Unraveled . . . Tales of Stitching and Reading

These days, most of my "creative time" is spent out in the garden (and my fingernails really show it . . .), but I still try to find time to stitch every day.

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No unraveling this week.  (At least, not of the knitting or stitching variety.  In the garden, though?  I have a MAJOR unraveling going on, but I'll save that for another blog post.)  

The Colorwash Scarf continues to be a joy to knit, and it's growing quickly.  I'm hoping to be finished before Kirsten Kapur releases the first clue (June 15) for this year's Through the Loops Mystery Shawl -- but I'll have to knit quickly.  Because . . . 

See that sort of mustard-y green pile of fabric underneath?  Well.  That's my basic Alabama Chanin Factory Dress . . . and it's hogging most of my stitching time these days.

As for reading, in the ears I've got David Sedaris' newest book, Theft by Finding (audiobook-read-by-the-author, if you're following along with Summer Book Bingo).  In print, I'm reading The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (biography).  Earlier this week I finished The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane (borrowed).  

How about YOU?  What are you reading and unraveling this week?


Today's post is part of Kat's Unraveled group.  Click here to see more posts about stitching and reading.


Unraveling . . .

Here's what I started knitting yesterday . . . 


It's Kirsten Kapur's Colorwash Scarf from Wild Yarns, the Mason-Dixon Knitting Field Guide No. 3.  I've been planning this knit for weeks -- but wanted to finish a few other things before casting on.  I had planned to only knit with the "wild" yarn" (some lovely stuff I picked up at Rhinebeck a couple of years ago), but after I saw Vicki's finished Colorwash Scarf, I decided to throw in a contrast color.

(And hoo boy . . . so glad I did!  Because for the first several rows, I kept forgetting to pass the slipped stitch over.  If I'd been using just the one color, I would have had to unravel constantly.  With two colors, well . . . there is immediate accountability.)  (And I only had to unravel twice.)  (Full disclosure.)

Anyway.  This design hits all my knitting-buttons:  rhythmic pattern, fun color changes, and stripes.  Those three features can keep my interest for hours at a time!

As for reading . . . right now I've got The Lonely Hearts Hotel by Heather O'Neill, borrowed through Overdrive, on my iPad.  (This title was on the Bailey's Women's Prize for Fiction long list this year.)  I've only just read the first 75 pages, so I'm guessing this will be my first Bingo square (although I haven't quite figured out which one yet. . . ).

Speaking of bingo, don't forget that Summer Book Bingo begins this Saturday, May 27.  Check out the sidebar on Mary's blog to learn more.  Grab your card and read along!


I'm joining along with Kat's Unraveled group today.  See what everyone else is . . . unraveling . . . here.

Readers . . . Start Your Engines!

When I was a little girl, I always looked forward to the Summer Reading Program at my local library.  I got so excited when my mom would take me to the library to sign up!  (The librarians loved me.)  I would faithfully use whatever reading checklist they had designed that season to track my progress and, ultimately, claim my certificate at the end of the summer.

Now, as a grownup, I still look forward to summer reading with . . .


Summer Book Bingo!

Mary has been promoting Summer Book Bingo (a feature born of the old Books on the Nightstand podcast) through her blog for several years now.   With the end of the BotN podcast, Mary decided to carry the Summer Book Bingo torch on her own, keeping it alive for summer reading grownups . . . like me.   (All Hail Mary, Queen of Summer Book Bingo!)

Mary has created an inspiring and comprehensive list of reading categories and a set of Summer Book Bingo rules -- which you can access on the sidebar of her blog.  She's included the link to a bingo card generator -- so you can create and print your own bingo card.  (Go ahead and click the "Get a New Card" link a few times until you find a card that looks good to you.)

Here's the card I'll be playing this year . . . 

Kym's Summer Book Bingo Card 2017

(Although I'm curious about what "Alternate History" is, actually.  Anyone?)  
(Maybe something filled with "alternative facts" . . . hmmmm?)

I hope you'll play along!  Summer Book Bingo is a fun thing to do in the summer -- especially if you enjoy reading anyway.

It's fun to be part of a larger group of readers, all working toward a similar goal.

It's fun to use your bingo card to plan and track your summer reading.

It's fun to challenge yourself to read books you might not otherwise choose to read.

Heck . . . it's just fun to cry BINGO! every once in a while!

