Thursday, December 30, 2010

My Favorite Things: Movies

I am going to step away from my cooking and crafting for a moment to discuss another favored art form of mine. Movies.

I love movies. And I like a lot of different kinds of movies. I can watch an arty, thoughtful film one evening and an action-packed no brainer the next. In fact, I love movies so much that I volunteer a few times a month at a local non-profit movie theater, the Grand Cinema. This helps me keep up to date with what movies are coming out and gets me free movie passes in exchange for my volunteer time.

Without further ado, my favorite movies of the year, in no particular order, except the first one. Now I am not critiquing these by anything more profound then the fact that I saw them and liked them and then thought about them for some time after I saw them.

The King's Speech: Just saw this yesterday and so I am a raving lunatic right now about how fantastic it is; I am going to go see it again. Incredibly satisfying to watch and terrifically uplifting. I was talking to a skeptical friend last night who thought it would have nothing to interest him. If the eternal human condition about the quest of finding one's inner strength and true self can't interest him, nothing can! And if Colin Firth doesn't win the best actor Oscar, I will eat my hat!

True Grit: I am hit and miss with the Coen Brothers, but this was well done. Best dialogue. Possibly my favorite western ever after the Magnificent Seven.

Black Swan: Psycho-sexual thriller with Natalie Portman. Enough said. Not for the faint at heart.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1: Am addicted to Harry Potter and British actors in general and these movie makers know how to make good movies.

Toy Story 3: Very sentimental, but, oh, so sweet and fun to watch.

The Young Victoria (ok, this technically came out in 2009, but only showed up in Tacoma in 2010) I love the British and costume dramas, have I mentioned this yet? And two movies about the British royalty in one year was a treat.

Inception: Saw this twice, still not sure how I felt about it. Was he dreaming, was he awake? In the end, I just really enjoyed the word play and the visual effects.

The Ghost Writer: Another British film, mostly overlooked by the American public, but I adore a good political thriller. (With Ewan McGregor and Pierce Brosnan, double score!)

I Am Love: True Italian Art House Film. Pretentious with only a wisp of a storyline, but I can watch Tilda Swinton wearing an orange dress and eating shrimp all day long. Best Cinematography.

The Kids Are Alright: Coming of age family story with a lesbian twist, which is how people describe it, but in reality, I think this is a good representation of any family in this country. Funny, but not stupid or condescending, and Annette Bening is great.

Robin Hood: This movie did not get much love from critics, but I enjoyed it. Big movie, epic medieval fighting at its best. And the chemistry between Cate Blanchett and Russell Crowe reminded me how good big movie acting can and should be. I would like to see another movie featuring these two Australians.

Honorable mentions:
Joan Rivers, A Piece of Work: Went into this not liking her at all, ended the movie adoring her.

Predators: Yes, a dumb, stupid, thin story, action sci-fi, but I went with a large group of people and I laughed hysterically with every alien decapitation and at all the green blood. Sometimes, it is okay to be goofy.

Rare Exports, A Christmas Tale: Modern Finnish fairy tale that turns the Santa Claus story on its head. You don't want this Santa coming down your chimney. Just might replace A Christmas Story as my favorite holiday movie.

Still have to see: The Social Network, Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World, Winter's Bone, Easy A, Tamara Drewe, Inside Job

Off to Seattle now to see the Picasso exhibit and then eat at the Wild Ginger. Perfect ending to a great year.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Cleaning Out the Fridge

Christmas is over and my resolution before the next holiday that comes in just 5 short days is to clean out the fridge. We have been eating a lot of junk food the last few days: pecan pie, bacon, too many drinks to count, cookies, and so on. And all the veggies I dutifully bought last week are languishing on the shelf, turning brown.

Today, I wanted not only a nice, vegetable filled salad to take away the holiday food pains, but I also wanted to clean out the fridge! Can be easily adapted to fit any fridge ingredients. The key is to have a little bit of everything so that you don't overwhelm with any one flavor.

