Monday, December 27, 2010

Half Empty- Half Full

I've been reading a-many minimalist blogs. I've got pack rat tendencies like nobody's business. Not quite an episode of "Hoarders" but plenty of "just in case" stuff.

You may remember the purging of this summer. A little free time today brought on some more activity. THe main eyesore in this room (and a home decorating item I find unattractive) were the bins of stash stacked next to the bookshelves. They weren't full, and as it turns out, they weren't necessary. All stash fits on 4 bookshelves. So after some serious rearranging and vacuuming we have the "half empty" part of the room.

A clear open workspace, the ipad connected to speakers with old-time-radio episodes playing, space for possibilities. So very much unlike me and it will be only with great effort that it will remain so.

And now to the "half full" section of the room-

There is some decluttering to be done here but it's a summer project. I don't want to cull until it's easy peasy to dispense of the goods. Cold winter does not lend itself to such an activity. Knitting from the stash is the closest I"ll get until the spring!

Finally over "not smarter than the camera" blues

At last posting you saw day 1 of Ben and the Babybabies. What you will not see here (though I was so disheartened at accidentally deleting the pictures that I considered drawing stick figures and taking pictures) is a picture of both babies falling asleep in Mr. Sophanne's arms. You will also not see Ben covered from head to toe in flour after playing with the tonka trucks in the flour. And, you will not see the thrill of sucking up said flour with the shopvac. Really, it's taken a week and then some for me to face posting on the blog without those pictures. They were that adorable.

In the knitting from stash news:

This Noro was originally purchased for a second Jared Flood scarf. I never made it and the idea of knitting one row at a time and changing colors every other row didn't do much for me. Instead I've started this Multidirectional Diagonal Scarf, a short row scarf pattern free on Ravelry.

Pictured is one skein and a little bit more- I've got the remainder of the second skein left so it will be a short scarf. Given the the muted colorings, I think, after a heavy bath in Eucalan, I'll be able to convince Mr. Sophanne that he wants this.

In clothes shopping insights:

If you buy clothes that fit well and are comfortable, they will probably look o.k. This is as opposed to buying clothes that you think will look good and hoping that they will be comfortable.

Sock knitting news:

Thanks to Wendy Johnson's toe-up sock book (which I've now just found a free pattern that would have done just as well), I've knit my first toe-up sock. Direction follower that I am, the sock is 64 stitches and roomier than my usual 56 stitches. There was great joy in my heart as I knit the leg with abandon, not fretting about when I should start the heel so I wouldn't run out of yarn. I don't remember the name of the yarn.

In holiday festivities news:

Mr. Sophanne and I don't really "do" Christmas. We believe in things, we cherish every day, we celebrate the magic that is life but unless we have the good fortune to have family and or kids at our house, it goes by relatively unnoticed. People sometimes feel sorry for us and invite us for dinner. We don't really feel sorry for ourselves but this year we accepted an invitation from one of his co-workers. I do not have the writing skills necessary to convey the Seinfeldesque nature of the evening.

The evening began with the host's adult son greeting us with a handshake in a reclining position while never taking his eyes off the tv watching Shrek with 3-D glasses. He did get up and say hello again after the burping and farting section passed.

At the start of the meal, as she put food on the table, the wife proclaimed, "We are so glad to have everyone here- especially people who don't have anywhere else to go." I almost felt homeless for a second.

Somewhere in the middle of the evening, Great Grandma, who was ignored by all (except Mr. Sophanne and myself of course) managed to eat several fried smelts and leave the tiny bones intact. Later, her countless pleas of "Can I hold the baby?" fell upon deaf ears.

Neighbors arrived and the hostess came to the table (where we were working hard at some kind of after dinner table talk) and said, "I'm going downstairs (to the finished basement) the neighbors are here and they might want some of these periogies. You're finished aren't you? We'll be downstairs."

Downstairs was a finished bar (and the 3-D tv). When we finally took the hint and joined everyone, we watched in mild discomfort as the host endlessly tempted a non-drinker into having a little taste of wine/hard cider/beer/apple pie schnapps. Finally the guy said to the host "Look- I made a deal with God- I drank all I could for one lifetime and he let me live. I don't drink now."

