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Who needs directions?

15 Jan

I decided to reorganize my yarn stash over Winter Break.

You might be thinking, Big whoop! She moved around some yarn.  What you might not understand is that knitting, like reading, can be aspirational. I have patterns and yarns I’ve never knit, just as I have books sitting around that I have yet to read.

This reorganization was serious and required new furniture. So, naturally, I turned to IKEA. Knowing the limitations of my strength and my desire to stay home, I ordered the perfect shelving unit – an eight square Kallax . You might have seen it before. Heck, you might even have one.

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When it arrived, I pulled everything out, sorted them by shape and function and set the instruction booklet in a safe place. I assembled the exterior frame and stood back to admire my work. That’s when I realized I should have looked at the instruction book.

With the frame assembled, there was no way to insert the shelves. My heart sank and I went to fetch the instruction book. I disassembled the frame and started on page one.

It all worked out in the end, but I hope I have learned from this mistake. Whether I do or not, I now have a nicely organized yarn stash.

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Baking Nostalgia

18 Dec

This is the first Christmas with both my parents gone and It has made me a little nostalgic. I’ve been thinking about the mountain of Christmas cookies Mom used to make. Watching reruns of the Great British Baking Show, I’ve been thinking about fruit cake and Dad. He loved a good fruit cake. He sold and gifted Shriner’s fruitcakes, and I remember one year when Mom & Dad made one and it sat, wrapped in brandy soaked cheesecloth, in the fruit cellar in the months leading up to Christmas.

So, feeling nostalgic, I baked this weekend.

First, I made Mom’s “Sweet Marie Bars on Saturday.

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Sweet Marie Bars 

INGREDIENTS

1/2 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup corn syrup
1 tbsp butter
2 cups Rice Krispies
1 cup salted peanuts
1 package semi-sweet chocolate chips

METHOD

In a medium pot over medium-low heat melt peanut butter, brown sugar, corn syrup and butter; once melted allow to gently bubble.

Remove from heat and add Rice Krispies and salted peanuts. Mix well then press into a greased (I use butter) 8- or 9-inch square dish.

Pour semi-sweet chocolate chips onto the still-hot peanut layer and wait a minute for the chips to soften – then, as they melt, spread evenly to create a chocolate top layer. Let cool and cut into 20-25 squares before the chocolate gets too hard.

As tempted as I was to make a fruitcake, I took an easier route. A few years ago I discovered an excellent recipe from Ina Garten called “Fruitcake Cookies”.  They have everything I love about fruitcake, but are finished in hours, not months. I think Dad would have enjoyed them. I don’t think I can paste the recipe in here for copyright reason, but if you are interested, here is the link to the recipe. They are delicious.

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Wishing you all the best for the holidays.

 

Old and new traditions

11 Dec

“It smells like Christmas.”

Either Paul Hollywood or Mary Berry says this at least once a bake as I re-watch Christmas episodes of The Great British Baking Show Master Class. This is a new holiday tradition for me, as I came late to the GBBS game. But I’m all caught up now!

As I watch, I think of all the holiday bakes from my childhood and plan out some old and new things I’d like to bake this year. I am not doing any baking until this weekend. I have my annual physical on Thursday and I don’t want to be all sugared up before my blood test!

Seasonal tea has long been a part of my suite of holiday traditions. there are some old standbys, but I love discovering new ones. This year I have discovered two that are new to me. The first is Celestial Seasonings’ Cranberry Vanilla Wonderland. The second in Stash Tea’s Christmas in Paris.

The first blends cranberry, rooibos, hibiscus, cinnamon, and vanilla. The second swirls a chocolaty flavor with mint and lavender. Both are herbal blends, so I like to sip a cup in the evening as I knit that days portion of my Advent knitting project. And each of these teas make me echo Paul and Mary’s words, “It smells like Christmas” .

O Come E-Man-Ewe-Wool

4 Dec

Friday was hard. A credible threat saw our school in lockdown and I huddled in the dark with my class for three hours. Fortunately, no one was hurt. The weekend was all about recovery for all of us. I used yarn.

For the last few years, indie yarn dyers have been creating Advent calendars with small skeins of yarn. This was the first year I purchased one.

It arrived a few weeks ago. I opened the box to find my 24 minis, a full skein, and a list of colorways.

Saturday morning, I opened my first one.

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I had decided to use the minis to knit a cowl called “Land Of Sweets”, which was designed for Advent calendar knitting. I cast it on and knit the eight rows of Day one. I knit another eight rows on Sunday, day two.

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Monday morning was hard. I felt anxious before school, and when I arrived. We had a special schedule that started with the class with which  we’d had to lockdown. We’d been given a script for a community circle and it worked beautifully. As the day wore on, things started to feel more normal. I had a late meeting after school, so didn’t get to knit my eight rows with day three’s yarn.

47389931_773493909665773_63636297041838080_nTonight, I have a ticket to go see Tara Westover speak, so I will have to wait until tomorrow to knit day three and day four, which I opened this morning to discover had an extra treat.

