Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Yarn Along {Christmas Gift Edition}

Instead of the usual Yarn Along (posting about what you're knitting and reading), this week we're sharing the Christmas gifts that we knitted. I can finally show you guys what I've been working on for the past month and a half! :)

By the way, forgive the not-so-great photos. I was taking these pictures as I finished the projects and just before wrapping them, so the light wasn't usually the best.

We'll start with the socks!

These were the only pair of fingering weight socks I made for a gift. I started them back in October, and originally they were for me. But Mom kept mentioning how much she loved the yarn, so before I got to the foot of the first sock, I decided that they would be for her instead. The good thing was that I could knit on them around her because she thought they were mine. :) Mom loves pink, and though I'm not a fan, I love the way this yarn knitted up. (Bonus: It was dyed by a somewhat-local dyer.) Project page.

I also made a pair of worsted weight socks for Mom. (She really loves cozy socks.) I used KnitPicks' Wool of the Andes superwash, just in case they ever accidentally got thrown into the washing machine. Worsted weight socks are perfect for Christmas gifts because it only takes me about four days to knit a pair (compared to about 2 weeks for a fingering weight pair). Project page.

I made a worsted weight pair for my dad in his favorite color: green. (In real life the color isn't as dull as it looks here.) Again, I used Wool of the Andes superwash. Project page.

And another pair of worsted weight socks for my dad. These were made with non-superwash wool from Hobby Lobby. I've made him previous pairs with the darker brown and the lighter brown, so my goal with these was to combine the leftovers to get another pair of socks. I originally planned on just using the dark brown at the ribbing, the heel, and the toe, but I didn't have enough of the light brown. So I ended up doing this odd color blocking. :) Project page.

I made Vancouver Fog fingerless gloves for my sister-in-law. I'd had this pattern in my queue for a long time, and it was nice to finally knit it up. I think cables are such a pain to knit but the end result is worth it. :) The yarn is KnitPicks Swish worsted. Project page.

I spun some pink fiber (information about the handspun here) into worsted yarn and made my mom a pair of fingerless gloves. She picked out the pattern...I added ribbing to the top and bottom and made them a bit longer so she could tuck her fingers inside if they get cold. Project page.

My brother's job means that he works outside a lot, so he needs warm clothes during the winter. I made him this hat that can be worn as a stocking hat/watchman's cap with the brim rolled up, or as a slouchy hat with the brim down. I used some black Wool of the Andes superwash. Project page.

This little hat for my niece was my first experience with colorwork! :) My tension was a little too loose at the beginning (the bottom gray stitches in the scallops are loose), but it got better as I went. I used KnitPicks Swish DK. I ended up knitting it a little longer than it needed to be, so it's sort of a slouchy hat on her. Project page.

With the leftovers from the above hat, I knit my niece another hat, which actually fits properly. I only had a couple of yards left of each color when I was finished, which was exactly what I wanted: two hats from two skeins with no leftovers. Project page.
This isn't knitting, but it's the only non-knitted gift I made, so I'll include it here. My niece already loves to tote around a purse (she's only 14 months old so this looks adorable and hilarious), so I thought I'd make her one. It's made from the Buttercup Bag pattern, shrunk down to her size (and I still could have made it a bit smaller).
Whew! So in total, ten handmade gifts. Most of them were quick projects, so I really didn't start making gifts until the middle of November, and I was finished at least a week before Christmas. That was much less stressful than last year, when I was finishing up a gift on Christmas Eve.
{Yarn Along is a weekly link up hosted by Ginny where you can share what you've been knitting and reading. I'm also linking up with Liesl's Monthly Sock Challenge.}

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

What Are You Doing New Year's Eve?

I know I'm a day early, but I have another post planned for tomorrow and I couldn't resist sharing this lovely song. :) By the way, you can download it and four other Christmas-ish songs for free on Noisetrade here. I listened to them a lot this month, and I especially love her version of Do You Hear What I Hear? I like that song but hers is the only version that I really love.
 And here's a little bonus...

