Friday, June 29, 2018

Book Review: Dreamer's Pool

I finished up another book this week.  This one is for week 39, a book with a form of punctuation in the title:  Dreamer's Pool by Juliet Marillier.


Book Summary: Award-winning author Juliet Marillier "weaves magic, mythology, and folklore into every sentence on the page" (The Book Smugglers). Now she begins an all-new and enchanting series that will transport readers to a magical vision of ancient Ireland...

In exchange for help escaping her long and wrongful imprisonment, embittered magical healer Blackthorn has vowed to set aside her bid for vengeance against the man who destroyed all that she once held dear. Followed by a former prison mate, a silent hulk of a man named Grim, she travels north to Dalriada. There she'll live on the fringe of a mysterious forest, duty bound for seven years to assist anyone who asks for her help. 

Oran, crown prince of Dalriada, has waited anxiously for the arrival of his future bride, Lady Flidais. He knows her only from a portrait and sweetly poetic correspondence that have convinced him Flidais is his destined true love. But Oran discovers letters can lie. For although his intended exactly resembles her portrait, her brutality upon arrival proves she is nothing like the sensitive woman of the letters.

With the strategic marriage imminent, Oran sees no way out of his dilemma. Word has spread that Blackthorn possesses a remarkable gift for solving knotty problems, so the prince asks her for help. To save Oran from his treacherous nuptials, Blackthorn and Grim will need all their resources: courage, ingenuity, leaps of deduction, and more than a little magic.

My Review/Rating: 4 stars.  Another one by this author I loved.  I had actually read the second book in this series, and backtracked to this one which takes place before the other one I had read.  I love how this author skillfully combines Celtic mythology and fairy tales, and breathes life into the characters set in this time period.  Her characters are beautifully created and one of my favorite tidbits is that she can so nicely slip back and forth between Blackthorn's voice and Grim's voice as the story unfolds.  I loved having more of their back story, and the tale of Prince Oran and Lady Flidais is everything you'd want a classic fairy tale to be.  A recommended read and I plan to pick up more of this author's work in the future.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Book Review: A Court of Thorns and Roses

I finished up this book last week for my Around the World in 52 Books challenge: A Court of Thorns and Roses. 



Book Summary: Feyre's survival rests upon her ability to hunt and kill – the forest where she lives is a cold, bleak place in the long winter months. So when she spots a deer in the forest being pursued by a wolf, she cannot resist fighting it for the flesh. But to do so, she must kill the predator and killing something so precious comes at a price ...

Dragged to a magical kingdom for the murder of a faerie, Feyre discovers that her captor, his face obscured by a jewelled mask, is hiding far more than his piercing green eyes would suggest. Feyre's presence at the court is closely guarded, and as she begins to learn why, her feelings for him turn from hostility to passion and the faerie lands become an even more dangerous place. Feyre must fight to break an ancient curse, or she will lose him forever.

My Rating/Review: 4 1/2 stars.  I really enjoyed this book - I think would have enjoyed it even more if I hadn't read An Enchantment of Ravens more.  They are similar in many ways - human female, Fairie courts who are brutal, and a bit of romance across the human/fairy boundaries.  The main character in this is a great, strong female lead.  There's a tiny bit of Katniss and The Hunger Games in there as well.  I liked the plot twists - there's a lot going on and of course, quests of an epic nature.  I think a very good read for the YA genre.  I also liked the retelling/reshaping of the classic Beauty and the Beast concept.  A few positive points taken off for my current pet peeve - a book within a series that leaves some unanswered questions, but overall, one I'd recommend if you like this sort of fantasy genre. 

Monday, June 25, 2018

WIPocalypse June Check-In

I've worked on 3 projects since my last update.  First up, Six of Swords with artwork by Stephanie Pui-Mun Law.  I'm happy to report I finished up page 1!


This is a (relatively) smaller full-sized piece.  I think it has a total of 36 pages (as opposed to 94 or some insane number in A Stitching Shelf), so 1 of 36 done!  I'm stitching this 1 over 1, full crosses on 25-guide Magic Guide with DMC.

I then decided to tackle one of my older WIPs, The Winter Garden, with pattern by the Drawn Thread. The original supply list called for NPI and Dinky Dyes silks, but I opted for Gentle Arts and Colour and Cotton hand-dyed cotton threads and I think it turned out really beautifully.  This is stitched 1 over 2 on 32-count Belfast from Wichelt in the Smokey Pearl colorway (which is the called-for fabric).   It's DONE!  So happy with how this turned out!



