Tuesday, May 31, 2016

What I Read: May

After a rather slumpy reading year so far, I feel like things got back on track in May! I'm excited about reading again. As usual, click on the title for my Goodreads review.

Beezus and Ramona, by Beverly Cleary. I had no idea that Beverly Cleary was still alive, but after finding out that she celebrated her 100th birthday last month, I wanted to read some of her books. I read a couple of the Ralph books as a kid, and maybe a Ramona book or two. So I started with the first Ramona book (which I hadn't read before), in a gloriously tacky, yellow-paged paperback straight out of my childhood. :) It was simple but funny and I liked it, even as a 25 year old. But wow, that Ramona is a brat.

The Rosie Effect, by Graeme Simsion. Last month I read The Rosie Project, so in May I picked up the sequel. Unfortunately, I didn't like it very much. It started off well, but it was way too long and I had some major issues with how the main two characters were handling things. There was such a lack of communication and I wanted to strangle them for acting so ridiculous! I liked the end, but overall it was disappointing.

Coffee at Luke's, edited by Jennifer Crusie. This is a book of essays about Gilmore Girls, which is one of my favorite TV shows. I liked some of the essays more than others...some highlights were the one about Kirk (possibly my favorite character on the show, purely for his weirdness), and one about the connections between classic films and the show. This book reminded me of a lot of things I'd forgotten and made me anxious to pick up where I left off in rewatching the show (season 3, and then I got distracted).

A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L'Engle. I read this book as a kid, but remembered absolutely nothing about it. (Though one scene did come back to me vividly as I was reading.) It's such a classic, and while I enjoyed it, I didn't absolutely love it like I expected to. The first few chapters were perfect and had a lovely atmosphere, but once the actual time travel started happening, I lost interest a bit. And I thought the end was anticlimactic. Still, it was interesting and I'm going to continue with the series.

A Fine Romance: Falling in Love with the English Countryside, by Susan Branch. This book...I loved this book. Yes, it's slightly cheesy and cutesy and overly gushing at times. But I can't help myself. The author is a knitter (plus a fellow classic movie/Beatrix Potter/Jane Austen fan) and she basically took my dream tour of England: focusing on the countryside and reveling in country estates and castle ruins and English gardens and quaint villages. It's written like a travel journal or scrapbook, with a handwriting-ish font and watercolor illustrations and pictures, and did I mention I loved it? I carried it around, reading a page or two whenever I had the time. I've been eyeing this book for years but could never bring myself to pay over $20 for it, considering I'd never seen it in person. But someone let me borrow it, and now I'll have to cough up the money for my own copy. :)

Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory, by Caitlin Doughty. I'm not even going to pretend that this book is for everyone. It's weird and morbid at the best of times, depressing and gross at other times. But it was also sort of fascinating. It's a peek behind the scenes of the American funeral industry (and death in general) in memoir format, plus some information about how other cultures deal with their dead. The author made some very interesting points about how detached our society is from death and the artificiality of our system. Like I said, not for everyone but I actually enjoyed it (for the most part).

Monday, May 30, 2016

Knitting: natural handspun shawl.

Last spring, I bought three batches of minimally processed roving from small farms (all American wool). Between last October and February, I spun the fiber into several skeins of bulky handspun. (I won't go into a lot of detail about the yarn again, because I already did here.) I cast on for the shawl almost immediately after finishing the yarn, but didn't knit on it very consistently, so it took nearly three months to finish.

But the important thing is that it's done now! I used the Boneyard Shawl pattern (minus the garter ridges)...it's really the most basic shawl pattern imaginable. Inspiration for the colors came from the Nordic Wind shawl. I didn't do a lot of calculating or planning with yardage, so I didn't have as much white/cream Coopworth as I had hoped. (Actually, it was nearly the same amount as the black, but obviously the yardage doesn't stretch as far on the widest part of the shawl.) I wish that the colors were slightly more equal...I would have loved just a couple more inches of white.

Though it didn't turn out exactly as I'd planned, I'm very proud of this shawl. While it did work up relatively quickly (bulky yarn spins and knits up fast), a lot of work went into it! I'd never before spun this much fiber for one project. It's rustic and scratchy, but it's so cozy and warm. (Or will be, when it's actually cool enough to use it.) It's hard to explain, but this feels like one of the most "real" things I've ever made. The wool came from sheep raised on US farms, it was minimally processed in small mills, and these are natural, un-dyed colors. I occasionally picked out bits of hay as I worked. I guess it's much easier to see the connection from sheep to shawl in this case than with other things I knit! I'd like to have more projects like that. :)

Ravelry project page.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Yarn Along

Reading: A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L'Engle. I read this book as a kid, but I remember absolutely nothing about it except that it involved time travel. I bought this copy at least 10 years ago and have since collected the other books in the series, so I'm finally reading this one again. So far it's living up to my expectations and I'm loving it!

Knitting: Remember this sweater? It's been on the needles for nearly four months now, and that drives me crazy. For the last month (at least), all I've had left was about 6 inches of one sleeve and the neckband. I finally got motivated to work on it again, and it might actually be finished by the time this post goes up. {It's finished! I still have to weave in the ends and block it, but I should have finished photos sometime next week.}

{Yarn Along is a weekly link up hosted by Ginny where you can share what you've been knitting and reading.}

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Yarn Along

Reading: The Rosie Effect, by Graeme Simsion. This is the sequel to the book I was reading in my last Yarn Along post (The Rosie Project). I can't say too much about this one without spoiling aspects of the first book, so I'll just say that I'm really enjoying it so far. :)

Knitting: I'm almost finished with my mom's socks for Mothers' Day. A few days late, I know! But I only have a couple of inches left on the second sock. These are just plain vanilla socks, but knitting with self-striping yarn is so addicting!

{Yarn Along is a weekly link up hosted by Ginny where you can share what you've been knitting and reading.}

Monday, May 2, 2016

What I Read: April

What a sad little pile of books! Yeah...I definitely didn't get a lot of reading done in April. As usual, click on the titles to read my Goodreads reviews.

Meant To Be, by Lauren Morrill. I bought this book a couple of years ago, mostly because of the pretty cover and the fact that it's set in London. Unfortunately, it was disappointing. With her type-A planner and rule-following personality, I could relate to Julia, the main character, at times. But she was also annoying and wishy-washy. And Jason just got on my nerves.

The Dirty Life, by Kristin Kimball. I really enjoyed this memoir! With the way that the author fell into farming (she fell in love with a farmer), I thought she might romanticize it. But she was very honest and blunt about the difficult parts of that lifestyle. It was a very interesting and engaging read.

The Rosie Project, by Graeme Simsion. This book was like a romantic comedy starring Adrian Monk (of the TV show Monk). It read so much like a movie, which made sense when I found out that it was originally written as a screenplay (and apparently it's been optioned as a film?). It was a fluffy rom-com, but with a few unique aspects: the most enjoyable of those being Don Tillman, the main character. I really liked it, but a few things kept me from loving it (particularly some profanity and a character named Gene).