Wednesday, December 30, 2015

A Sleeve, Some Books, and Snow!

I'm hoping the fourth time will be the charm. This is my fourth attempt at knitting an adult sweater. And I just won't feel like a "real" knitter until I can wear a sweater that I knit myself! My first three attempts ended up in the garbage; that will not happen this time as I'm using good yarn (Briar Rose). Without further ado, I present the first sleeve of Harriet's Jacket:
It fits so far, which is more than I can say about my previous attempts!

I picked up these two books at the library yesterday:
I love Cathie Pelletier's novels, and A Year After Henry is as good as her previous books. The story is set one year after Henry's death through the eyes of his wife, mistress, and brother. Sixty pages in, I'm mesmerized.  Even though I couldn't finish Just Kids, Patti Smith's first memoir, I picked up M Train. We'll see if it grabs me.

I finished Life Drawing and it was OK. I will warn you that it gets very, very dark as it nears the end.

Yesterday I was able to take this photo:
Finally we got enough snow (barely) to get out the cross country skis! My friends are in better shape than I, so I had to struggle to ski for 90 minutes -- but I did it! It felt great. If I could ski all year round, I would be in great shape. It's the only exercise that I truly love.

Afterward we went to one friend's house for hot chocolate. A perfect afternoon!

Looking forward to catching up with everyone in the post-Christmas week with Ginny's Yarn Along.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Still Isn't Looking Like Christmas

The plan, back in September, was to go cross country skiing over winter break. Alas, neither weather not climate was on our side. Instead some friends and I went hiking at the Horicon Marsh.
Pretty, yes, but not as pretty as snow-covered pines!

But at least it was cold enough for me to wear my Meta Mittens!
And I stand corrected by Judy: This is NOT a free pattern. Nope, I paid for it. And it was totally worth it!

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

On the Needles and Bedside Table

Thank you, Rose, for inspiring me to start a Guernsey Wrap. This Jared Flood pattern is perfect for winter break: cozy and rhythmic.
I'm making it with Peace Fleece, which is heavier (and less expensive!) than Flood's Shelter, which the pattern calls for. I like it, but I'm thinking it might be nicer in the lighter wool. Oh well, I might have to make a second one!

Confession: I am not very good at "reading' my knitting. I read about how other knitters can memorize lace patterns and then knit by watching the pattern emerge. Not me. I need to check the pattern every row or two. I think this might be related to my lifelong struggle with math.

Reading a pattern all the time can be tedious and time consuming. A few weeks ago, while I was shopping for embroidery supplies, I noticed these magnetic pattern boards and wondered if these might speed up pattern reading. 
Ta-da! It works. I love this simple tool!

As for reading, I started a book that has long been on my list, Life Drawing, by Robin Black.
It is billed as a literary thriller -- one of my favorite types of books: intelligent but also engrossing. At least, that's what I'm hoping this one will be.  I have started and put down so many novels lately that it's frustrating. I miss being lost in fiction.

I have a very quiet break planned and it is just what I need after a tough fall at school. Informal gatherings with friends, family time with my parents and kids, and lots of arts and crafts. What could be better?

Wishing a wonderful holiday to my blog friends. Do know that I treasure each and every one of you. Reading your blogs and your comments is one of my favorite activities. Thank you for being part of my life!

Joining up with Ginny for Yarn Along.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Let's Hear It For Etsy!

I opened a store on Etsy (a web site for artists/crafters to sell their goods) in 2009.  I never found the time to market it. Besides, I am a horrible salesperson. I hate promoting myself. So, of course, I never sold anything.

Then out of the blue, after six quiet years, I get two orders!

It took me about 10 minutes to figure out what had happened when the first one came through last week. I was checking my email at work during lunch, and there was a message saying that someone had sent me money through Paypal. What? At first I was totally stumped. When I figured out why I was getting $14, I was thrilled.
And another order came through this afternoon -- for the button earrings pictured here.

So, I guess I need to get serious about stocking and marketing my Etsy store. I don't think I really believed it would work for me.
Which is kind of funny because I have bought a lot of stuff on Etsy over the years, mostly materials for arts and crafts, but also finished jewelry. Just last week I bought this iron-on cross-stitch pattern from the 1940s and the vintage buttons.

