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Friday, December 03, 2021

Oh, Bother

Over the years, I've gotten used to December being a crazy month. Yesterday, though, it became a different kind of crazy. Shortly before 10 a.m., while I was out on my walk, I got a call from Rainbow's school. I immediately knew something was wrong -- they never call in the middle of the day for a good reason. When I answered, I got a recording telling me to check my email for "an important communication," which turned out to be a notification that they entire sixth grade had been exposed to someone who had tested positive for COVID and had to immediately go into quarantine. So I had to run home to pick her up, and she will be home until the 13th. Even though remote instruction isn't an option for her school this year, they're going to do it next week because the entire grade is affected. We're going to get PCR tests this morning, though she isn't experiencing any symptoms. The kicker here is that she was supposed to get her second vaccine shot tomorrow, but we'll have to put that off.

On a happier note, she opened up her doubled hat last night and was delighted with it! Now we can be matchy-matchy!


We will get test results back in 24-48 hours, so that means we're in for a quiet weekend at home -- and I have zero complaints about that! Rainbow suggested that we finally get to sewing the tote bags we bought supplies for over the summer, and I think that sounds like an excellent plan. Here's hoping your weekend is good and significantly less dramatic!

Wednesday, December 01, 2021

Unraveled, Week 48/2021

It's December, already! Doesn't it seem like we were just starting the year and hoping that it would erase the bad memories of 2020? I won't open up that can of worms this morning, but I will say that I'm still bewildered at the fact that this year is almost over. But it's Wednesday, my day every week to check in with what I'm making and reading and to link up with Kat and the Unravelers, so let's focus on that!

I will likely be dragging today and might need to catch a cat nap or two because I was up until late last night (11:30) knitting furiously to finish this hat so it would count for the end of the 90% Knitting Nature MAL:



Staying up late to finish a project is very uncharacteristic for me, but I needed to finish this project to get me my full-year participation in the makealong (which earns me a special skein of yarn). It's a bit ridiculous if you think about it, but I like nothing better than arbitrary knitting goals! This hat -- the same formula I followed for Rainbow's -- used exactly 100 g/400 yds. of the yarn. My skein weighed a bit more than 100 g to start, so there was no yarn chicken being played at the end.

I now find myself with only one WIP, my Shifty pullover, but I have two time-sensitive projects to cast on soon: a hat for my father-in-law, which I'm planning to knit holding several strands of fingering weight together, and the replacement blanket for my nephew. My goal is to knit the hat this week and finish the blanket before we leave for Florida.

You all know that I don't celebrate Advent, but I do like the yarn or fiber sets that are sold around this time of year, and I got one from Fibernymph Dye Works as I have the past several years. This year I opted for twelve 20 g mini skeins plus the full skein of the special holiday colorway. I received my bag of goodies several weeks ago but have been saving it. This morning I opened the first mini skein, and it's a beauty:


I'm planning on knitting another big shawl or stole with this year's collection, but I may wait until I've opened several packages to see how the colors look together before I decide on a pattern.

Reading has been good this week and has been keeping me good company while I knit like fiend. I've finished two recent releases in the past week.


With a weird title and a strange collection of parallel narratives, Cloud Cuckoo Land is a book that's very hard to describe. I really didn't know much about it when I put it on hold at the library but was counting on the fact that I adored the author's All the Light We Cannot See. This book has three separate stories, or so it seems, that come together over the course of the book. At first, they seem so wildly unconnected that you wonder how they'll come together, but they do, though, in my opinion, not as well as I would have liked. The writing is beautiful, though, and the book could be thought of as a tribute to books, libraries, librarians, and the sanctity of the written word. I gave it 4 stars.


I finished Harlem Shuffle yesterday while working on my hat. Despite the fact that it was about half the length of Cloud Cuckoo Land, it took me just as long to read and seemed much slower. This book follows a furniture salesman in Harlem in the late '50s and early '60s who is trying to improve his lot in life and gets embroiled in the world of crime, first unwillingly and then of his own volition. There is no doubt that Colson Whitehead is a gifted writer, but this book didn't excite or move me the way his earlier books have. I think perhaps this was just not the right book for me. I gave it 3 stars.
I'm still reading some hard-copy books that I really want to finish, but I started listening to The Sentence on Monday and am just loving it. I also just got We Are Not Like Them from the library this morning and hope to start it later today. I'll also note that Harlem Shuffle was the 130th book I've finished this year, which officially doubles my goal for the year of 65 books. Crazy pants!

How about you -- what are you working on and reading this week?

Monday, November 29, 2021

Balance in 2021: October

It's incredible to me that tomorrow is the last day of November. I know that the last part of the year seems to go by quickly every year, but this year it seems even swifter than normal. As it's the last Monday of the month, that means it's time for my check in with my One Little Word. Thanks as always to Carolyn for hosting our once-a-month link-ups!


Balance has been more of a challenge for me this month. There have been work deadlines and unexpected meetings and holidays and vaccine shots. Some of these things have been good and others not so good; what they have in common is that they've all posed different demands on my time that has sometimes meant given up time I normally would have given to something else. I think the health part of the equation took a hit in particular this month. Twice this month I have broken my step streak. The first time was when I had that unexpected synagogue board meeting, and then it was broken again just this past weekend. In both cases, I was busy with things during the day, and by the time I had a moment free when I could have conceivably gone for my walk, it was too dark and creepy outside to do so. My initial reaction to breaking the streak (especially the first time, when it was several hundred days long) was annoyance and even anger. Moving my body every day has become such a big part of my routine in the last year and a half plus, and it's become one way that I keep my stress in check. But I realized that perhaps part of the reason I was upset was because I was falsely equating missing my walk with being lazy, and laziness has been my biggest obstacle in the past. I had to remind myself that taking the hour or hour and a half every day to walk is a luxury and one that I can't always afford. Having a truly balanced lifestyle means that there will always be give and take, and I have to look at the overall picture. My goal shouldn't necessary be to get 10K steps every day but rather to average that many over the week, the month, or even the year. And really that's the kind of moderation I should be aiming for in pretty much all aspects of my life.

