Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Sugar blues

O's face looks completely normal now, not even a rash. The only itchy bits are on his arms and legs. We're hoping everything will be healed up by the time he leaves for camp on Sunday.

Yesterday we went out to Target and bought what he needed to get him through two weeks at camp -- mostly underwear and socks. We figure he can double up a couple days on stuff like shorts and sweatshirts, but not so much on underwear and socks. I also found some swimming trunks in his size for $6.50, so into the basket they went ... saves me some time at the sewing machine this week. He was rather grumpy during our shopping expedition, as was I (sugar withdrawal), and we forgot to buy a couple extra beach towels. Otherwise we're all set to pack him up ... except for the stuff I have to sew.  Oh, and he needs a haircut. Hopefully we can squeeze in an appointment before the end of the week.

I survived Monday without eating any sugar. My sugar cravings hit mostly in the evening, so the last couple hours before bedtime were misery. As I was driving past Bedford Farms on the way back from the gym, it took every ounce of self control not to drive in there and order a cup of Muddy River ice cream ... I would have dived in with gusto! I stuck with it, though, bypassing my evening cup of warm chocolate malt Ovaltine with more than a little regret. My thinking was definitely foggier yesterday ... I'm hoping after a few days, I'll be able to think a little more clearly. Just happy I'm not teaching this week; I'm not sure my students would appreciate my incoherent thinking!

A couple days ago when I was waiting for a prescription to be filled at the grocery store, I spent some time looking through the paperback books and actually bought one. I usually take books like this out of the library or buy them used, but I was so in the mood for a summer read. It's a James Patterson bio/thriller called Zoo, and as usual with his novels, it's fast paced and just what i need intellectually right now ... meaning I don't have to think too hard as I read a couple chapters before bed each night. The only problem is, I've been having disturbing dreams. The other night I dreamed a rabid bat attacked me, so I fed it to a flying skunk. (Yes, you read that right.) And last night marauding bears and tigers made their appearances ... so I'm not sure this is the best reading before bed. Maybe I'll have to finish it up by reading in the morning. (Just learned this book as been made into a tv miniseries, which I think I'll skip.)


Not much to report on the sewing front. Taped the pdf pattern for O's board shorts together. Today I'll be cutting out the fabric. I also signed up for a free sewing class in early July at my local dealer. She told me I probably won't learn that much, but I figure if I learn a couple tips or two, it'll be worth my time.

Pebble Beach shawl

Because of my sugar withdrawal yesterday, I had to rip back on my Pebble Beach shawl a couple times. (Missed a couple yarnovers, grrr.) It stinks when I have to rip back a row because now each row is over 200 stitches. Yes, I know I should use a lifeline, but weirdly enough I don't mind tinking, especially when the yarn is easy to work with as this yarn is. It's hard to see but the color of the yarn is starting to change from cream to pale mint. Lace is so not pretty before it has been blocked. ;-)

One of the pattern books I ordered off eBay showed up yesterday. It's from the 1960s, a collection of cabled cardigans put out by Reynolds yarn under the name "Mary of Holland." I did a bit of poking around to find out who, exactly, Mary of Holland is, since the pattern book doesn't say. The only thing Dutch about these sweaters are their names: Rotterdam, Utrecht, Dordrecht, even The Hague.






The model on the cover looks a lot like my college friend Staycee. :)

I thought the cabled designs were really pretty. I'm sure my brother will deem them "Denchy." ;-)

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Weekend update

When I write that, I think of "Saturday Night Live." ;-)

We ended up getting an emergency pediatrician appointment for O on Friday. When he woke up that morning, his face was so swollen with the poison ivy, he was almost unrecognizable. The doctor was baffled because O said he was only walking through the woods, which would have kept the plant oils near his lower extremities yet he was covered with the stuff.

O mentioned later on that the friend he was with also had to go to the doctor, so at that point I said, "I'm going to call his mom." I noticed that O got a little quiet when I announced that. Hmm.

I finally got M's mom on the phone the next morning. Come to find out, her son told her they'd cleared some ground in the woods and built a campfire. A-ha! That explained it. I was pretty annoyed to hear this because O should have given his doctor this bit of information. When I confronted him with what I'd learned, O was like, "Oh yeah, we were." First, I was mad he was making campfires, but even more mad that he didn't tell the whole story. Breathing in urushriol (the allergenic substance in poison ivy) via smoke can actually kill! At least it explained the systemic reaction he experienced.

The doctor prescribed five days of steroid pills. We noticed a huge improvement on the first day. It is now the third day and O's face looks completely normal. We told him he'd be getting punished as a result, but after talking it over with my husband, we decided the agony of the rash was almost punishment enough. (We also made him research the penalties for starting campfires on conservation land.) His rash should be cleared up by the time he leaves for camp next weekend.

