Kiwiyarns Knits

A blog about New Zealand yarns, knitting and life

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Wait…

Oh gosh. Since when did it become December!? Christmas is just around the corner, and there is still so much to do!

Isn’t it funny how the end of a year provokes a whole range of thoughts around life, deadlines, accomplishments, wishes. In a way, it is a good thing because it gives us a sense of time. In another way, it can unintentionally create feelings of stress that shouldn’t be there. I do find it a great motivator to remember to ‘do’ something with my life.

In this post, I think it’s time I fronted up and explained a bit about my less-than-regular posts of late. Make a cup of tea and settle in… this is a bit of a wordy one!

Life has been quite distracted chez Kiwiyarns over the past couple of months. As of November, I began working in a permanent role, although I have been in a ‘caretaker’ role for that position for a few months now. It’s a senior job that is giving me a lot of satisfaction (and finally, some life certainty!) but is also draining my energy and ability to keep up the blog on a regular basis. I do apologise for this, as I value your interaction with me so much. My life over the past few years would not have been anywhere near as rich or as fulfilling had I not started this blog and pursued the path of knitting creativity. But none of that would have been nearly as good if it hadn’t been for the support and friendship I have received from you. I thank you for this from the bottom of my heart.

In my dream life, I would be a full-time knitting designer, fully immersed in the art of knitting and sharing that dream. However, from what I have seen and learned over the past few years, it takes a certain life circumstance for that to become a reality for most people.  Importantly, you need to have a financial backer (usually, one’s partner from one I can see!) to cover one’s life necessities while the business is growing into a going concern. This scenario is most likely never going to be mine, and I have to be realistic about ensuring some security around the rest of my life. Hence the pragmatic return to my former career.

This is by no means the end, and I do not regret for one moment, the risk I took to delve into knitting in a deeper way. Quite apart from the richness of human interaction (which is sadly lacking in a corporate environment), I also got to learn in an unfettered environment, I found freedom and the ability to create – independently of any rules or structure.  And I was able to live the life I wanted. It has been soul-restoring. This has been worth more to me than any money in the world. I also got to be closer to my son that I ever would have been otherwise, and that too, is worth more to me than any money in the world.

I am still knitting furiously in my free moments (another reason I am not writing as much) and would love to keep sharing bits of my life with you here. It just may not be as frequently as before. You’ll see I am reasonably good at keeping up on Instagram, mainly because it’s a very quick process to take a photo and say a few words – I would love to see you over on that forum too!

Now, what has happened with my knitting since I last wrote? There have been a few socks.

But as you can see, my usual output has been somewhat diminished.

I did make a start on the shawl I spoke about last time, but I am not in the mood for blue hands at the moment. The naturally dyed indigo based yarn I chose leaches blue on to your skin like nothing on earth, and perhaps in another head space I would be able to cope with it, but not right now. So today, I decided to frog it and use this instead:

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It is going to be beautiful. It’s Anna Gratton Wool/Silk/Mohair blend in Forest.

I am on a bit of a shawl bender to be honest. Once I have got my Christmas sock knitting out of the way, or maybe after I finish Regenerate (using Anna Gratton’s Forest colourway above), I already have the next shawl’s yarn all ready to go:
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I am fairly sure this will be Supplejack. I’m using Tanis Fibre Arts Blue Label in Lotus, Dark Harbour Yarn Port in Limey and Ruataniwha Dye Studio 100% merino in Spruce.

And maybe the one after that…

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This one is also Mary-Anne Mace‘s fault. That woman just cannot stop producing the most breathtakingly beautiful shawl patterns… this yarn is earmarked to be Spring Creek, or maybe the newest pattern that she has designed that is still in testing. There will be time to decide. The yarn is also Dark Harbour Yarn Port in the Fairwater colourway. The light grey is also Dark Harbour Yarn Port but I have lost the label and cannot remember what the colour was called.

