Thursday, April 25, 2019

Midweek Bits & Pieces

It's a rainy Thursday on a crazy week. I'm not sure there are any other kinds of weeks for teachers anymore. Yesterday a 12-year-old was arrested at a middle school after attacking and injuring two police officers. In my world, a lot of students are struggling, especially my students whose families do not have a lot of financial resources. I can't tell you how discouraged I get by the inequality all around me.

As long as I'm on the subject of work ... a while back many of you shared your thoughts on retirement. They were really helpful and I have revisited them many times. The decision for now is ... not retiring yet. My students and my coworkers are really amazing people and I'm not quite ready to say goodbye to them. 

Our amazing ceramics teacher, Phil Lyons, is retiring. In honor of him, we have an exhibit of his work in the school art gallery -- and all the works are for sale. What do you think of this one?
I fell in love with it. When the show closes, it's coming home with me. I've probably mentioned that I work at the high school that my children attended, so this will be a wonderful memento when I do retire.
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 I've picked up a handful of novels, but none of them have hooked me. Instead I'm glued to "1924: The Year That Made Hitler." While it's not exactly uplifting, it is well-written and interesting.

Let's end on a more cheerful note. Here is a picture of an almost-finished quilt:
I don't love it, but I'll get into that when it's finished.

I hope your week has been going well!

Sunday, April 21, 2019

She Looks So Innocent

Kola is a very cute cat, and she is quite entertaining. She's always stretching into odd positions, like she is here, luxuriating in a sunbeam.
However, it isn't so cute when she stretches out next to your computer -- knocking over a cup of herbal tea, which then splashes across the keyboard. To no one's surprise, my computer did not work after that!

So, I had a week of computer deprivation while Keith tracked down a new MacBook for me and then found someone to put all my files on the new computer. I'd had the previous computer since 2011, so it wasn't that outrageous to have to get a new one. But still. The 2011 MacBook was doing just fine and would have lasted for a few more years. Pets can be expensive in unexpected ways!

In the meantime, spring has finally arrived. The magnolia tree down the block is beginning to bloom. It's so funny to see flowers before leaves.
And with spring comes Passover. We had a Seder at my friends' Debbie and Richard's house. They are avid gardners, even on the inside of their house:
Those cool planters are from IKEA, in case you want to do the same thing.

I am just loving knitting these simple fingerless mitts:

I'm using Kirsten Kapur's Mitt Recipe, and following her directions to the T.  I did get two pairs out of one skein of Zauberball Crazy yarn, with quite a bit of yardage to spare. The only hard part was deciding how to pair of the finished mitts. I think I have to do another set in a different colorway.

Whatever you celebrate, I hope you had a lovely weekend!


Sunday, April 7, 2019

Kitten, Kids & Mitts

So, where I have I been for the last month? Well, here is one of the highlights:
Mostly I've been working, practically drowning in paperwork and testing. And there was the matter of the lab stool that came crashing down on my foot in biology class, prompting weeks of light-duty. I still can't wear most of my shoes.

But spring break was pretty amazing -- as well as insanely busy. I started by flying to Miami, where I got to have dinner with my photo-shy son. Seth is working 20-hour days, six days a week, so I was thrilled that he was able to get away for dinner.
I had a wonderful time hanging out with Rachel and my grand-kitty, Delilah. Rachel is a true minimalist --except when it comes to her kitty. Delilah is one spoiled kitty.  
This is probably the special ed teacher in me, but I could swear that kitty has an attention deficit disorder. No matter, I fell in love with her. I think Rachel would have disowned me if I hadn't.

Miami is a great town for coffee shops, restaurants and bookstores. This coffee art came to me at Brewing Buddha, where the coffee was velvety and rich.
We spent a morning wandering around Wynwood, the artsy part of Miami. The murals there are phenomenal.
And we found these amazing gourmet donuts:
Then it was off to Seattle. Take my word for this: Flying from Miami to Seattle is a very long trip. But my aunt was celebrating her 90th birthday, so Rachel and I spent 12 hours getting out there.
We didn't have much time for sight-seeing (although we did walk past the original Starbucks), which was just fine. Many of my favorite people were there, so it was a wonderful weekend.
Rachel, left, with two of her cousins, Robbie and Jennifer. I wish
they could spend more time together!
Of course, I had to have some good travel knitting with me, and I was very pleased with my choice:
These fingerless mitts are based on a recipe by Kirsten Kapur. I grabbed a skein of Crazy Zauberball from my stash, and I love the results.
I'm going to get two pairs out of one skein, so I'm quite pleased with that. It's a mindless pattern that was perfect for travel. 

