Friday, December 29, 2023

2023: A Brief Wrap-up

It's not the last day of the year, but this is likely my last blog post for the year, so I thought I'd be predictable and do a bit of a year-end wrap up. This won't be exhaustive or terribly detailed, frankly because I don't have the time for it, but I figured I'd at least look back on crafting and reading, the two things that figure most heavily on this blog.

More than anything else, 2023 was about spinning for me. I started out the year hoping to spin up at least 12 back shipments from the Southern Cross Fibre club. I ended up doubling that goal and spinning even more than that. If I'd thought to do it before we left for vacation, I would have taken a photo of the pile of skeins I've spun, but for now, this screenshot from my Ravelry handspun page will have to do:

I know it's really hard to see anything, but you can click on the photo to make it bigger or (if Ravelry is safe for you to use) visit my handspun page to see bigger photos and more details. Here are a handful of stats on my spinning:

  • I spun 33 bags of fiber from SCF (mostly club shipments, but there were a handful of prize bags spun, too).
  • Including all fiber spun, I completed 32 full-size skeins and 24 mini skeins.
  • My rough estimate of weight spun (because I don't usually weigh my SCF shipments, though they're a minimum of 110 g per bag) is about 3,944 g/139 oz.
  • My total yardage for the year is nearly 13,000, and when you consider that all those yarns were plied and that the majority had three plies, you can just imagine what the yardage would be if calculated by singles spun.
Because of my focus on spinning, I didn't knit quite as much as I did in years past, but it was still a fairly productive year:
  • Nine pairs of socks
  • Five sweaters (three adult, two baby)
  • Ten hats (more than half for charity)
  • Four cowls
  • One shawl
  • One pair of mittens
  • One pair of cuffs
There was a crocheted blanket as well, which helped to use up most of a sweater kit.

It was another great year of reading. I was fairly conservative in setting my reading challenge goal for the year (at least relatively to recent years' numbers) at 100, and I did surpass it. While I'm hoping to finish one more book before the end of the year, here's where things stand:

To see what all these books are, click here.

Some highlights:
  • I didn't rate any book lower than two stars.
  • I rated 21 books five stars.
  • I completed the Maisie Dobbs series.
  • I became an Ann Patchett completist.
  • Nearly half of the books I read were on audio (reading while running for the win!).
  • I reread a dozen books.
  • I read the majority of the Women's Prize for Fiction longlist and the entirety of the Booker Prize longlist.
In the order I read them, here are my favorites from among the five-star-rated books I read this year (which just happened to end up an even ten):

So that's it from me for now. I have some plans for 2024, but I will wait to share those in a few days. I'd love to hear your thoughts on this past year. Did you have any big accomplishments -- or big regrets? How did your reading match up with mine?

I hope these last days of 2023 are good for you, and I wish you a new year of good health and good times!

Wednesday, December 27, 2023

Unraveled, Week 52/2023

Happy last Wednesday of 2023, friends! It's not an official Unraveled Wednesday, as Kat is taking the week off from her usual link-up, but the perfectionist in me compels me to share one last Unraveled post for 2023 to complete the perfect year of them.

I know that none of you will be surprised by what I'm making -- I'm still plodding along (though faster, now) on my Birch Pullover, and having measured my progress at 8.25 inches last night before bed, I'm now fairly confident that I'll be able to finish the body before the week is over.

The outdoor lighting makes the fade of the skeins more obvious; in normal light, it's not quite as obvious. There's variegation within the skeins themselves, and I'm also alternating skeins every round when I join a new one. I did have a little surprise yesterday when I was knitting outside, though:

The color is rather washed out here, but do you see the purple? I never noticed that in the yarn, and it was a fun surprised when it appeared in the sunlight.

As for my progress, I've managed to figure out how to work the half fisherman's rib rounds without looking except occasionally, so I've been able to work on this while reading, and that's been a huge help. The instructions tell me to knit until the body measures 10 inches from the underarm and then work regular 2x2 rib for another 2 inches. So I've got less than 4 inches of fabric left to knit on the body in total, which seems quite achievable.

Now that we're past Christmas, I will also share the color photo of the minis I spun before we left:

The theme this year was "A Walk through Middle Earth," so each day's colorway had a location and a little story that went with it. I'm not a huge Tolkien fan, but I've read The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings trilogy (and seen the movies), so things were somewhat familiar to me, and even when they weren't, I still enjoyed how much thought Lisa put into them.

I typically use this vacation to do a lot of reading, and this year has been no exception. I've read two excellent books this past week.

