Monday, April 26, 2010

Getting Started

The summer I turned 21, my mother convinced me to learn how to knit.  Being home from college during winter and summer breaks was an interesting time.  It was the first time since my young childhood that I had no school obligations.  I was a busy student.  I was involved in many extracurricular activities.  I was dedicated to my schoolwork.  College breaks in between semesters were a strange and wonderful time.  I usually just watched lots of TV, having exhausted my brain from reading as an English major.  However, my sometime during a sophomore year break I discovered Harry Potter.  I devoured the first 5 books in 2 or 3 weeks and waited impatiently for the last two, to be released in 2005 and 2007, respectively.  While I was waiting for those Harry Potter books in the summer of 2004, my mother excitedly showed me her knitting.  I didn't know she knew how to knit.  I knew her mother knitted, but she passed away nearly fifteen years ago.  Why didn't I know my mother was a knitter?  She was skilled with a sewing machine.  As a child I had a closet full of handmade dresses and Halloween costumes that are far more beautiful and high quality than what is sold in stores today.  But knitting?  This was a skill my mother never demonstrated. 

I was always a crafty kid, but puberty and college prep caused me to cast my beads and embroidery floss aside.  Now, with my mother's encourgement I decided that it was as good a time as ever to get crafty again.  Inspired by the book Celebrity Scarves we signed up for a class at our local Michael's.  I made a long garter stitch scarf comprised of several different textures and weights of blue acrylic yarn.  I thought it was glamorous and fashion forward at the time.  I think I have since given this beauty away to charity, but if I can find it buried somewhere in my closet today I'll post a picture.  I'm pretty sure there was ribbon fringe...

Friday, April 23, 2010

Coming Soon: Actual Knitting Content!

From my recent blog posts, one might assume that I have been reading more than knitting lately.  This is actually not quite true.  I have simply been lazy about photography, and I hate to post about knitting without some pretty pictures. 

However, next week is Knit and Crochet Blog Week, as proclaimed by Eskimimi Knits.  This is a good way to give myself a kick in the pants and post about my blog's title subject:  knits.  Keep your eyes peeled for daily (ha!) posts, and if you are a fellow blogging crafter, join in!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Book Review: The 13th Hour

I've been on a bit of a thriller kick lately, so when I read a review of The 13th Hour by Richard Doetsch that mentioned TIME TRAVEL in addition to suspense, I knew it was a good choice for my next read. 

Although it is a little known fact about me, I have a recent obsession with time travel.  Maybe it was Lost that piqued my interest, but either way I've totally geeked out for the past year or so by reading and watching all alternate reality/time travel paraphenalia that has crossed my path.

This thriller is basically told in reverse.  Main character Nick Quinn is accused of murdering his beloved wife, Julia.  A strange man gives him a mysterious watch that enables him to travel back in time, two hours at a time, to try and not only clear his name, but save his wife's life.  Of course, there was also a catastrophic plane crash in this sleepy New York state town on this fateful day.  As Nick travels back through time he begins to see how his actions can change the future for the better and for the worse.  Will he be able to save his wife and maybe even stop the plane crash?  Or will he cause Julia to die an even more terrifying, grusome death?

Watch out for some cheesy descriptive prose, obvious foreshadowing, and don't expect any elaborate character development.  Do pick up this book if you want to get lost in a world of time travel, betrayal, grand theft, and of course murder.  Overall, a fun read.  I found it fun to predict Nick's next move.  I would recommend it for a rainy day mental escape or a trip to the beach. 

This story has been optioned by New Line Cinema, so look for a movie version in 2011!  I'm seeing Nick's character as Will Smith.  I wonder if he or someone similar will be cast!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Book Review: Shutter Island

I had been counting down til this movie's release, as I love Martin Scorcese and Leonardo DiCaprio.  Like many other things in my life, seeing this movie fell by the wayside as I got busy with work and other pursuits coughMalabrigoMarchcoughcough.  I was pretty excited when one of my book clubs choose Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane as April's book.  I didn't even realize it had been a book originally.  I've heard that the book and movie are very similar, but if you've only seen the movie you should still definitely pick up the book. One of my friends who had enjoyed both said that there is one scene in particular in the book that is more vivid and creepier and worth reading all 300+ pages to experience it.

