Wednesday, September 27

Thank you!

Thanks for all your compliments on the redesign! Since a few of you asked how I made my site look less Blogger-y, I'll just answer here. My blog template is from thur's templates - you can see the options on the left sidebar there. There are some other template sites out there, a quick google search should turn them up. You can customize your template in terms of color, column width, etc, and add your own pretty background and banner. Have fun with it! Oh, and if you're having trouble picking out a color scheme, this site is a huuuuge help.

I've had a great few days - Sunday I went to Adrian's and tried out three of her wheels - the Louet S17 and S75 and the Kromski Polonaise. I'm really leaning to the S75 now, but I'm going to think it over for a little while longer. Then we went to the Boston Knit Out, which was fun, if only for the awesome people I got to meet and hang out with (Monica, Carole, Heather, Kate, and a few blogless folks). We all had a great time, I think - went out to lunch nearby and then hit up Windsor Button (where surprisingly few purchases were made!).

Then Monday was my birthday! I had a ton of fun and ordered some very silly drinks, and now I'm reveling in the fact that I can buy a bottle of wine whenever the hell I want. Brian did a fabulous job with gifts, including the Trois Couleurs box set (!) and the entirely overwhelming Silver Spoon cookbook. Thank you, honey!

Last night we watched The Princess and the Warrior, directed by Lola rennt's Tom Tykwer and starring the glorious Franka Potente. I was all set to love this one, buuuut....

from The Princess and the Warrior

I guess it seemed a little pointless in the end? There were some great moments and I liked the style and pace, but I didn't buy the whole "it was fate, they were meant to be together" concept. Am I missing the point? He saved her life, and then she effectively saved his by allowing him to move on after his wife's death. Everything else, especially the mental hospital and Steini, felt unnecessary. Anyway. I liked it well enough. Brian thought the score (lots of tinkling piano) was annoying. I thought Franka Potente acted her part beautifully, with the perfect amount of quiet determination. I'm giving it three stars.

Expect finished sock pictures tomorrow - they're going to be awesome.

Saturday, September 23

Slight redesign

I did a little futzing with the blog's design - it should be easier to read now, and prettier! Let me know if it looks weird on your browser or if you think it's ugly/too blue.

I dyed some roving today! I don't think I felted it, but I guess I won't know until I try to draft it. I also spun up some of the "mangoes" BFL. It stayed a little overspun even after I set the twist, but that doesn't bother me too much. Here's a shot of my predrafted strips of roving - I lovingly call them "dreampuffs":


And just so you know: while I have gone to the dark side (Ms. Jacqueline!), I am and probably always will be a knitter first. Spinning is shaping up to be great on its own, but my goal is to be able to knit with what I spin.

Hope everyone's having a nice weekend!

Friday, September 22

The first ever spinning post.

Guys. Drop spindles? Not so easy to use. At about 11 this morning I tore into the spindle kit and fiber I ordered from Adrian's shop (an awesome purchase, fyi, if you're looking to start spinning). I'd done my homework and watched all the videos there were to watch.

Haul from Hello Yarn
My package - top-whorl spindle, 1lb undyed BFL, 4oz beautifully dyed BFL, and a surprise - some merino to try out!

So. Instant success? Not exactly. I botched more than a few strips of roving before I realized I needed to stop, slow down, and rethink what I was doing.

One thing that would have been nice to know is that it's OKAY if the yarn twists back on itself - I was freaking out, thinking that I was drastically overspinning. First, I learned that sometimes that's what you want if you're planning to ply it, and second, you can fix the twisting on singles when you set the twist (by soaking the yarn for a while and hanging it in a skein, with weight if it's really curly). That's a really important step that I knew next to nothing about, and because of that a few early attempts were abandoned and sacrificed to the fiber gods.

But. Now my first wee bit of yarn is sitting here in front of me. It's not more than a few yards, and it's a little fuzzy, but surprisingly even! I learned quickly that predrafting is very, very important (yes, Adrian, I did read your note about that, but my first few strips ended up being too thick/wide anyway, at least thicker than I was comfortable with).

Here's my baby!
My first yarn!

A better look at it... maybe it's not as even as I thought it was. Whatever!
First spun yarn

I think spinning on a wheel will be more comfortable for me. It was really frustrating having to stop and give the spindle another flick to keep things going. On a wheel, with my feet treadling, I'll have both hands to focus on drafting and controlling the twist of the yarn. I can't wait to try, and I only have to wait until Sunday!

