Tuesday, June 26, 2012

An announcement: Dry July

Hello blog readers.  I have an announcement to make...

This may come as a surprise to those of you who were aware of my previous aim to drink All The Wine Everywhere singlehandedly - I have signed up for Dry July. That means no booze for the entire month of July! Even to me it seems like an insane and crazy idea but I think I can do it and, if you'd like, you can show your support by sponsoring me. The money goes to a charity that helps improve the quality of life of adult cancer patients and I have chosen the Royal Melbourne Hospital to be the place where any money raised by me goes. The last time I was sponsored was in the MS Readathon in Year 7 where I raised about $17.62 - yes, it was so long ago that two-cent coins were still part of the currency - so I don't know what a reasonable goal for donations is. I'm hoping to raise $100, which seems doable (some might say a lot more doable than me not having any wine for a month, but I can abstain - you'll see).

The official email is below. Thanks in advance for your help and support :)


PS: Since I'm working on my vices, next month I'm doing No Longer A Crazy Cat Lady August, where I pledge to go the whole month of August without telling a single story about or showing any photos of my cat and all money raised goes to the RSPCA.

PPS: Only joking - No Longer A Crazy Cat Lady August is not a real thing, and we all know there's no way I could go a whole month without a Lucy story! 

I hope you're sitting comfortably because I have some shocking news. I'm about to embark on a feat of endurance that makes a triathlon look like a primary school egg-and-spoon race.
I'm participating in Dry July - the charity that helps adults living with cancer - and have sworn off drinking alcohol for the whole month. That's 31 days where I'll actually be accountable for my actions. Yikes!
In appreciation of my radical transformation, any generous support you may be able to offer will go a long way to ensuring I don't fall off the wagon, as well as helping the many adults that live with this terrible disease.
My profile page link should you wish to make a donation and leave a message of support is:
I hope you believe in the concept as much as I do and can help support me whilst I go Dry this July!!
Thanks in advance for your kind sponsorship,

Monday, June 25, 2012

Back with the blues and a blanket dilemma...

After getting into the swing of being a Good Blogger and really starting to enjoy getting posts out with a pleasing regularity, I took a break. I wish there was a good reason for that like I was having too much fun living my awesome fun-filled life, but the truth is much more simple - I was down in the doldrums. I, like I do every year at the start of every single winter, was suffering from the rain cloud blues; the feeling of claustrophobia and melancholy that comes over me the first time there are three days in a row with no sunshine. It's hard to explain but when the sky is heavy and grey I feel like my world has actually literally reduced in size, like the sky is pressing down and there is less distance between the ground and the atmosphere. It's a miserable feeling and the reason why I dread the start of winter and loathe it while it was here.

Now, the operative phrase in that sentence is "every year at the start of every winter". Despite some blatant examples of my inability to learn from my mistakes, this year I took measures to minimise the bleurghs. Firstly, feelings of isolation are worse if you isolate yourself (no, really, it's true), so I have made an effort to leave the house and see people other than my cat (who is not technically a person, although she really thinks she is).  One of the worst things about winter is feeling trapped inside because the weather outside is too wet and cold to go for my daily walk. It has been raining every single day so the feeling of being trapped has been even worse than past winters when Melbourne was in a drought.  Therefore, my second strategy to avoid the winter blues has been to keep exercising. I have been doing a Pilates-placed daily stretching routine and been trying to find sizeable covered areas like shopping centres to get a bit of movement happening. Thirdly, and possibly the most effectively, I have increased my Vitamin D supplements. So now I have retained my equilibrium and I'm here back on my blog, ready to share.

In other news...

As their collective deadlines draw near, I have been plugging away at my Cast On Mania projects. I have a hit a wall in one of them though - I've run out of yarn for my Radiating Star Blanket! (excuse the unmade bed iPhone photo)

I am stuck! I have three 'corners' of the border to go but only enough yarn to finish one more. The yarn has been discontinued and I haven't had any luck finding any yarn available for sale secondhand in this colourway. I have four options:
1. Buy another yarn of a similar thickness in the same colour, although it will have a different fibre composition which  will affect the drape of the yarn and may warp when washed;
2. Buy the same yarn but in a lighter colour;
3. Rip back the whole entire border (3.5 balls) and knit it again more narrowly; or
4. Put it in a cupboard and start a lifelong search for this yarn in this colourway. Start a new blanket which must be completed in three weeks.

