A little retail therapy

Urth Yarns Uneek 3024

These endless days of same, same, same are starting to wear on me a bit. I am grateful that I am able to get outside most days for a run and am staying connected with friends, students and colleagues through apps like Zoom and Marco Polo. I have my knitting, and board games, and Netflix to help keep me sane too. But, this Groundhog Day, wash, rinse, repeat reality is definitely taking its toll. I saw a Facebook post from a friend the other day in which he shared that he’s been ordering little things (a silicone spoon, mixing bowls) on Amazon each day just for the fun and novelty of having packages arrive at his doorstep. I can totally relate, and I’ve turned to some retail therapy of my own.

This morning I placed an order with Jimmy Beans Wool. They are offering free shipping on all orders through the end of April, which is a great deal. I got a skein of Cascade 220 in a smoky gray to make a pair of boot toppers and then I ordered a skein of Urth Yarns Uneek in color 3024. I wanted something decadent, and soft and COLORFUL to help banish the monotony. I am planning to make a pair of fingerless gloves (probably Crown Wool Mitts).

Fingerless gloves are one of my go-to knits. I love knitting fingerless gloves for the same reasons I think most people like knitting socks. They are small and portable. They don’t require much yarn, so you can splurge on something special. They are quick to knit — instant gratification! And, they are practical. I have several pairs, and I enjoy wearing them all winter long. I also love fingerless gloves because they give me an opportunity to work with brighter, more vibrant colors than I would choose for a large garment such as a sweater.

I’m continuing to make progress on Derecho. I am almost finished with the waist shaping. Then, it’s on to the bottom short-rows and finally, the sleeve edging. I’m still loving everything about this project.

Work has been stressful lately. Our last team meeting ended with one of my co-workers (I’ll call her S) leaving the meeting in a huff. Tensions are high. It’s a lot of work to create digital content, and most of us are struggling to learn new platforms as well. We’ve been trying to divide up the work of creating lessons for our students, but things have been complicated by the fact that some of us want to use SeeSaw and some want to use Google Classroom. Our district has approved both, so the choice belongs to the individual teacher. Most of us (4 of 5) shared an understanding that the best way to handle this would be to create and share content (video lessons, anchor charts, etc.) and then leave it up to the individual teacher to port that content into the platform of his/her choice. Unfortunately, S seemed to be completely taken by surprise by this. We had discussed it at our previous team meeting and had been talking about it all week via group text, so I’m not sure why she was so blindsided. I guess she was expecting everything to be ready to go. She kept saying, “This doesn’t help me at all!” I’m wondering if she’s got stuff going on at home. I’ve tried reaching out to her since the meeting, but all she’ll say is that everything is “fine.” The governor just announced that schools will remain closed through the remainder of the school year, so this way of teaching has to become the new normal. I hope next week will be better!

Easter Sunday


Today is such a beautiful day. It is about 76 degrees and partly sunny. The temperature is forecast to drop quite a bit overnight, and tomorrow’s high will only be in the 50s, but for now it is absolutely lovely. We’ve had a pretty low-key Easter. Hubs did yard work in the morning and organized the garage. Older kid is working. He went in early because he earns time and a half and wanted the extra cash. Younger kid went for a walk with Ace and cleaned his bathroom! I guess you could say we are bored. LOL. I exercised and did some online shopping at ThredUP (my fav online thrift store). I also tried making whipped coffee this morning. It was…interesting. The ingredients are simple: equal parts instant coffee, sugar and hot water. You mix everything together so that the sugar and coffee dissolve in the water and then you whip it until it develops a fluffy consistency (it reminded me of marshmallow fluff) and turns a caramel brown. To serve, you fill a glass with ice and milk and spoon a couple tablespoons of whipped coffee on top. The consistency put me off a bit. The coffee didn’t dissolve into the milk as quickly as I expected and so it was kind of gloppy. The flavor was good though and it definitely had a caffeine kick!

Later hubs and I took the dogs on a walk (dogs are loving it today!) Now, hubs is making dinner and I’m sitting on the patio listening to the birds and getting ready to knit. I’m just staring the increases for the waist shaping on Derecho.

I haven’t knit much over the past week because I’ve been so busy with work. On Tuesday, we were informed that we would need to start posting video lessons each week. The expectation is still that the work is optional for students, but we need to be providing new content for those that are willing and able to access it.

