Thursday, December 31, 2020

Gift Worthy!

We've all gifted handmade items to people who didn't appreciate them, leaving us feeling that we had wasted a whole lot of time. My daughter, however, is a very knit-worthy young woman. She not only liked the mittens and hat I knit for her, but she even sent me a photo! (If you look behind her, you can see the cat quilt I made for her.)

The holidays sure aren't the same without Rachel and Seth. Keith and I rang in 2020 in Phoenix, along with my mom. Tonight will not be half as fun.

I've been knitting my Habitation Throw whenever I watch TV or socialize on Zoom, so it's coming along. It looks way better in person than in this photo, I'm happy to say.

In the last month, I got around to learning a jewelry-making skill I've long wanted to master: using brick stitch to attach beads to a metal ring. It's rewarding because it goes pretty fast.
I used free tutorials on YouTube to figure out the technique. It amazes me how generous people are with sharing their skills. I'm sure many of them are offering the tutorials in conjunction with a business, but it's still really nice. I thought about buying a tutorial on Etsy, but I figured that I know enough about beading to figure it out with a little help.
Keith has a strong preference for the fan-shaped earrings, but I like the the full circles just as well. What do you think?

I hope everyone has a safe and happy New Year's Eve. We'll be binging on The Mandalorian. Keith likes it more than I do, but I am the advisor for the Star Wars Club at school, so I like to be on top of it.

Friday, December 25, 2020

Nothing Wrong with a Quiet Christmas

I hope you are all enjoying this holiday even with all the Covid restrictions. We are a careful bunch, so I bet you are all having a quiet day, as are we.

I've spent much of the first week of my winter break baking cookies. I love baking, so it has been a good distraction from all the bad stuff in the news -- including possible school reopenings, even though the largest ICU in Madison is at 100% capacity.

I highly recommend this recipe, Browned Butter Coconut Cookies from the Smitten Kitchen. I made them for the first, but not last, time this year!

I also made a pair of Isaac's Mitts for myself. They are very warm and cozy -- perfect for walks on warmer winter days.

And with a finish, comes a cast on. I have been decluttering every day, including my yarn stash. I have so many lovely fingering leftovers that I decided it was time for a Habitation Throw from Helen Stewart of Curious Handmade:

I just love making things with leftovers. They don't always turn out as well as I'd envisioned, but I have an awful lot of fun pulling together the colors.

The temperature here is below 0, so it's a good day to stay home, Zoom with family, and do some knitting.

And thanks for the compliments on the poncho in my last post. It's the Winter Ridge Poncho from Ewetopia, knit with yarn specially milled for that pattern. Ewetopia is both a store and dyer in Viroqua, Wis., and I can vouch for the quality of her wool and patterns.

A peaceful day to all!

Sunday, December 20, 2020

Winter Break!

Winter break is here! And it feels great, even though it will be busy. I am frantically baking cookies and working on decluttering. Keith and I have looked at two houses in the past couple weeks, and they are selling very fast. So we need to get our house in order!

I finished the mitts I designed in Isaac's honor, and I need to write a note and drop them off for his mom. Writing that note will be the hardest thing I do during break

I do have some good news. My mom is recovering from Covid. It is a slow recovery, but 4 weeks after she got sick she is able to go to the grocery store. She is very tired and has some other symptoms, but it looks like she'll be OK.

I finished Rachel's mittens. They are simple, but very squishy and warm.

With the leftover yarn, I was able to make a matching hat.

We have been having pretty mild winter weather with high's in the 30s, so at least I can get out and walk with my buddies. Keith was able to bike 26 miles last week, which brings his yearly total to 7,000 miles. Impressive, huh? And it is cold enough for me to wear my hand-knits:

The cats are definitely in winter break mode:

Like all sane people, we are planning on a quiet Christmas with just the two of us. I will deliver plates of cookies on the 24th, but that's as close as I'll get to family and friends. It's a small price to pay for staying alive!

Friday, December 4, 2020

No News Is Good News

 I have news, and none of it is good.

My phone rang at 8 a.m. on Thanksgiving Day, and I knew what that meant. My mom had had a Covid test the previous day. Yep, she is positive, and it's been very rough. My brothers found out that UW-Madison was administering a monoclonal antibody infusion and they got her in the very next day!

But she has been feeling terrible. She was in the ER earlier this week, where they discovered a blood clot in her lungs. She is on Eliquis now and still feeling awful. She has just about every risk factor there is, so we are very worried.

