Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Veni, Vidi, Vomit
I came, I saw, I barfed

They call Cedar Point the "Roller Coast" and it's true. We rode SO many roller coasters and thrill rides that by the end of the night I was dizzy and woke up with terrible speed induced heartburn at 2:30.

I was on the very LAST run of the Skyhawk, a giant swinging ride that debuted this season. OH MY GOD. Yes, that's what I kept screaming for the entire ride. Why did I go? Hannah climbed aboard and I wasn't going to let her go alone. I'm such a good (if stupid) mommy.

We arrived in the late afternoon for the Starlight ticket (5pm - 10pm), which is $25 and still got us a good 5 hours of ride time (MORE than enough time for Mom...) with the extra bonus that we don't burn as badly in the evening. As we drove up to CP and parked the skies opened up and the great deluge begain. We sat in the car listening to Eragon until the rain passed.

As soon as we got into the park the kids were chomping for their rides of choice (Hannah, rough and wild; Max, mild and car-oriented) So we started with the old carousel - fun for all and the only ride that was working immediately after the rain.

Han and I moved on to a few thrill and roller coaster rides (my hands down favorite was Iron Dragon - perhaps it was the influence of Eragon) but I let Hannah ride Mantis alone. Max and Dad were happy on the train, on the antique cars, and on the sports cars. I did talk Max into the Blue Streak, though, and the lack of a line is testament to visiting CP immediately after a lightening and thunder storm passes!

The kids moaned and attempted to whine on the way to the car as each ride closed (NO WHINING at Cedar Point!) but minutes after we'd closed the doors on the car Max was fast asleep, and within 20 minutes of climbing into bed Hannah was in the same state.

Hannah is dreaming of sky diving and Max of gas fumes.

Car Angst in the Motor City
So this morning we hit the road for Dearborn, MI for a visit to the Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village. We anticipated arriving before noon so we'd get 5 hours of walking and looking in, but our plans were waylaid by two sad events.

Excuse me, ma'am, do you know how fast you were going?

In my defense allow me to say that we were on a detour for Rt 75, and the speed limit had gone from 70 to 55 mph. I was going a little over 65, hence the ticket. Welcome to Michigan.

A bit more serious was Gerry's run in with a truck tire that exploded in front of him. He ran over a chunk of rubber which kicked up into his car and put a hole in something that has to do with the engine getting hot. This is when we're VERY happy to be traveling with 2 cars. Ironically, we can see this big tire from our hotel room. It's not a ferris wheel any longer - if it were that would magnificently draw together this whole blog entry, huh?

We're told it will be fixed tomorrow afternoon, so that gives us a chance to spend the whole day at the HF&GV, then we'll stay in this manificent room for yet another night before we leave for Mackinaw City. Atticus loves it.

Heaven help any moose or bear that wander into our paths.
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Monday, May 29, 2006

Great Lakes, Batman!

Once again the Great Lakes Fiber Show was a homey, lovely, warm (okay, hot...) and welcoming place! My classese were filled with interesting women (folks in the midwest are much more fascinating than they think they are, which is part of their charm...) with a variety of knitting styles and lots of happy chatter. And, once again, I was the severe school marm who told them, "When I'm talking, I'm talking..." Aw, I'm no fun.

In my opinion, 3-4 hours of class is as mentally and physically challenging as almost a full day of knitting or designing, so the periods when I teach a full slate several days in a row are rough. I was so happy to see old friends and make new ones - and spend some happy time having dinner or drinks with folks. When I'm on the road for more than a week or so it's easy to get very lonely and a little muddled (like an emotional confusion) Spending time with friends, just connecting over a meal or a drink, when nothing is expected of me except good company and an ability to sit upright, is a blessing and a mind-clearer!

I worked on some pieces for various entities, and finished up the initial work on a hat for Pam Allen's next book, Lace Style. It's the first hat I've worked up in about a year, and I'd forgotton how much I enjoyed millinery! I still have to make a big ribbon/bow with Touch Me and finish trimming the edges of the brim, but the shape is good.

I left Wooster after my last class on Sunday and didn't realize until this morning that I'd left my steamer. For those who know me, this is almost like leaving a child behind... I'm only an hour away in Milan, but driving there and back will mean 2 hours of knitting time lost, so I'll put it off for a bit and then make the trek back down to meet up with Linda and find my steamer.

When I arrived in Milan I checked into the Motel 6 and was more than a little dismayed to find beer bottles on the back stairs (I was in the rear of the hotel so I went up the back way to my room) and a pretty loud group of guys in the pool. Rowdy, even. I enjoy rowdy - but I also had arranged to have my husband and kids come here - and I wouldn't feel entirely comfortable sending Hannah and Max to the pool, even if I were with them.

When I think Motel 6, I don't usually think drinkin' parties.

So I stayed one night, checked out, and drove a bit down the road to a Clarion Inn which takes pets (Gerry & the kids are bringing Atticus), has internet, cable and an indoor pool, and no beer bottles strewn about the common areas.

Gerry, Han & Max (& Atticus) will be leaving NJ this afternoon when Gerry gets home from work, then drive as far as they can and stop for the night in PA. Tomorrow they'll get here, we'll get them settled, then we'll head out for the Cedar Point evening (it's much cheaper after 5:00, which is when we very, very fair redheads can enjoy it even more!) The next day is up in the air - we may return to CP, or we may do something else. It's supposed to be intermittent thunder storms on Wed, so we may just go to a movie or visit one of the local indoor water parks (the kids would DIG that!) and then on to Mackinaw City. Drive on!
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Friday, May 26, 2006

Ohio Drive

I do love Ohio.

I can sense a change in the political climate from when I was a kid, and I don't think it's just because I was young then and now I'm not, but the scenery doesn't change - beautiful. In fact, perhaps much of the mindless development that Chrissy Hynde sang about in My City Was Gone seems to have abated. Or did it just go south?

At any rate, one thing that HAD changed - drastically - was the physical makeup of the main quad at Denison U. I'd have to say it's definitely for the better - buildings are gone, some new ones are up, more common areas and yet the same old pit in the Slayter Student Union is still there. Of course, while in Granville I had to make several stops:

I had lunch at Aladdin's - a college haunt - and even though the main street is crammed with interesting places to eat, I had to return to my roots and the Yum Yum. Suffice to say I didn't feel much like having dinner last night.

