Saturday, September 30, 2006

Checkin' My Shoulder For An Angel.

Having been raised in a somewhat half-hearted Congregationalist tradition, I am not sure who the patron saint of Sheep might be. We were sort of more invested in who was going to be working the baked bean supper and annual craft fair. And, given a recent run of bad luck, I was pretty much pooh-poohing the idea anyway. Well, truth be told, the "bad luck" is really more the result of a few well-intentioned, but ill-timed decisions on my part. Nothing serious, but enough to keep me occupied for the past month or so.

I may be rethinking my position on the whole "luck" thing, though.

The plan yesterday was as follows: Go to work. Leave at 2:45. Go to Job #2. Work some more. Grocery shop. Go home. Normally I stay at school a bit later, but I have the luxury of choosing between two different schedules and tend to pick the earlier departure time on Fridays so that I can get to the office a bit earlier. Yesterday, though, I had a staff member out sick and needed to stay later to cover the classroom. It was only 20 minutes or so, but I was mildly disgruntled. This was bad.

Except it wasn't. My staying the extra few minutes meant that when a brief, but major. storm ripped through the area (complete with reported funnel cloud) I was safe within the school rather than on the road. This was good!

Except it wasn't. The storm, in it's short, little life-span, managed to tear up the area quite handily and there was enough damage that my route home was littered with large trees and detours. I was another 20 minutes over my usual commute time trying to get through. This was bad.

Except it wasn't. Had I followed the original plan outlined at the beginning of the day and not been delayed by missing staff, Mother Nature and closed roads I would have been on the Maine Turnpike just in time for a 30 car pileup. It was, hands down, the worst accident scene I've ever witnessed. In the best case scenario, The Sheep would have no vehicle at this writing. Worst case? Let's not even discuss it...

I'm not even going to complain about the fact that an hour commute to my office ended up taking two and a half. I'm good...

Of course, this incident has sparked yet another raging debate between my Rational Mind and Hysterical Mind who seem to be getting more blog time than the knitting these days. Rational Mind is viewing the whole matter as a series of lucky coincidences and advocating that we be appropriately grateful and get on with our lives. Hysterical Mind is currently vacillating between two possible courses of action, the first being that we have used up a lifetime's worth of luck in one day, should don full body armor and never leave the house again. The other is a sort of half-formed theory that we are indestructible and should quickly go out and purchase tights, cape and mask so that we might begin immediately saving citizens from runaway trains and tax collectors.

Rational Mind and I are both somewhat frustrated by the amount of time we have had to spend trying to explain to Hysterical Mind the concepts of self-determination and the limits of the human body. It's been something of a long day...

Knitting continues on the Chevron Stripes Towel today despite my pondering the meaning of life and all. I am fairly close to the half-way mark but am making no promises with regard to an end date on this one. As much as I have enjoyed the actual pattern, I'm finding that my available needle choices are making the whole process a bit uncomfortable to knit for any length of time. Eventually, I will wander out and purchase something that is more conducive to the whole thing. For now, though, I'm stuck with what I have. As long as I don't attempt to knit on this project for extended periods, I'm good.

I'm not pushing my luck on much of anything for a little while here. We're going to let the mojo build back up a bit before we take any unnecessary risks...knitting or otherwise!


Thursday, September 28, 2006

Maturity...Don't Believe The Hype.

Back in July, while waiting for the results of my T.B. test, I introduced my readers to the two sides of my much-overworked brain: Hysterical Mind and Rational Mind. Rational Mind is the voice of reason who takes a mature view of events and makes logical decisions based on the facts. RM is not swayed by emotion and can be counted on to know where the fire extinguisher is. Hysterical Mind, on the other hand, is prone to thinking the worst and is easily distracted by irrelevant details like whether or not the use of a fire extinguisher will release cancer causing chemicals.

They are rarely in accord. Sometimes it is very loud inside my head...

But, in an historical meeting of the "minds," the Rational and Hysterical have found common ground. While it is for differing reasons, they are finally in agreement.

For some time now, I have been toying with the idea of heading down to Rhinebeck. The idea that I might be able to roam wild and free among those who do not raise a quizzical brow at the mention of such things as "gauge" and "niddy noddies" or fail to see the tragedy in a misplaced cable sounded quite nice. I was happily exploring the various lodging facilities and wondering if I might catch a glimpse of a famous knit blogger or two.

However, there have been a few setbacks in this plan. First, we had the interrupted pay cycle issue. This has depleted the funds somewhat and The Sheep household is in the process of resuming normal fiscal activity. Rational Mind reviewed the data and pronounced us unable to travel under the current circumstances. "A prudent Sheep is a happy Sheep," is RM's motto.

Hysterical Mind, who also has a few issues with the concept of delayed gratification, could not have disagreed more strongly. "It's only money, after all and you can't take it with you...onward, ho!!!" HM is a fun-loving sort who makes life so much more interesting.

It seemed unlikely that a decision could be reached and, I must admit, Hysterical Mind (being the louder of the two) was really making some strong points. That is until a certain vehicle began acting up. The two sides returned to the table and talks resumed.

And it seems that neither side wants to make the drive in a truck that is displaying a glowing picture of an engine. Their rationales were markedly different. Perhaps predictably, Rational Mind stated that this was just the logical thing to do. No one wants to be riding in an unsafe vehicle in a strange land, after all. Hysterical Mind is convinced that, at any moment, the truck is going to spontaneously combust in a fiery ball of death. It further believes that it is highly likely that the explosion will occur just as we are passing a bus carrying the Sisters of Charity as they make their yearly toy delivery to the local orphanage. Thus, The Sheep will go down in the annuls of human history as the killer of nuns and the dreams of small children. Hysterical Mind is nothing if not true to it's name...

With both sides in harmony for once in my life, it is time to throw in the towel. Rhinebeck is just not in the cards for me this year. I will make the responsible decision. I will save a few dollars and, perhaps, the smiles of small orphaned children.

Maturity is not all it's cracked up to be...

So, to all who will be congregating at the mystical, magical land of fiber, please take lots of pictures and blog heavily on the subject. I will read every word as I review the estimate to fix the truck and begin budgeting for next year. Buy some fiber and some pretty sock yarn and enjoy the day!

Maybe I'll see you next year...


Wednesday, September 27, 2006

It's Like The Mona Lisa!

The Sheep is somehow finding a way to live with umpty-gabillion images of herself in the house. My eyes just seem to follow me everywhere, though. I am creepy...a Creepy Sheepie!

Your suggestions with regard to what I might do with the plethora of school pictures currently in my possession had me giggling for the better part of an hour. The thought of Sheepie T-shirts and mass produced calendars hitting the market is just too mind-boggling to contemplate! But then I realized that the t-shirt idea was really only going to use up one of these foolish things. I'm pretty sure that they even return the original image once the printing is done.

I'm still working on this. Somehow, some way, I will rid myself of these cursed things. Except for the one that I save for the "Have You Seen This Sheep?" posters. I like to have a plan in the event of alien abductions and poor map reading skills. I hope to be found speedily. There's new TV shows on and my calendar is full right now.

Meanwhile, back in the more-real world...I have reached the heel flap stage on super soft widdle sockie #1. This is generally the first place where something goes tragically wrong in the sock knitting process. But I'm going to tempt fate and post a picture just like a good knitter who has every reason to believe that things will go well.

A Sheep in sheep p.j's. It's like one of those Escher prints...
I do love this sock. I'm trying to avoid heavy levels of attachment given the possibility of knitting tragedies and the like. But, it is so very soft and squishy...hard to not dream of it one day gracing my hoof.
Otherwise, things are status quo: the coughing continues, the engine light is still on in the truck but both of these issues are quite handily dealt with by ingesting large amounts of NyQuil. I just don't feel as strongly about anything after my medication nightcap. This would be a good time to tell me that I have a new gray hair or that I need to defuse a bomb. Not much phases me.
Not even the suggestion that my middle aged face should grace a t-shirt.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

A Face Only Mommy Sheep Could Love...

