Gettin’ On the Grid

My computer works again, I’m a fiend!  I opened it and played two rounds of Scrabble, and there will be lots more of that before the day is done. 

I’m getting ready for future craft market days.  I made two hats, one in a child’s size in lovely Auraucania Yarns Atacama.  It is hand-dyed, supersoft 100% alpaca, very loosely knit for breathing.  The second is a crochet adult hat, made from Ullteppegarn in bright turquoise.  On the needles – another hat, in a royal blue wool-alpaca mix.  I’m planning more fingerless mitts before Atlanta.

Dayna and I pulled the metal booth grid rectangles off the floor and swiped off the spiderwebs.  We put brackets on so they will stand, replacing missing screws and nuts.  We also purchased a rolling cart that doubles as a dolly (yippee, a grown-up transformer toy).  I’ve decided that we’re making enough to make this a bit more efficient and less joint-killing.  With a decent looking, more professional booth set-up, we can probably sell more.  I purchased the grid pieces two years ago, but my first attempt at using them I was late setting up and without the proper tools.  I put them in the corner after that, foolishly deciding they wouldn’t do what I needed.  Several market visits later, I can see that they are exactly what I need. 

Chattanooga Market this Sunday, Memorial Day weekend, will host the Beast Feast – a barbecue contest with five samples for $5.  That won’t attract a few people, hmmm?!  I’ve already checked our booth location-same aisle, closer to the front.  I’m excited.

Peace.

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the war escalates

i hit the wall today.  no caps because my fingers are stiff and sore and it takes extra reach and force to hold down the shift key.  my wrists, shoulders, elbows, ribs, hips, knees and feet also hurt.  my cheeks are red and hot to the touch.  my feet are so stiff that i have to grab for support when i first stand.  yesterday i could feel the heay artillery of the b cells really pushing me, and i increased my prednisone.  doubled the steroids, in fact, from 7.5 to 15 milligrams per day.  it’s not a big dose, but is a relatively large increase.  today started rough and stayed rough.  can’t tell the steroids have done their work. 

this makes a weird dilemma.  i can either ride this period out with increased steroids-much more than i’m taking today- for the time until my treatment next month, or i can request earlier treatment.  my rheumatologist isn’t thrilled with every four months, and probably won’t like making it sooner.  the oncologist, however, told me i should be treated when i needed it, and i think i’m the definition of “needing it” right now.  hmmmm.

i don’t want more steroids for five minutes, much less three or four weeks.  guess i’ll make the rounds and see what the docs say and if they can agree.  i hate making the rounds when i’m sick.  doctor visits are so much easier when you’re well. 

i’m temporarily putting down my other projects, including the recycled cotton fingerless mitts i started yesterday.  i’m making easy crocheted chemo caps so i will have goodies for the unit when i do go for treatment.  i hate to go to a party empty-handed. 

this evening i had dinner at a newish thai restaurant named ‘rain’.  the green curry was so lovely i wanted to take a swim in the bowl.  it had veggies which included frozen peas and carrots, and wonderful tofu that was perfectly fried.  i didn’t mind the frozen veggies.  the cute little diced carrots took me back to my childhood.  i could probably use a supply of them right now; slicing and dicing isn’t going to be easy with these hands. 

dinner was a send-off for my niece, who is moving to chicago so i have a good city to visit.  yes, it’s all about me.  actually, she is moving to solidify a relationship and enhance an incredibly well-rounded life.  i admire the versatility and foresight of people who embrace a variety of roles and trainings, and work so that one overlaps another and another and they all interact.  if it’s not too hectic and far-flung, it must be very fulfilling.  i’ve never felt that i was a unidirectional, narrowly defined person with a single, immutable focus. 

after dinner i had to pass the mall to get home, so i stopped to purchase elastic thread to use in the occasional knitted piece.  the store was closed.  i returned to my car and drove to the next craft store.  i borrowed a handicapped parking space, trudged to the door and through a million other craft areas to the back of the store.  no elastic thread.  i was frustrated by the difficulty of the task, the energy drain and pain from walks that would ordinarily have been easy. 

at home now, i lack the drive to clear off my bed.  i’ll sleep with a pile of paperwork, a knitting bag, my computer and a stuffed animal on my bed.  not that it matters.  that side of the bed has no inhabitant.  might as well make good storage space.

i’ve got good books and lots of yarn.  i think i’ll need them for the next little bit.

peace.

