Wednesday, March 30, 2016

In Progress: Knitting, Stitching, Reading

The healing power of a week of vacation is amazing. I returned to school yesterday feeling happy to see my students and ready to tackle another quarter. 

It seems like I'm in the middle of a million projects, but I don't really want to know how many I have on the go! So, I'll just share a couple of them. First up is the first Bat Mitzvah sock, the Rosa Rubiginosa Sock from The Knitter's Curiosity Cabinet. 
 I don't know if you can tell, but the lace goes down the top of the foot in a triangle shape, which is a fun twist.

My Door County Cross Stitch is slow going. I find that I need to do this in natural light (which couldn't possibly be a result of my age, could it?). Stitching a lot of white floss on white Aida cloth might be a factor, too.
I like the way it is coming out, which is good because it's going to be a long process.

I am almost done with Baker Towers by Jennifer Haigh, and I highly recommend this story of a family in Pennsylvania coal country. The book follows the characters through the second half of the 20th century, a type of book that has been done a million times. Often these books are predictable or silly; not this one. Baker Towers is well-written with characters that feel real. It's the kind of book to curl up with for a good long read.
Next up is The Prize by Dale Russakoff, which tells the story of Mark Zuckerberg's failed donation to the school district in Newark, NJ.  I expect to enjoy this one. I'm not a Zuckerberg fan.

I'm joining up with Ginny to Yarn Along.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Birthday Weekend

For my Mom's 80th birthday, Keith and I offered to take my parents to Chicago for the weekend. It turned into a real celebration when my brother, niece, and daughter flew in from DC and Florida.

The main event was dinner last night at an amazing restaurant, Trattoria 10, which a cousin helped me choose. I have a number of cousins in the Windy City, and most of them were able to join us to celebrate. The two grandaughters who were present gave speeches -- and made my mom cry (in a good way). It was really sweet.
I was happy to have so much family around, especially my daughter, Rachel. She had just defended her master's thesis Thursday, so we had a lot to celebrate.
Rachel left a little while ago, which was hard for me.  Florida feels very far away!

I don't think I ever did an FO picture of this shawl. It is Silverlight by Melanie Berg in Sun Valley Fiber yarns. I'd link it but I don't know how to link on my Fire.

I hope everyone is having a wonderful weekend.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

One New, One Old

Let's face it: How many of us can come home with a load of new yarn and not cast some of it on right away? Maybe some of you have more self-control than I do. But it didn't take long for me to set up my swift and ball winder, so I knew that I'd be casting on.

After all, I am on spring break.  So I do have more time on my hands. I decided that meant I could be a little bit virtuous. Before casting on, I pulled out a UFO, one that I really felt I could finish:
This is a market-bag in cotton. At the moment I can't find the name of the pattern or the yarn. I know the pattern is from Creative Knitting magazine. And the yarn was on sale at my LYS. I'm well beyond the halfway point, so I'm hoping to finish before school starts.

Feeling properly virtuous, I cast on Antarktis by Janina Kallio in Eden Cottage Yarn, both of which I picked up Saturday at the Knit-In. The yarn is a wool-silk blend that is going to be perfect for summer. The yarn knits like a dream, smooth and, well, silky.
My plan is to finish it in time for my trip to the West Coast in July.

As for reading, I finished My Brilliant Friend. I liked it but I can't say that I loved it. I'm not sure why it is such a worldwide sensation. However, there is a twist at the end that not only made the book worth reading but also has tempted me to start book 2. We'll see.

Here's what's up next. 
This Should Be Written in the Pressent Tense is a literary novel by Helle Helle, who is a star in her native Denmark. I'm also going to start a Jennifer Haigh novel set in industrial Pennsylvania. Haigh is a good writer and I lived in Pittsburgh for a time, so I'm hoping to enjoy this one.

It isn't all fun and games here at Chez Caffeine. A chunk of Monday was devoted to finished my PDP -- the written document I need to renew my teaching license -- and I have a lot of house decluttering to do. Not that I'm complaining. I know I'm lucky to get school breaks!

