Friday, October 08, 2010

detached.

The digital camera has shipped, but is not yet here. I am enjoying a 3-2-1 margarita on a night when it is still warm enough to have the house opened up. Cricket is hanging out on the couch with me. Red potatoes are baking in the oven and we'll have some leftover rotisserie chicken and green beans for dinner. All is peaceful.

It is a furlough day; ie, one that the school district is not paying us for. I wish I could say I have used it constructively, but I have done little but knit on a sock, investigate a Korean restaurant on the Buford Highway - from hence known as the BuHi (sounds kinda Korean, doesn't it?) and pick up around the house a bit. And make drinks for my willing spouse, who is all caught up in baseball playoffs, following the pipe dream of the Braves going to the series, since the Red Sox are only going home. One thing about the 3-2-1 margarita...I always add more than the required 2 parts citrus juice, because I think it's healthy. I generally treat tequila with the utmost respect, and this drink #2 will be my last one. Hence, it will remain my friend. Hopefully.

I still detest my job. This has been intensified by the fact that I've spent the past week (after hours, that is) keying in grades for my million students for the upcoming report cards. Process to be repeated in approximately 5 weeks. I have got to work smarter on this grading thing, instead of leaving it all til the last minute. Job hatin' aside, I am finding a certain detachment at work, these days, which I suppose is a bit of a blessing. I don't like detachment, feel like the more connected I am to people, situations, things, the happier I feel, but in this case, it all feels just a little saner and healthier to not give a damn what happens. Now I can see deadlines and not panic, sit in meetings where outrageously stupid things are said in a detailed analysis of our team's lesson planning process and not feel like I'm lost in a bizarre netherworld of administrative mental masturbation. No. I can silently send energy to my coworkers and think that I only have 7.5 more months to go before this becomes part of my past. I have never worked for administrators who didn't support my thinking, my work, my way of dealing with children. But it seems this principal cares for nothing but how we are planning to make that test score in April, and any little trip-up, flaw or blip on the horizon is seen as a fault. She's in the classrooms daily, unnanounced, and taking notes, browsing our lesson plans, and mandating this and that. Detached is good. Like a loose balloon, floating around, uncatchable, soon to be gone.

I am mentoring a student, a funny, sassy 3rd grader who was retained because she cannot read, and failed the standardized test that ensured her passage on to 4th grade. She just qualified for Special Ed. I've been her math teacher, and am enjoying spending time with her - she's a good kid. She's going to be fine, I think, she has a lot of spirit, and a strong family. It's these little things that make me think that maybe I don't want out of education, after all, that there's still good work to be done. Our school has an all time low of teachers volunteering to mentor students, in part, I think, because of all the paperwork demands on them right now. My coworker Fish was saying that the mentoring program used to be much bigger.

I have been listening to the Avett Brothers ongoing. Here's my current favorite song.
Which could sum up my feelings about my career, these days.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

dispatch from the virtual mall rat

Fall is finally here, and the weather is crisper and cooler. It's supposed to get down into the 40's tonight. I marvel at how quickly it changes here, from infernal miasma to crisp-almost-too-cool-golden October.

I just ordered myself a new digital camera. Not a fancy one, no SLR, but a pretty decent little point-and-shoot that was highly rated by various consumer reports. The price was right for this new toy, and so I jumped. I am so tired of my old (10 years!!!) digicam's sad image quality and extreme sluggishness. Time to let that faithful servant move on to a new home. I don't know if this will ever turn into a real photoblog, but I've been inspired by some friends' 365 projects, and wanted a camera that was way less trouble.

I also ordered a pair of Frye engineer boots, which I found on sale at Amazon. Now I had some Dingo boots very similar to these in 7th grade, where I got made fun of for wearing boots that only boys who lived on farms wore. I loved those boots, even though I took no small amount of petty redneck fashionista bullying in school for wearing them. I was decidedly not a fashionista. Then, throughout high school and college, I wore hiking boots and cowboy boots and faux tall Frye boots with flowered skirts. Through my 30's, I wore the witchy-looking lace-up gothygoth black boots. In my 40's, leather and rubber LL Bean duck-hunting boots. Now, at last, the boots of a life's longing. So much cashflow therapy, yes, I know, but I'm finding work so painful that I'm compelled to at least enjoy the fruits of my labor. Also, there will be the secret pleasure of wearing some kick-stomping boots to work. If the freaking fashion police allow it...

All this footwear splurginess will ensure that my future fashion finds originate at my local Salvation Army for the rest of this year, I imagine. Or spring from the depths of my sewing machine. At least there will be a camera to document it all.

Knitting...I haz it. The fleece artist sock is coming along pleasurably, even though CPH is stalled, still. I have decided I really do like knitting on dpns. And I really LOVE the Kollage square needles I'm knitting them on, too; metallic and very fast, no drag, but also no slipperiness. My sister convinced me to check them out at Stitches South. But I did drop one at the Variety playhouse last week, during an Aimee Mann concert, and nearly had a heart attack. But LO! and behold, the square needle did not roll!! Flat surfaces to the rescue. More love, more surprises. The yarn is pleasurably squishy, too, though the dye job is faded; I'm certain I will have one bright sock and one considerably duller sock. But cozily nestled inside my new boots, that just won't be a problem.

I have a day's worth of report card grading to do, and a long walk to take with Mister Cricket. He needs more exercise, it's clear, as he destroyed his bed down in the basement this week. Just tore it up. He frequently fights with his bed, and moves it from place to place, but this is the first time he's ever wreaked such havoc. Then Ella came along and ate some of the fiberfill from it, which triggered an enormous bout of puking, that used up every bit of Nature's Miracle we had in the house. Fortunately, she kept all the puking downstairs on the tile floor and throw rugs. Now both dogs are healthy, and we are down one dog bed. But Ella's incontinence is being medicated successfully, so she is back to sleeping in the bed with us. All's well that ends well.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Summer into Autumn

Where has the end of summer gone? Last night the heat, which has been 90+ since May, finally broke. For the moment, it is in the 60's, rainy and breezy. I have never been so grateful for a change of season in my life, I think. Somewhere along late July, I simply stopped going outside in the yellow haze, and it is a welcome change to be able to open the windows again!

Where to begin? I think it's time to get something out on the table here. I do not like my new job. Not even one little bit. What looked great on paper, and in the interview; a math teacher working with kids in 1st - 3rd grades, is the most difficult, unsatisfying thing I have ever endeavored. Not because of the math, not because of the kids, I will say that, first thing, because people are quick to ask if it's a 'difficult population' and I will say it is, but it's not that. I have long held that kids are kids are kids. Some have had more life experiences and better upbringings than others. Some have longer attention spans, some grasp things more quickly, but in any classroom, there's usually a range of strengths, and there's always hope.

The school culture, the district culture, is killing me. I don't know where to begin, so I guess I should begin with shortly after I was hired, and began the orientation process, I started to have some weird feelings about the district. I knew they were always in the news with corruption scandals, accreditation scandals, etc. but I didn't think that would touch me. At the orientation, we were basically lectured for an hour by our new boss about "professionalism", posting lesson plans, checking email, coming to work sober, using best practices, not eating in classrooms...oh the list is endless. It sounds random, because it was random. No encouragement, no thanks for taking on the "toughest job you'll ever love," but basically the "you will straighten up and fly right" message from the get-go. At this orientation, which lasted 2 full days, we were not given a break for lunch either day. On day 2, I wised up and brought a lunch. People, this is a first. Everywhere I've ever taught, if you were going to be at a district function for more than an hour, you were fed something. If you were going to be there all day, you were either fed a meal or you were released to go get food. Or warned that you'd be brown-bagging it...so orientation (which I call indoctrination) was a bust.

