12 May 2011

pinocchio by carlo collodi

ever since i stumbled across a quote about teaching the alphabet to the ants, pinocchio has been on my to-read list. it's bit of a random story, not surprising for a print-by-the-week story. pinocchio's adventures include the ones featured in the disney film, as well as more outrageous ones. he goes from one scrape to another despite his promises to work hard and obey. eventually his bouts of diligence are longer than his vagabond periods, but it is only when he must nurse geppetto that he works and serves his father with his whole heart.

there's an undercurrent of christian ethics seen in the oft-repeated morals of working hard and helping others. overtones of the prodigal son story and bits of isaiah (where the righteous are judged against and the prisoners are set free) show up in the second half of the story. pinocchio's is a highly dramatized, often ridiculous, story that is nevertheless easy to relate to. i love the repeated maxim that little boys who won't learn and work turn into little donkeys, which is literally fulfilled by pinocchio and his friends. if i had a little boy, that's what i'd tell him to get him to do his homework.

10 May 2011

i am nujood, age 10 and divorced by nujood ali

this book caught my eye on the fancy updates our library sends out now. very simple and descriptive prose makes for fast reading. the confusion of a 10-yr-old thrust into marriage with no idea what that entails comes through clearly. an insider's picture of life in yemen is marred by violence against women, which is rarely acknowledged and more rarely discussed. i expected some legal drama perhaps. instead, the book is told entirely from nujood's perspective and based on her limited knowledge which only increases its impact. for me, this book touches on the right of any person to make their own choices much more than a western vs. eastern theme. and yet i can't help wondering what men (anyone) are really thinking when they follow destructive traditions.

09 May 2011

paper towns by john green

this is a good YA novel. paper towns starts at the end of high school, with a nerdy guy drooling over the hot girl next door, and his one big chance for adventure. which turns into his chance to (possibly) have the girl of his dreams, solve a mystery and learn how hard it is to truly know anyone. there's introspection on how we relate to and understand others. there's also the obligatory teen drinking and sex although not in painful detail, thankfully. and yet this book is not chained to the stereotypes it invokes and is surprisingly true to reality, where no matter how much you've thought something through and changed your perspective, something can still come out of nowhere and knock you on your back. over and over again. good stuff.

07 May 2011

square socks

since i haven't had much luck with socks for myself lately, another pair for chuck seemed like a good idea. i grabbed a skein from his sock yarn stash (picked out by himself) and got started without thinking too much about it. after testing a couple needle sizes, i got a larger gauge than usual. that was ok, since the yarn seemed like a thicker sock yarn. it's not a very soft yarn, and the swatch felt extremely sturdy, but that was ok too. a sturdy gauge makes for a long-wearing sock. after passing the heel, there was an alarmingly small knob of yarn left. and it really did feel like it would wear like iron, only not in a pleasant way. to appease my growing suspicions, i looked the yarn up on ravelry, where it was clearly marked as a sport weight yarn. yup.

after i frogged that attempt, i moved up a few more needles sizes and got a fabric that might not scour the bottoms of chuck's feet. the first sock jumped off the needles in less than a week, and the second sock quickly followed suit. the pattern is a simple knit and purl texture, perfect for guy socks. standard vertical ribbing didn't work out with the stitch count, so i knit a few rows of horizontal ribbing as that matched the pattern better. the ribbing really flares out, both pre- and post-blocking.

square socks: done

luckily, there's no evidence of that when the socks are worn.

square socks: model

or maybe they just conform really well to chuck's skinny ankles and large calves...............

06 May 2011

the road to lisdoonvarna by charles de lint

this book came out of my owned but unread pile. unlike most of de lint's fantasy books, the road to lisdoonvarna is a straight forward mystery novel. a private detective is trying to find out who raped and beat a friend while taking on a case for a missing teen. some of de lint's trademarks sneak in: a love of celtic music, busking musicians, canadian setting, a native american sidekick, and the idea that we should all help each other as best we can. except for the bad guys, maybe, who take each other out in the end. no surprising twists here, just an enjoyable read.

05 May 2011

forest born by shannon hale

i was delighted to find another installment of the bayern books at the library. this book is the fourth in the series, although i believe each book can stand on its own. each book has examined a different kind of magical speaking and the focus in this book is tree speaking. hale's characters experience the typical faery tale journey of self-discovery, and in the discovery and acceptance of their talents, must learn to use them to reach out to others. the broad trope is the only similarity, as each main character has their own particular problems to solve and faults to overcome.

rin, the main character in forest born, has perhaps the most clearly human problems to resolve, despite her magical abilities. she must learn how to be herself, rather than reflecting others, and discover the truest way to speak with others. as in the previous books, political problems and their resolution form the backdrop for rin's journey through the land and to self-discovery. none of the solutions come easily and rin's difficulties are easy to sympathize with as characteristic of struggles we all go through.

