Monday, March 31, 2014

Chugging Along

I almost wanted to title this post "Things my cat ate this weekend that were NOT kitten food".  Luckily, that passed, mostly because I didn't get to nab pictures of her eating several post-its, part of a sweatshirt, the rim of my foliage hat (I made that one in 2008... talk about a knit that's been around the block...), and some egg shells that Scott left on the counter.  We actually chased her trying to get the last bits of the eggshell out of her mouth, but she dashed under the bed and gulped the remainder of them down.

Stupid cat.
It was one of those weekends where I get a lot done, but it's the boring stuff.  For instance, the legwarmers aren't any further along.  The cowl received like three more rows tops.  I haven't touched the giraffe in ages.
But... the laundry is done, the house is really clean for the first time in ages, and I made a dent in the pile of papers I need to grade.

(Notice that Maeby seems to require my attention even when I'm grading and she's been fed.  Monster.)
I even cleaned and put away all of my ice climbing gear, since the 40-degree days have destroyed any semblance of ice, mixed, or dry-tool conditions at our local crags.
And I did most of it by myself, as Scott was off in Chicago for his Computer Security competition.

Yes, he's that big of a geek.  However, he's the type of geek one makes friends with because he can destroy my computer to levels that no one could bring it back from.  Or block my favorite websites, like Ravelry or Pinterest.  Or block cat videos from Youtube on our wireless.  You know the type.  Good thing he's on my side. :)  Notice that even the cats make friends with him.  Maeby eats far more of my stuff than Scott's.  Smart little girl...
Other than that, I'm waiting for the weather to not be raining and gross so I can go outside and start training for the 1/2 marathon.  It was raining all day today, and the not-so-nice weather man keeps threatening that it will turn to freezing rain tonight.

I'll admit, in my humble opinion, spring weather is the worst.  Everything's melting, so you can't really do a ton outside.  Ice season is over, rock season is not quite going yet, and I don't even bike commute to the dance studio yet or I would show up a blob of mud.
Not that my ladies would be the least bit surprised, but I like to try to be a good role model.  Or at least be clean.
I'm going to close out this random post, go make a cup of tea, and finish a rather intriguing collection of essays on China.  I'll let you know how it is later.  Until then, cheers all. :)

Thursday, March 27, 2014


It's always about the best-laid plans, right?
My week was extremely organized on Monday morning.  I spent the morning at LSC, getting a ton of lesson planning and work done.  I carefully made my to-do list for the rest of the week, intentionally not over-booking myself so I knew I could get a fair amount of my projects done for both work and fun.
Like Taylor's cowl, for instance.
But then...
Oh dear...
Then I heard that one of my old dance friends was pregnant with a little baby girl, and suddenly things were happening that I couldn't stop if I wanted to.

I mean...
Well, since I already stumbled, I decided that a little baby dancer girl needs a bright pair of baby legwarmers to go with her pink dancer shoes.

Then on Wednesday, the day that I was supposed to get loads of grading done and blog and vacuum and clean the house more and pack Scott some snacks for his weekend away, I got a call from this lady:

Juliet and I go way back.  Waaaaaay back.  We started in the UMD Theater program together as undergraduates, and people used to call us "twins" since we're both the same height and build, with long blonde hair and loud laughs.  She's also the one that actually got me in to climbing.
Yeah.  She's that kind of a big deal.
She's been driving all over the country for the past few years with her boyfriend Jon (you can check out their travel blog here!) climbing, working odd jobs, and basically living an awesome vagabond lifestyle.  If I ever have a semester with no classes, I might take a leaf out of her book and jump on the road for a few months.  I wonder if Scott would be all right with that...

Anyhow, we got to head to the Duluth Coffee Company after a morning yoga session to catch up.  Yoga turned into lunch turned into climbing.

I didn't get home that night until dinnertime, but it was absolutely worth it.  I haven't seen Juliet since before Christmas, and since I might be out of town when she swings through Duluth again in August, I needed a nice big fix before she headed out.
It turned out to be fine that I didn't get any of my real work early done this week, though.  Mostly because today the weather turned to total poop.

