Monday, June 30, 2014

What I Read: June

June was a slower reading month for me...only four books this month! But that's okay. Things were pretty busy for the first half of the month because my mom's accident. {Update: she's walking without her boot now, but she's still in some pain because of the muscle and nerves healing back. She starts physical therapy this week.}

I'm making slow but steady progress on my summer reading list. But I'm visiting the library this week, which is a place where I have zero self-control, so my plans might get slightly derailed. We'll see. :) Here's what I read this month, and as usual, you can click on the titles to see my Goodreads reviews:

Cress, by Marissa Meyer. I stretched out the Lunar Chronicles as long as I possibly could, but now I'm caught up and we have to wait until fall of 2015 for the next book?? Anyway, I really enjoyed this one. There was so much going on, and it was awesome. And Princess Winter at the end was nothing like I expected, so I'm incredibly excited to read her story.

Wanderlove, by Kirsten Hubbard. Eh...I didn't like this book. It was way too "typical teenager"-ish for my taste, with the language, mentions of drinking, drugs, etc. The only thing I liked was the travel aspect.

A Brief History of Montmaray, by Michelle Cooper. I feel like I've been wanting to read this series for the longest time now, so it's nice to finally be reading the books. :) I loved this first one. It was reminiscent of I Capture the Castle, which I read earlier this year. But it was different in a lot of ways and there were so many unexpected plot twists! I loved the quirky characters and setting.

The FitzOsbornes in Exile, by Michelle Cooper. I didn't enjoy this one quite as much as the first one, but it was still really good! Like the first book, the story was a mix of slower sections and dangerous drama. :) I can't wait to find out what happens in the third and final book (which I'm currently reading).

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Floral journal.

I needed a new journal, so I made this one last week. It's been a long time since I made a book, and I'd forgotten how satisfying it is to have an idea, sit down and work on it, and (if all goes well) have a finished product a couple of hours later. It's probably the quickest sort of craft that I do, especially compared to knitting or even sewing, and sometimes that's what I need.

There are five signatures with five folded sheets of paper in each- just regular "artist paper" or something like that. I used coptic binding, and for now the book is being held closed by a scrap of knit fabric that just happened to match nicely. :) The covers are just sturdy pieces of cardboard covered with fabric and cardstock. I really love that fabric. I bought it at Joann's last year, intending to use it in a bag, but that didn't happen. Lately I've been daydreaming about dresses and skirts made in fabrics like this and knitting cardigans to wear with them (like this or this). It's like English countryside in outfit form, and apparently that's how I want to dress now, even though I'm not quite sure I can even pull it off. Not to mention that I basically only wear dresses and skirts to church...

{Yes, it's 90 degrees and I'm daydreaming about cardigans and tights.}

Thursday, June 26, 2014

The Rescuers {1977}

{Animated Disney Film #23 of 53}

I never watched The Rescuers as a kid, for whatever reason. (It seems like we all had our favorites that we watched repeatedly, and then there were others that we were never exposed to.) After watching it for the first time, I'll admit that my first reaction wasn't especially favorable. I just thought the movie was okay. But thinking about it now, a week or so later, I did enjoy the movie a lot, though I still wouldn't list it among my favorites.

The beginning was a bit weird, with the dramatic, creepy sea scenes and the strange song (more on the music later). Also, at the airport with the humans, before we meet the mice, I thought the animation didn't look Disney-ish at all. I can't really explain why, but it had a generic, bland, almost unfocused look to it. Thankfully by the time you get to the Rescue Aid Society, the animation looks a lot better (and it continued to look nice throughout the rest of the film).

