Monthly Archives: November 2012

Knits for Nerds: Update #1

This is my first update on my Doctor Who scarf project. It turns out that you can’t just sit down for the very first time and expect to start knitting. I’m not sure who gave me that idea, but whoever it was, they were grossly misinformed. Like most things, there is a learning curve involved.  You have to practice first and acquire an adequate base skill level, figuring out what works, making mistakes, fixing mistakes, all while struggling to develop a natural rhythm and the necessary muscle memory. I learned this lesson right off the bat.

First attempt – Lumpy Space Princess?

That being said, I am currently a knitter in training, working on my craft with intensity whenever I can grab a few spare minutes. You could equate such training to Rocky Balboa prepping for his mammoth fight against Ivan Drago, except that I am actually Russian…so, flip it. Never mind, it was a bad analogy anyway.

I started on size 10.5 needles and after a few failed attempts, I actually started to become fairly comfortable.

See, getting much better!

I just moved to the suggested size 8 needles as indicated in the book.

Size 8. That hole is intentional. It serves to anchor the piece.

I’d like to actually start knitting by December 1st, a nice and neat date. I’ll need a little more practice with the size 8 chopsticks (sounds better than needles, eh?), then I’ll need to figure out how in the world to change colors on the fly. Yikes, better get back to training…

Counting Down to Christmas in Style

My wife and I don’t spend too much on Christmas decorations since we’ve already inherited a ton of stuff from our families. One thing that neither of us had, however, was a real advent calendar that our kids could grow up with. We finally bit the bullet and invested in an extremely nice wooden one from Byers’ Choice (the “Christmas House” model).  The artwork is gorgeous and it has many compartments of varying size to conceal candy or other tiny treasures.

As a child, I inadvertently sabotaged my own Advent calendar tradition. The chocolates in those cheap cardboard calendars that my parents bought every year weren’t individually wrapped, so by mid-December, they too tasted like cheap cardboard. That’s all good if you actually like your chocolate to have notes of cotton and chalk while maintaining the texture of old sawdust, but I was a tad picky. In an effort to work the system, I adapted to the situation I was given by gorging myself on the entire calendar on the very first day it was presented to me…and that was the demise of yet another family tradition. My new calendar, however, has a failsafe – I actually control the contents! “Look kids, Snickers bars, hoorah!” Or, “What? You don’t want to brush your teeth tonight? That’s ok honey bear. Now, let’s see what’s behind door number four. Oh my, a sample size bar of wild orchid scented soap!”

Even though I’ve seen some really cool new advent calendars on the market (Lego has some sweet ones – why didn’t they make them when I was a kid?), I am quite happy with our one-time investment of a family keepsake, and I fully welcome the challenge of finding fun candy and gifts to fill it with. Although, it’s not too late to snatch up one of those Lego Star Wars Advent calendars all for myself.

I’d love to hear any advent calendar anecdotes of your own! 

The Other Fantastic Mr. Fox

While shopping the other day, my wife and I allowed each of our kids to choose an ornament for our Christmas tree. Today, after a grueling haul up from the basement and a few choice words getting it all together and lit, the kids finally got to hang their ornaments on the tree. My son had chosen a Buzz Lightyear, a solid pick, while my daughter chose a Cinderella shoe. Yep, a shoe. Well, a slipper actually. I desperately tried to steer her towards a nice My Little Pony but she wouldn’t budge. She truly does not comprehend the gravity of making such a selection.

You see, when I was growing up, decorating the Christmas tree signaled the beginning of a fantastic but fleeting season of adventure with some of my favorite friends. I didn’t have many toys growing up, but fortunately, my grandmother was a sucker for collectibles, and each year she would send us several Hallmark ornaments. Some of these ornaments would provide me with my main source of entertainment between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Please remember that I was an only child, so I had to amuse myself one way or another. My favorite two ornaments (toys) were Mr. Fox and Kermit the Frog, and both were on skis. We went on all sorts of adventures together; Foiling train heists, skiing the deadliest of slopes, and rescuing damsels in distress was all in a days work for this dynamic duo. Somewhere along the line though, Mr. Fox was lost, never  to be found again. Initially it was a crushing blow, but as I grew older, I eventually lost interest in toys anyway, just like Andy did in Toy Story 3.

Anyway, once the kids were all tucked in bed, I mused on the idea of what their Christmas tree memories would look like. My son has already broken in Buzz, so I’m certain that Mr. Lightyear will be accepted into the sacred brotherhood of ornaments, amidst the likes of Kermit and Old Wise One (my dad’s favorite childhood ornament, passed down first to me, and now to my own kids), to set out on new adventures.

Old Wise One

Then, just as I do every year, I thought about that original team-up of Mr. Fox and Kermit, and how they did everything together, much like Buzz and Woody. At that moment, after all these years, I sat myself down at the computer and Googled “Hallmark 1980s Skiing Fox,” and within a second there he was! Just a few minutes later I had purchased a 1983 Hallmark Skiing Fox ornament on eBay, almost assuredly for less than what my Grandma paid in 1983. THIS is why the internet is amazing!  A Christmas miracle has transpired! Now, for the first time in twenty-some years, the old gang will be together again, this time with a new recruit: The one and only Buzz Lightyear, space ranger. And, let us not forget, a Cinderella shoe.

