Posted in Finished object, Knitting

Three summer top patterns, and what I did with them

I often see posts where people have combed through Ravelry and other websites for  patterns (free and otherwise) and then posted the links to them: voilà, a blog entry! And my brain said:

I Can Do That 2

But I want to put my own little twist on it, and feature patterns I’ve actually made. So I pulled out three favorite warm-weather projects and voilà, a blog entry!

© Schachenmayr

First up is this cute boatneck tank from Schachenmayr. Click here to go to the Ravelry pattern page.

The pattern calls for a 100% cotton sport-weight yarn. It’s knit from the bottom up and employs a unique double cast-on technique that lends a stabilizing heft and substance to the bottom edge.  The front and back pieces are identical and seamed along the sides and at the shoulders. That means there’s no front or back, and whichever way you put it on is the right way.

The lace pattern is charted only, so if you don’t read charts, you’ll have trouble. I should also mention that, although it was free, apparently Schachenmayr no longer supports this pattern and it can’t be found on their website. There are a couple of print magazines that published it (linked on the Ravelry page) if you are fortunate enough to locate one of them. Or if you are extraordinarily gifted with the Internet Archive, maybe you can find a cached page with the pattern.

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© Avantaknits

Anyway, here’s my version, finished in 2017. Click here to go to my Ravelry project page.

I knit this tank with 628 yards of a worsted weight cotton/acrylic blend that had a bit of lurex thrown in for sparkle. The larger yarn meant my gauge was different than the pattern gauge, requiring a little math to figure out the right size. Casting on for the small gave me the medium, and I began the armholes at row 120 instead of row 148.

I also knit 4 rows garter stitch at bottom edge before beginning the lace pattern, plus I used 4 rows garter stitch at the neck and armhole edges instead of stockinette. I didn’t turn over the arm and neck edges for a seamed edge.

I wear this tank a lot. It’s comfortable and cool, looks great with jeans, capris, or a floaty summer skirt, and it’s machine washable. To protect the lace from snags, it’s washed in a mesh bag. I usually lay it flat to dry so I can block the lace, although sometimes I hang it to dry, and then use a steam iron to open up the lace pattern.

LovePecan
© Karen Broz

Next up is the Love Pecan top by Karen Broz. Click here to go to the Ravelry page. You can download the free pattern from Karen’s blog, linked above. It’s available in English or Spanish.

This top is knit seamlessly from the top down. It’s designed for a 100% wool light fingering-weight yarn. The eyelet rows begin just under the bustline, so modesty is preserved. Those eyelet rows help keep the wearer cool despite the use of 100% wool, as does the looser-than-usual gauge for this weight of yarn.

Again, no difference between front and back, so no matter which way you put it on, you have the front in front and the back in back. That makes getting dressed easy, and heaven knows we need easy right now. Figuring out which way to put on one’s shirt takes brain power we might need for surviving the pandemic currently raging outside. Or maybe that’s just me.

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Tee shirt for me — ©Avantaknits

All right, here’s my 2020 version, with Covid hair and everything. Click here to go to my project page.

I knit size 1 (small) and used 740 yards of a fingering weight 70/30 wool/silk blend that had been sitting in stash for several years. I thought the colorway was perfect for this top.

After knitting 15 or so rows, I realized I hated the rolled neckline, so I ripped it all out and started over. Instead, using the same stitch count, I knit 2×2 ribbing for 8 rows, and then continued as written, mostly. A few further modifications: knit four rows in stockinette before starting ribbing on sleeves; offset every other eyelet row by two stitches so the eyelets didn’t stack up; added two extra eyelet rows at the bottom; knit two extra rows of stockinette after last eyelet row before starting ribbing at hem.

I love this top. I wear it a lot. In fact, I’m wearing it as I type this post. I wash it in a mesh bag in the machine on the gentlest cycle, using Woolite, and lay it flat to dry. (I should mention I have a front-load washing machine with no agitator. I wouldn’t dare put this top, or any other hand-knit item, in a machine with an agitator.)

© EweKnit Toronto

Finally, the Striped Tee from Eweknit Toronto. Click here to go to the Ravelry page.  You can purchase the pattern from the website linked above. Kits are also available if you like the pre-selected colors. Otherwise, choose your own and have fun with it! The pattern calls for a DK silk/merino blend.

