Thursday, December 31, 2015

Best of 2015: Movies, TV, and Music

Here's the last of this year's recap posts: my favorite movies and television of 2015 (with a couple of albums thrown in, too). As always, some of these were new releases, but others have been out for a while, and I just watched for the first time this year.


The Man From U.N.C.L.E. I've seen this movie twice in the last month, and both times I've planned on writing a review of it. But apparently I can't think of anything to say! :) I loved this one. It's just a lot of fun...very funny and entertaining in a glossy, perfectly 60s way.
 

Cinderella. There's not a lot to say about this one...it's just a nice, traditional adaptation of the fairy tale. The casting was perfect, the costumes were gorgeous, and the whole film was just pretty. You can read my review here.


Into the Woods. I love how this movie combines humor with darker twists on typical fairy tales. It was visually stunning and the songs are catchy (too catchy sometimes). It's definitely unlike anything I've seen before. I reviewed it here.


Inside Out. I love Pixar films, but honestly, the premise of this one didn't appeal to me at all. So I was pleasantly surprised by how good it was...it's probably in my top three or four favorite Pixar movies. The plot was creative and the attention to detail was incredible. Sadness was definitely my favorite character. :) I reviewed it here.


Mr. Holmes. I'm a big Sherlock Holmes fan, and this was a take on his story that I'd never seen before. It was a quiet sort of movie, and a bit sad, but still really good.

And now on to the television shows or mini-series...


Poldark. This was definitely my favorite new TV show of the year. I got a disc of it from Netflix, watched the first three episodes, and got so hooked that I went that week and bought the DVD so I could watch the rest of it immediately. (I never do that, but that's how sure I was that I'd love the rest of the season.) When Poldark first aired on PBS, I didn't have a lot of interest in watching it, but now I can't wait for the next season. (Especially after that cliffhanger! Goodness.)


Marple. I've only seen the first two seasons so far, but I'm really enjoying this show. I'm just trying to read some more of the Miss Marple books before I watch their adaptations...


Foyle's War. As with Marple, I've only see the first two seasons of this show so far, but I already love the characters. I don't hear a lot of people talking about this show, which is a shame. It's about a police inspector solving crimes in England during World War II.


Grantchester. And yet another British mystery show...can you tell that I've really been into mysteries this year? :) This one is about a young clergyman who teams up with a cop to solve crimes in their local village.


Death Comes to Pemberley. As a Jane Austen fan, I wasn't sure how I'd feel about this mini series, but I ended up enjoying it. For the most part, I loved how they showed the characters from Pride and Prejudice six or seven years later (though Mr. Darcy was a bit too moody), and the cast was great. The scenery and costumes were beautiful. And of course this one also involves a murder mystery...

I only found two new albums this year that I really loved. The first one was Holly Arrowsmith's For the Weary Traveller. I thought that it would be a little too traditionally folk for my taste, but I ended up listening to it nonstop for most of the summer and fall. I also really loved Look Homeward's self-titled debut. (You can still download it for free here.) Some of their songs remind me of the Avett Brothers, which is basically the biggest compliment I can give a band. :)

 
What were your favorite movies, shows, and albums of 2015?

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Yarn Along {Christmas Gift Edition}

Instead of the usual Yarn Along (posting about what you're knitting and reading), this week I'm sharing the Christmas gifts that I knitted.
 

I try to knit my niece a sweater every year, and this time I went for a more neutral gray rather than the usual pink or purple. :) I was worried about it looking a little too boyish, but I'm really happy with it. (Plus it fits her perfectly and looks adorable on her!) She's only two and this sweater is knit from DK yarn, so it didn't take too long. I had some gray yarn leftover, so I knitted her a matching hat (also using the leftovers from my most recent hat). Sweater project page and hat project page.


My dad got his usual pair of worsted weight, 100% wool socks. They were made with some blue superwash Wool of the Andes from KnitPicks. Project page.

Excuse the terrible lighting, but I was taking these pictures just before wrapping gifts. :) My sister-in-law likes to wear boot cuffs, so I made her two sets: a black pair with diagonal purl lines and an oatmeal pair with cables. Project page for black pair and project page for cabled pair.


And my mom got her usual pair of pink socks. :) They're just basic vanilla socks made from some KnitPicks Stroll Tonal yarn. Project page.


These were definitely the most interesting project I knitted for Christmas! I knew I wanted to make my mom some slippers. When I saw this pattern, I knew that if anyone would appreciate wool slippers with lots of fluffy fiber inside, it would be my mom. This was my first time knitting anything thrummed (thrums are those bits of fiber that are knit into the project), and my first time making slippers. It was so interesting to see these take shape! Halfway through the first slipper, I realized that they were going to be too small, plus I had made a mistake with the shaping. I ripped it out and started over in the next size up, and by that time I had a good idea of how the pattern worked, so things went much more smoothly. These slippers are so fun to knit, though there are several rounds after you finish the sole that are tricky to knit because of the tight corners. They're not the most attractive things ever, but they have to be warm and cozy! :) Project page.

