Mar 25, 2014

Ten on Tuesday - The Ten Last Books You Have Read.

I've had a lot more time to read lately. Much of it is devoted to satisfying the demands of Miss M who loves a good story. This one is her current favorite. She brings it with her to preschool regularly so that she can share it with her friends. It's got a surprise ending that has the kids in stitches every time.

I've also been reading a lot for my own enjoyment lately. I usually prefer mysteries and thrillers but I've been branching out a bit lately. It's a direct result of my heavy use of Goodreads. I love that I can keep track of the books I want to read and those I already did. I also like seeing what my friends are reading. It gives me ideas and helps me develop my queue.

Here is a list of some books that I've read recently. I wish I could say that I loved them all. 
  1. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green - Both of my teen girls read and loved this one. The morning after I finished it they expectantly asked how I liked it and "did I cry?". I did like it but I didn't cry. It's very good but I doubt that it'll stay with me in any lasting way. It was a good story well-told but not unique.
  2. The Brass Verdict by Michael Connelly - I love Michael Connelly. I've heard him speak and I always enjoy his stories.This is the second Mickey Haller book and it didn't disappoint at all. The characters are well crafted and interesting and the story comes together well. 
  3. Criminal by Karin Slaughter - Ms Slaughter is another author I love. I owe all of the enjoyment I've gotten reading her books to the National Book Festival. Ever year I check the list of authors scheduled to appear and often I'll check out someone listed who is new to me before seeing them at the festival. She writes pretty intense thrillers with great characters that develop over the series but here's a little hint - don't get too attached. She really isn't kind to her characters. 
  4. A Long Way Down by Nick Hornby - Four people go up to the top of a building on New Years Eve to kill themselves and don't. Then they spend the rest of the book annoying each other while they try prevent each other from trying again. I didn't like any of them and I didn't really care if they jumped. 
  5. two boys kissing, David Levithan - This was an amazingly affecting book. It was beautiful and lyrical and thought provoking. It tells the story of one day in the lives of  young, gay, men in a way that is hopeful and sad and angry and reverent.  This one will stay with me for a long time.
  6. Six Years, Harlan Coben - This author is fairly new to me but I like him. It's about lost love, stuff that doesn't add up and a hero who just can't let go. It was a little implausible in places but it was highly entertaining and sometimes that's all you need.
  7. Gone Missing, Linda Castillo - This is one in a series of books set in an Amish community. The Sheriff is former Amish and a woman which sent up a lot of interesting situations and relationships. I can't say how accurate these books are as a representation of the Amish but they feel true and it adds a welcome twist on the genre. 
  8. Night Film, Marisha Pessl - I hated this book. A lot. I had heard good things and it sounded like my kind of book. It certainly sounded like a neat concept. Unfortunately it was not an enjoyable or interesting read at all. For me it was a slog and took up precious time that I could've spent reading something much better. 
  9. Lost Light, Michael Connelly - No surprise that MC appears twice on my list. His books are always winners for me. 
  10. The Woman Upstairs, Claire Messud - This was an odd book. It's about a woman who has sublimated her own desires and now she is living a life that is fine but unexciting. She has a nice job, nice friends, and a nice life but she feels insignificant and wonders what could have been. She gets involved with the family of a student and it changes her. The best way that I can describe my feeling about this book is uncomfortable.  

Mar 21, 2014

ECF - Last Ice of the Season Edition

I'm really hoping that the title is true and that the next time I see ice on the trees around my house isn't until November or December.

It looks pretty but it's been a very long winter and I'd like it to stop now. Please?

Mar 20, 2014

More New Socks For Me

Last week I talked about a photo shoot for two pairs of socks.  This is the second pair.

This is the Through the Loops Mystery Sock for this year. A two color sock is so hard to plan for just because there are so many great possibilities for color combinations. I love choosing colors and seeing how they mix. In the end I settled with a pair of colors that was far less risky than many others. The dark blue id Malabrigo in Shery and the minty green is Spud & Chloe in Glow Worm. It wasn't terribly risky but I like it.

Knowing that this pattern would involve 2 colors I was a little apprehensive, hoping that there wouldn't be extensive color work or - even worse - intarsia. But a funny thing happened while I was working on these socks. I found myself wishing that the second color was involved just a little bit more. Wow!