Then there was the arrival at my school site. And a meeting with my principal, during which she graciously shared the dress code, which was iron clad, and violations of which would result in the teacher being sent home to change clothes. Which forbade me to wear denim, even as a jacket, shirt or skirt, fer cryin' out loud. Only dressy sandals were permitted (goodbye beloved Birkenstocks) and capris and cropped pants were strictly forbidden, unless they were part of a matching suit with jacket. WTF? Khakis are allowed to be worn on Fridays, and then only with a shirt in the school colors of blue, yellow or white. Now I am a fairly casually dressed teacher. My last job, at the Very Progressive Prep School, and of course teaching at my funny little school in Hawaii, made me even more casual. Jeans, shorts, birks, short skirts, casual, comfortable was the name of the game. Nothing in my closet worked for work at this new job. I dug around Macy's enormous sale racks, and through my trusty local thrift stores and came up with a few options that worked together. I washed and mended my worn hippie gauze skirts, and sadly put my beautiful white linen cropped pants that had once constituted dressed up for work to the back of the closet. I hoped my stable of Dansko sandals would pass inspection.

The dress code, once I had assembled the necessary ingredients; a long black knit skirt, 3 hippie-fairy (my friend Mindy's term) gauze skirts, some black pants and my trusty old brown linen skirt + assorted tops and blouses, was definitely do-able.

The next red flag was the idea of "bell to bell" instruction. That is, one does not take any time to do classroom business, attendance, lunch count, reviewing the schedule, etc. with kids before instruction begins. There is no time built in for class meetings, recess, (yes, you heard me correctly) or enjoyable routines and rituals that have long been a part of the classroom and have given teachers time to bond with their kids, as well as accomplish routine tasks. I move from class to class with math supplies on a cart, and see small groups of kids in each classroom. Students identified as having problems in math, as evidenced by low test scores. Not a problem, until my groups got bigger than the groups who were working with the actual classroom teacher... again, though, we were usually able to work this out.

Every teacher has some amount of release time during the week, for planning, for prep, for simply being able to have a cup of tea and breathe. I'm being honest here. Sometimes, all you need is that cup of tea and the silence of the classroom for the 45 minutes the kids are gone. At this school, though, the prep times are taken up by mandated meetings, with the principal, the AP, the learning coach from the district. Minutes are taken and submitted for each meeting that the principal does not herself attend. My own release time is somewhat better; it comes at the very end of the day, so I DO sneak back to the math lab to plan, to breathe, to check e-mail. But I'm acutely aware that my teachers don't usually have that luxury.

Then there are the mandated attendance at evening functions; one of my biggest beefs about working in a private school last year. In all my other public school jobs, there were basically 2 or 3 nights a year when we were required to stay past our contract hour and on into the evening. Performances, curriculum nights, back-to-school nights. Here, they come at least once a month, and we are allowed to miss one per year. Again, WTF? Invariably they fall on a Thursday, which affects my yoga class. Grrrrr.

Lesson plans for the entire week are required to be posted online by 7am on Monday. Grades are required to be posted online every week (I am so behind on this it is not even funny) and report cards are issued every 4.5 weeks. I have an enormous amount of paperwork to do and submit and deadlines are relentless and strict - something is late and you get icy emails reminding you that the deadline was yesterday... Staff meetings are weekly, and lengthy, and one is not allowed to do anything but sit in rapt attention while the presenter presents. No discussion, no grading, formality is the word. I am constantly taking piles of work home to finish, and have an increasingly large "caseload" of below-level students to plan for, across 3 grade levels. I try hard to keep my workdays to 9 hours, but it takes all my effort.

When I've discussed the craziness of this all with my coworkers, their attitude is one of "that's the way it is" or "that's how she likes it". In other words, beat down. Tired. Everyone feeling the stress, everyone stressing out on each other. Never a day without some sort of drama revolving around the chain of command, school protocol or district mandates.

This is a very abbreviated list of factors that I'm finding deplorable. Any one of these conditions would be bearable. I've been teaching for 16 years. I'm no stranger to the craziness, long hours and hard work of the job. All of them together, and too many damn mandates is making this into the job from hell. Of course my body rebelled. Of course I stopped sleeping and cried at the drop of a hat, sometimes at work. Of course I started having repetitive hamster-wheel thoughts about nonsense. Of course I put myself into the capable hands of my local 5-Element acupuncturist, who is not inexpensive, but whose needles and compassionate guidance are, at the moment, assuring my day-to-day survival, while I make other plans. We talked a lot about the mind-body-spirit of organizations, on Friday, and she observed that my workplace, toxic as can be, appears to be influenced by "bladder energy" - the sense of urgency coupled with fear. I think she hit the nail on the head. For me, she recommended a detox - breaking up with wheat and dairy and sugar. More needles than I've ever seen, much less gotten stuck with, and herbs to come. So if I can't change the culture of the workplace, at least I can be a little healthier in it.

I will leave this job at the end of my contract year. I would leave it now, but I don't really believe in leaving my students and co-teachers in the lurch, and quite frankly, the money's good and I need the money, if only to get me through to the next step.

I am wondering if I even want to be in education at all, anymore. For the past few years, I've been acutely aware that teaching has gotten less and less fun for me. It's been less about the creativity and compassion, and more about the accountability and test scores, which have never been my thing. I like assessment, but like it as a means to inform day-to-day instruction, not as a whip to be flogged with. Maybe 17 years is all I have to give to this field of public education. Maybe it's time to move forward into something new. I don't know. The thing about teaching, and school culture is that it is not a thing that is readily advertised; it's what you find out about after you've signed the contract. If you're lucky enough to work in a place where teachers have voice and empowerment (my past) you can influence it. If not, you do the job and get the hell out at the earliest possible opportunity. Or you stay in it, and endure.

I'm feeling less fear and worry these days about it. Knowing, in my heart that I've been a good teacher, and that I'm working now in a situation which doesn't support me being the best teacher I can be. I'm not afraid to fail in this job, though at the moment, it feels like a bit of a free-fall. I will look for more work after this year. I'll not rule out other teaching positions, but with far more information wrt school culture. I'll be shameless about asking about that in an interview. I'll also look for part time jobs, and tutoring gigs. I think my own sense of urgency and fear about unemployment in a time in my career when people should be lining up to offer me jobs, blinded me this summer. I knew things would be tough, and I just wanted a job. I did not let myself consider the toll it would take on my life, the household, the things I enjoy doing.

I've also been investigating, finally, the idea that's been kicking around on the back burner for several years, which is getting some training in massage therapy, or some other holistic health related field and just changing careers. I've been flirting with this since about 2005, but kept putting it off, worrying about the money, worrying about retirement, wanting to (ahem) 'stay the course'. Now I realize that maybe this course is destructive. Lots of things to consider, lots of options and things to prepare for, were I to jump ship and do something different. P is supportive; he has transferred from job to job because, in his words, "I've had about all the fun I can have in this current position."

So this is where I am now. Breaking up with my favorite foods, sleeping better, doing my damndest at a job I feel no love for, following the Hippocratic Oath in my classroom practices, investigating my future. Knitting a bit, spinning a bit. I finished Citron, and am working on my Central Park Hoodie again, and a sock from my personal sock club - you know the one where you bag up all the sock yarn and close your eyes and pick a skein...jackpot!! Beautiful Fleece Artist merino, colorway "Cosmic Dawn." 72 stitches, plain stockinette.

Friday, August 06, 2010

summer's end

Summertime done come and gone, my oh my... it is a rainy night (the first in a looong time) and I am lounging here in bed with my Faithful Shadow, which of course, is Cricket's title. I guess Ella's would be The Cutest Thing Ever or The CEO and Board of Directors. After my last installment, which involved the ecstatic news that I would be working at the Salt Mines full time, I proceeded to enjoy the last two weeks of my summer. A little bit of work, but really, I avoided it for the most part. Hung out with some pagan friends, hiked and swam at the pool a little bit, continued my seasonal cooking and farmer's market shopping, evidence of which is shown here:
I think I post a picture of caprese salad every summer. I know i take one every summer. My latest, greatest farmer's market find, however, is the lemon cucumber. I'd show you a pic, but I've eaten them all, and the market's tomorrow. Little roundish cutiecumbers, yellow in color and lemon-sized. Cut them open and find that they are green inside. Very exciting, and the basis of many a satisfying lunch this week.

