Wednesday, January 31, 2024

Unraveled, Week 5/2024

We have finally made it to the end of January, which feels as though it's lasted a year. I'm not all that excited for February, but at least it's shorter and brings chocolate! It's Wednesday, which means it's time to link up with Kat and the Unravelers, and this week I have two finishes to share.

On Sunday I finished up my first pair of socks for the year, and they're for me! I used my usual top-down heel-flap-and-gusset recipe and the custom-dyed yarn from Lisa that I won last year. The tweed base was a bit of a change for me, but I like it! I haven't worn them yet, as they went right into a load of socks I had ready to wash (mainly because the blue was crocking a bit on my fingers as I was knitting them, so I wanted to wash out any excess dye), but they'll be going into my regular rotation.

I also finished up my second spin of the year:

This colorway is called Bloom, and it's even more saturated in real life than it appears here -- my camera just would not do the colors justice no matter how many adjustments I tried. This is a 70% superfine merino/30% silk blend, so it's unbelievably soft. I ended up with approximately 386 yards of chain-plied fingering that just screams "Mardi Gras" to me. This was last July's club shipment, so I'm getting closer to being caught up!

In the "getting closer to being done" category, I'm quickly approaching the end of my Mas Vida shawl:

I've folded it in half here so you can see how much (or, rather, how little) I have left to knit. The rows are much shorter and thus are taking much less time, so I expect this will be done very soon.

Reading has been quite good this past week. I've finished three books.

By now you all know that the next Read With Us selection is The Poisonwood Bible, but I was actually already reading it as the final book in the Kingsolver-along that Mary has been hosting. Unfortunately I'm going to miss the discussion this Saturday (Mo and I have tickets to see My Fair Lady), but that wasn't going to stop me from reading the book, which I first read more than two decades ago, probably around 2000, based on the fact that I had a paperback. I remembered loving it when I read it but very few details, so it was almost like a new book to me on this reread. Of course, now I'm in a very different place of life and am a mother, so this hit me in very different ways this time around, though I was surprised that was affected me the most was not the big family tragedy (no spoilers; if you've read it, you'll know what I'm referring to) but the tragedy of what happened to the new democracy of the Congo and, more generally, to African nations in their efforts to throw off the shackles of colonial rule. I still loved it this time around, and I once again gave it 5 stars.

My next finish was a little more academic in nature. Monsters: A Fan's Dilemma is nonfiction, a combination of memoir, essay, and art criticism in which the author wrestles with how to deal with art (be it literature, film, fine art, or anything else) when the creator behind it proves to be problematic. Think of the Harry Potter series and J.K. Rowling or the films of Roman Polanski and Woody Allen. Is it possible to divorce the art from the artist? Is it okay to still enjoy the art when we don't like its creator? The book doesn't really answer the questions but explores them in depth, with specific examples of so-called monsters and the works they've created. This is a book I would have liked to have read with my eyes, but it was only available on audio from my library. It's a book that I think would be really great to read and discuss in a class. I gave it 4 stars.

My final finish for the week was The Wren, the Wren, which was a buzzy book from last fall. At its center are a mother and daughter whose lives are still bearing the scars left by their father and grandfather, respectively, a famous poet who walked out on his family when the mother was still a young teenager and whose poetry pops up throughout their lives. I liked the writing, but throughout this book I felt like there was something I just wasn't getting, and it didn't feel like a cohesive story to me. That may have been the point, for all I know. I gave it 3 stars.

I am currently reading an old book from high school (that was already an older book at the time), July's People, which feels like a good pairing for The Poisonwood Bible, and I also finally got Absolution from the library yesterday and am hoping work cooperates to allow me to finish it today -- so good!

What are you making and reading this week?

Monday, January 29, 2024

One Little Word 2024

It's the final Monday of the month (hallelujah, January is almost over!), and that means it's time to check in on my One Little Word. In this case, it's also time to share my word! At this time last month, I was panicking a bit because I didn't yet know what my word would be. I haven't been picking a word for that long, and it seems like it always takes me until the last days of the previous year to figure out what the focus will be for the new year. And with the exception of 2020, it always seems to come to me while I'm on a long walk in Florida. This year was no exception. I was out on one my last walks of the year and was weighing several options when something different occurred to me, and I realized at once that it was my word.