I stopped by Needling Yarn, the new yarn shop in Granville, where I had a nice long chat with Gretchen and met the owner briefly.

I bought a Denison Sweatshirt for myself, Tshirts for the kids and absolutely nothing for Gerry. I'm evil. Actually, I got him some really nice stuff the day before at the Eddie Bauer outlet in Columbus (not one of those weeny outlet stores in an outlet mall, but the REAL DEAL warehouse outlet over on Fisher Rd in SW Columbus! I got myself some stuff, too, not least of which is a cool travel bag that will do nicely when I don't want to drag the computer bag around with me...

And after a restful night at a local Best Western, now I'm firmly ensconced in the Wooster Inn (owned by Wooster U) in Wooster Ohio. Woo woo. My room is lovely, it overlooks the golf course and the outdoor patio (same room I had last year...) and the wireless doesn't quite reach into my room so I'll be blogging and checking email from the lovely loby by the grand piano. I'll need to dress for dinner and blogging.

Tonight they're having a jazz group playing out on the patio - let's hope the rain that's been hovering finally abates. Last night we had a spectacular thunderstorm and I drove around looking at downed branches by the lovely old homes in Wooster. I was early arriving, but they very kindly allowed me to check in early, so with any luck I'll get some major knitting and pattern writing finished while holed up in my room watching Cspan and old movies. Ah, life is, indeed, very good.

I miss the kids so much - I ache. I don't call home as much as I should because when I do I get off the phone and cry. At my age, with my thin skin around my eyes, when I cry you can tell for about 5 days - so I have to watch it. Jeeze I miss them. Gerry sent me this picture - aren't they amazing? 4 days until I hug them again!

While in Cinncinnati my bed had the most beautiful cover on it - and it was inspirational! I'm working up a pattern for a matelasse-esque skirt with chain and crewel embroidery, let's just hope I can make it work! Big ideas, but sometimes they don't work up very nicely. If you only knew the amount of knitting and ripping out I do to get to a workable pattern or motif, oy!
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Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Another Cheap Motel...

I'm a yarn floozie, see? I hole myself up in one cheap motel after another, doing unspeakable things with yarn, winding balls and knitting swatches and watching old movies on TCM. I can't admit there's a problem, but I can't deny the string out the window attached to a ball of Touch Me.

Geeze Louise? When is Gerry getting out here?

When I drive in the afternoons I get tired - it's the warmth and the sun and relaxing - so I usually pull over and nap. Today I pulled over and checked into a motel, settled in with my new yarn from Lambikins Hideaway (and, yes, I think it would be nice worked up in the corset, but work it up tight because it relaxes when it's washed!)

This morning after yet another refreshing night chez Donna (one of the nicest hostesses I've had the pleasure of visiting - she's such a doll and made me feel like a member of the family in her beautiful home!) I stopped by LK for my final goodbye and to pick up some yarn. I have an idea for a matelasse type of swatch, with some embroidery over it. Now I have something to do (!) tonight!

Tomorrow I'll visit my old stomping ground in Granville - Denison (den o' sin) and then drive on up to Wooster for some fabulous fiber and teaching over the weekend. In the mean time, I'm plugged into the intenet at a Comfort Inn in Columbus, and enjoying myself immensely.
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posted by Annie at 12 Comments Links to this post

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Smiles & Frowns

When I'm teaching certain techniques I tell my students that each purl st is really made up of 2 parts, a smile and a frown. While technically this is dubious (the smile and frown next to each other aren't exactly from the same st, but each pur IS made up of 2 parts) it gets the idea across. I tell them to think of each purl st as bipolar.

But they're not really bipolar - ups and downs are part of every life, and purl sts don't feel it any more drastically than the knit sts do. I guess they just show it more.

The last two days here at Lambikins have been so lovely! I've taught some amazing students, became acquainted with Molly, the amazing greeter doggie (her birthday was today - shout out to Molly!) spent some time bonding with my new long-lost sister Sara and got to experience Christine's beautiful silk yarn, Passion, (which I may use in a colorwork skirt for the Romantic Knits book - I washed a swatch last night and it's glorious!)

The Frown
Every time I teach I try to better myself as an instructor. Sometimes I succeed, sometimes I don't. When I lose a student in a class I feel so miserable (if they come back I kill the fatted ball of yarn...) and my mission is to deal with the things that I can affect and not get lost in stuff that I'm not able to impact. Hey - maybe those AA cookies are getting the message through? One day at a time.

The Smile
One of the nicest thing to happen this weekend was a the woman who came by with her Circular Shrug for me to see. It was SO lovely - I was so proud of her! This is just about the best thing you can do for a designer - show them something you've made in their pattern, and tell them that you enjoyed working it up. I felt like a star - and was so thrilled and gratified! Thank you SO much, Jean - your shrug is magnificent!

Tonight I speak at the Middletown Knitting Guild, at the Middletown Public Library at 7:00. I love guilds, I love meeting the women and experiencing the love that knitters have for each other. And, then, there's always dinner before... My priorities are pretty straight, n'est ce pas?
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Sunday, May 21, 2006

Substance Abuse

So here I am in Hamilton, Ohio - a town I've learned inside and out with just three quick drive throughs - and I'm teaching another nutty class of knitters who have all just learned to cable without a cable needle. Everyone is excited, I am happy, but I wish we'd get at least one of the bags done today. Ah, well, not to be...

Yesterday one of my students brought a few bottles of wine for me - I would have to say that is probably the best student I've ever had. Yep, absolutely the best.

And - along the same lines - another student had made a big plate of "A" cookies, which I immediately used to form the abbreviation AA in front of the aforementioned bottle of wine. Never let it be said I have a single drop of subtlety.
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Saturday, May 20, 2006

Lambikins Hideaway

I had the BEST day today - I LOVE Lambikins Hideaway!

This is such an amazing and lovely shop - I've seldom seem such a rich and full selection. There's room EVERYWHERE for the knitters, the lookers, the touchers and feelers, the yarn huggers and smellers (hi Laurie!) and even the yarn buyers - this is a magnificent shop!

The drive down was wonderful - I left at 8:30 (after kissing the kids goodbye, hugging Atticus - who was very unhappy with me - and taking a peek at the roses whose blooming I'll miss) and headed West. The drive was good and fast, and I was amazed and gratified to arrive at 7:00 at my host's home, where there was a beer with my name on it (actually, Sam Adam's name...) and we all settled onto the back porch for a lot of laughing and some knitting.

