Sunday, January 17, 2021

Making Keeps Me Sane

 This is a hard time for everyone. The pandemic and politics are impossible to escape. And we all have our personal struggles with these issues.

But I am grateful to be a maker. I've had quite a few Zooms on this long weekend, and the Habitation Throw is perfect mindless knitting. I'm not sure I like the way it's coming out, but I can always use another lap blanket.

And I finished this embroidery of my own design. It gave me chance to work on my satin stitch and try combining stitches. It was way more work than I expected, which is often the case for me.

I'm going to make it into a little wall quilt. I think the colors will work with all the fabric I sun-dyed last summer.

And I took a little trip to Prague -- virtually, of course. This is the Old-New Synagogue, where Franz Kafka was dragged to High Holy Days services by his father. I was there with my daughter in 2018. Jews have been praying there for 700 years and that imbues it with a quiet sense of holiness.

Being a maker is especially useful, I think, during the pandemic and winter. I do miss seeing people, meeting at coffee shops, gathering for potlucks. But making things is a pretty good way to get through this strange world we now inhabit.

I hope you are finding ways to bring some joy into your life, too!

Saturday, January 9, 2021

Trying to Finish a Few Things

 It's a good day. To begin with, it's Saturday so the entire weekend lies ahead of me. Second, yesterday our superintendent announced that my district will start third quarter virtually. I hope that means he won't reopen until teachers are vaccinated. Third, we've been having freezing fog, with leaves the trees with a gorgeous icy coating.

I have far too many UFOs lying around the house, so I've chosen two to focus on. The first is the gorgeous shawl kit that I got from Bridget during her Christmas in July giveaway. I'm playing around with it to make it longer, but it could not be more beautiful. Thank you, Bridget!

The second one is a an embroidery pattern that I designed to get some practice with filling stitches. This one is going to take a while. For some reason, it is very hard on my fingers, even using a thread puller. I used a stabilizer under the muslin, so I'm wondering if that is the problem.

Still, if I do a little bit every day, it will eventually be an FO. Then I'll make it into a small quilt.

Of course, I can't shake off my shock at this past week's sedition at the U.S. Capital. Three Wisconsin legislators voted against counting all the votes even after the Capital was breached. Shameful. I so embarrassed by them. At least Twitter pulled the plug on our cowardly leader.

Enjoy your weekend!

Sunday, January 3, 2021

The Best and the Worst of Winter Break

 We got snow! And not just a dusting. There was enough snow for the city to groom the golf course. I love cross country skiing, so this was a huge treat! Skiing with friends was extra special this winter.

From left: Tsela, Judith, Lisa, Me, Debbie, Mimi

I skied for three days in a row, one of which was my friend Tsela's birthday.

I don't have much time to exercise when school is in session, so I am pretty out of shape. By the third day, I had to shorten my route. I was tired; my arms and legs were aching -- best feeling ever!

And I designed and sewed a needle book. I had bought a little one for $5 in summer 2019, but I wanted something bigger and with pockets. It was a surprising success.

I even embroidered each page to show what kind of needles it holds.

That was the best stuff. That and talking to both my kids this week.

The worst? Break ends tomorrow and it's back to virtual school. I think I would be enjoying it more if I wasn't worried about the district forcing us to come back before we are vaccinated. Cross your fingers that my district supports teachers' right to live!

Thursday, December 31, 2020

Gift Worthy!

We've all gifted handmade items to people who didn't appreciate them, leaving us feeling that we had wasted a whole lot of time. My daughter, however, is a very knit-worthy young woman. She not only liked the mittens and hat I knit for her, but she even sent me a photo! (If you look behind her, you can see the cat quilt I made for her.)

The holidays sure aren't the same without Rachel and Seth. Keith and I rang in 2020 in Phoenix, along with my mom. Tonight will not be half as fun.

I've been knitting my Habitation Throw whenever I watch TV or socialize on Zoom, so it's coming along. It looks way better in person than in this photo, I'm happy to say.

In the last month, I got around to learning a jewelry-making skill I've long wanted to master: using brick stitch to attach beads to a metal ring. It's rewarding because it goes pretty fast.
I used free tutorials on YouTube to figure out the technique. It amazes me how generous people are with sharing their skills. I'm sure many of them are offering the tutorials in conjunction with a business, but it's still really nice. I thought about buying a tutorial on Etsy, but I figured that I know enough about beading to figure it out with a little help.
Keith has a strong preference for the fan-shaped earrings, but I like the the full circles just as well. What do you think?