So, maybe by next fall I'll be posting about my Etsy store.  It's obviously too late for holiday gifts this year, but if you want to see what some of my jewelry looks like, you can find my store here.

In the meantime, I hope you are not tied up with last-minute shopping!

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Weekend Stuff

There is nothing quite as sweet as the first weekend of winter break. Having two weeks away from work is such a luxury! I do complain about work sometimes, so I want to come clean and admit that the school breaks are an amazing benefit. So many Americans only get two or three weeks off a year and, frankly, that is criminal! We all need to recharge.

My weekend started out with a bang: When I got home from work Friday, my daughter had arrived from Florida.

Yesterday I drove to a suburb on the other side of Madison to take class to learn to make this bracelet:
This leather and beads bracelet is called Beading Insomnia. I saw some samples in the store a few weeks ago and signed up for the class on the spot. I like bracelets that have a cuff-type look. This photo makes the white beads look whiter than they are. They are more subtle in real life.

This evening I am hosting a birthday party for my dear friend Marsha. I am making two kinds of cookies for dessert, one being the Brown Butter Salted Caramel Mocha Cookies pictured below. These are amazing cookies, less sweet and more complex than most cookies.
I'm also going to make the Browniest Cookies from my favorite food blogger, the Smitten Kitchen. Yes, there will be healthy food for dinner to balance out all that sugary richness. But you have to indulge when it's one of the "0" birthdays, don't you? I think it's a law.

I hope everyone has had a lovely weekend and that no one is too stressed about the upcoming festivities!

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

New Use for Sock Yarn

I know I'm not the only knitter who can't seem to resist buying self-patterning yarn. A lot of people are knitting the Christmas colorway of Heritage Handpaints, and a few days ago I posted my work sock, with a pink and blue pattern of that yarn.

Still, there's a limit to the number plain vanilla socks I want to knit, so I'm trying out a pattern for a hat with self-patterning sock yarn, and so far I love it:
I like the thinner bands you get with a larger diameter. It's just kind of fun to see a variation.

After watching the first season on Amazon Prime, I'm reading The Man in the High Castle.
I actually thought the series went off the tracks in the last two episodes of the season, so I'm liking the book better. It is more subtle and, at least in the first 50 pages, the plot is very different. I think the writers of the TV version got too hung up on building a romance. We'll see if the book continues to hold my interest.

The Madison Knitting Guild met Monday night. Our guest speaker was a fabulous dyer from rural Wisconsin, Kate Wright. She has a retail store in Viroqua and sells her yarn online under the brand name Ewetopia. I didn't snap any pictures, but you can find her fabulous yarn here. It is amazing how many great dyers are out there.

I'll be joining Ginny for Yarn Along. Hope to see you there.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Doesn't Feel Much Like the Holidays

Even a cheerful flock of Santas on bicycles doesn't make Madison look ready for the holidays. Not only do we have no snow, but it's been raining on and off since last night.
I was downtown with my mom doing a bit of gift shopping when these folks biked through. They put a smile on everyone's face.

It was perfect weather to start a Guernsey Wrap by Jared Flood. This pattern has called to me for a number of years. I was tempted to start it when Rose of Sand in My Yarn posted about hers. This wet, rainy cold also made now seem like a good time to knit a substantial wrap! I happened on some Peace Fleece in a dusty rose (more muted than it looks in the photo) and off I went:
Last night I saw the movie Brooklyn with some friends. It's very sweet and well-done -- but definitely a love story. I'm glad I didn't drag Keith to it.

Thanks to all of you who sympathized with the strains of work. I'm just sorry so many of you share this type of stress!

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Mindless And Relaxing.

This morning I'm sharing my "work project," a basic sock I keep at work for any down times. It's an appropriate picture because work has been dominating my thoughts.
But I am working to minimize that because work should not take over one's life, don't you think? I've been trying to work less (unpaid) overtime, meditate more regularly, and eat better. I'll be doing more mindless knitting this evening when Keith and I plan to watch at least one episode of The Man in the High Castle on Amazon Prime. It's an alternative history set in the United States in the 1960s in a world where the Axis won World War II. We are hooked!

What do you do when work is stressful?

