Saturday, January 15, 2011

What have I been doing all this time?: The Movies

Last time, I gave a rather lengthy update about the knitting. Since then, I'm very sad to say that I haven't made much progress. The past week has been full of work -- so much so that I was completely burned out by the time Friday rolled around. It's Saturday and Chuck & I are in Cleveland; he ran off to hang out with his friend, Leo, to take nature pictures at one of the nearby Metroparks with their fancy pants cameras. I was going slightly stir crazy hanging out at Chuck's parent's house, so (thankfully Chuck left the car, but with the gas light on....) escaped to explore a shop that I've been meaning to visit for a while now: Stitch Cleveland. The shop is on Detroit Road in Rocky River and parking is at a premium, but I felt welcome the moment I walked in. I know I've seen an ad for the shop in a craft magazine somewhere -- how else would I have heard of it? -- but found that they cater primarily to sewing. The shop shelves were filled with fun bolts of cloth, great books of inspiring sewing project ideas and patterns (ones that would be right up my alley, if I knew how to sew well), and room for instruction. One look at their class list made me jealous that there wasn't a shop like this in Lansing because I could see myself taking classes from them (JANE, maybe this is the niche that needs your creativity!).

Anyhow, since Stitch Cleveland was not a knit shop, my little shopping adventure took less time than I had hoped. So, now, I'm hanging out in a nearby Caribou Coffee, knitting, and thankful for the time to write an update (that, and the fact that I had the wherewithal to grab Chuck's laptop as I headed out the door). I'm two seconds away from grabbing my iPod to listen to as I type because, it's not the table of Greek men having a very loud and animated discussion (are all of their discussions loud and animated?) but its the guy sitting in the armchair next to me lecturing a poor, elderly, total stranger about how Cleveland "isn't the town it used to be." Did I mention that this guy was maybe in his late-30s? Maybe? I'm beginning to wonder if he's mining her for details on her life experiences....something that an author with next to no resources might do to gain perspective....its kind of sad and I'm having a hard time tuning him out into the background noise....

Ahh, that's better -- the iPod is indeed out and I'm using deadmau5's 4x4=12 to drown out the unwanted sound around me. So, where was I? Oh yeah, so now that you're pretty much caught up on the knitting, let me update you on the movies....


Legion: I can't help myself -- I enjoy mindless action movies, what can I say? I found myself last spring standing in Blockbuster and looking for one movie that Sylvain, Chuck, and I would actually watch together. This is what I picked, so watched together we did. I was picked on relentlessly afterwards. Yep, I can't write a synopsis or anything now, because I truly cannot recall the plot or even how it ends. It was that kind of movie.

Coco Before Chanel: The next time I went into Blockbuster, I picked up a movie for just myself and this was it. I didn't know a whole lot about Coco Chanel before, so found this movie interesting and enjoyed it.

The Wolfman: This movie was another intended for viewing by the whole family, but I can't say that it kept my interest at all -- it totally put me to sleep! Chuck thought it was a totally predictable story with mediocre acting. Maybe a hard-core werewolf fan would beg to differ....

Occasionally, I've been picking up movies that I want Sylvain to watch because I can't imagine him having a childhood without these films. Ladyhawke is one of these films; what's not to like? It had Rutger Hauer, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Matthew Broderick! A love story with magic and sword fighting. I loved watching this movie again; Sylvain did not want to watch it at all, so after just a few minutes, he left the room to find something else to do.

The Road: I read the novel several years ago, so pretty much knew what to expect. I remember feeling rather let down by my guys for one thing or another, so I decided to rent this movie as payback for family movie night knowing that it was going to be a downer. Yes, I'm that kind of a mother. Let's just say that both Chuck and Sylvain were as depressed as I knew they would be by this film -- nothing like using images of the Apocalypse to get your point across that you were not happy someone.

I've also started watching Mad Men, so have watched all of Seasons 1 and 2, and will begin with Season 3 when I have some real down-time to watch several episodes at once. (That won't happen until later this spring.) Let's just say that I'm happy to live in this day and age -- I'm not sure that I would make it in the business world if this show is an accurate portrayal. I'm no Peggy and certainly don't have the vixen ways of Joan.

