Summertime… and the living is…

FRUITY!!! It seems I just can’t get enough fruit this summer. We’re going through nectarines, strawberries, blueberries, plums, and cherries (OH MY GOSH, THE CHERRIES!) as fast as we can get them into the house! This is actual good news, as fruits and veges are an oft-neglected part of my diet. I just hope to ride the wave through the autumn and into winter! I know all the good food is good for my immune system, and that’s important for those of us with chronic illness.

We joined Weight Watchers a couple of months ago and it has been working great! DH and I have lost almost 15 pounds each! He’s walking a lot more and I’m feeling better, so I’m glad we’re doing that. I also ordered a new cook book recently. (I received this book for free from Blogging for Books for this review.) It’s called GO FRESH by the American Heart Association. Although I don’t use cook books often (I’m more of a by-the-seat-of-my-pants cook) this one looks really interesting! It’s well organized, with color pictures in the middle. The recipes sound really yummy. I like that it covers a lot of different cultures – Mexican, Greek, Southern, etc. That way we don’t get bored with what we’re eating. I mean, you can only eat steamed broccoli and grilled chicken breast so often, you know?

The book has a lot of tips in it for how to buy your food and how to store it so that you get the maximum nutrition. Too often, we wind up wasting food because we forget it in the back of the ridge, so it’s good to be reminded about how to store it properly. One of the things I like the best about the book is that it uses common ingredients. Sometimes, when I look at cook books, the authors seem to think that everyone lives in a major metropolitan area with access to specialty grocery stores. For those of us in small town America, it’s refreshing to find ingredients that I can pick up at the local store and still have so much variety! I’m sure we’ll be trying out some of the recipes soon. I’ll keep you posted!

I’ve also been creating a lot lately. I had a treatment at the first of the month, adn it knocked me flat for a couple of weeks, but I’m bouncing back now. I’ve made several bags, a couple of shirts, most of an afghan, and have started working on items for the local Haunted House.

The bags are really fun! They’re called “Mondo Bags” and the’re made out of patchwork squares. A quick internet search should turn up directions if you’re interested. Here are a couple of the ones I have made:

elephant bag for me

purple bag for a friend

The afghan is not going as well as I had hoped. It’s a challenge from “The Crochet Crowd” called “Stitch-Cation.” It’s coming together, but it has driven me nuts! Apparently, I am no longer able to count to 35 or to do basic addition. This has caused much ripping out and swearing. But I’m finally working on the borders and the end is in sight. And the fact that it’s not really square is just going to have to be OK. These are the blocks before I started joining them together:

Stitch-cation afghan

As for the Haunted House… It’s really a Haunted Mill. The local community theatre works with a local mill to create a spectacular haunted mill as a fund-raiser for both entities. The mill is an old mill with much of the work being done by hand. They teach classes in woodworking, ceramics, weaving… all sorts of things. And the local theatre is an organization I have been involved with for quite some time. So we like to support both organiaztions! This year, I’ll be setting up a room of my own in the Haunted Mill. I’ve got lots of work ahead of me, but I’m starting early so that I don’t get too tired. Here’s a pic of the sewing room in its current state! LOL!

haunted mill items

It looks like I’m doing a lot more than I actually am. I’m still not back to 100%, and I still spend quite a bit of time on the couch, but things are looking up. I have hopes that I will continue to improve and continue to be able to create!

Now, let’s go create something!

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True Love…

Another month has come and gone and I haven’t written anything new. I’s not that I don’t care, it’s just that not much is happening on a day by day level.

But, on a month by month level, this has been a productive one! I committed myself to making some projects during the Olympics. So far, I have finished one scarf:
Hydrangea lace scarf

dyed three skeins of yarn:

and made 10 African flowers towards my elephant:
African flower motifs

The elephant pattern can be found on Ravelry at this link:
Nellie, the African Flower Elephant by Heidi Bears

Those of you who know me well know that I am crazy for elephants, so this project is perfect for me. It uses lots of little bits of yarn that I have saved up and will make me smile every time I see it!

Currently, I’m working on a crocheted chemo cap. I have been fortunate enough to NOT lose my hair, but the nurses in the chemo department where I go for treatment tell me they can always use chemo caps. I ran out of the yarn I was using, so I frogged back a few rows and added in a second yarn, alternating rows for the brim of the hat. This is another good way to use up leftover yarn!

I’ve put myself on a stash diet… no more fabric or yarn for me until I catch up on some of the many projects I have planned already. So, I have five shirts to make, three quilts to finish, and a LOT of yarn to use up before I go shopping again! Glad I stocked up when I had a more steady income. Disability insurance is a real life saver, but it’s not as predictable as a salary.

