Sunday, November 30, 2008


This was the first year that I didn't go anywhere for thanksgiving. Jason and I spent the day cooking, and then sat down and ate. The whole thing was pretty simple. These pictures are no good, but I wasn't about to spend time on photography when I had been smelling delicious food for the past few hours. I hope everyone had a good thanksgiving, and that no one got trampled in bargain-induced stampedes, like this man. (Seriously, what is wrong with people? And why do people who live on Long Island go to Wal-mart when there are so many other stores? When I move out of this town, I'm never going to Wal-mart again.)

Monday, November 24, 2008

The Art History Reading Challenge

There are so many reading challenges floating around out there, and I have been tempted to join a few of them. Sometimes I even make a list of books to read for a particular challenge, but in the end I always decide that I don't want to feel obligated to a list. I tend to pick my next book based on my mood and how intellectual I am feeling at the time - and there is a certain freedom involved in plucking anything I want from my library pile or my overflowing bookshelves.

But, there is one subject I am always interested in, and want to read more of. Since leaving art history grad school last year, I feel myself slipping farther and farther away from the subject. Every month more art history books are published, and while I dutifully add them to my "to-read" list on goodreads, they tend to slip away because my library does not own most of them and I usually don't spend money on books.

So, in 2009 I've decided to host The Art History Reading Challenge. (Click on the link to sign up!) I am going to challenge myself to read at least 6 art history books next year, and whoever wants to is free to join me. This does not mean you have to slog through academic texts - there are plenty of fiction and popular nonfiction titles on the subject. So click on over and join me!

I hope to update the challenge site throughout the year with reviews, new publications on the subject, and works of art featuring readers. Here is my list I will read from next year:

1. Stealing Athena - Karen Essex
2. Luncheon of the Boating Party - Susan Vreeland
3. Making the Mummies Dance - Thomas Hoving
4. Art Held Hostage - John Anderson
5. Seven Days in the Art World - Sarah Thornton
6. The Bernini Bust - Iain Pears

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Fall? Winter?

I spent the morning dealing with this:

Actually I shouldn't say "the morning," because it was 1) after noon and 2) more like 15 minutes. We don't own a rake, as it is New Mexico and you generally don't have to rake up after cacti. But, our neighbors have a giant tree in their yard, which they allow to shed right into our yard. They really need to punish that tree for being so rude. Anyway, because we don't have a rake, I used my hands, ghetto style. I did see this cool stick bug though:

I don't have too many projects to report on, mostly because this time of year is super-secret Christmas present making time. There is a big yarn pile living on the coffee table, providing endless temptation for the cat. As you can see, the yarn pile is next to the reading pile, which I am also attempting to complete before the end of year.

Oh, I did finish another hat for my cousin, who specifically requested it. He's going to climb some ridiculously tall mountain in Mexico next week, allowing my knitting to travel the world.

Other than that, I have been making cooking plans for Thanksgiving. I bought my first turkey this weekend, so does that make me officially an adult? And what is up with a turkey breast being $15?

Sunday, November 16, 2008

My new toy

I got my Christmas present early this year. As Oprah said, "It's the Amazon Kinnndlllleeeeeeee!" It was because of Oprah that I got it early - she offered $50 off for a week following the show in which she gushed about it.

Now that I've had a few weeks to play with it, I thought I'd offer my thoughts, as the whole concept of e-book readers is either bothersome or fascinating, depending on who you ask.

What I love about the Kindle:

1. The screen is not the typical back-lit screen found on computers and cell phones. It is an entirely different technology called "e-ink", and is extremely easy on the eyes. While I can't say that it is exactly like reading a "real" book, it comes pretty darn close. I can read for an hour or more and not feel any ill effects on my eyes.

2. It has the internet. I don't travel all that much, but I imagine that the Kindle would come in handy if you were stuck in an airport and needed to check your email. If you were bored by the 200 books you have stored on it, you could easily download one of over 100,000 from amazon, for under $10.

3. You can walk around carrying hundreds of books. Of course I can only read one at a time, but this sort of hoarding isn't any different than stuffing my bookshelves at home with books I haven't read yet, or checking out ten books from the library when I know I'll only have time to read five.

4. I really like not having to carry around huge books. I am working my way through a physical copy of Pillars of the Earth, which clocks in at just under 1,000 pages. It's taken me over 5 months to get halfway through, partly because its annoying to have to hold the huge book open. I have Les Miserables, Anna Karenina, Don Quixote, and Gone with the Wind all on my Kindle, and it still weighs 9 ounces.

