Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Knitting Defined

How cool is this? I stumbled upon this excellent Web 2.0 tool called Wordia. They call themselves the dictionary redefined. Users can upload video of words that have special meaning to them--I see it as an absolutely excellent teacher tool. I wish I was teaching language arts right now! Here is their most excellent definition of knitting

Oh, by the way did I say that this was excellent? Hmmm . . . I wonder if there is a web2.0 thesaurus tool.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Goal Reached

We did it! My friends and I reached our goal of 50 hats and mittens for the Senior Kindergarten's Charity Project--the Mitten Tree. Kudos to my friends, the North Shore Knitters, who did the bulk of the work!

This is what 50 hats and mittens looks like:

I made 4 hats in the last week. Here they are:

It was a joy to spend a little more time knitting,and I was glad to use up the stash. I'm determined to keep up the mitten tree knitting throughout this next year to reduce my stash further. I also plan to work up some fancier hat and mitten patterns. I love small patterns that have a bit of a challenge to them.

Perhaps I'll design something Latvian-like to honor my young knitting protege. Now that the weather is getting bad, we have had more indoor recess, and she and I got together a few times this week. She has progressed to purling and can see the difference between her stitches and knows when she makes a mistake--not bad for a 6 year old.

I'm also looking forward to knitting with more young friends over the Christmas
break. Two students won knitting lessons from me in a fundraising raffle, and I would like to honor my committment.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Election Day Hat

I have been knitting, I just haven't been blogging too much. One entire baby outfit -hat and sweater--was knit and given without a picture taken because it was finished in the nick of time and my camera had dead batteries.--

I had another baby overdue for a gift and I decided to start with the hat, since I didn't feel sure I'd have time for the sweater. So I looked at the yarn on hand suitable for a boy baby, and this is what I came up with. I "invented" it; although I'm sure someone else has come up with the very same pattern before because there are only so many ways you can make a 5 pointed star on the top of a hat. Of course, I never write anything down as I knit, but this is so cute, I'm trying to count my stitches to record this one for posterity.

It is darlingly modeled by a patriotic bear, but it is the perfect size for a newborn - 6 month old. I've got lots of yarn and I think I'll make a few more in big kid size as well.

I hope baby L will wear this today to remind everyone to vote--I wish I had one to match. . .I'll have to work out the adult size as well.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Rainy days and Mondays Never get me Down

Well, my friend Isabella and I have knitted together twice. We had great fun. Unfortunately, the after school time when we had arranged to knit together didn't work out because I have students coming after school for extra help. We came up with a compromise though. We will knit together whenever we have indoor recess. The weather has been uncharacteristically sunny and beautiful. Twice already Isabella has caught me in the hallways and said, "I wish it was raining."
"Me, too." I reply.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Latvian Lass

I had another charming conversation with Isabella, my young friend who knows how to finger knit. Isabella is a kindred spirit. She loves texture and color, and so when she saw me wearing a colorful novelty yarn scarf the other day she stared at me and then started a conversation.

Isabella: I like your scarf. Did you make it?

Me: Yes, I did. I like your hat. Did you make it? (Did I mention that she was wearing a darling crocheted beret that turned her school uniform into an haute-couture ensemble?)

Isabella: No, I bought it in Riga.

Me: Riga? Isn't that in Latvia? Did you go to Latvia?

Isabella: We went there this summer. My mom is from there.

Me: Oh! How wonderful. I've always wanted to go to Latvia because of the knitting. Did you know that Latvia is really famous for their knitting?
You should see their knitting, it's very pretty with lots of colors.

Isabella: (excitedly) I know! You should see their hats!

Together: You should see their mittens! (giggles)

Isabella and I have decided that we will knit together after school. I can't wait to knit and giggle some more.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

A Great Place on A Great Lake

Friends and I enjoyed a "River Brewery Cruise" along the Milwaukee River this weekend. We enjoyed brewery tours at Lakefront brewery, the Ale House, and Rockbottom, but mostly we enjoyed the art and architecture on Milwaukee's River Walk and the absolutely perfect weather. We also discovered Grohmann's Labor Museum on the MSOE campus and had an incredible dinner with city view at Roots.

I love my hometown. We have a world class Art Museum, Public Museum, and Zoo, a beautiful lakefront, great county parks and bike paths, an incredible number of great restaurants at reasonable prices, a symphony, ballet, and repertory theatre. We have comedy clubs and Comedy Sportz. We also have smaller theater groups--Chamber theater, children's theater, and not just one, but two opera companies.

We're known for our summer festivals. We celebrate Festa Italiana, Polishfest, Germanfest, Fiesta Mexicana, Irishfest, and the grand daddy of them all Summer Fest.

We have several small museums that are absolute gems--The Betty Brinn children's museum, the Discovery World Museum, the Eisner Advertising museum, the Pabst Mansion, and the Labor Museum (pictured above).

Oh yeah, we also have a major league baseball team and basketball team.

So why is it that more people don't think of Milwaukee as a tourist destination?
I think a major reason is that most Milwaukeeans don't realize how good we've got it, and people who've never been here just don't know.