Monday, December 29, 2014

Best of 2014: Movies, TV, and Music

I decided to combine all of these into one post because at first I thought I didn't have many to list. As I went through, I found a lot more to write about than I had remembered. :)

Remember, these weren't necessarily released in 2014, though some were. These are just my favorites that I discovered in 2014. I'll start with the films, in the order that I saw them:

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
The fact that every other scene in this movie was turned into an action-packed Orc chase drives me crazy, but overall I still enjoyed it. And the return of Legolas (not technically a return since this is a prequel, but you know what I mean) pretty much made me forgive everything else. Because let's just be honest...I've always had a bit of a crush on Legolas and I probably always will. I reviewed the film here if you're interested in hearing more about what I thought. {I know this film came out in 2013 but I didn't see it until January of 2014. And I haven't seen the last Hobbit film yet, which is why it didn't make the list.}

Austenland was, by far, my favorite film of 2014. I've probably watched it 10 or 12 times since I bought it back in February. It is charming and kooky and hilarious and sweet, and it somehow manages to poke fun at Austen fans while at the same time celebrating them. It won't be for everyone, but honestly it's perfect for me. It's the sort of movie that instantly lifts my mood and always makes me laugh, no matter how many times I see it. I adore this film and rambled about it a lot here.
The Book Thief
This is not a feel-good movie or one that I will rewatch often (the reason why I didn't purchase it), but it's still really beautifully done. You can read my review here.

Saving Mr. Banks
A movie involving the 1960s and Disney? This was practically made for me. :) I did have some qualms with it, but overall I really enjoyed it. Emma Thompson was amazing, as usual. My review can be found here.
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
I didn't really have any interest in seeing this movie. My parents got it through Netflix and told me that I should watch it, so I did. And I was shocked to find that I loved it. :) It was seriously so, so good. (Also, I really want to go to Iceland now.) I didn't do a review of it, but I got it on DVD for Christmas so maybe I'll write a review in the next month or so after I watch it again?

I wasn't expecting too much from this movie, but I was pleasantly surprised. It had flaws...I was hoping for more in certain aspects and the CGI was pretty awful at times, but I still kind of loved this movie. It was darker and more eerie than I expected. I loved seeing some familiar faces from BBC shows, including two of the fairies. :)

Edit: I had a mind blank and completely forgot to include Mockingjay: Part I in this list! I was really lazy and didn't even review it after I saw it in theaters. Here are my very brief thoughts: I liked it. It was a good adaptation, though honestly Mockingjay is my least favorite of the HG series. It felt slow and dragged at times (as does the book), but my only real disappointment was how they handled Finnick revealing President Snow's big secret. I remember being really shocked when I read it in the was a big deal somehow, after all of the emphasis on the roses and smell of blood. The rescue attempt in the film overshadowed that part, with the way they kept jumping back and forth every few seconds. That let me down, but I still enjoyed the film and it should have made it on the list. :)

Honorable mentions: Divergent and The Giver. I've read Divergent and didn't like it at all, but I still watched the film and I ended up really enjoying it. I've read The Giver multiple's the first dystopian book I ever read so it'll always stand out to me. The film was pretty good. It was a bit cheesy at times, but overall it was a good adaptation, but I didn't quite love it.

Now on to the TV shows.

I watched the entire Psych series through Netflix this year, one DVD at a time, and I enjoyed every moment of it. :) Shawn and Gus are hilarious and this became one of my favorite shows. I made a list of my favorite episodes here. 

Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries
This show didn't grab me from the start. It took me the longest time to watch through the beginning of the first season. I loved the historical setting, but the mysteries didn't seem like anything special and I couldn't get past Phryne Fisher's loose morals. But by the end of the first season, I was hooked and I loved the second season even more. I don't know if it improved or if it just grew on me, but I love this show now. I love the setting and the jazzy music and the cast of quirky supporting characters. And there have been some really amazing mysteries. I don't think I'm really spoiling anything by saying that Phryne and Jack are one of my favorite should-be couples ever. I love their banter.

