Saturday, November 10, 2012

Yarn to Fabric

Sometimes while on antibiotics my taste buds will change; I'll lose my taste for coffee, something I usually adore in the morning, and will actually develop an aversion to it.  Same for certain foods. I don't worry about it, things always end up coming back into favor after a time, but this time antibiotics seem to have switched my knitting fever to that of quilting. 

Oh, I"m still working on a pair of socks, albeit much more slowly than usual. I've had a lot of energy for quilting and below is one of the products. Two more are in progress... Depending upon my mood I will work on one or the other. Feeling traditional? The Double Irish Chain. A little more funky? Definitely the Blooming Nine Patch in vibrant colors. It's nice to be able to switch back from one to the other depending upon my mood. After all, it's a a woman's prerogative to change her mind. 

Thanks to Joe for being the quilt hanger :-)

Tuesday, October 2, 2012


TGIF. Thank goodness it's fall.

Even as a kid I never loved summer, not the way most kids did. Like it? Sure. No school, lazy days at the beach or on vacation with the family. But I never felt great with the heat, even as a youngster.  When all my friends and I took tennis lessons at the town rec center everyone else was able to sprint effortlessly after the ball.  I found it to be a huge effort to muster the energy, let alone the enthusiasm.  My tennis instructor told me I was lazy. Maybe I was.

The lack of routine was also unsettling. Now I have no trouble keeping busy from dawn 'til dusk, but back then all those free hours - how to fill them? One can only play so much.

I remember a conversation with an acquaintance one late spring day while we were waiting for our kids to be released from elementary school. Her: "are you looking forward to summer?"  Me: "yes and no. I love the lack of routine (what a reversal!) but really don't like the hot, humid weather".  Her: "What? You don't love summer? I don't think I've ever met anyone who didn't love summer!"

Clearly, her question was merely a rhetorical one and she really didn't care whether or not I was looking forward to summer, nor did she have any interest in getting to know me better. That was the first time I stopped to think about summer and maybe that I am a bit different in that I don't love it.  Fortunately, since then, I've met quite a few people who also share my sentiments so I stopped feeling odd long ago.

I do love the long days of summer and I try not to wish the months of July and August away. Each year, though, when September arrives I feel as though I can breathe a huge sigh of relief. Aaaah, another one over, and now for the gorgeous weather of fall. Warm days, clear, cooler nights. No more air-conditioner, we can sleep with the windows open and enjoy the fresh air.

 I can feel myself perking up day by day. Exercise, which had been a big challenge for me during the summer, becomes easier. I can get back into shape.  Treadmill? Check. Weights? Yep, gotta start again. Yoga? At least I can muddle through the summer with yoga. Joe and I will resume our walks on weekend mornings, definitely something to enjoy.

I feel like cooking again and my appetite picks back up. Rich, hearty soups, stews and casseroles. The smell of a chicken roasting in the oven. Mmmmmmmmm. Barbecue and salads are nice for about a month, but after that I get a little tired of the lighter fare and long for the cooler weather when food and its preparation becomes more of a pleasure for me.

Another reason to love fall: quilts! Not only is it nice to be able to put our many warm coverings to use, but I get the sewing bug again. Creative energy stirs and I have more ideas than I have time to create.  The neglected sewing machine gets brought back out and used almost daily when time allows. No matter that I have 3 quilts in line to be bound, that's what winter is for: sitting on the couch with a warm quilt on the lap, doing the hand-binding. After all, I never said I loved winter.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Never Let it be Said

This week I met with the pulmonary hypertension specialist who reviewed the exercise test I had done way back in June. Practically a distant memory, that, since the summer has been a very hot/humid one and I have had a viral infection for the past few weeks, both of which have taken quite a toll on my exercise tolerance. I'm in far worse shape now than I was when I had the testing done. Sisyphus has nothing on me; time to start rehabbing yet again and pushing that boulder back up the hill.

The test results were similar to the two previous ones in 2010 and 2011. My exercise tolerance is impaired, not just by the damage to my lungs, but also by my cardiovascualr system. Basically, my heart's ventricles don't contract properly while at exercise and the pressure in my pulmonary artery rises above normal. The combination of these things is what causes my need for supplemental oxygen when I exert myself.

