Book 16

2011-03-11 21:02:00 +0000

I selected this book based solely on the cover art. And, when combined with the title, who on earth could possibly resist?
Set in nineteenth century London, this novel is an interesting combination of science fiction, steampunk, and mystery, with a bit of fantasy and a touch of horror thrown in for good measure. Because the sci fi and steampunk distorts London to something far removed from what it actually was in the 1800s, Hodder appears to attempt to recapture some of that lost ambiance by mimicking the syntax and style of a novel actually written during that time period. However, I feel that he goes a bit too far with it so that some of the over-the-top exclamations and descriptions edge close to absurd. But this actually works for the book as a whole, as the entire setting is over-the-top enough to become close to absurd itself. This was undoubtedly one of the most interesting and unexpected books I've read in a while.
Rating: B

Books 12, 13, 14, 15

2011-03-10 04:19:00 +0000

Book 12 - Seer of Sevenwaters by Juliet Marillier

I really enjoyed this book. It started off a bit slow and gradually built up anticipation. The long build-up really worked well, and by about page 200 the story really took off with a bang and I had a difficult time setting the book aside at all. Marillier does a brilliant job of foreshadowing, and she sets (and sticks to) a slow but relentless build-up to the climax that I found to be very effective.

Rating: B+

Book 13 - Treachery in Death by J.D. Robb

To save on time, I'm just going to recommend my earlier review for previous book in the In Death series. I don't have anything new to say about the writing, but Robb is an absolute beast when it comes to pumping out the fiction.

Rating: B

Book 14 - Bar None: A Tale of Chilling Suspense, Apocalyptic Beauty, and Fine Ales by Tim Lebbon

A very intersting take on zombie apocalypse with a supernatural twist. At just under 200 pages it was a very quick read. The main character marks important moments of his life with different ales, much as other people do with songs, which I found interesting.

Rating: C

Book 15 - The Bards of Bone Plain by Patricia McKillip

I loved this book. The world had depth, the characters were intriguing, and it was some of the most beautiful writing I've encountered in quite some time. The descriptions were phenomenal.

Rating: A

I feel like I fell down on these reviews somewhat, but I didn't sleep well last night so my brain is about fried. Might come back and edit later if I remember.

finally, some knitting!

2011-03-06 02:52:00 +0000

For a blog with the word "knitting" in the title, I sure haven't posted much about that lately! Haven't been doing much knitting lately, but there's enough to scrape together for a post to prove that I haven't completely abandoned my needles.
Sooo, let's go back. Waaay back, to shortly after the Christmas Knitting Marathon. As we left off, Jason's big stripy blanket was steadily growing bigger and stripy-er. I've actually kept up a decent amount of momentum on that, and am now more than halfway done with the striped portion of it. Then it'll be relatively fast to use up all the leftovers on a quick and easy dc border around the whole thing. Jason seems to like it so far, and I'm rather pleased with the progress.
New year's resolution re: The Stash is, erm, going. I've been mostly good about not adding to it. There was a point in late January when I did buy a little yarn. I scored two skeins of Dream in Color Baby yarn (in Happy Forest and Blue Lagoon) which I'm very excited about. At 700 yds of laceweight each, I'm pretty sure I can squeeze a pair of lightweight summer cardigans out of them. The third skein I didn't really have an excuse for other than I wanted it. Tosh sock in a lovely bronzy orange colorway aptly named Copper Pennies. I'd been eyeing it since the beginning of December and had heard such lovely things about Madeline Tosh that I had to give it a go. I'm planning to make an Age of Brass and Steam kerchief out of it, and that'll be one of my next projects, right after I finish my current kerchief/shawlette thingy.
I'd wanted to start using the Tosh Sock right away, but it was just before the Super Bowl and I'd already committed to going out to a bar with friends to watch. A bar that allows smoking indoors. So, it's perfectly understandable that I didn't want to take my lovely brand new skein of not-even-wound-into-a-yarn-cake-yet sock yarn into a bar where it would become stinky with cigarette smoke. Instead I rapidly wound up my two skeins of Knitpicks Imagination in Mermaid Lagoon, snagged the easiest pattern I could think of, and ran out the door.
The result is this partially-finished Baktus. Pattern is dead simple and works rather well for showing off the variegation of the yarn. I like how it's coming out, and really need to get it finished up so I can actually wear it.

As you can see, the colors are quite pretty. They're a bit more jewel-toned in person, but this is a decent shot of them. And aside from one patch of fairly unattractive pooling, they're spreading themselves out fairly evenly.

