Life Has Been Keeping Me Too Busy To Blog

Sorry for the unintended hiatus.  As I noted, I have been having some health problems, which have not been helped by having had some adverse reactions to some new drugs my docs seem to think I need to take — not very nice side effects which necessitated changing things around.  That took about two weeks to get sorted out, and things were smoothing out and settling down.  Then out of the blue, I had a violently allergic reaction to something.  I ended up in the ER with hives and ITCHING from one end of me to the other.  Not fun.  I was taking several new meds and we didn’t know which might be the culprit that caused the reaction. I had to stop taking everything except two meds I’ve been taking for years that I was in the middle of bottles of, so I knew they were unchanged, and one I couldn’t stop taking.  I had to wait about a week to make sure that one new one was OK, which it was.  Then, one at a time, I added each new one back in until I identified the culprit.  Turned out it wasn’t one of the new meds after all.  The manufacturer of a supplement I’ve been taking for years decided to change the type of capsule they put it in to some kind of “vegetable capsule” to which I was wildly allergic.  Thankfully, I was able to find another manufacturer that put theirs in gelatin capsules, as it’s a supplement that makes my life a lot easier when I take it.

And then there was the matter of getting my car fixed. It did take right at two weeks and the guy’s insurance had to pony up over $4000, but Big Daddy got’er done.  I got a rental “loaner” to drive while it was being fixed, a little 2018 Chevy miniSUV, but it was one of those “keyless” ones.  So long as you have the little remote thingie in your purse or pocket, you can unlock the car by just opening the door and start the car by just pushing a button.  But I’ve got the Greyola back now, all fixed up, and my ride is back to normal again.   I missed it.

Not much to report in the knitting news, I’m afraid.  I’ve been batting around so much dealing with one issue and another that I haven’t had much peace and quiet to sit down and enjoy a good knit except when I’ve been at the computer.  I’ve got probably another 15-20 rows on the body of my (slightly modified) cable edged shawl (above) before I get it to the point where I’m ready to start the cable edging. As for the other one, I simply haven’t had the concentration it takes to work on it.  Thank goodness I’ve had the discipline to put in my lifelines after every pattern repeat, as I had to frog out a repeat and a half the last time I tried to work on it.

There’s a new Sebastian St. Cyr Regency murder mystery out by C. S. Harris (#13 in the series), and I’m reading up onto it from #7 to refresh my memory.  (Each of the books is stand alone, so you can start with any book in the series, but the reading experience is greatly enhanced by reading them in the (chronological) order in which they were written.)  The books  are well written and meticulously researched, and the characters are very three-dimensional and engaging.  One of the things I like about the books is that Harris sets her works, not in the romanticized glittering Regency of the romance novel, or the sequestered, self-contained world of Jane Austen, but in the gritty historical reality that was the Regency period in England (1811–1820) — warts and all —  the crime, the poverty, the inequities of the class system and the legal system, and the aristocratic attitudes and privileges that reinforce the status quo.

Another of the things I like about her books is that she sets them within their historical context, both in Europe and America.  Leading up to the period in which the novels are set was the American Revolution (1775-1783) and the loss of the American colonies, as well as the social upheavals of the French Revolution, which began in 1789, and the subsequent influx of French refuges into Britain fleeing the Reign of Terror.  During the time the books take place, Britain is fighting Napoleon on the continent (1803-1815).  In the first book, the hero, Sebastian St. Cyr, formerly a captain in the Duke of Wellington‘s army fighting against Napoleon in Spain and Portugal, has sold his commission and returned to England.  In one of the books, a plot point involves the British practice of stopping American merchant ships at sea and impressing American sailors off them into the British navy, one of the causes of the War of 1812, and we briefly meet Franklin, fils.   Another mentions a popular new novel called Pride and Prejudice, by the (at that time unknown) author of Sense and Sensibility,  and a certain black cat finally acquires a name.  Another involves a 3-year-old boy who will grow up to write a poem called “The Lady of Shalott.”   At the end of each book is an Author’s Note, in which Harris, who has a Ph.D. in 18th and 19th century European history, tells you what is actual history and what she changed, added, or manipulated to serve her plot — which is usually very little.  She also provides sources where you can read more about the particular issues or events featured in the plot.  Though the man character is a man, one of the historical themes that weaves through all her books is the issue of women’s status and women’s rights in Regency England and the roles society demanded that women play.  These themes are highlighted not only in plot points and the characters they involve, but are “made flesh” in one of my favorite characters in the books, a certain grey-eyed young lady named Hero.