04 May 2011

WIP wednesday: knitting retreat

last week, in anticipation of our local knitting group's yearly retreat, i indulged in some startitis. after all, who wants to run out of projects at a retreat? and not wanting to neglect knitting content, a WIP wednesday to show off progress seemed just the thing.

veil of isis

veil of isis: mid-blob

previously seen in its pre-blob state, the shawl is slowly but surely globbing along. its main weekly feeding is during church, with some snacks sporadically through the week. perhaps at its next check up, i'll measure the cone and try to estimate how far i've come. it's making steady progress through the Amorphous Blob phase and i'm pleased with its growth.

sauna mat

sauna rug: pre-border

although the sauna mat has been lurking in the side bar, this is its first public appearance. it's knit with worsted weight cotton held doubled and rag strips knit as yarn for contrast, using size 13/ mm needles, and the log cabin construction in mason-dixon knitting. the actual knitting for this went very quickly. weaving in the rag ends, not so quickly. at the retreat, all the ends were woven in while i was distracted by great conversation. now all i need to do is cut more rag for the crochet border.....

spoked stash hat

spoked stash hat: slogging

one day when i wanted a fast, mindless project i grabbed a skein of swedish acrylic off the shelf, picked a pattern largely at random from a recent interweave knits, and cast on. after making bobbles on the second row, the hat is knit in ribbing for 8 inches. very mindless - a bit too much in fact. and not as fast as i imagined in DK weight yarn. so it got some enforced knitting time at the retreat as well and grew at least an inch.

blackwatch swing socks

blackwatch swing: heel

i matched up a languishing skein of lorna's laces with the pattern sunday swing socks from knitty and had the cuff and one repeat finished before the retreat. the pattern calls for only 3 repeats length-wise before the heel but since this was a mere 5 inches, i added 2 more repeats for an 8" leg. the heel flap is just about done and i should be turning the heel in a day or so.

skewed space dust socks

skewed space dust

a few months ago i was gifted a skein of socks that rock (colorway space dust) by a friend with a large STR collection who knew i'd been wanting to try that yarn out. that's right, this is my first time using socks that rock. all the crazy colors seemed perfect for a fairly plain sock but not wanting another easy project, i picked a pattern with an unusual construction. prior to the retreat, i got as far as swatching. at the retreat, i cast on, knit half a foot, frogged it and knit another half a foot. although the pattern is knit on the bias, it can be tried on as you go and, thus far, has been easy to customize. there is supposedly math involved with the heel, so i will try not to get too confident yet. the yarn is great, and although there are many individual colors that i dislike, they are very cheerful all mashed together.

and that's what i've been working on! the retreat was great - we were in a new location this year (touch of wilderness in healy) and it was very open and welcoming, good food, great atmosphere. i think we'll be back next year. it was one of those rare places whose online photos match the reality. we had some fun classes and just enjoyed sitting around talking about everything you could imagine and probably a little you couldn't. i've said it before, and i'll say it again, i love our knitting group. there's such a variety of personalities that there's never a dull moment. in our white elephant exchange (which is a total misnomer, as every package has desirable items) i acquired a smattering of exotic fibers. BFL, alpaca, silk and qiviut all bundled up in a ravelry project bag.
knitting retreat white elephant haul
looks like i may have to get a spindle and see if i can make yarn.

03 May 2011

heart of gold by sharon shinn

i followed up on one of the short story worlds from quatrain, which led me to the stand alone book heart of gold. again, i was captivated by the fascinating clash of cultures and races. a matriarchal, blue-skinned race conflicts with a patriarchal, gulden-skinned race over customs legal and private, land control and terrorism. there's also an albino race, although they stay in the background of the story. racial and cultural tension are central to story as the races deal with terrorist acts done in retaliation for land taken over in violation of a treaty. shinn manages to convey both societal and individual reactions to the main and underlying conflicts. she successfully portrays contrasts and conflicts at several levels.

beyond the question of national interest and what means are acceptable to protect that, shinn takes on how our understanding of life is based on culture, upbringing, and individual characteristics, and whether and how people can change. on the personal level, her characters deal with moral dilemmas reflecting those larger issues and how those larger issues affect family and personal relationships. the world of heart of gold is very complex in a subtle way, realistic and highly engaging.

the princess and the hound by mette ivie harrison

the princess and the hound was a very good story, although the title characters were not the sole focus as the title might lead one to think. fairy tale motifs were used in a new way, to great effect with unexpected twists. the ability to speak with animals is outlawed and the prince who possesses it is forced to hide it for his safety and the good of the kingdom. he also learns to sacrifice his self for the kingdom, until his pending arranged marriage forces him to examine himself and the worth of a life half lived. told from the prince's perspective, i'm reminded of the description given of the princes bride "fighting, torture, revenge, chases, escapes, true love, miracles..." there is a bit of everything that comes together in the end.

the story didn't just end right at the climax, but actually followed through on some of the repercussions of choices made. rather than leaving practical consequences to the reader's imagination, the author showed things aren't always roses right away and showed the character's responses to opposition. instead of an unrealistic all-ends-tied-up ending, there was enough of a follow through to show that new problems will arise in the solving of current issues. i really enjoyed this book with its very human characters. there are two sequels which i plan on reading once the library picks them up.

