Friday, January 31, 2014

Free Rapunzel!

{I'm sorry if things looked out of place here yesterday...I decided spur-of-the-moment to give the blog a little facelift and clean things up a bit. I think I'm finished, except for updating the header sometime soon. I'm hoping to stitch a new piece for the header, but I'm not sure when I'll get around to it.}

I've been knitting for over two years now, and this is only the second hat I've made for myself. (Here's the first. I've made about seven hats in total: the other five went to my dad, brother, cousin, and niece.) That's probably because I'm not quite sure how I feel about hats. I love knitting them. They're quick projects that don't require much yarn. But I'm not sure if I can pull off wearing them.

But I've wanted to knit this hat for the longest time. It's just so fun and quirky that I don't really mind that it makes my big head look even bigger. :) And even if I only ever wear it while walking in the woods, it does a good job of keeping my head warm!

Of course the name comes from the long, awesome braids. By the way, I call this coat grandpa chic. :) My grandfather gave it to me because he didn't wear anymore and he heard me telling Mom that my old around-the-house-and-farm coat didn't fit anymore. (It has lots of pockets, which is very handy for stashing my camera and other things when I go walking.)

So I'm rather pleased with this hat, even if the yarn is a bit gross. It's mostly acrylic with only a tiny bit of wool, so it was not pleasant to knit with. But I had bought the yarn at least a year ago, just for this hat, so I figured I might as well use it. It has these random little bits mixed in to make it look tweedy, but the bits shed everywhere.

Also, the hat is a little big. I had to add extra stitches to the cabled brim to make it fit around my big head, but then I didn't need those extra stitches at the crown. I was too lazy to fix it, though, and it's not like it's so big that it's falling off or anything. :)

I really want to knit more hats now. :) Preferably ones with pompoms on top, because that just makes a hat so much more fun. 

{Ravelry project page here.}

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Princess Ever After.

Let me be honest: I love a good princess story. I played dress up and loved Disney movies when I was little (okay, so I still love Disney movies). But I don't think I was ever a girly girl, or if I was, I'm definitely not now. Still, there's something special about princess stories, especially modern day ones. The Princess Diaries has been one of my favorite films for about ten years now, and I'm not ashamed. :) Didn't every girl like to daydream that she was secretly a princess?

Last year I read Rachel Hauck's book Once Upon a Prince and really enjoyed it. I was excited to find out that she was releasing a sequel (of sorts) this year, called Princess Ever After. The plot of this second story is intertwined with that of the first book, and some of the characters make reappearances. So while it's not completely necessary that you read Once Upon a Prince before Princess Ever After, you probably should. You'll get a lot more out of the story. :)

When I first went into this book, I was feeling a little iffy about the fact that the main character, Regina, is crazy about cars. Not that there's anything wrong with that (in fact, I liked the way her interest was worked into the story), but I know absolutely nothing about cars myself and I was worried that there would be too much car talk for my taste. If you feel the same way, don't really only lasts a chapter or two.

What I love about this series is that Rachel Hauck really knows how to write a realistic modern day royal story. The countries and history involved in the plot are completely fictional, but they're so rooted in the real world that they feel like something that could have really happened. And I love that. If you're going to take a classic car loving, southern talking, redhead from Florida and turn her into a European princess, it seems impossible to do that in a way that doesn't feel fake...but somehow Hauck manages it.

Regina is a really likable character, and she reacts to the news that's she's a princess in a way that most people would. After her initial disbelief, she's afraid of leaving her normal life behind and she feels completely unprepared for the job of being a princess. Tanner is a sweet guy trying to forget mistakes he's made in the past, and goodness, is the romance in this book swoon-worthy. :) I love how Tanner is with Regina from the very beginning (he's the one who breaks the news to her), advising her and protecting her and just being a nice guy in general.

At first I thought that the "opposition to the princess"/political turmoil aspect of the story and the subplot about Tanner's past would be a bit too much, but those things ended up adding a lot to the story. The political situation that's happening in the book added to the authentic feel, especially given the modern day setting. And it helped make the story deeper than just a girl adjusting to the royal life.

I only have two tiny little qualms about this book. The first is that sometimes there were sentences or paragraphs that were worded a bit strangely. There wouldn't be anything complicated happening, but I'd have to reread that part a couple of times to understand exactly what was meant. I seem to remember that from the first book in the series, too (which is the only of Rachel Hauck's books that I've read besides a couple that she co-authored with Sara Evans). But I've never heard anyone else mention having this problem, so maybe it's just me? The second thing is some of the southern dialect/dialogue. I live in the south, and I know that we have a unusual way of saying things sometimes. But occasionally in this book, "southern" phrases or words felt the tiniest bit forced. (Granted, I am from Virginia and not Florida, which is where Regina's from.)

Overall, I really enjoyed Princess Ever After. I may have even liked it better than the first book! The story felt realistic, the characters were great and very likable, and it made me smile, swoon, and even tear up a bit (especially towards the end). If you're craving a modern day princess story, this is the book for you. Now, I think I'm long overdue another viewing of The Princess Diaries...

"Regina Beswick was born to be a princess.
But she’s content to be a small-town girl, running a classic auto restoration shop, unaware a secret destiny awaits her. One that will leap from the pages of her grandmother’s hand-painted book of fairytales.
Tanner Burkhardt is the stoic Minister of Culture for the Grand Duchy of Hessenberg. When he is tasked to retrieve the long-lost princess, he must overcome his fear of failure in order to secure his nation’s future - and his own. Yet lurking in the political shadows is a fierce opponent with sinister plans to abolish the throne forever.
Overwhelmed with opposition, Regina must decide if she’s destined to restore old cars or an ancient nation. Together-with a little divine intervention- Regina and Tanner discover the truth of her heritage and the healing power of true love."  -Summary from Booksneeze

*Note: I received this book for free from Booksneeze in exchange for an honest review.*

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Yarn Along

Reading: Everything on a Waffle, by Polly Horvath. Despite what you might think from my last few Yarn Along posts, I do read other books besides middle grade. I just really love children's books. :) I'm only a few pages in, because I just finished Princess Ever After this morning. (A review of that one will be posted here tomorrow!)

Knitting: Another pair of socks...I think I'm addicted. It's been months since I haven't had a sock project on the needles. These are Hermione's Everyday Socks in yarn from Plays Well With Colors. I just finished the leg section on the first sock.

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

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Thoughts on book collecting.

