Sunday, September 15, 2013

Please! Barabara Walker, You Are Putting Me To Sleep. Plus 7th Grade Fun!

Well, the school year is off to a really fast start.  Compared to last year, this year is a million times better or, in reality -110 better.  So, I know your brain just did a double take.  Being a math teacher, you sorta need to think like me.  Truly, I know that you find that scary but it's okay, really.  Let me explain. 

Last year our school district cut 345 teaching positions.  Now, can you guess what all those cuts meant?  OMG!  That's correct; class sizes went through the roof.  See, you could be a math teacher too. 

Now I'm not going to bore you with my lecture on why we need to fund education.  Although, I will say that if you think about your average Tea Party member, you will get a really accurate picture about why education is really important.  Anyway, my class sizes definitely went way beyond just going through the roof.  Mine maybe came close to going through the ozone layer.  So, that means that my classes were in the 50s. 

Now to put this into perspective, think about your average 7th and 8th grader or even better, think back to when you were that age.  Do you remember all of the awkwardness and bad body odor?  Okay, now hold on to that image and think about 56 of those crammed into a classroom meant for 25 and you will understand how terrible last year really was.

So, that's where the -110 comes from.  Last year I had 267 students (that's not counting the extra 60 I had for study hall) and this year I have 157.  Now, 157 is manageable, but 120 would be best.  Anyway, I'm feeling like a teacher again and not someone who does crowd control with just a hint of math thrown in for fun.

This year I have two seventh grade classes and they are supper cute.  Here is a picture of them doing a measurement activity last week.  Actually, it's not really meant to be measurement activity; it's actually an adding and subtracting decimals activity.  I'm sneaking in the decimal stuff  in with the measurement.  It's kinda like your mother sneaking healthy vegetables in food that you actually liked.

Aren't they ADORABLE!  Look at them working so hard measuring things.  They hadn't gotten to the adding and subtracting decimal part; so, they were all still pretty happy at this point.

Now most of you are terrified of this age group but I'm here to tell you that you don't need to be.  They are actually pretty damn funny.  Take for instance one of my boys, Jake, who decided that all of his pencils needed to be named.  I'm still not sure why he needed to name them but he did.  They are all lined up in his pencil box with their names written on them in black Sharpie looking quite sharp and ready to go to work. 

Of course, being a seventh grader just makes you want to bring the beauty of named pencils to the rest of the world.  So, off Jake went to other members of the seventh grade class and started naming all of their pencils.  He is so proud of himself that he actually gave me a list of the names.  Here it is.

 Just so you know, I did speak to him about the missing apostrophe when he came to my class to add the name "Honey" to the list.  Apparently, he had named Tony's pencil during passing time and wanted to make sure it made it on the list.  I can hardly wait to see what Jake and all of my little darlings will do this week.

Okay, on the home front the Tomato Apocalypse continues.  Here is round five.
Yes, I now that I skipped round four.  It seems as though Jeff was busy giving away tomatoes again while I was at work.  His good friend Colleen got round four and I wish her all the best in her tomato processing endeavours. 

Now, to Ms. Walker.  This week's installment comes from page 16.  Let me just start by saying that page 16 has been the most BORING page to date.  Personally, I believe that Ms. Walker should have left these out of the book or maybe placed them in a section labeled, "Historically Interesting and a Great Cure for Insomnia." 

OMG!  It was all I could do to get through these two patterns.  Okay, enough complaining.  Here they are.
The top band is called Wager Welt and the bottom band is Banded Insertion Pattern. 

Wager Welt = Butt Ugly.  Done.

Banded Insertion Pattern = Giant Pain in the butt because you have to use two sets of needles one four sizes larger than what you cast on with.  Oh, is is also Butt Ugly.

This is about the only knitting that I have done since school started.  However, now that I am finding my stride I did cast on some fun stuff this morning using Judy's Magic Cast On.  I'll tell you all about that next week when I bring you page 17 of Ms. Walker's amazing work.

Okay, off to exercise our six standard poodles.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Tomato Time and Babs Walker and I are Becoming Tight!

OMG!  My tomato jungle is going crazy.  It's producing so many tomatoes that I barely have time to knit.  Seriously, that's a scary thing.  To give you an idea, here are a few pictures.

This is the first pick.

Most of these guys were eaten in any number of salads and also given away to the neighbours, except for the roma tomatoes.  Those bad boys are MINE!
Aren't they beautiful?  Now some of you might wonder what the fuss is over tomatoes.  Well, when you live in the Pacific Northwest, you have a small window when you get fresh tomatoes.  Some years, it has been to cool to really get any tomatoes at all.  Those are very sad years indeed.

Anyway here is round two!

