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! :)

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Ribbing and some Trophy Hardware

I'm writing to you after (finally) recovering from lots and lots of dance craziness over the last couple of weekends.  We had our second competition this past weekend, and the amazing dancers at my studio- for lack of a nicer way to say it- crushed it! 

We had a lot of high scores, tons of high overall scores for placements, and my musical theater duet won so many awards and special judges awards and medals that they couldn't hold everything by themselves!

I am incredibly happy with how it all went (there was a lot of screaming, lunges, jazz hands, and me yelling "YEEEEEEEAH!!!" from the sidelines), and I couldn't have been prouder than all of my amazing ladies!  There was definitely huge happy hugs and giant grins for the rest of the night and quite a few days afterward.
We now have a month to prepare for our next competition, and I'm a little happy for a break from the craziness.  I can spend more time breaking down technique, moving sequences around, changing and tweaking choreography (you can bet the girls love that... uffda...), and refining arms before we get up on stage and do it all again.  It's the crazy time of year for being a competition dance teacher (coach?), but I absolutely love it and wouldn't have it any other way!
Despite the craziness of the last week or so, I finished the ribbing section of the Ivy League Vest!

I'm really excited to get on to actual colorwork, since that will be much easier than trying to do a purl in different colors every 4th stitch.  I'd like to send a shoutout to season 2 of Gilmore Girls, which saw me through this particularly finicky portion of the knit.

Hopefully I'll be able to get the first 3 sections of color finished by the time the weekend is over.  I have high aspirations and a month and a half to finish this knit "on time".
In between grading.  And dancing.  And training for outdoor climbing (the chubbs is still prominent..).  And all the gift knits that I've begun to queue that seem reasonable (right now) to finish before June's dance recital.
It'll be fiiiiiiiine... :)

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Let the Ivy League Challenge Begin!

After a crazy weekend, I was excited for Spring Break for my college to start and my days to free up to get a lot of extra work done.  Then, early in the week, this came in the mail:

Considering that the pattern calls for 6 skeins in different colors, I may have gone a tad crazy.
Luckily, gorgeous fingering weight is useful at all times, and I was able to decide on the six colors I'm using for my Ivy League Vest!

After lots of rooting around on Ravelry, I decided on a mix of coffee colors and some purple.  I've been in a purple kick lately, and who wouldn't want to have all the various colors of delicious lattes mixed in?
Plus, when I inevitably spill coffee on myself, it'll blend in a little more.

I was so excited, I cast on right away.  The ribbing is a little fickle with the purl in the contrasting color and changing color every few rows (weaving in the ends on this thing is going to be a nightmare), but it looks really nice so far.

I'm hoping to finish the fickle ribbing before the week is out, since I know I'll be able to cruise a little more once I get into the fair isle.
One of my other spring break projects is prepping my bike for commuting to the studio!

I even got a fancy pannier to hang on the rack, since I don't like wearing a backpack when I'm biking uphill and getting gross.  This will help carry both groceries and dance supplies!
Now that winter is over (and I'm 2 months away from visiting my family in Florida), I need to get back in shape.  While I'm in okay climbing shape, I definitely have a little layer of winter chubbs that I need to get rid of.  I'm hoping that commuting 3-4 days a week to the dance studio will help with that.

Oh, and also eating a little better.  Apparently downing an entire bag of white cheddar popcorn in one sitting isn't the best idea ever (even more so if one can do it 3 nights a week- I mean, what?).  More veggies for this lady. :)
Hopefully by the end of this week I'll be displaying some pretty (finished!) ribbing!  Happy Spring Break, everyone! :)

Sunday, March 15, 2015

FO: Adama Cowl

Sorry for the lack of posts since I finished the hat- it was the crazy midterm week before spring break, plus the last week of practice before the first dance competition of the year!  Today is my first full day off in just over two weeks, and I can't even begin to tell you how nice it will be to get some chores done, go out to lunch with my guy, and relax at night a little. :)
Just because I've been busy doesn't mean I haven't been knitting.  In fact, I finished my Adama Cowl on Friday during my Faculty Development Day for school.  I finished it just in time for Malabrigo March, and I'm super excited for it- it's gorgeous!

Pattern: Adama by Hilary Smith Callis (link goes to pattern Ravelry page)
Yarn: Malabrigo Yarn's Rios, in colorway Lavana
Needles: Size 7 circular bamboo

Timeframe: December 26th, 2014, to March 13th, 2015.  Not bad!
MODS: None, minus the fact that I messed up the stitch count in the lace during the first two lace panels.  Oh well... :)
Worst Part: Nothing, really.  It was a quick knit (when I actually worked on it), so I guess I could have been done sooner.
Best Part: Definitely the yarn.  Malabrigo is delicious in SO MANY WAYS. :)

I was so excited about finishing this project that I wore it during the first dance competition of the year yesterday!

(Two of my tap solo ladies!)
It doesn't really need blocking, and it was the perfect thing to wear over a Tshirt to dress up just a teeny bit and look like a respectable dance teacher.  I'm usually one of the more casual teachers when dressing up at competitions, mostly because we're running around and fixing hair and hairspraying and it's generally a 10-hour day, so I want to be comfortable.  A hand-knit cowl is the perfect way to look a little bit nicer. :)  Plus, the purple ensemble matched the costumes for my oldest group!!

(My lovely duet ladies- Russian versions of Rosie the Riveter!)
The competition yesterday went well- my dances received a lot of 1st and 2nd places in their categories, and it was good for the dancers to get their first "performance" out of the way.  I'm already excited for our next competition next weekend!

(Moments like these are totally normal when you're a dance teacher...)

(My rag-tag orphans for "Hard-Knocked Life"- SO EXCITED for this dance!)

(My amazing senior ladies!  They wowed the crowd with their crazy energy!)
It was an amazing, whirlwind, long day, but it was exhilarating to see the dances we've been working so hard on all year finally up on a stage!
This morning is definitely more quiet, but I'm happy for a teeny bit of down time.  For (just) today, I'm going to finish my morning with a cup of coffee, a library book, and a kitten snuggled on my lap.
It's good to have a day off once in awhile. :)