Tuesday, October 31, 2006

a party and a baby

I finished the baby sweater for the lady down the hall...I really like this pattern - it's neat how all the parts come together...and it involves very little sewing. Woo hoo! I'd make it again, except perhaps not with so much garter stitch... I even wasn't too put off when I realized I was 75% with one half of one sleeve, but it was pointing the wrong way! Didn't take very long at all to get back to where I had messed up.

This past Sunday was My Knitting Party, and I'm embarrassed to say that I have zero pictures of it. ...Hm. But truly, a gaggle of ladies did show up to my apartment, where they were all greeted with the welcoming smell of mulled cider - thanks to my awesome friend Jen (who also cleaned my kitchen...) and her Wonderful New England Ways - and a little somethin-somethin in a bag. As a knitter (or maybe just as myself), I have found that you can never have too many bags in which to put projects and stuff and yarn that will someday be a project. So, everyone got a little bag stuffed with some practice yarn, some fun yarn to make a scarf or something like that, a pair of needles, and half a tree's worth of papers I put together with resources for knitting help, books, magazines, stores, and free patterns.

During the party we made stitch markers (can I just say THANK YOU to Target, who just happened to have not only those cute bags, but also tons of fun beads in their dollar section when I dropped in on Friday. Yeah, Friday... ...I don't plan ahead quite as much as I should.) with the help of needle-nosed pliers and those little rings you use to make wine glass charms that you can buy in the wedding section of Michaels or JoAnn (in case you want to give it a shot yourself. I for one am very glad that I have extra rings! I seriously did not know that this craft would be so fun)...and we (I think) learned how to cast on and do the knit stitch...and we played games that had to do with knitting. I had hoped to get everyone capable of casting on, knitting, purling, binding off, and reading a pattern, but as usual my plan involved way too many things for one afternoon...so I guess I'll have to have Knitting Party Part II!!

I must say that my favorite part of the whole thing (other than the cider) was the cookie cake that my coworkers brought, on which they'd had written:
Happy Knitting

Friday, October 27, 2006

a second opinion

Well, after spending hundreds upon hundreds of dollars with a vet who first thought Joelle was a reject from the Angora rabbit farm because she was a chronic Pasteurella bunny who would suffer from random abscesses her whole life and then was sure Joelle had cancer in her face and should be put to sleep -- after that, and after the vet said that the big blob of necrotic and bloody tissue left on the side of Joelle's face looked "great" (and after never returning my Tupperware container and losing the thingy that hooks Joelle's water bottle to the side of her cage)...then I went to a different veterinarian.

Different Veterinarian was very calm. Different Vet said, "This is common." He showed me that the "great" looking blob was actually only attached by a 1/4 centimeter-wide piece of skin, and the blob was longing to come off and expose the still pus-filled opening that was (still - after a week of daily treatments and two weeks of antibiotic) The Abscess. With a tiny snip that Joelle didn't even notice, the blob was off, and the Different Vet took some surgical scrub and washed out the ooky pus that had reaccumulated in the area. He made sure Joelle didn't have tooth problems that were causing the abscess. He told me the weird bite-looking wound on Joelle's back wasn't another abscess (he was right - it hasn't gotten exponentially bigger this week at all) and was more likely a insect or spider bite. He said Joelle's previous antibiotic prescription dose was based on dog and cat norms and that she needed 2.5 times as much. But no surgery. He managed to get me the antibiotic for $17.

Yes, seventeen dollars. Not hundreds and hundreds. Seventeen dollars worth of antibiotic and a couple bucks worth of antiseptic with which to wash the abscess area for the next week, and that's it. That's the full treatment.

And I asked Different Vet when I should come back for a recheck, and he said I probably wouldn't have to because Joelle should be totally fine within the next 10 days. Yes, 10 days of antibiotics. Not 6 weeks as the previous vet had prescribed.

Now, I'm not saying that the old vet was wrong necessarily. Different vets have different styles. I just think that the old vet's means of dealing with the situation left me quite uncomfortable. And Different Vet certainly instilled huge amounts of confidence in his diagnosis and confirmed all that I had read and heard from other rabbit owners about Joelle's problem. And I also know that Joelle's abscess has looked better in the past two days than it has in the past 3 weeks.