Up until now, I’ve mainly been posting review activities in Seesaw. Creating teaching videos is a whole new animal and the learning curve has been pretty steep! I spent all day Thursday filming and refilming. I tried using a blank wall and masking tape to post the learning target and anchor chart, but the video quality was so poor that they were virtually unreadable. By the end of the day I was frustrated and defeated and ready to give up. Luckily, I mentioned my problems to a friend and she suggested I try Flipgrid. On Friday, I played around with some of the tools in Flipgrid and discovered the whiteboard feature. I was able to upload photos of my learning target and anchor chart so they appear on screen, and I ended up teaching the lesson that way. I think it turned out OK! Fortunately, my team and I divided up the work, each taking responsibility for one lesson, so I only had one video to create this week. And, now that I have a tool that works, next week should be better.

Well, I’m off to enjoy the remainder of this lazy Sunday. Talk soon!

Slow and steady

Derecho

I’m at about the halfway point with Derecho. I love everything about this project right now. The knitting is simple and soothing, the yarn is soft and beautiful, and I anticipate the finished result will be a perfect summer tee to wear in the Texas heat.

I’ve been knitting mostly in the evening while listening to podcasts. I just finished The Dating Game Killer and started Joe Exotic (I already watched the Netflix documentary). I have developed a deep affection for true crime podcasts that begin when a friend introduced me to My Favorite Murder. I still haven’t found another podcast that holds a candle to the piece de resistance from Georgia and Karen (They are sooo brilliant and funny), but I do enjoy the true crime genre. Some of my favs are Generation Why, True Crime Garage, Unsolved Murders and Criminal, and I’m always open to new suggestions, if you have any!

I can’t fully explain the appeal of true crime, but I’m definitely an addict! Partly, I think I am fascinated by the psychology of deviance (I was a psyc major after all). I enjoy pondering the whys and wherefores of human behavior. But, there is definitely more to it than that. I am an anxious person, a worrier, and on some level, I think knowing about the danger out there in the world makes me feel safer. It’s hard to explain. It’s like dragging the monster out into the open in some way reduces its power. Finally, I think I like true crime because in many instances the perpetrator has been caught. It’s affirmation that the good guys do win in the end — at least some of the time.

So, I’ve been listening to podcasts and progressing on my knitting, and that makes me feel like I’m accomplishing something. In many ways, quarantine life is like treading water. We’re all in this holding pattern just waiting for things to get better, and I am so grateful to have a hobby that keeps me busy and provides a sense of accomplishment. My knitting is a way to move forward even while we are all standing still.

On the needles…

Derecho

Derecho knit in Berroco Remix Light

I love everything about this yarn and pattern. I’ve read some reviews on Ravelry that say Remix Light breaks easily, but knitted up, I think it will be fine. It is amazingly soft and has a gorgeous, nubby, tweedy look. The pattern is well-written and hits the sweet spot for me — some interesting bits, but also plenty of stockinette in the round, so it’s perfect for a Netflix binge or listening to a podcast while knitting.

I purchased the yarn and pattern at Holley’s Yarn Shoppe in Dallas during their going-out-of-buisness sale. It seems like we’ve lost a lot of yarn shops in the DFW area over the last few years. It makes me sad. If I ever win the lottery, I’m opening a yarn shop — profitability be damned. Too much yarn, lots of spaces to sit and knit. A large, helpful staff. It’ll be awesome.

Colorblock Hand Towel

Colorblock Hand Towel knit in Lily Sugar ‘n Cream

I will confess, I have a bad case of startitis. I’m not doing too badly right now. I only have 4 projects going, and one is a pair of socks, but I do have a tendency to start projects and then let them languish as I move on to the “new shiny.” I started this hand towel last spring, I think. I really like the pattern, but I’m not enjoying knitting with 100% cotton yarn. It hurts my hands and I can only knit a few rows before I need to take a break. I will finish eventually, but this one may take a while.

Felted Sling Bag

Felted Sling Bag by Two Old Bags, knit in Knit Picks Merino Style

This one isn’t technically “on-the-needles” anymore, but I still need to add grommets around the top, add d-rings to the strap, sew on a button for the flap, and add the felted cord before it is finished. Felting is always an adventure. The bag turned out much longer and narrower than I anticipated. I’m not sure I’m happy with it, but I’ll reserve my final judgement until it is completely finished.

