Thursday, August 30, 2007

Hopping On Board

I wish I could say that I wasn't one of those people who is always hopping on the bandwagon. But, if the truth be told, I'm quite the hopper. If a wagon goes by bearing a band and I see that others are clambering aboard, then I will probably begin elbowing children and senior citizens aside in order that I might snag a spot for myself.

Despite this, I have somehow managed to elude the recent Crocs fad that seems to be going around. I do love a good shoe, don't get me wrong. But these never really appealed. I didn't like the fit as they seemed to waver between "sort of uncomfortably big" and "just a bit too small." I also couldn't quite see the sense in paying between thirty and forty dollars for an ill-fitting shoe that, to my eye anyway, was constructed of Styrofoam. The whole phenomenon just wasn't working for me and I carried on, convinced that I was living a full life.

With my recent training over and a couple more days of summer vacation left to me, I decided to make a trip back to the discount store to pick up a few odds 'n ends before the start of school. You all remember the discount store, right? It's that magical place where one can purchase a NASCAR-themed crock pot to amuse the blogging world or a one pound box of "Nearegular/Famous Maker" chocolates for a mere ninety-nine cents. I do love the discount store! Today's trip was mostly fueled by my being fed up with my yearly commitment to make curtains for my classroom and failing to follow through. After four years, it was time to accept that I have no desire to drag out the sewing machine to complete this task. I opted to shell out the ten bucks and buy a set at the discount store.

Now, the discount store certainly has it's share of over-stock and irregular items. But they do have a small selection of things that are "normal." Many of those things are to be found in the shoe department and, among them, are the aforementioned Crocs. Not wanting Crocs, I have never really been tempted by them. I'd rather go load up on discount, oddly shaped chocolate. But, I ask you: Just what is a Sheep to do when faced with purple Maryjanes???? I wasn't really aware of my need for purple Maryjanes...I don't recall a time when my life depended upon owning a pair. But, apparently I have been sorely lacking in the PMJ department because I was frozen in my poorly shod tracks by the mere sight of them. There was no getting around it. Styrofoam shoes for $29.99 or not, they were speaking to me.

And what they said was, "Take us home!!!!!"

Who knew? Shoes can talk and I really do like Crocs! I'll be marking this day on my calendar, that's for sure. Epiphanies don't just fall into your lap every day, you know.

With the temperatures being just a bit higher today and a certain mugginess to the air, it was apparent that it was a day to card wool. I have yet to schedule this activity on a crisp, cool day this summer. I am still fiddling with the Shetland lamb fleece and continuing to find it delightful. This is one of the fleeces that found its way from Cathy's house to mine and is yet another thing that should go into the "I didn't know I liked it, but I do" column. It is soft, silky and pleasing to the touch, contrary to my thoughts on the fiber up until this point. I waver constantly on what this is going to be. But, as the carding seems to be taking me something along the lines of "forever and a day," I don't think I really need to be all that worried about it at this juncture.

Too bad there isn't Touchy-Blogging. Then you could pet the Softy-Softy!

And thus ends the second-to-last day of The Sheep's summer vacation. New shoes, and a new yarn in the works; not such a bad way to spend the day, methinks. If you need me, just check the bandwagon...

I'll be the one in the purple Maryjanes.


Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Pick Your Title.

You can call it, "The Wednesday Night Bullet Post," or you can call it "How To Mess With A Sheep." Either will fit. I'm pretty flexible on this one.

*You may remember my mentioning that I tweaked my knee while practicing a side-shuffle evasion maneuver in my class on Monday. Because I am overly-confident in my ability to camouflage certain things and fool the world into thinking that I am immortal, I opted to not tell the instructor about this. In my oddly functioning mind, it made perfect sense to just fudge my way through the class and avoid anything that might force me to sit out. I really didn't want to have to re-take this class.

*I am delusional.

*You may also recall my mentioning on several occasions that Karma hates me.

*Part of becoming a trainer for this program requires that you demonstrate the ability to successfully teach certain skills. The instructor randomly chose different strategies and concepts then assigned them to class members. He had no reason to think that anyone might need any accommodations since a certain Sheep was playing the role of The Immortal Martyr.

*It probably won't tax your imagination too much to guess which skill ended up on my To Teach list. In the event that you are tired or just a hopeless optimist, I'll give you a hint: The first word is, "side," and the second is, "shuffle."

*I also had to teach front, rear and headlock choke releases. If you are ever being choked to death by someone who is not all that invested in actually strangling you, give me a call. I'll have you out in a jiffy.

*Last night's internet interruption was the capper on an overall challenging day. Despite the fact that I really needed to be studying for today's test and teaching assignments, many hours were spent trying to "fix" the internet. It was about two hours before I figured out to call tech. support. Imagine my surprise to learn that my small, Maine town and another in Pennsylvania were experiencing outages.

*I am sure that, in Internet Logic, it makes perfect sense that two small towns in different states, many, many miles apart, would lose service at the same time and that these would be somehow considered, "connected" in the minds of the internet people. But, I still have something of a mind-boggle going on with that...

*Not having the internet caused me to begin to revert back to a sort of primitive state. It was only a matter of time before I started churning butter and talking to actual people as I shopped in actual stores while wearing actual shoes. Thankfully, service was restored this morning and my life has returned to its high tech state, complete with anonymous encounters and shopping in my pajamas. It all makes sense again...

*I now have the rest of the week to suck up the last of the summer vacation fumes. I'll probably nap through most of it. And ice my knee.

*I'm also thinking that I should finish up one or two more of the things I put on those Index Cards Of Summer Organization that I wrote up back in June. I seem to recall thinking that there would be so much time to get so many things finished...

*I am delusional.

Have a good night, everyone! My class is over, my internet service restored and I've missed you all so very, very much. I send you big, sloppy internet kisses. And they taste like black and white cookies because I thought that I maybe deserved a couple after all my trials.


I Didn't Handle It Well

Stupid Internet.

Go all breaky last night.

Force Sheepie to live like a caveman from the eighties.


(more coherent posting later once I have recovered from this highly disconcerting situation)

Stupid Internet...


Monday, August 27, 2007

Harder Than I Thought...

When I agreed to spend the last week of my summer vacation in a training rather than lolling about like a sultan and demanding that the cats feed me grapes, I joked with the Special Education secretary about the whole matter.

Why, this'll be a great way to train myself to get up for work in the morning again!"

I was sort of only half-kidding on that one. I'm not a late-sleeper by any stretch of the imagination. A day that I snooze past 8:00 is a rare one. But the wakey-wakey time is super-duper early during the school year and I always have a tough time getting back on track during that first week of classes.

Thus, a great deal of thought went into the plan for this morning's departure. I normally have to be at school by 7:30 in the morning. So, despite today's training not starting until 8:30, I thought it might be a good idea to get up on a school-day schedule and allow myself a little extra time. The whole thing was brilliant, really. I'd be ready to rock and roll next week and would have some extra time this morning to get ready at my leisure, gas up the truck and maybe even pick up some store-bought coffee on the way to school. I put myself to bed at a reasonable hour, and even went so far as to set two alarm clocks. To ensure that I might actually get out of the bed at the appointed time, I also put a sticky note on the alarm clock button. I figured that would get my attention even if the piercing shriek of the multiple alarms did not.

I tell you, less planning goes into the launching of the space shuttle...

The alarms went off this morning right on schedule. As I thought I might, I hit the snooze button once or twice, but I'd allowed for that in the timetable. I took a moment to sleepily pat myself on my ever-so-punctual back.

That's the last thing I remember for a bit.

The next thing I knew, I was staring at three glowing numbers. They read 7:22. This would be 8 minutes before scheduled departure time. I'd overslept.

With great flailing of limbs, creative language and a willingness to leave the house in something of a less "polished" state, I was able to make it to my first day of Safety Training with thirty seconds to spare. I'd hoped that my over-stupefied and under-caffeinated state might be the full extent of my punishment.

But, it wasn't really a stellar day. Due to a little glitch in overall communication, the training was scheduled for Fire Alarm Testing day at the high school. Thus, for the first three hours, we were subjected to randomly shrieking alarms. As this is a fairly new school, the alarms are not the soothing bells or buzzers of days gone by. Instead, they are composed of two tones, one high, one low. They oscillate at differing rates to ensure that they have the full attention of the listener. They are accompanied by a flashing strobe light. It's a seizure maker, no doubt about it. And not really conducive to higher levels of learning while at a rather important training.

