Knitting Notes

I’ve been a bit behind in my knitting posting.

My brother’s hat is technically done, except that it’s a little bit lopsided, and I’m not entirely sure it’ll be big enough. So, I’ve asked him to come over at some point so he can try it on, and I’ll redo as appropriate. I have plenty of yarn, so I may just make another one entirely.

In the meantime, I’ve cast on Genmaicha mitts by Kirsten Kapur, using Sundara sock yarn in the Evergreen over Lime colorway. These are going to be a present for an as yet unnamed party. As you can see, they’re a quick knit – I already have one done.

I’ve also cast on the Seahorses Nachaq, by Lisa Akers. I’m using my Sanguine Gryphon Bugga yarn in the Cowkiller colorway (it’s named after a really nicely colored bug), and this will be for me. I’ve already had to rip it out once, because I completely mucked up the pattern, but I’ve straightened myself out, and the above is my second attempt.


The Shadow of the Sun – A. S. Byatt

Read for the 2011 TBR Lite Reading Challenge.

My previous reads of Byatt’s work have been of Possession, and her books of fairy tales – all later works. The Shadow of the Sun was her first novel, and while I’ve loved everything else I’ve read by the author, I wasn’t a big fan of this book.

The book was written when Byatt was an undergrad, and revised when she was a young mother, both in the 1960s. My edition (originally published in 1992) contains a modern forward by the author, and I’m glad it was there. It gave me a frame of reference I needed to be able to actually finish the book.

The book is the story of Anna Severell, teenage daughter of a famous British novelist. The story is in two parts – the summer that Anna is seventeen, and events that take place when friends of the family come to visit the Severell home that summer, and a second part when Anna has left home for Cambridge. Anna has always lived in the shadow of her father Henry, and she struggles to find her way to her own life. The initial summer story sows the seeds for the path Anna will take when she leaves home.

I’m a child of the last quarter of the 20th century. I’ve always taken for granted that I would go to college, get a job, and live my own life. If I were to marry, and have children, I’d be happy to do so, but that’s never been the be all, end all of my planned existence as a modern woman. I forget that my ability to feel this way is a fairly modern invention. I think what really bugged me about this book was the way that the three main female characters were defined by their relationship to Henry Severell, and how they seemed content with this definition. I could not find Anna to be a sympathetic character. Most of the time, I felt like yelling at her to get a life already, and leave her insufferable family. I can’t imagine being defined by my father in such a way, and letting that definition define my path as much as it defined Anna’s.

Still, this is a well written book, and would probably be interesting to Byatt fans. Read it as an artifact of a different age, and feel lucky that women have come so far.

Knitting Notes

Pattern: Audrey Triple Wrap Shawl by Rebecca Hatcher
Yarn: Schaefer Aubrey in the Ash colorway
Needles: Size 6 Circs

My Triple Wrap Shawl is blocked. It was a lot easier with the new blocking mats, though as you can see below, one set of the Knit Picks mats isn’t enough for a small shawl.

Guess this means that if I ever make anything bigger, I’ll have to pick up another set. I’m definitely willing to do that, as it was much easier to block this shawl than the last one, even with the size issues. (I may be reblocking the Echo Flower Shawl this weekend.)

The pattern doesn’t necessarily look much different blocked (unblocked pictures are here), but it did increase the size quite a bit. It fits comfortably over my shoulders now.

I really liked this pattern. It’s interesting without being difficult, and the yarn is a joy to work with. And, just from having it on for a few minutes while taking pictures (on what may be the coldest day this winter, to boot), I can already say that it’s warm.

The Grand Tour – Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer

Read for the 2011 YA Reading Challenge.

Set just after Napoleon’s reign has come to an end, this sequel to Sorcery and Cecelia takes up where the last book left off. Cousins Kate and Cecy are now married, and along with their husbands, Thomas and James, are off to Europe for a combined honeymoon.

In Europe, they manage to find themselves in the midst of a mystery – various objects connected with the old royal houses of Europe are disappearing, and sorcery is clearly involved. The friends therefore set off on a mad dash through Europe to discover what’s going on. In the mean time, Kate gets used to being Lady Schofield, with the attendant social obligations, and Cecy practices her sorcery.

The last book was framed as letters between the cousins. This one is a combination of Kate’s diary, and Cecy’s deposition after the events are over. Both work well to continue the grand sense of fun of the prior book.

This is definitely one of those young adult books that’s mostly considered young adult because it features young adults. If you like Regency era books, you’ll probably enjoy this one.


We’re into full on winter wonderland mode here, which means I’m pretty much holed up in the house, not really going anywhere interesting, hence the lack of anything other than reading and knitting posts. Here is the best I can manage to remedy that.

We’ve acquired a new neighbor. One of the local red tailed hawks has discovered the surfeit of fat squirrels on the street, and was camped out on the telephone pole in front of our house for several hours today. (You can actually see the remains of his lunch in front of him in the picture.) He doesn’t look like he should be capable of finishing off a large squirrel in a morning, but he managed.

