Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Unraveled Wednesday: 4/17/24

I'm happy to join Kat and the Unravelers today, with something old and something new. Last week I expressed concern that I was subjecting you, dear readers, to the same photo of my Hitch on the Move week after week. I'll put this in the "be careful what you wish for" department. I was happily knitting along when I noticed that I had dropped a stitch. After securing it with a locking stitch marker, I attempted to fix it. This is not exceptionally difficult but I seem to become all thumbs when repairing garter stitch.

I decided to tink back down six or seven rows. That would give me fewer rows to fix and still ensure that I was able to keep track of the pattern. When knitting Hitch on the Move you only work with one side/one color at a time and tinking would make sure that I didn't mess up the pattern. After a few hours of unraveling, I was left with some loose ramen yarn because it had only been knit for about 12 hours or so. 

Then I spent another hour with a crochet hook working the dropped stitch back up. I finally finished at about my bedtime and decided it was best to put it down and look at the repair in the bright light of morning to make sure it really was fixed. And it was! I knit all the loose ramen, so the picture below really is pretty much like last week. I'm trying to be more careful and not drop stitches so I don't have to do all of that again. 


But I have come up with an idea for another project or two. I'm cat-sitting Justin's cat, Nugget, next week, and I thought it might be nice to make her a couple of toys. 

So I bought 100 Little Knitted Projects and some catnip. John just shook his head when I said that I wanted to take my grand-cat a few small presents when I visited her, but I'm betting that all of you understand. I haven't cast on anything yet, but I might start with the pig if I can find some pig-appropriate yarn in my stash. 

I've finished four books since last week but this post is already long enough, so I think I'll review them separately on Friday. 

What are you making and reading this week?

Thursday, April 11, 2024

National Poetry Month: A Poem by Ross Gay

To celebrate National Poetry Month, several of us are sharing poetry with you on Thursdays in April. Today's topic is about something we can all use more of, wherever and whenever we can find it - the joyousness and emotional remembrance present in the poetry of Ross Gay.

The only thing I knew about Eric Garner was that he was killed by the NYPD who had placed him into a chokehold despite the fact that Mr. Garner told them 11 times that he couldn't breathe. Ross Gay read that Garner had worked in the horticultural department and wrote about many items in his life rather than focusing solely on his death. 


A Small Needful Fact
by Ross Gay

Is that Eric Garner worked
for some time for the Parks and Rec.
Horticultural Department, which means,
perhaps, that with his very large hands,
perhaps, in all likelihood,
he put gently into the earth
some plants which, most likely,
some of them, in all likelihood,
continue to grow, continue
to do what such plants do, like house
and feed small and necessary creatures,
like being pleasant to touch and smell,
like converting sunlight
into food, like making it easier
for us to breathe.

====

Copyright © 2015 by Ross Gay. Reprinted from Split This Rock’s The Quarry: A Social Justice Poetry Database. 

You can read more about the poet here

====

Be sure to check in with KymKat, and Sarah for more poetry by Ross Gay today, and join us next Thursday for more poems in celebration of National Poetry Month. (And remember that any time is good for poetry, not just Thursdays in April!)



Wednesday, April 10, 2024

Unraveled Wednesday: 4/10/24

I'm happy to join Kat and the Unravelers for one of the highlights of my week, Unraveled Wednesday! I've got the same old HotM once again, but at least I could take my photo outdoors so the colors are fairly true.


I have thought about starting some small projects so I'm not always showing you the same old thing. None of the sock yarn in my stash struck me but I have had an idea while writing this, so hopefully next week you'll see something else in addition to HotM.

One of the books I read this week was American Mother. It's a poignant, compelling, and very difficult book to read. Colum McCann has written the story of Diane Foley, mother of American journalist Jim Foley who was kidnapped, tortured, and killed in a horrific way in Syria. It's hard for me to understand how Jim Foley could have willingly gone into Syria, knowing full well the danger he was placing himself in, so I appreciated the biographical information about Jim's childhood and road to becoming a journalist. It's also difficult for me to understand how his mother could sit down with one of his killers, but Diane Foley has chosen to channel her grief into working for policy changes in the US to bring hostages back home. I welcomed the chance to read about and remember people like Jim Foley.

