Sunday, December 28, 2008

Vacation Days

This has been a wonderful Christmas holiday from school so far. The only down side has been a couple of very windy days that made going outside very unpleasant, but otherwise the weather has been nice.

Friday I went with my DS to Amarillo to pick up the DGS, who had been with his father for Christmas; we ran errands, played with the toddler DGD, and had what my grandmother would have called "a nice visit." I really had a good time--opportunities to spend that much time chatting with a very busy young man are few indeed.

Then, today, I allowed myself an unplanned knitting project. Felting has never been my thing. However, the other night I watched a show called How it Is Made on the science channel, and they were showing how Stetson makes hats. The felting process was fascinating--no, they don't knit them. I have had to replace my digital camera with a much smaller new one, so I Raveled--If you can Google, why can't you Ravel?--some instructions, hunted up some Paton's Classic from stash, and swatched last night. Today I knitted and felted the whole thing. Some way or another, I must have made a math error, but I have figured out how to make the finished case work just fine. As soon as it dries, I'll add a soft lining and then post a picture.
Tonight I began a plain garter stitch scarf from some leftover Noro Silver Thaw. I don't quite believe it myself, but I don't have a single sock on needles anywhere.

While knitting, I listened to an audio book, Memory in Death, by J.D. Robb, the mystery pseudonym of romance writer Nora Roberts. I wouldn't classify this book as great literature, but it was fun to listen to. For one thing, it is set in New York in the mid-21st century, so the little peek at a possible future world is interesting. The element of suspense is there, as well as romance between the protagonist Lt. Eve Dallas and her husband Roark. The reader of the audiobook did an excellent job of character portrayal. I think my local OverDrive source has one more book in this series available, and I will certainly listen to it.

Saturday, December 27, 2008


I just finished my Christmas knitting--on time. Now I just have to rehem the dresses I bought for the DGDs.

Friday, December 26, 2008

A Quiet Christmas

DH and I spent a quiet Christmas together. As a treat, we decided to drive to Clovis, NM, for Chinese food at a restaurant that is always open on Christmas. We left too early, particularly since there is a time zone change, so we had plenty of time to drive around town and just look at things. There was no real traffic except near the convenience stores, so we were able to look at the little ironies that we saw. I wish I'd had a camera to record some of them, but, alas I dropped and messed mine up earlier in the week. Driving down a country lane in the part of town where you go to check out junk, I spied a set of 3 white Mercedes (Mercedeses?) up on blocks in a weedy yard. I can only wonder what Jeff Foxworthy would make of this--3 Chevys would certainly qualify as Redneck, but Mercedes?
Because of the lack of traffic I also had time to glance in the window of a veterinary supply store, just in time to see a Christmas tree decked out in icicles and covered with different colors of ear tags. (If you don't know what ear tags are, here's a link.) They were all different sizes and the bright colors really made an attractive tree--I've seen many that were worse.
Unfortunately, the Chinese restaurant was closed, so we joined the usual Christmas crowd at Furr's Cafeteria for an acceptable, if not planned, dinner. I was intermittently knitting on a sock, so I could accept the change of plan with aplomb.

Today I replaced my camera with a much smaller model, which means I can stick it in my handbag for moments such as these. True story--One of my colleagues had a daughter in junior high last year who came home talking about a boy who had just moved into her class. The girl had decided that there was definitely something wrong with this young man. The explanation? "Mom, he uses the word "handbag" correctly!"

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Almost as Addictive as Knitting

While taking a knitting break the other evening because my hands and shoulders were tired, I was looking for something to do on the computer and remembered that I liked to do jigsaw puzzles. I fooled around for awhile with the traditional gaming sites. Then I googled again and found this one. This is a site--I think-- in which puzzles are made from pictures that readers of National Geographic send in. I have been fascinated! I've been doing puzzle after puzzle. Then, of course, I started analyzing what I've been doing. That gives me an excuse to keep doing it.

I notice that while the animals and flowers are interesting, I'm much more interested in human beings and how they live. I love the pictures of the old buildings in various countries, the colorful street markets, the pictures that show aspects of culture. Perhaps it's my old sociology minor coming out. Last night I began to reflect on how fortunate I am to live in a home that is perhaps not so picturesque, but is warm and cozy with plumbing and electricity and many other conveniences. I'm awaiting a firewood delivery today, but that will be something of a luxury, not an absolute necessity. While it will reduce our overall heating bill somewhat, thanks to our efficient little woodstove, I could have managed without it. I certainly did not have to go out and chop wood and stack it--I simply made a telephone call.

Merry Christmas everyone!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Needed Elves--Got Gremlins!

I'm a real fan of the Knit Picks circular needles, and I've had good luck with the Options sets and the Classics as well. However, I tempted the knitting fates by thinking too much about how I was down to one pair of child's socks and one pair of worsted toddler socks. I Magic Loop, and I’ve noticed that often my cable is bent rather sharply right at the point where the cable joins the needle.

Yesterday, I cast on for the last pair of Christmas socks–not actually due till Jan. 1, thank heavens–knitted two rows, and a cable snapped about 3/8” from the needle! I laid those needles aside for repair and got out some others. Cast on again. Knitted leg, heel flap, heel–child’s sock–and started decreases. Cable came unglued from left needle. Thanks to the fact that all my stitches for that half of the sock were already on the metal, I was safe. I switched to another needle, one my DH had glued some time ago. Now the glue job is coming loose on it. Believe it or not, I think I have a couple of more pairs of needles in my needle stash, but I’m going to get out the glue before I start knitting this morning.

These needles have had rather heavy use. I have socks on them constantly. I don’t have all that many needles except for this one size, and I think KP actually replaced one that I managed to glue.

I’m still happy with the needles. Even with this going on, I didn’t lose a stitch because the metal part is longer than most circs, and the repairs will be easy enough to do. Furthermore, I have had one of those more expensive German circs come loose before, and I would have had only one needle of those rather than multiples due to the cost.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Christmas Knitting at Last

I think I can safely post two Christmas knitting projects for two family members that do not read this blog. I knitted these two Jacques Cousteau hats--pattern from Ravelry. The gray hat is from Knit Picks Swish DK on size 4 needles over 120 stitches. That is the original pattern. It made a very squishy hat that I think will be very warm for my DS on the job. I deliberately selected wool so that it would remain warm even if it gets wet. When it turned out so well, I did not have enough time left to order more superwash wool, so I used some Plymouth Encore Worsted that I had in order to make a hat for my DSIL. The color is also rather brighter than I would have liked. It is done over 100 stitches, on size 6 needles over 100 stitches. This one will probably be worn to shovel snow and do other around-the-house tasks, so perhaps the brighter color won't matter so much until I can replace it with more of a guy colorl. Both turned out well.

I am a little worried about the gray as it is blocking because it was very, very stretchy when I took it from the washing machine. I am going to let it dry partially on the form and then take it off so that it won't be quite so stretched. The form was necessary to get rid of the pointy effect from the decreases. (I made the same DS an absolutely enormous hat a few years ago, so I'm being particularly careful about this one.) The decreases on this hat pattern are particularly attractive, I think.

Comment on Plymouth Encore--This yarn and Lion Brand Wool Ease are the same acrylic/wool content. I love the feel of the Encore, which is more consistent and feels more luxurious as I knit. However, for some reason the Wool Ease knits much more evenly. I always seem to have a bumpy effect and tension problems which do not even out with blocking with the Encore. Has anyone else out there experienced this?
I also took advantage of the sale/free shipping at JoAnn's to order some Red Heart Super Saver for some afghans for the Victory Junction Gang camps for NASCAR knitting this next season. The rules of the Ravelry Group are that we can't begin knitting until the green flag at Daytona in February, but I want to be prepared. Read more about the project on the Ravelry group or on the Victory Junction web site. (The link is to the sewing/quilt/afghan page, but the web site is great to look at.) Each camper goes home with a handmade blanket. Last year our Ravelry group contributed 61 blankets, and a few are still being made from donated squares during the off-season. I only made one last year, but I hope to do two this year. Anyone who has time for charity knitting is welcome to join in.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Knitting Report, Book to Knit By, and Miscellany

Yes, I'm still at the Christmas knitting. Tonight--decreases. Tomorrow night--Cast on for last pair of "real" socks, child's size. Next week--a quickie pair of house socks for a toddler. I think I'll make it, since I don't technically have to have it all finished until Jan. 1.