The Runaways
: I like Joan Jett much in the way that I like any other 80s band that comes onto the radio -- I'll listen to the song, sing along to the parts I know, but not make any effort to tune in another channel. So, I didn't know anything about Joan's previous band, The Runaways, before watching this film. It was news to me that she was in a band with Lita Ford -- someone I know only from her duet with Ozzy Osborne on "Close My Eyes Forever". This movie was mildly entertaining; whether much of the story was spot on as a biopic or not, I didn't care.

Date Night: Knowing that I would have a chance to see Mark Wahlberg shirtless was all that I needed to know to want to rent this movie; so, it was another selection of mine for family movie night. We enjoyed watching this movie of mistaken identity and mishap, so I would recommend this to anyone who's looking for movie-night fluff.

Grey Gardens: After watching this, I wish that I could get my hands on the original Grey Gardens documentary. Around the same time as I watched this film, I was also reading "Dead End Gene Pool" by Wendy Burden. In both, the main characters had been wealthy, but their eccentricities led to a detachment from the rest of the world. I couldn't help but be entranced with wonder at how anyone could live life in the way that these characters seemed to float through theirs: The Beales in their slow decay and The Burdens in their complete indifference for one another.

Rustlers' Rhapsody
: Another one of my childhood favorites that I rented with the idea that Sylvain would enjoy it as much as I did. I thought the lure of seeing GW Bailey in a role other than Lt. Provenza from The Closer would've piqued Sylvain's interest enough to watch this movie with me, but I was 100% wrong. I watched it by myself anyways and fell back in love with this movie. Chuck later watched it by himself and remarked later that he was surprised to find it enjoyable (he rarely appreciates the same movies as me). How many movies are there where Andy Griffith plays the bad guy? Tom Berenger played the lead -- Rex O'Herlihan, the Singing Cowboy who rides town to town and settles any wrong-doing he encounters along the way; Marilu Henner and a very young Sela Ward play potential love interests.

Scott Pilgrim vs the World: I can't say that anyone in my house are big fans of Michael Cera....I enjoyed watching Arrested Development when it was on Fox, but didn't really watch the show because he in particular was on it. This was another family movie night selection and one that the three of us collectively thought was okay. The premise was that a teen named Scott Pilgrim needed to battle the seven evil exes of the girl he'd like to date with garage rock band drama in the background. We all thought some of the battles with the evil exes were a little lame, but, really, what did we expect?

Anne of the Thousand Days: This one has been in my queue forever and it seemed like its status was always "Very Long Wait", so I was really surprised when it finally arrived in my mailbox. I've had a long festering fascination with Henry VIII, so enjoyed seeing Richard Burton play the King set on destroying England to satisfy himself. Needless to say, this is one that I picked for myself and liked it. I didn't see Sylvain or Chuck having the patience to watch a movie about Anne Boleyn, so didn't even try to get them to watch it with me.

Salt: Chuck and I watched this one while Sylvain was out of town; usually, I'm a fan of Angelina Jolie's films, but found myself somewhat bored by this one. **Spoiler**: once it became revealed that she really was a Russian plant, I knew how the rest of the story would play out; just needed to watch the fine details of it all. And that revelation was very early on in the film. Let's just say that I got a lot of knitting done during this movie....

The Expendables: As I watched this movie, I couldn't help but wonder at what stars Sylvain would consider as the action-heroes of his generation. This movie seemed to have them all for me: Stallone (Rambo), Lundgren (He-Man), and Rourke (Harley Davidson). This was a straight out of the '80s movie: team of special ops freelancers are hired by a nameless figure to take down some dictator on a made-up island; things are blown-up; ladies in distress are saved; good guys show off their hearts of gold buried deep beneath a rough exterior. I was entertained, but I'm easy that way.....

That's it for DVDs; sitting at home and waiting for us to watch are: ¡Three Amigos!, Mary, Queen of Scots, and The White Diamond. Hopefully, I'll have some time this weekend when we get home tomorrow to watch these....

In the Theater:

Inception: I cannot imagine seeing this movie at home -- for me, this movie was meant to be seen on the big screen; the dream sequences depicted by Christopher Nolan were incredible and I felt thoroughly engrossed while watching this movie. Unfortunately, I can't really even tell you what this movie was about because I'm still debating with myself over what it all means several months after seeing it.

