Friday, September 26, 2014

Knitting and Reading

Boy, does it feel good to be home this evening. Even after a restful Rosh HaShannah yesterday, it was still a jam-packed week. So, I'm focusing on both a book and knitting project that are relaxing. Tomorrow is my birthday so I feel I deserve some R&R.

The sock is the second of a pair, a Hermoine's Everyday Sock. Even though we are having warm weather now, winter is just around the corner in Wisconsin. (Though, according to the New York Times, the Midwest will be much warmer in another 40 years.) This will be a fun pair to wear with Birkies.

I've been meaning to read Wherever You Go There You Are by Jon Kabat-Zinn for years. Maybe even decades. It is one of the classics of American mindfulness. It isn't the type of book that you devour in one or two readings, you need to nibble at it day after day because it gives you so much to think about. That's not to say that it is difficult reading; it's not. Here is a short passage to give you an idea:

"We tend to be particularly unaware that we are thinking virtually all the time. The incessant stream of thoughts flowing through our minds leaves us very little respite for inner quiet." (p. 9) I think that's what is called Monkey Mind, which seems to be my default state.

Earlier this week, I had the honor of meditating with monks and nuns from Plum Village in France. Plum Village is the monastery established in the late 1960s by Thich Naht Hahn, who is second only to the Dalai Lama in the world of mindfulness. It was so thrilling to be in the same room with "sisters and brothers," as they call themselves. It reminded me of how I felt when I saw Bob Dylan in concert in 1978!

If you have ever wondered what this mindfulness stuff is all about, the first book you should look at is Peace is Every Step by Thich Haht Nahn. It is life-changing stuff -- and a smooth, poetic read to boot!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

WIP: It's A New One

Earlier this month, I blogged about how I want to make the Harriet Sweater. I bought the yarn and pattern at the Wisconsin Sheep and Wool Festival. Lucky for me, my partner in yarn accumulation saw that the Harriet Sweater is adapted from Cottage Creations' Babies & Bear Sweater, so I picked up that pattern, too.

For once, I am going to think before I plunge into a major project. I am going to make the baby sweater first. I think it's a good idea because the construction of the sweater is unique: You knit it in two halves, beginning with the cuff of each arm, and then you use the Kitchner stitch to sew the backs together. Suzy has made the baby sweater before and assures me it's a bit strange but not too hard.

Besides, I just felt like casting-on something new and different. This school year is shaping up to be a challenging one, so I wanted to treat myself. It's a hectic week with the Jewish New Year starting tonight. I will take off Thursday to observe the holiday, which I always enjoy. Still, it's hard to miss a day at school. Special ed students, even more than other middle-schoolers, crave predictability!

I'm linking up with Ginny for Keep Calm, Craft On.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Adorable And Adictive

These first three weeks of school have been pretty draining, so I've been embroidering towels to unwind.
In a way, I hate using up time on pre-made patterns, but they are so cute and will make sweet gifts. There is something soothing about these mindless projects.

I've been knitting, too, but I didn't want to feature the same project over and over!

This morning a bunch of people from the writing program I participated in this past summer got together to begin a writing group. It was amazing. We had a great turnout. We started out by writing from a prompt one participant brought, and shared. Some of us brought in pieces that we've been working on. I almost didn't share mine. But the others encouraged me, and then gave me feedback that was both useful and supportive. We're planning to meet monthly. Maybe I will actually finish this short story!

We're having company tonight, so the house is clean! Isn't that a great feeling? I was busy all day, so I hope to have a more relaxing day tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

WIP Wednesday: Impulse Purchase

It's confession time. I few weeks ago, my friend Marsha dragged me (kicking and screaming, really!) in The Knitting Tree, a LYS, because the store was having a sale before moving up the block. The first thing I saw when I walked in the door was this new Madelinetosh colorway:

It's called Holi Festival, but I would call it Spun Sugar. There is something so yummy about it. And before I left the store, I knew what I was going to do with it: Make the cowl that one of the salespeople was wearing. It's called the Jet Set Cowl, and you can see it here.

Paulina Popiolek is the designer. I had never heard of her before, but she has some amazing designs. Check out the Ho'okipa Shawl. Not only is it gorgeous, but it's named after one of my favorite beaches in the world. (It's on the north coast of Maui).

Check out what everyone is knitting at Ginny's blog.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Too Cold For A Yard Sale

The temperature did not rise above 43 degrees F during my sale yesterday. I ended up layered in hand-knits. It took a bit of digging to locate my knitted items because it was summer a week ago!

The sale did not go as well as I hoped. It started out great when two women bought $84-worth of wool yarns, leaving me with this on the yarn table:

The whole box of acrylics sold later. What didn't sell were the rubber stamps, and I had really great stamps for sale! I didn't sell a single set of Stampin' Up stamps (which are top of the line, for those of you who do not stamp). In five hours I made about $140. Not terrible, but not great, either.

I did not knit after shutting down the sale. I napped, which is very unusual for me. I think the cold wore me out!

Friday's dinner went really well. The other family I invited is vegan so I made Ratatouille and my friend made a bean dish. My mom brought fruit salad and brownies.  I think everyone had a good time. For the Ratatouille I pulled out the original Moosewood Cookbook. I have to say that the result was disappointing. Vegetarian cooking has gotten a lot better since the 1970s.

I'm going to brave another cold morning today to get some exercise, biking with a couple friends. Then I need to buckle down and do some work that I brought home from school. Almost time for another week!

Friday, September 12, 2014

FO Friday: Can You Stand Another Sock?

