happy, healthy, VACCINATED new year and a year full of wool!

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

A Year in Pages

The last Unraveled Wednesday of the year seems like the perfect time to look back on the books I've read over the past 12 months and highlight some of my favorites.

I've been setting a yearly reading challenge on Goodreads since I joined back in 2015, and every year I've increased the total number of books I want to read. I've also surpassed my goal each year, and in the past two or three years, that's largely been because of ebooks, enabling me to read at work in between projects. My goal for this year, long before any thought of a pandemic, was 60 books, which I thought would be a bit of a stretch. In reality, well, I'll just let this graphic tell the story:

This is the very first year (since I've been keeping track) that I hit triple digits. Fully half of those books came from bingo, for which I did two cover-alls. It wasn't just about reading more, though -- this year was really about reading better. That meant reading things that were outside my comfort zone, things that challenged me to think differently, and things that were part of my ongoing effort to learn new things. You can see all the books I read this year here (you may need to sign in to Goodreads to view this), but I want to highlight a small number of the 100 that I thought were really exceptional. These aren't presented in any particular order or ranking; these are just books that I thoroughly enjoyed reading and that stayed with me after I finished. I've linked to their Goodreads pages, but you can also feel free to read my reviews if you want to know more details about my thoughts.

  • The Ten Thousand Doors of January
  • Apeirogon
  • Save Me the Plums
  • The Warmth of Other Suns and Caste (not technically related, but they're by the same author and in my mind complement each other very well)
  • The Exiles
  • Hamnet
  • Station Eleven 
  • The Vanishing Half

    These were all five-star reads for me. There were a handful of other books that I also rated five stars, but they were books that I felt like I was done with when I finished. Nearly all the books I read this year were rated three stars or higher; very few were stinkers. And while I didn't think to find a way to track it, I'd estimate that probably 90-95% of the books I read this year were borrowed from the library. Next year, I'll be adding a library shelf to my Goodreads account so I can keep track.

    This year I started regularly joining Kat and the Unravelers for weekly posts, and I'm so glad I did! I'm convinced that one of the main reason I read as much as I did was because of the many wonderful recommendations you all have shared. I'd love to hear about your favorite reads from this past year and what you're planning to read in the new year in the comments!

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

One Little Word 2020: A Look Back and a Look Ahead

Can you believe today is the last Tuesday of 2020? I am thankful so many of you have already posted today with your one One Little Word reflections, because this time of year it's so hard to keep track of what day of the week it is (never mind the fact that this year in general has made that hard) and I nearly missed it. But it is indeed Tuesday, the last Tuesday of the month and of the year, so it's time to take a look back at my OLW.

2020 was my first year picking a word, and my word for the year was Savor. I very clearly remember sitting down with a journal on January first and recording my selection and my thoughts for the year ahead: We were in Florida, the sun was shining, and I was sitting out on the lanai with the journal I hoped to start writing in regularly. I couldn't have known where 2020 would take us, but I think I was remarkably prescient when I wrote this when I announced my word:

One thing this past year has shown me is that life is uncertain and unpredictable. I don't want to miss the beautiful things in my life because I'm so busy rushing from one thing to another -- rushing to finish that book, this project, that meal, and so on. I want to remind myself regularly to stop and enjoy the moment and to appreciate it to its fullest. Life isn't a race, and in fact we should actually all try to take as much time as we can to get to the end. It's about the journey, the experiences, and the people we meet along the way.

Looking back at my monthly OLW posts from the past year, I can see that I've largely succeeded in shifting my focus so that I could notice and appreciate the little things, to slow down and soak in the moment, and to emphasize the good. What I couldn't have predicted is how much this practice would lead to an overwhelming sense of gratitude and thankfulness. So much of what I've savored this year has been been directly related to the privilege I've had to be able to work from home when so many have lost work, to be with loved ones when so many have been isolated, to have the gifts of yarn and books and entertainment when so many are struggling to meet basic needs. Friends, I have never felt more blessed than I have this year. We have been healthy; we have not had any financial challenges; and aside from my brother and sister-in-law getting mild cases of COVID, we have not been personally touched by the pandemic. We have been so lucky in so many ways -- but we have also seen, more starkly than ever before -- how so many people have not. And I think these contrasts are going to influence my life and the way I live it a lot more going forward.

I am about 99.9% sure of my word for next year, but I am going to wait until the calendar flips over to share (just in case I have some sort of revelation in the next few days). I want to thank Honoré for hosting us for our monthly link up this past year and Carolyn for stepping up to host for 2021. I'm sure I am not alone when I say that I hope the new year holds OLW lessons that are a lot less dramatic for us!

I will be back tomorrow with a wrap-up of my reading for 2020 and on Thursday for a wrap-up of the year in crafting. Thanks for stopping by!

Sunday, December 27, 2020

The Thrill of the Mystery

Hello, friends! I hope you all had an enjoyable Christmas and Boxing Day. We woke up to a white Christmas -- the snowiest Christmas in Pittsburgh in 85 years, apparently! We officially got 7 inches total for the entire snow event, followed by some frigid temperatures, so the roads were in terrible shape for a couple of days (or so I heard from the Mister -- I wasn't going anywhere!). Today, though, the sun was out and things were starting to melt.

