31 May 2011

I still play with yarn. I swear.

Lane and Mike's Wedding Granny Afghan

I finished Lane and Mike's granny square afghan last night, weaving the last of the loose ends (and there were a lot of loose ends!) into the blanket. It was about four months in the making and I'm thrilled to ship it out to the newlyweds. I think it will be an excellent - and colorful - afghan to cuddle beneath during the grey Wisconsin winter. 

Squirrel Mitts, Facing

I've also had a few moment to finish the thumb (why is it always - ALWAYS! - the thumb?) on this pair of squirrel mittens. They are, unfortunately, the last of my holiday 2010 knits. Yes, that's right - 2010. I am a horrible dissertating graduate student. That's my story and I'm planning on sticking to it.

29 May 2011

The Evening's Spoils

Canning_Season's First Jam

The strawberry-rhubarb jam is tangy! Almost like a Sweetart, which should be good on crusty toast. I did have a chance to try out the Weck jars I picked up in Ann Arbor a while back and golly, they are pretty. 

I did end up having something of an inner dialogue with myself after realizing I as preserving jam made from strawberries grown twenty miles away in jars that were manufactured 6000 miles away. Granted, I bought them in a small hardware in Ann Arbor, but I felt a bit frustrated with myself for buying them when I could easily purchase Ball jars - made in the USA, as the sticker on their packages now indicate - for less money. I also know that the environmental cost of these jars and their trans-Atlantic journey will be offset by the many years I will use them and the reuseable-ness of the lids... but still. 

My understanding for advocating for Weck jars is not only that they are beautiful - and they are, hence why I bought them in the first place - but also the glass lids, which are free of BPA traces. I still have to do some reading about the topic, but Tattler has BPA-free (and reusable!) lids for canning that I might give a go. They're more expensive, but if I don't have to buy new lids every season, that might be an okay thing. 

I know I sometimes get caught up in the aesthetics, whether it's my knitting or canning or the things I surround myself with. I get that all these decisions come with certain costs and I need to remind myself to be more aware of them as I'm not sure about the 5,980 mile difference between where my strawberries were picked and where my jars were manufactured.  

28 May 2011

In a Jam

Farmers Market Strawberries

In a jam. Horribly pun-tastic, I know, but I couldn't resist. 

The Man Friend and I went to the Farmer's Market this morning and they had strawberries! I can't tell you how long I've been waiting for strawberries to make their appearance and feared that they may not. The weather in this part of the country (as in many others) has been ridiculously wet this spring. In the past week, we've had some pretty forceful windstorms and the ground was so wet that trees were simply lifted out of the ground. 

Regardless, there they were: small, red blobs of promised summer. I snatched up two pints - one for eating, one for jamming - and come tonight, once I've made headway on the pile of work that still isn't done after a crazy week, I'll be making the season's first batch of rhubarb-strawberry jam. 

But first, the list of to-do. It never seems to end... 

24 May 2011

The Problem Continues

More Mugs - Starbucks 2008 (2)

Yep. More mugs. I'm almost ashamed, but when I saw them in the thrift store, mugs I had been regretting not adding to my collection since Christmas 2008, I knew they would be coming home with me. 

20 May 2011

Yet another installment in a seemingly endless list of "I have a problem..."

First, it was silverware. Then came the mugs. I love it when the majority of people leave any given college town. It floods the local thrift stores with things they didn't want to move with and that I might like. Case in point: the Orla Kiely mug above. I love these mugs; they are hefty and hold a copious amount of coffee. I got three of them for my birthday a few years ago and have been lamenting not picking more up ever since. 

I've found five of the mugs at Goodwill over the course of the last two weeks: four of the gray and brown pears above and the green abacus mug above. I've listed two on eBay and am keeping the other three. I just need to think about what to do with all those other mugs I own... 

I also couldn't pass up this little beauty, a Jadeite coffee mug I picked up last weekend when in Michigan. 

So yeah. Another mug. Crap. 

I think I have a problem. 

19 May 2011


I'm trying to keep my head above water, just enough to get to the end of the weekend. Having traveled back to Michigan for a good friend's wedding (amazingly beautiful bride - lovely setting - ferocious weather), I've been hit with a week of conference preparation (we're hosting - lots of printing, emailing, last-minute planning) and dissertation data collection (round two started this week - two weeks shorter than I was originally told - I'm too busy to panic about it). Add in a research project with a faculty member and the need to find a place to live in July and there hasn't been a lot of time for much else. 

But soon. (I hope!) 