My hands were stained green from picking all these guys.  Now really, this was round three.  Round two happened while I was up in Seattle for the Men's Fall Knitting Retreat.  Jeff had one of our neighbours come over and have a tomato picking fest.  I'm actually kinda weird about my tomatoes.  I have a hard time parting with them.  My friend Erica never shares her tomatoes; so, I guess I'm okay.  Besides, if I didn't, I'd be canning these bad boys 24/7.

Now, I think I hear your brain asking, "What did you do with all of those tomatoes?"  Well, let my brain let you in on one of the easiest ways to process your summer tomatoes.

First, you will need these items.
An apocalypse of tomatoes, fresh basil, a sweet onion and, of course, garlic.

Now (OMG, you're going to die at how easy this is) get a big sheet pan, cut your tomatoes in half and set them cut side down in the pan.

Cut up that sweet onion and stuff it around all those tomatoes.
Take as much garlic as you want.  In my opinion, more is better because garlic is one of those things like bacon. It's amazing!

Scatter those love cloves in and around all those tomatoes and then go for the basil.

Do exactly the same thing with the basil.  You don't need to cut it up just tear off the leaves and stuff them in there too.  Throw the seeds and flowers in there too.  They taste just like the leaves and no one will know that they are there.

Now, drizzle all over with some nice olive oil.  I get my oil from a guy in Pensacola, Fla.  If  I remember correctly, his family owns this giant olive grove on the isle of Crete and they produce this oil.  It's really good for cooking and salad dressing.  It's about thirty bucks for three liters shipped to your door.  You can find him on Ebay, Shoreline Foods.  What???? your brain was talking.  No, I don't know him and I am not getting a kick back.  Although, free oil would be fantastic.

 After you have put a healthy dose of oil all over the goods, sprinkle the tomatoes all over with salt and freshly ground pepper.

Isn't is beautiful?  Now seriously, you haven't even broken a sweat making this have you?  

Okay, now pop the whole thing into a 400 degree oven and bake for about 30-40 minutes until the skins on the tomatoes are brown and puckered.

This is what you're looking for.   Mmmmmm, roasted tomato goodness.

When the tomatoes have cooled, pluck off the skins.  Some of them might stick a bit to the tomatoes.  Just squeeze out the pulp when this happens.

Okay, here it is. the black looking stuff is the basil.  Don't worry, it's supposed to look like that.  Now, get out your food processor and and scrape all of this into the bowl and pulse the mixture about seven to 10 times.  You want to blend the ingredients but still leave a little texture. (Sorry, I forgot to take pictures at this point.)

And now you have some amazing fresh tomato sauce.  Here is mine all tucked away in the freezer waiting for a cold day in December.

Okay, now that I have gotten that out of my system, let's move on to Ms. Walker and all the fun that I'm having knitting up her stuff.

So, here we are on page 14.  This is the last of the missing installments.  Of course, my swatch is backwards from the pictures in the book.  The bottom section is Ripple Rib Stitch and the top one is Escalator Pattern.

Time to get down and dirty on these guys.  Let's start with Ripple Rib Stitch.  I wasn't wild about this at first but I think it has potential.  In its present form it's a pretty mediocre pattern; however, if you off set the diagonals at the point where they change direction you would add more interest.  Also, it might be fun to offset the the diagonals at the same point but keep them going in the same direction.  I'm adding that to my list of interesting things to do to Babs' patterns.

Now, onto Escalator Pattern.  I'm going to give my impression in four words, "Can you say yawn."  There you have it.  So, let's go back to the Ripple Rib Stitch

This is the back side.  Hmmm, I just heard your brain.  It's just like the front side!  I really like that when that happens.  Every time I come across a pattern that is reversible, my brain starts talking about cardigans.  For some reason, brain thinks that a reversible cardigan is what I should be knitting.  Well, just so you know, I have already purchased yarn for a cardigan.  Just don't tell my brain.  It will start hounding me to get busy creating the damn sweater.

Anyway, that's it for this installment.  I actually have to go and pluck the skins off of a batch of tomato sauce that came out of the oven whilst I was writing this.  YUMMM....


Monday, September 2, 2013

OMG! It's Almost That Time Again and Me and Ms. Walker

As my profile states, I am a math teacher.  Yes, I am actually one of those people who likes to do math.  I am also one of those people that likes to do math and show seventh graders how to do said math.

Wait....I can hear you from here, "Seventh Graders?!!"  Yes, I know that's what you said.  I can also hear what your brain is asking.  Your brain is asking, "Is he sick?!"  It's okay.  On some days, my brain asks me the same thing.  However, I think that my brain has gotten used to it.  Mostly, because I teach high school students too.

What?  You're confused?  Don't be.