Our Christmas was lovely, despite the fact that we did not spend it in Florida as we usually do. Usually we'd be going to the movies and getting Chinese takeout (the typical Jewish Christmas), but we decided that we were going to cook as long as we were home and had the time. We started the day with homemade cinnamon rolls (I used this recipe), which we'd prepped the night before, but I got up early to get them out of the fridge and let them rise. They were spectacular -- and I got to enjoy watching the snow while I had a cup of tea while I waited. For dinner, we made a pot roast, thanks to the Mister's being willing to brave the roads and the kosher supermarket still being open; the piece of meat we'd previously bought did not look good, so we decided not to risk it. And thanks to my sister-in-law, the family's amazing baker, we had a tin of Christmas cookies to enjoy for dessert.

I've done a fair bit of knitting this vacation, but because it's Sunday, let's talk about the spinning! I started opening up my HipStrings Base 12 fiber and spinning it a bundle at a time. I've been taking a photo of each bag's contents as I open it so I can document the process. I have opened six bags so far:

For the first four bundles, at least, the fiber seemed to start out smooth and get increasingly textured with things like sari silk. Starting with day five, things got smooth again. There's an envelope in the package that says what in each bag, but I decided to wait to open it until I'm done spinning so I don't ruin the surprise.

I have been spinning each fiber selection in order and plan to chain-ply all the singles when I'm done. I know the skein will be very textured in some spots and certainly uneven, but I think that will make for an interesting yarn and an interesting project when knit up. I'm hoping to be able to finish the rest of the singles in the next several days so I can ply it before the end of the year. It would be a good way to say good-bye to 2020!

Thursday, December 24, 2020

'Twas the Night Before Christmas ...

and all my holiday knitting is done!

Rainbow and I are planning our last holiday gift drop-off later this morning, so yesterday I was on a mission to finish up the hat for my brother-in-law. I was pretty sure I'd manage it, but as I was totally improvising the hat as I went, I really wasn't sure how long it would take. But I'm happy to report that by the time we sat down for dinner last night, it was done:

I'll admit that in any other color it would be rather gnome-y, but I think in this extremely bright yellow (the colorway is Sunflower), it bears enough of a resemblance to corn to be effective. Here's Rainbow modeling it, so you can get the full effect:

I used approximately three-quarters of the ball of Mighty Stitch and size 4/3.5 mm and 6/4.0 mm needles. The basic stitch pattern is a four-stitch-five-round repeat: p3, sl1 for three rounds, then knit two rounds. Once the body of the hat was deep enough, I started the decreases on the second of the two knit rounds. Spacing the decreases out creates the long pointed top. When I had eight stitches left, I finished off by grafting them as for the toe of a sock or the top of a mitten (rather than doing the usual rounded hat top created by pulling the yarn through all the remaining stitches and snugging it up). Though it fits her, it's also plenty stretchy enough to accommodate my brother-in-law's giant head -- although, if I'm honest, I expect that he's more likely to put it on my nephew once he wears it once for a photo.

Rainbow also finished up this hat for her cousin (with some help from me -- I knit some of the body and did the three-needle bind-off to finish it up):

We just have to attach the pompoms to the top corners and wrap it up this morning!

For a third thing this Thursday, did you know that today is Dr. Anthony S. Fauci Day in Washington, D.C.? It's also Dr. Fauci's 80th birthday today (and my goodness, that man is impressive for how much he does at his age!). I have the perfect socks for today, socks that the Mister surprised me with the other day -- at least until the temperature drops and my feet need wool:

If you are celebrating, I hope you and your loved ones have a very merry Christmas! Rainbow and I will be baking some cookies later today to share with some of our neighbors, and we're planning to make cinnamon rolls for breakfast and pot roast for dinner tomorrow (we figured we might as well make the day special!). And though we can't go to the movies this year, we're still keeping the Jewish Christmas tradition alive by getting Chinese food for dinner tonight!

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

In Which I Likely Overcommit Myself

I was feeling really good about my holiday knitting yesterday. Rainbow wanted company yesterday afternoon while she worked on one of the big Lego sets she received as a gift last week, so I brought my knitting down to the family room and worked on my father-in-law's socks. A couple of hours later, I had a finished pair:

Pattern: Xeric Socks by Kino Knits (Ravelry link), size L
Yarn: Knit Picks Stroll (75% superwash merino/25% nylon) in Jack Rabbit Heather
Needles: US 1 (2.25 mm)
Mods: subbed my usual slip-stitch heel
Started/Completed: December 10/December 21

Though I complained a number of times about how long these socks were taking, in reality they didn't take all that long. Part of that was because I was using size 1 needles instead of my usual size 0 (the larger size was called for in the pattern, but I also figured it was a smart move on my part to move these along). The stitch pattern was also very engaging, and once I more or less had it memorized and didn't have to keep track of where I was in the pattern, it moved along even more quickly. I very wisely made notes in the pattern when I was knitting the first sock of how many repeats I did of each section so I didn't have to measure constantly for the second sock.

