Tuesday, April 28, 2009

AI Top 5 Perform

UPDATE #2: OK. Now that I've gone back and listened to each person again, I have my rankings and why:
1. Adam -- do I need to explain?
2. Allison -- awesome vocals and song choice
3. Kris -- classy, smooth, confident vocals and stuck to his strengths
4. Danny -- everything was great until the end: he went a little OTT
5. Matt -- pitchy, and the phrasing and runs were not quite gelling for me

Who I personally want in the Top 3? Adam, Kris, and Allison.

UPDATE #1: Well, damn. That was some good singing tonight!!! I thought everyone kicked it up a notch. Kris provided smooth vocals with nice phrasing. Allison picked the perfect song and sounded awesome. Matt, though he might be going home this week, calmed his nerves enough for us to hear his real voice on a song I love. Danny finally had that spark that's been missing for several weeks and picked a perfect song. Then Adam... I'll quote my husband: "That mofo can sing!" Wow, I don't even know how to rank everyone. I applaud everyone tonight, although I will say that Adam hit it out of the ball park. I was so glad to see everyone else step up to the plate and deliver.
Kris - What a cutie! If you thought it was boring, then it was the song because he sang it the way it should be done. Total crooner. He's such a class act!
Allison - Looked very beautiful tonight. She kept to her style, yet stayed true to the song. Exquisite. This was a favorite performance of hers for me. Born talent.
Matt - If this week is his week to go, I'm proud of him for going out with a bang. He did so well, and I loved how he refrained from singing in falsetto and doing too many runs for most of the song. I finally heard his voice, and it was lovely.
Danny - That's what's been missing! Good job and great song. I finally enjoyed watching him sing, and I haven't liked him since Kiss From A Rose. He showed that he wants this.
Adam - What an entrance and exit! When I saw that he was going to sing this song, I wondered what route he would take. I like Michael Bublé's rendition, so I was hoping that Adam wouldn't stray too far from it. He didn't, but he definitely put his own spin on it. I told Jared that he looks like a cross between Kurt Russell and Elvis, smirks and all.

Pre-Show Comments: Ooh, ooh, ooh: The spoilers are saying that Kris and Matt will be singing The Way You Look Tonight and My Funny Valentine, respectively. I love those songs! Can't wait to hear them.

Reduce Recycle Reuse

One week late this post is (What, am I Yoda or something?!), but that's how it flies here sometimes!
Reduce: Little by little I've used yarn from my modest stash of leftovers. Mostly, I make things for the kids since there's not usually enough yarn in each colorway to make myself something. See below for my latest stash reduction project. BTW, the only stash yarn I have that isn't leftover yarn are 3 skeins of CotLin, each in a different colorway. I hope to make a market bag or two with those. Those 3 skeins represent the only time I've bought yarn with absolutely no pattern in mind. I never buy yarn without having committed to a pattern. That's why my stash consists of only leftovers. Maybe if I knit more socks, which always require a known amount of yarn, I'd blindly buy sock yarn. But, there's no way that I'll ever randomly buy sweater yarn without a pattern. Ok, maybe if I won the lottery! (But, I don't play the lottery.)
Recycle: I'm very familiar with this concept when it comes to knitting. Frogging FOs to make something new seems to be a regular occurrence with me. Sometimes I'm even patient enough to re-make the same pattern if I haven't pulled out all my hair. The latest recycled project is my current WIP, Wright, made with Comfy yarn. I frogged last year's garter stitch tank and soaked the yarn to remove the kinks. This summer, I'll also be frogging a failed attempt at a Cotton-Ease maternity top to make Bella Paquita.
Reuse: For me this means either giving away knitted FOs that are too small, or it can mean taking buttons from an old project to use on a new one. Ian's blue cardigan that has Peter Rabbit buttons is finally getting too small. I'll be using those to make him a new cardigan in the future.

Pattern: Improvised. I started with the Itchy Fingers Longies pattern as a guide, heavily altering it since Marie doesn't wear diapers and therefore doesn't require all the built-in extra ease. Basically, the parts of the pattern I actually used were the gusset instructions and how to space the short rows on the bum. I made the waistband CO number much smaller and did increases below the waistband. The rise is exactly as measured. For the skirt, I picked up stitches at the base of the waistband and knit downward. The ruffle could be better, but I was running out of yarn and also didn't want to make the skirt too long. It flips up too much. But, she's happy, so that's all that matters! One more thing: I added a 3-round "trough" for the drawstring with holes in the middle round.
Yarn: TLC Essentials Multi, Naptime, 1 skein. Bernat Softee Baby, white, 1.5 skeins (not sure about this number, really).
Needles: US 8 circulars

