Monday, June 7, 2021

One Great Weekend

 I have wanted to take a class from quilter Heidi Parkes for years. But either she was teaching when I was working or she was teaching far away. She's based in Milwaukee, so I was looking for a local opportunity.

And I got one this past weekend. Heidi did a two-day workshop in Cedarburg, an adorable little town north of Milwaukee -- less than 2 hours from my house.

First, Heidi is an amazing teacher. As you can see, her quilts are very freeform and unique.

I love discovering indie coffee shops when I travel -- and Cedarburg has two. Sunday morning I had a lovely latte while I furiously embroidered so I'd be ready for the day. The coffee cup embroidery is from a photo of a latte in Riga. I don't call myself Caffeine Girl for nothing.

Heidi's class was quite challenging, and I really struggled. She pointed out that I chose a difficult palette. I haven't sewn any of the blocks together, so I may have to make some major changes.

It was the friendliest group I've ever taken a class with. Everyone shared supplies and tools. There were no cliques. We are going to try to get together in the fall to hang out in Cedarburg and show our finished quilts.

It felt like the beginning of retirement, even though I have 5 more work days.


Thursday, June 3, 2021

Getting Closer

After today, I'll have six days left in my career as a teacher. This year seemed endless for so many reasons, but I can see the light at the end of the tunnel now.

I'm working to finish three of these -- for three of my students who love to fish. I'll have to model one for you before I give them away. They look pretty funny when worn as a hat.

The closing on our old house went very smoothly on Tuesday. The title company was next door to the furniture store where we ordered a sectional. We ordered it in February and they predicted it would arrive by the end of June -- and that may work out. They checked for us, and our sectional is in a shipping container in the United States. They told us that we are lucky because people ordering now will have to wait seven months or more for their furniture.

Now we can really settle into our new house. 

This week we are enjoying our peony bush. Peony's are among my favorite flowers. I'm glad one came with the house because these bushes are pricey!

Thursday, May 20, 2021

And Now for Something Complete Different

 I have been knitting -- especially because I've been binging on WandaVision on Disney -- but that isn't all. I've been embroidering this:

This embroidery is based on the book pictured below.  It was published in 1918, so it is no longer under copyright. As a child, I read constantly. When I saw this book at a flea market, I just had to buy it, knowing someday it would be an embroidery. Besides, I suffer from a nostalgia for all things 20th century -- before 1980, that is.

There were 27 Grace Harlowe books, which follow her from high school, through service in France in WWI, and onto other adventures. I'm trying to read this book, but it is pretty dull from today's point of view.

I've encountered quite a learning curve as I've converted this into an embroidery. Going from black/white to full color has been harder than I expected.  And there are no words to describe the tedium of embroidering the book's title with tiny stitches. And I am terrified I'll ruin the entire thing when I stitch the face.

I chose the passage of text as being representative of the tone of the book. Those small words aren't too difficult to stitch.

This will take me a while to finish -- good thing I'm retiring! -- but I already have the next book cover picked out!

P.S. The police arrested the person who threatened gun violence against my school. The press is describing the person as a "child," and that's all we know.

Friday, May 14, 2021

Good News, Weird News & Knitting

 My husband and I woke up to a great text this morning: All the conditions have been removed from the offer on our house and we are closing on June 1! It will be nice to own only one house.

Weird news: Threats of a shooting at my high school have been posted on Snapchat. Really? As if this school hasn't been hard enough! The worst thing is that Snapchat doesn't seem to know who posted the threatening posts. We definitely need to regulate social media.

And finally .... knitting!

I finished the first Petty Harbour sock. I was worried about running out of yarn, so I only did a 5-inch leg. Big mistake! I didn't get to the final color. Oh well. I'm not redoing the sock!

I am a huge fan of Casapinka. She writes amazing patterns, and I love ponchos. So how could I resist casting on Noncho? The red and gray yarns are from my stash, but I honestly didn't have a third color. Local dyer and store Knit Circus had just reopened, so that gorgeous hand-paint is from there. We much support every LYS, right?

