Friday, July 10, 2015

Caution - Works in Progress

Looking at everything I have in progress currently, I had a thought - aren't we all really WIPs?  None of us are totally complete.  We will continue to grow, be re-worked, change, mature, refine with time. Woah, that was unexpectedly heavy.

So why should I let these WIPs get me down?  Time to celebrate the WIPs in my life!

Active WIPs include my Featherweight cardi (slow & steady wins the laceweight cardi), Sprig pulli (wow, this yarn is grippy on my wooden needles, but I'm not pulling it back!!), Clockwork shawl (savoring MCN heaven), and more socks. 

Currently on my wheels are 2 different projects - my 'getting to know the new wheel' bump of Polwarth in the colorway 'Buckeye State' and my Tour de Fleece spinning - the Frabjous Fibers 3 Feet of Sheep in the Jewel Gradient colorway.  The Buckeye State has no expectations. The short spurts of gray have made the spinning interesting and I'm sure the plying will be more so.  I'll ply it and finish it and listen closely to see if it can whisper what it wants to be when it grows up.  The 3 Feet of Sheep has been a bit contrary... I'm aiming for a 2-ply gradient with long, jewel-toned sections with the goal of knitting a Tubularity by Martina Behm (she's such an evil knitting genius!  Okay, really I'm sure she's very nice and not evil at all... it's more evil that I have other responsibilities that keep me from knitting ALLLLL her things!).  My goal for TdF is to spin the singles.  With travelling and other responsibilities, I don't know if that will happen or not!  Stand by! Or follow me on Instagram, where I'm posting my progress! 

On deck projects include 6 sweaters,  2 of which are lace-weight.  I'm calling it now: those won't get done this year!  The 2 DK, 1 worsted and 1 fingering weight all have better chances of getting started at this point.  I'm resisting casting on the Boxy with every fiber of my being right now!  I also have a list of accessories ready to cast on as well, including 2 handspun projects: the Sagebrush infinity scarf and another Anthro-tastic headband.

Next up on the wheel needs to be a sweater quantity of fiber of some sort.  There's no time like the present, right?  We aren't going to talk about the 4 fleeces I'm expecting to pick up, cleaned & made into roving, in September at the Wool Gathering... I'm splitting one of them! That doesn't really make it better, does it? No, I'm not even convincing myself...  I'm wavering between the Corriedale & the Romney.  I have more of a margin for error in the Corriedale, so I'm leaning that way.  We'll see.

From Instagram: "Birthday sweater arrived in the mail today... Some assembly required."

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Halfway there! Donita 2015 update

Hi, my name is Donita and I have personal & crafting goals.  This year, my mantra is "More of what makes me happy."  I'm trying to choose my focus and hoping my mindset will follow.

Despite the 0, count them, ZERO sunny days we had in June, I'm still trying to enjoy the summer.  Thankfully, most of my hobbies are available indoors, so our monsoon season hasn't hampered that aspect of my life.  The dogs are tired of walking with the hubs in the rain, but we can't really do much about that.  They would rather walk in the rain than stay cooped up.

So, my super broad goals were:
  • Not yet hit by any vehicles
    • Literally, living on a prayer here!
  • Resolve both legal matters from the last time(s) vehicle(s) hit me
    • Hopefully the second will go away soon.  Any prayers, good karma, juju, you name it are accepted on this one!!
  • Try yoga as the next phase of rehab from when vehicles hit me before
    • Utter fail on this.
  • Walk more
    • Inherited the hubs' FitBit when he upgraded.  I'm not walking as much as I should be, but still more than I was!  Not moving without pain yet, but slowly & surely...
  • Knit more
    • Check!
  • Spin more
    • Check check!
  • Design more
  • Get current design ideas on paper & published
    • A hat and a cowl and then maybe another cowl are on the horizon

As for the crafting goals, I made those a little more tangible for the year.
  • 20,000 yards in FOs worked
  • More sweaters in my sweater chest
  • Fewer languishing UFOs
  • More socks in my sock drawer
Here's where I am:

9476 yards in FOs by June 30 - 47% to goal.
ETA: As of 7/9, I'm at 10,101!  Right on track!

23 FOs!

(All the links lead back to my Ravelry project pages, where you can see info about the patterns, yarns, needles & mods I used.)

