Thursday, December 29, 2011

Down the Rabbit Hole...

Guilt finally caught up with me (as well as the realization that the test was scheduled two days earlier than I thought) and I finally started studying for my GMAT.

Yuck. Right now I'm halfway through the math section in the study book and can I just say, I hate this. I haven't done this sort of math in... well, about ten years. I don't remember squat, and trying to do it without a calculator is making me feel quite stupid. Add on top of that is the silly amount of panic that I feel whenever I think about taking the test. I just keep telling myself that it won't be the end of the world if I don't get into the grad program. I have other options. Like double or even triple majoring. Being a CPA really isn't what I want What I want to be is a dessert and food-laden stay-at-home mom. Or maybe a food network channel star. Watch your back Giada. What I want is a stable job that's going to pay me well enough to get out of student loan hell to keep me comfortable and my yarn stash all consuming.


Naturally with that stress inducing item on my to do list, I found time to do other things. Things such as sleep in until noon, make plans to go get coffee with a friend, decide that waking up at 6:30 in the morning just to go to a yarn store sale and then promptly rush home for said coffee date is a perfectly reasonable thing to do. And then, I got lost in an abyss of recipes.

Oh yes, the abyss.

First, it was ice cream recipes. Didn't you hear? We got an ice cream maker for Christmas!

Then it was date nut bread and an apple butter banana bread (we need to use up ingredients for both).

Then, I decided what I really need to do is utilize my crock pot more, because just using it for chili and apple sauce is a waste. I really need is more recipes for it. But then, most of the recipes for a crock pot are either meaty or photo-less, so I started adding the good ones to the note pad file I use to save recipes from forums in the like. But then I realized that I don't ever actually look at that file- they're not pretty and it's hard to find. So then I decided to start making files in the folder I have saved for recipes that I've made and deemed "housewife worthy".


I made this huge computer file system as well as a filling out a few recipes and a template approximately ten million years ago, with the intention that one day, I woud be able to zip through and find recipes with ease There would be pictures, it would be pretty, and best of all, they would all in one place with my personal notes and critiques. The only problem? I never seem to remember to update the darn thing. Until now. I just got lost in making new files for all these various recipes that I want to try in the crock pot for about two hours.

Whoops. At least the recipes will be pretty now, you know, as I'm homeless on the street because I made a negative score on my GMAT.

The Graveyard Book

book review thursday

book review thursday After listening to Good Omens, I was eager to explore more of Neil Gaiman's works. The Graveyard Book was the first of his that was available for download at my public library, so immediately seized on the opportunity to read it.

I'm going to preface this by explaining a bit about my background. If you hadn't already realized by my posts about our Halloween traditions, spooky and sometimes even supernatural is a big hit in my family. My sister and I were raised on movies like Nightmare before Christmas, Beetlejuice, and James and the Giant Peach. The fact that it's almost Christmas when I'm writing this and there is still a Mummy in our kitchen is a bit telling. The point is, even though I'm a huge wimp when it comes to scary movies (or trailers, or even slightly creepy book covers), I still love supernatural and/or macabre fiction. That alone gave this book tons of props in my mind, even though it was clearly intended for a significantly younger audience than I am.

This book was an excellent demonstration of what I loved reading as a kid. Bod Owens was an orphan adopted by a ghost and grew up in a graveyard. The story is a coming of age rendition of the trials of his childhood. It had the supernatural element, as well as the loneliness I think all kids can relate to. Not to mention an overarching mystery and an interesting take on fairy tale elements. I thought it was an extremely well written book about the trials of growing up and feeling "different". My only problem was the age of the protagonist when he's "grown up"- I don't know about you, but I was most definitely not "grown up" at fifteen. If Bod had been seventeen when the story ended, I would have been a great deal happier, but again, this was geared towards younger kiddos, and to them fifteen may seem ridiculously old...

In any case, this was a great choice for any kid who loves the spooky and magical.

(4/5 stars)

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Fool Moon

book review thursday

book review thursday I just finished listening to the second book in the Dresden Files series, Fool Moon. I have to admit it, I didn't enjoy this one as much as the first. I think that was due primarily to two different problems. The first, involved the plot as a whole. This book was based on the premise of werewolves, nothing something I'm inherently apposed to. What I was disturbed by was the sheer graphic quality of this book over the last. Every bloody scene and battle was described in great detail. It made it very difficult to listen to, and made me nauseous during the climax of the book. I had to frequently pause the book just because it was disturbing me so much. It wasn't that it was scary, it was that it was, well gross. The plot, as a whole was intersting, and there is a definite twist at the end that really surprised me (although I could have just been distracted by all the gore). I particularly enjoyed the background and detail the author gave to the different types of werewolves. It really added believability to his world.

The other aspect of this book that I disliked was that the author's clearly chauvinistic views toward women ran rampant during this book. While in the first book, the author made little jokes about what a "chauvinist" Harry Dresden is, you're not hit over the head, beaten down, and covered with the derogatory views toward women. In this book, you are. Every since female character is described with sexualized details. Women aren't allowed to be powerful and defend themselves capably, instead they blunder about and have to be "saved". This wouldn't have been a problem if all of the characters were treated like this, but instead, it's only the women.