(Another thing I should mention is I don’t get any kickback if you click these links. All the patterns linked here are patterns I made and loved, not patterns I’m getting paid to promote.)

Anyway, this is another top-down seamless tee, with a nifty wrap stitch detail at the hem and sleeve edges that gives just a bit of pizazz to an otherwise plain striped tee. The raglan sleeve makes a nice sharp corner when worked in the stripe pattern. There’s a small short row section near the hem on the back to help shape the top over the rump area.

Striped Top 1
© Avantaknits

Naturally, my 2020 version (this time with hair that had recently seen a stylist) has modifications. As usual, clicking here takes you to the project page.

The purpose of making this top was to use some single skeins of Rowan Cotton acquired several years ago through a subscription bonus, plus the remainder of some Mirasol T’ika that had been marinating in stash for, um, ten (!) years. So I didn’t follow the striped pattern of the original tee. Instead, because each skein was about the same yardage, I knit until each skein was gone (or I didn’t have enough left to finish a round), giving me stripes of equivalent width. The final skein of the T’ika was used to finish up the sleeves. I added a few extra rounds of stockinette on the sleeves before starting the edge pattern. I made the 39 1/2″ size, and used a total of 695 yards.

I love this top. It’s comfortable to wear, easy to wash (machine wash, lay flat to dry), a little heavy because it’s 100% cotton, but no matter. I pull it out to wear at least once every couple of weeks.

There you go: three summer tops and my personal experience with them. Now go try them for yourself.

Posted in Life in general, Miscellaneous

Quarterly check in — because that’s my thing now, apparently

I’m on the computer all day every day because working from home requires it.

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This means I can’t wait to get OFF the computer once my work day is done, which is weird because when I was in the office, I was also on the computer all day, but would still come home and get on my own computer for a while in the evening. I guess the difference is at the office, I got up from my desk to talk to colleagues, attend meetings, go out to lunch, take a walk on my break, while here at the house I seldom stir from my desk except to pour another cup of coffee or get a snack.

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Yes, I made this yogurt.

All that to explain why there have been no blog entries recently. Continuing to sit here and write in the evening after sitting and writing all day just isn’t going to happen.

I have a couple ideas for blog posts, though. We’ll see if we can get them written over the weekend, and then scheduled for publication. Pre-written posts may be the solution to weekday screen burnout.

What’s going on with you?

Posted in Finished object, Knitting, Life in general

*pokes head in* “Hello?”

Good heavens, has it really been over four months since my last post? I’d add a “shaking my head” GIF if I knew how. But this twitter meme pretty much sums it up.

Have to vs Want to

All right, then. Obviously, the world turned itself upside down over the Covid-19 pandemic in the last several months. Life around here did pretty much the same thing.  I’ll catch you up briefly.  I won’t promise a more detailed post any time in the near future because … well, staying at home is harder and more tiring than one would think.

The most important thing: the spouse and I are healthy so far. We minimize going out as much as possible and wear masks when we do. We both carry little hand sanitizer bottles everywhere we go and refill them as needed from the ginormous container of Purell sitting on the kitchen counter.

Spouse’s work has dried up — all those voice actors that ordinarily record in studios with private clients are now competing with him for the few jobs that get posted to the industry websites so he hasn’t had a gig since late March/early April. We’re still waiting to hear if he will get any of the unemployment benefits supposedly available to gig workers like him. Fortunately, my job is ongoing. I have been working from home since March 18. We count ourselves extremely fortunate that my work can be done 100% online through a VPN connection to our office mainframe. We’re not hurting financially. Too many people we know are not as fortunate.

I’ve finished several projects. Here are a few quick pics:

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As you can see from the pics, I’ve got Covid Hair. Oy. I am in desperate need of seeing my hairdresser. And I’ve put on some lockdown weight. Apparently I got more exercise than I realized walking back and forth to the train and while in the office. I get NONE now. Time to find a yoga instructor on YouTube, I guess. Or get off my rear and take brisk walks every day. That’s hard to do…really, working from home and being in front of the computer ALL THE TIME is exhausting. By the time I log off each day, the only thing I want to do is eat popcorn, watch TV, and knit.

Okay, I have been doing a few other things. I planted an herb garden.

Herb Garden

I made banana bread — lots of it, and gave away most of it.

Banana Bread

I learned to make yogurt.