The story was pretty good. Sometimes it reminded me vaguely of Oliver and Company, with the kidnapping aspect of the plot. Penny, the little orphan girl, was so adorable! As for the villain, Madame Medusa...that woman had Cruella de Vil written all over her! I had seen pictures of the character before, but I hadn't realized that she was in this particular Disney film. It seems that originally Cruella de Vil was going to return as the villain in this movie, so maybe that's why Medusa seems so similar to her. They both have crazy driving skills (or lack thereof) and a bizarre fashion sense. And they both have that wild look. :)

Okay, so the is really important to me in Disney films. If I don't like the music in a Disney movie, then it usually affects how I feel about the whole film in general. The music in The Rescuers is slow and a bit boring and it definitely has a 70s feel to it. I just didn't like it. I didn't like any of the songs, honestly. But I'm trying not to let that sour how I felt about the rest of the film. :)

There isn't anything super exciting about the voice casting in this movie. Eva Gabor is back as the main female character's voice (she was also in The Aristocats seven years earlier), and Bob Newhart is the main male's voice (I know who he is, but I'm not very familiar with his work). George Lindsay, aka Goober Pyle, is also back in a small role. I still have a hard time believing he was a voice in so many Disney movies. :) The albatross (can't remember who voiced him) definitely feels like a precursor to the seagull in The Little Mermaid!

I liked The Rescuers. I just would have liked it a lot more if the music was better. :) It seems like this movie sort of marks a change in Disney films. It's hard to explain, but there's a difference. Maybe, for me, it's because pretty soon we'll be getting into the films that were made during my lifetime (or in some cases, a few years before I was born but ones that were still a big part of my childhood).

Apparently this movie was really successful. It was actually the most financially successful Disney movie ever up to that point, and it was the only box office hit that the company had in the time between The Jungle Book and The Little Mermaid (which was a period of over 20 years).

Up next on the list is a film that I watched a lot as a kid and that I'm equally excited about and dreading: The Fox and the Hound. :)

How do you feel about The Rescuers? Do you prefer this one or the sequel, The Rescuers Down Under?

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Yarn Along

Reading: The FitzOsbornes in Exile, by Michelle Cooper. This is the second in a series that's focused on an (imaginary) poor island kingdom at the beginning of World War II. The first one, which I enjoyed a lot, is a bit reminiscent of I Capture the Castle. Plus it had a lot of unexpected plot twists! The second book is good so far, too. :)

Knitting: Some red socks that are Doctor Who inspired in a very subtle way. :) You can't really tell it yet, though.

I like it when my book and knitting coordinate. {The girl's sash is red, as is the spine of the book.}

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

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Two cowls and a hat (all handspun).

I'm finally catching up on pictures of projects that I've finished recently...well, at least the ones that don't require any "modeling" (I'm feeling even less photogenic than usual lately). I've been knitting a lot with my handspun, and all three of these projects are handspun.

The first cowl, the brightly striped one, is from some Polwarth fiber that I recently spun. It was my first time Navajo plying, and I didn't end up with much yardage (approx. 138 yards), but I managed to squeeze this little cowl out of it. I used up every bit of the yarn to do so. :) It's small, but it's warm and I feel like it's not quite as bright in real life as it is in the photos. The Polwarth was so soft, and this was a simple, quick knit.

With the second cowl, I basically had the opposite experience. I used my first real handspun, which was done on my drop spindle because at the time, I didn't have a wheel. I also dyed the yarn naturally, using staghorn sumac berries and then doing an iron afterbath, which turned it from brown to gray. It seems to have faded a bit since then, since in these pictures it looks like some of the brown is showing through again. Anyway, this yarn was so unpleasant to work with. I don't know whether it was the way I spun it or if something changed during the dyeing process, but the yarn was so rough and scratchy and had almost no stretch. And the pattern, which is really nice in itself, features a lot of cables (there are two more of those cabled sections on the back of the cowl), which was not fun with stiff yarn. Also, I made an in-between size because I had more yardage than the shorter cowl called for but not enough for the longer one, and it turned out to be an awkward size...just a little too short to wrap around my neck twice comfortably. Honestly, I'm just glad that this cowl is finished. :)

The hat is not for me- it's to sell! :) I might be attending a small local craft festival this fall, and if I go I'll actually be there as a spinning...demonstrator? I don't know if that's the right word, but basically, I'd be there with my spinning wheel showing people how it works. Which is both exciting and terrifying to me, because as I told the person who asked me if I'd be interested: I still feel like such a beginner at spinning. Anyway, if I go, I'd also be able to set up a table with things to sell. So I'm starting to work on some knitted items, mostly with an emphasis on using yarn that I've spun or dyed myself. This hat is from the Barley pattern, and it's knitted from my second handspun on my wheel. I also dyed this yarn with Kool-Aid and food coloring, and it turned out bright green, so I later overdyed it with some other Kool-Aid, and it's darker and more variegated now. The Barley hat is super easy and fun, and I'm hoping to make some more soon. (I really want one for myself, too, out of some handspun.) This yarn actually stretched further than I was expecting (it was only about 120 yards)...I thought I'd end up with a child-sized hat, but it's the pattern's adult small size. However, it does have a lot of stretch: I have a big head (just being honest- it seems the average woman's head is something like 21 or 22 inches and mine is 24) and it technically still fits me, though a bit snugger than it should. :)