My One Little Word for 2024 is Better. I've realized in reflecting on my purpose in engaging in this whole practice since the beginning was to focus on improving myself and my life. I've chosen words that help me to focus my attention, manage how I spend my time and energy, and prioritize certain practices or activities. So for this year, it feels right to focus more generally in improvement. I love that Better doesn't mean perfection, and I love that it can be an adjective, an adverb, and a verb. I hope that over the course of this year, I can do and be Better in all aspects of my life, and I'm looking forward to seeing how it all plays out!

Friday, January 26, 2024

Quite a Contrast

At this time last week, it was snowing and cold. Mo had a snow day, and the Mister had come home early from a work trip to avoid having to drive in the storm. This morning, it is 62ºF and the sun is starting to peek out. When I go for my run later, I won't have to wear a coat, hat, or gloves to stay warm. This is unusual for January but not unwelcome!

I haven't made a ton of progress on my shawl since pulling it out again, but the pattern repeat came back to me right away and it's something I can work on without having to think too much. And of course now that I'm decreasing, the rows are getting shorter and will thus go faster.

I've also made some progress on my current spinning project, working on it during the never-ending work meetings. I'm now almost at the end of the third (of four) strip of fiber, so I expect my singles will finished up soon.

We've got a very calm weekend ahead, which I'm very much thankful for (as is Mo; she intends to sleep as late as she possibly can tomorrow). The only plans I have at this point are to get together with some friends to play mahjongg tomorrow afternoon. I hope your weekend is equally restful!

Wednesday, January 24, 2024

Unraveled, Week 4/2024

Greetings from a very gloomy Wednesday morning here in Pittsburgh. The good news is that we finally got above freezing after a stretch of frigid weather. The bad news is that rain is in the forecast for the foreseeable future, so there's not much sun to be seen.

It's Wednesday, so that means it's time to link up with Kat and the Unravelers and give you an update on my making and reading. I've decided that after my success with the sweater, I should give the same sort of attention to my other WIPs from 2023, so I pulled out this shawl:

This is my Mas Vida shawl, which I cast on way back in June and thought I would whip up in no time. I got a lot of it knit when I was in Nashville in July and then it just sat. Last night I pulled it out again, added a few repeats, and finally got to the point where I will stop increasing and start decreasing. I'm using some really lovely yarn (a merino/cashmere/silk from Fibernymph Dye Works) that will be a delight to have around my neck, so I think I have sufficient motivation to get this done soon.

I've also got a new spin going, the July 2023 Southern Cross Fibre club shipment. It's called Bloom and is on a decadent 70% superfine Merino/30% mulberry silk base. I've decided to do a chain-ply, so I split the fiber into four narrow strips that I'm spinning in succession. The lack of light won't cooperate to allow me to share a decent photo of the singles, but here is the fiber:

In keeping with last year's trend of a high percentage of audiobooks, I've finished two in the last week.

The first of these is Family Family, which was just published yesterday. If there's an overarching theme of this book, it's that families come in so many different forms and can be created in so many different ways, and no one form or one way is inherently the "right" way. There are so many assumptions about adoption, many of them involving implied trauma, and this book sets out to show that's not always the case.

The story is told in alternating timelines, one in near-present day and one one in the main character's past, slowly working toward the present. India Allwood is an a teenager aspiring to life as a professional actress when she finds herself pregnant, ultimately deciding that placing her child for adoption will allow someone else's dreams of being a parent come true. In the present, she has just found herself in the middle of a controversy over comments she has make about her most recent role, in which she's a mother who was so traumatized by giving up a child for adoption that she's become addicted to drugs. As we learn more about India's past, we learn more about why she signed on for the role in the first place, why she was dissatisfied with the message it sent, and how complicated families can be -- whether they're biological or adoptive. I gave it 4 stars.

I received an audio ARC of this book from MacMillan Audio/Henry Holt & Company and NetGalley in return for an honest review.

Brotherless Night was a recommendation from Kat during the Read With Us discussion of The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida. Like Seven Moons, it takes place during the long civil war in Sri Lanka, though this novel is much less experimental in its storytelling. It is told by Sashi, a teenager aspiring to become a doctor when the story opens, and follows her through the next decade or so. She tells us this story from later in life as though it were a memoir, and we learn about the tragedies and struggles to befall her Tamil family, including her four brothers. It is a heartbreaking story and a reminder that war is a tragedy on all sides, with blame and atrocities to be found everywhere. I appreciated the audio in helping me with pronunciations, but I also found it a little tricky to keep track of all the characters, and the narrator also had a somewhat strange habit of phrasing things such that she seemed to put a period in the middle of sentences that tripped me up a bit. But overall, I found it to be a really powerful and impactful read. I gave it 4 stars.