I also reread My Name is Lucy Barton in excited anticipation of Tell Me Everything later this summer. I'm not sure I would say now that My Name is Lucy Barton is better than Olive Kitteridge, but it's right up there vying for a top spot. I loved revisiting Lucy, and even though I've read three other books featuring her, I will never tire of listening to her try to make sense of the world and her family while she tries to find hope in darkness and dysfunction. Elizabeth Strout is a master of writing that is spare but rich in meaning.

What are you making and reading this week? 

Monday, April 8, 2024

A Little Bit Rattled

I had been feeling under the weather for much of last week - headache, cough, congestion, etc. I did a covid test and it was negative but I still had no energy and felt best sitting under an afghan trying to stay warm. But I got a bit of a wake-up about 10:25 on Friday morning. 


I heard a huge bang first and then the whole house shook for 10 seconds or so. The china cupboard banged against the wall and all the dishes rattled. They're doing heavy construction work a block away on Main St. so my first thought was that there had been a gas explosion or a crane had collapsed. There didn't seem to be any sirens or smoke, so then I did wonder if maybe it was an earthquake. I went to USGS but there was nothing, so I checked the next most reliable source of information - facebook. Loads of "knowledgeable" people there thought that it was an earthquake, and by then USGS had confirmed a 4.8 magnitude earthquake about nine miles northeast of us. 


I've lived in Flemington for more than 30 years but never knew that earthquakes could happen here. I also learned that there are faults in NJ and we live at the confluence of three of them. We've felt a couple of small aftershocks but they were milder and much shorter in duration. Even a little earthquake was a bit unnerving, so I can hardly imagine what it would be like to live in Taiwan or CA or another earthquake-prone place. 

So that was the most exciting part of my weekend. Now that I know what an earthquake sounds and feels like, I'm ready to experience my next natural phenomenon - the solar eclipse this afternoon. I hope your week is off to a good start and you're not feeling rattled!

Thursday, April 4, 2024

National Poetry Month: A Poem About Humanity

To celebrate National Poetry Month, several of us are sharing poetry with you on Thursdays in April. Today's topic is about something we can all use more of, wherever and whenever we can find it - peace and humanity. This poem by Mohja Kahf says to me that humanity can be found almost anywhere, including the sink in the bathroom at Sears. 


My Grandmother Washes Her Feet in the Sink of the Bathroom at Sears
By Mohja Kahf

My grandmother puts her feet in the sink
        of the bathroom at Sears
to wash them in the ritual washing for prayer,
wudu,
because she has to pray in the store or miss
the mandatory prayer time for Muslims
She does it with great poise, balancing
herself with one plump matronly arm
against the automated hot-air hand dryer,
after having removed her support knee-highs
and laid them aside, folded in thirds,
and given me her purse and her packages to hold
so she can accomplish this august ritual
and get back to the ritual of shopping for housewares

Respectable Sears matrons shake their heads and frown
as they notice what my grandmother is doing,
an affront to American porcelain,
a contamination of American Standards
by something foreign and unhygienic
requiring civic action and possible use of disinfectant spray
They fluster about and flutter their hands and I can see
a clash of civilizations brewing in the Sears bathroom

My grandmother, though she speaks no English,
catches their meaning and her look in the mirror says,
I have washed my feet over Iznik tile in Istanbul
with water from the world's ancient irrigation systems
I have washed my feet in the bathhouses of Damascus
over painted bowls imported from China
among the best families of Aleppo
And if you Americans knew anything
about civilization and cleanliness,
you'd make wider washbins, anyway
My grandmother knows one culture—the right one,

as do these matrons of the Middle West. For them,
my grandmother might as well have been squatting
in the mud over a rusty tin in vaguely tropical squalor,
Mexican or Middle Eastern, it doesn't matter which,
when she lifts her well-groomed foot and puts it over the edge.
"You can't do that," one of the women protests,
turning to me, "Tell her she can't do that."
"We wash our feet five times a day,"
my grandmother declares hotly in Arabic.
"My feet are cleaner than their sink.
Worried about their sink, are they? I
should worry about my feet!"
My grandmother nudges me, "Go on, tell them."

