We’re Talking About My Day, Aren’t We?

Okay, pretend I’ve made some clever opening to this post and we are in the middle of discussing my day. 


…and then I decided it was past time for me to work on my store.  Yes, that’s right, my Etsy store.  So I took out the three baby sweaters that I haven’t put into the store yet, and photographed them, edited my photos, and made the postings.  What do you mean?  Oh, the process…I log into my store and go to the operations page.  After I select the prompt to add a new item to the store, it leads me through each step.  All I have to do is fill in the blanks.  Well, no, not that easy.  I have to name the item, write a description of it and list the materials it is made of.  Then I assign tags to it, choose the proper category for mailing, and upload photos of the item.  Oh yeah, I have to assign a price.  And most of the time I have to check the measurements of the garment or accessory so I can include them in the description and assign it a size.  Finally, with all the pages complete, I look at the final display and mark it approved.  The item appears in my store within seconds.  I can also turn to the fron page of Etsy and wait to see it pass by in the constant display of items being posted.  That’s kind of cool. 


Yes, I did this three times today.  Mmm, two hours if you include the photography part.  I had a little trouble with the photos, because my back is so achy, and I have to stand for a while to do them.  I had to put all thoughts of the back on the back burner (hehe, I am so funny) while I held the camera steady and tried different angles and lightings for the little sweaters.  I decided to photograph them against a background of vintage fabric.  I get horrible color changes when I try to photograph outside (?my camera…?the camera recording the colors interaction with UV from the sun), and I want my listings to be true to the actual colors. 


These are the sweaters I listed:    I know, I know, I knitted them ages ago.  They should have been posted but I haven’t been doing proper store maintenence.  I noticed that I need to knit some baby blankets for the store.  My supply is exhausted.  That’s something I enjoy, too.  But for right now, the babies of the world have lovely handknit sweaters made from natural materials.     Sure, I can give you the store address again:  it’s www.essiewb.etsy.com.  Remember, we never close!  I know.  It’s been a long day.  I also knitted some more on that orange/brown/tan/purple mat that I’m making.  I am loving it.  It is 34 inches long and I’m not inclined to bind off yet.  I’ll lose at least a quarter of the length when I felt it, and I’d like it to be a nice-sized rug.  I learned to hook rugs in high school.  I made myself a rug that’s about 2.5 x 2 feet, and it stayed by my bed on top of the carpet.  It has a bar of music and I made sure when I designed it that the music made a tuneful phrase when you played it.  It’s still there in my parents’ home.  That bedroom, from my teen days, was shared with my younger sister.  It is the same color as my bedroom now.  That’s how I recognized this house as the one I should buy. 


Speaking of the parents’ house, you know I spent some time there this week.  While I was there, I was sitting in the family room with my mom and dad when discussion turned to the numerous family photos and how to display them.  My father referred to the constantly growing collage of photos on the refrigerator, a tenuously anchored collection that is always subject to landslide.  “There’s a picture of your mother on there where she’s sitting in her chair, looking so sweet it makes you just want to go and kiss her.”  They’ve been married more than 65 years, and the love between them is still palpable. 

Who wouldn’t want to have that, a love that lasts a lifetime and is still sweet?  A familiar, comfortable partner to share the perils and adventures of old age?  Someone who knows you and your life, who appreciates your memories and experiences?  It doesn’t matter if those memories include the dumbest things you’ve done in your life, or if you haven’t always been treated the partner the way you intended.  The persistance, the endurance, the growth of the relationship is what matters. 


Okay, now this is getting soupy, isn’t it?  I’m going to knit.  Thanks for listening.  Nice to have you here.




Chemocaps, Cookies, and Conversation with Daddy

Wow, could this be a more perfect evening?  A two-hour NCIS, my computer, slap-yo-mama cookies, and knitting to show.  Okay, yes, it could be better.  My favoritest male person (not George or Denzel) could be here, but hey, four out of five ain’t bad. 


