Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Where is Normal

I realize that nobody wants to read posts written by (or heaven forbid listen to) people who are complaining all the time. And I feel like in recent years, well, that's about all I ever do.

In the words of the infinitely wise Joel Hodgson, "What IS right with you??" That's the problem. NOTHING seems right with me. It's just one stupid thing on top of another, compounding my frustration, depression, anxiety, and stress. I am allowing uncontrollable forces affect me in ways that I never thought possible. I've always been the stoic stalwart of stability, patience, and calm. Yeah, not so much lately. And by lately, I mean like 7 years. I just want to be normal again. Where are you, normal? Why have you abandoned me?

Ok so, what's my pain-in-the-ass problem today?

Hair. Or rather, lack thereof.

You know, I never had beautiful hair. Not even nice hair. Ever. I accepted it. Sure, it's curly, which to some people is gorgeous. But honestly, my curls have never been those shiny, luscious ringlets that bounce and cascade down like gleaming satin ribbons. Ppfft. My hair has always been a tangled mess of split ends, knots, and frizz. Since I was able to sit in a chair, my mom had my hair chopped off into a style-less, short, nappy helmet. Shirley Temple, I was not. A sheep maybe.... It was manageable for her and that's all that mattered.

Not until I got into high school did I attempt to consider long(er) hair. I'd always wanted it. But I think years of butchery (by Frank Ruggieri) pretty much ruined my hair, leaving it limp, thin, and lifeless. Growing it long and somewhat healthy was an enormous challenge and I never quite achieved it. As punishment for my 2-year attempt (Sophomore & Junior years), sometime in the early part of Senior year (fall 1989) I got head lice. If you've never had head lice, get on your knees right now and thank whatever deity you believe in that you were spared from this horror. If you have had head lice, but were a child, then you can only minimally understand what effect these little buggers have. If you were like me --- a 17-year-old young woman --- when you got head lice, then you know the mental and emotional strain that existed for the next 15 years of your life. You were panicked beyond all human reason every time you showered, or saw a speck of anything on your shirt, or got an itch on your scalp, or felt a stray hair on your neck or forehead. It was AWESOME.

Aside from a barium enema (also done in high school), having head lice was probably the worst physical experience of my entire life, because the mental and emotional stress that lasted for years post-beasties is truly remarkable. I seriously think I had post-traumatic stress disorder.

I'd noticed as I got into my twenties that my hair, despite looking like a wild, thick, poofy nest, was actually quite thin. The curliness obscured the fact that my hair was neither thick nor healthy. And every year, I notice that it's getting thinner and thinner. Frustrating, sure. But never in all my wildest nightmares did I ever expect what is happening to me right now.

I've been diagnosed with alopecia areata, which is spot baldness. I have a rather large bald spot right at the top of my head toward the front. And by rather large I mean a 2.5-inch diameter circle. Nobody really knows what causes alopecia areata, nor what will cure it (swell). They DO know that's is an auto-immune disorder. Apparently most auto-immune problems are extraordinarily difficult to fix. So my immune system got stupid and started attacking my hair follicles as if they were foreign invaders. Thanks for that, A-I system, really.

I went to the dermatologist in early November and she gave me a steroid cream to put on it. It barely worked. There was a wee bit of regrowth, but not enough to actually fill in the spot. So I went back for a follow-up on December 15. Aaaand now there are TWO spots. Albeit, the second one is much smaller, maybe 1/2 an inch in diameter. But it's in a spot where I can't see it (top and back of my head). Since the cream was only marginally effective, she gave me several injections of steroids right into my scalp in both bald spots. I have to see her again on January 12. I've been trying to be optimistic, I really have. But it's just been so depressing to look in the mirror for many reasons, and this diagnosis was the straw that broke the camel's back.

It is likely that I got this because other people in my family have/had auto-immune issues. Well that's certainly true. Both my grandmothers had rheumatoid arthritis, my sister had chronic fatigue and adrenal failure, my mom has eczema, and my aunt has a thyroid problem. I'm batting 1000 here. Another factor is STRESS. Many people who are predisposed to auto-immune disorders (raises hand) will experience some kind of auto-immune response to prolonged stress. (There's that pesky word again.) So my sister got chronic fatigue, I got bald. AWESOMESAUCE.

I've been tested several times for a thyroid problem and every time I come back "in range" for acceptable thyroid function. I'm not convinced because I have about 13 of the 15 possible symptoms for Hashimoto's Thyroiditis. Can it really be a coincidence? But I digress.

Ok so, if stress is a catalyst for auto-immune problems, and indeed I AM stressed about a great many things, then when will I ever get better? The answer is NEVER. This hair problem is stressing me out to the ends of my sanity. How can I NOT be stressed? It's impossible. With everything going on in my life, especially in recent years, my stress levels must be off the charts. There is no way for me to control this. Short of hitting a multi-million-dollar lottery, which would solve a multitude of problems, there is little that I can do to lower my stress levels or avoid stressful situations. (Believe me, money CAN buy happiness.) My whole existence is one stressful situation into another.

So, wait, there's MORE awesome to this tale!

Yeah, remember when I mentioned that I noticed that my hair has been getting thinner and thinner over the years? I didn't imagine that. The dermatologist noticed it too. So in addition to the alopecia areata, I have androgenic alopecia as well. I am losing my hair ALTOGETHER! Can I tell you how fabulous this makes me feel? You know, karma, if you're going to give me a condition that predominately affects men, then why not give me the other perks that are associated with increased testosterone: better muscle tone, and a sex drive. No, of course not. Welcome to the rest of your life, Gina --- a life of Rogaine and fatigue, anxiety and bitterness.

And I'm supposed to NOT be stressed?

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Thanks, Herc!

Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father; prepare to die.

Yeah...so, Thursday into Friday morning, Hercules decided that some ghost of Thanksgiving past wanted him dead. Since he sleeps in-between Todd and I, his quickest path to make a panicked exit was via MY FACE. He missed gouging out my right eye by about 1/4 inch. I don't know if you can see the little puncture marks around my eye. But he did manage to give me a loverly slice on my right cheek. Awesome.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

I Forgot About This

Hey everyone! A few months ago I was asked to give a little interview about this blog on Blog Interviewer (http://bloginterviewer.com). It's super short, but it's finally up and the link is finally working!