I have 19 more school days before retirement. It still feels like a long time. But I will get there!

Monday, May 10, 2021

Endings and Beginnings

 It has been a sad week, with the loss of Theresa Kasner. Her warmth and grace reached across the miles. The unexpected nature of the loss makes it harder to grasp. Although death seems sudden no matter what. 

On Saturday, my friend Michael passed away from ALS. He has been declining for a year, so it should not have been a surprise. On Tuesday, hospice said he had less than a week. Still, when I got the call, it hit me hard. Michael was a world famous breast-cancer researcher at UW-Madison, and he was so kind and helpful when my mom had breast cancer. I've been friends with his wife (and thus him) for more than 30 years. 

So, there are two endings.

Of course I am thinking a lot about Michael. The enduring image I come up with is Michael walking into a party, always a few minutes late and always exuding positive energy. I am quite sure I never heard a complaint from him. He loved his family and his job. He used to say, "I don't know why they pay me. I'd do my job for free!"

Me, on the other hand, I'm kvetcher. I can complain with the best of them. But as I approach my new beginning (retirement), I have decided that I need to take a page out of Michael's book. I need to stop complaining. Full stop. I have a roof over my head, two great children, and an amazing husband. I have nothing to complain about!

And don't let me forget about my two darling cats!

I have begun thinking about how I want to spend the rest of my life. I'll have more time for my mom, more time for art, and some time to volunteer. I am very lucky to retire before my 62nd birthday. 

Thursday, April 22, 2021

The Fun Never Stops Around Here

 On Monday, I fell down two or three stairs at school. I'm very lucky that nothing is broken, but I am pretty banged up. Fun fact: Sprains often hurt more than breaks. I broke my right leg nine years ago to the day: April 19, 2013. Monday I ended up with high ankle sprain -- and that hurt way more!

More fun: Our old house is not selling quickly. We think it's because we didn't update the main bathroom. That was dumb on our part. We may need to take it off the market and do a quick update. We priced it knowing that the bathroom needed to be updated, so we're hoping that works out.

I have had time to knit and I finally finished the Adrift Shawl, which I had taken to calling the "forever shawl." It needs a good blocking, and I think it will be very long and cozy.

And I started a pair of Petty Harbor Socks with an unknown color of Knit Circus yarn. I need easy these days. 

I went back to work today and it was really great to be with people. We only have 9th- and 12th-graders in the building so it was calm. The kids were quiet and they all wore masks. I got to meet some of my freshman finally. I think the weeks will go faster now that we are back in school.

Sunday, April 11, 2021


 Back when I started blogging -- and I have no idea when that was because my old domain has disappeared -- there were two very active knitting bloggers from Australia. One of them blogged under the name of Rose Red, and she came up with GAAK -- Growth As A Knitter -- to describe those moments when you master something new.

In between unpacking boxes, I achieved GAAK. See if you can tell which fish was done before I'd mastered a new skill:

Look at the close-up:

The tail at the top is seamed incorrectly. So I watched a few videos before seaming the second one and I finally mastered the mattress stitch.  For some reason, this skill has eluded me -- until now!

I have a third fish on the needles because I realized I have a third student who is an avid angler. When I unpack my felt, I'll finish them all off with eyes. 

Keith is finishing a few things at the old house today because the realtor is taking photos tomorrow. The realtor expects it to sell easily, so I look forward to owning only one home sooner rather than later!

Saturday, April 3, 2021

Gone Fishing

 Well, not really. I've never fished in my life, and I have no desire to do so. But a few of my students love to fish. So, at the end of the year I'll have three of these to gift to them:

It's the Fish Hat (Dead or Alive) from Knitty, published way back in 2008.