That has been the other big part of our weekend: getting camp ready. He's going to be away for two weeks, so we spent part of today doing an inventory of his clothes and toiletries. Tomorrow we'll be heading out to buy some more t-shirts, underwear, and socks. I also ordered a camp sheet set and started work on the board shorts he'll be using for swimming. When we checked the packing list the camp sent us, I noticed they wanted boys to bring two pairs of swim trunks, so it looks like I'll be sewing two pairs this week.

My weight loss has stalled. I noticed I'm eating much more sugar than I should, so this week I'm going sugar free to see if this helps get the scale moving again. Even fruit is off the list.

Very happy the escaped NY convicts are accounted for. Just heard they got the second guy alive. Maybe we'll get some more details how they pulled off that somewhat impressive escape!


Melody and I are finally getting to know each other a little better. I sat down Friday night and hemmed/repaired a pair of my husband's chinos. Then I re-hemmed the sleeves on his favorite shirt (they were raveling), removed a frayed collar, and used the darning foot to fill in some holes. I don't know how my husband gets so many holes in his clothes, it's crazy! Then today I repaired another pair of chinos -- more frayed hems -- and then sewed up a huge hole in the pocket of his favorite pair of shorts using the overcast stitch/foot. Everything was very easy and came out looking great. I think even my husband can see how much better Melody does with his mending. ;-)

This week's big sewing project will be the board shorts I talked about earlier.  I'm a little nervous about them because I'm sewing on microfiber, which can be a little tricky.

Did a fair bit of knitting this weekend. I started by Pebble Beach shawl on Thursday night and just passed the 15% mark. It's a very enjoyable knit. The pattern provides a nice chart that lets you check off each row and tells you when you've hit 5%, 10%, etc. I went up to Hub Mills in Billerica yesterday to buy a new #6 Addi Lace needle. The needle I had was way too slippery for the laceweight merino I'm using, and Addi Lace needles, although metal, are somewhat grippy (maybe because of the coating?). The new needle is making the project even more enjoyable so it was worth the capital investment.

I'll take a picture tomorrow. I'm using a gradient yarn and the cream color is about to switch over to a pale mint.

Kristie, I love love love your Hudson Bay baby blanket. I read your blog via Feedly so I missed the photo in your blog header and am glad you wrote about it. Now I'm eager to knit one!!


Thursday, June 25, 2015

I wear the crown

I now wear a shiny, new off-white crown. I'll do you a favor and not show it to you. You know that urban legend that redheads need more anesthesia than normal because they have more nerve endings? It's true ... not for every redhead, but certainly true in my case. Two injections of novocaine and I was still feeling the pain. My mouth never got that numb, either. My dentist (who is great, I love her!) can't get over how much I need. Enough to knock out an elephant ...

Anyway, I have a working tooth, and that's great. I rewarded myself with a quick stop at the bead shop down the street before I picked up O from his friend's house. (See more about beads below.)

O's poison ivy is getting a little worse. Today we tried aloe vera and cucumbers, as well as the OTC products I bought yesterday. The cucumber seems to help with itching the best, especially when we pureed it in the Vitamix, spread out out over his arms, and let it sit for awhile. Hey, gotta love a 59 cent treatment!

My brother called this evening and we had a nice chat. He's out in Oregon as a "Hot Shot" firefighter, putting out blazes caused by lightning strikes and drought. After a couple weeks of fires (which translates into $$$ for him), he's off to the coast for a few days for some R&R. I'm looking forward to him returning to the east coast this fall -- we talked about doing an overnight hike up in the White Mountains, so I'm going to look into an AMC membership. (He wants to stay in one of the AMC huts.) I will definitely be staying away from Mt. Washington this time.  ;-)

Mr. Raccoon was back last night, trying to knock over our garbage bins. I know raccoons can be pests, but he's just the cutest guy. Tried to get pictures for O, but when he heard me at the window, he took off.


I've done some more "research" on Cecelia Campochiaro's new knitting book, Sequence Knitting. Ravelry has a page for the patterns contained in the book, which gives one a good idea of the types of fabrics that can be created, as well as photos of simple patterns for accessories. The hats excited me because some of my favorite winter caps are ones where the fabric seems textured. Example: Anne Hanson's Fartlek.

I forgot to mention the other reason why this book appeals to me and that's because Campochiaro works in the computer/tech field in Silicon Valley. She started playing around with binary sequences in her knitting and discovered that certain sequences produced interesting textures and fabrics. I'm somewhat left-brained and like math, so this concept *really* tickles that side of my brain.

