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Friday, December 30, 2016

A Year in Review | 2016.

Same as last year, I'm borrowing Vicki's idea for a year in review post. The idea is to share the first line of the first blog post of each month and a favorite photo from that month's post. The two are not necessarily related.

January 2016

The sun is shining, the laundry is done, the house is clean, I have two new knitting projects on the needles (one for "just me" and one for next week's newsletters), a good book on Audible ... and a blog post for this first non-holiday weekday of 2016.

February 2016

My father's sister Betty drove up from North Palm Beach Saturday morning.

March 2016

Here's a glimpse from today's Tuesday with Charlie.

April 2016

I have two trips coming up this month and anticipate a good bit of time for knitting, but nothing too hard.

May 2016

I had the happy opportunity on Saturday morning to share this photo on Instagram.

June 2016

I think I'm going to start sharing these monthly collages less frequently.

July 2016

I spent much of last week knitting a new afghan for Sara.

August 2016

So, it turns out that finishing my sweater - knitting the second sleeve, a neckband (392 stitches of 1x1 ribbing!) and two pockets, then seaming those pockets, weaving in ends, blocking and sewing on buttons - took longer than I anticipated.

September 2016

Remember back a few months when we shared favorite foods our mom's used to make?

October 2016

I have a sense that "late October" is going to a lot different (Charlie's little brother is due October 28th, but Katie's doctor expects he'll be a few days early) - so I'd better document what's happening right now... right now!

November 2016

When my girls were young, Halloween was my least favorite holiday.

December 2016

Hello December, It seems way too early to be saying those words.

Thank you for sharing this year with me. It's been hard, but it's also been full of love, joy and family.

Wishing each of you a safe and fun New Year's Eve and a peaceful start for 2017.


Thursday, December 29, 2016

On Reading | Looking Back and Looking Ahead.

I'm glad I can say 2016 was a good year...for reading! Way back in January, I set a goal to read 60 books. I did that...and a few more.
Even discounting Fox's Socks (the one I shelved "with Charlie"), that total surprised me. It certainly didn't feel like I was finishing two books a week, but that's what the numbers say I averaged. The Read Harder Challenge and Summer Bingo certainly helped the total (those two challenges each contributed 24 books) and definitely contributed to the overall quality of what I read:
click here to see more details
I rated 19 books five stars and a whopping 56 with four. And I felt like I was being a hard grader this year (I also had less patience for books I didn't like - I recorded four "not gonna finish" and 3 with only two stars). Overall, I listened to 51 books (less than half) and borrowed 36 (not even a third - I need to work on this, too).

Those 19 five star books were all so good, it's hard to pick favorites. But I think these 13 stand out.

And these two - An Altar in the World and Invisible Man - made it to my all-time favorites list.

I have high hopes for 2017, too. There's a third Read Harder Challenge - I'm excited about what I'm planning
shelved here
...except maybe for that first category about sports. In the spirit of "reading harder" I'm not going to re-read The Art of Fielding or Last Days of Summer. Sara suggested something nonfiction about the Olympics. Other suggestions? I'm open!

Thinking more broadly about 2017, I have a number of unread books hanging around my audible, kindle and real life bookshelves. Those were all books I bought intending to read; and next year, I will (at least make a dent in the pile 😉)! I'm definitely planning another Summer Bingo (more to come on that - not sure if we'll be able to use the Books on the Nightstand card generator) and I challenge myself to read from my shelves then. But y'all know it's hard - buying books is one of my favorite things to do (along with buying yarn - topic for another post, but I intend to take a similar approach with my stash next year).

I started working through the list ... and came up with 55 titles (Read Harder is 23 of them, so 32 more) I'd like to read next year. There are a couple that I plan to buy, but most I either own or will borrow (my library is getting on board with Overdrive in a big way now, so borrowing is a lot easier). Rather than set a goal for how many books I read next year, I'm thinking more about what I read and from where. I've used Goodreads exclusively to track my reading since I joined (back in 2007?) but I'm going to start also using a spreadsheet too (like this one). I'm only setting two goals for next year:

Non-fiction - 30%
Borrow - 50%

I'm curious to see what genres, genders and nationalities I read. I'll bet it's not nearly as diverse as I would like. And given how much I read, I'd like to change that. ...more to come.

