The Best Yes and a Go To Cowl

I know I'm on vacation when I can't remember today's date or what day of the week it is.  Suddenly, I'm Appolonia in The Godfather:

Luckily, I live through each summer to relearn the days of the week in order come September!

In the week since school ended, I cast on and completed a simple cowl knit with incredible, one of a kind yarn and read a book that contains incredible, one of a kind advice:

The FO is the Oats pattern by Tin Can Knits, my go to pattern when I want to show off the beauty of a small amount of yarn (in this instance, 178 yards) using a simple yet elegant pattern.  I bought the yarn from Siobhan Crafts this past January and knew as soon as I received it what it would be.  This handspun silk and mohair blend is so incredibly soft and light with a gorgeous drape yet warm enough for an event during the holidays.

The book is The Best Yes by Lysa TerKeurst that I ordered on the same day school ended and had in hand last Friday (go Amazon Prime!).  In my most recent podcast, I share my thoughts on the first half of the book, and this morning, I turned the last page.

So many feels!

Over the past week, I've spent a lot of time with my adult daughter.  I've lost count of how many times she's said, "Wow, I can't believe your so chill about hanging out with me!" (or words to that effect). During the school year (especially this last one), I get so wrapped up in what needs to be addressed that I neglect who needs to be addressed.

Like my daughter.  And my son.  And my parents. And my friends.
Connecting with those we love is like soul food.
I drew a dark line under those words; I don't want to loose sight of them when I step back in to the classroom.  TerKeurst's "Best Yes" includes saying yes to the people you love and no to tasks that won't enrich your life or theirs.  I explain in detail in the podcast why I chose this book so I won't go in to it here other than to say if you
  • - find it difficult to manage all your commitments
  • - don't know how to say no when you know you should and feel guilty when you do
  • - say yes based on the perceived opinions of others
  • - know you don't see your loved ones enough because of all those committments
  • - need a clear, Biblically based strategy to make an informed decision
read this book!

Treat Yourself, Miss Julia, & the Veggie Shawl

Today is my last day of school! This appears on a cement block on the wall outside my classroom, part of a tradition of seniors painting various blocks before they graduate. Every year on the last day, I take a snapshot and yell "Treat Yourself!" to no one in particular.

In case you are unfamiliar with the concept of "Treat Yourself", here's a brief explanation:

In the spirit of treating myself, I finished my test knit of the "Veggie Garden" shawl by Clothesline Designs this week. I knit this with the colorway "Dad's Plaid Shirt" by Robin Barraud of Robin's Roost on etsy. The colorway looks just like a garden to me; green peppers, red tomatoes, yellow cucumber flowers, the combination just looks like the view outside my window at the height of summer!

(If you hurry over to her shop, she's have a $5 off every skein sale, no coupon necessary!)

This pattern will be available on Ravelry on Friday, June 25th.  There are 2 versions, one with a solid section (the one I knit), and one with 3 rows of the lace. I loved this pattern so much I may just knit the second version this summer!

In book news, I started the Miss Julia series last week after a recommendation in the Book Chat thread of my podcast's Ravelry group.  There's a lot going on in my life these days, and I wanted a light, entertaining read with a little mystery and adventure.

Miss Julia is a recently widowed southern woman of a certain age (much like some of my mother's friends in Texas although this takes place in North Carolina).  The first book, Miss Julia Speaks Her Mind deals with how she handles the discovery of her husband's long term affair after his death and the son that relationship produced.  Little Lloyd, the boy, is unceremoniously dumped on Julia by his mother at the start of the book.  Finding his mother while dealing with unsavory preachers, chauvinistic ministers, and nosy townspeople keeps Julia busy.  There's a car chase, a kidnapping, a hilarious misunderstanding, and the beginnings of a romance I hope to see continue in the subsequent books.

So if you want to treat yourself, pick up some of Robin's Yarn, the "Veggie Shawl" pattern, and a copy of Miss Julia Speaks Her Mind - a great way to start summer vacation!