Oh, and:

Maybe I'll see some of you there? I'll probably have the second Sock Hop knee sock in tow.

Wednesday, September 20

Perfect socks and a word about my mother

Sock Hop sock #1 - done!

The first Sock Hop sock is done! I'm saving the modeled pictures until the second sock is done, but let me tell you... the fit is perfect. Just check out those calf increases1 I get this stupid grin on my face whenever I try it on, just ask Brian. They're almost knee sock length, a little too short - but I did manage to end up with just this much yarn left over! I did some crazy sewn bind-off that I don't think was exactly meant for 2x2 ribbing, but it looks pretty clean and manages to be sturdy and stretchy at the same time. I am VERY pleased. Casting on for the second one presently.

Now. It's no secret that my mother reads this blog - in fact, even my grandparents pop in from time to time. Well, anyway. Mom and I hadn't settled on a birthday gift for this year (21 being sort of a major birthday) so yesterday I emailed her with a couple of suggestions: a sewing machine, or if she was feeling really generous, a spinning wheel. She called me right away and we talked about it, and, well, remember this post? She casually asked if I would prefer a wheel over the Janus set, and I said of course - it's a much better use of the money, having something that I can actually use and get something back from, and anyway I can watch all those movies without having the set. And she says, get this: "So I guess I should cancel the order on the set, huh?"

She placed an order for the Janus box set. The set that I never expected to have, not in a million years, not ever. Speechless. I just. She's already so wonderful and totally supportive of me, and then she goes and makes a gesture like that on top of everything? We've been through a lot together, the two of us, and I guess I wanted to acknowledge, publicly, what an awesome woman she is.

The long and short of it? I have the most wonderful, giving mother in the world. And you'll be seeing some wonderfully lumpy beginner's handspun yarn here very soon! I'm in the process of picking out a wheel (with Adrian's help, what a godsend), so if any of you have advice on learning to spin, different wheels, etc., please do share - I'd love to hear about your experiences.

Monday, September 18

Starz in my eyes

If anyone on my Netflix friends list is wondering why I watched so much crap this weekend... it's Comcast's fault. They gave us a Starz free preview. For many people, this wouldn't mean much: they'd go along with their weekend as usual, maybe catching a movie or two if something decent was on.

For me, though, it meant parking my ass in front of the TV and cramming in as many movies as possible. Movies I would never watch under other circumstances, not willingly. Free! One weekend only! Bad movies! How can I resist? So, um, here's a little rundown of the damage:

The Baxter - 5 stars. This was so much better and funnier than we were expecting it to be. I looooove Michael Showalter (and Stella and everyone in this movie) and I'm so glad that his directorial debut was a success! And Michelle Williams was just adorable. "Baja cuisine!"
The Sea Inside - 4 stars. A beautiful, powerful film with a really impressive performance by Bardem (not to mention the supporting cast).
Finding Neverland - 4 stars. Very pleasant and nicely done.
The Ballad of Jack and Rose - 3 stars. I found this one pretty hard to like... I'm used to films being beautiful and unsettling at the same time, but there was something about it that left me wrinkling my nose a bit. I need to think about it a little more.
Layer Cake - 3 stars. Another fast-talking British crime/heist drama, starring the new James Bond. There was nothing bad about it, and you'll love it if you're into that kind of movie (and can follow all the double-crosses).

And the rest? Well.... everything else I watched got two stars: Hostage, November (ugh), Manic, The Exorcism of Emily Rose, Pretty Persuasion, Flightplan (but <3 Peter Sarsgaard), Lords of Dogtown, Cube Zero, and Blade Trinity. Also Proof, which Brian liked but I found to be a little flat. I saw the play on Broadway (with Jennifer Jason Leigh in the lead) and I felt like the film lost most of the punch and drama and tension that the play had. Or maybe it's that I don't like Gwyneth Paltrow?

With all that sitting on my ass, you better believe I had some time to knit!

Sock Hop sock in progress

I am sooooooo in love with this yarn. Ohmygod. The striping! I could stare at this sock all day. And you should see how much yarn I still have in this skein. I can't wait to see how long I can get the leg to be. I think I'm actually going to savor knitting the second sock in this pair, can you believe it?