The only modification I made was to do a more typical slip-stitch heel flap instead of the patterned heel flap called for in the pattern. The patterning looks interesting, but I don't think it will wear as well as the reinforced flap; having seen my father-in-law's feet, I know he needs that reinforcement.

When these socks were finished, my holiday knitting should have been done. But no -- in typically crazy knitter fashion, I decided to try to knit one more last minute in the form of a hat for my brother-in-law, the only family member I didn't have a gift for.

He and Rainbow have this ongoing joke about corn (it's a long story), and as I had this bright yellow skein of Knit Picks Mighty Stitch from my last order just sitting there, I figured I'd freestyle a corn hat for him. I only just cast on last night and so only got some of the brim ribbing done, but I'll be focusing on it today to see how much I can get done. It's worsted weight and a simple knit/purl stitch, so in theory it shouldn't take too long. Rainbow is also working on finishing up a hat for her cousin, so we will plan to drop the hats and the socks I knit for my sister-in-law later in the week (they live nearby, so we can always drive over and do a no-contact porch drop).

Lest you think I'm winding down my knitting plans for the year, here are three skeins of handspun I've pulled for projects I'd still like to knit before the end of 2020:

The green and red skein on the far left is on my yarn list for 20 in 2020, and I've decided to pair it with the natural cream in the center for a Bousta Beanie for me. The larger purple skein on the far right is destined to become Entrechat (Ravelry link) for a baby gift for a friend who is scheduled for a C-section next week, I believe. The latter project, at least, should be pretty fast, as I'm planning to knit the smallest size (and it's worsted weight on size 8 needles!). In addition to all this, I'm also spinning my HipStrings Base 12 fiber. I am nothing if not ambitious, but we'll see if I've bitten off more than I can chew!

Sunday, December 20, 2020

One List Complete

It's going to be hard to finish all three of my 20 in 2020 lists (yarn, patterns, and fiber), but one of them is officially complete as of yesterday. I finished spinning the singles on Friday, let them rest on the bobbin overnight, and then wound them off into a center-pull ball yesterday morning so I could ply from both ends, which I managed to do in one sitting yesterday.

I wanted to skein and wash last night, but we had a late evening -- we decided to watch You've Got Mail, which I've been quoting to Rainbow for years ("F-O-X!"). She now finally gets my references and also has been properly educated about the early days of email, but it meant that it was almost 10 by the time we finished. So I skeined and washed this morning, which means that I don't have final final photos to share -- it's still a bit damp and is hanging out on the radiator to dry out. But it's still pretty nice yarn, if I do say so myself.

I won't be able to determine the final yardage until it's fully dry, because handspun skeins often shrink when they dry, but it looks like it will end up sport weight and likely the in the neighborhood of 300 yards.

I really struggled to capture the colors accurately in these photos, and ultimately I had to edit them a bit because the colors were appearing so washed out when in fact they're actually quite deep and moody.

I was pondering what to spin next and was considering several options -- and then I remembered I still have an Advent-ish fiber thing to spin! So when I next sit down at my wheel, I'll be digging into my HipStrings Base 12 fiber. Can't wait to see what's inside those brown bags!

Thursday, December 17, 2020

Let It Snow -- and Keep Your Head Warm!

You may have heard that there's a little snow storm moving through the Northeast? It started mid-morning here yesterday and continued through last night. Here's what our backyard looks like this morning:

Those prints in the middle are from Rainbow walking over to the deck (to the right of the yard) to do her science homework last night -- really! This was the assignment she was given yesterday:

She is grimacing here not because she wasn't enjoying herself but because the snow was falling in her face! After making this snow angel, she helped the Mister to shovel before dinner, but the snow was falling so fast yesterday evening that by the time I took out the trash after dinner, another 1-2 inches had fallen. I saw at least one report that snowfall totals in the city ranged from 9-13 inches; a bit later this morning, I will head out for a walk and judge for myself.

The snow is finished here, though it's still falling in many other areas of the Northeast and it's certainly still cold outside. That weather calls for a new hat pattern, wouldn't you say? Meet my newest pattern, and my last one for the year, the Chevroche Hat:

It was designed to coordinate with the cowl I released at the beginning of the month and uses the same yarn, Marianated Yarns Playtime Worsted in Maple Pecan and Sandstorm. Like the cowl, it uses brioche increases and decreases to create bias in the fabric, but in the hat, that shaping is strategically done at four points to create a silhouette that perfectly covers the ears and frames the face.

The crown is worked in a single color, with decreases in four wedges that meet at a point. My geometry-loving self was tickled by how well it worked out.

The hat has been graded to five sizes, from baby to adult large, and has been tech edited and test knit.

The pattern is available on Ravelry and on Payhip, and it's $1 off full price through the end of Christmas Eve with the coupon code EARFLAPS (the same code will work on both sites). Hope you like it!

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Wednesdays Are for WIPs

On this Wednesday morning, as I wait for the snow to start falling, I'm joining Kat and the Unravelers to talk about what I'm working on and what I'm reading.

I've currently got two WIPs on the needles that are actively being worked on (there are also two projects in progress that are actively being ignored). The first is a pair of Xeric Socks (Ravelry link) for my father-in-law. The first sock may, in fact, be finished today, as I'm farther along than this photo -- taken yesterday -- shows.

