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.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Sewing: Cinderella dress.


My niece turned two a couple of weeks ago, and I made this Cinderella play dress for her birthday gift. Poly-satin and tulle are definitely not my usual fabrics for sewing...honestly, I can't remember that I've ever used either of them before. While they were slippery and strange to sew, the end result was so adorable that it was worth it. :)

Mom had thought about buying Stella a play dress, so we looked at some at Target. But not only were they expensive (between $15 and $30), the quality was shoddy. They're not even hemmed...everything is just serged and a lot of them were already coming unraveled (and they haven't even been worn yet!). I'm far from a great seamstress, but I figured even I could do a neater job than that.

I used Simplicity 1303, view C, though mine is a simpler version. I left off the belt and peplum, and though I did trim the bodice with sparkly ribbon, mine is plainer than the pattern's version. I didn't want to insert a zipper in a play dress, so I made some (slightly crooked) tabs so I could use Velcro. The bodice and underskirt are light blue poly-satin, and the sleeves and overskirt are blue tulle. The pattern was on sale for 99 cents, and altogether I think the materials came to less than $15. All of the seams are finished, most of them encased in bias tape.

Even though it was fiddly at times, I enjoyed sewing this sweet little dress. :)

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Yarn Along


Reading: One + One = Blue, by M.J. Auch. This is a middle grade novel about a boy who has synesthesia, a condition that I'm fascinated by. People with synesthesia see numbers or letters as certain colors, or connect music with colors, or a variety of other incredible things. The book is pretty enjoyable so far, but there isn't quite as much about synesthesia as I had expected and hoped. (The plot has mostly been about the boy's estranged mother coming back into his life.)

Knitting: I finally got up enough nerve to cast on my first real colorwork project. I've had the yarn and pattern for years, so over the weekend I started these TARDIS mitts (I'm doing the fingerless gloves). It turns out that colorwork knitting is really addicting! I was almost halfway through with the first one when I realized it was turning out too big. I knew I wouldn't be happy with it, so I ripped it out and started over with smaller needles. I'm also going to attempt to add a gusset rather than the afterthought thumb, so we'll see how that bit of improvising goes. :)

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

Monday, November 2, 2015

October Films: Part 2

A continuation of the list of creepy or Halloween-ish films that I watched in October. {You can find the first part here.}


Hitchcock. This is a biopic about Hitchcock and the making of Psycho. There's a big emphasis on his marriage at the time, the difficulties he had getting the film made, etc. It was interesting enough but I didn't love it. (I love his films but I don't know much about Alfred Hitchcock as a person, so I don't know how accurate this film was. From some things I've read, it sounds like maybe it was toned down a bit?)


Psycho. One of the creepiest Hitchcock films and one of my favorites. I usually end up watching it every year around Halloween. I especially enjoyed it this year, having just watched the previous film I mentioned.


Arsenic and Old Lace. I love this movie so much! It's basically the best Halloween film ever. It's over-the-top and spoofy and absurd. Cary Grant is at his kookiest here...it's completely different from his usual type of role, but it's wonderful. There are so many random elements to this story that all come together in a hilarious way. :)


The Mummy. My attempt to watch the "classic horror" films continues. I didn't really like this one, to be honest. I was expecting a creepy, moaning mummy stumbling around, dragging along his wrappings. But instead it was about Egyptian curses and people from ancient Egypt coming alive again, but not in the way I expected. I was a bit distracted during the first twenty minutes or so, and I spent the rest of the film trying to figure out what exactly was going on.


Rear Window. Another of my favorite Hitchcock films! This one isn't particularly scary or suspenseful until the last five minutes or so, but there is an overall menacing feeling throughout. It's basically a mystery, and I do love those. And Jimmy Stewart is always great, of course.


The 39 Steps. After watching the original movie, I watched the Masterpiece remake again. I hadn't seen it in years, and it was better than I remembered! (And more entertaining than the original, I think.) It definitely had a lot in common with the original, but there were some different little twists, too.


Casper. I loved this movie as a kid. It's so cheesy and there are lots of plot holes and inconsistencies, but it's still fun and it makes me feel nostalgic.


It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown! Such an awkward, charming classic. :)


Spellbound. This was the first Hitchcock film I ever watched, back when I first started getting into old movies, so it will always be special. It's more of a psychological thriller, and it's very dramatic and has some nice twists. I really like the dream sequence (designed by Salvador Dali).


The Invisible Man. By far the best of the classic horror films I've watched! I enjoyed this one so much. It was entertaining and easy to follow (especially compared to The Mummy), but my favorite parts were the special effects. I was so impressed with them! We don't even think about special effects today, but back in the 30s, they had to be really creative. And while a lot of old special effects don't hold up, these do. There were lots of familiar faces in bit parts, and this film had a great sense of humor: it was funny when it intended to be (not funny like Dracula because it was so melodramatic and cheesy). The Invisible Man was a pleasant surprise, though the man himself was a lot more intimidating when his face wasn't bandaged up. (I can't take him seriously looking like that.)

Sunday, November 1, 2015

What I Read: October


What a sad little pile of books! :) October was a weird (and busy) month, and I just didn't get a lot of reading done. I did enjoy everything that I read, though, so that's a plus. As always, click on the titles to read my full reviews.

Lizzy & Jane, by Katherine Reay. Though I really did enjoy this book, I don't have an awful lot to say about it! It was well written and very good, but I didn't feel a big connection to the characters. I absolutely loved Dear Mr. Knightley and could relate to the main character in that book, so I guess that's why this one didn't measure up to it. But still, very enjoyable.

Summer and Bird, by Katherine Catmull. I loved this book, much more than I expected to. I picked it up solely for the beautiful cover. I have this thing about birds: they kind of creep me out. Mr. Hitchcock had a hand in that, but isn't there just something so unpredictable and harsh about birds? Anyway, this whole story revolves around birds and I still loved it, so that's something. :) The writing was beautiful and fit the fantasy elements of the story perfectly...it could be joyous one minute and eerie and heartbreaking the next. And this book is full of memorable imagery (it would make a great film). I liked the characters and while the plot felt a bit uneven at times, overall I loved it.

Persuasion, by Jane Austen. This was a long overdue reread of my (probably) second favorite Austen novel. I won't say too much because I'm planning on doing a post later about the book and two film adaptations, but I adore this story. Anne Elliot is a wonderful character who's too often overlooked.