It’s cold and dark…

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“It’s cold, it’s dark, and it’s going to last the rest of your life”-  Bill Murray hit the nail on the head, man Winter just seems to go on forever for me- and I live in the “South” (Is Oklahoma part of The South to you? I would say no. Having lived in Virginia and Tennessee I see Oklahoma as a very different state of mind than The South or The Midwest. I would call it Western or Texas’s red-headed cousin).

The photo today is my Quince & Co Beatrice cardigan in Blue Sky Alpaca EXTRA. This sweater has been on the needles since November 2016 and I am on the never-ending front band.

I started working 9a-7p this past week so it is very dark by the time I get home in the evenings to read.  Like most people, in the last few years I took to the idea of Hygge- the concept of drawing inwards and focusing on cozy comforts in the winter time.  Last year in January I read The Year of Living Danishly: My Twelve Months Unearthing the Secret of the World’s Happiest Country by Helen Russell.  I like the literary structure of taking one year and focusing on a different concept every month (ala My Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes, The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin and This is Where You Belong by Melody Warnick).  It makes a big concept seem less daunting and usually makes for a quick read.  The Year of Living Danishly certainly did not make me want to move to Denmark (rest easy Mom), but it did get me thinking about Hygge books- books that are comforting and cozy and I can return to again and again.

Every couple years I will reread The Inn at Lake Devine by Elinor Lipman.  This is the perfect romantic comedy to me.  Natalie Marx is a strong-minded woman who, as a teenager, was invited to tag along to the exclusive (meaning exclusively gentile) Inn at Lake Devine by a friend.  As an adult she reconnects with her WASPy childhood friend and the family that owns the Inn and a wedding, a funeral and a love story ensue.

Another book that was full of lovable, imperfect characters was Small Blessings by Martha Woodroof. It is set in Lynchburg, Va, where one of my dear friends attended college.  There is something I love about the idea of university towns- smart people tucked away in an idyllic setting.  This book is about a single bookseller who moves to town with a complicated past and falls for a professor with complications of his own.

Finally I love to escape to a fantasy world and especially the books I loved as a kid.  I still pull Ella Enchanted by Gail Levine off the shelf every couple years to revisit this plucky heroine.  I also loved the Tamora Pierce Song of the Lioness books growing up because it featured another strong female lead who was brave enough to follow her own, less traditional, path.

And of course if nothing else will do I can always go back to Harry Potter.  I love the whole series and cannot wait to get me hands on the illustrated edition of The Prisoner of Azkaban. If you have not had the chance to look at the illustrated books that have been coming out in the past few years take this opportunity to cozy up with these beautiful books.

What books make you feel warm and cozy?

Books on my shelf:

  • Almost Sisters by Joshilyn Jackson
  • It’s All Relative: Adventures Up and Down the World’s Family Tree by A.J. Jacobs
  • Faithful by Alice Hoffman- trying this one on audiobook, which I do not normally do, so we will see if I like it

 

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Quirky Misfits

unnamed-1Allison’s Post #2 2018

Although I was commissioned to write a reading blog post, I feel like it is appropriate to share with y’all my first finished knit of the year.  This is probably the fourth or fifth time I have made this Tincan Knits Antler Hat; this one is in Lorna’s Laces Monsters Yarn in Mouse Grey . I added a pom pom and some length to the ribbing from the original pattern.  It was very cozy ,while it was in the teens, here, this past week.

So back to why I am here:  this week I am talking about one of my favorite contemporary literary archetypes: the quirky misfit.  These characters are always socially inept but often charming as they try to fit into a world that they do not understand.  Don Tillman, the protagonist of Graeme Simsion’s The Rosie Project, is the first that comes to mind when I am thinking about this category of fiction.  If you have not read this charming little book I highly recommend it.  Don is a professor in Australia who has decided that he has reached the point in his life where he needs a wife.  So, as a scientist, he embarks on a project to find the “perfect” woman. Of course, he meets his opposite in bartender, Rosie, and hilarity ensues.

This past summer I read Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler, a modern retelling of The Taming of the Shrew. This book takes place in Baltimore and also follows an academic family and their “spinster” daughter, Kate.  Kate is a rebel who had a promising scientific career but quit school before she completed her degree and now focuses on caring for her mad scientist of a father. When he introduces her to his new lab assistant Pyoder sparks fly, but will it lead to romance? If you have seen any Shakespeare comedy you probably see where this is going.  I had a lot of fun reading it after I saw the play at Shakespeare in Park and it was fun to hear about Baltimore landmarks.  Baltimore, also known as “Charm City” is a city I have a lot of affection for despite its reputation, it may in fact be the quirky misfit of cities.

My favorite fiction book I read this past year was Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman. Eleanor’s solitary and routine- filled life changes one day when she and a coworker help an older man who has collapsed on the street.  It reminded me a little of  A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Bachman because it is a feel-good story but wades into darker territory as we explore Eleanor’s lonely upbringing.

