Friday, May 30

Gardening season

The weather has finally warmed up enough for gardening season. Here's a picture of my rhododendron blooming. Last weekend, I spent a lot of time outside weeding and planting. Even though I wore a hat and stayed out of the sun as much as possible, I still managed to sunburn my arms and the top of my feet. I'm so fair skinned that I freckle, burn and peel. Hubby turns brown. I've had to stay inside all week out of the sun. The sunburn is finally fading. Today, I bought some sunscreen.

Hubby has the garden tilled, the beds laid out, and started planting potatoes and other things. Then we have to get some mulch down to keep the weeds from coming back and taking over. I hate weeding! (especially when it's 90 degrees outside) Our next door neighbors are helping with the work for a share of the harvest. I don't mind sharing the work at all!

We garden organically. That means we use no chemical pesticides, herbicides or fertilizers (not on our grass either). If we have a bug problem, we pick them off by hand. (I do it with gloves on.) :-) Our compost bin is where we put our grass clippings, vegetable and fruit scraps, coffee grounds, and egg shells. Done correctly, it doesn't smell at all. Over time these waste products break down into the most incredibly rich soil. We use it to enrich our garden. It makes our plants grow like crazy.

We order our garden seeds while the snow is still on the ground. Start our tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, cabbages, etc. inside 6 weeks before the last frost date. We like to grow heirlooms or other varieties with great flavor. No store bought sets for us (if you can even find them anymore). Once the plants are hardened off so they are used to being outside, they are planted in the garden. Other things such as summer squash are direct seeded.

With so much wildlife in our area, it is a challenge to have a garden. Critters don't like to share. The deer ate 98% of our cucumbers last year. No fair! This year, I've planted them up by the house. I don't think they will bother them up by the house. We make tall wire cages to grow the cucumbers up. It is much easier to pick them and they take up a lot less space.

In the garden we cage our tomatoes and summer squash. Otherwise, the ground hog would eat them. He knocked over the cages around our brussels sprouts last year and ate them down to the ground. One of our neighbors has already had his broccoli plants nibbled to the ground by this hungry pest. We've found that caging individual plants works better than fencing the entire garden. Ground hogs dig under fences. With small cages, they don't do that. That said, we may put a tall fence around the garden next year. It would have to be tall enough to keep the deer out and fixed deep enough in the ground to keep the ground hog from digging in. We'd love to grow sweet corn again. You haven't had sweet corn until you've had it fresh from the garden. It's sweet as sugar! We can't grow it again until we have a way to keep the raccoons out of the garden.

I'm already dreaming of fresh summer squash -- zucchini, patty pans, crooknecks, etc. Over the years I've come up with or found a lot of good recipes to use them in main dishes, salads, and desserts. When we start to harvest them, I'll probably share a few with you.

Friday, May 23

Yarns Unlimited

I've been out of town for a couple of days this week. Hubby had to go to Bloomington, Indiana for some training for work. I got to tag along. We arrived on Monday evening in the dark and pouring rain. The weather was much better on Tuesday. It was sunny and a little chilly.

While hubby was in class, I spent a couple of very pleasant hours at Yarns Unlimited. It's not very far from the IU campus where we stayed at the Biddle Conference Center in the Memorial Union Building (see picture).

Yarns Unlimited is in the Fountain Square Mall right off the downtown courthouse square. Suzanne Halvorson owns the shop. (That's her behind the cash register ringing up my purchases.) She's a very talented weaver. I saw some of her gorgeous scarves for sale in the gallery in the mall.

The shop stocks lots of nice yarns for both knitting and weaving. You can even buy looms and spinning wheels and some spinning fiber.

I had a good browse through her inventory and managed to bring part of it home with me. LOL! I just missed the Habu trunk show at the shop. (Sorry I missed that.) She had some yarn left from that and was expecting more. For the first time I got to see the new Noro sock yarn. Suzanne had four colorways in it. I treated myself to a skein of gray and purple. Though knowing me, I doubt I'll knit socks out of it. She had some huge 8 ounce hanks of organic cotton yarn in natural grown colors, not dyed. I resisted those even though I was severely tempted. She has bamboo yarn on the cone that you can buy by the ounce. And lots of hand dyed yarns in many fibers from Robin Edmundson, a local spinner and dyer. Suzanne is the only shop that carries her yarn. Otherwise, you have to buy through her website or at a fiber festival.

