February 19, 2017

Season 2, Episode 2: Girl Power!


Podcast Love

I mention three podcasts in this podcast, and I recommend all of them!!

CooCooforCowls with Jillian (another Joisey girl!)
The Crafty Toads with Helen and Mary Beth (two more Jersey Girls)
Tome Time Reading and Knitting Podcast

I've noted the time where each sections starts in parenthesis for the segments below:

Knitting (3:47 minutes)

The Caring Cowl KAL ends on February 28, 2017. Alexis Winslow, the designer, donates the proceeds from the pattern sales to the American Red Cross. I knit mine out of Bernat Dimensions; my version and a number of other versions can be found in the Ravelry group.

I am looking for a few more test knitters for my new pattern, Flock of Seagulls. Knit in MadelineTosh DK, this pattern uses approximately 210 yards of DK weight yarn and does have a very simple cable stitch in the main section. I am not a cable knitter! You only use the cable needle once very 6 rows so it's a good pattern to try cable knitting if you've hesitated to do it in the past!


I'm asking that test knitters finish by St. Patrick's Day (March 17, 2017) and post their finished project on Ravelry when the pattern is finished. A final PDF copy of the pattern will also be provided to anyone who is gracious enough to test this pattern!

I also mention the One Nation, Under God hat pattern I'm working on. Here's a picture of the hat before the fair isle stars were added. This yarn is Briggs & Little Tuffy and Heritage in Red, Cream, and Navy. Come back to the blog next week when I will post a final picture. The free pattern should be released on Ravelry by the end of the month!


Reading (18:00 minutes)



Find out just how much I love this book about 16th century women who ruled Europe - there's way more to the story than Anne Boleyn and Elizabeth I!

Bible Study (30:54 minutes)

Please check out my interview with Jessica Mathisen, the author of the devotional Proverbs 31: A Life of Truth and Grace. I am giving away a copy of this devotional to listeners... but you have to listen to find out how to enter to win!

You can find Jessica on her blog, An Immeasurable Joy. The video about her devotional that I mention in the interview can be found here
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In addition to podcasting, every Tuesday, I join Nicole at the Keep Calm Craft On link party.  On Wednesdays, I participate in the Yarn Along on Ginny Sheller's blog. Sometimes I post reviews at Cannonball Read. Please join us either by contributing a link to your fibery work in progress and current read and / or by checking out the posts to the link parties.  You may find your next book or project waiting for you!

February 13, 2017

Galentine's Day & Race with a Capital R

Knitting

If you've read this blog for any length of time, you'll know that I love Parks and Rec so it should come as no surprise that I celebrate Galentine's Day:


For this year's Valentine's Day, I knit a version of the Caring Cowl in Bernat's Dimensions yarn. It's pink, it's squishy, it mimics thick and thin handspun, and all pattern proceeds go to the American Red Cross. What's not to love about this cowl?


There's a Caring Cowl Knitalong going on in the Ravelry group through the end of February. Check out some of the completed projects for inspiration and then share yours for a chance to win one of two prizes!

Reading

In the last blog post, I wrote about The Fortress of Solitude by Jonathan Lethem and likened the story to dropping Holden Caulfield into 1970s Brooklyn. This is true for the majority of the book. Sure, his parents move Dylan (the main character) to Gowanus during the last gasps of white flight where he is in turns treated well and badly by the black characters that surround him. He eventually makes his escape to an exclusive private college and then to the mostly white environs of Berkeley and the Bay Area.


It's a modernized Holden and his backstory until the last 80 or so pages. Then, the reader CANNOT IGNORE the fact that this book is about Race with a capital R. If it's a coming of age story, it's a dual tale: a white boy in the same circumstances as a black boy escapes his situation, leaving the black boy behind and in jail. In the same way The Catcher in the Rye deals with identity, Fortress also deals with identity in it's most basic form: what do you look like, what do people see when they look at you, what assumptions do they make based on what they see.

