Friday, December 3, 2010

Despite it all, I'm still knitting

It just occured to me that I haven't posted about knitting in quite a while. Well, even though I've been crazy busy, I'm still making time to knit. I can't really concentrate on anything more complicated than a basic 2x2 ribbed sock, but I'd probably go crazy without it.

I can't give a lot of details about what I've been knitting, because it's been mostly Christmas presents for my family. I decided to knit lots of Christmas presents this year because I know that they'll be appreciated. In fact, one was even specifically requested! :)

It started a few months back with one gift. As I knitted it, I thought about how much I care about that person, and the joy she has brought to my life. Then I realized that if I really commited to it, I could probably knit gifts for lots of people that I care about. It's a bit a of drive to visit my family, so I see them just a handful of times each year. If I could knit something for each of them, they'd have a little reminder that I think of them.

And now it's December and I'm making really great progress. Worst case scenario, I give a few gifts that consist of one lovely sock, and a note stating "IOU one lovely sock." Let's hope it doesn't come to that!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire!

I'm typically a very honest person, with one exception. I shamelessly lie to myself on a constant basis.

I'm about 2 weeks away from finishing classes this semester. I've handled the course load pretty well this semester. My husband has even commented that I'm much more sane than I was last semester. Even though things have been going well, I'm really excited for the semester to end. I keep telling myself that as soon as I'm done with classes for the semester, things will get easier.

But they won't.

I've put off studying for the PE until next semester, when I plan to dedicate several hours each day to studying. This will be a much bigger time commitment than my class work, much more stressful, and have much higher stakes. SIGH...

But after the PE in April, things will get easier.

That's another lie I keep telling myself. That's actually about the time that the construction season will be in the full summer swing. And after that I'll start school again in August.

But after I finish my Master's degree, things will get easier...

Friday, October 15, 2010

Midterm Madness

I recently completed my midterm exams for both of this semester's classes. That means it will be all downhill from here! I feel like I'm handling the course load pretty well. It's been far less stressful than last semester. Which brings me to my next dilemma... What the heck should I do next semester?? I suppose my options include 2 classes, 1 class, or no classes.

2 classes - I can start by ruling this one out. The aforementioned PE Exam makes that impossible. Even I have limits.

1 class - This is the option that I feel myself wanting to choose. I like making progress. I like knowing that every semester I'm stepping closer toward the finish line. I've already promised my own mind that I'll graduate in May 2013. But I also know that the PE Exam is critically important, and I don't want to jeopardize my chances for success on this exam.

No classes - This is the most responsible choice. I could devote my efforts toward studying for the PE without the added burden of more coursework. I've already checked with my advisor, and he doesn't think it would be a problem to put things on hold for a semester.

I suppose now that I've written it out, my decision seems obvious. There is no point in stretching myself beyond my limits just because of my own hesitation to take a break. I could always "double up" in some future semester to make up for it, and still meet my anticipated graduation date. I've got to focus on the PE in the spring, and then I can get back to this Master's degree business next fall.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Not gonna lie, this thing scares me...

I knew I would have to face it someday, but I still can’t believe it’s actually here. This week I’ve just started to wrap my mind around the fact that I’ll be taking the PE exam this upcoming April. For those who may not know, the PE exam is a huge deal. You have to pass this exam in order to become a licensed Professional Engineer. For civil engineering, only a licensed Professional Engineer has the ability to design structures for public use.


Once upon a time, there weren’t really any qualifications necessary to design buildings. As long as it had four walls and a roof, people figured everything was ok. But after a few disasters, things obviously had to change. Now there is a very rigorous process to become licensed. First, you have to get a Bachelor’s degree in engineering. Then you have to pass the FE exam. It’s an 8-hour long exam designed to test you on everything you learned in college. Then you have to get a job and actually start doing some engineering work. But since you aren’t a licensed PE yet, you have to have someone who is licensed review everything you do for the next 4 years. After you get 4 years of legitimate engineering experience under the supervision of a licensed PE, you can apply to take the PE exam. The PE exam is another 8-hour long exam. If you pass the PE, then you are considered a licensed Professional Engineer, and considered qualified to design buildings, roads, bridges, and whatnot. If you fail it, then you apparently suck at being an engineer and have to either try again or give up all hope of ever doing your own designs.


I recently ordered a review book to help me prepare for the PE exam. The book is 1,456 pages long and weighs over 6 pounds! The author recommends that you spend at least 300 hours studying for the exam. April 8, 2011 is just 195 days away, so I should try to average at least 90 minutes of studying every single day for the next six months. I guess I’d better get cracking!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Back to School

It's that time of year again. Fair warning - I might have to go MIA from the blog again. I'm working a lot after a coworker left this summer, and now I'm taking 6 credits during the fall semester. I'm not complaining (yet). I'm just forseeing some busy months ahead.