In the end I'm really happy with thee socks. The fussy cast on and the stripey toes are fun and add a little spark to the design. Now I have a year to finish the 2012 socks and perhaps a few more pairs before the next mystery sock next year.

Mar 18, 2014

The Toddler Effect

Most of us start each new year with the intent to do all of the stuff that we meant to do but didn't in the previous year. We'll pull some awesome prank for April Fools Day. We'll host a fabulous barbecue and not for get to put out the smores at the end. We'll send out our holiday cards on time. We will remember ALL of the family birthdays. More often than not it goes wrong somewhere along the way and we make the same promises again the next year. If you'd like to break the cycle I have a suggestion.  Add a small person to the mix - a toddler or preschooler perhaps.

People constantly ask me about the changes that Miss M has brought to our lives. Usually this is followed by these words - "I could never do it." But I have to say that aside from the obvious changes - changing diapers, worrying about babysitters, and cleaning crayon off the walls, etc - there is one that is more basic. You have another chance and a new reason to do all of those things that you put off before.

So this year as the Jewish holiday of Purim approached, instead of saying that we really should make hamantashen - we did it. Hamantashen are cookies that are filled with fruit, nuts, chocolate, or whatever else you like and shaped like a three cornered hat. Usually you give them to friends and family as gifts. They are yummy.

I'm not sure why we never get around to making them most years. We're probably too busy with other stuff.  But this year we made up for it with 3 batches. I made a test batch with one dough and then I used another dough to make some with the girl scouts and more with my family. Most of them are long gone.

And that's not the only thing that we did for Purim this year rather than just thinking about it. We dressed up. Purim is a holiday that is celebrated loudly with treats and fun and costume. For this reason it's usully described as the Jewish version of Halloween. It' really not but I see where the impression comes from. Costumes and treats. And this year we did both.

What made this year different?  Why did we get dressed up? Right now we've got a preschooler in the house who is obsessed with Minions and princesses and her joy and excitement is infectious.  What you see here in the form of Princess M and her Minions is the toddler effect.

Mar 12, 2014

First Things First

It should come as no surprise that today, the day after I told you all about our little sock photo shoot, I'm sharing a pair of recently completed socks.

These are the Through the Loops Mystery Socks from 2013. I really love doing the mystery socks, I just have a problem finishing them. I start off strong but somewhere along the way life happens and suddenly I'm behind. And once I'm behind and there's no feeling of urgency it's way too easy to put a project down in for a minute.... that stretches into a year or so.

So when I saw the information posted for this years mystery sock I felt like I really ought to finish one of the previous mystery socks first. In the interest of full disclosure I should admit that the 2012 mystery socks are still languishing too. But at least I got these done and I did so before I started the new one. 

As with so many things, now that I'm finished with these socks I find myself wondering what took me so long. I really love them. The pattern in the front and in the back are lovely.

There's another reason why I wish that I'd finished these a year ago and not put them in time out.  My tension when I started them and when I finished them is not the same. It's not your imagination or a trick of photography - one sock is a bit shorter than the other.

Fortunately I have daughters who will take hand knit socks any way they can get them. 

Mar 11, 2014

A Sock Model is Born

Yesterday the sun was shining and the air was fresh and, most importantly, one of my daughters was available for a little photo shoot. So I grabbed my camera and two pairs of finished socks and we went out to take a few pictures.

Miss M came with us. Initially she was happy riding around on her tricycle and playing with her ball. But then she noticed what Stink and I were doing and that there was a CAMERA involved.  Woohoo! A CAMERA! And just like that - her shoes and socks were off.

Then I had 2 girls getting silly outside in my hand knit socks. Of course they fit one of them better than the other but that will change. Most importantly, I got a few nice pictures and we laughed a lot.

Mar 7, 2014

ECF -Spotting Signs of Spring Edition

Look what we saw today at the library.

Mar 6, 2014

Quick Post for a Quick Hat

"What are you looking at?"

"My hat? Oh, it's just something my mom made for me.  No big deal. I lost my old hat so she made a new one."

"I just asked for a hat and she showed me a few patterns. I chose Slouchy('s no Slouch) by Lea Kobayashi.  My mom tends to get a little crazy with cables and all that stuff but I just want something to keep my head warm."