Slap-yo-mama cookies (or any slap-yo-mama creation) is something that is so good it makes you want to do something foolish.  In my upbringing, you couldn’t do anything more foolish than slapping your mother.  It was a death sentence.  These cookies are from Martha (who else?!) and are made with butter and cocoa.  Need I say more?  http://www.marthastewart.com/mocha-slice-cookies?xsc=stf_MSLO-RECIPE  is the place to find the recipe.  However, I made some modifications.  Of course I did.  I did not have eggs or espresso powder.  I substituted 1/4 cup of soy milk and instant coffee.  My “butter” is Smart Balance Light.  My flour was half white and half wheat.  I didn’t coat the cookies with sugar on the outside. 


Actually, the lupus awareness kicked in while I was preparing these.  My thinking was this:  they want me to take this messy cookie dough and turn it out on a messy flour surface and roll it into a long tube, place it inside a paper towel tube and put it in the refrigerator.  Is that going to make my cookies taste better?  No.  It is a shape thing.  I don’t care what shape my cookies are.  I am tired and my back is hurting when I stand up too long.  I am going to defy Martha, take my dough just as it is and drop teaspoons of it onto the parchment paper (on the cookie sheet).  I am cooking it now.  No frig, no tube, no extra clean-up.  I did just that.  My little cookie mounds took about three minutes longer to cook.  They are delicious.  There is a minor aesthetic problem (you know, the way they look like teeny piles of poop). 


Now for the knitting.  I got 1/8 inch elastic and threaded it through the front of the chemo-cap scarf today.  Then I turned that section under about 1/4 inch and stitched it down.  That scarf started as a 30-inch long garter stitch triangle with an eyelet border.  I began with three stitches, then increased at either end of each row by making a knit 1, yarn over.  After the first 20 rows, I began to increase every other row.  The front edge has some eyelet treatment that I think is just so-so.  If I was doing it again, I would have garter stitched right up to the edge.  After I bound off the triangle, I crossed the tie ends in the back, using my head as a sizer, and bound them with a length of crocheted chain.  Then I sewed the apex of the triangle (the point that hangs down in the center back) to the knot.  This makes a secure cap that will stay on the head and not need any readjustment of the back tie.  By the way, the yarn is Knitpicks Crayon.  It is 100% cotton, very soft.  It can be machine washed, but don’t put in dryer.



The next cap is much different.  I started it at the brim, knitted a scalloped edge with eyelets made by yarnovers.  It was knitted in the round, very simple stockinette, with a gradual decrease to the apex.  I crocheted a row of singles around the brim so that it wouldn’t roll up.  It neatened it without eliminating the scallop pattern.  The yarn is what makes it special.  It’s elann.com Esprit, 98.3% cotton/1.7% elastic.  There’s just enough elastic to make the cap hug the head comfortably, and the cotton is soft and wearable. 


I love this cap.  I will make more.  I need to increase those two hats to at least eight to make a decent start at the chemo office I used in January. 


Babysitting the parents this morning was fun.  A conversation with my dad, as well as I can remember it:

Daddy:  I know you have to pay attention to other people’s feelings, but sometimes I just want to say “stop all that worrying”.

Me:  I know what you mean.  I saw that a lot when I was working.  I wished there was a switch where you could just turn off people’s worries. 

Daddy:  When they were bombing us and shooting at us in Germany and Korea, I couldn’t stop and worry.

Me:  How did you handle it?

Daddy:  Concentrated on the job I had to do.

Me:  Yeah, I learned that in college.  ___ used to break up with me just before big exams.  I learned to put it out of my mind and study, because I couldn’t let that craziness mess up my grades. 

A good conversation for us.  He rarely speaks of his war days, I rarely talk about my first husband. 





More Felted Mats, and What Feels Like Relaxing on an Anxious Day

“This is for relaxed people.  This is not for me.”  Kate Gosselin, mother of twins and sextuplets (Jon & Kate Plus 8, TLC)


I’m having a little problem today.  I can see obligations and appointments piling up over the next two weeks, and it makes me anxious.  There’s one doctor’s appointment, one sitting-with-the-little-old-parents morning, one lunch with my insurance guy, and graduation weekend for my youngest host kid.  His mom and sister will drive in the day before graduation and stay with us.  Oh yeah, and birthday dinner to celebrate Daddy’s 90th birthday.  We can splurge, spend the $2.50 we each made on our Preakness bets.