Monday, August 16, 2010


I've got results to share! I'm completely overwhelmed by the ribbons I was awarded.

Division 55 - Crochet Class 90 - Sweater
Northern Dreams Pullover - Fourth
Division 55 - Crochet Class 92 - Fashion Accessory

City Girl Cap - Second

Division 55 - Crochet Class 95 - Toy
Hep Cat - Second
Division 55 - Crochet Class 96 - Ornaments (set of three)
Triple Crochet Snowflake
My Favorite Snowflake
and Northern Snowflake - Second
Division 56 - Hand Knitting Class 101 - Baby Sweater or Dress

Another Striped Baby Sweater - First

Division 56 - Hand Knitting Class 114 - Lace, any item
Red Hot Mountain - Fourth
Division 56 - Hand Knitting Class 115 - Socks/Slippers (one color)
Monkey Socks - Fourth

Division 56 - Hand Knitting Class 120 - Cap or hat (two or more colors)

Olympic Junkie Hat - First

Division 56 - Hand Knitting Class 121 - Scarf
Drop Stitch Scarf - Honorable Mention

I also got to see some really stunning pieces in the Fabric and Threads department and I'm so glad that I decided to participate this year. In fact, I'm already planning some projects for next year!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


Tonight is the Fabric and Threads exhibit preview at the Iowa State Fair. This means that I'll find out whether I received any awards on my entries. I'm excited to find out the results, but I'll admit this doesn't feel much like a typical competition to me.

I've always been a competitive person. Growing up I used to participate in tae kwon do tournaments. I placed pretty high expectations on myself at those tournaments, and typically did pretty well. Now I just have to figure out what I should do with those damned trophies.

My job is also extremely competitive. We constantly have to bid against other companies for contracts. We win some, we lose some, but the competition is constantly there.

The Iowa State Fair doesn't feel like that at all. I feel like Iowa's knitters are all cooperating to put on a show. I would certainly feel honored if I'm awarded anything, but I'm mostly interested in viewing the collected efforts of my community of artists. (And hoping that we put on a better show than the quilters!!!)

Saturday, July 31, 2010

No Turning Back Now

I just dropped off everything for the Iowa State Fair. I submitted everything that I mentioned in my previous post. Plus these three:

Division 55 - Crochet

Class 92 - Fashion Accessory
City Girl Cap

Division 56 - Hand Knitting

Class 101 - Baby Sweater or Dress

Class 120 - Cap or hat (two or more colors)
Olympic Junkie Hat (sorry, I forgot to photograph this one before I took it)

I really don't think either of these hats will win anything, but it never hurts to try!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

State Fair Bound

The deadline for state fair entries is quickly approaching. I've decided to make the most of my entry fee and try to find ten items worthy of entry. I'm not quite there yet, but I'm trying!

Here are the projects I've decided on so far. (Disclaimer: I reserve the right to edit these decisions multiple times before July 31st.)

I'm including Ravelry links, so if you aren't on ravelry yet, you either don't knit/crochet and therefore probably don't really care what I'm entering in the fair, or you do knit/crochet and you really need to get with the program!

Division 55 - Crochet

Class 90 - Sweater
Northern Dreams Pullover

Class 95 - Toy
Hep Cat

Class 96 - Ornaments (set of three)
Triple Crochet Snowflake
My Favorite Snowflake
Northern Snowflake

Division 56 - Hand Knitting

Class 114 - Lace, any item
Red Hot Mountain

Class 115 - Socks/Slippers (one color)
Monkey Socks

Class 121 - Scarf
Drop Stitch Scarf

Class 123 - Shawl (lace)
Zauberball Ishbel

I've got to come up with a few more items to reach my goal of ten. There are some that I have in mind, but I'm not quite sure what I'll choose yet. I want to help the knitting and crochet divisions make a strong showing at the fair. These arts are alive and well here in Iowa and I hope that people come visit the exhibits. We'll be on the second floor of the Varied Industries building. Maybe I'll see you there!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Our State Fair

There are some Iowans who can instantly tell you how many days are left until the start of the state fair. They are the type of people who can already smell the corndogs as soon as the snow begins to melt. I am not one of those people.

Despite the fact that Iowa may have the greatest state fair in the world (just ask Rogers and Hammerstein) I think I've only been there once in my life. I have vague memories of it from my childhood. I don't remember the animals, the exhibits, the food, or the three-hour drive to Des Moines. All I can remember is sitting on a burlap sack and flying down a giant, brightly colored slide. That might have even been some other fair.

