A Good Yarn

Monday, January 29, 2007

One More Left

I finished another mitered square.

I need to sew it together and knit one more square, then I'm ready to put the whole thing together. THAT'S going to be some sewing.

I had to do a home visit yesterday afternoon, so since I was out and about anyway, I decided to check out this movie:

In English, it's being called Pan's Labyrinth. I really liked it. It wasn't exactly what I thought it was going to be - there's a lot more of the "real-life" story and less of the fantasy world than I thought there would be. It's about a young girl, Ofelia, in Franco Spain who goes with her pregnant mother to her new step-father's house. He's a Captain in Franco's army who is almost as brutal within the home as he is on the battlefield. Ofelia is a great reader and on the way there, she comes across a fairy. The fairy follows her to Ofelia's new home, and shows Ofelia through a labyrinth to a faun (Pan) who reveals that she is probably the underworld's princess. She needs to perform three tasks to prove that she really is the princess and has not been overtaken by human form. The action then goes back and forth between Ofelia performing these tasks and her step-father's battles against the freedom fighters hiding in the woods around his home. Her journey is sort of paralleled by the Captain's maid, who is secretly helping the freedom fighters. I really loved the performance by the actress who played the maid and by the Captain. The Captain is really quite brutal and there are some scenes that are quite violent. The fantasy scenes are gorgeous, with some really great imagery - my favorite is "Pale Man", a monster that has eyes in his hands instead of his head.

Sunday, January 28, 2007


I finished the first BFF sock:

I think it's pretty and I like how it turned out, but it's a bit baggy around the ankle. That's the problem I have with most handknit socks - except for the Jaywalkers. Maybe that's why I love that pattern so much - it just fits so well once it's on the foot.

Yesterday was Talk Cinema and we saw this film:

I liked this film, but didn't love it. It's directed by Michael Apted, who is pretty good at directing bio pics - he did Coal Miner's Daughter and Gorillas in the Mist. He's even better as a documentarian. His "Up Series" is a must see - I'm absolutely obsessed with them right now. He's obviously very interested in people and telling their stories. This film is about William Wilberforce, a member of the British Parliament in the early 1800s who led the abolishinist movement there. As I mentioned in my book review the other day, I love books that tell a small, personal story, but that is really a bigger story and that's true of this film, as well. It's about William Wilberforce, but it's also about standing up for what's right, continuing to fight even after many setbacks and in a nod to modern times, how working for change is not the same as being a traitor or unpatriotic. I had never heard of William Wilberforce and the film spurred me on to do some more reading about him and his good friend, the Prime Minister, William Pitt. The acting is incredible. I was unfamiliar with the actor who plays Wilberforce, Ioan Gruffudd. I really thought he did a good job showing Wilberforce's passion and faith. His castmates were also great, including old favorites such as Ciaran Hinds, Rufus Sewell and Michael Gambon. Absolutely captivating, though, was Albert Finney as the ex-slave ship captain turned minister who wrote "Amazing Grace". He only has a few scenes, but they really are wonderful. It's too bad this film is being released in February - he'll never be remembered come Academy Award time. What I didn't like about the film was that it was very heavy-handed. It's meant as a morality play, so all of the characters are either saintly or devilish. Wilberforce's only flaw is that he works too hard. Of course, to modern eyes, slavery really doesn't have any nuances as an issue - I think pretty much everyone agrees it is not a good thing. So it probably is difficult to portray the pro-slavery MPs too positively, though I think it could be done. The score in particular I found really overbearing. The music should give you cues and manipulate you, but it shouldn't hit you over the head and be so noticeable. I'd say if you enjoy costume dramas and history, you'd enjoy this film.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Il Est Fini!

