Knit: February 2017

FO (Finished Object)

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Pattern: Void shawl
Pay for pattern by: Melanie Berg
Needles: US 7 and US 8
Yarn: Quince & Co. Lark, Chantrelle (6 skeins)
Weight: 29 g.
Recipient: I’m keeping this one!

February was a fairly monogamous knitting month for me, and while I only succeeded in finishing one project this month, it’s a big one and I’m proud!

Even though I’ve been knitting over 10 years now, projects like this one remind me of the life-lessons knitting teaches me: patience, perseverance, knowing when to exert a little more effort, and when to take a break and come back later with a refreshed perspective.

There were at least two starts/stops/rip-outs/start overs, but eventually my brain connected with the pattern and am glad I saw this shawl through to completion. While it’s been unseasonably warm at the end of February, we still have had a few colder days, so I’ve already gotten some wear out of it!

And as I shared last month, my inspiration and motivation was one knitted with the same colorway of Quince & Co. by the beautiful Katie of the Inside Number 23 podcast.

The project bag is the toffee colored Field Bag by Fringe Supply Co.

WIPs (Works in Progress)

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Pattern: Find Your Fade
Pay for pattern by: Andrea Mowry
Needles: US 4
Yarn: Hedgehog Fibres Sock (Pollen, Fools Gold, Bramble, Salty Tales, Pheasant, Dragonfly, Bali)
Recipient: I’m keeping this one, too!

I’ve seen so many knitters “find their fade” throughout January and February via YouTube channels, Ravelry, and Instagram. They have all been so colorful and creative, and when I heard garter stitch (knit) was used to comprise much of this shawl, it tipped the scales for me to buy the pattern and buy the yarn. I loved brainstorming what colors would fade well together, based upon colors in my wardrobe and I’m thrilled with my selection! As the month ends, I’m in Section 4 working with color B (Fools Gold). This will be the perfect accompaniment during our Spring Break road trip!


Pattern: Granny Stripes
Cost: Free!
Hook: Size E
Yarn: various sock/sport weight bits & pieces
Recipient: I’m keeping this one, too!

Between finishing the Void and beginning to find my fade, the granny stripe afghan hasn’t received much attention, but it’s still beautiful to behold!

As shared in January, after seeing granny stripe crochet blankets being made on YouTube channels like YarnGasm, the Yarn Hoarder, and LegacyKnitz, I was inspired to pick up a crochet hook after a long time and have been completely fine in “designing” my one-of-a-kind blanket without a firm plan about yarn colors or amounts. This will probably be a WIP for the indefinite future, which is fine, and now that I am finding my fade, I’ll have seven more colors of sock yarn left over to add!

For all you knitters, crocheters, and crafters out there, I hope your creative endeavors  have been filled with learning and joy throughout February!

Read: February 2017

My reading journey for most of the month of February can be summed up as “gloom, despair, and agony on me.” Maybe because I was trying to read most of these at the same time or maybe because the first couple contained heavier & darker subject matter, which didn’t help my mindset. Yet, as the month has ended, an inspiring pair of memoirs helped perk up my reading mood!

It’s also been neat to read in a variety of formats this month: non-fiction audio (British), fiction e-book (British), and two print non-fiction books (American).

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H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald

This is my second book finished via Audible (first one here) and the narration by the author added to the beauty. I felt this book had two main themes: 1.) The reader joins Macdonald as she recounts the sudden death of her father and the subsequent grieving process, which coincides in training her new goshawk Mabel. 2.) Macdonald shares her childhood/lifelong fascination with training birds of prey and repeatedly references T.H. White’s The Goshawk (1951), comparing and contrasting her personal experiences with his.

I’d heard such good things about this book and agree that the writing is notably smart and vulnerable. I wasn’t surprised that I learned more than I ever thought I would about raising hawks, but wasn’t expecting to empathize with her grief as strongly as I did.

braveforgiven

Everyone Brave is Forgiven by Chris Cleave

When I read Cleave’s Little Bee in 2010, I fell in love with his style of writing, and have such fond memories of reading both it and then Gold in 2012. I kept hearing rave reviews from book bloggers and even had access to this via a digital ARC since December 2015 but finally dove in January.

Although I loved Cleave’s turns of phrases throughout the entire book, I honestly had to slog through the first bit before I really cared about the plot and characters about halfway through.