Whew - I didn't set out to write such a long post, but I really wanted to get everything in one place so it would be easy (for me!) to check in next year. If you did read this far, thank you for sticking with me! And I'd love to know - are you setting reading goal(s) for yourself next year? if so, what?

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Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Waiting and Watching | Week Three.

With all the zeal of the newly converted, "WOW!" or maybe "Whoa, that was fast!"

I took these photos yesterday afternoon - maybe 48 hours after I noticed the first bloom on Christmas Day.

...and then just for fun, this morning I played around with one of them.

I think I like what Waterlogue does with the pictures and the birds even more than the amaryllis.

Happy Wednesday!

(Week One, Week Two)

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Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Sheffield Family Christmas | 2016.

We had our annual family gathering yesterday at my sister's.

We've been doing this for years (maybe 20?) and the tradition has evolved into simply gathering on a holiday afternoon with fun food and drinks. Of course, "simply gathering" is a challenge now that three of the cousins live out of state, but everyone was there (and my mom is excited to be joining the party next year).

No more group photos either (here's one from 2008). It's hard enough to get everyone in one room! Here are most of us, listening to younger niece Paula read Merry Christmas, Curious George. This was her first time reading a book out loud to an audience and she did a fine job. She even grabbed Charlie's attention for a few minutes (no small feat given everything else that was going on).

I think we'll definitely need to try the group photo next year. What fun to have two toddlers in the mix! This little one will likely not be quite so still.

Today Marc is back to work and Sara & I have plans to binge-watch The OA (we're on Episode 4 now and's crazy!... Sara's already watched the first season and promises all will become clear to me soon.) Good thing my knitting projects don't require much thought!

Happy Tuesday!

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Monday, December 26, 2016

Weekending | Christmas.

I was the last one to bed last night. Catching up on a few podcasts, casting on a new project, looking at the twinkling lights on the tree ... a welcome pause after a full weekend.

Saturday started dark early. I woke up at 4:30 and couldn't get back to sleep (just like a little kid, excited for Christmas!). I sat down on the sofa with a cup of coffee and finally finished a Christmas book.

Marc was up early too, and it was fun to be together in the kitchen. He made Nuts and Bolts (aka Chex Mix) while I started the cranberry conserve for the Christmas dinner cheesecake.

The highlight of the afternoon was the children's service at church with Katie and Charlie. He really enjoyed all the singing, ringing the bells for Hark the Herald Angels Sing

and the birthday cake afterwards.

Sara was here when I got back and we enjoyed a nice evening with Elf and snacks for dinner. Yesterday started a little later - which was good, because assembling toys is best when you're well-rested.

We had brunch at Katie's. Sara's Thomas the Train gift was a big hit.

They came here for dinner. Charlie loved eating in the dining room. (so did the rest of us).

And one final highlight

a surprise bloom for Christmas day!

I hope your weekend included only good surprises, too!

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Friday, December 23, 2016

Around Here.

... it's beginning to look - and feel* - like Christmas. I took a few photos this afternoon and wanted to share them with y'all (and document for myself so I remember next year).

Here's the entry hall. Just three poinsettias. There was a fourth, but he went into this week's trash. maybe because that splash of sunshine didn't come until just a few days ago. or maybe because I overwatered...

Looking off to the right is the dining room. Those big poinsettias flanking the breakfront and the greens topping it are traditional, but the centerpiece on the table is new this year.

It's fresh greens, crystal, mercury glass and candles. We'll be eating Christmas dinner here this year and I wanted something low and bright.

This little arrangement took the place of the bird tree. I do love it, but I miss the twinkle lights. Next year maybe I'll just put lights on the railings!

Up on the left is the living room. I decorated the mantel with more fresh greens and more mercury glass.

Our Advent Tree sits opposite the mantel. It's a combination of holiday words and beloved photos.  One more photo to go and it's full... of memories, good times and family.

This is the view just past that tree, looking to the right.

and this is the view looking back.

It's all much simpler than in years past and I'm happy with it (well, except for the dead poinsettia). I think next year might see even more simplification...but I haven't quite figured out where. yet. 

Thank you for walking along with me as I made these notes!

Wishing each of you a warm and joyful weekend. xo, Mary

*until you step outside - and realize you don't even need a coat. We're having nearly record warm weather right now. and I'm taking that as a good sign for my mom - who will be moving here from Florida next summer. The last forecast I saw showed 68 degrees and sunshine for Christmas Day. I'm not sure we'll have the windows open, but we will, for sure, not be wearing coats!