Well, the truck and The Sheep have reached an agreement. It is free to leave the engine light on provided that it doesn't "flash" it at me. In return, The Sheep agrees to stop the swearing and name calling and will feed it large amounts of dry gas. If it really behaves, then I will take it to the spa-like facilities at the dealership instead of to the low-budget mechanic we generally visit. I don't have time to haggle with my vehicle. I've got other things with which to contend right now.

For today was "picture delivery day" at school. That's right. I'm 41 years old and I still get a school picture package every year. Staff photos are taken every fall for i.d. badges and the company throws in a complementary package of pix that most of us don't really want. Fortunately, they only give us a few and those can be passed on to parents and older relatives who still get all excited by a new photo of their Sheepie niece. If it comes out well, then I usually set one aside. That way, should The Sheep decide one day to run off and join the circus, you all will have something to put on the side of the milk carton. I like to make it easy for people...

However, when one of my staff walked in the room clutching her photo envelope, I sensed that something might be amiss this year. Please bear in mind that said staff person is all of 27 years old, has perfect skin, dark eyes and shiny hair. And her shoes??? To die for! She then proceeded to show the contents of her photo package.

"Look!!! Why did we get so many??? What am I going to do with all these pictures??"

I was then treated to multiple images of the cute, young, perfect little staff member in all her glory. While, I was able to summon the inner strength to not weep profusely in her presence, I failed to grasp the larger issue.

This means that there are at least as many reproductions of The Sheep waiting in her mailbox. And she is neither 27 nor perfectly coiffed. And her shoes? Not so good...

I am now the proud owner of:

Two 8x10s
Four 3 1/2x5s
Four 5x7s
Twenty wallet size
Four black and white reproductions in multiple sizes

and, as God is my witness, a 2007 calendar with my face smack in the middle.

Um...what am I going to do with all these stupid pictures? Yeah, I got the relatives and the milk carton covered. But what am I going to do with the rest of them? I'd throw them away, but I'm afraid that some famous millionaire will be rooting through the trash, see my stunning visage, fall madly in love and then I'll be in all the tabloids for breaking up his 48 year marriage to the blueberry queen of Maine. I'll not risk it, I tell you!

So, heaven help you if you have ever mailed me anything. I may still have your address. And, if I do, it is highly likely that you will be getting a school picture of The Sheep with something like, "Hey, remember all the good times in study hall? BFF, Sheepie" scrawled on the back.

Sleep with one eye open people. It could happen to you. I've already cut one from the sheet to stick in with Sheila's dishcloth package.

Now that I've terrified the blogging world and people are frantically searching their memories to recall whether or not they have ever inadvertently shared their mailing address with me, let's take a minute to review the knitting progess:

Chevron Stripes Towel: untouched since the weekend

Super-soft little sockie: progressing nicely

Knitting Sheep: still on large amounts of cold medicine to combat the coughing. She's pretty happy...

Now I must go review my mailing lists and start cutting out pictures. Heh, heh!


Monday, September 25, 2006

We're Doing A 180 On This Post!

The Sheep had quite the post planned for tonight! It was to be all about cranky trucks that balk at the slightest little inconvenience. Trucks that fall apart in the mere presence of a single molecule of water. It would have included an in-depth discussion with regard to how a certain Sheep made known that she would not tolerate the flashing of engine lights or jerking and shuddering. Any truck that thinks it can out-whine The Sheep is in for a life lesson, lemme tellya! I wrote the book on needy!!!
But, I'm not going to go there. Not tonight. For, you see, I picked up my mail today. During my weekend of convalescence, it seems that was a little task I managed to forgo. And what awaited me there was enough to make me forgive the poorly-behaved vehicle and find my "happy place." One little surprise would probably have been enough...
But there were two!!!!
First up: Sheila! In a recent comment, she said that she might like to give my Psychedelic Dishcloth a good home and offered some sock yarn in trade. As this poor little dishcloth was not quite going to make it in Mommy Sheep's kitchen (these are Christmas gifts) it seemed prudent to let it go live someplace nice. And here is what arrived today:
That's right...Lorna's Laces!! And what's that in the middle there? Hmm...could it be??? Yes! It is my most favoritest fiber in the whole, wide world, Finn!! Sheila, you are the best and I thank you from the bottom of my heart for the little "extra." Your dishcloth is soon to be on it's way. I just needed to get the right address. I will give it a gi-normous hug to pass on to you upon arrival.
Next in the "oh, my good golly, how much better can one day get?" shower of goodies we have the winnings from a recent contest hosted by the charming Trek. We were IM-ing just after my big win and she told me that there would be some Socks That Rock coming my way. I was barely coherent for days in anticipation of that alone. Imagine the stammers and giddy giggles that occurred when I opened up the box and saw the bounty inside:

The STR is probably enough to hold your gaze with all it's socky beauty. But, if you can, tear your eyes away and see what accompanied it! A sock bag personalized with a lovely name tag, a lanyard kit and bobbins to whet my appetite for kumihimo braiding and enough floss to keep me occupied for the foreseeable future. And the sock bag, by coincidence, is one I'd eyed in Trek's gallery a while back, but didn't opt for the trade as I was trying to be all responsible what with my upcoming non-paycheck period. How's that for cool????? I'm, without a doubt, the best outfitted Sheep in the knitting community.

I thought that box felt a little heavy! Trek, you have outdone yourself and I'm so very, very grateful, my friend! Thank you!!!

And thus, dear readers, a day that began with a ranting Sheep rocketing her way in a jerking SUV towards her day of toil ends with a happy knitter surrounded with her new favorite things and an eye towards new projects. It feels like the end of one of those old movies where Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland figure out a way to put on a show despite all odds being against them. Everyone is smiling and embracing and saying things like, "gosh, this is swell!" No matter what came before, you just can't help but be happy when the credits start to roll.

And The Sheep does love a happy ending!


Sunday, September 24, 2006

Let's Do The Time Warp Again!

Dateline: May, 2006. It is raining and The Sheep does not feel well. Her truck has decided to react to the wet weather (and possibly a slug of bad gas) by refusing to run smoothly and periodically bucking like a rodeo bronc. The Sheep hides in her home and screws up a sock.

It's Deja Vu all over again. While I feel considerably better than yesterday and certainly better than I did in May, I'm still considering this my "time of rest." The truck made known it's dislike of the rainy weekend by returning to it's cranky ways. This is not good since I really don't have the time right now to get this dealt with and I've already doled out it's allowance for the year after this summers rack and pinion replacement. What last little touch might I add that would complete the recreation of my springtime experience?

Ah, yes! Let's cast on another sock. I mean, its not like we don't have umpty gajillion other things on the needles right now. So today we alternated between the Chevron Stripes Towel and a basic sock in Mountain Colors "Juniper."

Lots of knitting....nothing done. That is going to be engraved on my tombstone.
The sock yarn is from the goody bag sent by the ever generous April. It is a wool/mohair/nylon blend and will be the ultimate in snow-shoveling footwear when completed. After a little on-line research, I learned that there is a local retailer who sells this yarn! And if I time it right, there might even be a sighting of the elusive Noolie! This could be worth a little detour on the ride home some afternoon once we've settle the accounts this month!
The Fountain Lace vest remains on hold until I have fully recovered from the plague and the dangers of knitting while under the influence of cold medications has passed. Fear not, my 12 loyal readers...your patience will be rewarded. (notice how I've updated my "loyal readers count" to reflect the most current data. The Sheep is nothing if not on top of things) I'm thinking that upcoming long weekends and holidays might be more conducive to completing this project given the focus I'm going to need to follow the pattern.
Otherwise, my weekend of rest continues and seems to be paying off. I slept the night through and the cough seems to be diminishing. The snufflies seem to be responding more appropriately to the medications and I now feel better as a result of taking them rather than just sleepy and stupid. It is a triumph of modern medicine! The Sheep will live to knit another day!
Good thing, because I suspect the truck is going to give me an "interesting" commute tomorrow.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

...Just Doing As I'm Told!

