Friday, June 14, 2024

No Such Thing as a Day Off

TGIF! I am technically off today but was up at the normal time because there are many things I am planning to do today. For one thing, I want to get my run in before it becomes beastly hot! But it's also going to be a girl's day -- Mo and I are planning to go shopping this afternoon. I will be baking challah for dinner tonight. And there will be laundry (there's always laundry). But! I am finishing the week with an FO:

These have been in progress for a while, so I'm glad I could finally give them enough attention to finish them. They're for my sister-in-law (the one with the small feet) for her birthday in September, so I'll block them and then put them away until then. I used my plain vanilla recipe over 68 stitches for these. The yarn is Knit Picks Felici in the colorway White Russian. The name makes sense for the white and brown stripes, but I'm not sure what the pink, blue, and yellow have to do with it. They didn't ask for my opinion when they were naming it!

I thought about starting another sweater this week but thought I should knit some charity hats first. I don't remember if I've mentioned it on the blog, but Mo and I are headed to a knitting retreat -- TwinSet Summer Camp -- out in eastern PA next month, and they will be collecting hats for Knit the Rainbow. I think I only have one charity hat in my stack at the moment, so this seemed like a good time to build that up. And because it's Pride month, why not get out the rainbow yarn?

This is the start of a Bousta Beanie using some leftover West Yorkshire Spinners Signature 4-ply (if it looks familiar, it's because I used it for these socks. I'm only using two colors rather than the three called for in the pattern, but it'll look like more because of the self-striping.

We've got a relaxing weekend planned, with only a Father's Day brunch on the schedule (I am in charge of making cinnamon rolls). I'm bracing for the hot temperatures that are predicted and planning for lots of cool beverages and maybe some naps indoors. Hope it's a good one for you!

Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Unraveled, Week 24/2024

Good morning and happy Wednesday! This week I'm joining Kat and the Unravelers with a real, actual finished object!

Please ignore the crazy hair; I'd just blown it dry.

Pattern: Rift by Jacqueline Cieslak, size 40 in./102 cm bust
Yarn: Uru. Yarn Asher (36% linen/flax, 34% cotton, 19% Lyocell/tencel, 11% nylon) in Cucumber, 1.5 skeins
Needles: US 8 (5.0 mm)
Started/Completed: May 22/June 9

I've had this pattern in my library for a while, and when I won the yarn from Pam and Greg of the Unraveling podcast, I knew it would be perfect for a summery tee. In fact, I've been planning to knit this pattern in this yarn since the beginning of the year, and for once I actually managed to knit a project for a particular season before the season was over!

There are more than 2,300 projects listed on Ravelry for this pattern, and having knit it, I can see why. It's very straightforward and suits many different bodies quite well. It has some really nice features, like the split high-low twisted ribbing hem (ribbing that continues up the side), short row shaping for the shoulders, a three-needle bind off for the shoulder hem that provides just enough structure, and a minimalist finish on the neckline. There are also options for whether you want the v-neck in front, back, or not at all and for short or long sleeves.

My only modification to the pattern, if you can even call it that, is that I kind of threw caution to the wind and didn't make any adjustments when I didn't quite get gauge. The needles already felt so big and the fabric so loose that I could not fathom going up a size, so I ended up with closer to zero ease than the called-for 6-12 inches. That is after some horizontal stretching when I blocked the tee, which is also why it's rather cropped despite having added two additional inches to the body. Had I known that I would have plenty of yarn, I would have added a further two or three inches, but it's too late for that. I plan to wear this version over tanks and dresses, so it'll be fine, but for my next one, I'll either go up a size or actually swatch to get the correct needle size. I will also make it longer so that it's not so cropped and I don't have to wear it over something else (at my age, I'm just not comfortable letting my once-housed-a-child belly hang out).

I'll just note that I'm not sure this yarn is available any more, but it was an interesting blend. It has chainette construction, which means there were some slubs here and there, but I do like the feel of it in fabric form and didn't have any issues with hand fatigue as I often do with 100% cotton. I don't think I have anything in my stash currently that doesn't contain wool that would be appropriate for another Rift, so I will have to do some thinking about what I'd like to use for my next one.

I'm also down to just one WIP now -- the current socks, which are nearly done -- so I fully expect to cast on All The Things in short order.

I have finished two more books this week, as I continue to slowly make my way through the brick.

I had never heard of Small Island until Mary selected it as one of the titles for our group's exploration of past Women's Prize for Fiction winners, but I am so glad I read it! This story is told from four perspectives -- an English couple and a Jamaican couple -- in 1948 and in flashbacks to WWII and before. It deals with some big issues, like colonialism and racism, but there is so much that is relatable about these characters. I'll admit that for the Jamaican couple, Hortense and Gilbert, I immediately had the characters of Lucille and Cyril from Call the Midwife in my head, as if they were reading the dialogue in accent to me. I found the book easy to get into and hard to put down once I had time and attention to devote to it. I gave it 5 stars.

Next, a reread: I'm fairly certain that the first time I read Howards End (which I know had to be after the Merchant Ivory film version came out, because I remember reading a tie-in paperback copy) most of the nuance of the story went clear over my head. But this time around I've lived quite a bit more, read quite a bit more, and have a much clearer understanding of the British class system. I was struck, though, by how much of the story has to do with men ordering women's lives around and assuming that they know better. I listened for my reread, and the audiobook was the rare one for which I had to slow my playback speed down to 1.25x because the reader was such a fast talker. I gave it 4 stars.

In addition to the tome, I've been reading Piglet, which just came out a few months ago and which I scored when it was a Kindle deal last week. I read half of it in one sitting on Monday afternoon and imagine I'll finish it up before the week is out.

What are you making and reading this week? Got any recommendations for a great plant fiber-based yarn (sport or DK) for my next Rift?