Yogurt

And I usually cook a nice dinner a couple of times a week.

It’s no wonder I’ve gained weight. All my extra activities involve food. Another batch of yogurt is working right now, and I’ve got the ingredients for lemon-blueberry cupcakes set out on the kitchen counter.

Lockdown reading: um, I’ve read 13 books, one of which was a “did not finish.” I’m also keeping up with the Shakespeare 2020 project, although I’ve skipped the poetry. Not big on poetry. So that’s six more Shakespeare plays down.

I’m involved in two other play-reading groups — one meets once a month to discuss a play we read on our own time; the other meets twice a week to read plays together. I don’t participate in all of the sessions for the second group because Zoom meetings are exhausting, but once a week, maybe once every couple of weeks, depending on the play. So with those two groups together, I’ve read five more plays.

And yesterday I shot a short scene for an episode of season 2 for the web series Black on Both Sides. That was a trip: hand sanitizer everywhere; cameraman, producer, sound guy, and five actors all masked except for the few minutes we were rolling. Then masked again while we set for the next shot. Masks off, roll, cut, masks on. Lather rinse repeat. It was a short shoot. I got there at 9:30 am, we started shooting at around 11, on my way home shortly after noon. Washed my hands thoroughly before getting in the car because I knew I’d be rubbing my nose or otherwise touching my face on the drive home.

We’re coping.

How are YOU doing?

 

Posted in Book review, Books, Reading, theatre

Book review: Twelfth Night, by some guy named Shakespeare

Twelfth NightTwelfth Night by William Shakespeare

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Fool says, “Many a good hanging prevents a bad marriage.” (Act I Sc 5)

We got three bad marriages out of this play. Maybe we should have had some good hangings instead.

Okay, it’s fun, it’s fluffy, it has some great speeches and great poetry, and I’ve run tech for this play before (dated the guy playing Sebastian at the time, but that’s another story) so I’m pretty familiar with the storyline. But I will never really like this show, mainly for the treatment of Malvolio. As pompous and overbearing as the fellow may be, he did not deserve the “prank” played on him. A letter poking fun at him, sure — it was childish, but basically harmless. But to parlay his acting on the instructions of the letter into declaring him mad and essentially throwing him in a dungeon, keeping him literally in the dark? That isn’t a prank: it’s pure viciousness. I hope he got his revenge on Sir Toby, Maria, and Sir Andrew.

As for the marriages? Toby and Maria deserve each other. Sebastian and Olivia are highly improbable — these Shakespearean meet-one-day-marry-the-next romances are just silly. And I just don’t see what Viola found so appealing about Orsino, who spends the majority of the play in love with Olivia. But who am I to judge? Still think the Fool has it right, though.

(DISCLAIMER: The review shows the cover of the paperback Folger’s edition. I actually read the free online version on my Kindle. You can download the free versions here.)

This play was read as part of the Shakespeare 2020 Project. Join us!

View all my reviews

Posted in Book review, Books, Reading

Book review: The Witch Elm by Tana French

The Witch ElmThe Witch Elm by Tana French

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I have yet to read a Tana French book that I didn’t love, or at least like very much. The Witch Elm is no exception.

Toby has led a charmed life: popular, handsome, athletic in school; hip job, beautiful girlfriend, nice flat as an adult. There have been no hiccups worth mentioning throughout his life. Toby never even thought of his life as “lucky” until, after an evening out with “the lads,” he walks into a burglary in progress in his flat. The burglars nearly beat him to death.

As Toby struggles to recover, he decides to stay with his uncle Hugo — recently diagnosed with brain cancer — to help care for Hugo and further his own healing process in the quiet of the family estate. His girlfriend Melissa accompanies him. They settle into an easy routine: Melissa commutes to her job in town, Toby helps Hugo with his genealogy research, the rest of the family — aunts, uncles, cousins, parents — congregate on Sundays for a congenial lunch that lasts most of the day. It’s all very homey and comfortable…and then the children discover a human skull in the bottom of the garden.

All congeniality and comfort disappears in the path of the police investigation. And Toby — whose memory is unreliable with gaping holes after his near-fatal beating — does not come over well in the eyes of the detectives on the case. Convinced he is their prime suspect, Toby decides to do a little investigating on his own.

