Monday, January 31, 2011

Book Nook - Brave New Knits

I must admit, the title of this book was a little off-putting to me: Brave New Knits by Julie Turjoman.  I mean, what's so brave & new about cabled sweaters?  The idea behind it is that all of the designers featured (26 in all - some very popular, some I've never heard of) have their own blogs & have been braving the new world of the blogsphere.  I still think the title is a bit of a stretch & think a different title would really better serve the book.

That being said, it really is a great book!  Each designer has a write up about them - how they got started in the knitting business (and in knitting, in general), why they decided to do a blog, how ravelry has changed their business (there is a lot of discussion about ravelry in this book, I think on just about every designer's write up it's mentioned).  For those of you who are non-knitters, ravelry is a popular website for knitters & crocheters where you can search just about any pattern, yarn, designer & chat on forums.  They just had their 1-millionth knitter sign up in November.  Yes, 1 million!  Really, it's ravelry that's "brave" & "new"......but I digress....

The book is split into 2 parts: sweaters & accessories.  There are lots of different styles & looks to choose from.  Most of the patterns are listed as intermediate (although some of them actually sounded more advanced than that).  Since the only garment I have ever knit was a vest for Little Dude (ravelry members can see the project notes and pics here), I think I would be a little more likely to try some of the accessories first!  I especially liked the Lenina Cap by Woolly Wormhead, the Hydrangea Neckwarmer by Anne Hanson and the Lace Flower Pin by Kat Coyle.  As far as the sweaters go, I love the Global Cable Coat by Jennifer Hagan.....maybe someday!

While the patterns in the book are wonderful, I think the best part of it is really the discussions with the designers.  It's so neat to hear how they all got their start, find out how long they've been knitters (some of them, not long at all), what their new ventures are, etc.  I found myself heading over to the computer time & time again to look up the designers on ravelry or their own sites.  I'm sure they're enjoying more traffic because of the book!

Surprisingly, the author, Julie Turjoman, does not have any patterns in the book herself.  It's not the first time I've seen this & it doesn't take anything away from the book at all, I just find it a little odd.  Is it just me?  I also should note that Jared Flood did all the photography (if you're a knitter, you've probably heard of him or his company name, Brooklyn Tweed).  I love his photography - he's got a good eye for light & cropping.

I think the biggest take-away from this book is that there are great interviews with each of the designers & each of them have contributed a beautiful pattern.  If you're a knitter, it's definitely worth checking out.


Saturday, January 29, 2011

Many Knitterly Things

It's been a while since I've written about anything knitting related & there have been many knitterly things happening around here!  Honestly, during the holidays it was pretty slow, but things have ramped back up and now I find myself with several projects OTN (on the needles) or at the front of the queue.  So, here's a little update!

The other day, I got a visit from the Brown-Truck Santa.  Oh, joy!

That wonderfully big box contained a great deal of wonderfully squishy yarn.  Here's the Cascade 220 - I absolutely love these colors together.  I used the 220 recently for the candy corn hats I did this Fall.  I really loved it - no wonder it's such a popular yarn.  Any guesses what these skeins are to become?

Here's the Cascade 128 - it's a bulky merino and it is soooo soft.  I'm super-excited about the project that this yarn is slotted for.  I've already cast on.  I love the earth tones & there are tons of great colors to choose from in the 128.  The only color I can't decide on is the sage green - I think it might be a tad too blue.  But then I'll look at it in different light & see it as more green.  It's really an intriguing color.  Cascade calls it smoke heather.

Next up is Debbie Bliss Como.  I was going to get this anyway, but then WEBS was having a Como closeout - yahoo!  This yarn is to become a scarf for me - the first thing I have ever knit for myself in 7 years of knitting.  I am so excited - it's so soft & thick.  It's been hard to wait to cast on.  I think the blue will look nice with my gray wool coat.  What do you think?

But there's been more going on around here than just yarn petting.  I've actually been using some of it!  Here's miles of seed stitch........

I've also had to turn those skeins into balls.  I like doing it the old fashioned way - it's so methodical and slow-paced.....kind of like me!  Here's a ball of the Cascade 128, in a beautiful forest green (my camera just couldn't capture this color well - it's a very deep, sophisticated green).  Technically, it's called olive heather:

And of course, there's always knitting-related reading happening here........

Here's a peek into my project notes............

Now for the real challenge - to find the time to get all these fun, new projects knitted!  Take-out for supper on a regular basis?  Earlier bed time for the Bachsters?  I'll figure something out!

Off to knit........

Monday, January 24, 2011

Book Nook - Really Funny Children's Books - part 4

This one is kids' choice - Scaredy-Cat, Splat by Rob Scotton.  The first time I read this book to the Bachsters they absolutely cracked up laughing.  For them, this book was so funny that I just had to include it in my list!

In the story, a fuzzy black cat named Splat wants to be named the scariest cat in the class.  He gets himself a (cute) costume and a (cute) jack-o'-lantern & heads to school with his pet mouse Seymour & a spider that he found (they are also pretty cute).  He wants to be scary, but in reality, he is pretty easily scared.  Without giving away too much, let's just say that Splat's reaction to the classroom story time is really funny & thanks to the law of gravity, he gets his happy ending.

