Reading and knitting, and the dangers thereof

The weather is turning chilly – sunny, warmish days and cold nights make for my favorite time of year – and naturally my urge to read increases along with my urge to drink hot beverages and curl up under blankets.  I’m not sure that I actually read more in the fall and winter, but I certainly crave book time more.  I’m not a prodigious reader, but I do alright considering that I work full time and have two children under 3.  I aim for a book a week these days, but I’ve only made it through 34 books this year, which is four behind schedule for those of you keeping track at home.

Right now, I’m reading Inferno by Dan Brown.  I usually love Dan Brown’s books, because they are fast-paced, I learn some new things, and they have interesting locations.  I read The Lost Symbol before a recent trip to Washington, and it was a nice and readable intro to the city.  However, and I’m sure you could tell there was a but coming, I’m not loving Inferno yet.  I find the amnesia device to be off-putting.  I love the crazy connections Langdon makes between events and sources and symbols, and the amnesia is robbing the book of that completely fun intellect.  So, I’m about halfway through, and I am going to finish it (and enjoy it – I’ve read worse for sure), but I don’t see myself enjoying this one as much as previous Dan Brown books.

The chilly weather is also bringing on a strong urge to knit.  I’ve been looking through stacks of knitting books lately – every time I head to the library there is a small stack on the reserve shelf waiting for me.  Lucky for me, one of the librarians has caught on to me and diverted a new book to my reserve pile for me the other day!  I’m working on a handful of new projects, and I’m sure I’ll be able to take some good photos any day now.

In other news, I’ve been selected for jury duty, and report at the end of the month for the selection process.  This will be my first time at the courthouse in any capacity, and I’ve heard jurors gain a great understanding of the judicial system.  My first thought when I got the letter was excitement that I might be able to get a head start on Christmas knitting, but when I flipped it over for the instructions, I found that knitting needles are specifically disallowed because of their potential to be used as weapons.  How interesting that you can bring knitting on an airplane, but not to the courthouse waiting room.  I will have to use knowledge as my weapon, and pack a book.  It might be a good time to read Dante’s Inferno 🙂

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Welcome, New Year!

Merry Christmas from the Santa BananaIt’s a happy, snowy new year at the Flanagan household.  We rang in the new year last night with some friends at a low-key party with a pajama dress code,  a movie lineup that included Airplane and Blues Brothers, and a menu that inlcuded baked brie and eggplant parm.  If there is a better way to start a year, I don’t want to know about it, because I just had a wonderful time.

I think for many people, this past decade has not been their best, but for me, it’s been a pretty seminal decade – my entire adult life so far happened in the last 10 years.  I went to college and graduate school, I met the love of my life and got married, I found a career path and got a great job, I’ve made a lot of good friends and have divested myself of many unhealthy relationships, we bought a house and adopted two wonderful cats, and I’ve discovered many passions, including cooking, knitting, and homebrewing.  I’ve been very lucky this decade, and I have great expectations for the next.

View from my back door!This past year my parents bought the house right behind ours.  This photo is the view from my back door – it’s snowing out, so it’s not the crispest.  It’s nice to know they are up there.  This morning they came down to help us with our snowblower, and it’s nice to know we can help them out going forward, making sure they don’t work too hard mowing their lawn or shoveling their driveway.  Having a close support network is important to me, and I think the value to our family of close proximity is impossible to forecast, but I look forward to taking care of my parents as they age, having my children really know their grandparents as people, and being able to pool resources, among other benefits.

This next year holds a lot for me.  Most majorly, I’m chairing the committee to plan the Maine Library Association Annual Conference, which this year will be held in October at the Samoset.  That will be a major professional challenge, and I’m looking forward to devoting more and more time to it as the date approaches.  I think it’s going to feel very good to have that under my belt, and I hope to prove myself worthy of the trust that’s been placed in me.