Red: I can best describe this movie as "The Expendables" for the geriatric crowd. Chuck and I were by far the youngest people in the theater; but that's not to say that the movie wasn't entertaining. How often does one see a Dame brandish a rocket launcher? Ugh, almost never. I'm still holding out that Judy Dench will get her chance if another 007 movie were made.

Skyline: I am 100% ashamed to admit that I saw this piece of shit movie in the theater. If you happened to have seen this at Celebration Cinema and was annoyed by someone loudly laughing during "important" scenes -- sorry, that was me. I don't walk out of theaters no matter what, and this movie tested my endurance. If a sequel is made for this film, then creativity has truly died in Hollywood. Then again, even Leprechaun had a sequel....

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Part 1): This book was boring to read, so likewise, the movie was also boring to watch. I would have much preferred a condensed amount of camping and not have split the book into two movies, but what do I know? I also could've gone without the near nudity of Hermione -- there's children in the audience for God's sake and the point of making Ron jealous could have been played out without that. Not that I'm a prude or anything, but if I had a younger child with me, I would've been disappointed by that unnecessary scene.....

Black Swan: This was an amazing movie about a ballerina pushed over the edge by the lead roles in a production of Swan Lake. I say "pushed over the edge" because she was crazy to begin with -- driven so by a mother who was living vicariously through her. I will never watch another episode of "That 70s Show" and think the same of Mila Kunis after watching the graphic girl-on-girl scenes that she was in with Natalie Portman.....I'm sure neither will Chuck and Mark who were sitting on each side of me and finding much more enjoyment in that part of the movie.

Tron: Legacy: Chuck, Sylvain, and I saw this in IMAX 3D and I still fell asleep! So, despite being in wonder at how Jeff Daniels can be reimaged to look like his '80s self to portray Clu, as well as Bruce Boxleitner to play Tron, and my enjoyment of Daft Punk's soundtrack, the "story" just didn't pull me in enough to stay awake.

I also saw a couple of Met Live in HD shows at the theater: Don Pasquale and La Fanciulla del West. Thru the HD broadcasts, I'm slowly broadening my horizons into opera and can say that I've enjoyed these shows. I am by no means a critic, so can't really comment on the production too much.

So, if you made it to the end of this, congratulations -- you're now caught up with what I've been watching while knitting. Next time, I'll give a quick run-down of the books I've been reading -- there's been quite a few over the past months.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

What have I been doing all this time?: The Knitting

Wow. It's been almost 4 months since I've had a chance to sit down, collect my thoughts, and write an update. I feel like I've been constantly in motion! In September, I took the leap and ditched the BlackBerry in favor of a Droid X; one of the first apps I installed was Androblogger, which I *thought* would make it easier for me to update and that I'd be updating all of the time. Well, as you can tell, that's not the case. Androblogger is horribly limited and can only seem to provide text. Well, since this is mostly a knitting blog, it's almost impossible for me to write without wanting to include pictures and links. Ugh. Hopefully, something better will be developed before too long...

Now, I'm finally able to dedicate time to sit down and update because I feel like I'm coming down with something. So rather than spending the Sunday afternoon just sitting on the couch all day and watching Doctor Who episodes recorded from the BBC America's New Years marathon, I'm allowing myself to be smug knowing that I'm making progress with doing something rather than nothing productive at all....though, it doesn't help get my house cleaned nor the laundry done.....

Anyways, The Knitting:

I've been knitting my tail off the past few months. Let's review: in September, my friend, Carrie, gave birth to her second daughter. As a gift, I returned my favorite baby blanket pattern: the Rippled Baby Blanket. I already had two hanks of Dream In Color; I've knitted a blanket using the two before with beautiful results. Unfortunately for me, I relied mostly on memory and thought that two hanks was plenty of yarn. What was I thinking?!? With finished and blocked measurements of 30"x 30", the blanket ended up being a bit smaller than I would have liked and the LYS in Ohio where I had purchased the yarn has since closed up.

So, I decided to try my hand a crocheting a toy to go along with the blanket and use the left-over yarn for the toy's sweater. As you can see, the remainder from the blanket only ended up being enough to serve as trim for the sweater. It was my first attempt at making a crocheting a toy and I had the bright idea that I could do this as Christmas presents (yeah, keep in mind that this was in September; and it didn't work out like I had hoped, but more on that later). The pattern I used was from a Leisure Arts pamphlet called "Cute Little Animals" and the yarn was a mish-mash of stash yarn: Brown Sheep and Cascade.

