Saturday, October 29, 2011

A Finished Project At Last!

I've been working on this sweater since May.  I think I knit the sleeves 5 times trying to get the right combo of wrist width, gauge, and increases.  The pattern stitch was easy, but I found some of the pattern directions lacking. Thank goodness I can consider myself a fairly experienced knitter.  I'm still working on how to adjust armhole sizes and sleeves, but overall this sweater fits me well.  It's exactly how I envisioned it.
It's called Ormond from Twist Collective and I used the yarn called for Rowan Amy Butler Belle Organic DK in moonflower,   The body is knit from the bottom up in one piece, and the sleeves are done in the round and then joined.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Pluses and Minuses

In no particular order:

Plus:  The downstairs heat works.
Minus:  Just about every piece of furniture has had to be moved - and most of it now needs to be moved back.
Plus:  My principal bought some new LCD projectors, and now I have one for my very own use!  (Not one of the new ones, but now I don't have to share the one I've been using with anyone!)
Plus:  My partner and I got a set of "clickers" - student instant response system- to share.
Minus:  Two days of interrupted schedule at school due to special events and a fire drill.
Minus:  I sat down Monday night to watch some TV.  The TV wouldn't turn on.  Spent at least an hour trying to trouble shoot.  No luck.  Tuesday did some research, made some calls ---- TV definitely kaput.
Plus:  At least the DVR worked and most of my "must watch" shows have been captured.
Minus:  We've been dealing with intermittent internet service for the past 24 hours.  Every time I call my tech support person, I'm given conflicting device.  Internet just went down.  Probably have lost all of this post.
Plus: My Lands' End order arrived and EVERYTHING fits and looks good!  Even the dress I thought was a longshot!  
Double plus:  I have managed to lose almost 20 pounds since last winter without really trying  --- just have tried to exercise more regularly, and to stop eating when I'm full.  I've also stopped eating bread  unless it's whole grain.  I've stopped worrying about buying no fat products too - my endrocrinologist told me that because I'm insulin resistant I'd be better off eating a smaller serving of regular products because they have less sugar, and because they do contain some fat, I'd feel more satisfied.  She must be right.
Plus:  Went to the "city" last night to go to Sears and bought a new TV.  Brought it home and got it set up myself!  
Minus.  Internet is definitely down again.

Overall, a pretty normal week!  

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Back to the Books - #70, #71, and #72

This past summer I really only read one very engrossing, but long story, G.RR. Martin's series-- to the exclusion of almost everything else.  I've been trying to catch up to my goal of reading 125 books this year.  I don't think I will make it at this stage, but that's okay.  Here are comments on the last 3 I've read.
  # 70

The Akhenaten Adventure (Children of the Lamp, #1)The Akhenaten Adventure by P.B. Kerr
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

John and Phillipa are 12 year old twins living in New York. Summer vacation is looming when they go to the dentist for their annual checkup.  Everyone - kids, dentist, and parents- is shocked when it's discovered that both have sprouted wisdom teeth overnight.  Things get stranger when both are awakened in the night by an earthquake, and each has an extremely odd dream involving their estranged Uncle Nimrod who tells them to come to England for the summer.  The next morning both twins have grown an inch overnight and their parents are acting very strangely.  Their father seems almost afraid of them!
The adventure begins as the twins head to England to visit their uncle.  They soon discover an unsettling truth - both of them are actually djinn!  With their uncle they set out to restore the balance between Good and Evil as they battle an evil tribe of djinn and learn to use their new powers.

I enjoyed this book.  It's the first in a series set around the world. I have a copy of the next one and will put it on my to-read list.   It's definitely a book for upper level readers.  Although the story moves quickly, the language is not always easy.  I will be recommending it to a couple of my very able 6th grade readers who are looking for something just a little bit different!

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My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Another very funny entry in the Liturgical Mysteries!  The Pirate's Eucharist is way better than the Clown Eucharist.  Agnes Day (pun intended) has been the substitute organist ever since Hayden Konig quit his job as music director at St. Barnabas Episcopal Church.  He's called into church to investigate when the hapless organist is murdered by a handbell.  Who did it?  The new operatic soprano Renee Tatton?  Kenny, the medicinal pot farmer?  There are suspects galore. And how will the church spend the $16 million it's receiving?  It's all up to the church's most generous donor - who's not Malcolm.   The only thing I missed in this installment was Moosey --- not enough of him.  

