Summer Travels: St. Louis

Over Spring Break last year The Optometrist and I journeyed to St. Louis, an area where I lived for many years, love fiercely, and a location of my continued personal identity. The opportunity to return with him for a summer conference was too good to pass up, so while he was in a series of lengthy meetings, I explored my favorite Midwestern city during some of the hottest days of the summer!

In spite of his busy schedule we were able to revisit our favorite coffee shop, Kaldi’s Coffee on DeMun, to both enjoy an iced rooibos chai latte and also spent part of an evening window shopping at IKEA.

Since we stayed at the Parkway Hotel once again, and my husband’s conference was in the medical complex around the corner, this conveniently afforded me the opportunity to drive around the city to some favorite and newfound destinations.

Together we enjoyed meals at:

Anthonino’s Taverna on The Hill – featured on a past episode of Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives.

Taste of Lebanon – fresh, flavorful ingredients – hands down our favorite meal of the trip. The next time we are in St. Louis, we’re definitely eating here again!

Southwest Diner – the breakfast burrito and huevos rancheros we ate for brunch with a mutual St. Louis friend on our way out of town was the perfect finale to our trip.

Some personal favorites:

I popped by Fitz’s on The Loop to grab The Optometrist some fancy sodas one afternoon, picked up a used copy of One Summer: America 1927 by Bill Bryson at Left Bank Books (complete with a little interaction with Spike, the store cat), enjoyed pizza and salad for lunch one day Imo’s in downtown Webster Groves, and spent a blessed few hours with one of my dearest friends, her mother, and son outside the city one afternoon. Since the Central West End is very walk-able I parked my car and got in a few steps to eat a delicious lunch at India Rasoi and a fresh fruit smoothie on a different triple digit day from Coffee Cartel.

The rest of my free time was spent enjoying the air conditioning in our room, knitting, watching shows on the Food Network and episodes of American Ninja Warrior. Since we don’t have TV, watching any sort of network and cable shows are always a special hotel treat.

New solo experiences:

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Missouri Botanical Gardens – During this trip I decided I would visit a few places I never have before and the Shaw Gardens were at the very top. It’s a shame I never experienced this lovely space when we lived in the area years ago, but I’m so glad I finally did.

Located in Tower Grove Park, this is an absolute gem of well-maintained flowers, plants, and vegetables. The paths are meandering, perfect for a quiet morning of contemplation and picture taking.

The Novel Neighbor – I heard about this independent book store in Webster Groves, MO, thanks to Anne Bogel interviewing store owner Holland Saltsman on the What Should I Read Next? podcast. Holland was in the store the day I visited and was so welcoming! I picked up the book of poetry Why I Wake Early by Mary Oliver and a lovely tin of book darts.

Scott Joplin House – this is another location I’ve wanted to visit for years. Decades, really. During my junior year of high school I wrote a report on Scott Joplin for my advanced English class, so visiting in the late 90s would have been to my benefit, but my report turned out all right, if memory serves me correctly.

Located downtown St. Louis, the Scott Joplin House is the only known, still standing location where he once lived (compared to dwellings in Texarkana, Sedalia, and New York City). None of the artifacts are original, but the restoration of the period is well done, the tour guide was very knowledgeable, and I loved that you could buy copies of his music in the gift shop area.

And St. Louis wasn’t our only trip of the summer! Stay tuned for a summer update from our second road trip to Nashville, TN.

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Read: June 2017

CountdownCity

Countdown City by Ben H. Winters

I began the The Last Policeman trilogy, reading book 1 of the same name in April. Book two continues now with only 3 months remaining until a giant asteroid is certain to collide with planet Earth. Henry Palace is faced with another investigation, tracking down the disappearance of a man who is married to the woman who was his childhood babysitter. In a world of scarcity and bizarre human behavior, his resources to find this missing person are even more limited now that his position as a city policeman/detective has been eliminated in favor of federal law enforcement to oversee and keep the (sporadic and fleeting) peace.

