Wednesday, January 28, 2009

A Shiny New Year

The past few weeks have been very rough at work. I've been out of the classroom and have been administering speaking tests to the students. One at a time. That makes for a very long day. the test lasts approximately 20 minutes per student. This week I have been testing the little ones (first and second graders). The test works like this: we look at pictures and I have tiered questions and conversation to ask and engage the students in, and I assess their language abilities and complexity based on those. It is a scripted test. The final sentence of my scripted directions is "do you have any questions before we begin?". Now, the older students (the grades I teach and the ages with which I am familiar) generally say "No" and then we're off and running with the test. On occasion, it will happen that a student will have a question, at which time they ask, I answer, and we're off and running with the test. Let me tell you about the little ones. After I ask if they have any questions, their tiny little brows furrow, they purse their lips, their eyes wander around, they shift in their seats, they raise an eyebrow, furrow both again, relax and then purse lips, etc., etc., you get the picture. Realize, please, that this is a special kind of torture for me, who only wants to get through this endless list of students and get back in the classroom. So, this whole "Do I have a question" process for the little ones probably lasts a minute, but feels like an eternity. Usually, this physical thinking process ends with a reluctant and insecure "no", and then we're (finally!) off and running. A little dude that I tested this week went through the same facially laborious thinking process following the "do you have any questions?" question. It took him quite some time. He finally looked at me and said "yes". He waited for me, so I responded "What's your question, baby?" Ladies and Gentlemen, here was the youngster's question following test taking directions: "Did you have a shiny New Year?" Why, Yes, my little man, I did!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Wonder of Hand Knits

The man in that photo is my dad. The youngster he is holding is my brother. My brother is now 45 years old. My dad is also considerably older. (Hey Dad, don't you like how I didn't post your age! Sure threw big brother under the bus, though, eh?) Check out the date on the photo. The hat that is gracing my father's head in this photo was knit for him by his mother two years before this photo was taken. "What is the wonder of hand knits?" you ask. My dad is still wearing this hat. It no longer boasts a ball atop (men don't like the word pom-pom in reference to anything that they wear), but it has no holes and still keeps his head warm in Illinois winters. Next time I'm with my dad, I'll get a picture of him wearing that hat. I'm pretty sure he won't want to pick up my brother and attempt the same photo. That would probably throw his back out!

Thursday, January 22, 2009


Happy Birthday, Daddy! You've taught me so many things in life about life. I can't even think of where to begin to share all those things. I remembered a time in my life, about 20 years ago, when life was tough for me. I was going to school full time and working full time and broke as hell and it just didn't feel like anything was ever going to be better or good. I had a phone conversation with you and shortly after that conversation, I received a letter from you. I've kept that letter all these years. It is worn and faded from having been read and re-read. It's so faded I couldn't scan it to include it here, but I'd like to reproduce it for all to read: Hi Pal: Here is an early Christmas present. I know you will put it to good use. Isn't it wonderful to have such a nice father? It was good to talk to you the other night. Brought back some memories of the old days when I,too, was broke and had a few people besides myself to support. Let me play the part of an experienced father and share some advice: 1. Never get discouraged. This is not a permanent situation. If you can see the light at the end of the tunnel, it helps put a whole new perspective on your situation. 2. Be proud of what you are doing. There is absolutely nothing humiliating about saying, "I can't afford it." People understand that better than someone filing for bankruptcy. (after all, you're a college student). 3. Others have done it. If so, why can't you? You're a better person than everyone else. (I said so, that's who!) 4. Make a game of it. You get discouraged going to the store because you only have $5.00? Don't! I still have fun seeing how much I can get for as little as possible. That's just good money management. The trick is to always get yourself a treat, even it it's only an apple, or a candy bar, or a 25 cent bag of chips. The treat is your reward for doing good. You are not going to eat steak or maybe not even hamburger, but you can get a surprising amount of food for little money. 5. Have fun. If you wake up smiling and go to bed smiling you'll be amazed at how good you feel and how great everything looks. 6. Save for something special. When you get a paycheck, put $1.00 into a coffee can. Turn in some bottles or cans, put 1/2 of the change into the can. Leave it there. When things get discouraging, go to your "happy can." Take out a few bucks and treat yourself to something. Even if it is only the "Sunday Register". It is an accomplishment and will make you feel good. 7. Turn everything possible into an adventure. You always drive to Pamida? On the coldest day of the year, bundle up and walk. Memories make life worthwhile, and the more times you can recall memories, the more you verify the fact you've lived. (Instead of cooking soup, imagine you're the chef on a luxury ship). 8. Don't forget to cry. When you're sad and when you're happy. I guarantee, nine times out of ten you'll start laughing afterward. Plus, your eyeballs need cleaning every now and then. 9. Set aside time for you. Studying get you down? Work getting you stressful? Give yourself even 1/2 hour to nap, look out the window, go for a walk, watch TV, write, loaf, etc. Reinforces that you are important to you. 10. Share with others. If you bought a month's worth of groceries for $2.00, tell Angie. If you break your toe, tell someone. People that like you like to hear what's happening with you. Plus, it drives loneliness away. Well, I'm glad I didn't have 12 points because I would have run out of paper. Just a little sharing on my part with you. Have a nice day and enjoy yourself. That's the first step, hon! Love you! Dad WHEN ALL ELSE FAILS, ASK YOURSELF: WHAT WOULD THE LONE RANGER HAVE DONE IN THIS SITUATION? Now, isn't that a great letter? I don't always remember all the points of the letter, but I always ask myself "what would the lone ranger have done in this situation?" and it brings a smile to my face and happy memories of my daddy who has always been there for me. It doesn't matter how old a gal gets, she's always still her daddy's girl! I LOVE YOU DADDY! Happy Birthday from your little girl.

