Wednesday, April 27, 2011

One day at a time

Thank you all for the supportive comments!  (Gina, I hope the end of your semester goes well :) )  I'm still taking each day as it comes, getting a LOT less knitting time in than I'd like, looking toward the end of the semester with both excitement (summer's coming, summer's coming!!) and trepidation (I have to do what before the end of the semester, and then get what done over the summer?!).

I am continuing to knit away at the blanket - I now have two squares completed and am almost all the way through the third square.  They all look very much like the first square, but I'll try to take some pictures of them all together when I get a chance.  I am also still plugging away at the Daybreak shawl - the rows get longer, so they take more time (funny how that works out).

I also cast on for the first of the pair of socks that just came in the Illuminations Sock Club.  These socks are absolutely wonderful - I fell in love when I opened the package, and I just felt compelled to cast on right away.  If you are good with a spoiler, check out the pattern page on Ravelry; I'll wait.

Aren't they amazing?  And I got the kit with those blues and yellows, too!! (I put "surprise me" for my color choice, and so far I have been very happy with Janel's surprises.)  I'm done with the big chart for the leg on the first sock, and am getting ready to knit the heel flap.  That chart really twisted my brain into little knots, though.  Not because the chart is unclear - it's laid out beautifully with no errors whatsoever.  But because (get this) the main color, (which I am knitting in blue), is represented by the lighter colored squares on the chart, and the contrast color (yellow for me) is represented by the darker colored squares.  Yellow is lighter than blue.  I cannot tell you the trouble that this has caused me!  I had absolutely no idea that my hands were so attached to the square colors.  I'm carrying the main color in my right hand, the contrast in my left, as I usually do, but my brain keeps going "yellow is light and blue is dark", and it will not be gainsaid.  Too funny.  I'm calling it my anti-Alzheimer's exercise for the semester, and making sure not to knit these when I'm very tired.

My other project right now is to decide on a summery sweater to knit for myself.  I'm dithering.  I could knit this:
(Pattern page on Rav.)  I think I even have the yarn (I bought a bunch of the yarn that I used to knit the Native California basket cap - Plymouth Yarn's Vita, which is a gorgeous cotton/cashmere blend that I think would work for this).

Or, I could knit this. (Not a Rav link.  Here's the Rav link.)  I don't have the yarn for that, but I'm sort of lackadaisically poking around for a seafoam green yarn that I could knit it in.  Any ideas?

So, what do you think?  Which one?  Neither?  These are the questions that I dwell on when I don't want to look at my to-do list.  Surely others among you do the same thing? 

Friday, April 22, 2011

Piled Hip Deep

Isn't that what Ph.D. stands for?

This is the time of year when I begin to regard with deep concern the relative levels of the rising tide of work to be done and my nostrils.  I think the former is now officially higher than the latter, and I am drowning.  In some ways, that wouldn't be so bad or unexpected - after all, it happens every semester, right? and it's always worse in the spring as everyone realizes that we're about to be gone for the summer - but lately I have been feeling particularly desperate (in its sense which most closely relates to the word "despair").  It is difficult, after working insane hours to write and grade assignments, finish an article to send to a publisher, attend budget meetings and Senate meetings and faculty meetings, meet with students both in and (mostly) out of office hours, reassure students who can't get the classes they need in the fall due to budget cuts, prep for classes, etc etc (knowing, all the while, that everything that I do is subject to multiple levels of regular review: for peer-reviewed articles, reviews by my academic peers plus the editorial staff of the journal; for my classes, regular end-of-semester evaluations; for my work, regular reviews by three peers in my department, my dean, a committee of my peers campus-wide and my provost) - in essence, all of the things that must be done in order to do my job well - it is difficult, after all of that, to hear on a regular basis (most recently on Wednesday on the faculty Senate floor), our administrators saying that we all know that faculty really don't work that hard.


I don't mind doing all of those things - that's the job.  I mind a lot, though, being held in contempt for being lazy and spoiled while I'm doing all of those things.  A lot.

