All posts by Sarah Shoo

Shenanigans Ahead

@thefatsqrrl The #shenanigans are this way! I'm taking @prairiegirlsusie's Ozukuri on an adventure tonight.I’m not usually one to look back. I prefer to look ahead and consider what’s next, but for whatever reason, this year, I’m feeling very introspective. As I’m typing this up, I’m looking back through my Flickr and Instagram photos and rediscovering all of the fun I had in 2015. Much of it was with my family… #hellossk15 My name is Sarah, and this is me and my mom @grammylynne. Conveniently our annual trip to Nashville has once again hit on SSK weekend ????. We won't be attending the retreat, but we will be visiting the market. And I'
Dashing through the stash at the farmers market. #stashdash2015 #havesockswilltravelBoth of had stash enhancement at #yarncon. G went a little crazy @sunvalleyfibers. #graysongram

And nearly all of it involved knitting.

I don’t think I realized when I began knitting how much of a part of my life it would become or the friends I would meet because of it.
Best. Fiber. Weekend. Ever. #IowaSheepandWool #DesMoinesPride
But knitting has become the constant in my life. Next to family and friends who are like family, it gives me the most comfort when I’m facing a difficult decision and the most joy when I need it. Looking back over my projects for 2015, I realize I didn’t knit nearly as much as I have in years past, despite working parttime. There were many times I remember simply sitting on the couch holding my yarn. Staring at my needles.

2015 was a year of fun, but also a year of flux. I moved away from places I was comfortable with, and I began new endeavors. Some felt great, and some I was terrified to take the leap. I’ve doubted myself a lot in 2015. I’ve fished for peptalks from my husband and my friends. I’ve stood, staring in the mirror, questioning myself and talking myself up. I’ve avoided situations that make me uncomfortable or anxious.

But looking through all those photos and remembering the fun I had also reminded me that when I took the leap, when I faked confidence until it was real, I had fun. A lot of it. I felt joy. So, my word for 2016 is confidence. I will be strong and confident. And if I’m not feeling that way, then I’ll fake it until it becomes real.

A girl should be two things: classy and fabulous.

When I started knitting my first shawl, I wondered why in the world I was doing it. Now here I am ten or so shawls later and wearing one nearly every day when it’s chilly out.
The first shawl I knit was huge, 1000 or so yards. While I love it, and it is so cozy and warm, I don’t wear it very often because it isn’t as practical as some of my later shawls. Although I do love to snuggle up in it when I’m reading or watching television in my chair.

Calming Waters

As I became more skilled at knitting and realized I enjoyed knitting shawls, I started to consider how exactly to wear my shawls, and I began to really think about what I was knitting instead of being dazzled by the yarn. I really love shawls for their warmth and for their ability to pull together an outfit. I tend to be a warmer person, so I like that I can throw on a shawl on a chilly day, and while it takes off the chill, I don’t get overheated like I would in a sweater or jacket. I also feel like I’m actually dressed, even in a t-shirt and jeans, if I wear some sort of neck wear. My students would frequently comment on how cute an outfit was because of the shawl I wore with it. (And if teenager girls compliment you, you know you’re doing something right.)

Elk Tooth

I frequently see people ask on Ravelry how to wear shawls, and I found myself doing the same thing. Finally, I grabbed several of my own shawls in several different shapes and just starting futzing in front of the mirror. In doing so, I definitely figured out my preferred method of wearing shawls and also my preferred shawl shape, not that I don’t deviate from that, but it has to be an amazing pattern.

Because I’m a shawl-lover and wish I could convince the world that these are the accessory to wear, I grabbed my resident photog (Chris) and two different shawl shapes and did a photo shoot to model different ways I wear a shawl.

All stretched out

I find crescent shapes a little more difficult to wear, as I sometimes feel like they look like a bib when worn around the neck. I tend to wear them off to one side or the other.

More formal

Sometimes that gets too warm, so I just drape it over my shoulders; in fact, this is how I wore it at knit night on Tuesday. The AC was on in Panera, so there was a little chill; I just draped this guy over my shoulders, and I could knit and talk with my hands and not freeze.

Just hanging there

The great thing about longer, shallower shawls is that you could wrap them over your head and around your neck if you forget a hat. My husband thought I was crazy when I did this last night, but there have been some windy winter days where I needed something on my head.