I had to make a stop at the municipal recycling bins today, as we apparently have a weekly appointment for a snow storm on Wednesdays. The bin and two bags were overflowing, and there’s another storm scheduled for next Wednesday. At this rate, we’ll never be able to put out trash and recycling again. Fortunately, we at least don’t have to deal with two toddlers in diapers level of trash anymore, so we can probably withstand a month before the garage trash bin overflows. And at least it’s cold enough it doesn’t smell… But, the point of this is that the silver bullets are near the downtown snow dump (above). It’s starting to give the three story warehouse on the other side of the road a run for its money…

Our house isn’t quite so bad off, but the backyard drift is already to the point where it’s difficult for me to throw anything over it. We’re definitely making up for last year’s lack of snow…

Knitting Notes

My younger brother has commissioned v vine’s Bearded Toque from me. I’ve never knit him anything before, and he was so excited about it, I had to agree. I’m doing it in Lion Brand Wool-Ease, because he’s young enough and male enough that I don’t trust him with something that isn’t machine washable. I have to say, I’m pleasantly surprised how easy the yarn is to work with.

We wanted a black hat and authentic red beard, so that’s what I’m going for. Hopefully, he’ll like the finished project as much as the pattern…

Pride, Prejudice and Jasmin Field – Melissa Nathan

This has got to be the most meta Jane Austen adaptation I’ve ever read. Jasmin Field is a columnist for a moderately successful women’s magazine, and has just enough clout to get invited to audition for a charity play being directed by Harry Noble, the most famous, handsome and sought over actor in England. They’re doing Pride and Prejudice. Jazz is the last to audition, after her much more attractive sister, George, and hears Harry labeling her as the Ugly Sister. Incensed, she nails the audition, and gets cast as Lizzy. I’m sure you can see where this is going.

This is a fun little story. Jazz’s family is at least not entirely identical to the Bennetts, so while you know actions must surely follow the story, it’s not immediately apparently how that will happen, so there’s at least some mild suspense. But it’s really only mild. Read this is you like chick lit and Jane Austen. If you can’t stand chick lit, tread carefully.

Knitting Notes

My Audrey Triple Wrap shawl is done, though it’s still in a wildly unblocked state, so I’m not doing a completed post yet.

I enjoyed this pattern. It’s just challenging enough to not be boring, but easy enough I could knit along with the television. And true to their general form, the Schaefer Audrey yarn is lovely to work with.

I bought blocking mats with my Christmas Knitpicks gift certificate, and can’t wait to try them out. However, we’re supposed to have crap weather for at least the next two days, so I’ll be waiting a little while until I can rely on having a bit more sun around when I block this.

Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue – John McWhorter

Read for the 2011 TBR Lite Challenge.

One of my hobbies is languages. Back when I had seemingly unlimited amounts of free time, and a full academic library at my disposal (I do miss college…), I spent a great deal of time looking at dictionaries and reading up on basics of a variety of languages I found interesting. (As a remnant of this time, I still collect lists of how different names appear in various languages.) All this is a roundabout way of explaining how I first encountered John McWhorter’s work – though his book The Power of Babel, which is an interesting survey of the what makes the languages of the world tick. I’d recommend that book to anyone interested in language – there’s no linguistic degree required to appreciate it.

Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue is a summation of the author’s observations of why some of the interesting features of English grammar that makes our language very different than our other Germanic language cousins came into being. It’s definitely a drier book than The Power of Babel. This is not to say that a linguistics degree is required, but I’d recommend more than a passing interest in language and language history if you want to tackle this book. It might be a bit dry otherwise.

It’s actually pretty interesting subject matter, with some interesting things to think about. The author mentions that many people ascribe the strength of English to its ability to take on words from other languages, but this book points out several ways that English has taken on grammatical features from other languages, and how those have created a language that is quite different than its nearest relatives. There are three main focuses: how the Celtic languages (mainly Welsh and Cornish) influenced the use of the word ‘do’ in our verb forms, how Old Norse shaved off many of our verb endings, and how going back to the very routes of English in Proto-Germanic, how Phoenician may have influenced that base language to be very different than its other Indo-European cousins even before English was ever on the picture. Interesting stuff if you have an interest in how English became English.

Toast – Nigel Slater

Read for the Foodie’s Reading Challenge.

I’m familiar with exactly one of Nigel Slater’s cookbooks (Real Fast Food – worth checking out), and not being British, don’t have easy access to much of his non-book work. So I’m not exactly sure why I was interested in reading the story of his life – a feeling echoed by the author in the forward to the American edition to the book. He notes that he wasn’t sure about sending this over the pond, since there are so many particularly British foods mentioned within. But he was heartened by the fact that younger Brits, who also wouldn’t necessarily have lived in the same food universe that he did growing up in the 60s, were able to identify with the book.

This is an incredibly sweet story of growing up, losing his mother, gaining a step-mother and finally leaving home, framed in short little vignettes about various foods. I’ve never read anything like it, but the more I think about it, the more I love it as a framing devise. I don’t think there’s a single person alive that doesn’t have at least one particularly memorable meal that they can still vividly picture and taste as if they were still there, or certain foods from childhood that the mere sight of will instantly transport them back to another time.

This is certainly a story of one man’s journey through childhood, but it’s amazing how evocative it is, and how much time you’ll spend with your mind suddenly drifting off to something similar you experienced when you were young. It’s definitely worth a read, even if you don’t know half of the foods he’s talking about.