I also think that Joelle's just happy that nobody's going to poke her anymore and that she still gets to take that yummy cherry-flavored antibiotic!Thanks for all your thoughts and prayers and encouragement. I'm pretty sure Joelle's out of the woods with this abscess thing now. Hooray!

In the meantime, she's also very happy to have acquired her own throne in the bathroom after bravely conquering the terrifying Slippery Cold Tile (and then naughtily peeing all over the bath mats).

Overall, I'd say she's doing fine. She's getting just a little sick of me taking pictures of her, though.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

i really still exist

Hm...well it's 12:11a.m., which means that it's Tuesday, which means that I'm two weeks behind in my blogging about knitting (not to mention all the other adventures of my life). We'll see what I can update you on while I wait for some stuff here at work (yes, I'm working at 12:11a.m...)

So...the super secret socks were made and sent and are now owned by **drumroll** my Sister! They could probably due to be altered a little bit, but she says they more or less fit. Good enough for me for right now. Here they are before they went on their merry ways to California:I also noticed before I sent them that the first sock has a problem.It's probably quite unnoticeable, which is why I have the "pointer" (aka needle) pointing to it. This would explain why I ended up with an odd number of stitches when I went to make the ribbing at the cuff. Hmm... I guess that's another reason to re-knit the leg if Sis ever wants it to be done. Personally, I hope she doesn't, because it's a lot of boring knitting.

So...socks - check! I then decided to use leftover sock yarn (that looks like the yarn for these Secret Socks but is actually from my First Ever Pair of Socks) to make baby booties for a person down the hall. A couple weekends ago I ferociously knit up these two to go with the little outfit I had bought. They don't match each other (I found it impossible to line up the stripe patterns with my leftovers...boo!)I used the "Better Than Booties" pattern from Interweave Knits, and while I like how the booties come together (the heel and toe shaping is quite nice; my thanks to the wonderful Priscilla Gibson-Roberts who apparently published this technique somewhere), I am not such a huge fan of how long it takes to make these booties since Way Back in the Just Learned How to Knit era, I crafted a pair in about two hours. That was before I knew what I was doing, even. I managed to make short rows without knowing they were supposed to be "hard." The Better Thans use sock yarn, not worsted, and therefore...they take me more like 8 hours to knit up and finish. But...it's also a good way to use up old sock yarn!After the bootie knitting weekend, I got to work with the booties and outfit all wrapped up nicely and ready to give to the recipient at the baby shower later that afternoon. I turned to my coworker Lori to show off what I had made, and Lori noted that that afternoon's shower was not for the person I thought it was for. Her shower was next week. That day's shower was for another person in the same lab...who was having a girl... Which I knew, of course, but I had gotten the dates mixed up and had only JUST started the girl's gift that morning on the bus! Eeks! I have yet to recover from the mix-up because the sweater is still not done, though it's getting quite close. See?That is the kimono sweater from the same issue of IK with all of the stitches that are supposed to be on stitch holders on the circular needle because I'm lazy and because I got to the parts that needed to be on stitch holders when I was on the bus and was far away from my stitch holders. I like the construction of this sweater, although it took me a long time to figure out how it was going to all come together. There is much wisdom in some article I read long ago about how you shouldn't feel the need to fully understand a pattern before you start it - just trust that it will make sense when you get there. So true.

Other than socks and baby stuff, I've made a small amount of progress on the Nadia hat (aided greatly by the fact that I finally got around to joining a new skein of yarn, which was absolutely impeding my progress on this particular project)...and that's really it other than accumulating a large list of other things I should knit. I'm pretty sure after the kimono I'm going to drop everything (except the hat) and bust out some stockings for myself, Joelle, and Sheamus. I've been searching through pattern books for the appropriate ones and rummaging in my stash for the proper yarns.

...But it started snowing this evening, and I do so need a scarf to go with my Hermione mittens and hat (the hat, also, needs some finishing, and I thought about adding some ear flaps...). There is so much to knit, so little time. If only I were at home knitting instead of at work working after midnight! (Or rather, if only I were SLEEPING after midnight!!)