Head Scarf

Triangle-ish shawls are typically my favorite shape. They just seem to be easier for me to wear.

All stretched out

I’ve seen people wear them tied around in back so the shawl almost looks like a shrug in front, but while this looks cute in front, on me, the back looks lumpy. Other people pull off this look, and it makes me jealous. I’m afraid the problem is my body, not the shawl.


If someone has the secret to making this work, please let me know!! (And I made this picture small intentionally; no one needs to see this one in large-size.)

Tied in Back

This is a more traditional way to wear a shawl. I know some people think it looks granny-ish, but if the shawl style or colors are modern enough, I don’t see a problem. (Disclaimer: I am not the pinnacle of style.)

Tied in Front
More Traditional

My personal favorite way to wear a shawl is kerchief-style. It’s really easy, just a little wrap and twist, and really low-maintenance. I wear nearly all my triangle shawls this way since it is so easy to do. I also don’t find myself tugging and pulling and rearranging like I do when I wear them other ways.



Like I said, I’m not the pinnacle of style, but I do think I might have some cred in this whole thing since my students did frequently tell me how cute my shawls looked. (Ok, maybe I don’t since I just used the word “cred”.) It took me a while to get comfortable wearing a shawl, but I really do think that’s the key to pulling it, and any style, off. My thinking is that I like it…who cares if anyone else does? However, I do love when someone compliments me on what I’m wearing, and I get to tell them I made it.

Even my husband can look good in my shawls because of his ability to rock it.

Even the husband is modeling

Title quote by Coco Chanel

Dreams like a podcast, Downloading truth in my ears.

Anymore, we rarely have the television on in our house. Most of the shows we watch are over for the season, and while Chris and I have started watching Game of Thrones, we don’t watch it every night. So, I frequently put on podcasts. I really enjoy listening while I’m doing other things, and a podcast doesn’t distract G from his playing.
I have quite a list of podcasts I listen to. I tend to lean towards knitting-related topics or trivia-type knowledge. My list can further be broken down into those I’m a devout follower of and those I’m still just trying out for whatever reason.
For those of you who are interested, here’s the list. Please, let me know if there’s something else I need to check out. I’m beginning to run out of back episodes of some of these, so I need new shows.

Commuter Knitter
Every couple weeks, Jen talks through her knitting as she commutes. There isn’t a lot of small-talk in her podcast, which I appreciate. You get a sense of who she is without being inundated.
Jen and Jane Knitfunny
I love this podcast. They’re sarcastic and irreverent and just funny!
Just One More Row
Dana and Brittany have a great rapport. Dana has her own dying business, which is really interesting to hear about. And I plan on trying her yarn at SSK Marketplace. Both have been knitting sweaters lately, which is really motivating me to work on my own cardigan.
Knit Knit Cafe
Abby tends to really analyze her knitting and spinning. For example, she was struggling to find a way to successfully tension her sock knitting, and after going down several needle sizes, re-taught herself to knit in a different way. She does have her soapbox moments, but she warns you they’re coming.
Stockinette Zombies
This is probably my favorite video-podcast. I really like both Megan and Amy, and I love that they take a few minutes at the beginning to “chat,” then it’s onto the knitting. You get a sense of who they are, but the focus is on their knitting.
The Knit Girllls
My friend Kristi turned me on to The Knit Girllls, and I love to see their knitting and spinning projects. I definitely enjoy the podcast more when they’re together versus the two different “screens”.
The Knitmore Girls
I really enjoy most of The Knitmore Girls’ content, but I’m frequently pulled out by the ads.
The Must Stash Podcast
These girls can get a bit giggly, but it’s really clear that Steph and Stacie enjoy what they’re doing. Even though I don’t spin, I’ve enjoyed hearing (and seeing) their Tour-de-Fleece progress.
The Yarniacs
I’ve only listened to one episode of The Yarniacs, but I have several more I intend to listen to.

