Friday, November 30, 2007

Yo habla. . . .maybe

I live in the same community where I grew up. I teach at the same school I graduated from in 1967; however, over the years the makeup of our town and school has changed. I would estimate that the town and school both have a Hispanic majority now. It is quite possible to go about one's daily business without having to speak English.

My Spanish is rudimentary, at best. For one thing, I know my pronunciation is so bad that I am very shy about using it. I have a strong Texas accent, and I can't roll an r no matter how hard I try.

The school has provided home access to Rosetta Stone for any teacher who wants to use it. I started last night. It was hard to judge, since the beginning lesson covered mostly things I knew. I also have the kind of mind that gets distracted by questions like, "What makes one airplane an avion and another an avioneta?" Obviously, it is the size, but what is the dividing point? Ditto for nino (can't remember how to get the tilde over the n) and muchaco. Is it adolescence? Preschool? Oh well, I certainly have a lot of students who will be glad to help, particularly if they can get a laugh out of it.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

What the Yarn Wants to Be

I recently ordered some Noro Silver Thaw, color 9, from Webs to make a ruana that I saw on another blog. It looked like a good, practical garment that I would enjoy. Then I got a look at this beautiful yarn, and I convinced my DH to be my swift as I wound all 7 skeins of it. I started worrying about the pattern. Nevertheless, I began knitting and completed about 3 inches of the back. The colors were lovely, but the yarn was stripey enough that I began to get the feeling that I would only need a cigar, a sombrero, and a revolver to belong in one of those Clint Eastwood spaghetti westerns. What could I make that I would actually wear?

After rummaging through my pattern notebook and some internet sites, I finally decided on the v-neck neckdown woman's chunky pullover from Knitting Pure and Simple. The last sweater of theirs I made (Big Blue) fit perfectly when I knit to gauge, but I want this one to be a little looser to wear a turtleneck underneath and have more of a tunic feel. I am using a needle a little larger and knitting 3.5 stitches to the inch instead of 4. IF I have calculated right, and math was my worst subject, that should give me the ease I want. This afternoon, I tried on the top with the v-neck completed and almost one ball of yarn used up. It seems to fit fine, although I may have to make the neck edging a little wider than the pattern calls for to compensate for the change in gauge. I still love the yarn.

Of course, meanwhile I have gotten on Ravelry, so I looked at all the Silver Thaw projects and almost decided to rip out and order the KP&S Wrap Cardigan. However, I will wear this sweater much more if it turns out OK. All I know to do is to just keep trying it on while I'm making it.

I love my Knitpicks Options, but I do wish the cables had one of those little connector thingies to connect cables so that you could just slide off to a longer cable for try-ons or to shorter ones for stitch holders without having to put on a tip and knit or slide stitches off via the points. My old Boye set from the '60s had those, and they were handy.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Ravelry at Last!

I'm finally on Ravelry with some projects posted although there's nothing there that I haven't posted here. I'm on there as panhandlejane.

I think that database is going to be very useful when I want to look up a particular pattern or yarn, but it will never be as interesting as looking at people's blogs.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Very Plain Gray Socks

Happy Thanksgiving!

Even though they don't look like it, these are very special socks. One of my fiber goals for 2007 was to learn to knit continental. For some crazy reason, I did not start with a swatch or a scarf, but with a sock. When did I begin thinking of socks as simple projects? The first one is rather messy--uneven tension, skipped stitches on the heel stitch because knitting was one thing, purling was another, and a rather sloppy toe decrease. Fortunately, the tweedy yarn covered a multitude of sins. The second sock is better. I did cheat on the ribbing and knit English because I was still having trouble with the purling. I have decided that purling Norwegian style may be the way for me to go. Someone has said that EZ purled that way, so if it was good enough for her. . . .

The yarn is Meilenweit Mega Boot Stretch Soft Color. It made a wonderfully soft sock. I was knitting on 2s, so the fabric is a little loose. It was, however, a poor choice for learning a new technique because it is about the splittiest sock yarn I have ever tried. Even though the socks look OK, I don't think I'll buy any more of this yarn because I like others much better.

The gray is for my DH, and I am starting another pair out of Paton's Kroy in Glencheck, also a gray. I'm trying to talk myself into trying toe-up, since that's one of my remaining fiber goals for the year. I could perhaps finish that one. I don't think I can whip out an Alice Starmore in the next 3 weeks!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

What I've Been Doing Instead of Knitting

I have often envied teachers of the more "hands-on" disciplines the opportunities they have for field trips, museum visits, experiments, and projects that make learning more fun. Often the teaching of grammar and writing can seem like a tremendous amount of hard work for little reward. It is nice to sometimes have a chance to have fun.

Students at our high school participated in a school wide reading project in which all the students read the legends and tales about King Arthur. Because our school is heavily multicultural, we chose this topic to examine a particularly rich part of British and American cultural heritage. King Arthur, the Holy Grail, the Round Table, chivalry, knighthood, and Camelot itself are often referred to in the news, in other works of literature, and in visual media.

All the classes read the script to the Broadway musical Camelot. Individual teachers chose to examine other parts of the story in different ways, including film clips, reference books, the "original" tales from Chretien de Troyes and Thomas Malory, Chaucer, John Steinbeck’s retelling of the stories, a little Walt Disney, and other sources. Some classes struggled with reading parts of the tales in Middle English. In addition, teachers added research projects about medieval ideas such as courtly love, the wheel of fortune, and the great chain of being. Some students designed shields and heraldry projects.

