When it comes to two of the loves of my life, I’m kind of bipolar. For a while, all I want to do is knit, and then my poles flip like a magnet, and all I want to do is read. Just in the last week or so, my poles flipped again, and I’ve been mostly reading, and not knitting very much.  So it goes.

So, what do I read?  The lion’s share of it is fiction set in any historical period including those that haven’t happened yet.   I’m big into Tony Hillerman.  His stuff falls into the heading ‘crime procedural’ but there’s a reason he was given a Special Friend of the Diné award.  If you like your crime procedurals in the present day with a heady dose of the land and culture of the Four Corners region, you’re in for a big treat.   I have every one of his books I can get my little mitts on, and a big reread may be looming on the horizon.

C. J. Cherryh’s newest just came out, Alliance Rising, co-authored with her spouse, Jane Fancher, who is a talented author “in her own write,” to coin a phrase.  (Check out Jane’s RingDancer novels for the fantasy fans, and her scifi NetWalkers series.)   It’s set in the world of Merchanter’s Luck, Cyteen, Finity’s End, and Downbelow Station.  Alliance Rising starts a little slow, but then so do avalanches.  Bear with it.  It’s like a juggernaut with no brakes.  Once it gets rolling, it’ll drag you along with it.  Cherryh is a world-builder par excellence, but she populates her worlds with real, flesh-and-blood beings — not all her characters are Human.  But even her aliens are convincingly real.  There are the Mri of her Faded Sun trilogy, the various alien species of her Compact novels (the Chanur series), the Atevi of the Foreigner novels.  Her Morgaine novels are a brilliant mix of fantasy, sword and sorcery and scifi.

You’ll see some books by Joanna Chambers and K. J. Charles on my list.  They’re “romance” novels, but these books stretch the genre in a totally different, and more inclusive direction.  They’re not for everybody.   I like good stories with well-rounded characters.  In my world-view (unlike that of a certain well-known loose cannon in a certain well-known oval office), love is where you find it, and chacun à son goût.  I’ve got one of those pink knitted hats, too, in case you’re wondering.

I’m inordinately fond of the classic British detective novels, the  Lord Peter Wimsey books by Dorothy L. Sayers, and the Margery Allingham books, not to mention Agatha Christies’ books.  I love Neil Gaiman’s books (some more than others), and Charles de Lint.  I adore Terry Pratchett’s Discworld books, and Douglas Adams‘ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy books, both of which are in the grand old British tradition of sharp-toothed nonsense.

I’m a classics fan:  I much prefer Carroll‘s Alice, Milne‘s Pooh, and Travers‘ Poppins to Disney’s silly, superficial, exploitative, high-fructose corn syrup fueled versions.  (Disney gets short shrift from me.  I won’t enlarge upon my opinions here.  My momma raised me not to use that kind of language in polite company.  If you happen to like him, well, like I said, de gustibus non est disputandum.)

Sharon Lee and Steve Miller are also great favorites.  (Regency SciFi!).  Ursula Le Guin, Patricia McKillip, Sharon Shin, Ray Bradbury, Steven Brust, Diana Wynne Jones,  Lois McMaster Bujold.   I like Elizabeth Bear in small doses;  she’s a bit intense and hard-edged for me, though. I like Seanan McGuire‘s October Daye books a lot (Tybalt!).  I’ve tried some of her other books, but couldn’t get into them.  Doesn’t mean they’re not good; just means I couldn’t get into them.

Becky Chambers‘ first book in her “Wayfarer” series was hilariously good.  I have the next one but haven’t gotten to it yet.

D. B. Jackson’s Thieftaker Chronicles books are good.  Set in an “alternate universe” colonial Boston just before the Revolutionary War, but one where magic works.

I like Gail Carriger‘s books.  They’re like fine pastry with a good cup of tea in a comfy chair.  What with how grim and dark the real world’s gotten lately, I’m finding I’ve become more drawn to witty, light-hearted comedy.  Again, she’s an inclusive author, and some of her books are more “inclusive” than others.

