Dog-Tired

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Too Little, Too Late

As the days continue to become longer and the pages of the calendar seem to peel away like dry, sun-burnt skin, I’m slowly coming to the sad conclusion that my latest finished project came just a little bit too late. Despite the lack of snow days, I’m perfectly happy with a slight chill in the air, preferring the climate to err on the colder side in general. Bitter winds and freezing temperatures can sometimes be comforting and familiar, since I had to grow up with torrential snows every winter. They would be so bad sometimes that as a tiny toddler of no more than two feet, I could stand on a pile of snow and easily reach the basketball net in the turnaround! Nothing of that sort has ever been dumped on us since moving slightly coastal about a decade ago, but thinking optimistically, I hoped that perhaps a little more encouragement would remind March of its duty to be a month where winter makes its come back; A gentle nudge in the right direction, and who knows what could happen? It’s still not too late to see snow in the forecast. Despite temperatures soaring to a jaw-dropping 70 degrees late afternoon yesterday, submitting and bringing out the t-shirts and light fabrics would be suicide to my hopes, so I suppose the end result of my crafting was a compromise – Meant to keep one warm, but still a nod to the approaching warmer weather.

Having found this combination knit and crochet pattern some time ago, I rediscovered it in my file of potential projects and realized that if I didn’t get moving soon, it would have to wait another year before I would even think about making it. Hating to miss any opportunity when it comes to making new things, I gathered a few skeins of yarn and set to work in short order. Very simple and very quick, all the pieces came together in no time at all, encouraging a little extra work to further embellish with additional leaves. I just couldn’t leave well enough alone, continuing until I had knit up no less than six more leaves. Hey, if you really want to appease the threatening force of a premature spring, why not go all out and make it a flattering representation of lush foliage?

Wearing the finished neck piece is out of the question at the moment, lest I want I to sweat like a pig in a sauna. Although the actual atmosphere has done little to take notice of my desire for just one last snow, I suppose there are worse things than an early spring. Too bad my procrastination will force me to wait a year before I can wear it now. While I would have been satisfied with colorful acrylic flowers while white, powdery snow covered the ground outside, I’m sure that any day now, real ones will present themselves. I’m okay with this change, really! …I just wish I could have worn the neck warmer at least once.

Melting Away

Ever feel like you’re standing on ice so thin that the very ground beneath you is melting away before your eyes? Well, trust me – You’re not alone.

So shortly after winter’s impressive last stand, nary a full square foot of snow remains to show for it. The general reaction is of relief, a feeling that I can appreciate as well, especially when the thermometer can now boast more impressive readings than just barely double-digits. Everyone has already begun to plan for summer gardens, stocking up on seeds and bulbs, planning out their planting strategies, all too eager to just move on. On the other hand, this chilly fellow would beg to differ. How short and disappointing this season was for him! Warm temperatures stretched well into December and January, with a pathetic excuse for snow, more easily mistaken for a mild case of dandruff than a meteorological occurrence. Now, just as he began to feel at home, back in his element, spring is waiting around the corner, waiting to ambush him and chase him out of town. Slightly more than a week remains before the seasons official pass the baton and trade off, so what’s a penguin to do?

I suppose it’s a good thing that I’m not a penguin myself, because I have no idea. There’s no place that is naturally cold all year round, aside from the freezer. While it had been inhabited briefly by a similar creature, at this point there’s no way I would be able to fit another box of frozen waffles in there, let alone a small creature. Wondering how to handle this dilemma, my arctic friend and I chatted a good deal, revealing a few curious details. Apparently, he was so totally lost due to a simple miscommunication – In buying his plane ticket to Alaska for some rest and relaxation, they somehow mixed up his reservations, sending him here instead. Sure, he knew that he was headed for the wrong destination entirely, but they wouldn’t give him a refund regardless of how he begged, so any vacation is still a vacation, right? You know how it is, I’m sure.

Upon arrival, the climate seemed agreeable enough, but little did he know how it would change, slowly but surely, until it was torture to walk down the street. Now he was desperate for an out, but after losing his ticket necessary to return, he was beginning to lose hope. How was he to fly home on those useless wings, and without the help of the modern marvel that allows even humans fly?

Luckily, I happened to have a hard-working family member who traveled far and wide for his estimable job. Surely he would stop someplace cold, if not the arctic itself. After hearing the omnipresent threat of even warmer temperatures, my penguin friend hastily agreed to tag along, reasoning that any place would be better than here at this point.

And while the melting ice doesn’t bother me so deeply, the rainy, clammy weather that is entering the picture in its place tempts me to agree with him.

Hungry, Hungry Hippo

Preparing to make the ever-popular Cookies ‘n Cream cupcakes from VCToTW for about the hundredth time, I barely need to crack open the book to know what step comes next. Constant requests have kept my memory sharp on the exact ingredients and measurements required, so baking up a batch is more a matter of mechanical follow-through than conscious thought. Moving in stride to the cupboard where the Joe Joe’s are housed, my easy progression is brought to an abrupt halt as my hands scrape along an empty shelf. Having just bought a new package only days ago, there was no way that they could have all been finished already, so where were they? Did I forget to unload them with the rest of the groceries? Did they get misplaced? Forgetting about the mixer still churning away with cupcake batter, becoming more glutenous by the minute, I searched high and low throughout the entire kitchen cabinet.