I think that most people who love to read books also love to own books. There's something so magical about the whole process of owning a book...the thrill of buying a new book, bringing it home and finding its perfect spot on your bookshelf, reading it for the first time (and hopefully it's as amazing as you expected), and then being able to pick it back up for a reread whenever you want to return to that world.

I love collecting books. It's so comforting to have shelves full of favorite stories. I also like having some unread books there, too, in case I'm in the mood for something new. I'm all about physical books ( thank you!). I love owning them and always having one with me. I love the way they smell and how it feels to hold something heavy and substantial in my hands while I'm reading.

But lately I've been thinking about this whole book collecting (hoarding?) thing. Mostly this: how much is too much?

I honestly believe that you can't have too many books, as long as you've the space for them. But I'm starting to think that it's possible to have too many unread books. For me, anyway. I currently have two 5 shelf bookcases and another 3 shelf one that are nearly full. And at this point, I don't really have any more room in my bedroom for extra bookcases (though I've said that before and somehow managed to squeeze in more :). I probably own somewhere between four hundred to five hundred books, and almost 100 of those are ones that I haven't read yet! That number of unread books really bothers me...ideally, I'd like to own no more than about 15 unread books at a time.

Here's the thing: even though I buy quite a few books, I don't spend very much money on them. Probably one of the biggest reasons I justify buying more books is because I usually don't pay much for them. The vast majority of my books were purchased used from Goodwill or other thrift stores/library sales/yard sales, or were bargain books bought at places like Ollie's (which means they were brand new, but cost approx. $2 to $5 each). I do buy online from Amazon or B&N sometimes, but it's usually just a couple of books here or there (just enough to get free shipping). For the past couple of years, I set myself a book limit each month (either a number limit or a price limit). I didn't do that this year, though, because I've finally realized that there will be some months when I buy several books and some when I don't buy any.

But no matter how cheaply I'm able to find books, I'm at the point now where I need to stop buying more and more. It doesn't matter whether they're expensive new releases or $2 thrift store finds. I need to make a big dent in the unread books that I already own. I think about some of the books I bought recently, earlier this month, and how excited I am about reading them. And then I think about the unread books that have been sitting on my shelf for a year (or two or three)...I was that excited about reading them when I first bought them, too!

This whole thing comes down to a bigger issue in the end: being materialistic vs. being content with what I have. Of course, whenever I want to buy another book, it's because I want to read it. And because I hope I'll enjoy reading it. (Or, in the case of a different edition of a book I already own, for the very superficial reason that it will look pretty on my shelf. Just being honest here! I'm a sucker for pretty books.) But sometimes I get so obsessed with buying certain books. Right now, I have 5 books in my Amazon cart and 14 in my BookOutlet cart. (Yes, fourteen! It's ridiculous. But to give you an idea of how cheap BookOutlet is, the total for fourteen books there is just a few dollars more than the total for five books from Amazon. I think I need to somehow block myself from that website!) I'm not going to buy them now. Mostly because I don't have the money. But over the past few weeks, I've been thinking and thinking about those books. And then it hit me: why do I think I need these books so desperately? The only thing I can figure is that I somehow believe that buying those books will make me happier and make my life better in some way. And that's just ridiculous. Sure, I'd be happy when I opened the package, but in the long run? Whether or not I own those books right now is not going to have a big impact on my life.

So where am I going with all of this? I'm not saying that I'm going to stop buying books. But I am trying to make changes. I'm making a conscious effort to read books that I've owned for a while but haven't read yet. So far this month, I've read nine books: two of those were books I recently received for free, one of those I received for Christmas, and six were unread books that I'd owned for at least six months. (One of them, The Wizard of Oz, I've owned for about ten years! And I just got around to reading it! By the way, I don't usually read that many books in a month. One of them was an incredibly short Roald Dahl book, and then I blazed through five books of a children's series that were really quick reads.) When I'm getting ready to start a new book, I look through my list of "own but unread" and try to pick one of those.

When I am considering buying a book, I'm trying to really think about it more. Do I see myself reading it in the next few months? If can probably wait. I'm also weeding out my bookshelves. Every couple of months I try to go through and find at least one book that I'm okay with getting rid of. Unless I enjoyed it and plan on rereading it someday or I'm keeping it for some sentimental reason, I probably don't need to hold on to it. (This is pretty big for me, because up until a year or two ago, I hardly ever got rid of books.) And I'm going to try to use the library more. Especially with newer releases or books that I'm not sure I'll like. Actually, I'm planning on visiting the library next week. :) My only problem with the library is a tendency to check out more books that I can likely read before they have to be returned.

 What about you? Do you buy too many books? Do you mostly own books that you've read and enjoyed, or do you have a lot of unread books, like me?
P.S. Speaking of book collecting, would any of you be interested in a little video tour of my bookshelves sometime in the next couple of months? And by video, I mean footage of strictly my shelves, not myself. :) I'm camera shy and while I don't think I have that much of an accent in real life, my voice sounds extra-twangy on video. I have a strange fascination with seeing other people's bookshelves, so I was just curious if that's something you guys would be interested in.

Friday, January 24, 2014

My woodland super tote!

Another 2014 resolution to check off my list: "Sew myself a bag that I really love." :)

I've been wanting to make a knitting bag for about a year now. If I'm working on a small project, like socks, I just carry my little knitting pouch along with me. But with anything larger, I usually just used an empty tote bag for my project bag. I wanted to make a bag that would be primarily used to carry my knitting along with me (since I tend to carry it everywhere). I was having a hard time finding the perfect pattern for what I had in mind, until I saw Amanda's lovely bag. By the way, super tote is not referring to my sewing skills or anything like that. It's the name of the pattern, which is by Anna over at Noodlehead.

So I bought the pattern and the fabric back in the fall, but for whatever reason I hadn't made the bag. But now it's finished and I'm so smitten!

This bag is huge! I had read the measurements and all, so I thought I had an idea in my head of the size. But wow...I'm glad I intended for this to be a knitting bag all along instead of a regular purse. Because I feel like if I took this bag into a store, they would suspect me of being a shoplifter. :) Some of the things I fit inside it when I used it the other day: a full-sized clipboard with a knitting pattern on it, the Woodland Knits book, the hat I'm currently knitting, my knitting pouch with the socks I was knitting at the time inside, my wallet, a couple of other pouches and things from my purse, the book I'm reading (because along with my knitting, I always have a book with me), another book that I had bought earlier that morning, and my cowl and mitts that I was wearing but took off when it got warmer. And there was still more room.

