Wednesday, September 22, 2021

In The Middle of Nowhere

 That’s where I am. It’s 20 miles to the nearest town and phone service is iffy. But that’s all good if you’re Up North…in Wisconsin, that is. For the few of you who know Wisconsin, I’m between Lac de Flambeau and Park Falls. It took hours to find a cabin that was both in the woods and on a lake. This is what we found:

We’ve enjoyed our getaway: kayaking, walking, and, of course Keith has been biking. And I’ve been reading. On the first day alone, I zipped through Force of Nature, the second novel in an Australian series. She’s the rare mystery writer who writes as well as she plots. The characters are complex and believable. I could not put it down!

Then I switched gears entirely and turned to literary fiction.

I am on page 70 but I can’t explain this book. The back cover describes it as a blend of fact and fiction. It doesn’t seem to have a plot but it’s inexplicably mesmerizing. Akhtar is the American-born son of Pakistani immigrant parents and he provides an incisive picture of what that is like, of the generational conflicts, his mother’s longing for Pakistan, and his father’s transformation into an American. So far I’m liking it.

I read some popular fiction this summer, and some of it was actually good. The Plot by Jean Hanff Korelitz does indeed have some surprising plot turns. The Flight Attendant by Chris Bohjalian is a tightly written thriller that kept me at the edge of my seat. In addition to being a good story, it describes the hectic life of these folks who give us juice and pretzels in the air. I loved Standard Deviation by Katherine Heiny. Focusing on a man,his current wife, and his first wife, it smartly depicts the perils and satisfaction of fractured families.

Then there are the ones I didn’t much like. I finished Maine by J. Courtney Sullivan. It’s a decent beach read but a predictable tale of yet another dysfunctional family. I am perplexed by the rave reviews garnered by Who Is Maud Dixon. The plot is so promising—an editorial assistant pretends to be a famous author after that author dies—but the writing is clunky and unconvincing. I couldn’t finish this one.

Reading is one of the joys of retirement,

Saturday, September 18, 2021

There Is Still Knitting

 After all, this is a knitting blog. And I do knit every day.

(BTW, excuse my long absence... the High Holy Days always throw me off.)

I am trying to focus on a few projects instead of being so scattered. I have a friend who is a monogamous knitter and she finishes so many things.  Inspired by her, I've made decent progress on the linen-stitch scarf.

It is very pretty and it will be a cozy scarf. However, I am still quite sure this will be my last linen stitch project.  Too tedious. And it's very easy to make mistakes.

After four unsuccessful attempts, I put the Porto Sweater into time out. Instead I'm working on Design 10. Yes that's it's name. It's an easy cardigan so I should be able to finish this one. Normally I would not make a sweater with only three projects on Ravelry, but I saw a sample at the yarn store in Evanston and fell in love with it.

All the colors are off ... I waited too long in the day to take good photos.

Now for some exciting news: The Wisconsin Sheep and Wool Show actually took place in person.  I went with my friend Suzi, who I haven't seen in a while. She's a retired teacher, too, and it was so much fun to catch up. And, I wasn't too extravagant in my purchases!

A yarn store about 30 minutes from my house is about to start a mitten knit-along, so I purchased two skeins from their booth to make the
Songbird Mittens for Rachel.

I also picked up two luscious indie skeins of DK destined to be fingerless mitts:

And this bag just insisted that I take it home with me:

It was wonderful to attend High Holy Days services in person. Worship really is a community experience. My congregation is a combination of hippie and traditional Judaism that hits the right notes for me. I feel very lucky to have this unusual schul (Yiddish for synagogue) in my life. As always, I was very busy repenting!

Saturday, September 4, 2021

On Sketching

 Sketching is one of the things I want to focus on in my retirement. I even went out with a friend when the temperatures were skyrocking.

Here's a photo of the scene. As you can see, accuracy is not my strength -- or even my goal. I like things that are wonky.

Last week, Keith drove me to Baraboo, a cute little town, so I could sketch and he could bike on some different roads. It's the home of Circus World, birthplace of the Ringling Brothers Circus, so there are painted elephants all over town.

I was drawing some of the old buildings downtown there when this man, about my age, came up to me and said, "Someone has a hobby."
"Keeps me out of prison," I joked.
"I did nine years in the big house," he replied. And he did. Told me his entire life story. It's a very friendly town.

But the best part was when a middle-aged woman came up to me and told me she owns an art gallery. She looked at my unfinished sketch and asked if I'd sell sketches of Baraboo at her gallery. Of course I would!

So, here's the sketch. It has a major mistake, but I can trace it onto a new piece of watercolor paper using my lightbox and correct it. Then I'll add watercolor.

Neck update: I got the neck brace off yesterday. They warned me that my neck would hurt for a few days because the muscles are out of practice -- and it does hurt! More worrisome. I have some signs of kidney damage from the mistakes in the ER, so they ran tests. I'm sure I won't hear anything over the holiday weekend.

Monday, August 30, 2021

Sometimes Things Work Out

 My newest knitting project did not start out well. The Piquant Mix Scarf is made with three balls of Ella Rae Cozy Soft Prints. As soon as I started knitting, the balls began to fall apart. Since you knit with all three, this quickly devolved into a mess.