Standing between the door and the mirror, I can see
at multiple angles, my grandmother and the other shoppers,
all of them decent and goodhearted women, diligent
in cleanliness, grooming, and decorum
Even now my grandmother, not to be rushed,
is delicately drying her pumps with tissues from her purse
For my grandmother always wears well-turned pumps
that match her purse, I think in case someone
from one of the best families of Aleppo
should run into her—here, in front of the Kenmore display

I smile at the midwestern women
as if my grandmother has just said something lovely about them
and shrug at my grandmother as if they
had just apologized through me
No one is fooled, but I

hold the door open for everyone
and we all emerge on the sales floor
and lose ourselves in the great common ground
of housewares on markdown.

   ====

Mohja Kahf, "My Grandmother Washes Her Feet in the Sink of the Bathroom at Sears" from E-mails from Scheherazad. University Press of Florida, 2003.
You can read more about the poet here
====
Be sure to check in with KymKat, and Sarah for more poetry full of peace and humanity today, and join us next Thursday for more poems in celebration of National Poetry Month. (And remember that any time is good for poetry, not just Thursdays in April!)

Wednesday, April 3, 2024

Unraveled Wednesday: 4/3/24

I'm happy to join Kat and the Unravelers with the second installment of my Hitch on the Move. I hope I've knit enough on it that it no longer looks like a bikini like last week. I tried to be careful when taking the photos!



It was dark and very rainy outside when I took these so they're pretty dark. Hopefully, it will be done raining next week and I can take some better pictures outdoors. 

I got a nasty cold and cough from John, so I've been content to drink hot tea, knit, watch Call the Midwife, and breathe in the aroma of Vicks. Despite a pounding headache, I did manage to finish one very good book. I've been fortunate to read a string of ARCs recently with four and five-star ratings, but The God of the Woods was the best of all of them. I loved Heft and The Unseen World, both penned by the talented Liz Moore, so I requested a copy from Edelweiss. While mysteries aren't typically my cup of tea, this novel transcends genre, offering a richly literary and intricately woven narrative populated by finely drawn characters. It delves into themes of family dynamics, social class, privilege, gender politics, and the weight of long-held secrets, all against the backdrop of Camp Emerson nestled in the Adirondacks within the Van Laar Preserve.

Set in 1975, the story centers around the disappearance of camper Barbara Van Laar, a mystery that may (or may not) hold ties to her brother's vanishing in 1961. Moore masterfully employs a non-linear storytelling approach, skillfully building suspense as the narrative unfolds. The novel's unexpected and satisfying conclusion captivated me, fulfilling that elusive craving for a truly gripping read that I don't often encounter. I've said this several times recently, but this book will be among my top favorites this year.

Thank you to Riverhead Books and Edelweiss for providing me with a copy of this book. It will be published on July 2, 2024. There is a giveaway for the book on Goodreads if you are interested. 

What are you making and reading this week? 

Tuesday, April 2, 2024

Read With Us: It's A New Book!



Today is the day we announce a new Read With Us book for spring! You might already be aware of this if you were able to attend the last Zoom discussion for The Poisonwood Bible, but now everyone will know. We haven't read a memoir in quite a while, but this selection has been called "a lyrical, intricate memoir of tremendous courage and truth about things that make and unmake us; and how we make, remake, and fashion ourselves out of these complex legacies." It's also "a story about the redemptive forces of the creative life, and the many forms of self-making, resilience, and reconciliation that unfold in the family." The book is How to Say Babylon by Safiya Sinclair. 