Yarn Along: Pride and Prejudice and Hate Sex

My favorite book of all time is Pride and Prejudice; I'm living the stereotype with no regrets.  Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy first came in to my life as part of a sophomore summer course in college.  During my second pregnancy, I was obsessed with 19th century British authors, and Jane Austen topped the list.  I fell in love Colin Firth's Darcy in 1995 and wanted to be Kiera Knightley's Elizabeth in 2005.

So thrilled doesn't begin to describe my reaction when I came across a modern version of this much loved romance by Curtis Sittenfeld entitled Eligible.

In this version, Liz (Elizabeth) is 38 and Jane 40.  Both live in New York City; Liz is a magazine writer and Jane a yoga instructor.  Younger sisters Mary, Kitty and Lydia still reside in the Bennet home back in Cincinnati.  Our story begins when the two oldest girls return to Ohio after Mr. Bennett suffers a heart attack.

Hilarity ensues.

Darcy is a neurosurgeon, Bingley is also a surgeon but one who appeared on the most recent season of a Bachelor-esque reality show.  Jasper Wick (Wickham) is still a terrible person, this time Liz's best friend and married lover.  Caroline Bingley is still cold and condescending.  Mr. Bennet is even more Donald Sutherland in this version (see 2005 movie) with the best one liners, and Mrs. Bennet, aka "Sally", is still obsessed with marrying off the girls but is also revealed to be a serious shopaholic.

Liz takes a page out of the Leslie Knope playbook and attempts to solve her family's various issues.  Mr. and Mrs. Bennet are near bankrupt, even more so after Mr. Bennet's hospital stay because they have no health insurance, so Liz starts the process of selling their oversized Tudor house.  Mary, Kitty, and Lydia have never left home nor held a job, but face the necessity of finding both with the impending house sale.

Did I mention Kitty and Lydia are obsessed with their iPhones and Crossfit? or the modern twist on Lydia's elopement that I so didn't see coming?

And then there's the hate sex with Darcy.

Seriously, if you love Pride and Prejudice half as much as I do, get a copy of this book and start it when you have plenty of time to finish.  This is still a great book even if you aren't very familiar with P&P, but it's so much more fun if you are!

I admit I neglected my knitting while reading this book.  I'm currently working on a test knit of a shawl pattern using the colorway "Dad's Plaid Shirt" by Robin Barraud of Robin's Roost on Etsy.  Check out my latest podcast for an interview with Robin along with a giveaway of the same yarn in the colorway "Blue Skies" and look for the release of this pattern by Clothesline Designs on Ravelry on June 25th!

In Praise of Daily Planners

Update 10/25/16: While I remain enthusiastic about the use of planners, I can no longer recommend any product from Kristen Schmucker's company. The company may promote Christian values but they do not adhere to them.

Every year at my school we pass out planners to students on the very first day. (You may wonder why I'm talking about the first day of school when the last day of school is only 8 days away, but stick with me.) I distribute my stack, tell the kids what pages to rip out and sign, and then caution them about leaving them lying around my classroom.

Needless to say, there are a lot of them left lying around my classroom by the end of that first day.

As irritating as it is to make a pile of these abandon notebooks on my desk each year, I never make the effort to return those planners.  After all, I've never used a planner, and I get through my to do list every day.  I may lose the to do list before it's finished, but I'm not so old that I can't remember those last few entries and get them done ... and no I don't text my son and ask for a photo of the grocery list I forgot, or at least not very often.

That calendar I print out every month and hang above the coffee maker? Very useful when I'm home.  That calendar app on my laptops and phone? So much effort to open yet another app or window even though my phone is never far from me and I spend most of my workday on or near a multitude of computers.

I'm that person that thinks she's organized but really not.

So you think I would've scrolled right by this Instagram post by @kristenschmucker:

But you'd be just as wrong as I was.  That planner on the left, so Kate Spade but at a price a public school teacher could actually afford!

Seriously, a planner?

I reminded myself of all those pretty notebooks I've purchased in the past that are now gathering dust in the "office supply closet", aka the repository of all the rejected school supplies, ancient chargers and external devices that I just can't bring myself to throw out.  Anyone need a zip drive from 1997?

