Friday, May 30, 2014

FO: Dancing Octopus

As of yesterday, I am officially finished with all of my dance-related knitting gifts!  I can't even tell you how excited I am about that.  Last on my list to finish was the Dancing Octopus for the head of my studio, Stacey!

Pattern: "Octopus", from Hansi Singh's book Amigurumi Knits
Yarn: Finally starting to use up the Turquoise Heather colored Cascade 220 from my Vivian sweater, oh-so-long ago.  The underside was in Cascade 220's Hot Pink, and I'll be using the rest of that skein for future projects!
Timeframe: May 18th-May 29th, though the bulk of it was knit over the last couple of days or so.
Worst Part: Nothing, really.  I was nervous that knitting the 8 legs would get long after awhile, but they were short and quick and easy, and I was done before I knew it.
Best Part: I love that the pattern calls for putting the little fuzzy chenille rods in each of the Octopus's legs, allowing one to pose his legs however one sees fit.  Super adorable, and I love the outcome!

This was a fantastic pattern, easy to knit, easy to understand, and fun to watch take shape.  I'll definitely be knitting it in the future.
I think I'm going to take a break knitting stuffed animals for now, though I've already had a request for a flamingo from a certain Jamaican friend of mine, as well as various golf club covers from family members.
With the octopus finished, I only have a couple of things on the needles right now.
I started one of two Fornicating Deer Hats for my two guy cousins for this Christmas.  These guys saw this hat and requested it for this year's holly jolly holiday.  Unfortunately, my brother requested a full sweater of this, which I've yet decided whether or not I'm going to do it.  Maybe just a hat- we'll see.  Anyhow, I got a lot done on the long highway of South Dakota, and I'm almost finished with the first hat already!

(Modelling at one of the lovely South Dakota rest stops along the way...)
You can kind of see the mildly inappropriate part of it has already emerged, and I'm starting the decreases on the top already.  I think the second hat will omit the ribbing on the bottom, and instead perhaps start with a Latvian braid.  We'll see.  I like the colors already!
Other than that, I have a few options from here for what to knit next.  I know I need to take out my Dad's Dale of Norway- a longtime nemesis- and figure out what's next on it.  I also need to cast on (again) for Brit's Narwhal mittens.
But I'm pretty sure I want to start a project that I already have the yarn for- a Coastal Hoodie!

It's been in my queue for a long time, and it looks like the perfect summer cover-up for me.  I want to make at least one sweater for myself this year, since the last time I made one was forever ago.
Since I need to expand my teacher wardrobe, other sweater considerations I'm thinking about are:
1- The Everyday Cardigan

Seems like a great cover-up for all the dresses I wear to teach!
2- The Blair cardigan from Twist Collective

Another simple sweater to layer over dresses
3- The Velvet Morning cardigan!

I love the colorwork charts, though I'm not terribly keen to get back to doing colorwork on the wrong side.  Maybe this would be my chance to try knitting something in the round and steeking it... eek!
I'll probably start a couple of other small projects to knit, but the real big projects around here so far are going to be organizing the house for the summer, getting all of my dance gifts prepped for my end-of-year presents, and working more on my syllabus for next fall already.
After all, a Europe vacation that will take up all of August means I won't have time then... :)

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Climbing in SD!

Last week Monday was a bit of a big deal around here- Scott walked across the stage and graduated with his Computer degree!  

I'm incredibly proud of his accomplishments, and I know that he was really excited to be done and take some time to relax.  I also decided to take a little time to relax after a long semester, and on early Tuesday morning, I took off for a climbing trip to western South Dakota!
I went with my awesome friend Val, who I last climbed with in the Red River Gorge in Kentucky!  In five days, we didn't really take any rest days, hitting up sport climbing in Spearfish Canyon and both sport and traditional climbing in the Mount Rushmore area!  
Instead of a long-winded explanation, I'll just dump some pics with small explanations, and say that overall the trip was pretty fantastic in all elements.  I pushed myself a little with some of the first Trad leads of the season for me, and enjoyed good company, good food, and great climbing.  Made me super excited for this summer's climbing!
(Rappelling down after climbing and cleaning a route in Spearfish Canyon)
(At the top of one of the thin needles behind Mount Rushmore!  The weather held out most of the time for us- I even got a little sunburned!)
(First trad climb of the year!  I forgot how heavy all that gear is around my waist...)
(Val and I are excited on Day 4- what adventures will we find next?)
(At the top of Pitch 1- about 150 feet off the ground with about 200 ft to go- of an "Adventure Climb" in Sylvan Lake!  This particular climb ended struggling up a fantastic chimney, then I belayed as it rained and hailed!  The rappel and hike back were also in the rain, but there were still smiles all around!)
(Letting the gear hang-dry after our adventure climb)
(After about 1400 miles and a lot of driving across flat South Dakota, the front of the truck looked like a bug massacre!)
As is the case with most climbing trips, this one only fueled my excitement to go on more just like it.  When I got home last night, Scott and I were already talking about where we'll be taking our own summer climbing trip... so many possibilities!
I have a lot of things to catch up on this week, so stay tuned for knitting updates and dance updates as I catch up after an (awesome) week away! :)