She lives in the independent living section of a retirement community, which is terrible for this situation. Her community is filled with Covid, and I have a heart condition, so we can't go in. We hired a company to send a nursing aide every day, but they are so short-staffed that they don't make it every day.

Then I got a call from my principal on Wednesday. "I have really bad news about a former student, she said. A student I had been very close to going back to 8th grade, had died unexpectedly on Tuesday at the age of 19.

My heart is broken. Isaac lived in my neighborhood so we've stayed in touch. The first time I met him in 8th grade, he said, "No teacher has ever liked me, and you won't either." Of course, I fell in love right then and there. I cannot imagine how his parents are getting through this. He was an only child, and he had an amazingly close relationship with his mom -- who is also a special ed teacher and who worked at a middle school with me.

Because I don't know what to do with my grief, I designed a unisex mitt in Isaac's honor. His mom is very active in outdoor sports, so the first pair goes to her.

Then there is the Republican legislature in Wisconsin, which wants teachers back in school in January -- no matter how bad community spread is. We are counting on the Democratic governor to veto this bill. The GOP does not have enough members to override a veto. 

It is a dark time. 

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Cooking & Knitting

 To make up for two nights of parent-teacher conferences, I have the day off, so I am alternating between cooking and knitting. 

I'm doing a socially distant potluck with friends. We are each going to make a couple dishes and package them up for the six participating households. Then we'll meet at the Arboretum, exchange food, take a walk, and regather later via Zoom to eat. I think it will be fun. 

I started a pair of mittens for my daughter, but the cuff turned out horribly large. I should have read the Ravelry comments first because there are some issues with the pattern. Besides, I don't enjoy doing corrugated rib. I'm very slow at it.

So I frogged the mitten and chose a simple slip-stitch pattern. Now I'm flying along.

This very warm and squishy, so I think it'll work.

As always, Kola keeps us smiling. Apparently she wants to quilt:

Wishing you all the happiest and safest of Thanksgivings!

Friday, November 20, 2020

All About Knitting

 I am not going to whine about my job in this post (though, I certainly have enough material to do so!). This week, I had a knitting victory: I finished a sweater that actually fits me! All my previous attempts were on the small side.

It's on the big side, but it works for this layering piece. I also think I'm going to add buttons so it hangs more evenly. It has i-cord edging, which was easy to do, but very hard to join in pattern. This is the first seamed sweater I've knit, and I have to admit that the first side I seamed is a bit wonky.

The yarn is buttery soft Shepherd's Wool. It is 100% wool and 0% itch. However, like most soft yarns, it pills. I'm OK with that, since I can't tolerate most wools. I only take it off to sleep because I am so in love with it!

The pattern is the Adult Modular Cardigan. I'm linking the pattern here because it's really hard to find on Ravelry: Adult Modular Cardigan Jacket.

I've already picked out my next sweater: Porto, made with Berroco Medina, which has no wool.

The stashing could get pretty bad around here. Sunset Yarn just opened its doors a half mile from my house. It is in the cutest building:
It is absolutely adorable inside, too, but it's not like I can really hang out in there at this point. It's Madison's only yarn shop at the moment, so I hope she makes it through the pandemic. Plus, the owner is super nice.

Fortunately, I needed yarn. My daughter wants a pair of gray mittens, and I didn't have anything appropriate in my stash, so I picked up some Rowan worsted

Moving from Miami to Denver is a big change. I know her hands get cold, so I'm making her stranded mittens

Sadly, I will be working much of the weekend. But I do need to find some time for those mittens!

Sunday, November 15, 2020

It's All About Covid These Days

 Let's get the complaining out of the way first. This has to be the worst time in history to be a special ed teacher. Betsy DeVos waived requirements for regular ed, but not special ed. As a result, the federal and state bureaucrats have developed mountains of extra paperwork. It's truly overwhelming and accounts for my blogging lapse. At least I have company in the "office."

A sane person would cut back the time she spends with students, but I just can't do that. Half my caseload is freshmen this year, and they need support! I even worked this morning -- and I never work on the weekends.

Wisconsin is Ground Zero for Covid, so we are sheltering place, even though the state legislature and courts won't let the governor issue an order. That means lots of knitting time. The next time you see this, it will be a sweater:

I seamed the sides -- my first seaming project -- during a Zoom bat mitzvah yesterday. They are not perfect. I don't care. The sweater fits me and is cozy. It just needs an icord edging now.

