sprite writes
broodings from the burrow

March 15, 2016

redefining success
posted by soe 2:14 am

I do not have a pair of finished socks to show you as the first round of Sock Madness comes to a close.

But I do have a finished single sock:

Sock Madness #1

2016 Sock Madness

And that is literally half the battle.

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March 11, 2016

eight, plans, and bread
posted by soe 2:57 am


Three beautiful things from this first week of March:

1. Eight pounds of tea, nearly a year’s supply, arrives to replenish my canisters. I’m so excited to drink Assam and Irish Breakfast again. I’ve been out of them for months!

2. An old friend texted to say that he and his husband would be on the East Coast for events on back-to-back weekends, but had no plans between the two. Would we mind if they came to D.C. to hang out? Why, no, no we wouldn’t.

3. Despite forgetting the sugar originally, my cranberry bread is very tasty. Plus, other than taking a slice to my coworker who regularly shares the fruits of her baking with me, I get to eat the whole thing myself for a week’s worth (or so) of breakfasts.

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

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March 10, 2016

yarning along during sock madness
posted by soe 3:02 am

This is just a quick post because, frankly, I’m starting to realize exactly what a mess I’ve left my knitting in in order to advance in Sock Madness. I have until midnight on Monday night to finish, but I’m not yet to the heel on sock #1. And apparently the heel is a challenge. And it’s toe-up, which means getting it off the needles is more time-consuming than toe down.

So, here’s my plan:

Tonight: Go to bed after I’ve finished my tea. Getting enough sleep to not fall asleep while knitting is crucial to the rest of the plan.
Tomorrow (Thursday): Get through the heel on sock #1.
Friday: Knit the entire leg of sock #1.

Saturday: Knit the foot and heel of sock #2.
Sunday: Knit the leg of sock #2.

This leaves Monday after work for overflow when that schedule proves unrealistic. It doesn’t sound bad right now, but I did want to do some things other than work and knit for the next few days, and I can’t afford to eat every meal out between now and then!

Reading and Knitting

(That photo could look less awkward; there’s a ball of yarn in the toe (as well as my own toes) from where I moved through the skein to get to a more contrasty section.)

Anyway, I’m still listening to Death at Wentwater Court by Carola Dunn while I knit, and I’ve been sneaking in the short chapters of The Country of the Pointed Firs by Sarah Orne Jewett, one of the novellas my library picked for its Rush Hour Reads series, in microbursts on my commutes. I am enjoying and recommend both.

Yarning along with Ginny.

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March 8, 2016

posted by soe 3:17 am

Dear Gramma,

Today would have been your 95th birthday.

In your memory, I’ve made some cranberry bread. In my own unique way, I managed to leave out the sugar. I didn’t catch it until after I’d put the batter in the pan, because I was being good and hadn’t licked my fingers until then. I thought you’d have been proud — until I tasted the dough. I’d known something was off — I’d checked the wet ingredient list several times because it had seemed too thick, but those were correct. It was that sole tricky dry ingredient tucked between the stuff I was supposed to sift and the wet ingredients that I’d combined. So I scraped the entire thing back into the bowl and poured in the sugar and then stood there trying to get the sugar to mix in thoroughly and laughed. You would have, too, because it was such an important ingredient to leave out. And because I could imagine you laughing about it with me, I started to cry.

I know, I know. You’ve been gone almost a year, and by now you’d have hoped I’d have gotten past this stage. So, of course, I cried harder, because you’d have been impatient and fed up with my sentimentality, and I cried because I knew that, too.

A year ago, I called you from a hotel in Budapest to wish you a happy birthday. I don’t remember exactly what we talked about — probably how much snow was still on the ground in Connecticut and what Mum had made for your birthday dinner and then about what Rudi and I had seen so far. You always asked me what exciting things I’d been up to, declaring that you counted on me (and, I assume, Josh, since I’d guess you probably said the same thing to him) to do exciting things to tell you about.