If nonfiction essays are more up your alley I had so much fun reading Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things by Jenny Lawson.  Jenny, aka “The Bloggess”, is hilarious as she write essays about how she has learned to live with her sometimes crippling depression.   Jenny quotes the Breakfast Club to say “we’re all pretty bizarre, some of us are just better at hiding it”. Another book of essays by an awesomely bizarre writer is We Are Never Meeting in Real Life by Samantha Irby. Samantha has been a part-time writer, full time vet tech in Evanston, IL for almost 20 years when she published this book after meeting her wife on the internet and moving to Grand Rapids, MI.  I, again,  loved to hear about a place that I have lived and I  laughed out loud at the airport reading about Samantha’s “application” to The Bachelor.  As much as I love to watch The Bachelor, it is not a place for a quirky misfit; although, this season features a girl with a pixie cut (GASP, short hair?!) so maybe there will be space for us there one day.  Oh yes, if you haven’t figured it out I have a lot of affection for these characters because, as my mother so lovingly pointed out when I told her about this post, I too am a quirky misfit, but luckily I have always managed to find my place.

Questions:

  • Vinegar Girl and Accidental Tourist are the only books I have read by Anne Tyler. Does anyone have any other recommendations?
  • Which city is your favorite for a book setting?
  • Are these blog posts too long? Should I try to edit my thoughts for next week?

Books on my shelf:

  • Vacationland (John Hodgman)- this book made me laugh out loud reading it at the brewery the other day.
  • Lily and the Octopus (Steven Rowley)- I have probably read 10 pages since last week, this book is becoming my nemesis
  • We’re Going to Need More Wine (Gabrielle Union)

Someone is staring at you in personal growth..(Happy Tuesday Text by Allison)

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Hello readers of CompassionKnit!  It is so nice to meet you, I have heard a lot about all of you and I know you have heard about me as well.

I am a knitter, reader, and Kathy B’s daughter, and as she announced last week I will be joining the blog this year to provide some readerly content.

I love the new year, to me it always feels like a fresh start, a new beginning, a blank planner. Sometimes my life is more like the 30 Rock episode where Liz Lemon buys out The Container Store, states “my life is going to be wonderful”, then promptly trips and drops all of her purchases; but I cannot help but love the feeling of opportunity the new year brings.

So what better time than now to discuss the perhaps controversial genre of “Self Help”, “Personal Growth” or “Self Improvement”.  Whatever your preferred moniker, I know that some people avoid this section of the bookstore like the plague.  But we’re not going to get too serious here, I’m just going to talk about a few self-helpy books that I enjoyed in the last year.

I loved Gretchen Rubin’s Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives and its follow-up The Four Tendencies: The Indispensable Personality Profiles that Reveal How to Make Your Life Better.  Rubin puts people into four categories: Questioner, Rebel, Obliger and Upholder; and believes that understanding which category you fall into can help you to make and stick to your habits. My best friend is an Obliger- which led to us creating a workout pact this past year.  Knowing that she had to report her workouts to me made her stick to her plan.  Discovering that I am a questioner helped me realize why I have never been able to stick to journalling- I do not have a purpose behind it so after the initial rush of a new notebook the habit falls apart. This year instead of journalling daily I am aiming to write 52 “Micro-Memoirs”, to help me notice the little things in my life and be able to look back on them at the end of the year (this idea was inspired by one of my favorite books of last year: Heating & Cooling: 52 Micro Memoirs by Beth Ann Fennelly).   If you are curious about your tendency you can go to Gretchen Rubin’s website to learn more https://gretchenrubin.com/2015/01/ta-da-the-launch-of-my-quiz-on-the-four-tendencies-learn-about-yourself/#newsletter

Another favorite I read in 2017 was This is Where You Belong: The Art and Science of Loving the Place You Live by Melody Warnick. If you have been reading this blog for a while you probably know that I have moved across this country a lot in the last few years.  After a few years in one place I begin to get restless, always searching out the “perfect” place. This book helped me embrace where I am- and led to a lot of tangible changes. I currently live in Oklahoma City, a place I did not choose and was not initially excited about but I have grown to love it.  I have attended city council meetings, joined a book club, found a new place to volunteer, attended the OKC ballet and become an OKC Thunder fan in order to feel more like a part of the community.  It has worked and made me happier to be where I am right now  (even though this community is in mourning right now due to the stunning Sooner loss in the Rose Bowl last night).

What are your favorite self-help books?

What book caused you to make changes in 2017?

What is a favorite inspirational quote to start off the new year?

I think I’ll go with another thought from the immortal Carrie Fisher: “Stay afraid, but do it anyway”

Can’t wait to hear from y’all, we’ll talk in the comments and I’ll see you next week.

(I think I’ll end my posts with the books I’m currently reading and feel free to let me know what you’re reading as well)

Currently on my shelf:

  • Lily and the Octopus (Steven Rowley)- has anyone read this? It is my book club pick this month and I am not sure I can finish it.  The one thing that I really do not like to read are stories about animals dying.
  • Parable of the Sower (Octavia E. Butler)
  • The Dance of Connection: How to Talk to Someone When You’re Mad, Hurt, Scared, Frustrated, Insulted, Betrayed or Desperate (Harriet Lerner)