Just For Fun is my way of sharing all the little things I like to do... from crafty things to thoughtful things!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

To Eat... or Not To Eat?

Time for an update on allergies, asthma, and my inability to fix them.

A little background for those of you who missed it...  Over the last few years my allergies (and therefore my asthma) have gotten a little bit worse each year.  Worse to the point that it stopped me from doing every day things like sweeping the floor or planting flowers in the garden or visiting my grandson on a windy day.  Worse to the point where my winter respiratory infection was counted in months, not days or even weeks.  Worse to the point where prednisone became my best friend as well as an enemy.

I had lots of appointments and regime adjustments from my doc, and I tried new ideas that friends and family have found helpful... like Oolong tea which unfortunately didn't work for me.  There is no new miraculous allergy medicine I haven't tried, no alternative medicine I haven't tried, no completely whacked out theory I have not at least considered trying (and many I did!)... and trust me, folks have come up with a LOT of suggestions.  I think those bases have been well covered.

Doc tried to get my insurance company to cover Xolair, a medication designed for people with allergic asthma.  We're still arguing the point, but they've refused to cover it because I am too allergic for their dosage table.  Yes, I am 'off the scale' again in that my IgE is too high for their recommended dosage.  What this really means is that to be effective against my high IgE they'd have to give me a larger dose than safely recommended, and that is enough for the insurance company to say no.  Since I would need a dose once or twice a month for the rest of my life, at about $2,500 a pop... well let's just say that ain't happening!

In December, in an attempt to ward off the dreaded winter infection, I started to avoid food allergens.  I felt SO much better avoiding the foods that cause allergic reactions for me.  It was amazing, I felt like I had regained 20 years worth of energy.  I was inspired!  At least until mid January when the dreaded winter infection reared it's ugly head.  That infection lasted until the last week of March. 

So, even though I felt better, staying away from food allergens did nothing to stave off the annual winter respiratory infection, and prednisone was once again my best friend.  Like a lot of folks with allergic asthma I have two dosages for prednisone... a two day emergency or prophylactic dose for when I have a sudden allergy issue, or when I know I will have a sudden allergy issue (like visiting friends and family in Phoenix with pollution, pets, and pecan trees)... and a ten day 'let's kick some ass' dose for when the asthma has been engaged and we really have to take control. 

During my recovery from the winter infection, I was on prednisone more than I was off it and that is problematic in that situation.  So, the asthma improved and I could breathe (friend) but it also reduced my ability to fight the infection (enemy).  I was hungry all the time, but I couldn't eat without making myself sicker from allergic reactions.  The overall inflammation in my body was reduced, but bumps and bruises took forever to heal, my face got rounder, my skin got redder, my vitamin D and other nutrient levels got perilously low.  I got an amazing amount of crocheting done (take a look at the blog archives!), but only because I wasn't well enough to actually get up and do anything and I also could not sleep.  Long term prednisone has other more serious side effects as well so it really is a double edged sword, and it is becoming an integral part of my life. 

During this time I also did a lot of experimenting with allergy free foods.  I didn't find many.  In fact, I found that I had worse reactions to many of the recommended alternatives than I had to the original food allergen.  A great example is grains.  Wheat and corn bother me, I get hives and if I eat them every day I can tell it aggravates my asthma.  But, rice flour put me into anaphylaxis, as did rye, millet, and every other grain I tried, even mesquite flour.  So what do I do?  Avoid them all or go back to the wheat and corn that bothered me, but on a lesser scale?  Your guess is as good as mine.

I have a catch-22 now.  Do I avoid all the foods I know cause reactions?  I've come to the realization that I can't.  I can't because I literally starve myself.  Doc hooked me up with a nutritionist to try to find an answer to this dilemma, and it turns out that I am only getting about 900 calories per day if I avoid 95% of my known allergens.  You may think 'great!  lose some weight!' but that's not what happens.  What happens is that your body thinks it's starving, and it actually holds on to each and every calorie in case it gets even less calories tomorrow.  After 4 months, I've not lost any actual weight at all, even though I have lost inches because the out of control inflammation is down.

In working with the nutritionist, I've learned that my biggest issue is not protein at all as I get plenty of that from the beans and quinoa... but overall calories and in particular, calories from fat and healthy carbohydrates like those found in whole grains.  According to her, I need to consume 2100 calories per day in order to lose 5 pounds of weight per week (because of my size, age, etc).  More than double what I normally eat in a regular day.  So... those horrible, mind altering cravings I was having every few days?  Starvation.  My body refusing to use it's stores (of which there are plenty!) and driving me to find some real food, right now.  The lethargy?  Starvation.  Complete and utter lack of the nutrients needed for 'get up and go'.  The insomnia?  Starva... no wait, that's still the prednisone.

My task now is to find the balance between avoiding allergens, using prednisone to counter allergic inflammation, and getting the nutrients I need to get and keep my body moving.  It means eating something every day that I know is going to make me sick.  It means giving up on the idea that I will ever feel really great again.  It means I have to continue to apologize about bringing my own food to parties, even though it IS in a stylish crocheted bag.  But it also means that if I plan it right, I might actually be able to eat something just because it's delicious once in a while... and that may have to be enough.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Color me... well... colorful!