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

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Best of 2015: Books


2015 was a pretty good bookish year. Of course, there were a few duds, but overall I read a lot of good books and found some new favorites. Pictured above are my favorite books that I read for the first time this year, in no particular order.

I read 75 books, which was my goal. Of those, twelve were rereads. (I reread some of my favorite books this year, like Persuasion and Emma.) I didn't really read a lot of series...I did read two trilogies (Wildwood and A Tale Dark & Grimm) and the majority of the Anne of Green Gables series. (I read the first six, and there seems to be some confusion as to exactly how many books are considered to be in the Anne series.)

Here's how I did with my book-related resolutions:

Read 75 books? Yes, I did this! I didn't manage to read any more than that, though. :)

Get my number of own-but-unread books down to 100? Ha. Even if I don't buy many books, shrinking this number somehow still proves impossible for me.

Read at least five new-to-me classics? As long as I include modern classics, I did this. I read Of Mice and Men, Anne of Avonlea, Rebecca, A Study in Scarlet, and How Green Was My Valley. (And interestingly, they all made my favorites list.)

Buy fewer books? Compared to the last couple of years, I definitely bought fewer books. Except for a brief relapse on Thriftbooks.com over the summer, I was remarkably restrained. :)

Keep a more detailed book journal? Yes. I made an effort to jot down more of my thoughts in my real book journal instead of just typing them up on Goodreads.

Reread the Lord of the Rings trilogy? Nope. I did reread The Hobbit, though.

Work on this book challenge? Surprisingly, I managed to complete this one! I wrote about it here.
 
What were the best books that you read in 2015?

Monday, December 28, 2015

In 2015.

Though I always enjoy writing about my favorite books and films of the year, every year I almost decide against doing one of these general recap posts. Sometimes it feels like there's not a lot to mention, but I do like reflecting on the past year. And I think that since I post my resolutions each year, it's only fair that I'm honest about how they turned out. :)

2015 was a pretty quiet year. Looking back, there weren't any big events for me personally. A couple of people who are close to us have been fighting cancer this year, and it's been hard seeing them and their families having to go through that.

One good thing is that I feel like I've ventured out of my comfort zone more this year than I have in a long time. I'm an introvert (a rather awkward and quiet one), and social stuff doesn't come easy for me. I'm okay with that, but I don't want to miss out on things in life just because I'm scared or intimidated. A couple of months ago, I started going to knitting group: just a little thing that I never would have imagined myself doing, but something that I really enjoy. It's so nice to hang out with other knitters every week. :) I also sold at three craft fairs this fall and did at least a little demonstrating with my spinning wheel at each of them...I still get nervous about doing those, but maybe it's getting a bit easier?


Because I'm a nerd, I like looking back over my knitting projects for the year and figuring out the statistics for what exactly I made. :) In 2015, I completed at least 63 projects! That's not including my current WIPs and a couple of hats to sell that I didn't document. Of those projects, 35 were things to sell at craft fairs (mostly hats...lots of hats) and about 12 of them were gifts.

Favorite knit of 2015: Antler Cardigan. I absolutely love this sweater and wear it all the time.

Least favorite knit of 2015: Fields of Wheat cowl. There's nothing wrong with it, but I just don't wear it nearly as much as I expected to!

As always, my knitting resolutions were the ones that were easiest to keep. :) I learned how to knit colorwork and simple lace this year. I wanted to knit myself six pairs of socks, and I ended up with 8.5 pairs (still working on that last sock). I had planned on knitting two sweaters, but I only made one (for myself...I also did two baby sweaters and a toddler-sized one for my niece). I kept a knitting and spinning notebook (though I'm a little behind with it at the moment), bought much less yarn and fiber, and tried to focus on American wool when I did buy it. Really, the only knitting/spinning goal that I failed was to finish the Craftsy class on drafting. I think I'll start it over in the new year.

My sewing goals had mixed results. I did sew at least five garments, but they were mostly t-shirts so that feels a bit like cheating. :) I finished my fall quilt! And while I did use up some of my special fabrics to sew knitting accessories (big project bag, medium project bag, and DPN case), I still need to sew a case for my interchangeable needle set and a pattern holder.

As for my other random goals, they were mostly fails. I did open my new Etsy shop and journal somewhat consistently. I only purchased three items of new clothing, and they were all either made in America or ethically sourced (two t-shirts and a pair of boots). I saved money each week...I got behind during a few months when I was out of work but caught up later. I completely forgot about donating money each month and about finishing my Disney animated film reviews. I didn't learn how to cook and I can't remember the last time I walked outside (for exercise)....oops.

What were some of the highlights of 2015 for you? How did you do with your resolutions?

Monday, December 21, 2015

Christmas tunes.

I was planning a more detailed post about my favorite Christmas music, but it seems that this week has slipped up on me. :) I did manage to throw together a short list of some of my favorites, so here it is! I won't be posting anymore this week, but I'll be back next week with a movie review and all of those traditional end-of-the-year posts.
 
I hope you all have a really lovely Christmas!
 