I don't really have a 21 in 2021 update to share because I have no further updates to the list since I last shared my progress in September. At this point, it's looking doubtful I'll finish every item on the list by the end of the year (I don't think there will be much bike riding in the three weeks we're still in town this year) -- but that's okay! I knew when I made the list that some things would be a stretch and it was the stretching that was the goal, not the individual items on the list. I don't know that I'll do a list of 22 items to do in 2022, but I think my One Little Word for next year is going to help to continue the exercise of stretching myself.

How has your word played out in this penultimate month of 2021? Are you finding it hard to stay focused now that we're so close to wrapping things up on this year's word? Have you figured out your word for next year yet?

Friday, November 26, 2021

Feeling Extra Thankful

The blessing and the curse of a long holiday weekend is that I often lose track of what day it is, and I woke up this morning thinking it was Saturday or Sunday. Fortunately, when I turned on the news this morning, all the advertisers did an excellent job of reminding me that it's Black Friday (obviously I am not one of those people who sets an alarm clock early to get out to the sales first thing!). I have done a small amount of online shopping this morning -- I placed an order with LoLo Body Care because I'm running low on my last Body Bar and also wanted to get one for my sister-in-law, and I also ordered my favorite moisturizers from Kiehl's, as they're a bit spendy and also rarely on sale -- but I am not planning on visiting any stores or malls today. In about an hour, I'll be going to deliver the toys my synagogue committee collected through our toy drive last weekend, and other than taking my daily walk, I plan to spend the rest of the day curled up at home.

We had a really lovely Thanksgiving yesterday with a big meal like we used to have in the Before Times. It was the three of us, my parents, my brother and sister-in-law, her parents, her brother and sister-in-law and their three kids, my in-laws, and my uncle for dinner. My brother- and sister-in-law and nephew joined us for dessert. We had SO much food -- the usual turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce (canned and fresh!), and gravy but also roasted Brussels sprouts, green bean casserole, dinner rolls and crescent rolls and pumpkin cranberry muffins, four kinds of pie (apple, blueberry, strawberry rhubarb, and pumpkin, plus an apple tart that my sister-in-law brought), brownies, cupcakes, cookie bars, and dried fruit filled with nuts. There was wine and sparkling apple cider and a special holiday punch made with brandy, sparkling wine, Chambord, orange slices, and fresh cranberries. But above all, there was the company and the fact that we could all be together safely. All the adults were fully vaccinated, many also boosted, and all the eligible kids had gotten their first dose. It felt good to be with people again without having to worry -- Rainbow actually felt a little overwhelmed by it all and had to have some quiet time when we got home!

I didn't do much knitting yesterday, but progress has been made. After I posted on Wednesday, I did finish up the charity hat (though I still have to block it, which will happen soon):


Pattern: 1898 Hat by Kristine Byrnes (link goes directly to the pattern PDF)
Yarn: Fibernymph Dye Works Bona Fide (100% superwash merino DK) in Cake Pops, 0.72 skeins
Needles: US 6 (4.0 mm)
Started/Completed: November 14/November 24
Mods: added an extra inch in length before the crown decreases

I've knit this hat a couple of times before and am always delighted by how clever it is. You start by knitting the band that goes around the ears; it's knit flat, starting with a provisional cast on, and when you finish, you graft the ends together, fold it in half, and pick up stitches all the way around to both join that doubled layer and have the stitches you'll need for the body and crown of the hat. The pattern calls for worsted weight yarn, but I know that Lisa's DK base is only slightly lighter than her worsted and substitutes very well. I also know that the hat as written will come out a little shallow for me, so I routinely add a bit more length before I start the crown decreases. This project served double duty for me, as it's both adding to my pile of charity hats and serving as an entry for the Pigskin Party November Interception (basically a special challenge that's part of the larger events).

I have also started my own Pittsburgh hat and completed the increases last night, so now I'm on the completely mindless part until I have about 10% of my yarn left.

Wonkiness caused by folding the needles/cable under the knitting to hide them


This is another skein of Fibernymph Dye Works self-striping sock yarn, and I like that its stripe sequence is a bit different from your typical self-striping. I'll be trying to get this done by the end of the month, which seems doable considering the extra time off and the fact that I don't have to hide this one.

I hope those of you who celebrated yesterday had a lovely holiday, and I hope you all have a wonderful weekend!

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Unraveled, Week 47/2021

Good morning, friends! It's the day before Thanksgiving here in the United States, traditionally one of the busiest travel days of the year. I am very thankful, as I always am, that we only have to travel about a mile to our Thanksgiving celebration, and this year I am extra thankful that we will be able to celebrate with our family again. Last year it was just three of us around the table; this year, we'll be 17, all of us full vaxxed (and many of us boosted) except for the youngest kids.

Before that, however, there's still some baking and cooking to do (we are in charge of the pumpkin muffins, roasted Brussels sprouts, and green bean casserole), and of course it's Wednesday, which means it's time to link up with Kat and the Unravelers to talk about making and reading.

I shared a photo of Rainbow's finished hat on Monday, but that was preblocking. Here it is now, after a nice soak and a bit of a stretch and properly folded up:


It's now wrapped up and in her pile of gifts for Chanukah, which starts Sunday night.

I also finished my brother's socks on Monday and blocked them (and the two other pairs of gift socks I knit earlier in the fall), so all that's left is to wrap them:


I am amazed at how much yarn I have leftover from these -- about a quarter of the skein! My brother's feet are 10.75 inches long, and I made the legs 7 inches long. Granted, this yarn is a fairly skinny base and has something like 437 yards in the 100 g skein, but it feels a bit like magic even so!

Today's mission is to finish up this charity hat -- I just have the rest of the crown decreases to go:

After that's done, I'll likely cast on for my own version of the hat I knit Rainbow. I'll be using the same numbers, but I think I might go down half a needle size for a snugger fit. It'll make for some good mindless knitting for the rest of the holiday weekend!

As to reading, I have finished only one book in the past week, but it was 700+ pages, so that has to count for something!

