Thursday, December 29, 2022

A Year of Knitting: 2022

I'm not an especially prolific knitter, but 2022 does mark the year I made my first sweater in over 30 years, so I thought I'd take a look back and see what I knit this year. 




No knitting records were set, but I'm happy that I finally knit the Antler cardigan, a BSJ, finished three Hitchhikers, a couple pairs of socks, and my Musselburgh. It's definitely the FO that gets the most use. It's warm and I love wearing it for the colors even if it's not especially cold outside. 

I do have another Hitchhiker on the needles as my New Year's knitting, and I started Cloud Cover (ravelry link) back in October, but I haven't worked on it in over a month. It's just sitting beside me on my knitting chair, quietly reminding me every now and then that maybe 2023 will be the year I knit another sweater. (That would be some kind of knitting record for me!)

What did you make in 2022? Do you have plans for what you hope to make in 2023? Knitting, crocheting, sewing, painting, baking - it's all making and I'd love to hear about yours. 


Wednesday, December 28, 2022

Unraveled Wednesday: 12/28/22

I'm happy to join Kat and fellow Unravelers for the last Unraveled Wednesday of 2022, with a finished hat and some other knitting. 

I did finish John's 1898 hat (ravelry link) on Christmas Eve, just in time for some sub-zero temperatures. He says he doesn't want to put it on so I can take a modeled photo, so you'll just have to trust me when I say that it's a warm and well-fitting hat. It's really constructed ingeniously, and some of my initial problems were due to my own overthinking. You first knit the garter headband portion and I kept wondering where the i-cord entered into the picture. But there is a 3-stitch knit portion in the middle of the double-wide garter stitch headband that mimics i-cord quite nicely when you fold the headband in half. After reading lots of helpful notes on Ravelry, I made a few modifications:

  • I slipped the first stitch of every row purlwise with the yarn in front, then passed the yarn to the back before knitting the next stitch. This makes it much easier to pick up stitches for the crown portion. 
  • I also did a three-needle bind-off to seam the headband. My join is not invisible, but it is good enough and provides a way for John to easily tell the front from the back. 
  • Thanks to Sarah's recommendation, after picking up stitches, I knit the hat portion longer (7 inches) before I started the decreases (the pattern recommends 5").
  • I also eliminated the knit rounds after round 6 of the crown decreases to make a less pointy hat. 
I don't often wear hats (except for my Musselburgh) but I may knit just the headband portion of the hat for myself someday. This would keep my ears extra warm and that's all I really need in a hat. 


I'm not sure what my New Year's Eve plans will include but I wanted to have a Hitchhiker I love on the needles (so I can begin as I mean to go on), so I wound two skeins of Wollmeise and have started a two-color Hitchhiker in a favorite blue (VergiƟmeinnicht or Forget-Me-Not) and a colorful second skein (Koralle im Meer or Coral in the Sea). The photos don't look great since I took them at night indoors, but I'm going to go by Kym's rule of knitting © and give myself some more real estate before I make any judgments. I'm happy so far! 


What are you making this last week of 2022?

Tuesday, December 27, 2022

A Year of Reading: 2022

This has turned out to be a pretty good year in reading. I think I set an arbitrary goal of reading 75 books on Goodreads back in January, but the number of books I read isn't terribly meaningful to me. This fall and winter there seemed to be lots of enticing books recommended by various people and also available from my libraries, so I kept borrowing and reading. And then reading some more. Goodreads tells me I've read 126 books so far, but I've started several good ones right now, so I'm not sure where I'll end up. And like I said, numbers don't really matter to me. 

The enjoyment of the books, what I've learned, and where the books have transported me to matters most to me. I don't want to bore you with numbers, statistics, and ratings, so I'm just going to write about some of my highlights. The links will take you to Goodreads so you can read more about the books and decide if they might be for you. 

