Wednesday, June 28, 2023

Unraveled Wednesday: 6/28/23

I'm joining Kat and the Unravelers for Unraveled Wednesday with the continuation of an old old project and the excitement of a new project that isn't a Hitchhiker. Kat is taking a Necessity of Missing Out break from blogging, but Wednesday is always going to be Unraveled Wednesday to me. 

Since Tuesday finally arrived yesterday, I went to The Yarn Attic and found exactly what I was looking for. It's a wonderful shop, and they made me feel welcome but let me browse. John decided to ride along with me, which probably definitely curtailed my browsing, but one of the women working there engaged him in a conversation about all the fishermen that come into the shop looking for "shrimp nymph pink" yarn so they can tie lures with it. I couldn't interest John in any pink yarn, but I got a delicious skein of sparkly black Anzula Lunaris. I've always wanted to knit something with sparkly yarn and I've finally got my chance.

I'm continuing with the old Hitchhiker and while I like it, it is getting increasingly boring. What would relieve some of that boredom? A new project! I will wind the yarn today and cast on for a Hitch on the Move (Ravelry link). The black and blue Black Elephant skein on the left is something that I bought at The Loopy Ewe, probably because it reminded me of coelacanths in Animal Crossing. (I'm easily amused and happen to love those coelacanths.) Hopefully, I'll have something on the new project to show you by next week, but in the meantime, here is what the Forget-Me-Not Hitchhiker looks like. 

I finished Lady Tan's Circle of Women last week and am struggling to complete Birnam Wood. I took a break from Birnam Wood to read Lady Tan since it has a waiting list at the library. This historical fiction is based on a real historical figure that lived in 15th-century China and wrote a book about her career as a physician. In this fictionalized account, Tan Yunxian is born into an elite family, but that fact restricts her life. She has a limited education, an arranged marriage, her feet are bound, and women are valued for their beauty and fertility. Because her mother dies of an infection from her feet being bound, Tan Yunxian is raised by her grandparents, both doctors. She learns healing arts from this situation, especially because male doctors are not allowed to look at or touch female patients. It's a privileged yet confined life, but Tan Yunxian manages to break some of the class and gender restraints to form satisfying relationships and pursue her goals. The historical detail is extensive and adds to this tale of a remarkable woman.

When I returned to Birnam Wood, all I could think about is what a caricature the bad guy seems to be and I keep waiting to get to the non-stop action part. Soon, I hope!

What are you making and reading this week?

Tuesday, June 27, 2023

Read With Us: It's An Interesting New Book!

Today's the day we announce a new Read With Us book for summer! You might already be aware of this if you were able to attend the last Zoom discussion for Trespasses, but now everyone will know. Would you like to read a book that won the Booker Prize in 2022? How about if the judges said the book "fizzes with energy, imagery and ideas against a broad, surreal vision of the Sri Lankan civil wars"? Who doesn't enjoy fizzy books? :-)

Our Read With Us summer book is The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida. I personally think it has a wonderful cover, and while I haven't read the book yet, I am quite intrigued by the opening sentences:

“You wake up with the answer to the question that everyone asks. The answer is Yes, and the answer is Just Like Here But Worse. That’s all the insight you’ll ever get. So you might as well go back to sleep.”

Maali Almeida is a photojournalist that learns he is dead, stuck in the crowded and bureaucratic afterlife, and has one week to discover who killed him and publish a secret collection of photos that could bring down governments and stop wars. Don't let the setting of Sri Lanka dissuade you. The book was initially published as Chats With the Dead but struggled to find an international publisher. Many of them were afraid that Sri Lankan politics and mythology would be confusing to western readers. The author, Shehan Karunatilaka, tinkered with it for two years, so hopefully someone who knows nothing about Sri Lanka and eastern mythology (like me!) should be able to follow the story.

KymCarole, and I will be talking about the book, giving additional information, and doing promotional posts throughout July. Discussion day for The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida is scheduled for Tuesday, September 19, 2023, at 7:00 pm Eastern time, so mark your calendars. We'll ask questions on our blogs that day and then host the always fun, educational, and entertaining Zoom discussion.

The hardcover, Kindle, and audio versions of the book are all available from my library without any wait, and the audio version is available on Hoopla. The Kindle and paperback versions are inexpensive on Amazon, and I'm sure your local bookseller could order a copy for you if you're lucky enough to have a local bookseller. 

I do hope you'll read The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida with us. I can't resist a book with a great cover, dark comedy, tragedy, brilliant writing, and it's quite possible that I might even learn something.

