Thursday, May 31, 2012

Dead and Gone

book review thursday

book review thursday Okay, so this one wasn't quite as bad as the last few books. But still, Dead and Gone didn't float to the top of my awesome scale. I'm almost considering not even remarking on this series any more, except for the fact that I'm almost finished with it. Each book is similar to the next in terms of flaws and strengths.

I think the part of this book I liked the least was just how darn depressing it was. It was kind of like, "here, let me introduce these awesome characters and then kill them off just to make Sookie be angsty". I'm not interested in that. That's not to say that I don't want anyone to die in the books, that would be excessive. But when both Trey and Claudine kicked the bucket in one book (effectively introducing the end of Amelia), it definitely felt like Harris was just setting up Sookie to be in pain.

Uh, there's a different between winging over a relationship and winging over the loss of a personal friend and relative. Just... no. It felt too dark for these books, which sounds silly considering the series theme, but it's true. Nothing truly bad happens close to Sookie herself, nothing she (and the readers) can't bounce back from. While I understand that yes, eventually Sookie is going to be affected by her choices and relationship with the Supes, it definitely felt excessive this book.

Maybe I'm just sulking because I really liked Trey, Amelia, and Claudine. Either way, this book started out extremely enjoyable- I loved the focus on the mystery of Crystal's death and the Fairy wars, as well as that Sookie finally started calling in favors. I didn't like how Sookie just lay down and took Eric's high-handed introduction to a relationship. I though it was a stark contrast to the part of her personality we glimpsed in the end of her relationship with Alcide and Bill... Not really cohesive characterization.

Bleargh, I'm just venting at this point.

(2/5 stars)

Monday, May 28, 2012

Bouquet Card

make something monday

Along with the sinfully delicious cupcakes, I made Monkey's mom a card for her birthday! I was, well, incredibly inspired by Eskimimi's bouquet cards, obviously.


Since I lacked the interest in finding and hot gluing buttons, I opted to add some pattern to give the card a bit of texture. On the inside, I merely attached a cut down blank sheet of paper, like you find in fancy schmancy greeting cards. After scribbling a quick message, it was perfect! Best of all, this was a great use of my scrap-booking scraps.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Nutella Cupcakes

cupcake saturday

I've mentioned before that I'm not a chocolate person. However, I'm clearly in the minority and Monkey's mom absolutely adores chocolate. Her birthday falls near Mother's Day, so I always make sure she gets lots of yummy treats to munch on. This year, I opted for as chocolate as I could get. Part of this was to ensure that I didn't stuff my face with the cupcakes, since sweets have been a staple in my diet lately.


When I made Monkey his birthday cupcakes, I really fell in love with the Kahlua cake recipe. It represented the perfect chocolate cupcake for me- perfectly moist, chocolatey, but the little bit of coffee really gives it an extra kick that makes it ultra delicious. I don't ever use the instant espresso because, well, we don't have it! Instead I substitute in a half cup of coffee from our Keurig (whatever flavor I'm not feeling or we have excess of- in this case, decaf!).

For the frosting, I wanted to try a new recipe. I wound up going into our pantry to stare at our extract shelf because I just couldn't decide of a good pairing. I wound up spotting the two jumbo sized containers of Nutella and knew it was going to be awesome. My family doesn't do anything by halves, including groceries. Almost everything in our pantry is from Sam's or Costco, so I didn't feel guilty about using up lots of Nutella (especially because I'm the only one who eats it!).I used this recipe for the frosting and filled the cupcakes with Nutella as well. I probably should have used a bigger tip because I don't think there was that much filling in them. I wound up using two thirds or so of the big jar, so I have pleeeenty for later.


Remember how I mentioned that I was "saving" myself from the sweets by making chocolate? Well, that didn't work. After trying a cupcake, I had to have Monkey take them away otherwise I would have eaten each and every one before they could have made it to his mom.

Yum yum yum!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Death Masks (way to be dramatic)

book review thursday

book review thursday Of the books I've read in the Dresden Files series, Death Masks has been the best of the lot. That's not a tremendous accomplishment, as Jim Butcher's skill at creating an interesting plot and world has been consistently overshadowed by his inability to portray dialogue or women in a realistic manner.

This book managed to almost overcome those issues. We see the reemergence of Susan, and she's been completely transformed. She's actually not a helpless shell! She has powers, she had backstory, she has her own humorous lines! She also has a horribly awkward romantic scene that made me gag, but that's beside the point.