You've likely seen something about Great Circle even if you haven't picked it up yourself; it's been on a number of award long and short lists. It's a long book because it's a bit of a saga. There are two story lines, one starting in the first half of the 20th century and one in almost present day. The main narrative is about Marian Graves, a spunky woman who grew up in rural Montana with her twin brother and who is determined to be a pilot. The great circle referenced is a longitudinal circumnavigation crossing both poles that Marion is known for attempting to fly. The more present-day narrative follows Hadley, a young actress whose personal life has been ravaged by scandal and who has been cast as Marion in a biopic. I didn't care for Hadley much, but her research into Marion serves to allow the reader to discover more about Marion's life. I adored Marion's story, though, and I actually cried when I finished reading the final sentence of the book, I think because I was so sorry to have to say good-bye to her. I did struggle with how to rate this book, and if you follow me on Goodreads, you'll have seen that I changed my rating several times. Ultimately I settled on 4.5 stars because I loved most of the book and the parts that I didn't care for didn't detract too much from my overall enjoyment.

I am hoping that I get lots of reading time this weekend because the library holds are starting to pour in! I've got about 200 pages left in Cloud Cuckoo Land, which I'm hoping to get through today because I just got a notification from Libby that Harlem Shuffle is ready for me!

I'd love to hear what you're working on and reading this week, and I hope if you are celebrating Thanksgiving tomorrow that you have a delicious meal and many things to be thankful for!

Monday, November 22, 2021

You Call That a Weekend?

It's Monday morning again, much sooner than I would have liked. It was a very busy weekend here, busy enough yesterday that I did not get my walk in and broke my new streak of 10K+-step days already! To give you an idea of why, I'll leave it here that I spent a total of three hours on Zoom yesterday. One was with knitting/reading friends, but the other two were in an emergency board meeting. It's almost a relief to know today is a normal day and I'll have time to walk!

The upside of all that time on Zoom is that I was able to knit through it all, and I'm just about done with my brother's socks -- I just have to finish the toe on the second sock!

 
I also finished up Rainbow's hat on Friday night, so I will need to block it today while she's at school.


I'm very pleased with it and used up all but about 2 g of the yarn (my skein was 104 g to start), but I'm planning to stretch it out a bit when I block it so that she can have enough fabric to turn up the brim when it's doubled. I have tried it on (our heads are now the same size) and can fold up the brim, but folding it up enough for my taste makes it a bit too short. It's also not that tight on, so making it smaller in circumference by lengthening it is not a concern.

It's a short week for me because of Thanksgiving -- my office is closing at noon on Wednesday -- and Rainbow is only in school today and tomorrow, so I'm hoping that I will get back some of the weekend relaxation time I missed out on this weekend. I have grand knitting plans! I hope your weekend wasn't as crazy as mine and that you have a good week ahead of you. I'll be back on Wednesday as normal!

Friday, November 19, 2021

Pattern Release: Obfuscation

Dear readers (especially longtime readers), do you remember when I used to design and publish patterns almost every month? It seems like forever ago, and there's no denying that the pandemic has really dampened my creativity. I had to go back and check to see when I last published a pattern because I honestly couldn't remember (it was July, by the way). I'm just starting to feel the designing mojo coming back, and I think going to Rhinebeck really kick-started it.

Today's pattern, my first new release in four months, is a direct result of that trip. Remember that set of mini skeins I picked up at Indie Untangled? My brain started going the very night I bought them and I had a plan for them before I went to sleep. When I got home, I moved the idea from my brain onto my needles.


"Obfuscation" is the act of throwing something into shadow or darkening it. My idea for this cowl was that as each new color/mini skein was introduced, it would push the previous color to the background. I immediately thought of brioche stitch, as it's not only fun to knit and creates an extremely squishy fabric, it also creates a fun blended effect when worked in two colors.


Though this might look like a complicated knit, if you have knit basic brioche stitch before, you'll find that it's a piece of cake. The stitch is the same the whole way though; all that changes is whether you're using one color or two. In fact, I'd say the most complicated (or maybe fiddly is the better word) part of the pattern is weaving in your ends carefully so that the cowl can be fully reversible.


The pattern is written to use one six-skein set of fingering weight mini skeins (I used a set from McMullin Fiber Co.), but I've also included a customization section should you want to use scraps/leftovers or change the final dimensions. The beauty of this design is that it's immensely adaptable, and I plan to make another as an infinity cowl/long loop at some point!

You will find the pattern on both Ravelry and Payhip, and in both places it is on sale for $1 for the first week with the coupon code MINIBRIOCHE. 

I hope you like this one, and I certainly hope I have another new pattern to share sooner than four months from now!

Happy weekending!

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Unraveled, Week 46/2021

Well, my friends, the excitement has not let up this week. The good news? My sister-in-law is feeling fine -- her only symptom is that she can't smell anything. My brother-in-law and nephew are both negative. Unfortunately we learned that a good family friend has tested positive, despite being fully vaccinated, and she is sick. She likely got it from her 11-month-old, who apparently picked it up at daycare -- so far, six of the 10 babies in her room have tested positive. They are doing okay, if feeling a bit lousy, and I guess it's a good thing that they aren't really seriously ill. But it is troubling, especially as we have all been so careful for so long, and it seems to be affecting all of us. Rainbow had a really hard time getting to sleep Monday night, which of course meant I didn't get much sleep because I was trying to soothe her, so I was dragging yesterday. And that was not helped by getting a big project dropped on my desk first thing yesterday morning. Do you think it's too soon to take another mental health day?

I can handle the work stuff -- I know I'll be finished with it soon, after all -- but my biggest complaint is that it has gotten in the way of my crafting and reading time. I don't have very much knitting progress to share with you today, but I'm still linking up with Kat and the Unravelers because I'll be darned if I miss a week this far into the year!

Over the weekend, I finished the first of the socks for my brother and started the second; my goal is to finish the second sock by the end of next week, as we're planning on having a family Chanukah party on Sunday the 28th. If I'm pressed, I can churn out a sock in a day if I need to, but my joints would prefer I take a bit more time.

Rainbow's hat has seen a little progress, and I think I'm past the halfway point on the yarn. I am attending a two-hour professional development workshop (via Zoom) later this morning, and I plan to knit on it for as much of that time as possible.


Finally, I have added a bit to my charity hat, though it doesn't look that different from the last time you saw it. I'll share an updated photo once it looks a bit more interesting. I haven't even touched my Shifty this week; it's on hold until I get the gifts/stuff that's on deadline done.

Keeping with the theme, reading has been slow this week as well. I haven't finished a single book this week! But I have been reading through Great Circle, which is quite honestly the length of two or three books, and I've been enjoying it. I wanted to finish it this week, but that's all dependent on how work goes. I'm doing a lot of reading, but very little of it is for pleasure!