We do go the grocery store. I've been going to a Mexican grocery that is owned by parents of one of my students. It's the only way we can communicate, given my Spanish and their English. Along the way, I've developed a passion for Mexican junk food:

Bubu Lubu may be a silly name, but they are addictive! And the Emperador cookies are pretty darn good, too!

I expect November to be my most challenging month for work because I have 5 IEP meetings (with all the paperwork that goes with them!), so I won't be checking in with all of you as much as I'd like. Oh, and then there's the A-bomb of paperwork which was dumped on us Wednesday. But this too will pass!

Sunday, October 25, 2020

Published in todays NYT!

 Last Sunday, the New York Times put out a call for sketches to be published in today's print edition's At Home section. I was so thrilled to see this made the cut:

I'm sending a copy of the original because it's much bigger and clearer than the version in the paper.

It's a small victory -- but still, pretty darn cool!

Friday, October 23, 2020

Finishes on Friday

I'm pleased with this mitered-square blanket. I made up the pattern to use up the colored yarn, which is the now-discontinued Julia yarn by Kristen Nicholas. The gray is that workhorse: Cascade 220. I crocheted the edges, which is a new skill for me. It's a bit wonky.

I know I should block it, but it's cold and rainy here, so I'm just going to start using it!

I finished my second coffee-cup mini-quilt. I think that having two cups is more satisfactory, 

What do you think?

I finally finished a sketch I started a month ago, when it was warm enough to draw outside. This is a gorgeous house on Lake Monona.

 And here is a very special finish I'm looking forward to:

 I eat one candy bar on the 1st and 15th of every month. When this is empty, the school year will be over! 

And since it's Friday, here's a feline. Kola enjoying HBO's "Succession" with me

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Tiny Needle Tuesday

 Just a quickie. I'm working on another coffee cup mini-quilt:

Keith doesn't like the gray background (the last quilt had a very colorful background) but I think this could work.

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Some Happy Things

  As winter hovers, we Midwesterners are eking out every outdoor activity we can. My Urban Sketching group met at the UW Arboretum on Sunday. My sketch is the ugly one. I can't seem to get the hang of trees.

I'll sure miss seeing these folks over the winter.
I finished a project that is making me happy. 

Of course, it is: It's a coffee-themed mini quilt. The background is from cotton scraps left on my cutting board from a throw I'm quilting. The cup is felted wool, and the "steam" is made from beads.

I am also happy with these mitts that will be making their way to my daughter in Denver.

The pattern is Align Mitts. It's free and well-written. I zipped through these with a Madtosh speckled yarn.

And there are some good things about working from home. Sometimes I have company while I'm teaching:

She slept all through a Biology class!

Saturday, October 10, 2020

Sweater Weather

 I will admit to being a fan of the Upper Midwest. I've spent most of my life here, but I also lived in Pittsburgh and Annapolis. I did like both of those places -- especially Pittsburgh -- but I'm a Wisconsin girl. And if there is one time of year that this is a glorious place to live, it's early October, when the colors are changing, the temperature is mild, and the mosquitos are gone.

I've been biking a lot and just enjoying our lovely tree-line streets:

It's also the perfect time to start a sweater. I put a lot of thought into this one as I've knit a few that were too small. I avoided raglan-sleeves because they don't work well with my broad shoulders. I landed on the Adult Modular Cardigan and went up a size. It's a layering piece, so I'm OK with it being on the big side.

It starts with the back: a simple garter-stitch rectangle and a huge mitered square. So far, it's going well.

Something that's not going so well in Wisconsin is the virus:

That big dark blob encompasses Green Bay and Door County. Madison is in a less-terrible color -- but still pretty bad. I've heard that Door County became jammed with tourists who didn't believe in masks. So Vicki, please be careful!

The upside to lots of Covid is that I expect to be able to continue teaching virtually. I hate teaching virtually (who doesn't?) but it is far better than dying. However, things in Madison are quite discouraging. A few weeks after teachers signed their 2020-21-year contracts in June, which included small raises, the school board cut our raises. I'm pretty sure that's illegal and that we will eventually get our tiny raises, but it is quite disheartening to have our pay cut (and the amount we pay toward our health insurance doubled!) when teaching is harder than ever.

If you were able to retire before Covid, thank your lucky stars! 

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Good Enough

I did fix my About Town mitts -- sorta. The one on the left is correct; the one on the right has some issues: there is a blip on the thumb, holes at the base of the thumb gusset, and the hand part isn't quite right. 

But when I put them on, they look just fine -- and that's good enough for me! I'm going to make a pair for my daughter -- and those will have to be perfect!

