Saturday, August 31, 2013

End of Week Outing

After teaching my 8 am class ("How to Find Your Research Topic"), my climbing buddy Emily picked me up from school and we rocketed north to hit up Palisade Head.  This was Emily's first time up there, and she got a great taste of my favorite place to climb in Minnesota.
We hit up a lot of the moderate classics, including Bluebells, Rapproachment, and Hidden Treasure.  I ran up Bluebells 3 times- the second two times to check out gear placements and get a good flow to the route to lead it later.

(Emily working the top of Rapproachment)
The day was beautiful, the sun was warm (I ended up with a little sunburn), and there were a lot of local Duluth climbers to chat, hang out with, and cheer on as we all climbed and enjoyed the day!

(Me enjoying a lap on Rapproachment)
Emily and I are either going to go back up to Palisade on Sunday, or stay in Duluth and boulder around the area.  We're tentatively planning a trip down to the Red River Gorge in Kentucky over MEA weekend in October, which means we have 7 weeks to train our butts off for strong fall sends!

I also finished the first Northlady mitten body at the end of the week, and plan on casting on the second soon.  The mittens fit perfectly without the second layer of mitten inside, so I'm contemplating not putting the inner layer in at all for the fear that it will make the mittens too small.  They were knit with such tight gauge that I don't think it will be a huge compromise- the knit is very tight, so they'll still keep in a lot of warmth and (hopefully) the cold and snow out!
One more cup of coffee before starting on weekend chores.  It is Saturday morning, after all...

Thursday, August 29, 2013

First Harvest

Our roma tomatoes are finally ripening...

part of dinner tonight- sliced roma tomatoes with salt, pepper, and a little bit of basil on top.  Nom nom... :)

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

First Week

I'm about halfway done with my first week of school, and it's been a little overwhelming so far.  Going from the relaxing vibes of summer, where the time of day is regulated by the sunlight and my stomach, to very regimented schedule and 8 am classes and combing my hair and putting on teacher clothes every day has been mildly jarring.

I'm battling it by staying as organized as possible, trying right off the bat to connect the names and faces of over 100 new students, and keeping a super positive attitude.  After three classes yesterday, I came home exhausted from being exuberant in class.  Being pretty zonked had its benefits, though- all I wanted to do was chill out on the couch for a little bit to knit.
Which I did.

The Northlady Mittens are coming along splendidly.  At first, the little "this is going to be too big" alarm was ringing red lights in the back of my head...

but when on my hand, it's fine!  Plus, they're also going to be double-layered.  The outside is what you see- Cascade 220 in a Scandinavian Snowflake design.  The inside mitten will be knit- similar to the Molly Mittens- with Blue Sky Alpaca yarn.  This makes a durable, workable outside and a super soft, fuzzy inside.  The recipient tends to go dogsledding up in Alaska, so I thought these would be a great addition to her winter wardrobe!  Plus, if it knits up well, I'll be cranking out another pair for a Christmas present.
I really want to finish these mittens fast- ideally by right around September 10th.  Why then?  Because my awesome old high school friend Sarah will find out whether her little one on-the-way will be a boy or a girl!
I have a few projects in mind for this baby's appearance, but one in particular will require me to decide whether I should go blue or pink.  I know it's not really a huge deal, but... eh, may as well wait. :)  Gives me a solid deadline for getting other projects out of the way, and plenty of time to finish Baby's gift before Sarah's baby shower!
The hot and humid days are supposedly in decline here in Northern Minnesota, and not a moment too soon.  I need to get out and run off some of that extra ice cream I've been nomming on before fall climbing season gets here... and a sweet climbing trip on the horizon... :)

Sunday, August 25, 2013

FO: Heather's Star Hat

The heat woke me this morning at 6 am.  Instead of lying in bed, waiting for it to go away, I got up, made coffee, and finished the top of Heather's Star Hat.  A (short) walk by Chester Creek this morning allowed for pictures!

Pattern: Heather's Broken Star Hat by Susan Anderson-Freed, from her awesome book Nordic Knitting Traditions!
Yarn: Black was Brown Sheep Wildfoote Luxery Sock Yarn, and the pink was unfortunately without the tag.  I have a tiny feeling it was Lorna's Laces, but don't quote me on that.
Needles: Knit on my Grandma's old metal pink size 2 DPNs. 
Timeframe: May 25th-August 25th
Modifications: None
Worst Part: This might sound silly, but the intimidation factor on this one was pretty high.  I screwed up on the last pattern I made from this book, so I was really nervous I was going to skip a step or my tension was going to be too tight or something was going to go wrong.  It had to... right?
Best Part: Taking the picture after completing that middle section and realizing that yes, I really did just knit that, and it didn't turn out like crap. :)  I'm also pretty excited to send this off to my fantastic friend Heather in Denmark for her Christmas present!