My doctor asked if I'm happy with how I'm doing. I had to answer yes, but also asked if there was anything else we could try. There is an inhaled drug that would need to be nebulized three times a day which might have more effect; however, there were no guarantees. After weighing the time that would be necessary to add three additional treatments to my current 5, I decided that it wouldn't be worth going down that road until it's necessary. The oral medication is working well enough; sure, I'd like to be able to exercise without oxygen, but if the trade-off is more nebs, I'll pass.

The doctor did mention that I had put forth a great effort during the test, which was affirming.  Never let it be said that I didn't try my hardest, whether at an exercise test, being compliant with my treatments, or working hard to rehabilitate myself. At least there's that!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Life's Rich Pageant

Life is such an incredible journey. Everything we have experienced in the past leads us to where we are at the present moment, and these moments will, in turn, shape our future. Things that don't seem to be relevant at the time can help us down the road in ways we would never have dreamed. There's always something 'round the bend, just beyond our line of vision. At times we may get a glimpse of it and at other times it may come into full view, so clearly we will wonder how we had never seen it before.

Things seem to be coming together in an interesting way. Single events fit together like puzzle pieces and feel right. Past experiences that seemed unremarkable have taught me things that prove useful in current situations. I feel blissful and at peace. Amen.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Appreciating Impermanence

 Each one of the flowers pictured above is a perennial, meaning that it will return and re-bloom each year, for a few days to perhaps a week. Annuals, on the other hand, bloom for an entire summer, although they only last that one season.  Each has its benefits: the annuals provide reliable, long-lasting color whereas perennials return yearly, but only for a fleeting time.  

There are a few annuals in my garden, some nasturtiums and marigolds in the veggie garden and several pots with lobelia, alyssum and impatiens.  Annuals are nice, but my passion has always been with perennials. Such a stunning assortment of forms and colors! The trick, one I've yet to master, is to have a mixture of perennials that will provide constant bloom throughout the season.  Every year I learn more about each plant: where it will be happy, what other plants complement it and when it blooms. Eventually, I hope to have color everywhere in the gardens from spring to fall, using only perennials.

When each flower appears with its colorful beauty it would be easy to feel disappointment at the short time we are able to enjoy it, or frustration at the fact that it doesn't last longer.  Over the years I've learned that it's important to appreciate them while they are blossoming, but realize that they'll never last as long as I'd like. Nothing does, whether it be something good or something bad, a lesson that is important to keep in mind.

Monday, June 25, 2012

For Comparison's Sake

Compare and contrast the two below photos:

I'm not calling anyone obese, or even overweight, but I'll let the photos speak for themselves. 

How long will it take for Dexi to fill out? Millie has been with us for nearly 4 years and look at her.  Sure, a lot of it is fluff, but there is plenty of substance under the fur.  I'm sure Dex will fatten up, especially now that he has lost his hormonal........urges.  Sorry Dexi! 

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Finished Table

The finished result of the table refinishing project, it's being put to good use.
(Note the coaster under the water glass; Thanks Wilson, you're the best!)

Friday, June 22, 2012

Kitty Porn (aka Dexi's First Photo Shoot)

He'd been hanging around the neighborhood for weeks, scrounging a meal wherever he could.  I fed him as often as he came around, against my husband's wishes. Each time, he'd appear with a new ear injury or fresh wounds on his nose from a battle. I decided his life would be much easier if he was neutered and took measures to make an appointment for him with the local spay/neuter catmobile.  They insisted on a name before they'd neuter him and Dexter was all I could come up with on the spot.

Naturally, we couldn't just put him back outdoors immediately following the surgery, so he was confined to the 3-season porch. The girls were quite unhappy about this interloper and there was a lot of growling and hissing going on through the glass door that kept them apart.  Once his feline leukemia and FIV status was determined to be negative it seemed appropriate for them to meet; the hissing and growling was replaced by slinking and skulking around after him as he explored the house. He's a respectful house guest and keeps to himself. The girls keep an eye on him from a safe distance. 