As usual, more details on the project pages: Folktales Cowl, Gray Handspun Cowl, Green Barley Hat.

Saturday, June 21, 2014


My hollyhocks are finally blooming (they don't bloom until the second year). They're very pretty, but unfortunately the plants also have hollyhock rust, as you can see. They're not blooming as much as they should, and some of the buds have fallen off before they even had the chance to bloom. I'm collecting and drying as many blooms as I can, hoping I'll have enough to do some natural dyeing with. The zinnias are also blooming, and they're basically the most adorable flowers ever. :)

This week I took in my sewing machine to be serviced. I've had it for nearly six years, and I've never had it serviced. (I know, I know...I'm really bad about things like that.) They already have lots of machines waiting for tune-ups, so they won't be able to get to mine for a couple of weeks.

Being without a reliable sewing machine makes me feel surprisingly uncomfortable. (I do have a vintage one, but I haven't done much sewing on it and it's probably also in need of servicing.) It's not like I've been using my machine a lot this garment sewing in 2014 so far has consisted of: a t-shirt, a pajama t-shirt, an incredibly sloppy pair of pajama pants (which also happen to be exceptionally comfortable), and two skirts for someone else. But creativity comes at the most inconvenient of that my sewing machine is unavailable, I'm suddenly struck with inspiration and I want to sew clothes for myself again. I need more knit shirts and some floral button-up shirts and a dress pattern that I really love and feel comfortable in. Well, at least I can be looking through my patterns and fabric and jotting down ideas while I wait to get my machine back.

I've been doing lots of knitting but I'm so far behind on getting photos of the finished items. I think I have about six items to get pictures of? Ugh. 90 degree weather does not motivate me to put on my warm woolen knits for pictures. I just need to get it over with, I's not like it's going to get any cooler!

And I think I'm going to be knitting another sweater soon. I just can't help myself...I ordered the yarn today. (Big surprise, I was sucked into the KnitPicks summer sale.) This one will be a shorter cardigan to wear over dresses, and I'm knitting it in black because that will match with most of my church clothes. But I hear that knitting with black yarn can be a pain, so I hope I don't regret it. :) I'm trying to be practical. I had some gorgeous blue yarn in my cart but I knew it wouldn't match with anything, so I switched it out. (I can always knit with that yarn later, after I sew something to wear with it.) I might wait about a month to cast on, because I'm hoping that Shannon will be hosting her summer sweater knit along again this year, and I'd like to participate.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh {1977}

Does anyone not love Winnie the Pooh? I mean, seriously. He has to be one of the most beloved characters ever.

I wasn't sure if I had ever seen this film. I knew that I watched one Pooh movie a lot as a kid...the one about the bees. (And I'm convinced that we owned a VHS tape of it, though when I went looking the other day, I couldn't find it anywhere.) When I started watching The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, it began with the honey tree part, so I thought I'd seen the film before. But later on there were other parts that I don't really remember seeing.

Here's the thing: this movie actually consists of three featurettes: Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree, Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day, and Winnie the Pooh and Tigger Too. Before the 1960s, apparently the Pooh books were really well-known and loved in England, but they weren't that popular in America. I honestly can't wrap my head around the fact that most American children didn't know who Winnie the Pooh was until approx. fifty years ago. But Walt Disney was smart, and he predicted that if Americans were introduced to the characters a little bit at a time, the Pooh stories would explode in popularity. He was right, of course. So the short featurettes were released in 1966, 1968, and 1974. Then in 1977, they were combined (and extra material was added to link them together more smoothly) into this film and released as The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh.