Megan Whalen Turner‘s putting out another in her Queen’s Thief series this March.  If the Mycenean Greeks/Persian culture had made it to the Middle Ages, that would be the world of Eugenides the thief.   Great reads, the lot of them.  I expect the new one to be no different.

There’s also going to be a new Sebastian St. Cyr book out in March, the 14th in C. S. Harris’ long-running Regency detective series. Whodunnits set in Regency England, with an aristocratic protagonist and a side order of biting social commentary.  She has a PhD in European history, so she not only tells it like it was, warts and all, she gets it right, too.  These are not “women’s romance novels.” If you’re looking for Georgette Heyer, you won’t find it here.  Nothing frothy or frilly about Harris’ books;  they’re a truly meaty read.  Flesh and blood characters that live in a world that’s very real.

You notice I do a lot of rereading.   Good books are hard to find.  I only keep the books I’ll want to read again and again.

I can usually tell by the first chapter if I’m going to like a book, very often by the first 5-10 pages, but it’s very much one of those you have to be there.  Sometimes, a book will eject me, and a few weeks, or months, or years down the road, I’ll be bored and desperate for something to read, give it another try and love it.  I read 109 books in 2014, the first year I started keeping a list, 151 in 2015, 125 in 2016, 92 in 2017 (I moved house that year and took three trips), and 85 in 2018 (a year when I was dealing with some serious health issues).  Look at the ones I’ve reread more than once.  Those are the best ones.


. . . The Wild Geese, High in the Clean Blue Air, Are Heading Home Again.

Mary Oliver

(September 10, 1935 – January 17, 2019)

I don’t know where prayers go,
or what they do.
Do cats pray, while they sleep
half-asleep in the sun?
Does the opossum pray as it
crosses the street?
The sunflowers? The old black oak
growing older every year?
I know I can walk through the world,
along the shore or under the trees,
with my mind filled with things
of little importance, in full
self-attendance.  A condition I can’t really
call being alive.
Is a prayer a gift, or a petition,
or does it matter?
The sunflowers blaze, maybe that’s their way.
Maybe the cats are sound asleep.  Maybe not.

While I was thinking this I happened to be standing
just outside my door, with my notebook open,
which is the way I begin every morning.
Then a wren in the privet began to sing.
He was positively drenched in enthusiasm,
I don’t know why.  And yet, why not.
I wouldn’t persuade you from whatever you believe
or whatever you don’t.  That’s your business.
But I thought, of the wren’s singing, what could this be
if it isn’t a prayer?
So I just listened, my pen in the air.

“I happened to be Standing” © by Mary Oliver

The title of this post is from one of her more well-known poems, “Wild Geese.”  She has left us, set out on the next stage of her journey, but, oh, what wonderful footprints she has left behind.

Friday Afternoon Mitt-Along

The rainbow mitts turned out almost just right.  Hard to believe both mitts came from the same skein of yarn, but they did.  I’ve sent them on their way to my BFF who has been wearing them to bed.  She’s an artist and loves bright colors, so she had no problem with all the different colors.

So, I tweaked the pattern based on that pair and I’m knitting up a second pair using a skein of Caron Simply Soft in a grey heather colorway and the pattern as tweaked.  I got one knitted except for the thumb and saw more tweaks I want to make in the pattern.  It was a right mitt.  I’m in the middle of knitting a second right mitt with the retweaked pattern, so I’ll frog that first one and use the yarn to knit the left mitt. When I get it how I like it, I’ll publish it on Knits From The Owl Underground.

I spent the morning working on the first right mitt and binge-watching back episodes of “Must Love Yarn’s” podcasts.  I’m up to episode 44, and their latest episode is 118, so I have some catching up to do.  But then, I have a lot of projects going and they’re fun and entertaining.  The two podcasters have great personalities and great chemistry.  Watching their podcasts and knitting is almost like being in a knitting group with them.

