Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Minneapolis Competition!

It was an intense weekend.  So intense that I'm finally recovering now from all the fretting and fixing and worrying and excitement and jumping around and awesomeness that are my dancers.  
Competition dance time as a teacher hasn't really gotten easier the last couple years.  I'm in my fourth year teaching at my dance studio, and every year when competition time rolls around, I get nervous.  I get nervous that the costumes will look odd or wrong or break.  I get nervous that someone will forget half of the dance in the middle of a big group routine.  I get nervous that no one will like the dances, and I won't be able to come back.
But this weekend, I really didn't have much to worry about.  I made sure everything looked good before they went onstage, pranced around to get them psyched up, and then watched from the sidelines...
while every single one did a great job. :)
My little pirate girls had overwhelming positive response from the judges in their comments, notably that the girls seemed to "genuinely enjoy the dance and have fun", which as a teacher is fantastic to hear.  It's tap- I hope they're having fun! 
My Singing in the Rain dance finally came completely together in this competition.  The costumes looked incredibly sharp (thanks SO MUCH to the amazing Mom that helped bedazzle all of them!!) and all 18 of my girls pulled together a rather difficult routine to get an "Outstanding" score and a 3rd place overall high score!  I'm really excited to see them truly own the attitude this coming weekend at our next competition.  There's so much sass in that group that I always have fun choreographing for them.  I may already have ideas for next year... :)
My duet girls did an amazing job as well- I'm still in awe at their skills.  Choreographing a non-tap number really stretched me this year, both artistically and as a teacher (try explaining a move when half the time you can't even do it yourself!).  Luckily, these girls trusted that I would figure something out and went with my crazy ideas, even when my ideas seemed to require much less gravity than normal. ;)  
Last, my Beyond the Sea ladies were absolutely snazzy onstage!
It blows my mind that last year at this time, these girls were dressed in wool, breeches, and suspenders as my rough and tumble Newsie gang.  This year, they've learned a difficult routine in high-heeled tap sheos requiring 100% ladylike sassy stage presence 100% of the time.  
... oh, wait, there they are. :)
We have one last big competition this weekend for scores and prizes, then in two weekends we'll be performing at UMD on the Marshall Performing Arts stage for our competition showing!  I'm excited for that- my dances will be performing on the stage that I once spent so much time and energy on as a chorus girl.  Really cool "full circle" kind of moment.
But enough of that.
Right now, it's time to recharge, amp up, and prep for one more weekend of competition craziness.
(Oh- and grading... and knitting... more about that later...)

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

FO: Below Zero Hat

I guess when I finish projects, they seem to all creep up and finish together.  Over the Easter weekend, I plowed ahead on the easy Below Zero Hat, finishing it just in time to not wear it for at least another 5 months.  Then again, I do live in Duluth, so I shouldn't say things that will come back to haunt me...

Pattern: Raituli by Marja Suomela
Yarn: Color stripes are Noro's Taiyo Sock, and the gray stripes are in Three Irish Girl's Adorn Sock in Dorian Gray.
Needles: Brim is on size 1, then I switched up to size 3's for the rest of the hat.
Timeframe: March 15th-April 19th.

Mods: I changed the needle size only because I didn't want to go buy a size 1 1/2 circular needle when I had size 1 already, and I know I changed the decreases just a little so it would go faster.  Not much else.
Worst Part: I originally started the striped part of the hat with a part of the Noro Taiyo yarn color that started dark red, then went to black, then went to dark red, and I hated it.  I yanked back the whole thing to the beginning of the brim, unwound the Noro a bit, and started just on the black part.  The gradation of color looks much better, in my opinion.  I wasn't excited to rip back in the beginning, but I am much happier with how it turned out.

Best Part: For the first time since I became a knitter, I own a pair of hat and mittens made by me that match!  This might sound like a slightly ridiculous victory since I've been knitting for so long, but I just kept making stuff for others and completely forgot to make a set for myself.  It's about time.
I'm leaving on Friday to go to the cities for a dance competition all weekend, so I'm trying to stuff all the cleaning and laundry and grading in now so I can concentrate on my girls this weekend.  So far it's mildly working.  I did get a good workout in already today, and hopefully I get a run in before it rains this evening.  Training for the 1/2 marathon so far has been... not amazing.  I usually feel decent after I run (and especially if I stretch and do a little yoga after the run), but during and especially near the end of a run, I either have a really nasty side ache and can't breathe, or the arches of my feet cramp up so bad I have to prance the last half mile on the balls of my feet.  It's been pretty horrendous.

Here's hoping that the next few weeks of training feel a lot better than the first two weeks.
I also did a little bouldering down at the climbing gym, finishing up by doing some campus board workouts and dead hangs to work on my finger strength.

