Wednesday, December 31, 2008

End of the Year Knitting Blitz

Okay, they're all scarves! What I like about scarves is that they are quick to knit up, so there's instant gratification. And when I start to make one scarf for someone, I usually have to make at least two more! 

This one is for my friend Lisa. She asked for it to wear while she is coaching softball. The scarf is 100% acrylic (and proud of it!) and is in the blue and gold colors of LCHS. 


This scarf is for my friend Amishacoe, who loves the color purple! Everything I've ever made for her has been purple, so why ruin a good thing? 


And this one was for Justin. Very simple pattern, same as Amishacoe's. It's knit one row, then k1, p1 for row 2. Then alternate until it's done! 


Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas Song Round-Up: Lou Monte

This year I can't say that I've been in the Christmas spirit to the extent of those around me. I bought gifts for my loved ones and dearest friends, but I didn't put my tree up and I don't do Christmas cards. Why no tree? Well, I don't spend Christmas at my house, but at my parents, so I don't even enjoy my tree on Christmas day.  

And then there are the Christmas songs on the radio. Why do they start the day after Thanksgiving? I think what tires me out and keeps me out of the Christmas spirit is the crass commercialism that every holiday has embraced. Valentine's Day, St. Patrick's Day, Easter, even MLK Jr Day and President's Day is yet another excuse to have a long weekend. So, when I hear Christmas songs for four weeks, I am driven crazy. If they were good Christmas songs, then I wouldn't mind so much. But no, I am forced to endure things like "Don't they know it's Christmas time at all?" or "Dominic the Christmas Donkey." 

Hee Haw. Hee Haw. 

So, imagine my surprise and lack of delight that Lou Monte had more than one Italian animal hit! There was "Pepino the Italian Mouse", which, according to Wikipedia,  "tells the humorous tale of a mischievous mouse who lives within the walls of a man's kitchen and who comes out at night to eat cheese, drink wine, frighten Lou's girlfriend when she comes over and befriends the cat, sent out to catch him." Then let's not fail to mention "Pasquale, the Italian Pussycat" and "Paulucci, the Italian Parrot." 

But I'm going to move away from that to touch on another aspect of Monte's illustrious animal career and digress momentarily. Recently I heard Stephen Peters talk at my school about how essential it is to know the students we teach. One part of his presentation that hit me was how, in the past fifty years, the way students receive their information has changed radically. Instead of having the home, school, and church being the top three influences on children, this has changed to having Media/TV being the top spot, followed by peers! Wow, this has changed drastically, and not for the better. 

I have witnessed this in my own job. Most of my students' history "knowledge" has come from movies, especially those starring Mel Gibson. For the love! I am so tired about hearing about Braveheart and Patriot, two very historically inaccurate movies. How many times have I heard from Honors students, "So, when Mel Gibson...." They can't differentiate between good entertainment--or even bad entertainment--and reality! 

And so this brings me back to Lou Monte and his songs. Specifically "What Did Washington Say (When He Crossed the Delaware)?".  Again, according to Wikipedia
At one point in the song, "Washington" complains that the pizzas his wife Martha baked were as "cold as ice". His solution? "Sell them to the Indians for only half the price." He then asks his boatsmen to row faster because "tonight I'm posing for my picture on the dollar bill."

What? Sheesh, at least back when Monte wrote the song kids knew better than to believe it, but now I have to climb uphill to convince students that Martha Washington did not cook pizzas. My saving grace? Luckily my students have not heard of Lou Monte. 

Sunday, December 21, 2008

High School T-Shirt Quilt

This is my latest project, which I have to put back on hold. More on that in a second! 

I had a box of stuff from high school and Girl Scouts, and most of that was taken up by t-shirts that were hole-y and stained. They were just sitting there, so I decided, why not do something with them? 

So, I'm making a quilt out of them! Last year I fused interfacing onto the back so the stretchiness of the tees didn't drive me insane. They'd been sitting in my closet and sitting in my closet... so this weekend, I put the sashing on! 

I had enough of the red fabric from a previous quilt to use, but I hit a snag: none of it was long enough for the border! So, when I have some extra cash, I'm going to buy black for the border and for the backing. That'll fit my school colors of red and black, and then I'll be able have use for something from high school! 

'Bout time that high school was good for something besides a way to get to college. ;)

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Life List

I found this list on Apron Strings and thought I'd give it a try! 

 I’ve marked the ones I’ve done in purple.

1. Started your own blog
2. Slept under the stars
3. Played in a band
4. Visited Hawaii
5. Watched a meteor shower
6. Given more than you can afford to charity
7. Been to Disneyland but i have been to disneyworld

8. Climbed a mountain
9. Held a praying mantis

10. Sang a solo
11. Bungee jumped
12. Visited Paris
13. Watched a lightning storm at sea
14. Taught yourself an art from scratch
15. Adopted a child
16. Had food poisoning
17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty
18. Grown your own vegetables
19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France
20. Slept on an overnight train
21. Had a pillow fight
22. Hitch hiked

23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill
24. Built a snow fort

25. Held a lamb 
26. Gone skinny dipping
27. Run a Marathon
28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice
29. Seen a total eclipse
30. Watched a sunrise or sunset

31. Hit a home run
32. Been on a cruise
33. Seen Niagara Falls in person
34. Visited the birthplace of your ancestors
35. Seen an Amish community
36. Taught yourself a new language
37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied
38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person
39. Gone rock climbing
40. Seen Michelangelo’s David
41. Sung karaoke
42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt
43. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant
44. Visited Africa
45. Walked on a beach by moonlight
46. Been transported in an ambulance
47. Had your portrait painted
48. Gone deep sea fishing
49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person
50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris
51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling
52. Kissed in the rain
53. Played in the mud
54. Gone to a drive-in theater
55. Been in a movie
56. Visited the Great Wall of China
57. Started a business
58. Taken a martial arts class
59. Visited Russia
60. Served at a soup kitchen
61. Sold Girl Scout Cookies
62. Gone whale watching

63. Got flowers for no reason
64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma
65. Gone sky diving
66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp
67. Bounced a check
68. Flown in a helicopter
69. Saved a favorite childhood toy
70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial
71. Eaten Caviar
72. Pieced a quilt
73. Stood in Times Square

74. Toured the Everglades
75. Been fired from a job
76. Seen the Changing of the Guards in London
77. Broken a bone
78. Been on a speeding motorcycle
79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person
80. Published a book - One Day!!!
81. Visited the Vatican
82. Bought a brand new car
83. Walked in Jerusalem
84. Had your picture in the newspaper
85. Read the entire Bible
86. Visited the White House
87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating
88. Had chickenpox
89. Saved someone’s life
90. Sat on a jury
91. Met someone famous
92. Joined a book club
93. Lost a loved one

94. Had a baby
95. Seen the Alamo in person
97. Been involved in a law suit
98. Owned a cell phone
99. Been stung by a bee

100. successfully stopped smoking

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Seduction of the Crimson Rose by Lauren Willig

The Seduction of the Crimson Rose is the fourth book in Lauren Willig's Pink Carnation Series. A very popular genre within the last decade is the Napoleonic era (if you are in France) and the Regency era (if you are in England). Spying is the favored profession among England's noble elite, and if one is a nobleman, you are expected to serve your country. 

Indeed. 

So much so is this particular time period popular that a lot of books run together in plot. Willig's books differ in that they fit into historical fiction more than historical romance. They have a slight flavor of a regency romance over a true romance novel. 

