Read and Watched: February Edition

Just for Fun

We pretty much covered what I’ve been crafting this month with the last post, so let’s talk books again, shall we?

(image snagged from Goodreads)

(image snagged from Goodreads)

Sourcery (Discworld Book 5), Terry Pratchett

I had one more Discworld book already on the Kindle, and unfortunately it was a Rincewind-centric story. Once again he’s the hapless hero, resisting all the way, and that just gets old after a while. Still, we got to see more of the Disc in this book and meet some new characters, and The Luggage had quite a good part (though in this one it reminded me of reading Cujo’s confused-by-rabies thoughts than anything else). Still, the ending of this particular book leads me to believe that the new few might be Rincewind-free, so I’ll come back to the series once I catch up with my book back-log.

Steal Like an Artist, Austin Kleon

This is a quick read, but that’s what makes it great. If you’re ever in need of a creative boost or pick-me-up, you could spend an hour reading Kleon’s thoughts on why and how artist’s “steal” from one another (I admit to strongly disliking the word choice, due to the connotations of steal, but understand why he uses is). He’s not promoting plagiarism or copyright infringement, but inspiration and learning. Here are some bits I highlighted to share:

Google everything. I mean everything. Google your dreams, Google your problems. Don’t ask a question before you Google it. You’ll either find the answer or you’ll come up with a better question.

Oh, man, if I had a dollar for every time someone asked me something they could have just Googled, I could probably average a night out a month. Seriously. I grew up when “look it up” was a common response to questions, and the resources were our World Book Encyclopedias, a dictionary as big as an end table, or a trip to the public library. It’s such a valuable lesson to learn how to ask questions and find your own answers.

Not that I mind sharing what I know (obviously).

It’s in the act of making things and doing our work that we figure out who we are.

This. So much of this.

I Think it’s good to have a lot of projects going at once so you can bounce between them. When you get sick of one project, move over to another, and when you’re sick of that one, move back to the project you left. Practice productive procrastination.

If you’re reading this blog, you’re probably aware that this is pretty much my take on project management. I LOVE having multiple projects going for precisely this reason. And while I know that it works for me, and encourage others to try it, it’s always nice to have someone agree that this is a good thing.

Dining With the Doctor: The Unathorized Whovian Cookbook, Chris-Rachael Oseland

I’m sure there are plenty of folks who wouldn’t consider reading a cookbook for fun. I am not one of them, and I enjoy finding cookbooks that are more than just a mere collection of ingredient lists and itemized steps. Dining With the Doctor is a bit gimmicky, but several of the recipes selected (one for each episode of the recent Doctor Who reboot, plus an entire chapter of options inspired by Eleven’s post-regeneration meal of Fish Fingers and Custard) are clever pairings and well thought out. And then you get the other ones, where he’s suggesting you stick cotton swabs into food and relying on artificial food coloring over more natural ones. But reading about each episode reminded me of some of my favorites, and almost makes me want to watch the Eccleston episodes.


Yes Please, Amy Poehler

Finally, the book club selection for this month. I generally enjoy memoirs, so was looking forward to reading this, even if I’d mostly stopped watching SNL by the time Poehler started her tenure there, and never got into Parks and Recreation. Yes, she “complains” about how hard writing a book is throughout the book, but she stopped just short of being truly annoying. I think of it more as the self-deprecation we do as a way of apologizing for not being better, more polished, more erudite.

And for someone who’s comedy is often big and a bit in your face, I was surprised at how sweet and calm her writing was. When she talks about her sons you can feel the genuine love and affection, but it’s not syrupy and certainly without a trace of mommy martyr complex like some celebrity mom’s portray. And sandwiched in between anecdotes that make me want to lose a day on YouTube looking up the sketches she mentions, there are these wonderful gems that remind you of how hard actors work on their craft, even when it seems effortless.

…what else are we going to do? Say no? Say no to an opportunity that may be slightly out of our comfort zone? Quiet our voice because we are worried it is not perfect? I believe great people do things before they are ready.

This reminded me of the launch-then-plan, or leap first sort of mantras so common in business coaching. Sometimes we have to commit to something in a big way to get to that next stage in our lives.

Decide what your currency is early. Let go of what you will never have. People who do this are happier and sexier.

It’s not about limiting ourselves, it’s about recognizing those awesome qualities we have and building on those and being satisfied in our own skins.