Those felt waaaay better than running.  I think I need to accept that I am not good at the cardio thing unless it's a little on the chill side (like hiking... or classic cross-country... or anything above a jog).  Unfortunately, I have a 1/2 marathon coming up in two months that I have to survive through first.  What the hell was I thinking, signing up for that?
Sometimes I have some really dumb ambitious thoughts that I shouldn't actually act on...

Monday, April 21, 2014

Easter and FO: Taylor's Cowl

Right before I headed off on my Easter weekend, I finally got to finish Taylor's Cowl- the second of three dancer gifts for the year!

Pattern: Honey Cowl by Antonia Shankland (Link goes to Ravelry page)
Yarn: Plymouth Yarn's Baby Llama Glow in white with sparkles.  Nom!
Needles: Size 6 on Addi Turbo.  I love these needles SO MUCH. 
Timeframe: March 17th-April 17th
Mods: Not really a mod, but I cast on 160 stitches for the in-between size, just like I did for Hannah's cowl.
Worst Part: I wish that the CO edge had a little more spring to it.  I usually do a long-tail cast on, but maybe the next time I make this, I'll find one that has a little more stretch.
Best Part: The yarn!  Super cozy and fuzzy.  Plus the little bit of sparkle is a nice touch. :)
Easter weekend was full of family for me.  I hitched a ride to the cities with my cousin and stayed with my aunt and uncle.  I snuck out on grading papers on Saturday afternoon to play some bingo with my aunts:
(can you say WINNERS?)
and enjoyed an incredibly gorgeous Easter day with my extended family.  
My cousin Sam and I had to hunt for our baskets Sunday morning.  
It doesn't matter how old you are- some Easter traditions are always fun!
Since I spent Christmas down in Florida, I haven't seen my extended family since Thanksgiving.  I got to catch up with all of them, and enjoy the 75 degree day at the same time!
My last bit of Easter cheer was finding some bunny ears to put on the cats for our regular holiday torture-time.  I think I enjoyed it more than them...
Festive Easter kitties!  Albert was surprised and disturbed that something was on his head.  As you can see in the top left pic, Maeby is in her teenager "God D*%#it" phase when I try to do anything like snuggle or make her participate in mandatory Easter activities. :)
It makes me feel slightly better about her eating all of my clothes, though.
I have one more FO to show later, but right now I need to work hard on getting the Dancing Giraffe finished for my last duet dance student.  It's a large project that can only be worked on at home, which makes it a little more tricky to find time for at this busy time of year.  I also need to cast on for the end-of-year present for the owner of my studio.  This is the fourth year in a row that I'm knitting her something, and figuring out something appropriate that she'll actually use is fairly difficult.  
A couple more weeks of obligatory knitting, then hopefully I'll have time to start something for myself!
What that'll be, I have no idea.  I haven't had time to think past this coming weekend and out first major dance competition.  Til then, it's grading, dance, and giraffe! :)

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Packing for a Sport Climbing Trip

I was originally really excited to write this post.  I was supposed to finish up a bunch of school stuff, make sure all my dance stuff was prepped since we have competition in a week and a half, and head down to Kentucky today for 4 days of climbing in the beautiful Red River Gorge.
Then I woke up and saw this:

Which turned in to this:

My crew ended up pulling the plug on the trip.  The road we were planning on taking down through Wisconsin was apparently pure ice, and the snow storm and blowing snow was going to follow us as far as Chicago.  If we waited until tomorrow to drive down, that means we would have more driving time than climbing time to get back by Monday when I teach dance in the evening.
I'm torn about this turnout.  While I'm exceedingly bummed out (a climbing trip at any time is awesome), another part of me knows that I'll be heading down to the Gorge in May for at least a week, and I now have time to start grading the 75 8-page papers I collected from my students on Tuesday.

Yeah.  Those.
I'll also be able to see my family this weekend at our Easter get-together, which is actually really fantastic since I didn't get to attend Christmas this year due to being in Florida with my folks.
The sacrifices, eh?
Instead of knitting on the 15 hour drive each way, I'll knit tomorrow during my duty day at my college during meetings and in the car driving to the cities for the weekend.  Not a bad trade, if you ask me.
The sad thing is, I was actually packed and ready to go when the plug was pulled.  I had my gear bag, my camping bag, and even my knitting bag set.
So, what does a lady climber bring on a Gorge trip in the spring, you might ask?
Well, for starters, you need the proper climbing equipment!

