Yarn Along: All the Blankets We Cannot See

Just a quick post after a long break to mark the finish of the first baby blanket of the summer, made for the first nephew/niece of the summer.  The tradition of making a blanket for each new baby in the family was a much better idea before we had three babies due within a month of each other, but I’m actually making surprisingly good progress (despite or because of the fact that the last baby is mine, which is causing a lot of couch time lately).

I’m excited to finally share pictures of one secret project; the pattern and yarn were both really nice to work with, and it was a fun project.  I took a break for about 15 minutes, and then cast on the next project, a blanket for Baby 2.

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Modeled by Maddy, who was very much in love with the finished product but happy to mail it off with a kiss.

 

 

I’ve also been reading a lot, thanks to four library requests that all came in at once.  I prioritized them according to the length of the wait list, and managed to finish All the Light We Cannot See on time.  Given how popular it is, I feel like an outlier saying that I wasn’t that crazy about it.  The story was compelling enough, but it’s certainly not going to stick with me long after I finished it.  I’ve moved on to Brooklyn, since I enjoyed the movie so much.  The novel is enjoyable too, but so close to the plot of the movie that I’m getting a little bored, knowing exactly what scene is coming next.

 

Ravelry Notes

Book notes

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7 Quick Takes: GIF Recipes, Fat Babies, and Organizing

Linking up with This Ain't the Lyceum with a post that I actually finished before Friday. There's a first time for everything!

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All of our local farmers markets are “conveniently” held on weekday afternoons, which has been a tough adjustment from living in a place with just one large central market on Saturdays. They were all pretty much out of reach for someone with a day job, but this week, Maddy and I finally made it to one. We were hoping to find sour cherries, and we came away full-handed. Also with fresh doughnuts in hand.

These cherries are destined to become preserves, because we're running dangerously low on our beloved Michigan Cherry spread (Found at Costco. If you ever see it, buy it and I will happily reimburse you.).

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A gif! Because I wanted to see if I could. It turns out I can, just not very well without putting a little effort into it. In any case, melt together 1 part coconut oil and 2 parts chocolate, and prepare to delight and amaze your friends.

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It has been a good week to be Madeleine. On Monday, she got a package from one of her aunts, who sent a book from Comic-Con. It's a very sturdy board book with cutouts on each page, making it easy for her to manipulate and explore, even with her undeveloped motor skills and a tiny attention span.

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Then yesterday, when I was feeling slightly bad about doing nothing to celebrate her name day, she got a totally unexpected box of gifts from a family friend. Here she is, relaxing in her track suit while listening to Rossini and playing with Sophie Jr. This is basically leisure incarnate.

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One of the perks of renting: this is the front of our house, and I had absolutely nothing to do with the planting or care of these flowers. I took this picture two days ago, and those morning glories are already up to the second floor windows.

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books

Ever since I snapped out of my undergraduate reading slump, I find that I tend to read three or four books on the same topic before moving on to the next one. I guess I'm unconsciously researching and jumping down a rabbit hole until I'm satisfied. The “Mount Everest Disasters” month was a good time, as was “Fundamentalist Mormon Polygamy” week.

Currently, I'm reading about home organization with a trio of books that I highly recommend. Our belongings are a mashup of dorm hold-overs, wedding gifts, and the things we each acquired after college, and it's kind of a stressful jumble. After waiting on the library's list for months and months, I finally got a digital copy of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. I'm still reading it, but I'm already dreaming of a house with relaxed socks and much less stuff. The intense purging session will be a bit of a hurdle, though.

I actually started my “research” with Minimize the Mess, which will be the book I come back to time and time again for practical advice on the day-to-day business of keeping my stuff in check. It's written specifically for people who clean with little people underfoot.

To get my fix of decorating and beauty, I'm absolutely loving The Nesting Place. I had never read The Nester blog before picking up the book, so the style and decorating philosophy is all new to me. I can't wait to tidy up so that I can really focus on making our house a more visually appealing place to be.

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If you should ever find yourself in the inconceivable position of having brown sugar but no white, and needing dessert, give these cookie bars a try. I did, and I am, and they're pretty fantastic. There will be a next time, and it will involve pecans.

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This week's MaddyCam features her inaugural game of peekaboo, played this evening. She was veeeery tired, so everything was hilarious.

Go visit Kelly for more Quick Takes!

 

7 Quick Takes – 5Ks, Boozy Cookies, and Book Reviews

Alright, back again with no good excuse except for being busy and not taking time to type things up. Ye old Instagram feed has been busy, though, so anyone who wants to know what we’ve been up to can follow along there.
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I mentioned a while back that my first 5K was coming up. Well, that morning dawned cold and rainy, but we got up anyway, bundled up (as much as one can before running), and headed out.


