Wednesday, September 22, 2021

In The Middle of Nowhere

 That’s where I am. It’s 20 miles to the nearest town and phone service is iffy. But that’s all good if you’re Up North…in Wisconsin, that is. For the few of you who know Wisconsin, I’m between Lac de Flambeau and Park Falls. It took hours to find a cabin that was both in the woods and on a lake. This is what we found:

We’ve enjoyed our getaway: kayaking, walking, and, of course Keith has been biking. And I’ve been reading. On the first day alone, I zipped through Force of Nature, the second novel in an Australian series. She’s the rare mystery writer who writes as well as she plots. The characters are complex and believable. I could not put it down!

Then I switched gears entirely and turned to literary fiction.

I am on page 70 but I can’t explain this book. The back cover describes it as a blend of fact and fiction. It doesn’t seem to have a plot but it’s inexplicably mesmerizing. Akhtar is the American-born son of Pakistani immigrant parents and he provides an incisive picture of what that is like, of the generational conflicts, his mother’s longing for Pakistan, and his father’s transformation into an American. So far I’m liking it.

I read some popular fiction this summer, and some of it was actually good. The Plot by Jean Hanff Korelitz does indeed have some surprising plot turns. The Flight Attendant by Chris Bohjalian is a tightly written thriller that kept me at the edge of my seat. In addition to being a good story, it describes the hectic life of these folks who give us juice and pretzels in the air. I loved Standard Deviation by Katherine Heiny. Focusing on a man,his current wife, and his first wife, it smartly depicts the perils and satisfaction of fractured families.

Then there are the ones I didn’t much like. I finished Maine by J. Courtney Sullivan. It’s a decent beach read but a predictable tale of yet another dysfunctional family. I am perplexed by the rave reviews garnered by Who Is Maud Dixon. The plot is so promising—an editorial assistant pretends to be a famous author after that author dies—but the writing is clunky and unconvincing. I couldn’t finish this one.

Reading is one of the joys of retirement,



Saturday, September 18, 2021

There Is Still Knitting

 After all, this is a knitting blog. And I do knit every day.

(BTW, excuse my long absence... the High Holy Days always throw me off.)

I am trying to focus on a few projects instead of being so scattered. I have a friend who is a monogamous knitter and she finishes so many things.  Inspired by her, I've made decent progress on the linen-stitch scarf.

It is very pretty and it will be a cozy scarf. However, I am still quite sure this will be my last linen stitch project.  Too tedious. And it's very easy to make mistakes.

After four unsuccessful attempts, I put the Porto Sweater into time out. Instead I'm working on Design 10. Yes that's it's name. It's an easy cardigan so I should be able to finish this one. Normally I would not make a sweater with only three projects on Ravelry, but I saw a sample at the yarn store in Evanston and fell in love with it.

All the colors are off ... I waited too long in the day to take good photos.

Now for some exciting news: The Wisconsin Sheep and Wool Show actually took place in person.  I went with my friend Suzi, who I haven't seen in a while. She's a retired teacher, too, and it was so much fun to catch up. And, I wasn't too extravagant in my purchases!

A yarn store about 30 minutes from my house is about to start a mitten knit-along, so I purchased two skeins from their booth to make the
Songbird Mittens for Rachel.

I also picked up two luscious indie skeins of DK destined to be fingerless mitts:

And this bag just insisted that I take it home with me:

It was wonderful to attend High Holy Days services in person. Worship really is a community experience. My congregation is a combination of hippie and traditional Judaism that hits the right notes for me. I feel very lucky to have this unusual schul (Yiddish for synagogue) in my life. As always, I was very busy repenting!

Saturday, September 4, 2021

On Sketching

 Sketching is one of the things I want to focus on in my retirement. I even went out with a friend when the temperatures were skyrocking.

Here's a photo of the scene. As you can see, accuracy is not my strength -- or even my goal. I like things that are wonky.



Last week, Keith drove me to Baraboo, a cute little town, so I could sketch and he could bike on some different roads. It's the home of Circus World, birthplace of the Ringling Brothers Circus, so there are painted elephants all over town.