The Sheep was spending some quality time hacking and coughing all over a colleague during a recent conversation. This is her third week in her new school and, really, is there any better way to develop closer working relationships than to let your professional peers see you at your most pathetic and needy? The Sheep is not one for a "honeymoon period."

At any rate, this colleague (after moving back several yards) noted that a number of people in the building seem to have this form of the plague. Her friend recently told her that she was only able to recover after taking the weekend off and doing nothing. "She didn't do so much as a dish for forty eight hours," according to this co-worker. It was strongly suggested that The Sheep consider a similar course of action. (By now, the poor woman was backed into the far corner of the room and holding a tissue in front of her face while attempting to surreptitiously turn on several fans...The Sheep can take a hint.)

I am not the kind of Sheep who has to be asked twice to take a seat. I'll be warming my haunches and inquiring as to the available beverages before you even hit the question mark in that sentence. I do enjoy my "down time." So I took my colleague up on her suggestion, called in to the offices of job #2 and took the weekend off.

Things did not begin well. I was up at four o'clock this morning with wracking, hacking coughs and opted to just get up and deal with it before the downstairs neighbors called local animal control services to rescue the trapped, rabid dog living in the upstairs unit. Once fully dosed with cold and cough medications and fortified with caffeine, I was able to begin resting in earnest. Aside from digging deep and finding the inner strength to push the "start" button on the dishwasher, I have been a paragon of convalescence today. Translation: I watched cartoons, ate cheesecake and knit. Oh, and I napped. Let us not forget the nap.

Despite the extra knitting time, I didn't really finish anything. I may have mentioned in earlier posts that cold medications do not always mix well with the creative activities. I was, however, careful to only work on things that were familiar and easy to repair in a loopy state. This is good since my overall better judgment seems to have suffered somewhat. Case in point:

Dishcloth in process on a kitty butt.
I laughed for twenty minutes just thinking about doing this. Once done, it somehow seemed less amusing and now I have a miffed feline with which to contend. But it was good for a giggle in the short term and that must count for something.
I don't know anymore...I have the plague. I'm not supposed to be thinking deep thoughts. I'm supposed to be resting.
At least that's what I've been told.
Happy Rosh Hashanah (a wee bit late) to all! May you and yours enjoy the time spent together in celebration.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Daredevil Sheep!!!

The Sheep is not a risk-taker in the commonly held sense. Nothing worthy of Reality T.V. going on here.

I don't sky dive. I've never contemplated catching bullets in my teeth. It would never occur to me to poke a sleeping bear. I like to think that I live fully within the boundaries of common sense.

But, when it comes to the more mundane kinds of things, I seem to think myself endowed with the superpowers. I am the one hunched over my computer in mid-April praying to all listening accounting deities that my income tax e-filing has gone through. I regularly play "oil-change-roulette" fully believing that I can get away with another thousand miles. I'm the one that keeps the phone company's collections office open in order that I might continue to receive their "friendly reminders" with regard to sending payments in a timely fashion.

I fully believe that I can get away with these risks given that my intentions are good. Because I mean well, there is no possible way that the universe can punish me for these little risks. I am basically a good person who enjoys pushing the Boring Envelope every now and again.

And thus, despite a lengthy blog post warning knitters far and wide of the dangers lurking behind the innocent act of knitting under the influence of cold medications, I did it again. "Lace, even in miniature form, is scary," I admonished. "A single error led to the destruction of four inches of vest," I moaned. "Be warned, O Most Innocent Of Knitters," I cried. I hit Publish Post.

And then promptly proceeded to do the whole thing over again.

Why I put up with me, I'll never know. Fortunately, this pattern has several versions. One of these seems a bit easier to follow and I think that may be the one that ends up accenting the front of my new vest. We are weighing our options here at Sheepish's House Of Learning The Hard Way.

But, hear me now. This vest is going to happen. And it will be stunning. One of the reasons I started this blog in the first place was to see if I couldn't guilt myself into finishing one or two things. There will be vesting of the highest order, as Blogger is my witness.

It just may take a bit longer than I thought. I'm gonna go knit a dishcloth now.


Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Safety First!

Don't drink and drive. Don't run with scissors. Don't attempt break dancing while holding a baby. All good rules to live by. A safe Sheep is a happy Sheep. That's always been my motto.

I've found a new one to add to the list. I may even have it tattooed on my forehead. What do you think of this? "Don't attempt to knit the front part of your Fountain Lace Vest while taking cold medications." I think it could catch on.

Now, I know I've mentioned before that lace is not something that I ever, ever do. Lace gives me the stress. But, I was looking for a project worthy of my handspun Finn. I knew I had enough for a vest and I puttered about looking at different patterns, all of which seemed well within my skills. And yet they were so very plain. And I felt that the yarn deserved better. Besides, how challenging could a single panel of lace be? It's not like I was thinking about a whole shawl or anything crazy like that.

And, I must admit, I was flush with the success of my Chevron Stripes Towel. That has pattern repeats. I got overconfident.

I was close, I'll give myself that much. But the one little error was glaring enough that I felt ripping back and starting over was the best option. The yarn deserved it, after all. The benefit of being slightly loopy from the cold medicine was that I wasn't really feeling any highs or lows of any kind. My reaction to ripping out four inches of vest was akin to clipping a hangnail. I seem to recall saying something like, "gruffle-flump" but that was the extent of my commentary on the subject.

I next attempted to cast on again in order that I might start over. I then learned that, somewhere between, "I sure hope this cold medicine works" and "gruffle-flump" I had lost the ability to count to 64. The project was set aside for the night. I was still feeling little in the way of human emotion, but it seemed best not to push it. A tantrum could be just around the corner. I was able to successfully cast on when I got home this afternoon and things seem to be back on track.

Life has not been all knitting mishaps and medication hazes, though. I got the word from Trek today that I am the winner of her blog subscription contest! She was most eager to tell me of my prize and I, being an accommodating Sheep, allowed her to spill the beans. But I will wait until it's arrival to share with the blogging-world-at-large. Suffice it to say, I was a very happy Sheep. That high has even withstood the last dose of cold medication!

But I'm not risking the vest tonight. Better safe than sorry!


Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Its A Jungle Out There!

Playground safety has come a long way since The Sheep was a wee little lambie. Equipment is kinder and gentler than it once was in the hopes of reducing injuries. We have anti-bullying and social skill programs in order to help kids make better choices when it comes to interacting with the rest of the human race. We do good work, if I do say so myself. We have a plan for every possible event that could cause harm to our future doctors, lawyers and presidents.

But kids will find a way. They are crafty. For every safety measure we put into place, they have a contingency plan. They are bound and determined to punish us for making them eat their veggies by causing grey hairs to sprout overnight.

Yesterday's recess horror-tally was a new record as far as I'm concerned. We had one broken leg and one snake bite. The leg was the result of a particularly zealous ball-related game and the snake bite was just poor judgment. The leg required that I sacrifice a staff person so someone could comfort the victim and meet the ambulance. The snake required a memo about the dangers of handling wild creatures for one's general amusement. The snake also took a good chunk out of my teaching day given that I had to explain umpty-gazillion times that the likelihood of a poisonous snake vacationing on a Southern Maine playground was pretty much nil. This did little to quash the rumor mill and by lunchtime, it was general knowledge that a new and highly aggressive form of poisonous reptile had migrated to the frozen north in order to paralyze 6th graders who were just minding their own business and/or terrorizing local wildlife.


What with my allergies mutating into a lovely respiratory infection, my patience for this stuff is pretty low. Fortunately none of my students were among the injured and we were able to move on with the day. Today, the whole thing was nothing but a distant memory and the little darlings are now plotting new ways to scare the staff into cardiac arrest. Its nice that they have a hobby and all...