I just wanted to shake the author. It's not "cute" to be a sexist pig, which is the general feeling I got from this book. It's incredibly insulting and alienating to your female readers. While I do think he redeemed himself a bit in the end with Murphy's successful takedown of a baddie, he negates even THAT by having Dresden "allow" Murphy to take the credit.

Oh, gee thanks.

Overall, I wasn't impressed with this book. While I think the plot was better as a whole (with the exception of Dresden's conversations with himself, that was just a waste of space), the sexism left a bad taste in my mouth. I'm still confident that I'll like later books in the series, but I'm hoping it doesn't get any worse before it gets better.

(3/5 stars)

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Friday Night Knitting Club

book review thursday

book review thursdayI jumped back into my reading spree by listening to Friday Night Knitting Club. I had this detailed review all planned out, but frankly, I'm not going to get a chance to flesh it out until after my exams, and frankly, I'd rather just get this done and not worry about it. So, a brief summary of my impressions on this book: this was okay, mindless reading, great for when you need to unwind. There was a lot I disliked about this book, but it was an entertaining and engaging piece of fluff. Spoilers and more details are below the cut.

(2/5 stars)

Sunday, December 4, 2011

A list

What I've been up to that I haven't been posting about:

  • I made home-made eggnog. Delicious!

  • I baked about ninety cupcakes for an event that got cancelled. Thankfully, I hadn't frosted them, so I was able to give them away during my Thanksgiving break.

  • I made home-made applesauce in my crock pot. Delicious!

  • I made home-made apple butter in my crock pot

  • I found my favorite pizza crust brand is now being stocked at Walmart again. They come in sets of three individual sized pizzas and are amazing.

  • Monkey and I are almost finished watching the second season of Doctor Who! I hope we get more for Christmas or he might go through withdrawal

  • I've been horribly lax about knitting mittens. I re-evaluated my goal a while ago, and settled on twenty five, rather than fifty and I'm still nowhere near close to that amount. I think I'm actually at fourteen...

  • I bought two pretty new dresses from Target, and loads of nail polish. I can't wait to try them all.

  • My apartment is a train wreck. Unfortunately, that doesn't look like it's going to change any time soon...

  • I have a fabulous new ring, and nails to match!


Please ignore the fact that I have the world's ugliest fingers, and that I gnaw my nails... Plus the polish is chipping since I've had it on a few days...

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Time Warp

First off, I'd like to apologize for not posting anything other than weekly book reviews for the past while. To make matters worse, I write the reviews as soon as I finish a book, then set it to automatically post at the next available Thursday. So in reality, I haven't written anything in quite a few weeks.

Hopefully, that will change soon. I've been super busy with my classes, so I haven't had very many opportunities to enjoy myself. Lately, I've been so exhausted that the only real source of entertainment Monkey and I have been having has been eating out (MUCH too often) and dozing while watching Doctor Who.

Christmas break is coming up soon for me, so I should be able to bunker down and enjoy myself. I do have a few important things to do during the break, but they won't eat up all my time like studying has done lately. Until then, here's a video I found particularly interesting.

And then finally, one of the women had a few thinsg she wanted to set straight.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Naked Heat

book review thursday

book review thursday I'm going to preface this by saying Monkey and I are *huge* Castle fans. We watch every episode and giggle for hours over the jokes. So I'm going into this review with that in mind.

I listened to Heat Wave as an audiobook a few months ago. That was an experience I thoroughly did not enjoy. The narrator was absolutely grating, and the whole tone of the book was ruined because of it. Because the narrator attempted to be so... gritty, the entire novel had a depressing, anti-climatic feel to it, rather than the light-hearted humor that peaks through even in the most serious episodes of the television show. Consequentially, I actually read this books.

Naked Heat was a bit better than the last book. The plot was intersting, and there was slightly better humor in this book. One thing I *adored* was that you got a glimpse of "Castle's" writing process in the show- he acts out a scene written in the book. I zoomed through this book, full throttle, and ultimately, decided that it wasn't bad.

It certainly wasn't great though. Again, it lacked the silliness that I love about the show, and that is entirely unrealistic in my opinion if it were supposedly written by Castle. I think, ultimately, I've decided that I enjoy the concept of the books. I love that these are novels "written" by a fiction TV show character about another fictional TV show character. I really enjoy the mystery aspect of the books themselves. But the writing just falls flat. It's the worst sort of flat charcters, utterly engaging and completely, well, boring. I just couldn't care about Nikki or Jameson. It's like it's the TV show, devoid of all of the loveable characteristics.

The lack of likeable characters is one of the reasons I don't enjoy shows like CSI. I want a character I can enjoy and commentary to liven up the mystery. Even true crime shows like Snapped and Dateline do a great job of livening up the players involved. This story was just too much like CSI. The characters were complete shells, nothing more than props for the mystery. As creative as the mystery is, I just can't enjoy it.