11 April 2011

RIP problem children

several projects have been in and out of hibernation for longer than i like to admit. the last month i grabbed the bull by the horns and evaluated each of them, attempted solutions and made a final decision. sadly, many of them jumped in the frog pond.

sunshine socks

after several attempts at making a heel big enough for my feet that didn't stretch the cables beyond recognition, i reported success. that was what the knitting trolls were waiting for. the foot finally fit perfectly - and the leg is way too short. by inches, plural. more than 3.

sunshine vs. anastacia

here compared with a sock in the same yarn, a sock that i tug on all day because it's just a little too short. that pair had an accidental trip through the washer and dryer that i blamed for the shortage. turns out shibui doesn't have the most generous yardage. and it was on the way to being one of my favoritest sock yarns.


the sunshine yarn will eventually grow up to be a very plain pair of socks, knit toe up to maximize every inch. and some day when the sting has faded, i'll dig in the stash for some other sock yarn with more yardage for that cabled pattern. because, unbelievably, i still like both of them. they just weren't meant to be together.

gryphon socks

these socks have also gone the way of the dodo. the pattern has an intriguing construction - and a nipple pucker on the heel.

gryphon socks: heel

the linen stitch on the sole uses more yarn than a stockinette sole, and despite buying the recommended yarn, there's not much yardage left for the leg......after several incarnations in which the heel never fit quite right, i still got a very short sock. this yarn is in the same boat as the sunshine yarn. it will grow up into a very plain, toe up sock, hopefully with a decent leg length. the pattern will be abandoned to the four winds to survive on its own.

tahoe sweater

this sweater was a fast knit, with a painfully slow finishing process. in the year (exactly! how did i do that?) since completion, i've worn it about 5 times around the house and that's it. it suffers from pattern and user issues, despite its innocent look.


the pattern has a loose and drapey gauge, with swingy sleeves. i measured the schematic against a cotton shirt of the same style, that i like and wear often. lesson: what works in cotton does not necessarily work in yarn. those sleeves were soooo annoying, and got folded over about 4 inches the few times i wore the sweater. i worked the button bands a few times to get the stitches evenly distributed. laying flat, they look fine but once on they pull up like an upside down V. while i like the lilac color of the yarn, it turns out to be a bit hard to match with shirts and would be happier as a pullover.

the yarn itself (elann incense) is wonderful and cozy to wear. it even tolerated ripping better than i expected. due to the gauge, the yardage is less than standard for pullovers in my size. enter the fall edition of interweave knits and the cover sweater, a brioche rib pullover in the exact same colors and matching yardage. once the yarn (and my ego) have rested for a few months, i should have a pullover to show off.

chuck, of course, thinks i'm crazy for ripping anything out, and even more for demolishing a completed sweater. it was a wonderful feeling to accept that those projects weren't working and stop them from smirking at me from the workbasket. now i have yarn for three new projects, free of charge. hopefully they we will be happier in their next incarnations.

09 April 2011

uglies pretties and specials by scott westerfeld


uglies starts off in an interesting post-apocalyptic setting. the explanation of the "past" is a bit self-consciously simplistic, more suited to an elementary audience than a teen one. the story line is fairly fast-paced, although several parts are easily guessed ahead of time. as i said in the review for the grimm legacy, one of the main plot devices is poor communication. that really gets old by the end of the book. normal adolescent problems of coming of age, thinking for oneself, understanding and rebelling against authority provide more conflict and tension, which mostly overcomes the poor communication issue. uglies was still an engaging, fast read overall.


the follow up to uglies seems a bit more mature, although there's some rinse and repeat with a very similar story line. everything was laid on thicker than the first book - the main character feels responsible to save EVERYBODY she comes in contact with. the main character is innovative and brave, but keeps getting her mind physically rewired and i've started to feel some sympathy for her -i suspect she will never be normal and happy. despite basing conflicts on civilization vs. nature, scott westerfeld doesn't really know what to do with his pretties outside the city. the ending was disappointing, and very reminiscent of hollywood's inability to deal with a happy couple. i suppose pretties was still fast and engaging. my disgust didn't surface strongly until the last page. there's only one book left in the trilogy - i will probably read it, but i won't like it :)

specials (warning: minor spoiler)

by the end of this book, all the underlying themes were impossible to explain away as accidental. there's a strong female character, manipulated by everyone, and guilt ridden. she feels responsible for other people's choices - her best friend accuses her of thinking she's the center of universe. and she must, because everything is her fault. some things are, most are not, as other people chose how to act and react on their own. there is some maturing over the 3 books yet the ending is still characterized by crappy communication. it ends with a sort of 'let's not talk to the people about how they're changing and positive choices they could make, let's go hide in the woods and attack them if they do something i don't like' scene. all i could think was oh, brother. that sure is the way to change the world.


i doubt that i will reread any of these books. i read more to see what quirks would pop up in the futuristic setting than because i cared about the characters. unfortunately, most of the devices used by the author to keep the story going were very irritating, but i suppose it could get a good discussion going on how not to solve problems. the trilogy was at least interesting when it couldn't be excellent.