My hosts are so wonderful! I'm going to enjoy staying here SO much!

You all know that I'm a little bathroom obsessed, and "my" bathroom here at Donna's house is so beautiful! If I were going to re-do a bathroom (hey, I AM!) I'd use this one as a model. White, white, white - yet so interesting and textured.

So after a delicious and restful sleep, off to Lambikins Hideaway and a class of rowdy, chatty, fun and enthusiastic knitters. WHAT A GROUP! If they had half as much fun as I did they got their money's worth! The skill of the knitters was tremendous, and everyone got a really nice head start working on their Cocoon Jackets.

Tonight we're going to dinner at the Montgomery Inn - I've been told it's a landmark and that it might not be the best idea to wear my Jane Q Liberal T-shirt... I'll write about it today, but I've been told that the ribs and the shrimp are landmark. Hmmmm....

Now that you all know how much I love Yorkshire Gold, I'll show you my new favorite mug! This is the mug I went nuts over in Minnesota that Jennie-the-potter created for me. She's still working on her website, and I promise that as soon as she goes live I'll have a link to her site - I, personally, cannot WAIT!
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posted by Annie at 2 Comments Links to this post

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Packing Up

Tomorrow I leave for a long 3 weeks, but Gerry and the kids will be joining me partway through for a week at Cedar Point and Mackinaw City, so it's not as long away as it seems!

I'm doing my last minute scheduling, checking the teaching dates, etc., and it was pointed out to me that I never listed or publicized my final gig in Pittsburgh, PA!

This is quite an omission - I LOVE Pittsburgh (I used to live in Squirrel Hill, where this shop is) and I'm really looking forward to being back in town for a short bit on my way back to NJ from TNNA. Here are the details of the Pittsburgh Engagement:

Knit One
2721 Murray Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15217

Combination Knitting
Tuesday, 6/13/2006
1 o'clock (3 hour class)

Cable Mania (Look Mom, No Needle!)
Tuesday, 6/13/2006
6:30 o'clock (3 hour class)

For reservations call 412-421-6666 which is a frighteningly easy phone number to remember. Hmmm, I wonder if she delivers...

I realize one is a mid-day class and the other a mid-week evening class, and these are hard for some folks. But on the other hand they're much easier for others, so it's aways a crap shoot figuring out what days to hold a class. I hope if you're in the area you'll give Stacey at Knit One a call or email her to reserve a space in the class. The last I heard from her they were going pretty fast and we'd like to keep the classes to a manageable size!

Blue Bell
I had the nicest time yesterday down in PA, out in the wilds of Blue Bell, amid the road construction with a bunch of wild knitters and one adorable baby! You KNOW you're among friends when one older woman comments drily, "Oh, she's a screamer..." after a particularly loud "woohoo!" of mine. I do love to woohoo

I ran them through their paces, took them into the wilderness of colorwork and back out through the misunderstood swamplands surrounding finishing, and they kept up! Bravo, ladies!

Lunch was delicious - give my compliments to the chef at Costco - and I left happy with a beautiful day to drive home in a fun car along winding country roads. Who could ask for anything more?

Load 'em up! Move 'em out!
Today I pack the car. Books, books, yarn, tools, books, handouts, books, clothes, personal sundries, books, a pillow, and some more yarn. And some books on tape. I need to stop by the library and my pharmacy to get the necessities before I go, but all in all I feel like it's a drill that I've memorized. Then tomorrow morning as soon as the kidlets are on the bus, I scoot off to Cinncinnati (eta is 7:00 pm, lets see how I do!) and a big block of teaching at Lambikins Hideaway. Rollin, rollin, rollin -

I'll be careful about the speeding - for many reasons - but high in my mind right now is the ticket my husband got the other morning as he was driving to work at 3:30 am. He was going 42 in a 25 mph zone. The damage? $483. Yes, you read right, $483. NJ has a $250 surcharge on every ticket to raise money for our thin coffers. When he told me he said, "I know, you have one word for me - Minnesota."
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posted by Annie at 12 Comments Links to this post

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Mother's Day & Fairy Cakes

My Day
Mother's Day was incredibly restful - coma-like, I might even say - and it's exactly what I needed! I find that a week before I'm scheduled to go away I begin to hibernate, sleep a lot and rest, and I think it's my way of storing up energy. Oh, who am I kidding? Given half a chance I'd sleep all day EVERY day!

The kids wanted to go out to breakfast, lunch or dinner (they weren't choosy!) and Gerry was game, but I'm afraid I disappointed all of them and just chose to stay home. Going out on Mother's Day isn't the huge treat it might be - usually the restaurants are pretty crowded and I've spent WAY too much time eating out over the past few months. We compromised and picked up Chinese food. And there were leftovers yesterday, so life is about as good as it can get.

Romance Redux and Growth
I'm barreling through the shipment of the yarn for RK [Romantic Knits] and it feels good to get the yarns out the door! I still have a number of pieces I haven't written the patterns for, and have NO idea what yarn I'd like to use, but little by little it will get done. It's so odd to be leaving this Friday for THREE WEEKS away - but I do feel that with my handy laptop I can work as well anywhere as I do at home! For a few months I wasn't traveling with any computer (my old one had conked out and I hadn't yet decided on the new mac) and the disconnect I felt trying to run a small business without my records was palpable.

Recently I was asked to complete a survey about women who run their own small internet businesses. It made me think hard about where I'm at, where I'd like to be, what kind of growth I'd like to sustain and what my dreams are. I'm not a big 5-year plan kind of girl, but I also understand that sometimes growth can outpace a new business and cause so many problems that it never recovers. I may be at that place.

- Books are selling very well - in some cases faster than I can print them (I'm not making my print orders large enough, but when push comes to shove I find it hard to commit to a really large print order...)

- I have more designs due than I can comfortably finish on my own (hence my use of knitters) and I'm wondering if I should get an assistant. I know of a college age son of some friends who is a computer designer and lives nearby - I may ask him what he's doing for Summer break and whether he'd like 10 hours or so of work a week assisting me in the more mundane aspects of my job.

- I have ideas I need to get out for other books, and I'm stymied by the lack of hours in the day.

- I'm not submitting as much as I'd like, for the above reason.