I was hesitant to include this one. Firefly was a show that got cancelled after one season, but it has lots of devoted fans. I'd heard so much about it that I finally decided to watch it. It's hard to explain, but basically it's a space western. It's a crew of crazily different people living together on a rundown spaceship who are always breaking the law or running from someone or being shot at or threatened. :) I can't actually recommend this show because there are so many content issues. If it had been cleaner, it probably would have become one of my favorite TV shows. The space western thing works so well (love the theme song and music), the friendships between the quirky characters are awesome, and there were quite a few unexpectedly hilarious, snort-laugh moments. If you decide to check it out, though, watch at your own risk because there's language and a lot of other inappropriate content.

And now on to the music. I didn't discover much new music this year, so I only have three albums to share.

Put Your Needle Down, by the Secret Sisters. I love this album even more than their first. Their voices sound so incredible together and the songs are so haunting (well, there are a few fun ones, too).

Innate, by Laulu. I found this four-song album on Noisetrade (where you can currently still find it for free here). I adore the first song, Transcontinental,'s beautiful.

Letters Kept to Ourselves, by The Native Sibling. I also came across this one on Noisetrade (right here), because it was recommended for fans of The Civil Wars. It doesn't necessarily remind me of them, but it's still really lovely in a different way.
What were your favorite films, TV shows, and albums that you discovered in 2014?

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Best of 2014: Books

2014 was a good year for reading. :) Here are my favorite books that I read this past year...

My goal was to read at least 70 books this year. I met and surpassed that goal by a bit...I've read 71 books as of today. I know I'll finish my reread of Mere Christianity in the next day or two because I only have one chapter left, and I'm pretty sure that I'll finish the book that I'm currently reading by January 1st.

I reread 13 books this year, which was two more than last year. I'm a big fan of rereading books that I love, though I don't always do it as often as I'd like because there are so many new books to read. :) I read three complete series: The Secret Series by Pseudonymous Bosch, The Montmaray Journals by Michelle Cooper, and a reread of the Harry Potter series.

As for my other bookish resolutions, here's how I did...I failed at shrinking my number of unread books that I own. In fact, after all of the books I bought this year, that number grew to over 150. I know, I know, it's ridiculous and I have a major problem. I own over 500 books, so it's not like the majority of my books are unread, but it's still way too many.

I wanted to read five new-to-me classics, and I did that. Never mind that some of them are technically "modern classics," and most of them were children's books. :) I did read The Great Gatsby, which I'd been meaning to do forever. I didn't finish rereading Jane Austen's novels...the only one I read was Mansfield Park, but I'm going to start Emma soon. And for the third year in a row, I didn't reread the Lord of the Rings trilogy. 2015 will be the year, you guys. Hopefully. :)

I did keep a book journal consistently, as I have for the past couple of years. Also, I'm going to check off my goal of using the library more. I only actually checked out books about twice this year, but the library was still particularly helpful. Because several of the books I read were ones that I had almost spontaneously purchased, and I ended up really disliking them. So thank you, library, for helping me save that money.

What were your favorite books that you read this year?

Friday, December 26, 2014

In 2014.

Hope you all had a wonderful Christmas yesterday! :)

I debated skipping this post this year but decided to go for it anyway...for the sake of tradition. :) 2014 was a pretty quiet, normal year. Nothing really earth-shattering happened. (Well, except for my mom's chainsaw accident, which was memorable in an awful way. Thank goodness her leg has healed in the 7 months since the accident!)

In 2014...

-I went to a fiber festival for the first time, and oh my was the coolest thing ever. :) I can't wait to go back next year! Also, I saw alpacas up close for the first time and they were so unexpectedly small and fuzzy and adorable.

