Friday, May 29, 2015

FO: Police Box Handwarmers (and other WIP)

I've been getting back in to the groove this week after my time in Florida, and I'm sad (and excited) as we head in to our final week of dance for the year.
This means that I have to have the dancer gifts prepped and ready for classes next week.
With two graduating seniors this year, that means I have two knitted senior gifts, one of which is a pair of Police Box Handwarmers (yes, the fated pair that Maeby sunk her little teeth into).  I cut them and tore them back, and finally fixed the top part of the handwarmer.

Pattern: Police Box Mittens by the brilliant SpillyJane Knits
Yarn: Regia Angora Merino in Cream and Dark Blue- LOVE this yarn for colorwork!
Needles: Bamboo DPNs size 2
Timeframe: February 17th-May28th, 2015

Worst Part: The monstersaurus eating a chunk out and having to spend time redoing it.  Yet another knit destroyed... :(
Best Part: It's going to be her reaction when she opens up the package. :)
I'm furiously trying to finish the U of M socks before next week- that's my major weekend project.
Florida also proved to be a great place- I got the first of my Venga Las Chicas hats finished, and through the brim and beginning of the knot section on the second!

Guys- I LOVE THIS HAT.  I cannot say that enough.  I LOVE THIS HAT!!!  The cable pattern is fantastic, it looks great in the yarn, and it's fast and engaging to knit.
Which is probably a good thing when I have to make four of them.  ::ahem::  This is officially one of my "travel knits" for long car rides or movie nights.
I also finished one of two Camping socks, which I'm hoping to wear on my Boundary Waters trip this summer (because, you know, it's not that warm up in the BWCAW).  :)

It feels really good to finally finish some projects.  I haven't been able to actually finish a project in awhile, and it's a nice feeling of completion to get them done.  I think the trick is to not have six projects going at once.  Things generally get done faster when I only have 1 or 2 "traveling" projects and only 1 "at home" project.
Hmmm... things to think about for the future. :)
For now, I have to finish up the U of M socks, make a couple of ballerina keychains, and plot my end-of-year little gifts for all of my dancers.  :)
Tomorrow- diving adventure!  Stay tuned, folks. :)

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Florida Trip!

The competition showing went amazing on Saturday night.  I helped my student with her hair for pictures on Sunday, and packed up the few pairs of shorts that I owned.
Monday morning, my taxi picked me up at 3:45 am to be at the airport by 4 am.
By noon, I was here:
on the beach in Florida, hanging out with my parents!
It was an incredible week, and a break that I really needed to recharge my batteries.  Not only did I get to hang out with my parents, but we did a ton of fantastic things together!
I won't go in to a long winded post about everything we did, so here's pictures of some of the highlights:
Key West was our first stop, where we started with a gorgeous fancy meal on a private resort island!  As you can see, my Mom and I found some fancy hats to keep the sun out of our eyes.
After, we visited Ernest Hemingway's house!  I'm don't like him, persay, but he's a great American author and I respect his books.  Plus, he has 6-toed cats.  You can't not like a guy that has 6-toed cats. :)
We got to spend time listening to live music and drinking margaritas, enjoying (and slightly warm) in the 90 degree heat. :)
We continued to move up the keys, stopping at the most gorgeous beach I've ever been at- Bahia Honda State Park!
We got to go snorkling that day at Looe Key, where I saw a giant shark, tons of groupers, half of the fish you see in the movie Finding Nemo, and my favorite- a Spotted Eagle Ray!  The ray was HUGE, and watching it glide underwater was incredible!
Sunsets in the keys were gorgeous, and the nights were filled with great talks, hanging with my folks, knitting, and relaxing.
We stopped in Key Largo for a day as well, and went to the Islamorada Dive Center where my MN friend Tony works!
Tony was the one that went on my fated night dive to the Madeira last September before he moved to FL in mid-February.  It worked out well that I got to go diving at the Hens and Chickens Reef while I was there!
Diving in Florida waters was amazing compared to Lake Superior- I didn't have to wear a wetsuit at all, and the wildlife was incredible!  I saw my favorite underwater creature of the trip- a Hawksbill Sea Turtle!! :)
After the keys, we went back to my parent's place in Viera (on the East coast side of FL), where I enjoyed a weekend of relaxing in the comfort of my parents' home.  
We did a long bike ride next to super expensive houses (and let me tell you, 7 miles in 90 degree heat is not an easy feat)...
I learned how to play my parents' favorite new sport, Pickleball (notice how awkward I look- games with paddles are a little difficult for me)...
And I even got to go on a sweet airboat ride through swampy areas that had 1000 gators per square mile!  We did see a gator, but luckily no attacks... ;)
I even got a little knitting done on the trip, which I'll detail in the next post.  :)
I ended my trip the same way I started it- at the beach.
All in all, an amazing week away with two of the most generous and great parents ever. :)  

Saturday, May 16, 2015

May Madness & Dance Gifts

It always blows my mind how fast the end of the school year goes.  I had two weekends in a row of competitions (one of which down in the cities), then right into the week before finals and then finals week, meaning an avalanche of grading for me on top of dance practices and teaching.
I'm going to just give you some photos of the highlights, since it's tough to cover 2 weeks without getting dull.

