Sunday, May 30, 2010

Peer Pressure

It really takes very little to encourage me.  The teeniest bit of attention, a quick pat on the head or a carelessly spoken "that's mildly interesting there, Sheepie" and I'm off and running.  I'm the ultimate victim of peer pressure whether it is intended or not.

A few weeks ago I did a post on making barbecue sauce and one or two people happened to think that was noteworthy.  This, of course, was enough to ensure that I will spend the next few months up to my elbows in spicy, tomato based liquids simply because I believe this behavior has been given the public seal of approval.

When I mentioned that I made too much barbecue sauce and decided to can some of it, there were further polite murmurs of appreciation.  That was all it took.  Now I must can and I must do so in a manner that is bigger and better than I have ever canned before.  I must spend my entire summer vacation canning the produce that I obtain at the local farmer's market and there is little anyone can do to stop me.  

I hit a minor stumbling block early on, though.  I am a hater of the green things and have a limited menu from which to choose when it comes to veggies.  Most of the ones I'll eat aren't acidic enough for water bath canning and I'm not so enamoured of pickles that I'm willing to spend my summer reeking of brining solution.

There was nothing else for it.  I was going to have to get a pressure canner.  The dream must not die...

Fortunately, this latest in a long series of obsessions occurred right around the time of my birthday and I just happened to find myself in possession of a check from the 'rents.  I added a few dollars of my own and dragged home a Presto 16-Quart Aluminum Pressure Cooker/Canner.  In the interest of full disclosure, this link is to one that is a little bit different than mine.  I don't have the fancy gauge on the top,  just a weight thingie that wobbles around.  But you get the idea...

After a few practice runs, I am now ready to fill my cupboards with fresh produce.  The growing season may now begin.  I, Sheepish Annie, am the Queen Of Pantry Preparedness!!!  Just look:

Corn!!!  Scraped from the cob by my very own self!!!

Now, I've been blogging long enough to be able to anticipate a few of the comments and questions that might come up now that I've given in to your powers of suggestion.  I thought I might take a minute to address them since I am nothing if not helpful when it comes to saving time and keyboarding.

Q:  A pressure canner?  Aren't you terrified of blowing yourself up and having footage of what's left of        the manse on the evening news?

A:  No Pressure cookers are very safe as long as you follow the directions.  Besides, it's not like I'm standing right over it and smacking the lid with a hammer while it's pressurized.  They very specifically tell you not to do that in the instructions.

Q:  Shouldn't you have been knitting?  Not that we aren't all thrilled to the gills every time you regale us with one of your new gadgets, but I thought this was a knitting blog.  It says so right in the title somewhere.

A:  Yesterday was bread baking day.  I knit between risings.  I had plenty of time to can corn today.  But I appreciate how you still think of this as a knitting blog.  

Q:  Wasn't it hard to can corn while you had an Absurdly Gi-normous Kitty sitting on your feet and trying to catch the tie to your sweat pants?

A:  Yes.  Yes, it was.

Q:  That is only two pints.  I remember my dear old granny putting up five hundred pounds of vegetables every Sunday when I was growing up.  Did you really mean to only do two pints?

A:  Yup.  Small batch canning is actually kind of common.  Besides, I don't really have the attention span to do this sort of thing for hours and hours.  And I can't eat five hundred pounds of corn.  Chocolate, yes.  Corn, no.

Q:  Isn't that a lot of work for two measly pints?

A:  C'mon!!  That's not the point!!!  It's just wicked cool and now I'll have two pints of corn to eat during the coming Zombie Apocalypse when I'm trapped in my home and thinking, "Gosh, I wish I had some corn..."

Q:  I just did the math on this one, Sheepie.  Between the cost of the equipment, the corn and the "trial runs" you sort of glossed over earlier, those are two of the most expensive pints of corn in the history of the cob.  Not to mention the value of your own time and how much of it you spent picking corn kernels from the coat of a certain AGK.

A:  Well, yeah but you didn't take into account...  I mean...  It's like one of those things where it pays for  Oh, shut up.  I know.  You're mean.  Besides, that wasn't even a question.  

Q:  Why, this is just fascinating!  And I am a person with a family, an actual garden and a genuine reason to preserve produce.  How can I learn more about the art of canning?

A:  Now, that's more like it!  You, my friend, are a true team player!  I'd recommend picking up a copy of Ball Blue Book (The Guide to Home Canning and Freezing, Edition 32).  It's not a huge investment and covers the subject well.  Even if you aren't looking to pressure can, this book has recipes and directions for all kinds of food preservation techniques.  You sort of have to get past the stage where the title makes you giggle even though you know that is beneath classy people such as ourselves, but after that you should be all set.

I hope this was helpful.  I suppose I should also mention that, while it's not back breaking labor to can stuff, it does require a little bit of effort.  In fact, the energy I spent on this  endeavor caused me to give in to pressure from another quarter.  I tried to stay the course and fought the good fight.  In the end, though, I gave in.  It was just too hard to resist.

I was under pressure to nap...


Wednesday, May 26, 2010

WNBP: What A Difference A Week Makes...