We all know that knitting is having a heyday right now, and - as with any business - there are cycles. Knitting is a luxury, a comfort, a non-necessity (for some, for me it's required for daily happiness!) My hope is that the fact that it's been feeling a steady increase over the past 6 years or so implies that the boost is semi-permanent (not unlike certain hair dyes...) If this is the case, then I feel more comfortable planning out a career that I sort of wandered into (on purpose) and love dearly.

I put much of this sticking power of the current knitting phase at the feet of the sock knitters. God bless the sock knitters! By showing the rest of us that socks are fun and relatively easy (simple) to work up, they make ANY knitter understand a few key things:

1) Working on small needles will NOT kill you
2) Knitting CAN be practical!
3) Hand knit socks are unlike anything you can get anywhere else.
4) Finishing projects is not only possible, it's FUN (that satisfying feeling of finishing something eludes so many knitters!)
5) The giving of small, knitted gifts is a tremendous joy.

I also believe that sock knitters have really spearheaded the move toward self patterning and striping yarns, they are the gear in the knit-world machinery that is running the whole knitting resurgence.

So, even though I'm not the sock knitter I'd like to be, I salute every sock knitter out there!

Fairy Cake

Max's teacher is from Ireland, and she had several of the students to a "tea" in her classroom last week. She made fairy cakes, which I'd never had, and kindly sent the recipe home. It's a kind of sponge cake and - let me tell you - these are the easiest and tastiest cakes I've ever made! We made little mini-muffin sized ones, then we made a big one with blueberries inside. YUM!

While the cakes were cooling we went for a walk and I took photos of my own neighborhood. Every picture was taken on our walk around the block (and these don't begin to match the mansions over on the next street!)

A big tree fell over a few months ago, they chopped off the top, but left the trunk and roots and the kids play on it - bit tree, huh?
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Sunday, May 14, 2006

Close to Home

Angelfire Studios
Yesterday was a luxurious day - I taught a class at a magnificent yarn shop, I only had to drive 30 minutes to get there, I had an exceptionally fun and high spirited group of students and we laughed so hard I thought we'd break some of the cool pottery that graces this yarn & fiber shop / pottery studio!

I've always been stumped by how few yarn shops there seem to be in NJ - more are popping up, but when I compare my own area to other parts of the country sometimes I wonder wha's up with NJ?

I've taught locally at Modern Yarn, Knit a Bit, Sit & Knit (now, sadly, gone) and All About Yarn, and I'll be teaching at the North Country Spinners NJ FIber Fallout later this year - but I hadn't visited Angelfire Studios

I was so impressed with the shop, with Justine (the owner) and with the good cheer and positive energy of the students and other staff who participated in the class. It was such a lovely afternoon (in a really cool shopping center with good parking - even with a big event going on in the common area) that I could have stayed there all day!

I was also impressed that - although her stock is not as extensive as some shops I've visited - she's been very intelligent and passionate about her choices. I can honestly say that I would pick up any yarn in her shop and happily knit up something for ME out of it (and - like most of us - I don't knit enough for ME!) Angelfire has become one of my new favorite local yarn shops!

Ironically, it has become my habit to stop at this particular shopping center in Basking Ridge every time I drive out West from South Orange. Usually I take Rt 78 out to Harrisburg, and just about the time I hit exit 36 I'm ready to settle in with a cup of coffee for the trip (the coffee places near me are such a hassel to get into and out of, it can add 45 minutes to my drive time)

Drew has convinced me to forego coffee - and I don't drink it at home any more (I'm a passionate tea snob and carry my Yorkshire Gold with me in a baggie when I travel!) However, like a partially observant Jew in the 50's who only keeps Kosher at home, I break my resolve and enjoy a cup of the fine brew when I'm traveling. I'd rather get my coffee on the road, and there just happens to be an excellent Dunkin' Donuts in Basking Ridge not far off the highway - and right near Angelfire Studios!

So when I leave this Friday to drive out to Ohio (Oy! I have to go to the library and get some books on tape!!) I'll make my usual stop at the Dewey Meadow Shopping Plaza for an iced coffee and - if she's open at 8:45 - I'll pop in and say "HI!" to Justine again.
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Friday, May 12, 2006

The blessedest thing that God created in those seven days... - B. DuBois

Water is hard to get (and getting harder - the limited resource of the future?)

In drought stricken areas of the world water is the number one need. It takes time to walk to a pump, it takes energy to carry gallons of water and the folks who carry most of the water are (no surprise here) the women. The time and energy a young girl spends carrying water for her family could be better spent in school.

I saw this on TV this week, on Frontline World, and it struck me as one of the most brilliant ideas to bring together many needs and solve them with a stroke:

Pumps bring up water for a community; but pumps require energy (human or otherwise) to operate:
Kids have boundless energy; but in many areas they lack decent, safe playground equipment;
Folks in these areas often are underemployed; the pumps need to be maintained.
Maintenance requires a budget and salaries; ad space on the water towers can be sold.
HIV/AIDS education is a major problem in many of these areas; a certain percentage of the ad space can be dedicated to this.

Access to clean water makes everything better and reduces the size of the auxillary problems - here's a solution that touches so many aspects of a community.

Please visit the playpumps site, look around and see what a brilliant idea this is. And if you're inclined, make a donation to this very clever way to catch several birds at one time; and give them a bath!
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posted by Annie at 2 Comments Links to this post

Folks seldom make sweaters by girls who wear glasses...

No Glasses - by a HUGE margin.

You're all correct, and so is my husband, AND the photographer. I think I liked the glasses one because, to my muddled mind, it makes me look about 6 months younger (as if that's a good thing...) AND my nose is slightly less Aunt Wanda-esque (the one who looked fabulous, for those who've taken a class with me)

But for all the reasons cited, non-glasses is best, and that's what I sent to my publisher before I'd even posted those yesterday. Here's my personal favorite

And the scarf? That's one of the designs for Romantic Knits, knit up by Jessie in Illinois - thanks Jessie!
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Thursday, May 11, 2006

Yes, it is about ME.

Okay, I had some photos taken by a friend and I'd like your feedback on which one you'd use for a book jacket cover if you were me.

The photographer really likes the non-eyeglass Annie. I like the glasses.