Some of the books I've enjoyed the most include:


Signal Fires
by Dani Shapiro 


The Marriage Portrait
by Maggie O'Farrell




Fairy Tale
by Stephen King







The Latecomer by Jean Hanff Korelitz




A few of the books I have learned from:


A World On the Wing
by Scott Weidensaul




An Immense World
by Ed Yong




The Lindbergh Nanny
by Mariah Fredericks







In Love
by Amy Bloom




Special books that transported me:


The Fell
by Sarah Moss


Foster
by Claire Keegan




The Evening Chorus
by Helen Humphries




Lucy by the Sea
by Elizabeth Strout




Young Mungo
by Stuart Douglas




For the sake of some conciseness (and because I don't want to bore you!), I've limited my list to 15 of my favorites. This is not exhaustive by any means, especially because it only includes about 10% of the books I read. The books I'm currently reading are Lark Ascending and  Remote Sympathy. I didn't think I was much of a science fiction reader, but Lark Ascending was recommended by Margaret Renkl so I had to give it a try. I started Remote Sympathy several months ago but had to return it to the library before I got too far. It was only $2.99 for Kindle on Monday, and I couldn't resist. I also can't stop thinking about Signal Fires, so I plan to re-read it after finishing these two books. 

I would love to hear about the book(s) you loved in 2022, what you are reading now, or the one you can't stop thinking about. I need to make sure I've got some good books lined up for 2023, and many of the best recommendations come from you! Here's to another enjoyable, educational, and immersive year of reading in 2023!

Friday, December 23, 2022

Full of Light

When my boys were in kindergarten they had a teacher, Mrs. M, who tried to be inclusive of everyone in the classroom. This was 25 years ago and the principal considered this a revolutionary concept. It was a stretch during November and December as there were children who celebrated Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Diwali, Solstice, and Rohatsu. (Just in case you're not familiar, Diwali is the Hindu Festival of Lights, and Rohatsu is the celebration of the Buddha's enlightenment.) The clever teacher had a meeting with interested parents and during the meeting, we all agreed that one thing these celebrations had in common was that each one incorporated Light in different ways. Mrs. M designed a month-long series of lessons about different cultures, different religions, and how all these holidays were celebrated with Light. She relied a lot on parents to volunteer in the classroom, prepare special food, talk about their own customs and made sure that everyone was included. It was educational for me as I knew nothing about Kwanzaa, Diwali, and Rohatsu, and I think it was both fun and educational for all the students. 

So I still think of this season as the Season of Light. No matter whether your own celebrations include the lights from the North Pole Weather Observatory and Mrs. Claus' greenhouse, the Hanukkah menorah, Kwanzaa kinara candles, Diwali oil lamps, or anything else, I hope that your hearts, homes, and holidays are full of Light. 


(And maybe even some hallowed hedgehogs and a reverent raccoon in your manger.)

Thursday, December 22, 2022

Three on Thursday: 12/22/22

I've been struggling to come up with topics to write about this week, so when I stumbled upon three things that are winter solstice-related, I decided that a Three on Thursday post was meant to be. The winter solstice occurred in the Northern Hemisphere yesterday at 4:47 pm Eastern time. Now that this has passed we can celebrate the lengthening of daylight. 

First is this painting entitled The Shortening Winter's Day is Near a Close by Joseph Farquharson (1903). I love the name, the sheep, the pale sun, and the shadows on the snow.

The second thing is a link to the sunrise at Stonehenge. They observe the first sunrise after the exact point of the Solstice, which means this year it's on Thursday 22 December. This happened live at 3:09 am Eastern time this morning, but I sure wasn't getting up at that hour to watch. This article from the British Museum explains that Stonehenge was designed to align with the movements of the sun, with the sarsen stones and smaller bluestones arranged to frame the sunrise at the summer solstice and sunset at the winter solstice. This is kind of incredible to me, considering that this was done around 2500 BC. 

Lastly, here is a link to the BBC World Service's production of The Dark Is Rising by Susan Cooper. As I write this there are three episodes available, but they will continue daily through December 31st. The Dark Is Rising tells the story of Will Stanton, an ordinary boy who begins to have eerie and magical experiences on his 11th birthday, one snowy December. Will discovers that he belongs to a group of ancient, time-traveling beings called the Old Ones, who are guardians of The Light and must wage an unending battle against the forces of The Dark. The music is by Johnny Flynn who I first became aware of watching The Detectorists, and while I have only listened to two episodes they sound quite interesting with headphones (due to recording in binaural sound). There is something special about having a story about battling the forces of darkness read to you during the dark days of winter. 

(If you like The Dark Is Rising, it's actually the second in a series of five fantasy novels for young adults. My own children were not huge fans, but when I worked in our middle school library, I recommended the books to many of our fantasy readers. We eventually had to order several extra copies of each book because we had so many students clamoring for them.)

