Saturday, April 22, 2017

Finally Spring

I swear winter gets longer every year. Or does it just feel that way?
But spring is here, the end of the school year is on the horizon, and I'm still working on my Summer Camp shawl.
The shawl at the point were it's just miles and miles of garter stitch. I got through some of it by listening to S Town, the new podcast spinoff from This American Life. It seemed a bit slow at first, but hang in there. The plot thickens and it draws you in.
I can hardly stand to put down my Year of Stitches project. I'm not sure if it's wild and beautiful or a total mess -- and I'm not sure that I care. It's just fun to make it up as I go.

I hope that the weather wherever you are is sunny and beautiful, especially if you are marching today!

Saturday, April 15, 2017

A Pretty Awesome Week in Miami

I flew home from Miami today, and as good as it is to be home, I miss my daughter! Even though she has her comprehensive exams next month, she found time to to show me a lot of the city.

One morning we headed south from Miami to the agricultural area around Homestead, where I spent $21 on one piece of fruit:
It wasn't fully ripe before I left, but it was developing a texture like cotton candy and tasted very good.

We toured the home and estate of Villa Vizcaya, built in the early 20th century by an agricultural industrialist.
I snapped this photo of Rachel there. It's right in Coconut Grove, which is where she is living. It is an incredibly adorable neighborhood with lots of restaurants and boutiques. Not to mention a great bookstore.
The other very posh place we visited was the Biltmore Hotel, where Rachel had made reservations for us to have high tea. Isn't that sweet?
The tea (as in the drink) was the best we've ever had, and the food was amazing. It was the first time I've had Devonshire cream, but I hope it won't be the last.
It was a lot of food, fortunately, because we then headed off to one of Rachel's seminars. The 2 1/2 hour class flew by because her professor is so brilliant. A Cuban immigrant himself, he was discussing current attitudes toward immigrants in America. I am so touched that she brings me to her classes when I visit.

On my last day, we went to Little Haiti, which is definitely not a bastion of luxury.
It's a fascinating area. We visited the famous Liberi Mapou Creole and French Bookstore, and wandered around the neighborhood, which has the feel of a Caribbean island. Rachel was brave and ordered goat for lunch. She said it was good!

I know that many of you understand that feeling of loss when you say good-bye to one of your children. But, as long as she is happy and flourishing, I am OK.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Taking the Sad with the Good

It's Monday of spring break and a pretty busy day. For one thing, I am packing because I leave very early tomorrow for Miami, where I'll be spending a few days with my daughter.  I'm alternating packing with cooking for Passover, which begins this evening.
Among other things, I'm making Chocolate Caramel Crackers (with matzoh). It's a Smitten Kitchen recipe, so you know it's delicious.
Also delicious: Valdani embroidery thread. I blame Kat for this new obsession. She turned me on to Bonnie Sennott, who is an accomplished embroiderer and a wonderful knit designer, too. Bonnie mentioned that she used this "gourmet" thread, so I, of course, had to try it. It is indeed lovely.

Those are some good things. Here is the sad:
Keith had to put down Weeko a few days ago. She'd had renal failure for over a year and took a turn for the worse a couple weeks ago. Even after six days with the vet, she was lethargic and refused to eat. Weeko was a very anxious cat who hated the vet, so he had a vet come to the house. She passed in his arms. She was his cat. Even after living with me for a decade, she hissed at me. Still, I do feel her absence. She was just 12, so Keith wasn't ready to say good-bye.

And speaking of veterinarians ... Last weekend Seth received his official lab coat in the Blue Coat Ceremony, which marks the near-end of the third year of vet school. For a long time, he didn't think he'd go to college, so I am still amazed by how much he has accomplished.
In a few weeks he'll be done with classwork and begin his year of rotations. I was pretty darn proud. I may have even shed a tear or two. It's hard to believe that a year from now he'll be a real dog doctor.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Hugs to All of You

