Monday, December 24, 2012

Happy Holidays!

My family does their big Christmas gig on Christmas Eve, and tomorrow morning we're leaving our house at 5:30 a.m. to catch an 8 a.m. flight down to Florida!  I'm not going to update on the snowflakes until later (oooh boy...) so for now, I'll simply wish everyone that reads a very Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! 

Monday, December 17, 2012

Finals Week

It's the beginning of finals week for Lake Superior College, and it's finals week for me in more than one way.
Sunday was the Holiday Concert for the dance studio I teach at, and I had all of my tap dancers onstage at once to perform the "Shim Sham Shimmy"!

Ages ranged from 4th grade through adult tappers, which was fantastic to see.  I love a big tap dance number, and this is the one time a year I can have everyone do one at once.  I participated as well- you can see me in my red dress and Whoville-like hat on the far right.
This week is the final week of dance before a two week break, which gives me some much-needed time to do some hardcore choreographing and lesson planning.
Besides dance, this is my final week for grading.  My students will be turning in their final research papers on Tuesday, and I'll be spending the rest of the week grading and submitting grades.  Today I'll be grading any late work my students turn in before the barrage begins tomorrow.
This is also my final week to really nail all the snowflake backgrounds before I head off on my vacation.  I'm 7 3/4 snowflake backgrounds in- a little over halfway, and behind schedule (surprise surprise).  Scott's brother and girlfriend came down to visit us this weekend, and besides a trip to see "The Hobbit" in theaters (really well done, in my opinion!), Kim and I were able to hang out and knit while the boys did their boy things together.

It was fantastic to get Kim addicted to knitting with squishy and amazing yarn, and we had fun absorbing girl movies and hanging out!
I'm going to work my butt off on getting as much of these snowflakes done as possible over the next week.

My goal is to complete ALL the snowflake backgrounds (ALL- seriously.  Really.) before I head down to Florida.  This is mostly because after I return, I'll have only two days to graft the snowflakes together, knit the giant edging on, and block the whole thing before the wedding on January 5th.  So the only way to avoid a complete breakdown is to have the bulk of the work finished NOW.  I'm not going to think about what would happen if the snowflakes weren't finished, because that's not an option, time-wise.  Really.  (Well, it is if I don't sleep, but that's probably not a great idea...)
Between the snowflakes, dance, packing for FL, and grading finals, I'm going to have my hands very full.  Here's crossing my fingers that I can get everything DONE before Sunday.
Who knew that finals week would still be this stressful?

Thursday, December 13, 2012


Sunday was a great day for the Snowflake Shawl.  I got caught up to where I wanted to be, and I even picked up the stitches for the sixth snowflake background, saving me a headache when I started on it the next night.
Then Monday came.  A doctor's appointment in the morning, Christmas shopping, then work to teach, and straight to dance at night.  I had hopes I would get halfway through the sixth snowflake, but I didn't even touch it when I staggered in the door at 10 pm after 4 hours of dance.
Tuesday night was open- in theory, I would have completed my grading, and would only be distracted by a delicious burrito dinner with Scott.  Instead, after dinner we snuggled under Christmas lights with Big Bang Theory and a couple of beers (for him) and a mug of hot chocolate and Bailey's (for me).  We slowed down, got to actually talk a bit, laughed, and enjoyed each other's company without the distractions of homework or grading or anything else.  It was very much needed, considering how busy we've both been with finals week.  But again- no snowflakes.
I was going to do some last night- really, I was!  Yoga was finished by 7, I was home and showered by 7:40, and instead... I choreographed.  I went on Pinterest.  I played with the cats.  Then at 10:30, I went in to bed and read Anna Karenina.  I was completely and utterly unproductive in relation to the snowflakes.  No- I failed at the snowflakes (Even typing that gives me the willies- I don't fail anything if I can help it, but I need to be harsh in these desperate times).
Even worse, that puts me farther behind.  I need to have 4 more snowflake backgrounds done by Sunday night to stay on target for my timeline.  A timeline that was made for my own benefit, so when I get back from Florida I'm not in total snowflake hell for the 3 days prior to Kim's wedding (3 days in which I'm supposed to graft the snowflakes and knit the edging of the shawl, so 3 days that are already planned out).
I push my students to make timelines, deadlines, and work with them- and then I guiltily don't follow my own (good) advice for my own projects.  Fail.
I'm home from dance tonight around 9:15.  I will stick in Gilmore Girls (my ultimate weapon for intense knitting) and knock out at least half of the next snowflake before bed.  My will be done.  Come ye, come ye.    Determination of steel.
All right, enough of that.
But seriously.  It has to happen.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Winter Hath Dumpeth