"My mom made it super fast because she had the yarn sitting in her stash. She's not even sure what it was. But the bead is new and I think it's cool. It's not as good as the skull bead that she was going to use but it's nice anyway."

Mar 4, 2014

Ten on Tuesday - 10 Thoughts On This Year's Oscar Show

Do you love movies?  I do but I'm usually very picky about what I see. I read all the reviews and write ups and I try to pick good ones because when you're spending that much yo want it to count. Admittedly, I don't always pick winners. Some might even say that I have a knack for picking very odd movies. But during Oscar season none of that really matters because my movie going decision is simple - see all the Best Picture nominees. I've never accomplished it until this year. Sometimes having a little extra time on your hands is a good thing.

Having seen all of the nominated shows (and then some) made watching the Oscars this year even more fun. Possessing a semi-informed opinion, rather than I like actor X and hope he wins, is nice for a change. Overall I felt that most of the movies were pretty good. Philomena was probably my favorite followed closely by Dallas Buyers Club. They were both important and absorbing stories told very well, as was 12 Years a Slave. Her was an interesting story but there was something so soothing about it that I kept feeling myself drift off to sleep. Nebraska was just odd - the kind of movie that I usually pick because it got great reviews and was quirky.  Movies like that are the reason that I don't get to select what we see very often. To me, Gravity was your standard disaster movie but with amazing visuals. Captain Phillips was the last one I saw and the only one I didn't see in the theater and it was much better than I expected. The Wolf of Wall Street really needed a good editor to point out that it was not necessary to show every single over the top thing that Jordan Belfort did. Similarly American Hustle needed a little focus because it seemed like it was all over the place. All good movies and I'm glad I saw them. And then there was the Oscar Show...

  1. It was too long - Isn't the point of it to see who gets the awards?  If most people tune out or fall asleep before you get to most of the top awards then you've failed. Period.
  2. Ellen is a great host - This may seem at odds with #1 but I really did enjoy watching her. The pizza thing and the twitter thing were funny.  Just pick up the pace a little.
  3. The dresses were gorgeous - I adored the sculpted column dresses on Amy Adams and Jennifer Lawrence.
  4. Where were the crazy and the hideous dresses - every year there are outrageous head-scratchers. The more outlandish and ugly they are, the more fun it is.  Did everyone suddenly get classy?
  5. Pink was fab - I loved her during the Wizard of Oz tribute. She is awesome.
  6. John Travolta - Read much? I don't think it's possible for him to have botched Idina Menzel's name an more than he did. Phonetically speaking it's not really that difficult to read. Unusual - yes. Difficult - no.
  7. The men of Dallas Buyers Club - so happy that Jared Leto and Matthew McConaughey won. They really were outstanding.
  8. Jennifer Lawrence - she just makes me smile.
  9. That epic selfie - It was so funny seeing all of those huge stars jamming together to try to get in the shot. It was just like something my kids would do. Or my siblings and I. Silliness is universal.
  10. Based on a true story - it's interesting to me that 2/3rds of this years Best Picture nominees were based on true stories. Are there really no new ideas? Is the truth really stranger than fiction? Maybe history is just and endless treasure chest. So much the better.

Mar 3, 2014

There and Back and In Between

This past weekend I was a chaperon on a school trip to New York City. We were there to see Cinderella on Broadway but we had time before and after to wander around the city a bit. In addition to Stinkette, I was chaperoning a group of Juniors from the same school.  They were such nice kids and made my girl feel like a part of their group.

The kids wanted to go to Bryant Park so that was the first stop.  We saw a cool, semi-frozen fountain there. But it was really cold so we looked for an indoor activity. That's how we decided to check out the New York Public Library. Can you believe that I'd never been inside before? Not when I was going to school in the city. Not during any of the numerous visits to the city. Never.

It was wonderful. We looked at exhibits and enjoyed the architecture. It really is a must see.

Can you imagine studying in a room like this?

I should also mention the show we saw since it was the purpose of the trip. This was a drama department trip so, in addition to the acting and the singing, the kids were all excited by the staging and technical stuff. It was all good but the biggest wow was the on-stage costume changes.  They were so impressive. Some we could figure out but others had us scratching our heads.