Saturday, January 31, 2015

Turning Pages

Lately, I've noticed a lot of fiber bloggers often write about what they are reading -- or want to read -- and I love hearing about what people are -- and are not -- liking literary-wise. So, I'm going to try to do a weekly Turning Pages post because I am a pretty big book worm.
A few days ago, I finished Euphoria by Lily King, a novel that turned up on a lot "Best Books of 2014 Lists."  It's a fictional story based very loosely on Margaret Mead's experiences in New Guinea in 1933, when a love triangle developed among herself, her husband, and another male anthropologist.

It's an excellent and quick read. The graceful prose takes you into the wilds of New Guinea at a time when "primitive" societies were considered exotic and dangerous. In fact, there was quite a bit of danger, from both man and disease -- not to mention the human heart. King has done her research well and transports her readers to that time and place.

I would think that the ending might generate a good deal of controversy among readers. Although I was not enamoured of it, it didn't mar the reading experience for me. It is a trip well worth taking.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Mindless Knitting Is Mindful

This is what I've been working on this week:

Simple washcloths.  Totally mindless and relaxing. I've been working from 7 a.m. to 5 or 6 p.m. and then going to bed with Netflix and knitting as soon as I get home. These cloths are about all I'm able to handle after such a long day.

Am I wimp? Are most people working 10 or 11 hours per day?

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Keep Calm Craft On

There was a second knit that trended during the Sun Valley Fibers January Thaw Retreat this past weekend:
It's called Quicksilver, and it is a stunning shawl. It was designed by Melanie Berg of Germany and calls for SunValley Fibers yarn, but it would look stunning in any fingering-weight yarn. I almost bought the teals and gold in the sample because they are so striking. At the last moment, I decided to try something of my own. Honestly, I was not thinking of February 14 when I chose these colors, but the timing is kind of sweet.

It's not a hard knit, but it's not mindless either. And it's forcing me to do something I generally resist: count. I've always been math-averse, so I am an expert at fudging in my knitting when something is off by a few stitches. But I don't see that working here. So, I've been counting every single row. It's amazing how great it feels to know when I've got the right number of stitches! It does slow the process, but I'm realizing that it is far better than frogging and reknitting down the road.

I am quite jealous of those of you were buried in snow yesterday. I could really use a snow day! I've never seen so little snow in a Wisconsin winter.

I'm linking up with Nicole today; come join in the fun!

Sunday, January 25, 2015

A Whole Amazing Day of Knitting

"So, you're going to knit all day?" my husband asked me, clearly puzzled.
"Just knit?"
"I don't get that at all," he concluded.

That was the conversation we had yesterday morning as I headed out to a full day of the Sun Valley January Thaw Retreat. There were classes, but I really just wanted to knit and talk without any kind of schedule to follow. And it was awesome.

As promised, here is the wall of yarn:
 Jeanette's colors are amazing. We all spent a lot of time petting the yarn. As you can see, she actually sold out of some colors.
On Friday night, there were door prizes. For everyone. "That's the way I roll," quipped Jeanette. I was one of the luckiest because I won this:
 For the uninitiated, this is a Yarn Buddy. As Jeannette and husband George say on their website, it's a lazy susan for your caked yarn. It is perfect timing for me because I used a ball winder for the first time at the retreat and now I'm a believer. I have a swift but I've been making yarn balls by hand. Not only are yarn cakes nicer to use, they also wind up SO much faster. I'm ordering one today. Frankly, I've been an idiot for not getting one years ago!

I was reminded of the power of samples. Jeannette had this out on a table.
It's Wendy Johnson's Leftovers Cowl. I've had my eye on this project for a long time. And I was clearly not the only one who was entranced by Jeannette's version. Jeannette thoughtfully offered a bin of mini-skeins that are perfect for this project. And they were a big hit. A number of people bought 30 mini-skeins and cast on right then and there. I picked up a few mini-skeins to mix in with my leftover sock yarn. However, I'm not going to cast on until I finish the Favourite Things Cowl, which is similar but in worsted weight.