Craftsy sent me an e-mail today that some classes in my wish list were priced at $19.99 or less until the weekend. One of them was Betz White's bag making class, so I signed up for it.  I have some drapery fabric remnants in my stash that would make fantastic, hard-wearing bags. Tracy, your excellent results spurred me to sign up, so thank you!


Another Craftsy class I'm taking is Laura Nelkin's Knitting With Beads, thus why I stopped at the bead shop this a.m. (Nelkin is a dead-ringer for Annabella Sciorra ... she even sounds like her!) When I was at Stitches East last fall, I bought a skein of cream and turquoise gradient laceweight, and I'm thinking it would look lovely as a beaded shawl. I also got the idea in my head to do another mohair cardigan, but this one with slip-stitch beading around the cuffs, neckband, and lower edge/hem.

ETA: Started knitting Helen Stewart's Pebble Beach Shawl tonight with my gradient lace-weight. So far, enjoying the pattern!

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Oh my aching tooth

I decided last night that I'm going to post more regularly, if only to keep a record of my days, so fair warning!

This morning O woke up with his face red and swelled up. A closer inspection showed tiny blisters all over his face, arms, legs, neck, back, etc. so the culprit was determined to be poison ivy. He and his friends spend a lot of time in the woods climbing trees and building forts, so it was only a matter of time before he ran into problems with this noxious plant. (We since found out the friend he was with actually had to go to the doctor today as his poison ivy was even worse.)  Poor O was in misery, so I gave him some allergy medication, then headed off to CVS downtown and dropped $40 on assorted creams, sprays, and washes. Once he applied them he felt much better, and after a couple hours, the swelling and redness had been reduced significantly. In the meantime, I stripped his bed of sheets, blankets and pillowcases and gave them a good long wash in hot water, and also did the same with the clothes he was wearing while he was in the woods. Although the oils in poison ivy don't seem to bother my skin, I know repeated exposure can cause a reaction, so I made sure to use rubber gloves. That's all I need, a new medical condition!

So ... we had to cancel O's hair appointment this afternoon, and instead he headed off to a friend's house for a sleepover. I guess he was feeling well enough to go see Jurassic World with him tonight.

Tomorrow I have an appointment to get a new crown on one of my back teeth. My dentist told me the old one needed to be replaced, even though it wasn't bothering me. I grit my teeth (no pun), shelled out the $1200, and last week went in to get a temporary crown put on ... and darn, wouldn't you know it, but I've had a toothache almost every day since then. I'm hoping when the new crown goes on tomorrow that the pain will go away. Tooth pain makes me exceedingly cranky.

We're planning a family reunion for July 11 up in Vermont that I'm very much looking forward to, along with a memorial service for my Aunt Pam, who passed away in January. I started a private Facebook group to keep everyone posted about times and gathering places, and wow ... almost 40 family members have joined! I often hear people complain about family reunions, but I love them. Part of it is I like knowing that I belong to a tribe, but it also makes me feel connected to family who have passed away and who I loved very much. Those memories are precious, and I think it's important to keep memories and stories alive, moreso as I age.


I finished knitting a feather and fan baby bonnet last night/early this a.m. (I couldn't sleep because of said tooth) and plan to give it to my knitting group friend K for her daughter's Girl Scout project (sending knit caps and mittens to Syrian refugees). I knit one a couple weeks ago with a pink ribbon, so this one I'll festoon with a blue.

Feather and fan bonnet

I'm between knitting projects, except for a pair of "vanilla" socks, and am itching to cast on for a sweater. I did some swatching last week for an Amy Herzog/Custom Fit sweater ("Charlie's Cardigan"), but haven't yet mustered the energy to do all my measurements. Plus, I'm still waiting to see if anyone from my Thursday a.m. knitting group wants to knit along with me. Now I'm toying with the idea of knitting Meg Swansen's Garland Necklace Yoke sweater. I have a bunch of cream Paton's wool, and was thinking a delft blue wool would look nice as a contrast.

Last night during my late owl web surfing on eBay, I ordered two vintage 1960s Reynolds knitting pattern books I've had my eye on for some time. When they come in, I'll do a review.

As for sewing, there's nothing to report. Still giving Melody a wide berth. My husband left a pair of chinos and two shirts for mending on the back of my chair. (I love to mend/fix/repair stuff ... it's in my frugal Yankee nature.) These tasks don't seem so daunting so I'll get on them after my dentist appointment tomorrow.