Friday, October 13, 2006

a lesson in knitting

Let's talk about something I like. Not bunnies being sick. Not vacuum cleaners mysteriously revolting against vacuuming. Not even lack of sleep.

Let's talk about KNITTING!!!

I've been knitting for several years now. I learned how to knit in the fall of 2003 and quickly decided I would be a Continental knitter. To those of you familiar with knitting, you know that Continental (or German) knitting is just one of many, many ways to "correctly" do the same thing. The other popular way to knit is English (aka American). I learned how to do this way back in day but abandoned it for the Continental method because Continental is supposed to be better for the sustainability of hands and wrists and is faster according to many people.


Fast-forward to now: I knit most every day. Most of my friends and colleagues are aware of this hobby/obsession. I tell everyone who exclaims, "Wow, that's so cool!" that they, too, can learn how to knit - it's easy. Most don't believe me. Finally, I realized I would have to prove it to them*. Thus, I'm hosting a "Knitting Party" whose primary purpose is to instruct my friends in the fine art of knitting.

Sounds simple enough. I obviously know how to knit. But a funny thing happened Tuesday night**...

I was sitting in the middle of my living room with huge size 17 needles and bulky yarn, practicing how I would show everyone how to go about knitting (Joelle was pretty sure I was trying to teach her, because I sat facing her. She was not very enthused, perhaps because she's a rabbit, but also perhaps because she had just arrived back from the vet's a few hours ago and was feeling rotten and rather sulky). I got through the casting on part just fine. Then I went to instruct my imaginary pupils how to do the knit stitch. I have decided that I will teach people the English method first, since for some reason it seems like a lot of people use this method, so I began.

I had to cheat a little because it's been a long time since I've actually attempted to use English for anything other than colorwork, so I was glancing down at trusty Vogue Knitting. I decided that one of the main reasons I don't use English is because I don't know how to hold the yarn so my stitches come out evenly. So I dug out a few other books to see how they said to hold the yarn. Of course, that didn't exactly help because each book had a different way, and some showed SIX different ways. Just like Continental vs. English, holding yarn is just different ways of doing the same thing.

I got through my row of knitting slowly but surely, and then realized I should probably figure out how to instruct left-handed people how to do the English technique. However, although I followed the instructions very specifically, I had some very large issues. I had to dig through more books to see what I was doing wrong. In the course of this, I stumbled upon a paragraph in Montse Stanley's The Handknitter's Handbook that stung - her description of what she calls "Yarn or needle" knitting: "A method often betraying a knitter who has learnt from books, or one who could not cope with needle as pen... It is the slowest, most awkward, most tiring, and least even way of knitting. Very little control over the work is maintained." Ooch! Now, I can deal with being non-conformist or having semi-different techniques and styles than others, but to be considered incompetent - that I am not okay with. I concluded that if I were to teach people something, I should at least know how to properly do it and not drag them into stupid-looking-ness with me.

And I concluded that, although they say you can't "knit wrong" - I was!

Thus began a rather insightful re-education about English knitting. I learned how the yarn tension is controlled - it's different than with Continental, which is probably why I was having so many issues with the yarn-holding. I learned how stitches are gently slipped onto needles, not wildly flung on with sweeping motions (which is what I invariably associate with English). I learned that English knitting doesn't have to be as slow or clumsy as I once thought, and that color work can be much, much easier and enjoyable if English is done properly! I learned that English knitting is not that bad!!!

Now, will I switch to English? Certainly not. But I sure will practice it so I can be at least fairly adept at it. If nothing else, it would be nice to be able to switch back and forth to prevent wrist fatigue or injury. And, the benefits for colorwork - I just can't get over it! I can't wait to try out my new skill on something with two colors!!

I guess it's a good reminder that the best teachers (not that I'm saying I am the best teacher!!) are always learning more about their subject. ...Perhaps after I master English I'll try to learn how to knit back backwards...

I love knitting...!