No new knitting to report, what with all the working and visiting of relatives. We are hoping to have something off the needles and ready for your review during the weekend, but that may be optimistic. For now, a little piece of advice: give your children the information they need to keep themselves safe out there in the big, wide world.

Then wrap them in kitchen towels and duct tape. The extra padding may be a good idea.


Monday, September 18, 2006

Now, THAT'S What I'm Talkin' About!!

Ahh...internet sympathy for an ailing Sheep. It's all good. Well...its actually sort of pathetic, but I'm OK with it. When you're all snuffly and grumpy you take what you can get.

I thought I was improving as today wore on. I was a bit less stuffy, my voice came back in the afternoon and I felt like I'd scaled the mountain of good health and planted the flag of wellness. This was good given that I was scheduled for dinner at Mommy and Daddy Sheep's house to celebrate the visit of my Auntie and Uncle Sheep. Brother Sheep was bringing New Girlfriend Sheep (who we like, btw) and Great Uncle Sheep was making a guest appearance. This is something of a big day for our generally routine-driven clan.

I made it to the 'rent's house without incident and let everyone know that I have the sniffles. I felt that it was important to put that out there right away given my general belief that the world should stop when I am experiencing physical distress of any kind. Daddy Sheep countered with his latest blood sugar numbers and the trials of his new status as a diabetic and I was well and fully trumped. Great Uncle Sheep arrived shortly thereafter and there was little hope for my starring the Aches 'n Pains Variety Hour. Great Uncle Sheep will be 90 on his next birthday. He still drives his own car, lives on his own and, despite being deaf as a post, has very little wrong that cannot be attributed to old age. But, frankly, that can be quite a bit and it seemed wrong of me to try and compare seasonal allergies to the aches and pains that come from living nearly a century on the planet.

After dinner, though, the allergies kicked back in and I began to feel pretty lousy. I decided to call it a night around 7:30 and head home for an evening NyQuil cocktail and some Season Premiere TV. Auntie and Uncle Sheep seemed relieved when I decided to take my hacking and coughing self out of their presence, but they couldn't have been nicer about their secret desire to have me safely ensconced in a plastic bubble. I don't blame them really.

Given today's schedule and my popping ears I have been a non-knitting Sheep today. We'll get back into the routine tomorrow and maybe even knock a row or two of something out of the park. Meanwhile, thanks to all who wished me well in my snuffling state. I'll admit to being nothing short of a Whinery in times of illness. Your patience is appreciated.

And now we're off to sit in a cold medication haze and envy the healthy people.


Sunday, September 17, 2006

At Least I Can Admit It...

There has been little in the way of knitting progress today. The Sheep has been preoccupied. For, you see, she has the sniffles.

There are really two kinds of people when it comes to illness. The ones who soldier through despite all odds are of one group. These are the folks that you read about who, after being stabbed in the head with a butter knife during Thanksgiving dinner, make sure that the dishes are done and that everybody has a nice chilled beverage before they drive themselves to the emergency room. They rarely take "sick" days nor do they allow little things like blood loss or missing limbs to get in the way of their daily routines. "Don't worry about me, I'll be fine," is their mantra.

Then there are people like me. A hangnail is reason enough to put in for extended sick leave. Sedation is required for the taking of the blood pressure. The smallest of maladies is cause for lengthy dissertations on all symptoms with anyone who has the misfortune to cross our paths.

I'll admit it: I am just a big baby.

I did get some perspective on the matter last spring when I did, in fact, get actually "sick." It is worth noting that there are still those who don't know how sick I really was given that I had the same level of alarm over a paper cut as I did when the fever reached 105 and the twitching started. You'd think the whole experience of "near death" and all would have taught me some lessons with regard to crying, "wolf" and what the true definition of "unwell" might be.

It hasn't.

My allergies have settled into my chest and I am coughing, hacking, snuffling, aching and whimpering like a plague victim. I am grumpy, needy and unclear as to why the planet continues to spin given that I do not feel well. There has been nothing on the news with regard to my general health and I have yet to see a candlelight vigil forming outside my condo. I find this incomprehensible.

As consolation for the world's general lack of interest in my minor case of the snuffly-wufflies, I have wandered from pillar to post all day clutching a wad of toilet paper (I'm out of tissues) and making little whimpering noises. The cats tired of this sometime around noon and were only just lured out with kitty treats in order that I might have an audience for my award-winning performance as an unwell person. They are not showing the level of concern that I deem appropriate.

Pretending that I am one of those troupers mentioned as part of the first group of "sick types," I did put some time into the Chevron Stripes towel. This represented a great sacrifice on my part as I am still working with a very slippery metal needle that requires quite the grip in order that the soft cotton remain upon them. And I am, of course, weak from my sniffles which has made this quite the trial.

Isn't she just a saint what with the holiday knitting through such adversity and all?
Not much progress. But, as I said, I've been busy with the whining and such. Tonight, I will dose myself with some NyQuil and hopefully sleep off some of the minor symptoms which have caused such angst today. Being as it is only the third week of school, I sort of can't take a sick day just yet. Especially since I'm working in a new building with a new principal. We need to make a good impression.
We need to fake being a "trouper."

Saturday, September 16, 2006

I'm A Traitor To My Kind!

You'd think with a handle like, "Sheepish" I'd be more committed to the idea of knitting with wool. I would knit only with wool. I would garb myself daily in wool from top to bottom and would spend my days proclaiming to all and sundry that the wool undies weren't really "all that itchy."

But I seem to be cottoning to cotton these days.

My first paycheck since August 18th isn't really all that much of a financial gain given that it has been earmarked for little things like shelter and continued high speed internet access. But I did use a small portion of my meager earnings to purchase more worsted weight cotton since the lifetime supply I currently have stashed away could be attacked by weevils at any moment. And, perhaps predictably, yet another Octagonal Swirl Dishcloth was added to the ever growing pile of cottony goodness.

This one is a tad more "vibrant" than it's brothers and sisters, I think.
Say, what you will. This will brighten up any kitchen whether it wants it or not! I've continued to have difficulty linking directly to the pattern. But if you go to Knitting Pattern Central you can find it pretty easily.
It is a fun one to knit. I prefer the two circs. method over dpns for this although the process is not without it's issues. Beginning with naught but 8 stitches leaves quite a bit of cable free to flop around and wreak emotional havoc with a short tempered Sheep. The first few rounds are rather like wrasslin' with a reluctant octopus. And I'm pretty much guaranteed that on any given row there is likely to be an unused needle poking me in the nether regions. But, once I get a few more increases under my belt things settle down and the needles find themselves busy doing their job and holding my yarn. Frankly, it is a small price to pay for knowing that none of my hard earned rows will be sneakily escaping from unobserved dpns once the dishcloth gets big enough that an exit route is closer.
Other than an appointment with my most favoritest stylist and a short trip to the used bookstore next to her shop, it has been a pretty quiet day here at Casa de Sheep. Both Persephone and I seem to be suffering from our usual Fall allergies and have been pretty low-key for the duration. I put a little time and effort into attempting to teach her to cover her mouth with her paw when she sneezes, but that didn't really go as well as I'd hoped. Frankly, the better strategy is to simply stand clear when she lets one go. This can be challenging as she is confused by her sneezes and wants some comfort during the process, but we are working on a system. Mostly it involves the human covering her face with her hands while the cat attempts to get ever closer in order that she might share this phenomenon. Oddly, she doesn't seem half as interested in snuggling up when I am sneezing. I'm finding this to be a somewhat lopsided equation, but I don't think I have much of a vote at this point.
I did, however, protect the dishcloth. No cotton was sullied by kitty germs while this Sheep was at the helm!

Friday, September 15, 2006

The Sheep Takes The High Road.

Setting: The local grocery store in The Sheep's small town. It is 6:30 p.m. and a tired Sheep is wrapping up her day by checking out her meager purchases which may or may not sustain her for the week. Among these is the latest Stephen King paperback. We join this little playlet just as Prom Queen Checkout Girl is scanning the book and comments about it to Rebel Bad Boy Bagger Dude:

PQCG: (in the high pitched, hyper speed voice preferred by young females when in the presence of young, macho-type dudes...sometimes used by middle-aged Sheep as well, but not tonight) OmiGOD!!! This guy is like, so scary!