From the author's website, "How to Say Babylon is the stunning story of the author’s struggle to break free of her rigid Rastafarian upbringing, ruled by her father’s strict patriarchal views and repressive control of her childhood, to find her own voice as a woman and poet." H

"How to Say Babylon is Sinclair’s reckoning with the culture that initially nourished but ultimately sought to silence her; it is her reckoning with patriarchy and tradition, and the legacy of colonialism in Jamaica. Rich in lyricism and language only a poet could evoke, How to Say Babylon is both a universal story of a woman finding her own power and a unique glimpse into a rarefied world we may know how to name, Rastafari, but one we know little about." I know very little about Jamaica aside from Bob Marley, so I'm looking forward to reading this and learning something.

KymCarole, and I will be talking about the book, giving additional information, and doing promotional posts throughout April and May. Discussion day for How to Say Babylon is scheduled for Tuesday, June 11, 2024, 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 with some wait. Hopefully, we'll all have plenty of time to place a hold, get the book, and read it.  The Kindle and hardcover versions are priced reasonably 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 How to Say Babylon with us. I can't resist a book with an intriguing cover, written by a poet, and I might even learn something. 

Come Read With Us!

Monday, April 1, 2024

Mistaken Identity

Okay, I learned my lesson on Friday and I will not be posting about politics again. I've been berated, chided, maligned, and spammed. But here is another important news story that I feel compelled to tell you about. (In case you're wondering, this is not an April Fool's joke!) Last Thursday, a woman took what she thought was a baby hedgehog to Lower Moss Nature Reserve and Wildlife Hospital in Cheshire, England.

She noticed it on the side of the road and after she observed that it "hadn't moved or pooped all night" she scooped it up in a box with some cat food. She didn't look at it closely or handle it because she didn't want to further stress the hedgehog. 


Once the staff at the wildlife hospital had examined the hedgehog they were able to determine that it was actually a pom-pom from a hat. “She was so concentrated on doing the right thing. She was concerned it hadn’t moved or even pooed — that would be spooky if it had,” veterinarian Janet Kotze added. 

The fact that the pom-pom was mistaken for a hedgehog and "rescued" is funny enough (but certainly understandable). It was the vet's comment that really made me laugh. 

I hope your week is off to a good start. You can be sure that I'll report any important news stories if I come across them, but stay tuned for the announcement of our spring Read With Us book tomorrow!

Friday, March 29, 2024

Someone I Could Feel Good Voting For?

You've probably seen this, but I can't help feeling a little bit of hope about this story. I definitely don't, can't, and never will support Trump, but I also think it just might be time for Biden to leave the political arena, even though he is clearly more sane and principled than his opponent. So who to vote for? Literally Anybody Else. 


This story tells us about the Texas teacher who legally changed his name to Literally Anybody Else because he was unhappy with the candidates for President. Chances are that his name will not even appear on the TX primary ballot because an independent candidate needs to obtain the signatures of 113,151 registered voters who did not vote in the presidential primary of either party. That is an oddly specific number but it's also a very high bar to meet. 

But Mr. Else has given enough thought to his candidacy to put his policies on his website. I would love to support a candidate who would work for quality healthcare for every American, improving education for tomorrow, housing affordability for all, and securing our borders responsibly by promoting "legal immigration pathways while simultaneously fortifying border security to deter criminal elements." These items along with his other policies are things that I would like to think all of us want. 

"For too long have Americans been a victim of its political parties putting party loyalty over governance. Together let's send the message to Washington and say, “You will represent the people or be replaced.” America should not be stuck choosing between the “King of Debt” (his self-declaration) and an 81-year-old. Literally Anybody Else isn’t a just a person, it’s a rally cry."

I may be putting this bumper sticker on my car:


This is all slightly amusing but it's also sad and serious. (You have to laugh so you don't cry.)

Thursday, March 28, 2024

A Bunch of Books

Since I haven't posted about books that I've read for several weeks, I decided to put them all together in a book post. They are all Advance Reader's Copies and I enjoyed some good reading!