These socks accompanied me to the NCAAM BB Round 1 games, where I met another knitter!

6 more pairs of socks! 10 for the year, but due to a knitting attack, only 9 were added to my sock drawer.  The 10th pair went to live with my friend Melissa.
I worked on these socks while attending a Franklin Habit class.  Naturally, they are my new favorite socks.

2 cowls and 1 hat:

3 shawls:

My progress this last quarter was absolutely driven by Stash Dash 2015, hosted by The Knit Girllls.  I'm over 4K of my 5K goal, so victory is within my reach!!

Speaking of handspun, I finished 5 spinning projects this quarter! I had a love-hate relationship with spinning this winter & wasn't sure how much I was in love with it.  After a rough week at work, I came home & just wanted to spin.  My wheel was fighting me & the fiber wouldn't draft and I may have threatened to throw my wheel into the fireplace and be done with it.  When the hubs calmly asked what I would do with all the wool I'd acquired to spin, I quickly responded that's what de-stash on Ravelry is for.  He played his trump card then and challenged that I wouldn't be able to sell that luscious, perfect gray merino... and he was right.  Gretchen was saved (from the fireplace or equipment de-stash, whichever came first).

One session with the Spin Doctor at 614 knit studio, and I was back on the wagon.  Changing how I thought about drafting just a little helped TREMENDOUSLY.  (Also, watching and re-watching all those Judith MacKenzie DVDs I've been stashing every time Interweave has a sale hasn't hurt either...) Since making a few small adjustments & quoting Judith like she's Scripture, I'm starting to get the hang of this spinning thing.

Targhee x CVM/Bamboo, 8 oz.  from Morro Fleece Works on eBay

BFL sample, 2 oz. from Willow Fairy Wool

BFL, 4 oz. from Fibernymph Dye Works

Polwarth/Silk, 4 oz. also from Fibernymph Dye Works - This fiber blend makes my heart SING!! Resisting not buying ALLLL the Polwarth/Silk I can find, now and forever.

BFL, SAL/KAL with The Knit Girllls & Three Waters Farm

If you want to see progress pics, follow me on Instagram @inagaddadonita - it's mostly pictures of my knitting, spinning and sewing, my dogs, and things I love like tea, Lo-lo bars, my favorite hippie products, etc...  And if that sounds like something you'd like to see, I'm your girl!

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Spring acquisitions & beginnings

This spring, my crafting space had two unexpected acquisitions - one old & one new.

Something old

My husband's adorable grandmother is getting married & moving to Florida with her beau!  They are both octogenarians, but that can't stop love!  Since Grandma will be moving quite a distance, and her boyfriend already maintains a household in Florida, they found several things that wouldn't need to move, but find new homes.  We were blessed to inherit one of those items: a cedar chest that had belonged to the hubs' paternal great-grandmother (Grandma's mom).

It's lovely, in wonderful condition, and still smells of cedar, even though it is between 65-115 years old (based on a quick Google search of the G.S. Stewart Furniture company, which is no longer in business).  Another interesting fact - the chest was made in Norwalk, Ohio, a neighboring town to a previous job & home for me. Upon learning it would be coming to live at our house, I rearranged the studio to make room for it.  This ended up being a joy in itself, as we reevaluated the space, moved quite a few things around & I'm happier with the space AND the functionality of it now than I was before!

My sweaters are happily residing in the chest & I'm not (as) worried about little wee beasties devouring them now.  Project Sweater Chest is in full swing! Now if I can just finish more sweater knitting...

Something new

Coincidentally enough, shortly after discovering more space in my studio, I found another item to take it up.  Through some happy circumstances (some deals you can not pass up), I found myself the owner of a new spinning wheel, a Schacht Ladybug that I have named Karen.  While trying to find a name for my new wheel, my husband noted that I already (inadvertently) named one of my wheels after characters from Mean Girls, the 2003 classic from Tina Fey.  So, really, the question wasn't what should I name her - it was 'Is this wheel more of a Karen or a Regina George?'   Definitely Karen.  Ironically, the lady who sold her to me is also Karen.  It was fate.
[Naturally this means I must now get a cherry Matchless and name her Regina George.  Obviously, the Matchless is the queen bee.  It's the only natural progression that can happen here.  Don't worry - there may be a Cady, too... I've got my eye on a miniSpinner in an African hardwood.  It's almost too easy!!]