Of course, this movie is so charming. I love how there's so much emphasis on the book, how they show the pages and characters moving and such. This movie really feels like the book coming to life, which is amazing. Speaking of books, if you haven't read the original books by A.A. Milne (Winnie-the-Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner), go read them. Right now. They are beautiful and sweet and clever and awesome. I love the first one a bit more, but the second one is also really, really good. (As for the books of poetry, they're sort of hit-or-miss for me. I'm not a big poetry fan, anyway.)

I just love all of the different characters and the world of the Hundred Acre Wood. The movie does feel sort of episodic, but that's okay. That's the way it's supposed to be. There's isn't any big, major plotline (unless you count Pooh's goal to consume as much "hunny" as possible). But I think they did a really good job of tying the three smaller bits together. I would have never known that the film was originally three featurettes if I hadn't watched the special features on the DVD.

The songs are pretty good. Once again, they're by the Sherman Brothers. I like most of them...some are better than others. Basically, the theme song and The Wonderful Thing about Tiggers are the best. :)

The dream sequence with the Heffalumps and Woozles is pretty weird. I'm not going to lie- it feels out of place to me...a little too "modern" for such a classy, old-fashioned English story. It's a bit reminiscent of the Pink Elephants on Parade sequence from Dumbo, except not nearly as good.

{I had to include this picture because, for whatever reason, this scene is one of the most vivid memories I have of watching this as a kid. :) }

Of course, the awesome Sterling Holloway (who provided voices for tons of Disney films) is the voice of Winnie the Pooh. And he's the perfect Pooh voice. Apparently, a different boy did the voice of Christopher Robin in each section. I didn't notice any difference between the first two, but in the last part I could definitely tell that it was a different voice actor. But the two biggest surprises for me were connections to The Andy Griffith Show. I can't believe I had never realized that the voice of Gopher was Howard Morris, who is Ernest T. Bass! I'll blame it on the whistling lisp in Gopher's voice, but if you listen closely it's obviously him. And this one was even more of a surprise: Hal Smith is the voice of Owl, and he's also Otis Campbell in the Andy Griffith Show. I knew that Hal Smith had a nice speaking voice because he did lots of voice acting (including a main part in Adventures in Odyssey, which I never really listened to), but in my head he always sounds like Otis the town drunk. Not the distinguished voice of Owl!

I guess it's pretty obvious that I enjoyed this movie. How could I not? Now I'm really curious about the other Winnie the Pooh movie on my Disney list, the one that came out in 2011. I'm already a bit biased against it because it won't have these perfect voice actors...

Next up on the list is one that I don't believe I've ever seen before: The Rescuers. :)

What is your favorite part of the Winnie the Pooh stories? Have you ever read the books?

Monday, June 16, 2014

Summer of Harry Potter (reading and knitting).

In my head, the Harry Potter books and knitting are linked. Maybe it's because Hermione knits hats for the house elves. Or because in Half-Blood Prince Dumbledore mentions to Slughorn that he's been reading Muggle magazines because he loves knitting patterns. (That one always cracks me up. :) Or maybe it's because the HP films are filled with beautiful knitted sweaters and hats and scarves.

I knew I wanted to reread Harry Potter this summer and rewatch the films as I go. But a couple of months ago I found a copy of The Unofficial Harry Potter Knits 2013 at the bargain bookstore (for about $3! All because the cover was a little bent!). And that got me thinking about all of the HP inspired knitting patterns I've stumbled across over the past few years, and I had an idea...

So this is going to be the summer of Harry Potter. Not only am I going to reread the books and rewatch the films, but I'm hopefully going to do some Harry Potter inspired knitting. I originally thought I'd try to do seven projects in all, one for each of the books, but I probably won't end up completing that many. I definitely want to knit:

-Hermione Hearts Ron Hat. I have wanted to knit this hat for the longest time. Not only is it based on one of Hermione's hats from the films, but it's just a gorgeous hat in itself. Actually, I've already started on this one.

-Owlie Socks. I love owls anyway, but they're important in the Harry Potter series, too. :)

-Hermione's Time-Turner Mitts. These aren't from the films, but they're really pretty.

-The Golden Snitch. Because it's so cute. :) I might turn it into an ornament or maybe just set it on my bookshelf.