Monday, January 19, 2009


This past weekend, which turned out to be a four day weekend due to Thursday and Friday school cancellations due to extreme cold, I did a little PMS - pre-menstrual shopping. Went to The Yarn Exchange in Dekalb and found exactly what I wanted for Amused. Cascade Yarns 100% Peruvian Highland Wool in charcoal gray (color no. 8400). The picture does not show the depth of the gray, but it is much darker. I have been wanting to knit a charcoal gray sweater for myself, but hadn't found the pattern, nor the yarn. I found both this weekend!
I did not come home and immediately cast-on because I had to think carefully about the resolution I had made to get projects off needles. I'm pretty sure I said one project off needles per month. So, I cast-on for Amused shortly after I got home. Now, here's my line of thinking in apparently breaking this resolution:
a) I'm not fully enjoying Poppy (and one should fully enjoy their knitting, am I right?);
b) Poppy is being knit out of cotton, and the arctic temperatures we are now facing really justify a wool sweater; and
c) I got Juliet off the needles in January, so that counts as my one project off, right?
I'm not one to normally have several projects on needles. I tend to start and finish a project. But, I think I explained the circumstances of Poppy being on my needles to begin with...
PLUS...Amused requires me to try some new skills: crochet cast-on, reversible cables, so that's a big bonus and should be d) in my above list.
Haven't made great progress, but here it is:
The yarn feels just slightly scratchy as it runs through my fingers, but the fabric feels oh-so-soft resting against my palms. I won't count on getting Amused off the needles by the end of the month, but we'll just have to see how my knitting progresses. The boys are going to a monster truck rally this Saturday sans me, so that promises to be some quality knitting time. (By the way, that sans me is completely voluntary). In December I knit several Cherry Garcias, including one for myself, which I love! It was amazingly quick to knit as well as fun, just as the name implies. Not the best pic of me, nor the best lighting, but here is my Cherry Garcia knit with stash acrylic yarn (yes, once again, the Bernat Softee Chunkee, and apparently, I'm on a gray kick, but I was on a blue kick last year, so at least I'm changing colors). It is WARM! It also has the added feature of being costumish on my boyfriend. He tried it on and looked remarkably like Henry VIII! Speaking of my boyfriend, he took me to see a movie this weekend, and a romance at that! Saw Last Chance Harvey. The acting was fabulous, and it was set in London. Do I have the best boyfriend ever, or what? Thanks sweetie!

