OMG JOHN McCLANE!!!

They could make a thousand Die Hards and I would see every single one. I want to marry John McClane so that I can follow him down a rickety fire escape while he breathlessly murmurs ‘Stay close. Stay close to me.’

Sure, there are probably a hundred things wrong with it if I thought about it too much, but why would I want to do that? It is a perfect summer movie – there are explosions, the good guys win, there is a cute sidekick, a pretty sexy villain, there are car chases, and, of course the line. Sure, it’s not as good as the first one – without Alan Rickman, how could it be? And, despite being good at chase scenes, I think John McClane is better in a confined space – but it is pure fun and I will go and see as many as they will make for me.

Summer movie tally = 4-2 (I think…Ratatouille, Pirates, Ocean’s 13 (with EDDIE IZZARD), and Die Hard vs. Shrek and Spidey. Right?)

In other news, I really want Justin Long a Mac now.

Fiction

The Secret Diaries of Miss Miranda Cheevers by Julia Quinn

Well, here she is. My dark secret. The only romance author that I still read (er, except for Celeste Bradley, but shhh!). And she let me down! This has happened once before, with one of the Bridgerton novels (I don’t remember which…Francesca and Michael, maybe? I don’t know.). She had me at the start, halfway through I was still there, and then…I got bored.

I don’t know why, it’s a (variation on a) premise that I usually like – girl’s loved hero since, well, forever, eventually hero realises that she’s not just the girl next door or…his sister’s best friend, etc. and they live happily ever after. The girl (Miranda) was likable, the hero was, too (although not really a standout…Dunford remains my favorite of all Quinn’s heroes), and yet…I got bored. About three quarters of the way through, I gave up and started reading backwards from the end to see how it all worked out. Yes, I know they live happily ever after, but I wanted to know what made the hero finally realise that he loved the girl. And even then it seemed a little lame.

Still, it’s not a bad book. I think Quinn could basically just close her eyes and jab at a keyboard and she’d come up with a better-than-average romance novel, it’s just that when your standards (and expectations) are so high, if it’s anything less than what you’d expected, it’s just not the same. So, again, a good enough romance novel, just missing that extra spark that Quinn’s usually have.

Actually, after looking at her website, it appears that the next one will be the first of a planned two-book series, so maybe this one was just sort of a placeholder until those. That would explain the slighty lackluster feel to it… Whatever it was, I’m sure it was just a fluke.

My rating: B

Fiction

The Professor’s Daughter by Joann Sfar and Emmanuel Guibert

So, like I said. Graphic novels. Not, like, Spiderman or X-Men or anything (not that there’s anything wrong with those), more like Bone. That sort of thing.

This one…is a little odd. I love the premise (a mummy and the curator’s daughter are in love in Victorian London) and I adore the artwork – so gorgeous (how do you make a bandaged mummy handsome? I have no idea, but they pulled it off!), but the actual plot is a little…odd.  It’s a very slim book, so things happen very quickly and there are some not quite believable actions taken. But. The artwork is definitely, definitely worth it, as is most of the plot. It’s more moments where you’ll be a little confused as to why someone thought that was the best way to solve a particular situation, but it’s really not too big of a deal. Not when there’s a charming, debonair mummy to be had!

My rating:

Art = A+

Story = B

You can figure out the average on your own based on what’s more important to you. 😉 

     

Non-Fiction

 

Persepolis and Persepolis 2 by Marjane Satrapi

Okay, I realise that I’m probably the last person to finally read these books, but memoirs aren’t always my thing. But I’ve known about these books for quite a while and, as you’ll see, I seem to be going through a bit of a graphic novel (or in this case, memoir) phase, so I finally decided to check them out. It was well worth it. I don’t have a lot to say about them, mostly because I don’t feel like I know enough to say what I mean or what they deserve to have said about them. The first one left me with an oddly empty feeling, more because I really didn’t have any way to know how to feel at that point, and also a little bit scared because sometimes it seems like things like that aren’t as far away as we (or maybe just I) like to think they are…

But if you haven’t read them, you should.

My rating: A

On a lighter note…

Yarn Harlot by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee

Very fun. Probably only if you’re a knitter, otherwise half the time, I expect you’d just be confused. Pearl-McPhee has such a chatty voice – probably she’s honed it while writing her blog – that it just feels as if you’re talking to your best knitter friend. From attempts to store her stash without her family knowing quite how out-of-control it’s gotten (even I have not yet resorted to keeping it in my kitchen cabinets…not that I actually have kitchen cabinets, but you know) or tearing apart a car to find her favorite double-pointed needles, it’s all stuff that most knitters have either dealt with before…or at least come close.

The only thing I thought this book was missing was pictures. She often talks about interesting pieces that she’s knitted or is working on (wedding sweaters that mysteriously double in size during blocking, a lacy sheep shawl) or funny things that involve her knitting in some way (a mischievous squirrel desperately devoted to a fleece left out to dry) that I wish there’d been pictures of.