Some other favorites are the Who? hat, Herbology socks, and Neville's socks. I also love Ginny's Cardigan, but I don't know if I have it in me to knit two sweaters in the same year. (Though, oddly enough, lately I've been itching to start another sweater.) I also own Charmed Knits, so any of those patterns are options, too. I actually bought that book a couple of years before I even started knitting, just in case I did learn how to knit. :)

Of course I'll be blogging about the knitting projects as I finish them, and I'm thinking about doing reviews of the books and films as I go along, too. We'll see!

Are you a Harry Potter fan? Have you ever made anything (knitting, crochet, sewing, etc.) inspired by the series?

Friday, June 13, 2014

Robin Hood {1973}

Up until this point, my experience with the story of Robin Hood has been pretty limited. I am familiar with the basics, as much as anyone would be. I've seen (and really enjoyed) the 1938 film The Adventures of Robin Hood, starring Errol Flynn, several times...but that's about it.

I don't think I had ever seen the Disney adaptation of Robin Hood, though certain parts of it seemed so familiar to me. Mostly the song at the beginning (the whistling one, you know?) and Prince John sucking this thumb. :) I guess I might have seen this once as a kid?

Robin Hood is so much fun. There's excitement (seriously...the escape scene at the end was intense!) and romance and a bizarre mixture of English and American cultures. Robin Hood is such an English story, but this film has American voice actors (as well as English ones) and the music definitely has a folk/country feel.

The style of the music was right up my alley. I honestly think I liked every song in the film, which is really unusual for me. Usually there are a couple that I don't like. :) My favorites were Whistle-Stop and Not in Nottingham. I thought that the song Love sounded really familiar, and after a bit of research I realized that's probably because it's also featured in one of my favorite animated films: Fantastic Mr. Fox. :)

You know I can't talk about a Disney movie without mentioning the voice actors. There's Phil Harris as Little John, in his third major Disney role in a row! He was Baloo in The Jungle Book, Thomas O'Malley in The Aristocats, and he's once again a bear in Robin Hood. It should be obvious at this point that the Disney company really had favorites when it comes to voice actors. :) The Sheriff of Nottingham is familiar, as is the church mouse (Piglet!!) and his wife (Lady from Lady and the Tramp, Merryweather from Sleeping Beauty, and Kanga from Winnie the Pooh). Oh, and there's George Lindsay (Goober) again, this time as a vulture.

Apparently Disney had a low budget for Robin Hood (possibly even the lowest budget for any Disney movie?), because they recycled certain parts of scenes from previous Disney films. Sir Hiss looks so similar to Kaa from the Jungle Book...every time he opened his mouth I expected Sterling Holloway's voice to come out! And watch during the dance scene, when Little John dances with Lady Kluck...their moves are identical to Baloo dancing with King Louie in the Jungle Book.

Random little thing: Lady Kluck knits! Of course I always notice when a character knits in a movie. :)

Robin Hood is a really enjoyable movie. I wouldn't list it as one of my favorite Disney films, but it was good and kept my attention a lot more than some of the other new-to-me Disney movies I've watched during this project. I feel like this movie would be a good way to introduce kids to the story of Robin Hood.
Have you seen Robin Hood? Do you like it? What are your favorite adaptations of the story in general?

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Deep waters socks.

I'm officially halfway through with my sock knitting resolution for the year! :) This is my third pair, and if I keep up at this pace, I should have six pairs finished by the end of 2014.

This yarn started out as the Froot Loop pattern. After I had knitted a few inches, I was still paranoid that they wouldn't fit (even though I had added extra stitches because the pattern is written for a smaller foot than mine). Plus, to be perfectly honest, while I liked the way the stitch pattern was looking, it wasn't very enjoyable to knit. Maybe I'll try it again some day, but this time I frogged the sock and started over with a plain vanilla sock.

The yarn is KnitPicks Stroll Tonal in the deep waters colorway. I had picked this skein out for Christmas, thinking it was a TARDIS blue color, but it turned out to be very purpley. Not that you can tell from the above photos, which are stubbornly blue (the last photo is probably the most accurate, color-wise). Purple is one of my favorite colors, so I didn't mind too much. And yes, the yarn really is that bright. The socks are kind of tacky and I'm not crazy about how the colors pooled in certain spots, but I still love them. The yarn has a nice feel, feels thicker and more fuzzy and substantial than Felici (which is the only other KnitPicks sock yarn I've used so far). More details on my project page, as usual.

