Saturday, December 16, 2017

A Sin, A Vow, and Other Stuff

 One party down and one to go for the weekend. The Special Ed Department at my school has an epic holiday party every year -- and last night it did not disappoint. We do a hilarious White Elephant Exchange. I schemed to get the item I wanted, but can't show it yet as it's a gift.

So, on to the sin:
I swear this is the last skein of yarn I'm buying until 2019. OK, I am making an exception for my guild's Knit-In and the Wisconsin Sheep and Wool Festival. But that's it! I've decided that 2018 needs to be the year of stash busting. It's not like I don't have plenty of yarn right here.
The little needle has been busy, too. Now there are two bird in my Happinest cross stitch. This will be a holiday gift in 2018! This shows an unusual level of organization for me.

And I've been photographing jewelry for my poor neglected Etsy store. There are some really cute knitting earrings, like these:
If you have a minute, check them out at www.etsy.com/shop/caffeinegirl1.

Enjoy your weekend!

Thursday, December 14, 2017

It's Thursday Already?

How did that happen? This week is just flying by. Work has been busy, but mostly enjoyable. High school students are generally a lot of fun to work with.

I do try to get in a little knitting before and after work, and this has allowed me to finish one of my Knitvent projects and start another. Here is my completed Land of Sweets cowl, made from left-over sock yarn and a ball of KnitPicks Hawthorne:
 I have to admit that I am very pleased with it. I will try to get Keith to take picture of me wearing it this weekend.

I immediately cast on another Knitvent project, the Tchaikovsky Hat in a skein of Sun Valley Fibers DK that I've had for a couple years. 
It seems like it is going to go fast, and will go in the gift bin. I rarely wear green, even though I like it. I mean, who doesn't like green? 

At any rate, I am so glad that I joined Knitvent, and I won't be surprised if I end up knitting all six projects in the next year.

For now, I'm looking forward to the weekend, but also kind of dreading it. Two holiday parties! This requires more energy than I usually have during the school year. I'm determined to make them both. After that, things will calm down and I'm hoping for a restful break over the holidays.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Tinkering Around the House

Winter cold has finally arrived here -- although no snow to speak of -- so it has been a good weekend to haul out my beloved ponchos and stay warm and cozy. 

I'm slowly cleaning up my craft room. This weekend, I decided to clear off my workspace -- a task in desperate need of completion -- so I finished a few jewelry projects and took apart others.
The necklace above is a beautiful design, but those bright blue beads do not match its elegance. The white beads are rather expensive, so I determined to rip it apart. That's the easy part. Sorting the beads, however, took much longer than I expected.

I finished the Shawheid hat by Kate Davies. In an earlier post, I said I was knitting it out of the discontinued Telemark yarn. I was wrong. It's knit out of the recommended Jamieson & Smith. My carried threads on the back were a bit tight, but a good soaking and blocking corrected for me.
I did get out of the house a few times. A friend and I went to see the movie Ladybird. It has lots of cute and authentic moments, but the mother character wasn't believable, which kind of undermines the whole story. Afterward, she fed me some delicious lentil soup at her house. And this morning I treated myself to a latte at a local coffeeshop.
Today will be busier. I have a number of errands that have to get done. It's just as well. I need to adjust to winter weather!

Hope your weekend is relaxing and refreshing.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Mid-Week Musings

Another hectic week at school is under way. I am still experiencing quite a bit of pain where my tooth used to be, but the discharge papers say that's normal. I do think it makes me more tired.

I have been trying to knit a few rows every day or two on my ZickZack scarf. It is slow-going, but I'm not minding that.
There are always new color combinations, which keeps it interesting.
Reading has been going slowly. I like to read before I fall asleep and lately sleep has been rushing in. I'm just beginning Lyndall Gordon's biography of Virginia Woolf. 
I picked up The Illustrated Life, which shows sketchbooks from artists around the world, at used book sale sponsored by my local library. I started checking out these sales a year or so ago, and I have stumbled on amazing finds. This book was just $3, far less than the $19.99 it would have cost me new. And it's full of great art and interviews.