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Twelve-year old Moose Flanagan and his family move to Alcatraz Island where his father has just taken a job as an electrician at the prison.  It's 1935 and the prison houses crime boss Al Capone.  Moose is very unhappy with the move, and once on the island, he's forced to watch his "10 year old" sister Natalie.  Natalie is actually 15 but is autistic.  Her parents have been unsuccessful in getting her into a school that might help her.  The story revolves around Moose's relationship with his sister and his attempt to adjust to his new life.  Gennifer Choldenko gets Natalie's character right, and I also think she did a great job developing the relationship between Moose and Natalie.  Some of the other characters were somewhat one-sided believable.  Piper is the know-it-all bossy daughter of the prison's warden and is terrific at getting everybody else in trouble.  She just seemed too one-sided.  This was definitely a different sort of story, and I was interested in reading it since I've visited Alcatraz.  I think that it will appeal to some of my more able 6th grade boys.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Something's MIssing

First of all, please ignore the massive collection of dust and long-lost cat toys!  We are in the throes of a massive home improvement project.  We're replacing our heating system. We live in a house that's seen more than 100 years, and it's been heated with an "vintage" or dare I say, antique furnace with old-fashioned steam radiators.  We have a big house -- and we use about 1500 gallons of oil to keep the house at a chilly 64° most of the winter.  The furnace has been wheezing along for quite some time.  We finally decided it was time to upgrade!  So all of the radiators have been removed.  This is under our front living room windows where a massive radiator sat.  You can certainly tell how far the vacuum wand reached over the years!  The new furnace is half the size of its 50 year old predecessor and we've been assured that it will easily keep the house at 70° on fewer gallons of oil.  That remains to be seen!  We're going to be installing baseboard hot water heat which will help with furniture arrangements and cleaning.    Of course, we just happen to be experiencing the first cold weather of the season --- we've had 2 nights of frost.  And although we rarely turn on the heat before Nov 1st, Spartans that we are,  there is a difference from CHOOSING not to turn on heat and NOT BEING ABLE to turn it on.  The biggest inconvenience however, is that we have no hot water.  Fortunately,  there is no school today, so the fact that I am having a super bad hair day isn't a problem.   Old-fashioned sponge baths with water heated on the stove are sufficing for now.  If we can get an electrician here today, the furnace can be used to generate hot water again, tho' the heat has to wait until the baseboard units are installed.  If the electrician can't get here it will probably be Tuesday before we have hot water.  Sponge baths will be VERY old by then.  Fortunately we can go up to the local wellness center over the weekend to use the showers there, and I will call on some friends if necessary!

Over on the work front, we survived a week of NECAPS, our annual state test which determines whether or not our school makes AYP (annual yearly progress.)  We have not been successful and are officially a SINI (school in need of improvement).  So this has been a very stressful week for students and teachers.   I won't get on my soapbox about all the things that are wrong with the testing and with the way our district has responded to SINI requirements.  All I say that if I had my double-block of language arts time like I used to have, my kids would have improved scores.  Instead I have half the time I used to have to cram in all the reading, writing, spelling, and grammar that I'm supposed to cover.  'Nuff said.

We have a 3 day weekend - again, the result of very odd-thinking.  Our weekend starts today, Friday, even though if parents have a Columbus Day weekend, they're off on Monday.  It started a number of years ago when so many teachers wanted to go the state teachers' convention, held the Friday before Columbus Day, that there weren't enough subs to go around.  So the district decided to make this the day off.  I only ever went to the convention a couple of times -- I found it not worth the time it took to make sub plans.  So today I am home, at least for a while.  I am going to go in to school a bit later.  I stayed until 6 pm last night getting my progress reports finished, and getting my planning done for next week, but my room is in desperate need of a clean up.  So I will go in (where it's warmer too!) and do some de-cluttering, desk washing, and new seating plans.    I also want to stay out of the plumbers' way as they work on the heating system.