I hope you'll play along.  Set some summer reading goals for yourself.  Maybe you want to get a BINGO.  Maybe two or three?  Or maybe you want to cover your whole card this summer!  It's a lot of fun.

Let's READ.





Action Tuesday: Let's Read

I just love Goodreads!  It's like a virtual library . . . you can wander through all the virtual bookshelves you could ever imagine.  It's such a handy place to keep track of books you've read, books you want to read, the books your friends read.  You can write reviews and award stars.  There are even virtual book groups and author book talks.  

And, best of all, at the end of the year, Goodreads provides you with your reading stats.

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In looking through my year-end stats on Goodreads, I see that I gave 26 books a 5-star rating. In fact, my average rating for the year was just over 4 stars . . . which tells me I'm a pretty good judge about the kinds of books I'm going to like to read!

If I were going to pick my 5 favorite books in 2016, it would be these:

I've already made a good start with my 2017 reading.  I have a few specific goals.  

  • First, in terms of quantity, I set my Goodreads Challenge at 75 books this year.  This is an increase, but manageable.  And, truth be told, much more in line with the # of books I typically read in a year.
  • Next, in terms of quality, I always have a goal of reading many/most of the nominees from my favorite book awards:  The Orange Prize, The Man Booker Prize, and the National Book Award.  (I have never read ALL of the nominees.  Ever.  But it's always my goal!)
  • And, new for me this year, I want to try to read books that will shake up my perspective and worldview a bit.  You see, since the election this year, I have come to realize that I really and truly hang out in a very specific . . . bubble!  I need to get outside that bubble - even if I don't want to, and even if it's going to make me uncomfortable.  

In other words, this year I'm going to read a few books that I might never (in a million years) choose to read otherwise.

It's another way to take ACTION:  to learn; to expand our perspective; to get out from under our bubbles.  In the words of New York Times columnist Ross Douthat*, reading books that critique Western liberalism can give us a "clearer sense of [our] own worldviews, limits, blind spots, blunders and internal contradictions."

With that it mind, I'm planning to read a couple of books already on my Goodreads To-Read shelf.  These two are books that might help me understand the "red state" thing from a different perspective: Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance and Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning in the American Right by Arlie Russell Hochschild.

I'm thinking about reading How Propaganda Works by Jason Stanley.  Although this one looks a bit ... academic ... it might help me understand how propaganda is working to undermine democracy, and maybe get my head around this whole "post-truth" concept.

I'll definitely read this article in The Atlantic by Ta-Nehisi Coates.  His writing always challenges my  thinking -- and it's essential to understand the racial element of Trumpism.

Ross Douthat of the NY Times recommends The Revolt of the Elites by Christopher Lasch and Who Are We? The Challenges to American National Identity by Samuel P. Huntington.  According to Douthat, both of these books illustrate how Western elite has "burned the candle at both ends," resulting in a rather gross mis-read of the political situation in both Europe and the United States.  

These books will not be "light" reading at all, and - in fact - many of these titles sound downright disturbing to me.  But.  I will be reading at least a few of these books this year.  Because it's important to understand the context of our world.

Bottom line?  READ something unexpected.  Step out of your bubble.  

That's ACTION!


You can read Ross Douthat's recent op-ed piece in the New York Times, Books for the Trump Era, here.

Right Now . . . November 2016


November has been a crazy-busy month for me, end to end.  Filled with stresses and emotions and too-long ToDo lists . . . but also with love and gratitude and turkey!


(These gorgeous flowers are from my mom's memorial service last Tuesday.  Aren't they lovely?)

Here's what's happening in my world . . . Right Now:

Watching - I finished watching The Crown last night.  I loved it.  Tom and I watched Love Actually the other night.  Other than that, not much watching going on.

Reading - But . . . I do have plenty of reading happening!  I finished reading The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead (and winner of this year's National Book Award) just yesterday morning.  This is a powerful book -- one I will be thinking about for quite a while.  I also recently finished Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.  Again, powerful.  I have two books on library loan through Overdrive -- and I'm going to have to read fast because they're due far too soon (when it rains it pours, it seems): Eileen by Ottessa Moshfegh and Hot Milk by Deborah Levy.  (Luckily, they're both on the short side.)  


Knitting - I have been finding some time to knit a bit.  Not much, but some.  I'm knitting this sweater, and I'm nearing the end (just one more sleeve and the pockets).  On size 11 needles with bulky yarn, this one is clipping right along (so to speak; it's a relative statement).  I'm anxious to try some of these cute little guys -- and I'm still looking forward to knitting up some of these.