Well, I think I’ll sign off for now. As I sit on my couch typing this, I can hear the rumble of thunder in the distance and looking out the window I see the sky is a steely, flat gray. Looks like we’re in for a stormy afternoon. This is my very favorite knitting weather. I’m going to go make a cup of coffee and curl up under a blanket with Derecho.

When less is more.

Maxine “helping” me work.

I have a lot of feelings about this sudden transition to online learning. I am an elementary school teacher, and a parent to two school-aged children, so I’m in the thick of it. If you’re interested in some thoughtful commentary on this topic, I would encourage you to read the following blog posts that explain quite eloquently why we should be lowering our expectations for our students right now.

Sound crazy? Unprofessional? Irresponsible? It’s not. Our students and their families have so many more important things to worry about right now than keeping up with school work. They are worried about whether they, or a loved one, will get sick, or even die. They are concerned about financial security. They are worried about access to necessities, like food and toilet paper. They are grappling with anxiety and depression amid extreme social isolation.

And, of course, there is the equity issue. Some students have access to technology and reliable Internet and plenty of support at home. Some students have none of those things.

This is not a time to hold students to a higher standard. This is a time to offer support. Some students will want and need a focus, a goal to work toward. Academic work will be familiar and comforting. They may enjoy a challenge, an opportunity to push themselves and grow. But, other students will be unfocused, and frazzled, and tired. Assignments, and projects and due dates will leave them feeling overwhelmed and stressed.

So what should teachers do? Contact families. See what they need. Offer support. Provide options. It is OK to call it enrichment. It is OK to make assignments optional. This is what I am doing with my families because I think it is the right thing to do.

Of course, lowering standards, allowing for some slack in the rope, means that some students will take advantage. There will be students who are not feeling worried, who do have access to technology and support and who opt to do nothing because they can get away with it. But, so what? Once this crisis is over there will be plenty of time to get everyone back on track. Will there be great disparities in students’ knowledge and skills when we return in the fall? Of course, there always are, but differentiating instruction, meeting students where they are — this is what teachers do. It will be OK.

Be still, keep knitting…

Current sweater project – Derecho

I’m an elementary school teacher. Schools here are closed at least through May 5th, so I am at home trying to teach (second graders!) remotely, to the best of my ability. Much of the time, it feels like a fool’s errand. Only about a quarter of my class is regularly completing assignments. It’s hard. For everyone. I know.

There is so little that is under our control right now. So little that is predictable. Some of my students have a lot of support and resources at home. Some have very little of either. Parents are stressed too. I’m one of those stressed parents. My younger son isn’t exactly cut out for online learning. He’s easily distracted and easily bored. I keep finding him in his room asleep.

So, in the midst of all the uncertainty and worry, I am doing my best to focus on the positive. I am fortunate that my family and I are healthy. We made a Costco run before things got really crazy, so we have plenty of food and coffee (and wine!), and toilet paper. We have more time together. We have time to catch up with friends, old and new. Time to go for a run, play a board game. Time to knit and be still.

I am still knitting…

Years ago, in the early 2000’s, when I was first learning to knit, I had a knitting blog. I enjoyed chronicling each step in the process as I tackled projects, learning new skills along the way.

I am a self-taught knitter. On the advice of a friend, I picked up Melanie Falick’s book, Kids Knitting, and worked through several of the projects. I discovered Knittinghelp.com, and learned more advanced techniques through Amy’s wonderful videos.

This was back in the pre-Ravelry days and the main way to see other knitter’s finished projects, and get ideas for patterns and yarns, was through knitting blogs. I began following several knit bloggers, and finally decided to start my own blog.

I really enjoyed blogging. It was fun to connect with other knitters. I loved having a record of my growth as a knitter. At the time, I was home with a toddler and and infant and I wasn’t working, so knitting and blogging were a way to have some “me” time and connect with the larger, outside, world.

But, then we moved to a new state. The kids started school. I went back to work. Ravelry happened. I had less time to blog, and it seemed less necessary. I could record my knitting progress and connect with other knitters through Ravelry. Part of me always missed it though. In the back of my mind I thought that if I ever had more time…

Fast forward to 2020 and #quarantine. Suddenly, I got plenty o’ time on my hands, and I’m still knitting. So…here goes.