The other thing I've been working on is a hat. You may recall me whinging back in January about a hat. Yes, we're still dealing with that. After starting it over twice, because the designer couldn't be arsed to list a fucking gauge on her fucking pattern, I sat down and did the math on adding another column of cables. The numbers came out right, so I knit the brim, increased the extra 6 stitches to get up to the right number for cabling, and knit on. I didn't bother to try it on because I DID THE MATH. And the numbers I got told me that the hat should fit. SHOULD, of course, being the key word there. When I was halfway through the crown decreases, I went and tried it on.
AND THE HAT DOES NOT FUCKING FIT.
It's still too tight. Not uncomfortably so, but just enough that if I wear it for a little bit it begins to ride up and make me look like I've got the most gigantic oblong head ever. How do I know this? Because I've knit another hat that was just a smidge too tight and I don't wear it any more because I hate having to tug it back down every five minutes. (Also, I botched part of the lace on it, but that's neither here nor there.) I don't want another hat that I don't wear because I don't want to tug it back down every two minutes. And this one will be every two minutes. Why? Because, despite having six stitches less (at my gauge, that's just over an inch) than the body of the hat, the ribbed brim is, quite inexplicably, too loose.
So I give up. That's it. Obviously the universe does not want me to have this hat. So out came the ball winder, and I frogged that sucker with a vengeance.

The yarn is now in timeout so it can think about what it's done.
I'm next going to start on a sweater, since, ya know, I've committed to knitting 11 sweaters this year and (surprise!) haven't even started one. I'm going to take another crack at a top-down raglan and actually try using a pattern this time to see if it helps. And using the Top-Down Raglan Pattern Generator, which makes up a pattern based solely on math, hopefully will end up with a finished project that actually fits.

Books 9 and 10 and 11 (oh my)

2011-03-03 04:55:00 +0000

Book 9: The Romance of Tristan and Iseult - Published 1945, New York, NY

This is one of those stories that I've read a dozen times, and will probably read a dozen times more. This review is not going to address the story; rather, I will talk about this particular translation.

While this is not my favorite interpretation of Tristan and Iseult, I did enjoy it. It read less like a medieval romance (or indeed, a romance at all) and more like a fairy tale from The Brothers Grimm. As with any Grimm fairy tale, very little detail is given. The language is very plain. I thought it was very interesting to read this epic tale of treachery and battle and adventure and romance and suffering (oh the suffering!) and have the prose remain so stiff and detached throughout. It has the same feel as a Grimm fairy tale... I am especially reminded of "Briar Rose" (aka Sleeping Beauty) where the hedge of thorns that has grown around the castle is described, and it says how many suitors tried to break through the thorny barrier, only to have the thorns hold fast to them, "as it were with hands" and they could not break free. "They died wretchedly," is added almost as an afterthought.

Rating: B

Book 10: Naked Heat by Richard Castle

This is the second novel by the fictional character Richard Castle, which comes from the very awesome tv show Castle. For those who haven't seen the show, it's about a mystery writer who tags along with a homicide detective, seeking inspiration for his new series of books. The first one was entertaining enough that I picked up the second.

For a book supposedly written by a New York Times bestselling author (albeit a fictional one) the writing was pretty sloppy in parts. The writer/editor in me was constantly adjusting syntax and swapping diction in my head. It wasn't sloppy enough to really impact the enjoyability of the story (here's looking at you, Stephenie Meyer!) but it was just bad enough to be noticeable.

The story itself was pretty good. It had an over-the-top pulp fiction detective feel to it that I really dig. Whoever wrote the book did a great job of evoking feelings of that genre without going overboard on it. Mad love to them for it. Also, more love for the Firefly references.

Rating: B-

Books 11 and 11.5: Woe is I: The Grammarphobe's Guide to Better English in Plain English and Words Fail Me: What Everyone Who Writes Should Know About Writing, both by Patricia T O'Conner

These were both pretty quick reads so I'm bundling them together in one review. As a writer, I am always looking for ways to improve my writing. The primary way I do this is by reading as much as I can. Occasionally I'll read books that are actually about writing.

Words Fail Me was, for the most part, unhelpful. The first section of the book focused on the methods for writing, overcoming writer's block, etc etc. I've already got my methods down, so that didn't do anything for me. The rest of the book focused on a lot of the nitty-gritty writing details of writing. Clarity, sentence structure, using strong verbs, so on and so forth. It's mostly things that I knew already, but it's good to be refreshed every once in a while. And as for the few things I hadn't realized, well, any improvement is welcome, no matter how small.

Woe Is I focuses exclusively on grammar. I am in kind of an odd position when it comes to grammar. I was never formally taught anything about grammar in all of my years of schooling. However, I am and have always been an avid reader and, as a result of learning grammar only by reading properly constructed sentences, my grasp of grammar is based solely on what "sounds right" to me as opposed to any of the rules or reasons behind it. So, it's intersting to me to read about why a correctly structured sentence is correct.

Both books were written with a straightforward attitude, a dash of humor, and (obviously) grammatically correct sentences abound.

