Sunday, January 29, 2012

Citizen Kane {and Alfred Hitchcock}.

I've often heard Citizen Kane called the best (or one of the best) film ever. And of course that made me really curious. I've had it on an old VHS tape for months now, and I watched it this weekend.

Before I saw it, the only things I knew about this film were that it was all about Orson Welles (he starred, directed, co-wrote, etc.) and that the plot somehow involved an opera singer.

Here's the basic plot: A super wealthy newspaper tycoon dies, and his last word is "Rosebud." All of the reporters start trying to figure out the meaning behind the cryptic word. In doing so, they (and the viewers) learn all about the life of Charles Foster Kane through the people that he was closest to, if you could call it that.

The plot and the characters were okay. Honestly, it was all sort of depressing. I know that I watch a lot of happy, slightly "fluffy" old movies- comedies and musicals and such. But I do like movies that are serious and/or gloomy, too. This is a huge movie about a man's life. Even though he's charismatic in the younger scenes, he's not an especially likable character. As the movie went on, I did end up feeling sorry for him. Because the character Kane's life was sad and shallow and materialistic.

{I blame it on the bad decision his mother made when he was young, but I won't go into all that. :) }

It kept making me think of Gone with the Wind, another film that is supposedly one of the best ever but that's also depressing and full of selfish, unlikable characters. But I don't really mean to compare the two, because I hated GwtW and I enjoyed Citizen Kane.

Plot and characters aside, the movie itself is gorgeous.

The only other Orson Welles film I had seen was his Jane Eyre, and even though he supposedly didn't have anything to do with the filming of that one, the cinematography feels a lot like this.

I mean, look at these two pictures:

Amazing. Citizen Kane is full of unique lighting, black and white contrast, and strange angles. It's lovely. Sometimes I'd get so caught up in how neat a shot looked that I didn't focus on what was being said or done. Everything is so dramatic and classy.

Another unusual thing is that, in telling a life story, this movie starts with the death of the man. Then it goes back and pieces everything back together, though not always in chronological order. So it's a lot like a jigsaw puzzle (coincidental that one of his wives loves puzzles?).

Orson Welles was by far the most important and intriguing character. But I was also really impressed with Joseph Cotten as his friend, Jedediah Leland. I just saw Cotten for the first time in Shadow of a Doubt a few weeks ago.

So that's my short, scattered "review" of the famous Citizen Kane. :) While I definitely wouldn't consider it the best film ever (at least not on my list of favorites), I think it is an important classic film and I enjoyed it quite a bit.

Over the last couple of weeks, all of my Netflix movies have been Hitchcock ones that I had never seen before. I didn't have time to write full reviews, but I thought I would just mention the ones I've seen:

Shadow of a Doubt

Is beloved Uncle Charlie a murderer? That's basically what it comes down to. I liked it, and Joseph Cotten does a great job of seeming incredibly fun and ordinary and incredibly creepy. My favorite parts were the discussions between the dad and the neighbor. :)

Mr. and Mrs. Smith

Yes, as unbelievable as it sounds, this is a cheerful comedy by Hitchcock. Carole Lombard and Robert Montgomery were awesome. But I thought it was just an average comedy- not anything special like you would expect.


Does Hitchcock have a fascination with national landmarks? I loved this one. It was quirky and suspenseful throughout and had good humor. The lead couple was very entertaining, and after watching Robert Cummings for the whole film and trying to place where I'd seen him before, I remembered {the Japan episode of the Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour}. It's worth watching just for the traveling circus scene. The end scene is classic Hitchcock suspense.

The Trouble with Harry

Now this is the type of darkish comedy you'd expect from Alfred Hitchcock. It's really kooky and strangely funny, through the first half or so seemed to drag a little. The humor is unusual. The scenery was gorgeous (the parts that were shot on location). I didn't even realize that the Captain was Kris Kringle {Miracle on 34th Street}! I just thought he sounded a little like Michael Gambon somehow. Yes, the Beav is here, too, though I've always found him a little annoying.

Before I saw the film, I was completely mistaken about it. From the brief plot summaries I had read, it said that Harry is "expired," and nobody in town can seem to get rid of him. I always took that to mean that he was a ghost who wouldn't leave the town (probably came from watching Casper too much as a kid). But that's not what it was at all.

