A couple of months ago, my sister called and asked if Sassy and I wanted to go to the Detroit Institute of Arts for the Faberge Exhibit. We had toured the Kremlin when we were in Moscow in 2001 and she thought it might be nice to see more of the collection. On Sunday we all headed over there. The treasures were in cases, so I couldn't get as close as I wanted. It's hard to focus on all the detail when you're packed in with lots of other people. Plus - these things are so filled with detail that it's completely impossible to see everything. You're looking at enameling covered by gold stripes filled with precious gems, and then more enameling...unbelievable.
Only one of the eggs was open. Most of them had descriptions of the surprises that were originally inside the eggs, some with small pictures of the surprises. There were parasol handles, candy boxes, frames, icons, cups, miniature animals, chess boards, candle holders - you name it, if the Romanov family bought it, there was at least one example on display.
My favorite egg
At the end of the exhibit Sassy and I were waiting for the others. I turned to her and said, "You know, every time I approach the story of the Russian monarchy, I want the ending to be different. I want them all to live."
I want the Tsaritsa to say, "Hey Nicky! We need to come clean about the Tsarevitch's health - let's tell the people that he's sick." And, "Rasputin - get lost. You stink and you're a pig. Take a hike!" I want the Tsar to say, "Maybe it's not such a good idea to spend oodles of money on incredibly intricate but ultimately useless gifts. Mama, Alix, this year for Easter let's just have a nice dinner and hide eggs for the kids. What we save on our Faberge bill will buy lots of bread for the people."
I know it's simplistic to wish they had seen what was coming and somehow plan for it, but it doesn't stop me from hoping and then feeling bad every time they die at the end.
I've been thinking a lot lately about creativity in all forms. I am primarily a knitter and a spinner, although I do A LOT of dyeing as well. I've always been curious about drawing and sculpting, but haven't had the time or inclination to actually do anything about it. I do have a couple of favorite sculptures that I'd like to share with you.
This is the Ghost Clock.
It's located in the Renwick Gallery in Washington, DC. The Renwick is the home of the American Art Museum's Craft and Decorative Arts program. The first time I went there, I was expecting crafts along the line of knitting and spinning. I walked into a gallery and saw this piece and thought, "Why would they drape something and leave it in the gallery? That's really silly. They should take it out and repair it and then bring it back." Then it hit me, it's a sculpture - created entirely out of wood. It was carved by Wendell Castle out of bleached Honduras mahogany.
I must have stood and stared at this thing for 20 minutes. It's on a large pedestal with a couple of other sculptures, but you can walk around and see it from all sides. It is gorgeous and I can't even imagine the craft it took to create it. If you're in DC, take a trip over to the Renwick. It's not far from the White House so if you're there for the whole historic tour stop by and see it.
I believe I've written here before about my attempts at getting on the Getting Things Done train. GTD is the shorthand for a program created by David Allen that shows you how to structure your life so that everything gets done and you have time to do all the things you HAVE to do as well as all the things you WANT to do. This year, Jillian challenged me to jump back on the train with her. I've spent the majority of the last two days processing notes from meetings I've been involved in over the last 12 months. Seriously! Here's the thing, I take notes on index cards when I'm in a meeting. I capture high points, future projects, action items, and the like. The ideal is to process these notes within a couple of days. The reality is, I had a stack of index cards about four inches tall. Unacceptable. So, I'm working my way through and hoping I can stick with it. I hate the idea of completely scheduling my life, but it looks like that's the only way I can actually get things done. (see what I did there?)
In the fall of 2012, I was working really hard and completed a big task very well. I was utterly satisfied with the work and so was everyone around me. Then I fell into a bit of a rabbit hole. Nothing was making me happy - not work, not life. So I hired a personal coach and began looking around for what would make me happy. One of the people I encountered was Tara Sophia Mohr. She writes a lot about playing big and living out loud. These questions came in her year-end e-mail. I'm going to tackle them just so I have a touch point to come back to for the coming year.
1. Because I wanted to make
2013 count, I…will play big and stare down whatever fear is currently in my heart.
2. Because fear of failure was
no longer a good enough reason to not do it, in 2013 I…will attack problems head on and be braver when it's time to speak up.