So, let me tell you: I took this afternoon off from work to spend some time with Rudi before he heads out on a two-week road trip. (Yes, that is a long time. Yes, I am going to miss having him cook for me, but I’ll muddle through.) We walked down to look at the garden; it’s probably time for me to head out and start digging up the plot and get my peas in. (Yes, I remember your telling me that your father would plant his peas and his potatoes on Good Friday.) Maybe this weekend. Then we walked over to Georgetown and stopped at this cafe to buy cupcakes and hot drinks, and we took them down to the park by the river. There’s a spot where the steps go right down into the Potomac, and people were feeding the ducks, and a guy kept throwing sticks into the water for his dog to chase, and the rowing teams were out in their sculls practicing on the river. (Yes, I think Josh did do crew for a while in school.) And it was sunny and pleasant out and we sat there watching it all until the sun got low in the sky and the rowing teams went back to their boathouses and the dog and his person went home, and then we went home, too. So, no, I guess that wasn’t very exciting after all, was it?

I realized the other day that I don’t remember the last conversations we had. I assured Josh last year that time was kind and that we’d forget those last couple horrid conversations where you were out of it, and, for me at least, that’s been true. But I’ve lost any specifics of the good ones before that, probably in part because our conversations took much of the same shape every week, so they all blend into a whole pattern, rather than any one standing out on its own. So even though I can fill in your end of the conversation as if you were here, I’d still love it if you were the one saying your lines instead of my reciting them for you.

I would have poured one out for you today, but you wouldn’t have had any patience for that kind of waste. So, instead, I’ll leave a teaspoon or so of tea at the bottom of my mug when I get to the end of my cup. Despite the fact that you spent 60 years drinking tea made from tea bags, you still left a mouthful behind from your days as a girl drinking loose-leaf tea. We all thought it was weird, but now it’s just another one of those things that made you you.

I love you, Gramma, and I miss you. Happy birthday. I’m going to go eat a piece of cranberry bread for you.


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March 7, 2016

early march weekending
posted by soe 2:20 am

This was a quiet weekend. I took myself bowling yesterday and spent last night and today being surprised exactly how many muscles in your butt you use to bowl. Other than some soreness, though, it was just what I needed to clear my head. It’s surprising how refreshing it feels to fling a ball as hard as you can at something that will clatter loudly to the ground. (In case you were wondering, it takes three games to clear my head and a fourth one to bowl a proper game.)

This weekend was the quarterly member sale at one of my local bookshops, so I headed there, as well. I bought myself a book and one for an upcoming swap out of the frequent buyer dividends we’d accrued shopping at Christmas, so it was kind of like they were free!

Today I acquired another book, this time a cookbook. My farmers market decided to institute a free frequent shopping program to drum up business at the winter market. Because I go the market every weekend we’re in town regardless of the season, and because I’ve had no travel plans this winter, they’ve rewarded me with a market bag and a book with recipes for cooking vegetable dishes for one. As Rudi is about to begin a two-week road trip with his skiers, its arrival really is quite timely. Maybe I’ll eat something for supper besides sandwiches or cereal while he’s away!

I also played volleyball and ran a couple of errands on bike share for the annual Errandeneuring bike challenge, read a bit, and knit on my Sock Madness sock. I’ll have to pick up the pace while Rudi’s away if I want to advance, but it’s not like I have any other plans later this week, so I’m not despairing yet.

Weekending along with Karen at Pumpkin Sunrise

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March 6, 2016

into the stacks: february 2016, part 1
posted by soe 2:54 am

I read nine books last month, so in the interest of getting through them all, I’m going to divide them into two posts. Tonight, I’ll give you the first four:

Honest Engine: Poems, by Kyle Dargan

Poetry is the one type of book that I’m regularly tempted to buy even if I know nothing about the book or the author. If the blurb or cover are appealing, I’ll pick it up, and if I like a poem in it, there’s every chance it’ll come home with me. Poetry, being more immediate than prose, has a way of bypassing all that getting-to-know-you crap that prose needs to engage in and beelines to your soul. It’s like it skips the small talk and jumps straight to either sucker punching you in the gut or stroking your hair (in a totally not creepy kind of way). So, when, last summer, I was browsing the new releases table at Politics and Prose, and I came across a cleverly designed cover and a blurb that suggested the poems inside would examine “the mechanics of the heart and mind as they are weathered by loss,” I was hooked, still recovering, as I was, from my grandmother’s death.