Anyway, the yarn here is Cascade Heritage Prints, color 08. I'm a bit worried about sizing. This yarn feels thinner than the regular Cascade Heritage, which is a yarn I like quite a bit. It will fit someone, I'm sure.

And I'm still reading the short stories in American Innovations by Rivka Galchen. I am enjoying them, but so far the first one is the best.
I'll be linking up with Ginny for Yarn Along.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

You Gotta Enjoy the Time You Have

It could have been a bad weekend. Work is really stressful this year and I'm still dealing with pain from a work injury. But, I willed myself to set all that aside and enjoy the weekend. And, for once, it worked.

Here are a few of the lovely moments:
At a dinner party Friday evening, Steve showed us all how to make a Clementine into a candle. (Hints: score around the middle, preserve the center stem, and fill with olive oil.)

Saturday night, there was a birthday party for new mom Ilana. My daughter will be very jealous of this balloon. They both love Disney princesses:
And at long last, I have a picture of Ilana's daughter in the Babies and Bears Sweater that I knit for her, held by my dear friend, Debbie:
And there were quiet moments at home with Keith and his cats. Here is Weeko, perched to soak up some weak winter light:
Although winter is slow in coming this year. I actually went for a bike ride with friends on Saturday!  We only did 12 miles and I was exhausted. That's what happens when you get lazy about exercise I guess. Still it's cold enough for me to slip into my handmade socks, and that's a feeling that I love:
I hope that you have had a lovely weekend!

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

She Said Sheepishly

I should be using all my knitting time to work on gifts, but I just can't resist a little selfish (and sheepish!) knitting:
This is the first of my Meta Mittens, a free pattern by  Elizabeth Wolden. Isn't that sheep just adorable? It's a pretty easy Fair Isle pattern, and so far I haven't had any problems. I'm using Regal yarn by Briggs & Little. It's a rustic yarn, not terribly soft, but I used it on my Spruce Tree Mittens and I really like the feel of it on my hands.
I don't have a picture of it, but I'm reading American Innovations, a short story collection by Rivka Galchen. I loved the first story. It's is compulsively readable, draws you into the head of a woman who isn't completely stable, and has a twist at the end. I hope the rest of the stories are as good.

I'm joining up with Ginny for Yarn Along.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

More Gift Knitting

The problem with family gatherings is that you can't knit holiday gifts while you're hanging out. For example, I had to keep these hidden away since my brother was around:

I don't think I've had a photo of these for a while. These Blueberry Waffle Socks are supposed to be done in time for my brother's mid-December birthday. I think I can do it.

Over the holiday weekend, I gave the Green Bay Packer socks to my other brother, and he was thrilled.  Even though he lives in Washington, D.C., he has remained loyal to the Green and Gold. The stockinette socks were boring to knit, but it was all worth to see how much he liked them.

It's odd to think that tomorrow morning the alarm will go off at 5:30 and I'll head back into reality. Oh well, at least it was a great weekend!

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Thankful for Family

It has been a hectic weekend -- in the best possible way. Both my brothers flew in for the holiday from the East Coast with their families. It was amazing to be together. Every minute was precious.

I didn't capture everyone and everything on camera, but here are some of the people that make me grateful.

Up first, are my daughter, Rachel, left, who is home from grad school in Miami, and my niece Rebecca from Washington, D.C.
My brother Mike, more famously known as Rebecca's dad, and my mom (apologies to Mike's wife Mary, who didn't make it into any of my pics):
My dad (can you believe he's 83?):
My nephew and niece (and siblings), Theo and Jennifer. Theo is in 5th grade in Williamsburg, Va., and his sister graduated from Davidson College in May and is now a consultant in Los Angeles:
My brother Eric (a.k.a. Theo and Jenn's dad) and his fiance Nancy:
Nancy and her son, Robbie, who is a high school sophomore, just like Rebecca:
And my ex-husband with my son Seth, who took a few evenings off from veterinary school:
Yes, my ex has Thanksgiving with us. We have a very cordial relationship, he doesn't have any family nearby, and I don't want to have half the Thanksgivings without my kids -- so it works out. Also, I think it's nice for my kids to share the holiday with both their parents.