Rating: B

Book 8

2011-02-18 19:44:00 +0000

Ah, Simon R. Green. Words alone cannot express the deep and profound expanse of my admiration for him as a writer, nor my deep and unabiding love for him as a reader. A Hard Day's Knight is yet another installment in his Nightside series, which, in this reader's humble opinion, has yet to grow stale. The constant parade of interesting and unusual characters coupled with Green's ability to do the unexpected keep it fresh while Green's history of killing off important characters adds just enough real danger to the tale.
This book in particular deals with Arthurian legend. I am a huge nerd about any and everything related to that particular subject, so I was particularly eager to get my hands on a copy of this book and see exactly how Green interpreted and then distorted those old tales. I was not disappointed.
Rating: A

Books 6 (for real!) and 7

2011-02-10 05:25:00 +0000

Book 6: Matched by Ally Condie

This is a young adult book. I admit it, I read young adult books. Some of them are very very awesome and perfectly able to be enjoyed by adults (Garth Nix, to name one. For all of you who have not read Sabriel I would highly recommend it!)

I read Matched because I noticed a lot of people at the Library requesting it, and was curious. Please don't make the same mistake I did.

General impression of this book is a cross between a poorly-written Giver and a watered-down 1984. It's about a young girl in a utopian society, her eyes are opened and she breaks free of the brainwashing. Yada yada, you know the drill. However, the characters have no depth, the dialogue is wooden, and the plot meanders aimlessly without accomplishing anything. The main character continuously makes little side comments about the way things used to be, etc etc, that are entirely inappropriate for a character who was raised in that society. Yes, I get that Condie wants to contrast how things are vs. how things were, but it's entirely unnecessary for the main character to do so; we know how things "were" because we, the readers, are living in that world now. Events happend with no foreshadowing and no buildup. Characters were introduced and then never mentioned again. There were inconsistancies galore. The nicest thing I have to say about this book is that it only took me 2 hours to read.

Rating: D-

Book 7: Troubled Waters by Sharon Shinn

I enjoyed this book. The plot was light on the action, but the writing is solid, the characters were well-developed, and the descriptions were very good. The world was extremely well-developed. Though it wasn't much of a page-turner and I didn't eagerly await the next twist of the plot in between readings, I did find it overall to be a very pleasant read.

One thing that I especially liked a lot was that while it did edge close to the cliche of small-town gal grows up, embarks on adventure and does Great Things, it didn't quite fall into it. The main character starts out knowing that she's going to do Great Things because she comes from a long line of rich and powerful people, though she is in exile. She doesn't know how powerful she will become, but the potential is already laid out there. I found that somewhat refreshing, and it felt more believeable than "random child becomes a great hero." I will certainly be seeking out more of Shinn's work to read.

Rating: B+

Books 4, 5 and 6

2011-02-05 00:04:00 +0000

So far I'm still on track with this, even if I am falling down a bit on the blogging part.

No images, because I'm lazy.

Book 4: Indulgence in Death by J.D. Robb.

This book was predictable: someone is murdered, homicide detective gets put on the case, someone else is killed, the case unravels, someone else is killed, the stakes are upped! Bad guys are caught, the good guys win again. But the dialogue is always great, the details of each case are varried enough to keep the reader guessing, and it's just plain interesting to read. And as the 38th book in a series, I commend Robb for that going.

The "In Death" series is what I view as the literary equivalent of a summer action movie: it's fantastic for an afternoon's entertainment, but probably not worth revisiting once you find out who the killer is.

Rating: B+

Book 5: Cast in Shadow by Michelle Sagara

Not the best book I've ever read. The main character alternates between overly dramatic and forcibly blasé. I spent most of the book wanting to slap her, which hasn't happened since Bella Swan. It had that same fan-fictiony air about it, but the writing itself was solid, and the descriptions were pretty good. It's the first book of the series, but I didn't feel compelled to find the next one; in fact, I only skimmed the last 50 pages and feel that I didn't miss all that much. That's not a good sign -- your reader should NEVER be willing to "just skim" the ending you've spent the entire book building up to.

Rating: C-

Book almost-6: The Key: A Rachel Benjamin Mystery by Jennifer Sturman

I never start out with exceptionally high expectations when it comes to "chick lit." I sort of view it like watching something silly on tv: it's fluffy and entertaining and doesn't require a whole lot of mental processing to get through. I don't anticipate a complicated plot with tons of twists and turns, I don't expect deep and complex characterization. But there is never, ever, ever an excuse for bad writing. EVER. I quit reading this book about 20 pages in, when the main character meets her love interest and describes him as having "a regular-size nose, and normal-size eyes." WTF, normal-size eyes?? Is everyone else in this fictional city cursed with either itty bitty eyes or cartoonishly large ones? (if so, that's exactly the sort of thing that's important to tell your readers and makes all the difference.) Otherwise, it's just sloppy writing. Also, is eye color too much to ask for?

