Polymath Enthusiasms

Odds & (Week)ends #18

My week in pictures

It’s been a slow week 😐

Odds and Sods

  • I’ve been re-listening to some old Acquisitions Inq D&D podcasts this week. The stuff when Wil Wheaton guests is comedy gold.
  • In related news I may have purchased myself some dice from Q-workshop’s Valentine offer 😳
  • Progress on Anna Karenina is slow. It’s looking like I’ll need a really short read in March.

Upcoming

This next week appears hellish: back to the nursery routine, family visiting, a trip to the GP, and the prospect of several hours without power while our fuse board gets changed, all while parenting solo. On the bright side, my copy of Laine #4 will be arriving this week, and the first instalment from Ysolda’s Shawl Club is due to be sent out, so if I make it to the weekend I can reward myself by retreating to a duvet cocoon with my goodies. 😁

Take care, and don’t let Monday get you down. 

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Books · Reading Challenge

Read the Year: January

“New Beginnings”

North and South: I chose Elizabeth Gaskell’s novel about the Industrial north for my first read. Margaret Hale and her family move from the rural south to Milton, a fictional town of cotton mills and nouveau riche mill owners. Gaskell uses these outsiders to show how completely divorced the lives of owners and employees are, and put forward the notion that the owners have a responsibility to the men they employ. Add in a Pride-and-Prejudice-esque love story, and a sub-plot with a mutineer family member to add complications, and this is a cracking read. While there is perhaps a touch more moralising than a modern reader may want, Gaskell is a keen observer of humanity, and sketches her characters with sympathy and honesty, allowing us to laugh at their foibles without despising them.

Related Books

Hard Times: Dickens’ Industrial novel suffered a little in comparison by being read immediately after North and South. I tend to roll my eyes when people start praising Dickens, because I don’t rate his writing ability very highly. His characters are rarely more than stereotypes, and his taste for melodrama is tedious. But his novels are very readable, and this one was no exception. Dickens focusses on the effect of environmental pressures on the formation of the individual, and in some ways the novel is a plea for the importance of leisure, entertainment, fictions, and imagination for a fulfilling life.

I also began both Charlotte Brontë’s Shirley and Jenny Uglow’s biography of Elizabeth Gaskell. I found both hard work (though the biography is interesting), and will probably set them aside until I’ve finished my February challenge book.

Other Reading

Fiction

Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children: I picked up this trilogy on a 3 for 2 offer and read it over the course of a weekend. The first novel has a Gothic feel, with its claustrophobic island setting, and uncertainty over what is real. The subsequent books have a more action feel to them and lose something as a result. The time travel and magical aspects expose plot holes if closely examined, and the ‘found photos’ are overused after the first novel, but this is a fun, readable series for those times when you need an undemanding read.

Non-Fiction

Dyeing to Spin & Knit: Colour is my primary draw when buying yarn, and I’ve been wanting to learn a little more about the processes used by independent dyers, and how these interact with the fibres being dyed. Felicia Lo’s book includes an overview of colour theory, instructions on different dyeing methods, and even advice on how to work with dyed spinning fibre and yarn to achieve different colour effects. It’s a great primer, and will be a valuable resource should I decide to try my hand at dyeing.

Running Total

Books read: 8

Currently reading: 5

Upcoming

Read the Year invites me to “get stuck into a story of obsessive love” in February, so I’m thinking it’s time to read Anna Karenina.

Polymath Enthusiasms

Odds & (Week)ends #16

Blue Monday Lasted All Week

I know. It’s a marketing gimmick. But it seemed appropriate as we spent the first part of the week being ill, and then the boiler stopped working. Also it snowed. A lot.

Neighbo(u)rhood Sheep Society 2018

On Saturday I had the chance to go into Edinburgh to collect my first NSS parcel from Ginger Twist Studio. Continuing the theme of the week, I managed to slip on the ice, mix-up the opening times and arrive early, and then all my homeward transport was delayed. On the bright side I got to sample the great coffee, and bacon rolls, at the Happy Bean Café, and my parcel was totally worth the journey. The first instalment is a skein of a New Leaf Yarns blend of alpaca, bfl, and Lincoln longwool, dyed a gorgeous blue-gray toned purple, intended for Clare Devine’s Blairdenon sock pattern. I’ve yet to decide whether I cast on right away, or try a simpler sock pattern before attempting Blairdenon with this precious skein.