Monday, June 10, 2024

Highs and Lows

I was a bit disappointed to realize it was Monday when I woke up this morning, but I suppose a new week is easier to face when you know it's only going to be a four-day work week (I'm taking Friday off). We had a pretty good weekend, although it had some unexpected moments. We did have some amazing weather all weekend, with blue skies, sunshine, and low humidity, which I always enjoy.

As I mentioned, we had tickets to the baseball game Saturday afternoon. It'd been about a year since we'd last been to one, so we were all looking forward to it. And as it was also Worldwide Knit in Public Day, I took my sock in progress to the game (though let's be honest -- I would have taken my knitting regardless). We had great seats along the first base line, with the sun behind us so we didn't have to worry about getting burned.

Shortly after I took this photo, something dramatic happened: A foul ball was hit in our direction, bounced off some seats, hit our friends' younger daughter in the face, and ended up in my seat. I'm happy to tell you that she's fine, though she has a pretty impressive black eye now, but they took her to Children's Hospital to get checked out just in case. And she got to keep the ball, of course! Because of this excitement, I didn't do much knitting because I thought it would be better to keep an eye out for foul balls. And it ended up being a really exciting game that the Pirates won!

There was plenty of time for knitting at home, and thanks to a good amount of time spent finishing Downtown Abbey (the series) and watching all of the first movie and part of the second, I finished my Rift tee!

I still have to block it to try to get some more room, but it does fit -- just not with any real positive ease. I'm hoping that once it gets wet and I stretch it, it'll be a little more comfortable. I can definitely see myself knitting another of these, though I might knit the next size up (or at least actually bother to get gauge). Once I get this blocked, I'll take some photos and do a proper write-up.

Finally, yesterday was our synagogue annual meeting, which officially marked the end of my second term on the board and my second year as board secretary. I still have to submit the minutes, but for all intents and purposes, I'm done. This moment is a little bittersweet; though the board has been a huge commitment in recent years and I've grumbled about the time it's taken up, I will miss being involved. What I neglected to mention in my last post, though, is that our congregation is currently involved in a process with another one (one that actually was formed years ago when a group split off from our congregation) of looking at a possible unification and the creation of an entirely new entity. So while I have to take a year off from board service, in reality, my synagogue may no longer exist in another year, and if we do move forward with this process, there will be plenty of opportunities to get involved in figuring out all the details. It's an exciting time, and we'll see what happens.

And now I need to get moving -- Mo has an orthodontist appointment at 11, so I need to try to squeeze in my run and a shower before then. Have a great start to your week!

Friday, June 07, 2024

Week's End

TGIF! It's been a long, sweaty week here, and I'm happy to see Friday arrive (along with cooler, less humid weather). It's been nice to have Mo home with me this week, though her presence hasn't changed my routine all that much. We did bake some cookies together the other afternoon, but generally she does her own thing while I work.

Thank you for all the commiseration on my work gripes. I still don't understand what purpose my being in the office is supposed to serve, and my time there has been decidedly unproductive. Other than sitting through team meetings (which mostly don't involve me), I've only once had something to do while I'm there, so it really does feel like a waste. We'll see if anyone cares and changes things going forward.

My Rift tee has grown quite a bit since Wednesday -- I'm nearly done with the back!

If you click to embiggen the photo, you'll see that the left shoulder short rows are complete, so now I just have to do the right shoulder to match. The front will have a v-neck (the pattern gives you options for the neckline). I played around with my photo editing app to try to get the color a bit more accurate, but it's still not quite right. Oh well! This project has been an excellent accompaniment to our evenings watching Downton Abbey. We reached the final episode last night, which is bittersweet. We still have the two movies to watch after that, and apparently there's a third movie coming? In any case, it would be nice to finish up this tee by the time we've finished with all the Downton stuff to watch.

I'm also working on finishing up my current blue singles (so I can get on to the next bobbin of blue singles):

We've got a few things on the calendar this weekend, aside from the usual chores and errands. We're going to the baseball game tomorrow with some friends and my brother-in-law/sister-in-law/nephews, and then Sunday morning is our synagogue's annual meeting -- my very last meeting on the board! It's a bit bittersweet rotating off the board; it's going to be a bit sad not to be as involved, but I'm also looking forward to having fewer meetings. The bylaws mandate that after two consecutive terms, any board member has to rotate off for a year before they're eligible for another term; we'll see if they come calling again this time next year.

I hope you have an easy end to your week and a relaxing weekend!

Wednesday, June 05, 2024

Unraveled, Week 23/2024

After a cooler weekend, summer weather has arrived with a vengeance here in SW PA! It's been hot and humid, and it looks like we may get some thunderstorms this afternoon (I'm keeping my fingers crossed I can get my run in between raindrops this morning!). It's Wednesday, which means it's time to link up with Kat and the Unravelers. Here's the current state of my WIPs:

My Rift tee is just about ready to split into front and back after adding a couple extra inches of length to the body. And I picked up the Felici socks again yesterday when I went in to work, something that continues to feel pointless to me. I'm going in on Tuesdays and Thursdays for my 9 a.m. team meeting, and then I sit alone in an office until about 11:30, when I leave to go home. I genuinely don't see the point of it, particularly as we're often on Microsoft Teams for the meeting as well (because we have a coworker who doesn't live here and joins remotely all the time, and not everyone is always in both days). Annual review time is coming up, and I will of course be bringing up this new hybrid schedule, though I realize there's not much my direct supervisor can do about. I'm just keeping my fingers crossed that someone who has some say-so comes to the realization that my being physically present doesn't change anything.

In any case, the sock is getting some occasional attention. I'm not in a rush to finish the pair (the recipient's birthday isn't for three more months), but I also don't want it to linger on the needles for too long.

Not shown in the WIP photo is my current spin, which is approaching its end. I've got a length of fiber about a yard long left to spin into singles, and then I will get started on the third and final blue.

I have only finished one book in the past week, but that's mainly because I've been doing a lot of reading on a Big Book!