I'm really enjoying this pattern, which is much simpler and more intuitive than it looks. I have a feeling I'll be knitting a pair for myself at some point -- I think it would look smashing in handspun! I'm hoping to get the first sock finished today, especially because I have a long meeting to sit through later this morning.

I'm also working on a charity hat, using the My Favorite Weekend hat pattern (Ravelry link) and some Knit Picks Mighty Stitch. The last time I placed a Knit Picks order, I threw a couple of skeins of it in my cart to get to free shipping (it was also on sale, and I wanted to give it a try). You probably know that I'm not a huge fan of acrylic, but I'd heard good things about this yarn (an 80% acrylic/20% wool blend) and thought I'd give it a try -- every yarn does have its place, and certainly not everyone is willing or able to care for 100% wool.

I was prepared to hate the yarn even when I first got it, because it felt a little squeaky in the skein, but it's surprisingly nice to work with. Not 100% wool nice, of course, but the fabric is soft and the yarn doesn't squeak when I knit with it, though occasionally it fuzzes up a bit and have to break off a bit of a yarn halo that develops. I should have enough yarn leftover from the hat to make a pair of coordinating Snow Day Mittens (Ravelry link) using this orange for the cuff, and the set should make some child happy. And both projects are on my 20 in 2020 list, so it will feel good to cross them off!

I have not finished any books in the past week, but I have started two. First, I started The Island of Sea Women, which I won earlier in the year in a Goodreads giveaway. I haven't gotten very far because I got surprised by a library hold that came up a couple of weeks sooner than I expected. That book is Girl, Woman, Other, which Kym recommended to me. I am more than a third of the way through it and am finding it a really interesting read with an unusual format.

Looking forward to hearing what you've been reading and working on this week!

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

All the Way to Eleven

It's a special day in our house. Today, this young lady is 11 years old!

She's never been a morning person, but the promise of chocolate chip pancakes made it easier to get her out of bed this morning!

Obviously this birthday will be unlike any other, with a Zoom birthday party, but we're trying our best to make it as special as possible! And I've already promised that as soon as it's safe, she can invite as many people as she likes to a make-up party. For now, we'll have a quieter celebration at home with just the three of us. She'll have the dinner she chose (steak and green beans, with brownies and ice cream for dessert) and will get to open birthday as well as Chanukah presents tonight. It's not fancy, but it'll have to do.

Seeing as she's the star of the day, it seems appropriate the the FO I have to share today was knit for her:

Pattern: Fantastical Fox Mitts (Ravelry link) by Vikki Bird, size S
Yarn: Knit Picks Swish Worsted (100% superwash merino) in Allspice and White
Needles: US 4 (3.5 mm)
Started/Completed: November 24/December 11

These were a fun knit and would have been pretty fast to finish had it not been for the fact that I had to knit them in secret, meaning I got maybe an hour a day to work on them in the time between when Rainbow went to bed each night and when it was bedtime for me. I think because of that constant starting and stopping, they actually took more time, in total hours, than they would have if I'd been able to sit down and focus on them exclusively for a day or so.

While this pattern is very well written and certainly very clever in its construction, I will warn you that it's very fiddly and has a lot of parts. You start with the mitten flap, which is worked top down and uses intarsia in the round (which is actually much easier than you might think). Next you work the fingerless mitt from the top down, joining the flap once you've worked a bit. The thumb opening is placed by inserting some scrap yarn and picking up for it later. The "face" is likewise picked up and knit onto the flap, and the ears (four of 'em) are worked individually in the round and sewn on. Finally the nose and eyes (buttons) are sewn on, and if you wish (and I did), you can sew a button to the back of the hand and add a loop to the top of the flap to secure it.

I'm already thinking of ways to simplify the pattern for the next time I make it (because really, how can I not make it again?). For starters, if the intarsia in the round intimidates you, it would be easy to cast on extra stitches and work the two sides of the lower part of the flap flat, then seam them. The face could be done in duplicate stitch. The ears could be picked up and knit on. And certainly embroidery could be used in place of the buttons on the face. I'm also thinking of the possibilities of using other colors and slightly different features to make the mittens look like other animals. And if cutesy isn't your thing, the pattern would be just fine to use for plain convertible mittens or mitts (it gives the option for an open thumb as well as a full thumb, and you could leave off the flap altogether if you just want a plain fingerless mitt).

I knit these with a little trepidation because it had been a full year since Rainbow had seen and loved the pattern, but I'm happy to report that she was absolutely thrilled with them! We've conveniently got a snowstorm coming tomorrow (the estimates I've seen range from 5 to 8 inches total), so it looks like she'll soon have a chance to actually use them, too!

Sunday, December 13, 2020

It's a Triumph

Sunday again? Time to talk about spinning!

I did indeed get a chance to give my wheel some attention later in the week, so I have a finished skein to share!

The colors are not quite as intense in real life, but the light at this time of year is dim enough that photo filters are necessary. In any case, this is approximately 278 yards of chain-plied organic merino that is overall in the neighborhood of sport weight. It's not my most consistent skein ever, in large part because I know I was more focused on getting it finished then in maintaining my consistency. But I'm pleased with it even so, because it turned out soft and bouncy and round. And of course there are these amazing colors.

