Monday, July 28, 2008

What I've Been Up To...

Alas, my blogging has suffered while my eleven-year-old nephew visited us from Phoenix. While this blog has been woefully empty of posts, I have been helping Michael blog his Minnesota vacation. If you'd like to see what we've been doing, visit his blog at:
Here is a picture of Michael and me. We were out on the ATV's on this day. It was his first time driving, and he did a great job!

It will be obvious if you visit Michael's blog that we have been extremely busy, without much time for knitting. I am approximately halfway done with the lace portion of Katie's sweater. I have signed up for the Olympic competition hosted on in which I am knitting for two teams. The requirements of the Olympics are that I need to cast on a new project during the opening ceremony, so Katie's sweater will take a bit of a back seat for a couple of weeks.

I am planning on knitting a fair isle cardigan for my Olympic project. This cardigan has a steek up the front. For the non-knitting reader, a steek is when you completely knit your sweater, and then take scissors and cut the darned thing right up the middle. One would think that cutting knitting would lead to a complete unraveling of said sweater. Under normal circumstances, cutting is not recommended. The gist is that you knit a pattern in which cutting in a straight line is assisted, and you sew with thread on either side before the cut is made. In spite of all precautions before cutting, I am a bit nervous about this, but also looking forward to making my first steeked sweater. Thanks to good friend, Doreen, for helping me pick out the colors for this project. I will have to knit like the wind to finish a complete sweater for myself in 17 days.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Independence Days 2008

The Fourth has come and gone for this summer. Since the 4th was on a Friday, and it was more of a three day holiday, I'm calling it Independence Days. It was our first summer in which we had no children at home. It really didn't feel much like the Fourth of July without the kids around. We followed Bob's family's 4th of July traditions, and didn't do any of the things I used to do when my kids were at home. We had a nice weekend, but it wasn't the same.

We spent Friday, the 4th out at the lake. There was the usual pontoon ride, water skiing, sauna, barbecue and fireworks. A good time was had by all. I enjoyed our nieces, Sam and Sarah, and nephew, Spencer.

Bob worked part of the day on Saturday. After he was done with work, we took a drive into Wisconsin and Michigan. We were searching for waterfalls for me to photograph. Here is a picture of Kimball Falls in Wisconsin. We had Jack and Hunter with us and they enjoyed romping through the woods all day. We saw lots of trees that looked like this. We are reminded, on hot humid days such as this, of why we tolerate our bitterly cold, snowy winter days. We learned that dogs are not allowed on the trails of Wisconsin State Parks, so off we headed to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.Our next stop was the Conglomerate Falls on the Black River. Bob had brought his kids here when they were little. It was a 3/4 mile hike DOWN to get to the falls. They were very beautiful, with lots of green algae growing on the red rocks under the falls.
The trip back UP from the falls was not too much fun for either Jack or myself. Nothing like reminding oneself of how painfully out-of-shape a body can be. Both Jack and I needed several rest stops and a cool-down period once we made it back to the truck. Bob had Jack short-leashed (his seat belt) in the back of the truck when Jack decided he needed to get out of the truck. The result was he tumbled, and split his lip in his fall. It was fine after a few minutes, but he scared us almost as much as he scared himself!We went back out to the lake on Sunday for more pontooning, skiing, barbecue, and visiting. My mother-in-law has an amazing green thumb, of which I am very envious. She grows orchids like nobody's business. Here are the orchids she has blooming on her picnic table. She also has lemons and limes growing on their deck.... in northern Minnesota..... I am in awe.
I have been doing more reading than knitting. Here is the progress on Katie's sweater:

The waist shaping on the back is complete on the back, but it is a slow go. This pattern makes me want to put my knitting away. 1-2-3, 1-2-3 drives me insane. The girls in the knitting group assure me that it will look nice if I ever finish the bloody thing. Here is a close up of the lace pattern, just in case anyone ever wants to count to three about ten thousand times.