Book Three

2011-01-25 19:51:00 +0000

So far so good with this 52-book-in-52-weeks thing. I'm on schedule thus far, which is actually a little surprising. There's no doubt that I'm capable of reading that many books in a year -- hell, in college when I had tons of free time, I went through a book to a book and a half per day. It's more the matter of not only making myself keep to a schedule on it, but also keeping up with the commitment to blog about it as well.

Anyhow, book three...

Yep, same author from Dogs in the Moonlight. Though both deal with the fantastic, they were very very different books in all other respects.

One thing an author can always do to impress me (as a writer myself) is to, in separate works, maintain different styles and tones without compromising either their talents or their own "voice." Lake manages that beautifully, at least between these two books. That's something that I've always struggled with, and I've noticed in others as well. Even if you love an author, it's somewhat off-putting to hear the same voice coming out of the mouths of character after character in world after world. (Sorry, Simon R. Green, I love you but it's true...)

Unlike Dogs in the Moonlight, which added a dash of the supernatural to everyday people set against the gritty backdrop of rural Texas, Green is set in a mythical world. Yet somehow Lake manages to take that gritty realism and transpose it to his made-up world as well. In the very first pages, I could feel the unrelenting sun beating down on my head and taste the dust as I breathed. This continued for the entire book. The setting descriptions were amazingly detailed without being tedious or overwhelming or dragging down the plot. The thing I found most interesting about that was how exactly the details were conveyed. The story is told in First Person, but from an indeterminate amount of years later. The main character is reflecting back on her life, and while her overal tone is detached by the power of years, and in fact nearly clinical in its deliverance of amazingly detailed descriptions of events, the reader still cares. I found it an interesting trick to make the reader feel more passionately about the tale than the narrator does. To her these are just old memories; to us this is an exciting new story.

Another interesting thing about this story was the lack of a romantic sub-plot. It's very rare to read a story without any sory of love interest or relationship development being part of what moves the plot forward. Often, the main character's love interest is a large and important part of the plot. In this story, however, that is not the case. The main character does have relationships, but they are treated as something that just happens alongside the main action, and indeed are mostly not treated as the typical understanding of "relationships" at all, but as just a convenient opportunity for sex.

My only real complaint about this story was the ending. The climax of the story didn't feel any bigger or more spectacular than the events leading up to it. And the only way that I knew that that particular section of action was the climax at all was by the small number of pages left in the book. Very unsatisfying.

It was an interesting read overall, and while I probably won't be itching for a reread any time soon, I'll definitely be on the lookout for more by this author.

Rating: B

Book Two

2011-01-19 22:52:00 +0000

Since I was apparently on a short story kick, here's my second book:

This is a collection of short stories set in Texas, and themed around the supernatural. The book is divided into four sections: ghosts, angels, gods, and aliens.

The book started off strong with the short story from which the collection got its name, "Dogs in the Moonlight." I went into it with no expectations, having never read anything by Jay Lake previously, and so the twists and turns this tale took caught me completely by surprise.

The stories were told in first person, and the vernacular that Lake uses to tell the tales is strong enough to let the reader hear the blue-collar Texas twang of the characters, yet subtle enough that it doesn't interfere with the reader's ability to enjoy the story or force the reader to puzzle out what the everloving-eff is going on (I'm looking at you, Charles W. Chesnutt!)

I felt that Lake also did a good job of balancing between the supernatural and the mundane. There were enough of the nitty-gritty everyday details to keep the stories well-grounded, but it was mixed with events fantastical enough to make the story worth telling. The first three sections were very strong, but I felt that the portion about Aliens fell down, especially when it was forced to not only follow the previous three sections but also to end the collection. I found myself skimming most of the stories in that section, and felt that it would have been better served to be placed in the middle of the book and allow one of the other sections to serve as the conclusion.

Rating: C+

Book One

2011-01-19 22:03:00 +0000

I've decided that maintaining a separate blog for my reading will just be more of a headache than I'm probably willing to deal with, so I'm just going to keep track of it on here. After all, reading is inherently geeky, right? So there's half the title. I'll just throw in a knitting book every now and then and that'll all even out, yeah?

Okay, so, first book!



It's a collection of short stories themed around (you guessed it!) love gone awry. Some of them have happy endings, some are more Romeo-and-Juliet like, but all of them have romance as a plotline. I'd selected it because Neil Gaiman and Jim Butcher both contributed to this book.

I'm not normally one for collections of short stories, and anticipated reading the ones I wanted to read along with a few others, skimming through the rest, and that being the end of it. However, I actually ended up reading all but one of these stories, and enjoyed them all very much. Some were more bodice-ripper-romance-themed than I would have liked, but I was pleasantly surprised by most.

Jim Butcher: A short story set in his Dresden Files world. It addressed the unresolved romantic tension between Dresden and Murphy. As with all of Butcher's writing, it was just the right balance of entertaining dialogue and fast-paced action. A quick and enjoyable read.

