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January 2021

December 2020

Hold On To Your Hats

Read With Us

Batten down the hatches . . . we've got a live one here!

Yep. Our past Read With Us selections* have run the gamut from memoir to historical fiction to books by authors of color. Good books, interesting books -- but this time . . .  Bonny and Carole and I looked to recent releases.

We looked at lists of books up for awards in 2020 this time, walking right into the Best-of 2020 lists. And we chose . . . 

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Leave the World Behind by Rumaan Alam.

It turns out, all three of us had this book on our "to read" lists -- and according to Goodreads, it looks like a lot of you do, too.

It's one of those . . . rather chewy . . . books. Y'know. Lots to think about and digest. 
Racism.
Classism.
Inequality.
Climate change.
Overreliance on technology.

So. Nothing comfortable, then.
(Especially during a pandemic. But hey.)
But great for book groups! Apparently it's very well written (I haven't read it yet), with a storyline that sounds sort of reminiscent of Jordan Peele's Get Out. It was a finalist for the 2020 National Book Award. And . . . well. . . it's already in development for a Netflix series with Denzel Washington and Julia Roberts.

Lots of potential.
Certanly lots to discuss.

This book is getting a lot of buzz.
We want to check it out -- and we hope you'll join us for what looks like a really interesting read. 

One potential drawback: it's a new release, so there aren't really any "deals" out there if you're looking to purchase the book. It was recently released in paperback, though (about $17 on Amazon), and it's available for Kindle ($14.99). I've been on my library's hold-list for some weeks now, but I'm finally next-in-line.

We'll be talking more about the book and providing some background information in January. Mark your calendars now for our blog book discussions AND a Zoom discussion on Tuesday, March 2 (probably 6:30pm Eastern time).

C'mon along! 
Read with us!

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*
Previous Read With Us book selections:

Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson

Fever by Mary Beth Keane

I'm Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sánchez

Wild Game by Adrienne Brodeur

The Women of Brewster Place by Gloria Naylor

 

 


Is It Just Me?

Or are the days flying by??? Because . . . how can it already be Monday again?

But it is!
Time to . . . 

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On Mondays, I usually share a few tidbits and miscellaneous things I discovered over the weekend. A little of this, some of that. Things to amuse, amaze, entertain, or inform. Maybe even something to rev you up! 

So. Let's get to it!

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"Nothing ever seems too bad, too hard, or too sad when you've got a Christmas tree in the living room."
        -- Nora Roberts

(Ain't that the truth?)
(Even if it's not a traditional Christmas tree. And it's just . . . lights?)

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Winter . . . is coming. Here in my corner of the world, the snow hasn't cranked up yet. We've had a dusting, sure. But nothing that sticks around. Yet. I know it's coming, though. Those snowflakes! They WILL pile up! I'm sure that, like me, you've heard that "no two snowflakes are alike." But did you ever wonder where that profound "factoid" came from???

Turns out . . . it was Wilson A. Bentley who made that discovery! Wilson -- or "Willie" as he was known to his friends, was the first to collect and photograph snowflakes -- over one hundred years ago. You can read all about it here. It's a fascinating story, and the photos are amazing . . . considering it was so long ago, and all he had was a "bellows" camera!

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(Public domain, Wikimedia Commons)

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Here are a couple of interesting "book-ish" links for you to check out this week:

First, I found this really interesting list of (pretty much all) nonfiction titles put forward by Smithsonian scholars as their "favorite books of 2020." This is a fascinating collection of books -- and especially for those of you who enjoy reading nonfiction.

Then, in the totally go-ahead-and-judge-a-book-by-its-cover category, I found this list of the the 89 best book covers of 2020. I'm always intrigued by book cover designs, so I love these kind of lists . . . even if it takes more than a "pretty face" to get me to read the actual book! Which one is YOUR favorite???

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(Speaking of books . . . be sure to tune in tomorrow - Tuesday - when Bonny, Carole, and I reveal the next Read With Us Book selection! Exciting news!)

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Every once in a while, I share an Instagram account that is particularly fun to follow. This week, I'm going to suggest @lizandmollie. Follow along for delightful "comics" that will make you smile . . . and feel BETTER!

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One last thing!

As you're looking for holiday gifts this year, don't forget to visit Green Hat Woodworking for some unique, interesting gifts. (Yeah . . . the Green Hat Guy IS my son. I have no problem with shamelessly promoting him.) You can find him on Etsy at Green Hat Store or on his website.

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And that's it for me on this Monday morning!
Here's to a good Monday -- and a great week -- for all of us.

 

 

 


A Shot In the Arm

All week long I look for . . . 

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And then on Fridays, I report back.

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This week, most of us heard some good news that gave us hope: The vaccine is on the way! Sooner than we really could have hoped. And . . . bonus! . . . it looks like it will be very effective, too.