Karen is adorable and spins very nicely.  Even though we're still getting acquainted with a bump of Polwarth (my new favorite wool), I think we're going to be good friends.  I really love the treadling motion of this wheel.  I completely understand why so many spinners are dedicated fans of Schacht's products.  They are truly a feat of engineering.

I will still keep Gretchen the HoneyBee.  She is a good little wheel, and my first wheel; we've learned a lot together.  Also, I have a Woolee winder for Gretchen and I love that tool!!  Gretchen may likely become my primary plying wheel because of it.  A Woolee winder for Karen isn't an immediate need - changing hooks isn't such a stop-and-go process now that my spinning has gotten finer.

A beginning

After years of nice people telling me I should sell my knitting (which no one would pay a fair price, even if I paid myself minimum wage - and I'm not a slow knitter), my response was that knitting wouldn't ever be profitable as a craft-for-wage hobby, as evidenced by the cottage knitting profession dying out in Europe & Russia.  And when these complimentary people told me I should do something crafty and open an Etsy shop, I had started replying, 'I wouldn't knit for money; sew maybe...'  I realized I hadn't done much sewing in a long time, since I didn't own a machine.  Alas, driving an hour to my mother's sewing machine wasn't very convenient.

I woke up one morning this spring, consumed with the need of a sewing machine.  Within an hour, I had researched, selected & purchased a sewing machine (because I found it on a fantastic sale - Thanks Amazon!!).  On May 7, I opened an Etsy shop.

My Etsy shop features handmade project bags for knitters & other crafters.  Really, they are nice at holding anything; they are sturdy cotton & machine washable.  Put whatever you like in it!
Locally, I am also selling my bags at the 614 knit studio - if you can find one in-stock!  The customers there have been wonderfully supportive!   I am slowly getting my shop onto crafters' radars outside of my area via some of my favorite podcasts, prize giveaways and coupon codes.  Like my shop on Facebook for sneak peaks of upcoming updates & discount offers!

Life is a journey - there are endings & losses, sure.  But there are also beginnings and acquisitions.  Cheers to those!

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Hot off the Presses!

As I finally got around to sharing the story of my nephew's blanket with you, the next step was to edit & post the patterns for the afghan squares.  As I was puppy-sitting our limping husky Sunday morning, I decided this was as good a time as any.  So I got some tea, sat down at the kitchen table & proceeded to kill my laptop battery making edits and creating PDFs.

If you are on Ravelry, you can check out the patterns on my pattern store page. Some are free and some are for purchase, but faves and queues on Rav are always free!

If you have any questions on the patterns or charts, please PM me on Ravelry.  I'm happy to help!

Disclaimer - Since I created charts for a few trademarked/copyrighted logos for my nephew's blanket, I can't publish those.  I don't want the Marvel Universe banning me - then I'd never get to meet Thor.

I hope to add few additional designs in the near future!  Stay tuned!

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Socks and more socks!

It's safe to say that socks are my happy place.  I like socks.  I wear them nearly every day even in spring and summer, as I work in an air conditioned office.  Also, hand-knit socks make me happier than store bought ones.  Socks are super-portable, so I can grab a project bag and go and work on a sock while I'm waiting in line, in the drive-through at the bank, waiting on food at a restaurant, or just sitting in my car at the park at lunch, enjoying some peace and quiet.

Sock knitting makes any place a happier place.  Happily, I finished 2 pairs of socks in April.

My Fork In The Road Socks by Lara Neel introduced me to my new favorite afterthought heel: the thumb-joint, hat-top heel.  Not easy to say, but fairly easy to knit and fits my high-arched feet really well!

These were done in Fibernymph Dye Works yarn, the Baubles colorway (part of her Christmas collection).  These are happily sitting in my holiday sock bin, waiting for their time.

As you can see, the heel rounds just like the top of a hat, and while I don't recommend doing the heel while you're knitting two-at-a-time, with the socks still on the needles, I do recommend the heel. Lara has a tutorial for knitting this heel continuously from the top-down, using a provisional cast on; I tried it several times and my mind just wasn't having it, so I decided to work mine as an afterthought - it worked out just fine!

My Ninja Chop! socks started from this adorable kit from Knit Mona.