I am so blessed to have you all as friends. I actually cried -- in a good way! -- as I read your comments on my last post. Thanks you all so much for helping me chase away the blues. And for sharing your own struggles.
I have picked up my Vodka Lemonade sweater again, and it feels good to make progress on it. The actual color is much more yellow than this photo shows.
When I look at the large numbers of people taking anti-depressants and the long lists of titles of books to help people with depression and anxiety, I can't help but think that there is something terribly wrong with our society. For one thing, Americans work far more hours than people in any other industrialized country, and we take far less vacation. I know that this 13-week slog between breaks wore down not only me, but my colleagues and students, too.
My Year of Stitches project has been a source of joy and comfort these last few months.
Knitting -- along with our other creative ventures -- is one way to escape the high-pressure world we live in, don't you think? It's no accident that DIY and hand-made have become movements. Nor that a knit hat became the symbol of the women's march in Washington. Every stitch is a protest of the hyper-pressures of today's world.

They also bind us to other people. Another group of people who keep me afloat is the Jewish Artists Lab. You may remember that I painted a portrait of Judy Chicago as part of a project launched by my friend Pam, in which we are assembling a "dinner party" of Jewish artists. We got together last weekend for a painting round, and I did this one:
It's Diane Arbus, who is famous for photographing "outsiders." It doesn't look as much like her as I'd like, but it's close enough!

Again, my heart-felt thanks to all of you!




Sunday, April 2, 2017

A Bit of the Blues

Well, maybe more than a bit. I haven't blogged or even read blogs for a while because I've been flat-out depressed. I've always been an anxious person, but these bouts of the blues started after the surgery to fix my broken leg in 2013. I had a pretty serious post-surgical depression, and ever since then, I've had the blues periodically.

Yes, I have a doctor and a therapist, so I'm not alone in this, but still. My mother and my friends have been very supportive, too. Coffee with friends has helped.
This episode started with insomnia, and after a week of that, I found myself spiraling downward.  But today I'm feeling a little better, which is a relief.

I have been quite a homebody through this, so I have one completed sock to show:
And you can see my Summer Camp shawl in the first photo. It's a very relaxing knit.
But mostly I've been working on the quilt for the Jewish Artists Lab show, which is April 30. Clearly I'm not working fast enough.

One more week until spring break. It has been a long haul since winter break! So, I'm hoping things are just going to get better.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Farewell to Yarn Along

I was sad this morning to read that Ginny has retired Yarn Along, a Wednesday link-up she has hosted since 2010. Of course, I totally understand her readiness to move on, and I'm sure many of us with continue with Tuesday's Keep Calm and Craft On with Nicole. Still, I will miss the reading element that Ginny brought into our world.

So, it is with bit of sorrow that I post my last Yarn Along, which includes both a new knit and a new book.
Summer Camp is a shallow and long shawl designed by Laura Aylor. The solid sections are Sun Fiber Valley yarn, and the speckled yarn is from Hedgehog Fibres. Both are yummy and fun to work with. It's designed to be a mindless knit, and it is quite easy.

Everyone Brave Is Forgiven follows three fictional Londoners through World War II. Chris Cleave, who wrote Little Bee, takes on a narrative voice that has the ring of history, but I'm not far enough into the book to say if it works. The dialogue sparkles with dry British wit, so I'm encouraged by the first few chapters.

Joining up with Ginny to Yarn Along.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

A Class With Laura Nelkin: Swoon!

Madison may not be a big city, but it is a big knitting city. We had our Knit In this weekend, and the line-up of teachers was amazing. Saturday morning, a friend and I took a class on knitting with bead from Laura Nelkin, author of Knockout Knits.
The class was amazing. Did you know that you should never use beads on single-ply yarn? Me, neither. It's not strong enough. Also to be avoided are wool/silk blends and cashmere. I also learned that you need to use bigger beads when you are placing beads (like with a crochet hook) than when you pre-string beads.

This is the Stellanti Shawl, which was our favorite one of her samples. The beaded sections are super easy so this is definitely going in my queue. Nelkin is quite funny. She described more difficult projects as being "anti-Alzheimer's patterns."
I do love knitting jewelry, though I haven't made any for quite some time. Nelkin's samples gave me plenty of inspiration.