Things I will learn to deal with:

1. The internet is really slow. I have found it is much easier to download books to my computer and then transfer the files via USB to the Kindle. The New York Times had an article recently on the Kindle, in which the author writes that it is basically not a cool device. It's not in color, it doesn't blink or show movies or allow you to chat with your friends. But, it does do what it is designed to do, and it does it well. It is a reader, so any qualms I have about the slow connection speeds are really just peripheral.

2. Because the screen is smaller than normal paperback books, I feel like I am constantly turning the page. Particuarly when reading dialogue, I have to hit the "next" button nearly every 15 seconds.

All in all, I really like the Kindle. It certainly won't replace books, particularly those I can read for free from the library; its just another way to read, and I'm all for that. If you are the type of person who spends a lot of money on books, then the $9.99 bestsellers from amazon will really save you money. And if you are the type, like me, who is really into reading books published before 1930, there are plenty of sites that allow you to download these books for free. ( has over 20,000 free books in Kindle format.)

If you want something that whizzes and dings, then you should probably get an iPhone. If you are a reader and want something that will enable your habit, then you should get a Kindle (or another e-book reader -- Sony has a popular one.) I think this would be particularly useful for people who travel a lot or commute on public transportation.

So, do you want one?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

T-Shirt Quilt

My t-shirt quilt is finished! This is my 4th completed quilt, and probably my favorite so far. It doesn't have the intricacy of some of my others, but it is definitely the coziest. It is extremely warm, perfect for curling up under on the couch. Warmth has increasingly become necessary because I see turning on the heat as a sign of weakness. (Thanks, Mom, for forcing that into me over the freezing years. When it gets below 60 degrees inside I'll start considering it.)

As far as quilts go, this one was super easy. I used a quilting square (a 12-inch piece of plexiglass) to cut out each square, then I ironed some interfacing onto the back of each so that they wouldn't stretch, as t-shirts have a tendency to do. Then I cut out some 2-inch strips and sewed it all together. (Hardly any math involved!) I didn't buy enough fabric for the backing, so I ended up grabbing whatever green fabric I had on my shelf and sewing that in. I machine quilted the whole thing, which probably took the longest, and finally hand-sewed the binding on.

Jason has already given me a hint that he wants one too, judging by the large pile of t-shirts that recently appeared on my quilting table. I usually need a quilting cooling-off period though, after the trauma of trying to shove an 8-lb, 20-square foot quilt through my sewing machine. (I even had to set up a fan because I was sweating so much with the effort.) Quilting: just as good as running a marathon. (Ok, not really.)

Friday, November 07, 2008

Trail Journal: Devil's Hall

Trail: Devil's Hall (Guadalupe Mountains National Park)
Date: November 5, 2008
Distance: 4.2 miles
Elevation change: 400'

Just because we left Yellowstone doesn't mean we've stopped hiking! Yesterday we drove the 50 miles or so to Guadalupe Mountains National Park (in Texas) in the hope of getting a glimpse of a tree or two that was not green or yellow. (The trees in town have changed color... they're all yellow. Not very exciting.) I've hiked this trail before, but it was 4 years ago so I was interested in seeing it again.

Most of the trail follows an extremely rocky wash. While there wasn't a significant elevation gain, there are a lot of boulders to scramble up and around.

We started out in the early afternoon, but we were on the wrong side of the mountain, which cast a big enough shadow that we were in the shade the entire time. It also was windy and colder than I expected. It is November, but so far it has yet to dip below 65.

There were some brilliant trees (made more brilliant by my saturation manipulation.)

At the end of the trail is its namesake, the Devil's Hall. You climb up some natural rock stairs and walk through a neat rock hallway.

It was nice to get outside and see something other than desert and cacti, and get a little taste of fall.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

What I'm Knitting

From sitting-around-the-longest to most recently started:

1. Inga Hat, in 100% wool from Finland. I'm so close to finishing this one, but I don't have much motivation because I'm sure it won't fit. I started this hat mainly to learn fair isle (knitting with more than one color), and because its still summer here, I don't have an imperative desire to finish another hat.

2. Socks started out of desperation when my yarn took forever to arrive from Knitpicks. I'm going to rip out back to the ribbing and make a more interesting design with these. It's a generic cotton yarn I got really cheap at MSW '06. Also, low down on the motivation list until I finish off some bigger projects.

3. Leaf-tie cardigan in Knitpicks Swish. Except it won't have leaf ties. This is going pretty fast.

4. Socks for Jason, who has giant feet. Well, maybe just relatively giant: whatever the difference between a women's 5 and a men's 10.5 is. The first sock will be finished today.

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