If you're in the area, please stop in and visit. Tell her Vicki sent you. :-)

Sunday, May 18

Twirly Q Scarf to crochet

As promised, here's a picture of the crocheted scarf I made. It's a crocheted version of the knitted curly scarves that are so popular. Fast and easy to make!

I used 2 skeins of a two-color, light worsted weight boucle I picked up for $1 a skein from Big Lots. It's Premier Yarns Babe (83% acrylic/15% Polyamide/2% polyester) with 82 yards per skein. The yarn label calls this a bulky weight yarn but it isn't.

Crocheted Twirly Q Scarf

Finished size: 3" wide x 54" long

Light worsted weight - 164 yards/100 gms
Crochet hook size H (5.0 mm)

Pattern is available as a free download through my Ravelry pattern store.

Sunday, May 11

Feeling better

Sorry, I've been absent for so long. I have really been whomped with allergy and sinus problems. I am feeling much better and my energy level is rising again.

I haven't felt much like knitting or spinning lately. My crochet hook has come out. I crocheted a twirly scarf out of some orange and white DK boucle yarn I had in my stash. I have to say it was much faster to crochet one of these than to knit it. I'll send it off to Scarves for the Heart. I have several scarves ready to mail to them again. I'll try to get a picture up of it.

I retrieved a huge bag of acrylic yarn from the basement. It is not so great yarn I had double stranded and rolled into big balls. I had planned to knit cage cozies for Pet Refuge with it at one time. It's been sitting on a shelf in the basement for several years. I decided I'd rather crochet some big throw rugs out of it. I started an oval shaped one yesterday.

I've been playing with an idea for a knitted lace scarf. I don't like how it's knitting up so I've shelved it for the moment.

Friday, I helped my mom run a garage sale at her house. I had planned to take a bunch of stuff over for it. Then I got sick and didn't have time to sort it out. The weather wasn't bad for it. It was a little chilly with some sun and clouds. At least it didn't rain. :-)

Yesterday, I felt good enough to go outside and trim the dead stuff off of my wisteria, rose bushes, hydrangea, and forsythia. The flower beds still need to be cleaned out. My next door neighbor, Paula, loves to garden. She wants to help me clean out the beds. She cleaned out two of them while we were gone to the wedding last week. It was a very pleasant surprise! It's so nice to have good neighbors. Hubby got part of our vegetable garden tilled too.

Today, I went to my mom's with her a Mother's Day card and gift. I also helped her box up some of the garage sale leftovers. Hubby and I brought took some of it and dropped it off at the Goodwill box.

Here's a couple of pictures from the wedding last weekend. I knew I wasn't feeling great that day. I didn't know how bad until I looked at this picture. Can you see the dazed expression on my face? LOL! You can see a little of the dress I shopped so long to find. That's my SIL Dana on the right. Hubby was all tricked out in a tux as an usher for the wedding. Isn't he handsome? Still makes my heart skip a beat when I see him all dressed up like that. He tells me that it will be our 16th wedding anniversary this week. It certainly doesn't seem like that long ago that we said "I do." :-)

Sunday, May 4

It's all in my head -- literally!

First off, I did make the wedding and part of the reception yesterday. It was a struggle as I was still far from well. I'm glad I went as it allowed hubby and I to finally figure out what's been making me so sick.

