Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Reading Goals 2015

In 2014 I signed up for two reading challenges: Tuesday's Wednesday 2014-reading-challenge (read 24 books from 24 different categories) and Roof Beam Reader's TBR pile challenge  (read 12 books that have been on your to-read list for over a year)  My list

For the 2014 reading challenge, the rules were too convuluted for me and involved forcing choices on myself, and adding books to my list, instead of stitcking to the books that had been on my list for a while.

This year, I'm signing up again for the TBR challenge.  I think this challenge best fits my goals and this time, I tried to choose more of a mix of titles. I did end up picking 4 books over 400 pages, but I knocked a few off that were almost 1,000 pages, so I hope that will help me complete the challenge.

2015 TBR Pile Challenge Book List (my official list post)

  1. In the Woods (Dublin Murder Squad, #1) by Tana French
  2. The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
  3. Moby-Dick; or, The Whale by Herman Melville
  4. East Is East by T.C. Boyle
  5. Everything Is Illuminated by Foer, Jonathan Safran
  6. My Life in France by Julia Child
  7. Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell*
  8. The Housekeeper and the Professor by Ogawa, Yōko
  9. The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet by Reif Larsen
  10. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
  11. Borderliners by Peter Høeg
  12. Silent Spring by Rachel Carson
 Two alternates:
  1.  Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly by Anthony Bourdain
  2. The Postmistress by Sarah Blake
I also aimed to read 60 books as part of the Goodreads 2014 reading challenge. I managed to read 56 out of 60. For 2015 my goal is 60 books again.

I have participated in the Goodreads reading challenge since 2011.

2011 52 of 52 read
2012 34 of 40 read
2013 55 of 55 read
2014 56 of 60 read 

Monday, August 18, 2014

Book Review - Southern Fried Sushi

Southern Fried Sushi by

I can't really remember what made me try this book. It was a free title available on the Kindle, so I'm sure that was a major factor. I go through periods of downloading free books because they're free, not necessarily because I have been looking for that book, or I think it's a book I'll really enjoy.

This book actually ticks a few of the entries on my "just no/dislikes" list:
  • southern
  • christian/religious
  • dead parents - this one is on the list because I've read a few too many books that deal with this, and they make me sad, so I'm avoiding them for now.
had I looked the book up on Goodreads or read any reviews, I would have known that people have categorized this book as Christian fiction.

I thought the name of the book was clever, and was willing to overlook the southern aspect since it is set in Tokyo, or it was at the beginning, and quickly shifts to rural Virginia. The cover was kicky and fun and I knew it would be a light read, or so I was led to believe.

I'm giving this book 3/5 stars on Goodreads because if I could ignore all the religious rhetoric, the story kept me interested and entertained. I do NOT enjoy books that are heavy-handed with religious talk - spiritual insight is different for me, I am fine with reading about a character's journey, but all the quotations from Scripture tripped up the story.

I was not aware this was in the Christian fiction category when I took advantage of the free Kindle download from Amazon. I was focused on the East/West culture clash and the great descriptions of life in Tokyo. I also do not care for anything Southern (other than chicken-fried steak) so this book was a stretch for me on multiple levels.

The book end with a lot of major plot point unresolved. I feel like there will be lingering interaction with her Tokyo life, but those threads were just kind of dropped about halfway through the book.

The thing is, this book is one in a series, and I am pretty sure I will pick up book #2 to find out what happens to Shiloh. Does Shiloh stay in the south? Pretty sure that's a yes. Does she sell the house? Get together with Adam? Turn into a bible-thumping preacher? Get a big job offer and have a tough decision to make?

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Vacation reading prep

**Somehow I wrote this post and then saved it, and went on vacation. I'm posting this now even though I'm back, and I'll post a follow up to report on what happened with my reading!**

I'm about to pack for vacation, gathering enough distractions and gear for 10 days away from home. I'm traveling by car with my cat, so some of the space will be taken up by his mammoth carrier, cat litter, food, but the rest is for books, right?

So far I've requested and picked up 2 books from the library, been chipping away at a pile of books borrowed from my sister, downloading audiobooks from Audible and the library, downloading ebooks to my Kindle, and generally neglecting the snazzy "to read" shelf I created in my apartment, filled with actual books that I own and have never read.