Jennevieve's Fridge Cleaning Chop Salad

several handfuls baby arugula
3 carrots, sliced by peeling
1/4 red onion, chopped fine
6 mushrooms, chopped medium dice
1 red bell pepper, chopped medium dice
6 radishes, chopped medium dice
small handful cilantro, chopped fine
1/2 fennel bulb, chopped medium slices
2 Tablespoons shaved Parmesan
3 slices cured ham, chopped medium dice
(If I had some, I would have added a 1/2 can of garbanzos too)

1/4 cup canola oil (I cheated here and used the oil left over from some deli purchased roasted tomatoes for even more flavor)
1 Tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
pinch of sugar
salt and pepper to taste

Combine all salad bits in bowl.
Put dressing ingredients in small glass jar with lid and shake to combine. Toss with salad. Enough for 2 generous entrees or 4 starter salads.

Eat and feel incredibly healthy heading into the new year!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Happy Holidays!

Here are my two finished felt flower pillows. I am in the middle of two more, but those might just end up staying at our house!

Happy holidays! I am going to see the new True Grit on Christmas day with my husband and mom. Hope yours in enjoyable too!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Handmade Gifts: Felt Flower Pillows

My new found love affair with felt is nowhere near to being over and, being the holidays, I thought I should be making some gifts with felt. I know members of my family might not be so interested in needle felted critters or felt fascinators, so I perused around online until I saw some beautiful (now discontinued) sewn flower pillows from Nordstrom's. Then, with a little more research, I found a couple of blogs with some similar felt flower patterns. Cluck, Cluck, Sew has this basic flower pattern and One Lovely Life had some more details on the same idea. I was disappointed in both of their choices for the base of the pillows. I wanted a 100% wool felt on felt pillow.

You start by cutting out a million petals. I am making four pillows and keeping each flower monotone. Both patterns suggested using 2 petal sizes. I used 3.
Next, I placed a plate upside down and centered on my felt square and traced around it with a sharpie. Pin your first petals down and stitch in place.
I think the contrast is really lovely.
Keep going, switching to the medium size petals about 4 rows in.

At the fourth layer, I began to pleat the petals so that they would add volume. I filled the center with a pleated circle hand sewn in place. The texture is really lovely.
The green one at the top shows the pleats really well. Finished photos tomorrow!

Monday, December 20, 2010

37 Things: Host a Themed Party

I love to throw parties, so this wasn't too much out of my comfort zone on my list of 37 Things I Want to Do Before I Turn 38,.but a themed party does require some attention to detail.

I didn't just want any old holiday party. I wanted an ugly sweater party. The rules were simple. Wear the ugliest holiday attire you can find, bring a nice gift for a gift exchange and a retro food dish for a potluck.

I created a wreath with plaster angels I found at the thrift store. We borrowed tacky holiday lights (dancing Santas and a North Pole sign), and I created 50 yards of felt garlands and cut out a zillion paper snowflakes.

I made Swedish meatballs for the crock pot.
I made sugar cookies and gingerbread snaps. The gingerbread was from a weird recipe I had never used before and didn't turn out so good. But the sugar cookies with the cream cheese frosting were delicious.
I made scarves for my papier mache polar bears to hand out as party favors.

The photo booth we set up turned out to be the hit of the party. Trevor went out and found an cordless remote control so that people could take their own photos. We bought a simple clip-on light with a sunlight flood to help with lighting. And I provided props to get people in the holiday spirit.
The photo booth started out nice and normal at the beginning of the evening.
Here I am with my dear friend Rosie. I love my Scotty dog sweater vest. I tried really hard to rat my hair, but it wouldn't stay up for very long.

I was amazed at the amount of work some people put into their sweaters!
Slowly, the photos started showing more holiday spirit.

And quickly deteriorated into fun chaos.
I can't remember laughing so hard at any other party.
I think everyone should have a photo booth at their parties.

My husband is a goofball, but I love him.
It's hard to believe we squeezed 28 people into our house, but we made it work.
We've already decided we want to throw another themed party in April to commemorate 50 years since Yuri Gagarin was the first human to orbit the earth. It will be a seriously retro themed party with space decorations and Russian themed food and drinks and of course a photo booth!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Making a Simple Felt Garland

I love simple crafts that are built of multiples that turn into something elegant and abundant looking at the same time.

I am in full crafty, cleaning, and cooking mode for our party this weekend. And while technically this is an Ugly Holiday Sweater party and our friends lent us some cheesy candy cane and drum lights and I made paper snowflakes, I still like to have festive decorations that are necessarily Christmasy.

So I picked out my favorite shades of turquoise and fuchsia in 100% recycled polyester felt to make garlands for our photo booth backdrop as well as basic party decor around the house.