Land of Milk and Honey is a buzzy new release that I was excited to get from the library. This is a book that I can definitely see being one to be divisive. It's set in the near future, when a smog has settled over much of the world and blocked the sun, making it impossible to grow many crops and led to food shortages and starvation. Our narrator, a trained chef, applies for and receives a job at an exclusive, reclusive self-contained "country" in the mountains of Italy where food is miraculously abundant. How this place came to be and how it has such resources is mysterious and even a little sinister, with an overwhelming sense that survival in this new reality is contingent on wealth. A lot of this book gave me an icky feeling (mainly the other characters and how they behaved), but the writing is spectacular, and it's clear that the author knows about food and cooking. I would not recommend this book to everyone, particularly not those of you who don't care for post-apocalyptic stories, but if you're okay with that sort of thing and you want to get immersed in that world, you might like it. I could not put it down. I gave it 5 stars.

I so enjoyed Tommy Orange's voice in There There that when I heard he had a new book coming out, I rushed to read it. This new work is in some ways a continuation of his first novel in that some of the characters reappear and it addresses the aftermath of the dramatic event that concluded it, but you don't have to have read it recently or at all to appreciate it. This book is even more sweeping in its scope of the story of a family and the heartbreaking story of how the white man sought to wipe out the Indigenous peoples, by destroying their identity when they couldn't entirely do it physically. That notion of destroying the native from the inside has reverberations throughout the novel, as all the characters struggle in some way with what it means to be Indigenous and how to connect to their ancestors. How much of one's identity is in one's ancestry? Do you need to be raised within a 
community to still identify as a member of it? The voices in this book are beautiful
and distinctive, with the echoes of the past reverberating in the present. I gave it 4 stars. 

Thank you to Knopf, Pantheon, Vintage, and Anchor and NetGalley for providing me with a digital ARC in return for an honest review. This book will be published February 27, 2024.

I've got plenty of books to choose from in my Kindle library, but I decided I wanted something light and entertaining for these last few days of 2023, so I'm reading Do Tell right now. I'm nearly halfway through it and expect I'll finish it up in the next couple of days.

I hope you're enjoying this strange in-between time, with good projects and good books to keep you company. I expect I'll be doing some sort of year-end wrap-up on Friday, so see you back here then!

Tuesday, December 26, 2023

Embrace in 2023: December


It's time for one last check-in with my One Little Word for the year. Many thanks to Carolyn for hosting our monthly link-ups and also giving us prompts to think about each month! I probably don't do as much with my word as I could, but I always appreciate the thought exercises.

I've been thinking about how Embrace has shown up not only this month but also over the course of the whole year, and in the past couple of days it's occurred to me that what it's meant generally has had a lot to do with self-acceptance -- specifically, with embracing what my body tells me it needs and accepting what it can or can't do in any given moment. Even as I've pushed myself to do more, I've gotten better at not berating myself if I can't. I know that those of you who are mothers know what I mean with regard to feeling like I should be able to do everything, but I know for a fact that I've gotten better at listening when my body tells me I need to rest or eat more or drink more water. And I've discovered that when I leave things undone, the world does not, in fact, fall apart. Either someone else does those things (if they're essential) or they wait to get done.

A lot of this self-acceptance has been related to my body and my physical activity. Perhaps it's a sign of maturity that I am finding it easier to accept that my body will never look quite like I want it to and that I may never be able to do some physical things. And that's okay! I have really embraced running this year and have pushed myself to do more of it because I know how good it is for me, physically and in terms of reducing stress. But I've embraced the occasional setbacks when they come: when I've just donated blood and need to take it easy, when I was coming back from COVID and had to build up my strength again, and when I go out for a run and just feel like I need to take it easy. I have definitely noticed a shift in my thinking related to exercise this year, and while I still feel like I need to move my body every day, the focus is my long-term health, and any movement is better than no movement at all. And sometimes my body surprises me by being capable of more than I expected, like it was on Friday, when I achieved this:

This was the start of my run, when I usually manage to run my longest stretch, and this was by far the greatest distance I've achieved this year without having to stop and catch my breath. I don't know when or if I'll match it, but it felt like a great cap on the end of the year!

I've been thinking about possibilities for next year's OLW, but none has made itself obvious as my word just yet, so that will be a task for the rest of the week. Thanks for coming along on my Embrace journey with me this year!

Friday, December 22, 2023

Just Being Here

Somehow without having work and chores and all the usual stuff to do, the days seem to go by more quickly here. I'm trying to focus on the present and the moment as much as possible because I know that we'll be heading home before I know it. The weather hasn't been great, but that's not what really matters: We're here with family, we're taking a break from the usual grind, and we're recharging our proverbial batteries. I'm focused on making the most of all of that.

Yesterday morning we went to the Audubon Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, where we spent a couple of hours walking the 2.25-mile boardwalk and seeing what wildlife we could spot. I think we probably see more birds near the house (there are many more places for them to hide in the sanctuary), but we did see (and hear!) several hawks, though I didn't get any photos because they were too far away. We spotted an egret:

We saw a couple of anhingas (on the branch in this photo):

What's harder to see in this photo (click to make it larger) is there's an alligator below the bird! There was a sanctuary volunteer at the lookout point where we saw this who let us use his binoculars, which were powerful enough to be able to see the gator's teeth! Very freaky! The arrow I've crudely drawn in points to it -- it's that dark stripe.