I’ve already recommended this accessible collection from a D.C. resident once before, and I’ll underscore that again now. Dargan’s poetry runs the gamut from the State of the Union to sleep deprivation to a dozen or so poems about loved ones gone from this earth, with a surprising amount of science fiction fandom thrown in for good measure.

Published: 2015.
Pages: 96.

One Crazy Summer, by Rita Williams-Garcia

The Garcia sisters — 11-year-old Delphine, 9-year-old Vonetta, and 7-year-old Fern — have traveled from Brooklyn to Oakland to visit their mother who left them when Fern was a baby. Set in 1968, the story focuses on the girls striving to navigate the unknown waters of life with a woman who rejected them and of an unknown city, where the Black Panthers, who run the recreation center where the girls spend their days, are gaining power and recognition. Just as they discover that the Black Panthers are more complicated than White TV and their Southern grandmother has led them to believe, so, too, do they find that their mother, a poet, and her reasons for leaving are equally complex. The girls may never get to the beach or to Disneyland, but they will definitely feel like they’ve seen a lot by the time they head back home.

The third book in the Garcia girls’ story just won an award this winter, which reminded me that I hadn’t yet read the first novel, also a prize-winner. Destined to be a classic, this middle-grade novel is an enjoyable read about a girl whose world is going to change over the course of one summer, but just maybe not in the ways she’s expecting it to. Combine that solid story with the book’s parallels to our modern day at a time when police violence toward Black citizens across the nation is regularly making headlines and when protests against that violence feel the need to echo the plea and refrain that Black Lives Matter, and you have an important book for us to read, particularly with our kids. The distance afforded by the fifty years between its setting and today allow a safe lens for exploring some of the roots of the movement while simultaneously underscoring why it’s frustrating that so many of these conversations (and the events that prompt them) still happen today.

Published: 2012.
Pages: 218. Library copy.

The Book Itch: Freedom, Truth, & Harlem’s Greatest Bookstore, by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson, with illustrations by R. Gregory Christie

I don’t review every picture book I read, but if I read them at home for myself (as opposed to reading them in the bookstore with an eye toward gifting them to small children), I count them. I requested this non-fiction book from the library without realizing it was a picture book, but that didn’t stop me from enjoying it. Nelson tells the story of her great-uncle, who opened a Black-centric bookstore in Harlem in the 1930s, from the perspective of his son who grew up in the 1950s and 1960s. Lewis loved the sense of community the store brought to the neighborhood, the vehicle it provided residents for protesting injustices, and the celebrities, such as Muhammed Ali and Malcolm X, who visited the shop. Christie’s illustrations help bring the store and the period of time to life.

While this is a picture book, I would not recommend it for youngest readers, because the climax of the story focuses on the day Malcolm X is killed, at an event Lewis’ dad is attending and will be upsetting to particularly small kids. It is a great way, though, to share a piece of history with older elementary and middle school readers in an accessible way that may inspire them to further investigation into the topic and which will certainly help them appreciate the power of the written word.

Published: 2015.
Pages: 32. Library copy.

Emmanuel’s Dream: The True Story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah, by Laurie Ann Thompson, with illustrations by Sean Qualls

I requested this picture book with Rudi in mind, because bicycles. But after he’d finished it, I couldn’t help but read it myself before returning it to the library. Yeboah was born disabled in Ghana, where disabilities are considered a curse and where the disabled are expected to become beggars. His mother and his grandmother, though, don’t just see a bad leg, but a curious and bright child. They make sure he goes to school and instill in him a sense of industry and ambition, which lead him to playing soccer with his schoolmates and, eventually, to learning to ride a bike. Later, in 2001, as an adult, he will ride 400 miles across Ghana to raise awareness of what disabled people are capable of, if only people will give them a chance to show it. He used that fame to raise funds to further that cause and to build schools across his country.

This nonfiction picture book is appropriate for even the youngest readers and offers lots of opportunity for discussions about disability, poverty, and international differences.

Published: 2015.
Pages: 40. Library copy.

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