Now that all the big stuff has been moved into our new house, I've been able to do some knitting that requires attention. I figured that I better start now if I'm going to have three knit by mid-June.

The moving isn't quite done. Everyday we bring a carload of stuff over to the new house. I do the putting away while Keith goes back to the old house to clean. We hope to get it on the market in the next week or two.

I'm glad we grabbed this house. The market gets more insane by the day. According to Zillow, our old house has gained $10,000 in value in the last week. Yes, that's one week!

I got my second shot Thursday, and school starts on Monday. It hasn't been a very restful spring break -- but I can't imagine trying to move along with working!

Monday, March 29, 2021

Tomorrow Is Moving Day!

 When we bought our retirement house, the word was that high schools would not open before late April. Nope, we go back April 5. So here we are, moving as I prepare for going back to school -- once I am fully vaccinated.

Somehow I squeezed in a Zoom Passover Seder on Saturday night with the help of a few friends. We kept it small, which I really appreciated after suffering large Zooms for work every day.

I'm feeling a bit scattered, so here are some random thoughts. This came from my grandmother's apartment. She had more than a dozen of these figurines: Royal Copenhagen, Doulton, Lladro.

I desperately wanted this one for the obvious reasons. But as we downsize, I realized that I don't want any of these. At least one of my brothers does, so we'll be packing them carefully for mailing.

My grandmother spent hundreds of dollars on this one alone -- it's now worth about $35. Apparently I'm not the only one who doesn't want these chotskies.

Apparently it's breeding time for turkeys. I've never seen them in full flirting condition.

I've moved all my knitting stuff to the new house except for the Adrift shawl

It's very mindless, which is perfect for this week!

The next time I blog, I'll be 2 miles west of here.

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Randomness on a Wednesday

Taking a little break to breathe and say hi.

There were some question about my last post. First, yes, my MIL used to make Navajo rugs. She got all the wool from the Navajo people and even dyed some of it using their techniques. She dyed one batch with urine -- but said she'd never do that again. Apparently it was quite "aromatic." The patterns are all authentic and traditional. She used one of those big floor looms. She has one small rug she's trying to finish. At age 86, she thinks this will be the last one.

Another question asked if I go up in needle sizes when I knit hats. I do, unless the pattern says not to. When I improvize a worsted-weight hat, I do the brim with size 6 (96 stitches), then increase to 108 stitches and switch to size 8 needles.

I finally painted this interior. I did the drawing during a Zoom with my drawing buddies a few weeks ago. It's the interior of a house that was for sale. And those are the real colors.

I came across my Little Kiddles during the ongoing decluttering. I wasn't sure I still had them. I loved them when I was little. They're in pretty good shape -- but not worth much without the original containers -- so I'll hold onto them for now.

As I write this, Keith is at the new house with the cats. Kola, who likes to spend her days napping in "my" chair, turns out to be a scaredy cat.

While Nagi is exploring, Kola is hiding under the twin bed that Keith has already moved there!

Sunday, March 14, 2021

Three Months of Stress to Go

 Three months from now, I will be on my 2nd day of retirement. I cannot express how happy that thought makes me! For one thing. our school district is going to remove seniority as a priority for shifting schools and for layoffs. As if that's not enough, I went on a safety tour of my school Friday -- and it is a mess. Hardly anyone has their own classroom because the school is so small (but has 200 staff and 2,200 students), so there is nowhere safe to eat lunch. 

Even vaccinated, I'm not sure it's safe. People are dying after being fully vaccinated. My employer acts like vaccination removes all risk -- but it doesn't! Even though the CDC recommends that vaccinated people should avoid crowds of any size and restaurants, we are opening high schools. And what about all those unvaccinated teens?

So onto something cheerful:

Here's our little retirement house. We had the inside painted white. The painters finished Friday, so we have spent much of the weekend moving in the smaller furniture. My sweet husband moved all the furniture for my craft room so I could get that set up ASAP. The movers come on March 30, so we have time to get our current house cleaned up.

