Friday, June 29, 2012

My Life In Stitches: Birthday Yarn Doesn't Count

Happy birthday to me...a day

Last night, I went to Fibre Space, my wonderful local yarn shop, for some birthday yarn shopping. I have been planning this trip for the entire month. Since I was getting my birthday discount, I decided that I wanted to at least get one yarn in sweater quantity. I’ve also been seeing quite a few patterns in DK but I have very little in my stash. So I set off to get my birthday yarn, because birthday yarn so doesn’t count!

This should have been a simple trip but two things tripped me up. First was taking my husband. I love my honey, don’t get me wrong, but letting us both loose in a yarn shop ends badly. I brought him along for moral support, but he starts shopping (and he has great taste). The second problem was I ended up picking all sale yarn, so my birthday discount was useless.

Sweet Georgia in Riptide
My sweater quantity purchase was some just arrived Sweet Georgia Yarn in their Riptide colorway. Lovely. I plan to (plan being the operative word) to make Francis Revisited by Beth Silverstein, but this yarn will work for Ashby by Leila Raabe, too. I've been crushing on Ashby for a long time. I also bought enough Shepherd’s Wool DK (Plum colorway) to make a Mara shawl.
Shepherd's Wool in Plum

Good stuff, but all on sale and I needed to use my birthday discount. So my husband and I went through the store again. On the second go-round, I grabbed some Space Cadet Creations Stella in their Pride colorway. I have no idea what to make with it. My husband is steadily becoming a big Miss Babs fan. He bought Whatta Skein in Royalty colorway.

Space Cadet in Pride
I am pleased with my birthday shopping even if it turned out to be longer and more stressful than I anticipated. Now let’s see if I can work through my stash and have this knitted up before my next birthday.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Birth-month Celebration Update 2: Many are the plans...

I’m halfway through my birth-month celebrations and I’ve noticed a theme forming. It’s Proverbs 19:21: “There are many plans in a man's heart, Nevertheless the Lord's counsel--that will stand.” I had grand plans for this month. I had plans…but it seems the Lord had other plans.

My Lego house
This past week’s plans included a trip to the Smithsonian Museum of American Art, the National Marine Corps Museum and the Kennedy Center. I only visited one out of the three, the American Art Museum on my son’s birthday. I enjoyed the video game exhibit, but that wasn’t the highlight of the day. My plans changed when we arrived at the museum an half an hour before it opened. We took a detour to the National Building museum, which by God’s divine providence, and found a Lego Architecture exhibit on display. In addition to that, the National Building Museum is a part of the Blue Star Families Museum program, so my family and I got in for free.  My family and I had much more fun at that exhibit than the video game exhibit.

Knit in Public Day
As for my trip to the Kennedy Center, I had to cancel it because I had a change of plans. I was quite looking forward to seeing that performance. Also my plans for the Marine Corps museum fell through because we were all tired from spending the day downtown DC. And the rain didn't help.  But that’s the beautiful thing about birth-moth celebrations. You can always add something else. Which I did.

New friends
Fibre Space, my local yarn shop sponsored a Knit in Public event at the King  Street Gardens on June 16th. I cut it pretty close with everything else I had to do that day, but I made it in time to sit for an hour with a nice group of women (as you know, I’ve never met a stranger). As I talked with them, I discovered that they were celebrating four birthdays in their group. Way cool.

I don’t have any real birth-month plans this week since I’m preparing to go on a women’s retreat this weekend (being in the Lord’s presence is always a great birth-month event). I may do my birthday yarn shopping this week, but I’m not sure yet

Friday, June 15, 2012

My Life in Stitches: Get Off My Needles!

I have a sad confession to make. I have four projects on my needles right now. Not happy about that. I need to finish some of them, mainly my Mini-Mania scarf. I really loved this project when I started, but now, I just want it to be over. Hopefully by the time I post this entry, it will be finished.