In late September, we were stuck with a conundrum: Sylvain was preparing for a 10-day trip to Germany in November with his school orchestra and we had no idea what to send with him as gifts for his host family. Neither of us liked the suggestions we received from his chaperones -- to send school sweatshirts for the whole host family. Not only would that be expensive, it would also be incredibly bulky for Sylvain to pack. We came up with the perfect solution: knitted hats for the whole family! Oh, did I mention that the trip was in November? I needed to get moving.

I knew going into it that I would fall back to my favorite hats to make: Norwegian-style ski hats. (Is there such a thing as German-style ski hats? It didn't occur to me to search that out until now....) So, I pulled out my favorite Dale of Norway pattern books and a newly purchased pattern book called "Knit a Hat" by Ruth Sørense. Next, Sylvain requested that I use yarn in the colorway of his school colors: a red-maroon, baby blue, white, and black. The maroon was killer; none of my LYSs had anything that captured it -- all of the colors were either too red or too purple. Before long, I found the perfect wool: DKW from Shelridge Farm in the "wine" colorway. The DKW yarn was the perfect stand-in for Heilo, so much so that I didn't bother to knit a swatch. Yeah, you know where this is heading.....

So, all of October and the first week of November was spent knitting hats for Sylvain's trip. Sylvain even attempted to try his hand a designing a pattern for me to use, but he really didn't get the concept when I tried to explain to him that his design was more of an intarsia hat (US and German flags on each side along with other patterns). Even I know my limits, so the best I could do was to modify a Dale design to replace the large snowflakes in the pattern with "O", "H", and "S" for his school.

And, now: the swatch thing. My goal had been to knit five hats; I had two finished and a third well on its way by the date of my knit-in. While showing the hats off to the other knitters, it was pointed out that they all looked quite small. I was so caught up in getting them knitted that I didn't really step back and look at each of the completed hats. We called Sylvain to join us in the living room and model each of the hats for us. Sure enough, they didn't fit. I used size 4s and 6s to knit them, so obviously I needed to use larger needles. Using the small hats has glorified swatches, it worked out that I would need to switch to size 6s and 8s for standard men's and women's sizes.

So, unfortunately, I did.

And as you can see, the resulting hats ended up being too large.

All of the photos are of the hats post-blocking. Technically, I needed only four hats for gifts, but I had planned on giving one to Sylvain and having a couple of extras that Sylvain could give to friends that were also going on the trip.
I tried to squeak out a sixth hat, using the same pattern as the hat shown in the first picture. Still using sizes 6s and 8s, I kept this hat and didn't send it with Sylvain as a gift. I was curious about how the Shelridge Farm would felt and, since the hat was too big anyways, decided to toss it into the washing machine with a few towels. Thankfully for me, I made a last minute decision to place the hat into a lingerie bag first.

I've felted with great success before, so was very surprised to find that the hat completely fell apart in the washer. Trust me, this hat was finished, ends sewn in and everything, so I have absolutely no idea why (or how) this happened. To top it all off, the hat didn't felt at all. Not a stitch. Sadly, I haven't had time to repair the top, so its sitting in the yarn room as a UFO....

Needless to say, Sylvain had a fine time in Germany. It wasn't perfect, but is anything with a teenager?

With the hats more or less completed, I next needed to focus attention on Christmas presents. This year, I had planned to go for easy projects: fingerless mittens, scarves, hats, and crocheted toys.

First, the fingerless mittens: knowing that I was short on time and long on projects that needed to be completed, I didn't really wing it with a pattern for these. I used a pattern by Chris de Longpré with slight modifications for adding ribbing to the cuffs.

Even though I really hate Noro, I still used it for
both of these projects and was surprised to find that I didn't get totally screwed over by some crazy color inserted into the center of the ball. And, yes, your eyes aren't deceiving you -- I cheapened up my own gift by adding a pair of $3 for 2 gloves to each of the mitts.