I had planned to interview Jeannette, but she was busy every minute. I hope that means she had a profitable weekend because she sure planned a wonderful retreat for the rest of us.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Knitting Heaven Right Here In Wisconsin

By the time I found out about Sun Valley Fibers January Thaw Retreat, it was full. I asked to be put on the wait list, but I had no hope that I'd get in. Who wouldn't want to spend two days surrounded by friendly knitters and some of the smooshiest yarn in the business?

Then, by some miracle, a spot opened up. I could not resist. The retreat is right here in Madison, so I had no travel or hotel expenses! I immediately cast on a hat with Sun Valley Fibers DK.

I requested a personal day so I could attend all day Friday, but my employer denied me. So I rushed over yesterday when I was finished working and dived right in. When you walk in the conference room, you are greeted with a huge wall of yarn. (Pictures coming, I promise.) Sun Valley Fibers is known for their beautiful saturated colors. It's a small, family-run company in rural Mount Horeb, less than an hour from Madison, that makes absolutely devine yarn.

I didn't know anyone but I was immediately welcomed by a group of Madison knitters who adopted me. Really, no group is as nice as knitters. We talked and laughed well into the evening.

There were tons of spinners, too. While I have no interest in spinning, I love to watch it and talk to the spinners. As one told me last night, "You have a more intimate relationship with the yarn when you spin it yourself." I'm sure that's true. Still, as long as there are companies like Sun Valley Fibers, I'll be perfectly happy to buy my yarn!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Favourite Things Is One of My Favorite Things

Here's a project that I've been working away at quietly:
It is the Favourite Things Cowl by Jill McGee, which is more of a recipe than a pattern. It's a stash-busting project written for worsted weight, but it could easily be scaled up or down for different weights. Jill does warn that it is heavy when knit up in worsted weight, but I figure that will be OK in a cold climate. I think you'd have to live in the Arctic to wear a chunky version!

She shares a number of free patterns that she used or adapted for the images in her version, such as the trees. I am working on a coffee cup pattern -- of course! And the pattern itself is a free download from Ravelry.

I don't know if I'll be done in time to use it this winter. I am still learning Fair Isle techniques, so I'm pretty slow. And some of these patterns require a lot of my brain to be engaged -- and I don't always have the capacity! But I am enjoying it.

I hope you are having a good week, whether it started with a day off for MLK Jr.'s birthday or not. And don't forget to check in with Nicole to Keep Calm and Craft On.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Ah, Life! (And Knitting, Too)

I don't know how to write this post without falling into cliches. Last night, the first of my childrens' peers got married. It was one of those circle-of-life moments. I met Ilana's mother in Lamaze, when I was pregnant the first time. When Seth was a few days old, Lisa brought Ilana to visit our apartment, braving the December cold with a 10-day-old baby Ilana.

Ilana is the same age as Seth. Ilana and Rachel were in the same Israeli dance group and went to the same summer camp. Lisa and I rode the motherhood rollercoaster together, through happy and hard times.

How could Ilana be old enough to be married? I mean, I understand the math, but it was breath-taking to watch her and Stefan pledge to join their lives. I remember her as a stubborn little girl, as a kind friend, as a talented dancer. And now she is all grown up. She is intelligent and passionate and loving. I feel so honored to be part of her life.

 In the spirit of love and compassion, I thought I'd post a photo of the mittens I am knitting for The Children of Pine Ridge before I box them up. I want to send them before winter ends!

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Almost Finished: One Semester, One Sock

If there are awards for bad blog photos, I'm probably going to win one. I took this photo at school, on the heat register in my classroom.

I always keep a mindless sock project at school for meetings and trainings and any other times when I can slip in some knitting. This is a basic cuff-down, cast-on 64 stitches sock.  I'm not at all sure how I got so much knit this semester. It's been a crazy one.

I've gotten lots of compliments on the colorway, which is Optimismus, part of the Opal Smile line. I cannot endorse Opal sock yarn heartily enough. This stuff is gorgeous and it wears like steel. 

Which brings me to the reason it's been almost a week since I blogged: My job is crazy. I swear that if I could blog about my daily life at work, I'd have a book contract. I like the pace. I don't mind putting out fires or working with difficult students. If only there wasn't so much paperwork!