Mo and I agreed, though, that our favorite animal in the sanctuary was this one:

This was one of the three babies with a mama raccoon who we saw scampering around. These were nothing like the fat urban raccoons you might be used to -- they were pretty small and could swim! I discovered that I apparently "speak" a little raccoon: I made a rolling R sound and this one looked right at me!

The knitting is continuing at a slow and steady pace. I've now got four inches of body on my sweater done, and I've joined the third skein of yarn. I'm also getting better at working the (k1 below, p1) rounds without having to constantly look at my work, which makes it easier to read while I'm knitting.

I've been working on this a ton and thinking that maybe I could get the body done before we go home, but this stitch pattern has such a dense row gauge that I'd say that's unlikely, especially if I want to do things other than knit. But I will make good progress on it, and now that I've picked it up again, I am highly motivated to finis, so it will be completed early in 2024.

Mo has started the raglan increases on her sweater and has required my assistance with only a few little hiccups. She seems motivated as well, and I'm hoping she can at least get through the yoke while we're on vacation because once we're home and school resumes, her focus on it is likely to wane. If she can at least get to the body, the knitting itself will be straightforward and easier to pick up.

I don't know whether or not I'll post on Monday; it's just a regular day for me, but I know that many of you will be offline celebrating the holiday with your loved ones. If you are celebrating, I wish you a very merry Christmas full of joy, good food, laughter, and contentment! At the very least, I'll be around next week for my last One Little Word check-in of 2023 and some end-of-year wrap-ups. Happy weekend!

Wednesday, December 20, 2023

Unraveled, Week 51/2023

Can you believe we've reached the penultimate Unraveled Wednesday of 2023? Of course just as I know what number week it is for this year, I'll have to start the count all over again! But whether or not I know the number, linking up with Kat and the Unravelers is always my favorite time of the week.

As I noted on Monday, my primary focus while we're away is going to be my Birch pullover, and I am making some progress! It looks like I've knit about three inches of the body below the underarm, so still a lot to go, but I am nearly ready to start blending in the next ball of yarn.

Please excuse the late-night bathroom lighting.

The knitting is very straightforward now, even if I can't quite do it without looking (I still need to check that I'm knitting into the stitch below on the k1B, p1 rounds).

Yesterday was an exciting day for Mo -- she cast on her sweater! I did have her swatch first, which was a bit of an extra challenge because I had her do a mock in-the-round swatch, but she managed just fine.

After blocking, her gauge was ever so slightly off but in the direction that it will work in her favor (the sweater will end up a little larger, so she'll have some room to grow). The yarn is also a superwash Merino, so I expect we'll be able to adjust it as needed when we block it.

Reading has been a bit of a mixed bag the past week. I've finished three books.

I heard about The Leftover Woman on the What Should I Read Next podcast, and the premise sounded really good: A woman in China is told that her newborn has died, but in fact her husband, disappointed that it was a girl, has secretly taken it away to be adopted by an American couple, and when she discovers this betrayal, she pays smugglers to get her into the United States to find her daughter. While the storyline was as advertised, the book was disappointing. The characters were really flat and they and the story felt completely implausible to me. The writing felt like it was trying too hard -- way more telling than showing, if you know what I mean. I might have DNFed this except that it was short and I wanted to know how it would end (which was, predictably, in an entirely implausible way). It wasn't a total waste of time, but I wouldn't recommend it. I gave it 2 stars.

One of the two paperbacks I brought with me was Four Seasons in Rome, a book I actually bought several years ago and have had sitting on my nightstand ever since. It's a short book, only about 200 pages, so I read more than half of it on the flight down to Florida (with Mo asleep on my arm) and finished it up the next day. Doerr chronicles the year he, his wife, and their newborn twins spent living in Rome while he had a fellowship, and it's both a love letter to the art, culture, and food of Italy and a memoir of the first year of parenthood. It's an easy and enjoyable read, one that made me long to go back to Italy. I've now passed it along to my parents, both of whom I think will enjoy it. I gave it 4 stars.

My latest audiobook was The Candy House, read specifically because Jennifer Egan is the next author up in my local speaker series and I try to read the books before the talks if at all possible. The audio was recorded by a full cast, which I think really enhanced the very wide range of characters in this book, though I did find it hard to keep all the characters and their relationships to each other straight. This is a bit of a strange book in that there is no clear plot line moving through it, and while it's not really interconnected short stories, the sections do focus on different characters at different points of time. I thought the writing was very good (save for the apparent confusion of "titled" versus "entitled," a pet peeve of mine), but I also felt I was not quite smart enough to get the book as a whole. I gave it 3 stars.