The first is entitled Same As It Ever Was by Claire Lombardo. I had some trouble getting into and enjoying Claire Lombardo's debut novel, The Most Fun We Ever Had, but I slid easily and enthusiastically into Same As It Ever Was. The description of the story may sound dull and banal, but I found it completely immersive. At fifty-seven, Julia Ames finally feels like she may have gotten a handle on things. She was raised by a mother who didn't understand her and seemed emotionally unavailable; Julia got into some emotionally devastating situations. She is understandably prickly and standoffish, but she marries a man named Mark, has two children of her own, Ben and Alma, and tries her very best, all the while feeling like she isn't doing anything right.

While shopping for her husband's 60th birthday party, Julia runs into a friend who 20 years ago made her feel seen and understood, but also made it possible for Julia to continue her self-sabotage. Claire Lombardo successfully explores friendship, long-term marriage, motherhood, and family dynamics through her stunning writing, taking us from Julia's adolescence through her marriage, to her deep friendship with Helen Russo, and all that came afterward. This is domestic drama at its best; by that I mean a story that is written with understandable emotions and realistic well-drawn characters. One of the things I liked best about Same As It Ever Was was how it made me feel seen and understood. This was five stars for me. 

Thank you to Edelweiss and Doubleday for providing me with a copy of this book. It will be published on June 18, 2024.


If you enjoy fantasy or tales of King Arthur, I can highly recommend The Bright Sword by Lev Grossman. When I read that Lev Grossman had written a new book, I went right to Edelweiss to request a copy of The Bright Sword. It was everything I hoped it might be and more. I read that the author has been working on the book since 2015 and it shows, in extensive research and amazing storytelling. While the subtitle is A Novel of King Arthur this is not simply a mediocre retelling of the King Arthur story that so many are familiar with. Grossman introduces a new knight as the protagonist, Collum of the Out Isles. Collum makes his way to Camelot only to find most of the knights gone and the Round Table in shambles. Arthur is dead, along with most of his knights, and there is no heir. Those who are left are mainly previously minor characters that other authors have not found worthy to tell their stories. In this author's hands, Sir Dinadan, Sir Bedivere, Sir Dagonet the Fool, and Sir Palomides rise to the forefront. It is up to Collum and these not-so-minor characters to see if things can be set right. The Bright Sword has all that we've come to expect from Arthurian legend, magical swords, knights, and evil wizards, but Lev Grossman has written with originality and given characters new motivations that make this a book well worth reading. This was another five-star book for me. 

Thank you to Edelweiss and Viking for providing me with a copy of this book. It will be published on July 16, 2024.


Agony Hill by Sarah Stewart Taylor is the only four-star book in the bunch. It's the first book in a new series featuring Franklin Warren. Set in 1965, Detective Warren leaves Boston because of a tragedy in his own life and moves to Bethany, Vermont as a State Police Detective. There is a barn fire on his first night there, and Warren is charged with determining if the death of Hugh Weber was suicide or murder. Weber was found in a room in the barn that had been locked from the inside, so while things seem clear at first, they become murkier on further investigation.

There are a whole host of suspects and others living in Bethany, and it is a lovely quaint setting with excellent descriptions of Vermont. Several of the characters (like Alice Bellows and Arthur Crannock) seem extraneous and a distraction in this novel, but they may become more important in subsequent volumes. I enjoyed this initial novel and getting to know Franklin Warren and his neighbors and colleagues in Bethany, and would consider reading subsequent entries in the series. 3.5 stars rounded up.

Thanks to St. Martins Press/Minotaur Books and NetGalley for providing me with a copy of this book. It will be published on August 6, 2024.


