Month: February 2008

Easy Drop Stitch Scarf in Noro Silk Garden

My first Noro experience! It was on clearance and a steal at $6 a skein. It was scratchy, but I soaked it in Eucalan bath for blocking and I’m not one that is averse to textured fabric.

Noro Silk Garden dropped stitches

The pattern is quick, reversible, and easy to memorise. I highly recommend it for any colourful yarn you may have to use. Two skeins of Noro yielded less than 50″ scarf, but I was able to block about 20″ out of it.

Noro Silk Garden Drop Stitch ScarfDrop Stitch Scarf, started February 23rd, 2008, finished February 24th, 2008 Ravelry Project Page
Pattern: Drop Stitch Scarf by Christine of Frazzled Knits Ravelry Pattern Page
Size: 67″ x 7″ blocked.
Yarn: Noro Silk Garden (45% silk 45% kid mohair 10% Lambswool) 50g 100m in #233 (discontinued) – 2 skeins
Needles: #8/5mm bamboo straights
Cost of Project: $12 for yarn.
Would I knit it again? Yes.

Who is your favorite female lead character? And why? (And yes, of course, you can name more than one . . . I always have trouble narrowing down these things to one name, why should I force you to?) – BTT

I always dislike favourite questions because I can never narrow it down to one or two. Here’s the list I could think off the top of my head:

Elizabeth Bennet of P&P – I like her moxie. Heh.

Anne of Anne of Green Gables – I have only read one Anne book, and like thousands of others, she won my heart.

Jane Eyre – Enough said.

Cassandra from I Capture the Castle – Unrequired love, this girl can relate.

Death from the Sandman series – She’s not exactly a female lead, but she is awesome.

Viola from Twelth Night – Fun times cross dressing.

Wendy from Peter Pan – Now, I’m just being maudlin.

Natasha from War and Peace -  Her transformation to naive girl to mature woman through war and romantic mistakes makes her the best female Tolstoy character.

Thursday Next – Well, she’s pretty much done everything.

Hmm, this list seems very short. There are most likely more.

A memoir of looking for pleasure, devotional and the balance of the two in Italy, India, and Indonesia. I first started reading last spring/summer, but then I had to return it to the library. It was already a bestseller, but it’s only gotten more popular (as it was featured in Oprah) since then. Some people have been critical of the book for being self-absorbed. I’ve read a lot of travel books and memoirs, and they are all personal in one way or another. Travel is one of the ultimate self-confrontational and education experiences in life. Writing a memoir means evaluation of self, ideas, etc. I can understand why this book probably rubs some people the wrong way. Elizabeth Gilbert can be rather melodramatic writer. Yes, it can be amusing, but sometimes, the writing is seems affected and hammy especially in early chapters. Everything is pointed out, but not in an observant or subtle way. It got a lot better as the book progressed and she traveled more. As she seemed to learn more about life, spirituality, and other people, the book became a fun and enjoyable read. Partly because the author and I share similar interests in spirituality, and there are few things she tried in the book that I have been pondering myself. The book is not the best or most educational travel memoir book, and it’s very personal. Overall, it was a good read, but I understand why the narrative would not be everyone’s cup of tea.

All other things (like price and storage space) being equal, given a choice in a perfect world, would you rather have paperbacks in your library? Or hardcovers? And why? – BTT

Hardcovers. I know. I’m such a traditionalist, but they even smell differently in their new conditions. For paperbacks, I only really like trade paperbacks because the covers are more durable and the paper less cheap. In the end, portability of paperbacks is not always my priority as I tend to do a lot of my leisure reading at home where I snuggle up with a big book. I like books that last a long time. For centuries even and hard cover, acid free paper is probably where it’s at. This is why I love the Everyman’s Library editions.

Pumpkin Scones

Pumpkin season is over, but do you have a can of puree? If not get some for this wonderful tea time snack.

This was my third Joy of Baking recipe. I am consistently pleased with the results from the recipes I have made. All of them have been delicious and well thought out.
Continue reading →

Set in South Africa, this 1983 Booker Prize Winner by Nobel Laureate (2003) J. M. Coetzee is about a man surviving amidst war, civil unrest, and poverty. There are no chapters, but three sections divide book. The first covers more than 2/3 of the novel. The plot is one of the most depressing I have read in a long time. The prose is stark and observant. Michael K. is a mysterious yet simple character at the same time. The novel makes you ask a lot of questions about the setting, the characters, and the overall meaning and moral of this novel. It was a quick read at 249pages. The writing was bare, but there were some wonderful lines:

I come from a line of children of no end.

