Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Yarn Along

Reading: Murder at the Mikado, by Julianna Deering. I'm very reluctantly taking a break from rereading Harry Potter to read this book. (I received it to review a few weeks ago, so I needed to get a start on it.) I'm not very far in...I'm sure it'll be great, but I'm just really more in the mood for Harry Potter right now. :)

Knitting: A cowl from my most recent handspun. From this picture you can get an idea of how bright it is in certain sections. That bit of orange is particularly eye-burning, ha!

{Yarn Along is a weekly link up hosted by Ginny where you can share what you've been knitting and reading.}

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone {Book + Film}

So...I've officially started my summer of Harry Potter. One hat has been knitted, nearly two books have been read, and the first film has been watched. (And I'm listening to one of the soundtracks as I write this, to get me in even more of a HP mood.) Today it's time to talk about Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone.

My main thought about the book and movie: they make me feel so nostalgic. Even though I've acquired a hardcover of this first book since I last reread the series, I decided to read my old paperback copy instead of the hardcover one. And I'm so glad I did. That little paperback with the yellowing pages and barely visible dog-ear folds (yes, I dog-eared my pages back then, but I would never do that now!) smells like my childhood. :)

I have so many memories connected to this series. I definitely grew up with Harry Potter...I read the first book when I was 8 or 9, and I was 16 when the last book came out.

Okay, on to the actual book. While it's not my favorite of the series, I still love it. There's a lot of world-building going on, and it makes me appreciate the magical world that J.K. Rowling created. Everything fits together so beautifully...and for me, personally, it's an easier world to slip into than say, the world of the Lord of the Rings. Maybe it's just because J.R.R. Tolkien was so obsessive with details, or maybe it's because the world of Harry Potter is still set in a real-life place and time.

I loved meeting all of the characters again, especially the Weasleys. Of course, there are many details in the books that get left out of the films, and it's so nice having that extra information and backstory. I love Rowling's writing style. I had forgotten how lovely and subtle the humor is. But most importantly, she doesn't dumb things down for children like so many writers tend to do. The Harry Potter books don't feel like "children's" books to me...they just have this timeless quality that appeals to all ages.

I loved rereading these lines that are so familiar to me. I would get to a part and be reminded of a specific line that was ingrained in my memory, and I would think, I wonder if that line is in this book or a later one? And then a few sentences later, there it would be. :)

While reading Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone this time, I wasn't very focused on the plot about the stone and Fluffy and the suspicions about Snape. I was as a kid, and I know I'll probably be more invested in the main plot lines in the later books. (I will say that I definitely noticed some foreshadowing and little things that proved significant in later books.) But this time, with this book, I was just soaking in the familiar, cozy feeling of the story. The way that she describes the cushy arm chairs by the fire in the common room, and the food they eat at feasts, and the handknit sweaters from Mrs. Weasley. It feels so wonderfully homey and comfortable and English. :) Also, it made me so anxious for fall and winter, even more so than I already was.

I watched the film adaptation the evening after I finished reading the book. It made me think of the first time I ever saw the movie. Back in 2001 when it was released, my brother and I won tickets to go see it in theaters. A local radio station was giving away four tickets and a HP prize pack...all you had to do was call in and answer the question that they asked. I knew the answer but was too chicken to call in, and my younger brother didn't know the answer but was willing to call the station (the question was so simple...what was the name of Harry Potter's school?). Somehow he managed to get the line and we won! :) I was the only one in my family who ever read the books (though I tried to get my brother to...I remember giving him a quiz about it, which is probably what scared him away from reading them, ha), but we always went to see the films at the theater after that.

I jotted down some random thoughts while watching the movie, so here goes...

Dudley is the most obnoxious child ever! He's bad enough in the books, but somehow seeing it onscreen makes him even more horrible.

Speaking of children, Harry, Ron, and Hermione look so tiny in this movie! Especially when they're walking down hallways with older students...they just look impossibly small. And sometimes their acting is a bit cheesy, but that's okay. They're just kids, after all. Also, the CGI isn't the best, but it's not really distracting.

It seemed like it took so long for Hagrid to tell Harry about Voldemort and how his parents really died. I think in the book he explained all of that in the shack, but in the movie it takes forever. Hagrid is cast perfectly, as are all of the teachers and staff at Hogwarts. Actually, all of the casting is perfect. (Though I will always prefer Michael Gambon as Dumbledore. Richard Harris just came across as a little too weak and feeble and he didn't really capture Dumbledore's sense of humor.)

Just like with the book, you can pick up on little things when you watch it knowing what to expect. You notice little clues, like with Snape and Quirrell at the Quidditch match. I also realized this time that the film ending is a lot more dramatic than the book ending. Instead of just turning red and blistering, the villain's face (not saying any names just in case anyone doesn't know the story) basically turns to dust and falls apart. I guess that's more exciting? :) Also, Harry is a bit more of a hero and defeats the villain entirely instead of just passing out halfway through the confrontation...