A Way with Words
This was my very first podcast addiction. I’m a word nerd, and I’m proud of it. I can indulge in all my nerdiness with this podcast.
I’ve listened to the beginning of The Age of Innocence and enjoy the analysis. Another listener recommended Dracula and Jane Eyre.
Good Job, Brain!
This is trivia night meets Jeopardy! meets Wikipedia. If you do trivia teams, listen to this!!
How to Do Everything
Just a quick (15-20 minute) listen that’s about as random as it can get. The best part? The bathroom of the week!!
The Mister got me started on this one. The hosts edit in interviews from various parties to tell a story. Usually fascinating, but there haven’t been as many “story”-type episodes lately.
Short Cuts
Another quick listen featuring various stories centering on a theme.
Stuff You Should Know
Exactly what it sounds like. The hosts, Josh and Chuck, “teach” us about a new topic each week.
WBEZ’s Changing Channels
This is a new podcast, only two episodes, featuring three women who discuss current television news, what they’re watching, what they aren’t watching, and anything else television-related. The last episode focused on “divorcing” shows, which I thought was an interesting concept (not coined by them, but discussed in their show).

Downloaded But Haven’t Listened
The Milt Rosenberg Show
The Read
Topics with Michael Ian Black and Michael Showalter
Tried this one. Wasn’t a fan. A bit too rambling and general for me. Disclaimer: I didn’t get more than ten minutes into it. I just didn’t enjoy the flow of it.


Title from the novel The Titan’s Curse by Rick Riordan

Mothers are all slightly insane.

The decision to become a stay-at-home mom comes very easily to some women. They don’t think twice about resigning to spend their days playing cars, finger-painting, and doing laundry. I don’t mean to sound negative because, as I said in my initial post, I am now a SAHM, but it was a decision I really struggled with and still do.
I love teaching. And I was good at it. I enjoyed the time I spent with my students (most of it, anyway), and I loved trying to share my love of literature and writing with them. I usually looked forward to going to work in the morning because, despite how strange of creatures they are, teenagers are really fun. I never had the same day twice, and I always laughed, belly-laughed, at least once a day.
So, why quit?
It was different after G-Bug was born. I still loved my job, and I loved going to work. But I resented the extra hours I had to put in to do my job well. I’d spend several hours after 3:00 and nearly a full day of every weekend grading, planning, reading, contacting parents…all the not-so-fun administrati that comes with teaching. That’s the part they fail to mention in education classes. And before G was born, I didn’t mind it; granted, it wasn’t my favorite part of my job, but I did it. After he was born and I went back to work, I found out it was more difficult to juggle. I hadn’t considered it before, but I had to give up something.
Ultimately, I struggled with continuing to be good at my job and being a good mother and wife. I felt like I was failing at both. I couldn’t find a balance because something essential to both was having time for myself, as well. I needed time to recharge, and I wasn’t getting it. I spent all my time working, mom-ing, or sleeping. And I was resenting all of it.
I resented my job and my students for taking time away from my home-life. While I still enjoyed them, I found myself annoyed by things that wouldn’t normally bother me. I would get impatient with students who didn’t pay attention in class or who didn’t complete assignments. I was taking time away from my family to try to teach them, so why didn’t they care? I was angry because I cared more than they did.
I also started feeling like I was slipping at preparation and grading. I would be annoyed with Chris or G when I really needed to work, and they wanted my attention. I didn’t have the hours on the weekend to put into my job, and come Monday, I would be frazzled and felt like I was scrambling to be ready for the kids to come in.
And I didn’t have time for myself. I was always “on,” which is exhausting. I was always “mom” or “Mrs. S” and all the responsibilities that come with those titles. I wasn’t happy.
Honestly, neither was Chris; he was having to pull the weight of both of us in terms of meals and housework. Plus, he had his own full-time job and side business. He was 100 percent on-board for me to resign.
I was the hold-out. I’m well aware that I’m fortunate that this was even a choice I was able to make. I really struggled with it, though. I love spending time with G, but all day? That’s a lot of time. And a lot of diapers. And what about the fact that I actually enjoy my job? And money? And retirement? And my sanity?
I still worry about all those things. I know come August I’ll really question whether this was the right choice. But our household is much less chaotic than it was when I was working. Our sink isn’t always piled with dishes (only sometimes); we don’t eat out more days than we cook; our laundry is actually caught up (except the towels and sheets, which I’ll do today); and more importantly, I don’t find myself angry at my family for demanding my time. Both Chris and I have time to do the things we enjoy, and we have more time to spend all together. I think ultimately it was worth the sacrifice of my career.

Title from J.D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye

It’s never too late to be what you might have been.

