Stitchin’ Bitch

It’s dark and gorgeous and rainy outside, and all I want to do is sit on my couch and cross stitch. I. Love. To. Cross. Stitch. I get such a sense of accomplishment from it. Even if I only do it for 30 minutes, seeing all the progress I’ve made forces me to heartily congratulate and high five myself. Cross stitching is great because it requires the right amount of concentration to obliterate whatever stressful thoughts are plaguing me, but leaves just enough open brain space to enjoy the audio of countless episodes of “The Office” playing in the background. (Both the U.K. and American versions, of course, because what kind of nerd would I be if I didn’t appreciate such a fantastic show in both of its incarnations?)

But seriously, if I could make a living cross stitching, I would be living a dream. I love it that much.

My very lovely and crafty grandmother, Doris, taught me how to cross stitch when I was little, and it’s something that has stuck with me ever since. Cross stitching itself is actually pretty easy – if six-year-old me was able to do it, almost anyone with functioning hands and fingers can. Keeping track of the stitches and colors can be difficult at times, but it basically just entails making little X shapes in the right fabric with a needle and thread. It doesn’t take much training, just a lot of patience. When we were kids, my sister, cousin, and I would while away whole summer afternoons cross stitching together like a group of tiny ladies in Victorian England waiting for visitors in our parlour. We obviously weren’t normal children by any means, but it was one of Grandmother’s ways to keep us quiet and captivated for hours at a time, and it worked.

One of the downsides to cross stitching is that it is nearly impossible to find a decent modern, cool cross stitch book. Most of the books out there have the cutesy kitten/ABCs/teddy bear vibe, and I’m not into that. Though I consider myself an old soul, I am not a granny. I’m not even a mom. So I don’t want any of that crap around my house. I check out patterns on Etsy pretty regularly; there are all kinds of amazing designs available there, no matter your fancy. Etsy is definitely the cross stitcher’s haven.

I am a rabid book-lover, though, and I sometimes prefer to have an actual book with patterns that I can choose from at will. My favorite cross-stitch book by far is Twisted Stitches by Phil Davison (creator of Urban Cross Stitch). This crafty Londoner has created some unique, edgy, fun, and colorful designs that anyone with a dark sense of humor can appreciate. What I like about this book is that some of the patterns are printed on the pages of the book, but there is also a pocket in the back with paper patterns of some of the more intricate designs. Portability!

Twisted Stitches Cover

I hold Twisted Stitches near and dear to my heart because it helped reignite my love for cross stitching as an adult, and it has kept me steadily stitching for a few years now. Below are a few of the Twisted designs I’ve done:

 

 

Skull Kids Pic

This pattern is called “Twisted Balloons Pretty Picture.” It’s a little wrinkly – I’ve been storing it (poorly) and am still looking for a frame to fit it – but the illusion is visible and pretty cool.

 

 

Sugar Skull Framed

This is one of the two “Day of the Dead Finger Towels” patterns. I prefer to frame my cross stitches, rather than go to the trouble of sewing them onto things, so this is obviously not on a finger towel.

 

 

Zombie Pic

 

I’m currently working on this one. It’s called “Burlesque Zombie Portrait” and is by far the largest, most detailed cross stitch I have ever done. I’ve been working on this one on and off for over two years (full-time jobs get in the way of cross stitching), but I’m FINALLY almost finished.

So scroll through Etsy, check out a cross stitch book at your local library, or order Twisted Stitches on Amazon. Whatever it takes.

Just get to stitchin’ bitches.

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Book Review – “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” by Sherman Alexie

Alexie BookI went into this book expecting it to be similar to the novel Wonder, which I read in February of this year. (If you haven’t read that book, you should. It’s fantastic.) I wasn’t totally sure what to expect from True Diary, but it won the National Book Award, so I figured I couldn’t go wrong. And the theme seemed similar to Wonder, so I assumed I knew what I was in for. A boy who is very different than his peers goes to a new school, faces some major challenges, and ends up better for it. Great, I’m in.

And, of course, every time I assume something about a book, I’m dead wrong. The themes of the two books are similar in a general sense, but I should not have assumed that this book would be like Wonder. It was most definitely not. There isn’t really even a comparison between the two – they are completely different stories altogether.

