Travel projects

It’s February 11 (despite me thinking it was the 10th this morning when I booked the laundry room, that was a surprise this evening, let me tell you) and the word is travel projects in the #yarnlovechallenge. These were my to-go projects today, some lovely yarn and some books for my bachelor thesis. I didn’t have time to knit but I did study quite a lot.

Other than that I obviously bring my knitting on my travels. When I fly somewhere I try to have wooden needles and a cable that I can detach just in case. I have had metal needles on a plane as well but just in case someone doesn’t like the look of my cable needles I try to at least have wooden ones since I imagine they might be less offensive than metallic ones. The last time I flew there was a lady on the plane who came up to me and asked me if they had let me through security with my knitting needles. Well, since I was on the plane knitting the answer was quite obvious which made the question a bit weird. But in case someone is confused, yes, they did let me through security with my knitting needles, otherwise I wouldn’t knit on the plane.

 

Romancing the knitter

Part two of my Christmas plan is a go. The first plan was to knit and the second was to read. The knitting part is moving steadily forward and I’ve made a lot of progress these past two days. Now I’ve also gotten an amazing book for Christmas, one that I’m really looking forward to read. I’ve read many books by Gail Carrriger and I think this will be just as good as the other ones, or maybe even better. My expectations are huge and I just hope the book will be able to meet them. I mean, it’s steampunk, what can go wrong?

 

The pleasures of summer #3 – What do writers think?

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The things one can do in the summer continues. I was tired today and it was a rainy day so part of it was spent on the balcony while I finished a book and drank tea and nibbled on some chocolate. I have spent quite a few hours reading on the balcony this summer, both day and night. If I tilt the knitting lamp behind the couch and bend it to face the window, I can see to read on the balcony even after the sun goes down. This book was a good one, Kerry Greenwood is a good author and I have read about four of her books about Phryne Fisher so far (there is also an excellent TV show about her). I think I liked this the best. It was a quick read, over before I even noticed it starting, as happens with knittings sometimes. The only thing I didn’t like was the use of bad words. The culprit used many bad words throughout the book and I didn’t care for it. Once or twice is fine, to show character and so on, but this was a bit exagerated. Also, the Miss Fisher I know would never tolerate such a language (not that she did in the book either).

I sometimes wonder how authors and screen writers think when they write something. A bad word or something like that is sometimes necessary to provoke a bit or, as I mentioned earlier, show character, but it can’t be too much or the audience will abandon the book, movie or TV show. I have a friend who stopped watching a show because there were too many rape threats. I myself have stopped watching another show because there was too much slapping women around (that was a police show and if you don’t like the detective in question – the hero – you might as well stop watching. In this case he slapped women in pretty much every episode, and not just him, and that was not okay by me. I mean, sure, this might be true of the 19th century society that was portrayed, police detectives perhaps used violence in every encounter with the female sex, but let’s not forget that the show isn’t real, it’s fiction and we can never pretend it’s not, and we have a choice in how we decide to portray it). I don’t even think the line is that fine when it comes to something nasty that might be necessary for the plot and an excessive use of said nastiness and I think it’s a cheap trick that make me wonder about the writers’ imagination and values.

Besides the use of invectives though, the book was really good. Now I’m on to the next Phryne Fisher Mystery. More tea, please!

Bridget actually said it best

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It’s summer and with summer comes more reading. A friend gave me a book by Jenny Colgan as summer reading and I finished it the other day. I have read some things by Jenny Colgan before and I’ve liked it well enough. It’s chic lit and chic lit might not be my favorite genre but Jenny Colgan’s author notes are so charming that I can’t really help myself. I also like that her heroines are quite accomplished, they have a talent and they know it and they do something about it. I like that. I’ve started to see a pattern though. It’s sort of the same formula in many of Colgan’s books, they only thing that change is the heroine’s talent. They all even fall for the grumpy guy whom they despise in the beginning.