The rest of the weekend is dedicated to billing and bookkeeping, a visit with friends, and a possible quick visit to some relatives in another state.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

A Book Review!

Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, SpyBonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book fascinated me.  I've heard Dietrich Bonhoeffer quoted often, most usually in a sermon at church.  Last winter when I was teaching 7th grade social studies we studied the Holocaust, and I ran across this biography.  It took me until now to have time to read it.  Even without his martyrdon, Bonhoeffer must have been a truly remarkable man.  He appeared to affect everyone he met and he seems to have an indelible mark on those who knew him well.  Eric Metaxas paints a full picture of Bonhoeffer - his personal life, his spiritual life, and his political life.  While the explication of Bonhoeffer's theology may not be everyone's cup of tea, I was very interested.  So interested in fact, that I will be seeking out some of Bonhoeffer's books.  Metaxas also did a really good job of explaining the despair that faced post WWI Germany which made Hitler's rise to power possible.  I learned a great deal more about the struggles of the German church than I had known before too. This book was not a fast read for me.  I found myself going back to previous letters and passages.  This is one book I wish I'd read in hard copy and not on a Kindle, because of that.

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Missing Mom

It's a really rainy Saturday and I had the overwhelming urge to call my Mom.  Her 87th birthday would have been this past Thursday, so she's really been present in my heart and mind this week, and even this month.  She died six years ago this past August, and sometimes it seems like yesterday.  I can remember her saying as I went off to college - "Don't call me every week at the same time.  That way I won't worry if you miss a call."   It was terrific advice, and I passed it on to my sons as they left the nest.  I did call my mom almost weekly, sometimes even more frequently, but I never let more than 10 days between phone calls go past.  What did we talk about?  Rarely anything anyone else would consider important.  Of course we talked about the kids, work, weather, etc. but we also got into animated conversations about books and TV shows.  And  recipes!  She was my "go-to" person when I needed a new idea or help with cooking roasts or new dishes.  She would have loved hearing about all the experimentation I've been doing the past 2 summers with all the produce from our local CSA share --- new ideas about how to use zucchini to "What on earth do I do with celeriac?"   I cook like my mom - most meals are produced without recipes, or if we use a recipe, it's just a springboard.  It's always been a family joke, first when I was growing up, and now in my own family:  "I tried a new recipe but I didn't have X so I substituted Y, and I didn't have Z, so I used A instead,"  and the family always asks "So what did you substitute?" when new items appear.  It was always (and still is) earth-shattering when recipes are presented without change.    Since my mom's been gone, the internet has been my main source of information,  but my kids (and occasionally a sibling) will call whenever they're perplexed by a cooking question.  Today's urge to "call home" was prompted by the fact that I decided to make soup for dinner.  Mom always made what we called "Refrigerator soup."  She'd start with a meaty bone or some stew beef, lots of onion and celery, and then add whatever veggies or even leftovers needed using up.  She'd augment it with beef broth, canned tomatoes, V8 or tomato juice as needed.  Today's soup is starting from some stew beef, onions, carrots, fresh herbs, and celery.  I've got some beets in there and a small head of cabbage.  The liquid is beef broth, a can of crushed tomatoes, a slurp of vinegar and a bit of sugar.  Later additions will include some left over egg noodles and I hope to hide some eggplant in there!  (My husband is not fond of this, and this has been the abundant vegetable from the CSA  share this summer!)  Anyway, I kept my mom's soup kettle for a really long time but recently realized it was time for it to go.  She always made soup in an electric soup kettle.  The kettle held about a gallon of soup, and stood on 4 legs.  At some point during my youth one of the legs fell off, so for the rest of my mom's cooking career the 4th leg was always a can of tomato paste!  She continued using that kettle for the rest of her life!  I know that one Christmas I decided to buy her a new one, but the model had been discontinued and she didn't like any of the alternatives.    I couldn't bear to throw it away when we cleaned out her house, and I brought it all the way back to NH from Indiana.  It sat unused in the back of an overcrowded cabinet.  This past summer I finally realized that the memory of the kettle was enough, and it got thrown out.   So as my soup simmers away on the stove, I'm thinking of my mom and I'm wishing I could call her.