Also, thank you to whoever it was among you all that the nominated me for this. Apparently, you have to be identified by others as someone who might be worth an an interview. So thanks!

Here's the link.

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Thrilling Conclusion to the Blanket Saga

Much like the original Star Wars trilogy goes the story of the smocked diamond baby blanket.

First, there was Episode IV: I introduced the blanket, explained where the pattern came from and how interesting and lovely it was. (Incidentally, I DID win that old Paton's pattern booklet where the pattern came from. There are some really neat patterns in there, particularly the bed jackets, which were oh so popular in the 1930s and 1940s.) But...these aren't the droids you're looking for....

Then there was Episode V: the dramatic and tense episode, where the joy of the finished product was quickly dashed by the blocking horrors caused by the evil Darth Wires; I lost a hand and then Orson got frozen in Carbonite.... Ok, not really.

Um, MOM! I am NOT frozen in Carbonite!

Now I give you Episode VI: good wins over the evil blocking wires and there will be a mega Ewok dance party at my house this weekend. Bring snacks and a panflute! \m/ \m/ (throws up the horns!)

So, it finished blocking and I removed the wires. It looked like I dragged the corners and one edge through the La Brea Tar Pits. I didn't know what to do to fix this. Spot cleaning didn't seem ideal. So...I tossed it in the wash. Now, it was superwash merino. And I used the most gentle cycle possible --- "hand wash"--- on the washer and gave it a double rinse to make sure all the detergent residue was gone. I'm not sure what I was so hesitant about because it washed up beautifully.


It also stretched out a lot. So a 29 x 29 blanket was now 38 x 38. It looked like a lace kerchief. Not so great.

I tried to hand shape back into a square, as you can see in the pictures. It looked ok; it was mostly square. So I left it there to dry and started another little project (which I will talk about later on). After about 40 minutes or so I started to think that I didn't like how the blanket was going to turn out. So I went back to it, picked it up and then tossed it into the dryer and prayed that the Force would be with me.


I used the "angels-blowing-swan-feathers-around" intensity on the dryer (actual setting: delicates) for about 20-25 minutes. I waited on pins & needles to see if I totally ruined this thing or it would come out looking like a washcloth. I mean, I've heard that superwash doesn't necessarily mean superdry. My socks take a beating in both the washer & dryer because Todd launders them. And he puts everything on the "construction-worker-concrete-and-mud-encrusted" industrial setting. But, the socks that I've made are with a wool and nylon blend, so I imagine that helps. This yarn was 100% merino wool.

DING! Dryer cycle over. Did Han & Leia get the shield generator down???

Why, yes, they did!

I am amazed, pleased, and extremely lucky that the blanket turned out as nicely as it did:

The yarn totally blossomed out and the pattern just pops right off the surface. The stitches seemed to tighten where they needed to and to spread out where necessary. The yarn overs around the diamond parts look especially good and even now. It's soft as a cloud and the size is just about what the original blocking was. I don't know whether to credit the yarn or the decency of the washer/dryer (probably a little of both). The yarn is Queensland Super Aussie. I HIGHLY recommend it. I got mine from Webs.

I have to say, I was a little worried about the diamond parts. While I was knitting them and even during the first blocking, they looked very lumpy and irregular. Plus each diamond's tip was a p5, which looked strange and loose no matter how tightly I pulled the yarn. Looks great now. I can't believe it.

Friday, November 12, 2010


Dear KnitPicks:

"The first time you use your blocking wires, wipe them with a soft cloth to remove manufacturing residue."

With regard to the quoted sentence above, which is directly from the product description on your website: Yeah, please put that on the tube that houses the wires... in bold... and in size 96 font.

Also? "Manufacturing residue" doesn't quite cover what it really is: BLACK MACHINERY OIL. Which, by the way, never really comes off entirely, despite SEVERAL vigorous wipe downs.

Very disappointed that I threaded one of these filthy wires into the IVORY MERINO BABY BLANKET THAT I SLAVED OVER FOR 2 MONTHS because you didn't put the "wipe that shit off the wires" warning on the tube.

Sigh x 10000000,

An infuriated knitter.

Friday, October 08, 2010

It's October, Y'all

How did THAT happen? Time forever seems to escape me. Sigh. So I wanted to post some knitting stuff, purchases, etc. from the last month or so.

My good friend, Jen, is having a baby girl in January. So since late August I've been knitting up some goodies for her new addition. She's going to get a lot of knitted stuff from me. Ha ha. Gotta love Ravelry and the folks that put free or relatively inexpensive patterns up there. I don't think I've purchased a knitting book since I've joined Ravelry 3 years ago. Anyway, I digress.

First I knit a Garter Stitch Baby Bath Wrap:

Here's a link to the pattern, if anyone is interested. But really, it's a giant diagonal dishcloth with a hood attached. I'm sure even a beginner could figure it out. However, I could NOT figure out how to do the fancy, i-cord castoff for the hood part, which is what sets this pattern apart from it being just a giant dishcloth. Steam was pouring out of my ears, I was taxing my brain so hard. So I ended up just seaming it closed inside-out. It looks fine, I think.

Incidentally, colors for the baby's room (or as I say, "habitat") are green and yellow with a touch of orange. I had this yarn in my stash (Filatura Lanarota Circus) and it worked out perfectly. I got this yarn years ago from Smiley's online. It's been long discontinued. Super-nice cotton "roving" with acrylic color filaments. Very soft and great to work with. Wish I could put my hands on more, but it's not commercially available anymore and few people are willing to part with theirs on Ravelry (understandably)! Anyway, I really like it when I can work from my stash. Makes my random purchases somehow seem valid and awesome.

Next I knit a Breezy Baby Blanket:

Again, here's the pattern. A really fast, neat-o knit! I've seen something similar to this pattern where the dropped YOs are actually stockinette stitches. I think it's called Lizard Ridge?

Anyway, this is similar to that in appearance, but infinitely faster and easier, I think. For one thing, you are doing triple YOs and dropping them. And there are no short rows at all! No brain torture!

