We have never celebrated Mardi Gras and I have never had king cake. My curiosity was too strong this year, so I made one myself. Basically a big cinnamon roll? Huh. Can’t really go wrong with enriched dough and cinnamon sugar. It made a warm and exciting after school snack. (They helped me with the sprinkles.)
With the new year I felt the urge to purge my yarn stash. Usually I match yarn to pattern and follow the instructions with minimal changes. But these next three projects were entirely improvised.
First, I whipped up some leg warmers. Very basic 2×2 rib tubes. This was a rough, raw, sheepy wool from Wales. These leg warmers will be perfect to layer with boots on a snowy day.
Then I found a gorgeous ball of superwash sock yarn. I think I bought this green and purple blend in Chicago, but I’m not sure. I love the colors so much, I didn’t want to hide them under my pants hem as socks. Instead I made a close-fitting cowl, sort of like a turtleneck-dickie. I knit two stockinette triangles, then joined them and continued in the round with ribbing. It looked a little odd, so I added a tassel – perfect!
My next project was a little more ambitious. I’ve had many skeins of this berroco wool blend for YEARS. I knew I wanted to make a sweater, but I could never find a pattern I liked for the variegated coloring. I finally decided to make the most basic of sweaters on a knitting machine and just get. it. done.
Well, my knitting machine was falling apart. It was an entry-level model made of foam and plastic. I was proud of the purchase when I made it in my early twenties, but now the machine has lots of chipped or worn out pieces. When I called my mom for advice, she declared that I should have a better machine. A few days later with a Happy Birthday from mom, I had a lovely, functional, reliable machine!
I set up the machine and had a gauge sample knit in only 30 minutes! After washing, drying, and measuring, I did some math to make the sweater. The latest trend amongst knitters is puffy sleeves. What better time to experiment? I mapped out a crop sweater with balloon sleeves and got to stitching. I had all the pieces made in about 1 1/2 hours! It took much longer to figure out how to seam them together, and then hand-knit the ribbed cuffs.
It’s a kooky little sweater but I LOVE IT!
I’m already scheming to rip out a previously knit cardigan that’s too big, to make another puff sweater (maybe like this?).
BTW, the next trend I’m seeing on ravelry is bobbles. They’re everywhere! I want to make a lacy-bobble-halo sweater, but that’s a hand-knit project for another day.
The PTA wanted to making rice pack neck warmers for all the teachers for Valentine’s Day. Knowing that I’m crafty (I knit during meetings), they asked me to help. I made a test sample and wrote up a tutorial for the other 4 sewers. Then I made 14 more neck warmers. I struggled with my old Necchi, like usual. I’ve had it for maybe 20 years? I feel like it’s always being cranky with me, even after getting it serviced and adjusted and new belts and what-not. It’s constantly knots up my starter threads, or jams, or skips stitches, or doesn’t feed the fabric evenly. Well, that new knitting machine got me thinking how much I would enjoy sewing better if my sewing machine just worked.
After much online research and testing out some store models I bought a Janome 3160QDC. Happy Birthday to me again! I get presents all month long! 😉
I LOVE this machine too. It’s like night and day between my old machine and this one.
I thought I would want a basic mechanical work-horse. But after trying one with automatic reverse or quilt knotting, thread cutting, a needle-threader, and up/down needle positioning, I realized yes, yes I do want those shiny bells and whistles please.
After getting it out the box and running some scrap fabric through for a few minutes (per the manual), I put some additional quilted stitches on a leftover neck warmer. Like BUTTER, my new Janome.
I’ve been wanting to make the Pins and Paws pattern since I finished Sam’s dragon quilt. Gotta wait for my pre-cut fabric to come from Etsy, then I can match it to backing and binding and dive in!
While waiting, I used scrap fabric to make a quilt block. I’ve never done triangles before and I wanted to make sure I could it before moving up to the Pins and Paws. I think I’m good to go!
Speaking of paws, the cats are up to their usual antics – passive fighting for warm spots, actual fighting for . . . Spite? Dominance? Entertainment? Who knows.