Friday, January 16, 2009

TV in bed

Watched You, Me and DuPree in bed tonight. This was my view:

Thursday, January 15, 2009

There is knitting in this content...

I had a fabulous birthday with my parents and my boyfriend on Saturday. Mom and Dad did indeed make it in, though their trip took longer due to the weather (and my nerves were rattled knowing they were out there driving in the bad weather). The snow eased up and the roads were cleared in time for us all to go out to dinner at the restaurant where my friend works. We had never been there before: Filo Spinato in Dekalb. Entering the restaurant was like walking into a downtown Chicago restaurant. The ambience was great, the service was outstanding. It helped that my friend works there! She really fussed over us and me. Another waiter was sent to our table to tell a hilarious birthday joke, and it was all topped off with a birthday slice of ricotta cheesecake on an enormous plate with Happy Birthday written across it in lovely dessert sauces. I can't say enough about the food there. The appetizer we chose was baked goat cheese and it was DIVINE! (I've been on the treadmill ever since)
My boyfriend gifted me a bigscreen monitor for my computer, which is amazing. I am loving it! My mom and I played Spider Solitaire on it and their whole stay she was just itching to get on my new computer and play. I came home from work the following day and there was a stuffed spider monkey hanging from my doorknob, which Lisa hung there in order to make my birthday wishes come true. Now, Dick and Cindy owe me a tiny bicycle. So, thank you to my family and friends for spoiling me on my birthday.
I have been knitting. I have had goo-gobs of alone time here lately, so I have been working my needles. However, I'm not really enjoying the knits that I'm currently working on, so I tend to take many breaks. But I made this resolution to get projects off needles, so that is what I am trying to accomplish. In late September I started Poppy from Yarnplay by Lisa Shobhana Mason. This project was started simply because I had left my knitting bag 100 miles away at my parents' house following a weekend visit. I'm normally not a multiple project kind of gal. At the time, Juliet was in the bag that was left behind at mom and dad's. Of course, I can't be without a working project, so I started Poppy as an easy knit because we were headed to Tennessee on vacation and it promised to be a nice, mindless knit for driving. I had great fun with the body of Poppy. You add garter ridges into stockinette at random and it felt like making intentional mistakes and was great fun to add color and vary the intervals of color and/or garter ridges. The body is also knit with the stockinette moving sideways. I couldn't really get excited about Poppy before I had to set it aside to begin Christmas knitting. Unfortunately, it has now become a get-this-off-the-needles project. I finished the back and am working up the front now. It remains an easy, mindless knit, but has lost its lustre for me.
I'm also working on a pair of mittens for a friend as a "trade". It's a new pattern for me, two needle mittens, and I'm not sure I'm liking this pattern or the yarn. The yarn is Bernat Softee Chunkee. I made my boyfriend a hat out of this and it knit up beautifully and oh-so-warm, but after washing it stretched way out and never got shape back, so it's become worthless as a winter hat. Why I picked it up for this project? I bought a BOATLOAD of this yarn in a sale bin a few years back, so these little projects have become stash busters.
I worked on Poppy a bit today, as school was cancelled due to cold. It was -30 degrees this morning according to The Weather Channel. YIKES! The forecast calls for the same tomorrow, so I will get a 5 day weekend out of this blustery weather. We will have to make these days up at the end of the school year, but I don't mind as I'm a live-in-the-moment kind of person and love the surprise of a spontaneous day off. So, more knitting tomorrow.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

New Angel Kitty in Heaven

Oh my! Talked to my very best friend yesterday on my birthday, and after the usual "happy birthday" greetings, she informed me that the night before she had to let her lovely little lady kitty Sadie go on. I hate like hell that she's going through this right now. I know the pain. I didn't know Sadie well, but she was a unique little girl kitty who loved to climb up my leg, rub on my face, and drink water from the faucet while I was washing up during my visits. Goodbye, little sneezy girl! Curl up with Brutus and Benny and Raspberry and Havoc and Jakey and Gia and all the curl-around-your-leg animals that have graced our lives. Look over your mommy and daddy and baby brother and Audrey and let them know that you are still and always with them! (maybe leave mommy a little sneeze).