Splat's teacher is Mrs. Wimpydimple.  The Bachsters laugh over and over at her name.  I admit that I cracked up the first few times we read it.  It's so silly!  I love how Rob Scotton illustrated the book, too.  His style is cute & kid friendly and he puts in neat little details here & there, like a little moon at the end of Splat's hat, or cute facial expressions on the spider.  There are a few other Splat books in addition to this one, as well as a few Russell the Sheep books, all by Rob Scotton.  All are definitely worth checking out.

What book has your kiddos laughing out loud?  I'd love to hear about it!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Introducing Bach Jewelry Designs

My 5-year-old daughter is quite a crafty person & recently she has added jewelry design to her ongoing list of creative endeavors.  I wanted to share some of her latest creations!

This is a pair of earrings she made out of heart shaped beads (she can't remember where she got them from), rubber bands, tape & dental flossers (she says the pointy ends are the part that goes in your ear lobe - ouch!):

Here is another set of earrings, these made out of fancy cocktail toothpicks & flower-shaped beads.  Again, she can't recall where she got the beads from!

Next in the collection is a beautiful ring.  Now, we both do remember where this bead came from: she found it on the floor at Anthropologie recently.  We asked the salesperson if it was alright if she kept it & she said yes.  Not only that, but she gave DD a cute little fabric bag to keep it in.  Wasn't that sweet!  Anyway, she put her found treasure to good use!

Next, we have a very interesting ring, made out of random beads & a safety pin.  As my DD explains, it's meant to be worn on your pinky finger, only halfway down.  I did mention she is 5, right?

The Spring 2011 Collection:

I just love how her mind works - she always comes up with the neatest stuff!  I'm so proud of my little jewelry designer, indeed!


Monday, January 17, 2011

Book Nook - Really Funny Children's Books - part 3

Book! Book! Book! by Deborah Bruss is like one really funny joke, with a hilarious punchline at the end.  I've read it to the Bachsters many times, and I always crack up!

In the story, the animals on the farm are bored because the kids have gone back to school.  The hen announces that she is going into town "to find something to do."  The others follow, and all the farm animals end up at the library.  The hen tells the animals that she is going in to see if there's anything interesting for them, but the horse insists on going in instead.  Once inside, the horse asks the librarian if she has any suggestions on activities for the animals, but she doesn't understand "neigh" so the horse leaves the library.  Then, the cow tries, but the librarian doesn't speak "moo" so the cow leaves as well.  The goat and the pig each try, too.  It's very peculiar that the librarian thinks nothing of the farm animals traipsing through the library!  Maybe she was born in a barn!

Anyway, it's our headstrong hen who gets the job done, as the librarian is very familiar with her request!  I'll say no more because I don't want to spoil the joke.....but it is very cute & very funny!

The illustrations were done by Tiphanie Beeke, who also did the illustrations for Fletcher and the Falling Leaves & the other Fletcher books.  Her style is cool in that you can see her watercolor marks very clearly & can also decipher the texture of her paper.

If you've got little ones that are picture-book age, this one is a must!  It is so funny, it will have your kids - and you - laughing every time!


Sunday, January 16, 2011

Summer remembrances, midwinter

I attend a monthly camera club that is focused on nature photography.  At our monthly meetings, we have a print competition.  I almost always attend the meetings, and I always bring the maximum prints allowed......and I never win!  Well, last week, I submitted my 4 prints and I got 1st place & 3rd place!  Yay!  Seriously, that never happens!

Since I haven't been shooting much, I took in prints from over the summer.  I love looking at them right now, when it is so incredibly different outside from when I took them in August.  I'm starting to daydream about summer!

This is a female pondhawk, taken at Slate Run Metro park in Columbus, OH.  This was a very friendly dragonfly, allowing me to get in close for tons of shots.  She was not fazed at all with my lens in her face.  This photo also won 2nd place at the Metro Parks photo contest this Fall (advanced animals category).  I love all the green!

The photo that took 3rd place was a macro shot of Queen Anne's lace.  I took this in the evening shortly before sunset & I love the soft light in the photo....such summery light!

I'm starting to dream about backyard bugs and trips to the pool and eating popsicles on the deck.  But right now, we definitely have more icicles than popsicles! 

Back to reality....I'm off to find my wool sweater!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Book Nook - Really Funny Children's Books, part 2

John, Paul, George & Ben by Lane Smith is a hilarious book, although the humor's really for the grown ups.  All of the funny parts my kids didn't really understand & they definitely didn't understand the historical pieces.  That's ok.  I have no problem claiming this one all for myself (actually, even though they don't get this book, they still love it & ask me to read it).

In the book, we see John Hancock, Paul Revere, George Washington, Benjamin Franklin & Thomas Jefferson as their younger, quirky selves.  John likes to write his name really, really big.  Paul shouts all the time because he's been ringing too many bells.  George does serious damage to his family's tree population.  Ben has all these oddball sayings.  Tom always does things his own way, which doesn't always work out for him.