Monday, June 26, 2023

Sometimes Monday ...

 ... you're just waiting for it to be Tuesday!

Martina Behm (the designer of the Hitchhiker pattern) has published a new pattern called Hitch on the Move (Ravelry link). It's an interesting combination of her Hitchhiker and her Match & Move patterns, and I purchased it as soon as I saw it last week. I knit a Match & Move in two colors that I loved but I rarely wear it because I seem to lack the ability to artfully drape it around my neck and it's always falling off. I've dreamed of knitting something Hitchhiker-esque in those same colors and I finally have the chance. 

Past me was clever enough to buy extra skeins of both of those yarns, so I just had to toss my stash to find them. I did, but I also found a single skein that I don't remember buying but really liked when I came upon it. I didn't have a second color to go with it but took a look at The Yarn Attic's website. This is a nearby yarn store that I've never been to but Dee has spoken of it quite highly. They had a yarn that looked promising but I couldn't decide what color would look best. Of course, the answer was to go and see, but I didn't get there for several reasons - John had truck trouble and that meant I needed to pick him up and follow him to the dealer, pea vines needed to be pulled out in the garden, the peas picked off, blanched, and frozen, and beans had to be planted. I also had a few medical appointments, so it seemed that the universe was conspiring against me going to the yarn store. When I finally finished blanching peas late Saturday afternoon, I was all excited about heading to the yarn store. I did a quick check of their hours and almost cried when I found that they had closed at 4:00 pm. on Saturday and wouldn't reopen until Tuesday morning.

I silently cursed yarn stores that aren't open 24 hours, but sucked it up, continued with my Hitchhiker knitting, and will be in my car and revving my engine at 9:30 tomorrow to enjoy myself at the yarn store in person and hopefully match my yarn. Hopefully, I'll be telling you more about this on Wednesday. 

Wednesday, June 21, 2023

Unraveled Wednesday: 6/21/23

I'm joining Kat and fellow Unravelers with some slightly different making this week. Riding the wave of my previous successful sewing venture, I decided to sew something else. 

So what am I making? A cat bandana!

I would never have thought of this on my own. Justin and Jess went to a craft show and bought a bandana for their cat Nugget. Justin said she looked adorable, and I was so surprised by his choice of adjective (I'm not sure he has ever called anything adorable before) that I thought that even I could sew a few cat bandanas. 

With only five small seams to sew and a bit of pressing, I soon had a reversible cat bandana for Nugget. 

I've resisted cutting and sewing several others until I see how this one works on her. It seems a little bit deep to me, but I can easily adjust the pattern before I make any others. I bet Nugget would love one with cute goldfish and maybe a reversible purple paisley one, too. 

I know that many of you have dogs and/or cats, so if your pet has been begging for a bandana of their own, this is the youtube video I used. 

I haven't read much this week but did re-listen to Claire Keegan's Foster and Small Things Like These. I also read a pre-publication copy of So Late in the DayI thought I had read everything that Claire Keegan has written, so I was overjoyed when I saw this little volume was available on NetGalley. So Late in the Day is a collection of three short stories. I felt the same wonder and appreciation I've previously enjoyed after reading something written by Keegan when I read the title story, "So Late in the Day". But after finishing the second and third stories, it dawned on me that I had read them before. That was when I finally read the book description, "Claire Keegan now gifts us three exquisite stories, newly revised and expanded, together forming a brilliant examination of gender dynamics and an arc from Keegan’s earliest to her most recent work." Reading Claire Keegan's stories once is a treat, and reading them more than once is even better. Intricate yet sparse, full of emotion, pleasure, pain, and fully formed characters in the space of a short story- Claire Keegan's writing has it all. This book will be published on November 14, 2023.

What are you making and reading this week?

Thursday, June 15, 2023

A Gathering of Poetry: June 2023

It's the third Thursday of the month so I'd like to welcome you to A Gathering of Poetry. I perused many of my favorite poets (Mary Oliver, Billy Collins, Ted Kooser, Wislawa Szymborska ...) and while they have all written poems about birthdays, none of them was quite what I was looking for. 

But I found a new-to-me poem by a new-to-me poet that was just right. The Academy of American Poets website allows you to search more than 10,000 poems by occasion, theme, and form, so this is an excellent resource if you're ever looking for a poem (rather than waiting for one to come to you).

by Joyce Sutphen

The second half of my life will be black 
to the white rind of the old and fading moon. 
The second half of my life will be water 
over the cracked floor of these desert years. 
I will land on my feet this time, 
knowing at least two languages and who 
my friends are. I will dress for the 
occasion, and my hair shall be 
whatever color I please.
Everyone will go on celebrating the old 
birthday, counting the years as usual, 
but I will count myself new from this 
inception, this imprint of my own desire.

