Monday, May 25, 2015

Sneak Peek

I've been quite for a while because life has just been busy!
 
I swear it's a May thing.....
 
The good news is that in the midst of our crazy schedule I have actually found some time to start working on a new piece of Estonian lace - which is something I've wanted to do for some time.
 
I think I'll save the details for when it's finished, and so for now I'll just share this single picture of the border pattern, which includes crop circles and nupps!

Friday, May 22, 2015

The Importance of Lighting

 I present, my most recently finished pair of socks....
as seen in different lighting.
(real color somewhere between 1 and 2, leaning towards 1)
 
Basic Socks
The Unique Sheep Leili
2 skeins - woodland
Knit Picks Harmony DPN's - 2.25 inches
68 stitches, 65 rows 2x2 rib in leg, 50 rows in foot
April 20, 2015 - May 11, 2015
 
Trying to use up my stash, and have decided to knit some of the random variegated sock yarns up on 2.25 mm needles so as to knit it up just a wee bit faster.  Will still knit Opal socks on 2.0mm needles.  Am hoping to use up at least half of the stash this year!


Monday, May 4, 2015

The Monday List!

I've had a pretty standard cast of birds at my feeder for years now, so it was rather a shock when someone new showed up last week!  This is a rose-breasted grosbeak.  I truly wish I'd been able to snap a better picture...this is through a dirty window with my phone, and it was all I had at hand.
 
 
We're going to start fresh with the list this week.  Super-exciting! 
  1. I have a sermon to write before Sunday.  The very good news is that I had a flash of inspiration in the shower yesterday (I didn't know that actually happened.) and so have the rough outline already.
  2. My husband has been carving out more time for editing/writing lately...and he's just about caught up with the editing work I'd done for him.  I have ten chapters to go, and I need to make a dent in them this week.
  3. Soooo....I bought a new, and very much buzzed about, book about tidying up the home.  (Marie Kondo's The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.)  This week I would like to read it and get started with my clothes. 
  4. The knitting remains in a weird limbo.  I seriously have barely touched the needles in over a week.  Some of it is good old-fashioned indecision.  Some is a natural break.  Some of it is that I just am not desperately in love with anything right now.  I have some ideas floating around...but nothing that's concrete as of this morning.  My goal for the week is to break through the limbo.  I'm not setting any specifics...merely stating that something needs to happen.
  5. Spinning...spinning...spinning....spring has always been for spinning!
  6. Call Lendrum about my wheel.  No, I haven't done that yet. 
 
Curiously enough, I think I'm going to leave it at that.  Sometimes less is better, and I hate to plan anything else given how potentially time consuming a couple of the things on the list could be.
 
Have a great week!


Thursday, April 30, 2015

Living In Fantasy

A month of fairy tales, fantasy, urban myth, and glorious, glorious stories.  The Green Woman approves.  Also, it was so much fun that I've decided to carry it over into a second month!

A note about the amount of audio this month:  Most of the audiobooks I listened to were under 11 hours, and I was able to speed most of them up to 1.25x the regular speed because of slow readers.  Even then it seems like a lot, but remember...I almost always have audio going when I'm at home alone. 

1.  The Buried Giant, Kazuo Ishiguro (audio) - Absolutely fits with the theme of the month, being an Arthurian tale and one filled with all sorts of questing and magic.  It's a really weird book.  I enjoyed it...but I didn't...but it's right up my alley...but I had trouble following it once in a while...but I stuck with it because I wanted to find out what happened in the end...but it might have been too 'literary' and not enough about the story...but I'm not sure how I feel about it now that it's over.  Honestly, I don't think I'm an Ishiguro fan.  It's one of those books that I'm glad I read....but I'm also glad I didn't pay for it.

2.  The Tropic of Serpents and  3.  Voyage of the Basilisk, Marie Brennan - I adore Brennan's gaslamp fantasies about Lady Trent.  She's fiesty and funny and is just exactly the sort of female adventurer we need more books about.  I only recently read the first book, and waited until the third came out before I bought the second so that I could read them back to back.  I'll be encouraging my daughters to read these!  My only irritation...I am an impatient woman, and it drives me nuts that I am going to have to wait to hear the rest of the story!  Given Isabelle is only about 30 at the end of Basilisk, and is writing these books from an advanced age...we could be in for a LOT more books, and if the quality stays this high, I say bring them on!

4.  Trigger Warning, Neil Gaiman (audio) - A confession:  I only made it about a third of the way through this book last month.  I lucked onto the audio during a browse of my library's digital catalog, and am so very glad I did.  Gaiman serves as narrator, and it's always a treat to listen to him read his work.  His voice is just magical, and of course he is able to tell the story exactly as it was intended.  I laughed, I cried....amazing!