Determined not to be enticed by those bold stripes and pretty flowers, I firmly swiped past that post.

Of course, in the land of social media, posts like that one reappear in your feed again, and again... and again. Also, 20% off.  So I clicked the link and checked out the interior.  The Daily Planner contained pages for 6 months at a glance - bye bye coffee maker calender - followed by undated pages with places for my to do list, schedule, what we had for dinner - did we really have tacos 3 times in one week? - prayer, and daily grace.

That last one was the clincher.  If you've read my post about my epic fail as an online Bible study leader (notice I capitalized "Bible", this blogger pays attention), then you'll know how I struggle with slowing down to spend time in Scripture and/or a Bible study each day.  If I record what I study, not only will I see progress but me being me, I won't want to leave that area blank.

Daily Planner = Accountability Partner!

Since my planner arrived May 31st, I've used it every day this month and carry it with me most days.  It's not small enough to fit in my purse but it does fit in either my laptop bag or project bag, one of which I always have with me.  I know it's only been 2 weeks, but in that short time I've come to love my planner and can't imagine a day without it!

Come September, I'll reunite those abandon planners with their owners.  Who knows, there may be a kid out there who, like me, just needed to give this a try.  If only Kate Spade or Kristen Scmucker made a school planner!  If you use a planner, do you have one you love? If so, please share in the comments.  Perhaps we will all become a little more organized and accountable this summer!

Disclaimer: I did not receive ANY compensation for this review. The views expressed were my own at the time but unfortunately are no longer the case.

Yarn Along: Strong Female Leads

Netflix loves to suggest movies with "strong female leads" to me. Not that I have a problem with strong female leads, but I can't help but wonder why this is a category yet movies with "strong male leads" is not and what movies would be categorized as "weak female leads".

I probably over think my Netflix choices.

That said, for this week's yarn along, I have a finished project and a book, both based on strong, complex female characters.  I finally finished my version of Tanya the Sampler Girl's Jane Eyre shawl which was a mystery KAL in her ravelry group last month.  I knew I wouldn't make the deadline because I am a slow knitter and I like big shawls.

I knit this in Berroco Remix after seeing one that Tanya did in the same fiber.  I modified the pattern by adding 7 more repeats of clue 3 and another repeat of clue two.  While this picture was taken before blocking, I think this is a nice size summer shawl for cool nights at the shore and the frigid air conditioning favored by Southern states!

Late last week I picked up a copy of My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout from the library.  Tanya did not like this book and shared her opinion on her latest podcast, and I've heard mixed reviews from other people, but it's a short book so I thought I'd check it out for myself.

I love this book.

Written by the author of Olive Kitteridge, this book has less about detail and more about things not said.  Lucy Barton recounts her experience in a New York City hospital during the 1980s when she's still married to her first husband and her children are little.  She goes in to the hospital for a routine apendectomy but remains there for 9 weeks suffering from a mysterious fever.  Lucy's mother visits her in her hospital room that overlooks the Chrysler building, and the attempt by these two women to reconnect takes up the bulk of this slim novel.

In many ways, the silence of this book is more powerful than what Lucy recounts in its pages.  She shares flashes of extreme poverty and abuse but because she can't face it, the reader experiences not what actually happened to Lucy but instead her scattered memories and fierce denial.  The ultimate inability of mother and daughter to talk about what happened in their lives and express how they feel is heartbreaking and yet so real for these two women who find it impossible to say "I love you" out loud.

This is definitely not a book for every taste but if you have read Lucy Barton, did you love it or not? Let me know by completing the poll in the sidebar!

Gardening: The Sophomore Year

If you are the parent of or teach high school age kids, you know that the freshman year is a disaster.  That is not to say that students in that year don't stumble upon success, it's just that they are all over the place 90% of the time, and that last 10% is just luck.  Because they survive that first year, they believe they've mastered high school when they return for their second year.

This is my sophomore year of gardening.