The class was just for a half day, so we shopped after scarfing down some sandwiches from home. It turns out that I am quite the Wisconsin shopper. The two reddish/pink skeins are going into a second Perhaps, Perhaps. They were dyed by Sun Valley Fibers (Mount Horeb, Wis.), and I cannot say enough good things about their yarns. They are stunningly beautiful, a joy to knit with, and hold up well to wear.
I could not resist the mini skeins from Ewetopia (Viroqua, Wis.). All my favorite colors in one package! I'm looking for the right poncho or shawl pattern. Let me know if you have any ideas -- though I should mention that the yarn is DK weight.

Last but not least is the gradient cake in blue and purple, which I bought to make an Antarktis out of, but now I'm thinking it would make a good Stellanti. Such tough choices.!The yarn is by Knit Circus, which is right here in Madison. Yes, I am lucky!

This seems like enough for one post, so I'll tell you about fair isle with Mary Jane Mucklestone later!

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Halfway Through

I'm especially pleased about finishing this sock. I think I started it two years ago! It's just a boring 2x2 rib sock for a man -- the kind of thing I don't love knitting. But it feels good to be halfway through a pair. I'm determined to start the second one right away. (No ball band, but I'm pretty sure it's Opal or Trekking XXL.)
I'm halfway through The Gravity of Birds by Tracy Guzeman. It's OK for popular fiction. The bird theme is woven deftly into the plot, and I appreciate that. If you like popular fiction, you'd probably like this book about two sisters and how their lives are entangled with a famous (fictional) artist.

I finished Spectacle: The Astonishing Life of Ota Benga with mixed feelings. I think it's an important story, but most of his story has been lost with the passage of time. The book is padded with lots of unnecessary detail, and I found myself skimming more and more as I went along.

Joining Ginny for Yarn Along.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Quick Trip; Quick Post

Keith and I had a whirlwind trip to Virginia this weekend to see these two lovebirds get married:
That's my brother Eric and his wife Nancy. They met at The College of William and Mary where both are law professors. It was the first time we got to meet Nancy's family, some of whom live in England, so it was a lot of fun.
I played a very important role: helping to put together the centerpieces for the wedding dinner. Ironically, my brother found this idea on the Internet...that would be the same brother who used to tease me about "crapbooking." Last laugh is on me!
On of my nieces snapped this photo of Keith and I at the church.

When we got home, Naji made it clear that he wants to go on a trip, too!

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Trying to be Monogamous

No, I'm not talking about my marriage. Wait -- that doesn't sound right. Of course, my marriage is monogamous! I have an awesome husband who never comments when I buy yarn; although, he does like to tease me about my stash.
Knitting and reading, though, are harder for me to be monogamous with. But in an effort to simplify my life, I'm forcing myself to pick up hibernating projects. This week I pulled out my Reyna.
I love this shawl and the yarn includes my favorite colors. However, I am struggling with the netting section I'm working on. The netting keeps changing direction, so matter how careful I am with following the pattern. Sometimes the simple patterns are the hardest! At least for me.
And I'm still reading Spectacle by Pamela Newkirk, about an African man who was "taken" from his homeland and displayed at the Bronx Zoo in 1906. I think books like these are important in understanding how race is and was perceived in the United States.

I'm joining up with Ginny to Yarn Along.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

New Book Yarn Along

Because I had a few recent finishes, it seemed reasonable to cast on a new sock, Idlewild by Kirsten Kapur in Sun Valley Fibers MCN in the color Jungle.
The sock just happens to be from Drop Dead Easy Knits. I don't buy a lot of knitting books because there are just so many and I can't knit that fast. But this one I've looked at for a while. I adore Kirsten's patterns and she has some really good ones in this book. As promised, this sock is pretty darn easy!
I started reading Spectacle by Pamela Newkirk, which is the true story of an African man who was exhibited at the Bronx Zoo early in the 20th century. Man's cruelty to man never fails to amaze me. Nor does the spirit of people who survive such travails. I've only read about 40 pages, but it's fascinating so far.
Did you notice my tea? It's Inuit tea that I bought in Quebec last summer. I've tried two flavors, and it is some of the best herbal tea I have ever sipped. I'm going to have to see if I can get more online

I'm linking up with Ginny to Yarn Along.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Procrastination!

The title of this post is to be sung to the tune of "Anticipation" by Carly Simon -- at least by those of us who remember that 1970s hit!