I am currently reading Tommy Orange's forthcoming novel, Wandering Stars, which I am very much enjoying even though I haven't gotten very far yet.

What are you making and reading this week?

Monday, December 18, 2023

And Relax!

Greetings from southwest Florida! It's a bit chilly for the location (currently 64ºF) but sunny, and I'll be headed out for a run soon to see how far I can go without having to deal with hills or much in the way of traffic.

We arrived, amazingly, on time on Saturday evening after a very bumpy flight down. There was so much turbulence that the flight attendants only managed to get up once to give out water and bags of snack mix because the captain kept telling them to sit down and buckle up. I am very thankful that Mo decided to try taking Dramamine on this trip (she often gets terrible headaches when we fly), and she actually ended up sleeping about half the flight and felt fine for the part that she was awake. Although I started a new pair of socks in the car on the way to the airport, I didn't end up knitting on the flight much of all, in part because of nerves and in part because I had a teenager leaning on my arm. But I got a bit more done on them yesterday, so I can share them with you:

This is the yarn I won from Lisa at Fibernymph Dye Works that she custom-dyed for me. I'd told her two colors I liked (blue and gold) and one color I didn't want in my skein (white/undyed), and this is what she came up with. I'm not in any rush to finish these socks, but I figured it would be good to have something easy and mindless for when we're out and about.

There were a couple of things I'd wanted to finish before we left, but I only managed one of them because I ended up getting a ton of work thrown my way on Friday (which isn't needed until we're back in January, so I'm not sure why there was such urgency). What was finished was all the mini skeins, which you saw plied but not yet all washed and tidied. I was able to throw the second half in to wash on Friday, and as they were dry Saturday morning, I measured them and twisted up all 24:

I am still showing the photo in black and white until all 24 days have passed, as I'd really hate to spoil anyone. My yarn looks to be overall in the neighborhood of sport weight, and I have approximately 700 yards total, which is really quite impressive. I'm thinking that these would make a great cozy shawl, so perhaps in the new year they'll get knit.

The project I didn't get a chance to finish (but which was wrapped up rather quickly yesterday morning) is the charity hat:

Though I did follow the pattern for the numbers, I ended up doing the brim completely differently the second time. The pattern has you work the brim using what is essentially single-color double-knitting: you slip every other stitch every round. It looks nice and creates fabric with a double thickness, but it doesn't stretch. At all. So for the second attempt, I did a provisional cast-on, knit until I had four inches of fabric, folded it up on the inside, and created a hem by undoing the provisional cast-on one stitch at a time and knitting it together with a stitch on the needle. The brim was technically supposed to be four inches, but as that meant I would have had to knit eight inches, I decided to make it half the length. I used up some mini skeins and some leftovers, about 450 yards total, holding the yarn double. This is going into the charity pile.

Although I still have to knit a gnome (and I may very well wait until the full pattern is out to start), my main focus for my vacation knitting is finishing up languishing WIPs. Specifically, I want to make a lot of progress on my Birch pullover, which I had not touched since Mo and I were in Florida for spring break. But I weighed and wound off yarn for the sleeves before we left so that I can blend the skeins on the entire sweater, and I have picked up the body again.

If you click to enlarge the photo, you'll see my mermaid progress keeper (though she's upside-down here) marking where I was when I started knitting again last night. I think I managed about an inch while we were watching "The Sound of Music" on TV -- which is really more knitting than you'd think because this sweater is knit in fisherman's rib, which is quite condensed vertically. Now that I've sorted the yarn issue, I'm hoping I can just cruise along on this; I really just have to knit the body until it's long enough minus the ribbing at this point, so there's nothing to pay attention to other than the stitch pattern. Apologies in advance, but you're going to be seeing a lot of this sweater over the next two weeks!

I hope your week is off to a good start and that it's a short week for those of you who are working. I will try my best to take some photos to try to share the sunshine and the warmth for those of you in the cold!

Friday, December 15, 2023

Running Out of Time

It's Friday -- my last day of work for the year and Mo's last (half) day of school. And it's also her 14th birthday! It hardly seems that that much time has passed since she looked like this:

And now she looks like this:

I'm so proud of the kind, thoughtful young lady she's become, even as I miss the little girl she used to be. I'm trying not to think about the fact that there are only a handful of years left before she becomes a legal adult and instead focus on enjoying every day with her.

Today is going to be an extremely busy day with a lot on the to-do list. Highest on that list is, of course, packing, but I also have some crafty items to check off. The first is washing the rest of my handspun mini skeins, which I finished plying yesterday. While I was working on the last of the set, I washed the first half that were complete, and you can see the real difference in this photo:

I'll reveal all the colors next week!