Scott and I spent part of yesterday sorting and cleaning our climbing gear...
all of it.  It was amazing to lay it all out and realize how much we had... how dirty it was... and how nice it became after a thorough cleaning.  Scott retired a couple of his cams and a few wallnuts, but otherwise all of our gear is in really good shape.  I got down to the climbing gym to train in the air conditioned bouldering cave, and with 8 weeks until my fall trip to the Red River Gorge, I'm going to have to train like crazy to get to an awesome fitness-place to do really well down there.  I spent time writing up a fitness plan, including running, yoga, and 3-4 days per week of climbing.  I may try to hold myself accountable on this blog, so bear with me on that.  
The temperature is already creeping into the high 80's this morning, and I know we're supposed to hit above 90 today, so I'm off to find AC with my friend Celeste, and I believe Scott and I are going to catch a movie tonight.  It's my last day before classes begin tomorrow morning at my college- bright and early at 8 am!  I'm sure I'll have my nervous first-day jitters tonight, but for now I'm trying not to think of it, and enjoy languishing around a little bit.  
In 90-degree heat, I feel like you can't do a whole lot else...

Friday, August 23, 2013

Friday Night Relaxing

Duty Days at my college this year felt stressful.  Not in the, you're-in-trouble and need to fix things stressful, just the overhanging and impending throb of start-of-term nerves coupled with my need to keep everything organized.  I made to-do lists.  I made smaller to-do lists that went with a bigger item to my to-do list.  I put together binders for each of my classes this semester.  I proofed my syllabuses (syllabi?) for the fifteenth time before finally making stacks of copies.  I made sure that my Monday morning 8 am class was prepped, with handouts, a Prezi presentation, and a small start-of-term assignment.
I didn't even relax during meetings.  My hands stayed busy going round and round with two colors of yarn, churning out the majority of a hat, which, I have to admit, is turning out beautifully.

After my final hour in my office today (a space that is all mine, but still bare of comforts minus some climbing posters), I picked up Scott from work and came home.
And relaxed.
Scott's been napping on the couch for the past two hours (to be fair, he's coming off of a cold and sore throat).  I read Atonement for awhile, had some snacks, and even sunk to the kitchen floor to snuggle with Albert for awhile when he rubbed up against my shins.

I have all weekend to finish organizing the climbing gear bins, review my lesson plans for the later part of the first week, train for my upcoming fall climbing trip, and start searching for the perfect tap competition songs.
For tonight, I'm going to sit with a mug of tea, a book, and feel the cool breeze coming in the windows.  Inklings of fall are licking steam from my mug.  For tonight, however, I'm going to enjoy the last bit of summer while it's still here.
Oh, and here's a kitten butt shot- just for fun. ;)

Wednesday, August 21, 2013


Life took a hectic turn the last week or so when my parents sold their house!

This is the house that I grew up in- they bought it when I was 2 years old, and has a ton of awesome and happy memories for me. :)
Unfortunately, that also means it has 26 years of accumulated stuff.  Everything from piles of paper road maps from the 80's and 90's to almost 100 VHS tapes cluttered the ample storage space, filling every nook and cranny.  It was both fun to come across bins of old art projects, and bittersweet to find things belonging to my grandparents, who are no longer around.

Luckily, we had help in the form of my extended family!  My Mom is one of 7 kids, so my aunts, uncles, cousins, and even neighbors came over to help sort, pack, and keep the energy level high and positive!

My brother borrowed a truck and loaded it completely full 5 times with loads to bring to his new house in Woodbury- not to mention the furniture the movers are going to drop off there later!

What we didn't pack up for my brother or for storage (my parents plan on retiring back in MN after a few more years in FL), we donated.  I drove haul after haul of clothes, Christmas decorations, old furniture, and other random assortments down to Goodwill.
The final closing day is next week on Wednesday, and over this past weekend, the entire house was packed up.  I'm a little sad that the house isn't going to be there anymore- I grew up there, swam in the lake, had sleepovers in my bedroom, tried out my Mom's field day games out back, practiced piano, violin, and oboe day in and day out upstairs, badly burned cookies in the kitchen, and had a thousand other awesome memories there.  It really feels like the end of an era as we let it go.  At the same time, I'm really excited for the next phase for my parents!
I didn't get a ton of time to knit while I was down there, but I did manage to squeeze out a few more rows on Heather's hat.

