Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Year in Knitting

What I'm writing: Gods Willing edit
What I'm reading: Nothing at the moment
What I'm knitting: Just finished the last mitten - either a sweater or socks (for me) next

First off:
Happy Holidays!!

I hope each and every one of you has a joyous and safe holiday season.

Other than little notes in my header, I don't believe I've ever talked about my knitting here. I love knitting. I taught myself to knit when I was in my early twenties (and we won't talk about how many, many years ago that was). I've tried crochet, tatting, etc - but I just can't seem to get it like I do with knitting. My Grandma Wilcox knitted for most of her life and has passed down many of her supplies to me (including the hefty McCall's pattern book in which I got the pattern for all those double knit mittens I worked on this year). Now in her 90s, I know Grandma wishes she could still knit, but really can't anymore. I think I can understand how she feels - I'd miss the soothing motions and the light clack of the needles if I could no longer knit.

Anyway, I worked on several projects this year. I won't bore you with all of them, but here are a few:

Those Mittens!! (double knit with wool blend yarn)

A shirt/dress for the granddaughter - it's a bit too big still, but I'll give it to her probably on her birthday:
(junior jacquard yarn)

Socks! For me! (Jacquard sock yarn)

And the 'big' project this year: it's only a lap blanket size, but the pattern was detailed enough that it took me several months to finish. I finally finished it in early fall and I don't care how geeky it sounds, I really think I'll enter it into next year's county fair.

And a closer view:

Some things I've learned about knitting this year: I really, really don't like intarsia work and I'm also not that fond of making knit bobbles (from the afghan). Also, after years of thinking knitting with four double pointed needles would be difficult, I found I really like it (the socks).

Now I have to decide whether I'm going to use the leftover yarn from the mittens, combine it with some beautiful cream Aran I have and make myself a sweater - or will I make another pair of socks... I'm not sure.

If any knitters want to know what patterns and yarns I used in any of these projects, just ask!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Mark Mayhem

There's a saying in our house, "If it's going to happen to anyone, it'll happen to Mark," meaning that, well, the strangest things happen to that boy. He gets injured in odd ways, but also finds unexpected good luck.

He seems to get chosen for things or have the luck to win things (half-time show at the only college basketball game he's ever attended, guitar store commercial, 50/50 drawings, $100 from Cap'n Crunch cereal, etc).

But with the odd good things come the strange bad things. At 15 he's already broken a leg and an arm (though he's not at all a daredevil child), been hospitalized with pneumonia, been rushed to the ER for a severe allergic reaction from trying on school clothes, and many other smaller bumps, bruises, and bangs.

Saturday night was just another on the list. Mark has had problems with his leg muscles cramping since he was an infant. He's slept with a hot water bottle to relieve the pains for the last ten years or so. On Saturday night, I'd filled the bottle (our water is very hot due to the fact that we use an outdoor wood boiler for heat and hot water), given it to him, and went to bed. It wasn't long after that he knocked on our door, "The hot water bottle exploded and my feet are burned."


He had his socks on, so the right foot, the one whose sock he got off first, wasn't in bad shape - just a little red. The left foot - the one the sock remained on longer - suffered second degree burns over probably about 20% of it. He was swollen and blistered and red. We discussed going to the ER, but in the end, we didn't. I talked to the ER nurse and realized they'd do for him what we would do at home - and Mark was in such pain whenever he took his foot out of cool water, that a trip to town would have been horrid.

We all stayed up until around 2 am, and then Mark fell asleep on the sofa, his foot dangling off into a pot of water.

I kept him home from school yesterday, but sent him today, hobbling out the door. I might have let him stay home another day, except he'd missed school on Friday as well. That was for sharp pains in his side, that were, thankfully, not caused by his appendix.

I love the kid dearly, but sometimes it's tiring to be his parent!!

Blogging the Classics - The Great Gatsby

What I'm Writing: Editing Gods Willing
What I'm Reading: One of Diane Mott Davidson's Goldy mysteries – can't remember which one and I don’t have it with me
What I'm Knitting: Mittens, mittens, mittens (and, yes, I should be well done with these by now, but I'm getting so tired of knitting them, I'm barely working on them)

I finished The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald last night. I really, really enjoyed it. It's a short book – more of a novella than a novel – but packs an emotional punch.

Let me just start by saying the Fitzgerald's writing is lyrical to the point of beauty. He may be writing about infidelity, amoralism, jealousy, and greed, but the words themselves – the flow and cadence and balance – are lovely. Reading this work, I felt the author's choice of words was often surprising but always brilliant.

"He smiled understandingly-much more than understandingly. It was one of those rare smiles with a quality of eternal reassurance in it, that you may come across four or five times in life. It faced--or seemed to face--the whole external world for an instant, and then concentrated on you with an irresistible prejudice in your favor. It understood you just as far as you wanted to be understood, believed in you as you would like to believe in yourself."- F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby, Ch. 3

The tale itself could be a soap-opera storyline full of parties, wealth, cheating, and lying, but it is, under the surface, so much more. We see a time in the history of America (post WWI – prohibition – roaring twenties) when riches were flowing, where greed was honored, when morality was for the poor schmuck down the road. People were flying high and playing loose, not caring who they hurt or what debts they might incur. Worry was for later. It was a selfish generation. Which caused me to wonder if it's always so – when we're in a boom do we get more selfish? Do we forget our own standards in the rush to achieve, gain, feel everything? It's funny how the "Me Generation" of the 1980s era is mirrored pretty well in this 1920s slice of Americana.

