Friday, July 25, 2014

Furry Friday: Fawns

Last Friday it was baby swans, this Friday it's baby deer!

We've had the pleasure of watching two sets of mama and baby whitetail deer from our back porch the last two weeks or so.
We've even gotten to see the two little ones frolick together. The fawns are just the sweetest things. Gotta love those white spots and huge ears!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Book Review: "Hyperbole and a Half" by Allie Brosh

"Hyperbole and a Half" by Allie Brosh
First published in 2013
Graphic novel
371 pages
My rating: 3.5 out of 5

(image source)

I was a little disappointed in "Hyperbole and a Half," a memoir in graphic novel form written by a popular blogger. I'd heard such good things about it and maybe my expectations were too high, but I just didn't find it to be that funny or captivating.

The label of graphic novel is a little misleading for this book; I'd describe it more as some anecdotes with digital illustrations scattered throughout. Sadly, I didn't really love the drawings... they didn't add much to the stories for me.

As for the writing, a few of Brosh's narratives are pretty cute. I liked the tales about the simple dog and the helper dog (their low-IQ pooch and the dog they adopted to be its friend), and the story of the goose getting into the house, but many of the rest didn't have much of a point to them. They weren't that funny and there was no real moral to the story. And then there were the randomly-mixed-in chapters on depression and anxiety, which were obviously not funny at all.

I definitely didn't hate "Hyperbole and a Half." It was good reading for my breaks at work when I felt like something light and easy, and Brosh's stories are mildly entertaining -- some even pretty funny. But overall the book lacked substance and organization; it felt like a bunch of random stories cobbled together. I gave it an extra half-point in my rating because there were so many stories about dogs, and I do love dogs.

For a better, funnier, somewhat similar read by a different blogger, check out Jenny Lawson's memoir, "Let's Pretend This Never Happened."

*This fulfills the Graphic Novel category for the Reading Outside the Box Challenge.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Knitting FO: Claude the Rat

Pattern: Rats by Sara Elizabeth Kellner
My Ravelry Project Page
Yarn: Caron Simply Soft scraps
I really enjoy mystery knit-alongs, and what could be better than an MKAL combined with instant gratification?! This fun rat pattern only took 4 days! I was a little disappointed on day 2 when I knitted a tail that looked suspiciously like it belonged to a certain rodent (I was hoping for something a little cuddlier) but I ended up loving my little rat, Claude.
He really is the cutest thing! The pattern was fun and simple; the only thing I'd do differently if I knit another rat is to put the ears closer to the top of the head. They're positioned more like elephant ears than rat ears, but I hate sewing knitted stuff together and I was too lazy to fix Claude's.

After Claude's foray into the great outdoors and feline confrontation, he decided he'd be happy to keep my Harry Potter books company (fitting, as he could easily be a wizard pet) and is currently residing on my bookshelf.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Feathered Friday

Happy Friday! I wanted to share some pictures of the adorable baby swans (aka "ugly ducklings") we encountered last weekend. My aunt and uncle have a lakeside cottage in northern Indiana and Jarrod and I stayed there over weekend. We were in the area for a family get-together and my mom flew in for the occasion.
Here's my mom and me with the swan family. Did you know baby swans are called cygnets?

Daddy Swan was a bit aggressive! We fed the swans some bread and Dad kept snatching it out of the water before the kids could get to it. There was a hilarious moment, though, where Dad had a piece of bread hanging out of his mouth and two or three babies attempted to rip it away from him. Dad started paddling angrily in circles, keeping the bread just out of the kids' grasp, and finally managed to scarf the chunk of bread down without sharing. The joys of parenthood, I guess! 

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Knitting FO: Spring Pea Shawl

Pattern: Passing Through Shawl by Debbi Stone
Yarn: Malabrigo Rios in Lettuce
I knitted my Grandma a shawl a couple of years ago -- from the beautiful Summer Flies pattern -- and I figured it was time for her to have something new. Her birthday was earlier this month and I thought that'd be the perfect occasion to give her a fresh shawl so she'd have it for fall's chilly nights.

I knew exactly what kind of pattern I wanted -- something warm with a pretty detail, preferably in worsted weight. I stumbled completely by accident upon just the perfect pattern in a knitting book a co-worker at the library had set aside for me.

The end result was exactly what I'd hoped for. I'm so glad I went with the green yarn; I was worried the lettuce colorway might be too lime-greenish and crazy, but it really goes fabulously with the pattern and I like to think it'll remind my grandma of spring flowers and sunshine when she dons it in the middle of dreary Indiana winter. I named it "Spring Pea" because the lace pattern in the green yarn is reminiscent of vines.