Happy Wednesday, my bloggy buddies!  I just happened to take a gander at last week's post and chuckled at how chilly I was back in those happy, halcyon days.  Suffice it to say, this Wednesday Night Bullet Post will not include commentary on my chilly feet.

*I was promised a cooler day today.  PROMISED.

*Yesterday, my car told me it was 91 degrees when I left the school to drag my soggy self home.

*Today it said that the temperature was 93.

*I've done the math.

*That is not cooler.

*That is hotter.

*I was lied to...

*I got stuck in a meeting after school.

*Then I had to pick up a prescription.

*No knitting this afternoon.

*No workout this afternoon.

*I imagine that Wii Fit will have something to say about that when I eventually wander back for some electronic emotional abuse.

*Am currently working my way through the Dresden Files novels. 

*One down.  Now plowing through  Fool Moon (The Dresden Files, Book 2)

*Very good.

*Would be better if I hadn't read Simon R Green's Nightside Novels first, though.

*Once you read Something from the Nightside (Nightside, Book 1) you'll sort of be stuck in that world and unable to fight your way free of it.

*Poor Harry...he just never gets a break.  Not even from a late-to-the-party reader.

*Still enjoying them, though.

*Oh!  That was a breeze!  Right through my window!!!

*The temperature dropped about ten degrees in an hour and it's much more bearable now.

*But I'm still operating on the Remembered Heat Principle and nothing short of arctic conditions will help at this point.

*Looks like rain.  Maybe even a thunderstorm.

*Great.  The Absurdly Gi-normous Kitty hates thunderstorms.

*He's moved into the aggressive phase of our mutual mourning period.

*Thunder should make for an interesting evening...

*Big scratch on my arm.  Another on my elbow.

*Attacked my pajama leg last night and pretty much pants me right there in my own living room.

*I swear I'm getting him a big dog to play with.

*Can't do that.  It would be wrong.

*Big dogs don't deserve that kind of abuse.

*Ahhhh...another breeze!  

*Still not going to knit or talk to Wii Fit.

*Rules are rules.  

*The Cheerful Teaching Assistant left the school today a single woman.

*She's taking Thursday and Friday off.

*Next time I see her, she'll be all married and stuff.

*Hard to believe.  They grow up so fast...

*I'd cry, but I don't want to waste precious fluids and become dehydrated in the heat.

*But I'm so happy for her, I could bust!!!!!

I think I've run out of steam.  Actually, it's still kind of steamy here at the manse what with all the humidity and whatnot, but I don't have any myself.  I hope that everyone had a wonderful Wednesday and that maybe the temperatures were a little more conducive to things like walking, talking and breathing where you are.  I'm going to sign off now.

If you need me, I'll be standing in front of the fan and wrestling my pajama leg away from the resident attack cat.


Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Moving Forward

My car informed me that it was 91 degrees outside today.  I wanted to argue with it, to say that this was simply unreasonable.  But "reasonable" has little to do with the weather.  It was, in fact, 91 degrees and humid, to boot.  Besides, I'd spent the entire day in a third floor classroom with a bunch of sweating teens so I really didn't have much of an argument there.

Why this sudden burst of summer has inspired in me the urge to knit, I know not.  But I actually busted out a repeat on the shawl once I was done with the afternoon workout.

Speaking of which, Wii Fit and I are still not in agreement regarding my current fitness level.  The fact that Wii Fit is right has nothing to do with anything.  I think that Wii Fit is rude to point out certain things and that it could do with a lesson in manners.  Wii Fit thinks I should do more in the way of activities that improve balance.  Wii Fit has said outright that I am a lopsided old lady.

I might be exaggerating just a bit, but it's hot and I'm a little cranky.  I believe that Wii Fit should think before it passes judgement sometimes...

The school year is grinding towards its ending, but not nearly fast enough.  The 8th graders have all begun thumbing their noses at us since they know they are short timers now.  Their visit to the high school for orientation didn't help matters but I suppose we have to do it.  It would be tragic if they didn't know where the restrooms are located or how to navigate the lunchroom come September.

There are still some good moments to be had, though.  When I lost all patience with The Great Debater and informed him that the world didn't revolve around him, he was unimpressed.  I then stated that the world actually revolved around me.  That got his attention.  At least enough to make him look up from his computer game for all of ten seconds to make eye contact and say:

The world does not revolve around you.  The world revolves around cake.

He is not wrong.  Of course, this made me want cake and I don't have any.  I ate it all this weekend because I think leftover birthday cake was my right at that point.  Now that I think of it, this might have been Wii Fit's issue with me over the past two days...

The Absurdly Gi-normous Kitty has finally stopped crying.  He wandered around for three straight days meowing in a way that would like to break your heart.  At last, he managed to find some peace after discovering the nappin' basket his sister once slept in.  He is now back to lolling on my feet, something I think is a little unnecessary given the current temperature here at the manse, but he's quiet and contented so I'm going to let it go.

In short, the world has moved forward and taken me with it.  Every day is a little bit better and I am pleased to report that I am now past the stage where I feel the need to rail at an unjust universe that takes Very Good Cats away for no reason other than it thinks it's time.  Frankly, no one can keep up that level of ranting.  It is tiring.  I am starting to feel some peace and knowing that it is OK to enjoy that.