Oh yeah, and I turned 50. Is that not mind-blowing? Here's to the next 50 years. My birthday was low key, which is how I like it, a welcome change after the past few birthdays, all of which seemed entirely too eventful in unexpected ways. This year's merely involved some hanging out, reading, and movie going, to see the tense, beautiful-but-ugly Winter's Bone, which was terrific.

After a summer of the complete and utter lack of knitting mojo, I took a little break from the insurmountable pile of UFO's that were whining at me and making me feel guilty, and yielded to the understated, lead-by-example peer pressure of my knitting group, and cast on for Citron, that viral shawl, in a warm orange yellow merino from my stash.

I'm making good progress on it, and the color is cheering. I love this yarn; Knitting Notions Classic Merino Laceweight; it's soft, though not as soft as Malabrigo. It is the yarn I knit Icarus from, and I think it wears very well and stands up to daily use. I'm feeling a fascination with lace knitting, at the moment, and am trying to decide what shawl to do next. I like Citron's simplicity, I wouldn't exactly call it lace knitting. But lace takes concentration, and I'm worried about my undivided attention over the next few months.

The new job has kinda sorta begun. I am not teaching yet; I've been busy working at school, registering students, reading data, setting up the math lab, which I share with another specialist, a hilarious woman I'll call Fish. My teachers are very nice, and the administrator is strict; a real velvet hammer type. I like her, though, and think we will work well together. I cannot say the same for the district level admin. This district is a big freaking mess, full of nepotism, corruption and smokescreens. My plan is to do my job, lay low, and enjoy the kids and the math. On the topic of math... I've heard so many teachers remark in passing, how they dislike math. It surprises me, and I realize that while I may have been a kid who was not a good math student, I am an adult who loves teaching it, and enjoys its rhythms and beauty. When did this happen?

This job promises to be much more data-driven than other teaching jobs I've had; I will spend a fair amount of time testing kids, reporting and analyzing progress and recordkeeping. I can't decide if this is a disaster waiting to happen, or a chance to hone my techie kungfu skills.

Acornbud sent me a care package.

From left to right: A slipper floor cleaner; you wear it as a slipper and scrub the floor - very clever, that. Cupcake card, handmade. Mac nuts, which have been consumed already, and a lovely skein of fingering weight yarn from The Lavender Sheep, colorway "Cascades." Delightful things that made me totally homesick for my friend, and the Land of Aloha.

A question for Acornbud: Isn't it time for a Totoro Census?

Sunday, July 18, 2010

summer whirlwind

The goodies from the latest Soap and Dishcloth Swap on Ravelry. My swapper, Sillyghirl was most generous, and she made the soap herself!!

I've just returned from 2 weeks of road tripping up to VA. Enjoyable, though for the most part, I got no break from the East Coast's infernal heat and humidity. It is one long, hot summer, here in the Urban Forest. Even as I write this, we are enjoying prodigious claps of thunder and oh man, is it ever muggy out! You know me...I love to comment on the weather.

I guess the biggest news on the horizon is the news that I've found a job for the upcoming school year. In my travels to the Land of No Internets (aka my mom's house) I was running off to the public library every day or so to borrow their wi-fi so I could apply for jobs online. Feeling sorry for myself, as I didn't feel like I was in a very good space to submit these applications - total vacation mode, sloooowww internets, little time to give to it, etc. But upon my return to GA, I got a call from a principal who asked me to come in for an interview for a math specialist position. The posting had classified this as a part time job, but in the interview, it came out that it was indeed a full-time job, and I got it!! Yeah-baby, good interview (I love panel interviews...you're always guaranteed to connect with one person in the room, that way)and the only one I've gotten called for this summer. I went to it thinking that I was rusty, and no matter what happened, it was good practice. So, I'm continuing to ride this math train, one I'm rapidly feeling better about, since I would never have said I was a "math person" whatever that is. I like teaching math, though, and am always kind of surprised by teachers who don't think it's fun. I mean I may be counting on my fingers and toes and using a calculator to balance my checkbook, but I can teach the stuff. So now there's a lot less time to lay around and knit and surf the internet, but there's money that'll be coming in and not a minute too soon. And did I mention that I have to be back at work on August 5?! That seems just crazy, but GA schools get out for summer in mid May, so my summer of non-job angst is only gonna last 3 more weeks. ugh. Time to start sucking the marrow out of life.

Been knitting, but finishing nothing. More on that in another entry. I seem to be stuck on Sleeve Island with CPH, and everything else is just in a nebulous state of nonfinishment. I know sustained effort is the base of FO's, and I've been too distracted for this, but I guess I'm working something out here. Leave me be! My promised NO MORE STARTING STUFF period has been adhered to, in spite of the siren call of such goodies as Citron, Garter Yoke Cardigan and another Swallowtail...

Cooking is going somewhat better. With all the summer produce rolling into the markets, I've been eating well and cooking a lot. We've been through the blueberries, with the resulting cobblers, smoothies and pancakes, seen here in an undressed state: and now we're on the peach binge, with homemade peach ice cream coming up this evening. There's the basil bounty coming up, and even a few local, ugly-but-delicious heirloom tomatoes.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

knitting experiences

Here's a little meme I found on Ravelry. Kind of a rundown of all the knitting experiences I've had or am planning to have.

Bold for stuff you’ve done, italics for stuff you plan to do one day, and plain text for stuff you’re not planning on doing.

Afghan

I-cord
Garter stitch
Knitting with metal wire
Shawl
Stockinette stitch
Socks: top-down
Socks: toe-up
Knitting with camel yarn
Mittens: Cuff-up
Mittens: Tip-down
Hat
Knitting with silk
Moebius band knitting
Participating in a KAL
Sweater
Drop stitch patterns
Knitting with recycled/secondhand yarn
Slip stitch patterns
Knitting with bananafiber yarn
Domino knitting (=modular knitting)
Twisted stitch patterns
Knitting with bamboo yarn
Two end knitting
Charity knitting
Knitting with soy yarn
Cardigan
Toy/doll clothing
Knitting with circular needles
Baby items
Knitting with your own handspun yarn
Slippers
Graffitti knitting: knitting items on, or to be left on the street
Continental knitting
Designing knitted garments
Cable stitch patterns
Lace patterns
Publishing a knitting book
Scarf
Teaching a child to knit
Knitting to make money
Button holes
Knitting with alpaca
Fair Isle knitting
Norwegian knitting
Household items: dishcloths, washcloths, tea cosies…
knitting socks- or other small tubular items- on two circulars
Dying with plant colours
Knitting items for a wedding
Olympic knitting
Knitting with someone else’s handspun yarn
Knitting with dpns
Holiday related knitting
Teaching a male how to knit
Bobbles
Knitting for a living
Knitting with cotton
Knitting smocking
Dying yarn
Steeks
Knitting art
Fulling/felting
Knitting with wool
Textured knitting
Kitchener BO
Purses/bags
Knitting with beads
Swatching
Long Tail CO
Entrelac Knitting and purling backwards
Machine knitting
Knitting with selfpatterning/selfstriping/variegating yarn
Stuffed toys
Knitting with cashmere
Darning
JewelryKnitting with synthetic yarn
Writing a pattern
Gloves
Intarsia
Knitting with linen
Knitting for preemies
Tubular CO
Freeform knitting
Short rows
Cuffs/fingerless mitts/armwarmers
Pillows
Knitting a pattern from an online knitting magazine
Rug
Knitting on a loom
Thrummed knitting
Knitting a gift
Knitting for pets
Shrug/bolero/poncho
Knitting with dog/cat hair
Hair accessories
Knitting in public

If you're given to memes, I encourage you to indulge!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

a party girl ---not

Summer is here in full swing, and I realize that I did not know what an Atlanta summer is like, based on my experiences last year. Last year's August and September were all I knew of the GA summertime, and since it was mostly cool and rainy, I was thinking I could do this. But here and now, in the mid-90's, with this astonishing humidity and strong southern sunlight? All I can say is "damn." It is what Hawaii would have been if the blessed miracle of the tradewinds would ever turn off. But here we have no wind. What wind we have is not a cool sea wind, but a muggy movement of air.