Sunday, May 18, 2014

FO: Gerald the Dancing Giraffe

I may have cut it slightly close with my good friend Gerald.  Thursday night I worked furiously to finish all the fiddly little items, like the 11(!) spots, the ears, and the embroidery.  After taking my cousin out climbing during the day for the first time (more on that later) on Friday, I stopped at Yarn Harbor to get more orange yarn for Gerald's pom-pom mane since I ran out of the orange I was using.  There was a moment of panic when I realized that YH didn't have the correct color in stock in Cascade 220, so I took a gamble with the Cascade 220 Paints in an Orange Mix.  Then I went home, put on a bunch of bad Netflix documentaries (Inside North Korea, anyone?), and spent my evening make the pom-poms, tails, and antennae, and putting the final touches on Gerald the Dancing Giraffe.  Not a day too soon, either.

Pattern: "Giraffe" from Susan B. Anderson's book Itty Bitty Toys
Yarn: Main body in Brown Sheep Nature Spun Worsted in "Impasse Yellow", all the orange except the pom-poms in Cascade 220 in colorway 9542 "Blaze", and the Pom-poms in Cascade 220 Paints in colorway 9721 "Orange Mix".

Timeframe: March 13th-May 16th.  To be fair, I knit the body and kind of let it sit around for a long time before doing the rest of it.
Needles: Size 6 DPN set

Mods: I did the same mods as I usually do for stuffed animals: instead of knitting all the limbs separate and sewing them all on the main body, I picked up the stitches straight from the body and continued as per the pattern instructions.  Another Mod on the hooves was I skipped rows 12 & 15 so the bottom of the hooves would have more even-looking decreases.  I've done both these mods in the past, and will definitely do them again.

Worst Part: The overall fiddly-ness of the antennae, spots, pom-poms, ears, and embroidery.  I forgot how long those detail parts take, and really pushed the deadline getting those finished.
Best Part: Giving it to my dancer before our show last night and having her absolutely love him!

(As you can see, Albert was also a big fan of Gerald.  Maeby's only interest was attempting to eat the pom-poms.)
Today I have to cast on for the Octopus I'm making for the head of my studio, and that's my last really big knitted piece I'm making for dance this year!  It feels really good to be almost done with those.
So close.  Maybe I can even get a little climbing in later this afternoon while it's still nice out...

Thursday, May 15, 2014

2013-2014 School Year? CHECK!

After hours sitting and marking and standing up to do jumping jacks and stapling grade sheets...

I'm DONE, folks!! :)
No more grading for the 2013-2014 school year- HUZZAH and OOOOH YEEEEEEAH!!! :)
It feels so good to have the hard part done!
I headed up to my office yesterday to do some paperwork, meet with students, and start cleaning my office space.

One of my office-mates is the yoga instructor, and it turns out the printer went a little crazy printing off the yoga-pose final for her class.  This means she had a little bit of fun with the rest of us- three desk areas, including mine, were completely papered with the extra exams when we got to work yesterday.
This is the community college version of "Teachers Gone Wild".  Or what happens when teachers spend too much time at their desks grading and hitting their heads against the wall... :)
To celebrate finishing my grading, I went to town last night on the giraffe!