RBBBD: Yeah. He's, like, from Maine, you know.

PQCG: Like, I know! He's got this wicked big scary house someplace...I think it's, like, in Kennebunkport...

Sheepish Annie: No, dear. That's the former president. Stephen King's house is in Bangor.

RBBBD: Yeah. He's, like, so scary 'cause he had to grow up in the boonies 'n all.

PQCG: Nooooooo. Bangor's not, like, the boonies.

RBBBD: All of Maine is the boonies.

There is no response from the Sheep nor from the PQCG. RBBBD takes this to mean that his little witicism has gone unheard.

RBBBD: You know, 'cause like ALL of Maine is the boonies. Heh, heh.

SA opens her mouth to say, "Well dear, you are certainly welcome to move at the earliest opportunity. I will even come help you pack since, judging from the state of my groceries, that is not exactly one of your strengths." She then remembers that it has been an extraordinarily long day and that, perhaps, she is responding out of fatigue rather than a true desire to storm into the home of a strange high school student and begin flinging his belongings into various suitcases and duffles. She chooses instead to keep her silence and hope that her reward will be one or two undamaged items in the bags at transaction's end.

She does, however, fail to return his, "have a nice evening." She has felt a little guilty about that ever since. But it is nothing she won't get over.

Normally Friday is my blogging respite night during the school year as my brain tends to shut down for a short period at week's end. But since my school had it's Open House last night, I missed my regular Thursday rant. Well, I did rant, but not in blog form. Open House night is a long one...

A pleasant Friday to all and to all a good night. I'm going to go knit on my Chevron Stripes Towel, eat some slightly squished chocolates and perhaps bed down early with a good book.

Stephen King is scary. But in a good way...


Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Knitters Are Knice!

In terms of how I think people should "be" on this planet, my expectations are pretty simple, really. I don't believe that anyone out there has an inherent responsibility towards making my day all sunshine 'n rainbows. The extra mile is not required. I'll just take the basics.

If you happen to be the one who makes it to the line ahead of my frozen pizza laden grocery cart, the spot is yours. You don't owe me a "cut." It's nice when you do it...but you don't have to. If you are behind me and there happens to be some computer-related breakdown during the check-out process I will fully understand your need to express your frustration. Don't misplace it, though. Much as I think it might be fun to sneak into grocery stores under cover of darkness and mess with bar codes, I have neither the spare time nor the know-how to really pull this off. Be mad at the computer.

In the event that I must make a left hand turn across traffic I'm perfectly OK if you don't choose to let me in. You have places to go as well. I can wait. If you do let me in then I will be sure to throw you the "courtesy wave." It's just what one does.

You don't have to hold a door for me or offer to carry a bag. I'm good. But, I'll sure be grateful should you decide to do it.

I really just expect that you will do the most basic of things to keep society running in a smooth and orderly manner. I do not need to be coddled or nuthin'.

But, there is kindness out there. There are those who will see a situation and decide to offer a solution...or solace. There are those among you, oh knitterly folk, who cannot bear the thought of a sock knitter in distress. People like Susie...

Upon seeing a pile of frogged sock yarn puddled between my Sheepie footsies in a recent angst-filled post, she immediately offered a replacement for this cheap and ill-tempered fiber. As Susie is one of the most talented dyers I have wandered across in my bloggy travels, I opted to take her up on her offer. I've been off socks since "the incident."

I'm back on!
The picture, thanks to this gray sort of day, does not really do it justice. The colors are all (and I do mean all) deep, rich and perfectly coordinated with my Fall/Winter wardrobe. The fiber is a Superwash Kona Merino and so soft that I just want to love it, pet it and call it, "George." It is also fine enough that I think, for once, I will have a true fit for my narrow foot once this is knit up. And they will be sooooooft!
The Sheep is at the tail end of a month long living-without-a-paycheck cycle and has been on a forced yarn diet. (also a name brand coffee, meat and mortgage diet, for that matter) But that will end soon and I assure you, I will be purchasing more of this sock yarn. I've posted a link in my sidebar to Susie's Etsy Shop and encourage you to browse. If you happen to be gearing up to holiday shop for the knitters in your life, this is a good stop. The sweet little charm on the skein alone would make this a gift any knitter would savor!
But you aren't getting this one...I'll probably be sleeping with it under my pillow.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Try To Get A Mental Picture Of This...Its Worth It!

We have learned in the worst possible way over the last decade or so of the importance of safety planning in our schools. I'm behind it...honest! And should the day come that I, your humble Sheep, need be the one that is responsible for keeping your child safe in a crisis you'll be glad we practiced our emergency evacuation today.

That said, if you can't see the potential for absurdity in having to assemble 300 or so children and march them two by two a quarter of a mile down the road to the safety of the Middle School...well, you're just not trying.

We were given ample notice to prepare. The plans were reviewed and the drill was scheduled for 9:00 this morning. My job was to hand off my small classroom to the tender, loving care of my staff and take over transport of a fifth grade classroom. The regular teacher, being unable to make the walk with the rest of us is generally taken by car and meets her class at the "safe spot." I was given explicit directions as to how I was to do this and strongly admonished to "not lose any of them in the woods." This part was repeated several times.

No pressure or anything...

With the street safely blocked off by friendly local police officers and all students present and accounted for, the principal "set the pace" and led our merry band of staff and students to mock safety. I only just met my new principal, but he appears to be somewhere between the ages of 60 and 182. I had hopes for a leisurely stroll in the sunshine.

I was wrong.

This was a death march at Mach speed. I'm 99% sure that my new principal is, in fact, a cyborg sent to Earth by some unfriendly and super healthy planet in a solar system bent on punishing us for our having invented cupcakes. I'd confront him on it and send him packing back to his home planet where steamed broccoli and lentils are considered a treat save for that 1% doubt. That's the percentage that could maybe get me funny looks or fired. I'll just have to hope that NASA or the CIA figures this one out.

In the event that one of the staff or students proved unable to hobble the short distance to safety, the whole procession was followed by the school nurse complete with medical kit and wheelchair. That added a nice "emergency" touch to the whole affair, I must say.

The most disturbing part of this little exercise was my realizing just how many of the fifth and sixth graders in my school had difficulty walking this distance. I'd expected complaining, but was concerned when I saw several who had to actually stop and were unable to continue until they'd caught their breath. I think I may view those "Dateline: America In Crisis" specials with a less jaded eye.

The final element of absurdity was my ill-fated decision to make today "Cute Strappy Sandals" day. In fairness, I often wear these to work in the summers where the job entails the chasing of toddlers 'n such. I never had a problem. But these little numbers were not meant for sprinting to safety while shielding children from flames or creeping mold attacks. My only consolation was that, in the event of my falling and snapping my ankle, I would be the best shod gal in the emergency room.

But The Sheep was able to safely get the kidlets from point A to point B and back without incident. The woods are free of misplaced children and my feet survived the journey intact. I did such a good job that I almost talked myself into skipping the cardio part of today's workout as a reward. I thought the better of it, though. My summer vacation flab still needs to be attended to. (Dang it...)

So we got us one tired widdle Sheepie tonight what with all the excitement. Knitting on the Chevron Stripes Towel continues despite my having sworn that I will not knit another stitch until I have procured a circular needle more conducive to the project. But it is just so addictive!!! I also have some yummy new yarn to share but will wait until I have the energy to present it in the manner it deserves. "Pretty" is an understatement here, folks.

I will rest my weary hooves and report back tomorrow. I'm sure that, once I've slept for a day or so, that I will be able to muster up quite the show for ya!

And you can all rest easy knowing that I stand ready in the event of a pretend crisis...


Monday, September 11, 2006

The Sheep Is Rarely At A Loss For Words...