08 April 2011

i am number four

a few weeks ago during spring break, chuck and i took advantage of an afternoon off for a date. spring break is early here, and grossly misnamed as it's about 2 months before proper alaskan springtime. chuck ended up training for his summer job most of the week rather than being free as we hoped, so the afternoon off was appreciated.

for our date, we ignored the checkbook and went to the movies to see i am number four. it was a good film, not as underdeveloped as many films aimed at teens. there was an obligatory teen drinking party scene, luckily brief. those scenes make me wonder about my serious lack of social interaction in high school. do teens really drink that much? when discussing the film afterward, there were several points we were curious about that were unexplained, but i prefer the mystery to lame explanations. apparently, the movie is based on a book which i will look up to see how they compare. book explanations don't always translate well to visual mediums. the movie has potential for a good story, which i'm hoping to find in the book. the storyline was decent, with action scenes, some mystery, and some love. the ending was complete in itself but is open for sequels. good entertainment for an afternoon, although i'm not sure it passes the test of ending up on my shelf. i'm more interested in finding the book than watching the movie again.

also noticed on our way out that hoodwinked has a sequel coming out soon! hopefully it will be just as fun as the first movie......

07 April 2011

my favorite peanut butter

when i was a kid, we got foodstamps and welfare peanut butter. the peanut butter was solid stuff that split into chunks and refused to spread smoothly on bread. if it wasn't spread just so, it would tear holes in our whole wheat bread (note: it was not the wimpy wonder bread). it was The Most Awesome Stuff. In. The. World. it tasted like pure peanuts, the inside of a reese's peanut butter cup. my whole life i've wished i could somehow finagle just one more bucket of that peanut butter. even the natural PB in the store isn't quite right.

in my homemade experiments i've come across recipes for making your own peanut butter. some of them call for just peanuts, some add a bit of oil, others a bit of honey. months ago i tried one and wasn't quite satisfied with the results. then one day, going through the cupboards, i grabbed an open can of roasted peanuts and thought 'what the heck.' i pulled out the food processor, determined to grind those peanuts as long as necessary to get real peanut butter.

5 minutes later i was done.


it splits off in chunks. it didn't rip holes in the toast i tested it on, but it does taste very close to that welfare peanut butter of my dreams. guess i don't have to get on government aid to have perfect peanut butter.

how to make your own welfare peanut butter:

grab some peanuts. throw them in the food processor and turn it on. the nuts get ground up, then form a lump. it's not done yet. keep it going and the natural peanut oil will release and the lump smooths out into peanut butter. test your peanut butter on some toast or an old-fashioned PBJ sandwich. close your eyes and enjoy.

27 February 2011

the story of the scrolls by geza vermes

i've always been interested in the dead sea scrolls, as an archaeologist and a christian. although people would talk about the scrolls in very general terms, i never heard any specifics mentioned about their contents, or any books discussing them. almost 2 months ago chuck and i signed up for a new testament class (which we have since dropped - the teacher was the type who assigns reading and then repeats the reading without adding any depth or perspective). the class did remind me of my interest in the scrolls, which was good timing as it turns out. besides books with translations of the scrolls, the library had a book released last spring, the story of the scrolls, that gives an overview of the discovery of the scrolls, their context and contents, plus the scholarly work done up to the present.

vermes' review of the translation work and publication makes it clear why i've never heard specifics: very little was published until the late 90s. archaeological work was done at qumran where the majority of the scrolls were found, and that's even more embarrassing as nothing has been published in the 20 years since the work ended. artifacts have even gone missing. not very professional, as a major part of archaeology is preserving what we find and publishing the information for the public. it's a shame that sharing such an exciting find has taken over 50 years. but it does mean that there are books for me to read, now that i've come back around to the topic.

despite the academic presentation and dense language, i found the story of the scrolls an interesting read. i'm glad i read it before taking on any translations of the scrolls - now i have more context to understand them. some of the scrolls are copies of biblical texts but many deal with community rules and non-biblical topics. the scrolls fall in the time period between the old and new testaments, and vermes explains the historical background and religious groups present for that time period. he seems to present theories objectively, pointing out pros and cons of each. the book was very thorough and a great introduction to the dead sea scrolls as it not only introduces the scrolls themselves put places them, and the people who kept them, in the historic and cultural landscape. i'd definitely recommend it if you're interested in the dead sea scrolls.

next up in my serious reading queue is the complete dead sea scrolls in english by the same author, to be followed by josephus' history of the same time period. that ought to take the rest of the year. good thing i can read more than one book at a time......

26 February 2011

hey there, little red riding hood......

somehow my movie and book queues synced this week, with little red riding hood re-tellings. both were referred by sur la lune.

hoodwinked (2005)

hoodwinked starts with the end of the story as we know it, then rewinds to tell the story from each character's view. the movie is funny, light-hearted, and unconventional, with many humorous references to well-known movies and stories. i'm sure i didn't even catch all the references. it's a bit like a disney film, in that it has music, but (and i never say this) i actually like the songs. chuck even liked it, and he's skeptical of animated faery tale movies. i want this one on our dvd shelf.

sisters red by jackson pearce

sisters red starts at the end of the story as we know it too, oddly enough. instead of one girl, there are two sisters, and pearce explores how they live after the wolf eats grandma. there's new werewolf culture, a woodsman legacy, and the struggle of close siblings to grow up and apart without losing each other. this is a good YA book. the back of the book had a review for pearce's re-telling of hansel and gretel, also with an extra sibling. looks interesting......