As I was practicing a rather fun little maneuver that involves shuffling backwards and sideways at rapid rates of speed in order that I might avoid a frontal assault from an over-stimulated student, I managed to tweak my left knee a bit and am now on ice so that I can do it all over again tomorrow at higher rates of speed.

Being very late meant that I didn't get to choose my seat. This meant sitting next to The Person Who Is Actively Involved, Eager, And Has Lots Of Questions. I was not really in the mood for her today. I'm sure that she is a lovely person and that her friends and family find her to be nothing short of a delight. She probably donates her time and dollars to many charities and is beloved by all her cross her path. But. I. Was. Not. In. The. Mood. Today.

This all might have been bearable save for one little thing. One tiny thing that, had it been allowed, would have meant the difference between A Good Day With Seizures And A Sore Knee and A Bad Day With Seizures And A Sore Knee. Isn't it funny how it's the little things that make all the difference?

I wasn't allowed to knit.

I have two more knitless days to go, two tests to take and I still need to finish up demonstrating competency in releasing myself from a front choke-hold. I can't help but ask myself:

Why didn't I just stay in bed?


Sunday, August 26, 2007

The Last Battle Cry

Strange days, dudes. Strange days, indeed...

It's been a weird week. The weather has ranged from ice box to sweat box conditions. I was abandoned by a shuttle driver at the auto service center where I promptly went into some sort of fugue state and knit almost an entire sock cuff before I realized that the guy who was supposed to drive me home hadn't shown up. I had a "gettin' the swears out" session with my fellow teachers in order that we might be fully ready and appropriate when the first day of school rolls around.

I purchased a NASCAR themed crock pot...on purpose. If that isn't a sign of the strange world in which we are now living, then I don't know what is.

It's a whole new week now, the last before I go back to teaching full time. You'd think I'd want to spend it relaxing or finishing up some of the knitting projects that didn't get done over The Summer That Was. But, it is not to be. Instead, I have committed myself to three days of training in Safety Care. At the moment, I am spending a great deal of time beating myself metaphorically over the head and questioning why I would give up the last few gasps of summer vacation to take a class. But it is for the best in the long run. By being a grown-up about this and making an effort I will be certified as a trainer in the program and the school district will pay me to train everyone else. I suppose there will be a bit of knitting time in there as well, since these things always contain a lengthy lecture component.

See how I'm focusing on the positive, here? Making the best of it? I'm like a role model for grumps everywhere who want to change their dour dispositions. Very mature.

Since I am soon to lose the freedom that is summer vacation and will be spending the next three days trapped in a class, I feel that I deserve one last moment of the crazy. I'm just gonna let 'er rip! Feel free to join me in the bellowing of my new favorite word. Really roll that, "r!" Maybe even spray a little of the spittle when you do it. C' know you wanna!!!! Ready?


Didn't that feel good? Of course, I realize that my inability to call this pattern by its correct name doesn't change the fact that these are actually the Broadripple Socks from the Knitty archives. But that doesn't have the same sort of ring to it as Bripple does and, after saying it once, the title sort of stuck in my head. I've been randomly shouting out, "Bripple" ever since.

But, I can't do that as of tomorrow. Hence, despite the continued heat and humidity today, every effort was made to complete these socks before I headed out to the training. I'm certain that the nice people who are teaching it will be very grateful. I'm pretty sure that no educator, no matter how skilled, is going to be able to command the attention of a class while a Sheep keeps bleating, "Bripple, Bripple, Bripple!!!!!" all day.

These are a really fun knit and I'm thankful that April, our resident Professional Yarn Fondler, recommended the pattern. They were handcrafted by me using Sunshine yarns Emerald Isles colorway. It used to live with Trek. But Trek sent it to me little knowing that the yarn would become the inspiration for the Bripple Battle Cry. Or maybe she never know.

These are, in fact, strange times.


Saturday, August 25, 2007

Organization Can Pay Off!

Anyone who knows me can attest to the fact that I am not the most organized person strolling this planet. In fact, I am probably pretty close to ending up on a daytime talk show of some sort where I will be shamed in front of a studio audience as pictures of the squalor in which I exist are flashed across the monitors. When questioned as to how I could let my life spiral so far out of control, I will have little to offer in the way of explanation. Some things just happen...

I have nothing against organization. I don't hate organization. I think organization is a pretty good thing. Unless, of course, you are not sleeping at night because you are not 100% sure that your sock drawer is arranged by color from lightest to darkest. Then, I suppose a commitment to organization might be considered a bad thing. Otherwise, though, I'm pretty much in agreement with the idea of having a system of sorts. I'm just not so good with the follow-through...

Over the past year, I have collected quite a few rather lovely skeins of sock yarn. I have purchased some of it, but most have come to me through a variety of blog contests and the kindness of readers who thought I might appreciate a little stash enhancement. Contrary to my general scattered nature, I actually have managed to corral it pretty handily through the use of several shoe organizers that hang over various closet doors. This represents a supreme effort on my part and one that I am justifiably proud of. I'm usually pretty good at recalling from whence it came, too. I like to link to the giver when I finish knitting something with the yarn and proudly post a picture on the old blog.

But, the other day, as I was knitting away on the ribbed socks it occurred to me that I didn't remember exactly who had sent it. I'm pretty sure I know...just not completely sure. There's a lot of sock yarn in those shoe organizers. And I'm starting to lose track. This is not good.

So, I did what any generally disorganized person might do and spent an hour or so trying to find my label maker. I'm sure that there were more efficient ways to go about labeling the sock yarn in order that I might instantly recall its origins. But, I sort of had it in my head that this was a job for the label maker. I find it's best not to question these things too much. It is often better to just dig through the cluttered drawers and closets to find the thing that I purchased to make my life more organized. If I ponder too deeply how I managed to lose the label maker that was supposed to render things more easily found, then I run the risk of ending up in some sort of weird, unending mind loop.

The label maker was located, the sock yarns were tagged with the name of the giver and I even managed to slap a few labels on some fiber that came my way recently. This meant opening a few bags and rearranging some things. But it was all in the name of organization.

One of those bags contained the winnings from a recent blog contest that CJ was running. Now, please understand, there were a lot of good things in the mail that day. There was a great deal of squealing, giggling, hugging of fibers and taking of pictures. One can easily imagine that I might be a little overwhelmed by all the colors and textures... But, how on earth did I manage to miss this?????

Stitch markers!!! Lots of stitch markers!!!! Lots of pretty stitch markers!!!!!

There they were, tucked in the bottom of the bag, big as life and twice as twinkly!!! I suppose that this can only serve to prove the striking beauty of the yarns and fiber that were in that prize package. But how one earth does one overlook such beautiful stitch markers? It was a lovely surprise, though. Sort of like getting another package... Thanks, CJ! And thanks, Organization! Long Live The Label Maker!!!

All that excitement was pretty much more than a body can take today, though. The heat and humidity have returned with a vengeance. After our recent cold snap, it is all the more unbearable. The temperature in the living room soared once again to 94 degrees and the sticky air is just not conducive to much of the fiber fun. I spent a little time carding the Shetland lamb fleece that Cathy sent me a while back, but the heat soon made that just impossible. I am in the home stretch of the second Bripple sock, yet find the mere thought of any further knitting today just intolerable. The yarn simply doesn't want to move and, frankly, neither do I. The best bet for the afternoon was to take a cool bath and a long nap. Hopefully, things will chill down enough tonight that I can maybe do a bit more with the Bripples.

If not, then I'll make a label for them that reads, "Too Hot To Knit." Which I should probably do quickly since I'm already not exactly sure where I set the label maker after I used it last...


Thursday, August 23, 2007

Random Resumed.

Oh, great. Now I'm all "scatter-y!" I miss one little Wednesday Night Bullet Post in the interest of making amends for not posting pictures of my new NASCAR crock pot for the blogging public and now I've got all this stupid random running amok through my system. I need to bullet post and I need to do it fast! I cannot live through the next week blurting out whatever comes to mind with no regard for context or sequence.

Well...I suppose I could. But, it wouldn't really be fair to everyone else who has to walk this planet and periodically interact with me. So I'm going to do the Thursday version. This should get things back on track.