One of my goals for the coming year is to articulate my opinions on books and beer.  I have been a member of goodreads for a couple of years, and have enjoyed rating books, keeping track of books I want to read, and seeing what my friends are reading.  In 2010, I want to start reviewing the books I read.  In 2009, I read 79 books – in 2010 I’d like to read 80 and review each one.  This evening should be a good one for reading.  I also joined Beer Advocate, and I reviewd my first beer this afternoon.  Jim and I seek out interesting and delicious beers, but I have made no effort to keep track of what we have.  Reviewing some of these great brews will not only help me remember what we try, but should go a long way toward refining my ability to describe beer and identify flavors.  Many of the other goals I have for this year are more personal, but if I keep up with the blog like I always mean to, I will share more as the year goes by.  I would like to start using this blog as a means of personal expression and as a way to keep in touch with friends who are near and far.  Reconnect and reflect are my among my blog goals.

A Mystery

People have lots of different reactions to stress.  When I’m stressed, I generally check out socially.  I don’t pick up the phone, I don’t write emails or letters, and apparently I don’t blog.  Don’t ask me what I’ve been stressed about – I haven’t been able to pin it down.

I have been reading, and I read ALL 6 of Julia Spencer-Fleming’s books within a month.  I really enjoyed reading all of them!  It was kind of like watching an entire run of TV on DVD – I didn’t have time to forget details, and I got the whole story at once.  Only problem – it would be hard to review any one book now because the stories all run together.  I have to say All Mortal Flesh was my favorite, and A Fountain Filled With Blood my least favorite.  Will I read another if she puts it out?  I’m not sure – I Shall Not Want, the most recent book, has a pretty happy ending.  I’m not so into happy endings, and I don’t know if I want to keep reading if the main characters have a regular relationship.  Our book group was actually going to have J S-F visit and speak about her books, but it was postponed due to widespread power outages, then cancelled due to snow.  I had a question to throw out for discussion: Why do most people not consider mysteries to be literary?  The genre seems to be written off by many, as in “I liked the book but I’m not going to call it good literature,” or “I want something light…how about a mystery?”  I’m not saying all mysteries are well-crafted works that will live on in history, but I would say these mysteries were at least as well-written as much of the new fiction we have on our shelves at the library.  Hopefully, we will be able to have Julia speak at the library at some point, because I would LOVE to meet her.

In beer news, Novare Res is celebrating strong beers right now.  Jim and I met Robin and Jeff there last night, and the selection right now is truly wonderful.  The only problem is that we no longer live within walking distance, so we have to exercise restraint and caution in our consumption.  We are solving this problem by going more often!  We should be camped out Sunday afternoon, should anyone want to join us.

I have also been knitting like crazy.  I just finished a HUGE shawl that I started in August of 2007.  Or was it 2006?  The yarn is a nice rustic one-ply I purchased in Canada from Cottage Craft Fine Woolens, and it made a wonderful springy Feather and Fan Triangle Shawl (Ravelry Link).  I’ll block it tomorrow (hopefully) and take some photos.  I was inspired to pick it back up by a similar shawl being worked on over at Mason-Dixon Knitting, and an urge to finish some languishing projects.  I’d like to finish a few things before starting a number of new projects that I picked up yarn or patterns for at SPA a few weeks ago.  We’ll see how long that pragmatic side of me lasts.

Knitting Break (not in a good way)

I’ve had to give knitting a break for a couple of days – I overextended my right thumb, probably shelving books, and then knit for many many hours this weekend, which added to the pain.  When I started working as a librarian, my coworkers advised me to avoid picking up stacks of books with one hand.  Most of them have had a thumb injury at one time or another, and know from experience how easy it is to overextend.  Being a bit younger than everyone else I work with, and feeling myself invincible, I promptly overextended my thumb anyhow.  Lesson learned, I try to avoid picking up more than two books at a time.  Fast forward to late last week, I was trying to unload a book truck as quickly as possible, was picking up 4 or 5 hardcover books at a time, and overextended.  Nothing serious, just enough to keep me from knitting.  Good story, eh?

We picked up a bag of white whole wheat flour this week to experiment with.  It has more fiber than white flour, slightly less than regular whole wheat flour, and is pretty light in color.  I made our bread this week with half whole wheat / half white flour, and while there is a detectable difference in flavor, there is no difference in texture.  Yay!  Just as moist and delicious as regular white bread!  Whole wheat bread is less sweet, which is probably why most recipes call for honey instead of sugar, and more of it at that.  I’ll probably try honey this week, unless we decide to just eat bread that’s less sweet.  I’ll probably eat less as snacks.  It does taste fine made into a sandwich.