25 February 2011

chuck ribs and sunshine

i took a break from my complicated, ill-fitting socks and knit some plain old ribbed socks for chuck. they're a simple 3x2 ribbing, with a short row heel. i have to recommend opal for its yardage - it keeps going and going. when i asked chuck how long he wanted the legs, he replied 'as long as you can make them.' groan. the total length is 12 in/30.5 cm from the bottom of the heel and go 2/3 of the way to his knees.
chuck ribs: done
they seemed to fit well, although i noticed after our photo shoot that the heels look a bit loose. there's no way i'm redoing those long legs though. chuck was all smiles once they were on his feet and didn't want to take them off. he sure knows how to make a girl want to knit him more socks.

i recalculated one of my problem socks, the sunshine socks, measuring both stockinette gauge and cable gauge. the first sock is just past the heel as of sunday and really truly fits well. at last.
sunshine socks: halfway marksunshine sock: detail
they will progress more quickly now that they are the main socks on the needles. i love the pattern and the yarn, it's a relief to finally get the fit right.

another work in progress, designed to stave off sweater knitting pangs, is the veil of isis shawl. it's a free ravelry download from bad cat designs, simple with elegant results. after a rough start with picking a gauge (the pattern doesn't specify any gauge) and misreading the chart, the pattern has grown on me and i only look at the chart for transitions. it started out on 4 dpns and grew onto 8,
veil of isis: row 33ishveil of isis: 8 dpns
then transitioned right onto a 40" circular needle, where it will progress through the Amorphous Blob stage before growing up into a lovely square shawl. i've no idea how large it will end up, i'm going to see how far a one pound cone of laceweight takes me.

24 February 2011

grimm legacy, quatrain and neverwhere

posting reviews of books sure makes it seem like i'm reading more than i thought! i just hope they're interesting to the other bookworms out there.....

the grimm legacy by polly shulman

this book has a library i'd love to work in. the setting is urban fantasy and as a young adult book, it was engaging and quick to read. i liked it, but there was something lacking. this fell between uglies and pretties by scott westerfeld, which i'll review after i've read the last book of the trilogy. they were all decent books, but read so close together impressed me with the same flaw.

harry potter caused an explosion of YA sci-fi/fantasy, with positive and negative results. there's fascinating new worlds, retellings and twists on traditional tales. for me, the main difference between adult and YA novels has been the age of the main characters. the dilemmas should be somewhat adapted to the character's age, but more to their life situation. either way, adult and YA novels should have a feeling of reality and depth that brings me back for a second reading. some of the recent YA books, including the ones above, lack that sense of reality and depth. there's a little too frequent use of hollywood's favorite plot twist - no clear and honest communication rather than true moral dilemmas. it's a bit too easy to guess what's coming next. really, it's almost like there's not much effort to write a real story. the fantasy bit is the setting, the background. how the characters solve their problems is what grabs our attention and makes a story relevant for re-reading. communication issues are boring, just stop being a coward and talk - not telling your friend something should not be the main problem the book solves. the newer YA books have interesting worlds and are fast reads, but CS lewis and madeleine l'engle still have 'em beat.

what do you think? any opinions on the new trends in YA books?

quatrain by sharon shinn

this book is a collection of four short stories/novellas, each set in a different world previously published by the author. i grabbed it for the first story, set in the world of samaria and the archangel series. it was a decent story, set in the same time period as archangel. the other stories were in worlds i hadn't read yet. the second story, blood, was my favorite. it's got very different cultures and customs clashing in the background of a young man's personal quest. this story was most successful at drawing the world and its conflicts in a short space. the next story, gold, was very fluffy - an immature princess and her unconvincing story. the last story was another good one. in a world again brought to life with few words, it tells of an outcast with a mystery to solve. the second and fourth stories will have me looking for other books about those worlds.

neverwhere by neil gaiman

i am a fan of gaiman, his books have good plots, good twists, and incorporates fantasy and mythological elements in new ways. neverwhere is one of my favorites, which i am re-reading after watching the 6 episode tv series. if you've read the book and liked it, it's a decent enough show. it's a bit odd, just like the book. chuck thought it seemed hokey and unrealistic - like it couldn't really happen. the book was more convincing but the series is not bad if you're at the bottom of your netflix queue and waiting for the new doctor who season to start.