Until next time,

Friday, January 27, 2012

Basketweave scarf and some new fabric.

I started knitting this scarf probably back in November, at least. But then I took a break from it for several weeks because I was knitting dishrags for my mom for Christmas. And then it was taking so long that I got discouraged and didn't work on it very often (which really helped matters, of course), until about a week ago when I decided I was going to finish it.

I used the basketweave stitch. It's a little hard to see it because of the colors of the yarn, but if you look closely you can see little squares. The yarn is a snowflake wool blend by Yarn Bee, and I got two skeins of it on clearance at Hobby Lobby. The colors were so pretty that I couldn't resist. I made it into a scarf because, well, that's the only thing I know how to knit so far besides washclothes (and I couldn't use wool for that). Which brings my scarf collection to a total of about nine, I think? :) This is the third scarf I've knitted.

It's surprisingly heavy and long, which I like. I wanted to use up both skeins since that's all of this yarn I have.

This was my first scarf where I didn't make any real mistakes. I even remembered to bind off loosely and in the stitch pattern. :) I did drop a stitch and have to unravel (what's the word? Frog? I don't think I'll ever be able to say that without laughing) a couple of rows because stitches kept slipping off my needles. I don't like metal knitting needles very much. I ended up fixing things in a slightly sloppy way. But it blends in so well that I don't think I'd even be able to find that spot now.

I also learned that I knit considerably faster during climatic end scenes of Hitchcock films. I'm talking about you, Saboteur.

Last week, Kellie posted about having a big sale. I've only ever ordered fabric online once before (that was a printed cotton for a customer). I like to touch and see fabrics in person before I buy them, and I don't like not knowing exactly what I'm getting.

But...they had some amazing sale prices, plus free shipping over $35, plus I got 15% off my total order. So this is what I got:

One yard of this Michael Miller (I think) Eiffel Tower cotton print. I think I'll make a pillow or something with it, because I really don't need another bag.

About 4.5 yards of this speckled brown wool suiting. I need a brown skirt, so maybe a half circle skirt or something? Maybe a circle skirt, but that might be cutting it close to have enough fabric.

About 2.5 yards of this cute red floral shirting, which I think I'll use for a spring button up shirt with elbow length sleeves. It looked really 30s/40s to me, even though unfortunately it's polyester instead of cotton.

And about 5 yards of this floral rayon. It's navy but looks black in most lighting. I'm thinking maybe another 40s swing dress with it?

Even though my PayPal balance is now significantly lower, I'm really happy with my order. I don't think I've bought any fabric in the past month and a half or two months, so this was a splurge. Everything I got was on sale (besides the other discounts) and I have plans for each fabric. So I feel completely justified.

Can I just mention how thrilling it is when the UPS man delivers an eight pound box of fabric? :)

Until next time,

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Surprised by Laughter.

C.S. Lewis holds the position as my favorite author (tied with Jane Austen). I first discovered him through the incredible Chronicles of Narnia, and since then I've read more of his nonfiction and other novels. Even though occasionally his writings feel a little over my head, I love his way with words and his cleverness.

So, when I saw this book, I was really excited. :) I have to admit that the cover drew me in quite a bit...of course, it reminded me of pre-Aslan Edmund drawing a face on a stone creature just to try and make himself feel better.

Surprised by Laughter, by Terry Lindvall, PH.D., is about the humor of C.S. Lewis, shown through stories about his life, his letters, his nonfiction, and his novels. It's divided into four main sections (based on what Screwtape calls the four origins of laughter): joy, fun, the joke proper, and satire and flippancy.

I really enjoyed this book. This was the first biographical sort of book (besides Lewis' autobiography) that I had read about C.S. Lewis. Before, I thought that I would have liked him as a person, and now, besides that, I almost feel like I knew him. :) Maybe that sounds crazy, but this book really seems to give insight on who C.S. Lewis was.