To start, my day pack is Black Diamond's Bolt Pack from a couple of seasons ago.  If you can't tell from the numerous patches, it's accompanied me for a ton of trips already.  It's the perfect for both a sport climbing or a lead climbing day; I've fit a double rack, personal gear, rope, and food for the day in there with a comfy suspension system to get to the climb, no matter the hike in.
Whenever I go to the Gorge, I always bring at least 12 sport quickdraws.  This is a minimum.  Mine are Mammut's Element Key Lock set in a nice red.  They're a little beefier than some of the slim and light sets, but when I'm going from car to crag in two minutes, they're perfect. Plus, I'm used to carrying 7-10 pounds of trad gear, so a could extra ounces for these lovely draws isn't much.
The other draws you see are alpine draws.  One of my partners and I wanted to do some trad climbing, and the deal was if he brought the trad gear, I would bring the alpine draws which extend (which in meandering trad climbing is a must).  I also have a couple of extra prusik cords for rappelling or a smaller climber lowering a larger climbing in case someone forget them, as well as some rolls of tape, a water bottle, and my knee brace.
My harness is Black Diamond's Aura Harness, lightweight and beautiful.  I was planning on bringing two pairs of shoes, both from Evolv.  My trusty Geshido SC shoes (bright green) are my absolute favorite pair of climbing shoes EVER.  Evolv is not making any more of these amazing shoes, and I'm almost at the point of buying like four pairs of backup for the next ten years of climbing.  That's how much I love those shoes.  The other are a pair of Evolv's Shamans, women's version.  I got these on a pro deal when I was still at VE, and I'm still breaking them in.  No verdict yet... :)
As for clothes, I try to keep it to a minimum with room for error, or the "In case it rains like crazy and I need a backup set of clothes" scenario. :)  Since I'm only car camping, I'm not too worried about bringing an extra something-or-other with.

Even in the depths of summer, I tend to just wear pants rolled up for climbing, and I love Prana's Halle pants.  They breathe well but protect against the elements, and the roll holds when it's time to get down to business.  For seriously hard sport routes and nighttime lounging, I brought my amazing tasc Performance Nola Crops, which are easily becoming my favorite piece of clothing ever.  I truly tested their "stink-proof" claim last week (just for fun), and they lasted through an hour of very hot yoga, two hours of climbing, my 3-mile run, and 3 hours of dance.  Normally I'd be one stinky lady, but they somehow held up and had no stink.  It's black magic.  I'm so glad I took advice from The Morning Fresh on that one- and I plan on getting another pair in the future!
For a zip-up warmth layer, I got an Ibex Shak Lite Hoody for Christmas, and the bright blue is perfect for summer needs.  My thinner long sleeve is a "so-last-season" North Face 1/2 zip on sale from Backcountry, but I wore it on Devil's Tower during the height of summer and have packed it on climbing trips ever since for both chilly weather and a block against the sun.  Since spring means a variety of temps, I packed three Tshirts and 2 tank tops for the trip, along with a pair of legwarmers in case it got chilly at night.  Besides my raincoat, my headlamp, and my Mammut zero-degree down jacket from a few years ago (always need a puffy!), I was set!
Then the weather turned to poo.

Guess I get to watch the cats chase each other around the apartment instead and be all responsible.
Good thing I have all summer to go on trips... :)

(PS- This post was in no way sponsored by anyone I've mentioned above.  I use and recommend the gear listed above based on years of climbing and gads of trips I've taken.)

Sunday, April 13, 2014

FO: Bitty Ballerina Gift Set

It's been a pretty chill Sunday so far.

I woke up with a stomach ache and feeling dizzy, so I've been taking it pretty easy today.  Albert napped with me for a bit, I worked on school prep, and I finished a small project for a pregnant friend- a Bitty Ballerina Gift Set, since she owns a dance studio and is having a little girl!

Pattern(s): The Super Simple Little Legwarmers (pattern found here) and Saartje's Bootees (free from the Ravelry page)
Yarn: The legwarmers are Ella Rae's Lace Merino in Blue/Purple and the bootees are Lorna's Laces sock yarn in multi-colored pink (last seen used in Heather's Star Hat... one of these days I'll finally finish using that skein of yarn...)
Needles: DPNs in size 1 & 3

Timeframe: March 22nd-April 12th
Worst Part: None.  This was an easy-peasy project.
Best Part: Loving the adorable little bootees the moment I sewed the buttons on!  I'm also excited to completely surprise my friend by sending these in the mail to her dance studio. :)

I'll be wrapping up my weekend with a little bit of time at the dance studio, then watching Cosmos tonight while doing a little knitting.  Hopefully whatever is making my stomach unhappy goes away so I can get back to normal- I need to get back on the 1/2 marathon training schedule and prep for a quick climbing trip coming this weekend!  More on that next post... ;)

