Saturday, December 31, 2016

In 2016.

I keep hearing everyone talk about what a horrible year 2016 was. But to be perfectly honest, it was the best year of my life and I'm not going to pretend otherwise. :)

I fell in love with a really wonderful guy, and that's why I had such an amazing year. I won't get all mushy here, except to say that I'm happier than I've ever been! I don't know how I got so blessed to have Kenny in my life, but I thank God for him. I can't believe that a year ago today, I was a nauseous, nervous wreck about going out on our first date that night, ha.

2015 was a big step for me in getting out of my little bubble, because I started going to knitting group every week. And that continued on in 2016 because it turns out that, of course, as a quiet and awkward introvert, being in a relationship really pulls you out of your comfort zone. I've met new people (his family and friends) and gone new places, but more importantly, I've had to learn how to open up to another person and let him see who I really am. And hey, I'm still awkward and quiet, but Kenny doesn't mind. :)

Another good thing that happened this year was that I got two wool sheep. I didn't write about it at the time, but sadly the smaller one, Violet, died after we'd had her a couple of weeks (due to an accident with some netting/fencing). But it turns out that Agatha was pregnant when we got her, and she unexpectedly had a lamb recently. It's a female, so I'll be keeping her, though I haven't decided on a name yet.

Okay, so moving on to my knitting for the year. In total, I finished 41 projects. 20 of those were items to sell at craft shows, and 12 were gifts. The remaining nine were for myself, but about half of those were socks, so I really didn't knit myself much this year. I really need more sweaters, so that's hopefully going to be my focus in 2017.

Favorite knit of 2016: My In Stillness sweater! (Though I really love my Elder Tree Shawl, too.)

Least favorite knit of 2016: Happily, I don't have one. I knitted so few things for myself, but they were all things that I really thought about and planned out, so they're all loved and worn often.

I didn't do so great with my yarny resolutions, except for the one about being selective with my purchases. I didn't buy much yarn at all in 2016, so I feel good about that. I'm knitting up my stash! But I didn't make time to spin weekly, or take that drafting Craftsy class, or learn how to weave (I started experimenting with a small piece, but that's it), or start making craft fair inventory early in the year. Oops.

But if I failed those, then my sewing resolutions were laughable. I only had two: sew a pair of jeans, and start a new quilt, and I made no progress on those at all. Except that I did begin sorting my fabric scraps by color and prewashing them for the quilt. However, I did combine a couple of patterns to make my ideal dress! I'm very happy about that...I made three of those dresses this year and plan on making more in 2017.

How did you do with your 2016 resolutions?

Friday, December 30, 2016

Best of 2016: Books

2016 was an okay reading year. I thought it was better than it was, but I was a little surprised when I looked back over the list of books I'd read this year...I had a hard time picking my favorites. And not because there were so many of them. While I really liked a lot of the books I read, there weren't many that stood out as ones I loved or new favorites.

Best book: I had two favorites this year. The first was Far From the Madding Crowd (book and film discussion here), which means that I will be seeking out more Thomas Hardy in 2017. And then there was A Fine Romance: Falling in Love with the English Countryside, which is probably my favorite travel book ever (so far).

Worst book: I didn't read any incredibly terrible books, but The Picture of Dorian Gray was pretty bad.

Biggest surprise: Smoke Gets In Your Eyes. This book won't be for's a memoir written by a woman who has worked at funeral homes and crematories, and it's about that whole industry and how our society views death in general. It was incredibly interesting, though dark and gross at times. One particular part made me queasy, but it still managed to make my list of favorites this year, so I'm not sure what that says about me?

Biggest disappointment: The Graveyard Book. I wanted to love this book. I want to love Neil Gaiman's stories, because they sound right up my alley. But I really struggled with it and was left disappointed.

I had a goal of reading 60 books, which I did. I only had 5 rereads this year, though two of them were Jane Austen so that was good. I read beginnings or installments of series, but I didn't read any complete series unless you count Susan Branch's three memoirs. Here are my reading resolutions for 2016 and how I did with them:

-Read 60 books. Yes!

-Drastically reduce my number of owned-but-unread books. No, I failed completely at this. It amazes me, because I read exclusively from my own shelves this year...I didn't go to the library at all and only borrowed a few books from other people. And still, at the end of the year, the number of books on this list is almost exactly the same as it was last year.

-Reread the Lord of the Rings trilogy. No. It's my tradition to make this a resolution every year, and apparently it's my tradition to never actually do it.
What were your favorite or least favorite books of 2016?

P.S. I'm going to be skipping my usual Best of 2016: Movies, TV, and Music post this year. I've seen so many movies this year, but I can't for the life of me remember which ones were 2016 releases. The only movie I saw in theaters was Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, which was pretty good and very enjoyable, though lacking in the classic Harry Potter magic. I didn't find any new music this year (the Avett Brothers always!), and I'm way too disorganized with my movies/TV to post about them.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

What I Read: December

This month's pile is a little sad! I was in a reading slump for most of the month. Because I was spending every extra moment knitting Christmas gifts, I didn't get a lot of reading done, and I wasn't particularly excited about what I was reading. As always, click on the title for my Goodreads review.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, by J.K. Rowling. I'm rereading the Harry Potter series one book each year, because of these new illustrated editions. (They're releasing one book each fall.) I love this book and this series, and the illustrations are gorgeous, but I wasn't really in the mood for it, I guess.

