Year in Review

2015: About the Knitting

In my continuing effort to wrap up 2015, let's talk about the knitting today.  

Here's a little screen shot of 2015's knitting, thanks to Ravelry.  Ten projects.  Seven shawls, two sweaters (one good, one bad), and a pair of mitts.  I'm pleased with all of these projects (well. . . except for that linen sweater).  

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The knitting has definitely slowed here - but that's okay.  While I may not be turning out as many projects as I have in years past, I still knit a few rows most every day.  My "production" has slowed for two main reasons:  (1) I'm knitting more challenging projects (lace shawls) -- and that just takes longer, and (2) I'm filling my time with other creative pursuits.  I made an Alabama Chanin t-shirt during 2015, and I started taking art classes.  And then, of course, I have the garden in the summer.  So the knitting is an ever-present pastime in my life, but not my only creative outlet.

There were some "fails," of course (because there always are).  There was this fine start - but not enough yarn.  And I signed up for the March Through Time Cowl, but never got "marching" (on the cowl, that is).  I also cast on for a pair of socks, but found the yarn too pool-y, which made me grumpy.  (So no socks this year.)

Other knitting highlights for 2015:

  • Rhinebeck.  That's been on my knit-bucket-list for . . . ever.  
  • KonMari-ing my stash.  Although I've never blogged it (not sure why, exactly), but I sliced-and-diced my stash last summer in a pretty drastic way.  And then I organized my "keepers" on Ravelry.  (No worries.  I still have plenty of yarn.)
  • By-passing the Christmas-knitting Crazy Train.  (And that was wonderful.)

I'm looking forward to a creative 2016 -- starting with a new "Knit Night" (for me; I'm joining a group already in progress) tonight, and a little project that's nearly ready for cast off.  (Stay tuned!)

 

 

 


2015: About the Reading

I think I covered my reading habit pretty well on the blog this year (all that Bingo-reading during the summer months), but I've decided to provide a final tally here anyway.

 

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According to Goodreads, I read 73 books in 2015 -- and 24,615 pages.  (I don't shy away from long books.  I also read Nicholas Nickleby, coming at something just over 600 pages, and several others in the 500-600 page range.)

I think I read more 5-star books this year than in any other, although I'm not going to go back and compare.  I was certainly happy with most of the books I read this year.  (I consider any books with 3 stars and up "worth reading.")  I was only really disappointed in a couple of selections (2 stars), and there was one real clunker that I couldn't even finish (1 star . . . just because I read half of it).

In the end, here are my top five reads during 2015 (I'm telling you . . . it was hard to narrow it down to just five):

How to Be Both (Ali Smith)

Kartography (Kamila Shamsie)

A Man Called Ove (Fredrik Backman)

Mink River (Brian Doyle)

Being Mortal (Atul Gawande)

I'm looking forward to more reading in 2016.  I've signed up for the Goodreads Reading Challenge (goal = 60 books this year), and I'll plan to play along at Book Bingo this summer if Mary "hosts" again (no pressure, Mary!).  You can always check what I'm reading on my sidebar here on the blog, or you can find me on Goodreads.

Happy reading! 


A Good Year

This week's Ten on Tuesday topic lends itself to further year-in-review reflection.  Carole asks us about Ten Things That Make Us Feel Proud in 2015.

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  1. Effectively purging so much of my stuff . . . KonMari-style.  It really does feel good to let go of so much stuff, and I am committed to living with less.
  2. Taking a drawing class . . . and reviving my long-ignored artistic side.  When I started out with my class (taken only so I'd have the prerequisite for other kinds of art classes), I had no idea how much fun I'd have!  
  3. Culling my yarn stash and organizing the remains on Ravelry.  I never blogged about this, but it was a monumental undertaking all the same.  (No worries.  I still have plenty of yarn!)
  4. Beginning a daily meditation practice.  I've discovered that meditation really IS all it's cracked up to be!
  5. Getting through some pretty serious sports injuries -- and changing up my whole fitness regimen. I used to run.  Now I swim.  I used to dance.  Now I row.  I fought it with a vengeance -- but the change has been really good for me.
  6. Completing an Alabama Chanin t-shirt project.  Which just whet my appetite for more!
  7. Finally getting to Rhinebeck.  (Thanks for making it possible, Patty.)
  8. Brian and Lauren's wedding.  I didn't have anything to do with this one, but I'm so proud all the same.
  9. Re-doing my bathroom, with spill-over into a bit of kitchen-updating.  (I'll blog about the finished bathroom someday in the near future.)

