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Conscious Decision
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Conscious Decision

When I can’t decide which one I want to do more, I try to find a way to do them both.

When I Can't Decide Which One...

The “toe trick” works best with hardcover books, and with simple knitting.  The real skill comes with turning the pages with your feet :)   Of course, my usual middle road method is knitting while listening to audiobooks, and reading a few books on the side.  Of late, however, I have been reading many a “real” book, almost to the point of devouring them… much like my pre-knitting days when I could polish off a few books a week.

Santiago Shawl Progress

This simple stockinette project is made using the lovely handpsun yarn that my dad bought for me in Santiago, Chile in 2004.  It is a single-ply natural wool, bought from the market.  Complete with little bits and pieces to remind me that this is real.  I love that.  I am using the ever-so-simple Verona pattern that produced my favorite and most-worn knit to date:  the Verona Shawl I made last year. The shawl is my reading project, so, with all of the books that I am reading, I figure it will grow quickly.

I finished the book pictured above last night – I had a hard time putting it down. The Open Road: The Global Journey of the Fourteenth Dalai Lama follows the travels of the Tibetan spiritual/political leader, and provides a more realistic and intimate portrait of the well-known figure.  The author, Pico Iyer, writes in such an engaging way, structuring the book around the life of the Dalai Lama with chapters like “In Public”, “In Practice”, “In Private”.  He has lengthy discussions with his family, his followers, and the man himself.  It was a beautiful book that taught me a lot about the Tibetan struggle, Buddhism, and the human condition.  I definitely recommend it.

Books I Read

Like I said, I have been devouring books… I read these three books while I was in Nova Scotia – long layovers and canceled flights are good for something (well, especially since I left my knitting in my *checked* baggage). The Wild Trees made me wish for a redwood backpacking/camping trip.  The author follows several scientists as they conduct tree canopy research, and invent new ways to scale the tallest of trees.  Michael Pollan’s “oldie but a goodie” The Botany of Desire: A Plant’s-Eye View of the World was impossible to put down.  I talked about it so much that Kris is now reading it too.  Basing the narrative on four different plants: apples, tulips, marijuana, and potatoes, Pollan studies how these plants actually used humans to propogate themselves.  Interesting little twist, eh?  Such a good book.  The third book, Bottlemania: How Water Went on Sale and Why We Bought It, investigates the bottled water industry and its effects on ecosystems and health.  The author, Elizabeth Royte, travels to the small Maine town where Polar Springs water is actually pumped out of the ground – and because that water is being bottled and sent all over the globe, it is not replenishing the local aquifers.  We learned about this book from the No Impact Man blog, and picked the book up.  Kris finished it quickly, and I started reading it on the plane ride home. 

It definitely has me thinking about water in a new way.


Sure, I have consumed my fair share of bottled water, but even before I read this book, I realized that this industry was having a very real impact – and not for the better.  My main concern was the plastic bottles and how a large majority of them were not being recycled, but rather ending up in a landfill.  After reading the book, I learned that the problem is even deeper than that, effecting other people’s supply of water, and fueling an industry that is not really concerned with the health of their consumers or of our planet (despite everything that their marketing says).  I encourage you to take a look at this book… and to take a look at your own habits.  My Klean Kanteen has been working quite well for me for awhile, and I feel pretty confident in my filtered water out of the tap. 

…I am now listening to two different books, and reading a new one…

I can’t be stopped!

How are you spending your free time on these long summery nights?



  • Today is the deadline to sign up for the Project Spectrum AIR ATC swap! We only have a few participants, and it would be great to have a larger group… sign up now!
  • I found a new triathlon that just suits me better – and I am planning to do this one with my sister! I have updated my Training Page with more details…


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46 Responses

  1. stacey

    I love when you post books – I’ve gotten many a good read from you! I do mostly audio books because I’m in the car so much, but will need a few to take with me to the beach this year!

    I’ve stopped using bottled water – even for the dogs at shows. I have re-usable Nalglene bottles for me and them!

  2. Leslie

    Thanks for all the great book recommendations! I also shun the bottled water whenever possible; I bought my first Sigg a few months ago and that’s what I try to carry with me wherever I go.