Anyhow, my husband and I have been proud residents of Des Moines for three and a half years now. Every summer we have said that we need to make a point to attend the fair, but every summer we've found some excuse not to go. You see, as much as I might enjoy the fair, I really hate mid-August heat and massive crowds. And every time I picture us going to the fair, I see nothing but mid-August heat and massive crowds. Yuck.

But this year I've decided to get past it. I want to go to the fair. I want to see why people make such a big deal about the corn dogs. I want to "people watch" on the Midway. I want to see if that giant burlap sack slide is still there (if it ever was). I want to see the knitted and crocheted items that Iowans put on display. And I want to enter some of my handcrafted items to be judged in the fair. (I'll let you know what I've decided to enter in a later post.)

I probaby won't ever love the fair as much as some people, and I may even hate it so much that I never want to go again, but I won't really know until I just go.

Monday, June 7, 2010

My Two Jobs

Ok, so I don't actually have two jobs. But it sure feels like it sometimes. Sometimes I go to work here. I spend time doing things like writing proposals and reports, calculating laboratory test results, making phone calls, etc. Yes, that is a cooler in front of my desk, and no, it's not full of cold beverages. A couple of times a month I have to pack water samples into a cooler and ship them off to a chemistry lab. It's much easier to just leave a cooler sitting in my office than to figure out where I should store it.

Other days, I work at places like this one. Another aspect of my job involves visiting construction sites to confirm that projects are being built the way they should be. I spend my time doing some field observations, performing tests, and getting into (fortunately rare) heated discussions with contractors.

It's fun to work in a variety of different environments, and I don't always know what I'll be doing on any given day. It's also gives me an opportunity to physically see a project take shape. I can take the information that we gather in the field, design a foundation, watch the foundation be built, then see the rest of the building stack up on top of it. It's pretty cool stuff.

Friday, May 28, 2010

If you give an engineer a garden...

It will probably look something like this!

Well, perhaps not always. But if that engineer happens to be my husband, then that's what you get. Before Greg and I take all of the credit for this masterpiece, I must direct you to Mel Bartholomew's books on square foot gardening. Mel is a civil engineer who developed this efficient method of gardening in grids rather than rows. You are supposedly able to grow lots of food while conserving space, water, and labor. We'll have to see how things turn out, but so far it sure looks pretty.

The basic idea is that you build 4-foot by 4-foot raised beds (we have 6 of them) and then divide each bed into 16 square feet. Then you plant an appropriate number of plants in each square foot, depending on the spacing needs of each plant. In this photo you can see some broccoli with one plant in each square, some green beans with 4 plants in each square, and some carrots with 16 plants in each square.

Want more details? Go here.

We've harvested some spinach and radishes so far. The rest of our plants seem to be making progress as well. I'll let you know how it goes!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010


Hello friends! I'm back. First I must confess. I actually thought I was exaggerating a bit when I said I may not be posting again until May. Well, it's late May already and I have no idea where the time has gone.

Last year I made the decision to pursue a Master's degree while staying on at my full-time job. A Master's degree has been an inevitable step in my career path for a while, and I finally decided to get it over with. All of my colleagues have one, and I assured my boss that it was part of my plan when I hired on 3 years ago.

So I took one class last fall, and started my way down the road toward a Master's of Engineering in Geotechnics. I'll admit that I've been trudging down that road and not exactly enjoying the journey. Sure, I've celebrated some accomplishments, and learned some new (questionably useful) things in my chosen field. When it's done I know that I'll have an even bigger sense of accomplishment. And I'll have earned a great deal of respect from the people I work with. Those things make me feel like a bit of sacrifice now will pay off later. Someday I'll look back and laugh at how reluctant I was to do something good for myself.

I spent the past semester devoting a ton of time to making it through two classes toward my Master's degree. It was a struggle, but now I'm finished for the summer. I wound up with good grades in both classes. By burdening myself with two classes at once, I shaved a full six months off of my expected graduation date. All in all, I think it was worth it.

In fact, I'm currently signed up to take two classes again in the fall, even though I've said that I would never do it again. I'll probably complain about the workload, again. My husband will remind me that it was my choice to do this, again. I probably won't have much time for blogging, again. But when December rolls around, I'll probably feel like it was all worth it, again. Because at that point I'll be 15 credits into my Master's program. Halfway there! And the road will be downhill the rest of the way.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Hanging in there...

As my lack of blog-posting suggests, I have been swamped lately. Even though work has been pretty slow, I've been putting in a lot of hours in an attempt to make us not-so-slow. Plus I'm taking 6 credits of online classes this semester. Perhaps I'll get a chance to post again in May...