I am still working my way through The Poisonwood Bible, though I'm more than halfway through now, and I've just started another audiobook, Monsters.

What are you making and reading this week?

Monday, January 22, 2024

Well Worth the Wait

As promised, I have a finished sweater to share with you this morning!

Pattern: Birch Pullover by Andrea Mowry, size 2 (38 in./96.5 cm bust)
Yarn: Dusty Tree Dyeworks Root Fingering (100% superwash American Merino), 4.47 skeins/1788 yds.
Needles: US 3/3.25 mm
Started/Completed: March 19, 2023/January 18, 2024

To say I'm thrilled with how this sweater turned out would be an understatement. I am now kicking myself for letting it sit in a project bag for so many months when I could have been wearing it all fall. It fits perfectly, with just the right amount of positive ease to feel like a cozy sweatshirt-type garment but not so much that it feels sloppy. And between the bounciness of the yarn and the thickness of the half fisherman's rib stitch, the fabric is incredibly cozy.

The yarn I used is from a local very small-batch dyer who started out making soap and branched into yarn because she's also a knitter. I've been using Rebecca's soap for years and have used her yarn a number of times before, including for one of my shawl designs (Ravelry link), but this was the first time I'd used multiple skeins for a garment. Because she dyes in such small batches, she has no colorways and thus every skein is one of a kind. So when I picked up the five skeins I used for this sweater, they were all similar but not the same, and I arranged them in a lightest-to-darkest gradient:

As I knit the sweater and got to the end of one skein, I began alternating skeins every round to incorporate the new one. I also wound off about 30% of each skein once I started the body so that I'd be able to match, more or less, the body and the sleeves. If you enlarge the photo above, you'll see that the ends of the sleeves are darker than the bottom of the body; I didn't end up using the fifth/darkest skein at all on the body but did need it for the sleeves, but as the sleeves are actually longer than the body, I think that makes perfect sense and works quite well. The color matching wasn't perfect, but I don't think that really matters or that you can really tell because all the skeins had enough variation in color and the texture of the stitch pattern masks it well.

The color is most accurate in the top photo, but here's  detail of the side and one sleeve. I really like how the raglan increases are incorporated into the stitch pattern. Another nice touch is the tubular cast-on for the neckline and bind-offs for the body and sleeve cuffs:

Aside from my color management, the only modification I made to the pattern was to work two extra decreases on my sleeves, mainly because I have ridiculously tiny wrists and didn't want my cuffs to be gaping. And though this stitch pattern makes for a dense row gauge and thus not an especially fast knit, the cast-on and bind-off dates aren't really an accurate representation of how long it took me to knit. I looked at the calendar and figured out exactly how long it took me: 14 days last March (to knit the yoke to the sleeve/body separation), 15 days in December (to complete the body), and 18 days in January (to knit the sleeves -- while also working on other projects). The total time is 47 days, or about a month and a half. When you consider that I was working full time except for those days in December, that's still pretty impressive.

I had such a positive experience with this pattern that I'm going to do another Andrea Mowry pattern for my next one, and I've already swatched and wound my yarn and will be casting on soon:

The orange yarn is the same base, leftover from another sweater

I also promised you an update on Mo's competition over the weekend. I had hoped to have big, exciting news of a win, but her team missed out on first place by one point. The team that took home the trophy is the same one as last year, from a big suburban district (the one where I taught in my former professional life, actually) and with something like 36 team members compared to the 10 on Mo's team. Even discounting my admitted bias, I think her team had a much better presentation. She thinks the deciding factor was the essay; the other team won the special award for the best essay, so that would make sense. But her team won three special awards, including Students' Choice and one from a national professional engineers' association, so they have a lot to be proud of. And we also don't have to worry about getting her to Washington, D.C., in February!

It's still quite cold here this morning, but we're supposed to get above freezing today and be much warmer (though with rain in the forecast) this week! I'm going to attempt to go for a run -- my first since last Monday -- this morning, but we'll see how I manage with some sidewalks still covered in snow. I hope you all have a good start to your week!