The novel sets a meandering, leisurely pace: we are nearly a third of the way through the book before the body in the garden makes an appearance. This is perfectly in keeping with storytelling from Toby’s point of view: Toby is damaged and it takes him considerable time to process information. He often has to wander down several mental tracks to get to a particular conclusion. The languid pacing didn’t give me as much of an issue as it did some reviewers, although I will admit to the middle third of the novel being somewhat of a slog. Regardless, the slow build-up in tension and deliberate spacing of the reveals worked for me.

Only one piece of action didn’t ring true — can’t discuss because it’s a spoiler, but it takes place close to the end and sets up the final drama of the story. When I read it, I thought: “No way, I can’t see that person reacting in such a fashion.” But even with that quibble, I was satisfied by the ultimate resolution.

Nice job, Ms. French. Bring on the next novel, please.

View all my reviews

Posted in Knitting, Work in progress

WIP Wednesday: It’s purple

At either Thanksgiving or Christmas 2018, I told my mother and sister I would make them a sweater and asked them to choose a pattern.  I finished Mom’s pullover (blogged here) and gave it to her at Thanksgiving 2019.

I’ve been working on my sister’s cardigan ever since.  The pattern is See You There by Joji Locatelli.  It’s a top down design with lots of cabling, so it’s fun to knit.  It calls for a worsted weight, but I’m making it in a fingering weight held double because purple is the perfect color for my sister, and I had sooooo much of this Araucania Itata Solid that I wanted to use as much as possible. (Yes, gauge issues meant math was required.)

I See You Cardigan 6 (2)

I finished the body the other day.

I See You Cardigan 1 (2)

Do you see what I see?  Yes. I didn’t notice it until I took the photos.  Some of the skeins are a deeper purple color than the others.  And they’re all in the same dye lot.  *sigh* The subtle striping isn’t terrible, but it wasn’t what I wanted. I’m hoping a good soaking wet block will help even the coloring out.  Isn’t it awful to actually wish for the dye to run?

I’m working on the sleeves now. Then there’s the hood and the button band to make. The end is in sight. Sissy might even get her sweater before winter’s over.

Posted in Finished object, Knitting, Life in general, Yarn stash, Year in review

2019 in review: Yarn

2019 wasn’t a terrifically productive year for finished projects, probably due to the fact I did four plays. But I did get some things made.

100_5070 (2)First thing finished was the Lochlan Cardigan in February, briefly blogged here.  I wear this cardigan a lot.  It’s really warm; I often throw a sleeveless vest over it, and away we go on weekend errands. No heavy coat needed unless the wind is really sharp.  This was my first project with zipper installation, and it was easier than I expected.  Fear of zippers will no longer restrain me!  It’s also the first time I doubled a fingering weight yarn instead of using a DK as the pattern requires.  My gauge was a little off, but math fixed that, and the fit turned out great.

100_5139 (2)After getting home from Stitches United in June, also briefly blogged in the link above, I made a swimsuit coverup from a pattern I’d had in my queue forever.  The blog entry for this project is here.  As I suspected it would, the coverup shrank in the wash, and now fits much better through the neck and shoulders. When I wash it, I tumble it until it’s damp-dry and then lay it flat and block out the length.

MicheleMeAtAvilaI took the coverup to California with me in August, completely forgetting how cold Northern California beaches are.  I wore it with my swimsuit, shorts, and a denim jacket against the chilly shore breeze.  Although we didn’t get a picture of me wearing it, the coverup actually got used in the way it was intended when the spouse and I went to Sandestin (Florida) for Labor Day.

100_5168The Cabled Yoke Cardigan, finished in July, was part of a Vogue Knit #19 in 2019 Challenge. The Vogue Knitters group on Ravelry does this challenge every year: knit the corresponding pattern number for the last two digits of the year out of any Vogue Knitting magazine.  The blog entry for this project is here.  I was still mildly unhappy with the size after wearing the cardigan several times. So the other day I ran it through the washing machine in a mesh bag on the handwash cycle, and then laid it out flat to dry.  The sweater did exactly what I thought it would do: felted just the teensiest bit, just enough to make it fit better and not be so loose and long.  Yes, I was gambling.  Yes, I got lucky.  Don’t try this at home, kiddies.  Now I need to re-sew the buttons.