Please let me know what wonderful things you are working on and reading in the comments -- if I can't knit or read much myself, I'll at least be happy knowing my friends are!

Monday, November 15, 2021

Unexpected Excitement

It turns out that I really did need a three-day weekend, because last night, for the first time in a long time, I didn't feel like I had run out of weekend before I'd gotten done everything that I wanted or needed to. Rainbow and I did a lot of shopping on Friday, and I also took care of a large chunk of my to-do list, and the best part is that when the day was done, we still had a weekend to go.

One thing we did on Saturday was stop by a site for Cardigan Day. Our local PBS station, WQED, is where Mister Rogers' Neighborhood was filmed, and for the past several years, they've been celebrating Cardigan Day. This year it coincided with World Kindness Day, and they had several sites around the city where you could show up in your cardigan, take photos, and get some goodies. Two of the three of us had hand-knit cardigans to wear (clearly I need to remedy that and make sure Rainbow has at least one non-store-bought cardigan):

We're looking extra smiley because just before this photo was snapped, a clueless person had wandered in front of us.


You may recognize the sweater the Mister as wearing as one I knit him a couple of years ago for the station's Cardigan Party. When we stopped by the event, I realized I was seeing double:


The man on the left is Chris Fennimore, who is a bit of a local celebrity known for his cooking shows on WQED and cookbooks. We were chatting about the sweaters and learned that while his sister knit this cardigan, he actually knits and crochets!

For the most part, it was a quiet weekend, but we did have some unplanned excitement yesterday -- we found out that my sister-in-law tested positive for COVID, and because we were at their house for dinner last Monday, that meant we were exposed. So yesterday we all took our first COVID tests. Fortunately, we all tested negative:

My brother-in-law and my in-laws also were negative (we haven't heard about my nephew), and my sister-in-law's only symptoms seem to be loss of smell and taste, but it was very concerning, especially because all the adults are fully vaccinated. I guess it's a good reminder to stay vigilant!

I wrapped up the weekend by finishing the second charity headband, this time just a plain rib, and it's a little comical how different the two look in size even though I cast on the same number of stitches for both! They still have to blocked, but they'll get sent off this week.


I hope your weekend was significantly less exciting than mine (or at least if it was exciting, it was the good kind of excitement).

Friday, November 12, 2021

A Wise Choice

Happy Friday, friends! Even though my alarm went off at the normal time and I woke up with a bit of a headache (which I'm blaming on the snoring in my bed that woke me up at 5 a.m.), I am feeling very cheerful this morning and very glad I decided to take today off as a mental health day. I must have been somewhat clairvoyant because I actually need it! Yesterday was a very long day, starting with my mammogram (which was normal -- thank you for all the good thoughts) and ending with a nearly two-hour-long synagogue board meeting. Having knitting in my hands and a glass of wine next to me made that meeting a bit less painful, but only just. It's been a long week, so having a bonus day off is a very good thing.

Thanks in large part to last night's meeting, I do have a finished object for the week -- the first of the charity headbands:


I like the squishiness of the fabric from the brioche, but it also took a while to knit because it's so compressed vertically, so I think for the second one I'm just going to do 1x1 rib on the edges and 2x2 rib in the middle.

Today Rainbow and I plan to do some shopping (Costco and Target) in the morning, and in the afternoon she is going to focus on getting her homework done and I'll take my walk. I also have about half of my weekly to-do list left to tackle, and it might just get done today. The weather forecast for the weekend is looking pretty terrible -- much colder, blustery, and even a chance of snow! -- so I'm going to enjoy not having to be planted in front of my computer while I can. I will likely still go out for my walks this weekend, but I expect I will hurry back to cover myself with wool and sip tea as soon as possible. I hope that means it will be a good crafting weekend with lots of project progress -- and I hope you have a great weekend with lots of crafting, too!

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

Unraveled, Week 45/2021

I know I've been very unimaginative with the titles of my Wednesday posts, but they do serve as a good reminder of how far we've gotten in the year. Is anyone else utterly shocked that there are only seven more Wednesdays left in this year? In any case, it is Wednesday again, and that means it's time to join up with Kat and the Unravelers for an update on what I'm making and what I'm wearing.

Although my Shifty was pulled out briefly over the weekend, it's now gone back into its project bag so that I can focus on the projects that need to be done in the next couple of weeks. That means Rainbow's Pittsburgh hat and the socks for my brother. And I have made some progress on both:



The hat would probably have been done by now if I could work on it out in the open, but now that Rainbow is doing her own crafty stuff, she's interested in what I'm making if I work on it in front of her, so I can't get away with it. My knitting time on the hat has been restricted to a couple of hours during the day, if I'm lucky, and maybe an hour in the evening. I'm not terribly worried about finishing the hat in time, but it would be nice to have longer stretches of time in which I could plow through it. The sock, meanwhile, is almost ready for the toe -- less than an inch of foot to go!

I also cast on a new project last night, though I didn't make it very far:


One of the other participants in the Down Cellar Studio Pigskin Party asked for some donations of knit headbands for teen girls for a charity she's involved with, and I told her I would be happy to make a couple. I'm using a skein of yarn from Unplanned Peacock that we (well, technically Rainbow) won in the raffle at Indie Knit & Spin a couple of years ago. It's very hard to capture, but it has some sparkle in it, which I think teen girls would like. I'm not following a pattern; I cast on 108 stitches, worked five rounds of 1x1 rib, and I'm going to work some brioche followed by more ribbing to finish. Considering that I'm basically knitting a hat brim and then binding off, it shouldn't take me too long. I'm hoping to make at least two of these to send to her, but I'll see how much yarn I use in the first one and perhaps make more if I can get more out of the one skein of yarn.

Reading has been good this past week. I finished three books!

After listening to about 2/3 of Daisy Jones & the Six with Amy on the ride home from Rhinebeck, I had to wait a couple of weeks to get the audiobook from the library to finish it. Enough time had passed since then that I had to relisten to a bit, but it only took me a day to do that and listen to the rest. I know many of you have read this already, but if not, I will recommend it if you're looking for an entertaining, not-to-serious read. The audio cast was really good (even though Jennifer Beals is a sloooooow reader). And if you have read this one and want something similar but with a bit more substance, check out The Final Revival of Opal & Nev. I gave this one 4 stars.