I'd had The Cloisters tagged in Libby as "to read" (a list I keep of books I'm interested in reading, eventually, that I'll go back to and check the availability when I need something new) since hearing about it on a podcast a while back, and the audio was available when I needed something to listen to late last week. I'd call this a work of "dark academia," a story set in an academic setting with something slightly sinister in the background, though perhaps not the best example of the genre I've read. Ann Stilwell, having just graduated from a small college in Washington State and seeking distance from her life there, finds herself in NYC ready to work as a curatorial intern at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. When she learns that her position is no longer available, she falls into another one at the Met's Cloisters museum, known for its Medieval art and gardens containing deadly plants. She soon becomes part of a team working to research the history of the use of tarot cards -- and becomes enmeshed in the lives of the people she works with. I found the book to be entertaining, and I certainly enjoyed the art history piece of it (have I ever mentioned that I minored in art history in college?), but there was a bit of a twist at the end that left me not liking the main character very much. I gave it 3 stars.

My Big Book will, I expect, be with me most of the summer: A Suitable Boy. I'm into Part Four, of nineteen total, so I'm moving right along. I'm also reading Small Island (it's been coming to work with me for when I don't have anything to do) for our next backlist Women's Prize discussion. That's going a bit faster. I expect I'll be ready for another audiobook soon, too.

This afternoon I'm going in for my annual mammogram, so I'll close this out by reminding those of you to whom it applies to get your girls squished!

Monday, June 03, 2024

Let Summer Begin

Did you know that meteorological summer begins June 1? So while the calendar might still say it's spring for a few weeks yet, I'm officially in summer mode. Part of the reason for that is that Mo is officially on summer break. Apologies if you've already seen this on Instagram, but I couldn't resist sharing it again here:

Her school does a really nice end-of-year ceremony for each school level -- Lower School (pre-K-4th), Middle School (5th-8th), and Upper School (9th-12th) -- in addition to the commencement ceremony for the graduating students, and the highest class in each level are the special honorees. Mo finished 4th grade in spring 2020, so their virtual event was a bit of a let-down. That made this ceremony all the more special. All the members of her class wore dresses (the rest of the Middle School students had to wear their uniforms), and they were recognized by the faculty with personal anecdotes and a rather hilarious song about them to the tune of "Gaston" from Beauty and the Beast. Some special awards also were handed out, and we were all so proud that Mo received the Scholar Award for achieving a 3.8 or higher GPA (students at her school receive grades, but their GPA is only calculated internally for awards like this or for reporting to colleges). We had our families over for a celebratory dinner on Friday night, and then she proceeded to sleep nearly 13 hours -- I guess she's really needed to catch up on sleep for a long time! She has no real plans for the summer other than enjoying it. She plans to read for pleasure, do some clean-outs of her room and the basement (which mostly is storing toys she's outgrown), and do some more cooking. We also just signed her up to do the Great Race 5K with us in September, so she's going to start doing some training runs with me soon.

This past weekend was moderately busy with chores and errands and so forth, but it felt rather relaxing in comparison to last weekend! I did give some attention to my Rift tee, and I put half of it on another needle to stretch it out and verify that it will fit.

For the life of me I cannot get my phone to capture the color accurately; it's a bit more yellow in real life. The good news is that just laid out like this, it's measuring 35" around, and I'm fairly certain it will stretch when it's blocked, so I think I will be fine on the fit. I think I'm going to add a bit more length to the body before I split for the sleeves just so that it's not too cropped. I have about 150 yards more than called for in the size I'm making, so I should have plenty to add an extra inch or two. While the fabric I'm getting with this yarn is a little lumpy-bumpy, it feels good, and I think this tee is going to be worn a lot this summer (provided I can keep up my momentum on this project and get it finished soon).

Summer brings with it a lot of time outside and in the garden, and while the bunnies are still trying to eat everything in sight (they seem to be especially fond of hostas), I'm happy to report that my raised planters with fencing are keeping them out and everything in there seems to be growing well. One has a tomato plant, an eggplant, and several zucchini plants, while the other has two kinds of peppers and basil. I've got spaghetti and butternut squash growing along the side of the fence in our driveway; it worked out well last year to have them there so I could drape the vines on the fence as the fruit started to grow. And my beloved hydrangeas have exploded in the past week or so:

There are actually two plants there that were put in the ground at the same time, but the one on the right lost about half its volume last year because of what I suspect was a rabbit den in its root system that killed off a good portion of the plant. I'm hoping it'll come back eventually. In the meantime, I'm enjoying the full range of colors that we're getting!

Friday, May 31, 2024

Better in 2024: May

This has been one of those months where I've kind of lost track of time. There are lots of good reasons for it in this particular month -- in particular, a lot of happy family get-togethers -- but the end result is that this past Monday, I totally forgot it was the last week of the month and I neglected to do my monthly One Little Word post! So I'm squeezing it in on this last day of the month. Thank you, as always, to Carolyn, for hosting a monthly link-up and, in this instance, for keeping the link party open all week so I can join in!

It was probably a good thing I had to push this post off for a few days because I was struggling a bit with how Better has appeared in my life this month. Certainly I'm always trying to improve in many facets of my life: increasing my running distance before I pause to walk, eating less of what's not so good for me and more of what is, not procrastinating on things on my to-do list, using up the yarn that I already own and reading books that I already have, etc. But that's ongoing and not unique to this month. Then I remembered something rather extraordinary that happened just this past weekend.

Before I go into that, though, there's something you need to know about me: I'm scared of flying. I have a fear of heights and easily get claustrophobic, and when you combine those with a lack of control (which is what happens when you're a passenger in a metal tube in the sky), you get fear of flying. This is something I've dealt with pretty much all my life, but it really got bad after 9/11, for obvious reasons. I've taken steps to deal with it, and I do fly, obviously, though I'm always a bit anxious. But here's the amazing thing that happened over the weekend: Despite my usual anxiety and despite the fact that the flight home on Sunday was bumpy enough that the flight attendants couldn't pass out drinks and snacks, I actually managed to sleep a little on the flight. It was really just a cat nap, but it was completely out of the norm for me.