Crochet Mitts, Handmade Selling, and the CPSIA

I’m in my house with my Friday night tv.  In two days I made two pairs of fingerless mitts for myself-the first one, from pink/purple/gray Kimono Angora, the second from Colinette Zanziba pale pink/gray/tan/teeny green.  They are both crocheted.  I also made a hairband or ear warmer from the Zanziba, complete with bow.  I am frustrated that camera troubles prevent me showing you.  I’m working on it.

 

As I’ve tried to expand my Etsy store, several issues have arisen.  Excuse me while I list them, but it makes them more orderly in my mind.  Actually, disorderliness of thoughts isn’t something that has bothered me in months.   I think all my lupus cerebritis symptoms have subsided-extra wonderful.  (Many thanks to the gods of B cell killing.)  Anyway, here goes:

1.  After the discovery of tainted toys made in China and sold by large U.S. manufacturers, Congress made an embarrassed knee-jerk reaction.  They passed a bill requiring testing of all children’s products in a particularly aggressive and expensive way.  As it is written, the bill (CPSIA) could put an abrupt end to small businesses that produce handmade childrens items-toys, clothing, bedding, anything that could be construed as made for use by a child under the age of 13.  There has been a rapid and intense response mounted by folks like me, and already concessions are being predicted.  You can read about it here, on change.org:  http://tinyurl.com/6cj92v
Hopefully, my http://turtletots.etsy.com still has a future. 

2.  I’ve joined two Etsy street teams, Etsy knitters and Etsy fiber arts, and I’m making acquaintances and enjoying the interplay of the two groups.  It could be a full-time job, just networking and communicating.  I have to figure out how to schedule this activity and make it an adjunct instead of a destination.  I’m enjoying the opportunity to help other members, I’m learning from members, and I have received a small increase in exposure, including two Treasury postings. 

3.  I must work on local exposure, and revival of the Chattanooga Etsy street team could be a large part of that.  Discussions in progress.

4.  I’ve gotta start my application for the Chattanooga Market.  March will be here before I can turn around.  I’ve already started making spring/summer scarves, and I want my other main item to be shells in natural fabrics.  By that, I mean womens sleeveless tops.  Probably tops for kids, too.  This will be fun.  I love going to the market, and I’m so much healthier that I know I can handle it alone this spring. 

 

Okay, now that we’ve said that, let’s get to today’s dinner.  Couple of days ago I read a recipe from Allrecipes.com with African-style beans and peanutbutter.  I know it sounds weird, but it’s a wonderful combination.  I cooked pintos and diced onion in my crockpot until tender, then added a can of diced tomatoes.  I didn’t have any peanutbutter so I used a half-cup of tahini (sesame butter), mixing it in well and letting the whole thing simmer a little longer.  I seasoned it with salt and Neo Masala seasoning from Alchemy Spice (see http://alchemyspice.com).  I had a little avocado on the side, and some whole grain bread.  Utterly heavenly. 

 

There’s a blog I’ve been keeping from you, but I cannot hide it any longer.  The young student who writes  Everything Up Close (http://everythingupclose.blogspot.com) has an uncanny ability to select great products for review.  Most of the companies that give her items for review also let her conduct a drawing for one of their products.  She has introduced me to some fabulous products.  Last week, she presented something that made me say “Hallelujah!”  If you are tired of looking at young (and occasionally old) women whose rear view consists of a shirt tail and low-rise jeans that do not touch, you will love the “Hip-T”.  Check it out here:  Everything Up Close: Hip-T Review & Giveaway!   If you go quickly, you might get in on the giveaway.  I couldn’t wait that long.  My daughter is getting one for Valentine’s Day.  I wish I could stand on the street corner and distribute them.  President Obama needs to give serious thought to requiring them before his daughter’s reach That Age.  You know, the age of the reveal.  The age of the exposed thong.  The Bare Age. 

