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Nose in a Book: January 2014

The New Year has added fuel to my yearning to burn through some terrific books that have been waiting all too patiently for me. It has been almost two years that we’ve done away with television and cable, so there’s more time to get lost in books.

My current books in progress are quite an eclectic collection:

The Casual Vacancy by JK Rowling  audio book from audible.com

Moby Dick by Herman Melville, the Norton Critical edition

Manage Your Day to Day: Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus & Sharpen Your Creative Mind  edited by Jocelyn K. Glei

The Last Elf by Silvana De Mari

I’m sure that all four aren’t are anyone’s college syllabus, and I love the variety and experience each is providing.

First, The Casual Vacancy is a J.K. Rowling book for grown ups that I struggled with when I had the hard copy in my hands. Nothing seemed to stick– not the characters– not the plot– not the book. I put the book down and decided to “let it go”. The plot thickens: my daughter Kate gave me a subscription to audible.com for Christmas. I hungrily grazed over the long list of possibilities and started my wish list. I put The Casual Vacancy on it because I just couldn’t believe that I couldn’t engage with that book. This was the author who kept me and half the universe mesmerized with Harry Potter. Maybe the audible format would change my perception of the book. I hadn’t used books on tape/cd’s/etc before and thought it would be a good experiment.

Well, I’m hooked. I downloaded the text, plugged in my ear buds and asked the rest of the world to leave me alone as I listen. Maybe it’s the lack of distractions or the newness of the toy, I don’t know. I’m now three fourths of the way through the book and want to see what happens next. I’m not sanctioning the novel as great literature, but it’s an enjoyable, adventure into the life of a small town with many degrees of dysfunctional characters. I listen while I knit and can manage to multi-task and do justice to both endeavors. I plan to listen to one book a month this way.

The next book is a tome that has been on my “to read” list for years: Moby Dick.  My Norton Critical Edition dates back to 1967; I was in high school from 1966-1970. The pages are yellowed, it cost only $1.95, and it contains not only the novel, but reviews, letters by Melville, analogues and sources as well as criticism. It’s a megillah and remained unread until this month when a friend of mine, Stan, mentioned that he was reading it. We volunteer together at the cat shelter and every time I saw him, he had something interesting to say about Moby Dick. He talked about the allure of the sea, the whaling industry, New Bedford, Nantucket, and crazy characters. Living so close to it all was another reason to jump in. Before I knew it, I was turning the pages and scribbling notes in the margins. Stan and I continue our discussions about the book and the narrative comes alive. I find myself reading and re-reading sentences that resonate; there are many. I also give myself permission to skim the passages that are dense and numb my skull. There’s no pressure– no quiz– just an exciting adventure at sea.  I notice patterns and think about what message might be intended, but that comes automatically to this geeky retired professor. A friend from my knitting group heard me talking about the book and said she wants to start reading it too.  It’s a movement!

The next book is Manage Your Day blah blah blah. Someone should have better edited the title, in my humble opinion. It’s another one of those books that I have a tendency to buy and then wonder why I did. The lessons are pretty straight forward: eliminate the distractions and make time for all that’s creative. Do the important stuff first, then fill in with the trivial tasks. I do like the advice to indulge in “unnecessary creation”; that’s using personal creative projects to explore new obsessions, skills or ways of working in a low-pressure environment. My photography, socializing cats, colorwork knitting, reading Moby Dick… are examples of ways to stretch beyond my comfort zone and try something different.

The last book on my January list is a treasure. My daughter Molly gave it to me for Christmas and described it as a book like the ones we read together when she was younger. The Last Elf is just that… I’m enjoying it as a novel, but also using it as a delightful vehicle to remember when we shared the Narnia series and so many other memory making books. When I see her, we’ll pour a cup of tea and gab about this for quite awhile.

I often think that there are so many books and so little time. I’m making more time to get lost in books, and it’s a fine way to start of the new year. I haven’t thought about what books I’ll tackle in February, but there’s no rush. They have a way of choosing me.

Orna-momentos

Putting up the Christmas tree is always a family event with us. We wait until the girls arrive and then “do the honors.” The ornament boxes are not those containerized egg crates from the Container Store; no, instead they’re wine boxes loaded to the brim with all kinds of treasures.

In many ways, it’s a hanging scrapbook. Every trinket has a story and memories attached. We relive them one by one. Here are a few of my favorites:

Snowman- 1972

Snowman- 1972

This snowman harkens back to our first Christmas in our own apartment. It was 1972, we lived in Brighton, and bought a tiny little tree. It looked anemic so we added wooden ornaments that we hand painted and hung along with pine cones that we found by the Chestnut Hill Reservoir.

Oldie, but Goodie

Oldie, but Goodie

This Oldie, but Goodie dates back to my childhood. I think I remember entire sets of these hand blown beauties. It’s like a little jewel, and so fragile that I’m surprised it lasted all of these years.

Glass Bells

Glass Bells

We’ve gone through several sets of these glass bells. I love them because they’re pretty to look at, they move gently, reflect the light and even make a soft sound. Small children and cats are attracted to them too– that’s why we’ve gone through several sets! They’re now placed on the top half of the tree. Bella looks, but can’t touch or swat.