5.  The Ocean At The End Of The Lane, Neil Gaiman (audio, also read by the author) - It's only 6 hours long, and it was available immediately, and it fit perfectly into my theme for the month, and at any rate it's a great favorite of mine.  I listened to this lovely book while putting the edging on a baby blanket, wrapped up in my special lap quilt while sitting in my favorite orange chair tucked into my corner of the basement with a cup of tea sitting in the windowsill next to me.  It was a lovely, lovely way to spend a day.  (I've officially decided to treat myself by purchasing the audio of Stardust.  I had borrowed it from the library in CD format once upon a time, and had listened to it multiple time over the years before accidentally deleting some of the files (Whoops!)  I want that for my very own...and maybe this one someday too.)

6.  Od Magic, Patricia McKillip (audio) - Reading this because it's the one McKillip book the library had available in digital audio format and because I wanted to reread some McKillip!  I adore her books, which are very traditional and very beautifully written fantasy/fairy tales, but for some reason have never really reread them as I do with other favorite authors.  I spent two days curled up in my favorite chair working furiously on a baby gift while listening to this book.  McKillip's books are beautiful gems, and I may start a reread of all of them after this.  I soooo wish that more of them were available in audio from my library!

7. The Drowning Girl, Caitlin R Kiernan -  Normally I don't pay attention to the Hugo and Nebula awards, but this one caught my interest.  (And seriously, I can't remember which one it was connected to - or if it won or was on a nomination list....I just remember stumbling across it when looking at the lists, and being curious.)  I love this book  - but it's hard to read.  When your protagonist has schizophrenia, and when the author does such an amazing job of capturing that voice, it can be a touch difficult to untangle the threads at times.  Totally worth the effort, but not a book I was able to sit back and just enjoy.  Plus, there's lots of art in there I had to immediately look up.  (Bonus of reading on an ipad!)  I really and truly loved the characters...but after struggling through it all month, and only making it half way, I set it aside.  I do believe I'll finish it at some point, but it's clearly not what I'm wanting right now. 

8.  The Queen of the Tearling, Erika Johanson (audio) - Again, thanks to the library for letting me try someone new.  This is a book I'd seen around for a while and was curious about.  It was amazing.  I love Johanson's young queen, who is exactly the sort of female hero I adore, and I love her concept for her world.  (think post-industrial/modern back to medieval like times with magic thrown in for good measure)  The sequel is released in a month or so, and I've already preordered it.  The only thing that stinks is that it's a planned trilogy and I'm then going to have to wait for a year for the next one.  Drat the luck! 

9.  Touchstone, Melanie Rawn - Rawn is one of my favorite female authors from back in the day when I was reading big, fat fantasy series.  Touchstone is the first in her most recent series, and it's been sitting on my (digital) bookshelf for quite some time. (Curiously enough, I have her second Sunrunner series also sitting on my (physical) bookshelf, where it's been for at least ten years now without being touched.)  Going to confess... I never really got swept up into it, and that was a tad of a disappointment.  It wound up being set aside on the unfinished bookshelf of shame.  If I had to pinpoint exactly what my problem was...probably that it was too teen male, and I long ago stopped reading that sort of fantasy book. 

10.  The Hum and the Shiver and 11. Whisp of a Thing, Alex Bledsoe (audio) - I adore Bledsoe, and as the third Tufa book comes out this year I thought I would reread the first two, trying audio this time.  (Plus, I had just about exhausted what's available/I was interested in in audio through my library's online services!)  I own them both in ebook editions - probably will get physical copies as Bledsoe is one of my favorite new author finds of the past couple of years.  I can't say enough good things about these books.  Love, love, love them.  As a bonus, I picked up his short story, Shall We Gather, and in 15 minutes it wrecked me in a really good way. 

11.  The Shadowed Sun, N.K. Jemesin - the sequel to the Killing Moon.  Now that I'm familiar with this world, it was a LOT easier to get into.  I still don't think that these two books are as good as Jemesin's Inheritance trilogy, but then those books are so amazing they really set the bar almost impossibly high.  I was very satisfied with the ending, and as usual I do truly appreciate the rich and detailed world that Jemesin created.  I also love her characters!

12.  The Little Country, Charles De Lint - This was the book that cemented my love for De Lint, and it's one of my absolute favorites.  I had, in fact, reread most of it fairly recently - I know these books so well that I can enjoy just picking them up and reading parts - so you might think it's strange that I picked it up again so soon.  However, a couple of weeks ago I finally received my copy of The Little Country by Zahatar, and I thought it might be fun to reread the book while listening to the album it inspired.  It was an amazing experience!  Yay! 

One of these things is not like the other:

13.  The Girl on the Train, Paula Hawkins (audio) - As I'm sure many of you know, this is one of the big buzz books of the spring, with strong connections being made between it and Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl.  (I get the comparison, but it does both an injustice.)  I did the audio because the wait list for the audio was shorter than any other format the library had available!  It's always a good sign when there are multiple readers...and they didn't disappoint!  It's basically a book about three crazy, horrible women...and yet at times I felt a great deal of sympathy towards them.