I hope everyone has a safe and happy New Year's Eve. We'll be binging on The Mandalorian. Keith likes it more than I do, but I am the advisor for the Star Wars Club at school, so I like to be on top of it.

Friday, December 25, 2020

Nothing Wrong with a Quiet Christmas

I hope you are all enjoying this holiday even with all the Covid restrictions. We are a careful bunch, so I bet you are all having a quiet day, as are we.

I've spent much of the first week of my winter break baking cookies. I love baking, so it has been a good distraction from all the bad stuff in the news -- including possible school reopenings, even though the largest ICU in Madison is at 100% capacity.

I highly recommend this recipe, Browned Butter Coconut Cookies from the Smitten Kitchen. I made them for the first, but not last, time this year!

I also made a pair of Isaac's Mitts for myself. They are very warm and cozy -- perfect for walks on warmer winter days.

And with a finish, comes a cast on. I have been decluttering every day, including my yarn stash. I have so many lovely fingering leftovers that I decided it was time for a Habitation Throw from Helen Stewart of Curious Handmade:

I just love making things with leftovers. They don't always turn out as well as I'd envisioned, but I have an awful lot of fun pulling together the colors.

The temperature here is below 0, so it's a good day to stay home, Zoom with family, and do some knitting.

And thanks for the compliments on the poncho in my last post. It's the Winter Ridge Poncho from Ewetopia, knit with yarn specially milled for that pattern. Ewetopia is both a store and dyer in Viroqua, Wis., and I can vouch for the quality of her wool and patterns.

A peaceful day to all!

Sunday, December 20, 2020

Winter Break!

Winter break is here! And it feels great, even though it will be busy. I am frantically baking cookies and working on decluttering. Keith and I have looked at two houses in the past couple weeks, and they are selling very fast. So we need to get our house in order!

I finished the mitts I designed in Isaac's honor, and I need to write a note and drop them off for his mom. Writing that note will be the hardest thing I do during break

I do have some good news. My mom is recovering from Covid. It is a slow recovery, but 4 weeks after she got sick she is able to go to the grocery store. She is very tired and has some other symptoms, but it looks like she'll be OK.

I finished Rachel's mittens. They are simple, but very squishy and warm.

With the leftover yarn, I was able to make a matching hat.

We have been having pretty mild winter weather with high's in the 30s, so at least I can get out and walk with my buddies. Keith was able to bike 26 miles last week, which brings his yearly total to 7,000 miles. Impressive, huh? And it is cold enough for me to wear my hand-knits:

The cats are definitely in winter break mode:

Like all sane people, we are planning on a quiet Christmas with just the two of us. I will deliver plates of cookies on the 24th, but that's as close as I'll get to family and friends. It's a small price to pay for staying alive!

Friday, December 4, 2020

No News Is Good News

 I have news, and none of it is good.

My phone rang at 8 a.m. on Thanksgiving Day, and I knew what that meant. My mom had had a Covid test the previous day. Yep, she is positive, and it's been very rough. My brothers found out that UW-Madison was administering a monoclonal antibody infusion and they got her in the very next day!

But she has been feeling terrible. She was in the ER earlier this week, where they discovered a blood clot in her lungs. She is on Eliquis now and still feeling awful. She has just about every risk factor there is, so we are very worried.

She lives in the independent living section of a retirement community, which is terrible for this situation. Her community is filled with Covid, and I have a heart condition, so we can't go in. We hired a company to send a nursing aide every day, but they are so short-staffed that they don't make it every day.

Then I got a call from my principal on Wednesday. "I have really bad news about a former student, she said. A student I had been very close to going back to 8th grade, had died unexpectedly on Tuesday at the age of 19.

My heart is broken. Isaac lived in my neighborhood so we've stayed in touch. The first time I met him in 8th grade, he said, "No teacher has ever liked me, and you won't either." Of course, I fell in love right then and there. I cannot imagine how his parents are getting through this. He was an only child, and he had an amazingly close relationship with his mom -- who is also a special ed teacher and who worked at a middle school with me.

Because I don't know what to do with my grief, I designed a unisex mitt in Isaac's honor. His mom is very active in outdoor sports, so the first pair goes to her.

Then there is the Republican legislature in Wisconsin, which wants teachers back in school in January -- no matter how bad community spread is. We are counting on the Democratic governor to veto this bill. The GOP does not have enough members to override a veto. 

It is a dark time.