Early in the story, Dylan finds a ring that bestows superpowers on the wearer depending on who they are and what point in their life they are in, a nice touch of magic realism... but wait! As a tween and teenager, Dylan, can only fly along the tree lines, never really leaving earth. Mingus (his black friend), is adept at flying until a strong wind blows him off the Brooklyn Bridge. Mingus is at home in his world until outside forces intervene; Dylan is not.

As adults, the ring makes Dylan invisible, and if your familiar with Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man, you'll know this twist is a take on that novel. Dylan's color makes him visible; only the ring can make him invisible. Mingus, on the other hand, is always invisible, a character almost always off stage in this story... until the very end.

Like I said in the last post, this book is beautifully written and the New York of the 70s authentic (I was there, trust me), but ultimately, this is a book that forces you, no matter what your color but especially if you are white, to face just how little progress we've really made in this country since that time regarding race. Read it especially if you are privileged and visible in our culture.

On Tuesdays, I Nicole at the Keep Calm Craft On link party.  On Wednesdays, I participate in the Yarn Along on Ginny Sheller's blog. Please join us either by contributing a link to your fibery work in progress and current read and / or by checking out the posts to the link parties.  You may find your next book or project waiting for you!

February 5, 2017

Caring Cowl Progress & Boy Grows in Brooklyn

Knitting

A new semester started this past week at the high school where I teach. While I love the semester system, that first week is exhausting! I teach 3 different courses, Python, Java, and Web Design. This is the first time I've taught different programming languages at the same time.


(Fun Fact: The programming language Python got it's name from Monty Python's Flying Circus. The creator was binge watching while he came up with the language.)

It's weeks like this one just past that I really need knitting! I started my Caring Cowl for the Caring KAL currently running in the Ravelry group. All proceeds from the sale of this pattern go to the American Red Cross. I saw on the news recently that the American Red Cross is very active right now assisting victims of the recent tornadoes in Alabama, so every little donation helps! 

I'm using Bernat Dimensions yarn not so much for the thick/thin texture but for the colors. Perfect for February! I did alter the pattern somewhat by using a smaller needle - this yarn is knits up too loose with a larger needle - and making accommodation for the small needle size by casting on more stitches. I also started with a purl section because I didn't care for how the yarn curled with my first attempt. This yarn makes a nice scalloped edge most likely because it is machine made and the thick and thin sections are uniform. 

I have another ball of this yarn and will probably use most of it. As much as I love real handspun, this yarn is much more affordable! Also, I think I'll knit this pattern in a standard bulky weight yarn too; it's a quick knit. Please consider joining the KAL in the KnitReadPray Ravelry group!

Reading

In the last blog post, I mentioned I had a hard time finding a followup to 2 really good books I read last month. After rejecting ever book in my library TBR pile, I started rummaging through the multiple TBR piles around my house. (Tell me I am not alone in that!) In stack #2, I found a copy of a book recommended to me by a student a few years ago for consideration for summer reading. I never got around to reading it because we selected other books, and it didn't appeal to me at the time.


Now? I love it. And by love it I mean I LOVE IT! The Fortress of Solitude by Jonathan Letham is the The Adventures of Kavalier & Clay with magic realism, but it's SO MUCH MORE. The story of Dylan Ebdus begins in 1970s Brooklyn, a white boy in a black neighborhood. Early on, his mother abandons the family, and he meets his neighbor, Mingus Rude, another motherless boy. The bulk of the book recounts Dylan's school years, his friendship with Mingus,  and their adventures as Aeroman after Dylan is gifted a magic ring by a homeless man.

The writing is lyrical, poetic even, and the observations spot on. For example, Dylan observes that second grade is first grade just with math. I know! As Dylan moves from elementary school, to middle school, to testing in to Stuyvesant High School, the author's observations regarding the world of children, Tweens, and teens is painfully accurate. This is a coming of age story that places Holden Caulfield smack in the middle of Abe Beam's New York by way of Gowanus.

I just finished the "Underberg" section (the longest) and will write a complete review next week!

UPDATE: The second part of this book review can be found here.

On Tuesdays, I Nicole at the Keep Calm Craft On link party.  On Wednesdays, I participate in the Yarn Along on Ginny Sheller's blog. Please join us either by contributing a link to your fibery work in progress and current read and / or by checking out the posts to the link parties.  You may find your next book or project waiting for you!