 
 

 

 

 
Other favorites:
 
 
And for after Christmas, when you want something a little festive but not exactly Christmas-sy:
 
Even the Snow Turns Blue - Over the Rhine (except for a couple of songs, I really enjoy this album)

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Yarn Along


Reading: The Princess Curse, by Merrie Haskell. I've only just started it, but it's a middle grade book that's apparently a retelling of The Twelve Dancing Princesses mixed with Beauty and the Beast. Plus, I've heard it compared with Gail Carson Levine and Shannon Hale, who have been two of my favorite authors since I was about twelve years old. How could I not give it a try?

Knitting: I'm still working on my niece's sweater, but I've made a lot of progress (and all of the other Christmas gifts are done!). I thought the sweater was going to be too long, judging from the pattern, so I cut out some of the repeats of the stitch pattern. After I'd bound off, I realized that the sweater was a bit too short. So I went back and followed the pattern like I should have in the first place. :) Now I've finished with the body (again) and started on the first sleeve. I'm really happy with how it's turning out.

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

Saturday, December 12, 2015

2015 Reading Challenge

One of my bookish goals this year was to work on this reading challenge. I didn't really intend on finishing it, but it seemed like a fun idea. About a month or so ago, I realized that I had checked off most of the items, and that if I chose my next few books carefully, I would actually complete the challenge. So here are the fifty books that I read for the prompts! {By the way, I'll be doing my usual end-of-the-year book post in a couple of weeks, but I wanted to do this one separately.}


1. A book with more than 500 pages. Wildwood, by Colin Meloy, which is 560 pages long. (Actually, any of the Wildwood trilogy could have worked for this one.)

2. A classic romance. Emma, by Jane Austen.

3. A book that became a movie. The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien. Three movies, actually...

4. A book published this year. Like a Flower in Bloom, by Siri Mitchell.

5. A book with a number in the title. The Secret of Platform 13, by Eva Ibbotson. I loved this book!

6. A book written by someone under 30. The Reptile Room, by Lemony Snicket. Daniel Handler (aka Lemony Snicket) was 29 when this book was published.

7. A book with nonhuman characters. In a Glass Grimmly, by Adam Gidwitz. Two of the best characters in this book are nonhuman: Frog and a giant salamander named Eddie. :)

8. A funny book. The Lost Continent, by Bill Bryson. His books are supposed to be hilarious. I think Bill Bryson can be genuinely funny, but he can also be too sarcastic and crude and mean-spirited. I didn't love this book, but it did make me laugh several times near the beginning.

9. A book by a female author. Anne of Green Gables, by L.M. Montgomery.

10. A mystery or thriller. A Murder is Announced, by Agatha Christie.


11. A book with a one-word title. Rebecca, by Daphne du Maurier. So, so good.

12. A book of short stories. The Fairy's Return, by Gail Carson Levine.

13. A book set in a different country. Anne of Avonlea, by L.M. Montgomery. It's set in Canada, so I didn't venture very far from the US.

14. A nonfiction book. A Jane Austen Devotional, by Steffany Woolsey.

15. A popular author's first book. Go Set a Watchman, by Harper Lee. This was technically Harper Lee's first book, though it wasn't published until this year.

16. A book from an author you love that you haven't read yet. And Then There Were None, by Agatha Christie. This is my favorite Christie novel so far.

17. A book a friend recommended. How Green Was My Valley, by Richard Llewellyn. I'm bending the rules on this one a bit. A friend didn't actually recommend this to me, but it's one of this BookTuber's favorite books and she's always recommending it, and that's why I picked it up.

18. A Pulitzer Prize-winning book. To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee.

19. A book based on a true story. Burial Rites, by Hannah Kent. This is a novel about an Icelandic woman who was convicted of murder and executed in the 1800s.

20. A book at the bottom of your to-read list. Harry Potter's Bookshelf, by John Granger. I liked the idea of this book, but didn't end up enjoying it very much. I just wasn't in the mood for it at the time.


21. A book your mom loves. The Bible. My mom isn't a big reader, but she does read the Bible. I've been reading it through again this year, too, and while I won't actually finish until December 31st, I went ahead and included it on the list.

22. A book that scares you. We Have Always Lived in the Castle, by Shirley Jackson. This book has a really beautiful, creepy cover. Before I started it, I was worried it might scare me. (It didn't, though it was wonderfully eerie and unsettling.)

23. A book more than 100 years old. Persuasion, by Jane Austen. It was published 197 years ago.

24. A book based entirely on its cover. Summer and Bird, by Katherine Catmull.

25. A book you were supposed to read in school but didn't. Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck. This one wasn't included in my homeschooling curriculum, but it seems like the sort of book I would have had to read in public school.

26. A memoir. Normally, This Would Be Cause For Concern, by Danielle Fishel. This memoir was a bit disappointing, unfortunately. I wanted to read about her years on Boy Meets World, but she hardly even discussed the show!

27. A book you can finish in a day. Fairest, by Marissa Meyer.

28. A book with antonyms in the title. The Sinister Sweetness of Spendid Academy, by Nikki Loftin. I'm going to consider "sinister" and "sweetness" to be antonyms.