Not only do I have all these project on my needles, a few have been “in progress” for a while. Here are my current WIPs:

Mini-Mania-cast on March 23, 2012 (soooo over this)
Monkey Socks-cast on March 22, 2012
Josephine Shawl- cast on March 31, 2012 (in its defense, this is my current mindless
Bible study project, which means I normally only work on it on Wednesdays and for the hour that Bible study lasts)
Spectra Shawl-casted on June 5, 2012 (a part of my birthday knitting and sadly it probably will be done before the others)

Phoenix Wingspan
Despite my multiple projects, I managed to finish a few projects. I finished my Wingspan. I am so pleased with this project. This yarn just didn’t know what it wanted to be as one of the ladies in my knitting group says. But when I introduced it to the Wingspan pattern, they seemed made for each other. I had originally named this shawl Red Rising, but one day when I was working on it, my DH commented that it looked like a phoenix rising. I promptly changed the name to Phoenix.
Pei Cowl

I also finished a Pei Cowl by Michele Wang. This was the first project in my birth-month knitting. This pattern went so fast! Once I finished past the lace rows, I zoomed through the rest. I made this with my Yarn Love Elizabeth Bennett. Lovely yarn to work with. I’m thinking about buying some more.

As for my unfinished projects, I wonder if I devoted a few hours a week to them, maybe they’ll grow up to be what they were destined to be.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Tea and Read: False Witness by Randy Singer

Title: False Witness
Author: Randy Singer
Rating: One cup of tea

I became a fan of Randy Singer’s books a few years ago when I read By Reason of Insanity. I loved the premise of that book and enjoyed how the plot developed. I expected the same with False Witness. Unfortunately, False Witness didn’t hold my attention as well as By Reason of Insanity. False Witness wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t as good in my opinion.

Singer has a way of creating compelling characters. David Hoffman is a likable anti-hero and despite his behaviors, I found myself rooting for him. The rest of the cast of characters, especially lawyers Jamie Brock and Isaiah Haywood also kept me engaged. I also enjoyed the way Singer weaved faith into the book. I like the subtlety in which he presented the themes of faith in this book.

As for the plot, I loved the idea of the secret code, but I must admit, the math turned me off a bit since I’m horrible at math. I felt like it was important that I understood what the algorithm did, that it was important to the plot, and that I missed a part of the impact of the book because I didn’t understand it (my brain shut down when I got to the sections about how the algorithm worked). I do think that someone with a math/technology mind would probably enjoy that section, but since I’m a primarily a pleasure reading, that part seemed a bit like school for me.

The pacing was hard to get into. Again, not horrible, but a little slow for me. I guess I expected for it to be much faster since this book was a thriller. I found myself tempted to skim sections, but my interest in the characters kept me reading. The switch between David Hoffman’s POV and the lawyers POV was a bit jarring.

All in all, not a bad book, especially for readers who like a slower paced book. 

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Writing Wednesday: Just Keep Writing

This is Dory the fish.
Not your first pick for a motivational speaker, but her simple message can be encouraging in many situations.
“Just keep swimming.”

A little creative thinking might be necessary in order to see the beauty in her advice, especially since I can’t swim.  I write. So when I see Dory, I hear her happy optimistic voice saying, “Just keep writing. Just keep writing, writing, writing.”

I realized the wonder of this piece of advice as I worked through the revision of a novel I wrote a couple of years ago. As I read this manuscript, I saw how my writing had improved. I also noticed some patterns in my writing process. For instance, I hate writing the first draft and would far rather revise. I need to give my manuscripts a long rest before I start the revision process and when I get into the zone, writing or revising, I need to ride the wave of energy until it (or I'm) exhausted.

All this I learned about myself because I just kept writing. I’ve read many writing books to help to improve my craft. I’ve gone to conferences and workshops, even took online classes. But in the end, all of that is useless unless I put it to practice. Unless I wrote.

I’ve often heard that writing brings about self-discovery. A true statement. Writing is not only about what to write but how to write it. The best way to discover the “how” is to just keep writing. When you continue to write, patterns will form and your understanding of who you are as a writer will grow. Once these patterns are established and recognized, you’ll write more. You’ll a rhythm in your writing like gliding through the waves. You’ll write like you.

There are many books, classes and websites out there to tell you about other people’s methods. But once you’ve establish your patterns, recognize things about you, you will be able to better decide if a piece of writing advice will work for you (it is, after all, advice, not the gospel).

