Tuesday, February 24, 2009

My Sister's battle

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This is an update to my last post.

I spoke with my sister tonight. She saw her Oncologist today and she confirmed that it is cancer in her lungs. She's to call her on Wednesday to find out the dates for her MRI, bone scan and a panoply of other tests I can't think of the names for. Suffice it to say, by the time they are done, she will have been poked and prodded just about all over.

The Oncologist said there are 3 new treatments for this type of cancer and she's very positive that at least one of them will work on my sister. I hope she is right. I still have alarm bells going off in my head screeching "Danger, danger, Will Robinson!" (yes, it's a reference from Lost in Space for those who don't recognise the quote.

I know it's not what I wanted to hear, but I keep hoping that it's all and that something more insidious isn't hiding somewhere else.

I'll keep posting news as soon as I find out myself.

The Adamas Shawl is coming along nicely. I can see I'm going to have a problem soon though. The circular needle I'm using isn't long enough and I'm not even halfway through the shawl. I wish I could borrow a circular from someone just to finish the shawl since I don't have the cash to buy one. Oh well, I'll have to figure something out sooner than later.

Monday, February 23, 2009

My sister, My hero

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I know the title is corny, but how else can I explain my sister.

Six years ago, my sister in her early 30s felt a lump in her left breast. This led to an appointment, a scan and the eventual news of an extremely aggressive cancer that took her left breast and the glands under her arm. After several rounds of chemo and pills, she was declared clear of the cancer. Slowly life began to seem normal again and the memories slowly faded to the background in her busy life with 2 growing kids, a job and her fiance.

Last year, as a preventative measure since cancer has a nasty habit of reappearing after the first 5 years, she had her uterus and ovaries removed. Only then did the Dr realise that she had a large cancerous tumor on one of her ovaries, the size of a dollar coin. Bone scans, MRI, blood work all showed her as clean of cancer.

Mid December, she feels awful, coughing, and finally goes to the Dr. He diagnoses a cold or at most a flu with whichever bug is going around her area. Prescribes medication and tells her to come back a week after the meds are done if she's not feeling any better.

New Year's, she back to the Dr. She doesn't feel better, she feels worse and now her back hurts and the cough is dry and deep. He has x-rays taken, and comes back with the news that she may have pneumonia or the end of one and prescribes her 2 puffers and antibiotics with the same adjunct of come back in a week after the meds are done if she's not feeling any better. The back pain is blamed on the coughing. She's back 3 days later since she developed a reaction to one of the puffers and developed thrush in her mouth. So back home she goes with a new prescription to treat the thrush plus the rest of what he'd given her before to finish up.

Last Tuesday, she's back at Emergency, she can't catch her breath and sounds like she's been running a marathon. The Dr takes more x-rays and they discover a mass in the bronchial area where the lungs split, a mass on her spine just above her bra strap between her shoulder blades and spots on her liver and lungs which are more than likely tumors. The reason she can't catch her breath is the mass in her bronchial area is closing off her ability to breath and the mass on her spine is making it hard for her to swallow food or keep it down.

She's home for now, but is going to see her Oncologist in the city today. I hope he has good news for her instead of what I fear he will say.

I spoke with her at length on Thursday night. I spent most of the call reassuring her, that she's strong, and she can fight whatever comes her way just like last time. I also spent most of that call crying silently in my heart for her. I wish we lived nearby, I could hold her in my arms. I asked if there was anything she'd like from me that would help her. She asked me to knit her a shawl in her favorite color; royal blue. As soon as she said it, I already knew which pattern I was going to use for her shawl.

The Adamas Shawl from Mimknits. Adamas being the Greek work for diamond, indomitable, unbeateable. It suits my sister to a T. She is the strongest person I've ever known and this shawl was made for her. Each diamond is followed by a heart and with each stitch that I make, I think of her and pour my love, hope, courage and strength into the shawl and hope she can feel my arms when she wraps it around herself.

I will also be knitting her a cap in green for hope. I may even include one in some funky yarn just for fun and hope it makes her laugh.

My sister, my hero. What more can I say but that she is a strong woman, a survivor.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Soul Food

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There are so many choices out there, as many choices as there are people on this earth as far as what is considered soul food.

To me it's a meal that makes me feel warm inside, comforted, loved, appreciated. Not necessarily something I've cooked myself since it usually feels a lot better if it's from someone else. And it's usually something that I've eaten before since eating it again brings back memories.

For my husband, one of the meals I make that he considers soul food is a beef stew that simmers in the oven for a couple of hours with the smells permeating the apartment and I'm sure several other apartments above and next to us.