My library Over Drive connection tends to have only one book by any one writer, except for C.S. Lewis, and all too often that one book is in the middle of a series--very irritating. I thoroughly enjoyed my last download, The Best Defense, by Kate Wilhelm. It is part of her series featuring Barbara Holloway, an attorney. Unfortunately, it is from the middle of the series. Now I'll have to go back and read the first books and then the following ones. I did find the book to be suspenseful, but not in the way I expected it to be. I had expected the main focus to be on the court case itself--would or would not the defendant be convicted--but that was not where the real story lay. Since strictly legal thrillers are not my cup of tea, I was pleased with that.

I'm still trying to get my Christmas spirit up. Sobering things have been happening to friends at work, and that has put a damper on Christmas feelings. In the last three weeks, one person, already under a load due to her DH's health problems, has totalled a car by hitting a deer, had her replacement car hit BY a coyote, and had a grandbaby come prematurely, with problems. Another colleague had a stroke last week, in the classroom, and is now in rehab. Another got a call at lunch on her cell last week. It seems her doctor discovered that she should have been called about her test results LAST AUGUST. They were bad. Biopsy. It is treatable. Another colleague is scheduled for a biopsy on the 26th to see what kind of damage two autoimmune diseases are doing to a couple of essential organs. We only have a faculty of about 35, so we are indeed ready for a break, between worrying about our friends and shifting to cover holes for the sake of the students. On the upside, it is nice to see that we are a caring bunch.

I hope that I can also get back to spinning during the holidays. I miss it, but I have trouble getting it in after work for some reason. For one thing, I need to adjust my wheel and set up a little better place to work where I can leave things "ready to go." I had hoped to have sort of a fiber studio area by this time, but some of the necessary remodeling--like a working heater--did not get done during the summer. I'm waiting somewhat impatiently. The delay is due to the fact that there was a really bad hail here last summer. There was such damage that roofers are still working. In a small town, there are not many local roofers, so the windows that are going into that room are still stacked in my garage. They will be installed eventually. We have a very heavy-gauge metal roof, so we were ok on that score.

I also want to get some firewood laid in during the holiday. We reinstalled our efficient woodburner in this house last winter and have been using up some very old and inefficent firewood. Now we need some oak. Considering that we will use about one oak log and one lighter log each day that we need a fire, a cord will last a long, long time. I'm just not sure that we can get less than that delivered here.

My DD found an ornament source for my little Christmas tree from the previous post. She actually bought a kit for herself in Michael's--they had one this year. Hers, however, has the tree already made. Once you know the brand, Westrim, ornaments can be found on ebay. I ordered a little set.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Holiday Musings on the Best Laid Plans

Given the current economic situation nationwide, I did a lot of serious thinking around Thanksgiving because that day was not only the holiday, but also my father's birthday, and the Friday following was my parents' wedding anniversary. They were young marrieds during the Great Depression, which in our location also meant the Dust Bowl. Having come from relatively modest circumstances as children, they seem to have taken the economic hardships of that time in stride. It also helped, I'm sure, that they had no dependent children at that time. My mother's family had come out to this country with six children shortly before she was born, homesteaded in a dugout on the bank of a draw in New Mexico Territory, and eked out a living in rather tough times. However, there was a small community, and the nine children all got an education that was above-average for the time and location. My dad's family moved out here from Dallas in the 1920s. His father was a mechanic/farmer. My dad, a young man at the time, had actually attended a business college in Dallas before they moved, a definite advantage. They did, however, learn lessons from the Depression and the home front shortages of World War II. My father had his own business and extended untold amounts of credit to others over the years, but bought nothing on credit himself except for two local businesses that provided monthly billing which he paid in full. My husband and I moved back into the family home after my mother's death a few years ago. It is very nice, but it was built for cash as well. I remember being taught that a mortgage, while sometimes necessary, meant that you did not really own that property until you finished paying for it. My DH grew up pretty much the same way. Over the years, we've had a mortgage and car payments like everyone else, but we have gone without and been almost unable to sleep at night until we have paid everything off. We've been fortunate to be able to do that, but we've also worked very hard and done without some things that our contemporaries have seemed to take for granted. Now we are approaching retirement age, and in spite of our efforts we're facing the same kind of challenge our parents faced in the 1930s. I hope we can do as well as they. I must remember that many of their stories focused on how the community and families pulled together to have good times and to take care of each other in difficult circumstances.

Having said all that, I am witnessing some real difficulties that some people I know are having. These people have also worked very hard and lived frugally. They have been properly insured themselves and covered by Workmen's Comp. In spite of this, an injury, the arguments between Comp and Insurance, delays, fiddling around on approvals by the insurance companies, and the 20% of the major medical expense they owe under the PPO plan, has eaten them into an almost destitute position. These are people who have not only contributed to our society by working hard all their lives, but also by working in the kind of job that serves others. While I am politically very conservative, I can't help but see this as part of our health care system taking advantage of those who have "done everything right" in trying to provide for the future. Surely in America we can do better than this.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

An Audio Mystery

It's been a few years since I read a novel by Anne Perry, and this is my first novel in her Monk series (not the television character Monk). I will admit that I chose it by default because my Over Drive selections from the local library consortium are rather limited. In spite of my initial lack of enthusiasm, I enjoyed the novel very much.

Set in Victorian London in the time following "the big stink," the novel contains abundant, perhaps I should say overflowing, information about the state of the London sewers and attempts at improvement during the Victorian era. How this unlikely set of circumstances provides a motive for murder and the search for the murderer among a group of characters containing members of all the sewer-related occupations creates a fascinating read. Since I don't have access to audiobooks of the previous novels in the series, I suppose I'll have to visit the library and actually read them the old-fashioned way.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

The World IS Too Much with Us

Did you see the astronomical event involving the moon, Jupiter, and Venus last weekend? I happened to drive down to the local drive-in that evening for a Diet Dr Pepper (They have the best ice in the world!), and I noticed it in the sky coming home. Then I checked my e-mail and had one from my DD telling me to go look.

This week at school, I was doing my very best to make Wordsworth's sonnet, "The World Is Too Much with Us" relevant to high school seniors who are just wanting to get OUT for the Christmas holidays, OUT of high school altogether, and OUT to go watch the baskeetball tournament going on in the gym. The first part of the poem says:

The world is too much with us; late and soon,

Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;

Little we see in Nature that is ours;

We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!

This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon,

The winds that will be howling at all hours,

And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers,

For this, for everything, we are out of tune;

It moves us not.

We discussed the meaning of the word "world" as it applies to material things. We discussed the idea of people in an industrialized society working longer and longer hours. We talked about how spending the money we make to buy the things we need or want actually adds on to the length of the workday. Then I moved on to the part about being out of tune with nature. I asked how many had seen the planetary display. The response? "You mean that really happened? I got a forward about it, but who pays any attention to forwards? They're mostly spam!" Alas, I fear Wordsworth's point was made in a way he could not have envisioned 200 years ago. (Photo courtesy of my DD)

Friday, November 28, 2008

Tree in Need of Aid

I made this Christmas tree back in the mid-80s--1980s, not 1880s, which is what my students would think. The branches are made of tiny seed beads. I bought the kit and instructions at Michael's. At the time, I could only afford a few of the more expensive cloisonne ornaments, the angel on top, for example. For a couple of years, I added a few more, then life intervened, my children got older, and every year the tree was just put out, the globe dusted, and nothing changed. Now, however, I have grandchildren who are interested in the tree, and I would like to spruce it up a little. (Hey, that was a pun!) Anyway, does anyone out there know where to find the tiny ornaments? All of the ones that I have found for miniature trees are much too big. This entire tree is less than a foot tall, and the ornaments are about 1/4 to 3/8 inch. They have tiny s-shaped hooks on them. Ornaments with long string loops will not fit over these branches.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

How to Have a Happy Thanksgiving

Eat turkey.

Accompanied by good music.

Followed by THE GAME.

It was truly a day for remembering what's important, including my own parents. Today was my daddy's birthday, and tomorrow was their wedding anniversary. They would have loved seeing these children.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving--Teacher Content

First things first—Happy Thanksgiving, Everyone!