My main, pathetic, goal was to finish in less than double Johnny’s time, and hey, I did that handily. He assured me (truthfully or kindly) that the weather probably kept most of the “wimps” home, so the overall field of runners was better. This made me feel a little better about finishing noooot quiiiiiite last in my age category (which only had 14 people in it!). The run looped around the fairgrounds, which included lots of unexpected mud and running through animal exhibit barns. Very classy. It was sponsored by a local liquor store, so everyone got a beer at the end. Luckily, I knew myself well enough not to drink more than an inch or so. Exertion plus and empty stomach were not the ideal environment for downing a tall cold one.

 Anyway, I’d do it again, but probably not until I’ve actually trained adequately (that is, can actually run the whole distance without stopping).

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The running of the grand race was, of course, in honor of my birthday. Johnny insisted that I open his gift early, and when I did I was greeted by this message, so typically sentimental:


Such a romantic. But inside were two cookbooks from my wishlist, which was great. The first was The Chinese Takeout Cookbook, which is a must-have for anyone who enjoys chinese food. The other was this baby:

We love this book so much that we’re on a first name basis with it. The first week of ownership was full of “Marcella says…” and “What would Marcella say?” (The answer, by the way, is that Marcella would say never to use any herbs other than fresh, unless all European vegetation has been rendered inedible by a nuclear explosion.)  It’s a delightful book – Marcella earned a doctorate in Biology before she started cooking, and the writing is intelligent and delightfully pretentious. Last week we celebrated “Fresh Pasta Friday,” which may have to become a tradition, if for no other reason than that it’s so photogenic.

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While we’re on the subject of cooking, I’d like to point out an article that was making the rounds this week, about the science of the best chocolate chip cookie recipe. It’s very long, and pretty interesting, but I’ll save you some potential effort and tell you…meh. We tried them last night, and were not overly impressed. They were okay and all, but for our money, the winning recipe is still the Cook’s Illustrated browned butter version.  Or, for something different…
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Brown butter bourbon cookies.  I made these last weekend to give to a priest friend we visited (it was Kentucky Derby day, after all), and it was very hard to get Johnny to let go of the bag at the end of the day.  Okay, I had some separation anxiety too.  Luckily, I have a Costco-sized bag of pecans, and roughly a gallon of Jim Beam at home (long story).  My only note is that they don’t spread at all, so either make them small or flatten them slightly.
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Spring came! We’re still waiting on our first 80 degree day, but the trees have started blossoming. Allergies be damned, I went out and took some pictures, just to remind myself that hey, I’m pretty good at this whole photo thing.

At long last, it’s good to see some color.
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Here’s my view as of right now.  Cookbooks all over, iPad, laundry folded but not put away.  My copy of Something Other Than God is there because I finished it on Tuesday but can’t bring myself to shelve it yet.  I’ll get to that later, though, because first I want to address something that kept me awake last night.  On the TV in background is Nazi Mega Weapons on PBS.  It involved several reenacted scenes of strategy meetings, which got me thinking about the aspiring actor whose agent called him and said, “Hey, I’ve got a great part for you in a miniseries!…Yeah, PBS…Well….they’re wondering if you can grow a mustache.”  Is there a group of five or six guys who just keep running into each other at the same auditions?  Do their mothers know what they do for a living?  Anyway, such are the things that keep me awake at night.
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And finally, about that book on the coffee table.  I pre-ordered Jennifer’s book a few weeks ago, and started reading it on Monday.  I should’ve just stayed up all night to finish it, because I spent all day Tuesday wishing I was at home reading it.  It is, of course, very well-written, and compelling stuff.  It combines memoir with a dash of legal drama and medical drama; I can’t remember the last time I read a book in so few sittings.
For more Quick Takes, visit the authoress herself at Conversion Diary!

 

2012 In Reading

Last year, instead of setting a goal for the number of books I wanted to read, I set a goal of reading 10,000 pages.  I figured that trying to reach a book quota would just inspire me to read a number of short or easy books, and I wanted to set the bar a little higher.  Things got busy in the second half of the year (hello, wedding planning!), so I didn’t end up reaching my goal.  I made it three-quarters of the way, though, which is nothing to sneeze at, especially considering that I tackled Kristin Lavransdatter.  Next year, I’d like to go heavier on the non-fiction; I just need to find books that are both interesting (sorry, Belloc) and worthwhile (sorry, celebrity autobiographies).