 

Okay, time to go.  Getting obsessive. 

Peace.  Big ol’ sweet, smooshy peace.

New Year and New Snowflake Hat Design

Yikes!  the new year is here!!!  I have a thousand things to talk about, time is flying, and it’s only a week into 2009.  I think I can only do that with a schedule, so here goes:

today:  knitting update

friday:  health care meeting update

saturday:  new knitting store update (turtletots.etsy.com)

sunday:  may be an off day for blogging

monday:  weight and Weight Watchers

tuesday:  how I learned to “do” holidays

That’s enough planning.  It’ll give me that locked-in feeling if I go any further.  I have this vision of my calendar filling up, day by day, with blocks that represent obligations. 

 

Today in the Tennessee valley it is wet.  We’ve had record amounts of rain:  December had twice the usual inches, and this week we’ve seen 5 to 7 inches.  It has flooded in some areas of the city, but only where it was expected.  My back yard has a mini swamp in one corner but is otherwise clear. 

 

I am alone in my house.  Sorry, Lucy, just counting humans here.  That means I am in charge of the agenda, and everything else.  I scooted out to put my trash on the curb at 8 a.m. and then fixed my planned breakfast.  I love the peace of getting up to my own thoughts.  I love the holidays winding down, leaving me with everyday chores and goals.  I feel like real life almost grinds to a halt during the holidays, and I love picking up that forward momentum again.

 

In the past week I’ve joined two Etsy street teams.  Etsy is a huge community of sellers, the internet “place” where my store is located.  There are hundreds of smaller groups that have formed, some by geography, some by shared interests, some by craft…I joined the etsyknitters (self-explanatory, I think) and etsyfast – the fiber arts street team.  I’ve had a chance to follow their conversations for a few days, and to jump in at times.  Quite interesting how the two groups have entirely different characters.  One thing the fiber arts team does is to issue monthly challenges to its members.  Taking the challenge is voluntary, but it’s an opportunity for growth for those who do, and you can present your challenge item to the group for critique. 

 

Below you see my challenge item for January.  We were to use a colour that is not usually in our pallette.  I chose white/off-white.  I rarely use it for adult pieces.  When I do, it’s usually in the form of an undyed yarn, not one that is intentionally white.  This particular yarn is Brown Sheep Burlyspun.  I crocheted (something I’m doing more of) a hat with a deliberately open, lacy crown, reminiscent of a snowflake.  I liked the design so much that I followed it with a black snowflake hat.

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These can be seen in my store at http://essiewb.etsy.com.

 

I crocheted another hat, pink with earflaps and ties, the same day.  My crochet hand has been itching for expression lately.  In the knit world is a neckwarmer for my dad in soft, bulky cotton (Blue Sky Alpaca’s Organic Cotton), something that won’t itch 90 year-old skin.  Also, finishing the thumbs of my cousin’s gloves and mailing off a blocked square that I knitted for the afghan being made by friends of a wonderful knitter that I know through another knitting forum.  Her husband is fighting eye cancer and the knitting community is responding with customary generosity. 

 

During the holiday, my daughter requested two scarves.  One was crocheted granny squares, end to end, in pastel slinky yarns.  The other was a looooong crocheted stretch of deep blue soy yarn from South West Trading Company.  I played with pattern in the second, developing some neat new sequences to use later.  I’m thrilled that she has suddenly become a scarf person, and that I can knit/crochet what makes her happy.  I also seamed up some silk blouses that she found at Old Navy for $6.99 apiece.  She has a fashion director’s eye and a banker’s grip on her wallet.  If she finds a good buy, and it’s not in her size, she knows what can be altered to fit.  Once, last year, she found a maxi dress she loved in size 2X.  She talked a seamstress into altering it to fit her size 4 form for $20.  That’s what I’m talkin’ about!

 

Well, gotta go dance with Ellen.  WW says I have to “move” 30 minutes each day.  Might as well be dancing.