That’s the great thing about knitting. So much creative potential, so much to knit!  Just a pity there is so little time…

Wishing you a good run-up into the Christmas season. What are your plans? I for one, am much looking forward to my firm’s annual three week break over the Christmas and into 2017. It will be good to relax, enjoy family and friends, and knit, knit, knit!

 


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Lacebark

Hello, and a Happy Weekend to you, in what has been another momentous week on the global stage.  I hope this post finds you well, and doing things that you love.

It is a rainy, rainy day today, perfect for staying home, curling up with knitting and doing not much else.

Thank you so much for your lovely, supportive comments about the finished cardigan I showed you last. I have to say, having now worn it for a couple of weeks, I am especially enamoured of the beautiful yarn – that cashmere blend is something else!

I managed to finish Lacebark this week!  I am so thrilled with how it turned out! As you can see by the million photographs I took…

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Mary-Anne Mace’s designs take my breath away every time.

So, what did I do for this shawl?

I used three different yarns, but all in the same high-twist merino base type, to give the shawl textural consistency.  I knew when I started it that I would not have enough of the main gradient yarn I used from Ozifarmer’s Market, so I scratched around in my stash and found a beautiful deeper purple colourway from another indie dyer (who sadly no longer makes pretty yarn), and a plain undyed yarn.

I worked the tip in white, and then added in the gradient, and when the gradient was done, I added in the deeper purple.

The pattern itself is interesting. You start out with very basic lace, and gradually move into more and more complex lace techniques as you progress. The final few charts with lace on every side were quite a brain workout, but the result is worth it, and I am sure the grey matter is working much better after that bit of exercise! I do like the progression of lace pattern –  it makes it quite interesting to wear.

In between lace knitting, I did plain vanilla sock knitting, and finished the cute colourway I got from Doespins a while ago, and started another pair (yarn from Happy-go-knitty). These are quite good to knit in the sleepy hours I resist going to bed in, helping me to wind down after a long day in the office, and getting in some ‘me’ time.img_3038-1024x575

It seems that not only must there always be a sock, but there must also always be a shawl on the needles. After much deliberation, I’ve picked the next project.

img_3040-1024x1024I can’t help myself – it’s another Lace Eater design, Regenerate, found in Knitty’s Spring/Summer 2014 patterns. I’m pairing it with Rosewood Wool’s natural dyed Romney wool.

Until next time, Happy Knitting!

 

 


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The cardigan

In a world of knitter’s worst nightmares, the following scenario has to come close to top of the list:  spending hours knitting a garment, laboriously stitching it all together, and then trying it on only to find that it doesn’t fit like you wanted it to.

I was very conscious of this possibility when I set out to knit myself a lightweight cardigan to carry me through Spring and into the early summer months. When I selected the original pattern I didn’t quite notice it had an odd garter stitch panel in the front. Nor did I realise that the shaping wasn’t right for my own body proportions, especially the armhole depth.

The garter stitch panel was easy to adapt – I simply left it off, as the garment was wide enough not to need it. The armholes needed a bit of adaptation. I worked more decreases to make a narrower shoulder, and I increased the length. This was a bit tricky – I think I cast off and then added in more length a couple of times before I decided it was right! The next thing was to sew the shoulders together so I could try it on and make sure that the fit was correct.

Because I had adapted the arm holes, I also needed to work the sleeves a little differently to make sure that they were as deep as the armhole. I also didn’t want three quarter length sleeves, nor did I want lace on the sleeves. The solution was to keep working decreases all the way to the end of the sleeve cap – this seems to have worked.

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Fitting the first sleeve into the cardigan was a good way to work out if I had the proportions right.

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I am checking the length of the sleeve here – it sits just above my wrist, which is a better length for warmer weather.

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The length works well too. I’d like to be able to wear this cardigan with a dress, and I find that dresses need shorter cardigans to look good.

I am also conscious this is a superwash yarn (Madelinetosh Pashmina) and I know it will grow once blocked. It is slightly shorter to accommodate that eventuality as well.