Butcher managed to introduce two incredibly interesting concepts in this book- the Denarians and the Fellowship of St. Giles. Butcher also managed to avoid the pitfall I find most serial writers devolve to- he's actually incorporating the magical being and groups into his subsequent novels. I loved the small glimses you got into the Knights of the Cross. Even though I'm not huge on my Christian relics, and I generally dislike stories that follow such things (Angels & Demons and Indiana Jones, I'm looking at you), the magical aspect of the Denarians kept me hooked.

This wasn't a perfect book by any shot. I'm getting awfully tired of Dresden's stupid remarks. While I know his "sarcasm" is supposed to be a funny quirk, it's overused and annoying at this point. It would be nice if every line wasn't said with insincerity. It would also be nice if Butcher didn't describe the breast of every single female he mentions, but apparently, that's asking for too much.

However, apart from those (usual) quibbles, I really enjoyed this book. I checked it out of the library and absolutely sped through it over the next day and a half. Yes, read. As much as I enjoy listening to James Marsters, my library is missing a few of the audiobooks in the series, but luckily, I'll be home long enough to check out and return a couple of the missing books.

(4/5 stars)

Monday, May 21, 2012

It's official

I'm going through withdrawal. I have been laptop less for over a week now. While parts of the replacement have arrived, a pretty case and charger do not make up an entire laptop.

This has been spectacularly frustrating, as I really, really want to finish the e-book I had started reading before the charger broke. (Seriously. It costs 75% of a brand new version of the same computer to replace the charger hole?)

I may resort to sitting outside on our porch and attacking passing UPS FedEx guys. Or maybe sitting in their local office and throwing temper tantrums.

EDIT: It's being shipped via FedEx, even though the rest of the order was shipped via UPS. THAT would explain a lot. I have never, ever had problems with UPS. FedEx, on the other hand...

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Orange Cupcakes? Yes please!

cupcake saturday

I've had this photo waiting since, oh, Easter. Uh oh.

When I'm at my apartment, I generally don't do that much baking. For one thing, I don't have a lot of space to store baking supplies, which means I don't have that many pans... Which means what normally would take me two hours takes me four because I'm constantly waiting for a pan to be finished. Consequentially, I usually try to choose easy recipes to at least minimize the amount of time it's going to take. I don't do the intensely complicated recipes, and often take short cuts with cake mixes.

I've never been an anti-cake mix kind of girl. Like with yarn, everything has it's purpose. As far as I'm concerned, if someone wants chocolate cupcakes with a special frosting, they're going to get a chocolate cake mix. Hey, I don't taste a difference!

I don't taste a difference because I don't actually eat chocolate cake, but whatever.

These cupcakes are a result of a doctored cake mix and let me just say: they're fabulous.


I found these Orange Sherbet Cake recipe on pinterest originally and I'm so glad I did. Holy crap were these good!

I'd first heard about the whole cake mix and soda recipe when searching for a vegan cupcake recipe for Monkey's step-mother back when she was "vegan". Those cupcakes didn't turn out too well because unfortunately, while vegan cupcakes are nommy, vegan frosting is really hard to make!

Since I wasn't worried about eliminated dairy products, I opted for a cream cheese frosting to top these cupcakes- more because whenever I buy cool whip, it winds up being eaten before it's supposed to. Most recently, I bought some for a Mother's Day dessert. It was supposed to sit on top of the strawberries on a cream cheese cake, but wound up being scarfed in the kitchen before dinner. The strawberries alone were totally fine!


The cream cheese frosting was delicious of course, how could anything involving cream cheese not be! It was a tad heavy for these cupcakes, but still yummy. I wound up adding a few teaspoons of orange extract to the cupcake and the frosting just to really cement that fake orange flavor. I think the perfect addition would have been those chocolate covered oranges, but that's just because I can't leave well enough alone.

Man were these good. So good, I may have accidentally eaten 18 out of the 24 cupcakes on my own. In one weekend.


I don't know why anyone trusts me around sugar. Clearly, I can't control myself. The more artificial, the faster it seems to go.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Maggie's Armywarmers

sfinished object friday

Whoohoo! I'm actually posting about a finished object! Granted, I finished this project way back in March, but that's beside the point.


