A Good Yarn

Friday, December 28, 2007

Just in Time

I finished another Christmas project, just in time to wrap it up and head on out of town to visit the relatives:

Project Name: Cardigan for Merry
Designer: Anny Purls
Pattern Source: Anny Purls blog
Yarn: Knit Picks Andean Treasure
Yarn Source: Knitpicks
Date Started: 9/19/07
Date Completed: 12/27/07

Comments: This was a Christmas gift for my baby nephew, Jason. I really love the color, but I'm worried that the yarn will be too scratchy for his delicate skin. It feels really soft to the hand, but when I hold it against my skin, I feel the little hairs poking at me. Most of the other knitters who felt it thought it felt really nice, so I'm probably worrying about nothing. I really love the cable that is used (from the Cardigan for Arwen pattern in Interweave Knits). The pattern is really clearly written and I didn't change a thing.


Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas!!

I hope everyone who celebrates it had a wonderful Christmas. I certainly did. I started the day with this happy news:

Yes, my fantasy football team is Big Dawgs and I won our championship!! Yay!!! I'm the only woman in our league, so it's always a little extra victory for us ladies when I win. My brother also won the consolation bracket championship, so it was a clean sweep for the Ladd family this year!

I spent the day with said brother and his kids and enjoyed a delicious meal and got some really nice gifts. My brother knows me so well. I ALMOST finished Michael's sweater. I had it all seamed but one side seam when I decided that the sleeve I sewed in wrong side out just bugged me too much to leave, so I ripped it off and wrapped it as it was and finished it while we watched "Fargo". I think it turned out very nicely:

Project Name: Quidditch Sweater
Designer: Anne Bergeron
Pattern Source: Charmed Knits
Yarn: Lion Brand Woolease
Yarn Source: Either Michael's or Joann's, I can't remember which
Date Started: 10/1/07
Date Completed: 12/25/07

Comments: I knit this in the Slytherin colors per Michael's request - he just likes those colors together. This is a well written, straight forward sweater. It shouldn't have taken me so long to knit, but I got really short on knitting time in November and December.

The ribbing is rather hugging, so Michael acted like a goofball for that picture and stood stiffly and refused to smile, but I think it felt pretty ok, because he kept it on and I mostly saw him looking like this:

Yes, he got a PSP from his daddy. I'm pleased with the length on the arms. I kept vascillating on how long to make them because I failed to measure his wingspan. I couldn't get him to put down the PSP long enough to try on the socks, but I think they'll fit ok.

Jessica also got a sweater piece, this time still on the needles, which she found hilarious. She liked the yarn a lot, so I think that'll be a hit too. I also gave her the wristers and she wore them the rest of the day, so overall I think the Christmas knitting went over well. Now I just need to finish up Jason's hoodie. All I have left is to finish kitchnering the hood, sewing on the buttons and making the button loops. Except I don't have buttons, so I need to pick those up before the weekend. I wish there was a fabric/yarn store in downtown St. Paul so I could do it over lunch. Probably better in the long run that there isn't, though.

I didn't knit anything for my niece Alexis this year, but she requested a beaded bracelet so I made a nice pink girly one for her tonight:

A little knitting and beading, some good food, one of my favorite movies and time with my family - a great holiday, I'd say!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

It's Beginning to Look a lot Like Christmas

I got a new cable for my card reader, so we're back in business, picture-wise. It's a snowy day today, just in time to make it look all Christmasy. I've been celebrating the season already, though. Both of my knitting groups had our Christmas celebrations this week. A week ago was my Saturday group and we had a really nice potluck - everyone brings such delicious treats! We do a Secret Santa type of exchange and I got a nice set of tubes for holding DPNs when you're knitting socks or such. Definitely will be using that. I also picked out a little gift for myself that day:

The new Noro Kureyon sock weight. So pretty!!