Joining with Kat for Unraveled Wednesday.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Potato Chip Knitting and Reading

First, I want to thank all of you for kind words this past week for my cracked tooth. I swear those digital good wishes do translate into pain relief! It certainly does help to have so many friends out there pulling for me. (ETA: the verb "pulling" is definitely a pun)
I have had the perfect knitting and listening to get me through this. I am 80% of the way through my Land of Sweets Cowl, and I just can't stop. It's a proverbial "potato chip" knit -- just one more round! Even the lace sections are easy and relaxing.
Yesterday I got to the end of Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng on Audible. It is a page-turning story that examines what it means to be a mother from many different perspectives. It also compares a an affluent family with a vagabond artist and her daughter, and raises complex questions about how important money is. It's really quite thought-provoking. I highly recommend this book -- and that's not something I say often. If you like audiobooks, this one is well-done.
I had to pick up the new Smitten Kitchen cookbook as soon as it hit the bookstore. If you haven't discovered Deb Perelman's web site and books, you are in for a treat. She makes amazing food that isn't too complicated in her tiny Manhattan kitchen -- and then shares the results with us. 

Now I'm off to sip my tea and catch up with you!

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

I'd Rather Be At Work

Remember how I said that my jaw really hurt during Thanksgiving weekend? Well, it seems that my constant jaw pain had merged with the pain from a fractured tooth. No wonder I was popping Advils!

Late yesterday afternoon, I found myself at the endodontist (a word I'd never before encountered) expecting to get an emergency root canal, but the doctor there said the tooth was beyond saving. Thus, this morning, an oral surgeon removed the tooth.
I won't bore you with the details, but it's been a rough morning. At least I've had the perfect knitting: I just love the Land of Sweets cowl. It is mindless and fun -- something I can do while gulping down pain pills.

Reading is probably beyond my drug-addled brain today, but the hours are passing nicely while I knit to the audiobook version of Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng. It's not great literature, but it is a good story, well told. It's the story of two households, one wealthy and one not, whose lives become entangled in Shaker Heights, Ohio.

Joining with Kat for Unraveled Wednesday.


Sunday, November 26, 2017

Back to Crafting

My family left on Saturday -- my daughter, both my brothers and their families. It was hard to say good-bye. I've always hated that my brothers live so far from me. My son is here in Madison, but he's studying for his veterinary boards so we just got a glimpse of him this weekend.

I hope you had a wonderful holiday. We certainly did. However, it was a little too much activity for me. My jaw condition is worsening, and I need a lot of down time to manage the pain. Of course, I didn't want to miss too much time with my family, so I consumed a frightening amount of painkillers over the past five days.

But now I can use crafts to distract myself from the pain. This is truly the best way for me to manage pain. Most work days, I come home in agony and retreat into my knitting/embroidery chair to unwind. It does help -- without the side effects of painkillers!
I had to hide my Happinest from our guests because it is destined to be a Hanukkah 2018 gift. I'm about 2/3 of the way through it, and I just love it. I may have to make one for my own home.
The directions call for 18-count Aida cloth or linen. I went with the larger 14-count to get a bigger image.

I'm still working on my kelp-forest sundress. I think this will be the last fish:
That yellow-green fish looked lonely to me. 
A friend is coming over later today to make bracelets for me. I intend to enjoy every minute of the last day of my break!

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

About To Go On The Needles

This delicious cake of Hawthorne Fingering in the Birthday Cake Speckle colorway is going to be cast on today as the start of my Land of Sweets cowl. I'm hoping that this plus my scrap yarn will be enough to complete the cowl.
I hope to squeeze in some reading time during this 5-day weekend, though it will be busy with family. I am halfway through The World Broke in Two. I am thoroughly enjoying it, but I would say that it's definitely a book for a book-lover.  If you are not fascinated by Virginia Woolf, T.S. Eliot, E. M. Forster, and D.H. Lawrence, I suspect you'd find this book a bore.
I've just begun Bluets by Maggie Nelson. It's lyrical blend of genres, including memoir and true crime. It's short so I should have a review by next week.
Kola urges all Americans and anyone else who wants to join in to count their blessings this weekend. Kola herself is grateful for all crumbs dropped on the floor or countertop. She also appreciates a warm stove burner.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Advent Isn't Just About Christmas

Being a Jewish girl, I tend to tune out Christmas projects such as Helen Stewart's Knitvent. But then I saw Deb's post about the Land of Sweets Cowl, and I fell in love. Not only is it a gorgeous knit, but it is perfect for stash-busting.
Here are the scrap yarns I'm starting with. I have no idea if they are going to be enough, but in a squeeze I could force myself to buy more yarn! There is yarn that is designed just for the cowl, if you don't feel like stash-busting.

So, with ANOTHER cast-on coming up, I felt obliged to pick up a WIP, and what is more perfect for the season than a wool hat? This one is Snawheid by Kate Davies, knit in KnitPicks Telemark, a yarn that sadly has been discontinued.
Telemark was similar to Jamieson & Smith that Davies calls for, but more affordable! It softens with use, so I love the stuff. But I am almost out of the supply I bought years ago.