Friday, January 19, 2024

TGIF, Snow Day Edition

Happy Friday, friends! It's been a long week, and I'm happy to see the end of it -- and I'm even happier that it's a snow day for Mo (meaning I don't have to deal with the anxiety of driving to school in the snow) and that the Mister decided to drive home from his work trip late last night instead of this morning. He got into bed after 1 a.m. this morning, but I have coffee waiting for him when he gets up. I'm also happy that the school decided to close last night, so there was no anxious watching of the closures and delays this morning and Mo got to sleep in!

I am happy to report that I stayed very warm on Wednesday on my walk to the blood drive (layers and handknits for the win!) and that I successfully made my first donation of the year. My hemoglobin number was just fine; I think I probably stress about it more than I need to because I failed that test once, and knowing now that that can happen if your hands are cold, I suspect that I might have passed in that instance if I'd know to warm up my hands before testing. This particular donation might have been my fastest ever, too, as I filled my bag in 4 minutes and 46 seconds, proving that I'm doing an excellent job of staying well hydrated!

There's other good news to report today, and I'll let this photo tell you what it is:

It's drying this morning next to the radiator, but I should have some finished pictures and details to share with you on Monday!

Mo's Future City competition is tomorrow, and it will be a long day (she has to be there at 8, and if the team makes the top five, they'll be there through mid-afternoon). Luckily at their after-school work session yesterday, they made plans for today, anticipating the snow day. The model is already in the car of one of the teacher advisors, and the presenters will be getting together on Zoom later this morning to practice. They're feeling confident and excited, and I am looking forward to seeing them shine! Last year they came in second -- behind a team that had something like 40 students on it, which seems unfair -- and historically they have alternated first and second place, so this is the year to win it. Please keep your fingers crossed!

As for me, today I'm working as usual, though I'm sure I'll be taking breaks to shovel snow and will be trying to take care of some of the chores I usually do on Saturdays because we'll be out all day tomorrow. I'm also swatching for my next sweater. I will be back on Monday with all the updates. Until then, stay warm and enjoy!

Wednesday, January 17, 2024

Unraveled, Week 3/2024

Good morning, friends! I hope you are all keeping warm this morning. Here, it's a frigid 8ºF, with a "feels like" temp of -5ºF. Mo and I are having a bit of a lazy morning because her school wisely decided last night to have a two-hour delay this morning due to the cold (and notified us of it last night); I think the head of school got a little criticism for not delaying yesterday, when it was cold and snowy and the roads were a mess. It works out quite well because she has a dentist appointment at 9 this morning and was already going to be late, but now she won't actually miss any class. So we'll still need to go out in the cold, but at least it'll be after the sun comes out and it won't be quite as cold as it would if we left for school at the normal time.

As it's Wednesday, that means it's time to link up with Kat and the Unravelers and to give you an update on my making and my reading. What I'm making isn't going to be a surprise; I'm pretty much exclusively working on my sweater. The good news is that you won't have to hear about it for much longer because I am in the home stretch on sleeve number two!

The color is appearing a bit darker here than it is in real life, and that's just because the sun isn't quite up yet, so I didn't get the best lighting for this photo. But if you click to enlarge it, you'll see that the second sleeve is more than halfway done (if you consider the the rounds are getting smaller as I approach the cuff). Provided I can keep up the pace, I think this should be done by the end of the week.

Reading has been good this past week! I've finished two good books.

I had picked up Doppelganger: A Trip into the Mirror World when I was in a Barnes & Noble in Florida and was intrigued by it, so when I saw it was a Kindle deal earlier this month, I bought it. The initial premise is the author's exploration of how people constantly seemed to be confusing her with Naomi Wolf, a particularly troubling occurrence as Wolf went further and further into the world of COVID-related conspiracy theories. But Klein goes beyond this confusion into examining how people have been drawn to such theories over time, and not just related to the pandemic, and how the internet and the proliferation of disinformation have led so many to accept them. It's almost impossible to try to describe this book other than to say that it made me think a lot and that I think it's one I'm going to have to reread at some point because I'm sure I've missed some important points. I also have to mention that though this book was published before the start of the current situation in Israel and Palestine, there's a section about the historical conflict that truly changed my perspective on the region and made me think about this in a different way. This isn't a book that's going to be for everyone (and be forewarned that Klein is very overtly anti-capitalism, so there is definitely a political lens to her commentary), but it's a fascinating read that I'd recommend if it sounds interesting to you. I gave it 4 stars.