For instance, I’ve read books promoting getting up early and writing. Nice advice, but not for me. Since I am not a morning person, my brain isn’t functioning properly until around 9am and I cannot write while I’m sleepy (and if I do, I’ll end up deleting whatever I wrote anyways).  I am most alert between 10pm and 2am. Also, my family is sound asleep during those hours, so no interruptions. So I can disregard that advice. Why? Because I just kept writing and I understood that mornings don't work for me.

There are some things about your writing process that no book can teach you. Things you will only discover as you continue to write. Remember Dory. Just keep writing. 

Monday, June 11, 2012

Birth-month Celebration: Caribbean Festival and Jane Austen Book Fair

At the beginning of this month, I posted my plans to celebrate my birth-month. I’ve done two of the things on my list so far, one good, one bad.

Greeter at the door
The first was the Caribbean Festival in Bladensburg, MD. It’s not so much that this event was bad, it was just too small. I’d walked through all the venders in five minutes. There were bands performing, which made it a little better. I think the biggest problem with the event was me. I’d had a particularly rough day and just couldn’t change the direction of my emotions to enjoy the event. I did, however, bought a pina colada snow cone (it’s been years since I had one of those), so the event wasn’t a total loss.

Used book sale
This past weekend, I attended a book fair hosted Jane Austen Society of North America’s Metropolitan DC chapter. The event was great. The event featured six different authors who’ve written Jane Austen themed books. The authors included: Sandy Lerner (writing as Ava Farmer), Janet Mullany, Catherine Reef, Lori Smith (I already had a book by her), Margaret C. Sullivan, Diana Peterfreund, and Amy Corwin. Each author read a passage (or two) from their books and there was a short Q&A session at the end. The event also included a book signing, a used book table and refreshments. We were even greeted by a woman dressed in period clothing. Very cool.

Author chats and book signings
I really enjoyed myself.  It was nice to pick up some more Austen-themed books for my collection, but it was also nice to talk to the authors. Janet Mullany, Diana Peterfrund and Lori Smith had some very encouraging words for me as a writer, something I sorely needed. I learned that all of Jane Austen’s novels were self-published except Pride and Prejudice. I didn’t know that.

This was a great event for my birth-month celebration. I will certainly be hoping there will be another one of these next year. Nothing better than a perpetual birth-month celebration.

Friday, June 1, 2012

My Life in Stitches: Birth-Month Knitting

Yesterday, I shared my birth-month celebration plans (my birthday is actually on the 29th). But there is one more important thing I must add: knitting. I’ve already planned to go yarn shopping, but I also have planned out what I’m going to knit this month.

I normally am a very organized knitter. I pick patterns before I buy yarn (most of the time), and I try to knit my yarn in the order in which I bought it (First in, first out. Thank you five years of working at Burger King). Last month, I assigned most of my stash to projects and saved them in my Raverly queue. My next project is supposed to be the Emerald Isle sweater, but for my birth-month, I’m ditching my queue…by creating another queue.
Pei by Michelle Wang

Now the point of birth-month knitting is not to actually finish the projects. I probably will, but that’s not my goal. My goal is to work on patterns that I like with yarn that I like. Pure enjoyment knitting.

First in my queue is Pei by Michelle Wang. I will be making my Pei out of my very special Elizabeth Bennett yarn from Yarn Love (Earl Grey colorway). Seventy percent merino and thirty percent silk, it’s lovely on the needles (I casted on today). I don’t think I’ll have any problem finishing this one. I would like to wear it on my birthday, but that depends if the weather cooperates.

Spectra by Steven West
Second in my birth-month queue is Spectra by Steven West. I’ll make it with Spud & Chloe and Noro Silk Garden. I’ve had my eye on Spectra for a long time and was certain I purchased it but I didn't. No matter. That’s an easy fix.

Color Affection byVeera Välimäki
And if, by some freak of nature, I get both of these done before the end of the month, I’ll cast on my Color Affection made from Kollage Yarns Sock-a-licious and Giant Farm yarns I got from Nature’s Yarn in Fairfax, VA.

The best part about this queue is I reserve the right to change it if something else catches my eye. Aren’t birth-month celebrations great?