I promise the next photo I post will NOT be about socks. But this is my only FO at the moment:

It's a Plain Vanilla Sock in Opal's Little Prince colorway. There's no such thing a a bad Opal sock, and I love the finished product, but this was kind of tedious to work. I guess I enjoy their colors that form faux-Fair Isle patterns better.

It's going to be a frantic 24 hours for me. I am making dinner for 8 this evening, and then my Crafter's Destash yarn sale starts at 8 tomorrow morning. Did I mention that I have to work all day? When the sale ends, I think I'm going to put my feet, queue up Netflix, and indulge in some mindless knitting!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

WIP: Same Sock

Still working on the Autumn Trellis socks. If you tuned in last week, you can see that progress is slow. I'm not a slow knitter, but this pattern is sure going slow for me!
I think that the issue is the type of double decrease used to create the lace pattern: You slip two stitches as if to knit 2 together; then you knit the next stitch; and lastly you slip the two slipped stitches over the knit stitch. It takes me a few seconds to make sure I'm picking up both the slipped stitches. I know I could probably shop for sharper needles, but I simply own too many needles to even want to add another set!

Do you have any experience with this type of double decrease?

I got through the first five days of school with no major bumps! I can see that this is going to be an unusually hectic year. My students have a wide range of academic abilities, so I will be making lots of modifications in curriculum. I have some students with challenging behaviors, but I seem to be establishing good relationships with them, so I'm feeling optimistic!

In the meantime, I am frantically organizing and pricing items for my Crafter's Destash Yard Sale, set for Saturday. Keith put up a notice on Craig's List, so I have to be ready!

Monday, September 8, 2014

What I Bought

I actually think I was admirably restrained at the Wisconsin Sheep and Wool Festival this past weekend. I did, however, make one MAJOR "investment" in two huge skeins of Briar Rose Sonoma, a heavy worsted weight wool.

Pretty huh? It is destined to be a Harriet's Jacket. There was a sample of this adorable sweater at the Briar Rose booth, and I just fell in love with it. With three unsuccessful sweaters behind me, I actually think that this is one that I can complete. I'm even going to swatch!

We noticed that the ombre style of dying is really popular. Most of of them were packaged in cakes like this one. The real color is more green-blue than it looks in this photo. It's Coloration from Ogle Design, which is based in St. Francis, Wisconsin. I love the way shawls look when they are knit from these skeins.

And this one was on sale! It is Sweet Feet by Interlacements. Yes, I love wild colors. I think this will make a really fun hat.

My mom was a bit horrified that I bought more yarn. I don't think I've been successful in convincing her that a stash is a good thing!

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Way Too Much Wooly Fun

I spent the entire day yesterday at the Wisconsin Sheep and Wool Festival yesterday with my friend Suzy, and we had a great time. It was a perfect  September day, blue sky and just cool enough to wear a lacy cowl.
I met Suzy at my writing program this past summer, and this was the longest time we've spent together. We were talking a mile a minute, which turned out to be somewhat of a problem ... but I'm getting ahead of myself.

More and more, I value this event for reminding us of where wool comes from. Animal-sourced yarn is not primarily a manufactured product -- nor is lamb, for that matter. We knit and eat thanks to hard-working farmers. In my last newspaper job, I covered agriculture for Madison's morning paper, and I quickly learned that I could never have made it in farming. No one works harder -- with less job security -- than these folks.

Farmers are also smart -- and often very funny.  This fellow above lives on a farm called Queso Cabeza in Olivet, Michigan. We knew right away that this family had Wisconsin roots because the English translation of their name is Cheese Head (Go Packers!).

 Suzy and I shared so many laughs, one of which involved these sheared sheep:
 I could not help but calling them: Ku Klux Lambs (get it???).  I have to add that I am sure that this is purely coincidence and that the owners are wonderful people.

Also, I enjoyed a few moments of fame. I was standing in line at the Briar Rose booth (yes, there was shopping, but that's another post), and the woman in front of me kept looking at me. I checked my fly; it was zipped. After a few moments, she said, "Do you have a knitting blog?" It turned out to be Chicago blogger (with Wisconsin roots), Jodi of A Caffeinated Yarn! Wow! I can tell you that her little boy is even cuter in real life than in blog pics. '

And one other coincidence. We discovered that Suzy's best friend during her childhood lived in the house that I now live in (she hadn't been to my house, yet). Is that weird or what?

So, back to all that chatting. Suzy and I paid no attention to where we parked the car. Thankfully, the weather was beautiful, because we walked almost the entire parking lot before finding my car!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

WIP: Yes, I Am Finally Back

It is quite rare for me to have a two-week gap in blogging. I think I can genuinely blame my job. Between trainings and getting ready for the new school year, I have been working 12 or more hours a day. I'm hoping all this preparation will pay off when the students show up today. At any rate, I do apologize to my blog friends and I promise to catch up with my blog reading this week!

Though I haven't been blogging, there has been knitting. I've been focusing on this pair of socks because it is going to be a holiday gift. Its an original design, and I do like the way it looks. It feels even better, I discovered when I finished sock No. 1.  I do find that it's a slow lace pattern, so I am determined not too leave it until the last moment.

While it looks like I'm going to have a lot of challenging students this year, I am trying to stay focused on the positives. Right now I am grateful that my own children are doing well. They both started graduate school last week and are happy with their programs. A mom really can't ask for more.

And this afternoon, I stopped at Walgreens to pick up key locks for some students who can't manage combinations. I ran into a student from 5 or 6 years ago. I gotta say that this kid was kind of a mess in 8th grade. However, it turns out that he graduated from high school and has a full-time job with a pest-control company. I would like to think that my work does a little bit of good in the world.