Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Channeling My Inner Martha - The Spice Drawer

Up until today, my spices have been stored in a pull-out cupboard shelf below eye level and another shelf above eye level.  This meant that every time I had to find a particular spice, I had to look at a number of containers individually.  Well, no more!  Today I bought an organizer that fits into a drawer.  I arranged as many spices as would fit in a roughly alphabetical order.   It doesn't hold all the spices, but the rest of them went into the pull-out shelf.  By putting labels on those spices, I should be able to find what I'm looking for quickly and without getting annoyed.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

DVD: "Anvil! The Story of Anvil"

I have close to zero interest in heavy metal music, but this documentary was very watchable.  Canadian metal band Anvil has been playing together for 30 years, and although they influenced many other more successful bands, they have not achieved much success themselves.  The movie shows the determination to keep doing the work that you love, regardless of what the rest of the world thinks about you.

My rating:  *** (out of 5)

Book: "The Museum of Innocence"

Turkish author Orhan Pamuk follows the decade long obsession of Kemal with his beautiful distant relative Fusun.  It reminds me a little bit of Gabriel Garcia Marquez' Love in the Time of Cholera because of the subject matter.  In the usual post modernist way, Pamuk himself becomes a character in the novel near the end of the book.

My rating:  ***** (out of 5)

DVD: Coraline

I had missed this movie in theaters, so caught it on DVD.  Probably way too scary for young viewers, it is about childrens wish for different "better" parents while at the same time being  fearful of separation from their real parents.  Beautiful and scary images.

My rating:  **** (out of 5)

Movie: Precious

Just when you think things cannot get worse for teen-age incest victim and mother of two, Precious Jones, they do.  Thanks to a caring teacher and social worker, the movie ends on a (probably unrealistic) hopeful note.  Impressive acting by all.

My rating:  ****

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Friday, December 18, 2009

Completed Object: Sheep in this Meadow

Pattern:  Sheep Yoke Baby Cardigan
Yarn:  Rowan Cashsoft

I re-did the rear center sheep using satin stitch rather than duplicate stitch, and I'm reasonably happy with it.  I tried, as the designer and a Facebook friend suggested, to add eyes to that sheep with French knots in the blue yarn.  The French knots were way too big, so I removed them.   I may return to this project in the future and add eyes with embroidery floss and neaten up the other sheep.  But for now, I'm done with it.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Knitting Dilemma: Crazed Sheep

I'm almost finished with my sheep cardigan and have an aesthetic, and perhaps moral, dilemma.  The sheep heads and legs for the sideways facing sheep, although not things of beauty, are acceptable looking (especially from a distance).  However, the sheep in the back of the sweater, who faces frontward, is terrifying.  I feel a sense of moral unease in imposing such an image on an infant.

I'm considering removing all the black duplicate stitch and calling the remaining white blobs "clouds."  However they're in the "grass," rather than the sky, so how much sense does that make?  Any opinions?

I'll postpone the decision until after I put the buttons on.

Movie: " Where the Wild Things Are"

I wouldn't take a child younger than 10 to this movie because it's kind of scary, but I thought it was an outstanding movie.  It expands on the Maurice Sendak story to provide a back story explaining Max's behavior, but the wild creatures dreamed up by Max are true to Sendak's vision.  The movie is quite honest about how frightening it can be when we lose control of our emotions and express them without considering the consequences.

My rating:  ***** (out of 5)

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Finished Object: Barrymore Slouch Hat

Yarn:  Classic Elite Bazic Wool
Pattern:  Barrymore Slouch Hat

I wish the hat were a little slouchier, but that's probably a function of the yarn I chose.  I'm not a fan of how hats look on me, but this should be a good cross-country ski hat.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Finished Object: Mittens for Grandson

Pattern:  My plain mitten pattern
Yarn:  Baby Ull from Dalegarn

These turned out to be a little too small, but I finished them while visiting the recipient and he wanted to keep them rather than let me take them home to adjust the size.  What an easy recipient to knit for!