My other finish this week was an ARC from NetGalley. The Safekeep takes place in the Netherlands in the early 1960s. The main character, Isabel, is living alone in the house that she, her mother, and her two brothers moved into in 1944 after it was purchased for them by their uncle. Her life is disrupted when her older brother's newest girlfriend, Eva, comes to stay with her when the brother has to go abroad for work. At first, Isabel is bitter about the imposition and unfriendly toward Eva, but soon she is strangely drawn to her. Remembering how her mother rejected her younger brother when he revealed his attraction to other men, she is troubled by this and fights herself over it, but the emotions soon become too much for her to ignore. Just as Isabel comes to accept this new truth about herself, however, she realizes that Eva may have been hiding something about herself and how she wound up in this house with Isabel that throws everything into doubt. This is a story about self-discovery and sexuality but also about the war and identity and who owns property. It is written in a very spare style, with much more left unsaid and unwritten than what is on the page. I gave it 4 stars.
I received a digital ARC of this book from Avid Reader Press/Simon & Schuster in return for an honest review. This book will be published May 28, 2024.

I'm currently reading The Poisonwood Bible on paper and listening to another ARC, Laurie Frankel's forthcoming Family Family.

Today, after I take Mo to the dentist and school, I'm scheduled for my first blood donation of the year. Please send good thoughts for a qualifying hemoglobin number and that I don't turn into a popsicle on my way there!

Monday, January 15, 2024

Staying Warm, or Trying To

It is a frigid Monday morning here in Western Pennsylvania -- the current temperature is 13ºF, but a "feels like" 7º. So I'd say all three of us are happy that we all have today off and don't have to rush out to work and school early. Mo does have an orthodontist appointment a little later this morning, though, so we'll have to bundle up and go out eventually. I'm still deciding if I even want to try to run or just take the week off (we're supposed to have these below-normal temperatures all week).

On Friday, as I hoped, I was able to ply up my first skein of handspun for the year. And after the longest day on Thursday, we got an early dismissal at 2 p.m., so I was able to skein and wash it as well without having to worry about work interrupting me. Here is Lake Tekapo on Bond wool from June of last year, approximately 400 yards of fingering:

We had a fairly low-key weekend, which was desperately needed on my part. Mo was at school for a good portion of the day on Saturday for Future City prep (the regional competition is next weekend), and I spent part of the day doing the usual cleaning and laundry. Yesterday we had nothing on the calendar, though Mo had a bunch of homework to get through, so I sat with her and worked on my sweater. I got to a pretty exciting point in my progress, so I had her help me for the silly pictures:

"Look at my new sweater!"

"Sleeves: Make two."

The second sleeve has since been picked up and started and is well under way. I did end up making some adjustments to the first one, so now that I have a better idea of what I'm doing, I'm anticipating that sleeve #2 will go faster. It would be great if I could finish it up this week and have a new sweater to wear next weekend! I'm already thinking about my next sweater and have had to stop myself from swatching a couple of times (I just know if I do that, I'll want to start the new one before I finish the current one). While I'm hiding from the cold today, I will for sure be working on the sleeve to get as much done as possible.

Stay warm out there, friends, and see you back here on Wednesday!

Friday, January 12, 2024

Proof of Life

Hello, friends -- I'm here and I survived the long day! The retreat ended up being not quite as bad as I'd thought it would be, but it was still a very long day, especially as I had another meeting via Zoom when I got home, so my day did not end until around 8:30. I think I'm most grumpy that I didn't get to exercise yesterday. But it's over and now it's Friday, and I have a three-day weekend ahead to recover.

I'm sure many of you are wondering how things went with my knitting yesterday, and I'm happy to tell you that no one gave a hoot that I was knitting (and, in fact, several people asked what I was doing and one colleague even said that she wished she'd brought her crafting with her). And I got quite a lot done! I continued with the sock during my Zoom, but everything between these two markers (you may need to click on the photo to make it larger to see them clearly) was completed at the retreat yesterday:

I did not knit the entire time, in part because for one of the workshops I was serving as a scribe for a small group and was taking notes, but I think if I'd had that time back, I could have easily finished the sock while I was there. I know I was much more engaged because I had it with me, and it also helped me to not nod off at one point in the afternoon, so it made the day worth it in some small way.

Today, assuming work cooperates, I'll be plying up this bobbin of singles, which was finished on Wednesday:

I am really hoping it is a quiet day, because my brain is totally fried from both all that was going yesterday and from all the peopling -- this introvert needs her alone time!