In The Crimson Rose, Mary Alsworthy is approached by Lord Vaughn to work for the Pink Carnation. In return for being bait to lure the Black Tulip (the Carnation's archnemesis) out into the open, all Mary wants is for Vaughn to fund the next Season for her. Why? Pride. Mary's younger (and homelier) sister recently wed Mary's former suitor, and the brother-in-law has offered to fund the next Season. Mary, however, doesn't wish to be seen as an object of pity, so she'd like her Season to be funded in another way. 

Lord Vaughn has good reason for picking Mary: her black hair is one hallmark of agents that work for the Tulip. Mary is also a good screen for Vaughn, who has been suspected by many, including those in the Pink Carnation's circle, of being the Black Tulip. 

Of all the couples in the books, I like Mary and Vaughn the best. They are not perfect. Mary can be cold and manipulative, well aware of the fact that as a woman, her status depends on making a good marriage. She wants to be comfortable, and she realizes that comfort and love are not the same thing. Vaughn is also sarcastic and has a dry wit; the two often trade barbs. Vaughn also has the requisite black past, complete with dead wife, dead mistresses, and membership in various and sundry hellish clubs. His reputation is hardly pristine, and he is well aware of it. 

Many of my comments on this book are the same as the other books. The book is a light read and doesn't fit cleanly into one genre. It's a combination of chick lit and historical fiction, with a dash of mystery. It's very light on history, with not a lot of substance, mostly the outer trappings. It should not be read to get a deeper understanding of the time period. 

I'm not sure where Willig is going with the series. We know who the Pink Carnation is. Her historian, Eloise, knows who the Pink Carnation is, and she's well on the way to a Happily Ever After herself. Willig introduced an element of the Jacobite Rebellion, when Bonnie Prince Charlie attempted to take his "rightful" place on the throne of England. 

Since I liked the main characters, which is what really counts, I give the book an A. 

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

A Shout-Out to SportSquee!

I love Margee's website, because as a relative sport neophyte, she makes sports hilarious. And since I regularly make snarky comments about just about anything I can, I love it.  

Today's installment is one of her regular That's Entertainment! With the Staal Brothers, this time reviewing the movie Twilight. I have been waiting for this with bated breath. 

The next time I watch a Canes game, I'll be cracking up over that line about Rod Brind'amour reading the series aloud to Eric Staal. Oh, and Evgeni Malkin-Staal's constant Russian prattle. 

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Early Christmas for Me!

A few months ago I found out that American Girl was shoving Samantha into the archives, which sent every Samantha fan on a mad chase to get whatever else they needed to complete their collections. I went and ordered some things, and one of them was Samantha's trunk. 

It was backordered. 

I was devastated. I have wanted this since I was eleven. I asked for it for Christmas quite a few years running. I never did get it, though. I went through the television, VCR, stereo, and fish aquarium (which magically kept fish alive FOREVER until I sold the whole kit at a yard sale). But no trunk. I thought I'd never get it. And as soon as I found out it was backordered, I thought I'd never get it. 

But it came today! Granted, the UPS guy left it in my recycle bin, but I knew what it was! So, after I ate dinner, I put my Samantha stuff into it. 



















It's gorgeous! I love it! It's so roomy! And I didn't realize how many outfits I actually had until I had to shove them into the trunk. 

And here is my doll with it, and she's wearing one of the spring dresses. 




Wednesday, December 03, 2008

It Really Is a Small World....

When I was three, my parents took my to Disney World. I may have been two, but how would I know? Any memories I have are either a)nebulous or b) entirely made up. There are pictures. Anyway, like any good tot, my favorite ride was It's a Small World. So much, in fact, that the guy running the ride told my parents not to get off the boat. That's not likely to happen today, given the long lines and crush of baby strollers.

But it really is a small world. I also learned that I CANNOT LEAVE TOWN WITHOUT THE INTERNET. Or at least find free internet. I went to a conference on Monday and in two days, a rug has been pulled out from under my feet. And had the hotel I was staying at had wi-fi access that was free like most hotels AND McDonald's, I wouldn't have been shocked in between checking out the Carolina Hurricane's schedule and researching Taba questioning for my high school classroom.

So, I am at the Carolina Hurricanes website and the first thing you see is this rotating headline complete with pictures. I see something that says Paul Maurice is the new head coach? What? No, that must be old news. Really. So, I advance through the headlines and....

Paul Maurice is the new head coach.

O. M. E. G. Oh my effing gosh. (My students could find this, and I have to put forth a good example. Ha ha. Be quiet.) Why such a big deal? Well, the coach he's replacing replaced him a few years ago. Hence the "It's a Small World" reference.

Am I upset? Eh. Not really. I want my team to win. I know that winning isn't everything, but sometimes it just is. I want my boys to go to the playoffs again. I want them to go far into the playoffs. We haven't done that for two years after winning the Cup, and November was a crappy month for us.

So, good luck Coach Maurice. At least Obama has a harder climb ahead of him than you do.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Constantine, Christianity, and "That Dude's Movie Code"

I've been reading Mysteries of the Middle Ages And the Beginning of the Modern World by Thomas Cahill. I picked it up because I very much enjoyed his book How the Irish Saved Civilization. I picked this book up because I've frequently thought of the Middle Ages as a backward era lacking in education and intelligence. Despite the legends of knights and castles, it's not one of my favorite time periods to read about or to teach. 

My students, however, disagree. They love it. This is the one time period where they are enraptured by everything. So, I try to oblige. Hopefully this book will help open my eyes to some of the more interesting topics that I've skipped in my dislike. 

So far I've found the book interesting, though I still have not progressed past the Roman Empire. Official tolerance of Christianity was brought by the emperor Constantine. I did read an interesting footnote that I couldn't pass up without a mention: 
The depiction of Christianity in the popular thriller The Da Vinci Code as a fraud perpetrated by Constantine not only is preposterous to any reader with a modicum of historical knowledge but rests on melodramatically anti-Christian assumptions. The book's further premise that the Catholic Church sends out Opus Dei hit men to murder anyone who has stumbled on the truth is a straight-forward anti-Catholic libel. And its notion that Jesus fathered progeny by Mary Magdalene is a fantasy lacking the least historical support.

Wow, Mr. Cahill! Showing our bias, are we? Not that I disagree with him, but I haven't come across such vehement rhetoric in a history book before. Someone didn't like Dan Brown's bestseller, which I find refreshing. I haven't read it myself, but I've had enough of people insisting that it's real, with one acquaintance swearing that it opened their eyes to the truth behind the Catholic Church. 

Like I didn't have enough questions to answer about my faith in Baptist Land, Dan Brown had to go and open up the floodgates. That and the questions during my Renaissance unit if that's Mary Magdalene in the painting by "that dude with the movie code." This has made any urgency I felt to read the blasted thing go out the window. 

I did, however, watch the National Geographic special. I am so glad that I kept my subscription. 

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Mr. Cavendish, I Presume by Julia Quinn

Mr. Cavendish, I Presume is Quinn's second book in the Two Dukes of Wyndham series that began with The Lost Duke of Wyndham

Thomas, the Duke of Wyndham, has always known what his lot in life was. Being duke came with a lot of responsibilities, and among them was marriage to Lady Amelia Willoughby. His intent had been to marry her when she turned twenty-one, but she had passed that mark without a date for the nuptials being set. 