Ben turned 40 years old this year! He asked for a nice, quiet day. We started by opening presents. Some were late, due to shipping delays this year. Luckily Ben is patient and they all came within a week or so.
I set up a game playdate with the Walkers for the afternoon. Ben was delighted! He didn’t want to do a big social zoom thing like many of his fellow turning-40 friends have done this year. So I kept it small and short and sweet.
For dinner I surprised Ben by making salmon and asparagus. (The kids and I had a small ham.) Ben seemed very touched that I would cook fish for him. I didn’t know what I was doing and over-cooked it 😀 I also made the kids promise not to mention the smell or make any complaints about the fish, explaining that their attitude would be part of the gift. They did a great job!
Cake was more comfortable for me, even though it was a new recipe. Ben selected the “Italian Cream Cake” from my historical American Cakes book. It’s a pecan and coconut cake recipe from Nashville. The book notes that there is nothing Italian about this 1970s recipe. It was delicious nonetheless. I used 3 six inch pans to make a half-batch recipe and it was just perfect for us to split and have leftovers for a few days!
We had some last minute Christmas fun. A Shake Shack opened in Edgewater. Unlike the craziness at In N Out in Aurora (I won’t try to go there for a long time) they were organized and not very busy. They also had old-timey Christmas carolers! I embarrassed Jack by posing with them and accepting their invitation to sing along to Deck the Halls. When the food arrived we picnicked in the car with a movie playing for the kids.
Sam was thrilled to get a letter from Santa. He said that Sam is on the Nice list and to be sure to go to bed on time because Sam’s house is going to be one of the first stops!
Not pictured, I made four batches of cookies (while masked) to pass out to friends and church members. We saw lots of great lights while we went out driving, and we went out to see more elaborate lights on Christmas Eve. One of our church buildings had a little nativity scene that was nice to visit.
Of course, we had to have sugar cookies to leave out for Santa, and a fat carrot for the reindeer. We decided to go Japanese this Christmas and eat KFC. Ben has a penpal in Japan who didn’t reserve his KFC bucket in time, so he went to 7 Eleven for his traditional fried chicken. Ben said that he thought it was funny we decided to take back the American-food-via-Japan tradition, and that we could get a full meal in the drive through without advance notice!
Christmas morning was the usual rush of presents and chocolate and talking with family via video calls. It was sad not to see anyone this year, but at least we are used to doing Christmas morning just the four of us.
I made a roast beef dinner. The cats were delighted with their fish filet treats.
The next couple days were spent relaxing and playing with our new toys. The boys built legos and I built a book nook from Andy. We watched Soul on Disney Plus. We had a fire in the fireplace and enjoyed some fresh snow with new winter gear.
The kids are back in school now. Everyone is doing remote with the plan to return in-person Jan 19. I really struggled with the choice to stay remote. But that would have meant they needed to change teachers and classmates, and there wouldn’t be a chance to return to in-person for the rest of the year. I’m optimistic that the vaccine will roll out, the weather will get warmer and push people back outside, and that the numbers will continue to trend down now that they holidays are done. Maybe I’ll be wrong. But I think the kids need to be in school for so many reasons, and I have faith in the science of distancing, masks, air-purifiers, and all the other practices their school has done to keep the virus out. It seems worth the risk.
The single in-person social engagement I have maintained is my monthly book club. We tried zoom back in April, but conversation is not as spontaneous and fun. We decided to meet outdoors – always distanced and with masks.
I’m proud of my friends for our tenacity despite the Colorado cold. It paid off – five days after our November meeting one of us emailed to say she tested positive for covid (she tested 2 days after our meeting).
I took a test a 7 days after the exposure and it was negative – as I suspected it would be. Science works! Our precautions were all validated! (And she had a mild case and feels fine now, thank goodness.)
Last night we gathered again around a fire and talked until the snow thickened and chased us away. There were fewer of us than usual, but we still had a great time talking about the book and general chit chat.