The second half of my life will be swift, 
past leaning fenceposts, a gravel shoulder, 
asphalt tickets, the beckon of open road. 
The second half of my life will be wide-eyed, 
fingers shifting through fine sands, 
arms loose at my sides, wandering feet. 
There will be new dreams every night, 
and the drapes will never be closed. 
I will toss my string of keys into a deep 
well and old letters into the grate.

The second half of my life will be ice
breaking up on the river, rain
soaking the fields, a hand
held out, a fire,
and smoke going
upward, always up.


Sutphen, Joyce. "Crossroads". Straight Out of View, Holy Cow! Press: Duluth, 1995. 

You can read more about the poet here

(And Happy 66th Birthday to me!)


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, June 14, 2023

Unraveled Wednesday: 6/14/23

I'm joining Kat and fellow Unravelers for Unraveled Wednesday. If it's Wednesday, it must be time for yet another picture of the Hitchhiker (which might look a lot like the previous one). 

The other Wollmeise rolls that I knit with had a distinctive gradient - green to yellow and blue to purple. (I'm including photos of them here so I don't have to subject you endlessly to the same Hitchhiker!)

The one I'm knitting with now is called Vergi√ümeinnicht, which translates to Forget-Me-Not. So maybe there isn't going to be a distinctive gradient, but more of a tonal blue. That's what it's looking like so far. 

The books I read this week were all three stars for me. Two were pre-publication copies from Netgalley, Terrace Story and North Woods. The premise of books often sounds better to me than the actual book turns out to be, but you can click on the links to see if they might be books you would enjoy. The third book was How High We Go In the Dark. Kat recommended this one and I'm glad I read it, but I still can't figure out why it was such compelling reading. It is set in 2030 as archaeologists are excavating in Siberia when they unwittingly release a deadly virus. Yes, we've all gone through a multi-year pandemic, but this one is much worse and death becomes almost a way of life, and class and financial resources matter. The book is written as a series of interconnected chapters about the ways society finds to deal with death on a scale that has never been seen before. These include euthanasia theme parks, elegy hotels for the dead, a father trying to be a parent to a laboratory pig who has developed human speech, and lost lives and voices preserved in robo-dogs. Some of these are downright creepy and it will probably be a while before I read another dark science fiction novel, but I will be thinking about this unsettling book for a long time.

But I'm now reading a pre-publication copy of Claire Keegan's newest, So Late in the Day. It's three short stories but because Claire Keegan is one of my very favorite authors, I want to make these exquisite stories last as long as possible. 

What are you making and reading this week?

Monday, June 12, 2023

Right Now: June 2023

It's always a good time for a Right Now post, especially because I seem to have skipped them in April and May. Here's what's going on Right Now. 

Grateful - That the smoke here has dissipated. The photo above is a smoky sunrise last Thursday, and the one below was taken on our way over to Ryan's last Wednesday. Ryan said that he thought he was leaving wildfire smoke behind when he left Colorado, but that was not the case last week. At least he doesn't need a go bag, packed and ready, and he does not have to sweep up ash and cinders. But the people in Canada are still enduring wildfires and I do hope that many more of them can be controlled soon (and then there is the causal issue of climate change which isn't going to just go away).

Chuckling About - My sister called me last week to tell me not to hang my laundry outside. I think she was just being funny, and I hope she doesn't think I'm senile (yet). Thanks, Jill!

Eating - Watermelon rind pickles! They are delicious and I can see myself making more of these this summer. I even ordered whole allspice berries from Penzey's for the next time I have some watermelon rind. 

Eating With Ryan -
John and Justin went walleye fishing in NY last weekend, so I took the opportunity to go to Ryan's so we could eat something that John has no interest in. (Ryan thinks that John doesn't like flavor in his food.) Our choices were flavorful tacos, Thai, or Indian, and we decided to try tacos. They were delicious, flavorful, and just the right amount of spicy. 

Eating From the Garden - Snow peas. They are prolific, and of course, John planted four rows, so I'm also blanching and freezing them. That's good because I have no garden vegetables in the freezer and have been forced to buy them at the grocery store. John thinks this is a sad state of affairs but I'm starting to remedy this. Every night at dinner he asks, "Don't these peas taste great?" and they do (but I like them better raw).