*I had no plans whatsoever to go into school today. My intention was to pull off a big,bad move-a-thon yesterday, get everything set up then head over to the high school to get the teacher certification coordinator to sign off on my paperwork for renewal. This step is crucial if you are going to make the "you missed the deadline so we'll give you a back-up deadline and this time we really mean it" cut-off for getting the paperwork into the state and retaining a license to teach. It was a plan. And a good one, at that.

*Except that, after a summer apart, we teachers have all forgotten just how sick of each other we were. All that ill-will and unteacherly bickering is overwhelmed by our sudden happiness to see one another. It is truly heartwarming. We laugh, we chat, we ask about each others' respective vacations... and take up a great deal of time that could be spent unpacking and carrying desks around. So I had to go back today and do all the stuff that I couldn't do yesterday due to all the teacher-love.

*At one point a bunch of us spent some quality time "getting the swears out." This is important because, after two months of not having to watch our language, we need to finish up with the summer gutter mouths. It is time to behave appropriately. Your fifth grade teacher did the same thing. You can believe me or not. But I speak true.

*I took delivery on a package today. It was brought unto me by The Delivery Company That Hates Me And Held My Yogurt Maker Hostage. All went smoothly. But is it weird for a driver to say, "Thank you for being home?" I wasn't sure how to respond. "You're Welcome," seemed inadequate, perhaps even a little condescending. I went with, "No problem!"

*That was weird, too.

*And, on an even more weirder (bordering on most weirdest) note, the package contained an Addi Turbo Lace Needle. This would seem to imply that I am planning to knit lace. Does ordering the needle, then blogging about it mean that I have made some sort of commitment to knitting lace? Are there Lace Police who will learn of my not having chosen to knit lace? Will I have to go to some sort of prison for Lace Liars?

*I shudder to think what the gang situation will be in that prison. I'll probably end up with the people who just do that yarnover/drop the yarnover thing over and over. On size 17 plastic needles. With cheap acrylic yarn donated by the local church. The cool gangs will beat us up pretty regularly, but I'll bet that our flouncy and highly washable scarves will bring a pretty penny at the yearly Jail Sale to benefit balding sheep.

*I tend to overthink things. At least I think I do...maybe I don't. Maybe it's more like pondering. I'll have to think about this for a bit.

*I am covered in tiny, little bruises. I look like I was beaten up by elves. Every single bruise bears a remarkable resemblance to a desk or the corner of the little refrigerator that I was lugging around yesterday. It is not a good look for me, I have decided. But the classroom looks quite stunning so I guess it was worth the loss of two knitting days and the damage to my pure, unblemished skin.

Whew! Sheepie feels all better! You know, like after a really big burp? All that random sloshing around since yesterday has just been building up in there. Now I can move on with my life, maybe write a novel or carry on a conversation like normal people do. Thank you for your kind attention. I feel like I can take on the world!!!!

Or knit lace?


Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Well, If You Are Really That Impressed...

We interrupt your regularly scheduled Wednesday Night Bullet Post to bring you this important information:

People, please! Settle! A little decorum, if you will. I realize that my taunting you with descriptions of my new "themed" crock pot was nothing short of cruel. But, this was not my intention! You must believe me!

Last night I went a-knittin' with Noolie and Mel. We had much to discuss, including creative lawn watering techniques (you don't want to know...) and the progression of media coverage in the event of an actual zombie invasion. These are important matters and topics that must be covered in their entirety. The hour, she grew late. Sheepie ain't the party girl she used to was. Sheepie is a middle-aged gal who gets all tuckered out after dark and who just didn't have it in her to get the pictures up last night. But, honestly...would I ever let you down? Would I miss an opportunity to share the glory that is the NASCAR crock pot?

Of course not. Rest your agitated nerves, gentle readers. I'm there for you in your time of blog boredom. Here you go:

Frontal View. Please note that the temperature setting dial is a speedometer. That is a really "authentic" touch, there.

From The Rear. Do not adjust your monitors. These are the pictures from the "way back" and are, in fact, black 'n white.

Sadly, there was no possibility of photographing these while in the store. They come in a plain brown wrapper. No. I am not kidding. Do you want the NASCAR -watching, crock pot-cooking public to just go mad with desire in the middle of the discount store, for heaven's sake????

Yup. I gots me a Dale Earnhardt discount crock pot. I will soon be dyeing more of the merino fleece from the depths of this fine piece of Americana. My life has taken some strange turns along the way. Quite a few, really. But this represents a hard left, a few hills and one or two dubious rest stops.
But wait! There's more!!
Despite the fact that I had to go into school today, move furniture (including a small refrigerator down a flight of stairs), answer the question, "so how was your summer?" 8 million times without referencing the new crock pot, and deal with my rather late application for the renewal of my teaching certificate, I kept you all foremost in my thoughts. I was feeling so very guilty for not sharing a photo of the new crock pot. It was just eating me alive. Piece by muttony piece... So, my dears, I took time out of my busy day to do a little research. I have learned that you, too, can have a NASCAR crock pot for your very own. You'll have to pay a bit more than I and, sadly, there did not appear to be a Dale Earnhardt amongst the bunch. But, I did my best. If you go to, you will find these super-classy pots for crocking. For a little preview of the Jeff Gordon model, just go here.
I hope this makes us Even-Steven and that you can find it in your hearts to forgive me for my fatigue induced blogging transgression. We are rapidly approaching the end of my Knitting With Noolie Nights since the school year is soon to be upon us. I will be more vigilant with regard to my photographs from that moment on.
Pinky Swear!!!
Edited to add the following at 11:21 pm:
We have further examined the crock pot and determined that it does, indeed, feature Richard Petty rather than the aforementioned Dale Earnhardt. My apologies to NASCAR fans everywhere. Please do not hurt me. In my defense, the box said it was Dale Earnhardt. This only serves to make the whole situation more humorous in my opinion and, as you know, I pretty much live for this kind of stuff.
You may now return to your regular, non-tacky-crock-pot lives.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Will The Dye Set Faster Now?

Having recently discovered the joys of using the crock pot for dyeing fiber rather than trying to create healthy meals for up to 10, I decided that it may be worth my while to invest in a larger pot. While the dyeing space is smaller, I've had much better results with color than I did using the big pot heated on the stove. As an added bonus, the crock pot liner is so very easy to clean and probably won't rust out like my big ol' lobster pot did.

However, the larger crock pots were a bit on the pricey side by my humble standards. Especially for something that was going to be used as a dye pot. I wanted, at the very least, a 6 quart pot and was having little luck finding one at a price I was willing to pay.

I'd heard a rumor that there were a few decent-sized slow cookers over at the local Honest-It-Just-Fell-Off-The-Truck Discount Store. So after retrieving my truck from the service center yesterday, I headed over for a gander. And, sure enough, there were a few of the desired pots that could be had for a price I considered to be within my budget.

But, sometimes life is just funny. I like to think that the smart folks let the funny work itself out. I mean, really...if you can't see the chuckle potential in certain situations then you aren't really trying and are probably doomed to a life of eating nothing but sensible meals. Which I can guarantee you will not have cooked up in one of these crock pots.

For you see, there was a catch. The reasonably priced pots had all a Sheep could wish for in terms of bells 'n whistles, overall capacity, ease of cleaning...

and are part of the Legends of Nascar series.

I'll just let you sit with that for a minute...

Yes. There are a series of crock pots especially designed for racing fans. Serious racing fans. Racing fans who are committed enough to the sport to want even their pot roast to have a little of the taste of the track.

I had to ask myself, "Sheep, how much do you really want a crock pot? Just what is your commitment level here?"

Don't get me wrong. I wholeheartedly support the right of Nascar fans everywhere to celebrate their chosen interest. Have at it and cheer to your heart's content! I've watched a few races with the family myself over the years. I just never thought I'd ever be in a position where I'd be giving serious consideration to whether I wanted a crock pot featuring Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt or some other guy I've not heard of.

Yeah...there are days when the blog just writes itself. You got a Sheep standing in a discount store weighing the relative merits of race car drivers and trying to decide just how far she is willing to compromise her sophisticated decor in order that she might have a cheap dye pot. Life is funny sometimes.

And, for the record, I went with Dale Earnhardt. I figure if you're going to go with the Nascar theme, you might as well make the whole thing something of a tribute.