I have finished two shawl/scarves, Brickless and Perhaps, Perhaps, and now I need to do some serious blocking. Actually, I finished them both last weekend, but haven't begun to block.
Brickless in Wowza by Miss Babs
Am I the only one who hates blocking? At least these two projects don't need to be pinned or strung on wires. Both of these have lace or netting, so I know that I will be pleased with the results. Still, there is something tedious about blocking.
Perhaps, Perhaps, in gray and black from MadTosh and green from Sun Valley
Both of these are going to be gifts. Go me! Two holiday gifts done before March 1.  I now have a hankering for some selfish knitting.

And speaking of procrastination, I am not keeping up on the embroidery piece I'm calling "My Grandfather," which I'm doing as part of the Jewish Artists Lab. I like my idea, and I like some of the execution. But the embroidery is not fun for me to do.
See all those lines? They all have to be embroidered. And they are all in browns and black. I am a color girl. I love bright, rich, deep colors. This is the last time I'll lock myself into such a brown color scheme.  I know that all my knitting pals out there will understand. Isn't color part of what we love about yarn?

I am still feeling under the weather, and I'm finding that many others have had colds/flus that last for weeks. So tedious! I did see two movies this weekend. On Friday night another teacher and I went to see Rock Dog with two students. It was quite entertaining, and I'd highly recommend it as a family film.

Keith and I saw Moonlight last night. Mistake! It's almost as depressing as Manchester-by-the-Sea. Both are beautifully written and acted -- but SO sad. I think I'm going to get serious about avoiding depressing movies. Life in Trump's America is sad enough!

I read on Mere's blog that some Republicans want to make cuts to the school lunch program. What??? If they had to face these kids every day, they'd see it differently. There are two kids who I feed every day -- and others that I feed from time to time.  You have to have a very low income to qualify for free hot lunch; these are genuinely hungry kids! And hungry kids can't learn, which will make it harder for them to become functioning adults.

These are hard times for many Americans. Working with many poor students and immigrant students helps me realize how lucky I am.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Books and Knitting

It's been so long since I had a fever, that I totally forgot what it felt like. Thus, I was shocked at Urgent Care Monday, when they told me I had a temperature of 101.5. In case you, too, have forgotten: Just walking across a room in a major effort!

I've mostly slept the last two days and when I was awake, I wasn't up for any difficult knitting. So I cast on for one of the patterns I've been wanting to make from Island by Jane Richmond.
This is a super simple scarf knit from linen. I'd picked up some Rowen Pure Linen on sale at an LYS. The pattern calls for fingering weight yarn, but this yarn is aran. What the heck? I just went ahead and cast on. It's just a scarf.
In my febrile state, it did not occur to me that I should use larger needles. However, I am liking it so far.

I'm still working my way through It Can't Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis. It's interesting, but not as good as his classic works. So I also started another novel: A Hologram for the King by Dave Eggers.
It's about a failing middle-aged businessman who heads to Saudi Arabia for the deal that will turn everything around in his life. Of course, nothing is that easy. I loved Eggers' The Circle, about a young woman who is hired by a Google-type company.  I often like workplace novels; My favorite TV show of all time is The Office. I'm finding Hologram reasonably entertaining.  (I think it was made into a movie with Tom Hanks.)

I'll be linking up with Ginny at Small Things to Yarn Along.


Saturday, February 18, 2017

Wrap-Up of a Week

It was a busy week, which means it was much like most weeks during the school year. It started out with a treat at Monday night's Madison Knitters Guild meeting: Laura Ricketts talked about her research on the knitting of the Sami people, formerly known as the Lapps, a a derogatory term no longer used, who live north of the Arctic circle spanning Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Russia.
I've always been fascinated by people who live near the North Pole, so I thoroughly enjoyed her talk. It turns out that the Sami people don't do a lot of knitting -- they have depended on reindeer for centuries -- but they do make gorgeous mittens. Some of the Sami-style mittens she has knit are shown in the photo. She has an ebook with six patterns, something I'm bound to purchase sooner or later!