3. Because I listened to the
whispers inside, in 2013 I…will make sure those whispers are speaking kind words about me and the people around me.
4. Because the things that
brought me joy in childhood still do, in 2013 I…will ride my bike more. I forget how much I love it until I'm on it.
5. Because simple pleasures are
so rich, in 2013 I…will cook more meals and share them with my family.
6. Because my body has served
me so beautifully all these years, in 2013 I…will start a yoga practice and be more mindful of what I put into it. What does not serve me will be gone.
7. Because the world needs my
service, in 2013 I…will teach. I want to put together some fiber class descriptions and send them to places that need teachers.
8. Because of the remarkable
people who have loved me and made me who I am, in 2013 I…will tell them how much they mean to me every time I see them.
9. Because I am willing to
believe in the power of forgiveness, in 2013 I…will be kinder to people who I feel have done me wrong. I will apologize first and leave old hurts in the past.
10. Because the silence has
gone on long enough, in 2013 I…will keep speaking up - again and again if necessary, until I am heard.
11. Because I am so blessed, in
2013 I…will continue to look for people and projects that are in need. Kiva and Kickstarter will be seeing a lot of me this year.
12. Because I vowed to be more
radical, in 2013 I…will worry less what other people are thinking.
13. Because I wanted, in the
last days of my life, to remember this year with tears of gratitude, in 2013 I…will be me. I will be grateful for every single day for the opportunities I'm given.
I've been casting around for a 365 project. What to do? What to do? Turns out, I didn't really need to try so hard.
For the last couple of weeks, I've been challenging myself to peel an orange in one piece. I think I'm up to something like 15 or 16 days at this point. (bear with me for a minute here, I do have a point). So we're all sitting at lunch today and my friend Sarah was sitting next to me, doing what she does ... peel the label off her Sobe Lifewater. Usually, she pulls it off in giant chunks. Today, she peeled it off in a thin ribbon. I looked at it and immediately "I could knit that" sprang into my brain. I think she was surprised to hear the wheels in my brain spinning so loudly.
365:1 - Sobe Lifewater yarn on plastic knives
I picked up a couple of knives that were sitting on the table and cast on. It took maybe 5 minutes and it was a blast. The result -->
The three of them (June, Lucy, and Sarah) were all excited. We started talking about all the cool things waiting to be knit. June snapped a picture of day 1 with her phone and started a list of possible material to use. It was one of those spontaneous brainstorming moments where we were talking too fast to capture everything.
Therefore, my 365 project will be something knitted every day. I can hear Erica saying, "But, but, but, you already knit something every day." And she's right. What makes this different is that I'll be using something unusual for either the "yarn" or the "needle" part of the equation.
If you have suggestions, I'll gladly take them. I've previously written that I didn't want to take on a project because I was afraid I'd run out of ideas. This is going to be a challenge - but I already love to knit, what could be better?
I finished this bad girl back in January and just haven't had a chance to post it. The pictures are dark, but the yarn is very dark and it's hard to get a good picture of the actual shawl. I had a co-worker take pictures and he got this good one of me wearing it.
It's a simple garter stitch shawl but look at those little scallops on the edges! They're a little fiddly and I cursed them while I was making them, but they're adorable once they're finished.
This is a gentle sloping shawlette that is incredibly warm. I've discovered that if I keep something wrapped around my neck, I stay a lot warmer. It probably hasn't hurt that we've had the mildest winter ever (not that I'm complaining).
22.5 Degrees Shawlette, designed by Martina Behm
The designer, Martina Behm, has a lot of great designs that are in my queue over on Ravelry. They're simple, but lovely (Hitchhiker is the highest on my list right now.) You're going to need to sign into Ravelry to get to those links (if you don't have an account - get one now).
The Schaefer Anne is lovely to work with. I used my Addie Turbos and the yarn slid like a breeze. (The bamboo needles I started with were quickly traded out.) The mohair makes me itch a little bit. If I the shawl on outside of my fleece or jacket, the itching lessens.
A quick knit and I get tons of compliments when I wear it.
