Sunday, April 28, 2013

Competition Weekend!

A huge thank you to those of you that sent me notes or comments about being newly anemic- it's good to know I'm not the only one out there!  Since the doc told me on Friday that I can continue to do active stuff as long as I know my limits, I've been testing those limits a little as the week wrapped up.  Namely, dancing for three hours straight on Thursday night with my girls in prep for another dance competition this weekend!

I'm definitely the most proud of my Silver Line girls- they performed last night, got a "High Gold" with their score, received a Judge's Choice Special Performance Award, and got the 4th overall high score in the "Teen Rising Star" category against not just tap, but jazz dances, ballet, etc!  I couldn't be more proud of my Newsies. :)
Between hanging out between dances and my Faculty Duty Day at my college on Friday, I'm in the home stretch on the Artist Mitts!

Just a couple more hours will finish my first Christmas gift of the year.  A rainy forecast tonight after the competition will hopefully let me get these done.  I also (finally) finished the middle colorwork section of the Dude sweater, putting me back in to single-color super-easy territory.

I feel like this project will go much quicker with the back done- it is by far the largest and most awkward piece of all of them to knit, so I'm aiming to have this sweater DONE by early June.  Just in time that the recipient won't need something giant and heavy and crazy-warm.  :)
My solo tap students are performing this evening at the competition, and then I can relax for a week before gearing up all my dance classes for the recital at the beginning of June.  Also, only two weeks of class left at LSC, then finals week... it's amazing how fast the end of the year goes!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013


Things move at a breakneck speed for me, especially at this time of year.  I had the first of two dance competitions last weekend, with another one coming up this weekend, which means lots of time in the studio and backstage to get my dancers ready.  It's also three weeks from the end of the semester, and it feels like my grading load has doubled between daily work I have my students do, plus rounds of papers to grade and conferences and staff duties as the semester closes.
I've mentioned in the past month or so of entries that lately I've been feeling a little off- getting winded climbing only one lap on the hueco wall, not able to do much cardio without getting dizzy or tired, and having to take naps after really long days at work.  I kept attributing it to maybe having the flu, or lapsing because I don't take it easy, but kept getting discouraged when I couldn't even run a mile when I'm supposed to be training for a half-marathon.  I finally went in to see what the heck was going on, and was stunned to discover that I have a ridiculously low iron and hemoglobin count- enough that I'm Anemic, needing to take Iron supplements and take it easy with my training.  Basically, anemia means that my blood doesn't have enough iron to carry oxygen to my muscles (and carbon dioxide away) when I'm doing anything more than regular walking.  The nurse was actually flabbergasted that my vitals were as good as they were- someone with my levels of hemoglobin would normally be given a blood transfusion upon reaching Urgent Care or the ER!  I'm going in on Friday to figure out why I'm so off, but it's actually a huge relief to discover that there's a real reason behind being tired all the time.  And now that I know what's wrong, it can be fixed.
I'm still hoping that I can figure out a way to train and run the Half Marathon in June, despite the interruption in my training schedule.  I have a lot of projects and climbing goals this summer as well, so being an anemic athlete means changing my diet and really monitoring what I eat (more kelp, beets, and seafood!) plus balancing and figuring out the best way to train, since right now walking up more than one flight of stairs gets me winded.
This past weekend, I traveled down to the cities for the International Dance Challenge Competition, and got some food inspiration and help from some old awesome college friends!

The competition was most of the day on Saturday, taking place in the State Theater.  I was really excited to be backstage there- I've seen a few bands there, including Florence & the Machine and Death Cab for Cutie.  Checking out the view from the wings was fantastic, and I know my dancers were thrilled to dance in such a beautiful place!

Our studio and my dances did really well, and I'm excited for a chance to do even better at the Duluth competition this weekend!  After it was over, I got picked up by Lust and Jeff, two amazing friends from college and old roommates!

Lust and Jeff are going vegan, which was actually really helpful because when they heard of my newly diagnosed issue, they helped by cooking me some delicious pad thai and showing me how to make spring rolls, which I can line with healthy veggies and throw in some meat for iron!

I also got a fair bit of knitting done on the Artist Mitts both on the way down and back, and hopefully with Friday's duty day at LSC for faculty, I can maaaaaybe squeeze out an FO on these.  I do have some more cowls to blog about finishing, but that's for another post.  Along with my latest finished read.
For now, back to grading!