The pattern is really well-written. There were a few parts that had me confused until I actually sat down and attempted it. But that's how a lot of sewing instructions are for me: I can read them on paper, but they don't make sense until I try them for myself.

I love that big pocket on the front! Instead of using the pocket facing, I decided to fully line the pocket...I just think it looks nicer. Also, I almost put in a magnetic snap, but I'm glad I didn't. It would have probably been too bulky for my fabric, and the pocket doesn't gape open at all as it is, even with something in it.

I really loved how the piping looked at the top of the pocket. But I only had bright white and bright green piping in my stash, so I almost thought I was going to have to leave it off. Then I just happened to look through my bias tape, and I found some that matched perfectly! (My mom bought me a box of vintage bias tape, rickrack, etc. at a yard sale last summer.)

Love the recessed zipper and the big pockets inside.

The two fox fabrics on the front and the bear fabric on the back are from the Timber & Leaf collection by Sarah Watts. I love these fabrics...they are so sweet! I'm crazy about anything woodland-ish, with bears or foxes or squirrels or anything like that. I had limited amounts, so I tried to be really careful and hoped that I would have a bit leftover. But I was really cutting it close (literally) with all of my fabric, just barely having enough for the whole bag. The fox print on the front pocket is the only one I had any leftovers from.

The woodgrain fabric is some I got at Joann's in the fall. I have about 1/2 yd left of it from another cut, and next time I go I'm going to see if they have any left. I'd love to use it in a quilt sometime. The orange floral I used for the pockets was from Joann's, too. The interfacing was Pellon, and the zipper and bias tape were vintage from yard sales.

Some of the things I changed: lined the front pocket instead of using a facing, lined the inner pockets instead of a facing, only put inner pockets on one side, used bias tape instead of piping, and had to use Craftfuse on the outer pieces as well as the other fusible interfacing (as the pattern recommended, because I was using quilters cotton instead of heavier fabrics like twill, denim, canvas, etc.). I ran out of Craftfuse when it came to the outer gussets, but it doesn't seem to be a problem.

I'm really pleased with my new knitting bag. This is by far the most detailed, professional-looking bag I've ever made (as professional-looking as a bag can be that's sewn by someone who's apparently incapable of straight topstitching...don't look too closely!). The only thing I wish I had done differently would be to use more interfacing in the straps, or to use a layer of batting in them or something. They could be a bit sturdier. But overall, this is one of those rare projects that turned out exactly as I imagined it. :)

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Yarn Along

Reading: The fourth book in Pseudonymous Bosch's Secret Series: This Isn't What It Looks Like. I'm enjoying the series, but maybe not as much as I hoped to? I think the third is my favorite so far. I'm also reading What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew, by Daniel Pool. I wish I'd had this book back when I was about sixteen and first started reading classics! (It would have cleared up a lot of burning questions that I had: What exactly is a barouche? Why does Mrs. Bennet refer to her husband as Mr. Bennet? Exactly how wealthy is Mr. Darcy?) It's not written in the most engaging way, but the information is interesting.

Knitting: A hat: Free Rapunzel! I just finished the brim last night, so right now it looks like a really wide bulky headband. Or some sort of strange cabled crown.
{Yarn Along is a weekly link up hosted by Ginny where you can share what you've been knitting and reading.}

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The crazy socks (and my 2014 sock plan).

I think I started mentally referring to these as my crazy socks before I even cast on. The crazy refers to the bright colors in the yarn, mixed with just enough black and white to calm them down. :) There's turquoise and purple and hot pink and every once in a while, a pop of orange. The socks turned out a lot more subtle than I expected, though.
The yarn is from Spun Right Round, and it's their Snappy Sock (75% Corriedale wool/25% nylon) in the Color Me Sprinkles colorway. It feels different from all of the sock yarn I've used before...a bit thicker and not as flexible, maybe? But I like that, because it makes them feel more sturdy. I ordered the yarn back in July and cast on right after that, but that was around the time that I realized if I went down a needle size, my socks would probably fit perfectly instead of getting slightly droopy after wearing them a bit. So I frogged the sock I'd started on (only the cuff was finished) and didn't get around to starting these again until after Christmas.

Thanks to my nifty new sock blockers (a Christmas gift), it's a lot easier to take pictures of socks when they're not on my feet. :)

I'm not a very intuitive knitter. I've been knitting for over two years now, but I still feel like I don't always understand why knitting works the way it does, and why certain decreases or increases work in certain situations, etc. I often feel like I'm just blindly following a pattern. But this is my eighth pair of socks, all made with this basic pattern, and I finally feel like I'm getting it. I almost have the pattern memorized and it makes sense to me now. The fit, with my tight knitting gauge and size 2 needles, is perfect, too, even on my relatively short, wide feet. :)
I mentioned in my list of resolutions that I want to knit at least six pairs of socks for myself in 2014 (not counting any I might knit as gifts). This is my first pair of the year (and my third total for myself). I already own enough sock yarn to finish my goal, but I'm not promising that I won't buy any more this year. :) And since I'm finally confident with a plain, basic socks, I'd like to branch out to some new patterns. I don't have each yarn paired up with a pattern yet, but some of the sock patterns I'd like to knit this year are: Charade, Honey Badger, Fruit Loop, Bowties Are Cool (ha :), Woodpile Socks, and Owlie Socks.

My next pair will be out of the green yarn, which is from Plays Well With Colors. (I've already wound it into a cake because I'm still obsessed with the ball winder, and it takes all of my will power not to cake every bit of yarn I own right now.) I wanted to use the Charade pattern, but I'm afraid of running out of yarn, so I might try Honey Badger. I've also got this lovely pink/brown yarn, which comes from a somewhat local dyer and was purchased at a somewhat local yarn shop (not exactly local, but probably the closest one to me).

Then there's this Stroll Tonal from KnitPicks, in the deep waters colorway because, as you might have's sort of TARDIS-y. (Though there's a lot more purple in it in real life than I expected.) And some yarn I got on clearance at Hobby Lobby. It's the same brand that my first two pairs of socks were knit out of, and it has a tendency to pool in a hideous way, so I'm not exactly looking forward to using it.

Some bright yellow yarn in Lion Brand Sock Ease, and a bit of Red Heart's undyed Heart & Sole, which I'm hoping to attempt to dye in self-striping colors. (I need another skein, though, or I'll just have to squeeze a pair of ankle-length socks out of this one skein.)