I fully intend to read the next book in the series. I'm hoping that as the series progresses, the novels improve as well. A lot of my issue is that I'm looking for great writing and characterization, like you see on the show, and instead I'm left with a dry murder mystery without much flavor.

(2/5 stars)

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children

book review thursday

book review thursday This book was one of those that I put on my to-read list as a whim. Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children appeared to be a spooky, horror story that was perfect for Halloween. Granted, I didn't get a chance to read it until well past the creepy season, but still. What this novel turned out to be was an entirely different matter.

The best way I can describe this is to compare it to other books. If you have (or are) a kid who loved the Spiderwick Chronicles, Inkheart, and other similar novels, I think it's a great book. If you're expecting something scary and chock full of surprises, then you might want to look elsewhere. I think this was a *great* book if you're looking for a 10-12 year old kid. The plot was interesting and engaging, the characters were easy to relate to, and the pictures really added an great depth. The plot, however, was a smidgen predictable, and the characters did echo a bit flat. The book wasn't terrifying (one of the reasons it took me so long to start it), but it was spooky enough to keep me entertained. Overall, however, I'd definitely recommend it. I wasn't quite the target audience for this book, but I know that there are plenty of people who are.

This review is short, but I think it suits the book. I pounded it down in maybe three hours. Easy to read, and entertaining. This is one that I would recommend getting a hard copy, as an audiobook wouldn't capture the great photographs that are included.

(4/5 stars)

Thursday, November 17, 2011

A Red Herring Without Mustard

book review thursday

book review thursday After thoroughly dragging out listening to A Red Herring Without Mustard, I finally finished it. This was the third in the Flavia De Luce mystery series, and was a thoroughly engaging read. While I didn't enjoy it as much as the first novel, it was still greatly entertaining.

For the good parts of this book. Flavia's character is fleshed out further. She is developing, albeit slowly, into maturity. Her sisters and father are also humanized. The novel seemed to emphasize Flavia's loneliness and the ill effects that isolation at Buckshore has on the family as a whole. While Flavia's father has always been a distant figure, his utter disengagement from the rest of the family was felt more fully with this novel. The sub-plot of the portrait of the girls really served to emphasize how distant he had previously been, while hinting at the possibility of his becoming re-engaged with the rest of the family. Ophelia and Daphne also showed more rounded characters as well. While their harsh treatment of their sister has only grown worse as the novels go on, it wasn't until this novel that their own desperation to escape their isolated life emerged. Ophelia's attempts to escape are demonstrated with her flirtations, whereas Daphne buries herself in her books. I particularly enjoyed Flavia's explanation of the truce she and Daphne sometimes engaged in.

One criticism I've read about the sisters is that their cruel behavior is unlikely. Personally, I disagree with that statement. I'm quite a bit older than my own sister (nine years) and even though I know that I should behave more maturely, there are times when I wind up in horrible fights and say things as immature and hurtful as in the books. That sort of thing is natural among siblings. Even though my sister and I get along quite well the majority of the time, we both know the best ways to annoy and hurt each other.

Anyways, I particularly enjoyed the addition of Porcelain's character. While I still have many questions about her- like how old she was, how she was living in London by herself, and why she wasn't living with her grandmother if she was young enough to have such an equal relationship with Flavia- her addition really helped the author further drive Flavia's loneliness home. While I had noticed that Flavia personified her bicycle, it didn't really get driven home how desperate Flavia was for a friend. Her daydreams about being invited to tea with Antigone and her husband demonstrated how desperate Flavia is for a loving, engaged family.

It was, overall, a depressing read. I'm anxious to listen to the next book, as I'm hoping it will involve a more engaged home-life for Flavia, and a bit more happiness.

As for the bad parts of the novel, I have only one real criticism. The plot was very drawn out, and there were points where I grew frustrated because I figured out answers chapters before Flavia did.

(Really Flavia? You couldn't figure out why your fire-dogs went missing and then later reappeared coupled with Brookie's mysterious appearance in your house?)

The conclusion, however, wasn't spelled out. It was unexpected enough to still be enjoyable. Overall, I really enjoyed this book, and I'm quite anxious to read the next in the series.

(4/5 stars)

Friday, November 11, 2011

Potions Class

finished object friday

Again, this is a project that I've already posted photos of, but not a description.


I've had the gruesome knitted eyeballs on my to-knit list for a while now. When it became available for download, rather than needing to email the designer, I seized on the opportunity to knit these for my Halloween decorations.


Again, I knit these up with scraps from Monkey's grandmother. They were super quick, super easy, and stuffed with plastic grocery sacks (I was not about to go out and buy stuffing for something that will only get use one month out of the year). Definitely a project worth doing. I snagged the vase from the Dollar Tree. I had originally wanted a giant glass jar to make it look more like ingredients for a potion, but resigned myself to a vase when I decided that giant glass jars are not worth their price for a project like this.