I know that’s not an unmanageable list, but when I look ahead and see my road cluttered with scheduled activities, I can’t help but wonder how I’m going to bear up healthwise.  I put Kate’s words at the top because my reaction to all these appointments is so different from my reaction to having my house fill up with noisy children going in every direction.  That is when I am relaxed and comfortable.  I don’t mind the chaos and the mess.  I can enjoy children without any effort or preparation or adjustment. 


Today I went to my sister’s house to help her with her new computer.  I’ve messed around on my own pc’s since the Radio Shack Tandy.  No, since I wrote programs for my microbiology professor in medical school.  That’s the first time I saw a pc.  Before that I was in engineering school, going to the computer center with my punch cards to run my programs.  The computer took up a whole building.  Then they put it in a little box that could sit on a desk.  Wow.  Anyway, I’m pretty fair at troubleshooting for everyday computer use.  When I turned the corner onto my sister’s street, I thought they had moved her house.  Instead of being pale yellow, it is now hot pink.  Quite a change.  I sat in the driveway and examined the details of the front door and steps to make sure I was at the right house. 


After the sister visit, I went to the grocery store.  I’m beginning to see increased prices on fresh produce.  I remind myself that if a pack of vegetables is $5, that’s only 1/4 or 1/5 what I would pay to eat the same vegetable at a restaurant.  I’m stricter about preventing waste, but I haven’t changed my buying habits yet.  Despite the careful shopping, I had a haphazard meal for dinner.  I took soup from the freezer, microwaved a package of cauliflower, and had garlic bread from Niedlov’s.  They are a local artisan bakery and their garlic bread has whole cloves of garlic baked into it. 


All this way without mentioning knitting.  Well, I won’t discuss it.  I’ll show you.  This is the felted rug that I began at the end of March.  I felted and blocked it, and debated for a while whether I should trim it.  Since it’s felted, I could cut the edges even with scissors and have a perfectly good, nonravelling edge.  But I’ve decided to leave it uncut.  See “Just Sunday Winding Down”, March 30 post. 

     This baby hat didn’t make it into the pile for afghans for Afghans.  I made the seed-stitch brim first, sewed it together, and then picked up stitches around the edge to mke the crown.  The crown has a spiral pattern with 1 purl and 4 knits all the way around.  The cast-on is a multiple of 5 minus 1 stitch. 

 This is the new mat that I cast on yesterday.  From the top, the colors are actually orange, brown, tan, and violet.  I don’t know why the violet reads so blue in these outdoor photos.  You can see the garter stitch border and stockinette body of this piece. 

 Some of my tomato plants, and my rolling cart covered with a towel.     



The Empire Strikes Back While I Knit My Life

“Now, release your anger.  Only your hatred can destroy me.”  Darth Vader, goading Luke Skywalker.  The Empire Strikes Back is on.  I found it by accident and it was already 2/3 done, but I’m watching the ending like I’ve never seen it before.  It’s the big fight scene, and parts of the ship are tearing loose.  The music is slow and stately, rising in a minor key as Luke hangs onto the ship, the wind whipping around him.  Luke has failed to defeat Vader, just as Yoda predicted.  You have to complete your warrior training to go up against the bad one.  I was in medical school when this came out.  We (me and my two best guy friends) stood in a line that wrapped three-quarters of the way around the block.  The screen was a million feet wide and we sat in the balcony, our seats even with the path of the small flight modules in the beginning of the movie. 


We used the movie as a metaphor for our medical school lives.  We were being trained to be warriors, and we had to complete the training.  We were on a serious mission, and there was no turning back.  There were all sorts of pitfalls:  tests, the Boards, arrogant attendings, resentful housestaff…and we were physically and mentally tired all the time.  We ate bad food, exercised only by running to codes or dashing to the blood bank for an emergency unit of blood, and neglected our relationships if they didn’t involve study dates.  My two guys had a standard joke about students whose spouses threatened to leave.  Your job was to remain strong and hand the spouse a dime, so he/she could phone a cab.  No time for driving them to the airport. 