You could say this means that I'm getting Better at flying, but I'm thinking bigger picture here. Maybe it's age, maybe it's the anti-anxiety meds, but I think what this shows me is that I'm getting Better at not worrying about the stuff I can't control. Flying is a pretty obvious example, but there's also been a lot going on at work the past couple of months affecting my day-to-day routine and in which I've had no say. I suspect we all have an illusion that we control much of what happens in our lives, but the older I get, the more I realize that really the only thing I can control is my reaction. (Funny, that's precisely what I used to say to Mo when she was little and was frustrated with classmates or teachers. I suppose I should have listened to myself a lot sooner!) So I guess the take-home message this month is that Better has been about accepting that I'm not always the captain of my own ship and not getting upset about that fact. I'm sure it's a lesson I'll continue to remind myself of for the rest of my life -- though I'll start with this afternoon, when my daughter graduates from middle school and I'll have to deal with the fact that she is growing up and is no longer my baby!

Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Unraveled, Week 22/2024

I just love it when the week feels like it's just beginning and it's already Wednesday! That means it's time to link up with Kat and the Unravelers to talk about making and reading.

Yesterday I spent another fairly useless morning at the office, at least as far as actual work. I did add a couple of stripes to my current sock and read about 50 pages of a new book. But in the evenings I've been working on my Rift tee, and it's starting to look like an actual garment now:

This top is designed with a split hem; the front and the back are currently on the same needle though not yet joined. The pattern says to make the hems the same length if you want the top to be reversible, but as I'm really only likely to have the v-neck in the front, I am probably going to make the front ribbing a bit shorter than the back. Once I've joined the two pieces and am working in the round, I'll start alternating skeins. You can see that there's a bit of pooling in the completed ribbing for the back, but it's subtle (actually, I think it's probably more noticeable in the photo than it is in real life). Even so, things will just be easier all around to alternate.

It's been another good week of reading, with three books finished even with a busy weekend.

The first feels a bit like cheating, because I'd consider it more of a short story or a novella and it was only about 2 1/2 hours long on audio. Eastbound was actually published more than a decade ago but did not come out in English until last year. It tells the story of a young Russian conscript on a trans-Siberian train who decides to desert and the French woman he meets who helps him, despite not speaking his language or knowing anything about him. There's quite a bit of suspense and a number of tense moments as we wait to see if he'll get away. I really enjoyed the writing though have to note that the narrator made me think the woman's name was Elaine because she was mispronouncing Hélène. I gave it 4 stars.

Before we left on our trip, one item on my to-do list was to finish reading Kairos because I did not want to take a hardback book with me. The book just won the International Booker Prize for this year. I bought a used copy from Thriftbooks and ended up with a former library copy that had a "Romance" genre sticker on the spine. This was a puzzling categorization to me, because while the story does follow an affair between 19-year-old Katharina and Hans, a married man more than three decades her senior, it did not read like a romance book to me. It's set in the last years of the GDR, and the relationship ultimately has a lot of parallels in the dissolving Communist state. While I enjoyed the writing, I thought the relationship between the two was quite troubling. Hans seems to enjoy holding power over Katharina, and ultimately I found their relationship to be rather emotionally abusive. He makes her feel guilty for what he perceives to be her indiscretions even as he is cheating on his wife -- and not for the first time. I gave it 3 stars.

My travel reading was pure comfort: an ARC of Elizabeth Strout's forthcoming Tell Me Everything. Strout's novels are always such comfortable reads; usually not much happens in terms of plot, but reading her books is like spending time in a small town and returning to characters who feel like old friends. And many of those old friends reappear in this new book. Many readers will be delighted that Lucy Barton and Olive Kitteridge finally appear together, swapping stories about people they've known or met and pondering some of life's great questions. But the main focus of this installment of life in Crosby, Maine, is Lucy's walking partner Bob Burgess. He takes on the case of a man under suspicion of killing his mother, a woman reviled by many, and as he's working on it, he's also working on some challenges in his own life. There are funny moments and sad moments, but overall the novel is one that celebrates the humanity of all the characters, reminding us that we are all broken in some way and we are all deserving of love. I gave it 4 stars. I received a digital ARC of this book from Random House and NetGalley in return for an honest review. This book will be published September 10, 2024.

As to what I'm reading currently, at the moment, it's two physical books! While Chelsea and Sara of Novel Pairings are reading Les Misérables this summer as their big book, a group of us decided we'd instead like to read A Suitable Boy, one of the books mentioned in The Reading List (which I reviewed last week). This book is almost 1,500 pages long, but Mary was nice enough to break it down week by week so that we know how many pages to read each week to finish by Labor Day. I have only just started but am enjoying it so far. And yesterday I started Small Island, which is the next title we'll be discussing in our study of older winners of the Women's Prize for Fiction (it won in 2004).

What are you making and reading this week?

Monday, May 27, 2024

A Day to Recover

Hello, friends. I'm posting a bit later than usual today because I slept in -- which was much needed! We got back yesterday afternoon following a weekend in Chicago with family that was fulfilling but exhausting. We got in midday on Friday, just ahead of a rather dramatic thunderstorm. We didn't have any bat mitzvah-related activity until dinnertime, so the three of us drove into downtown and went to the Art Institute of Chicago for several hours. I really didn't appreciate the size of their collection until we were there, and my art-loving heart was very full at the end! We saw quite a few famous pieces, including a good-sized collection of Monets and a favorite by Pittsburgh native Mary Cassatt (one that I'd actually written about for a paper in college!). I was shocked by the size of "Paris Street; Rainy Day" having only ever seen it in pictures -- it's huge! We didn't fully reenact Ferris Bueller, but we saw some of the same works:

"A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte" by Georges Seurat

And there were some hijinks:

"Walking Man II" by Alberto Giacometti

"American Gothic" by Grant Wood

It was not a weekend that allowed much time for knitting, which was just fine. I only took a pair of socks in progress with me and really only worked on them while waiting at the airport and in the car to and from. But I did manage to finish up one sock and start the second, so at least a little progress was made!