Milwaukee is a best kept secret. This last weekend we let 100,000 or so Harley riders in on our little secret. I hope they don't keep the secret, but spread it around. Milwaukee is a great place on a Great Lake.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Squeezing it all in.

Just a quick post about the craziness of getting ready for Stitches. I think I'm ready. . . I was slightly surprised to count up the total number of kits I've added to inventory just for Stitches. I've got 80 new bolo kits and 157 new knit with wire kits. Lots of amethyst and turquoise which is always popular with my customers.

Just a little concerned that I'll be able to fit all of this in the car. I have Melissa coming later with her van to take overflow, but I have to have all my display stuff and some of every style to start off and it has to all fit in my '98 Honda Civic. Plus me, my suitcase, and my husband who is taking off work to help me set up. I'm almost wondering if the empty seat in the car is worth more to me than my husband's muscles. After all, I can always use a little exercise.

I will post a pic after the car is packed . . .

I still have to make a few new signs, pack boxes, and work on the paper that is due for my Grad school class on Tuesday after Stitches. . . . and squeeze in a visit with my college roommate who is here from California for her annual trip to Wisconsin.

Better run. . .

Monday, August 18, 2008

I get by with a little help from my friends

I am so blessed! My knitting buddies have been bending over backwards to help me get ready for Stitches. Last week, I invited Lynn and Kathy over for lunch and knitting, but they decided they'd rather help me pack kits. They saved me hours of work. Then Melissa called a few days later and offered to pack kits on Saturday. Between the 4 of us, we added more than 100 kits to my inventory for Stitches.

Melissa has also volunteered to be my helper at Stitches. We'll be driving down separately because she has to work on Thursday, but she's coming right from work to join me at the market preview. She'll be helping me manage the crowd on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. My husband is driving my car back to Wisconsin after he helps me unload and set up on Thursday, so we will be taking Melissa's van back on Sunday.

It's hard to believe that there once was a time in my life when I felt I didn't have many women friends. When I was in my late 30's, I found that my high school and college friends had mostly moved or drifted away due to marriage, children, job changes. I found new friends through an activity that most people think of as isolating and anti-social--knitting. The women that I found through my Monday night knitting group are far from the old-fashioned knitter stereotype. They are fun-loving, funny, witty, supportive, creative, kind, charitable, honest and open. They are, in short, the kind of people I'm proud to call friends.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Great Milwaukee Knitting Guild

No, guild members, that isn't a typo in the title. I know you are the Greater Milwaukee Knitting Guild, but I'd like everyone to know you are really and truly great.

I did a vendor appearance/presentation on knitting with wire at the Milwaukee Guild last night, and I had an absolutely wonderful time. It was great to see Melanie, Susan, Jean, and other knitting buddies from the days when I was a member. I was impressed by their program events and ideas --they are doing a bus trip to Stitches, and Vivian Hoxbro will be visiting them in October.

I plan on being there for the Hoxbro visit; she is fantastic! (Fortunately, it will be held on a Thursday instead of a Tuesday, so I'll be able to make it.) They also talked about a year long guild competition, with the category being "something made with beads." What a great idea! Hmmm. Maybe that's why so many of them bought my kits. I hope I will be helping someone win.

Someone there also mentioned that a GMKG member won a ribbon at the Wisconsin State Fair in the jewelry category for making one of my knit with wire kits. I'd love to find out who it was and get a picture of the winning item for this blog. I'm always most proud of my customer/student successes. Their success and words of thanks are what keep teacher types like me going. Guild members were most appreciative of my visit and had many kind words to say to me, to which I can only reply, "No, you've got it backwards. I thank YOU!"

Monday, August 4, 2008

Midwest Fiber and Folk

I'm finally posting my pictures from Midwest Fiber and Folk, which was held
July 18-20. What a great festival. I wished I could have been both a vendor and an attendee at the same time. I loved the combination of Folk music with the fiber festival. There were an incredible number of vendors, a variety of fiber arts were represented, although it was mostly yarn. I worked the event by myself, so it meant I really had no time to see much. I only saw a few booths and the mainstage/cafeteria area as I dashed to the bathroom or made a food run while my neighbors watched my booth.

Speaking of my neighbors, let me introduce you to Karen. An amazing woman who runs her own spinning supplies business with her husband, despite being legally blind. I find it inspiring and humbling to meet people like her.

Doing these fiber fairs is hardwork. I was exhausted when I got home. I found this one to be particularly tiring because of the long hours (Friday 4-9, Saturday 9-7 and Sunday 9-5) and because I was working alone. Still, I would do it again.

I had good sales and happy customers. Here is one of them. She was another vendor, but I'm afraid I don't know her name or what booth she was at. She bought a kit on Sunday morning and came back in the late afternoon to model her completed work. (She's wearing "Chain, Chain, Chain" in Quartz Crystal and Pearl) I'm so proud of her!