So that's the plan. I'll be posting about each pair of socks as I finish them. It feels good to already have one pair done before the end of January! :)

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

A Snicker of Magic.

On Saturday, I came home to find an unexpected package in the mail...a book-shaped package. And it was the very best sort of surprise that it could have possibly been: a galley copy of Natalie Lloyd's upcoming novel, A Snicker of Magic!

Of course I started reading it immediately. And now that I've finished it, I've been trying to put into words just how much I love this book. First up, how about a little description? Stolen from Goodreads:

"Midnight Gulch used to be a magical place, a town where people could sing up thunderstorms and dance up sunflowers. But that was long ago, before a curse drove the magic away. Twelve-year-old Felicity knows all about things like that; her nomadic mother is cursed with a wandering heart.

But when she arrives in Midnight Gulch, Felicity thinks her luck's about to change. A "word collector," Felicity sees words everywhere---shining above strangers, tucked into church eves, and tangled up her dog's floppy ears---but Midnight Gulch is the first place she's ever seen the word "home." And then there's Jonah, a mysterious, spiky-haired do-gooder who shimmers with words Felicity's never seen before, words that make Felicity's heart beat a little faster.

Felicity wants to stay in Midnight Gulch more than anything, but first, she'll need to figure out how to bring back the magic, breaking the spell that's been cast over the town . . . and her mother's broken heart."

I've been reading Natalie's "nonfiction" (the magazine column she used to write, her blog, and her book Paperdoll) for years now, and ever since she posted snippets of fiction on her blog in the past, I've been hoping she'd write a novel. And her debut novel is nothing less than magical.

A Snicker of Magic drew me in right from the beginning. I tried to pace myself because while I just wanted to read it all the time (seriously, I carried it around with me, hoping I'd have a moment to read a bit here or there), I also wanted to make it last as long as possible. I didn't want it to end.

Natalie's writing style is so wonderful (if you've read anything she's written, you'll know what I mean). Her descriptions are the perfect balance- never overly long or flowery, but so beautifully written that I can see everything playing out in my mind. I love the quirky mountain setting of this book. I've lived in Virginia my whole life, and some books just capture that Southern, homey feel perfectly, and this is one of them. (Though of course Midnight Gulch is in Tennessee, not Virginia. By the way, if you think that Virginia isn't really "Southern", don't you dare let anyone from my part of the state hear you say that. :) And can I just say that I absolutely adore the fact that the Avett Brothers inspired Natalie's book and that the Threadbare Brothers are loosely based on them? The Avett Brothers make some of my favorite music ever.

There are so many awesome things about this novel, but the best things are probably the characters. I honestly loved every single one of them. (And there are a lot!) The main character, Felicity Juniper Pickle (one of the best character names ever!), is so fun and spunky and I can definitely relate to her nauseous reaction to public speaking. :) Jonah was so sweet and he makes me want to do more little random acts of kindness, though of course his aren't random at all. Frannie Jo was adorable, and oh my goodness, I absolutely loved Cleo (she's a crazy crafter/quilter!) and Boone. And those are just some of Felicity's family members. Don't even get me started on the hilarious townspeople. (I just have to mention a couple. Day Grissom! He was great. And Elvis Phillips. He sings and dances on the sidewalk in honor of his namesake. :) Even though there are lots of characters, I never had to try to figure out who was who: they're all so quirky and distinct that it's no trouble keeping them straight.

One of my favorite parts is when the Pickle/Harness gang goes to Snapdragon Pond. It's not an incredibly important, dramatic scene. But I just love the fact that they're all wearing fairy wings (even Boone...ha) and how Felicity describes the pond and her talk with her mom in the tree and the fact that Day Grissom shows up at the end. :) It's wonderful.

By the way, I don't think I've mentioned that A Snicker of Magic is a middle grade book. I personally love middle grade and read it quite often, and it doesn't bother me in the least that I'm approx. 10 to 12 years older than the target audience. :) I think that middle grade books tend to have more humor and heart (both things I really appreciate) than some of the other more popular genres, like YA. So not only can you read and enjoy this book, but you can also share it with the younger people in your life! (Call me weird, but I'm always compiling a mental list of books I want to introduce my niece to when she's you can imagine, she doesn't exactly do much reading quite yet, considering she's only three months old. This book just made the list.) And I'm really smitten by the whole "magical realism" aspect. Sure, I love Harry Potter, but I also love books that are set in a realistic time and place but still contain, shall we say, a snicker of magic. (Think Sarah Addison Allen-ish, for kids?)

I feel like I haven't written much about the actual story, but I really don't want to spoil anything. I just loved this book so much that I had to gush about it a little (or a lot). I enjoy lots of books, but every once in a while I come across a special one that works its way into my heart and settles in and makes me feel like somehow it has been one of my favorites all along, even if I just read it for the first time. I'm pretty sure I had a goofy grin on my face the whole time I was reading A Snicker of Magic. It made me snort laugh (out loud) and cry, and on at least one occasion, both of those at the same time. It was lovely, and I really want to read it again now. (And I would, if my to-read pile wasn't so big. But I definitely hope to reread it sometime this year. The sooner, the better!)

A Snicker of Magic has everything: gorgeous writing, a charming setting, a whole cast of quirky characters, and a girl learning about family and love and home. Plus a whole lot of sweetness (that could possibly have something to do with all of the ice cream in this story :). It releases on February 25th!

{Just so you know, this isn't my normal book review deal. I am in no way obligated to write a review for this book. I wrote this post because I wanted to. :) I know it seems like I usually only post book reviews for books that I've requested from Booksneeze or Bethany House Publishers, but this year, I'm hoping to write more about books that I love in general, instead of only ones I'm required to review.}

Sunday, January 12, 2014

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.

Warning: as usual, there will be spoilers.

Let me just say, right here at the beginning, that I did really enjoy this movie. No matter how critical I might sound in the next few paragraphs. :)

You guys know that I am a huge fan of good book-to-film adaptations. I automatically like a movie so much more if they did a good job of being accurate to the book. I reread The Hobbit back in December of 2012, just before the first film came out. So I went into this sequel remembering the basics of the book, but not feeling too nitpicky. Even so, it seems like half of the stuff in the film was not in the book. I didn't mind the additions in the first film, but here they seem over-the-top.