I was drawing some of the old buildings downtown there when this man, about my age, came up to me and said, "Someone has a hobby."
"Keeps me out of prison," I joked.
"I did nine years in the big house," he replied. And he did. Told me his entire life story. It's a very friendly town.

But the best part was when a middle-aged woman came up to me and told me she owns an art gallery. She looked at my unfinished sketch and asked if I'd sell sketches of Baraboo at her gallery. Of course I would!

So, here's the sketch. It has a major mistake, but I can trace it onto a new piece of watercolor paper using my lightbox and correct it. Then I'll add watercolor.

Neck update: I got the neck brace off yesterday. They warned me that my neck would hurt for a few days because the muscles are out of practice -- and it does hurt! More worrisome. I have some signs of kidney damage from the mistakes in the ER, so they ran tests. I'm sure I won't hear anything over the holiday weekend.

Monday, August 30, 2021

Sometimes Things Work Out

 My newest knitting project did not start out well. The Piquant Mix Scarf is made with three balls of Ella Rae Cozy Soft Prints. As soon as I started knitting, the balls began to fall apart. Since you knit with all three, this quickly devolved into a mess.

I had no choice but to frog, roll all three skeins into balls, and start all over. Thankfully it was worth it. It's very pretty -- not my colors, though -- and will be a gift for one of my nieces.

I had been planning to have my friends over for dinner on our deck, but my neck injury made that plan too ambitious. Instead, I made brownies and offered up brownie sundaes.
My wonderful friend Richard made two huge bowls of cold soup: watermelon curry and watermelon gazpacho. So, it was dinner after all!

Kola says: "Thank goodness it's cooled off around here." 

And I wholeheartedly agree with her!


Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Finally Some Knitting

 In attempt to accomplish something -- you can't do a whole lot in a neck brace -- I picked up this Zick Zack scarf that's been languishing for a few years.  I'm using left-over yarns from other projects, and it's been fun deciding when to change colors.

I love the way it is coming out, but I will not make another one. It's a one-row repeat that requires counting, so it is tedious. I think I'm almost done -- I'll have to try it on when I take off my neck brace to wash today -- and then I can move onto something new.


Sunday, August 22, 2021

You Are Invited To My Pity Party

In April, I fell down the stairs at school because the elevator was broken. In May, I ended up in the ER with a kidney stone. And now, this:

I was stopped at a red light on a main thoroughfare, minding my own business, when a jerk in a sports car rear-ended me. Don't ask me why I smiled for the photo. The accident was not fun. Eight hours in the ER was not fun. Being given too much intravaneous pain medication wasn't fun either.

I may or may not have a hairline fracture in one of my neck vertebrae. I don't see a neurosurgeon for another 10 days. In the meantime, I'm enjoying wearing this hot, awkward cervical collar that rubs my skin raw. Not.

And if that's not bad enough, my scroll was not accepted for publication. I feel like it was a waste of time.

I'm hoping this next week will be better!


Friday, August 20, 2021

Friday Felines

 I'm missing this cat, who lives with my daughter in Denver:

Vashti is a very sweet, mellow cat. She'd like to be more friendly, but Rachel's first cat, Delilah, hasn't gotten over not being an only cat.

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Tiny Needle Tuesday Plus My Weekend

 This is what my tiny needle has. been up to:


It's a small piece of a project that I finished on Sunday-- just in time to submit it to a challenge from Quilting Arts Magazine. The challenge was to make a scroll measuring no more than 40".  I had to cut a panel so that I didn't go over 40".

Here's the finished project:

It's bits and pieces from my trip to Colorado. It will seem very random to the viewer, but my new-to-me fiber group -- the Memory Cloth Circle -- liked it. I'm not sure it was worth the time, but it was kind of fun.

My weekend also included having friends over for dinner on Saturday. I invited my favorite co-teacher, John, and his wife Michele, who is a special ed teacher. Not team-teaching with John is one of the things I'm going to miss the most this fall. We practically had a comedy act going in a long-running debate over which decade had the best music, the 1970s (my choice) or the 1980s (his choice). I hope we'll stay in touch.