Book read via: public library

everywildheart

Every Wild Heart by Meg Donohue

Included in this year’s Summer Reading Guide from Anne Bogel/Modern Mrs. Darcy under the Beachy Reads category, I found Every Wild Heart to be a sweet story about growth of free-spirit Gail Gideon, a famous call-in radio host (think Delilah) and fiercely-protective single mom, as well as her teenage daughter Nic, who loves horses and longs to live a brave life.

After Nic takes a calculated risk riding her horse after school one day, the ramifications of her injury result in interesting consequences with her mother, those who’ve known her for years at the horse stables, with her friends and acquaintances at school, and a mysterious fan of her famous mother.

This is listed in Adult Fiction but I could see a great cross-over appeal to fans of YA, since the story has a good balance of writing from both Gail’s (first person) and Nic’s (third person) perspectives.

Book read via: public library

Frankel

This Is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel

This is a book I’ve seen recommended highly and repeatedly from Anne Bogel and which she also includes in her Summer Reading Guide, this time in the Thought Provoking Stories category.

The story centers around a large family with a concern about their youngest child and the resulting decisions they make to protect this child. The writing was spell-binding and the handling of a sensitive issue, superb. It definitely has been thought provoking for me, creating insight into a topic I knew relatively nothing about.

Book read via: my academic library InterLibrary Loan (ILL)

PresentOverPerfect

Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequist

Last June I read my first Shauna Niequist book, Cold Tangerines, and since that time I have become a loyal devotee of her writing. I received Present Over Perfect for Christmas from The Optometrist, but reading it this spring/summer has been the most wonderful choice. As much as I want to read every single thing she has written, waiting until summer’s slower pace allows me unhurried time to savor each page (with copious amounts of underlining, bracketing, and margin notes), embodying the message of the book.

Book read via: home library

LOTR

The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien

For my birthday last year The Optometrist bought me this small, beautiful, leather set of The Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Hobbit. A few years ago I read The Hobbit for the first time, thanks to his urging, and even though I’ve seen all the aforementioned book to movie adaptations, reading the full LOTR trilogy has been a bucket list reading goal of mine for quite some time. So one down, two to go!

I had languished in reading The Fellowship of the Ring on my own, so my husband kindly suggested this become our next shared read-aloud selection. In addition to this providing some accountability, it also helped to consult him about names, pronunciations, character clarifications, and differences between the movie and the book. This has accompanied us on smaller road trips in both May and June and I’m excited to begin The Two Towers and have it accompany us during our July travels!

Book read via: home library

Rule

A Rule Against Murder by Louise Penney

After a brief hiatus from the Chief Inspector Gamache series in May, June found me continuing to read the fourth installment.

Armande and Reine-Marie Gamache are celebrating their 35th wedding anniversary at a French manor (based upon the beautifully real Manoir Hovey) near Three Pines, an annual tradition. This year the Gamaches are the only guests at the small manor who aren’t in attendance for a family reunion. But the murder of one of the family members interrupts their celebratory reprieve, which is convenient for the Chief Inspector to begin an investigation.

And for those who have come to enjoy characters from the previous Three Pines books, some familiar and beloved individuals do make appearances and come alongside Gamache as he and his team solve this manor murder.

Book read via: public library

WDMR-Paperback

When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon

The last book I read in June was another that caught my eye from the Modern Mrs. Darcy Summer Reading Guide, also under the Beachy Reads category.

This YA novel features two Indian teenagers, Dimple and Rishi, who meet for the first time at a summer tech/coding camp. The only problem is that their parents have already agreed to an arranged marriage for them, of which Rishi is aware, but Dimple…not so much. The camp lasts 6 weeks with Dimple and Rishi partnered together to work on the design of a new app for the duration, so it’s impossible for them to not spend time together. With Dimple’s coding skills and Rishi’s artistic talents it’s inevitable they become friends, but will they become more than friends?