My rating: B+ (It would’ve been an A- if there’d been pictures…)

Oh, dear…

You know you’ve hit summer television when the best thing on is Becker reruns… Now that it’s stopped thundering, I’m away to hop in the shower and then see about getting some book reviews posted as I’m a wee fair bit behind…

I ❤ elipses…

Non-fiction

Sound Bites by Alex Kapranos

I am in love. I wish I could describe food the way Alex Kapranos does.  Hell, I wish I could describe anything the way Kapranos does.

I think it was The Guardian  that asked Alex Kapranos, singer and guitarist for Franz Ferdinand to write a series of articles about the food he encountered while on tour. This book, Sound Bites, is the slim, but satisfying compilation of his articles. Holy cow, the man can describe. Some of the food sounds really good, some of it sounds repulsive, but all of it is described in delicate, evocative detail. Whether it’s a pastry in Soho (oh, my god, I practically drooled all over the page) or marrow bone (I…didn’t know what this was, but from his description, I’m pretty sure I wish I didn’t know now), the scene is meticulously set.

He definitely has a way with words that is…unexpected. I mean, I know songwriting is wordcraft, but still. This was a treat to read. And there are lots of little asides that add a really nice, intimate touch. Like he says he wears sunglasses, not too look cool, but because, since he can’t make eye contact with everybody in the audience, he’d rather not connect with just a few. Or something like that – trust me, he said it much more elegantly.

So who’s Alex Kapranos? Here he is (in the red and black-striped shirt), with the rest of the band:

Man, I wish he’d describe me. And, no, that’s not a euphemism… Okay, well, maybe it is, but I also wish he’d literally describe me. 😉

My rating: A-

Oh, the carnage!

Last week it was moths, which the cats kindly took care of (mostly). This week…it’s flies. And like the bees around here, I’m not talking about your everyday sized fly. These are about as big as flies can get without being horseflies. I’ve no idea where they’re coming from – I do not live in squalor! I hoover about once a week, do the dishes as soon as I’ve used them, and clean the cats’ box everyday (or every other day if I’m feeling lazy).

At first, I tried being nice and just shooed them out the balcony door. Well, today, I no longer felt quite so nice. Armed with my super-dooper fly swatter, I became, like Ripred and Gregor, a rager. In a matter of minutes, the fly population was completely and utterly decimated.

Frankly, I’m tempted to pin one of the bodies to the windowsills as a warning.

Man, I hate bugs. 😦

Finally, some knitterly writings!

No, it’s not Mrs. Darcy – I’m still afraid to work on it, really – I’ve been burned twice already! (I sort of feel like I should clarify – the knitter who designed it and wrote the pattern did a good job – it’s very clear and the first time, when I was actually following the pattern, it came out exactly as she said it would, but, as I am monster-sized, I’m having to try and muddle my way through altering the pattern which is what’s causing all the frustrations on my part. So my fault, not the pattern’s. Also maybe the yarn’s (superwash wool) fault based on something I just read in Yarn Harlot’s book. We’ll see.)

One of the girls at work is going to have a baby! Not ’til December, but I figured if I started now, I would be way ahead of the game… So. I am attempting to use up lots of my stash – especially the synthetics which I bought when I first started knitting, but now, having seen the light of natural fibers, are just taking up space under my bed.

First I made this:

which is actually made from really nice yarn that I’ve worked with before and had some leftovers. The pattern is from One Skein and, although it was actually much easier than I’d anticipated, was not, in fact, made from one skein. More like two and a half. But that’s okay!

Now, on the synthetic side, I thought I’d get rid of a fairly sizable chunk by making a baby blanket. I’m hoping since it’s just a blanket and will probably just be folded up and draped over something, it won’t be so obvious that the yarn is not quite as nice as it maybe could be. Also, it’s still too early to know whether it’s a girl or a boy, so I’ve gone for the nice greens and yellows, which, incidently is exactly what the pattern  from Mason-Dixon’s book called for. Also, I figure, this way, if they have other children, they can use it for them no matter what. I mean, not that a boy can’t have a nice pink blanket or a girl can’t have a pretty blue one, but, you know…tradition!

The only drawback is that since it’s ALL garter stitch, it’s a wee tad on the boring side. But it also means I can watch tv without even thinking about it…although there’s not much good on tv at the moment, but still!

I’ve ordered some yarn (one because I didn’t have enough leftovers for the project and one because I’ve always wanted to work with it) to do two  more projects for her – that’s the only yarn I’m going to buy, everything else will be from my stash, so I’ll post those pictures once I’ve actually got the yarn.

An experiment in close but not quite…

In an attempt to make this I am making this because although the recipe calls for foccacia, I don’t actually think it is. It’s more of a loaf bread that she uses, not a flatbread – and I used all my powers of Google-fu to try and find a recipe for foccacia that was more of a loaf than a flatbread, but was unsuccessful. So I’m trying just a basic Italian bread. So that’s the first close but not quite. The more important ones are as follows:

  1. The recipe calls for 3 cups of bread flour and 1 cup of semolina flour. I am using 4 cups of all-purpose flour.
  2. My olive oil may or may not have gone a bit rancid on me.
  3. My yeast has also expired.

