Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Mittens '08

Mittens, knitted here and there in between other projects all summer long. On their way to the Cheyenne River Youth Project.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Snowman Mittens Pattern

These mittens are quick to make, and the smaller size only needs one 50-gram ball of worsted weight yarn. The design uses simple cable stitches and is charted in the directions. Enjoy!

Download a .pdf of the pattern here

Friday, June 27, 2008

Summer Vacation

Out of the frying pan, into the fire, so to speak. School ended, company came, the graduate graduated, the company left and I was right back at school, since somewhere along the way I agreed to tutor students who did not pass the state-mandated exit exam.

It's been an learning experience.

I have a group of about 25 students, from which about 10 show up on any given day. Some are dedicated. One young lady even brought her two young babysitting charges with her one day so she wouldn't miss the 2-hour tutoring session. The children, roughly age 8, sat quietly in the hall and waited and I felt terrible because I didn't even have any crayons to offer them. The dedicated ones are "getting it", this time around.

Then there are those who see the tutoring sessions as 2-hour time blocks in which to text-message their friends. They are not "getting it".

Sweaters and socks for CIC have been accumulating in a box since mid-April. In the record-setting Texas June weather, it's hard to imagine wearing all that wool...

Sunday, June 01, 2008

By the Numbers

36 (+1 for finals that I hadn't figured in up front) down. Zero to go. The first year is over.

Some numbers for the records:

140 - Number of students on my roster on the first day of school.
156- Number of students who were on my roster at some point in the year.
120 - Number of students on my roster by the end of school.

1 - Number of physics students who dropped the class.

6 - Classes assigned to me.

3 - "Preps", or unique classes assigned to me.

4 - Number of Physics students who went the entire year without ever turning in a homework assignment

4 - Number of Physics students who failed the class

3 - Number of Physics students who failed the class by fewer than 10 points (Note to the wise: Homework counts for 10% of the grade)

90 - Percentage of Physics students who said "Homework" was their least favorite part of class
95 - Percentage of physics students whose advice to next year's class would be "Do the homework"

1 - Number of blank notecards allowed to fill with formulas to use during tests.
1.8 - Average number of "new" notecards required per student.
13 - Maximum number of "new" notecards requested by a single student. That would be...one for each of 12 tests, and one for the final.

70 - Number of "2 for a dollar" lab notebooks purchased at the beginning of the year
6 - Number of lab notebooks still in the box at end of year

250 - number of short, eraserless "golf pencils" taken from the spare pencil cup
Innumerable - number of complaints that "These pencils don't have an eraser!"
Equal to above - Number of times I said "Too bad. Next time, bring your own pencil"

1 - Number of "feature movies" shown during class time. ("October Sky")
Large - Number of students who suddenly developed an interest in model rocketry.
10 - Number of model rockets launched at least once
18 - Number of rocket engines used
4 - Number of model rockets sacrificed to the education gods and to the delight of students

Unknown - Number of marbles and bouncy balls which disappeared over the course of the year

96 - Percentage of my Junior students who passed the exit level state science test

12 - Number of seniors in all my classes combined

12 - Number of those seniors who graduated this week

They are a varied and fascinating group, these seniors. Nearly half speak English as their second language. There's a talented musician and a phenomenal photographer and an impressive dancer. Two of them graduated in three years. Two have signed on with the military. Some are going to college, one hopes to be an architect. Others are already a part of the work force.


Thanks for your hard work, the laughter and for your patience with the novice teacher.

The numbers are all in your favor, now. Make the best of them.

I couldn't be prouder of you if you were my own.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Waffles #9 - Pattern available for download

A pdf of the pattern can be downloaded here.

Intended for personal and charity use.

For free distribution only.

I Love my Students...

Sometimes they play RIGHT into your hands...

Brenna is a dance team star, cute, bubbly, and so BLONDE it's not even funny. No offense intended to anyone blonde, but the term is commonplace and gets the point across...

She's struggled all year to maintain 70-73 grades so she stays eligible for the dance team. She's a busy, busy, busy young lady, and Physics just isn't at the top of her priority list.

However, this final 6 weeks, dance is winding down and somehow, circuits and electricity have caught her attention. Three-week progress reports were just mailed, and she came to class yesterday practically screaming. "Mrs. G!!! Do you KNOW what my progress report said??? 95! Ninety-five!!!"

I said that yes, I did know that, and congratulated her.

Then...I wish I had this on tape. She turned around to the rest of the class and said...







"Just SEE what happens when you do all your homework?!?!?"