Up next is the next Read With Us selection, Matrix. I know we'll have a lot to talk about when we're ready to discuss it as a group, but I will say that I really enjoyed this book -- and at the same time I can see that it's a divisive book. The novel imagines a possible life of a real woman about whom very little is known. But in Lauren Groff's imagination, Marie de France inhabits a world in which she can build a bastion of female authority and self-sufficiency that would be surprising today but was truly revolutionary for her time. Don't go into this expecting a real plot; rather it's a sort of fictional biography of an extraordinary woman. It's not going to be for everyone, but I quite enjoyed it. I gave it 4 stars.

Finally, I was surprised (because the wait had been so long the last time I checked) to get The Promise from the library, just days after it was announced as the winner of the 2021 Booker Prize. I wasn't planning to try to read the short list, but I'd put this one on hold after Mary raved about it. I read this over the course of two days, but I've spent longer than that trying to figure out how I feel about it. It's set in South Africa over several decades starting the mid-'80s, and while it's not about apartheid and its end per se, the family drama unfolds against that backdrop. The writing and format are unusual (which seems to be a thing that literary prizes enjoy), but I found it confusing and hard to follow at times. And the story is a sad one, which doesn't normally disqualify a book for me, but this was one in which it felt like people were continually making awful choices. I gave it 3.5 stars.

Right now, I'm reading Great Circle -- just started it yesterday and am about 100 pages in. I haven't gotten further in The Madness of Crowds, mainly because I tend to ignore books I own when a library hold comes in, though I am keeping up with Rainbow on The Westing Game, which is very easy when it's a couple of chapters at a time.

Tomorrow I've got a follow-up mammogram (good thoughts appreciated!) and I'm hoping that if I have a lot wait while the radiologist looks at my scans, I can at least get some reading done. Friday Rainbow is off for an end-of-term in-service day for her teachers, so I've decided to take the day off as a mental health day and spent it with her. The idea initially was for her benefit, but I have two synagogue meetings (committee and full board) the next two evenings, so I may need it for my benefit as well!

What are you working on and reading these days? And if you've read The Promise, what do you think about its selection for the Booker Prize?

Monday, November 08, 2021

What a Difference ...

... a good night's sleep makes! My arm is still a little sore, but my joints no longer feel like they are falling apart. I think my reaction this time was a bit worse than after my second shot (this time in addition to the achy joints, I also felt really, really tired), but luckily the effects lasted only a day like last time.

As much as I enjoyed having a weekend where we were doing a lot of hanging out at home, I'm also glad that Rainbow is back at school today so I can work on one of her Chanukah gifts. I cast on this hat on Friday but didn't get very far (I get an hour in the evening after she goes to bed if I'm lucky), so I'm hoping that I can make much more progress during the school day this week.

This is my own version of the Musselburgh-style hat that everyone is making these days -- a tube with a crown at either end. I'm doing mine a bit differently (using a spiral pattern for the increases/decreases), but the general concept is the same. One end will be shoved inside the other and it will be reversible. I'm referring to it as a Pittsburgh hat -- of course pronounced in the Scottish way: "Pitts-boro."

I also pulled out my Shifty pullover this weekend, after at least a week of ignoring it, and added a handful of rounds while we watched an episode of Bake Off.



I think now you can see where I changed the main/background color; I did think about blending it in somehow, but I couldn't think of an easy way to do it. I really don't care all that much, to be honest, though I know some people would be bothered by a horizontal line across their torso. Frankly I think there's so much going on with the handspun that it won't be terribly obvious. If I can find the time today, I will slide half of the body stitches onto a spare needle so that I can try it on and make sure it fits. It looks okay to me, but I want to be sure before I carry on. There's still quite a bit of knitting to do on this, and I don't want to waste my time if it won't fit.

I hope your weekend was restful and your Monday is calm! See you back here on Wednesday for an update on the WIPs and my reading (spoiler alert: it's been good!).

Sunday, November 07, 2021

A Day of Rest and a Photo Dump

It's about 4 p.m. on Sunday and it's already looking dark out there -- queue the seasonal affective disorder now! Usually I don't mind getting the extra hour of sleep when we turn the clocks back to standard time, but I do very much mind how early it gets dark this time of year.

First, I am catching up on last weekend with the promised photo of Rainbow in her Halloween costume. On the left is the character she was supposed to be. I sewed the ears that we put on a headband to make her look more like a dog (I think that's what Isabelle is?). Those of you who sew for real will excuse my slapdash job -- Rainbow was happy, and that's all I cared about. We also spent nothing on that project, because we salvaged the fabric from a fleece scarf she'd been given at school and used a headband she already had. We did purchase the skirt and the sweatshirt, but she plans to wear both of them again.


Yesterday was a big day here. We were up bright and early (me because I was excited, Rainbow because she was anxious) and headed over to her school for their immunization clinic. They held it outside on the athletic field, and while she was waiting for other friends to get their shots, she was running around and chatting with friends. She acknowledged afterwards that it was not as bad as she was expecting, and she happily posed with Jabby:

As if that wasn't enough excitement for the day, I got my booster shot in the afternoon as well. I'd learned last week that there are some mental health conditions on the list of underlying conditions that qualify you for a booster, so I signed up for one at our local CVS (I'll just note, though, that I was never directly asked if I had an underlying condition, for what it's worth). I got another Pfizer shot to match my first two, and the Mister plans to get his booster next weekend (I dissuaded him from getting one at the same time so that if we reacted we wouldn't both be in bed).

When I got back from my appointment, Rainbow and the Mister were out buying a new winter coat and new sneakers -- the kid is has grown 2.5 inches since February and is now wearing a women's 5 1/2 shoe! -- so I had a quiet house to myself. I pulled out my library book and sat down at the wheel, and by last night, I had, finally, a second complete bobbin of singles for my combo spin:


There's just one bobbin of singles left to spin, and I'm really hoping I can get that done soon. I'm both excited to see how this all plies up and ready to move on to something new.

Today has been a day of resting for me and Rainbow. She's been feeling tired and achy from her shot, and I've reacted much like I did to my second dose -- achy joints and tiredness, plus some chills. Despite the extra hour of sleep, we were both not feeling great this morning, so I told her she could skip Hebrew and religious school this morning, and that was actually a good thing for me, too. The Mister was kind enough to change the sheets on the beds and do the grocery shopping so us girls could stay home and rest. Rainbow requested tacos for dinner, which are messy but easy to cook, and I hope we can all get into bed early and get a good night's rest.