Last year, I was the poster child of freshman gardening.  When looking back over my photos of last summer, I have not a one of the tomato jungle that was my garden.  If that garden were a movie, it would be Attack of the Killer Tomatoes! We had so many tomatoes by August that I started feeding them to the dog; that lasted a couple of weeks until even he wouldn't eat one even it if was called beefsteak.  It got so bad, I took up canning not only tomatoes but jalapeño jelly because no one told me you really only need one jalapeño plant!

With that experience still fresh in my mind, I started this second year by planting far fewer plants and diversifying because, as a sophomore, I think I know what I'm doing.  A number of gardeners in my area told me peas and beans were a great spring crop, so I started those at the end of April along with radishes (which I have no idea what to do with, but that's another blog post).

Kate of the Kitchen Stitching podcast gave me some pointers about trellises, and that section of the garden is going gangbusters!

I also added cucumbers to the mix, both pickling and lemon.  The lemon struggled when we had a late frost, but they are now back in action along with this year's pepper plants.  I also invested in tomato cages this year, and only planted 4 plants, 2 Rutgers tomato (my alma mater and Sarah's new college come September), and 2 cherry tomato plants.

Finally, my mother sent me a book about raised gardens originally published in 1981 and updated in 2005 entitled All New Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew that has also been a big help.  If you've made it to the graduate school of gardening, you probably don't need this, but I sure do.  I'm also certain that modern sophomores use the internet, but I like a nice trade paperback I can flip through quickly and mark up with my notes!

So far, so good but it is early days.  Also, those gnomes.  We inherited quite a few of those guys from Tom the shepherd (apparently they were part of an elaborate practical joke years ago), and they are all over the yard.  Yes, we are those neighbors.

If you're still new to gardening like me, what lessons have you learned and what resources do you use? For master gardeners... is it 4 years until I graduate, or is this what they mean by lifelong learning?!?

Yarn Along - The Widow Under Blue Skies

Last Friday, I was lucky enough to find a copy of The Widow by Fiona Barton at my local library.  Summer starts with Memorial Day weekend here in the States, and at the Jersey Shore, it's not a weekend to hit the beach.  Ok, maybe some of us do, but I'm more of an off season beach girl; I'd rather enjoy the dirt in my garden than the sand on the beach this time of year!

So I was thrilled to have this book to read over the long weekend even though The New York Times review was less than stellar.  Rarely do I disagree with Times reviewers, but recently we just aren't seeing eye to eye.  I strongly disagreed with their take on American Girls: Social Media and the Secret Lives of Teenagers which I loved and reviewed in the fourth episode of my podcast, and I also take issue with their categorization of Jean, the main character in The Widow, as an "unreliable narrator who happens to be female" in their Shortlist review.

Somehow the reviewer thought this was another girl on another train, but Jean is so not.  Jean doesn't lie to us, she lies to herself.

Jean is married to Glen, a handsome manipulator who is accused of abducting a child in 2006.  The book starts immediately after Glen is hit by a bus in 2010 when Jean tells us she's happy to be done with his "nonsense".  Jean stood by her man for 4 years but now the press are anxious to discover what she knew and when she knew it.  A classic fictional female reporter named Kate - think an updated Glenn Close in The Paper - bulldozes Jean into agreeing to an exclusive interview.

Chapters from Jean's first person perspective are interspersed with third person chapters about the lead detective in the case as well as the mother of the missing child.  A great summer read, The Widow is perfect to read beside your garden or slip in to your beach bag!

I've paired this book with a hank of fingering weight sock yarn hand dyed by Robin Barraud of the Robin's Roost etsy shop in the colorway "Blue Skies".  Currently I'm doing a test knit in the same base in the colorway "Dad's Plaid Shirt".  I can't share pics just yet since it's a test knit, but I can say this yarn is a dream to knit with!

Robin was kind enough to sit down with me last month, and my interview with her can be found in the latest podcast.  She also graciously agreed to giveaway all 460 yards of this beautiful yarn.  There's a giveaway thread in the Ravelry group... but you have to listen to her interview to find out how to enter!