Of course, that good news . . . is tempered by the reality that it's going to take some time (actually . . . a rather significant amount of time) to get enough of us vaccinated to return our lives back to "normal" (whatever that even IS anymore). 

Still. This is Really Good News. Hope has arrived!

The trick now?
Waiting.

"Our willingness to wait reveals the value we place on what we're waiting for."
                --- Charles Stanley

The New York Times published a little "tool" yesterday to help us determine our likely "place" in the vaccine line. (Click here to use it.) You just plug in some basic demographic information about yourself, and then it will spit back some figures about your spot in line.

For me, a healthy 61-year-old who isn't an essential worker . . . well. It's going to be awhile. It really IS going to be a long, cruel winter while I wait my turn. But I can take heart that my dad, a not-so-healthy almost-85-year-old who lives in an independent living apartment that is part of a large continuum-of-care facility . . . well . . . he's going to be at the front of the line. And that will relieve a lot of weight from my shoulders. He is isolated and bored -- and eager to get back to his morning "koffee-klatch," his twice-weekly poker games, and his Wii bowling league again! (Not to mention, of course, the reduced concern about a Covid outbreak in his facility.)

So.
Good news.
Hopeful news.
But let's get back to that waiting-patiently-through-the-long-cruel-winter part.
(Because for most of us? That's exactly what we're going to need to do.)

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We've come to . . . the hard part. We're tired. We're weary. We're Sick of This. If we hear the word "unprecendented" one more time we will scream. And now that we know the cavalry IS really coming, we want relief NOW. It's easy to feel like . . . we're in the clear now. We've got a solution. We're being rescued, see???? And, besides. . . holiday season.

But. Not yet.
We really DO need to get through this really rough patch ahead.
And, as you all know, we have to do it pretty much on our own. Because ain't nobody lookin' out for us, friends. (Or not yet, at least.)

The reality is that most of us will not - or cannot - just sit in our houses for 4-5 months while we wait for our turn in the vaccine line. What do we do? And how can we minimize our risk in a practical way while we wait? Today the New York Times "Daily Briefing" (which I receive every morning in my inbox as a NYT subscriber) published a 3-Step Guide to Risk Minimization based on a survey with 700 epidemiologists and discussions with experts. Here goes:

  1. There is one behavior you should eliminate WITHOUT exception: Spending time in a confined space (with those outside your immediate household) where anyone is unmasked. This means . . . don't eat indoors at a restaurant or at a friend's or family member's house. Period. Don't have close, unmasked conversations anywhere, even outside. If you're going to work, don't eat with other people. If you're flying, try not to eat or drink on the flight. In other words . . . don't take your mask off at all. (And I know this means with your family members who don't live with you. And I know this is Really Hard.)
  2. Minimize your time in indoor spaces EVEN with universal masking. This means . . . if you CAN work out at home instead of at the gym, DO IT. If you CAN work from home instead of "popping in," DO IT. If you CAN attend church services remotely instead of in person, DO IT. Even if masks are required and worn universally.
  3. The good news is that some activities are less risky than people fear. You can walk, run, or bike outdoors without a mask, for example. It's more important to maintain at least a 6-foot distance from others outside than it is to wear a mask. (Close outdoor conversations excluded; see #1) You can also feel okay about "quick errands" -- running to the grocery store, the pharmacy, or the post office, for example. Just minimize your time, wear a mask, keep your distance from others, and wash your hands as soon as you get back home.

The NYT briefing this morning also talked about creating a personal risk budget to manage your Covid exposure risk. Figure out what you NEED to do (grocery shopping, for example) and what you DON'T need to do (browsing at a book store, for example, or working out at the gym) so you can figure out if you CAN do something carefully (meeting a friend for an outdoor, socially-distanced walk -- with masks, for example). 

Bottom line . . . 
Sometimes HOPE looks like a shot in the arm!

Be patient, my friends.
We're so close.
Hang in there.
And be smart!

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My best wishes to all of you . . . for a weekend filled with peace and hope. And something fun . . . with appropriate risk-management, of course.

 

 

 

 


Can't Stop Won't Stop

Around here, in my little corner of the world, it's All-Hat-Knitting-All-The-Time these days. (Because . . . apparently, for me, nothing says "I love you" quite like a hand knit hat for the holidays.) I am really cranking out the hats right now. But since they are gifts for people who for the most part do not even glance at my blog, but every once in a while surprise me by acknowledging that they do occasionally take a peek, I am hesitant to ruin my surprise by revealing too much. (As if they'd be surprised by receiving Yet Another Hat for Christmas.)

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Anyway.

I thought it might be fun to throw some hints out there with a little guessing game. Let's play . . .  Match-the-Hat-With-the-Recipient!

The Contenders:
(and these are Ravelry links, by the way; I'm sorry, but to play you'll have to look them up yourselves; I felt like it would be too much of a hint to include a photo of the various hats . . . just in case, y'know . . . someone happened to be peeking in today).