Overall, I'm happy with how they came out. Plus, they're hard enough that I can pelt them at Monkey whenever he's being a pain in the neck.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

A Discovery of Witches

book review thursday

book review thursday A Discovery of Witches is a perfect example of not judging books by their cover. I stumbled across the novel when I was setting up an account on goodreads (something I'm still exploring). The cover, and title, immediately drew me in. Based on the description of the plot, I got the impression that this was a novel similar to The Historian. While reading it, I decided that it did remind me of The Historian- but not the pleasant aspects of it. The boring descriptions, the initial sense of removal from the characters, and the precocious nature of the author all are the same.

After reading the author's blurb on goodreads, I decided that this desire to seem intelligence isn't my imagination. The author has virtually placed herself in the novel with a vampire boyfriend. The author and main characters were at one point in time theater majors before they changed to history, then finally settling on a history of sciences, and finally, a college professor. While I think that all authors put aspects of themselves into what they write, this was a bit disturbing. It's almost like reading the author's personal fantasies. What the book reminded me of the most, unfortunately, is the Twilight saga, with the addition of desperation to seem smart. Overall, it was less than engaging.

You're thrown into this alternate world without any senblence of preamble, and even after finishing the book, I was still incredibly confused as to what the hell a daemon even was. There was no real explanation of any of the creatures powers, other than in Diana's brief, sycophantic conversations with her boy toy. At least in the Twilight saga you know the depths of the world that Stephanie Meyer has created. I just wound up confused while reading this. It's almost as if the author starts to explain, and then veers off in another direction whenever she gets close to hashing out this alternate universe. This is particularly frustrating as the very definition of the creatures is an essential plot point.

Yet another irritating portion of the book was the constant references to the main character's overabundance of adrenaline. Of course, this is supposed to make her extra-tasty to her dangerous yet caring vampire boy toy, but all it made me wonder was how the hell she would have survived thirty something years without keeling over from all of those ridiculous hormones. I may not be a scientist, or a doctor, but even I know that running around isn't going to alleviate a hormonal imbalance of that magnitude. The least the author could have done is put her on some damned medication.

The author also devolves into boring ramblings about topics which do not move the novel forward in the least bit. There are frequent lengthy descriptions of food, meditation, and other off topic subjects that do not serve to move the plot forward, develop the world, or explain the characters. They seem to be only there for the author to fill up space and drool over wine she wishes to drink.

I repeat, this book is worse than Twilight. At least Twilight had the decency to admit it was romantic drivel. The series was specifically for fluff and enjoyment. This book attempts to demonstrate intense intelligence, but ended up with the same end. Ridiculous relationships that are hardly realistic or healthy. Why does every vampire have to go through the "I'm so dangerous, get away!" stage. And why do the women always have to give in to whatever demands their boy toy is making without a fight, all while claiming to be independent women? Diana starts out admirable, but ends as a miserable, pathetic mess that only cares about her "speshul snowflake" love with Matthew. Edward, and Matthew both act without any consideration towards their significant others thoughts or feelings. It's an incredibly chauvinistic view, and something that I find appalling in this day and age. When I read romances like that, I have zero empathy, and the authors lose my interest completely. "Oh yeah, btw, we're married now. You don't get a say in this!" Yeah, no.

To top it all off, the book ends without and sense of resolution. The plot was rather lacking to begin with- it was often difficult to realize that something happened other than Diana drooling over Matthew, so when there was no even attempt at a wrap up, I liked the book even less. While I understand the urge for cliffhangers, there's still a way to engage that tactic and still give consolation to the readers. Overall, definitely not my first choice. I think this would be great for the 13 and 14 year old girls who are at that peak age of know-it-all attitude once they've tackled Twilight. I just wish this novel had been more clear about it's role. It's fluff, nothing more than that, and it greatly disappointed me that it tried to me something else. I'm not against fluff for fluff's sake, or Twilight for that matter. I think they have their time and place. This just didn't cut it for me as anything more than, well, silly fantasies.

The only thing I can credit the author for was that I was actually interested in what was going on with the world she created. I still want to know the answers to the various mysteries that the author introduced at the very beginning of the novel that got shoved aside when Diana found her "true love". It was a really interesting concept that got lost in the paranormal romance genre, which is disappointing to say the least.

(2/5 stars)

Sunday, November 6, 2011

And on the first day of Christmas...


Okay, it does feel wrong to be writing about Christmas before it's even Thanksgiving. My inner holiday purist is going crazy. But, if I post every day, I might be more accountable and won't wind up knitting forty nine mittens on Christmas Eve.

That would be bad. Especially when you consider I'm also planning on knitting my sister a present. You know, if I ever actually get to it...

Saturday, November 5, 2011

A mitten a day keeps the doctor away

Christmas is almost as big of a deal in my family as Halloween is. The only reason I think it isn't is because my birthday is the day before Halloween and my father's is the day of. Still, every year, our Christmas decorations get larger and larger.