Angel's Beef Stew

1/2 kilo of lean beef cut thin. I pick mine up at the Vietnamese market since I know the meat is lean since it's from the front leg.
3 large carrots, peeled and sliced into 1/2 in. chunks
2 large stalks of celery, chopped into 1/2 in. chunks
2 large onions, peeled and cut into 1 in. chunks
1 head of garlic, peeled & roughly crushed with the flat side of my knife
3 tbsp extra light olive oil
5 large potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 in. chunks
3/4 liter of beef broth, low sodium brand
1 large tomato, seeded & cut into chunks (optional)
100 ml of tomato sauce or ketchup if all else fails
generous pinches of fresh ground pepper, kosher salt
generous pinches of dried oregano, thyme
1 tbsp of sweet paprika sprinkled over the potatoes
1 cup of brown flour *

In a large pot that can go from stovetop to oven over high heat; put the onion, garlic and celery. Stir and cook for a few minutes or until the oil disappears. In small amounts so the vegetables can caramelize, add some beef stock to keep everything from burning. Bring the heat down to med/high and continue to stir until the onions begin to be transparent. Add pepper, salt & herbs.

Add 1/3 cup of beefstock and start putting in your meat that's been dredged in the brown flour to the pot. Stir occasionally to keep things cooking evenly. Once the meat is done, should only take a couple of minutes. Add the carrots, the rest of the beefstock, tomato sauce and potatoes which have been dredged in leftover brown flour. If your pot doesn't seal well, put a sheet of aluminum foil over the pot and cover with the lid. This should create a tighter fit.

Put in a 375*F oven for 90 minutes. At the one hour mark, take stew out of the oven, stir it up to make sure that the vegetables all get equal time in the sauce. Put it back in for another 30 minutes. At the end of the 90 minutes, if the sauce is too thin, take the foil off and put the stew pot back in the oven with no lid for 15 minutes. This will thicken the sauce.

This makes enough stew for 2 hungry people over a 2 day period. It tastes even better reheated! Bon appetit

Brown Flour recipe
You will need:
a cast iron frying pan
your oven set on broil
1 cup of plain white flour

Put the flour in the cast iron frying pan, spread it out evenly and put it on the bottom rack of your oven with the broiler on. Keep an eye on it since the flour will begin to brown. Take it out every few minutes and stir up the flour so the browned parts mix in, level it off again and return to broiler. Keep doing this until the flour gets a rich tan/brown color after it's been mixed. Don't walk away from making brown flour or you will end up with black flour which is not very tasty.
The resulting brown flour can be used for thickening sauces and dredging meats instead of using the commercial preparations which are loaded with salt.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Where did the week go!!??!!!

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I don't know what it is but I always get caught by surprise that the week has simply flown by.

I had a lovely surprise last Tuesday after work. My daughter was in town and met me as I was coming out. We had a lovely supper at a local sushi restaurant to follow the unveiling of many many balls of yarn she brought for me. She hit a literal jackpot at one of the many secondhand stores she frequents in Mississauga. And I end up being the recipient of this veritable bonanza of yarn!

Such gorgeous yarns. I especially like the green skein, no clue what it is, but it feels nice. And the other yarn I really like is the Patons Nuance is shades of greens. It feels delectably soft, so does that one ball of red yarn in the foreground. Again, no clue what it is, but I like it. You may notice the two wee beasties in the yarn. Yes, I admit it, I collect Neopets. I am a Neopet addict. I have a lot of the little guys and I do mean "a lot"

I also reknit the Calorimetry hat. I didn't like how much the original one stretched so I did a new one with a different yarn. This one is definitely tighter but it keeps slipping off my ears. I can't seem to win at this! The yarn is a merino blend in brick red from Elite.

For anyone wondering about the drawings behind my new hat... I attended a Magic the Gathering competition 8 years ago in Toronto and met 4 of the artists. I had all 4 of them do a drawing on a single sheet of paper of Angels after my name. I absolutely adore the angels they drew. I also guess admitting this makes me a prime nerd since I also played the game.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Shawl Woes

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I was really excited when I joined a yahoo group to knit a gorgeous shawl based on the American Beauty rose but have met up with a pretty massive roadblock. I did the swatch beautifully, but what's killing me is the set up at the beginning of the shawl with 3 needles. My hands won't let me perform the acrobatics with such thin yarn and small needles so I'll have to rethink how I'm going to knit the shawl. What should have looked absolutely lovely came out looking like this.

I also won't be knitting the shawl mentioned in this post for my girlfriend since for some reason I can't figure out the setup at the beginning of that pattern. I'm going to take it as a sign that it's not that shawl for her. I've already got some ideas rolling around in my head that would use slightly larger needles and slightly thicker yarn as well, involving angel wings. But I'm going to leave it at that for now, or at least until I've figured out this wisp of an idea nagging at me.