I'll be joining Ginny for Yarn Along.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Another Awesome Knit-In

As if spring break beginning isn't enough to make me happy, the Madison Knitting Guild held its annual Knit-In this weekend. Marsha and I had a great time there and kept commenting on how wonderful it is to have a friend to share knitting with.

We started out by taking a class on mosaic knitting. The teacher was truly wonderful and had designed a great sampler for us to learn on:
The entire event was just adorable. The theme was "tea" and look at how cute the centerpieces were:

Of course we spent a few hours at the marketplace. We thought it was the best one yet.  We lingered for quite a while at the Ewetopia booth. See the brown & green poncho? That's the one that Marsha and I both knit in gray & black. Marsha bought a pattern and yarn for a different Ewetopia poncho.
I was really blown away by the Yarn Culture booth. Yarn Culture is a store outside  Rochester, NY, that carries exquisite yarns like Woolfolks (which is not easy to find!).  They had really amazing shawl patterns and yarns.
I fell in love with Eden Cottage Yarns, an English brand, and bought a skein and a shawl pattern, which will be on the needles very soon. If you live anywhere near Rochester, I highly recommend a visit.

All in all, it was the perfect start to a vacation.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Happy Sock Knitting

Sometimes a sock pattern just makes your heart sing. That's how I feel about this one:
It's the Rosa Rubiginosa Sock from The Knitter's Curiosity Cabinet. I picked up this book a couple years ago, but this is the first pattern I've knit from it. So far the pattern is easy. I'm using Cascade Heritage in a turquoisey blue. Heritage is a bit splitty, but I've used it before and love the colors and the way it holds up.
The socks are Bat Mitzvah gift. I asked the young lady what color she wanted, and she said, "Blue." That seemed simple until I went yarn shopping. Somehow I had forgotten that there are at least a million shades of blue. I hope she likes this one.!

I'm almost done with Ghettoside and still finding it fascinating. I'm about halfway through My Brilliant Friend and the jury is still out on this one. There are a lot of characters to keep track of and there doesn't seem to be a plot in the traditional sense. But I will finish this book because I want to figure out why it is a worldwide publishing sensation.
Lot of choices for what to read next. It's going to be a tough decision.

I'm joining up with Ginny for Yarn Along.

Meg Swansen in Person

Meg Swansen -- daughter of Elizabeth Zimmerman, for anyone who hasn't heard of her -- was the speaker at last night's Knitting Guild meeting Yes, we are lucky!

Meg always impresses me with her poise, graciousness, and wit and she didn't disappoint last night -- even though she talked about a subject that doesn't figure into my current life: EZ's patterns for children.
She went through EZ's patterns, explaining the construction of each one. My friend Marsha commented, "She was an architect or an engineer." And that's really true. All of the garments had an unusual construction, like the baby hat that starts out as a heart. And of course, everyone is amazed by the Baby Surprise Jacket.

Speaking of the BSJ, Meg announced that her son Cully is writing a "comprehensive book on it with some new developments." I haven't yet knit a BSJ, but I'm still fascinated by this origami-type pattern.

Meg explained that the original pattern for the BSJ gave detailed instructions for the first 7 or 8 rows and then told the knitter to keep going. "My mother's premise was 'you have as good a brain as me so use it!'" Meg said.

My favorite of the patterns she presented was the Katmandu hat. She showed pictures of children wearing it, but the Ravelry link shows at as an adult pattern. It's in EZ's book Knit One, Knit All, which I will be tracking down!

I'll be checking in with Nicole today to Keep Calm Craft On.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Taking A Break

Some weekends are not as relaxing as others. Take this one. I am working on my Professional Development Plan; if I don't submit it by April 1, I'll lose my teaching license! Gone are the days when teachers maintained their licenses by taking classes. I have to write a plan, document that I carried it out, and write reflections. I was a newspaper reporter in my first career so I will get through this; I'm not sure how the others manage. It is a LOT of work.