My mom has become a fan of the rustic decor. She bounces between rustic-farm and rustic-beach. Our kitchen is covered with roosters on almost every surface, whereas there are seashells and palm trees scattered about everywhere else. This decor obsession also reaches the Christmas decorations. Since my father is in charge of the outside, my mom takes over the inside. Essentially every nook and cranny is stuffed to the brim with decorations.

This year, my mom keeps hinting that she wants some knitted items. It began with seeing an add for hand-knit stocking ornaments and has only increased from there. I have quite a few random holiday patterns in my queue, and this year, I decided it was time for the mittens.


My goal is to knit one mitten a day for fifty days preceding Christmas, which starts November fifth. I'll be using the knitpicks' Smitten pattern, using the red white and green worsted weight scraps of yarn. I'm thinking that after I come home, I'll play "hide the mitten" with my mom and see how long it takes her to notice the random decorations that pop up.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Pumpkin Chunks

finished object friday

So I've already let the photos of this week's FO Friday slip, but I didn't explain them. One of my favorite places for inspiration on Ravelry is my friends feed. MissCookie in particular is utterly fabulous for giving me the bug to make toys. So when her Halloween themed monster chunks came into my line of sight, I knew I had to make them.


My Pumpkin Chunks are based on Rebecca Danger's Monster Chunk pattern, except I followed the trend of knitting them in one piece. I used safety eyes because, well, I think they're adorable, and a nice zig zag stitched mouth just for ease.


The first chunk is knit up with RHSS from Monkey's grandmother, and the second is knit out of random chunky acrylic, also from his grandmother. I vastly prefer the look of the first. It's kind of amazing that there is worse quality yarn than RHSS, but there you go. I finished both within an afternoon, and I suspect that next year, they'll multiply.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Help

book review thursday

book review thursday Talk about a book you just can't put down! The Help has been sweeping all sorts of book clubs and bestseller lists for a while now. I have to admit, I had absolutely zero interest until I saw the movie trailer. After that, I was intrigued by the fact it seemed to be more humorous than serious. I had almost forgotten about it by the time it popped up as available for me from my library, but five minutes in, I was hooked.

I normally absolutely abhor books that have some sort of propaganda or underlying message throughout. Not only are they usually incredibly boring, but they also have a tendency to be insanely preachy. This book, wasn't. It was funny, lighthearted, and heartwarming, and still addressed the difficult topic, all without falling into a lecturing tone. I didn't end the book feeling as though I should be filled with guilty, rather, I felt entertained, and grateful that the topic was brought up in my mind.

I'm not even going to pretend that race has ever been at the forefront of my mind. While I did grow up in a predominantly white town, throughout the years, I've had just as many, if not more non-white friends than white. I just never really noticed it- it took me until I was thirteen years old to realize that my best friend since the age of eight was Asian. It took me even longer to realize she was Buddhist, even though she had a shrine in the house I spent every weekend in.

Observant, I am not.

I'm just so tired of books that set out to make you feel guilty. I'm tired of novels that have a message. Don't cheat on your husband, you'll die a miserable death. Don't pick on the unpopular kids, you'll wind up a loser later in life. Don't be jealous of your best friend, they'll wind up dying and you'll feel guilty. And so on. This book managed to avoid that pitfall by being a story about women. It wasn't really a story about the treatment discrepancies, it was about these women and their lives. It was thoroughly engaging, and I kept laughing out loud and crying as the scenes changed. I was utterly wrapped up in the characters lives as soon as they were introduced. They all had personality depths that brought them from a cliche to a dynamic character.

I do think that I would have liked this book less if I had actually read it, rather than listen to it. The narrators of the audiobook were absolutely fabulous, and now I keep catching myself let out my little southern twang the way I do after talking to someone with a serious accent. The majority of the book was written in dialect, and that would have frustrated me to no end having to actually see it, but listening to it wasn't bad at all. It added an additional level to the characters that just pulled me into their stories further.

The one small criticism that I have for this book is that Minny and Celia were by far more enthralling than Aibileen and Skeeter, yet they had drastically smaller parts in the book. Celia's struggles of trying so hard to fit in, and yet still remaining an outsider really stuck with me. When the scene came up where she lost her baby, I was alternating between hysterical sobs as that is my greatest fear ever and horrified laughter at Minny's reactions. Minny was a breath of fresh air in the novel whenever Aibileen and Skeeter grew too sentimental and idealistic. Her frank humor brought the novel to a new level, and her final decision that forced her to grow as a character at the end made my chest hurt with sadness at what she had been through. I only wish that Celia's storyline was finished properly. While the ending with Johnny was meaningful, I think she could have brought yet another dimension to the novel if she had been given a greater part- especially countered with Minny's descriptions of her and her actions.

All in all, I absolutely adored this book. It's definitely one of those that sticks with you for a while. It probably didn't hurt that I wound up listening to it essentially all of yesterday and last night (and a good portion of today as well... did I mention that it only took me two days to finish?). I really, truly enjoyed it and was sad to see it end, but I know I'll be reflecting on it for weeks to come.