29. A book set somewhere you've always wanted to visit. Notes From a Small Island, by Bill Bryson. England is definitely the place I most want to visit.

30. A book that came out the year you were born. Neither Here Nor There, by Bill Bryson. When I was browsing through a list of books published in 1991, this one was on the list. After reading it, I found out that it was actually published in 1992...but I'm still going to count it. :)


31. A book with bad reviews. Going Vintage, by Lindsey Leavitt. This one has mixed reviews, and I ended up being disappointed with it, too.

32. A trilogy. A Tale Dark and Grimm trilogy, by Adam Gidwitz.

33. A book from your childhood. The Bad Beginning, by Lemony Snicket. I love this book just as much now as I did when I was a kid.

34. A book with a love triangle. To All the Boys I've Loved Before, by Jenny Han.

35. A book set in the future. Winter, by Marissa Meyer.

36. A book set in high school. Since You've Been Gone, by Morgan Matson.

37. A  book with a color in the title. One + One = Blue, by M.J. Auch.

38. A book that made you cry. Lizzy and Jane, by Katherine Reay. This one definitely made me tear up, though not nearly as much as her first book.

39. A book with magic. Wildwood Imperium, by Colin Meloy. There's quite a bit of magic in this book.

40. A graphic novel. A Monster Calls, by Patrick Ness.


41. A book by an author you've never read before. Paris In Love, by Eloisa James. This is a memoir, but Eloisa James typically writes romance novels, so nope...I've never read any of her other books. (And don't plan to, ha.)

42. A book you own but have never read. Rump: The True Story of Rumpelstiltkskin, by Liesl Shurtliff. Well, I did own this book, but after reading it, I decided to donate it. (It was okay, but not worth keeping.)

43. A book that takes place in your home state. The Raven Boys, by Maggie Stiefvater. Originally, this prompt was a book set in your hometown, but I'm pretty sure there aren't any books set in my little hometown. So I just picked one set in Virginia.

44. A book that was originally written in a different language. The Thief Lord, by Cornelia Funke. It was originally written in German.

45. A book set during Christmas. I Am Half-Sick of Shadows, by Alan Bradley.

46. A book written by an author with your same initials. Never Have I Ever, by Katie Heaney.

47. A play. The Importance of Being Earnest, by Oscar Wilde. It turns out that I don't enjoy reading plays.

48. A banned book. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, by J.K. Rowling. Supposedly one of the most challenged/banned books ever?

49. A book based on or turned into a TV show. A Study in Scarlet, by Arthur Conan Doyle. The first episode of one of my favorite shows, BBC's Sherlock, is an adaptation of this book.

50. A book you started but never finished. The Princess Bride, by William Goldman. I started reading this book about eight or nine years ago but got so bogged down at the beginning that I never finished it. So I finally read it this year. (It was good, but the film is so much better.)

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Yarn Along


Reading: The Raven Boys, by Maggie Stiefvater. This book is so unlike the books that I usually read. It's YA, it's sort of paranormal (not in a vampire or werewolf way, though, which is what I think most people assume when they hear "paranormal" YA), and it's pretty odd. I picked it to help me finish a reading challenge that I've been working on this year, knowing that it was out of my comfort zone. But I'm actually liking it okay so far. The writing is good and I like the atmosphere of the story...it's strange but also somehow familiar, probably because it's set in my home state of Virginia. {Edit: since writing this post, I finished the book. You can read my thoughts here.)

Knitting: My niece's Christmas gift: a pullover sweater. I know it doesn't look much like a sweater right now, but hopefully it will soon. :) I haven't been able to share any knitting here lately because it has been all gifts, but my two-year-old niece is one person who I don't have to worry about accidentally seeing her gift on my blog, ha. You can start to see the texture that's going to be on the front of the sweater. I'm just hoping it won't look too boyish, since I ended up going with a neutral gray rather than pink or purple.

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

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Favorite Christmas films.

I love traditions, so of course I love watching the same Christmas movies every year. :) Back in 2013, I did a series of reviews for twelve of my favorite ones. I'll link to some of those below, but I figured it was time for a basic list of my favorites. There's nothing mind-blowing here...just a lot of good classics that I'm sure most of you have seen.


Christmas in Connecticut. These movies are in no particular order, except this one, which happens to be my absolute favorite Christmas movie. It's basically a 1940s romantic comedy set during the holiday season. While there are aspects of it that require a suspension of disbelief (like the whole baby situation), it's hilarious and charming. Barbara Stanwyck is spot-on with her comedic timing, and Felix is an awesome character. This movie doesn't get near the attention it deserves! (Review here.)

