Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Won't you be my neighbor?

Hello friends in the blogisphere!

As I'm looking at my stats, it says that I first published this blog on June 1st, 2007 [I've been at this 10 years, and I missed my own blogiversary... geesh.]

It seems that someone out there reads my blog, mostly the United States, but shout out to the Germans, French, British and Canadian friends also checking in. So... if you enjoy reading about my mishaps and exploits, would you consider following me? I'm not sure exactly how this works, so I'm afraid I can't explain it to you, but if you are a Real Person and not a robot, I'd love to find out about your blog, too, if you have one.

Thank you for putting up with my long absence, and all the spelling errors. I broke my back February, and I found out I have Lyme disease in March, which really took the strength and energy out of me. I have had Lyme since at least 2013. No bulls eye rash, no sore knees, no fever [I don't get fevers] none of the 'classic' symptoms, and a negative Western Blot, which is fairly common since the test is only 29-40% accurate. I did have flu like symptoms; I couldn't regulate my body temperature to the point I would be wearing a wool sweater, sweatpants and long sleeves in 90F weather, severe fatigue, sleeping 16- 18 hours a day [maybe it's narcolepsy they said] and a stiff, sore neck that caused migraine headaches. Since I have been on antibiotics for the Lyme, I have felt like a new person, like my old self again, ready to take on the world. Of course, sometimes I'm overzealous and over do it and need a nap, but my doctor is pleased with the progress I'm making. [Can we pause for a moment and talk about how hard it is to find a doctor who will even treat Lyme disease?].

I was finally diagnosed by taking a course of antibiotics and paying out of pocket for a urine analysis that was sent to Igenex labs in Palo Alto, California. Best $250 I've ever spent.

Monday, August 7, 2017

So... Lyme disease

Six months ago, I broke two vertebrae in my back. The next month, I found out part of the reason my neck was sore all the time and causing headaches, the constant fatigue, brain fog, sleeping and sore joints were all related to Lyme disease. 

I had to find a doctor who would even test me for the disease, but once that happened, the turn around has been nothing short of amazing. 

Friday, March 24, 2017

Blow out egg-stravaganza

Lent continues, and so does Pysanka making! We have a stash of hollow eggs, but I recently got a dozen fresh duck eggs and a fresh goose egg, and we need to eat them before they go bad. Perfect opportunity to talk about blowing out eggs!

We have four different tools to use for a blow out. The goose neck thing on the far left I know nothing about. I think it can be used with the black globe on the far right? The yellow bellows is from Germany; it's called Blas-fix. We purchased it from the Ukrainian Gift Shop years ago. It came with a hand drill - you can see them in the box, they have green handles. Once upon a time we had two, but we learned that it doesn't hold up well in a high stress environment like a class. The black bulb is also from the Ukrainian Gift Shop. It's called Aunt Marge's Egg blower. I believe it is an in shop developed product, as its packaging matches some of the other things we have purchased that they themselves have put together. I did say we had four things for blowing out eggs; the last and probably least obvious from the picture is the time honored method of hand, mouth blown. 

My favorite tool of the lot is the yellow Blas-fix. It came with a nice little hand drill that makes even holes without cracks around them every time, and the Blas-fix does not create so much pressure inside the egg that it will pop apart. The tool also only requires you to drill one hole to blow out the egg, so there is no planning a design around two blow holes. If there is more than one person blowing out eggs and/or they feel like going the traditional route, the hand drill can obviously be used to drill uniform holes in both ends of an egg.

The traditional method of blowing eggs out requires that you poke two holes in either end of the egg [carefully] and then with gentle pressure, blow air through one of the holes, expelling the egg membrane through the other end.
With the Blas-fix, air is forced through the hole at the bottom of the egg through the bellows by the narrow straw; pressure in the egg forces the membrane out through the hole. Nice and neat. Unless you go crazy with either method and force too much air into the egg, in which case it will pop open.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Pysanky: prepping and making dye

It's Lent again! =D that means it's time to make pysanky! Or pysanke [I've seen it spelled that way, too], or in layman's English, Ukrainian Easter eggs. Whether or not it is Lent, any time is a good time to make a pysanke, it just happens to be one of my favorite things to do at this time of the year. There are a number of reasons why pysanke are made during the season of Lent, but I won't get into that. One of them was the availability of eggs.