Another excerpt:

He is like a stone, a pebble that, having lain around quietly minding its own business since the dawn of time, is now suddenly picked up and tossed randomly from hand to hand. A hard little stone, barely aware of its surroundings, enveloped in itself and it interior life…An unbearing, unborn creature.

There is doubtlessly a lot of criticism and interpretation of this work. There seems to be debates about Michael’s race/ethnicity. Is he black or white? There were indications in the book that he goes either way, but Michael himself does not seem to see race. Michael’s intelligence or intellectual capabilities are questioned. He does not seem to have much of a sex drive, and his upbringing lacked intimacy or any fun. Finally, the setting is almost dystopian and some critics debate about the actual time of the book. It’s hard to say if I liked it or how soon I will pick up another of Coetzee’s work again, but it was fascinating read.

TSSIt’s been a good week for reading. I finished V for Vendetta after last TSS, finished Eugene Onegin by Wednesday and I listened to Shakespeare: The World As Stage by Bill Bryson yesterday (review below). Today, I started to read Life and Times of Michael K by J. M. Coetzee. I am about half way through the book now. It is not very long, but there are no chapters. It reminds me a bit of McCarthy’s The Road. I only learned recently Coetzee is South African, and I did not know anything about the book before I started reading it today. With a lot of books, I have no idea what the plot will be. I rather just dive in to the story than look at the synopsis on the cover. It makes the reading experience more interesting. I also find that plots that may sound boring end up being well told and engaging with its characters. A plot summary can seem interesting, but the writing can be slow as molasses.

Now a review of Shakespeare: The World As Stage by Bill Bryson.

I listened to the complete audiobook yesterday. It’s quite a short book about Shakespeare, but it covers many details and the lack there of of William Shakespeare’s life. Bill Bryson is an author I’ve liked for years, and he is consistently an informative and shrewd writer. This was my first time reading a book of Shakespeare’s life, but I’ve been aware of the debates of the doubts of his identity, sexuality, genius, etc. What Bryson sought out to do in the book is to avoid speculation that seems to run rampant among scholars and other biographies about Shakespeare. He evaluates and summarises the small amount of real information about Shakespeare we have at present. The book is a good as a brush up on the Elizabethan and early Jacobite eras. I learned quite a bit about the evolution of the human language, people, dress, and cities of the time. Bryson avoids making any big and blanket statements about the kind of man Shakespeare was, but he does shoot down theories about the idea that William Shakespeare was actually Bacon/ Marlowe/ Earl of Oxford/ your mother, etc. He also provides insights from historians and scholars either directly interviewing them or referencing their work. I think it is a really good introduction to Shakespeare that can provide grounding for further scholarly study about the man and the myth. A quick and recommended read.

See my vest

See my vest!

When I first saw this pattern in the book, I was not that into it. First of all, this is my first real sweater vest. I haven’t ever owned or wore vests even though my style can be described as sometimes being on the preppy side (love those blouses). Also, I do not like u-necks; I’m a v-neck girl. My decision to make the vest came when I realized that the wool would be affordable, and the patterns in this book do seem fitted and relatively easy. With that in mind, I made a few mods to the vest to my style.

I lengthened the ribbed body by an inch, lowered the neck, did 3 repeats of the bust increases of 5, made the straps 11 sts instead of 14, used three needle BO instead of seaming, and I used 4.0mm needle (I didn’t have a 3.75 circ) to do 2 purl rounds on the edgings on the neck and the armholes. My gauge swatch was over by half a stitch, but it ended up still working out. I’m often between 34-36 in bust any way. In the end, I only used 2 full skeins of the Patons which means it was a cheap and relatively fast knit.

See my vest and hair

Even though it turned out okay, I won’t knit this again. The ribbing and the bust increases were fine, but I found out that I sort of suck at reverse shaping and decreasing. The straps are not symmetrical at all, and I ran into problems with the back shaping and the edgings too. It was not as fun towards the end, and I rather try knitting other vests. I think I will wear this, but not sure how often.