I'm also hoping to finish up this hat, as I'm very close to the crown decreases:

I've already wound my mini skeins for my mystery gnome and wound off the needed amounts for the sleeves of my Birch sweater, and I wound a skein of sock yarn last night, so other than actually putting the project bags into my suitcase, my vacation knitting is all sorted. I've also made a list of all the things I need to pack, though I still have to actually select the clothing I'm taking. It's supposed to be cool and rainy all this weekend, so there will be a lot of reading, crafting, and napping time.

And now I've got to run for my morning meeting! Hope you have a wonderful weekend -- see you back here (but posting remotely) on Monday!

Wednesday, December 13, 2023

Unraveled, Week 50/2023

I'm still feeling a little wobbly this morning. Many of you noted that you didn't have any side effects from the latest COVID booster, but I've been achy and chilled the past 24 hours and have not slept well the past two nights (someone woke me up repeatedly with his snoring). I'm hoping some coffee and some Tylenol will do the trick to get me feeling back to normal.

It's Wednesday, which means it's time to link up with Kat and the Unravelers! Today finds me trying to ply 24 mini skeins:

I will share the colors at some point, but I don't want to inadvertently spoil someone's surprise. I wound off the singles from each fiber mini so that I can ply it back on itself. I managed to do four skeins last night and am hoping I can do the rest before we leave, but I've got actual work to do and tons of other things on my to-do list to get ready for the trip, so something might have to wait until we return.

I have decided that I'm going to take my Birch sweater with me so I can get as much as possible done on it. As a reminder, here's where things stand -- I literally have not touched it since the day we flew home from our spring break visit:

Because my skeins are all a little different, I'm blending the old and the new each time one skein starts to run out. But that gets a little more complicated when you're dealing with body and sleeves, so I had to do a little math and make an estimate of how much yarn will be used on sleeves versus body. Before we leave, I will need to get out my scale and ball winder and wind off about a third of each skein for the sleeves and then split each of the smaller skeins in half. It shouldn't take too long, but finding the time to do it is the hard part.

Reading has been a mixed bag this past week. Last week I was prioritizing finishing a big book that I'd been reading for far too long, and I'm happy to say I finished it before the weekend was over.

I picked up Go Tell the Bees That I Am Gone when we were in Florida last winter break and started it on the flight back down there for spring break. I think I got about 200 pages in while we were there and then, like my sweater, I put it down as soon as we got back. I did not want to leave a book unfinished so long, and I definitely didn't want to schlep the book with me on our trip, so it became my focus. It had been a while since I read the previous Outlander book, so there were a lot of details I had forgotten and I needed to read some summaries online to refresh my memory. There is a lot going on in this book and I know plenty of people will complain that it's much longer than it needs to be (fair!), but I enjoyed it once I got reacquainted with all of the characters. It's also clear that Gabaldon isn't done with this series, because this book ends with a major storyline unresolved, so I suppose I'll have to get ready for the next one! I gave this installment 4 stars.

I needed a need audiobook to listen to over the weekend, so I decided to finally give The Book of Goose a try, as I know many of you have read it and enjoyed it. Unfortunately this one wasn't for me. I did finish it, because it was a relatively short audiobook and I was hoping my opinion of it would improve, but that did not end up being the case. I didn't really understand the point of the book, to be honest. I've heard it described as a beautiful portrait of a friendship, but I found it instead to be more the story of a girl who is manipulated by her so-called friend and then by various adults. Really it was only the writing that had any redeeming quality for me. I gave it 2 stars.

I'm currently reading another book that I don't have high hopes for, but I'm looking ahead to much more reading time in the next two weeks.

What are you making and reading this week?

Monday, December 11, 2023

In Which Things Start to Wind Down

Even though there are several weeks left in the month, this week is my last one of work and Mo's last of school for the year. I technically have work for most of next week, too, but I decided to use up some vacation days so I can fully enjoy my time in Florida (I worked while we were there in March, but this time of year is the break I look forward to all year!). There's still a lot to get done this week before we leave, not least of which is packing, but at least the end is in sight.

I'm happy to report that the hat was a bit hit with my sister-in-law, who sent me this photo Saturday morning:

That adorable bear hat my nephew is wearing? Mo made it! It was one of three she made, though only this one had those cute ears. Amazingly, they all fit him perfectly. And even more amazingly, she didn't use a pattern! She's becoming quite the crocheter.

The weekend did involve some frogging. Remember that charity hat I was knitting with the unusual brim construction? I thought the brim looked small because I still had the waste yarn in from the tubular cast on, but on Friday I finished the brim and started the body, so I pulled the waste yarn out and went to try it on -- and it was so tight I'm not sure it would have even gotten on my nephew's head. I don't know if I did something wrong or if there's an issue with the pattern, but there was really no recourse but to rip it out. On Saturday night, while the Mister and I watched Leave the World Behind (which, by the way, is even more unsettling than the book), I started over, this time with a different brim that I was sure would be stretchy enough to fit a human head: I did a provisional cast-on, knit double the length I wanted, folded the fabric in half, and joined the cast-on edge to the live stitches. Much better!