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

FO: Alaskan Cowl

Last night I cranked out the last part of the Alaskan Cowl for my friend Amanda!  She's heading up to Alaska in 2 days to spend her summer guiding kayaking adventures, and she asked me to knit her a little something to keep her warm, preferably a cowl.
The only slight problem was that she asked me barely a week ago.
Knit a cowl in less than a week?
Challenge accepted.
I cast off last night and blocked it today!
It spent the morning on the heater since it was cloudy, then when the sun finally began to shine and things warmed up I stuck it out on the back porch for a couple of hours of last-minute drying.  It's now wrapped and ready to be gifted at her going-away party tomorrow night!
Pattern: My own!  I based it off of a couple of different patterns for the look and the number of stitches to CO, but essentially I just added in a little lace between garter rows and did what I thought looked right.  Pattern is as follows:

CO 180 stitches 
P 1 round.
K1 round, P1 round 4x. 
K 1 round. 
YO, K2tog for a round.
Repeat the italicized part until the cowl reaches the desired length. end with the K1P1 rounds.
CO with Jeny’s Surprisingly Spring BO.
Yarn: Brown Sheep's Nature Spun in Worsted Weight, colorway is Stone.  Got to do a little de-stashing with this particular cowl...
Needles: size 8 on the Denise Interchangeable.  They're starting to wear out a little bit, which makes me sad.  Those needles have served me well for years.
Timeframe: April 4-8.  You guys- I knit this in four days!
Worst Part: Being worried that I wouldn't meet the deadline.
Best Part: Meeting the deadline with two days to spare, and winging a pattern and liking the results!
This morning Scott and I both accidentally slept in past our alarms, and he raced up to work in the truck- our only vehicle between the two of us that I normally have dibs on.
I was pretty okay with it this morning, though, because he helped me pump the tires up on my bike for my first day of bike commuting!  
I'll admit, doing an hour of hot yoga followed by a completely uphill bike ride wasn't the greatest first bike commute of the season, but it didn't feel as hard as I thought it was going to.  My legs were already stretched out, and I didn't get truly sore until I was home and grading (sitting) for awhile.  
Another reason I think the biking feels all right is because I'm deep in the first week of training for my half marathon!  I won the lottery to get in the Garry Bjorklund Half Marathon on June 21st, and my name was chosen!  This week was my first week of training, and so far I've done two runs, both over 3 miles.  It helps that Scott has done most of those runs with me- he pushes me a little, and makes me not cheat when I want to be done and go back.  
So far no major running issues besides dealing with side aches and sore feet (I have really high arches), but I'll keep you posted as training continues...

Sunday, April 6, 2014


On Thursday afternoon, I got back to my office after my last class of the day, took a giant breath in, and collapsed in my chair.  I may have sat there for at least a few minutes, doing some yoga breathing, rolling my neck around, rolling my shoulders, and letting the stress of the week collapse into my exhales.
It's been a long week.

This is a picture of my dinner Wednesday night before subbing some young kids for dance class.  This is what the entire week felt like- eating on the go, rush rush rush from one thing to the next, and grading.  Always more grading.
Thursday I (finally) handed back the last of the 2nd batch of papers to my students, and a tremendous weight was lifted off of my shoulders.  Yes, I still have a giant folder of latework to grade.  Yes, I have to grade and comment on 75 outlines this weekend.  But the papers are done.
I rewarded myself Thursday night with a visit to my friend Alex's house, where I met her new puppy and we watched Frozen.  I finished the first legwarmer of the Bitty Ballerina Gift Set and cast on for the second.

It's so close to being done, and I can ship it off to my friend soon!
After the movie, I drove home in yet another snowstorm that closed down schools and yoga class for me on Friday.  I'm really hoping it's the last snowstorm.  Don't get me wrong, I love winter, but this year I'm ready to be done.
Scott and I took a mini-vacation up the shore this weekend to Tofte to visit his Mom, and I think it was really good for both of us to have a nice break before the semester goes into overdrive.  We had some good food, good company, good coffee, and an amazing day out cross country skiing.

The trails in Superior National Forest were groomed and completely empty, so Scott's Mom, Scott and I were able to enjoy a gorgeous day outside.  My cheeks even got a little bit of color in them!

(I don't want to hear any snarky comments on how pale I am- believe me, I know...)
It was so warm out that we quickly shed layers to stay cool.  It wasn't a long ski- only about 6km- but it was a fantastic chance for us to get outside and breathe some fresh air before hunkering down today for homework (Scott) and grading (me).  It also made me realize how much I really love cross-country skiing!  I used to do it with my parents out on Lake Minnetonka, but I haven't done it a ton up here despite the abundance of trails, and I think I found a new cardio winter sport!  Now just to find some equipment for cheap before next year...
Today is lots of grading, some dance, some grocery shopping, some cooking and baking, and (hopefully) some knitting tonight to watch Cosmos, which is quickly becoming the only show that Scott and I watch together.
An hour of science with Neil DeGrasse Tyson, plus knitting?
Yes, please. :)