This book – The Little Shop of Happy Ever After – is about shy and bookish Nina who is laid off from her work at a library (they often get laid off in the beginning, often due to budget cuts or a change in management) and buys a van and fills it with books and travels around Scotland to sell these books. In the beginning she is shy but Scotland suits her (I do want to go to Scotland some day) and after a while I started noticing that there wasn’t much of a difference between Nina and the heroines from other books. I think that must be so difficult for an author, to actually change the personality from their different characters, especially if it’s a main one. They so easily become stereotypes, as in commedia dell’arte. Sure, chic lit is supposed to be an easy breezy read but some variety is needed even here.

Main characteras are interesting. I once read a book where I realized towards the end that the heroine was a horrible person. It grew gradually over the course of the book and by the end you really disliked her. I find that very clever and interesting since it’s not often that you don’t like the main character. You are kind of supposed to and most books also make you do that but not this one and I thought that was an interesting tactic from the author, since it wasn’t an immediate dislike from page one but one that grew stronger and stronger.

Nina in The Little Shop of Happy Ever After however, she is very likeable. I like the book references, I love it when I understand them which I often do, but I wonder in her taste in men. She compares them to heros in books, saying that they are neither a Mr. Darcy not a Heatcliff and sure, Mr. Darcy might sound good on paper and we do love him in Pride and Prejudice but in real life, nah, I don’t think so (that’s another chic lit by the way, Me and Mr. Darcy by Alexandra Potter).  Heathcliff though, he’s not boyfriend material and has never been. Not in the books and certainly in real life (I think he would actually be in prison had he been a real person). He is the reason why I feel a bit scared when I think of the British moors (and Mr. Rochester does nothing to help that sentiment) and no one, not even Emily Brontë herself, could have thought that spending the evening in the garden, shouting Cathy and banging your head against a tree could ever be romantic. There is something seriously wrong with Heathcliff (Cathy herself is not very nice either) and one should never, ever get involved with someone like that. Yes, he had a horrible childhood and Cathy is not nice to him but that is absolutely no excuse to what he does. Stay away from Heathcliff, Nina! I sure hope the guy she actually do end up with (it’s chic lit, the persection of love is its’ sole purpose so there is no spoiler here) is nothing at all like Heathcliff. (Speaking of Wuthering Heights, there you have a book with pretty much no likeable character, neither Cathy nor Heathcliff but also not Edgar nor Hindley and don’t even get me started on that wretched Nelly Dean.) I think Bridget Jones, queen of chic lit, nailed it when she meets Mark Darcy, and says that it struck her as “pretty ridiculous to be called Mr. Darcy and to stand on your own looking snooty at a party. It’s like being called Heathcliff and insisting on spending the entire evening in the garden, shouting ‘Cathy’ and banging your head against a tree”. So, by all means, pine after Mr. Darcy all you want, Nina, but I sure draw the line at Heathcliff.

Shawls and shenanigans

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I didn’t plan this but it amuses me to no end that my leisure time projects are currently color coordinated. I felt it was time for some steampunk and Gail Carriger is the author to turn to. This is the third novel in the Finishing School series about Sophronia Temminick – Waistcoats and Weaponry. So far it’s just as amusing as the previous ones and easy to follow but I’m only at the beginning and the plot will probably thicken and become more and more complex, as it usually does. When this is finished I have the next book in the series on my book shelf. It’s yellow so maybe there will be a yellow shawl in the near future too.

I have started on the second skein and eight rows later I finished the fourth chart repeat. That meant I used a little over 60 meters less than the pattern stated (even though I use bigger needles) and I have 86 grams left of my second skein. This means I most certainly will have enough yarn for another pattern repeat but I’m still unsure about a sixth. I’ll look into the possibility of only making half a pattern repeat should I have lots of yarn left after the fifth repeat. This shawl might work out well after all. I like big shawls but I barely have any. I don’t think any of tchem are long enough to cover as much of my back as I want and wide enough to cover enough of the front. It’s either/or or none at all. It’s actually quite annoying and I will have to do something about this, now that I’ve diagnosed the problem. Good goal for that next shawl!

Thank you, Santa!