The library's copies were all out and reserved, so I wasn't sure if I would get the book in time.  I intended to buy my own copy, but I got busy and didn't get a chance.  My library copy arrived the day before book club, which left me 26 hours to read the book while still working all day and doing all other little pesky daily life tasks like sleeping and eating.  Well, I tore through this book in 3 hours, despite knitting while I read!  Like Lehane's other bestsellers turned blockbusters (he wrote Mystic River, Gone Baby Gone, and the recently optioned The Given Day), Shutter Island kept me frantically turning pages and left me surprised at the end. 
The story begins in Cold War era America as U.S. Marshal Teddy Daniels arrives at Ashecliff, a mental institution for the criminally insane secluded on a Boston Harbor Island, Shutter Island to investigate a mysterious missing patient.  A hurricane keeps him and his partner, Marshal Chuck Aule detained on the island and puts their lives at risk when the electricy goes out and the institution's electic locks fail.  The two Marshals explore the island and begin to uncover a Nazi-esque human experimentation conspiracy--or do they?  Daniels is running for his life in his pursuit to leave the island lest his brain become fodder for LSD and lobotomy experimentation.
I predicted a twist at the end, but my pieced together clues weren't even close to the "truth."  I loved that the ending was a little open to interpretation, because I don't want to let go of my theory!  Either way, I think there is an underlying, subtle commentary on the standard procedure and overmedication rampant in American mental healthcare today.  If you've read the book, I'd love to hear what you thought.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Stitch and Sip at the Ale 'N' Wich

This past Thursday, my Stitch and Sip group explored a new watering hole, The Ale and Wich at 246 Hamilton Street in New Brunswick. Some group members said that as they arrived they thought, "Hmm...this isn't like where we normally meet..." but I think we all had a great time. The Ale and Wich is the quintessential pub. With a wide selection of craft beer, TVs playing everything from Iron Man competitions to Spaceballs, darts, pool, foozeball, a digital jukebox, and non-pretentious bartenders, this is pretty close to my dream bar. One note of caution I will give to anyone planning a visit: don't come hungry. Although one might believe that the "Wich" part of the bar's moniker stands for "sandwich," no food is served here. However when I asked about food, the bartender handed over a huge stack of takeout menus. We ordered Chinese, but considering that it was a Thursday evening in a Rutgers neighborhood, it took about an hour for our Chinese to arrive.

Chinese food aside, we had a fabulous time. Most of us didn't have work or school the following day, so we, (well, ok, I) stayed out a bit later and drank a bit more. There was a nice selection of seasonal brews (seriously, how could you have Sam Boston Lager but not Sam Seasonal, like some bars do??), and a new one that I enjoyed was Otter Creek Seasonal Ale. No matter what the season, I love a good blueberry beer, and luckily the A and W has Seadog Wheat Blueberry, which smelled and tasted just like blueberry muffins! I know that's not what most people look for in a beer, but blueberry beer takes me back to my college days at the BU Pub. Oh, how I love that Wachusett Blueberry! I also tried the new Firefly Sweet Tea Vodka and Firefly Lemon Tea Vodka. If you are a fan of Nantucket Nectars Half and Half or Arizona Arnold Plamer, you will love this stuff! I think it will be one of my summer party beverage staples.

If you are looking for a very casual place to sample some creative brews, definitely stop by the Ale and Wich.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Book Review: The Magicians by Lev Grossman

When I saw The Magicians on the shelf at Borders a few months ago, I was drawn to the mysterious gray, gold, and green tones on the cover. We've all heard about judging books by their covers, but after reading the reviews on the back cover that indicated that this story pays homage to the works of J.K. Rowling, and C.S. Lewis my initial attraction was justified. Imagine Harry Potter's mental state in book 5, lost, alone, and persecuted. Imagine that that Harry goes to a magical university in upstate New York, meets equally misguided young magicians, and grapples with his place in the world, both magical and not. Harry Potter this book is not--the tone is much darker and the author's voice mirrors that of the young pro(ant?)agonists.
Grossman explores the value of relationships, growth, and forgiveness by following the development of Quentin, our main character, and his fellow magical prodigy Eve. However, Quentin's personal quest for happiness and self-fulfillment overcomes their relationship. I could see the archetypal highly intelligent yet selfish 20-something who doesn't know what he wants in Quentin.
In a nutshell, this story is Harry Potter meets the Chronicles of Narnia meets Reality Bites. Although my omnipresent desire for a picture perfect ending wasn't fulfilled, I would still highly recommend The Magicians to anyone who has ever gotten lost in a fantasy story or felt lost in the real world.