Most of you already know how proud I am of my daughter Christy.  She graduates from NAU in two weeks with her degree in education, emphasis (or whatever!) on special education.  It's been a long and busy road for her to get here.  She could have given up on it a bazillion times over the last few years, but she didn't. 
Christy is pretty patient with me and my little projects.  She lets me experiment on her with bag sizes, yarns, weird strap configurations... and she's learning to give me honest feedback on what works and what doesn't.

In celebration of both of these points, I made the ultimate Teacher Tote for her.  In her retro 1969 heart, we all still have harvest gold appliances in our kitchens and flowers in our hair so I thought this "flower power" beach tote pattern might fit the bill.  The pattern called for bright summery pinks and blues but anyone who knows Christy, knows the autumn colors are her favorites.  Here we are... with autumn flower power!
The inside is just as groovy.  Big pockets on both sides, and smaller pockets on both ends.  I even made one out of a flower power square thinking that in a bag that size, there needs to be one for essentials like keys that catches your eye among all the stuff.  :oP
It's hard to tell in the photos, but the lining is actually two layers of fabric with a layer of buckram in between.  Buckram is the material ladies used to use 75 years ago when they made their handbags.  even though it is made of cotton, it is stiff enough to hold it's shape and in fact, makes this tote stand up all by itself... it's magic stuff!

My aim while taking pictures of myself is horrible... but at least this gives you an idea of the size of this Teacher Tote.  Christy... you're gonna haul a lot of teacher crap with this one!!!

Still in a flowery sort of mood, I decided to try my hand at cotton thread.  I used thread for some small projects years ago and decided it was just too tiny to work with. 
But recently I wanted to give it another try after seeing this rose doily on Ravelry.  It's pretty darn colorful, isn't it?

I cheated a little bit and used size 3 thread (the biggest size for thread).  It's about the size of embroidery floss before you separate the strands.  It is being 'blocked' in this first photo.  Blocking is the process of washing and shaping an item.  Once dry, it will lay flat and hold it's shape.

Here's what it looks like actually on the table... with my chocolate easter bunny.

Next I was looking for a simpler project after all that tiny counting. I asked Amanda if I could make something for her and she asked for a black or red tote.  I decided to use black nylon because it will wear well.  Nylon cord is just nylon utility rope on a finer scale.  It doesn't have as much stretch as yarn and should take a pretty good beating.

I also used two strands of the same cotton thread I used on the flowers to make the red strappy bag.  It's a good size for hands free phone and cash carrying, and gave me an excuse to try a vintage bag pattern from the 1940's.  Ok, so I altered it a little bit!

That said... there will be more vintage pattern projects coming soon!

In order to remain guilt free however, I have to work through some of my leftover yarn stash.  First on the list is some great lilac leftover from Megan's make up tote.  I decided to practice a cross stitch and made this durable but cute bag.
Then.. there is the first lilac yarn I bought, that ended up being waaaaay too soft for what I had in mind. I turned it into a cute butterfly cap, shrug and purse combination. Yes, I know it looks like a skirt, but trust me... it's a shrug (goes around the shoulders)! The lacy look comes from a stitch called 'love knot'.

And after all that... all I can say now is that I need a life  Good thing the racing season started Saturday!  (um, oh yeah, I also made a black and white tote to match my racing hat - but no photo.  I think this is enough!)

Monday, April 18, 2011

The grooviest robots you've ever seen... and goats?!

If you've been keeping track, you know that I had one more set of 'baby stuff' to give before I could post photos.... and without further ado... here it is!  Angie and KC had everyone to their new house over the weekend.  Not only is the house wonderful, but it is unique - which is hard to find these days.  They are expecting their first child in May. 

I sent them a crocheted cotton 'worry blanket' a couple of months ago and consequently, a little birdie mentioned that KC likes robots.

Since they had the cotton blanket already, I decided to make a simple quilt out of cool cotton fabric and a light layer of batting. 

So I did.  But then I saw the fleece!  So I did.  :oP 

I just trimmed up the edges and added a soft crocheted edging to the fleece, and now they have cool and warm versions of robot blankets. 

 These robots reminded me of "Robot" from "Lost in Space" with the wild arms waving 'danger, Will Robinson!" but as if the Brady Bunch had taken them over and made them groovy.  (Again, I live for the laugh - and they crack me up!)  These are not the serious kind of robot like Gort!

I also couldn't resist my attempt at a crocheted robot and rocket ship.  It's hard to add features when you don't want them to be a swallow hazard.  I think they ended up ok, even though it wasn't exactly what I had in mind originally.  Add the traditional cap and booties, and a robot bib, and the set is complete.

This week I finished a project for Donna, the kindergarten teacher.  Each year, her class does a project about The Three Billy Goats Gruff. 