So I've been trying lately to find other happy places to focus on.  I'm not part of the Friday Fave Five that Willow is so good about participating in, but that's the kind of list I'm going to make on this Friday.  And I'm going to be really honest - aside from that work thing, I have been feeling very very lucky lately, because that work thing makes me realize how many of the really important things in my life are OK, and how very lucky I am in that regard.

1.  Even in that work thing, I am reminded of all of the reasons why I do my job.  My classes yesterday all went really well - students talked, students asked questions, and there were several of those lovely lightbulb moments that make teaching one of the most exciting and fulfilling things I can imagine.  Love it.

2.  Last weekend, when we found ourselves unexpectedly child-free, Rick and I took the train to Los Angeles for a lovely overnight getaway.  We ate at a restaurant we've been wanting to try, went to a concert given by the UCLA Philharmonic at Disney Hall, and stayed the night in a nice hotel.  We even got room service breakfast on Sunday!!  Too fun.

3.  Younger Daughter's trip to New York was a complete success.  She loved it, she learned a TON, she felt really good about the whole thing.  If any of you are on Facebook, you can search out Montessori School of Oceanside, and see pictures of the kids doing their thing.  I got a text message from one of her teachers with a picture of their delegation on the floor of the UN General Assembly, and I just about cried.  Unutterably cool.

4.  The trail that I love to hike for my weekday morning dog walks finally dried out enough this week that Tilly and I could go - I am always so much happier in my skin when I can get out and walk on dirt.  And Tilly is much happier when she can run off-leash and come home smelling like sage.  In fact, the sage is blooming, as are the monkeyflowers and blue-eyed grass, and I can see the ceonothus, too.  It's green green green, and that doesn't last long around here (in fact, the grass is already becoming gilded - summer gold is on its way), so I'm soaking it up.  I also had two very unexpected wildlife sightings on Tuesday.  First, I came around a corner to see, perched in a still-bare tree, a mourning dove on one branch and a kestrel on another.  The kestrel was a bit smaller than the mourning dove, but was clearly trying to be the BMOC - and the dove wasn't buying it.  The kestrel took off and flew around a little bit, trying to convince the dove that Kestrels Eat Birds Like You!!  The dove wasn't convinced.  (This wasn't unlike that cartoon from long ago with the little bitty chickenhawk that kept hollering, "But I'm a chickenhawk!" at the chicken that was ten times its size.)  Eventually the kestrel gave up and went away, leaving the dove entirely unimpressed.  Then a bit later, as I was standing and looking at the little lake by the trail, I saw an odd undulating in the grass.  Across the trail went a long skinny furry reddish short-legged thing (the legs and fur made it clear to me that this was not a snake; I am nothing if not wise in the ways of such things).  It dove into the grass on the other side, and undulated its way down towards the water.  I was at a total loss (the best I could come up with was, feral ferret?), until a little bit of research informed me that we, in fact, have indigenous weasels in California, and that I had just seen a California long-tailed weasel.  First ever!

5.  And finally, on last Friday, I received a huge gift from the son of a dear friend of mine.  He is learning to fly (and is, in fact, if I understand it correctly, about a year away from testing for his pilot's license), and on Friday evening, he graciously invited me to go flying with him during one of his lessons.  I love flying.  I always wished I could learn to fly, so having the chance to live vicariously through this young man is wonderful.  As the kids in my life (many of them not so much "kids" anymore) - both my own and my friends' - get older and start to find their own ways, I feel constantly lucky to be able to see who and what they are becoming, and truly honored by the ways in which they let me into their lives and share their passions with me.  It's like I've gotten to expand my own experience database a hundred-fold through their generosity and excitement.  Does it get any better than that?
(That's my friend's son on the left.  We'll call him the Pilot, since he was.)(Apparently this shot appears on the camera of absolutely every person he's ever taken flying with him.)  We took off from Montgomery Field and flew down to Brown Field, right on the US/Mexico border.
The views were absolutely spectacular.  The Pilot executed three touch-and-goes at Brown Field (those are exactly what they sound like - he comes in for a landing and takes off immediately, circles around and does it again, etc).  And he did it, very well, in a cross-wind, which I am assured is not nearly as easy as he made it look.  I loved it, since take-off is one of my very favorite parts of any flight (because it's so clear from the ground-speed that we're going FAST!  and I love going FAST!).