I may have mentioned that Michael’s and Joanne’s both had yarn sales and because of Must Love Yarn, I have fallen down the Joji Locatelli rabbit hole.  She’s a knitwear designer who lives in Argentina. I realized that if I could get 7 more skeins of that purple yarn, I’d have enough to make this.  They had exactly 7 skeins left.  See there?  Fate.

I’ve been noticing something interesting in the last four or five blog posts, that instead of transferring pictures from my camera, I’ve been transferring them from my phone.  I suspect lot of it is from now being on Instagram, but it started before that.  My phone has a pretty good camera on it, and I’ve had my digital camera for six or seven years, and the picture quality between the two is pretty much the same.  There’s this program called SideSync which allows me to link my phone and my PC through either Bluetooth or a USB cable, and I’ve been transferring photos that way from my phone.  (So does that make people who take pictures with their phones “phonetographers?”)

So, I’ve been going round and round with the VA again.  I ran out of a particular prescription on the 28th of December because my cardiologist increased the dosage, and the change didn’t make it to the VA pharmacy.  I put in for a refill in a timely manner, but I kept waiting and waiting for the refill and it didn’t come.  I thought that the fact they’re closed the same as other government offices over the holidays and that might have been the problem, but when I went on their website to track the refill, they said it wouldn’t be refilled until 1/24 because the prescription hadn’t been updated.  So I’ve been without it for two weeks now while I tracked down the problem and got everybody on the same page.  I’m supposed to be able to pick it up Monday.   Being without the medication for the past two weeks has been a bummer.

While all this was going on, I got a reminder from the VA to make an appointment with the optometrist to get my yearly eye exam.  When I called to make the appointment, I found out that we haven’t had an optometrist in our clinic here in town since last May, and that I’d have to go 125 miles to Amarillo for an eye exam, which would include having my pupils dilated so they can check my retinas.  (Dad with macular degeneration, aunt with optic nerve cancer. . .) I’d then get to drive 125 miles on the Interstate with dilated pupils through herds of trucks to get back home again.  They’re supposed to be trying to hire one.  I don’t think my glasses need to be changed, so I’m just going to wait until they get one.   When I get new glasses through the VA, they mail them to me, and if I have to have the frames adjusted or a lens replaced, I have to drive 250 miles round trip to Amarillo to get it done.  Our government in action.

While I was out getting yarn, I got a skein of black and a skein of white in fingering weight yarn.  Deathflake may strike again, y’all.