The AGK and I are both so grateful to everyone for their kind words and thoughts.  Those of you who have lost a pet know how much that means as we navigate the rocky road of grief.  We are both doing well, although I think we could use a little less humidity right now.  But a change in the weather means it's another new day and another step forward.

A little step, of course.  It's hard to take big steps forward when you have a twenty pound cat on your feet...


Sunday, May 23, 2010

Just This...

I don't ask for much around here.  I know my place.  I clean the litter box, open the cans and make sure a lap is available when needed.  I have never once questioned the order of things.  Which is why, when I do make a request, I expect some consideration.

Hence, you can imagine my distress upon arriving home Thursday afternoon to find that you did that one thing I told you NOT to do.  It took me a minute to really process what I was seeing.  And I couldn't believe it even after the truth became evident.

You really did it this time.  I can only assume you knew what havoc you'd wrought, although I doubt you grasped the full extent of it.  It wasn't just that you did that one thing I specifically forbade you to do.  It was everything else.

Taking care of this little act of defiance caused me to sacrifice one of the "good" shopping bags.  I was forced into having one of the most patently absurd conversations I've ever had in my whole life.  It required that I endure people shaking their heads at me sadly while I said things like, "I'm so sorry.  I know this is serious.  I don't know what's wrong with me..."

You also really upset your brother.  I know you don't much care about that.  I'm only reporting it because I think it's important you get the full picture here.  He's still really freaked out and that is not a good look on an Absurdly Gi-normous Kitty.

The worst of it all was that we talked about this.  You know we did.  You remember.  It was a couple of years ago.  That horrible day after Christmas when we were both so overwhelmed and sad.  We were sitting in our special spot on the couch.  I was holding you close and I whispered it right into your ear.  I know you heard me.

Please.  Never die.  Ever.  You can do anything else you want.  Just not that.  I don't think I could take it.  It would destroy me...

Just this.  Nothing else.  It didn't seem like too much to ask.  Not then.  You didn't voice an objection.  I don't understand why you couldn't do that one thing for me.  That one little thing.

Maybe someday I'll get to the place where I can understand that you would have rather stayed with me.  That you would have done it if you could.  Or that you maybe stayed a little longer than you should have just because you knew I wanted it.  Perhaps then I'll feel better about all this.  Not right now, though.  At the moment, I can only think that wanting something badly enough to demand it should be enough.  Especially if you want only one thing.

Just this...


Wednesday, May 19, 2010

WNBP: Chilly Feets With Notes Of Lemon

It is Wednesday and, once again, it feels like Thursday.  Except today it is a true feeling and not that fakey-fake Thursday Feeling that always hurts so bad once I realize that I'm not as close to the weekend as I thought.  Still gonna knock out a Wednesday Night Bullet Post, though.  You can't go too far with the Thursday Feeling or it loses something.  Here's this week's random tidbits:

*It was cold and rainy today.

*Very cold.

*My classroom was virtually deserted.

*Too cold for kids to venture out, I guess.

*Lots of dead time in a day that should have been hoppin'!

*I wore sandals today because it is May and that is what one does with one's feet in May.

*I was so cold I could do little but complain about how cold my toes were all day.

*Extra time+cold feet=desire to knit socks.

*Yeah.  That's right.  I knit.  

*If you need to get the smelling salts, I'll wait for a minute.

*I put in for a personal day this morning so I could take Friday off.

*Doctor's appointment.

*And a birthday check waiting to be spent frivolously.

*Day was approved within an hour.

*Hence, today is my Thursday.

*Complete with the appropriate Thursday Feeling.

*Had lots of time to plan for my absence today.

*And catch up on paperwork.

*Until I got bored with all that nonsense and sat down to knit with Spunky Girl and the Cheerful Teaching Assistant.

*Figured out a solution to the coffee maker problem.

*It has a fail safe that keeps the machine from running if the cover isn't shut tightly.

*Cover won't latch.

*2.5 pound weight on the lid keeps latch in place.

*Coffee comes out in a blessed brown stream of caffeinated goodness.

*Most everything is rigged up around here these days.

*I'm the master of the "quick fix."

*Now the coffee maker fits in nicely with the classy decorating scheme.

*Should probably put a few strips of duct tape on it just for good measure...

*Thanks for all the suggestions re: the coffee maker

*I am not getting a french press, though.

*Do you realize you are suggesting that I put the kettle on and then GO TO WORK????

*The Absurdly Gi-normous Kitty will see it and think how cool it would be to write messages in lemon juice and then make the magic words appear over the burner.

*Except he'll get distracted and drop the paper to go watch birds and then the whole manse will go up in flames!

*All because someone thought I should get a fancy french press.

*And maybe because it's not only the AGK who has problems staying focused...

*Automatic Shut Off Feature is my friend.

*Otherwise I spend hours and hours not teaching children while I think about the flames licking away at my cupboards.

*OTOH, a french press might be nice on the weekends...

*Maybe with my mad money?

*A nice cup of hot coffee would be good tonight what with the chill in the air.  

*I'll just have to hide the lemon juice from the AGK...