I even think this skein goes well with the last one I spun:

The fiber was one of my earliest shipments from the Southern Cross Fibre club -- definitely in my first year (I think the very first shipment I received was for February 2015; this one was from August 2015). I'm really enjoying the little trip to the past I've been taking via deep stash. I've got another well-marinated bag of fiber on the wheel now, Bond in the colorway Esmerelda from September 2015:

When I finish this skein, I will officially finish all the fiber items on my 20 in 2020 list! Even though I've been on a chain-plying kick lately, I decided to do something a bit different with this skein because the colors are more uniform (shades of blue and green). I'm still spinning it end to end, but when I finish the singles, I'll wind them off the bobbin into a center-pull ball and ply from both ends for what I hope will be a fingering (or maybe sport) two ply.

And I already know what's going the wheel next:

This is my HipStrings Base12 spinalong kit, a fiber Advent calendar of sorts. The link shows the yarn version, and I have no idea if the fiber version is the same (I haven't peeked at all). The set included a die to roll in order to spin at random, but I think I'm just going to go in order and create a mash-up skein. It's been a couple of years since I last did this, so I'm looking forward to it!

Thursday, December 10, 2020

Three Joys

I had such fun sharing three happy-making things last week that I thought I'd do it again for Three on Thursday (hosted by Carole) this week!

Happy Thing 1: Finished Socks

I've been complaining for a while about how long my father's gift socks have been taking to knit. I know it hasn't been that long in the grand scheme of things and in comparison to slower knitters, but I am usually really fast with stockinette socks. Thankfully the planets aligned yesterday and I was able to devote most of the day to working on them -- and last night I finished them! I gave them a quick soak and laid them on a towel on top of the radiator to dry (one of many reasons I like having radiant heat in our house), so by this morning they were ready to go!

I've got just one more pair of socks to go, but I'm going to be knitting those on larger needles and hoping that results in a faster project!

Happy Thing 2: A Surprise Treat in the Mail

I am not and have never been a morning person, so I'm generally a little grumpy when I first wake up, even with the extra half hour of sleep I've been getting since my commute to work changed to walking up a flight of stairs. This morning I got a nice surprise to start my day that instantly improved my mood: an email that someone had sent us something from Zingerman's! If you've never heard of the magical deli, well, just click over and look through their menu. I've never had anything there/from there that wasn't delicious, and I can't wait to see what's in store for us! I have no idea who has sent this gift or what it is, but we'll find out when it arrives tomorrow, and I have no doubt that it'll be delicious!

Happy Thing 3: Chanukah* Starts Tonight

Chanukah is technically a minor Jewish holiday, but it's been blown up to be the equivalent of Christmas over the years (in the United States, anyway). Traditionally it's not about the presents, and children would receive gifts of gelt, or money, rather than gifts. But now it's about the gifts, and we've got a bunch of things for Rainbow (that I really need to wrap today, oy vey!). I had a brief moment of panic this morning when I didn't know if we had any candles in the house -- because I know we didn't buy any this year, and last year we were in Florida for all of the holiday -- but I did a quick dig and breathed a sigh of relief:

Menorah/chanukiah from Nambé

I don't know that we have enough to get us through the entire holiday, but it's enough for at least a few nights, and we can get more this weekend at the supermarket. The fortunate thing is that we only need two candles to start, so I'm sure we could have scrounged up a couple of random candles if we'd needed to.

*And now for a little Jewish education session! One of you asked me a few weeks ago what the correct spelling of the holiday is. The answer is that there isn't one, at least in English. The word in Hebrew looks like this (with transliteration -- if you go to this site, you can hear it pronounced):

It's a three-syllable word, and because the Hebrew letters don't have a direct equivalent in English (there are multiple Hebrew letters that make the same sound, for instance, and some like the middle letter here that in this case only make the sound of the vowel -- the dot in the middle next to it), any English spelling is just an approximation of the sounds. I usually write it as Chanukah because it seems closest to how it's actually pronounced, but there are so many variations -- and really it doesn't matter. So spell it any way you like and don't stress! And if you want to observe the holiday in some way, it's traditional to eat foods fried in oil (to represent the oil that should have lasted for one day but lasted eight instead), like potato latkes and doughnuts. Yum!

Wednesday, December 09, 2020

A Yarn and Book Update

I'm linking up today with Kat and the Unravelers and sharing an update on what I've been reading (you already know from yesterday's post what I've been knitting).

First, a yarn update -- my skein finally arrived yesterday afternoon, after taking what I've roughly calculated to be a 600-mile sightseeing trip around the state. Here it is with the mini skeins I've opened so far (today's mini is at the far right):

My reading hasn't been as prolific as it has at some points this year, but I've finished two books in the past week:

I got a bit surprised by a library hold coming up on Glass Houses -- I wasn't expecting it for another week or so! -- but that's not to say I wasn't delighted. I have yet to be disappointed by a book in this series, and I'm getting very close to getting caught up, which both excites and dismays me (I both want to read them all and don't want to get caught up because that will mean having to wait for the next one to be written and published). I felt rather smug about figuring out a key part of the mystery in this one; it means I'm either getting smarter or Louise Penny has lost a step somewhere. Either way, it was a good read, and there was still a good twist at the end that I didn't see coming to keep me entertained. I gave it 4 stars.