Teachers in other disciplines also participated in the activities. The physics class built a catapult. United States history classes studied the idea of the Kennedy Administration as Camelot and produced a visual project on that subject.

The King Arthur study culminated with a day of activities hosted by our local chapter of the National English Honor Society. During the early part of the day, NEHS members dressed as King Arthur, Queen Guenevere, and a herald visited classes. They knighted or "ladied" selected students in a ceremony that involved the traditional dubbing of a knight or presenting a lady with a wreath of flowers for her hair. As part of the ceremony, each recipient donned a T-shirt to wear the rest of the day with the shield of the Knight of the Round Table on the front and his individual story on the back. The ladies’ shirts had artwork representing their characters. Students also participated in a chess tournament and backgammon games. Some students even spent time in the stocks.

NEHS members decorated the cafeteria with royal blue tablecloths with red and gold accents. English classes contributed the shields they made to decorate the walls. Society members dressed as medieval servants served the meal as King Arthur and Guenevere welcomed guests to the banquet. The meal, served on genuine foam pewter plates, was eaten with only spoons and fingers. The cafeteria staff duplicated a medieval stew and added baked chicken legs, breadsticks, and apple cider and a pudding for dessert. Two students wearing jester suits juggled while the musical Camelot played on the cafeteria televisions.

At the end of the day, students went to the football stadium to watch an archery demonstration by a local physician who spoke to the students for a few minutes about medieval weaponry, showing some of the weapons, such as spears and battle axes, that would have been used in medieval hand-to-hand combat. He explained why the bow and arrow was an improvement over such weapons. Then he demonstrated the use of the bow by shooting a large artificial boar as a target. The school choir hosted a jousting tournament. Each class had four elected champions who competed on stick horses using pool noodles tipped with powdered chalk as lances.)

Monday, November 19, 2007

Why I LOVE the Panhandle. . . .

Weather forecast for this week--
Thanksgiving--snow in the late afternoon/evening

Of course, all this is subject to change at a moment's notice. I have seen the 80s to snow all in one day, but that doesn't happen too often.

I have been knitting and doing school stuff. I'm waiting for a picture before I post the school info.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Thanksgiving Poll

My DD sent me these poll questions from Cranium:

1. If you could stuff a turkey with anything, what would it be? Cornbread stuffing, but I don't actually like it in the bird--I cook it as a separate dish.

2. If you designed a giant balloon for the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade,what would it look like? An elephant, preferably Dumbo.

3. You can pick anyone to prepare Thanksgiving dinner for you, who would you choose? My mother and her sister Dessie, who loved doing turkey and dressing together so much that Aunt Dessie would come to spend the night just to be there to help cook the turkey.

4. What invention are you most thankful for? At my time of life, central heat and air and the ability to switch quickly from one to the other.

5. What's the best part about sitting at the kids' table? Being able to be silly without adults reprimanding you all the time.

6. If you had to eat only one kind of Thanksgiving food for an entire week,what would it be? Stuffing with cranberry sauce.

7. What's your favorite Thanksgiving memory or tradition? Sitting around the table with family eating nut pudding, our traditional holiday secret recipe.

8. What's the one thing that could make you brave day-after-Thanksgivingshopping? H__ __ __ __ freezing over.

9. This fall, instead of a pile of raked-up leaves, I'd like to jump into a pile of _grandchildren_.

10. A Thanksgiving food I wouldn't want thrown at me in a food fight is__noodles in hot broth_. I had a bowl of those explode in my hands a couple of years ago--not fun.

11. Next Thanksgiving, everyone should wear Native American costumes to the dinnertable!

12. How many times can you say the word "cornucopia" in ten seconds? 12

Monday, November 05, 2007

Great Adirondacks

Here are my new socks--Great Adirondack Silky Sock, color Antique, on size 1 KPs, generic top-down pattern. I wore them today, and they were very comfy.

A month or so ago, there was quite a thread on the Knitter's Review forums about the perils of pooling and flashing and general gaudiness with handpainted yarns. Notice that the colors on the legs spiral perfectly and the spiral continues on the feet. There is only the slightest hint of pooling at the ankle. The heel flaps are very attractive as well, even though you can't see them.

I found the yarn to be very nice to knit with although it was somewhat hard and smooth, probably due to the silk, instead of being soft and fluffy. It was certainly not splitty. I am very pleased, and I will look for another colorway that I like in this brand.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Heraldry the Modern Way

It's amazing what can be done with the internet, MS Word, transfer paper, an iron, and T-shirts. We are doing a schoolwide study on King Arthur. Every student in our high school has been reading and studying the Arthurian legends. We selected this as our English project this year because we felt that many of our students were missing a significant cultural background that forms the basis for understanding all kinds of popular and academic references. Consider, for example, Indiana Jones or The Da Vinci Code. We are finishing up this coming week with a dinner, some mock jousting, class projects, and an activity in which Arthur and Guenevere will draw names and knight and "lady" selected students. Each student chosen will be presented with a T-shirt describing his character's part in the legend to wear for the rest of the day. I just finished the shirts; the descriptive paragraphs are on the back.

From L to R, top row: The Lady of the Lake, The Lady of Shalott, Sir Percival, Sir Galahad, Sir Bors, Sir Gawain, Sir Bedivere, Sir Lancelot. Bottom: Igraine and Sir Thomas Malory, who compiled the stories, represented not by his crest but by a manuscript page of his text.