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?

Monday, May 06, 2024

Home to Roost

Many thanks to all of you for the birthday wishes for my nephew and your wishes for safe travel home for Mo. The class arrived on time Friday evening, and from what we've heard from parents of some of her classmates, it seems that everyone had a great time but also was completely worn out by the trip. Mo spend a good portion of the weekend sleeping and generally relaxing, and I can't say I blame her. It was a rainy weekend and good for just that kind of thing.

We didn't let the rain get in the way of celebrating the birthday, though, and I'm happy to report that the chicken was a hit:

I didn't know that his outfit would coordinate!

Right after I snapped this photo, he immediately tried to put the chicken in his mouth, which my brother said he does with anything he really likes, so I'll take it as a compliment.

I spent the weekend doing a little of this and a little of that. I've started spinning that gorgeous fiber I shared on Friday and thought it best to start with the darkest blue, as it's likely to be the most tedious. It's been good to do while reading on my iPad. And I've given a fair amount of attention to my colorwork cowl:

I'm currently on the third repeat of the pattern, and I think when I get through five, I'll see if it's long enough for my taste. I'd really like to get this finished up so I can both write up the pattern and feel okay about casting on a new project -- specifically, a summer tee. While the weather was more seasonable over the weekend, we had a little taste of summer last week, and it's gotten me thinking about warm-weather knits.

We have a fairly normal week ahead, with Mo's spring choir concert on Thursday evening. I'm hoping for calm and good sleep for all of us. Hope your week is off to a good start!

Friday, May 03, 2024

Welcome Back, Mojo

Ah, Friday! It's been a long week, and I'm very happy to see the end of it. While most of the week has been occupied with work, it has also seen the return of my spinning mojo, no doubt largely due to the arrival of my last "pillow" package from Southern Cross Fibre:

David always offered coordinates that could be purchased as add-ons to his club colorways, usually semisolids of the colors used in the colorway of the month. I occasionally bought some or extras of the club colorway, but in the past couple of years, as I've been actively trying to reduce the size of my fiber stash, I've admired but not purchased. However, given that this was the last chance I'd have to get any fiber from him, I decided a purchase was completely justified and ordered one of each of the five coordinates. The final club colorway was called Waterloo, so, fittingly, the coordinates are named for the four members of ABBA plus Glitter (the silver). And I already know what I want to make with these beauties. I'm spinning for Goldfern (Ravelry link). I'm using the three blues for the main color, spinning a three-ply with one strand of each color, and am going to the other two colors for the contrast (my plan is to have it transition from the silver to the burnt orange). I started with the darkest blue, and as you'd expect for a superfine Merino/silk blend, the singles are ending up very fine, so don't expect to see finished yarn right away!

Mo is due to come home this evening from her class trip to Washington, D.C. She's been texting me regularly and sending me photos. They're having a great time, but it's a whirlwind tour and pretty exhausting (not least because it's apparently been around 90ºF in D.C.). They've visited a number of museums, the Capitol, and many monuments. I got this photo yesterday, showing how surprised she was by just how large the statue of Lincoln is at the memorial:

Today they're scheduled to visit the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum before heading home. I imagine that Mo will be physically and emotionally spent when she gets home. Luckily she'll have the weekend to recover. Tomorrow we'll celebrating my youngest nephew's first birthday -- I can't wait to see him open his chicken!

I hope you all have a wonderful, restful weekend!

Wednesday, May 01, 2024

Unraveled, Week 18/2024

Good morning! It's not an official Unraveled Wednesday this week as Kat is away, but it's such a part of my weekly routine that I couldn't skip it. It's a big day here -- today, my youngest nephew turns 1! And Mo and her entire class are also leaving this morning for their class trip to Washington, D.C., so the house is going to be a bit empty for a few days.

It's been a busy work week (my boss dumped 40 pages of content on me on Friday when she took the day off), so I haven't gotten a ton of crafting done over the past several days but have been adding a round or two here and there on my socks and am almost to the heel placement on sock number two:

I am supposed to have a two-hour Zoom professional development workshop this afternoon, and I expect that will be the perfect time to get some more done on these.

But I've also been feeling the call of spinning lately. Somehow I managed to go an entire month without spinning at all -- I think when David of Southern Cross Fibre announced he was retiring, I kind of lost my mojo for a while. I have since received my final club shipment, but I am expecting one more package from him (today, in fact) because I ordered some coordinates. I have been very good about not buying yarn or fiber this year, but I figured this was okay because it's the last purchase I'll ever be able to make from him. I already have a sweater pattern picked out and know exactly how I am going to spin what's coming. In the meantime, I think I'll work a bit on this scrappy project from last summer:

I've finally managed to finish some books in the last week!

First up, an ARC: Long Island Compromise by Taffy Brodesser-Akner. This book follows the lives of the members of a Jewish American family after the dramatic kidnapping of the father and examines the impact of that trauma on his wife and his three children. They all grow up with some major life issues, but is the trauma to blame? They also grow up with the comfort of the family's money, but is it a help or a hindrance? The writing is smart and often entertaining, but I feel a bit conflicted about the book because the characters all seem to be awful. I both wanted to find out what would happen to them and also didn't want to read more because they just seemed to be getting worse. Did no one think of getting therapy? As much as the characters make messes of their lives, I think this book poses some really interesting questions about how we deal with trauma, both personal and cultural, and about whether trying to ease our children's path in life helps or harms them. I gave it 3.5 stars, rounded up to 4.
Thank you to Random House and NetGalley for providing me with an ARC in return for an honest review. This book will be published July 9, 2024.

Next up was When I Lived in Modern Times by Linda Grant, winner of the 2000  Women's Prize for Fiction. Set after WWII, Evelyn Sert, a young Jewish British woman, longs for a different life and sets out for the British mandate of Palestine, where she tries on several different identities: kibbutznik, gentile hairdresser, spy. She is a witness to the final period of British colonial rule in the area and to burgeoning Jewish state, from the Socialist idealists to the more radical underground groups. Given the current state of the region, it was a very interesting read from a political standpoint -- especially seeing that while the world has changed a lot in the nearly eight decades since, the core conflicts haven't changed much at all. I gave this 4 stars.

Finally, I read a quick book that my brother had lent to me. The Golem of Brooklyn is set in more or less present day and details what happens when an art teacher in Brooklyn decides to see if he can create a golem out of clay he's taken from his school. In the stories, a golem can only be created at a time when the survival of the Jews is at stake, and it seems that in our time, the threat is from white nationalists. What follows is funny and rather ridiculous. It felt a lot like a revenge fantasy (the same kind of feeling I got from watching the movie Inglorious Basterds). I probably wouldn't have read it had my brother not given it to me, but it was quick to read. I gave it 3 stars.

I am currently reading The Forgotten Names, another ARC, and Kairos. I'm hoping to have more time with both of them once I can finish up the pile of work on my plate!

What are you making and reading this week?