Other News
Can't wait to see the Top 5 sing tonight on Idol! Adam and Kris will do fine. Speaking of Kris, I'm surprised that Simon Cowell thinks that Danny is better than Kris. I disagree. Maybe Danny has a solid fanbase and that's why Simon said that. Danny was an early favorite of mine, but he hasn't wowed me recently like Kris has. Simon also mentioned Adam as being the only original contestant; consistently, yes, but he's not the only one! What about Kris?! Actually, Allison has revamped a few songs, too, to fit her style. Only Danny and Matt are karaoke IMO. For me, it's a toss up between Allison and Danny for third place. They have an equal amount of weaknesses. I haven't liked Allison's last two song choices. So I hope she chooses well tonight. Danny better not oversing and be boring. He always sings just well enough to fly under the radar, but not well enough to impress me as being on the same level as Adam and Kris.

My interest and time spent on Babbel is still going strong. My interest in livemocha has waned because I don't have a microphone to record the spoken exercises. Lessons can't be completed until the spoken parts are done. To try to bypass this, I've submitted blank recordings. This completes the lesson. However, it's kind of annoying that those "recordings" show up for other users to rate/grade. I of course keep getting comments of "no audio." What keeps me coming back to livemocha, though, is that it has tutorials. Babbel also has tutorials, but there are only two of them for Italian. So, mainly you're doing vocabulary and chatting with others.

Well, I better get started on dinner. We're having chicken fajitas. I was a good girl and bought whole wheat tortillas (as well as whole wheat thin spaghetti, whole wheat sandwich buns, and buckwheat pancake mix). I cheated with the chicken and bought the pre-packaged, fajita-seasoned chicken strips. The other ingredients: green bell pepper, onion, cilantro, taco cheese, sauce, tomatoes, sour cream, and shredded lettuce (for Jared, not me).

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Double Rainbow

My day's highlights: double rainbows, finally finding a solution method I like for solving the old Rubik's Cube, tweaking Pandora yet again, learning more Italian vocab, working out, and making a damn good iced coffee.

Marie saw her first rainbow! Well, she's seen a rainbow before, but hasn't comprehended it until now. She and I went outside after it rained, and she spotted a double rainbow. It was so fun to see her light up!

Lately, my knitting and Ravelry time has been usurped by Pandora, Babbel, and the Rubik's Cube. (Facebook, too, although I've been pretty good about limiting my time there.) Pandora and Babbel have been fun and time consuming. The Rubik's Cube craze will be slowing down soon since I've finally found a solution method I like.

The whole Rubik's Cube thing started Easter Sunday when I picked up a cube at my parents' house. No kidding when I say there are 2 or 3 lying around. When I was a kid, I never did solve it. Being math-y 'n' all, I just HAD to try once again. That led to an online search for all the different solution methods out there. All methods unfortunately require to a varying extent the memorization of multiple algorithms. All the speed cubers know a huge number of algorithms.

The first solution method I learned was a beginner one on YouTube. It was great until the last "layer" (cube talk for the top layer of cubies). I don't see the fun in memorizing a bunch of difficult algorithms that will be forgotten weeks or months later. I want to "see" what moves I need to do next. Recently, I found this. It's a method that leaves a column of cubies "free" in order to solve the cube easier. There is only one step that I felt I had to memorize, and even then it's still intuitive. If you ever want to learn how to solve the Rubik's Cube, I'd suggest watching YouTube videos for beginners and following that with the link I provided.

Today I had a horrible headache that was severe enough to compel me to work out. Yep, it took a bad headache to make me work out. That's so sad, right?! I followed the workout with a soak in the tub (lavender and eucalyptus, mmm). After dinner I concocted a pretty good iced coffee in the blender using double-strength coffee, milk, creamer, sugar, Nestle Quik, and ice. I wish I'd paid more attention to the amounts of things I added because I'm not sure that I can create that good of a mix again. I made sure to enjoy every last sip.

Well, it's time again for AI and Biggest Loser. Can't wait to see how the disco theme suits the contestants. Adam will be awesome, but I'm not sure about everyone else. Speaking of Adam, I'm still haunted by his rendition of Mad World and Kris' rendition of Falling Slowly. I'm really glad I downloaded the studio versions. Now I can listen to those along with David Cook's awesome rendition of The World I Know.