Those seem like fairly important differences, so we’ll see how it goes. On another Giada note, this  made me laugh outloud. On another Giada note, when I was trying to find a recipe for foccacia in loaf-form, I Googled Giada. You know how Google has that little drop-down menu that suggests ways you might be finishing what you’re typing? Well, as I was typing in ‘Giada di Laurentiis,’ what Google thought I probably wanted to be searching for was not ‘Giada di Laurentiis foccacia loaf.’ No. It was ‘Giada di Laurentiis cleavage.’

And on that note, I’m off to see if my loaves have risen. (Really vague pun intended.)

ETA: Result! I made these:

 to make this:  

and I must say, it turned out quite well – I realise now I should have taken the picture after I’d sliced it so you could see because it looks  a lot like Giada’s. Er, the only downside is that I’ve now been eating this for the last two days straight and there’s going to be another one imminently. Let’s hope I don’t get bored with eating it before it goes bad.

Wait, that doesn’t seem right – I hope I can finish it before it goes bad. That’s what I mean.

OMG MOVIE!!!!!

Oh, my god – Ratatouille is AMAZING! All of you – you must promise me that you will go and see this film whenever it comes out wherever you happen to be. And it’d be good if you took a friend along to see it, too, because it’s so good, I promise they will thank you for it. Seriously, it’s so, so, so, so, so, so, so, SO good.

So good.

A roundabout post…

…because I have lots of pictures to share! First off, Claire has declared this the Year of the Postcard, which is the best idea ever – it’s so much fun. Here are all the postcards I’ve gotten so far:

Claire also recently suggested that I buy myself a book and a bottle of wine (thanks, Claire!):

And where was this lovely picture taken? Why, my balcony, that’s where!

And what are those things around the edge of my balcony? Well, they’re plants! But, Anne, I hear you ask, don’t you have the complete opposite of a green thumb? A black thumb, if you will? Capable of killing even the most hardy of plants? Well…yes. Yes, I do. But I’m really very determined not to let anything like that happen this time. First off, we have the herbal tea garden, courtesy of my friend Cayt who sent me the cutest thing for Christmas – a little tin, The Pocket Garden Seed Collection.

The German chamomile, by the way, is a very on-the-ball kind of herb – I swear it had sprouted only a few days after I planted it. Way to go, German chamomile! Next a little pot of petunias which, no matter how nicely I ask, will not stand up (I will refrain from making the lame pop reference here – you may insert your own: __________).

Then there are more herbs – my grandmother suggested planting them in a strawberry pot, one herb per little pocket, so I did. Seems to be working fairly well so far – it’s a little tricky to water the little pockets, but… In here there are basil, chives, and Italian parsley, with a pretty flower on top for decoration:

Up next are my two favorites: my watermelon plant, Bernie and, my pride and joy, a lemon tree who has yet to be named – suggestions?

Still more herbs over here: a variety in the long pot and then the biggest dill EVAR!

Then, basically, everything I had left over, plus in the background you can see the tomato plant that I brutally murdered (none of this ‘I’m a bad gardener’ I just went ahead and killed it. Okay, not really, but…). And last, but not least, I caved in and bought one of those Topsy-Turvy tomato planters off the television – it looked like a neat idea – but I think I wanted too long and tried to plant too big of a plant in there which is how I managed to kill the first tomato plant. But I managed to get this cherry tomato plant in there – it got a little squished (although obviously, it fared better than its predecessor) and I’m not sure it actually gets enough sun there in the corner – everywhere else gets pretty much full sun all day long, so we’ll see how it goes…

And now for some wildlife!

It’s a hummingbird feeder! Um, I’m not sure if there are actually hummingbirds here in Illinois – but if there are, they’ll be here (the wild bergamot is supposed to attract them, too). And finally, one of my little helpers – except they’re not allowed on the balcony, but he was trying to help…

The apocalypse is upon us!

…well, some sort of ‘lypse’ anyway. There have been two moths in here in one day! TWO! The cats have done their best, but since they’re well-fed, they tend to play with them rather than just eat them and be done with it, so I have to come in and make a mercy kill by flushing them down the toilet.

In other news, I’m worried about the state of my yarn stash. Okay, so it’s not really ‘other’ news so much as ‘related’ news. So tomorrow I’m going to have to go get another giant Tupperware container, some mothballs, and possibly three bungee cords.

And there’s something in the linen closet behind my hoover. I thought it was the other moth, but that one was still hiding out under the space heater, so there is…something… else here with me…

In still other news, I have decided that I need to exercise. I would say ‘more’ at the end of that sentence, but that would really be laughable. And even if the plague of locusts two moths did not signal the end of the world, uh, this probably would, so again, I’m going to have to go with ‘related’ news. In my moment of weakness, I have turned to the extraordinarily perky Denise Austin (oh, dear, Wikipedia tells me that she supports the Shrub…that’s not cool, Denise. Now I have to justify why I like you even MORE!). Now, as a rule, I don’t really like perky people, but she’s just so earnest and she always tells me to do the best that I can do. And I believe her! Plus she’s actually kind of funny – today was strength training day and we were working our chest muscles and she looks right into the camera as she’s going ‘3 more, etc.’ and says ‘We must, we must!’ How hilarious is that! Come on, that’s awesome. ;D