(I took this selfie to send to my Mom in Florida- she LOVES getting the "bad weather" pics ever since she moved down there... I wonder why...)
It took me just about 40 minutes to get home on a normally 10-minute commute, and my only concrete plans thus far tomorrow are yoga early morning if the roads don't suck and climbing in the evening.  The rest of the day is smashing my entire to-do list from the week in there.  I'm going to be a grading machine, fueled by lots of coffee and the soundtrack to Game of Thrones (thank you, Duluth Public Library!).
It'll be fine... as long as I don't start thinking about baby knits again. :)

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Spring Break Mini-cation and a Big Frog

I finally traveled down to the cities for a few days of friend time with no work attached, and it was much-needed and enjoyed!

I spent a day and night with my friend Val first, and we got to do some great lady stuff!  We climbed, ate ice cream, and even checked out a candlelight yoga session at a downtown Minneapolis yoga studio.  My last morning with her, we went for a nice walk around Minneapolis with coffee!  I haven't really aimlessly walked around Minneapolis much, so doing it with a friend was a nice change of pace.

After some quality Val time, I rocketed over to Woodbury to hang out with my brother and his girlfriend.  I finally got to see Frozen (AWESOME) with Kendra, and after my brother got home from work, we all went to Red Lobster for dinner!
Friday I had a climbing session with my old friend Jenelle, who I haven't seen in eons!

I've known Jenelle since my undergraduate years at UMD.  She actually got me my job at the dance studio I work at 4 years ago, which I am forever indebted to her for.  We got to catch up, climb a bit, and talk dance for awhile.  Since she currently has dance, grad school, and family obligations like crazy, I was really excited to have a little time with her in both of our busy schedules!  Overall, it was really nice to run off for a bit to see some of my friends and family, and it'll definitely sustain me for the next few days as school stuff picks up again.
While down in the cities, I worked a little bit on Taylor's Honey Cowl, and it's slowly but surely beginning to grow.  I'm hoping to finish this thing in the next week or so, as the "Things I need to knit NOW" list becomes bigger and bigger.

Knitting with pure white is also perhaps a little less than inspiring at the moment, as Duluth got another 6 inches of snow while I was gone, and I'm feeling the need for more bright things in my life!  Speaking of bright and happy things, I found a beautiful needle case on Etsy a week or two ago, and it was waiting for me when I returned from the cities!

Can you tell I perhaps still had the Sochi Winter Olympics still in my mind?  This was a treat for myself for finishing Scott's Dude Sweater (which I will blog soon, I promise!) and winning my gold medal in the Ravellenic Games.  It's beatifully made, huge,and for practicality sake, it's fantastic to be able to look at the pockets and know exactly what I have knitting-needle wise.

It also means that I no longer have to search for the needles that I need!  I used to put all my needles jumbled together in an old can, so finding five needles the same size turned in to at ten minute search every time I started a project.  Not okay, and finally solved!

Last but not least, I grudgingly took the step this morning that I needed to with the Narwhal mittens.  It was hard, but I wasn't happy with how they were turning out.  The gorgeous yarn I originally chose was much too springy for the fair isle without bunching up, and it wasn't the quality knit that I was going for.
So I pulled the needles out...

Took a deep breath...

And wound back the yarn.
It's okay though, because as you might notice in the pictures, replacement yarn is standing by!
When I was down in Woodbury, my brother's girlfriend Kendra and I visited a small but fantastic little local Woodbury yarn store, where I picked out some new Dalegarn Falk to use for the outside of the mittens.  I know that in the long run, I'll be much happier with the mittens with this yarn as the outside, despite the sadness of all that work going down the tubes.  Quality is important, right?  As for the original yarn, I plan on making a simple but pretty cowl with the pink yarn to give to Brit along with the mittens, so it's not going to sit around in my yarn drawer for very long.
That way, next Christmas, I can gift her a pretty set of bright pink knits that she can wear together. :)
Now I just have to cast on for the mittens... again.
Good thing I liked the picot trim...

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Dance Weekend and FO: Honey for Hannah

I didn't get much of a break after midterm week and duty days ended before launching in to dance competition weekend!  It was a little hectic and stressful, but it was also a lot of fun to see all of my dances and dancers up on stage for the first time in full costume with hair, props, and the excitement of performing on their faces!

My dances did pretty well for a first competition- my little pirate girls even got a Judge's special award for their precise tapping!  I'm definitely more energized on the other side of the competition to really pick apart technique, performance, and details that will earn higher points next time around.  Our next competition, luckily, isn't until the end of April, so I have plenty of time to work with my dancers to clean everything up.
While at the competition, I did have time during awards to get some knitting done.  The only problem was I didn't want to work on presents for people that were at the competition, so I cast on for a hat that will match the mittens I made over Christmas break!