For those of you out there who teach, here’s some information about the project we just finished:

Each year, students at our high school read a novel at the same time. The first year, we all read the same novel, The Great Gatsby, but we found the range from regular 9th grade to 12th grade Advanced Placement to be a stretch. Last year, we did King Arthur legends in different versions depending on the grade and level. This year we chose the Western. Because we live in an agricultural area of Texas in a small town whose main industry is agriculture--specifically feeding cattle, producing food for cattle, transporting cattle, producing milk, and beef packing, we thought this would be a familiar subject to our students. After all, no one here even looks up at the rattle of spurs and pickups with horse trailers in tow are parked regularly at the drive-ins. I remember going to a touristy Western restaurant with my small son a few years ago. He looked at their waiters in full cowboy regalia and said, “Mommy, those cowboys don’t smell right!” Well, imagine our surprise in finding out that most of our students were totally unfamiliar with the Western as a genre. I suppose we had thought they would have picked up some things by osmosis, but very few of them had.

Our novel selections for most students were very traditional:

9th grade—Hondo, by Louis L’Amour
10th grade—The Cherokee Trail, by Louis L’Amour
11th and 12th grade, 10th grade Pre-AP—Conagher, by Louis L’Amour
And for the 11th and 12th grade Advanced Placement, a coming-of-age novel that explores the myths of the West as a theme, Cormac McCarthy’s All the Pretty Horses

Each teacher—one on each grade level—chose her own activities and developed her own lesson plans for each book. The McCarthy book was taught with not only an eye to theme and plot, but also with a more traditional AP approach of style analysis, study of literary archetypes, study of symbolism, and structural analysis. The students are now in the midst of group multimedia projects over aspects of the novel or background issues in the novel. We will finish after the Thanksgiving holiday. If anyone wants a list of the projects, let me know. I can already tell that some of them should have been designed a little differently. Student response to the novel was mixed. I know that two students really disliked it—one was vocal and one too polite to say so. However, some of the students who are in the AP class because that’s our college-track class, but who really are science or math oriented, liked the book, finished reading a week or so early, and went on to read another Western. One, who thought we should have read a “more challenging” McCarthy—GT students can be that way—told me she is taking No Country for Old Men to read on the road for their Thanksgiving holiday trip. I told her I hope her holiday is very festive!

The other novels were taught with a more traditional approach. We read and discussed in class. We explained an amazing amount of Western terminology—words like stagecoach, corral, stirrup, saloon, etc. The 10th grade students produced tracking posters on various Western topics. These are researched and documented in MLA form, sort of a visual research paper.

These were displayed on the wall as part of our decoration for the final barbecue. One of the results of this project was that students became familiar with all sorts of Western places and legends that they were not familiar with before. It was also a good exercise in documentation skills.

My classes took a more varied approach to projects. I gave students in my 10th grade Pre-AP and 12th grade regular classes a choice of followup activities for the novel. I deliberately chose for the 10th graders activities that would lead them to take “compositional risk,” to think about writing in different ways other than a traditional essay or paper. Those students will be taking the state writing exam in March, and to score really well, being able to think about writing in a creative fashion is essential.

Here are some sample project suggestions. I was more detailed in spelling out requirements to the students, but you can suit youself if any of the ideas appeal to you:

  • A 25-entry dictionary of Western terminology used in the novel. This was to be in the form of a book. The results were much more varied and interesting than I had expected.

  • A diary “written” by a character in the book. It had to include not only incidents in the book, but thoughts and feelings and events fitting “between” episodes. It was to be properly aged, of course.

  • A short story retelling an event from the novel written from the viewpoint of the 11-year-old boy or the younger girl.

  • A research project using a poster and Venn diagram comparing the two Native American tribes mentioned in the novel—the Zuni and the Apache.

  • A project investigating the setting of the novel, the San Agustin Plains of New Mexico, at the time of the novel and as it is today. (This is the location of the Very Large Array, the enormous radio telescope.)

  • A children’s book describing what it was like to be a cowboy. I have not yet read all of these. Some did sort of a “this is what a cowboy uses” type. Some did coloring books. Some wrote stories with plot. Levels of execution varied. One of my more artistic students used scrapbooking materials in a creative and unusual way.

  • The one very unsuccessful assignment, probably because it was selected by students who don’t want to work anyway and who just threw something together--a resume for the main character.

Due to both teachers having to be out due to illness, the 11th and 9th grade classes are not through with their projects yet, so I can’t tell you about them.
We also watched the associated movies for the books we read, and we did comparison activities—How is the movie different from the book? Why would the makers of the film have left out certain scenes that you found interesting? Did elements in the film change—why did bad weather become heavy rainstorms instead of snow, for example? Are the characters as you imagined them?

The L’Amour books were a big success. Students who usually choose not to read are checking out more. We were careful to choose books that have strong female roles as well as the traditional Western hero, so the girls liked them as well.

Activities that we all did:

  • We showed excerpts from a film on the Western as a genre. It was originally on television, so it was broken into parts. We showed the parts that were relevant to our particular classes. Therefore, we covered the concepts of the Western hero, the treatment of Native Americans and Hispanics in traditional Westerns, the bad guy, the role of violence, and other topics with liberal examples from film.

  • Every English student attended a presentation by Eldrena Douma, a Pueblo storyteller. Although I wasn’t sure at first what the response would be, I found that they did incorporate some of what she said into discussion of the scenes involving Native Americans in our novel. In addition, she gave some good examples of how to turn everyday events into interesting stories. This was a deliberate choice on her part to give us examples for teaching TAKS writing.

  • We also spent a day on Artifiction, a project from the American Quarter Horse Association Hall of Fame and Museum in Amarillo, Texas.

We teamed for this project. Working at the tables in the library, students examined artifacts from the museum to determine what they were. They made the determination by answering questions on analysis sheets. Then we gave them the history of the object. When we go back from the holidays, we are going to be asking students to choose an “artifact” from their homes or lives and write about that artifact and its meaning, not as an explanation, but from the viewpoint of someone using the artifact, someone making the artifact, someone finding the artifact, or from the p0int-of-view of the artifact itself. There are graphic organizers provided by the museum for this purpose. (I know that it seems like poor planning on our part to split this project over the holidays, but we made 2 levels of the football playoffs during this time If you don’t teach in a small Texas town, you may not understand what effect that would have on planning, but take my word for it.)

  • Our final event was a pre-Thanksgiving feast of barbecue, cole slaw, and beans in the cafeteria. Students from the National English Honor Society did the decorating and cleanup.

When my daughter was a preschooler many years ago, her school sponsored a "Thankful for Pioneers" day each Thanksgiving, and the students could dress as traditional pilgrims, as Indians, or as pioneers from our area. The menu was barbecue and chili, and the children gave thanks for the settlers here. That was probably a very appropriate choice, since there is some evidence that the first "Thanksgiving" in the sense of a meal for that purpose by Europeans occurred long before the pilgrims in the Palo Duro Canyon about 50 miles from here when Coronado's men held a feast of thanksgiving for finding the canyon with water and good hunting after so many days of crossing the relatively barren Llano Estacado.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Almost to the Holidays

We only have two days of school this week. I'm thinking that is a good thing. Actually, we have one real day of school--Monday. Here is my schedule for Tuesday:
Period 1--breakfast; decorate the cafeteria for our Western barbecue luncheon; students are all coming to school in Western dress. Since many of our students are from Mexico originally, the style of Western dress is not what you expect from cowboy movies, but that's ok. Period 2--continue decorating if necessary.
Period 3--class as usual
Period 4--assembly in gym rewarding student achievement for the first two six weeks. This is a new thing for us, but it sounds really neat. I'm an official award T-shirt passer-outer.
Period 5-have someone cover my class so that I can supervise my serving crews in the cafeteria.
Period 6--supervise cleanup in the cafeteria while my class is watching the required instructional film and then practicing a schoolbus evacuation.
7th period--class. Do you think we'll accomplish much?

Over the holiday, I will write up and post pictures of the activities for those of you who are teachers. We learned some unexpected things from this project.