The neighbors are super friendly. There's a darling 4-year-old girl next door who I'm going to adopt as a foster grandchild -- seeing as I don't have any grandchildren on the way

That safety tour lasted 1.5 hours, which is way too long for me to be on my feet. In between taking loads of stuff to the house, I've been hand-quilting using my lap quilting hoop:

I love the tear-away paper. I can't do circles or spirals freehand.

And I finished another hat:

It even matches the Navajo rug that my MIL made!

We back to school on April 13, and I am very stressed out about that. I am having so much trouble with foot pain (club feet) that I don't know how I'm going to survive. For me, virtual teaching has been a blessing. I have asked for accommodations, but my district has denied every accommodation I've requested in the past, so I am worried.

Still, it will all be good in three months. I can do this!

Saturday, March 6, 2021

Chugging Along

 We closed on our house without incident last week.  We've moved in a few things, but we can't move in too much until the painters finish. The sellers painted the walls themselves before they put the house on the market. Not only did they do a sloppy job, but they chose colors better suited for a state mental institution.

We have movers scheduled for the end of the month, so we hope to have all the small stuff moved by then.

I still need some crafting time to keep my sanity. This next photo will look like a repeat but it's not. I am now calling Porto the "Forever Sweater." It will get done. Eventually

I've been quilting the Hook, Line & Tinker embroidery designs, and I think it enhances the images.

Thursday, Keith and I drove 45 minutes to the Walgreens in Fort Atkinson. Why? So I could get my first Covid vaccine! Seeing as my district is starting in-person instruction with K-2, I was feeling pressure to be vaccinated before the high schools open.

I wanted a quick, easy, stash-busting project for the drive, so I pulled together materials for a Banff. It's a Tin Can Knits pattern, and I have never been disappointed by one of their patterns. This was fun, fast, and very relaxing. Just what I needed. I've already started a second one.

I expect my posts and comments will be sporadic over this coming month, but I will be trying to read and keep up with you!

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

In Between

 These days I am mostly decluttering and starting to pack. We close on our new house tomorrow, and then we have to move and get this one ready to put on the market. Work is hectic with both teaching virtually and planning to go back in a hybrid situation.

But in between, I find little times to do some crafty things. Thanks to Kim, I went a little crazy on the Hook, Line & Tinker hygge embroidery designs. It's been a fun and relaxing project that I'm going to hand-quilt.

I found a few hours to do some online sketching with a friend -- via Zoom, of course. This is the house where Marc Chagall grew up in Vitebsk, Belarus.

Then there's other people's crafts that I've come across as I declutter. The Barbie on the left is dressed in a darling suit that my babysitter knit in the late 1960s; the doll on the right is wearing a coat knit by my MIL. They are both better knitters than I'll ever be!

And I got some very good news this morning. Yesterday I had an endoscopy to see if I have Celiac Disease -- and I don't! I am so excited that I'm going to find time to bake Hamantaschen, even though the holiday for this Jewish treat has passed. It's a cookie dough folded around a filling -- with lots of gluten!

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Long Slog

Right now everything feels like a long slog. We close on our house next week, so we are sorting, tossing, and packing -- never fun stuff! My union is in prolonged negotiations with the district to figure out how to reopen our schools.

And it turns out my latest sweater project is going to be a long slog, too. This is Porto.

It is a very loose-fitting pull-over knit out of a gorgeous Berroco non-wool yarn. The yarn is listed as DK, but it feels more like fingering. And the rounds get really long before you separate for the sleeves -- like more than 500 stitches! I think it will be worth it in the long run, but it's going to take a while.

My mitered-square blanket is another big project. I'm trying to figure out where to put colors for the last row. Then comes the long slog: the border!

In six to eight weeks, at least some of these issues will be resolved, for now I just have to take things a day at a time.

