Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Some Updates

So I emailed Denise Needles on Sunday afternoon, before the knitting had even cooled. I explained that I'd bought the set just under a year ago and had been completely happy up until the unfortunate demise of my little needle tip.

Monday afternoon, I received a response, including an apology for a not-unheard-of, but not common manufacturing defect, and a promise to send a replacement. Thank goodness - that's my hat cable! Maybe it expired from overwork.

I spoke to my mum tonight. She's still keeping her spirits up, but some things are getting harder to take.

She's lost enough hair now that she doesn't leave the house without a hat. And the hair that's left is basically dead, meaning that no amount of styling products can make it do anything she wants it to do.

I'm working on another hat.

Mum's also had to go on a second round of the neupogen shots, to encourage her body to make more white blood cells. And, while the chemo treatments hadn't been too hard on her, these shots are a different story. They're making her feel sick again, and very tired. But she also gets bored pretty easily, so we'd have to strap her to the couch to keep her there for any length of time. We're considering it.

She's scheduled to have a CT scan at the end of February, that will show whether the chemo is winning.

Until then, I'll be over here, not thinking about it.

And knitting.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Curse this superhuman strength!

I just BROKE one of my Denise cables. I was sitting on the couch, knitting away on a baby blanket - a fairly tame, if involving project, when the black end piece on the cable in my right hand snapped in two, leaving my knitting to fall into my lap like so much cotton spaghetti.

By some divine miracle (thanks, God!) my kit was near at hand, and I was able to reach over and grab another point and cable out of the case and rescue the blanket with hopefully no damage done.

But my Denise set! Woe is me! I've loved this set, and I feel like I've been betrayed by a friend. I'm going to contact the company - I've heard from several people that they're very good about customer service. I just never thought I'd need to test it out.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Happy (cold, very cold) Rabbie Burns' Day

Happy Rabbie Burns' day! While my blood is saturated with Scottish-ness, I have to admit that I've never really done anything particular on this day before.

We celebrated at work with, rather than the traditional haggis (which most people really weren't into) Scottish meat pies, chips, and mushy peas.
And to finish things off, Jen brought a very yummy trifle.

Today was also the coldest day we've had this winter in Toronto. I celebrated this early, by finishing a hat for my friend Rachel.

I love this hat, and this yarn. I may have to do something similar for myself. What a concept - knitting a hat for me... Anyway, this hat was knit in Manos del Uruguay, using the Official Kitty62 Hat pattern. Lots of fun to knit up. And there was just about exactly enough yarn.

Tonight I've started knitting for an impending baby - one of a set. Twins are great - twice as many babies to knit for! Baby number one will be getting a Baby Love blanket like the one I knit for Darren and Angie's little girl. Baby number two will be getting a blanket knit using the Fibercrack pattern from JenLa.

I feel like I'm knitting an anti-hat - starting on dpn's and working my way up to the circulars.

I like it.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Running in Circles

I made a couple more hats while in Windsor, out of fun fur and acrylic yarns that my mum picked out. She was feeling in need of some colour, and chose bright, multicoloured yarns that I never would have picked out for her, and there's lots of it left. I have many more hats to come.

On Sunday, I just couldn't face another circle, another hat. I picked out a fun little novelty yarn called Pooch, in browns and blues, and cast on. Then ripped out when the little built-in bobbles caused confusion when I tried to do some drop stitches. Then cast on again. Then ripped out again when I noticed a dropped stitch several rows back, caught in the tangle of bumps and strands. And ripped back again. I finally stuck with straight garter stitch, ten stitches across, and knit until it was done, which was by the end of the evening.

I do like how it turned out - just a cute, silly little scarf. But even though I'd finally gotten a change, a break from the round knitting, I was feeling a different kind of craving - a craving for luxury, for a chance to have something other than squeaky, lumpy, furry acrylics and novelties.

Ah, just the thing.

This yarn is so lovely and soft, I don't even mind that I'm back to knitting in circles.


Thursday, January 18, 2007

Another Three Days, Another Hat

I am challenged with the knitting of the chemo caps for my mum. She has an unusually small head, which is a fact that I never thought would cause me frustration. But the time has come. Her head is apparently so small that she also frustrated the woman at the wig centre, who had only one wig that would even fit her.

I've been trying to experiment with making the hats I'm knitting smaller than my head, but not too small. And I'm not so good at this. If my mother were a little closer than four hours away, I could use some trial and error and lots of ripping to get things just right. But, well, she's in Windsor and I'm in Port Credit and there's a lot of 401 between there and here.

So, for this latest hat, I tried to not only make the hat smaller, but also to make it adjustable in size a bit. I gave it a roll brim so that the height can be adjusted. And, in what I must admit turned out to be stupid luck, I added a row of simple lacy holes (yo, k2tog) just above the brim, to break up the straight knitting and give some character. Once I'd gotten a few rows past this section, it occurred to me that those holes could easily be threaded with something decorative. And this lead to this:

Jen Humours Me - Side View

I did two strings of knotting with the same yarn used to knit the hat (pull the yarn through its own slip knot over and over), twisted them together, and threaded through the holes.

