Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Disney's Fantasia and my unsolicited opinion

Ryan and I watched both Fantasia and its 2000 sibling this week per our Netflix account. I've developed some strong opinions about both and encourage everyone to watch them. They are artistry masterpieces. The music and beautiful animation can do wonders for the mind.

As a kid I remember watching Fantasia and being entranced with the concept. It was beautiful and frankly, very scary. A lot of the animation has evil and devilish themes. Like this guy:

Also, the first one was made in the 1940's, so there are a lot of old Disney themes. I won't come out and just say it, but a great example is below of the centaurs that were matched with their colored counterpart. Ask me if you don't understand.

Of course, the infamous scene with Mickey trying out the sorcerer's hat is so good Disney used it in both films.

I liked 2000 more for a few obvious reasons: It was more to-date/modern, it showcased the technological advancements we've made to create quality animation and it wasn't as dark. They used different celebrities like Steve Martin, Bette Midler and Angela Lansbury to introduce the pieces instead of the same composer who I grew weary of in Fantasia. The stories were more interesting and I laughed - a lot. In fact, they were happy and uplifting. The themes weren't revolved around nymphs and centaurs but rather more definite characters like the Steadfast Tin Soldier. To me the centaurs and flying horses were more decoys than actual characters making it hard to sympathize with them.

I was going to write about my favorite piece out of the two films - the Gershwin piece illustrated by Al Herschfeld-inspired animation (above). However, after I've watched the film I forgot how great pieces like the flamingos with a yo-yo scene is as well as Donald marching animals onto the Ark to Pomp and Circumstance. My only beef with Fantasia 2000 is that it's too short - but it surely makes up for how LONG Fantasia was.

But, that's all just my opinion. Please, please go watch both and let me know your thoughts. Tell me which is your favorite piece. What bored you to tears? What scared you? What exercised your mind?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Knitting a Bulldog Scarf

I've been working on a fancy Drake Bulldog-themed scarf. If you only know how to knit stitch, or both knit and perl stitch, there's a way to make a scarf pattern look more complicated than it really is. It's better to use three colors, but in this case I used two for Drake's school colors. I think four would be too much, but you could make it work.

I like using the ribbing stitch - which is knit one, perl one - across the row on all rows. You can do whatever stitch you like (garter, etc.), but I think this one looks best with the yarn changes, which I'll explain later.

Simply put, you make every block of yarn a random number of rows. You can see below I cast on 15 stitches of blue, then tied on white yarn after I decided to. Again, this scarf is a random pattern that looks really nice displaying whatever two or three colors you choose.

See fiance in background.

I like to knit a few small rows, a few big. Again, it's all random but be sure to switch off the colors evenly - especially when you're using three colors.
You can see me tying on the blue yarn to a finished white yarn row. Here, you can start to see what I meant earlier about the ribbing looking better for this pattern. If you did a garter stitch, the transition would show in the pattern more prominently. This white piece you'll cut off the ball of yarn, leaving it hang. Later you will tie and sew those ends in to hide them.

Here, I'm simply knitting the white yarn to the blue. You knit it like you would any other row.

Here's what the finished pattern should look like. Notice I've made each row's width completely random. Some are only one or two rows long, others are big blocks. This is not a finished product, though. I still have to sew the ends in.

In the next post I'll show you how to sew the ends in, and where I'll be wearing my scarf.

Do you want to know how to knit something specific? Let me know. Happy knitting!

Sunday, January 16, 2011


So remember when I was talking about those exciting changes for 2011? Well, this is one of them.

January 14, 2011, Ryan Smith asked for my hand in marriage. That's after, of course, he drove to my dad's that morning and asked for his blessing. :-)

So everyone wants to know the story of how he did it. Here it is with half the details you probably don't care about:
Earlier in the week I asked him if we could have a date night Friday - worked out for him. I wanted to try this restaurant my mom did a blog post about for @chefhermansfood.  It's called Zingaro 515 and it's in the Sheuerman House on Woodland Ave. in Sherman Hills. We picked up a bottle of wine beforehand, since it's BYOB, and had an amazing meal! We had salad/soup, trout, a cheese flight and dessert. At one point, Ryan closed his eyes to have a moment alone with the cheese. It was an exceptional dinner and not just because of the meal. We had a great time together as always.

