Monday, December 31, 2012

Christmas at the Movies

Charlie under the tree
Because of the way the holidays have fallen this year, mid-week, Mike has had a lot of time off.  But I'm not working and we are in money-saving mode, so we decided not to travel anywhere.  What have we been doing to pass the time?  Movies!

So far we have gone to the cinema to see Les Miz, Jack Reacher, and The Hobbit.  We've also rented a fair amount, including Resident Evil (5? 6? whichever is the newest one), Outpost (a movie about zombie Nazis, and not that bad, all things considered), Fire with Fire (with Bruce Willis, although I'm pretty sure he did it as a favor to someone), a movie about Bigfoot that stars a guy I used to work with, and a few others.

Of course we've watched the usual Christmas movies on television.  A Christmas Story, Christmas Vacation, Muppet Christmas Carol, everything on The Hallmark Channel and Lifetime for the last month.  But this year, the movie I've seen more than any other is Love Actually.  This year I am completely enamored with this movie!  I can't explain why, either.  I saw it in the theatre when it first came out and have watched it a few times since, but this Christmas I think I have watched some of it about a dozen times.  (I suppose it helps that we have HBO this year, which I have never had as an adult, and since HBO seems to be playing it at least once per day I have had numerous opportunities to watch it.)

I think the film has some great moments.  Hugh Grant dancing to the Pointer Sisters is fabulous.  Andrew Lincoln (before he became a zombie hunter in The Walking Dead) announcing his love to Keira Knightly on placards is so sweet and special.  Laura Linney's little dance of joy on her steps when she finally--finally!--has her crush Karl in her home is such a truthful moment.  I mean, what person hasn't done something like that?

But I think my favorite moment is when Emma Thompson (love her) gets a Joni Mitchell CD (love her) from her husband, Alan Rickman (love him), when she was expecting a very expensive gold heart necklace (which he has given to his secretary, that rat).  Emma Thompson excuses herself to her bedroom to basically collect herself.  She has the the CD playing to "Both Sides Now" (love that) and just...stands.  After a moment she leaves the bedroom to go back to her family, but on the way out she straightens the blanket on the bed.  It shows her connection to her family, her home, and her life.  She doesn't just leave the room, she leaves it a little bit better, out of force of habit--a little pat to a piece of furniture, straightening something, because there is so much to do that you are always doing something.  And maybe, if the coverlet is straightened, everything will be okay.  It is just such a heartbreakingly true moment.  What wife/mother/partner hasn't done that?

I would write a proper review of the movie, but it is on right now for what I guess might be the last time of the season.  So I am going to light the Christmas tree one last night and watch it again, for the last time this year!

And I leave you with some gratuitous cute pictures of the dogs with some Christmas decorations thrown in for balance.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Game Day Antics

Because we are from Michigan, many people think we should be Lions fans, but that just isn't so.  See, we are from the Upper Pennisula.  We grew up less than two hours from Green Bay, Wisconsin.  Two hours NORTH, so when you see Lambeau Field on television, and the announcers talk about how cold it is, it was just as cold or colder where we were. 

But that makes us big Green Bay Packers fans.  Both our families are, too.  Packer stuff is always considered a tasteful gift, and Packer gear is considered appropriate attire for most occasions.  Our guest room has a Packer theme.

One of the biggest rivals of the Packers is the Minnesota Vikings.  So when I saw that our neighbor, Kelly, had this:
I had to get Mike one for his birthday.  In the correct team colors, of course.
These guys are those silly blow up lawn ornaments that started out as Christmas decoration but have morphed into whatever occasion might need some over-sized expression of fun.

The Packers are playing the Vikings today.  (In fact, they are playing right now, as I am writing this.)  We generally put up Tiny on game days, along with our Packer flag.  In order to taunt Kelly the Viking Fan, we had to move Tiny from his normal spot.  Generally he sits right in front of our porch.  This week, however, he has moved "down the field" a bit, to the intersection near Kelly the Viking Fan's house.  This did not go unanswered by the Viking Fan, although he had to get creative, too.
Luckily we have some good neighbors.  And a lot of extension cords.  I think Mike has about 100 feet of extension cord out there in order to get Tiny down the block.
Note our Packer flag zip-tied to the street sign.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

In my absence

I've stayed away from here for longer than I meant.  At first I was just exhausted from studying for finals.  Then my mother-in-law was in town.  And then I didn't feel quite right posting over the weekend end, in light of what had happened.  A "hey, here's what I'm doing" post seemed inappropriate, somehow.