Michele is the chairperson of the Union's Subcommittee on Special Ed, so we have quite a bit of history, too.

And Michele made me the best mask ever:

For those of you who aren't massive fans of The Office: The mask features Dwight Schrute, one of the main characters. I gave John a vintage Chewbacca mug, seeing as he is a Star Wars fanatic.

Madison Urban Sketchers met Saturday at a local park, where we all drew the beautiful bathroom structure -- built by the CCC during the Depression. It was a small but talented group. Mine is on the top right:


Last, but not least, I went kayaking on Sunday with my friend Tracey. What is it about water that is so soothing? When my ankle heals, I am going to beg Kathy for a paddle-boarding lesson.

It was a busy weekend for me -- but now I have all week to relax!



Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Tiny Needle Tuesday

The main project I worked on in Colorado was this folk art embroidery based on a drawing I made.

I'm very happy with the way it turned out. I used mostly DMC size 5 perl cotton, but I added some details with size 8.

Now I just have to decide if I'm going to finish it by stapling it around an 8x8 frame or making the center panel in an art quilt. So many decisions!

Sunday, August 8, 2021

Still settling in!

 I am still getting our new house in order. I know, we moved back in March, but between school and traveling,  I haven't been able to get the kitchen or my crafts properly organized. However, at least the living room looks good, now that have our new sectional!

The house isn't the only thing that doesn't feel settled. I haven't figured out what my retirement life is going to look like. This is the time when I'd be easing back into teaching, but now the days are wide open. That is not a complaint! I just need some time to figure out how to structure my life. 

Between the transition and my travels, my knitting has been pretty basic this summer. For my travel knitting, I worked on fingerless mitts using Kristen Kapur's recipe. The color of this first pair is more of a pumpkin tone, and they are super soft because the yarn is MadTosh.

Pair No. 2 is a Knit Circus impressionist colorway, so they also feel very good on the hands. Both pairs are knit with fingering weight and are helping me do some stash-busting.
Now I've moved on to another completely mindless cowl: Kaleen, a Berroco pattern. I'm using the recommended yarn, Berroco Millefiori, so it's working out very predictably. 
You can see which yarn is the main color. The accent color is used every four rounds. Although the colors look different in the balls, they actually are blending together a bit too well. (Note: I wound the yarn into balls because the skeins they come in quickly turn into a tangled mess.)

The cowl is almost done, and I hope to start something more interesting this week. Or pick up the Forever Sweater, but that's for another post!


Monday, August 2, 2021

Yes, I'm Still Here

 Or, more accurately, I'm back after a flurry of travel to see loved ones. I am not a globe trotter, and I found doing three trips in 6 weeks overwhelming. But, with a new wave of Covid-19 cases already upon us and the new Delta variant, I am glad I made these trips because I the travel window is closing for me.

So, here is a very short tour of where I've been....

Keith and I started with a trip to Chicago to see our cousins, Eli and Mary, and my son, Seth. Usually a bourbon kind of guy, Seth reported that his masculinity was dented by this mixed drink:

Then I flew out to a family reunion in San Diego, where my mom rented us a house that was across a street from the Pacific! We loved the outdoor living room.

One of the fun things we did was go on a tour at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Here is Rachel with a giraffe close by:

Lucky me! I was then able to spend a week in Denver with Rachel. She moved there last August, so this was my first visit. I really enjoyed Denver, and she showed me all the best bakeries and coffee shops. Do I have a great daughter or what?

I was amazed by a Native American exhibit at the Denver Art Museum. This is a costume from an opera.
Then my friend Joni flew in from Berkeley, and the two of us took a road trip to Durango, a gorgeous little city in southwestern Colorado. I haven't been to the Rockies since 1964 and, wow, are they big!

We always get matching clothes when we're together, and this year was no exception.

We got very dorky when we found a pajama store:

Yes, I am retired. Special ed teachers in my district go back to work tomorrow -- while regular ed teachers don't go back until Aug. 25. I have mixed feelings about retiring, but I don't regret getting August back!

I will be back in a few days to share knitting and other crafts! 


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.


xx

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

GAAK

 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!