Pattern: 22.5 Degrees (free pattern!) Designer: Martina Behm Yarn: Schaefer Yarn Company, Anne (60% merino wool, 25% mohair, 15% nylon) Colorway: burgundy/green/black Yardage: ~500 yards Time to knit: 8 days
I'd Know You Anywhere, Laura Lippman
originally published: August 2010
finished reading: 7 March 2012
cost: $7 (paperback swap)
I think if Laura Lippman wrote the phone book, it would be interesting and I would read it. I find her words so easy to read and the stories she tells so evocative that I find myself wishing she would either write faster or drop by so we could sit on my deck, drink beer, and talk.
I'd Know You Anywhere is creepy. The premise of the story is a serial killer who contacts the only victim he left alive many years after their encounter. Lippman slips back and forth in time to tell the story of the kidnapping and the story of the present day. Sometimes I find being dragged back and forth annoying - in this book it is not jarring, but a natural outgrowth of the story itself.
While I didn't find the protagonist endearing (she's a little uptight for my tastes), I did sympathize with her. She has managed to rebuild her life and move on and Walter (the serial killer) contacts her because he needs her. The arc of the story isn't difficult to figure out, but what happens on the way to the conclusion is deftly written and managed to keep me interested until the very end.
Read it and if you haven't already, go back and read everything else Laura Lippman has written. You won't be disappointed.
Can someone explain to me how to use that stupid schedule feature on Blogger? I wrote a bunch of posts and "scheduled" them to be published and they sat in the draft folder until I came back here to publish them. Either I don't understand "schedule" or Blogger doesn't...
I love Jane Austen fan fiction. I'm not one of those purists (like my daughter) who think the only story is the way Jane wrote it. This particular story is one in which the 21st century heroine wakes up suddenly in the body of an Austen contemporary. She keeps trying to figure out why she is where she is and is vaguely interested in getting back to her own time.
The descriptions of the life she's found herself in are quite good. Who thinks about deodorant or the politics of bathing every day when they think about how lovely it would be to swan around a ballroom with Mr. Darcy? Rigler was spot on with the manners and decorum of the Regency era. I also loved her take on "shopping" - how many bolts of fabric can one look at when you get the same dress every time anyway?!
Where Confessions falls down for me are the constant thoughts about the life Courtney left behind. She's just broken up with her fiance after discovering he was cheating on her. Not only does she obsess about the way she handled the situation, she obsesses about the way she treated the fiance's best friend. Fish or cut bait, grrl! And in a book where the main character essentially time travels, I suppose it's truculent to point out the fortune teller's description of why she's traveled is nonsense (time bends, time moves, we are all in the same time while we are all in different times).
This is a quick read and has some merit, but only read it if it falls in your lap. Don't go looking for it.
This book took me forever to finish. I'm not sure what I expected, but this wasn't it. I remember the Iranian revolution. I was in junior high and high school when the Americans were taken hostage and held in the embassy and I clearly remember the events as they were happening. I guess I wanted an idea of what it was like from someone who was actually there.
Nafisi is the pampered daughter of two people who were both well connected. Her father was an advisor to the Shah and her mother eventually became part of the political machine. This book is the story of their lives, filtered through Nafisi's eyes.
The book could have been fascinating. The impression that it left me with was that of a spoiled princess who loved her father more than she loved her mother and did what she could to break free of them. I didn't get a sense of what happened to regular Iranian citizens during the time of the revolution, because Nafisi isn't one of them.
This book is not a broad description of what life in Iran was like before and during the revolution. It is one small slice of one family.
The idea of doing a 365 project intrigues me. At the same time, it terrifies me. I keep inching closer to the thought of committing to creating something every day for an entire year. Can I do it? Yes. Will I do it? I don't know. Every time I get close to thinking I'm going to start, something urges caution and I delay again. I'm afraid of getting lazy or bored or distracted.
Scalin's 365 project was skulls. He created some brilliant art work - a giant snow skull, a skull involving ketchup and mustard bottles, sushi - they're amazing! This book is meant to spark ideas for every day of the year. Many of them sparked in my head while reading and I can see returning to the book over and over to get re-sparked. His blog featuring his 365 skull art is incredible to scroll through.