Lastly, there is
Sandwich by Catherine Newman. 
The author's previous novel We All Want Impossible Things was an average three-star book for me, but Sandwich was easily five stars. It's the story of Rachel (nicknamed Rocky), her easy-going husband Nick, and their grown children Willa and Jamie (and Jamie's girlfriend Maya) vacationing for a week at the same beach house on Cape Cod that they've rented for 20 years. Newman's writing about the mishaps of vacation (clogged toilet, strep throat, and a hospital visit) is very realistic but also quite funny. Throughout the week, Rocky reminisces about the early days of motherhood and these are also honest, poignant, and funny. Rocky is currently menopausal and prone to hot flashes, so we're treated to more humor and realism combined perfectly. The whole book was the perfect combination of realism, some not-very-good things, poignancy, humor, a few secrets, and lots of love, respect, and communication among family members. I'm fairly sure that Sandwich will be one of my top books this year.
"And this may be the only reason we were put on this earth. To say to each other, I know how you feel. To say, Same. To say, I understand how hard it is to be a parent, a kid. To say, Your shell stank and you're sad. I've been there."
(This quote will make complete sense if you do yourself a favor and read the book.)

Thank you to Edelweiss and Harper for providing me with a copy of this book. It will be published on June 18, 2024.

There are currently giveaways for The Bright Sword, Agony Hill, and Sandwich on Goodreads if you are interested. Here's hoping you're reading some good books!

Wednesday, March 27, 2024

Unraveled Wednesday: 3/27/24

I'm happy to join Kat and her Merry Band of Unravelers with a new project. This is the beginning of a Hitch on the Move (Ravelry link). 


There has already been some unraveling. I split the yarn in one of the kfbs, and my attempts at fixing it were unsuccessful. I unraveled 20 rows or so, counted carefully, placed my marker, and resumed knitting. I hope it's okay now and it was a good exercise for me to really get the pattern clear in my mind.

I last talked about books a couple of weeks ago, and I've read several in that time. Since there are four of them I'll be back tomorrow with a post just about books. 

What are you making and reading this week?

Friday, March 22, 2024

Unraveled Wednesday on a Friday: 3/22/24

Ta-da! My Hydrophily is done! I struggled to find a way to take pictures that showed just how lovely it is, and in the end, I took a bunch and hoped for the best.

Sarah's pattern really is a marvel. I followed along while she was knitting her sample and anxiously awaited the pattern release. I think it's a wonder that she could conceive of something so beautiful and then figure out the mechanics of how to knit it. She did that incredibly well and I thank you, Sarah! 


I had an idea in my mind and I'm so pleased that it worked out with a gradient set and a couple of lovely skeins of gray fingering. 

I'm wearing it over my gnome overalls and it probably deserves a much fancier outfit, but until I get my ball gown (just kidding; I don't really have one) back from the cleaners, this will do just fine. 

Now it's time to finish winding my yarn for my second Hitch on the Move. My last one was not quite large enough to suit me, so this time I've got four skeins so I can make it as large as I'd like. That's a good thing but it means I've got four skeins to hand-wind because I'm too cheap to buy a swift and winder. It looks like it's going to be a rainy weekend here, but I'm content to sit inside wind, knit, and read while wearing my Hydrophily. I hope you all enjoy a lovely weekend with things you enjoy!

Thursday, March 21, 2024

A Gathering of Poetry: March 2024

It's the third Thursday of the month so I'd like to welcome you to A Gathering of Poetry. Since the spring equinox happened on Tuesday and we are approaching gardening season, I thought this poem was appropriate. A friend sent it to me over a month ago, and as soon as I read it, I knew it was perfect and needed to be shared.


Compost Happens
by Laura Grace Weldon

Nature teaches nothing is lost.
It’s transmuted.

Spread between rows of beans,
last year’s rusty leaves tamp down weeds.
Coffee grounds and banana peels
foster rose blooms. Bread crumbs
scattered for birds become song.
Leftovers offered to chickens come back
as eggs, yolks sunrise orange.
Broccoli stems and bruised apples
fed to cows return as milk steaming in the pail,
as patties steaming in the pasture.

Surely our shame and sorrow
also return,
composted by years
into something generative as wisdom.

====

Weldon, Grace Laura. "Compost Happens". Blackbird, Grayson Books, 2019.
You can read more about the poet here
====
Thanks for reading and joining us for our monthly Gathering of Poetry. You are more than welcome to add your link below if you would like to share one of your favorite poems. The more the merrier!

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