None of these options are appealing to me at all but the baby is going to be here in three weeks and I need to make a decision. ARGH! What shall I do?

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Review: Skinnydipping: A Novel by Bethenny Frankel

Let me start this review by outing myself: I am a Bethenney Frankel fan. I think it is very likely she is absolutely wackadoo crazy and I definitely wouldn’t want her as a flat-mate but she is ridiculously entertaining to watch on television. She personifies the paradox of stardom in that at the same time she is both ordinary and extraordinary: funny, rich, successful but that the same time just like us. I like that she’s determined and ambitious and that’s she’s been successful as a woman in arenas that are traditionally dominated by men – television and liquor. However, I have read her previous three books and, while I did enjoy them and have made many of the recipes from The Skinnygirl Dish (I recommend the white bean and spinach soup and the chocolate cake with peanut butter glaze – both delicious and, when combined, provide a perfectly balanced guilt-free dinner and dessert), the typesetting and editing were awful. So, while I tried to approach this book from a place of yes (see what I did there?), my expectations were not very high.

And I was right to be nervous - this book is really terrible. For starters, I think that Skinnydipping needs to assert itself as a novel in the title is in recognition of the fact that not much of this book is fiction. It’s very clearly a fictionalised representation of Bethenney’s own life. Here’s the plot: wannabe actress Faith Brightstone (what a name!) moves to LA after graduation for NYU (like Bethenney did). She moves in with her emotionally distant father (like Bethenney did) and works as an assistant for the wife of an incredibly successful movie director Josh Kameron (really?), helping look after their two daughters (Bethenney worked for Cathy Hilton and helped look after Paris and Nicki). Faith finds a dog and names it Muffin (Bethenney’s dog is called Cookie), appeared in a soft porn film (like Bethenney did) and then decides that she’s not cut out to be an actress, so she moved back to New York (like Bethenney did). You get the picture. For the rest of the plot, please see Bethenney’s life.

I really have no problem with fictionalising true events. Every author draws on some inspiration from their own life for their work. F. Scott Fitzgerald immortalised versions of Zelda in three of his novels. Helen Garner scandalously did the same thing as Bethenney in her book The First Stone. But the difference is (apart from the fact the Fitzgerald and Frankel will never feature in the literary canon alongside each other!) is that those books were entertaining. The fictional worlds, though based at least partially on reality, were real of themselves and the stories that were dramatised had things to say that were worth saying. All Skinnydipping says is that Bethenney either thinks her audience is too dumb to recognise the story as hers if she changes one little detail or thinks that her life is so entertaining that it should be the subject of both non-fiction and fiction. Bethenney, I heart you and will watch your weekly TV show for as long as it is on the air but really, it isn’t.

The other things I hated about the book were the characters, style and structure. For starters, I had to google ‘swamp crotch’ in the first three pages. That is a bad sign (fyi – it’s gross). The LA Bethenney – sorry, the LA Faith – is just an awful person. She’s selfish, self-involved, narcissistic, inconsiderate, caustic and has a fairly severe eating disorder. Then she moves to New York and all of a sudden the eating disorder disappears and is not mentioned again. What? One-dimensional friends vanish and then new ones appear without explanation. There’s a huge rush to cram the full amount of Bethenney’s life into the last 50 pages (She gets pregnant! She comes second in a reality competition show! She gets engaged! She gets a liquor company to sell her Skinnygirl Margaritas, sorry I mean Pink Lemonade Mojitos! She gets a talk show!), resulting in the pacing of the book becoming very uneven. All of these are major flaws that point to the biggest problem for me with this book. I just cannot understand why, with the amount of revenue that her books generate, Bethenney’s publisher cannot hire a decent editor!