And there you have it!  A Wednesday complete with coffee, cold feet, some knitting and an appropriate Thursday kind of feeling!  I wonder if tomorrow will feel like Friday or if I'll have to wait for the actual day?  I'll have to make a note to myself so I remember to check on the feelings.

Maybe I'll do it in magic lemon juice writing...


Monday, May 17, 2010

When Appliances Weep...

If you ever happen to be wandering around a department store somewhere in southern Maine and hear gut-wrenching screams of distress, fear not.  The zombies have not arrived to wreak havoc upon the clearance aisle.  Those terrified shrieks you hear are coming from the small appliance department and can only mean one thing:

I've killed another coffee maker and am looking for my next victim.

Some people can't wear watches.  Some are hard on shoes.  Many folks can't keep the houseplants alive without a staff of gardeners and botanists.  One of my students (The Kid Who Needs A Nicotine Patch By Noon) has managed to crash every laptop the tech department has given him and no one can figure out why.  With me, it's coffee makers.

It doesn't matter what I do.  I've tried different brands.  I clean them regularly.  I use nice clean water.  I follow the manufacturers directions, suggestions and mandates.  I do it all.  And I still can't seem to keep them alive.

I'm of two minds with the coffee makers.  Sometimes I think:  You get what you pay for and being cheap with appliances will only cost you in the long run.  Then I kill an expensive coffee maker.

Other times, I declare:  It's not worth it!  I shall lay down ten bucks and not feel badly about what I'm about to do to this thing!!!  Then I kill a cheap coffee maker in half the time and sometimes have coffee leaking all over the counter from the wounds I inadvertently inflict.

This time, I killed a middle-of-the-road coffee maker.  Actually, it's not really dead.  It still makes coffee. I just have to lean on the lid every now and again to keep it running.  If I don't, it sputters and all the little lights go out.  Then I have a half cup of cold coffee to take with me on the morning commute.  Sometimes, I bang on it and say very bad words and that will keep things running long enough to brew up the morning go-juice.  However, that scares the cats and is markedly decreasing my chances of going to heaven.

It kind of has to be the really bad words to work...

I'm fiddling with it.  Maybe it doesn't like the new filter I put in.  Maybe it's just scared because it heard all the other coffee makers telling stories about me and can't function for the fear of it all.  I've only had this machine for a few months and it seems kind of give-uppy to throw in the towel now.  Maybe I can get a year out of it if I think positive thoughts and clean the stupid thing again.  And I really need coffee right now.  Spring is upon us and things are getting dicey here.

I still carry the unfinished sock in my school bag, but I only slipped off to my office to go hug it once today.  I was too busy trying to get the Achievement Testing done to do much in the way of self-comforting.  The students are all gazing longingly out the windows and dreaming of summer vacation instead of math.  Some are so far gone that they are staring at the plywood covering the window that was broken last week.  I'm pretty sure there is nothing I can do for them, but I really should try.  This seems like the responsible "teacherly" thing to do.  In my spare moments, I was checking in on the Cheerful Teaching Assistant because her wedding is mere weeks away and neither of us can figure out how time sped up to the point where we can no longer say, "That's OK.  There's still plenty of time..."

I need the coffee and can't be nurturing yet another coffee maker through its fear of me.  I just need the good stuff to flow into the pot.  I refuse to sink to the level of instant coffee and the first person to suggest tea is going to get such a pinch!!!  It is going to have to suck it up and deal.  I don't mean to kill coffee makers.  In fact, if they would just behave themselves these things wouldn't have to escalate to such levels.  I just need coffee, for crying out loud!!!

I am keeping a stiff upper lip.  It's that or have a blubber-fest with my coffee maker...


Saturday, May 15, 2010

Hair Raising...

The Time:  Somewhere around 8:00 on a Friday morning

The Place:  Ms. Sheep's classroom.

(Ms. Sheep, The Cheerful Teaching Assistant and The Organized Teaching Assistant are seated together in the back classroom.  They are taking advantage of the fact that most of the students are off to other classes and using the time to figure out a schedule for next week's new round of achievement testing. The one remaining Educational Receiving Unit has been allowed to take some watercolors and paper into Ms. Sheep's office and was given the use of her desk.  This student, for reasons that will forever remain a mystery, has decided to take this opportunity to yodel. At full volume.  The ululating call resonates through the closed door and reaches the staff in the next room)

Ms. Sheep: Oh my God...

Cheerful Teaching Assistant:  Is that...

Organized Teaching Assistant:  Yup.

(Ms. Sheep clutches her head in her hands and folds herself over her laptop, landing in a semi-fetal position)

CTA:  You OK, there?

MS:  No.  I am having a MOMENT.  I am realizing that this is my LIFE.  This is it.  All that I've worked for has come to THIS.  I'm too old to become an astronaut or a professional go-go dancer.  I've reached the pinnacle.  I'm going to do this until I DIE.  And, with my luck, they already have my resume on file at the pearly gates and are planning to assign me to a teaching career once I get there...

(Ms. Sheep raises her head and looks pathetically at the CTA, hoping for some kind of comfort)

CTA:  Wow.  Your hair is really messed up now.

MS:  That sort of fits...