I will soon be out of short-term disability and into long-term disability. I never thought I would be unable to work for so long… it’s hard to believe it’s been more than a year. But, since I didn’t really get diagnosed until November, it stands to reason that I would need some extra time to get better.

And I AM getting better! The last CT scan showed that my lymph nodes are shrinking back to normal and there are no signs that the cancer has spread! The treatments are working! It is so much easier to take the exhaustion and weakness that the treatments cause when I know IT IS WORKING!

This month also brought my birthday and Valentine’s Day. I am reminded once again how fortunate I am to have my husband in my life. He makes me laugh, takes care of me when I feel lousy, and encourages me to keep fighting. He accepts me as I am — mood swings, illness, inability to drive or concentrate — and still makes me feel like I am a gift to him, not a burden. Our life together is all I ever hoped for in a relationship. It only took me 55 years and three marriages to find him!

Parents, friends, siblings, spouses, children… anyone who truly accepts you as you are is to be treasured and appreciated! I hope you all are able to accept yourselves and have others accept you, too. Love yourself and let others love you, too!

Now let’s go create something.

Happy 2014!

I can’t believe it’s been almost a month since I posted anything. December was so busy I just flat ran out of time. We had family to visit, worked on settling my mom’s estate, hosted the family Christmas party, started my treatments, baked all the Christmas cookies…

Whew! I has an overdid.

Through it all, I kept creating! I am still working on my baby blanket and it’s coming along nicely. Turns out that time spent receiving infusions is a good time to crochet. It should be complete in plenty of time for the new little guy.

One of the happiest things I created this month was the Christmas cookies and candies. In going through my mother’s things, I found her recipe box with all the cookies she made for us when we were kids. I pulled out all our favorites and made a batch of each of them to share with my brother. It brought back such happy memories of being little and how much our mom loved us. It was well worth the energy and time it took.

I hope your holidays have been happy and creative, and that the New Year brings you all good things. Let me leave you with this quote from Neil Gaiman:

“May your coming year be filled with magic and dreams and good madness. I hope you read some fine books and kiss someone who thinks you’re wonderful, and don’t forget to make some art — write or draw or build or sing or live as only you can. And I hope, somewhere in the next year, you surprise yourself.”

Now let’s go create something!

Well, ain’t that a kick in the pants…

It has been my experience that, when I make plans, life changes abruptly. Or, when I think I have “it” all figured out, something happens to prove me wrong.

This was one of those weeks.

As you recall, I went in for a biopsy last week. Now I knew it wasn’t cancer. After all, one of the symptoms of CFIDS is enlarged lymph nodes.

I spoke too soon. I have follicular lymphoma. Now let me just say this… hearing that you have cancer SUCKS! It’s not even a little bit good. No matter what they tell you about your particular cancer (and they will tell you more than you probably want to know) the bottom line is that it SUCKS!

That being said, this is one of the easier cancers to have. Apparently it is very slow-growing and very treatable, although not curable. The average life span is years to decades rather than days to weeks, so we are grateful for that. I’m undergoing more tests and more blood work and more everything… there are still questions to be answered. But it looks like I’ll be starting chemo in the not-too-distant future. This was NOT how I planned to spend my holidays.

They tell me chemo can take hours each time you get it. Hours. In a chair. With nothing to do but sit… hmmm… Crafts to the rescue once again! I shall crochet my way through chemo and have something to show for it when I’m done! What shall I crochet? Well, I have a baby blanket (yes, another one) that I’m working on and a Christmas gift or two… but the whole thing got me thinking…

If I’m going to lose my hair during the winter, I’m going to want a hat or twelve to cover my head! In every color. I never could get the hang of wearing a head scarf, but I look pretty good in hats with a small brim. Surely I can come up with something!

So off I went to Ravelry. You remember Ravelry, don’t you? The online resource for all things yarn? Well, there are a wealth of hat patterns available there. Many of them are free! One of my favorites (and the first one I’m making) is the Cuss Hat by Emily Matisz (This is her blog.) It will cover my ears and fully expresses just how I feel about chemo and cancer.

I also did a quick internet search and turned up free patterns to sew caps from polar fleece. These patterns are EASY!!! Even a novice sewer can make a chemo cap!

So I challenge you – it seems like we all know someone these days who is going through chemo, so let’s all make chemo caps! If you don’t know anyone who needs a chemo cap, get down on your knees and be grateful, and then take the chemo caps to your local hospital or oncologist office. I can guarantee there are people in your community who would be comforted by a home made SOFT cap.

Let’s go create something! (like chemo caps!)

Ouch!