Next, in the midst summer vacation, knitting Carrie's presents, and Sylvain's hats, I had undertaken a repair job that I probably really shouldn't have since I so obviously am so short on time. Occasionally, the knitting guild is contacted by non-knitters seeking help with items that they've received that are in need of repair. I was particularly intrigued by one request that came our way this past May. Marilyn, a local author, had in her possession a lace afghan knitted in cotton that her grandmother had knitted in the late-1940s to early-1950s. The afghan had started to fall apart and had about 20 holes similar to the two shown in the picture. It took quite a while, but using fringe that lined two sides of the afghan, I was able to repair each of the holes to the point where, unless you looked extremely close and knew where to look, one couldn't tell where the holes were. I'm still kicking myself for not taking any post-repair photos. Since I am not a professional knitter, I didn't ask for any type of payment, but did receive two gifts for my efforts: a signed copy of Marilyn's latest book and a binder of knitting patterns designed by a relative (by marriage) of hers.

So, where was I going with all of that? The next pair of Christmas projects were knitted using one of the patterns I had received: the Falling Leaves scarf.

The scarf shown on the left was knitted using Berroco Vintage Chunky and the one on the right was made using Misti Alpaca Chunky. The pattern was incredibly easy; my only issue was with the gauge. The pattern called for size 11s, but to make gauge, I needed to knit using size 15s. However, when I tried 15s, the fabric was just too floppy. So, I ignored the gauge altogether and reverted back to 11s. The resulting scarves were just the size I had hoped for and the fabric was nice a firm and held up the leaf pattern nicely.

The last Christmas presents I made were a pair of hats for my sister-in-law Jaime and niece Payton. When asked what type of hats they wanted, I received a text message containing pictures of the hats that they were hoping I could recreate. How'd I do?

The first hat was for (and modeled by Jaime). I used the "Lemon Grass Slouchy Hat" pattern by Ali Tong and knitted it in Cascade 128 Chunky. Jaime picked the color; I picked the accent buttons. Sure, I didn't match the photo exactly since it looked like I needed needles larger than the 11s that I used, but Jaime didn't seem to mind.

The second hat (modeled by Payton) is knitted using Noro and is a very simple pattern. There wasn't much to say about this one except that Payton seemed to like it.

So, with the Christmas presents out of the way, I was able to focus on other knitting projects on my plate: a gift for a coworker who was expecting her first baby, three chemo caps for Knit Michigan, and more hats (similar to the ones I made for Sylvain's trip) for an auction to benefit the OHS Athletic Boosters.

My coworker, Stephanie, was due to have her baby in mid-January, so thinking I had "plenty of time", I put my gift to her out of mind until the Christmas presents were completed. As expected, she ended up giving birth to her son on Dec. 26th. So, as soon as I had the last Christmas present off of the needles, I immediately casted on for her present: the Baby's First Entrelac bunting from "Entree to Entrelac" by Gwen Bortner. I guess I shouldn't say that I had put the project completely out of mind since, prior to this (and while I was supposed to be working on Christmas presents), I knitted two of the swatches presented in the beginning of the book (sorry, no photos....yet), so felt somewhat comfortable with the technique but wasn't sure if I could complete the project in a "reasonable" amount of time. I really didn't want this project drag on for too long, but it is my first entrelac project and I didn't know going into it just what to expect. I'm knitting this project using Berroco Comfort DK. I'm on Tier 11 of 26 for the body and started only one of the sleeves (after being tripped up a little on part of the initial left-leaning base triangles). To save my sanity, I'm sewing in ends every fifth rectangle. I *hope* to have this completed by the end of next weekend.

Yesterday, I attended the Met's Live in HD live-casting of Puccini's "La Fanciulla del West" [The Golden Girl of the West] and needed something easy that I could work on in a dark theater. The entrelac project was not it. So, I casted on the first of the three chemo caps as my project of choice. The hat is being knitted using Berroco Comfort and the pattern is the Purple Delight Hat, currently a free Ravelry download. I'm using the suggested needle size (6s) and following the pattern exactly. The hat is a little smaller than I'd like, but figure that (sadly) even kids need decent chemo caps, so am continuing with it. If I were to knit this again, I would cast on more stitches -- I like the feel of the fabric.

So, now you're up to date on the various knitting projects I've been working on. Next up: books and movies.....