11 May 2011

A Toast

Amidst the craziness of graduation weekend, several of my undergrads, now graduates, asked me to give a toast at their celebratory gathering. I was both flattered and excited to honor them thusly:

I have a difficult time reading the newspaper yet find myself sipping coffee every morning, pouring over the headlines in the New York Times. More often than not, there is some inflammatory headline about the decline of America’s schools, the sloth of the teachers who fill them, and the ludicrous idea that just anyone can teach. My blood boils for a moment until I think about the people in this room. You, the TAL class of 2011, remind me that there are good, hardworking educators with fresh ideas, seemingly unlimited energy, and a deep-seated desire to help children live lives of their own choosing and I find myself suddenly calm. Over the course of the last two years, I have been fortunate enough to teach you, learn with you, and watch you grow into formidable educators. I am in awe of your resolve, of your diligence, and believe, whole-heartedly, of your potential. You will do brilliant things, just as you have done brilliant things over the course of your undergraduate career. When you do brilliant things, you enable the students in your classroom to do brilliant things. We say that children are the future; I propose that you, my friends, are the future and I can’t wait until the New York Times gets wind of the good you will do. So let’s raise a glass and toast to the TAL class of 2011 – to the hard work you have done and the harder work you will do. There is no one more equipped, more ready to handle it than you.

We're going to avoid the fact that I actually forgot to toast anyone, but I like to think my words were somewhat pretty.

09 May 2011

Grandma's Embroidery Bag

This is a well-loved pillowcase. It somehow fell into my possession when I was seven and was a mainstay on my bed from that moment on, well into the college years. While it has been semi-retired for the last few years (at least until I can figure out a way to clean it more thoroughly), it's one of those things I can't bear to part with. My Grandma Donna, my mother's mom, made this for me; it's one of the few things I have from her, so it will move with me whenever, wherever. 

I've been thinking for a while about reproducing the pillowcase for my nephews, so that they might have something from their Great Grandmother - even if it wasn't made by her hand, it would be made in her spirit. I had been scouring vintage iron on patterns whenever I encountered them in the vintage and thrift stores but no luck. 

While beginning to prepare for this next move, I've been going through things. As in selling them on eBay or donating them to Goodwill. I came across an old paper bag that my mom gave me after my grandfather died while I was still in undergrad. It was one of those things that I held onto without ever really taking stock of what was inside. Lo and behold - my grandmother's embroidery supplies! Hoops and thread and transfers and needles. There's a threaded needle, just waiting for her to return to work. Strange: things and time. 

Perhaps most exciting of all: ducks. There may be pillowcases in my nephew's futures after all... 

08 May 2011

Mom's Day

The last conversation I had with my mother went something along the lines of me telling her that I pushed her to do new things because I loved her, I was scared that she was becoming lethargic, more of a passive observer than a productive participant. It was possibly the most adult conversation we had ever had. My last words to my mother were "I love you," which has brought me no small amount of comfort. After her passing, going through the evidence of her life, I found print outs of emails, postcards sent form my travels, notes I had sent her when I went away for college. My favorite artifact: a postcard sent from the Vatican upon which I scribed, I was here and did not burst into flames. I doubt she ever became comfortable with my atheism. I sorted through these things this morning, remembering her and remembering how delightfully flawed and impossibly loving she was. Oh, I loved her, and continue to love her, in delightfully flawed and impossible ways. 

03 May 2011

Leaving the Semester

The semester isn't quite over yet, but it's ridiculously close. I've spent the whole of the last two days meeting with my undergrads, engaging them in exit interviews before they leave campus for the summer. I've come to really enjoy the interview structure, allowing me a more personalized way to end the class. 

As I think about the interviews and my own teaching this semester, a few things pop out at me: 

* I like writing with my class. For the collaborative paper assignment this semester, students worked in groups using Google docs to write a paper around a hot topic in literacy education. I would go through each and every paper weekly and edit with them, leaving notes and suggestions in the margins. It's a time-consuming but valuable tool as I've struggled for years with attempting to think about how to help my students be better writers; feedback on the final paper always arrives too late. 

* I need to continue focusing on developing habits of mind with my students rather than simply a culmination of grades. I've been struck by my students and their focus on grades rather than learning content and by delaying grades until the end (rather cruel), I think I facilitated more development of content rather than simply checking things off of a list. 

* I need to think of more ways to include (a) children's literature and (b) phonics into my assessment class. I was struck by the lack of knowledge my students had about children's literature, despite thinking that they would connect students to literature and that would make the students interested in reading. How can teachers connect students to books if they don't read books themselves? Additionally, I was shocked to find the lack of phonics information held by my students. Normally, I teach the fall section of this class and we spend a large amount of time on phonics. That the students didn't have this makes me nervous - I need to think of ways to incorporate more phonics in everything I do. 

* I need to have these interviews earlier in the semester. I love getting to know them and can accelerate our relationships by moving this to earlier in the semester. 

Two interviews to go. The rest of the week will be spent finding an apartment, working on arrangements for a conference later in the semester, and thinking about extending my dissertation data collection. 

And there must be some knitting. Soon.