But here I am.  And here is what I've been doing.
This is my nightstand.  It doesn't quite look like this anymore, and usually there are some other things, like eyedrops, on there somewhere.  (I had laser eye surgery a year ago and I highly recommend it.  It has changed my life.  The downside is that I have to use eyedrops a lot, especially in the morning.  It can make wearing mascara a pain in the patootey.)  This is the pile of books I hope to get through before I go back to school on 15 January.

(I'm going to link these to their respective Amazon pages, but I get nothing back from Amazon.)

In no particular order, the line up is:

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.  I've actually read about two-thirds of this and then got sidetracked by I'm not sure what.  Anyway, I want to finish it.  And I really like that the present-day narrator lives in Rhinebeck, NY.

Consider the Oysterby MFK Fisher.  Being both a foodie and a reader, I've been meaning to read this for years.  I know that I bought it when I lived in California, so that means I've had if for at least four years.  It's time to read it.  It is, after all, a very small book.

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell.  I wanted to read this before the movie came out.  I didn't get around to it, so I never saw the movie.  (According to the reviews, I'm not sure that is anything to lament.)  I've heard good things about the book, though.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern.  I mentioned that I saw this on a table at a bookstore, and a friend of mine sent along her copy.  I honestly can't even remember what it is about right now, just that it sounded interesting.

World War Z by Max Brooks.  Zombies.  What can I say?  And besides, I have to read it before Brad Pitt completely ruins it.

The Best American Essay of 2012.  I've been reading this series for years.  I love the literary essay, creative non-fiction, what ever you want to call it.  This series is guest edited each year by a different author.  What I love about it is that year's collection retains the (for a better word) flavor of the editor.  The year edited by David Foster Wallace has a completely different feel than the years edited by Susan Orleans or Christopher Hitchens.  This year's collection is edited by David Brooks of the NYTimes, so I am looking forward to reading what he thought was interesting.

In the Woods by Tana French.  This sounded good while I was at the bookstore picking up some Christmas gifts.  And the essay book for me.  And a knitting magazine for  me.  And a magazine about keeping chickens (a dream of mine, so obviously for me).

The Passage by Justin Cronin.  Vampires.  Love the undead (unless we are talking Twilight undead).

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak.  I know it is YA fiction, but there is a lot of YA stuff that is really, truly amazing right now.

Also on the nightstand, but not there for "winter break reading" are The Knitter's Almanac because it is always on my nightstand, An Everlasting Meal for constant inspiration, The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry simply because I haven't finished it but can't seem  find the energy to do so, and a daily gratitude/highlight journal.

And to show you, dear Reader, what I have to got though to get a decent photograph, a couple of shots from the discard pile.
Hey, whatcha doing?
Hi Peep!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

The first final of nursing school is out of the way!  One down, two to go.  I took the lab/clinical portion of Assessment this morning, and tomorrow I have the written portion.  This is what my dining room table looks like right now:
What a mess!
Yes, that is a PowerPoint presentation, and a stack of flashcards, and a bunch of notes, and knitting.  I am not one of those people who can read and knit.  There are some days that I can barely pay attention to a conversation and knit (the knitter's equivalent of walking and chewing gum).  But I can take a break to knit!

I am firm believer of taking about ten minutes every hour of studying to Not Study.  Not Study time must not involve the computer, reading, or writing.  For ten minutes, I get away from the written word.  Sometimes I take the dogs out back, or make myself a cup of tea or something to eat, or fold a load of laundry.  Sometimes, like tonight, I knit.

I had to start a dead simple project for finals week.  The fish hats don't work for Not Study knitting because they require some decisions and concentration.  Not Study knitting must be simple so that I can leave it alone after only ten minutes.  I've started the Pointy Elf Hat (Rav link) from More Last Minute Knitted Gifts (which is also on the table, if your eyes are that good).  Dead simple knitting, nothing to think about, great yarn.

