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Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011 Book List

These are the books I read in 2011. Tomorrow starts a new list!

  • Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith; Van Gogh: the Life (NF)
  • Toni Morrison; Beloved
  • David McRaney; You are Not So Smart (NF)
  • Ray Bradbury; Fahrenheit 451
  • Philip Mould; The Art Detective (NF)
  • Rebecca Skloot; The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (NF)
  • Wolf Mankewitz; A Kid for Two Farthings
  • Edward Dolnick; The Clockwork Universe (NF)
  • Barb Schwarz; Home Staging (NF)
  • John Robison; Be Different (NF)
  • Jean Naya: Staged to Sell (NF)
  • Lawrence Anthony: The Elephant Whisperer (NF)
  • Bill Turnbull: Confessions of a Bad Beekeeper (NF)
  • Ransom Riggs; Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children
  • Bill Bryson; I'm a Stranger Here Myself (NF)
  • Richard Settersten: Not Quite Adults (NF)
  • Alice Ozma; The Reading Promise (NF)
  • Matthew Algeo; Harry Truman's Excellent Adventure (NF)
  • Leonard Sax; Boys Adrift (NF)
  • Aldous Huxley; A Brave New World
  • Jan Struthers, ed; Women of Britain, Letters from England (NF)
  • Xinran; China Witness (NF)
  • Starr Osborne; Home Staging that Works (NF)
  • Chip & Dan Heath; Made to Stick (NF)
  • Joshua Wolf Shenk; Lincoln's Melancholy (NF)
  • Leonard Sax; Girls on the Edge (NF)
  • Rachel Ferguson; The Brontes Went to Woolworths
  • Roger Housden; Saved by Beauty (NF)
  • George RR Martin; A Game of Thrones
  • Nora Ephron: I Remember Nothing (NF)
  • Veronique Henderson; Color Me Confident (NF)
  • Rachel Friedman; The Good Girl's Guide to Getting Lost (NF)
  • Xinran; The Good Women of China (NF)
  • Gregory Benford; The Wonderful Future That Never Was (NF)
  • James Geary: I is an Other (NF)
  • Xinran: Message from an Unknown Chinese Mother (NF)
  • Maryrose Wood; The Hidden Gallery
  • Tony Horwitz; Baghdad without a Map (NF)
  • Connie Willis; Doomsday Book
  • Elizabeth Strout; Olive Kitteridge
  • Madeleine L'Engle; Penguins and Golden Calves (NF)
  • Mary Roach; Packing for Mars (NF)
  • Maryrose Wood; The Mysterious Howling
  • Joyce Dennys; Henrietta's War
  • Stuart Brown; Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul (NF)
  • Jasper Fforde; One of Our Thursdays Is Missing
  • Amy Chua; Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother (NF)
  • Agatha Christie; A Pocketful of Rye
  • Joyce Dennys; Henrietta Sees It Through
  • Tony Horwitz; A Voyage Long and Strange (NF)
  • Matthew B. Crawford; Shop Class as Soulcraft (NF)
  • Agatha Christie; Murder at the Vicarage
  • Leonard Mosley; Backs to the Wall, the Heroic Story of the People of London during World War II (NF)
  • Barbara Demick; Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea (NF)
  • Steve Corbett: When Helping Hurts; alleviating poverty without hurting the poor and ourselves (NF)
  • Simon Winchester; The Map that Changed the Word, William Smith and the Birth of Modern Geology (NF)
  • Richard Stearns; The Hole in our Gospel (NF)
  • Alexandre Dumas; The Three Musketeers

Friday, December 30, 2011

Ione, a knitted hippopotamus



When I saw the hippo pattern in Susan B. Anderson's Itty Bitty Toys, I knew immediately that I wanted to knit it, but I was still working on my blanket project.  When I finished that, I requested the book from the library again.  It took almost two months to become available - a popularity well deserved.  The patterns are beautifully written - so easy to follow!  (If you don't knit, you may be thinking, "Are there hard to follow patterns?"  The answer, unfortunately, is yes.  Some designers are better than others at pattern writing.  It's like being able to teach and do.)                                                                          

I named my hippo Ione (eye-own), after one of the nemiads (water nymphs).  If you've ever watched a hippo twirl in the water like a ballerina, you'll agree that they are water nymphs.  Ione will be a  playmate for my baby visitors.  In between visits, she'll goof around with Lumpy.

Ione was knit in less than a skein of Baby Bee Twist, an over-purchase for a baby sweater I made in 2010.  I never seem to believe that a baby sweater will use less than one skein of yarn, and do not always get around to returning the left over skein.  Usually, but not always.

There is a giraffe in that book.  If I had any yellow or orange-ish yarns around, that would be on my needles tonight.  Ione was that fun to knit!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

thoughts on: Van Gogh, the Life

Van Gogh: The LifeVan Gogh: The Life by Steven Naifeh

Van Gogh was a complicated, demanding, and offensive individual, and Naifeh and Gregory White Smith do not shy away from this.  Unlike many popular portrayals of the great artist, here we meet a man less misunderstood by his family and more alienated by his own difficult behavior.  Sympathy runs both ways - for Vincent who is unable and unwilling to behave in a manner which would allow the closeness he desperately sought with others, and for his family, especially his brother Theo, who were emotionally and financially drained by the demands of an adult son who would not support himself and left a trail of broken relationships behind him.  It is this conflict which dominated Van Gogh's life - his desire for close familial bonds with either his own family or one he invented, a dream made impossible by his own obsessive and overbearing nature - and much of the narrative is devoted to the way this cycle repeated itself throughout his life.