In my reading endeavors, I am on the 4th book in the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon. This book is called Drums of Autumn, and begins with our heroes in Charleston, SC in the late 1700's. I'm loving the start, as we were just in Charleston over Spring Break. I've also been doing some reading about job burnout, designing a web site, and "artful" blogging.
If you are one of my faithful readers of this blog, please comment and let me know how I'm doing. My intent is to make my blog more interesting and visually appealing. I will close with my favorite picture from our weekend. In the midst of the traffic, company, bangs and booms of the holiday weekend, sometimes the quietest, simplest things are overlooked. Take a moment to reflect on a quiet gem from your weekend.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

The Saga of Katie's Sweater

So, about three years ago, my youngest child, Katie, was headed off to college. Now, this was (and still is) not an easy thing for me. I don't think I'm a helicopter parent, but I still have a hard time having my kids living away. It isn't that I want to have a hand in their lives, or have a problem of control; it is just that I miss them terribly.

When Katie was preparing to go to college, I told her to pick out a sweater pattern for me to make for her. It seemed that picking up the old knitting needles again would be a good thing to do with my time now that my responsibilities of caring for kids was going away. As a knitting Mom, I knit for my kids to give them a warm hug, wrap them in comfort when I can't be there. These seemed good reasons to knit a sweater for Katie as she ventured away from home into the big, bad world. Katie picked this pattern.Okay, I thought. My first foray into lace. I looked over the pattern, not too bad. It is very easy lace. Just count 1-2-3 as you knit or purl three times into each stitch. Katie looked at yarn samples and picked out wool and mohair. Fabulous! The mohair will give the lace strength, durability, and a fuzzy halo. We ordered the yarn.

I must have tried to make gauge on the sweater, as I had adjusted my needle size. The pattern says to cast on "very loosely." I doubled my needles and cast on. No problem. We're off. I knit, 1-2-3; and I purled 1-2-3 like crazy. As I was about six inches up the back, I started wondering about my cast on. It looked like it needed to be a LOT looser, as this lace is super stretchy. But I continued on, 1-2-3, 1-2-3. Katie asked frequently, "How's my sweater coming, Mom?"

By the time I got to the sleeves, I was still wondering about my gauge and my cast on. I also noticed a spot where I had been hypnotized by the 1-2-3 and accidentally put in a 1-2-3-4 on one stitch. No worries, I told myself, I can just take a little piece of thread and tie that extra stitch in the back. Nobody will ever know. I knew. And it bugged me. It was the first place my eye went every time I picked up the sweater. Still, I plowed on 1-2-3, 1-2-3.... I hate counting to three! Katie says, "You know all the stuff you make is nice, Mom, but WHERE'S MY SWEATER?"

I made the hole for the neck and split the two front halves, 1-2-3, 1-2-3, 1-2-3... three years gone by. Katie has finished her junior year and has now stopped asking about the sweater. The sweater has been languishing in a bag hibernating. Katie says, "You know, Mom, you aren't going to have that sweater done until it is out-of-style." She's right. It is two thirds done, and I hate it. I know I've learned a lot since I started knitting this sweater. I need to rip it out and start over. The wool is very nice, the same stuff of the super expensive Dale of Norway ski sweaters.

Won't Katie be surprised if I actually finish the bloody sweater? She's given up all hope.

Yesterday, I pulled it out. Mohair is NOT fun to rip out. It makes super strength Velcro look slippery. It has this fuzz that tangles and is evidently made out of plutonium. At 8:30 a.m., after my toast and tea, the sweater came off the needles and I began ripping. I ripped, and I pulled, and I broke apart virtually every stitch. I untangled, and I wound, and I cursed... a lot.

At 1:00 I made myself a couple of turkey hot dogs for lunch. My fingers were red, swollen, and throbbing.

At 3:00, a wise friend called. I told her what I was doing. She gently asked if I would be soaking the wool to get the kinks out. In a quavering voice, I said, "I just want to get this done!" I knew she was right, I should take the kinks out of the wool, IF I ever got the damn thing taken apart. I checked fairly often to make sure my fingers weren't bleeding at this point. I didn't want to stain the wool.