Drinking - Tea.   And plain old water-infused-with-oranges.  And wine.  (Natch.)

Humming - This one.  Four Strong Winds was one of my mom's favorites.  (She was from Alberta, you know.)  Erin sang it at the memorial service last week --- quite a bit different than Neil's version, of course.  Seeing that Erin's voice is classically trained.  And Neil's is . . . not.  Anyway.  I've been humming this song ever since.

Needing to - Resume my usual fitness routine.  Because my life has been so upside-down and inside-out lately that too many of my workouts have, well . . . pretty much disappeared.   (I also need to quit eating so much cheese.)  (But let's not talk about that.)


Delighted by - Shhhhh.  It's kind of under the radar . . . but I'll let you in on a secret.  My knee has improved enough that I am running again.  Just a little.  And very slowly.  But I'm delighted.  (I'm also delighted by the shoelaces in my new running shoes.  Aren't they great?)

Looking forward to - Bringing light and winter comfort into my house during these dark times (seasonal AND political).  (Stay tuned.)

Celebrating - Something that I can't quite blog about yet.  But it's fun.  And I'll tell you as soon as I can.

Planning - A party.  The holidays.  My dad's move.  What to knit next.  Which book to load on my iPod.  Year-end tax stuff.  Pretty much . . . All The Things.


Grateful for - These four goofballs.  I was so happy to have them all home last week.  I was happy to buy them drinks and take them out for dinner and laugh with them and listen to their banter.  It doesn't get much better!

How about YOU?  What's going on for you . . . right now?


And . . . It's a Wrap!

Finishing just at the wire, I am happy to report a Summer Book Bingo cover-all!

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Let's take a look at my last two Bingo columns, shall we?

First, Column 2, going down:

With an Animal on the Cover or in the Title - I read The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah. I know this book is hugely popular, but I just gotta say it:  tedious, predictable, far too tidy.  (There are much, much better novels set in France in WWII -- All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr or Suite Française by Irène Némirovsky, to name a couple.)  3 stars.

With a Mythological Creature on the Cover - Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert.  Yeah.  "Magic" = mythological.  (My book bingo; my rules.)  Just what I needed right now.  4 stars.

Recommended in a BOTNS Episode - Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the Berlin Olympics by Daniel James Brown.  (This also happened to be my book group's selection for our June meeting.)  Excellent story; worth reading.  4 stars.

About Art or an Artist - This square?  The Last Painting of Sara de Vos by Dominic Smith.  Interesting and enjoyable.  4 stars.

Has a Place Name in the Title - Chicago by Brian Doyle.  I just loved this book!  A bit autobiographical, with lovely storytelling twists here and there -- and, of course, Edward.  This might be my favorite read of the summer.  5 stars.

And, last but not least, Column 5, going down:

By an Author Who Endorsed the Last Book You Loved - Okay.  That square's "directive" was just WAY too much for me.  Really?  I'm going to have to pick the last book I loved.  And then I'm going to figure out who endorsed that book.  Are you kidding me?  This is where Book Bingo meets Not Worth My Time.  So I read Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg by Irin Carmen.  Because I wanted to.  (And it was endorsed by Barack Obama.  And that's good enough for me.)  4 stars.

With a Red Cover - When I picked this book, it had a red cover.  But by the time I actually read the book?  Not a red cover.  Publishing is fickle.  For this square, I read The Improbability of Love by Hannah Mary Rothschild -- a finalist for the Bailey's Women's Prize for Fiction.  After slogging through the Most Lame Prologue Ever (seriously; I almost gave up right there), this book really picked up steam.  It ended up being the only book I read this summer that I absolutely Could. Not. Put. Down.  Not perfect, but very enjoyable.  (Besides, I was completely taken by the notion of a painting as one of the characters.)  4 stars.

An Audiobook - I listened to several audiobooks this summer, but the one I'm counting for this square?  Whispers Through a Megaphone by Rachel Elliott -- on the longlist for the Bailey's Women's Prize for Fiction.  I really enjoyed this rather unique book -- and especially the second half.  So keep reading.  (That's where things get really interesting.)  4 stars.