Mom'sPullover1 (2)My mother’s pullover was the final project for the year.  We picked out this yarn last Thanksgiving, and I gave her the finished sweater this Thanksgiving.  I haven’t blogged about it yet, so here are the details.

Pattern: Delsea Pullover by Lisa Shroyer (click here for link to project page)

Size: 56

Yarn: Universal Yarn Deluxe Worsted Tweed Superwash, colorway 917 Steel Cut Oats, 1143 yards

Needles: Addi Turbo Circulars, US size7

Mods: None, except for giving the bottom ribbing the same number of rows as the ribbing on the sleeves.

Satisfaction with end product:  My mother loves it.  She plans on wearing it over long-sleeved tees and turtlenecks to keep her toasty warm throughout the winter.

This pattern is easy television knitting, and I would have finished it much sooner had I not gotten bored with the endless endless stockinette and taken time out to make the swimsuit coverup and cabled cardigan mentioned above.  No matter: I always intended to give it to Mom around Thanksgiving and that deadline was met.

100_5146 (2)In the acquisitions department, 2019 was a year of extreme stash enhancement.  I’ve blogged about a lot of the new pretties, but not all of them, and I’m not going to take the time now to chronicle everything I skipped writing about.  Suffice to say, between January 2019 and December 2019, I added 86 new skeins, and a total of 23,468 yards, to stash.  A few (a very few) of those skeins were gifts or prizes, but most of it was purchased. I know I’m lucky and privileged that I can afford to buy yarn of such quality and in such quantities. Believe me, I’m grateful.  And I refuse to feel guilty, but dang, I really need to get to work on reducing this stash.  It’s damn near unmanageable. Especially considering this year I used only 7,122 yards in completed projects.

So, without making any resolutions, because those are doomed to fail, I’m going to set a 2020 goal of using two skeins of yarn for every skein I might buy in the coming year.  So far I have used four skeins (I’m making a cardigan for my sister), so that means I can buy up to two new skeins.  A secondary goal is that any skein I buy will be something really special — like cashmere or silk or some other luxury fiber.  The cost of such yarn will be a secondary deterrent to willy-nilly fiber acquisition.  We’ll see how it goes.  Wish me luck!

Posted in acting, Life in general, theatre, Year in review

2019 in review: Acting

2019 was a good year for acting.  The coolest thing was taking part in a web series called “Black on Both Sides.” You can find it here.

BOBS

I’m seen briefly in Episode 2 (uncredited, but I’m the person taking notes while standing next to the CEO — played by my friend Scott Piehler — in a meeting).  I’m also seen (mostly from the back) at a party in Episode 7, and I even have one line!  Woo!  Okay, what all that means is don’t watch this show looking for me; watch it because it’s good, and my brief appearance is a bonus. 🙂  I hope to work with Alonge again in the future.

Side note: filming that party scene was an adventure. It was done on a Saturday afternoon after I had just gotten out of the hospital, having had surgery five days earlier.  Due to a reaction to the pain meds, I kept running off the set to throw up. Every twenty minutes. Between takes and trips to the loo, I laid down on the sofa and tried to nap.  God bless Shani Hawes, one of the producers, who made sure I had ice water and a clear path to the bathroom.

Stagewise, I performed in four plays in 2019.  I just realized that. Four plays.  In one year.  No wonder I’m exhausted.

VaginaMonologues2019

First up was The Vagina Monologues with Bad Seed Theatre (partnered with Out Front Theatre) in February. This was an extremely limited run, three performances, all proceeds of which went to Camp Cadi. We did really well, raising over $7000 in support of their programs.  I had the monologue “Hair.”

TVM2019Cast

It was a fabulous experience, being in a show comprised entirely of a cast of women, speaking frankly about our bodies, our lives, and our experiences.  I’d do it again in a heartbeat.

RoundHeeledWomanBanner

From TVM with its HUGE cast, I went into a play that was very nearly a one-woman show.  Staged Right cast me as the lead in their production of A Round-Heeled Woman, based on the book by Jane Juska about her sexual adventures after posting an ad for, um, companionship in the New York Review of Books.  This show starts out with Jane (that is, me) having phone sex and proceeds from there.  I went on at the beginning of Act I and never left the set — and nearly never stopped talking — until intermission; lather, rinse, repeat for Act II.  The other five actors bopped in and out of the set according to the needs of their multiple characters; and some of the scenes (and much of the dialogue) were rather explicit.