(5/5 stars)

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Halloween Decor: Part Two

Yesterday, I showed off my own Halloween decorations. Now I'm about to put them to shame with a few from my parents house.

These photos suck and don't give justice to what the house looks like. The garage was closed off because my dad was still rearranging when I took the photos, so you don't get to see it from the front. The garage is the biggest part of our decorations, so it was a big disappointment that I didn't get a chance to take proper photos.


First off, a photo of what it looks like from far away. On the right, you can see a bit of the blow ups. There are about six on that side of the house, and they continue around the bend of the cul-de-sac and into the yard of the house across the street.

The black blobs on the center peak and the far right peak are a giant demon and a giant vampire. My dad opens the garage door and strings cobwebs (and a kind of rope netting) across so no one can get at the decorations.


A peak at what is behind the garage doors...


And more...


You can only really see about two thirds of the decorations in these photos, and almost all of them talk and move. Every year, my parents add more decorations, and every year, they get more and more visitors on Halloween. People will pour out of cars.

Like I've mentioned before, it's my dad's birthday (his 50th this year!), so of course he has to make it special.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Halloween Decor: Part One

As I've mentioned before, Halloween is absolutely huge in my family. This is the first year that I didn't get to spend it with them (I did see them that morning, but I had to leave around 7AM), so I did my best to cheer up my own little place. There wasn't much, but it's enough to make me happy. There's also a few sneak peeks at some FOs as well! Later, I'll show the few photos I did get of my parents place...


I used this tutorial, which I stumbled across on pinterest. I made this while listening to Storm Front- a fitting background, I think.


Our TV got the cobweb treatment.


And I made a pumpkin chunk.


And then our arm chair, which no one uses, became home for spiderwebs.


Our side table needed a little Halloween treatment, so I made another pumpkin chunk.


And finally, some eyeballs for potions!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Girls in White Dresses

book review thursday

book review thursday I powered through Girls in White Dresses by Jennifer Close immediately after finishing Storm Front. I finished Storm Front on morning of the 15th, and powered through until I finished it the next night. It was not the most enjoyable experience.

This novel consisted of a collection of short stories that spanned multiple characters' lives from college through their early thirties. The only likeable character out of the "main character" was the one you hardly ever saw. Mary was given a ridiculously small chunk of the novel, and because of this, the author didn't have the opportunity to really devolve her character into a petty, insecure drunken bitch that the other two main characters quickly desscended to. Isabella and Lauren were nothing if not pathetic. They spent the majority of their time either obsessing over how horrible their lives were, or making fun of other people. It was like being in the middle of a stereotypical TV high school. (Apparently, I was lucky in that my high school experience was nothing like how it's portrayed in the media. I didn't know any bullies, I had large groups of friends, and there were no "popular" clique- at least not one I knew of).

I admit, I'm not the target age demographic for this book. I have yet to go through many of the experiences that are portrayed in this book. While I understand many of the events are relatable- hell, even though I hadn't gone through many of them, I felt as though I could relate, the book still failed to make me care about a single character. I rather wanted to shake them all.

The biggest problem I had (other than the incredibly negative tone the entire book had) was that theses women settled. Maybe I've been lucky so far, but I never felt resigned to be with Monkey. I love him, no ifs ands or buts. He's the only person I want to be in a relationship with, and even though he drives me crazy approximately eight million times a day, I feel incredibly lucky to have found him. These girls have zero connection to the men that they date, or the men that they finally end up with. It seems very "well, I don't want to wind up alone..." sort of thing. While I know that you shouldn't see your significant other as "perfect" because they're not (believe me, there are a couple things that I can't say I wouldn't be happy if Monkey changed... like his refusal to go to the doctor for his sleep apnea), but these women have absolutely no real excitement for their significant others.

Seriously? You can't even portray the giddy feeling that they have when they first meet, flirt, and date their significant others? When the real main character, Isabella, constantly worries about losing her boyfriend, I had to wonder why. She showed no real attachment to him, other than in her fear of being left alone. Him as a person? Not so much.

The characters did grow a tiny bit less vapid as the novel wore on, but not enough to change my mind about the book. The book finally ends with what is supposed to be a Very Grown Up Decision for Isabella, and all I could do was roll my eyes. How was it a grown up decision if it's the same decision she would have made at the beginning of the book? Her constant insecurities and fear of being left her alone are what would have driven such a decision.

Ugh. I'm just incredibly frustrated with this. I was expecting light-hearted chick lit, and instead was saddles with immature, insecure twits. If I wanted to listen to that drivel, I would have gone and found a middle school girl.

(1/5 stars)

Friday, October 21, 2011

The Return of Noro: A Horror Story

finished object friday

I totally didn't finish these ages ago.

Oh no, these are fresh off the needles! (Say whaaaat?)


Alright, I admit it. I finished these ages ago. I may be the worst liar on the face of the planet. But, I assure you, I'm not lying when I say that these mitts, the camp out fingerless mitts, are my new favorite mitten pattern ever. The cuff really makes the construction just interesting enough to really make me love the pattern. A definite win in my book, especially when paired with a color changing yarn like Noro. I can definitely see myself making quite a few of these in the future.

