Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Testing!

We are basically shutting down the process of education today for 4 more days of testing. English Language Arts was tested in March, but now we are doing math , science, and social studies for 9th, 10th, and 11th grade exit. Actually the 9th grade tests on only 2 of the 4 days, I think. 10th and 11th test on 3. We are working in the physical fitness evaluation for each grade on one of the off days for each grade. We will have bus evacuation drills on Friday afternoon. The seniors are out every morning doing community service and don't have to come to school in the afternoons except for Thursday, when my college credit class is presenting their final projects. These students are so busy with extracurricular activities that I couldn't find a day except when the whole state shuts down for testing. Even then, one group presentation has had to be moved to Friday because a student got a call from a nearby university asking her to be there Thursday afternoon to interview for a scholarship in her major. They wouldn't change the appointment, and I didn't want to interfere with her getting more money.

My great fear is that I will mess up following one of the umpteen (professional word?) picky security rules and put my job and my teaching certificate in jeopardy. The other is that I will have to clear graphing calculators.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

A Plug for a Product

When I was in the public library picking up my copy of The Sea of Monsters on interlibrary loan, the librarian said she was sending me a link to a site that our library group was thinking of subscribing to. It is a Scholastic product called Bookflix. I looked, and it is good. The site is designed for grades PreK-3. It is thematically organized by topic, but each section is also thematically organized. Lesson plans are included. In Texas, at least, students are introduced to "triplets" in reading--a fiction piece, non-fiction, and a visual. (I realize I am talking about middle school and up.) The example I looked at was about rain. The first item is a reading with all the illustrations of Karen Hesse's picture book, Come On, Rain! As the story, with appropriate background music, is read, the individual words being read are highlighted on the page. Like all of Karen Hesse's work that I have read, this book is actually "literature." The nonfiction piece is by Pam Rosenberg--an information book with great photographs called Rainy Weather Days. As with the first selection, the young reader may read by himself or with help, but vocabulary words are highlighted and defined. The second selection, however, does not highlight the words as they are being read. There are "Puzzler" activities which connect the two pieces, information about the author of the picture book, and directions to websites for further exploration of information about rain.

This appears to be a quality product which would be a great addition to community resources, both for in-school use, for home use by students, and for homeschoolers as part of curriculum. Anyone thinking of using it will need to look carefully at the reading level on the lesson plans and preview the selections and activities in order to make sure of the appropriateness of particular selections for the abilities of the particular student. The selections above were listed as being for ages 4-8, but the first reading was almost 12 minutes, rather long for a 4-5 year old. However, I think that when used properly, this resource would be a worthwhile tool for getting students where they need to go and for fostering a love of reading good books and exploring for information.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

The Sock Mojo Returns/book reading

Not long after the previous post about being behind on socks, some things happened to get me going again. First, I got tired of garter stitch for awhile after a Moderne blanket and the first two panels of my panel jacket:















This is actually a center back panel and one of the outside panels. I'm a little worried about whether or not I will have enough yarn from my stash, and I don't think I can match the dye lot, so I thought I may have to do contrasting color panels or something. Therefore, I'm leaving the inner side panels until I see because I think the contrast will have to go there.

The second was that my DH--for whom I had made 2.75 pairs of socks, and who had only been wearing them as bed socks--announced that he had started wearing them all day and absolutely loved them! Oops! I immediately went to work and finished these:

















I am not very proud of them; I was using a larger needle size, 2.75, and I thought I had my stitches adjusted correctly, but I should have gone down a few stitches. He says they feel wonderful anyway. The yarn is Paton's Kroy from stash; the heels and toes are from a former Regia project. I know the legs appear a little short, but that's the way he likes them. I have already cast on another pair for him from Melienweit Color Tweed. (I know that's mispelled, but I don't have the label with me at the moment.)

I also finished this pair:
















These are for my gift stash--women's medium to large. They are from the discontinued LB Magic Stripes. The cost? $1.36! I found the yarn in a closeout bin. I love my own Magic Stripes socks--they wear like iron and get softer all the time.


What else have I been doing? We've been dogsitting for a couple of weeks--I'll post a picture. I've done a little bit of outdoor stuff although the weather has been unpredictable--hot and cold, rain, hail, blowing sand--all this week. This afternoon, I'm going to work on boutiquing some baby overalls for a baby shower gift for next weekend.


I've also read another Rick Riordan book--three of the English faculty at our high school have our noses buried in these. This one was The Monster Sea, and it was every bit as entertaining as the first. I don't know how readers would respond who don't pick up on the literary allusions--half the fun is picking them out before the hero does.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Socks!

See the picture of the socks in this post? No? Well, among the lifestyle changes that the increase in gasoline prices has brought to my life--fortunately, none of them critical--is a drastic fall off in sock production.

We live in a very small town (3000). For years we have made it a point to drive to a much larger and more cosmopolitan town nearby (35,000, with an Air Force base--if you're in NYC or something, don't snicker too much) on Saturdays for lunch. We include grocery shopping and other errands and sometimes go antiquing or mall walking. I take my items to drop off for charity and make necessary visits to Hobby Lobby or Office Depot. This was a family outing from the time the children were in upper elementary--we sometimes took their friends--and a "date" time for us. Now that our children are grown, we still do it. We tend to keep early hours, so we don't often go anywhere at night. We always did this, even if we knew we needed to go somewhere else the next day, which often meant out-of-town trips on two successive days.