The night ended with the host's wife exclaiming to Mr. Sophanne, "YOU HELD THE BABY???? Now she'll never sleep tonight." Not sure what that meant but insert any line from "We have to go see the BABY" episode and you'll get the idea.

Mr. Sophanne had high hopes of these two being our first "couples friends." I've always known otherwise. On occasions past, I'd prepare myself with a little anti-anxiety medication. This time it wasn't necessary. I went pretending it was a tv show and it was one of the funniest episodes I ever watched. We came home grateful for the meal, for the hospitality that was intended (if not exactly delivered) and just a little bit more appreciation of who we are on the planet.

News from The Claw:

Here's a picture of what I received from The Claw in exchange for my unused Kindle. He is having great success at his Etsy shop and I'm pretty sure we've got some of you to thank for that.

And finally (in the most non-sequitur post I believe I have ever written): There is NOTHING better than a Sunday night when you don't have to go to work on Monday morning.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

How could I wait to show this?

Immediately upon their arrival, Mr. Sophanne said "we need babies in this house." Oy vey. I said we have some. Enjoy it while it lasts. He loves babies and kids who are three.

They arrived and Ben (age 3) was shy for approximately 90 seconds. Mr. Sophanne and Ben went downstairs and banged on the congas. Then they headed to the train station to see some trains. Prior to their arrival, I had suggested the toy train but Mr. Sophanne thought he'd be too young. Turns out he was not. This is the look of a first-time engineer on a "real train" as he called it (as opposed to the wooden ones he was playing with.) As for the real "real ones"- they were just a little scary. He stood near one and then decided it was time to come back home.

The dog? She was born to be with babies. She'd give love and kisses until they pulled away or stuck out a hand- then she'd lay back and just watch, waiting until they gave a sign that she could come forward. There was serious communication beyond what mere humans could understand going on between babies and dog. It was magical.

Ben and the BabyBabies

Are taking a road trip to House of Sophanne!


In preparation for a little more festive setting (we had zero decorations) Mr. Sophanne put up some icicle lights. I put some Christmas cards around the window. We don't send cards (except we have some around when we want to send some money to relatives) so the number of cards we receive is minimal. (and if I really had to be honest, 2 of the 5 cards in view came from my sister and her family and one came from our insurance agent.)

To rectify this and make it look not so pathetic, we put up a couple of cards that we had to send. Mr. Sophanne thought a blank card hanging might be tacky so inside one he wrote.

"This card is for decorational purposes only. If you are reading it, Merry Christmas anyway."

He cracks me up

Also waiting in the wings are these:

which I'm imagining will be rolling in flour on our table at some point.

Finally, I also made sure to have on hand the "3 CH's" of feeding children. CHicken nuggets, kraft mac n CHeese, and CHeerios.

Again I say YIPPEE!

ETA- and in further yippiness- I found the Queen Anne's Lace Pattern!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

How to have a Zen-like winter/holiday program in an elementary school

Early November- pick the songs and put them in order in a separate notebook. Pick easy ones that your kids will love and that will make the parents smile. There's more (or less) to a program than showing what you can do with kids. It's all about proud parents seeing their son/daughter on stage taking part in one of the few holiday traditions that hasn't changed with time.

Mid-November- teach the songs. Adjust for your inability to figure out what is actually "easy" versus what is just plain delusional and replace hard songs with something else.

Late-November- take a Thanksgiving break- time for the songs and the season to sink in.

Early December- let kids practice standing and singing on risers. Let them know how to enter and exit the stage. Practice both procedure and songs tediously. Put all standing orders in your notebook for future reference. Fret that you've picked songs that are too difficult. Remember that you've got 2-3 weeks and that everything always works out even when it doesn't

Prepare printed program and send along to the copy center. Make sure everything is spelled correctly.

A week before (if you're me) turn your classroom into a stage by removing everything in sight.

Let the custodians know what help you're going to need and when you're going to need it.

Let the teachers know via written communication how things will work (if there are some who didn't really follow your "how things will work" plan last year, make sure you give them the memo to "proofread" for you this year. heh. heh.)

