Sunday, October 31, 2010

Halloween

This is my favorite time of year.  The weather starts cooling off (although this year it never really got hot) and I can start wearing sweaters.  I love a good, cloudy sky and the smell of the air just before the rain starts to fall. (My joints don't like that rainy weather season quite as much.)  Most of all . . . I love Halloween.

I've loved Halloween ever since I was a child.  Not so much getting scared, but the carving pumpkins, dressing up in costume and, as I have gotten older, handing out the candy to the kids and seeing their costumes.  I can't remember many years in my life when I didn't wear some sort of costume for Halloween.  I delight in putting together costumes from pieces of clothes I have already and then maybe buying a few pieces to make it complete.  I also love playing with make-up.  Ever since I took a stage make-up class in college I have been fascinated with creating Halloween make-up.  It's so much fun to see other people's reaction to it.  Taking it off at the end of the night isn't always as fun.

The other part of Halloween that I love is pumpkins.  A few years ago, we started the tradition of going to the local pumpkin farm to pick our own pumpkins instead of just going to a pumpkin patch set up in the grocery store parking lot.  We head out early in the morning so that we can wander the fields of pumpkins searching for just the right combination of size, color and surface area. 

The great thing about this farm is that they also have a corn maze and hay rides, and some years they have a pumpkin cannon.  Watching those pumpkins fly through the air and go splat on the other side of the farm is much more fun than you would think.  The kids really love it. 

The kids also love running around finding the oddest looking pumpkins and taking pictures.  Pictures of pumpkins, pictures of them in the giant wood cut outs that you poke your head through, pictures of them sitting on the giant pile of hay bales and pumpkins.   You would think at their ages they would be sick of Mom taking all these pictures of them, but nope.  Which is a really good thing as I tend to have my camera permanently slung around my neck. 


Ok, so maybe it isn't so much that they like taking the pictures, but more that they are resigned to the fact that I won't let them not take them.  Either way, it's part of what makes this time of year so special.

Happy Halloween!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

NaNoWriMo or NaKniSweMo???

To write or to knit, that is the question.  A least the question that sits before me this weekend.

November is both National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) (writers attempt to write 50,000 words of a novel in 30 days)  and National Knit a Sweater in a Month (NoKniSweMo) (knitters attempt to start and finish a sweater during the month of November).  Both are near and dear to my heart, but, alas, I cannot do both and must choose.

I've attempted NaNoWriMo many years and last year was the first time that I was actually able to complete the 50K words.  In order to do so you must write around 1,666 words a day.  It is no coincidence that the last three numbers of the daily count are 666, this task is evil. Don't get me wrong.  When you finish 50K words in that short amount of time you feel a great sense of accomplishment.  It's just the getting there that is evil.  You have to put everything else on hold.  Any other activity that you normally spend your free time on is gone for the month of November.  Family, friends, pets all take a backseat to the writing.  It is only one month, but you have no idea how hard it is until you attempt it.  I have an idea for another story that I could use this year and I have done enough prep work (which is all you are allowed to do before Nov 1) that it wouldn't be hard to take this on starting Monday.

That being said, I have never attempted NaKniSweMo.  I have a couple of other projects that I either need to finish this weekend or set aside for a month in order to do this.  I think my husband might divorce me if I don't get his sweater finished (well, maybe that is harsh, but he certainly will pout a lot).  I don't have much left to knit on the sweater, but  I have to block it, seam it and sew in the zipper.  On the other hand, I have a sweater pattern and all the yarn to knit a sweater that I have wanted for myself for a couple of years.  I could spend the rest of today and part of tomorrow finishing the husband's sweater and try to fit in time to finish it off during the month.  Maybe use that time as a little break from my sweater.

Both tasks are monumental.   Both tasks, while a bit evil, are a lot of fun.  If I can complete either one it will be a big accomplishment.

Decisions, decisions.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Tangled Weekend

Normally in a knitting blog the last word you want to use is tangled.  It conjures images of a snarled mess of yarn that you delicately pick at for hours before giving up and chucking across the room.

However, this past weekend the word tangled had nothing to do with a mess and everything to do with brilliance.  That is, when the word is capitalized as in the title of the forthcoming Disney movie Tangled, the 50th animated movie the company has done.



I had the great fortune to accompany my dear friend, who worked on the film, to the movie's wrap party this past Saturday night.  While I can't give any details about the plot of the movie, what I can say is that it is pure Disney magic.

It reminds me of the magic I felt when I watched Beauty and the Beast for the first time and Belle and the Beast enter the ballroom to dance together or The Little Mermaid when Ariel watches the prince longing to be a part of his world.  The sweeping beauty of the ballroom scene and the sweet innocence of Ariel is captured again in Tangled.