How about YOU?  What made you feel proud this year?

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See what everyone else has to say here!

 

 


Journey's End

Here it is - the end of December - and I've entered my year-in-review time.  I really like looking back over the almost-finished year -- to reflect on what I did, what I accomplished, what I learned.

Let's begin with One Little Word.

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If you've been reading my blog for a while, you already know that I choose "one little word" to live with every year and invite into my life.  I sign up for Ali Edwards' online workshop, and I use her prompts as a sort of jumping-off point for exploring my word.

This year, my word was JOURNEY.

When the year began, I was hoping for a journey that would help me make new discoveries about myself, inspire me to keep moving and reaching, shake up the status quo of my life a bit . . . and maybe . . . get a little lost.  I really was ready for something new-and-different, and I was open to what that might be.

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So . . . what happened?

I found that it's quite difficult to step outside the comfort of where you are . . . to get lost somewhere else.  UNLESS . . . someone (or something) pushes you . . .

And that, of course, is exactly what happened to me this year.  Lots of somethings, actually, pushed me out of the comfort of where I was.  And I DID manage to get lost for awhile.

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I set off last January on a JOURNEY with a vague sense of direction, but an uncertain destination.  After some frustrating detours and more than a couple of missed exits, I ended up stranded in a wilderness for awhile.  Eventually, I sorted myself out and found my path again.

But.

You know what?

It was NOT the path I expected.  (And that was the entire point!)

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As I say goodbye to my word this year, I want to remember what I learned:

  • That it's good to stretch in new ways; if you keep doing the same things in the same way, you're going to keep feeling the same feelings.
  • That it's okay to be uncertain . . . of where you're headed, of what's going to happen next, of which way to turn.
  • That barriers don't have to be permanent -- and can be breached, broken, or trampled.
  • That sometimes detours offer an even better view (that you would've missed altogether otherwise).
  • That stepping out of your comfort zone is not comfortable -- and that's okay!

I've reached the end of my 2015 JOURNEY.  Onward . . . to new discoveries (and a whole new word) in 2016.

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If you're interested in exploring a word of your own in 2016, it's time again to sign up for Ali Edwards' One Little Word workshop.  I've taken part for the last five years (and will be joining again in 2016) -- and have gained some powerful insights about myself each year.  The workshop is very adaptable.  Ali provides a monthly prompt to get you thinking about/connecting with your word.  You can use these prompts as a springboard for just personal reflecting or journaling -- or you can go all in and create a lovely scrapbook/mixed media/photography project for your word.  There are community forums and a Facebook group to connect with other participants if that's your thing.  Really . . . adaptable, and always thought-provoking.  (This year, I created a little "journey journal" where I reflected about/responded to the prompts -- and collected all kinds of other things related to my "journey."  Not a scrapbook at all -- but something that worked for me.)

Join in!  Sign up for One Little Word here.


 


Year in Review: The Books

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This week, Carole asks us to list our Ten Favorite Books in 2014.  This task is so much easier, now that I use Goodreads fairly faithfully.  (I say "fairly" . . . because my list of books on Goodreads doesn't quite reconcile with the list I maintain in the sidebar of my blog, so I've clearly erred in the tracking somewhere along the way.  But.  Close enough.)

I just sorted my Goodread list for 2014 by "rating", which shows some of my favorite books in the past year.  

VoilĂ !

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(Because I'm setting my own rules for this post, I've decided to remove re-reads and poetry from my final list, including only novels I've read for the first time during 2014.)

