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Archive for April, 2007

A Great First Day at DFW Fiberfest

Saturday, April 14th, 2007

What a day. I roomed with Lily Chin Thursday night and we were picked up bright and early to teach at a nearby convention center. I taught Turkish Sock Design and it was a great class. I got photos but don’t have time to post them, photos may need to wait until I return home the way this is going.

We went as a group for dinner and then a “Severe Thunderstorm” hit. Hail and big wind happened, the sirens sounded and we quickly took our food to go (from a restaurant full of windows) and went back to the Convention Center which is a tornado shelter anyway. We had a fashion show which was great fun, actually several shows/groups of work. There was a Berocco trunk show, a trunk show from a local shop, student works and instructor works. It was fun, I got to model several pieces besides my own and it really was a “ham it up” sort of enjoyable time.

We got back to the hotel and juggled roomates a little, so Friday through Sunday I’ll be rooming with Melody MacDuffee, a crochet/bead artist. We originally thought we would only be roommates on Sunday so it’s just a small adjustment.

Melody and I seem to have a lot in common. She lived in Chicago a long time so we have that in common… and we are scheming to eat Saturday or Sunday at the Indian restaurant we passed tonight on the way to the other restaurant.  I hope our plan works.

Saturday I teach Toe Up Socks. I love teaching this class. It will be a good day.

Off to sleep…

Hello, Texas!

Thursday, April 12th, 2007

dallasday1.jpgWow. I’m in Texas. I didn’t believe it could feel this warm. I got off the flight wearing my turtleneck, light wool sweater, hat, thick Kristi Comfort Wrap, legwarmers… normal Lynn wear much of the year in Lansing. That’s not a cold day getup, it’s sort of a lightweight sort of fall season getup. After all, I was carrying my coat over my arm, and had tucked away gloves and earmuffs for my return voyage.

I had to un-layer fast. I got the under-turtle off, and shed legwarmers and shawl. I still had wool socks on and a loose thin sweater but I rolled up my sleeves and it was great. The temperature? 74F. Aaaaaah…..

Off to prepare for tomorrow. I’m scheduled for a very full day on Friday so I’m not sure if I’ll check in here or not. I won’t forget you.

Photo: This was the view from the hotel room at dusk. City-like, indeed. I love cities and now I’ve collected one more!!!

Just Plain Happy

Wednesday, April 11th, 2007

i think it is important to really notice our good thoughts and feelings when we have them. The nature of being human is that we typically have many emotions during any particular day. If we are fortunate, the good and neutral overshadow the down feelings… although sometimes the balance is less than optimal.

Today was sort of a perfect day. After the snow we had just over a week ago, it was glorious. The sun shone, and it felt warm when the wind stayed calm. On days like this, Lansing is at least as pleasant as any other city and I’m glad to be here.

Altu and I had our weekly sushi lunch date and afterward we went to a coffeehouse to chat until I had to go to work. We sat outside for maybe 5 minutes to say we did, but the wind got the best of us and we took cover inside.

On the way from the coffeehouse to Foster Center, I rolled down my windows (thanks to the heat the car had absorbed sitting in the sun while parked) and played the radio more loudly than I usually do. I was in a business district, not a neighborhood, and I tried not to worry too much that my not-that-loud but louder-than-usual music might bother others. (In a neighborhood I would have rolled up the windows or turned down the volume.) I totally drank in the music and the sun and the springtime.

The National Weather Service says it only got up to 60F today (15.5C). It felt better than that with the sun. I was a very happy woman!

The happiness followed me home, long after dark. May a little of it rub off on you folks!

A related thought:

If you wish to think about focusing on specific thoughts/feelings (such as happiness) and allowing yourself to do things outside the norm which might make you stand out (such as playing music with open windows in my case), I would love to invite you to read Deborah Robson’s blog, The Independent Stitch today. Deborah Robson is the publisher and co-author with Priscilla Gibson-Roberts of the excellent book, Knitting in the Old Way.

She interviews the author Eric Maisel about his new book Ten Zen Seconds. (I have grown much from working with his book Fearless Creating.) He says in that interview:

The more you care about how others view you, what others are thinking about you, how seemly you are looking, and so on, the less permission you will have to do anything “unusual” in public, whether that unusual thing is stopping to write a paragraph, do a little tai chi under a tree, or spend ten seconds centering.