RHW30

The truth is, if I hadn’t just done The Vagina Monologues and overcome some acting inhibitions that I wasn’t aware I had, I never would have had the gumption to tackle Jane. As it was, the three-page monologues nearly killed me: I was still calling for line on the Wednesday before we opened, but come opening night, we were good. Okay, truth time: I blanked briefly in the middle of Act I on opening night, but muddled through and got myself back on track; and the rest of the performances had no blanks.  A few skipped lines, but no blanks!  I am forever grateful to director Starshine Stanfield for trusting me with this character.

When Round-Heeled closed in late May, I decided to take the summer off (except for a dance class). Come August, I was ready to go again.  Act 3 Productions cast me as Juror 9 in their production of Twelve Angry Jurors.

12angryjurors-lg

Let me tell you, after Jane’s line load in A Round-Heeled Woman, I was immensely grateful for the fewer than 50 lines my character required in Jurors.  That’s one of the bonuses of large casts and short plays — the speeches are divided among many more characters, making it a little easier on the actors.

12angryjurorsCast

And this was a fun cast, too: most of the other actors were in their 20s, far younger than me, and it was sheer joy to spend so much time with people in that age group. I don’t get that opportunity very often. As a group, they had an attitude of wryly cynical hopefulness, an outlook that will likely serve them well in the future. As far as the play went, we had decent audiences and were well-received.  I got paid, too. That’s always a bonus.

As soon as Jurors closed, I went right into rehearsal for my final play of the year, 20th Century Blues with Live Arts Theatre.  This was my third production with Live Arts, and I’m always happy to work with Becca and the gang.

20th-century-blues-FB-event-cover

Much smaller cast, much larger line load, lots of fun.  I’ll steal the synopsis from the theatre’s website: “Four women meet once a year for a ritual photo shoot, chronicling their changing (and aging) selves as they navigate love, careers, children, and the complications of history. But when these private photographs threaten to go public, relationships are tested, forcing the women to confront who they are and how they’ll deal with whatever lies ahead.”

20thCBluesScene

I played Sil, a New York real estate agent who is reluctant to have photographs showing “forty years of her gradual decline” exhibited publicly.  This was another show where the cast was primarily women — all of us playing someone very close to our own age, for once, and discussing issues we actually related to in our personal lives.  Kind of cathartic, in a lot of ways.  It was a good show that, due to its timing, didn’t get seen by too many people. Unfortunately, we were competing with all the Christmas-themed shows, like It’s A Wonderful Life and A Christmas Carol, that were being presented at many of the area theatres; 20th Century Blues was most definitely not a Christmas show.  But the people who did see it really liked it.  We closed the Saturday before Christmas.  (And I got paid again, hurrah!)

I don’t know what show I’m doing next.  I have a couple of auditions coming up this month; and expect more to be scheduled soon as theatres start casting their spring shows.  I doubt I’ll do four shows this year; but I didn’t plan to do that last year: it just worked out that way.  We’ll see what shows up in the audition notices.  I’ll keep you posted.

Posted in Book review, Book stash, Books, Reading, Year in review

2019 in review: Books

Last January, I set my usual annual goal of reading an average of a book a week, or 52 books in a year.  I met that goal with 67 books read or attempted.  10 of those books went into the “didn’t finish” category, so 57 books were read in full.  Some of those were reviewed, but not many. I also included the plays I read or performed, because in my life, that counts.

One of my unstated 2019 goals was to read more non-fiction.  Of the 67 books, six were non-fiction. Two of those were left unfinished: one was character research for a play, and the other was Women Rowing North by Mary Pipher. It wasn’t that I didn’t like Pipher’s book; I did, but I also felt like I was not the right age to read it yet. I got halfway through, and then turned it back in at the library. I’ll come back to it in a few years.

Of the rest of the non-fiction, two were standouts.

First, Salt Fat Acid Heat by Samin Nosrat is hands-down the best cookbook I’ve ever read.  The spouse and I were introduced to Ms Nosrat and her cooking through the Netflix series of the same title.  We binged all four episodes in an afternoon, and I ordered the cookbook the same day.  Ms Nosrat is utterly delightful in both the show and the book.  She thoroughly explains why and how the four elements of her title are critical to good cooking, and how they all work together to create sumptuous savories and sweets.  My cooking has definitely improved, thanks to this book.

