Friday, December 31, 2010

Crafting Tools: Year In Review (part 6 of 6)

Here are the crafting tools that I've tried for the first time this year in no particular order.

Sharpie Liquid Pencil

I was a little more excited about this than a "normal" person should be. A pencil that writes like a ball point pen and you can erase it until it becomes permanent after 24 hours? Wowie zowie that's for me! It's not quite as amazing as I had hoped but it is still pretty cool. It erases cleanly but doesn't write quite as smooth as my favorite ball point pens. It also has a tendency to rub off a little too easily before it has become permanent.

Martha Stewart Punches

I bought these with coupons (big surprise, right?) because I wanted to use them on Contact Paper in order to make stencils for my new-found glass etching mania. It took a little practice and finagling to get them to do what I wanted them to but on paper, they punch beautifully. I do plan on collecting more of these but there are so many great designs to choose from it's difficult to be rational. Oh Martha, our love/hate relationship continues.

Fiskars Paper Punches

I bought a couple of these punches around the same time I picked up the Martha Stewart ones and was pleasantly surprised to find that these are comparable in quality. These are nice and small and come in lots of simple shapes that are great for my stencil-making purposes.

Takumi Bamboo Knitting Needles Double Pointed by Clover

A few years ago I had a bad, frustrating experience with a set of circular bamboo needles and assumed that every subsequent attempt to use them would yield similar results so I ditched the bamboo and went back to my trusty plastic Lion Brand needles. I honestly can't remember why, but I decided to give bamboo another chance, this time in the form of double pointed needles (DPNs) instead of circulars. I ended up loving these and buying a couple other sets in different sizes. I still knit a little faster on metal DPNs but there is something very appealing about the natural feel of bamboo. They are lighter and they make a nicer sound when they click together. If you do ever purchase a set of these, I recommend examining them closely for jagged tips. I had to exchange one of the sets I bought because it kept snagging my yarn. The new set is perfect though.

Needle Punch Stuff

I have enjoyed the few moments I've spent with these tools. I hope to do a little more with them in the future. I want to try and come up with some of my own designs because the kits cost a little more than I want to spend every time I do a punch needle project. We'll see how that goes.

Needle Felting Stuff

If this fun little pile doesn't make you a little curious, I'm not sure what will. Needle felting is another fun craft that I just wish I had more time for. I have also been a little turned off by the price of roving wool- a key ingredient (maybe I'm just not looking hard enough for good deals). Anyway, practicing this craft is on my list of things to do this coming year.

Armour Etch Glass Etching Cream

This stuff was recommended to me by a friend who has done lots of glass etching so I was pretty sure it was going to work but I was a little nervous about a possible learning curve. Turns out this stuff is a cinch to use! I love it, a lot. The first small bottle I bought (with a coupon) has lasted through over twenty baby food jar candle holders. Yay for value!

Thermoweb Heat’n Bond Iron-On Vinyl

This stuff is way cool. It is easy to use and adds that, "How did you do that?" element to even the simplest sewing project. Unfortunately, it's not machine washable (I guess that would be too good to be true). Also, since it's vinyl, it's basically like coating your projects in poison (according to some). I'm still wrestling with the idea of whether it's safe or not but for now, I've decided to not use it on anything that will come in contact with food or the mouths of small children- I figure that's a decent compromise. I am currently searching for an eco-friendly alternative so if anyone out there has any ideas, let me know.

Dritz Quilting Chalk Cartridge Set

I have never been quite satisfied with fabric marking tools in the past but decided to give this one a try because, guess what, I had a coupon. I was immediately hooked the first time I used it. The chalk holder is easy to use and works great. The chalk itself marks fabric smoothly and precisely. I also love that it comes with several different chalk colors to choose from. If you've been searching for an efficient, non-permanent way to mark your fabric pick up one of these. I'm pretty sure you'll love it as much as I have.

Let me know if you want more info about any of the above items or if you have questions about a tool or product I have mentioned in the past. Obviously, I love discussing this stuff.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Craft Books: Year In Review (part 5 of 6)

This year I used lots of half-off coupons to purchase craft-related books I thought I needed. Some of them have been more useful than others but I've been happy to have them as references for a variety of projects.

Donna Kooler's Encyclopedia of Knitting

This book has an extensive stitch reference section, as well as some interesting information on the history of knitting. It does cover some of the basics of knitting but I don't know how helpful it would have been to me if I didn't already know how to knit.