Neil Gaiman: He is the most phenomenal writer of short stories that I have ever encountered in my two decades of reading. He can pack such a big twist into such a short story that I always need to take a minute, back up a page or so, and let my mind unbend itself. This story was no exception. Love love love.

There were a couple others that had Gaiman-esque twists to them, but most simply told an entertaining story. Nice, enjoyable read.

Rating: A-

FOs, WIPs, and plans

2011-01-18 01:03:00 +0000

So here we are, a little over two weeks into the new year, and so far things are going well. Work is nice, no drama has exploded in my personal life, and I've been pretty productive knitting-wise.
I've even got a FO already!

I got to meet my little brother's girlfriend when I was home for the holidays. I pretty much expected her to be a sweet girl, based on comments from my Nani and parents, but I was pleasantly surprised to discover that she (like me!) is a great big Harry Potter nerd. We talked a bit about the series, and our favorite characters, and when I found out that her fave is Hermione, I knew I had to make her this hat. Still need to mail it off to her, but I think it'll be a great surprise to get in the mail. I'm looking forward to hearing her reaction to it.
The hat was a quick and easy knit. The pattern actually calls for a DK weight yarn, but I used worsted instead since I do tend to knit a bit tighter than average and I figured it wouldn't affect the finished hat overmuch. The end result is a pretty dense fabric that is very warm. I used Cascade 220 superwash in the colorway Ridge Rock.
In keeping with my New Years resolutions I used up the leftovers from Jon's scarf. Unfortunately, as with most well-intentioned things, it didn't work out quite as planned. I ran out of yarn just shy of the end and had to go buy a second ball to finish it off. So now I've got more grey yarn in the stash than when I started. I'll probably make another hat out of it or something. We'll see.
And speaking of New Years resolutions, I'm working on a lovely blanket for Jason. He liked the zigzag throw blanket for the sofa so much that I'm making him a larger one. Using Lion Brand Homespun (awful, splitty stuff, but it does make a soft squishy blanket -- plus, hey, it's cheap!) for it. I'm crocheting stripes, then will use whatever leftovers that aren't enough to make a full stripe as a border. It's working up pretty quick, and is mindless. Perfect for tv crafting.
Of course, the minute I laid it out on the floor to get a picture, all the cats instantly gravitated to it. Like furry little moths drawn to a warm and fuzzy flame. So, sorry, Jason. It looks like I'm not actually making the blanket for you.

And then just seconds after obligingly lining up for a nice picture, Yarneater (background) tried to make off with the remains of the skein, Kleptocat (center) began a valiant effort at eating the safety pins securing the pieces together for easy sewing, and Nuisance (foreground) flipped out for no discernable reason and rolled over while holding fast to the corner with his claws, thus turning himself into a kitty burrito. The blanket is recovering from this ordeal in its plastic WIP tub.
I've also got a project in the works for me, though it's not going at all as planned. I've been doing quite a lot of crafting for other people. First Christmas knitting, which was followed by the Hermione Hat and the epic stripy catnip blanket. I wanted something for ME. So, I browsed through Rav for a hat pattern, busted out that one lone skein of Lamb's Pride Bulky I've had sitting in the stash forever, and started knitting. What could go wrong? said I. Bulky yarn works up quick and the pattern is easy!
The pattern is indeed easy. However, the designer didn't list a gauge. Meh, I thought to myself, I knit a bit tighter than average so I'll just go up a needle size and it'll be fine! After the first pattern repeat, I thought it was looking a bit small, so I put it on a circ and tried it on. Damned thing wouldn't even fit over my head. Ripped it, increased the number of cast-on stitches and added an extra purl stitch on either side of the cabled columns. That should be fine, right? Yeah. I got up to the decreases and decided that I should probably try it on again just to be on the safe side. Well, it fits. Mostly. But it's pretty snug. Almost uncomfortably so. After some hemming and hawing, I just ripped it out a second time. What's the point of knitting a hat if it's something I won't end up wearing because I don't like the end result?
Quickie project has now taken me three days and a load of frustration. I'm going to reknit it AGAIN because I WANT THIS HAT DAMNIT. I'm probably going to add another cable column instead of more purl stitches, but need to sit down and work the math on it to make sure that I'm not going to be knitting this frigging thing a fourth time. I am irritated that I have to do this. The point of using a pattern to knit something is so I don't have to do the math myself, and all of this could have been avoided if the designer had just taken two frigging seconds to sit down with a ruler and her finished hat, and say "I got X number of stitches to the inch" on her pattern. Because the only way she could have gotten an adult-sized hat out of the numbers she posted is if she's an abnormally loose knitter, which would have also been nice to know.
In the meantime, I'm setting this aside because I can't look at the yarn without wanting to hurl it across the room. Probably later this week I'll go back to it.
I'm also doing one of those yearly challenges that pop up on Rav. Last year I kept seeing the 10 in 2010 shawlette challenge, and wanted to get in on that but didn't find out about it until late spring, by which point it was too late because I'm not that crazy all the time. Well, this year I joined up with the 11 Sweaters in 2011, because I need more sweaters. Of course, I haven't started knitting any sweaters yet, but hey, it's only the third week of the year, I've still got time. I have lots of plans for sweaters, so that's something, yeah?
I'm also planning on doing 52 books in 52 weeks this year. I've always wanted to do it, but back in college I was going through a book to a book and a half per day so 52 books in a year wasn't even remotely a challenge to me, so I never bothered. And then after graduating, I pretty much stopped reading at all (for shame!) so I didn't do it then. Well, this is the year, and I'm actually on track with that so far, so I think I'm going to post them on here just to keep myself motivated. But in separate posts. Yep.

another new year!