-A little kitten showed up in my mom's motor and we got to keep him. I named him after an Austen hero.

-I went to a craft festival as a spinning demonstrator and a vendor, which was a little scary but so much fun.

-My sweet niece celebrated her first birthday.

I basically failed at sewing this year. I made two Renfrew tops, a pajama shirt, and three pairs of pajama pants (clearly you can see what my priorities are). That was the extent of my garment sewing. I had three sewing-related goals and I only accomplished one of them, which was to sew a bag that I love. (Ironically, it's my knitting bag, ha.) I also started a fall quilt but it's not finished...I'm in the process of hand quilting it.

On the other hand, I completed 52 knitting projects this year! Nineteen of those were for the festival and about thirteen of them were gifts. I almost completed all of my knitting resolutions. I didn't truly learn colorwork, but I did experiment with it a bit with this hat. One of my goals was to knit myself a cardigan, and I actually finished two cardigans this year! (Haven't blogged about the second one because I haven't got pictures of it yet.) I wanted to knit myself six pairs of socks this year, and I only completed 4. I finished cleaning my raw fleece from last year but didn't spin it. And for my last knitting goal, which was really a spinning goal: I did take that Craftsy class about spinning dyed fibers and learned so much from it. (Oh, and I also invested in those DPNs and interchangeable needles...probably the easiest resolution to follow, ha.)

As for all of my other resolutions, I didn't do such a great job. I did save some money but not as much as I should have, and I didn't give as much as I should have. I didn't learn how to cook or exercise or put much effort into my Etsy shop. I did limit my clothing purchases, though...the only clothes I bought this year were two pairs of jeans and a new winter coat.

I'll talk more about how I did with my book-related resolutions in an upcoming post! (Plus my favorite books, movies, TV, and music of 2014.)

What were some of the best parts of 2014 for you? How did you do with your goals for the year?

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince {Book + Film}

{Warning: I tried my best to avoid spoilers, but it's basically impossible with this one.}

With the last book in the series, the Order of the Phoenix, I found that I enjoyed the book less and the film more than I remembered. But with the sixth book, things were reversed. :)

I've always considered the Half-Blood Prince to be one of my least favorite books in the Harry Potter series, if not my least favorite. So I was surprised to find that I really enjoyed rereading it this time. There isn't an awful lot going on plot-wise in the book until near the end...the memories and backstory of Voldemort are obviously the focus in this story. I loved those. Even rereading the book and knowing what's happening, it's still fascinating to read all of this information about one of the creepiest villains ever written. :)

Harry's obsession with finding out what Draco's doing gets a little old, and then there's the whole Lavender and Won-Won catastrophe. (Don't even get me started on that.) But there are still some great moments, like the Felix Felicis scenes, which are among my favorites in the series. And the end is so suspenseful and done really well, from the cave until the very end, which of course always makes me cry. How could it not? for the film. I'm just going to say from the start that this is probably the most disappointing adaptation in the whole series, in my opinion. There is so much emphasis on the relationships between characters and not enough on Voldemort's history.

First of all I'll mention the things that I don't like. Because there are a lot of them. :)

I felt like they dumbed down the whole mysterious Malfoy aspect for the film. By showing him with a cabinet in Knockturn Alley and then the matching cabinet at Hogwarts, they make things much too obvious. Then there's the discussion between Mr. Weasley and Harry about it.

As for the relationships, watching Lavender and Ron is painful, but it's awful reading it in the book, too, so I guess that's okay. :) Also, most of the moments between Harry and Ginny are just awkward in the film. Maybe they're meant to be, but I like their relationship a lot more as it played out in the books. I'm disappointed that they left out the whole Tonks bit and automatically jump to her and Lupin in a relationship.