Peace.

Wool, Alpaca and Cashmere, Oh My

Today I had lunch with a friend.  That sounds so ordinary, and in a way it was.  We made the date, we confirmed it this morning, we met at Olive Garden and ate and talked.  There was lots of laughter and second helpings of soup.  But this was a reunion of sorts.  We haven’t met or visited in many long months.  Yes, we live on opposite sides of town, and we’re busy, and I’m having sick times, but there’s no excuse for our absence from one another. 

 

Sometimes we are just lazy in our friendships, and without realizing it we are drifting further from the ones we care about.  I made a huge jump away from most of my friends with my last move.  I thought I was making it easier for complaining family members to visit; they hated the mountain drive.  In the end, there were only more complaints about the new location, and being with my closest friends was ten times harder.  In the end, some of the most geographically distant friends have worked the hardest to maintain the bond. 

 

Lunch today was different in another way.  I am in a flare, and I am not sitting at home.  I take pain medication when I need to, and I get out and move.  Sometimes it’s a little move, like going to take a gift to my neighbor instead of having her send a child to pick it up.  I haven’t had any increase in prednisone, but since the hips and knees haven’t stiffened, I can still move around.  That leaves just pain and fatigue as obstacles, and neither is keeping me sitting down.  It’s a very hard decision sometimes, whether to rest or move.  There’s not a strict rule that I can point to for support of either choice, so I’m relying on my mindset.  Move, move, move.

 

I am surrounded by finished or almost finished projects.  I finished the Noro Kureyon afghan while I was away, including crocheted edging in the tan/gray/pink Silk Garden.  I have hats and scarves that need posting.  I just made a hat this evening, South West Trading Company’s pink Gianna, with a knitted band with a big central cable, and a crocheted crown.  Fun.  Here’s some pitiful, spur-of-the-moment photography. 

I immediately reloaded my needles with aqua-colored Artesano Alpaca Inca Cloud.  It’s a beautiful dk weight soft alpaca that I have no recollection of purchasing.  It’s been on my shelf for a while, and I’ve walked by and touched it, but this is my first experience.  I’ve doubled it, put it on size 10s, and I’m making an original brim cap.  (My original pattern is here:  https://essiewb.wordpress.com/2008/04/20/original-band-hat/)   It is quick and fun, and I can get a feel for what this alpaca will do.  It’s lovely so far, with great elasticity.  The color is deeper than in the photo, quite a nice teal-ly blue.

 

I’ve been holding back on photos because the website was having some troubles handling visual media, but I think I can give them now.  Hang on a sec…yippee, this is the Bazic Wool hat.  It’s not blocked yet, and you can see how it has diagonal ridges that follow the purl blocks.  It’s an adorable hat.  I love the ear flaps.  I just picked up stitches on either side to knit those.  A fun anatomy fact:  your ears are closer to the middle of the back of your head than to the middle of your forehead.  You have to account for that when you make earflaps, otherwise they will not be in position to warm the ears, and they will look awkward.  I use the scientific method of trying on the hat and seeing where my ears are before I decide where to place the flaps. 

 

One more:  This is the black cashmere hat.  It fits loosely, the more to appreciate the softness and the unstructured crown with its tangle of cables.  I love designing this hat.  The crown began with evenly spaced cables, but they quickly took their own routes, with some crossing, others splitting or touching another and bouncing back.  Gestalt cables. 

 

Yes, I know, enough already.  Even if you’re a hard-core knitter, you’ve probably seen enough.  Speaking of hard-core, the knitting group I attend is going to get wild and crazy over Christmas.  We’re going to draw names and exchange inexpensive gifts.  We made some guidelines so that no one would give something really undesirable, like a canister of dehydrated dog food.  Oh yeah, break out the cider! 

 

Having this little short haircut sure makes it easy to give myself a scalp massage.  Ahhh, life is good.

Peace.