I wrote last week about yarns that have been neglected because they’re just too pretty to knit with. Well, one of those yarns is going to have to stop just lazing around being pretty. I have a skein of the Zen Yarn Garden Serenity Silk + in the Frosted Rose colorway from Stitches Midwest of last year. I kept thinking it wanted to be a Boo Knits pattern, and I even purchased Fragile Heart because the pattern and colorway seemed made for each other. But, both the yarn and the pattern just sat in my knitting basket.

Until inspiration struck today!! Sarah of Crafts from the Cwtch is hosting a KAL (knit-along), and not just any KAL, but a Boo Knits KAL! It’s so serendipitous that last week I was bemoaning unused yarn, and this week I’m getting a kick in the pants to use it.

The yarn is even caked and ready to go; how can I not join?!

Made for Each Other

Title from George Eliot

Insanity is catching.

Let’s talk about stash. Chris loves to talk about my yarn stash, but it’s usually to remind me how many square feet of our house is occupied by yarn or how much money is invested in my stash. I’m pretty sure I’ve never heard him use the term “invested”, however. I’d rather talk to people who understand my love.
I love being surrounded by yarn, but even I’m willing to admit that possibly I’ve gone a bit overboard. When I’m unwilling to even put all my yarn in one place together, let alone photograph it, it’s a sign that I perhaps need to stop buying and start knitting.
I’m not sure how you buy yarn, but I’m one who sees something pretty and must have it. I, in fact, kind of envy those people who have enough restraint to only buy yarn for projects they’re preparing to knit. Thanks to my Socks to Show Off, I’ve fallen in love with Cephalopod Yarns, and I just keep buying, thinking I’ll make a pair of socks or a shawl. This is pretty typical of my yarn-purchasing rationale. That’s great if when I decide to knit with it, I’m knitting a one-skein project, but more often I’m finding the patterns I want to cast-on require at least part of another skein.
Socks to Show Off
My second problem is I have stunning yarn, but I can’t bear to even wind it up, let alone knit with it. I’m afraid I’ll choose a pattern that won’t be worthy of the yarn. At Stitches Midwest last year, I bought three skeins of Zen Yarn Garden yarns: Serenity Silk Single in Tangerine and OoaK and Serenity Silk + in Frosted Rose. I can’t express my love of these yarns. Everything from the color to the feel of the yarn is perfect; these might be my favorite yarns in my entire stash. I have several projects queued for each of these in Ravelry, but I can’t bring myself to cast-on. I have this little voice in the back of my head warning me not to waste the yarn.
Zen Yarn Garden Serenity Silk Single
Zen Yarn Garden Serenity Silk Single
Zen Yarn Garden Serenity Silk +

To recap, I have too much yarn and need to stop buying. I have a plan to do this, though it doesn’t begin until next year, and it entails buying more yarn. I’m going to Stitches again this year, and I intend to buy yarn for next year. I’m printing out patterns I will knit, and I’m getting yarn for those projects. So, I’m going to become the person I envy: I’m going to buy yarn with specific projects in mind. In order to get the new-yarn high, I’m going to join a yarn club, as well; that way every month or two next year, I’ll get a yarn-package. I’ve also given myself permission to participate in Camp Loopy again next year, provided Sheri organizes Camp again next year.

Title from Terry Pratchett, Making Money

So many things are possible as long as you don’t know they’re impossible.

1. I taught high school English for seven years. Through the years, I had every age, from freshmen to seniors, and it was an experience. The kids made me batty, but they always grew on me like little fungi. Every day, I attempted to spread my love of reading to my students, but most of the time, I think I was lucky if they paid more attention to me than their phones. I spent a good portion of my day with struggling readers, so I eventually earned my Master’s in Reading and Literacy and tried to improve my teaching and my students’ learning daily. I love teaching, but….

2. I’m now a stay-at-home-mom. My last day with students was May 24. After much talk with my husband, Chris, and introspection, I decided to resign and stay at home with my son. I really struggled with the choice, but ultimately, I was losing my sanity trying to be the best as both a teacher and a mother, and I felt I was doing a half-job at both. Some days I wonder if I was crazy to choose to spend all my time with a tiny dictator. And days like today, where I handed off Bug to my husband the moment he walked through the door and told him that I need a time-out, I wonder if I’m cut out to stay at home. I really do wonder some days if I have the patience and the creativity to entertain a toddler for eight hours a day; although, I suppose I only have to fill six hours when you include a nap.