It's a cold weekend here. But I'm not complaining. It is perfect weather for cleaning and baking. Then this afternoon, we are celebrating Thanksgiving with Keith's family. 

Oh, the weekends just fly by!


Wednesday, November 15, 2017

More of the Same

Neither my knitting nor reading have changed much in the past week. I am working on the Forever ZickZack scarf. It is the perfect project for this week. I worked 7:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Monday because of parent-teacher conferences, and I have felt brain-dead ever since.
I did finally finish The Voyage Out by Virginia Woolf, it's a first novel and that shows. Only a diehard Woolf fan would want to read this.
On a more positive note, I am enjoying The World Broke in Two by Bill Goldstein, which looks at Woolf, T.S. Eliot, E. M. Forster and D.H. Lawrence in 1922. It's a well-written account of these really fascinating writers.

And look who's been checking out my books:

Sunday, November 12, 2017

A Finish and a Sketch

Recognize these? I can't think of the name, but this mitt pattern was super popular in the early days of Ravelry. Mine, as you can see curl. Every pair of these I knit curled. Fortunately, there are are lots of Mitts patterns these days!
These have been waiting around to have the ends woven in for ages, so I did that this morning. After all, the holidays are coming up! Does anyone remember the name of this pattern? Was it Fetchings?

To avoid the crazy traffic of Badger football Saturdays, Madison Urban Sketchers went to Sun Prairie, a suburb, yesterday, and drew in a coffee shop. It's a cute but tiny little place, so we mostly drew each other.

Then we went out to lunch, where Pat drew while most of us just chatted. If you look closely at her painting, you can see that's me on the left!
Pat is our main organizer, so we all love her!
Mercedes was looking through my sketchbook. When she saw my drawing of the Air BnB I stayed in when I was in Copenhagen this past summer, she pulled out her sketchbook. She'd also traveled in Scandinavia this summer and drew a similar picture of a BnB in Stockholm!

Today, I need to get some cleaning/decluttering done -- but also, I hope, more sketching!

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Just Another Weekend

 With Thanksgiving coming up, I should be doing more cooking and cleaning. But other things are so much more fun -- not to mention relaxing! Keith and I are now watching The Roosevelts on Netflix, which is perfect for easy sweater knitting. I'm making the Windchill Cardigan for my daughter. I think it's a pretty easy pattern, but I'm worried about size with her in Miami and me knitting in Wisconsin. She'll be home for T-giving and Winter Break, so I'm hoping to be able to make any adjustments.
On Saturday, I joined some friends for the Wisconsin Book Festival. Much to my surprise, I was hooked by the author of The Storm Before the Storm. Mike Duncan, the author, created the podcast The History of Rome. As much as I love history, ancient history has never interested me that much, but this guy is good! I'm going to listen to the podcast -- all 189 episodes -- one of these days.
It turns out that he is a Madison resident and his book just debuted on the NYT's Best-Seller list at No. 8. 

And I'm still loving this cross stitch. Kathy wanted to know how to get a hold of it. The company is Satsuma Street, and the Etsy store is here.
Some of the patterns are digital downloads, but others are also available as printed copies, which I prefer. I bought the hard copy of this one, which is called Happinest.

I hope you had a lovely weekend, too!


Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Unravelled Wednesday

Just a quick hello during a hectic week. I've found myself picking up my cross stitch a lot. It's very relaxing and easy to do a little bit at a time.
I don't have a photo of the hat I was working on last week, but I've made a lot of progress on it, thanks to the second season of Stranger Things. I don't usually like horror stories, but this Netflix series has hooked me. A lot of my students like it, too, so it's been a big topic of conversation.

As for reading, I'm still working my way through Virginia Woolf's The Voyage Out. It is slow, but I'm liking it.

And another picture of Kola. She likes to sit on the stove after we've boiled water for coffee. She even seems to know when it's cool enough not to hurt her.
To answer some questions about Cat TV: We use You Tube videos on our television. They like both realistic videos and others that look like old video games.

Joining up with Kat for Unravelled Wednesday.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Starting Again

Not long ago, I mentioned that I had had to frog a very simple hat twice. Well, I think the third time might be the charm. The hat is looking right this time around. 
I've been working on it while listening to The Bully Pulpit by Doris Kearns Goodwin, which is about the lives and relationship of Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft. It's a very good book, but it's taken me months to get through, seeing as the Audible version is more than 30 hours!

Since I'm in the mood for Teddy, Keith and I have started watching the Ken Burns documentary on the two Roosevelt presidents. It's also quite good.