On the knitting front--Today, I'm knitting 15 minutes, housework/holiday cooking/laundry 15 minutes, in sort of a Flylady adaptation. I am not a ribbing person, and I'm working on a hat that is all ribbing on size 4 needles. I'm very pleased with the way it's turning out now that I'm ready to start the decreases, but it has been slower than I expected. I had planned a second, but I think I'm going to adapt for larger needles and fatter yarn. The original, however, will be extra warm and needs to be for the particular recipient. Pattern: Jacques Cousteau, for those of you on Ravelry.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Another Book, Another Christmas Knit, Another Great Saturday

My latest read is Plague Ship, another book in the Oregon series by Clive Cussler. Some of the books have been written with this co-author, Jack Du Brul; others were written with Dirk Cussler. The plot has its improbable moments, just as all Cussler novels do, but for me that is part of the charm. This writer has always been able to make the most unlikely events and the most widespread settings seem possible. This is not an author to read for fine desciptive passages, symbolism, or depth of characterization; however, the issues examined are often "ring a bell" with contemporary issues and concerns. This one concerns world population alarmists, a cult gone awry (Are there any that don't, in fiction, at least?), and a mysterious virus, with an origin that is truly Cussler in nature.

Hint: I repeated the last project in a different color and different yarn. It's on my Ravelry project page.

Last Saturday was great! I drove to Amarillo that morning to stay with the younger DGD, who is almost 2 and a real sweetheart. We watched a VeggieTales movie, and she napped in my lap on the loveseat with both of us wrapped in an afghan. Meanwhile, the older DGD and her Mom and Dad were helping with a local charity, the Eveline Rivers Project. The adults have been helping almost every year since college.

For lunch, the older DGD and my DGS from my son's family and I went to a Japanese restaurant. That's 2 five-year-olds. They watched with some trepidation as the fire shot up from a grill a few seats away. When the chef came to our table to cook, one child ducked behind my chair and the other crawled under his! The chef just looked at me and grinned and said, "No fire, yes?" I nodded. Once he started cooking, everything was fine, and I think they enjoyed the meal. I know that we took go boxes, and DGD ate the leftovers for supper that evening. I will not, however, repeat this on a Saturday. We'll go for a weekday lunch. The restaurant was so crowded that we were rushed, as in they brought the check before the bean sprouts were finished cooking. I do not enjoy dining that way.

Today I'm a little bit nervous because I have brought in a project from a museum for a department-wide writing project. I hope it works well. We were a day later getting the materials than we had expected, so I'm the only one who got to look at the lesson plans and materials last night. Otherwise, we're winging it. This should be interesting, but I'm hoping that high school students will respond well to a hands-on writing project. I'll post the results and the link to the project if it works well.

OTN--nothing till this evening. Tonight is the one night of the week that I consider TV night, so I'll get lots of knitting done, I hope. I need to swatch for a project first.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Knitting and Literature

Hint: Sir Gawain's opponent would have worn my newest Christmas knitting project, although his would not have been knitted. Check my Ravelry project page for the picture.

I just finished listening to the audiobook of Divine Justice by David Baldacci from I am a fan of the Camel Club series, but this is the first that I have listened to instead of read. It was a good listen and fun to knit to. The setting was a little bit different from what I expected after reading The Camel Club and The Collectors, but that only made the book more entertaining. I think that anyone who likes the spy novel type of mystery would find these books good reads.

VERY light reading--

A friend and I have also been having a blast reading or listening, depending on availability, to a series of romance novels by Jayne Castle, one of the pen names of writer Jayne Ann Krentz. The particular books we have been reading, some of them scrounged from used book stores, take place on another planet which was settled by Earth colonists during a temporary opening in the space/time continuum. The novels are pretty much standard romance fare, but we particularly enjoy the dust bunnies, tiny creatures which inhabit the planet. They start out in the first novel as just minor creatures, but in succeeding books the companion animals take on rather interesting personalities. I remember back in the '70s thinking that I would really like to have an R2D2 unit of my own. Very handy. I sort of feel the same way about these tiny fictional creatures. I rather hope the author continues the series.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Hello Again!

I am back. I spent a couple of weeks not feeling well, but I'm OK now.

You will notice that there is not a knitting picture on this post. That is going to be a problem for a little while. Yes, my camera is still working, but I am doing some Christmas knitting for people who look at my blog. For those of you on Ravelry, I'm posting pictures on my project page there. After all, one has to keep some amount of mystery going! Hint: the newest project is a lunar event.

What's been going on? School is rambling on at full speed. This week, due to the intelligence of our legislature, is the end of the second six weeks, which is not six weeks, but five. Our first semester is significantly shorter than our second, something that makes almost no difference to elementary grades, but is a real killer in high school, where there are several one-semester classes. It also means that students who find out they are on the 3-weeks failing list have very little time left to fix anything. I know, you would think that since a student didn't turn in 3 papers and had an F on the one he did turn in, the fact that he is failing would not be a surprise, but somehow it always is! Of course, next semester, when we have a couple of seven-week six weeks, he will have more time. . . .

There are academic high points: our Western novel reading project is going well. We are seeing students who have finished reading ahead of time because they have become interested and are heading to the library for another book. Yippee! I am particularly happy about the ones who have done that with a major novel by Cormac McCarthy. Next week, my classes will have their turn at the computer lab to work on research and writing projects. Amazingly, this project turned out to be more cross-cultural than we had anticipated--many students had no idea about the popular history of the Southwest. I suppose there hasn't been an MTV version.

Side note: I actually had to stop a film-clip-illustrated documentary on the Western hero because a classroom full of sophomore girls was buzzing so loudly about how "hot" the younger John Wayne was.

How do you let the world know you're a knitter? Put on your shoes in the living room by your chair in the dark because you're in a hurry to get to school to check on the guest speaker. Teach all day. Look down 8th period, and see that you're trailing a length of bright green yarn out of your right shoe. At least it wasn't toilet paper. It was also "Dress Crazy" day for Red Ribbon Week, so perhaps some thought it was my costume.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

The Last Wallaby in the Mob

The actual color is a little bit more peachy and less orange. I like the way the striping worked out on the body and pouch and sleeves.
Comments about the pattern--Thank heavens for having read EZ's Knitting Workshop! Take your own measurements and knit to those rather than using the size information for children's sizes on this pattern. The way the pouch goes on is wonderful, and I like the garter stitch hood. The rest of the pattern is basically a bottom-up raglan. Would I make another one? Yes, but not right now--4 is enough for the time being.
Comments about the yarn--I am now in love with Plymouth Encore for an acrylic/wool machine-washable blend. It has the same fiber content as Wool Ease, but it feels much better to knit with, and I like the feel of the finished product as far as being dependably non-scratchy. The yarn seems springier and bouncier. Of course, the Encore is more expensive, and I can't get it anywhere locally, so I have to consider shipping. But when I have the time to order and wait, I will choose it.
Comments on skills learned--the pocket is great! Do follow the suggestion of running a thread through where the pocket is going to go. I was using KnitPicks options, so I just threaded a line through the hole in the needle and let it feed in as I knitted. This will make picking up the stitches much, much easier.
Garter Stitch Kitchener--This is not any harder than doing kitchener on stockinette. However, on this last sweater, I ended up doing it on the wrong side of the hood instead of the right. Guess what? The wrong side is more invisible than the right side. From now on, I suppose I will do it that way. I like the look much, much better.
I have been somewhat in the dumps over housework. I had been intending to try to employ a cleaning person--most teachers here do--but I just hadn't gotten around to it. Now with the economic crunch, I feel that that money would be better spent in my retirement fund, so I decided to get organized. I have broken household tasks down into very small chores, distributed them on a monthly calendar, and have been working on them that way. Everything was going swimmingly until I got sick and missed a day or so. However, I'm just going to skip those until they come around the next time and forge ahead. I have, however, discovered a couple of glitches. The first is that I need to make my calendar entries in bigger font so that they will be easier to read first thing in the morning. The other is that I will need to do some rearranging to get things together that work well together--in the same space, require the same tools, etc. At least it's a start!
At school--
We are starting on our novel reading. The first day of the actual project is Nov. 3, but due to scheduling constraints, we are dipping our toes in next week. A Native American storyteller is coming on Wednesday to talk with our English students. My AP class has already begun reading their novel in order to allow time for research projects before the finale on November 25.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

A Finished Project and an Apology

I know I haven't been blogging lately. All my writing effort has been going into writing teaching units for a couple of novels that I will be teaching in November during our "Big Read" project at our high school. This year our theme is the Western as a type of literature, and we are reading different books according to grade level. I'll be teaching a Louis L'Amour novel, Conagher, as well as All the Pretty Horses, by Cormac McCarthy, for my AP class. That's a stretch from one to the other on the scale of "literariness." I want both of them to be valid experiences in literature for the students AND, for the purposes of this project, the products I expect back from the students can't be ordinary essays, tests, and study questions, but need to be something much more glamorous and creative, with CHOICES involved. Choices mean that I have to design a number of projects, some of which will probably not be chosen. I have the mobile computer lab reserved for the appropriate time, a schoolwide writing project coming from the American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame, a Native American storyteller lined up, and the projects for each class in rough form in a spiral notebook. I'll have to write them up with clear instructions. The hardest part for me is always filling out the reading schedule. If it involves numbers, I'm no good: I will inevitably repeat chapters, mess up on dates, or something. If the chapter numbers are Roman numerals, it gets even worse! I think, however, that I have proofread my schedules enough to have them right although I may send them off to MDtTW to be checked again. (That's my daughter, the technical writer--Hi, Sweetheart!)