“It is your destiny.  Join me, and together we can rule the galaxy as father and son.”  Luke jumps out into the unknown rather than take Vader’s evil invitation.  He tumbles through a metal tunnel, falls through a hatch and winds up hanging from the tail end of an antenna, outside the ship.  And, miracle of miracles, Leia hears him in her mind, and goes to his rescue.  Life is like that sometimes, if you’re lucky.  The old miracle rescue.  The late, unexpected love affair.  The remission from disease.  Someone hearing your need and coming to fulfill it.   That’s why sometimes I trust to stand at the edge and jump, knowing there’s the possibility that I might sprout wings, just in the nick of time.


I have knitted today.  Finished the scarf-chemocap yesterday, except for elastic for the front edge.  Finished an adorable baby cap in two different yarns.  Worked on a toddler dress that I’m making from Sublime organic cotton in pale green (you saw it in my new yarns from Main Street Yarns).  It has a scalloped edge with some eyelet decoration.  Today I needed a hand-resting project, so I took out some Burly Spun and big needles and started another mat to felt.  I’ll show all these tomorrow.  We had heavy rains today and the porch is still too wet for photography.  Great for my tomatoes! 


The new thing in my knitting is the ease of making stockinette stitch.  On my purl rows, I used to fatigue easily.  I was doing them the classic continental way, and after a couple hours of that I’d have carpal tunnel irritation.  After reading Annie Modesitt’s tutorial on combination knitting (http://www.anniemodesitt.com/), I have adopted her way of purling.  It is much more restful, there’s no pain, and I can control my tension better.  So far, I can see a bit of difference in the way the overall fabric looks – more uniformity.  It wasn’t a difficult switch to make.  I was already indoctrinated into the habit of working the forward-most leg of the stitch, so the “backwards” stitches that result from using this purl method don’t bother me.  Her tutorial is neat – it has moving diagrams that show you how to make the stitches, and the explanations are very clear.  You don’t need to buy a book on this. 


Okay, time for me to strap on the cast shoe and clump into the laundry room.  I’ve got a load to shift before I knit my way to bed.



Trying to Post, Cook and Knit a Hat

Today, with all the newborn caps mailed to afghans for Afghans, I still couldn’t get out of service mode.  I completed a purple chemocap that I started back before the newborn pieces. 


You see that little snippet of a paragraph up there?  Two sentences?  That is the first 32 words of more than 700 that I had written when I realized that my program wasn’t responding and hadn’t saved anything in 45 minutes.  This is why people hate computers.  But am I going to let that keep me from talking tonight?  Of course not!  This woman needs to talk!


As I was saying, I finished a chemocap today.  I was so pleased with it, because it is totally different from the piles of crocheted caps I used to turn out.  My experimentation with knitted cap design is finally paying off in more original, more interesting hats.  I started a second chemocap after I finished the purple.  It’s made from Knitpicks Crayon, a cotton boucle, very soft stuff.  I once knitted my stepgranddaughter a sweater from this yarn.  While she was staying with us, one of the boys threw it in a hot wash and hotter dryer and turned it into doll clothes.  The yellow chemocap is designed to fit kind of like a triangle scarf, the way it covers your head when you tuck the loose tail in at the back.  Hope this works. 


In my mind, I am letting go of some projects.  While I want to complete my design for Think Outside the Sox, I’m not feeling as determined to enter it in competition.  I’ll let the end-of-the-year events decide that for me.  Now that I know how I’m going to make it, and I’ve tried out the materials to some extent, I will start it over and knit it more neatly with an eye to producing a really nice prototype pair.  Meanwhile, I want to finish my niece’s cotton blanket (yeah, I know, that’s sooo last year), prepare enough items to feel comfortable with my trunk show in the fall, and stock up my baby stuff. 


Holy cow, how did it get to be 11:03 p.m.?  This evening I made a mixed berry cobbler.  My friend who brought me canned tomatoes also brought frozen berries, and I’ve mixed the last of them with some strawberries for this cobbler.  Somehow I’ve let the evening pass by without even tasting the cobbler!  Now that’s a miracle.  Would never happen if my prednisone dose was up.