I hope you have a wonderful and relaxing weekend, and I hope to be back with some finished yarn and a finished sweater sleeve on Monday!

Wednesday, January 10, 2024

Unraveled, Week 2/2024

Good morning, friends, though it's not a particularly good one for me as I didn't sleep well last night and am dragging a bit today. It's yet another gloomy morning here in Pittsburgh, though at least today is an improvement over yesterday, when we woke to sleet after some overnight snow. The roads were such a mess that Mo had a two-hour delay (which of course they did not announce until after she was already up, dressed, and eating her breakfast; she'd wanted to sleep more but instead took advantage of the extra time to do some homework). This gloom is pretty typical for this time of year here, so I apologize in general for the dim photos I'm sharing; even taking photos in the middle of the day in January is no guarantee of decent daylight.

But enough whining -- it's Wedneday, which means it's time to link up with Kat and the Unravelers! I am still working on the first sleeve of my Birch Pullover, but the rounds are becoming noticeably faster now.

The pattern calls for doing 11 decreases for my size and then working until the sleeve measures 16 inches (or two inches less than the total desired length). When I tried it on last night, it seemed like I was getting awfully close to the cuff, even though I've only completed seven decreases thus far, so this morning I laid it out on top of my May(be) Queen to compare the sleeves. If I make the sleeves of Birch the same length, I've got about seven more inches left to knit or about five more inches before the cuff. So that means I won't fit in all the decreases specified in the pattern, even if I decrease more frequently, which I will likely do. That's not an issue for me, but I will have to make a note of it so that I make the second sleeve match. Also, even though I didn't have to break into the last skein of yarn for the body, I am going to end up using it for the sleeves; the bigger ball of yarn you see here is the partial skein I'd wound off for the sleeves (one of two), and I doubt that's going to be enough to get me to the end. That means the ends of my sleeves will be a little darker than the bottom of my sweater, but as they'll match, that doesn't bother me too much.

I am getting closer to finishing up the singles on my current spinning project, thanks to spinning through some work meetings.

The fiber draped over the end of the bobbin is all I have left to spin, and that may or may not get done today. It all depends, of course, on work.

While last week didn't provide a ton of time for reading, I did manage to finish my first two books of the year.

My first finish of the new year was one that seemed perfectly suited for when I read it. Winter Solstice is not a new book, and certainly it's been on my radar for several years, so it's not even new to me. I started listening to it on New Year's Day as I was out for a run in the cold with the occasional flurry, and it seemed perfectly suited for the moment. Had I read it at another time, I might not have loved it so much, but this was exactly what I was craving: a feel-good story about found family, set in the UK, with writing that felt typical of an earlier time. And while I didn't love all the voices that the reader did, she did do an excellent job of all the accents, so I felt very much immersed in the story as a result. This was a great palate cleanser that didn't require too much thinking or too many emotions. I gave it 5 stars.

After a busy week, it was a real treat to read a book in a day, which is precisely what I did on Saturday. Despite having two of her novels in my Kindle library, I've never actually read anything by Kate Atkinson before, so reading a collection of interconnected short stories seemed like a good start. Normal Rules Don't Apply is an entertaining and slightly weird collection, with characters that pop in and out, fairy tales that weave in and out of a number of stories, and even some talking animals. I think these stories would be great to discuss, and the collection as a whole still has me thinking and wondering. I'm definitely looking forward to reading her other titles that I own now. I gave this one 4 stars.

I am still reading Doppelganger and have less than 100 pages left, so I'm hoping I can finish it today. I am hoping for a calm work day, especially as tomorrow is that long retreat day (can you tell I'm dreading it?).

What are you making and reading this week?

Monday, January 08, 2024

Snowy Winter Weekending

All too soon, I find myself at the start of another work week; it was very hard to get up this morning and leave my warm bed! But it was a relaxing weekend that didn't seem to go too quickly for once, so I won't grumble much.

On Saturday morning, we dropped off Mo at school for a Future City work session and then went to Costco for a much-needed stock-up trip before the snow started. When I headed out for my walk when we got back, a few flurries were just starting to fly. By the time I got back, it looked like this:

It snowed for most of the afternoon, but the temperature was above freezing, so the roads weren't too bad and it was melting almost right away. Yesterday we had more of a rain/snow mix, and now it's just wet outside. I'm thankful it wasn't quite the huge storm the local news promos would have you think we were expecting (I think they all get a little too excited before the first storm of the season).

