Thursday, January 31, 2013

Mont Saint-Michel

At times I have shared pictures and my impressions of things or places from my travels that left quite an impression on me.  I'm adding another place to the list: Mont Saint-Michel.  (April 1983, I sponsored a student trip to England and France, and my Mom got to go along. :-)  )

The Mount is a huge block of granite and granulate that soars 170 meters high above the sandy surroundings of sea on the west coast of France.  It is isolated from the coast and looks like a fantasy island.  I can't imagine how difficult it must have been to build an abbey (and eventually a small city) on the steep slopes of this rock outcropping.

The pictures above were taken from the tour bus (hmmm...the originals are not so out-of-focus) as we approached this island.  According to historians, this rock has served as a refuge for robbers, as protection for local villagers from attacking pagan tribes, and as a place of solace for others.  At first a chapel was built there, and in the 10th century the Mount was dedicated to St. Michel. It was Richard I, Duke of Normandy, who ordered that the chapel be replaced by an abbey in the year 966. What a fortress it became!  However, political troubles between France and England, quarrels between nobles and princes, caused much trouble for those living at and protecting the abbey and its riches.  In the 13th and 14th centuries it was a place of pilgrimage.  In the 1800's (during the revolution) it became a prison.

The history is interesting.  The buildings are spectacular structures of Medieval architecture!

Walking through the area, you are in a maze of winding, narrow, steep streets and walkways.
This is not my photo, but an image from Google. It shows the location a bit better.
I'd love to see this place again.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Sweater Shawl

I'm making some progress on the Sweater Shawl too.  
Love the Lofty Brioche Stitch. 
 Just another couple inches and then the pattern gets interesting...stay turned.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Meteliza in Blue...

I'm at the halfway point in this lacy scarf.  Yahoo!  I'm actually liking it more as it "grows."  

Monday, January 28, 2013

Rivet Magic

I enrolled in a jewelry making class over the weekend: Rivet Magic.  The task was to make a pair of metal disk earrings.  However, we had to cut out our own disks of metal, texture/hammer them, drill holes, and make a smooth rivet.  Then, we could add any stones or gems that we wanted to add some interest...or bling.  It took a couple of hours to do this, and the instruction was very good.  Had blast!
We had a choice of choosing silver, brass, or copper; obviously, I chose the copper (although the rivet is silver).  I'm hoping to make another pair (perhaps this week), now that I know the process and how to use all the tools.  Next time: silver.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Testing time...

Yeah, it's testing time in our schools: MAP testing, PAWS testing (state test), and pre-tests for the ACT.  It can be overwhelming to get it all done, keeping kids motivated to do their best, and to also keep them motivated for the next few months.

"Hey, just because you took the big tests, school is not over till June!! We've got a lot more to learn and apply!!"

Take note: 
   To Err is Human
    To Arr is Pirate
     To Ooh is Choir

Thursday, January 24, 2013

A peek into the past...

This photo is of my mom singing a solo with me on the piano, accompanying. It dates back to 1975, and we are in the grade school lunchroom, although I'm not sure of the occasion.  It obviously took place when we had warm weather, based on how we're dressed. Perhaps it was entertainment for a  function or a special tribute to someone.

 Mom was often asked to sing for special occasions, and I loved it when I could accompany her.  She had a beautifully rich contralto voice, and mostly focused on art songs or inspirational/religious solos, as she was soloist in church for many years.

I loved the story she told that when I was a baby, she would sing me lullabies, but I must not have liked it, because I would  commence crying immediately. Wouldn't you know, it hurt her feelings.  So, when I was a toddler, she started taking voice lessons from an accomplished vocalist (who had spent much of his career on the east coast), and she worked very diligently. For a few years, she also took piano lessons (from the postmaster's wife).  She must have surrounded herself in music,  focusing on improving her skills.  She soon started singing publicly and continued with voice lessons for several years. I well remember waiting for her, listening on the couch, soaking it all in.

At the age of 5, I decided I wanted to learn to play the piano too.  Mom knew just enough to get me started, and began teaching me the basics.  Whenever I was ready for a new song or skill, Mom just made time to work with me. She was like that.  I may have had several "lessons" in one week, based on my progress.  Now I understand how very lucky I was to have that kind of attention!  When I began playing beyond her skills, she made sure I had other teachers.  Some I liked; some I didn't!  It caused some tearful trips home from lessons, but Mom would not let me even consider quitting. 