Perhaps that quote will entice you to go and read more???

One Reason to Visit Dallas in April

Wednesday, April 11th, 2007

snowapril11.jpgIt snowed and snowed and snowed. Despite above-freezing temperatures, we got accumulation, my car had maybe 2-1/2″ (6cm) of snow on it when I went out at 3pm.

It is expected to be lovely in Dallas, around room temperature during the day though we will probably get rain Friday. My internet friend who lives there says it’s beautiful right now, the bluebells and azaleas are abundant right now. I love how that sounds.

It’s warm enough here to turn off the furnace and open the front door a while to air out the dusty house. I love how quiet snow can make a city neighborhood. Even dusk is pleasant (I usually dread the loss of sunlight) when it’s so peaceful.

I did all my “out of the house” errands and am now on the “pack clothing, Pack class support materials, pack food, pack gizmos” part of the routine. Right now I feel that the schedule looks do-able. We’ll see how I feel in 5 hours when I need to sleep.

Panic Time Yet?

Wednesday, April 11th, 2007

I’ve been planning and planning and getting ready for my trip to Dallas, to teach at the Dallas-Ft. Worth Fiber Festival. And now I have approximately one full day and then I wake up and go to the airport.

I always have to find something to worry about, worry seems to be built into my genes. If I’m more worried about what to wear than my classes, I figure I’m doing pretty well.

So much to say, my friends… Ive started several posts and never finished them and may never finish them. You may hear from me sparsely until I’m done teaching.

Is anyone who hasn’t said hi yet, going to see me in Dallas?

A Good Surfing Day in Diana-Land

Tuesday, April 10th, 2007

Sis-in-Love Diana/Otterwise is at it again. She is a really good web researcher, and when she starts digging for information there is no end to the coolness she unearths.

Today she starts with Japanese knitting, then proceeds through Norse naalbinding (and naalbinding in other parts of the world), and finds herself with the music of Malawi in Africa. Somehow she segues to an ending of Scottish food.

If you want one or many new sites to adventure… Diana’s the one. Check out her post

Journey from Knitting in Japan to Scotch Pie (via Africa)

Real Good for Free: Joshua Bell Solos in DC Subway

Monday, April 9th, 2007

I must confess that I’m not on top of the classical music world. In the late 1970’s I was a music major and they really tried to help me understand classical music and enjoy it.

I have a really strong bias toward vocal music, however, and so much of the classical music they wanted me to learn about was totally instrumental. I never really got into it the way the school hoped. My ears search for a voice or voices to focus upon… any language will do, I don’t need to understand the words. Just a lone voice and I’m a happy listener.

There are many reasons why I never finished my vocal music major, that is only one tiny part of the big picture. But it explains why I did not know who Joshua Bell was until today.

Joshua Bell is really important in the classical music world. The violin is the most important instrument in many classical pieces, and he is one of the most celebrated violin players in the world. He also is a bit unconventional according to the Washington Post, the only source of information I personally have on the subject. He apparently doesn’t wear a tux on stage when the orchestra behind him is tuxed-out. They say that sometimes Bell earns $1,000 a minute to play violin. That often ordinary seats in the theaters where he performs cost $100 a show.

The Washington Post played a little trick on commuters in Washington DC, with Bell’s help. He played a 45 minute concert, incognito, dressed in jeans, in the L’Enfant subway station. Predictably, many folks (like me) did not know who he was. As a matter of fact, it appears that only one person knew. The article about this experiment is very entertaining (though longer than I expected). I enjoyed every single word, though I’m aware that there might be many ways to approach the story. This is one angle on it, and it covers a lot of territory. Bell made $32.17 in tips, in the 43 minutes he played.

The concept of folks walking right by one of the finest musicians in the world, without a glance, reminds me of Joni Mitchell’s song “Real Good for Free.” In her case she goes by a clarinet player in NY City and notices how good he is. She realizes in her story that that night she would be on stage playing to a room of folks who would pay for the experience. She has an inkling of an idea, that maybe she could ask to sing with the clarinetist. Then the light changes and she walks away. I have all the lyrics to the Mitchell song on my LDTH Poetry Collection Page: Real Good for Free

Context is a big deal. Presentation can be bigger than the thing presented, at times. Have you ever bought something that was a nice color and not really expensive, just because of the color? I think the chain Target uses color to market/sell merchandise brilliantly. I’ve bought dishes and towels, and earrings, and nylon stockings from them before, just because of the color.

