Oscar Weekend Recap

This last weekend was our 5th annual Parool Oscar Weekend.  You know, where you go to the Pathe de Munt movie theater at Muntplein in Amsterdam and sit for 2 full days watching back to back Oscar nominated movies.  I love it.

If you haven’t noticed, on the right side of this blog page I am now posting my Twitter feed.  During this weekend event I sent out tweets summarizing my movie review and giving each movie a score out of 10.  I’ll just expand on that a little bit here.  Warning, it’s full of spoiler alerts.  But then, you should already know how Lincoln and Argo end.

Saturday we started at 10:30am with Lincoln.  This is the movie that starred Daniel Day-Lewis, who won his 3rd Oscar as Best Actor.  I really enjoyed this movie.  It helps if you are raised in the U.S. and know a bit of the history and can relate to the story and the times.  It also helps if you are a native English speaker.  The language in the movie is not simple or easy but it is beautiful and thoughtful and lovely to listen to.  As a language lover, I really appreciated the care they used in recreating the sound of the times.  It is also so interesting to contrast politics of that era with politics of today.  In both cases it’s a dirty business.  But in both cases there is one party that is ignorant and wishes the country to remain ignorant.  What’s interesting is that those parties have switched titles over these 160-odd years.  I highly recommend the film and gave it a 9/10.

Next, with a 30 minute break in between we saw Beasts of the Southern Wild.  I really didn’t know what to expect of this movie.  The main character is a 6 or 7 year old girl who lives with her father and a few scrappy characters in a swampy island that has been abandoned by the government and society.  They are all a bit wacko.  When a big storm comes most of them leave but not the most crazy ones and this girl must stay with her father.  They end up at the end in a shelter, but then escape, and go back to the swamp where he father dies of some disease.  Some parts of the movie were touching.  Some parts were just more of the same.  It wasn’t my kind of movie really.  It went no where and didn’t seem to have a place it should go.  I gave it a 6/10.

Finally Saturday we saw Argo, yet another historical fact/fiction movie about getting Iran hostages out of Iran.  This movie was so suspenseful, even though you know how it’s going to end, that it had my stomach in knots.  The acting was good and I have to say that Ben Affleck really outdid himself as actor and director both.  And he doesn’t look half bad in a beard.  It did remind me of All the President’s Men in look and feel, which is not a bad thing.  I can see how it won best picture as everything was so real you lost sight of which parts were historical film reels and which was recent movie making.  I gave it 8/10.  It’s as well made as Lincoln, but there was something beautiful about Lincoln that got it the extra point for me.

And that’s all we saw Saturday.  We had a concert to go to in Paradiso that night so cut it short at 6pm and only 3 movies seen.  But we were back at it Sunday morning at 10:30 again!

We started Sunday morning with The Master.  After reading the synopsis I was looking forward to seeing this movie.  The first 30 minutes had me sucked in and I was really intrigued.  And then it just droned on and on and on making the same points over and over and over again.  Finally we end up in England for no apparent reason.  The movie should have been 20 minutes shorter, or found something else unique to say.  Having said all that, Joaquin Phoenix was exceptional in the lead role.  Now this is acting folks, every bit as good as Daniel Day-Lewis.  Too bad the movie was such a let down.  I gave it a 6/10.

Next up: Prometheus.  Seriously?  Yes, seriously.  And seriously bad.  This is the pre-quel to Alien and poor Ridley Scott just can’t let it go.  This movie was nominated for visual effects and that, folks, is ALL it had going for it.  Laughable science, deadly predictable script.  The very best part was the very last scene, which ties this movie to Alien.  That’s it.  About 20 seconds.  5/10.

Movie 3 on Sunday was Django Unchained.  Some people don’t appreciate Quentin Tarantino’s movies or his point of view or his humor, but I’m a fan.  Maybe you have to be a fan to be excited about seeing this movie.  I think it’s his best in years.  It was clever, funny, punchy, bloody, and never ever dull.  Jamie Foxx is perfect in the lead and Christofer Waltz won best supporting actor as the German bounty hunter.  If you like dark humor you have to go see this movie.  8/10.  Oh, one thing, here’s a tip Quentin: don’t act in your own movies.  It ain’t your forte son.

Finally, the last film for Sunday was Silver Linings Playbook.  It’s your typical dysfunctional feel good movie.  Screwed up boy meets screwed up girl, lots of screwed up stuff happens and finally they get together.  That’s the plot.  That’s it.  What makes it so entertaining are the actors and the stuff that is just crazy enough to be real and just real enough to be crazy.  You can see these people living next door to you.  You feel for them.  You root for them.  You want them to be happy.  When such a simple plot can do that to you then it’s a highly successful movie.  8/10.  Go see it.  Everyone should laugh and smile at the movies now and then.

And that’s it!  Last year we saw NINE movies, this year only 7.  Next year I’m aiming for 9 again.  I can’t wait.

