A Year of Reading: Month 1

As the third month of the year comes to an end, I thought it would be nice to check in on my New Years resolution progress.  This year was very simple -- I'm going to read at least 25 books.  To date I have read ten books.  That is probably the number I read in all of 2013 (or at least close), so I consider this a great step for 2014 Faith, exceeding my hope of two books a month.  If you were talking to 2004 Faith she would be laughing in your face.  Ten books was maybe a month's worth of reading for her.  She read Terry Goodkind books in a week and took on the entire Star Wars EU in a summer. But she did not have a full time job, her own place, or this little problem 2014 Faith has with concentration.  All together?  We're getting there.

So January.  So far this was the month that saw the most reading.  Probably because of the books I picked. The Indigo Spell was a fun and quick read, taking very little time.  It's been a while since I read the rest of the Bloodline books, so I may reread them before picking up the next one. I liked seeing the evolution of the characters.  The way Sydney has gone from straight-laced Alchemist to questioning the very core of her identity feels very natural.  The ending, on the other hand, felt a little rushed. No make that very rushed.  It just seemed like there were too many plots crammed into one.  But the overall story arch is heading in an interesting direction, and what girl doesn't need a little Adrian Ivashkov in her life.

My favorite book was The Shambling Guide to New York City, a book I actually heard about on NPR (the author is local to our area).  It's been on my to-read list for a while and I finally picked it up.  Mur Lafferty tells the story of Zoe, a young travel writer, trying to make her way in New York after her personal life forces her to leave her reputable job in Raleigh.  Basic premise, right?  Except that Zoe ends up working on a travel guide for the undead (and various strains of fae).  I found it immensely entertaining and refreshingly original.  The sequel was just published and I have plans to pick it up soon.

Least favorite of the month is a tie between The Good, The Bad, and The Undead and The Casual Vacancy.  I really enjoyed the first of The Hollows, Dead Witch Walking, but this one did not do it for me.  The first reminded me of the Anita Blake series (The early books. I stopped reading after it turned from vampire hunter to supernatural erotica.  There are only so many times I will believe that your characters are a version of incubus and need very explicit sex to survive) but the second fell short.  I won't spoil it for you, but I don't like the way the demon storyline progressed.  It really annoyed me that things had to go that dire that fast.  At the same time, I'm curious to see what happens and I am not nearly as frustrated as I was when I finished reading.  I often find second books frustrating, so I am hopeful that book three will turn things around.

The Casual Vacancy was a different kind of frustrating.  I did not expect it to be another Harry Potter, but I also did not expect it to be nearly as long winded.  Maybe this is a story that will grow better with time, or maybe the reader needs to have read fewer books that deal with masturbating teenage boys (My Jewish humor professor seemed to think that this was an important part of all good fiction).  It hit the same tone as The Virgin Suicides, just with more politics.  Overall I would not say it was a bad novel,  it was often just either too melancholy or not melancholy enough to really hit its stride.  I would actually recommend it to adult Rowling fans, but with the caveat that it is a long slog full of characters you are just dying to slap.

I also read Infected, which was probably the most interesting reading experience I've had in a while.  I happened to be reading it when I stayed home with a really bad migraine.  I laid in bed and started to read it, only to realize when it was too late how stupid it is to read a book about a massive outbreak when you are home sick.  And the kind of outbreak that it is?  Well that just hit all my levels of paranoia, which should tell you just how brilliant of a novel it is.  I remember listening to the start of the serialized version when I was in college before it was published and being unable to finish the first chapter.  I have a vivid memory of walking to the library and becoming suddenly, irrationally, and unequivocally terrified.  The same thing happened when reading it home alone in bed only this time I could not put it down.  I've bought the second book because the ending was just that good but I haven't had the time to be that freaked out again.  Hopefully soon as we're looking to move again and I'm always more paranoid when we first get in a new place.

So that was January.  I'll try to start doing these check-ins in a more promptly, but I make no promises.  The more I'm reading the less time I am writing, and I desperately need to get back to these.


Lakeside Zombies

What was that I said would be my downfall with stash organization?  That I would be winding all of the things?  Yep, that's happening.  Yesterday I cast on not one, but two new projects and I am already plotting for more.