Into this ordered life comes Mr. Jack Audley. A former soldier and current highwayman, Thomas is shocked to find out that his grandmother believes that Jack is his long lost cousin and the rightful Duke of Wyndham. 

This book follows the exact same events as the previous book. As a result, I felt that I had read this book before because I had. Apart from the change in point of view, the events are the same. The story is the same, only the focus is on Amelia and Thomas instead of Jack and Grace. 

Because of the repetitive nature of the story, I skipped large parts of it. The dialogue in many instances was the same. The end of the book was the same (except with Amelia and Thomas instead of Grace and Jack). Quinn's wit was even the same in this book.       

The entire attempt would have been better in one volume. If she tightened up the extraneous interior monologues and repetitive moaning of feelings, she could have made Thomas and Amelia's story a good secondary romance. On its own, however, there just wasn't enough. 

C-

Monday, November 24, 2008

Twilight by Stephenie Meyer

OMG. Finally. 

Yes, that's right. After three months, I have finally finished THE book that has everyone frothing at the mouth. Not to mention THE movie that managed to gross nearly $80 million its opening weekend. 

But where do I stand with the book? Well, if you liked the book, :heart: Edward Cullen, or have seen the movie twenty times, read no further. Don't leave me nasty comments, don't call me a hater, I'm just telling it as I read it. 

Bella Swan has moved to the small town of Forks, Washington to live with her no-longer-estranged father Charlie. While there, she falls in love with the mysterious Edward Cullen. Only he's a vampire, complete with all the baggage vampires have. Only he's enrolled in high school. And he comes out during the day. Why don't vampires go out at day? Because their skin sparkles, as if a glitter factory exploded all over them. Combine that with the pale skin, cold hands, and nonexistent appetite for human food, and all of a sudden I understand why more vampires don't go to high school. Teenagers pick on everything in high school, including themselves.  

Hence the built-in audience. Bella, the main character, is full of angst and woe-is-me, feelings that most teenage girls have.  In fact, Bella is in so much angst that the entire first 3/4s of the book is filled with her going on about how unpopular she is, how no one likes her, and on and on, when in reality she is quite popular at her new school. She has to beat the boys off with sticks, they all want to take her to dances, and she spends time trying to foist them off on her friends. 

The story had potential. It really really did. The problem was with the execution and pacing. The first three quarters of the book as I previously mentioned is spent on Bella's adjusting to high school in Forks and trying to get Edward Cullen to notice her. The true villain of the book doesn't come onto the scene until the last quarter of the book. That was the quickest part of the book for me, waiting for the end to come. There is no antagonist for three quarters of the book! Sure, there's conflict between Bella and Edward, but it's so mundane and gets the plot nowhere. It took me three months to get through the first 3/4s of the book. 

Meyer also spends much of the narrative telling instead of showing. Much of the information is dumped through dialogue. Perhaps this is due to the first person narrative, because the reader is only introduced through the eyes of Bella. Had the third person narrative been used, a better woven narrative than what already exists. The villain James is very lackluster, and I was disappointed that Bella was unconscious when he fell to the Cullen clan. 

I'm going to let the teenage girls have this book and the sequels. I'm going to give them a miss. 

D+. 

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Samantha's Birthday Pinafore Dress

Lately I've been making a lot of doll outfits that fit the 18 inch doll. With the retirement of the Samantha doll (thanks a lot, American girl!) I've been trying to add to my collection via E-bay, especially since most of the items are sold out right now. I've been more successful on some than others. 

This is my latest acquisition: 


Mom made this dress in lilac gingham a long time ago, but I wanted the fancy taffeta dress. It came all the way from Hawaii, too! I love it. Hopefully I'll receive the trunk I have on backorder, because I'm running out of room in the one I have... 

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Un-Yarn Geek Love

Today I went to Hobby Lobby to pick up some stuff for the Thanksgiving Break. I went to the clearance aisle and found yarn! It was pretty, Yarn Bee's Highland Thistle in Loch Ness. I started putting skeins into my basket. When I got to ten, I really took a feel of the yarn, and it felt like... plastic bags. The "thistle" part felt like plastic bags! 

I could just imagine knitting with it, and the pain my hands would be in. 

So I put it all back. 

Every last skein. 

Friday, November 14, 2008

The Evil in US Weekly

I have a subscription to US Weekly. I don't know how it happened, but so far I've received three issues. I looked for a customer service number, but it doesn't exist. I sent an e-mail, no response. Today I finally was able to find the cancel process. 

What a pain in the ass. 

How did I get the subscription?? I wish I knew. I really do. I think it happened when I went to Books-A-Million last, which was back in September. Scratch that. The last time I bought anything from the store was back in September, the date that the subscription was entered. I've been in there since, but they never have the book I want. They had at the register the four free issues plug, to which I always say no. If I have the choices of US Weekly, Time, and Sports Illustrated, would I really pick US Weekly?

The answer is no. I'd pick Time, then Sports Illustrated. I'd never pick US Weekly, because it's the most evil form of journalism ever. I can't even watch E! except when The Soup is on. I don't care who looks better in what dress and why they got rid of some characters on Grey's Anatomy

So, I'm going to dissect the November 24th issue of US Weekly. Enjoy. 

  • I hate that the table of contents starts on page 18, and it tells the reader about information that I read BEFORE page 18. Shouldn't the contents be first? I can handle the ads before the table of contents, but the actual content? I have an idea, lets call that the index! 
  • Stars Who Talk Trash About Their Exes! Kiss and dis! (Yeah, I totally needed this.) 
  • With "Gretchen's Talented Tot", we find out that not only did she saddle the child with a name like Ptolemy (that went out of style with Alexander the Great), but we get to hear about how wonderfully average the child is! 
  • Stars--They're Just Like US! They eat fondue! They hit the road with pals! They hang out with their bros! They try on high boots! What is this rubbish? Really? Some actress--I'm guessing, because I've never heard of Jessica Szohr before, so she could be a singer, model, escort--but I really don't care if she's buying high boots. Ooh. 
  • Mariah Carey and Nick Cannon didn't have sex before they married. That makes one couple in Hollywood. 
  • And of course there is the special Obamas--Just Like US! section that tells us that they "Kiss and Ride", "Work Out", "Love Date Night," and have "Election Night Jitters." I thought presidential candidates were robots. 
  • And just when I think that I can throw the entire thing out, there's a Twilight section. I'll have to give that to Lisa, who's in love with the movie, and will probably drag me out to see it. Oh, and who's the hotter vampire? Edward nudges out James by 52% to 48%. And 75% of US readers say Madonna should get custody.... snore. Oh, sorry. 
  • OMG! Taylor Swift and Joe Jonas are over! The world as we know it is over. 
Thank Goodness that's over. 

Monday, November 10, 2008

I Wanna Barf

One thing I like about the Carolina Hurricanes--okay, I vow to keep it to one because I don't want to induce boredom, and I can't list them all--that isn't Time Gleason, their great team colors, and the fact that they are three hours away from me, is that they always put up really great wallpapers up for the computer after every home game. 

Until yesterday, that is. The picture from the Atlanta game--which we lost horrendously--was of the Storm Squad. I don't watch the games because of the skinny chicks that do I-don't-know-what. No, I want a picture of the team. This picture drove me insane. 

I'm not putting that up on my desktop! Boo!