I am working on channeling my dad's famed love of hot weather, inspired by Reya's fortitude in the heat, and forging out into it, but I am not loving it. Mostly, I'm just a bit daunted by the idea that it's only June and maybe this will continue all summer? No. NO. Meanwhile I am inspired to put mint into the ice water, and wear only tank tops and sunscreen, and somehow we'll make it through this inferno.

Last week, P and I went to Boston for a family reunion of sorts. His brother and sister are big Jimmy Buffet fans (I can't bring myself to say "Parrothead") and the family reunion was taking place at a Buffet concert in the area, rather, at the all day parking lot party that accompanies such an event. I have had my party girl days, but this one was a bit much. Heat and dust and more alcohol than you could shake a stick at. My BIL has a motorhome, and we took it, and rigged up a couple of tarps for shade, and made margaritas and served up a fantastic potluck. All good fun, but the concert didn't start til 8:00 and we arrived at noon. Fortunately there were our fellow parking lot dwellers to amuse us. It seems that in spite of Buffet's age, a large portion of his fan base is in the twenty-something range, or in the category of "wish I was still 24." My SIL made about a million Jello shots for the event, and we realized that perhaps amongst ourselves, we were maybe too old or too smart to consume all of them. So we loaded 'em up on a tray and went walking around the parking lot giving them out to astonished recipients, who bartered lovely things like tequila shots and grilled shrimp for them. Uh, yeah, of course I'll take a skewer of grilled shrimp for these Jello shots... and I do like tequila. When we finally got to the concert, I found Buffet to be quite good, and good natured, though I do not get the glorification of the pirate lifestyle at all. Oh, I am all about pirates. But let's tell the truth about the harsh life at sea, it ain't no Jimmy Buffet concert. He didn't even say "Arrrgh" once!


I should probably explain that this song is one of my favorites, and that any mention of "party girl" brings it to mind. And I am more of a U2 fan than a Jimmy Buffet fan. And I just think Bono is sooooooooo gorgeous in this video. The hair tossing, beefy, leather vested Bono is my favorite morph of him, and he is All That in this clip. Are he and the wife still together? I hope so.

Incredibly, we were not hung over the next day, which enabled us to go out to the islands in Boston Harbor, a cool respite from the blazing heat of the city.

It seems this entry is all about heat and parties, no? Let's look at what's partying on the wheel these days:
The Clown Guts roving, all predrafted and ready to go for my fractal spinning experiment.

The singles:

And the results are in!

The roving was Ivy Brambles Merino in the "Impatiens" colorway, and was nice to spin. 320 yards of roughly sportweight 2-ply yarn. Very pretty, though my plying is somewhat inconsistent.

Now I'm prepping some undyed Coopworth to continue the Tour de Sheep Breeds I'm conducting. I am liking spinning the more natural wools. I've got a lot of this coopworth and am hoping to get some major yardage out of it.

I am a bit spacy this weekend, due I think to the lunar eclipse, a migraine which I successfully treated, and a huge reiki share that I participated in on Friday night with my local circle. Good fun, and very inspirational too. The moon was gorgeous, and we built a fire and stayed outside til the wee small hours of the night, making s'mores and telling tales. Then I had to get up at 5:30 am to take P to the airport. He's off to Florida to look at some oil for a week. The result of all this has been utter uselessness on my part. I've only been able to knit a few rows on a dishcloth for a swap, cook a little and putter. Which is okay, because it's summer.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

a birthday

Ella will be 12 tomorrow. It's hard to believe I've had her for that long, and yet I can't easily remember a time in my life when she wasn't along for the ride, offering head butts, opinions and sweet puppy kisses. My dogs are each so very different that i don't bother to try and pick favorites, now; each occupies a place in my heart. Ella's breeder remarked to me, when I had her as a bouncy young thing that "You will look back, years and dogs from now, and understand that she is the best dog you'll ever have." Gotta love a breeder who is kennel-blind, no? But she's right, she must be right, I think. Even with only a few years past... anyway, for my sweet gray old lady, who still loves walking in inclement weather,swimming, rolling in goose-poop and worse, catching frisbees and begging incessantly for whatever handout she can talk you out of, a huge Happy Birthday! And many more.

I have a 3 day weekend, my treat after an altogether too-long three day work week. I know that sounds awful to those who are working longer weeks, but really, I had a job interview, gave and graded upwards of 50 tests, had to teach a model lesson before a jury of my peers, dealt with weather and temperature extremes and generally was tried and taxed beyond my tolerance. I have nothing planned, beyond a little grading and a little knitting. I am open to ambition and events coming up, namely the making of banana french toast for breakfast tomorrow morning, as I have a going-stale loaf of home baked bread and some overripe bananas on the counter.

It is a hazy, too-hot, too-muggy day, uninspiring. In conflict with the new moon, which is supposed to be an extremely auspicious one for all kinds of beginnings, but I find myself still mired in the middle of things I need to finish. Fortitude for the long stretch, that's what I ask. Fortitude.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

luck turning round

I came home late today, late for me, anyway, at 4:30pm. I work half time, so 7:30 to 4:30 is a grueling day. Working part time has played havoc with my work ethic as well as my bank account. meh. It'll change soon enough if I'm lucky, and if not, well, I enjoy the downtime.

Anyway, I noticed that our front yard has become wildly overgrown. We don't own a lawn mower anymore, and we pay a guy to mow, but he's been crazy busy with his other job lately, and so hasn't gotten around to us. I do like the meadow effect of the yard all filled up with clover and dandelions and forget-me-nots, though, and so it's really no problem. We have so much clover that the grass was fragrant, and I decided to look around for bees. 20 minutes yielded one bee. One bee in a yard that should have been buzzing audibly. Was it just the wrong time of day? Or is (and I do believe that this is more likely) colony collapse syndrome hitting them hard here? Sad.

I did find a four-leaf clover, though, which made me happy. P suggests that finding one on Cinco de Mayo is extra lucky. I hope so. I did not win the $266 million lottery last night, but maybe today things are turning around...

Last entry, I promised you fibery goodness, and I intend to deliver. I have really been enjoying spinning different types of fiber on the Louet, and I was determined to buy myself a good cross-section of fun fiber to play with. I had a bit of a budget, and a bit of a space concern, so I truly didn't go crazy (did I?) with it, but I think I found some fun stuff:
I was totally seduced by these shiny happy colors at the Ivy Brambles booth. Merino, soft, fragrant and with the irresistable name: "Impatiens". Sometimes I look at this pic and think it looks like clown guts, but I think it will be fun to spin up. I think I'm going to use this to try this fractal spinning technique I've been reading about. There are lots of examples and discussions of it on Ravelry and if you google "fractal spinning" a lot of blog entries come up, so I'm feeling inspired.

Here's some 80/20 Blueface Leicester/silk from Carolina Homespun. I fell in love with the color and feel of this lovely stuff. It's so shiny and soft. I'm currently spinning it up, and while I like it a lot, it isn't as easy to spin as the pure BFL I've spun up earlier. The silk makes it a little slicker and I find myself swinging between spinning fairy hair and sportweight singles. Getting some consistency is a challenge. I'll ply it up, so it won't be a huge deal; I'm finding that plying, while a bit boring, is vastly improving the appearance of my efforts.

I wanted some undyed, more natural wool, so I got some Coopworth roving from Carolina, as well. I like this pretty brown. I've been reading Clara Parke's "The Knitter's Book of Wool" about the different sheepy breeds and qualities of wool, and learned that this breed was developed by crossing Border Leicester and Romney sheep. The natural colored ones are allowed to be registered in the USA, but in Australia and NZ only white ones are allowed. I'm told it's easy to spin, and good for outerwear.


Some Merino/silk from Ellen's Half-Pint Farm. I'm completely smitten by these gothy colors. I had been browsing a display of Socks that Rock yarn, and had fallen quite in love with the Raven Clan colors, but had resisted buying any sock yarn for my stash. When I saw this roving, I couldn't resist. I also got a wee bag of firestar shiny glittery stuff to spin in with it.