Then we headed towards the ocean, where we saw a submarine, cruising along on the surface.  It was like getting to see a whale, somehow - totally impressive, and utterly unexpected.  This thing was huge.
Then around Point Loma for our flight home.
How cool is that?

Sunday, April 10, 2011

A knitting update

Today I thought I'd try to round up the projects I have on the needles (actively on the needles) for a quick report.  We have mostly recovered from our trip, plus Rick's immediate follow-on trip to Minneapolis.  (As an aside, it's been chilly enough here with this recent Canadian storm that we have snow on our local mountains, and when Rick got off the plane on Friday night, he said it was colder here than it was there.  Today it's sunny as can be, and still hasn't reached 60 yet.  No wonder I can't seem to grasp the fact that we're already well into April!)

First, an FO that I didn't get to show off before leaving for Yosemite (but which I wore quite a bit while there; I didn't even block it first - still haven't, in fact).  It's my second Babushka.
That color isn't quite right - it's a bit darker than that.  In fact, it goes unexpectedly well with the Selbu tam, which was a nice surprise, as (like most knitters, I suspect) I rarely have matching sets of anything.  My first version of this scarf has been, without a doubt, probably the most-worn single piece of knitting I've ever done. The combination of the yarn, the shape of the scarf, and the stitch patterns make this incredibly wearable.  It's simple without being boring, and sooooo soft and warm (hooray for cashmere, silk, and seed stitch).  It folds up into the tiniest package, so it's easy to toss into a bag, just in case its needed.  And I'm hoping that this blue will go with just about anything, in the way that denim does.
To recap, this is the Babushka scarf, knitted on size 5 needles, out of Jade Sapphire Silk/Cashmere 2-ply.  The only two unfortunate aspects of this scarf are these: the pattern can't be purchased on Ravelry, and it takes a bit more than one skein of the Jade Sapphire to knit one.  This means that I now have two mostly-skeins of this yarn (one in green and one in blue) as leftovers; I must find something to do with them.  How I do suffer for my art.

On the needles I have the mitered blanket that I posted about last time.  I've started the second square.  This is my soothing knitting; I know how the squares go together now, so it's very mindless.  I appreciate having at least one of those projects on the go at all times for when I need to go to a meeting without charts, or at the end of a long day when my brain is more mush than neuron.  Another project like that is the Daybreak Shawl that I started some time ago (long enough ago that Ellen started and finished hers since then - sorry, Ellen!).
I'm finally on the stripes now (I had to knit the first plain section twice because I didn't read the pattern carefully enough, which I suppose should say something about my terminal and ongoing state of distraction), which makes it move along much more briskly, since I am so very entertained by the changing colors of the lighter section (which I suppose should also say something about my state of mind).  This is the yarn from the first Rockin' Sock Club kit of the year.  The patterns for that kit were really wonderful, but it occurred to me that I was much less likely to wear a pair of colorwork socks knitted from mediumweight yarn than I was to wear this scarf, and as I truly adore these colors together, this seemed like a much better option.  So, to recap: STR mediumweight sock yarn, size five needles, Daybreak pattern.  Very nice.

I also have a pair of socks OTN.  I actually didn't for quite some time, which was kind of weird-feeling, to be honest.  But having finished spinning up some sock yarn, I finally wound it up and cast on for the Rivendell socks that I've been eyeing for a while.  I'm through the first chart on the first leg.
That's handspun (4 oz of superwash BFL, a three-ply worsted-spun yarn), knitted on size one needles, in the Rivendell pattern.  These are coming along slowly but steadily, and I'm very happy with the way the yarn is knitting up.  I'm also glad to be using my handspun as I spin it, even though it means that I'm spinning less than I'd like.