As I mentioned last time, I also started my one last Christmas gift, which I have no hope of finishing by Tuesday:

It's a zippered hoodie for my niece, Jessica. Luckily she's an X-tra Small and it's on size 8 needles, so it should get done fairly quickly. In fact, when I started knitting it, I got worried that it was looking like something that might almost fit me, so I was worried I was way off gauge. I double-checked the pattern and I was knitting the back, not one of the fronts. Yeah, that's tiny.

Wednesday night my other group had our little get together and gift exchange and I got an abundance of goodies. Everyone was so thoughtful and generous - it really made me feel lucky to belong to such a kind and caring group. I will share what I gave everyone, first because I've made it a rule for myself that I have to share my purchases on the blog before entering them into stash (hoping that I will shame myself from making more purchases) and second because you might like the idea for yourself. I sent Scout's Swag a picture of the coffeehouse that we meet in every week

and asked her if she would create a custom colorway for our group:

The tag, in case you can't read it, says "Wednesdays at Nina's". I think it turned out very nicely and we all were really happy to have our own, special colorway. Thank's Scout!!!

Lastly I got the December selection from the Amazing Threads Sock Club and it's really lovely:

It's Pagewood Farms hand-dyed. And finally, November tagged me for the Christmas meme:

Here are the questions (feel free to substitute the winter holiday of your choice & to add questions):

1. What was the best Christmas present you got as a kid? This is really bad, but I don't really remember any one specific gift I got for Christmas as a kid. We always got a lot of presents because we didn't get much stuff the rest of the year. I got lots of crafty stuff that I remember always liking.

2. What was the best Christmas present you got as an adult? My puppy Finbar. Back in 1996 I took all of the money I got from anyone for Christmas and put it together to buy him. I remember I drove out to the breeder in Buffalo, MN and it was a snowy night. I had intended just to look at the dogs, but I fell in love and had to take him home that night. I miss my babies this Christmas!

3. What’s your favorite Christmas carol? I thought I had done a Top Ten List of my favorite Christmas songs last year, but it turns out it was three years ago - goodness time flies! Here it is again:

1. The Christmas Song - Nat King Cole

2. White Christmas - Bing Crosby

3. Blue Christmas - Elvis Presley

4. Fairy Tale of New York - The Pogues featuring Kirsty McColl

5.Santa Clause is Coming to Town - Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band

6. Winter Wonderland - Johnny Mathis

7. It Must've Been Ol' Santa Clause - Harry Connick, Jr.

8. Do They Know It's Christmas - Band Aid

9. Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy - Bing Crosby and David Bowie

10. Let it Snow - Dean Martin

4. How long can you stand to listen to Christmas music before you break? I love Christmas music, so I could probably listen to it all year long. I know it's weird, given that I don't consider myself a Christian. But I love tradition and I just really like the music.

5. How many Christmas albums do you own? A lot. I used to buy at least one every year. I didn't this year, because I'm trying to move everything over to iPod so that I don't have so much crap around the house.

6. Did you ever go caroling as a kid? I was in chorus in grade school and junior high and we would go carolling at malls and retirement homes and such. I don't think I ever went door to door, though.

7. Would you willingly eat fruitcake? I haven't yet, but I would probably try it in the right circumstances.

8. Do you own any Christmas sweaters? This is really embarrassing, but yes. I have two of them.

9. Do you own any Christmas jewelry? Of course. I have earrings, necklaces, bracelets and pins.

10. Do you wear them? Yes. I don't wear the sweaters to work or anything, but I do wear the jewelry to work.

11. Did your family have any Christmas traditions? Like what? We would have Christmas eve at my paternal grandparents house and we always had oyster stew with the dinner - the kids had to have some of the milk and eat one oyster. We also were allowed to have a little glass of wine. Christmas morning we would get up and open our presents from Santa. Christmas Day was spent with my step-mom's family. They always did a name draw for Christmas, because it was such a large family. Since my parents were divorced, I think we usually spent time with my mom and my maternal grandparents more around New Year's. We also did a ton of baking, which I used to keep up with myself, but not this year. My step-mom always makes lefse, which I love even though I'm not Scandinavian. We'd make sugar cookies, peanut butter cookies with chocolate kisses, fudge, white chocolate covered pretzels and a wreath made out of cornflakes and marshmallows. My auntie would always make Mounds bars and rosettes. My grandmas would make spritz cookies. Yum!