No luck; Not a crumb of the requisite sandwich cookies to be found. Flipping off the mixer and looking warily at the over-beaten dough, I wondered what else could possibly be an adequate substitute for these to still be considered Cookies ‘n Cream cupcakes. Maybe if worst came to worst, I considered if it would be possible to freeze the raw mixture and finish it off after buying a new pack of cookies later. Turning off the oven and preparing to pack up the operation for the day, the crinkling of plastic wrap caught my attention. Seeming to emanate from the table behind me, I turned around and wandered over to see who was there, having assumed I was alone at the moment. Well, would you believe what I found…

My Joe Joe’s! And not just that, but the thief as well, munching away without the slightest concern that he had just been caught red-handed. Who knows how long this hungry hippo had been pigging out, but considering the greatly diminished total of cookies still to be seen, it’s a good thing I discovered him when I did! Any later, and I may not have been able to finish my cupcakes after all.

Hastily grabbing the package away for fear of loosing even more into his ravenous appetite, chowing down as though he hadn’t eaten in a week, he issued a a moan of complaint. Amazingly, he still wasn’t satiated, demanding more to sooth his bottomless pit of a stomach! I hesitated, not wanting to deprive him of his tasty treat entirely but still not willing to surrender my vital ingredient, and considered who deserved them more. Ultimately, we were able to compromise; Since the hungry hippo had already gotten quite a substantial head-start on his snack, I gave him just a few more cookies to tide him over until we could have a real meal, and I continued on my way to turn the rest of the Joe Joe’s into crumbs for the cupcakes. No need to horde the sweets on either of our parts; This way, we both got what we wanted.

If you would like to make your own hungry hippo, it’s a very easy pattern indeed! I must warn you though, your hippo may eat more than even a typical college student, so I won’t be held accountable if you find various snacks missing from your cabinets!

Snout:

With an F hook, Ch9, sc into 2nd ch from hook, sc1 into next 6 ch, sc3 into last st. Continuing around, sc1 into back posts of next 6 st, sc2 into last st (18 sts)
Sc 8, sc2 into next st, sc 8, sc2 into next st (20 sts)
Sc 8, sc2 into next 2 sts, sc 8, sc2 into next 2 sts (24 sts)
Sc 3, sc2 into next st* around (30 sts)
Sc around for 8 rounds
Break yarn, leaving a long tail with which to sew.

Head:

Sc 6 into a circle
Sc2 into each st (12)
Sc 1, sc2 into next st* around (18)
Sc 2, sc2 into next st* around (24)
Sc 3, sc2 into next st* around (30)
Sc 4, sc2 into next st* around (36)
Sc 5, sc2 into next st* around (42)
Sc 6, sc2 into next st* around (48)
Sc around [6x]
Sc 6, sc2tog* around (42)
Sc 5, sc2tog* around (36)
Sc 4, sc2tog* around (30)
Sc 3, sc2tog* around (24)
-Insert safety eyes and stuff-
Sc 2, sc2tog* around (18)
Sc 1, sc2tog* around (12)
Sc2tog* around (6)
Break yarn, gather remaining stitches together and pull tight, knotting off. Leave a sizable tail for attaching to the body.

Body:

Sc 6 into a circle
Sc2 into each st (12)
Sc 1, sc2 into next st* around (18)
Sc 2, sc2 into next st* around (24)
Sc 3, sc2 into next st* around (30)
Sc 4, sc2 into next st* around (36)
Sc 5, sc2 into next st* around (42)
Sc around
Sc 6, sc2 into next st* around (48)
Sc around [10x]
Sc 6, sc2tog* around (42)
Sc around
Sc 5, sc2tog* around (36)
Sc around
Sc 4, sc2tog* around (30)
Sc around
Sc 3, sc2tog* around (24)
Sc around
-Insert stuffing-
Sc 2, sc2tog* around (18)
Sc 1, sc2tog* around (12)
Sc2tog* around (6)
Break yarn and gather remaining stitches, tying tight.

Legs (Make 4):

Sc 5 in a circle
Sc2 into each st (10)
Sc 1, sc2 into next st* around (15)
Sc around for four rounds
Sc 3, sc2tog* around (12)
Break yarn

Ears (Make 2):

Sc 5 in a circle
Sc2 into each st (10)
Sc 1, sc2 into next st* around (15)
Break yarn

Assembly: Embroider nostrils on snout before stuffing, and attach to the head centered between the safety eyes. Fold each ear in half with the right sides out and sew the first two stitches next to the tail together. Sew the ears to the head, directly opposite each other.

Stuff legs lightly and attach to underside of the body, evenly spaced, with each pair (front / back) sewn directly next to each other. At the slightly tapered end of the body, sew on the head. For the tail, braid three separate strands of yarn to desired length and attach to rear of the hippo.

Hide all cookies in the house, or expect quite a few snacks to go missing in short time!