So I spent the morning in the hospital having a test done. It wasn’t really as bad as I feared it would be, but I do rather feel like I’ve been kicked in the stomach by a horse.

You see, one of the classic symptoms of CFIDS is enlarged lymph nodes. My doctor thought it was strange that I didn’t seem to have them – or so he thought. While doing a CAT scan to look at my enlarged liver and spleen (yeah, that’s another classic symptom) they found all the lymph nodes in my abdomen were inflamed and enlarged.

Unfortunately, as well as being a symptom of CFIDS, that can be the major indicator for lymphoma. So today I had a biopsy. At first look, they tell me they didn’t see anything scary, so we’ll just have to wait to next week to see if the lab reports come back clear.

In the mean time, I felt I needed a little extra comfort to get me through the day. I took along a small crocheted elephant that a friend made me, and I wore these:

My first ever crocheted socks! I finished them last night so that I would have them to wear to the hospital. The pattern is called “Fancy Cuffs” and can be found in “Crocheted Socks: 16 Fun-to-Stitch Patterns” by Janet Rehfeldt and Mary Jane Wood. I adapted the cuff on mine, but the main pattern is theirs.

If you are a crocheter, and have never tried socks, I can heartily recommend this book. These socks made up quickly (I figure about 8 hours all total) and fit like a dream. Crocheted socks do not stretch as much as knitted socks, so make sure you try them on before you’ve gone very far, just in case you need to rip out and re-size. The heel was a little tricky, but I got it on my third try, and the second sock went together like a piece of cake!

I’m sure I will be making more socks in the future (and they did bring me comfort today) as soon as I catch up on some other projects…

Make something to comfort someone you know. Whether it’s a shawl for someone who is grieving, a toy for a child (or adult) in the hospital, some cookies and tea, or some warm socks, nothing says comfort and love like home made.

Let’s go create something!

Playing catch up

I know I’ve promised a lot of pictures and I haven’t delivered. Well, today is the day!

First, an update. I spent three days crashed on the couch and then woke up today with energy! Not oodles of energy, but enough that I decided to tackle the wedding dress. I’ve already fit a muslin mock-up and let me say, you just haven’t lived till you’ve tried to pin fit a dress on yourself. Many puncture wounds later, I was ready to begin the lining! Here’s my progress:

lining

Yep, it’s lined, underlined, and boned. And I cannibalized a bra so I won’t have to worry about fitting the top quite as much. I even basted in a zipper and, glory be, it fits!

So I cut out the rest of the pieces… piles of purple chiffon everywhere!

purple chiffon

The first picture is closer to the actual color (YMMV) and so far, I am pleased!

I started basting the chiffon and suddenly realized I was beat, so I quit for the day. But I am happy with the progress I have made! The wedding is four weeks from yesterday, so I feel like I’m in good shape!

So, to catch up…

This is the doily I made for a lace swap on Ravelry:

It’s called Amusement

I’m rather proud of it. It was my first big tatting project and I think it turned out terrific! It’s so much easier to do than it looks!

I also made her a case for her crochet hooks and added a bunch of tiny crochet hooks in all different sizes so she can make more doilies! She said yellow was her favorite color, so yellow is what I used!

And one last picture of a work in progress… this is the waffle stitch I was telling you about!

That’s it for now. Tomorrow we go get our marriage license! SQUEE!!!

Let’s go create something!

Lullaby and good night

Our niece is expecting and that means we are too! The moment I heard about the joyful event, I started a baby gift. “Piece of cake”, I thought. “Knock that out in no time”, I said.

That was back in April.

Fast forward to July. On Ravelry (you don’t know about Ravelry???) I listed a set of crafty goals for July. One of them was to get the baby gift to the halfway point. All of the other goals have been completed, but I’ve been uninspired by the baby gift. Until this week.

Unfortunately, my health is not fantastic. The good spell I was having has dwindled. I’m not horribly sick, but I’m really tired and easily confused (who are you, again?) and grateful that I can spend so much time resting at home.

Fortunately, the aforementioned baby gift is rather mindless crocheting and I can just hook along while I watch TV. So, progress is being made! I still hope to have it halfway done by the end of the month. We don’t know if it’s a boy or girl, so I chose a bright primary color. It’s very cheerful and should be very warm for the winter. The crocheting is done in a waffle pattern that makes the finished project feel twice as thick as normal crochet. Here’s a link to the stitch so you can see what I mean.

If you’re fairly new to crochet, don’t worry! It’s easier than it looks. And, if you’re really ambitious, it would make a terrific afghan for cuddling on the couch. Or, like me, maybe there’s a wee one in your life that needs some warmth this winter. Dig through that yarn stash, find a crochet hook, and…

Let’s go create something!