It was a busy end of the week for me.  After dance, working on grading the presentations for my comp students, and a stint up to Tofte to visit Scott's Mom for some Tofte Christmas fun, it was nice to get back on Saturday night to get groceries and prepare ourselves for the promised snow.

We woke up to the entire world glowing white in the morning, and coffee in a warm mug with pajamas and slippers never felt so good.  While it continued to snow the entire day, we holed up in our little apartment, happy to occasionally meet up for hot chocolate throughout the day.  
Scott's projects and homework and studying for the last week of class and finals week kept him busy all day, while I enjoyed the calm before my storm of end-of-semester grading that looms for me very soon.  I was able to really dig in to the snowflake shawl project, finishing the not-so-nice fourth snowflake background and pounding out the fifth before I called it a night.
Albert kept me company the entire day yesterday, snuggling right up next to me and interrupting his naps only for food.  The difficult life of a kitten...
I'm (barely) on schedule for getting these backgrounds knit.  I have to make four this week and four next week in order to have all of the backgrounds done before I can leave for a week in Florida with a good conscience.  Today after teaching I'll cast on for the sixth background, and hopefully get nice and far on that before running off to dance.  
I couldn't help but to stop and lay them all out this morning for a happy little admiration session.  Trying to imagine a little over twice as many snowflakes laid out gave me a scary urgency feeling in my stomach, so I put them away and tried not to think about the looming deadline...

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

A Snowflake's Chance in Hell

Snowflakes have been super slow going, which is incredibly not good.  Part of the problem is the amount of grading that has increased as the semester heats up to a close:

but part of it is the incredible amount of time I'm having to spend on each snowflake, which is not a transportable project with seven needles and white wool that must stay pristine.
Luckily, I have an aid as I knit.  Scott and I finally took the plunge to buy a TV, and it couldn't have come at a better time!

I've been hoping to knock off several snowflakes a week since Thanksgiving, but I've only just finished the third of 13- 10 more need backgrounds.  Each snowflake has a different background depending on the snowflake, which can result in confusion, frustration, swearing, and in the case of last night- napping.  Luckily, I finished up the third one this morning and kept going, determined to make headway.
Thus, tonight I attempted to knit the background of snowflake 4.  It seemed to be going well, until I got to Round 9, close to the halfway point.
Attempted to knit the first time- looked stupid.  Pulled it out.
Knit it again picking up different points.  Looked worse.  Pulled it out.
Laid snowflake out on the couch to concur best points and sides of pointy snowflake sides to knit in to background.  Knit according to plan.  Realized it looked even worse.  Ripped it out.
Knit it for the fourth time the same way I knit it the first time, hoping it would look much better compared to times 2 and 3.
Made hot chocolate, stretched, sat back down.
Knit again with one of the few combinations left I haven't tried.  This time, it twisted the knitting around.  Pulled back yet again.
Added Bailey's to hot chocolate.
Tried to use pattern to go backwards and figure out ideal grafting of snowflake to background.  Thought I had it figured out.  Knit.  Didn't even get halfway before realizing not only was it twisting again, but the snowflake was bunching up.  Pulled back.
At this point I went to Scott's man cave, fuming.
"It's not working!  I hate it all!  The stupid snowflake with the stupid little points with the stupid needles all over and it has to stay white and I need to take it in the backyard and burn it all!"
He raised his eyebrows, then asked, "Will anyone but you know it's wrong?"
"Probably not, but I'll know!  I'll know and it'll drive me nuts!"
He hugged me, but I could feel him smiling (smirking, probably.  Not being helpful).  He pulled me back and asked, "Why don't you just do the way that looks the best, and stay with that?  It's one snowflake."
All I could do was shake my head at him, walk out, and try and make another plan of attack while wishing I had more Bailey's to refill my hot chocolate.
Silly boy.  Only one snowflake?
I'll get it right.
I'm just going to take an 8 hour nap first.  Maybe the solution will come to me then.