Looking back, I'm so glad I could eventually accompany her solos on the piano and organ.  Those were extra special times together. I can only imagine what it must have felt like as a Mom who nurtured her daughter's talent.  She set a great example.  I'm quite sure that's why I find such joy in helping young musicians discover and enjoy their talents.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Needle a laugh?

Why did the sheep avoid going to bars?
          She didn't like being carded.

Why did the hog farmer give up knitting?
          He didn't want to cast his purls before swine.

A policeman spots a woman driving and knitting at the same time.
Driving up beside her, he shouts out the window...
     "No," she shouts back, "a pair of socks!"

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Sweater Shawl

I thought that was an interesting name for a garment.  Nancy S. sent me the link to this pattern, and once I saw it, I couldn't resist.  I looked through my stash...certainly I had something that would be the ticket.  I found one skein that had been waiting for about 3 years to be picked for a project. I thought it would be perfect!  However, I needed another skein to have enough yardage.  Hmmm.

I got on-line and I was fortunate enough to find another skein of the same color.  I took a chance, ordered it, received it, and it's going to work just fine!!  So the project is on the needles! 

The "body" starts out with 2 1/2 inches of ribbing and then begins the Lofty Brioche Stitch.  I have never seen or tried this stitch before, but I think it's fantastic.  More on what this garment is going to look like later...

Monday, January 21, 2013

Meteliza Scarf in progress...

It's growing!  The Meteliza Scarf is at a point where you can start to see the pattern a little better.  I think this scarf will look best once it is blocked because the patterns of the mouse print and cat's paw are very close together.  So, we'll soon (or maybe not real soon) see how it turns out.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Children's Theatre

I saw that the Missoula Children's Theatre was coming to "town" this week.  I encouraged a talented piano and voice student of mine to audition for the show; she did, and she was cast as one of the town kids.  We're (family and friends) all thrilled that she will have this experience! 
The guy in yellow on the left is one of the directors; the girl in pink standing all the way to the right is my student.

Over the years, as a drama director, I  had a few opportunities to direct children's theatre, and it was a far different experience than that of directing my regular high school drama productions.  Those little ones havd a ton of energy and many more questions than I knew what to do with at first.  Plus, those little guys were not at all shy about giving the director their "uncensored" opinion on nearly everything.  That was quite an adjustment for me.  You have to learn a few tricks quickly!

The two college students that organize, audition, direct, and produce this production of The Pied Piper in just 6 days do remarkable work with the kids, the majority of which are K-5th grade.  There are maybe 10 or so older students who take on key roles.  I've been able to watch rehearsal, and in the last two days I've seen these kids (maybe about 60 or so) learn all the lines, songs, and choreography for this show, and tomorrow they are completely off script and will be putting all the scenes seamlessly together. Incredible work!

We are all looking forward to the final production on Saturday on the college's stage.  Should be a real treat!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

My Cat, Lucy...

I still miss my calico cat, Lucy.  She's the only one who survived all the predators, staying close enough to the house to be safe while watching her every move.  She was a great little buddy!  And I miss her loud purr and soft fur against my hands and face.  I loved it when she would fall asleep on my lap.  And when she was animated, like playfully batting at a ball of yarn, she made me laugh.

For Christmas I received a book entitled, I Could Pee on This - and Other Poems by Cats by Francesco Marciuliano.  My favorite poem from this collection is the following:

Talk To Me

Tell me about your day
Tell me about your dreams
Tell me about the girll you adore
The one who smiles but walks away

Tell me your greatest fears
Tell me your biggest secrets
Tell me your most chereished moments
The ones that light your darkest days

Tell me why things don't work out
Tell me why stuff gets in the way
Tell me why it stops you cold
The one thought you can't let go

Lie on the couch and talk to me
Open your mind and bare yourself
Because I think I finally figured out
   how to bill you
And I'm about to make a fortune

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Meteliza Scarf

A new project jumped on the needles this past weekend: the Meteliza Scarf.  The pattern was created by Inna Voltchkova.  I'm knitting it on size 2 needles, using cashmere lace yarn. 

The word Meteliza in Russian translates to "blizzard," and the pattern I have is knit in a white angora/merino blend.  It's really pretty, and I may have to knit another scarf in white, which better matches the blizzard theme.  Till then, I'll work with this blue/green cashmere. 