These are going to be for my sister-in-law for her birthday, which is not until September, so there's no rush to finish them.

Today is a day for catching up. We have a pile of laundry to do and have to get the house back in order after packing and unpacking. We'll be getting together with family later for dinner and plan to have an early night ahead of the start of the week, Mo's very last week of middle school (sob!). And I will take some time today to think about the reason for the holiday today, those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country.

Friday, May 24, 2024

And We're Off

Just a quick post from me today -- we're leaving this morning for the airport for our quick weekend trip! I've taken the day off from work, Mo is done with her finals, and we're looking forward to celebrating with family this weekend. I don't anticipate a lot of knitting time this weekend, so I'm just taking my current pair of socks in progress. But I did cast on a my Rift tee on Wednesday evening and got some of the ribbing done:

I'm playing it a bit fast and loose with this cast-on; I didn't really get gauge, but the fabric was so loose and flexible and this tee is so forgiving that I'm plowing on ahead with the suggested needles. I will check the fit as I go, and if the worst thing that happens is that I have to rip and start over, I'll manage. It's been a long time since I last knit with needles this big -- US 8/5 mm! -- that I can't imagine it will take me too much time to make a signifiant amount of progress, at least once I get past the twisted ribbing.

This afternoon we have tickets to the Art Institute of Chicago, and I can just imagine us reenacting the scene there from Ferris Bueller's Day Off. (If you don't know what I'm talking about, see this clip.) If you follow me on Instagram, you may get to see some shenanigans.

Have a wonderful long weekend if you're in the States, and have a great weekend if you're not!

Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Unraveled, Week 21/2024

Greetings from a warm Southwestern Pennsylvania, where we are having a brief taste of summer! I believe it hit (or got darn close to) 90ºF here yesterday, and if you ask me, it's much too early for that here. It's Wednesday, which means it's time to join up with Kat and the Unravelers again.

I am happy to share that my colorwork cowl, while not yet blocked, has officially been finished, with ends woven in and openings grafted.

The only reason it has not yet been blocked is because my blocking racks are currently full with another load of sweaters, but they should be dry by today and I can get this in to soak. As you may be able to tell from the photo, there's a twist in the cowl so that it sits nicely around the neck. I like the effect, but I'm also pondering how best to block this thing, and I have a feeling some towels as props might be involved.

Because that's now off the needles, I've started swatching for a new bigger project: a Rift tee.

I am using yarn that I won from the Unraveling podcast sometime last year. It's called Uru Yarn Asher (it was an exclusive yarn for Knitcrate, which was since folded), and it's a sport weight with a chainette construction. It's a really interesting fiber blend: 34% cotton, 35% linen, 19% Lyocell, and 11% nylon. The color in the photo is not quite accurate; it's more of a pale yellow-y green called Cucumber. As you can see from the swatch, it's got a bit of crunchiness to it, so it's not going to be the smoothest fabric, but I think it'll be really comfy for summer and will probably soften up with wear. Assuming I can get gauge, I'm going to be knitting the smallest size in the pattern, which is a 40" bust. The pattern calls for 6-12" of positive ease, but the 5" I would get from this size should be plenty for me and my little chest.

It's been another excellent week of reading with two finishes -- both yesterday, in fact!

The Reading List came out nearly three years ago but didn't get onto my radar until recently, and it was a lovely audiobook listen over a few days. There is a nice story, but I think the bigger message of it is about the power of books (and libraries) to bring people together, to help people understand others, and to improve themselves. It's quite clear that books and libraries are important to the author, and I consider her one of My People! I quite enjoyed the narration as well. There is a list of books that's central to the story, and I believe I've read all but three of them. In fact, this book and the list are the impetus for several of us who are tackling the biggest book on the list this summer! There are sad moments in the book, but overall I found it to be a joy. I gave it 4 stars.

My other finish is a book that's really amazing but also amazingly hard to describe. Same Bed Different Dreams was a finalist for this year's Pulitzer Prize for fiction, an honor well deserved if only for the craft. There are so many pieces to this novel that weaves together strands as disparate as the history of Korea, a technology giant that seems to own and control almost every facet of life, the assassination of President McKinley, film criticism, cultural identity, adoption, science fiction writing, religious cults, and many other random stories and factoids that somehow all come together. I spent much of the book thoroughly confused but also fascinated, and even though I felt very satisfied at the end, I also felt like I should start the book over because I was certain I missed so many things! This isn't an easy read and definitely won't be for everyone, but I thought it was brilliant. 5 stars!

Now I am trying to finish up Kairos before we leave on our trip because I don't really want to take a hardback book with me, and I've got quite a lot on my Kindle shelf to choose from for my next book.

What are you making and reading this week?

Monday, May 20, 2024

That Was Unexpected

Ah, Monday again -- how soon you always arrive! The weekend went by quickly, as it always does, though it was a surprisingly beautiful one! We'd originally thought Saturday was going to be a rainy day, but it ended up being clear and sunny. And that wasn't the only surprise. Late Friday afternoon, a quick but powerful storm moved through the area. In our neighborhood, we just had some heavy rain, but not that far away were four confirmed tornadoes! The closest was less than five miles from our house, not far from the Pittburgh Zoo. Fortunately, it seems like no one was hurt and the damage left behind wasn't too bad, but it was still pretty scary. For context, the last time a tornado touched down anywhere close was 25 years ago, and I remember that storm clearly because it was quite violent and scary.