Wishing you a wonderful return of the light however you celebrate!

Wednesday, December 21, 2022

Unraveled Wednesday: 12/21/22

I'm happy to join Kat and fellow Unravelers for Unraveled Wednesday, with a finished hat and some other unsettled knitting. 


I finally prevailed over the Braided Hearts (ravelry link) hat pattern and managed to finish it. I knit it for Justin's girlfriend, Jess, and I've been afraid to try it on myself for fear that it might look goofy. I'm not knitting with super-bulky yarn again, so if Jess doesn't like it, she is free to donate or re-gift it. 

The rest of my knitting has been unsettled. I worked on the pink and green Hitchhiker that I was excited about, but after trying at least three different ways to change colors and being unhappy with all of them, it's now stuffed in a project bag for later. 


Then I remembered that when we visited Watkin's Glen last summer, we wandered through a yarn store after hiking the gorge. They had an 1898 hat (another ravelry link) knit as a store sample, and John was intrigued by the warm double-layer band over the ears. I told him I would knit him one, but when I searched my stash I couldn't find any suitable worsted weight. I went to a local yarn store, but the only worsted weight they carried was Encore. There's nothing wrong with it, but it's just not really nice warm wool. I got a skein anyway and after three false starts, I think I've settled on a real beginning for the hat. If John likes the hat, I can always knit him another one in nicer yarn.


This morning I finally really noticed these two skeins of Wollmeise from my last in-person visit to The Loopy Ewe. They have been sitting on the cedar chest in my bedroom for over a year, so I picked them up with the idea that maybe I would be happier knitting a colorful Hitchhiker. I think I'll try to concentrate on the 1898 hat with the possibility of finishing it before Christmas, but the Wollmeise is sitting next to me for inspiration. 

Reading has also been unsettled. I finished "comfort reading" in the form of Rosamunde Pilcher's Winter Solstice and some L.M. Montgomery stories and was ready to move on to something else. After trying a few books and finding that none of them felt right, I think I've settled on A Quiet Life. It's set in Bethlehem, PA where we lived until I was six and where my father's assisted living facility was located. That's a pretty loose connection, but it felt like enough for me. 

What are you making and reading this week?

(And a Happy and Peaceful Winter Solstice to all of you in the Northern Hemisphere!)


Friday, December 16, 2022

Friday Letters


Today I'm taking my virtual fountain pen in hand to update you about a previous letter, give John a warning and a request, and a thank you. Let's open the mail ...

======


A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a Friday Letter to PNC. Here's what happened when I went in to sign my signature card. 

Dear PNC,

While I like the banker that I usually deal with in person, I had a few issues when I went in to sign my signature card as per your letter. When I sat down, she asked for two forms of identification, and I said I would produce them as soon as she could tell me why I needed to sign a new card when they had been honoring my signature for 33 years. The first reason she gave was that this was just an update. Why? In case my signature changed? The next reason she gave was that it was for security reasons. How is security enhanced by my signing a card? The last reason she gave was that the FDIC required it. That's fine, but what happened to the card I signed 33 years ago? By then, the poor banker looked like she was near tears, so I quit asking questions that clearly weren't answerable, produced my identification, and signed the card. Then I asked if this was a requirement for all my bank accounts. I was assured that it was not, it was only needed for my checking account. 

Guess what I got earlier this week? A letter from PNC asking me to come in and sign a signature card for my savings account. I will probably give in and just do it, but I think I'm going to wait and see how many letters they send me. I sincerely hope that whoever is in charge at PNC figures out how not to aggravate their customers because this current campaign is having the opposite effect on me.

Sincerely,

Disgruntled Bonnie H. Becker aka Bonny H. Becker

======


Dear John,

When you said you had some things to do in Stockton and did I want to ride along, I enthusiastically replied, "Yes!" I suggested that we could go to Gabarelly's for cheesesteaks for lunch, as a friend had enthusiastically recommended them several times. We walked in, it smelled delicious, and my mouth was watering while I ordered my cheesesteak with American cheese. You decided that you were not hungry, so you only ordered fries. But when my cheesesteak came, I took a picture to send Ryan since we had just been talking about cheesesteaks, and you watched me enthusiastically bite into it, then you decided you were hungry, and would I share half with you? I really wanted the whole thing for myself, but I reluctantly gave you half (the bigger half, I might add!) So consider this your warning; I shared this time but there won't be a next time!