The New Handmade: Simple Sewing for Contemporary Style (That Patchwork Place) by Cassie Barden

This book changed my life as far as sewing is concerned. I know I've mentioned it here on the blog before but I just cannot say enough about how great this book is. I would say anyone who wants to learn how to make some very simple but useful projects would benefit from this book. It would help if you already knew how to use your sewing machine but other than that, this book explains everything you need to know in perfect detail with very clear illustrations and step-by-step instructions. This book has helped me conquer my zipper phobias and demystified some of the trickier elements of sewing for me. I highly recommend this book!

Simply Sublime Bags: 30 No-Sew, Low-Sew Projects by Jodi Kahn

This is such a fun book because it outlines some great sewing alternatives like staples and duct tape- how cool is that?! If you're looking for some funky ideas for quirky bags and stylish purses, this book is for you.

Sew What! Bags: 18 Pattern-Free Projects You Can Customize to Fit Your Needs by Lexie Barnes

I like that this book explains how to make your own bag patterns but also includes some basic versions of all the bags in the book. There are some hip and funky projects in this book that have been very inspiring.

Sew What! Skirts: 16 Simple Styles You Can Make with Fabulous Fabrics by Francesca DenHartog

This book has very detailed instructions for making your own skirt patterns and also explains how to make some really cute projects. I benefited from the basic skirt instructions when I made my wrap skirts.

Martha Stewart's Encyclopedia of Sewing and Fabric Crafts: Basic Techniques for Sewing, Applique, Embroidery, Quilting, Dyeing, and Printing, plus 150 Inspired Projects from A to Z by Martha Stewart Living Magazine

I am not a huge fan of Martha Stewart but she and her people know what they are talking about. This book came out right after my sewing obsession went into full swing so it only seemed natural that I should own a copy of this very extensive reference book. This book will also just look cool sitting on the shelf in the sewing room I hope to have some day.

2-at-a-Time Socks: Revealed Inside. . . The Secret of Knitting Two at Once on One Circular Needle Works for any Sock Pattern! by Melissa Morgan-Oakes

While I have yet to successfully knit two socks at a time, I appreciate that I understand the concept of how to do it because of this book. This book has also been nice to have for the wonderful variety of sock patterns.

Socks A La Carte by F&W Publications

I have enjoyed the mix-and-match pattern style of this book. It's full of instructions for so many fun socks, I've barely scratched the surface of possibilities. It is nice to have several different styles of heels and toes laid out in one book.

Pints & Purls by F&W Publications

Okay, I'll admit that I mostly wanted this book because I loved the title. It just seemed like something I should have. There are some super fun things in it but I have yet to actually knit any of them. The authors of the book claim that the projects are designed to be easily knit in public places- like in a bar, for example. What a fun idea.

The Feisty Stitcher: Sewing Projects with Attitude by Susan Wasinger

Even though I have yet to make any of the projects from this book, the unique materials the instructions suggest have inspired me and helped open my eyes to some exciting possibilities in sewing. Anyone for a wallet made from a bike tire inner tube?

How to Sew a Button: And Other Nifty Things Your Grandmother Knew by Erin Bried

I like the idea of this book; unfortunately, it reads more like a novelty gift than a how-to manual. There are some good, useful instructions though and I love the life stories of the older women the author interviewed for the book. If you're looking for a go-to reference book, don't bother with this one. If you want some general instructions or just a list of things you should go out and learn, you'll probably be satisfied with this book.

I think 2010 should go down as "The Year of Crafting." Somehow I managed to make lots of things this year thanks, in part, to all of the wonderful crafting resources I've had at my fingertips. Let's hope the new year brings more inspiration and more half-off coupons!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Books: Year In Review (part 4 of 6)

I have never really considered myself a "reader." I know how to read and I have read some amazing things in my lifetime, but given the choice between sitting down and reading a book or doing anything else, I usually choose anything else. This past year (and mostly during the last six months) I decided to be more intentional about reading. I didn't make any lofty goals to plow through the classics or anything like that. I just wanted to practice the art of sitting still and reading- even if it was light and often fluffy reading. The following is a list of the books I have read this past year.

The Idiot Girl and the Flaming Tantrum of Death -by Laurie Notaro

I have been a fan of Laurie Notaro for several years now, probably because she writes short, humorous, anecdotal stories about things that, as far as I know, have really happened to her. The first book of her's that I read was I Love Everybody (and Other Atrocious Lies): True Tales of a Loudmouth Girl and I found it to be eerily familiar. I almost felt like I was reading something I wrote, right down to the way she would repeat things in capital letters. IN CAPITAL LETTERS! Anyway, I've been reading her books ever since. This one was mostly fun but actually contained a very touching account of the loss of her dog- wow, there were tears. Overall a great read- a perfect bathroom book, if you know what I mean.