My favorite section by far was the one on fun. It lifted my spirits and made me smile {and gave me many places to mark and come back to later}. It was the most practical- lots of inspiration and encouragement to live life to the fullest. It included stories about enjoying life, even (or especially) the little unexpected things or change of plans where you have the choice to grumble about it or laugh about it. I also loved the connection between humility and humor that I had never seen before:

"A proud man cannot laugh because he must watch his dignity...But a poor and happy man laughs heartily because he gives no serious attention to his ego." -p. 139

"Out of humus and humere grow humanity, humility, and humor." -p. 141

I'll admit that it convicted me, because apparently it's often my pride and self-consciousness that holds me back from having fun. {But maybe more on that in a later post.}

I also loved this quote: "It is curious that of the Ten Commandments the one to honor and keep the Sabbath is the one with the most immediate benefit to us, yet it is the one we break most casually." -p. 167

Having said all of that, at times reading this book felt sluggish and I had to pull myself through. It's a bit heavy and long-winded sometimes. And honestly, I mostly skimmed the last section on satire, because it just wasn't very interesting to me. But the parts that were good were very good.

So all in all, I enjoyed the book. I think that so many people see Christianity as such a solemn and dull life, but honestly it's not supposed to be that way. Of course, life is full of difficult times, but in the words of Switchfoot, "The shadow proves the sunshine." The life and works of C.S. Lewis are a wonderful example of this. If you're a fellow fan, I think you would enjoy it. At the very least, it will encourage you to read or reread more of his work. :) I'm determined to finally read his Space Trilogy.

Until next time,

*Note: I received this book free of charge from Booksneeze. In exchange, I'm required to write an honest (and not necessarily positive) review.*

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Educate yourself.

Today marks the 39th anniversary of Roe. vs. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that made abortion legal.

"Since 1973, it has been the single decision of seven, non-elected justices that has defined federal abortion policy (invalidating 200 years of state law)." -this article

Love Lets Live | 

I feel strongly about abortion. I love kids and it breaks my heart (not to mention makes me furious) that babies are being murdered every day in our "great" country. A lot of Christians believe that abortion is wrong, but that's as far as it goes. I don't want to be like that. I want to know why it's wrong and be able to explain when someone asks. I want to do something about it.

In the past thirty nine years, over 50 million innocent children have been murdered...

What are we going to do about it?

You can start by reading some of the dozens of informative articles at How can you defend your position if you don't have the facts? Check out this short film (on that note, can you believe that there are people who don't know who Hitler is??). Read this interesting article that draws parallels between abortion and the Holocaust.

{I'm trying to educate myself so I can educate others. I'm wearing my Abort 73 t-shirt. I'm leaving their promo cards in public places. I'm trying to discover how to do more.}

Until next time,

Friday, January 20, 2012

Pretty pillows.

With a new quilt, I realized that only a couple of my pillows (I have a ton of pillows on my bed) actually matched the quilt. So it's a perfect time to use some of the pillow tutorials I've had bookmarked for the longest time. :)

I love this tutorial for pillows. And our Hobby Lobby actually had teal/turquoise felt, so it worked out really nicely! :) I made a turquoise one and a red one so far, and I have enough turquoise felt to make another if I want to.

I love how they turned out! Honestly, they're the prettiest and most professional looking pillows I've ever made. I changed two little things while following the tutorial:

-When cutting out the scallops, I only marked them on two adjoining sides of the square. Then I folded the square in half and cut through both layers, which saved a lot of time in marking and cutting out the scalloped edges. You can always go back and trim up your scallops later if they look messy.
-I made it an actual pillow, instead of an envelope pillow cover. Because my existing pillows were a little too big for this tutorial. So I just cut out a 17 x 17 square for the back and then stuffed it with Polyfill.

I also recovered this one big Elvis pillow that my grandma had made me. It's lumpy and perfect and I wanted it to stay that way, only match my quilt. So I covered it in this woodland fabric that is included in my quilt squares and my embroidered pillows. Before:

{I still love Elvis. :) The fabric on this pillow was just sort of worn out and dingy, and the colors don't match my quilt.}

And after:

I've got two more pillows I want to make from tutorials. And then I have an idea for one that I'd like to make myself...and possibly post a tutorial for? I've been wanting to do occasional tutorials on the blog for a while now, but I haven't actually followed through on one yet. But the first ever Sew Technicolor tutorial could be coming in a few weeks. :)

I got this idea the other day when fiddling with rickrack, so I made this little tribute to that blockhead we all know and love.