I will do my best to finish this up before we leave, along with my Fibernymph Dye Works fiber minis, which also got some attention over the weekend. I have two and a half minis left to spin onto the second bobbin today, and I'm hoping work will cooperate to allow me to wind off the singles from the first bobbin. I'd hope to have both of these projects complete in the next several days so that I can focus on what I want to take on vacation. I'm likely taking my Birch pullover, which has not been touched since you last saw it. I will need to do some weighing and rewinding of my skeins so that I can blend the body and sleeves similarly, but that shouldn't take too long. I also have some mini skeins to wind so I can knit up the mystery gnome (it's intended for my brother, who will be coming down with his family the day before we leave, so I can knit it while I'm there and give it to him when he arrives). Other than that, I'll have to ponder what else I want to bring.

This afternoon Mo and I are going to get our COVID boosters, now that it's been three months since we were sick, so I'll be mentally preparing myself for feeling crummy for the next day. Today we should also hear whether we've gotten into SSK for next summer; we've both entered the lottery with the hope that we'll both be selected and can attend our first fiber arts retreat together. Keep your fingers crossed for us!

Friday, December 08, 2023

More Light

This time of year is always hard for me. I know I've said this before, but what gets to me most in the winter isn't the cold (because I've got plenty of wool to deal with that) but the darkness. We've got a couple of weeks yet until the days start to get longer again, but in the meantime, we'll just have to make our own light. And Chanukah arrived last night to help with that.

Please ignore the mess

Celebrating Chanukah this year feels a bit challenging. It's a time when being a Jew publicly feels important to do but can also be dangerous. And of course I'm thinking of the hostages and their families, who aren't able to celebrate the holiday together. This year it feels more important than ever to add to the light. And if you need a little more lightness, can I recommend this fun take on Taylor Swift's Eras?

Tonight we will celebrate with my parents and my brother and his family. I'm excited for my nephew to celebrate his first Chanukah! We've got a pile of gifts to take with us, including the hat for my sister-in-law, which I did finish on Wednesday evening, right before bed, and then blocked yesterday:

I'm very happy with how it turned out, and now I just hope she likes it! I typically knit her socks, but I thought I'd try something different for a change. She's not really a hat person, but maybe a handmade hat will change her mind?

While I was ignoring my spinning while I focused on getting the hat finished up, I got back to it yesterday and was able to finish up the first half of my singles from my Fibernymph Dye Works minis. I'm showing the bobbin in black and while just so I don't spoil the colors for anyone, seeing as I am ahead of schedule.

I've opened up the next four bags so I can start spinning them today, and I hope I can finish the rest over the weekend. We don't really have anything planned this weekend (well, Mo has a work session at school tomorrow morning and then is sleeping over at her best friend's house tomorrow night for her birthday, but the Mister and I have nothing planned), and it's supposed to be cold and rainy, so I think that's a perfect excuse to sit at my wheel. I'm also hoping to finish up Go Tell the Bees; I've only got about 220 pages left, and that seems like a reasonable amount to read in a couple of days where I have nowhere to be.

Whatever your plans for the weekend, I hope they involve bringing some more light to the world. We could certainly all use it!

Wednesday, December 06, 2023

Unraveled, Week 49/2023

Week 49 of 2023 -- only three more Wednesdays left this year?! Yikes! Where does the time go?

Before I get into the typical stuff for Unraveled Wednesday, I want to thank you all for your concern. I'm happy to share that I'm back to normal and that my issue on Monday appears to have been a normal IBS flare combined with my typical catastrophization (is that a word? If not, if should be!). I have a tendency to worry way more than is necessary about things, especially feeling sick, which often results in feeling much worse, and that seems to be what happened earlier this week. But I took a little nap after my morning meeting -- a definite perk of working from home -- and was feeling well enough that I was able to attend a dinner with a rabbi candidate Monday evening.

But enough about that -- it's time to link up with Kat and the Unravelers and talk about making and reading! My making this week is going to be a little boring because I'm singularly focused on finishing up some gift knitting. We're having a Chanukah party with my side of the family on Friday night, so I'm furiously trying to finish up the hat for my sister-in-law.

I've got 20-ish grams of yarn left and will start decreasing when I get to 10, so it's possible I will finish today. My goal is to get it done by tomorrow at the latest so I can block it and have it be dry to be wrapped on Friday.

Once the hat is done, my focus will be my Fibernymph Dye Works fiber minis; I'm nearly finished with the ninth. I think once I get through the first half, I will change bobbins. I'm not sure if I'll ply those first 12 before spinning the others or wait to ply them all at the end. But either way they're going quickly, and I don't think I'll have a problem finishing them all before we leave for vacation.

Reading has been good this past week. I've only finished one book, but it was an excellent one.