Right now, to finish out this last week in June, I'm working on my Desert Mandala from Chatelaine.  This shows the finished upper center landscape vignette.  I'm currently working on the upper border and the bear totem section.  I want to get the bear done before put this away for the month.  I've got backstitching in his body left to do and the backstitching that outlines the cacti and adds in the thorns on those.  Then whatever time I have left, I'll keep working on the upper right-hand border(s).  It's nice to have gotten to the upper edge of the piece so I can sort of feel like I'm now just working to complete things rather than continuing to make the piece bigger!


Friday, June 22, 2018

Spinning Friday - June 22, 2018

I haven't done a Spinning Friday update in eons and since I finished up a spin yesterday, I'll count this as perfect timing.

I pulled out a roving I had been gifted in a swap from the Alaska Yarn Company, a 70/30 wool/alpaca blend, pin-drafted roving. The colorway was Silver Blues (a handpaint colorway).  Dyed over the natural gray of the roving, I really liked how the jewel tones were softened and made a bit more subtle.



There were only 3 oz of this, but I divided it evenly.  (Or so I thought - turned out I was actually pretty far off and I lost about a half an ounce when I got to the end of one bobbin while plying).


This is a 2-ply, fingering weight yarn with 200 yards and 2.4 oz in the finished skein.  It is lovely and soft with a nice gentle halo from the alpaca.  I plied it a bit loosely to maintain the drape, and I think, with the limited yardage, it'll likely grow up to be a cowl or something I can wear and still feel the softness of it.  It also nicely fit the "blue" prompt for the June Wonkapalooza craftalong, so I'm counting it for that too!


Wednesday, June 20, 2018

WIP Wednesday

Still working on a whole bunch of sekret knitting right now - so not much actual knitting that I can show you.  How about I share a few teasers of things I am swatching and playing with in lieu of "real" knitting?

This was iteration number 4? 5? for this gray/neutral palette combo, but I'm finally super happy with how it looks.  I'm working on multiple different yarn/colorway options for the designs in the Santa Fe Collection, upcoming in November.


Another colorway swatch - also in a gray/neutral palette combo.  I really like how the blues sing against the more neutral background.  Almost like a gemstone-decorated bracelent around this cuff.



A quick gauge check swatch for a new project - and to make sure I liked the beads with the yarn color (I do).  This one is heading out to a sample knitter to get started this week.  I'm all about the summer roses colors right now.



And since several of you have asked about how I get inspired for a new design, here's a sample of some inspiration pages for the above colorway/project theme.  I tend to stay away from knitted designs with online photos - I don't want to be too influenced by someone else's concept, even if it's by accident, so I try to look for things like an overall mood, colors, details in photos (via Google and/or Pinterest searches) that will set a general vibe for me.  From there, I do some sketching and playing around with colors and see what emerges.  This project is related to the Summer Faery Court in the book An Enchantment of Ravens I read earlier this year.  Stay tuned for more details on this one - but it'll be released sometime late summer.


I'm so excited to be able to eventually share all of these designs with you - I've been really inspired this summer to tackle some ideas that are speaking loudly to me and hope they will resonate with you too!

Monday, June 18, 2018

Weekending

We had a lovely, quiet weekend here - with actual RAIN!  We definitely could use a ton more, but every drop helps at this point and hopefully kept the fire up in the Caldara quieter than it would have been with higher temps and lower humidity.

Lizzie and I took several long, 4-5 mile walks this weekend and it was lovely to be up early and enjoying the cooler temperatures and cloudy skies.  We mostly puttered around the house, although I did meet a friend for coffee Sunday morning to celebrate her birthday, which was really nice.

This weekend I put in a fair amount of time working on a WIP that's one of my older cross-stitch works in progress: The Winter Garden.

Here's a photo of what it'll look like when it's finished (not my image - from Stitching Bits and Bobs):


On Saturday, I finished up the central house and most of the cedar tree to the right of it:


Sunday, I powered through the snowflakes in the cedar tree (which I think are getting washed out, but they are there), and then finished the two hellebore plants.


That'll leave me with the pine tree and the holly plant, and the speciality-stitch snowflakes up at the top border on this right-hand side, so I'm in the home stretch!  Still planning to try to get this finished before the end of the month! 


Friday, June 15, 2018

Reading Challenge Update - June 2018

A quick reminder, especially if you are new to the blog here, is that my entire year of Around the World in 52 Books Challenge list has it's own page here.  I have been keeping this up-to-date even if other things aren't as much so!

I've finished 2 books to report on this week.  First up is The Forgotten Beasts of Eld by Patricia McKillip.


Book Summary: Young Sybel, the heiress of powerful wizards, needs the company of no one outside her gates. In her exquisite stone mansion, she is attended by exotic, magical beasts: Riddle-master Cyrin the boar; the treasure-starved dragon Gyld; Gules the Lyon, tawny master of the Southern Deserts; Ter, the fiercely vengeful falcon; Moriah, feline Lady of the Night. Sybel only lacks the mysterious Liralen, which continues to elude her most powerful enchantments.