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Knit-stravaganza

I like knitting. Sometimes, depending on the mood, I can get through a project really quickly--why I like scarves. Usually, though it takes me a while, especially when I get in a mood where all I want to do is sew (the final product comes more quickly). But lately I've been knitting a storm, especially for the Christmas season and my upcoming nephew, Riley. 

This scarf I've started countless times, only to have frogged it just as many times. I tried crocheting--single and double--tried the "My So-Called Scarf" pattern I found on Ravelry.  I tore them all out and ended up just using a regular old ribbed pattern. I call this my "Carolina Hurricanes Scarf. 


And here is me wearing it, at a Carolina Hurricanes game! Had a wonderful time, even if my boys didn't win it. The scarf is very warm. 



I started this scarf a while back and meant it for me, but one of my former students wanted me to make a scarf for her. I thought this would be a great pattern for her, and the colors are so pretty. (Yarn Bee's Mosaic Twist in Dahlia, which has been discontinued.) I added extra long fringe to the end of it. I finished it just in time, too, because she wants it before Thanksgiving! 
Since I'm making a his and hers set, a scarf similar to this except in a different color (for her boyfriend) will be up here soon! 


I wish I could add the baby blankets I'm making for my sister, but I want them to be a surprise. She pops in here from time to time, so we're going to have to wait until January! 

Friday, November 07, 2008

Four Things About Me

Things you may not have known about me.....

A) Four jobs I have had in my life:

1. 4K assistant at a day care
2.  Cashier at K-Fart, I mean Mart. 
3.  "Castmember" at Disney store
4.  I took notes and copied them for LD students while I was in college

Four movies you would watch over and over:

1. King Arthur
2.  Gosford Park
3. Monty Python and the Holy Grail
4. 

C) Four places you have lived:

1.  Simpsonville, SC
2.  Columbia, SC
3.  Coventry, England, UK
3.  Florence, SC

D) Four TV shows you love to watch:

1.  Hockey games 
2. Chuck
3. Those cheesy Celebreality shows on VH1
4. Project Runway

E ) Four places you have been on vacation:

1.  Ireland
2. Scotland
3. Wales 
4. The Jersey Shore


F) Web sites you visit daily:

1. Carolina Hurricanes
2. icanhascheezburger
3. sportsquee
4. 


G ) Four of my favorite foods:

1. pierogies 
2. Mom's lasagna
3. pizza
4. pasta pasta pasta


H) Four places I would rather be right now:

1.  England 

Friday, October 31, 2008

Josefina Dress in Yellow

Another Josefina "Christmas" dress, this time in yellow. And I will be making more in pink, as well. :) 

Another Christmas Party Dress for Samantha


This time in blue, with white lace and ribbon. I like the wider satin on this one as opposed to the purple one I made earlier. The green one is still my favorite, though. 

Kirsten's Apron Dress

This outfit was made from Kirsten's Pretty Clothes patterns from Pleasant Company. The copyright date was 1990. Yeah, we've had these for a while! 


The first picture was with the apron. I modified the pattern, leaving out the rick-rack, and using an eyelet scrap that I had. It was really easy, but I decided to use a snap as the back closure because there was too much fabric in the waistband to use the button-holer on my machine. 

I like the dress just fine without the apron, too! 


Sunday, October 26, 2008

Josefina's "Christmas" Dress


I know: it doesn't look like Josefina and it doesn't look very Christmas-y! The pattern is Josefina's, though, and I chose this material because I wanted the Lizzie Bennet look from Pride and Prejudice. I thought the lawn material might be too thin, but with the undergarments, it looks just right. And now that I've got my serger working, I can finish the seams much more quickly. It works well with the material that shreds easily. I like how it looks and I have cut out the pieces for a similar one in yellow! 

Now, I just have to buy white satin ribbon to finish yet another one of Samantha's Holiday Dress. :) 

Place Mats

These have been a long time coming. I've had the pattern for years (sorry, I have forgotten it), I've had the material for years (pretty toile!) and they've been sitting there. So, I finally made the place-mats, and I think they look pretty durn good. I had a problem with the corners, getting them all straight, but for a first try, not too shabby! 

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Hot Property by Carly Phillips

Hot Property is the fourth book in Phillip's Hot Zone series. The first three books followed the romances of three sisters who worked in the family PR business that catered to athletes. The fourth book follows the romance of John Roper, a friend of the family and center fielder for the fictional baseball team the New York Renegades. 

John Roper has been having a rough off-season after a stinging loss in the World Series. His physical therapy is derailed more often than not by the demands of his family. In an attempt to bring his life back on track, PR agent Amy Stone squires him away to a resort. While there, the sparks fly. 

Phillips' Hot Zone books are very character-oriented and filled with crazy secondary characters. Neither John nor Amy have what may be considered "normal" families. (Okay, who does?) Both have families that crave the spotlight, from Amy's hyper mom and aunt to John's actress mother who can't admit she's aging. Then there's Amy's boss, Yank, who is going blind but won't admit it, instead tripping over things and getting a dog that's hardly a seeing-eye dog. The anchors in the story are John and Amy, but the secondary characters threaten to overwhelm the main characters. They're just way too cheesy. 

Amy's problem is that because her family is so "out-there" she doesn't like the spotlight, which makes her shy away from Roper every time a picture of them is taken. She's very good at telling him how to handle his family, but she does not have the same finesse in handling her own family. John goes all therapist towards the end of the book: 
It didn't take a psychologist to figure out that Amy dove into handling his family so methodically not because she was used to handling her own, but because she couldn't control them. In managing Roper's family issues, she'd been able to take charge in a way she hadn't been able to with her own family. She saw herself in Roper, and when Roper fell back into old habits, she'd backed away.

I could also have done without the epilogue, which is written like a Page Six gossip column. Having taken a journalism class and understanding what is required of newspaper writing, Phillips writing here just doesn't cut it. It's confusing and is tacked on at the end where it's not really needed. 

Grade: B-

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Samantha's Christmas Dresses

This week I made two versions of Samantha's Christmas Dress from the patterns made specifically for the Samantha Doll. 

This is the second one: 


I used a broader ribbon around the waist, which I really liked. I also got the serger working, so  the seams were finished. 

This one is the first one I made: 


I would have liked a broader ribbon around the waist, but that was the widest white I had. I also would have liked broader lace around the shoulders, but I used what was available. 

ETA: The purple dress was given to Hannah for Christmas '08. 

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Definitely Dead by Charlaine Harris

Definitely Dead is the sixth book in Charlaine Harris' Sookie Stackhouse series. I'm a bit disappointed that I read through this one so quickly because I'm out of books and there's only two left! Well, so far. Hopefully she'll continue with the series well beyond eight books. 

In this book, Sookie has discovered that she has inherited her vampire cousin Hadley's earthly belongings. This is no easy task and goes beyond merely cleaning out an apartment an arranging new homes for the belongings. Sookie has made many enemies in the vampire world, and not always through her own actions but merely knowing some of the inner workings of the vampire world. While in New Orleans, Sookie comes into contact with the Vampire Queen of Louisiana, who is newly married to the Vampire King of Arkansas. Also into the mix is Quinn, Sookie's new shape-shifter boyfriend. Oh, and there's also the family of her friend Alcide's ex-girlfriend--they want to find out what happened to their daughter and sister. 

Until this point, I have preferred the books that Harris has written about the small town of Bon Temps. Although this one is mostly set in New Orleans, it was still a good read. The usual crew of supes were present in this book as well: weres, shape-shifters, vampires, fairies, and the just plain undescribable. Harris weaves a very good story without bogging down the narrative with infodump. She explains just enough of the characters to catch the reader up without explaining every little detail. 