I hope you've had some rest this weekend as well and that you have some people in your life who you can count on to take care of you when you're feeling under the weather!

Friday, November 05, 2021

Shuffling toward the Weekend

We have made it to Friday -- thank goodness! Yesterday was an especially long day for me. After my usual walk (nearly 5.6 miles), my biweekly work team meeting, and lunch, I was back out to go to donate blood. Donating is something I have been actively trying to do as much as possible for the last couple of years, and yesterday marked my 1 gallon mark since I started using the Red Cross blood donor app (that's eight donations since November 2018). I have been a blood donor since high school, since I first became old enough to be eligible, but for many years I was an infrequent donor. There's a severe blood shortage right now, in large part because supplies have been depleted during the pandemic, so I am trying to schedule a donation for about every 8-10 weeks. This is just a reminder for those of you who are able to donate blood that it's an easy thing you can do to make a big difference! I'd also encourage you to donate via the Red Cross if you can; a lot of blood banks actually charge hospitals for blood and blood products, but the Red Cross never does.

Okay, I'll step off my soapbox now. My point about yesterday was that I did a lot of walking yesterday. The blood drive was held on campus, about a mile and a half from my house, so when I got into bed last night, I'd managed to rack up 21K steps! I was asleep before the Mister last night, which is a very rare occurrence. Despite that, my Fitbit tells me that I did not get a great night of sleep (perhaps because I was up at 4 a.m. with a charley horse in my calf?), so I have a feeling I'll be dragging a bit today. I'd hoped that yesterday afternoon would be quiet and allow me to just sit, but I got a work project in that kept me busy until shortly after 5. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that today is better.

Before all the activity yesterday, I did manage to finish my brioche cowl! I wove in all my ends and blocked it on Wednesday evening, and because the radiators are now on, it was dry yesterday. I am delighted with how it turned out. I have a tentative name for the pattern, so now I need to get on with writing up the instructions.


I've also made some progress on my brother's socks; last night, rather than casting on a new project (because I was so tired), I just carried on with the first sock, which now has a completed heel and gusset.


Today I am hoping to cast on for the sock yarn hat for Rainbow, but I'd also like to do some spinning. We'll see what I'm in the mood for.

Every weekend I say that I'm looking forward to down time, and yet every weekend seems to get crazy busy and filled up with errands and chores. This weekend, though, I think I am going to get some enforced down time. Rainbow is scheduled to get her first COVID vaccination tomorrow morning, and then tomorrow afternoon, I have an appointment to get my booster! I learned this week that certain mental health conditions are included in the list of underlying conditions that make one eligible to get a booster now, and now that we're planning to travel over the holidays, I figured it would be a good idea to do so. I didn't have too bad of a reaction to my second shot (I was tired and a bit achy), but I expect to have a similar experience to the booster and plan to use that as an excuse to take it easy. I also expect that Rainbow will be fine, but she has a tendency to be a bit dramatic, so if she wants to spend the day after just relaxing, I won't object.

I hope your week can end on a happy note and that you have a relaxing weekend as well!

Wednesday, November 03, 2021

Unraveled, Week 44/2021

I am posting a bit later than usual because it's been a busy morning here. We woke up to the good news of an approved COVID vaccine for children and our city's first Black mayor being elected -- one of quite a few history-making candidates of color to win races yesterday. After Rainbow was almost late to school yesterday (because we got caught in some unexpected traffic), we made sure to leave a bit earlier this morning, and that gave me time to swing by Trader Joe's on the way home to stock up on some much-needed coffee. As soon as I'd gotten home and cleaned up the breakfast dishes, I headed out for my walk so I could be back in time for a 10 a.m. Zoom session for work.

Now that all of that is done, and I'm showered and dressed in a cozy sweater (it was below freezing first thing this morning!), it's time for my weekly check-in with Kat and the Unravelers.

I'm happy to say that there has been no unraveling here, and if all goes well today, I'll even finish up a project! I'm on the ribbing of my brioche cowl, with about 10 rounds left to go.



I tried to edit the photo to fix the colors, but they're still a little off. The last mini is less bronze and more of a mix of a golden orange and a rust-on-copper green. I've still got all the ends to weave in and the pattern to write up, but this is nearly done.

I've still been ignoring my Shifty pullover, but I'll get back to it soon. In the meantime, anticipating that the cowl will be off the needles before too long, I wound up two skeins of self-striping sock yarn from my stash:

Fibernymph Dye Works Bounce in Deep Fall (left) and Rhinebeck: Sweater Weather? (right)


These are both sock yarns, but I'm not planning on using them for socks! Everyone seems to be knitting the style of hat that's like two hats stuck together at their brims these days, so I'm going to knit a couple more (you may remember that I did one for charity a couple months ago). One of these will be for Rainbow, for a Chanukah present, and one will be for me.

Reading has been good this past week. I thought I had finished two books since last Wednesday, so you can imagine my surprise when I looked at my Goodreads record and found that it was actually twice that! These were all 4-star reads for me.

 

The Sweetness of Water is a debut novel from author Nathan Harris, and I certainly hope it's only the first of many books from him! The writing is this novel is absolutely exquisite. The story itself is a rather sad one, as you might expect given that it is set in the South shortly after the Emancipation Proclamation and the end of the Civil War and that two of the main characters are formerly enslaved brothers. But as painful as some of the passages are to read, the novel as a whole made me hopeful and reminded me of the humanity that can be found even in the darkest of times.

 
After watching a local event featuring poet and author Elizabeth Acevedo last week, in which she recited an opening chapter of The Poet X from memory, I knew I had to borrow the book from the library -- in audiobook format, so I could listen to her read it. It's a short book (I think less than 4 hours), so it was a one-day listen for me but such a good one. At some point I will also borrow the ebook so I can see the words on the page, but I really think this is a book that has to be listened to. I fully intend to read her other work, and if you're a fan of Acevedo, you'll be happy to hear that at this event, she revealed that she is writing her first adult novel. She read an excerpt of it and it sounded amazing!