Recently, we've begun cutting back. We only go on our traditional Saturday excursion when we know that we're not going anywhere else on the weekend, and if I've had to go out of town on a weekday for a business appointment, we don't go at all. What does this have to do with socks? Evidently most of my sock knitting was being done in the car or in waiting rooms. I've been fortunate enough lately that even when I've shown up for appointments, I've gotten in early. I even have a new purse that has a side compartment that holds my SIP perfectly, and I'm still not getting much knitting time! Socks are languishing in my handbag.

I realize for those of you who are incurring huge expenses for commuting costs, this post sounds trivial. I'll simply have to figure out another sock knitting scenarios. I can also assure you that there are other, not-so-entertaining, effects of fuel costs for us in the way they affect local businesses (we have one). My point is that sometimes we don't notice all the ways something like this changes our lives in little ways that add up to lots of stress. We simply notice the big ones. An acquaintance of mine told me some years ago about a book he read that said that if we can get rid of or change many of the little picky irritations in our lives, we can handle the big ones much better. At the time, he was replacing the squeaky casters on his office chair. For me, knitting and spinning can be that kind of stress remover.

One adaptation we've made is that we've replaced an out-of-town trip with a grilled lunch on the backyard barbecue. That's a good thing, I think.

However, small town life can get awfully confining. You see the same people day-in-and-day out, which means that if you work with the public, you may encounter that rude customer at church, at the doctor's office, and at parents' night. It's a big relief to go out somewhere at least once a week where you don't know anyone. My DH is absolutely tied down here M-F and a half day on S, so he really needs to have a change of scene for mental health sometimes.

The flip side of this is that small town life keeps one honest in that you must learn to deal with awkward personal situations because you KNOW you will see that person frequently. It gives an entirely different perspective on tolerance and forgiveness than what I found when I lived in much larger places.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Ample Knitter Spring KAL

I had set April 15 as my day to start my project for the Spring Ample Knitter KAL. I missed it by a couple of days, but here's the center back panel for the Lapin Panel Jacket. It's a free pattern. I'm making some adjustments since it's a one-size jacket. I'm adding some extra width to the side panels to preserve the swinginess, and I'm also adding 4 inches in length. I realize the short length is fashionable right now, but it would not fit either my figure, my age, or my lifestyle. The yarn is LB Wool Ease in the Blue Mist colorway. I am knitting from stash, but I may have to scrape up another skein due to my alterations. I'll be switching back and forth between this project and finishing the Heartbeat Sweater. I think both projects will be fairly easy knits, but the slipperiness and splittiness of the bamboo yarn for Heartbeat can be irritating after awhile.


Today was a wonderfully quiet day--laundry and housework to the accompaniment of an audiobook, a problem with prescriptions and insurance solved for the time being, a nice lunch and grocery shopping with my husband in a nearby town, and a visit with DS, DDIL, and DG this afternoon, followed by an evening of knitting. I needed this.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

The Birthday Gift


I came home a little later than expected from Amarillo on my birthday, walked into the house, and saw on the kitchen table a brown cardboard box with a loopy rubber belt attached to the outside with packing tape. My first thought was spinning equipment, but the belt looked too heavy, and I couldn't remember ordering anything. Then I realized that it was looped in perfect loops like a big bow. I immediately grabbed scissors and ripped into the package. Look what I got--a #88 Dale Earnhardt, Jr. jacket to go with the blanket I had knitted for Victory Junction! DH and DD had conspired to get it for my birthday. I wore it to school today--the weather was freezing this morning, 80s yesterday, chill index of 23 today. Some of my students were greatly perplexed because this does not fit my rather staid old lady image.
Footnote--when I posted about my jacket on the "Go Fast, Knit Left" group on Ravelry, I got a reply from the person who did this blanket--a crocheted Tunisian Stitch. Suddenly my Moderne doesn't look quite so impressive.


Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Long Rambling Post with Knitting Content

The last couple of weeks have been an adventure. It's still a busy time at school--I am never sure what students will be present in class from one day to the next because of the number of extracurricular activities. I like to plan ahead and maintain continuity, so this is a time of year that I find very difficult. Of course, I feel that I am the grouchiest person in the world because I have to be to keep the seniors on track.
The weather has been unpredictable except for the fact that we are still predictably dry. This week alone we've gone from almost freezing to the 80s. I think we're due for another round of almost freezing before the weekend. Last week, a section of the neighbor's concrete block fence blew down. Ours stood, but the wind overturned a large wooden swing in the backyard without moving any of my grandson's much lighter weight toys.
Also last week, my DS and DDIL both got a really bad stomach virus on the same day. That meant I got to keep the DGD and DGS for a day and an afternoon after school. As far as I was concerned, that was a treat that I don't get frequently enough. The parents got better, but DGS and I got a mild case, so I missed a couple of days of school and didn't feel like knitting.

