Monday, July 30, 2012

3 1/2 Scarves on Uncrafty

I haven't continued with my Craftsy Crochet Lab class this week, but only because I have someone teaching me in person and she, unfortunately, is going back home this week.  I have to take advantage of her mad crochet skills while I still can!  I still love and recommend the Craftsy class and am planning on taking more as my skills progress.

So far I've made three scarves using single stitch crochet.  Because it's the only one I currently know.  [read more...]  

Killing Rosemary on Uncrafty

Oops!  Forgot to post this on the main page  yesterday.

Wanna bet?

I have discovered, aside from the fact that I can obviously kill any plant, that putting those that need a lot of water in the same planter as those that don't...yeah, it doesn't work out so well.  The basil and mint have really struggled between being kept indoors during the worst of our wind storms (they really don't love the air conditioning and I'm not willing to compromise my comfort that much) and some seriously withering heat, even though the "heat wave" has been over for a while.  I have to keep a close eye on them to make sure they're not wilting, but a little bit of wilt seems inevitable these days.  And we're not even to August yet.  Ugh.  Most of the time the rain takes care of these two (below), I just have to make sure I don't get lazy and completely forget to water them on dry days. [read more...]

Saturday, July 28, 2012

A Breath of Fresh Kick-Ass

After reading the first Fifty Shades book, it was a breath of fresh air to go back to reading fiction with strong female characters in the lead, often with a partner-in-crime to equal their awesomeness.  Not every book I read has a strong girl or woman in the forefront of the story, but looking at my bookshelves, I realize how often I'm drawn to just that (thanks, Mom).  Twilight was one of my notable exceptions, but Meg made the argument during a discussion today that at least Bella comes into her own by the end of the story.  

I'd like to share a little something with you.  Here is my quick list of female characters in fiction who I might not necessarily want to be just like, but I'd certainly leap at the chance to be friends with.  Some were created during a time when women weren't allowed to vote or own property, some were created in the past decade, but all of them are the kind of role models I would like the little girls I know to have in their lives.  In other words, females who kick ass with their brawn or their brains, regardless of the size of their role in the story.

Elizabeth Bennett from Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Persuasion may be my favorite Austen novel, but quick-witted Lizzie is still my favorite Austen character, and the kind of woman I'd want to know if I lived in that period.  She may be headstrong and a bit judgmental, but she isn't afraid to speak her mind and does her best to be true to herself while remaining diplomatic (with the exception of dealing with a certain someone).  Lizzie loves to read, loves knowledge and loves her family.  She is passionate and brilliant and can hold her own, regardless of her verbal sparring partner's rank or gender.


Alexia Tarabotti from The Parasol Protectorate Series by Gail Carriger
Alexia is a model of decorum despite being an oddity and an outcast in some circles.  She's got mad curves in a time when girls fainted from the combination of corsets and lack of food, and she's terribly practical.  On occasion she may have to use muscle, but most of the time she can solve a problem with that gorgeous brain of hers or some fabulous steampunk weaponry.  She's also a bit of a fruit fly and I really love that about her.  Oh, and I mustn't forget, **spoiler alert** when she does find her perfect match, he is truly her equal and loves her for being intelligent, strong and curvaceous.

Hermione Granger from the Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling
Hermione may be too much of a perfectionist for her own good, but she really is brilliant and she is one fierce young lady.  Loyal, practical and compassionate, she is exactly the girl you'd want around in a crisis (or just on your side, in general) and really develops throughout this series, becoming more flexible about imperfections and rule-breaking.  Also, she has my hair.


Maggie Quinn from Maggie Quinn: Girl Vs. Evil by Rosemary Clement-Moore
Maggie is a whole lot of sass in a small, Irish package.  Smart, snarky and creative, Maggie fights evil with a psychic gift, her wits and a friend or two, but little else.  I haven't met a major character Clement-Moore has created that I didn't like, to be honest.  But Maggie was the first one I adored and I'd be her Lisa any day.

Harriet M. Welsch from Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh
Harriet was my first role model from fiction (explains a lot, doesn't it?) and I will probably end up with a daughter just like her.  She may be quirky and independent, but Harriet has a wealth of character flaws.  What makes her so fabulous, aside from being such a wonderful troublemaker, is that here was a young female protagonist who I could relate to, in all her individuality and wildness.  Which meant that I, too, could learn to recognize when I was wrong and be brave enough to say so, regardless of the reaction I would get.  But the most important aspect of this character for me was that she was always, unapologetically herself.

