sprite writes
broodings from the burrow

September 15, 2013

a workout
posted by soe 1:07 am


18+ miles today to bike to Hyattsville and back with a couple of extra miles included for wrong turns.

I may not be able to walk tomorrow, but since we’re going to spend the day at the beach, I don’t think I’ll care.

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September 14, 2013

finished object friday
posted by soe 2:01 am

I thought I’d take the opportunity to show you some bad photos (please disregard the unvacuumed rug) of the socks I finished during August. For some reason, my knitting has been really slow this year, so these are only the second and third pairs I’ve finished so far this year:


These are my Fruitcake socks, so named for the colorway of
Wisdom Yarns Marathon Socks–North Pole yarn that I knit them in. They are 60-stitch vanilla socks that I cast on in December during our pre-holiday-lunch all-staff meeting.

They were smooth sailing until the foot of the second sock, when the stellina (that’s the sparkly strand of yarn that’s plied with the wool-nylon blend) clearly started causing problems for the machine when it was being skeined. I’d noticed the stellina was broken more often than usual and then came the knots. The yarn, I assume, had gotten stuck in the skeining machine, they’d cut it and tied it back on. Mostly this is fine. It happens; we know it does. It’s just frustrating in a self-striping yarn where you’ve managed to make a matching pair. Running into a knot that turns the run of a particular color into a different length understandably affects the appearance. Unless you get a little anal and decide to switch to another repeat of the colors to try and sub in, which works, until the next time the problem repeats itself.

Anyway, that’s what explains why the red section on the one toe is longer than the other. But it won’t matter to me and I’ll be happy with my brightly-hued sparkly socks.


This pattern, Sockdolager, was the first round for Sock Madness contenders this year. I had a lot going on at that time and failed to get them finished, but they’re done now! I knit the medium size on 2.25 mm needles. The yarn is Trekking XXL that was among my final purchases from A Tangled Skein before they closed last winter.

This pair was the only one that was finished in time for the Ravelry contest for finishing socks during August (the others were about 90 minutes too late) and, coincidentally, it won a random prize. So they are now award-winning socks!

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September 13, 2013

customer service, last train, and presents
posted by soe 1:11 am

Three beautiful things from the week past:

1. I hand the Trader Joes clerk my shopping bag and put my library books down on the kiosk ledge to dig out my wallet and pay. “May I add the books to the bag for you?” he asks. Why, yes, you may.

2. Catching the final train of the night from a location that would be challenging to get home from otherwise.

3. I read through the board book section of the shop in search of a birthday present. I take three to Rudi for narrowing down, but he likes all of them, too. We buy them all, because there will always be another baby in need of a gift and Christmas is not that far away.

How about you? What’s been beautiful in your world this week?

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September 12, 2013

into the stacks: dead end in norvelt
posted by soe 2:27 am

Dead End in Norvelt, by Jack Gantos

From the jacket:
“Being grounded has never been so deadly! Melding the entirely true and the wildly fictional, Dead End in Norvelt portrays an incredible two months for a kid named Jack Gantos, whose plans for vacation excitement are shot down when he is ‘grounded for life’ by his feuding parents. But plenty of adventure is coming Jack’s way once his mother loans him out to help a feisty old neighbor with an unusual activity involving the newly dead and the long departed … a motorcycle gang and a man on a trike … as well as twisted promises and possibly murder.”

My take: This middle-grade book was a quick, but enjoyable summer read that I polished off on in a single evening en route to Salt Lake City (accompanied by two cds of music my dad put together highlighting the hits of 1962, the year the book takes place). While the fictionalized Jack Gantos is figuring out who he is and what he wants to over the course of the book, author Jack Gantos is schooling us in the history of Norvelt, Pennsylvania, a town commissioned by the federal government as part of the New Deal. The town consisted of 250 homesteads (sold to families based on an application system) intended to offer subsistence farming to miners who’d been laid off during the Depression. The first lady insisted that each house be outfitted with electricity, interior plumbing, and even laundry facilities, making her the patron saint of the village and inspiring its name.

But 30 years later, when the story is set, Norvelt is hurting. Jobs are scarce. Homes stand abandoned and residents have died off or fled in search of work.