I have one of the best jobs in the world. (Umm, I just heard your brain mention summer vacation.)  However, it's not due to summer break.  I get to teach at a small arts based public school, that has grades 6-12 and it's almost time for me to go back.

Now, most people out there really don't get teachers and why we do what we do.  Hell, I don't understand elementary teachers.  I mean really, who wants to work with little kids who want to hug you all the time.  ICK!  Plus, the little ones cry and barf way to much.  (I just had a little internal shudder thinking about them.)

I am SOOO excited to start school again.  (Umm, I just heard your brain again.)

Maybe I should explain what I call, The Life Cycle of The Teacher.

We teachers have a very dysfunctional work life.  You see, at the beginning of the school year, we all think that we are going to change the world, become a students role model or inspire the next great inventor.  Teachers also get all tingly and moist thinking about all the new lessons that kids are going to LOVE!

Now, this euphoria lasts until about winter break.  It's at this time that teachers become really tired and are at the "I still love you but you've bugged me enough that I'm just tolerating you until I get my two weeks away from you" stage. 

We then come back from winter break a bit more refreshed and teach for a month when we realize that it's just the end of first semester.  "What, I have to teach these kids for another five months!" 

Of course, the other side of the coin is the group of students.  "What, we have to deal with Hunnicutt and his math puns and mean problems for another five months!"

This is the beginning of the end; the downward spiral to the end of the year with teachers and students loathing each other and counting every day until the end of school.

It's at this point that we really can't stand them any longer and we are thrilled to see their backsides as they walk out the door.

As soon as school ends, we generally just sit and stare at the wall for about two weeks and allow our partners to dab the drool off of our chins.  As soon as this semi comatose state ends life starts back up again and we get through summer only to have the entire process start all over again. 

See, we truly are sick people.

Oh and about that summer vacation.  A lot of people seem to think that teachers get paid in the summer.  I'm not sure how that came about but I can tell you that it's not true.  We, like most people in the world, only get paid for the days that we actually work.  I only get paid for the 193 days that I work each year.  What school districts do is prorate your salary over 12 months.  This allows them to hang on to the money longer an earn interest on it. 

If you are still having trouble understanding it, try this.  Take your annual salary, lop off two and a half month's salary and then prorate the final amount over 12 months.  That's what teachers make.

Okay, enough about school.  Let's move on to Knitting!

So, you may remember from my last installment that I had accidentally skipped a few pages of Ms. Walker's book.  Well, I have backtracked and have one of those missed entries here.

For today, we will be looking at page 13.  The three patterns involved are Roman Stitch, Roman Rib Stitch and Ripple Stitch.  Same drill as last time with the yarn and needles; however, I'm running out of the stuff pretty quick.  Fear not though, being a good knitter, I have an awesome stash of left over yarn.

Okay, here is the swatch.  The stitches actually follow the pictures in the book this time; Roman on top, Roman Rib in the middle and Ripple on the bottom.  This isn't blocked at all.  The stitch count remained the same so that you can see how loose or tight the finish fabric is.

Now, I'm just sorta non committal about these three stitches.  They really don't do much for me.

Let's take them one at a time.
Here is Roman Stitch.  I'm really not getting the connection to anything Roman in the design.  Did Caligula wear this while he went crazy or did they drape Caesar's body in a cloth with this motif? I mean really, who comes up with these names.  Okay, confession, I'm not an student of Roman history; so, I may be missing something.  I'm just saying it doesn't make sense to me.  Plus, I have to also confess that I'm not a huge fan of Rome itself.  I'd much rather hang out in Assisi.  Oops, digressing again.

Back to the swatch.  It's a nice little seed stitch thrown into the mix.  I think it might look good on a gansey, maybe at the bottom of a sleeve near the cuff.  Other than that, kinda snoozey.

Okay next up Roman Rib.

Now, this one probably would have benefited from blocking.  (Hmm, maybe I'll start doing before and after blocking pictures.)  The pattern shows up better in the complete swatch picture.  Out of the three, I think this one has the most merit.  I like how each row is offset from the one before it.  It's very subtle and can give the illusion of a spiral or diagonal pattern.  I'm thinking that it would look good in a worsted weight and might actually be an nice overall pattern.

Here is Ripple Stitch.
This was a lesson in gritting your teeth and bearing it to the bitter end.  I really did not like knitting this.  To many different, uneventful things to do on the wrong side.  Plus, it just reminds me too much of a 70s afghan.  Yuck!  I'm sure you agree.

So, I have actually finished the swatch for page 14 but you will have to wait.  I have to get to bed so that I'm in a good space for the first day with my students tomorrow.  Oh, and an added bonus, I'm going to share my roasted, tomato sauce recipe.  YUM.