Reread a Favorite Book - Back in 1979, when Tom and I were first dating, we both read Even Cowgirls Get the Blues by Tom Robbins.  We loved that stupid book -- so much so that we named our first cat after one of the main characters, Bonanza Jellybean (Jelly, for short; the first of the J-pets).  I decided to read it again this summer.  Uh.  Well.  Life has moved forward; this book, however, has not. I found it terribly dated and stuck in the mid-1970s.  3 stars.  (Mostly out of nostalgia.)

That You Loved as a Child - I read Misty of Chincoteague by Marguerite Henry.  Oh, my goodness!  The sexism in this book shocked me.  But, still.  I loved it.  4 stars.

And.  There you have it! 

BINGO.  2016.

Have a great weekend -- and happy reading.




BINGO . . . is my Name-O!

I haven't been doing much this summer . . . but I have been reading!

Let's get caught up on some of my BINGOs, shall we?


But first . . . I really need to address something that has me so very curious:  That middle square.  The FREE SQUARE.  I've noticed that some of you have made the interpretation that the "free square" = "book-of-choice."  I'm here to tell you . . . that's not what it says, and that's not How Bingo Work!

In Bingo, you always get that middle square as a free square -- a "gimme."  You automatically mark or cover that square before the game even starts. It's not a square that the caller will yell out to you, it is yours -- and it is free.  (You don't choose which Bingo number is going to be IN the "free square" and then cover it only if the caller yells out that number, do you?  No!  It's a FREE square from the git-go.)

So.  In my Book Bingo, the middle square = Free Square.  Not Book-of-Choice.

And now that we've got THAT taken care of, let's call a few Bingos!

Column 1, going down:

A Classic Mystery - I read Agatha Christie's The Mysterious Affair at Styles, which turns out to be the first of her Hercule Poirot mysteries.  (I chose this one because it was a freebie through iTunes, and I had long-ago loaded it on my iPad.)  Anyway, I really enjoyed reading this one; truly, I had forgotten how delightful Agatha Christie mysteries ARE!  Highly recommended.  4 stars.

With Any Season of the Year in the Title - For this square I read Winter's Bone by Daniel Woodrell.  I'm a bit late to this party, I know, having not seen the movie OR read the book before.  But.  Oh, my.  Harsh, stark, chilling.  Absolutely divine.  5 stars.  

That You Started But Never Finished - Earlier this year, as part of my exploration of "risk," I started reading Brene Brown's Daring Greatly.  I was still working through itas Book Bingo started, so it was a natural fit for this square.  Fascinating.  Insightful.  4 stars.

Written by an Author You've Met - I chose My Life on the Road by Gloria Steinem for this square.  Because, yes, I have met her.  In fact, I spent a day on the road with her in 1992!  (You can read all about it here.)  And although my story didn't make it into Gloria's book, I really enjoyed reading all about her life and adventures.  4 stars. 

Self-Published - For this square, I chose Still Alice by Lisa Genova, possibly the most successful self-published book in recent history.  Good choice.  4 stars.

And another Bingo -- Column 4, going down:

A Prize Winner - I read The Glorious Heresies by Lisa McInerney, the 2016 winner of the Bailey's Women's Prize for Fiction.  (I try to read all the Women's Prize nominees each year, so this was a no-brainer for me.)  This one is really intriguing reading -- unique, for sure.  It's full of seriously flawed characters making really bad choices (over and over and over. . . ), but somehow, it just works.  4.5 stars.

Nonfiction About Your Hometown or State - For this square, I read A 1,000-Mile Walk on the Beach: One Woman's Trek of the Perimeter of Lake Michigan by Loreen Niewenhuis.  (This is another book I had picked out to read during my "risk" year.)  It turned out to be . . . okay.  I had hoped it would be a bit more self-reflective, but it turned out to be a lot more environmentally-focused.  Which is also interesting -- but not what I wanted.  3 stars.

Longer Than 500 Pages - I read Nobody's Fool by Richard Russo -- and loved every single page!  5 stars.

With a Day of the Week in the Title - Just gotta admit it:  This is one of the types of squares I hate most.  I have a queue of hundreds of books I want to read.  NONE of them has a day of the week in the title.  A quick Goodreads search didn't turn up any "day of the week" title books I was interested in reading.  I planned to just . . . punt.  But then I remembered a copy of Virginia Woolf's short story anthology I have on my bookshelf . . . called Monday or Tuesday.  I've been meaning to read it for years! Perfect!  It's, well, Woolf doing her thing -- stream of consciousness with a bit of social commentary.  I loved it -- but it's probably not for everyone.  4 stars.