And I think Dale would have appreciated the humor in the situation...


Monday, August 20, 2007

Around And Around...

It was 46 degrees outside this morning. (that would be somewhere around 7 or 8 on the Celsius scale, I think...) Having once again neglected to close the windows before turning in last night, it was not a morning that inspired leaping from the bed and getting an enthusiastic start. The Big, Fluffy Kitty, who normally retires to another part of the house after seeing me safely off to bed at night was by my side and looking concerned. I can only assume that this was some sort of selfless act aimed at keeping me alive with her vast body heat because she really does like me. That or she wanted to ensure the morning filling of the food dish...either way, the gesture was appreciated.

There could be no lolling about and congratulating her quick thinking, though. I needed to brave the cold temperatures and get out of bed. As much as I hated to do it, I had to venture forth once more to the dealership service center and face the people who fix my truck. Nothing too dramatic this time; I just needed to get a couple of tires replaced. Routine maintenance, really. I'd simply put it off for a while. Part of it was due to the expense. I hate spending money on my vehicle that could be more happily put towards pretty hair bows and gum drops. Or yarn.

Those who have followed this blog for a while know that I don't have the best track record with the mechanics. Over the past year, I have spent more on my truck that I care to admit. Or even think about... But, tires are important and, with school starting soon, I needed to take care of this. I'm a commuter. I pile on the miles. I need tires with actual treads if the vehicle care manual is to be believed.

I arrived at the service center bright and early, turned over my keys and was told that the shuttle would be available in about ten minutes to take me back to my happy (if chilly) home where I could wait out the repairs from the comfort of my own couch. An hour later, a message was left on my home answering machine stating that the repairs were on schedule and asking if I wanted an alignment as well. Which I did. I just forgot to mention it when I made the appointment.

All in all, this was really pretty efficient given how busy they were over there this morning. Yup. This could probably stand as a model for car fixers everywhere.

Well, it could have been an example had it not been for one thing: at the time the call was placed to my home, I was sitting in the waiting room of the service center staring with bewilderment at the cuff of a sock and thinking, "Either I have become the world's fastest knitter and have set some sort of record for how much one can stitch up in ten minutes or I have been here a bit longer than I'd planned."

It was not the former.

The poor head mechanic came out to the waiting area, turned a rather alarming shade of white and said, "Oh my God! We forgot about you! The shuttle left without you!!!" I was given the choice of waiting an hour and a half or so for the repairs to be finished or going home and coming back later. I did a few quick calculations based on the data available. If I knew that a ten minute wait for a shuttle equaled one hour, then what exactly would 90 minutes translate to in "garage time?" The math was complex and the variables many, but it was clear to me that I would probably be spending the night had I elected to stay. A salesman was pulled from the floor to escort me home since the shuttle driver was nowhere to be found at that point. The shuttle was there...just no driver. Since no one else seemed to find this alarming, I opted not to panic and start gathering up a search party.

My decision was a good one. It was 2:30 in the afternoon, a good four hours later, before I was able to retrieve my vehicle. After running a quick errand, I returned home and prepared to forget my vehicular woes (and the $500.00 price tag). I had another few minutes to spend on the whole matter, though. I went in to have the tires on the passenger side replaced this time, leaving the other two on the "pending" list. After ten minutes of walking around the truck and staring at the new rubber, followed by the input of my neighbor who obviously thought I'd had some sort of cerebral episode and was now lost in my own parking space, it was clear. Two tires had indeed been replaced. But they'd moved the new ones to the front. A good choice. I like having two new tires on the front. I just needed the heads-up is all. I'm sleeping in the numbing cold and losing large amounts of time while knitting socks in the service center waiting room. There is every reason to believe that I have lost a few brain cells. I need clear information regarding where my new tires be.

Oh well. It'll make for good conversation the next time I go a' knitting with Noolie. I know that some of you are sad because you don't get to knit with Noolie. I understand. It is fun to knit with Noolie. But you know what you can do? You can Light The Night With Noolie!!! No flames or explosions involved, just a little donation to a very good cause is all. If you hate the dark and all things cancerish, then why not go light things up a bit?

After making a donation to the college funds of several children I do not know but whose parents work at the auto service center, I dropped some dollars towards a lighter night myself. It's most certainly a worthwhile endeavor. And I may need the karma points.

The truck is due for its state inspection this month. I am told I need to "take care of a few things..."


Sunday, August 19, 2007

Maybe If I Had A Cool Theme Song...

I'm a dope.

I know what you're thinking: Oh, that Sheep! Always with the low self-esteem...she probably just needs a hug or something. Or maybe she should do that thing where she looks in the mirror and repeats positive affirmations.

But no amount of positive thinking is going to keep me from just being silly at times. Take last night for example. Maine was plunged into something of a cold snap and the evening breezes were crisp. While there was a lovely "refreshing" quality to the whole thing, it was also sort of chilly here at the manse. I distinctly recall thinking as I tucked myself into bed, "Gosh, I'm cold. I should probably do something about that..."

The solution was simple: close the stupid windows. One does not have to be a brain surgeon to find relief from the shivers. Make big holes in walls shut. Wind stay outside. Sleep good.

Instead, I spent the night periodically reaching down into the depths of the dirty laundry basket, handily located and severely overflowing by the side of my bed, for new items of clothing at various stages of declining freshness. Layer upon layer I built upon my sleepwear until there was no way to add more without exceeding the tensile strength of the outer garments. I awoke this morning, a large lump under the covers and severely restricted in terms of movement. I am unclear as to whether the ancient Egyptians ever actually attempted to mummify a Sheep. But I now know that it can be done.

As you can imagine, it took a while to unwind from my self-made shroud and find a few layers to wear today that were more in keeping with how rational people dress in this day and age. I somehow managed to feed and clothe myself without any help but found that I was getting a rather late start to the day. This was unfortunate given my recent realization that I have a lot to do and very little time left to finish it all up before school starts and I have to work for a living.

I was up and about in plenty of time to continue with my viewing of Cartoon Network's Naruto, marathon, though. One must have priorities after all. I have worked my way through the episodes with the hard core, gritty theme songs and moved on to the more recent shows that feature the happy, peppy "Fighting Dreamers" tune at the opening credits that makes you just want to tie on your most intimidating headband then merrily kick and punch your way to the beat.

Right here, right now (Bang!)....Right here, right now (Burn!)

It's a motivator, all right! Just not one that makes you do the things you are supposed to be doing. The intended cleaning of the kitchen was sort of abbreviated, although I must admit that the half of the floor that I mopped and scrubbed is pretty much stunning. I worked my way to the flap of the second Bripple sock and have found that singing the Naruto theme song at top volume is a nice way to keep yourself from having an utter breakdown when the stitches sneak off the slippery metal dpn while you are trying to watch TV and knit at the same time.

That's about it. The bills remain unpaid as of this writing. The laundry is not done. The mere thought of vacuuming is enough to make me want to chuckle. I am held fast by the glowing box with the ongoing anime and not bothering to do much of anything else.

Oli-Oli-Oli-Oh! Just go my waaaaaay!!!!

So, to recap: I am incapable of meeting my own basic needs for shelter and comfort, can't seem to finish the chores that might qualify me as a "responsible adult" and have a cartoon theme song stuck in my head, over half of which is in Japanese and I don't speak Japanese.

Maybe it's time to go back to the teaching schedule. I don't seem to be managing my free time all that well...


Saturday, August 18, 2007

Saturday Socks (and Sasuke)

Bleh. That's where I'm at. The land of Bleh. I've been sort of snuffy and sinus-y for the last few days. Nothing serious, really. Just those end-of-the-season allergies that sometimes pop up just for snorts and giggles. It's not even all that big a case of the Boogery Blues, just enough to be noticeable. There was some talk of meeting up with a friend of mine who was thinking of coming down this way for a visit, but the plans were left somewhat vague. I hate to admit this, but I was a bit relieved to not get the call. The overall sense of bleh is not conducive to wearing anything other than sweatpants and a dirty t-shirt.

