I’m ready to tackle my first shelf, which poses a bit of a problem. The only books I haven’t read are ones I’m not exactly in the mood for, because they are all very serious and/or depressing. I thought about going out of order, but that would probably be too difficult to keep track of. I’m going to read The Education of a British-Protected Child: Essays by Chinua Achebe, because it will be valuable, and I know I’ll learn from it. I teach Things Fall Apart and some of his short stories, so I’ll be able to use parts of it in my lessons. I’m not even sure this book belongs on this shelf. It’s a collection of essays, but it’s kind of a memoir, and I included memoir with fiction for some reason. I’ll probably rearrange at some point.
Books on this shelf I’ve read: Douglas Adams The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah Chain-Gang All Stars Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah Friday Black Dante Alighieri Inferno Alaa Al Aswany The Yacoubian Building Isabel Allende The House of the Spirits Isabel Allende Portrait in Sepia Isabel Allende Zorro Julia Alvarez How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents
For the past few years, I’ve been joining book clubs and participating in Twitter bookchats to help me diversify my reading. The upside is that I’ve discovered new authors, kept up with new releases, and developed friendships with other readers. The downside is that the unread books on my bookshelves have been largely ignored. For a number of reasons, I’m down to one active book club, and instead of finding more to join, I’m going to focus on reading the books I already have.
As you can see, my library is quite large. I have 1,825 books in my house, but I’ve only read 797 of them. This does not include ebooks or the books in my classroom library, which may turn into separate reading projects. My plan, which I’m sharing for accountability purposes, is to go shelf by shelf, selecting one unread book to read in place of what I’d be reading for book clubs. I’d love to be able to be at 50% by the end of the school year!
Another goal I have is to write more, so I’ll be chronicling this process and sharing more reviews of what I read.
Stay tuned for the ridiculousness that is my library!
I initially thought that last year was going to remain my top year (241 books), until I noticed that while I didn’t read as many books this year, I read over 5,000 more pages. I’m pretty impressed with that considering how stressful 2022 has been. Granted, when I’m stressed I tend to escape into books, which would explain why I’ve been reading a lot more fantasy and/or books that help me lose myself in another world or character’s situation. Here is a run down of (some of) my favorites from this year. I stopped myself after fifteen, which was hard, so you should check out the full thread of my favorites (all 134 of them) on Twitter.
Ain’t Burned All the Bright by Jason Reynolds with artwork by Jason Griffin
I have both the physical and audiobook of Ain’t Burned All the Bright, and I come back to them every time life becomes difficult. Jason Reynolds always seems to have the exact words I need, and Jason Griffin’s artwork is perfect.
Noor by Nnedi Okorafor
I read this in January, and I’m still grappling with the questions it poses about disability and what it means to be human. Okorafor’s characters and world building are so nuanced and complex; her books stay with me long after I’ve finished them.
Begin Again: James Baldwin’s America and Its Urgent Lessons for Our Own by Eddie S. Glaude, Jr.
Baldwin is one of my favorite writers, and Glaude’s book made it clear why studying his work is so important now. The quote from Baldwin that inspired the title: “Not everything is lost. Responsibility cannot be lost, it can only be abdicated. If one refuses abdication, one begins again.”
Ancestor Trouble: A Reckoning and a Reconciliation by Maud Newton
Newton’s journey to understand her family was honest and inspiring, and it made me very curious about my own ancestry. After finishing the book, I created and account on Ancestry.com and started my own exploration. While what I believed about my family’s background isn’t necessarily untrue, I’m learning that there’s so much more to my family’s history than I initially thought. What I’ve uncovered is fascinating, and I have so many questions to attempt to answer.
The Death of Vivek Oji and You Made a Fool of Death with Your Beauty by Akwaeke Emezi
I read five books by Akwaeke Emezi this year, and I could easily include all of them. I think what impresses me most about Emezi is that they are able to write brilliantly for different age groups and in different genres. I also love watching Emezi talk about their writing, and what they are trying to accomplish in each piece.
Looking for Lorraine: The Radiant and Radical Life of Lorraine Hansberry by Imani Perry
In 2019, Ibram X. Kendi and Imani Perry spoke at the Harrisburg Book Festival. At that point, I didn’t know much about her, so I bought a copy of Breathe: A Letter to My Sons to read before seeing her speak. I vividly remember exactly how I felt reading the first page and how in awe I was at the brilliance of her writing. When I got to meet her at the book festival, I was stammering like a giddy fan girl, and Kendi (chuckling) chimed in that he felt the same way when he first read her work. It was definitely one of the dorkiest moments of my life, and I will cherish the memory forever. I hope to teach A Raisin in the Sun this year, and Looking for Lorraine will be such a valuable resource. I learned so much from it.