I hadn't knit with this yarn before, and I found it to be a fun yarn to work with. It's hard to stop because you want to see what color is going to come up next. It's a bit scratchy, but I think it will soften with a good soak and some wear. I definitely want to keep one pair for myself.

Keith met us in Seattle, and then he and I took a red-eye back to O'Hare. I actually made it to work that day! 

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Time Marches On

Well, we are starting with second week of March with a couple feet of snow on the ground. 

We are at that point where the temperature hovers around freezing, making walking and biking scary for me. A friend of my broke 5 ribs falling on the ice a few weeks ago, so I'm especially worried about falling these days. That poor guy has been in so much pain.

On the up side, if you can't be outside, you might as well stay home and craft, right? I am getting close to finishing my quilt:
I started the next one yesterday because I needed something portable. I spent the afternoon crafting with a friend at her house. I thought it might be interesting to try some different colors!
I worked 110 hours in the last two weeks, so I have been pretty brain-dead at night. I was making a lot of mistakes on the blanket I've been knitting, so I cast on a simple hat to work on while we watched Trapped.
I can't say enough good things about this show. We finished the season this weekend, and the end didn't disappoint. The setting in northern Iceland and the acting have kept us going; in the end, the plot turned out to be thoughtful and coherent. What more could you want?

We are coming up on the Jewish holiday of Purim, which features a jam-filled pastry called Hamantaschen. I thought baking and seeing friends might be a nice break from work, so I scheduled a tea and baked two types of Hamantaschen.
These are the vegan variety. The dough was the stiffest I've ever worked with. Very frustrating! But my vegan friend said they were good. I preferred the non-vegan batch I made from the Smitten Kitchen. The dough handled well and tasted great. For fillings, I admit I head to the grocery store and buy Solo fillings. This year I made poppy-seed, apricot, and raspberry.

I don't feel quite ready to dive back into work, but I'm blaming the time change for that. It takes me about a week to adjust to "springing foward." Do you struggle with it, too?

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Still Winter Here

March is certainly coming in like a lion in Wisconsin. At 6 p.m., the temperature is 8, but it feels like -6. Monday's high is predicted to be 1 degree -- that's before a 12-mile-a-hour wind is figured in. 

This cold weather has helped me stay home much of the weekend to write IEPs. I'm not complaining about the weather -- not yet at least. Winter is the best time for knitting. Someone went to town knitting and crocheting this yarn bombing not far from my house:
In between work sessions, I've done some rows on my Free Your Fade shawl, which I want for summer travel. I have quite a ways to go, but I think I can finish by July.
I love to sit by the window and do the hand-embroidery on my latest quilt. Here's a sneak peak:
Cold weather is perfect for reading with a cup of tea, don't you think? I picked up these two books yesterday at my LBS (local bookstore), and had the honor of being the last customer checked out by the founder of Room of One's Own. I thanked her profusely for this amazing bookstore, which has been in operation since 1975. Thankfully, the employees bought the store so it will stay open.
I really should take notes when I read blogs because I'm pretty sure I heard about the TV show "Trapped" from one of you. It's set in a remote town in Iceland during a blizzard -- and it's very good. Last night, the cats both hung out on my lap while we watched. This is a rare treat as Nagi generally prefers Keith.
I do want to thank whoever mentioned this show. Keith and I are really enjoying it. The first season is streaming on Amazon Prime right now; there is a second season, which The BBC aired at the beginning of the year.

The dialogue is in Icelandic (with English subtitles) and English. The characters switch frequently between the two languages. So, I have been able to knit while I'm watching.