My birthday is in one week! Yessssss. Which one of you is springing for that Janus box set? The ice cream maker attachment for my Kitchen Aid? Come onnnnn guys, you know I'd do the same for you! Oh, I kid. It's my 21st, I'll settle for a drink if you see me out and about somewhere :)

Friday, September 15

An open letter to Jay McCarroll

Dear Jay McCarroll,

I love your new collection. Love. It. God. I've been watching it pop up on gettyimages for the past few minutes, and I'm totally sold. Favorite pieces? The patchwork tunic top. The yellow dress. The silky skirts! The green jacket. Black polka dot dress. I could go on. Your use of color is still spot on - matchy matchy my ass. I think the menswear is kickin', too. And the yellow piece with the big bow - an homage to Allison from season 3? Of course not, but it just goes to show.

I just hope (pray?) that you're serious about this collection being accessable to us laypeople. I mean, I will pay an arm and a leg for you. No questions asked. But I'd love to have 3 or 4 of your pieces, and not just... a hat. Dig?

You're brilliant. Never change.

(Um, if I haven't mentioned it before... I love Project Runway, and IMO none of the final collections have even remotely matched up to Jay's from season 1... not even the ones from this season, which I'll admit I've already peeked at.)

Das Experiment & del Toro love.

title screen from Das Experiment

So. Das Experiment. I admit, it really surprised me. Sometimes I don't really read up on films before I watch them; a friend's recommendation or stills that I've seen can be enough for me to go on. That was the case with this one - Brian wanted to see it and, well, Moritz Bleibtreu is awesome. I assumed that Das Experiment was going to be more of a sci-fi jaunt, judging mostly by the DVD cover.

Wrong, wrong, wrong. Turns out, Das Experiment is all about psychology (and a little bit of violence). It's a reinterpretation of the Stanford Prison Experiment - which I am, and anyone else who's taken a social psychology class is, quite familiar with.

from Das Experiment

It was really interesting to see all the concepts I'd studied in class come into play - how quickly the guards took to authority just from donning their uniforms, how their roles became so deeply internalized. There are shades of the actual footage from Stanford, and although the film is ficionalized, the similarity of the narratives is striking. Of course, Das Experiment takes the concept to extremes, but the situation escalates in a way that is not entirely unthinkable. It's scary to see people behave the way they do in the film. It's even more unsettling to know that some people did, and to such an extent that the real experiment was aborted after only 6 days. Human nature - it's a bitch.

More movie news: as some of you might be aware, the Toronto International Film Festival is drawing to a close. I've been keeping track, casually, of what's been screened and how things are being received. I'd say the film I'm most excited about (excited isn't even the word... I can't even sit still) is Guillermo del Toro's Pan's Labyrinth.

from Pan's Labyrinth
The same still that's floating around a ton of other blogs.

His last Spanish-language film, The Devil's Backbone, is a favorite of mine; gorgeous and complicated, frightening and... to me, flawless. You should see it. Pan's Labyrinth looks to be in the same vein, stylistically - a rich horror/fantasy story immersed in a politically volatile time in Spain's history. The world that del Toro has created, both the real and the fantasy, look spectacular, and, well... there's this. The reviews I've read have all been overwhelmingly positive (it got a standing ovation in Toronto), and it's really tearing me up that we have to wait until December 29th to see it. But. What a Christmas present it will be!

PS - started the Sock Hop toe-ups. Looooooove 'em. Someday I will spin sock yarn of my own like this, I hope I hope.

Thursday, September 14

Socks, and more socks.

So, that Janus box set I just posted about? I've come to terms with the fact that I'll probably never have it (even though my birthday is in two weeks, and when you do the math, 50 dvds for $650 is a great deal, and when you throw in the book....) But there's good news: IFC just announced that they'll be airing 3 of the Janus films every Tuesday night in October and November! Of course, to catch them all I'll have to stay up until 2am each Tuesday, but it's a sacrifice I'm willing to make.

The Conwys are done, at least:
Conwy - done!

Finished with the star toe, my current favorite. The pooling in this colorway of Shepards Sock, Tahoe, is quite nice - the reddish-purple being the dominant color and the rest blending together.
Conwy - done!

I'm finding that, nearly every time, going up a needle size or a half with Nancy Bush patterns gives me a perfect fit. Conwy called for 2.25mm needles, and I used 2.5's (Inox bamboo dpns - these are some of my favorite needles and I can't find more of them ANYWHERE!)

I think I'll cast on for another pair of socks tonight... maybe a simple toe-up pattern with the red Sock Hop handspun I posted a while back. Has anyone used the generic pattern from the summer Knitty? Looks pretty straightforward. I've made a pair toe-up before, for Brian, and they turned out rather well. Except that I bound them off too tight. So he never wears them. Ahem.