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Trying to Stay Positive

The day I've been dreading has arrived: My district has announced it plans to reopen in March -- without vaccinating teachers or other staff. The announcement is very vague, leaving us with more questions than answers. The only good thing is that I teach high school, so there is a chance that I will get vaccinated before I have to return. Fingers crossed!

But there are some things to be happy about. A couple weeks ago a friend dropped off some paper white bulbs and now I have flowers:

I spread them over two vases and dropped off one for my mom at her retirement community.

And, speaking of flowers, I'm finishing up a flowery project I started four or five years ago: embroidered flower bunting. I drew the flowers, so it's fun to see it come to life.

And here's another:

I'll take a photo when it's done and hung across our mantel. But it won't hang there for long...

Madison's disregard for its teachers is the final straw for me. I filed for retirement! As you know, we started looking for a smaller house a couple months ago. It's been crazy. All we wanted was a ranch with an attached garage on the near West Side. Apparently that's what everyone wants. The competition was fierce and houses are selling at $50,000 or more above assessment.

Well, we lucked out. We found the perfect house. It's a little farther from the city center than I'd like, but I think it would cost too much to live closer. Our current house is very close to downtown and the university, so it should sell fast. The one we bought was on the market for 3 days!

We close Feb. 24 and hope to get our current house on the market by April 1. With me working, we'll need a good month to get it ready.

Thursday, February 4, 2021

Snow Day!

 Madison called a snow day -- even for virtual instruction -- and I could not be happier. I had insomnia last night, so the timing is perfect.

And what better than a snowy day to think about blankets? I finished my Habitation Throw. Mine is quite a bit larger than the pattern calls for. I just played it by ear. Some of the color transitions are better than others. I think I prefer more of a fade technique than these sudden changes. But it's very homey and comforting.

I've also been working on a larger blanket that uses worsted weight. I had an odd assortment of Julia yarn and Cascade Quattro, both discontinued, which is a shame. They are absolutely lovely yarns and they play quite well together. I'm using a variety of grays to tie it all together and hoping it works.

I think I'm going to let this one get quite large. It also has a border, so it will take me a while to finish.

I would love to spend the whole day knitting by the window, but I need to declutter. We are looking at a house tomorrow and it looks promising online. Whenever there is a house on the horizon I panic and start decluttering. Moving is a lot to take on right now as I try to adapt to my new diagnoses, but it needs to be done. It's never fun, but we'll be happy when it's behind us.

Monday, February 1, 2021

The Bad and the Good

 Let's just get the bad stuff out of the way. I've been absent from the Blog World lately because of doctors' appointments and bad news. It started with a podiatrist, who sent me to a rheumatologist to see whether I have Eylers-Danlos Syndrome, a disorder of connective tissue. Well, I do.

I also have Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome and Sjoden's Syndrome. You can look them up if you want. Suffice it to say that the EDS and the POTS make one very tired. No wonder I've been tired for 30 years. And I've had symptoms of POTS since I was 12.

And, if that's not enough, I have a biopsy scheduled for later this month to see if I have Celiac Disease.  I feel like I've been hit by a truck. 

As you can imagine, these new diagnoses are making the retirement decision quite easy. I have to formally announce by Feb. 15 if I'm going to get my retirement benefits. Don't worry! I'm not going to miss this deadline.

On to more cheerful subjects. It's been snowing here!!

I've been able to ski for the last three days in a row -- which is pretty much heaven in my world. The photo is from Saturday's outing to the Arboretum.

And I've been able to ski with friends each day. This is as close as I can get to socializing in person, and it is pretty darn nice.

I have two FOs, which have yet be photographed. I'm getting ready to cast on the Adrift shawl from Laine Magazine and using some stash yarn.

It's a nice easy pattern -- perfect for this time when I have so much to sort out!