I'd put This Tender Land on hold at the library quite a while ago after reading and really enjoying his Ordinary Grace earlier in the summer. This book is set roughly in the same area but about 20 years earlier, at the height of the Great Depression. It follows four children, all orphans, as they run away from a bad situation and try to find a new home. Along the way, they get very real glimpses of the darker side of humanity and of the suffering caused by poverty, alcoholism, and greed. I've described it in my Goodreads review as a combination of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, The Grapes of Wrath, and The Odyssey. I enjoyed it, though not as much as I enjoyed Ordinary Grace; I think it was a little longer than it needed to be. I gave it 4 stars as well.

I have now read 98 books this year, and I'm feeling very confident that I will hit the 100 mark! I'm not really sure what I'm going to read next, but I certainly have a lot of options. I feel like I should be virtuous and read something I already have rather than exploring what's available at the library, but all reading is good, if you ask me, so no promises!

Tuesday, December 08, 2020

Where the Time Has Gone

Several of you took me to task for the title of my last post. I think you all know by now that I'm not at all the type of person who slacks off from their responsibilities, but one of the downsides to having my home "office" in my bedroom and to be working from the chair where I normally sit to spin is that I see my wheel all the time and thus feel guilty when I'm not giving it attention.

The truth of the matter is that the reason I haven't been spinning as much lately is because most of my craft time has been occupied with knitting! I have three knitted gifts left to finish, and I'm not too concerned about meeting my deadlines, but I am also anxious to finish all of them so I can move on to new things for me. The top priority is the socks for my father, which seem to have some sort of black hole in them because they feel like they are taking much longer than a plain pair of socks should take.

I've actually even done a bit more since I snapped this photo this morning; the second sock now has a completed heel and I've started on the gusset decreases. Ideally I'll get this second sock finished in the next several days so that I can block them and then package them up with my mother's socks and some other things to send to my parents this weekend. The mail has been all sorts of crazy lately, and Chanukah starts Thursday night, so it would be nice if they could get their socks before the end of it. These socks should be perfect for knitting while doing other things, but the dark yarn does make things a bit tricky, especially because the yarn is a little splitty with my very sharp Addi Sock Rockets. I think part of the reason they're taking so long is because I'm getting 14 rounds per inch and I'm used to getting somewhere between 10 and 12 rounds per inch. I suppose this yarn is thinner than what I'm used to using for socks (it's 460 yards per 100 g rather than 400 yards per 100 g), but that still surprised me. I'm thankful that for my father-in-law's socks, I have a bit more time (I just have to get them done before Christmas, and we'll be delivering gifts in person).

Meanwhile, I've been madly knitting for about an hour each evening after we finally get Rainbow in bed to try to get her fox mittens finished in time. As I suspected, the second has gone much faster now that I know what I'm doing.

I expect I'll be able to at least finish the cuff of the second mitten tonight and maybe even start on the thumb. Not shown here are the four ears, which are all knit and will just have to be sewn on. The "face" of the completed mitten on the left is done as well, though it's flipping up right now, making it hard to see. It'll be sewn into place with a button. I was starting to think that I wouldn't have enough secret knitting time to get these done, but after what I got done this weekend, I'm feeling more confident. I think two to three more evenings on these should be sufficient to finish them.

One of the things I'm excited to move on to after the holiday knitting is done is a wrap using my Fibernymph Dye Works holiday mini skeins. Here are the first eight of them, enough to see the pattern that's forming:

They alternate between a semisolid and a white with speckles, with the speckles done in the colors of the semisolids on either side. That means I get a little hint of what the next semisolid will be when I open up a speckled skein, but even so I'm really enjoying the process of opening a little gift to myself each morning, even if it isn't a complete surprise. My plan is to use all the minis along with a full skein of fingering in an ADVENTuresome Wrap (Ravelry link). Lisa sent me the skein of pale gray last Friday, and I thought I'd have it Saturday or at the latest yesterday, because we live close enough that it generally takes a day for the mail to get from one of us to the other. Remember what I said about the mail being crazy? When the yarn didn't show up yesterday, I checked the tracking on it, and apparently it decided to go on a tour of the middle of Pennsylvania. Lisa lives in the mountain southeast of me. The yarn went from her to the local sorting warehouse in Warrendale, which is northwest of me. From there it went to Harrisburg (our state capital, about 2/3 of the state east of me) and then to Lancaster (even further east). Then it came back to Warrendale, and as of this morning, it's supposedly out for delivery -- though I'll only believe that when I actually have it in my hands. Is it any wonder that people didn't want to trust their ballots to the postal service?