All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson
This is one of the most powerful, moving, and important memoirs I’ve ever read. I could write an entire dissertation on why it should not be banned, but that should probably be its own post.
The Broken Earth Trilogy by N. K. Jemisin
I’m not sure anything I write can do this series justice, but I was inspired to do some creative journaling after reading it (which is the only time this has happened). I used so many sticky notes, which doesn’t happen often when I read fiction. It’s no wonder Jemisin’s books win every single award, and I can’t wait for The Broken Earth trilogy to become a movie!
Gender Queer: A Memoir by Maia Kobabe
Another extremely moving, challenging, and important memoir. I read it twice because it was the most frequently banned/challenged book in 2021, and it was a common choice in educator book clubs. I should give this its own post, because I have so many thoughts and feelings. I wish I had a book like this when I was a teenager.
The Absolute Sandman, Volumes 1-5 by Neil Gaiman
I first read The Sandman for a graduate seminar in cultural studies focusing on the 80’s goth subculture. I was an undergrad at the time, but I convinced the head of the English department and the professor to let me take the course. I earned an A-, read Gaiman for the first time, and was introduced to Joy Division. Twenty-three years later, Gaiman is my favorite author and I’ve read The Sandman more times than any other text, but unfortunately, the Joy Division cover band my brother and I talked about forming never happened. This re-read was combined with watching the Netflix series, which was even better than I hoped it would be. Kirby Howell-Baptiste was perfect as Death, and Mason Alexander Park made Desire my favorite character. (Park has become one of my favorite performers, and I love them on Quantum Leap. I can’t get enough of their performance of “Space Oddity” with Mike Garson.) Season two will probably require yet another re-read.
The Chosen by Chaim Potok
Potok’s writing drew me in from the start, and the story is beautiful. The Chosen also gave me a lot to think about and brought up areas where I need to learn more about Judaism. My step-father was a complicated man and our relationship was not always pretty, but I deeply appreciate the values he instilled in me, which were largely drawn from his Jewish faith. I’ve been reading more texts by Jewish authors and reading more nonfiction about Judaism to connect with these values.
Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro
Ishiguro makes me uncomfortable (in a good way) by raising extremely complex ethical questions that tend to haunt me for years. I’m still trying to get everyone I know to read Never Let Me Go (which I read in 2006), and I’ll probably be doing the same for Klara and the Sun.
One of the many issues I have with those who are still trying to center the canon/classics is the assumption that contemporary writers aren’t on par with the writers of the past. This play absolutely destroys that notion. I’m in the process of getting it approved and added to my district’s curriculum because it addresses colonialism/post-colonialism in a way that I think will resonate with students, and Soyinka’s writing and dramatic structure is so complex and powerful. There are so many possibilities with this play.
Me (Moth) by Amber McBride
I finished this in one sitting, and when I was done my thought process went something like this: “WAIT! WHAT??? NO WAY. OMG HOW DID YOU [McBride] DO THAT???? I NEED TO START THIS OVER RIGHT NOW.
I can’t really write any more about this because I don’t want to give anything away. Just read it.
The Legendborn Cycle by Tracy Deonn
I’ve saved these for last because The Legendborn Cycle has the potential to become my favorite fantasy series of all time. I can’t say much, because anything I write at this point would be an epic spoiler (especially how I feel about a certain character whose initials are SK). I cannot recommend these enough!!!
I’ve read so many good books this year, and I owe a lot of that to the various book clubs and Twitter chats I participate in. I’d be remiss if I didn’t give a shout out to Roxane Gay’s Audacious Book Club and #THEBOOKCHAT on Twitter. Many of my favorites are books I probably wouldn’t have read if it weren’t for these two book clubs!
One of my reading goals for 2023 will be to write reviews of books as I read them, because I had a lot of fun writing the short blurbs for this post.
Aside from responding to comments here and there, I’ve had to back away from this blog and what I hoped to accomplish here. What I’ve realized over the past few years is that many of my goals have been based on what I’ve felt like I should be doing instead of what I’m truly passionate about. I’ve prioritized my career over what keeps me whole, so I’ve been working on balance. Earlier this year, I promised myself that I would prioritize music, which has resulted in many opportunities and positive changes.
I’m also rethinking how I want to use this space. Am I really a craft blogger? Probably not. Do I enjoy writing patterns? Not so much. What I do love is writing, so you may see more of my random thoughts, proud moments from my classroom, and book reviews here and there.