2011-01-01 22:08:00 +0000

The first of January is probably my favorite day out of the whole year. It's better than my birthday, better than Christmas, even better than Halloween! Waking up on January first feels like turning to a fresh page, and the air practically vibrates with all the possibilities contained in the year ahead. It's a new beginning, a chance to lay to rest all of the negative things of the previous year, and to select the positive things to carry forward with me. The last half of 2010 was very hard for me, and I feel relieved to be able to leave that behind.

Silly, I know, because logically today is just a day, like any other day. Yesterday, or tomorrow... they won't be any different. But today still feels special, almost magical, to me.
Anyhow, enough of my mawkish ramblings. Time for the fun stuff: end-of-year knitting numbers and resolutions!
So, this year saw a total of 34 finished projects for (an estimated) 7,880 yards of yarn. That puts me far ahead of both 2008 and 2009 in number of finished projects, and ahead of 2009 for yardage, but I still haven't beat my yearly best of 9,979 from 2008. I blame the afghans of that year, but have a couple in the works for this year so, who knows.
And jeez, another year or so of this and I may have to resort to making charts so it's not just a big jumbled block of text peppered with numbers. Bleh.
And the resolutions!
1. I need to be better about housekeeping. Now that I've got a job that doesn't leave me physically and emotionally drained in my downtime, there's really no excuse for letting clutter build up on the dining room table or for not managing to drag the vacuum around more than once a week. And laundry! I mean, the machine does the work for me, there's no reason to let it pile up at all.
(this is more or less the same as my resolution from last year. I did manage to get my crafting room very organized, so I'm leaving that bit out.)
2. Last year I'd also wanted to be more productive knitting-wise, and I'd say I accomplished that quite handily. This year, I'd like to at least maintain that same level of productivity. I'd also like to get more projects for Jason finished. He's so completely and totally supportive of my hobby, and for whatever reason his stuff always seems to drop down to the bottom of my priority list. There are several projects in the works for him that I'd like to get finished up in the first part of the year, and several more that I'd like to get done by the end of the year.
3. Last year I'd also wanted to work through half of my stash yarn. That resolution was naive and utterly unrealistic. I'd also resolved to only purchase one new skein of yarn for each two I knitted up from the stash. That also didn't happen. However, while my stash didn't exactly shrink by any noticeable amount, it also didn't grow noticeably either, so I'm chalking that up as a draw.
This year, I'm going to be a bit more realistic. I'm still going to try very had to use up more stash yarn, but I'm also not going to place any restrictions on my yarn purchasing that will probably just end up broken several months into the year. I only use birthday and Christmas money to buy it, and I've got it confined to a modest stack of plastic containers. As long as it doesn't get any bigger this year, I'll call that a win.
4. My eating habits are quite appalling. Genetics have blessed me with a metabolism that allows me to eat like total crap and still weigh in at well under 100 lbs. So while I am thin, I am probably also not as healthy as I could be. This year I figure it's high time to finally become an adult about it and start eating better. More veggies, cut way back on the soda, try to eat less pre-packaged stuff. I also want to make an effort to quit eating out quite so much by cooking more at home. This will have the added benefit of saving $$$ in the long run.
5. I would like to start exercising more. My last job had me very active, on my feet all day, hauling around large pots of soup, and putting large orders away. I used to enjoy looking at the order invoices for the net weights so I could say "Yeah, go me! I just shifted around a total of 1200 lbs!" Well, my new job has me sitting on my butt in front of a computer screen for most of the day. I've been learning to hoop dance, which is good cardio, but I need to do something to build up a little more muscle.
6. Last year I said I wanted to both read more and work on my writing more. Working at a library has kickstarted my appetite for new books, but I'm still not writing a lot. It's just hard to get motivated with Sarah not around anymore to read my work and keep me motivated or work as a sounding board for ideas and plotlines. But I really love writing and need to put more effort into it.
Overally, I think these are pretty realistic goals that I might actually stand a chance at achieving this year. So here's to hoping! I've got a good feeling about 2011.

Xmas knitting: continued...

2010-12-30 04:28:00 +0000

I suppose it wouldn't surprise anyone if I said that I was still working on my Christmas knitting, would it?