I really like the way it turned out. And the string makes it very easy to adjust the fit of the hat around the head.

Jen Humours Me

And I think it looks cute. I hope Mum likes this one. I may even do the same kind of thing for myself, later. I will not, however, be using this yarn - though soft, it persisted in tangling and sticking to itself, in some kind of bizarre and frustrating self-felting fit.

Jen was kind enough to model the hat for me, saving me from an arm's length self-portrait or another dangerous cat modelling session.

Tomorrow I'm headed down to Windsor for the weekend. Better load enough podcasts onto the mp3 player to keep me awake on the 401.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

I, Jerk

I feel like I got a taste of how to be a jerk today.

I had all my (11) items on the table at the grocery store when I realised that I was at the 1-8 cash. I walked out to my car, only to find that I had parked in a pregnant lady/new mother parking space. I was tempted to waddle carefully across the ice with a couple of loaves of bread stuffed under my coat.

I finished the fuzzy acrylic hat tonight, and have started on a hat with a cable pattern that looks like it will be nice and warm. I did something a little different with the fuzzy hat, that I'll take a picture of tomorrow, when I'm not quite so comfortable here on my couch.

In the meantime, I suggest you go have a little fun with a simple and surprisingly addictive little game called Line Rider.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Fuzzy Hats

Winter has finally hit Toronto, and it's almost a relief. Ice rain? Well, at least it's cold out, I guess.

I am celebrating the arrival of the cold and wind and snow by knitting a hat. I am also celebrating getting home from work, taking a lunch break, and watching the traffic report in the morning by knitting a hat. I'm planning to head down to Windsor to visit my family this weekend, and I'd like to give my mum as many hats as I can have ready by then.

Progress, however, is slow ever since I started with a thin, fuzzy acrylic. First, I tried to do a little butterfly-type stitch to make it a bit more interesting. But I was nearing the end of the hat when I realised that

1 - the number of cast on stitches was too high, meaning the hat would be too big. And,

2 - I was screwing up the butterfly stitch, increasing by about 7 stitches every few rounds, making the hat mushroom-like and even bigger.

So, it's been painstakingly frogged and all the little fuzzy mind-melded bits pulled apart and the one big ball is now about five smaller, broken-ended balls. Thankfully, the end is near again.

Coming up, I've got some nice, chunky, solid yarn on big needles. For my sanity.

In chemo-news, it turns out that my mum's body is short on white blood cells, so she's started a series of self-administered injections of neupogen. Hopefully, this will increase the number of white blood cells her body is making, and she can continue with the chemo. Unfortunately, the injections come with their own set of side effects, including bone pain.

Cancer sucks.

Back to knitting.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

My Life in Pictures

It's become something of a tradition. Every year, I create a slideshow using my favourite pictures from the whole year, January to December.

Here's the offering from 2006. Happy Belated New Year!

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Chemo Visit

While I was visiting my parents for Christmas, I had the opportunity to go with my mum to a chemo appointment. I was glad to have the chance to do this with her for several reasons. First, just to know that I can be a support for her right now, even if it’s just being the person to drive her to the cancer centre and fetch her coffee and push her wheelchair. And second, out of sheer curiosity – I had no idea what was involved with a session of chemo.

Sonya, a family friend who also recently underwent cancer treatment, came with us, to show me where to go and park, and for the company. After dropping Mum off in her chair and returning from the distant parking lot via the free shuttle, we discovered that we were going to be there a lot longer than we had originally planned for. Because of the two holidays, there were a lot more people than usual waiting for their appointments. We learned that we would also have to wait until several blood tests had been completed and analysed; these are normally done the day before, but, again – that was Boxing Day.

The cancer centre wasn't the serious, somewhat depressing place I half-expected it to be. It was full of light, despite the gloominess of the day. In fact, after some wandering around the hospital after being gently kicked out of the treatment room, I came to the conclusion that the cancer centre is the most light-filled area of the whole place. The people were not despondent and hopeless - rather, they were strong and friendly, and open to share with each other their challenges, symptoms, and triumphs. And there were knitters who politely admired my blanket and shared stories of their own projects.

After a couple of hours of waiting (approximately six inches of baby blanket) we were lead into a large room lined with armchairs, similar to a blood donation clinic. Mum took a seat in one of the chairs, and, after checking temperature and blood pressure, and reviewing symptoms and progress, the nurse hooked up a saline drip to her PICC line. Over the next two and a half hours, Mum received four drugs: a combination of simple injections and IV bags.

Once all of the syringes and bags had been emptied into Mum, we were finished for the day.

