Monday, August 31, 2009

Amish Fun

I saw this sign when we were watching fudge get made. I think it sums it all up nicely.

An amusing new take on American Gothic?

Looking at this now, Christine and I really should have taken the kids spots, but then no one would have been left to take the picture.

Mike continues to be inspired by Weird Al Yankovic's "Amish Paradise".

Okay, this is cuter.

Mom and I, a little damp from having ridden the tube ride you see in back.

Books, books, books. Working my way through the Hellboy novel On Earth As It Is In Hell, since I needed to take a break to take care of schoolwork. I also read the Vol. 1 graphic novel, Seed of Destruction, so now I'm set with the first few issues of the comic. I hope to get all of them, because I love the way they're written and I've been a fan of Mike Mignola's art since I used to collect Dracula cards (from the Gary Oldman movie), where he did artwork.
Also read another wrist-slitter for the clubs, a book called The Unnamed by Joshua Ferris. A high-powered lawyer develops a resurgence of a disease he had a few years before, which causes him to walk compulsively. He is fully aware while it happens, it's just that he has no control over the urge and will walk until he passes out from exhaustion, at which point his wife has to go fetch him from wherever he ends up. There's no physical trace of the disease and nothing seems to treat it, so he's never vindicated. He's humiliated by his coworkers, loses his partnership at the firm, and eventually, his family falls apart as his wife descends into alcoholism and his daughter withdraws into herself. There's an odd sort of murder mystery thrown in that doesn't really seem to belong there. The thing is, nothing ever improves in this book. It really is a downward spiral of misery and it wasn't that great of a book. I admit that losing my stepfather after seeing him in and out of a hospital for a few years didn't help the state of mind I was in while reading the book. It's not going to find a space on my bookshelf.
Cutie's birthday came and went, and now I have a six year old. How did that happen so quickly? We kept it low-key, having just lost Rich the week before, and had a cake for him at my Mom's, with presents at Grandma's earlier that day. His party will be in September again, since I had such a great turnout last year by waiting until everyone was back from vacation and in school. He doesn't mind; we pretty much make his birthday a month-long event this way.

Getting Back to Fun

After the rollercoaster of emotion we've ridden out over the past couple of weeks, we headed out to Amish Country to get some space to clear our heads, if not our hearts. I worked on the Clementine Shawlette, which I had to start practically from scratch. In my so-called genius, I decided I was going to knit the entire thing in one piece as opposed to the two the pattern calls for. I was about to start the decreases that would have taken me into the second half of the pattern when it just became a colossal mess. Argh. So I frogged it down to the first 46 rows, which may sound like a lot, but trust me - it ain't. It did knit up quickly enough, though, and I'm halfway through - and this time, I listened to what the nice designer told me and put this half on stitch holders while I work the other half:

I think it's showing up almost as a white shawlette, but it's a beautiful ice blue.

Amish Country is beautiful. I can't get tired of the area. There's great food, fun things to do, and we went with our friends Ron and Christine and their two daughters, so it was like a huge family vacation. The kids all had a great time together and it was great for Mom to be out and about.

Another great thing about Amish Country? The crafts. Folk Art is hugely popular in the area, and I've found myself buying sheep-related folk art the past couple of times I've visited. Then, there's the Amish quilts.

This was one of the four quilts I was able to photograph on a tour through an Amish farmhouse. It's so beautiful, and man, am I determined to learn to quilt after seeing these beauties. No, I have no delusions of grandeur; I know this will not be my first, or maybe 100th, attempt, but if I could just sew a few squares together, I'll be tickled pink.

Oh, and the yarn:

I finally bought something at the Lancaster Yarn Shop! I went last time, but it's a bit pricey for an unemployed gal. This time, though, I caught a sale on some beautiful Brown Sheep yarn in this beautiful teal color that begs to be made into a scarf or gloves and hat this winter. I think a nice slouch hat would look great, don't you?

And now, back to the quilts.

This quilt was my absolute favorite. It's hard to tell from the picture, and a close-up I tried to take didn't really show the detail as well as I'd have liked, but there are heart designs sewn into the body of the quilt, outside of the print areas. These women do this by hand or using old treadle sewing machines - I'm completely floored by the beauty they create.

And of course, the kiddies were all over the buggies that were out in the farm area.
More pictures to come.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Post I Didn't Want to Write.

I've been avoiding writing this for a couple of days, despite keeping family and friends updated through Facebook statuses - maybe a blog post seems more final than a fleeting status message. Maybe I just got tired of actually voicing it. I started writing a post, but realized I was just rehashing every damned thing about the past few days, so I pulled it. No one needs to read the gory details.

My stepdad, Rich, died five days ago. It was sudden, brutal, and left us shattered. It wasn't a movie farewell, where we had time to reconnect and he had full speech and mastery of his limbs despite being hooked up to multiple machines. He didn't expire at a climactic period, his head gently lolling to one side and his eyes softly closing as if drifting off to sleep while we stood in loving vigil surrounding his bed. It was a death that crept up on all of us and snatched him away. Yet, in all of this, I have to believe that the prayers I asked for were enough to get God's attention long enough for Him to take Rich before the real pain began, and in that, I need to find some solace and be grateful. It's difficult.

The hardest part - well, one of them - was helping Heartbreaker get through this. He's old enough now that he understands that Grandpa's gone and he's not coming back. Nancy suggested some books for me to read to the kids, so I have to find some of them. I checked out the library yesterday, but none were in. Cutie Pie has a vague idea that Grandpa's gone, but the fact that he spent the better part of the last four years in and out of the hospital makes me wonder if he thinks Grandpa will be home eventually. This is so tough.