Did I leave your favorite off the list?  Does anyone have a favorite kick ass female character written by a male author?  I realize how limited my selection was just based on that, so I'd love to get some recommendations - from any genre.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Clear Scalp & Pantene Reviews on The Thinnest Skin

I have been reading rave reviews about Unilever's newest haircare line, Clear Scalp and Hair Beauty Therapy, for a few months now. At $5-6 a bottle and represented by the lovely Heidi Klum, I decided this was definitely worth a try.  Unilever's claim for this line is that it "feeds the scalp and creates the right foundation for stronger, more beautiful hair in just seven days."  I bought the Clear Scalp Damage and Color Repair shampoo and conditioner and used them for a little over a month.  [read more...]

Thursday, July 26, 2012

50 Shades of Regression

"If you do not breathe through writing, if you do not cry out in writing, or sing in writing, then don't write, because our culture has no use for it."   ~ Anais Nin
I am joining the conversation about the Fifty Shades series by E.L. James very late in the game.  I heard about it when it first became a hit, but I rarely read erotica or romance and have no interest in BDSM, so I didn't think much of it.  But it keeps coming up in conversation, and the conversations held online (Facebook, GoodReads, etc.) tend to get pretty tense.  I'm honestly mystified at the controversy over this and I feel a bit like I should just let the whole thing die, but I keep thinking, "What is it that makes so many people obsessed with this series and yet a whole other group of people absolutely mortified by its popularity?"  The simplest explanation would be that the latter doesn't approve of the BDSM theme, but I have not found that to be the case.   


Fans of the book say that it is sexually liberating, has changed the way they view themselves for the better and is a fantastic Cinderella-type story.

I've read that some married couples feel that the book has allowed them to openly discuss sex.  I am glad that some people are benefiting like this from the book, but I'm surprised that they haven't discovered similar literature before.  Not to mention the wealth of sex books written for couples.


The objections range from use of the Thomas Hardy book Tess of the D'Ubervilles as a romantic device (a tragic story of a rape victim's life being ruined by everyone blaming her for the violence committed against her) to the protagonist of the story, Anastasia Steele, being a weak, not very bright character who lacks common sense and any self-respect.

There is also a lot of commentary about the writing: bad grammar, crap dialogue, clunky prose, etc.  
"...a tacky, badly written piece of erotica." ~ ShinyShiny 
"...a shallow, useless read.  It's repetitive beyond imagination."     ~ A Separate State of Mind
Then there are those in the BDSM community who don't believe the book represents a healthy BDSM relationship.  Some have even said that the relationship between the two characters is better categorized as abusive than a standard relationship involving BDSM. 
"BDSM is not domestic violence if both partners fully consent to it. ...An alpha can be an alpha without being an abuser.  Someone can assert themselves and be in control without having to control you."    ~ CoffeeAndProzac

Only 99 cents!
And by that, I mean the ugly truth (for me, at least).  I really wanted to be able to approach this in a neutral fashion.  I tried to think of positive things to say.  I thought I'd have a better understanding of why people love this series, but I don't.

Why do people find this so appealing?  Why is this so sexually provocative?  If you want a bodice-ripper, there are any number of Regency and Harlequin romances you could pick up at your local grocery store.  Some of them even offer the same story line (which I find a bit unfortunate).

I found the characters largely unlikable, with the exception of Ana's roommate, Kate, who seems perfectly nice, though the author seems determined that the reader should despise her.  I absolutely loathed Ana's personality in Fifty Shades of Grey.  She didn't seem to like herself very much and acted as if almost every woman she encountered was competition (even before she met Mr. Grey).  As for Christian Grey, I think he has some pretty serious and scary character flaws.  He strikes me as a possessive, controlling, manipulative snob.  

After reading the first book and all the reasons why people think I should love this book, I just don't get it.  It seems regressive to me, like we're trying to undo all the hard work of the generations of women before us.  Women who fought against the idea that females should be submissive, controlled, in need of being protected (even from themselves) and easily purchased with shiny things.  

One of the reviews I read, from Huffington Post, claims that this book does no harm, but I don't agree.  Maybe there's no harm in the first generation reading these books, hopefully knowing that it's just a story and they shouldn't base how they feel about themselves, sex, relationships or marriage on it.  But what about the next generation?  The popularity of this book is going to have an impact on young girls whether we like it or not.  Will this continue the idea that as girls, if we're innocent and naive and do whatever a guy wants (even when we don't want to), we can change those bad boys into the men we think they should be?  I'm not saying this book should be burned (lordy, no) and I really have no right to judge the people who enjoy this (I've certainly read enough trashy novels to recognize my own glass house), but I do find the popularity of this series troubling.  Say all you want that it is only entertainment and is inconsequential in the grand scheme of things.  I'd rather see the generations that come after me, both girls and boys, reading something by Suzanne Collins,  Rick Riordan or J.K. Rowling instead of Fifty Shades and Twilight (yup, I said it).  Books that are well-written and send a better message.  And as much as I enjoyed Twilight for its trashy teenage story (a guilty pleasure at the time), I find it disheartening that girls would choose to read that and fantasize about being Edward's weak, clumsy little Bella instead of dreaming of becoming someone like Rowling's Hermione Granger.