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Thursday, December 22, 2016

Throwback Thursday | 1965.

I was three. We lived in southeast Texas (note the open window!). My dad worked for Texaco and back then one of their gasoline blends was called Fire Chief. Perfect for this hat!

I remembered this photo when Charlie donned his fire chief hat for the photo with my mom last month.

But it wasn't until I looked more closely that I saw the similarity in the two dads. Both with big smiles ... having a ball being dads!

The Think Write Thursday crew is tackling a challenging topic this week - about staying positive when everything is going wrong. This blog is my best answer. I try to look for the good in the posts I write (some days, like today, that's easy - other days...not so much) ... thinking about leaving a smile on my face and the faces of all you who will read it. And looking back through the archives never fails to remind me that even if things aren't going well right this second, my life has been full of blessings. And those memories can keep me going through some very dark times.

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Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Waiting and Watching | Week Two.

In spite of the cloudy, wet weather, both plants seem to be growing! Still, I'm sure they're appreciating the sunshine today.

I am, too! I've got a list of things to do inside but hopefully Holly and I can sneak out for a walk this afternoon. We need to experience sunny high 50's first-hand...I have a feeling we won't see weather again like this until next year ;-)

Happy Solstice!

(Week One)

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Tuesday, December 20, 2016

A Morning with Sam.

Charlie's dad is on vacation this week, so Charlie enjoyed a leisurely breakfast out with his parents. And I got to spend two whole hours alone with Sam. This is the first time Katie's left him when he's been awake; I was honored.

She asked for photos and of course I obliged. Look at that tongue.

and those blue eyes.

I finally got a little smile...which I thought might even turn into a laugh.

Sadly not.

...and a few minutes later playtime was over.

(knitting time!)

And one last chapter in the sample knitting saga. Early this morning I wove in all the ends and steam-blocked the seams. I tried it on and it fits beautifully (whew!) Then I shared a quick photo with the designer and here's what she wrote back.
I feel better about the whole experience already :-)

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Monday, December 19, 2016

Holiday Knitting.

Yesterday, I invited three of my best knitting friends (who are also, lucky me! family) over for some "holiday knitting". I mixed up a batch of sangria and chilled a bottle of prosecco. because of course drinks!

Everyone brought a snack to share and cookies to swap. It was a beautiful spread.
Katie (with Sam), Lydia , "the spread", and Karen
Knitters do just about everything better don't they?, especially food. Katie brought vegetables and a warm spinach parmesan dip; Lydia made cranberry brie phyllo triangles; and Karen contributed bacon wrapped scallops (which she says she bought frozen at Trader Joe's and I only halfway believe her ... they were that good!). I made a holiday version of the marinated goat cheese. I substituted a few tablespoons of chopped rosemary and thyme for the basil and topped it with pomegranate seeds.

The knitting was fun, too (and not just because I wasn't knitting the sample). I added an inch-ish to the cowl on No Tails; Lydia and Karen were both knitting socks (Karen was knitting with the KFI Indulgence we bought nearly two years ago when I dragged her to Madison in February - she almost made me want to get back to the pair I have hibernating). Katie, however, had her hands full not knitting.

and yeah, as much as we love knitting, each of us happily took a turn in her place.

I hope this is a new tradition for us. (well, except for the little baby part - I'm certainly not wishing annual newborns on Katie ;-)

Maybe it was all the good knitting vibes in the house yesterday, but hey, here's what happened today.
It really does feel finished now. and I feel about about twenty pounds lighter.

Hope your week is off to a great start, too!

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Saturday, December 17, 2016

Top Secret Knitting.

Most Decembers, I'm knitting all sorts of top secret things... things that will - hopefully before Christmas - be finished, wrapped and gifted with love. But this year, I've been working on a different kind of Top Secret Knitting. and I have this to report:
Knitting a top secret sample in December is not a good idea. (This is my first time knitting a top secret sample; maybe they're never a good idea!?!)
Back in October, the owner of my LYS called to ask if I'd be interested in knitting sample(s) for the Spring Summer 2017 Shibui release. This was the first time our shop had been asked to participate in the sample knitting and I was flattered to be included. Of course I said yes. The next week Sam was born. Two weeks later I picked up my sample materials, briefly noting the December 31 due date. It wasn't even Thanksgiving yet and I was going to be knitting a short sleeved sweater in DK weight yarn on size 7 needles. I was happily knitting on No Tails, finished a pair of socks for Sara and a hat for Sam (still to be blogged).
casting on the 2nd sleeve - that Due Date SO visible!
Two weeks ago I finally took a serious look at that sample knit. A little over 1,000 yards. Pieces. Seams. I figured I should swatch. (and I did - and got quick approval to cast on.) I decorated for Christmas. I made a holiday playlist. I kept knitting No Tails, sure I could finish it before the sample.