I suspect that part of my overall sense of bleh is possibly connected to my having spent the whole summer not attending to the mundane tasks that, in another life, I could have delegated to my minions. I'm pretty sure that I could have had oodles of minions had I taken a different path. I'd literally be tripping over my toadies, all of whom would just waiting for the chance to do my bidding. But, I somehow managed to miss that stop while riding the bus of life and now I must take care of those annoying little chores myself. As is my way, I have left these tasks for the last couple of weeks of summer vacation and I am highly resentful of the time they are going to take away from my busy napping schedule. Now, if I had a minion or two, this is the kind of resentment I could put on them...

But, slowly, these things are getting checked off the to-do list and there is every reason to believe that there will only be one or two vital tasks that will be left undone. That will give me plenty of time to come up with a couple of brilliant excuses to whatever powers are in charge of punishing me for not doing these very important things and all will be well.

I'm nothing if not organized about my procrastination.

It was really rather thoughtful of Cartoon Network to decide that this should be the weekend to run non-stop episodes of Naruto. (hence the reference in the post title) I've pretty much been glued to the big glowing box and following the saga of the world's most unlikely ninja since yesterday morning. Yes, I made the appointment to get the tires replaced on the truck. And I cleaned out the fridge. I even subdued that stuff in the back that was growling at me. But I did it all to the ever-evolving soundtrack that comes with the little feller that houses the spirit of the Nine Tailed Fox. I also thought a great deal about the things I could and should have been doing and I have decided that this counts as part of competing the tasks. It's like pre-planning.

And I've worked on socks. I am almost done with the cuff of the second Bripple sock in spite of its contrary nature. Second socks are like that... Since there are one or two boo-boos in the first of the pair, I see no reason why there shouldn't be a couple in the second so I have decided to let it have the occasional tantrum in the interest of a matching pair. (Or a finished pair.) If the error is glaring, I'll go back. Otherwise, the yarn is funky enough to hide a multitude of sins.

I've also returned to the spinning of the gifted roving that was sent in order that it might one day grow up to become a pair of socks. I have to admit, I see good things here. The singles are spider silk thin, reasonably consistent and tightly spun. If I can ply them as firmly, I will have what I'm looking for in a durable sock yarn.

And it's got blue in it so, even if it's not exactly what I want, all will be well.
Yes, despite an active case of bleh, a mountain of boring grown-up type tasks to be tackled and an Anime Happy Fest to help me avoid those tasks, I have managed to make the fibery stuff happen! Go me!
September is coming. I am ready to be a good and positive influence on my students, the future caretakers of this great land! Let responsibility reign!

Friday, August 17, 2007

And Now For Something Completely Different...

So...did you think that I was frittering away my summer vacation, ripping out poorly knit socks, carding endless piles of merino and watching cartoons? I certainly could understand why you might think that since, well...I do a lot of that. But, I have to tell you that this has not been the case.

No. I have been a productive citizen of the blogging community. I have depth. I have levels. That's right. You heard me: levels. And layers, too. Levels and layers...complex, that's me!

In the fine tradition of multi-leveled blogging Sheep, I have gone forth and become a member of MotherTalk's group of blog-tour book reviewers. We read and reflect (deeply, I might add) on a book that has impact or appeal for Moms, then provide a review on our sites so that interested parents can cruise the blog tour for the deets.

"But, Sheep," you may be saying, "you are not a fact, you have pointed this out to us on several occasions; how is it that you can blog for a site that is designed for parents?"

Valid question. I fall under what I might call the "Other" heading. And, since any review I do is going to be heavily influenced by my Other-Status, it is probably worth giving a little short form resume which might help explain why I made the cut. I hold an undergraduate degree in Education and corresponding certificates as a Special Educator and Elementary Educator. My Master's Degree is in Counseling, with a concentration in School Counseling. I have worked in the field of education for twenty years. In addition, I have worked as a Parenting Educator and Visitation Supervisor for a small agency that contracted with family court and the Maine Department of Health and Human Services. In these capacities, I have worked with children and families on such issues as literacy and supporting children's learning.

So there you go. Levels, layers and a lengthy intro. Let's talk about the book, shall we?

maxride cover

Given my love of youth literature, I was pleased to be able to review a copy of Maximum Ride (Saving The World And Other Extreme Sports), the most recent installment in James Patterson's popular series of novels which tell the tale of Max and her friends as they navigate their way through a world that is less than understanding of their unique nature. Max, Fang, Nudge and Izzy are children with the power to fly thanks to the misguided experiments of scientists with questionable motives. On the run and at risk of capture at any moment, the children must care for themselves, elude the menacing Erasers and deal with the emotional turmoil that comes from being young and abandoned by the adults who were supposed to love and care for them. As if this weren't enough, they must also save the world...

Maximum Ride, like most novels in the "youth" category, paces itself quickly. While there are a number of sub-plots at work, each moves along at a satisfying rate that allows for appropriate tension and resolution without risking the loss of the younger audience. The dialogue is sharply written and engaging. It, as much as anything, helps to define the characters and provides a "hook" for identifying with them.

I hesitate to give a "reading level" since most children are pretty unique in their approach to literature and many will advance their skills in order to read something that they find appealing. The range on this book is pretty wide, though. I can certainly see an advanced third grader being able to tackle it. I'd say the mid-range is probably somewhere around fifth/sixth grade or so. But, frankly, it is a series that has already demonstrated an appeal to readers at all ages, including high school and college. The dialogue, content and narration are just "edgy" enough to appeal to young readers without crossing any lines with regard to language or other objectionable content that might be of concern to parents.

It would be helpful for the reader to have some experience with novels that shift perspective from one character to another and from first to third person narration. There doesn't appear to be a great deal of "specialized language" that will require creative decoding skills on the part of the reader (ex. Harry Potter novels which use magical terms not common to everyday language) but there is a bit of science content that might encourage young readers to explore the dictionary or science texts.

Some of us care for children who have not had a smooth childhood and for whom certain themes may be tricky. Literature is a wonderful way to help approach and process these challenges and, as a counselor, I have used this tool many times. However, as children become independent readers and we move away from the shared experience of reading to them, we may need to take the time to preview books to ensure that we can assist children with negotiating any rough spots. Some themes that parents may want a heads-up on in Maximum Ride are:


Abandonment and reconnection


Parentified Children

Abuse of power

These themes are dealt with well in the context of the book and could provide parents with an excellent starting point for discussions with children. Every parent should look at their own child's individual needs and tolerance level before introducing highly charged topics and determine the child's readiness.

In addition to being a fast-paced, enjoyable read, the book connects itself to other media to enhance the experience. To get a little more insight into what Max and the kids are up to, a reader can hop on over to Fang's Blog and keep abreast of current developments in their world. The Maximum Ride website also includes engaging material which connect more to the upcoming movie based on the novel. I believe that there is also a link to a MySpace page with further information, but I have not followed up on that one so I can't comment as to its quality.

All in all, MR is a good read for children and adults alike and one that I will be bringing with me to my classroom in a couple of weeks to share with my students. Some are challenged readers and I think that this book might just appeal to them enough to encourage some skill practice. As a special educator, it is always a pleasure to find a book series that will be met with enthusiasm by the students in my class who are sometimes known to resist reading.

So, there you go! A Friday Book Review to get you started on your weekend!! Tomorrow we will return to our regular blog content, comprised of failed knitting experiments and arguments lost to my cats.

Happy End Of The Work Week, Everyone!!


Thursday, August 16, 2007

Purls Before Sheep

The Sheep Clan gathered once again today to take yet another stab at securing the family fortune and ensuring that I can get access to whatever is needed should circumstances ever require it. This time, we remembered to bring everyone associated with the account and there were no questions with regard to permissions. Not dragging Daddy Sheep along with us last time to testify to the fact that Mommy Sheep and I were not attempting to make off with the dollars while he lay helplessly trussed in the basement was something of an error in judgement. Once his well-being was established, we were able to tweak the accounts to our liking with minimal difficulty. (Sort of...banking is very, very hard it turns out. It requires a great deal of time and a willingness to share the picture on your driver's license with complete disregard for the fact that it was raining the day it was taken and there was something of a "hair issue.")

Any Sheep Family Outing is not considered complete without some sort of food related activity and it just so happened that Banking Day landed on the same date as Lunching With Mommy Sheep's Side Of The Family Day. I like it when these things work out. The group was small, but included my favorite little cousin (who isn't really a cousin but rather a child who is connected to me through a series of complicated steps in the family tree and it is really just easier to call him, "cousin.") I am a big hit with the 9-year-olds of the world. And, frankly, it is a treat for me to get to hang out with someone else who appreciates it when the ketchup bottle makes a farting sound and who brings word searches that we can do together. The elementary school set is comprised of My People.