If there's a little bonfire behind my house late tonight, don't be surprised.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

2 Down...

After an evening of The Two Towers and some morning Gilmore Girls, the second snowflake background is checked off and the third was immediately cast on to prevent any procrastination.  The knitting itself isn't actually that hard, it's just crazy fiddly with 7 needles (6 on each of the snowflake sides) and trying to decipher exactly where I'm supposed to pick up what stitches when.

Albert approves of the progress (and he didn't even try to eat the yarn- just play with the needles)!
After hot yoga this evening, I'll put in The Return of the King and begin pounding on the third snowflake.  This gives me hope that I just might finish this beast by Christmas...

Monday, November 26, 2012

Turkey Break

It was fantastic to get a 4-day break over Thanksgiving.  I was starting to feel a little overwhelmed with both school and dance, and taking few days to play catch-up helped a lot.  I got to see a lot of awesome family members:

eat some pumpkin pie:

play some very intense bingo:

and watch the first snow of the year start to blanket the ground!

We stayed in the cities through Friday evening before heading back to Duluth.  Right away I made a giant to-do list, filled with grading, knitting, cleaning, decorating, and choreographing.
As always, my eyes were bigger than my stomach.  Just this morning I finished the last of my latest round of paper grading:

That was a huge weight on my shoulders, as I wanted to get these papers back ASAP to help my students with their final paper re-writes.  Plus it leaves more time to knit in the evenings.
Unfortunately, my knitting did not fare as well as I had hoped.  I was aiming to complete one snowflake background per day over break, in order to stay ahead of the schedule I'd given myself.  That was far-fetched crazy hopeful of me.  In reality, I was only able to work on the background for snowflake 2 last night after I had graded papers until my eyes felt crossed all day.

I'm hoping to finish it up tonight... in between class and dance... or... when I'm supposed to be sleeping?  Tis the season for more coffee...
I attempted to work on the Kleio shawl's braid section on the drive down to the cities since the snowflake shawl is not travel-friendly, and got mildly disgruntled frustrated with the 200-something stitches of twisting and untwisting.

I can't believe that over two hours of knitting equates to barely a 1/4 an inch with this braid.  What's disheartening is that it's not the only time I have to make a braid on this shawl- I believe it's on there a total of 3 times- BAH!  This isn't even taking into account the fact that the second purple color had some ::ahem:: kitten chew points when Maeby got in to my yarn.  She chewed through at least one part of the yarn I hit while twisting, which didn't help the process.  Maybe this particular knit should be saved for my trip to Florida...
I'm close to halfway through untwisting it, and I'm going to take it to work to be part of my "lunch knitting" for when my brain needs a break.  This is also a Christmas present.  I need to not schedule knitting two giant shawl projects to be due right around the same time if I want to keep my sanity...
I'll be squeezing in choreographing this morning before heading in to work.  I'm not going to think about when I can get the snowflake knitting in today.  I'll just assume it's going to happen, mostly because it needs to.  Urgh...

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Wait... When?