First up, we've got Shear . . . a very interesting graphic design by Emily Greene. This is a great unisex hat that knits up quite quickly in DK yarn.

Next, we've got Gault . . . a cool textured design by Jared Flood. This is another unisex hat that uses DK yarn. Fun to knit, for sure.

And we've got Windschief . . . a hat with interesting lines by Stephen West. Yep, another unisex hat.  This one knits up really fast in worsted weight yarn.

Last, we've got Shiftalong . . . Andrea Mowry's fun hat based on her other "Shifty" designs (Night Shift, Shifty, etc.). This one isn't quite so unisex, but there's no reason it couldn't be.

The Recipients:
(all wearing previous hand knit hats, naturally. . . )

My daughter Erin and her husband Keith.

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My son Brian and his wife Lauren.

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(These photos are from our family curling outing last Christmas.) (Such carefree fun. Sigh.)

So.

Which hat for which recipient?

Take a guess!

(And if anyone actually guesses all four correctly, I'll think of some sort of prize!)

 

 


Can't Help Myself

Looking for something super quick and easy to knit???

That will also keep you (or someone you love) warm and toasty???

And - as an added benefit - will tame your "pandemic hair" or that (un)timely decision to grow out your bangs???

Well. 

Look no further! I've got you covered!

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(It's even a free pattern.)

This is the aptly-named "headband with a twist" by Mirella Moments. (The free pattern is available on their website, here.) It takes just a tiny bit of yarn, a tiny bit of your time, and - for those of you who hate to purl - it's a basic one-color brioche stitch (or English rib if the words "brioche stitch" stop you dead in your tracks), which means . . . ribbing but NO purling! (And super easy to do.)

This is a perfect thing for me right now. (Because we have reached the bangs-growing-out stage where I need a paper bag otherwise. . . ) I'm definitely going to be knitting up a few more. . . 

'Cause sugar pie, honey bunch
(Sugar pie, honey bunch)
You know that I'm weak for you 
(Weak for you)
Can't help myself
I love you and nobody else

Ravelry details here.

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Be sure to visit Kat today for more Unraveled posts!


The Rhythm of Things

Once a month, many of us in Bloglandia share updates about our "words" for the year. (Honoré hosts, check it out.) It's a really helpful way to reflect back on the month-just-ended . . . to see how our "words" have popped up in our worlds. It's especially fascinating to me to see how these words connect - all year - for so many of us. There is some mysterious power in having a word, that's for sure.

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"If you are quiet enough, you will hear the flow of the universe. You will feel its rhythm. Go with this flow. Happiness lies ahead."
            --- Buddha Gautama

Flow.
Well. I surely never imagined a year quite like this one . . . when I chose my word last January! (Hoo boy. Talk about an understatement.) But, at this point in the year, I can see that . . . these weird times have actually enhanced the entire "relationship" with my word.

The pandemic forced me to abandon my "old" life (or much of it), leaving me with a blank slate for so many things -- including my word. A kind of . . . Now what? situation. How could this word - flow - fit into my life now that my life was so . . . different? I'd be writing a very different blog post right now, had the pandemic not come along and interrupted everything. And I'm pretty sure I'd be challenged by that quote from the Buddha (above). While I know I'd WANT TO be quiet enough to "hear the flow of the universe," I know I'd struggle with the actual DOING IT.

So.
In a really interesting way, this forced pause in life-as-we-knew-it actually opened me up to understanding flow in a wholly different "life" -- in a new context altogether.

My best example? Well, before the pandemic, the rhythm of my days really came from the calendar. If I wanted to know what was up, I just looked at my planner! It held all the answers - what I was doing, where I was going, who I was meeting. My "flow" was really defined by boxes and grids and lists on monthly and weekly calendars.

Don't get me wrong. I still keep my calendar up to date, and I use my planner regularly. There's just a whole lot less ON it. I don't need to consult it so often. And I use it in entirely different ways now. (I have even, on occasion, gone for a couple of days without checking it at all. This would have been shocking in the Before Times.)

As the pandemic months tick by, though, I'm finding that I'm not so driven by the flow of dates and events in my planner. I've tuned into . . . other rhythms. That "flow of the universe" the Buddha talked about! My own daily circadian rhythms, for example: day and night, darkness and light, waking and sleeping. My biologic rhythms: breath, heartbeat, hunger, digestion. Universal rhythms:  the moon cycle, changing seasons, sunrise and sunset.

I'm so much more tuned in . . . to the flow around me. IN me. And this is a gift I doubt I'd have discovered if life had continued as before.

I know I'd have learned different things about myself, other lessons, of course, if the pandemic hadn't stepped in. But I'm grateful to have had an opportunity to . . . scrap my calendar and planner (or at least loosen things up significantly) and allow the rhythms of the universe to flow through me!

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How about you? What did you learn from your word last month?

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(If you're interested in reading my other monthly "word" posts, you can find them here.)