Sometimes the item we loved in the store is just not as wonderful at home, when it is no longer surrounded by the other colorful items it was near on the display. In that case, presentation is more substantial than content. I hope we don’t do that all the time… but I’m human and my humanity means that I can ignore much, in pursuit of my daily routine.

And then sometimes, the guy in the jeans playing instrumental music over by the trash bin, is a treasure. We are definitely human.

My Mom’s “Kids”

Sunday, April 8th, 2007

My mother is a strong woman. She has always been strong inside, and after she was widowed with two young teens at the age of 38, she just got stronger. Of course, I didn’t even appreciate this until I lived many years myself. I particularly benefitted from her as a role model, when I found myself single at the age of 32.

I love to travel, and put 250,000 miles on my 1985 VW Golf, mostly alone and mostly during my years as a divorcee in my mid-30s. I love Boston, so I drove there five times in three years. I had a wonderful time, met a bunch of people I enjoyed, taught polymer clay at a bead shop and did polyclay demos for a craft store. Nobody told me I couldn’t do it, so I did. It didn’t occur to me that someone else might not do the same thing, assuming they wanted to do it.

Sometimes when I tell people that I have taken another one of those “long-distance alone in the car” trips, they respond: “by yourself?” For years I thought it was just an individual thing. I’ve come to notice that it’s more universal than I first thought, that most people will not travel alone.

In fact, I am shocked to discover that some people will not dine alone at a restaurant. For me, that is one of the finest luxuries I can give myself. I can knit or read while I’m waiting for my food, and I have a little island of peace for myself during that waiting time. I am a social being but I need those “down” moments to fuel myself for the next class or performance.

I realize now that the reason I don’t think anything of my trips, is that my mother traveled alone, too. She did a lot of things that I understand now were unusual for a woman at the time she did them. She was the first mom on our block to have her own car, a gold Corvair we called the “Putt Putt.” She was the only mom on our block to get a full-time job. In fact, she had been a teacher before she married my father and she was determined to go back to teaching as soon as she could. She got her first full-time, permanent teaching job (that is, first after she had her children) when I was in 5th grade, 1968. This was unusual in our area at that time.

Mom struggled with reading all her life. To start with, she is legally blind (though able to drive with glasses). She did not get glasses until she was in school, I think she told me she was in 1st grade freshman year of high school. Imagine!

On top of that, mom probably has dyslexia (sp?) although I’m sure she was never tested for it. Spelling is hard for her, and she has learned how to compensate with a dictionary and spell-check and having friends check her work for her when necessary. I think this struggle made her even more determined to be a teacher, so that she could help kids who struggled the same as she did.

Mom is a gifted reading teacher. In fact, I’ve heard on two different occasions, that peers have exclaimed “Liz can teach a *rock* to read!” I know she is proud of this reputation. She spends hours of her own time preparing materials for the kids, figuring out one more way to explain tough concepts. She teaches the letters, their sounds, numbers, key words, and the value, looks and names of coins (children often think a penny is worth more than a dime because it is larger).

Mom writes a chatty letter/email regularly and sends to family and friends. I’m so glad she does this, she is an excellent storyteller. For years she told stories orally, she did not write much because she was afraid of spelling issues (or so it appears to me) and now she’s busy making up for lost time.

She tells about her life, the recipes she tries, the adventures with friends and family, gardens, observations of the world around her, and the kids she is teaching. She is retired now, so she only teaches reading, but she goes to the school as many days a week as she can fit into her busy schedule. She does this in Michigan part of the year and Florida part of the year. She has changed probably thousands of young lives, the ones who really struggle at the beginning of their journey to learning.

This year in Florida, Mom has worked with over 20 kids on a single day, usually two at a time. I know she finds it absolutely rewarding although I think sometimes she gets tired from the effort it can take.

Mom has given me permission to post her most recent text about teaching her kids in Florida. I find it very interesting, and I think you may also.

I have just five more days with my little ones at school. I had a total of 24 children. Three moved away.

One I just got two days before vacation. He is a little one that is just learning the English words for the numbers. I am hoping I can have him learn them before I leave.

Twelve of the children I do not see anymore as just in the last couple of weeks I have been able to “graduate” them. They know their numbers to 31, can count to 31, can count down from 10, know the names and values of the coins and dollar, know the names of the letters and their sounds, know the sound when I produce it, know rhymes and know 33 words in reading.