12. Do you buy Christmas presents for your pets? As I said above, I don't have any pets this year. But this is the first time since 96. Sometimes I would buy a holiday themed toy for Finbar or some holiday treats for them both. But My step-mom, my sister and I always bought presents for the dogs from the dogs.

13. What’s your favorite Christmas cookie? Probably pretty frosted sugar cookies. Though they aren't specifically Christmas cookies, I always make chocolate chip and I love those too.

14. What’s your favorite Christmas candy? Those Mounds bars my auntie makes. I've tried to make them myself every year, because I don't always see my aunt every year now that my dad is down in Florida, but they just never turn out as good as hers.

15. What’s your stocking look like? When we were growing up, we just had the red fake furry ones. In my house right now I have two stockings hung, though. I have a small one that a friend of mine knit for me, which I just love! and I have a fabric one with an applique snow man that matches a quilt I bought when I was in Georgia for work one year.

16. How do you feel about the “Steal from Your Neighbor” Christmas present game (the one where people pick gifts from a pile, but others get to steal it)? I have never heard of doing this at Christmas. I've seen it at baby/bridal showers and it's ok.

17. What is the oldest ornament on your tree? I don't have ornaments on my tree. But I always check on my mom's tree that she has an ornament I made in kindergarten. It's a cardboard tube that's about 2.5" long covered in silver paper and glitter. I think that's the oldest one on her tree - about 35 years old now.

18. Real or artificial? Artificial. I have a really small house so I don't really have room anywhere for a tree. I just put out a tabletop tree that is fiber optic, so it glows different colors.

19. How do you feel about Christmas letters? I have mixed feelings. I've never done one myself. I can't say I'm overly excited about them - I would really prefer to get a little handwritten note and keep in touch with people throughout the year. But if that's the only way I'm going to hear from some of my friends, I'll take it.

20. Do you have Christmas decorations or lights outside your house? What are they? Not this year. I used to put up some lights on the outside porch, but there's not really a good place to plug them in anymore.

21. How far would you drive to see Christmas lights? On my own I probably wouldn't do it. But if the kids wanted to or a group of friends, I'd be game to go wherever.

22. Are you a fan of tasteful or tacky? I lean toward tasteful. A really pretty light display is just gorgeous. I have to say a whole hell of a lot of lights gets me too, even though that's tacky. I can't stand the plastic and blow up displays, though. Just lights for me.

23. Do you have any Christmas collections? Nope.

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Sunday, December 16, 2007

Checking In

Still dreadfully little knitting going on as I continue to get used to my new job and finish up the old one. I did start my last Christmas present, which I have no hope of finishing up in time, but I can't get my pictures to download onto the laptop, so I guess I'll save that for another post.

I have spent some time in the movie theater, as this is the best time of year for films. Wednesday night I had dinner at Amazing Thailand with some friends. This is really a lovely restaurant. So beautifully decorated and the food really is amazing. The presentation is lovely and everyone really enjoyed their food. I had a curry that was delicious. I definitely will be going back - I think next time I'll try the Pad Thai, because that's always my measuring stick for a Thai restaurant. After dinner we saw this film:

This is a fantastic, beautiful book and the film does the book justice. It's about an upper class young woman, Cecilia, played by Keira Knightly who falls in love with the housekeeper's son, Robbie, played by James McAvoy. One hot summer day Cecilia's younger sister, Briony, sees Cecilia and Robbie through a window and misunderstands what she sees. She ends up ruining all of their lives by her misinterpretation, a story that is heartbreaking and yet beautiful. I remember how much I was frustrated and irritated by Briony when I read the book and the young actress who plays Briony brings her to life exactly as I imagined her. Knightly and McAvoy are both gorgeous and really make you care about what happens to this young couple, also. The cinematography is beautiful - this really is a film to be seen on the big screen. The story is told in three parts, like the book - the opening act at the family's country home in between World War I and II, Robbie in France during World War II and Cecilia and Briony working as nurses in London during the war. The book is really epic and I wondered how they could make it into a film that wasn't 5 hours long, but they really did a good job. Things are edited, but you still really get a full picture of the story and don't feel like you're missing something like you sometimes do with book adaptations. I think this year is going to be very competitive in the adapted screenplay Oscar race. I would recommend both the film and the book to you.