We've spent a lot of time together now.  I've fondly started to call him "Gerald", just so I have a name to grumble when my needle gets stuck on his head again ("D*^#$t, Gerald!").  I'm finally finished with all the limbs, and I've started on the ears.  I have two days to finish the rest of this beast, and I'm determined to get 'er done.
Head down, keep going.  It'll happen.
Ahem.  Frankly, it has to.  Special showing is Saturday starting at 4.
Deadline. :)

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Honorary Aunt

The end-of-semester crazy continues around here, and in order to stay out of Scott's way while he went crazy finishing his classes, I took a jaunt down to the cities to visit family and finally meet a new friend!
Sarah has been one of my best friends for a very long time, and she and her husband Dustin welcomed their son Ben 6 weeks earlier than planned back in December.  Luckily, he's a strong little dude that has turned into a giggling, smiling baby.  
Since Sarah is an only child, I'm one of Ben's "Honorary Aunts", and Sarah and I have already both agreed that I'll be the one to take him to do the scary stuff that we don't tell Mom about until we're showing her the pictures when we're back from whatever shenanigans we get up to!  I'm pretty okay with this role, and know that I have a lot to live up to. ;)
Besides finally meeting Sir Benjamin, I got to spend time with my brother and his girlfriend Kendra.  I love hanging out at their beautiful place in Woodbury; we spent time outside grilling, playing croquet, and even throwing a softball around.
(Kyle taking his shot while Kendra and their friend Jordan look on.  I'll give you a hint about this game- I WON!)
And yes, I brought the giraffe down and finished two of his legs while watching the Minnesota Wild win Game 4 against the Chicago Blackhawks!  
With a lot of dedicated effort, I think I'll finish this guy before our show on Saturday.  There's a lot of fiddly work left, but the limbs are one of the last "big" parts of the project.  The spots and poofs and ears and embroidery are smaller things that just take time.  
Only one issue stands in my way.
Finals week.  

I'm in the middle of my extreme-grading marathon for the end of the semester, which was exceedingly successful yesterday and hopefully continues to be successful today!  I have a lot of long papers to go, but I'm hoping I can finish by tomorrow sometime.  I only have dance tonight, which will be a welcome break to jump around and move after sitting all day.  This final batch of papers is the last thing I have for the semester before being able to say Adios! to the 2013-2014 school year.  I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, but it's still a little too far away to reach it.
Time to make another pot of coffee and dig in to the papers again.  Ooooh boy...

Friday, May 9, 2014

The Semester is Wrapping Up... YES

Yesterday was my last day of classes- HUZZAH!  My students are turning in their final papers and projects to me, then filling out a quick questionnaire about the class before I send them off for the summer!  I'm both happy and a little sad the semester is over, as I had a lot of fantastic students that joined my Comp II class straight from taking Comp I with me in fall.  Next semester I'll have an entirely new batch of students, and I'm already plotting away at what I'm going to keep and change in my classes.

(New Books are rolling in for me!  One of the great things about being a teacher is free copies of writing books from publishers.  I'm considering changing to this book for my Comp II class, as it's much more intellectually and rhetorically stimulating than the current reference guide I use.)
I'm finally getting down to the climbing gym again after dance took over for awhile there.  I think I've climbed twice in the past three weeks- not nearly enough for this lady, especially with climbing goals on the horizon!  I'll be heading out on my trip with Val in less than two weeks, and while I won't be as strong as I would hope to pull on hard stuff, I'm excited to just get outside and climb on real rock.  The constant rain has put a damper on any outside climbing.  Come on, MN- I know you have nice weather in there somewhere!

(Christian and I showing a little matching awesomeness that was NOT planned.  Things like this just HAPPEN when climbing at the Duluth VE... )
Last night I got to have a proud girlfriend moment with Scott at LSC's Honors and Awards banquet!

This crazy guy has had a busy two years, and he's (finally) been getting some recognition for all the hard work he's put in.  He won the Student of the Year Award for the Computer Information Science Department, he won Student Worker of the Year for LSC, and he was recognized as part of the team that won state and went to regionals for the Computer Cybersecurity Defense Competition!  All of this while working 20 hours a week at his Computer Security job (and 20 hours working at the college as their lead student computer guy) and balancing a 4.0 GPA with 18 credits his last semester.  He works his butt off, and now that school is finally wrapping up for him, it's nice that he's getting a little oomph before he heads in to finals week! Maybe I'll be able to go on a date with him sometime soon... ;)
I don't know if I can talk about the knitting right now.  I want to finish the giraffe SO BADLY before the special showing, and I know if I let the giraffe linger for too long, I'm going to get behind on knitting the Octopus for Stacey's gift.  There's a lot left- all the limbs, the spots, the fuzzballs (there's a lot of fuzzballs)... only a super big push could allow me to finish this before May 17th, and I may not have time for that push since I have to finish grading and entering grades by next week on Wednesday.
I could if I really went for it.
Like, really went for it.
My schedule doesn't condone it- tonight I'm heading to the Twin Cities hangout time with my brother and friends.  I might have to bring the giraffe with to the cities, even though he's on the larger side.  It might be worth it.  If I can finish the all limbs this weekend, I have a fighting chance of getting him done.
We'll have to see... ;)