This is my biggest problem (and quite possibly, when it comes down to it, my only problem) with the Hobbit films...they don't have the cheerful, whimsical, lighter feel that the book has. Of course there are darker moments in the book, and there is the big battle at the end. But overall, it's a lot lighter and simpler than the Lord of the Rings trilogy. It always seemed to me like Peter Jackson was really respectful to the source material with the LOTR, so what happened with the Hobbit? Is the source material not good enough, in their opinions? (Obviously, the book wasn't long enough to make three films, but three films was completely unnecessary.)

Why must everything be turned into some kind of violent action scene? I'm just a little disappointed with Peter Jackson's direction in this. (I know he's not the only one, but he is the head honcho, right? Speaking of him, did you see his cameo at the very beginning?) It seems like he's a little overly confident after the success of the LOTR trilogy, so he felt like he could take any liberties he wanted to with the Hobbit films.

Okay, so let me lighten the mood a bit by talking about the things I did like. :)

First of all, Martin Freeman is amazing as Bilbo Baggins. He really is. I loved him in the first film, but now that I've discovered Sherlock, I have a whole new appreciation for him. :) I love his facial expressions and the way he delivers his lines and basically everything about him. I know I mentioned this before, but Frodo is one of my least favorite people in LOTR. He's such a wimp! He wouldn't have even made it without Sam. Thankfully, Bilbo is so much more likable, and he's a pretty tough little hobbit.

I also feel like the dwarves had more individual personality in this one. Maybe it's just because you feel like you know them a bit better after two films, but I think I can tell them apart more now (though I still usually can't put their names with their faces). Thorin continues to be impressive, with his long flowing hair and all (ha :), even if his greed is beginning to grow.

I really love the part about Beorn in the book, so I was a little disappointed with that part of the film. Beorn was okay, but I wished that they had kept the unique way that the dwarves are introduced to him in the book. But no, they couldn't do that...because, of course, the gang is being ruthlessly pursued by Orcs at the time! (Just like they are for basically the rest of the film.) There's no time for a creative entrance.

The home of the elves in Mirkwood was so pretty. Seriously. Maybe even prettier than Rivendell? And the spiders were creepy. Ew.

Speaking of elves, I have to talk about the barrel escape scene. The whole captured by the elves/Bilbo plans an escape section is my favorite part of the book. Of course, I wish they hadn't made into probably the biggest fight scene of the film, but it wasn't too bad. But an elf/dwarf love triangle? How silly! Tolkien would have never written that. I feel a bit "eh" about Tauriel's character in general. (And as a former Lost fan, all I could think of was Kate. I kept waiting for Jack to emerge from the forest amongst the Orcs. :)

One addition I didn't mind, though: Legolas. To be honest, when I was a young teenager, during the time of my LOTR obsession, I had quite a crush on Legolas/Orlando Bloom. His face (along with the faces of Aragorn and Merry) was plastered all over my school folder, and at separate times, I had an Orlando Bloom poster and a Return of the King poster in my room. And Legolas really impressed me in this film, particularly his graceful, ballet-ish moves across the tops of the dwarves' heads as they were floating down the river in barrels. If anyone could cleanly kill dozens of Orcs with his bow and arrow while never mussing his perfect Elven hair (complete with a braid just above his ear), it's Legolas. Be still, my heart! :)

{As for Thranduil, I really can't see him as anyone else except Ned, the adorable pie-maker from the show Pushing Daisies. That's why I can't take him seriously.}

I liked how the Lake-town was portrayed. (I guess Lake-town isn't its technical name, but I don't know what is.) I never really thought about how those people would have been so poor now, because they really lost everything to Smaug just like the dwarves did. And I liked Bard a lot.

I thought Smaug was really well done. Benedict Cumberbatch's voice was so different as the dragon! (Though if I listened closely, I could definitely pick up familiar Sherlock tones.) His personality seemed pretty accurate to the book. I'm not a big fan of all of the crazy stuff that was going on at the end of the movie with the dwarves trying to defeat Smaug. It seemed to drag on too long, probably because you know it's all in vain. I usually hate cliffhangers (even if I know what's going to happen next), but this one was very good. :)

So...I really did enjoy the film. I'm not happy with the constant threat of Orcs and the near-constant fight scenes, but I don't want to sound like I'm bashing the movie because I still love the characters and the world of Middle-earth. And watching the Hobbit films makes me anxious to reread the Lord of the Rings trilogy (an epic feat in its own way...I've only made it through the series once so far) and watch the movies again! And not just for more Legolas. :)

What did you think of the second Hobbit film?

Friday, January 10, 2014

Time and space shawl.

I started on this little shawl/kerchief back in December, but since I was mostly working on Christmas gifts, progress was slow. (Although this pattern works up so quickly!) Anyway, I finished it on Christmas day.

It's not technically a shawl, since it's not big enough to wrap around your shoulders. I wear it wrapped around my neck...usually with the point in the front and the ends wrapped around my neck and then tucked behind the shawl in the front. (No pictures of me wearing it, but you get the idea.)

The pattern is a free one called The Age of Brass and Steam Kerchief. It knits up quickly and it's easy. When I first started reading the pattern, it looked long and complicated, but it's not. It's just written very descriptively! :)

The yarn is KnitPicks' Gloss DK in the "winter night" colorway. I picked it because it reminded me of the TARDIS. Of course. I'm always on the lookout for the perfect "TARDIS blue" yarn. This yarn is 70% merino and 30% silk, so it has a really nice shine to it.

This was the first knitting project that I've done where the blocking drastically changed the size of the project. This shawl wasn't even big enough to wrap around my neck before blocking. It was supposed to block to approx. 15" by 53", but I could only get the edge to stretch to 43". It works, though. {Project page}

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Yarn Along

Reading: The Name of This Book Is Secret, by Pseudonymous Bosch. What can I say? I love middle grade books. Especially when they're supposed to be reminiscent of Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events. I bought the five books in this series last year (when I found them on Book Outlet for $2-3 each), but I'm just getting around to reading them. I'm only a few pages in, so I don't really have an opinion yet. :)

Knitting: Plain socks for myself. I'm using yarn in the Color Me Sprinkles colorway from Spun Right Round. I have one sock done, and I've just finished with the cuff of the second one.

How neat is it that my yarn matches my book? :)

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

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

My most anticipated books of 2014.

It seems like there are just so many awesome books coming out this year! Here are the new releases of 2014 that I am most excited about reading (though a few recent releases from the very end of 2013 make the list, too)...

I think these are pretty much listed in order of release date, with a few exceptions, but keep in mind that those dates could change. Also, each title links to the book's Goodreads page.