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I feel better about going to school today. A few kids stayed out yesterday and I hope they found a way to deal with their worry and anxiety so they can come back and start their healing process.

A tale of two Chrises

27 Nov

A holiday jingle played in my heart as I left school yesterday, on my way to  one of my favorite holiday rituals: mailing my Christmas parcels. I pressed the button on my key fob, heard the beeps, opened the door and tossed in my school bag. I heard the keys jingle as I sat and  closed the door.  I stretched my leg to press the brake before pressing the button that  keylessly starts my new car.

I knew the universe was on my side because there was no line-up of parent pickups holding me back. I exited the parking lot and was on my way swiftly. Although I used to enjoy the ritual of mailing from the main post office downtown, I had discovered a USPS outlet in the route home from school and pulled into the parking lot. I found an ideal, drive through, parking space and got out. I reached into my right pocket to retrieve my keys to lock the car, but they weren’t there.

A slight panic arose in me. Even though I always keep my keys in my right coat pocket, I patted all my pockets – left, right, coat, pants. The keys weren’t there. Feeling slightly more panicky, I remembered the jingle of keys I had heard as I sat in the car. I searched under the driver’s seat, the passenger seat. No luck.

Could I have dropped them in the school parking lot? I wondered. I tried calling my teaching partner. No answer, so I left a message. I tried calling the principal. No answer. I  sat in the front seat and scrolled through my contacts. I called our student supervisor, Kris. He answered! He was also my first call using the car’s hands free computer. Kindly, he went outside to look as I drove back to school. As he looked, he asked a good question, “Your car started?”.

As I drive back to school, I pondered his question. Can a keyless car start if the fob isn’t in the car? By the time I reached school, I was convinced the keys had to be inside.

I parked in an open spot –  not my usual one for fear of flattening the fob. I threw open all the doors and pulled everything out of the front seat. The secretary was just leaving and I asked if keys had been turned in. Of course, none had. A 7th grade Humanities teacher in my hall came out (another Chris) asked what I was doing and offered me the flashlight from his car. As he was getting it I knelt on the driver’s seat and peered into the narrow gap between the seat and the center console. A thin flash of silver caught my eye. I stuck my hand in, wiggled my fingers until I clamped two around the item, and pulled out my keys! I held them up triumphantly as Chris arrived with his flashlight.

Feeling relived I chatted with Chris and the secretary for a bit. We made disparaging remarks about newfangled technology before getting into our cars and setting off on our merry ways. I returned to the post office and, finally, got those packages mailed.

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Thanksgiving in the air

20 Nov

The sun shone brightly as I waved the cars forward. Yesterday was my first day of duty for the year and it felt glorious.

Walking into school that morning I could feel it in the air. The last few weeks, I’d been grumpy. Heck, almost every teacher had been grumpy. Yesterday felt different because we had a two-day week ahead of us and Thanksgiving was coming.

And so, I stood out front, waving cars forward, a smile on my face. I was wearing a hat I’d knit as a Christmas present for my mom a few years ago. It was the only article of clothing I took from her house, but I felt close to her wearing it, and happy because of the bright colors.

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Some people waved back as I rotated my hand, guiding them forward. Maybe they could feel it in the air, too. The few people I had to speak to for minor infractions of the “active drop off” rule seemed remorseful. I even shared a silent chuckle with a few as we watched a clown car performance – a small car that spilled out several students, their backpacks, and rather large instrument cases. There were a  few eye rolls, and some impatient people, but I really can’t remember them. Yesterday, it was all about the good and I am thankful for that.

The Lost Weekend

13 Nov

I went into the weekend with such high hopes:

  • a grading day on Friday
  • the Portland Book Festival on Saturday
  • a Remembrance Day concert on Sunday
  • book club on Monday

But a tickle started in my throat on Thursday morning. By Friday I had sniffles, so I stopped on the way home from school and loaded up on cold meds. I figured that, well-medicated, I could make it to the Portland Book Festival the next morning.

I sprang from bed Saturday morning and optimistically jumped into the shower, then got ready. for the big day. Before the coffee had brewed I knew it was hopeless. Saturday had brought on the facial pain in my sinuses and I knew I shouldn’t be out in public spreading germs – I had just read two books on the 1918 flu pandemic, after all! So, while friends listened to authors, I snuggled on the sofa with my dog, a box of kleenex, and a cup of tea. As colds went, this wasn’t the worst I’d ever had, but it had me feeling so very tired. I just wanted to sleep.

It was a good call because, though still cloudy headed, I made it to the Remembrance Day concert, entitled They Are At Rest. I wasn’t 100%,  but the facial pain was gone. I was tired and the goldfish bowl about my head was still there, but I was able to enjoy the music nonetheless.

Monday was a get-well bonus day. Although I felt even better, I decided to miss book club in order to keep any lingering germs to myself. I still felt super tired and wanted to get a good night’s rest before going back to school this morning.  This was a tough call because I can’t make the December meeting.

So, here I sit, Tuesday morning, battle-scarred but ready to face the challenges of a four-day week at school. Bring it on!

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