The weekend did see some progress on my current projects. I spent much of Saturday afternoon at my wheel, working on my current spin, on which I'm about halfway done with with singles:

The colors are a bit brighter in reality, but we are in the midst of the usual January Gloom here in Pittsburgh.

I also put in a few rounds on my current sock WIP in the car on the way to and from Costco; I'd put it down midway through finishing the heel turn on our trip back from Florida, so I really wanted to get through the rest of that and pick up stitches for the gusset.

This is now back to being a nearly mindless project, so I will save it for Thursday, when I have an 11-hour (yes, you read that correctly) work "retreat" and will need something to help me stay focused. I'm hoping it will be okay, to keep this quietly in my lap to help me stay engaged and awake; if you can't tell, I am not at all looking forward to it.

And of course I worked on my Birch Pullover:

Sleeve Number 1 is now about to my elbow, and I've just joined in partial skein 4. I'm guessing I didn't do a great job of estimating the amount of yarn I'd need for sleeves relative to the body. The good news is that I didn't need the fifth skein at all for the body, so I can use all of it for the sleeves if needed. I did have a brief moment of panic a couple of days ago when the tip of the circular needle I was using decided to break off from the cable (it was a ChiaoGoo Red Lace circular, which I've never had an issue with before). Luckily no stitches fell off of it and I was able to transfer them all over to the Addi they're on in this photo, though this is a 32" circ and I was using a 40" before, so things are a little more cramped. But as the sleeve circumference is decreasing, I can deal with it.

I'm hoping for a quieter week with more knitting time, and now I'd better go get ready to start my day. Have a good one, friends!

Friday, January 05, 2024

Slow Going

TGIF! It's been a very long week for one that has only been a four-day work week (and a three-day school week for Mo); work's been very busy, leaving me little time for the really important stuff. I've managed a little spinning during work meetings, but my knitting has been done mainly only in the evening, which means there has not been much of it. Here's the current state of my Birch Pullover:

I'm ready to work the second decrease (out of 11 total), and I've joined the next partial skein of yarn, so I'm alternating strands every round. That slows things down more, of course, because there's some untwisting or untangling to do every time I start a new round, but it's all part of the process. And I know that if I can work on it for a longer period of time, I can make some measurable progress on it. The good news is that will happen this weekend. We're expecting a storm to move through -- that big one that's currently moving across the middle of the country and headed for the Northeast. We're only supposed to get 1-3 inches over the whole weekend, so not a major event for us, but it will still be a good excuse to stay in with my knitting.

I wish I had more to share, but that's really about it. Hope you have a good weekend, and if you're in the path of that storm, stay safe and warm!

Wednesday, January 03, 2024

Unraveled, Week 1/2024

It's the first Wednesday of the new year and I've started the count over again! Thanks to Kat for hosting our weekly link-ups. Now let's check in on the making ...

Vacation is truly over, so progress on my Birch Pullover has slowed. That was not helped by doing a poor job of picking up stitches in the underarm on my first attempt. Last night I ripped it out and started over again, and this attempt looks much better (though I'll still have to close up some holes when I weave in ends, as it always the case). You'll have to excuse the darkness of my photos today; we're in the midst of the typical January gloom here in Western Pennsylvania.

After two weeks away from wheel and fiber, I was of course anxious to start a new spinning project when we got back, so what is now the oldest Southern Cross Fibre shipment in my stash (from last June) is now on the wheel. The singles are very dark at the moment, so I'll share a photo of the fiber instead. This is Lake Tekapō on Bond wool. I've split it in two lengthwise and will be chain-plying the singles.

I expect less reading time this week (because I'll be reading copy for work), but I did manage to finish two more books before the end of the year, taking my total for 2023 to 130 books -- not too shabby!

If you follow Parnassus Books on social media, then you've likely heard a lot about Do Tell by Lindsay Lynch, who is their buyer. I wasn't rushing to read it, but when it was a Kindle daily deal a few weeks back, I thought I'd give it a try. And it ended up being a light palate cleanser after some harder books. This novel is set in the golden age of Hollywood, the late 1930s and early 1940s, when actors were under contract to studios and gossip could make or break a career. The narrator is an actress whose contract is just about to expire who finds herself in the middle of a scandal. I found this to be an entertaining book and an easy read; the editor in me found the frequent breaks to be annoying, especially when they weren't needed, but I suppose that was a stylistic choice. I gave it 3 stars.