I took a few other shots of my booth because I'm always asked for booth shots for juried shows. These aren't the best examples of booth set up for me though--the outdoor setting puts some limits on set up and presentation and its difficult to take a shot that shows just my booth without my neighbor's booth in the background. Still these pics are good for showing you what the festival is like, and my life as designer/manufacturer/PR person/sales and marketing manager/web master/President of Knitter's Journey, LLC.

Finally having recovered from Midwest Fiber and Folk, I'm gearing up for the big one. Stitches Midwest, T-17 days and counting. Hope to see some of you there.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Bolo Byways

How can it be that I have my summers "off" of work, and I still feel so busy that I can't get around to blogging? I suppose it is because I've been designing the "Byways Bolo" pattern and making oodles of jewelry and packing kits for the Midwest Fiber and Folk Festival. I'm also teaching one summer school class. The class is not a lot of work for me, but it's taking up much more of my days than I had planned. (1/2 hour commute each way, minimal 1/2 hour prep, plus 1 and 1/2 teaching = 3 hours/day) Then there is my grad school class. Reading, homework, group meetings. Sigh! So here I am procrastinating from doing any and all of the above by blogging.

Here is my bolo design. It has been so much fun to make different colors and different style cords. The flower is wire crochet and I've made both crochet and knitted style cords. This is definitely the most fun to make of all my jewelry patterns.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Summer is shaping up

I'm in! I finally heard from the Midwest Fiber and Folk Festival, and I will be a vendor there. Yipee! The festival is July 19-21 and I've got a lot of work to do between now and then.

I'm glad to be busy but its hard to balance all the knitting and jewelrymaking I need to do with my desire to get more exercise and lose weight this summer. They are counterproductive activities. I finally lost a total of 2 pounds! I've got to remember to keep my eye on the prize, stay encouraged. Good things are happening after all. It looks like summer is shaping up.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Big Question

I have been off from school for 2 weeks and 2 days now and I am really missing the children. It looks like the summer school classes that I offered to teach didn't fill, so I will have a long lonely summer.

I don't have any children of my own, but working in a grade school these last 3 years has filled a need I didn't realize I had. It has been a mixed blessing though. Working with children has brought me joy and job satisfaction, but it has made me confront "the big question." That big question is a running dialog that I have had with myself for as long as I can remember. It goes something like this, "What is the meaning of life? How will I contribute to the world? Who am I? Do I have enough confidence in myself to achieve my goals? Am I doing the right thing? Will I die without regrets? Will I die loved?"

I once thought I had "the big answer" to "the big question." "The meaning to life," I remember telling my philosophizing college friends, "is that everyone wants to love and be loved." Yet, I struggled to find love long after my college days were over. When I finally met my husband, I had just turned 29 and he was 37. He was a single dad, funny, kind, and spiritual. There was just one thing. "I don't want to have any more children," he warned me. "I'm too old, I don't want to start over." For my part, I wasn't so sure about being a mother anyway. I had very little experience with young children. I had only babysat a few times in my life, and those occassions had seemed neither successful nor enjoyable. I was very concerned about what kind of a mother I might be. My own mother suffered from severe depression, and we kids were often neglected. Would I be the same?

Yogaman and I married, and I kept putting the question of children on the backburner. Interestingly though, my subconscious kept bringing it up. As I approached my 40th birthday, I began to knit more. Under the pretext of doing a fundraising craft fair for my women's club, I made 15 baby outfits in one year, pouring my creativity and repressed mothering instincts into each one. I can't say that I felt an urgent need or desire to have children, but I knew the question was there. I was just afraid to voice it out loud.

For some reason, I had always thought that 43 was the age at which one must have or not have children. When I was 43, I finally decided that I had decided not to have children by not deciding. I recall a discussion with my friend Linda, who was one of my few friends brave enough to ask me the big question directly. I told her the truth. If Yogaman, had wanted to, I would have wanted. But I did not have enough confidence in myself, and now, I wasn't sure I had the energy.

Having felt that I had finally made a decision, I started to talk more openly with Yogaman about my struggles with childlessness. Not to convince him of a different choice, just seeking acknowledgment of my sacrifice. I told him I needed to be creative, and he was supportive when I decided to quit a lucrative job so that I could pursue a knitting business. I started Knitter's Journey as a craft business, and started to look for part-time work to supplement it. That's when I saw the ad for my job at the school.

Every day of my job I smile and laugh over some little thing that the children do. How could I not have known how sweet children can be? Now when I start to play the dialog in my head, I know the answers. Everyone wants to love and be loved. Children bring love.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Hey! I'm working here!

Yahoo! Yahoo! Yahoo! I'm going to be a vendor at Stitches Midwest, and I'm pleased that I will have a spot next to my friend and mentor Cheryl Oberle. I also booked a gig to teach knitting with wire at French Knots II, and I am waiting with baited breath to find out if I will be a vendor at the Midwest Fiber and Folk Festival.

My Knitter's Journey Knit with Wire kits are a part-time business for me, and I didn't put as much effort into it during the school year as I should have, so I'm pleased that with just a little effort I've got some business. I have got to turn my website into a true store though. Right now it lets people know I exist, but it doesn't make sales.