Published Over 100 Years Ago - I decided to do a little "stretch reading" with this square -- and read The Three Sisters, a play by Anton Chekhov.  It was challenging to read the story in play format -- so many characters!  I'd prefer to see it performed on stage, but still worth the read.  (A good "stretch" is always worth it.)  3 stars.

I'm very close to having a fully-covered Bingo card (except, you know . . . that FREE square!).  
I'll share the last 2 Bingos next week.

Happy reading!


Finally . . . a BINGO!

This summer, I've been reading and reading and reading . . . but only just recently got my first Book BINGO!

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Let's check out that middle column, going down, shall we?

With 200 pages or fewer - For this square, I read My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout.  I loved this book!  It was spare and elegant; it didn't fill in all the blanks for you (my favorite kind of book), and allowed you to connect the dots for yourself.  An excellent selection.  Five stars!

A tale of survival (fiction or non-) - If you've followed my Book Bingo blog posts in the past, you might already know that I (ahem) take liberties with the squares.  I love to read.  I love to participate in Book Bingo.  But I will NOT read something I don't otherwise want to read.  So I tend to . . . be creative sometimes with my squares.  I am not a fan of what you normally think of as "survival" books.  But, I did read Louise Erdrich's wonderful new novel, LaRose.  And if you've read it, you will certainly see that it fits into this "tale of survival" square --- even if it is a bit unexpected.  Another excellent read.  Five stars!

That you've pretended to have read meant to read but haven't gotten around to it yet - Another thing I do with Book Bingo . . . is modify some of the prompts that I don't like.  "Pretending" to have read something is just not my style.  But there are many books that "everyone" has read but me.  You know.  Books that were Very Popular - but I didn't have time to read them when "everyone else" was reading them.  So I decided to revise the square accordingly.  I read another Elizabeth Strout book -- that one that "everyone" read way back when it was first out:  Olive Kitteridge.  I never pretended to have read it.  But I've always meant to.  I'm glad I finally gotten around to it.  Four stars!

Historical fiction - For this square, I read A Dictionary of Mutual Understanding by Jackie Copleton.  This one, from the Bailey's Women's Prize for Fiction longlist, held much promise -- taking on the difficult and heavy-heavy-heavy subject of the bombing of Nagasaki.  (Let's just say . . . lots of guilt and regret in this one.)  It was quite good - and I certainly learned a lot about Nagasaki and how the bombing impacted the community and its survivors - but it fell just a bit flat.  Still, worth the read.  Three stars!


Happy weekend to all of you.  Hope you get some time to curl up with a book!

Reading AND . . .

I've been reading by listening to audiobooks for a very long time.  

As in . . . a really long time.  Like back when they weren't called audiobooks yet.  Just "books-on-tape."  I used to get cassette-versions (and later the CD-versions) of books at the library, and pop them into my Sony WalkMan (and later my DiscMan) and listen while I took the dog on walks.  I kind of thought it was magical.  Reading AND . . . doing something else.

Times have changed.  Now, I just download books on my iPod, clip it to my shirt (or stick it in my pocket), and I'm good to go!  Reading AND . . . indeed.  (So much easier with my tiny Nano.  As compared to my WalkMan!)


This week, Carole wonders what we DO while we listen to audiobooks.

I read AND . . . 

  1. Knit
  2. Hand stitch
  3. Work out
  4. [Insert any mundane household chore here]
  5. Pull weeds
  6. Cook
  7. Walk the dogs
  8. "Beautify" (the hair; the face; etc.)
  9. Draw or paint
  10. Drive (only plugged into the auxiliary channel; never with headphones)

How about YOU?  What do you do while you listen to audiobooks?


(You know what I NEVER do, though?  I never, ever read AND . . . ride my bike.  Because it is absolutely not safe to use headphones while you're pedaling.)


Find out what everyone else does while "reading" audiobooks here!


It's time . . . for Book Bingo 2016 . . . 

I printed my card yesterday:

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I think there's a lot of good potential - and a lot of freedom - in my card.  Because the thing I struggle with, when it comes to Book Bingo, is reading something I don't really enjoy or want to read -- just to "get the square."  I'm most worried about the "mythological creature on the cover" (because not a fantasy fan)* and "pretended to read" (because not my style).

Grab your own BINGO card here . . . and join the fun!

Let's Book-Bingo the summer away!


* Feel free to suggest any books with mythological creatures on the cover.  (This one might just do me in.)