Friday, October 30, 2015

Eating That Frog with the Help from a Little Tomato

Yesterday I talked about an info-graphic posted on Federation of Independent Business called Powerful Productivity.  

Last week, I started using using The Pomodoro Technique - it is basically setting a timer and focusing on the task at hand. You work in 25 minute busts (called Pomodoros) with a 5 minute break.  After 4 Pomodoros, you take a longer minute break of 15-30 minutes.  The "Technique" got it's name from the tomato timer used.  You can read more on it in the link, but you get the idea.

I am amazed at not only how much I get done in 25 minutes, but how fast that 25 minutes goes!

I found a free app on my phone and it works okay.  What I don't like about it is that when I need to focus I turn my cell phone to silent so I am not interrupted by my notifications.  When my phone is on silent, my Pomodoro alarm is also silent.  

What I like about the Pomodoro App is that it tracks how many Pomodoros a task takes, and also remembers to give you extra time when you've worked for 4 Pomodoros.

The alarm on my phone goes off when I have it set to silent. But doesn't remind me to take longer breaks!

I am sure I will figure it out, but working in 25 minute bursts with a quick 5 minute break seems to be working wonderfully well.

Yesterday I added "Eat That Frog" to my productivity repertoire - short and sweet is that you start your day with your worst task, something you've been putting off and get it done.  Not doing that task weighs down on you; completing it frees you.

My frog yesterday was all the stuff I haven't been putting off.

Such as my folder of mail and stuff in the kitchen. We each have a folder and instead of having piles on the counter, we have folders.  My folder is overflowing to the point that I have a pile on the counter.  You can see the corner of that pile in the bottom left corner of the picture.

I also had these two baskets full of stuff -- Things that need to be done, but I just don't get around to it, like changing my name on a few last items that are still in my maiden name.  The H2O at Home box contained something I was supposed to return to -- too late, I get to keep the items!

My goal today was to just get it organized, knowing that there are a lot of things that need to get done, but my first step was to sort it all.  As I was going through the stuff, I realized there were different areas/subject, so I made a folder for each, placed them in a file sorter I had from my old classroom.  The first file, "Needs Action" are bills that I need to pay, or other things that have a rather short timeline.

I made a huge dent during my first pomodoro (25 minutes) and finished going through what remained in about 10 minutes into my 2nd pomodoro.  I printed out the cute frog and while waiting for my laminator to heat up, I looked up at this:

I pulled the stack of papers and books down.  The books were put away where they belong, sorted the other papers and items.

My work area looked like this, in 2 pomodoros, or 50 minutes:

My plan is that I will start each morning with eating a frog - either something in the folder, or something else that is pressing.

The best part is that I found a refund check in the amount of $101.80!!!

Thursday, October 29, 2015

I am a WIP

Is there life after teaching?

After 21 years of being a special education teacher, I am nearing the end of my third month of my one year Leave of Absence.

Over the summer I began dabbling in my exploration as a grant writer.  I took classes, read various books and websites, began networking.

Then I was asked to assist an equine assisted therapy center in organizing and running classes. It was a blast!  Working not only with horses, but children and young adults with disabilities.

I kind of lost my way with my grant writing dream.

This week it dawned on my what my problem is.

For 21 years, my life has been ran by deadlines set by someone other than me:  start of school, lesson plans, posting of grades, report cards, progress reports, special education paperwork, daily and weekly notes to parent, and the list goes on.  Anyone who's ever been in education understands that it is a career shaped by deadlines.

I don't have that now.  Other than random deadlines like grant proposal due dates, I don't have any set schedule.  I can show up in my office when it fits.

Some days it just doesn't fit!  Yesterday Mom had doctor's appointments - I will never understand how two 30 minute appointments can take all day!  But that's what it was.  I love that I can take her to appointments, support her, go shopping between appointments, eat lunch out and enjoy our time together.  All the while NOT getting text messages from my assistants about how my kiddos are falling apart in my absence!

Some days I have nothing planned; and that's what I get done - NOTHING!  That is not saying I don't have things I need to get done, I just don't have a plan of what and when they will get done.  My to do list continues to grow, becase I don't have a plan to get them done.