17 February 2011

shoveling the deck poem

deck poem
the brilliant colors of spring's promises
bidding gentle farewell in autumn
lay crumbling and broken,
frozen and forgotten
beneath the bitter cold of winter

15 February 2011

arctic gold round my neck

arctic gold aka qiviut or muskox fiber, spun up into fine, very soft and very warm yarn. most qiviut is fingering weight yarn yet can be knit into lace and retain its warmth. when i first moved to alaska it cost $70 for a 50g skein. these days it goes for $90 as more people (and tourists) have learned about it and demand has gone up. a couple years ago i scored a reduced price skein at our local group's destash. it's actually a 50/50 blend of silk and qiviut that costs less than pure qiviut. if you know how expensive silk is, that might put it into perspective.

anyway, the silk adds drape, sheen and, well, silkiness to the qiviut. it felt wonderful to knit with and literally kept my fingers warm while i was knitting! small projects are common with qiviut, to make use of every last inch of yarn. i went with a neckwarmer as scarves have never been a hit with me. my neck does get cold, of course, so hopefully this neckwarmer will do the job.
qiviut neckwarmer
the pattern uses a sideways version of feather and fan, which we all know i'm a sucker for. it's a free pattern meant for qiviut, although a different brand with more yardage than what i had. i made some adjustments to the pattern to accommodate the difference in yardage, which turned out to be unnecessary, and so i can tell you on good authority that qiviut/silk frogs very well and can be reused with no problems. in the end, i followed the pattern as written (gasp!) with fewer repeats and ended with just enough yarn to weave in my ends.

the feather and fan was fun to knit, no surprise there. the neckwarmer pools into a cuddle of silky warmth on my neck. since the folds hide the pattern, and the inside shows, i may end up wearing it inside out, just to see if anyone notices.
qiviut cowl: done!
i've worn it indoors and outdoors a few times, but have yet to try the -20F/-30C half hour walk test. due to the drape, it doesn't really cover my whole neck and it won't stay hooked over my nose, so i don't know if it will work the whole winter. it definitely can be worn in a chilly house or for extra coziness. i'm glad to finally put the qiviut to use. now it won't stare at me from the shelf and my neck will be warmer!

03 February 2011

the sun is coming back!

here comes the sun

maybe only at a rate of 6 minutes a day, but that's enough. by mid-march we'll have daylight until 8pm, which is almost the summer max for the lower 48. the snow will still be here, which makes for cold comfort (pun unavoidable). i'll take it anyway.

19 January 2011

quick reads

gathering blue by lois lowry

the story and setting were intriguing and quickly pulled me through the pages. gathering blue is set in a very small scale futuristic society, which after war and upheaval, has developed very strict customs. there are some children with extraordinary talents that could change the (almost entirely) negative way of life. the story builds up anticipation for great changes but the conclusion is anticlimactic. the main character was not as quick on the uptake as i expected - she seems observant and intelligent, yet doesn't make some very obvious logical connections. instead her younger sidekick is the one who draws conclusions and acts. the closing scene showing the main character poised for action is not quite believable, as she didn't seem to have developed the brains and gumption for it. the book is perhaps too obviously written as a "teaching" book, focusing more on drawing the conflict between opposing ideas and leaving the discussion and resolution for the classroom. oh well. it was an ok read overall.

and, on a side note, are there any futuristic/rewritten history tales where the men are reduced to breeding and manly chores, and allowed no education or opinions? the stereotype of women being held back gets a bit old sometimes.

serenity: the shepherd's tale by zack and joss whedon

lots of anticipation was built into this graphic novel: at last the super secret background of shepherd book (from the firefly series) was to be revealed. the events go steadily back in time, illuminating the journey of book's life as if going through a dying man's memories. it was an interesting read, and an intriguing method of exposition, as the story jumped between scenes, often connected by a single word. the stream of memories revealed different sides of book's character and past. enough was revealed to answer the questions raised in the show, without too much explanation, and satisfied my curiosity. the simple telling fills out book's character as we already know him from the series. and hey, there was a jayne scene in there!

the particular sadness of lemon cake by aimee bender

this book came to my attention through a summer post on sur la lune, which i only read recently. luckily, there was no waiting list and i nabbed it from the library right away. i sat down to read for 15 minutes and ended up reading through the whole book in an afternoon. the prose is well-written and flows easily. the lack of punctuation in the conversations made them seem more like conversations, no commas or quotation marks for your eyes to hang up on.

overtly, the book's premise is the main character's ability to taste someone's emotions in the food they cook. what was truly fascinating was not the details of tasting someone else's unconscious emotions but examining flawed family relationships and different ways we keep people at a distance. the main character, rose, discovers her ability as she's turning 9 and the sudden knowledge of the hidden sides of others becomes a barrier for rose. rose's family is already emotionally distant and rose learns to hide from the negative and surprising emotions in food and rarely interacts with people directly. very slowly, events conspire to help rose realize there's more to people than the emotions she finds in their food.

rather like real life, there is no neat and tidy solution to everything, but rose begins to reach out to others and develop her own stunted emotions. food remains an intermediary, however, which is sort of disturbing. the lack of a clear conclusion was a bit annoying, too much like everyday life with its unfinished ends. leaving it open allows room for the imagination to continue where rose left off though, and consider possibilities for more open relationships with people without the need for any kind of intermediary. rose's talent/curse can be compared to experiences we all have growing up that can turn into walls between us and others, and her coming to terms with her experiences makes me wonder how far i've come in the same process. i will probably read this book again, which definitely counts as a thumbs up.