If the kids know the songs, let them watch the Nutcracker and color programs- another personal touch to the tradition and another way for them to own and remember the event.

Get together the info that the art teacher and counselor need to get kids to the stage at the right time and in the right order.

Two days before-set up the stage/sound system/etc in preparation for the dress rehearsal. Hopefully there's a custodian or two around to help out with this.

One day before- have a dress rehearsal with the sound system and a performance for the school. Or, have a county-wide "it's too cold to go to school day off." (I prefer the latter)

Day of the show- Sing the songs- thank the people delivering the kids to the stage, pretend that you can read music and play the accompaniments, enjoy the beloved tradition of another holiday show.

This used to be a high drama event in my life- anxiety ridden, general bitchiness, resentment, martytdom, etc.

I've done away with most of those feelings. There is still some anxiety but not an unreasonable and prolonged amount. There's occasional internal bitchiness when a kid stares blankly at me after giving directions for the third time.

Other teachers (unintentionally) try to feed the drama potential. Are you ready? are the kids ready? This must be so hard for you. etc etc I nod and smile and say I hope so, I hope so, and not so much.

If you're not paying mindful attention, the kids can send you over the top as well. They are so excited. They ask questions they already know the answers to. They ask you what songs they are singing (the day before the program). They let you know if they have a sore throat. It's what kids do. It's how they involve themselves in the excitement of something new. On a good day I smile and patiently answer their questions. On a bad day, I roll my eyes and say "REALLY???" and let one of the kids answer their questions. They may sing like I've encouraged them to do but chances are when they see a crowd of 200+ people looking at them they will revert to what comes naturally which is a sort of rapping/yelling combination.

I've come to know this is not about me. It's about one of the few traditions left from school days of yore. It's about community. It's about kids taking pride and responsibility in what they do. Some might think that in a perfect world it would be about making beautiful music with stunning visual effects and cleverly choreographed additions-that in a perfect world the audience would care more about what they were hearing rather than catching up with old friends. In that perfect world, nervous kids too sick to be there but wanting to be there so badly they won't tell anyone, don't puke on the kids in front of them. In my world it's o.k. the way it is. The teachers are happy, the parents are happy, the kids are happy and I am happy. Peace on Earth and only 9 more holiday programs to go until I can retire!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

LYS makeover- yippee skippee!

I needed some "boy blue" (light blue won't work for boy mittens according to the intended recipient) yarn. I've been going to The Needlecraft Barn in Morgantown, WV on and off for the last 5 years. When it was "off" it was because the yarn quality, selection and variety were never changing.

Enter Cecilia, a former employee now current owner of the LYS. They had new yarn! She said "if Michael's has it, then I won't." She had some milk-based, sugar-based yarns that I had never seen before as well as some Lamb's Pride which I love but don't have easy access to.

I hope she does well- it would be so nice to have a thriving LYS less than 30 minutes from home in a city where I know how to get around. If you're in the Morgantown area, check her out- she's in the alley across from the Courthouse Square. She's even got a wall of locally grown/spun fibers as well as some roving. And she's quite the salesperson. She placed every skein of yarn she showed me in my hand just daring me not to buy it (in a very inoffensive and relaxed way)

In other news, last Wednesday Mr. Sophanne's Morning Wake Up Message was, "Hey Sophanne, Nostradamus called, you're going to get a snow day on Monday." As the magic 8-ball says- "outlook good."

The winter program featuring Children's Favorites is scheduled for Wednesday. On a conscious level, I feel no pressure. I've done this enough times to know that I've done what I can, it is what it is, and (insert platitude here.) I don't think my subconscious is buying it. Last night I had a dream about volcanos erupting and running from lava. When I looked it up it talked about being under pressure. Laryngitis is working it's way around my head right now so if the germs cooperate, at least I'll get the sympathy vote on the 15th. (as in, damm, she worked so hard on this program, she's lost her voice.)

I only have one speech to give at the program which is to tell them that if this year really really was about children's favorite carols then I'd have to have every class grades k-2 sing Jingle Bells and Rudolph and every class grades 3-5 sing Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree and Jingle Bell Rock. Maybe that's what I"ll do next year. Have every grade sing the same song and the audience can listen and hear how much their voices improve as they get older. I can call it the "Broken Jukebox Holiday Program!"