I finished up my red scarf in plenty of time - it's only the 24th! ;-)

Project Name: His/Hers Reversible Scarf
Designer: Melissa Leapman
Pattern Source: Cables Untangled
Yarn: RYC Cashsoft DK
Yarn Source: The Tangled Skein + 1 skein from The Yarnery
Date Started: 1/6/07
Date Completed: 1/24/07

Comments: I knitted this for The Red Scarf Project. Since most of the work I do involves working with child in out-of-home placement, I have a special fondness for anything that helps kids who have aged out of foster care. I wish I had started earlier and been able to knit more scarves, but I had that Christmas knitting to do. Maybe next year. I bought this yarn on a road trip to The Tangled Skein (I was doing a home visit way in the far southern metro and the mom wouldn't come to the door, so I figured since I was already most of the way to St. Peter, I may as well make use of the time). I bought it specifically with a red scarf in mind. I thought 3 skeins would be enough, but with the cabling and all, I needed a 4th skein. I didn't want to drive all the way down there again, so I just picked up a skein at The Yarnery in a different dye lot. They looked the same, but when I started knitting I thought I could see a difference, so I started alternating the balls. I can't tell any difference at all, so either that worked really well, or they really are the same and I was just being paranoid. Either way, I like how it turned out. It's just under the 60" called for (58"), but close enough. It's 6" wide. I absolutely adore this yarn and really want to make myself a sweater out of it. My first project started and finished in 2007.

I also just finished reading our latest book club selection:

I really liked this book a lot. It's about an American woman who is a member of the Weather Underground in the 60s. Because of her participation in those activities, she is wanted by the FBI, so she lives under an alias. She ends up going to Liberia, where she marries and has a family. The story spans from the 60s to the 2000s, flashing back and forward a bit. It's told by the character in about 2002 or so, living in America again, about her experiences. I used to represent clients seeking political asylum and all of my clients were from Liberia, so I already knew something about Liberia and the civil war there. Most of the book is told before the civil war, though. I really was caught up in the story and wanted to find out what happened to this woman and her family. Sometimes I was annoyed with her, finding her petty and immature, but that's what made her so real. I love novels that combine the personal story with a larger political story - like Barbara Kingsolver's novels do. Russell Banks is also really great at that.

Monday, January 22, 2007

So Excited!

The highlight of my weekend was seeing the Colts beat the Patriots in the AFC title game last night! It was literally the best football game I've ever seen. The drama! The Colts were losing 21-3 and I was feeling very, very cross. But Peyton was a hero and led his team on several scoring drives. Peyton Manning is my favorite currently active NFL player. I'm so, so happy that he finally silenced all the critics of his play in the "big game". And Tony Dungy. First, he's a Gopher. Second, he coached for the Vikings. Third, he was unceremoniously dumped from the Bucs and that twit Jon Gruden took the team Dungy built and won a Super Bowl with it. Most importantly, he seems to be one of the nicest, most real people in professional sports. I'm so, so happy for him. And to be the first African-American coach to coach in the Super Bowl (along with his best friend, Bears coach Lovie Smith) is so awesome. I cannot WAIT for the Super Bowl and I hope the Colts absolutely crush the hated Bears. Bears fans are about as bad as Patriots and Cowboys fans.

I did work on the red scarf at my knitting group on Saturday and during the less gripping moments of the football games yesterday and I'm over 75% done now. I should be able to finish well before the end of the week. It's already long enough that I would wear it and it feels fantastic. But, they want a 60" long scarf, so I'm going to finish my last skein of yarn and I should be just under 60" - close enough, I think.

I also did a little yarn shopping this weekend. I'm not knitting from stash this year. It's not that I'm not going to knit anything out of my stash, because I am, I'm just not committing to only knitting from stash. And that's not because my stash couldn't use a little knitting from. I have a very nice stash that could hold me over through the year. But I really like me some yarn buying. As I've mentioned before, my resolution this year is to stick to my monthly budget. And that includes my craft supplies budget. So I'm not swearing off all purchases, but I'm trying to keep it under control. My newest additions are these:


It's another gray winter's morning, so these photos are a little brighter than the true colors, thanks to the flash. The yarn is Colinette's new sock yarn, Jitterbug. It's a very nice 100% merino. The texture sort of reminds me of Koigu. Their colorways were so intense and lovely! I really wanted another skein that was a bright pink, but I managed to stop myself at two skeins.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

knitting doldrums

When I posted my BFF sock picture yesterday, I chose that pohot because I thought it showed the pattern and the colors pretty well. I'm actually pretty far along on the foot already:

However, I've realized that January is 3/4 done and I'm only 1/2 done with my red scarf, so I'm going to work exclusively on that so I can finish on time. I picked up a Chipotle gift card to go with it yesterday. I figure there must be Chipotles in most larger college towns, right? Anyway, here's the scarf as it stands now:

Technically it's not ribbing, but since you only do the cable cross every 5 rows, in reality, it is ribbing. Miles and miles of ribbing. I'm getting bored.