I also loved the humor in the book. The opening scene is the photo shoot for a romance novel cover portfolio she promised the fairy Claude she'd shoot. And the new element in the book are witches. 

I can already anticipate what the next book is about and can't wait. The Queen of Louisiana and the King of Arkansas are not happy newlyweds, and all did not end well for them in this book. 

A. 

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Power Play by Deirdre Martin

I searched high and low for this book. I went to all two bookstores in town the day it came out, the day after it came out, and two days after it came out. I gave up on Books-A-Million because they didn't have any in stock, which doesn't surprise me considering they can't even alphabetize their books. Barnes and Noble at least bothered to look in the back for me. I suppose that since the book didn't go on one of the tables or an end-cap, shelving it was not a priority. Never mind that the romance genre is a billion-dollar industry. So, this book better be pretty good in order to justify the gas and time spent searching for it. 

Power Play is the latest book in Deirdre Martin's New York Blade's series, following the events in Chasing Stanley. (I'm not sure if Just a Taste really qualifies as part of this series, even if it does include Michael Dante from Fair Play.) The book follows the budding romance between Monica Geary and Eric Mitchell. 

Monica is a popular soap star whose star may be eclipsed by a younger, less talented actress. Monica isn't very sure about her profession, thinking she'll work in the soaps until something more "professional" comes around. But now that she may not be the number one star on the show, she's realizing her job's worth. But is it too late? In an effort to give her profile a boost, she agrees to a fake romance with Eric. 

Eric Mitchell is the newest player on the New York Blades, a professional hockey team in New York City. Eric's pretty unpopular because he was traded from Jersey (that enough should damn him) for a popular Blades' player, Guy Le Temp. Not only do the fans not like him, but the team doesn't like him, either. Oh, and his play sucks. He's not living up to the hype from the trade. He jumps on the chance to up his profile by dating Monica, that and because he thinks she's hot. 

I like the whole idea of the plot. How many hockey players in reality date models and pageant queens? (Yes, I'm speaking of you, Willa Ford. Eye roll.)  The plot is completely believable, and the fact that Martin used to work for soaps makes for an interesting look at the behind-the-scenes of a soap. The backbiting, the gossiping, the casting couches... But what the book needed was better execution. The dialogue was often wooden, and I had a really hard time with the character of Eric. I had a hard time to like him, and if a reader can't like the hero of a romance novel, then the romance is not believable. It's like watching your best friend date a jerk. 

While the soap opera part of the book was believable, the locker room bits with the Blades was a bit harder to read. Her writing of game plays read like copy from a newspaper article. 
Eric could hardly contain his excitement as he and Monica headed uptown toward their respective apartments in her hired car. To say he'd slaughtered out on the ice tonight was an understatement. He'd scored on the power play two minutes into the second period, and he'd orchestrated the team's other three power plays as if he had the puck on a string. They'd scored three out of four chances on the power play, in addition to their two even-strength goals. He'd excelled in his own end as well, skating the puck and making crip breakout passes.

That paragraph completely threw me off from the rest of the narrative. 

This book earned a solid C. 

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Panther Pillow


A few weeks ago my friend Alison (who is probably the most generous person I know, because I know I'm not) asked me to make a pillow for the homecoming tiaras. Since she asked, I made it, most of it from stuff I had laying around (or from her own mother!). The only thing I had to buy was some thin silver ribbon and the blue and gold grosgrain. 

I absolutely love this pillow. I know I'll be making more just like it! 

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Samantha's Retirement

One of the websites that I frequent is The Complete Guide to American Girl Doll Collecting.  When I went on this morning, the website showed this announcement. In it, it details Samantha's retirement, including the entire collection and the Nellie collection as well.  Samantha was one of the three original dolls, including Molly and Kirsten. 

Since Samantha was my first American Girl doll this is a blow to me. She has the most exquisite collection of them all, with beautiful clothes and accessories. Is this a move to ramp up interest in the collection and therefore increase sales in this economic downturn? With this announcement no doubt the prices on E-bay will continue to skyrocket as collectors attempt to finish their collections. 

Over the years I have been disappointed in the expansion of the collections with the Best Friend dolls. The American Girl of Today and the Just Like Me dolls are the focus of the company since Pleasant Company was sold to Mattel. 

ETA: The site I linked above by Kurt Danhauser is amazing, and nothing I've found rivals it. It's my source when I need to remember what an outfit looks like or what has been retired. 

Oh, and I'm still sad about this. Idiots. 

Friday, October 10, 2008

Are We Back in the 1980s?

The NHL is stuck in the 1980s, from the preponderance of mullets worn by current and former players to last night's entertainment on Versus.

It was Def Leppard. Now, I love Pyromania, and they've done some great stuff--in the 1980s--but last night's gaffe proved how out of touch the NHL is.


Yeah, dat's right. He put the Stanley Cup back upside-down and then says, "Oh, never mind."

But my big question is this: Why the hell did the NHL choose Def Leppard, a band that apparently knows nothing about hockey? Why not pick another band that knows hockey, or at least heard of it and the Stanley Cup, to do the entertainment?

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Project Runway Season 5: Finale Part One

I realized last night as I was watching that there was no reunion show! What is up with that? The best part is when they all get together, choose who is going to be Fan Favorite, and yell at the one villain the entire time. 

How can we forget Vanessa's lying about the interview she did with that one website (long since forgotten by me, when she trashed the other designers? Or how mad she was that everyone said she can't sew? And then there's the wine stain and her departure after the commercial break. 

Or how about Keith being asked about cheating? 

And here we are deprived of having Kenley the tugboat captain's daughter not having the chance to defend herself! 

This episode was very boring and uninspired. I thought Korto should have gone home, because her dresses looked like they were those woven placemats. I didn't see wedding in either of those dresses. 

My favorite was Leanne's, and Kenley's was nice. I'm sad to see Jerrell did not make it. 

Eh. Maybe it'll be better on Lifetime. 

Sunday, October 05, 2008

My View on The View

Sometimes I have those random days where I don't have to go into work, whether it's a holiday, summer break, or one of those rare personal days that I take for myself. On occasion I use these days to be completely lazy and watch day time television. (I'm still coming to terms with Drew Carey replacing Bob Barker.) So, at 11 AM, I watch The View, with Barbara Walters and company.

Some days, it's entertaining. Other days it's excruciating with celeb gossip and political leanings. The best times are when the ladies end up on Best Week Ever or The Soup, usually for something stupid Sheri Shepard has said.

But dare I say it? The show "jumped the shark", so to speak, when Meredith Viera left the show for a more lucrative career at The Today Show. That was when she was replaced with Rosie O'Donnell, who I used to love until she showed her true colors. I'm not talking about her being a lesbian, because I could care less about her sexual orientation, but her rudeness. I can't put myself in her shoes, with all the hurdles she's had to jump to have her career and to keep her family life separate, but the shouting match with Elisabeth Hasslebeck nearly two years ago was the last straw. Such intolerance for another viewpoint!

And isn't that what the show is about? Different viewpoints? Elisabeth is the first truly conservative view on the show. The other ladies include Whoopi Goldberg, the "moderator"; Joy Behar, who likes to talk about menopause; and Sheri Shepard, who doesn't realize that Christianity was not around the time of the Ancient Greeks nor does she put much thought into the shape of the earth (it's round). And then there's Barbara Walters, who has written a scandalous, tell-all book, and is hardly an unbiased journalist.