I'm hoping to get a good chunk of that done over the next few days.  It's my last week before classes begin again at my college, which means Faculty Duty Days!  Meetings galore over the next couple of days is great knitting time for me.  It does signify the end of summer, but I'm really excited (and a little nervous) for a full 15 credit teaching load this semester... Uffda!
The only decision I have to make is what knitting to bring for meetings... either Heather's hat, or maybe a few more rows on a pair of mittens for a Christmas present...

We'll have to see! :)

Thursday, August 15, 2013

FO: Chrysanthemum Mittens

Another Christmas present done, with only a minor glitch!  I present the Chrysanthemum Mittens. :)

Pattern: Chrysanthemum Mittens, from the book Nordic Knitting Traditions by Susan Anderson-Freed.  As of yet, there is no pattern page on Ravelry for it.
Yarn: Main color was the White/Natural Jarbo Garn Mini Raggi, and CC was Three Irish Girls Springvale Sock in Balmoral (purple variagated).  I used probably half of each skein, tops.  There's easily enough leftover to make another pair of mittens.

Needles: size 1 DPN, metal
Timeframe: July 13-August 7.  For me, that's almost a record for fair isle.
Mods: Ummm... no thumb gusset.  :)
Worst Part:  If you saw my earlier post, you'd know that I accidentally skipped the thumb gusset, creating exceedingly small thumb holes.  When I blocked the mittens, I attempted to stretch them out a bit by pulling on the sides.  They're small, but hopefully the recipient's small hands will fit them perfectly.  ::crossingfingers::
Best Part: Feeling more and more comfortable with fair isle.  These mittens really flew off the needles, and I'm not feeling that pocket of dread in my gut when I think about my next fair isle project.

I haven't done a lot of climbing, running, or anything the last few days.  I had mildly pulled a ham string teaching dance last week, and it turned into a full blown pull while climbing on Saturday and trying to heel hook something nice and high above my head.  I've been chilling out and icing it the last couple of days, but I'm already getting antsy.  I'll probably start biking again in the next day or so, and probably do a couple of chill runs (not to mention teaching 3 hours of dance tonight), but hopefully next week I can swing right back to training.
Hopefully... :)

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Jamaican Barbecue

On Saturday, Scott and I raced up the shore to his hometown of Tofte for a party after I was done with work
Not just any party- a Jamaican Barbecue!
Scott's brother is dating a girl from Jamaica named Kim, and Kim felt the need to give us all a taste of her culture (literally) along with some good times with new and old friends.

You can see the butt-end of a goat being hacked away here after it was smoked on the barbecue for a few hours.  It was fun to just watch the preparations!

Kim and her two cousins (also from Jamaica) had total control of the kitchen all day.  In this pic, they're checking to see if some beef pastries made Jamaican-style were done or not.

I have to admit, I was a little skeptical about some of the food.  Ox tail?  Goat butt?  Curried chicken?  I was also worried about the spice level.  I'm a bona-fide Scandinavian girl- medium salsa makes me cry.
It ended up being fantastic, and within my ability to handle!  The ox tail especially was a surprise- lots of flavor, nice and juicy, and way tastier than you'd expect it to be (especially when you're eating from around the vertebrae)!

The night ended with a fire dancer showing off some skills as reggae music bumped along in the background.  Super cool evening with some great people, lots of new experiences, and a ton of fun to boot. :)  Not bad for a Saturday night on the North Shore!

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Finally- attempting Sigma!

Yesterday dawned with a cloudless sky and temperatures in the high 60's.  I called up my friend and climbing partner Emily, and we both ditched out on work for the day to head down to Sandstone for some time on the rock and in the sun!
We warmed up on the Sax wall again, waiting until a church group vacated the wall we really wanted to go on- the Sigma wall!

I've checked out Sigma every time I've been at Sandstone.  At 5.12, it's a stout and powerful climb with two distinct cruxes.  After a leisurely start to get to the first bolt, you launch into the first crux- thin hands on not-great feet.  It took me a couple tries to figure out exactly what my sequence would be on that part, but what I have feels good, and would certainly go well once I get the moves together with clipping!
The second bit was a about halfway up the climb.

I fell numerous times at this part- you layback on the crack with again not-great feet, reaching high for better holds and basically smearing your way up until you get a good hand hold.