This week, I decided I will channel my inner-time-manager.   I do, after all, want to get my freelance grant writing business up and running!  I would love to be able to replace my teaching income with writing.

First, I decided that my planner needed a boost - I need color.

I went from this: 

to this:

The colors make me smile! That long list is for today!

I also researched various suggestions from an info-graphic posted on Federation of Independent Business called Powerful Productivity.  

Today, if you look, I have a long list of things to do.  Sadly, it is almost 10 am and I'm still in my pj's!  I need to get dressed and start my day.  I have a frog to find and eat, a pomodoro to set my pace and give me breaks, an Action plan (Method) to get things done, and I have to be like Seinfield and not break the chain!  

I have a plan - but I guess I have to work that plan now!!


Monday, October 26, 2015


With all our autumn chores done,
lawn mowed, leaves blown, flower beds cut back and under a layer of protective leaves,
we had a rather relaxing weekend.

Saturday was misty with some rain - our Costco run was followed, as usual,
with a stop at our favorite restaurant, Moose's Tooth Pub & Pizzeria.
I love the Hard Apple Ale and their Hungarian mushroom soup!

Saturday night, we settled in for a NetFlix Movie and knitting.

Sunday was damp, but no rain, so we took Miss Abby out for a walk on one
of the many cross-country ski trails close to our home.
They are great this time of the year.
The mosquitoes are no longer buzzing, no snow just yet.

Bear Mountain visible with no leaves on the trees.

Miss Abby leading the way.

We didn't see any moose, but we did spot these lovely rubs on a couple trees.

 Yes, it is rutting season - so it is good we didn't see the bull moose who created them.
Back in the pines and tundra-like moss on the ground.

I managed to grab ta geocache or two.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Counting Rows

When I started knitting back in 2006 counting rows caused me great difficulty.  

First I started with a slip of paper where I would count off rows with a tally mark.  I then tried one of those twisty row counters you can slip on the end of your needles.

The problem is that they didn't work.  I would come to the end of a row, half the time I would forget to count the row (either with a tally mark on paper, or twist a number).  Sometimes I'd start the next row and couldn't remember if I had counted my row or not.  Some rows got counted.  Some rows didn't.  Some rows were counted twice.

I was also an avid beader at the time, so after looking on Etsy for row counters, I got to thinking.

If you have seen many of my WIP, you may have noticed my row counter on almost every project.

On December 5, 2007, I opened my Etsy store FiberJewels.  I ran it part time, developing my row counters and was doing fairly well considering I was working it in my spare time.  

In 2010, I moved to Alaska, didn't have the time or space, and I quit making row counter for sale.

Today, I pulled out my supplies and after the first link or so the muscle memory kicked in and away I went!  

Some of my completed row counters with their 10's charms.

A pile or row counters from this morning.

I checked out Etsy and there are some making similar row counters, but mine are different!  Mine are the PERFECT row counters!

Leave a comment on what you use for counting rows and I will place your name in a drawing for a row counter of your choice from my store (when I get it up and running).

Ten Reasons these are THE PERFECT row counter!

1. Stays on your needles so this row counter will always be with the correct project. Unlike bracelets, slips of paper, and other methods you may use.

2. As you come to the row counter, you slip the needle into next number, so no need to question yourself “did I or didn’t I make tally mark (click counter, move bead marker, etc.)?” No more counting rows twice, or not at all!
3. The numbers help you get right back on track if you happen to drop the row counter when going to next row. That can’t be said for row counters with no numbers where you are left trying to figure out which link your needle was in.
4. A simple move of the 10's clip every 10 rows. No sliding back to zero as needed with bracelets and other abacus style row counters. The zero is before one for a reason, it represents zero, not ten. The clip after 9 alerts you that you’ve reached another 10, time to move your clip!
5. The “10’s clip” allows you to count up to 99 rows. 
6. Clip can also be used to track companion rows – every time you complete a set rows in a pattern, you can move your clip to the next number. 
7. Adds a little bling to your needles for your knitting pleasure!
8. Numbers placed appear backwards but are that way for ease of use as they appear upright and incorrect order when used.
9. Reasonable priced.
10. Use for one week – don’t think it is the best, return for full refund of purchase price (less S&H)

Nothing could be simpler!