The pattern is from the Orenburg Lace tradition of incorporating two popular motifs: Mouse Print and Cat's Paw.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Flowers, birds, and tires...

One last picture of my Amaryllis shows both stalks blooming.  These flowers have been such a welcomed burst of color in January. 

On another note, while I was having coffee with some girlfriends Saturday morning, it was discovered that my front left tire on the pick-up was going flat.  OH NOOOO...

My friend Julie took followed me a couple of miles to Plains Tires, and I asked if they could fix it.  Sure enough.  They were not  busy and could get right to it, but it would probably take 45 min. to patch it.  No problem.  While we waited, Julie took me to WalMart, where we both needed to pick up a few items.  I mention this only because we saw quite a site as we pulled up into the parking lot. 

I counted at least ten little birds sitting on the windshield wipers of a nearby car.  Whoa.  Really?  I thought I was lucky to get a picture.  Were they just trying to stay warm?  Perhaps the vent from the motor below was allowing a little warmth to rise up and give them relief from the frigid temps.  It was an interesting sight!

Meanwhile, back at the tire shop, I saw my pick-up sitting out front, and Julie just dropped me off.  When I went in, the guy behind the counter handed the keys to me and said it was ready to go.  As I began to pull out my wallet, he said, "Oh, there's no charge." 

Shocked, I said, "Really?" 

He said, "No, there's no charge."

"Are you serious?"

"Yes. There's no charge."

I thanked him!  I'm quite sure I'll return!  In this day and age...that doesn't happen very often.  And yet, I'm so grateful when I hear of such generosity and am thrilled to experience it too.  Makes you want to pay it forward for others, doesn't it? 

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Just make it through February...

Yes, if you can bear the cold temps of January and February, you've got it made!  Typically, our WY winter temps dip below zero pretty regularly during these two months, and then it's much more bearable until spring arrives.

Since this is my first winter of not working a steady job, I have been thinking about what these long winter months felt like. I remember December through February like this:

Get up in the dark. Drive to work in the dark. Work in artificial light all day. Get a couple breaths of fresh air on my way to and from the parking lot.  Drive home in the dark. Watch out for deer!!!

Attend a lot of basketball games and help man the concession stand on occasion.

"Turn in your work!"  Grade papers, grade papers, grade papers.

Write a variety of winter poetry with the students, recalling the beauty or the beast of winter.  Hey, let's have some fun learning to use figurative language!  Share Robert Frost's "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening." I love that poem, and it's so beautiful to recite.  By the way, I refuse to believe it was written with dark, suicidal implications!

Teach Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet" to freshmen and let ourselves get immersed in the history of Medieval and Renaissance England. The dark, cold castles and unsanitary conditions seemed a little easier to imagine during our winter months. Come on, let's try our hand at writing on parchment in Shakespearean style! 

For several years, I went snow skiing in Jackson a few weekends during the season.  But that meant getting up really early to be on a big yellow bus at 4:00 a.m. to ride 3 hours to Jackson with the high school ski club.  Ski hard until the lifts closed at 4:00 p.m. and then climb back on the bus, squeeze into the seat with all my gear, thaw out, recall challenging runs and falls with my skiing buddies,  and maybe catch a few winks before getting home at 9:00 p.m.  What a LONG day.  Was I CRAZY?  But I did see the sun and got a little exercise!

Early in my career I also drove a van full of kids all over the state on weekends for speech meets. Leave early, drive 1-4 hours to get there, coach kids, judge a few rounds, celebrate and console, and then drive them home.  LONG day.  Was I CRAZY?  But I did see the sun and got out of town...on slick/snowy roads!

Teacher friends would occasionally plan something fun in the winter,  like a progressive dinner party or a wild Christmas party.  And thank goodness we all had some funny experiences in the classroom or with kids on trips.  That helped keep us sane.

But really, I couldn't wait until the days got longer and we came out of the deep freeze.   If we could just make it through February...

Oh, excuse me, I've got to go out and haul in some dry wood; we're expecting snow tonight.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Juniper branch in wool...

Our local Fiber Arts Guild hosted a Spin-In last weekend. We had lots of knitters, spinners, and some weavers and crocheters. Also, the vendors had wonderful yarns, roving, felts, and other decorative and handy supplies.