The Shop Around the Corner, In the Good Old Summertime, and You've Got Mail. I'm tying these all together, because while they're basically the same movie, they're all worth watching. :) The Shop Around the Corner was the first film adaptation of a play, made in 1940 and starring Jimmy Stewart and Margaret Sullavan. It's such a sweet movie, and while it's essentially a romantic comedy, part of the story line is a bit darker than the next two. (Review here.) Nine years later, the story was remade into a musical: In the Good Old Summertime. (Despite the title, all but the first and last minutes are set during Christmas time.) This one has Judy Garland and Van Johnson, and it's probably one of my favorite musicals. It's very similar to the first film in basics, though it's lighter and much more of a comedy. (Review here.) And then there's You've Got Mail, one of my favorite chick flicks. It's a loose modern remake, though there are some references to the original if you pay attention. I watch this movie year round, of course, but parts of it are set during Christmas.

A Charlie Brown Christmas. I've watched this every Christmas for as long as I can remember, and you probably have, too. So I don't think much of an explanation is required. :) It's charming and classic and the soundtrack is perfect. (Review here.)

Holiday Inn. I might actually prefer Holiday Inn a tiny bit more than White Christmas. It's a classy musical starring Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire, with lots of clever holiday songs (for Christmas and more obscure holidays) and good humor. And of course you get Bing Crosby singing and Fred Astaire dancing. (Review here.)

White Christmas. While Holiday Inn is classy, White Christmas feels a little tacky at times, but that's okay. I love about half of the musical numbers in this one and really dislike the other half, but the cast is great and I love the military aspect of the plot. (Review here.)

Elf. Elf is definitely my favorite modern Christmas movie. It also makes me laugh more than any other movie on this list. No matter how many times I see it, Buddy's antics always crack me up. I love the references to classic Christmas movies, all of Buddy's quotable lines, the soundtrack, everything. It's a lovely film. (Review here.)

The Santa Clause. I grew up watching this one, so my affection for it might be largely because of how nostalgic it makes me feel. I have a soft spot for cheesy 90s films. :) But honestly, it's a cute movie that's quite funny. I don't really like the sequels, though. (Review here.)

It's a Wonderful Life. This seems to be most people's favorite Christmas movie. It's not mine, but I definitely get the appeal. It's a timeless classic. I just have a hard time with Jimmy Stewart sort-of being an unlikable jerk for a big chunk of this film...he usually plays nice guys. (Review here.)

Miracle on 34th Street. I don't love this movie, but it's charming and I like it enough to watch it every year. It's a sweet, fluffy, Santa-themed Christmas film. (Review here.)

The Bishop's Wife. The best thing about this film is Cary Grant, by far. It's a quiet, slow sort of movie, and while it's not an absolute favorite, I always like it more than I remember. (Review here.)

And a few honorable mentions...I use Christmas as an excuse to watch While You Were Sleeping again. :) It's one of my favorite movies and I've seen it more times than I'd like to admit. Since it's mostly set during Christmas, it has that cozy feeling. (Review here.) I also watch Sleepless in Seattle in December, because it takes place between Christmas and Valentine's Day. And because I grew up watching them, I usually check out the classic Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Frosty the Snowman TV specials at some point during the month.

Which Christmas films do you watch every year? Are there any "classic" ones that you don't actually like?

Friday, December 4, 2015

Lately.


Things have felt a little weird around here lately. Am I the only one who sees that, because it's my blog, or is it obvious to you guys, too? I haven't had a lot of motivation to write, or any ideas of what to write about...that's when you get a random, rambling post like this one. :)

I put up my tree last week and the house is all decorated and cozy. My absolute favorite ornaments are the ones I made from Alicia Paulson's patterns. Her attention to detail is incredible. I really took my time with those and used good quality materials, and I'm hoping they'll last the rest of my life. At some point I would love to make the other four sets...I think I already have most of the felt. (This year I finally sewed a reversible tree skirt for my tree. It was pretty embarrassing that I had never done that before, especially when I realized how simple it was.) And I've been listening to Christmas music almost nonstop. Mostly Sinatra, because of course he's the best. (Sorry, Bing.) I'll probably write about my favorite Christmas songs, traditional and a bit more obscure, sometime this month.

Knitting has been happening, but I can't share any of it because it's all Christmas gifts. I'm afraid to even share peeks here because there's a chance my family will see them. :) Besides having a panicked moment while looking at the calendar the other day, I think I'm on track to finish everything before Christmas. The only thing I haven't actually started is my niece's sweater.

I checked out books from the library for the first time this year. I love the library, but I've been trying to read from my own shelves. I needed one specific book to complete a reading challenge, and I think I showed remarkable restraint by bringing home only four books. :) I've already read The Marvels (not a favorite), and I'm about 100 pages into The Raven Boys. Despite it being way out of my bookish comfort zone, it has really sucked me in and I'm enjoying it so far.

I saw The Man from U.N.C.L.E. a couple of days ago and loved it. It was so much fun: deliciously 60s and entertaining and hilarious (I wasn't expecting the humor!). I want to watch it again before I write a review of it, though, so I won't say anything else for now.

Monday, November 30, 2015

What I Read: November


In November, I read mostly children's books. I didn't plan it that way, but it might have something to do with this bookish YouTube channel that I enjoy watching. She was doing a children's literature month in November, so that might have accidentally influenced me. :) As always, click on the title to read my full review.