His other blog, Make Something 365 is, by turns, intimidating and inspiring. He has done interviews with people who are just starting out on their 365 journeys and he features interviews with people who've completed. It's an incredible mix of art (photos, drawings, one guy is listening to a Billy Joel song every day and writing a review about it). I scroll through and think to myself, "that's a GREAT idea - why didn't I think of that?" or "my idea is crap compared to this one" or "I could totally do a 365 project!"
I'm gathering ideas and courage to start my own 365 journey. This part of it has been fun. I can imagine that the project itself will be fun too. I just need to get moving.
I love Flavia de Luce. I am amazed every time that Alan Bradley gets her voice so right She is a charming, eccentric pre-teen and I can empathize with her father about having to deal with her quirks while dealing with her older sisters and the gradual decline of the family fortune.
I will admit I had a hard time keeping up with all the changes in this story. For some reason, when I listen to the audio versions of books I never get as deeply into the story as when I see the words. Plus, I usually listen when I'm on the bus - so 25 minute snippets at a time - it's hard to keep up when you can't flip the pages back and forth.
All that aside, this was another refreshing romp through Buckshaw, Flavia's lab, and the surrounding countryside. Looking forward to the next installment.
The Last Romanov, Dara Levy Mossanen originally published: April 2012 finished reading: 11 February 2012 cost: $10 (review copy)
I have a fascination with the Russian royal family. The tragedy surrounding their deaths has always fascinated me and I've read a lot of what's been published, novels as well as histories/biographies. I was excited to see this one - a story I'm familiar with told from a different perspective sucks me in every time. Unfortunately, I cannot recommend this book.
The piece Mossanen adds to the story is a woman from the fringe. Her parents were friends of the Romanovs, but of course not of their social standing. When Darya becomes an orphan, she is brought to the palace to look after the Tsarevitch. What follows is a descent into mysticism, as if there wasn't enough of that in the real Romanov palaces.
I didn't buy it. I didn't believe that Darya's powers came from the ambergris. I didn't believe she would stay in the same city where her beloved royal family was murdered. I didn't believe she would pine for her lost love (like some Russian Miss Havisham) for decades.
I can't tell you why I finished it. I think on some level I keep wanting the end of the story to be different. This book was unsatisfying on almost every level for me.
Love is the Thread: A Knitting Friendship, Leslie Moise, PhD originally published: December 2011 finished reading: 5 February 2012 cost: $19 (review copy)
I am not a touchy-feeling kind of person. I have a small group of wonderful friends and I'd drop anything at a moment's notice to do for them (and they'd do the same for me). Love is the Thread is the story of such a friendship.
Moise takes the reader on a journey through this wonderful relationship from its beginning to its end and beyond. It is a celebration of her friend's life and their connection over many years. I tend to be a little skeptical of this sort of book. Sometimes people write in order to give themselves a pulpit from which to lecture the rest of us. Moise manages to describe her friend in the most loving way possible - without making me feel lacking in some way. The book is new-agey without being cloying or preachy. It is a gentle read and was exactly what I needed to get through my mid-winter duldrums.
My first show of 2012 is in the books. The first Winter Wine and Wool at the Sandhill Crane Vineyards was on Saturday and it was a fabulous day! I was a little worried when Sassy and I got in the truck - it was gray and snowy and my heart kind of sank. I thought "everyone will stay home today and we're driving through this mess and no one will show up". (For the record, this is always what spins through my head on show day - I turn into Eeyore.)
What happened was so much better than I expected. It was the first time Heather has set up a Winter show. I've participated in the last 2 summer shows at the vineyard and they were a lot of fun and quite successful. All of the vendors were inside the big building (I think there were 10 of us) and the colors were amazing!
This is a shot of me and Andrea Morrison of Wonder Why Alpaca Farm. We were back-to-back last summer and had fun. This time we put our chairs right next to each other so we could chat without having to shout across the booths. We could tag-team customers so when I was busy, she would spin and when she was busy, I would spin.This shot was from very early in the day and people were just starting to wander in and look around.
I was a little concerned about putting the table right next to the light - I didn't want to completely block it out. Turns out the snow threw a lot of reflection and people could see my colors just fine. I got comments about my socks, the sample hat Jillian designed and knit for me, and lots of questions about spinning. Turns out wine drinkers are a very curious group.
Best of all, I hit my goal in sales. I also got some great ideas for displaying my wares at upcoming shows.