This was about the least painful of photo sessions, but that had a lot to do with Susan and how comfortable she made me. We laughed a LOT, especially when looking at the pictures later (my favorite, not to be shown here, was one that I like to call, "who farted?") But I had put off this photo stuff for so long, hoping that a good photo of myself would just fall into my lap (it hasn't) so I had to bite the bullet and go get shot today.

So let me know - jeeze, I haven't looked at myself so much since I took a makeup class in college (theatrical makeup)
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posted by Annie at 43 Comments Links to this post

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

A Bear Went By

Path of Bruin

How odd to be awakened this morning by my husband calling from the newsroom to tell me to keep the dog, cats and kids indoors. A bear had been sighted in our town. A big, black bear.

Apparently early this morning the bear was seen not far from our house, rambled around the Seton Hall area for a bit, then ended up in Newark (perhaps he was just a Booker fan and wanted to celebrate? We're pretty happy here for Cory!) and was shot in Irvington (2 miles from my house) this afternoon. My kid's school is on the Irvington border - how surreal.

And - even more odd - it was the SECOND bear shot in a major urban area in NJ in the past week. Speaking of shooting, we had a people shooting in SO this week in front of the Cluck-U Chicken joint - very close to our home - someone jumped out of an SUV and shot another guy. Minnesota is looking even better.

A few years ago I woke up to a deer on our front lawn - a buck - a BIG buck. And we've seen deer in our back yard, but this is our first bear.

I took the bark collar off of the dog.

Thank You
Thanks to everyone who commented so kindly on my last post. I thought long and hard before posting it - always afraid that someone would say, "She's just being SO sensitive..." Recently I've read critiques of my blog (which sort of makes me think - why? What's the point in a blog critique? Either read it or don't - but I digress ) and I've been accused of TMI - too much information.

A valid point, but this is me, folks.

Tomorrow I do my least favorite thing - pose for a photograph - and then I have lunch with a friend so all of the make-up will be put to good use. A local friend who's a portrait photographer is going to take some pictures of the kids this Spring (I won her services at our school auction) so I also hired her to take a picture or two of me so that MAYBE I can get a really good one for the book jackets. I wonder if I can just pose behind a bunch of knitting needles...?

Tomorrow Hannah and her class go to Sandy Hook (a seaside park which is just phenomenal, lots of beaches and beach-y terrain) and it's supposed to rain. Damn.

Hannah had a good day at school. The principal and I spoke, he had Hannah and one of the, ahem, more vocal kids into his office and - as Hannah put it - "I wanted to say, 'Thanks, second dad!'" when he read the kid the riot act about showing respect to the-boy-who-made-her-day-so-rotton.

And, yes, Hannah does understand that keeping one's cool is worth quite a bit, and it's something we continue to work on. Life is work! I had promised her earlier that if she keeps her cool through the year she can get her ears pierced in June. We'd slated that for her Bat Mitzvah, but so many of her friends are all getting pierced that this seemed a painless way to give in a bit, and also get her to work for it.

Romantic Knits
Swatching is going really well - I swatch a bit, then I check gauges and work up my schematics. Once that's finished I pull out the worksheets and do up a preliminary pattern, then let it set for a bit while I move on to something else. During a quiet time (?!) I pull out the worksheet again and look it over, see the glaring errors that I didn't see earlier, and try to make corrections. This is the point when I'm pretty much ready to send the patterns to test knitters so they can look them over before I send the yarn (don't want someone to be terribly surprised!) so if all goes well by this weekend I'll be in touch with many of my knitters.

It's been a slower process than I thought it would be this time around - and I'm afraid it's going to drag out a bit, too, so if I said I'd be in touch with you, don't despair!

Off to bed - we buried another bunny (courtesy of Butkis, who's trying to prove that he may be 14, but he's still the great orange-and-white hunter) and put up another headstone. I smell a Stephen King novel coming to life in the backyard. Wonder if the bear smelled it, too...
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Tuesday, May 09, 2006

The Mom I Wanted

I loved my mom very much, she was supportive and always believed that I could do whatever I wanted to do.

But she had a relatively happy childhood as far as kids stuff goes. She was raised in rural WV, her family was pretty well known and - from what I can tell - she was good friends with, or related to, just about everyone at her school.

My own school days weren't as happy. I was odd looking, tall, red-haired, I cried easily and I might as well have had a big red target on my back. I didn't really feel a let-up in the pressure until I went to college, and it seemed to take me years to get past the bullying from Elementary, Jr. High and High School.

Looking back, it seemed that my Elementary school days had set me up to feel like a victim - a rotton feeling - throughout the rest of my school career. This was probably the main reason I left high school before I graduated (high school drop-out with a Masters - that's me!)

Hannah's like me in a lot of ways. But, unlike me, she has a mom who really does believe her when she tells me how much it hurts to have kids make fun of her. I used to come home and tell my mom that kids were laughing at me, calling me names, and she had two pieces of advice;

1) Laugh at it
2) Ignore it

She also told me, "Annette, I know kids, and kids just don't act like that!"

I never felt that she understood.

The principal and teachers at my school in Toledo were also of the 'Suck-It-Up-And-Take-It' school of thought. It was as if my reaction was more important than the initial comment or kick or tripping incident - and I felt responsible as well as victimized.

This is something I don't think about much any more.

If you can get past the crap life is pretty good, and I've been lucky enough to get past a lot of garbage. But Hannah's just wading into it. Like me, she has red hair, she cries easily, she's sensitive (how I grew to hate that word, it seemed to make any amount of abuse my own responsbility - "If only you weren't so sensitive, then the kids wouldn't make fun of you!")

We went through a phase like this a few years ago, but then she got an amazing teacher who would brook NO nonsense in her class and didn't allow any child to treat another disrespectfully. For the most part her school is very good at taking the respect thing VERY seriously, but kids are kids - sometimes cruelty comes easily.

There was a substitute at school today, and stuff got out of hand. Hannah was upset, she called me and wanted me to come and get her. It was the end of the day so I drove over, but the principal, the guidance counselor and most of the teachers were in a meeting when I arrived. I'll have to talk to them later. The school nurse, who is a wonderful woman, spoke with me and said - as if I'd never heard this, "Perhaps Hannah can develop a sense of humor about it..?"

I love this nurse, but I was so frustrated. If you haven't been through this kind of garbage, it's hard to explain how laughing it off only works so well - and usually only when a certain level of maturity is invovled. It's so hard for a kid to find the resources within themselves to laugh when they're the butt of a joke in front of a roomful of peers. I seriously doubt if any adult who offers this advice could withstand what Hannah has so far this year without losing their cool.