Sunday, December 06, 2020


I really hoped I'd have more spinning done by today -- but alas, little progress has been made. It was a busy week at work, so I didn't have time to spin during the day, and my evenings have been filled with gift knitting. I did spend a bit of time at the wheel yesterday afternoon while I watched a podcast and for a little bit of time during the weekly Zoom session that Mary hosts, so I have added some singles to the bobbin since last weekend's update. But as luck would have it, the top layer on the bobbin is exactly the same color as it was when I snapped a photo last week, which makes it hard to see the difference, so this time I thought I'd also show the fiber still remaining to be spun:

I'm hoping that I'll find some more time to work on this during the week ahead. I'd really like to finish this and one other bag of fiber this year to finish off my 20 in 2020 fiber list!

Thursday, December 03, 2020

Three Unexpected Joys

When I started keeping a journal again at the beginning of the pandemic (I was a prolific journal writer as an adolescent but stopped when life got busy as a young adult), I also started including in each day's reflection three accomplishments for the day, which could be as major as or as mundane as I liked, and five moments of joy. My goal was to remind myself that even though every day was Blursday and there was so much to be depressed about, I was being productive every day and there were still things that could make me happy if I only looked for them. So because it's Thursday, I'm joining Carole and friends to share three little joys with you.

1. Zoodles in unexpected places
Part of my effort to eat better over the past several years has involved eating more vegetables, so like many people, I have embraced the zoodle, or the spiralized zucchini "noodle." I love pasta and could honestly eat it every day, but that wouldn't be so good for me, so I've occasionally replaced my spaghetti with zucchini. It's a decent substitute but not the real thing, so I've been contemplating how else to use my zoodles.

Then, about a month or so ago, the Mister came home from Trader Joe's with some of their jarred vegetable soup. I usually make my own vegetable soup, but this is obviously a lot more convenient during the work day, and it's delicious and healthy to boot. A couple of weeks ago, I had an epiphany: I could put the zoodles in the soup! They are perfect complements, and adding that bit of "chew" to the soup makes it more satisfying.

2. Whimsical cake pans
Rainbow and I love watching the Great British Baking Show and marveling at the fancy baked goods the contestants create, but we aren't very talented when it comes to baking our own (I'm much more likely to reach for a boxed cake mix). A while back we were looking at cakes pans with fun shapes and spotted this one:

On Monday, when all the sales were going, I remembered that I had a Williams-Sonoma gift card sitting in my nightstand drawer, so on a whim I checked the balance. It turned out to have about $100 on it, so I figured it was a sign! One of these cookie cake pan sets is now on its way to us (and it's still on sale, by the way, if you're interested in getting your own).

3. A new game addiction
Back in the Before Times, a group of girlfriends and I would get together every so often to play Mah Jongg. Obviously we can't do that now. But one of the gals discovered that there's an app that allows you to play online with others (or, if you want to play on your own, with the computer). You do need to have an official card and there is a monthly subscription fee (though you can get a free trial to start), but it's a reasonable substitute. I've been playing on my own with the computer to keep my skills sharp and it's a nice break that provides some intellectual stimulation.

I hope you're able to find some unexpected joys in your life! Have a good end to your week -- stay safe out there!

Wednesday, December 02, 2020

WIPs and Reads and Minis, Oh My!

It's (already!) Wednesday (I love it when the second day of my work week is already the middle of the week!), and I'm joining up with Kat and the Unravelers today to talk about what I'm knitting and reading.

At the moment, my knitting is completely focused on holiday gifts. I am sorry to say that I am still in the middle of the first sock of the pair for my father. I swear this sock is knitting up slower than any sock I've knit before! At least I am through the gusset and somewhere in the middle of the foot, but I still have at least a couple of inches to go before I start decreasing for the toe. I never thought I would look forward to meetings, but right now I'd happily take some because it would mean dedicated sock knitting time.

One of the complications of having Rainbow home is that I can no longer work on holiday knitting for her during the day, and now that she's older, she's also going to bed later, so I am getting maybe an hour of knitting time a night. For the past week, I've been working on a pair of Fantastical Fox Mitts (Ravelry link) for her, and I'm only now approaching the end of the first one -- just the rest of the thumb and the fox's "nose" (on the flap) to go!

These have been a fun little challenge because the white on the flap is done using intarsia in the round, which I've never done before. It's actually a lot easier than I thought, just a bit fiddly because of how my stitches were arranged on the needles. Chanukah starts a week from tomorrow, so if I can keep up the current pace, I'll have the pair finished in time, even if these have to wait to be opened the last night.

One unexpected delight yesterday was remembering that on December 1 I could start opening up my holiday minis! I ordered what is essentially a yarn Advent calendar from Fibernymph Dye Works, as I have for several years (though in years past I opted for the fiber version), and once again Lisa designed the colors to blend into each other as you go through all 24 packages. Here are the minis from yesterday and today:

I have decided to use mine to knit an ADVENTuresome Wrap (Ravelry link), but just yesterday I realized that in addition to the minis, I'd also need one full skein of yarn. Lisa to the rescue (it's nice to have indie dyers who are friends!) -- I texted her asking about what color would work best so I could place an order with her, and she responded that she happened to have a spare skein in a pale gray semisolid that she'd pop in the mail to me. I'm not going to get started on my wrap until the holiday knitting is done or nearly done, so I told her there was no rush, but mail usually takes about a day to get from her house to mine, so I expect it'll be here soon.