I’ve agreed to work this Saturday, which means 6 days of working in a row.  I’ve gotten old and grown soft, so it will probably be a long week for me, although I expect no sympathy – not only are there tons of people out there who regularly work 6 or 7 day weeks, but I’m lucky I even have a single job that pays all the bills.

Welcome, 2009!

Happy New Year!  I have big hopes for 2009, and I’m happy to say that 2008 did not let me down.

In 2008, I celebrated the first anniversary of both my wedding to Jim and the start of my career as a librarian.  We adopted Luigi.  We bought a house.  I bought a car, which has so far been both reliable and sporty.  I learned how to drive a car with a manual transmission.  I started running, and ran in a 5K.  I did a lot of reading and knitting.

This year, I would like to keep better track of both the reading and the knitting.  I am going to start a book journal and use the blog to keep a record of my knits.  Some of our patrons have come in with their book journals, and I think it’s so great that they can look back and see what they read 10 years ago, or be able to say with confidence when they last read Jane Eyre.  I read a lot of knitting blogs, and I would love to add mine to that body of good reading in the blogosphere.  I know that Jim will cringe at that last word.  Ha!  That’s why I used it!

I started to take photos of some knitting to show off here, but I didn’t really get any good ones, so I’ll spare you the dark and blurry shots.  I am currently actively knitting a Sipalu Bag that I got for Christmas as a kit, and a tweedy sock.  One sock of the pair was finished in 2008, just under the wire, and the second was cast on before midnight but really came into its own last night during a small movie marathon (Natural Born Killers and National Treasure 2).  I am coming down off a string of fingerless gloves, so it’s exciting to have something big and complex on the needles.

The Sipalu is my first two color knitting, and I’m really digging the two hands method.  I took a class last winter on knitting Continental, and I set the technique aside for some time.  Then Christmas knitting started to hurt my hands (I learned to knit from a book, so I have a sloppy style.  When I knit too much, I make a hole in the tip of my left index finger that opens into a crack in the winter.  Gross, I know.), and I had some ribbed fingerless gloves to make, so I revisited Continental, and I love it!  I’m not proficient yet, and have a hard time decreasing, but just knitting or ribbing I’m as fast as if not faster than I was before.  So with a color in each hand, I can knit Fair Isle nearly as fast as I used to knit.  It’s the counting and trying to figure out where I am that slows me down.  I’m having so much fun!!

So here’s to 2009, colorwork, hobbies, and beer.  I hope that everyone who this reaches has as wonderful a year as I hope to have.

On Regularity, and Waving Lace

Racing to finish the Waving Lace Socks for my mom’s birthday, I have worn a thin spot in my finger where I push the needle back through each stitch. Because I carry this sock with me at all times, and we’ve been on vacation, I have also consumed a large quantity of beer while knitting. Fabulously tasty beer. Beers were with me at the start of the sock, and down the leg until I got to the heel.

I usually work short-row heels because they flow so well with the rest of the sock, but this is the first real sock pattern I’ve followed, so I’m following it completely. Working a flap and gusset took some concentration and frequent consultation of the pattern – the sock stayed home while it was in this delicate stage. The extra care was worth it – I love the look of the flap and gusset heel on this sock, and the squishy feeling of the heel back. Now that I’m knitting down the foot, this sock is portable again.  I haven’t taken any photos since that one, I’ll take another soon.

My next sock project is going to be the Embossed Leaves socks, out of the wasabi ShibuiKnits Sock yarn I got last weekend. For me! The Ravelry photos show this yarn pooling quite a bit, in this sock and in others, but I’m just going to dive in anyway and hope for the best. Not before I finish the Waving Lace Socks and the almost-done pair for Jim – all I have to do for his socks is graft the last toe, and yet I’ve put it off for over a week.

We are now super-regulars at Novare Res. It was nice to be recognized when we came in, it was convenient when they stopped asking for our Ids, and when they remembered Jim’s first and last names, it felt very good to be part of the regular scene. They know my name more or less, but it’s shown up on the bar slip as Nesha, Nessa, and Ness. Close enough! But when Edna called me hun, and loaned me a hair clip she had to run out back to find, I realized how regular we are. Almost family.