January 30, 2017

A Flock of Spontaneous Combustion

If you're visiting from Cannonball Read, scroll down for my review of Spontaneous.

Knitting

Over the weekend, I finished my first test knit of a new cowl pattern I've called Flock of Seagulls. I knit the borders in sand stitch and the center is a cable knit that I think looks like a flock of seagulls taking off from the beach.


My LYS has an amazing sale every New Year's where everything in the store, including Madeline Tosh yarn, is 25% off. On New Year's Day I found the perfect yarn for this pattern in Cove (right) and Antler (left):


If you've read previous blog posts or listened to the latest podcast, you'll know I'll be knitting another version of this pattern in Prado de Lana DK yarn that I picked up at Vogue Knitting Live. I plan to finish that by mid-February and will be looking for test knitters around that time. The pattern should be released in mid-March.

Reading

Do you ever have a run of days where you just can't get in to any books in your TBR pile? That happened to me last week. I finished both The Sun is Also a Star by Nicole Soon and Spontaneous by Aaron Starmer and just couldn't find another book to make an awesome YA trifecta. Why you ask? The premise of Spontaneous is simple: high school seniors spontaneously combust in the oddest places like pre-calc and an SUV.

What could possibly follow THAT?


The first half of the book is a lot of fun - who will blow up next? The main character, Mara, is far from perfect and a possibly unreliable narrator. Dylan, her romantic interest, is odd in a Jesse Eisenberg sort of way which means he's quirky and endearing.

Mara's best friend Tess is a big part of the first part of the book but disappears for a large section towards the end which I don't think was explained very well. Mara and Tess pledge to be cool old ladies together at the beginning of the book then in the third half Tess disappears, tries to solve the problem of explosive students without sharing her activities with her BFF, abruptly reenters the plot, and then ... well, that would be a spoiler, wouldn't it?

If your unsatisfied and / or confused by the second half of the book and the ending, it may help to view the story as a metaphor for senior year in a US high school. After I lent this book to a student, we had a healthy conversation about that possibility. Both of us were more comfortable with Tess's actions and the book's conclusion after we talked it out from that perspective!

The book takes place in New Jersey, and I agree, our state is one where students could very well spontaneously combust. The author lives in Vermont, and I think he takes some liberties with NJ geography. Mara talks about riding her bike "down the shore" where I live quite a few times during the course of the book, but the action takes place the northwest part of the state. There's NO WAY a high school kid (or anyone for that matter) could ride a bike from that part of NJ to my part of NJ especially round trip in one day. The author also mentions "Rumson Road", a road very near where I live down the shore which the author places in Mara's home town.

Color me confused.

If you don't live in NJ and you're intrigued by the premise of this book, I suggest you give it a go. I read the opening paragraph in the latest podcast so if you're on the fence, give this episode a listen and let me know what you think!

On Tuesdays, I join Nicole at the Keep Calm Craft On link party.  On Wednesdays, I participate in the Yarn Along on Ginny Sheller's blog. Please join us either by contributing a link to your fibery work in progress and current read and / or by checking out the posts to the link parties.  You may find your next book or project waiting for you!


January 24, 2017

Season 2: Episode 1 Caring & Sharing


Caring Kal

To participate in the current KAL, please join the Ravelry group and purchase either the Caring Cowl  by Alexis Winslow (proceeds go to the American Red Cross) or complete the Yellow Roses shawl if you purchased that pattern last November to support MIND.

Here's a pic from Alexis of the Caring Cowl:


The KAL runs through February 28, 2017, and winners will be announced on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter (see links at top of page). There are two prizes for participation, a hank of handspun, hand dyed wool from Pucker Brush Farm (left) and sock yarn from Expression Fiber Arts in the colorway Kismet (right):


I plan to knit my version in Bernat Dimensions yarn:

Knitting

A big thank you to Amanda Barcenas of Prado de Lana yarns for graciously chatting with me and my listeners!! Please visit her website to check out her yarn and sign up for her newsletter to keep up to date on the events and other farm news. You can follow her on Instagram and share your knitting with her as well.