You may remember posting about starting my Maggie's Armwarmers a while ago. I bought the Malabrigo in part because of the rampant praise from podcasters such as The SavvyGirls, but mostly because I wanted to knit my sister a pair of fingerless mitts for Christmas. After careful consideration, finally decided that the color wasn't really her thing, and since it matched my Envy so perfectly, I might as well make mitts for myself out of them. It was fate!

Yeah, right. Try greed!

I whipped up the majority of these while at a hockey game with Monkey, his sister, and her husband. It certainly entranced all of the kiddos there! The pattern was deliciously easy, and I only changed a few minor things. For starters, I knit these in the round, eliminating the extra seaming stitches. I only made the thumbs 15 stitches around (picking up the proper amount, and then decreasing down), and knit them in the same ribbing as the rest of the mitt, because I didn't want it to curl. I love the combination of small and large cables, and the way the thumb sits in the middle of the cables is utterly brilliant. What wasn't brilliant was the yarn.

Like I mentioned before, I hadn't ever used Malabrigo Rios before, and I can tell you right now, I don't intend to purchase it ever again. I recognize that with kettle dyed yarn, you're not going to get a perfectly consistent dye job. However, that doesn't mean a crappy dye job still isn't acceptable. While you can see the gorgeous variation in tones in my project, what you can't see is that every place there was a tie was *white*. There was absolutely no seepage from the dye onto those parts. I can tell you right now, it was a giant pain in the ass making sure that didn't show in my finished project. I have a photo of one bit I cut out on my laptop, but there was a mishap and the laptop is currently awaiting repairs (argh). I'll be sure to update this post as soon as I have access to my files again.

Unfortunately, those white spots weren't my only issue with this yarn. When I first saw the white spots (which were especially infuriating since my yarn wasn't exactly a light color), I looked on Ravelry to see if anyone else had the same problem. I discovered that almost every person had a problem with winding the yarn. Since I hand wound it into a ball with no problem, I figured I was safe.


It got tangled just sitting in my purse. Nearly the entire skein had slipped out of the ball (something I've never had happen to me before) and become a snarled mess. I wound up spending more time untangling this yarn than knitting it. It also fuzzed up like crazy. I would caution anyone against using this for a hard wearing garment.

After I had finished these mitts, I wound up with about half the skein left. I'm still contemplating making my sister a pair of mitts, but I haven't decided yet. I may buy another line of Malabrigo in a more suitable color instead.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

19th Wife

book review thursday

book review thursday As I understand it, The 19th Wife came out in the heyday of the Warren Jeffs scandal- supremely good timing on the publishers part. While I wasn't aware of the book then, I did discover it fairly recently on my local library's over drive site on their most popularly checked out list. During Warren Jeff's recent trial, I'd start my mornings working out, untangling a skein of yarn, and watching it on the TV. I had previously read When Men Become Gods, so I had a bit of a background on the subject.

From the description of The 19th Wife, I thought I was in for another thrilling story. I was intrigued by the concept of the intertwining stories, and though it would prove to be less of an autopilot, fluffy read.

I was wrong.

This book was not enjoyable. While the author did an excellent job of developing a concept, his execution was absolutely terrible. I felt myself wanting to skip over large sections of text. Initially, his writing style in the Ann Eliza Young sections were extremely dull and pedantic, but eventually flowed into the dominant story, and greatly improved in terms of flow. However, the second, modern day story floundered from the beginning. While I understand that he chose to alter his writing style to suit a boy with minimal education and support, the writing was excruciating to read. Even the concept of a murder mystery didn't save me- I simply could not invest in the characters. None had significant personalities, and the many felt like shells of a persona. Johnny in particular grated on my nerves, as he was the stereotypical street kid with zero likeability. Jordan was similarly unlikeable, especially in his treatment of those he supposedly cares for.

On top of the pathetic characters, the dialogue was poorly written at best- I simply couldn't imagine anyone speaking the way that he described. It was just a thoroughly unpleasant experience. The ending was unsatisfying at best. The only sense of satisfaction I got was that I had finally finished the horrible book.

I was just so disappointed in this because it had so much potential. The poor execution unfortunately killed any enjoyment I might have found in it. Definitely a waste of time. I think, if anyone wants to read more on the topic, they'd benefit more by reading an actual account of either life under Warren Jeffs, or the life of Ann Eliza Young, rather than this poorly written fiction.