Books Read in 2018

85. *Wintersong, Jae-Jones, S.
84. *A Study in Emerald, Gaiman, Neil
83. *Ghostly Echoes: A Jackaby Novel, Ritter, William
82. *The Secret Casebook of Simon Feximal, Charles, K. J.
81. *The Omega Objection, Carriger, G. L.
80. *Spectred Isle, Charles, K. J.
79. *The Empress of Earth, Scott, Melissa
78. *Silence in Solitude, Scott, Melissa
77. *Five Twelfths of Heaven, Scott, Melissa
76. *Strange Practice, Shaw, Vivian
75. *Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen, Bujold, Lois McMaster (reread)
74. *Barrayar, Bujold, Lois McMaster (reread)
73. *Shards of Honor, Bujold, Lois McMaster (reread)
72. *Beastly Bones: A Jackaby Novel, Ritter, William
71. Conrad’s Fate, Wynne Jones, Diana (reread)
70. Witch Week, Wynne Jones, Diana (reread)
69. The Lives of Christopher Chant,Wynne Jones, Diana (reread)
68. Charmed Life, Wynne Jones, Diana (reread)
67. The Graveyard Book, Gaiman, Neil (reread)
66 The Other Wind, LeGuin, Ursula K.
65. Tales From Earthsea, LeGuin, Ursula K. (reread)
64. Tehanu, LeGuin, Ursula K. (reread)
63. The Farthest Shore, LeGuin, Ursula K. (reread)
62. The Tombs of Atuan, LeGuin, Ursula K. (reread)
61. A Wizard of Earthsea, LeGuin, Ursula K. (reread)
60. The Goblin Mirror, Cherryh, C. J.
59. *Seraphina, Hartman, Rachel
58. *I Met A Traveller In an Antique Land, Willis, Connie
57. *The Last Temptations of Iago Wick, Rainey, Jennifer
56. *How To Marry A Werewolf, Carriger, Gail
55. The House on Parchment Street, McKillip, Patricia
54. Hawk, Brust, Steven (reread)
53. Vallista, Brust, Steven (reread)
52. Tiassa, Brust, Steven (reread)
51. Iorich, Brust, Steven (reread)
50. Dzur, Brust, Steven (reread)
49. Issola, Brust, Steven (reread)
48. Orca, Brust, Steven (reread)
47. Athyra, Brust, Steven (reread)
46. Jhegaala, Brust, Steven (reread)
45. Phoenix, Brust, Steven (reread)
44. Tekla, Brust, Steven (reread)
43. Jhereg, Brust, Steven (reread)
42. *The San Andreas Shifters, Carriger, G. L.
41. Dragon, Brust, Steven (reread)
40. Yendi, Brust, Steven (reread)
39. Taltos, Brust, Steven (reread)
38. Why Kill The Innocent, Harris, C. S. (re-re-read)
37. Where The Dead Lie, Harris, C. S. (re-re-read)
36. When Falcons Fall, Harris, C. S. (re-re-read)
35. Who Buries the Dead, Harris, C. S. (re-re-read)
34. Why Kings Confess, Harris, C. S. (re-re-read)
33. What Darkness Brings, Harris, C. S. (re-re-read)
32. When Maidens Mourn, Harris, C. S. (re-re-read)
31. The Ocean at the End of the Lane, Gaiman, Neil (reread)
30. Cold Comfort Farm, Gibbons, Stella
29. Crystal Dragon, Lee, Sharon and Miller, Steve (re . . read)
28. Crystal Soldier, Lee, Sharon and Miller, Steve (re . . read)
27. Emergence, Cherryh, C. J. (re . . read)
26. Convergence, Cherryh, C. J. (re . . read)
25. Visitor, Cherryh, C. J. (re . . read)
24. Tracker, Cherryh, C. J. (re . . read)
23. Peacemaker, Cherryh, C. J. (re . . read)
22. Protector, Cherryh, C. J. (re . . read)
21. Intruder, Cherryh, C. J. (re . . read)
20. Betrayer, Cherryh, C. J. (re . . read)
19. Deceiver, Cherryh, C. J. (re . . read)
18. Conspirator, Cherryh, C. J. (re . . read)
17. Deliverer, Cherryh, C. J. (re . . read)
16. Pretender, Cherryh, C. J. (re . . read)
15. Destroyer, Cherryh, C. J. (re . . read)
14. Explorer, Cherryh, C. J. (re . . read)
13. Defender, Cherryh, C. J. (re . . read)
12. Precursor, Cherryh, C. J. (re . . read)
11. Inheritor, Cherryh, C. J. (re. . read)
10. Invader, Cherryh, C. J. (re. . reread)
9. Foreigner, Cherryh, C. J. (re . .reread)
8. Guilty Pleasures, Hamilton, Laurell K.
7. *Romancing the Werewolf, Carriger, Gail
6. *Imprudence, Carriger, Gail
5. *Prudence, Carriger, Gail
4. To Say Nothing of the Dog, Willis, Connie (reread)
3. The Perilous Gard, Pope, Elizabeth Marie
2. Emergence, Cherryh, C. J.
1. Convergence, Cherryh, C. J. (re. . read)

* Ebook

Knit Mitts for Cold Hands

Last week, it was just plain cold, with hard freezes during the night and not warming up much above freezing during the daytime.  I have to keep my heater thermostat set at 68 F(20 C), or my gas bill is higher than giraffe’s ears.  My knitting nook is right in front of a sliding glass door, and drapes are not very good insulation.  (I’ve seriously considered getting a piece of hard foam insulation, cutting it to size and sticking it behind the drapes — I may yet do it.) Not withstanding that I have a lap robe that makes it quite cozy for most of my body, my hands got really cold sitting and knitting.