Speaking of mending ... I noticed that Jean Miles had ordered a new book called Sequence Knitting, which sounded interesting. About five minutes later, I stumbled upon a comprehensive interview with the author, Cecelia Campochiaro, on Tom of Holland's mending blog. I think this is the Universe telling me I need this book. Sixty dollars is a lot but I like how the author put her book together, with a lot of care and detail.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Meet Melody!


Meet the newest addition to my sewing studio, Melody!

Oh my gosh, where do I start? I guess we'll start a little over a year ago, when I started thinking again about upgrading my sewing machine. I had a perfectly fine Husqvarna Viking 400, but it was closing in on its 15th birthday and I found that there were little things about the machine that were difficult for me to work around as my sewing skills improved. For example, threading the needle! My 50-year-old eyes struggle with this task, but the newer high-end machines have automatic threading. Ah, what a luxury. I'm also a rather slow sewer, meaning you won't catch me putting "the pedal to the metal" but my Viking's speed could only be controlled through the foot pedal rather than with a button on the machine that I could set to "slow." I wanted a machine where the needle would stay down in the fabric when I stopped sewing (my Viking does that only when you tap the foot pedal once) and ideally, a machine that allowed me to lift the presser foot without taking my hands off the fabric (using a knee lift).

A couple months ago, I put a small deposit down on a Pfaff Ambition. It was a rather spur-of-the-moment thing at a sewing machine dealership I often frequent. I felt a little pressured, to be honest, but I was assured I could change my mind. The Pfaff was fine, but it didn't have some of the features I wanted in my ideal machine, so I hesitated about going back to pay it off. The other machine I'd been considering was the Juki F600, which gets great reviews. However, not many dealers around here sell Juki home machines, and I didn't want to order one over the Internet without trying out ... plus, I want to support my local sewing machine shops, even if it costs me a little more. A good local dealer is worth more to me than a few dollars saved.

Then a couple weeks ago, I drove down to southeastern Massachusetts to Reliable Machines. Unfortunately I found out after driving there that they'd closed shop. Luckily there was another dealership nearby ... and they sold Jukis! However, they didn't have the F600, but the salesperson suggested that I try the Baby Lock Melody, which was similar. I did ... and I fell hard for it. Beautiful stitching, quiet, met all my requirements. The only thing was, it was a LOT more than the Pfaff. Much more than I had saved up. I figured it would take me a year to save up for it, so I put my machine lust on the back burner and said a sorry goodbye.

I digress now, but in the meantime, my mother had developed some serious health issues. She (amazingly!) bounced back and was filled with newfound energy and a desire to get back into quilting and sewing. I mentioned to her that I'd been in the market for a new machine, she said she wanted to buy a used machine ... and one thing led to another where she agreed to take my Viking and give me money to buy the Melody! I know that sounds like an uneven trade, but the Viking is a fantastic machine for machine for quilting (extension table, walking foot, piecing foot -- pretty much every foot a quilter could want!) and my mom knows I take good care of my machines. In fact, I'd recently had the machine serviced.

I was set to buy the Melody from the dealer 30 miles south of us, but then my local dealer gave me an even better deal (saving me about $200 extra dollars!) so that was it. I brought the Viking down to my mother's house last weekend and gave her a sewing lesson, she gave me a generous amount of money, and then last Friday I picked up my Melody from the dealership.

She was super easy to set up. Quiet, sews like a champ. There are so many features, I don't even know where to begin. My husband had a pair of chinos that needed re-hemming, so that was my first project. Now I'm getting ready to make bathing trunks for him and board shorts for O.

Here's the deal. I'm kind of intimidated by the machine. I walk by it and sort of get this sick, panicky feeling. Crazy, isn't it? I've only worked on fairly simple machines ... even my Viking 400, though computerized, was pretty basic. My Melody gives me the feeling of, "Where the *&^% do I begin?" It has been bugging me because I have so many projects I want to finish, and new projects I want to begin, but I get tense and nervous thinking about sitting down to start them. Then I start beating myself up and feeling guilty that I have such a beautiful new machine just sitting there, waiting for action. LIke I said ... CRAYZEE!

For the last couple days, I've been "avoidance knitting." When I'm stressed, I knit. I also do a lot of thinking when I knit, and I finally decided on a strategy to get over my intimidation. It actually came about by thinking about what I tell my magazine writing students who get overwhelmed by all the tasks they have to accomplish to build a successful career and that's to pick one task on the list and just get it done. It may not be the one thing that should be done first, or the most important task on the list or even the right task, but the point is, it gets you moving toward a goal ... a goal of getting published. Or in my case, the goal of feeling comfortable around my new machine!

Does anyone else go through this too? Or is it just me?

Happy summer! I hope to have some finished sewn objects to show you soon. :)