I "worked" on my business this week by designing a new pattern. It's not quite ready for publication, but I'm loving it. I couldn't put my knitting down. Yogaman can't understand how I can have off all day (school's out) and not get around to mowing the lawn, cleaning the cat box, painting the garage, etc., etc., etc. I have been accused of playing, and I'm afraid I have to plead guilty. Knitting in the sun, too much fun!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Sex in the City, Socks in the Suburbs

Once again, apologies for the blogging hiatus. Where was I? Finishing the school year, reading my first book of the summer, knitting a baby shower gift in 24 hours, designing a new pattern, enjoying my lovely backyard, and generally engaging in hedonistic pleasures.

Yogaman and I went to see Sex in the City last week. It was an interesting experience. We entered the theatre as virgins. We don't have cable and had never seen the show before. We were a bit surprised by how much sex there was in Sex, but I have to say, we both enjoyed it. Although I would rate it as an average movie, I was surprised at how much discussion it generated between us. We kept talking about the movie and re-hashing the story line for two days. It brought up lots of questions about our relationship, our past relationships, our friends' relationships, and men vs. women, cats vs. dogs, Mars vs. Venus.

Then Yogaman decided to bring home DVDs from the series. We became addicted to Sex. We watched one episode after another every night. Yogaman fired questions at me. Is that what it's like when you get together with the knitting ladies? What do you talk about? While I can't say we don't occassionally discuss the love lives of knitter A or knitter B, I'm afraid my knitting friends and I talk more socks than sex. Footwear fetish? We're talking merino, not Manolo. We do occassionally go orgasmic over a gorgeous handpaint and the latest fashions, but we've got nothing on Carrie, Samantha, Miranda, and Charlotte. I didn't tell Yogaman that though. Taking a cue from Carrie and company, I think I'll string him along for awhile.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Craft Teaching Event #4

Here is a pic from the 4th of 4 craft events that I did with children at my school. The second grade has been studying gems and minerals, and since I have loads of beads and wire, I suggested that they make gemstone flower pins as a craft activity for Mother's Day. I'm not sure if I would rate this as a successful lesson plan or not . . . It was a bit difficult for 2nd graders; there were lots of cries of, "Help me, Help me . . . Can you help me Mrs. P?" and it took a bit longer than planned. However, I had several indications that Moms and children both enjoyed the project. One young man liked his pin so much that he couldn't wait till Mother's Day to give it Mom. Another Mom told me she would like me to teach how to make the pins so that she could make more with her two boys. A third mom approached me in the cafeteria on the day after Mother's Day to show me that she was proudly wearing her pin, and to thank me for the cherished gift.

As long as I have happy customers, I guess that is all that matters.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Once in a Lifetime

My birthday celebrations were extended over several days. The day after my birthday, DH and I enjoyed a lovely italian dinner at our favorite neighborhood restuarant, followed by a concert. We saw Glenn Hansard & Marketa Irglova, billing themselves as "The Swell Season" in what was perhaps the most incredible concert of my life. Hansard projects unstoppable energy and enthusiasm. He is a songwriter's songwriter, passionate about his work and about music. I am reminded of Sting and Paul Simon.

The concert opened with Hansard singing acapella in the front of the stage, practically in the middle of the audience. Boy can he belt it out! As the concert progressed, he brought in Irglova and his back up band, former members of the Frames, to sing nearly all of their hits from the movie "Once."

The highlight of the concert had to be when Hansard brought out the Whitefish Bay 8th grade choir to help him sing the chorus of "Falling Slowly." Apparently the teens, or their teacher, had contacted him a few weeks prior for permission to sing the song. Not only did he say "Yes," he said, "Why not sing it live in front of a sold out audience?" He also had them help with a cover of the Pixies' "Gigantic" with its inappropriate lyrics. You have to love that Irish sense of humor.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Not b-a-a-a-a-a-d for an old lady

So here I am at my birthday soiree. My friends are camera shy, and are giggling off screen. It was a perfect party. There was a little drinking, a little knitting and a lot of teasing. My sister tried to give me one of those red hats that indicate you are a youthful old lady, but I refuse to wear it, since I am simply youthful and not an old lady at all.

My knitting buddies also showered me with hats. I challenged them to knit 1 hat for every year of my life for my school's mitten tree. They managed to produce a dozen on short notice; they have until December to knit the other 38. You can see the hats on the little Christmas tree here. We also taped one cotton ball for each hat on the sheep poster. I'll track their progress here as time progresses.

I had a birthday sale of Knitter's Journey Jewelry and kits, and contributed profits from the sale to Heifer Project. We raised enough to purchase a sheep and a pair of rabbits! Not b-a-a-a-a-d!

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Craft teaching event #3 Camp Minikani

Well, I'm behind on my blogging again. I have so much to report of the knitting/beading/crafting nature that I think I shall have to break it down into separate posts. Here is the first --

On May 1, I joined my second grade friends and their parents and teachers at Camp Minikani. I was just there to teach a craft activity, while the students and their parents stayed overnight. I was worried about the weather because we held our class outdoors, but it turned out to be a lovely day.