Here are the books I am bringing with my on my vacation:
  • The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky (recorded the movie on Tivo, then realized I really wanted to experience the book first. I have to read this to clear up space on my Tivo! I've renewed this twice now.)
  • The Amazing Adventures of Dietgirl by Shauna Reid (Also renewed twice.)
  • First Grave on the Right / Darynda Jones (recommended by my sister. Fine, I'll give it a shot, even though it's not really the kind of stuff I read. Wait a minute - isn't that one of the things on the challenge list?)
    • 8. Read a book in a genre you normally wouldn’t choose. (romance/fantasy)
    • 11. Read a book suggested to you by someone you know.
  • The painted girls / Cathy Marie Buchanan (for book group in August)
  • The Mystery of Mr. Nice by Bruce Hale (library edownload, kids)
  • Feminist Ryan Gosling by Danielle Henderson (library edownload)
  • Breakfast with Buddha by Roland Merullo (audio)
  • Unlimited by Jillian Michaels (audio - I've been listening to this an hour or two at a time, but my phone crashed and deleted the file so I will have to listen along and find my place again)
  • My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece by Annabel Pitcher (audio)
  • The Figure in the Shadows (Lewis Barnavelt, #3), The Letter, the Witch, and the Ring (Lewis Barnavelt, #3), and  The Ghost in the Mirror (Lewis Barnavelt, #4) all by John Bellairs

Did I mention I also plan to leave the house and *DO * things?
  • kayaking
  • outdoor jogging (yes, specifically outdoors)
  • hiking
  • road trip with mom and sister to visit the old family farm
  • art gallery
  • neighborhood rambles
  • gym
  • mall - run all sorts of errands because I will have a CAR
  • family visits
  • hammock-ing (okay, this is where reading will fit in for sure)
  • visiting with friends near and far
  • catching up on blog post writing (I have a bunch of draft posts of book reviews, knitting updates, etc., but my perfectionist tendencies prevent me from publishing them)
  • knitting
  • checking out local yarn shops
  • going to local art spaces

Monday, June 30, 2014

Book Review - Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck, 1937

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck, 1937

(I wrote the bulk of this post in April when I first read the book - so much for keeping on top of posts!)

Most people read this short book in high school. I managed to read both The Grapes of Wrath (496) and East of Eden (600) in high school, and I'm pretty sure I read The Pearl in 6th grade when I was part of a short story club for advanced readers (we also read The Veldt by Ray Bradbury- one of my favorites). I've always shied away from shorter works, thinking that they wouldn't have enough meat to them. My past experience with short stories always leaves me wanting more. This work could have easily grown to a 400+ page novel, but the simplicity of the story and characters warrants the length.

I realized partway in that this Bugs Bunny cartoon is a direct reference to this book. There are hundreds of cultural references to Lenny that keep connecting in my mind, popping up in old movies, commercials, etc.

Bugs Bunny Abominable Snowman cartoon
This link is to the complete cartoon - the Yeti shows up at 1:42.

Book rating: 4 out of 5

The language is so beautiful. Reading Steinbeck makes me want to make a blanket fort outside in the shade and spent all day reading and drinking iced tea under a canopy of trees and blankets, no wordly pressures creeping in, just the dimming sky forcing me inside for a late dinner.

Left me a bit sad. I knew as I read on that something terrible would happen, but all the same I hoped for Lennie, and for the others too, that somehow the dream of having their own place could materialize and not be just a far off dream to occupy their minds.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Dreams of knitting

I *so* want to do projects like these:
  •  Cityscape by Laura Chau - there are so many ways to express your own view! Look at the cool mods by knitters here (below is the original pattern, one knit by Gryhege, and one by foggy - pics found in twist collective article)
  •  Celestarium by Audry Nicklin (hmm, also on Twist Collective) (how have so many people knit this?? 585 projects on Ravelry) Northern Hemisphere star chart. After listening to episode 270 of the Knitmore Girls podcast, I now know there are TWO MORE patterns!  You can also knit the Southern Skies shawl or Equatorial Nights, an infinity scarf featuring all the stars around the celestial equator.