You can read the Sebastian St. Cyr books on several levels.   They are entertaining and well-plotted, with engaging, well-rounded characters, a “good read.” But there’s plenty of meat on the bone — historical, sociological, psychological — to give you something of substance to chew on afterward, and maybe explore further.  Enough meat that they hold up to rereading very well.  And, yes, what Sebastian has (Bithil syndrome) is a for-real (though quite rare) genetic mutation.

 

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It’s Getting Better, Slowly But Noticeably

This past week and a half has been like getting a giant charley horse in my life, and slowly, over the past couple of days, I’ve been just kind of stretching through the cramp and loosening it up, and aaaaaaaahhhhhh!

Yesterday and today, I sat at the computer catching up on my blog reading and video watching, and knitted on the modified body of my cable edged shawl.  I’m really liking the increase in density of going to the smaller needle for the shawl body, and I did really need to go to 3 stitches for the garter stitch border on the leading edge of the shawl to balance the denser stitching in the body.

Some interesting things going on in the construction of the shawl body:  The garter tab is what sets up that 3-stitch leading edge border, which is knitted across the top edge of the shawl in both directions from the center point established by the garter tab.  However, in between that border and the body of the shawl is a yarn over (yo) on each end on every row, which increases your stitch count by two stitches every row (from the 9 of the tab, to 260).  That yarn over is what gives that little openwork line that makes it look like the border and the body are going in two different directions, when actually they’re not.  What you end up with is a semicircular piece of knitting with the 3-stitch garter stitch border across the diameter (top), and live stitches all around the circumference.  Then you start the garter stitch lace edging on another needle and each time you knit a row of the edging, you incorporate live stitches off the shawl body and join the edging on.

The garter tab is a nifty little bit of knitting in and of itself.  In this case, you cast on 3 stitches, knit 3 rows, then you turn your work 90 degrees to the right, pick up 3 stitches down the side of the tab, turn it another 90 degrees to the right, and pick up 3 more stitches across the bottom for a total of 9 stitches.  Your original 3 stitches become one side of the border, the stitches you picked up down the side become the body of the shawl, and the stitches you picked up across the bottom become the other side of the border.  It’s that little “turn the corner” around the tab that lets the border stitches go in both directions at once.  This type of construction is best for top-down shawls, both semicircular and triangular.  How you work your increases can give you some interesting patterns and textures.

I think I’m going to be exploring this type of shawl construction a little more.  I’ve found some garter stitch lace patterns for edging, and I found one that includes a mitered corner, which would work with a triangular shawl.

I’ve just sat down again from getting up doing things — I’m on a kick where I’m hungry for those baby carrots, cherry tomatoes and pieces of cantaloupe dipped in this particular brand of Ranch dressing, so I had to get up and get a plate of that.  Noshed on that while I read blogs, knitted, and played Spider solitaire.  Then I decided I wanted to bake some potatoes (I had three stashed in the fridge), so I got up and did that (washed, dried, rubbed with olive oil, baked in the oven at 360° for an hour).  (They’re baked and cooling now.)  While those were in the oven I made a bowl of tuna salad with tuna, chopped raw white onions, chopped kosher dill pickles, chopped black olives, and a (drained) can of those mixed peas and chopped carrots, with mayo and two large spoons of that Ranch dressing.  It’s chilling in the fridge as I type.  I must be getting better.  That’s the most cooking I’ve done in months.  I’ve got some Carr’s Table Water Crackers I’ll spoon the tuna salad on for noshing here directly.