Last weekend, I traveled down to the cities to hang out with college friends for a tea party-themed Bridal Shower.  Specifically, the Bridal Shower for my good friend Kim.

Yes, the Kim I'm making the Snowflake Shawl for.
We had a great time hanging out, talking, and playing the traditional ridiculous bridal shower games.  When cleaning up the house after it was over, I got to hear some wedding details about the wedding coming up in just over a month.

It wasn't until the drive home that I realized exactly what this meant.
The wedding is on January 5th.  That means I have just about 6 weeks to finish the backgrounds for all the snowflakes, graft them together, and knit the border around the whole shebang.  I have to knit 3-4 backgrounds a week to give myself enough time to do the finishing details around Christmas, especially since I'll be traveling down to visit my parents in Florida for a week at Christmas.
This is, of course, ignoring the fact that I have papers to grade, choreographing to do, not to mention climbing, yoga, and running.
I have one snowflake done:

but got a little stuck on the second one.
Sometimes I keep knitting, because I think it'll be fine, but actually it's more like an amoeba and looks stupid and then... and then...

then I finally had to pull it all out to start over.

This makes it a little more difficult to be efficient.
That may be an (empty) glass of wine next to my knitting.
Let the snowflake craziness begin.
Uffda... what have I got myself into?

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Rainy Adventures

I feel like time has been speeding up as Thanksgiving looms its head next week.  On the school front, I'm trying to be weeks ahead in lesson planning, leaving more time for grading during my office hours to empty evenings for choreographing and knitting.  I know Christmas is still over a month away, but the Snowflake Shawl for Kim's wedding is proving to be more ::ahem:: difficult than I anticipated, and if I want to get that AND the Kleio shawl done in the next month with my sanity intact, extreme planning must be executed.  Good thing I'm ridiculously Type-A in my planning (and drink a lot of coffee to boot).  I had a fight with the background of the second snowflake on Tuesday.  We had a night to cool off, and we're hopefully going to reconcile tonight over hot chocolate and a movie.  Hopefully.  :)
In between grading, grading, and more grading last weekend, I was able to take a small field trip to one of our tourist attractions along the North Shore for a friend's birthday celebration!

Once a year, Split Rock Lighthouse is lit up to commemorate the sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald.  The sailor's names are read, the bell tolls, and visitors can go up in the lighthouse and check it out while it's lit.

The night we went was gross- chilly, gusty, raining, and not the best time to take tours.  When we walked around, however, the bad weather added to the ambiance of the event, and seeing the lighthouse beam lighting up the sheets of blowing rain was actually really spectacular!

Unfortunately, it was difficult to capture the awesomeness with my camera, so these shots will have to suffice.  This is a situation where I can say I was glad I saw it in person vs. a video or in a picture. :)

We were able to wander around the site for awhile before heading to the campground for vegetarian chili (NOM!), cake, and good talk.  It was a nice break from the grading, and a great chance to relax with friends.
On the home front, my tiny pushes towards actually "decorating" my apartment have taken a step forward!  Awhile back, I used 4 canvases to explode some paint all over, and after weeks of thinking Scott would put them up, I scrounged up a hammer and nails, did a bunch of measurements and calculations, and we now have my own original artwork hanging above our bed!

I used black and maroon/purple acrylic paint, gobbed and strewn around the canvas.  I like it, and it helps to fill the giant wall space above our bed.
All right, back to the grind.  Until later...

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Gross November Weekend

As the slog to the end of the semester begins, I'm actually pretty happy that the weather outside has turned gross.  This weekend is supposed to be rain, temps barely above freezing, and snow is supposed to start tomorrow when the temp drops.

I think Albert has the right idea!
As the wind rattles my old windows, I've taken over our kitchen table to grade all weekend.

It's a little slow going so far, but I'm hoping to get through this entire batch of papers by tomorrow.  There's no class on Monday for Veteran's Day, so I'd love a day on Monday to relax, catch up on Big Bang Theory, do some choreographing, and get some hardcore knitting time in.