Why Animals Sleep So Close to the Road (and Other Lies I Tell My Children -by Susan Konig

My mom found this at a used book sale and sent it to me. I'm usually a little turned off by "mommy humor" but this book thoroughly surprised me. It was just sarcastic and cynical enough for me to enjoy it. The author does a great job conveying the love she has for her family without treating motherhood like it's always some beautiful thing filled with sunshine and roses. There was something kind of down and dirty about the way she told her real life stories that I just loved. I plan on seeking out her other book, I Wear the Maternity Pants in This Family in the near future.

Knitting: A Novel -by Anne Bartlett

This was another surprising little ditty from the aforementioned used book sale. I wouldn't say it was a perfect novel but the fact that knitting actually played an important role in the story was pretty cool. I think this book's biggest strength is its quirky characters. They are engaging and delightful- the kind of people you would want to get to know in real life. Overall, a charming little book.

Kaline Klattermaster's Tree House -by Haven Kimmel

I absolutely loved this author's autobiographical book, A Girl Named Zippy: Growing Up Small in Mooreland, Indiana, as well as the follow-up book, She Got Up Off the Couch: And Other Heroic Acts from Mooreland, Indiana. So, naturally, when I found out she had written a book for young readers, I was curious. The story is about a young boy dealing with his parents' divorce but it's not emotionally draining or uncomfortable. I really felt like the author remembered that she was writing for kids and somehow managed to maintain a believable child-like perspective with the main character. This is the kind of story that a young person might read and just enjoy for its whimsical moments but look back on years later with a more mature understanding of what was being said between the lines.

Sweater Quest: My Year of Knitting Dangerously -by Adrienne Martini

The title alone was enough to hook me. I was truly inspired by this book. I don't think I'll be knitting my own Mary Tudor any time soon but this book did play a role in convincing me that it was time to figure out how to turn the heel on the pair of socks that had been sitting on my needles untouched for months. I would warn anyone interested in reading this book that the author does have some strong opinions about certain things that she very openly includes throughout the book. While she does not share my world view, I cannot deny that she is a wonderful storyteller and an accomplished knitter.

Axe Cop -by Malachai Nicolle and Ethan Nicolle

Okay, so technically I have only read Episodes 1 - 53, which means I have some serious catching up to do. Before ComicCon back in July, I decided that I shouldn't be allowed to attend the largest gathering of freaks, geeks, and nerds again without having officially read a comic book. I chose Axe Cop because I loved the concept (even though technically it's a web comic, I decided it counts). It is written by a five year old and illustrated by his 29 year old brother. How could it not be epic?! If you haven't already checked it out, you should.

Truck -by Michael Perry

I picked this book up out of the bargain bin at my local Barnes & Noble because I loved the cover. When I read the blurb on the back, I knew my $1 was going to be well spent. This book exceeded my expectations by a long shot. Basically it's the autobiographical story of a guy fixing up his old International pick-up truck intertwined with the love story that unfolds between him and his now wife. This book made me long for a more simple, slow-paced, small town kind of life. If I ever pack up and move to rural Wisconsin, this book might have something to do with it.

Coop -by Michael Perry

I sought out this book right after I finished reading the Truck book. I was so excited when I found out this guy had written other books because I was pretty sure I was going to like all of them. I was not disappointed by this lovely account of an attempt at farm life. Anyone who can make pigs eating a dead rabbit sound poetic is a master of words as far as I'm concerned. I laughed, I cried, it moved me.

Scrooge and Santa -by Matthew Wilson and Josh Kenfield

I was required to read this book because I'm married to the illustrator. If you're into graphic novels and Christmas stories, this book is for you. This is a fun read for all ages- buy one now and get a jump on next year's holiday shopping!

A Show of Hands -by Anthony McCarten

Yet another bargain bin find. This was an interesting novel about a group of people who are competing in an endurance contest to win a brand new car. I didn't really love it, but I didn't hate it either. Meh.

Just Do Something: How to Make a Decision Without Dreams, Visions, Fleeces, Open Doors, Random Bible Verses, Casting Lots, Liver Shivers, Writing in the Sky, etc. -by Kevin DeYoung

This book profoundly affected how I think about God's will. I highly recommend this book to anyone who has ever felt angst over just trying to do what God wants them to do. I have heard this book described as a simplified, condensed version of the ideas found in the more weighty, Decision Making and the Will of God: A Biblical Alternative to the Traditional View by Garry Friesen, which I have yet to dive into. Go find this book, I'm sure it will make you think about some important things.