The yarn for this is Plymouth Bella Colour. I got 7 balls in this colorway (which I think was called Sherbet) from Discontinued Brand Name Yarn last summer. It an aran weight 55% cotton/45% acrylic blend that stripes rather beautifully. I used a little more than 4 balls, so about 440 yards total. How awesome is it that I had yarn in a vibrant lime, orange, and yellow colorway?? SCHWING!

I like this pattern a lot. So I am going to make a wrap for me in this pattern. Something that I can use in the winter in my flippin' cold house while watching TV or sitting in bed knitting or reading. I bought some striping aqua/chocolate yarn from Joann that I think will look cool.

Then I knit a Cotton Candy Baby Jacket:

I've knit this little baby sweater about a dozen times. No, seriously. I can just never remember to write about it or take pictures. This pattern is in a book called Hip Knits. It's one of the first knitting books I ever bought, in fact. I like most of the patterns in here. On Amazon, it's only got a 3-star overall rating (I gave it 4 out of 5). I don't know why. I think some people expected it to be "edgy" or "trendy" based on the title. Whatever. It's a decent book, in my book!

This is the first time I made it with the hood, as the pattern dictates. I always just made it a regular crew neck in the past. I like the hood!

So this yarn I got on clearance from Webs. It's darling. It's called Starship by di.Ve'. (WTF kind of name is that for a yarn company?) Anyway, it was cheap! I think I got it for $2.99 a ball. I used 3 balls and I have one left over. This colorway was called Parrot. I made 3 buttonholes in the front (as you can see) and only just Wednesday did I get myself to Joann's to buy buttons for it. So now it's completely done.

Wait there's more!

The Knitted Bunny:

Pattern link. Some patterns beckon me with a siren's song, and this is one of them. This is one of the most unique and wonderful patterns I've ever seen. I'm shocked that it was free.

Basically, you knit a square in stockinette and then with strategic seaming and a little pillow stuffing, you turn it into a bunny. It's amazing how it works.

I thought about sewing a face on it, but I like it just plain. The pattern mentions how to make a tail. (By taking a crochet needle, you just yank out a tuft of the stuffing right at the butt. Ingenious.) But since this bunny is going to be for a baby, I thought a tail wasn't a great idea. Believe it or not, I knit this in Sugar & Cream dishcloth cotton. The colorway is Buttercream. I used 1/2 a ball. Seaming was a little challenging at first, but the end result is well worth it. I see many more of these in my future. I already knit another in a fuzzy alpaca yarn for a friend's daughter. Just too cute.

Ok so the last thing I'm knitting (I think it's the last thing) is a Diamond and Smocked Cover. I don't have a photo of this yet, as I'm only about 7 inches into the project. But it's gorgeous. You can see it here. This was a "free" pattern, but the link to it doesn't work anymore. It's originally from an OLD Patons knitting pamphlet from the 1940s called Beehive for Bairns, Vol. 2. Some of the knitting jargon is a little odd. But I am managing through it ok. For example, instead of indicating a yarn over by today's standard, "yo," it says either "w.o.n." or "w.r.n." Yeah. I was like whaaaaaa?? But basically it means YO, depending on if it's before a knit or a purl stitch.

I just noticed that someone was selling the pamphlet on e-bay, so I bid on it. It's a 64-page booklet, so I imagine there are other undiscovered knitting treasures in there! This pattern is truly a thing of beauty to behold. I am using a cream colored 100% washable merino wool called Super Aussie from Queensland Collection. This yarn is so nice to work with. Very soft and light. So this item will be more of an "heirloom" knitted item. I hope to have it done by mid-November, which is when her baby shower will be.

September 25 was Knitters Day Out (KDO). I had a much better time this year than last year. (Well aside from the ghastly lunch that they foisted upon us a part of our registration fee. $15 wasted. Grrr.) Mostly because my wrist was in a splint last year and it was pretty painful to do anything. As always, I lumbered around the knitting vendors area in-between classes at the conference, drooling and stuttering. Financially, I'm still digging out of a hole, but I decided to splurge a little and get a couple amazing things from independent yarn shops. Time for show and tell!

First, I fell in love with the color of this yarn:

The color is called "Dill," and it's a sport weight 50/50 wool and alpaca blend from a local vendor in PA called Bearlin Acres Farm. I've purchased yarn from them every year I've gone to KDO. They are lovely people and have amazing yarns. And now they have a shop on Etsy! Man, I'm in trouble! :-)

I'm going to use this yarn (held double) along with a black wool worsted yarn I bought from them last year to make a felted bag. This bag, actually, but without the music bar and notes and I want to strap to be longer.

As I wandered around the vendor booths repeatedly, I kept passing this amazing yarn, copping a feel every time I went by:

I lurve the color and it has amazing luster, too. It's a deep taupe or mushroom color. I came to learn that it's the natural color of the goat that gave the fleece. Yes, I said goat. It's 50% mohair and 50% wool. Most of you who know me also know that I really can't do mohair. Even yarns with small amounts of mohair are usually so unbearably itchy that I steer clear.

Not this yarn. This feels like alpaca or a merino silk blend or something similar. It's amazingly soft and pettable. Not exactly cheap: $24 for 250 yards of worsted weight. But worth it, I think.

I learned a lot about mohair from the vendor, Steam Valley Fiber Farm. Basically most of the mohair found in yarn that is commercially available from major yarn companies is crap. It's the fleece from a very old goat or a goat that has been shorn so many times that their mohair is coarse, wiry, and itchy. Poor goats. The best mohair is from young goats and/or from goats that have had a limited number of shearings. So, I'm wondering what to do with it. Maybe a cowl of some sort? I'll think of something. Maybe I'll go pet it some more.

So that's about it so far for my creativity. I did make and post the pattern for the Sweet Kitty glasses case. Here's the link to it on Ravelry. All-in-all, a pretty creative month!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Call the Men in the White Coats

Because this guy needs a straitjacket STAT. I mean, seriously? At least it's a free pattern. And if anyone of you makes this, I will stab you.

Can't see things in Ravelry?


"Um...what the hell is it," you ask? "That can't be a...."

"GRAPE COZY???!?!??!" Sigh. It is.

You know, some days I feel like I may have crossed the threshold into insanity, then I see things like this. Some other lunatic commented on this in Ravelry saying, "I love this! This would also be nice for a little hershey kiss or some m & m’s. Thanks!" SURE. Apparently crazy is now an airborne disease.