True Diary revolves around Junior, a young teen dealing with a lot of deep but relatable issues such as poverty, hate, racism, othering, and even love. He is an American Indian living on a reservation, and the formative events in his young life almost all relate to the alcohol abuse of those surrounding him. He endures several tragedies, witnesses all kinds of violence, and lives in poverty, all mainly due to alcohol (it’s heartbreaking when we realize that his kind and loving but flawed father would rather spend his last bit of money on drinks and gambling than on basic necessities for Junior). Only when he changes schools does Junior truly realize that he can have a better life, but even this glimmer of hope is tempered by the realities of abuse and hatred he faces at the hands of his new peers and teachers. Despite all of the forces threatening to derail his life, though, Junior is still a relatively hopeful kid. He wants to break the cycle and do better for himself and for others, which is such a great message. My major takeaway from this book is that with perseverance, there is always hope for growth and the possibility of change, betterment, and forgiveness.

This book has a truly engaging style, with Junior’s scrap-paper drawings interspersed throughout the text. His sketches are mostly hilarious, sometimes childish, and always perfect. They reflect how he’s feeling as he grapples with the major events in his life. His voice is extraordinary and unique, yet somehow not unlike that of a typical young teenager. But Junior is an artist through and through, and I found his art to be one of my favorite parts of the book. Although sometimes the drawings are there simply as a supplement to the text, they also frequently come into play when he doesn’t have the words to fully express himself.

I like that Junior’s life is so real. He is clearly a whip-smart kid who is more intelligent, both traditionally and emotionally, than most of the adults around him. There is no sugarcoating the truth with him, and he is painted so strikingly that it’s easy to believe he’s a real kid dealing with all of life’s ups and downs the best way he knows how – through his art. Junior’s story is incredibly powerful, and gives a good insight into the type of strength and creativity that can never be stifled by harsh circumstances.

Recommended for those who want a fast, YA-literature type of read, but can handle some truly heavy subject matter.

Book Review – “The Silkworm” by Robert Galbraith

The Silkworm

I apologize in advance for my somewhat shoddy photography. I want to take my own pictures of the books I’m reading, and I’m not a photographer. I thought the black and white effect was appropriate for a mystery, because I’m a nerd. Moving on….

I recently finished reading The Silkworm, the second novel in the Cormoran Strike mystery series by Robert Galbraith, and as corny as it sounds, when I closed the book I kept thinking, “Ah Galbraith, you’ve done it again.” I finished the first book in the series, The Cuckoo’s Calling, about a month before I finished this one, and I couldn’t wait to jump back into Cormoran Strike’s world. I was not disappointed. (Side note: I do know that Robert Galbraith is J.K. Rowling’s pen name, but I like to refer to the author as listed on the book cover. Rowling even treats Galbraith as a separate person – at least on Twitter – so it only seems right.)

The book’s plot isn’t particularly dense, although I did forget the importance of certain characters as I read. Many of the characters are given alternate names in the weird as hell novel-within-the-novel, Bombyx Mori, and I had to refer back to the beginning more than once to remember which character was which. Regardless, everything made sense by the end. The manner of death described in the book is bizarre and disgusting but appropriate, and the conclusion is satisfying. It left me ready for the next installment, which I’ll hopefully get my hands on soon.

I don’t read many mysteries, so when I pick one up, I’m typically in it for the challenge. I want to see if I can solve the case on my own, with generally mixed results. However, with this series, I’m finding that I couldn’t care less about solving the mystery myself; I’d rather just hang on for the ride. It’s not only that I have difficulty sorting my way through the red herrings, which I do, but that it’s just fascinating to watch Strike’s brain work it all out.

Galbraith’s ability to perfectly capture the visuals and feelings in Strike’s world is mind-blowing to me. When the stump of his amputated leg is aching from walking too much, snow is piling up on the streets, it’s freezing outside, and all he wants to do is sit in a cozy pub, I feel Strike’s longing for warmth, rest, and a pint (or two, or three). When he’s lying on his bed, simultaneously trying to watch football and finish the grotesque Bombyx Mori, I also get frustrated that he’s missed the whole second half of the game because the damn novel distracted him. Although he’s living hand-to-mouth, Strike’s existence has a shabby glamour to it. There’s never any question that he’ll solve the case – it’s more about how he goes about it. At first, I attempted to read critically and analyze what in particular was so captivating to me about Strike’s world, but then I ended up getting sucked into the story and forgetting about form and style. Even after I finished the book and tried to go back and pinpoint what exactly drew me in, I was at a loss. I don’t know how Galbraith does it, exactly, but the portrait of Strike’s life is so vivid and enticing, I can’t help but trust him and greedily watch how things unfold.