I'm actually quite proud of how well Hannah's done for the most part (she calls it "putting on her deaf ears") She certainly keeps her cool better than I did when I was a kid.

But when she tells me, I listen, and I tell her that I understand. And I tell her that it WILL get better. And I tell her that she's kinder and wiser than the kids who make fun of her, but she won't be able to see that for a long time. I tell her that she has every right to be upset, but she also has to decide what she can do that will make the situation better. Everything I wish my mom would have told me.

To my mind, kids are like trees. When they're saplings they can get bent easily, twisted, hurt. Some trees are very strong, some are more supple, some are brittle. If you have an especially tender tree you put posts around it to keep it safe until the trunk is strong. Hannah is a kid who needs a few more posts than the average kid might - but my hope is that if she gets them, she'll grow stronger and self sufficient a bit easier than I did.

I've never believed that making a kid suffer makes them strong.

It seems there's one particular kid who is the most, well, vocal - isn't there always? He's a kid who is a born leader - and isn't 100% sure what to do with his power. I did something my mom would never have done - I called his dad today.

His dad was great, he knew immediately who Hannah was "Oh, Hannah, she's quite a little lady!" and listened with an open mind as I explained the situation (as I understood it.)

We both agreed that if we were in each other's shoes - which we might easily be in as the years go by - we'd both want to know about incidents like this so we could deal with them. It was a good conversation.

Tomorrow I'll go talk to the principal - just to show my face and let him know that - in the spirit of the school respect policy - I hope they'll continue to reinforce the importance of treating others as we'd like to be treated.

I won't tell Hannah to laugh at this stuff - pain isn't funny.

But I will give her a lot of other stuff to laugh about, and help her to create safe places with her friends and here at home so she can grow strong enough to shrug off things like this more easily. Life can be a bitch.
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Sunday, May 07, 2006

Home, Happy & Healthy!

Minnesota seems like a wonderful dream now, I'm so firmly back in the thick of life here in SO.

However, along Ann's line of thinking, I brought home several small neighborhood papers and have been reading voraciously online about neighborhood politics, schools, etc., in St. Paul and Minneapolis. It seems like similar issues that we're dealing with here (changing neighborhoods, new folks coming in and how to assimilate the new neighbors to the neighborhood, AND vice versa!, new directions for the school - lots of stuff to consider...)

But I'm still thinking that this may be a very good move for our family! It's true that winters here aren't as drastic as winters in MN - and milder than what I was used to as a kid in Toledo. Gerry's lived in Rochester (and, oddly, Toledo - but not at the same time that I did...) and we both are folks who like winter. So although the winters will probably be rougher than we're used to, we're not walking into it in ignorance or inexperience of a cold and long winter.

I trained myself years ago to say "soda-pop" when I moved here from the midwest and couldn't quite give up the use of pop for that crisp and carbonated beverage. Of course, my parents from West Virginia used the term Coke to describe just about any carbonated beverage. It's good for the kids to be bilingual.

It does seem to me that the property values in Minnesota and St. Paul are higher than one might expect - and our own home here was a veritable bargain when we purchased it 7 years ago. Although it's gone up in value (we're getting a casual valuation this week by a friend who's a realtor) my gut feeling is that we'd probably end up spending roughly the same amount as we get from our home on a home in MN.

So, the great debate will go on, but the telling factor will be whether Gerry can find a job out there, and what the overall employment outlook is in the area.

I finished the crocheted skirt I've been working on for IK and I'm very happy with it. I ripped out the yoke and reworked it, it's much nicer!

I've been able to get about 4 patterns written this weekend so far, and more swatching this afternoon will mean more patterns. Once I get them written I'll be sending them out to prospective knitters for their once-over (and to see if it's something that would appeal to that particular knitter. It's no good sending something to someone if it's going to be torturous for them to work it up!) and then out goes the yarn! I still need to choose yarn for some of the projects (and a thin few still need to be designed! EEEEK!) so this will be a rich and full week.

Is there nothing better than days of good, rewarding work ahead of us? The fact that I love what I do so much makes me especially sensitive to Gerry's unhappiness in his own work now. And life changes - who knows if I'll be able to continue doing this for years and years - but for right now I'm very happy to be able to write, knit, design and teach to pay the mortgage. Life is definitely good.
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Thursday, May 04, 2006

Packed and Happy

I have yet to unpack, but it usually takes me a good day or two to settle into the putting-away-of-the-clothing.

My flight arrived a bit early, so I had time to go down and get my luggage, meet Gerry, and rush over to our friend's house (where the kids were to get off the bus in case my flight was delayed) to greet the kids. Happy, happy mommy! Hannah had tennis this afternoon, and Maxie wanted to go visit the local creek with his friend, so I took the time to have a nice visit with Max's friend's mom (one of my dear friends here in NJ) and talk about - what else? - Minnesota.

My breathing was getting so much better every day in MN. I could taste the difference in the air - clean and crisp and light. As soon as I walked out of the terminal at Newark the thickness of our local air hit me like a wall. And, because I can be as thick as the air, the fact that every time I go away my breathing gets better (and worsens when I return) finally came home to roost.

Gerry's cautiously, guardedly excited about the prospect of MN. He told me tonight that the garage where he parks his car during the day (he has to be at work at 4:30 in the morning, so he can't take mass transit) is raising their rate from $190 a month ago to $275. A year of that is more than we'd pay in taxes if we moved to MN. Did I mention that along with our exhorbitant taxes (which are actually low for our town, we're about to be reassessed) we do NOT get garbage collection? We have to pay separately for that (and water)?

Well, now you know what idiots we are here - and additionally how much we love living here that we'd put up with the extreme ch-ching we call property taxes. Something, somewhere has to give with this property tax situation in NJ - and in our case it just might be us. We've justified it to date by saying that if we stayed in Bklyn we'd have to pay for private schools for the kids (we were districted for a pretty bad school) and the education they're getting here is world class. So many things to consider - and when I line them up the decision isn't as clear cut as it might seem.

The thing about the NY area - especially before 911 - was that there was always TV work of some kind around. Gerry could squeeze together a free-lance life (no insurance, but jobs). The job he has now is sucking the life out of him. If Gerry's not happy, we can't truly be happy as a family. Oy - so much tsuris!