Talking About at Dinner - Besides commenting on how good the peas taste and discussing the merits of raw vs. cooked snow peas, we seem to be talking about carburetors. John bought an old Jeep last year when he retired so he would have a project. It's been entertaining to me because nothing worked for a long time. He's worked on the gas tank, turn signals, and wiring in general, but after doing those things, he still had the issue that it wouldn't start and idle. So he painted it. That didn't solve the not starting problem, but the Jeep is now green instead of an ugly purple-brown. He installed a new distributor and can now start it, but he has to rebuild the carburetor and fix the connection with the gas pedal. This involves things I haven't yet learned about, but I'll be sure to tell you all about them when I do. (Ha! Just kidding!)

Making - Crispy Oven Pulled Pork that Kym told us about a while ago. I made this for dinner last night and it was delicious. John and Justin were returning from their fishing trip and I wanted to have something ready that I didn't have to rush around and make when they arrived and announced that they were starving. This was the best use of a pork roast I've had in a long time. Our dinnertime conversation was centered around fish (which was an improvement over carburetors)!

Grudgingly Keeping Up With - My PT exercises. These are not difficult but should be done two or three times each day and are painful. My hips and back felt pretty good after the cortisone injections and when I began PT but I think I'm working new muscles and feeling some pain. (At least that's what my physical therapist says.) I do usually feel better after doing the exercises, but I have to make myself do them and usually have a good audiobook saved for that purpose

Enjoying - a nice long chat on the phone with a friend who is fixing up a house in Connecticut that she and her husband bought for their son and his wife. Their son is finishing up his PhD at Cornell and his wife is starting her PhD at U Conn. Usually, we try to get together in person, but talking to her on the phone was just what I needed.   

What's going on in your world right now? 

Friday, June 9, 2023

Museum of Me: June 2023

Hello and welcome to the Museum of Me. It's the second Friday in June and time for a new installment. This month we ask the important questions: What is your happy place? Has it changed as you’ve aged? Before you enter the Museum, I think I should warn you that this may be the most boring exhibit since the Museum opened. I've thought long and hard about it and was tempted to dream up some imaginary and interesting place, but in the end, I decided to simply go with the truth. 

This is my knitting chair, at home in my living room in New Jersey. It's a love seat, so I very often have my knitting bags, Kindle, real books, notebook for important things I want to remember, and my tea mug right next to me and within easy reach. There is a good lamp over my left shoulder, perfect for knitting at night (or when there are smoky and dark skies). The lamp also makes it my reading chair, and there is a small end table just to the right that holds knitting accouterments and my TBR pile. I can see (or at least listen to) the TV in case I am watching something good for knitting. My chair is in the living room so there is a couch and other chairs which is where people tend to sit if they happen to be visiting. I'm happy to visit with people, especially if I get to knit while we're conversing. So it's not exotic, impressive, or unusual, but it is the place where I am pretty consistently happy. 

This has changed a bit as I've aged. When the boys were little I might have said that my happy place was anywhere I could have 10 minutes of peace and quiet. Now, I would love to make an occasional return to those days. When Ryan was in Colorado, I probably would have called Fort Collins my happy place. I got to visit Ryan, enjoy good food and great craft beer, hike in some interesting places, and go to The Loopy Ewe. I'm sure Fort Collins is still a lovely locale, but neither Ryan nor The Loopy Ewe is there anymore, and good food and beer are available in lots of other places. So now it's my knitting and reading chair. Sometimes I'm so happy there that I have to make an effort to get up, move around, and get some exercise. 

So how about you? I'd love to hear about your happy place and whether it's changed over the years. We'll be back on the second Friday of July with a brand-new installation. Thank you for visiting The Museum of Me!

Wednesday, June 7, 2023

Unraveled Wednesday: 6/7/23

I'm happy to join Kat and fellow Unravelers for Unraveled Wednesday. All I've got for you is a boring photo of the same Hitchhiker, just with a few more teeth. If I squint at it in the right light, I can convince myself that the yarn is starting to change just the slightest bit (getting a bit darker) but I'll admit that I can't see that in the picture. so I'll just keep knitting and see what happens next.

There is darker yarn coming; I can see it more clearly in the ball!

Reading was fairly productive this past week, mainly because I had to catch up on a few Netgalley titles and some library holds I had placed. I read plenty of average three-star (or even 2.5 stars) books that I won't elaborate on here; you can always follow the links to goodreads and see if they might be your cup of tea. The books were While Justice Sleeps by Stacey Abrams, Hello Beautiful by Ann Napolitano, and The Making of Another Major Motion Picture Masterpiece by Tom Hanks. The Tom Hanks book was such a disappointment, but maybe my expectations were too high. Let's just say it badly needed an editor. 