Domaine Chandon cork

Domaine Chandon cork

There’s always an assortment of “found objects”, like the Domaine Chandon cork from a fabulous winery we visited years ago. There used to be a dog biscuit wrapped with a bow in honor of Major, the dog across the street, but the biscuit didn’t survive the test of time.

Kate's Mummified Marshmallow Angel

Kate’s Mummified Marshmallow Angel

And then we have artistic creations from our beloved children: Kate’s mummified marshmallow/pine cone angel as well as Molly’s hand stitched, colorwork paper mitten. Gotta love them!

Molly's Mitten

Molly’s Marvelous Color Work Mitten

There are a few “store bought” ornaments, but they usually represent some family memory. David is the man flying the airplane.

Flying Daddio

Flying Daddio

And then there’s me and my hubby. I love that the bed is small and we’re cuddled close. Enough said 🙂

US

US

Lastly, it wouldn’t be our tree if there wasn’t something irreverent and unexpected–in cross stitch, no less!

Merry Everything, Happy Always!

Merry Everything, Happy Always!

Gifts

It’s not surprising that most of the gifts I give this season are hand knits, food or books. It’s how I roll. What does surprise me is how, although I really intend to give gifts that please my “giftees,” many of these goodies deliver delightful, unintended consequences to me.

My daughter Molly is passionate and compassionate about animals and how they should be treated. I have been making woolen socks for her for several years. This year she mentioned how she’d like to make sure the sheep that provided the wool for her socks and shawl were well treated. In my hunt to find yarn from happy sheep, I discovered Naushon Island, just off the coast of Woods Hole. That’s where happy sheep graze, live well, and make the most beautiful, sheepy smelling, wholesome yarn.  Naushon wool is a treat- yes, a gift—to knit. It smells sooooo good, feels so sturdy, and the natural color is a rich mocha that I loved.  To find enough of this yarn to make a shawl for Molly that is big enough to wrap up in while reading a good book, I made friends with the folks at Woods Hole Historical Society who sold me the last ten skeins of the season. This gift is the gift that keeps on giving. I got enough yarn to make myself a sweater—after the holidays.

Kate has been the recipient of many of my hand knit hats. I knit them all year round, and can seldom wait for a holiday to give them to her.  She wears them to work and in the office; they are  stacked on her desk like a sculpture. One particular hat consistently brings her good luck(a color work hat that was a challenge to make!)  She wears this hat at meetings and wears it with style.

No cookie cutter daughters in this family! Now that’s a real gift, Molly and Kate.

In the past I have made several ill fitting, weird sweaters for my poor husband.  He would wear them, but the look on his face always told me that he was being kind and that maybe this was not meant to be. But I still wanted to knit for him… Last winter, he needed a pair of mittens after we had already left the house. I had an extra pair of fingerless mitts in my coat pocket. He slipped them on and liked that they were lightweight, warm, and he could drive wearing them. He actually wanted them… But he is colorblind and didn’t realize that my purple mitts weren’t blue and weren’t very becoming on a physicist.  So I was thrilled to cast on a pair for him in black tweed and that led to a few hats, including a Fibonacci hat. Who knows where it will lead—but definitely not to a sweater.  This gift taught me to “let it go.” Amen!

Some gifts send important messages that I may or may not “get” at the time. When I was in high school, I knitted a pullover sweater for my boyfriend, until recently known as “Tom Ferguson I Hate Him”. He dumped me three weeks before the Senior Prom—boo hoo. Anyhow…I’m over that.  Here’s the unintended message in the sweater I made for him: the neck wanted to choke him (so did I) and his head was too big to fit through it (fat head…just saying). It’s too bad I didn’t hear the sweater speaking to me six months prior to the break up—it certainly tried to communicate.

And one of my most recent gifts is a knitting bag I made for a friend who has a sick kid and needs something to help with the stress. I made it out of organza, filled it with a skein of mink yarn (yes, it was humanly harvested) and a cute little pouch to keep knitting supplies. When I gave it to her at knit night, I confessed that I did purchase a box of salted dark chocolate caramels and put them in her bag… However… I ate them all. The best part of it all was that she laughed out loud about my scoffing the candy and giggled about it later. That’s exactly what I hoped to accomplish with my gift—but it wasn’t the bag, the yarn or the extras that made it happen.

So, as I’m finishing up the last of my Christmas gifting, I wonder what will happen with the other items I’m giving and, therefore, getting.  Is it better to give than to receive? Maybe both, Merry Christmas!

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Four Views: One Tree

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Reflection

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Wired With Light

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Up Close

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Detail close up

Walkdoc Nov. 2013

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Oktoberfest Walkdoc Harvard Square

Harvard Square seldom disappoints.  There’s always books, music and people watching. This was especially true at Sunday’s Oktoberfest celebration.

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Walkdoc Oct. 11, 2013 D’twn FAL Surf Dr

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Walkdoc Oct. 10, 2013

Falmouth Public Library Foyer

Falmouth Public Library Foyer

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Walkdoc October 2, 2013

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Walkdoc Sept. 25, 2013

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