But when a soldier bearing an infant arrives, Sybel discovers that the world of man and magic is full of both love and deceit—and the possibility of more power than she can possibly imagine.

My Review:  I initially felt that this book was a little stilted after reading the first couple of chapters.  I was never so happy to be wrong before! I LOVED this one.  It's magical and mystical, has a wonderful heroine who has all sorts of layers, as well as a romance, lost and found, in the loveliest troubadour-worthy tradition.  And the beasts!  Such a wonderful collection of personalities and traits.  I fell in love with Ter (her falcon), who is everything you might want in a protector.  While there is a human love story (which is not an easy path for either of the lovers), this is also a love story of Sybel and her animals.  If you haven't checked this one out, go grab is and read it.  All the best bits of fantasy and epic quests in one book.  Another highly recommended read from this year. 

Next up is Amy Tan's Where the Past Begins.


Book Summary: n Where the Past Begins, bestselling author of The Joy Luck Cluband The Valley of Amazement Amy Tan is at her most intimate in revealing the truths and inspirations that underlie her extraordinary fiction. By delving into vivid memories of her traumatic childhood, confessions of self-doubt in her journals, and heartbreaking letters to and from her mother, she gives evidence to all that made it both unlikely and inevitable that she would become a writer. Through spontaneous storytelling, she shows how a fluid fictional state of mind unleashed near-forgotten memories that became the emotional nucleus of her novels. 

Tan explores shocking truths uncovered by family memorabilia—the real reason behind an IQ test she took at age six, why her parents lied about their education, mysteries surrounding her maternal grandmother—and, for the first time publicly, writes about her complex relationship with her father, who died when she was fifteen. Supplied with candor and characteristic humor, Where the Past Begins takes readers into the idiosyncratic workings of her writer’s mind, a journey that explores memory, imagination, and truth, with fiction serving as both her divining rod and link to meaning.

My Review:  I have read a couple of Amy Tan's fiction works and enjoyed them - maybe not loved them, but enjoyed them.  This nonfiction book, I'm going to be honest, was a bit of a slog for me.  It's subtitled "A Writer's Memoir", but it's more of an amalgamation of bits and pieces from journals and emails and reminiscences about her mother (whose very strong and fairly unpredictable personality and behavior were the model for several characters in her fiction books).  Some parts I found interesting; her thoughts on how she tackles the job of writing and things that affect her (like music and how she uses it as a creative vehicle) I found interesting.  The first chapter in the Linguistics section near the end of the book was just downright painful to get through.  (I skimmed most of it.)

A very mixed bag of information here.  Recommended, I suppose, if you are an ardent fan of her work, but I think there are other better books on the market about the creative process of being a writer and how they pull fiction from reality and incorporate it into their writing.  

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

WIP Wednesday - 06/13/2018

Lots of WIPs (works in progress) going on right now.  I'm busily working on my Santa Fe Collection samples.  I got the final sweater, a cardigan, up to the point I can start on the sleeves as of last night.  This one will feature some pretty colorwork patterning at the yoke and on the sleeves, but is otherwise a fairly easy knit with lots of soothing stockinette.  It's been very fun to revisit some of the Southwest themes that didn't make my book a few years' back.

I've also been busy doing some swatching for the "up next" project ideas I've had banging around in my head for a bit.  I've got 2 different sets of items I want to work on next - one will be a shawl collection based on locales from the book An Enchantment of Ravens which I read about a month ago and absolutely LOVED.  I won't have these on a specific roll-out schedule, but I do want to get going on the one related to Summerland.  I've created a 5-skein palette for this one on a brand-new yarn base (merino/cashmere/silk fingering weight).


This design will have lace and beads and LOTS of gorgeous color to it.  I wanted a color group that reminded me of summer roses, so I went with pinks and roses and just a hint of a grape-plum color for a bit of contrast.  I ordered a whole pile of beads to play around with, so I can see which ones work best with the yarn colors.  I plan to work on charting and an initial draft for this one on Friday.

I've also been mulling over some ideas for a menswear group (with unisex sizing), and I've decided on yarn and color palettes for the first two.  Sweater #1 will feature some fall colors in a colorwork patterned pullover.  Yarn will be the classic Finullgarn from The Yarn Guys.  I swatched a half dozen or so options this past weekend using this color palette.


But finally decided on a color combo I think will be perfect for fall but not too bright to be guy friendly. 

I am not quite as far along on the other sweater, which will have cabled textures on it, but that will be in a heathery gray in a DK-weight.  I can visualize what motifs I want to use and how to put them together, but I'll wrestle with that swatch once the yarn arrives later this week. 