Friday night I saw "It's a Meaningless Life and Other Twisted Holiday Tales", a storytelling cabaret put on by Joseph Scrimshaw and his usual collaborators - his brother Joshua, Pablo, his wife Sara, Tim Uren and Philip Low and Alan Berks. It was a little bit uneven, but some pieces were really hilarious. My favorite was Joshua Scrimshaw's tale of his grandmother, including one trip he and Joe took with their mother to visit her in Texas. Joseph did two pieces - one based on the Christmas Carol, one year later and the other I'm blanking on right this second. He and Sara did The Nutcracker in 5 minutes, which was really funny and showed how ridiculous that ballet really is, from a logical viewpoint. I was unfortunate enough to be sitting in front of a very loud and boisterous (and possibly intoxicated) woman. We also had an older couple in the front row who declared to Pablo in a bit of audience interaction that they were offended by the show and wanted their money back. I'm not sure what they were expecting of a show called "It's a Meaningless Life", but apparently something more Christmasy. Some people! If you enjoy a little dark humor and storytelling, I recommend it. It's playing at the Garage Theater through next weekend.

Yesterday was Talk Cinema and I saw one of my favorite films of the year:

Wow. This was just a stunning movie. It's based on the autobiography of a French man, Jean-Dominique Bauby, who was editor of French Vogue Magazine - incredibly handsome, rich, successful, had it all. Then he has a massive stroke and is completely paralyzed, except for one eyelid. A speech therapist works out a system that allows him to spell out words by choosing letters by blinking and so he's able to communicate with friends and family and writes this autobiography using this method. It sounds like it's maudlin and corny, but it really isn't. If you made the story up it would sound impossibly and hokey, but it's all true and such a testament to human determination. And yet, he's no saint. It's a portrait of a man that is very truthful. The film is directed by Julian Schnabel and his experience as a visual artist is evident in every frame. Most of the story is told through Bauby's perspective, so you see things sometimes blurry, often uncentered, sometimes with his eyelid as part of the frame. It's just so different from anything else I've seen. Janusz Kaminski, who happens to be my favorite cinematographer (he's worked with Steven Spielberg pretty often), is the cinematographer and proves his brilliance once again.

Mathieu Almaric plays Jean-Do, as his friends call him, and gives a stunning performance. There are some scenes that show Jean-Do either before the stroke or simply as he remembers himself and he's just the essence of the French dreamboat - so gorgeous and smooth and impeccably dressed and you can really see what he's lost. But most of the time he's completely paralyzed and honestly really does act using only one eye. It's just amazing. Max Von Sydow plays Jean-Do's father and there's two fantastic scenes with him that are just devastating. At the end of the film, I just wanted to weep, it was so gut-wrenching. I really hope that this film wins the Best Foreign Film Oscar. I can't imagine there will be another film that can rival it's beauty and impact.

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Sunday, December 09, 2007

Hey, it's me again!

Did you miss me? Probably not, because that week rushed right by and you didn't even notice I was gone :-) The new job is going very well. I really like it and I'm really glad I made the change. I haven't adjusted to the new schedule, yet though. I'm so tired every night and even though I may be getting close to the same amount of sleep, I'm just so tired. Its like jet lag, I guess. Eventually I'll get used to it. So, between the new job, continuing to finish up stuff for the old job, and social engagements, I have hardly had a minute to knit. But, I did finish one small Christmas gift:

Project Name: Dori's a Genius
Designer: Julie Carles and Jordana Jacobs
Pattern Source: The Yarn Girls' Guide to Knits for All Seasons
Yarn: Koigu KPPPM
Yarn Source: Needlework Unlimited
Date Started: 11/23/07
Date Completed: 12/6/07