Last night I saw what was my favorite film of 2006:

All I can say is Wow! It was so powerful. I was just devastated at the end. I love Ken Watanabe and I'd really like to see him in more American movies. As you probably know, Letters is a film about the battle for Iwo Jima, told from the viewpoint of the Japanese. It's a companion piece to Eastwood's film released in the fall of 2006, Flags of our Fathers. Ken Watanabe plays the General leading the defense of Iwo Jima, a soldier who was trained in the U.S., but is loyal to his country and the Emporer. His ideas about strategy and fighting vs. dying with honor (i.e. suicide) are a little different than some of the men under his command. Also outstanding in the film are Kazunari Ninomiya who plays a foot soldier who is really a baker with a young wife and a baby he's never seen at home (it seems just like ordinary Americans were called upon to fight WWII, so too were ordinary Japanese) and Tsuyoshi Ihara as a former Olympian who cuts a dashing figure and fights alongside Watanabe's General, even though he knows the Japanese have already lost the war. The power of the film for me is that you identify with and care for these men greatly. But you know what they are fighting for and who they are fighting against, so you can't exactly root for them, either. It just shows the tragedy of war and the great push we all should make to find ways to avoid it.

I think whenever war films are made during a time of war, they are a comment on the current war. Both this film and the last one I saw, Days of Glory, I think do that. Letters really shows you that we are fooled by those in power into thinking about the enemy as different, crazed or weak or whatever will serve the purposes of getting men to fight. That's what the Japanese thought about the Americans and the Americans thought about the Japanese. But in reality, on both sides, it was just people. With mothers and families and pride in their country. Of course the same could be said of the Americans and the Iraqis today. Flags of our Fathers also explores this theme - how propoganda and images are used to sell an agenda. Letters also shows the Japanese stuck on this island, fighting without proper provisions or re-inforcements, without a real chance of actually winning the war. Does that sound familiar to anyone with a family member in Iraq?

Friday, January 19, 2007

Week 3

Last Friday night, Red and I checked out the new Waterpark of America. We didn't have much time, so we didn't actually ride on the slides, but it looks really fun. We'll definitely go back for that when we have more time. We also checked out the attached hotel - Grand Lodge. It looks very nice - it really does look like a lodge. I would recommend this as a place to stay with kids if you're visiting the Twin Cities. It's right by the Mall of America, too. What we did do is spend some time in their videogame arcade. We had a ball - playing air hockey, skee ball, racing cars and motorcycles as well as other games. Fun, fun night. Check it out if that's your type of thing.

Saturday was Talk Cinema and we saw this film:

This is one of the finalists for the Best Foreign Film Oscar. It's about a troop of North African soldiers fighting for France during WWII. It's sort of a cross between Glory and Saving Private Ryan. The men are fighting for a country that they consider the motherland, even though they have never been there and are treated as second class citizens. It has some of the same realistic battle scenes like Saving Private Ryan. I liked it, but didn't love it. The actors were all very good and I was really engaged in what was going to happen to these men and really cared about them. But I did feel like I had seen this type of thing before and felt that the characters were all somewhat "symbols" - the guy who's well-read and idealistic and keeps believing that if he just proves himself one more time, the French will finally respect him. They guy who is escaping poverty and depravation. The guy who joined for the opportunity to loot and pillage. The guy who wants to see the world. We've seen these characters in war movies before. The great thing about this movie is that it actually made a real difference in the world - at the end the director pointed out that the North Africans who fought in WWII had not been paid their pensions for years and after this film came out, the pensions were finally paid.

In knitting news, I received another sock club skein - this time from the Sweet Sheep Club:

It's All Things Heather yarn this month and the colorway is called Winterberry. THIS is one I LOVE! The gorgeous reds and browns are beautiful and I always love Heather's yarns.