Oh, and real quick - on Tuesday night my friend Deborah from high school came over for dinner. It was quite lovely - I made the Barefoot Contessa's "Chicken with 40 cloves of garlic" (a la Amateur Gourmet) and Deb brought us some gorgeous flowers!
bouquet from deb - lovely

When I re-cut them and changed the water today I got a chance to better see what was in the bouquet - snapdragons! A sunflower! So great. The best part is that the cats haven't chewed it up at all; I think this means we should have flowers in the house more often.

We're watching Das Experiment right now. Very interesting! Will post thoughts tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 13

All I can say is....

Holy. Fucking. Shit.

Excuse me, I have to go root around for spare body parts to sell, because really, this is more essential than a kidney.

Saturday, September 9

It's hard out here for a temp

I'm exhausted. I started temping last Wednesday, and after spending an entire summer with no schedule... getting myself out the door and onto a crowded T at 8:20 is no small feat. The jobs themselves haven't been very hard (this past week I was filling in for a receptionist at a law firm) but by the time I get home all I want to do is lie down, and I end up totally conked out around 9pm.

So, there hasn't been too much knitting, and there's been even less movie-watching. The first Conwy sock is done, and I'm at the heel on the second. I'm going to try to finish up this weekend. It's a fun little pattern, and can definitely handle a variegated yarn if it's subtle enough.

I've had a TON of time to read, though, at these jobs. And that's a good thing, since before I could barely remember the last time I actually finished a book. It's pitiful. This week I finally finished "White Noise" by Don DeLillo, which I'd started in July, and I read "Love Medicine" by Louise Erdrich in about two days. It was really quite good - sort of a mix between "As I Lay Dying" and "One Hundred Years of Solitude," but about Chippewas in North Dakota. Now I'm reading "The Plot Against America" by Phillip Roth, which I also like except I'm afraid it's going to distort my view of history; I constantly have to remind myself that it's fiction, and that things didn't actually happen that way.

But movies? I feel like it's been forever since I've written a review. And meanwhile my dear friend Dana started her own movie blog (which you must check out/bookmark) and she's totally showing me up by writing about every movie she rents. And promptly. So, um, until I get back on the horse, read Dana's blog. I trust her taste 100% (okay, maybe more like 95% - Club Dread, really? It didn't get more of a chuckle out of me) and she writes well, damnit.

Here's something, though: a few weeks ago we got around to watching The Conversation, an oft overlooked Francis Ford Coppola film starring Gene Hackman. Brian was looking forward to seeing it because it was inspired by Michelangelo Antonioni's 1966 film, Blow Up (which Brian had studied in a class last spring). Each film is good, solid, on its own, but watching them close together (as I did) heightens the experience. The films play out the same story in two very different styles, with two very different protagonists. Blow Up is set in the swinging 1960's world of a suave, successful, jaded fashion photographer with a bit of a dark side. He casually takes some pictures of a couple in a park, and when the woman (Vanessa Redgrave) is desperate to get the negatives back from him he realizes there might be more to what he shot than meets the eye.

from Blow Up

The Conversation unfolds in the reclusive, secretive world of a seasoned wiretapper - it comes off as a more serious film from the start. Harry Caul (Hackman) obsesses over a seemingly harmless conversation between a young couple who are having an affair.

from The Conversation

Both men can't help but feel like they've witnessed something very wrong, and trying to find out what that is awakens lost feelings in both of them - they are energized, frenzied, pulled out of themselves and into a mystery. The photographs are enlarged until they're grainy and abstract, the tapes replayed, searched for hidden meanings. Many viewers might consider The Conversation a "better" film (and it is very well done, in the pacing and the acting, and it's more "psychological" in the way American cinema is), but the ending of Blow Up really pulled it all together for me. Overall the imagery was richer, and I think Antonioni took more risks (though The Conversation was groundbreaking, too, at its release).

Oh! I'll end on a foodie note. My favorite soup has been, for a long time, a Greek lemon chicken soup that my mother makes. I finally got the recipe from her when I went home last month and made a batch on Labor Day. It was my first time making soup, and to my surprise it tasted the same as hers! It's really freaking good. This recipe is exactly the same as the one I used, so give it a try sometime - it may seem a little fiddly, with the roux and the egg whites, but have faith! It's incredible stuff.