A friend had just sent me this picture and informed me of my knitting superpowers when these kits became available, so this was perfect! And I will gladly take any excuse to buy Jacie's yarns - her bases are super soft & her colors are saturated, but don't fade or bleed.  If you like yarn, definitely check out her shop!

These socks were to become great basketball knitting during the NCAA tournament where I could watch BB, mindlessly knit and look down at the stripes and smile. Mission accomplished.

I finished these in the car on the way to a friend's house and love wearing them.  Also, they double as Buckeye colors, so I'm sure to get plenty of wear out of them this fall.

These pairs mark pairs 5 & 6 for the year. Halfway to my goal for 2015!

But wait - that's not all!

Since I have experienced an on-going bout of startitis this spring, I have several more pairs of socks on the needles.  They aren't finished yet, but that is all part of my diabolical plan to win Stash Dash. My strategy involves being a dark horse, and not knitting a single sock heel until after school lets out.  We'll see how this serves me.

Socks that just need heels:
Won, Not Done - More scarlet and gray
Striping Fall Regia Socks
One of my Spoilers Socks (the second is on the needles)

Queued up socks include another pair of striping Regia, in pinks this time; some Fab Funky Fibres Rainy Day Rainbow; several pairs from my Melissa Oakes TAAT sock books; and more vanilla socks of course.

Who doesn't need more happy place in their life?

Friday, April 3, 2015

I'll just design something... My Assemble Blanket - FO Friday

When my SIL and her husband announced that they were having a super-hero themed nursery, I immediately scooted over to Ravelry and searched for patterns with Marvel themes.  I didn't find much, and what I did find wasn't really conducive to what I wanted to do.  What I really wanted was a baby blanket and there were definitely none of those to be found.

I tried to adapt existing patterns to no avail, even cast on a hat pattern, but found it was so poorly written that it wasn't worth following.  I ripped back & wrote my own version of it, that wasn't nearly as confusing.  That will be coming to the blog & Ravelry soon as a free pattern.

After hours of searching, I sighed and thought, 'This is ridiculous.  I'll just design something and be done with it.'

Famous last words.

At least he likes it!

It all looks so cute & cuddly & easy like Sunday morning there.  But how we got there is a much longer story...

First consideration - I want to make a baby blanket.  With more than one color.

I didn't want to sew fabric onto the back, for fear it won't wash/wear like the knitting & pucker.  Also, I didn't own a sewing machine at the time.  The machine I had access to was a bit fussy & wasn't maintaining its tension properly.  After the daydream-turned-nightmare of knitting the whole thing twice because the sewing machine ate my knitting, I shelved that idea.

Also, I didn't want to have floats, even small ones, on the back of the blanket.  Babies have small fingers and they like to grab ahold of things & pull/squeeze them.  Not really conducive to colorwork.  Add that to the fact that I've never done intarsia successfully and that idea was also out.

Solution: Double Knitting. 

I'd never done any double knitting, but I'd seen it, seen the process and after about 30 minutes of watching various YouTube videos, I felt confident I could do it.  Also, I'd been wanting to knit this cowl for ages.  Knit the cowl as a practice garment to learn the theory*, design the charts, knit the blanket before the baby gets here in roughly two & a half months.  Doable, right?  I've knit a sweater in a month.  It's just a baby blanket.

Second consideration - Making circles is hard with knit stitches.

Baby lives in Atlanta, A.K.A. "Hot-lanta", so worsted weight wool is out, especially a double layer.  Cascade 220 Sport was the winner, meeting all the necessary criteria: affordable, accessible, washable, workhorse yarn available in a crazy number of colors. is awesome.  I spent a few weeks designing charts based on the ball band gauge, enough to get an idea of how much yarn I would need.  I tried all my LYS options - no 220 Sport.  The interwebs and a few back-to-school sales took care of that.

Custom handknit baby blanket - some assembly required
Note - this is WAY more yarn than is actually needed to knit this blanket. Oops!

Yarn in hand, my first task was to swatch in double knitting.  I tried the recommended needle size, a US 5-3.75mm, and then went down, down, down.  The closest I came to the recommended gauge was with a US 1-2.25mm needle.  And that wasn't making the row gauge.  When I put my actual gauge into, all my circles & shapes were wonky.