I love this book for two reasons: Lane Smith has a great sense of humor and the illustrations are awesome.  Take the part on Thomas Jefferson, for example.  Mr. Douglas, Tom's teacher, asks the class "to make birdhouses by gluing macaroni to ye olde balsa wood."  We see Tom taking those instructions one step further & building a mini version of Monticello.  The class is then instructed to make a tree by using their handprint, but Tom drafts a beautiful drawing of a tree instead.  Throughout the text, the author weaves in the words life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness & it all comes to a funny ending when  Tom gets sent to time out in the corner while "the other students pursued lunch."  All throughout the book, there are parts like this that will make you (the grown up) chuckle.

I also love the illustrations.  Each one of our "lads" has his portrait done (I especially love Tom's rather snooty, precocious pose).  Throughout the book, the colors are chipped & cracked, the portraits hang against a wooden background.  Everything is supposed to look a little aged.  I find Lane Smith's illustration style to be friendly & approachable.

It's funny that for a children's book, there's a subplot!  Well, I don't know if you could call it a subplot or not, but there's a definite Beatles theme going on here.  You probably already noticed it in the title (just replace Ben with Ringo & there you go).  The story opens with this: "once there were four lads...." and we see them in a pose that is remarkably similar to the Abbey Road cover.  Later in the story, the reader is asked "say, you want a revolution?"  Even the author's dedication is a nod to the Beatles: "I get by with a little help from my friends..."  The Beatles references are subtle, but they add a lot to the charm and humor of the book.

I mentioned that my Bachsters don't understand the understated humor of the story (or even when the humor is pretty overt).  But don't let that stop you from reading it to your kiddos, because there's a really nice, unexpected benefit to reading this book with your kids: you can teach them a bit about history!  The Bachsters and I chatted for a while about the Revolutionary War and the founding fathers.  I told them all about my 8th grade trip to Washington DC & what it's like to view the Declaration of Independence & my visit to Mount Vernon, among all the other things we did on the trip.  Not too many children's books can launch you & your kids into such rich discussion.  I also like that there's a true or false section in the back, so we can see which parts of the story were true & which were made up to give us a good laugh (Thomas Jefferson's teacher really was Mr. Douglas)!

This book is lots of fun & good laughs & some history thrown in for good measure.  I think you'll really enjoy it.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

A crafty activity

I hate to admit this, but we've been planning to make pine cone bird feeders since the girls were off of school for Winter break.  But we just got busy, then we got lazy.  Anyway, we ended up finally doing our little project yesterday.  On the plus side, the pine cones we chose for the project had lots of time to open up a bit, as they were sitting inside for a couple of weeks.  See, there are benefits to procrastination!

This is a super-easy craft project.  I'm sure you already know how to do it, but you get yourself some pine cones (we have tons of mature pine trees in our yard, so for us, this is easy).  Bring them into your house - if they are "closed" they'll need a day or so to warm up & bloom.  Some pine cones are always open, so you don't need to worry about it if this is the kind you have.  Take some yarn (also easy to find around here), & tie onto the pine cone & make a big loop for hanging.  Smear a bunch of peanut butter onto the pine cone.  Roll pine cone in bird seed, or sprinkle on.  Give it a pat to help the bird seed stay put.  And there you go!

You can hang them on tree branches for the birds.  You could also just lay them down around your bird feeder.  Our birds ignored them all day, but I have hopes for tomorrow!

Have a great weekend!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Book Nook - Really Funny Children's Books - part 1

I think every now and then, it's a good thing to read a really funny book, children's or adult.  There are a few children's books that come to mind when I think of which books for kids had me in stitches.  So the next couple of weeks, that's where the Book Nook focus will be.  I thought it would be a fun start to the New Year, book wise.

The first time I read The Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog by Mo Willems, I was preggers with our second daughter.  Now, when I was preggers with all 3 Bachsters, I had some very nice hormones & anything that was funny to me under normal circumstances was amplified tenfold.  It was wonderful!!!!  So, I probably would have been laughing anyway when I first read this, but because I was pregnant, the first few readings had me in tears, literally.

In the story, the pigeon (who appears in several books by Mo Willems) finds a hot dog.  He keeps trying to eat it, but a little duckling interrupts him constantly with questions.  The pigeon gets frustrated & the duckling keeps going with the questions.  They finally reach an amicable agreement, one that involves condiments.

I still think the funniest part of this book is the pigeon's reaction to the duckling's question of "what do they taste like?"  He goes on waxing poetic about hot dogs while the duckling jots down notes.  "If you've never experienced the splendor of a hot dog, you should really..." - priceless! 

Over the years we've purchased this book a handful of times as gifts because it is so cute.  Kids love it, parents love it, hot dog connoisseurs love it.  And pregnant women everywhere love it. 

Do you have any favorite funny children's books?  Please share!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Creme Brulee on New Year's, the day after

It's my little tradition to have Creme Brulee on New Year's Day, just because it's fun to say (hello, rhyme!).  But I'm afraid it just didn't happen yesterday.  So, Happy New Year's (Day 2)!  It's creme brulee at the Bach Haus!

I hope you are having a Happy New Year!