I'd heard about The Frozen River on the What Should I Read Next Podcast, when Anne Bogel interviewed the author, and I was able to put it on hold right when my library got it. This is a work of historical fiction set in New England in the late 1700s and centers on Martha Ballard, a real-life midwife who left behind a record of her life in a daybook. Amid the daily activities of being a wife and mother and delivering babies, there is a rape, a murder, and a lot of intrigue. I found it to be a good read, though I would not necessarily recommend it as a truly accurate representation of the time. The author has (admittedly) taken some liberties and updated the dialogue for a more modern audience, though I appreciate that she has based it on some real people and real events. I think it does have some powerful things to say about the role and voices of women in society. I gave it 4 stars.

I'm currently listening to Winter Solstice, a book that many of you have read and that has long been on my TBR list; it feels appropriate now that I'm listening while running and walking in the cold and snow. I've also started Doppelganger: A Trip into the Mirror World, which I'd picked up at Barnes & Noble in Florida and then snagged in a Kindle deal. It's a fascinating book, but I haven't had too much time to get into it just yet (see earlier comment about work).

What are you making and reading this week?

Monday, January 01, 2024

Let's Get It Started

Happy new year, friends! I was very happy to wake up in my own bed, though less happy to see snow outside when I peeked out the window this morning. We got home yesterday afternoon, a little later than planned, but having taken a flight that was significantly less bumpy than the one that took us to Florida. We were sorry to leave less than 24 hours after my brother, sister-in-law, and nephew got there, but some time with them was better than none, and we plan to take dinner to their house when they get back on Saturday.

Our New Year's Eve was very low key. The Mister went to do the grocery shopping after dropping us and our luggage off at home, and we had snacks for dinner (mac and cheese bites, pigs in a blanket, and veggies and dip). We all got into our PJs and watched an episode of The Crown before bed, which was well before midnight. And this morning we all slept in one last time. Tomorrow the Mister and I both go back to work, though Mo has an extra day off (it's an in-service day) and will be home with me. I wasn't rushing to finish up lots of things yesterday, but I did manage to finish a book on the way home from the airport and last night I finished the tubular bind-off on my Birch Pullover:

I have tried it on and can report that it fits well; I expect I'll gain a little more length when I block it, but right now it's hitting just at my hips, which is great for me. Up next are the sleeves, and I hope those will go relatively quickly.

I have long since stopped trying to make new year's resolutions because I never keep them, but I certainly do take time at the beginning of the year to come up with some general goals I'd like to keep in mind for the year ahead. So here is what I'm thinking about for 2024:

  • Knit more sweaters. I've gotten a little bored with the sweaters I have in my drawer, especially because I tend to wear the same ones again and again because they fit me well. I also have quite a few sweater quantities of yarn in my stash, so why not use them? I have a few patterns in mind, but at the top of the list is obviously finishing Birch.
  • Knit from stash. I won't say I'm not going to buy any yarn at all, but the fact of the matter is that I have more than enough yarn already and there's really no need to buy it. The key is going to be finding the right patterns for the yarn I have rather than starting with a pattern and then buying yarn for it.
  • Get caught up on my Southern Cross Fibre club and spin down more fiber stash. I don't know exactly how many shipments of SCF club I have on hand (in part because one arrived while we were away and I still have to collect it from our neighbor), but I know it's less than 10. That is a much more manageable total than I started with last year, so I think it's quite realistic to expect to get caught up this year, perhaps even in the first quarter or half of this year. Once I'm on top of SCF stash, I can work on reducing other fiber stash.
  • Read books I already own. Between Kindle deals and finding books in Little Free Libraries, I've acquired a lot of new-to-me books in the past year. They don't do me any good just sitting on a shelf, whether physical or digital, and I bought or took them because I was interested in reading them, so I should do that! I'm still going to put books on hold from the library, of course, but I'd like to prioritize the books that have been wanting to read for a while.
Today, I'm hoping to get out for a run, provided it's not too "slippy" (as the yinzers say) outside, and then I'm hoping to start as I mean to go on this year: a little knitting, a little reading, a little spinning, and spending time with my family. Tomorrow it's back to the grind.

I hope this first day of 2024 brings happiness and relaxation, and I hope it's a happy, healthy year for you and your loved ones!