I really like the young Voldemort casting, but I don't like the teenage Voldemort. I much preferred the guy they used in the Chamber of Secrets film. This one doesn't even vaguely resemble adult Voldemort...his face is too round or something.

The attack on the Burrow feels so random and unnecessary. It's like the filmmakers felt like they needed an action-y part in the middle, so they just stuck something in there. And later on, what's with Snape not even punishing Harry for using Secumsempra? Harry just ran off and Snape wasn't going to punish him for nearly (accidentally) killing another student?

Maybe I'm being nitpicky with those things. But here are my three biggest qualms with the film: 1) The Voldemort memory scenes are cut short and only a couple of them are even shown. There's so much more information in the book that it's almost ridiculous. 2) Dumbledore doesn't immobilize Harry during the confrontation scene. I know that Harry promised to obey everything Dumbledore said, and he was told to stay hidden. But in this case I think Harry would have broken his promise, unless he was magically unable to move, like in the book. He would not have just stood there and watched what happened! Seriously, this drives me crazy and is my least favorite part of the whole movie...maybe the worst change they made in any of the film adaptations. 3) There is no funeral at the end. Doesn't the character who dies at least deserve that? Instead, all he gets is a cheesy wand salute thing. While reading the book, the funeral makes me cry more than the actual death. on to what I do like. :) I like seeing the creepy place where Snape lives. Am I the only one who never really thought about where any of the Hogwarts teachers live when they're not at school?

The scene when they're trying to win the Felix Felicis cracks me up. I love how Hermione's hair gets progressively frizzier and how she reacts to not being the best in the class. :) That's definitely not something she's used to! I also love her friendship with Harry. It's so sweet how Harry comforts her in the canary scene. And I love when Harry takes Luna to the party! Luna is amazing, as usual. Probably the most perfect casting ever.

The film also contains two hilarious, lovely comedic bits from Harry and Ron: Ron under the influence of the love potion and Harry under the influence of Felix Felicis. Those scenes keep me laughing and it is so refreshing to see those two characters in a new way. :) I especially love Harry's carefree matter-of-fact-ness with Professor Slughorn.

So...yeah. I made it sound like I hate this movie, and I really don't. Like I said, it's just my least favorite of the films. I don't they did a very good job of translating it from book to film.

I promise things will be more positive in my last review, considering Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is my favorite. :)

Monday, December 15, 2014

Jane Austen Cover to Cover: 200 Years of Classic Covers.

I love Jane Austen. I love pretty book covers. So of course I'm smitten with this new book:

It is such a fun, charming, beautiful book. I knew that I would like it (see above), but it is just done so well. Basically, it's what the title says: an overview of different book covers of Jane Austen's classic novels. It begins with the first editions of Sense and Sensibility and goes up through recent editions that you can buy on Amazon right now. Obviously they can't include every single cover that's been released, but it's very thorough.

Jane Austen Cover to Cover is a bit like a coffee table can read it little by little, browsing through, or you can read it all in one sitting (which is pretty much what I did). I liked the way that the covers were organized: first in chronological order, but then other editions were grouped into categories like foreign editions, bind-ups of all of the novels, and movie covers. (It made me smile to see that publishers have been releasing cheesy movie covers for over 70 years now!) The layout of the entire book is really nice...I loved the quotes and informative articles scattered throughout. And the book itself is gorgeous, from the colors used to the sturdy matte pages that have a really good new book smell. :) Just being honest here.

Can you tell that I loved this book? It was so interesting to see all of these interpretations of the same stories, and to realize that even though the stories stayed the same, the covers varied drastically because of the time period, the intended audience, etc. There are all sorts of book covers here: the good (some are gorgeous), the bad, and the ugly. They're all accompanied by interesting commentary, which at times is hilariously snarky. (There have been some weird Austen covers, you guys, and the author doesn't mind poking fun at them.)