Comments: Even though it took me about two weeks to make them, it's just because I had so little knitting time. They're really a fast and easy project. They are knit with just one skein of Koigu, so it's a great project to use up your orphan skeins of sock yarn. You knit with the yarn doubled. The pattern calls for size 9 needles, but I'm a loose knitter so I started with size 8. I felt like it was still too loose, so after the ruffle, I switched to size 7s. I had less than a yard of yarn left when I finished - I love when that happens! Here's a picture that is less eye-blindingly bright, but not very clear, showing how they look on the hand. It's hard to take pictures of your own hand!

One of the things I did this week is see this film:

Great movie, but I was a little disappointed. It's sort of a girls' answer to another great movie from this year, Knocked Up. Ellen Page plays a 16 year old girl who gets pregnant after she has sex with her best friend played by Michael Cera. The script was written by Diablo Cody, who used to live here in the Twin Cities and wrote for City Pages. The film is set in a fictional northern suburb, so there are a few references to Twin Cities places, which is kind of fun for us locals. The script is wonderful, full of humor and dialog that is just a treat to listen to. One of my slight disappointments is just that no one is as smart and funny and talks like Juno does. But it's still really fun to watch and listen to. The script is brought to life by the amazing cast. Ellen Page delivers those lines with perfect timing and pace and really brings real heart to the character - she does show that Juno isn't quite as smart and sophisticated as she thinks she is. Michael Cera is his usual hilarious, deadpan self. Another small disappointment - this is he same character he played in Superbad and before that in my all time favorite tv show, Arrested Development. He's got it down pat and is hilarious, but I'd love to see him play someone that's just a little bit different. Allison Janney and J.K. Simmons are two of my favorite character actors. They play Juno's parents and each has a great scene with Ellen Page. Jennifer Garner and Jason Bateman play a couple from St. Cloud who want to adopt Juno's baby. They both do a fantastic job with their roles also. Really an amazing ensemble - I wouldn't be surprised if they picked up the Actor's Guild award for Best Ensemble. My biggest problem with the film, though, was that I felt like I had already seen the whole outline of the film and most of the best lines in previews. Perhaps because of the local connection, I was really interested in this film and they promoted the hell out of it and I think I saw every promo they made. It's my own fault. When you love movies and want to find out what's out there and what you should watch, sometimes you find out too much and I think this is one of those cases for me. I think if I had seen this film before I knew anything about it or if I just sort of knew what it was about, I would have just loved it. But hilarious scenes and lines that I'd already heard a few times just didn't have the same thrill for me. I would definitely recommend seeing it, though.

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Sunday, December 02, 2007

Last Page of Calendar

I can't believe it's December already. I turned to the last page of the calendar and I'll be it'll be time to put up a new calendar before you know it.

I finished up about half of what I needed to last week. Probably a little more than that, but I didn't finish everything for sure. I'll need to keep working the old job for a little while longer even while I'm starting the new job. Should be interesting to see how long I can keep that up. Ugh.

I stayed late to finish up a Custody/Parenting Time Evaluation on Friday night and then met up with some friends to have dinner and then see this film:

I hated this movie. It was directed by Noah Bambach, who also directed The Squid and the Whale last year. I thought that movie was really over-rated, but I flat out hated this movie. I think I just don't have the Bambach sensibility and will not go out of my way to see his next films. This film doesn't have a plot so much as a series of interlocking scenes. It stars Nicole Kidman as Margot and Jennifer Jason Leigh (the director's wife) as Pauline, Margot's sister. Margot and her teenage son travel to Margot's childhood home on the East Coast for Pauline's wedding. Pauline lives in their childhood home with her teenage daughter and her fiance, played by Jack Black. These women are very smart but damaged, so they spend the entire film cutting each other with their razor-sharps wits. They're both intensely self-absorbed women, which makes them pretty poor parents, especially Margot. It was really unpleasant for me to watch these horrible women behaving badly. I wasn't engaged in the film at all and was shocked when I later found out it's only 90 minutes long - I seriously thought it was well over 2 hours because it felt to me like it was going on and on and on. This is getting some really stellar reviews, but count me in the camp of those who found it pretentious and boring.