This sweet and kind YA story is one of friendship, being proud of your ethnicity, abilities, and work ethic, plus being open to both the known and unknown.

Book read via: public library


What are you reading this summer? Please feel free to share suggestions of what you have enjoyed or are excited to read!

Tribes and Families

Growing up in Missouri, Oklahoma was just a neighboring state away. I had family that lived, scattered all throughout Oklahoma, whom I saw each year at our summer family reunion. Little did I envision that I would someday move to the Sooner state and join the ranks of relatives who have lived here for decades.

A defining characteristic, historical, and continued aspect of living in Oklahoma are various Native American tribes. Many of my colleagues and local friends have tribal ancestry to the Cherokee, Comanche, and Chickasaw nations, just to name a few. The Optometrist and I have distant Cherokee roots ourselves, but since our ancestors didn’t obtain a roll number, the lasting and signifying documentation for tribal proof, our connection is one of observation, education, and appreciation. And even though I’ve lived here for over seven years, I would consider myself still a newcomer and novice when it comes to tribal history.

A few years ago I attended a Native American symposium and heard some of our Native graduate students discuss their perspective of what it means to be an American Indian student in today’s culture. One student’s comments made me take pause and reflect when he identified how Native students can often be categorized in one of two ways: 1.) culturally immersed or 2.) historically connected.

For the first, some have strong and deliberate familial connections to tribal ceremonies, traditions, and ways. For others, they appreciate their cultural background, but may not choose to participate in the more traditional activities.

This started me thinking…even though I don’t have any direct connections to any Native American tribe, I do have a sense of belonging and purpose with my great-grandmother’s family. For the past 90 or so years, our family has gathered each June to celebrate and strengthen our ties as a family. Older members have gone on to Glory, new ones join the ranks, and even though some last names have matriculated away from the reunion’s namesake, we carry the same blood in our veins.

Once more, last weekend our family gathered in the Ozarks to gorgeous weather to reminisce, tell stories, love on each other, take pictures, eat, and eat some more. This annual gathering always serves as a reminder about the importance of family, family traditions, and keeping these traditions alive.

Now in my mid-30s, I know the mantle will someday fall to me to help younger generations remember who their great-great-great grandfather was and why we gather the way we do. Thus, like the traditions of my Native friends, I want to be found faithful immersing myself in not only our stories and traditions, but maintaining existing connections and making new among members of our family – our tribe.

Book Review: Love Story by Karen Kingsbury

love-story

Love Story by Karen Kingsbury

For fans of the Baxter family, their story continues! The past 24 books in this broad series have focused on the Baxter children, their families, and friends over the years. But in Love Story, the patriarch of the family, Dr. John Baxter, is prompted by his grandson Cole to talk about his early years of meeting and falling in love his (first) wife Elizabeth for Cole’s school project about family history.

In addition to the Baxters, we are reacquainted with friends of the family featured in other books – namely Andi Ellison and Cody Coleman.

Revelations are shared that open lines of communication and offer hope of redemption given by Jesus. Themes include seeking God’s will, forgiveness, recounting struggles and losses from the past, but rejoicing in God’s gift of the present with optimism.

To learn more about Karen Kingsbury’s books, visit her website  http://www.karenkingsbury.com/

My thanks to Edelweiss for access to the digital ARC copy. http://edelweiss.abovethetreeline.com/

 

 

Knit: June 2017

FOs (Finished Objects)


Pattern: Oklahoma Cloth
Cost: Free! (but no longer accessible)
Needles: US 7, 16″ circular Knit Picks Carbonz fixed circular needles
Yarn: Hobby Lobby, I Love This Cotton! – Dove
Recipients: Wedding gift for church friends

This and The Dish (my free, easy pattern) were two hand-knit gifts we gave to our friends who married in their 60’s (and now share an anniversary with us)! We’re so excited for them!