On top of the well written story, the animation is spectacular.  I do not believe that I have ever seen lighting that is so vibrant and alive before in an animated feature.  This movie would not have felt the same without the brilliant lighting effects.  Then there is the hair.  The hair is a character unto itself.  It is so lifelike that I often forgot it wasn't real human hair.

One of the things that I often find distracting in animated movies is the voice acting.  I feel like many times studios find a name actor to voice a character and all you end up hearing is that actor instead of the character.  That is not the case with Mandy Moore and Zachary Levi.  They voice the characters of Rapunzle and Flynn Rider so believable that all you hear is the character and Donna Murphy is excellent as Mother Gothel.  Her singing is as fantastic as one would expect from an actress that has performed the likes of Anna in  The King and I and Fosca in Passion on Broadway.

The icing on the cake, at least for this knitter, is the two times that the movie not only mentions knitting, but sings about it.  They may be short, fleeting moments, but they made me squeal with joy.

So, kid or adult, knitter or non-knitter, this is a quality movie that will make you glad Disney has made 50 animated movies and hopeful for what their next project will bring.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Crazy Reading Week

As much as I love knitting, there are some weeks where it just has to take a back seat to everything else.  This was one of those weeks.  I think I picked up my needles once since Sunday.

This is due in part to one of my other loves, reading. (The other craziness was work, but, trust me, that you don't want to hear about that.)  Like knitting, I usually have 2 or 3 books going at once and I bounce back and forth between the stories depending on my mood.  However, this week was dedicated entirely to The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson.

I started reading this book back in August after bowing to peer pressure.  I generally stay away from books that people are simply gushing over.  I know that may sound backwards, but I often find the book to be disappointing.   People often build up how great the book is and the expectations get set so high that it rarely lives up to the hype.  On the other hand, I am also the kind of person that doesn't like not understanding references to current happenings in pop culture. (This is why I subjected myself to watching sparkling vampires. Yikes!) Which means that in August this book hit the point when my need to get the references outweighed my possible disappointment.

I have to say that the book started out very slow.  I wasn't even sure that I was going to make it past the first chapters.  Then, about a quarter of the way through the book it started to get really interesting.  I was picking it up more frequently and getting caught up in the story.  Over this last week, I went from being fifty percent done with the book (I read on a kindle so my frame of reference is percentage complete instead of page numbers) to being eighty-six percent complete with the full intention of being done by tonight.

I will say that I found many of the scenes very disturbing (the author described in detail some very sadistic murders), but if you can get past that aspect it is a very interesting book.  I plan on reading the other two books in the series.  I have been told that the second book doesn't have quite the disturbing content that the first one does.  However, before I read The Girl Who Played with Fire, I think I will ease my mind a little by reading something like Confessions of a Shopaholic.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Reading is Fundamental

Ok, so I took my title from a PSA that played over and over again in my youth, but it doesn't change the fact that the statement is so true.

We start reading when we are very young.  We learn to read by first learning the individual letters of the alphabet.  We learn what they look like, what they sound like, and how they feel in our mouth.  We then learn to put them together and how they look and sound when combined.  Eventually, we graduate to the multi-syllabic monsters such as supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.

Everyone learns to read at a different rate.  Having two kids, I can certainly attest to how true that it.  I have one child that came home from his first day of kindergarten and exclaimed, "I can read," and he hasn't stopped since.  He reads and understands words that are well beyond his grade level.  It is instinctual to him.   On the other hand, my other child struggles everyday with her reading.  She wants so badly to be able to read like her brother, but it just doesn't come as easily for her.

What does this all have to do with knitting?

Reading is fundamental to knitting as well.  Not just reading patterns or a chart, but reading your stitches.  I knit for a long time without understanding how to read my stitches.  Others would talk about knitting and being able to tell what row of a pattern they were on by simply looking at the stitches hanging from the needle and I just couldn't see it.  It was frustrating to watch it come so easily for others and not for me.

To be honest, I didn't make much of an effort to learn to read my stitches.  I didn't see the value versus the effort it was taking to learn the skill.  That is until I realized that by learning to read my stitches I was going to catch and correct issues faster.  I wouldn't have to rip everything out and start over again, because I'd actually be able to tell where I went wrong.

Just like learning to read words, I had to start with the the building blocks: knit and purl.  I figured out how to really see these stitches with the help of the book Stitch 'N Bitch, by Debbie Stoller. If you are still unsure of your stitches, this book is a valuable reference.  Once I had those two stitches down, then it was easier to learn what the various combination of the two look like.   The more time I spent staring at the right and wrong side of the stitches the easier it was for me to recognize them on my needles the next time I saw them.

This skill has been especially helpful with knitting lace.  If I find that I have miscounted my stitches, it is easy enough to look back through the row I am on and find the exact stitch I need to go back to to fix the work.  I have done this exact thing at least 5 times in my current project.

I don't know how I survived for so long in the knitting world without this skill, but I am so glad that I took the time to learn to read my knitting.