Friday, May 02, 2008

Waffles #8 - All Done!

And here's the finished product.

If you have a picture to share, please post a comment with a link, and thanks for playing along!

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Waffles #7 - Sleeves

Sweater so far:

Pick up 54 stitches around the armhole opening.

The stitches should be arranged as follows: 2 stitches over cast-off stitches at underarm, 26 stitches to shoulder, 26 stitches back to underarm.

Sleeves are worked in the round, with no underarm seam.

Begin work in pattern stitch at the 2 underarm stitches. The two underarm stitches will be "purl 2" of the pattern and a "knit 4" rib will be centered at the top of the shoulder.

On the first round, P1, place marker, continue to end of round. The marker is at the center of the underarm.

Work pattern stitch for 5 more rounds.

Begin sleeve decreases on next round Decrease one stitch on each side of marker, every third round.

In other words, decrease 2 stitches at underarm every 3 rows, 12 times. (30 stitches remain).

(Hint: I found it easiest to keep those two underarm stitches as "purls"...one on each side of the marker, adjusting the next stitch away from the marker as the pattern gets decreased away)

Continue to work even in pattern stitch until 7 complete pattern repeats have been worked (7 purl ridges), ending with row 6.

Change to smaller needles and work 6 rounds in P2, K4 ribbing.

Bind off all stitches.

Work second sleeve to correspond to first.

Weave in all yarn ends.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Waffles #6 - Collar

From the last set of instructions: Sweater is inside out, ready for 3-needle bindoff at right shoulder.

Left upper front is removed from holder and ready to be worked. Yarn is joined at neckline.

34 neckline stitches picked up, ready to work collar.


Knit 3 rows even.

Increase row: Increase 3 stitches, evenly spaced. In other words, increase one stitch at each shoulder and one stitch at the center back.

Repeat these 4 rows twice more. 43 stitches total.

Knit two rows even.

Bind off all stitches.

Take a moment right now to search out a tapestry needle and weave in all of the yarn ends so far. You'll feel so efficient and when the sleeves are done, the sweater will be DONE.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

End of an Era

In 1997 we moved a reluctant 7th grader 90 miles north to a new life, new district, new school. Elizabeth had already made quite a name for herself in the music, math and science programs at her previous schools and we were anxious to get her involved in something similar as soon as possible. Without much idea of what we were getting into, we encouraged her to try out for a spot on the middle school Science Olympiad team.

Unknowingly, we had stumbled on to one of the finest middle school teams in the state. Within 6 years, they qualified for National competition 5 times. Parental help was an expectation, and Dave and I discovered niches we hadn't looked for, but came to love, as "parent coaches". Dave coached winning teams of bridge builders, tower constructors and model airplane pilots. I quickly garnered a reputation as a very versatile coach, working with helium balloon lofts, graph and chart events, metric measurement and estimation, climate, oceanography, physics, chemistry. There's no question in my mind that the coaching helped me last year when I attempted teaching certification in "Composite Sciences" for the state of Texas...I'd been reviewing for years!

As our children grew, each one earned a place on the middle school team, then advanced to the high school level. We learned to work around after-school practices, Saturday reviews and the weekend tournaments each year; Regional Qualifiers, then in late April, the State event. The school teams were excellent, each year the competition became more intense, the honor of reaching the State level more satisfying.

And each year, the family collection of medals grew.

Elizabeth stood out in middle school for her computer skills. Before the days of "Google", she was an expert (and State Champion) at combining keyboard and language in internet searches. We watched her friends grow up, graduate and move on, and last year, one of my early coaching proteges ended up working with Dave in the professional engineering world. We watched in awe as her team captured the first State championship of several we were to experience and wished her team well as they went off to the University of Chicago.

In the following years, at least one child would participate in National Competitions in Colorado, Delaware and Pennsylvania. They learned the finer points of group dynamics, tour buses, shared hotel rooms and time schedules. As parent/coaches, one or both of us went along on most of these trips. We were honored to be a part of "that Texas team" with its signature black cowboy hats, neat tucked-in logo shirts and blue jeans.

And the medals kept on coming home.

When Alex was in middle school, a last minute event change meant that he'd be competing in an event he'd never studied for. In what I consider one of my finest moments of parenting, I drew on what I remembered from long-ago chemistry classes and coached him for just 3 days in "Polymer Science". He represented his school alone, without an event partner, and placed first in the state competition. Never mind the parenting...the child was willing and capable. The honor was his. At the high school level, he earned a reputation as a meticulous detail man in balsa wood construction. He, his event partner and Dave spent many afternoons fine-tuning wings and propellers and occasionally watching a competition-worthy plane fly directly into a gymnasium basketball hoop.