I'm starting with white eggs this year; as you can see, some of these are already written on with wax.

At this point, some of the eggs are ready to take the first dye bath, but I don't have any fresh dye made. With this in mind, I thought I'd write up a quick semi-tutorial about setting up dyes using a premeasured dye package.

packages of dye in desired color[s]. We order ours from The Ukrainian Gift Shop
glass jars and tight fitting lids - I use wide mouth Mason jars [more on this later]
a tablespoon measuring spoon
a quart size sauce pan, tea kettle or electric kettle for boiling water
a bottle of white vinegar 

a gallon of distilled* water

A tempered glass measuring cup such as Pyrex are very helpful but not necessary. We have a 16oz and 8 oz size; I used both of them.
A baking sheet or other tray such as melamine, that you are not fond of, with a lip is also helpful, but not necessary.
Nitrile gloves, or another exam style glove to keep your hands dye free, if you'd like. You could use dish washing gloves, but I find them cumbersome.
an apron to keep your clothes clean, or wear your painting clothes. This is dye, after all.

*Many dye companies, not just for dying eggs, reccomend using distilled water. What this means is that any particulates such as iron, lead or calcium have been processed out leaving pure water. Depending on the quality of the water in your area, using distilled water as a vehicle for you dye will yield the best end results. A gallon is typically the unit by which distilled water is sold.

Since I had saved last year's dye, the jars and lids needed to be cleaned. Best practice is beginning with clean, fresh materials. As I said, I use wide mouth Mason jars, specifically pint size. The wide mouth is easy to get an egg into and out of, especially if you find you have to fish one out with your fingers. The pint also holds the 10 oz of water needed to make the dye without spilling over when an egg is put in. I have not tried a goose egg in a pint size jar, but duck eggs still do not displace too much dye to spill over. When purchasing a 12 pack brand new, the cardboard box is an excellent  place to store the jars in. The plastic lids, whether they are Ball or aftermarket, hold fast. Permanent marker does not rub off of them. The plastic lids also do not corrode the way the metal gasket lids will [don't ask how I know...].  

I was planning on making at least four different colors to start, so I filled my sauce pan with the equivilent of two pints of water [I used a clean pint mason jar as my measure] and set the stove top to medium, so the water would heat while I set up my materials.

As the water is heating, clean and dry jars and lids. Set aside to dry 

Assemble other materials - tray, lids, jars, measuring cups, dye, scissors, tablespoon and white vinegar. Rather than try to pour out into the spoon, fill the smaller of the cups with white vinegar and dip out the spoon. It's much easier this way. Any left over can be poured back into the bottle. Set the vinegar with the measuring spoon aside for later.

I highly suggest either making your dye in a sink, or on the tray if you are a more confident DIYer, and remove any materials that could be stained. Your hands will probably be stained, unless you wear gloves. I personally don't care, and it won't harm you.

To keep myself straight, I presorted my dyes from lightest to darkest, and made sure each jar had a lid that was labled. Once they come out of the packet, the powder forms don't necessarily look like the color listed. Furthermore, once water is added and the color develops, it is easy to confuse some of the colors.  These dyes have an outer paper packet with instructions, and an inner foil packet of dye that must be cut open with scissors. It has been my experience that for best results, shaking the packet a bit forces the color powder to collect at one end, with less chance of powder ending up where it shouldn't be [for example, on you, or your clothes].
It is very important to follow the instructions on the packet!  

Ingredients go into the jar in this order:
1. color powder
2. boiling water
[3. vinegar]

The lightest color of dye available from the Ukrainian gift shop [and that I have on hand] is yellow, so my first jar got a packet of yellow color powder [I should note that it doesn't look yellow]. Next jar gold, light green, and turquoise.

 By this time, the water I put on the stove was just boiling. To keep the water from boiling off, I turned off the heat, but kept the sauce pan on the burner. Each jar [I double checked the instructions on each packet] gets 1 and 1/4 cups of boiling water, or 10floz. This is why the 16oz measuring cup is handy; it has a line for 10oz.

Each jar gets 1 and 1/4 cup [or 10 floz] of boiling water. I had enough water on hand to make one more jar of dye, so I grabbed a packet of pink. Dye powder first, then water. You can see in the first picture that some of the dye powder got stuck on the side of the jar, and the steam developed the color.

After the water, add vinegar. Double check the packets. Most of the colors take vinegar, which is a mordent, or color setting agent. A few of them, however, don't. To keep myself from accidentally putting vinegar where it doesn't belong, I covered the no vinegar jar with it's paper packet.
 Each jar gets 1 tablespoon of white vinegar, unless the packet says otherwise.

With the vinegar added [or not], the plastic lids go on and the jars of dye are set aside to cool down to room temperature. Yet another reason the plastic lids are so nice is that unlike the metal lids and bands, the plastic lids don't pose a burn hazard, nor will they seal during the cool down the way a gasket lid will. Our back porch was 35 degrees today, so the jars went to chill out there. This is a melamine caffeteria tray we use when dying eggs, and it's permanently dyed in places.

With such cool temperatures, the dyes are probably ready for use in four hours or so!

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Confessions of a broken back

[this post contains no affiliate links, just pictures to help get my point across]
I'm three weeks out from the small miracle of breaking my back in such a way as to be laid up but not paralyzed, have no concern about surgery and like as not to have no further complications. All that is required of me is to recouperate in the next three to four weeks and okay, possibly some physical therapy from doing no bending and twisting. 

If I wasn't living at home with my parents, I'd be sunk. I'm not allowed to bend or twist. I'm not allowed to lift anything heavier than a gallon of milk. 

Getting dressed. That was the first new adventure. Everything I have been wearing has an elasic waist band so it comes on and off easily. I can't get my own socks on- no bending allowed. 

The tasks of independence I didn't expect to fall to the wayside weren't revealed until much later. It wasn't so much the knocked over pens and pencils that I couldn't reach for myself next to the recliner I had encamped in during the day, but larger tasks. Having my laundry put away, so that there was an empty basket for dirty clothes to go into. Having my bed stripped of it's linens on the two week rotation I keep, rotating the blankets and switching the duvet. Being able to wash my own clothing, or at least the specific pieces that have been the most comforting, that were now piling up in front of the closed closet door, creating a safety hazard to someone who already had difficulty walking (read:me). 

When people asked "What can I do?", I had no idea what I was in for. Is asking for a load of laundry too much? Stripping the bed? My foregone conclusion was yes, especially given what a wreck my own bedroom looked like before I got hurt (trying having a cat who thinks he's a trapeze artist bounce around every night and get back to me). Breaking my back in the midst of purging childhood ephemera was not what I had in mind. But there you have it. 

If I lived alone, there would be no question. I would have had to either return to my parents to recouperate to stay at a care facility. Or find someone to stay with me. 

As I read back on this, it sounds as though my parents aren't taking care of my needs - not true. They are however, adults with their own lives, and they have rearranged their schedules to accommodate this hiccough. 

The further out from this I am, I really wish someone would have told me [sooner] that I'd really want to be taking a stool softener AND a laxative. I could barely sit, let alone think about passing gas.

That I could make my own sock-putter-on-er with a pop bottle and a bit of rope - because no one sent me home with adaptive equipment the way they do when you have a knee replaced.

That I would really, really want a shower chair. We have a hand held shower sprayer, but having one with an adjustable bar would have answered the "Now where do I put this so it doesn't soak the bathroom?" question

That there are better places to buy a back brace than Volde-mart... its just a matter of how long do you want to wait for it to come in the mail since, again, one was not provided.

That it could take six months - a full six months - to feel like myself again, even though the bones had healed.