I did what anyone would do under those circumstances.  I smoothed down my coiffure, took a deep breath and got on with my day.  I used my free time to call The World's Greatest Stylist And Life Coach and move my appointment from this weekend to next.  Then I stopped off on the way home to purchase supplies which would allow me to hide from the rest of the human race for a day because there is nothing like a good hermit imitation after a stupid week.  Particularly a week that ends with a yodeling painter in your office.

Look it up.  Any doctor will say the exact same thing.  A stylist won't.  But a doctor will.

OK.  Maybe not.  In fact, a few might consider it mildly antisocial and indicative of a pervasive need to withdraw in the face of conflict.  On the other hand, it's pretty good for reading and watching TV.  I downloaded a couple new ebooks and it turned out that there was a House marathon on today so I think I could justify my behavior if I didn't mention my failure to take out the trash or get the mail.  I probably also should avoid any discussion of that little happy dance I did whenever there was an ad for the upcoming summer television season.

Or the song I composed about how summer vacation is coming and soon no one will be able to yodel me into a bad hair day...

I also hit the knitting harder than usual.  I managed four or five repeats on the shawl while I was avoiding the humans and the removal of refuse from my home.  That is more than I've knit in a long time and it felt rather good, if you must know the truth.  I might even finish this thing someday!

Not any time soon, though.  Sunday is looming and Achievement Test Monday is right behind it.  I'll have to put away the knitting and pick up my emotional armor again all too soon.  I guess I can do that for another month or so if I have to.  There are other ways to cope with stress.  Maybe even a few that don't give me Stand-Up Hair.

I might just take up yodeling...


Wednesday, May 12, 2010

WNBP: The Back-Up Plan

I had a brief and happy moment upon arriving home where I thought it was Thursday.  You can only imagine my emotional decline when I realized that it is Wednesday.  On the positive side, it is the day of the Wednesday Night Bullet Post and those always make me happy.  Let's see if we can't come up with some fun-filled tidbits from the Sheepish Files for you...

*The Absurdly Gi-normous Kitty has discovered a way to get into that cupboard I duct taped shut.

*Ingenious, really.

*He squiggles in through the little gap between the dishwasher and the cupboard.

*Of course, once he's in there he can't escape because he's used up all his squiggle and the cupboard won't open.

*Lots of pathetic thumping sounds that make the Big Fluffy Kitty roll her eyes in disgust.

*The Cheerful Teaching Assistant was out sick today.

*She was out on Monday and had no business coming in yesterday.

*Very sick CTA.

*I hugged the unfinished sock in my bag four times today because that is what one does when one needs comfort in a short-staffed situation.

*I don't seem to knit anymore, but I'm getting wicked good at sock hugging.

*When I expressed concern over the CTA's upcoming wedding and her need to get better really, really fast, one of my students said:

*"Well, can't they just do it a different day?"

*He's a boy.  He doesn't know from weddings.  Not his fault...

*I did a twenty minute lecture on caterers and venue reservations.  And florists.  

*When their eyes were done glazing over, someone had the brilliant idea of planning a back-up wedding for the CTA.

*Just in case...

*It might have been me who thought of it, but I can't say for certain.  It's kind of a blur.

*We worked up quite a plan.

*We've sort of reserved the hallway outside the library because it's really long and would make an awesome Bride Walk.

*The Boy Who Needs A Nicotine Patch By Noon is going to give her away.

*He promised to wear his clean black hoodie for the occasion.

*Spunky Girl did the invitations and availed herself of the copier in the main office so we'd have them ready to go if needed.

*She's new.  Don't worry, though.  She's only in 5th grade so you've got years to get to know her.

*The Great Debater, when asked about the cake, declared that he wanted a purple one.

*He has no idea where to get a purple cake or the actual flavor of such a confection but he was very clear on this point.

*The Tortured Artist (also new to the group) enthusiastically volunteered to costume the event.

*"Costume" was his word, not mine.  I think we might all be wearing capes...

*Not everyone was as quick to come up with ideas.

*The kid who is Gauged And Aerodynamic looked confused when I asked for his suggestions regarding what we might need.

*The best he could come up with for our list was a hesitant pause followed by:


*Later he clarified this and explained that we would be needing something to hold our beers.

*This is going to be a classy event with beer in plastic cups rather than tacky cans.

*I do not anticipate remaining employed by this school district when it is over but I think I can live with that.

*Still need to check with the librarian about the reception.

*I'll get that on the list for tomorrow...

*It was a busy day and I've got a cat duct taped in the cupboard.

*It's not like I can do everything, for crying out loud!!!

As you can see, I've got a lot on my plate right now.  I can barely find the time to not knit a sock.  Hugging it is taking up precious minutes that could be used for wedding planning and cat rescuing.  But I carry on because that is what I do.  If I don't, who will?  There would be no back-up plan for anything!

You have no idea how much I wish it was Thursday.  There is no back-up plan for Wednesday.  Even if you make a list and put it up on the white board for all to see.

Should probably add "explain that list to the CTA" to tomorrow's tasks...


Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Knitting Hope Springs Eternal

I decided to drop the sock-in-progress into the school bag this morning.  This was probably an overly optimistic thing to do, but I figured it would be nice to have it with me.  Sometimes, you just need a little something from home, even if it's a project you won't ever take up.