The last seven children I am hoping can learn the numbers as they have a special day when they honor just the students that know those skills. Some of the ones I work with have been working so hard to learn them. It would be nice if they honored them for the hours they put in to learn it even if they could not quite master it.

This year, I brought my troll doll the first week so they would know my name. Later they asked if I had more troll dolls. I have six, so I brought them in two by two. After that I started to bring in my stuffed animals. First came the primates, next came the bears, next was the rabbits including one that is huge that I bought for $2 at the park sale across the street. I still have a few more to bring. They love giving them a hug as I set up things for them.

I will miss my little ones when I leave. I think I may be the oldest person they know as a person. They continue to find out more about old people. I was holding the door open for one boy and he reached up to feel my are where the muscle hangs down. Neither of us said anything, but now he knows what it feels like!

We had the word old one day. A little girl said I was old. I agreed. She said, “You are going to die.” I said, Yes, everyone dies some day. Do I look like I am ready to die?” “No.”

The twins wanted to know how I make the papers for them. I told them I had a printer for my computer. “What does it look like?” Well, that was not easy to explain, but when I put a new ink cartridge in, there is a print out of the printer and each of the steps to printing. I took that in for them to see.

Joshua was having a hard time learning the name and value of the penny. He wanted to make a pencil rubbing of the penny like I would do some days. I told him he could when he learned it.

After about five more days he came into the room and asked if I was going to check him on the penny. I said I would after our first reading paper. He was all smiles. He knows the penny now and yes, he did get to do a penny rubbing!

Thank you, Mom, for being a “guest blogger” today.

Reg Kehoe & His Marimba Queens

Saturday, April 7th, 2007

marimbaqueens.jpgBrian found another remarkable Youtube video. This guy has an ensemble, seven women and a male bass player. Six women are playing marimbas, one is doing an aerobic example of maracas. They sway together as they play, it’s choreographed as well as a musical event.

And the bass player? Slap bass in a tux. Vaudevillian, slapstick, riveting. I can’t really tell on my tiny speakers how he plays but I’m guessing he was good… in any case he’s entertaining and then some!

The girls wear matching dresses, matching hair, matching smiles. Wowie.

Article on Bliss Blood

Friday, April 6th, 2007

I’ve written about Bliss Blood here before, Brian and I met her on the Ukulele Circuit with her band The Moonlighters. First we met in the Pocanos and again last April at the New York Ukefest.

In New York, we sat next to one another as we sold our CDs so we got a chance to chat. It turns out that she knits and crochets, too, and we had a number of other things in common. She lives in NYC now and likes it a lot.

Today I got an email with a bunch of her upcoming performances detailed in it. Also, she added a little postscript about an article we could read online. A quite in-depth article about Bliss, talking about her musical work going way back to previous bands and especially her work when she was in Houston. She has been in NYC over a decade now, but I was impressed with all the information packed into a one-page article with a large, good photo of Bliss.

If you have a minute, perhaps you’d like to read the article. I enjoyed it very much.

And if you haven’t listened to The Moonlighters yet, consider adding one of their CDs to your collection. I’m particularly fond of Live in Baden-Baden, myself. I have two of their CDs but that’s the one I would have worn out had it been pressed in vinyl. They have a new CD, too, and I’ll be picking that up in three weeks when we are back in NYC for this year’s NY Ukefest.

If you go to her website, it lists all the bands she’s in. Underneath each band it has a link to listen to MP3’s. If you click the MP3 link, you will see a list of songs Bliss (and her various bands) recorded… you can listen to several excellent full-length cuts (each song indicates which of her bands recorded that song, they are not grouped by band).

If you have the time and inclination, you can listen to a lot of music before you leave that web page! Serious talent, much pleasure, great stuff. I highly recommend a visit.

Yarn for Bags

Friday, April 6th, 2007

Trish and Karen both asked about the yarns used in the Watercolor Bags, shown in yesterday’s photo. No, they don’t use any of my own handpaint (I’m still looking for a feltable yarn that I would be proud to put my name on) though I am in love with some of the colors.