Two years behind, Isaac observed and absorbed the knowledge. His forte has always been memory/recall and he quickly earned the respect of students, teachers and coaches in a variety of "academic events". Oceans. Glaciers. Insects. Water chemistry. Ecology. One year at the State level, he had the distinction of medaling in 3 out of his 4 events.

I have great respect for the teachers who orchestrate the practices and the paperwork to make this event what it is. I'm proud to count several of our children's teacher/coaches as my mentors as I begin my own teaching career. In a world where the headlines include teenagers who seek to break down and destroy, it has been an honor to work closely with some of those who search for excellence and aren't afraid of the hard work necessary to achieve it.

In Texas, the competition has become fierce. More and more schools participate, and there are more levels to the competition...not just anyone can go to "State". A few years ago, Regional qualifying tournaments were introduced, and the State competition was capped at 30 teams. A school team that advances to the State level has every right to be proud of the accomplishment. Regional competitions allow more local participation, and I'm always happy to hear the name of a "new" participating school. Best of luck to them...I hope they'll be back next year, and the next, and the next.

This weekend was the 2008 Science Olympiad Texas State Tournament, and late last night, 4 weeks away from high school graduation, Isaac arrived home triumphantly displaying his final medal in the Science Olympiad. Second place silver in "Environmental Chemistry". A brilliant finish to something that has bound our family together for 10 years. It's truly the end of an era.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Waffles #5 - Upper Front / Neckline

Sweater so far. Left front stitches are on waste yarn and right front is ready to be worked.

The crossed stitches at the center front will provide reinforcement at the bottom of the neck opening.


Work back and forth for 10 rows, keeping pattern as established and ending at the shoulder edge. Break yarn, leaving about 4 feet.

Use your preferred method to attach the shoulder stitches to each other. Either use a Kitchener Stitch from the "right side" to graft 12 front and 12 back shoulder stitches together, or turn the sweater wrong side out and use a 3-needle bind off from the "wrong side". Keep the last stitch "live, and place it on a stitch holder along with the 8 neck-edge stitches.

(Hint: do not fasten off the yarn used to graft or bind off the shoulder seam. Leave 6-8 inches of yarn; you can use this tail later to draw up any slight "holes" at the shoulder after working the collar).


Take left front stitches off holder. Join yarn at center front. The wrong side of the sweater should be facing you. Beginning with pattern row 3 (and keeping neck edge section in garter stitch), work back and forth for 10 rows, ending at neck edge. Do not break yarn!

Place back left shoulder stitches on a double-point needle and use reserved yarn at shoulder to graft shoulder seam (from right side of sweater) or work a 3-needle bind off (from wrong side of sweater). Again, leave the last stitch "live" and place it on the circular needle next to left front neck stitches. Again, break shoulder seam yarn, leaving a tail for later.

Pick up the yarn at center front and with wrong side of sweater facing you, knit across 8 front neck stitches, 1 shoulder seam stitch, 16 back neck stitches, 1 shoulder seam stitch and 8 right front stitches.

34 stitches total.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Waffles #4 - Front to Neckline

Upper back with stitches divided for shoulder, back neck, shoulder. Yarn is saved at left shoulder for grafting shoulder later.

Yarn is joined at right underarm. The first row worked on the section will be a "wrong side" row.

You will begin the pattern stitch with row 5. Work back and forth for 11 rows, ending with pattern row 3.

With right side of front facing you, work 12 stitches in pattern, place marker, K 16 stitches, place marker, work 12 stitches in pattern.

Keeping the side panels in pattern stitch and the center panel in garter stitch (K every row), work 9 rows.

With right side facing you, work 12 stitches in pattern, slip marker, K 7, cross the next two stitches, K7, slip marker, work in pattern to end of row.

(To cross stitches, remove the first stitch from the left hand needle, hold that stitch at front of work, knit the next stitch, replace the first stitch on the left hand needle and knit it. You have made a mini "cable twist").

Place the first 20 stitches on waste yarn or a stitch holder. These will be worked as the left upper front later. Work will continue on the remaining 20 stitches to form the right upper front.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Waffles #3 - Upper Back

Body worked to front/back dividing round:

Body after front/back dividing round: yarn is at the left underarm of sweater. "Wrong side" of back is facing you and you are ready to start working "back and forth" on back section.

Work back-and-forth across these 40 stitches for 32 more rows, ending with row 6 of pattern, and with yarn at left shoulder. Break yarn, leaving about 4 feet of yarn. This yarn will be used later to graft the shoulder seam.