If I start knitting cozies for individual pieces of cat-food kibble, please have me committed.

That is all.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Sweet Kitty

So I designed a little eyeglass/notions/camera case with a kitty motif on it (of course). After much trial and error, I finally got the cabled cat to actually look like a cat and not some sort of mutant, hunch-back, overgrown owl!

Here's the back:

The pattern should be up and available as a PDF on Ravelry soon!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010


So it's been two weeks since I've started watching my refined-sugar intake. I'm happy to report that I'm feeling better than I have in a long time. Most notably:

1- I sleep at night. When I go to bed, I fall asleep in 10-15 minutes and I don't get up until the morning. (Although once or twice I woke up with a cough and went to get a drink of water. Sometimes the A/C or ceiling fan will dry my throat out and cause me to cough.) The last several mornings I've been waking up before the alarm, too.

2- As a corollary to the above, I feel more comfortable in the bed. My hips, knees, ankles, elbows, and shoulders all seem to hurt a lot less. I can actually lay on my side and rest my knees against each other without feeling like I just hammered into an invisible bruise. I feel more comfortable sitting on the couch or in the recliner.

3- Swelling in my hands and fatigue in my limbs is also less noticeable. I get less tired during the day or from doing every-day tasks (like unloading the dishwasher).

4- I've been eating something for breakfast every morning, always within an hour of waking, and at least 11 out of the 14 mornings I was actually hungry.

5- Not eating the sugar has caused me to make better choices overall with food. So I haven't been over-indulging. I have had a few minor cravings (which I think are actually more like impulses than actual cravings) but usually, a drink of water or tea kicks that in the butt. I'd also like to mention that I honestly don't feel deprived either. I recall in the past when I've tried to get back on the weight-loss wagon that I would adopt this sort-of martyr persona. Maybe it's because my primary goal isn't weight loss and I am feeling better already, but I don't feel like some kind of freak who "can't eat like a normal person."

6- My skin, which never really had a "problem," per se, looks and feels better. My face definitely feels smoother and I have way fewer weird dry patches. I feel like my skin looks brighter. I also have a little brown spot on my right cheek. It's been there for at least 7 years. At first, it was about the size of a corn flake and very light. I did have a dermatologist look at it and it's Melasma, which is fairly common among women who have taken any hormone-related drugs, including birth control. It's gotten a lot smaller (more like a rice crispie), but also more concentrated in color in recent years. I swear on my yarn stash that it seems to be smaller and less concentrated than it was 2 weeks ago.

7- My general mood has improved, despite some rather stressful occurrences in my life at the moment (i.e., my crazy, red-neck, next-door neighbors and having an employee resign from her job in the middle of a huge project). I feel less likely to despair and whine about things that used to cause me great agitation.

8- My pants are looser and my bra feels just a little less squeezey around my upper torso. I didn't put myself on the scale when I started, but I would venture a guess that I've lost somewhere around 5-6 pounds.

9- The night sweating has, indeed, stopped. I have also nearly completely recovered from the flu/cold symptoms I had last week. I have been a little sneezey but I do think that is a real allergy issue that I have (thanks, Delaware).

All in all, I feel better and feeling better is super encouraging to want to keep moving forward. Granted, I'm not perfect. And I'm sure there's something I'm eating that probably isn't great for me. (Picked beets? Anyone know if this is a bad food to consume? I had a slice of pizza for lunch, too.) But at least it's not cookies or cupcakes or Butterfingers.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Human Experiment

As many of you who know me have come to learn, I have some mysterious health issues. Nothing serious --- at least I don't think so. But ever since I entered my thirties, I've noticed a major decline in my health. I can't really pin-point it with great specificity, but I can say that
ever since I had my gallbladder removed in April 2003, it's been a massive struggle for me.

It's easy for me to blame that laparoscopic cholecystectomy on everything. Hey, let's blame that for the BP oil spill too. Why not? Every malady I've had since April 2003 I've attributed to that tiny, missing organ. But what I'm just starting to realize is that the blame lies with me. I've basically punished my body ever since I was a kid, either by overeating, or eating ridiculous things, or not exercising, or a combination of all of those. And now it's payback time. My entire body is going Jean-Claude Van Damme on me.

I recall being in 6th grade, staying up late at night to watch David Letterman (yes, I was a weird kid and probably the only 11-year old that crept out of bed to watch Letterman). During the commercials, I'd comb through the kitchen looking for snacks. I ate everything from cookies, to Tastycakes, to pepperoni, to Bisquick (yes, I'd eat this out of the box --- I hang my head in shame), to bread with mayo on it, to cereal...you get the idea. Other times, I'd be playing Atari 2600 while devouring an entire bag of cheese curls while washing it down with Frank's pineapple soda. When I hit age 15, my gastrointestinal system revolted on an epic scale. Gee, I wonder why? I spent most of my high-school years getting upper and lower GIs, barium enemas (the worst physical test that a human being can ever experience), ultrasounds, etc. I lived in fear of stomach distress and spent most of the time in the house. When I did manage enough courage to go out, I carried Kaopectate, Tums, Maalox, Donnagel, and Pepto Bismal in my bag without fail. I was a walking pharmacy. There was a time when I knew the location of nearly every public rest room in center city Philadelphia and the surrounding areas. How sad is that?

Is it any real surprise that I had to have my gallbladder removed or that I have peculiar health problems today?

In the last 4 years or so, I've noticed other issues creeping up that I never experienced before, such as fatigue, joint pain, swelling, hair loss, depression, weakness, back pain, insomnia, and migraines, severe allergies, and tonsillitis, to name a few. I had lost about 60 pounds between January 1999 and August 2000, which I kept off for about 4 years, but now have pretty much all gained back, as of today. Aside from being mentally & emotionally distressing, this added weight exacerbates many of the physical problems I mentioned. I'm nearing 40 and I need to figure out what's wrong with me asap. Not that 40 is ancient --- I certainly don't think any ostensibly normal, "healthy" 40-year old should feel as rotten as I do --- but it's not 21 either. I need a better, more healthful approach to the last half of my life.