As far as books for adults, there is a long list of amazing writers out there.  Though I'm not a huge fan of erotica, I've long been aware of it and have to say that there is plenty of really excellent writing in that genre.  From Anais Nin to Anne Rice, there is a wealth of erotic literature available that is hotter with lovely prose and more titillating dialogue than E.L. James has ever contributed.    

If I am going to read erotica, I would much rather read an author who obviously respects her own sex and has a strong sense of self.  I leave you with another quote from the queen of literary erotica herself:
"I, with a deeper instinct, choose a man who compels my strength, who makes enormous demands on me, who does not doubt my courage or my toughness, who does not believe me naive or innocent, who has the courage to treat me like a woman." ~ Anais Nin

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

No Crafty for Kitty on Uncrafty

It's official: I can actually crochet.  Granted, I can only single crochet at this point, but a few days ago I could only manage a slipknot and a wobbly foundation chain.  Now I can make really wobbly scarves instead!

Like this!
It started off really well, though I had no idea what I was actually making, until I realized that I hadn't been counting stitches (didn't Meg warn me about this?!). [read more...]

50 Shades of Absent

My apologies for being absent the last couple of days.  I have been working on a post about the Fifty Shades series (forgive the title of this post, by the way, but I'm sure you're used to it by now), which has meant reading a lot of good and bad reviews, blog posts about the books and some excerpts from the first book.  I still haven't decided to actually read it, since I hadn't planned on it before, but there is so much controversy and angst about it, I'm wondering if I can really write a fair post without at least attempting to read Fifty Shades of Grey.  Let me be clear - I'm not thinking of writing a book review on it, I'm just baffled by the obsession a lot of people seem to have with the work of E.L. James and it honestly fascinates of course I want to write about it on here!

I have written and scrapped three drafts about this series so far and am now thinking I should just read the first book and get it over with.  Do I have to read the whole thing?  Did anyone reading this post like it?  Would you recommend that I read it?  I'd love to hear what everyone thinks.  So far, most of what I've seen and heard has been negative.  I'd complain about that, except some of what I've read has been hilarious (read Jennifer Armintrout's recaps here).  Looking forward to further conversation about this, if not to the actual reading of the book.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Crochet Lab on Craftsy...on Uncrafty

I have started my first crochet class online at CraftsyCrochet Lab with Vickie Howell (Basic Techniques and Patterns).  First impression:  I heart Vickie Howell.  She's just the right amount of quirky and perky and I love the stuff she makes.  She is now tied in my heart with Debbie Stoller of Stitch 'n Bitch[read more...]

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Embracing the Suck on Uncrafty

If you haven't already figured it out from my last post, I have a serious problem with being bad at things.  When I said that I wanted to already know how to crochet, Meg called me on it, telling me that my perfectionism was going to be the end of me (I'm paraphrasing).  She is correct.  I am a perfectionist and it is hindering my progress.  

You would think that wanting things "just so" would be a good thing, but more often than not I have the tendency to stick with the things that I know I'm already good at.  I defend myself by saying that I'm improving upon those things (which is true to some extent), but I'm doing myself the great disservice of not broadening my horizons.  If I want to learn something new, I have to be okay with the fact that I'm going to totally suck at it for a while.  [read more...]

Not Worth the Tastiness

I certainly never expected to be posting about fast food chicken and my feelings about anti-gay sentiment simultaneously.  

Let me start with noting that I had never been to a Chick-fil-A before I moved to the DC area.  Before I found out about the chain's president's comments (or even that they gave money to organizations trying to...what...defeat homosexuality?), Meg and I had a conversation about their food and I decided to try it.  And I have to say, it's tasty.  But it's not so wonderful that I can't live without it.  And as much as Dan Cathy has every right to voice his opinion, I most certainly have the right to not like it and choose not to patronize a business that is run by people who are so narrow-minded.  From the Washington Post
It’s not every day that the leader of a big business steps into a national debate that has the potential to offend many of its customers.But Dan Cathy, president of the popular fast food chain Chick-fil-A, has done just that, saying on a radio show that “we’re inviting God’s judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at him and say we know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage. And I pray God’s mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude that thinks we have the audacity to redefine what marriage is all about.” [read more...]
Aside from thinking that he is prideful and arrogant, this was just bad business.  And the company has obviously realized that, as they are now trying to back the eff up on this issue.  Oh, hold up...from HuffPost Food:
The latest statement follows remarks Chick-fil-A President Dan Cathy -- the son of company founder S. Truett Cathy -- made in a controversial Baptist Press interview. When asked about his company's reported donations to anti-gay organizations like Exodus International and the Family Research Council, Cathy told writer K. Allan Blume, "We are very much supportive of the family -- the biblical definition of the family unit. We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives." [read more...]
I'm getting the feeling that this isn't just about associating with the queer community (but, thanks, that would have been more than enough to drive me away).   Evidently my family (seeing as both of my parents are divorced and remarried, very happily, I might add) doesn't cut it with this guy's beliefs either.  You know, I have a ton of friends who are religious and none of them try to make me feel less-than for who or what I am or the type of family I come from.  Which totally reminds me of this one guy in the bible...who was that again?