10 January 2011

2010 in review

looking back, i am impressed with myself. i thought i only posted once last year, but there's 3 whole posts up! 2010 was similar to 2009 in many ways, which is why we have a huge round up post rather than shorter, more regular posts. so, the last year in review, if not in chronological order:
  • in the spring, chuck changed jobs, then got fired, and now drives a school bus. that was a whole mixed bag. he was looking for less work stress, which he now has. he's also been wanting to get out of banking, which he has. the initial job switch let us use part of chuck's retirement to pay off a huge debt (with one tiny click. i savored that moment). we're now down to almost a third of the debt chuck had when we got married. not having that $900 monthly payment and several small miracles helped us through the 3 months of unemployment before the bus job and makes it easier to live on the lower income.
  • archy work was very short this year, a measly 3 months. i worked in delta again, with all the fun side effects of living in two places that i noted last year. the work and crew were great though. site monitering is where it's at. you hike out to a known site, relocate surface artifacts, make sure the military hasn't blown a hole in anything, take some pictures and notes, then repeat. i loved it. still wish there was a good option for winter archaeological work up here........
  • about the same time chuck started driving buses, i started working part time at a yarn store. work has tapered off, so i ought to look for something else, but it's been tons of fun helping people with their knitting and picking out yarn.
  • i played more with homemade stuff. we haven't really bought bread since 09, and i've made my own tortillas and english muffins besides sandwich, french and flat breads. our garden gave us lots of potatoes that we're still eating, along with squash. everything else we ate as it ripened. i wish we could grow enough tomatoes to put up. we gathered blueberries, most of which we froze, and lingon (lowbush cranberries), that were turned into cranberry sauce. i also made spruce tip jelly, which has an interesting spicy sweet flavor. next year i want to try rose petal jelly from all the prickly rose in the yard. Homemade mustard and barbecue sauce are in the fridge, along with homegrown (homelaid?) eggs, some of them blue. chuck raised broiler chickens again, so we haven't bought chicken for 2 years. he also raised a turkey that grew to 25 pounds and barely fit in our tiny oven on thanksgiving, and we have 6 laying hens. they average 4-5 eggs daily, more than we can eat, so we trade them for moose and caribou meat. i even made laundry detergent too! seems we buy less and less at the store. mostly i try stuff out for fun, and because i like knowing how to make my food and what's in it and changing things to suit my taste. none of it took very much time (the jelly was a small batch) and costs very little. i made soft cheese, but for the cost of milk vs the lower cost of cheese and considering the ratio of milk to finished cheese......we will keep buying cheese.
  • we bought season tickets for UAF hockey while we had money in the summer, and now the games are like free dates.
  • i apparently knit a storm through the year, ending up with more large projects (shawls and sweaters) than before. i also experimented with some new things, knitting with wire and making small toys.2010 finished knits
    that doesn't count anything started but not finished of course. i knit more for myself - it makes no sense for me to not have enough socks when i'm the one knitting them. out of 25 finished projects, 11 were for myself, almost half and a definite improvement. mostly i knit from stash, since yarn was not really in our budget this year. sweaters were probably the most satisfying projects while socks were not my friend all. year. long. fitting issues. hopefully to be fixed in 2011.
  • the fairbanks knitting group just gets more awesome with time. they're a great mix of people with very different tastes and backgrounds and opinions, yet mostly we manage to encourage each other and have intriguing conversations. if we moved, they would be the people i missed.
  • we got lots of yardwork done while we were unemployed together. the raised flower beds i built in 07 have been slowly but steadily eroding and we had started building boxes for them in the spring. we finished those and planted rhubarb, a red currant plant, daffodils, tulips and crocus. ever since living in sweden i've wanted crocus of my own to peep out from the melting snow. we even cleaned out the prickly rose from the raspberry bushes and raked leaves! not all of them, but more than normal. i almost like our yard now.
  • my wisdom teeth were pulled dug out in the spring. i was a bit worried, from the horror stories told to my body's high tolerance for medication to getting an IV and being put under for the first time ever. my mouth felt crowded though, and the new teeth were trying to push aside other teeth. so it had to be done, and in the end? not so bad. i almost wouldn't mind doing it again. the IV took a couple tries and hurt more than anything else. the dentist had to give me two hits of anesthesia to knock me out and as i came to, he clearly asked is she waking up already? that didn't make me feel too good, but they were almost done. there was a bit of swelling, and i got a cool ice pack band to wrap around my head. made me feel like i was in an old time war movie.wisdom teeth aftermath
    i took the (huge) aspirin they gave me and nothing else and was back to work on monday without missing a day since the surgery was on friday, my day off. the pains from crowded teeth were gone and i was happy. although i'd've been happier if i could have kept the teeth for souvenirs..........
  • we signed up for the rosetta stone online through the military. i'm reviewing spanish, and filling in some everyday words missing from my vocabulary, while chuck is learning swedish. i love hearing him learn, it's more exciting for me than him i think. he's improved in every lesson and i can't wait till his vocabulary is large enough to have conversations.
  • i read lots too, although i have no idea where i fit it and the knitting in. according to goodreads, i read 45 books this year. that's almost one a week, not too bad. some really good ones were: Sorcery and Cecelia or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot by patricia wrede and caroline stevermer, a lighthearted, funny fantasy with sequels to follow. stieg larsson's girl who.... series was a fascinating mix of mystery, journalism, crime solving, and political corruption set in sweden. they were gripping reads, and had fairly accurate descriptions of swedes. the only downside was the sexual crimes against women, but i suppose that was the point. the latest additions to the vlad taltos series, jhegaala and dzur, by steve brust added more depth to vlad's character. despite being quick reads, they kept me thinking long after reading. in defense of food by michael pollan made an interesting analysis of our current food culture and how traditional food culture has been manipulated for commerce. an extremely well-written and highly creepy fitcher's brides by gregory frost i would recommend for the writing and morals but won't re-read. i'd like to sleep at night, thank you very much. another non-fiction book i really enjoyed was the paradox of choice by barry schwartz. he delves into the unconscious and conscious factors that go into all our choices, big and small. the book was not as dry as i anticipated and points out a need for us to limit our own options to make effective choices. an interesting concept.