My husband is working round the clock, these days, as his office is handling wildlife refuge issues for the Gulf oil spill, right now. Reports are grim, and sad, as oil reached land, finally today, on some islands where brown pelicans are nesting. The pelicans had recently been removed from the Endangered Species list, because they'd been doing so much better, after nearly dying out, several years ago. Very sad, this spill, and a little surreal, right now.
***ETA: Correction: Oil has reached land, but has not been seen on the islands where the pelicans are actually nesting! That is good news!

I leave you with my current favorite Avett Brothers song. This changes from day to day, but today it's Perfect Space.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

green things and a Stitches report

Lots going on around here. Work has been intense, and as much as my job is not my dream job, it does occupy my time and my mind. I have nothing lined up for next year yet, and it's starting to grind on me, although my common sense side reminds me that I have NEVER, EVER gotten a job for the next school year before July, and so I'd better strap on my waiting shoes and stop bellyaching about this little blip in my employment life. While arguably happy not to think about repeating this year's job again, I do appreciate the paycheck and the freedom that part time employment brings. meh. Onward and upward.

I have been working faithfully on the NRN Central Park Hoodie, and am done with the back and nearly one front. This is an easy, soothing knit. The Jo Sharp Silkroad Aran Tweed is a joy, soft, rustic and the greyish yellow (grellow?) is pretty. I'm hoping that I chose the right size to make; I've heard all kinds of things about how this pattern runs small, but I do know this yarn grows a little bit, and I am so gun shy after knitting up Ariann and having it grow into such gigantic proportions. Ariann is frogged, by the way. My sister came down for Stitches South and graciously frogged it and skeined it up. It's been packed off to our friend Niki, as a gift. Niki is a pink fiend, and a relatively new knitter. I will not be defeated by this pattern, and have some yarn in stash that is slated for Ariann Redux, but it's not gonna happen right now. But CPH WAS the perfect antidote for being burned by a tricksy pattern, I gotta say. Here's an older pic of the progress:
It's full-on spring here, with our woods gone green, and more pollen than you can shake a stick at. Every day, something new is blooming and changing, and the weather swings wildly from mid 80's to low 60's. I felt a mosquito the other day, but they aren't back in force yet. Lots of new green things in my house, these days, too.
I took advantage of the Webs spring sale to stash some pretty green Berocco Ultra Alpaca. I have never used this yarn, and am not so knowledgeable about the ways of alpaca, but I love the peaty green color and am pretty dazzled by its softness, too.

A new plant we've acquired, as well; a kind of sword fern. Note the new little baby fiddleheads down in the center of the cluster.

So, as I said, my sis flew down so we could go to Stitches South here in Atlanta. We had a great time. I took a class, "Complete from the Top Down" taught by Barry Klein, the owner of Trendsetter Yarns, and who is one of the top ten men in knitting according to Knitty. He was a great teacher, and the class was terrific. We worked on a little top down sweater. I didn't get very far, but I learned a lot about increasing, decreasing and raglan shaping, which are things that have confused me, in the past, as I've blindly followed patterns without much understanding. Stitches was generally a joy, though my wallet is considerably lighter, after a lot of shopping for spinning fiber. The fiber purchases will be blogged later, as they deserve their own attention. It was fun to see the "faces" of knitbloglandia at Stitches. I finally met and chatted with the lovely Rachael and bought her book. I also spoke with Carrieoke and saw her adorable baby, though it was really just the top of his head, as he was snugly wrapped and sound asleep. Team Ravelry was out and about and handing out Ravelry buttons. I bought a few notions; Kollage square dpns, stitch markers, needle tips and a skein of Euroflax linen that was priced so low that I couldn't walk away from it, especially seeing the Ilene bag my sis was making.

Today is my last day off from an unusual 4 day weekend. Sorry to see it end.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

spring's promise delivered

I've been feeling a bit prickly, the past few days, disappointed in Spring's wimpy weather so far. Things seem to be turning around, though, and it's supposed to be unseasonably warm - even in the 80's, the rest of the week. I'm looking forward to it; I've got some new little shade plants to put out. Today I planted some new hellebores, which I don't expect to do much, as I got them out late. Tomorrow, hostas, lungworts and cyclamen bulbs. All this perennial planting and bulb growing is sort of a distraction to me from my real mission, which is figuring out to do with 1/2 an acre of dirt and shade. I think I need to subdivide it into bedded areas which I'll fence off from the dogs, at least temporarily, and try and establish some shade-tolerant groundcover. It feels overwhelming.

We had some tequila, limes and oranges leftover from a tequila-lime chicken dish that P. made last week. I made a drink, using the 3-2-1 Formula: 3 parts tequila, (1.5oz) 2 parts lime juice,(1 oz) and one part (1/2 oz) Cointreau. A sort of margarita, though I didn't salt the glass. Extremely yummy and sippable. I'm going to make another one, this weekend, adding in fresh squeezed orange juice in addition to the limes. Gotta figure out the proportions for this new drink, though.


On Ravelry, I'm in a group for soap and dishcloth swapping. I like the idea of swapping yarn and knitted things, but most swaps I've checked out have impossibly high spending requirements, and too many rules. This group runs a periodic swap that involves sending someone a knitted washcloth, and a bar of soap. Nothing more, nothing less...a $10 maximum spending limit. I knitted this cloth for my partner:
My swappee sent me this: I love the butterflies and the soap, a deliciously grapefruit-lily scented one, is handmade from a North Carolina Cherokee Indian village. It's currently scenting my stash of laceweight yarn, til my current shower soap runs out. The swappiness was a thrill. It's been just a drop in the bucket of cool stuff that's been coming in the mail, lately; a wheelwarming gift of some blue-faced leicester roving from Opal, my Stitches South registration... not to mention the spinning fibers I've been ordering. Here's a peek at the last of the lilac n' lemon romney drafted up and ready to spin: and a look at some of the singles on the bobbin. I spun it all up and plied it. Seems to be a light worsted weight. I think it looks like marshmallow peeps. So seasonal.

Is anyone else as ridiculously happy as I am about the upcoming remake of Clash of the Titans? "Release the krakon" is our new household phrase for letting Cricket outside in the mornings.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

a gratuitous blog

Whoo-eee, the blogging mojo, it has not arisen in a coon's age. I've been working (something about writing 45 narrative report cards just turns the brain to jelly) and cooking (scratch pancakes, carnitas, whole wheat scones, kale chips...) and spinning up a storm on the louet, which is still nameless. Nevertheless, in spite of no writing, there has been some sporadic knitting. Here is a progress shot of Talia, who is finished, now, except for the picking up stitches and knitting the edging of the armholes, which for some reason, is a process that scares me. I have a hard time doing this in a pretty way, and even though I believe in the forgiveness of black, fuzzy yarn, I keep putting it off. For a person described as brave, I am kinda chicken like that.
This is a fun little knit. The Lamb's Pride is one of my favorite yarns to work with, even though it sheds nasty mohair all over the place. It is just about the perfect worsted single. If I could spin a single this pretty, I'd just plotz with joy.

P and I have both been cooking with all our hearts, of late. Even though more complex things have been made, my old standby of doing veg on the grill is still making its appearance. I made a sort of asian marinade for these things; mirin, shoyu, grated ginger, garlic and sesame oil. A great foil for the portobello slices.


Spring is here, and our 30's and 40's have turned into 50's and 60's, with an occasional heavenly dose of 70 degrees. I feel myself coming back to life, with the return of the sun, though Georgia is rainier than I'd like. Is it the year? Or is this the Seattle of the South that no one ever mentioned to me? P and I both agreed that after this rainy, rainy winter, we realized that all our talk of moving to Portland was just talk, and that we'd just collapse in sodden entropy in such a steadily gray and rainy place. oy.