Monday, November 30, 2009

Movie: The Blind Side

I saw this movie with my granddaughter and didn't have high expectations.  However, it was the only movie that was appropriate for both of us and that we could agree to see.   Sandra Bullock is surprisingly restrained playing Leigh Ann Tuohy, the wealthy southern woman who becomes a guardian for homeless  high schooler Michael  Oher.  Since it's based on a true story, there are no real surprises.  Not my usual type of movie, but I enjoyed it nevertheless.  I'm sure the company didn't hurt.

My rating:  *** (out of 5)

Friday, November 27, 2009

Movie: Coco Before Chanel

Audrey Tatou plays the young Coco Chanel in this movie that ends with Chanel being given the opportunity to open her own shop.  The movie's focus is on the disappointments from the men in her life.  Her father abandons her shortly after her mother's death, her first lover, the wealthy Etienne Balsan, finds her amusing but is unwilling to introduce her to the society he frequents, and Arthur "Boy" Capel, her next lover, supports her  career aspirations, but is unable to marry her because his aristocratic family requires him to make a more suitable match.

The movie shows her design influences, mens tailored clothing and the jerseys worn by French fishermen, but there is only one scene, near the end, that shows the clothing she created from these influences.

My rating:  **** (out of 5)

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Finished Object: Granddaughter's Ziggy

Pattern:  Ziggy
Yarn:  Noro Kureyon Sock Yarn

I started these on 2 circular needles but then Mary from Knit Night told me that stranded socks work better with the Magic Loop technique.  She showed me how to do it, and I switched to that techcnique.  Then Diana at Fiber in the Forest showed me how to do the Philosophers Wool method of stranding, and I switched to that method.  So I ended up using three different techniques while knitting these socks.  I'm afraid this is obvious in the finished object, but the recipient seems to be happy.

It was fun watching the zig-zag pattern emerge as I knitted.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Book: "Spoiled"

The main characters in these short stores are spoiled upper class women who are always aware of class differences.  These distinctions cause them problems.  One character is disturbed when she finds her cleaning lady at a bistro she had planned to make her regular haunt.  Another has an awkward situation develop with the nanny.  This book is enjoyable and I recommend it to those who like this type of fiction.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Book: "This Is Where I Leave You"

Another comic dysfunctional family book.  In this one, the children of a recently deceased atheist father are surprised to learn that before dying he requested the family sit shiva for him.  Judd, the main character, has recently discovered that his wife is having an affair with his Rush Limbaugh-like boss.  He joins Wendy, his sister, who is largely ignored by her workaholic husband, and two brothers at the family home for the shiva.  Paul is married to a woman desperate to have a baby while Phil can quote pop culture references all day, but has no marketable skills. This family has no secrets from each other, and they use the intimate details of their siblings' lives as weapons against each other.  Very funny and enjoyable.

My rating:  **** (out of 5)

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Finished Object: Drops Jacket

Pattern:  Drops Jacket
Yarn:  Brown Sheep, Lambs Pride Bulky

This was a quick and enjoyable knit.  My only problem is that it flares out in the back, so I'm considering sewing a chain in the back to weight it down.   Now I just have to figure out where to buy such a chain.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Fiber in the Forest

Yesterday I returned from a 3-day knitting retreat in Holland organized by Trish.  It was loads of fun.  There were about 20 women attending and they came from as far away as Idaho.  It was great to see the work other knitters do and to pick up a few tips from them.  I learned a new technique for fair isle knitting that should make that process less painful.  I also got lots of my own knitting done, completing the pieces for my Drops Jacket.  They've been blocked and I'll try to get it assembled this week.

On Friday we visited a local sheep farm and an alpaca farm.   On Saturday we went on a shop hop to 6 local yarn shops.  There were tons of prizes and I was lucky enough to win one of the big prizes - a hand-made wooden swift from Hornshaw Wood Works.  I also won some beautiful handspun yarn and a skein of Elizabeth Lavold Silky Wool.