Set in England in WWII we meet characters from a variety of social backgrounds: privilege, middle class, those esteemed, and those marginalized. As always seems to be the case, the war brings out a sense of national pride in these individuals as they forego what has been normal and step into positions of public service with inevitable loss, but with love and personal honor discovered along the way.

My thanks to NetGalley for this digital ARC!

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Self Talk, Soul Talk: What to Say When you You Talk to Yourself by Jennifer Rothschild

I already wrote a lengthy post about this book last month, so check out that thorough blog post to read more!

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The Magnolia Story by Chip and Joanna Gaines

Since we don’t have cable, I was excited to see how Netflix carried select episodes of Fixer Upper for a short time (boo! for it being removed). While I didn’t watch as many as I would have liked, I immediately came to love Chip and Joanna Gaines, their design aesthetic, and the kindness they show to each other (vs. other mean-spirited reality TV shows).

Their memoir contains both of their voices (differing font, which makes it easy to “hear” which one is talking) and provides insight into the hard work it has taken for them to reach their current level of success. My take-away from the book was Joanna’s decision to thrive in the midst of change and upheaval rather than just survive.

 

What an encouraging read to wrap up the month! And with March comes spring break and a road trip, so, extra time for reading (and knitting, too)!

Scheduling My Life in Pencil


During college, throughout graduate school, and now working as a professional librarian, I love using a paper planner to organize my life. (I did use a PDA 10+ years ago, provided by the college where I worked at the time.) A print calendar with hourly listings throughout the days of the week is visually helpful, allowing me to look to see how my day will map out – whether it’s the following week or six months down the road.

I’ve used the August to August planner for years, also tried one from Levenger, and currently have a monstrously heavy one from Erin Condren (it’s super cute, but didn’t realize how large and heavy it would be to lug with me to work five days a week).

In organizing individual events, in years past I’ve used different colored pens to signify different responsibilities: work (black), personal (blue), my husband’s schedule (red), and church music responsibilities (green) – just to name a few – thanks to a pack of multi-colored Bic pens.

But last fall, as I began adding events into my 2016-2017 planner, I was a little hesitant to use the same color-coded process once more, so I decided to use pencil for everything instead, just until I decided what I wanted to do. And seven months later, I’m still writing down every event in pencil.

I’ve found using an eraser is far more practical than having to get out the wite-out pen for the rescheduling of meetings, fluctuating numbers of students attending library research sessions, changes in event locations – you understand.

And while this has been my routine for months and months now, the calendar open before me for hours each day on my desk, and just recently did it occur to me that this practice of writing out my life in pencil has deeper connotations.

How I invest my time speaks to my priorities.

I have no control over the passing of time, so make it count.

Don’t miss your moment.

Looking back to various days, I observe my pencil markings that are indicative of inner dialog like:
Oh, good grief, I didn’t get hardly anything accomplished today.
Well, that was good enough for today. It’ll still be waiting for me tomorrow.
I have enough time to look ahead to next week’s task and be proactive in getting that done.
Wow – that was a really great day where everything came together so well!

And as I glance back through events over the past two months or so, there have been moments I have seen parallels to how time = service or how blank spaces = rest.

~ Spending a Sunday evening at the nursing home to sing quartet music for a friend whose heart is struggling to keep beating.

~ Heading home a bit early to prepare food in hosting a friend for dinner.

~ Taking a few minutes to be intentional and send a quick thinking-of-you text, or a few more minutes to hand write a note of encouragement to a friend.

~ The Optometrist and I having an open evening and saying an easy “yes” when friends invited us over to play cards on a school night.

~ When nothing is planned for the evening, we we can cook dinner together, play music together, or simply “nest” in our bedroom with a good book and knitting (me)/playing a new video game (The Optometrist).

While it’s a continual balancing act, my aim is to continue doing my part to plan and be prepared for what’s to come, serve others and take care of myself, all the while looking to the future with optimism and openness.