Friday, April 19, 2013

Broken Record

Well, we didn't know if we could do it.  The competition was fierce!  The end was closing in!  But- Duluth managed to break the record for snowfall in April with a snowstorm that blew through the last few days!
I barely made it home from dance rehearsal last night, and took a quick picture of the snow falling fast and thick before I swooped inside to warmth and hot chocolate.

When I woke up this morning (first to a text at 5 am telling me LSC classes were cancelled for the day, then later for real), I was greeted with 22 inches of fresh powder.

It took awhile to dig my car out to get anywhere, and from what the radio tells me, we're going to get another few inches with another system coming in later this weekend.

I guess spring isn't happening in Duluth this year.  I shouldn't have had that thought about taking my avalanche shovel out of my car... maybe that's what cursed it...
Off to the Twin Cities this weekend for the first dance competition of the year for my studio!  Ample time in the car and on a bus on the way home means lots of knitting, hopefully... :)

Friday, April 12, 2013

April Snow Day

It was what Winnie-the-Pooh would call a "blustery day" when I headed off to LSC yesterday morning.  The sky was dark and foreboding and the wind was ready to slam unattended car doors shut or whip poorly-balanced lunches right out of your hand.  I taught my morning class, and noted as I walked back to my office just before 11 am that no snow was falling yet.
Twenty minutes later, two of my afternoon students stopped by my office and asked if I was planning on cancelling classes.  "I doubt it.  This storm will probably just blow over with barely any accumulation." They exchanged glances, then asked if I had looked outside lately.  When I assured them I had, barely a half hour ago, they offered that I should "look again".
We walked out of my windowless office to the giant 2-story window viewing the back parking lot.

I was flabbergasted- it was a complete white-out.  I couldn't even see the first row of cars.  I turned to my students, mildly taken aback, and got out, "Well, looks like it wouldn't be a bad idea to cancel class..."
The official call was made by the college 30 minutes later that afternoon classes were cancelled, and my normally 10-minute commute down the hill took me almost an hour with detours around accidents and slow driving.  The closest I was able to park ABE to my house was a block down, since despite all my best efforts (and a good 15 minutes where I was completely blocking 20th avenue as ABE decided to do a 360 degree pinwheel as he kind of floated down the snowy road).  Despite all that, I was able to get home safe and sound, ready to hole up for the evening with some popcorn, reading, movies, and knitting.  After all, isn't that what snow days are for?

I finished the first mitt and cast on for the second of the Artist Mitts.  I'm pretty excited to get my first of the Christmas presents out of the way- though not telling the recipient about these is going to be mildly difficult. :)
Oh- and I got some crap from one of my readers (hi, Dad!) that I don't post a lot about what I'm reading.  I do update the "What I'm Reading" and "What I've Read" sidebar any time I finish or start a book, and lately I've had quite a few going at once!

I've been on a small memoir kick lately, which is a bit different than my normal reading list.  I started with "Taking Flight" by my long-time friend Sarah Solmonson, a short novel on her father's death from a plane crash.  We haven't really had a long, hashed out conversation about that part of her life- I became friends with her at the end of high school, and she didn't talk about it much then- so it was fascinating to read about that entire side of her history.  I moved from there to "Wild", by Cheryl Stranded, a memoir about Cheryl dealing with her mother's death by hiking the Pacific Crest Trail through California and Oregon.  As a hiker and camper, it was funny to read the parts (especially when she set out) about carrying a heavy pack with way too much gear, coping with being a solo woman on the trail, and her thought process as she slogged mile after mile.  Right now I'm about halfway through Steph Davis's new book "Learning to Fly", the sequel to one of my favorite climbing memoirs of all time.  It's a great read for a climber, and she spends a lot of time laying out her choices to BASE jump, climb free solo style (without a rope), and how her vigorous outdoor pursuits helped her through an exceedingly difficult personal time in her life.
To balance those heavy memoirs, I've been blasting through the Hunger Games trilogy (again), along with finally get a thorough read of my "Training for Climbing" book and my "Half-Marathon Training Guide For Women" (because that's happening soon...).  I consider all these memoirs a break from getting through my Book Challenge list, which I'll write about more later.