We wound up having dinner with my side of the family on Friday (where my brother spent a good portion of the evening trying to keep my nephew from wiping his lasagne-covered hands through his hair) and then with the Mister's side of the family on Saturday, so we had a lot of family time. I also took Mo to get a haircut on Saturday afternoon, had a couple of good walks, and spent some time in the garden, filling up the new planter with soil and spreading more of it around the flower beds. Thanks to all that enjoyable time doing other stuff, there wasn't a ton of crafting time over the weekend, but I am just about done with  my cowl thanks to a few episodes of Downtown Abbey (we're into season 4 now) and my Sunday Zoom session:

The last step in the finishing is grafting the two ends together, something that I don't mind doing (yes, I'm one of those weirdos who loves to graft) but that will take a bit of time. And then of course I have to write up the pattern, though I don't expect that to take very long because once you cast on, it's just a matter of knitting around and around in the colorwork pattern until it's long enough.

I also pulled out the Felici socks I've got on the needles when we were at dinner on Saturday and managed to knit and turn the heel, and then I got through the gusset decreases and into the foot yesterday afternoon while keeping Mo company while she was studying:

Mo has her finals in math and French this week, on Wednesday and Thursday. Friday is a make-up day, so as long as nothing prevents her from taking her tests on the scheduled days, she'll be off from school -- which is perfect, because we're going to Chicago for the weekend for my cousin's daughter's bat mitzvah. We're flying in midday on Friday and will be coming home Sunday so that we still get a day off. Next week, she has several days of fun mini courses, and then she graduates from middle school that Friday afternoon. And then she'll be home with me for the summer! She doesn't have any camps or anything this year, but I've told her that I expect her to wake up at a reasonable hour and get some useful things done every day, like helping out with chores around the house and getting some exercise. We're going to do some more cooking together for sure, and she said she'd help me with one of my summer projects: reorganizing my bookshelves. I also hope she'll take advantage of the time off to do a lot of reading for pleasure.

Okay, friends, time to get my day going so I can get in my run before it gets too hot. Have a good start to your week, and think of me tomorrow morning when I am (sob!) back in the office!

Friday, May 17, 2024

Almost Time for Weekending

It's been one of Those Weeks here, so I am very happy to see Friday come. I have been into the office twice this week for meetings, and starting next week, I'll have to go in Tuesday and Thursday mornings. I'm not very happy about it, but perhaps someone will realize before too long that I don't get anything done in the office that I can't get done at home and I can go back to full-time remote (I certainly plan to bring it up at my annual review, that's for sure). The Mister's also been away on a work trip for a couple of days, which on the one hand means I've been sleeping better but on the other means I'm doing two school runs a day. Needless to say, I plan on getting in some extra relaxation time this weekend!

Although I've been kept busy during the day, Mo and I have continued our Downton Abbey watching in the evening (we just finished season 4 last night!), and I've been working on my colorwork cowl. I'm getting closer and closer to the end -- I'm on the fifth repeat, and I'm hoping that when I finish it, I'll be happy with the length and can close it up.

Although I didn't plan it this way, the yarn I'm using for the colorwork pattern is just a tad thicker than the background color, and I love how it looks a little three-dimensional here. I expect things will even out with blocking, but it's fun for now.

On a totally different subject, I know at least a couple of you have tried the Tin Can Knits app and, like me, were a little annoyed that it didn't keep your place in a pattern. Well, yesterday I got an email from the TCK folks in which they specifically asked for app feedback, so I sent off a message expressing my frustration with this one thing. Within just a few hours, I got a reply back from Emily that the app does in fact keep your place! Perhaps this has changed since I last used it or I was doing something wrong, but either way I'm happy to see it working as I always thought it should.

Here's a screenshot from my iPhone (it may look different on a tablet or an Android device). When I opened up the pattern, I kept hitting that yellow/orange down arrow button to move on to the next step. I verified that when you quit the app, reopen it, and pull up your pattern again, it does indeed go back to where you were. This make me very happy because the TCK Simple Collection is such a great one for baby knits, and it's always nice not to have to find a paper pattern that I printed out and then misplaced.

We've got close to nothing on the calendar this weekend -- just a haircut appointment for Mo. It's supposed to be rainy again, at least on Saturday. I'm hoping to get some soil to fill in the second planter for the front yard and put the last of my Mother's day plants in. And we might have to do a little shopping ahead of a trip out of town next weekend for my cousin's daughter's bat mitzvah. Whatever's on the schedule for you, enjoy it!

Wednesday, May 15, 2024

Unraveled, Week 20/2024

Happy Wednesday, friends! Well, I'm not quite sure how happy it will be, as I have to go into work for a staff meeting (boo), but at least it's some time away from a computer screen. On the plus side, it is time to link up with Kat and the Unravelers for our weekly check-in. And I have an FO to share!

I've been working on these socks on and off for about a month, and it was starting to annoy me that they were still on the needles, so I was really focused on finishing them this past weekend and Monday. I used the skein of yarn that was in my goodie bag at SSK last summer, a 90% superwash Targhee/10% nylon fingering from String Theory Colorworks in the colorway Convergent Evolution. Because of the long color repeat and the varying width of the stripes, I didn't bother to try to get my socks to match but instead tried to get the stripes to align on the two socks, and I think I managed that pretty well. I used my typical 68-stitch vanilla recipe with two main changes: I used forethought afterthought heels (meaning I put waste yarn in for the heels rather than just snipping a stitch and unraveling) and I slipped every other stitch for a round when the color changed. They haven't yet been washed or worn, which is why the toes and heels look a little pointy; I expect they will relax a bit once they're worn.

After finishing up my bobbin of Björn singles on Friday, I got out the next blue (Agnetha) and started my second bobbin yesterday:

The blue is looking just a tad brighter in the photo than it is in real life, but I'd call it a sapphire blue. And of course it's delightful to spin.