You all remember the story, three goats have to cross a bridge guarded by a cranky troll.  (Not far off The Three Brothers for Potter fans!)  They listen to the story, make stick puppets to tell the story at home, and they also get to act out the story as well.

The goats are basic beanies with horns and ears attached, and just a little chin fringe when the ties are tied.  Can you imagine those cute little faces in there?

The troll is a cone shaped hat with some seaming for scrunchiness.. and a red furry beard.  I hope I made the beard long enough to drop below the kid's actual chins because that stuff tickles.  They'll be giggling the whole time and what sort of troll does that?! 

Hopefully Donna will be able to share a photo of the hats with kids actually in them someday...

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Just a victim of a short attention span!

I admit it.  I am still recovering from my sweater project.  I want instant gratification, and I want it NOW (in my best Veruca Salt whine)!  As a consequence of my short attention span, this week was full of small but fun projects.
 The most fun this week was my grandson's 5th birthday party. He liked the superhero capes, and wore one or the other most of the day.  I loved seeing the corners peeking out from under his coat when he went outside to play.

I also had a great time sharing my projects with anyone who would give me the time of day (as usual) and volunteered to make some red slippers for Mitz, Andrew's 92 year old grandmother.  They're in the mail!

It was a great week for booties.  The purple and orange ones are in the team colors for our pro basketball team the Phoenix Suns.  They should be available at Blueberry Deluxe soon. 

I also made a handful of pocket and belt loop purses to finish up the variegated yarn on hand.  I find these to be the most relaxing to make because they work up so quickly... but you don't need to see them ALL here!  :oP  Donna agreed to try a couple out and let me know if I should make any adjustments to my patterns.  For now, I'll throw the rest of them in the box for the craft booth I'll have 'someday'.

And now for something completely different, I have a fun link to share!  Twinkie Chan is a pattern designer with a special focus on fun food.  Her tag line is 'eat your cake and wear it too'.   Of course, around here that could mean you are just inviting frosting in your hair... but this week it meant this adorable cupcake hat!

I must admit, this was my crochet laugh of the week.  This particular hat is in toddler size so I cannot model it for you... but rest assured that one in my size WILL exist soon.

It's hard to see the frosting yarn detail in the photo, but it is ever so slightly pink with pink, purple and blue sprinkles.  It looks a lot like peppermint crunch ice cream!

And chocolate cake... mmmm.  Since I can't eat it, I'm going to wear it!  I love how the pattern recreates the swirls in the frosting and the crinkles in the cake from the cupcake liner.

Last but not least... Hogwarts on Ravelry had a weekly challenge to make something Luna Lovegood might enjoy. 

I made my version of her nargle repelling butterbeer cork necklace.

I'd been saving this cork for this purpose because of it's unique shape, and this was the motivation I needed to finish it up. It has a gold filigree shank button glued into the bottom of the cork, and I used my macrame knotting skills to attach pale green crochet thread.

I'll be wearing this one all week.... just to get in the mood for Deathly Hallows pt1 on dvd this Friday!  I can't wait.

Extra points to Steve for realizing it will be Potter Friday!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

A sweater by any other name...

Ta-dah! Yes I finally got around to finishing my Molly Weasley inspired 'coat of many colors' sweater. Crazy, isn't it?! Crazy but fun!

I had been putting this off because it was such a large project, and it feels good to be done with it.

The body of the sweater is a simple shell stitch with a simple sc edging (I like things nice and open at the neck).  I made it 'car coat' length which means it hits about mid-thigh instead of at the hip.  Being tall and wide, that length works better for me.

The sleeves are a trip.  I am fascinated by the colors and patterns, but I'm not sure I can wear the sweater for long periods because they get in the way of EVERYthing!  Frankly, I don't know how Molly does it.

I also made this makeup bag for Megan, who will be celebrating her birthday along with Topher this Saturday.  Her big sister Brianna said she needed something to carry around all the makeup she's been collecting and I think this might fit the bill.

It's actually about the size of the 'caboodles' my daughters had at that age, and I love the daisy beads as a button.  With a little bit of yarn leftover, I made a matching 'pocket purse' which is just big enough for a couple dollars and a lip balm.  Perfect for the movies or a mall crawl.

Lastly, in the pocket purse mood, I decided on more!

The first and second from the left are Hobby Lobby brand yarns I have not worked with before.  I'm happy with the weight of the yarn and the resulting fabric.  I may have to try some larger projects with it now.

The last one is actually a spring colored nylon and not yarn at all (think thin nylon rope).  Nylon wears like crazy but is not as soft.  That makes it great for projects that need to take a beating like bags.  I'm still experimenting.

I'm now working some baby cowboy boots and sneakers in hopes of being able to sell a few at Blueberry Deluxe.  Blueberry is a unique boutique in downtown Phoenix that specializes in vintage items as well as 'one of a kind' items.  If you are in the neighborhood, stop by and say hello to proprietress Jessica, who is a long time friend of my oldest Christy.

I am learning (again) that I enjoy crocheting for fun a lot more than crocheting something on a deadline... but we'll see what happens!