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'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'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 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'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


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.