Working with high school students can be emotionally exhausting. This week seemed to hold more traumatic events than most. I don't mind that part of my job, but it can be draining.
The week ended, as they always do, sweetly. One of my colleagues is THE BEST cookie baker in the world. I normally would not touch a ginger cookie (no chocolate -- not worth the calories), but Jim's cookies are always worth the calorie splurge. He always brings in a tray of cookies on Fridays.

Note: Jim is in his late 50s, but slim as a racing greyhound. He's a devoted runner and a coach for the cross country team. He can probably eat as many cookies as he wants! I like him anyway.

The weather this weekend is both amazing and terrifying:
Temperatures are not supposed to go well over 50 degrees F in Wisconsin in February. Still, it is lovely weather.

For my quilt, I need to figure out how to color a face using Derwent Intense pencils, my favorite medium for cloth, so I experimented on paper:
Keith admired my creatures from outerspace. Not quite the comment I was looking for. Now I have to get up the courage to put pencil to cloth. I wish I would have colored the face before I assembled the quilt top. At this point, I have no room for error.

Still half a weekend to enjoy!

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Can't Stop the Pink

When I decided to knit Perhaps, Perhaps, I knew the stripes would be gray and black. I wanted to use pink for the lace, but I always use pink. Come on, I prodded myself, venture outside your comfort zone! And then I saw this great green Sun Valley Fibers yarn and knew it would look great.
And it does look great ... but I still want it in pink. I pulled out this skein of pink (destined for a different project) and, yes, I want PINK! So, this first Perhaps, Perhaps will be a gift. Fortunately, it's a pretty quick knit. Sun Valley will be at the Madison Knitters Guild Knit In in March, so I'll pick out a pink then.

The Vegetarian was on just about every best-book list I saw for 2016. The writing is beautiful, but the story is so dark and twisted and I didn't feel that the book said enough to justify that level of despair.
So now I've moved onto Sinclair Lewis' It Can't Happen Here, a 1935 novel about a fictional president who brings totalitarianism to the United States. I know I said I was going to read something more cheerful, but I was just too curious to pass up this one. Like 1984, this book is enjoying a resurgence in sales. It isn't at all depressing at the beginning, but clearly the mood is headed downward. I've always liked Lewis's books (Babbitt, Main Street), and I'm liking this one so far.

It's evening here, but I'm still going to hop over to Yarn Along with Ginny.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

A Weekend Outing

This is where Keith and I had breakfast this morning.
We were in La Crosse, Wis., to visit a former student of mine. We spent some time with him Saturday afternoon and then took him out to dinner. Finally, I can buy him a drink, now that he's 21! I've know him since he was in 8th grade, and we have had a special bond from the beginning. He's had a lot of hard times, and I'm so proud of him for never giving up.

This is what teaching is about: forging relationships and helping students see their potential. Not paperwork!

I've never been to La Crosse, and I am amazed by how many beautiful buildings grace their downtown:
It's the best small-town downtown I've seen in a long time. There are a lot of businesses and there were plenty of people around. And there are a ton of adorable, locally owned coffee shops. We hung out at a very cute one that also serves crepes, The Root Note.

Woke up this morning with a sore throat. This has been happening a lot. I think it's stress. I was on Facebook a little while ago and there were a lot of comments about how tough things are for teachers. I'll drink a cup of Cold Care PM tea to that!

I did some knitting in the car, but at home I'm focusing on the embroidery piece I'm working on for the Jewish Artists Lab:
The man is my grandfather. It's not the best likeness, but it is the best one I could do! This started out in my mind as a very simple piece, but is growing more complicated by the day. And they've moved the deadline for the show up by about 6 weeks! This is going to be a challenge.

I hope you had a good weekend.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Yarn Along: Fast and Slow

My Perhaps, Perhaps shawl is just zipping along. It's amazing how much faster you go with dk weight yarn than fingering. As you can see from all the stitch markers, I have found I need to be very careful during the lace portions.
Reading is going very slowly. The Vegetarian is a strange and twisted story of a woman who not only becomes vegetarian but also is struggling with inner demons. It's very dark.

Dark Money, which is about the billionaires funding the Far Right, like the Koch brothers, is just so depressing. I can only read a little  bit at a time. I felt the same way when I was reading Naomi Klein's The Shock Doctrine, which I never did finish.

My next book is going to be less depressing than these two!