Odds and Sods

  • While out and about on Saturday I picked up the Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children trilogy on a 3 for 2 offer. I’ll spare you the saga of acquiring them – nothing has gone smoothly this week – but will say that they’re very readable. I’ve finished the trilogy already.
  • I may have given in to the Blue Monday feeling and made a few purchases from Countess Ablaze’s Absolute B*llocks update. I should be able to show you the results of my trip to 1993 next week.
  • I succumbed to peer pressure and did my Year of Colour on instagram. It’s a lot more neutral than I anticipated:

Upcoming

This looks set to be a fairly normal week, which probably means it will be anything but. Sigh.

Take care, and don’t let Monday get you down.

Polymath Enthusiasms

Odds and (Week)ends #15

I’m feeling exhausted today as I’ve been parenting solo on a busy, busy week, so this post will be short and sweet, and probably not proofread.

#KB100DECK

It’s always a little daunting to go to an event on your own, so I’m pleased to report I had a really great time. It was nice to meet some local knitters, there were great info sessions with Blacker Yarns (a lot of discussion around the ethics of wool), and New Leaf Yarns (their origin story, and a meet-and-greet with their range of yarns), prizes, cake, a chance to buy yarn, and lots of coffee and knitting. I’d cast on my Blacker PodKAL project (Stephen West’s Dustland Legwarmers in the Splosh colourway of Brushwork) on the bus, and by the time I got home I had 2/3 of a legwarmer. Not bad. I couldn’t resist a skein of New Leaf Yarns Alpaca/BFL/Teeswater blend, and then couldn’t resist casting on a Rattan shawl. I think my other WIPs are going to languish a bit this week. All in all, a fun day, and a real privilege to be able to celebrate 100 episodes of KnitBritish with Louise.

From the Mailbag

It was pretentious book week:

Odds and Sods

  • The Tyrant Tyrant referred to the Scottish National Portrait Gallery as “the statue shop with lots of stairs” and I giggle every time I think about it (obvs I’m very proud that she’s asked to go there again).
  • I’ve been made to watch a lot of Trollhunters this week. It’s good enough that I may have to rewatch it in my own time.
  • I’m reading Shirley, and it is doing nothing to dispel my feeling that Charlotte was the dullest and most overrated of the Brontës.

Upcoming

I have a tutorial next weekend, so I need to get my head down and study. I expect to make good progress with my Rattan shawl, and may feel the need to talk to you about socks. I make no promises.

Take care, and don’t let Monday get you down.

Polymath Enthusiasms

Odds & (Week)ends #14

No ‘Turner in January’ For Me

I was hoping to talk a bit about the annual Turner exhibition at the National Gallery of Scotland, but the bus was running early today, and for once I was running to time, not absurdly early, so I missed it. January is shaping up to get busy from this next week, so I doubt I’ll get to the exhibition now, but I definitely recommend taking the opportunity to see some of Turner’s lesser known, and beautifully preserved, works if you can get into Edinburgh. Take a look at the National Galleries website for more info and to learn about the bequest that made it all possible.

WIPs and FOs

Q2 Good Intentions: I’m knitting a row or two each day just to keep it in hand, and expect to do a longer burst once I finish my other sweater.

Threipmuir: I’ve been knitting this while watching TV and, inevitably, made a mistake. Except that I can’t figure out where – I’ve knitted the round correctly, but I’m a stitch short. I don’t seem to have dropped one in this round, so I wonder if I’ve missed an increase on the previous round. I’ve set it aside til TT starts back at nursery so that I can examine it in daylight, and without interruption. I have almost finished the colourwork, after which it’ll be a much quicker knit, so I’m not too frustrated over losing a couple of days.

One for the Books: Time off from Threipmuir means that I’m finishing my Strickplaner cover today. It’s been a fascinating little masterclass in using decreases and increases to create structure, and I’ll be excited to see it in use.

From the Mailbag

I’ve had a few parcels of yarn this week (some one-off colours from Old Maiden Aunt, and some more yarn in Easyknits toxic-spill colourway for an idea that’s brewing), and some final Christmas books that I need to fit in around my Reading Challenge.