Once the second sleeve is finished, the next step will be to work a neat finish to the neckline, and to add in loops for the buttonholes.  And once blocked, I will finally have a summer cardigan after a couple of years of talking about it!

I am concerned about the large amount of dye that is coming off on my fingers as I knit this garment. Has anyone knitted with this colourway before (Tart) and have you experienced a large amount of colour fade?  Should I be looking at fixing the colour in the first block?  I’d appreciate your advice!

My garden continues to delight in a riot of super strong colours. Whoever planted this garden was a person after my own heart! It is soul restoring to spend a couple of hours pulling weeds and admiring all the new beauties to see in the weekend.

I have no idea what the second plant is called, but the top image is the Aquilegia. I’m so happy to have this flower in my garden again!

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This little flower captured my attention with the leaves echoing the shade of the flower.img_2927-800x449

We also have a regular visitor at the moment – how cute is this kereru, warily watching me from the safety of the pine tree!?img_2934-800x533

I am itching to get back into shawl knitting for some reason. They have been a very useful addition to my wardrobe this winter – they looked nice under a coat and kept me extra warm on the way to the office, but could easily be removed (or put back on) once at work. I continue to ponder yarn and pattern options, although it amuses me to see that I have the exact colours of my garden in my stash…

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I hope you are enjoying your weekend, and finding plenty of time for soul-restoring and relaxing activities.

Happy Knitting!

 

 


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Swan River

Swan River

It appears that I am completely incapable of monogamous knitting at the moment. I “had” to start Swan River this week. It is a pattern from Issue 72 of The Knitter. Time I got some value out of all those magazines that I buy!

It is knitted in Maniototo Wool’s Luxury Lambswool in 4 ply, which Mary very kindly did me a one-off favour by dyeing and selling it me. This weight of yarn is not normally sold by her – she prefers to make it available to indie dyers only.  (She makes the 8 ply and woollen spun aran weight available on her website).

What can I say about this yarn?  Well… I hope that more indie people get their hands on it, because it is truly luxurious and wonderful. It has been spun semi-worsted and at a reasonably tight twist, and it is the slinkiest, softest, most gorgeous yarn I have laid my hands on for some time. Mary really spied a good thing when she found the merino cross fleece that her yarn comes from. And to think that the rest of this wool goes overseas to garment producers!  Lucky us that Mary has been able to obtain some of it for use in New Zealand and by knitters.

I’m hoping there will be enough left over of this yarn to turn into a shawl, because it is perfect for that purpose. In the meantime, I have a great requirement for a lightweight cardigan for use in the office (mostly), and this is what Swan River is going to be.

If you are wondering where you can get your hands on some of the Luxury Lambswool 4 ply, I understand that both Happy-go-knitty and Ruataniwha Dye Studio have got some, and are busy cooking up pretty colours for it as I write. You’ll have to watch their sites for news of when it is available, and when I find out, I will let you know.

I will probably have at least one FO to show you next week because I am making good progress on both Waiting for Rain and Light Gale, which I showed you last week. I won’t bore you with more photos of the same looking WIP!

Autumn came late this year. I leave you with a view of the riot of colour in my backyard at the moment. I’m enjoying the show!

Autumn


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A chat with Circus Tonic Handmade

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It’s no secret that I’ve got a bit of a crush on Circus Tonic Handmade‘s yarns.  They are simply gorgeous and if I had my greedy little way, I’d own much more of this beautiful yarn, in particular Revelry Sock.

Why do I like it?  It is soft.  Super soft.  And it doesn’t split on the needles. Despite its softness, it is hard wearing.  And let’s not forget the talent of the hard working dyer who makes the prettiest colourways.  But equally importantly, it’s the finished result that really gets me – I just love the way this yarn turns into amazing looking garments that look and feel stunning!  I like it so much that I can’t seem to keep the yarn in my stash as it keeps getting used for projects!  This is an interesting development for this compulsive yarn hoarder collector.