I cooked alone today, but yesterday my daughter was in the kitchen with me, taking her first cooking lesson of the summer.  She turned out a decent sauteed chicken breast and wild rice dinner.  Since she will live in an apartment when she returns for her fall semester, I want her to feel comfortable producing food on a daily basis.  Up to now she has helped in the kitchen enough to know the terminology and equipment, but she needs to be able to take charge of the meal.  I’m sure we’ll have some adventures with this!


When I first wrote this post, I went on about my aunt, my mom’s sister, the one who taught me to crochet.  I think she’s going to have to wait for another day.  My typing fingers (I guess that’s all my fingers) are tired.  As my mom used to say all the time, tomorrow is another day.


Peace.  No, wait!  Tomorrow isn’t just another day.  It’s the Preakness, at Pimlico.  My dad grew up in Kentucky, where horse racing was a religion.  He gave me a special mission this week.  I had to (shhhhh!) purchase betting tickets on his favorite.  Wish us luck!


Now, get your peace.

Lupus Gardening and the Last of the Baby Hats

I feel like I’m re-entering the lupus zone, that area where I feel like taking care of my body is a full-time job.  I’m in the cast shoe, my right foot hurts every day, and I’ve got various aches and pains cropping up on and off making the mornings more difficult and every chore a bigger chore.  In the face of all that, I chose to plant my tomato plants, and I guess I should explain a bit how that was possible. 


Eleven or fourteen years ago, when my disease was in its infancy, I spoke at an arthritis patient gathering.  I don’t remember if it was a mixed disease group or all lupus.  I gave a very esoteric talk on acceptance and attitude and gratefulness, sprinkled with Biblical references.  I know quite a bit of Bible for such an irreverent person.  While I was dabbling with this philosophical stuff, the next speaker talked about what to do with yourself, keeping busy and being productive.  Her far more useful talk ventured into the land of wheelchair gardening, and I learned a bunch of tips that have proved themselves over the years. 


For several not-so-smart years I tried to garden on the ground.  Every year I’d get started only to find that I couldn’t maintain the things I had planted.  I’d be too stiff, too sore, too tired, too sun-exposed…always too “something” to effectively work what I had planted.  When I remembered the woman’s advice, I became more successful.  I started planting in pots and keeping the pots in accessible locations, like on the porch or deck.  That would assure that I didn’t have to maneuver steps to get to the garden site.  It might make it more difficult, however, to get supplies to my garden, so it necessitated my finding an assistant.  That might seem like an easy problem when you have a child of your own, instant help, so to speak.  Hah!  You never met my child.  She was the Girl Scout who hated the outdoors, couldn’t stand for a worm to touch her, and grew weary of hiking after 100 yards on level terrain.  That, however, was not the end of it.  There are other children in the world besides your own.  And adults, too, for that matter.  Somehow I found help from other people’s children (especially if a small fee was offered), or from various friends, and they would do the work of helping me carry (or drag) heavy bags of dirt to the planting site, toting buckets of water, emptying the old pots at the end of a season, and other things I couldn’t manage alone. 


Back to the biblical stuff:  sometimes miracles happen.  This year my daughter put aside earthworm disgust and instant fatigue and helped me with the planting.  You saw the documentation of that two days ago.  She was there from beginning to end.   I wish I could say that I had been praying for this to happen, because then I could point to that and say “See?  God answers prayer!”  In truth, I am pretty fatalistic, and I believe that God’s gonna do what God’s gonna do, regardless of my begging.  But I’m happy for this result, whatever the cause.


Now I have to admit that I had some mechanical help in the form of a little rolling gardening stool.  Mine is called a Garden Hopper (http://www.amazon.com/Step-Garden-Hopper-Mobile-Storage/dp/B00004W430) and I can store stuff in it, but it’s big value is in the way it rolls from one pot to the next.  It holds me at just the right height for reaching those low pots, as I’ve got them all sitting on the deck.  I suppose I could build some support shelves and have my pots waist high, but then I’d have to stand and tend them, and that is fraught with potential problems.  I’ve been fortunate to remain extremely limber, despite achy joints, and I can squat and stand back up with the best of them. 