More Mandy’s Heart Sweaters

This past Monday night at de Jaren, C. and C. brought/wore their Mandy’s Heart sweaters.  The red one was made for C.’s daughter.  Aren’t they lovely?

The light in de Jaren is just AWFUL for photos (and for knitting too).  I did my best with photoshop to improve the light and color.  They both seem very happy with their new sweaters, and you can’t ask for more than that!

I’m busy working on the next sweater design, which will be perfect for a beginning sweater knitter.  Andy is also knitting a sample sweater for me.  I’m about half finished with mine so I hope to get test knitters started in another month.  There’s also another new project that is 2/3 finished which I NEED to finish in the next 3 weeks.  That’s a lot of knitting to get done soon!

But at the same time I’m itching to start something small and new.  I really want to make another pair of Mandy’s Heart socks in a bright shocking pink and it’s taking all my willpower to hold back and finish these other 2 projects first.  I used to be such a monogamous knitter too!  Looks what’s happened to me!

Oh, one other bit of knitting news – I’ve started using my new HiyaHiya sharps, interchangeables, 5″, and I LOVE them!  I swear I’m knitting faster with them.  They feel great in my hands, nice and light and the finish on the metal has just the perfect amount of slip.  I think I’ll post a more extensive review of them in a few weeks when I’ve had a chance to work with them some more.

Happy Knitting everyone!

New Sewing FO

See? I kan haz sewing FOs!  This is my new red wool jumper (jumper in the American meaning of the word, not the British meaning).  I bought the fabric in California 3 or 4 years ago.  I cut out the pieces about a year ago.  It just sat in a pile for a very long time before I decided it was really time to finish it.  It’s extremely simple and comfortable.  I’m sure I’ll wear it a lot.

Of course I didn’t just make it how the pattern said to do.  Oh no.  You see, the pattern didn’t call for any lining, just facings on the inside.   I didn’t think this heavy wool would feel nice this way, nor did I think it would drape as nicely without lining.  So I went out and bought some stretch lining and figured out how to put it in.  Here’s a photo of the inside:

I’m really happy how this worked out.  It feels great.  DB took the first photo last night before we went out to dinner.  It looks a little schoolmarmish for a dinner out, but hey, I AM schoolmarmish so that’s what you get.  Maybe the red makes it a little sassier.

By the way, I took a photo of my elbow this morning.  Thursday afternoon in Amsterdam I slipped on ice and fell hard on my right hip and elbow.  The hip is fine, but the elbow is bruised and sore.

This morning at the gym I really noticed that my upper arm is sore from this fall.  Otherwise, as long as I don’t touch it, it’s feeling pretty ok.  The weather has warmed up and all traces of ice and snow are gone from Haarlem and probably also from Amsterdam.  It’s starting to smell like Spring outside.  My rose bushes are putting out new green shoots.  Almost time to get the gardening gloves out!

Handwerkbeurs Zwolle

Yesterday I and 4 of the “usual suspects” went to the Handwerkbeurs in Zwolle.  If you haven’t been there, it’s the twice a year marketplace with everything from quilting supplies, to beads, to felting, to embroidery and knitting.  Every year there are more and more yarn shops, which is great for knitters.

Of course I need more yarn like I need a hole in my head, but I always like to go and see what’s new and to hang with my peeps.  The train ride there and back (70 minutes  more or less from Amsterdam) is perfect knitting and chatting time.

Above is a photo of what I got yesterday, except for the buttons which I forgot to photograph.  From left to right:

4 skeins (25g each) of 100% cashmere, “Adam”, from Bart and Francis.  It was expensive, but I’ve never owned anything 100% cashmere and I just couldn’t resist.  I’m hoping it’s enough for a large scarf/small stole.  I’ve already been looking through my Estonian Lace books to find a nice stitch pattern to use. (I can’t find this yarn on their web site – maybe it’s coming soon.)

Next is 50g of lace yarn in 80% merino, 20% silk, hand dyed by Loret Karman.  Isn’t it lovely?

Finally, JORIS! I’ve been stalking this pattern on Ravelry for a while now.  When I saw a shop with a few of these little guys in different colors and sizes, I just had to buy the pattern on the spot and some yarn to make him with.  The yarn is Schoppel-Wol, fingering weight. He will be kind of small using this yarn, so I might make him with a double strand and chopping up the skein into its component colors.  The designer, Annita Wilschut, has lots of other critter patterns like sock monkeys and frogs.  Her site is in Dutch, and the pattern I bought yesterday is in Dutch, but if you look her up on Ravelry she also has pattern downloads available in English.  They are just adorable!

I bought a few buttons from Lüna Design, a German man who despite speaking only German, managed to babble on and make himself understood well enough to sell loads of beautiful buttons.

N. and I also spent some time admiring the beads from Khyber Gallery.  What an amazing selection of beads made of all kinds of materials from the near and far east.  Beautiful amazing things.  Unfortunately I was completely out of money by the time I saw them, which was probably a good thing.  I won’t be surprised if we make a road trip to Wageningen to visit the shop, where Ans says she has far more stock than at the beurs or what she has online.