The Squeakiest Leather Jacket…Ever

Someone entrusted me with a vintage leather bomber jacket that no longer fit them, so of course I graciously accepted it. I slipped it on for the first time as we headed out to Thanksgiving dinner, and every time I took a sip of my Dunkin’ Donuts Coffee in the car, I squeaked like a little balloon animal. My wife says that it’s a sign of a quality item, but even so, I don’t know if I can get used to this. It’s weirdly loud! Here’s audio of me drinking coffee while riding in the car (even my daughter thought it was funny)…

Impromptu Bird House Craft

When we stopped in a craft store to pick up materials for my Doctor Who scarf project, my daughter found a cute unfinished wooden bird house. Now, my wife and I have been trying desperately to train my daughter against asking to buy something in every single store we step foot into, but this time, I caved. It would be such a perfect little craft project. Better yet, it was only a buck!

She was ecstatic when I told her that we could paint and decorate it, which is kind of funny because she was perfectly happy with it the way it came.  When we got home, it was nap time, so she took it to bed with her. An hour later she trudged downstairs, bird house in hand, and with her own impressive bird’s nest on top of her head, and got right to work. She chose to paint it purple (thank you Crayola washable paints!), and once it was dry she squirted some glue on the roof, sprinkled on some glitter, and added a few pom-poms and stickers. It turned out to be a great impromptu craft project, especially for one dollar. After it was complete, we had to hang it up in our back yard, so a little birdie could move in. Still waiting on that little birdie.

Sweet Tooth

Thanksgiving is just around the corner and you’re still sitting on a pile of Halloween candy that is quickly going stale – what do you do? Art Project!

It actually all started back in October of 2011, when for the first time since I was a teenager, I began following monthly comics again. One of the side effects of being a dad is that it’s put me back in touch with my own inner child, and watching my kids grow up has made me nostalgic about my own childhood. Comic books were one of my major passions as a kid, and I’m lucky to still have my childhood comic book collection in my possession. I recently pulled out the ol’ comic book box to organize and properly store them so that they would still be around for my kids to inherit someday. Handling all those old issues was so fun and brought back such great memories, that after the project was finished, I ended up making a trek to the nearest comic book store, kids in tow, to start some new memories with little super guys of my own.

My childhood comic stash

One of my very favorite comics that I found this past year was Sweet Tooth, published by Vertigo and written by Jeff Lemire. I had picked it up on a suggestion from a comic book store employee who said that it was a good jumping on point. I immediately loved it, so I went back and read all the previous issues to get myself caught up.  I think that Sweet Tooth resonated with me not just because of the great art, character writing, and story, but that I had something in common with Sweet Tooth. I, too, was a lonely child, often lonely, whose dad was also a religious man. I just wasn’t a human/animal hybrid. A small difference.

Not long after I got back into reading comics, I got my sights on attending the New York Comic Con (NYCC). I came up with the plan to familiarize myself with the comic industry so that I would know who was who at NYCC.  One of the big differences that I’ve discovered about following comics as an adult versus a kid is that you start following the writers and artists just like you would follow your favorite childhood heroes. Sweet Tooth was my favorite book this year, and it’s no surprise that I also enjoyed reading some of Lemire’s other books, including Justice League Dark and Animal Man, and I’m looking forward to picking up his graphic novels, Essex County and The Underwater Welder. I was only able to attend NYCC for one day, but while there I was able to catch Jeff Lemire’s signing session. I asked him to sign my Mighty Wallet, because I had foolishly left my comics at home, and I ended up with a little Sweet Tooth of my own! It was a very cool way to put a cap on of my first full year following comics again.

Sweet Tooth will surely be the comic book I remember the most when I look back at this year’s experience of following comics again, not only because it was my favorite, but also since it is the only series that I’ll have read in its entirety this year. Plus, I actually got to briefly meet the creator. So where does the Halloween candy fit in? Well, Sweet Tooth’s story is sadly coming to an end, with the last issue hitting the newsstands in December. I was reflecting on all of this while staring at our massive pile of leftover Halloween candy when I had the idea to make this edible Sweet Tooth tribute. Candy would make a perfectly fitting medium, I thought, not to mention far easier for me to handle than an artist brush! We used Sweet Tarts, Twizzlers, Cow Tails, peanut butter cups, and caramels. Oh, and the Hershey bar (with almonds). My kids got to pitch in by helping unwrap the candy and squishing the caramels that were used to make the hair (yes, as you can imagine, that was indeed a sticky mess) and they even got to eat a little of the finished product. So there was my own short-lived homage to Sweet Tooth. Thank you Mr. Lemire for an incredible story, although one that’s not quite yet over, and for my own little personal Sweet Tooth to carry around with me!