This book made me want to reread all of Jane Austen's novels and finally pick up the biography about her that I own. Even though the focus is on the actual covers, I still learned a few new things about one of my favorite authors. I enjoyed the book so much and highly recommend it. I think that any Austen fan will love it, and if that Austen fan also happens to appreciate pretty book covers, then you can't go wrong with this one. :)

*Quirk Books kindly sent me a review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.*

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Book Outlet finds.

Late last year I found Book Outlet, with their temptingly cheap prices on brand-new bargain books. Of course I don't need more books right now, but it seems that I can't resist cheap books.* I've ordered from them several times this year, but today I thought I'd share what I found for their big Black Friday sale. Everything on the website was 30% off, plus you could get a coupon for $10 off your order, no minimum.
Like I've mentioned before, I feel a bit weird posting "book hauls." But I personally love reading them or seeing them, so maybe some of you will enjoy it, too.

First of all, I got two Christian historical fiction novels by authors who I always enjoy: Karen Witemeyer and Siri Mitchell. These are both very recent releases...Stealing the Preacher came out last year and Love Comes Calling was released early this year.

I stumbled across these books through the recommendation feature on Book Outlet. I was drawn in by the fact that they were illustrated by Brett Helquist, who also illustrated A Series of Unfortunate Events. I specifically got them both in paperback so the covers would match, but apparently they ran out of copies of the first book and had to send me a different cover. It's pretty ugly and I'm a bit disappointed that they don't match, but oh well. The story still sounds good. :) By the way, this was the first time with a Book Outlet order that I didn't receive the exact cover that I ordered, though I've heard it happening with other people.
Two more middle grade books. I'm pretty sure that The Princess Curse is a retelling of The Twelve Dancing Princesses, and I've heard it recommended for fans of Shannon Hale and Gail Carson Levine (who happen to be two of my favorite authors and have been since I was a kid). As for A Boy Called M.O.U.S.E., isn't that cover wonderful? Something about it reminds me of Peter Pan. Anyway, the story sounds like a mix of Charles Dickens, Jane Eyre, and Harry Potter, so that sounds awesome.
Then I got a YA novel, Meant to Be. I don't know much about it except that the cover is pretty and maybe part of it is set in London? I also got Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion. I've been wanting to read this book for a long time! I feel so uncomfortable buying new store-bought clothes because of the conditions in which they're made, but I want to be more informed about it all.
And lastly, a couple of random books. I think I've mentioned this before, but I collect picture books. It started during my early childhood education program in college and snowballed from there. I basically already have my future children's library of picture books, stored in boxes under my bed. I'm especially fond of quirky picture books, and when I heard this one was set up like a silent film, I really wanted to read it. It's such a funny little book with an interesting twist at the end. :)
I also got a craft book of stuffed animal patterns, which to be honest, I'm the tiniest bit disappointed with. Most of the animals are really cute, but they all have a homemade quality to them that I personally like, but that some people wouldn't appreciate. Which means I'd be hesitant to make them as gifts. Also, I think they seem more decorative rather than toys for children, because I don't know how well they'd hold up. (All of the patterns have to be enlarged by 200% before you can make them. And even then, the animals are tiny...just a few inches tall. So they'd really have to be enlarged even more.)
Lastly, I bought a little copy of Neil Gaiman's "Make Good Art" speech, because it's pretty inspiring.
About a month before, I had ordered four books, so I'll throw them in here, too. (This was before I knew about the upcoming sale.) I got Lost Lake by Sarah Addison Allen (I've read most of her books and enjoy them), Dangerous by Shannon Hale, a biography of Beatrix Potter (which I got from the library last year but didn't get very far before it had to be returned...I'm looking forward to reading it all!), and Ginger Roger's autobiography (now I just need to find Fred Astaire's because I love that duo, and they redid these covers to coordinate with each other).