  3. Laura

    Oooo you gave me a new reading method to try. I LOVED LOVED LOVED the Wild Trees. It made me wish I were a bit hardier and less scared of heights. :)

  4. Erin

    I got a cheap metal bookstand from B&N for just this purpose… if you don’t mind sitting at a table or having some kind of lap-desk on you… I use it a lot for reading books for class… if my hands aren’t otherwise preoccupied I tend to loose focus a lot faster!

  5. Kat

    I haven’t read the book about bottled water but I heard an interview with the author. Ever since then, I’ve been filling up my thermos with cold, filtered water every day before I leave the house. The whole plastic, bottled water thing has bugged me for years

  6. Stephanie B

    Thanks for those books suggestions. They sound very interesting! I also read like an obsessed person. Even more so recently for some reason.

  7. Josiane

    Those sound like really interesting reads. Thanks for sharing!
    Your new Verona shawl will be lovely, both simple and full of life and character.

  8. Phoe

    I *cannot* read and knit. But I have gone back to devouring a book a day, which is nice. I’m reading the Anne of Green Gables for the first time, very good.

    Last year I switched from bottled water to filtered tap water and my good ol’ Sigg bottles. I cannot believe how much LESS waste there is.

  9. margene

    I should try the toe trick. It might take some practice but it looks like a good way to go! We traveled often when I was a kid (45-50 years ago) and I was ALWAYS thirsty. When bottled water became widely available I was thrilled, but it didn’t take long to realize its impact was a negative. I’ve had a reusable water bottle for years now…what’s old is new again.

  10. Jody

    I definitely have to try the toe trick!

    Thanks for the book recs! I am definitley trying to drink more water from my re-usable bottle – every little bit helps.

  11. ann

    I’m so envious of all of your reading time! (It makes me eager to finish grad school… one more year!) I’ve given up bottled water almost completely – I use the filter in our fridge to fill a nalgene and carry it with me everywhere.

    aren’t summer evenings the best?! I’ve been spending a lot of time reading on the porch since it’s not too hot yet. And I have the mosquito bites to prove it… stay well lolly!

  12. LizzieK8

    I have the cheap wire book holder from B&N, too. A godsend, except if one likes paperbacks. Worthless for those.

    I listen to several different books at a time, depending on how much concentration power I have.

    Usually only read one at a time, though.

  13. connie

    It’s been a while since I’ve read a non-work related book, but I’ll take your suggestions to heart. You can always be counted on to make me think of things I’ve never considered before. I had a vague notion that bottled water probably was a scam, but didn’t realize the extent of the negative impact it has on the environment and on the quality of water for other people. Thanks.

    And reading while knitting? I haven’t accomplished that yet. I’ve read while exercising on the exercise bike, but that’s about it. For knitting, television is best. I need something that I can look up at occasionally, but that doesn’t require constant visual attention.

  14. ami

    Oh, the bottled water thing has bugged me for years! Plus, some of the plastic in those bottles can be quite bad for one (cancer causing). It’s filtered or unfiltered tap water here as the case may be.

  15. mai

    thanks for all of the book recommendations! i want to pick up almost all of them! unfortunately, i already have a very, very, very long list of books i want to read. i was never able to get into audiobooks, but perhaps i should try it. i need to master the art of reading and knitting at the same time as you did! i really miss reading!

  16. Janice

    Hmm…I heard about simultaneous knitting and reading before, but I’ve never been coordinated enough to try it – until now. And thanks for the book recommendations, too. But I’ll need to get through the massive pile I already have!

  17. Jewel

    You know that they have found that a few Bottled water companies are using tap water. It seems to me that all water comes from the same place (the ground). I fill water bottles from the tap and keep them cold for when I’m running out the door. And they work just fine!!

    I love that yarn, the color is so pretty.

  18. margaux

    i want to learn how to work out and knit!! imagine! haha and i am sooo trying to stop buying plastic water bottles… terrible! I just got a SIGG bottle and a camelback one too!! YEA TO brita!!

  19. punk rock mom

    Wow! You must be in my head! I am reading a good book and knitting a fun sock and I was thinking, “wow I wish I could do both!” Thanks for the toe tip!!!!

  20. Tonja

    I’ve been reading your blog now for about 3 months and I find your journeys interesting. I love your pictures from Nova Scocia, thanks for posting them. The reason that I’m commenting today is with regard to the bottled water industry. My dad worked in the water utility industry for 35 years – one in Tucson and one in the Atlanta area. He will tell anyone that tap water is wonderful and that there is nothing wrong with it. The EPA imposes so many standards with regard to waste disposal and the FDA with the actual content of minerals in the water that if you actually got bad water from your tap something in this world is topsy turvy. I think most people avoid the tap because it “tastes bad”, but personally, having lived on tap water for 39 years, love it. Thanks for posting about the book. I wish more people would take a second look at the industry as well. I will definitely add it to my book queue.