Back to the drawing board, I re-designed all my blanket squares for my real gauge and resigned myself to knitting an entire blanket in sport weight yarn, on SOCK needles.  (The upside here is that the ratio of my sport-weight squares is the same as common 18.5/4" for worsted, so these designs will do double duty. Silver lining?)

I told myself I could do it before baby arrived.  I had 2 and a half months.

Did I mention sport weight yarn on US 1-2.25mm needles?

Yeah.  That combo + tendonitis = lots of breaks between squares, sometimes breaks of a few days or weeks at a time while I worked on other things, giving my hands & brain a rest.

Ellie was tired of sharing me with my knitting.

Then the baby was born.  I told myself, have it done by Thanksgiving, when my in-laws were headed south to meet the baby.  I certainly wasn't going to mail this & risk it getting lost in transit!

The closer it got to Thanksgiving, the more I acknowledged that this was a slim possibility.  So then I told myself if the blanket was already going to be late, I at least wanted to be there when SIL & BIL opened it, so I could see their reactions.

I finished the knitting on 12/15 and blocked it on Christmas Eve.  Nearly 2100 yards of sport weight yarn on 2.25mm needles. 4 and a half months.  25 blanket squares plus crocheting for seaming.

Why yes, butterscotch 'beer' does help with finishing hand knits (it's non-alcoholic)

I must admit, it was pretty cool seeing them open it.  My BIL & SIL are very knit-worthy people:  by knit-worthy, I mean they are good people who appreciate the time and effort that goes into something handmade & show you that.  The look on my BIL's face was awesome - literally, he was in awe. They were both so appreciative, which truly is the best part of any gift knit!

copyright Donita Westman 2014

Bonus - once I started posting teaser photos on Twitter & Instagram (@inagaddadonita), my SIL told me that they bought crib sheets to match the colors in the pictures so the blanket would match his crib. 


*Irony - I still haven't finished the cowl...

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Donita 2015 - Q1 Check in!

Hi, my name is Donita and I have personal & crafting goals.  This year, my mantra is "More of what makes me happy."  I'm trying to choose my focus and hoping my mindset will follow.

The end of March means the end of Q1.  My mind likes clear boundaries of time (too many years spent on academic calendars, I suspect), so even though my job doesn't predispose the end of the quarter to have any significance at the moment, I still feel like I should tie something up and put a pretty bow on it.

So, my super broad goals were:
  • Not yet hit by any vehicles
    • So far, so good!! 
  • Resolve both legal matters from the last time(s) vehicle(s) hit me
    • HALLELUJUAH - ONE DOWN, ONE TO GO!! It was the lesser of the two, but any progress is welcome at this point!
  • Try yoga as the next phase of rehab from when vehicles hit me before
    • This hasn't happened yet, but not due to lack of desire... more lack of availability.
  • Walk more
    • Not as much as I would like, but walking has happened!  My Ellie was so happy to have her pack walking together, she could barely contain herself.
  • Knit more
  • Spin more
  • Design more
    • No progress on this front.
  • Get current design ideas on paper & published
    • None here either.
Work got in the way of life a little bit during the last 3 months, but that phase seems to be coming to an end (Thank God!).  Hopefully, this will allow me the time to get a jump on some of the things I haven't started to tackle yet.

As for the crafting goals, I made those a little more tangible for the year.
  • 20,000 yards in FOs worked
  • More sweaters in my sweater chest
  • Fewer languishing UFOs
  • More socks in my sock drawer
Here's where I am:

4,443 yards in FOs so far - 22% to goal and considering how many things I have progress on that I'm not counting, I'm confident this is doable.

11 FOs so far! All the links lead back to my Ravelry project pages, where you can see info about the patterns, yarns, needles & mods I used.

4 pairs of socks:

2 cowls:

1 shawl:

2 accessories

2 sweaters

I'm actually ahead on my sock goal.  With my progress so far this year, all my other goals have been incorporated!  I can't tell you how nice it was to get that Owls off the needles.  I still haven't even worn it yet - not even tried it on.  But it's done. (We're not speaking at the moment.  It's done but it's still metaphorically in time out.)

I currently have 9 active WIPs (works in progress).  There are 2 sweaters, 4 pairs of socks, 3 wraps/shawls and I'm about 3/4 of the way done with an 8 oz blend of wool/silk from Morro Fleece Works.  As if that wasn't enough, I've got 14 more on deck: 7 sweaters, 3 pairs of socks and 4 accessories.