I highly recommend Book Outlet, but be warned that it's a dangerous place. :) The prices are amazing and you can find some really good stuff if you take the time to look. They often have newer releases for less than half of what they'd be on Amazon. They also offer scratch and dent books for even less, and in my experience, with hardcovers there's usually nothing worse than the corner of the dust jacket being torn. With paperbacks, the damage might be more obvious, like the cover being bent down the middle or something.

You do have to pay shipping, but you can usually find at least a $5 off coupon online if you look hard enough. And do know that sometimes a book might be a bit dirty (the Neil Gaiman speech was, but I just wiped it off) or have some sort of sticker on it...just in case you're really picky about your books looking brand-new. With these prices, though, you really can't complain!

P.S. I'm in no way affiliated with Book Outlet. I'm just a bookworm on a budget and a happy customer. :)

* I know I have a problem. I'm going to try not to buy so many books in 2015 and focus on shrinking my "own but unread" list. But I say that every year, and you see how that turns out...

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Yarn Along

Reading: Here to Stay, by Melissa Tagg. I never know exactly what to call this genre, but it's basically a Christian romantic comedy, with a bit of family drama thrown in. It's set during late fall into Christmas time, so now seemed like the perfect time to read it! I'm really enjoying it so far. :)

Knitting: A pair of fingerless gloves for my mom for Christmas. I can mention that here because she knows about them. :) I spun this yarn to use for her gift, because she loves pink and I don't. She also picked out the pattern.

{Yarn Along is a weekly link up hosted by Ginny where you can share what you've been knitting and reading.}

I know I haven't been around the blog much this month, but I haven't had a lot to post about. Since I've been knitting Christmas gifts, I can't share those projects. I do have a few things lined up, but hopefully I'll get back in the swing of things after Christmas. I have some exciting new ideas and plans for the new year, including the possibility of a new Etsy shop! :) Anyway, more on that later.

I spun this yarn from some fiber I bought at the fiber festival last spring. I don't know what kind of wool it was, but it's pretty soft. I spun it as a 2 ply and ended up with approx. 162 yards of worsted weight.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

A Christmas tune.

Here's something to brighten your Wednesday! Just another reason to love Jars of Clay. :)

{It cracks me up when the camera falls.}

Monday, December 1, 2014

What I Read: November

November was a pretty good reading month. I liked everything that I read, and I also discovered a new favorite. :) As usual, the links will take you to my reviews.

The Princess Spy, by Melanie Dickerson. This was the third of her fairy tale retellings that I've read, and I really enjoyed it. Gorgeous cover, too. :)

The Blue Castle, by L.M. Montgomery. I finally read this book, and oh my goodness, I adored it. It wasn't what I was expecting, but it was better. It made me laugh and smile and swoon. Definitely a new favorite! (And as soon as I reread the last Harry Potter book, I am going to start the Anne of Green Gables series. Hopefully in December!)

Debbie: My Life, by Debbie Reynolds. Hello, awfully cheesy cover! (Thankfully mine is an ex-library copy that's missing the dust jacket, ha.) If you're into classic movies, then you might know that Debbie Reynolds released a new memoir...last year? The year before? Sometime fairly recently. But this is her first one, which was released in 1988. It was surprisingly interesting and readable and detailed without being dry (things that I wish all memoirs/autobiographies/biographies were). It was fairly depressing, because Debbie had really bad luck choosing husbands. Anyway, more details in my review. :) I did enjoy it, though.

Mockingjay, by Suzanne Collins. I wanted to reread this before I see the film, because it had been about three years since I last read it.'s still my least favorite of the series by far. The pacing and whole story feels a bit uneven, but it's worth reading for the conclusion. I love the very end (I vividly remember being shocked by that one certain twist!) and the epilogue. I'll probably be doing a review of Mockingjay: Part 1 in the next week or two, after I go see it. :)

Dash & Lily's Book of Dares, by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan. I loved the basic plot of this's such a cute idea! Though there were quite a few things that bugged me, I ended up enjoying this one more than I expected to. It was a quick Christmas-ish read.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014