I thought it would be nice to know more about Hannah Ginn, mother-of-three, wife, scientist and creative energy behind Circus Tonic Handmade, and she kindly agreed to an interview!

Here is our conversation:

I understand that until recently, you worked as a Molecular Geneticist.  Dyeing yarn is a bit of a change!  Why did you choose to become an indie dyer?  

You will surprised to know that I have met quite a few ex-scientist yarn dyers. Maybe it’s something to do with not being afraid of “lab work” or confidence with working with exact amounts of chemicals and liquids. The actual chemical reactions taking place are interesting….how you can alter them with acidity levels or the actual fibre used. We are very process driven people, so the prep, dyeing and then producing a saleable skein takes many many steps. Once you factor in weather, the attention to detail needed for planning stock updates might just be our forte!

Once I found luxury hand dyed yarns…and even before….I found the yarn selection brought me so much joy during a knitting project. I was completely in love. Once I stopped working to take care of our three young kids, I desperately wanted to have a business ticking over that involved my love of yarn and something I could devote energy to. I read books, watched as much You-tube content as I could, reached out to dyers and experimented for months on 20g mini skein samples I made. I was always on Etsy buying yarn anyway….and started to really pay attention to why certain products jumped out at me. Sometimes I didn’t hesitate to buy, and I tried to figure out why.

Why the name Circus Tonic Handmade?

Our house is a madhouse, like a circus. Our surname is Ginn where you pronounce the G as in gate. Many people say Gin as in the drink. So that’s one reason for the Tonic. The other meaning of tonic is that craft, knitting and making by hand is a remedy or salve for the crazy busy life many of us lead. Circus Tonic Handmade.

What did you look for when you selected the bases for your range?

The yarn sourcing is the hardest bit by far. As I knit a lot of kid knits, I was looking for soft to the skin, superwash but tougher yarns. I was looking to source yarn as locally as possible that I could sell for affordable prices. I started with only a few bases. As my business has grown and favourite friends and customers have let me know their hearts’ desires, I am about to expand with a super luxe silk, cashmere and merino blend, a merino bamboo blend and a sparkle sock base. I am also about to bring out a 10 ply heavy worsted weight 100% merino that I am in love with and need to knit hats out of immediately!

I love that you used bird colours as the inspiration for your first collection.  I’ve personally always thought that nature gives the best inspiration!  What inspired you to choose birds?  What’s next?

Image courtesy of Circus Tonic Handmade

Image courtesy of Circus Tonic Handmade

To be honest, I was nervous about colour theory. I wanted to offer muted, tonal shades that were sophisticated and in the league of some of my favourite dyers. I knew what I liked but had no idea where to start. I have always collected antique books on natural history subjects, and I live on the coast of Australia, so with the combination of the scenery on the doorstep and the beautiful illustrations in my books, I felt ready to tackle colours for yarns that I could not find in the marketplace.

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Image courtesy of Circus Tonic Handmade

My next collection has finally settled on The Antipodean Garden. Native flora and fauna of our Pacific region…including the introduced favourites we all grow or would love to grow if we had a garden. I will try to capture the gardens of our childhoods….or present…or future. Our grandmothers’ gardens…or the little strip of planting in the town centre near the bus stop. There are an incredible range of stunningly beautiful, wearable colours to choose from and I am really looking forward to attempting this!!

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Image courtesy of Circus Tonic Handmade

How long have you been knitting for?  How did you learn?  Has your knitting influenced your choice of dyeing style?

I was taught as a child, and then took up the needles with a vengeance while I was expecting my third baby due in our winter. I had wanted to learn for several years and in all those evenings not drinking wine focusing that pregnancy nesting tunnel vision, I knit about 30 baby cardigans, found Ravelry, found Etsy and never looked back!!! I watched video tutorials, bought a whole lot of books and again, experimented!