With my hands having issues holding smaller knitting needles this weekend was spent knitting nothing more interesting than washcloths. I'm on the 3rd one now, very simple knit, nothing to really think about but it keeps my fingers busy while my brain stews over ideas for a shawl for my girlfriend.

My sister sent me a lovely Valentine's card along with a picture of my niece in it. The last time I saw my niece she was 4, she's now 14. You do the math. It's been a long time since I've been able to visit my family. Lack of funds and a vehicle have been the 2 major stumbling blocks keeping me away from a visit.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Good news & Updates

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Good news: My friend finally received her wristwarmers that I had mailed a couple of weeks ago! and she loves them! :) I'm so happy that they made it. I was getting worried that Canada Post had lost them on the way.

I'm swatching for the summer shawlette I spoke of in this post. I'm not sure what to think of the swatch at this point. I will have to wash it, block it and see how the fabric holds up under use. I'm a little unsure of the fuzziness of the yarn. It's a 2-ply and I'm holding it double to give the fabric some consistency as well as drape and lightness since it is supposed to be a summer shawl. I may have to use a different yarn if the one I'm experimenting with doesn't perform as expected.

I've got one mitt completed for the test knit I'm doing on a pattern for a fellow raveler. I'm not entirely happy with the yarn I chose to use and will likely reknit with a different yarn this weekend to see if it will look better to me.

I have discovered the joys of our local library. They have an online catalogue and it feels like I'm Christmas shopping every time I use it to find knitting books and place them on my order list for pickup. I love this system. It's so much easier than trying to find a specific book amongst 1000's shelved row upon row. It's a huge library (4 floors) so there are tons of books. What's fun with the online catalogue is that it expands the selection by including all the area libraries and not just the one nearest me. What a joy to just sit at my computer, search for specific titles, put them on order and a few days later pick them up. No fuss, no muss.

I picked up Minnowknits Too from the library last week. What a wonderful little book of children's knits. I especially love the skating cardi and plan on knitting it for my nieces. I've also been looking at other books from the library,">Lace style : traditional to innovative, 21 inspired designs to knit which has a lovely feather & fan cardigan in it that I like.

Friday, February 6, 2009

What are we doing to the current generation?

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Ok folks, what are we doing to this generation of kids?

I can't believe that parents drive their kids to and from school every day when there is a perfectly good bus system out there and if they live near enough to walk, a pair of serviceable legs with feet attached that they could use. I see schools where the streets around them are literally clogged morning and afternoon with 100's of vehicles of parents picking up their children, while 1/2 empty school buses attempt to wend their way through this mess. I see neighbors driven to the point of desperation while they watch vehicles parking in their driveways, and lawns. If a neighbor complains, I've seen parents tell them to f** off and worse.

A friend even told me that one of his daughter's friends gets driven and picked up from school and he's in grade 12! For crying out loud, whatever happened to your children developing independence and responsibility for themselves. I can understand that with younger children you don't want them to go alone, so walk with them!

Medical reports tell us that our children are suffering from obesity, that they are not getting enough exercise. Let's park the car, use the legs and feet that we were given and walk our kids to school. Otherwise, if school is too far, let them use the bus!

Lower the carbon footprint, save on dwindling fuel supplies, you know, all that stuff that we hear about on the news about our earth being in trouble. If we all do our small part, we may just help save what's left or at least keep what's left a little longer?

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

A hug for a friend

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I have a friend who has been there for me through thick and thin. She would say the same for me, so I guess that's what is known as true friendship. We have never met face to face but feel as if we've known each other for years. We've both been through some pretty tough life changing events in our lives and we've always supported each other through it all. One day I hope to meet this sister, this friend, because I would wrap my arms around her and give her the biggest hug she's ever received.

Since I can't do that, I'm going to send her a hug. I have found the perfect knitting pattern for a shawlette I know she will love and wear. It's called the Summer Lace Shawlette developed by Sandi Wiseheart of Interweave Knits. The pattern can be found on Knitting Daily in the free patterns section. I always loved the look of this short shawl and can just imagine my dear friend wearing it like I was giving her a big hug.

The pictures are just a teaser. The one shows the back which is nice and airy and the other shows some swatches of the back and front. I still have to determine what color I will make it in, but I have a feeling it will be in something vibrant since she is a lady filled with energy, love, compassion and caring with a heart as big as Chicago. I will post more as I progress.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009


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Diabetes sucks ass. Plain and simple. Neuropathy brought on by diabetes really plays havoc with me on some days. What I hate about it is the unexpected jabs of pain in my feet, as if someone just stabbed me with an ice pick or it's like I'm walking on burning coals or broken glass with no end in sight. I've noticed that when I'm in pain, my blood sugar goes all out of whack which is not a good thing. Irregardless of what I eat, when I'm in pain, I get what I can only call rogue readings since on another day where I've eaten exactly the same foods but I'm not in pain, I get a normal reading.