I finished up another mitered square - only two more left!

And finally, I haven't shown you my Knit Blue KAL project:

This is the BFF Sock pattern in the Fleece Artist yarn I got in the Yarn Aboard box. LOVE this pattern and this yarn! The Fleece Artist is soft and cushy, but not too soft to make a great cable. I love the colors, too. It's hard to photograph, but I think you can kind of see it's blue, purple and brown - so much fun to see the colors change.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Back to our knitting

Since I finished up my last Christmas presents, I felt like I was able to start the new year with a clean slate. I'm still working on my mitered square afghan, but I was able to start two new projects last weekend while I was resting up. The first is a scarf for the Red Scarf Project:

It's the His/Hers Reversible Scarf from Cables Untangled by Melissa Leapman. I took a class with Melissa Leapman at Yarnover last year and she told us about this book then, so I've been waiting for it to come out for a while. I really like it. I adore that cable sampler afghan on the cover. There's a great explanation of how to knit and design with cables at the beginning. The middle section is patterns - objects for the home, women's sweaters and gifts. The last half of the book is a cable stitch pattern dictionary. Lots and lots of cables you can use to substitute in the patterns or design your own patterns.

This scarf would be a perfect project for someone to knit as their first try at cabling. It's very easy. It was also perfect for the Red Scarf Project because it is unisex - says so right in the name! It is also reversible, which is cool for a scarf. See:

Looks the same on the front and the back! I really like it and I'm going to have to keep on knitting to get it finished in time to send in. The Yarnery is also collecting red scarves for the project if you are local to the Twin Cities.

I am knitting this scarf with RYC Cashsoft DK and can I say I LOVE this yarn. It is such a pleasure to knit with! It is soft and cushy and a lovely color with just a little sheen. I want to knit everything with this yarn. It will be very hard for me to part with this lovely scarf when I finish it. If I finish by the end of the month....

Speaking of yarn, I used my Christmas money from dad to buy the Posh Yarns Sock of the Month club. I got my first skein this week:

I'm sort of "eh" on this one. The colors are just a little more pastel than my tastes. I like bright and dark colors. The colors aren't true in that photo. They're more pastel - because it's once again so gray out, the flash went off and brightened everything up. If those were the true colors, I'd like the skein a little more. We'll see what next month brings.

I have resumed my social life again this week as well. Tuesday night is always my night to see Red and the rest of his family. Usually I bring along my nephew Michael, but I had to do a home visit Tuesday night, so I didn't have time to pick up Michael. Or change clothes. So I was wearing a suit (and pumps) and I ended up playing basketball with Red and Ben. And I wasn't even wearing my Easy Spirit shoes! (I'm not the only one old enough to remember that commercial, right?) I was wearing a pair of pumps with kitten heels, though, so I managed to do all right. I also pushed them around the gym on little scooters for a while. Eventually I tired out, though, and decided it was Bill's turn to push. The funniest thing was that Red said I was really good at playing basketball. I did play ball in junior high, but I was terrible. And I haven't improved in the 20-some years since then. The baskets were just low enough that I could have dunked the ball, so I did have mad skills in those conditions!

Wednesday night I had dinner with some friends at a new to me restaurant - Spoonriver. This is a lovely restaurant in downtown Minneapolis - across from the new Guthrie Theater. They serve a lot of vegetarian options and I think everything is organic. They have a nice cocktail menu and I had an incredibly delicious (though very expensive) Cosmopolitan martini. For dinner, I had a cup of a chicken and rice soup, a green salad with a fabulous wasabi goat-cheese stuff apricot in it and a chicken and Kaseri cheese quesadilla. It was all really delicious. My friends had a mock duck dinner and really loved it as well. I would recommend this as an elegant spot to bring out of town guests - it really shows off the local food and the beauty of the city. It would also be a nice spot for a special night out of dinner and a play at the Guthrie.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Many thanks