Sunday, January 24, 2021

You Win Some, You Muck Up Others

 As if it isn't bad enough that I'm the last person to bake bread during the pandemic, my bread did not turn out at all. The dough for two loaves of cinnamon-raisin bread looked OK at the beginning:

But it never rose properly. I puzzled and puzzled over it. I've baked plenty of bread in my time. Then Keith asked about the yeast. I only bought it a few weeks ago, but I checked anyway. Yep, it expired four years ago! Given the run on yeast in the past year, I have no idea how any out-dated yeast was left.

Fortunately, not everything here is failing. Thanks to Kim, I have an adorable embroidered sheep. I'm going to make the Hygge Reindeer, which Kim also made, and then combine them in a little quilt.

Kim really has a knack for finding the best embroidery patterns.

And I'm quite happy with the quilt I'm making with my flower embroidery:

The border strips are fabric that I sun-dyed last summer. Wow, does that seem like a long time ago or what? Not that I mind winter. I took a long walk this afternoon, and it really cheered me up. 

I have a rough work week coming up so I needed the boost. So far, my district is mostly virtual, but I'm always worrying about being asked to go back before vaccination! Chicago's teachers have voted not to teach in person, which I think is wise. My science-smart friends say the Midwest will have another spike as universities open up.

So, wherever you are, stay safe, my friends. We are not out of the woods yet.

Thursday, January 21, 2021

On Books

I think it's been at least 6 months since I posted about my reading/listening, so it seems like a good time to catch up. 

At the moment, I'm reading Uncanny Valley, by Anna Wiener, an autobiographical account of a young woman in Silicon Valley. She started out in New York in traditional publishing, so she isn't your typical IT-type. She is an excellent writer, and it's both entertaining and informative.

I'm listening to The Last Million, by David Nasaw, a history of the last million displaced persons in Germany after WWII. It is interesting but disturbing. Here's the crux of it: After WWII, America welcomed in tens of thousands of Nazi collaborators and Nazis as it fought like heck to keep out us Jews.

This is weird but delightful novel about a set of twins who burst into flames when they are upset. I don't usually like magical realism, but I really enjoyed this one. It's short and written in a breezy style.

This novel made a lot of best-of lists for 2020. I thought it was OK. Offill is known for her structure, which is small snapshots that add up to a larger picture. She makes it work, but I liked her previous novel better: Dept. of Speculation.

This graphic novel about the life Franz Kafka is amazingly good. The author and the illustrator cram a lot of information into this format. I find Kafka endlessly fascinating, so I really enjoyed it. Robert Crumb is the illustrator, so that makes the visuals strong. It's definitely the fastest way to learn about Franz.

I think that's enough for one post. You may see a Jewish theme here and that is no accident. I'm working a series of quilts about Jews in Eastern Europe and the U.S., which reflects my background. You might remember that I visited Lithuania a few years ago because most of my family is from that country, although it was Tsarist Russia when they left. 

Read on!

Sunday, January 17, 2021

Making Keeps Me Sane

 This is a hard time for everyone. The pandemic and politics are impossible to escape. And we all have our personal struggles with these issues.

But I am grateful to be a maker. I've had quite a few Zooms on this long weekend, and the Habitation Throw is perfect mindless knitting. I'm not sure I like the way it's coming out, but I can always use another lap blanket.

And I finished this embroidery of my own design. It gave me chance to work on my satin stitch and try combining stitches. It was way more work than I expected, which is often the case for me.

I'm going to make it into a little wall quilt. I think the colors will work with all the fabric I sun-dyed last summer.

And I took a little trip to Prague -- virtually, of course. This is the Old-New Synagogue, where Franz Kafka was dragged to High Holy Days services by his father. I was there with my daughter in 2018. Jews have been praying there for 700 years and that imbues it with a quiet sense of holiness.

Being a maker is especially useful, I think, during the pandemic and winter. I do miss seeing people, meeting at coffee shops, gathering for potlucks. But making things is a pretty good way to get through this strange world we now inhabit.

I hope you are finding ways to bring some joy into your life, too!