In reading, I have finished only one book in the past week (I told you I didn't have much time last week!), but it was a good one.

I know from looking at Goodreads that a lot of you have already read and enjoyed The Great Believers, so I know I don't need to post a review to convince you to do so. I actually bought the Kindle book months ago, sometime in the summer (I actually remember doing it on my cell phone standing in our synagogue's parking lot, where we met up with my family so they could see Rainbow riding her bike), when it was a daily deal. I'd heard it was really good but honestly didn't know much about it, and I finally got around to reading it when I had a break between library holds. It's an extremely well written and heartbreaking story centered around the AIDS crisis of the '80s in Chicago. In many ways, it reads like a memoir. Highly recommend -- 4 stars from me.

I'm currently reading and trying to finish Glass Houses, the 13th book in the Gamache series -- I'm getting closer to catching up! I have about 100 pages left to go and think I've already figured out a key part of this mystery, but we'll see if I'm right. I've got about three weeks (or so my app tells me) until my next library hold comes up, so I'll be digging into one of the many books in my Kindle library next (or maybe -- gasp! -- I'll even read a real, physical book!).

I'd love to hear about what you've been knitting and reading these days in the comments!

Tuesday, December 01, 2020

One Little Word, One FO, and One New Design*

Can you believe today is December 1?! The end of the year seems to be going by at warp speed, which I wouldn't mind so much but for the fact that I still have a lot of holiday knitting to do!

We are changing things up a bit and posting our One Little Word reflections today, even though it's not the last Tuesday of November. Honoré is gracious enough to be our host for these monthly link-ups, and today works best for her, so I'm going with it. So what did I savor in the month of November? This month, I took things quite literally:

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays, in no small part because of the food, but also because it means getting together with family and friends for no other reason than to enjoy each other's company. There are no religious rites or rituals, no foods we're required to eat or required to abstain from, and the whole atmosphere is one of relaxation and gratitude. Obviously this year was very different. There were only three of us around the table, though we shared cooking duties with my brother and sister-in-law (they made the mashed potatoes, Brussels sprouts, and green bean casserole). I didn't want to make this year any more depressing than it already was by skimping on the meal, so I made sure we had all the elements we're used to. Friends, I successfully roasted my first turkey! I also made our favorite cranberry sauce and my great-grandmother's challah stuffing, my absolute favorite part of the meal! And as we have every year for the past several years, Rainbow and I baked pumpkin cranberry muffins (though we only made three dozen this year instead of our usual six dozen). While I certainly savored the food itself, I think what I savored the most about this Thanksgiving is that we were able to have it pretty much normally except for the company. We had a Zoom call just before we ate and saw our parents, my sister- and brother-in-law and nephew, my aunt and uncle in Florida, and the Mister's aunt and uncle and cousin in Atlanta. So it still felt like we were with a big crowd, but there were many fewer dishes to wash at the end of the night.

I'd hoped that in taking the whole week off from work I'd find extra time for knitting and spinning, but in actuality a lot of last week (at least through Thursday) was spent in the kitchen. And I really didn't mind it, especially as I had a helper for a lot of it. I didn't anticipate just how much work it would be to cook a Thanksgiving dinner, and while I certainly could have cut a few corners, I wanted to have as authentic an experience as we could. So it was a busy week but an enjoyable one.

I did finally find my time to knit on Friday afternoon, when Rainbow and I sat down to watch the final two GBBO episodes of the current season and I cast on for a gift to myself that I've been meaning to make all year. I finished that project yesterday afternoon.

Pattern: Woodland Loafers by Claire Slade (Ravelry link)
Yarn: Fibernymph Dye Works Ridgetop DK (80% Romney/20% Falkland) in Wild Bergamot and Floof (75% mohair/25% silk) in Rain Cloud Gray, held together
Needles: US 8 (5.0 mm)
Started/Completed: November 27/November 29
Mods: omitted the loops at the back of the heels and did a round of purl before binding off

I'd purchased this pattern in the Giftalong last year but didn't get around to making them, probably because there's very little bulky weight yarn in my stash, so they were on my 20 in 20 list for this year. In lieu of a single strand of bulky, I opted for these two yarns held together. Though the main yarn is labeled a DK, at 220 yards per 100 g, I'd call it a worsted, and that combined with the halo of the mohair/silk seemed to make a reasonable substitute. I think an actual bulky yarn would probably result in a more robust fabric (mine is a bit limp and floppy when not on a foot), but the fit is just fine. The pattern is fast and a lot of fun to knit. It's actually completely seamless -- you knit the sole flat first, then pick up stitches all around to work the rest of it. Quite clever! And I'd estimate the pair took me only between four and five hours to knit, making it a good option when I need a last-minute gift. I'm sure there will be more pairs from me in the future!

Finally, I wanted to let you know that I published a new pattern this morning, the brioche cowl you saw when it was in progress. This is the Chevroche Cowl (Ravelry link):

It's available on Ravelry and Payhip and is $1 off the full price for the first week (coupon codes are on the pattern pages).

*Bet you thought I was going to say "and a partridge in a pear tree"!