Friday, April 6, 2018

What's Kristine Reading? April 2018 Edition

   It's been a bit since I've posted about a book, or about anything, if I'm honest. My reading has definitely been in decline over the past two years. Since I picked up knitting, and now sewing, I've been creating more than consuming. It's been great, and a fun learning experience, however, I do miss my books. I started listening to audio books - mainly things in the public domain such as Jane Austen. It's not the same thing as reading a book with pages, but it does allow me to combine my passions, so I'm going with it.  However, I did just finish a biography that I think everyone needs to know about because the subject was so impressive. And that subject was Catherine the Great.

   While there are numerous biographies about Catherine the Great (I've had one sitting unread on my Kindle for about two years), I read this one by Robert K. Massie because it was for book group. He based the book on many of her letters, so the book is from her viewpoint. This skewed the book a little in her favor, but it was really interesting to read her actual words.
   The first thing I need to say about Catherine the Great was that she was a freakin' badass.  I went into this book completely blind to her history, and Russian history previous to the Revolution in 1917, for that matter.  (For some reason, that time period fascinated me when I was around 11. I randomly picked Nicholas and Alexandra out of my parent's bookshelf and read it in a weekend. I was in the 5ht grade, and told my teacher about it when I went back to school. She didn't believe I read the book. Teachers - if a student tells you they read an interesting, non-assigned book - believe them.) 
   Anyway - back to Catherine being a badass. Here is her story in a nutshell: 
  • Born a minor German princess. 
  • Gets shipped off to Russia at 14 to marry the heir to the Russian throne (who is her second cousin) and produce an heir. She never sees her father again.
  • Marries Peter III, who is the grandson of Peter the Great. It is not a happy marriage for many reasons, but two primary are that he loves someone else, and she thinks he's an idiot. While the history books claim they had two children, there is evidence that their marriage was never consummated. 
  • Peter III becomes Emperor after 16 years of marriage. Catherine believes he is going to divorce her and marry his mistress. And, as previously mentioned, she thinks he's an idiot and will be a weak leader.
  • Six months into Peter III's reign, Catherine stages a coup d'├ętat while her husband is out of town. Remember - she's German and has no claim to the throne. But since she is the mother of the heir, Paul, (though Paul might not be Peter's child), and she knows she'll be a better leader, she gets the nobility, clergy, and military on her side and takes the throne. See - Badass.  Peter was imprisoned and was assassinated soon after. Whether Catherine was to blame for the assassination hasn't been determined. (Some reports claim suicide.) 
  • She then led Russia into what is known as the "Golden Age."  She was heavily influenced by the ideals of the Enlightenment, and was a proponent of science, literature and art.    
  • She also expanded Russia by 200,000 square miles. Part of this land came from partitioning Poland, whose King was put on the throne by Catherine and was her ex-lover.
   And those are just the highlights. She led a fascinating life, and I'm annoyed I didn't know more about her when I was a child. She was a "take no shit" kind of woman, and while I don't agree with some of her tactics, she did what she thought was best for Russia, and I appreciate her tenacity and dedication to her country. Though, as being from Polish descent, I'm a little annoyed about the partitioning of Poland thing.
   While reading this book took several months, and I think it could have been edited by about 100 pages, I highly recommend reading it. Yes, it got a little dry here and there, but Catherine's story is so fascinating that the dry parts don't last very long. If you like history - or badass women - read this book.

    End Note: I just spoke to my Mom and had her find the Nicholas and Alexandra book from home. It's written by Robert K. Massie!  What a coincidence!   

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

2018! Here we go!

   Yes, I've been slack on my writing recently. I would love to say that I've just been too busy (which is partially true) but I also just haven't had the desire. Post IMLOU, my spare time has been spent curled up with a dog (or two...or five) and knitting.  It's not only relaxing, but I also feel like I've accomplished something!  But as a result, my reading has SEVERELY suffered. I know I finished a few books in 2017 (A Gentleman in Moscow being the most recent), I'm no where near the 52 books in 52 weeks of past years. And I'm OK with that. I can only do so much, you know?
   Anyway, I want to update a few things for 2017, and then move on to what's going on in 2018. Let's start with races, since this is primarily a forum for swimming, biking and running. I did all of two races in 2017. Well, two that I remember anyway. I might have snuck in a 5k in there at some point.  Those kind of blur together after a while. Anyway, I primarily ran the Fargo Half Marathon and Ironman Louisville. Both were wonderful experiences overall, though IMLOU itself was really tough.

FARGO!  Loved this race!

IMLOU - The race that wanted to kill me...

   And here is my race map.  At some point, I'm going to focus on knocking out states again.  But I was able to cross two more off my 50 state list!

Only 32 more states to go!  

   Turning to my newest obsession, I knitted my butt off in 2017. Here are a few of my creations from the past year:

Dad's Christmas present.  The grey is lighter than it looks here.  It's really pretty.

Mom's Christmas present. My first pillow!  (And yes, I know the photo is to the side, but I can't rotate  it. Plus, it doesn't really matter anyway. The pillow is square!

Nancy's Blanket. This was a Christmas gift for my Mother-In-Law. 
I was VERY busy over for the Holidays.

IMLOU hat. I made FIVE of these for my training group. I'm so stinking proud of these!

   I could go on, as I finished several more projects, including two baby blankets, a baby hat, a cowl, and a scarf for Dudley. I really need to learn how to take better photos of these things. New goal for 2018! Learn how to take better iPhone photos!
   That about wraps up my 2017. I did some traveling (and saw HAMILTON!!), but Ironman training pretty much takes up your life, so my activities were primarily limited to training and knitting. Geez- I'm boring! However, since my 2017 was kind of sheltered, I'm stepping out in 2018 and am challenging myself to do something out of the box every month. (I was going to do this once a week, but come on, who am I kidding? Once a month will be plenty.) I'm not sure what all of the activities are yet, but they have to be 1) something that requires me to leave my house, and 2) something unique or make me step out of my comfort zone. This could be something like going to a CLIMB class (which is definitely on the list), or going a new ethnic restaurant and try something I usually wouldn't eat.  Just be more adventurous, in general.  I'd love suggestions, if anyone has any!!     
   Other 2018 Goals: Knit a sweater, learn to sew, complete Chattanooga 70.3 smiling, cross off at least 3 more states from my 50 state list, visit another country and (maybe) qualify for triathlon Olympic Nationals. That last one depends on how bad my work schedule is. Oh - and to complete the FLYING MONKEY MARATHON! Boom- I'm putting that one in writing, so I don't wuss out on it later on.
   Have you made any goals for 2018? What are they?