I've been knitting the Clementine Shawlette from the Spring 2007 Interweave Knits; since this all blew up as I was knitting it up, I thought about giving it to my Mom as a prayer shawl. I don't know that she'd wear it, because she's not really the shawl type - she's the one who's always hot - but maybe. If she doesn't want to wear it, then I'll keep it. It's a beautiful ice blue DK-weight (Dolly, by Cascade Bollicine) that I received in a swap last year and it's perfect for the shawlette. I'm trying to knit it in one piece, so hopefully that will turn out well. Normally, it's two pieces knit separately and kitchener stitched together, but I was concerned that it I did it like that, it would look like Frankenshawl, a giant bump down the middle. We shall see.

I also finished the Chalice Baby Blanket for my mom's coworker. A fellow blogging knitter posted her pictures here, so you can see what it looks like. I've got to block it and let it shape, and then I'll post mine. I used the new private label yarn from Michael's, so the new mom won't have to sweat handwashing and pinning the blanket every time. It knit up nicely, but it was a little rough on the hands; I may just go back to Bernat or Lion Brand for my machine washable stuff in the future.

I finished the FINAL PAPER OF DOOM for school and did better than I dared hope. I finished the class, which I was terrified of as it was during the summer, and was thrilled with my grade. It was a great class, and I'm on to the next one starting on Monday. I've already put one mini-assignment up, and have to complete another by tomorrow. So much for my three weeks of blissful nothing. But it's all good; I'm ready to dive into another semester.

I managed to get through a couple of graphic novels recently, just to relax and let my brain enjoy a mini-vacation. I finally got to sit down and read Marvel Zombies 2 (with Ash from Evil Dead!) and enjoyed it more than I thought I would. Now I have to track down the first compilation to see if it's as fun. It really is fun, too, not as scary as I thought it was going to be - then again, with Ash in it, why did I expect anything else?

I've been on a Hellboy kick lately, so I also checked out Hellboy: Wake the Devil. I don't understand how Hellboy was one of those comics that I always meant to check out when I was reading comics voraciously in the '90s, but somehow never got around to. I guess I was spending so much money on the 12,000 crossover issues and variant covers of X-Men that I had no cash left. (Okay, and Lady Death and Evil Ernie, and a few others here and there, too.) I remember leafing through an issue or two in the comic book store and loving it, so what the hell? Regardless, I'm a fan now and would love to eventually add all the trade paperbacks to my collection.

Of course, I got it ass-backwards and read Wake the Devil before Seed of Destruction, which I also have waiting, but as Seed of Destruction is the inspiration for the first movie, I picked up on the Wake the Devil storyline pretty quickly. I appreciated that I was familiar with most of the characters, good and bad, and therefore the storyline going in, and I really loved how they were all written. It made me appreciate the movie even more. I think I have to track down the Hellboy action figure the kids have somewhere in their room and display him on my shelf next to my Morpheus and my Daniel figures - it's that good.

I'm also in the middle of the Hellboy novel On Earth as it is in Hell by Lydia Ballard. Very good reading. Angels attack the Vatican to keep an ancient document from reaching the public, and the BPRD is called in to investigate and transport the document to headquarters. I haven't read further than that, since school reading is back, but I'll keep you posted.

Pictures of knitting to come; I haven't really felt like busting out the camera the past few days.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Brain-Numbingly Tired

I submitted my final paper today, effectively concluding my ivory tower summer. While this paper took a lot out of me, I have to say that I loved every single minute of this course and the work that I put into it. I discovered that maybe, just maybe, I may be cut out for this program after all, and I realized that I have a great group of people in my corner who are pulling for me. And that feels pretty damned good.

Summer has been pretty consumed with schoolwork, but I did find some more book time. I read a book for the clubs called The Boy Who Couldn't Sleep and Never Had To, which was really out there and that I didn't end up enjoying as much as I'd hoped I would. It's a story about two high school geeky kids who come together to create a series of fantasy novels and movies, maybe even an MMORPG like World of Warcraft. One kid confesses to the other that he has never slept. Ever. The two friends get into it over a girl, the 'normal' kid squeals on the kid with the talent, and the Men in Black show up. It was a scattered type of book, and none of the characters were really likable, or unlikable enough, to keep me interested by the end of the book.

I also read another book for our family discussion group. This time, Will chose The Onts, the first book in the Dripping Fang series, which I loved! It's a more wacky take on orphan books like the Series of Unfortunate Events novels. We had a good discussion on the book, and I'm looking forward to reading the next book - Wil's already done with the series, so I have a bit of catching up to do.

Finally, I snuck in some of my own reading, this time another Torchwood novel, Something in the Water. I love the Torchwood novels. This is my second one and the authors really have the characters and the mythology of the show down. Something in the Water visits the legend of the water hag, who spreads a virus throughout Cardiff (I think it even reaches London) which ends up being offspring, gestating in men's upper respiratory systems.

Speaking of Torchwood, who watched Children of Earth?! I'm not posting spoilers here, but... WOW. I've read that Russell T. Davies is committed to a fourth season (Children of Earth was a season? Five episodes?), but the way the last episode ended up, I wonder where they've left to go. It will be interesting.

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention Doctor Who. Watched Planet of the Dead, which I enjoyed but not as much as I enjoyed the Christmas episode. Three more episodes with David Tennant. Sigh.

Knitting has taken a bit of a back seat in the past couple of weeks, but I'm back on the Chalice baby blanket I've been working on for my mom's friend. Pictures to come.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Batgirl Pilot

Anytime I can reference Batgirl in a paper for school, it's all good.