We had the dinner in room at my parents' retirement community, and everyone pitched in with the cooking. It worked out very well. I only wish I had taken some pictures of Mike's pies. They looked and tasted amazing.

My daughter flew back to Miami yesterday, and everyone else is leaving today -- which leaves me feeling a bit sad.  When Rachel was little, she used to ask if we could all live together in one big house. I share her feelings. I really, really hate being so far from my brothers.

I hope your Thanksgiving was as filled with blessings as mine.

Friday, November 20, 2015

When Better to Learn to Crochet?

Well, I'm off work today, but not in a happy way (despite the rhyming cadence of that sentence!). Injured by a student for the second time in two weeks. The good news is that neither student intended to hurt me. But this second incident reinjured my neck and back -- just when they were starting to heal!

On the up side, I now have an excuse for hosting Thankgiving weekend in a messy house!

Knitting in bed is one of the things I can do without increasing the pain, so I decided that crochet would probably work, too. And it does. Between this book and YouTube, I was able to figure out the basics. But, as you can see, the scarf is not in progress. I realized a couple inches into it that I had the wrong-sized hook. No wonder the scarf looked so narrow.

Hopefully my house-husband will have time to pick up a larger hook today.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Apologies, Socks and a Book

I have so much to apologize for today! I am behind on reading your blogs, and I do miss you! I will get caught up in the next couple of days.

Then there are these horrible flash photos. And I am sure you are very tired of the Green Bay Packer socks. I sure am!

Don't get me wrong. Jaala of Knit Circus did a great job with the colors, but I'm not a football fan. These are a gift. I'm happy to make them for my brother, but they are boring to knit! I am also worried about getting them done on time (Hanukkah comes early this year!), so I'm doing two at a time. I know it's not rational, but I feel like they go faster that way.

I'm about 100 pages into The Grief of Others by Leah Hager Cohen, and it's pretty good. Among other themes, it examines the intricacies of a long-term marriage, which I always find interesting.

So many books are about falling in love or breaking up. In some ways, those are the easy parts. Staying together for the long haul...that's an accomplishment!

Don't forget to Yarn Along with Ginny.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

A Weekend of Gifts

Gifts come in all sorts of forms, don't they? I spent a lot of time organized and wrapping gifts for the upcoming holiday season this weekend. Hanukkah is frightfully early this year, so I focused on them. It doesn't help that my brothers, some of their children, and my own children all have birthdays in November and December.

I am still making gifts, of course! I can't imagine having everything ready to wrap by mid-November. I suppose someone out there has everything under control by now, but that will never be me! One of the projects I've been working on are these button-covered Altoid tins. I think they are perfect for giving gift cards or money. I have quite a few giftees in their teens and 20s, so I'll be putting these to good use.

I'm not sure I can get the Green Bay Packer socks done in time for Hanukkah. My brother will be at my house for almost a full week for Thanksgiving, so that is a whole week I can't work on them. I'm going to have to see how much I can get done this week. There is a chance that these will be gifts for 2016.
I also received a few gifts this weekend. I went to a holiday art show with my mom and her sister, who is visiting from Seattle and my mom bought me this beautiful yarn bowl:

And I had the pleasure of spending time with my Aunt Natalie. On Saturday night, we all went out to dinner -- and my son took time out of his busy studies to join us. This evening, my aunt came to our house for dinner and I tried a new recipe for Butternut Squash Soup, which turned out to be fabulous.
The weather was mild; I make jewelry with my friend Tsela; and did some meal-planning for Thanksgiving. All in all, it was a lovely weekend.

How was yours?

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Short and Sweet Update

It's a crazy busy week: a couple of 12-hour days at school and my aunt is flying in from Seattle tomorrow, so I want to do some cooking.

Zuzu's Petals knits up pretty quickly, as other bloggers have noted. The lace pattern is quite easy to follow on the chart. You can't tell from its current state, but I have just two more rows and cast-off left to do.
I'm doing some more serious reading this days, research for the work I'm planning for the Jewish Artists' Lab, which runs through May, when we'll have a show. Emancipation is about the Jews' battle for citizenship rights in Europe during and after the Enlightenment. I'm addicted to those sticky notes. I love being able to mark pages without writing on them.