All that being said, I've been playing detective with food over the last few weeks. Summertime is always bad for me. Actually, once May rolls around, it's very difficult for me to eat well. Between May & December life becomes a never-ending stream of birthdays, anniversaries, vacations, holidays, work functions, family visits, etc. But for some reason, this summer has been a little epiphany. Never have I been more acutely aware of the amount of sugar that goes into my body. It's scary and a little disgusting. I started noticing that I was feeling exceptionally BAD a few weeks ago. And then I realized that the amount of sugar that I consumed during that time period was off the charts. I sensed a correlation.Now when I say sugar, I mean sugar or corn syrup, etc. I don't mean fruit or bread or pasta. Reading nutrition labels and scouring ingredient lists on packaged foods was something I used to do regularly, back in my Weight Watcher's days. It's really disheartening to see that a 6-ounce cup of YoPlait light yogurt has 15 grams of sugar in it. HOW? It's just a little cup of yogurt for criminy's sake! I just looked on the American Heart Association's website for information on the recommended amount of added sugar that a normal, adult female should be eating per day:

"The American Heart Association recommends limiting the amount of added sugars you consume to no more than half of your daily discretionary calories allowance. For most American women, that’s no more than 100 calories per day, or about 6 teaspoons of sugar [which is about 25 grams]. "

Uh...yeah. I've been eating like 4x this much sugar a day, at least. Usually I would eat a breakfast bar around 10:00 am (which has 11 grams of sugar) coupled with a 12 oz cup of coffee. Then lunch was yogurt and a granola bar with fruit. Well the yogurt has 15 grams of sugar and the granola bar I usually eat has 12. Then at about 2:30-3:00 I was starving and wanted to snack on something. So I'd eat either a couple mini York Peppermint Patties (like 2 or 3) or another granola bar type thing. So each of the mini Peppermint Patties has 9 grams of sugar. Eating 2 means 18 grams of sugar. That is insane. Then dinner was whatever I could find in the house or we order something out (another awful habit I'm trying to break). This is a lot of sugar to eat during the day (added up it totals 56 grams) and that's not even including dinner. But if you think that's bad, the REAL problem is after dinner. I feel like my dinner never satisfies me. So I end up snacking a lot between 6:30 and 10:00 pm. Mostly stupid, bad crap like cookies or chocolate-covered raisins (half a box of Raisinets has 27 grams of sugar) or a Smart Ones dessert cup (I linked my favorite one) or sometimes ALL of those things and even more. So that by the time I am hitting the pillow at night I've consumed at least 100 grams of sugar --- added, white, non-naturally occurring sugar --- in any given day, probably well over. This kind of reckless eating is taking its toll on my aging body. So I decided a week ago to stop eating this kind of sugar. I'm not going all NO-CARB and I won't ever do that. I don't think I'll even stop eating pasta or corn or white breads (although I will probably make better choices). At least for now, I am just cutting out foods that have too much refined sugar in them.

I read a lot online about sugar sensitivity and addiction. And I fall into both categories. One very eye-opening thing I read was that eating too much sugar causes your body to go into "starvation mode" overnight. The sugar elicits a brain response similar to that of a person going through a time of physical stress, such as starvation. It gives a false sense of security and well-being. (The extreme of this feeling is what happens to people at the end of their lives, especially if they die during a trauma. I'm sure you've heard of people who have "near death" experiences reporting feeling a calm, peaceful presence or warmth.) Anyway, as a result of excessive sugar consumption, people with sugar addiction almost never eat breakfast. In fact, the thought of eating first thing in the morning seems repulsive. So they don't eat. Then by 10:30 am they crash and grab the first thing they can, usually something sweet because it starts giving that false sense of security. And the cycle continues. This is me, 100%.

Since cutting sugar, I've woken up the last 3 days HUNGRY and wanting to eat. In fact, I woke up on Tuesday feeling almost ravenously hungry. I've been told by a nutritionist and I've read from several sources that one should eat within an hour of waking and that it should be a protein and a complex carbohydrate. So I've been eating a hard-boiled egg and a banana over the last couple of mornings. I must say that I feel good until nearly lunchtime, which is a huge switch for me. I've been much less inclined to want to eat sweet things and I feel satisfied with meals in general. I've been sleeping more soundly and waking feeling rested. I generally feel less fatigued and my joints seem to hurt less. All in all, positive things! And it's only been about a week.

Now the downside...

I am going through some withdrawal symptoms. For instance, I woke up not only hungry the last couple of days, but also soaking wet with sweat. Seriously, I have been sweating like a pig. I hope that ends soon. I also had what felt like flu symptoms on Monday: seriously bad chills, fever, body aches, sore throat. They have subsided, and I now have sinus congestion and sneezing. My histamines have kicked in and are fighting a perceived threat. I read that this was a common symptom of sugar withdrawal. Sugar can really affect your immune system in a bad way, especially if you're like me and have a sensitivity to it. This could be why I've seemed to be prone to an abnormally high number of sinus and throat infections over the last 3-4 years.

I can't believe it's taken me years and years to figure this out. How dense can a person be?

Ok so what HAVE I been eating? Well, surprisingly, I'm eating less food overall, yet feeling more satisfied. As I mentioned, I've been eating a hard-boiled egg and a piece of fruit nearly every morning. Over the last weekend I ate mini shredded wheat with almond milk** and slices of banana. Lunch has been hummus and whole-wheat pita with either carrots or grape tomatoes and a piece of fruit, sometimes a few slices of a light cheese as well OR tuna on stone-ground wheat crackers with the carrots &/or tomatoes and fruit. Dinner is a little more challenging for me. Last night I ate cheese ravioli with just olive oil and basil as the sauce. It was actually very tasty. Other nights I've made eggs, or pierogies, or have had fish with brown rice or I've eaten the hummus with pita combo. Dinner is accompanied by a vegetable and usually a piece of fruit afterward. I have to say honestly, I haven't felt really "snacky" in the evenings lately. But the few times I have felt little peckish I've eaten fruit, or crackers with cheese or a little butter on them, or a few pretzels, or a few almonds & cashews (nuts sometimes wreak havoc on my skin, so I try to avoid them, usually). Earlier in my experiment, I made wheat toast with some sugar-free strawberry preserves on them. But now, I really don't crave that level of sweetness.
I'm usually drinking water or hot tea (love me some peppermint or chamomile). I may have had a glass of Diet Coke once or twice. Astonishingly, I seemed to have also been able to put my caffeine addiction behind me. I haven't had or wanted a cup of coffee in over a week.