  • Knits involving beading - I've been listening to a few new podcasts that have been tempting me with new project idea. Chrissy from the Stitched Together podcast talks about the process of beading the Glitz at the Ritz shawl from Knitty, in episode 7 of her podcast. (Can you tell I've been listening to the backlog?). Now, beading in knitting sounds like asking for trouble and opening myself up to the temptation of buying a set of supplies for something new. I'm also trying not to start new projects and instead work on the pile of works in progress I have on my knitting shelf. It just so happens that I have a lace shawl project with an optional lace component. Hard to believe, but I started this project September 5, 2011. If you know me, then you know it's not a stretch for me to have a project this old. I have unfinished projects from 2008 sitting around! I started the Rose Lace stole as a knit-a-long with a friend of mine. (Ravelry link) We both had issues with the simple lace at the start, and I kept putting it down to work on other things so this project keeps lurking in the background. Maybe I can scratch the new project itch by bringing out this project and working the complex lace panel, and with beads?

Friday, February 14, 2014

The Best laid plans…

I’ve been plotting to make the Transatlantic shawl by Stephen West ever since I saw a photo of it on his website. I bought the pattern during a sale in March 2013, and when I headed to the New Hampshire Sheep and Wool Festival in May, I armed myself with a stack of patterns and specs for shopping.

[picture from Steven West's pattern]

I bought this lusciously soft yarn expressly for this project because it was marked sport weight and it was in the right tones as natural wool and has a lovely fuzzy halo quality to it..

It turns out that this yarn is more fingering weight than sport. Argh! But, it will still be scrumptious and lovely, though might turn out a bit smaller...not sure I'm cool with that, shawlettes have no purpose for me, and I'd like to knit it to gauge to match the drape of the original. Problems, problems.

For gauge my quest started with a US8 (remember now, I knit *tight* so I usually need to go up two needle sizes) bu...after trying 6s, 5s, then pulling the 7s from my sweater project, 7s are the way to go.

The cast on occurred during the Sochi Olympics opening ceremony, but I realized I wanted to use the 7s, and I had done my difficult cast on with black yarn and a glass of wine. Perhaps not the best way to start. I restarted at home and am about 24 rows in. I think my hope to complete this project for the Ravellenic games is a bit lofty, especially since I keep forgetting to knit when I come home at night!
A note about the pattern: A lot of knitters have left out the lovely asymmetrical holes! That's what drew me to this project, the quirky gaping ovals, ringed with a pop of color. I plan to use my scraps of Valley Yarns Charlemont in Sunset, though that yarn isn't in a scrap state since it's being used for another Steven West pattern, Daybreak. That shawl will take considerably more time to finish, so I'm going to steal some yardage off the project ball and cross my fingers that I won't miss that yarn later.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Knitting Goals for 2014

Earlier in January I was watching the Stockinette Zombies podcast and they were talking about knitting goals. Do you make them? Do they present a welcome challenge, or drive you crazy during the year? Or, like me, do you write them down and promptly forget you made goals in the first place? The SZ created a knitting goals challenge for this year, and I thought it was time to set some for myself (which also caused me to fish out the list 2013 and post them last weekend).

Even though I tried to keep the list small, I easily hit ten items and cried STOP! That's probably enough. I will post updates when I remember and maybe my Babette blanket will come out of deep hibernation...

2014 GOALS:
  1. knit 2 hats for charity knitting
  2. finish my first adult size sweater (Pont Neuf for myself)
  3. knit a pair of socks two at a time (first pair of socks with sock yarn)
  4. organize and cull out stash for donation/swap
  5. make progress on my Babette blanket complete at least 2 squares a month)
  6. reduce my stash by 10% (starting out with 245 skeins)
  7. participate in the Ravellenic games
  8. reduce hibernating projects from the current 8 to no more than 5, either through frogging or finishing
  9. finish spinning my Tour de Fleece 2013 project during this year's TDF
  10. carry knitting with me and work on it during longer commutes and waiting-around times

Also participating in a knitting goals challenge via the Stockinette Zombies podcast. 