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“I will open my hands, will open my heart
I will open my hands, will open my heart
I am nodding my head an emphatic yes
To all that you have for me.”
Open My Hands ~ Sara Groves

“I will hold loosely to things that are fleeting
And hold on to Jesus, I will hold on to Jesus for life”
Hold on to Jesus ~ Steven Curtis Chapman

“What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” ~ James 4:14 (NIV)

“The grass withers, the flower fades, But the word of our God stands forever.” ~ Isaiah 40:8 (NASB)

Weekly Reader

The title of this blog post series pays homage to the beloved childhood informational news bulletin, Weekly Reader, as I highlight favorite finds from around the web.
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Libraries

The $12 million facelift that’s returned a New York ‘rose’ to its former glory by Alba Prifti (CNN Style – October 5, 2016)

Visiting the New York Public Library is on my bucket list and these photos just whet my appetite for bookish travel!

Who was Casanova? (Walks of Italy – accessed February 10, 2017)

As I listened to an episode of Travel with Rick Steves on NPR, his guest mentioned the history of Venice, Casanova, and how he became a librarian in his later years. I bet you don’t associate Casanova with being a librarian!

Faith & Spiritual Life

There’s one thing Pope Francis wants Christians to give up for Lent by Antonia Blumberg (Huffington Post  – February 8, 2017)

Good reminders about looking after the marginalized as Easter approaches.

You Can Take the Girl Out of Missouri…

Harry Truman still casts a long shadow in Independence, Missouri by Melissa Block (NPR – February 5, 2017)

Everyone should pay a visit to the Truman Presidential Library in Independence!

Musical Inspiration

Yo-Yo Ma, Chris Thile, Edgar Meyer’s “Bach Trios”… (Nonesuch – accessed February 10, 2017)

The Optometrist and I are HUGE fans of Chris Thile, have all the Punch Brothers recordings, have seen Nickel Creek live, enjoy his work as host for A Prairie Home Companion, and the discovery of this upcoming album will bring joy to us both, I assure you! We already have immensely enjoyed The Goat Rodeo sessions and Bass and Mandolin, featuring Yo-Yo Ma and Edgar Meyer, so this new trio album will be a real treat!

Click above to view/listen Trio No. 6 in G Major, BWV 530, Vivace.

Things that are saving my life right now

Linking up with Anne Bogel of Modern Mrs. Darcy and others to share things that are saving my life right now, with today being the official half-way point of winter.

  1. A Soft Murmur

    The lodge where we stayed on our honeymoon 4 1/2 years ago included a noise machine that I loved. We looked into buying one, but boy are they expensive! Therefore, when The Optometrist found this website (and there are very similar apps for mobile devices), I remembered how much I loved the soothing sounds of rain/white noise. This site is bookmarked on my library computer where I often run this app for hours each day to calm myself and mute noise from outside my office.

  2. Waking up with intention

    Through a knitting podcast and a conversation in Sunday School a few weeks ago I’ve become more diligent about awaking, establishing routine (checking weather, blogs, news, e-mail), reading my Bible, and determining my focus for the day. This has allowed me to feel like the day begins with purpose and to be aware of how my attitude impacts the day’s trajectory.

  3. Consistent, hassle-free breakfasts

    When poking around Pinterest early one morning searching for low-sugar breakfast options, I discovered two recipes I’ve come to rely on almost daily:
    Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Breakfast Shake
    I cut the recipe in half and still have enough to share with The Optometrist.
    Using coconut extract is also a yummy alternative to vanilla extract.

    Skinny Peanut Butter, Chocolate, and Banana Muffins
    I double the recipe, sometimes use dates instead of brown sugar, and always use Hershey’s sugar free chocolate chips.

    We’ve found this combination of food sticks with both of us until lunch time really well. But needless to say we go through a lot of peanut butter and bananas in our house fairly rapidly…

  4. Water Rower

    Our Christmas present to ourselves this year was a water rower, which has been a fairly consistent way of exercising indoors during the winter. I still love a good walk around the neighborhood, but with darker morning and afternoon hours, this helps fill in the winter exercise gaps.

  5. Bath time

    During a recent trip to Walmart I discovered Tree Hut coconut and lime Epsom salts (also available on Amazon). On cold winter mornings a warm bath and the smells of the tropics (or at least warmer temperatures) is a relaxing and optimistic way to begin my day!

Looking back to my 2016 list of things that were saving my life, this year’s list is much more specific, but no less meaningful to my journey at this point in time.

 

Read: January 2017

A new year, new month, new books read! Here’s my January recap.