Thus, a few breaks are in order -- along with a cuppa.
I picked up the new Piecework magazine because I want to knit the scarf on the cover. The Double Rose-Leaf pattern comes from Weldon's Practical Knitter, so the directions are words. I'm a chart girl, so I'm going to have to chart this out for myself, especially since it is a 21-stitch repeat. There are also a lot of good articles in this issue.

I've also been petting this yarn:
Kathy set up a sock-yarn swap and Ellen really made my day when her package arrived. She has clearly figured out that deep pink is my color.  The yarn is more pink than it looks in the picture, just a few shades darker than the bird on that adorable project bag she included! I have to admit that there were two chocolate bars -- they came in very handy during a rough week. They did not last long!

Thank you Kathy and Ellen for an awesome swap!

Now, I've got some more reflecting to do...

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Looks Can Be Deceiving

This photo makes it look as though I have done no knitting on Brickless since last week. But that is hardly the case.
I realized last week that I wasn't following the directions closely and I had made huge issues on where to bind off, meaning that Brickless would not work out at all. So, I frogged and started all over again. Sigh. You would think I'd know enough to read the directions carefully. Will I ever learn?

So I'm now just a little past the point I was at last week. Also, the yarn is a tomato red, not the pink it keeps showing up as. I've tried taking photos at different times of day, but I can't capture the color accurately!
As for reading, I finished Between the World and Me and I think us white folks need to read this to begin to understand what it means to live in black skin in this society. He makes you feel both the fragility of the body and the joy of the culture. Most of my students are African-American, so it was a really important book for me.

I'm also finding Ghettoside to be insightful. This book centers around the murder of a L.A. Police Department detective's son. The author, an LA Times reporter, goes into the culture of both South Central Los Angeles and the police department. It is both fascinating and heartbreaking.

And I need to get going on My Brilliant Friend. I've just been so taken with the other two books, especially in the aftermath of the murder of my former student in Chicago. Two 16-year-olds have been arrested in his murder -- making the story even sadder. If you want, you can read the story here.

I'll be checking in at Yarn Along. See you there!

Monday, March 7, 2016

Stitching WithThoughts of Summer

Considering that last weekend I stayed in bed for both days, it was nice to be able to get out and do a few things this weekend. I went to the opening for a friend's photo show. It was her first one-woman show and it was fabulous. I put a hold on one of the works, so I'm looking forward to having it on my wall. Sunday I went sketching with a friend and then we had my parents over for dinner.

In between, I picked up my cross stitch project: Wilson's in Door County.
Keith and I go to Door County every summer. It's the thumb if you look at Wisconsin as a mitten (which all knitters do, of course). Wilson's is a restaurant/ice cream shop, one of the landmarks, and in our favorite town, Ephraim. With 11 weeks left in the school year (not that I'm counting), it felt good to look forward to summer.

Weeko says: "Is it Monday already?"
That's what I say, too.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Of Babbs and Books

I've heard about Miss Babbs for years; how smooshy it is, how beautiful it is. I can now say that it is all true. I am loving knitting Brickless with this skein I got from a destasher on Ravelry. Knitting this is heaven!
  And I can see why they call this stuff Wowza! I don't know if you can tell, but this skein is huge! My ball winder could not handle 560 yards so I had to finish the cake by hand.

I'm well into Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates. It was slow going at first, but now I'm hooked. It is very intense and very revealing. One of his themes is the price African-American men have paid with their bodies through U.S. history. I am finding this especially poignant in the wake of my former student's death last week.
 I red the first few pages of the literary sensation My Brilliant Friend by Elana Ferrante, and the writing is just beautiful. I'm hoping the plot will be as gripping.

Don't forget to Yarn Along with Ginny today.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Welcome, Jack!

After the gloom of my last post, I thought I'd share a happy event. We are welcoming Jack to our family:

Keith's parents decided they needed a dog, so they chose this 7-year-old from a Cocker Spaniel rescue group. They are long-time cocker owners and the house just didn't feel right without one.

I thought they were quite brave because their last Cocker rescue dog was a bit of a handful -- an inveterate barker -- who needed some training. But they seem to have lucked out with Jack. He is calm and friendly, a real lap dog. He has settled in without any problems.

Welcome to the family, Jack!