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Santa brought me this amazing book yesterday so you can tell I’m keeping myself occupied. This i something that combines my love for books and knitting – The Fairytale Knitting Book. I’ll let you know more as soon as I finish it.

I hope your holiday continues to be lovely!

Sunday evening reverie

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It’s the third of advent (and coincidentally also Lucia) and I’ve had a meeting with my book club. We discussed Roxane Gay’s book Bad Feminist and drank tea. The discussion went through multiple subjects and I was roaming around my book cases to find references for our discussions. I turned a heel  and so was another knitter and I will start the gusset tomorrow. I’ve also made good progress on other knittings this weekend which feels great. There might be time for Christmas after all.

Almost done? Well, let’s go then.

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I don’t know about you but whenever I sense that I’m close to the end of someting, a knitting project or a book or something else, I can’t rest until it’s finished. The sense of being close to the end is quite arbitrary and I think it depends on the size of the project. For a book of 200 pages, maybe 50 pages counts as close to the end but for a book of 600 pages maybe 100 or 150 pages counts as almost done. When I notice that there is not much left, I think that I might just as well finish it to be done with it. This can be quite unexpectable, like, what if I have read for half an hour and the book is building up towards the grande finale and I should really stop reading and go do other stuff and be a responsible adult but I see that there is only 60 pages left, I’ll continue on reading. I highly overestimate the speed of my reading ability,I am a very slow reader, and those mere 60 pages might take me two hours or more depending on language and such. Then the book is finished, I have lost two hours and I am also without an on-going reading project which might mean that I need to go find a new book before I can let go and do something else.

Don’t get me wrong, this urge to finish things is most often quite excellent. I like to finish up what I’m doing before I go from work so I don’t leave unfinished things till the next morning and you would never see me sit down to take a break in the middle of vacuuming or folding laundry. Sometimes though, the urge to finish is perhaps a Little impractical. The other night I lost three hours of knitting time (that is December knitting time and we all know what that means) because I sat down to read a little while I had a sandwich and then the sandwich was done and I thought the book was almost done too and three hours later it really was done and I hadn’t knit a single stitch in that time.

It’s the same with knitting. It might be very close to bedtime but there are only a few (a few is a very relative amount) rows left before I’m done and then the cast off and there is really no point in not finish right now. Naturally this is the time the yarn decides to break or the cast off turns out to be a tricky and elaborate one or I loose a bead or something else that makes the “few” rounds take much longer than expected.

Today I was very close to finishing a sock but when at work I couldn’t do much about it. It sat in my project bag practically screaming for me to work on it and that is unacceptable. Something needs to be done. This sock will be finished today or I don’t know what to do and a new one will be cast on.

Guilty pleasure

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I’ve always read a lot of books. I’m a slow reader but I’m an efficient reader, meaning that I find time to read when most others don’t. From age eleven to age 24 I always had a book with me where ever I went. Then that book became a knitting instead but I still read a lot. The past two years that hasn’t really been the case though. I haven’t really felt the serenity to read mostly because my demands on a book, that were always high, became even higher. When I say that I have high demands on a book I don’t mean that it has to be a classic or whatever, I’m a pretty shallow reader in the sense that if a book is good I’m reading it no matter who wrote it or when he or she wrote it. Life’s too short for bad books. But a couple of years ago it became harder to concentrate on a book and there were a lot of topics that I just couldn’t stand. I’m gradually coming back from that and I have noticed that I have a lot easier to read during holidays when I have more spare time. Of course I still read but not as much or as naturally as before.

A week or so ago Julle bought me a book – Princess Elizabeth’s Spy by Susan Elia MacNeal – that I started reading right away and kept on reading. It’s about a young MI-5 agent, Maggie Hope, in England in 1940, who is a math tutor for Princess Elizabeth at Windsor Castle at the same time as she, Maggie, is trying to uncover a plot to kidnap the princess. The agent is delightful of course and the book was quite exciting but it also had a few flaws.