  21. Stacey

    I heard about “Bottlemania” when the author was on a segment on NPR. Very fascinating. I’ll definitely be reading that soon.

  22. dinadina619

    Thanks for the recommendations Lolly, I’m going to pick up the new Pollan book after work. The best part about finishing grad school is actually reading what I want to read again. I’ve just finished Mary Roach’s latest, Bonk, and now I’m working on All The Way Home by David Giffels. Not too far into it, but I hope to post a review on my tumblr. Ciao!

  23. fleur

    Nothing could prevent me from drinking bottle water. In France as in most civilised coutries (UK or Canada), tap water is full from hormones, antibiotics and other drugs that are not washed out from used water. It makes fished hermaphrodit. I don’t want to be poisoned!! There are scientific publications that make you check I’m not crazy ;-)

  24. Nell

    Thanks for the book suggestions! I’m just being able to read for fun again!

  25. Lin

    I can’t knit and read unfortunately! Thank you for the book suggestions, particulary the Dalai Lama one. I have read a few of his books on Buddhist practices and although I don’t formally practice it I believe in so much of what he says.

  26. LoriG

    You need a book weight: http://www.amazon.com/Croco-textured-Cowhide-Leather-Weight-Black/dp/B000F4J9WQ/ref=pd_bbs_sr_2?ie=UTF8&s=apparel&qid=1215026293&sr=8-2

    I got the (much) cheaper version (that is currently out of stock). It is wonderful and saves the toes.

  27. anmiryam

    Our trip to Iceland has got me focusing on Icelandic literature. Right now I’m reading some cheesy mysteries that despite being a bit formulaic really capture the Icelandic environment and modern lifestyle. I’m also dipping into Icelandic Fairytales and will tackle Haldor Laxness (sp?) an Icelandic author who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in the 1950s.

    After that, back to Dickens (Dombey and Sons) and the US CIvil War (The Battle Cry of Freedom).

  28. GeekKnitter

    Filtered tap water works just fine for me, buying bottle after bottle after bottle always seemed wasteful to me too.

    I’ve been spending some of my summer evenings doing battle with a quite pernicious Japanese Lantern. I think I may have gotten the upper hand on it for this year.

    Now that that’s done with, I’ll be spending evenings on my front porch, knitting lace, looking out at my new front garden and listening to the neighbor kids having fun at the top of their lungs.


  29. Nonnahs

    Intriguing books – I want to check them out! Yeah, the whole water bottle thing bugs me – so much waste (among other things)! I’ve been using a Nalgene bottle for a while, but I’ve been eyeing stainless steel bottles. I’ll check out the Kleen Kanteens!

  30. Aunt Kathy

    Well that toe method is impressive however with my belly I can’t manage it. Bummer, so I guess I am still left with doing one or the other. {{{sigh}}}

  31. Bells

    thanks for the tip on the water book. I really try to only ever buy bottled water when I find myself somewhere without water for some of those reasons but am interested to read more. It does seem a bit of a crock, the marketing message and I don’t want to fall for it.

    As for long summery nights – we’re deep in winter here so nights are spent keeping warm and knitting and eating and sleeping which is good for me, I’m a winter girl.

  32. whitney

    My list of “books I really want to read” has gotten quite long thanks to you, Lolly! Alas, I don’t read nearly as much as I used to. Well, that’s not true, but I don’t read non-academic stuff very much at all these days. Something to work on.

  33. Mary de B

    I love anything by Pico Iyer!

    And tap water.

  34. Emily

    My best friend lived in Santiago, Chile for a few months and she bought me some hand-spun, single ply wool that looks very much like yours, including the presence of little sticks and twigs. I remember that knitting with it was unlike anything I have ever done, it was my first experience with handspun wool.

    I made a felted bowl with some of the yarn but I still have a bit left over. Some pictures are at this address: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ewilker345/tags/bowl/

  35. Claudzilla

    I did a lot of stockinette reading in college (even made most of a sweater for my boyfriend that way) – except I used a butter knife (or sometimes a big pair of scissors) to hold the pages open.

