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Posts Tagged ‘reading’

Tonight, I am reading

Although nothing bad happened, today felt a little extra Monday — plus the day ended up being fairly busy — so my Morning Pages are all the writing I am going to do today. I need to read a second book for March, and I think it will be Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore: A Novel. There might be knitting, too.

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Well, trying to catch up at any rate. There’s a bit of feeling that the faster I go, the behinder I get. I made that observation to someone years ago, and he wisely responded, “Then slow down.”

Day 8, Doppelganger, was indeed the next color block in the socks, but they still weren’t long enough, so I used Day 9, Piskies, to add one more block. Then I finished with a cuff made from the remaining Circe yarn. Nothing fancy, so it was a bit boring toward the end. I spent most of Saturday viewing (it sounds weird to say attending for a Zoom event) something called the Stylemaker Summit — which really deserves its own post — so I was able to get a good chunk of knitting done. They are off the needles, but they need finishing … as does the first pair. That project has been bumped to tomorrow’s list. We’ll see how that goes.

Day 8 – Doppelganger

Day 9 – Piskies

Fortunately I didn’t need another day’s worth of yarn because Day 10 moved solidly away from purple and brown into yellow and green with Golden Apples.

I did go ahead and introduce outside yarn for the next project. The toes are knit with Golden Apples, and then I introduced some delicious yarn from The Knitting Goddess. It is a sumptuous blend of Bluefaced Leicester, Wensleydale, alpaca, and nylon. All of the natural fibers are grown in the UK, and the fiber is processed and spun there as well. The pattern is Plowlines from Bare Naked Wools. Here’s a messy in progress picture on a messy desk:

I modified the pattern so that I could knit it toe up rather than top down. All I had to do was reverse the order of the stitches which create those little arrow shapes. So far it is going well. It is an actual pattern beyond knitting every stitch, so it requires more focus, but I am finding it meditative and soothing.

Day 11 brings another vibrant color – Will o’ the Wisp. So pretty. Not sure how well it will play with Golden Apples, but I am going to try it out and see what happens.

Mixed into the last couple of days was some reading. I was recently in a bookstore, and the title I was looking for was near Alexander McCall Smith’s books. I had tried reading the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency years ago, and it just didn’t take, but it turns out that he has written a whole slew of other books with titles like My Italian Bulldozer and Portuguese Irregular Verbs. My little local library had quite a few, so I checked out a pile. They have been sitting, waiting patiently to be read, and I finally decided I had better get on with it. My Italian Bulldozer is the sort of book to read on a cold, dreary, February day. Travel to Tuscany with Paul Stuart as he recovers from a wounded heart and finishes his latest book on food and wine. There are adventures and mishaps along the way — none too severe or without resolution — and lots of local color and characters, a few serious moments, and enough humor to make me laugh out loud. It’s a light read without being vapid — a lovely respite from … whatever is causing your grief or stress at the moment. I look forward to reading the sequel: The Second Worst Restaurant in France.

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Today’s color is the exquisite Da Duku. As soon as I pulled it out, I couldn’t wait to start knitting with it.

In fact, I got so excited that I forgot that this pair of socks was going to be a 3×1 ribbing pattern and just started knitting away. I was able to work two single round stripes of yesterday’s color, and then I just knit and knit until I ran out of yarn. I will take out two rounds so that I can repeat the striping sequence I used after the toe. That way I won’t have to guess how much yarn I need for the stripes, although I have been guessing pretty well so far about how many rows I can knit with each day’s mini skein.

The pictures don’t really do the color justice. Overall it looks like a lovely, deep, piney green which tends a bit toward teal in it’s lighter shades. Even the lighter gray bits show hints of green. Those little pin stripes above the toe make me happy, too.

Tomorrow’s skein should get me through the heel, hopefully with enough to stripe into the next color. If I use two more skeins after the heel, I should have a nice, mid-calf length sock.

Since today’s knitting didn’t involve paying attention to rows for stripes, starting a toe, or turning a heel, I was able to multi-task to some degree. I am not a big believer in multi-tasking because you can only truly focus on one thing at a time, but if I knitting every stitch until I run out of yarn, I don’t have to look at my hands the whole time, so I can read a bit. It has to be on a screen, however, so that the text is standing upright on it’s own. (I have yet to find a holder which positions a paper book in such a way that I can read while I knit, so usually I alternate between the two.) I stick with articles and book excerpts because I don’t do well reading whole books on a screen.

After watching a video which referenced T.E. Lawrence, I wondered if his letters had been published, and I found myself reading a excerpt from Lawrence of Arabia’s Secret Dispatches During the Arab Revolt 1915-1919. The contents were authored by Lawrence, but Fabrizio Bagatti collected, verified, and organized them for the book. Reading the introduction reminded me how poorly educated I am on the subject of world history.