If you want to see progress pics, follow me on Instagram @inagaddadonita - it's mostly pictures of my knitting, spinning and sewing, my dogs, and things I love like tea, Lo-lo bars, my favorite hippie products, etc...  And if that sounds like something you'd like to see, I'm your girl!

Monday, March 30, 2015

An acute case of start-itis

From the Urban Dictionary (a very credible source):
Startitis: noun - Repeatedly starting new projects while still having multiple uncompleted projects.
Melanie is plagued by startitis. She frequently starts knitting something new rather than finish her other incomplete projects.

Before you laugh, startitis is a real thing that fiber enthusiasts struggle with everyday - it can't be cured, only managed.  It's got its own wiki and everything.

There is even controversy as to the correct form of the word:
I keep hearing the word “startitis” used by knitters when referring to a person who cannot seem to stop casting on new projects. Technically, according to accurate medical terminology, such a word should be “startosis”: condition of starting. “Startitis” actually means inflammation of starting.
Either way, I can tell you, I've got a fever and the only thing I need is a-new-project-on-every-set-of-needles-I-own.  Seriously.  They'll catch cold, too, if they don't have wool to keep them warm.  It's a fact, people.

I don't know if it was 2 months of crazy overtime at work or the time change or spring or knowing that I was going to be watching a lot of basketball while sitting still and my hands would need to do something, but I HAD to cast on all the things this month.  Like an itch I had to scratch, I just kept grabbing yarn, needles & bags and starting things.  It was irrational, but there are worse things I could have done.

The cast-ons:

Ninja Chop!  yarn by KnitMona
Worsted weight socks are my new favorite things 
Wait - self-striping is still a favorite thing, too.
And while we're at it, this again...
Sweaters are good too.
Featherweight Cardi, finally and approx. 12 years after everyone else who knits   
More socks.  You can never have too many socks.
And last, but not least, a cowl...
... that does this when light hits it!

I am happy to report that my startitis has calmed down, for now anyway.  I like to use startitis because you never know when it's going to flare up again.  I have finished 6 socks (but only 2 pairs... another story for another day...) and the cowl.  I've made significant progress on the Nuvem and I'm finished with the first skein on the Sprig sweater.

My needles are nice and warm, thankyouverymuch.  Also, I'm totally gonna win Stash Dash this year - the gaunlet has been thrown!  I think I can finish 5K worth of projects over the summer, especially if April means casting on all the things just like May.  I do have some empty sock needles...

Monday, March 2, 2015

"Bee in your bonnet, Potter?" The Joy of the Re-Read

I loved the Harry Potter books.  I loved the Harry Potter movies.  When it snows, I feel a compulsion to bury myself in blankets and watch all the movies again.  With hot chocolate.

We've had plenty of opportunities to do that this winter, as it's been dangerously cold to go outside and every time we're above 10 degrees F, it snows a foot or so.

Some time this fall, a former student of mine revealed on Facebook that she had never read the Harry Potter series and was going to do so this winter, for the first time, as an adult reader.  After the New Year, I got to thinking:  it's been a long time since I've read the series (I was in college), I've always wanted to re-read them, and I did just purchase them all for my nook when Pottermore was having a sale.  The stars had aligned and even Professor Trelawney would see that they want me to read the series again.

I'm currently on book #4 and I can't tell you how much I'm enjoying them.  Knowing how the story ultimately ends, I'm now catching so many little things I didn't realize had significance before.  J.K. Rowling's truly masterful writing and story telling is just blowing me away.

Naturally, I've only got a few thousand pages of story left, so I'm scouting my next series to dive into.

I have to admit here - I've learned to knit socks while I read, thus combining two of my favorite things.  It's fantastic! And I'm not sacrificing knitting time to read or reading time to knit.

Just a friendly PSA

On deck:

  • to re-read the Hunger Games books before the final movie installment comes out this Christmas.
  • catch up on my favorite Patricia Briggs series, Mercy Thompson & the Alpha & Omega series
  • the next volume in the Eternal Guardians series (not a children's series, btw)

Since not all books are created equal and sometimes I imagine the author reading them to me anyway, I'm going to be doing some audiobooks this year, too.