“Perfect for counting rows.” – Christine
“The perfect length for counting rows” – Natalie
”The only thing that is keeping me sane and on track…” - Katherine

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

WIP Wednesday

I guess the thing to do as a knitting blogger is post a list of projects on the sticks on Wednesday.  So, here I go:

Holey Cruise Shawl - I added the crocheted border and need to block it.  It still isn't working for me.  It is about the size of a receiving blanket and that's what I feel like I have tossed over my shoulders.  It needs to be blocked.

Pastel Dalekanium -After posting a picture of a pair of hand knit socks on my FaceBook page, I had several family members ask for their own socks.  One of my sister-in-laws recently had surgery to have cancer removed (today happens to be her birthday), so these will become her socks.  Turned the heels last night so I'm on the home stretch.  I have knit several socks from this pattern.

Darn Good Shawl - This is a "kit" from Darn Good Yarns.  The two skeins were not of the same color.  I was switching skeins randomly, but the color change was noticeable (as it is in this picture). I am carrying the yarn and switching every other row.

Lucy - As I was taking pictures of my current WIP's I realized I had a UFO shoved in a basket in a back closet.  I started her in May of 2013, and when I was off for almost 2 months after my hysterectomy, I got her pretty much done.  I attempted to knit the sleeves two-at-a-time and ended with a knotted mess.  Today I dug her out; it's time to give her those sleeves.

When my mom moved out, her dress making dummy needed a new home.  She's a good spot to try on my knitted items.  I am about 25 pounds heavier than I was when I began knit to knit her. It will be interesting how it fits when it's done.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Holey (Might Work) Cruise Shawl

Friday I picked up this lovely little cake of Alpaca Lace by Cascade Yarns at the LYS to assist in finishing my Holey Cruise Shawl.  The clerk and I looked high and low and we both agreed that, with the lighter areas in the kettle dyed purple lace, this heather light gray would be a nice accent.

I set about attempting to find a lace edging that was easy wasn't too difficult.  I found several knitted edgings that would have looked great, but none of them included the corner pattern and I was just not in the mood to create my own.  I settled on a crocheted edge that will work nicely.

It was a wet and dreary weekend with a lot of NetFlix, knitting, and pie making.  The pie was a spur of the moment thing.  In the past, I have baked them from scratch, but Mom left one can of apple pie filling in my pantry (the directions state you need to cans), so I made due with it.  We ended with a rather thin little thing that tasted as good a pie made with two cans!

The house smelled lovely with the pie in the oven!  

I am almost done with the edge.  My mom suggested I edge the holes with the gray -- all 200 +/- of them? I am thinking no!  My husband agrees with my mom.  I am still thinking no!  After finishing the edging, I will block it before I make my decision!

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Test Knitting - Self-striping or Scrappy Socks

When my friend posted the above picture on her FaceBook page requesting test knitters, I was in!

The pattern is for self-striping yarn that has at least 5 rows per color OR you can use scraps.

I am not a striped sock wearer so not sure why the fascination with this pattern, but I had to test this pattern.

I knew I wouldn't find any self-striping yarn in my stash so a trip to the LYS was a must!

I ignored the fact that I have a ton of sock yarn scraps that would have worked just fine!

There were no self-striping sock yarns at the LYS, but the above little gem fit the bill!

September 30, CO

As soon as I got home, I did my test swatch to get my gauge, filled in the necessary information in the various slots on the pattern, grabbed a beer and away I knit!

After the toe, I knit color bands of 6 rows. Joined new color by weaving in ends as I knit.

I would use this pattern again, as I DO have lots of scrap yarns.
I would weave in as I knit, and not use the "magic knot" which is what I started using.
I would change how I knit the heel - I would split the color when adding the waste yarn. If using scraps, I might knit entire heel one color.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Holey (Not Happy) Square Shawl

This May I ripped out Birch Leaf Shawl because it has been on the sticks for three years and it wasn't knitting itself.  The pattern wasn't difficult, but it was a pattern that required my attention for every knit row.  I do most of my knitting watching TV in the evening with my husband and this pattern just required too much attention for me.