At least I had good news, my eyes are fine! I wear a pair of magnifying glasses over my regular glasses to knit, read, anything that requires close up work. I have the beginnings of a cataract but it's not affecting my eyesight yet, so nothing I can do about it. I'm taking 50 units of slow acting insulin before bed plus 2 metformin tablets during the day. Depending on the day, pain or not pain, the readings can go from normal to completely out of whack. I hate it since it looks horrible when I show the readings to a nurse/doctor. They think I must be eating tons of sugar which I'm not. We don't even have sugar in the apartment! IBS doesn't help either since I can go from normal to the two extremes at the drop of a dime. I'm on stool softeners and metamucil which help somewhat.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Homelessness ...why?

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The lane I walk down when I leave work always has a homeless man quietly sitting by the wall on a piece of cardboard with a cup in his hand. He never asks for money, always has a smile on his face, says hello, have a good day... Until this week, I did not know he was truly a homeless man until I saw the local police picking him up to bring him to one of the shelters. (we have many panhandlers who live in homes that pretend they are homeless) The day I saw them do that, it was -22C with the windchill and he was wearing a thin coat over a hoodie, no socks, running shoes that had seen better days, no gloves on his hands. He couldn't stand up by himself, he was so thin and weak and he'd been sitting against the wall far too long, his legs were numb from the cold. The following day he was back sitting against the wall. I gave him my coffee to warm up.

The following day, he was there again, I saw the police were coming to pick him up and for some reason, it struck me to ask him if he would like a scarf to keep his neck and chest warm. He looked at me and said, Nono, don't spend money on me. I insisted, that the scarf would be knit by me, his eyes lit up and he said "You would do that for me?" I said of course and asked him about his favorite color. I went with the Scrunchable Scarf pattern since it gives the scarf a lot of loft to trap warm air better. He will be receiving a navy blue scarf today as soon as I see him, along with a pair of warm socks. Unfortunately, I will have to buy the socks since my knitted socks don't live long for some reason.


How can anyone in 2009 walk by someone who is in desperate need of food, clothing, a warm place, in North America? Have we become so blase that we don't even see them anymore? Am I so new to city life that my heart cries when I see someone in need or am I the "sucker" people speak of. I don't know folks, but who are we to say what we would do in his place unless we've been there. We see famine in Africa, wars in so many countries, death, murder, genocide, every time we turn the TV on, have we stopped being human somewhere along the way, have we stopped feeling?

It's easy enough to spot the real thing from the fakers and the drug addicts. I see someone begging for money wearing new shoes, new coat, clean, smelling of cigarettes, there's someone who is not dying from lack of food, a warm place to live in, etc. When you see someone who is thin, weak, bedraggled, obviously hasn't seen the working end of a shower in months if not years, who's clothing pre-dates Trudeau, you know that there's someone who could use a cup of coffee, a sandwich, a hello, a sweater you don't need anymore, etc. If you feel that you can't give them money, that's fine, give them something they can use. You'll know fast enough if you're dealing with a homeless person or a "faker" looking for cigarette money, booze, drugs, etc.

We're not rich, hell, we live below the poverty line ourselves, but there are people in worse places just outside your door. If I can't spare a cup of coffee for another human being who is freezing, that makes me a very shallow heartless person indeed.
*gets off her soapbox* Nuff said

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Busy busy Bee! make way!!!

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Wow, the week simply flew by for me. Between work and caring for my darling husband, knitting came in 3rd place and everything else fell by the wayside.

Weatherwise: The weather we've been getting reminds me so much of Eastern Ontario where you had to either grow fur or wear a lot of clothing to survive. Since the growing fur option is out, I ended up layering... a LOT! It's only a 1 km walk to work, but wow.

Family wise: with the help of my sister, I found my cousins I had not heard from in 20+ years and of all places, Facebook! It is really nice to hear from family, how they are doing, the grandkids, all the things that slipped by over the years unknowing. Things I wish I had not missed out on but such is life. Hopefully we'll be able to reconnect as time goes by.

Knitwise: I started and finished the wristwarmers for my son in law using the pattern I developed. I also knit a scarf that I will be gifting, more on that in my next post. I'm currently test knitting for a fellow Raveler for some really pretty fingerless mitts. First time I've volunteered to test knit a pattern for someone. A year ago, I would not have even considered the thought of test knitting for anyone! That's how far I've come confidence wise on my knitting journey.

Relationship wise: This week is the 9th anniversary of when I met my husband while playing an online game. Doesn't feel like 9 years have gone by, so much has happened over that time, but as far as our relationship goes; it has grown, mutated, gotten stronger, more loving. My soulmate is truly my other half, my bestest friend. Without him by my side, I would be a lost soul wandering the world. He makes me happy.