In my online research over the last several days, I stumbled across the following advertisements for sugar, brought to you by Sugar Information, Inc. How crazy are these?:

WHAAAAT? So sugar causes one to UNDEReat? Uh huh. And it's a good idea to eat a sugary and probably fatty ice-cream cone so that you won't eat your normal mealtime food, which might actually have some nutritional value? Sure.

And this one....
The "Note to Mothers:" at the bottom right reads:
Exhaustion may be dangerous -- especially to children who haven't learned to avoid it by pacing themselves. Exhaustion opens the door a little wider to the bugs and ailments that are always lying in wait. Sugar puts back energy fast -- offsets exhaustion. Synthetic sweeteners put back nothing. Energy is the first requirement of life. Play safe with your young ones -- make sure they get sugar every day.

Make sure they get sugar every day??? Welcome to 1966.

Or how about this delightful ad from the Soda Pop Board of America?

My mind is officially blown.

** A note about almond milk: I adore it. I went to a nutritionist --- very briefly--- a few years ago and she suggested unsweetened almond milk as a good cow-milk substitute for me. I asked about soy milk, since that's what everyone seems to drink as a cow-milk substitute. She mentioned that for what I was experiencing in my body, soy could actually aggravate it and make it worse. I already have higher levels of estrogen than most women, so soy was not a good choice for me. I continue using the almond milk because I think it tastes awesome. It's also very low fat and low calorie too. This is the one I use. I highly recommend it for folks who have sensitivity to dairy and who may not like the taste of soy.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Hideous Knitting 101

Time for another thrilling session of Hideous Knitting 101.

Nothing quite defines "classy" as looking like Charo in the afterlife. Well, at least this is what I picture Charo wearing in her afterlife. Don't get me wrong, I lurve Charo. I think she's funny, looks amazing for her age (although I'm sure surgery was incorporated a few times) **, and plays a damn good flamenco guitar.

I...just don't want to emulate her on my WEDDING DAY.

Cuchi-cuchi, indeed.

I present the

"Pristine Wedding Gown"

First of all, blatant misuse of the word "pristine" always pisses me off to no end. Pristine basically means primitive, or something that is in its original state. It's not really a good adjective to describe a new, hand-made garment, unless, in this case, Oxford English Dictionary has concluded that pristine also means "ugly."

Secondly, I realize that this is crochet, not knitting. There is something about crochet garments that look, well, more tawdry than clothes constructed by other means (sewing, knitting, fan dancing, etc.). Oh and the designer used the word "elegant" to describe it (tee-hee). Now, my grandmom was an expert crocheter. She made more crocheted toys, hats, scarves, sweaters, blankets, tablecloths, doilies, curtains, and ponchos (before they ever were cool) than you can shake a stick at. And we loved and cherished every last one of them. But there's something different about a 7-year-old wearing a crocheted sweater on Easter, than a grown woman wearing a crochet wedding gown.

Hideous Knitting (er, I mean Crochet) 101 report card:

Style: D "Live from Caesar's Palace Casino right here in fabulous Las Vegas, Nevada: The incomparable CHARO!" Also, what's with that sort-of webbing on the arms? Looks like she walked through Shelob's lair on the way to the altar. I'm also reminded of the Carole Burnett skit in which they parodied Gone With the Wind. She came traipsing down a grand staircase wearing a hilarious dress made from the window curtains, rod sticking out from the shoulders and all. When Rhett asked her where she got the dress, she replied, "I saw it in the window and I just couldn't resist it." Well in this case it would be, "I saw it on grandma's table and I just couldn't resist it!"

Fit: F This is one of the most ridiculous applications for crochet that I've ever seen. Also, can you imagine how much something like this weighs? I think Dickens should have had the ghost of Jacob Marley wear this instead of dragging chains around. I'm sure this is much heavier and it's most certainly more frightening.

Color(s): B- Well, it's a wedding gown, for Pete's sake, so it kind of HAS to be in the white-to-beige sort of color range. Although, the designer has stated that you could make this as a "prom dress, ballroom dress or awards dress" (whatever THAT is). Imagine making this for your daughter to wear to her prom. Better make it in white, beige, light pink, or black because those are the only colors in which you can get a full-length slip! And from the looks of it, you're going to need one! SIGH I suppose you could dye a slip to match.... What a pain in the patootie!

Yarn: INC I guess we really have to buy the pattern even to determine what yarn to use --- or gauge. But from the photo, it sort of looks like a size 5 crochet thread (which in knitting terms is about a sport weight). I would imagine it's cotton, since most crochet thread goes that route. OMG. I just had a terrifying thought. What if this was crocheted in...acrylic? AAAAGGGHHHH. The horror...the horror.

Execution: B- I must admit that I am impressed with the stamina possessed by the person(s) who crocheted this. My major complaint with execution is that the entire weight of this dress is concentrated on what appears to be 4 or 6 angel-hair-width straps. The thought of having the entire weight of a crocheted, full-length (with a train) gown pulling on eensie-teensie straps is causing my shoulders to weep at this very moment. There, there, sweet shoulders. I wouldn't do that to you!

**SIDE NOTE: My dad always buys a current World Almanac. And the World Almanac always lists celebrity birth dates, and deaths. Every almanac I've ever seen indicates that Charo was born in 1941, making her 69 years old. However, Charo now says that she was born in 1951. This seems really disturbing and absurd since she was married in 1966 to a 66-year-old man. SHUDDER. Maybe she wore this when she got married....

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Dear Barbara Walker:

You seriously rule for inventing ssk (slip, slip, knit). I can't tell you how much ssk beats the living snot out of k2togtbl, especially on sock gusset decreases. I will come kneel at your feet at this year's KDO in September. So when a chubby chick with crazy, curly hair starts cow-towing before you, it's me.

Forever in your knitting debt,


Wednesday, July 07, 2010

A Public Service Announcement

If you are in the market for a luxury yarn --- particularly cashmere or a cashmere blend --- then I HIGHLY recommend ColourMart.

They have truly beautiful yarns in nice, lovely, natural, workable colors for extraordinary prices. I just got 420 yards of light worsted cashmere for $36, shipping included. Colorway is called "dust." The best way to describe the color is that it's a light gray beige.