It's a pretty simple striped beanie hat using the same yarn I used for the mittens, so not only am I stash-busting a little bit, but for the first time ever, I'm knitting myself a matching hat & mitten set!
The pattern was perfect to work on- I could listen to the awards, chat with parents, and my hands were kept busy with stockinette stitch.
That doesn't mean I've been slacking on other projects- I finished the Honey for Hannah cowl yesterday, and it's pretty fantastic!

Pattern: Honey Cowl by Antonia Shankland
Yarn: Classic Elite Yarns Fresco in a bright red (I used a couple different filters on the pictures to try to get the in-person color- it's between the deeper and the brighter red).
Size: I made the medium, which is casting on 160 stitches and knitting through 2 skeins of the Fresco.

Timeframe: February 26 - March 17
Worst Part: How long it took me to finally make this pattern.  I guess I always assumed it was some weird stitch that would be time-consuming to make for a cowl, when in fact it's the exact opposite- quick knit, great pattern!
Best Part: Probably the yarn.  The color is our studio color, and it's heavenly to wear around the neck.  I'll have to store this somewhere I can't see it so I don't accidentally wear it...

Fresh off of Hannah's cowl, I cast on one more for my soloist, Taylor!

I'm making hers out of some lovely Plymouth Yarns baby llama wool, and even though it's going to be a little less wide (one skein is only 273 yards vs. the 2 skeins of  328 yards) it'll still be just as yummy.  It's also going to be great travel knitting when I head down to the cities tomorrow to hang out with friends over my spring break!  As a teacher, my break so far has been more of the lesson-planning and grading type- so basically a normal school day, minus teaching classes.  Visiting friends and family members for the latter half of the week will be a nice treat!
And I'm going to be churning out knitted goods like no tomorrow... :)

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Midterm Week and FO: Bad Yarn Kitty Hat

This week has been crazy.  It's midterm week at my college, which means progress reports and meetings and stressed out students (and teachers) as we all try to get stuff done before spring break starts next week.

I've spent a lot of extra time at my desk, grading, writing lesson plans and making lists, meeting with students, and generally trying to get as much done as possible so next week is less "catching up" and more "planning ahead".
When I'm not at school, I'm at the dance studio.  Our first big competition is this weekend for our groups, and I've been putting in extra time for not only rehearsals but getting props ready and logistics covered so this weekend runs smoothly.
I have a long duty day tomorrow at LSC full of meetings (where I'll hopefully finish Hannah's cowl!) and a long weekend both at the studio and at the competition, so I'm already looking forward to my break from classes next week.  Ideally I'll be visiting friends and relatives in the cities for some much-needed recovery time!
In the meantime, knitting is still chugging along slowly, but I have something to show for it at least!
Remember this debacle I mentioned a few weeks ago?

I finally finished the replacement hat for Scott after Maeby ate two large chunks out of the rim of his Fall hat.  Hopefully his Bad Yarn Kitty Hat will be safely tucked into a pocket or out of the reach of troublesome kittens!

Pattern: Turn a Square hat by Jared Flood
Yarn: Cascade 220 in midnight blue and Noro Kureyon in shades of blue-brown
Timeframe: February 26-March 12

Mods: I cast on the 96 stitches with size 7 needles and didn't do the increases as instructed.  That means when I set my stitch markers for the decrease round, I K24, pm, K24, pm, K24, pm, knit to end of round, and then followed the instructions per normal for the decreases.  It's what I'm starting to do more often for this pattern, and I like it for knitting a guy's hat.  For a lady, I'll probably CO less stitches when the time comes.
Worst Part: Discovering that Maeby ate yet another piece of clothing and I would have to replace something yet again.
Best Part: Getting motivated to keep churning out these hats.  So easy, not too monotonous to knit with the switching colors, and pretty quick to finish.

I enjoyed using Maeby as part of the hat's photo shoot, and she enjoyed rolling around on the floor and rubbing her face all over the hat.  Now I have to make sure we keep this one out of harm's way, so I don't have to make another one...