I'm joining up with Ginny at Yarn Along.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Lazy Weekend with FO

I had a pretty lazy weekend, and I know I am not alone when I say that is an unusual even for me. So many of us are juggling many different demands, even on the weekend. Usually, I judge a weekend by how much I accomplish. By that standard, this weekend was a failure. 

My back and neck are still pretty sore after the accident at school last week, so I didn't actually choose to do so little. I should have been getting the house ready for Thanksgiving, but instead I read, napped, and knit. I did go to an art exhibit with a friend on Saturday afternoon and out for coffee Sunday morning. Mostly, though, I just rested -- and that felt pretty good.

I do have an FO: a finished pair of socks in Over the Rainbow, a gradient stripe yarn by Knit Circus, which just happens to be right here in Madison:
You can knit these, as I did, so that are different -- or start on the same color range so they match.
I love the way the color gradient stripes work out. It made the knitting go quickly!

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

From Big to Small

Some weeks are just harder than others. Monday morning, I received a significant neck/back injury at school -- by a student, completely by accident. The student felt really bad and apologized very sweetly. Nonetheless teaching with pain isn't the easiest thing I've ever done.

I am almost done with the Pelerine Shawl that is going to be gift. I feel like I've been knitting it forever.

Even though I haven't quite cast-off, I couldn't resist casting on for a much smaller project, ZuZu's Petals, which is a cowl that looks like a small shawl. I'm using a beautiful ombre yarn from Knit Circus, which has cashmere in it -- hey, my neck is sensitive!
I picked up a novel last night that I think I might be able finish. The first few pages, at least, are written in stunningly beautiful prose.
The Grief of Others is about the effect on a family of a disabled newborn who dies a few days after birth. If the writing stays this strong, I think I'll be able to stick with it regardless of the plot!

I'm joining up with Ginny for Yarn Along.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

I Missed You Dear Digital Friends

It's been about 10 days since I last blogged, a long time for me, and I have missed you all! I promise to get caught up in my blog reading in the next few days. I should have time as I have been laid low by a sinus infection. I'm planning to work all week, but no 10- or 12-hour days!

I can't seem to keep up with the paperwork at school, so that is one reason I've had a hard time finding time to blog. But there have also been some more exciting things going on. For one, I'm part of a year-long project called the Jewish Artists' Lab, and we had a retreat in Milwaukee, which included a visit to the Milwaukee Art Museum. It's such a great building:
There were 65 artists from Madison, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Chicago, and Kansas City. Everyone was friendly and interesting and our schedule was jam-packed. Another place we visited was a new synagogue that's at the very edges of the metropolitan area, which is where I took this beautiful fall photo:

I'm still waiting to get some photos of the group, but at this point I don't have any people photos to share. There were tons of talented people and I felt very humbled to be part of the group.

There was a fun Halloween party on Friday night thrown by the parents of this little beauty:
That is the elegant Ma'ayan, tolerating her dinosaur hat for a few moments as she contemplates my friend Mimi. We had appetizers and desserts and watched "Inside Out." There is something so amazing about going to a party thrown by Ilana (baby's mom) who is the same age as my son! I met Ilana's moms in Lamaze birthing classes so I've watched her grow up.

For Halloween, Keith and I went out to see the movie, "Bridge of Spies," which is good. The recreation of post-WWII East Berlin is amazing. Although the story is predictable, the twists and turns kept us interested. My daughter had a much more exciting evening. She sent this photo:
If you can't tell, the leggings are green and scaly. Her favorite Disney princess has always been Ariel from "The Little Mermaid." As a feminist, I've always been appalled. Did she really have to pick the princess who gave up her voice for a man? There's no accounting for taste! Fortunately she is pretty feminist herself, so I got a kick out of the costume.

I've been doing nothing but garter and stockinette stitching. Thank goodness for Sunday night on PBS!
I was hoping to get the Green Bay Packer socks done by Hanukkah for my brother, but this is how far I am on the first sock. I was done with the leg a few weeks ago, but then I noticed that I had dropped a stitch up near the cuff, so I picked it up for a lot of rows and found out that is not a good idea. It made for a funny-looking, tight line of stitches. I ripped most of the leg out and started again.

So, that's where I've been. Can't wait to catch up with the rest of you!