The last straw was when I was watching The Soup and saw a clip on how the ladies finally want Elisabeth to explain her viewpoints. Righfully so, she felt she was being pop-quizzed, and sounded quite bitter about it. She's always being called out on her conservative issues.

Sure, I should have watched the entire clip, maybe see it in context, but I work, and I don't have DVR for a reason. (Besides, all I'd have on it were USC games--as in South Carolina--and hockey games. Why waste the space on a talk show?) And I don't agree with Elisabeth's politics, but she has as much right to her beliefs as Whoopi and Joy. Girl, leave the show. Barbara has already said that she loves having you on the show, so leave now while the leaving's good. The end is near, and no doubt Fox News has something for you to do.

But this seems to be the way that "news" shows are going--constantly yelling over each other, interrupting, and general lack of respect.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Dead as a Doornail by Charlaine Harris

After watching the recent episodes of True Blood on HBO, I've read two Charlaine Harris books. Dead as  Doornail is the fifth book in the Southern Vampire series. 

Less than a month after finding her brother Jason a were-panther, Sookie and Jason are dealing with his new supernatural powers. Little time is made for adjustment, though, when someone starts shooting at the area's shape-shifting community. Sookie has to find out who has shot her boss, Sam, and the leader of the were-panther community, Calvin Norris, because her brother is once again prime suspect when it comes to the shootings. One piece of information she has over the Bon Temps police force, however, is that all of the victims are shape-shifters, who, unlike vampires, keep a low profile. 

As if this weren't enough for Sookie to deal with, she also has her romantic life to deal with. For someone who was solidly single for her entire life before meeting ex-boyfriend Bill, Sookie is quite sought after by the supernatural bachelors of Louisiana. All are intrigued by her telepathic nature, something that scared off "normal" human beaus. The count is pretty overwhelming for Sookie: Sam, her boss; Alcide, the werewolf; Calvin Norris; and multiple vampires. But as she's dealing with conflicting emotions and the discovery of being used by many of these men for her abilities, she meets another shape-shifter who I have no doubt will be in future books. 


Other plot-points in the book include her friend Tara's relationship with Mickey the vampire, as well as more intrigue in the Shreveport wolf-pack. When their pack leader is killed, the pack must find a new leader, and Alcide's intentions towards Sookie are less than gentlemanly. Add on top of this a house fire and more attempts on Sookie's life, and the book is packed solid for the entire three hundred pages. 

The supernatural world of Bon Temps is becoming larger and larger with each installment. At times it becomes confusing trying to keep all of it in my head, but Harris has been very good about keeping the new information to a minimum. One thing that I dislike about series is the constant regurgitation of information from one book to another. (I remember skipping entire chapters of Baby-sitters Club books when I was ten, and complaining to my mom that I thought it was stupid.) But with all the recurring characters in the book, the information Harris reviews sounds natural in Sookie's first person narration, and I'm quite thankful for it!  

Harris also keeps her world very real and humorous. My favorite part of the book is when Claude the fairy picks up Sookie from the hospital. A surly and (hopefully for Sookie) bisexual fairy that exudes charisma and hotness, Claude is the twin brother of Sookie's fairy godmother, Claudine. 
Claude had been a stripper on ladies' night at Hooligan's, c club in Monroe, but lately he'd not only moved into managing the club, he'd also branched into print and runway modeling. The opportunities for such work were few and far between in northern Louisiana, so Claude had decided to compete for Mr. Romance at a romance reader's convention. He'd even had his ears surgically alters so they weren't pointed anymore. The big payoff was the chance to appear on a romance cover. I didn't know too much about the contest, but I knew what I saw when I looked at Claude. I felt pretty confident Claude would win by acclamation.
Of course, Sookie becomes involved in even that. 

My favorite books in the series have involved the shape-shifters and have taken place in Bon Temps. Harris' characters in the Bon Temps area are real and interesting, but when Sookie was in Dallas and Jackson in previous books I was less than impressed. Unfortunately, with future books, I have a feeling that Sookie will be traveling because Eric will be hiring her for a job. 

And I'm disappointed over the whole Alcide thing, because I love him as a character, but he treated Sookie horribly in this book. Oh, well. I have three more books in the series to read. And if he's ever cast in True Blood, I have some ideas, folks at HBO. 

A. (Though not A for Alcide.) 

Sidenote: I am completely unhappy with the guy playing Andy Bellefleur in True Blood. He looks like a detective, but I was expecting someone more... well, someone more. 

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Last Night's Project Runway Episode

Oh, the last episode before the two finales drove me nuts! What was the point? 

Jerrell won, and the judges couldn't decide between Kenley, Leanne, and Korto. So, they're letting all three come back and decide among the FOUR of them who will make it. So, Jerrell isn't even automatically in. NO ONE at this point has been decided to go on to the final three. 

So, all four get to make a collection. Big freakin' deal. So do Joe and Suede, because neither of them had been eliminated on the air by the time Fashion Week came. So, there were SIX collections. 

Last night's episode was a waste. It has been an underwhelming challenge to judge in every season. Remember the Nancy O'Dell challenge in Season One where Wendy Pepper won? All of the outfits were bad, but the judges still managed to make a decision! 

This is a huge, disappointing cop-out. 

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Why the NHL Must Hate Women

The NHL really needs to employ at least one woman in its merchandise development office. For years I have lamented over the fact that there is no jersey for women in team colors. There's the stereotypical pink and white jersey, which you can wear with your pink and white team hat. WTH is up with this? If I'm a fan of a team, I want to wear the team colors. For some reason, the marketing geniuses think that women will only support their teams with "girly" colors. (Way to ruin a Black-out, my friends.) 

So, two Christmases ago, I got a Carolina Hurricanes jersey (# 26, Erik Cole) in a men's medium. (Two months later, they started selling smalls. Hate that.) It's huge, but I love it. There was nothing comparable in women's sizes, not for lack of trying. My only other option was the hated pink and white. 

Today I got my NHL catalog in the mail. Inside, there are women's jerseys in team colors! Yay! They look great, and are cheaper then the men's Rbk Edge jerseys. (Of course they're not authentic, but whatever. At least it would fit.) And on the page next to them, I found this: 



What? A "Fashion Jersey?" Isn't that an oxymoron? This particular model is the "Silver Ice Jersey", "frosted with silver metallic foil graphics." Gee, thanks! Make me five years old again when some metallic and sparkly shirt was all that made me happy. 

Then, if you look down the page, there's the Rbk HerShield Jerseys. I couldn't come across a picture, but there are versions that exist for the NFL. This "Fashion Jersey" is gray with baby blue or baby pink accents. And to top it all off, it is "Ultra fun with sugar glitter." Ooh, shiny! Must buy. 

Thanks NHL for continuing the stereotype. 

Monday, September 29, 2008

Just One of the Guys by Kristan Higgins

Just One of the Guys is the story about Chastity Virginia O'Neill, youngest child and only daughter in a clan of five children. Standing at nearly six feet tall, she's always just been one of the guys, a tomboy, tagging along after her brothers. A journalist for the local newspaper, Chastity meets a local doctor and things seem to be going pretty well. 

Enter Trevor Meade, family friend and her first love. Though things have seemed to cool down between the two of them, Chastity still loves him, though he still sees her as a friend. Will she find happily ever after, or will she always be just one of the guys? 