It ended up being great TV knitting, since the only part that required attention was the lace panel every other row. I finished up the audiobook of "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban" and listened to all of Tina Fey's "Bossypants" while I worked on it. Audiobooks really can be the perfect accompaniment to knitting. I'm working my way through the entire Harry Potter series on audiobook (they're fantastic!) and it really couldn't be better: HP + knitting + a cup of coffee = a perfect afternoon!

Here's my grandma and me last weekend, when I gave her the shawl:

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Top 10 TV Shows + Some I Want To Watch

The prompt for this week's Top Ten Tuesday at The Broke and the Bookish is top 10 favorite movies or TV shows. I decided to go with:

Top 10 Favorite TV Shows
I don't watch a ton of TV when it's actually on, but we do watch several shows on DVD, or we'll record an entire season of something on the DVR for viewing later. That really seems to be the best way to watch TV nowadays -- you get to skip all the commercials and watch all the episodes at your leisure (or in a binge!). These aren't really in any particular order; I love them all!

1. Game of Thrones
After the second episode of season 1, my husband and I were hooked! We even ordered HBO this spring just so we could watch season 4!

2. Elementary
I love this modern-day take on Sherlock Holmes, in which Watson is a woman (played by Lucy Liu).

3. Switched at Birth
Ahh, my guilty pleasure. This ABC Family show is about two teen girls who find out they were switched at birth -- and about so much more. One of the girls is deaf, so there's an entire deaf element. There are teenage angsty problems and romantic relationships, but we also see into the lives of their parents and siblings. Drama everywhere!

4. Downton Abbey
The second I heard the title of this show, before I even knew had a clue what it was about, I somehow knew I would love it. I enjoy the progression through the years, the changing of the times, the upstairs/downstairs element... oh, and the clothes!

5. Homeland
This CIA thriller of a show captivates us, and as an Air Force spouse I like the military component. We just finished watching season 2 on DVD and we're anxiously awaiting the release of season 3!

TURN is a new show that just aired this spring on AMC. It's a dramatization of the true story of "America's first spy ring" -- formed during the American revolution and made up of childhood friends. The depictions of colonial life were enough to hook me in, but the story is interesting and I love historical fiction!

7. Deadliest Catch
We always watch this show about crab fishing in the Bering Sea. I'm not normally one for reality TV, but this show rocks!

8. Bones
We started watching Bones on Netflix last winter and loved it! We only made it through season 1 but we'll eventually watch the rest. Dr. Brennan is badass!

And two that aren't on anymore:
9. Gilmore Girls
I watched the entire show a couple years ago when we were in Hawaii; a friend was kind of enough to loan me all the DVDs. I wished I had watched it in high school and college when it was actually on -- Rory is a great role model, and she worked at the school paper and got a journalism degree just like me!

10. American Dreams
I adored this show that took place in the 1960s and dealt with everything from race relations and the Vietnam War to high school football and American Bandstand. I so wish they'd release more than just season 1 on DVD!

And a few that I want to watch:

1. Breaking Bad

2. Foyle's War

3. Call the Midwife

4. Murdoch Mysteries

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Knitting FO: Mt. Wai'ale'ale Scarf

Mt. Wai'ale'ale Scarf
My Ravelry project page
Pattern: Lace Ribbon Scarf by Veronik Avery
Yarn: Malabrigo Sock in Solis

Posting about this scarf is long overdue as I finished it -- and took these pictures, as you can see by the leafless trees -- way back in January! (Don't let the sunshine and hints of green grass fool you -- a week later we were in the midst of the coldest, most miserable winter Ohio has seen in decades!)
I named it Mt. Wai'ale'ale after the stunning Kauai volcanic crater pictured above -- one of the wettest spots on earth. We were lucky enough to cruise inside the crater on a helicopter tour and it was absolutely breathtaking. The lace pattern on the scarf reminded me of the water cascading down the sides of the moss-covered rock.
It is incredibly hard to photograph teal and turquoise, and the scarf looks more blue than it really is. In reality, it's a lovely teal with little flecks of lighter turquoisey-green here and there.

A few years ago, I knit a Lace Ribbon Scarf for a going-away gift and was sad to part with it. It was a pretty purple color and possibly my favorite thing I'd knitted up to that point. It took lots of focus and concentration, but the effort paid off and I was thrilled with the stunning lavender scarf I made for my boss. I vowed that I would make one for myself one day -- whenever we moved to a climate where I'd actually need winter accessories.