Austermann Socks

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austermannsockpairb.jpg

Something I intended to mention:  You may notice on some of the earlier photos that I used two different circular needles when knitting these socks.  I do that intentionally.  It is easier for me to keep track of knitting on one needle and then switching to the other if the two needles are different, so I used one Knitpicks Options needle (the pretty colored wooden one) and one Addi Turbo needle (the metal tipped one).  They were the same size and did not make an appreciable difference in the stitches. 

Anyway, these socks feel heavenly.  I’ve finished one of the Knitpicks Dancing socks, and am working on the cuff of the second.  My sock wardrobe is going to be awesome!  I have some time to fool with this because I just discovered that my sister-client doesn’t want her crocheted turtles for TWO YEARS! 

Peace

Early Morning Assessment!

Mornin’ people!  Sometimes I love having lupus, because the irregularity of it, the unpredictability, provides some incredible highs juxtaposed on black holes.  Let me explain (you know by now that I can’t help explaining!).  I’ve been ticking along with very small, gradual improvements in my condition.  I can tell that the flare I’ve been in for months is improving.  Overall, however, it has been a long, dismal stretch with lots of physical impairment.  I haven’t been able to walk more than a few steps without pain, my energy has been nonexistent, I’ve had to plan every movement of my body and prepare for pain before I get up, put my feet on the floor, pick up my knitting…and then suddenly I wake up in the morning and I feel kind of normal.  The only thing that hurts is the area that was injected two days ago.  I am sitting up without thinking about it.  I had a good night’s sleep without hunger from prednisone or pain waking me. 
Feeling like this even for a few minutes is a tremendous gift when it comes after a tremendous stretch of autoimmune disease torture! It’s even more remarkable to me that I wake like this when I consider my activities yesterday.  In the late afternoon I got in my car and drove to the Village Market in an Adventist community nearby.  Suddenly I felt like my normal diet was necessary.  I am back to desiring my old vegetarian fare:  lots of fruits and vegetables, beans, ancient grains, and the fun dishes I invented with them.  I stocked up on fresh fruit, turnips and rutabagas, collard greens, millet and hummus.  (Usually I make my own hummus but I wanted to have some yesterday and I need time to get those beans in the crock pot.)  The stress of shopping the aisles of even a smaller grocery store and then lugging five bags of groceries into the house and putting them away would previously leave me drained the next day, but not now!
Don’t get me wrong:  I don’t think God “gave” me lupus so I could experience this or even for a test or to strengthen my character.  I don’t think God gives us bad things.  My own take is that if God is involved, it is in Her decision to let us exist in an imperfect world.  In the place we live, we are susceptible to the problems and effects of our surroundings, and in that way we are able to have all manner of unpleasant and downright deadly experiences.
People keep telling me about The Secret.  For the record, no, I don’t think there’s anything to it.  First of all it is unsubstantiated and unscientific.  It states as fact things that are just somebody’s musings and attempts to explain the universe in a very simplistic way.  (Also for the record, if you want to sell something, that works!)  The premise that we get what we ask for, attracting the things that we desire and express, is totally ridiculous.  When you look at a population of chronically ill people you realize that bad things happen to good people who had positive outlooks as much as bad things happen to the most pessimistic and negative folk.

The important thing is not to let the bad stuff drag you down mentally and emotionally.  Immerse yourself in something that doesn’t depend on your physical abilities.  Give what you can give and recognize your own value.  Buy some nice yarn and a pair of bamboo knitting needles and knit something cool.  Like a turtle. 

Today I’m going to have an MRI of my brain and some x-rays of my back.  (The brain is working okay, I just need a baseline in case my new therapy affects it in some yukky way.)  I’m going to cook collard greens and turnips and rutabagas.  I’m finishing the third block of my niece’s blanket.  I’ve crocheted nine turtles and I’m going to felt them and crochet some more.  I’m going to drop off my handknit hats for the kids at my church if my energy allows.  I hemmed a robe for my mom yesterday and I have to get that to the proper authorities, i.e. the sister who is in charge of my parents’ care. 

Heck, I can’t do any of that if I don’t stop writing and get a cup of coffee and some oatmeal. 

Peace.