But on that day, I was. And sometimes I still am.

I think I'll just leave it at that for tonight. Thoughts of peace and comfort to all.


Sunday, September 10, 2006

Unconscious Collecting Continues.

Today has been a sunny and rather mild day in the great state of Maine. And yet, there seemed to be just the hint of a chill in the air. It was that subtle reminder of colder days to come. Oh, and a certain holiday season that demands handknit gifts for all and sundry came to mind.

It happens every year. I spend the spring promising myself that I will knit the holiday gifts during the upcoming summer vacation. I then proceed to create a plethora of handcrafted masterpieces that will only ever drape my Sheepie form.

September hits and I realize my folly. Happily, though, I have discovered the joys of Mason*Dixon knitting and the possibilities thereof. Shortly after purchasing the book in July, I quickly scampered off to the local WalMart and bought myself a one pound cone of Peaches 'n Creme worsted cotton to have on hand when inspiration struck. Today was the day. I realized that I simply could not live another day without starting the Chevron Stripes Hand Towel. Had I not cast on when I did, there was every possibility that I would have spontaneously combusted or something equally dire. There was the the usual false start and a realization that I am the last person in the free world to see the pattern error that exists in the very beginning. (or I am reading it completely wrong...which is a strong possibility, lets face it.) There was the hand pain which comes from having the wrong needle for my uniquely shaped hooves. There was the brief period where I lost the stitch counter in the depths of the couch cushions and feared that I might have to rely on my faulty, middle aged memory for the duration. But, in the end, all has gone pretty smoothly and without problems that couldn't be solved handily.

Someone's gettin' a fancy-shmancy hand knit towel under the tree, I tellya!
However, as I pulled together the necessary materials for this epic endeavor, I made a startling realization. It appears that I might be something of a "hoarder."
A few weeks ago I posted several entries on the subject of my underpants mania. I discovered that I had been purchasing large amounts of undies with no real memory of having done so. This little lapse resulted in my having amassed 57 pairs of drawers. My mind boggled just a wee little bit there...
Well, it seems that my "just in case" purchasing is not limited to frilly underthings. It seems that I also have been stocking up on worsted weight cotton for, and I kid you not, years. I am finding balls of the stuff in every closet, cupboard, nook and cranny. And as I find them, I am experiencing what can only be described as "recovered memories" of projects that seemed of the utmost importance at the time. So, in addition to the one pound cone, I have any number of full, half and quarter balls of blue, pink and white Peaches 'n Creme cotton with which to swaddle my friends and relations should they be in need of towels and the like.
Seriously, if I could do the same thing with gold or real estate I'd be set for life up here!!! As it stands now, I will be the only retiree in the home with a lifetime supply of underpants and handknit dishcloths.
I am singlehandedly keeping the cotton industry afloat right now.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

The Sheep Thinks Deep Thoughts.

Every once in a while, The Sheep finds herself witness to a debate with regard to the possible gender of the Almighty. Some prefer to think of this greater power in male terms, others are leaning towards female. I am a neutral Sheep, for the most part. It is my feeling that I'll probably be made privy to this detail at some point during the transitional period between "breathing" and "not breathing." Meanwhile it is my purpose in life to be kind to others and count yarn-overs.

However, there are sometimes little hints and clues that fling themselves in my path which cannot be ignored. Given some of the events of late, I am currently leaning toward the idea that God might be a dude.

Let's face it. The males of the species tend to have a slightly different sense of humor than the gals. If you doubt me on this one, allow me to simply refer to The Three Stooges. Need I say more?

Yesterday afternoon, following a moderately stressful incident involving a student missing his bus, I transported myself from the Maine/New Hampshire border (where I teach) to the Greater Portland area (where I am supposed to be employed as a social services provider but now seem to be the in-house graphic designer) in order that I might continue work on the dreaded promotional mailing that has been in the works since July. An hour commute is a small price to pay for the world seeing this masterpiece. The whole thing has been approved, but needs to be resized due to the fact that we are not going to have this professionally printed. These are to be cranked out on the ancient printer we use in the office. Two hours and three head-smashes courtesy of the shelf thoughtfully installed above the printer by my boss later, I threw in the towel and accepted the fact that some things were never meant to be centered.

After a good night's sleep, I arose with a better attitude and hope for all things good. I arrived at the pharmacy right at 9:00 a.m. sharp in order to get my prescription filled. I was greeted by a cranky pharmacist who had come in late and was incensed by my having arrived with a need of some sort. I was then subjected to a lengthy rant of the subject of doctors who fail to fill in their dea #s on the scrip and that I have now placed his license in jeopardy by my very presence. The fact that I am not the prescribing physician did not seem to ease his ire. Nor did my willingness to provide a copy of my photo i.d. for documentation later should there be some question with regard to what drug-addled individual might have made off with this low-dose medication. It can't have been too big a deal given that he did fill the prescription, but I will make sure that little number is on the slip in the future, you can be sure. I am highly sympathetic to issues involving licenses the the retaining thereof. I just don't like to be yelled at, is all...

Once home and fully medicated, an attempt was made at a Garterlac dishcloth. There were the usual errors and restarts, but I honestly thought I had it. Then the phone rang. It was Amy, my favorite stylist, querying as to why I had failed to show up for my appointed hair repair. It seems that little item had slipped my mind. After profuse apologies, we agreed to try again next week. Meanwhile Persephone, who is of the opinion that each time I speak aloud I am actually requesting her furry feline presence, hopped up on the couch and began rearranging the knitting. And thus, we lost all sense of where we were in the pattern. It seemed best to go back to the well-known Octagonal Swirl pattern that has served me so well.

In addition, it seems that the greater power referenced at the beginning of this long tale opted to add a little step in the female developmental progression between "maiden" and "crone." The tag "perimenopause" was slapped on and said power then sat back to watch the show. This is not subtle humor, folks. It is slapstick. It is right up there with "pull my finger." It is a Screamin' Sheep.

It just reeks of "guy humor."

I'm not sayin' one way or the other. Its really not my call. I'm just adding a little more data to the general knowledge bank. Do with it what you will.

Despite my addled state, the Spinnin' 'O The Linen continues with mixed results. I really want a sport weight yarn when I'm done so I've tried to get a somewhat thicker single.

Neither the photography nor the spinning is what you'd call my best work.
But it is interesting to spin and will probably knit up just fine. I've been fiddling with the sample swatch to see how washing and handling will affect the stitches and feel. Basically, I've taken out a lot of frustration on this poor little swatchie. It holds up quite well and feels much better the more you abuse it. I'm not sure that I will be a linen convert in the long run, but it has made a nice change of pace despite it's not quite spinning like I'd hoped it would.
I'm hoping for a quiet evening of dishcloth knitting with some therapeutic chocolate on the side. Whomever this deity is, the fact that they put the sweet stuff on the planet has made up for quite a bit of the laughs at my expense lately.
The chocolate part might actually be a tally mark for the "female" side of the God debate...

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Honest, The Sheep Does Love The Lambs!

Kids are great...I've built an entire career around their care and feeding. They can be cute, witty, smart, goofy and the little ones have quite the cuddly aura about them on many a day. Each September, however, I am reminded just how effective a birth control method having a teaching certificate can be.

I realize that it is my turn and all. There are those among you who, in full defiance of the data on these little buggers, went ahead and had a few. You have bravely and without complaint kept them for the entire summer. And because you made them, you have to be nice to them. You must feed them and make sure that they have ample access to educational television and clean underwear. I'm willing to step back up to the plate and do my duty as a salute to your unflagging devotion to the joys of parenthood. Rest assured, I'm on it!

But two months of hanging out with the cats and living my solitary sheepie existence always leaves me somewhat unprepared for the needs of kidlets. I've taught all grades from kindergarten through high school and they each come with their own unique set of demands that must be met. The little ones can never get their pudding cups open and the older ones can never get their birth control pills open. Same stuff, different day...I'll adjust to being the creator of all solutions by month's end, I'm sure. Awfully tiring, though!