Treat your career like a bad boyfriend.

Here’s the thing. Your career won’t take care of you. It won’t call you back or introduce you to its parents. Your career will openly flirt with other people while you are around. It will forget your birthday and wreck your car. Your career will blow you off if you call it too much. It’s never going to leave its wife. Your career is fucking other people and everyone knows but you. Your career will never marry you.

Now, before I extend this metaphor, let me make a distinction between career and creativity. Creativity is connected to your passion, that light inside you that drives you. That joy that comes when you do something you love. That small voice that tells you, “I like this. Do this again. You are good at it. Keep going.” That is the juicy stuff that lubricates our lives and helps us feel less alone in the world. Your creativity is not a bad boyfriend. It is a really warm older Hispanic lady who has a beautiful laugh and loves to hug. If you are even a little bit nice to her she will make you feel great and maybe cook you delicious food.

Oh, man, I could have used the bad boyfriend metaphor a few months ago when a coworker was going through some serious issues. It’s so much better than the “it’s business, it’s not personal” mantra I had at hand. But the creativity bit? That’s totally in my wheelhouse and exactly how I feel about the power we each hold in ourselves to be creative and let that inform our day to day lives.

I read other passages out loud to Todd before he fell asleep each night. Notably the snippets about her years at SNL because those require the least amount of explanation. It’s not a perfect book, but Yes Please was a nice peek into Poehler’s life and I appreciated getting that inside scoop.

oOo     oOo     oOo

As for binge-watching, the only one on my February list was Parenthood. A series that I totally ignored until this month after hearing friends absolutely gush over it. These friends are also the ones who turned me onto How I Met Your Mother (and I will not blame them for their timing being just before that odd and only semi-satisfactory final season), which answered the often-posed question of what would Friends have been like if it were on today. And even though these same friends failed to get me into Friday Night Lights, I figured I’d give Parenthood a shot.

Why did I wait so long?!

Oh, right, I thought it was a case of Hollywood having run out of ideas and they were serializing the story from the Steve Martin movie of the same name. And while funny and a “modern classic” I suppose, my memories of that movie did not include a desire to see more of it. Which is why I missed out on the real-time airing of a show that really brought back, for me, the heyday of good television shows, where the characters are endearing and the humor doesn’t require a laugh track to tell you what belittling remark is supposed to be funny.

I really did enjoy this series, even though it made me tear up on more than one occasion (breaking my rule of not watching things that are trying to make me cry). Generally, though, it was the happy moments that had me tearing up (which is good, because the ending was definitely NOT a case of happy tears). My favorite couple was Joel and Julia, and I’m so happy they got their shit together in the end. I wanted to pinch the heads off all the teenagers around season 2, though that probably points to a more accurate portrayal than not. Crosby really had the best arc of all the middle generation, really growing into himself and his roles as father and, eventually, businessman. And it took me a couple of episodes to realize that the actress playing Jasmine played the best friend in Honey (I have a soft spot for dance movies and love that one more than is necessarily healthy); it was nice to see her on screen again.

Lauren Graham must have had a severe case of deja vu going on with the dating the daughter’s English teacher storyline. I won’t say that I liked Mark Cyr over Max Medina, but I definitely liked them both over Hank! I do not have a soft spot for grumpy old men, no matter how much the writers try to shoehorn that in. Though, for once, couldn’t they have let her be happy with the do-gooding doctor? Give that girl a break, why doncha!

As for Adam and Kristina. Well. I will allow that my opinion of them could be somewhat affected by watching 3 episodes at a time and, owing to how much time I spent at home sick this month, sometimes up to 8 in a day. That’s a lot of Bravermans. Regardless of the exposure rate, though, I’d say 80% of the episodes left me with the ongoing impression that Adam and Kristina were smug, self-righteous, sanctimonious twat-waffles. And I cannot TELL you how often I called them out for their bullshit and was so very glad that Dylan’s parents did just that in the last season. Yes, the writers threw more than one couple’s fair share of crazy at A&K, even for this show, but it just made me tired, not sympathetic.

(And, no, I’m not exactly sure what a twat-waffle is and I’ll be honest that I’m a bit scared to Google it as I’m not sure what would come up, safe search on or not. But it sounds ridiculous, which is what I thought of them, so in my mind it works.)