I've (finally) finished the garter part of the Kleio shawl, and I'm on to the lace and braids.  I've never done estonian braids on a knitting project, so this will be a learning experience.  A good one- right?
I'm also hoping to get at least one more background of the Snowflake Shawl done this weekend.  I had a startling realization when I looked at the calender and saw Kim's wedding was barely two months away.  Two months to finish this monstrous shawl- uffda!  I'm pretending it's fine.  It'll get done- plenty of time.  Right?
Goal: to blog on Monday with pictures of tons of knitting done, all the grading done, and still have all my sanity.
We'll see how that goes...

Wednesday, October 31, 2012


Halloween is by far my favorite holiday, and I always make sure to do it up in style!
On Sunday we went to the Glensheen Mansion, our local haunted historic turn-of-the-century spooky place, for their "Glensheen Spooktacular".

Paths around the mansion were lined with hundreds of pumpkins, and guests are led through the house where there are musicians screeching on violins and actors hacking at pumpkins and being creepy.  You end up in front of the mansion, where fires are lit and smores are passed out by the workers.

Scott and I both grabbed Pumpkin coffees before checking it out, and it was really fun to spend time with each other while we got to check it out!
Last night Scott and I took some time to carve pumpkins, putting on "Sleepy Hallow" in the background as our scary movie of choice.
Albert really wanted to help the entire time:

and he displayed a new love for pumpkin when he ate all the little bits that fell his way!  Silly kitten.
I forgot to grab all the special little pumpkin-carving knives when I left Berkshire for the new place, so our designs had to be simple enough to carve with a giant kitchen knife and a butter knife.

I think we did fairly well! :)
I'm about to head off to LSC dressed in a black skirt, knee-high black and orange striped socks, T-strap black heels, and an orange pumpkin shirt.  You better believe I'm excited to be decked out for class and meetings today!
Tonight will be handing out candy, grading, and then knitting to "The Nightmare Before Christmas".  I know I'm pretty excited. :)

Friday, October 26, 2012

First Snow and an FO!

It started yesterday morning, and continued heavily through the rest of the afternoon.

The wind was cold and unforgiving, and the ground isn't frozen yet for accumulation, but the flakes were big and fluffy and beautiful and perfect for a (quick) dance outside!
It's been pretty disgusting the last week or so outside, so having the cold rain turn to snow was a relief.  The snow has stopped for now, but if it starts up this weekend, I'll happily look up from grading these:
and refill my coffee mug to warm my hands!
I finally took some time to grab pictures with my latest Christmas present conquest- the Jamaican Me Crazy Mittens!
I love how these turned out- the colors are bright and perfect for the recipient, and the fair isle allows for extra warmth.
Pattern: Pearl Chain Mittens (free) from handepande
Yarn: Dale of Norway's Dalegorn Falk in Black, Yellow, and Green
Needles: Size 1 bamboo
Modifications:  I took out one row of "pearls" in the cuff, and instead of having all of the pearls connect, I made them separate little circles.  I thought this was a little more reminiscent of the Jamaican flag, which is the recipient's home country!
Worst Part: Definitely keeping all three colors from tangling numerous times.  I almost had second mitten syndrome with these, but one long drive in the car fixed that. 
Best Part:  This one is easy- I know it's going to be her face when she opens them up!  She has the same type of loud laugh as me, which will hopefully come out when she opens these up.  I'm excited to give them to her!
Besides a large pile of papers to grade, I'm heading down to the cities this weekend for a family Celebration of Life.  It'll be nice to see the family again, despite the circumstances.  I'm hoping to get a fair ways on the Kleio shawl, since that's much more transportable than Kim's wedding shawl.  I'll have to start reserving a night a week (at least) to knit a snowflake background, since that particular deadline is creeping up on me...