I leave you with a recipe for something I've recently been experimenting with, the kale chip. I took a bunch of dinosaur (tuscan, lacinato, black...its names are many) kale leaves, and carved out the thick central rib, so the leaf became like a long "V" shape. Then I put the leaves in a bowl and poured a couple Tbsp. of olive oil on them, a splash of cider vinegar, and a good toss of sea salt. Using my fingers, I massaged each leaf with the oil mixture, so they were quite coated. I spread 'em out on parchment paper on a baking sheet and stuck 'em in a 300 degree oven for about 15 minutes, til they became crispy. Took 'em out and consumed while they were still warm and chip-like. YUM. I love cooked kale, and didn't really need an excuse to eat it, but these salty, vinegary, crispy treats are my new obsession. Great with a cocktail, or just as an emotional eating alternative to the Ben n' Jerry's, if you need variety in your diet! I think you can do it with regular curly kale, though it might be more challenging to get the ribs out, and get them nicely coated with the oil. I think I could also do them on the grill, too, but it might require more vigilance and temperature tweaking.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

spin sugar spin

It's the end of my spring break, which of course, is the saddest thing. We took a long (too long!) road trip up to VA, to visit my mom. 350 miles is too far to drive in one day on rather boring highways, with 2 antsy dogs. Thank the goddess for Starbucks and the Avett Brothers! Which isn't feel-good music at all, resulting in our 9pm arrival at my mom's all kinda glum, not because of a bad drive, or lack of joy in seeing her, but because of the twists and turns of "I and Love and You". Ah, well, it was nice to get out into the country, again, anyway. We went to church the next morning for a dedication service. My family was donating some projection equipment in memory of dada. Nice to be back in the old home area, running into high school friends, distant relatives and folk whose names I couldn't tell you, but whose faces are indelibly engraved upon my childhood memory.

So, weirdness, in VA... We grew up kind of out in the boonies, and wildlife abounds around the house. Deer, fox, possums, skunks, snakes, raccoons, the occasional bobcat, you name it. Anyway, it being spring, it was the mating season for skunks, otherwise known, in the Virginia vernacular, as "polecats." They are nocturnal, and every night, about 10pm, they'd come out, and do whatever it is they do, the main thing being distributing their scent all around the house, our cars, and the general surrounds. I do not remember this phenomenon, growing up; the story is, that our across-the-road neighbors, who operate a cat rescue of sorts, have managed to attract the polecats with all the catfood laying around. Nice... but not so much. Especially with 2 prey-driven dogs who needed to be walked. Somehow, we managed to avoid being sprayed, and each morning, the smell would be either very faint, or gone. My mom says this goes on through the early spring.

Otherwise, the time was spent hanging out, knitting, reading the thoroughly absorbing "Angels and Demons," watching the Oscars and playing frisbee with the dogs, and just catching up with my ma and her adventures. Somehow, in one of the endless frisbee games, Crick managed to slice open his foot on some unidentified sharp object. It was across the pad of a hind paw, in a place that was impossible for stitches, so he's on antibiotics and instructions to keep it clean and dry. Once back in GA, we were greeted with the usual 3-day downpour, thus necessitating the purchase of these: Little nylon and leather booties called "Muttluks" are just darling, and kind of a pain to put on. It took him a few minutes to learn to walk in them, he kept raising his feet really high in a hilarious prancing motion. The cut is healing, and once our weather dries out again, he can go barefoot once more outside. Apparently, paw pad wounds take a while to heal up. He seems unfazed by it, and it was only by the distressing tracks of blood all over the house that we even found out he'd been hurt.

I joined Chelsea in a slacker's knitalong of the Noro stripey scarf, a la Jared Flood. Here's my own effort.
I am using 2 colorways of Silk Garden: #84 and #47. Not sure how I feel about the way they are meshing, but that's hardly the point, with Noro, is it? Chelsea is farther along that I am, because she was a Noro virgin, and so entranced by the everchanging dazzlement. Jaded Noro whore that I am, I am slogging along at my usual crawl.It was called a slacker's knitalong, due to the lack of rules and deadlines, much akin to our Icarus knitalong. I like this approach, as I am invariably the last horse across the finish line. Still, the Noro moves one right along. This may use up all the Silk Garden in my stash! Not counting the yarn I'll gain from frogging my Klaralund, which I've fallen out of love with, while not falling out of love with the pretty green colorway.

Hawkheart is pushing through the final throes of wrapping up her American Life, to begin the Costa Rican Life, and sent me her spinning wheel; a rehoming of sorts. She used to be a spinner, long before we became friends, but had gotten away from it in recent years. We became friends, teaching together at my first school job, back in the early 90's, sharing passions for dogs, reptiles, birds, tarot, sushi, bicycling, aquariums...but incredibly, not the fiber arts. I knew the wheel was coming, eventually, but didn't expect it quite so soon, but I welcomed it with open arms, nevertheless...

A Louet S10, made in 1987, and still working like a charm. Quiet, with the exception of a tiny, endearing squeak, which I will try and track down, and smooth to spin. I might add here that I have spun on a wheel exactly two times before this. Once, my freshman year in college, for about 5 minutes, and once at Opal's, where she very patiently taught me not to be afraid of the wheel, and not to cry when all I could spin was tight little coils of the Novelty Yarn from Hell. Opal has been the spinning enabler in my life, first getting me hooked on the gateway drug of spindling, and then moving me on to harder stuff. And now the pretty Louet, nameless, thus far, occupies the clamcave, and is happily munching up my modest little fiber stash.

Things I've learned... colonial top is easier to spin than the corriedale I have. I am getting a callus on my fingers from drafting. I don't know if this is to be expected, or if I'm exercising some kind of death grip that isn't really necessary for the process. I am not spinning big scary coils anymore, and am actually starting to have some fun with the whole thing. Here's a progress shot:

Next up, tomorrow or later this week...some kitchen adventures and another WIP!

sorting hat

For Barb and Chris...

The sorting hat says that I belong in Ravenclaw!




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Said Ravenclaw, "We'll teach those whose intelligence is surest."


Ravenclaw students tend to be clever, witty, intelligent, and knowledgeable.
Notable residents include Cho Chang and Padma Patil (objects of Harry and Ron's affections), and Luna Lovegood (daughter of The Quibbler magazine's editor).





Take the most scientific Harry Potter
Quiz
ever created.

Get Sorted Now!



My Ravenclaw sisters. A supposedly very "scientific" quiz. Lots of questions, too! Like taking the Harry Potter Myers-Briggs. Yeesh.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Snow and self-betterment.

I think our season might be turning a corner. A pagan I used to practice with, Michael, celebrated a ritual with us that he called Vita! In Vita! attention was given to awakening the trees in the garden and surrounding woods, by striking them firmly, yet lovingly, on their trunks with decorated staves and sticks. It was a fun ritual, and usually performed in mid-to-late February, about the time that the maple sap starts to flow. I feel like it's time for Vita! right now, as our days are ever so slightly more light, and longer, I'm seeing new birds around and everyone seems to be singing a new song outside. Today it got up into the 50's. I can safely say that I think I have survived this winter, though there may be yet more to come.

We had our snow last Friday, about 3 1/2 inches here in Chamblee. It was spectacular. This is a pic of the woods across the street from our house. I love how beech trees look in winter, and how they don't seem to lose their papery leaves until the new buds push them off.


The view from the Clamcave window out into the backyard, the woods and the woodpile:

Ella loves cold weather, and will stay outside in falling snow until it piles up on her back and head. She also has been known to lay down in it.

This is Cricket's second snow. He had a good time in this one, and actually was seen frolicking in it. The first snow, he would hurry outside, do his business and race back in, but this time around, he relaxed a little bit. It looks like he's catching snowflakes on his tongue in this pic.


So I am caught in Spring Fever's thrall, and have big plans for enjoying the weekend's supposed 50's and possible 60's weather. I'm going to take my bike out for a ride, and enjoy the sun. I'm trying, somewhat vainly, to regain lost ground in my Ravelympics race...I havent knit in 3 days, due mostly to having too many math papers and tests to grade, catching up on lost sleep, yoga, and perhaps the most critical reason...disgruntlement at having lost my current favorite stitch marker, a red "maneki neko" lucky cat stitch marker that was given me by Opal. I lost the damn thing in the depths of our leather recliner chair, and it refuses to give it up! I turned the chair upside down, on both sides, I shook it, I dug around in it, to no avail. This chair, so comfortable, is all scarred, ripped and a little bit falling apart, but we love it so. It has also eaten quite a number of row counters, countless dpn's, stitch markers, highlighters, and a small fortune in pocket change over the years. It has consumed cell phones, iPods and car keys, and mercifully regurgitated those last critical items back up. But alas, the red lucky cat is not to be seen. I have other stitch markers. I'm just bitter, I guess. That this all happened at 1 am on Monday night is also part of the disgruntlement. I guess that's actually Tuesday morning. I had a long weekend off work, and so was being all crazy with bedtimes, in my Olympic zeal.