He's very thin, weighing in at 4.5 kg (9.9 lbs) before he was neutered. We'll fatten the boy up in our house! Both Gracie and Millie, though considerably smaller in stature, weigh at least a couple pounds more. Dex is light as a feather to pick up, but I'm sure that won't last long. 

He's full of personality and I'm sure as he becomes more comfortable around the house he'll develop even more antics. For now he's a catnip junkie, eats everything in sight, loves to have his tummy rubbed and has the tiniest meow for such a big boy. The family is once again complete. <3

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Next on the List

A college graduate has very different needs than a younger student, particularly one who has worked in the IT department at school. Much more sophisticated computer equipment comes home,  and with it,  the need for more desk space. After many months of browsing Craigslist for a new desk, it became apparent that it wasn't a desk that was needed; we needed a table.  Preferably something older and a little funky.  No MDF board or veneer, something solid that would stand the test of time and be as good looking as it is useful. 

A table finally appeared that would fit the bill. It was located in Salem and the price was right: $40. Yes, it needed a little TLC, but it was solid wood, had a small leaf for expansion should the need arise and was in decent shape. Nothing a little sanding and urethane couldn't fix. 

Above are the "before" photos. The sanding turned out to be a bit more work than anticipated, but what's a few extra hours on something that will be so useful? Fortunately, the trestle-style bottom part of the table was unblemished and only needed a light sand and some oil. The top needed to be taken down to bare wood, but once it was, it looked amazing. The best part, for me anyway, is oiling the wood after the sanding is complete, when the grain stands out and looks so beautiful. After the oil sinks in for a day or so comes the urethane to protect the surface against moisture and spilled drinks. 

Forty dollars and a weekend later we have a beautiful multi-purpose table that will  be a useful as it is nice looking.  Perfect for computer equipment, sewing machines or as a kitchen table, I know it will see many years of use.  

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Rock the Boat Radio

I remember seeing the advertisements on TV when I was in high school, living in the middle of the state. It was the early '80's, a time of weird hairdos. Disco was dying and rock'n'roll or cheesy soft rock were the choices.  WFNX burst onto the scene offering alternative music, something I'd never heard of and wouldn't be able to tune into until I moved north of Boston a few years later for college.  It was a small radio station, located in a small city on the north shore, but it gave a voice to anything and everything deemed not mainstream.

An eclectic mix of music and radio programs, in it's earlier days there was a wine buyer who would discuss wines, a radio show called "1 in 10" discussing LGBT issues long before they became as mainstream as they are today, and the music was a mix of new artists and new wave/alternative rock. The Ramones, The Smiths, Nirvana, The Pixies and Smashing Pumpkins all were on WFNX before one or 2 of their songs made it to the rest of the stations. It was how I found out about new music for many years.

 I was hooked and it became my first choice radio station from college until today.  Sure, I'd flip around the dial when there was a song I really couldn't stand, or a long string of advertisements, but I'd always return.  Sadly, WFNX announced this week that they are shutting down, all the djs have been let go and they are being sold to Clearchannel.

I understand the business decision; along with everything else, radio is changing due to the digital age and the internet. Why listen through advertisements when you can create your own personal radio station on Pandora? I'm sad because it's the end of an era, a goodbye to djs I'd listened and become attached to over the years. One more small, independent company going the way of the dinosaurs.

I suppose as one gets older life is full of these changes. Progress brushes the things that are obsolete aside to make way for new, more efficient and exciting things. I understand that is the way things work and know there is reason for things being this way. And I think it is a good lesson to appreciate things they way they are today, for we have no idea what tomorrow and the day after tomorrow will be like. That's what keeps life exciting, interesting and new.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Rain, Rain, You're Ok

Many years ago I read  that it was better to take outdoor photos on a cloudy day, rather than a sunny one. The less intense light allowed the colors to be more true and less washed out. It had never occurred to me and seemed counterintuitive, until I actually tried it. The colors really were more vibrant. Since then, I've tried to get garden photos on cloudy days and just this spring found how beautiful things can be after it rains. 