Monday, June 11, 2018

Weekending - Mid-June 2018

I puttered around the house this weekend, finally getting some yard things taken care of I had been wanting to get done.  I watered our big trees in the front yard (although I've been keeping up with that each weekend during our current drought, as I really do not want to lose our two big ponderosas), put mulch down around the stairs to the back deck, replaced a few numbers on our mailbox post that had fallen off and did a bit of weeding.  I think the plan for the terraced section by the back deck stairs will be to put in a large raised bed with some perennials (herbs maybe?), and then plant daylilies around the base of that to have a 2-height feature back there.  I'd love to have a little fountain as well but I suspect we'd have the mule deer standing on the back deck trying to drink out of it if we did.

Otherwise, I hung out with this pretty girl - went for a couple of runs together, and then holed up in the nice cool downstairs of the house.


I did a bunch of knitting, none of which I can show you since it's all deadline/design knitting, but I did put a WIP stitching project back onto the frame to work on.  This is one of my older WIPs - The Winter Garden, design by The Drawn Thread.  I was just shy of the halfway mark when I quit working on it - and I don't think I've put any stitches into it in about a year.  Here's my starting point on Friday night. (Please ignore the wrinkles.  I had it just loosely put on the scroll rods at this point.)


And my progress on the house at the end of the weekend.


I finished up the front door, added some more windows and the ivy, started the roofline with snow and the smoke from the chimney, as well as the topiaries flanking the front door and the cardinal on the roof.  I'm out of both the Chalk (the white) and Blue Spruce (dark green for the roof and windows), so I ordered another skein of each of those yesterday, but I'll move on to finishing up the Heath plants under the empty windows and keep moving to the right while I wait for those to arrive.  I have 4 plant/trees to complete on the right to finish this one up: Heath, Cedar, Pine and Holly, and my plan is to just keep working on this one until it's done!

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Habits

Habit: A settled or regular tendency or practice, especially one that is hard to give up.  Synonyms: Custom, practice, routine, wont, pattern, way, tradition.

I am out of the habit of posting on my blog (obviously).  While I have been doing my monthly check-in WIPocalypse posts, I've not been very good about updating anything else.  I've been taking a really recharging, creative and inspiring online "camp" class, and one of the things that's stressed in it is not to feel like we're behind.  The whole point is to enjoy it and find inspiring moments tucked into our days, so despite the fact that the control-freak aspect of my personality is finding it hard not to feel behind and then having the need to feel like I have to catch everything up, I'm just going to start here, in the middle of things, and try to just re-develop my blogging habit.

One of the things we've done while at "camp", is build a journal of inspirations - images, quotes, lists, notes to self, about things we are interested in.  I fell down the (very deep, very dark) hole of bullet journaling and I've been immersing myself in all things BuJo - Instagram, YouTube videos, blog posts, etc.  I've also been playing around with some different types of page set-ups and I think I finally have something that's working for me that will function as both a daily/weekly/monthly planner AND an inspiration/note-taking/collections repository.  One of the things I'm including in my journal pages is a habit tracker (you see now how this all ties in).

The hope is to remind myself on a daily basis that blogging is a to-do task multiple days of the week, and then actually... you know... DO.IT.  I've got tons of things I'm working on right now in the crafty world, as well as reading, so it's not like I don't have topics to write about and things to say.  Mostly it's getting back into the habit of actually posting!

I've also been reading and working through The Artist's Way, by Julia Cameron. If you haven't read this book, it's just had it's 25th anniversary of publication and was a really groundbreaking book exploring ideas about creativity and artists (not just fine artists - writers, crafters, etc), and how those things work together in successful artist's lives.  I'm in week 3 of the book (each chapter is a week's worth of exercises) and writing a few pages each morning of random thoughts and tidbits; these are suggested by Cameron as Morning Pages, to do each day. I am finding just dumping the crazy monkey brain thoughts out onto paper does actually free up some bandwidth in there, so that's another habit I'm trying to really solidify as a daily task to do going forward. 

Interested in more info about bullet journaling, here are some sites I found helpful (no affiliation, just ones I've referenced in the last month, although there are literally thousands of videos and blogs out there, as well as Instagram feeds full of beautiful journals):

BulletJournal.com - the original website and start of it all.

BohoBerry (on YouTube):  Kara also has a blog and an Etsy store, but lots of great info in her
YouTube videos.

TealNotes.com:  Some great set-up ideas at her site.

Tour de Fleece - Week 2

I'm pretty happy with my progress for the Tour so far this year!  I've been trying to have a goal of 15 minutes of spinning a day, o...