Also, if I'm knitting on this cursed purple hat that I've unraveled three times, please don't interrupt my mutterings (P1, Sl1, K1tbl, PSSO, K1tbl ...) with questions that you can google yourself. I don't know how to split your screen into two windows, but I might even google it for you when I'm done with the round if you will refrain from asking me multiple times. Your retirement will be much better for both of us if you can follow this simple warning and request. 

Love,

Bonny, your selfish, grumpy wife who wants a whole cheesesteak to herself (and a finished hat)

======


To Whom It May Concern,

Thanks for another beautiful sky, with pink cotton candy clouds and a pink rainbow. 

Sincerely,

Me

======

Wishing you all a wonderful weekend!


Thursday, December 15, 2022

A Gathering of Poetry: December 2022


It's the third Thursday of the month so I'd like to welcome you to our fourth Gathering of Poetry post. Today's poem is one that I like, about how it's easy to wake up to your aches and pains, but there are often things to be grateful for. 

Winter Morning 
James Crews

When I can no longer say thank you
for this new day and the waking into it,
for the cold scrape of the kitchen chair
and the ticking of the space heater glowing
orange as it warms the floor near my feet,
I know it’s because I’ve been fooled again
by the selfish, unruly man who lives in me
and believes he deserves only safety
and comfort. But if I pause as I do now,
and watch the streetlights outside flashing
off one by one like old men blinking their
cloudy eyes, if I listen to my tired neighbors
slamming car doors hard against the morning
and see the steaming coffee in their mugs
kissing chapped lips as they sip and
exhale each of their worries white into
the icy air around their faces—then I can
remember this one life is a gift each of us
was handed and told to open: Untie the bow
and tear off the paper, look inside
and be grateful for whatever you find
even if it is only the scent of a tangerine
that lingers on the fingers long after
you’ve finished peeling it.

======

Crews, James. "Winter Morning". How to Love the World, edited by James Crews, Storey Publishing, 2021, p 137. 

You can read more about the poet here.

======

Thanks for reading and joining us for our monthly Gathering of Poetry. Be sure to visit Kym and Kat so you can gather more poetry and you can add your link below if you would like to share one of your favorite poems. The more the merrier!

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter

Wednesday, December 14, 2022

Unraveled Wednesday: 12/14/22

I'm happy to join Kat and fellow Unravelers for Unraveled Wednesday, with a completed pair of socks and some new (and not entirely satisfying) knitting. First, the socks:


I'm happy with them and my sock mojo has been well-satisfied. Once the socks were done, I started thinking about maybe knitting a hat for Justin's girlfriend, Jess. I found some lovely soft Malabrigo Rasta in my stash, decided on a pattern, and cast on. I can't remember why I originally bought the yarn, but I do understand why I haven't used it. Super bulky yarn on size 15 needles just isn't very comfortable for me. I had this silly idea that I was going to whip this hat up in just a few hours, but I've already messed the pattern up and unraveled once twice, so we'll see if it actually becomes a hat on the second try. I even found a pom-pom in my stash, so there is some incentive to finish since all the supplies were just sitting there waiting to be assembled. 


I fiddled around with my Hitchhiker idea and couldn't make it work the way I had planned, but that's my fault for not remembering that stripes in garter stitch are best accomplished in two rows (one ridge) and not just one row. I'll go back and revise the plan after I finish the hat. 

I made a discovery in reading this week - I don't really enjoy short story collections. I was anxious to read Claire Keegan's collections of short stories because I really admire her spare writing style and thoroughly enjoyed Foster and Small Things Like These. But for me, this just didn't translate to liking her short stories in Antarctica and Walk the Blue Fields. The subject matter of the stories fell flat and many of the endings were vague and obtuse. But now I know to stay away from short story collections (except for the Christmas collection from L.M. Montgomery that I'm currently reading.)

What are you making and reading this week?


Monday, December 12, 2022

Sometimes Monday ...

 ... is a good day to look through another Christmas picture book. The one I've chosen for today is The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey, written by Susan Wojciechowski and illustrated by P.J. Lynch. 


I'll be honest, I enjoyed this book more than my kids did. They tolerated it when I chose it, but the recommended age level is grades 1-4, and I was reading this to them when they were much younger. But that's okay; sometimes the reader gets to choose a book they love even if those being read to don't love it quite as much. 