It's true everyone loves a sunny day and after a week of rain our moods certainly do suffer. It's good to be reminded that even rainy days are good for something, even if it's just getting a few photos to be looked at on another, brilliantly bright day.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Good Morning, Sunshine

Show me a cat and I'll show you the best place in the house to sit. They always know where the warmest, coziest, most comfy places are. 

All that research is exhausting. Yawn.

A stretch, a few turns and back to doing what cats do best. Time for some serious zzzzzzzzzzzz's. 

Saturday, May 12, 2012


A non-gardener would think us completely crazy; today Joe and I emptied the back of my car, rounded up every available bucket, pail and rubbermaid container we could find and drove 45 minutes north to a horse farm in Boxford. Our quest? Horse manure!  Just look at this beautiful stuff:

I expected to need to roll the windows down on the ride home but the stuff is so well composted there wasn't any odor of dung; just a sweet, earthy smell of dirt. No need to Fabreze the car!

The raised beds are filled with peat moss, compost, soil, vermiculite. I added fresh compost from our bins this spring, but I really wanted some horse poo to amend the soil. After several false starts on Craig's List, I found a place that would give it away- free!  What's not to love?

The green lettuce is growing well, but for some reason the red lettuce is way behind, though the seeds were started at the same time. Hopefully with the newly added manure the red ones will take off and catch up with their green neighbors.

The broccoli is finally starting to increase in size and the carrot seeds have sprouted. Once they get a little bit bigger they'll need to be thinned out.

The garlic seems to be doing well; it's very difficult for me not to dig down to check on it.    A practice in patience......

A new bed added this spring. This year it has potatoes, which are still underground. This was the real reason I wanted to horse manure- to hill around the potatoes as they grow so they'll produce more tubers. The 4 containers have what's left of the manure, saved just for this purpose. 

This may be a yearly trek if there is a big difference in the amount of produce we get from the garden. And if the plants are half as happy as I am about the manure we'll be just fine. 

Friday, May 11, 2012

Changes in Latitude

 Although this past winter was incredibly easy, with record low snowfall, it seemed interminable in other ways. Prior to my surgery Joe and I promised ourselves that once I was recovered we were going to go somewhere relaxing, where we could just sit, read books and de-stress. In reality, it doesn't work that way, a trip doesn't magically erase a difficult situation, nor does it make everything ok. It does, however, give you something to anticipate, look forward to, and is a wonderful escape from the realities of everyday life.

As a rule, when we travel, we like to do a lot of walking, sightseeing and soak in as much of the area as possible. While stimulating, trips like that can be exhausting. It felt odd to go somewhere and just relax, we both struggled with not cramming our days full of adventures other than picking a place to dine and taking a morning walk along the beach with our coffees.

The beaches were gorgeous; unlike New England's coastline, the beaches were white-sanded and stretched on for miles, circling the entire circumference of the island. No harbors, inlets or bays, just one continuous, shell-covered beach. The shells were spectacular: pinks, peaches, glistening white, conch shells (very difficult to find a good one that wasn't inhabited) and even a starfish.

The water was warm enough for swimming, feeling like bath water compared to our icy north Atlantic. Our first day on the beach we saw several people pointing to a spot in the water near the shore. A fin! To our shock and amazement people started swimming towards it- even running from the beach into the water! After a second we realized it was a dolphin- up north when someone sees a fin there is a mass exodus from the waves and plenty of screaming, for it's a shark. 

 We were fortunate enough to be able to see a snowy egret, a little blue heron, which we were told would most likely be extinct by the end of our generation, pelicans, as well as ospreys.  An experienced birder pointed out a little screech owl in the bushes, which we were lucky to see. 


 The sunsets were spectacular. We dined at a spot called the Sunset Grille one evening, which was delicious.  After the meal we were able to walk across the street and watch the sun sink below the line of the horizon.

No, a vacation can't erase experiences we view as negative, but it can provide a welcome diversion and some unforgettable sights. How very lucky we are to have so many beautiful places in the world. 