I always tear up a little at the end when Neville is awarded the ten points for standing up to his friends. I do love rooting for an underdog, and Neville is one of my favorites. I just love him. :)

I feel like this first film, of all of the films, is probably the most accurate to the book, and I appreciate that. But I still think you're missing out on so much if you just see the movie and never read the book!

Well, so much for a proper review...this was basically just a lot of rambling thoughts. How does one even go about reviewing something as classic and amazing as Harry Potter, anyway?

What do you think about Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone? What do you like (or dislike) about the book or the film? Is it one of your favorites or least favorites of the series?

Friday, July 18, 2014

Spinning: circus handspun.

This week I finished spinning eight ounces of Falkland wool from Spun Right Round (I love that shop).

It started out as this fiber. I don't usually choose colors that bright, but something about this colorway (called Circus) sucked me in right from the beginning. I decided to get two braids instead of one, so I'd have a bit more fiber to work with. The color repeats were the same, though one of them had more of a softer pink and the other had a brighter reddish pink...I decided to spin them together so any differences would be evened out.

After fractal spinning worked out so nicely with my mountain stream yarn, I decided to try it again. I was hoping it would balance out the brightness of this fiber. It did to some extent, but since the color repeats were a bit shorter and because the colors are so bright, it didn't work out quite as I expected it to. Anyway, I still love how the yarn turned out.

The bobbins with my wheel aren't really big, so I had to split the yarn into two skeins when the bobbin filled up. The first skein was 148 yards, the second was 186 yards, and Andean plying the leftover singles gave me 50 extra yards. So around 384 yards total, and it's somewhere around a DK weight.

I was planning on using it for a small shawl, something like this one. But with the way the colors mingled up, I thought it might be better to knit it into something a bit more narrow. So I finally decided on a cowl I've been wanting to knit with handspun for a while now: Totally Biased. I've already started on it, and it is bright, but I think it'll be fine.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Book multiples.

A few weeks ago, I bought the first two Anne of Green Gables books in these editions. (No, I'm not reading them yet, but I will.) I took my thrift store copies to a Little Free Library. I've been doing that some this year...buying prettier editions of books that I already own. I think it's my way of still getting that awesome book-buying feeling without actually making my to-read pile any larger. :)
{Next on my list of victims is my cheap B&N copy of Northanger Abbey. When I first started reading Austen, I bought most of her books in the cheapest editions I could find, and I'm sort of regretting that now. This is the loveliest edition of Northanger Abbey I've ever seen.}
Getting those new copies of the Anne books made me think about books that I own multiples of and why I own more than one copy of them. In general, I'm pretty good about getting rid of my old edition of a book if I buy a new one...but there are a few exceptions. Mostly because I'm a sentimental sap when it comes to books. :)
Here's how I rationalize owning more than one copy of these books...

Peter Pan, by J.M. Barrie. I bought the Borders edition on the right years ago, and it's a pretty nice copy in itself. Then last year I found the gorgeous Puffin edition at the bargain bookstore and couldn't pass it up...I mean, it has pirate ships! :) I had every intention of donating my first copy, but then I realized that it has two extra short stories that aren't included in the Puffin one. So, I obviously had to keep it. :)

Emma, by Jane Austen. I bought the B&N copy when I first started reading Austen. Emma has been one of my favorite of her novels right from the start. I remember reading it on the floor of my grandma's back porch, leaning against the dryer, because that was the quietest place in the house...I had never been exposed to the story before and I couldn't believe certain plot twists. :) A couple of years ago I bought the Penguin Threads edition, because I'm an embroiderer and it's just so beautiful. I can't seem to get rid of the old copy, though, because it's the first one I read.

Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen. Even though P&P is my favorite Austen novel and one of my absolute favorite books ever, for years I only owned one copy of it. A couple of years ago, we randomly stopped by a little bookshop and I found a 1945 edition that was beautiful (despite the smudged cover)...for only $1.

Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte. This is one of my favorite books, and confession: I own four copies. The tacky paperback came first (I haven't gotten rid of it yet because it was my first copy, but eventually I might be able to let it go...maybe someday I'll give it to someone who has never read it before?). Then the little green copy from 1946, which still has the original owner's name and address written inside (I'm a sucker for that sort of thing). After that was the clothbound Penguin one. It was lovely...and I convinced myself I needed it because the 40s one felt a little fragile to read and I was planning on donating the paperback (and you see how that worked out). The gorgeous 1940s copy with the creepy engraving illustrations came last...I found it for $2 at Goodwill.