I taught the children how to make beaded keychains. With a bit of help from their parents, all my young friends succeeded in creating a finished product in just 1/2 hour, and they were all quite good! Now, if they just had keys to put on the keychain, they could unlock the door to the wigwam that they built with the art teacher!

Seriously, the camping retreat is a wonderful tradition that my school has been doing with 2nd graders for many, many years. It's a treat for me to see the children with their parents, and to know that many of them are experiencing nature in depth for the very first time. I'm honored to take part in this special event.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Preemie Hats

The babies just keep on coming at my workplace. I made these little preemie hats for the newborn twin daughters of my co-worker. He and his wife recently welcomed identical twin girls, Grace and Hope, weighing in at 2 and 2 1/2 pounds. They are facing some medical challenges that come with premature birth. I hope these hats will keep them warm and help them grow.

As I was stuffing these hats in my coworkers mailbox, I learned of another impending birth at work. Fortunately, I have until November to get it done. 5 births last year, 3 so far this year . . . the daycare is full!

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Art Night and Other Happenings

Event number 2 of my volunteer activities, Middle School Art Night, was Friday. I schlepped in my knitted jewelry and some kits and set up a lovely display, which, regretfully, I do not have a picture of. I met a few parents and chatted with co-workers, but it was not the big event I though it would be. It was only open to the school community and not the general public. It was not meant to be a sale, just promotional,which I knew, but in chatting with people, I realized that while I was promoting my business, I was not effectively promoting sales. I haven't got any art fairs lined up for the near future, and I'd better get working!

Event number 3, the 2nd grade camping retreat is at the end of this week, and I'm looking forward to it. I hope the weather will be good. It was in the 70's this week, but they are forecasting snow for tomorrow. Then again, that's no reason why it shouldn't be sunny and beautiful again by Thursday. Ah, Wisconsin! You've got to love it.

DH and I enjoyed a play and dinner out with friends last night. Our friends will not be able to join me at my little birthday soiree, but they surprised me with an early birthday card and a donation to my heifer project scheme. I feel certain that I shall raise enough for a sheep,and maybe even a fiber basket,and that's exciting. Perhaps I should make a little sheep poster and glue on cotton balls with each donation, as we get closer to our goal.

I realize that I'm blogging so that I can put off writing my final paper for my grad school class. I'm also ignoring the idea of going in to work and finishing the movie that I was making for the music teacher. . . . Unfortunately, I don't much more to say, so I'll just have to stop writing so that I can buckle down and write.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Mittens in May

My birthday is coming up in just a few weeks. It is one of those nasty birthdays ending in a zero, and I've been dreading it for the last 6 months. I finally decided I have to both celebrate it and do something for a cause so that I don’t feel sorry for myself. I therefore proposed to friends and family that we pay tribute to my birthday and my favorite charities – My school's Mitten Tree and the Heifer Project. Here's the deal: Mitten Tree --knitting friends may pledge to knit a hat or mittens, (to be completed by December) for the school mitten tree, with the goal of accumulating 1 hat for every year of my life –as it is a significantly large number, group co-operation is needed, and they had better start now.
Heifer project --Yes, it's a bit tacky to ask for money, but I'm asking non-knitting friends to give a buck or two for a ewe. Put a few bucks in a birthday card and I will donate the total proceeds to the Heifer project. I hope to collect enough for a sheep or a fiber basket. I'm also having a Knitter's Journey Jewelry sale party at my house, once again donating the profits to Heifer. It does not help me feel anyyounger, but it does help me feel better. A few glasses of wine with my birthday cake may help as well.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Back at Work

Well, Paris was a dream. I've been back to work for two weeks already and loving it.
Everyone at work enjoyed the blog posts, and I have sent my friend Margaret off to enjoy a 3 week stay in Paris with a recommendation to dine at Cafe Breteuil. My husband has also been talking up the trip, and he is passing on his leftover euros and subway tickets to a friend at his workplace.

Stop me if I've said this before, but I really do love my job and the children. While I'm not a teacher but a staff person, I do have a teaching degree, and I try to make teaching opportunities happen whenever I can. Most of these activities are extracurricular(read unpaid), but my time is freely given. In the first 24 hours that I was back at work from Spring break, I offered or was asked to help out with 4 such activities. First, I volunteered my services to demonstrate knitting and jewelry making at Middle School Art Night. Next, the second grade team asked if I would return to their camping retreat to teach the beaded keychain that I did with the students last year, then the science teacher told me that she would love it if I could teach the craft activity that I had suggested to her as an activity for students to do for a Mother's day gift, and finally, because my boss is out on a two week medical leave, the Brownie moms asked if I could pinch hit for my boss and teach digital scrap booking to the 3rd grade troop. I said yes, yes, yes, yes! Laughing all the way, because it is so much fun!