My Ten Favorite Books in 2014 (minus re-reads and poetry):

  1. All the Light We Cannot See (Anthony Doerr) - My hands-down favorite for 2014!  The critics kept calling it "dazzling."  I'd have to agree:  This one dazzles.  (Read it!)
  2. The Spinning Heart (Donal Ryan) - This story unfolds as a kind of oral history, told by a series of narrators - all neighbors in a contemporary Irish town.  Compelling.
  3. The Luminaries (Eleanor Catton) - Don't let the page count keep you away from this New Zealand gold rush tale -- part love story, part mystery, part ghost story -- all told under an astrological theme.  (Winner of the 2013 Man Booker Prize.)
  4. Hunting and Gathering (Anna Gavalda) - A perfect weaving-together of lives; bringing wounded people together . . . finding that, together, they are greater than the sum of their parts.  Translated from French, this book is beautiful to read.  (The French title was "Togetherness is Everything," which seems more appropriate somehow.)
  5. We Are Completely Beside Ourselves (Karen Joy Fowler) - This one is worth the read for the narrator alone (such a witty and engaging character!) -- but there is so much more!  (This one is probably best read without any prior knowledge of the story, so that's all I'm going to say here.)
  6. The Children Act (Ian McEwan) - One reviewer compared this book to choreography, and I think that's the perfect description!  There are never easy answers -- even when it seems like there are.
  7. Americanah (Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie) - A truly global love story that covers so many topics your head might spin!  Race, feminism, immigration, emigration, interracial relationships . . . and natural hair.  Enlightening.
  8. The Secret Place (Tana French) - The 5th in the Dublin Murder Squad series, and probably not the strongest of the 5, but I love this series - and thought this was a terrific read.  
  9. Burial Rites (Hannah Kent ) - This is not a happy book (just sayin'), but it is stark and lyrical and makes you realize . . . how many stories are lost out there.  Because not every voice is heard.
  10. How to be both (Ali Smith) - Okay.  Technically this one probably shouldn't be on my list.  Because I'm not quite finished yet.  But.  I think it needs to be here.  Because up is down and down is up, inside is outside and outside is in.  I've never read a book like this one!

How about YOU?  What are your favorite books this year?

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 Join the fun!  Sign up to recieve Ten on Tuesday prompts here - or read other lists here


Year in Review: Playing in the Dirt

I have mixed feelings about reviewing my gardening in 2013.  On the one hand, it brings me a glimmer of joy and hope -- much needed after last week's Polar Vortex and nearly 2 feet of snow . . . followed by this weekend's warm-up and melting, icy, mess.  But on the other hand, it makes me just . . . sad.  Because gardening time is still months away.

Oh, well.

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For most of 2013 gardening season, my garden looked pretty great.  I ripped out some shrubs, transplanted and divided many perennials, added beds and plants, and directed Tom's efforts in a whole new project.  It was looking great!

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Then. . . Jo Jo arrived.

And made a total mess.

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(There's always next year. . . )

The things I was most pleased with out in the garden in 2013?

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1.  My pergola looks pretty much just how I imagine it might ... when I designed it 5 years ago!

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2.  My hops!

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3.  And the new arbor to contain them!

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4.  We lost a huge black cherry tree in the spring (good riddance, actually) -- but I had them leave the stump.  While I'll be fighting black cherry shoots for a while yet, the stump makes a nice design feature in the landscape.

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5.  We also took out a diseased dwarf white pine (that wasn't so "dwarf" any more) in this garden bed.  Although I agonized about taking out that pine for months, once it was gone . . . it just opened up space and the Japanese Maple (there all along) really got a chance to shine!  (It also gave me a chance to . . . plant other stuff!)

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6.  I created a couple of little fairy gardens out under the trees.  A bit of charm and whimsy in unexpected places.

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7.  Tom took on the facilitation of my next garden dream -- transforming a little-used back corner of our yard and creating a new patio and firepit.  Now that the hardscape is in place, we'll be able to plant and transform the space as soon as we can dig!