Ciao :-)

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Cucumber seedlings and a cool hula hooping music video

Last week, Marie and I found some Backyardigans seed starter kits for just $1.99. Marie chose cucumbers, and we planted the seeds last Friday. This is a picture from today, nearly one week later. So that's what's been going on around here :-)

My cyber knitting friend Stephanie, aka Gleek, has been documenting through video and via her blog her entire hula hooping learning experience. Recently she shared some favorite videos that either inspire or give good instruction. One inspirational video in particular just blew me away! The movements and music are really cool. I've never seen hooping like that! If you have the time, check this music video out:

The Two AI Songs I'd Consider Downloading So Far

Falling Slowly sung by Kris Allen and Mad World sung by Adam Lambert. Here are the studio versions! Both are beautiful songs.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

AI Results and Skirtie/Skort Update

Well, I agree with the bottom three even though I ranked Anoop higher this week. Like myself, maybe other people are noticing the limitations of his singing ability. But, it should've been Lil going home with no judges' save! Even when Matt or Allison have a bad week, they totally sound better than her. Oh well, she'll be horrible next week singing disco (Who are we kidding? She'll be horrible whatever the theme is!), so maybe I won't have to wait long for her to go.

As for the judges saving Matt: Yes, he doesn't have a chance of winning this, as Simon said, but he was talented enough to be worth saving. He's the first person since Alexis Grace (who should still be in this competition but isn't because it was too early to use the save) that I would consider saving. With Lil still around, the only other person not worth saving is Anoop. I think the final four will be Adam, Kris, Danny, and Allison. I think everyone except Lil and Anoop will do well on disco.

I'm halfway through knitting the skirt of Marie's skirtie/skort. I had her try it on, and it fits very well. This being a prototype for future skirties/skorts, I'm noting anything I want to change for next time. Changes to consider: 1) single-stranded rather than double-stranded; 2) elastic waistband; 3) alter the panty part so that it's more like panties than shorts; and 4) alter the lines of the skirt. I'm tired of knitting with old acrylic baby yarn. So, I might not dive right into making the next skort when I finish this one...

AI Top 7 Rankings and "Falling Slowly"

My rankings of the performances from last night's American Idol:
1. Kris Allen
2. Adam Lambert
3. Danny Gokey
4. Anoop Desai
5/6. Allison Iraheta or Matt Giraud
7. Lil Rounds

As Quentin Tarantino pointed out, Kris embraced this week's theme the best with his song choice of "Falling Slowly." It was simple, emotive, and current. Actually, Kris' song choice could be compared with Adam's choice of "Mad World" from last week. I have more to say about "Falling Slowly" later in this post. Stay tuned.

Adam was back to the whole glam rocker thing this week. The songs he and Allison chose are not ones I like hearing covered, whether that's because I don't like the song or because the original singer is incomparable. I wish that Adam had taken a Billy Idol type of approach rather than the frenetic and theatric heavy metal approach. Allison sang her song in too low of a key, even with her alto voice. I think the judges gave her better compliments than she deserved because she had the first performance slot.

Danny did really well I thought. A couple of times he started to go all out on the vocals, but pulled himself back in. Anoop also did well, although I can tell he's reached the end of the road as far as singing skill goes. I like Bryan Adams, but Anoop's and Matt's performances were boring and forgettable.

Matt... Not a good week for you yet again. He started out well, then fizzled on the bridge. Supposedly he did fine at dress rehearsal. So his nerves once again got the better of him.

Lil. I have nothing to say.

Here's a funny recap by two young girls that gave me a good laugh. Karen will appreciate their Adam comments!

Now, back to "Falling Slowly" from the movie "Once". I remember first hearing it at the Oscars and it winning the Oscar for Best Song. "Once" was the little movie that could, and I think the song is what pushed it that far. I got chills when Kris started singing it in front of Quentin Tarantino. I thought I'd share some videos from youtube. I found the original soundtrack with stills from the movie as well as lyrics from the chorus. I also found a really nice performance of the song sung live. The third video I found is from when the two songwriters won the Oscar. (Check out Viggo in the audience near the end!) I think I'll embed the first one and provide links for the other two:

2. live performance
3. winning the Oscar (nice speeches about hope and dreaming big)

Monday, April 13, 2009

No More Chewbacca Hair

Friday, Marie got her hair cut. Then Saturday, I got mine cut, too! Yeah, I still have a lot of hair, no doubt. But, we're not talking Chewbacca or floor mop proportions any more. As for length, there's an inch, if that, at the back. It feels SO GOOD!!! I'm always vacillating back and forth between short and long styles with the seasons and temperament. I think shorter styles suite me much better. 'Easy to fix and lightweight, not to mention the option of wearing it a little straighter (although, my hair won't completely straighten). Don't mind the bloodshot eyes and dark circles. It was a long day. So long, I might have to unwind with a nice glass of wine, and I rarely do that (kids?).

May I suggest NOT using the Easter egg decorating kits that include metallic sheets and extremely sticky glue with dye tablets? Uh, yeah. Poor Marie didn't get to help me because it was a total mess. Next year we're sticking with the tried and true method of simply dyeing them. Maybe when she's much older we'll try the fiddly, more artistic methods that require time and patience.