    annoyingly less good were: water for elephants by sara gruen, which a few of us in the knitting group read. the story just seemed to descend into melodrama and ended in an unlikely series of events. it started well, but i felt cheated at the end. name of the rose by umberto eco has sat on my shelves unread since high school. now it can sit on someone else's shelves. the long involved story of medieval religious heresies and dissidents is mixed with murders at an abbey. when revealed, the motive for the murders seems absurd and superficial. cheated again. wuthering heights by emily bronte confirms that british female romance writers are not for me. a bunch of whiny noble people make bad choices which have bad consequences and i think i'm supposed to feel sorry for them. um, nope. sorry. think i'll avoid the bronte's along with austen from now on.
  • the week of thanksgiving it rained. this just doesn't happen in interior alaska. the warm weather made the foot or so of snow on the roof slide off, which normally happens in april. the fall compacted it all and made normal shoveling impossible. when it started coming off the deck in solid square chunks, what could i do but make a wall? crenelations and archer slits possibly to be added later.
  • since summer, chuck has been working on painting the kitchen cupboards (the ones he took the doors off the summer before). the kitchen has slowly transformed from a dark green and gunky yellow 70s combo
    kitchen cupboards before
    to a much brighter white (inside), blue, and yellow.
    kitchen cupboards, after
    the colors remind me of sweden and make the kitchen a thousand times brighter. i love it. the cupboard doors have been materializing the last couple weeks, and after a year and a half without doors, it feels odd being unable to just reach in and grab what i want.
  • we watched more than a few movies in 2010, but not many made it to our favorites list. we really enjoyed blind side, ondine and the A team remake. oddly enough, tv on dvd was much more popular with us (we don't ever watch any tv shows on tv). a random series of events introduced us to the 2005 season of doctor who. september and october were a haze of the 5 recent seasons. it's a crazy, unpredictable, upbeat, funny british sci-fi space/time travel show and if you haven't seen it, do. you never know what will happen and yet only a few times is the story so outlandish that it seems impossible. we're waiting anxiously for next season to start, and have infected the grandkids with the addiction. we finished watching the dollhouse show, joss whedon is my hero for interesting tv. it's a bummer his shows have such short runs.
  • we got a couple camping trips in. we took the bratlings camping in denali in the spring and hiked with them all day with no complaints from grownups or kids.
    denali hike
    chuck kidnapped me to paxson lake for a relaxing weekend in the summer, complete with canoeing and a beautiful sunset.
    paxson lake sunset
    we also finally hiked angel rocks together. we've been saying we'd do that for years. the trail starts out on the valley floor and climbs to the ridge top
    angel rocks
    where granite tors are eroding into cool formations and caves. angel rocks cave
    which of course we had to explore a bit, crawling into that hole behind us that opens into some small caves, then out the other side.
  • on the winter solstice, we saw the total lunar eclipse. apparently the last time one happened on the solstice was in the 1600s. the moon wasn't totally blacked out but looked shadowed, like seeing it through a black curtain. very cool phenomenon, but we couldn't get a photo that didn't look like a black sky.
  • after the very long break i've had in blogging, i have a clearer idea how i want to blog, a way to balance my content. several blogs i read manage to have good, varied content in short posts and i think i have learned from their good example. i suppose this next year will be the test. my iphone was no replacement for the internet and so there are still podcasts and blogs being caught up on.

all in all, 2010 was a good year. i never got tired of being home with my husband. i'm grateful for my friends, talking to family over holidays, and all the little miracles that keep me going every day. i'm thankful i can do so many things that i enjoy and are meaningful to me, which luckily tend not to be very expensive. reading my summing up post on 2009, i must have got something right in the balance department this year. the year was equally disruptive, busy, and i still worked out of town yet i feel as if i did more in most areas of life and feel more peaceful and happy looking back. i have to keep doing that.