At 6:30 I informed Bob that there would be no dinner, and if he wished to eat, he should go to Subway and get us a couple of subs. He complied. He is learning when not to question, just do.

At 9:00 the Twins game came on TV. I was still ripping. I was still swearing. I had a headache, I was hot, I was covered in barbed-wire mohair fragments, my fingers would no longer open all the way. I kept going. Bob said, "You don't have to do the whole thing today." I gave him "the look" and kept going.

Bob went to bed a little after 10:00, I was ripping.

At 11:30 p.m., I wound the last of the sweater into it's little wool and mohair balls.

This morning, I got up at 8:00, skeined the wool, soaked it for two hours, spun it in the washer and hung it outside to dry. I took a separate skein of wool and a ball of mohair (it is too stubborn and hateful to kink like the cooperative, gentle, submissive wool) and started a new gauge swatch, one needle size smaller.

Still too big, I dropped down another needle size and swatched again. Still too big. I dropped down another size and swatched again. Three needle sizes? What WAS I thinking the first time I did this????? The third needle drop seemed to do the trick.... gauge, or at least very close to it.

I cast on LOOSELY with a different method and started knitting. 1-2-3, 1-2-3, 1-2-3... I'm back at it. I am much happier with the three inches of new sweater on my needles. I am determined to finish this sweater 1-2-3, 1-2-3, although I still hate the repetition of this pattern. I'm going to do it... for Katie.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

I'm Baaaaack!

Rumor has it that there are a few folks who actually read this blog. (You know who you are...) I've heard the complaints, and now that school is out of the way, I am available to blog away. So, it's summer, and for that I am very grateful. The end of the school year was difficult (aren't they all?) and the class at Scholastica took more time than I was anticipating. I thought I could just reteach the course again, but no, I had to go and redesign some classes because I was inspired by the interests of the students. Silly me.

Somebody asked me yesterday what I would be doing with my summer. I started listing things off like: teaching a spinning class, knitting, painting exterior door frames, putting in a retaining wall, you get the idea. She wrote back to me that I really should just do "the things that make my heart happy." Ahhhh.... if I did only that, a number of county and state health officials would soon be descending upon my humble abode in hazmat suits.

I have received a letter from the Junior League who sponsors the craft show I did last December. It is time to make a decision whether or not I will be participating in their show in 2008. As I see it, the real decision for me is whether or not I will be crafting or teaching at CSS this fall. With the Grade 2 job, I fail to see how I could possibly do both. IF I do the craft thing, I should concentrate my efforts on lower priced merchandise and bring the remaining higher priced bags left from last year. The college gig most certainly pays more, and is a sure paycheck, AND has the remote possibility of leading to something full time. The crafting is something I truly enjoy, is relaxing and rejuvenating for me, the booth is ready to go, and I loved doing the show last year. Decisions, decisions...

Speaking of knitting, the Brea bag from Berocco is knit, and I am going to block it today so I can begin to finish it. The Bramble bag from Berocco is about half knit. I shall try to take some photos today. A blog is much more interesting with photos, is it not?

The weather is actually NICE today. It has been such a cold, wet spring that the blue sky, birds singing, and windows open are such a relief. I need to put the gifts for my swap partner into a box and get them mailed today. I am going to try to set up a spinning class at Fabric Works in Superior. There is a woman coming in from Georgia on Thursday who wants me to teach her how to spin, and she's only here for a couple of weeks. There is a new yarn shop in Ashland which I have never visited, and is calling my name. Time to get moving on my day!

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Back from vacation

We are back from our vacation to Charleston, SC to visit Christy and Bob. It was a LONG drive, but an excellent trip. It was wonderful to see the kids. They look great and we are so proud of them. They have a nice home, both are gainfully employed, they have a wonderfully neurotic dog, and have their own lives now. They are all grown up and finding their way through life. We saw many of the sights that make Charleston unique, but the very best part of the trip was the time we spent with Bob and Chris.