NOTE! Remember to reverse the pattern stitches when working "wrong side" rows - knits become purls and purls become knits when the wrong side is facing you.

Place back stitches on stitch holders or waste yarn as follows: 12 stitches (shoulder), 16 stitches (back neck), 12 stitches (shoulder).

Turn work so wrong side of front is facing you and join yarn at the right underarm.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Waffles #2 - Main Body

Here's where we stopped:

Continue in pattern stitch for 27 more rounds, ending with row 3.

You should have a total of 6 purled "ridges" and be at your beginning-of-round marker. This is the left underarm of the finished sweater.

Bind off two stitches, work across next 40 stitches in pattern as established. Place these 40 stitches on waste yarn or on a spare double point needle. They will be used later for the front of the sweater.

Bind off two stitches (right underarm) and work across the remaining 40 stitches, keeping pattern as established.

NOTE - To center the pattern on the top of the sweater, the two bound-off stitches at each underarm should be the "Purl 2" stitches of the pattern. Both 40-stitch sections, front and back, should begin and end with the "Knit 4" stitches of the pattern.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Waffles #1 - Getting Started

Begin at bottom of sweater body.

Using 24-inch circular needle, CO 84 stitches. Join, being careful not to twist stitches.

Place marker to mark beginning of round.

Work in P2, K4 ribbing for 7 rounds.

Begin pattern stitch, work through 6 rows of pattern (13 rounds completed).

Solid dot - P on right side, K on wrong side
Open space - K on right side, P on wrong side

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Pattern stitch, for those who prefer not to use charts:
(Worked in the round over a multiple of 6 stitches)

Rounds 1 and 2: Purl 2, Knit 4
Round 3: Purl all stitches
Rounds 4, 5 and 6: Purl 2, Knit 4

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Putting the "Mock" in "Mockingbird"

You can't see it.

No, you can't, but Pandora can.

One of Texas' finest, the State Bird, is out there just on the other side of that window.

It comes every morning and drives that cat mad.

"Bird Brain"? Not that one...

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

"Waffles For Brunch" Sweater Instructions Coming Saturday

Beginning Saturday, April 19, I will begin posting the instructions for the Waffle sweater in a "Knitalong" format, a section every other day or so.

For now, here's the materials list:

(Sweater is about a 3/4 Toddler size - intended for charity knitting where "every sweater will fit some child")

Gauge: 3 stitches = 1 inch and 4 rows = 1 inch

About 400 yards bulky weight yarn (I used Lamb's Pride Bulky by Brown Sheep Company for the red sweater pictured in a previous post. The sweater that will be pictured in the Knitalong is made from Reynold's Lopi)

Needles to get gauge (I used US size 11)
24-inch circular
Short circular or double points in same size for knitting sleeves in the round
Double point needles one size smaller than main needles for working sleeve cuffs

A couple of stitch markers

Waste yarn, an extra circular needle or stitch holders

Monday, March 24, 2008

Waffles for Brunch Sweater

The red sweater is going in the mail to Children in Common today, and I'm sort of sorry to see it leave. It doesn't fit anyone here, for sure, so there's no reason for it to stay, but it's full of memories of a wonderful weekend in Boston.

Over my Spring Break, I visited daughter Elizabeth and for three days, we did fun things. We watched movies, went out for coffee and took a field trip into central Massachusetts to WEBS where we spent a fine four hours petting the merchandise. We restrained ourselves to just one medium sized shopping bag each, and since Elizabeth was driving, I cast on the red sweater on the way home.

I finished the body by bedtime and must have planned the neckline and collar in my sleep. Saturday morning, I was honored to join Elizabeth's "Knitting Brunch" friends for waffles, coffee, more coffee and great conversation. The first sleeve was finished as the gathering began to disperse and nothing would do but that the second sleeve was finished before supper time.

I wish the child who wears it warmth, love, laughter...and maybe a waffle for brunch.

(Pattern is in the works...will post when finished)

Tuesday, March 18, 2008


So, I've been working on the Raspberry Parfait raglan for several weeks, on and off, since it doesn't lend itself to transporting places. I finished it yesterday, blocked it last night, and decided to get artsy with the photography. Just about the time the wind came up.

Yes, Northerners, the grass in the front yard really IS that green.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Spring Break

Twenty-seven down. Nine to go. Nine. Where has the year gone? The past week has been a case of "just hanging on", but suddenly it was 12:30, the "early release" day was over, the students were gone and the teachers were out the door about 20 minutes behind them. This is a stange but wonderful profession, that which gives me a week-and-a-day-and-a-half break just when it seems to be needed most.