Monday, April 27, 2015

What the What?!?!?!?!

Bet you never saw this one coming....
 
Overwhelmed by a week that was rather challenging*, and truly stymied by creative block, I found myself reaching on Saturday for a cross stitch kit I purchased 15ish years ago.
 
Strange, right?!
 
Maybe not so much.  Sometimes the best way to deal with a creative block is to walk away and do something else for a little while.  (I'm trying to ignore the small voice that's telling me that I'm avoiding the problem...)
I imagine some of you are scratching your heads right now, puzzled about where this came from.  I have NEVER discussed cross-stitch on the blog, and have only touched lightly on embroidery from time to time.  Needle arts really aren't my thing.
 
Except they used to be...sort of.
 
Back in college I did two rather large pieces - an Irish blessing that hangs by our front door, and a dragon that lives in my husband's office.  I would be lying if I said I thoroughly loved the process.  Cross-stitch is frustratingly slow at times (so says the woman who invested 350 hours in a Shetland shawl...), and it does rather trigger some craziness due to my perfectionism and tendency to be an OCDish counter.  I had to pick out a one inch square of that dragon's tail, for example, because I was two stitches off...and that just about killed me.  Nevertheless, I've always been attracted to such detail work, I've always adored embroidery floss, and a great kit has always been a temptation.  Plus,I loved feeling connected to the rich history of women with needle and thread.  I would never really have called my cross-stitch more than 'dabbling', though.
 
After Sean and I got married, I did several small pieces.  It's frustratingly difficult to find good patterns -those that are free of kitch and country - and I exhausted the pitiful local choices.  At some point between college and first child I brought home multiple kits for larger projects - all purchased with either the massive coupons you can get from the craft stores, or special sales.  I never really went overboard, but I also knew that kits were periodically discontinued and would disappear.
 
Motherhood changed everything.
 
When our eldest child was about five months old I had an epiphany.  I could no longer dabble in the many, many crafts that I had enjoyed over the years.  With a baby, I just didn't have the time.  If I was ever going to be truly good at handwork, I had to let go of the Jack-of-all-trades (master-of-none) type of attitude that I grew up with.  I needed to pick something, and FOCUS.
 
So I cleaned out the craft closet, and I was fairly ruthless.  I chose to stick with the knitting, so that stayed....and you all know how far that has taken me.  The tatting and spinning supplies were boxed up for storage because I did feel a true connection with them, and knew I would come back eventually.  Everything else, and there was a lot, went out the door...with one exception.  I kept two of the cross stitch kits.**  One was a wizard, meant to be a companion to the dragon I'd made for Sean....and the second was a dragon that I wanted for myself. 
 
Truthfully, I probably should have gotten rid of even these two kits a long time ago.  The likelihood of me returning to them was slim to none....
 
Until Saturday, when my dragon seemed to be just the thing I wanted.
 
 The very good news is that at some point I had already done the prep work and had stitched the outermost portion of the border.  All I had to do on Saturday was dig out my supplies, figure out which way was up and carry on.  There was a tiny moment of panic because I had forgotten that I'd long ago put half of the floss into the storage system as it had not stayed in the basket with the rest of the kit...but that was quickly resolved.
 
I had forgotten how much I do love it.  that was a surprise.
 
I'm not na├»ve.  I know where the OCD pitfalls are, and given the complexity of the pattern and the number of colors involved (both on their own and combined with others) I have a decent idea of the very great length of time it's going to take to actually finish this beast.  But for now...for now I'm going to spend a little bit of time enjoying my dragon, and I'll see how far I can get before I tuck it away once again.
The pattern is Teresa Wentzler's The Storyteller.
Purchased as a Leisure Arts kit. (now discontinued)
 If you are interested in Wentzler's work, a great place to start is her website.
 
 
*I described last week to some friends as excruciatingly difficult.  The truth is that there was no one thing that was a gigantic disaster...rather, it was a series of events that began on Sunday afternoon and continued through Friday.  Each one in and of itself wasn't so bad, but altogether it was a bit much.  I'm actually quite proud of how I handled each challenge, but by the end of the week I was completely worn out and most of my plans had been shot to heck.  On top of that, this week is looking like it's going to be on the crazy side.  Consequently, I'm not going to do an official Monday List this week.  I'm just going to do the best I can, and we'll see what happens!

**I actually regret getting rid of a third kit - a gorgeous angel.  I had prepped the fabric, and in one of my moves it had been damaged.  It was not a standard color, and I didn't want to mess with trying to track down a replacement so out the door it went.  Now...now I might have done things differently.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Exploring Environmental Stewardship


I have been asked to write regular pieces on the environment and going green for my Mission Center newsletter.  (My church - the Community of Christ - is divided into regional mission centers for organizational purposes.)  I thought you might enjoy reading them, so I'll be sharing them here after they are published. 
 