As I reflect on how the past few years have changed me, I find myself returning to “Going Slightly Mad.” It’s one of my favorite Queen songs, and in college I joked that it was my theme song. At the time, I didn’t have the words to express what I was facing with my mental health, and the lyrics fit how I was feeling. The song is somewhere between calm and upbeat, which was how I felt pressured to be all the time, even though that’s not how I felt inside. Right now it fits because I’m focusing on facing my fear of putting myself out there. Of making significant changes in my life and taking risks. Of trusting myself and my judgment. Some of what I plan to do may seem like madness to people who’ve known me, but I can’t let that hold me back. I can’t let fear of failure or judgment keep me from achieving my goals.
I know what I want my life to look like, I have so much support from those I love, and I’m excited to get started.
I love quick and easy projects. These scrubbies would be great to sell at craft shows or to give as gifts. They work up in no time at all and take very little yarn, so they are great for scraps.
Materials: Cotton yarn (I used Bernat Handicrafter Cotton in Squishy) Red Heart Scrubby Sparkle Yarn Size H 5.0mm Hook Size I 5.5mm Hook Yarn Needle
Stitches/Abbreviations: CH – chain SC – single crochet
Square #1: Using Scrubby Sparkle yarn and the I 5.5mm hook, ch 13 Row 1: sc in the 2nd ch from hook and across the row (12 stitches) Rows 2-12: sc across Fasten off and weave in ends
Square #2: Using cotton yarn and the H 5.0mm hook, ch 13 Row 1: sc in the 2nd ch from hook and across the row (12 stitches) Rows 2-12: sc across Do not fasten off.
Assembly: Line up your two squares with the cotton square closest to you. Ch 1 and single crochet around the edges of the two pieces to join them together. 3sc in each corner to turn. Once you’ve gone the whole way around, fasten off and weave in the end.
My goal of posting every month only lasted a month! In my defense, I did have two posts planned out for February, but it was ridiculously hectic and bad weather kept forcing me to rearrange my life. I kept telling myself that I’d have time to post, but then I realized yesterday that February was gone. Oops! The good news is that I posted THREE times in January, and I have a lot planned for March.
March is National Crochet Month and I’m participating in TWO Instagram challenges. I’ve noticed that fiber artists are an incredible group of people, and connecting with them brings me so much joy. Yesterday was the first day, and I’m already having tons of fun with this.
These challenges are pushing me to share more of my ideas, connect with more of my fellow crocheters, be more creative, and improve my photography.
Definitely check out the organizers of these challenges. They have amazing blogs, Instagram accounts, and Facebook pages.
Oh, and definitely participate in these challenges!
Instead of working on my WIPs, I’ve been playing around with different stitches and attempting to come up with combinations that look good. I decided to start with earwarmer patterns, since most of the country is colder than Antarctica at the moment! This pattern is a combination of floret stitches and back and front post double crochet. It’s fairly simple and it works up very fast. Enjoy!
Stitches/Abbreviations: CH: Chain SL ST: Slip Stitch DC: Double Crochet BPDC: Back Post Double Crochet FPDC: Front Post Double Crochet
Row 1: DC in the 4th chain from hook and DC across the chain. The three CH you skip at the beginning counts as a DC. (15 stitches)
Row 2: Chain 1 (counts as a SL ST), *DC in the next stitch, SL ST into next stitch. Repeat from *. The last SL ST will be in the top of the turning chain.
Row 3: Ch 3 (counts as 1 DC), *DC in the next DC, DC in the next SL ST. Repeat from *. The last DC will be in the top of the turning chain.
Row 4: Ch 3 (counts as 1 DC), BPDC around the second DC (remember that the turning chain counts as the first DC), DC in the top of the next DC, *BPDC around the next DC, DC in the top of the next DC. Repeat from *. The last DC will be in the top of the turning chain.
Row 5: Ch 3 (counts as 1 DC), FPDC around the second DC (remember that the turning chain counts as the first DC), DC in the top of the next DC, *FPDC around the next DC, DC in the top of the next DC. Repeat from *. The last DC will be in the top of the turning chain.
Repeat rows 2 – 5 until your earwarmer is the desired length.
Whip stitch the ends together being careful to match up each stitch, so the seam isn’t too noticeable.
One of my goals for 2019 is to finish all my “Works in Progress.” I know that every crocheter has plenty of unfinished projects, but some of mine are pretty shameful, mostly because it wouldn’t take much to get them done. I have no excuse for how long these have been neglected.
LA Lakers Bear
I planned to give this bear to my sister because she loves the LA Lakers. I’m sure I started this at least six years ago, but never put it together. I had this elaborate plan to get purple embroidery floss and turn his shirt into a Lakers jersey. The good news is that she’s still obsessed with the Lakers, and her birthday is in April!