The weather was cool for some of our time in Charleston, but precipitation free. We were able to visit the historic downtown several times, which was fantastic. Christy's friend, Carrie, is a professional tour guide and gave us a private tour. It still amazes me how much the tour guides there need to remember. We jumped on a tour of the ghost-ridden old jail, which is creepy and fascinating at the same time. We took Carrie's carriage tour of the Battery section of the city. Magnolia Plantation was absolutely gorgeous. I have to find a Camilla to try as a house plant. I bought gifts for the Minnesota kids at the open-air market downtown and at the River Dogs stadium. We visited Fort Moultrie and saw the weaponry from the Revolution through WWII. We ate seafood at restaurants and Bobby's seafood boil. The honey baked ham for Easter was to die for, encrusted with a honey-brown sugar crust that made it seem more like dessert than the main course. The ocean and beach are, well, amazing and pure relaxation at the same time.
Bob and I got home late last night, and we are both having a lazy day trying to recoup. Looking back at our trip, I am so grateful for all of it. Bob (although he loves to drive, and I'd prefer to fly) does a great job of finding our way, navigating traffic, driving forever, AND catering to taking care of me. How he is so patient through it all is a mystery to me. I am grateful for the warm greeting that the kids extended to me. I feel especially thankful for Christy's welcome. I don't feel that Chris and I ever got much of a chance to know each other before she headed south, and I hopefully sense that she is giving me a chance to be in her life. What more could anyone ask? I'm not sure I would be as gracious as she, if I'd been in her position. At least from my perspective, it seemed that 7 years ago I bulldozed in, married her dad and then she felt she had to go packing. Her life, as she knew it, was completely disrupted. Yet, she greets me with a smile and a hug. How forgiving and kind-hearted can she be? Bobby and I had a bit more time together, yet I am appreciative of his acceptance, as well. Stepping into a family and becoming the step-parent is not an easy thing to do. I'm not sure that I stepped all that gracefully, and I cannot thank Christy and Bob enough for their resilience, patience, and care. Anyway, it was a special vacation, and I have Bob, Chris, and Bob to thank for it.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Trying a dream

A month has gone by since my last posting, but what a month it has been! Since I left my television job and went back into the elementary classroom, I've been missing teaching adults. My dream was to teach education students at the college level. This spring has brought me that opportunity. I've been teaching a graduate level education course for the College of St. Scholastica, my undergraduate alma mater. This adjunct instructor position came as an unexpected surprise, a phone call out of the blue. I'm teaching Science methods, one of my favorite things to teach. I decided that this was the perfect opportunity to try my dream on for size, to see if I really liked it. Since I have a student teacher in my classroom (a coincidence that he is in the exactly same program) to help out, I would have the time and energy available to add teaching this course to my schedule.

I won't lie, it has been tough; but rewarding. I am having to travel to St. Paul to teach this course, but only have 6 students. It has been a challenge to learn the online component of the course, but I am feeling more comfortable using the software. My first eight hours (2 classes) of in-class instruction have been rewarding, interesting, invigorating, and exhausting all at the same time. Driving to St. Paul, setting up labs, teaching, tearing down, and driving home have made for a couple of very long days. My students have been so encouraging, telling me how much they enjoy my class and how valuable they feel it's been. As I expected, teaching in this way refreshes my own enthusiasm for teaching and makes me evaluate myself as a teacher.

Now, I have accepted the challenge to teach this course again next quarter, but in Duluth. My student teacher will have completed his time in my classroom, but I feel that I will have the course mostly set up by that time, so it should be less overall work the second time through. I am anticipating more students (maybe as many as 30) but I should be more comfortable and confident of my abilities by that time. I will finish out the school year working both jobs. I am hoping I will survive this schedule, and also have a better understanding of what I would like to be doing with the remainder of my teaching career.