First I wanted to thank everyone for their very kind well-wishes. I'm feeling better than I was last week, but I'm finding it hard to shake this bug. I had a pretty restful weekend last weekend, which I think helped the healing. I spent all day Sunday just watching football and knitting and resting up. I did manage to do a little bit of cleaning around the house before getting tuckered out - I even managed to put away the little Christmas tree (something that didn't happen at all last year, as some of you may recall. It was pretty dusty from being on display for a full year). Saturday I had to go into the office to do a bit of work and while I was there, I packed up some more of the knitted items I collected for the Pine Ridge Reservation. Here's what I sent off this week:

26 Adult-sized Scarves

4 Pairs of Adult-Sized Mittens and 2 Pairs of Fingerless Gloves

18 Kid-sized Hats, 2 Kid-sized Mittens and 4 kid-sized Scarves

26 Adult-Sized Hats (some of those hats have matching scarves or mittens inside of them)

There are still a few more items, but that was all I could stuff (and I mean stuff) into the huge box I had for shipping. I will mail the remaining items off next week and show them here as well. All of these warm woolies will be so appreciated out on the reservation - THANK YOU to everyone who knitted something up for Pine Ridge. I've just been overwhelmed by people's generosity.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

1 week down, 51 to go

The first week of 2007 hasn't been so nice. I have been sick all week long. Ugh. I started feeling a tickling in my throat on Monday night and it got progressively worse all week. Until last night, I hadn't knit a stitch since finishing up the alien pillows.

I considered just dropping off Michael and the presents and sleeping in the car while they all opened presents, but I decided that would be no fun - and of course I did perk up considerably while the kids were opening their presents. It's so much fun to see that kind of happiness. The boys seemed to like the Alien pillows - Ben even asked if he could just sleep with it even when he didn't have a lost tooth. Katie loved the little Kiki kitty. I think it was her favorite present - until she opened the Easy Bake oven I gave her, which she hugged. It was a fun night all around.

Besides having almost no energy to knit, I also have been working on a non-knitting project, a photo calendar for Bill's parents' 50th anniversary. I know, it would have been nice to bring it to their party last weekend, but I just ran out of time. But, I did manage to finish it up this week, so hopefully it's not too late for enjoy January still. Here's one page as an example:

Otherwise, that's about it for me. I've cancelled ever other social engagement this week and only worked about half days. I even had a chance to knit while I was a passenger in the car to a meeting over in Wisconsin yesterday, but I just didn't have enough energy. It's really sad. I did re-do my sidebar to take out the old knitalongs and add in a couple of new ones. I joined Knit Blue, a knitalong for Democrats. I think my first blue project will be a pair of socks. I also joined Project Spectrum again this year. The rules are a little different this time and I'm changing up my participation. Last time I worked solely in the colors of that particular month and I mixed in papercraft and beading each month. This time I'm going to concentrate on knitting socks and I probably will work on other knitting projects at the same time. And no other crafts. I kind of burned out on that last time. Knitting is truly my first love.

One last thought. I was reading my AAA magazine and one story was about romantic places in the Midwest - sort of giving you ideas of where to take a short trip for Valentine's Day. Of course, the Twin Cities was on the list, but this comment cracked me up:

Minneapolis and St. Paul sparkle beautifully in the winter, when abundant snows cover the landscape.

Sparkle, abundant snow? I don't think so:

As you can see, most of the snow we got on New Year's Eve is gone. While I feel somewhat sorry for our friends in Colorado, I do miss that lovely winter look and feel that we usually have.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007


I managed to finish the other Alien Tooth Fairy Pillow last night, just in time for giving to the boys this evening.

They're both the same size - I don't know why the one on the right looks smaller - some sort of optical illusion. Anyway, when I was taking the picture of the pillows, Fiona let me take a picture of her, but she still wouldn't look at the camera:

She's a shy one, that girl. She's also a sick one. We've started the endless vet visits and testing to try to figure out what's wrong with her, but still not sure. She's the same age Finbar was, so I'm sure a lot of it is age.

Last week was a light week work-wise, so I finally managed to inventory all of the handknits that were donated for the Pine Ridge Reservation. Wow! That's a lot of stuff. I already sent off the baby clothes to an agency that works with infants. Here's what we sent:

7 baby sweaters - so very, very cute!

3 pairs of baby booties/socks and 10 baby hats.

