13 Mar

doll headI suppose it’s time to take a moment for a bit of a spring-time check-in…

Sadly…well, not sadly, exactly…but whatever-ly, I guess… I don’t post up my “Currently” monthly updates in as timely a manner as I did there for a good long chunk of time. I mean, I realize no one is losing any sleep over not knowing what I am up to, but it was a nice exercise to be able to take a moment to reflect on the things I had accomplished, both big and little, over a recent span of time, and to be able to share, “hey, I made this thing!” or “whoa, I found this out, and I’d really like to share it with you!”. But more and more often, these Currently check-ins have just been feeling like a chore to cross off a list rather than an accounting of recent achievements and discoveries to delight in. And maybe that’s the problem right there; I used the word  “accounting” just now. Why would I phrase it that way? I mean that just sounds dull and boring and something to avoid, right? That’s how I have come to think of it. Perhaps I need to shift my perspective. How does one do that, anyway? Something to think on for next time.

Mosaic Knitting brioche

In the spirit of “hey I made this!” here are two not particularly impressive things that I have made recently. I decided that I wanted to learn a few new knitting techniques this year and formed a two-person knitting group with my friend J. to this end. As an aside, even if it is just online, there is no way that I can participate in group activities. It makes me too anxious. I have a difficult time even replying to facebook comment threads, sometimes. Back in the day, you would never find me in an AOL chatroom. Omg. I am sweating even thinking about it! Online, as in real life, I do so much better in one-on-one activities and conversations. So I am definitely not going to be found in a room full of real life human knitters and I am also not going to be joining an internet collective, either. No way, no how! Just one friend to support and encourage and challenge me is quite enough, thank you very much.

Our first task was to tackle mosaic knitting, a color work technique involving simple slipped stitches and some intermittent knits and purls, dreamed up by the legendary Barbara Walker. I didn’t really love this method; maybe it was the fact that my colors were too close in shade to contrast much, or maybe my stitches too loose, but I couldn’t really see the pattern unfolding before me, which made made it feel…not very intuitive, I guess? Both in anticipating the next step in the instructions or as it relates to cleaning up any mistakes. ALSO, and this is the part I resent the most, it was very hard to mutlitask and binge The Umbrella Academy while knitting this. I had to pay absolute attention to my knitting to ensure that the design was consistent, and sure, I have no problem doing that with an exquisitely intricate lace shawl, but I’m not about to strain my eyes on what’s supposed to be a relatively simple system of stitchwork. At the end of it all I knit up a baby blanket for a friend and I was glad to be rid of it.

Next we took on brioche knitting, a technique that a friend of mine describes as her “final boss”, or the most difficult challenge to undertake and defeat. Brioche is a little hard to describe, and in a simple pattern, it might be hard to tell that it’s anything special, like the photo above. In a more complicated pattern, however, it’s pretty mind-bending. It involves “tucked” stitches–yarn overs that are knitted together with a slipped stitch from the previous row, and form a second layer of knitting in front of the first layer that sort of looks like arches or fish-scales. I am sorry to say that I think I hated brioche knitting even more than mosaic knitting. Though…it could quite possibly be the yarn I was using, or the pattern wasn’t working for me. Which the swatch, above, seems OK, the hat that built on these skills was a giant failure.

What have I learned from all of this? That learning is dumb and awful. And I guess I’d better do more of it.

bourgignon butter chicken spanish rice stroganoff tikka masala

I did a little learning too, with the Instant Pot that I received as a gift from my sister. I have been afraid to use it, I thought that maybe I’d blow up the house or something. Pressure cookers have always held a vague sense of danger, as far as I am concerned. Even their mere presence in the garage, unplugged and gathering dust on a shelf. Just their existence in my home seemed to herald some far-off-but-definitely-one-day explosion of doom. It seemed a shame, though, to let it languish, assigned as some obscure lower-level threat next to an ugly but perfectly harmless vase and a not-so-oven-safe Pyrex dish, so in January I finally began to experiment with it.

The house still stands, but it is quite stinky, as since I overcame my kitchen appliance anxiety, I have been using the instant pot every chance I get.  Some of the recipes I have tried so far:

I believe most, if not all of these recipes were vegan, and even though I am not vegan (I’m not even vegetarian, really) I made all of them according to their directions, without sneaking in any dairy or chicken broth or anything like that.. and they were mostly quite good! Next up, I think I am going to try an instant pot version of gumbo or paella, or kimchi jigae, if such things exist.


Reading! Well, that’s always happening. If you peek at my Goodreads 2019 challenge, you might get the impression that I have completed my challenge and that I am 420% done, having read 21 books out of 5. And while I did set for myself a goal of five books, what Goodreads does not account for is that I have designated five very specific books as my end goal for 2019. I set out to read five particular titles that have given me trouble in the past decade or so, books that for whatever reason, I never finished. And basically, so far, I have read just about every other book but those five–and technically, zero percent of my challenge is done.

I am, however, 3/4 of the way through The King Of Elfland’s Daughter, so that will soon count as being 20% toward my goal!

I’ve written my January and February reviews over at Haute Macabre already, but if you want the TLDR version, these are the titles not to miss:

I am trying my best, and have been consciously attempting for a while now, to diversify my reading stacks to include more narratives from authors whose human experience is different from my own, and literature that reflects the lives of all kinds of people. I’m always a little bit afraid to talk about these things aloud (although I have conversations in my head about it all the time) because I worry that I don’t have the correct language for it, and in discussing my aims, I may end up looking stupid… which is OK I guess…or offending or insulting someone, which is definitely not OK, and which I would feel terribly about.

My reading list, actively, and in an ongoing way, includes titles from POC authors, LGBQTIA, differently abled or disabled authors, authors who fall somewhere along or at either end of any spectrum–I am seeking them out, reading their books, and supporting their efforts because if I don’t expand and become aware of what goes on beyond my own sphere of existence, then I am ensuring that my life remains very, very small. I mean, I probably don’t have to explain why it’s a good and important thing to read books written by a diverse range of people, right? The world contains more than just your story, or mine; it’s important, empowering, and beautiful to hear all of those voices. Anyway, all this wasn’t a lead up for you to hand me a cookie or a trophy or whatever this kind of talk goes for nowadays, but I would appreciate some suggestions of books you have enjoyed or learned from lately that were not written by white-cis-het males (or their female counterparts, really.)


Some miscellaneous other stuff…

Anton says

Book recs! My reading goal last year was to read more women and especially women of color! So here are some of my favorites:
The Leavers by Lisa Ko
An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
Ancillary Justice, Ancillary Sword and Ancillary Mercy by Ann Leckie
Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata
Thornfruit by Felicia Davin
Welcome to Lagos by Chibundu Onuzo

and bonus shoutout for my friend's beautiful memoir, All You Can Ever Know by Nicole Chung

S. Elizabeth says

What an abundance of suggestions--thank you so much, I am definitely going to check all of them out! Including and especially your friend's book :)

Maggie says

Thank you for your suggestion of All You Can Ever Know as well, I've put it on my Goodreads list :)

Drax says

A good read about good reads and other endeavors!

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