Knitting and spinning, it seems have taken a back seat to the teaching for the past month. I have restarted the beta test sweater for Annie Modesitt a couple of times and it's just not doing it for me. I like the pattern, but as I'm knitting it, I'm thinking I'll never wear this sweater. It's just not me. I love the lace and cable, but I can just envision the sweater pulling up whatever I'm wearing underneath. I'm seeing myself pulling on things and constantly fighting it. So, the sweater is probably going to be frogged. Bob drove me to St. Paul to teach yesterday, so I started knitting a bag that will have fall oak leaves needle felted on it. The bag is about half done already, and it felt good to pick up the needles again.

We are off to South Carolina to see Christy and Bob this week. I'm starting to feel excited about the trip (especially now that I know we have my pay from St. Scholastica to fund the trip.) We have rented a small cottage just a couple blocks from the beach. The kids are excited about our visit, and have many things planned for us. I need the break, and I'm looking forward to knitting on the drive to and fro.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Knit Out a MOA and other stuff

Unbelievable! Almost a month has gone by since my last post! Life has been busy, which is very good for me at this time of year. I just don't "do" cold the way I used to. The bitterly cold days and nights leave my joints screaming, and the gray days make me, well, gray. I attended the Knit Out at the Mall of America yesterday. It was the second annual. I have learned that I will approach Knit Out differently next year. Rather than spending three hours in line waiting for patterns and yarn which I will probably not use, I will instead spend most of my time attending the demonstrations and activities on the stage. It is always wonderful to spend time amongst the hundreds of knitters who share the same love of fiber that has me engrossed. I met some new friends in line, and Ryan was beyond patient with me. All in all, a nice but tiring day.
This is a pic of me and Steven, The Glitter Knitter. He is so much fun!! We are all looking forward to his visit to our Northern Lights affiliate of the Minnesota Knitters Guild in May. Although you can't tell from this blurry picture, his sweater was knit with some sort of chain in it. Awesome!

I have agreed to teach a graduate level course for the College of St. Scholastica's St. Paul campus. It is an eight week course in Elementary Science Methods. This is something I have wanted to do for about 25 years, so I'm sort of fulfilling a long-time dream. Naturally, I'm a bit nervous about how it's going to go. I'm spending today and tomorrow (President's Day) getting my head wrapped around the syllabus and text and starting my planning. I truly think this is the best opportunity for me to find out if I LIKE teaching at the college level. My student teacher will be starting on the same day I begin teaching, so I'll have an extra pair of hands in the classroom to help take the pressure off. I am excited and anxious and overwhelmed, but happy to be given this opportunity.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Occupational Hazzard

One would think, that after all these years of teaching young children, that I would have built immunity to virtually any virus that could possibly rear its ugly head. But no, evidently not. I've been sick for 6 days now. I've missed the last two days of work, which is decidedly NOT good. What started as a head cold seems to have morphed into some flu-like monster. I'm tired of being sick. I must be close to using up my sick leave for this school year. I've been feeling so rotten that I've barely been able to knit. I used up a couple of partial balls of cotton and made a dishrag, and that was all I had in me.

Bob and I have been looking at rentals for our Spring Break trip to Charleston. Christy has been a great help sending information. We are looking for something on the beach. Chris and Bob are putting together a schedule of things to see that should keep us all very busy.

Time to get more drugs and head back to bed. Sniff....

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Custom order completed

Last week, I completed a custom ordered bag. The bag was supposed to be a duplicate of a bag I made about a year ago. I learned several things from this process. (A) I don't make bags to be duplicated. (B) You can't always match colors of hand painted yarn--especially difficult if you don't keep track of color numbers or names. (C) It causes me stress to try to duplicate something which I had no intention of ever duplicating. I ended up purchasing a couple hundred dollars worth of Malibrigo trying to match the colors of the original bag, which I could only remember from photographs which may or may not have been accurately representing the colors. Not that I am all that upset about adding Malibrigo to my stash, but I was never able to perfectly match the colors. The duplicate bag was most obviously darker in colors, but did turn out to be similar in size, style, and had a matching button. Lesson learned: do NOT promise to duplicate bags in the future!