You probably think I’ve forgotten that I promised to show my last baby caps.  I thoroughly enjoyed knitting the newborn caps for afghans for Afghans, and I sent off ten yesterday, all designs that I would put on my own baby.  My favorite yarn was the elann.com Superwash Worsted.  It had the softness and delicacy that you’d want in a baby item, with that sweet fuzziness that you can see in the photos below (the blue and rusty orange yarns).  The totally orange hat is finished at the top with a three-needle bind-off.  The blue and red hat is knit from the new Ulteppegarn yarn.  It has a blue single crochet border at the brim edge.  I made eyelets in the top to thread the tie through, then made a crocheted chain tie.  When I make those chain ties, I weave the ends in for a good ways, at least two or three inches, then cut them off.  I then make an overhand knot close to the end, so that the loose part is secured twice.                                                                  I’ll be glad to post instructions if anyone requests them. 



Grade A, Truthful Tomato Talk

As much as I am trying to ignore it, lupus is giving me daily aches and pains and difficulties, and I’m in venting mode.  The cast shoe I’m wearing has to be fastened securely around my foot, and I can’t just slip it off and on, a liability when you don’t bend well.  It does seem to cushion the blow to my poor cuboid bone, and I can’t say that the pain is as bad as it was a week ago.  I can put my foot on the floor without hollering, an improvement I appreciate greatly.  My cheek rash has been hot and red, I’ve had a few feverish moments, and I’m a bit tired, and I’m hoping these symptoms are not harbingers of a flare.  No joints are involved in this foolishness, but I am having some knee aches. 


This morning I was anxious to check on my tomato babies and see how they fared overnight.  A couple looked a little droopy, but it wasn’t from lack of water.  I left them alone and let mother nature take care of them for the day.  Hope they perk up soon.  They got a little water from today’s rain.  They are all 8-12 inches tall, with several leaves on each plant.  They should be resilient.  Tut-tut says her grandfather helped develop the Rutgers tomato.  One of my sisters attended Rutgers, and I was getting ready to ask her if she knew of their tomato, and here’s a person who actually worked on it! 


I was considering the importance of agriculture research when I was at the university last week.  The road to the yarn store passes by some of the agriculture department’s massive fields of cattle and sheep.  There are barns and lots of farm equipment in evidence, too.  Somewhere, maybe there’s a greenhouse full of southern heirloom tomatoes. 


Speaking of university, my daughter’s grades are in, and I’m celebrating with her.  She had a fabulous semester and is feeling great that she’s hit her stride with her college work.  Now that she’s home, I’m also grateful to have the company and the help.  I admire her way of running the house.  She’s good at anticipating our needs and stocking up on necessities.  We have always taken care of each other with little kindnesses, and we fall back into that habit as soon as we’re together.  We’ve never fussed over who carries the plates to the kitchen or who should put the dog out this time.  We’ve had some difficult times, but never because she was a willful or negative force.  I am the luckiest mom!  She brought me the coolest purse for that day.  We had seen it together in a store and I was sure she would buy it for herself.  It’s a good thing I didn’t ask her about it.  She doesn’t lie to me, and my surprise would have been blown. 


“She doesn’t lie to me.”  That is a powerful statement.  What I despise more than anything is when someone lies to me.  And yet, I don’t think you raise a truthful child just by saying “don’t lie”.  My way to approach it was to always contain myself when she was telling me something difficult.  I think that without the yelling and fussing and kneejerk reactions to her confessions, she was encouraged to say what she needed without fear.  When I asked her why she tells me the truth, she says she doesn’t “see the point in lying”.  She adds “You don’t lie to me.  Why should I lie to you?”  That is true.  Whenever I can dredge up the truth and articulate it, I use it.  It’s easier, cleaner, maybe not always safer, but then who can live a safe life all the time?  I like truth. 


Tomorrow I will climb back on that bike and ride.



Enough of my “way to live” talk.  I’m almost finished with the band of a child’s hat that I couldn’t finish in time for the mailing.  I did complete ten hats.  I’ll show you the last two tomorrow.