We were completely unorthodox and let Marie help make the Easter baskets Saturday night. She really wanted to, so that was fine with me. I don't think we even mentioned the Easter Bunny. My mom sort of took care of that by getting the kids little stuffed animal bunny rabbits in gift pails full of Easter goodies. All the cousins did an egg hunt outside before dinner. A good time was had by all.

The last time I tried to solve a Rubik's Cube was when they first came out until tonight. At my parents' house, there are a few cubes lying around. Since I had that topic on my mind lately (I'll be good and not bore anyone with why since it's math related ;-p ), I picked one up and tried to do it. Ha! I got as far as solving one side. When I did that, then I tried it again with all the other colors. I really don't remember any of the tricks! So now I'm curious. I will be solving that puppy asap.

I'm almost finished with the underpanty of the skirt I'm making for Marie. What do you call skirts with underpanties? Skirties? Skorts? Whatever it is, I hope that the color is not too baby-ish. The yarn is old acrylic baby yarn held double. Once I finish the underpanty, I'll pick up around the bottom of the waistband for the skirt.

The last thing to mention is that I'm completely enamored with Babbel and livemocha! After college, I sorely missed learning foreign languages. In middle and high school, I took French. In college, I took a lot of Italian and also Greek 101. Nothing would thrill me more than to relearn Italian and possibly try some new ones without paying a dime or leaving my house. Now I have that. Perhaps someday I'll get the chance to speak Italian while in Italy, so I might as well be prepared! Now if I could just roll my "r's" better. That's about as tricky as hula hooping is to me (although Stephanie gives me hope that it's possible!).
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Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Allison Iraheta reminds me of Dilana

American Idol Recap? Well, Allison killed it tonight singing Bonnie Raitt's "I Can't Make You Love Me." I also liked Adam (good song choice and delivery, one of my favorites from him), Matt (yay Matt, you won the nerves battle!), and Danny (no pitchiness tonight). As good as some people were, the performance I'll remember and listen to again is Allison. Everything about the way she sings oozes talent. She had me at "Alone" by Heart. She reminds me of Dilana from Rockstar: Supernova. They both have crazy red hair and they were born to sing! I thought I'd add Allison's video here, as well as Dilana singing The Police's Roxanne.

Allison Iraheta - "I Can't Make You Love Me" VIDEO

If by chance you like the song Wicked Games by Chris Isaak, here's a duet with Dilana and Magni (a fellow contestant on R:S). Not the original, which is awesome, but I liked hearing it as a duet.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Livemocha and Babbel

Livemocha and Babbel
Have you heard of them? I hadn't until last night. They're free online interactive language learning communities. Being a lover of all things Italian, I'd wondered if there were any sites in existence that combined elements of social networking sites with interactive education/learning sites. Livemocha and Babbel aren't the only sites out there, but they are the only ones that are free. Just like Ravelry or Facebook, you start by creating a profile, username, password, and avatar. The sites have interactive tutorials with complementary teaching tools such as vocabulary lessons and flashcards. Everything that you do is saved for your next visit. A common feature of both sites is the social aspect: you can add friends. You choose friends for tandem learning or for help.

I've been loving every minute of this whole online interactive language learning thing! I took about 20 hours of Italian in college (even double majored in it at one point) and could use a brush up on my skills. What I like about both sites is that they focus on all aspects of learning a language: vocabulary, grammar, writing, speaking, and culture. Also, you have choices along the way. For example, today I chose to take a vocabulary lesson whose theme was springtime. Next, I might check out foods or countries. I love that I control the pacing. I spent the whole afternoon going back and forth between the two sites, having fun.

Knitting News
I've got two side projects going right now. One is a cell phone hip tote with leftover Imagination sock yarn. The plan is to connect it to my beltloop or purse strap. The other is a skirtie for Marie using some old acrylic yarn. My main projects? A second Strawberry Latte ankle sock, Firestarter socks 2xML, My So Called Scarf, and Wright. If recycling the yarn for Wright hadn't burned me out so much, I'd be working on that top feverishly right now. Making side projects without a pattern were necessary to relight the wick of my knitting mojo candle.

No pics today guys. Sorry!

Has anyone else seen the movie Zathura? I've caught that movie twice now on TBS.

Can't wait to see what the contestants will sing on American Idol tonight considering the theme: songs the year they were born. We'll see how smart the contestants are in song choice and originality. If you haven't checked out the studio versions of the songs sung on the show, you should go to youtube. Not only are the songs a lot longer, but they also sound different instrumentally. The good people sound good, the bad people sound bad, and then there's Matt. Matt Giraud's studio version of You Find Me is much better than his live performance. He must be one seriously nervous dude when performing live! I wish he could find his confidence already so that he could perform at the same level as Adam, Danny, Kris, and Allison. Oh, and I'm still steamed that Alexis is gone considering we still have Anoop, Lil, and Scott.