I have been knitting, however. Here is Wonderful Wallaby #3. The yarn is Paton's Encore (yea) and Red Heart Super Saver (ok). He decided he wanted blue on it, and I didn't want to wait to order a single skein from Webs. The fit is just right although the hood seems a little deep from back to front. I know I had the stitch count right, so I'm not sure what happened there. The color looks great on him. I'll try to get a picture on the child when I finish his little sister's sweater, which I cast on last night.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Number 3

We're having an Indian Summer here. DH found this rose on the last remaining rose bush that belonged to my mother. He presented it by dropping it on my while I was snoozing in a morning bubble bath! I had this little crystal vase that was just right for it.

The sweater body is a Wonderful Wallaby for my DGS for this winter. I have one more to go after this one.

Monday, September 08, 2008


I got an award from Sherie at Whimsy Knits. Thanks so much.

The rules:

  1. Post this award on your blog.
  2. Add a link to the person who awarded you.
  3. Nominate at least 4 other bloggers and add their links as well.
  4. Leave a comment at the new recipients blogs, so they can pass it on.

My nominations:

Sunday, September 07, 2008


Over a year ago, I spun a couple of silk hankies on my Bosworth spindle. The single was a very fine laceweight, and I intended to ply it with something else. I wanted to use the spindle for something, so I wound the single onto a dowel for storage. Guess what? The end disappeared! I have made several attempts over the intervening time period to find the end, but had no luck. I inquired on Knitters' Review and Spindlers and got several suggestions involving the use of sticky substances and cautioning against pulling on anything and making the situation worse. I hadn't gotten the cop out again to try any of them. A couple of weeks ago, my toddler granddaughter discovered it in a basket and was walking around waving it. I grabbed it and laid it up on something tall so that she would not fall and hurt herself on the stick. Today I picked it up to put it away for later, and guess what? There was the end, hanging down as pretty as you please! Obviously, she had the right waving technique. Thanks, Sweetheart!

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Is Some of our Local Corn Crop in These?

Pattern--River Rapids socks by Sockbug, modified for fingering weight, with my usual heel and toe.
Yarn--Crystal Palace Maizy, color 1013 Ballad Blues--actually more turquoise than it looks in the photo.
The yarn was slightly splitty, but I got used to it. It has enough stretch to be easy on the hands. I don't know what the durability will be like, but it washed up nicely.

Monday, September 01, 2008


Lion Brand Sock Ease--Cotton Candy--purchased at Hobby Lobby

These are very small socks--the "obvious" difference in size is about 3/8"--for the two smallest DGDs. I am planning to use the remainder for a pair for the older DGD, but I have ordered some green yarn for toes and heels, since I may be short on the Lion Brand Sockease. I spent a long time on these because I knit them twice. I had made them too small the first time. I hope these are fine.

Yarn review--The yarn was much less stringlike than the old Magic Stripes. The socks do not feel as thick and heavy. It was fairly easy on the hands to knit with, not surprising since it contains some aloe. The drawback was the matching. I am not fond of fraternal twins when it comes to self-striping yarn, but this was difficult to match. If you notice, I got the stripes matched on the pair on the right, but the bottom of the heel doesn't. The toe tip is little off as well. I don't think this would be a problem on adult socks because the stripes are so short that they would just be single lines of almost random color, rather than the definite multi-row stripes you get on these tiny ones. Will I buy the yarn again? I really want a pair of the orangey red colorway that the Yarn Harlot knitted, but I have a lot of sock yarn for myself. I liked the look of the yellow for the children. Otherwise, the color selection is not my cup of tea. I do think the socks will be comfortable and cozy from the way they washed up.

School has gone amazingly well. My dual-credit books did not get here on time, but I had alternate plans on tap. (One of the benefits of being an OLD teacher is that you have alternate plans for practically everything!) The computer system that was going to be new but then did not get installed before school from the software outfit got hooked up. The entire school is not on it yet. We can all take attendance, but the gradebook has not been explained to everyone. I was lucky, however, and was in sort of a pilot group so I have mine up and running. Because our senior class this year is small, I have an unusually small class load, and they seem to be really nice students. We'll see what the second week brings.

OTN--a pair of Maizy socks for myself.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Timely Reading?

I haven't had time to make pictures. This is the first week of school with students, and it is going beautifully so far. Nice classes--we have a smaller senior class this year--and good organization on the part of the new principal have made this year so much better already!

I will post some knitting pics sometime this weekend.

I did, however, finish an audiobook in odd moments here and there. It's taken awhile because I was having some MP3 player difficulties. Tin Roof Blowdown, by James Lee Burke, is a Dave Robicheaux mystery set in New Orleans and the surrounding area right after Hurricane Katrina and during and after Rita. Some of the descriptions included in the book were heartrending. I wish I could believe it was all fictional, but I'm afraid much of it was based on fact. To finish reading it just as Gustav seems to be aiming for that area again is disconcerting.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Crossing the Finish Line!

I finished the Ribwarmer for the Ravelympics Vest Vault on Aug. 20. Now you can see the results of those strangely shaped pieces that I showed in the previous posts. I was more than a little bit nervous.
The front:
Yes, the fronts are even, but my captive photographer didn't help with making sure the vest was straight.
The back:

Information and evaluation:

I knitted this following only the directions on the DVD by Meg Swensen. I took measurements and did not exactly follow the "multiples of ___" idea from the original instructions in my copy of Knitting Workshop. The yarn is my own handspun, spun mostly during the Tour de Fleece from Brown Sheep Mill Ends Roving. The edging is a handspun that I spun from some alpaca/wool pencil roving that I bought on etsy. The size is a 48" bust measurement with 2" negative ease.

I fulled the gray yarn with 4 hot-to-cold baths. I think that was too many. The vest will be really warm, but the yarn was so changed in texture that I could not make it slide across my fingers to knit continental. I had to pick up and throw every stitch. I could not even separate the plies to spit splice properly. It does give a nice body to the vest, however. When I blocked it, I used a wash of Eucalan with some hair conditioner added, and that seems to help some. I had originally intended to use a nice multicolor-on-gray handspun for the I-cord edging. The two grays were not compatible, so I pulled this black out of stash. It is probably a little bit too soft for the stiffness of the fulled gray yarn, but it worked although I couldn't approach the pretty perfection that Meg Swensen had on screen. I think the sizing is about right, but I would change the way I shaped the armholes. I did increases every 5 rows all the way down and then made up the rest of the inches needed in the underarm area. When I knit another one, I will do that kind of increase about halfway down the armhole and then increase about every 3 rows or 2 rows so that more of the shaping will be in the front and back instead of just under the arm. I do really like the classic simplicity of this pattern. I would like to make another out of some really eyepopping colorful yarn.

Sunday, August 17, 2008


After fretting about the alterations to the ribwarmer and the weird form my pieces were taking, I worked like crazy this morning to get it to a trying on point. I had to come up with some way to attach the back to the front at the shoulders, so this is what I did. I left the flexible Knit Picks Options in the back and picked up the front shoulder stitches and the neck on another needle and left it in as well. Then I loosely crocheted the two needle cords together with a single crochet. I did not bother matching stitch to stitch, but just crocheted every three or four stitches. Then I tried it on. I am actually fairly pleased. The back looks great. The front sides over the bust are a little narrow. I should have increased more, perhaps two stitches on each increase rather than one, beginning halfway down. I'm going to put that in my notes. If, however, I wear this as an open vest, it will look fine, so I'm not going to bother with fastenings. The garter stitch gives the fabric a nice drape. So, now it's on to the I-cord. I had planned to use some beautiful handspun from some Spunky Eclectic roving, but I've discovered the grays clash, so I'm being brave and using some black alpaca/wool that I spun awhile back. At least I'm not going to need to frog the whole thing. Of course, I still have to get that I-cord edging on.