That being said, this yarn was a dud. I made it out of Noro Kureyon and I absolutely *hate* it. I knit this to match my entrelac scarf and while it matches enough to suit my sensibilities (which I have to admit, sometimes resembles those of a stubborn three year old), it's not perfect. When I knit the entrelac scarf, I noted that the yarn was by far overpriced and over-hyped for being such poor quality. The sheer amount of veggie matter, knots, and joins were ridiculous for the overall accepted price. On top of that, the yarn was barely soft enough for me to wear. I told myself that I wouldn't purchase that particular type of Noro again.

entrelac scarf
(Oh, hey, there's the scarf in question!)

These mittens weren't any better. While I did use a different yarn (Kureyon rather than Taiyo), the quality issues were actually worse in terms of softness. It was like wearing Brillo pads the first time I put them on. To say I was frustrated was an understatement. Nevertheless, I decided to try to soak them with conditioner to see if it helped matters any.

It did- slightly. Instead of feeling like Brillo pads, it now feels like I'm wearing mitts made brush bristles. Not unbearable, but not like wonderful softness I've felt with practically every other wool I've used. So I'm chalking this up to another line of Noro that I won't be purchasing again.

(Please ignore the iPod in my cleavage. I'm such a classy dame.)

Another thing I've noticed with the two balls is that the color I deem the ugliest in the colorway is invariable the one that is the majority of the skein- half of the skein I used for these mittens were brown! Ugh.

Overall, these are definitely wearable. I can actually see myself wearing them quite often- aesthetically, they rock. They yarn just didn't meet my expectations of quality.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Dresden Files: Storm Front

book review thursday

book review thursday After finishing Before Versailles, I immediately jumped into a book that had been in the periphery of my reading queue for ages. The first time I had heard of the Dresden Files was in an art class during my senior year of high school. One of the girls there was absolutely phenomenal at art. It didn't matter the media, she was just utterly fabulous. She was also that sort of self-assured geek that proudly declared her interests.

Naturally, I spent most of my time idolizing her.

At any rate, when I wasn't terrorizing my other friends in that class, I'd often listen to her talk to one of her friends about the various television shows and books that they love. Of the many things they talked about, all I can really remember now is Doctor Who, Dresden Files, and Death Note (apparently words that start with a "D" are memorable). I've since gone on to adore Doctor Who, though I'm sadly, not caught up on the current season, nor have I seen the older episodes. When I went to explore Dresden Files, I wound up stumbling across the short lived TV show first.

The TV is everything I like in a show- just cheesy enough to be silly, not dramatic enough to be ridiculous, and with a great sense of humor while still being able to carry a serious story. Sadly, it was cancelled after one season. And that was the end to my experience with the Dresden Files, at least for a few years.

A few months ago, when I was first exploring the overdrive website for my local libraries, I stumbled across the first book of the series, Storm Front. Without giving it much thought, I added it to my hold section and went on my merry way. A few weeks ago, I was able to download the book and pushed it to the side, as a reward for finishing the slog that was Before Versailles. When Monkey brought up the series a short while later after stumbling it in his now monthly search for new, nerdy obsessions, I became even more excited.

All that led to extremely high expectations when I started actually listening to the book. It didn't hurt that James Marsters, aka Spike from Buffy, was the narrator. Normally, you know where high expectations lead me, right? Disappointment. For once, this wasn't the case. There are a few, small nitpicky things about the audiobook that I didn't like. But the book itself? Utterly fabulous. It's like every great detective movie that plays on Turner Classic Movies, but with supernatural elements. Harry Dresden, the lone hero, trying to understand dual mysteries, escape trouble at every corner, and avoid his supposed fate. All while including a dry wit and great inner dialogue. The way the author incorporated magic was utterly fabulous. It was believable, easy to understand, yet still mysterious. I also really loved how he took the quintessential mystery plot- two, unrelated cases suddenly become interconnected- but did it in a believable, interesting way. Every time I read or watch a plot like that, I think of the movie "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang" with Robert Downey Jr., one of my favorite movies of all time. This is the supernatural book equivalent to that movie, with sarcasm and an unlucky narrator to book. Utterly fabulous. While the writing was a bit cliche, the book was still immensely enjoyable, and it was a great start to a series. If, as I've heard, the author's writing matures as the series goes on (I believe he started this book while in college), then the series will be more than awesome- it'll be amazing.

The audiobook, on the other hand? Oh dear. First off, I don't think James Marsters is a bad narrator. In fact, I think he's rather good. He does sound a bit inexperienced though, and the sound quality leaves a lot to be desired. There are parts of the novel that jump in volume, for no apparent reasons. Marsters's voice is great for this kind of protagonist, and not what I was expecting at all. While I'm not too sold on his voices for women, they don't take me out of the story at all, which is more than I can say for many narrators. What does jar me out of the story is the stupid "please change disks now" voice at the end of each segment, said by another person. Since this is a library copy, I'm not surprised, but at the same time, it's incredibly offputting. I'm glad I never was interested in audiobooks while they were on tape or CD. I'm hoping that as the series progresses, the audiobook quality improves. I really enjoy listening to Marsters, so I have no intention of switching to e-reader or hard copy format.