Odds and Sods

  • I stayed up far too late last night watching series 2 of Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency. It was a little easier to figure out the ending this time, though I’m not sure if that’s down to my familiarity with the storytelling of the show, or the fact that it’s a linear story this time.
  • I just tried Taylor’s of Harrogate Rare Blossom Ethiopia coffee and it’s delicious. Also Fairtrade certified.
  • I’ve managed to get back to my 06:00 morning starts, having abandoned them at the height of the plague month because my body needed all the sleep. Pleased to say it didn’t feel like a struggle to get back into the habit.

Upcoming

The Tiny Tyrant goes back to nursery this week, so I will need to allow for her being exhausted. This is also the week when I need to ease back into my study routine. On Saturday it’s the KnitBritish 100th episode ‘drink; eat; chat; knit’ or #KB100DECK for which I am very excited, and the Blacker PodKAL cast on is the same day, so I expect to start at least one new knit this week.

Take care, and don’t let Monday get you down.

Books · Reading Challenge

A New Challenge

My past reading challenges have mainly served to instil good habits: to read more new books rather than re-reading old ones, and to make the effort to seek out varied voices. So far, so successful. However, as I reached the end of 2017, I realised that because my challenge had been unstructured – deliberately, so that I wasn’t bound to a list of ‘diverse reads’ curated by someone else, and had to do some work myself – it had become a source of stress. In hindsight I should have set the goal of reading a few books a month toward my challenge, and trusted that, as I discovered new authors, the actual number read would exceed my target.

When I began thinking about 2018, I knew that I wanted to read far more Victorian novels (my enduring love) than I’d managed to fit into 2017. I toyed with the the idea of a year of reading Victorian women: the novels I’d yet to tackle by the more famous authors, and a chance to unearth some of the lesser known (though popular in their time) authors. I was also quite taken with the idea of picking a theme, and reading around it: a novel or two and some secondary reading, but at the leisurely pace an English degree never quite allows.

I was still mulling over how to meld my two ideas when the New Year arrived, and I began Gaskell’s North and South anyway, confident that it would fit whatever challenge I ended up with. Then: serendipity. I noticed Penguin’s Read The Year challenge on Instagram, and January’s prompt fit North and South perfectly. I realised that many of the other prompts would work with Victorian authors, or allow me to read other Classics on my TBR lists. I had found a structure, and from the one book that fit the prompt I could devise secondary reading where interested. Or not, if I decided that the book was a dud.

I’ve begun plotting what I’ll read for the remaining prompts, drawing where I can on books I already own or know I can source from the library. I then plan to write a short review of each book, and some information on my other reading around it, for the blog each month – mostly in the interests of accountability.

I’ve also set myself a goal on Goodreads again this year. I was pleased to beat my target of 104 (2 books a week) last year, but, as I’ve mentioned before, I think I’ve found my level at just over 100 books a year, and circumstances won’t be different enough to warrant stretching myself in 2018.

So there you have my plan. Do let me know if you’re doing Penguin’s Read The Year Challenge (or any others) as it would be interesting to compare notes on what we hope to read.

Expect the first update at the end of the month.

Polymath Enthusiasms · Reading Challenge

Odds & (Week)ends #13

As you’ve probably guessed, I succumbed to illness, and deadlines, and Christmas craziness, and let the blogging lapse. I decided I’d finish off the year with a little look back at some of the things I’ve enjoyed.

Knitting

I’m proud of having pushed myself to learn new techniques in 2017, and very aware that I’ve been lucky enough to benefit from some clear and expert patterns.

Clockwise from top left: Studies in Ice (Beatrice Perron Dahlen), accessories from The Simple Collection (Tin Can Knits), Selfoss slippers (Anne Curry), Bousta Beanie (Gudrun Johnston for Shetland Wool Week), Hitchhiker (Martina Behm), Cirro (Woolly Wormhead).

Books, Books, Books

I’ve read 127 books in 2017, though I’m speed-reading Sapiens (because it’s due back in a couple of days) so I might just sneak another in.

I think Goodreads were a little premature with their roundup.

According to Audible, I also accumulated a respectable number of minutes on audiobooks in 2017:

I have no idea what the deal is with Thursdays.

Total minutes are likely to go up in 2018, as the KnitBritish podcast is going monthly, and I’m all caught up on past episodes, so will have more time for audiobooks.

