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!

Saturday, January 9, 2021

Trying to Finish a Few Things

 It's a good day. To begin with, it's Saturday so the entire weekend lies ahead of me. Second, yesterday our superintendent announced that my district will start third quarter virtually. I hope that means he won't reopen until teachers are vaccinated. Third, we've been having freezing fog, with leaves the trees with a gorgeous icy coating.

I have far too many UFOs lying around the house, so I've chosen two to focus on. The first is the gorgeous shawl kit that I got from Bridget during her Christmas in July giveaway. I'm playing around with it to make it longer, but it could not be more beautiful. Thank you, Bridget!

The second one is a an embroidery pattern that I designed to get some practice with filling stitches. This one is going to take a while. For some reason, it is very hard on my fingers, even using a thread puller. I used a stabilizer under the muslin, so I'm wondering if that is the problem.

Still, if I do a little bit every day, it will eventually be an FO. Then I'll make it into a small quilt.

Of course, I can't shake off my shock at this past week's sedition at the U.S. Capital. Three Wisconsin legislators voted against counting all the votes even after the Capital was breached. Shameful. I so embarrassed by them. At least Twitter pulled the plug on our cowardly leader.

Enjoy your weekend!

Sunday, January 3, 2021

The Best and the Worst of Winter Break

 We got snow! And not just a dusting. There was enough snow for the city to groom the golf course. I love cross country skiing, so this was a huge treat! Skiing with friends was extra special this winter.

From left: Tsela, Judith, Lisa, Me, Debbie, Mimi

I skied for three days in a row, one of which was my friend Tsela's birthday.

I don't have much time to exercise when school is in session, so I am pretty out of shape. By the third day, I had to shorten my route. I was tired; my arms and legs were aching -- best feeling ever!

And I designed and sewed a needle book. I had bought a little one for $5 in summer 2019, but I wanted something bigger and with pockets. It was a surprising success.

I even embroidered each page to show what kind of needles it holds.

That was the best stuff. That and talking to both my kids this week.

The worst? Break ends tomorrow and it's back to virtual school. I think I would be enjoying it more if I wasn't worried about the district forcing us to come back before we are vaccinated. Cross your fingers that my district supports teachers' right to live!