I sat down in front of some streaming Netflix and cut out about 5 zillion little circles. I started by cutting long strips that were between 1 and 2 inches wide and then cut the strips into squares and then cut out the circles from each square by just eyeballing it. If I had tried to use a pattern, I would still be cutting!

Next I just whipped out some ribbon and the sewing machine and started going to town. I found that you have to hold the ribbon tightly when sewing so that the thread won't miss the ribbon and break.

So while it seems to take a while to sew them all together, it is really quick and inexpensive and endlessly adaptable to different colors, themes, holidays. The 72" wide bolts of felt were on sale for only $2.49 a yard and I bought 1 yard each of the pink and blue and have only used about half of it so far. I also bought 2 yards of a dark blue-gray that is going to be the back drop for the photo booth.

I love how they look and feel. I am about 1/3 of the way through sewing it all. I should have at least 50 yards of this when I am all done!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Happiness is a Red Tin

My dad went out to Montana last weekend to see my grandmother and brought me home something for which I have been eagerly waiting.

My grandmother- Grace Genevieve's button tin.
First let me stop and say how beautiful I think her name is. Grace Genevieve. She could have gone by Gigi if she had wanted! My given name was Jennifer and let-me-tell-you by the time I was 16 I was dead sick of all the Jens, Jennys, and Jennifers in my classes and tired of teachers just calling me Schlemmer. So I created my own name, Jennevieve: a hybrid of Jennifer and Genevieve which I have been going by for 21 years! (My great aunt on my mom's side was named Genevieve too.) And don't try to even call me Jenn or Jenny. I am known to completely ignore people because I block it out or something.
Anyways, back to the buttons. Grace Genevieve is still going strong at 89, albeit with very poor eyesight and as a member of a group home now. So when my Aunt Julie came across the button tin while cleaning, she knew it was destined for me.
And if I hadn't been in such a hurry last night to finish a batch of Tweets ornaments for delivery today I probably would have spent an hour just looking at them and organizing them. No saying I won't be doing that this evening!
These buttons make me very happy.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Holiday Show and Tell

Ready for your holiday party yet?

I am in full steam ahead mode. Last night I made the prize for the ugliest sweater at our Ugly Sweater party and made this bunny. Above you can see how I started his parts with needle felting polyester stuffing before I covered them with wool and felted it all together.

He is all ready to go in his own ugly sweater. He's my biggest felted item yet: over 8" tall.

I also bought these lovely polishes because I am going to treat myself to a mani/pedi on Friday and I thought I might as well have fun with it.

And yesterday I had a couple of friends over for a little ornament exchange and these are the goodies I ended up with! I will display them proudly at the party.
And I've made about 60 paper snowflakes so far. But now I have to figure out how I want to display them. Plus, I have to finish figuring out how my photobooth is going to work and finalize my drink and food menu. Busy day!

What is on your to-do list this week?

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Magazine Snowflakes

Remember making paper snowflakes as a kid?

I want the house to look crazy holiday decorated for our Ugly Sweater party next week but I am trying to come up with affordable and crafty ways to decorate.

I am planning on making some paper garlands and while I was scooting around online today I stumbled across this pattern for a 5-pointed snowflake by Jessica Jones Design. Different and tres chic!

Since I am on a major cleaning spree in the house I have a ton of magazine stacked up to be sorted into keepers and tossers. The tossers I am making into snowflakes. How and where I will hang them in the house I am not sure, but I figure I will sit down and watch a movie later and make 100 or so of these babies.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Attempting the Wet Felting

I started my adventure with felt with needle felting. As a sculptor, I really enjoy the flexibility needle felting gives you to make anything you want and your only limits are your imagination.

The reason why I want to try wet felting is because I am interested in making a larger, more wearable piece like a big luscious scarf.

I always thought of wet felting as slightly messy and less than accurate and my latest efforts prove me correct in this. Now all you wet felters might immediately say you can control quite a bit and maybe you can, but I cannot, at this beginning stage, control much of anything!

The last photo has the truest color because I took that photo this morning. This is what happens when you do craft projects in December in the evening in the Pacific Northwest!

I started with laying out my felt. Turns out I should have double the amount of felt I used. Also, I am most interested in trying my hand at "Nuno" felting--this is felting wool to silk chiffon. I went to the fabric store yesterday and the line was so long and they had so few employees I just turned around and walked straight out. So I winged it without the silk for now.