Pink Panther ladies ready to head on and earn a High Gold in Minneapolis!

Hard-Knock Life ladies just before going onstage to earn their first Platinum, which is amaaazing!

My Tonight girls had a blast onstage, were completely together, and had one of their best performances to date!

Scott snuck a little snack in my bag for me during my long weekend... he's kind of my favorite person ever. :)

My duet girls taking home more high score hardwear and another Platinum for their musical theater duet!

Right after I got back from the competition, I switched into hardcore English Teacher mode.  These were the first round of papers I had to grade in a week.

One of my best college friends (and old roommate) Juliet stopped by for coffee at school with me during finals week!!  Great to catch up with her before she heads back to California!

If you haven't guessed yet, I didn't finish my Ivy League Vest before school finished.  I'm a little bummed out, but honestly I just didn't have the time to devote to a large-scale project like that with everything I had going on. Instead, I wore my stylish apple teacher dress to the final, and worked on the U of M socks while my students typed and fretted away!
I also finished some special dancer gifts for a few of my solo/duet ladies!  I'm giving them out this afternoon, so I think it's officially okay to post them on here now.

I used the Tiny Ballerina pattern to make keychains for my Friendship girls of their characters!
It was finicky and a little bit of a pain, but they turned out beautifully, and I think the girls will love them (I certainly do)!  I had to get a little creative to make the hair look correct, and I embroidered suspenders on the "boy" character and tied a tiny tiny bow tie (which I dotted a little Elmer's glue on so it would hold) to make it look as close as possible.  I think they'll be pleased. :)

I also made one for my solo student Taylor, who is a conductor for her dance!  And yes, that is a conductor's baton glued to her hand.  Bam.  No detail left behind.
I plan on using this pattern to make the head of my studio a ballerina keychain for one of her end-of-year gifts, and it's getting easier the more times that I do it.  The tiny nature means I have to really pay attention, but it's a very satisfying project when done.
I also finished the Police Box Handwarmers for one of my senior solo students, and left them in Kim's room to block on the heater so the cats wouldn't get to them.
Well, Kim came home and left her door slightly cracked when she was out in the living room.
You can guess what happened next.

Yep.
The monster never sleeps.
::sigh::
I'm going to tear them back this afternoon and redo a little bit on them.  So much for giving out all of my gifts today...

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Lots of Competing- OH MY!

We had our third competition this last weekend, and while it was tougher judging, I couldn't have been prouder of my girls!

(My top tap group took a minute after their routine Sunday to go out and take pictures on the pier, since it was super nice out!)
All of my groups placed very well, including special awards on top of their already-good scores, and my Hard-Knock Life girls knocked it out of the park by winning a special judge's award, being category winners for teen tap groups, and second highest overall score for their age group!  BAAAAH proud teacher right here!

My duet ladies did amazing yet again, winning more overall high scores and a judge's special award for excellence.  They're kind of unstoppable!

(These are some of the fantastic people I get to work with!)
It was a fun but exhausting weekend for all of us.  I was at the DECC Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, with a super long day on Saturday (minus running out to get take-out food, it was around 12 hours).  I did get a nice little break on Sunday morning, since I didn't have to be there for our group's Production performance.  I'll see it next weekend and at our special showing mid-May, so I took the morning to do something else awesome- seeing one of my oldest best friends, Sarah, and her adorable little boy Ben!

Sarah lives down next to my old hometown, and for some reason we've had a heckuva time trying to hang out in the last year.  I'm going to completely blame my crazy schedule and my unreliable car situation.  :)  The craziest thing is that when I do get to hang out with her and her family, Ben always doubles in size from the last time I see him.  It's really cool, but also reminds me how fast time flies!

(Look at how big he's getting!  And no, my hair is not that red in real life.  It was weird lighting...)
We had time for hugs and a short walk around the parking lot before he needed to settle down for his lunchtime nap on the drive back to the cities.  I'm excited to hopefully get down and spend at least a dinner or evening at their house in June.  They have a giant backyard with a firepit, and that sounds like the perfect way to hang out with friends on a summer night!
I wish I had knitting to show you from last weekend.  I wish I could take a great picture and say- "Look here, see?  Look at this gorgeous finished project!" Instead, I did 6 rounds on the Police Box Handwarmers.  6. Pitiful.  Luckily I'll have a car ride to do a bit more this weekend...