Oh, and there was plenty of delicious food and snacks.  I'm so glad I went!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Bird Deterrent

For the last couple of weeks, the co-homeowner and I have been hearing the  sound of a woodpecker pounding holes in the siding near our bedroom window.  When we yell at him (and it is a him according to our bird book) he leaves, but he's managed to create 2 significant holes, the largest of which is about 2 inches wide and 1 1/2 inches deep.  A little research showed that woodpeckers can be deterred by shiny objects, especially if they're blowing in the wind.  I decided to make a zero cost bird deterrent out of an unused aluminum roasting pan, some twine, and short nails.  Hope it works!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Book: "A Happy Marriage"

Author Rafael Yglesias dropped out of high school to complete his first acclaimed autobiographical novel, married a woman named Margaret who died some twenty years later of cancer, had two sons, lives in Greenwich Village, and writes novels and screenplays. All of these facts are also true of character Enrique Sabas. The book mostly alternates between chapters describing the courtship and marriage of Enrique and Margaret and chapters describing the last few weeks of her life.

One of the reviews I read online criticized the book for focusing on Enrique rather than Margaret, and that's true. However, I found the book moving and satisfying.

My rating: **** (out of 5)

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Finished Object: Career Tracks Cardigan

Pattern: Career Tracks by Jean Frost
Yarn: Jo Sharp Luxury 8-Ply DK

This is my first sweater knit side to side (except for the sleeves) and I'm very happy with the result. I'm particularly happy with how well it fits.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Book: "Both Ways Is the Only Way I Want It"

I've read 2 novels by Maile Meloy, but this is her first book of short stories I've read. Several of them are set in Montana and they all involve middle class characters. As the book jacket notes, the stories are about characters who "are caught between opposing forces: between innocence and experience, impulse and stability, fidelity and desire." Her characters are well developed and the stories are engaging.

My rating: **** (out of 5)

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Movie: The September Issue

I think that in documentaries about living people, the filmmaker keeps the camera on the subject for so long, that the subject eventually forgets about the camera. That doesn't happen in The September Issue. Anna Wintour seems to be always aware of the camera's presence. Nevertheless, the movie gives an interesting peek at how one magazine (and one person within that magazine) can exert a tremendous influence on the fashion industry.

My rating: **** (out of 5)

Friday, October 16, 2009

Movie: A Serious Man

I'm a huge Coen brothers fan and was looking forward to this movie. A physics professor seeks advice from several rabbis when his life begins to fall apart. However, in typical cynical Coen brothers fashion, there is no solace from religion and, in fact, things go from bad to worse. I agree completely with the message of this movie (There's nobody watching over you directing your life. Life is a combination of your own actions and chance.). However, it wasn't nearly as enjoyable as Fargo or The Big Lebowski.

My rating: *** (out of 5)

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Book: "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo"

I don't normally read genre fiction, but here I was in Paris, I'd finished the book I brought with me, 5 back issues of the New York Times Book Review, the book Rohn had loaned me, and still had 7 days to go before returning home. The co-reader had found this book too slow moving, so I hijacked it from him.

The most compelling thing about about this book is its two main characters. Mikael Blomkvist is a journalist who has been duped into writing a libelous article about a corrupt corporation and convicted to serve several months in prison. Pror to serving his sentence, in the course of another investigation, he hires a private investigator, Lisbeth Salander, to assist with research. She appears to have Aspbergers. She has almost no social skills, but is highly focused, with a photographic memory, the ability to hack into computers, and no compunctions at all about doing so. The relationship that develops between these two as they solve a decades old mystery is the most interesting thing about this book.