However, I do have a couple of things to show. First of all, I took some pretty weather coffee-with-DH-in-the-yard-after-work days to card some of the fleece I washed last fall. It is Rambouillet. The first batch, which I did with Ashford student carders following some directions from the Internet, came out with lots of neps. I did spin the rolags, but I am not pleased with the singles. I experimented with plying, and they are so neppy that the bumps catch on each other. I was really frustrated when I remembered that I had bought the Ashford Book of Carding a few months ago. I actually read the directions and studied the pictures. Then I read on a forum that Rambouillet would develop neps when carded too much. This is the result of following the directions in the book:


I have not yet spun any of the fiber, but I think it will work just fine. I hope so because I still have most of this fleece to wash and card. I do have a drum carder, but I thought I had better try it this way first.
I also have finished the front of the Heartbeat Sweater. This picture is simply awful because it doesn't show the texture of the pattern. It does, however, document my progress.


I also had a birthday last weekend. The celebration was nifty--I attended my DGDs 5th birthday party! We had cake:


It was a Veggie Tales Pirate party, and I can attest that swordfighting with balloon swords and watching little ones hunt treasure in a tunnel room is great fun! We went out for lunch after the party to a restaurant in Amarillo called Abuelo's. It's in a strip mall, on an outside corner. The lot near the entrance was full, which meant that I had to park down one side or the other. I started to park on one side of the building and realized that I would be parking in front of the Social Security office. For some reason, I felt old enough without doing that, so I parked toward the end of the other "wing." As I locked my car, I happened to look and find out that I was parked in front of the Texas Bureau for the Aged. I think there's irony in there somewhere.
I also got treasure--my DD's family gave me some tomato plants and a gift card for a new outfit. My DS's family gave me this great basket for keeping my by-the-chair knitting projects under control. It's really big, so that means I need to start more, right?


My DH gave me the neatest gift, but the picture of it will need to wait a couple of days until I have some help.




Saturday, April 05, 2008

Knitting One, Spinning Zero

I just started a new book which is promising to be a delightfully fun read. Although I think it may officially fall into the Young Adult category, it was recommended to me by two different adults, and, in fact, I'm reading from a borrowed copy that is obviously "well loved"--The Lightning Thief, by Rick Riordan. So far, it's great fun in a Harry Potterish sort of way, but not quite of the literary tone of Potter in vocabulary and sophistication of writing and so forth. The book is based on Greek mythology, basically a what if the Greek gods were still around causing the kind of havoc, including having offspring with humans, that they used to get up to in the myths. The protagonist of the novel is standing on one side of the road looking across at a fruit stand and sees three old women sitting knitting socks--great BIG blue socks. One woman is knitting one sock, the middle one is holding the basket of yarn, and the last is knitting the other sock. I wasn't sure until the middle one looked him in the eye, pulled out a big pair of scissors, and cut the yarn. The Fates have moved from spinning to knitting!

I would like to respond to a comment on a previous post by Princess Purl, but I have not been able to get contact information. If it was on the original e-mail feed, I accidentally deleted it. If you have a blog, I can't get the name of it. I've checked Ravelry and Knitter's Review but can't find a means of contact there.

I've also frogged the Kiri shawl. It had hibernated so long that my hibernating mind couldn't read the knitting any more, so I'm starting over sometime this weekend. I did join a KAL for it on Ravelry. I'm not sure that I'll start this weekend because I picked up my new trifocals yesterday afternoon so I may need an adjustment period before chart reading.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Crossing the Finish Line


Stayed up late last night to finish the edging on the blanket for the Victory Junction. You can check the Victory Junction Gang group on Ravelry for details of the group project. There's still plenty of time to knit a blanket for this worthy cause. Some people are knitting blocks that will be assembled later. As I understand it, every summer camper takes home a hand knitted or crocheted blanket, and winter weekenders go home with handmade quilts.

The blanket is a Moderne from Mason-Dixon Knitting, slightly adapted. I only had three colors instead of four, so I changed the color arrangements, which also meant that I shifted the sizes of the blocks a little bit so that the colors would work out right. I also substituted an attached I-Cord border instead of the one in the book. I got the instructions from their website. I'm particularly proud of the corners:

I will admit though, that with the yarn I was using (Caron's One Pound) it was very tiring to pull the K2tog through. There was simply no give. Even my shoulders hurt. The blanket, however, should be very machine washable, which is a necessity in this case. I think I'd like to try a log cabin after this, but I want to use a yarn with some give.
New techniques learned:
The I-cord mentioned above.
Intarsia (in two different places where blocks are in a horizontal row.

School is in its insane phases at the moment, shifting from absolute boredom to chaos several times a day with all the spring activities going on.
I also finished reading Cormac McCarthy's No Country for Old Men. I thought I'd better read it because he's a major Texas writer and because the movie is supposed to be really good. It is indeed an excellent book and very thought-provoking, particularly if you're at the time of life when you tend to look back on the way things used to be. Be warned, however--this book is extremely violent in a particularly chilling way.
OTN--Kiri in KnitPicks Shadow
Heartbeat in Twize