I finished the show on Monday night, watching the last three heartbreaking episodes, knowing full well what was coming as I do not bother to avoid spoilers, and was a already a bit emotionally compromised from earlier that day (which was maybe NOT the way to watch said episodes). I appreciated the way they handled the big goodbye, that it was in accordance with the character’s wishes and that it was a happy, high note in reality. The little glimpses we got of the future were enough to give us the satisfaction of a story continuing and with a few blanks to fill in on our own.

Oh, I also appreciated that they returned to Forever Young for the theme song in the last season–I remember thinking the soundtrack was easily one of the best things about the show in season 1, and loved the way they closed it out so well.

oOo     oOo     oOo


And speaking of endings, I’m a CSI fan from way back. At the end of this current season (which was cut short 4 episodes ostensibly to make room in the schedule for CSI: Cyber with Patricia Arquette; I’m still not sure how I feel about that, yet) the last original cast member left the show (the character got a promotion that is not currently leading to a spin-off; I’m so glad they didn’t kill him off!). I loved the way they handled his send-off, both in music choice as well as the montage:

(Direct link for the feed readers: Nick Stokes Leaves CSI )

Though you’d think with 10 years of footage to go through they could have included a bit more of the old cast, but I’m glad Gil and Warrick got their few seconds in there. Endings well done take the sting out of it being an ending, you know?

I have no clue what I’m going to binge-watch next. I’m open to suggestions.

Read, Watched, and Crafted: January 2015

Everyday Adventures

How about a round-up?

January Reads


The Fracking King by James Browning

I’m trying to read through the various books saved on my Kindle and I’m pretty sure this is one I selected from the Kindle First program. If you’re not familiar, Amazon Prime members get to download one book a month (from a group of 4 that won’t be released until the following month) for free and even if I don’t have time right then to read it, I try to remember to check them out so I’m getting my Prime money’s worth.

ANYWAY! The Fracking King revolves around a boys school, the effects of fracking on local communities, and scrabble. There’s a lot of talk about how the main character knows a lot of obscure words and their point values on a Scrabble board, but doesn’t know the meaning of the words, connotations and subtleties escaping him. I sort of felt that way about the book as a whole: lots of words, lots of odd characters, lots of scenes, not a whole heck of a lot of meaning. I didn’t get a sense of resolution from the book, or that anything important had been said. It just didn’t resonate with me.

The Light Fantastic, Equal Rites, and Mort (Discworld books 2-4) by Terry Pratchett 

For more than a decade I’ve been hearing really awesome things about the Discworld books from people I generally trust and respect. So when I found the first several books on sale I snapped them up, read the first one (The Color of Magic) and promptly wondered what my collective friend-base had been smoking. It wasn’t that I disliked the writing (not at all, Pratchett is fabulous at turning phrases) but I could not connect with (I’d even go so far as to say I loathed) the main character, Rincewind. It just didn’t work for me. So I ignored the other books for a good long while.

I’d been assured that Rincewind does not take center stage for the rest of the series, and since the Discworld books were the next-oldest in my reader’s unread list, I figured it was time to go back in. I’m so glad I did!

Rincewind’s story wraps up in The Light Fantastic, but it’s not all about him–we get to see a lot more of the rest of the Disc and Rincewind even develops a bit–he’s still not my favorite, but I can deal with him as he continues to pop up throughout the rest of the series. Equal Rites, though, was awesome. A story about the 8th son of an 8th son (go directly to wizard, do not pass go status on the Disc) that happens to be a daughter, and girls cannot be wizards. Granny Weatherwax is a trip, their journey across the Disc, and everything that happens in and around Unseen University is a good standalone read if you just want a taste of the Discworld without committing to the full series. Finally, Mort reminded me a lot of On a Pale Horse (the “death” installment of Piers Anthony’s Incarnations of Immortality series, a long-time favorite of mine). The similarities are pretty obvious (Death being the central character, a new office holder vs an apprentice, learning the ropes, etc.) and I just had fun reading it.

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

That this is a book club selection should tell you a lot: it’s that erudite, supposedly-deep and pithy story. The fact that it appends it title with “:A Novel” tells you a lot more. I’m sorry, but a book that has to clarify that it’s a novel (as opposed to what?! It’s fiction, it’s not poetry, what the hell else is it? A pony?) usually tells me it’s pretentious beyond belief, but it was a book club selection and I’m trying to stick with this one, so here goes.