All in all it was a really fun day and I’m really glad we went.  I didn’t get home til 7pm, tired and hungry.  DB had a fire going in the fireplace and food ready to eat.  I couldn’t ask for more!


Mandy’s Heart – Sweater & Socks

My sweater pattern, Mandy’s Heart, is now available on Ravelry!  Yay!

I’m really happy with how the sweater turned out, how the pattern has come together, and how my test knitters have taken to the task.

And also, to match, Mandy’s Heart Socks! I had this Madelinetosh Tosh Sock in Tart in my stash for a very long time, just waiting for the perfect project.  I decided to create the perfect project myself.  The stitch pattern from the sweater worked perfectly for socks.  It has all the right characteristics – stretchy, interesting, and a lovely cable running down the middle.

Both pattens are available only on Ravelry.  And if you are a knitter, you should be a member of Ravelry.

Happy Valentine’s Day Mandy.  You have my heart every day of the year.

Winter Wonderland

This morning DB wanted to go running on soft ground, and given that the ground everywhere was covered in ice and sleety snow, he asked if I would drive him to the beach so he could run there.  My first thought was that I would sit in the warm cafe at Parnassia and drink hot chocolate and knit while he ran (I’m still injured and not running).  After driving through the dunes to Parnassia and seeing how beautiful everything looked covered in a fine dusting of white, I decided instead to go for a walk and take photos.  Of course I hadn’t thought to bring my big camera, but my iPhone takes pretty darned good photos if you ask me.

I didn’t walk very far – about 15 minutes out and 15 minutes back, plus some photography time.  DB and I got back to Parnassia at about the same time.  We got in the car and drove back home.  Once again I’m so happy and grateful that I live only 10 minutes by car from the beach.  How lucky am I?

Here are some more photos from the morning.  The sun is still shining bright and it’s cold and crisp outside.  These are winter days that I love.

Perfect Seams

Yesterday I went to Carol’s house to help her with seaming her Mandy’s Heart sweater.  Carol had never sewn up knitted seams before! I showed her the first few stitches and the rest she did completely by herself.  After just 5 minutes she was sewing up her own perfect seams.

Look how happy she is!

And look at how perfect her seams are!

The above photo is Carol sewing in a sleeve, which is normally the part people are most afraid of.  Look how easy this is! Don’t be afraid of the seam.  It’s adds strength and almost no bulk at all if done right.  By the end of the afternoon Carol couldn’t keep her eyes or hands off her impeccable  seams and was just so pleased with herself.  Good for you!

By the way, only 5 more days until Mandy’s Heart sweater and sock patterns are released.  Stay tuned!

Perceptions of Time

The concept of time has been on my mind a lot lately.  In January I managed to write a blog post for every day of the month.  Here it is the 5th of Feb and this is the first one I’ve started.  Time has just slipped away from me.

I am trying to find my comfort level with my daily (lack of) routine.  I have several freelance teaching jobs and juggling the schedules of 3 schools and several classes is making me a little bit stressed out and crazy.  It’s not easy for me and I’ve surprised myself with how hard this is.  I feel disjointed, unorganized, scattered and stressed.  I had a 2 hour class this morning in Amsterdam.  I came back home to Haarlem.  I will have to turn around and head back to Amsterdam at the end of the afternoon for a 2 hour class at a different school.  It’s terribly inefficient and this traveling is a waste of my time!


I was walking from my student’s house to the tram stop this morning.  I decided to walk just a little further and wander through Museumplein.  The sun was shining.  Then it hit me.  I know what (part of) my problem is.  I am not living in the moment.  I spend so much time planning and re-planning that I have no idea how to live in the moment and enjoy the RIGHT NOW.  I worry about money.  I worry about finding enough work.  I worry about becoming physically weak and unhealthy.  I have to stop worrying so much and learn to enjoy walking through Museumplein when the sun is shining.

I have decided to make this part of my new mantra.  I will practice living in the moment.  I’m a firm believer that practice makes things eventually become natural and habitual.  Every time I start to stress about schedules or any other worry, I will ask myself if I can do anything about it at that moment.  If not, I will look around and change my attitude.  Stop and smell the roses so to speak.  I will not worry about wasting time because time is relative.  If I can’t enjoy my time right now, then I might as well not bother to ever leave my bed. (OK, or find a way to change my situation, but that’s another story…)

These flowers don’t have any idea about time either.  They started blooming in the back garden in the warm spell we had in December.  Then the snow buried them for a while and now they are back up, looking for Spring.  Our notion of seasons and time is relative.  This flower does what the weather tells it to do, regardless what the calendar says.  I think I’ll give that a try.

(By the way, I have no idea what this flower is called.  I would like to get more of them because, well, they bloom when everything else is dead and they are tough and hardy.  If you know what they are, please let me know.)