For example, I was a keen reader of Nancy Drew novels when I was a kid but I always wondered why she let herself be captured in each and every book. Nancy Drew has solved over a hundred mysteries and I figure she should know by now that things can get tough and that she should plan accordingly. In one book it even said that she had taken some self-defence classes but not enough. Why, I thought, why haven’t you taken more of those classes? (I also thought that hopefully this would teach her to take more classes for the next book but no, she was still getting captured.) Also, why doesn’t she always bring a kit for opening doors and why does she never tell the police where she is going? Classic horror movie mistake – if it’s a windy, dark night and you are all alone, don’t go down to the basement. With Nancy Drew, or Kitty, as she is called in Swedish, I can understand that the books aren’t that well written and that capturing Nancy is an easy way to keep the books entertaining and exciting for young readers. Since all books have different writers I understand that continuity from previous books isn’t the first thing on the list when a new one is in progress. Again though, this annoyed me when I was a kid.

Nancy Drew is an amateur detective after all but Maggie Hope is supposed to be a trained agent for MI-5, why is she behaving like Nancy Drew? I must say, if all MI-5 agents were like Maggie Hoppe, the British would never have been able to conquer anything or anyone, so poorly are the planning and the spying executed in this book. How a trained agent can let her feelings get the best of her judgement – she was mean to me, she must be one of the bad guys although there is no evidence to proove it – is incomprehensible. Then again, it probably wouldn’t have been as good a plot (to break the case and save the kidnapped princess on an enemy U-boat is probably much more interesting to read about than if the princess in question is never kidnapped at all due to good intelligence and quick reflexes) so I can live with that.

What I really don’t like though, is the continuity problems. Things like “this thing happened on a Thursday, now it is Sunday but we still refer to the events from Thursday as if they happened last night”. On one page someone throws a bottle in the sea and four lines later he throws the same bottle in the sea. Small things like that doesn’t really disturb the plot even if it interrupts the reading but when the main character decrypts something, saying that a U-boat is involved and tell people about this, and then 20 pages later has no recollection of said U-boat and is really surprised that a submarine is involved and so is apparently everyone else, it makes me start to question their intelligence. How can the commander not remember this U-boat when the question of nation security and the order of succession are at stake? It feels like someone should have read through this novel at least one more time before it was published.

Despite this, and I totally had to wake Julle up early one morning so I had someone to discuss this with, the last chapters were so thrilling I had to have more. So I ordered more, the prequel and the sequel. I have also bought another pair of books and, while waiting for my books to arrive, I started re-reading another book, which is also a great one. This weeks Book Club book is already a favorite and it seems I have gone from having nothing to read and being in between books to having so much intriguing stories around me that I don’t know what to do. Luckily Christmas is coming up and when all the knitting is done I will have some days off when I can just relax on the couch and read whatever I want. We’ll see if Maggie Hope has gotten her stuff together for the next book. One can always Hope.

In between. Too efficient?

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It looks as if I’ve been too efficient this weekend. Not only am I currently between knittings right now, but I am also between books. All my knittings are either blocking, secret or impossible to continue before the next MKAL clue comes out. Sure, there is yarn and there is a lot that can be cast on but not without effort. It requires some kind of preparation, finding needles, winding yarn or something like that. I have nothing that I can just pick up and knit a few rounds on before I go to bed.

Ok, so no knitting right now, but how about a book? Well, I finished the book I was reading this morning and sure, the book shelves are filled with unread books (and read ones too, both those that can be read again and those that I never want to open ever) but again, it requires some kind of preparation. If nothing else, I need to decide what I’m in the mood for and then find something that works with that. Not to mention that it takes a little while to really get in to a new book, it takes a few pages to settle in. Again, it requires time that I don’t have. I just want to read a page or two before I got to sleep, not invest time in a new book.

Luckily this will hopefully be solved tomorrow as Agnieszka has promised to see me to decide in which order she wants the contrasting colors in her Vacillate shawl. Once I know that, all I need to do is cast on (I guess technically I can cast on tonight because it starts with the main color anyway but again, that requires a search for needles and such). Tomorrow though, tomorrow we’ll be in the middle again, not in between.