(1/5 stars)

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Summer of UFOs: Part II

As I mentioned yesterday, I'm going to rock my WIPS like a hurricane this summer. I have three months to completely clean off my needles and I'm definitely going to do it. I've already made good progress on my first project, but I have plenty more where that came from.


Since I will have presumably already have the seaming practice, next on my list is my beatnik sweater. I don't intend to leave it until after I finish those other projects, however. I've been, and will continue, working on it while listening to audiobook and podcasts, as it seems like a waste to use my autopilot knitting for those times. I'd rather work on my shifting sands when I'm doing something that requires sight, as projects like that I choose specifically because they can easily be done by touch. My beatnik, I've found, is absolutely perfect for when I'm listening to something lighthearted that doesn't require intense concentration. I just want to wait to seam it all together until after I get some practice.

Also, that's not an old photo. After a bajillion years, I've finally started on the front. Thankfully.


This is, unfortunately, another project I started last summer and almost completed. It's a Death Eater illusion knitting scarf and has become the bane of my existence. I originally knit this for Monkey for the opening night of the last Harry Potter movie, and came like ten rows away from finishing it. The edges curl something fierce, even after I attempted to kill the acrylic. I have no idea what row I left off on, because Monkey kept leaving it at his mom's house so I couldn't finish when I actually remembered where I was in the pattern. At this point, I kind of want to chunk it in the bin, because it's incredibly difficult to see the death eater anyways. But I won't because it's his scarf and he says he'll wear it.

And it is only ten rows.


Last but not least is my hexipuff blanket. Ack! This has been shoved to the side so many times, it's depressing. It's still absolutely perfect autopilot knitting, and I suspect that after I finish my shifting sands, the hexipuffs will creep back into my hands. I'm almost at the point where I want to start adding the cute duplicate stitched pictures on the center puffs. Not quite though! I'm probably actually most excited to re-start on this project, most likely because I never actually wanted to stop. Guilt that I wasn't working with my stash was the only reason I set it down!

Monday, May 14, 2012

The Summer of UFOs

So, this summer, quite against my will, I'll be deprived of Monkey for essentially a billion years two months, without contact. While I'm trying really hard to not to panic and flail about, so far it's not going too well.

Every summer, I try to come up with a list of 101 things I want to accomplish. Most of them are the generic: read this book, clean out my closet, do this craft, and so on. This year, I decided that the focus on these goals are to keep myself busy. While I know that certainly won't keep me from missing Monkey while he's dropped out of civilization, it will at least keep me productive. My goals also have another theme; this will be the summer of eliminating UFOs.

I don't really have too many abandoned projects, especially not in comparison to some of the more ADD knitters. Most of the projects marked as unfinished on Ravelry are really only there so I remember to take a photo. The actual number of projects on my needles is comparatively small. I do think, however, it would be utterly fabulous to start the next (and thankfully, last) school year with a completely clean slate. That, and it would make packing quite a bit easier, as storing WIPS is definitely more challenging than storing FOs.

To foster my theme, I've made a "schedule" for myself. I didn't quite plan out dates, but I did decide on the order I want to knock these projects out. First on the list?


My shifting sands. I definitely haven't abandoned it long enough for it to be considered an UFO, but it's something that's been in my queue with yarn purchased and ready for long enough. It's going by surprisingly quickly, considering how reluctant I was to approach cables without a cable needle. Unfortunately, I'm running out of yarn more quickly than I would have liked, which means I'm inevitably going to have to pick up another skein, or possibly two. When all I want to do is act like a hermit, even that seems like too much trouble.


Second up is the dalek for Monkey. Originally, I intended to give it to him for his birthday, but that came and went without a completed object so this is still in my to-finish bucket, unfortunately. All that this dalek needs to be ready to extermiknit is his plunger, arm, bottom, and stuffing. Basically, fiddly bits that I really don't want to do. I really want to churn this out before Monkey is sent away without internet access, so I can at the very least show it to him over Skype...


The next project up to bat is something I'm quite ashamed of. I cast on for my Cabled Laptop Case last summer, and managed to get the entire knitting done. What I didn't manage to do was seam, line, and sew the closure on. Since I'm currently attempting a seamed sweater, I figured finishing the laptop case should be perfect practice. I hope. 