I could keep going on about this, but I would honestly much rather talk about fried chicken.  If you want someone else to make it for you, you can get tips from Huff Post Food on  choosing the best chain restaurant for your fried chicken strip needs.  Or you can make your own with this recipe from Hilah Cooking
Make a Chick-Fil-A Fried Chicken Sandwich at home with this copycat recipe.  less sugar, less salt, and less funding for anti-human-equality organizations.

I so love her. 

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Hallmark Holiday Crochet on Uncrafty

I have something to admit to you.  You already know that I am the uncraftiest of them all.  What you may not know is that there is a special place in my heart for the occasional Hallmark Channel movie.  And I love Christmas movies even more.  This is most likely because my dad celebrates Chanukah and my mom spent several years ruining Christmas by decorating our tree super-80s-Southwestern style (long live the Christmas Cactus!).    

A few days ago, I decided (after much encouragement from Mary) to spend my day learning the basics of crochet while watching Hallmark Channel Christmas movies - because they know me well enough to realize that I will totally watch cheesy Christmas movies in the middle of summer.  That's how I roll. [read more...]

Monday, July 16, 2012

Summer Beauty Lists on The Thinnest Skin

Thanks to Twitter, here are some great beauty lists for any budget: [read more...]

Neutrogena Ultra Gentle Soothing Lotion on The Thinnest Skin

The Neutrogena Original Beauty Bar has long been my mother's most trusted facial product, but I haven't had much luck with the brand.  Their cleansers dry out my combination skin (which is probably more to do with my sensitivity than anything else) and their sunscreens usually feel uncomfortable (like a creamy coating on my face - not good).  

However, the Neutrogena Ultra Gentle Soothing Lotion is one of the best face lotions I've tried on my super-sensitive skin. [read more...]

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Riverside Park on Lost in DC

Riverside Park on the Mount Vernon Trail

For the 4th of July, I was invited to a low-key barbecue at my friend's house in Alexandria (about an hour drive from my house in Sterling).  When I arrived, my friends weren't back from the store yet, so I took the opportunity to explore the surrounding area.  I knew that their house was near George Washington's Mount Vernon Estate, but I didn't actually know I was headed that way until I came to the roundabout, packed with tourists.  So terribly packed that I knew I didn't have time to really look around, so I kept driving out of the roundabout and down George Washington Memorial Parkway.  The Parkway is gorgeous, first framed by tall trees full of glossy green leaves, then on the right (headed toward Theodore Roosevelt Island), suddenly the Potomac River reappears.  I pulled off the road the first chance I got, hoping to get a good view of the river, and ended parking in the lot for Riverside Park (about 1.3 miles from the Estate).  [read more...]

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Potato, Egg & Pickle on Uncrafty

It's All About the Pickles

I am not a fan of onions.  Bermuda, pearl, cipollini, vidalia, red, scallions - how I loathe them.  But as I learned to cook, I realized they were sometimes required for complex flavors that I loved, so I have learned to incorporate the occasional mellow-flavored into a meal (caramelized or chopped so fine they might as well have been juiced).  I still cannot imagine eating them raw and I do try to avoid them when I can (especially if they overpower a dish) and that is why, for a long time, I avoided potato salad.  

Potato salad purchased at a store is pretty much guaranteed to have onions in it (sometimes even red ones - my least favorite).  Most potato salad recipes call for at least scallions, if not two kinds of onion, and most people I know prefer to have onions in it because it adds a lot of flavor.

I am happy to say that I recently found a recipe online that, once converted by my anti-onionness, can now be proclaimed The Ultimate Onion Haters' Potato Salad.  [read more...]

Monday, July 9, 2012

NYC In a New York Color Minute Review on The Thinnest Skin

Beauty on a Budget: NYC Nail Polish

Target is always a great place to find good, inexpensive and fun beauty products.  Meg is always a good person to listen to about style and living on a budget.  Combine the two in a conversation about me hating hot pink nail polish and you get a surprise:


It turns out that there is a hot pink nail polish that I will actually wear (who knew?!).  And I have Meg and Target to thank for it.  But that's not all - I have completely fallen for the New York Color - In a New York Color Minute nail colors.  At $1.72 each (at Target), these seem too good to be true.  The biggest complaint about them from other reviewers seems to be that they're too thin, but I agree with one of the MakeupAlley reviewers, who said that it makes it easier to control.  [read more...]