A second yippee--

Yes, that is GREEN moss on a tree. For those of you in other parts of the country, this may not be exciting, but in the Texas Panhandle, we don't see too much of that because our weather is much too dry. Of course, this tree has moss all the time on its north side, but it's mostly a grayish brown. However, we have had three or four days of heavy rain--for us that's 1-2 inches per day. We are on flash flood watch right now, which is great. Rain now means that the corn crop probably won't need another watering and that moisture levels will be great for planting winter wheat which will be used for pasture for cattle this winter and harvested early next summer. We're not farmers, but this is money in the pockets of everyone in the community. Thank you, God!

Yippee #3--Great job by Michael Phelps. However, all the reminiscing reminded me how "hot" all we single young things thought that Mark Spitz looked in '72. I think we were all quite taken with the photos in Life. Looking at the films now, it's hard to see past the hair. Isn't it funny how your perspective changes with the years?

And the best yippee of all--I got to share, and share, and share one of my favorite board books with my DGD last night. Hand, Hand, Fingers, Thumb was a favorite of my own children, and little M enjoyed the drumming as much as they did.

Friday, August 15, 2008

The Crunch is Here

School starts for teachers on Monday. My second job bookkeeping is finished; my insurance visit is taken care of; my dental work is almost finished--one more visit should do it. I've had two workshops this week. I have notes to compile and lessons to plan and housework to finish, and what am I doing? Ravelympics, of course. My ribwarmer is still looking unribwarmer-like, but it is looking very much like the shape of a fabric vest that I quilted a few years ago. Maybe it will turn into a wearable garment.
We have a new computer system for grades and attendance and communication with parents this year that is going to be a problem to learn, I think, but will be a big improvement when we actually get going on it. We are also going to have to adjust to Word 2007 on the school computers when students have miscellaneous forms of word processing at home. I am, however, beginning to look forward to returning to class. My horse-going-back-to-the-stable mood kicked in later this year than usual, but it's beginning to inspire me again.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Ravelympics Progress

I'm knitting away on my Ribwarmer for the Vest Vault, but I'm concerned. I'm carefully following the sizing instructions on Meg Swansen's video. I don't think the problem is in the instructions, but in my personal very-pear shape. I made the shoulders exactly to fit, and I have added increases to the sleeves to get closer to the bust size. Then I still had to add under the arms. This is a picture of one front. I think it is coming out as a vest, a traditional weskit-shaped vest, instead of looking like a ribwarmer. I only hope the underarm area doesn't want to bulge out. Since the fabric is fairly firm, I think it should be ok. I think I'm producing a usable garment, but not the style I wanted. Given that my shoulders are so much narrower than my lower area, I don't know what I should have done. I suppose a top-down raglan sweater would have been a good solution. I know I can make that fit properly. Oh, well, we'll see. I have the back corner knitted to the v-shaped vent, and I've started on the neck for the second front.
This is TECHNICALLY the last week before I go back to school. However, I had two days of workshop last week, and two days this week. Both of these days are actually 1/2 days, but when the 1/2 day comes in the middle of the day, it pretty much messes up the whole thing. I also have a dental appointment, which at least means I can finish a sock, perhaps. I will be fine as soon as school actually starts, but this summer seemed extraordinarily short for some reason, perhaps because many of my plans for the summer had to be put on hold due to the schedules of others. I also think the down economy hasn't helped any. It is hitting our small agricultural community very hard.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

"The Best Laid Plans"

may "gae oft agley," but they don't necessarily bring grief and pain, in spite of what Robert Burns wrote. I left home for three days to go to a teacher workshop and to take care of some "grandma" fun.

  • My audiobook would not play on my MP3 player so I had to drive all the way without fiction.
  • The meeting start time had been moved up 30 minutes, and I hadn't been notified, so I was late. Other people had the same problem, but it was still irritating.

  • I was spending two nights in a hotel, and I forgot my nightgown.

  • I carefully packed a ball of sock yarn, a stitch pattern, and a circular needle in my really cute blue brocade sock bag, so that I would look really impressive knitting in public, only to discover I had packed one very short circ. Couldn't make a sock.


  • I did get a lot of reading done at the hotel, finishing a Kathy Reichs novel I had already started and starting and finishing another one.

  • I had an excuse to buy a new nightie, and I haven't done that in awhile.

  • The schedulers announced two different start times for the second day as well, which just made them look stupid instead of me because everyone noticed.

  • In the very short period of time that I had my yarn out, another teacher saw me, asked what I was doing, and then pulled her project out of her bag. She was doing a baby blanket for an expected grandson in Swedish Embroidery on monk's cloth. I had seen pictures, but I'd never seen the real thing. I had always thought the cloth would be stiff, but it was incredibly soft. She was copying one that her grandmother had made for the baby's father. She insisted on sending me away with a complete copy of the directions. All I need is one more fiber hobby!

Other good things--Gretchen Bernabei, the consultant for the conference, was excellent. She really helped us in targeting writing strategies to improve student writing and to work toward higher test scores. My favorite quote--"You don't fatten a chicken by weighing it every week."

Other good things--

  • a presentation by the education director at the American Quarter Horse Museum and Hall of Fame. They have a really interesting writing project that I think we can use. I also got to examine an interesting artifact--an antique braided horsehair bridle--very fine work in four colors.

  • a short workshop on using Microsoft Office Photo Story. I've already thought of a jillion ways to use this program in the classroom and personally.

Other highlights--

  • watching the opening ceremony from Beijing

  • spending time with my family and granddaughters. Only one granddaughter is in this picture. Guess what she wants to be for Halloween?

This picture was made at the Red Robin restaurant. Back when television was brand new in Amarillo, one of the early daytime local variety programs was hosted by a man named Gordon Suits whose nickname was the Red Robin. He used the song as a theme song.

Note: The trip made me late in beginning my Ravelympics project, but I cast on tonight, and I'm ready to start the short rows on the first side of the ribwarmer.

Sidenote--I'm using the DVD from Meg Swensen. I watched it through on the DVD player in the living room a couple of weeks ago, but tonight I put it on the computer so that I could have the Olympics on the television. I noticed that there are extras to click on that I either did not see before or else they didn't show up on the television screen. I think I'll get my Knitting Workshop DVD out and see if it is the same way.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

A First

One of the things I enjoy about the part of the country in which I live is that everyone is fairly laid back about most things and also relatively courteous. That is probably an overstatement, but when you live in a very small town, you know who the discourteous people are and either avoid them or accept their behavior as an eccentricity.

There is an even smaller town nearby that has really good prices on gasoline, probably because the owner of most of the convenience stores in a two-state area considers it his home and sells cheap--I'm not sure. We were going through there last weekend and filled up for $3.62. We were through there again yesterday and decided to top off our tank from the week before with gas that was $3.75. There was a line of sorts, so we picked the shortest one--a car and a pickup were in front of us. We were third. We dutifully turned off the ignition, rolled down our windows, and waited patiently for our turn. As soon as the pickup pulled ahead, we drove up to the pump. A woman had driven in from the other direction after we got in line, but she was much further back than we were. No one was in line behind us, so she could get in line there, but evidently that did not satisfy her. While my DH was out on the driver's side of the car getting the gas, she pulled up by my side on the way to get in line and began shouting. Isn't it amazing how inarticulate human beings can be when they are in a rage? I only understood the shaking fist and the f-word--everything else was garbled. We got our 8 gallons or so and drove away, but I still felt I had lost something. The week before, everyone in line had been laughing and joking because they were happy about the price.

A Pleasure and a Disappointment

I finished my reading from my Barnes & Noble binge last week. I've discovered a new author that I like and been disappointed by an author I've formerly enjoyed.

The new author is Kathy Reichs. The book is Bones to Ashes, a forensic mystery. I understand that her character is the basis for the Fox series Bones, but other than the name and the fact that the character is a forensic anthropologist, I didn't see much similarity. This is the sort of book that makes me wish my French was better. In fact, it's almost nonexistent, considering how many years it's been since college and how little use I've had for it in the meantime. In spite of that, however, the plot was riveting, and the characters were developed. I was reminded of some of the early Patricia Cornwell books. I only hope that this author does not descend into the darkness and weirdness that seem to characterize much of Cornwell's later works. The setting of the French part of Canada also makes the book more entertaining for me because this is an area that I know very little about. If only a little knitting were included. . . .

