Tuesday, February 15, 2022

Mid-February Smorgasbord

First, a shout out to my fellow bloggers who manage to post on a regular schedule, or even every day. I don't know how you do it, but I love reading your posts. Thanks to everyone who reads and comments on my posts as well! I do love this little blogging world we've all nested inside of.

Remember when this was a knitting blog? Hey look, I knit something!

The pattern is the Midnattsol Hat and I used Knitpicks Gloss which is merino wool and silk. I do love colorwork but the pattern had many rows that used three colors (it's usually just two) and it was difficult to manage the yarn. I kept having to stop and untangle the giant mess. The pattern ended up looking really nice but I probably won't knit it again. The soft and squishy hat went off to live with my cousin, who has been a grateful knitted hat recipient in the past (he even took one mountaineering in Argentina), and who is dealing with some pretty serious health issues right now. I also knit a hat for his wife, because in Chicago everyone needs multiple hats, but I didn't take a picture of that one. It was that hat you see everywhere, you know the one with the horizontal ridges alternated with 1x1 ribbing, and a faux fur pompom on top.

A word of warning about faux fur pompoms: one of my coworkers was out walking and a hawk dive-bombed her because it thought she had a dead rodent on her head.

A three year old became a four year old. Three definitely had its cute and fun moments, but four is when kids get easier. We are all breathing a sigh of relief around here. 

So I'm pretty much an idiot and I bought Mary one of those teeny tiny dollhouse kits for Christmas. It does look adorable, but it is ridiculously tiny. RIDICULOUSLY. You have to build everything almost completely, and an 8 year old approaches the project by just dumping every teeny tiny part into a (teeny tiny) pile, and half of it rolls off and disappears down the heating vent. Fair warning to anyone who falls for the cuteness of these kits. In case you don't believe me about the teeny tiny claim, here's a stick of deodorant for scale.

Jason and I escaped for one night to Annapolis. It was fairly cold and we didn't have much time, so we just walked through the city, which was not that big. It was worth it though, to have coffee, dinner, and breakfast while sitting down the whole time, never having to get up to bring anyone milk or tell anyone to just STOP IT. There are boats there. I am not sure what else one does in Annapolis, maybe drinks and eats crabs?

I also read a couple of good books. I loved Miss Benson's Beetle by Rachel Joyce, which had been on my list for some time and I finally got around to requesting from the library. It's a book that sounds a little weird from the description, but ended up being an exciting, endearing story. A middle-aged woman and her mysterious younger sidekick go exploring New Caledonia in the 1950s in search of an elusive, undiscovered golden beetle. It was both funny and heartbreaking. I had never heard of New Caledonia before and I assumed it was made up, but nope, it's an actual place!

I followed that up with The Guide by Peter Heller. This book is set in Colorado, and the descriptions of the West really got me. We lived for awhile in that part of the country, and Heller manages to capture the beauty of the place. It ended up being a weird mashup of literary fiction, thriller, and dystopia that made for a quick read. Also there was an extra line between every paragraph which I couldn't really figure out. Was that just to make the book longer?

I am now about halfway through Matrix, which I was so excited to read because I love Lauren Groff. But... I don't know if I can do it. If you've read this book, you know what I mean. Where are the quotation marks? I'd debating if I should abandon it - the parts about 12th-century life are pretty interesting/horrifying, but I don't know if I can slog through more religious visions to get there.

We're now halfway through February, and daylight savings time starts in less than a month! The increased light has had a huge impact on improving my mood and energy, and I can't wait until spring.

Wednesday, February 2, 2022

My Favorites: Handwritten Books

In college I couldn't decide between English and Art History, so I majored in both. It should come as no surprise that I have a slight obsession with a niche genre of book: those that are hand-written. I'm not talking about comics or graphic novels, both of which I do enjoy, but books where the author has actually written out the text of the book in their handwriting. Most often this is accompanied by art. Now, if Amazon reviews were to be believed these books are "annoying" and "unreadable", but my glasses-aided eyesight is up to the task! (Note: Don't read reviews on Amazon, stick to Goodreads. I have seen so many 1-star reviews because "the book arrived too late" or "the book was damaged" when it just had a deckled edge.) Here are some of my favorite authors and books.

Another note: it's possible that some of these books are not completely handwritten, but were composed in a font that is based on the author's handwriting. I spent much time comparing letters to try to figure this out, but then my brain exploded.

Lynda Barry

Lynda Barry is the queen of this genre and I adore all of her books. Every page is a combination of words, drawings, doodles, and collage. She has published many books in this format, but my favorites are What It Is and Picture This, which focus on creativity, writing, and where images come from.

Susan Branch

You may know Susan Branch from her illustrated cookbooks, but she has also written three memoirs that are illustrated by hand: The Fairy Tale Girl, Martha's Vineyard - Isle of Dreams, and A Fine Romance. The first two books cover her life in California and divorce, and then her move to Martha's Vineyard and start of her career as a professional artist. A Fine Romance is a travel journal of a trip to England which is great inspiration for keeping an illustrated journal.

Vivian Swift

I have read just one of Vivian Swift's books, When Wanderers Cease to Roam: A Traveler's Journal of Staying Put. It was published in 2008, but it turned out to be quite appropriate for pandemic times.

Danny Gregory

Danny Gregory has written many, many books in his signature sketchbook-like style. Some are memoirs and others are instructional drawing books. My favorite is The Creative License, which is focused on drawing and journal-keeping, but has a lot of great advice about creativity in general. Of all these artists, Danny Gregory is the one who makes me want to draw more. He makes it seem so accessible; he even has a book called How to Draw Without Talent.

Claudia Nice

Claudia Nice writes how-to books mainly about watercolor and pen-and-ink drawing. The textures she can achieve with watercolor are mind-blowing. I have Creating Textures in Pen and Ink with Watercolor and How To Keep a Sketchbook Journal, both of which are beautiful, but a lot more intimidating than Danny Gregory's books! I love looking at the work of accomplished artists though, and all of her books are worth studying if you are a watercolor artist. Note that although she has published multiple books, some of them repeat content.

Mary Woodin

Mary Woodin's The Painted Garden is charming. This book is a chronicle of her year in the garden, and is a bit more sparse than some of the others listed in this post, but I particularly love her watercolor flowers. I was so excited when I saw that Anne of My Giant Strawberry was writing an illustrated journal like this - in fact I think I heard of this book on her blog.

Lauren Redniss

Lauren Redniss is a new-to-me author that I only heard of a few weeks ago, so I haven't read any of her books yet. I did purchase Century Girl which is visually stunning. Unlike the authors above, Redniss uses mainly collage as her medium, which gives her books more of a scrapbook feel. Her books are also not personal journals or artist how-tos, but history and biography.

Do you like reading these types of books, or is it too hard on the eyes? Are there any authors I'm missing?