Last Thursday, I finally set it aside (still needing 5" of cowl neck and two seams) to cast on the sample. Then early this week, I realized I really needed to have that sweater done well in advance of December 31. More like December 21 (so I could enjoy the holidays and Sara's visit). Whoa....

The first piece of the sweater took me five days to knit. The second took two, the third one and this morning I finished the second sleeve. Whew. monogamous knitting FTW!
taking a bath early this afternoon
It's drying now. It still needs to be seamed (which is never my favorite part of finishing), but hopefully the hard part is behind me. I won't be able to share anything more about this project until the pattern launches - in February? - but I promise FO shots then. I think it's a winner.

...and now back to the not-secret parts of December!
yesterday morning, waiting for the puppet show to begin (Katie drove; I knitted in the car :-)
Hope you're somewhere safe and warm, with knitting and a beverage of choice. I'm going to be picking up No Tails again. and relaxing with a (well-deserved ;-) glass of wine.  Happy Saturday!


Thursday, December 15, 2016

Looking Back | Fall 2016.

Yes, I'm still taking daily photos ... and before we pass the mid-point of December, how about a look back at Fall.

Summer lingered well into October (sandals on the 20th!) and Winter made a few brief appearances (Charlie's hat and coat), but most of it is pure Fall:
  • The arrival of little Sam on October 25th.
  • Which means I've stayed home. No trips. My mom and Sara both traveled here over Thanksgiving, and I have proof of Mother's visit (Hi! on the 28th) but not Sara's... must do better when she's here for Christmas!
  • Charlie turned two back in September. These three months-at-a-time views really show how fast he's growing!
  • More reading (and no covered bingo card this year).
  • No more evening knitting classes; my last one was October 13th and I haven't missed it. not even a little.
  • Another birthday and another anniversary.
  • Inspector Morse and Call the Midwife on Netflix, mostly accompanied by knitting.
  • Nine WIPs, of which all but two (No Tails and Stole 2.0) became FOs.
  • Crafting the advent calendar with Katie.
  • November Sundays with the Timbered Choir.
  • Another Georgia Tech win (vs. Georgia) on November 26th.
  • A little bit of porch time.
  • ...and apparently a diet of coffee, beer, wine and the occasional cocktail!
Now there's a chill in the air (really - it's below freezing this morning!), I'm listening to my holiday playlist and seeing the lights on the tree reflected on my computer screen. Signs of Winter for sure. Hope the new season is off to a bright start for you, too!

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Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Watercolor Wednesday | Waiting and Watching.

in my study
Yesterday's trip to Whole Foods was mostly about picking up amaryllis. We came home with two. The one in front is labeled "white" and has already started to sprout (I took that as a good sign; I also like the fern it's planted with). The one in back came fully ready to pot (the package included a pot and potting soil) and is a "Red Lion". Charlie and I made quick business of getting that second one potted.

But it took me a while to find a good location for the two pots. The directions say "full sunlight"; I'm not sure there are many (any?) places in my house where that's going to happen. But on a sunny day, this chest gets good afternoon sunlight. We'll see.

Thank you, Bonny and Kym for the encouragement!

Now the waiting and watching begins...

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Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Tuesdays with Charlie | Currents.

...from the eyes of a two-year old (who's 27 months old today)!

wearing "my jacket and the hat that Marmie knit me."

loving anything that makes him tall.

smiling for his mama.

stirring macaroni and cheese.

waiting (impatiently) for the cookies to cool.

practicing fine motor skills with a new set of beads

there was also

wondering "where's Holly?" and feeding her a cookie.

listening to Marmie read The Christmas Crocodile*.

singing Jingle Bells.

playing with a flashlight in the dark corners of the mudroom and the coat closet.

Happy Tuesday!! (and thank you all for sharing this Marmie journey with me!)

*Marmie can't help but wonder if that Bonny Becker is the one she knows?!

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