Book Review: Things I’ve Been Silent About

Things I’ve Been Silent About: Memories of a Prodigal Daughter, Azar Nafisi
originally published: 2008
finished reading: 22 February 2012
cost: $20 (paperback swap)

This book took me forever to finish. I’m not sure what I expected, but this wasn’t it. I remember the Iranian revolution. I was in junior high and high school when the Americans were taken hostage and held in the embassy and I clearly remember the events as they were happening. I guess I wanted an idea of what it was like from someone who was actually there.

Nafisi is the pampered daughter of two people who were both well connected. Her father was an advisor to the Shah and her mother eventually became part of the political machine. This book is the story of their lives, filtered through Nafisi’s eyes.

The book could have been fascinating. The impression that it left me with was that of a spoiled princess who loved her father more than she loved her mother and did what she could to break free of them. I didn’t get a sense of what happened to regular Iranian citizens during the time of the revolution, because Nafisi isn’t one of them.

This book is not a broad description of what life in Iran was like before and during the revolution. It is one small slice of one family.

Book Review: 365: A Daily Creativity Journal

365: A Daily Creativity Journal: Make Something Every Day and Change Your Life!, Noah Scalin
originally published: December 2010
finished reading: 20 February 2012
cost: $10.36 (e-book purchased with a gift card)

The idea of doing a 365 project intrigues me. At the same time, it terrifies me. I keep inching closer to the thought of committing to creating something every day for an entire year. Can I do it? Yes. Will I do it? I don’t know. Every time I get close to thinking I’m going to start, something urges caution and I delay again. I’m afraid of getting lazy or bored or distracted.

Scalin’s 365 project was skulls. He created some brilliant art work – a giant snow skull, a skull involving ketchup and mustard bottles, sushi – they’re amazing! This book is meant to spark ideas for every day of the year. Many of them sparked in my head while reading and I can see returning to the book over and over to get re-sparked. His blog featuring his 365 skull art is incredible to scroll through.

His other blog, Make Something 365 is, by turns, intimidating and inspiring. He has done interviews with people who are just starting out on their 365 journeys and he features interviews with people who’ve completed. It’s an incredible mix of art (photos, drawings, one guy is listening to a Billy Joel song every day and writing a review about it). I scroll through and think to myself, “that’s a GREAT idea – why didn’t I think of that?” or “my idea is crap compared to this one” or “I could totally do a 365 project!”

I’m gathering ideas and courage to start my own 365 journey. This part of it has been fun. I can imagine that the project itself will be fun too. I just need to get moving.

Book Review: A Red Herring Without Mustard

originally published: February 2011
finished reading (listening): 20 February 2012
cost: $25 (audio – Jillian’s library)

I love Flavia de Luce. I am amazed every time that Alan Bradley gets her voice so right She is a charming, eccentric pre-teen and I can empathize with her father about having to deal with her quirks while dealing with her older sisters and the gradual decline of the family fortune.

I will admit I had a hard time keeping up with all the changes in this story. For some reason, when I listen to the audio versions of books I never get as deeply into the story as when I see the words. Plus, I usually listen when I’m on the bus – so 25 minute snippets at a time – it’s hard to keep up when you can’t flip the pages back and forth.

All that aside, this was another refreshing romp through Buckshaw, Flavia’s lab, and the surrounding countryside. Looking forward to the next installment.

Book Review – The Last Romanov

The Last Romanov, Dara Levy Mossanen
originally published: April 2012
finished reading: 11 February 2012
cost: $10 (review copy)


I have a fascination with the Russian royal family. The tragedy surrounding their deaths has always fascinated me and I’ve read a lot of what’s been published, novels as well as histories/biographies. I was excited to see this one – a story I’m familiar with told from a different perspective sucks me in every time. Unfortunately, I cannot recommend this book.


The piece Mossanen adds to the story is a woman from the fringe. Her parents were friends of the Romanovs, but of course not of their social standing. When Darya becomes an orphan, she is brought to the palace to look after the Tsarevitch. What follows is a descent into mysticism, as if there wasn’t enough of that in the real Romanov palaces. 


I didn’t buy it. I didn’t believe that Darya’s powers came from the ambergris. I didn’t believe she would stay in the same city where her beloved royal family was murdered. I didn’t believe she would pine for her lost love (like some Russian Miss Havisham) for decades. 


I can’t tell you why I finished it. I think on some level I keep wanting the end of the story to be different. This book was unsatisfying on almost every level for me.