 

What’s Going on Here?

I’ve lost about 9 days in a furious little, highly frustrating, energy draining, distracting, AAARRRHHH!!! health/life tangle that’s left me with a lot of aggravation, complications, and pointless scrambling about.  I could go into all the gory details but that’s not what this blog is about.  It was all just stupid on so many levels and all up in my face and in my way, and keeping me from doing what I want to be doing, which right now (and not surprisingly) is being quiet, calm, cocooned and knitting something.   Today is the first day I’ve been able to be where I want to be and just chill for a while.

So I was playing around with the cable edged shawl pattern and thought I saw something there I wanted to go after.  I was working it according to pattern, and thought it was going in a way I wanted to go, but, no.   I picked it up again today and, no.  Just, no.  Frogged it all out.  &*%$*#!  But I think I see what’s going on and why I don’t like the bits I don’t like, and how I can push the pattern closer to what I want.

The yarn weight works, but I’m going with a US9 (5.5 mm) needle instead of the US10 (6.0 mm) because I don’t want so lacy.   And the two stitch garter border for the top edge of the body of the shawl is too thin to my eye, and a 4-row garter tab to get 6 stitches is too deep and I didn’t like how that bit lay.  A 3-stitch border looks better to me, with a 3-stitch cast on and a 3-row garter tab to get 9 stitches.

The increase row for the shawl body adds 2 stitches a row using yarn overs.  I get that, and I see how it works.   However,  in the original pattern, you start the shawl body from a tab base of 6 stitches, which is an even number, and 9 isn’t, so if I start from a tab base of 9 stitches, I’ve got to sneakily either get rid of one stitch somewhere, somehow, or else add a stitch in somewhere, somehow to even things out so I’ll come out with the right number of working stitches (260) along the bottom edge of the shawl body so the edging pattern repeats will come out even.  So, in the pattern I’m writing to keep track of what I’m doing, I’ve got a step:  “Repeat row 2 until 260 stitches total.  In order to achieve this stitch count, at some random point in the shawl body work a single k2tog and mark it with a stitch marker so you’ll know you’ve done it.”  So there’s that.

My garter stitch lace shawl is coming along.  I’m liking the proportions of the increase.  I’m on my third pattern repeat for the edging.  Sticky notes work OK, but the stickum wears off the note when you have a pattern with a lot of repeats, like this one has.   I just surrendered to reality and got a typist stand for the pattern.  It is going to make doing this shawl so much easier, but it will also make knitting from any printed pattern easier, especially one with edging repeats, like the cable edged shawl will have.  I’m disciplining myself to do a whole pattern repeat at a sitting and to put my lifelines in at the end of each pattern repeat.   Dental floss.  Who knew?

AAAARRRGGGHHH! and AACCHHOOOOO!

Tis the season to be sneezing.  The Bradford Ornamental Pear trees (Pyrus calleryana) are blooming all over town and my sinuses are in a howling uproar.  Of course, if you followed the link and read the article, you’ll know I’ll have my revenge on the owners of the dang things sooner or later. . . .

And not to put too fine a point on my day, . . . .Coming out of the parking lot at the doctor’s office this morning, a pickup (what else?) backed into me.  His bumper got all four side panels a good lick and did a number on my front passenger door handle.  It’s the pickup’s fault; I’ve got his info, but it’s all a big hassle I’ve got to deal with.   They’ll probably have to replace both the front and rear fender panels and both door panels and the door handle.   His insurance is supposed to furnish me a loaner while they’re fixing it, but that’s a hassle, and taking it in and however long it’s going to take to fix it is a hassle.  I’ve got too many things going on in my life right now and the last thing I need is one more hassle to have to deal with. AAAARRRRRGGGGHHHH!

And not to put too fine a point on this absolute bummer of a Pi Day, Stephen Hawking passed away.  On Albert Einstein’s birthday.