Nevertheless, I'm determined to get back up on the knitting horse tonight, and try and crank out some more rows on Talia. I'm enjoying the knit; I like the Lamb's Pride yarn, and really love the pattern, so I'm motivated. I doubt I'll medal. But it was a good way to get me started and jazzed up about a project.

Another project I've been working on is the photographing and uploading of my big scary stash onto Ravelry. I'm about 1/3 of the way through that project right now, and am kind of enjoying it. Seeing it all up there makes me realize that I really have no business buying yarn, like ever again in this lifetime. At least with it all up online, I won't have to go diving into it to contemplate future projects, though there's nothing like fondling one's yarn to get the motivation going...I have my sister to thank for all this stash documentation; she started putting hers up, and in true sibling rival fashion (I'll do it if you'll do it) I had to get in on the action.

The sleep project continues with some success. I feel better. I have fallen off the wagon a little bit on the weekends, but make up for it with a nap, and am usually back in bed by 10 on school nights. I haven't had a significant headache in a while. I've cut waaaay back on sugar, too, and carbs in general, and that's helping a lot, too, I'm sure. But I wonder when the compulsion to stay up til 1am or the impulsive desire to eat cupcakes goes away? I can put myself in bed at a decent hour. I note that I feel better, think more clearly, am less cranky and achey, but I still want to stay up late...I guess it's a life pattern, and 40-something years of nocturnal tendencies don't disappear in the space of a month. We won't even analyze the cupcake thing.

My husband used to humorously describe my permanent student status/gym-going/good habit-seeking as "self-betterment." I feel like I'm in some kind of sweet spot for considering options for self-betterment, these days. I know it's a newish moon, and Chinese New Year, and that Mercury has gone direct again. So I'm riding this happy energy of the lengthening days. Could be a function of only being partially employed, though the job feels like it has totally exploded all over my spare time. In a flush of enthusiasm over making positive changes in my life, I went and took myself off Facebook for the duration of Lent, too. That can only be a good thing. I'm missing it, but more like missing it as a thing to do, a compulsion, not necessarily as a thing that brings me pleasure (like a cupcake). I didn't give up blog reading, or Ravel-ing. A girl's gotta have some pleasures in her life... I love Facebook for connecting with old friends and keeping myself amused, but have recently just been blown away by how much time I was spending on it, and by how I was tipping over into potential meaningless drama. Time to get some distance.

For Chelsea: My tomato soup recipe comes from here. I'm going to make more tonight.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Waiting for the white stuff.


You may remember, if you are as old as me, those bumper stickers that people used to have back in the 70's, that simply said "Frodo lives!" Usually on the back of old volvos, driving around funky towns like Davis, Asheville or Hilo... maybe because I'm teetering on the brink of Ravelympics, about to knit something for the Lord of the Rings fandom's Team Middle Earth, or because I'm planning my long-awaited party of a Lord of the Rings reread, but I kept thinking of the phrase "Ariann lives!!" this morning as I continued to dither about how big to actually make her collar, as I still have a bit o' the yarn left. Anyway, my feelings of being strangled and consumed by this sweater have lessened somewhat.

We area all sitting around waiting for a "big" dose of winter weather here in Atlanta, as it's calling for up to 2 inches of snow to dump in the metro area in the next 24 hours. I am astounded and gobsmacked by the walloping that DC and surrounds got, in the big snOMG event last week and before. I'm even kinda over being jealous, as that much weather, repeated that many times, just ceases to be any fun for anyone. I cancelled a trip up to the Olde Country today, as my mom's driveway is reportedly a sheet of black ice, and snow is piled up everywhere around there, too. I'm a little sad, but far less stressed than I would have been, had I been trundling up the road for that visit. I'm a bit sick of winter, here, but if it's gonna stick around, at least bring me some o' that white stuff!!

This week has been parent-teacher conferences at my school, and sweet baby Jebus, were they ever grueling! Most parents were lovely, but doing the meetings (45 of them) at a round table with other teachers, and pretty much back-to-back for 2 days straight, took any voyeuristic joy out of seeing just how far the apples were falling from the trees. There's only so many times I can hear myself saying the same damn things over and over again, and listening to my coworkers do this, too, just made me want to scream. The few crazies we saw, though, were buffered by having the whole team at the table, which was good. We were also able to have our boss call us into (ahem) "meetings" if the conferences were anticipated to be potentially too long. I left work yesterday at 4:30, feeling like I needed to take my brain out of my head and scrub it. Mercifully, a 2 hour nap and a nice yoga class full of forward bends took care of some of that chatter in my head, and what was left was dispatched by a tall, cold Dos Equis draft and the 2 hour premier of the new season of "Survivor: Heroes vs Villains." Now I have a 5 day weekend beginning, so I'm ever so relaxed and happy.

I've been contemplating a severe break from the internets, at least temporarily. I blog rarely, and so taking a break wouldn't really effect this site, here, but I've been looking back on the past 15 years or so, and remembering the days when I felt like I had time to tackle refinishing big pieces of furniture, paint rooms in my house, bicycle 40 miles, go to the gym, keep a clean house, garden a bit, take fun day trips and cook ambitious things like souffles and empanadas. Funny, it turns out all this stuff was going on back in my pre-Facebook/Ravelry/long bloglines mindless internet timewasting era. Imagine that! I actually have some "gotta do" type projects that involve the internets; job applications, photographing and uploading the prodigious stash to Ravelry, Those things, however, do not involve hours of idle chatter on Facebook and surfing Rav for potential projects that I'll never get around to knitting because I'm online so damn much, goofing around. I need to get some balance, here!!

Trying to figure out how this will look, what the parameters will be, can I manage it informally, or do there need to be strict things like the use of applications like Leechblocker and Freedom software put into practice. I kinda think that might help. Anyway, stay tuned for more on this. Or less.

I'm off, now, to bring in a load of firewood for the evening's fireside knitting, and to contemplate dinner (I'm thinking homemade tomato soup) and some housecleaning.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

ten things



Got the inspiration for this post from Lolly and decided to give it a try.

1. I am prone to insomnia, and have always been a little protective of my sleep; I get headachy and a bit crazy really quickly, upon sleep deprivation. My summer and entire early fall was affected by irregular sleep patterns, and I'm only just now getting back on trac. This year, in 2010, I am making a serious effort to get 7.5 hours per night. I'm about a week into Project Z, as I'm calling it, and it's going well, except for having to fight the temptation to stay up watching late night tv, and hanging out with my husband, who remains a confirmed night owl. I'm following the experiment going on over at Mason-Dixon Knitting, as Ann tries the same thing. Mostly I'm noticing that I DO have more energy in the morning, I haven't had a migraine in a week, and that I'm waking up several times a night and remembering dreams; I must be awakening upon the end of REM cycles? Going to bed early is complicated, though, and involves some planning. Last night, I totally thought I'd blown it, because I got sucked into watching a show on tv about Hoarding, and didn't go to bed til 11. So I re-set my alarm for 7am, and got roughly a good night's sleep... oh yeah, my computer isn't allowed to be in the bedroom after 8pm. I am usually (if a week's worth of sleep practice can be counted as usual) on my bed by 9:45, now.

2. I am fascinated by, and a little afraid of colorwork, in knitting. My knitting resolution this year (besides that monogamy thing) is to try to knit some colorwork. I've got Fake Isle and
Selbu Modern queued up to try, later this winter, and hope to cut my colorwork teeth on some cute hats. My knitting group is kicking around the idea of doing a colorwork knit along in the coming months.

3. I'm a bit of a phone phobe, and would rather email than call people. The huge exception to this rule is with my sister. We text some, but talk a couple times a week; long rambling conversations that usually take place when we're multitasking. Of late, we've been discussing knitting, a lot, and domestic challenges. Last night's random ramble took place in the grocery store, as I was desperately searching for Boboli crusts. Probably I would have been more efficient at finding them, had I not been involved in this babbling on the phone.