The many faces of meal time. #ABeautifulMess

3. Our family started with two dogs, Buddy and Clancy. Buddy is the brains of the operation in our house; he can find his way into any trash can you set in front of him and even many trash cans flanked by kitchen chairs and step-stools. He’s definitely the calmer of our two dogs, but he’s about as sneaky as they come. Clancy, on the other hand, isn’t bright enough to be sneaky. He is the most loving dog you can find, but there isn’t really a lot going on in his little head except food and snuggling. Chris adopted Buddy the day he moved into his (now our) house in August of 2006. I thought he was teasing me when he asked about adoption forms, but he brought Buddy home that day. We met Clancy at the local St. Patty’s Day parade the following March. I saw him walking, and I knew he had to become part of our family. When we asked about “that little dog walking in the parade” later that day at the animal shelter, the woman asked, “Clancy, are you sure?” He was too small to stay in the kennels, so he was hunkered down in a basket of towels in the laundry room. When she opened the door, this vibrating ball of puppy came flying out at us. He was jumping on and licking everyone he could find. Six years later, he’s still that vibrating ball of puppy.


My boys.

4. Reading is one of my favorite things to do. On vacations, I used to carry a suitcase just for my books. I can’t explain how happy my husband was when I got a Kindle and could carry all my books with me on one, small device. I’m still not sure about giving up physical books, but I do love that Chris is frequently nagging about the room my books take up. Currently I’m reading The Disappearing Spoon: And Other True Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of Elements. Now, I am terrible at chemistry; I’m not sure I would’ve passed if my college chem class hadn’t included group tests. So, keep that in mind as you read what follows. I’m not sure if I like this book. It’s very chemistry-y. So far, the book has been about the set-up of the Periodic Table and electrons and rings and such, and I’m having a difficult time following it; however, this seems to be just an introduction. I’m really hoping once I get into the meat of the book–the stories of the elements, I’ll enjoy it (and perhaps understand it) more. (Also, the blog title is from The Phantom Tollbooth, one of my favorite books.)

5. I run. I won’t call myself a runner, but I enjoy running. I finished my first half-marathon when I was three months pregnant. Not to underplay what I did, but this isn’t as big of a feat as it seems since I walked the majority of the course. I ran the same half-marathon in April of this year and beat my previous time by thirty minutes. Chris ran this half with me, and at around mile eleven, I told him if I ever discussed running a full marathon that he needed to remind me of that mile: My legs hurt, I was sweating and had hideous tomato-face, I was hungry and cranky and ready to sit, and I still had to run two more miles. I’m pretty sure I was distracted by the really shiny medal when I signed up for my next half-marathon; I’ve got until October to be ready for it.

I ran.

6. I am a knitter. I’m rarely found without my knitting. In fact, Chris and I are going to a baseball game Thursday night, and he tried to tell me my knitting has to stay in the car. (Yeah, right.) I just finished a pair of socks, and I cast-on another pair in a self-striping yarn. Tonight, I plan to cast-on a cardigan after I poll my knit-night group on what needle they would use when knitting this cardigan. (I wouldn’t want it to be too loose, after all.) Right now (and each summer for the past three years), I’m participating in Camp Loopy, a knitting challenge that includes three projects in three months. For three months of the year, I’m an even-more-avid knitter than usual in order to complete three projects (more on this in a subsequent post).

All finished. #camploopy2013 #camploopy #knitting

7. I love to eat, and I’m one of those people who loves to take pictures of her food (and Instagram makes it way too easy for me to be that person). I enjoy cooking when I’m not too lazy to actually get to the store and get into the kitchen. I’ve been much better about it and enjoying the kitchen much more since being home. I’m willing to try just about anything once; although, some things do take an awful lot of poking and prodding from Chris. I’m also a creature of habit and, unless pressed, I’ll typically order the same thing at our favorite restaurants each time we go.

Bananas fosters pancakes with macadamia nuts grilled in. Yum.

8. Coffee and beer. I don’t fuction without coffee in the mornings. Before Bug was really talking, he’d say “ahh” whenever Chris or I would even say the word “coffee”. Yup, I’m an addict. Beer I don’t enjoy as often, but when I do, I’m a beer snob. I think it comes from living in Colorado for a short time and having a variety of microbrews right there, but I just can’t drink the “other stuff” anymore.
Of course we found the Kauai Coffee Company. Yummy.

9. I like odd numbers.