I already taught the digital scrap booking class (photostory.) We had 27 girls, 19 computers, 3 moms and me. In one hour and 1/2 everyone made a mini-movie and had burned it to CD to take home. I could tell it was a great success because I heard the girls talking about it the next day, and 2 girls asked me follow up questions. The Brownie Moms were very grateful, and I received a pack of Thanks A lot cookies and a Computer Badge as compensation. It was great, and I'm looking forward to the next event.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

A Knitter in Paris - Day 7 (Le Fin)

Our last day in Paris. I walked with my friend over to Les Invalides to visit the Musee de l'Armee and Napoleon's Tomb. I got a couple of cool pictures of knight's armour that I will use for my Days of Knights summer school class. My friend then left to go to his business meeting, and we promised we would try to see each other again before another 20 years go by.

My husband and I then did some last minute souvenir shopping, but did not buy much. I actually found a very nice yarn shop, Le Droguerie, right next to Les Halles and St. Eustache church. It was very busy. They carry only their own line of hand dyed yarns, but in just about every fiber and color. The shop had many garments of their own design on display. Most were of simple construction, but with unique embellishments of ribbons, buttons, beads, or felt appliques that they sold in the store. It was tempting, but I didn't know what I wanted, and you had to request help to buy anything. It was beyond my patience and my limited french to wait for an available clerk. I admired and left with all my Euros still in my pocket.

That evening we had another rendezvous--this time with my step-daughter's best friend from grade school who has been living in Paris for the last 8 years. We had a great time meeting her and her fiancee, and loved the restaurant that she recommended. It was a gourmet affair, typiquement francais, as you can see from my husband's enjoyment of his "gambas." Also very french, was the cute little chien you see here. He trotted into the restaurant like he owned the place, and the staff greeted him warmly. As he passed our table, he stole my state fair blue ribbon winning mittens out of my coat pocket, and tried to turn them into his appetizer! Fortunately, he was bi-lingual and understood No! No! No!(Non! Non! Non!)

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Paris Day 6 The Rendezvous

It is Easter Monday, a holiday in France. Many shops and museums are closed so we headed to Montmartre, where we visited Sacre Couer and the artists stalls. We encountered buskers coming and going. The best was the Italian guitarist pictured here at the steps to Sacre Couer. You can tell he was quite good by the size of the crowd. He could really sing and play guitar, but he was also incredibly funny.

We arrived back at our hotel around 4 p.m. to find that my friend, my ex-copain if you will, had arrived at our hotel. He came up from Lyon to meet us. It's been 28 years since we dated and 20 since I saw him last. It was so nice of him to come.

We had a bottle of wine and then went out to dinner and tried to catch up on 20 plus years. We long ago went our separate ways and both have happy lives in our native countries, but I always think fondly of him and of our college days. Can you guess which is my husband and which is the French guy?

Oh, and how does this relate to knitting you might ask? Well, mon ami Francais was the recipient of my very first knitted article, a rather badly knit hat. Alas, you all know what happens when you knit something for a boyfriend.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

A Knitter in Paris - Days 3 - 5

The beauty of Paris is that there is so much history and culture, and yet it is mixed in with a large, bustling metropolis where people go about their every day lives. It is a tourist city that is not devoted to tourism. A place where subway vendors are rude to American tourists whose French is rusty, but where a sweet old gentleman will go out of his way to help the same obviously lost tourists navigate the streets of Monmartre.

Language was not really a problem for us. English is much more widely spoken than it once was, but I tried to practice my French. Though I only had 1 year of college French and it has been more than 25 years since I had an opportunity to use it, I was able to make myself understood. I probably made a grammar mistake in every sentence and I no longer have an ear for the accent (Mostly because I don't have working ears! I have pretty bad hearing loss and am supposed to wear hearing aids, but I never do.) Still - I was able to get where I wanted to go, order what I wanted from the menu, and argue with the waiter when the bill was wrong. Pas mal!

The weather was not good when we were there. Temperatures hovered around 35 - 40 degrees Fahrenheit, at best. It rained every day in the afternoon. There was even snow and high winds one day. We could tell that this was unusual for this time of year, because flowers were already in bloom and there were green leaf buds on the trees. Oh, well! Cold weather is good museum weather. With our 4 day museum pass we saw the Orsay, Rodin, Louvre, and Cluny (Musee National de Moyen Age) museums. We also used it for our entrance to the Pantheon, the crypt of Notre Dame, and the Palace of Versailles. Oh, and I nearly forgot, we also visited the Conciergerie, where Marie Antoinette was inprisoned before they chopped her head off. The Louvre and Vesailles are great, but the Cluny and the Conciergerie were probably my favorite museums. Smaller, more focused, and far less crowded, we were able to take our time, read the exhibits, and truly learn something instead of just "seeing" the "must see" exhibits.