Sometimes I feel like I'm being pretty effective in the classroom. Then there are the other times. Times like this week when I graded an essay on "Newton's Laws of Emotion" and read through a test answer about Millikan's "Oil Spill Experiment" (it's supposed to be an oil drop...). Despite what I thought were fairly clear lecture notes, I still have at least one student who believes that the standard unit of capacitance is the "ferret". OK, then. Maybe not so effective sometimes, after all.

The sweater has been in progress for the past week; a super-quick knit from bulky alpaca yarn. I found the yarn on clearance, and naturally couldn't resist the U-Texas burnt orange. The pattern is from charity knitter Marguerite and there are a lot of things to like about it. It's quick, with minimal finishing. The pattern is predictable; once it's started, it just keeps on going. Twenty to thirty minutes here and there and the fast progress encourages one to keep on knitting. Hopefully some child will be a little warmer next winter.

Enough about the sweater. Now, check out the daffodil.

No one warned me how much I'd become involved in the lives of 140 new people.

Last fall, one of my students asked me if I'd like to buy some flower bulbs as a fund raiser. Now, I have about 5 chances per day to buy something to support something, and for the most part, I decline. There's no way I can support every softball player with a t-shirt and every choir member with a dinner ticket and every sophomore class member with a candy bar. Mostly, I politely refuse, but for some reason, the bulbs caught my attention, partly because of who was doing the selling.

"Sara" is a junior this year, taking standard junior Physics. She's a tiny person, maybe 80 pounds, and appears much shorter than her actual height because of various skeletal and muscular deformities. She's dealt with more health issues in her 16 years than most of us will deal with in a lifetime, but she's positive, pleasant and has a wicked sense of humor. By some quirk of fate, one of her best friends and usual lab partner is the Amazonian star of the women's track and basketball programs. The unlikely pair works very, very hard for their mid-B physics grades. Students like these make teaching rewarding.

And Sara was offering me bulbs to plant.

Would they even grow in central Texas? I love bulb plants, but I'd always associated them with other climates where there is a long, cold winter. I hadn't even thought about them here where we MIGHT hit freezing for a couple of days in February, but Sara assured me that these bulbs were guaranteed. Well, sure, then. I'd take some.

A few weeks later, my mesh bags of rather unlikely looking bulbs were dutifully delivered to school, I took them home, moved them around the garage entry for a month or so, and just before Christmas, in a fit of holiday housecleaning, I took them outside, dug a few quick holes in a particularly bleak section of dirt in the front garden, stuffed in the bulbs and promptly forgot about them.

Last week, Sara came to talk to me before school. She needed to plan out most of the rest of the semester. It seems that her spinal curvature has progressed to the point where her ribs are jabbing her heart and lungs. She needs a medical consultation in another part of the state. She'll be having surgery soon and will be studying from home for some time.

Sara, guess what? Your bulbs not only grew despite my skepticism - just today they started blooming.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Just in Case You Wondered

It is illegal to use a crossbow to shoot opossums within the city limits of Austin.

Now you know.

Just don't do it.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

For Alicia

OK, it's not for Alicia.  It's for Alicia's baby, born about a month ago.

Alicia's in the same teacher training cohort I'm in.  She's doing everything I'm doing, and somehow managed to fit in "have a baby" on the side.  

Alicia teaches math - I hope she likes the right angles!

Friday, January 25, 2008

Blind Ambition

I had an interesting chat with one of my sophomore students yesterday.

It seems that she can't WAIT to be a Senior, so she can take those great Senior math classes.

Since this is not a student for whom math comes easily, I was curious. "Really? Which classes did you mean?"

"Oh, you know. Calculator and Pre-Calculator".

Thursday, January 17, 2008


Half way. I can hardly believe it.
18 down. 18 to go.

My physics classes are studying rotational motion. Some of my students think I have made this up, personally, just to torture them...

Today, we had a "moment of inertia roll-off competition".

Students were told to bring "something round". Their only instructions were that it was supposed to roll in a straight line and that they had to be able to carry it into class in one hand (no tractor tires allowed). We set up tables as ramps, put up a tournament bracket spreadsheet on the computer projector and we were...ahem...off to the races.

We had the candle and the marble.

We had the pencil and the tennis ball

There was the highly competitive golf ball and oil-and-water-in-a-bottle

But nothing in my teacher training courses had prepared me for...













The Sausage.