Artistically, it was interesting that the painter considered a master of color and landscape so long resisted either.  Despite pleas from his brother, he insisted upon drawing pen and ink portraits for years, despite his lack of skill in this area.  He was drawn to what eluded him, both in life in art.

Vincent's mental illness, compounded by syphilis and alcohol, is explored as it was revealed at the time.  In this way, we see Vincent as both he saw himself and as others saw him.  I think that is the brilliance of this biography - being able to feel for both Vincent and those who did care for him; not judging or romanticizing either; knowing that great art came from great pain and longing and that none had the means of easing that pain.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Rambling about Reading

I have been lax in writing up my recent reads.  The list in the side bar is updated, but I've skipped telling you about the last several books I've read.  I'd been copying my thoughts from my Goodreads account, but I haven't updated there either.  I got out of the habit, I suppose, while I was busy with the home improvements.  Okay, I got out of the blogging habit altogether.

Right now, I am half way through a massive new biography of Vincent Van Gogh.  I would be further along if I had not left it at my mom's house over Thanksgiving.  My mom lives on the east coast.  I don't.  It was a library book.  ARGH  I annoy myself.

She mailed it back to me, but it has not arrived yet.  I am hoping the delay is just the post office being so busy this time of year, not that the book is lost.  Which would be bad.  Even though nobody else wants to read this book from the Anythink.  It is a brand new biography, featured on 60 minutes, and I have one copy out, renewed twice, hopefully not lost in transit, and my husband checked out the other copy so I could continue to read it, and nobody else has requested this book.

(Unlike season 6.2 of Doctor Who, which has 3 people ahead of me on the wait list.  The Anythink, which I've ranted about before, has a fantastic dvd collection, and often long wait lists for them.  The books, not so much.  They also have a problem with people stealing dvds.  Please don't anyone steal Doctor Who before I get to watch it.  Please!) 

Anyway, Van Gogh.  I love his paintings, always have.  My mom had a print of his sunflowers in our house when I was growing up.  I have a poster of a harvest scene I bought at a big exhibit a few years back.  I was very excited when I heard about this book.  (Tying all my rambling interests together, I heard about it because I am a Doctor Who fan, and was reading a Doctor Who thread on Ravelry - knitting site - about the episode where the Doctor meets Van Gogh.) 

I am finding this book very interesting, but I have to say, Van Gogh was not exactly like I imagined him - not all tortured but benign.  I feel incredibly sympathetic towards his family.  He was an incredibly difficult son and brother and friend.  Still, fascinating, but not in the, "Gee, I bet we would have been friends if he'd been my neighbor," sort of way. 

(If there are books in my list that you want to hear about, let me know, and I'll write it up.)

A Rough Eared Monkey


I have the most trouble with monkey's ears.  They always turn out wonky.  Last night, when I was making this cutie, I decided to try not turning the ears inside out while stitching them.  Instead, I whipstitched around the edge, and let the rough edges show.  What do you think?  I rather like the way they look.

This monkey will be a going away present for a one year old, so I hope the ears hold up to chewing and rough handling.

(Lumpy is on the left.  He looks like he needs a bath.)

I did not name this one, which is difficult for me.  As soon as they have faces, I want to name everything I make.  We were watching a movie about the Stone of Destiny (that was also the title) being liberated from Westminster Abbey by young Scottish nationalists in 1951, so I wanted to name him Ian, after the main character.  But I didn't, so this is not Ian.  This is a monkey who will hopefully be loved and named by a little girl.  

Update - 2/11/12 - Her mom texted me to say that "Boots" is her toddler's favorite stuffed buddy, the only one who is still in the crib with her every morning, usually in her arms.  That makes my crafty heart happy.

Baby Sizes?

This is my favorite baby sweater to knit.  I've made it several times over the past seven years, most recently a year ago in the same yarn.  (Hobby Lobby Baby Bee Sweet Delight)  I love the simplicity of the design, with just that bit of detail around the yoke.  It's not too bulky.  It goes with anything!

There is, however, one problem:  I don't know what size it is.  The pattern says it is 0-6 months.  What does that mean?  Some newborns are tiny, and some six month olds are 20lbs.  I know it is not newborn sized.  We have this bear doll which is about the size of a 7-8 lb baby, and it is way too big for the bear. I don't even know if the sleeves are in proportion to a baby's girth at this size, because the instructions are not specific.  They just say to knit to desired length.  So I just guess at how long I think a baby's arms are.

I've knit it as a gift, received thanks and assurances that it fit, but I've never actually seen a baby wear it.  For all I know, it has never fit a baby recipient.  That is about to change.

This time, I made it for a knitting friend.  I've asked her to tell me how much her baby weighs when it fits (I know it is too big right now), and to tell me if the sleeves are the right length.  Plus!  I asked her to measure her baby's head when the sweater fits, so I can make a matching cap!


It is so nice to have sympathetic knitting friends who don't find all of those instructions bizarre when given a gift!

(That is not Lumpy in the photo.)

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Lessons Learned Today

1.  If you apply heat (like an iron set to cotton) to those end panels of your kitchen cabinets - y'know, the cheap laminate ones - the fake woodgrain piece comes off.  It's very thin plastic.  As thin as paper.

2.  Nail polish remover, which eats the finish off real wood when you spill a drop, does not degloss said fake woodgrain cabinet end panels.

It was a craft fail day today.