In the Audible queue:

  • the Outlander series (also not a children's series)
  • As You Wish, read by Cary Elwes
  • Yes Please, Amy Poehler
  • One More Thing: Stories and other stories, BJ Novak
If anyone has any favorites to share - books, ebooks, series, audiobooks, audiobook readers - Please comment below!  So what if I've got a few dozen books on my 'to read' shelf in my nook library - I'm always looking for a good recommendation!

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Golden Globes, Grammys & Oscars - Oh my!

It's award show season and since our current weather pattern involves nasty storms every Sunday afternoon/evening, we've caught them all.

Last year, after the Grammys, I heard a music critic on NPR say that all award shows reward the kind of work that the voters think you should be creating.  The GRAMMYs award trophies to the artists who are moving their genres in the voter-approved direction or representing the genre the way the Academy sees it.  The Academy awards do much the same thing.  The Golden Globes are a little unique in that they seem to reward whatever they like, deserving or not, but after a few drinks, people's reactions are SO much better.  It's always interesting to see who gets recognized and who gets told, 'You'll have to try again next year.'

The Golden Globes were somewhat unmemorable.  I loved Tina Fey & Amy Poehler, but was sad when their bits were cut in the interest of time.  Pacing is imporant for shows like that, and their appearances make that long telecast more enjoyable.

Admittedly, we hadn't seen any of the nominated movies, but The Imitation Game & Gone Girl were on our to-watch list.  The summaries generally tell us what movies would be our cup of tea and unfortunately, there weren't many that lit a fire for us to see them.  Shrug.

The movie-related awards seemed to be all over - there didn't seem to be any huge winners that night.  It seemed that this year, the Globes went to pictures that fit their mold of what serious should be, or what funny should be.  They honored casts, but not many individuals from those cast efforts (i.e. Grand Budapest Hotel) and some individual awards from pics that weren't honored overall (Julianne Moore from Still Alice).  As someone who didn't get all the screeners, it's hard to say which performances are worth checking out.

The television awards were even more disoreienting - The Globes made a statement that they not only recognize the validity of internet-based television, but they rewarded it.  Surprisingly progressive, actually.

The Grammys were a little different.  They sent a lot of messages that night, among them:

  • It's perfectly okay to be Sam Smith
  • Everyone else should just accept that they aren't Sam Smith enough to win a Grammy, if nominated in the same category
  • Let's nominate a bunch of people who were cool 20 years ago (especially in the case of the U2 album that people flipped their lids over when it appeared, unrequited, on their iPhones)
  • If you put out an album that wasn't nominated because we nominated lots of throwback artists, you should try harder (to be you, or Sam Smith, whichever comes easier)
  • There were some new talents that we wanted to recognize, but not enough to award; so we'll just give it to these people we already know... Ooooo or Sam Smith!
  • Taylor Swift can make pop music, and we'll recognize it, but we won't actually reward her - yet.  Not while there is a Beck album. Oh, have you heard the new Sam Smith album?
  • And that Happy song - let's keep giving it awards like everyone isn't so sick of it they could scream!
  • Everything is better with a gospel choir.  It's a rule.  Let's use one at least 3 times in this show.
  • Let's have Kanye sing.  Auto-tune = sing, apparently.
My thoughts on the GRAMMYS:
As in years past, LL Cool J was among my favorite things on this awards show.  He is the epitome of cool.  And hot.  All at the same time.

I could have done with a lot less see-through dress action.  That got a little creepy. Exception: Beyonce's dress was fabulous - a see-through, but all class and glamour.  

Miranda Lambert showed why she's the baddest bitch in country music right now (and did so without a see-through outfit - Bonus points!)
Madonna, at whatever age she is, still looks better than I ever have and can still dance better than I ever could.  Love her or hate her, Madonna works at her art and it shows.
I loved the Ed Sheeran & ELO AND the Hozier & Annie Lennox collaborations.  Those are the best of the orchestrated "Grammy Moments" in recent memory.  Both played to the strength of both artists, which were complementary to each other - and that's why they worked.
The odd couple win of the year goes to Lady Gaga & Tony Bennett.  If you're into that genre of music, they are knocking it out of the park!  And it's nice for people to finally realize that Lady Gaga's got more than a meat dress - she's also got a lion's share of talent.
And finally, for all my teasing above, I don't dislike Sam Smith.  I have heard wonderful things about the album and plan to check it out in its entirety.  But even then, I don't know that I'll like it as much as the GRAMMY voters did.  It's just not possible.