I have been looking for well-researched, readable history books lately, preferably social history in the context of politics (or political history in the context of society, technology, and economics) so that I am not just reading about men and their wars. I want to learn about the whole picture and not just about the main players and to learn more about those main players. Two books about Queen Victoria are on their way to me courtesy of the fine folks at Discover Books. I discovered (ha!) them through either amazon or abebooks, I think. Whenever I see a third-party seller on a bigger site, I try to purchase directly from the seller’s website. At first I thought it was a single location, but it is a rather large network, although still independent as far as I can tell. (I feel like my favorite companies — audible, woot, Book Depository in the UK — keep getting absorbed into RAMJAC, er, amazon. I remember when amazon was the upstart. Sigh.)

At any rate, I have made several purchases and been nothing but pleased. I would say that their grading is on the conservative side. Several books listed as “good” have turned out the be like new. They do have a lot of former library books, but all have been at least in good condition, if not very good. Prices are generally between three and five dollars. They always seem to have a promotion for 15% off if you buy three or more used books (they have new books, too, often discounted significantly), and the free shipping threshold is $9. The packaging isn’t fancy, and it will take more than a day or two to receive the books, but they do provide tracking numbers.

Based on the graphics at the bottom of the page, they do more to promote reading than sell books.

Why do I mention them? Well, for one, it’s a great deal. For another, buying used books falls into the reduce and reuse categories, which is related to the next point. I have read articles and received newsletters from several independent booksellers urging me to shop early because not only do supply chains continue to be tangled and broken but the increase in online shopping has increased the demand for cardboard and reduced the supply of the wood pulp used to make books.

That’s right. The pandemic is hitting bookshelves. Publication dates are being pushed back, and the new books which are being released will be in shorter supply. Now that’s what I call a crisis!! ***

What is more serious than me not being able to get my hands on every book I might want to read as soon as I find out about it is that the pandemic has been rough on independent bookstores, which were facing plenty of challenges prior to 2020. Again, in the hierarchy of necessities, books rank below food, water, shelter, heat, electricity, and so forth, but booksellers and writers need to pay for those things, too, so support your local (or even not so local) bookstores. There are so many great ones out there, and they work hard to share information, build community, and provide entertainment. Links to my favorite independent booksellers are here.

Today I went to the Toadstool Bookshop to search for the T.E. Lawrence book, and before I could even run the search, I found out that Kate DiCamillo has a new book out called The Beatryce Prophecy. I might have squeaked with joy. They didn’t have the book I came for, but I think it might only be available from UK sellers, so I wasn’t overly concerned. Besides, Beatryce sounds like more fun.

So many books, so little time, right? I really need to read more, so now that my knitting assignment for the day is complete, that may be my plan for the rest of the evening … now that I have spent more time nattering about books than originally planned. Good night.

*** Please take that last sentence lightly. Very lightly.

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I am not big on New Year’s Resolutions.  The way I see it is that any day is a good day to make a change for the better, make new plans, start something new, finish something old, make a habit, break a habit, whatever strikes your fancy.

I did have a thought that “more life, less work” would be a good plan.  It went right out the window on January 2nd.  So much for that idea.  January 3rd fared even worse in that regard.  Third time was apparently the charm because I managed to stop working fairly close to five o’clock.

Will I now magically stop working on time every day from now on?  No.  Of course not.  But I will keep trying, and maybe eventually I will come out on the plus side.

In addition to increasing the ratio of life to work, there is the matter of quality of life.  What do I want to do with all of this time I will have once I stop working so much?  I will strive to live my creative life, pursuing activities which support my knitting and spinning hobbies, with potential to expand into photography and return to writing.

In addition to continuing to follow my passion for knitting, spinning, and things fibery in general, I want to read more, for certain.  I used to read voraciously when I was younger and didn’t have grown up responsibilities or the great time drain the Internet.  My reading appetite increased and decreased over time, and my tastes changed.  I moved into a house I had to share with another person, so I got rid of a lot of my books.  Then I started knitting with greater focus and frequency which led to greater skill and the discovery of fabulous yarns, so my disposable income went into yarn rather than books.

Last year, and it may have started in 2017, I started to rediscover books and their enchanting possibilities.  What I have not as yet rediscovered is my reading attention span.  I worry that reading takes away from my knitting (and now spinning, which I picked up last year), which it does because I can’t really knit and read at the same time, but I need to not worry about it.  I knit for pleasure and to learn and create and as meditation, but I read for those same reasons, too.