Spooky Little Girl: A Novel -by Laurie Notaro

I have to admit that I don't love Laurie Notaro's novels quite as much as I love her autobiographical essay compilations but this one felt much more planned out than her first one. I was particularly impressed by how she set up and explained the rules of this world. The main character is unexpectedly killed very early in the book and then we follow her through her ghost training and then on to her ghost mission. Colorful characters, imaginative story, good times.

Ghostopolis -by Doug Tennapel

I felt like it was high time I actually read one of Doug's books so that I could discuss it with my husband who has been a huge fan for a long time. I was actually a little surprised by how charming the story ended up being. It is a clear focused plot and the art is very cool. I look forward to reading the rest of the Tennapel graphic novels so that I can have lots of intelligent conversations next year at ComicCon.

Population 485 -by Michael Perry

I'm still working my way through this book which was written before the other two book's of Michael Perry's that I have read. It has a very different feel but I'm still enjoying it. I'm learning a lot about what goes through the mind of a first responder/volunteer firefighter. Interesting stuff.

Why We're Not Emergent (by Two Guys Who Should Be) -by Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck

I'm slowly trudging my way through this book. It's not quite as engaging as I hoped it would be but I do plan on finishing it. So far, I agree with a lot of what the authors are saying but I'm not exactly sure where they're going with all of it. We'll see.

Yay for a year of reading! Here's to next year- may it be full of even more new insights and silly stories.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

TV Shows: Year In Review (part 3 of 6)

Thankfully, the internet and On Demand cable have made it possible for me to actually follow the latest television programs this past year. Here are the ones I managed to keep up with.


As far as I can tell, you either get it or you don't. The only way this show would be better would be if it was about marching band instead- yes, I'm that big of a dork. I actually have to watch this show online the day after it airs because it conflicts with my Tuesday night drum practice (42nd Highlanders Regimental Pipes and Drums)- yes, I'm that big of a dork. Anyway, this show is definitely not for everyone (my husband can't stand it) and I actually would not recommend it to anyone under the age of 13 but I have stuck with it because every now and then they manage to do a rendition of a song that just hits me in a special place. I had chills when Matthew Morrison and Kristin Chenoweth sang Heart's "Alone"- yes, I'm that big of a dork.

Make It Or Break It

As if Glee wasn't dorky enough. This show is about a group of elite gymnasts who are training for the Olympics. It's pretty much drama, drama, drama of the cheesiest kind and I love it. So yeah, again, the only way this show could be better would be if it was about a marching band.


I think this has been my favorite show this season. It's just enough drama to be interesting but not so much that it's exhausting or depressing. A great balance of comedy and drama and the cast is perfect. If you're looking for a sentimental show that will make you laugh and cry in the same episode, check it out.

Raising Hope

The concept for this show intrigued me from the start and the comedy looked like it might be decent. I really enjoyed the first episode so I came back for the next one and liked it more and more. It is a surprising blend of sweet and quirky. I feel like it's kind of in the same vein as Malcolm in the Middle or Arrested Development. Good stuff.

Running Wilde

This show is kind of hit and miss for me. A lot of the time if feels like it's just trying too hard but there have been some good laugh-out-loud moments. Unfortunately, I don't think Keri Russell was the right choice for the female lead. She just doesn't seem to fit. If this show lasts, I'll probably stick with it but I won't be heartbroken if it disappears forever either.


I continue to enjoy this show in a big way. I feel like it has changed and evolved a bit but still works just fine. The story lines are fun, the cast is quirky, the lines are punchy. What's not to like?


I know this isn't the most sophisticated comedy on television but I have found it to be good for a few laughs. Honestly, I think the time slot it what is keeping this show alive but part of me hopes that it lasts. It is charming and silly and ridiculous, etc., etc. All the makings of your average sitcom.

So there it is, the TV shows I spent hours of my life watching this year. No huge regrets really.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Movies: My Year In Review (part 2 of 6)

Here is the list of movies I remember watching this past year in no particular order. Sorry, I didn't feel like tracking down pictures for each of them so really this is probably not a very interesting blog post. The next one will be better. Anyway, a "T" next to the title means I watched it in a movie theater, an "R" means I rented it, an "RT" means I watched it with the protection of RiffTrax, "RTlive" means I watched it in a theater with live riffing, and a "TV" means I watched it on television.