I settled on the Holey Square Shawl pattern.  It is a super easy pattern.  Eleven rows knit/purl, then two rows where you cast off and then bind on stitches to create the holes.  I started it on May 31, but realized it was just not going to be wide enough; frogged and CO with needles two sizes larger on September 6.

Yesterday, October 15, I ran out of yarn completed the shawl.  Not bad, 5 1/2 weeks (I did take break and test knit a pattern for my friend).

Not happy with it.  To complete the pattern I need to knit 12 more rows and that should make it square, and then do a single crochet around the edge.  I am thinking I might single crochet the sides and then do a boarder on the ends to make the shawl square.

Looking for a edging that would look nice, have to find yarn that will look okay.  I think white or ivory may not be right.  Maybe a dark gray.  

Not too happy with as it is.  

Thursday, October 15, 2015

What Have I Been Doing?

Summer started with me learning about Grant Writing by reading everything I could about the subject and taking a class.  I joined a national grant writer's association and applied for a scholarship to attend their annual conference.  I was awarded that scholarship, and will attend the conference next month!

Portage Glacier Valley - temperate rain forest
Early summer weather was warm and enjoyable, and when my husband and I weren't enjoying the great Alaskan outdoors with our RV, we were working on a huge project in our back yard.  We looked forward to completing that project so that we could go back to spending weekends in the RV.

Working in the back yard
As we wrapped up the yard project, my husband was sent out of town to work.  He worked 10 hour days, Monday-Friday.  After working 8 hours on Saturday, he would drive the 3 hours home.  After a short 32 hours home, he'd leave and start it all over again.

Getting Forte comfortable in the indoor arena
With my husband out of town I spent a lot of time at the equine assisted therapy center. I played with horses, became an officer on their board, conducted lessons with children and young adults on the autism spectrum, wrote a grant for them, and began organizing the volunteers among other things.

Fall arrived, my previous coworkers returned to school and their classrooms.  I spent time helping some of them prepare their classrooms.  I didn't miss it.  I spent one morning in the classroom of a friend.  She asked if I would like to lead a math lesson.  I couldn't not say "no" fast enough.

I thought I would miss being in the classroom, but I don't.  I miss my friends and my students, but I do not miss the politics that teaching has become.  

Teaching has become about curriculum and assessment.  Despite success in increasing skill levels of my students, I was reprimanded for not using the mandated curriculum.  Education has become about teaching curriculum, not teaching children.  I don't miss that.

I have gotten a lot of knitting done.  I do that on days I just don't wanna do anything!  I promise to post pictures, but today is about catching up.

I am currently re-connecting with the time management pro I was in college.  The one who could do it all - work 35 hours a week, take a full-load of classes and remain on the Dean's List.  Working from home is a blessing and a curse.

A once-in-a-life-time adventure!
It was a blessing when we had a family member from out of state here for a week.  We took a flight around Denali (the mountain formally known as Mt. McKinley).  I owe you all a post with pictures.  It is definitely a bucket list adventure!

This is what about 4 hours of knitting on a train will get you.
Project was cast on at home and knit a few rows before first holes.
Another blessing when my mom called and wanted me to join the senior center on a day trip to Seward, Alaska, on the Alaska Railroad.  I didn't take many pictures, but I knit A LOT on the 8 hour round trip train ride.  I did buy yarn.  Okay, another post, later, I promise!

Working from home is a blessing when my mom has doctor's appointments, calls in crisis because she can't do something and need help, or calls me and just wants to take me out to lunch or shopping.

The curse is that, even though I have a lot I want to get done, I often get up with no plan to do anything in particular and that's what I get done, NOTHING!  Over dinner, my husband will ask me what I did today and I'll try to say one thing I did that was productive and I can't.  "I, uh, well.....  I .... uh.  Oh!  I took a shower and got dressed!"

That gets you almost up to date, and gave me some possible blog posts to create!