I kicked some serious tuchas on the word search, too. I had my special highlighter pen with me so it was really no contest. Lunch was pretty good, too. No lobster this time, though. I'm sort of "lobstered out" at this point. I needed some chicken and pesto to balance out all the seafood.

Once home, another happy thing awaited. As I was lying on the couch and bloating merrily away from all the pesto, I heard the faintest of jingling sounds. Thinking that the Smaller, Less Fluffy Kitty had emerged to bat about one of the Fuzzy Jingle Balls that she has so come to love, I took a moment to glance over and toss out a little kitty greeting. Imagine my surprise to see the Big, Fluffy Kitty and the Scary Mousie On A String that so terrified her the other night. It was a short little play period, perhaps thirty seconds of activity. But it was activity, nevertheless! My attempts at enticing the round feline into working off a few of the kitty pounds may just be working!!! We are not getting too excited at this point. Batting a stuffed Mousie On A String for a couple of seconds before dozing off again probably doesn't mean that she is ready to start her own cable access exercise program or anything. And it would probably be unreasonable to think that I will be able to retire on the profits from the resulting DVD series.

But it's a start...

Good thing we had a little of the happy going on today. Last night was something of a grump-fest over here. The second of the Bripple Socks, so hopefully cast on, was ripped in a fit of purl-hating tantrumming that does not reflect well on any adult. But, since I have already mentioned my finding great hilarity in the farting of the ketchup bottle, I suppose it isn't too much of a stretch to think that I have the occasional childish fit.

It really boils down to my hatred of purling. These socks have twelve rows of Garter Ripple. You knit one row in pattern. Then you have to purl. It's only six rows of actual purling. The fact that knitting follows should be enough to make it bearable. But it doesn't. It only makes the knitting rows more sad. You know that the purling is to come. And I hate purling. But I persevered and made it through those dreaded twelve rows in record time and looked forward to many, many hours of happy knitting with nary a purl in sight until the heel loomed.

But then I lost a stitch. And I had to tink back. Then I lost two stitches. And then I got a little off-track emotionally. It was probably an overreaction to rip out an entire sock over the whole thing. I'm sure I could have worked back to a happier, if purl-ridden place. But that didn't occur to me at the time. I was overwrought and this, in turn, led to overreacting. I ripped the whole stupid thing and said,

"There!!!! How do you like that, Bripple? Who's the loser now, huh??? "

It occurred to me shortly thereafter that the loser in this equation might be me. I was now back to purling.

And I hate purling.


Wednesday, August 15, 2007

I Got Your Random Right Here!

It's Wednesday and that can only mean one thing: Wednesday Night Bullet Post!!! Sit back and enjoy the random:

*I finished the first Bripple Sock about an hour ago. The second is on the needles and will hopefully go as quickly as its mate. Seriously...when have I ever knit a sock in less than a month?????

*Have I mentioned how much I love my yogurt maker? OK, I know I've mentioned it. But, I don't think I've mentioned it yet this week.

Homemade, strained yogurt with a store bought, crunchy, earthy sort of cereal and
maple syrup. And those raisins? I made those, too!
*It's like living on a farm around here with all the grape dehydrating and yogurt production. It's only a matter of time before I get me a chicken or two.
*The Smaller, Less Fluffy Kitty is grateful to all of you for suggesting that Mommy break out that laser pointer thing again. She gets a few minutes of entertainment out of chasing the elusive dot and was a bit perplexed when it went away.
*What she forgets is that she lost interest in the dot after a while and gave me pitying looks every time I brought it out and expected to be entertained.
*The Big, Fluffy Kitty has no real interest in the wiggling red dot. She has tapped it a few times, but quickly realized that it is unattainable and inedible. Fat Kitty Aerobics remains in the beta stage. And we're back to the Dangling Mousie On A String method for our daily exercise sessions.
*I no longer growl when using it. We seem to be past the terror that I created the first time we played with it.
*You, my thirty loyal readers have been heard. I most humbly apologize for not including a picture of the new sock in last night's post. It was thoughtless of me to rave about this yarny piece of goodness and not share it with you.

The colors are just a bit off, but you get the idea.

*The only problem with the speed of the Bripple knitting is the equal speed with which the time to make a decision regarding the heel on this sock approaches. It's like Knitting Physics.

* Will I go with the short-row? Will I chicken out and knit the usual flapped and picked up stitches heel? Will I try that afterthought heel which I've also never done and will be just as risky? Can you stand the suspense?????

* I pulled a muscle in my neck today. Which is not good.

*What is worse is that I pulled a muscle in my neck reaching into the refrigerator. How out of shape do you have to be to hurt yourself getting a snack?

*I suspect that this may be yet another message from Karma. Karma hates me. Karma is overly sensitive with regard to the little mistakes I have made in life. However, Karma also seems to have a sense of humor since the whole fridge injury is not without a certain chuckle-factor.

*It hit me today that I will need to go into school next week to get things set up. I'm signed up for a training the following week and there will be no time for such nonsense as scheduling and tacking up posters at that point. This is something of an horrific realization given the things I still need to get done this summer.

*One of those things includes some maintenance on the truck. Like tires... I hear that tires with treads are all the rage right now. I probably should get on that.

*Do bald tires get cold? If I just knit them scarves can I save myself the expense of two new tires? Is that the only issue here?

*That was a joke. (a knitting themed joke so it fit with the whole genre of the blog) There is no need to call my Dad or anything. I'll be taking care of the tires just as soon as possible. Tires are good. Truck rolls on tires.

*I'll be meeting up with the family again tomorrow for another stab at adjusting the Sheep Family Finances. This time, we should have all responsible parties and be able to successfully get all business transactified. Then I get lunch! Yay for lunch!!!

And so ends another Wednesday Night Bullet Post! Happy random thoughts to all and to all a good night. Or morning. Or afternoon...whatever the time may be for you at this reading.

I need to go force some more play time upon the poor kitty.


Tuesday, August 14, 2007

The Dilemma Of The Traveling Sock

Well, I'm in the final few sessions of my Summer Of Compensatory Knitting Socialization (S.O.C.K.S) training. Sadly, once the school year begins in September, I will have to return to my hermitish ways. The departure time from home if I am going to make it to my classroom at a reasonable hour is 6:15 am. This means that staying out late on a school night is simply not going to be considered responsible behavior.

This makes me sad. I've enjoyed having the chance to knit out in the wild. The travel time is tricky and involves a great deal of patience with the summer tourist traffic, but it hasn't been unmanageable by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, there have even been a few bonuses. Tonight, for example, there were two incidents requiring the presence of fire trucks on Route One southbound. Fire trucks mean firemen...and I really like firemen. A lot.

Yes, S.O.C.K.S has surely been good for me. I have had to wear shoes at least once per week and clothe myself in something other than ill-fitting sweat pants. I get a great deal of knitting done, too. Imagine that! If you just sit and knit for a couple of hours rather than interrupting the activity every few minutes to engage in Kitty Aerobics For Fat Cats or to answer the call of the fridge, you can actually make real progress with the stitchery.

I'd say that there is only one real dilemma involved with the whole process and that is determining the traveling project itself. I so admire those people who can sit in a room filled with people and knit happily away on an heirloom lace project comprised of three thousand repeats and of their own design while engaging in a lively political debate with the other knitters. I admire them unreservedly...but am maybe also a little intimidated by them. I know that I can't match their knitterly talent. It's not even worth trying. If I am doing anything other than straight stockinette, then I demand silence and a lack of distractions somewhere on the level of "Performing Brain Surgery," as opposed to "Knitting A Scarf." Socks have, thus far, been my best bet. I can knit in the round, make decent progress, and who doesn't love sock yarn? Seriously...we all love the sock yarn. We love it in a way that the Muggles will never understand. We can talk about it endlessly. And do. A good sock yarn will go a long way towards distracting the General Knitting Assembly from the fact that you have been knitting the same stockinette pattern sock since you started attending this group back in December of last year.