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Happy Birthday to Me!

It's snowing, and while I love the snow, this may delay my parents' travel. The snow is supposed to end by late morning, so hopefully roads will clear. Right now the state road information has local road conditions listed as 100% snow covered. This is what happens when one has a January birthday in the Midwest!

Friday, January 9, 2009

Birthday Kitty

Tomorow is my birthday and I will be 42. Nearly 40 years ago, I got the best birthday present ever. He was an all white, inky looking kitten. The inky look was from being in a box of newspapers. I named him Jacob. He was the love of my life for very nearly 20 years. I spent my adult life with him. Three years ago in May (May 24 to be exact), Jacob passed away in my arms. I miss him daily. We shared all those birthdays and now I can't acknowledge a birthday without saying Happy Birthday to my sunshine. Happy Birthday Jacob, my love. Mama misses you!

Sleep softly, my love! Sleep warmly. I will post more pictures of Jacob and my other kitty babies as I progress in this blog. The kitty family is angel Jakey, Toivo, Estelle and Heimo, each of which will be honored with their own biograhical posts, as well as their own flickr slide shows. Mom and dad are coming to visit me tomorrow in celebration of my birthday. We will eat, drink and be merry. The plans are to shop and do dinner. My good friend Cindy in Arizona sent me a fabulous birthday card. This is the cover: Thank you Cindy and Dick! I think this is hilarious! The inside of the card says "fingers crossed". I want a job writing greeting cards. Imagine the fun! So, I will be spending quality time with my parents tomorrow, who are, by the way, my two very favorite people on the planet! The computer is in the guest bedroom, so chances are, tomorrow I won't be posting to the blog any childhood birthday party pictures, as I did for my brother, but one never knows what I will do...

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Juliet and Itchy Kitties

Juliet is officially completed and has been worn. Is being worn in fact! Last night I went to youtube and watched a video on how to make a crochet chain, as the pattern calls for crochet chains as button catches. I attached three buttons to Juliet. The lovely thing about the buttons is that I found them in my boyfriend's late father's sewing box. After we lost his mother to a long and courageous battle with cancer early this past summer, my boyfriend gave me the sewing box that had been his father's. I love that! I love that the family sewing box belonged to his dad. I never had the pleasure of meeting the patriach of the family, as he passed away several years before I met my guy. I have been told we would have taken to each other. So I take great pride in the fact that his buttons now grace my handknit sweater.

On a completely new note, the header of my blog displays a picture of my youngest kitty. This picture is completely relevant to my blog as he is rubbing his face on the handle of a bag, which at the time contained a knitting project. This little guy is my baby Heimo. He is three years old, part Oriental, and all play! He is also being considered as the poster kitty for cat allergies. (not really, but if there were to be a cat allergy poster kitty, I'm sure he'd be in the running!) Having spent thousands to try to determine what exactly he is allergic to and what will help his allergies (all inconclusive!), we have given in and just accepted them and I do my best to work with him and to keep him from destroying himself. Heimo spent three months wearing an elizabethan collar as a kitten. This did not in any way, shape or form keep him from being bubbly and happy. He learned new games to play incorporating the "cone" into the play. This is Heimo wearing his cone. What you can't see in this picture is the total destruction of his skin that he would render when the cone was off. Now, not only is Heimo uber playful, but he is also a smart little puppy! He figured out how to get his e-collar off. He was not always successful (thank goodness as I work 8 hours/day and sleep 8 hrs/day - not at the same time). He would put his hind foot into the collar and pull until he gagged and keep pulling until he heard the safety collar click. He would then sit up, put a front paw on either side of the cone, and pull it off! True story...I witnessed it on several occasions. After months of the cone and trying various drugs and biopsies of tissue in areas he was devastating, etc., etc., the new vet partner at our clinic told the vet and me about "Softpaws". Softpaws have saved his life! They are wonderful little rubber claw tips which you apply with glue (just like ladies' acrylic nail glue) and they shed off when his claws shed. Of course, I have to keep watch and get new ones on, but that's nothing compared to the torn and bloody patches I would come home to. Now, remember I mentioned how smart he was? Well, he has been rubbing his nose raw with his soft paw, the one on his dew claw. Over the past month, he has this white patch of fur all gone and grey and raw looking, but at least the skin has not been torn open. Last week, however, I noticed that there were scratches in his raw area and that they are getting deeper and worse every day. I told my boyfriend that he must be finding something in the house to rub it on, but for the life of me, I could not find any bloody corners or furniture or the like. So, last night, I'm sitting in the recliner knitting away and the boy cats are curled up together on the back of the couch. I hear Heimo make his little, ouch-that-hurts-but-I-can't-stop-scratching-anyway cry and I went over to pull his face out of his paw. I noticed that the paw had a very long, sharp dew claw! Yikes! I just changed that Softpaw and thought he must've gotten it caught in something for it to have shed so quickly. Then I noticed! It was NOT HIS PAW! He was using Toivo's claws! Toivo was fast asleep and oblivious to the fact that he was being used in such a devious fashion by the little pesky kitty! I will now have to apply Softpaws to the big boy, and I'm not sure how he will take to that as he's 12 and has never had them before. He's very good about me messing with him, he lets me clip his claws, but I've never applied anything to him before. We'll have to see how that goes! I can't have him being used to inflict injury upon the little ichymus maximus!