The story is set during WWII–an era I enjoy reading about in that morbidly curious way a lot of us have–and involves two young people over the course of a couple of years. One is Marie-Laure, a blind daughter of a locksmith at the National Museum of Paris, the other is Werner, a Polish orphan who is a whiz with radios, and is recruited into the Reich. The book flips between each characters experiences (with a few secondary characters getting their own chapters as necessary) and keeps parallel timelines but isn’t exactly linear. We start at the not-quite end, then flash back to the beginning, getting a bit more of each timeline as we go until we finally meet up with the “present” in the books narrative and approach the end. It’s an interesting tactic and one that works well for this sort of story.

I appreciated the insight that Werner’s story gave us into the side of WWII we don’t often see: the German soldiers that aren’t the higher-ups. WWII narratives usually focus on the prisoners of the work camps, the different community being persecuted by the Reich, or the soldiers on the winning side. Seeing the deprivations of the lower-rung soldiers is a bit more humanizing, and (of course) Werner is sympathetic as he’s not exactly drinking the Kool-Aid, he’s just doing what he has to, but not without realizing the gravity of the situation and the unfortunate part he plays.

The two teenagers stories are intertwined in wonderful ways and Doerr does a great job of putting those puzzle piece out there without being heavy-handed, even though it takes 3/4 of the story before they actually interact. It was after that point, the last quarter of the book, where Doerr starts to lose me. Without giving anything away (this isn’t alternate history, the war ends as we know it did), once the plot of our two main characters intersects and reaches the climax, the story could have ended. It would have felt complete, resolved, and given the reader a sense of satisfaction.

But no, Doerr draws out a prolonged epilogue that includes more than we really need to know. While I love a good wrap-up and appreciate knowing what happens to the characters I’ve just spent many, many hours becoming invested in, I want that epilogue to be snappy and succinct. Not 15% of the book. I don’t need to read a chapter about a secondary character undergoing a horror of war (while realistic, it really serves no purpose to the story, it’s just for shock or to take a jab at the other side). I don’t need the hop-skip, I just want the jump to the end. Instead of moving on I was still reading, wondering what was really left to tell.

It was that last 15% of the book that put a bad taste in my mouth and took it from a thoughtful story to a pretentious doorstop. If it weren’t on my Kindle, of course.

Thankfully the next book club selection is Yes, Please. Even though I’ve heard so-so things about it, I’m sure it’ll at least be a bit more lighthearted and entertaining in it’s own way.

January Binge-Watches

I finished my multi-month marathon of Criminal Minds this month, started back in November, I think, when I was on the hunt for classic CSI but came up empty on the streaming front (well, aside from pay-per-episode/season on Amazon). I have long suspected CBS of being stingy with their shows and recently learned about CBS All Access subscriptions, confirming the suspected motive.

Next I watched Twin Peaks. The talk of more coming from that well in the near future made me curious about the show. I know I watched some of it, but since it originally aired when I was 14, I’m not sure how much I really kept up with. I also didn’t realize that the first seasons was only a handful of episodes: they packed a lot of crazy in 8 or so hours! Turns out I remembered bits and pieces of season 1, but none of season 2. So when I got to the answer to “who killed Laura Palmer” I thought we were done! Nope, instead they tacked on a whole extra storyline that really could have been its own season. But, hey, cross-dressing David Duchovny makes it all worthwhile.

I remembered I had an Acorn TV subscription going to waste (British TV service, great for all sorts of fun shows if you’re a fan of the BBC and Australian programming). I found the 2008 show The Palace about a fictitious royal family where the king dies unexpectedly and his 24 year old son is suddenly king. Back-biting, squabbles, and scandals ensue and I’m more than a little sad there wasn’t a second series (what we call seasons). Then I switched over to a family drama, Drop Dead Gorgeous. Middle class girl scouted by a modeling agency and a social-climbing stage mom is born in the process. Fun show with a bit of culture shock as a bonus.

Finally. I wandered over to Amazon and saw they had The White Queen (Starz miniseries) available as part of Prime Instant Video. Back to the royals, this time pre-Tudor. It got very good reviews from another blogger, and it’s definitely worth the watch. I love costume drama and this one is populated by incredibly strong women. It was a little more like The Tudors than Reign, but not a bad addition to the collection. Only 10 episodes, it can easily be binged in a weekend (as I did).