My resistance was down from the stress from getting ready for the wedding to the three (stressful) medical appointments I had scheduled in one week. Toss in seasonal allergies with everything blooming, the up-and-down temperatures we've been having in northern Indiana, and I was ripe for something. It started with a scratchy allergy throat on Friday and turned into a sore and swollen throat overnight. I had a rough weekend. By Tuesday morning I felt better. I even managed a trip to the store for much needed groceries. I decided to buy a box of those new tissues that are laced with Vicks and lotion. After I started using them, my head stopped up and started hurting. My nose began to run and coughing commenced. By Tuesday night, I discovered I had lost both my sense of smell and taste as I was cooking dinner. Do you know how difficult it is to cook and season food when you can't taste or smell it?

I moved to the sofa that night to sleep sitting up. Lying down was a no-go. By Wednesday morning I was a mess. This was odd, as only 24 hours previously I was doing better. Why was I getting worse? I called my doctor's office. I couldn't get an appointment until Friday so I asked to talk to one of the nurses. I repeated my symptoms to her and answered her questions. No, I didn't have any swollen glands or any fever. She told me to keep taking decongestants, Tylenol, and drinking lots of fluids. I didn't met the criteria for antibiotics or any other treatment. I had to tough it out.

It puzzled me that I had no fever. I took my temperature several times and it was always BELOW normal. This is consistent with my allergy problems though this was clearly unlike any allergy or sinus flareup I've ever had. The allergy throat that started all this had cleared up. What was going on?

Thursday, hubby was off from work. He took me out for lunch to get me out of the house. While we were out we ran a few errands. I'd been feeling a bit house bound from being sick and was happy to get out for a while. Phil picked up his rented tuxedo for the wedding. By Thursday night I began having spastic coughing fits and had nearly lost my voice. I was beginning to be a little frightened by my changing symptoms. I only felt bad from the neck up. My symptoms seemed to indicate that I had an infection though I had no fever. It didn't make any sense.

Friday, I got up feeling nasty again. It had been a week already since I got sick and I was not getting better. The hacking fits continued with my head alternating between stopped up, hurting, and draining like crazy. I had given up using the new tissues. Odd, now I could smell and taste things again. My other symptoms were not getting any better. Phil went to the wedding rehearsal in the evening without me. He came home afterwards instead of going on to the rehearsal dinner.

Yesterday, I got up feeling awful. After doing no more than wrapping the wedding gift and taking a shower, I was exhausted. Still, I decided to chance attending the wedding armed with tissues, cough drops, and a bottle of water. At the church, I was surprised when my head cleared up and I stopped coughing. We went on to the reception and I was still ok. Fresh flowers and burning candles didn't bother me. I told my SIL Dana that I had bought a box of the new tissues. She told me she can't use them because of her asthma. In the meantime, Phil and his brother, Peter, were complaining about unpleasant odors coming from their rented tuxedos.

Hubby and I came home from the reception about 9 pm. I had held up amazingly well. I was tired but not feeling too badly. I wasn't home long before my head stopped up, started hurting, and I began coughing again.

I didn't get it. I felt better the whole time I was not at home. No coughing, no sneezing, no congestion, no headache, etc. When I got home, all my symptoms returned. Something had to be going on. Both of us smelled an odd odor when we walked into the house. We started talking about what could be causing this. Our conclusion: a box of Vicks laced tissues and a stinky tuxedo. Both things were outgassing some kind of chemical nose and lung irritants into the air of our home. After banning both items to the garage, we uncovered the attic fan, opened the windows, and thoroughly aired the house out. Wow! My head was already feeling better. I was able to sleep lying down for the first time in days.

I feel better today than I have in over a week. Though it will probably take a few days for my ravaged sinuses to clear up and my voice to come back. Phil returned his tuxedo to the rental place. He told them about the smells coming from it and how it had affected both of us. Yes, it wasn't just me. Phil was coughing and sneezing around it too. I may contact the company who makes those tissues to let them know how sick they made me. They should be removed from the market. I will also let my doctor know what happened.

The dictionary defines allergies as: "an exaggerated or pathological reaction (as by sneezing, respiratory embarrassment [difficulties], itching, or skin rashes) to substances, situations, or physical states that are without comparable effect on the average individual." Allergies are no joke. People who don't have them don't understand. Some make fun of us who have them or tell us it's all in our heads. It isn't.