Today isn't much better than yesterday- the snow hasn't stopped yet, the wind has barely died down at all since yesterday, and all the schools in Duluth are cancelled.  I'm going to try to be more productive today by deep-cleaning the apartment, getting a bunch of grading done, and getting more projects done around the house, but hopefully by later this afternoon I'll be either driving down to VE to climb or snowshoeing down.  I can only be cooped up inside for so long. :)

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

FO: Mentor Cowl

When someone does an absolute bang-up job on helping me out, I love to thank them with something homemade.  For my first year as a full-fledged English teacher, my college assigned me a mentor to help with any questions I had about the day-to-day nuances and goings-on.  She teaches in the English department as well, and has been an incredible help to me as I stumbled through lesson planning and figuring out administration stuff all at the same time.  If I had questions, she was happy to meet with me, and even gave me her own assignments and examples so I didn't feel quite so lost in the woods.
To thank her, I went to my favorite squishy yarn as my way of saying "Thank you"- with a cowl. :)

Pattern: Marian, by Jane Richmond (I told you I like her stuff!)
Yarn: Squishy Malabrigo Rasta- super-chunky-thick-crazy stuff.  It's close to the size of my pinky in diameter.  Just ridiculous.  In the color "Oxido"- great variation of colors, as is all Malabrigo stuff :)
Needles: Size 17- so large that it was awkward to knit at first.

Timeline: I knit this up on April 8th.  That's it.  Cast on in the morning and knit for like a half hour, then graded for 8 hours, finished the cowl up with CSI after evening climbing and dinner.  No problem.
Worst Part:  I originally started this pattern with some leftover Cascade Eco Wool that I had lying around- the brown looked like the dirty snow outside, so I knew the only way I could finish was if I changed the wool up.  Knitting halfway through the cowl at first wasn't the best way to find this out, but at least it was only halfway...

Best Part: Getting a knit done in one evening.  I am actually borrowing the needles from a friend of mine, and I'm tempted to buy my own set of the crazy-huge needles for more Marian cowls to gift away.  Seriously.  I could knit like 5 Christmas presents in one hardcore day of knitting.  Who wouldn't want to do that?

Oh- see the snow behind me?  We're supposed to get more of that soon.  Probably tonight.
I'm a hardcore Minnesotan, but getting more snow at this time of the year... even I'm getting a little snowed-out.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Craving Spring

I left for work yesterday in drizzling sleet.  While I was inside at the gym, climbers rolling in from outside began by reporting rain, then sleet, then ice pellets, then heavy snow.  I didn't quite believe it, until I clocked out in the afternoon and had to dig my car out from a pile of heavy snow and slush.  The snow didn't stop until close to dark, and left a new layer of white on the ground.  SUPER LAME!!  I'm so ready for spring.  I can't run outside on slippery slush, climbing can be too wet, and it's gray and brown and colorless outside.  I need bright colors and sunlight and a break from all this blah.
Along the same lines, I noticed that I've been less than intrigued by my knitting lately.  The Dude feels like a big heavy chore, the Artist Mitts are pretty but not holding my attention, and I haven't touched the cowl I'm knitting for my mentor in weeks.  This morning, I spread out all the knits in a row, and realized what the problem was- all of my WIPs were various shades of brown or orange- the same droll colors as outside.
Don't get me wrong- I love the autumn colors of the Artist Mitts.  The yarn is pretty, squishy... and exactly the color of all the dead stuff outside.  Same with the Dude Sweater.

Then I noticed one more thing- everything I'm knitting right now is for someone else.  Yes, I love knitting for friends and family, but one of my goals this year was to make more things for myself.
So- what to do to fix this?
Make a trip to the yarn store. :)

First thing's first- I frogged the mentor cowl in the brown Cascade yarn.  I got a skein of really pretty Malabrigo instead- brighter browns and some greens instead of the straight brown that looked like the dirty snow.  I'll cast on for that later tonight.
I also got two skeins of lace weight yarn to go along with a skein of pretty white merino yarn with sparkles that's been in my stash for a couple of months now.

I originally got the Suri Merino during a girl's weekend with my old high school friends Heather and Sarah while hanging out in Excelsior, and I've been waiting for the right time and project to pull it out.  With a luminescent silver and a bright blue skein of Findley yarn, the stars have aligned.  All together, they are going to become a Color Affection shawl- the shawl that took over Ravelry, and is hopefully going to help brighten my spring!  The lace weight will be perfect for a light shawl in the spring and summer, plus the garter stitch is great for a mindless knit to carry around with me!
The forecast for the week looks pretty grim, but luckily I have some pretty yarn to combat it.  :)
Now to keep plowing through the never-ending pile of grading...