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Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance

I kept reading reviews from bookish bloggers who read this near the end of 2016 and it piqued my curiosity. My formative years and my current geographic location were/are entrenched in living in a small town surrounded by very rural areas. But my impression of “hillbillies” received such a startling wakeup call through the eyes of Vance, who grew up in the rural Rust Belt of Ohio. His memoir shines a very personal light onto the everyday lives of those living in poverty, violence, and without a lot of hope. This cycle continues today in all parts of our country, evidenced by certain educational and political statistics, but Vance is a living testament to the fact that change and a bright future is possible.

This recent article/interview from The Guardian has more details about this best seller.


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Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling, illustrated by Jim Kay

The Optometrist surprised me at Christmas by giving me the boxed set of the Harry Potter movies on Blu Ray! We’ve since worked our way through all eight, which was a lot of fun to see the actors age (with improved acting skills) quickly, one movie at a time. This spurred us to begin re-reading the series aloud to each other, this time from the beautifully illustrated edition by Jim Kay. If, for some reason, you still haven’t journeyed into the Wizarding World of Harry Potter (either through the books or movies), what are you waiting for?!

This video provides a glimpse into Kay’s home art studio and some of his artistic inspirations.

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March. Book One by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, & Nate Powell

This YA graphic novel autobiographically recounts Representative John Lewis’ (D-GA) youth growing up in rural, segregated Alabama, and the eventual and pivotal role he played promoting the social gospel and Civil Rights movement. It’s the first of three graphic novels in this series and would be a terrific inclusion for any discussion about Civil Rights, Martin Luther King, Jr., or Black History Month in February. And March: Book Three won the Printz award last week, so I am especially excited to read installments two and three!

Related: This video clip showing Lewis, Aydin, and Powell accepting the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature for March. Book One will bring a tear to your eye.

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Stranded by Dani Pettrey

Third in the Alaskan Courage series (previously read books 1 and 2 in December), Pettrey plots another inspirational mystery, this time on a cruise ship headed from Alaska to Russia with an unaccounted for disappearance at the heart of the story. The McKenna siblings, along with other recurring characters from the first two books, are featured once more as they open their hearts to God’s leading, find love, and rely on one another to bring about justice to those who have been victims of evil.

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Take the Key and Lock Her Up by Ally Carter

YA author (from Oklahoma!) Ally Carter resumes her Embassy Row series with this third installment, which continues with Grace needing to be on the run to preserve her safety, finding out who her true allies are, and discovering the answers to long-held secrets. Grace possesses a lot of youthful angst, but the plot and mysteries are compelling, inviting the reader to journey with her and find out what she learns, especially in light of the historical pressures her character faces.

Read more: my review of book 1, All Fall Down, and thoughts about book 2, See How They Run.

A sneak peak into my February reads…H is For Hawk by Helen Macdonald (Audible streaming), Self Talk, Soul Talk by Jennifer Rothschild,  Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling, and more!

Knit: January 2017

This first month of the new year has already proven to be filled with FOs (finished objects), opportunities to learn new knitting skills, and WIPs (works in progress)!

FOs


Pattern: Easy Baby Booties
Cost: Free!
Needles: US 6 & US 8 DPNs
Yarn: Premier Wool-Free Sock yarn, Berry Bush & a lavender acrylic
Recipient: friend’s baby

The mother-to-be works at our local Braum’s store (if you don’t have a Braum’s in your town, you don’t know what you’re missing!), whom I’ve gotten to know over the past few years when I stop in to buy milk or eggs on my way home. We’ve chatted about her college course load, work schedule, etc., but after she told me she was expecting a baby I immediately wanted to knit her a pair of baby booties, having the inkling that she may not have any people in her life to give her child a homemade gift. After dropping off the booties at the store on a night she wasn’t working, she took the time to come by my library office to personally thank me the following week. I can’t say I know this young lady very well at all, I don’t even know her last name, but I just felt the Lord impressing on me this was the right thing to do. This was a reminder that being faithful and generous as I exhibit Christ’s love to those in need never gets old.


Pattern: Copy.Cat C.C beanie
Cost: Free!
Needle: US 7, 16″ circular Knit Picks Karbonz
Yarn: Cascade 220 Superwash, Doeskin Heather
Recipient: TBD

I’ve recently seen the store-bought version of these hats all over the place! Friends, students, and various young ladies in Branson at Christmas wearing these slouchy knit hats caught my eye. After seeing a close friend wearing one, I asked if I could take a look at it because I thought, “I could totally make that!” Even though they aren’t very expensive, the finishing was atrocious (looked like it was machine knit flat and then sewed up,evidenced by the poorly matching seams), so make one, I did! It fits a bit smaller than my friend’s store-bought CC hat, but the end result looks much more polished (in my opinion).