I'm still a little iffy on exactly what I'll be doing there- I got it all the times I worked the route, but I don't have a strong sequence or good flow yet- mostly just mildly desperate moves that yielded results.  Hopefully that won't be my sequence... :)  After that, you pretty much suck it up and gun for the top.  The moves aren't necessarily hard, but after all that lay-backing, it's pretty pumpy, and I'm basically in a race against how long my hands can hold on.
Emily and I both worked the route on top rope, and we're both super stoked to go back soon and work it some more.  Now that I have my sequence, I feel like most of it will flow really well, and let me feel confident enough to give it a go on lead.  Woowoo!!
After I got home last night, I discovered what my kittens had been up to all day.

Damn cats.  One of them (probably Maeby) chewed through the ends of almost the entire ball of yarn.  Just mowed through, pushing her face deeper and deeper into the skein, nomming on all the strands until I had an entire skein of 5-inch sections of green yarn.
::Sigh::  Time to make another trip to the yarn store...

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Fair Isle and Planning

I spent the first part of my week teaching at Dance Camp at my dance studio.  I love teaching at Dance Camp.  I get to teach pretty much whatever I want, doing recreations of classic dances, or even leading a stretch session.  I had my dancers learn the choreography from "All That Jazz", from the 2011 Chicago revival for Musical Theater Day.  I taught my own choreography for a tap dance from "Thoroughly Modern Millie".  And I led an intense barre and stretch session plus ab workout for ballet day.  An intense but fun few days!

In the meantime, I finished reading Joanne Harris's book Holy Fools.  I loved Harris's book Chocolat, and was hoping that the charm would continue.  I have to admit, I wasn't terribly impressed.  It started off really well, but got long and boring very quickly.  She has great characters, great storytelling skills, and places her stories in the gorgeous French countryside, so I was surprised that I didn't enjoy it more.  I might try one more of her books, because I liked Chocolat so much, but so far it's pretty hit and miss.  
I finished the (tiny) thumbs on the Chrysanthemum Mittens, and they're blocking now.  When laying them out, I pulled super hard on the sides of the thumbs, hoping to stretch them out a bit.  A rainy day today means it'll probably take a couple days to dry, so hopefully I'll have pictures soon.  Bleh... I really screwed up on that one.  I'm holding out hope that they fit with the bit of stretching I did, but it might not work.  
My other Christmas knitting project, Heather's Star Hat, is coming along very well.  I finished the brim and finally started the colorwork section.  Hopefully a few days at work will help this one speed along.  :)
My first duty day back at my college is in two weeks, so I'm starting to feel the pressure of getting back into "school" mode.  I need to go over my syllabus, make sure my assignments are in order, flag my lessons that need to be fixed, and create new assignments accordingly.  I have a full teaching load this semester, so I want to get as much done before the semester begins as possible.  
Besides that, my parents have sold my childhood home.  We've lived in that house since I was 2 years old, so it feels really weird to think that after August 28th, it'll belong to someone else.  I'll be heading down early next week to help my Mom begin to pack up our things and (hopefully) get rid of a bunch of stuff not needed.  For example, my parents have a VHS collection that would rival my book collection. :)  This trip means I have the rest of this week to (hopefully) get a bunch done on my school stuff before going into purge mode.  Lots to do in not much time...
Though I may head down to climb at Sandstone tomorrow... after all, it's still summer!

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Reading the Directions

I finished knitting the body of the second Chrysanthemum mitten this evening, and happily set the two mittens side by side to bask in the awesomeness of finishing a large part of this project.

Aren't they pretty?
I'm knitting these from the book Nordic Knitting Traditions, which allows the knitter to choose whether they want to knit mittens crown-to-cuff (which the charts are oriented towards) or cuff-to-crown.  The book has beautiful charts, well-written directions, and great pictures to show what your knitting ought to look like when you finish.  I opted cuff-to-crown, and after checking how many stitches I needed to cast on and increase once I got to the body, I simply followed the charts round and round, paying no heed to what was actually written down.
As I sat there admiring the finished mitten bodies, I looked at the chart for knitting the thumb, and noticed something.

The thumb chart had way more stitches than I had in my knitting- like, twice as many more.
And wait a minute- why did the thumb have a gusset in the picture, but I didn't have one on my mitten?