It also was my first time wash blocking. I bought some Eucalan in Lavender to wash this and future knits. After I soaked it, I put it in a pillowcase and ran it through the Delicates Spin cycle and that saved a lot of time in drying. I love Eucalan, and I wish I had bought it earlier. My knits came out soft and smelling wonderful.

Back-to-School U-Neck Vest, started January 24th, 2008, finished February 15th, 2008 Ravelry Project Page
Pattern: Back-to-School U-Neck Vest by Stefanie Japel from Fitted Knits Ravelry Pattern Page
Size 34″
Yarn: Patons Classics Merino Wool (100% merino wool – 223yds/204m – 100g) in #00231 Natural Chestnut – 2 balls
Needles: 4.5mm/US#7 100cm/40″ bamboo circs (Magic Looping as usual) and 4.0mm/#6 16″ circ for edgings
Modifications: Lengthened ribbing, narrowed straps, three needle BO for straps, lowered neckline, 2 purl rounds for edging
Lessons Learned: Three needle BO, LLI and RLI, and some general shaping.
Cost of Project: $12 for yarn.
Would I knit it again? No.

A novel in verse about the romance between the cynical dandy Eugene Onegin and Tatyana, a bookish country girl. The story itself is not particularly unique or special, but I liked this novel from the first page. I can easily see myself rereading it in years just because I find the writing style wonderful and engaging. It is written entirely of iambic tetrameter. Aleksandr Pushkin is considered as the founder of modern Russian literature; his Russian style influenced all the writers after him. He even appears as a character and tells the story as if he personally knew them all in real life. He is a bit meta in the story telling, such as in this passage: Continue reading →

This week’s question is from the lovely Chris:

Here’s something for Valentine’s Day.

Have you ever fallen out of love with a favorite author? Was the last book you read by the author so bad, you broke up with them and haven’t read their work since? Could they ever lure you back? BTT

I don’t think this has happened to me for writers. Generally with authors I’ve read more than one book and stopped, I get bored or “grow” out of their books. For example, Meg Cabot: straightforward chick lit that can sometimes get a laugh out of me, but I haven’t read any of her books in awhile though. Most of the time, I want to read books from authors I haven’t read in awhile. I’m very understanding with my authors if they screw up, I know they can write better. I forgive and move on.

Before reading this graphic novel, I had read Alan Moore’s other acclaimed work Watchmen. I enjoyed it, but I’m inclined to think right now V for Vendetta has some even better writing. Moore is a brilliant author who imbues poetic prose and engrossing narrative in graphic works. His characters are fascinating if not compelling. When I was reading this, I was afraid the darkness of dystopia would bring my mood down, but there were a couple of wonderful moments of beauty in this. Moore and co-author David Lodge weave a novel about society, politics, integrity, love, revenge, anarchy, fascism, security, and freedom. V is an intriguing character; a mad genius whose actions I do not necessarily condone, but whose arc makes this novel: “It’s everything, Evey. The perfect entrance, the grand illusion. It’s everything.” While the novel has extremities, there is a moral grey side to it. The work does probe at the human capacity for indifference and to be controlled. A great graphic novel.

I watched the film adaptation more than a year ago. I liked it, and I understand that while Moore does not, Lodge does. I consider them different entities as a result of the changes. While they are not completely divergent, they are notable changes to the ending and fates of characters. The graphic novel is understandably more involved and includes more characters and stories. I highly recommend reading the book, and then watching the movie.

The few positives of this book are that James Fenimore Cooper does his best to create a narrative of frontier life with themes of racism and friendship. I also did not dislike any of the characters, but the only ones I truly like die. This was not my original choice for Decades 1820’s, and I must say that particular decade does not have any many enticing classic books. This novel was boring. I blame Cooper’s prose which is a bit wordy, but not as crazy as Dickens. At least Dickens seems to take fun in verbosity, but Cooper seems to take himself too seriously. He has footnotes about historical facts, and at times, it could very dry in the academic sense. The character dialogue was better than the descriptions, but even though, I found myself constantly drifting. I am not one to turn my nose up at lengthy prose as I like Tolstoy, Garcia Marquez, Steinbeck and others who write epic novels. Also, books published around the same time are just more enjoyable reads. Frankenstein was a lot more interesting.

The 1992 movie is not like the book, and apparently based on another movie version. There are many differences between he book and the 92 movie which I saw a years ago. The film is okay, and the best part being Daniel Day Lew

While I did not hate this book and there were some decent moments of writing, it was mostly mundane.