And there you can see the bloody little face. Poor monkey! No medication has ever worked for him...NONE! So I will apply Animax cream while it is this open and I will apply Softpaws to Toivo and we'll do another deep clean of the house and hope we get a cold snap outside, etc., etc.

Here is a slideshow of some Heimo snaps. Enjoy.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Back to the Real World

Today is the last day of my vacation. There are many benefits to being a teacher. One of the many is a two week Christmas vacation. My boyfriend, his son and I went to see Bedtime Stories at the theatre. Cute movie, but I was greatly disappointed that The Who song "I Can't Explain" that has been on the advertisements, did not, in fact, play during the movie at all. So, if you, like I am, are jonesing for a great Who song, click on the youtube on the side bar and watch a some classic Who videos. Wanted to insert one right into the text here, especially "I Can't Explain", but not sure how to do that yet. Another skill to master. Before I made the Christmas side cable slippers, I produced a prototype, which was fortunate, as it was too big for a woman's foot. So, it has been languishing as one boyfriend slipper, waiting for its mate. I got the second boyfriend slipper started and completed today, and they are currently residing on his feet. Good thing, too, as it's cold out and his kitchen tends to be drafty. I enjoy knitting for him as he's such an appreciative recipient and tends to be proud and show off my knits to others. So the remainder of the evening I will not lament the fact that I must return to the work force tomorrow. Rather, I will relax and perhaps reflect on what a good holiday this was. Much time with my boyfriend and his kids, time with my parents and brother, a fun New Year's Eve party with friends, food and drink, and lounging time in my home with the kitties. Tomorrow, it's back to work I go (until spring break....)

Saturday, January 3, 2009


A New Year...A New Blog!

I've wanted to start a knitting blog for quite some time, having lurked among many great knitting blogs. This Christmas, my lovely boyfriend gifted me a computer, which was quite a surprise, as evidenced by the accompanying photo. Today, the day of my older brother's birthday, I begin! This is all very new to me, so I suspect it will start out rusty and creaking, but here's keeping our fingers crossed that I learn and that I learn well and that this will be shiny and well-oiled in no time!
My knitting New Year's Resolution is to get projects off needles and to complete AT LEAST one project per month this year. Since I made this resolution on the first of 2009, I have Juliet by Zephyrstyle off my needles and it is blocking in anticipation on the guest bed. I completed the slipper for my mom that was on the needles as well as starting and finishing the second slipper in the pair. Can't be too congratulatory about the slippers as they're such a quick knit. The slippers are side cable slippers available on Both works are up on my ravelry account.
A GREAT BIG HEARTY THANK YOU to my guy for this fabulous computer and all his time and energy in getting it up and running for me. He is so patient with my technological idiocy. He never pokes fun; he just gets things done for me.