Note: I've agonized over was/were in that last sentence and decided on the subjunctive. There are times when being an English teacher is maddening.

The other book was A Killer Stitch by Maggie Sefton. This is a Knitting Mystery. I've enjoyed two previous books in the series, finding them entertaining, light-hearted, "cozy," reading. I found this book, however, to be less than I expected. For one thing, the plot was weak, I thought. Most of the action seemed to consist of one woman telling another something and saying be sure you don't tell anyone. Then the hearer would immediately decide that for the good of the person being talked about, she needed to tell another person, and so on. Reading this book was like spending a day as a high school--or worse, junior high school--girl again. I definitely expected more for my money and my time. There is obviously a setup for another book at the end of this one. I hope that book is better because we need all the good knitting series that we can get.

On the knitting front, I finished reknitting one of the DGD socks last night.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Frustration Sound!

I couldn't type a frustration sound as a title that didn't look like I was writing a pirate post. My "surprise" project that I was squeezing in between my last socks and the Ravelympics is a ball's worth of Sock Ease socks for my toddler DGDs and the older sister. I checked current shoe sizes, added 2 for growth, checked my gauge, and knitted 2.5 socks. They were so darned cute, but they looked entirely too big, so I took them when I went to the knitting meeting on Monday to try them on the smaller of the two DGDs. They were just a fit--barely. I brought them home and tried them on the DGD with the chunkier legs. The bindoff and ribbing are too tight. After trying to figure out other ways of fixing these, I decided on the foolproof one--I'm reknitting. I am casting on 4 more stitches with a looser cast-on, adding a slightly taller heelflap for the larger child, and adding more length for both. Fortunately, I have previous socks to go by for the older DGD--I can alter from my notes because I had her do a try-on. This means, though, that I will probably not be finished before the Ravelympics, so I will have a side project going. I have planned only one Ravelympics project because the timing coincides with the beginning of school. We do not officially start until the 18th for teachers, but I have two days of out-of-town workshops next week and two the following week.

Grandchildren grow entirely too fast!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Knitting and a Cozy

Notice that the above topic does not say "knitting a cozy," which would have entirely different implications. This kind of cozy does not fit on a teapot, but can best be defined here. Those of us who cut our mystery teeth on Agatha Christie are quite comfy with cozies. Scots on the Rocks by Mary Daheim was an interesting book. However, by my count, this book is number twenty-something in the "Bed-and-Breakfast Mystery" series. I found it to be long on plot but rather weak on characterization. The fact is, though, that if I had read the other books in the series, I would probably not be feeling the same way. It was good enough that I will check to see if I can find some old paperbacks of some of the early books in the series. This book made excellent hotel lobby reading.

On Monday, I drove to Amarillo, listening to back episodes of Sticks and String on my MP3. If you have never listened to this podcast, you should give it a try. I think I like it so much because it is not giggly or silly or full of innuendoes. Sometimes it is more about life in Australia than strictly about knitting, but I think the overall mood of the episodes fits more closely with what knitting represents to me. David Reidy is easy listening--I like his music choices, his essays and guest essays, his choices for interviews, and the glimpses of life in another country and another knitting community. Frankly, I even like the sound of his voice. Listening to his broadcasts there and back was a real treat. I have updated my podcatcher on this new computer so that I will not get behind on my favorite podcasts again, but it was kind of neat to have hours of listening to catch up on while driving. Reidy's sound is also professional. Some podcasters have vast differences in volume, from below my auditory level to blasting through the earphones, that force me to constantly adjust the tiny volumes on my MP3 while driving. I don't like that distraction. Reidy's podcast us usually consistently listenable.

I went first to my DD's home and spent the morning and afternoon with her and the DGDs. Our project was to modify the cover of the youngest DGD's car seat so that it could be removed for washing without having to unthread all the straps every time. We did this successfully with the careful use of Aplix, which is sort of a super heavy duty kind of Velcro. It is readily available on line and is very popular with the cloth diaper sewers.

I went to town for a knitting meeting--something that is in short supply in my world. The area group of what used to be known as Home Demonstration Agents, now Family and Consumer Sciences ?????, was having their summer meeting at a hotel, and they were having a meeting that they had told area knitters about. I decided to make it an event and spend a night at a hotel instead of driving home afterward. It turns out that was a good choice, since the opportunity lasted until the next morning.

At about 4:30, DGD #1, who is 5, and I headed out so that I could check into the hotel and meet the entire family for supper before my meeting. I attempted to take some residential streets into the back of the hotel parking area rather than fight heavy traffic at that time of day. I tried twice, and both times I ran into blocked streets that were closed for resurfacing crews. I finally decided to go the long way around and through the rush hour traffic. The conversation:

DGD: Grandma?

Me: Yes, dear?

DGD: I love you, Grandma. I love you even if you keep going the wrong way!

My little helper assisted with check in, got to ride in the glass elevator, which went through the roof of the atrium into the open air before stopping at the 8th floor, checked out the bridge and pools in the lobby, and got the pillow mints in the room, of course.

The evening meeting was very small--the organizer, the "expert" and her son, and three knitters. One of the other knitters, however, was Soonerbeknitting ! I was so excited to finally get to meet her in person after reading her blog for a long time. We had sort of a cozy little evening meeting in a hotel room, looking at yarn and talking about teaching and knitting.

The next morning, I sneaked in to the knitting presentation at the convention and listened to the presentation by Three Stitchers. I took a day of spinning lessons from Sharon last summer, but it was good listening to her talk and show some of the new yarns and new ideas for different knitting techniques. I went to her on-site shop after the meeting and bought this:

The yarn is Maizy, a corn product. Where we live, corn is a big crop, grown for food for Frito-Lay, cattle feed for the feedlots and dairies, and alcohol for the two nearby ethanol plants. Knitting something made from a corn by-product is very appealing.

I also bought some drum carder product. This has not been pulled into roving, but it is not a batt either. I have a drum carder, which I have barely used, and I wanted to check out someone else's work to see if the product I was getting was about right. I had been worried about some of the little lumps in mine. I know that her fleece is probably similar to mine because I got my Rambouillet from her, so I thought this would be a good purchase. She has the little lumps also, but her handspun looks great. I also got to squeeze some lovely handspun alpaca she has spun from a nearby producer and some handspun wool that she spun from a fleece from the wool festival at Estes Park.

Between spending time with my family, reading in a lovely atrium, learning more about fiber, and meeting new friends, I had a lovely time.

I came home last night and knit a training swatch for the ribwarmer I am going to knit for the Ravelympics. It is going to be heavier than I originally intended. I swatched with 9s at first, but I think I've decided on 10.5s, which will give me a gauge of about 3 1/2 stitches per inch. The 9s looked lovely and even but had the consistency of armor, so I've decided on the larger needles. The garter does not look quite so even, but this is handspun after all, and I rather like the rustic look. I notice that Jared used that size on his ribwarmer.

All in all, it was a delightful 36-hour vacation in which I learned some new things, got to meet an Internet friend in person, and renewed old acquaintances.
Thanks, Dawn, for arranging the meeting!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Reading, Spinning, Knitting

Another Audiobook post? I’ve spun and knitted and played a little Spider Solitaire to listen to another Audiobook. (I’m still not pleased with Vista, but I love the way Spider Solitaire works. The important things, right?) This one was a download from Audible. Swan Peak, by James Lee Burke, was an unexpected treat to listen to. At first I felt that the book was unbearably dark. I seem to have gotten into a run of that kind of book recently, and this one started off with the absolute worst sides of human nature. However, I stuck with it and found, unexpectedly, that this is a book about redemption—but redemption in unexpected ways. It was a great listen also because of the reader, Will Patton. Since this book was one of a series featuring a character named Dave Robichaux, I plan to listen to or read more of them.