I used to read almost exclusively fiction, but now I find myself interested in the stories of people who were or are participants in and observers of history, as well as novels by and about people who are different than me — live in a different part of the world, speak a different language, or have experiences I will never have (for good or ill).  I want to learn more about my chosen hobbies of knitting and spinning, try new techniques and improve overall.  To that end, I have set myself the goal of knitting my way through Milarrochy Heids by Kate Davies.  She has also written a memoir, Handywoman, which is on my reading list, as is the memoir of Jane Hawking, who was married to Stephen Hawking for thirty years.  If the film The Theory of Everything is to be believed, without her there would have been no Brief History of Time.  I am embarrassed to say that it never occurred to me that he had been married and that his wife would have been his primary caretaker, facing all of the challenges that responsibility would entail.

There are plenty more titles I could add to the list, along with movies to see, podcasts to explore, and music to hear, but they could (and probably should) merit posts of their own.  Or I will post sidebar lists.  Or both.

How this writing thing is going to work is still a mystery, but I am to keep writing because writing is writing.

 

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And in which the author gets perhaps a little more personal than usual.

I am not much of a fan of New Year’s Resolutions because such a specific label is restrictive, as if there is only one day a year when you can resolve to make changes and improvements in your life.  Then, if you don’t follow through for some reason, do you have to wait until the next January 1st to start again?

I think not.

Every day is an opportunity to take stock of what you have (or have not) accomplished in previous days and then decide what to do going forward.

I have discovered that goals are more helpful, motivating, and achievable, if they are a combination of general and specific.  For example, I find “get some exercise at least five days a week” to be a more realistic achievement than “run five miles a day.”  Sometimes goals evolve from being vague to specific.  After I finished one knitting project which had been lingering for quite some time, “knit more” evolved into “finish these three projects by the end of the year.”  I didn’t specify an order or hierarchy for the projects, and I am not going to worry about actually having more than three unfinished projects (not to mention other projects I want to start).  Instead, I am going to stick with these three.  I think it helps that they are a bit of a mixed bag.  The largest project is the simplest (no fancy pattern).  The smallest project is the most complicated, and the one in between is, well, in between.  The current order seems to be to finish the middle project first and then alternate between the large, simple project and the small, complicated project, but that may change.  The point is that I keep making progress and even if I don’t do any knitting for several days, it is easy to pick up where I left off because I have a plan.

As a contradiction, the specific reading goal of fifty-two books a year is finally working out.  Last year I managed fifty-three, so this year, the goal is to read fifty-five books.  So far, so good, and hopefully it is a long-term trend which I can continue.

Cooking goals remain nebulous beyond “read cookbooks, try new recipes, be mindful of ingredients and where they come from, support local farmers and businesses,” but that’s okay because I think that it is working well so far.  I eat less processed food, and while my brain occasionally craves a fast food hamburger, my taste buds remember that the food I cook tastes so much better.  I do have a subscription to an online cooking school which I need to work into the schedule somewhere somehow, but I haven’t figured out how to make that work just yet.

My favorite accomplishment so far this year is the successful baking of oatmeal cookies, but they deserve their own post, which fits in nicely with the goal I really wanted to discuss in this post: writing.

Writing used to be a necessary cathartic process to quiet the clamoring voices in my head.  As I have made progress on various projects and goals and have generally found a better balance between work and life, the voices have quieted significantly on their own, so that while I still enjoy writing, it is not quite the necessary survival skill that it has been in the past, which means that I often find myself thinking, “I should write about that at some point,” but I don’t make it to “some point,” especially if I am going through a “stay away from the computer while not at work” phase.  (Now *there* is an extreme compound, complex sentence for you.  Watch out Marcel Proust!)

With the advent of the April session of Camp NaNoWriMo, I have decided to set a goal of getting back to writing.  I have given myself the choice of writing a blog post a day for thirty days or finishing a draft of the cookbook.  Obviously, I am starting with the blog, but I think that I will end up doing a combination of the two with the notion that if it takes thirty days to make or break a habit and if I can write every day for thirty days, then at the end of the month, I will have a new good habit.  That’s the plan at any rate.  We’ll see what happens.

In the meantime, I wanted to share the following story which came in one of the e-mail newsletters I received from the NaNoWriMo folks because I just love the positive power possibilities of the written word.  Enjoy!

Wrimo Spotlight
“My daughter Logan is borderline autistic and deals with extreme anxiety. She struggles significantly when things are not “perfect”, and just couldn’t get her words on the page. Any more than five sentences was a struggle for her. Still, I decided to try and see what would happen if I signed her up for NaNoWriMo.

By midmonth, she had attended her first write-in with my students and after that was writing non-stop. By the end of the month, she had written more than double her 1,000-word goal. What’s more, she had become a completely different child.

She was so excited about her writing, she was carrying her manuscript everywhere, had read her story to the whole class, and was writing like mad. It’s been inspiring to see the happiness and ease writing now brings her.” — Holly B.

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