So far as the Reading Challenge goes, I read a total of 56 diverse books – which works out at slightly more than 1 book by a BAME/female/LGBT/non-Western author (or some combination of those categories) a week. This was just short of 50% of the total number of books I read, and covered both fiction and non-fiction. Particular highlights were Roshani Chokshi’s folklore-inspired Fantasy novels, N.K. Jemisin’s Broken Earth series (which I need to finish in 2018), David Olusoga’s Black and British, and the fabulous Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly.

A little taste of the books I’ve read, loved, borrowed, hated, purchased, and loaned out this year.

Out and About

It would be easy to focus on how much time I spent being ill this year, but I also got to do some fun things, read some great books, play fun games, and drink a lot of coffee.

Six of the nine experiences pictured involved leaving the house 👍

Odds and Sods

  • I made it to the cinema for the first time in 3 years to see Thor: Ragnarok. I’m now counting down the days til I can download it, and then watch it over and over til I explode from laughing.
  • I finally got the sewing machine out and made some new floor cushion covers. It took 2 hours to sew 8 seams, and I had to fight the machine the whole way. Fun times.
  • Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency was my favourite show this year, and I’m torn between excitement for the new series in Jan, and disappointment that it’s supposedly the last one.

Upcoming

I have big knitting plans for 2018: a year of socks, garment knitting, the Good Intentions Club, and the Darning Masterclass at EYF. I’m also signed up to a couple of different yarn and pattern clubs. My 2017 Reading Challenge was good, but a little vague, so I’m simplifying things for 2018 (details to follow), in the hope of also demolishing my ever-increasing TBR pile. All of which I expect to share with you on here.

Take care, and I’ll see you on the other side.

Polymath Enthusiasms

Odds & (Week)ends #12

Plague House

This week I segued seamlessly from flu to chest infection, along with the rest of the household. Every time I get annoyed about the number of different medications I’m taking, I remind myself that I’m lucky enough to get free healthcare/prescriptions; it helps to keep perspective. Hopefully the nursery germ warfare will die down in the new year.

Almost Done with Hats

I did get bored and make a cowl, but, after completing 12 hats in November I still have a few more to go: another for me, as I’ve been wanting a Bousta Beanie, and 2 that are part of Christmas gift sets. I’m seriously feeling the need to cast on a sweater now, but before I get to that I should probably address my lack of mittens. It’s cold out there!

Love My Local Library

This month I’ve been borrowing ebooks through my library app. It’s not great for ‘vintage’ books, but can be a handy way to get hold of new releases that I want to read but not necessarily own. Recent loans have included The Mighty Dead: Why Homer Matters (not the most convincing argument, but some interesting passages), In Cold Blood (gripping), The Peripheral (one of my favourite novels, which I was too ill and tired to go and retrieve from storage), and, currently, Landmarks (I’m only on Chapter 3, and I realise I probably will buy it). The flurry of ebooks has boosted my total reads, and I’m comfortably over my Goodreads 2017 Reading Challenge total, which is a nice feeling.

From the Mailbag

I picked up some single breed yarns during Blacker Yarns’ Wovember sale so that I can take part in the KnitBritish Wool Exploration reviews.159A4CE0-9150-481D-80EE-0EC4989A39C9

Odds and Sods

  • I had convincing proof of Lettlopi’s water-repellent properties the other day, and am now daydreaming/planning to knit all my outerwear in the stuff.
  • You should definitely check out #theelementbookchallenge on instagram again this month. I’m enjoying that it’s undated as it makes it easier to participate.
  • My local Tesco sells 2 kinds of muffin tin and no mince pie tins. Do people not make their own mince pies anymore?

Upcoming

The plague weeks have knocked me back on everything except getting Christmas gifts organised, so this week’s focus will be putting my assignment to bed, then the easy win of getting all the gifts sent off. Hopefully that will build some momentum for the rest of the task list.

Take care, and don’t let Monday get you down.

Polymath Enthusiasms

Odds & (Week)ends #8

The One with the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Week

This is going to be a short post because my depression and anxiety have ganged up and kicked my butt this week. Today I saw the following on Instagram: 


and realised that I had been taking self-care breaks each day, and then getting frustrated that I’m not ‘better’. I need to accept that ‘better’ is relative, and will take time. 