My Aspen Winter Cowl can be found here - don't forget that if you purchase it in the month of January, you're eligible to win a hank of Robin's custom colorway!

You can find pictures of me wearing "that hat" on all my social media accounts.

I'm almost done with my scarf using the Caron Cakes yarn in Funfetti my son gave me for Christmas in the Tin Can Knits pattern Wheat:


Information about the Modern Log Cabin blanket pattern by Mason Dixon Knitting can be found on Ravelry.

My second original cowl pattern, Flock of Seagulls, will be released in March. The original version is knit in MadelineTosh DK. I will be looking for test knitters in mid-February after I finish the second version using Prado de Lana Yarn. 

I shared my haul from Vogue Knitting Live in this blog post.

Books

My complete review of The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon can be found in this blog post. Please consider joining Cannonball Read and help raise funds for cancer research.

I plan to write a complete review of Spontaneous by Aaron Starmer in the next blog post and on Cannonball Read. If you purchase through the Cannonball Read Amazon link, the proceeds go to their fundraising efforts.

I'm currently listening to CraftLit's version of The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas.

Devotional


I recently stared Jessica Mathisen's devotional Proverbs 31: A Life of Truth and Grace. As I say in the podcast, I love it! You can see Jessica's video that I mention here and purchase the devotional here. Since recording the podcast, I've worked through a few more days of this devotional, and really love it. While each day's reading is short, Jessica sends you off on your day with a lot to think about and apply, not just for yourself but as you come in contact with others as you go through your day.

On Wednesdays, I participate in the Yarn Along on Ginny Sheller's blog. Please join us either by contributing a link to your fibery work in progress and current read and / or by checking out the link party posts.  You may find your next book or project waiting for you!

January 17, 2017

Seagulls and Young Love

I'm joining Cannonball Read for the first time this week. If you've arrived from that community looking for a book review, please scroll pass the knitting chat!

Knitting

Project progress is light this week, although "that hat" is finished except for the bind off. I plan to finish before the weekend and wear to to my local Women's March in Asbury Park. If you're in the area and planning to attend, let me know!

I also worked on my next original pattern "Flock of Seagulls". I knit this version in Madeline Tosh DK in the colorways Cove (shown) and Antler (the border not shown). The lovely Celtic knot progress keeper was a little treat I picked up at Vogue Knitting Live this weekend.


While at VKL, I met up with Amanda of Prado de Lana farm. She's even more friendly and fun in person! I bought some light DK weight yarn from her to do another version of this cowl pattern in a solid color. I plan to recount my adventures at VKL in the next podcast and interview Amanda in the near future. Here's a pic of my entire haul from the weekend. The yarn on the right came from Prado de Lana:


I also bought ribbon yarn from Tess Designer Yarns (on the left, above) because I wanted to try something different; I have a lot of wool! There was a lovely drop stitch scarf in this yarn that I thought would be beautiful and practical in summer when the a/c is cranking!

Reading

I'm joining Cannonball Read this week with my review of The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon. So many feels! This is a young adult book with some heavy themes. On the surface, it's a romance between Natasha, a Jamaican born illegal immigrant facing deportation, and Daniel, a first born second son of Korean parents. The two, both seniors in high school, meet by accident while Daniel is on his way to his college interview with a Yale alum and Natasha is trying one last time to stay in the US. 


The action takes place over an afternoon and early evening primarily in Manhattan. A variety of characters briefly come in contact with the couple, and these interactions either change the course of main storyline and/or Daniel and Natasha change the course of the secondary characters lives. For example, while dining in a Korean restaurant, Natasha asks for a fork. The waitress responds by telling Daniel that he should teach his girlfriend how to use chopsticks. This character's backstory reveals that her son became involved with a non-Korean woman and as a result, her husband cut off contact with their son. They didn't attend their son's wedding nor do they know their grandchildren. As a mother, that broke my heart. 