Monday, October 22, 2012

A2 Tendon Tweak = Snowflakes!

I was happily climbing hard on Friday, trying a 5.11c out on top rope before leading it, when halfway up the route something in my left hand twinged.
I finished the route, was lowered, and flexed my hand open and closed a few times.  I knew instantly what was wrong- I had tweaked my tendon.  It didn't swell up much, but there was enough residual pain that I knew it was more than just a one-day event.
For a climber, tweaking your tendon is one of those hard-to-avoid injuries.  In order to fully recover, I'm going to take a solid 2-3 weeks off of climbing (ALL climbing) before doing a careful rehab, including free weights, rice workouts, and a specific climbing regiment once I get back on the wall.  I've been going pretty hard for awhile now, so this is probably my body's way of telling me to give it a small break for a little bit.  (Just from climbing- still running 3 days a week and teaching dance!)
Therefore, this weekend was filled with some much-needed knitting time.
I finished the mittens for my friend's Christmas gift, and they're drying on my radiator as we speak after a much-needed blocking.

My "finished" post with them will air once they dry and I have some time to grab pictures.  Through this project, I've realized that I'm not very consistent at fair isle.  This realization is kind of a bummer since it's a really cool knitting style that works well for gifts.  I'll keep trying, but even in this project my second mitten was a lot looser than the first, and I had to do some stretching of the mitten to get them to be (mostly) the same size.
I also finally started the backgrounds to the snowflakes!  Within an evening and a morning, snowflake number one went from this:

to this:

I LOVE it so far, but it's a pretty tedious project that requires full attention.  Working with 7 needles requires a large amount of patience and picking up dropped stitches without losing it too much.  The fragile Malabrigo lace has broken on me twice already, but I've resolved to stay completely Zen about it or I might lose my mind.
After all, I have 12 more to do.  Then grafting them all together (somehow).
Perhaps the biggest problem is that having wine while trying to do this particular project is a bad idea...

Friday, October 19, 2012


When you're a student, MEA is usually associated with studying for Midterms, parent-teacher conferences, and a chance to spend the two days off working furiously on projects and homework and catching up (or getting ahead) on studying and reading.
Now, on the other side of the spectrum, I'm finally enjoying my first MEA break as a teacher.  While my students have the time off to work on a paper due next week, I'm going to truly enjoy at least one of my days off of classes with some relaxation, climbing, coffee, and me-time.

I spent yesterday in my office, getting ahead in lesson planning and copying all the handouts I'll need for all of next week.  My desk is clean, my papers are (finally) in order, and I'm ready for a exceedingly busy week next week.
For today, though, I'm going to make some pumpkin-chai cookies, go for a long relaxing run outside, bike down to VE and climb hard for a few hours, then hang out with guests staying at our little apartment this weekend.  It's my first full day not worrying about choreographing, grading, or whether I finished lesson planning for Monday and Tuesday.
For this teacher, MEA really is a break.  :)

I'm hoping to finish the pair of mittens for a friend today.  All it needs is the top to be closed, a thumb, and a little blocking love to ease the fair isle into place.  My Christmas knitting list is still pretty big (including Kim's Wedding Shawl, which I'll hopefully start the backgrounds for the snowflakes this weekend) but these mittens will be my third of 6 total Christmas presents- well on my way.  It helps to start in August, I suppose...

I also am working steadily on the Kleio shawl for another Christmas present.  I made the recipient the Eleanor cowl last year, and I know that she liked the lace stuff, so I figured a warm shawl with pretty lace details would be perfect.  It'll be great project knitting for riding in the car down to the cities next weekend, and I'll hopefully be to the Latvian braid and lace section for my awesome girl's weekend with H and S the first weekend in November.  That project is my travel-only project, since I need my home time to work on the Snowflake Shawl.
My coffee mug is empty, so I'm off to fill up and start getting some stuff DONE around this apartment.  I LOVE MEA!! :)