Leap Year (T)
When in Rome (T)
Valentine's Day (R)
She's Out of My League (R)
The Bounty Hunter (R)
Clash of the Titans (RT)
Last Song (R)
Date Night (R)
Kick Ass (R)
Back-Up Plan (R)
Iron Man 2 (T)
Sex and the City 2 (T)
Killers (R)
Twilight Eclipse (RT)
Eat Pray Love (R)
Life As We Know It (T)
Voyage of the Dawn Treader (T)
Tron Legacy (T)
Megapirahna (TV)
27 Dresses (R)
Love Happens (R)
17 Again (R)
It's Complicated (R)
Because I Said So (R)
Julie and Julia (R)
Invention of Lying (R)
The Blind Side (R)
The Proposal (R)
The Ugly Truth (R)
I Love You Man (R)
Ghosts of Girlfriends Past (R)
Did You Hear About the Morgans (R)
Baby Mama (R)
Everybody's Fine (TV)
500 Days of Summer (TV)
Maid in Manhattan (TV)
Knocked Up (TV)
40 Year Old Virgin (TV)
House On Haunted Hill (RTlive)
Reefer Madness (RTlive)
Avatar (RT)
Lars and the Real Girl (R)
New In Town (R)
Inglorious Basterds (R)
Up In the Air (R)
Fantastic Mr. Fox (R)

If you want my opinion on any of these just ask.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Music: My Year In Review (part 1 of 6)

Here are the albums that were new to me in 2010. Nothing terribly deep or introspective but they did get me through several car trips, house cleaning frenzies, and crafting sessions. They are listed in the order in which I got them starting with Christmas of last year (2009).

Brooks & Dunn: #1's...And Then Some

Ever since I heard the song, "Boot Scootin' Boogie" years ago, I knew there was something about these guys I liked. My husband (who was kind enough to give this to me as a Christmas gift even though he can hardly stand listening to it) describes them as the Hall and Oates of country music which, I'll admit, is pretty accurate. I'm kind of sad that Ronnie and Kix (yes the dark haired guy's name is Kix) decided to go their separate ways but we'll always have their years of hit-making to look back on. These are the perfect songs to turn to when I need some punchy country twang.

Train: Save Me, San Francisco

I was so excited when I found out Train had another album coming out and even more excited when I heard them sing, "Hey, Soul Sister" on the today show to promote it. I have loved both of their previous albums and was pretty sure this new one would be a slam dunk. It did not disappoint. It is such a fun album and so dang catchy.

Dave Matthews Band: Big Whiskey and the GrooGrux King

I don't consider myself a huge DMB fan but I have enjoyed most of their hits (yes, I'm that person). When I started hearing some of these new songs on the radio I actually liked them enough to put the album on my Christmas list. Overall, I think I'm still mostly a greatest hits kind of gal (you can hate me for that if you want). I don't hate this album but I don't love every song either.

The Killers: Day and Age

The killers are another band whose radio hits I've always enjoyed. Brandon Flowers sings with belly fire and I like that. When I heard the song, "Spaceman." I was compelled to seek out this album. I actually ended up getting it for my birthday and have gotten lots of listening enjoyment out of it since then.

Lady Antebellum: Need You Now

I'm not exactly sure why but I fell fast and hard for Lady Antebellum when they first came onto the country scene a while back. I loved their first album, so naturally I ran out and bought this one the day it hit the shelves. They are country but not too country. They're just the right amount of everything.

Darius Rucker: Charleston, SC 1966

I've always had a soft spot for Darius Rucker's voice (you know, Darius Rucker? Yes, he was the lead singer of that band. No, his name is not Hootie.). When I found out he had gone country it was almost too good to be true. His first country album was amazing so when this one came out, I had to have it. I do not regret my decision to buy it.

Keith Urban: Get Closer

Okay, let's face it, Keith Urban would have to record the worst, most ridiculous album in the world for me to not love it. At this point I'm pretty much a sucker for anything this guy does (the song, "Put You In a Song" is quite silly and I actually laughed out loud when I heard it for the first time but there is still something charming about it). He's kind of a goof ball but he's a hot goof ball who can sing and play the guitar like nobody's business- need I say more.

Christmas With the Chipmunks

This is pretty much the same album my family had on vinyl when I was a kid except it has a few bonus songs on it. Since it was such a big part of my childhood Christmas experience, I decided this year it was time to expose my young impressionable daughter to the magic of high pitched sped up vocals. Sofie loves it, especially "Jingle Bells."

Lady Antebellum: A Merry Little Christmas

Okay, so again with Lady Antebellum. This album doesn't have the best variety of Christmas songs on it but it is executed with that same flair that has made this band such a huge success. What can I say, I'm just a fan.

So there you have it- the music that helped shape the year 2010 for me.