We walked or used the metro to get around, and found we needed to stop at least twice a day for a hot tea or coffee to warm up. At 4.40 euros for a cafe creme or pot of tea at today's exchange rate it translates to $14/person/day or $28/day on coffee or tea. Fortunately, you can stay as long as you want in the cafe to warm up, watch the world go by, and knit.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Paris Day 2

We did not explore far from home on our second full day in Paris, still we saw so much because there was so much to see. We discovered a great view of the Eiffel tower could be seen just at the end of our block. We discovered the open market and shops of the Rue Cler, where I was pleased to find a yarn shop. Very small, and not very original by American standards, but I was pleased to see it was there! The american knitters whom I had met the night before said they did almost all their yarn shopping on the internet or on trips home. Quelle domage!

Art and romance were far more prominent than yarn. We bought a 4 day museum pass and used it at the Rodin museum and the Musee d'Orsay (full of impressionist paintings-- Monet, Degas, Renoir, Manet, etc.) Traveller's tip--The museum pass is well worth it for the priority entrance and ability to skip long lines. You can buy passes for 2, 4, or 6 days. We bought the 4 day pass and thought it was well worth it for both the price and the quick access at both the Louvre (day 3) and Verailles (day4).

Thursday, March 27, 2008

A Knitter in Paris - Day 1

I am back from my Paris trip. So many stories to tell and photos to share! It was an incredible trip to a romantic, historic, fashionable city. I'd been there before, but the last time was 26 years ago. My memories (and my French) were fading, but I wanted to show my husband a bit of this wonderful city. We both love history, and we mapped out an itinerary that demanded 1 or 2 museum visits per day, plus all the major monuments. We packed it all in, and by the end of the week, I managed to meet my personal agenda as well - a meet up with anglophone knitters, a visit to a Paris yarn shop, and a dinner with a dear old friend.

We stayed at a lovely tourist class hotel near the Eiffel tower called Hotel Tour Eiffel Rive Gauche. If you are a Rick Steves type of traveller, and prefer smaller hotels with personal service at a reasonable price, this is a great place.

Being so near the tower, it was our first tourist stop. Also near the hotel, was the Musee du quai Branly--Paris' newest museum, with highlights of third world cultures--lots of great textile artifacts to interest knitters and fiber enthusiasts. The highlight of our first day, was my meetup with Kai, Ellen, Kate, and Lindsay. All American knitters working in Paris in various professional jobs. They meet Wednesday evenings at Le Depart, a cafe just a short walk from Notre Dame on le boulevard St. Michel. It was great fun, and so easy to find them. I have tried to meet up with other knitters in my past travels, but except for knitaways, knitting camp, and visits to yarn shops (which are, of course, capitalist knitting enterprises) this was the first time that I managed to meet up and knit with locals.

Les tricoteuse (and un tricoteur, since Kai is a guy) are a friendly, youthful bunch. They are hardworking professionals, but they are also devoted to their knitting and the camaraderie they found in their group. Je vous les recommendez!

I have many stories to tell from Paris--both knitting and non-knitting. Watch for future posts. A bientot! (Excusez moi, Francophones, I don't know how to type all those accent symbols. You will just have to use your imagination on the spelling.)

Monday, March 17, 2008

WWII Veteran's Story

This is not a knitting story, but a story of a closeknit bond that I have to my dear Uncle Bob. This last week, I invited my 82 year old uncle to come to my school to be interviewed for an oral history project. Uncle has many interesting WWII stories to tell.

First there was the story of how he asked for a deferrment of his draft date so that he could finish High School. Not only did Uncle Bob receive the deferrment, but the draft board also deferred the enlistment date for his twin brother, my dad, (who had dropped out of high school to work and didn't deserve an educational deferrment)Their deferrment meant that they would not have to report to duty until June 20th, 1944. If they had been inducted on their 18th birthday in January, they would have completed their basic training with perfect timing to be shipped off to Europe for D-Day. That gives a whole new meaning to the value of education.

My father entered the Navy and was in the battle for Okinawa. Uncle Bob went into the Army, arriving in Europe in September of 1944 as a replacement troop. Although he arrived late in the war, he saw plenty of action, earning two battle ribbons and the bronze star.

Telling his stories after 64 years, Uncle was still able to graphically describe in great detail, the battles he was in, and his strategy for survival.
My favorite story though, was not a battle story, but a human one. It was the spring of 1945, at the end of the War in Europe. Uncle Bob was assigned to string telephone communication wires in a German town that the Allies had occupied. He was going from house to house in and out of apartments so he could string the telephone wire. In one apartment, he came upon a heavyset, middle aged german man in a room filled with money. Gold coin and german bills were heaped on a table. Who is to know how the man acquired the money, Uncle didn't ask, but he assumed it was not honestly, or the man wouldn't have been hiding it in his apartment. Uncle lashed out in anger, calling the man a *!@!* Nazi. He scooped up an armful of money and threw it out the window. Then he filled his rucksack with more of the money . . .

Listening to this story that I had never heard before, I was worried about where it was going. I needn't have been.

"I took that money, and went to the outskirts of town, where there was a D.P. (displaced persons) camp. I gave them people all that money. They were so grateful. They didn't have a thing. They didn't even have proper clothes or shoes and nothing to eat. I suppose I could have set myself up good if I had kept some of it. . . but, oh, they were so grateful."