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Getting Better

It's been awhile since I've written, for good reason.  Our little apartment has turned into a small cesspool of unhappiness with the stomach flu.  Scott got it first, and was down for a good 3-4 days while I went between teaching and taking care of him.  Then, at the end of the week, I caught the bug and couldn't keep anything down.  Today is the first day I've been back on the horse, eating full meals and even teaching three hours of dance this afternoon (though I collapsed on the couch afterward).
I've been able to get a fair amount of knitting done, since being sick means I can't focus much on grading or cleaning.  I'm over halfway done with the Honey Cowl for Hannah, one of the three knits for my solo/duet ladies.

I have to admit, I love love LOVE this pattern.  It's fast, it's easy to do when my brain isn't functioning on full capacity, and I'll probably be done with it within the next couple of weeks here.  I'm also decreasing at the top of the hat that I'm knitting for Scott, and should be done with that soon as well!

I feel like I should just perpetually be churning these Turn-a-Square hats, in case either Maeby keeps eating them or someone needs one for a present.  I do owe one to Bobby, who accompanied my friends and I to the Red River Gorge last fall.  They're a great stash-buster as well, since I have a lot of leftover Cascade 220 worsted weight from various projects.
Tomorrow is a full day of dance, work, meetings, and (possibly) yoga. I'm not sure yet if I'm going to go to yoga- depends on how I feel when I wake up.
I push a little too hard sometimes when I'm coming back from being sick, so I'm going to try to take it a little easy tomorrow and Tuesday.  We'll see... :)

Sunday, March 2, 2014

FO: Lorax Mustache for the Mustache March Run

Even though I started some great projects after I finished the owl hat, I had to take a one-night detour to make a ridiculous knit that is fast becoming a yearly tradition.  Saturday was the third annual Mustache March Run here in Duluth along the lakewalk, and as per tradition, I knit a mustache to wear for the run!
I decided that this year, instead of making a random mustache, I would make a mustache based on Dr. Suess's brilliant book The Lorax.  That guy, after all, has an insane mustache!
I definitely made up a lot of what I was doing, since there was no "Lorax Mustache" available online.  
I used Size 6 DPN's and CO 3 stitches with bright yellow worsted-weight yarn, then knit about 28 inches of I-cord.  Just enough to wrap around my head and tie comfortably without too much extra dangling down.
I then used the book Knit Your Own Moustache by Vicky Eames to knit the "Walrus Mustache", which was a real quick knit.  I still used the size 6 needles, despite the pattern calling for size 4. 
To get the shape of the Lorax 'stache, I whip-stitched the bottom of the mustache to the i-cord, so the Walrus Mustache was actually upside down when I would put the mustache on my face.
This allowed me to get the Lorax look that I wanted.
It was time to add the bushy part!  I cut a ton of 4-7 inch long lengths of yarn, and used a tapestry needle to just thread them through a stitch on the main part of the mustache.  To make it easy, once I pulled the length through to halfway, then just double-knotted the length of yarn, so it was secure on the mustache.
Near the outside edges of the mustache, I kind of gathered the rest of the tied lengths so I could "shape" what the Lorax mustache was supposed to look like and double-knotted the gathered lengths up so it would look like a big bushy mustache shooting out to the sides and down!
It worked out really well, and I was really happy with how it looked when I was done for only one night of work!
Race day dawned bright and a little on the chilly side...
The wind chill pushed the temp down to about -35, but that didn't stop almost 500 people to meet out on the lakewalk next to Lake Superior to run 2.65 miles!  I bundled up with my winter camping/snowshoeing/ice climbing gear (wicking-warmth-weather!) and tied the mustache on my face for a fantastic face warmer!
I ran with three awesome other ladies, and despite the chilly temps, ice on the run, and complete lack of cardio fitness for me, I finished the run in about 32 minutes.  I was even warm and excited when I crossed the finish line!
It was a great race, and made even better by running with old and new friends!
I even had a support person at the finish line- Scott!  He took a break from homework to come cheer me on (while wearing all the warmest clothes he could).  He may have gone inside and had a beer for about 20 minutes while I was running, but he was there when I finished with smiles and a hug, so I'm not complaining. :)
(Note the icicles beneath my nose- yes, I have mustache icicles!)
It was a fantastic little event in the middle of this ridiculous cold the northland is trapped in, and it was a nice chance to get outside on a day I would have probably stayed in. :)