 When a few ladies showed interest in a needle-felting demo, I was happy to do it.  I had wanted to get started on a candle-mat that had needle-felted (cedar) juniper branches embellishing it.  I had asked one of my friends to give me a little cutting off her bush to use for inspiration and a guide.  So, that's what I used to demo how easy it is to get started in needle-felting a design on a flat surface. 

I got a good start, but had to finish it!  It was a perfect project for a cold winter's day, watching the football playoffs on TV. 

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Another Hitchhiker...

I'm nearly finished with another Hitchhiker Scarf. I'm making it on #2 needles with Zephyr yarn (50% wool/50% silk). I've added my own K2tog and YO's for interest.   The pattern calls for 41 "teeth" on the edge, and then bind off.  I already have a few more than that, and because I still have some yarn left, I've continued to add to the length.  Now I have to decide when long is too long.  I'm not sure I'll use up the whole ball, but it will be close. 

Monday, January 7, 2013

First Car

Ok, here's the question of the day: What was your first car?  Let's say the first one you purchased on your own.

Learning to drive, I was put behind the wheel of my Dad's Jeep CJ7, and he took me out on country roads to learn to shift gears.  It was boxy, drafty, noisy unit that went about 50 at top speed.  I got to take it to the movies, ball games, and concerts with a friend, and I was tickled to have something to drive. I also learned to tow the boat and to back it up into the garage.  (That little task had a long learning curve...forward, back, forward, back, grrrrr, sigh, deep breath, forward, back...) Eventually, I got to drive the family station wagon, which was an automatic, and that was a nice ride.  I also learned to drive the red Ford truck. No power did I do it? 

When I graduated from college, my grandma gave me her car, a little 2-door Chevy, which she had run into a power pole and would no longer be driving!  It was an older model, not too spiffy, and I'm not sure the suspension was ever right again, but as long as I had "wheels," I was absolutely thrilled and very grateful.That got me back and forth to work for a couple of years.

After getting a steady job and a little money saved up, I finally bought my first car: a Honda Civic.  I laugh at the price now, but at the time $4200.00 was a big investment for me.  (The extra $200 was for the radio!)  It was dark blue, shiny, had plenty of room, standard shift, and handled well on the road.  It was my first experience with front wheel drive, and on slick/bad roads, it was just the ticket!  It took me a lot a miles and was very reliable.

This is not a picture of my car, but of one much like it. 

In a story-telling workshop I took many moons ago, the instructor told us that this kind of info is part of "our story" and we should share these stories with our families.  We were asked if we knew about our parents' first cars; and if not, why not?  Interesting, eh?  I suspect there are lots of great stories about "first cars."

Friday, January 4, 2013

Full Blooms in Winter

One stalk of the Amaryllis is in full bloom.  It has four lovely flowers, and it's such a wonderful touch of color in the winter months. 

Thursday, January 3, 2013


Some winter days are just darned cold.  This picture was taken a few days ago, and my right hand got very chilly in the 30 seconds or so that it took for me to snap a few shots.  I moved pretty quickly to get back into the house.  The heavy frost was picture-worthy, and it reminded me of many frigid days in past years.

The worst I remember was the winter my house was built, and the high temps for one whole month reached -20. Yes, 20 below zero was the HIGH! The cold air was trapped in this valley and no wind came to move it on through.  Every day looked a lot like this picture. Bitter cold. I felt sorry for the carpenters. They had a huge propane heater blasting warm air, and they avoided going outside as best they could.  The lows during that period regularly got down around -40.  Everyone was having trouble getting their vehicles started to go to work in the mornings, and many at my work had block heaters on their cars that they plugged in to assure they could get home in the evening. That winter I was in Jackson Hole for New Year's Eve, and it was -52!  It was the first time I experienced a discomfort in breathing the cold air, and one had to have face and hands well covered! 

A "winter wonderland" is beautiful to look at, but I'm all for having those sub-zero conditions come and go quickly.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

The Amaryllis

Three days of photos show how quickly the Amaryllis is opening/blooming.
Sunday, Dec. 30, 2012

Monday, Dec. 31, 2012

Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2013
I think I can say that it began to open up (bloom) on New Year's Day.  The other blooms should be opening tomorrow.  And the second stalk is not far behind!  Love it!

May each one of you bloom where you are planted!  Happy 2013!