Meanwhile, here's a little fun left over from my relaxing summer break. Guess what happens when you take pretty hand-painted Finn roving, spin it into a 2 ply and knit it up? I've said it before, but it bears repeating,

Sometimes even a tired Teacher Sheep gets a little something to put a spring back in her step!

Wednesday, September 06, 2006


I'm tellin' ya, its like a horror movie. I live in fear. Places that I thought were "safe" are not. There is no respite from the terror.

They are everywhere.

Just after returning a phone call today, I was reveling in the all-too-brief moments to myself while the students were off doing all that first day of school stuff. I hung up the phone, took a deep breath and started to stretch out the kinks induced by a solid hour of gesturing helpfully in the hopes that one or two kids might actually see the correct path to their classrooms. And then I saw it...a slight movement to my left.

It was an all too familiar wriggling kind of movement.

There, descending towards my Sheepie head, was a gi-normous spider. Legs a-wigglin', silk thread shimmering in the sunshine, it seemed nothing short of gleeful at the thought of it's having stalked me from my home to my workplace.

After having spent an entire summer vacation battling creepies and crawlies of every creed 'n breed, I'd hoped that there might be something of a break in the horror. To date, I've gone up against hornets nesting on my window screens, spiders breeding in the corners and cats sporting fleas as fashion accessories. There have been ants and fruit has been a nature documentary gone wrong.

And they are stalking me. They are everywhere. This time, its personal. There is one more dead arachnid in this war. When will the madness stop????

On a lighter note, there was a request for the Cheesy Bread recipe and The Sheep is happy to oblige. For some this is a repeat as I put it up a while ago, but it's yummy enough to earn a second showing. There must be the usual disclaimer, though. I take no responsibility for any hardening of the arteries or thickening of the thighs that might result following consumption. This is not a bread for the calorie conscious! It is also one that I have done some "tweaking" on over the years. My family happens to prefer that I cram in as much cheese as is humanly possible. Thus, I use more than the recipe indicates. You may want to play with it to get it to your liking.

Cheesy Bread

7-8 cups flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon salt
2 Tablespoons yeast
2 cups water
2/3 cups milk
2-3 cups of shredded mild cheddar and 1 cup of cheddar chunks (more if you desire)

Combine water and milk in a saucepan. Heat on low to 120-130 degrees. In a large bowl, combine 2 ½ cups of flour, the sugar, salt and undissolved yeast. Gradually combine above with mixer on medium speed for 2 mins. Add cheese and ½ cup flour. Beat on high for 2 mins. Add enough flour to make a stiff dough. Knead and let rise in a greased bowl until double. Punch down and let rest for 15 mins. Form 2 loaves ( I roll the dough into a rectangle then roll up like a jelly roll, squeezing the air bubbles out) and let rise until double. Bake on bottom rack at 375 degrees for 35-40 minutes.

Great for sandwiches!!! Even better toasted!



Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Too Pooped To Bleat!

And, for the record, that is about as tired as a Sheep can get.

I survived the first day of workshops and will begin another fun-filled year of teaching first thing tomorrow morning. This new position comes with it's own set of , shall we say, "challenges." Frankly, "issues" and "problems" might be better terms, but I am going to fling myself headlong into the role of Suzie Sunshine and grin my way maniacally through them if it kills me. It is going to be an interesting school year...

With my current state of coma-like exhaustion, I feared for blog worthy material this evening. Fortunately, there was some productivity back a few days ago when I had the time and working brain cells. Thus, I give you some of the weekend's happy results.

First, we have a somewhat bedraggled little linen square. Once I finished the seed stitching, I noted that it had all the makings of a delicate little hanky kinda thing. So I slapped on some poorly space crocheted edging and washed it to soften it up a bit.

Uneven? Oh, yeah!
We have learned a valuable lesson in casting on with linen. There is no give whatsoever. One must cast loosely!!! Very loosely! I'm sure that right now there are friends and relatives of The Sheep who are quaking at the thought of this ending up beneath the Christmas tree with a tag bearing their name. Rest assured, this was an experiment only! I promise that no one will be forced to come up with niceties nor insincere thanks.
Yesterday was spent with The Sheep family which generally consists of Mommy Sheep, Daddy Sheep and Baby Brother Sheep. However, BBS has decided to add a new Girlfriend Sheep to the mix so we all had to be on our best behavior for the duration. As we are somewhat unpracticed with this, I fear that we scared the poor thing a bit. I'm calling her a keeper, though, as she made homemade Whoopie Pies for the event and that is enough for me to welcome her with open arms. Non-Mainers may not have a frame of reference for this local treat, but if you picture a chocolate cake sandwich you'll have something of an idea. It is proof that goodness and purity are still possible in this crazy, mixed up world. I contributed my usual Cheesy Bread to the meal.

Dad won't let me come to dinner if I don't bring the Cheesy Goodness.

Lastly, it seems that I've been tagged by Geraldine! She's wondering what this Sheep might want to make sure she eats before she shuffles off this mortal coil. I fear this list might reveal the lack of culinary experience I've had, but here goes:

1. Flourless Chocolate Cake (I hear good things...)

2. Flan (I just like saying "flaaaaaaaaaaaan")

3. A vegetable that I grew my very own self. (this might indicate that I've moved somewhere that has actual land attached to it.)

4. Real Texas barbecue

5. A fried twinkie. I don't know why...probably just because it exists.

And now The Sheep heads off to lay her weary head upon her sofa and try to stay awake until after dark like a grown up. Tomorrow is going to be a very long day. As is the day after that.

And the day after that....


Monday, September 04, 2006

Everybody Outta The Pool!!!

On Saturday I happened to stop by the small convenience store located just down the street from Chez Sheep. Gas was down to $2.75 (usd) per gallon on that particular day (lower now, of course...) and I thought I might treat myself to a big 'ol diet Mt. Dew. Big day for The Sheep.

It was a bit busy and I jokingly noted to the harried clerk that next week I'd be the only one in there at that particular time. She looked at me with deadpan face and tired eyes and said,

"Thank Gawd fuh that, deah."

We're all a bit tired at this point. I recall posting back at the beginning of the summer in a humorous manner about the challenges of finding my favorite frozen pizza at the local grocery store and how I liked to use my one and only French phrase, "nomme de plume" to help make our Canadian guests feel more welcome in our friendly state. I chuckled over the rainbow of license plate colors in any given parking lot.

I'm over it.

I have lost patience with the crowds. I am weary of fighting my way through gaggles of ladies in coordinated track suits, full make-up and three inch heels as they debate with one another over the relative virtues of various potato chip flavors. I want to drive on roads where no one mistakes the bright yellow line down the middle as a path.

In short, folks, it's been great. But it is time to go home now.

Let's face it. None of us is really our true self while on vacation. We are out of our element. We are, perhaps, even a bit defensive about our lack of knowledge regarding certain regional customs. We may be from a place that has more Starbucks per square foot. And despite our having traveled to this other place specifically to get away from that kind of life for a while, we might just feel a bit superior. And its not like we are ever going to see any of these people again...such is the life of a tourist. I'm no different when I decide to head out and clutter up someone else's homeland for a while.

A knowledge of basic human nature is enough to get me through mid-August. I'm grateful to live in a place that is appreciated enough to be called, "Vacationland." Labor Day Weekend represents not only the end of my summer vacation, but also the limits of my tolerance for my fellow man.

So, if you happened to be traveling southbound on the Maine Turnpike today and caught a glimpse of a lone woman waving, "bye-bye" at you in what you perceived to be a somewhat sarcastic manner, please let me apologize. I just need a little space.

Please come back and see me on Memorial Day Weekend. I'll be rested up and ready to welcome you with open arms, give you directions when you need them and help you with the correct pronunciation of the city name, "Bangor."

Have a pleasant and safe trip home!


Sunday, September 03, 2006

Summer '06: The Final FO!