North Woods just came out in September and is a strange sort of book. It's called a novel, but in many ways it's more like a series of short stories, some of which are more interconnected than others. Really what ties all the stories together is what's right there in the title: the woods. The story starts in the early colonial days, when an unnamed couple leaves their Puritan community for the freedom of the woods. Over the course of the book, which brings us more or less up to the present, we see what happens in this same spot and how the people who live there affect the woods. Along the way, the author explores a number of different genres of writing to tell the stories. This isn't going to be a book for everyone (in fact, I know some of you have already read it and didn't care for it), but I thought it was fascinating. It would make for a really good book club read, I think, because there's so much to discuss about what the author is doing. I gave it 5 stars.

EDIT: A comment from Carolyn made me realize I finished another book last week!

I enjoyed Wellness so much that I went back to read Nathan Hill's first book, The Nix. I know this book has been out for a while and many of you have read and enjoyed it, but I'd never heard of it until recently. I decided to listen to it, even though it's much longer than the audiobooks I typically listen to, and that proved to be a good choice. The narrator does such an amazing job of differentiating the characters without seeming like he's "doing" a voice. I loved how all the different storylines and characters came together and how it almost felt like it could have been a bit autobiographical (I didn't do research to see if this is the case, but doesn't it seem like Hill could have been writing about his own mother?). I really enjoyed it, though I like I enjoyed Wellness just a bit more. I gave this one 4 stars.

I am still reading Go Tell the Bees That I Am Gone and am determined to finish it before we leave for Florida. I've just made it past page 500, so I am more than halfway through, and I think finishing in the next week and a half is reasonable if I focus on it.

What are you making and reading this week?

Monday, December 04, 2023

A Day for Tea and Toast

Here we are again on Monday, and this morning I'm feeling a little under the weather. Either the Mister gave me the tummy troubles he had last week or I'm having an IBS flare. Either way, I'm very happy that I work from home and don't have to try going into the office today. I've already sent my boss an email to let her know that I'm playing the day by ear, but I've had some tea and toast and will be taking it easy today.

After I posted on Friday, I did indeed finish plying the handspun and did indeed get it all on the bobbin. I could've fit more on, too, if I'd needed to! Skeining took a while, but the day was calm enough to allow me to get it all done, and it was dry by the next day.

I can really only get a rough estimate of the yardage because of the size of this skein, but my conservative estimate is about 817 yards -- now I know why it took so long to ply! I'm very happy with how the blending turned out. too.

I called the skein "A Pale Olive in a Blue Fog" after the names of the colorways, although a number of people have commented that it looks like silver and gold rather than blue and green, and I can see that a bit. Don't ask me what I'm going to make with this -- I have no idea! For now it's just going in the big bag of SCF. And for those of you who are keeping count, this skein used up two bags of fiber (these happened to be prizes) and takes me to 33 for the year. I don't know that I'll get more done before the end of the year, because I'm focused on my Fibernymph Dye Works minis right now, but I have just seven bags left, only five of which are club shipments, so it should not take me long into the new year to get caught up.

In spite of not feeling quite like myself this morning, I did get enough preparation done yesterday so that all I had to do this morning to publish my new pattern was click a few buttons.

Hydrophily is now available on Ravelry and on Payhip, and soon it should be up on LoveKnitting, too. No pressure, but I hope you'll take a look.

And with that, it's time to get back to my second cup of tea and get ready for my morning work meeting. Have a good Monday, friends!

Friday, December 01, 2023

Fit to Be Plied

It's a very soggy, dreary Friday morning here in Pittsburgh. I am thankful that we are no longer having the January-like temperatures of earlier in the week, but it looks like it is going to rain much of the day. While I don't much care for running in frigid weather like I did on Wednesday, I much prefer it to running in the rain, so I'm postponing today's run until tomorrow.

Yesterday was a long day -- a full day of work, followed by a 2-plus-hour Zoom (another rabbi candidate interview) -- with a long to-do list, and despite spending many hours at my wheel, I do not yet have a finished skein of yarn to share today. I did finish spinning my singles Wednesday evening, but this is such a monster skein that it will take me a bit more time to finish up this morning. The good news is that it appears it will all fit onto one bobbin, so I didn't have to break it into two skeins.

I was a bit worried that it wasn't all going to fit, but my WooLee Winder is wonderful for packing it on tightly, and I've even got a bit of clearance. I'm sure this skein is going to be a monster to wind -- my shoulder is already glad that I have my Super Skeiner and do not have to wind it by hand with my niddy noddy! Assuming work cooperates today, I will finish plying, skein, and wash so I can share the finished yarn on Monday.

This weekend we have some dinner plans but not much else, so I will be working on my gift projects as well as doing all the prep work to publish my new shawl pattern next week. I heard back from my new tech editor last night and have some minor adjustments to make to the pattern itself, but there's much more admin to do related to the pattern release (creating the listing on Ravelry and Payhip, setting up promotions, writing up a newsletter, etc.). I'd hope to get that all ready so that come next week, I can just hit "publish" and have everything ready to go.