One + One = Blue, by M.J. Auch. This one wasn't what I was expecting. I picked it up because the main characters have synesthesia, a condition that I'm really interested in. But the synesthesia aspect wasn't a very big part of the book. Things got a little crazy near the end and went in a direction I didn't expect, and overall I was just disappointed.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, by J.K. Rowling. Obviously this was a reread, but the new illustrated edition totally warrants a reread. This book is so, so gorgeous. The illustrations are perfect and my only complaint is that there aren't quite enough of them! :)

The Secret of Platform 13, by Eva Ibbotson. Why is this book not a famous classic that every kid reads? I want every children's book to be like this one: charming and funny and addicting. (And British. What is it with the British and their weird ability to write children's books better than everyone else?) I couldn't believe that this book was just published in the 90s...it has such a classic, timeless feel. It reminded me of Roald Dahl with a bit of Narnia and Harry Potter thrown in. So yes, this is a new favorite.

Winter, by Marissa Meyer. The conclusion of the Lunar Chronicles! It didn't blow me away, but it was everything I could have wanted in the last book. Winter was a great character (slightly unhinged, but still endearing), and I feel like the fairy tale parallels were especially strong with her story.

The Thief Lord, by Cornelia Funke. I've had a copy of this book for a long time. It was completely different from what I was expecting, but in a good way. Victor was my favorite character, by far. :) The bit of magic at the end threw me off, but it didn't take away from the story. (I watched the film after finishing the book and didn't like it very much. But Mr. Carson was great as Victor, ha!)

The Lost Continent, by Bill Bryson. I always have mixed feelings about Bill Bryson's books. I love reading travel memoirs and he can be so funny, but goodness, he can be such a sarcastic jerk. I start off enjoying his books (this one made me laugh a lot near the beginning), but by the end, I'm sick of his negativity and crudeness. Of the four of his books that I've read so far, this isn't one of my favorites.

The Reptile Room, by Lemony Snicket. Another reread....sometimes it's nice to pick up something that you can read in a couple of hours, and I needed something fun after The Lost Continent! :) I always liked this book because Uncle Monty is a great character (I love the film portrayal of him, too).

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Knitting: TARDIS mitts.


My first colorwork project is finished! One of my goals over the past year (and last year, too, I think?) was to learn how to knit colorwork. It turns out that, just like everyone said, it wasn't as scary as I'd expected. :)

I used the Police Box Mittens pattern, though obviously I chose the fingerless gloves version. The only real change I made was to add a thumb gusset instead of doing an afterthought thumb. A lot of people mentioned in their project pages that they added a gusset or wished they'd added one, but nobody really gave specific instructions for how to do so. I'm not good at improvising, but I looked at several other patterns and managed to figure it out. (I went into more detail on my project page.) I also went down to size 1 needles (the smallest I've ever knit with!) because the mitts were turning out huge on size 2's. They're still slightly big, especially around the wrist. The yarn is KnitPicks Palette, in celestial and silver. It was splitty at times, but I like how it's wooly and slightly fuzzy.

You can definitely tell that I'm new to colorwork if you look closely. :) My tension puckered the knitting a bit at the edges, and in some spots you can see the blue through the gray where I trapped the floats...especially on the thumb gusset. But even though they're not perfect, I'm so proud of these! They were really addicting to work on. It's sort of like using self-striping yarn: I would always think, one more repeat, and then I'll stop. Being able to knit colorwork opens up a ton of new pattern possibilities. (I have been eyeing this sweater for a long time!)

Ravelry project page.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Knitting: marigold dyed hat (and a new sweatshirt).


Back in the spring, I won a skein of Liesl's naturally dyed yarn in a giveaway (ironically, on a blog that I'd just started reading, though I've been following Liesl's blog for a long time). It was some DK organic Merino, dyed with marigolds...a gorgeous shade of yellow, which happens to be my favorite color. Originally I had other plans, but ended up deciding on a hat.

I used the FreshMint pattern, and while the larger size should theoretically have been snug on my head, it was too big. So I went down a needle size and it seems to have worked out okay. I'm still not crazy about how loose it is at the crown, but I really like the chevron design made from purl stitches.

The yarn was wonderful to knit with, of course. It's so soft but still feels sturdy, and I love the color. When I posted a work in progress picture of this hat here, someone had mentioned that they wished they could pull off wearing this color. Honestly, while I know what colors I'm drawn to and which ones I wear the most, I'm not one of those people who knows what colors match with their skin tone, hair color, etc. I don't know if this is a color I "should" be wearing or not, but that doesn't bother me.

Ravelry project page.

I made this sweatshirt last week, and while it's not very flattering, it's probably the most cozy garment I've ever sewn. :) Of course, it was made from the Renfrew shirt pattern. The fabric is this sweatshirt fleece from Girl Charlee, which is made in America. It looks like a regular knit on the outside, but the wrong side is a brushed fleece. Because sweatshirt fleece is supposed to not be as stretchy as regular knit fabric, I added an inch to each side seam because obviously I didn't want a sweatshirt to be too tight. But this fabric has a lot of stretch, and making it bigger wasn't necessary at all. I ended up taking in the side seams until it was about the normal size of my t-shirts. I'm not sure how well this sweatshirt will hold up (the fleece side shed a lot when I prewashed it), but for now, it sure is comfortable. :)

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Simplifying.