Life Is What Happens To You While You’re Busy Making Other Plans

Some life happened, folks.  I’ve been having some health problems, which I won’t go into here.  One of them I knew about and I’ve been coping with it.  The other one came flying in out of left field and caught me flat footed. Add in a couple of adverse drug reactions (HIVES!) and these past two weeks have not been fun.  The scariest thing about it, though, is how the VA came through for me on some drugs that would have otherwise cost me $94 for 20 pills, as well as the other meds I needed.  Anyway.  Hopefully, things will settle back down again and I’ll have more frequent updates.

I’ve started working on this Cable Edged Shawl pattern which I’m doing in a Lion Brand Heartlands yarn called “Glacier Bay.” It’s worked as a garter tab from the leading edge downward, and you put the edging on last, working at right angles to the shawl body.  You work the whole body first, and I’ve got a way to go on that.  Simple garter stitch, but with a nice edging.

I’ve also gotten a little farther along on my modification of this pattern.  I took the hint of using dental floss as lifelines, putting in a lifeline after every pattern repeat.  I like the way it’s coming along so far, especially the texture of the shawl body.

I’m on my third pattern repeat.  You can see how the garter stitch lace edging is shaping up.  The only hard part about it, actually, is the garter stitch lace bit.  The rest of it is pretty straightforward.  So far, so good.  I will post the pattern on my knitting blog when I get it worked through.

I’ve been doing a re-re-re. . . read of C. J. Cherryh’s Foreigner books, which has been instrumental in helping me keep my sanity through the fun and games I’ve been having.  I’m about halfway through.   There’s a new Sebastian St. Cyr book due out, which I’m looking forward to.  Regency murder mystery . . .!

That’s all the news that’s fit to print for now.

 

 

The Eyes Have It

I know I’ve mentioned it here, although not lately, that I have a thing called ocular migraines.  Many migraine headache sufferers report an “aura” prior to their headache, a warning symptom(s) that a headache is coming.  Many of these “auras” are visual — scotoma, scintillating scotoma, etc.   Some people, like me, get the aura without the headache.  If you have to have migraines, and you get a choice what kind to have, choose the kind I have.  I get maybe 10-15-20 minutes of visual disturbances, and that’s it.  No headache.  No pain.  Just these annoying visual symptoms.  There is a genetic component to migraines, and women are more likely than men to have migraines of any type.  I have female cousins on both sides who have full blown migraine attacks — and who know their triggers.   Me?  I got off dead easy.

My ocular migraines typically involve a scintillating scotoma in my left visual field.   It starts as a flickering point just left of center in the area of sharpest vision.  It’s something that happens in my brain, not my eye, and because it happens in my left visual cortex, it affects both eyes.  (Anatomical aside:  The optic nerve from each eye branches and half of it goes to each side of the visual cortex of your brain, so each eye transmits to both sides of the brain.  If you lose an eye, you lose your depth perception.  However, if the right visual cortex of your brain is damaged, it doesn’t take out the vision in the right eye, it takes out the right half of the vision in both eyes.  Because you still have some vision in both eyes,  your depth perception is preserved.)  The scintillating point expands into a “C” shape, with the “gap” oriented toward the right lower corner of my visual field.  The “C” moves diagonally up toward the left upper corner of my visual field, getting larger and larger as it moves, until it expands off the edge of  the visual field and goes away. It only affects my sharp vision for a minute or two, but it’s visually disruptive until it goes away.   If I get one while I’m driving, I pull off out of traffic as soon as I can safely do so, and wait them out.

The whole reason I brought this up is that on the whole I may go months and months without having one, or I may have two or three over the course of a week.  Yesterday, I had four, and one was atypical — it was just like the ones I always have except it was in my right visual field instead of the left.  I’ve had another typical one today already.