Tonight we have our usual Shabbat dinner at my parents', which means (in Mo's words) that we'll get to see "our boys" -- that is, my youngest nephew and my dog-nephew. And because it's the end of the week and we can all use more cuteness in our lives, I'll leave you with a photo from Thanksgiving of me and said nephew:

I hope you have an easy end to your week and the best weekend possible!

Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Unraveled, Week 48/2023

It's Wednesday already? Time to check in with Kat and the Unravelers!

My primary focus this week has been my current spinning project, which I'm trying to finish up before the end of the month (for no particular reason other than having a deadline). As of yesterday morning, I had two bobbins of singles complete and a third started:

My final piece of fiber to be spun is currently in progress, and on today's to-do list is finishing it so I can start plying. Aside from wanting to finish up this project, I also have another one I'd like to get to before we leave for vacation:

This is my Holiday Countdown set from Fibernymph Dye Works. Each of those little bags holds 10 g of fiber. It's a Lord of the Rings theme this year (the tag reads "Samwise Gamgee's Po-tay-toes!"), and I'm still deciding how to spin it. One big skein that's chain-plied? Two bobbins plied together? Three bobbins plied together? 24 mini skeins? I'll decide in the next couple of days, but if you feel strongly about any particular option, let me know.

I've not been doing very much knitting or crochet recently, but I did start a new project because I needed something to take to Thanksgiving dinner that wasn't one of the gifts I'm working on (both recipients were there), so I started a charity hat using some leftovers and mini skeins:

This is the start of L'Indispensable (Ravelry link), which has a very clever double-knit brim. I'm planning to add this to the charity hat pile, so I'm knitting the second-largest size. It looks rather small at the moment, but I think that's because it starts with a tubular cast-on and I haven't yet removed the waste yarn.

Reading has been very good this past week, though I've only finished one book -- but it was a 5-star read!

I bought Between Two Kingdoms: A Memoir of a Life Interrupted several weeks ago when it was Kindle deal because it had been on my TBR list for a while. I won't say this is an easy book to read because it's a memoir of a rather harrowing cancer diagnosis and treatment, but the writing is absolutely beautiful. Suleika Jaoud was diagnosed with leukemia shortly after graduating from college, just when she thought her adult life was starting, and this memoir deals both with her treatment and with her struggle to figure out how to live in the aftermath of it. What she captures so well in her story is the beauty of the friendships she formed with other patients, the kindness of strangers, and the way our stories can connect us with others. This book is brutally honest about what it's like to have cancer, but it was a very worthwhile read for me and I highly recommend it.

Today I'm hoping to finish listening to The Nix (I've got about 2 hours and 45 minutes left!), and I've also dragged out Go Tell the Bees That I Am Gone, which I started way back in March and haven't picked up in months but which I'd like to finish before the end of the year if I can.

What are you making and reading this week?

Monday, November 27, 2023

Embrace in 2023: November

 "Slow down, you move too fast. You got to make the morning last."

- Simon and Garfunkel

As yet another month is about to fly by us and we find ourselves hurtling toward the end of the year, what I've found myself embracing lately is slowing down. That's been a bit of a challenge this month, as it's been a very busy one, but I've found that I have never regretted stopping to appreciate the moment.

In a very literal way, slowing down has proved to be beneficial. I had been struggling to get back to being able to run more than a mile and a half without having to stop to catch my breath, and I realized that if I slowed down my pace just a bit, I could probably increase my endurance -- and that's just what happened. On Friday, I was able to run more than three miles before I pause to walk and catch my breath, and I found that in general I needed less recovery time. My speed was slower, but I was able to run more because I needed shorter walking times, and so I managed to cover six miles in less than an hour (usually it takes me a few minutes more than an hour to cover the same distance). My goal in running has always been to be able to run longer rather than faster, so this makes me very happy.

Slowing down this month has also meant really appreciating the moments that can go by so quickly: Mo's musical performances, Thanksgiving with the whole family, and get-togethers with family and friends. This is especially the case when it comes to my nephews, who are growing so quickly. Mo and I were talking last night and realized that we'd spent some of five consecutive days with my youngest nephew after not seeing him for a couple of weeks due to illness (he had croup, she had a cold).

And we got to celebrate my middle nephew's first birthday yesterday and appreciate the fact that he's only crawling and doesn't move too fast (in comparison to my oldest nephew, who spent much of the party running around the house).

There will be a lot going on between now and the end of the year -- work deadlines, synagogue meetings, holidays, a 14th birthday, and a trip to Florida -- but I'm determined not to rush it.

Thanks to Carolyn for hosting these monthly One Little Word check-ins. I can't believe there's only one more month in 2023 and it will soon be time to choose a new word!