By next weekend, I hope that the temperatures are milder and that my IEPs are finalized. Then I will feel like spring is around the corner.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Some Quilting, Some Knitting, Some Cats

Honestly, it's a miracle that I have any crafting to share at all. I have six IEP meetings in the next two weeks -- I know a few of you know how insane that is. But those six weather days really put me behind, and now it's catch-up time.

I worked quite a bit at home yesterday, and I was planning to work again today, but around 10 this morning my mom called. She'd fallen, so Keith and I went to the hospital with her. Luckily there were no broken bones, but she has some nasty bruises.

I have been focusing more on quilting than knitting lately. For one thing, I'm trying to stay on track with my Collage Cat (Pattern: Purrfect). I have finished cutting out all the little pieces and fusing them onto the base.
Next I have to cut it out, put it on a background and free-motion stitch the cat. My free-motion skills are not very developed, so I think a very busy piece like this is perfect. I'm hoping the stitches won't show too much!

I've been hand sewing and embroidering brightly colored art quilts that make me happy. This is my favorite so far:
It's called "Fractured" because it's made of fractured circles. The only part that's done by machine is the binding.

I went to my LYS with a non-knitting friend, who picked out these gorgeous yarns for me to make hat from. I'm going to improvise a Fair Isle design. I'll probably throw in some white to make it work.
My adorable gran-kitty (i.e. Rachel's cat) was neutered last week. She is not enjoying wearing a cone at all.
It has been cold and wet all weekend. During my breaks from working yesterday, I had a cup of tea and did some reading. I am both reading and listening to Iron Curtain by Anne Applebaum because there is so much to absorb.
During my trip to Eastern Europe last summer, I realized how little I knew about the Soviet era, and I am enjoying this book -- though it doesn't seem quite right to enjoy a book about such a grim subject. It is terrifying to learn how quickly countries like Poland and Czechoslovakia fell under totalitarian rule. I wonder if Americans would vote differently if they knew more history?

Kola and Nagi know how to make the most of a winter weekend:
Snow is predicted for four of the next seven days. It has been a long time since we had a real winter like this. And speaking of snow, our school days will be seven minutes longer starting tomorrow to make up for all those weather days. 

Sunday, February 17, 2019

This Post Is Brought To You By Kola

Maybe she is going stir-crazy from all the snow, although that would be strange in a house cat. Or maybe she is just crazy! Either way, Kola has been quite entertaining today as snow continues to blanket Wisconsin. She puts herself in the oddest positions.
I am glad that it is snowing on the weekend because we can't afford to lose any more school days. Making up the six days we missed is going to be painful enough. We are going to have some long days going forward.
The view from our front porch.
Because this is perfect weather for casting on, I decided to start a second Free Your Fade. I wear my first one a lot, so I decided to make another. I've started with Wonderland Yarns Mary Ann in Victorian China (isn't that a great name?) and eventually I'll fade to Twisted Owl in Razz-Ma-Tazz.
A number of you asked about Ruth's Risters. The pattern is not on Ravelry. She gives it away free when you buy the yarn from her. You can email her at
Kola definitely approves of my Rambling Rows Afghan. At first, I thought it was a mistake to use two different colorways, but as it has gotten larger, I like the contrast. As you can tell, I have a long way to go.
Keith and I don't do Valentine's Day, but a student who graduated in June of last year popped into school with this:
That jar is filled with chocolate Kisses, which I am not sharing!

And one last photo of Kola, who seems to be wondering why we keep waking her up from her nap to scratch her head.
It looks like the snow is slowing down, so tomorrow should be a school day!

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Always Catching Up

It seems like I am always catching up, both with my blog posting and reading. You would think that I'd have tons of blog time with all this cold weather, but there is always something to do. You know how that is! It's a busy time for special ed teachers. February through April is always IEP season, so I've been working quite a bit.

My main knitting has been two projects that go back to the knitting retreat I went to a few weeks ago.  An older lady named Ruth always vends at this retreat, and I fell in love with her original pattern: Ruth's Risters. The first hand is about done:
 The mitts are made with two strands of Knit One Crochet Too Soxx Appeal. This yarn was discontinued a few years ago. Ruth loves it so much that when she heard they were discontinuing it, she bought all the remaining stock from the manufacturer! I find the yarn is a big hard on my hands, but the finished mitts are cozy and soft.