Watch Your Words

From our first utterance of partially formed syllables, we are taught to choose our words carefully. We are told that in addition to the important facets of speech being reiterated constantly as though repetition would instill deep understanding, there are also bad words. Words never to leave one’s lips, no matter the outrage or offense. Inevitably, we learn these words without being directly taught, but most obedient children still abide by their parents’ admonitions. It is an instinctual reaction to please those we care for and who care for us, but not a conscious choice made by rational, sound thought.

Before long, with the advent of school and play-dates, the spectrum of acceptable and unacceptable words broaden, throwing light on some areas previously murky, but dirtying others that were once pristine, creating so many muddy shades of grey. When do we use these questionable assemblages of letters? What does it really matter, anyway? It’s a lot to expect of children who can not yet safely cross the street by themselves.

When I was in such a state of early confusion, wresting with the limited and crude dictionary that I had managed to cobble together, I wish someone would have only warned me this: Tread gently with your words. We all speak the same language at home, but each individual still takes ownership of vastly different definitions to the exact same lines. Innocent words can be interpreted with negative connotations; Thoughtless expletives directed at no one in particular in a moment of blind rage can offend more than the accusation itself; Enemies are far easier to forge in an age when we are all so sensitive to language.

Out of common respect, don’t lightly drop words that could just as easily be made out as atomic bombs. My friend here, for example, has been jokingly called a “big ape” more times than he would care to count. Everyone who light-heartedly assigned him this unflattering title meant no harm I’m sure, but that doesn’t remove the sting of their venom. Some times it’s hard to hear the best intentions over a defamatory remark that echoes so loudly within one’s own insecurities. If they could only realize their mistake, however, they should know that even beyond their simple slip of the tongue, that he’s a chimpanzee, not an ape at all!

Certainly he’s not model, nor brain surgeon, nor ballet dancer, but using such a careless label loaded with unfavorable meaning harms him more than these traits themselves. Condemned to a life of being perceived as an ungraceful buffoon, a “big ape,” how could he not be hurt by such a sentence? Think what you want of him, but when that goofy smile of his loops its way across his kind and gentle face, only the cruelest eye could ever see him in such a demeaning light.

So please, be careful with your words. Even that “big ape” you see from afar has feelings, too.

After School Toil, Afternoon Naps

In terms of school days, an early dismissal is a beautiful thing. Just over four short hours of pretending to learn throughout four shortened classes, and the final bell still rings in time for be to get home for lunch. Best of all, these throw-away lesson plans still carry all the same weight as a full day would, bringing us that much close to the ultimate reward of summer vacation. I know that most if not all my peers are headed home on these days to blow off homework and do nothing more strenuous than watch tv, but my plans come no where near such absent-minded behavior. You would think that packing up my books early would give me so much luxurious leisure time to while away as I please, but somehow, almost inexplicably, I end up working twice as hard instead.

Returning to my residence by noon, the desire to make up for such an unproductive school day compels me to over-compensate in my domestic duties. With the oven cranking away mere minutes after I first breezed through the front door, I’m already dashing about trying to simultaneously combine ingredients to make cookies and complete any knit or crocheted works in progress. Then there’s always some pile of laundry to sort, dishes to wash and put away, craft supplies to organize… I simply can’t shake the feeling that I would completely waste this rare half-day if I didn’t utilize this time to the fullest. There is nothing more unfulfilling in my book than watching tasks stack up on my to-do list, only to turn a blind eye to them when given some extra time to accomplish them.

Watching me run around like a headless chicken was a good friend of mine who happened to be feeling a bit blue that day. I offered to include him in my activities and maybe have some fun while getting work done, but he hastily turned down my offer. Instead, I spent much of the time aware of his curious eyes boring holes through my back where ever I turned. What looked like tiresome tasks to him was in fact wonderful fun for me, and he simply couldn’t comprehend that. Taking cookies out of the oven, tying off my final stitches, he was still there, watching.

After a couple hours of nearly manic crafting and creating, my energy level began to drop. Cursing my pathetic excuse for endurance, I soldiered on, making increasing numbers of mistakes on my projects as my focus began to lessen. Soon I was spending almost as much time correcting my errors as making progress, taking three steps forward and two steps back. It didn’t take much of this slow going for me to take notice of my exhaustion, and I reasoned with myself that a short rest would be a good thing, so I could continue working hard after.

Up the stairs I climbed, headed for my soft, cozy bead. Ready to collapse in it right then and there, I peeled back the covers and was startled to see my watch-hawk friend was already there, lazily opening his eyes! I guess I hadn’t noticed when he had chosen to abandon me, but he sure looked tired now.

Complaining that the act of observing me rush about like a madwoman was tiring, he claimed to need the rest just as much as I did. Well, had he actually helped me out I would have understood his desire to take a break, but through my own worn down eyes, I saw little pity for this lazy friend of mine. Wanting to push him clear out of bed, I restrained myself nonetheless and allowed us both to take a break. Keeping this favor in mind, I can only hope that he realizes how much easier it could be on both of us if he offers to contribute his own time on my next half-day of school.