I decided on hand quilting my Modern Maples quilt. I knew I didn't want to machine quilt it, because my walking foot doesn't work properly (and just makes machine quilting really stressful) and I don't know how to free motion quilt. I thought about just tying it, but I wanted it to be durable. So hand quilting it is, despite my fairly atrocious hand sewing skills. :) I just can't seem to get my stitches any smaller than about 1/4 inch! If I do get them smaller, I don't catch through to the back. I think my stitches are getting a bit neater as I go along, though. Now that I'm working on Christmas gifts most evenings, I don't have a lot of time to work on the quilt, but hopefully it'll be finished by the end of the year. Maybe? Anyway, I really love being able to curl up under it while I'm quilting it. :)

I'm finally getting into the Christmas mindset. I put my tree up last week...the white one again this year, instead of my aluminum one. With the kitten around, I figured that would be safer, though so far he hasn't shown much interest in the tree (thank goodness). I love the vintage-style ornaments that Target sold last year. I'm smitten with those little cardboard compartments! I bought some of them on clearance after last Christmas, so I'm just using them for the first time this year. But my favorite ornaments are the ones I've made from Alicia Paulson's patterns. They're so adorable and eventually I want to stitch all of the sets...I love the attention to detail she puts into everything.

It's hot chocolate weather again! :) Earlier this month, my parents and I went down to Georgia for the weekend to visit some of Dad's family, and that beautiful mug and yarn were the souvenirs I brought home. I've been eyeing that colorway of Madelinetosh yarn online for the longest time (it's Jade), but I'd never before seen it in person at a local yarn store. It's the most perfect shade of green. They only had it in tosh sock, but it's definitely going to be something other than socks. I bought the mug at a pottery shop, and it was made by the potter who was demonstrating there that day. (That's one craft that absolutely amazes me. He made it look so effortless!)

I caught up on reading the fall issue of Taproot, just in time for the winter issue to arrive. :) I have to admit that I enjoyed the Mend issue a lot more than Seed, probably because I can relate more to mending and sewing than growing things. I really enjoy this magazine and I'm looking forward to reading the new issue.

Some fiber-y links:

- I knew that superwash wool was chemically treated to prevent it from felting, but I didn't quite know to what extent! (I had noticed that it tends to feel stiffer than real wool, especially in heavier weight yarns.) I own a lot of superwash yarn, just because it seems like that's all that most indie dyers sell now. But thanks to this article, now I'm going to try to make more of an effort to avoid it in most cases. I also enjoyed listening to Woolful's new podcast and found it very interesting and informative.

- Melody also has a new podcast that I really like, and she touches on the topic of superwash wool as well.

- KnitPicks is having their big sale this week! I ended up buying yarn for two cardigans (some Wool of the Andes sportweight and worsted tweed), and enough Felici for a pair of socks...I love that Rustic Cabin colorway! :) I do wish they would bring back Felici permanently. I've only made one pair of socks from it but I love those.

Happy Thanksgiving tomorrow, you guys! :)

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Knitting: autumnal mitts.

For a long time now, I'd been planning on making these mitts this fall. Then I found a skein of orange Madelinetosh tosh dk at the yarn shop a couple of months ago (the colorway is called citrus) and I knew it would fit perfectly with the pattern. It is a bit brighter than I would normally choose, but it's really gorgeous in person and has a lot of nice variation in the color.

{I organized my drawer of handknits the other day and noticed that almost all of my most-worn accessories, cowls and mitts and such, are made from Madelinetosh yarn. Their colors are just so perfect.}

I love how these turned out...this is one of those patterns that looks much more difficult than it is. :) My only regret is that I didn't add an extra repeat or two at the wrists. I thought they were plenty long enough, and they are, except it seems that my coat sleeves are even shorter than I remember them being last winter. (Though I'm sure my arms aren't still growing, ha!)

{Ravelry project page}