I finally read Educated by Tara Westover and it was a wild ride, full of violence, accidents, abuse, mental health issues, and thankfully, education. I thought the book deserved four stars and she deserves all the accolades for becoming her own person and her writing. 

Last, I finished a pre-publication copy of Return to Valetto, recommended by Kat. It was another four-star book for me, and since it will be published on June 13, you'll be able to find it next week. I loved The Last Painting of Sara de Vos and even as I requested Return to Valetto from NetGalley, I wondered if the author could come close to recreating that same magic. The answer is yes. This novel tells the story of historian Hugh Fisher heading to a tiny Italian village where his aging aunts still live. This is six years after his wife has died and his daughter Susan is afraid that going to Valetto is just another opportunity to wallow in sadness and never be happy again. Hugh's mother has just died and left him an old stone cottage in Valetto but he finds it occupied by Elsa Tomassi who says that it was promised to her family. There are secrets, betrayals, and wrongs that need to be righted, but the writing was never overly melodramatic, just Smith's lovely prose. I also loved this quote from the book:

"We want history to be a unified narrative, a casual, linear plot that cantilevers across the centuries, but I’ve always pictured it like a filigree of a wrought-iron gate, our unaccountable lives twisting and swooping against a few vertical lines."

What are you making and reading this week?

Tuesday, June 6, 2023

Read With Us: Trespasses Discussion Time

Today is the discussion day for our Read With Us Spring selection, Trespasses by Louise Kennedy. KymCarole, and I are each posting discussion questions on our blogs today, and you are welcome to respond in the comments. I would also encourage you to reply to others' comments if you choose. This is a book discussion, after all, so there are no correct answers or right opinions. I've been looking forward to discussing this book ever since I finished it, and I don't know of a better bunch of people for a book discussion than all of you.

I was especially intrigued by the UK cover, just as I was interested in how Kennedy chose to bookend the beginning and end of the story with the art installation in 2015. 

This is a bronze sculpture by F.E. McWilliams entitled Woman in a Bomb Blast. I can imagine the sculpture that Kennedy describes as similar but the sculpture in the book is made of "resin, fabric, glass fiber. A white figure on a plinth, chalky, sarcophagal, a shrouded look about the face, features indistinct. The body is oddly sexless, though it is a male; there is breadth in the torso, bulk at the chest. From the waist up he looks peaceful, sleeping head near the bend of an arm. There is something not right about the pose, though; his limbs are splayed awkwardly, have not been arranged. ... the disordered configuration is shocking, hinting at the violence of the moment of the subject's murder and the chaos of the hours that followed."

So the questions I'd like to pose are these: In its final section, the book continues with the year 2015 when Cushla and Davy encounter each other again. What has changed for them, and about them? How does Cushla seem to look back at the events of their shared past? What does the ending leave indefinite?

What do you think? I can't wait to hear your thoughts!

And don't forget we will have an in-person Zoom discussion at 7:00 pm Eastern this evening. You can send me an email (the email address is in the upper right) to RSVP and I will make sure you get an invitation with the Zoom link if you haven't already. I hope to see you there!

Monday, June 5, 2023

In a Pickle

I've been buying one of those small round watermelons each week for the past month and have been surprised at how good they've been. I usually cut them up into bite-sized pieces and then John and I have a ready supply of nice cold watermelon (especially welcome when it's 95 degrees like it was on Friday).

I was a little disappointed when I cut this one in half; it's not the bright red of a really ripe watermelon. But it still tastes okay, and then I remembered something that Vera mentioned - pickled watermelon rind! I looked for a recipe and decided to give it a try. 

I cut off the dark outer rind and then cut the rind pieces into spears, enough to fill two quart jars. Then I made the brine.

It looks a little dark and murky, thanks to the apple cider vinegar, but it smells delicious, thanks to the vanilla and pickling spices. The recipe calls for whole allspice berries but I didn't have any, so I just added an extra tablespoon of pickling spices. I doubled the brine recipe and had enough to fill both of my quart jars. 

I ladled the brine into the jars, and voil√† - watermelon rind pickles! You're supposed to cool and refrigerate them for at least 24 hours to let the flavors develop, so I haven't tried them yet. I'll report back when I do. The brine smelled so delicious, so I'm hoping the pickles are just as delectable. Fingers crossed!