Friday, April 5, 2013


I'm really liking this whole Fridays-off thing with my teaching schedule right now.  It gives me more time to get projects done, do some grading, and still hang out with the kittens.  I have a lot of need-to-finish things that are on a schedule- for instance, sewing fringe on parasols for my Platinum tap competition line!

My ladies are dancing to "The Nuttycracker Suite" from the musical Thoroughly Modern Millie, with heels, cute little mint skirts, button-up shirts, and of course, parasols.

I knew the plain white ones needed a little fringe, so my morning was spent with some CSI episodes and coffee while I basted almost 10 yards of beaded fringe on.  Not terribly thrilling, but needed to be done.  And it's gonna look pretty stinkin' cute, in my opinion. :)
The Dude Sweater is slowly but surely coming along.

I'll be happy once I'm out of the stuff I have to concentrate on, and back into solid-color land.  I'm always so worried about any fair isle, because I've had some problems with tension in the past.  A long time ago, I thought fair isle was absolutely the place to go, but as I've done more projects I realized that I enjoy knitting cable and lace much more (good thing, too, or the Snowflake Shawl would have been tossed in a fire bin loooong before its completion).  I'm out the Dude's colors with a pair of fingerless mitts- my (extra) early start on Christmas gifts for 2013.  May as well start now, right?
Speaking of projecting, I have a major project I'm embarking on this week- the 12-week training program for my half-marathon!  I'm signed up, the date is staring at me from a couple months away, and today's run calls for 3 miles.  I'm pretty optimistic, despite the chilly temps.  And the fact that I haven't really run in awhile.  Since, like, October.
::ahem::  ...wish me luck?  :)

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Nursing and Hiking

My break ended with a bang back in to real life.  The last few weeks of the semester were always hectic and rushed for me as a student, and they feel the same way now as a teacher.  Dance is also in full swing, with our first competition in Minneapolis creeping up in a few weekends.  In the middle of all of this, I ended up spending a long Easter weekend in the cities taking care of my brother as he recovered from ACL reconstructive surgery!
We stayed at his girlfriend's apartment, which is probably good, since she cooks.
Really well.

Especially omelettes. :)
She's also incredibly talented artistically, and it was really cool to check out her latest work on the easel!

I got to play with her kitty Raja, a poofball of a cat around the same age as my black kitties at home.

She helped me miss my kitties a little less when she snuggled up next to me on the couch at night, purring away. :)
We basically hung out and helped Kyle when he needed to move around, brought him whatever food he seemed hungry for, and kept him company while he watched several movies and began Arrested Development.

He has to be off his feet for at least 5 days, which doesn't bode well since on day 1 he told us that he was already bored.
I used the time watching movies to get farther on the Dude Sweater, which is over halfway through the harder colorwork on the back.  It took awhile to get used to doing colorwork on the wrong side of the fabric, but I'm finally getting the hang of it and getting in a good groove.  I'll update with some pictures later!
I definitely caught some sort of bug as the week started up again, and felt really out of it the last few days.  Lots of naps and time on the couch cut into grading time.  I finally felt a little better yesterday in the morning, and when my friend Alex let me know that she was in town and looking for an adventure, we set off for an afternoon hike at Gooseberry Falls!

It was a beautifully day, if not a little chilly.  The river was still mostly frozen, but the sections that weren't pulsed with movement.

Most of it was still gloriously frozen, even right next to Lake Superior with waves rolling up to the pier!

I felt great for almost the entire hike, but got chilly quicker than I expected.

Getting in the warm car at the end of the hike felt good, and by the time we rolled back in to Duluth, I was so zonked I ended up crashing on my couch for most of the rest of the evening.  Scott treated me to some stir-fried veggies on quinoa for dinner (gotta love a guy that cooks), and I managed to get through a little bit of grading before heading to bed early.  I'm a little lightheaded today, but I'm still glad I pushed it and got outside.  After all, it's not very often I can get outside on a nice day with a friend!
Lots more projects to end the week and start the weekend, and hopefully I can finally kick whatever has been keeping me zonked.  If I slow down.
::snort:: We'll see how that goes...