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Pattern: Dinosaur, Jr.
Cost: Free!
Needles: US 6, 5″ Brittany birch DPNs
Yarn: Hobby Lobby, I Love This Yarn! Stonewash – Dark Grey, Cascade 220 Superwash – Turtle
Recipient: Sibu

This is the second time I’ve knit one of these cute stuffed animals as a gift for friends’ children. The first time I had trouble with stitch counts on some of the beginning rows, but didn’t have nearly as much trouble this time, thankfully! Unlike a lot of “stuffies” I’ve knit, this one isn’t as fiddly as some can be, and while the finishing touches do take a little bit of time, the end result is worth it.

This has already been sent to friends out of state for their little guy’s 4th birthday!

Added note: When knitting the dinosaur scales, for the firs time I realized that while k2tog (knit 2 together) and an SSK (slip slip knit) both achieve a decreased stitch, they have different functions. A k2tog creates a right slanting decrease, while an SSK creates a left slanting decrease. This website describes these differences in helpful detail.

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Pattern: Dish Cloth (Knit) from Lion Brand
Cost: Free!
Needles: US 6, 16″ circular Knit Picks Rainbow fixed circular needles
Yarn: Hobby Lobby, I Love This Cotton! – Dove & Ivory
Recipient: Neighbors who cat sit

I knew I didn’t have enough grey yarn left over from the Oklahoma dishcloth to knit another full one, so I chose another simple pattern I love and combined the rest of the grey with a bit of ivory. The “rule of thirds” using two colors is visually clean and pretty – I think I’ll try this technique again…intentionally next time!

WIP (Work in Progress)

StripedSocks

Pattern: Striped Socks with a Fish Lips Kiss Heel
Cost: Pay for pattern by: Sox Therapist
Needles: US 1, 40″ Signature Needle Arts fixed circular needles
Yarn: Patons Kroy – Blue Striped Ragg
Recipient: The Optometrist

Using the Turkish cast on method, CO 10 sts and increased to 64 sts. Knitting these two-at-a-time, toe up, using Magic Loop on my beautiful, personalized Signature Needles (a birthday gift from The Optometrist). I adjusted the two balls of yarn to have matching stripes which is visually pleasing!

The feet are knit plain/vanilla, then I’ve knit a 3×1 ribbing (knit 3, purl 1) around the leg of the sock for it to fit snugly.  These will easily be finished in the next week!


July means I’m just a few weeks away from attending my first knitting/fiber retreat, Super Summer Knitogether (SSK) in Nashville! I’ve signed up to take two classes: Cutting and Finishing Steeks with Ann Budd and Two-handed Two-color Knitting with Margaret Radcliffe. In preparation for these classes I have a bit of knitting to complete between now and then. Knitting homework – yay! Look for a detailed recap SSK post later in July!

Learn: Spring 2017

Linking up with Emily P. Freeman & others, sharing the silly and sublime of what I’ve learned throughout the past few months of spring.

1. Summer = health

I know it’s not ‘officially’ summer yet, but once finals week and spring commencement are through (and they are!), my schedule slows down drastically and I’m on summer-mode. Once again, I’m reminded that summer me is the best me.

Mental health: Since I have a 12 month academic contract the slower pace enables me to use personal and vacation days without the worry of not being on campus or having to promptly respond to e-mail. I know this is somewhat self-imposed pressure, but I also know I’m not the only one. The lightning of my work load allows me time to run quick errands in the middle of the day, get caught up on back-logged tasks (a lot of academic library reading), and give myself more grace and time to enjoy creative pursuits: home renovations, trying new recipes, casting on lots of new knitting projects, and stocking up on books for pleasure reading.

Physical health: Living in Oklahoma in May is truly the sweet spot; consistent rain keeps everything green, fruits and vegetables are fresh, the humidity is blissfully low so I can enjoy crisp morning walks around the neighborhood, and attending my weekly lunchtime yoga class is a gift to myself for an hour to simply breathe, stretch, and be quiet.