I'm looking forward to catching up with your blogs. TGI almost Friday!

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Book Review: Fourth of July Creek

In December, all the critics come out with their best books of the year lists, and I pour over them for hours. Fourth of July Creek is one that came up frequently. I remembered being intrigued by it when it came out mid-year.

The main character, Pete Snow, is a social worker in rural Montana who is estranged from his wife and daughter. He gets involved with a boy whose father is a fundamentalist survivalist. Pulled in first by the boy, but becoming fascinated by the disturbed father, Snow is drawn deeper into their lives as his own continues to unravel.

It is on the longer side and pretty dark, definitely literary fiction. It isn't for everyone, but if you want to dive into something well-written and meaty, this is a good choice.

Some of the other year-end favorites on my list are:

The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters
Euphoria by Lily King
How to be Both by Ali Smith
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
Citizen by Claudia Rankine
Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

The Empathy Exams by Leslie Jamison
Loitering by Charles D'Ambrosio

Amsterdam:  A History of the World’s Most Liberal City by Russell Shorto - See more at:
Amsterdam: A History of the World's Most Liberal City by Russell Shorto
Cubed: A Secret History of the Workplace by Nikil Saval

I'm continuing to knit about 8 projects at once. I do try to knit a little bit of a dishcloth every day to spread out the cotton knitting. It does hurt my hands if I do too much at once.

Amsterdam:  A History of the World’s Most Liberal City by Russell Shorto - See more at:

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Breaking Resolutions Already

I swore --swore, I tell you! -- that I wasn't going to buy any new yarn. But this skein was just so clearly meant to be mine!

I was at my local craft store -- which has a fabulous selection of yarn -- and saw that Cascade has a new sock yarn. These are MY colors. I HAD to have it.  In my defense, I do get all the self-striping sock yarn knitted up. Sometimes (like maybe now) there is a back log. But I'll get to it at some time.

I have used Cascade Heritage for socks before and I like it. It's thinner than some of the other yarns (think Opal or Trekking XXL), but sometimes that's what you want.

I had to go to work today. This was a disappointment. Given the weather forecast, many of us teachers were sure school would be cancelled. But, lucky us, we work at one of the few districts that didn't close. The high today was -1 F -- and that's without windchill. More than one-third of our students stayed home, so at least it was a quiet day.

There is still hope: Tomorrow morning is supposed to be even colder! I will be checking out the school closings as soon as my alarm goes off in the morning!

Sunday, January 4, 2015

All Good Things Must Come to an End

Well, it's the very last day of winter break. It's cold and snowy here, which is just fine with me. I was hoping to have a pajama day and just laze around.

It's been a good break, especially since my daughter was home for all of it. I've also enjoyed spending time with friends. I even worked for a few hours yesterday! That will make my week start out a little smoother.

During the school year, I can get pretty casual about cooking. But in Rachel's honor, I did quite a bit of cooking over the last couple of weeks. I made one of my all-time favorites from the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook: Baked Squash Galette with Carmelized Onions.  You can't possibly go wrong with butternut squash, Vidalia onions, and Fontina cheese:

My knitting has been random. I've been hopping from one project to another. My first-ever charity knitting is going well:
These are mittens for children ages 6 to 8, which I will be mailing to the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, one of the poorest areas in the country. There is a Ravelry group here.  The pattern is my variation on the Ann Budd mitten pattern. I need to get it written up before I forget it, so I'll post it eventually.

I hope you have a relaxing Sunday and are ready for Monday, whether that means work or not.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

New Year; New Project

I am so much better at casting on than at attacking WIPs. I have no idea how many WIPs I have floating around my house -- and I don't want to know. Isn't it enough to know I have too many? It's sort of like my weight; I don't have to get on a scale to know I need to improve my eating and exercise habits!

So, even though I have somewhere around a million WIPs, I'm casting on Harriet's Jacket. This really is going to be the sweater that I finish. For one thing, the yarn is super bulky:

This is one skein and it is huge!

And I'm going to make sure it fits. Even though I don't intend to step onto a scale, I am going to duly measure myself and make the right size. Even if it's depressing!