What I find I have enjoyed most about the series so far, though, is the character development, particularly regarding Robin and Strike. I definitely identify most with Robin, and felt almost proud watching her stretch and become more involved in the investigative side of the job. She tries so hard to keep the peace with her fiance Matthew (who, in my opinion, is a douche), but she can’t hide her enthusiasm about working with Strike and her love for investigating. The communication between Robin and Strike is spotty, and it’s often hilarious to see the truth of their miscommunications from Robin’s point of view. Mostly, though, it’s refreshing to see Robin stand up for herself and fight for what she wants in her home life and at work. I always trust Strike to solve the case, with Robin playing an integral part. I also find myself consistently rooting for Robin as she faces the challenges involved in trying to reconcile her work life with her personal life, something Strike doesn’t necessarily have to do as much.

As far as Strike is concerned, it’s interesting to watch him make his way in the world as a now semi-famous man in his own right. It’s also amusing to see him behave like a more “traditional” private detective. We tag along as he sneaks around seedy parts of town, circumnavigates repeated attacks by a shadowy figure, lies to the police when he has to, and (arguably) unintentionally uses women to get the information he needs. He can’t be as free with this investigation due to police hindrance, and is therefore forced to be more creative when gathering information. He is incredibly resourceful, and it’s just entertaining to see what he will do and who he will piss off next.

Ultimately, this book was smart, entertaining, and well-written. This installment makes it even clearer that Strike is brilliant, and because we know him better and are delving deeper into his mind this time around, watching the cogs turn is even more fun than it was in the first novel. Highly recommended for those who enjoy a nice, gruesome mystery but like a good story even more.

 

Suck on that, Prudence.

Okay, so full disclosure, this is my first post and I have no idea what I’m doing here. I love reading people’s blogs and watching their  YouTube channels and seeing so many creative people express themselves in so many different ways. When people share their unique experiences with the world, I get weirdly emotional and filled with hope for the future (odd for me). However, when it comes to sharing my own perspective, I feel clunky, scattered, narcissistic and self-indulgent.

It’s not just the fact that I’m an “older millennial,” whatever that is. Maybe someone who is just young enough to hop on the Snapchat train but who has to Google “social media sites” to find out how kids are connecting these days. Regardless, I’ve always been shy about sharing too much online. This partly goes back to how I was raised, but I’ve also read 1984. I’m no fool. Nobody in the world except me needs to know what I’m thinking and doing all of the time.

*Shudder*

There’s also this old-fashioned voice in my head – let’s call her Prudence – that enjoys saying mean things to me. When it came to writing this blog, Prudence was very vocal. “You have no experience with this. Nobody cares about what’s going on in your mind. We all have opinions. You’re not special. So quit being so dippy and get on with the drudgery of life like the rest of us.” Prudence is subversive, persuasive, and really, really rude. Unfortunately, I think a lot of people, women in particular, have their own versions of Prudence talking away in their heads most of the time. She doesn’t smile, has an angry, mirthless laugh, likes to ruin hopes and dreams, and wants everyone to be as miserable as she is, all under the guise of helpfulness.

The problem with that chatty old curmudgeon’s advice is that I enjoy writing, which necessarily means that I take all of the thoughts and opinions swirling around in my head and pour them out onto paper for others to read. I can’t write anything if I believe my thoughts have no value. Also, I resent the idea of getting on with the drudgery of life! Who are you, Prudence, to tell me my life has to be this awful, dull thing that I have to wade through? Why do I have to hate what I do every day to be contributing something to the world? I refuse.

So, that said, I’m starting a blog. Which is probably already passe, but whatever. I love to write, and I have things to say. Whether anyone cares or reads any of this stuff is out of my control anyway – I just have to do my part, despite the fact that I may not know exactly what I’m doing. I’ll figure it out along the way, as I generally do.

So suck on that, Prudence.