I read Kate Quinn's The Rose Code earlier in the year and had read The Alice Network previously, so when I heard The Huntress mentioned on a book podcast, I put it on hold. This is a work of what I'd call WWII vacation reading fiction. The main story line follows a group of Nazi hunters and takes place mainly in the early 1950s, but there are also some flashbacks to the war and the story of a female Soviet fighter pilot. The author's notes makes it clear that the book was inspired by the stories of real people, but of course what makes for a good read is a tidy plot line that wraps up neatly at the end. I enjoyed this, but it felt a little too neatly wrapped up, particularly the epilogue. If I'd edited this book, I would have left the epilogue out entirely.

Finally, just this morning, I finished listening to Tastes Like War, a memoir that is a finalist for the National Book Award for nonfiction. The author, the daughter of a Korean mother and American father, uses food to frame her reflections on a growing up with mixed cultural identity in a very white, conservative town in Washington State, what she knew and didn't know about her mother's family and how they survived Japanese imperial rule and the Korean War, and her mother's schizophrenia. Cho is a professor of sociology who focused on the role Korean women, including her mother, played under the imperialist structures of first Japanese and then American rule for her dissertation. In this memoir, she jumps back and forth in time, from her mother's death to her early childhood, to look at how food, culture, and trauma have shaped her life. It's a hard book but worth the read. 

Now I'm waiting for my hold to come through on Matrix (Libby tells me it will be "available soon"), and in the meantime I'm back to savoring The Madness of Crowds a chapter or two at a time and have started rereading The Westing Game, as Rainbow has just started reading it for English class. How about you -- what are you reading and working on this week?

Monday, November 01, 2021

Monday Too Soon

Does anyone else have the experience of planning a relaxing weekend only to find that they barely have a chance to sit down? That was my weekend. We didn't even have that many plans (my brother and sister-in-law hosted us for a Halloween party on Saturday afternoon but had nowhere else to be) and yet I managed to fill nearly all my waking hours with cleaning, laundry, walking, grocery shopping, and cooking. The irony that I seem to get more crafting and reading done during the workweek is not lost on me!

Despite my complaining, I won't say it was a bad weekend. The party was actually pretty fun, if a bit chilly (we were outside for COVID safety). My brother is very into Halloween and gives us all a hard time if we don't put some effort into our costumes, so the Mister and I went for easy but effective:

Can we interest you in some insurance?


These were truly simple costumes to put together. The Mister has a ton of red shirts from work, and we had a couple of plain white aprons from a cooking class we took years ago, so we printed out some logos and attached them to ourselves.

My brother and sister-in-law also went for low maintenance (and if you can't tell who they are, the cookbook is a big hint):

I somehow did not get a picture of Rainbow all dressed up, though I doubt many of you would have known who she was -- Isabelle from Animal Crossing New Horizons. Most of her costume was just regular clothing, but I had to sew some yellow fleece "ears" that we attached to a headband. I'll have to see if the Mister snapped a photo of her at some point.

Though I did not get a ton of crafting done this weekend, I did make some progress on my cowl sample, and I'm hoping to focus on it this week to finish it so I can write up the pattern and release it this month.


I am on the fourth mini skein of the set of six, and I've definitely noticed that I'm picking up speed now that I've figured out exactly how many rounds I want to work in each color.

We did not get many trick-or-treaters last night (which was not a huge surprise; even in a non-pandemic year, we don't get many because we're near the end of a dead-end street), but I made a mini Thanksgiving dinner of sorts -- a roasted turkey breast, fresh cranberry sauce, mashed sweet potatoes, and asparagus -- that was a big hit. Even my picky kid asked for seconds of turkey! I had more than 18K steps on my Fitbit when I got in bed last night, so it's no wonder that I passed out as fast as I did.

I'm hoping that the week ahead will be relatively calm. The Mister is leaving on a short work trip later today, and on Thursday I'm scheduled to donate blood -- this will be my eighth donation in the past couple of years, which will get me to a gallon donated! I'm trying to donate as often as I am able (and as often as I can find a drive located near me), and it's especially important now that there is a critical shortage of blood. And of course we'll be paying close attention to the news tomorrow and Wednesday as the CDC decides whether to approve the Pfizer vaccine for kids 5-11.

I hope you had a good weekend and have some candy leftover to enjoy this week!

Friday, October 29, 2021

Not-So-Fun Fiber Friday; or, A Cautionary Tale

We've made it to Friday, the last one this month. And this weekend is Halloween, so I have a slightly scary story to share today -- a story behind this mess:


Ignoring all shoes below the bench, what you see here is the contents of our winter accessory boxes -- the storage containers we keep on the shelf in our coat closet to hold the hats, gloves, mittens, cowls, and scarves we wear throughout the winter. Because they're up on that shelf and there's no light in the closet, we don't often look in those boxes, and that's a big mistake.

But I'm getting a little ahead of myself here. First, I have to come clean about a dirty secret, one that will strike fear into the heart of any fiber enthusiast: I have been battling a moth infestation. The source of it was a fleece that I bought several years ago. It was one I bought sight unseen, from the mother of a friend, and I made the mistake of not washing right away or even really inspecting when it arrived. I don't know if the moths were there when it arrived or not, but at some point I discovered that it was full of moths. Not wanting to waste the wool or the money I'd spent on it, I attempted to salvage it. After I washed it, I'd put it into a plastic bin and stored the bin in the basement -- far enough away from my handknits, or so I thought. After seeing quite a few moths flying around, I examined it again and found that the problem hadn't been solved, so the entire fleece went into the compost.

Late last week, when the temperature dropped and I wanted a pair of mittens, I pulled out one of my favorite pairs -- only to discover the telltale signs of moth damage, including a hole. That prompted me to pull out both bins to examine the contents, and sure enough, those blasted beasts had gotten to quite a few things. So now I'm in the process of washing everything. If there's any upside, it's that a lot of what was in Rainbow's bin was old and too small, and much of that was superwash or synthetic and easy to throw into the washing machine. The hole on my mittens was small and near the top of the hand, so I may just needle felt that spot so that it doesn't unravel further. One item that will require some more significant repair is a cowl that Rainbow knit herself (it's the yellow/pink blob near the far right in the photo) -- it was knit loosely in bulky yarn, and it looks like a strand was completely chewed through, causing some unraveling.