When my grandmother died, I inherited her yarn stash. She had a ton of soft baby yarn, so I started crocheting squares to put together into a blanket. I intended to give it to the next grandchild, but that plan failed when two of my cousins had babies due at the same time. There were only enough squares for one blanket. I decided to make stuffed toys for them instead, but didn’t quite get to it. All this guy needs is ears! There are four kids now, so I need to get moving if I’m going to give them their toys before they are too old!
I started making these for the Science March in 2016. I’m not a huge fan of knitting, but the I-Cords weren’t that bad. I think the problem is that I’m dreading the assembly step!
I wanted to make as many Star Wars characters as possible before the craft show I did in November, but it didn’t happen. (I blame grad school.) All poor Greedo needs is arms and a mouth and then he’ll be able to agree that Han shot first.
These aren’t the only WIPs I need to finish, but they are the ones I feel most guilty about. I hope this post will motivate me to get them done!
How many WIPs do you have laying around? Maybe we should cheer each other on as we get them down to zero!
The good news is that 2018 was an amazing year for me. The bad news is that I didn’t blog about any of it, mostly because 2018 was ridiculously busy. I fully intended to write about crocheting, reading, and traveling, but I accomplished so much that I didn’t have the energy. Here’s a general summary of my year.
Crocheting My goal was to complete twenty-four projects, and I exceeded it. Here are a few of my favorite projects from 2018.
My crocheting goals for 2019 are to finish all my WIPs (I have too many!), use my epic stash of cotton yarn, write down and post the patterns I create, and blog about my crocheting adventures.
Books My goal is always to read fifty books in a year, but this year got a little out of control. I find that when I’m stressed and overworked, I gravitate toward very fast, engaging, and light reading. Since I started working on a second Master’s Degree, I’ve been obsessed with fantasy, and I tore through tons of series.
Travels If I took the time to go into detail about all of our adventures, this post would be ridiculously long. I’ll just summarize it by saying that our big adventures included Seattle and New York City, which were two of our best! I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.
It looks like 2019 will be full of even more adventures than 2018. My goal is to slow down and write about all the amazing things that happen!
I’ve noticed that a lot of crocheters have been talking about finally being able to make things for themselves now that the holiday season has ended. I’m right there with them. After a craft show in November and trying to make gifts for the holidays, I decided to treat myself to something epic. I have been talking for a long time about making myself a Darth Vader blanket, and I’ve been intrigued by corner to corner crocheting, so I looked for a pattern and found absolutely nothing. I found this picture on Pinterest, a graph on a site for perler bead patterns, and this post from Ahookamigurumi with tons of amazing Star Wars graphs including the Darth Vader graph from Not All Who Wander are Lost, but nothing for a full sized Darth Vader blanket. Since I couldn’t find exactly what I wanted, I decided to see if I could use the amazing graphs people have shared and my limited math skills to make a full sized blanket. Here are the resources I used:
Stitch Fiddle: I can’t remember where I first read about Stitch Fiddle, but it’s a site for creating graphs for projects. Now that I’ve used it once, I feel like I should play around with it more and write a full review because it has a lot of cool features. It even allows you to upload your own photographs to turn into graphs.
The most difficult part of this process was figuring out how many blocks my grid should be in Stitch Fiddle. I was able to find a couple pins about corner to corner afghan sizing, but my concern was that none of the posts took gauge or hook size into account. My advice is to crochet a few rows with your hook and yarn of choice and see how big your C2C squares turn out to be. Somehow mine ended up being perfect inch squares, which made my life very easy.
This post from The Crochet Crowd has a comprehensive list of afghan and blanket sizes.
This blanket is the result of all my efforts, and it wasn’t as difficult as I feared!
I’m pretty pleased with how it turned out, especially considering that there was math involved in its creation! It’s exactly the size I wanted (it turned out to be 52″ x 59″) and I calculated the right amount of yarn.
I used the following tutorials to learn corner to corner crochet. Check them out because I’ve learned so much from Jess at Make & Do Crew and Mikey from The Crochet Crowd.
I used Caron One Pound in claret, black, and medium grey mix, but I had a lot of black and grey left over. I bought more yarn than I needed just to be safe, but my calculations ended up being correct.
As long as you can do simple math, you can use the tools in Stitch Fiddle to make graphs for afghans in any size you want! You get fifteen graphs with a free account, but you can upgrade to a pro account for more graphs and features. Right now I’m still using the free version, but I may decide to upgrade at some point.
Now I’m hooked (bad pun intended) on corner to corner crochet, and I’m coming up with ideas for more graphs! I’m excited to create some completely original designs to share!