The host’s husband took a photo of us to commemorate our crazy meeting. (We scooted the chairs together for the photo; we were in a circle around the fire until the end.)
Two socks, two pants, shirt, sweater, heated vest, down parka, arm warmers, heated gloves, scarf, hat, mask, thermos of mint tea, and three quilts.
It’s been about six months since I started physical therapy in June. I have finally accepted that it might take me the whole year, or even longer, to get to where I want to be.
The pain during exercise is still worse than before surgery. But the pain while plain walking is less than before surgery. I still wear only my MBT shoes when I am active.
One sign of improvement is that I can wear my Dansko clogs and my snow boots for short periods of time. My feet ache afterward, but prior to surgery I couldn’t wear those shoes for even a minute without acute pain.
I’m still diligent about my physical therapy. I keep track of my exercises everyday. I do yoga or tap on MWF and hit PT hard afterward. TTh I do PT only, and weekends I do just 1 or 2 sessions. I used to go hard every day, but my therapist agreed it wasn’t sustainable. Before I ran out of sessions with her in August, I worked out this alternating pattern. Never a day off, but some days have more rest. (Actually, Thanksgiving day was the first day I skipped PT entirely! But I was on my feet cooking all day, so it wasn’t super restful 😅 )
Adding yoga was a no-brainer. It’s gentle on the joints. The stretching helps balance all the strengthening exercises I do in PT. I decided to add tap classes online because I missed dancing. I tried doing remote Zumba classes over the summer and it was an empty echo of the classes I used to attend. I think if the gyms were still safe and open I would have jumped back into my old classes and limped along. But all alone with a screen in my kitchen, with aching feet and no smiles to share, it was disheartening.
This fall I embraced a new physical therapy attitude – Do It Now. To reach my activity goals I need to practice them now. First, I incorporated the pique step, which I haven’t been able to do for 4 years. I still can’t. But I’m getting closer. I can pique to retire, instead of only coupe. Sometimes I can do a few without a barre assist, but either the pain or the bad balance (from not being up high on my joint) takes me down.
Then I started looking for free tap classes on youtube. I fulfilled a dream to learn tap in 2014, and if I had time and money I would attend more classes. Tap is super hard on my joints. It’s literally pounding my joints into the floor. It’s balancing all my weight on the ball of my foot. It’s about control of feet articulation. It’s everything I DON’T want to do with my feet. But I realized there’s no finish line to recovery where I will suddenly be able to tap easily, so I might as well start now.
At first it was so painful to wear the shoes with short heels and do basic flaps and shuffles. My first attempt was only 6 minutes of an online class. Now I can go a full hour! I’m pretty terrible, and it still hurts like the dickens. But I’m proud of my progress and I look forward to tap class days. (I LOATHE yoga. I only do it because it makes me feel good later.)
I’ve been taking photos to track my progress. At first I took them every week, but after the first few weeks post-op progress slowed down and it was bumming me out. Now I take them at the start of each month. It’s easier for me to see slight changes.
I think I finally turned the corner and have more flexibility than I did pre-op. Let me point out that prior to surgery I had been working my feet really hard for 6 months. This photo shoot was the MOST flexible I had been for a couple years. If I had taken photos at other times, my heels would barely be a half inch off the floor. So these pre-photos are the best I’d achieved with my own efforts.
Before surgery my right foot was more restricted. The unevenness drove me crazy! You can see the difference in this parallel releve:
After surgery my right foot recovery has been steady. But my left foot has been problematic. It has a sliding joint that clicks, it’s much more painful to put weight on the joint, and the flexibility seems more prone to “good days and bad days.”
I’m really grinding in every photo and holding onto the counter. So the height and strength shown isn’t sustainable. But I’m getting there!
Purple tights are from the day before surgery, May 10. Red sweats are from my first day of physical therapy, June 1. Green tights are from this morning, Dec 2.
Hopefully in another 6 months I’ll have a higher releve and a decent pique, maybe even a pique turn? Shoot, while I’m dreaming big, let’s pretend the vaccines roll out widely and the dance classes are safe to attend again!