(Also wearing Hitchiker by Martina Behm with Lost City Knits yarn.)

New skill learned: Twisted Rib Stitch for the 1×1 ribbing made for a more open and loose brim.


Pattern: Basic Baby Hat
Cost: Free!
Needle: US 6, 16″ circular Knit Picks Rainbow fixed circular needles & US 6 DPNs
Yarn: Plymouth Yarn Encore DK, Light Brown
Size: Newborn (although it turned out bigger…)
Recipient: TBD

The library remained open on the MLK holiday even though our students were out of class for a volunteer day of service. Since I had to work, I wanted my contribution and act of service to be knitting a hat to donate to the nursery of a local hospital. Using left-over yarn from the wedding afghan I knit for friends, I cast on this hat at the local Monday morning knitting group and finished it a few days later. Now to pass along this and a few other hats to fresh and new little babies!

Pattern: Basic Baby Hat
Cost: Free!
Needle: US 6, 16″ circular Knit Picks Rainbow fixed circular needles & US 6 DPNs
Yarn: Gale’s Art Valentine’s Day double sock blank (2016) & Lion Brand BabySoft Solid – Baby white pompadour
Size: Preemie (although it turned out bigger…)
Recipient: TBD (maybe SSK 2017 KAL donation?)

I made socks for myself from this double sock blank last year and kept wondering what I would do with the rest. After knitting the brown hat, and with Valentine’s Day coming up soon…voila!

Added note: I spent time knitting both of these in a weekly university-wide meeting where, once more, I received comments about my ability to communicate and knit simultaneously. Score one for continental knitting!


Pattern: Big Red Dog
Pay-for pattern from: Knit Simple, Winter 2008/09
Needle: US 7 DPNs
Yarn: Crafter’s Secret, Red
Recipient: Hannah

There were many errors I found when first knitting this pattern a few years ago, which I then re-wrote based on my corrections made along the way. Since then I consult my notes and love making these puppets and giving them as a gift along with a Clifford the Big Red Dog book.

After hearing from the recipient’s Daddy that she was hugging the puppet after her Mommy read her the story during bedtime of the night of her party, this is a good indication our dear friends’ little girl will enjoy this throughout her 3rd year of life as she plays, imagines, learns, and grows!

Another added note: since the body of the puppet is knit in the round on DPNs, I took this with us to the movies when we saw Hidden Figures (so good – HIGHLY recommend!). It was my first time knitting completely in the dark! Score two for continental knitting!

WIPs


Pattern: Granny Stripes
Cost: Free!
Hook: Size E
Yarn: various sock/sport weight bits & pieces
Recipient: I’m keeping this one!

After seeing granny stripe crochet blankets being made on YouTube channels like YarnGasm, the Yarn Hoarder, and LegacyKnitz, I was inspired to pick up a crochet hook after a long time and have been completely fine in “designing” my one-of-a-kind blanket without a firm plan about yarn colors or amounts. This will probably be a WIP for the indefinite future, which is fine, and gives me the bug to start buying mini skeins to add after I’ve exhausted all the color combinations of yarn I’ve previously used (some of which I’ve used every single bit)!


Pattern: Void shawl
Pay for pattern by: Melanie Berg
Needles: US 7 and US 8
Yarn: Quince & Co. Lark, Chantrelle
Recipient: I’m keeping this one, too!

My inspiration and motivation was the one knitted with the same colorway of Quince & Co. by the beautiful Katie of the Inside Number 23 podcast. While others have raved about this pattern, it has required tremendous amounts of concentration to execute everything perfectly. There have been at least two rip-outs/start over again/set it aside for now and come back to it when I don’t want to throw it out the window moments.

Project bag is the toffee colored Field Bag by Fringe Supply Co.

New skill learned: picking up dropped purl stitches. I already knew how to pick up dropped knit stitches, but parts of this pattern have purled sections and I wanted the rows to be consistent. Therefore, this method worked perfectly!

To view more details and photos of my FOs and WIPs, visit my project page on Ravelry.