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Patience Revisited

A busy medical week in that I had an exercise evaluation at MGH on Tuesday to assess how I'm doing after the surgery and see what modifications I can make to my exercise regimen.  The 6-minute walk test revealed that I'm actually doing better than I had thought, especially just 45 days after surgery. I walked a total of 605m in 6 minutes which put my pace at 3.7 mph. (Why the distance is measured in meters and the pace in mph rather than km, I'll never know) The bad news was that my O2 saturation went down to 86 on 3L of oxygen during the test, but still, no different than I had been 2 years ago, which was good.

The PT was quite pleased with how I'm doing, all things considered. It was suggested that I continue with the treadmill, start up at yoga again (yay!!!) and give it more time before re-incorporating strength training. My frustration had been that I was capable of doing both treadmill and weights, but then I'd be wiped out for days on end afterwards. Turns out I was rushing things a bit too much and need to give it several more weeks. I was also instructed to spot check my O2 sat more frequently when out and about (not just on the treadmill) to ensure my sats don't drop below 90, which will worsen the pulmonary hypertension. That's something I'd rather avoid.

Given the go ahead to return to yoga, I started back yesterday and was happy it didn't feel as difficult as I had anticipated. I've lost a fair amount of flexibility and strength, but know after a few weeks it will be much better. Patience! That has been my biggest challenge these past few months and something I need to work on developing much more of.

So, the weights will need to wait, but hopefully by summer I'll be  back into them and regain my strength. I'm so accustomed to recovering from a medical illness that this surgical experience has been quite a surprise in that it's so much slower-paced. Just another life lesson that things can't be rushed, they need to happen in their own time and that our minds are not the masters of our bodies.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Early Spring

There have been years when there has still been snow covering the ground well into the first weeks of April so to have daffodils blooming during the third week in March is a first in the 20 years we've lived in our home.  The 70's of last week are gone but the warm temperatures rushed things along and the forsythia have already bloomed. Now that we're back into the 40's Mother nature has reverted back to her usual pace.

I saved some garlic from the farmer's market and planted it last fall; it is up and growing well.  I ordered 3 different types of potatoes which arrived this week and are now chitting on the 3-season porch, to help them grow more quickly once they are placed in the ground. The onions that came with the order are already in the soil. Last year I learned that onions need the cool temps of early spring in order to grow roots. When planted too late they will sprout but not increase in size. Live and learn!

I love the blue of the scilla which bloom in large clumps around the yard. I'm fortunate that the previous owner of the home was a wonderful plantswoman; she had quite a number of shrubs, perennials and bulbs planted in the gardens.

Scilla siberica

White peony shoots. I love the way they look like hands reaching for the sky

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Another Chair Affair

I found this chair on Craigslist over the winter and thought the lines were pretty in addition to the price being right. I didn't care for the upholstery but planed to change it. Yesterday was that day. 

The worst part, as in the previous chair, was the removal of the old upholstery and staples, which took up most of the morning and early afternoon. First the back and arm pads were replaced:

I thought I might stop there and finish the next day, but once a project is begun I have a difficult time putting it aside. The seat went more quickly, possibly because I had a system down. I'm happy with the finished product and like the colors so much more than the original, which looked very blah in our bedroom. Now we have a perfect reading chair!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Our Bodies, Ourselves

Wherever you go, there you are. - Unknown

"Emancipate yourself from mental slavery, none but ourselves can free our minds" - Bob Marley

This post has been a very long time in coming. There is a bottleneck somewhere in my mind and although there is much to say, the words are squeezed together and stuck; some things I'm still figuring out. Maybe if I start the process, whether or not it makes sense, things will start to flow again.

In the past 2 months the foundation of my world has been shaken; I've always thought myself fairly grounded but I felt as though I completely lost my footing and all the coming to terms I'd done with my mortality went out the window. If not for Joe, Wilson, my parents and close friends I wouldn't have had the strength to manage.  In the past, when recovering from  a health decline or crisis I've felt moments of gratitude, a special heightened awareness and appreciation for life, but the times were fleeting and once I was recovered that heightened awareness would dwindle.