It has been an excellent week of reading for me, with three more finishes!

I knew that the sequel to The Guncle was coming out soon because it kept getting advertised to me, so on a whim, I decided to see if it was on NetGalley -- and it was, and amazingly I got approved for it almost right away! The first book was one of my favorite books of 2021, one that I recommended to many people and even gave as a gift. When I heard there was a sequel, I was a bit wary -- how could it possibly measure up to the delight and the warmth of the original?

While I'll concede that The Guncle Abroad doesn't quite have the magic of the first book (because, really, nothing can match the experience of reading a beloved book for the first time), it has the same overwhelming sense of delight. The problems facing Maisie and Grant in this installment are less dire; five years have passed since the original, and while they are still grieving the loss of their mother, the pain is not as acute. Now their father is getting remarried, and they're not so sure about their future step-mother. Enter GUP (Gay Uncle Patrick), whose mission is to teach them the many forms of love through a trip across Europe, even as he is facing a recent breakup and anxiety about gettin older. It all culminates in a wedding celebration at luxury hotel on Lake Como in Italy with emotions running high. I didn't cry as much in this installment, but I still laughed out loud frequently, and I loved spending more time with these characters I have come to love. I gave it 5 stars.

Thank you to Penguin Group/Putnam and NetGalley for providing me with an ARC of this book in return for an honest review. This book will be published May 21, 2024.

While I'm not trying to read all of the Women's Prize nominees this year, or even the entire short list, I have already read two of the titles and have a third on hold, and when Mary let me know that Restless Dolly Maunder was available on Hoopla and was relatively short, I figured why not? This novel is a fictionalized account of the life of the author's grandmother, though I did not realize that until the very end. Really, although that fact is interesting, in the end it doesn't really matter because the story of Dolly -- who was born at the end of the 19th century and lived well into the 20th -- is one that is ubiquitous: that of a woman who has ambition and dreams but whose life is circumscribed by the decisions of men. I found her to be feisty and determined but also a bit of a tragic figure; I wonder what she might have been able to accomplish if she'd be able to go to school past the age of 14, marry who she wanted, choose whether or not to have children, and pursue work that fulfilled her. I also quite enjoyed the narration of the book. I gave it 4 stars.

I actually started Good Night, Irene before either of these other books, but I didn't finish it until Monday evening. I picked this one up in my quest to read WWII fiction that tells lesser-known stories, and this is another one based on real people. The author's mother served as a "Donut Dolly" for the American Red Cross, one of the women sent out in mobile kitchens to serve donuts and coffee to the troops and to keep their spirits up. It seemed like an adventure and a more direct way for these women to do their bit, but in reality, they were headed to war and very dangerous situations. And there are some particularly harrowing reminders of just how awful war can be and how awful WWII in particular was. (I'll add a note of caution to sensitive readers here: There is a storyline in which the main characters are sent to Buchenwald just after it's been liberated, and it's just as horrifying as you might imagine.) Ultimately, it's a beautiful story of friendship between two women and a lovely tribute to the women who served in a way that is largely lost to history. I gave it 4 stars.

I'm still reading Kairos -- in all honesty, I haven't picked it up in a while, but I will get back to it eventually -- and just started Same Bed Different Dreams. I'm not sure what I think about that one yet, but I'm not very far into it.

Please keep your fingers crossed for good weather today. After the staff meeting is the annual faculty and staff picnic, and it's outdoors, rain or shine. I don't want to get soaked!

Monday, May 13, 2024

Mother's Day Weekending

Well, it's Monday again, which always seems to happen so quickly. But at least I can say I had a pretty relaxing weekend, and that's just what I want for Mother's Day. Aside from not having a lot of plans, it was also a pretty crummy weekend weather-wise. It rained most of the day on Saturday, and though Sunday was dry, it was pretty chilly. The house was cool enough that we turned the heat back on -- even the Mister was wearing a sweatshirt inside!

I did manage to get a walk in Saturday morning, while the sun was briefly out, and then went to get my first haircut in about a year(!). I now have at least three inches less length and all the dry, unhealthy bits at the end are gone. In the afternoon, when there was a brief break in the rain, the Mister and I went to Home Depot to pick up my Mother's Day gift: plants. We do not have a great nursery nearby like some of you do, so Home Depot is the best we could do, especially because our synagogue's preschool seems to have stopped doing their annual plant sale. We didn't buy a ton, but we got some impatiens and polka dot plants for the front borders along the grass, some more hostas and pachysandra for the back bed (which is very shady and thus not great for the garden I originally wanted there), some sedum and bugleweed to fill in some of the empty areas in the back, and a few vegetable plants for the front planter -- tomato, pepper, eggplant. I have another planter coming for the other side of the yard because we had our landscapers come and remove a tree that was growing at that corner of the house and that prevented most of the stuff I'd planted on that side from growing in years past. There's not much to see just yet, but here's how everything is looking at the moment:

This is the left (and bigger, because of the porch) side as you're looking at the front of the house; if you click to make the photo larger, you might see the impatiens and polka dot plants in the dirt just behind the grass. In front of the porch are hydrageas, and to the right of them are a boxwood that we transplanted several years back, lavender, our Japanese maple, and two arbor vitae shrubs. The smaller green things in front of the downspout are salvia from last year that happily came back.

Here is the other side of the front yard. Right by the downspout on this side (and in front of the view of our neighbors' car) is where the tree used to be. Here you can see the new plants a little better. The other greens are two more arbor vitae shrubs and hostas that I planted last year.

Finally, this is the bed in the backyard where nothing would ever grow well because it's so shady. I planted three hostas and a bunch of pachysandra here in the hopes that it will spread and fill in over time. I also split up the sedum paver with the same idea. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that in a few years, all this dirt will have much more green and we'll have a little oasis in the back.