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Knitting related goals for 2013 - A Review

Here are the Knitting goals I wrote out January 10, 2013:
  1. Knit a sweater
  2. Sew my own project bags
  3. Eliminate all long term hibernation projects (either by bring them back into active rotation or frogging)
  4. Reorganize knitting storage area - stash, patterns, projects - this one is tricky, as I still have a few other things mixed in to this area, such as a drawer unit housing felt sheets, cross stitching fabric, and printouts of a now defunct cross stitching magazine. I think I have the magazine on CD, but I'm not sure about all the issues. If I took the time to color print them then, I should hold on to the copies for future use, yes? Or should I sort through them and recycle all the pages that don't have patterns, and reorganize it so that the parts of serial patterns are all together? *Off topic - get back on track!*
  5. Take a hard look at my knitting/crochet books and see if I can eliminate any of them, then set those candidates aside for the next yarn swap.

How did I fare over the course of 2013?

  1. I started two sweaters for myself and both are about halfway finished. I've been consistently plugging away at Pont Neuf, a top down, seamless, 3/4 length sleeve sweater with a lace front panel. With any luck I'll have it finished by May 1st, when it might be too warm to wear it! I did knit an entire baby sweater.
  2. I sewed one project bag for myself! Not sure I want to keep making these, as I find sewing very frustrating. Maybe I will try and make one a year.
  3. Hibernating projects, now that's a challenge. I started the year out with more than 10, and now have 7, having eliminated quite a few, but replaced them with other projects...hmm...
  4. Reorganize - I've started a few times and never finished. Finding evidence of moths definitely stops me cold, and then I'm not sure how to continue. Still dealing with some moth activity now, but I think *hope* that it's residual evidence and not real live moths.
  5. Didn't do this one at all. I did sort out some stash and trade/give it away, but it's time again to look hard at the stash and come up with books, tools, and yarn that are ready to leave.
Knitting accomplishments:
  • Taught my little sister how to knit
  • Knitted a mother bear for charity
  • Gifted multiple well loved knits to friends and family 

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Reading goals 2014

I've been seeing a lot book challenges out there. A librarian friend wrote this post, Reading Challenges for 2014, for the Robbins library blog, and outlined 11 reading challenges.

I like checking things off of lists, having a goal in mind, or reframing my current participation with an outside challenge to get me involved in a different way. Sign me up!

I have chosen these challenges:
  1. Tuesday's Wednesday  2014-reading-challenge (read 24 books from 24 different categories) 
  2. Roof Beam Reader's TBR pile challenge  (read 12 books that have been on your to-read list for over a year)  My list
  3. Goodreads 2014 reading challenge (personally set goal of 60 books read)
The first two challenges capture nicely what I've been contemplating on the reading front. I'd like to have a little more structure in how I pick what I read and branching out a bit from my normal choices. I also want to make a noticable dent in my to read list (and not just continually scrape off the top layer). Ideally I will do this by reading the books, but eliminating books from my list that I will never read is fine too.

I used to be really concerned about the rules of this thing, but who cares? If I read the book (ebook, paper, audio, children's, non-fiction, whatever) from cover to cover, then it counts. If I don't finish something, fine. I'd like to still keep a list of books I remove from the to-read list, so in a few years when I forget that I tried to read Lolita, I can look in my list and see why I didn't continue with the book. (Can you tell I love lists?)

Current Goodreads tally? 561 books

You know I will be adding title to the list. I'll take some work, but I'd like to get the list down to 500 by the end of the year.

I have participated in the Goodreads reading challenge since 2011.

2011 52 of 52 read
2012 34 of 40 read
2013 55 of 55 read
2014   2 of 60 read and counting!

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Phat Fiber Sample Box: Shades of Light silk yarn giveaway! (take two)

Phat Fiber giveaway for Shades of Light!
I wrote a really great post about this giveaway and the shop, but it didn't post and is missing from my drafts. Darn! Here's my second try on it.

Shades of Light etsy shop in Greece that produces amazingly brilliant hand dyed colors of yarn in different weights and fiber blends.
My favorite is this bold mumbai colorway. When I checked out the listing, I can order it EIGHT different ways!