-"Where Did You See Her Last?", by Lemony Snicket. I loved the Series of Unfortunate Events. While I was a little disappointed with the first book in this new series, I'm hopeful that they'll improve. This one, the second, came out towards the end of 2013, but I haven't got it yet.

-The Interrupted Tale, by Maryrose Wood. This is the fourth book in the Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place series, which are middle grade stories featuring three children who were raised by wolves, and their governess, who is a mixture of Mary Poppins and Catherine Morland (of Northanger Abbey). The third book was my least favorite so far, so I'm hoping this one will be better. (I'm also hoping for a conclusion soon, because I don't want the series to be drawn out too much.) This one has also already released.

-The Captive Maiden, by Melanie Dickerson. I still need to read the third of Dickerson's fairy tale books, which I own, but after that I'm looking forward to reading this one! (Again, this one came out last year.)

-The Dancing Master, by Julie Klassen. I've enjoyed everything I've read by this author, but her last release, The Tutor's Daughter, was by far one of my favorite books of 2013. I can't wait to read this one! It was released today, actually. :)

-Princess Ever After, by Rachel Hauck. Let's be honest...I'm a sucker for any kind of modern princess story. I loved the first book in this series, so I'm hoping this one will be just as good. And isn't that cover gorgeous?? Release date: February 4th.

-Wildwood Imperium, by Colin Meloy. The first book in this series was okay, but I absolutely loved the second one. I can't wait to read this conclusion to the series! Release date: February 4th.

-The Ghosts of Tupelo Landing, by Shelia Turnage. This is the follow-up to the book Three Times Lucky, which I read in 2012 and loved! I love this cover, too. Release date: February 4th.

-A Snicker of Magic, by Natalie Lloyd. This one is, by far, the book I'm most excited about this year. I first found Natalie's writing through her column in Brio magazine. Then I stumbled across her blog and read her book Paperdoll. She is the sweetest person and ridiculously talented, and I am so, so excited to read her first novel. :) Release date: February 25th.

-Death By the Book, by Julianna Deering. So far this series consists of lots of things I love: 1930s era mysteries, an English setting, and a suave detective! :) I really liked the first book, so I'm glad the next two installments are coming out this year. Release date: March 4th.

-Dangerous, by Shannon Hale. I love pretty much everything Shannon Hale has written (there are about three of her books I haven't read yet), and her Books of Bayern series is one of my favorites. I think this is sci-fi, so it's completely different from the typical fairytale stuff she writes. But I hope it'll be good! Release date: March 4th.

-Here to Stay, by Melissa Tagg. I enjoyed Melissa's debut novel, Made to Last, and Blaze/Blake was definitely one of my favorite characters in that story. So I'm very excited he's getting a story of his own! :) Release date: May 6th.

-Fair Play, by Deanne Gist. I've read (and loved) all but one or two of Gist's novels. I need to read It Happened at the Fair soon, because I think these two are connected? Release date: May 6th.

-Murder at the Mikado, by Julianna Deering. The third book in the Drew Fathering mystery series (mentioned above). Release date: July 1st.

-Captured by Love, by Jody Hedlund. I have been so impressed with Jody Hedlund's last two novels...they were so much better than I expected! So of course I'll read this one. Release date: July 1st.

-Landline, by Rainbow Rowell. I've enjoyed all of Rowell's novels so far, but my favorite was probably Attachments. Landline, like Attachments, will be an adult novel (as opposed to her last two, which were YA), and it sounds intriguing and different from all of her other books. Release date: July 8th.

-Full Steam Ahead, by Karen Witemeyer. I've read and loved all of Witemeyer's novels so far (except her last one...haven't read that yet). Her books always get the cutest covers. Release date: June 3rd.

And two more that don't have covers yet...Lizzy and Jane, by Katherine Reay, is expected to be published in October. Her debut novel Dear Mr. Knightley was one of my favorite reads of 2013. And the third book in Sarah E. Ladd's Whispers on the Moors series, A Lady at Willowgrove Hall, is also supposed to come out this year, though there's no release date set yet. (I read and reviewed the second book recently.)

So many awesome books to look forward to! These will make it a little harder to keep my resolution of reading lots of the unread books I own. (Though I'm doing well with that resolution so far...I'm already on my third book from that list. :)

Which new releases are you most excited about this year?

Monday, January 6, 2014

Ho Hey {Music Monday 24}

I don't have much experience with The Lumineers, so don't take this post as an endorsement for all of their music. Honestly, I listened to their songs several months ago because I found their album for a really inexpensive price, and I wanted to see if I liked it or not. The verdict: most of their songs sound exactly alike. (I realize that I might not feel that way after repeated listening, but I didn't love their music enough to keep listening to it over and over.)

But I do love this song. That's probably cliché, but oh well. It's so catchy, and I love that line: I belong with you, you belong with me, you're my sweetheart. The music video is pretty neat, too.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

The Headmistress of Rosemere.

Last summer I read Sarah E. Ladd's book The Heiress of Winterwood. I really enjoyed it, and I remember that it drew me in right from the beginning and made for really addictive reading (it kept me up past my bedtime. That doesn't happen often :).

So, of course, I was eager to read the second book in the series. But I was concerned because I was a little fuzzy on some of the details of the first book, and despite reading some reviews, I couldn't figure out how this sequel was connected to the first book. If you're wondering the same thing: the main male character in this second book, William Sterling, is the brother of the main male character in the first book. This isn't a sequel in the strictest sense of the word, though...the couple from the first book don't appear in this second one, other than a couple of mentions. You could easily read The Headmistress of Rosemere without having read The Heiress of Winterwood, but just be warned that you will be a little spoiled with the ending of the first book if you do so. (By the way, I didn't feel like I was missing out on anything by not remembering every single detail of the first one.)

With that explanation out of the way, what did I think of The Headmistress of Rosemere? I really enjoyed it. Even more than the first book! The pacing in the first one felt a little strange. The big event that I thought would happen early in the book actually didn't happen until the last 1/3 or so. With the second book in the series, the action is much more evenly paced.

I liked Patience Creighton very much. Her father, headmaster of a girls' school called Rosemere, had died several months previously, and with her mother sick with grief and her brother gone to London without a word since the funeral, the entire weight of the school was on her shoulders. I could definitely relate to Patience's reaction to all of this, because I would have felt the exact same way in her position! As a reader, I was so angry at her brother for acting the way he did. I like how Patience took charge and did her best in that situation, because what else could she do? (Also, her reaction to Lydia was scarily accurate to what mine would have been. Maybe one of the reasons I connected so much to this story was because I am so similar to Patience.) She reminds me a bit of Austen's Elinor Dashwood.