Saturday we had a bit of a snowstorm, but my brother managed to draw me out of the house for a much, much better film:

Blade Runner is easily one of my Top Ten All Time Favorite Films. Ridley Scott has tweaked it now and again and released Director's Cuts, but this is billed as The Final Cut. There are a few small additions and edits here and there, but the main change is that he digitally enhanced the film and music. It's playing at The Uptown, so seeing it on the huge screen was really such a treat. The picture quality is amazing and the sound was great. It was a thrilling experience.

If you haven't seen Blade Runner, I strongly recommend it. It was originally released in 1982 and is set in 2019 Los Angeles, based on a book by the great Philip K. Dick. Harrison Ford stars as Rick Deckard, a police officer known as a Blade Runner. His job is to hunt down and kill escaped replicants - sort of robots that are billed as "more human than human". He's been brought out of retirement to "retire" (kill) four replicants who have escaped labor camps set up off-world - we have destroyed the planet so badly that most people live in colonies on other planets. The replicants are led by Rutger Hauer. In the process of his work, Deckard meets a woman named Rachael, played by Sean Young, who doesn't realize she's a replicant until Deckard figures it out and spills the beans. The film really was a masterpiece visually, showing a future that is not that far off from what we may see in 2019 and was copied over and over again in futuristic films over the last 25 years. Scott shows a world with gigantic global corporations dominating the country, advertising everywhere. As I mentioned, we've ruined earth, so it's black and rainy and dirty all the time. Los Angeles is extremely multi-cultural and very overcrowded. There's a huge disparity between the poor and the rich, who have a cornucopia of technical gadgets. A lot of those gadgets aren't exactly the same as we have now, but they're definitely similar. For instance I remember how cool I thought one scene was where Deckard takes a photograph and feeds it into a machine, which then displays it on what looks like his television and he's able to enlarge sections of the photo through voice commands and eventually prints out an enlarged portion. That seemed so incredibly cool in 1982. Now I can easily scan in a picture, photo shop it all I want and print it out, no problem. We still don't have flying cars, though.

I haven't seen Blade Runner on the big screen in a few years, so I forgot just how incredibly good looking and charismatic Harrison Ford was back then. Rutger Hauer looks every bit the essense of the Teutonic ideal. I was a huge fan of his for a while and miss seeing him in great roles. Sean Young was really at her peak playing the doe-eyed Rachael, all shoulder pads and red lips. It was really such a treat to see this in the theater, but a DVD version is coming out in a few weeks and you can bet it's on my Christmas list.

It's my habit to go out for noodles whenever I go see Blade Runner (it's played a few times at Oak Street Cinema and as I said, some Director's Releases have come out), because Deckard is shown eating noodles at an Asian noodle stand and it always makes me hungry for noodles. Since we were in Uptown, we went over to Fuji Ya and had noodles and sushi. Isn't this plate of sushi gorgeous?

I also finished up a book last night:

This was the latest in the Christine Bennett holiday murder series. Christine is an ex-nun who solves murder mysteries as a hobby. This is her 17th and even though the murder was thought to be suicide and 20 years old, Christine is able to figure out whodunnit. I like this series and this was a good episode. There were a lot of possible suspects and I didn't really know for sure who and why until the very end, which is what I like best in a murder mystery. I think I'm going to pick up Harry Potter #6 next.

Speaking of Harry Potter, I also have some knitting content! I bought a table top Christmas tree from Red (for Boy Scouts) and it came last weekend. So I decorated it up with the Harry Potter sweaters and snitches and gave it to Michael for an early Christmas present and he said he really liked it:

I offered to make him another sweater with an "M", but he said he wanted it to just be Potter sweaters, so that means I'm done with that project! Quick and easy. By the way, my brother isn't storing it on his stove. I just picked it up and put it there for the picture so that I wouldn't have to bend over.

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