From the mailbag

One bright spot this week was the arrival of The Hidden Land, the sequel to the book featured in my first Ex-Libris post.

Odds and ends

  • NaNoWriMo starts this Wednesday. I will be participating, but my plan is to use it to build a daily writing habit, rather than put pressure on myself to hit 50,000 words. 
  • Also in November, is Wovember. This year’s theme is “Woolness – where wool meets wellness.”

Upcoming

I have a couple of things in the diary that must happen, but otherwise I’m going to take it slow this week.

Take care, and don’t let Monday get you down.

Polymath Enthusiasms

Odds & (Week)ends #7

When We Were Young

Yesterday I took a little me time, and went to see the latest photography exhibition at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery (also known as ‘my favourite place on earth that’s not my bed’). This exhibition, full title When We Were Young: Photographs of Childhood from the National Galleries of Scotland, has been timed to coincide with Scotland’s Year of the Young Person 2018, and will run until May 2018. The photos cover the span of photography’s history, and therefore show the ways in which the representation of childhood in photography has changed, as well as capturing the ways in which childhood itself has changed. In practice this means that the collection includes formal Victorian family photos, the borderline exploitative works of late 19th century photographers like Dodgson and Cameron, early 20th century social documentary, and 21st century digital experimentation. My personal preference was for the documentary style photos from the early 20th century, I suppose because many, if not all, were taken in the hope that they might provoke change, and improve peoples lives. When We Were Young is described as the second in a series of photography exhibitions (the first presumably being the excellent Hill & Adamson exhibition which ran over the summer), so I’m already looking forward to what else the Portrait Gallery has in store for us. It was a short visit for me this week, so I didn’t go up to see the Heroes and Heroines | The Victorian Age exhibition this time, but if you find yourself planning a visit I highly recommend it.

7 days, 11 books

Despite suffering from another iteration of the snot-monster plagues TT keeps infecting me with, I somehow managed to read a hefty 11 books this week: A Stash of One’s Own, Knitlandia (both Clara Parkes), The Secret Country (Pamela Dean), Juniper Time (Kate Wilhelm), The Suffragettes (various), Wailing Ghosts (Pu Songling English translation), Mushishi Tome 2 (Yuki Urushibara French translation), Night Mare, Golem in the Gears, Heaven Cent, Isle of View (all Piers Anthony). 20171022_153211676_iOSAll told, a rather random mix of exquisite prose, excellent story-telling, and utter trash. I thoroughly recommend the Clara Parkes books even if you’re not a knitter: Knitlandia is just as much a travel guide (the Iceland trip in particular will have you in stitches), and there are some truly powerful essays on creating/making, grief, connection, and feminism in A Stash of One’s Own. The Secret Country was every bit as good as I remembered it’s sequel being (check out Ex Libris #1 to make sense of that statement), and Juniper Time was as excellent as I’ve come to expect from a Prudence and the Crow vintage book box choice. I hesitate a little to recommend Mushishi, as I have no idea what the English translation is like. I first encountered the anime series on Netflix and was captivated by the spacious, thoughtful stories. I’ve found it easier to source the French translations of the Manga however, though that may be less of a problem in the US than in Europe.

From the mailbag

Some of this week’s reading materials were new arrivals; I’m planning on getting stuck into the N.K. Jemisin book this coming week, and trying to stay cool about it as I’ve heard such good things about this author. I also picked up a Westknits pattern book on sale, and am itching to cast on some of the accessories.

Odds and Sods

  • TT and I made ‘fish biscuits’ from a recipe in her Octonauts magazine today; or, as the Technician unimaginatively pointed out, we made shortbread. It was delicious.
  • If you’re a Science Fiction fan you may be interested in Wonders and Visions: A Visual History of Science Fiction, which is currently taking pledges on Unbound.20171022_204329000_iOS
  • Q-Workshop (purveyors extraordinaire of polyhedral dice) have Halloween Dice sets on sale. I have a single Halloween D6 from last year, and it is awesome.

Upcoming

I’m expecting to finish the Ruschia hat in the next day or so, and get something new cast on. As mentioned I’m also looking forward to the N.K. Jemisin book. TT will be back to nursery this week, which means I need to hit the (study) books hard, but I’m hoping to find time to introduce my next project, and deliver the next Ex Libris post.

Take care, and don’t let Monday get you down.