The rest of the kid and adult stuff will be sent to a battered women's shelter on the reservation. A lot of the time the moms and their kids arrive at the shelter without even the meager possessions they have, so the need there is huge. I'll take pictures of the rest of the stuff and post those before I ship it off.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Happy New Year!

I hope everyone has a fabulous 2007, with fun and fiber every week. Every year I make one resolution which I try to make as specific and obtainable as possible. Last year my resolution was to track my spending. I wanted to know where all my money was going, so I entered my purchases into my budget spreadsheet - just to track, not necessarily to keep within my budget. I hadn't used that budget spreadsheet since about 2002 maybe. So, as I noticed my spending, I adjusted the amounts. Happily, I make more money now than I did then. But I also spend more on necessities like rent and car expenses - way more on car expenses. I drive many, many more miles and gas is probably double what it was back then. So, now I think I have a pretty reasonable idea of where my money goes and what I probably should be spending. So, my resolution for this year is to keep within my budget. It's going to be a challenge for me. I spent over my budget in almost every category pretty much every month last year. So, time to rope it all in and be an adult. I'll report back next year on how it went.

The last weekend of the year has been busy, but fun, like most weekends of 2006. Friday night I went out for dinner at Joe's Garage and then we saw the British Television Advertising Awards. My favorite ads were one for Lynx Body Spray (it's called Axe Body Spray here in the U.S.) and one for Guinness. We had a short time to look around the Walker before the show and I really need to get back there when I have more time. It was my first time in the new space, which was lovely and they have some great exhibits. After the show we had drinks and dessert in the Wolfgang Puck owned restaurant in the museum, 20*21. The desserts I tasted were delicious and the dinner menu looked intriguing - I'll have to go back for dinner some time.

Saturday I attended Bill's parents' 50th Anniversary Party. I always have some nervousness about attending Bill's family events, because I think his relatives must think it odd that I would still be around after all these years. Plus, I'm transported back to being that nervous 19 year old girl who Bill always abandoned at the party, back in the day. But, it turned out to be a pretty fine time. His parents looked so happy! That evening, we went to see this movie:

We all really enjoyed it. The kids were all abuzz afterwards, reciting their favorite lines and pretending to be different characters in the movie. The adults all liked it too. It's getting a lot of bad reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, but I'd have to recommend it. The best part of the evening for me, though, was when Red actually asked me to sit next to him. He always wants to sit next to his dad (duh, of course he does), but I made the grade that night and it was the best gift he could have given me this holiday season!

Sunday was the pathetic excuse of a Vikings game. But guess what, I had so much fun! Because I really didn't care if the team won or lost - in fact, I preferred a loss because we'll get a higher draft pick, I didn't leave the game feeling as irritated as I normally do. Greg and I and the couple who have seats next to us, sort of just joked around and had fun. Greg and the husband next to us were buliding really bad paper airplanes that went absolutely no where. We mocked the very young woman who came to the game falling down drunk (it's pretty bad when you're already that blasted at noon). She stumbled down the stairs about 10 minutes into the game, so I'm hoping she was taken to the drunk tank or something. Before the game we had breakfast at Hell's Kitchen, which I've been wanting to try for a long time. Unfortunately, I was pretty disappointed. Both my meal and Greg's were very dry and not very tasteful. The bacon was good. I had a Bloody Mary which was made with beer in it, which was a really different taste, though it was pretty good. After the game we had a drink and some chicken wings at The News Room, which also wasn't a favorite place. The wings were ok, though I prefer a Buffalo sauce. The huge list of drinks and beers was a little overwhelming and the beer Greg ended up getting was really overpriced. It started snowing during the game, so the roads were very slippery on the way home. I was really glad I didn't have plans late in the evening. I was excited to see a little bit of snow, though:

I think it'll all be melted again by mid-week, but at least it's pretty right now. And it didn't take long to shovel, either. I need to finish up the second alien pillow because Bill's family and Michael and I are going to celebrate our Christmas together tomorrow. I've got the knitting all done, so I just need to sew it together and then knit the i-cord around the edge. I blocked my latest miter square:

I knit the red and green part on Christmas day and the blue and white part for Hannakuh. Enjoy your New Year's Day!