I have enjoyed Kristan Higgins previous books, Fools Rush In  and Catch of the Day. As in the previous two books, the setting is the Northeast, in this case upstate New York. Higgins writes a rich setting in a small town, with everyone getting their happily ever after. 

The secondary characters in the story are delightful, probably more so than the main character. My main issue with the book is how the secondary characters are much stronger and tend to overshadow Chastity. I actually wanted to know more about them. The doctor was also painted two-dimensionally, and I had a very hard time liking him. He wasn't a bad guy, he was just a caricature. From the beginning, we know who Higgins wants Chastity to end up with, and it's not the doctor. 

The book reads more like a chick lit than a romance. As with the previous two books, the heroine's love for a certain man seems doomed, but works out fine in the end. 

A-. 

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Samantha's Lacy Whites


I just bought the above off E-bay for an amount more than it cost before American Girl retired it. Samantha's Lacy Whites include a petticoat, stockings, and a shirtwaist with garters. The petticoat buttons to the shirtwaist. The garters somehow connect to the stockings, but I still can't figure it out. (Which is why I'm thankful for pantyhose.) 

And I'd appreciate any type of clue with the garters! 

I am currently attempting to make this with the patterns I have, but the material I chose was thicker than the fine lawn used in the original one. I'm still working on it, but at least I won't have to figure out how to do garters with that one. 

Friday, September 26, 2008

New Outfits

I've made the next two outfits in the past few weeks and have just had the time to update the blog with the pictures! 

The first is a nightgown from McCall's Crafts 3275.  The patterns are made for Gotz dolls, but they also fit American Girl dolls. I made two nightgowns out of a flannel that Mama Wiebenga gave me over the summer, and the eyelet trim was also from her as well. 

One of the nightgowns went to Hannah and one went to McKenzie. 



The second picture was made using McCall's Crafts 3627.  The outfits do fit the American Girl dolls, though are made for a doll that is a bit thicker in the body.  The material is also from Mama Wiebenga, though the hat and trim is from my own collection. The skirt lies flat because I did not make the "bum roll" that accompanies the patterns. 

This outfit went to McKenzie. 


The Book Store Blues

Florence is not a niche market. There is nothing I'd like more to have a yarn store and a cross-stitch store in town. Instead, I have to go out of town for yarn and buy from Hobby Lobby, which has a little inventory on a lot of items. It's the same deal with bookstores. We have one Used Book Store (UBS) and two chain stores. No independent stores. This if very frustrating for a reader. 

Until as recent as a year ago, we only had one chain bookstore in town. (I won't name names.) I was a captive buyer. The customer service at this store was sketchy to say the least. The help had no clue what the difference between a trade paperback, a mass market paperback, and a hardcover was. I'd come in, looking for a book on its release date, say it was a mass market book, and they'd look with the trades and hardcovers. I told them that it wouldn't be on the tables (Avon Romances generally don't buy table room for their MMPs), I told them the internet said it was out on this date, and they'd tell me that the internet release dates were just for the online stores. 

Don't lie to me. Apparently, I know more about the book industry than these bozos. I know when they're making stuff up because they don't know. I don't make stuff up when a student asks me a question about important stuff, so please don't make up stuff about a book. 

Another issue was the alphabetizing of books by author's last name. They didn't. The history department? Effed up and totally focused on WW2 and the Civil War. The biographies should be shelved according to subject's name, not author's, but half of the section was one way, the other half another way. Is it any wonder I shop online? 

And then the second store opens. Things pick up for a while. Books are alphabetized. Customer service picked up. Sadly, it was not to last. 

And I'd go to the other book store, but it's another ten minutes away through traffic at the mall, and it's too slick. The cafe, the DVDs, the CDs. What happened to a book store? 

Looks like I'll be sticking to the online stores and PaperBack Swap for a while longer. 

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Widow of the South by Robert Hicks

I'm going to be straight-up honest: the American Civil War is nowhere near the top of my favorite historical periods. I don't have the patience for it and would much rather be slogging through medieval manuscripts. Okay, maybe not manuscripts, but books talking about medieval manuscripts. (I know old paper would be starting my allergies up again, like that thirty year old Antonia Fraser book I have on the Queen of Scots.) I just don't have the patience for a bunch of stupid men , and I hate arguing about how the civil war started (for the record, it's slavery; every other argument leads back to slavery--you're welcome to disagree with me, but I'll still be right). 

Despite this antipathy, I still picked up Robert Hicks' book The Widow of the South. It was on the bargain table at the book store, the cover intrigued me, and the jacket description. Set during and after the Battle of Franklin in Tennessee, the story is based on the true story of Carrie McGavock, whose home was used as a hospital and who later created a cemetery for nearly 1500 dead. 

Hicks weaves history and fiction together in a book that is less about the war and more about the people affected by the war. The Civil War is often seen in military and political terms, with the social impact only being explored in the last half-century. Within the reality of Carrie's story, Hicks created Zacariah Cashwell, a man from Arkansas that spent weeks in the McGavock hospital following the carnage at Franklin. During this time, the two became friends, and an old-fashioned romance blossomed between the two, a link that would hold them together through to the ends of their lives. 

The story is told in alternating points of view, usually either Carrie or Cashwell. The book switches from third person to first person as well, but the transition in voice was so seamless that this did not bother me. Cashwell's first person narrative was very earthy and filled with colloquialisms, while Carrie's narration sounded more from someone who was used to moving in the highest circles. The voices were so different that had Hicks not titled the beginning of each chapter I'd still be able to figure out whose head I was in. When not with Carrie or Cashwell, the narration was various secondary characters either in the army or in town, but only ever enough to move the story forward. 

The characterization was also very good. Each character, even the smallest ones, moved and changed throughout life, the events at the Battle of Franklin marking each person on physical, emotional, and mental levels. Hicks' characters were real, flawed, and likable. When a book is able to capture my emotions (and make me careful about reading it in class, lest I cry in front of my students), I know it's good. Well, unless my emotions tell me to throw it across the wall from boredom. 

But since I was not bored at all with this book, I give it an extra special A+. Thank you, Mr. Hicks, for being captured by the story of the Widow of the South. 

Dead to the World by Charlaine Harris

Dead to the World is the fourth installment in Charlaine Harris's Sookie Stackhouse series. The series focuses on a young Louisiana woman with telepathic powers who is pulled into the world of the supernatural. Each book introduces the reader to new parts of the supernatural world, a world that for the most part is unseen to the average human.

It's a new year and Sookie wants to turn over a new leaf, mostly in resolving to stay out of trouble. She thinks this will be pretty easy since her ex-boyfriend, Bill, is in Peru on vampire business. But on the way home from work New Year's Day, she almost runs over Eric, Bill's boss. Eric is half-naked, on the run from someone or something, and has amnesia. This Eric is seductive not through his actions but by the fact that he is so much more likable than his normal undead self. Of course, problems usually come at once in Sookie's life, just like now. 

Eric's condition is due to the fact that he has been cursed by a witch. The witches are on the lookout for him, Sookie's hiding him, and her brother Jason has gone missing. While worrying about keeping Eric safe, she also has to worry about finding her brother. Other supernatural creatures in this book are the werewolves, shape-shifters, and the introduction of Claudine, a fairy. I'm still not sure at Claudine's introduction and hope that Harris has a plan for her. 