And remember my Emma cross stitch? I finally got around to framing it.

I guess I could have pressed the fabric a little more before I framed it, huh? :)

Until next time,

Sunday, January 15, 2012

The quilt.

I've never been good at math, but I know this much...

728 squares +

Nearly 4 spools of thread +

Hundreds of safety pins + 

5 months of my life
Some frustrations
Some joys
One lovely quilt and one happy girl.

I started this quilt, my very first quilt, back in August. Making a quilt for my bed has been one of my major sewing goals ever since I started sewing over three years ago.

Quilts are one of the few things in life (along with songs, books, people, and places) that are capable of containing memories. You know how a song can remind you of a certain day or part of your life? You know how when you open your favorite book, you have a whole slew of memories attached to it?

Quilts are like that.

This quilt is stitched full of memories. It makes me think of: the Avett Brothers, feeling a breeze coming in through my sewing room window, motorcycles {my brother bought one about the time I started on the quilt}, my two sewing grandmas, picking loose threads from my clothes, the fabric store in Floyd, my first vintage sewing machine, sunshine, and cloudy days.

I learned a lot while making this quilt. The number one lesson was: Quilters know what they're talking about. When quilting straight lines, a walking foot is necessary. Don't try to use a regular presser foot, or this will happen:

{In my defense, I only resorted to a regular presser foot for two rows because my new walking foot was broken and I was having to return it for a replacement. And I was very frustrated.}

I also learned that because you have to use a slow speed with the walking foot, the actual quilting part of the quilt was one of the most mind-numbingly dull sewing tasks I have yet to experience. Dozens and dozens of long straight lines on the machine's slowest speed, terrified that at any moment, this walking foot might mess up, too. It called for some Downton Abbey and a temporary quilting station set up in my room.

All of that was completely worth it, though. Have I mentioned that I love my quilt? It's bright and a little tacky, and in that way it reminds me of my beloved Technicolor musicals. :) It's full of my favorite things.

If you've been around here for long, you know that I am terrible at hand sewing. So I was feeling a little anxious about hand sewing the entire binding around the edges. But it was actually much easier and quicker than I expected.

And surprisingly relaxing and satisfying. Maybe I should hand sew more often? :) I'm really pleased with how it turned out.

I'm also really happy with the neat corners (I followed Alicia Paulson's instructions...more on that later).

And just in case, by some terrible circumstance, my future children or grandchildren end up donating this quilt to the Goodwill or antique store someday, I embroidered and attached this label. So people will always know who made it. {And after all this hard work, I would probably come back to haunt whatever ungrateful descendant did the donating.}

Honestly, though, it's amazing to think that in a hundred years, when I'm gone, this quilt will likely still be here.

Here are the technical details. Even though I have a lovely quilting book and I already had a basic knowledge of how to make a quilt, I really wanted step by step instructions for my first one. So I used the Ollalieberry Ice Cream quilt pattern by Alicia Paulson. It was so helpful and I highly recommend it. Her technique for corners (and everything else) turned out perfectly!

I made the queen sized one, which amounted to 728 squares. Then you quilt a ton of lines alongside the columns and the rows, which ends up framing each square in stitching. Everything was done by machine, except for attaching the binding.

I used all cotton fabrics- sold colors, printed cotton, and some gingham. The batting was a precut queen size (I can't remember the brand) that was mostly cotton but had a little bit of polyester blended in. The backing is natural unbleached muslin, which does a nice job of balancing out all of the craziness on the front. I didn't know at the time that our Hobby Lobby carried quilt-size muslin for backing, so I bought the regular width and pieced sections together until it was the width I needed.

The label was hand embroidered on a piece of cream cotton fabric. I sewed it on with the zigzag stitch on my machine, but first I stuck a piece of equally sized cream craft felt behind it to prevent the thin fabric from being see through and to make it a little puffy.

Well, I think that's it. :) You can follow my quilting adventures all along here.

Have you ever made a quilt? Or do you have one that's special to you?

Until next time,