My rating: *** (out of 4)

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Last Day in Paris

Our last day in Paris was enjoyable, but tinged with regret at leaving. We went to the Pompidou Center to the Museum of Modern Art. On the plaza outside we saw a woman playing a digeridoo and the three men in the photo playing instruments and doing Mongolian throat singing. It was almost as if they had dropped down from another planet - or another century - and the sound was oddly compelling.

The permanent collection at the Pompidou was great and lunch (steak for me, seafood salad for the co-diner) enjoyable.
We wandered around Ile St. Louis, and the Marais, then stopped for a last gelato at Amorino. Already we're planning our next trip back.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Last Minute Shopping and Search for a Mime

Today lunch was at a noodle shop we had noticed a couple of weeks ago. A guy in the window stretches and cooks the fresh noodles which are then incorporated into soups or stir-fries. Unfortunately the window made it impossible to get a good photo of him, but lunch was delicious.

While shopping at Place de la Madeleine (an upscale shopping area) I came across a group of about 20 Arab women marching and chanting - couldn't tell what their cause was. They were surrounded by at least as many policemen in riot gear.

A couple of days ago, we had seen a mime at Place du Tertre in Montmartre. At that time I was tired and not in the mood to take photos, so this evening we looked for him again and were fortunate enough to find him. His act was set to old-fashioned music and was truly charming.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Book: Gourmet Rhapsody

This book, written before The Elegance of the Hedgehog but released after it in the United States, centers on one of the minor characters in that book, the restaurant critic Pierre Arthens. Totally self-centered, he has alienated his children and almost everyone else who has contact with him. The chapters alternate between the viewpoint of the critic and the viewpoints of others, including his cat and a work of art in his office. In the final hours of his life he tries to remember a flavor that was critical to his career. The book deals with themes of social class and philosophy, like Hedgehog did, but does not meet the standard of that second, more successful book.

My rating: ** (out of 5)

Last Few Days in Paris

We've become very aware that we have just a few more days left in Paris. It feels like we're tying up loose ends, hurrying to visit the places we've missed and returning to a few of the places we particularly like.

Today we went to a wine bar (Tartine) suggested by our son, Michael. I had a charcuterie plate (meats, sausages, pate) and the co-diner had a cheese plate. We both tried wines we hadn't had before and we enjoyed this lunch very much.

From there we walked to the Institute of the Arab World designed by architect Jean Nouvel (see photo). We went up to the rooftop terrace and took a couple of photos, then moved on to the sculpture garden on the Seine. From there we returned to Ile St. Louis for window shopping and gelato. While heading for the Metro, we stopped by Notre Dame yet again and shot a picture of St. Denis holding his head. We plan to go to Place St. Germaine tonight to see if there are any interesting street entertainers.

Versailles: Wretched Excess or Why the French Had a Revolution

I expected to be impressed by the scale of Versailles and was not disappointed. It's hard to imagine the size of the chateau, the size of the gardens, and the amount of gold gilt that can be used in one estate. Although Marie Antoinette's Petit Trianon and hamlet were charming, you can't help but remember that these also were financed by taxpayers living in far more modest circumstances.

This was an exhausting day because of the scope of this park.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Institute of the Arab World - Oops! No! The Mosque and Yet Another Church

Our plan for today was to see the Arab World Museum. However, we didn't leave the house until nearly noon. After a brief look at the Paris mosque, we realized that if we were going to eat lunch we had to do so soon because it can be difficult to find a meal between 2:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. This has caused problems in the past.

We were near Rue Mouffetard, a market street, and found a restaurant there where I got veal in a cream sauce and the co-diner had fish. Dessert, as shown in the photo, was tarte tatin (a caramelized apple tart) and cherry tart. After some exploration (and cheese shopping) on Rue Mouffetard, we realized that it was really to late to do a museum, so the Institute of the Arab World will have to wait until later in our trip.

Instead we went to St. Etienne-du-Mont, which has a mixture of architectural styles and the oldest organ in Paris. Someone was playing it while we were there. It also contains the tomb of St. Genivieve and some of her relics.