• alpineflower

Things that are not wood

I admit that I do not practice hobby monogamy (which sounds funny - go ahead and try saying it out loud). Most people who know me know that before I started woodworking, most of my free time was spent knitting. Before I learned how to knit, my hobby was counted cross stitch, and since I was very little, reading has always been my fallback. Basically, I have a hobby for every kind of downtime I might encounter, which makes packing for vacation challenging - I invariably wind up taking more books and projects than I can possibly deal with even with a week of nothing else to do. Here are a few things I've been working on and reading that don't have anything to do with wood.

1. Knitting

In the spring, the son of a dear friend outgrew the sweater I knitted for him several years ago, and he requested a replacement. I'll never turn down a five-year-old who wants me to knit something for them, so I knit a Lil Grandpa Cardigan. I cranked that sucker out in a few weeks to try to finish it for his birthday in March, but missed the deadline, and now it's sitting on my nightstand awaiting buttons and a bath. I'm planning to give it to him in December.

Two sweaters on the needles - one for me and one for a friend's baby, due in a few weeks. Mine is Boxy, miles and miles of knitting in the round. I work on it when I'm watching The Crown or on family movie night. The baby sweater (Puerperium) I'm knitting whenever I can; I love baby sweaters because they just fly right off the needles.

I've knitted a hat and a scarf this summer as well, but the hat is too small - I need to rip out the top and add a few inches to it - and the scarf is in a pile waiting to be blocked, just like the cardigan. Hopefully this weekend I'll get everything washed and blocked.

2. Fiction

Circe - a retelling of the story of the immortal woman who is best known for turning Odysseus' sailors into pigs. It's a beautiful novel, exploring the concepts of power and identity, especially when you're someone whose society has very narrowly defined both and you are on the losing side. I read it in two days.

A Better Man - the latest Inspector Gamache mystery by Louise Penny. This one just came in for me at the library, and it's been sitting on my table for two days. I'm reluctant to start it because I don't want it to be over! Penny is a fantastic writer whose mysteries aren't just about solving the case, but really more about what motivates people, why we fear certain things and how we love well. She's funny, insightful, and can create an atmosphere like no one else. I can't wait.

3. Cooking

This has been our rotation for the past couple months. I'm updating it this weekend.

In late July, I decided to try something new with menu planning. I took a few hours one day and wrote down the top 25 meals that I know are a big hit with everyone in my family. I looked back through my planner and checked a couple cookbooks and websites to figure this out, then I created four weeks of meal plans with five meals each week from that list. I identified the main ingredients needed for each meal that I'd need to shop for that week, and used that as the basis for my shopping list. We have just started month three of this experiment, and I've got to say, I'm pleased with how it's going. I did myself a favor by cooking triple batches of some things and putting them in the freezer, so many of the meals have pretty much made themselves since school started. I need to tweak a few things every month or two, I think - many of the meals are sort of seasonal, like grilled chicken, and need to be replaced with other meals we love but I had not included because they're cool-weather food like chili and casseroles. I also think I'm going to add one wild-card meal each week so I can cook something interesting that isn't necessarily a crowd-pleaser but is ideally healthier and/or adventurous. I really love that I don't have to brainstorm all my meals every week, though.

4. Non-fiction

Talking to Strangers - Malcolm Gladwell's latest book about how tricky it can be to understand and gauge the behavior of someone we don't know very well or at all, especially in a stressful situation. If you listen to his podcast Revisionist History, it's a lot of the same or similar stuff, and often his writing voice sounds like he either must read his podcasts or transcribe and publish them. But I'm always interested in how he makes seemingly disparate observations about human nature and shows how interconnected everything really is.

The Hidden Wound - this is a short book by Wendell Berry that's taking me forever to read, mostly because I own it and library books always get priority in my TBR pile. It's a memoir/musing on race and prejudice in America and how racism harms not only the victims but also the perpetrators. He wrote it in the early 1970s, but it's still astoundingly relevant. I expect I'm going to have to read it again, and I'm curious if he's written anything more recently that might update his thoughts and integrate them with the changes that have happened nationally and within himself over the past 40 years.

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