All of these bags in yesterday’s photo used Cascade 220 for the solid color, though Brown Sheep Lamb’s Pride works as well. The wild rainbows appear to be Diakieto Rococo, the top left subtle persimmon is Paintbox and the mottled (unstriped) pink and aqua at bottom right I believe is Malabrigo merino.

I have made one bag with Paintbox (not pictured, it “lives” at Threadbear). It had many stripey colors in it, and the blue stripe resisted felting fully though the other colors did well. The bag here doesn’t have blue in it so we are hoping for the best. The knitter had all this information at the time she started knitting, and we all know that shrinking knits is always a sort of gamble, so it will be fascinating.

The Malabrigo screams out to be felted though I’ve never done it yet. I’m thinking it may felt faster than the Cascade, which is how the Autunno bag reacted.

The Rococo also is very soft wool in a “singles” (one ply) although it is a little thinner yarn than the others. According to Threadbear it felts like a dream and I believe it will. The two knitters here used the same needles but one knits more firmly than the other.

I am very interested to see how Rococo works, I love the yarn colors and would love my own bag in that yarn. The only reason I didn’t try it before is that the number of yards per gram was not the same as my specified yarn in the pattern. When the Autunno had a closer specification to my original yarn, I ended up working with that instead, and it did work out beautifully.

Karen’s comment was that when she made this bag (out of the specified yarns, Noro Kureyon and Cascade 220, sample bottom right), the Cascade yarn felted faster. That is also my experience, as the Kureyon does resist felting a bit. I like a more firm bottom of my bag so that works well. I designed it in these yarns so that was the expected result.

When I made the Autunno bag (top right photo, this bag also “lives” at Threadbear), the main yarn felted faster than the bottom. It still looked like a Watercolor bag. No matter which felts faster, the bag has a characteristic shape that works.

Watercolor Bag Class

Thursday, April 5th, 2007

watercolorbagsthreadbear.jpgI had a very fun Watercolor Bag class at Threadbear which ended last Sunday. We were so excited about the bags, we decided to meet for dinner in a few weeks and see how everyone’s bag came out after felting.

Here are the four bags. Only one is in a yarn I’ve used for the bag before. What an adventure it will be to see how they all felt! Some yarns shrink more from side to side and some more in height, and there is the individual gauge of each knitter involved as well.

I am excited to meet everyone for dinner and get “after” photographs…

Snapping out of it.

Wednesday, April 4th, 2007

LT suggests I snap myself out of the funk I can let myself get into, with the cold weather. It’s a very good point.

I must admit that I am clear that in Lansing, we get snow every April. If we are lucky, we will get it early in the month and be done with it. So that’s my outlook today. This is the last snow of April, I hope. And next Thursday I fly to Dallas to teach there (Woohoo) and it will definitely be warmer than this week in Lansing. I will be indoors for three days, teaching. However, I don’t fly home until 6pm on Monday so if I’m lucky I can see a little bit of Dallas before I go home.

Another suggestion from LT is to post a photo or two of Africa from my trip two years ago. This is an excellent suggestion. We were there for 38 days and we actually saw rain twice, and got wet from rain merely one day on that whole trip. They do have a rainy season but we missed it.

For the record, we spent most of the trip in higher elevations and it was chilly much of the time, especially when the sun went down. Our three-day weekend at Mombasa beach in Kenya was the only time it felt hot… and it surely was over 100F those few days, at sea level on the equator.

The top photo today is in Bahar Dar, northern Ethiopia, where we went to see the waterfall of the Blue Nile. The second photo was a motel/ resort/ restaurant at a crater lake in the ridge valley of Ethiopia.

Thanks, LT!

A Quiet Day

Wednesday, April 4th, 2007

I spent Tuesday as a selfish, quiet day. I mostly stayed to myself other than about an hour I spent with my friend April. She is moving (sob) but came by the old house and had time for a cup of tea and a long walk. Since the weather was very nice, 70F (21C) and sunny, I spent more time outside than usual.

I decided that I could at least read Stephanie’s book if I could not go to her talk. I got in the hammock (with a blanket because hammocks are chilly under 80F) and read half of her book. I’m not great at sitting still that long but I had a day where I could say there was nothing more important than reading on the porch.

I did a little knitting on my many-colored project, and I did a little work on the last bit of my taxes. And when Brian came home, he took me to dinner for sushi. It turned out to be a pretty good day.

I’m glad I spent that time outside Tuesday, because here is the weather report for Lansing starting Wednesday/today: