Slowly emerging from the darkness and lots of changes

I’m alive, although I don’t know if I can say the same about this blog, or other aspects of my life for that matter. My life stopped in April and I’m still trying to take the reigns of it. I still don’t have a definitive diagnostic about what’s wrong with me (I’ll know more next week) but I guess it’s a mix between a severe oral allergy syndrome and histamine intolerance. Around April my life started to be unbearable, I started my peregrination to many different doctors and all this took a heavy toll. Since these two conditions are not very well known and not very well investigated, I started to read, study and soak any related information, which consumed all my energies. All my efforts were focused on knowing what is wrong with me, how to improve it, talking to people with similar issues, visiting doctors, working on my diet. Being ill is a full time job, leaving no energies or time for anything else. I kept doing my job thanks to being extremely lucky and being able to work from home. Otherwise I don’t know how I would have been able to manage. I can’t eat outside. I need to prepare all my meals from scratch, avoiding what is normal and healthy for most people, even spices. I need to know and control all the ingredients in everything I eat to avoid allergic reactions and feeling miserable the day after. And I need very fresh food. I have to avoid all fruits and most vegetables due to my oral allergy syndrome, cereals and potatoes are also out for the same reason, gluten makes me extremely tired and dairy gives me a horrible congestion the same day and even more the day after. And then the eggs. Eating eggs gives me a horrible migraine the day after. Sometimes I don’t get the migraine, but I feel like I have the worst hangover ever, not being able to think or drag my miserable body around our apartment. At least I’m starting to know my triggers and I have to say that my oral allergy has improved a little bit, meaning that my lips and throat are not swelling with every meal I have. Now it’s usually just my lips once or twice a day. That is helping with avoiding losing more weight. Two weeks ago I went to a Mastocytosis research center and my weight was 44.9 Kg. Today it’s almost 46 and I’m not feeling like I’m going to faint if I need to walk somewhere.

Unlike it’s mentioned in “the Fault in our Stars” (read the book, didn’t watch the movie), Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is true, at least for me. I was (am) so busy reading about these diseases that I abandoned all the rest. I stopped knitting in part because of the horrible eczema I have between my fingers (partly due to my allergies, partly due to the medication), then I stopped sewing too. The last makes were a Lady Skater dress, a pair of Prefontaine shorts and a Soma bikini.

I have cut another Lady Skater that I didn’t bring myself to sew. My body has changed a lot since all this started. I think I’ve lost like almost 10 Kg and I don’t know how it will be in the next future. Part of my weight was due to the muscle I got practicing capoeira and I know that I will probably never be able to practice again, at least with the same intensity. In hinder sight, probably the intensity of it has worsened my histamine intolerance. Anyway, I just don’t know where I’m headed. I had a plan of making a pair of shorts for Koen using the Jedediah pants pattern I used last year, but then other things got in the way.

 

When all this started, when I still had the hope that I was going to get over it quite fast, we decided that this summer we deserved a treat. We wanted to travel again, not very far, not very costly, but just spending some days somewhere else. We rented an apartment for 6 days in August  in Lanzarote and hoped for the best. Koen has been complaining a bit for a while about our apartment, just because it’s too small and how wonderful it would be to have an apartment with a terrace and a guest room. And after checking online for some weeks we finally found a lovely place. But it was at the wrong time. Just before Koen had to spend a week in Denver to attend a congress and a week after we had our vacation in Lanzarote. And as I’ve said before, being ill is a full-time job and a vacation in thiese conditions is not a vacation. That week I lost more than one kilo and I spent quite some time reading and starving.

And Koen was offered a new contract and I had also mine renewed. And if we wanted the apartment, we had to take it at that precise moment, with no time to think carefully because we were in a waiting list and more people were behind us. We moved in one month ago, but with all this, there’s still a lot of work to do here. It’s in a very old building but the apartment has been renovated and it has a wonderful terrace. When we first arrived it was a bit frustrating, since half of the plants were dead and we discovered several surprises, like a problem with the washing machine pipe, the oven door, or the upstairs neighbor being too friendly with pigeons, and the consequent “presents” we get each morning from them. The word to describe the state we found the terrace is decadent. Dead plants, pigeon drops, a broken hose. But the place has quite some charm and it has lots of possibilities. It also means that  there’s a lot of work to be done and while it helps me to feel motivated, sometimes it can be a bit overwhelming.

Anyhow, we have a lot more place than before, so I hope I can start sewing again soon. Other good thing of it is that we can invite friends home and that will help me to get part of my social life back. Our previous apartment was very small and we haven’t gone out for several months. No dinners or drinks outside.

I haven’t even read sewing or knitting blogs during these past months, I even abandoned instagram most of the time, but yesterday evening I found myself checking a couple of blogs again. I think the worst is over and I will have my life back soon.

There have been also some changes in the feathery department. Gerry was a bit stressed the first days after the move but he’s enjoying now the fact that he has a lot more space, and one of the windows in the living room has become his favorite spot from where he has a nice view of the square in front of our building.

And do you remember Leslie? The Gouldian finch I found on the street almost two months ago?

He came in a pretty bad state, very hungry and distressed. His health improved but still his behavior was not the one of a happy bird. After a month of trying to find his previous owners with no luck, we decided to give him a girlfriend, and two weeks later Sally came home. You can see that both look very healthy and active, they eat very well, Leslie sings and they seem quite happy together.

P.S.: I haven’t danced in ages. I miss it so much… I hope I can do it again soon…

An update to the Jedediah Pants

Returning from our holidays is relieving in some way (I was really looking forward to going back to normal) but it’s also very frustrating because it leaves very little time due to some adjustments. There are clothes to be washed and folded, there is also a big mess in our living room (sewing doesn’t help) and I have nine bags of clothes to be donated but Caritas parishes are on vacation until September. That means that my drawers have more space but all those nine bags are in several places of our tiny apartment. I don’t have a dedicated sewing space and having all this junk around doesn’t help to find the motivation to take out the fabric, cut it and sew it. The worst thing is my queue is immense. I want to make all sorts of things, and I want to get most of them done before the summer heat abandons us. It’s still almost 40ºC here but spending a week in the cold and rainy Belgium reminded me that Autumn and Winter are there waiting for us.

This past weekend I’ve started working on this:

Yes, it’s a back pocket of the Jedediah pants. I did not stitch any marks on it because this was just a muslin and I just wanted to check the pockets placement.

I modified the pattern to make place for Koen’s muscular thighs. I cut a 36 for the waist and seat but I graded to a 40 on the thighs and from the mark where the shorts end I cut it straight down instead of tapered in.

Apart from being two inches too long, I think the fit is quite right. Koen wanted a little bit more room on the thighs so I altered the pattern a little bit more and trimmed those two extra inches.

They are doing the shorts version on the sewalong but as we are already at the end of August, Koen decided that we should go for the pants instead, since I foresee this to take me some time. I expect to have fabric left over so I can always make the shorts later on.

I’m now working with the linen and it’s a bitch to get it pressed. I just hope the result is good enough. I’ll keep you posted.

A family week

As I’ve explained in my previous post, after experimenting very high temperatures in Madrid, I felt too optimistic and packed two skirts, a pair of shorts, a dress and a half for my two weeks here. The half comes from the pieces I cut to make a Lonsdale dress, since I missed two of them and they just went back into the suitcase. I only brought a pair of long pants that I wore almost non stop since I arrived: my thurlows. But after spilling some food today during lunch at my sister’s I had to leave them go almost by themselves to the washing machine. I’m wearing now a pair of very old pants. Last time I wore them was about two or three years ago, when I arrived too late to the airport in Brussels (that time not my fault, there were just some works on the rails and we got stuck for more than half an hour) and I had to run to the gate leaving my suitcase behind. At that time these pants were already quite old.

For the rest the week didn’t go too bad. Koen’s parents enjoyed Vigo and the weather on the day we went to the Islands was the best of all the ones we had. Sadly I have no pictures from it. When I first got my DLSR I used to take it everywhere with me, but then I got a third lens, the 50 mm 1.8, and I’m on the petite side and I always find annoying to take it here and there. I’ve decided that I’ve got to put a solution to it, and that’s making my own camera bag; something big enough to also carry my wallet, cellphone and all the stuff I carry in my purse. I have checked on internet a bit and I like the Paparazzi camera bag (adding a recessed top zipper) or this cinch tote (I would make modifications to this last one too).

Paparazzi Camera Bag
Cinch tote

We went one day to Retales Lidia, where they sell some fabric by the kilo, apart from other things. Koen wanted to buy some linen for a pair of Jedediah pants and shorts. Morgan actually looked for pattern testers and I applied but I sent my email too late to be able to part take in it. I think it was good in the end, because when I’m here it’s sometimes difficult to find the right moment for sewing. We bought 3 meters of a wonderful linen and I’m planning in joining the Jedediah sewalong that will take place in August. We will be just back from Belgium and I’ll be ready to sew! They also have cotton quilt at a very reasonable price (€ 7,50) and lots of other nice fabrics.

Unfortunately I have no pictures of the fabric we bought, but I took a couple of pictures there that seemed funny to me. They sell not only fabric by the kilo but also old buttons and zippers!

Fails

Murphy’s law says that if there’s anything that can go wrong, will go wrong. And it definitely did this time. We were supposed to take a flight to Vigo yesterday at 5 pm, but after taking zillions of planes in our life, we miscalculated and missed our plane. We could change our tickets to some hours later and to another airport in the same region, so all was not lost.

We were going to come next week, not this one, when my sister was also on vacation. Koen’s plans were bringing his racing bike and cycling around while I spent some quality time with my family. But a month ago, Koen’s parents sent us an email to let us know that they were coming to Vigo this week for the first time in their lives, and to meet my parents, also a first. We had to change our vacation days at work, Koen couldn’t bring his bike and we missed our plane. What else could go differently than planned? Don’t take me wrong; it’s going to be a pleasure to see them, but things are just not coming out the way it was planned.

You see this photo?

Two days ago I cut some fabric for a Lonsdale dress. It requires a lot of fabric, so I decided to cut it in advance and like that having less to transport. My plan was sewing the dress between yesterday evening and today and then wear it tomorrow evening for date with our parents. But dear friends, let me tell you something to avoid the same that happened to me. Today, when I was finally working on it, I discovered that two of the pieces were missing. I don’t know if I either forgot to cut them or they just stayed home with the rest of the fabric. So, dear friends, if you happen to plan the same in the future, please do two things:

  1. Make sure that you have all the necessary pieces to finish your garment. Check it twice.
  2. Take with you some extra fabric just in case. Things happen.

Anyway, the weather here is not as hot as in Madrid, and it’s clearly much more humid; so all the skirts and dresses I brought will probably stay in the suitcase, and if I happen to wear some of them, it will be just for the hottest hours of the day. Today I was wearing my first A-line skirt and sandals, and I’m wearing now my Thurlows and my Freija. So, even if could have finished the dress, I don’t think I would have been able to wear it tomorrow for dinner.

These are some bracelets I made for the family, one of the things that worked so far. I haven’t given them to them yet, so you know, they will probably break when they try to wear them.

At least I have my knitting. I’m still working on Andi’s test. I’m over 50%, so I’m afraid this project will not last for the complete vacation and all the things happening will drive me crazy. I think I’ll need to pay a visit to a famous store here that sells fabric by the kilo. After all this fails it will be so comforting…

Weekend

This past weekend was going to be a calm one. There were neither swing parties nor any kind of workshop announced. Time for ourselves and our things. One of the urgent projects for me was modifying Koen’s respro cycling mask. He goes to work by bike almost everyday. It’s a nearly 20 Km ride each way, and even some of the journey is outside the city, some part takes place amongst cars, with the big amount of pollution that this entails. He recently bought a pollution mask which looked something like this:

You can notice the band that goes under your ears and attaches with a velcro on the high part of your back neck. The mask is great but this attachment is quite uncomfortable for Koen, since it creates pressure on his nose and then he can only use his mouth for breathing. He asked me if I could attach a second stripe higher to be able to attach it over his ears. Since I recently got a new sewing machine and Koen was with me, I got down to work this Saturday afternoon.

I made two tapered stripes in the most similar material I could find and sewed on some velcro to the thin end. I had to cut the velcro sides a bit since it was a bit wider than the stripe. The result was good and Koen is happy to be able to use his nose again while cycling on the streets of Madrid.

Another thing that I tried to do, after reading Mamatronic’s last post, was organizing my wool stash but I miserably failed. The good thing is that I found a sock yarn (Jawoll Magic) that I bought last year, and that I’m planning to use soon, since I’ve recently gifted two of my new pairs of hand knitted socks to my mother. I say that I failed because I fished out lots of old acrylic that I’ve never used and that I’m not planning to. I bought a lot when I started to crochet some years ago since it was very cheap and I didn’t know better. Later on I started to knit and I learned to love fancy fibers and honestly I don’t know what to do with the crappy acrylic that I’ve accumulated over time.

I also found leftovers of good yarn: two skeins of cascade yarns 220 (red and grey), almost two skeins of malabrigo rios (orange), one skein of malabrigo worsted (blue), half a skein of malabrigo silky merino (green) and almost one skein of malabrigo chunky (pink). It’s nice to have something left of these lovely yarns, but it always bothers me to have such small quantities. I guess I’ll have to check the Ravelry groups One skein projects and Only half a skein.

Another thing that I’ve found was an almost finished summer dress from last year. It has a nice and fresh cotton fabric. I’ve cut it in the bias so I expect a nice drape to it. I will give more details as soon as I finish it.

The spring has finally kicked in and it feels more like the beginning summer, at least how summer is in other areas. People were outside just sunbathing and drinking with high spirits. We had 27 ºC (80ºF) this weekend, but we expect to have even a bit more than 40ºC (104ºC)  during the real summer. This late start means that the sycamore maple pollen season was delayed until this weekend, so we’ll have this and the grass together for a small a period of time. My allergies are also blooming. My asthma has gotten slightly worse (I expect it to get even worse in one month) and I have rashes appearing everywhere. Saturday I had a bit of my chest, Sunday the right side of my back and today the left side. I also have rashes in my hands and arms, but it’s still not too bad. I remember when I was living in Belgium, during the birch season. I had to sleep almost siting with several pillows because I had problems breathing, I had to use special soap and shampoo and my face looked like a map during times of war. My face is mostly untouched until now, let’s see in one month.

With the weather improvement we need to reorganize our clothes and put back at the bottom of the closet the ones for winter. I’ve already mentioned ours is a very small apartment and one of the difficulties we had when we arrived was the space for clothes. Nowadays it’s still a challenge that has only one way out: decluttering. So we’ve been doing a bit of that. Old clothes and shoes, and even not so old but that haven’t been worn in ages, have been put in bags to be donated.

I’ve discovered a software called Dress Assistant, which I’m currently testing. With such a small place, lots of clothes and my crazy head I always end up wearing the same clothes and most of the time I forget about those at the end of the drawer. Let’s see if I finally like the program and it helps me with this to finally buy the license.

What about you? How was your weekend? How do you organize your clothes? Do you declutter often?

Summer knitting

It is my first real Summer in 5 years. I started knitting last August and crochetting in September of 2009. I’d heard before that during the Summer one doesn’t feel like knitting. At that moment I did not completely understand that statement because it never happened to me… until I knew how Summer was in Madrid: almost 40 degrees, sweaty hands just touching the wool, tighter stitches, …

The last two Summers in Belgium (and this one I’ve heard) were simply non-existing. Jokes like this one were very popular and one could see them almost everyday circulating over the internet:

We moved to Madrid in mid January and we realized soon the difference of climate. We even had lunch on a terrace in February!

Here I started to attend two SnB meetings: Madrid Knits and la Tertulia Madrileña de Punto. But when Summer got more hot, suddenly I didn’t feel like going. Not only that, but after finishing a couple of projects, I did not feel like starting a new one. And not because my queue was clean!

I started crochetting something in cotton but it ended up at the bottom of a bag, waiting for better times.

Until two weeks ago, that I went with my mum, my sister and my niece to Algarve, in the South of Portugal. We went there chasing the good weather (this Summer is being also quite bad in Vigo) and also to fulfil my mother’s need for a laying-under-the-sun vacation. A complete week of sun, beach, swimming pool and food. I was starting to panic thinking of all those hours of nothingness so I decided to go for a last minute visit to La Guerra de los Botones and buy some yarn to make two pairs of socks during those slow hours while my mum and my sister were working on their tan. I finally made one and just started the other one, but it really helped me to kill the time (reading is not an option if you need to keep up with your family’s conversations).

I chose Hermione’s Everyday socks again because it’s an easy pattern, for which no mental focussing is needed and because the socks come out very stretchy and it’s almost impossible they don’t fit greatly. This pair came out beautiful and just as I expected. Real good Winter socks, on a discrete colour to wear any day.

Luckily at least one of us really enjoyed the swimming pool 🙂