...

I thought not.

I did, however, finish the vast majority of what I'd set out to do. I knit a hat for my father-in-law, a cup cozy for my brother-in-law's lady friend, and finally finally FINALLY finished J-L's damn hat. And there were a lot of socks involved. Lots and lots of socks.

Because I'm kind of an idiot, I completely neglected to snap pictures of all of these things before I gifted them away. So, some were taken after the fact, and one was not taken at all. I don't know why I always forget to do this... Sigh.

So, first the hat. Plain top-down stockinette with a 2x2 ribbed brim. I used Jason as a model and knit it long enough to cover the ears. I knit it up in Malabrigo Rios in the Azul Profundo colorway, which is lovely without being girly. It was my first time working with Rios, and I definitely see what some people meant when they said it was "limp," especially when compared to the un-superwash-treated worsted. But it did knit up into a soft, firm fabric that looks like it will hold up better than the single-ply worsted. It wasn't quite as deliciously squooshy to knit with as the Twist, but still a pleasure. I will certainly be using it again!

Next up is the cup cozy. Brother-in-law's girlfriend had added a cup cozy from Etsy to her Christmas wishlist. The cozy had the little thumbs up thing from Facebook on it, along with the words "like this" embroidered onto a white felt background. The cozy itself was single-crocheted from blue yarn.

I took one look at that thing and said to myself "What the hell!? Charging $20 for that thing?!? It looks like a five year old did the embroidery!" The cozy itself, while much more neatly constructed, was flawed as well. It was basically a crocheted cup with a slit in one side for a mug handle to go through. I felt that having a crocheted bottom would make a mug wobbly and unstable, and it would only work on a certain-sized mug. So I made a knit version that could be used either with a mug or a to-go cup.

It's secured with two buttons. I wish I'd gotten a pic of the back of it because I'm rather proud of my solution to convert it between to-go cup and mug. For a to-go cup it simply secures with two buttons. For the mug, I knit up two short tabs, each with a button on one end and a button hole on the other, that can be used to make the cozy wider and to fit around the handle. I'm really quite pleased with the end result, and she really seemed to like it.

My other great big knitting conquest was J-L's hat. I hate this thing. I hated it from start to finish. I hated every stitch, every color change, every stupid bit of knotted fringe. I had an enormous tangled pile of yarn, I had issues getting the fringe even, I ran out of yarn, I now have a crap ton of yarn left over that I want to burn because my brain associates it with the nightmare that was knitting this awful thing.

But J-L loves it. I mean, loves it. And that makes every painful minutes spent fighting that thing worth it.

And lastly we have the ongoing sock invasion. I got it into my head to knit socks for Mom and Nani. And not just one pair for each, no, I wanted to knit TWO pairs for each! Of course I didn't finish. I had one pair each of the purple completed by Christmas Eve when we exchanged gifts, and one pair of the blue done by the time I left Tampa. I've got one and a half blue socks left to knit, and then they'll be mailed to their new home. Both Mom and Nani loved them, and the aran weight yarn makes them go pretty quick at only 3-4 hours per sock.

And just like that, the year is nearly over. Of course I'll put together my annual New Year's post (the one time of year my blogging is consistent!) on Friday. I'm eager to see how much knitting I've done as compared to last year. And also the annual tradition of making resolutions that I'll break in the coming months. :)

blargh, christmas

2010-12-19 08:47:00 +0000

Things have been pretty hectic around here in Yarnia. The last two Christmases were studies in knitting hell. So this year I said to myself, I've learned from my mistakes! I'm not going to knit anything for Christmas this year! Store-bought gifts are definitely the way to go! I love knitting for other people, really I do, but I'm awful at knitting on a deadline. It's stressful and hectic and it makes me feel like crap when I'm not able to finish on time because A) I drastically underestimated how long something would take, or B) something goes terribly horribly wrong causing me to take much longer, or C) all of the above.
Which is why, of course, here I am with less than a week to go until Christmas, frantically knitting away despite the fact that there is No Way in Hell that I am going to finish in time. I've prioritized which projects absolutely must be finished by Christmas, and which I've got a bit of wiggle room with and if I finish them a little late it won't be so bad. My mom and grandmother are getting two pairs of socks each (I made this brilliant decision on the 9th of December. yes, I'm absolutely off my rocker) and I've finished two pairs so far. So if I'm a little late with the other two pairs it won't be the end of the world. The other parts I won't go into detail on because I'm not sure who else does and doesn't follow my blog.
In other happier FO-news, I've gotten some great things taken care of. I've finally finished J-L's hat. That awful evil intarsia beast I've been complaining about on and off for the last year? Yeah. Done. Well, nearly done. I've just got to add braided tassels to the earflaps and felt the whole mess. I'll be posting finished pictures in a blog post of its own with probably a documentation of the whole sad tale.
I've also finished Jon's mitts and scarf. Still haven't presented them to him, because life keeps getting in the way. Namely, my work schedule and his finicky car. But they came out quite nice, and I'm very pleased.