Two thoughts -

1. Why the domestic violence PSA in the middle of the GRAMMYs?  How much music is celebrated at that ceremony that promotes & glamourizes a lifestyle of violence?

If you want to stop promoting violence, you have to stop profiting on how cool it is.

You have to stand up and say, "I'm not gonna hit my woman to prove I'm a man";  "I'm not gonna punish someone just because I think they deserve it"; "I'm not going to settle the score by one-upping someone who hurt me and mine."

2. Why do we keep inviting Kanye West to things?  He's a self-righteous jerk.
Also, he made me suffer through that 'singing' that was so bad, even auto-tune couldn't make it sound good.  Then he pretended to once again storm the stage, like he did to T. Swift when she was a teenager, acting like he was just joking.  When he played it off like a joke, I'll admit, I thought for a second, he was demonstrating some personal growth and was making a little fun of himself, having a laugh with his pal Beck, and it was a little endearing.  Almost.

Then came the rant at the after-party.

There have been a million op-eds on this subject, some that are really on point like this one, so I won't reiterate that point.  Anyone who knows anything about Beck knows what kind of artist he is, so to attack his 'artistry' was a strategic error, to say the least.

My question is this - why do we have to turn a blind eye to Kanye's crazy god-complex-driven jerkiness?  Why are other artists (and awards panels, for that matter) afraid to call him out for his blatant disrespect of those artists he doesn't think are as great as Beyonce (or himself, for that matter)?

And then came this epic smackdown by Shirley Manson.  I'm glad that she shared what so many of us were thinking on the subject and hope that others will feel empowered to call a duck a duck.  We don't have to continue to reward Kanye's bad behavior... or at least take his seats off of the aisle, so a security guard has the chance to tackle him before he makes it to the stage without an invitation next time.

Meanwhile, Beck is over here, being all gracious (which makes me respect him more) and Kanye is doing this (at SNL40):

While we're speaking of artistry, consider this:

 and this:

Please don't get me wrong - I mean no disrespect to Beyonce.  Beyonce is a talented performer.  But to imply that Beck is not shows the true depth of Jeezus' ignorance & dilusion.

Let's stop entertaining that, shall we?

On to the Oscars.

Neil Patrick Harris is just one of the most likeable people ever.  He's too cute.  And we all have proof of that now that we've seen him in his tighty-whiteys.

I thought NPH did a great job of hosting, but some of the writing was just plain bad.  Some of the jokes fell flat or were distasteful, IMO.  The opening number was adorable, and it involved Anna Kendrick, who is one of my favorite people.

Bonus - she throws a shoe.  It was hysterical.

J.K. Simmons had a wonderful & heartfelt speech that made me all fuzzy inside.  He seems like a genuinely nice person and it's always nice to see those people win.

The rest of the night went like this:

  • Grand Budapest Hotel wins LOTS of things!
  • I'm confused what's going on.
  • This show is taking forever.
  • Oh, the gospel choir is back (see above rule about gospel choirs).
  • John Legend & Common win again (see above rule about gospel choirs).
  • The orchestra playing off people we've never heard of with random 70s & 80s tunes.
The most reacted to speech of the night was easily Patricia Arquette.

My 2nd favorite part of this moment was Meryl Streep's & JLo's reaction to Patty.

I couldn't stick it out to the end - The memoriam was awkward and long and then Jennifer Hudson sang a song about how she can't let someone go.  As if we had a choice - these people are dead now.  It struck a chord with me: a chord of awkward with overtones of slightly inappropriate.

Sadly, I missed Lady Gaga's awesome tribute to Julie Andrews & the Sound of Music.  But thanks to the interwebs, I saw it Monday.  Gaga's got chops.  Glad to see people are finally starting to notice!

While I have no desire to see some of the films and I was sad that Into The Woods didn't get any more recognition than it did, we did add a few films to our 'to rent' list.  Including The Imitation Game.

Because Benedict Cumberbatch. *swoon*

Really, I can't sum it up better than that.  I'll just take Benedict's advice now.