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Charming Chat

I had a lovely discussion today with Isabella, age 5. Isabella knows how to fingerknit. She makes scarves. Did you know that if you fingerknit with thin yarn, it will have holes, but if you use big yarn you will have holes but they won't be so big? And if you use big yarn, you can make it so it doesn't curl?

I do not know any of these things. I only know how to knit with sticks. Isabella is going to teach me if I will teach her how to knit jewelry. I think it's a fair deal. I've signed up for fingerknitting 101.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

A Public Apology

This is a public apology to Nola. When I saw her on Monday, I realized she really did want to throw her coffee at me on Saturday. (You will have to read Saturday's post to know what transpired) I did not mean to cause offense, and thought I was teasing a good friend. But alas,I realize I too would be discouraged/disappointed/sad/angry if someone pointed out flaws in my knitting. She has done me a favor in pointing out my personality flaw. -A little too anal and talking without thinking! I shall work on it. If only I could frog back words, I would. I'm sorry.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Scoop de Loop

I finally got my butt over to Loop, a not quite new yarn shop that moved their location to be closer to me. First,however, I stopped in at the Alterra Coffee next door for the Saturday Stitch N Bitch that I had also been hearing about but never got to. Both were pleasant surprises. Nola from Monday night knitting was at Alterra with a couple of senior knitting ladies and their spouses. One of the elderly gentlemen was a crocheter, the other was a non-knitting spouse, but they blew me away. I thought my husband was supportive of my addiction, but these guys take enabling to a new level. I joked with them about what tightly knit couples they were, and the conversation unraveled from then on.

Nola was wearing the beautiful and difficult aran turtleneck that I saw her making last year, but never saw modeled before. I promptly (but politely with some apologies) pointed out that she had crossed a cable the wrong way smack dab in the middle of the front. A true friend, she did not throw her cup of coffee at me, and just explained to the senior ladies that I suffer from anal retentiveness ad-nauseum.

Moving on to Loop, I discussed the possibility of their carrying Knitter's Journey Jewelry Kits with the owner. With a potential sale on the horizon,of course I spent my potential profits before walking out the door. Anyway, my scoop on Loop: I was pleased to see a nice amount of traffic in the store, and mostly young knitters at that. The store is a nice size with very high ceilings and filled with light. It is not the biggest yarn selection I've ever seen, but she carries some high quality unique stuff along with a good selection of standards like Cascade 220, Noro,and Cotton classic. The young owner was very friendly, and I will definitely return.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Paris, Je t'aime

It is cold and snow covered here in the Midwest, and I am dreaming about my upcoming vacation. We are going to Paris for a week in March, and I am starting to research and plan my daily itinerary. I know I will be able to find a yarn shop--my sister was just there, and she said she visited one in the Latin Quarter, and I recently spotted one in the film, "Paris, Je t'aime," so I know it is not mission impossible.

A pilgrimage to a droguerie/magasin du laine/tricoterie or whatever they call it, will be an homage to my knitting roots. I was first inspired to knit when I was a poor college student, backpacking around France in the summer of 1980. It seemed that every time I got on a train, I would spy a french woman knitting something tres chic out of gorgeous designer yarns. I fell in love with the possibilities of color and texture, and I begged my mother to teach me to knit when I returned home. My very first project was a wool cap for the french boyfriend (the reason why I was backpacking around France in the first place.) Malheureusement, the boyfriend hat was as cursed as the dreaded boyfriend sweater. We parted ways and moved on with our lives.

It is funny how things work. If I had never dated the french guy, I don't think I would have ever learned to knit. Knitting has been my mainstay in my adult years. It has helped me to de-stress and be creative at times when I was unfulfilled in my work. It has given me lasting friendships, (Monday night knitters - 8 yrs and counting)and a heightened sense of self-esteem (state fair blue ribbons). So to Paris and to my friend Hugues ---Merci.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Building a Knitting Community

I have been trying to get my co-workers to join my Stitch N Bitch group or to found one of our own. There are plenty of knitters around here. But it's like trying to knit a Fair Isle sweater for an extra large man--a slow,somewhat difficult, but colorful process. It's hard to get more than 2 people together at one time. We are a work hard/work long hours team of dedicated educators and support staff. Lunch hours don't work for a meeting time --teachers feed students at lunch table and administrative staff tend to eat in 10 minutes and go back to their desks. After school is often scheduled with meetings, tutoring or catching up.

It was Faculty In-service day today, and I was able to carve out 1 hour of knitting time by offering a team building, feel good Knitting Workshop. Unfortunately, far too many workshops were offered, and we were only 3, but I was happy to hook them in. (Knit them together???) I extoled upon the virtues of knitting in community, and we had a wonderful time. None of the participants wanted to be photographed, but here is the lovely shawl-in-progress of one of my newest knitting buddies. I will keep prosthelitzing. Eventually, it will happen. Perhaps I need to go to the students instead of the teachers. A knitting club is in my future.