Now, some migraine triggers are dietary (MSG, artificial sweeteners, nitrates, etc. ).  I eat Chinese food with impunity (and chopsticks).  I eat lunch meat and hot dogs with impunity (and mayonnaise), so MSG and nitrates are not suspects. Although wine is a migraine trigger for one of my cousins,  I can and will drink wine when it’s offered, and it’s not a suspect.  Changes in hormone levels are not suspect either; I’ve been on estrodiol-only HRT for (literally) decades and my hormone levels stay constant.  I suspect that changes in weather may be one of my triggers — possibly rapid changes in barometric pressure and such like —  and the polar vortex has been wreaking havoc with the weather here lately.  We had some nice warm weather earlier in the week, then Wednesday, it got cold again, and was drippy, drizzly, mizzly and dreich.  It’s the first moisture we’ve had in over a month.

I don’t care for artificial sweeteners and rarely consume them.  Saccharin has an unplesant “wang-y” aftertaste that I don’t like.  I’m not real wild about any of the others, either.  I just don’t care for the way they taste.   My mom uses both Sweet’n’Low (saccharin) and Equal (aspartame).  She likes the taste (300-500 times sweeter than sugar) and finds nothing “off” about it.    My dad never cared for diet drinks, and it is very likely that I get my dislike of them from him.*  (His tea was never sweet enough unless about half an inch of sugar had settled out of it into the bottom of the glass.  Yep.  I’m daddy’s girl.)

But the standout atypical thing about yesterday, apart from my having four attacks, was that I had this “zero calorie” bottle drink I hadn’t had before.    I bought four bottles of the stuff, but I bought it for the bottles — nice substantial, washable, refillable,  17-oz plastic bottles**.  The drink  was carbonated, contained several of the vitamin B’s, and it had green tea extract.   I’ve got three more in the fridge.  I’m going to try another challenge Sunday when I know I’m going to be staying in all day.

In the meantime, I think I hear some spinach focaccia calling my name.  I’d better go see what it wants.

*Taste breaks down to chemistry and your ability to taste or not taste certain chemicals is inherited. 
**I hate buying bottled water and throwing all that plastic away.  It's stupid and irresponsible, and it supports those criminally-irresponsible environmental-toxic companies who make them.  Not only is it much more environmentally friendly to get a set of bottles and reuse them for months and months, it's cheaper in the long run.

Plus ça Change . . .

My knee was doing really well on the diclofenac there for a while, and then I hauled a waste basket full of about 30 lbs worth of used kitty litter out to the dumpster and now it’s howling again.  (Instead of spending $19 a box for 10 Littermaid containers, and throw them away when they got full, I put a trash bag in this waste basket that had a lid and dumped the contents into it, and reused each Littermaid container until it wore out.  When the waste basket was full, I tied off the trash bag and dumped it into the dumpster.   Since the waste basket was only half full, I didn’t think it would be so heavy that I would need to use my little red wagon to haul it to the dumpster.  Famous last words . . .)  There for a while, I was walking normally with no pain.  Now I’m cripping around again.  Sigh.  Used kitty litter is one problem I won’t be having to deal with now –a very tiny upside to a very big downside. . .

I’ve started reading the Temeraire series by Naomi Novik. It’s like a mashup of Horatio Hornblower and Jane Austen but with dragons(!).  I’m just about halfway into the first of the nine (soon to be 10) books in the series, and so far, I like it.  I thought I’d give it a try since I liked her novel Uprooted enough to keep my copy of it to reread.