Book Review: Love is the Thread

Love is the Thread: A Knitting Friendship, Leslie Moise, PhD
originally published: December 2011
finished reading: 5 February 2012
cost: $19 (review copy)



I am not a touchy-feeling kind of person. I have a small group of wonderful friends and I’d drop anything at a moment’s notice to do for them (and they’d do the same for me). Love is the Thread is the story of such a friendship. 


Moise takes the reader on a journey through this wonderful relationship from its beginning to its end and beyond. It is a celebration of her friend’s life and their connection over many years. I tend to be a little skeptical of this sort of book. Sometimes people write in order to give themselves a pulpit from which to lecture the rest of us. Moise manages to describe her friend in the most loving way possible – without making me feel lacking in some way. The book is new-agey without being cloying or preachy. It is a gentle read and was exactly what I needed to get through my mid-winter duldrums.



Winter Wine & Wool 2012

My first show of 2012 is in the books. The first Winter Wine and Wool at the Sandhill Crane Vineyards was on Saturday and it was a fabulous day! I was a little worried when Sassy and I got in the truck – it was gray and snowy and my heart kind of sank. I thought “everyone will stay home today and we’re driving through this mess and no one will show up”. (For the record, this is always what spins through my head on show day – I turn into Eeyore.)
What happened was so much better than I expected. It was the first time Heather has set up a Winter show. I’ve participated in the last 2 summer shows at the vineyard and they were a lot of fun and quite successful. All of the vendors were inside the big building (I think there were 10 of us) and the colors were amazing!
This is a shot of me and Andrea Morrison of Wonder Why Alpaca Farm. We were back-to-back last summer and had fun. This time we put our chairs right next to each other so we could chat without having to shout across the booths. We could tag-team customers so when I was busy, she would spin and when she was busy, I would spin.This shot was from very early in the day and people were just starting to wander in and look around.
I was a little concerned about putting the table right next to the light – I didn’t want to completely block it out. Turns out the snow threw a lot of reflection and people could see my colors just fine. I got comments about my socks, the sample hat Jillian designed and knit for me, and lots of questions about spinning. Turns out wine drinkers are a very curious group.
Best of all, I hit my goal in sales. I also got some great ideas for displaying my wares at upcoming shows.
Next up, The Winter Fleece Fair in Chelsea on February 18.

Book Review – “Port Mortuary”

Port Mortuary, Patricia Cornwell
originally published: November 2010
finished reading: abandoned in disgust, 18 January 2012
cost: $27.95 (library and boy am I glad I didn’t pay for this!)


It’s official, Kay Scarpetta has jumped the shark. I got to the middle of this roughly 500 page book I realized that we had only traveled about 5 hours in time. Why? Because Scarpetta has to think about the implications of what just happened. Or tell us what it reminds her of. Or take a peek at her internal reaction to it. Or her reaction to the person who did it. Or her reaction to the person who told her about it. It was like following her around after a psychotic break and you’re the only person who doesn’t know she’s lost her mind.

Enough. Enough of the poor, damaged Lucy. Enough of the detente with Benton. Enough of Marino’s rantings. Enough of Fielding’s betrayal.

Fonzie, meet Kay. I hope you’ll be very happy together.

12 Shawls in 2012 – Pie Wedge Shawl

On Ravelry there’s a group called, yes, 12 Shawls in 2012. My friend Katherine pinned a couple of shawls and I got pulled in. I had started a shawl on New Year’s and I figured, “what the heck”? So here’s my first shawl of 2012.

This is the Easy Pie Wedge Shawl. When you bought the Helen’s Lace (multi) from Lorna’s Laces, the pattern was on the ball band. It took about 1200 yards (there’s still some left in the ball).


I started it on 1 January 2012 and finished it on 12 January 2012. It was a fairly easy knit, just garter stitch and yarn overs. I will admit that I had to fudge a couple of times because I ended up with more stitches than I should have had. No one will know and I can’t actually remember where they are. That’s just my caveat that you have to pay attention a little – not a totally mindless knit.

This picture shows the colors a little better than the above shot. The colorway is called Black Watch, and there are some rather dark bits, but it’s mostly green and blue – really lovely.


I wore it to work today, because I could and with our unseasonable warmness, had to take it off about 30 minutes after I walked in the door. 


It’s lightweight, quite soft, and exceedingly warm. I couldn’t be happier with my first shawl of 2012.