I have tried a lot of different styles of hand dyed yarns. I love speckled yarn for striped shawls, tonal semi solids for baby knits, one colour shawls and hats. I love saturated yarns for lace and minimally dyed yarns for hats with cables. There is such a thing as that magic moment when you absolutely chose the right yarn for a pattern. I suppose I’m conscious to offer all those possibilities to my customers. I also dye the same colourways slightly differently to suit each base…as a nylon sock yarn will take dye very differently to a relaxed ply DK wooly yarn. I try to be sympathetic to each base to let it sing “pick me!!” I like adding splashes of surprises so that there is interest held throughout the knit.

Image courtesy of Circus Tonic Handmade

Image courtesy of Circus Tonic Handmade

I’m really impressed at how quickly your yarn has become so popular.  I’m not surprised though!  Quite a few designers have also already produced work in your yarn.  Do you have a favourite design so far?

Thank you! There’s that tunnel vision coming into good use again! I won’t lie, I’ve worked very, very hard on this business. I have worked seven days a week since well before I launched the shop. However, it doesn’t feel like work. I can still look after my children and produce semi decent meals. I don’t iron or mop….but to be honest, I never really did. I love interacting with everyone, and meeting so many brilliant, supportive creative people. That has been the best surprise!! This new community has encouraged and supported me and I will be forever grateful.

I don’t have a favourite design so far. I am floored with amazement seeing every single one of them. I get all fainty…I just can’t believe it. There are some seriously talented people out there and I am beyond thrilled that people have been picking up the yarn and loving it as much as I do. It makes me very proud. Can you say that about yourself?! I just did!

Favourite moment as an indie dyer to date?

Working for many years behind the scenes in labs within a large research organisation you are pretty much nameless. It’s exciting work and there are great people but of course personality is just something that gets in the way, rather than something to be celebrated. Everyone enjoys seeing their name out there and so to be totally honest, seeing my yarn reviewed and talked about on blogs that I have read religiously for many years……well there’s that faint feeling again, it’s so awesome!!!

In real life, favourite moments have happened standing over the dye pots and seeing the dye settle in the way I was hoping for. It is fascinating and really fun. One of my favourite parts of the long process from cone to postage, is skeining the yarn up into hanks once it has dried. That is the moment when you see what the customer will see…and the form of the yarn that as a buyer for many years I would base my decision process on. I love seeing a skein of my own yarn….it’s very addictive and I will hopefully be doing a great deal more of it in the coming years!

Thank you Hannah, for sharing a bit about yourself and your dyeing with us.

As part of this interview, Hannah very generously offered to donate a skein of a custom colourway to readers.  We agreed on a little bird that we share in Australia and New Zealand – the Silvereye.

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To enter the draw to win this skein, I’m going to take a leaf out of My Sister’s Knitter’s blog (if you haven’t already, have a look at Andi’s post about Circus Tonic Handmade – she has a giveaway happening there too!)  Visit Circus Tonic Handmade’s etsy store, and comment here about which colourway you like the best.  Or tell me which flower from your garden you would like turned into a yarn colourway!  Don’t forget to include your email in the appropriate place in the comment form or note your Rav ID in the comment so I can contact you if you win.  Entries close on Tuesday, 22 March 2016.

Lastly, for New Zealand readers, Circus Tonic Handmade will be on the indie shelf at Holland Road Yarn Company in April!!  Here’s a sneaky peek from Hannah’s Instagram feed (@circustonichandmade) of what you will see next month (notice there are a few skeins of Silvereye especially made for this shelf…)

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Image courtesy of Circus Tonic Handmade

Personally, I’m hyperventilating at the thought of all those beautiful yarns headed our way!  Hopefully I will get a chance to visit the store!!


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A yarny update

Hello!  Happy Weekend!