I'm posting about this so that my bad experience can be a lesson for all of you. Moths can happen to anyone, but you can take steps to prevent damage from them. First of all, if you are a spinner who likes to work from fleece, wash your fleece when you get it! Inspect the fleece outside and don't be afraid to toss any bit that looks suspect. But there are other ways for moths to get in, so you can do plenty to dissuade them from munching on your woolies. There are plenty of moth traps you can buy that use pheromones to attract the moths to land on a sticky substance from which they can't escape -- and you want to trap the moths, because what does the real damage is when they lay eggs on your yarn or projects and the larvae munch through it as they emerge. What attracts the moths more than anything is dirty wool, and in a knit/crocheted/woven project, that means the dirt and body oils that get on your wool items when you wear them. So an easy way to prevent the moths from getting to them is to wash them frequently! I typically wash my sweaters at least once a season (because I rarely wear them directly against my skin), but things like hats and mittens really should get washed more often. Most importantly, take your hand-made items out frequently and inspect them -- and remember that if you do find damage, it often can be fixed, and if not, the sheep will keep growing more wool!

I hope you have a great Halloween weekend without any moth-related scares!

Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Unraveled, Week 43/2021

It's Wednesday again, so time to link up with Kat and the Unravelers and talk about what I've been knitting and what I've been reading.

I've put my Shifty aside for a few days in favor of some smaller projects. First, I started a new design sample, one I've had bouncing around in my head since I bought that mini skein set at Indie Untangled. It doesn't look like much just yet, but I have a feeling that now that I've figured out a few things, it will move much faster.


These aren't colors I'd normally pick, but the set just screamed at me to buy it, and naturally I had to find a way to use them together. It's hard to see in the photo (we're on day 5, I think, of gloom here, so the light is pretty terrible), but there's some 1x1 ribbing leading into brioche stitch here. This will be a cowl when it's done.

I also started a pair of socks for my brother on Sunday morning while Rainbow and I were in our family Hebrew class, and that meant I was winding yarn at some time after 10 p.m. on Saturday, while the Mister was passed out with the lights on (he can fall asleep anywhere, anytime, including in a fully lit room, with me typing on the computer and then winding yarn across the hall).


The yarn is a precious skein, the one and only skein I ever bought from Marigoldjen. I met Jenny at SSK in 2017, though she was there as an attendee (with her daughter, Liz, who you might know better as the fiber artist behind Hobbledehoy) rather than as a vendor. Both women have since closed their businesses. I bought this skein at MDSW several years ago, and I think it may have been Jenny's last time vending there. The colorway is called Sherlock, but it reminds me of the aurora borealis in the night sky.

I have finished only one book in the past week, and it was a good one, or at least I thought so.

The Push had been on my radar for a few months after hearing it mentioned on one of the book podcasts I listen to. It was mentioned again in an episode last week that I listened to on my walk, and when I got back, I looked it up in Libby and saw that it was available, so I borrowed it on the spot. This is a book I'd describe as a psychological thriller, a bit creepy but not especially scary. The main character, whose mother and grandmother were both difficult mothers (to put it mildly), is eager to become a mother herself, but when her daughter is born, she struggles to connect with her, and as the child grows up, the narrator can't help but feel that there's something sinister behind her child's action. When her son is born, she finally feels that maternal instinct, but the new child in the family creates a new complication in her already troubled relationship with her daughter. This book reminded me a lot of those early days of motherhood, when you're sore and exhausted and questioning every decision. But it takes those feelings to the extreme. It's not a book for everyone (definitely NOT new parents), and it does include the death of a young child, so bear that in mind. I enjoyed it and could have easily read it in one sitting if I'd had the time. I gave it 4 stars.

I am currently reading The Sweetness of Water, which I hope to finish shortly after posting this, and The Madness of Crowds, which I'm savoring a chapter or two at a time before bed.

What are you working on and reading this week?

Monday, October 25, 2021

Balance in 2021: October

Amazingly, we find ourselves starting the final week of October today. I've always found that time seems to speed up as we get further into the year, though that trend seemed to be suspended last year. This year, though, it's business as usual, and as they reminded us on the Today show this morning, Christmas is two months from today. Chanukah is even sooner, which means I need to do some serious shopping very soon, but either way it's a reminder that 2021 will soon be in the rear-view mirror.

Today is the last Monday of the month, which means it's time to check in on my One Little Word. Many thanks to Carolyn for hosting our monthly link-up!

Balance has been very present in my mind this month. There have been a lot of demands on my time, and that has meant a lot of juggling and prioritizing. Going to Rhinebeck was wonderful, but taking that time off and being away meant a lot of planning beforehand and a lot of catching up afterwards. In addition, I've had to put a lot of time this month into my synagogue board and committee activities. The latter has been particularly stressful. Many of the people I work with on the board and the committee are retired or don't work, and I think they often forget that I have a full-time job and a child to care for and don't have the time that they do to devote to our activities. One of the reasons I didn't get much reading or crafting done last week was that I had to spend about half a day after I got back getting caught up on business related to the committee. I realize that I volunteered for this position, so in a way I signed up for the extra work, but that doesn't mean it's not stressful when I sign off from work for the day only to still have to deal with another half dozen emails and more Zoom meetings.

I had an interesting discussion with a designer friend, Lisa Ross, when we met up at Rhinebeck. She's been really prolific this year with her patterns, and I expressed my amazement that she was able to get so much work done along with raising her four boys. We were discussing how challenging it can be to balance design work with the rest of our life responsibilities, and she told me that she didn't realize I had a full-time job. While last year I blamed pandemic brain for not getting much published, this year the main challenge has been finding the time. Balancing my design work with my work work has always been an issue, but this year it seems to have gotten worse.

As life in general has gotten more and more busy, I've gotten more and more grateful to be working from home. The ability to do things like throw in a load of laundry whenever it needs to be done has been a huge help, as has gaining a little extra time (including to sleep). I know it won't last forever, but I'm cherishing it while it lasts. My other coping mechanism has been to-do lists. For a while I was doing them daily, but now it seems to be more realistic to do a weekly list. Early in the week, I make a physical list of things I need to get done over the course of the week, and I add to it as needed. It's less stressful to have a longer time period to get it done, and I don't feel like a failure if a day goes by and I haven't crossed something off the list.

Here's hoping November brings more balance and less stress!