The narrator, Nick, is a Midwestern boy, fresh from war, come to NYC to make his fortune. His life gets tangled with that of his neighbor, Gatsby, his cousin, Daisy and her husband, Tom, and the famous golfer, Jordan. In the beginning, I think, Nick is bothered by the actions of those around him: Gatsby's parties, Tom's infidelity, Jordan's selfishness, but after a summer spent with them, he starts to lose himself, at least a little, in their world.

He dates Jordan, though I don't think if he'd met her in other circumstances, he would. She's brash, selfish, and judgmental – traits that Nick, in the beginning of the book, claims to have learned to avoid.

"Whenever you feel like criticizing any one...just remember that all the people in this world haven't had the advantages that you've had."
- F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby, Ch. 1

He spends time with Gatsby, being drawn into his circle, never sure whether to believe Gatsby's tales or not. Even when the stories are too wild to be true, Gatsby's charisma fools Nick. In the end, however, though Gatsby was the one who was derided for making money illegally, he was the character (other than Nick) who at least stood for something – the one who chased dreams and believed in love.

Daisy and Tom both had blood on their hands, but were unrepentant. I doubt they'd think they'd done anything wrong, really. And Jordan was just as self-absorbed as she'd been throughout the book.

Nick was changed, though at least he realized the change and knew he had to leave those surroundings in order to get himself back.

And Gatsby? Well, Gatsby didn't survive the summer. Perhaps, even had he not been killed, he might not have survived anyway. The man was broken, or at least would be once he finally admitted Daisy wasn't his.

Gatsby's funeral was one of the sadder moments. This man who people had flocked to in life, the one who they leeched from for their parties and booze, was forgotten in death. He was an embarrassment. No one wanted to admit they were part of his life, of his scene. Only Nick stayed by his side. It was touching how Nick tried to save Gatsby's father from the truth – to let the older man live in his fairytale where his son was a rich gentleman.

Perhaps, in the end, that's what this book is about – the truth – avoiding it, maneuvering around it, and finally, maybe (for some characters), facing it.

Definitely a book I would recommend to anyone wanting to delve into the classics – or anyone just looking for a good, quick read.

Which classic should I read next? Let me know!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

A Glee Christmas Quicky

Just a quick post (you thought quicky might mean something else, didn't you? tsk tsk) to say I loved the Glee Christmas episode.

Spoiler Alert! Don't read any farther if you don't want to know.

If I'm going to bash them when I don't agree with the writing, then I better damn well praise them when I do.

There was nothing about this episode I didn't like. Sue as the Grinch was brilliant. I was smiling through the whole skit. Bravo! (And take that Ed O'Neil after your petty remarks about Sue Sylvester/Jane Lynch).

The Finn/Rachel break-up seemed very realistic. I hope they have Finn stay in that 'bruised' mindset for a while.

And Coach Bieste, first with Brittney and then the gift for Artie. Loved it! It's just the kind of Schmoop I want in my Christmas viewing.

This felt more like last year's Glee then any previous episode this season.

One thing I would have loved to see, just for that extra 'awww' moment, would have been for Coach Bieste to also be at  Will's on Christmas Eve. Everyone else was, why not her?

Bravo Glee!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Glee: A Cop-Out?

What I'm writing: Writing and reading are the same right now as I finish the first read-through of Gods Willing
What I'm reading:
What I'm knitting: I don't want to sound like a broken record CD IPod

*Contains Spoilers for the November 30, 2010 Glee Episode - Don't read if you don't want to know*

I love Glee. Really, I do. I think that's why when the writing isn't as strong as I expect, I really notice it.

This week's Glee was a fun episode, even without the spectacular Jane Lynch. Much of the ep seemed to hark back to those snarky, wonderful episodes of last season - dealing with relationships within the club and without. And my complaint from earlier this season about Creepy Will seems to have been corrected (behold the power of a blogger with... what?... two readers? Excuse me for a moment while I go work this magic on the power ball jackpot). So,  yeah, all good.

It was the very end that killed me. My younger son had wandered into the room a few minutes earlier, so he was there when I yelled, "What a cop-out!" I mean, really, maybe the writers have some huge twist in mind that caused them to create a tie for Sectional winner, or maybe it was just lazy writing (it just killed me a little to write that because I often think the Glee writers are brilliant). I wonder if they sat around the conference table saying, New Direction has to win Sectionals, but we want Kurt there, too. What do we do? Well, how 'bout a tie! People will think that's so clever - they'll be in tears!"

I'm sure there are other, more creative, ways to put Kurt and the Warblers and New Direction all into the Regionals. Let's see:

How 'bout New Direction loses to the Warblers, but there's still one more chance - a Wild Card competition that draws from all the teams that came in second in their Sectionals. They'd have to sing their a$$es off and maybe even be the underdog again.

Or New Direction wins, Kurt comes back to school (there are many ways to make that happen, and don't we all just know that'll happen anyway) and they have to fight tooth-n-nail to get him accepted as one of their performers for Regionals - after all, would he really be allowed to jump ship after the Sectionals?

Or, we dash the dreams of someone - doesn't that happen in real life? I've heard it does. New Direction wins and Kurt is emo for a while, or the Warblers win and the New Direction crew have to pick up the pieces and re-evaluate their actions. I kind of like this one as it would feel more like Karma after how fractured the kids' relationships have been.

I'm sure there are more and better scenarios out there as well - Give me your ideas - I'd love to hear them.

And don't get me wrong, there were great moments in the show. Emma telling Rachel, "Maybe you could storm out." LOL The whole Finn/Rachel drama. Puck realizing he can't hurt Finn like he did before. Good stuff.

Although having the senior citizen singers at Sectionals? I know they are billing it as 'any glee chorus can enter,' but it seems strange not to have it as only high schools - that's what Sectionals usually are, as far as I know - and isn't that the way they had it last year?

Tell me what you think!