I am very pleased with the little ball I made. I am thinking to wet felt a whole bunch of spheres and then do needle felting on them to add detail.

I didn't work the felt long enough and you can see it is not completely flat, but that is why it is called the learning process. I found out that the Weaving Works up in Seattle is offering some wet felting classes in the next couple of months. Sign me up! I have been working out a book and a lot of books are woefully incomplete when showing you the details. It is much easier to learn in person.
Thinking I will cut the sample apart and incorporate the bits into some needle felting.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

37 Things: Throw a Themed Brunch or Party

If you have been reading this blog for half a second, you know I love to host parties. I love to cook and organize and decorate, and yes, even clean. I am normally a pretty sloppy person. I don't like dirt, but I don't mind a little clutter piled up around the house. It wasn't always this way. I used to live in a snug little studio apartment that I kept spotless because you have to keep snug little studios spotless or you can't function. But after I met my husband and realized he wasn't always the cleanest person I subconsciously went the route of "when in Rome....."; it is much easier to allow a little mess than be upset all the time about something I can't change. (Unless I want to pick up after my husband all the time, which I don't, but I know plenty of other spouses that live that way.)

That is one reason why I love to have people over for dinner every other week or so. It makes me pick stuff up and throw things in recycling that would otherwise linger on the coffee table indefinitely and bring out the vacuum for a swipe into the corners.

We host wine parties a lot but this year on my list of 37 Things I Want to Do Before I Turn 38 I realized I wanted to throw a more special party, a themed party. We had a tiny get together to carve pumpkins and I was thinking that would be my themed party but it was such a tiny gathering and I just lost motivation to do much in the way of theme except hand out prizes for best carved pumpkin.

So I sat on the idea until one of our friends, Jessica, mentioned that there had been an Ugly Holiday Sweater Party the year before we met and I was intrigued. And I thought about it for about 20 seconds and then announced to everyone that I was going to host an Ugly Sweater Party.
The only rules are that guests have to wear an ugly sweater: no admittance without one! and they have to bring a nice-ish gift for gift exchange and a potluck dish. I am going to have awards for the ugliest and most garish outfits and a photo booth set up in my office so we can glory in the ugliness of it all.
The more and more I think about the Ugly Sweater theme, the more I like it. It takes off the pressure that some might feel of having to get all dressed up. Also fun is having to pick out your sweater. I have discovered the large thrift stores like Goodwill and Value Village aren't so good to find the perfect sweater, but smaller thrift stores like the Discovery Shop are much better. I am very excited about my Scotty dog sweater vest. But I need to find something like a snowman turtleneck to wear under it.

Also, we don't really go crazy with any holiday decorating so this will be a fun night to put out some tacky lights (some friends swear they have a nodding reindeer lawn ornament that we can borrow) and some festive bunting and garlands.

I am also going to theme the food a little more 50's and 60's with a tater tot casserole and Swedish meatballs and a cheese ball and some sugar cookies and retro cocktails.

On the to do list for this week is to figure out stereo speakers in the living room, painting a back drop for the photo booth, getting down to IKEA for a coat rack, and finishing my front door wreath. Next week will be a little crazier as it gets closer to the event. Luckily I am done with making art for gift shows so I can really focus on cleaning the house top to bottom. I can't wait to see everyone's ugly sweaters!

Monday, December 6, 2010

New Piano Equals Happy Husband

Yesterday, it took 5 of us to move Trevor's old "little" piano out of the house and onto a truck. Today, it took 2 guys with very little effort to move in his newer and larger piano. I just love the photo of the smug little girl on the back of the van.
This is what happens when you have the proper tools (strap, dolly, movable ramp) for the job.

Also, these guys had it pretty easy because they basically just had to get it into our front door. No hallways or stairs to deal with. They told me they move at least 25 pianos per week with the busiest times being August (before school starts) and December (Christmas).

It's a good foot taller than the other one and very, very shiny. It shows fingerprints really easily. Also, it is so nice and shiny that we don't want to put a lot of stuff on top of it which means we need to get another table for all our change, hats and glove box, mail, etc. This was something I hadn't really expected. We used the old piano quite a bit as a handy shelf.

I must say, Trevor seems down right giddy about his new piano. I honestly can't tell a ton of difference between the too, but I am a known block head when it comes to musical instruments. It does seem a little less tinny, not sure how else to explain it.

Whatever, a happy husband is something I like to have around the house!