*If you happen to see the irony in this attitude in light of my inability to perform English knitting, I applaud you.
**Yes, that was Sleepless Night; I decided to do something useful with my not-falling-asleep state of mind.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

it's my birthday...!

It really is.

What am I doing to celebrate? That is a good question. Thus far I have: awoke, eaten breakfast, drank coffee, given medicine to Joelle, cleaned Joelle's cage, fed Sheamus, made a sandwich, brushed my teeth, put on clothing, and gone to work. I plan to: learn a new technique in another lab, attend a seminar related to my work, go to a fellow student's dissertation defense, finish a presentation for next week, give Joelle more medicine, feed Sheamus again, and make curried apple couscous. I suppose the couscous is the "celebrate" part. Perhaps I shall also pull out my Nadia yarn hat to savor the soft alpaca/wool blend.

I never got into the have-a-birthday-party thing. It's not that I don't like the attention - I do. :-D It's just...too much work/I'm not motivated. And I'm quite content to quietly enjoy my time, even if it's just by myself.

Today is seeming like another great day outside. Not a beautiful day, by any means. It's supposed to get colder as the day goes on and rain. I love this cool, crisp weather!

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

update on joelle

I don't feel much like writing about the goings-on with Joelle. Suffice to say that I got to take her home and she doesn't have cancer but doesn't appear to really have improved abscess-wise, which I'm not entirely pleased with. I'm going to make an appointment with a different vet who has treated cases like this before (which turned out very sadly for my pal Ruth in a similar situation).
Joelle is, however, doing "okay" - eating, having normal digestion, although yesterday when I brought her home, she didn't drink at all during the night, which concerns me. That and the entire rest of the problem, including my discomfort with the vet and her treatment of this ailment, made it extremely difficult to fall asleep last night, and I think all in all I had about 4 hours of sleep. And strong coffee this morning. Stress is bad.

Anyhow, the funniest/saddest part is what the poor dear looks like now. It's rather frightening, actually, although it's simply a bunny with very little fur on her face (and a gigantic lump with oozing gook). Take a look:She appears rather like a baby alpaca (which, incidentally, I like (at least their yarn) - I just don't much like rabbits looking like baby alpacas).

And to think that merely a week ago she was a gigantic fur-ball...The hair will grow back, it will just take time - and I hope we still have a lot of that with this one!

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

i *heart* autumn

No knitting today because I left my camera with the pictures of my knitting at home, and it's really much more interesting to read about knitting when there are pictures.

Instead, a bit of musing on life and such...

Last night I was a wreck. I finally called the vet to find out what the situation was with Joelle since I hadn't heard anything since Thursday. Vet says that Joelle is acting great - eating, drinking, pooping, peeing, getting annoyed when people get into her personal space. Vet also says that when she opened up the re-abscess on Thursday, she was surprised to find not more pus but caseous tissue, which is what is often found in tumors. Oh ugh. So she sent a biopsy to be looked at to see if the Jose has cancer. Ugh, ugh. In the meantime, Vet will continue to wait for the bacterial culture to come back and will treat the abscess as planned.

So last night, with all this information (and absolutely no indication about when my bun will be able to come home to me) I started crying whenever I looked at the bunny candy and thinking about how I'd feed that to Joelle before I put her down if/when it came to that. After an hour or so of this, I decided to buck up and make the apartment clean and comfortable for Joelle when/if she came back. I cleaned all around her cage, cleaned the kitchen (not that she ever goes in the kitchen - she's not a big fan of the slippery linoleum), and then was vacuuming. And then the vacuum stopped vacuuming. And I don't know why.


I said, "FORGET IT!" and put away the vacuum and layed out layers and layers of comfortable towels in Joelle's now-very-clean cage and then went to bed.

And then, this morning, I woke up (wait - no, I woke up, snoozed and snoozed and snoozed and then finally rolled out of bed) and went about the morning routine of shower and breakfast and coffee, and I went outside to bring away the trash and realized...it's a beautiful day. It really, truly is. It's that crispy autumnish weather, where it's okay to be outside in a long-sleeved shirt, but it feels even better to come inside to a warm drink. The morning was untouched, untroubled, unbroken. So calming, so nice. No worries for the day as of yet. Joelle was still alive and was in (I think) good hands, and God hears my prayers, and there's light at the end of the tunnel. But beyond all that, it is a beautiful day. (So much so that I really want to leave work and go for a long, long walk in the woods, particularly since the after-five part of my day today isn't filled with very many happy activities.)