Overall, I was impressed by the cancer centre. Downstairs from the waiting and treatment areas, there is a high-ceiled, open space furnished with couches and bookshelves full of books that can be checked out by patients. While waiting, I read a book about cancer and humour. There is also a small store stocked with wigs, hats and turbans, all available for purchase, or, for someone who can't afford to pay, just to be taken and used.

Mum's doing okay in her treatment so far, but she is experiencing some negative side effects. She has pain in her fingertips and has lost most of her hair now. She was informed yesterday that her body isn't making enough red blood cells. If she wants to continue the chemo, she needs to start giving herself daily injections.

But through everything, Mum is keeping positive and strong. A positive to losing your hair? No shaving your legs for weeks! And it's funny to hear her talk about food - you don't often hear someone say, "Oh, I really think I should have more butter on this - for my health, you know." Today she had a small triumph in the gaining of two pounds - her first weight gain since everything started months ago.

On the knitting side of things, two of the hats I knit were too big - my mum apparently has a freakishly small head. The fuzzy, brown chenille hat fits alright once the brim is turned up, and the blue hat fits okay, but the white, lace-edged hat is far too big. I've asked Mum to give any hats that she won't use to the cancer centre hat shop, so none will be wasted.

I'm glad I could go once, to see and meet the people who are helping my mum to get better.

Monday, January 08, 2007

New Toys

Oh, man, I'm stupid sometimes. For the past few weeks, I was occasionally checking StatCounter, and was a little disappointed that it appeared no one had visited my blog since October or so. And was also confused, because I know that that's not true. It finally dawned on me that when I made the switch over to Google's Blogger Beta, I did not put the code back in for the tracking magic doohickey.


Anyway, things are getting back in line, and life is returning to normal - kind of. Well, except for work, where we are undergoing renovations, so there are days full of packing things into boxes, unpacking boxes, moving furniture, inhaling paint fumes, digging to find the coffee, and yelling into the phone over drills and hammers. It's lovely. But at least now my office is a nice blue colour, rather than an old, tired, pasty pink colour.

Things at home are going okay - I finally took down my few, meager Christmas decorations yesterday. It's much easier to put them away when you don't put much up. I think I was a couple of days too late to avoid the bad luck of leaving them up after the twelfth night. Oh, well - I'm sure I'll spill the salt and trip over a black cat soon, and then I'll probably just step in front of a bus and be done with it.

Believe it or not, I really did have some interesting things I wanted to talk about - primarily, my trip to the Windsor Regional Cancer Centre with my mum over the holidays. And I will talk about them, but right now I just want to peel the contacts off my eyeballs, put on my warm, comfy jammies, and then maybe play with my terribly exciting and wonderful new toys!

I picked these up at Lettuce Knit on Saturday. I wasn't home early enough to play with them that night, but Sunday afternoon found me looking for any unwound skeins and making these neat, little cakes that stack so beautifully.

It turned out that I only had three small skeins to wind, so I ended up unwinding balls I'd done by hand, just to play with the gadgets some more. I love the way the swift causes its own little breeze, when it's spinning so fast the yarn is just a blur of colour.

I need to buy more yarn, just to wind it, I think. This - THIS is how baby stashes grow out of control!

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Christmas Recap

It was a good Christmas. A busy Christmas, but a good Christmas. This was maybe my first one where I had to be a grown-up, rather than just sitting back and letting my parents do their thing.

Christmas dinner turned out just fine, despite my worries. The real surprise was the complete role-reversal of Christmas Eve and Christmas morning. It was my brother and I who waited patiently for our parents to go to bed and fall asleep so that we could set up their gifts. We got them a PVR (personal video recorder) that works like a DVR, but does oh-so-much more, including internet access and video archiving, all through the TV, using a remote. While I'd chipped in for the cost of the materials, it was my brother, Scott, who spent weeks putting everything together and making it all work, which turned out to be very, very challenging. And then when it came time to hook everything up to the big TV in the living room, of course, things did not go smoothly, and we were up until 2 am. I was pretty much there just for the moral support - though, I don't know how effective my "support" was, as I kept asking every five minutes if I could just go to bed already.

In the morning, my parents (who no longer sleep late) were up by 6:30, and had woken me up by 7 with their morning routine. I, of course, then proceeded to wake up Scott. Fair is fair.

As it does every year, the gifts were more than any of us should have spent, but all were so appreciated that no one regrets the cost in money and time. I finally gave my mum her Clapotis, and dad his log cabin blanket. The Clapotis is in mercerized cotton, and the blanket is in plain-Jane acrylics, all the better for washing.

I got some kitchen appliances from Santa - I always seem to get small appliances. I think Santa thinks I have a big kitchen. But now I get to replace my crusty, ten year old toaster oven (love the toaster oven), which is only a good thing. My brother got me a very cool printer, that even prints onto CDs and DVDs. In return, my brother got a whole lot of kitchen stuff for his (as yet theoretical) new apartment.
Other stuff happened during my break, but I kind of feel like I'm still recovering - more stories to come.