Overall, I absolutely adored this book. I'd recommend it to anyone who likes the SciFi channel, or televisions shows like Castle, or really, anyone. I think it was a great start to a series, and I loved all of the characters. I can't wait to listen to the next book! And until then, here's a preview of the utterly fabulous Kiss Kiss Bang Bang

(4/5 stars)

Saturday, October 15, 2011

The Virtual Knitting Retreat

I'm going on a fiber retreat!

Okay, it's a virtual fiber retreat. The Stash Knit Down group on ravelry is hosting a virtual knitting retreat to help us focus on the yarn we already have. Instead of going out, fonding, and hoarding yarn, we're encouraged to finish UFOs, cast on years old stash, and generally rekindle our love for the yarn we already own. They've hosted a few before now, but this is the first that I'm "attending". It lasts starting October 15th to the 23rd, the perfect time for me as it involves two days of three hour car rides, a relatively easy week of classes, and this weekend, where Monkey is out of town.

Utterly fabulous. These are what I "packed".


The hideous clown barf thing in the corner is the second fingerless mitt made of my Malabrigo from hell. It's an attempt to use up the ugly skein, and I'm unimpressed with the results. In any case, I just want to get rid of the yarn, so I'm trying to push through and just finish this mitten. Plus, I need the needles to cast on the yellow ball of Malabrigo Sock that will hopefully become a Springtime Bandit. Really, it would be a fall bandit, based on the beautiful color of the yarn. I'm a malabrigo virgin, so I'm super excited to knit up this yarn.

The extremely messy ball of mini mochi is going to be come an utterly fabulous Cable Braided Necklace. I'm so excited for this project as well. I absolutley adore the colors- they remind me of the beach, and winter all wrapped up in one. The pattern looks deliciously simply yet intersting, so I can't wait to cast this project on.

Finally, there's the little ball of Shepherd Sock that has gone through hell and high water to finally find a project that I like. It's going to be a Beekeepers Quilt, a pattern that the absolutely wonderful HappyCat gifted me in a random act of kindness. Seriously. You've got to love knitters. I've since knit eleven of these teeny hexipuffs, a paltry sum compared to the eight zillion I'm going to need for the size blanket I want, especially when you factor in that my hexipuffs are smaller than they're supposed to be. But I'm loving this project so far. I'm probably going to want to jump off a bridge when it comes time to seam them together, but that's another matter. I'm actually thinking that I'm going to use CrochetAmy's mods and connect as I go, once I get my shipment of new yarn.

Um, did I mention that I ordered my first yarn ever online? After quite a few pathetic emails to my mother, she told me to go ahead and order the yarn I needed from knit picks. Right now, this is my goal for the color scheme.

hexipuff planning

Since I'm going to run out of the shepherd sock before the end of my blanket, I intend to take a random color and duplicate stitch some of the lovely charts that knitters have provided. I can't wait to have adorable animals on my blanket. My only fear is that it'll turn out to look more along the lines of Dora the Explorer's color scheme than the pretty golds and pinks that I've picked out.

As for entertainment on this knit down, I've already churned through one audiobook, and I have two more queued up to go, as well as an e-book that's waiting for me to check out. I have plenty of TV shows to catch up on (Ringer, Castle, Doctor Who, Playboy Club, and so many more have fallen to the wayside in favor of school). I'm going to really enjoy myself this week. Tomorrow, I intend to throw in a batch of laundry, do homework until it's time to flip it, then do homework until it's time to flip again, over and over again because I think the last time I did laundry was a month ago and I'm running out of comfortable clothes.

I'm so excited. Can you tell?

Blue Velvet

cupcake saturday

I haven't had one of these in a million years!

Okay, first off, I want you to know that these pictures are from a month ago, and the cupcakes were quite a few days old by the time I took this photo. I promise, they looked *awesome* on the day of.


So what is this disgusting mess I'm looking at? It's a blue velvet cupcake!

I've never eaten, or baked, red velvet before, so I'm not entirely certain that the taste was on. For one thing, the recipe (this recipe) used coffee. I wound up coloring the cupcakes and frosting blue because it is my sister's favorite color- plus I thought it was a really fun change up. I can definitely see myself baking these in all sorts of colors- purple, pink, green, and so on.


The frosting was heavenly, albeit unbelievably rich. However, coupled with the cupcake, it was perfect. I'm just going to put it out there that I'm not a coffee person. I take my coffee the way I take my man- sweet to the point of a diabetic coma. So I wasn't expecting to like these cupcakes. However, they were just perfect with the icing. I also piped the icing in the cupcake as a filling and topped with an M&M.

Again, I apologize for the horrendous picture of the cupcake. I promise, these rocked.