Details:


Pattern: Free and Easy Pie Wedge Shawl
Designer: Lorna Misner
Yarn: Helen’s Lace Multi (50% silk/50% wool)
Colorway: 304 Black Watch
Yardage: ~1200 yards
Time to knit: about 2 weeks


Up next: Milkweed Shawl

Project 365

I’ve been reading lately about people who commit to doing something creative for an entire year. It’s an interesting concept and one I’m thinking about trying. There are a couple things holding me back:
  1. What if I attempt it and don’t complete it?
  2. Are there enough different ways to be creative about something?
  3. When it gets hard will I push through or will I give up?
When I’m thinking about something, I read about it. I found a ton of interesting stuff on this concept. First, the guy who created and started calling it Project 365, Noah Scalin. He made a skull every day for a year (some of them are way cool). He’s also written a couple of books and in the promotion of his second book, Unstuck, there are a lot of articles talking about the project. Like this one.
Scalin has 6 ideas about how to come to the project in a way that helps stick to the commitment and not just think about it.
  1. Let go of preciousness
  2. Freedom comes from limitations
  3. Get out of your environement
  4. Get out of your comfort zone
  5. Get things by giving them away
  6. Collaborate

He expands on each of these in the linked article above. Go read it, it will only take a minute or two. (I’d buy the book, but I already took the “no new books” pledge.) He’s been featuring other Project 365’ers on his website and they’re all doing cool things too.


So, back to my initial questions.

  1. Attempt, but can’t complete?
    • So what? I’ve started things over and over and I keep starting them again. Scalin himself said that the Skull Project was his third attempt at a 365.
  2. Different ways to be creative?
    • Seriously? I’ve been stretching myself and trying different things my whole life. I sat here and thought of at least a dozen ways to create my  365 idea.
  3. Push through or give up?
    • Here’s the thing. For me, it’s like working out. If I know that someone’s waiting for me at the gym – I haul myself out of bed and go. If I know someone’s waiting to see me succeed (or fail) or simply to live the project along with me vicariously, that’s incentive enough to show up. Every. Day.
    • Anyone want to be a 365 buddy? We could bounce ideas off each other and shout encouragement through the interwebz.



I like the idea of doing a “thing” every day. It does help me to limit the box, so to speak. So my 2 ideas are either a giraffe or a snowman/woman/person. Any thoughts on which one I should do? Any ideas about materials to use? Any encouragement? Any naysayers? I’d love to hear from one and all. Drop me a comment and tell me what you think.

Allergies*

I’m sure I’ve talked at some point about my allergies, but not recently. Is there anyone in the US who isn’t allergic to something? I don’t think so. Here’s the thing, I’m allergic, but to weird stuff and it’s taken me years to figure it out. 


When the Hub and I came back from our honeymoon (1988), I was sick a lot. I would get up to go to work and feel so crappy that I’d just go back to bed. It took us 2 months to figure out that I was allergic to the flannel sheets we had bought at L.L. Bean – vicious cycle! Over the years, I’ve discovered that I’m also allergic to latex, bananas, and kiwi – they all come from the same kind of plant, so they’re all related and they all cause me to break out in hives.


I went through a really bad patch several years ago where I was tested for auto-immune disease (lupus, Cushings, rheumatoid arthritis) and they came up empty handed. My diagnosis was ultimately “chronic idiopathic urticaria”. Which essentially means that sometimes I have hives and no one can figure out what causes them. I take fexo-fenadine daily and that seems to have pushed them into submission.


Yesterday I was sitting in a meeting and I feel this weird spot on my chin. It was a cross between an itch and a crawling sensation. I touched my chin and felt a pea-sized lump and as soon as I touched it, it exploded in itchiness. I’m sitting across the table from my boss and I can feel my chin and lip start to swell up and itch like nobody’s business, but I can’t go anywhere or do anything about it.


By the time the meeting was over, my lower lip was completely hard to the touch and my chin was hot and bright red. When I got home, my daughter said, “Your mouth looks crooked.” Everything was so swollen that it was pushing my face out of whack. Extra anti-histamines took care of it, but it was still a little swollen this morning.


I try to figure out what causes each episode, because that’s the only way I can avoid the trigger. So, we were talking about it at breakfast and decided that maybe one of the people I shook hands with before the meeting yesterday had eaten a banana. Since I am incapable of not touching my face at any time, I must have transferred the allergen to myself during the course of the meeting. Am I destined to become one of those people who go around not shaking hands and instead have to bow to people?




*You’ll forgive me for not posting a picture. I actually Googled them and started itching just look at the images.