I've had this skein of 716knit marinating in the stash for far two long.  It was a part of the first Stockinette Zombies birthday kit (2012) and I was sooooo excited to get it when the package arrived.  I had (and still do) a very minimal self-striping yarn stash at the time -- as in this was only my second skein -- and it was just too special to knit at the time.  And then I was all hipster and didn't want to use the same pattern as the kit because everyone else would be doing that.  And then it sat.  And we moved.  And it sat some more.

Yesterday morning I found myself unable to resist the siren call any longer.  I am an epic fail on my OWL for the House Cup this term (I'll tell the tale when I can finally face reality), so I was desperate for something bright, happy, and very distracting.  This yarn certainly fits the bill, and the Buffy naming system she uses just makes it all the more charming.  Everything you see in this picture was knit on the past two work lunch breaks.  I am redeeming the Georgia On My Mind pattern from the memory of my sad, mauled Bitchin' Socks and it is taking to the striping quite nicely.

Then I came home from work last night with the kind of pain only a woman can understand and wanted desperately something to knit that would completely hold my attention but not be too complicated.  My poor neon sock was not going to fit the bill, so I went stash diving again.

This time I came up with one of my larger fingering leftovers, easily accessible thanks to my new organization system.  The pattern is Braids, a lovely headband with an overwhelming chart that is actually quite intuitive.  This little ball is also from a sadly departed pair of socks, the Time of My Life socks knit out of Unwind Yarn Company in the Lake Lure colorway (I can't find the blog post in which I detailed the death of this particular pair, but trust me it was gruesome and involved actual blood).  I really need to bug Dana to see if she will dye up more of this colorway because it is gorgeous and invokes great memories of time spent at home hiking and playing in the lake.

I think I am content with these two projects, but who knows?  Tomorrow I could decide I need something else from my knitting.  Probably in a color other than green.


Spring Fever

I think it is finally spring now.  Not because the calendar says so, not because I can finally run after work without fearing I'll be hit by a car (due to darkness, not inept drivers, which is still a concern), and not because the weather is struggling ever so much to warm up.  Our warm/cold spells continue but this time it only ducked down to around 40 rather than the 20s.  No, none of these indicate spring in my home quite as much as my sudden and desperate need to tidy all the things.  Last night found me at 10 pm embarking on almost two hours of organization and manic cleaning.  There's this thing that happens in the waning months of winter, and I highly doubt I am the only one who suffers from it.  This thing that saps all of your energy the instant you think about putting away clothes or sorting the mail.  I don't know if it has a name, but one day you emerge from this wintery haze and see a layer of just stuff coating every surface.  You realize that you have been mixing clean and dirty laundry for such a dangerous amount of time that you wonder no one has noticed a smell.  And you vow to never again fall under its sway.

Today I continued with my mania to tackle a task that I often dread -- I cleaned out my crafting area.  

I call it my craft area, but really it is still dominated by the stash.  New yarn, old yarn, leftovers, ufos.  It all needed to be put right.  The good thing is that I no longer feel the need to buy any more yarn.  I started with the intent to just put in the cabinet what had been floating around the sewing desk, but I ended up pulling everything out and doing a full airing of the stash.  Everything has now been examined for damage, bagged, and stacked neatly in the cabinet.  

I also organized my leftovers into various categories as I am making hexipuffs.  I have an entire bag of fingering weight, all of which is my own and most of which is much more than is needed for hexis.  There may be preemie hats in my future.

All of this cleaning and organization is great.  I feel less cluttered and I get to rediscover items I have not properly appreciated.  But the downside?  I need to knit all the things and I need to knit them now.  If you need me I'll be huddled in the corner, winding yarn madly while I chew off my hair.


Recipe Hack: Pumpkin Banana Muffins

Our weather here continues its seesaw between lovely and fridgid.  Saturday I was running around in a tank top and shorts and today I heard tell of snow on the other side of town.  It truly is the end of all things.  Which means that of course it is time to introduce my husband to Harry Potter and refuse to believe that we have anything to do today other than hide on the couch and knit on my OWL.  And bake, of course.