2012 Non-Fiction

2012 Fiction

  • The Girl Who Played with Fire by Steig Larsson (503 pages)
  • Kristin Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset (1171 pages)
  • The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest by Steig Larsson (563 pages)
  • Jack o’ Judgement by Edgar Wallace (260 pages)
  • Anatomy of a Murder by Robert Traver (437 pages)
  • Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (419 pages)
  • The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins (1155 pages)
  • The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie (294 pages)
  • The Secret Adversary by Agatha Christie (268 pages)
  • My World and Welcome to It by James Thurber (324 pages)
  • Dr. No by Ian Fleming (246 pages)

Total: 7549 pages

“Divine Intimacy:” first impressions

I mentioned on Friday that I had ordered a copy of Divine Intimacy, in the hopes of jump starting more of a spiritual routine.  It arrived on Monday, which was great since the Amazon delivery estimate was between the 6th and 21st.  The book is a little bigger than I expected, so it’s not exactly purse-sized.  Just fine for the nightstand, though.

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Quarter for scale. Not included with purchase.

The end papers are, as expected, lovely.  It’s a treat to have use a book that has been made with such an eye for detail.

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And then, of course, there’s the content, which some would say is more important than the end papers.  It starts on the First Sunday of Advent, so when it arrived on Monday I was only one day behind.  There are two meditations given for each day, as well as a colloquy (a prayer addressed directly to God; see below).  So far, I’m extremely pleased with the tone used in the book; it’s simple and kind, but still manages to provide a kick in the pants every day.  For example, the first meditation I read included the following passage:

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“If I do not become a saint, it is entirely my own fault.”  Yikes.  Unsurprisingly, that’s stuck with me.  There’s no set formula for when to use the meditations, but since there are two each day, I’ve been reading one first thing in the morning.  Each day so far, there has been something that has just stuck with me through the whole day.  The second – with colloquy – I’ve been reading right before bed.  I can’t wait to keep going, and will be sure to post any particular gems here.

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Just the standard note that Baronius Press has no idea who I am or that I’m reviewing this book.  I just like it a lot.

Looking at Letters, three ways

I was recently bitten by the letter-writing bug. I suppose it was brought on by the fact that the next year will bring a higher concentration of letter-writing (thank yous, technically) than any other time of my life. A friend who is much more postally inclined also sent a group email last week asking for mailing addresses so that she can mail some summer letters. Inspired to do some writing of my own, I did the next logical thing…checked out some books about it from the library. Here are my brief reviews, presented in the random order in which I read the books.

The Art of the Handwritten Note: a guide to reclaiming civilized communication by Margaret Shepherd

This was a really delightful little book – a small volume perfect to slip into one’s purse and read over lunch, feeling quite sophisticated all the while. More about the whys than the specific hows, Shepherd manages to convince the reader that handwritten notes may indeed save the world (or at least, culture). On the subject of condolence letters, she writes with little concern for your excuses,

You deserve that black cloud over your head when you don’t write, because your silence has made someone think you don’t care.

Well then.  I also want to get my hands on a copy of her companion book The Art of the Personal Letter, but that one seems to be a little harder to find in libraries.

For the Love of Letters: a 21st century guide to the art of letter writing by Samara O’Shea

This one was considerably different from the last.  O’Shea, who runs a letter-writing-for-hire website, has compiled famous letters, personal correspondence, and hypothetical situations, and presents them here.  There are several rather obscure-but-possible scenarios here (such as how to respond to an email from a nice guy who happens to have gotten your name wrong), and overall, it was an entertaining read.  For each type of letter, O’Shea provides recommendations for the delivery medium, importance of grammar (which she downplayed too much for my taste), etc.  Her reliance on reproducing actual personal correspondence gives this an air of memoir.  Except for an…ahem…explicit section near the beginning (which one Amazon reviewer recommends stapling shut), I would recommend it.

The Art of Letter Writing: how to address every occasion by Georgina Harris

Meh.  I read this one last, and that’s probably fine.  It was the only one of the three that was in color, which I appreciated, but I found myself skimming it pretty quickly.  I had several wedding etiquette-related quibbles with it, and as that was the first chapter, I think it made me discount the rest of the volume.  Come on, though – no one should really be advocating the inclusion of registry information on an invitation.

Mixed bag though they were, I’ve been inspired to pull out my stationery collection and start some correspondence!

The Greatest TV Show You’ve Never Seen*

This is where man finds himself these days.  10,000 years in the making, 10,000 years of endeavor in art, in science, and the humanities; and within one generation, he’s been reduced to a feckless, bed-wetting, parmesan-shaving imbecile who revels in his own uselessness.  Something has to be done.

Thus begins the first episode of James May’s Man Lab, which is perhaps most succinctly described as Mythbusters meets Red Green meets The Art of Manliness.  Oh, and hosted by someone from Top Gear, so British Wit abounds (see especially his comments to a colander).  In the first episode alone, he tackles home improvement, bomb defusing, serenading, with a few other odds and ends.

It appears that several episodes (perhaps all of them, in fact) are available right now on Hulu; that’s where I caught episode 1 this morning.  Do check it out (unless you’re afraid of the responsibility that comes with awesome knowledge).

*Actually, it wouldn’t surprise me to find out that my sister and brother-in-law have been watching this for years, but I had never heard of it.