(Maeby taking a nap on a new-to-us ottoman- awesome new furniture from my aunt!  I'll show more when we get the full set.  We'll having matching furniture in our living room- I'll be a 'real' adult!) :)
I'm right back in to the craziness this week with dance every night to prep for our last competition this weekend.  I'm carpooling down with one of the other teachers on Friday before two full days of dance.  Then, next week, I get my first night off from dance in over 2 weeks (not counting driving Friday!) on Wednesday.  I think I need a full day off from everything sometime soon here- I had a temp around 100 degrees F both last night and the night before, and I've been getting through the day with ibuprofen to keep my fever down and the aches away.  It doesn't help that it's the last two weeks of school, and my papers-to-grade pile is almost as high as Maeby is fat.
Which, as you know, is pretty high. ;)
Super excited for the last performance this weekend- our ladies are going to be amazing!! 
And then-
a little bit of relaxation time.
Well, minus the grading time.
And knitting time.
Because I have a LOT of end-of-year gifts to finish...
SECRET SECRET STUFF OOOOOH MY!!! :-D

Saturday, April 25, 2015

2015 Books, Pt 1

One of my goals for 2015 is to read 40 books.  I'm 1/4th of the way through and still going strong.  In fact, I'm in the middle of about five books right now, but I'm going to focus on my favorites of the first ten that I read this year.

Favorite Fiction: "Bellman & Black" by Diane Setterfield

I was a huge fan of Setterfield's The Thirteenth Tale, her breakout novel.  Bellman and Black wasn't as good as Tale, but it was still my favorite fiction book from the first chunk of books I read.  It had a few families as the main characters, it was a little on the dark side, and it had a little bit of magic in it.   It helps that it was also set in Victorian times, my favorite period.  Setterfield is great at creating characters that you can't help but to root for, even as they spiral into an ultimate demise (spoiler alert?).  Great for reading on rainy days with a cup of tea or coffee.

Favorite Non-fiction: "The Smartest Kids in the World and How They Got That Way" by Amanda Ripley

This year, I'm trying to read a handful of books as part of my professional development as a teacher.  I want to be up-to-date on the evolving world of education, and this book is fantastic for that.  Ripley spends time outlining some of the top superpowers in K-12 education, shifting her focus from overall education to specific things schools do to promote different styles of learning.  She highlights where countries like Finland and South Korea get things right as well as where they get things wrong.  She discusses the evolving atmosphere in our current US education system, including standardized tests, subject matter, grit, parental involvement, and graduation standards.  It was a real eye-opener to look at the best parts of each educational system, and raised a lot of fantastic questions about where the US can go, both in early ed, public schools, and even the first few years of college.  It's a must-read for educators and parents!

I Wanted to Like it More, but Didn't: "The Bell Jar" by Sylvia Plath

Yes, this is touted as one of the greatest coming-of-age stories out there, but Plath's novel just didn't hold the intrigue for me that I wanted it to.  I really enjoy Plath's essays and poetry, but her novel felt- and I wish it didn't- almost juvenile.  It wasn't that it was too simple, it just seemed to me that her main character's demise into the depression that led to her hospitalization seemed a bit abrupt and almost out of place.  I really wanted to enjoy it, but unfortunately it just didn't keep my attention as much as I would have hoped.

I've been leaning towards non-fiction lately, so a lot of the books I'm reading now are in that vein, but hopefully I'll find a good fiction book to enjoy after school is out.  I have to admit, I wasn't terribly impressed with any of the fiction I read at the beginning of this year.  If you have suggestions, let me know! :)  I'm always looking for a good book to read!
Hopefully this intrigues your own reading list!  I'm especially excited for my summer reading to take off; I usually read a book or two a week once I'm done grading papers.
Speaking of which, back to the grind... :)

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Avoidance

Yes, I realize it's been over a week since I posted.
Pretty sure it's mostly because my knitting has slowed down to a crawl.  I don't have much more to show you from the last time I posted pics.  Well, that's not completely true:
I cast on another gift knit for my other senior dancer soloist- a pair of U of M socks for her first year at college next year as a Golden Gopher.

Oops.
The one nice thing?  This is a fantastic travel knit, so it'll hopefully be finished with a trip down to the cities next weekend for our last dance competition.  Car time = lots of knitting time!
There officially are 6 projects that I have listed as WIP on my Ravelry page.  3 of them have deadlines that are looming uncomfortably close, and I haven't actually cast on for the last of my gift knits for dancers yet.
This isn't taking into account the Ivy League Challenge, which might be more of a lofty dream at this point than an actual thing I can accomplish in the next 2 1/2 (??!!!) weeks.  What was I thinking?  Completing an entire fair isle fingering-weight vest in the midst of competition season and the last half of the semester?!
Haha, ooooh boy do I make myself laugh...
Right now I'm aiming at finishing solo and duet gifts before our competition showing, since that's the last time my solo and duet dancers perform. :(  We'll see if that even happens.
In other fun news, school has ramped up like crazy.  I have a stack of papers to grade and only 3 weeks left in the semester.  Luckily, I was assigned a couple of classes for fall semester, and hopefully I get at least one more to help with the whole income thing.  Big changes I'm excited about?  I'll be teaching an online course for the first time ever!  Second big change?