Springtime is not fun in the schools.  Everyone gets really twitchy and starts talking about "surviving."  It's like we are in the deepest, darkest jungle and preparing to fight our way back to civilization no matter what the cost.  I am not exaggerating.  One kid, after seeing that the door to the classroom has been broken again and fearing that we might all get locked in together like last year said:

OK.  Just between you and me.  If we do get locked in again, who are we going to eat first?

Yesterday was beyond insane in my class.  I was informed upon arrival that the Cheerful Teaching Assistant was going to be out for the day.  The aforementioned broken door would not open no matter how hard I tried and I had to get a custodian to let me in so I could come up with a plan for mys short-staffed day.  The Organized Teaching Assistant had to leave for a doctor's appointment at 10:00 and was late returning.  Thankfully, she was back at her desk when a student leaned against that window I'm always warning everyone about and broke it.  Shattered glass rained down past the Guidance Offices on the first floor and littered the walkway with jagged shards.  The student managed to keep himself from falling out, but cut his hand.  His refusal to wear a bandage led to spatters of icky boy corpuscles all over the place.  We got that cleaned up OK, but now the only window in the front classroom is boarded shut and when the hot weather comes I am going to be smelling the stink of 8th graders until I pass out.  Achievement testing drags on with no end in sight and a bloodbath isn't going to get anybody out of anything.

There was lots more and some of it was worse, but how do you top a broken window?  Or the sight of Mr. Principal and Mr. Assistant Principal standing amidst the carnage below whilst gaping up at you in abject horror because all you can think to say to them at that moment is, "Hi there.  How's it going?"

Dragging a sock to school, especially one that I probably won't have time to knit, may seem like a little thing, but it is all about emotional survival now.  It is May and we have a long road ahead of us in Kid Time.  Things are only going to get worse,  The 8th graders have already figured out that they are short-timers now and that there is really very little we can to do them.  We can't make them all repeat the year.  We won't have room for the new kids coming up.  They know that they just have to keep moving and they'll be just fine.  We don't have the energy to chase them.  We can only catch the slow ones now and it's survival of the fittest.  The ones who can't keep up deserve to be trapped.

The CTA returned today, sick as a dog but putting on a good face since the OTA was scheduled to be out.  I don't know what the rest of the week will bring but I have no illusions about anything.  I'll lug that sock back and forth for the duration.  It comforts me and gives me hope for the coming summer vacation.

There were a few times today where I crept into my office, stealthily removed it from my bag and hugged it just a little bit...


Sunday, May 09, 2010

It's All In The Timing

I sort of know me by now.  And yet I'm still surprised by how I can pick the worst possible moments to be inspired.  

I haven't knit much lately.  I have no reason for this.  The Muse simply hasn't been hovering around me, at least not so I'd notice it.  A few weeks ago, I dug around amongst the old WIPs to see if anything might strike a chord.  Nothing did, not really.  However, the sight of the shawl I started last year caused a bit of a stir so I decided to fiddle around with that for a while.

A "bit of a stir" isn't really enough to make the needles fly, though.  I've been haphazardly picking it up and putting it down without making much of a dent since making the selection.  Today, however, I suddenly felt the urge to knit and knit and knit.

Timing is everything and I don't do it well.  Sheepie needed to head out today.  I am the child of a mother and, as such, was bound to honor she who birthed me.  

Specifically, I needed to eat seafood in celebration of all things Motherly.  

I happen to love my mother.  And seafood.  Of course, Mommy Sheep gets more of the love, but that doesn't mean I'm not going to shun some nice haddock in favor of a shawl.  I managed to get in a couple of repeats before having to put on some shoes and take up my gift bag so I could dine with the family.  It was soooo totally worth it.  It was great to see my parents now that they're back from the sunny south and the whole event was made better by having Baby Brother Sheep and SIL Sheep along for the meal.

By the time I got home, I was so full of fishy goodness that the very thought of picking up the needles seemed like too much.  The giddy urge was past.  That's OK.  It'll come back.  Of course this will probably happen just as I'm heading out to pick up my winning lottery check or after I sever my big toe and need to rush myself off to the emergency room, but that's just how these things go sometimes.

I hope that all mothers everywhere had a fantastic Mother's Day and that you were treated to the meal of your choice.  Maybe you even got in a little knitting time, too.  That would be nice.  Especially if you are feeling inspired to wield the needles.

I'm wondering if next year I might get the urge to knit in time to have a Mother's Day gift ready...


Wednesday, May 05, 2010

WNBP: The Yolk's On Me last!  Midweek!  This Wednesday is soon to be in the record books and I can call it one less in the Work Day Column.  We are grinding our way through this crazy school year and I can see the end of the tunnel.  If I squint and think really positive thoughts.  Should I fail to do that, I sort of only see a hazy gray that threatens to suffocate me.

You kind of have to ignore the hazy gray.  It will drive you nuts if you don't.  Let's see if we can come up with some bullet points for our midweek random posting.

*My director is one of those people who Does It All.

*Impeccable dresser.  

*Paperwork is flawless.