As a hero (though he's not exactly that towards the beginning of the book), I also really liked William Sterling. I don't usually go for the "bad boy" type, which is what William had been in the past. But I think he comes across as a really likable person who is sorry for his past actions and wants to change. He's also a bit Rochester-like, which probably made me like him even more. (I do love Jane Eyre.)

The Headmistress of Rosemere is beautifully written. It's so readable, and yet it never feels inaccurate or too modern, which sometimes happens with historical fiction. The characters act, think, and speak as people in 1816 would have. Sarah E. Ladd's writing is not flowery or too descriptive, but I could imagine everything as I read this book. I have a perfect picture of Rosemere and the surrounding property in my head. :) I really love that in a book. Too often historical fiction has only a vague setting, but over the past year I've read some books that do an incredible job of making me feel as if I were there (examples: this book, The Tutor's Daughter, and Rebellious Heart).

While I saw certain things coming (without giving too much away: Emma's parentage), I didn't bother me in the least that I had anticipated certain plot points. There was plenty of family drama, action, romance, and even scandal (1816 style, of course) to keep me turning the pages. By the first half, I was so invested in this story that I had a hard time putting this book down. There was a lot going on, but I never felt overwhelmed. And the ending of the book was incredibly satisfying. (I remember thinking that the previous book ended a little abruptly.)

By the way, I have to mention that Patience and William's meeting on the moors at dawn reminded me so much of a somewhat similar scene in my favorite movie, the 2005 Pride and Prejudice. That made me so happy, though of course in the book it was rudely interrupted. (When Patience couldn't sleep and was going to walk on the moors, I was thinking, please, please let William not be able to sleep and go for a walk, too. Ha.)

I loved The Headmistress of Rosemere. More than I expected to, honestly. The biggest thing that bothered me about the first book in the series (the pacing) was fixed here, and I personally related to Patience more than I did Amelia. I felt more connected to this story and these characters. Both books in Sarah E. Ladd's Whispers on the Moors series come highly recommended from me, and I can't wait to read the third one!

"Patience Creighton has dedicated herself to the Rosemere School for Young Ladies. But the return of the enigmatic master of the estate puts everything she loves at risk. Bright, sensible Patience knows what is expected of her. At twenty-five, her opportunity for a family of her own has passed, so she invests herself in teaching at her father’s school for girls. When her father dies suddenly and her brother moves away to London, she is determined to make the school successful.

Confirmed bachelor William Sterling also knows what is expected of him, but mistake after mistake has left him teetering on ruin’s edge. As master of Eastmore Hall he owns a great deal of property -- including the land where Rosemere School is located -- but possesses little money to manage its upkeep. When debtors start calling, he is desperate to find a new source of income, even if it means sacrificing Rosemere.

When a fire threatens the school grounds, William must decide to what lengths he is willing to go to protect his birthright. And when Patience’s brother returns with a new wife to take over management of the school, Patience suddenly finds herself unsure of her calling. After a surprising truth about William’s past is brought to light, both William and Patience will have to seek God’s plans for their lives—and their hearts." - Book summary provided by Booksneeze

*I received this book for free from Booksneeze in exchange for an honest review.*

Saturday, January 4, 2014


Warning: there will be spoilers. Don't read this post if you haven't seen the film!

I really wish I had written this post back when I first saw Frozen, which was...the week before Christmas? Because then I would have been able to say exactly how I felt about the film. It's been weeks now, so I feel like my review will be a bit more vague than I'd like, but oh well.

I'm a lifelong Disney fan, but I'll admit that Disney has had some film slumps. During my lifetime, they had a comeback with the amazing new classics of the 90s, like Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King. But in recent years, it seemed like Disney animated films were hit or miss, and I started relying only on Pixar for quality animated movies. Then Tangled happened, and it instantly became one of my favorites (right up there with Beauty and the Beast).

So I had reasonably high hopes for Frozen, but I was worried I might be disappointed. Was I? Not in the least.

I absolutely loved it.

It was better than I could have hoped for. I am so glad that Disney seems to be making "classics" again. I hope this means they'll continue doing so!

First of all, Frozen was gorgeous visually. That was the first thing that I noticed. All of the snow and lovely landscape and the castle, and the whole Norwegian-inspired setting basically, was incredible. In the climatic scene towards the end, I love how the snowflakes are suspended in the air. So pretty! And I love the attention to detail in the animation: the freckles on Anna's cheeks and shoulders, the ice in Kristoff's hair, etc.

(I hate 3D, so we saw it in 2D. But there were parts when I thought, I can see how this might have been really neat in 3D. Probably most of those were snowy moments. Have I mentioned how much I love snow? :)

Also, the characters were awesome. I loved both Anna and Elsa, though Anna was my favorite. Elsa was interesting because they could have easily turned her into a villain, but they didn't. Olaf the snowman was hilarious! I have to admit that I liked him a lot more than I expected to. A talking snowman...I thought he would be over-the-top and cheesy. :) I especially loved his song.

And now on to the two main male characters...I loved Kristoff. I think I said this before, about Flynn Rider when I first saw Tangled, but is it wrong to have a crush on an animated character? :) Kristoff was just so awesome. I want him to be a real-life guy instead of an animated person. I loved how the first time we meet him, he's all gruff and stern, and then he turns out to be so likable. I honestly thought he was going to be a really dumbed down, empty-headed guy...he does talk to (and for) his reindeer, you know. :) But he turned out to be surprisingly sensible, not to mention kind and funny. I loved how he thought it was so crazy to be engaged to someone you've known less than a day. (And I loved how that was basically Disney spoofing itself, since that happens so often in their older films.)

I have to talk about Hans, too, so:


I liked Hans so much at first. How could I not, after that ridiculously charming musical number that he and Anna had together? (Love is an Open Door) So when we're introduced to Kristoff, I felt guilty about immediately preferring him, because I had liked Hans so much at the beginning. I kept thinking, where are they going with this? Are they just providing a love interest for Elsa, and if so, how are they going to work that out?

But then *bam.* Maybe I'm blind, but I did not see the whole Hans twist coming. At all. After I got over the shock, I was actually pretty impressed with Disney for doing that with one of their male leads. I'm still not sure that I like it, but I am impressed. :) And I guess it worked well in the film. It definitely made for a dramatic ending!