The other knockout non-fiction title actually scared the pants off me, as its title might suggest: Fear: Trump in the White House by Bob Woodward.  Now, it’s no secret my politics lean leftward, and I have always thought Donald Trump was an asshole, dating from wayyyyy back in the 80s when he made such a splash on the gossip pages with his marriages, affairs, and failed business dealings, but I think anyone who approaches this book with an open mind and a respect for Woodward’s reporting will come away absolutely terrified that such an unqualified, incurious, hate-mongering, self-dealing, anti-intellectual, prevaricating dipshit currently holds the highest office of the land.  But it’s 2020, election year; maybe the rest of the country has learned its lesson by now. We’ll find out in November, if the Senate doesn’t remove him from office first (not holding my breath on that happening, though).

Okay, fiction-wise: I read some good stuff, but honestly, not many lingered in memory once I finished them.  Here are the few that did.

My friend Alice recommended The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss to me several years ago. This year I finally decided to act on that recommendation, and picked up the book at the library.  Wow.  In a tavern in a quasi-medieval society where magic (of course) is real, over a period of one night, or maybe two, the bartender and owner of the establishment tells a scribe the story of his life, starting with his wretched childhood and then his unlikely enrollment at the local university of magic.  Along the way, we are given some hints as to our hero’s, um heroic past, and vague references to how he wound up as a humble tavern owner in hiding.  This is the first of a series. As soon as I finished this one, I read the second book (and the series companion about a secondary character) in rapid succession, and currently await the next installment. However, I understand Mr Rothfuss is struggling with writing Book 3, and thus it is delayed.  Hopefully we won’t wait as long for Book 3 from Mr Rothfuss as we’ve been waiting for Book 6 from George R.R. Martin.

As I’m sure you and the rest of the English-speaking world know by now, The Testaments by Margaret Atwood is the sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale. As I waited for my turn at the top of the library waiting list for The Testaments, I re-read The Handmaid’s Tale for the first time in probably 20 years. It’s still as horrifying as when I first read it back in the 1980s.  The Testaments is equally as horrifying, albeit it a tad more hopeful.  Telling the tale from the perspective of everyone’s favorite villain, Aunt Lydia, some 15 years after Offred got into the back of a van and vanished from the narrative, we dive into the inner workings of Gilead and learn, among other things, how Aunt Lydia came to her position of power.  Things are not always as they seem in Aunt Lydia’s sphere of influence: even the Aunts play politics.  I saw the twist coming, eventually, but enjoyed it nonetheless.

David Mitchell is on his way to becoming one of my favorite authors.  I’d previously read and loved Cloud Atlas and The Bone Clocks, so when Slade House popped up on my radar, I grabbed it at the library at the first opportunity.  The titular residence either exists or doesn’t exist, and is inhabited or abandoned, all depending on the time of day, the year, and one’s unique personality.  Those who permitted to enter the grounds are forever altered.  A fascinating take on the haunted house trope.

My friend Jenny says Black Swan Green is her favorite David Mitchell novel.  Since I’ve yet to be disappointed in anything Mr Mitchell has turned out, I think I’ll put that one on the list for this year.

Speaking of “the list,” for 2020, I’ve again set a goal of 52 books.  This will include plays, of course, because I read a lot of them. In fact, I’m taking part in a challenge to read Shakespeare’s complete works this calendar year.  The organizer has come up with a schedule that gets us through all the plays and the poetry between January 1 and December 31.  Epic!  Twelfth Night is up first.  If you care to join in, visit The Shakespeare2020 Project and sign up.

And if you’re interested in the complete list of books read in 2019, click here.

Posted in Knitting, Life in general, Movies and TV

Look, Mom, I’m on TV!

Well, actually, on Seeka.TV in a web series called “Black on Both Sides.” You can find it here.

BOBS
Blurb:  Anansi Moor looks like the poster child for a post-racial America. He is intelligent, witty, and well-spoken—and just black enough to fill a diversity quota without being threatening. Yet behind his carefully curated song and dance is a game that grows ever more dangerous as the quest for justice drives tactics that will either free the caged bird—or scorch its wings.

Before anyone gets too excited, I have to tell you, mine is a teeny-tiny-if-you-blink-you’ll-miss-it part, but the rest of the series is cool, so watch it anyway.