It's even nicer in person. I plan on using it as the main color to make the Folk Art Scarf. Link is to free Ravelry pattern.

Now I'm being tempted by a luscious plum-colored aran cashmere...$32 for 330 yards, shipped.

Commence sitting on hands in 5...4...3....

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

A Picture Is Worth 1000 Words

So here's a (mostly) pictorial update of the last three (URGH) months.

April 2010:

Falling out with Mom & Dad on Easter. Didn't speak to them for almost a month. Not fun. But it's in the past and I've moved on (for the most part). Things are hunky dory now.

In knitting:

Shawl for brother-in-law's wedding in May. Ice Yarns mohair sequin is THE BOMB.

May 2010:

In knitting:

Shrug to be worn at some festivity of the wedding.

Dale of Norway Svale yarn. Nice stuff. Used three strands at a time to get gauge. Super nice pattern (Glamour Shrug on Ravelry). Took only a DAY to knit. Will make it again.

Scarf done in same pattern like that shawl.

Using a sport-weight yarn I got on Ravelry. Shunklies was the seller. Gorgeous colors. Called "candy shop." Light, airy, and squishy. Have enough yarn to make another, which I am! About 1/2 done that one.

Pocketbook slippers. Finished a pair for my mom, forgot to photograph it. This is one of a second pair. Haven't cast-on the second. This pattern is surprisingly tedious....

Brother-in-law's wedding on May 7. Wore the shawl for all of 15 minutes in the hotel bar post-wedding at night. Why? Because it was in Florida and it was freakin' 98 degrees the whole time we were there. Actual nuptials were outside on the beach. Caryn, my new sister-in-law is a dear and she looked so gorgeous. I don't know what her secret was, but I looked like a disaster in the heat & humidity. Also, I looked like Orca. I felt horrible and embarrassed the whole time. I hope that they don't have any photos of me. I tried to be as invisible as possible. I seriously feel gross and enormous. But that's another story entirely....

May 9: My birthday and Mother's Day. Had a strained lunch celebration of both events at a Chinese restaurant with my parents. First time I saw them since Easter. It was fine.

May 23: THE END OF LOST. I died a little.

June 2010: The month of unbelievable disaster.

June 2:

The less said about this, the better. In short: Todd was alone in the car, driving home on I95. Got rear-ended. Was the 3rd car in a 5-car rear-ending accident. Car totaled. Todd's 100% fine.

We got a Toyota RAV 4 to replace Big Red (which is also Red).


June 7: Learned that a childhood friend of mine committed suicide. Probably one of the last people I'd ever expect to do such a thing. Very upsetting. Went to his service on June 10.

June 8: Learned that a childhood friend of mine --- for whom I was the maid of honor at her wedding --- is getting a divorce. Deeply saddened. I know it's the right thing for her to do, but still.

June 28: Todd's boss decides it would be swell to cut his hours down even further (maybe just for the summer, but I'm not holding my breath) to TWO days a week. Lovely.

In knitting:

My neighbor across the street had a baby girl sometime mid-April. (named her Isla, neat name). Made a Katja halter top, but I made it longer so it's more of a little dress

Used Plymouth Bella Coloura yarn. Making another of these for my niece (see below).

Lots o' dishcloths for a friend's housewarming party:

Katja for Aubrey:

Here it is blocking. I think it's too big, but she can wear it next year, if that's the case!

Used TLC Cotton Plus yarn.

Today, June 30, is Todd's birthday. He's 39. We're heading down to The River for a little vacation either tonight or tomorrow morning. We SO need a break.

Friday, April 02, 2010


Life's been hectic for me over the last several weeks, so my apologies for not being an active poster!

This time of year is pretty hellish for me with regard to my job. It's when everything happens at once, you know? Then there are the students...oy. Plus I was sick all last week with what seemed like the flu, but I know it wasn't actually the flu. Since moving to Delaware, I've developed painfully severe allergies and they flair up big time in the fall and spring.

I haven't really been doing much knitting lately, only enough to finish one generic sock of a pair that I'm using the Deborah Norville yarn to knit. And I'm almost finished one sock of that houndstooth pair (Talbot pattern). I just haven't had the energy to cast on either of complementary socks to finish either pair. Sigh. Maybe this weekend.

Now, I must try to muster the emotional energy to post about my deep sadness. The short story is that Todd and I had to have our lovely, sweet Sophie euthanized on Monday, 3/29. Painful as the decision was, I know deep down that it was the right thing to do for her. I just could not bear the thought of her in pain, suffering, and wasting away.

The long story is:

Sophie had been ailing with hyperthyroidism for the last few years. She was once a 22-pound cat, which I know is appallingly overweight for a house cat. We noticed right around the time we moved to DE that she looked, well, good! We took her in for her annual check-up and she was down to about 18 pounds. On another vet visit several months later she was down another 1.5 pounds. (She was prone to respiratory infections because as a stray in the years before we got her, she had a horrible case of pneumonia, which left her with a chronic respiratory issue.) Then she needed to have several of her teeth removed because they were so bad, 8 or so. Down another 1/2 pound or so. Blood work indicated that she had hyperthyroidism, so we began giving her medication to get that under control. Over the last 2-3 years, she'd been on a steady decline of weight loss, infections, UTIs, cataracts, dehydration, etc. It's hard to imagine any human being, let alone a cat, dealing with all of these problems without any complaint at all. Yet that is just what Sophie did. She was exceptionally smart and often a solitary animal, despite the other 5 beasts that she ended up sharing her home with. Sophie had a gentle and charming disposition; she was a lady, though certainly not aloof or haughty.

Because of her thyroid condition, she required quarterly blood work to check her T4 levels. Every time we did this, she weighed less and less. We never seemed to be able get the dosage right, despite tweaking is several times, as recommended by the vet. She had another series of blood tests done in February (by a vet that we don't usually see, and never will again if I have anything to say about it) and, for the first time ever, all seemed normal with regard to T4 levels. A minor victory, though, as she was now down to 10 pounds, 15 ounces. March 15th was her "birthday," as we celebrated it. We also had to take Sophie and all her siblings into the vet that day for their annual check-up and shots. Sophie was down to 10 pounds 3 ounces. "Is she eating," our vet asked? Most certainly. Sophie had a voracious appetite and ate pretty much whatever you put in front of her, unless you tried to conceal medication in the food. She could sense it there and would not eat it. Smart cookie, my Sophie. But even lately, when we powdered up her tiny thyroid pill and put it in her food, she ate it. I don't know why this didn't set off any alarms in my head. In retrospect, it should have (as you will see).