Handmade in January

I completed one scarf,

This is the Scallop scarf from One Skein Wonders... and I now know how to knit a decent fishing net... life skills!

This is the Scallop scarf from One Skein Wonders… and I now know how to knit a decent fishing net… life skills!

technically completed a cross-stitch stitch-a-long with some online friends (I’m adding to the pattern, so it’s not quiet done to my liking just yet, but close!),

The pattern is from etsy seller ___ but I changed the color scheme and the top element from a sun to a moon.

The pattern is from etsy seller TinyBoxesDesigns but I changed the color scheme to one that would work better on the blue background fabric I already had in my stash, and changed the top element from a sun to a moon to make more visual sense (to me).


and two design team projects: one for Helmar (that went up on their blog yesterday)


I puffy heart love these puffy hearts :)

I puffy heart love these puffy hearts 🙂

and one for the revived Gauche Alchemy (which will post tomorrow). There was also work done on the beds for the dolly-dorm (a lot of little snips with my wire-cutters, not a lot to actually show for the blister it earned me) and some bits and pieces of other projects that aren’t quite ready for prime time just yet.

One other fun thing of note from last month was our Cloak and Banner craft day. We were planning to go to a Renn Faire in Gainesville at the end of the month (preempted by me getting sick, boo!) which led to Mary proposing we make banners/standards that could, supposedly, be worn as a small cape. We all went with the banner theme in our own way and I, of course, decided a house banner was most appropriate for me.

The Gingerbread Dollhouse. Still very much a work in progress, but not bad so far!

The Gingerbread Dollhouse standard. Still very much a work in progress (and with admittedly questionable perspective going on there), but not bad so far!

Work on the store plans continue (more on that in another post) and we’re finally working on house stuff again (posts forthcoming).

Got any achievements to share from last month?

Cutting the Cord

Everyday Adventures

Oooh, the change theme continues in Casa de Scraps!

So. For quite some time I’ve been itching to ditch our current cable subscription. Partially to cut our bills down, partially to remove the draw of aimless channel-surfing that sucks away an entire evening when I could be doing something much more productive. It’s a whole save-me-from-myself thing, really.

It’s not that we don’t enjoy certain television shows and channels–we do! I do! That didn’t stop me from watching other things just because they were on, though. And while we loved the freedom that our DVR subscription gave us, even that was loosing some of it’s luster. If it were just me I would have pulled the plug on cable ages ago, but I wanted to be sure that my preferences weren’t going to prove a hardship for Todd, either.

That meant research and looking into what was really available, these days, from legitimate alternate content providers. Turns out, there’s a lot, and the wishes that we could “just pay for the stations we want” are getting closer and closer. In the mean time we’ve opted to rely on the streaming services of Netflix, Hulu Plus, and Amazon Instant Video to supply our home entertainment needs.

It was sort of ridiculous how much equipment I returned to the cable company at the end of August:

  • 1 HD DVR receiver and remote
  • 2 regular cable receivers with remotes
  • and 1 digital converter with remote

plus all their assorted cords and cables. (I know I took a picture of it, but it seems to be hiding from me!) The transition went fairly smoothly aside from the inevitable up-sell attempts. Always with the bundle up-sell. Do. Not. Want.

The first weekend we were sans cable was Labor Day weekend and we were planning to spend it at home. There was a lot of getting to know our new options going on and we started watching a new show we’d meant to watch when it started 2 months ago, but never got around to adding to the DVR list.

Over the last week or so we’ve been figuring out where our favorite shows are best watched from–some from Hulu Plus if you don’t mind the small commercial breaks, but others we’ve decided we’ll more than likely pay the $1.99 or so per episode to watch uninterrupted on Amazon. Netflix is still our go-to for full seasons of older television favorites, and when I brought home a Roku box we were able to add other stations (including music stations) to play with. So far I loved being able to pull up my Armik station on Pandora and have it play through the television while we ate dinner.

As with all change, there was some hesitation on our part, and a fear early on that I had urged Todd into something he ultimately wasn’t going to like. Being the wise man (different from wiseguy, of course) he is, he also pointed out that we could always add the cable service back should we find that our streaming options just didn’t suit us.