At any rate, now that I'm home I'm able to knit fast again (nothing like the familiarity of one's own sofa) and barrelled through a few swatches tonight so I can get some patterns written over the weekend. I've completed the finishing touches on the crocheted skirt I've been working on and I'll send that in tomorrow, and will actually have some projects to send out to knitters in the next few weeks (hooray!) It's so good to be home - I do love South Orange - but I could be persuaded to strike out someplace new with the family...
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Packed and Sad

I'm ready to hit the road - my flights in a little over 2 hours, I'm 20 minutes from the airport so I'm enjoying my last few minutes of cable on this trip by watching The Dark Horse, an old Bette Davis movie on TCM - some unlikely story about an idiot who's elected to office, imagine that...

Last night I taught the second of 2 classes at Creative Fibers, and I had such a nice time! Bonnie has a lovely shop - I'm very impressed with the spinning, weaving and dyeing supplies she carries - and it was wonderful to have a nice room in the back to hold the classes. We did color last night - and I always work my color students rather hard. I've found the students here in MN tend to be hard on themselves anyway - an odd mix of "I should be able to do this, darn it!" and "Of COURSE I can do this, darn it!" It's that farm work ethic, I think, and I have it in spades myself. But it can make us frustrated when trying something new - it can make us feel tense, and that makes it impossible to really learn anything. I'm very familiar with the tight fist in the stomach feeling, all clenched up, that seems to block any new thoughts from entering the stomach.

My job is to slowly unclench that fist - as well as providing the education - and sometimes I feel that I'm better at it than other times. I wish I would have been more skillful in that last night.

The plaid is not easy. But it can be broken down into relatively simple steps. The trick is to get the class to trust me so implicitly that they trust that I trust them to get it. Just about everyone got it last night - and their swatches looked lovely - but of course I have the nagging feeling that I could have done better. Oh, well...

I've been asked by the MN Guild to come back next year as the keynote speaker at the Yarnover event, and I'm so thrilled to be able to say YES!. And maybe I won't even have to travel far to get here...

I'm happy to be going back to see the kids, the husband, the dog, the cats, and my wonderful house and neighbors. I'm sad to be leaving the Twin Cities, because I've really grown to love it in a short period. I think my commentor had a point, though, and a return with the family for a vacation would make the most sense to see how we ALL like it here.

And the job thing. We'll see how that pans out - if it's meant to be, it will be! One thing is for sure, Gerry certainly couldn't be any more unhappy in his job than he is now, and that makes me very sad, which is a terrible thing to be on such a beautiful day!

The parks here are amazing - and yesterday was perhaps one of the most beautiful days I've ever spent! I visited parks, sat and read a bit and walked, played with some dogs and talked to some nice folks. It's absolutely amazing here. Obviously I don't understand the ins and outs of Minnesota politics, the history and back story, but from a visitor it appears that the money (taxes) have gone to make life a little better for everyone.

We pay unholy high taxes in NJ, and at times it just feels that they must be going into someone's pocket because certain important parts of life are always underfunded. It just feels that for $14,000 a year in property taxes on a relatively modest 3 bedroom house, we should have a higher quality of life. There are a LOT of reasons for that (NJ is broken into such small little villages and towns and cities, all with their own small fiefdoms. Many kingdoms mean lots of tax. I'm happy and proud to pay my taxes, I feel it's the sign of a civilized society that we share with each other to raise the level of life for all, but what we pay in NJ is simply insane. Even more insane is that taxes in our county are so much higher than 15 miles down the road in a different county - the burden of caring for poorer areas isn't evenly distributed across the state, and that is hard on those of us in Essex County.

The highest property taxes I saw listed on the many brochures I picked up on my travels this week was $4,500. And that was twice as much as the next highest tax amount. The average was around $1,800, which seems like it must be a misprint. I could tell, talking to Gerry on the phone, that one of his reservations about moving is the cost of the move itself. When I told him about the taxes he said, "Geeze - what we'd save in one year would more than cover the move!" - life is funny, huh?

But all of this dreaming and planning is moot if Gerry can't find a job here - so that's our next consideration.
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Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Personal Tour

Tomorrow I'll write about Creative Fibers - where I taught a warm and loving class last night. It was low-key, but everyone in the class was so dear, I felt as though I were with a group of friends I'd known for years! I'm teaching there tonight - after I spend the day in the Minneapolis Parks - and I'm really looking forward to it! Colorwork is tonight - always a blast - prepare to be plaided!

Jennie the potter picked me up at my luxurious motel yesterday morning and we began our tour of the Twin Cities. My day was perfect early on when I was able to get a steaming bowl of oatmeal for breakfast at a local cafe (of course I've forgotten the name...) and it was DELICIOUS! I love oatmeal.

She is the perfect tour guide for the Twin Cities - she has such a deep love for this place; the parks (!), the architecture, the communities, the neighborhoods. Anyone who comes to MN should make Jennie their tourguide. It's hard for me to express my thanks to her for spending a whole day driving me around (and with gas prices as they are, that's nothing to sneeze at!)

Jennie works for the parks department, teaching pottery, and has lived here for most of her life. She drove me around so many beautiful parks and we visited Minniehaha falls - amazing! Because of the heavy rains over the past week the creek levels are high, and the falls are more powerful than she'd seen them. I found them stunning - very much like falls I've visited in West Virginia.

I think I was most impressed with the Longfellow neighborhood - all of them were lovely, but this one seemed the most like South Orange and it would be extraordinary if we could find a nice place around here. Of course, there's the whole JOB thing.

One thing I've learned about Minnesota knitters is that they're SERIOUS about what they do! Not dour, but very serious and quite enthusiastic. Every yarn shop I walk into here is well stocked with yarns I'd LOVE to use - a lot of which are new to me - and spinning, dyeing and weaving supplies, too! Jennie took me to the Textile Center - an amazing place - and we visited the library and the gift shop. They have a pretty extensive class list; weaving, knitting, quilting; beading - all kinds of fiber and textile arts!

We also stopped into Borealis Yarns - I was going to visit there on Sunday for the Community Knit, but I found myself just visiting neighborhoods instead. I found two cute clear plastic cases - yay! I needed one for makeup and one for knitting notions. I also found some size 9 metal needles, not easy to locate, and snapped them up. I do love my metal needles...