There it is.  The plan for today is to get Younger Daughter packed up and ready to go for her big trip to NYC on Wednesday for a Montessori Model UN convention (eek!), do all the laundry (how does it accumulate so rapidly), and then to settle down with my knitting to watch Paris-Roubaix this afternoon (cobblestone and bikes, hooray!).  Wish me luck!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Well, we made it!

We did, in the end, go to Yosemite.  It was under false pretenses, rather, but it as it all worked out in the end, it's OK.

On Thursday morning, we packed up and got ready to go, waiting to hear from the managers at the place where we were staying whether the water (which was off due to a broken main) was back on.  Now, I'm willing and able to go without water in the right circumstances, but those circumstances (not to put too fine a point on it) involve access to an outhouse (especially in the winter).  It's no fun to be in a house with no running water, if you can imagine what I mean here.  I will say no more.

We finally got the news that the main was fixed, and packed up and hit the road around 1:00 for what should have been a 7-hour drive.  (Shades of Gilligan's Island here.)  Around San Onofre, we realized that we had forgotten the camera.  We turned around.  One hour later, we were back at San Onofre.  (One ought not to have to see the same nuclear power plant twice on the same drive.)  And then we hit LA.  It took us a full hour to get through Santa Monica.  Santa Monica really isn't that large. But we finally made it up to Yosemite and to the house where we were staying at 10:00 (pm), to be greeted by my parents with the news that with regard to the water, not so much. 


However, we all decided to make the best of it and headed to bed.  It was rather disconcerting on Friday morning when the manager made it clear that she assumed we had water and had to be told that, in fact (as I may have mentioned), not so much with the water.  We were assured that it would be on by the time we came back from our adventures in the valley, and further assured that if it were not fixed, we would be moved to a house with running water.  (Hooray!)

So off we went to Yosemite Valley.  We came through the tunnel in the road down into the valley to be met with this:
Talk about a perfect day for views.  We stopped to be tourists (of course).
The whole park was caught between burgeoning spring and winter.
New green growth and white snow were everywhere.  Especially on the trail that we took to hike to the bottom of Upper Yosemite Falls, which were in full flood.  It's one heck of a climb (about 1100 vertical feet over the mile and a half up), but the views of Half Dome through the trees were pretty inspirational.
And there were some places to stop and (literally) hang out.
(Note, I did not know about that until it had already been done.)(And yes, the drop just to the right there off that rock is exactly as precipitous as it looks.)

When we finally made it to the view of Upper Yosemite Falls, we felt like we'd really earned it.  And we found out later that they falls are probably the best they're going to be all year.
I'm convinced.  Do you see that they're falling into a huge snow pile there?  Amazing.

We also found a place to look down on Lower Yosemite Falls.  I didn't last long, I must admit.  Those are great big redwood trees way down there - we were high up.
The trails were wet and slick and steep, but beautiful in their own right.
It was a wonderful way to spend the day, even though there was still no water when we got back.  But we moved houses, and never was a hot shower more welcome.  You can also bet we all slept well.

The rest of the weekend was much the same.  We snowshoed, and snowshoed some more, and everyone went on a ranger hike (while I worked, sigh).  And on Saturday night, my parents treated us to a truly amazing meal at the Ahwahnee, which was quite an experience - I was lucky enough to sit with a view of Yosemite Falls through one of the huge cathedral windows.  The food was delicious, the views were like a postcard, and the company was wonderful; it was certainly a spectacular way to spend an evening.  (The girls were duly impressed by the grandeur of the dining hall, and Younger Daughter was particularly taken with the pianist: "Look, mama!!  It's not a radio!"  Heh.)

In the middle of all of that, I got very little knitting done.  In fact, most of what I did get done happened on the drive home.  So this is what I have to show for my weekend away.
One square of the Mitered Crosses Blanket from Mason-Dixon (proceeds go to Japanese relief efforts).  That's Noro Silk Garden in the middle, and Berocco alpaca (I think) worsted weight on the outside.  I'm knitting it on the amazing size six Signature needles that my beloved sister-in-law gave me for my birthday (can I just say how much I love Signature needles)(and my sister-in-law for knowing that I love Signature needles?  She also gave me size fives for Christmas)? 

And that's all the news that's fit to report!