A quick search on Ravelry coughed up a free pattern for a plain vanilla set of fingerless mits.  Rooted around in my stash and found a ball of “Unforgettable” yarn in the rather flamboyant colorway of “Parrot,” which straddled the fence between a DK weight and a worsted weight yarn, got the 1.5 mm needles out of my ChiaoGoo sock set, and I was in business.  Um. . . no.  Whoever wrote the pattern must have been tiny.  No way I was getting mitts from the pattern as written onto my paws.  Went up three needle sizes and that did the trick.  She only had a little bit of ribbing at the cuff and around the base of the fingers, but I wanted much more ribbing than that.  Played around with the pattern and got something I liked.  The colors are brass band loud, and there are enough different colors in that particular colorway that the two mitts look like they came from different balls of yarn, but no matter.  These are just proof of pattern.   I’ll be passing them along to my BFF who has Raynaud’s syndrome.

Yesterday, I had to be out and about (got up at oh-god-thirty to get my hair washed so it could air dry before I had to be where I had to be at 8:00 ye gods! o’clock a.m.).  Since there were waiting rooms involved, I took the mitts.  (I always like to have a portable project on the needles just for waiting rooms, standing on line, long car rides, etc.) On the way home, it occurred to me that I had been a good girl all last week, so I stopped by Joanne’s to discover they had some Serenity Sock Weight yarn on sale for $2.29 a skein! It’s 50% merino wool, 25% bamboo and 25% nylon, so this is going to be a test case to see if I can get away with merino.  The Violas colorway was the best of a poor choice of colors, but at that price, who cares.  Anyway, it’s more of a mulberry purple, rather genteel, actually, and I like it well enough.  I should have the test mittens finished tomorrow.  (Just to be bipartisan, I stopped by Michael’s as well, and they were having a buy 3, get 1 free sale on all their yarn, whence the blue yarn.)

Deathflake is on temporary hold. I have a 22-inch head, and it’s really too tight.   Because of the hem, this hat tends to fits a little snuggly without the color work, and I think the color work is definitely not helping with the fit.  I’m going to go ahead and finish it — and then find some kid who likes it as much as I do and give it away.  I’ve got enough yarn to do another one.  This time, I’m doing the internal ribbing on a US4(3.5 mm), and going up to a US6(4.0 mm) on the body, and I’m also upping the cast-on by about 10 stitches This should make it fit much better.  Otherwise, I was quite happy with the way the colorwork turned out.  I am definitely sold on using the Turkish cast-on and two circular needles to start these toboggan  hats.  Makes the hemming so much faster and easier when the stitches you’d have to pick up from a provisional cast on are already on a needle.  This project illustrates one of the things I like about knitting.  You learn something with every project.  You’re always perfecting your craft.

Even though it doesn’t fit me, Deathflake still makes me giggle every time I look at it.   Going to show it off at knitting group tonight along with my Ilisidi shawl and probably work on finishing the mitts and/or winding purple yarn into balls.  I need to finish that second pair of knit mitts. It’s supposed to cool down again next week.

I may have mentioned that I have naturally curly hair.  It used to be blond, but it’s changed both color and texture as I’ve aged, and I’ve just let it. I prefer to wear it really long but with the health problems that plagued me last year, I cut it very short and kept it short to cut air drying time. (I do not blow dry or use a curling iron on my hair.  It’s so fine that the heat just eats it up and the ends split terribly.)  Now that some of my health issues have resolved, I’ve been letting it grow out and it’s about 3 inches long now.  There’s this lock of hair right at the crown of my head that’s just ferociously curly and refuses to lie down.  I’m just — Whatever.  It’s clean, it’s combed, deal with it.