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

thank you karma

For anyone who comes here solely for the knitting content (which I can't imagine there is anyone because I come here for the laughs), there will be another shawl collared (steeked) vest in the next few weeks. About 10 more inches above the sleeve line, some steeks, some miles of garter stitch on the shawl... did I say weeks?

Yesterday the Lunchtime Talker was Out Of Control. Seriously. My ears hurt at the end of the 30 minutes and I wasn't even the first one to comment about it later. (usually I'm the biggest whiny baby about the whole thing being the least reluctant to change) I try to save all my complaining for this space.

You also need to know that I've been playing the "what's your theme song" game with all of my friends and colleagues. They don't really get it at first but once I give a few examples, they're mostly good with it.

We had a faculty meeting today. One of my favorite teachers came in and I asked her what her theme song would be. The talker heard this (I don't know how) and said "She didn't even ask me mine." I said, "Oh I already have one for you- Yackety Yack!" She laughed and laughed and slapped her knees and laughed some more. Others were sucking the air out of the room in fear. Then one of the lunch partners said "yea, if you eat lunch with her you KNOW it's true."

All was done in relatively good spirits-not snarky at all just the truth as we know it. I feel now I've at least had a chance to say what's on my mind without being offensive and when it gets to be too much at lunchtime, I may have a joking tool to ease the constant prattle.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Random Mutterings

Muttering #1
Today I am wondering if there is a style in haute couture called Ninja by day, Bag Lady by night. If there is, I am the poster child. If it's black, I'll wear it to work and if it's baggy I'll wear it at home and if it's both (yet to be acquired), I may never take it off. That being said, someone tell me why I knit an adult surprise jacket in the color of sharpie markers.

Muttering #2
Perhaps like many of you, I can start the laundry with good intentions. There seems to be a breakdown when it's time to move the clean folded clothes from the laundry area to the clothes storage places. Today I'm trying a new method. I'm taking them (unfolded and in a basket-these modern contraptions are fabulous) to the storage place and then folding them. I'll let you know how this works out.

Muttering #3
The religion chosen for my sister and I by our parents was Judiasm for the first 10 years or so. We were always only that, but not having connected to it for many years, it's not really a part of who I am now. Last week a teacher came into my room and all of her students wished me a Happy Hanukkah. I didn't even know it was Hanukkah. It created discomfort for me. I smiled and nodded thanks and moved on. What's a girl to do? Is it the thought that counts?

Muttering #4
I'm not really going to knit one pattern from every book. That was a good way to cull the books- they found a good home a few blocks away (and if I ever really really need that knitting basics book again, I know someone who might have it-until she chooses to cull it which is o.k. by me)

Muttering #5
A note to summer self. The sweaters and warm things that you knit are very convenient in the cold weather. Don't downplay their importance.

Muttering #6
There is really not one thing that I like about the holiday season except for when it's over. After that comes the feeling of guilt that comes from not buying into the whole thing and the never-ending attachment to snow days.

Muttering #7
One thing that might make the next two weeks tolerable is that I've decided that everyone I work with should have theme music. At first I thought mine would be Simple Gifts (tis a gift to be simple...) but then The Claw suggested the music to Mr. Roger's Neighborhood. I must be doing a good job of faking jollity and that's an accomplishment. It's been great fun exploring the possibilities for others. What's your theme song these days?

Thursday, December 02, 2010

News FLash!!!

The Claw is on Etsy!! He's selling handmade wooden miniature piano music boxes. They are awesome- all of the music box sounds are traditional wind up sounds as opposed to electronic simulations. Please go check them out and pass the word along to anyone you think they might appeal to. The Claw has had a rough year and I love him.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Mittens: A Question

Vanfox at institches posed the following question while we were chatting in email.

When making mittens, rather than holding stitches for the thumb, is there any reason you couldn't do the thumb first and then pick up the stitches and finish the mitt?

Would there be any advantages to this? A more stable thumb? Is vanfox23 the next Elizabeth Zimmerman?