But can you see what else is on that table?  It is covered by text books, and I am not planning on doing anything with it until next Tuesday after all the final are finished, because once I start reading it, I know I won't stop.  Several hours will be gone.
That is the latest issue of Taproot.  I can't wait to sink into it.  I can't wait until finals are over.  I can't wait to have a lot of Not Study time.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Not so tiny buttons

I've been searching for the perfect buttons for my cowl (Rav link).  The lovely painted buttons that Alana used on hers are, sadly, no longer available.  Try as I might, I could not find painted buttons on Etsy large enough for the button holes on this cowl.  (Knit with a size 10 needle, these button holes are huge!  You know how standard button holes on a say, a US 6 needle kind of disappear into the fabric?  You can find them, but not always on first glance, especially after a blocking?  These are not those button holes.  The buttonholes reminded me of owl's eyes when I was blocking the first half of the cowl.)

After weeks of searching Etsy, I found some beautiful handmade wooden buttons from reclaimed wood.  They are from a shop in Michigan, The Hickory Tree.  Not only do I love supporting artists and crafters as we all try to add a little bit of beauty to our lives, but I wholeheartedly support Michigan!  I am from Michigan, although at this point I have almost lived away from there as long as I lived there. Much of my family still lives in or near Michigan.  The older I get, the more place we live, the more I appreciate being from there.

Well, these buttons were waiting for me when I got home from the library today!  Aren't they beautiful?  And I love when artists take the time to package their items in something thoughtful (and, in this case, reusable.)  And, of course, the hand signed card!  And a free sample button!  Yay!

These look so nice on the cowl.  I love the juxtaposition of the soft, smooshy wool with the hardness of the wood.
I can't wait to finally put this all together.  It sounds like we might be getting some cooler weather, too, so I might actually get to wear it!  Today it was in the 70s.  Definitely not wool-around-the-neck weather.

Monday, December 3, 2012

How do people *do* this?!

I'm working on the Fish Hats for Luke and Connor.  These are really cute hats, and I can't wait to see them when their finished.  However, I'm not moving toward that finish line very quickly.

I'm working the bodies of the fish in fair isle, which is something I'm not very good at.  I've done a little bit, but in such small amounts that I have no skill with it.  I normally knit Continental style, with the yarn held over my left index finger.  I've tried to knit with both yarns on my left hand, but I cannot get the hang of one yarn on the index finger and one yarn on the middle finger.  Having both yarns on the index finger works pretty well, until the yarns get too close and then picking up the upper yarn in a PITA.

So, as Elizabeth Zimmerman advocates, I am knitting with one yarn held in the left hand (Continental style) and one yarn held in the right hand (English style).  Or at least trying to knit this way.  How do people knit English?  I know that I am new to it and really really slow, but I have to drop the needle every time I make a stitch!  Crazy!  Is this how you really do it?  Is there something I am missing?
See that?  A whole hand, off the needle!
Knitting this way-- dropping the needle for about half of all the stitches-- is making for slow going.
Even Brett thinks this method needs some reevaluating.
Hopefully soon I can post some actual progress on these hats.  Maybe by the time I finish them I will be a little quicker using English style.  I still have three other fair isle hats to make this Christmas.  And If I get those finished, I may have mentioned to Karla that the boys might need some handmade Christmas stockings.  Thank goodness school ends next week.  I'm going to need all the knitting time that I can find!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Christmas Knitting

Let the Christmas knitting begin!  This year I plan to make:

  • Fish Hat for Luke
  • Fish Hat for Connor
  • Monster ear flap hat x2
  • Christmas tree hat x2
  • Star Wars hat for Samuel
  • Deer hats for:
    • Timmy
    • Eric
    • Devin
  • A whack of fingerless mitts for:
    • Kathy
    • Missy
    • Desi
    • Katrina
    • Crazy Gram
    • Eric's fiancee (Alicia? must find this out before writing out tag!)
  • Finish my mother's scarf (which was on my list last year; this scarf has been in progress now for two years.  It is time to finish it or frog it.)
  • Socks for Tiffany
Whew!  That should keep me busy.  I have about half the yarn and will need to get just a little bit more.  The fish hats have already been started.  In fact one is mostly finished and the second one has about three inches finished.  An update on those is coming soon.
Some of the yarn for Christmas presents
I will get through the knitting much quicker once I have finished finals.  I have an exam Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and the following Tuesday.  Then I am finished for the year!  We have a nice long break--about three and a half weeks--and I have a whole bunch of plans.  Plans for knitting, plans for reading, plans for needlework, and plans for cleaning and organizing.  I am so looking forward to it!