4. I adore cooked greens. Seriously, my favorite food, and I think the frequency of them in my diet compensates, somehow, for some of the sugar, animal fats and alcohol that also appear in there. Bitter greens just make me happy. Stir-fried with garlic and red pepper and a squeeze of lemon juice or mojo sauce, tossed in pasta, scrambled into eggs...yum. I think I might have weirded my family out a wee bit, when I served them on Christmas day. I've got a huge bag of collards in the fridge as we speak, just waiting to be cooked up with some black-eyed peas and cornbread. I'd say it's my Southern heritage coming out, but I didn't really grow up eating them in any huge amount, but it is definitely a passion in my kitchen.

5. After years of owning dogs (nearly 12!) and my readers know what a fervent dog geek I am, I have to say, I don't care for dog parks. Part of it is having a dog who is stressed out and snarky with other dogs his size, and who frankly regards little dogs as prey items, but another part of it is just that I see too many irresponsible owners, fights happening (or waiting to happen) and they are not for me, nor my dogs, both of whom went to dog parks regularly, in their time. I occasionally will take Ella, who enjoys a walk-through and meeting and greeting other dogs, though she does not play with them, usually, and still obsesses over frisbees more than her own species. I have also used them to work with Cricket on training issues, just outside their perimeter, or even in the park on a longline, but by and large, I avoid them.

6. I love thrift shopping, but dislike the smell of the thrift store. My finds get immediately washed and rinsed with a liberal dose of lavender oil, upon arrival home. I have not done as much thrifting in Atlanta as I would have liked to, thus far, and need to rectify that situation. Maybe today...

7. Yoga has made me more conscientious about pedicures, even if I give them to myself. The time spent looking at my feet has made me appreciate a nicely polished toenail. In decidedly non-yogic fashion, a topic of conversation in my current yoga class, these days, is comparing various toenail polishes. I didn't start it, honestly. Not sure what B.K.S. Iyengar would have to say about it.

8. Ella sleeps in our bed with us, but she always, always waits for us to give the "go hup" command to jump up on the bed. Cricket doesn't sleep in the bed at night, though he is allowed to lounge on the bed until bedtime. He's too big, is a complete space hog, snores loudly, and his presence provokes too much middle-of-the-night growling and grumbling, and watchdogginess from the cranky Ella who needs her beauty sleep. He cheerfully goes to his crate after the last trip outside, and is rewarded with a biscuit. I grew up sleeping with dogs in the bed, so it seems a normal thing.

9. What started me on the path to knitting, was the purely emotional purchase of a big bag of old knitting needles, at a yard sale in Davis, CA. My friends' housemate was moving to back Denmark and he was getting rid of all his stuff. I was perusing through the tables of his worldly goods, and saw that he was selling his deceased mother's knitting supplies. Mostly needles, and a few skeins of yarn. It made me really sad to think that this part of her legacy in life was just going to some stranger... though I didn't know her. The needles were the old Susan Bates colored aluminum straight needles, in different sizes, and I was thrilled by how pretty they were. The yarn was nondescript, acrylic mostly, with a ball of grey wool. I bought it all for about a dollar, and promptly stashed it off in my house, not to be touched for 3 years or so. Later, my friend Nora and I decided we'd teach ourselves to knit. I broke out the needles; big long pink #8's, and the ball of dark grey wool, which reminded me of Ella's fur so much that I used to pretend that it had been spun from her clippings. I don't use those needles much anymore; I prefer my Denise circulars, or the Lantern Moon straights, so I passed some of them on to my sis, when she was teaching herself to knit. I kept the dpns, though, and the stitch holders, and sometimes think of that Danish lady who used them so long ago to knit her son's sweaters.

10. In 5th grade, I had a kind of mean teacher. I used to ask a lot of questions about what we were going to do next, why things were the way they were, how things worked, etc. One day, she said "Kim, you're really nosy." in front of the class. I was only a little embarrassed, because I'd heard from my grandma that being nosy was kind of rude, and I knew I DID ask a lot of questions... but later, at a parent-teacher conference, she told my mom that I was "really inquisitive" and spun it out as kind of a neutral thing, if not a downright good trait. I never liked her much and felt sorry for her daughter, who was my age, for having to deal with such a snappish mom. A wall of orchids at the Atlanta Botanical Garden (the botgard, as we call it) which has a big orchid show going on at the moment.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

monogamy and continued cold snap

It's crackly, crispy cold outside. Temps ranging from early morning teens up to the high 20's the past few days. Cold for which I am entirely unprepared. Needless to say, my mom's Christmas gift of silk thermal underwear was a gloriously timely thing, and I'm layering like crazy. I had convinced myself that this is an unusual phenomenon in GA, but apparently we get a really cold snap every year or so, and people just seem to suffer bad amnesia or something. Nevertheless, the sunshine remains encouraging.

And, and, and...it snowed Thursday! Off and on all day, and into the night, all told, about an inch. Dramatic ice on the roads and sidewalks. My camera battery has died and I haven't taken any pics, so you'll have to take my word for it. Best of all, we got a snow day from school!! For an inch of snow? This is a crazy new world, but hey, I do not complain about impromptu days off, ever.

Knitting continues apace...I knit a few smalls, around Christmas: the Star Crossed Slouchy Beret, which I didn't make so slouchy, and don't have a pic of thus far. But it's getting heavy wear. This is a pattern that seems to be viral; I was first made aware of it by my sis, and then my knitter Jenn has been rocking it hard this winter, as well. You know how I am for viral knits. I also knit Toasty, out of my fetishized stash of Noro Cash Iroha.
They are very warm, but I fear they're taking a beating...funny, I've knit a few sets of fingerless mitts, and ended up giving them all way. Toasty is for me. There's also a pattern on that site for Toast, a simple stockinette armwarmer, which I've been tempted to knit, in some luxe cozy yarn, say something long that runs from wrist to bicep, so I could simply continue wearing my uniform of short sleeved t-shirt through these bitter months... I love the Toasty!!

And now for a topic that has never been dear to my heart... monogamy. Gosh, I love that old '80's video of George Michael's "I Want Your Sex" where he, in all his bisexual gorgeousness, writes "MONOGAMY" across the sleeping lover's back in red lipstick. Don't tell me you can resist George in that fleeting moment... but monogamy? Always a toughie for me. Either I wasn't or my boyfriend of the moment wasn't, and it varied, back in the day. Till I took those wedding vows, and now it's a non-issue. I am a monogamous woman. But as a knitter? Never has happened. I have always knit all over the place, on a dozen different projects. But lately, it has seemed, through the knitting of the smalls, and the good examples of friends, who seem to knit monogamously on one project ongoing, and finish lots of stuff on a regular basis, that monogamy is the way to go... So for 2010, I am experimenting with knitting monogamy. Of course this means that upon completing Star-Crossed and Toasty, that I return to my girlfriend, Pink Ariann. So it's all Ariann, all the time. I'm halfway through sleeve #2, now, and intend to be joining that sleeve and finishing this sweater up in the near future, because there are NO DISTRACTIONS on the horizon, if you can believe that. I put the Central Park Hoodie away, and frogged the damn Simple Yet Dullsville shawl, and have started to attend to my Ravelry queue a little more conscientiously. My plan is to finish Ariann, then work on CPH feverishly, til the Olympics. Then, I actually am going to cheat a bit, as I'm planning Talia for Ravelympics. I'm knitting on Team Middle Earth, from the Lord of the Rings Fan Forum on Ravelry, and I figured a vest was both a reasonable and useful project. I'm making it in the recommended Lamb's Pride yarn, which I love.

So, knitting monogamy... just an experiment, but still, stranger things have happened. I leave you with a blog recommendation: Use Real Butter, which I've been cooking from and enjoying for a couple of months now, and a couple of pics from my walk with Ella last weekend, before the snow grabbed us: Doesn't this pine bark look like bricks?
This same Nandina bush has appeared earlier this fall in this blog. It's got a decidedly Holiday feel to it, now, though.