I know which socks I'm going to start on next, and they're sort of Doctor Who inspired. Shocking, huh? :)

{2014 Sock Plan: Pair 1, Pair 2}

Friday, June 6, 2014

Folktales handspun.

After I finished the spinning class on Craftsy, I was itching to spin some dyed fiber. It turns out that most of my spinning stash is white or cream, so I ordered some colorful fiber from Spun Right Round. I love her shop. The fiber is soft and wonderful to spin, the colors are gorgeous, and the customer service is excellent. There was a little hiccup with my order, but it was resolved in no time.
The first braid I spun was some Polwarth in a colorway called Folktales. This was my first time Navajo plying. With n-plying (or chain plying), you spin all of the fiber into one long single. Then you ply it back on itself in a looping way, sort of like a crochet chain, and that forms a three ply yarn. It's sort of hard to explain, and it was trickier to get the hang of than I expected. But I think I finally got it. :) This video helped so much. Navajo plying keeps the colors clean and prevents barber-poling, which is when two very different colors are twisted around each other in handspun. It makes clear stripes when knitted up.
I'm so pleased with how this skein turned out. The colors were actually even prettier than I expected! When I was spinning it, it made me think of what I imagine a desert sunset would be like...think sunset at the Grand Canyon or something. :) All of those yellows and oranges and pink reds, toned down by the bluish gray and brown. I love it. I ended up with 138 yards of worsted weight...enough for a small cowl, I hope. 
My Navajo plying still needs some practice...I think I was on the verge of putting too much twist into it while plying. It was so crinkly before I soaked it, but thankfully it evened out after a couple of warm baths. I can't wait to experiment more with Navajo plying! :)
{Thanks for the kind words about my mom's accident in my last post! She went to the doctor yesterday and everything is healing nicely. She goes back in a week to get the staples removed (all nineteen of them- ugh!) and she'll be on crutches for another three weeks or so.}

Sunday, June 1, 2014

What I Read: May

{On Friday, my mom had an accident while she and my dad were cutting down some scraggly trees around our house. She ended up in the hospital with a deep gash in her leg from the chainsaw. Thankfully, the blade didn't hit any bones or nerves, but it was still a nasty injury...seriously, it was gruesome and I cringe every time I think about it. She had to go into surgery for them to clean it out and pull things back together. Mom's doing pretty well now, but she'll be on crutches for a while. I know she would appreciate any prayers for a quick recovery! I realize this is a strange way to start off this post, but it's been such a major thing going on with my family over the past few days that I felt like it should be mentioned.}

May was a fairly good reading month for me. As usual, click on the title for my Goodreads review, except in the instances when I reviewed the book here on the blog (and then I've included that link instead). Here's what I read...

Death by the Book, by Julianna Deering. I enjoyed this book much more than the first in the series. Also, this book marks one of the very few times that I have actually correctly figured out the guilty party in a mystery! :) I reviewed the book here.

The Heart's Pursuit, by Robin Lee Hatcher. There was nothing wrong with this book, but I just felt like it was lacking. I reviewed it here.

Undeniably Yours, by Becky Wade. I loved this book! I didn't love it quite as much as her first book (My Stubborn Heart), but it was still so, so good.

The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender, by Leslye Walton. I knew this book was going to be sad, but I didn't expect it to be so tragic! The writing style was gorgeous and I loved the magical realism, but there were some dark and brutal moments (and a smattering of profanity and innuendo). I'm glad I read it, and I will reread it, but I didn't love it like I had hoped to.

Meant to Be Mine, by Becky Wade. The sequel (sort of) to Undeniably Yours. I really enjoyed this one! You can find my review here.

Midnight in Austenland, by Shannon Hale. I liked this book, but things didn't turn out at all like I expected. It was neat to get to spend more time with some familiar characters. I just like the first book so much better. (To be fair, though, Austenland had to grow on me. I like it more each time I read it, and loving the movie made me appreciate the book more. So maybe I will like this one more when I reread it?)