I was a jucy virgin. Matt's bar is a dark and friendly place - if Gerry visited it he'd want to live across the street, it's definitely HIS kind of place! - and they've perfected the Jucy Lucy. It's a burger with the cheese right inside, and the fries are KILLER! I seriously doubt whether I'll be able to fit into my seat on the plane on the way home.

Now I'm off - I just did my laundry here at ol' Comfort Inn and I'm off to explore some hot doings on a beautiful, sunny day in this most amazing place!
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Monday, May 01, 2006


After a few days away from home I start to hallucinate. I think I see my kids in different places, or someone turns their head in a car ahead of me and I swear it's Gerry. That's when I know how much I miss them and how much I want to be with them. No doppleganger Atticus sightings yet, though. I find myself not calling home as much as I should because I get so sad - and I don't want to cry on the phone when I talk to the kids. Silly, huh? My phone has also been wonky (losing it's charge in just a few hours) and it's off been more than it's been on.

Missing my family aside, I am having a terrific time here in Minneapolis and tomorrow I'm getting a private, escorted tour of at least a section of the Twin Cities to help me figure out if I'm really in love, or if it's just another case of infatuation (into love and out again, one town after another, I'm such a geography ho')

Yesterday I drove around Minnesota after checking into the Motel 6. Then I left on my own little visit to open houses, dropping in coffee shops, just getting a feeling in a few neighborhoods for this area. Even when I'm NOT thinking about relocating to a place I do that - it's one of the joys of traveling, seeing new places and how folks interact in their surroundings. I'm very lucky that I get to see this.

Then back to Motel 6 where disappointment waited. I've been a huge fan of the chain because the rooms are clean, inexpensive and - at least for me for the past year - I've been able to log on in any room I stay in. The one in Rosedale, MN, though, doesn't have wireless and I couldn't use the dataport because I didn't have the right cord. Dang. Frustrated, I looked online for another cheapo place and found a Comfort Inn south of Minneapolis with wireless (and more cable channels - woohoo!) so I moved there today after teaching at Yarnzilla.

I felt like I was searching for the mystical, disappearing Brigadoon as I drove around and around the Yellow Circle Drive, Blue Circle Drive, Red Circle Drive, Chartruese Circle Drive - but finally I found the place. I kept catching glimpses, then I'd be forced to turn on a one-way street and suddenly I was miles away again. Frustrating, but it did feel beautiful when I finally found the location and pulled in. Linda's map at her website is very good, I just don't think there's any way to map the roads in that area and simplify it!

I was ungodly early (as I am wont to do) so once I'd scoped out the location I zipped back to a local Caribou Coffee and had a nice chai and checked my email.

I'd never visited Caribou Coffee before coming out here, and I've been missing something good. We don't have them in New Jersey, but the atmosphere is friendly and warm with excellent furniture and classic jazzy music. (The fact that I can connect to the internet much cheaper than I can at Starbucks is also a draw.)

Linda, the owner at Yarnzilla, was so wonderful! I'm stunned at the wide variety of yarns she stocks - just amazing - and apparently she does a real bang-up business in mail order for Malabrigo Yarn and carries so many colors I was totally blown away. I had to stop and catch my breath! I had not been familiar with this yarn and let me tell you that it's absolutely STUNNING, soft as a cloud, lofty and bright!

The rep for the yarn happened to be in the class I taught there today, so I was lucky enough to get loaded up with some sample yarn before I left (knit, knit, knit!) Gerry is going to be real happy to see me arriving home with MORE yarn. (The yarn is coming from INSIDE the house!)

Tomorrow I'll blog in more detail about the yarn (lots of Misti Alpaca as well as some Norweigan Spirit in addition to the Malabrigo) when I have a chance to fiddle around with the skeins. I love my job.

I varied from my usual teaching at Yarnzilla. Linda had asked if I'd put together a bit from three of my classes (instead of the usual two - 3 hour classes, I taught three - 2 hour mini-classes) and I was happy with the change! I didn't go as in depth as I usually do, but I was able to do the detail teaching I like to do (be afraid, be very afraid...)

We started with Combination - always fun - and a chance for me to settle the students into my odd sense of humor and solidify us as a group. We did some increasing, then broke for a delicious lunch (they brought deli in from NJ!) and on with Cables, more cables and some colorwork.

Once again, the rain, the afternoon lull and the HARD brain work that I was forcing everyone to do took it's toll and we needed a bit of a break, so Natalie ran out for candy bars (!) while Joan ran out for Chai Latte (I don't know what anyone else had, I was too busy slurping my own!) They drink a lot of coffee out here. Must be that Mrs. Olsen connection ("Mountain grown is the richest most aromatic kind of coffee.")

It's so cool how every class - just like every shop - has it's very own personality. One of the skills that I'm trying to hone as a teacher is to listen to what the class needs and not just shove in what I may want to do. An extension of the Happy Stitches theory of teaching, huh?

This class was quite good- lots of fun and TONS of personality - but they wanted less hard-core teaching than the YO crowd seemed to desire. Every student was wonderful, but some of them weren't aware of HOW wonderful they were (are!) and that is always the most gratifying point of any class - to allow the student to see (to HOPE they can see) how extraordinary they are as a knitter. We are SO intuitively gifted - sometimes all we have to do is accept how our hands really know! Our brains are strong, but they're not always our best friends.

Linda is so engaging and full of love and warm energy - it's obvious that she's been able to bring this group of supportive and loving students into her shop because they feel comfortable there - I did, too! Thank you, Linda, for inviting me to be part of your little group for a day! AND thank you for sharing the Freakonomics book with me (Linda's brother WROTE the book - Linda came up with the title - is that COOL or what!!!)

I have some crochet and some swatching to do tonight - I'm finishing up a skirt for IK Crochet (which is such fun!) and doing some more swatching for the Romantic Knits book. I'm watching Unsolved Mysteries (that used to be a favorite show - LOVE Robert Stack) and it's exceptionally good knittin' TV.

Speaking of which, in my first Yarnover class one woman's husband was distantly related to Robert Stack, and another woman was distantly related to Gil Hodges - very groovy.
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posted by Annie at 6 Comments Links to this post

Alison's Scarf
Link to pdf file of cable/trellis lace scarf

Hannah's Poncho
Link to pdf file of multi-sized poncho


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