Spiritual health:  Last year I read my first Shauna Niequist book, Cold Tangerines. For Christmas I received her newest offering Present Over Perfect from The Optometrist and waiting until now to read it was such a providential decision. This now sets a summer precedent of cherishing her writing at the best possible time, when my soul is most receptive and uncluttered. On Mother’s Day she spoke at Willow Creek, her home church in Chicago, and her statement of I’m someone who…_____________ helped me rethink the way I give, love, and serve.

2. Faith in practice

Hearing Oklahoma Senator James Lankford give the commencement address during one of our May exercises was a special opportunity. He had several applicable words of wisdom and advice for those departing from our university, one of which was this, “If you have faith, and you live in your faith, walk in your faith.”  This has resounded deeply within me and has served as a good reminder to be proud of who I am as a committed Christian and a person of faith.

 3. I can get by with less.

Recently The Optometrist and I underwent some blood testing, which required a bit of overnight fasting. Leading up to the time of the blood work we were conscious about making diligent menu choices, but even after the blood work was complete and we were cleared to eat again I realized I not only did not want to eat rich/fattening foods, but I wasn’t as immediately hungry as I thought I would be. (This coming from the girl who often gets hangry, is really saying something.) Perhaps my metabolism is thanking me for changing things up a bit?

4. Steadfast love

I recently blogged about my goal of memorizing Psalm 103 this summer and am pleased to report this goal is coming along well! I’ve found the most meaningful and productive moments of memorization come as I am out on my morning walks, carrying around a printed copy of just this Psalm, breathing out this ancient text. “Bless the Lord, O my soul…”

In both versus 4 and 8 David mentions God’s steadfast love and as I continue to read in the book of Psalms, I am now keenly attuned to each instance of this repeated phrase (and it happens a lot!). How thankful I am for God’s abiding, changeless, stubborn, and wholehearted love!

5. Savor, don’t hoard.

I’ve long had a tendency to save something I really enjoy and/or something that doesn’t come around very often: the final cookies in a sleeve of Girl Scout cookies (Samoas, please), and monthly magazines (Magnolia Journal is currently my favorite) are two that namely come to mind.

But my tendency is then to wait too long – the cookies grow stale before I’ve finished them and the new month’s magazine arrives before I’ve sat down to fully read the previous month’s.

So as the summer begins I’m reminded to fully live in the moment, savoring and enjoying the simple things, without guilt of the completion of a task, or worry about what’s to come. It’s been freeing and liberating!

Knit: (Me Made) May 2017

Did you notice there wasn’t an April knitting post? That’s because I didn’t complete any knitting projects in April! But boy, oh boy, look what I’ve made in May!

FOs (Finished Objects)

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Pattern: Find Your Fade
Pay for pattern by: Andrea Mowry
Needles: US 4, 60″ circular ChaioGoo Lace fixed circular needles
Yarn: Hedgehog Fibres Sock – Pollen, Fools Gold, Bramble, Salty Tales, Pheasant, Dragonfly, Bali
Recipient: I’m keeping this one!

There for a while I was a little concerned about the abrupt segue between Bramble (white speckles), Salty Tales (definitely gray), and Pheasant (maroon) since these colors didn’t exactly fade gently between one another. However, I stuck to this original vision of how aspects of each color section would complement the other, and am so pleased with the end result!

Yes, it’s huge on my petite frame (massive, really), but it includes so many colors I wear and love, and I’ve already given it a spin in public during a blissfully cool evening!

I wouldn’t rule out knitting this again in the future, but would intentionally plan a more traditional faded color spectrum the next time.

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Pattern: The Dish (my own creation!)
Needles: US 7, 16″ circular Knit Picks Carbonz fixed circular needles
Yarn: Sugar & Cream – Potpourri Ombre
Recipients: Church friends getting married this weekend!