When I got to work I did some googling to see what I could find out about caseous tissue in rabbit abscesses, and it really seems like this is an absolutely normal phenomenon, which makes me a tad more concerned about Vet doing the vetting for Joelle, but I'm fairly certain that the biopsy will not be cancerous and that Vet is doing pretty much what I would desire any vet to do in this case (meaning the care of the patient, not the freaking out and jumping to outrageous conclusions about chronic Pasturella and cancer), and I think things will turn out okay.

Thus, my concluding thought is simply that I love autumn. It's a shame to be bogged down by other worries when there's so much to enjoy in a lovely day like today.

Friday, October 06, 2006

the sick bunny

After Joelle's visit to the vet on Tuesday, I decided to cut off her hair because that's just one more thing to deal with, she doesn't particularly enjoy being brushed, and she's already way stressed out. Poor, bald bunny. She looks funny but still feels so soft!

When we arrived at the vet yesterday the first abscess had scabbed over and was reabscessing. The vet said the second one was actually an extension of the first one. So, what to do? Well, the abscess has to be either 1) removed surgically, which would require dismantling Joelle's face or 2) cut open and not allowed to close for several days, during which the abscess area will be flushed out, plus continuing antibiotic care. The vet said option 1 wasn't really an option at this point, so I went with option 2, which means that the bun actually goes home with the vet (because the vet only works at the clinic 2 days a week and the rest of the vets at the clinic know nothing about bunnies) and gets anesthetized every day for her abscess treatments.

It's kind of nice that I don't have to give Joelle her medicine or do the treatments myself, but it's kind of sad that I can't see her and that she has to be somewhere else, which might be really scary for her - and which costs much money. It's not about money, though. That I magically have and am willing to give much of to cure Joelle. I just hope she gets cured...and doesn't die. The daily anesthesia frightens me. So far she's been through at least two sessions of anesthesia - her spaying surgery at the Humane Society and her first abscess treatment - and done very well, but every time it's a little scary.

Time will tell. Oh, time. It is both a friend and a foe...

At least I will be able to get some much-needed rest this weekend!

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

miss joelle

So you heard about the new addition to my household, but what has that sweet rabbit Joelle been up to lately?

Well, first of all she's grown a lot more hair. Compare the pictures...on August 13:And then when I returned from Europe on September 6:Perhaps those pictures don't quite capture the difference. How about this?Is she sleeping? Can't even see the eyes! Or how about this?She's got so much fur. I keep thinking I might just clip it and keep it short. She's still really cute cut short, and it's easier to groom her that way.

Besides growing fur, Joelle has been outside on a leash.This was quite a traumatic experience for her on a Saturday morning in early September. Joelle is not really a very cuddly bunny - she would much rather sit in a corner than on my lap. But when I set her down on the grass - which was a little dewy - she freaked out at her new surroundings and pawed at my pants leg. When I bent down to pet and reassure her, she jumped into my lap. It was so funny.

She did the same thing after her visit to the veterinarian a few days later. After the vet poked and prodded, Joelle was set on the floor and ran over into my lap. I guess if there's something or somebody scarier than me, she realizes I'm "safe." Such a funny bunny.

Joelle has also had a rather humorous mishap. With the restart of hockey practice, I left my hockey gear sitting in the living room for a few days. I picked up Joelle one day and noticed something was wrong with her foot. Upon further investigation, I discovered this:
this is joelle on her back, with her head lolled to the side because she's in a "trance" - this crazy thing that happens to bunnies when you rub their heads when they're belly-up; they basically pass out
It's hockey tape! There was hocky tape stuck to her belly, her leg fur, and along her paw. That sticky tape combined with monstrous amounts of hair makes for a very, very pathetic bunny. The removal of this required much careful trimming of fur. But eventually she was free. Poor thing.