At this time Todd noticed rather curious lump in her neck. It didn't feel like a tumor or growth of any kind. It was sort of soft and could easily be shifted around. Our vet aspirated the contents and it reduced its size by 75%. What the hell was it?? All blood. Our vet asked, "Did she have an injury to her jugular? Because this is a large hematoma." We couldn't for the life of us figure out what happened to her to cause that. Then our vet asked, "When she had blood work a month ago, did Dr. ^&$*%)@ (not mentioning the name here) take it from her neck?" And after thinking on it a little I realized that the other vet DID take it from her neck! So, that other vet DAMAGED MY SOPHIE'S JUGULAR VEIN. I can't tell you how infuriated I was, and still am, about this.

In the two weeks between her annual vet visit and her last day, she seemed completely normal, by Sophie standards. The night before, she crawled up on top of me while I was asleep and sat with me for a while. I was only vaguely aware that a cat was on me, Todd was awake and confirmed that it was Sophie. She hadn't done this in quite a while. Maybe she was trying to tell me something? While getting ready for work in the morning, I happened to be in the hallway and noticed fresh, pink, wet spots on the carpet in a couple of places. I saw Sophie sitting up near the guest bathroom cleaning herself. Then I saw more pink droplets on her fur. She had been attempting to urinate and it was blood. She would walk a few steps, then stop and try to pee again, only to have a dime-sized amount of pink fluid released. She laid on her side at one point and I was petting her. She must have been in agony because she kept contracting up her back legs, almost like a spasm, and she was breathing heavily. I think I knew at that moment that she would be leaving me forever that day. I broke down and cried as Todd called the vet.

We went to the vet, and thankfully it was our usual vet who we like very much. First thing: the scale. Down to 9 pounds 11 ounces. She lost half a pound in 2 weeks. That is a disastrous amount of weight for a cat to lose in 2 weeks, especially one that eats very well. She had a fever. Her hematoma had filled up again, too. Our vet examined her and told us that Sophie's kidneys were failing, basically breaking down from the inside. They were hard, misshapen, and atrophied. This is what was causing her urination problems. There was little they could do to alleviate that situation, as no antibiotic or medication could improve failing kidneys. Then she took an x-ray.

After an agonizing wait for the results, the vet showed us the x-rays. She pointed out 2 masses in 2 different places in Sophie's stomach. Cancer. I felt like someone stabbed me in the neck. One mass was quite large (about the size of a mouse) and the other was smaller, like a large olive. It all became clear to me why she was hungry all the time and eating as much food as possible. Sophie was, essentially, starving all the while feeding her tumors. She was getting little to no nutrients from her food intake. This news hurt worst of all, I think. Sophie looked forward to feeding time and I always assumed that her healthy appetite meant that she was healthy in general. So not only was she having severe kidney problems that we were unaware of, but also she was eating and never feeling full for God only knows how long. :-(

Todd asked the vet about 1000 questions to see if there was any other viable option to help Sophie get better. There wasn’t. It was time to let her go. After her initial sedation Sophie became very relaxed and calm. It was as if I could feel her pain slipping away from her as she stretched out her front paws a little. Sophie’s loving, gentle heart stopped beating within seconds of the lethal injection and she was finally at peace.

I am only now just accepting that she’s gone from my life. We loved her like a child, especially since she was our "first-born," per se. We had Sophie for nearly 10 years. She was 14.

My beautiful Sophie, as I will always remember her:

Sophie in her younger, sillier days:

Monday, March 08, 2010

Blissfully Overwhelmed!

As I mentioned a few posts ago, I participated in a February swap to help us crafty types get through what was (for my part of the world, anyway) a nasty, bitterly cold, snow-ridden month! A huge thank-you to Leah, who was our swap hostess.

My swap partner was Karin over at The Periwinkle Sheep. Karin also has a shop on etsy, which has some of the most beautifully hand-dyed yarns ever! I've thoroughly enjoyed getting to know Karin and had a wonderful time reading her blog. Today my swap package arrived, and I just about fainted when I opened it. Karin's generosity was truly amazing and I can't find the words to say how thankful and touched I am (and lucky)!

Here's what I saw when I opened the box:

One of the parameters of this swap was to choose 4 things from a list (all very thoughtful ideas, thanks to Leah). Well, I counted 5 just at a first glance, 3 of them being HUGE SKEINS OF YARN!

Here's a shot of the complete contents:

I was, and still am, flabbergasted by all the wonderful things:

a handmade project bag (which I've been wanting one like this for evah!)
lovely hand cream
2 boxes of tea
2 chocolate bars (super fancy ones!)
and 3 incredible skeins of yarn

Look at this chocolate! I'm a huge fan of dark chocolate. I love the amazing combinations going on here, too!

The purple and green yarns were hand-dyed by Karin, herself! They are each 400+ yards of yummy fingering weight yarn. They are super soft and I just adore the colors --- so vibrant and spring-like! Yay for spring!

The gray yarn is from an "almost local" (as Karin said) yarn place in New Hampshire. It's a lovely shade of gray and it's very soft and warm. Really nice stuff!

Can't wait to try the tea! I am so looking forward to that lemon lavender one, particularly!

And I am all about nice hand lotion. Seriously. My hands are a disaster in the winter. They get so bad, they crack and bleed. So this is greatly appreciated and needed! Also? Check out the fragrance: chocolate mint. Oh man. It smells like mint chocolate chip ice-cream.

Ok so I wouldn't be at all surprised if Karin all the way up in Albany heard me screaming from Claymont, DE when I saw this project bag. I have been wanting one of these cute, little, wristlet-type bags for forever. Every time I set myself to get one, they are either insanely expensive or sold out. This is so pretty, too. Colors, execution, shape, size --- it's all perfect. I lurve it.


Thank you SO much, Karin, for your wonderful, generous gifts! I absolutely love everything!