I've never been what you would call a minimalist, not in any way. My idea of a cozy home is one where there are lots of quilts thrown across couches and too many books on the bookshelves. It won't look like a picture in a magazine, but it will be comfortable and lived in and full of things that I love. (Maybe that's the problem...I love too many things, ha! Right now my bedroom walls are overcrowded with art prints and pictures and embroidered pieces, because I'm trying to fit so many things that I love into one room.)

I am peculiar about being organized and having things in their place, though. I feel distracted if my stuff isn't where it belongs. I think I have to be that way, in this case, or things can quickly clutter up.

But lately it seems that certain aspects of Slow Fashion October have been creeping into other areas of my life. I've been trying to weed through my books and movies, deciding what should stay and what should go. I've accumulated a lot of them over the years, and for some reason, it has suddenly become overwhelming. I feel like I'm getting to a point in my life where I'm happy with less.

I love movies, and I like seeing movies that I've never seen before. But when it comes down to it, I have my absolute favorites that I end up watching over and over. So I sorted through my DVDs and ended up with a stack of nearly twenty movies. I've been systematically watching through those to decide if they're worth keeping or not. (So far I'm only keeping one.)

And then there are the books. I'm a reader...I accumulate books. I want my shelves to be full of my favorite stories: the books that mean something or the ones that I know I'll reread. I own a lot of books that I haven't read yet (too many), but I'm hesitant to get rid of most of those until I know what I think of them. But if I currently have zero interest in reading a book, it's probably time for it to go. I had an old two-volume set of Les Miserables. I'm always hearing about that story, and I'd like to try it sometime during my life, but right now? I have no interest in reading a huge book with tiny print that involves a lot of history that I know nothing about...so it's going. As for the books that I have read and thought they were just okay, why are they still taking up space on my shelves? If I know I won't read them again, why am I keeping them?

I'll probably take the DVDs to a thrift store, but I'm not sure what to do with the books. Any suggestions? Over the past couple of years I've donated a lot of books to the Little Free Libraries in our town, and I will be doing that again with some of these. But others are newer releases and in like-new condition, so I'd like to do something different. I looked into Paperback Swap, but it seems that they now charge fees. I might try to find a used bookstore nearby that will either buy them or trade store credit for them (our town, sadly, doesn't have a bookstore).
 
What about you? Are you a minimalist, or like me, do you lean towards clutter? How do you decide what stays and what goes?

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Yarn Along


Reading: Winter, by Marissa Meyer. I'm so excited for this book! I don't read much YA, but the Lunar Chronicles series is incredible. It's basically fairy tale retellings set in a futuristic world...think Cinderella and Rapunzel (and others) mixed with Doctor Who. These books are funny and action-packed and very addicting, and this is the final book in the series. I highly recommend checking them out, even if they don't sound like the sort of thing you'd normally read. (I held off on reading them for a long time for that reason, but then I felt silly after I realized how good they are.)

Knitting: I'm still working on my first colorwork project, my TARDIS mitts! The first one is finished, and though it's a little bigger than I'd like, going down a needle size helped a lot. I'm really happy with how my improvised thumb gusset turned out, too. I was hoping to finish these before I started on my Christmas gift knitting, but that yarn is supposed to arrive tomorrow...so the mitts might have to get set aside for a few weeks.

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

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Persuasion.

Recently, I reread what I would consider to be my second favorite Jane Austen novel: Persuasion. (Actually, it's probably tied with Emma as my second favorite, though the two are completely different.)


I think a lot of us have given thought as to which Austen character we're most like. I've always felt like a combination of Elinor Dashwood (of Sense and Sensibility) and Anne Elliot (of Persuasion). I'm a quiet introvert who usually does more listening than talking, and I feel uncomfortable being the center of attention. But the older I get, the more I feel the connection to Anne Elliot. I last read the book five years ago, so of course I can relate to Anne more at twenty-four than I did at nineteen.

Anne is basically a much better version of myself...so I want to be like her when I grow up, ha. She's a lot more patient and kind than I am. She's good, but she's not perfect (a complaint that a lot of people have with, say, Fanny Price of Mansfield Park). She has to put up with so much, and she handles everything so well. Who else could deal with her dad and sisters? Seriously...the Elliots have to be one of the most obnoxious families in Austen's novels. (Not one of the things I share with her, thankfully!) One of the main themes of the novel is Anne regretting a past mistake, but she learns from that and lets it shape her into a better person.

Also, while Elinor Dashwood is a very practical person, Anne isn't always, and I get that. She is still hopeful after all of those years, though she tries to appear practical and sensible and talk herself out of what she's feeling at times. One of my favorite things about Persuasion is how introspective it is. Because I can relate to her so much, I love getting a glimpse of how Anne is thinking and guessing and trying to sort things out.