I took a little bit of a calculated risk tonight. I decided to try a sock with a 3x1 ribbing. Crazy, right? And, to make it all the more exciting and dangerous, this pattern has a short row heel! I've never done one of those! This is nuts! I'm like a madwoman, here!! In an effort to tone down the crazy, I opted to knit this Sock Of Sheer Madness in a yarn that I didn't feel was all that exciting. I've never used Sockotta before and, frankly, the yarn in its balled-up state is nice...but not anything that makes you want to keep it safe, secure and free from Sheep-related knitting errors. I threw together the top ribbing before heading down to Knit Night and worked on the cuff while there. Imagine my surprise...

This sock is quite stunning. Several people commented on the beauty of the sock and asked about the yarn. I have to admit, I missed the potential here. The self-patterning yarn lends itself to a ribbed sock far better than I thought it would. The colors, so tame on the ball, have come to life and blended themselves in such a way that the whole thing Works really, really well.

So now I have to ask myself: Am I really going to do a short row heel with all those weird wrappy things that I've never done before on the pretty new sock? Can I bear to make a mess of what is, in its current state, so pristine?

For the time being, I don't really have to worry about it. The Bripple Socks, who stayed home tonight due to their not-stockinette-status and the requirement for more concentration, will receive the bulk of my attention for the remainder of the week. By the time my next S.O.C.K.S. session arrives, I will still be on the cuff of the new sock and will have little to do but appreciate the way the pattern is unfolding. I'll ponder the whole matter for a while and make a heel-related decision when the time comes to make it. Do I go with the short row or stick to my regular heel knitting strategy?

To flap or not to flap? That is the question...


Monday, August 13, 2007

Mousies Don't Growl

As you may recall, I recently had occasion to question whether my cat might be on the way to setting some sort of record with regard to girth. It's hard to tell. She's not called The Big, Fluffy Kitty because she has a crew cut. But, after placing various household objects near her for scale, attempting to measure her actual circumference (which did not go well and we will not speak of it) and repeatedly asking her about her own perceptions of her self-image, I have determined that she may just be on the heavy side. I'm not convinced that the problem is that she is eating more these days. I think it may be that the activity level has slowed a bit with age.

This is pretty much my view from the couch where I am performing my own lack of movement.
And so began The Running Of The Big, Fluffy Kitty. To say that she showed a marked lack of enthusiasm for this new endeavor would be the greatest of understatements. She was, in fact, quite unmoved by my assertion that she needed to get in a bit more cardio. I was undaunted, though. I promptly made my way to the grocery store, headed over to the "Pet" section and secured a package of Fuzzy Jingle Balls. These tempting little toys would surely inspire any kitty to romp about a bit, thereby melting the unwanted pounds away in no time.
Once home, I woke the sleeping gelatinous mass and presented her with her new fitness equipment. I held the Fuzzy Jingle Ball aloft, shaking it furiously. The bell tinkled like the song of the Siren. The Smaller, Less Fluffy Kitty scampered in immediately to see what was sounding this clarion call. The BFK merely yawned and looked somewhat puzzled.
Thinking that she might need a model for the behavior I was seeking, I recruited the Smaller Kitty to assist. I tossed her the ball, all the while encouraging the BFK to observe closely and see if she couldn't emulate the actions. This resulted in the net loss of one Fuzzy Jingle Ball as it was promptly captured by the Smaller Kitty and whisked away with much jingling and capering.
Not a problem. The Fuzzy Jingle Balls come packaged in sets of three. I simply took another from the package and moved on to plan B. Clearly I needed to demonstrate the chasing action more effectively and perhaps engage a little motor memory. I tossed the Fuzzy Jingle Ball a short distance, picked up the BFK (with some difficulty) and chased the ball myself, all the while chanting, "get-the-ball-get-the-ball-get-the-ball!!!!!" After five minutes of this rather frenzied activity, each followed by a test to see if the BFK might chase the ball on her own, I was panting, sweating slightly and no closer to piquing her interest than I was when I started this process.
While I lay gasping on the couch and the jiggled, but still unexercised, kitty rested a bit from the whole fiasco, I decided that I may have been going about this the wrong way. It was time to try something a bit different. So last night, after the whole Fuzzy Jingle Ball episode was well-banished from our minds, I went with the Mousie On A String method of kitty aerobics.
The theory is simple: Dangle Mousie On A String in front of the target. Hilarity and fat-busting calorie expenditure will ensue. That wasn't exactly the case, but it did incite some interest. She was unwilling to remove herself from her seat on her Super Scratcher kitty claw sharpener (and why she likes to sit there is a mystery, but it seems to have something to do with getting as much of the cardboard scrap stuff caught up in her fluffy hindquarters as is possible) But, there was a bit of the Mousie Batting after a few minutes of Mousie Dangling. In fact, we had a rather spirited little tug-o-war going on there for a bit!
And that's when I got a little overexcited, I suppose. I showed poor judgement. I realize this now. But, at the time I was rather caught up in the whole game and doing my best to encourage some true predatory behavior.
But, I forgot that Mousies don't growl. They squeak and wiggle their noses. They do not growl. There is a reason for this, I suppose and I should have thought of that before I tried to add sound effects to the proceedings.
It was just one little growl. I honestly thought that it would make the game more fun. You know...kick it up a notch? Instead, the poor kitty reared back like I'd suddenly morphed into the frightening visage of the dreaded vacuum cleaner and began to slowly back away. Then, with eyes wide, she fled.
That's running, I suppose. And kind of like exercise. But the part where she hid under a chair for the better part of two hours probably didn't do much for her waistline. Nor did the kitty treats I gave her to make her come back to me. I don't imagine that the remainder of the evening spent cuddling on the couch listening to Mommy apologize profusely over the whole affair was all that slimming either.
We are back to the drawing board as far as Kitty Aerobics go. No further attempts at exercising the cat will be attempted until a less traumatizing method has been determined.
That left me with some knitting time today and I figured that I should use it well since, at any moment, I may come up with yet another brilliant plan to scare my poor cat into a coronary. I have knit my way past the heel and gussets on my Bripple Sock and the toe is in sight. As I tried the sock on to get an idea regarding fit, it became clear to me that I could have gone up yet another needle size. They fit quite well by my own "I like my socks tight so they don't fall down" standards. But the ripple effect is pretty much lost in the spreading of the stitches. It's not a bad look. It's just not ripply is all. I'm fine with it. But I may experiment a bit with the next ones and see if a looser cuff will work for me. I'm a loose knitter and often simply go down one needle size for most patterns. But I'm curious. Did I knit the leg portion too small?
Or could it be that the Big, Fluffy Kitty isn't the only one around here who could benefit from playing with a Mousie On A String?

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Fewer Witnesses, More Fun!

After a week of doctor's appointments, less than fruitful banking and various social activities, it was rather nice to have a day all to my Sheepie little self. I'm one of those whose batteries charge best with a little solitary down-time and I get my grump on something fierce if I'm denied. With the exception of a quick trip out this morning to refill the gas tank and play a little Tourist Tag with some of the visitors driving around our fair state, I was in for the day.

To say this was for the best would be an understatement. I hopped back on the Broadripple Bandwagon and knit the day away in glorious, unwashed, unkempt splendor. For reasons that don't entirely make sense even to me, I have taken to calling them, "Bripple Socks" and am given to shouting out a hearty,


whenever the mood happens to strike. The more of a lip-flappin' vibration you can get into the consonant blend at the beginning, then the more's the fun. There is neither rhyme nor reason to the timing of the Bripple Battle Cry, but if there happens to be a cat somewhere in the vicinity then the fun potential rises to near criminal levels.