Yesterday we had brunch at my brother- and sister-in-law's house (this is my SIL who is the fabulous baker, and she's been hosting Mother's Day brunch for many years). Sadly my other sister-in-law couldn't join us, as she's been under the weather the past few days with suspected strep throat (she's going to the doctor today). But my brother and nephew were there and gave me a card that I had to open right away:

That's right -- after three nephews, I'm finally getting a niece! She's due to arrive around Thanksgiving, so you can expect to see lots of girly knits in the coming months!

Friday, May 10, 2024


It is a rainy, gloomy Friday here in Pittsburgh, but I finally got a decent night's sleep last night and am feeling much better this morning than I have all week. Of course, the fact that the weekend is only hours away might have something to do with it!

Last night was Mo's final performing arts concert of middle school. She has signed up for the glee club in high school, but that's an elective; in middle school, all students are required to do one performing arts course -- choir, band, strings, or dance -- and thus we sat through performances from all grade levels, some certainly better than others. Obviously I paid complete attention when she was on stage, but for the other performances, it was the perfect opportunity to pull out a vanilla sock:

This is the sock I started when Mo and I went to see Company last month, and I hadn't touched it since that day. I'm planning for these to be for my sister-in-law for her birthday (which is in September, so I've got plenty of time). Last night's knitting got me to the end of the leg, so I am ready to start the heel flap the next time I pick these up.

Today, though, I am hoping that I will see the end of my Björn singles -- this is all the fiber that's left!

I have an excellent book to finish reading while I spin, so it's just a matter of whether or not work cooperates.

The weekend ahead is looking fairly calm and, unfortunately, not great in terms of weather -- cooler temps and more rain. But I have an appointment to get my hair cut tomorrow (it's been a year since my last cut!) and we'll be going to my brother- and sister-in-law's house on Sunday for a Mother's Day brunch. I've also told the Mister that I'd like my Mother's Day gift to be a trip to Home Depot to get plants for the garden, so we'll probably do that tomorrow and I'll have to keep my fingers crossed for some dry weather on Sunday to plant. Sadly my dahlia tubers did not survive their winter in my shed, so they went into the compost and I will pick up some other flowers to plant. If anyone has recommendations for plants that will not get eaten by rabbits, let me know!

If you're celebrating Mother's Day this weekend, I hope it's a good one, and I'm sending love to those of you for whom it's a difficult day. Here's to a relaxing and restorative weekend for all of us!

Wednesday, May 08, 2024

Unraveled, Week 19/2024

Happy Hump Day! This week seems to be flying by, and I can't tell if that's a good thing or a bad thing. But at least work has been less crazed, which has allowed me to do things like start the spring washing of the sweaters. I don't pack my hand-knits away for the summer, but I do like to make sure they're all washed and fresh so they don't attract any wee beasties while they're sitting unworn for several months. I did four sweaters yesterday and will continue to do more once they're dry and my drying racks are freed up again.

It's Wednesday, which means it's time to link up with Kat and the Unravelers. My making this week, other than the cowl you saw on Monday (which is mainly getting attention in the evening, while we continue our bingeing of Downton Abbey), has been pretty focused:

I've been spinning through work meetings and while reading on my iPad, and I can see the end of the fiber in the bag. Of course, there are still two more bags of fiber and two more bobbins of singles to spin before this yarn is complete, but this is a project I'm really not interested in rushing through.

This spinning is good company for reading, and I think it's part of the reason I finished up three books this past week:

First, the biggest disappointment of the three. I read a description of The Forgotten Names on NetGalley and it sounded right up my alley: a telling of a true story of how French men and women in Lyon rallied together to save more than 100 Jewish children from being sent to Germany and certain death. Unfortunately, the telling left a lot to be desired. There were too many names and too many characters to keep track of, especially given that many names were given for people who appeared just once and weren't really central to the story, and possibly because there were so many people, I didn't feel that the author made any of them come alive. I might have given that a pass, but on top of that, the dialogue seemed too modern and the descriptions of the setting not appropriate for wartime. As to the writing, well, it felt to me like the author was trying too hard to make things sound good by using big words and overwrought phrasing. I think this story would have been better told in the form of a work of narrative nonfiction instead of someone trying to create a happy ending for as many people as possible in a novel. I gave it 2 stars. Thank you to Harper Muse and NetGalley. I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are my own. This book will be published July 11, 2024.

A much better experience was Agony Hill, a book that I know several of you have already read and enjoyed. This mystery set in small-town Vermont in 1965 has a general feeling of a simpler time and yet the characters all felt so much more real and multidimensional to me. It's clear from the beginning that everyone is hiding something, and those secrets are slowly uncovered as we follow Detective Franklin Warren as he tries to solve a case involving a death (murder or suicide?) and two mysterious fires. Then there's his next-door neighbor, Alice Bellows, whose late husband worked in the OSS in WWII and who has mystery-solving skills of her own. You can almost feel the summer heat coming off the page as these two work on figuring out the truth, and while there's a satisfying ending, there's also a sense that we have more still to learn about these characters. I gave it 4 stars. Thank you to Minotaur Books and NetGalley for the advanced reader's copy of this book I received in return for an honest review. This book will be published August 6, 2024.

Finally, when I needed an audiobook over the weekend to keep me company while cleaning and exercising, I turned to Kate Quinn's most recent WWII-era novel, The Diamond Eye. I've read and enjoyed her three previous books set during the time period, so I figured I would like this one as well. This novel is based on the real-life figure of Mila Pavlichenko, a highly accomplished Red Army sniper. Though Quinn did fictionalize some details, quite a lot was taken directly from Mila's memoir, and it's a very powerful story about a strong and determined woman. I enjoyed the story and the narration, which has accents for some characters but ones that felt very natural and weren't at all distracting. I gave it 4 stars.

I am still slowly making my way through Kairos, and yesterday I started Good Night, Irene, which I bought as a Kindle deal a while back. It's moving along pretty quickly.

What are you making and reading this week?