*Covers for those of us with less than flawless paperwork.

*Shows up at every weekly meeting with snacks.

*Most are derived from the bounty of her farm.

*The farm that gives her fresh apples for homemade coffee cake without ever soiling her perfect clothing.

*She has chickens.  They make eggs.  She can't possibly eat all of them.

*I said I'd take a few off her hands.  Thought I'd make a nice challah this weekend.

*She showed up today with eggs.

*Three dozen.

*Organic Used To Be Free Range Until The Hawks Came Chicken Eggs.

*I said right to the face of this impeccably dressed woman who does it all and who is also my boss:


*In my defense, that is a lot of eggs.

*The Cheerful Teaching Assistant took half a dozen.

*The Organized Teaching Assistant was supposed to take a dozen but forgot them.

*I have a lot of eggs here.

*I thought to myself:

*HOLY CRAP!  I cannot eat two and a half dozen eggs...

*Made a nice omelet for dinner.

*Wow.  I did not know from fresh eggs.

*It is entirely possible that I can eat two and a half dozen eggs.  Perhaps even in one sitting...

*I really should not have tried to knit my Invisibility Shawl during Deadliest Catch last night.

*Seriously.  This was a mistake.  I didn't mess up, but it was a near thing.

*Jake goes drifting under the boat during a questionable crew exchange.

*Almost lost my mind, for crying out loud...

*And, as God is my witness, if the Time Bandit ended up being sunk by those stupid onions I would have just given up on the whole crab fishing obsession completely.

*That would have been a straight up embarrassing way to shuffle off this mortal coil and don't even try to argue with me.

*I am so worried about the situation on the Cornelia Marie right now that I can barely function.

*Knowing what I know about the fate of Captain Phil makes me want to scream at his son.

*Which is a totally unproductive, not-at-all-helpful, and sort of crazy thing to do on a Tuesday night.

*Alone with my cats in a condo.

*There are tragic movies of the week about people who do those kinds of things...

*Achievement testing crawls forward at a horrible pace this week.  The kids are getting...cranky.

*I was in a state of despair over the scores until today.

*The new data isn't looking bad.  Two of my students raised a couple of scores by 9 points.

*Big jump on the scales for this test.

*I am ignoring the kids who are just randomly clicking on answers because they make me see that big, gray cloud and it makes me twitchy.

*I may walk away from this nightmare with a few wins and, since this wasn't what we expected, I'm calling it a happy surprise.

*I have a rash on my chin.  Don't like it.

*Don't think it's related to achievement testing, but who can say?

*I'm certain that the fresh eggs with the amazingly yellow yolks will clear it right up.

*And, if they don't, I'll be distracted enough by all the cranky test-takers and the need to not see gray clouds of suffocation that I won't really notice it.

Wednesday is inching towards the finish line and I've got me a belly full of eggs.  The test scores aren't as bad as I thought and Spring has sprung.  All in all, there's more to be happy about than not.  Who knows, I might even get that bread baked this weekend!  I'm feeling optimistic.

I should probably make some snacks for next week's Deadliest Catch now that I think of it.  I could do some extra bread or perhaps some brownies.  Knitting may not be the best choice given the stress level of this year's king crab season and heaven knows, I have enough eggs...


Monday, May 03, 2010

First Contact

Our school is, as of today, fully enmeshed in yearly testing designed to assess progress.  It is horrible and awful and stressful and icky.  Kids were frustrated and taking it out on the computers trying to administer their tests.  When the computers didn't give them the reactions they desired, they turned to the hapless staff who don't want to be doing this any more than they do.

My email was full to bursting with the second round of Blame Everyone For Everything Lest You Own It Yourself messages.  All those meetings held the week before vacation were fraught with complicated changes that require solid communication and all of them directly affect my classroom. You'd think that, by now, the players would have established exactly who is to be held responsible for the lack of that communication.  Based on the tone of the emails, this has yet to happen. No one knows who was supposed to do what or tell everyone else what to do.  I'm staying out of it.  Frankly, I have my hands full trying to manage the actual children impacted by these decisions made at the meetings to which I was not invited and where I might have made some helpful observations.  On the plus side, everyone feels very sorry for me right now and I'm being given a wide berth except when they want to gift me with things.

Things I will take without hesitation.  I earned those things.

And the weather?  To say I was overdressed for today would be an understatement.  80 degrees and humidity that required one make swimming motions in order to get from one side of the room to another.  Crazy hot and no one was prepared for it.  We were all still in Early Spring mode and garbed accordingly.  With the testing and the testy emails, it was all quite the pretty package.

And yet I couldn't help but feel kind of good about it.  I don't particularly care for heat.  And I positively loathe humidity.  LOATHE it!  For all that, I still had a pleasant little upturn to my lips for most of the day.  Even as I sweat through my long sleeved polo shirt, I smiled a little bit.

Because it felt like the end of the school year.  Like it's really going to come to an end at some point.  Some point soon, even.  All the meetings where people make big decisions that require me to run around like a crazy person...they will be in the past.  The snarky emails where people try to cover for having made me run around like a crazy person and blame everyone else...they'll get deleted once the school year ends and they tidy up the servers.  The tests will have been tallied and the results filed.  There will be nothing more we can do to boost scores.  It will all come to a crashing halt.