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8.  The colors were beautiful; the birds and butterflies and bees abundant!  2013 was a great year in the garden.

Now, in these dark, cold, dreary days of winter, I keep busy dreaming and scheming of NEXT year in the garden.

I can't wait!

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Year in Review: On (and Off) the Needles

I remember a time . . . when I actually knit 12 sweaters in a year.  Twelve!

Well.

Those days seem to be long gone.  Although I still knit pretty much every day (because a day doesn't feel "right" without some knitting), my production has slowed way, way down.  

My Project Count for 2013:

  • 3 hats
  • 1 pair fingerless mitts
  • 4 sweaters
  • 1 baby sweater
  • 2 pairs of socks
  • 5 shawls
  • and 3 spa washcloths (gifts)

Out of those projects, which were my favorites?  Why . . . 

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Germinate is, hands-down, my Winner for 2013  I love it!  The yarn, the colors, the stripes-and-lace.  (It's hard to beat the winning combination of Kirsten's design and Kim's yarn!)

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I also love this cardigan - Tinder, one of Jared Flood's designs (and knit in his Shelter yarn).  So wearable and very practical.

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Leftie is a bit of a surprise.  I didn't enjoy knitting is so much, but I get lots and lots of compliments and comments every time I wear it!  (Plus, it reminds me of Margene and Carole, and that's a huge bonus.)

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I also love my Sundry!  I loved knitting it; I love wearing it.  (And this one reminds me of my trip to San Francisco, so another bonus.)

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And . . . this pullover (Tea with Jam and Bread) is pretty darn wonderful.  It got me through our recent "Polar Vortex" with the the three-day-snow-day-extravaganza.  Perfect kick-around sweater.  (And it looks great with pajama pants.  Just sayin.')

For 2014, I plan to Keep Knitting.  I'm not going to set any project goals or quotas for myself; I'm just going to knit what I feel like knitting!  I will say that I want to do some colorwork/fairisle, as I haven't done any of that for a couple of years now.  And I'm itching to knit one of the hats from the recent Wool People issue.  (This one.)  Other than that, I'm just coming to terms with the fact that I cannot knit All of The Things.  Nor do I need to buy All of the Yarn.  I think it's safe to say that for 2014, I'm going to knit what I want . . . with what I've already got.  And I'll just leave it at that!

How about you?  What are your favorite knits of 2013?  And what are you planning to knit in the coming year?


Year in Review: Reading Along in 2013

When it came to books, for me . . . 2013 . . . became The Year of the Epic Tome.

According my annual count, I read 47 books in 2013.

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This is down, significantly, from 2012 -- when I read 56 -- but NOT for lack of reading!  I actually read like a fiend this year -- but books just seem to be getting longer and longer.  (Editors!  Step up!)

I ended up reading a number of Really Long Books this year  (including We Are Water by Wally Lamb - 576 pages, The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt - 756 pages, Paris by Edward Rutherfurd - 809 pages, David Copperfield by Charles Dickens - 974 pages, Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner - 569 pages, The Children's Book by A.S. Byatt - 675 pages, and Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman - 642 pages).

So, you see.  It's not that I read less in 2013.  It's just that I read more pages . . . resulting in fewer books!  (As if that matters anyway.)

I read many excellent books in 2013, including 15 5-star books* (for details on my own, personal rating system, click here).  My Top-Five books for 2013 (in no specific order):

  1. Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki
  2. Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra
  3. Transatlantic by Colum McCann
  4. Frances and Bernard by Carlene Bauer
  5. Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner (a re-read of one of my favorite books Of All Time)

Just for contrast, I was also . . . disappointed . . . by a few books.  My Biggest Disappointments for 2013 (books I actually finished, but didn't like all that much):

  1. The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer (Sorry.  Just not all that interesting.)
  2. The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt (I know I'm in the minority on this one, but I tend to not like Donna Tartt's main characters all that much - in any of her books.  I must admit to being charmed by the first quarter of the book.  After that . . . not so much.)
  3. Heat and Dust by Ruth Jhabvala (Just plain boring.  And, again, I had connection issues.)
  4. The Children's Book by A.S. Byatt (What a slog!  I can't believe I finished it, actually.)
  5. Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler (Awful.)