Those aren't my only projects, but I'm afraid this post is scary enough, so look forward to part two tomorrow!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

All Together Dead

book review thursday

book review thursday For all of my disappointment with the last book, All Together Dead more than made up for it. I loved it. I was so anxious to read the book, that I didn't think I could wait a whole two weeks to get it from my local library's overdrive hold shelf. I wound up discovering a new, fantastic asset that my library offers- OneClick. While it doesn't offer e-books, it has quite a lot of titles as audiobooks. The best part has been that I have yet to encounter a single book on hold. It does have its shortcomings, unfortunately. For one thing, the actual device is extremely difficult to use. For another, it it doesn't have anywhere near as many available titles as Overdrive. Nonetheless, I was extremely excited to find this.

In terms of All Together Dead, I don't have much to say about this book, other than the fact that I sped through it. I couldn't stop listening! This was an absolutely great, fluffy, no stress book. While it did have it's somber "moments" (i.e. everything after the first third of the book), it was still suitably humorous and intriguing. I enjoyed Sookie and Quinn (who I keep picturing as Pitbull, which thoroughly entertained me), and I loved the vampire politics.

The books seem to emphasize the pomp and circumstance of vampire politics, and I love the deviousness and intrigue that goes on at all times- it reminds of the most interesting histories of European monarchy. The Fellowship subplot and Sookie's exploration of her talent only served to add to the political theme of the book. I'm particularly interested in seeing how Sookie will handle the vampires now that her powers have been 'expanded'.

The ending did disappoint me a bit, as while I'm glad it finally sunk into Sookie the effect the vampire politics are having on her life, it did feel forced. The sudden fight and make up between Sookie and Quinn's sister was a bit irritating, honestly. It didn't really seem to serve much purpose, as I suspect this is the beginning of the end of Quinn as a major romantic lead, which is disappointing as I really enjoyed Quinn. His background was a great addition to the book, as it further struck home the inhumanity of vampires- something that I'm sure Sookie will grapple with more, especially as her relationship with Eric develops.

Overall, this was a really good book! I absolutely cannot wait to read the next installment, though unfortunately I'm sure I won't get to it for quite some time. Darn all those pesky things like jobs, homework, and housework that get in the way of my fiction!

(5/5 stars)

Tuesday, May 8, 2012


a few of my favorite things

I've been overwhelmed by exams. Yikes! In times like these I like to procrastinate take short breaks to enjoy simple things.

My very favorite Doctor Who character ever was Donna. I had never seen anything with Catherine Tate before, so when I finally saw her on the show, I was blown away. Tate is absolutely hilarious and brings a real humanity to her role. I absolutely adored her, and wish she could have stayed with David Tennant on the show forever.

Alas, it wasn't mean to be. Instead, we got a nice nod to their epic awesomeness on in one of Tate's most famous sketches.

Bite me alien boi!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Definitely Dead

book review thursday

book review thursday For all of my disappointment with the last book, Definitely Dead more than made up for it. I loved it. I loved it more than Dead to the World. Seriously- it was that good.

My major criticism from the last book was completely alleviated. There wasn't a slew of competing males, Sookie instead chose to dwell solely on Quinn- whose entrance I'm really enjoying. I hope that he's on the show as well. While she did have the heartbreaking experience of finding out Bill's true intentions, and Eric made his customary flirty remarks, Sookie didn't go on for eons about how they were trying to win her. In fact, she essentially wrote both of them "off" in one book. Clearly that isn't going to last, but it did at least make the romance easier to swallow. I was also glad that the Debbie Pelt and Alcide dramas came to a close. While I loved Alcide initially, the whole pack life thing really alienated him as a character, and the Debbie drama just irritated me. Debbie was frustrating enough of a character in life, in death she was even worse. Note: by saying frustrating, it's not a judgement of Harris' writing, more empathy for Sookie's situation. If anything, Harris did a fabulous job of getting me to feel for Sookie and her inability to escape that wretched woman.

Ahem. Now that I've rambled... The inner dialog was great. The fight scenes were great. The descriptions of the queen and her emotions regarding Hadley? Great. I seriously loved this book, and really sped through it. I'm really annoyed that I forgot to put the next one on hold, and now I have to wait forever for it! That's how good this book was.

My only quibble? Integral information to the plot wasn't included. She apparently wrote a short story in between this book and the previous one that confused the hell out of me. I hadn't realized it existed, so I had to check a few times to make sure I was reading in the right order. It would have been nice if that storyline was included in this book, as I understand that the story is only available with other sort stories that aren't integral to understanding plots. If I had known, I would have put that on my hold shelf and read it beforehand!

(4/5 stars)