As for traditional reading, I'm making my way through Virginia Woolf's first novel, The Voyage Out, and I am enjoying it. It's not a page-turner by any stretch of the imagination. I have to approach it like I would a long Victorian novel.

And I'll close with a picture of our fast-growing kitten, Kola, who always sleeps with us.

Joining up with Kat for Unraveled Wednesday.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

A Project for Me and Kitty TV

Every now and then I get pulled back into cross stitch.

I've been eyeing patterns at the SatsumaStreet Etsy site for a couple of years now, but didn't give into the temptation to buy one until I saw Happinest at my local embroidery store.
While my weekend is largely devoted to the fairly difficult task of finishing my ocean fiber piece, I've been relaxing with this project. I think it's going to be a gift.
I also suspect it will not be my last SatsumaStreet piece. If you have any interest in embroidery, you should head over there. She does amazing cityscapes of some the world's great cities.

Meanwhile, we have some very happy cats at our house. They spend a lot of time like this:
Watching things like this:
Here's another favorite:
I have to thank my daughter for turning us on to cat TV

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Unravelling on a Wednesday

I did some unravelling in the past week, in fact. For the second time I unravelled a fingering-weight hat. It is the most basic hat possible but I just keep making mistakes. In the last round, I forgot to change to larger needles after finishing the ribbing for the brim. Argh!
My ZickZack scarf is going to take forever, but I am so happy with the way the colors are playing together that I don't mind. Of course, I haven't been working on it very long. We'll see how I feel six months from now!

I'm almost done with NeuroTribes, which is about the history and current state of autism. It's well-written and very interesting, especially for a special ed teacher who has a nephew with autism. It is also painful at many points. People who are not "normal" have not been treated well for much of history.

Next up is The Voyage Out by Virginia Woolf. I've found myself drawn back into her work. I haven't read this one before. It's an early, less "modernist" novel than Mrs. Dalloway or To the Lighthouse.


Joining with Kat for Unraveled Wednesday. Come along for the ride!

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Swimming in Stitches

I can't be the only Midwesterner who is obsessed with the ocean.  Most of the planet is covered with water, but so many of us have to settle for lakes or rivers when we're longing for water. I am never surprised by how expensive it is to live near the sea because I can't imagine anything better (unless there's a hurricane, of course).
I have two watery projects going. One is a summer dress that I'm turning into a seascape with phantasy phish based on 19th-century drawings.
This project is pure fun. I just start stitching and go with the flow. Very relaxing!

The other is my main quilting project, which will go on display this winter at Madison's Overture Center. This has been a lot of work, but I'm nearing the end. 
Here's a sneak peak at the fringe. I hope it gives a watery feel.

I hope your weekend has been more relaxing than mine. I volunteered to be a proctor the PSAT on Saturday. Yes I was paid, but a six-day week is exhausting! This would be a great retirement gig, though. That leaves one day for getting my livf in order and doing the homework for the mindfulness class I'm taking.

And my embroidery club at school starts up on Wednesday, so I'm washing muslin as I type, so the kids will be able to dive right in. Then I'll need to cut it up and zigzag the edges so they don't unravel. There are times when my sewing machine is my best friend.


Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Knitting and War: A History

I just loved the speaker at this month's Madison Knitters' Guild meeting. A graduate student from UW-Madison named Rebecca Keyel talked about her research area: knitting during the two world wars. Knitting and history are a heady combination for a nerd like me.
This was called a "helmet." It's one of the samples that Rebecca knit using the traditional patterns. She used Quince & Co. yarn.
I didn't take notes (too busy knitting) but here are some tidbits that stuck in my mind:

  • Socks were really important during the trench warfare of WWI because the men's feet were always wet and muddy. Trench Foot was a real condition.
  • Knitted items were called "comforts" because they brought comfort to the soldiers.
  • Women started knitting the minute war was declared, feeling the need to participate in the war effort and to support the soldiers.
  • By WWII, there were more knitted items than were really needed, but the government kept encouraging knitting to keep up morale on the homefront.

These are socks based on wartime patterns. Again, Rebecca knit them from Quince & Co. yarn.
I hope Rebecca eventually publishes a book because she was fascinating. She told us that there were constant rumors that the Red Cross was selling the sweaters and other items instead of sending them to the front. So far, she has found no evidence that this is true.

I apologize for the poor quality of the photos, but there was quite a crowd around the table that held the samples.

As you may have already noticed, I'm getting back into the swing of blogging and have been catching up on my reading and commenting. I've missed you so it's nice to see what you are all up to.