Monday, May 5, 2014

A Week in a Post

I meant to post mid-week last week, but things got crazy as our second weekend of competition approached.  Add to that the fact that I'm now in my last week of the semester, it's been more than a little crazy both at work and home, and keeping my to-do list from being overwhelming requires a lot of coffee, a little organization, and occasional musical theater dance breaks in the middle of my living room.
I was able to take a quick break mid-week to hang out with this lovely lady when she stopped by to say hi on Wednesday:

(Can you tell how excited Maeby is to see her?)
Val is one of my best friends, and I'm always happy to see her since she currently lives two hours away in the Twin Cities.  What do two ladies do when they get together?

Grab some coffee and plan a climbing trip!  Since I didn't get to go to the Gorge a couple weeks ago, I've been restless for a trip.  The itch has gotten even worse as I am sucked into both the school and dance world, leaving little time for climbing.  I'll be really happy when my classes conclude at the end of this week.  Finals week is next week, and since I'm not giving any finals, it's just last-minute grading, meetings, and grade entry for me!
We decided that since we've both been to the Gorge a few times, plus it's a 19-hour drive down to KY, we're going to shorten our drive by heading out west instead!  We're going to hit up Spearfish and Mount Rushmore in South Dakota, which are a meer 9-10 hour drive from the cities.  On a "rest" day, we'll drive the hour over to Devil's Tower so Val can have her first Tower experience!  It'll be a welcome break from everything going on at home, and allow me to recharge my batteries a little before dance season wraps up.
Speaking of dance, we finished the last of our competition season this weekend at the Celebration Talent Dance Competition put on in Duluth!  I got barely any pictures at this competition, but my ladies still lit up the dance floor with their amazing energy and camaraderie!

(This is my Red Tap line cheering on their fellow dancers from the audience!)
A couple of my routines did exceptionally well in awards- my Beyond the Sea ladies got High Gold and 1st place in their category, and my tap soloist Taylor also got High Gold and a 1st place in her category along with a Performance Award!  My other routines got Gold but (I thought) did just as well performing- I'm especially proud that the Singing in the Rain routine went off without any hitches this time: props worked well, no bloody noses, and the girls were incredibly energetic and had good faces!  I'm a little sad they didn't at least get a costume award, but judges are always hard to predict in things like this.

I got a smidge of knitting done both in the dressing room and the audience during announcements.  I mostly worked on the Pangolin Cowl I'm knitting for Brit.  Recognize the yarn?  That's the bright pink I was using for her Narwhal mittens (replaced by Dale and not cast on again yet- that's a summer project...).  It's currently my only travel knit, which is a shame since the bigger knits are ones that have pressing deadlines!

This meant that last night when I finally got home after a long weekend of being at the DECC, I worked ferociously on the Giraffe I'm knitting for my duet student.  I finished the body (finally!) and even finished the head.  Unfortunately, I ran out of stuffing, so today I'll be stopping to get some more on my way home from my college before I continue with the limbs tonight.
I'm hoping to have this finished to give to my students in a little less than two weeks at our competition special showing, since that's the last time my solo and duet students will perform their dances.  This means I'll either be grading or knitting ferociously in the evenings for the next week and a half or so. Doable?  Yes.  Mildly pushing a deadline?  Perhaps... :)
I also decided that I'll be making the head of my studio a little Octopus as an end-of-year thank you, since our theme this year is "Under the Sea"!

(picture is from the Project page for this pattern on Ravelry)
I haven't decided yet if the main body will be pink or if I'll knit the colors as seen above, but I have a giraffe to finish first.  And papers to grade.  And final grades to submit.  And a trip to plan and go on.
It's going to be a busy month.