Ruth also stocks a lot of Cottage Creation patterns. Do you know about this Iowa designer? She is especially well known for The Wonderful Wallaby. I haven't made that pattern, but I love her Babies and Bears Sweater. I had never seen The Rambling Rows afghan before and it was love at first sight.

When I looked through the projects on Ravelry, the ones I really loved were made with Noro Silk Garden. Can you imagine the cost of a Noro afghan? Me, neither. One of the ladies at the retreat suggested that I substitute Plymouth Gina, which turned out to be ingenious:
Last weekend, I took a sewing class with my mother-in-law, where we learned how make fabric collages. I chose a cat pattern, Purrfect:
Is that fun or what? Cutting out all those pieces takes some time, but I like handwork, so I don't mind. It's bigger than it looks, so it is going to be a challenge to quilt it.

So, I'll leave you with a real cat. Kola just loves bathroom fixtures.
And yes, we know we need to update this bathroom. It has the original pink fixtures from when the house was built in 1955.

Monday, January 28, 2019

Deep Winter

After a frighteningly mild start, winter has arrived with a vengeance. I am home for a second snow day in two weeks. And it looks like we may call off school for another day or two this week because of frigid temperatures.

This is not a good thing. We only budget for two weather days per school year, so we have to add minutes or days if we have three or more weather days. Not that I'm complaining today. A three-day weekend is always nice!

However, after I post this, I need to take a walk. The temperature is around 0 -- and that is about as warm as it is going to get for this week. And then I need to do some paperwork for school. Those special ed deadlines do not shift for snow days!

I've started a second Dewberry cowl with a skein of Sun Valley fibers. The yarn is super-soft and the perfect shade of blue to wear with denim.
I finished my Soundwaves Shawl and I'm not sure I'm happy with it. It hasn't been blocked, but it looks like the outer edge isn't going to accommodate the top edge smoothly. I looked at Ravelry, and I'm not the only person to run into this issue. We'll see if blocking helps.
On the first snow day, I went skiing on the bike path with some friends. It wasn't too bad. And it was nice to ski without driving Up North. 
I have been finishing up small art quilts, so I have a stack of them that need quilt labels. I spent about an hour this morning making some. I am just very slow with a sewing machine. I don't mind hand-sewing them onto the quilts.
Yesterday, I went over my friend Tsela's house and we drew. I am quite pleased with my sketch:
It really does look like Tsela. However, her couch is gray. I just wanted to get some more color into the picture.

These cold, snowy days make me happy (yes, I know that is not normal). It is just so cozy to be inside with a fun knitting project and a cup of tea when the weather is so bad. 

I hope you are enjoying the weather where you are!

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Winter Weekends

Yarn and winter just go together. There are a lot more opportunities to wear wool in Wisconsin than in points south. And there is something extra cozy about knitting when it's cold outside.

I spent a chunk of this weekend at my Knitters Guild winter retreat, held in the cute little town of New Glarus. My husband can't believe this events exists. 

"So you just sit around all day and knit?" he asks disbelievingly.
"That's all?"
At this point he just shakes his head.

I knit quite a bit on a new pair of socks:
These are the Go With the Flow Socks from Interweave's Favorite Socks  book.  I wanted a simple pattern that would show off this gorgeous yarn from Ewetopia, one of my favorite Wisconsin dyers. 

And I'm close to finishing my Soundwaves shawl.
It's hard to get a feeling for what this shawl is like because it's large -- two skeins of sock-weight yarn -- and very scrunched up on the needles. But I think it's going to be very cozy and pretty.

Last weekend, I was up in Door County (the "thumb" of Wisconsin) with some friends. Luckily my friend Lisa knew a place to go to see ice formations, which were awesome:
Lisa is a serious photographer, so we were out for every sunset:
The only bad part is that today I have a stomach bug, so I went to bed as soon as I got home from New Glarus. I have had good company; Kola enjoyed exploring my knitting bag before settling down to nap by my side.
I hope that I feel better in the morning. We are a week away from finals, so I can't miss work next week!