Jonathan Toomey is the best woodcarver in the valley, but he is always alone and never smiles. The children in the village call him Mr. Gloomy. One day a widow and her young son come to his woodshop with a request for nativity figures. 


The young boy has some specific requests, like the sheep need to be smiling and happy. 


Mr. Toomey works on the nativity figures over several days while the boy and his mother try to be quiet and unobtrusive. But the woodcarver has a problem when it comes time to carve Jesus and Mary. 


He despairs getting the expressions right until he retrieves a photo from a closed drawer of his wife and child that he had lost to illness. 


Through his carving of the family he lost, Mr. Toomey once again finds love and hope in his heart and even has a smile on his face at the end of the book. 


This story isn't nearly as saccharine as I may have made it sound. I hardly ever cry reading books, but this one does make me a bit misty-eyed. 

If you'd like to see the whole book and have the story read to you (by James Earl Jones), you can click below.


"I met a teacher who talked to me about how perceptive children are. She had read the book to her first-graders, then asked questions. When she asked what Jonathan Toomey had taken from a drawer, a child answered, "He took his heart out of the drawer." When you read the book, you'll understand the profound depth of that child's answer. "
~Susan Wojciechowski (Author's note)

I don't think you can go wrong with a Christmas story about hope and heart!

Friday, December 9, 2022

Museum of Me: December 2022

 

Hello and welcome to The Museum of Me. This month's installment asks the question: What is the best gift you've ever received or given? In December our thoughts often turn to gifts, but after a lot of consideration, the best gifts I've ever received and given didn't happen at Christmas time. That's okay, they were still wonderful gifts - needed, wanted, and given from the heart.


My mother-in-law Sylvia was a wonderful cook. She didn't prepare fancy or complicated food, but she cooked and baked for a family of seven when John was growing up. She made dinner every night at 5:30 pm, baked bread for the family several times a week, and I could almost always count on finding some homemade "goodies" (cookies, cake, or pie) in the kitchen when I visited. I'll admit that I often took her cooking for granted, assuming she would prepare a delicious, filling meal if I was eating at her house. She rarely wanted any help in the kitchen, but eventually, she agreed to let me wash the dishes while she dried. We had lovely conversations while cleaning up after she fed all of us. 


Her pie crust was the best I've ever had, light and flaky, and even though I watched her make it numerous times, my pie crust has never come close to hers. 


When I had Ryan, she came over to visit when I got home from the hospital and asked if I needed any help. I said, "No, thank you; I need to figure out this motherhood thing," and she respected that. As a mother of five, she probably thought that one child was a piece of cake, but she just said she'd be back in a couple of days. When she returned the next week, she brought with her the best gifts I've ever received - food she had prepared when I was feeling so overwhelmed I could barely manage to brush my teeth. She brought macaroni & cheese, assorted casseroles, meatloaf, and even my favorite chocolate cake. She continued this for about three weeks, and I told her then and for many years afterward how grateful I was to receive such wonderful gifts. It was exactly what I needed at the time, it made me feel loved and helped me get a handle on how to be a mother (with a demanding baby that never slept). 


She did the same thing when Justin was born, and I needed it just as much then because Ryan was an active two-year-old. If I'm a halfway-decent mother, I think I owe much of that to the example my mother-in-law set and the great start she gave me with her generous gifts.


About 15 years later, I was in a position to give back some of the amazing gifts I had received. John's father was diagnosed with diabetes, and metastatic prostate cancer, and required heart surgery. Sylvia was feeling completely overwhelmed by his care, but she said she didn't need any help. I remembered what a difference her gifts of food had made to me, and I tried to give her gifts in kind. I prepared casseroles, meatloaf, chipped beef, Salisbury steak, and some casseroles. Often I would just drop food off in the refrigerator or freezer and leave her a note because she was at the hospital with my father-in-law. This gave us a good "Grandmom story" when she offered my brother-in-law a piece of pound cake, and they were both disappointed when the hoped-for pound cake turned out to be a meatloaf I had put in the freezer. 

So how about you? I'd love to hear about the best gift you've ever received or given. We'll be back on the second Friday of January with a brand-new installation. Thank you for visiting The Museum of Me and reading about wondrous gifts received and given!