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Wednesday, January 5, 2011

I have been having such a wonderful time at home, just cooking and knitting and reading student manuscripts for the upcoming conference at Eckerd College in St. Pete, FL. My respite is coming to an end in about a week, when Sam's college auditions start in earnest. he has at least one every week until March! Needless to say, I'm both excited and a nervous wreck. He has six monologues prepared, as well as several songs, and the auditions range everywhere from six minutes to several hours. Everyone out there please send Sam triumphant vibes so he can go to the college of his dreams (whichever one that turns out to be!)

Patting myself on the back a lot for learning how to knit cables! Thanks to my buddy Matt, who showed me over Thanksgiving, and to the anonymous YouTube video star that further clarified. I can't believe how easy it is! I've already knit two ear warmer head bands with scraps of that gorgeous Uruguay del manos yarn I'm using for Sam's blanket. They came out so great that I've ordered several skeins: Prairie, Mulled Wine, and Mermaid--chosen to match the friends I'm giving them too. Seriously, these things take about an hour and a half to knit. It's a free pattern, so I'm including it for you knitters here at the end of this posting.

Also, as promised, I am about to begin my book-a-week plan. One of the questions I often get asked at readings and talks is: What is a writer's daily life like? One of the things that takes up a lot of my day is reading books to blurb, or books my friends have written, or books to review... I am not going to include any of these for my book-a-week because I want to read books for sheer enjoyment. I realized too much of my reading time was work instead of pleasure! That's why I've set this goal. (Not to say I don't love reading my friends' books--I absolutely do! In fact, I love those books the best because I often know how they came to life)

Now I have to immediately contradict myself because I won't start my book-a-week until next week because I have to finish reading Jonathan Franzen's FREEDOM for a panel discussion in Hartford on January 25. (This illustrates what I mean about reading for work!) I am about 2/3 done--and although I loved this book in the beginning, it's dragging for me now--so should be ready to begin my pleasure reading on Monday!

Here is my list of books I've gathered for this project:
FAITHFUL PLACE by Tana French
ROOM by Emma Donoghue
MR. PEANUT by Adam Ross
NEMESIS by Philip Roth
MUST YOU GO? by Antonia Fraser
THE SOLITUDE OF PRIME NUMBERS by Paolo Giordano
BY NIGHTFALL by Michael Cunningham
SILENT TEARS by Kay Bratt
THE LOST SUMMER OF LOUISA MAY ALCOTT by Kelly O'Connor McNees
THE LONELY POLYGAMIST by Brady Udall
A SHORT HISTORY OF WOMEN by Kate Walbert
TINKERS by Paul Harding
MAJOR PETTIGREW'S LAST STAND by Helen Simonson
A RELIABLE WIFE by Robert Goolrick
THE DEAD LIE DOWN by Sophie Hannah
I HOTEL by Karen Tei Yamashita
THE THREE WEISMANNS OF WESTPORT by Cathleen Schine
MRS. DALLOWAY by Virginia Woolf
MRS. MALLORY INVESTIGATES by Hazel Holt

That's 19 books, or 19 weeks, or almost 5 months of reading! I have a couple books in my wish list too, but I'm not ordering them until I've read a few of these.

I am going to start at the top and work my way down, for the most part, except if I'm traveling, in which case I will probably take paperbacks with me. And when I go to Uganda for two weeks in March, I am taking CLEOPATRA by Stacy Schiff.

So, next week: Tana French.

Happy reading and happy knitting!

FABULOUS EASY CABLE KNIT EAR WARMERS:

* about 75 yards of chunky weight 100 percent wool
* size 8 U.S. needles
* one cable needle or double-pointed needle
* scissors
* tapestry or yarn needle

Gauge

About four stitches and six rows per inch in garter stitch.
Size

Finished piece is 20 inches around and 3 inches wide. It will stretch to fit around a head about 25 inches around, across the top of the head and over the ears. It can also be worn behind the ears like a regular headband.
Instructions for Cable Pattern:

1. Cast on 8 stitches.
2. Work in garter stitch until piece measures two inches.
3. On the wrong side, increase to 16 stitches by knitting into the front and back of each stitch. This counts as row 1.
4. On the next row (row 2), knit across.
5. On rows 3, 5 and 7, knit 4, purl 8, knit 4.
6. On rows 4 and 6, knit across.
7. On row 8, knit four, slip four stitches onto the cable needle as if to purl and hold them in the front of the work. Knit four, then knit the four stitches from the cable needle, then knit the last four stitches. Working the cable can be a little tight, but it shouldn't be a problem.

Continuing and Finishing:

1. Continue in this pattern until the piece measures 18 inches from the cast-on edge, replacing the increase row with the knit 4, purl 8, knit 4 used on other wrong-side rows.
2. Once you've worked 18 inches, decrease on the next row by knitting two together across, leaving 8 stitches.
3. Knit in garter stitch for two inches.
4. Bind off.
5. Finish by sewing the cast on and bound off ends together.