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Our anniversary

Yesterday was our 6th wedding anniversary. Anniversaries are a time of reflection and remembering the time that has passed. It does not seem possible that six years has passed since our wedding day. Upon further reflection, when looking at what has been accomplished in that time, it amazes me how much has transpired since. The children are now grown. Only Katie remains in school, now her Junior year of college. Christy made the move far away from home, and a horrible boyfriend situation. She has grown into a responsible woman, caring for her home, and enjoying a great new job. Bobby has been to war and back. He is forever changed by the experiences of his young life as a soldier. He is continuing to find his way in this civilian life while learning how to interpret and live with the horrors he's seen. I am grateful that Christy and Bobby remain close, caring for each other, so that neither is alone so far from home. Ryan is now happily married himself, a homeowner, and working in a job that he loves. Bob and I have cleared our land and built our house. We have found a way to meld two families, each of us caring for the other's children as if they are our own. We are continuing to grow as a couple, learning about and from each other. Marriage, at any time of life, under any circumstances, isn't easy and requires a great deal of work, patience, understanding and compassion. Ours is no exception. But at this time of reflection, I realize and am grateful that we found each other. We are a blessing to each other and to our children. I feel a sense of accomplishment that we have come this far, and I look forward to what is yet to come.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

The passage of a passion

So, I heard today that an acquaintance has made the decision to sell off all her fiber related books, spinning wheel and sewing machine. She is no longer able to participate in this craft due to a chronic illness that makes it too painful for her. Since hearing this, I've been giving it a lot of thought. I was very into knitting and crochet when I was in high school and college. I walked away from it when my children were in school and I was involved in all the after-school frenzy that is the teen lifestyle of today. Did I miss it? A bit, but frankly I was so busy with my kids that I hardly thought about spending time for myself. What would it mean for me if I had to give it up today?

At first, I was so sad for this committed fiber person. That would be my first reaction if I realized that I could no longer physically participate in this passion. Sadness. Upon further thought, I found inspiration in her approach. She is selling off everything and using the cash to develop a new passion. I found myself interested in the research involved in learning and jumping into something completely new and different. I visualized shopping for the new supplies and planning how things would be set up. I imagined the excitement of the challenge of starting over.

In the end, life is about passages and passion. As we grow and move through the stages of life; things change. The key to really living is to find passion, be it new or old, in whatever stage of life you are currently experiencing. The next time I see this person, I intend to thank her for reminding me of this important life lesson. For me, I feel passion when I am able to be creative. Do I need fiber to feel creative? No, there are many avenues for creativity. But, I realize that when I am frustrated, feeling trapped, feeling like the lifeblood is being sapped from me; it is usually because my creativity is being stifled. In that situation, I must change my circumstance through either changing my situation or finding a way to bring creativity back into the picture.

I will end this post with a photo I took of some beautiful roses that my daughter brought me last week. She happened upon them in a store and said that they caused her to think of me. She knows I love yellow roses. These roses were just tossed into a vase of water and have become more beautiful each and every day. They have opened perfectly without a loss of a petal or a tinge of brown. I have enjoyed them so much. And, each time I look at them, they cause me to think of her.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Happy 2008!

My husband, kids and I had a great time at the big New Year's Eve party last night. It was totally fabulous to be able to spend the evening with them. We always have a great time when we are together.
Ryan and Audrey were celebrating their first anniversary. Somehow Ryan ends up with the wimpy horn every year.
Katie looked fantastic, as always. She enjoyed a bit of the bubbly as the last few seconds of 2007 tick away.

I love this picture of my "babies".... Where did the time go? They are all grown up, but will always be my babies.
And Bob and I enjoyed it all; the kids, the music, and celebrating our 6th anniversary.

Happy New Year to one and all!