Chris and I have this constant battle.  As soon as a banana goes slightly brown he is ready to pitch it, but I hold on to them until they are liquefied in the hopes that I'll find a use for it.  I saw this recipe today for Oatmeal Banana Muffins, but of course I don't have half of the ingredients.  What I do have is a bag of Chia Seeds, two overly ripe bananas, and one lingering can of pumpkin puree.  So of course I improvised.

I took the concept of the Chia Egg from the Tone It Up recipe and substituted it into this recipe from Alida's Kitchen for pumpkin banana muffins.  The resulting recipe hack included:

1 cup each whole wheat and all purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar (half the recipe amount for brown sugar)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Sprinklings of cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg (no pumpkin pie spice here)
2 mashed bananas
1 cup pumpkin puree
1/4 cup vegetable oil (we don't use canola often)
2 chia eggs (made with 1 tablespoon chia seed to 3 tablespoons warm water per egg)
1 teaspoon vanilla

I only baked these for thirteen minutes because our oven is annoying, but the end result was quite tasty.  I gave one to Chris without telling him what was in it and he gave them a rousing review.  They probably don't have that much of a health advantage over a regular muffin, but they did feel more substantial.  I can see us subbing these in as a quick breakfast alternative if we are out of basics like butter, milk, eggs, etc.  Because in your house those might be staples, but around here we always end up with the most random assortments.

And these had the added benefit of matching my OWL sweater.  It was meant to be.


Shawls Against the Universe

Can you believe that it is supposed to be spring next week?  I certainly cannot.  It was almost 80 degrees the other day and then last night it was well below freezing.  Not as bad as other areas are having, but not our norm.  Normally I would say that I love the cold and don't really care for warm weather.  Because I am a knitter, right?  But this winter has been so harsh I am dying for some warmth so I can break out my dresses without worrying if my tights will clash with my sweater.

Luckily I finished some shawls recently to help me weather the latest chill.  Both from some pretty awesome ebooks.

First up we have Wayfarer from Doomsday Knits.  Jen Lucas does an excellent job of creating a very approachable yet unique pattern.  It would just help if I read the directions properly.  I did not realize until I had started the second half that I had completely misread the increase directions, making a much shallower shawl than intended.

It says a lot that I actually took the time to rip and reknit.  Normally when I have this magnitude of mishap I shove the offending work into a bag never to be heard from again.  But I persevered because I was just dying to have the finished object.  I bought the suede cord from JoAnn's and am very pleased with the result. Plus I used an unnamed stash yarn that I acquired in a swap.  Bonus!

The second shawl was knit for the Ravellenic Games which I finished for the first time ever.  It probably helps that this year we got all the channels so I was able to watch everything.  A) Because I wanted to but also B) because it was in Russia and I felt obligated.  Most people I interact with on a regular basis know that I studied something to do with Russia in grad school and try to keep up with current affairs, and so asked me all sorts of questions during the games.  Fortunately I studied more recent history and was able to convey some context when grilled about the opening ceremonies.  But back to the shawl.

I won a giveaway over at The Sexy Knitter last year (probably using up all of my giveaway karma for all eternity) and was gifted Lee Meredith's Short Stripes Trio.  I have already knit Barry and this time I knit Robin.  The green is Neighborhood Fiber Company Studio Sock that I purchased from my LYS and the purple is a much loved skein of Femme Fatale Fibers that I bought in a final destash from the dyer.  Liz no longer dyes yarn and I was kicking myself for never purchasing any when she put this extra-large skein of Dumbledore's Cloak up for sale. 

I knit through the final short stripe section and then one more repeat before realizing that it was long enough and the Olympics were almost over and it really was hard to knit on a plane anyway.  The fact that it was garter made the project perfect for all the traveling I did last month and the colors were fun to use with some My Little Pony stitch markers.

I have enough leftover that I could knit a pair of colorwork mittens, but I don't know if I will anytime soon because I don't want to tempt the weather into an early spring blizzard.  I live in North Carolina for goodness' sake.  Now that would be horrid.