Oh, ^#$%.
Sure enough, I checked the directions in the book, and written very clearly, might I add, was this:
"On the first round of the pattern... place thumb gusset markers... and follow the thumb gusset chart to increase for the gusset...".
Double @&%^.  I can't blame the pattern for not telling me these things ahead of time.
Now my mittens have the teeniest thumb holes EVER.  I mean, don't get me wrong- the recipient has very small hands.  I could say that I didn't want them to be too big, or that I chose to leave out those side stitches, or... or...
Or I was a complete gumby who didn't read the &@$#ing directions before she started and completed two mitten bodies before wondering why the %$*~ing thumb holes were so tiny.
Cue the wine and ice cream.
This is going to take some pondering on how to fix it gracefully.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Salty Cookies and Starting Again

One of my good friends invited me over to her house last night to watch the movie Les Miserables- the new one, with Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway.  She was going to provide the spaghetti, while I was to bring a tasty bit of dessert to snack on.
I didn't want to bring anything too heavy, so I decided on a simple chocolate chip cookie recipe.  Extra cookies meant I could bring some to VE and share with my coworkers today, as well as fill the cookie jar in our kitchen for snacking.

One thing this recipe called for was sprinkling the tops of the cookies with salt before putting them in the oven.  I was a little skeptical, but since I've enjoyed coffee mochas with salt sprinkled on top, I thought it wasn't a bad idea to try.
Why did I doubt it?!  It was delicious!  The salt countered the sugar SO WELL.

You'll notice that the bottom tier of cookies are a little more... well, round.  Actually, "blobs" would probably be the most correct term.  I realized while making the second batch that I should flatten the cookies down a bit to achieve that perfect "cookie" shape.  Next time, they will all be pretty as well as absolutely delicious. :)
Soooo remember that I was making a cowl for one of my Christmas presents?

This one, to be exact?  The one that looks like a small flag, with little to nothing interesting going on in the shape, the color, etc?
I didn't like it.  I didn't like it at all.  I kept going, thinking that it would look better once I got to the flat part.  Then I realized that it really wasn't going to get better, and I should just do something cooler with the yarn.  After all, if I didn't like it, how was the recipient possibly going to like it?
I frogged the whole thing after pouring a fresh cup of coffee, and had a quick chat with my friend online about her knitted-good preferences.
For some reason, I presented her with a bunch of fair isle hats to choose from and she picked one that bore her name in the pattern- "Heather's Broken Star Hat".  Luckily, I had a skein of black fingering weight sitting around waiting to be used, and started right away on the brim of the hat.

I always feel bad ripping out yet another project (coughcough::sparkle motion::coughcough) but it feels good to be knitting something that my friend wants, and I actually enjoy knitting.  I don't know how I suddenly got 3 fair isle things as my works-in-progress, with no lace or cables or anything simple.  I guess I like hard work?  Or maybe I know I'm bad at fair isle, so I'm utterly forcing myself to do it until I get better?  Either way, at least it's still the beginning of August- plenty of time to finish projects meant for Christmas presents.  Right?
PS- I'm over halfway up the left front panel of the Dude Sweater- and I have plans for that beast that may be a little crazy.  We'll have to see.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Rest Day (sort of)

It's been a very active few days for me.

I've spent 3 days in a row training at VE after on-and-off rain forced me to stay inside.  It was great- each session was around 3 hours, and I left with shaking and destroyed hands.  My climbing partner kept throwing me on harder and harder climbs, until I was working out my sequence on a very technical 5.12c.  Once I pieced together how to do the route, I just have to wait for the stars to align, my fingertips to not be purple from multiple tries, and have a really good go at it before I can (hopefully!) send.
I finished my sessions with laps on the bouldering wall, climbing until I couldn't hang on anymore.
After yesterday's climbing session, I headed up to Pike Lake to finish the last two dives of my Open Water Dive Certification!

I had a little bit of trouble when doing my full mask removal and clearing while underwater.  My instructor and I were about 15 feet underwater when I had to completely take my mask off, put it back on, and clear it.  The cold water rushing on my face mildly freaked me out, and I inhaled a good chunk of Pike Lake up my nose, causing me to race for the surface.  Super yuck.  Took a couple minutes to sputter and cough it all out.  I calmed down, went down again, and did a couple more skills before trying the mask clear again and (thankfully) succeeding.  I know learning how to stay calm and clear my mask is super important, especially if I start doing deeper dives where I can't race for the surface, but that was definitely my least favorite part of doing my skills.
Today is more of a rest day for me- only biking down this afternoon to a Yoga Sculpt class at Evolve, which kicked my butt on Monday.  Aaaaah, it feels good to push myself again... :)