  36. Marlena

    I used to have a bad bottled water habit, and I guess it was about a year ago (at least) that I broke the habit. I still occasionally buy a bottle, but it’s very rare. After returning from my vacation to India, I became even more resolved to drink as much tap water as possible. Being in a country where you can’t even use the ice cubes in a beverage really makes you appreciate how good we have it here. I don’t even need to use a filter on my tap! I fill up a pitcher with water and keep it in my fridge, so it’s always cold, and fishkeeping tells you that simply letting water sit out evaporates most of the crap in there.

    I live not far from Poland Spring, and now that Nestle has purchased the brand, I do wonder how much more water is going to be pumped out of here.

  37. k

    Thanks for the book details – I am finally getting around to reading another Michael Pollan book – The Omnivore’s Dilemma. I am also glad to hear about the bottled water book – I avoid them as much as possible and carry my own drink container just about everywhere.

    The handspun looks lovely too – what a nice shade of yellow!

  38. Sarah G

    Have you read In Defense of Food, Michael Pollan’s newest book? It was wonderful – it really makes you think about the food industry. I’m planning on checking out his other books as a result. Have you checked out http://www.goodreads.com? I’m hooked – I find the reviews are much better than at amazon.

  39. Jenna

    I’ve been more of a reading mood lately, too and I’m not sure why. Really, there is no experience like getting wrapped up in a good book and devouring it – I was probably just looking for a bit of that experience. I haven’t figured out how to knit at the same time, though.

    I’ve been wanting to read Botany of Desire for a while, and I think I can download it for free from my library. Perhaps I’ll get it for my upcoming long flights…

  40. Nim

    Wow, great idea! I imagine myself like the fisherman in the Far Side cartoon: fish or cut bait? Fish or cut bait? I just want to read AND knit! Thanks for the pic; that seems to get the job done! Any tips for knitting while surfing or playing online games? ;)

  41. tiennie

    You should totally get a book weight – it makes knitting and reading so much easier!

  42. Jessica

    Hmm, I’ll have to try the toe trick–but not on my mass-market paperback version of Shogun that I’m reading now, not gonna work. I laughed at your “pre-knitting days” of polishing of a few books a week–isn’t that the truth! I miss reading, too… but not enough, it seems, to slow down on the knitting….

  43. M. D. Vaden of Oregonm

    Don’t think I replied yet – but regarding The Wild Trees, noticed the image here while Googling Redwood stuff.

    My only dissapointment with the book, was that there were no photos.

    The illustrator of the drawings frequents arborist forums I use. He did a good job, and the drawings were very, very time-consuming, he said.

    Care to see the trees in image form – here you go:


    Mouse over to enlarge, or see the redwood album #2. And in slideshow view, the tiny text beneath the frame allows “original” size enlargement.

    If you are going to take a trip – that’s the place to do it.

    By the way, if you have car, I’d suggest setting up base camp at Harris Beach State Park in Oregon, about 1/2 hour away. Has showers, electric and laundry. I’m not too primitive anymore.

    Curly Redwood Lodge in Crescent City is reasonably priced.

  44. amisha

    love that photo of you knitting and reading :) i swear i would have failed out of graduate school AND law school if i hadn’t taught myself to knit without looking early on. even at my current internship, i always have knitting in my lap while i’m doing research… i’ve been doing it so long now that it really helps me focus and concentrate on what i’m reading if i’m knitting something simple at the same time. (luckily the job is very sympathetic to this because i work for a judge who’s also a knitter! :) )

  45. Noémie

    As many of us I’m “multitask”, and I love reading.
    I’ve always loved reading and knitting, sitting in front of the tv, and with my parents and siblings around me.
    I used to put the book I was reading on my lap (magazines were a lot easier, of course), and keep it open with anything at hand: another book, scissors, a tv remote control… just some sort of weight to keep the pages from turning!

    A few weeks ago I found what I had always been looking for: “The Gimble” It’s a plastic transparent device that keeps your book open without breaking its spine. It is just perfect. I found it in the store of a museum in Barcelona, but have found a link to it: http://www.gimbleuk.com/ . I paid 10 euros for it… And now I enjoy knitting and reading again, without dropping things and losing my page!

  46. dog days - Penguin Girl - read. knit. write. travel. live.

    [...] Jo Walton: “Why I Re-Read” and Lolly: Conscious Decision [...]

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