I switched books for my College Comp II class!  While this may seem like a tiny change to some, for a teacher, it's huge.  I've been using the Writer's Reference since I began at LSC.  It's a great reference book, but it doesn't have a lot of engaging readings or templates for writing rhetorically.  Graff's They Say/I Say is a fantastic tool for students to use (hopefully) beyond my class for any discipline, and has a lot of great essays for the students to read and comment on for class exercises throughout the semester in regards to argumentative writing.
Anyhow.
Done nerding out about teacher stuff.  :)
(Gotta have a least a little bit about that once in awhile!)
Oh, and remember that partially dislocated kneecap?

I've graduated to kinesiology tape to support keeping my kneecap in place when doing my regular activities!  Super happy about that.  A week of not climbing and gentler dance made me very antsy.  While I do have to do the tape during more intense activity (basically dance and climbing, which is 6-7 days a week for me), the doc hopes I can wean off of it in a month if I keep up my rehab.  Bam!
Since I had to be gentler last weekend, I did my first Lake Superior dive for the season!

The water was a balmy 36 degrees, and I enjoyed a dive off of the Two Harbors peer with my dive partner Josh!  It was great to get back in the water, get used to my (new to me) drysuit, and get excited for diving in Key Largo with my parents in a couple weeks and wreck diving in Lake Superior this summer!
This weekend is the third of our four dance competitions, so I'll be running around, cheering on my dancers, and maybe even squeezing in a workout at VE during one of my breaks since it's a 5 minute walk from the performance hall.
Hopefully I will have some knitting to show you come Sunday evening...
Hold me to that, please...

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Break Week

Last week was my week off from dance, and I used it to catch up on grading, catch up on lesson planning, switching and cleaning out my clothes closet, and getting more of our house spring-ready.

I was able to visit my family for Easter down in the Twin Cities, which was really fantastic!  Good times, jokes, and awesome food all around.
The only negative bit was that my "new" (15-year old) Xterra that I bought from my aunt (for a super good deal!) decided to just stop on my drive down, so we had to get it towed to my aunt and uncle's house for maintenance.

I'm lucky enough that I know people that can help me fix it for no more than a 6-pack, mostly because they enjoy the fun of fixing it!
I had to take a shuttle back to Duluth, but since Scott and I are used to only having one car, it's not a big deal that the Xterra stays down in the cities for a bit.  That's going to be my trip vehicle this summer, so I'd rather they take awhile to suss out all the issues before I drive it cross-country.

(Coffee curls are essential to good climbing!)
I trained a bunch during the week, especially on the gross and rainy days outside.  I'm getting more and more excited to go climb out at Palisade as the weather warms up and the sun is out more often!
The evenings let me have a little time for knitting.

(The Police Box Handwarmers are nearing completion.)

I started these handwarmers for myself to use in my freezing cold office.  Now that it's warmer, the AC is on, and it feels like the arctic in there...

I've done a little blazing ahead on the Ivy League Vest, but unfortunately I haven't had a ton of time to dedicate to it lately.  That just changed, but I'll get to that in a second.
Last Saturday, I ran in the Fitger's 5K with my friend Celeste!

It was the first time I've had a run since probably fall, so I liked to think of it as a nice little kick in the pants to get going.  I even fixed my running form to be on the balls of my feet, which helped immensely with both how tired I was and my breathing.  I was really psyched to begin running a few times a week to help get rid of the winter chubbs, but then... on Sunday night...

I partially dislocated my kneecap while awkwardly trying to stand up from a squat (super lame).  I got it checked- nothing was torn, so it shouldn't take too long to heal.  I just have to wear a brace for dancing and (light) climbing for a week, and I can't run for probably a week and a half.  My Ortho doctor is also a climber, so she understood that she had to give me exact time frames and perimeters for activity. :)
After that, just PT to strengthen the muscles surrounding my kneecaps, and for at least a month (maybe more) she recommended doing a tape job on my knee so when I do dance and climb and put stress on my knee, the tape can help hold my kneecap in place while the muscles get back to working properly again.
I guess I'll just have to work on upper body this week for training. :)
Oh- and more knitting time in the evenings (when I'm not grading)
Off now to grade papers outside- it's sunny and gorgeous out!  Happy Tuesday! :)