And now of course I have to talk about the music. I wasn't too crazy about the song that was at the very beginning of the film. I just kept thinking how much it sounded like a combination of one of the Hawaiian songs from Lilo & Stitch or something from The Lion King. I guess it felt out of place in the snowy setting because it reminded me of those two films. But by the time that choral type of song was used again towards the end, I actually liked it.

I have to admit that I feel like there was almost a bit too much music in Frozen. And that's coming from the girl who loves musicals. I still listen to Disney soundtracks and I love classic Hollywood musicals and I don't bat an eye when people randomly burst into song. (In movies, that is. I don't believe I've ever encountered that in real life before. I think I would enjoy it after I got past the surprise. :) But when people start singing their lines, and not just as a transition into a song, but just flat out singing lines that should be spoken, that's where it becomes a bit much for me personally.

Don't get me wrong- I loved the songs. Looking back at the soundtrack list now, I don't see a single song that I didn't enjoy. (My favorites were probably Love is an Open Door, Let It Go, and In Summer.) But there was one section of the film (probably about the time when Anna goes to Elsa's ice castle in the mountains?) when it seemed like they were just singing all the time.

And maybe part of the reason why it seemed so overwhelming to me is because most of the songs were not exactly the style of music that I generally listen to. They felt really modern, which took me some time to get used to. But now, looking back, I think the music fit the film well. It's a modern classic, and it needs modern(ish) music.

I'm thinking that after a couple more viewings, I wouldn't find the music overbearing at all. Because I really did love this film so, so much. Especially Kristoff. Have I mentioned that? :) As with Tangled, I keep thinking about this movie quite often, even weeks later. I can't seem to get it out of my head. So of course I'm very excited for the DVD release! (I've read rumors of March, though I don't think Disney has confirmed anything yet.)

What did you think about Frozen? Do you think Disney is having another "Renaissance?"

Friday, January 3, 2014

Handmade Christmas gifts.

A couple of months ago, I started jotting down ideas for what gifts I wanted to make for Christmas. I figured that most of those ideas wouldn't actually happen. I started knitting on gifts around the beginning of November, and I got such a good head start that I just decided to go for it and make as many of the things on my list as possible.

I've never made this many Christmas gifts before. It was pretty stressful, especially considering I didn't finish the last gift until about 10:00 p.m. on Christmas Eve. :) But I'm not going to was really rewarding, too. That growing pile of handmade gifts, mostly knitted items, made me so happy.

I was planning on breaking this down into at least two posts, but I really wanted to fit it into one. Since it is such a long post (with lots of photos), I'll try to keep my descriptions brief. But with the knitted gifts, I'll include a link to my Ravelry project pages in case you want more info! By the way, I'm sorry for the poor quality of most of these pictures...I was usually rushing to take pictures of the item right before I wrapped it, so a lot of them are dark.

Starting with the non-knitted gifts...

I made this little zip-up pouch for my sister-in-law. (I made myself one earlier this year. I use it as a knitting pouch and I love that little bag! It holds all of my knitting notions and most small-ish projects.)

I made my baby niece Stella these two soft rattles. They're based on this pattern (though I had to make my own pattern because our printer is out of ink and I couldn't print that one). They're made out of the leftover fabric from her quilt, so they match it. I didn't get the pattern quite the way I wanted it until the pink rattle. They both have some jingle bells inside to make noise.

A framed embroidery piece, also for my niece. The flower motifs and the decorative S and G came from this book. The rest of the letters I made up as I went along. That was slightly nerve-wracking, because usually with cross stitch you have a plan. I just had a general idea of how I wanted the piece to look. It was done on 18 count Aida and put in an 8x10 frame I painted.

I finished stitching the last flower in the evening on Christmas Eve and was pressing and framing it just before bedtime. Hence the dark photos.

A couple of months ago, I was doing school with my cousins' two kids (they're homeschooled and I keep them a couple of days a week) when the six year old asked me if I could make her a "princess scarf." I wasn't quite sure what a princess scarf was, but I figured pink and sparkly would work. So I made her this for Christmas. :) {Project page}

Her older brother's request was a lot less vague...he wanted a green stocking hat. :) {Project page} Simple hats like this go by so quickly, especially if you're doing them child-sized. I made this in a couple of hours on Thanksgiving.

My dad had been requesting some hand-knit socks for a while now, so he got two pairs for Christmas! They're worsted weight, which goes by incredibly quickly compared to typical sock yarn. Theoretically, if I wasn't working on anything else, I could finish a pair in 4 days, while regular socks would take me an average of two weeks. {Project page}

The second pair. Slightly taller because I wasn't worried about running out of yarn this time. And yes, my dad's socks are only a little big on me. :) We both have sort of short, wide feet. {Project page}

My mom always gets a pair of socks, of course. The stripes don't match because I would have had to go too far into the second ball to match them up, and I didn't want to risk running out of yarn. I love how this yarn striped up and almost looks like colorwork in spots. {Project page}

A really awful picture of a cowl/infinity scarf for my sister-in-law. It's really a royal blue color. I wasn't incredibly happy with it at first, but it has grown on me. It's long but the perfect length when doubled over, and it looks really nice on her! And she wears it a lot, so I think she likes it. :) {Project page}

A cowl for my mom. She was admiring my Downton Cowl, so I decided to make her one. This pinkish yarn was actually rather pretty and variegated, considering it's acrylic (I'm not an acrylic fan). I did one less repeat of the lace because it was already wide enough. {Project page}

I made these wristwarmers for a sweet blog friend, Natalie. Cables aren't my favorite thing to knit, but I sure do love how they look! {Project page}

I also sent some handspun yarn to two blog friends/penpals who happen to be knitters. I'm not including pictures of the purple yarn that I sent to Alannah, because I spun that a couple of months ago. But I do have pictures of the handspun that I sent Carolynn. It began as two packs of white roving from KnitPicks (I totally just typed Netflix :). I spun it into 230 yards of 3 ply worsted weight.

Then I dyed it with food coloring, using a handpainting method from this dyeing book. I used Americolor gel paste from Hobby Lobby, in a color called Electric Purple. I feel like these pictures don't show the colors that well, but it varies from hot pink to medium purple to very light pinkish-purple. (Not quite sure how "electric purple" turned out so pink, but oh well.)

Whew. Are you still here? :)

Next year I'll either start earlier or make less. Because finishing up gifts on Christmas Eve is too stressful...