Keith is Up North camping this week, so I'm cooking for myself. Last night I made crepes with ricotta cheese and sauteed nectarines. Pretty amazing.

Tomorrow is the first night of Rosh HaShanah, and I'm going to a virtual dinner before services. I'm going to make baked tofu with peanut sauce. It's a New York Times recipe and recommended by a friend, so it should be good. I have to do something festive!

Virtual teaching is really hard, but I feel re-energized. This evening I went to a McDonalds where I knew one of my graduates would be working. She was so happy to see me (and I to see her). Reminded me of why I do this work. The best news: She's going to cosmetology school. In June, she told me she was not ever going to school again. So glad she saw the light sooner rather than later!

Saturday, September 12, 2020

These Mitts are Cursed

 I can't find my favorite fingerless mitts, so I've been knitting myself a pair of About Town Mitts, a pattern by Bonnie Sennott. As you can see from the two finished mitts, some things went terribly wrong.

Most obviously, the mitt on the right is too short. I thought it was just a weird design, but then the second mitt worked out beautifully. I missed an entire section on the hand the first one, so I'll have to tear it back and reknit.

Also, there are some weird holes at the bottom of the thumb gusset of the mitt on the right. When I put the mitt on, the holes don't show, so I think I'm just going to live with that. At least these aren't a gift for anyone!

I am always admiring the quilting I see on your blogs. Those of you who quilt perform miracles, like sewing straight lines and producing even squares. Instead of just envying you all, I am working on a modern log cabin pattern that allows me to focus on those two skills.

So far I think I see some improvement in my skills. But I won't really be able to tell until I start putting together the pieces.

I have to admit that I'm feeling a bit down this evening. It's Selichot, a service that is held on the Saturday night before Rosh HaShanah. My congregation isn't even doing a Zoom service, so I feel a bit off. For me it's the first step in the High Holy Days.

Also, I'm tired. Teaching on Zoom is exhausting. And there were so many issues -- technology problems, scheduling issues, frantic phone calls from confused students and parents. It was good to see students, even if it was just online.

You may have seen Madison in the news. Students at UW-Madison are not following protocols and the numbers in Dane County are spiking. Every day is new high. More than half the frat and sorority houses are quarantined, as well as two large dorms. 

It's going to be long winter, I'm afraid.

Monday, September 7, 2020

Every Weekend Should Last Three Days

 It has been a quiet but lovely Labor Day weekend. Some socially distanced gatherings with friends, phone chats with those who are farther away. But a lot of it looked like this:

Just me and Kola hanging out. Yes, she often maintains the oddest positions. My pain levels were up and my sleep was scanty, so it was nice to relax. Students attend school for the first day tomorrow, so I need to be ready to go in the morning. 

I finished the handwork on my summer quilt, and I'm not 100% happy with it. All the fabric was hand dyed or painted by me. And I think it's pretty obvious that it is hand-quilted in the Kantha style.

But I do like the appliqued leaves, so for lack of a better name, I called it Leafing.

I picked up the Brennivin cardigan I started a year ago. I'll try to get a photo, but at this point it's just a big blue-gray blob. It's knit from the bottom up and then separated for the sleeves. I like this design, but you do end up with a big blob in the middle of the process.

I hope your holiday weekend turned out to be what you wanted.

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Tiny Needle Tuesday

 Yes, it's been a bit more than a week. But I have two excuses. First and foremost, this newly minted professor visited for a week:

That's my daughter sipping a Prosecco Mojito in my backyard. We had a great time together, even though there wasn't a lot to do.  Her research area is race and policing, and I'm a special education teacher, so we have a lot to talk about!

Also, last Monday, I started working full-time. We have two weeks of professional development, and I have been busy! There's paperwork, meeting new kids, learning new technology, anti-racism trainings. It's a lot. My head is about to explode!

But there has been some needlework. I finally finished my Cozy Blue project, and it is adorable. I'm going to make it into a mini-quilt. Kym might notice that I've changed up the colors, as I bought the pattern but not a kit. Honestly, Cozy Blue's color choices were better than mine!

Now I've begun another cross stitch, this one from Satsuma Street. I love their designs.

I'm not going to tell you the name of the pattern -- but you can figure it out if you go to their Etsy store.

Speaking of Etsy, I saw an Etsy commercial on TV last week. It makes Etsy look like a Target. There was no mention of handmade or one-of-a-kind items. I was so disappointed. We have enough large retailers!