There are two things you should know about me.

1.       I am a farm girl.

2.       I am a quiet girl. 

I’m someone who grew up believing in the sacredness of the land with all of my heart, mind and soul – recognizing a solice and a peace in the natural world that I find nowhere else.  I'm most at home on the hills of my parents’ farm, exploring the paths at my favorite state park, sitting quietly in my kitchen watching the birds at my feeders, or digging in the dirt.  That’s where I find God.  That’s where I can hear His Voice.

I remember distinctly the pain I felt when - as a teenager – I began learning of how truly fragile our environment is.  As a 16 year old attending a special academic camp I majored in “extinction” and the three weeks of research I did during that class turned me forever into an environmentalist.  Our planet has suffered because of human action – often times because we have just not known any better – and the problems are so large that they can be overwhelming.  I’ve spent my entire adult life determined to do what I can, even if my own actions seem a very small drop in the ocean.

Curiously enough, though, I never really thought that my interest in the environmental movement had anything to do with my membership in the Community of Christ Church.  As far as I was concerned, those two aspects of my life were completely unrelated.

That changed three years ago when my girls and I attended our first Mission Center Reunion at Camp Woodland Hills.  To my completely surprise – and utter delight – one of the sessions of my adult class focused on our spiritual responsibility towards taking care of the earth that we’ve been given.   I remember coming away from that class feeling very excited, and very proud of the Community of Christ Church.  The idea that it truly is God’s work to do what we can to help our planet?  Amazing.

If this connection is unfamiliar to you, I invite you to consider the fact that two of our Enduring Principles – The Sacredness of Creation and Responsible Choices – speak directly to the needs of the environment.  According to our world church website, these two principles are defined as such:

Sacredness of Creation

·         In the beginning, God created and called it all good.

·         Spirit and material, seen and unseen, are related.

·         Creation’s power to create or destroy reminds us of our vulnerability in this life.

·         God is still creating to fulfill divine purpose.

·         We join with God as stewards of care and hope for all creation.

Responsible Choices

·         God gives humans the ability to make choices about whom or what they will serve.  Some people experience conditions that diminish their ability to make choices.

·         Human choices contribute to good or evil in our lives and in the world.

·         Many aspects of creation need redemption because of irresponsible and sinful human choices.

·         We are called to make responsible choices within the circumstances of our lives that contribute to the purposes of God.

When combined, these two principles call us to take better care of the world which God gave us…to work to heal the damage already done and to protect that which is left. 

To this end, the world church has developed the Earth Stewardship Team as part of its work towards Justice and Peace Issues.  I would encourage you to visit their page on the world church website - https://www.cofchrist.org/earth-stewardship - for more information about the team and to learn about their current projects.  Their Mission Alignment is that, “The church is called to “…bring fresh vision to bear on the perplexing problems of…environmental deterioration” (D&C 163:4c) The team’s primary concern is the identification and promotion of human accountability and responsible behavior toward the Earth and its resources in individual, church and community life.”

The question becomes, what can we do?  How can we apply this to everyday life? 

On April 22 we will celebrate the 45th annual Earth Day.  Earth Day began in 1970 as a movement to educate the public on the needs of the environment and to call people to action.  I invite you to celebrate this year by taking some time to reflect on which environmental problems speak to you directly.  It could be water conservation, the protection of endangered animals, reducing waste, finding creative ways to recycle goods, cleaning up our resources, going green in our homes or our church buildings, food sustainability…anything!  What speaks to your heart?  What means the most to you?  What would you like to help with?

 Once you figure that out, commit to taking one small step towards change.  Our actions need not be monumental to make a difference.  As I said, every little bit helps…and we all need to start somewhere.  It could be as simple as making sure our lights are turned off when we leave a room, taking faster showers, finding out about the recycling options in our communities (and then taking advantage of them), or taking the time to learn more about an issue. 

In the future I will be bringing you more specific ideas of what you can do to “Go Green” in support of the Community of Christ’s Enduring Principles, and I will be introducing you to programs and ideas that can help support us in this work.   I would love to also share stories about what’s already being done in our Mission Center, because I know this is a cause near and dear to many of our hearts. 

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

83 - Which Feels Like A Lot

 At this point I've knit so many socks that I've given up on names and am going with numbers.
 
My 83rd pair - another pair for me!
Basic Sock Pattern by Ann Budd
Opal Sock Yarn
Knit Picks 2.0mm DPN's
My standard fit at:
76 stitches around
23 rows 2x2 rib and 50 rows stockinette in leg
60 rows in foot
February 21 - April 20, 2015