And then...and then Saturday night happened. I picked up the Joelle, who was mad at me because she'd been cooped up in the cage for 14 hours because I had been gone all day (she had rearranged all of her "furniture," announcing she was really upset), and I found...a big lump on the side of her nose. Not good. She has been having trouble with that side of her head anyhow - her eye is runny, and it makes the hair all matted because of the accumulation of mucus around the eye. She didn't need anything more!

Yesterday she and I went to the vet, and that's when really bad things started happening. The vet first thought it was probably Pasteurella multocida bacteria and that Joelle is a carrier and would get these abscesses over and over again. The vet opened up the abscess, revealing a very gross thick white pus, and decided to keep Joelle for a few hours to sedate her, shave her face, clean out the abscess, and check for dental disease, which is a likely source of the problem in cases like this.

A few hours later I came back and collected Joelle. She survived the anaesthesia and was quite calm, but was missing the fur on half her face (it actually had to be clipped with scissors - the shaver blades couldn't get through her massive amounts of hair!) and had a big area oozing with bloody gook. We went home with some antibiotics and instructions to wash out the area a couple times a day. The vet said it might not be chronic pasteurellosis, because the abscess area appeared to be a big wound (a scratch?) that got infected. We're waiting for a culture to come back, to see if there was any Pasteurella in the abscess.

This morning I sat down with the poor dear to compress the wound. And I found another abscess. It's small, but the one we got treated yesterday started out small and had become about the size of a dollar coin by Tuesday afternoon. We have to head back to the vet tomorrow. In the meantime, I've been looking into internet information about abscesses and Pasteurella, and all in all things don't look good. For one thing, the abscesses appear to recur (as evidenced by the second one already showing up!). There isn't a very good cure for the bacteria. The best treatments involve surgery and aren't 100% effective.

I'm sad. My poor Joelle. Not only is she pathetic-looking with her half-naked face, but she's also really tired, looking more and more like she's sleeping when she's laying around, and she's extremely hot - the vet said she certainly had a fever. Please send her your good thoughts and prayers.It's tough dealing with a sick pet; I can't imagine what it's like with a sick child!!

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

knitting is for babies

The baby influx continues... I have another pal who might be having a baby, and there are two showers in the next 3 weeks, more assuredly on the way. Eeeks! Exciting and yet...so much knitting to be done. I've come to the firm conclusion that I should at the very least knit booties for every one of these upcoming babies. It's the perfect gift (in my feeble mind): it's hand-made, it's practical (I think...having never had a baby, I'm not quite sure if booties are really all that practical. Seems they might just fall off a lot and/or make the baby warm, but based on their popularity, they must be practical, right?), and it's relatively easy. Thus, for mere pennies, I can a) use up leftover yarn and b) delight parents and baby alike.

So, this week I'm hoping to bust out a pair of Better-than-Booties using some extra yarn from my very first pair of socks (which, incidentally, I saw on the feet of my friend this past weekend). I have the awful problem that I am quite confident I won't be able to get the two booties to match in stripe pattern, as I am so anal about, because there's just not that much yarn left. We'll see what I think about that. I can hardly justify going out and buying new yarn for this project, however, when I have loads and loads of leftover that I have little use for otherwise.

I knit a teeny swatch this morning on the bus, and it turned out to be too small - I was using too small of needles, something that doesn't often happen to me. Perhaps I'll actually get to use the size the pattern calls for. Amazing!

The rest of my knitting has been carelessly tossed aside. I lost my marked-up pattern for the Retro Rib Socks, and I know I'm pretty close to where I need to turn the heel, and I just don't want to put in the effort right now to figure out what I need to do to alter the pattern to properly accomplish that as I did for the first sock. So, I'm waiting to see if I can find the old copy before I force myself to invest the time in actually thinking and doing math. The Secret Socks have been sitting on an end table, wholly untouched, for the past two weeks, and they only need a few rows worth of work done to them to be finished and gift-able. It's very odd but true: I just haven't felt much like knitting recently. I've been reading a lot, though! Need to learn how to do both of those as the same time...