Well, it has been an interesting few weeks on the knitting front, and I thought it is about time we talked about happy knitting news!  In short order, the highlights have been as follows:

  • I started my contract (hooray! Not knitting, but I thought I’d mention it.  I’m really enjoying being there too).
  • I finally found a heel for Mary Mary that I like and importantly, that other knitters will like (currently feverishly knitting the 3rd sample of Mary Mary that includes the new heel).
  • Very excitingly, I received some Yarn!
  • Feedspot nominated Kiwiyarns Knits among the Top 100 Knitting Blogs for Knitters and Crocheters!  I was a bit leery when I received the news, thinking it was spam, but having checked it out, and seeing what good company I keep, I’m really happy about this nomination!  This is very much thanks to all of you who read my blog.  Thank you very much for reading!
  • Designing is finally happening again, to great happiness.

So let’s get into details.  First up, The Yarn!

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This is a glorious bundle of squish – New Zealand made yarns compliments of Naturally Yarns, sent to me for review. Lucky me!

I haven’t yet had a chance to get into them properly, but I hope to have time to do that in the next couple of weeks. Here’s a very quick look at them for the time being:

Otira (40% NZ Merino/ 35% Tencel/ 25% Possum)

This new yarn was released in February.  Having read about the unenvironmentally-friendly manufacturing methods for bamboo and rayon fibre, I was concerned about the environmental friendliness of the Tencel content. However, this article from Ecomall has assured my fears that of any manmade fibre, Tencel is probably the best choice.

Tencel is the brand name for lyocell produced by Lenzing AG.  Lyocell is a fibre made from wood.  It is important to note that it’s the brand Tencel, manufactured by Lenzing AG that has been given this approval from environmental agencies, and not all lyocell.

Lenzing AG, which owns the Tencel brand, undertakes extremely careful manufacturing methods to prevent harmful chemicals from entering the environment in the manufacture of Tencel.  In addition, the wood it sources all comes from sustainable sources. Here’s another interesting article I read from OrganicClothing.blogs.com if you would like to know more about Tencel and production processes surrounding this brand.

Amuri (75% Pure NZ Merino, 25% Possum)

I have not yet knitted with this possum blend yarn.  It is the most halo’y of all the possum blends I have come across and has an interesting single ply construction that looks like the wool was softly felted.  It will be interesting to see how it performs!

Waikiwi (55% NZ Merino, 20% Nylon, 15% Alpaca, 10% Possum)

Billed as a sock yarn, I haven’t yet knit a sock out of this yarn, so it will be interesting to do some intensive swatching!

Harmony 8 ply (100% New Zealand merino wool)

Again, a very interesting single-ply, felted construction.  This yarn is available in 8 ply and 10 ply natural shades (not completely naturally coloured, as the natural wool is colour adjusted with dye to keep it consistent from season to season), in colour, and in tweed.  It’s incredibly squishy and I have to admit, is the first of the yarns to be put on the swift to be balled ready for knitting!

Most of the colours shown above are from their range of new colours out this season.

Also, you will soon get a chance to win this beautiful skein on Circus Tonic Handmade Revelry Sock:

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Hannah and I have been talking bird colours.  I asked if she would be interested in doing an interview on Kiwiyarns Knits, and she very kindly said yes!  She is one of the most amazingly generous people I have met – she decided to also include a skein of a custom-dyed sock yarn as part of our interview.  This colourway is called Silvereye (also called White-Eye or Wax-Eye) – inspired by the adorable little bird that can be found in both Australia and New Zealand.  The image of a Silvereye below is taken from Ordinary Goodness’s delightful blog which features a lot of New Zealand birdlife.  I know the Lynley wouldn’t mind if I used her photo.  Thanks Lynley!

Watch out for our interview soon.  I’ll also be giving away a free copy of my new sock pattern, Mary Mary.

I have also been working with Mary at Maniototo Wool to design a child’s poncho.  Here’s a sneaky peek:

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I’m really glad that I got a chance to work with Mary on this design.  I’ll show it in full detail when the pattern is complete.  The DK yarn in particular is delightful to work with and I’m very excited to use more of it in future designs!

As you can see, there is quite a backlog of things to catch up on, so now that life is “somewhat” on a more even keel, there should be some interesting reads to be had in the near future!