At the outset of the summer Jack Gantos turns 12, he “borrows” the unloaded Japanese rifle his father brought home from the war, pretends to take aim at the enemies on the screen of the drive-in across the valley, and pulls the trigger. When the gun fires, both Jack and his mother are shocked and Jack finds himself grounded for the summer. His only parole? Helping his elderly neighbor, Miss Voelker, whose hands are so arthritic that she needs to soak them in a hot paraffin bath to get any use out of them.

Miss Voelker has retired as town nurse, but remains Norvelt’s medical examiner and obituary writer, jobs she was tasked with by First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt herself at town’s founding. Her recollection for local lore is unparalleled and her ability to tie local lives to world history (in those obituaries) impressive, if somewhat … elastic.

No longer able to type the obituaries herself, she first enlists Jack, who suffers from chronic nosebleeds and timidity, to do them for her, then later asks him to chauffeur her around town to the homes of the recently departed, who seem to be dropping with alarming frequency this year.

Jack, though hesitant, is glad to escape home whenever he can, as his parents seem perpetually angry at each other and at him and at the stresses of living in a down-on-its-luck town that’s fading away (literally: the houses are being towed elsewhere). His best friend, Bunny, daughter of the town mortician, is annoyed with his inability to do things with her (including playing on their already several-players-short baseball team). Summertime when you’re a kid lasts forever after all.

Dead End in Norvelt won the Newbery Medal and the Scott O’Dell Award in 2012, which surprised me, because at first the book seems awfully light for such prestigious honors. But upon reflection, its narrator’s casual style and humor mask exactly how much history is packed between its covers, making it an excellent hook for getting kids interested in American history without making it obvious; rest assured they (and you) will be entertained and effortlessly educated by this book.

384 (including appendices)

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September 9, 2013

music on monday: ‘raise the dead’
posted by soe 11:39 pm

Today’s post is a musical number. Rudi and I first discovered Caravan of Thieves on the local PBS affiliate when we were in Connecticut visiting my folks. I was so taken with their 15-minute spot that I immediately looked up their schedule to see if they’d be playing locally. [In the process of writing this post, I realized this is totally a lie. I first encountered them through their rendition of “The Grinch,” which I included on my 2010 Christmas mix.]

The quartet, who are based in Connecticut, plays a broad swath of music that could be described as swing/folk/jazz/klezmer fusion. They’re comprised of a husband (who’s particularly talented) and wife team who are the main vocalists/guitar players/percussionists, an upright bassist (or, at least, a guy who plays the upright bass), and a violinist/fiddler.

They played in Old Town Alexandria a couple weeks ago at a converted single-screen movie theater. It was a beautiful space for a show, but I felt the group either needed a slightly smaller space to make their set feel a little more immediate (that isn’t quite the right word, but it’s the best I can come up with right now) or maybe less inhibiting for the audience or an outdoor space that would have encouraged whirling and twirling.

“Raise the Dead” was the final song in their encore and one of the songs they invited audience participation for.

If they play anywhere near you, I highly recommend seeing them, because they’re a lot of fun. We’re even contemplating heading to Philly just to catch an encore performance next month!

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posted by soe 2:56 am

Currant Tomatoes
Our traditional summer Friday evening was spent at the Yards, listening to music and hanging out with friends. This coming Friday is the final one with a live band, although I’d be willing to keep going with a portable speaker and an iPod if others are willing.

Saturday I slept in and did far less than I hoped to or should have. I did get a load of laundry done, floors vacuumed, and bills paid, but no writing, knitting, cooking, or reading. I harvested tomatoes from the garden, admired the seedlings coming up already, and gave everything a generous dousing. Rudi and I concluded the night with a picnic dinner while watching Casablanca al fresco in a nearby park (where I also reached the disappointing conclusion that the new sock I began earlier in the week needed to go down a needle size). Oh, and I came up with an idea for a much-needed trip for me and Rudi.

Today, we hit the farmers market (plum jam!) and the local book sale (Jasper Fforde novel!) and the somewhat overrated Adams Morgan Day Festival. We met up with John and Nicole and ate cupcakes and had drinks (beer for them, hot chocolate for me) and dinner. Rudi and I finished the night with an episode of Doctor Who, while I worked on the sock I’d expected to be be finished with by now.

How was your weekend? Did you do fun things? Tackle projects you wanted to get done?

(weekending with Amanda)

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