Don't let the complete lack of maturity fool you. I did more than run around the house blatting, "Bripple" all day. I actually spent some time knitting on the socks as well. A good deal of time, actually:

Don't let the deep, rich color fool you. In an effort to sharpen the image, I successfully managed to edit out the true hues. These are bright green. Very, very, very bright. In the event that passers-by aren't alerted to my presence by the shrieking of the new favorite word, they will certainly see my socks. I will not be ignored.
While these have certainly been an easier knit for me than the doomed Jaywalkers, there have been one or two issues. I had something of a brain cramp with regard to needle size and somehow thought that a size one would be the best choice. Had I been in need of a nice broom handle cover, I would have been well on my way to the finest handle cozy since the beginning of time. Since it was socks I was really aiming for, a consultation with the pattern was in order and larger needles were procured. There have also been some discrepancies between my thoughts on sock construction and that of the pattern author. I'm not so excited about switching over to four needles for the foot from my comfortable five and I've also picked up more stitches on the heel flap for the gussets. I always pick up more stitches. I have a deeply ingrained inability to see a slipped stitch and pretty much pick up enough stitches to ensure gap avoidance with blatant disregard to what the pattern assures me will do. It seems to work, although I question whether I am going to be happy with this particular heel in the long run. I'll have to get a bit further along to see if I've snagged every possible opening or if I missed a spot and it is hiding itself behind a needle. But, in the end, I will follow The Sheep's Cardinal Rule Of Sock Knitting which states, "anything that will live inside the shoe doesn't count." I'm sure it will be fine.
I'm sort of hoping I can add one more pair of socks to the summer knitting total before school starts up in a few weeks. The overall production rate for this vacation time has been far less than I'd anticipated. One more pair of socks might go a long way towards soothing my stinging ego. I'd probably be really depressed about the whole thing if not for my newfound giggle-maker:

Saturday, August 11, 2007

A Very Sheepie Tale

Once upon a time, in a land of wool and needles, there lived a lovely princess who answered to the name of Her Royal Highness, Princess Sheepie. Except when she was watching cartoons or eating. Then she got a bit absorbed in those activities and would only growl at those who tried to hail her. Princess Sheepie spent much of her time in the castle (which only makes sense given her love of eating and cartoon watching) and could often be found in the main living quarters happily knitting away on one poorly executed project or another. 'Twas a happy life for the princess and spared others in the kingdom from having to deal with her lengthy dissertations on her favorite foods.

One day, though, the princess found herself somewhat dissatisfied with her lot. For, you see, she had been knitting for two straight days and had little to show for her efforts. She had made repeated knitting errors and was, quite frankly, whining a great deal. Finally, in what may have been either pity or exasperation, another princess from a kingdom all the way across the land suggested that she stop trying to knit a Jaywalker sock since the act of tinking that stupid double decrease every few rows wasn't working out. She pointed out the ease and joy of the Broadripple sock and said that she hoped the her royal friend might consider this alternative. Princess Sheepie took this sage advice and was, for a short time, very happy. The pattern was quite simple and highly addictive. She knit and she knit and she knit...

And then her hands got wicked tired. Princess Sheepie loved her Broadripple sock. And yet she knew that, without a break, she would soon be admitting herself to the local healer's hut for carpal tunnel surgery. A little rest was in order.

So the princess rose up from the couch (with some difficulty...she'd been there a while) and garbed herself in her finest jeans and t-shirt. (note: the princess was required to tend to her own garbing since, following a rather well-publicized incident involving a pumpkin and an ill-placed glass slipper, all the local mice have unionized) She then descended to the lower level where her somewhat less than reliable steed awaited.

And, thus garbed and mounted, she headed out to the Royal Fishing Derby. (hey, it's better than nothing, right???)

The princess rode her steed to the castle of her future sister-in-law and Princess Sheep In Training in order that they might travel together in Future SIL's more reliable coach. First, though, she had to make her way past the vicious Guardian Hound.

Which sort of isn't all that just pick him up and move him.

And, after being gifted with a royal pasta salad for tomorrow's lunch (the future bride to Prince Sheep is one heck of a cook), Princess Sheepie accompanied Future SIL to the site of the Royal Fishing Derby.

Which is, surprisingly enough, held near the ocean. Who knew?

Once at the marina, they were met by Their Majesties, King Sheep and Queen Sheep who are less formally known as Mommy and Daddy Sheep. There was great rejoicing and embracing despite the fact that the Princess had last visited with them two days ago. 'Tis a loving Sheepie family and not afraid to show their affection for one another publicly despite their Royal Status.

Now, Princess Sheepie has very, very, very little interest in fishing. And even less in competitive fishing...but, as we have already noted, she does enjoy her food. In this, the derby was more than able to meet her royal needs

There was beef prepared over an open flame:

Too bad they didn't use that flame to actually finish cooking the steak. It was, shall we say, "rare." Dangerously so...

But it was the food of the sea that drew the princess to this event:

Soft-shell Maine lobster, fresh from the sea and courtesy of Daddy/King Sheep! The Princess is well-tended.

The view was lovely, the weather mild and the company lively. There was music and conversation and a good time was had by all. It was a lovely break from the toils of knitting for Princess Sheepie and one most thoroughly enjoyed. She returned home to the castle refreshed and ready for further sock construction.

And She Knit Happily Ever After...until she dropped a stitch anyway. But that's another story for another day.

The End


Thursday, August 09, 2007

The Power Of The Socks

There are times when you have to learn the hard way. I've never been particularly good at leaving well enough alone. I get an idea and, for as long as it remains in the sieve that is my mind, it is my mission to make it happen. Most of the time, I get distracted by a particularly amusing commercial or the unmistakable scent of a brownie and disaster is averted. But last night I was just beside myself with glee at having finished the Rage Socks.

And I just couldn't let sleeping cats lie.
When I am pleased with something, I simply must spread the joy. All must know and share in my triumph. Whether they want to or not. And, for reasons that made perfect sense to me at the time, there was no better accessory for my new socks than a Big, Fluffy Kitty.

And yet I sensed that she was, perhaps, not quite as impressed with their socky goodness as I...
I don't know if it was a simple matter of her being perturbed at having had three minutes of her daily 22 hours of slumber interrupted or if the aura of the Rage Socks seeped into the air of the spacious and stately Sheep condo. But something about the events of the evening had the effect of a starter's pistol. Persephone, who is generally given to lolling about and demanding that she be carried wherever her whims might dictate, was suddenly the kitten she used to was. She frolicked, she scampered, she fairly gamboled! And this would have been the stuff of entertaining evenings had she found the inner peace to stop when it was time for lights out.
She did not.
The antics continued into the wee hours. Having had a busy couple of days and not really sleeping as well as I could be lately, I was rather hoping for an early night. I stayed up a bit later (1:00 in the morning to be exact) in order to accommodate Her Majesty's recreational schedule. But it wasn't enough. No matter how many times I started to drift off, she would do something to ensure that I was brought back to reality. Sometimes it was just a few gentle taps to the face, each little love whomp carrying with it the promise of bared claws in the near future should I not respond. Other times it was a full-on airborne assault that ended with a very fat cat landing somewhere on my person.
I wasn't the only one concerned. The third member of The Sheep household, who often prefers to get in her own recreation in the later hours when she can play with the toys unaccosted, was not pleased in the least. The more fired up The Big, Fluffy Terrorist became, the more Desdemona felt a response was required. There was a great deal of whining, chasing, hissing and a few short skirmishes over territorial rights.

She is very tired today.
I know when I'm beat. I gave up the good fight and hoisted myself out of bed to entertain the troops. This, of course, signaled an end to the late night festivities and all felines settled in once the lights came back on. By now, though, there was no hope for me. I started knitting a Jaywalker sock and put a great deal of deep thought and reflection upon the path my life has taken. I came to the conclusion that this was not really what I had in mind for my existence, but acknowledged that I am powerless to change the situation in any way, shape or form. I think that's part of their plan, really. They keep me too tired to make any productive decisions. All I'm capable of doing is opening cans and scooping out cat boxes. By the time these epiphanies had been reached it was 4:00 in the morning and I was getting a few dirty looks. Apparently, I was now being granted permission to return to my bed since the light was bothering those felines who were trying to get some rest.
To say that I have been at my best today would be a bit of the wishful thinking. I had set aside part of the morning to tend to a few errands but the only one that saw completion was the grocery shopping. And that was due to the lack of cat food in the house. I shudder to think what the consequences might be should my fatigue result in empty food bowls.
Like I said, it could have been the influence of the Rage Socks. Their frenzied completion as I dealt with the delivery company who was holding my yogurt maker hostage could easily have given them superpowers. They could be the socks that inspire frenzy and agitation. I'm not so wise in the ways of the supernatural that I can say for sure. It is also possible that my need for a late night photo shoot got me just what I deserved from my less-than-enthusiastic model.
All I know is that I am tired. And that I had to frog the Jaywalker. And that one of us here is going to be sleeping in the closet tonight.
And that it will probably be me...