This time around -- with a couple more years of knitting experience under my belt -- I had to laugh at how simple this scarf was to make. The lace pattern is easy to memorize and made for excellent TV knitting. And whereas the scarf captivated me the first time, I got extremely bored with the project this go-round; I had planned to just knit until I ran out of yarn and it turned into The Scarf That Never Ends. I guess I'm more for instant-gratification knitting these days. Funny what a few years of practice will do!

Monday, July 7, 2014

My Etsy Wish List: July

It's been over six months since I've done an Etsy wish-list post and I figured it was time to share some lovely new finds with you. You can see four of my favorite things reflected here: books, letter-writing, knitting and jewelry.

Etsy shop: bluedogrose
8x10 print: $35
This great shop -- a recent discovery -- deserves the top spot on my wish list because I love every single piece of whimsical artwork for sale! It's tough to pick a favorite, but I'm strongly considering purchasing this print for the guestroom. I adore the rabbits, the red chair, the cozy feeling, and of course the books!

Etsy shop: Visuaria
11x14 print: $19
I like everything about this eye-catching print!

Etsy shop: MeAndMyTee
T-shirt: $20
This shirt would be perfect to wear to work at the library on days when I feel like being casual! 

Etsy shop: MisterStamp
Wax seal with one wax block: $21.99
I've been considering purchasing a wax seal for my letters for months now. And I'm pretty sure a wax seal + Harry Potter = the coolest letters ever. 

Etsy shop: ahueofduckeggblue
Rubber stamp: $10-12
What a fun way to decorate the envelopes when I write to my penpals!

Etsy shop: witandwhistle
4 cards: $7.50
More letter-writing supplies! These snail mail note cards are cute and clever.

Etsy shop: HouseRabbitHandcraft
Shirt: $22.50
This shirt says "I heart knitting" -- and I heart this shirt! I'd be curious to see how many people understood the picture; maybe I'd meet some fellow knitters!

Etsy shop: HapaGirls
Bracelet: $49
This bracelet handcrafted from copper and sterling silver is just gorgeous -- and it reminds me of all the wonderful days we spent at the beach in Hawaii. I have plenty of necklaces and earrings but very few bracelets, and I'd like to start incorporating them into my wardrobe.

Etsy shop: Bstamped
Bracelet: $18
I really like this sentiment. Too often I worry about doing the wrong thing, messing up or looking dumb. This bracelet tells me to say yes, be spontaneous, have fun and enjoy life.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Book Review: "All Fall Down" by Jennifer Weiner

"All Fall Down" by Jennifer Weiner
First published in 2014
381 pages
My rating: 2.5 out of 5
(image source)

Jennifer Weiner strays off the beaten path of chick-lit with her latest novel, "All Fall Down," which deals with addiction to painkillers -- and which I did not enjoy, mostly because the main character was a total whiny bitch.

I applaud Weiner for tackling a serious issue -- and drug addiction IS a serious issue, and the takeaway from "All Fall Down" is that addiction can happen to people you'd never expect, even a mom who seems perfectly together and looks like she's got it all -- but this book was brutal. I don't know if I've ever detested a main character the way I did Allison. Even during her inevitable redemption at the close of the novel, I struggled to root for her.

Allison lives in a big house in the Philadelphia suburbs, writes five days a week for a popular women's blog and cares for her temperamental 6-year-old daughter. Her marriage is rocky and her father has Alzheimer's and the mean comments people leave on her blog posts hurt her feelings. She has some Vicodin left over from a herniated disc and she takes one to relax here and there. Shockingly quickly, one Vicodin every so often turns into more than two dozen OxyContin a day; soon, Allison's life is falling apart as her need for pills becomes top priority.

Everyone has problems, and I'm sure we we can all think of people whose daily lives are exponentially more of a struggle than Allison's... but they manage to get through the day without crunching up double-digits of OxyContin. So why on earth should we feel sorry for Allison? I could not relate to Allison's decisions, and because she was so gratingly whiny and full of excuses and convinced that she was the only one competent enough to manage everything, I wasn't able to muster any empathy or compassion for the hole she dug herself into.

On top of the annoying woe-is-me attitude Weiner gave our main character, I didn't love her writing style here -- too many long, windy paragraphs about childhood memories or that time we went fishing on our honeymoon. And I felt Weiner overused pop culture references -- "Game of Thrones," Whole Foods, Pinterest, the novel "Wonder," Lululemon yoga pants, etc., etc., on and on.

I generally enjoy Weiner's novels, but "All Fall Down" was a miss for me. Still, there's a chance that someone will avoid prescription pill addiction -- or get a wake-up call about their pill problem -- because they read this book, and it's hard to argue with that.
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