Meanwhile, in the piano parlor a Drake student named Anna was playing the piano. It really added to the atmosphere that included candlelight in a Queen Anne style house. Ryan got up to go to the bathroom a few times, once to put the ring in his pocket. Then, I got in line for the bathroom and ended up chatting with the pianist Anna. I got her story, of course, being a former journalist.

I told Ryan about talking to her so he said, "I want to go see the pianist." We went into the piano parlor and I put my purse on the floor and said, "I want to dance." We hugged and kissed and I could tell Ryan was anxious or nervous... I just wanted to dance. :-) I said, "Thank you for such a wonderful night," and he replied with. "Well, there's one more thing."

He got on one knee and said, "Niki. Will you marry me?" I said yes through tears and he apparently didn't hear because he stood up and said, "Sooo.... is that a yes?"

The pianist finished her song, "All or Nothing At All" by Frank Sinatra and gave me a hug. She told us she was happy to have shared that moment with us. We were too.

It was the perfect place for us to get engaged that really created a unique moment which I keep replaying in my head over and over. This won't turn into a wedding blog, but I'll share interesting things I encounter or find along the way for sure. I'm just glad no one else found out what a catch I had. I can't wait to be his wife!

Our more successful picture of us outside Zingaro. You can sort of see the house behind us:

Here is our hilarious first attempt at a picture of us outside Zingaro:

AND, the RING! 

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

We need some hope and "lolz"

This is my newest edition of "Youtube of the Week." I compiled it after bawling to Obama's speech at the Tucson Memorial and learning of an unfortunate incident involving Lemmings and Disney...


We'll start with an AWESOME version of U2's "One" that includes Mary J. Blige. If you like U2, you'll like this... if you don't, you'll love it. :-) And special thanks to Coach G for this one. I've been listening to it non-stop. If we were kids again, my sister would have destroyed the CD by now.

Now, for a break from all the serious. Comedy that never fails: Jim Carrey in a tutu.

Need to be reminded of peace? Hear what Lennon has to say about it in "I Met the Walrus." In 1969, 14-year-old Jerry Levitan snuck into Lennon's hotel room and got this interview. Watch it paired with Academy Award-winning animation.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Youtube of the Week (ish)

For about four years now (holy crap) I've been sending out this weekly email featuring the latest interesting or funny Youtube videos. They are chosen at my discretion and range anywhere from my favorite music video at that time, to a serious sports montage all the way to cat videos - of course.

My list has grown to well over 50 of my closest friends. My boyfriend was on the list before I even met him. A friend suggested I put his email on the list because she was forwarding them to him anyway. A week later, we met and he got to know, and eventually love, me through those emails. It sounds hokey, but I'm glad I stuck with them otherwise maybe he would have lost interest in me... we'll never know. :-)

Regardless, here's an edition. I used to send it weekly, religiously. I've dwindled to bi-weekly and even sometimes monthly. I don't think I'll ever stop, though.

Let me know if you have any questions about how I pick them, why, etc. I love submissions so let me know what your favorites are!

I've missed the boat on doing a "Best of 2010" edition so I'll just post my post-holiday edition below.

Hope you had a great holiday! At my dad's Christmas, I laughed hysterically at this commercial:

ISU didn't make a bowl game this year, and Chris Hassel decided to tell us in a unique way how the fans feel about that.

This one is longer, and not on Youtube, but I've watched it four times now and still love it. These New York men randomly started receiving hundreds of letters to Santa and decided last minute to fulfill them...

Saturday, January 1, 2011

2011, I'm in heaven!

It's not that I hated 2010. It was fun, too.

Although, I can't help but get over-excited about a few changes for me in 2011. First, I start a new job on Jan. 3. It will be full of learning for me in 2011 and I can't wait to get started!

Second, I'll be moving - a couple of times. But hopefully they may be the last times. I'm moving into Ryan's apartment in March when my lease runs out.. then a few months or so after that, we'll be buying a house!

On top of that many of my bestest friends are getting married, a few more trips to Kansas City are in order, another fishing trip to northeast Iowa, another state fair and another Drake basketball season.

Those things are amazing, but what really excites me is what I don't know about 2011. I can't wait for the things I didn't expect.

Bring it on, new year!

What are you looking forward to? Are you happy to say goodbye to 2010, or perhaps sad? Do you not have any plans at all - because that's even more excited. Just think about where you were this time last year... how have things changed?