For literally, like, 20 years I have had this clunky old desk lamp with a weighted base with the light part on an extension arm that I am continually having to futz with because, while the extension arm has knobs that can be tightened to hold it in position, the light part does not.  It will only hold the light part horizontal when the extension arm part is in certain positions.  In any other position, the light part will either slowly but surely lose its position, or suddenly decide it doesn’t want to do this any more and just give out, whack!  I finally got tired of fooling with it, saw another desk lamp I liked the look of and thought I’d order it –without checking the dimensions. . .  Yup.  Too short to fit over my computer screen, but it works on my reading table just fine, though.  It’s an LED lamp and the second of its three brightness level lights up my tablet without putting a lot of glare on the screen like my bedside light does. It has a goose-neck bendy part so it’s easy to position and stays put.  The lamp cord ends in a USB plug so you can run it off your PC or laptop — being LED, it doesn’t draw much juice at all — but it also comes with a USB to AC adapter that lets you plug it into a wall outlet.   Reminds me of the ray thing on the Martian saucers from the 1953 version of the movie “War of the Worlds”, though. (I look up at it, think, “I am under attack by Martians,” and giggle. . . )  I did some rearranging and finally found a way to get my old lamp base and extension arm positioned so that the lamp part is parallel to the line of my screens and so far (touch wood!), I have not had the lamp part suddenly flop down and bang into the top of the screen and startle the bejezus out of me. . .

Yes, I am self indulgent and like to read in bed (pourquoi pas?), so toward that end, I acquired one of these, and one of these to go with my this. As you might know, plug strips have holes in their undersides that allow them to be screw mounted to things.  I have a plug strip with a 12-foot cord mounted to the underside of the table to plug my tablet into so it doesn’t run out of juice right in the middle of the exciting part and make me stop and recharge it.   Yes, I have a Kindle Fire (have had for about 5 years, in fact),  but the Kingpad has a bigger screen and I can see a whole page at a time instead of a third of a page, which is all the Kindle Fire will show me, unless I make the type so small it defeats the purpose.   I have an internet radio app on the Kingpad on which I can tune into SomaFM’s Drone Zone, or listen to my Napster app and have music while I read, and I am happy as the proverbial clam.

I am currently in love with Prokofiev’s Cinderella Waltz.  It is the perfect fairy tale waltz, with an arcane and quirky melody with dark, minor-key magical undercurrents, occasionally bursting into major key exuberance, only to fall back into the minor key to keep reminding us that while Cinderella has made it to the ball and is dancing with the prince, this is not yet, and nowhere near, the triumphant, happily ever after bit.  I think I also love it because it is so very not-Disney.  (Right after the oddly abrupt end is when the clock begins to strike midnight.)

In the knitting news, I was going great guns on this toboggan with ribbed hem when I noticed I was not going to have enough yarn to finish it.  I couldn’t match the yarn, so it got completely frogged*.   I’ve started over using one of those Caron Cakes, (I don’t like the cakes any better than I like the pull skeins, which is not at all and, no, I’m not going to get a spike just so I can use them.)  Judging from the size of the ball (I had to get my big-ball bowl out), there should be plenty of yarn to finish a ribbed hem toboggan.   I’ll use the other yarn to make a hat that just has a simple ribbed brim.  That dark turquoise string dangling about is the length of cotton yarn I used for the provisional cast-on. I use the cotton yarn for my “scrap yarn” because it’s a sturdy yarn that I can reuse over and over, and it doesn’t leave behind any yarn fuzz when you pull it out.

Just a note:  Whenever I’m doing something circular like a hat, I never count my slip knot from the cast-on as a stitch. I start counting with the first cast on stitch.  To join and begin knitting in the round, I move the slip knot over to my left-hand needle and do a k2tog with it and the first cast-on stitch.  I especially like this method for hats as you don’t get that little “jog” between the cast on row and the first row of knitting.  This is also why I use a slip knot on my working yarn with the provisional cast-on instead of knotting it to the scrap yarn. — I use the scrap yarn method of provisional cast-on because I find it easier to work with when turning the hems on these toboggans than the crocheted method.

I’ll leave you with a couple of pieces of nerd candy I chanced across the other day.  For the trivia nerds, the woman in this video is the mother of a very famous princess.  Can you guess which one?. . .  The one below is for the science/math nerds.  I’m sure Neil DeGrasse Tyson, my personal astrophysicist,  has been tweeted this one so many times he’s sick of it . . . .

*rip-it! rip-it!