I had no choice but to frog, roll all three skeins into balls, and start all over. Thankfully it was worth it. It's very pretty -- not my colors, though -- and will be a gift for one of my nieces.

I had been planning to have my friends over for dinner on our deck, but my neck injury made that plan too ambitious. Instead, I made brownies and offered up brownie sundaes.
My wonderful friend Richard made two huge bowls of cold soup: watermelon curry and watermelon gazpacho. So, it was dinner after all!

Kola says: "Thank goodness it's cooled off around here." 

And I wholeheartedly agree with her!

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Finally Some Knitting

 In attempt to accomplish something -- you can't do a whole lot in a neck brace -- I picked up this Zick Zack scarf that's been languishing for a few years.  I'm using left-over yarns from other projects, and it's been fun deciding when to change colors.

I love the way it is coming out, but I will not make another one. It's a one-row repeat that requires counting, so it is tedious. I think I'm almost done -- I'll have to try it on when I take off my neck brace to wash today -- and then I can move onto something new.

Sunday, August 22, 2021

You Are Invited To My Pity Party

In April, I fell down the stairs at school because the elevator was broken. In May, I ended up in the ER with a kidney stone. And now, this:

I was stopped at a red light on a main thoroughfare, minding my own business, when a jerk in a sports car rear-ended me. Don't ask me why I smiled for the photo. The accident was not fun. Eight hours in the ER was not fun. Being given too much intravaneous pain medication wasn't fun either.

I may or may not have a hairline fracture in one of my neck vertebrae. I don't see a neurosurgeon for another 10 days. In the meantime, I'm enjoying wearing this hot, awkward cervical collar that rubs my skin raw. Not.

And if that's not bad enough, my scroll was not accepted for publication. I feel like it was a waste of time.

I'm hoping this next week will be better!

Friday, August 20, 2021

Friday Felines

 I'm missing this cat, who lives with my daughter in Denver:

Vashti is a very sweet, mellow cat. She'd like to be more friendly, but Rachel's first cat, Delilah, hasn't gotten over not being an only cat.

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Tiny Needle Tuesday Plus My Weekend

 This is what my tiny needle has. been up to:

It's a small piece of a project that I finished on Sunday-- just in time to submit it to a challenge from Quilting Arts Magazine. The challenge was to make a scroll measuring no more than 40".  I had to cut a panel so that I didn't go over 40".

Here's the finished project:

It's bits and pieces from my trip to Colorado. It will seem very random to the viewer, but my new-to-me fiber group -- the Memory Cloth Circle -- liked it. I'm not sure it was worth the time, but it was kind of fun.

My weekend also included having friends over for dinner on Saturday. I invited my favorite co-teacher, John, and his wife Michele, who is a special ed teacher. Not team-teaching with John is one of the things I'm going to miss the most this fall. We practically had a comedy act going in a long-running debate over which decade had the best music, the 1970s (my choice) or the 1980s (his choice). I hope we'll stay in touch.

Michele is the chairperson of the Union's Subcommittee on Special Ed, so we have quite a bit of history, too.

And Michele made me the best mask ever:

For those of you who aren't massive fans of The Office: The mask features Dwight Schrute, one of the main characters. I gave John a vintage Chewbacca mug, seeing as he is a Star Wars fanatic.

Madison Urban Sketchers met Saturday at a local park, where we all drew the beautiful bathroom structure -- built by the CCC during the Depression. It was a small but talented group. Mine is on the top right:

Last, but not least, I went kayaking on Sunday with my friend Tracey. What is it about water that is so soothing? When my ankle heals, I am going to beg Kathy for a paddle-boarding lesson.

It was a busy weekend for me -- but now I have all week to relax!

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Tiny Needle Tuesday

The main project I worked on in Colorado was this folk art embroidery based on a drawing I made.

I'm very happy with the way it turned out. I used mostly DMC size 5 perl cotton, but I added some details with size 8.

Now I just have to decide if I'm going to finish it by stapling it around an 8x8 frame or making the center panel in an art quilt. So many decisions!

Sunday, August 8, 2021

Still settling in!

 I am still getting our new house in order. I know, we moved back in March, but between school and traveling,  I haven't been able to get the kitchen or my crafts properly organized. However, at least the living room looks good, now that have our new sectional!

The house isn't the only thing that doesn't feel settled. I haven't figured out what my retirement life is going to look like. This is the time when I'd be easing back into teaching, but now the days are wide open. That is not a complaint! I just need some time to figure out how to structure my life. 

Between the transition and my travels, my knitting has been pretty basic this summer. For my travel knitting, I worked on fingerless mitts using Kristen Kapur's recipe. The color of this first pair is more of a pumpkin tone, and they are super soft because the yarn is MadTosh.

Pair No. 2 is a Knit Circus impressionist colorway, so they also feel very good on the hands. Both pairs are knit with fingering weight and are helping me do some stash-busting.
Now I've moved on to another completely mindless cowl: Kaleen, a Berroco pattern. I'm using the recommended yarn, Berroco Millefiori, so it's working out very predictably. 
You can see which yarn is the main color. The accent color is used every four rounds. Although the colors look different in the balls, they actually are blending together a bit too well. (Note: I wound the yarn into balls because the skeins they come in quickly turn into a tangled mess.)

The cowl is almost done, and I hope to start something more interesting this week. Or pick up the Forever Sweater, but that's for another post!