I picked up this book because I had just started watching True Blood, the HBO series based on the Southern Vampire series. This book was much easier to get into than it's predecessor, and I enjoyed it so much more. Sookie, unlike Evanovich's Stephanie Plum, has changed over the course of the books and is tired of dealing with what she's gone through. Due to her telepathy, she's hardly normal, but she knows she can't return to her previous life. 

I fully enjoyed the return of Alcide, the werewolf, in this book. I love Alcide, and as far as Sookie's potential and former lovers are concerned, he's right up there for me. That alone made this book a good one for me. The pacing was good, the plot was interesting, and I like how Jason has changed in this book. 

A. 

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Project Runway Season 5: Episode 10

I know I've skipped about twenty episodes, and this is probably episode 10 and not 9, but oh, well. That can all be fixed! 

I have really discovered that I love Jerrell. Now that he is interviewed more now that there are six left, his personality shines through. His stories are hilarious! 

I loved when he said, "we were all waiting to see who would get a Hedda Lettuce this time..." 

More later! 

Sunday, September 14, 2008

PS I Love You by Cecelia Ahern

I loved the movie PS I Love You. Love it. The dialogue was snappy, the emotions were real, and it was just real period. Which is why I decided to read the book it was based on, written by Cecilia Ahern, an Irish author. 

I try not to compare things to the source material, but it was so hard here. Having seen the movie first, I kept waiting for those moments I loved to pop up in the book, but they just weren't there. This was the same experience that I had reading the book The Wedding Date was based off of. Both movies are very loosely based off of their source material, and I had a hard time getting off the ground with both books. 

Holly Kennedy just lost her husband after a long battle against a brain tumor. She is having a hard time adjusting to live without Gerry, but she receives a new lease on life when she finds letters her husband left behind. Each month she is to open a new letter with an inspiring message. These letters are his final gift to her, a gift to keep her from merely existing after his death. 

The premise is absolutely lovely and inspiring, but there are some writing issues I can't get past. Ahern rambles as an author, not only showing the reader what a character is like through his or her actions, but telling us in the next paragraph. Most readers are capable of inferring information and don't need to be told as well. And when the reader is told, the reader is told frequently. 
Holly secured her bedsheet onto the washing line with a peg and thought about how she had bumbled through the remainder of May trying to get her life into some sort of order. Days went by when she felt so happy and content and confident that her life would be OK, and then as quickly as the feeling came it would disappear again, and she would feel her sadness setting in once more. She tried to find a routine she could happily fall into so that she felt like she belonged in her body and her body belonged in this life, instead of wandering around like a zombie watching everybody else live theirs while she waited around for hers to end. Unfortunately the routine hadn't turned out exactly as she had hoped. She found herself immobile for hours in the sitting room, reliving every single memory that she and Gerry had shared....

And so on and so forth. Each sentence says the same thing, how Holly wishes to move on but is unable to. I wish the book would move on as well, because it was very hard for me to pick up most of the time. I didn't really care if she moved on or not, because I couldn't get into her character. I'm told there is a depth to her, but for most of the book I see memories of a party girl who loved shopping. 

The book also jumped point of view a lot, and many times I found it difficult to figure out whose head I was in. There were a lot of characters, too, so this was not an easy task at all! 

My grade is a C-. If you want good Irish chic lit,  head for Marian Keyes. 

Saturday, September 13, 2008

My Rap Album

My seventh block is talented. They can freestyle on just about any topic that I throw at them. So, I came up with this brilliant idea: we can make a rap album. 

For each unit, I give them guidelines on what questions their rap has to answer according to South Carolina State Standards (because it always comes back around to the standards--I actually like having standards, but that's another story entirely). Then I'm going to record them and at the end of the year--

We'll have an album. 

They loved the idea. I have a feeling they won't disappoint. :) 

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Why Did the Chicken Cross the Road?


Why did the chicken cross the road?

BARACK OBAMA:
The chicken crossed the road because it realized that this is a time for a CHANGE! The chicken wanted CHANGE! We can all cross the road if we work together. Yes we can!

JOHN MC CAIN:
My friends, it doesn’t matter why the chicken crossed the road; that’s the past. What’s important is that the chicken doesn’t surrender to any ongoing traffic and lose his credibility to those who doubt his commitment to crossing roads.

HILLARY CLINTON:
When I was First Lady, I personally helped that little chicken to cross the road. This experience makes me uniquely qualified to ensure -- right from Day One! -- that every chicken in this country gets the chance it deserves to cross the road. But then, this really isn't about me.......  

DR. PHIL:
The problem we have here is that this chicken won't realize that he must first deal with the problem on 'THIS' side of the road before it goes after the problem on the 'OTHER SIDE' of the road. What we need to do is help him realize how stupid he's acting by not taking on his 'CURRENT' problems before adding 'NEW' problems.  

OPRAH:
Well, I understand that the chicken is having problems, which is why he wants to cross this road so bad. So instead of having the chicken learn from his mistakes and take falls, which is a part of life, I'm going to give this chicken a car so that he can just drive across the road and not live his lifelike the rest of the chickens.  

GEORGE W. BUSH:
We don't really care why the chicken crossed the road. We just want to know if the chicken is on our side of the road, or not. The chicken is either against us, or for us. There is no middle ground here.  

ANDERSON COOPER - CNN:
We have reason to believe there is a chicken, but we have not yet been allowed to have access to the other side of the road.  

JOHN KERRY:
Although I voted to let the chicken cross the road, I am now against it! It was the wrong road to cross, and I was misled about the chicken's intentions. I am not for it now, and will remain against it.

PAT BUCHANAN:
To steal the job of a decent, hardworking American.  

MARTHA STEWART:
No one called me to warn me which way that chicken was going. I had a standing order at the Farmer's Market to sell my eggs when the price dropped to a certain level. No little bird gave me any insider information.  

DR SEUSS:
Did the chicken cross the road? Did he cross it with a toad? Yes, the Chicken crossed the road, but why it crossed I've not been told.  

ERNEST HEMINGWAY:  
To die in the rain. Alone.  

JERRY FALWELL:
Because the chicken was gay! Can't you people see the plain truth?' That's why they call it the 'other side.' Yes, my friends, that chicken is gay. And if you eat that chicken, you will become gay too. I say we boycott all chickens until we sort out this abomination that the liberal media whitewashes with seemingly harmless phrases like 'the other side. That chicken should not be crossing the road. It's as plain and as simple as that.  

GRANDPA:
In my day we didn't ask why the chicken crossed the road. Somebody told us the chicken crossed the road, and that was good enough.  

BARBARA WALTERS:
Isn't that interesting? In a few moments, we will be listening to the Chicken tell, for the first time, the heart warming story of how it experienced a serious case of molting, and went on to accomplish its life long dream of crossing the road.  

ARISTOTLE:
It is the nature of chickens to cross the road.  

JOHN LENNON:
Imagine all the chickens in the world crossing roads together, in peace.  

BILL GATES:
I have just released eChicken2008, which will not only cross roads, but will lay eggs, file your important documents, and balance your check book. InternetExplorer is an integral part of the Chicken. This new platform is much more stable and will never cra...#!&^ (C%~........reboot.  

ALBERT EINSTEIN:
Did the chicken really cross the road, or did the road move beneath the chicken?  

BILL CLINTON:
I did not cross the road with THAT chicken. This all depends on what the meaning or cross is.

COLONEL SANDERS:
Did I miss one?

DICK CHENEY:
Where's my gun?