The Chronicles of Narnia, by C.S. Lewis. These are my favorite books. I collect them because I have this irrational fear of something awful happening to all of my copies and never being able to read these stories again (because apparently in this nightmare Amazon and bookstores are extinct?). I don't even know...just don't take my Narnia books away from me. I own multiples of all but Prince Caspian, The Magician's Nephew, and The Last Battle. The Silver Chair is probably my favorite, and coincidentally (or not), I have three copies of that one. (And yes, the white 1970s ones are probably the ugliest editions ever, but I'm so attached to them and hello, original publication order!!)

The Screwtape Letters and The Great Divorce, by C.S. Lewis. I already had a copy of The Great Divorce (I used to love that one more than The Screwtape Letters, but now I can't decide). Then I bought that big bind-up, mostly for Mere Christianity, but also for the other works it included. Later, in the last year of high school, I studied The Screwtape Letters, so the homeschool program sent another copy with my textbooks. I kept the two individual copies because they're easier to carry around than the big collection.

A Snicker of Magic, by Natalie Lloyd. I received an ARC of this lovely book earlier this year. I recently bought a copy because I had planned on buying one before I got the proof copy. The hardcover is just so cute (it's yellow and purple- my two favorite colors!) and I wanted to support Natalie and her awesome book (seriously, it's my favorite book I've read this year). Plus, I know there probably isn't much difference between an "uncorrected proof" and the real deal, but I'm curious, anyway. :)

Christy, by Catherine Marshall. I read this book for the first time at my granny's house. When I was a teenager, she had gotten to the point where she couldn't live by herself, so the family alternated weeks staying with her. Granny didn't have tons of books (well, novels anyway), so I had always noticed this little paperback on the shelf. One week while we were there I finally picked it up and read it. I'm glad I have this book, even though it's a cheesy TV edition (no, I haven't seen the series but I will after I reread the book) and the paper cover has actually come loose from the binding, because it reminds me of my grandma. Since the paperback is in such rough shape, I picked up a hardcover copy at the library book sale last year.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, by J.K. Rowling. With the exception of these first two books, I had collected the entire HP series in hardcovers as they were released. I owned these in paperbacks, but I went on a mission to complete my series. I found the two first edition hardcovers at thrift stores...but of course I can't part with my old paperbacks. I've had them forever and they were my first introduction to the HP world.

When We Were Very Young, by A.A. Milne. While I much prefer the actual Winnie the Pooh books, Milne's two volumes of children's poetry are pretty good, too. I had the pink copy first, and I've kept it because it matches the covers of the rest of my series. I found the vintage copy (from 1933 or 1936, I think?) in the thrift store and it is so, so pretty. (And it has an inscription inside. Sold.)

Mary Poppins, by P.L. Travers. I bought the adorable little vintage reproduction copy years and years ago. (I want to eventually collect them all in that format because they're so charming.) Later, at Goodwill (are you starting to see a theme here?) I found this 1960s copy of the first two books. (The cover is dirty and water damaged, but the pages are in perfect condition.) Even though I already owned the first book, I didn't have the second one, so it worked out nicely.

I told you I was hopelessly sentimental. :) Bookshelf space is precious, but holding on to books full of memories is totally worth it.

Do you own multiple copies of certain books? Why?

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Knitting: Hermione Loves Ron hat.

I wish I could say that I'm halfway through the Half-Blood Prince (as it appears from that first photo), but I'm not. The truth is that I haven't even started rereading the Harry Potter series this summer...yet.

But I couldn't resist starting on this hat, and it was so worth it. Honestly, this was the most enjoyable knitting project I've had in a long, long time. Not that my recent projects have been terrible! It's just that this hat was so fun and quick to knit, and I adore the end result.

This is one of those projects that looks more complicated than it was. I had put it off for a while because it meant reading a chart. A very simple chart, it turns out, so I feel silly now for waiting so long. My favorite part is the gorgeous way the top of the hat looks with the decreases. I followed the pattern exactly except for going up a needle size (size 4 for the body, size 3 for ribbing) because I have a big head and I wanted to make sure it fit. :) I chose a darker gray than Hermione's is in the film, though, because I'm just not crazy about light gray on me. (The yarn is KnitPicks' Wool of the Andes sportweight).

I will definitely make this hat again...probably in several different colors.

I think I've finally caught up on posting my finished knits for a while. I'm still working away on these socks, but I'm still on the foot of the first one. This past week I've been doing more spinning than knitting. I've been spinning 8 ounces of Falkland from Spun Right Round, dyed in a much brighter colorway than I would usually choose. But I have high hopes for it. :)

Project page: Hermione Loves Ron hat.

P.S. Liesl, a sweet blogger who writes over at Liesl Made, was kind enough to do a little interview with me on her blog. You can see the post here.