The Amazing Thing About the Way It Goes, by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee. I love the Yarn Harlot blog, and I've previously read two of her books and really loved them. But this one was disappointing because the others were knitting themed, and there was almost no knitting here. She's a good storyteller, and a few of the essays near the end were great, but I don't think I'll be holding on to this one.

My True Love Gave To Me, edited by Stephanie Perkins. I won this book in a giveaway last year, but it was too late to read it for Christmas, so I picked it up this year. I didn't read all of the stories, only about 7 of the 12. There were a few really adorable ones, and a few okay ones (details about specific stories are in my review). I might finish the rest of the stories next Christmas.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Knitting: Christmas gifts.

I can finally share everything I've been knitting over the past two and a half months! :) Here are the Christmas gifts I made this year. I apologize for the bad quality of some of the photos...I'm always taking quick pictures as I finish and before I wrap them up, so it's usually not a good lighting situation.
A cowl for my sister-in-law. I used a very simple pattern (that I've knitted three times before) and some pretty gray Malabrigo yarn. I made the longer size so she can wear it doubled. Project page. 
I made a pair of purple socks for my boyfriend's mom. They're a mixture of a few patterns: I used the texture from Irish Oats, but slightly altered because these are fingering weight rather than sport, and I used the heel from Hermione's Everyday Socks. I really like how they turned out. Project page.
My boyfriend's two nieces each got a hat. The cabled hat, knitted from Malabrigo (which was much prettier than the picture looks), is for his older niece so I made a small adult size. Project page. The purple and green one is just a basic toddler hat, with some colorwork. Project page.

My niece got her yearly sweater, a slightly Frozen-themed one this time. (Because, just like every three year old girl in America, she's obsessed with that movie.) Project page. I also made her a little pair of mittens from the leftover yarn. Project page.
I made my mom a pair of fingerless gloves that coordinate with her birthday gift. (In real life. Once again, the lighting in this picture is awful.) Project page.

And finally, Mom got socks, as always! She loves socks so I usually knit her at least two pairs a year. Project page.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Spinning: autumn-colored Finn.

I started spinning this fiber last month when I was selling at a craft show, and finished it a couple weeks ago. I had every intention of selling the finished yarn, but I loved how the colors were looking so I decided to keep it for myself. (It's been a while since I spun anything for myself, so I felt like that justified the decision, ha.)

The fiber was some hand dyed Finn wool that I bought this past spring at the fiber festival. I spun it fractal style: I split it in half lengthwise, split one of those halves into four or six smaller sections and predrafted the other half a bit, then spun them separately and plied them together. I was vaguely trying for a thinner yarn, approx. sportweight, but it ended up being 204 yards of worsted weight. Which is fine, because I have some gray yarn that I might pair it up with so it will stretch further.

I love the orange and gray together, and how fall-like this yarn is! It's also really soft. This is the second time I've spun Finn, and it's a very nice wool.

Friday, December 2, 2016

What I Read: November

Like my "spooky reads" in October, I also had a bit of a theme with my reading this past month. Lesley of Words of a Reader, one of my favorite bookish YouTube channels, hosted a children's literature month in November. I didn't vow to only read kids' books the entire month, but I did go through my shelves and pull out a lot of middle grade novels that I've been meaning to read. I love children's books, so it was a lot of fun and nice to focus on them this month. (But now I'm ready to take a break from themed reading for a while, ha.) As always, click on the titles for my Goodreads reviews.

Halloween Party, by Agatha Christie. This was another Halloween read that I didn't finish until the first day of November. The mystery in this one was more complicated than I expected! I really enjoyed it. It seemed a little slow in spots, but the end was very tense and exciting, so it made up for that.

The Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaiman. I had such a weird experience with this book. More details in my review if you're interested, but basically I listened to the first half of it months ago as an audiobook, then physically read the second half. And I didn't really like it. I don't know what's wrong with me, I feel like I should love Neil Gaiman's books but so far I just don't.

Flora & Ulysses, by Kate DiCamillo. This book was just adorable. Kate DiCamillo's books are always lovely, but usually in a sad way. This one was quirky and charming, and the ending was so sweet. Who knew that poetry written by a squirrel could be so moving? (I know that sounds a little random, but that's the book in a nutshell. Pun intended.)

Destiny, Rewritten, by Kathryn Fitzmaurice. I was pleasantly surprised by this one. Like Flora & Ulysses, it was also charming and full of quirky characters, but in a different way. I liked how bookish it was, and at times it reminded me of Natalie Lloyd's books.

Juniper Berry, by M.P. Kozlowsky. This one was a little disappointing. There were some very memorable aspects, because they were both creepy and creative, but I felt like it wrapped up too quickly. Especially because the majority of the book was slower paced.

The Lightning Thief, by Rick Riordan. This book was a lot of fun! I'd always heard good things about it, and I'm glad that it lived up to them. I know almost nothing about Greek mythology, but that wasn't a problem at all. I loved how creatively and seamlessly the gods and characters from mythology were incorporated into the modern day setting. Looking forward to reading the rest of this series!

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling. This memoir was okay, about what I expected. I'm not a fan of Mindy Kaling's (not that I'm not a fan, I'm just not really familiar with her work), but for some reason I've always wanted to read this book. Some parts were funny, and I enjoyed the more personal essays about relationships and body image and friendship more than the ones about her career. I liked it enough that I'll be reading her second memoir soon.