Back when I first started to knit, this Sheep had one simple rule: Is this pattern easy enough for me to knit up with a minimum of pouting and late-night Googling for answers to such questions as: What do you do when you suddenly find that you have three times the stitches as when you started?

I still look for ease of knitting in most patterns...I'm not too proud to admit it. But the first question now is always: Would you purchase this item as a finished garment? If the answer is, "no" then I probably shouldn't be knitting it. It is highly unlikely that I will suddenly find myself flinging aside all other clothing in the closet in order that I might reach that hand-knit boa simply because I made it.

But this new project sort of broke the rule. The Sheep is slightly prone to hero-worship and something of a follower. Some things don't just miraculously change after high school, I suppose... So, if The Stoned Knitter had a muff, then The Sheep must have a muff. There was just no question about it.

And, ya know what??? This is a handy little item!!! You knit it with odds 'n ends, it can be done on two circulars if you don't happen to have the right needles lying around and it is highly forgiving of little mistakes.

I knit mine using Woolease Chunky for the cuffs then added two strands of Classic Elite Commotion for the muff body. I decided that I wanted a thicker fabric as this needed to be functional and warm and decided that a smaller needle might be a good choice. This was sound thinking on some levels, however what possessed me to attempt moving all that yarn around on size 7 needles I will never know. Due to the handstrain and escalation in the use of foul language, I opted to shorten the muff body by about an inch. I can't afford hand surgery at this point nor do I have the time for a lengthy stay at a residential mental health facility. It was really a good choice!

One muff...looks felted doesn't it? It's not. Its a billion pounds of yarn scrunched into a solid mass.

Muff in motion...

C'mon...have you ever actually seen a muff outside of a Currier & Ive's print? Me neither. Thus, I felt the need to parody ice skating. It made sense at the time.

I'm planning on taking this into school and storing it in my recently acquired desk. It'll be ready to rock and roll come winter recess duty. I'm forever heading out with one stupid mitten that must be switched from hand to hand in the hopes that I might balance out the frostbite. I haven't been able to hold onto a complete pair of mittens since my mom stopped safety pinning them to my coat. This should solve the problem.

And thus The Sheep completes her first "Along" and her summer vacation all in the space of a day. Tomorrow is a holiday, and then we're back to the daily grind. I have a couple of projects in the works and a linen sample to share with you in the near future. For now, though, lets all revel in the muffy goodness!

Hot cocoa, anyone?


Saturday, September 02, 2006

Beginnin' With Linen...

Despite it's still slightly damp state, I opted to try knitting up a little swatch of the freshly spun linen yarn around ten o'clock last night. This Sheep is not generally known for her patience...

As this was my first attempt at flax spinning, I decided to view the experiment as a learning experience and not one that would result in a useful finished object. This seemed like a good strategy for maintaining solid mental health and self image. I've got school starting in a couple of days and need to be well-defended for my opening day with the students. I completed a small sample and plied two singles into what amounted to a lace weight yarn. I'm finding that I have little choice but to spin it quite fine. I'm thinking that the sport weight I'm shooting for is going to require at least a three ply. The whole thing was boiled/simmered for about an hour then hung to set and dry. I then popped it onto a pair of size 1s and began a seed stitch swatch.

Never knit with linen yarn? Wondering what the experience might be like? Here is a close approximation:

Go to your odds 'n ends drawer and find yourself a ball of twine. No, not that one. That's the good one. Grab the one that you bought a the 99 cent store that time because you became convinced that you might someday find yourself in dire need of twine and that this might be a cost effective way to keep your home and family prepared in the event of a twine emergency. Now, soak this twine in a salt water solution...heavy on the salt. Dry it in the harsh desert sun until it is evenly crisped.

All set? Good. Now, knit something with it.

That is pretty close to the sensation of knitting with linen. I might have tossed the whole kit 'n kaboodle, save for the fact that Ann & Kay have asked that I trust the yarn. They assure me that, after washing, this will be the softest, drapiest and most beloved of items. And since they had the courage to write a book filled with patterns celebrating the humble dishcloth and that they do not fear the garter stitch, I will heed their words. I will trust that the yarn which is currently on the verge of severing my index finger will soften and become more nurturing.

The Angel Kitty Flannel PJs are in stark contrast to the stiff and scratchy linen yarn
It does have a neat look to it, though. This despite the fact that I may have underplied the yarn in places. I think my new mantra may need to be, "you cannot over-ply the cellulose fibers." It is somewhat hard to resist the old habit of watching for that extra bit of twist. But I've noted that the bits where I might have thought I'd overdone it are the ones that actually look the best.
I'll keep working on the swatch, get it washed up and report the results. If you've already spun or knitted with linen and know what awaits me, feel free to sit back and enjoy the show. You have earned the right by blazing the trail ahead of this behind-the-times Sheep. I anticipate that I will have some highly entertaining mishaps in the immediate future!
However, as a monument to Hope, I have my Mason*Dixon book placed prominently for inspiration. Here's hoping there is a Chevron Stripes Hand Towel in my future!

Friday, September 01, 2006

Story Time!

I've had a couple of comments recently from people who may be thinking about becoming spinners or wonder how your average, working Sheep became so enamored with this all- consuming pastime. Since I have nothing new on the needles and the sample of linen yarn that I plied today is still drying, I thought I might just take a minute and tell the tale.

Spin a yarn, if you will.

I honestly have no recollection of the day I decided that I must become a hand spinner. I seem to remember a presentation by some local shepherds on felting at the school where I was working as a counselor a few years back. But I don't remember being particularly inspired by it.

Who knows...perhaps a fiber or two was inhaled while they were there, worked it's way through my bloodstream and into my brain somewhere.

At any rate, a couple of years after that, having recently decided to leave the teaching position I took following the counseling gig, I somehow found myself thinking about spinning. In my typical Sheepie fashion, I plunged in with little regard for the idea that it might be helpful to take a class or at least read a book on the subject. I purchased a drop spindle kit and spun my very first yarn:

Stunning, is it not??
I know. It's not the best example of the craft. But it was the first of what I knew to be many other skeins so I knit it up into this ugly little pouch and I now carry it daily. It is a handy little keep-all for the various pain relievers and antacids that I bring with me to survive the trials and tribulations of being a school teacher.
With a summer of unemployment and zero income looming, I did what anyone might do. I bought a spinning wheel. For what its worth, I chose the least expensive one on the market, constructed of pvc pipe and wheelchair wheels. You know the one I'm talkin' about! It actually worked quite well and I still have it.
My next yarn yarn was spun from a three dollar lot I on which I bid through EBay. It is not what you would call, "high quality" fiber, but an unemployed gal with no insurance and an uncertain future needs to make one or two practical decisions. The wool was washed then carded (combed, really) using a pet hair brush. I then knit it up into this lap rug:

If you look closely, you can see that I have improved my techniques somewhat:

My Dad, a stand-up guy and former industrial arts teacher, became somewhat concerned that a daughter of his was spinning on a plastic wheel. The following Christmas, he presented me with a wheel that he had hand finished and assembled for me. While I was not in the market for a Jensen, it is the wheel I on which I have spun ever since and will probably use until it will serve no more. The tale behind my Dad suddenly becoming interested in the craftier side of life is another story for another day. It's a good one...

There has been a ridiculous amount of fiber in the intervening years, but these are, quite literally, the first two. I'm not sure quite why I remain so fascinated by the process of turning fluff into string, but I have yet to lose interest. I've spun through good times and bad times, had successes and failures, and tried a variety of fibers.

Remind me sometime to tell you about the cat hair yarn. And no, I'm not kidding!

Tomorrow, I hope to be able to post some pix of the linen. Thanks to the anonymous commenter who provided the assist with twist-setting. 'Cuz, you know I was gonna boil it...boil it 'til it begged for mercy. But today I was able to boil it knowing that it was the right thing to do.

Which is pretty much contrary to every other new experience I've had as a hand-spinner...what a lovely change of pace!