Saturday, April 23, 2016

It's a Readathon Day!

Last October I participated in Dewey's 24-Hour Readathon for the first time and found it to be so rewarding! I wasn't sure my schedule would accommodate the April date, but it turned out that my husband is out of town and it will be the perfect distraction. I've assembled my stack of books, so I'll have plenty of options to choose from.

Most of the junior fiction is pre-reading for my 11yo's reading list next year, and the other stuff is mostly driven by wanting to have a lot of shorter options. Priority is finishing My Brilliant Friend, since I have a book club meeting for that on Monday. In addition to reading, I'm planning on doing some cooking and baking throughout the day.

I started my day with plenty of coffee on the patio, and made myself read 75 pages of My Brilliant Friend before taking a break to make some waffles for my kiddos. I've been listening to Saint Mazie on audio, so even my break was book-filled. Now I'm moving on to some junior fiction before getting through another chunk of Ferrante and then back to audiobook/dinner-cooking.

I hope you are all having a lovely weekend, whether you are fitting in some time to read or not.

It's an incredible day in SoCal - blue skies and cool temps - making
my cat a bit peeved that she is confined to the indoors.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

I'm a Knitting Machine

It seems I've done so much knitting in the first part of this year! It helps me think, so I'm often knitting away whilst talking, typing, or reading.  Unfortunately, what ends up happening is that I'm occasionally in such a rush to begin a new project that I don't think it through thoroughly beforehand and I end up spending almost equal amounts of time ripping out and re-knitting as I do knitting in the first place.

This green cardigan made it to the halfway point (after many rips and re-knits) only for me to decide that I'd never wear a sweater in that color. It is currently being remade into a scarf.

Below is a picture of the second of two identical throw blankets I have made as gifts in the last year or so. The first I made for a friend that lives in Scotland, but then I gave it to my husband's grandmother instead so I ended up making another to send overseas. My husband's grandmother passed away recently, so I'm glad that I was able to give her something handmade while she was still here. The pattern is adapted from an old doily pattern. By working it up in thicker yarn, an old pattern gets a new lease on life, and becomes a more useful object in the process.

During the renovation of our home, I bought both books and yarn more  indiscriminately than I ever normally would. I was really needing an escape, but didn't have time to make use of my good intentions. When we put everything into storage last March and began our 3+month moving journey, I stopped accumulating. So by the time Christmas rolled around, all I wanted was books and yarn! My husband was kind enough to give me both. I used the assorted colors of Alpaca Silk yarn to create a lovely shawl/wrap. It's like a scarf but better, and it catapulted me into a shawl obsession.

The leftovers from my shawl were knit into a reversible hat. It looks like a deflated oblong ball, but fold one half into the other and it makes a pretty cozy hat...with options!

The next two projects I finished were both shawls.  The first used yarn that I repurposed from a sweater that never made it past the 1/3 mark. I like it much more in shawl form! The second used alpaca yarn that I've owned forever. I like how it worked up, but I only used half of what I have. I hate that. Now I have to figure out what to make with the rest of the remaining yarn.

The final picture is the first in a series of hats that I'm making for an Iceland trip we get to make in June. We are going with a group of friends and family, and I decided - since hand knits are a part of everyday life in Iceland - that we all needed a hand knit hat for the journey. One down, five to go!

In addition to my Iceland-hat-series, I need to do some knitting for my brother, sister-in-law, and nephew. They are moving from Qatar to Tasmania in June, and will certainly need some woolen wear to help them adjust to the change in climate! I have a little sweater planned for my nephew, but am still trying to decide what to send over for the adults. I love that knitting makes such usable objects.

My knitting projects are strewn around my house along with my books, as I always have multiples of each in the works at any given time. In some ways, my knitting is like a favorite reading chair—it is what makes my spot cozy and welcoming, wherever that spot may be.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

For the Record: March 2016

Although the month started off pretty parched of reading material, I somehow managed to make up for it in the end. Easter break certainly helped with that, as did some amazing small books.

For Spring break we took our kiddos up to Seattle (where it was sunny the entire time - go figure) and across to Bainbridge Island where we visited a wonderful independent bookstore: Eagle Harbor Book Co.  It was so refreshing to see a purposefully stocked and well run book shop (after seeing the demise of my local shop) that I may have teared up a little.

7 Books Read in March [21 books year-to-date]

3 Nonfiction:
  - Lady Constance Lytton, Lyndsey Jenkins (4.5) I was expecting to like this book mostly because it was written by a blogger friend, but was doubly pleased to find it stands on its own merit. Well-written and informative, I not only learned much more about the women's suffrage movement in England, but also felt like I knew Lady Constance. It was well organized and didn't bog down with excessive information. I'd recommend this to anyone looking for an approachable book about the era or the movement.
  - Open Heart, Elie Wiesel (4) This is a tiny little book, but—as you can probably guess based on the author—has a huge presence.  It is a reflection on his life when he finds himself facing what may be the end. The honesty with which he examines his lack of readiness for the end is absorbing and touching.
  - A People's History of the United States, Howard Zinn (4.5) I finished it! I sure felt like an accomplishment. (Well, anything over 500 pages feels like quite an accomplishment to me.) I have heard criticism of this book for being far too liberal, but I felt like the author's perspective barely begins to balance the scales against the typical establishment-endorsed telling of American history. And honestly, there were only a couple times when I really felt a liberal push, and I'm agenda-sensitive. Mostly it felt compassionate, and was a really good way to contemplate the 2016 presidential elections.

2 Junior Fiction:
  - Caddie Woodlawn, Carol Ryrie Brink (4.5) My 11yo loved Caddie more than Laura and more than Almanzo. I loved the contrast between, Native American, New American, and English identities.
  - Hero Over Here, Kathleen Kudlinski (3) I appreciate that this book shows WWI and the Spanish Influenza from the perspective of a child in America, but it was altogether too underdeveloped to really be able to connect with.

2 Fiction:
  - Vinegar Girl, Anne Tyler (4) I received this from LibraryThing's Early Reviewers, and found it very easy and fun to read. It is a retelling of Shakespeare's Taming of the Shrew. I enjoyed the characters and how the story was told. It was somewhat simplistic, but very enjoyable.
  - Our Souls at Night, Kent Haruf (5) Wow, what a big little book, so full of heart and reflection that it near to brought me to tears. The characters in this book didn't feel like characters, they were just people. I think the author realized that, because he took the risk of breaking the fourth wall at one point, tying his readers' experience back to his other works of fiction. It was heartbreaking to see the ways that we hurt each other even as we love, and it was heartwarming to see the power we have to change someone's life for the better.


Current Reads:
  - Salt, Isabel Zuber. I've had this book for over a decade and I'm finally reading it. The writing is beautiful, the characters have depth, and the setting is one of my favorites - the post-Civil War mountains of North Carolina.
  - All That Is, James Salter. I am giving this a go on audio, even though I haven't had great luck with audiobooks lately. Wish me luck.
  - Little Britches, Ralph Moody. This is our current read-aloud for our home school. It is a memoir of the author's childhood on a ranch at the turn of the last century. My 11yo is a western equestrian, so the horse stories are fun.


New Books This Month:
The only new thing this month was the most recent selection from Powell's Indiespensable. I've been putting great effort into keeping up with reading these books immediately, otherwise I lose motivation. I have so many books from the years of my house rebuild that are still sitting unread that I'll need to just use some discipline to get through.