Here’s how I made this one:
CO 46 sts; K6 rows for border; *(RS) knit across; (WS) K6, purl across to last 6 sts, K6*; repeat * for desired height, K6 rows for border, BO.

Nothing too original about this, thus feel free to use, if you’d like!

Added note: CO during one of our University commencement exercises and later knitted during our visit to the local cinema to see Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.

Pattern: Easy Baby Booties
Cost: Free!
Needles: US 7 & US 9 DPNs
Yarns: Patons North America Jacquard – Fern Rose Jacquard, Cascade Heritage – Marine
Recipient: The Optometrist’s colleague’s baby

Baby #3 for our friends has resulted in a big boy, with big feet! Thus, I went up a needle size using my favorite, go-to baby booty pattern to accommodate his chubby little tootsies! (I forgot to take a picture before giving these away, but featured are the two skeins I used.)

Pattern: Basic Baby Hat
Cost: Free!
Needles: US 7, 16″ circular Knit Picks Carbonz fixed circular needles & US 7 DPNs
Yarns: Hedgehog Fibres Sock – Dragon Fly, Cascade Yarns Heritage Silk – Marine blue
Size: newborn
Recipient: TBD

Using small bits of sock yarn (there’s lots left over from the Fade) and creating new color combinations has brought endless creative joy and pleasure to make one-of-a-kind booties and hats. Since my US 6, 16″ circular needles were in use, I jumped up a needle size to make this a roomy, soft, and squishy fit for a newborn baby boy.

Pattern: Easy Baby Booties
Cost: Free!
Needles: US 6 & US 8 DPNs
Yarns: Hedgehog Fibres Sock – Salty Tales; Koigu KPM Black
Recipient: TBD

Again, using extra sock yarn, look – I created Zebra booties!

Pattern: Basic Norwegian Star Hat
Cost: Free!
Needles: US 6, 16″ circular Knit Picks Rainbow fixed circular needles & US 6 DPNs
Yarns: Cascade 220 – Doeskin Heather, Space Needle, & White
Recipient: TBD

Color work always looks impressive but isn’t terribly difficult – it just requires some concentration. If you’re new to fair aisle/color work, this is a great pattern that can easily be adjusted to accommodate different head sizes (I CO 80 sts). Pick your favorite sports team colors, or a soothing blend of neutrals, like I did.

I was inspired by Episode 5 of the Yarn Hoarder Podcast when Amber showed this pattern in Chicago Bears colors of navy, orange, and white.

See What I’ve Sewn

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I’ve already written a full blog post about the drawstring activity bags I sewed for our nephew and niece in May, but wanted to include these in my “me made May” report, too!

WIPs (Works in Progress)

Pattern: Oklahoma Cloth
Cost: Free!
Needles: US 7, 16″ circular Knit Picks Carbonz fixed circular needles
Yarn: Hobby Lobby, I Love This Cotton! – Dove
Recipients: Church friends getting married this weekend!

This will accompany my other washcloth, The Dish, in a small bundle of wedding gifts.

StripedSocks

Pattern: Striped Socks with a Fish Lips Kiss Heel
Cost: Pay for pattern by: Sox Therapist
Needles: US 1, 40″ Signature Needle Arts fixed circular needles
Yarn: Patons Kroy – Blue Striped Ragg
Recipient: The Optometrist

Using the Turkish cast on method, CO 10 sts and increased to 64 sts. Knitting these two-at-a-time, toe up, using Magic Loop on my beautiful, personalized Signature Needles (a birthday gift from The Optometrist).

I adjusted the two balls of yarn to have matching stripes which is visually pleasing! The feet will be knit plain/vanilla, then I’ll incorporate some kind of ribbing for the leg and cuff to add a little bit of ease and stretch.

 

As for future WIPs, I’m still wanting to knit my first sweater/cardigan and am narrowing down my pattern and yarn choices.  For all you crafters out there, what’s on your needles right now or what projects are inspiring you this summer?