For 2014, I plan to continue reading like a fiend!  Mostly contemporary fiction**, I imagine, with re-reads of some old favorites (Dickens, Austen, and Edith Wharton).  I usually try to throw in at least one or two non-fiction books each year.  And this year, I'll be checking out some travel books, too!

How about you?  What did you especially enjoy reading in 2013?  What are your reading plans for 2014?

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 *  You can check out my 2013 reading list and star-ratings on my sidebar.

**  I make a lot of my reading selections from the long-lists for the Orange Prize (or whatever it's called now; they changed the name last year) and the Booker Prize.

 

 

 


2013: It Was a Very Good Year

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Hit it, Frankie!

 

2013 was, indeed, a very good year!  Ten of my favorite memories . . . 

1.  Brian turns 21 and we all go on a pub crawl.

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2.  We get rid of the bird find a new home for Puck.  (Remember him?)

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3.  I visit San Francisco with my sister.

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4.  Brian shows us around his lab and explains stuff.

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5.  We spend wonderful weekends Up North.

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6.  My sister comes for a visit and we drink a lot of wine.  (And that's all I'm going to say about that.)

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7.  I start running . . . and get a medal in a 5K.

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8.  Erin gets a job!

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9.  We adopt Jo-Jo . . . and Jenny becomes The Bionic Dog.

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10.  Everyone comes home for Christmas.

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A VERY good year -- full of great memories!

How about YOU?  What are your favorite memories from 2013?

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Join the fun!  Sign up for Ten on Tuesday here.


A SURPRISE-ing Year

As I look back over The Year That Just Was (2013), I think it might be best to start with my one little word for the year . . . 

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I very much like the concept of One Little Word -- having one word serve as a focus point through the year -- although I'm not so big on the "project" part of the whole thing.* 

In 2013, I had a great experience with SURPRISE.

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What was most . . . surprising . . . to me was the realization that a SURPRISE can't be planned!  You simply can't intend to be surprised.  You can't decide to surprise yourself.  You can't expect a surprise.**

Because then . . . it wouldn't be a SURPRISE!

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I know this sounds kind of stupid and lame.  But this reality - that you can't expect a surprise - was eye-opening to me.  I came to understand that a SURPRISE can only be recognized as a SURPRISE . . . after the fact!  

I realized that SURPRISES are . . . 

Unexpected.

Unplanned.

Spur of the moment.

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When it comes to a SURPRISE . . . it's simply something you didn't seem coming!  You can't wake up and say, "I'm going to surprise myself today."  It just doesn't work that way.

But.

You can tell yourself that you'll be . . . 

OPEN to surprise in your life.

ALERT to surprises that happen all around you.

AWARE at how many things surprise us every day.

I learned that SURPRISE . . . is simply a matter of opening up your eyes and welcoming the unexpected in life!

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Life is full of surprises. 

Embrace them!

 

My biggest SURPRISES of 2013:

The power of sound.

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Taking on a new job (with a lickety-split Switch-o-Change-o surprise element that nearly swept me over Another Edge) (And still might.).

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Jo-Jo.  (Talk about spur-of-the-moment.)

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Running.  (Still not quite sure where that one came from.  Complete sneak attack.)

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And . . . a hot air balloon landing in the front yard!

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* I am simply NOT a scrapbook kind of person, and I just never will be.  I accept that about myself.  When it comes to One Little Word, I don't really follow along with the "projects."  I just check in each month as a reminder to consider new elements of my word.  I don't create a whole "book."  (Although I usually start out thinking I might.  I never really do, though.)

** This did make following along with the formal One Little Word prompts particularly troublesome, because most of the prompts have to do with intentions and plans for your word -- exercises to make the word "present" in your life.  Can't happen when your word is surprise!