It was First Contact.  The day that reminds me of the virtues to be found in Hanging In There.  I will, one day soon, drive home and not have to go back for a while.  This year will be naught but a few snaps in the 2010 middle school yearbook.  I can take a little heat if it means the school year is winding down.  This has not been the greatest of educational experiences, but it has an expiration date and that makes it a little more lovely in mine eyes.

Although I find it kind of disconcerting to think about how I finally started knitting again.  Just in time for the summer heat to roll in...


Saturday, May 01, 2010

Pocket Topics

I knit today.  I really, really did.  However, it's been so long since I performed anything even remotely resembling the needling arts that I worry about doing anything rash.  I'm afraid to talk about it.  What if I scare it away?  Then I'm having to spend the rest of the evening chasing skittish knitting all over the manse.  It'll be midnight and I'll be hunched in front of the sofa trying to coax out a shivering mass of wool from the depths of the dust bunny world.  It's too risky.  I'm going to leave the knitting alone and let it adjust to being out of the bag for a while.

Today is a good day to bring out a Pocket Topic.  We all have them.  Those are the blogging ideas that come to us at 4:00 in the morning or while we are driving to work and we think, "Gee, that would be a good post."  Then, for reasons that vary, we tuck it away in a back pocket until we can get to it.  Sometimes we think about it, maybe even go so far as to take it out and brush off the lint but we still save it for another day.  Eventually we get to it or we don't.

In my case, the topic was pocketed due to the fact that I spent my Spring Break writhing on the sofa and cursing the Horrific Mystery Illness that hit me just in time to ruin my entire school vacation.  I meant to post more than I did, but most of that week's blogging went into the Pocket along with the extra tissues and cough drops.

Right before the fever and chills hit, I did a post about making barbecue sauce.  Several people asked if I would share the recipe and I honestly meant to do just that.  It never made it to the blog, though.  How about I do it today?

Making sauce is not all that complicated.  You really just need to start with a master recipe and go from there.  In my case, the master sauce looks starts like this:

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup molasses
1 cup ketchup (or catsup if you are a classier person than I)
1 tablespoon each of the following: yellow mustard (the kind you put on your hot dog), garlic powder, onion powder, chili powder, black pepper, dried ginger and liquid smoke.  (can be found with the barbecue sauces in the grocery store)

(Note:  this is a bit spicy so feel free to cut back on the black pepper and chili powder if you like)

Heat the vinegar and molasses on low to medium until the molasses dissolves.  Remove from heat and whisk in the remaining ingredients.  Return to the burner and bring to a very gentle boil.  Let the sauce thicken while stirring frequently.  (I usually only let it go for a few minutes)

This is the "reasonable amount" recipe as opposed to the "ridiculous amount" version that I made a few weeks ago.  I ended up having to can several pints of the stuff since I can't consume fifty bazillion gallons of sauce in any scenario I can envision.  From this master recipe, you can tweak it however you like.  Since I prefer a sweeter sauce, I add about 1/3 cup of maple syrup infused with fresh ginger.  You can use honey, other spices,'s really up to you and your own tastes.  It's sauce, not plutonium. Feel free to experiment!

Let's say you've played with it and got it where you want it.  At this point, you may find yourself with a pot of barbecue sauce and no earthly idea what to do next.  That is understandable.  I'm not a great grill-master by any stretch of the imagination.  That honor goes to Daddy Sheep.  However, I can offer a suggestion for beef short ribs that might work out for you.  Especially if, like me, you live in a small condo and aren't in possession of outdoor cooking paraphernalia.

Take out that broiler pan you always wonder about but rarely use.  Fill the bottom pan about a quarter full with water and toss in some roughly chopped, peeled ginger and onions.  Garlic is nice, too if you happen to have it.  Place the ribs on the top rack and cover with foil.  Pierce the foil to allow the steam to escape.  Preheat the oven to 250 and cook ribs for one hour.  Turn, check the water level and cook for another hour.  Raise heat to 400, remove the foil, sauce the ribs heavily and cook for another twenty to thirty minutes until done.

The sauce will caramelize nicely, the spices will tone down just a bit and the ribs will be as tender as can be.  Very tasty and very easy.  You will curse me for a week while you clean your broiler pan, but you've had a whole bunch of protein from the ribs so you've got the energy to scrub the pan.  It will all be OK.  After a while, you'll forget all about the mess and just remember the ribs.  Maybe you can get your kids to do it for you or something...

There.  I feel better.  I cleaned out a Pocket Topic and the line of my jeans is ever so much smoother now.  There are a few barbecued rib lumps, but I don't think those will go away quite as easily.

I also managed to blog without causing the knitting to scamper away in horror and fear.  I'll keep plugging away at it and, pretty soon, I'm sure it will feel better about being in the light again.  It isn't like I promised I'd get this done by Christmas or anything, right?

Except that I did, but we won't dwell on that.  We'll just enjoy some nice barbecued ribs and pretend that I meant next Christmas.  It's sort of like a Pocket Topic except for the part where you don't bring it out quite so proudly...