As a total sideline, my curiosity was aroused by a couple of side issues in the book—I’m irritating that way. First of all, the book is set in Montana. The Bitteroot Mountains are mentioned often, as well as other Bitteroot geographical features. The reader pronounces the word “Bitterit.” Is that correct? I need to know this because I just can’t stand not knowing it when I begin kntting my new Mountain Colors Bearfoot socks! Secondly, most books not actually set in the Texas Panhandle that need to refer to our part of the country refer to Amarillo or perhaps Plainview, I think because they like that name for some reason. This novel referred to Dumas—pronounced “Doomus”—Dalhart, and Texline. I don’t know if the author simply looked at a map for interesting names when making up the background of a character or if he has some connection to our area. See? My mind is definitely weird.

When I explore more of this writer’s work, I do hope that the relationship between the main character and his wife is explored more fully. The background sounds interesting.

Spinning content—I am working hard on spinning thinner. That also means that it takes much longer to spin up a certain amount of fiber! This is my progress so far on roving that I had in stash from the Spunky Eclectic Fiber Club. (English teacher note: Should that be spinning more thinly? That sounds stuffy. Make it spinning thinner yarn.)

Knitting Content—a pair of socks for ME! These are from some OnLine Highland Color that I had in stash. I know they will be comfy because I made them just like my others from the same yarn. These are about as neutral as you can get—black and brown and gray and beige. That’s what I needed. I apologize for the perspective in the picture. I have to squeeze objects into this lightbox to get correct colors when shooting indoors, and right now the mosquitoes are giving me such fits outside that I am not inclined to be out there taking artsy shots. After a few more days of dry weather, things will be better. I am knitting some more exciting socks now, but no more information until I am finished. Then I have to swatch madly for the Ravelympics.

Friday, July 25, 2008

I Was Tagged!

I was tagged by Deb:

Here are the rules:

1. List these rules on your blog.

2. Share 7 facts about yourself on your blog.

** I teach at the same high school from which I graduated. It was a brand new building back then.

** I spend most of my free time knitting, reading, or on the internet. Occasionally I do housework, but only when necessary!! (Yes, Deb, I copied this one from you.)

**I spent summers in college doing mission work in Sacramento and in Guam.

** I ‘ve been married for 30 years to a wonderful man that I’ve known all my life. Somewhere in my closet I have a hand-carved bow and knife—wooden toy—that he carved for me when we were children. He burned my name on the knife with a magnifying glass.

** I have two wonderful grown children with families of their own. That means 4 really sweet and INTERESTING grandchildren—two 5 year olds and two 1 ½ year olds.

** As I approach retirement, my ambitions are to teach a junior college class or two and to have more time for my church, some volunteer duties, and lots of time to be a grandmother. Of course, I’ll keep knitting in between.

**I would also like to travel, but I’m not sure where. I find that I no longer like to “go” just for the sake of going.

3. Tag 7 people at the end of your post by leaving their names as well as links to their blogs.

Ridiculous Obsession
Whimsy Knits

Thursday, July 24, 2008


That post title should be in italics--Next by Michael Crichton. Of course, the book itself has been out for a couple of years now, but this was the audiobook. The book was quite thought-provoking in the same way that Jurassic Park was when I first read it many years ago. At the end of the audiobook, there is an interview with the author in which he again emphasizes many of the points about reforms that he feels need to be made in the way we are approaching genetic sciences.

Now for a review of the audiobook. I found the first hour or two rather tedious. For one thing, many, many characters were being introduced, and it was rather clear that finding voices for that many characters was a difficult job for any reader. Once the main story lines really developed, however, I felt the reader did a really good job. He even managed to infuse the text with suitable humor. The parrot was wonderful! The little interludes with news reports about developments in genetics were just right. The remainder of the story moved very quickly, it seemed, and I was very pleased with it. That, of course, does not include my own "dream" additions, which would not have improved the story at all because the characters would have been in a fix they couldn't get out of.

While listening this afternoon, I did a couple of hours of spinning. I'm trying for a much thinner single than I have been spinning, and I hope to Navajo ply it to keep the color changes for something that I have in mind. The roving I'm using is some Falkland wool from the Spunky Fiber Club. I was rather lonely, since my DGD has been here a couple of days this week. It was quiet without a baby around even though she usually takes a very long nap.

So Who Needs an MP3 Player?

As you can no doubt tell, I listen to audiobooks while spinning, knitting, and doing household task that I find boring. My MP3 player is a fairly basic model. I'm told there are some out there with a sleep function, but I don't know how to find one. Anyway, I've not been feeling well, so I've been somewhat restless at night. I decided to turn on my audiobook--Crichton's Next--while getting sleepy. The first night all went well, I think, and I turned off the player before going to sleep. The second night, I did the same thing--I thought. However, I woke up later at a suspenseful part of the story, not entirely sure of how I got there. Not only that, but I had indeed removed the player before I fell asleep and had evidently been writing my own novel in my dreams. Now i see no other choice except backing up to where I know I was before and then going ahead from there.

I think the news yesterday inspired me, with the video from Japan of the zookeepers' trying to tranquilizer dart a chimpanzee, and the ape's grabbing the gun away from them--but I'm not sure.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Spinning, Knitting, Reading

Spinning--I think I have completed my spinning project for the Tour de Fleece. Here is the completed yarn. The hand-wound, non-center-pull balls are from skeins I hopelessly tangled in the fulling process. The fact that I got them straightened out at all was due to the patience of my DH, who is my yarn swift. By my count, I have 450-500 yards of heavy worsted, and I think that should be enough. If it isn’t, I do have roving to spin more. I am really pleased with the effect the fulling had on this yarn, but I’ve discovered that I need somewhat thicker rubber gloves for that hot water!

I have joined the Ravelympic group, and my project is to knit the ribwarmer during those days. I think I should be able to pull it off, particularly since swatching counts as training and can be done ahead of time. I usually do not enjoy the summer Olympics as much as I do the winter ones. What I enjoy most about the Olympics is seeing the sports one never gets to see, like curling and the luge. I have nothing against track and field, baseball, and basketball, but I can see those almost any time. I do like the gymnastics and the water sports. I think I also remember coming home from school as a very young teacher, flipping on the television in my apartment to watch, and seeing the horror of events unfolding in Munich. I’m always just a little bit nervous.

Knitting—I finished the scarf for the Red Scarf Project. This is the Yarn Harlot’s pattern, but I made it a little wider and longer to meet the requirements for the project. The yarn is Wool Ease Red Sprinkles. Considering the goal of the project, I think that machine washable and dryable is a plus. The stitch pattern actually shows up very well, but I had difficulty making that show in a photograph. It is a great textured pattern, and I think it would work well even as an afghan stitch, provided that you had some color variation. The stitch is so easy that it would get boring over a long unbroken period.

Next I need to do some swatching for the ribwarmer and some concentrated sock knitting. In reviewing my Fiber Goals for this year, I see that I have become distracted by new ideas and projects, so I want to get back on track.

I am also excited because there is supposed to be a knitting meeting in our area on the 28th. I even have hotel reservations so that I don’t have to drive back after the meeting! Whee!

Books--By my count I’ve completed the Ravelry Book Challenge of reading 50 books for the year. Of course, bookworm that I am, I will continue reading and listening to books, but I am only going to review and/or list the ones I really like or that I think are a unique read. Sometimes if I don’t care for a book, it’s hard for me to say anything without appearing to flame it, and the purpose of this blog is not defending my opinions, but simply to share things that I enjoy.

I have listened to 2 audio books recently while I have been busy spinning and knitting and doing some housework. The first was Last Shot by Gregg Hurwitz. This book was a little bit too hard boiled for me, but the back story was thought provoking. I just do not like prison stories, prison movies, stories about prison escapes. That’s a matter of personal taste.

The second book was The Hard Way: Jack Reacher Series, Book 10. This series was recommended by LizzieK8. Even though this thriller was every bit as violent as the other book, I found it more comfortable. The reason I started with Book 10 is that was what was available on my local Overdrive. I will choose to read more of these. The audiobook reader was also really good. The character of Reacher is similar to the old Western hero who materializes mysteriously to save the day and then disappears after the violence is over, leaving order restored.

What I would love to have available on audio are books in the mystery series such as the books by Earlene Fowler, Susan Wittig Albert, Monica Ferris, and others. I do enjoy the Elizabeth Peters novels as well. I do, however, prefer to limit my listening to unabridged audio, so that eliminates some choices. Also, because, I'm basically cheap--yarn money, you know--I prefer to get my books from Overdrive rather than pay for them, so that also limits my choices. In some ways, this limitation has had a positive result, leading me to writers and books that I probably would not have explored otherwise, but in other ways, it is frustrating.