I've also completed Abby's shawlette. I used the pattern Spring Thaw, and Malabrigo sock in the colorway Abril. Lovely yarn, lovely pattern. I did have some trouble starting it. The charts only show half of the shawl, and I didn't realize this at first, then couldn't figure out why the written instructions and charts didn't match up. Two froggings later, it finally clicked. The pattern was quite easily memorizable, and the yarn is a dream. I'm so in love with the color that I want to make myself something with it. Someday, after I downsize my stash quite a bit more...

Abby seems to love it. She's worn it several times since I gave it to her, which pleases me to no end. The best part of knitting for other people is seeing them use and enjoy what I make.
And that's probably why I'm sitting here, half-finished Christmas gift beside me. The thought of it being used and loved is what keeps me going.

and here we go

2010-11-11 04:37:00 +0000

Remember last post how I was whinging about this scarf that I was knitting that was taking FOR-EV-ER? Whelp, I finished it. I've currently got it pinned down to the blocking board and drying out, so hopefully it'll be totally done in the next few days and I can take some pretty pretty pictures of it.

In the meantime there's this crappy cameraphone shot of it stretched out. Ignore my messy crafting room.

Now do you see why I was whinging? It'd be one thing if it was just the scarf, but this sucker is knit in the round. It's warm and thick and squishy and I'm kind of in love with it. At some point I plan on knitting me a Hogwarts scarf in this same method, and I'm really super looking forward to it now. Pesky Cold Sheep. Sigh. Someday.

Anyhow! Scarf! The only downside was that the colorwork sections tended to pull in. But not by much, and I'm optimistic that the blocking will take care of it. Because blocking is magical and can fix everything. Almost anything. Well, some things. But I'm optimistic that this is one of them.

This was my first large project with colorwork in the round. The first end took me a week to do. The second only took half the time, it seemed like. Just took some getting used to, but once I fell into a rhythm it just flew.

The fingerless gloves that go along with these are nearly done as well. They just need thumbs. I wanted to wait until I could get my friend to try them on, since I've been tweaking the pattern to fit him better, and that didn't happen for a couple of weeks. However, that delay gave me time to finish up the scarf, so now I'll be able to present them both at once, yay!

It also just occured to me that I've been sadly negligent about posting FO pics here. Luckily I don't have all that many FOs to catch up on.

Firstly:

Apparition Socks. Test knit for a fellow raveler. Knit in Toefutsies in Vic-Toe-Rian which I scored on sale for half off. I'm not entirely pleased with them. The yarn is too "busy" and obscures the pattern, and the leg is a bit loose so it tends to scrunch up. Which of course further obscures the pattern. But the foot fits well, and I have knit some very lovely memories in these socks so they will not be banished to the frog pond. They will, however, probably be worn with jeans.

Secondly:

Munich Multnomah. Knit in Knipicks Imagination in Munchkin. This knit was something of an adventure. I, of course, waited until the last minute before my wedding/honeymoon trip to print out the pattern, and when I did I made the horrifying discovery that the English copy was unavailable and I couldn't read any of the translation languages. However, I picked the pattern originally because it wasn't complicated and thus would make perfect travel knitting, and I was able to cobble together a working pattern by stalking FO pics on Ravelry. I've worn it several times so far, and have gotten tons of compliments every time.

Thirdly: I FINALLY knit up my awesome Jayne hat, and have been proudly wearing it around the 'burgh. Cunning, ain't it?

After seeing me wearing knit items a couple of times, a coworker asked me to knit her something. She purchased the yarn and I'm doing the knitting in exchange for baked goods. She's a phenomenal baker, and I seem to recall the word "cupcakes" being involved in our negotiations. I'm knitting Spring Thaw in Malabrigo Sock (mmm, you see why it didn't take much to convince me to do this knit) in Abril. I am in LOVE with this colorway, and foresee myself doing another project in it for me.

So far it's been behaving itself quite nicely, which in of itself is a little suspect. Makes me wonder what might go wrong...

Oh, and a little update on Cold Sheep. I'm doing well so far, mostly thanks to Jason. Last week he bought me a couple of skeins of Malabrigo Worsted in Burgandy so I've got enough to make a pullover with the leftovers of Mom's February Lady. And that's got me thinking about NaKniSweMo. And then I recall the spectacular failure of last year in which I didn't even manage to cast on.

I think I still might give it a go. I need to rip and reknit my Lichen, which I foolishly attempted while proudly waving a banner that read "I DON'T NEED NO STINKIN' PATTERN!!" in great big glaring letters. It should be pretty obvious how that ended. Anyhow, I need to frog and reknit. It's a bulky yarn so it goes fast, and it's a top-down raglan sweater in stockinette so it's simple. Stay tuned for further adventures on that front...