The book addresses so many timely themes like diversity, tolerance, the immigrant experience, and of course love and commitment (but not in the way you might think). I love this book so much I plan to recommend it for our summer reading list! Don't disregard this book because it's categorized as "young adult". The vocabulary and main characters may fall into this age range, but I think the book is even more powerful for those of us who are much older than the young adult moniker. 

If you've read this book or decide to do so, please let me know what you think in the comments!

Today I'm joining Nicole at the Keep Calm Craft On link party.  On Wednesdays, I participate in the Yarn Along on Ginny Sheller's blog. Please join us either by contributing a link to your fibery work in progress and current read and / or by checking out the posts to the link parties.  You may find your next book or project waiting for you!


January 10, 2017

Controversial Knitting & Romantic Suspense

It's been brutally cold the last few days here at the Jersey Shore. While I much prefer summer, snowy weekends are perfect for staying indoors to read and knit. This past weekend, I worked on a number of new projects including another scarf using a Caron Cake my son gave me for Christmas:


Unless you've been completely cut off from civilization, you're familiar with these colorful cakes of yarn. You might remember I knit a Moss Cake Scarf with the teal gradient cake known as the Faerie Cake. This time around, I decided to knit a version of Tin Can Knits's Wheat scarf in Funfetti. (My son was a good sport and braved Michael's right before Christmas to get this for me as his present.)


I altered the pattern slightly; instead of knitting 3 inches of garter stitch before starting the 1x1 rib, I knit 5 rows of garter stitch to make the bottom symmetrical with the 5 stitches on the left side of the scarf. I think the pattern looks very Art Deco (but that could just be because I hang out with art teachers).

I also started a new cowl pattern. My goal for 2017 is to create a cowl pattern for each of the 4 seasons with an optional 5th cowl if I get inspired. The early spring cowl is entitled "Flock of Seagulls" because this stitch reminds me of a flock of seagulls taking off from the sand:


I admit, the song "I Ran" from the early 80s runs through my head each time I sit down to knit this, but I'm going with the name! This version uses Madeline Tosh DK, and I plan to knit another version with farm yarn from Prado de Lana assuming the weather cooperates this weekend for Vogue Knitting Live.

Finally, I hopped on the bandwagon for "that hat". I knew this pattern was political, but I didn't think it was controversial. Boy was I wrong! We had some serious snow this past Saturday, so I decided to dye up some yarn in hot pink. As I often do, I posted this on Instagram.

Controversy ensued.

I support women's rights as demonstrated by my use of the "f word" (feminism) in my last podcast, and, for me, this is a way to demonstrate not only the power of women but the power of craft. Here's the yarn I dyed as well as the start of my version of the hat:


I look forward to wearing the hat next weekend as a show of solidarity and support.

In book news, I celebrated my birthday last week, and my kids were very good to me:


I started The Fisher King by Melissa Lenhardt during the snow storm and am enjoying this sequel to Stillwater. This is the second in a series that takes place in east Texas quite near where my parents live. The main storyline follows Jack McBride, a former FBI agent, now small town police chief, and Ellie Martin, lifelong resident of Stillwater with a rocky past. Jack deals with a drug war at work, his bad boy twin brother Eddie, and his sociopathic wife at home while Ellie runs for a city council seat against the man Jack suspects is the town's drug kingpin.

My children referred to this as a "sexy thriller" based on a review on Amazon, but it's more of a "when/if they will", much like Murdoch and Dr. Ogden on The Murdoch Mysteries if you watch that show.

The best part of this series is Jack's relationship with his 13 year old son Ethan. Much of the first book deals with their adjustment to being abandon by Julie, Jack's wife and Ethan's mother. Jack and Ellie experience a strong attraction in that book but this abruptly ends with Julie's return. I'm enjoying this installment so far although I hope Ethan plays a bigger part as the book progresses.

Today I'm joining The Really Crafty Link Party and Nicole at the Keep Calm Craft On link party.  On Wednesdays, I participate in the Yarn Along on Ginny Sheller's blog. Please join us either by contributing a link to your fibery work in progress and current read and / or by checking out the posts to the link parties.  You may find your next book or project waiting for you!