I read this book with a fairly good idea of what kind of book it was going to be, so I have no-one to blame but myself. If you’re like me and you can’t control your morbid curiosity, then at least borrow it from the library. If you can, get a hardcover copy so if you feel the need to hurl it at the wall, you won’t cause any lasting damage to the book. I can’t vouch for the wall though.

Skinnydipping: A Novel gets two stars.   

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Finally Done FO Friday: Big Blanket Complete!! (2012 FO#7)

This occasion feels so momentous to me I wish I could mark it with a drum roll or fireworks or something loud and extraordinary.  I am so excited to say that I have finished my biggest project ever - a full-size adult blanket!

It's huge!
Did you get the shot?

I started this blanket on New Year's Day 2010, which means it's taken me two and half years almost exactly to finish it (!!!). That seems like a long time but this blanket is both big and very fiddly.

Warm and cuddly enough for even the manliest man to wear as a shawl

It's the April project from Elizabeth Zimmermann's Knitter's Almanac, Mystery Blanket: Weaving and it is *a lot* more complicated than Ms Zimmerman would have you believe. The knitting of the squares is quite easy and fun - each one took me about two hours and they were done pretty quickly. BUT after you've knit the squares, they all need to be grafted together. Then once you've grafted them together, you need to pick up the corner stitches (the black square) and then knit 5 rows of 20 stitches - very awkward when your blanket weighs almost a kilo! This process leaves a gaping hole at each corner, which needs to be tightened. Did I mention that each square generates a minimum of six ends to weave in? And there's 24 squares? I estimate that the finishing took me at least as long as knitting the squares did and was much less enjoyable. I love how the blanket looks but if I were to make it again I would to the increase rows all the way to the end of the squares, omitting the need to 'fill in' the corners. That said, I think I did a pretty good job of fixing all the gaps:

I love this blanket. It's big and warm and soft and looks fantastic on my couch. The Bendigo Woollen Mills Rustic 12-ply is hand wash only but I doubt I'll be washing it very often, so that shouldn't be an issue.

Now I just need to convince my cat to let me use it...

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Cast on Mania Days 5, 6 & 7: Two shawls and a hat

I am pleased to announce that this blog's regular scheduling has been interrupted. Instead, I present you with:

Every day this week I will be starting a new project. Every project is to be made with yarn from the stash and all of them need to be finished in two months or less.  It'll be fun!  Clearly crazy, but mostly fun.

Cast-on Mania ground to a screeching halt last week when I realised that, even though I like blogging and sharing my ideas and new projects, I don't like it enough to schlepp all of my stuff to a McDonalds car park so I can steal their WIFI without purchasing any of their products. To paraphrase the immortal words of Meatloaf, I will do many things but I won't do that.  However, even though there was no blogging the casting on did continue.

Day 5: Henslowe the second

This is another Henslowe for my sister. The second time is definitely the charm because I haven't made any of the stupid mistakes I made last time. The yarn is Bendigo Woollen Mills Luxury that has been in the stash for about two years.

Day 6: Smooshy Alpaca Hat

This is the Full Bloom Hat from Yarn Magazine Issue 23. The yarn is some Bendigo Woollen Mills Alpaca I've had in the stash for about four years. That's an insane amount of time to have unused yarn lying around! It is definitely time it gets knitted up.

Day 7: Pasmina Herbivore
As I approached Day 7 of this craziness that was CAST ON MANIA, I admit my enthusiasm was starting to flag.  I knit four rows of this Herbivore (for me! Yippee!) and then moved this to the bottom of the WIP bag. I will get it done but seven projects in seven days proved much more challenging that I thought they would. The yarn is MadeleineTOSH Pashmina and it's a stash baby - only 12 months old.

Three things I learnt from CAST ON MANIA
1. Making things sparkle is fun.
2. While starting new things is fun, starting lots of new things all in one week requires a bit of stick-to-it-iveness.
3. I really have a lot of wool.

Tomorrow, a huge FO and a new book review.