Another thing that I love about this book is that it feels a lot more realistic than some of Jane Austen's other novels. Don't get me wrong...I love Pride and Prejudice as much as anyone. It's one of my favorite books. But how many of us are as sparkling and witty as Elizabeth Bennet? And how many of us are going to have three men interested in marrying us, one of them being incredibly wealthy? (Though come to think of it, Anne has also received proposals from three different guys. This is one aspect of novels that I don't understand. The female characters always have multiple guys in love with them...surely that's not realistic! It even happens with unstable and sometimes unlikable characters like Katniss.) Though I've never been in Anne's exact situation, the circumstances in Persuasion feel a lot more relatable.

As usual, there's a great cast of memorable supporting characters. I really like the settings, too: Bath and the seaside town of Lyme feel different than the usual country settings. There's also some typical Austen humor, though the story has more of a bittersweet feel. I don't even need to say how sweet the romance is or mention Captain Wentworth's letter. :) Overall, it's just a lovely, satisfying story.

After finishing the book, I decided to watch the two adaptations that I own again. I settled in with my knitting and had one big Persuasion marathon. :)


First I watched the 1995 film. I've only seen this adaptation once before, several years ago. Watching it immediately after finishing the book, I have to say that it is a very accurate adaptation. It follows the book closely and there are bits of dialogue that are word-for-word from the book.

It's enjoyable overall but...it's not my favorite. Right from the beginning, I was like, who is that girl lazing about, looking sloppy? Mrs. Clay? No. It's Elizabeth Elliot, supposedly a very prideful person. I do love Sophie Thompson as Mary, though. (If she looks familiar, it's because she played Miss Bates in the 1996 Emma, and she's Emma Thompson's sister.)


Then there's Anne. I'm sorry, but Amanda Root as Anne spends most of the film either looking wide-eyed and terrified, or extremely sad and depressed. It's so distracting. Ciaran Hinds is okay as Captain Wentworth, but I really can't see him as anyone other than Dumbledore's brother now, so there's that.

One interesting thing is that both adaptations feel the need to make Mr. Elliot worse. In this one, they make him poor, so he's desperate to maintain the family connection. In the newer adaptation, he's going to marry Anne and keep Mrs. Clay as a mistress. That doesn't feel necessary to me. He's enough of a selfish slimeball in the book, especially when you find out how he treated Mrs. Smith and her husband.

I can't explain it...while this film is a close adaptation, it's lacking charm and chemistry.


You can probably see where this is going, but I much prefer the 2007 adaptation. :) I like the casting a lot, not only in the supporting cast, but especially with Anne and Captain Wentworth. (Mr. Elliot is also perfectly sneaky looking.) The music is gorgeous (courtesy of Martin Phipps, who also did the music for North and South). I like the narration from Anne when she's writing in her journal, because it brings in the introspective aspect of the novel.

This one isn't perfect, though. It's quite short, so it feels rushed. There are some shaky, "modern" bits of filming and camera angles, particularly at the beginning and the end. I also didn't like how they kept having Anne look into the camera. It was usually when she was narrating, so I guess they were trying to emphasize that, but it just felt weird.

The biggest flaw with this adaptation, though, is all of the awkward running at the end. I mean, I get that they're trying to show you the urgency. I'm no runner, but even I'd probably run for Captain Wentworth in that situation. :) Still, it's almost laughable, and it feels distracting at a point in the story that is supposed to be very dramatic and swoon-worthy. If the ending were done differently, this would be nearly a perfect adaptation. It's still my favorite, though I'm hoping at some point Persuasion will earn a beautiful mini-series or something. :)

Friday, November 6, 2015

Sewing: woodland knitting bag.


Last week I finally used up this little half yard of organic cotton fabric that I've been hoarding for a couple of years. I love woodland animal fabric, and this is just perfect. So many adorable animal faces! Bear, deer, owl, fox, raccoon, beaver, squirrel, mouse...I think that's all of them. It's a Sarah Watson print from her Indian Summer line.

(I definitely have a woodland theme going on with my project bags and knitting accessories: see here, here, and here. And with a lot of blues and browns and oranges, most of them seem to coordinate color-wise, too.)

This is yet another zipper pouch from this tutorial by Noodlehead. It's a great tutorial that results in a lovely, neat finished bag. This is my third one and I use them constantly. I made the large size this time, and I added a handle on the side so it's easier to carry (wish I had done that with my last one, as it's so large that I end up awkwardly tucking it under my arm!).

The lining is just some navy cotton, and I interfaced the outer pieces with stiff fusible interfacing (either Craftfuse or D├ęcor Bond). Thanks to my collection of vintage zippers from the 60s and 70s, I had an orange zipper that added a bit of color. (Other than using them in bags, I have no idea what to do with all of those zippers. They're either earthy colors like oranges or reds, or pastel greens and blues, so I don't see myself ever using them in clothing!) And I tied some leather cord as a zipper pull, something I need to add to all of my project bags.