Not this time; I feel so thankful and also much more aware of the fragility of life. Everyone who survives a shock says the same thing, "Life can change in a second, you just never know". One moment things are fine, you are going about your day and the next your world is upside down. Yet somehow nothing has changed. It's a trick to incorporate the new information into your world, learn and grow from it, allow it to make you a better person. That's what I'm still working on.

Regardless of what our bodies go through, we are in charge of our minds. We are the only ones who can decide whether we will be prisoners of our physical bodies or if we can break the bonds of our mental slavery and rise above it all.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

With Heavy Heart

There are far better photos of Gomer than this one, but this was the one that jumped out at me when I was searching through the archives in order to write this blog.  He loved to be cozy and wrapped up in a tight space, so much so that when he was younger he broke several fabric-lined baskets by trying to squeeze his large bod into them.  Over the past few months he divided his time between an undersized bed by the radiator and "his" bed in the living room.  Both cozy fur-lined cups that he was able to snuggle down into, providing a cozy nest, which he loved.

Sunday night at 11pm our sweet Biggin was euthanized after a long, happy and adventurous life.  He was 17 and showing his age over the past year; a seizure Sunday afternoon was the definitive sign we needed. The frightened look in his eyes following the seizure helped us know that he didn't want to be put through that again. His devoted vet met us at the office at 10:45 pm just so we didn't have to put him through another night. A final act of above and beyond kindness after many years of care.

I've written of the manipulation we used on Joe to adopt him so I won't belabor that story. Suffice to say I'm glad we gave him an additional 16 years that he wouldn't have otherwise had if he had stayed at the shelter. He loved the outdoors, both he and Benji bolting like racehorses out of the starting gate first thing in the morning. If it was still dark, all the better, there would hopefully be some night creatures to chase.  Even in his last year, weather permitting, he would always do one lap around the yard, sniffing a bush here, marking another there, to warn off any trespassers. His favorite spot to sleep was on the side kitchen steps where the sun shone the longest and warmed him even on a chilly day.

He had enough personality for several cats. Before he became arthritic, he used to love to ride around on Wilson's shoulders, draped like a feline stole. It required a heavy barn jacket to protect him from Gomer's unintentional scratches; he was just trying to hold on. He was a snugly lap cat, deciding from the moment we brought him home from the shelter that Wilson was "his" human; he slept on Wilson's bed at night from his adoption during Wilson's kindergarten until the time he left for college.  He was always overjoyed and had plenty of greeting meows and purrs each time Wilson came home for a visit or vacation. The buddies were reunited again.

This morning the house seems strangely quiet without his occasional loud meows and the click of his nails on the hardwood. When I go into the office to use the vest, my eyes immediately go to the place he slept by the radiator, only to see bare floor and no Gomer.
I'm thankful to have the girls to distract me from his absence, but know that they won't be able to fill the space left now that he is gone. There will never be another like him, nor would I want there to be.  We had great years together and this really feels like the end of an era, but I'd do it all over again in a heartbeat. Rest easy, sweet Gomer. I'll always miss you.

Friday, January 6, 2012

More Machine Makeovers

                                                                         The Before:

1904 Singer 66:  Before soaking the bobbin mechanism in Evapo-rust. The machine worked, but was noisy and looked pretty grungy.

The After:
After a good soak and some polishing with metal cleaner the parts are restored back to their shiny condition and the sewing is much quieter.

Another example of what this cleaner can do: the knob on the left was soaked overnight and polished; the one on the right was just polished. I was shocked to see the difference! You can bet I'm soaking all 4 overnight tonight. The cabinet is going to be real purty once the drawers are urethaned and put back on. 

The Before:

1951 Singer 15-91
A great gear-driven machine that will sew through practically anything, it leaves a little bit to be desired in the looks department. The decals on the front of the bed have been worn away from so much use.

The stitch-length indicator's numbers have been rubbed off and the plate is scratched and dull. 

The After:

Stitches per inch are once again visible after many unsuccessful tries at repainting the plate. Who knew spray paint wouldn't stick to galvanized steel? And who knew the plate was galvanized steel in the first place? Well, now I do.

Repainted bed of the machine with brand-spankin' new decals. Thankfully, spray paint sticks to cast iron. It's not perfect but it is much better and I'm pleased with the results!